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Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Monitoring Community Libraries in Brent

One of the many problems thrown up by Cllr Butt's suggested of community libraries is the whole idea of monitoring.  Many people seem to think that Councils should just hand out money to worthy groups and assume that they use it widely.  Such an approach is long discredited as potentially leading to corruption or at least a waste of money.  There are dramatic cases, such as Kids Company, where this was disastrous on a grand scale.

A more modern approach is to demand some kind of monitoring.  In Brent, these are normally called Service Level Agreements, and are effectively contracts.  Money is paid to a group in return for certain objectives being achieved.

My experience of dealing with the various library groups during the Libraries Transformation Project is that this kind of thinking came as a great shock to them.  One of the grounds of their unsuccessful legal challenge to the Council was that they had no idea that this sort of thing might be expected, an idea that the Judge rejected.  In his words (paragraph 91):

"I am satisfied that any group wishing to run a library, whether at its own expense and even more so if at public expense to some degree, should have realised that its experience and financial capability was an issue to be addressed in the consultation process. I do not think that any failing on the part of proposers to know what case they had to meet can fairly be laid at the door of the Council."

My experience of dealing with the library groups in Brent is that they are very dismissive of any such monitoring, financial or otherwise.  I have repeatedly heard them dismiss visit numbers as a criterion, book issues and even the view of library users.  I have never heard any of the groups' suggest alternative measures.  I suspect this is because volunteer libraries just don't seem to perform well on any of the measures that normal public libraries regard as standard.

UPDATE

I have responded to the comment below here.  

1 comment:

  1. Not strictly related to this - but as this was your most recent post on libraries, wondered what your thoughts were on this - is this not sailing a little too close to the wind with regard statutory provision of service...?

    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/oct/26/theres-nowhere-else-for-children-walsall-locals-react-to-library-closure-plans

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