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Sunday, 31 March 2013

Willesden Green Library Planning Update

Boris Johnson has approved the planning application to rebuild the Willesden Green Library Centre, so the last remaining obstacle is the Town Green application.  Although the inspector has recommended against this, the decision is not yet made.  If the application is rejected, work can finally begin on rebuilding the Library Centre.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Kilburn Library Garden

I was recently alerted to some ongoing issues around the garden at Kilburn Library.  I hope these will get resolved fairly easily, as they seem to consist mainly of minor building works.  Altogether, I think the Kilburn Library refurbishment has been a huge success.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Sieghart Review on Lending

I am glad that the Sieghart review on elending is out , and that it is so concise and sensible.  Affirming the importance that electronic lending be both free and possible remotely are both major steps forward.  It is also to be welcomed as an official statement that ebooks are an essential part of a modern library service.  Of course, it hasn't solved the problem of what is the model for lending, and how do you ensure an adequate return for publishers, but the suggestion that the market needs to experiment seems a sensible one.

Altogether, the review strikes me as unalloyed good news.

Universal Credit Failing Already

The BBC reports that the pilots for universal credit are being delayed.  My understanding is that the software for the system has not even been tested yet, which makes implementation almost impossible.  However, government ministers has invested so much political capital in this doomed scheme that they don't feel able to draw back.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Clearing Trains at Queens Park

A number of residents have raised the issue of trains being cleared at Queens Park.

The old system was that station staff would clear the trains that terminated there.  This was ended recently, and tannoy announcements relied on.  There were complaints that as the trains were not specifically cleared, people were sometimes driven into the sidings, and I have heard anecdotes of people getting out of the sidings and walking on to the tracks.

The train drivers thought this was so dangerous that they started clearing the trains themselves.  However, this led to operational delays. The whole thing was escalating with threats of industrial action.

With the help of Navin Shah, I have been investigating this.  I understand that the RMT and ASLEF are now working with TfL to get possible solutions together rather than go to industrial action.

However, I think all this is very concerning.  The amount of money that TfL hope to save cannot compensate for reduced safety, or probably even the disruption to the network.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Libraries Promoting Reading

There is some interesting research on how bookshops promote a reading culture.  It argues that browsing is essential to getting people to read books, and seldom occurs online.  This seems counterintuitative, as an Internet search engine should be the perfect mechanism for serendipitous discovery.  I suspect that there is something about the physical feel of a book that makes physical browsing attractive in a way that sitting in front of a computer is not.  The article also argues that the demise of a bookshop does not mean that it's sales migrate to other channels; most of them just stop.

This seems to me to have an important message for libraries, where you can browse all day for free.  Currently, some writers and publishers seem to assume that leading cannibalises their sales, but it seems quite possible that municipal libraries are actually doing exactly what their Victorian founders intended, promoting reading among people who would otherwise not.  If so, the book industry should be trying to think of ways to promote libraries and forge links with them.


In response to the comment:

The Willesden bookshop was a business which was suffering from the same pressures as other bookshops, not least its sister outlet on Kilburn High Road.  As a frequent user of bookshops, I greatly regret the decline of physical bookshops, but it seems to me that many of the attractions of a good bookshop can also be seen in a library.  One reason that bookshops are said to be in decline is that people browse a book in the shop, but buy it on the Internet.  Why not browse and try out books via libraries?

Incidentally, the juxtaposition of the Willesden bookshop next to Willesden library for so many years is a point against the Terry Deary argument that they are in competition.

The fact that the bookshop was struggling, the cinema closed and the cafe also closed suggests to me that the existing building is not well designed for retail use.  I have remarked before that the frontage does not entice people in.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Continuing Cuts in Local Government

The Guardian has extensive coverage of cuts in local government today.  I notice that the only people arguing that the cuts make no difference are Tory government ministers.  Tories actually in local government are frank that the sector cannot cope with even more battering.  What makes it worse is that the incoherent plethora of welfare changes that the government has unleashed is about to hit organisations that are already reeling.

Polly Toynbee argues that creating chaos in local government is actually Tory policy, and I believe her.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Brent Libraries Online

A recent DCMS study found that the number of adults physically visiting public libraries is falling very sharply, while the number visiting library web sites is going up.  In other words, the online side of the library service is becoming more and more important too its users.

This was one of the things we sought to address in our Libraries Transformation Project.  The Brent Council web site has been dramatically revamped.  Brent libraries have online options to search the catalogue, borrow an ebook, read a variety of periodicals, practice for driving test theory or the UK citizenship test, access reference works, check up the Brent book blog and other social media, or use the archives services.

Most of this is all pretty traditional library functions, but made more accessible by being online, so it is frustrating that some people still seem to see improved online services as a threat, and want everything to remain as it was in their childhood.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Update on Former Willesden Social Club

A new application has been put in for the former Willesden Social Club.  However, it is very similar to the permission already granted, as can be seen here.  I do find it frustrating that this land has been derelict for so long, and that the new application requires another delay.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Borrowing Without Walls

The debate around libraries seems to be moving on bit from just being about buildings at the expense of books, but I still don't get a sense that people realise how library services are now being accessed outside the actual buildings. Using the book issue figures up to the end of February, we can see that almost one in four issues by Brent library services does not involve stepping inside a building at all.

Online renewals account for 11.6% of total book issues.  The outreach service _ that brings books to all kinds of other events and institutions _ accounts for a further 6.3%.  Phone renewals make up a further 2.7%, and our home delivery service for severely disabled people a further 2.6%.  Whilst ebook lending gets lots of hype, it actually accounts for only 0.5% of loans.  Of course, it is important that libraries engage with ebooks as they become the dominant form of book provision, but we also need to recognise that library services outside Council owned buildings is now part of the conventional model.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Wrottesley Road Traffic Lights Restored

I am glad to see that the power failure at the Wrottesley Road traffic lights has now been repaired.  Well done to TfL for getting on to the fault quickly.

Archbishop 105

I keep hearing the BBC refer to the new Archbishop of Canterbury as the Church of England's 105th head.  I would have thought that Thomas Cranmer was the first head of the Church of England in that sense (and the last to get papal approval, oddly).  The new Archbishop would therefore fall well short of 105 as head of the Church of England, although he may well be the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Willesden Junction Station Approach at last

Willesden Junction Station Approach finally has work under way.  Unfortunately, this means that the 487 and 220 buses have to be diverted.  The 220 is stopping outside Harlesden Job Centre Plus.  The 487 stops at Station Road.  The work is expected to take about three months.

Having campaigned on this issue for literally years, I am glad an end is in sight.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Climate Change Conference at CNWL

In the end, I didn't attend the whole of the student climate change conference as I had intended.  However, I think the whole event was very positive and I hope we do something like it on an annual basis.   I suspect the format needs refinement, and we we will have to look at participants' feedback to inform that, but I would particularly like to thank all the Council officers and others who did so much to organise such a successful event.

Cardinal Hinsley Close

Yesterday, Cllr Bobby Thomas and I attended a meeting with Catalyst Housing, London and Quadrant and Brent Parking down at Cardinal Hinsley Close off Wrottesley Road.  Residents have raised concerns there around rubbish collection and parking.  These issues are very hard to sort out. With several residents appearing, we decided to go forward with some options for consultation and see what peoples' views are.

I suspect this is the kind of issue where you simply can't please everyone.  All we can do is talk to people about options and ask which they prefer. Each option will have a downside as well as an upside.

Most of the rest of today, I will be going up to the College of North West London In Denzil Road for a school pupil conference on climate change.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Wrottesley Road Traffic Lights Power Failure

Earlier today, I noticed that the traffic lights at the junction of Wrottesley Road and Harrow Road NW10 have failed.  It does not appear to be a general power cut, just the lights.  In view of the safety implications, I asked Brent's transport people to raise it with TfL as a matter of urgency.

UK Recycling

UK recycling has climbed at a faster rate than our European counterparts, although we still only just ahead of the European average, according to the Guardian.  Still that is good progress over the past decade.

The Loony Left Alternative

I attended a Labour Party meeting where we had for some reason invited a speaker from "Brent fightback", a group whose main activity seems to consists of attacking people in the Labour Party.

During the discussion it was suggested that the Council should just ignore its responsibilities and refuse to ameliorate the effect of the Tory cuts in any way.  I think that there is both a human and a political answer to that.

The human answer comes from imagining someone suffering from the cuts. Let us say an able bodied person who works for a low income and struggles to make ends meet. Let us suppose the cumulative effect of the various cuts, inflation and so on are to push that person below the waterline.  The Fightback position appears to be that they be left to sink, so that Fightback can demonstrate that the cuts come from the government, and Fightback disapproves of them.  This allows Fightback to preen itself on the warm glow of ideological purity whilst other people pay the human cost.  Personally, I find that unacceptable.  As a human being, I am going to do what I can to help people in need even though I know what I do is inadequate to the scale of the task.

The second part of the answer is: would such a political strategy work? I think not. I think most people would look at a Council doing nothing and say: "You bastards.  You are not even trying to help.  You are just trying to score points politically."

At least as it is, I can argue, that we are doing our best but the Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition is making it impossible.  Of course, that is different from the likes of Sarah Teather who voted all these nasty policies through as the price of a ministerial job.


The Fightback speaker has responded below.  Unusually, she accuses me of failing to voice opinions, which is not a fault I am generally accused of.  I think most people at the discussion were interested in the cuts the government was making to the NHS and to welfare benefits (which was also the focus of my own contribution).  I think that is certainly the main thing we should all be worrying about.


The latest comment appears to be slightly off the subject of this post, but I'll respond anyway.  The report sent in by Brent's health scrutiny committee is cross party, and scrutiny committees are not whipped.  The opinions in the Report are therefore those of the committee, not necessarily those of one party. The documents recording their discussions are here.  Anyone who wants to understand their logic can read the report, the minutes or contact the committee members directly.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Sarah Teather and her Record of Dishonesty

I have suggested before that Sarah Teather has a remarkably flexible record when it comes to political principles.  Recently, she dropped out of a meeting with parents seeking to prevent Gladstone school from becoming an academy.  I thought it worth reminding myself of what she was saying when she was still being paid a ministerial salary.  In the process I found a quote from the then minister on benefit cuts:

"I am on record as having concerns about the benefits cap, but I am also pleased to see the changes that were brought in on the back of those concerns, my job is sometimes to take points and suggestions about things that other departments are doing that affect children and families. That's the job that the prime minister asked me to do and I take it seriously."

A little while later, the Prime Minister asked her to give up her job so that he could give it to David Laws to take seriously.  

This seemed to change her views somewhat:

"There are all sorts of things you have to do when times are tight that have negative consequences but you do them for good purposes. But to do something for negative purposes that also has negative consequences – that is immoral," says Teather. She praised Nick Clegg for showing "immense courage" in limiting some of the effects of welfare cuts and urged her party to fight as hard as it possibly could to prevent more. She said many people in her constituency, which is one of the most ethnically diverse and deprived in the country, did not realise what was about to hit them next April."

Local Elections 2014

It looks as if the next London elections will be on 22 May, according to the LGiU.  Whilst it is annoying the way these things get knocked about, holding them together does help raise turnout in the European elections.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Harlesden Incinerator

We now have an online link to oppose the Harlesden Incinerator, just south of Kensal Green and Harlesden. To oppose the Incinerator click here.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Services Not Buildings

I picked up a Public Libraries News post which mainly featured the Capita report on Protecting Library Services.  Ian Anstice is quoted extensively in the report, which also supports my long held view that as budgets are cut, we have to protect services rather than buildings.

The report seems to see this mainly in terms of improving online services for libraries, although I think there are many other aspects.  These would include the provision of those old fashioned things called books, the number and quality of events, opening hours, helpfulness of staff and so on.  However, I am glad that one of the key underpinnings of our strategy is being recognised more widely.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Double Standards in Housing

Red Brick has been following Eastenders, and makes somewhat nerdish observations on the accuracy of its treatment of Council housing.  What I find striking about the Tory attitudes on housing are their dimorphism.

When it comes to Council tenants, the more restrictions the better as far as Tory Councils like Hammersmith are concerned.  Tenants are given insecure tenancies where they are swiftly moved on after not more than five years.  They may not get that long if they fail to fulfil lots of conditions, whether reasonable _ paying rent, not engaging in criminal behaviour_ or extremely demanding: like being forced to "volunteer" in ways that the Tories consider useful.  Even occupying too much space is to be punished via the bedroom tax.

Contrast that with private householders.  Suddenly an Englishman's home is his castle again.  The language turns to abuse of supposedly busybody Councils who are said by the Daily Mail to constantly harass people as a result of the over generous funding of Councils leaving these officers with nothing to do but be officious.

What strikes me, aside from the lack of verisimilitude in this world view, is the obvious double standard.  The private householder has liberty and freedom from interference; the council tenant exists on sufferance.  I have even seen quotes from Tory politicians informing Council tenant residents that living in particular Boroughs is a privilege not a right.  Imagine voting for someone who told you that?

Of course, much of the agenda hiding behind this is gerrymandering, and some of it is just hatred of other people.  But what I find most striking is that there is no sense that people need a sense of security.  The development of insecure tenancies goes hand in hand with a general stripping away of protections in terms of rights in the work place, legal protections and (unless you live in a rich area) planning protections.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Public Libraries News

Public Libraries News has a particularly good post today.  It touches on so many issues that I think I will have to cover it in more than one post to do each subject justice.

Bee Conservation

The Tory government sounds as if it is seeking to delay sensible measures to conserve bees, according to the Guardian.  I find it hard not to see this as simply reflexive bowing to business interests.

Big Society Libraries

The scale of the challenge of running a Big Society type library is hinted at in this form supplied by Warwickshire County Council.  It makes a daunting read, but it would be quite possible to add more requirements.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Iain Duncan Smith and the Bedroom Tax

Iain Duncan Smith seems to be getting cold feet on the bedroom tax.  I am not surprised.  This will affect large numbers of people and symbolises the Tories' efforts to wage class war against sections of the population.

In Brent, it is estimated about 550 people would see benefit reduced by about a quarter, and 1,500 people by about 14%.  That kind of percentage rise in cost on top of things like Boris Johnson's fare rises and fairly static wage levels will be a disaster for many people.

Abolish Eric Pickles

Paul Wheeler comes up with the attractive idea of abolishing the department of Communities and Local Government.  Under Eric Pickles, it has played an actively malevolent role so I think getting rid of it and him would make a lot of sense.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Harlesden Town Centre Update

Having been to Executive yesterday, tonight I get to go the Highways Committee. One of the items is an update on Harlesden Town Centre.

It reports back on the detailed design and the outcome of the specialist report we commissioned on disabilities. It suggests what I would consider what I think a reasonable compromise between the needs of the visually impaired and those of other people.  We also likely to see further work on disabled parking.

There was a suggestion that the phasing of the lights on Tubbs Road might be changed.  Traffic on Tubbs Road has been a long standing concern.  Creating a pedestrian phase would greatly lengthen the queues on Tubbs Road.  I was surprised to learn that there is no history of pedestrians being involved in accidents there.  It certainly doesn't feel safe, but I think the present situation is the best that can be done.

There are a small number of other adjustments, but I think the most important thing is to get these works finally under way.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Winter Returns

The Council is expecting temperatures in Brent to be freezing by 4pm (if they aren't already), so ice will be forming and the snow showers starting to settle.  Hence we have the unwelcome return of the need to grit the streets.  I gather the grit bins are also being refilled.

The Virtues of Bureaucracy

I had been meaning to post on this subject for some time but Flipchartfairytales has beaten me to it.  Any reader of Hayek will be familiar with the argument, albeit couched in terms of liberty rather than productivity. Explicit rules prevent abuse and personal patronage; discretion enables arbitrary bias.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Commercial Techniques in Libraries

Some ago I came across a blogpost criticising libraries for using retail techniques.  Unfortunately, I can no longer find the link.  This brought to my mind part of the permanent exhibition at the Brent Musuem.  No link to the actual exhibit I am afraid.  However, it took a haberdashers from Willesden High Road that was still in use after the war, and exhibited as an example of how shops used to work.  The haberdashers closed down after the war but was still run on Victorian principles where you went to a shop keeper behind a counter, and asked them to fetch what you wanted.  I gather that in say 1900, a library was run in the same way.

If you went to say Harlesden Library, you would have asked to see the catalogue, and then asked the librarian to fetch a copy for you.  This is still the system that some university and the British library use for rare books, but is regarded as outmoded elsewhere.  Anyway, I would suggest a at some point in the last hundred years, librarians learnt from retailers to change in a way that is generally accepted now.  Perhaps it is not outrageous to learn from retailers now.

The kind of thing that libraries are now adopting have been in place in some areas quite a long time. For instance, displaying books in full frontal rather than just spines, the positioning of displays in the building, and so on.  Sometimes these apparently minor changes can have major effects, so (for example) i understand that changes in shelving arrangement to the books by prescription display in Brent libraries saw a huge increase in usage.  I am sure a professional librarian could go into such techniques in much more detail.

Anyway, the post I read seemed to think that this made public libraries more "commercial".  I don't see how this true. In my view libraries that go down this route are simply getting more people to use them.  One of the fundamental aspects of libraries compared to the private sector is that greater usage creates greater cost for a library, whereas a shop should get greater profit, so libraries that adopt these measures are quite anti-commercial.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Tubbs Pocket Park Update

Some time ago, I mentioned the Tubbs pocket park bird table.  I thought I should update by saying is now in place, although the design is dramatically different from the one I recall.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Brent Features on Public Libraries News Again

Public Libraries News points to Brent's year to date figures.  Up to February compared to the same period last year, we saw a 1% rise in issues and a 1.2% decline in visits.  Such a small change in visits and issues will surprise many people I suspect.  We simultaneously achieved a financial saving of £816k, which would have been somewhat higher if we hadn't chosen to invest in better IT and seven day opening in all our six libraries.

Of course, the challenge in libraries next will be to not just match last year, but exceed it.  The library staff are doing a great job with a myriad of initiatives, but we will have bumps in the road.  The rebuild at Willesden is bound to effect visitor numbers, despite the robust interim arrangements.  More positively, the new Wembley library should attract far more people than the current Town Hall library.  We shall have to see how it goes.

Complaint as a Resource

Returning to the PLUS survey, while seeing the overall numbers go up is obviously good for morale, the real value of these things is the opportunities they give to improve the service.

There will be some indications from disparities in the closed questions.  For instance, a low rise in satisfaction at one particular branch might highlight some problems there.  However, the survey has also come back with about 1,500 responses to an open box type question at the end of the survey.  It will be a while before these are analysed in detail, but when they are they should throw up opportunities for further improvement.  I have been given an impressionistic sample and as you might imagine they vary enormously in subject matter.  Some are just general"what a nice library" type comments; others are very specific niggles like "the toilets need to be cleaned more often"; still others are disputes between different groups of users.  The most common of these are basically noise vs silence.  In this case, you can't just "solve" the problem, you need to balance conflicting groups of users.  However, every complaint should be viewed as an opportunity for improvement.

If you do have cause for complaint, I would just like to add one plea.  Try to keep your temper and be polite to the staff you are complaining to.  It may not be their fault, and all the parts of the Council are finding themselves more stretched than they were three years ago.  If you are staff member getting complaints all the time, it can be easy to feel a bit put upon and defensive.  Of course, this applies to all the different Council services.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Blue Top Bin Recycling

I have only one report for the next Executive _ covering new arrangements for the recyclables from blue top bins.  At the moment we pay Veolia to process these, but we reckon wee can get a much better deal from a different company.  What strikes me most is that there was a huge variation in the prices offered by different companies when we put the idea out to tender.  I presume that is just the nature of a commodity market, that the prices are quite unpredictable even to the companies that operate in the market.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Housing Squalor

Another good piece of analysis has been published on the nature of the UK's housing squalor here.  What is not really covered is the reason for the situation becoming so dire, which I think is down to a disparity in regional economic growth, the disproportionate emphasis on housing ownership and the decision by successive governments to ignore the shrinking minority in social housing.  Of course, where politicians have occasionally paid attention to social housing this often been accompanied by demonisation of the people in it.

Events in Brent Libraries

If you are interested in what events are going on in Brent Libraries, you should be able to find a daily listing here.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Dilemma of Personal Nastiness

The Guardian has a piece on personal nastiness in Internet comments.  It suggests that the level of invective can skew reaction to the entire article.  I have certainly noticed that sometimes comments on a blog can be separated from the actual content altogether.  I have read comments on Guardian articles for example that do not seem to have read the piece they comment on.  They can even take the article to have said the opposite of what it actually says.

The question is: what can be done about that?

I am confronted by these issues in a small way, when people make nasty comments on this blog.  I won't publish anything I think is a libel or personally offensive, but I do publish comments I disagree with.  This is despite the fact that many commentators are not willing to sign their names.

Should I revise this policy?

Monday, 4 March 2013

Bookshops and Libraries

This Economist piece on the future of bookshops caught my eye.  The tips on designing bookshops sound not dissimilar to those on designing libraries.  However, there is a contrast in the treatment of a cafe.  At Willesden Library Centre, a cafe is planned for the ground floor.  The Economist suggests putting it at the top of the building. This may be the difference between a fully commercial outfit seeking to draw people further up the building and making money at each stage, and the need of an independently run cafe in an essentially non-commercial building.

Other than that, the two situations sound very similar with the library having the advantage of being completely free, which the bookshop lacks.  As ebooks come to dominate the world of books, libraries may well have an important niche in terms of being a place where you can browse and try out books.  Certainly, for all the gloom surrounding libraries, this sounds like something they are better suited to than traditional bookshops.

Brent Council Website

Brent Council has acquired a new look for its website.  The site is intended to be easier to use, getting more people to search door their queries online.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Former Kensal Rise and Cricklewood Library Buildings

The developer who has purchased the former Cricklewood and Kensal Rise Library buildings from All Souls College has written to councillors saying he is close to starting the planning process.  It will be interesting to see what he proposes.

Town Green in Willesden Green

I am told that the report on a possible Town Green in front of Willesden Green Library Centre will take longer than anticipated.  There has always been a suspicion that the entire request is merely vexatious, and an attempt to delay the rebuild of Willesden Green Library Centre.  Certainly, the accounts I have heard of some of the testimony given at the enquiry would cohere with that notion.


The history of this post is an odd one.  When published it attracted little attention.  Then on Friday 8 March it suddenly started to get lots of views and comments.  The comments have two main concerns. One is to rehash the planning issues.  The Planning Committee made its decision, which I thought sensible, so I am not going to go over it again.  The second is the suspicion that many of the objectors are just trying use a legal technicality to delay things.  I have certainly heard that suspicion voiced by various people.  Anyone who believes in freedom of speech should not object to it being mentioned just because they disagree.


A commentator has correctly pointed out that I did not publish his post, although I published all the others.  This is so.  The reason is that I considered that the post contained a libel.

Media Self Awareness

A former News International journalist complains of his treatment at the hands of the police here.  His point has validity, but I am struck that he shows no awareness of how his own newspaper treated people in similar circumstances.  It is suddenly regarded as an important issue because he is the person affected.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Shisha Bars

A shisha bar in Westminster has tried and failed to claim an exemption created for specialist tobacconists.  I am not surprised, as I understood years ago that shisha bars had no such exemption.

In fact, it is almost impossible to run a shisha bar legally in this country since the indoor smoking ban was introduced.  Anecdotally, I understand that when Brent Trading Standards raid these premises, they frequently find other illicit practices such as tobacco on which no duty has been paid, breach of building regulations, breach of planning, underage sales, substances other than tobacco mixed in with the tobacco and often problems of anti-social behaviour.  Where the shisha bars try to get people to smoke outside, they frequently cause noise nuisance problems.

Altogether not a good business to be in.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Eastleigh By Election

UK Polling Report has some sensible comment on the Eastleigh by election result today.  It looks as if Nick Clegg is safe for the moment, which I suspect is to the detriment of his party.

Brent Libraries Improve according to PLUS Survey

The 2012 PLUS survey (public library user survey) shows rising levels of satisfaction about Brent libraries. PLUS is a national survey of library users.  In Brent's case, 2,142 questionnaires were completed by Brent library users in November last year, which is about 81% of the people who were asked.

The results shows improvement in satisfaction rates on all the measures used since the last survey in 2009.  In terms of people who said they found their experience either good or very good, the ratings are:

Opening hours  90% (up 5%)
Customer care. 84% (up 3%)
Information provision 77% (up 9%)
Computer facilities 70% (up 6%)
Physical state of books 82% (up 8%)
Choice of books 73% (up 10%)
Attractiveness of library outside 66% (up 4%)
Attractiveness of library inside 77% (up 9%)

The survey also asks about individual libraries, where all the libraries except the Town Hall library show an upward movement, although Kingsbury and Ealing Road are quite slight.  I am not too worried by the fall in satisfaction at the Town Hall library since it is about to be replaced by the Civic Centre library (which, amazingly, some of the "library campaigners" opposed).

Unfortunately, the PLUS survey doesn't tell us about use of the outreach service or the home delivery service, which has exploded in Brent as a result of the transformation project.  Of course, we can infer satisfaction from the much greater usage, but it would be nice to have more direct data.

Still, I think it demonstrates that we are on the right track in improving our library service despite the bleak financial situation.