Edinburgh City Libraries are woefully understaffed. In the last five years this service has lost over 50 members of staff who have never been replaced. With such a huge staffing shortfall, the Library Service cannot be expected to adequately and safely staff all library locations and continue to provide high quality services to the people of Edinburgh. Despite this, Library Management want to extend Saturday opening which will further stretch an already depleted workforce.
This problem is only going to get worse. Several colleagues are going to have their temporary contracts terminated and the 50 vacant posts are due to be deleted from the staffing structure by the start of the next financial year.
The decision to cut these jobs comes as a result of the Service Prioritisation packages designed to make £550,000 savings from the budget. There was a recent £300,000 payment which was hoped would be used to remedy the staffing crisis. This money is being diverted to maintain Sunday opening hours. We feel this situation is unacceptable and unsustainable.
WHY WEREN’T YOU TOLD ABOUT THIS?
City of Edinburgh Councilclaim you were. They state that their decision was made as a result of one of the biggest public consultations in their history. 10,000 respondents is an impressive figure but it pales into insignificance when you consider that there are 180,000 registered library users in Edinburgh. Only 5.5% of library users were consulted. That’s 170,000 people who did not have a say in their library service – enough to simultaneously fill both Easter Road and Tynecastle Stadia 4.5 times over. This cannot be described as proper consultation.
WHAT SERVICES WILL BE LOST?
BookBug/Books for Babies/Rhymetimes
These awarding winning programmes which are set up, run and led by frontline staff have been proven to help in the mental and physical development of babies and toddlers. It has been shown to improve literacy levels, the ability to interact with others in a positive manner and also assists new mothers in developing their parenting skills. These are extremely valuable programmes yet, last year, two designated BookBug workers were lost to cuts.
These after-school workshops were set up to advise and assist young people in their education and are also run by frontline staff. Evidence shows that the Homework Clubs increases the potential for increased academic achievement amongst participants and it cannot be doubted that this increases their future employment prospects.
Adult literacy/Computer classes
These are other valuable services run and led by frontline staff. The positive outcomes are immediately noticeable. People become more confident as a direct result of these classes and are more prepared to interact with others. Participants are also more prepared to pursue further self improvement and, as a result, their employment prospects rise.
Library Link is yet another service provided by frontline staff. It provides a regular opportunity for the elderly and infirm to visit their local library on a weekly basis. As well as being able to access the library services whilst having a cup of tea, in many cases this service is the only chance many of these people get the chance to leave their homes, meet friends or new people and generally interact.
There are some who, through no fault of their own, are unable to visit their local library. As a result staff deliver library services to them. Each customer has their own designated member of staff who forms a relationship with them and develops a working knowledge of their reading preferences. Staff can tailor the service specifically to that individual customer. This ensures that the most vulnerable people are not denied the services that you and I enjoy from our library service.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
These services, along with many others, will disappear. Staff numbers are being decimated and the working week for the remaining staff is getting longer. The quality and provision of the service will suffer irrecoverably. We cannotallow this to happen.
In these tough economic times we needa strong, healthy and viable library service to help support vulnerable service users. One quarter of the population of Scotland have difficulty with reading and writing – and this percentage increases in areas of our communities that suffer from deprivation. We need librarians to help break the cycle of low literacy levels which are linked to poverty. When individuals do well, so do their families, communities and employers, present and future.
UNISON are due to make a delegation to the meeting of the Full Council on Thursday 15 March to put forward our concerns.
We will continue to make the case and fight for our Library service but we NEED your help!
WHAT YOU CAN DO
You know the facts – now contact your councillor. Raise your concerns directly with them and insist that Libraries need adequate staffing levels to continue to provide an excellent service to you, your family and the people of Edinburgh.
You can also join the library. To value this service we’ve got to use it. All you need is photo ID and you’re up and running. There’s a world of knowledge just waiting for you in your local library.
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