Libraries at breaking point

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2019 Local Government Service Group Conference
19 February 2019

Conference is deeply concerned at the state of our public library service.

In 2017-18 alone, spending by local authorities on public libraries fell by £30 million. The service lost 712 full-time equivalent posts and suffered a net loss of 127 service points. Volunteer numbers rose to a staggering 51,394 volunteers putting in 1,780,843 hours. Our public library service is being dismantled at pace as councils struggle to balance the books with cuts to staff, opening hours, stock, and swathes of libraries being handed over to communities or the private sector to run. This situation can only worsen with the phasing out of the revenue support grant.

But as cuts and automation take hold, more of our members are finding themselves working alone. This raises serious concerns for the health, safety and well-being of library members.

Alongside staff cuts, conference is particularly concerned that over fifty libraries are delivering biometric visa support services via a sub-contract awarded to Libraries Connected and led by Sopra Steria on behalf of the Home Office. Conference deplores the lack of consultation with UNISON over the implementation of this contract at both national and local level. The contract means UNISON members are facing increased stress in the workplace and at a greater risk of violence if they are perceived to be agents of the Home Office.

Conference calls on the service group executive to:

1)Work with other campaigning organisations to build a new vision for the future of libraries;

2) Promote UNISON’s End Violence at Work Charter, UNISON’s guidance on lone working and UNISON guidance on mental health to library members;

3) Investigate how the delivery of visa support services is affecting our members and share this information across UNISON regions and branches;

4) Continue to lobby Libraries Connected and the government regarding the delivery of visa support services in libraries;

5) Co-ordinate a national campaign against the privatisation of library services, and against the provision within libraries of private contracts for visa support services;

6) Provide branches with campaign materials to defend libraries against cuts and to encourage branches to recruit and organise library members.