Community Libraries

Libraries throughout the UK have, for the last couple of years, been the main target for Local Councils to attack when seeking ways to save £s from their annual budgets  –  or so it appears to communities up and down the length of the country.

In late 2013, the Gower (South Wales) community of Pennard became very much aware of the above situation when, from completely out of the blue, they heard (via the local newspaper) that our Local Authority (Swansea) had stated that amongst their ‘proposals’ for the 2014/15 financial year, it was their intention to close the much-loved and much-used Pennard Library facility at the end of the 2013/14 financial year; or at least, that was to be the situation, unless………….!

The ‘unless’ part of the Local Authority’s ‘leak’ to the local newspaper, was revealed in the former’s statement that “No decisions have been made.  The proposal for Pennard Library is to transfer it to a community-led volunteer service which would mean the majority of library services currently offered there would continue to be available.” [Source: South Wales Evening Post, 12 December 2013;  Comment made by Councillor Nick Bradley, Swansea City Council’s cabinet member for regeneration)

The main word in the Council’s statement, is the word ‘volunteer‘, and as the community of Pennard has since discovered (from the reading of far too many online webpages devoted to the same subject  –  i.e. local Councils’ closing Libraries  –  all appear to have the same theme) the community will be expected to run their library at their own cost, and with their own (volunteer) staff, otherwise the local Council will shut down the facility!

Although the Pennard community has fought since mid-December 2013 (and as at March 2014, is continuing to fight) against the Local Authority’s proposal re the closure of Pennard Library, and although the initial “Pennard Library Working Group” has, in recent months, evolved into a group under the heading of “Friends of Pennard Library”, the main premise of both the Working Group and the Friends has always been that Pennard Library is not only to be kept open, but to be kept open with its existing staff and with all of its CCoS facilities and arrangement(s) in place, and nothing less than that.

The situation as it currently stands (as at 06 March 2014) is that despite;-

  • Councillor Nick Bradley (see above) having verbally promised on more than one occasion both to individuals and to reporters that Pennard Library will remain open and providing all services with its present staff until the end of 2014, the same Councillor  –  despite his having made a verbal statement that he would put his promise into writing  –  has so far completely failed to keep that promise, and
  • Despite the “Pennard Library Working Group” having requested (in January 2014) Steve Hardman (Head Librarian) of/at City and County of Swansea to make Grant Applications to both CyMAL (in respect of £120,000) and to the Rural Development Fund (in respect of £40,000)  –  both being for the refurbishment of Pennard Library  –  to date, and despite several requests to him,  both the “Pennard Library Working Group” and the “Friends of Pennard Library”have been denied access to all documentation, and thus to what CCoS actually wrote in the said grant applications.
    • N.B.  In respect of the last bullet point, the “Friends of Pennard Library” have recently (03Mar14) received an email from Steve Hardman in which amongst other items, he wrote: “Obviously at this stage we have no idea if the Authority will be successful in relation to the CyMAL bid so maybe it would also be useful to touch on what the Friends thoughts are if we were not successful in obtaining the grants.”  Such comment(s) unfortunately fail to provide much confidence in either the  City and County of Swansea themselves, nor in how they promoted the Grant Applications to CyMAL and the RDF.
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Inquiry into Public Libraries in Wales

As was mentioned in a previous post (January 2013), the National Assembly of Wales  –  back in November 2013  –  invited organisations and residents etc in Wales, to submit written comments to them in respect of Public Libraries in Wales.

Such comments  –  of which there appear to have been approximately thirty-two (32) from an eclectic mix of Councils, Charities, Libraries, Associations and Individuals  –  have been appended (in both pdf and html formats) on the National Assembly for Wales website at http://www.senedd.assemblywales.org/mgIssueHistoryHome.aspx?IId=8295 where they also can be read.

Pennard Library

Pennard Library

Of the thirty-two comments received, three of them relate to the Swansea Local Authority’s area; one being the Pennard Library Working Group’s response to the Inquiry, one being the City and County of Swansea’s response, and one being an individual’s response (which relates to a different library, but does contain some wording of relevance to several libraries within the Swansea area).

National Assembly for Wales Inquiry re Public Libraries (in Wales)

In late November 2013, the National Assembly for Wales commenced an “Inquiry into Public Libraries” when it posted online a letter stating “The National Assembly for Wales’ Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee is to undertake a short inquiry into public libraries in Wales“, and went on to say “To assist with its inquiry, the Committee would welcome your views on the following matters:

  • The extent to which progress has been made by the Welsh Government towards achieving its Programme for Government commitments relating to libraries, and how sustainable any progress is in the current climate;
  • The extent to which the current legislative and policy frameworks are suitable to meet the challenges facing local authorities delivering library services in Wales;
  • How well-prepared the Welsh Government and local authorities are to mitigate the impact of public sector cuts on library services;
  • Options for improving the financial sustainability of library services, including alternative models of provision;
  • The contemporary and community role of public libraries in Wales.

Invitation to contribute to the inquiry
The Committee welcomes responses in English or Welsh from both individuals and organisations and will hold oral evidence sessions in due course.”

N.B.  To read the National Assembly for Wales’ original letter in full, please see http://www.senedd.assemblywales.org/documents/s21921/Consultation%20letter.pdf

Pennard Library

Pennard Library

Unfortunately, the Pennard Library Working Group only found out about the said ‘Inquiry’ in early January 2014, and as all replies had to be submitted to the ‘Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee [at the] National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff’ by 17 January 2014 latest, a reply was quickly formulated and sent.