Richmond's libraries 'could be privatised' to save cash

First published in News by

Libraries in the borough could be privatised under new plans considered by the council.

Richmond Council has been carrying out a review into how it can change its delivery of library services, including outsourcing them to the private sector or allowing an orgainisation such as a charitable trust to manage them.

The Friends of Richmond Libraries group, part of the Arts Richmond arts council, met with the authority before Christmas to discuss the proposals.

Francis Bennett, chairman of Friends of Richmond Libraries, was opposed to privatisation.

He said: “I would be very opposed to that personally. I’m a professional publisher, I have been all my life, and I just believe that’s not the answer to the problem.

“I’ve always thought librarians ought to be able to get on with their jobs.

“I’ve always felt that libraries should be run by professional librarians and I don’t like the idea of giving it out to professional organisations. What the council decide the council will decide, we’ll have to see.”

He praised Ian Dodds, the council’s chief librarian, for saving money without damaging the borough’s library services, but said he was “realistic” that closures may be inevitable.

The authority said it has completed a public consultation that assessed how to “provide better value for money but also encourage people to use our libraries more”.

It has seen a drop in the number of visitors aged between 16 and 44.

Councillor Pamela Fleming, strategic cabinet member for community development at Richmond Council, said libraries needed to evolve to meet users’ changing needs.

She said: “We are currently carrying out a full review of the library service and an assessment of different delivery models, and will be taking a paper to cabinet in February with a number of options.

“These include outsourcing services to the private sector, shared services with other local authorities, and the management of libraries through a devolved organisation such as a charitable trust, among others.

“However, no decisions have been made at this stage and we will consult residents further before making a final decision.”

Do you think libraries should be privatised? Tell us below

Comments (7)

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1:59pm Wed 5 Jan 11

aspicer says...

Yes, Privatise. If done well, it will be a far better and more consumer focused service. They are currently just allowed to drift along, with no medium or long-term strategy as to how to get new people involved in the library service.

I hope this comments column doesn't become full of people trying to argue what a vital service these places are.
Even those who work at the libraries know they are not vital, which is why they were more than happy to close their doors a few weeks ago at the drop of a hat, because of a little snow! (as reported here in the R&TT).

The employees actions at this time simply support that drastic action is required to bring the libraries and its staff into 2011.

If the public thought they were vital, they'd be full everyday. This is sadly not the case whenever i've been in, so i fear the worst if left alone. Severe shrinkage or complete closure, and the inevitable Library Van...
Yes, Privatise. If done well, it will be a far better and more consumer focused service. They are currently just allowed to drift along, with no medium or long-term strategy as to how to get new people involved in the library service. I hope this comments column doesn't become full of people trying to argue what a vital service these places are. Even those who work at the libraries know they are not vital, which is why they were more than happy to close their doors a few weeks ago at the drop of a hat, because of a little snow! (as reported here in the R&TT). The employees actions at this time simply support that drastic action is required to bring the libraries and its staff into 2011. If the public thought they were vital, they'd be full everyday. This is sadly not the case whenever i've been in, so i fear the worst if left alone. Severe shrinkage or complete closure, and the inevitable Library Van... aspicer
  • Score: 0

2:41pm Wed 5 Jan 11

JSBeaven says...

The sooner people realize that a service which offers people access to and unlimited number of free books is something to be treasured the better. You can order, through the inter library system, any publication and you will be able to read a copy for a small charge, on top of the selection in the local libraries.
And most offer CD's DVD,s newspapers, free internet access, and childrens books, jugsaws and games. Whats not to like about them?
Grow up and appreciate them before they become privatized and we lose access to these free facilities for ever.
The sooner people realize that a service which offers people access to and unlimited number of free books is something to be treasured the better. You can order, through the inter library system, any publication and you will be able to read a copy for a small charge, on top of the selection in the local libraries. And most offer CD's DVD,s newspapers, free internet access, and childrens books, jugsaws and games. Whats not to like about them? Grow up and appreciate them before they become privatized and we lose access to these free facilities for ever. JSBeaven
  • Score: 0

4:35pm Wed 5 Jan 11

nlait says...

I would strongly endorse the comments of 'A Spicer'.

Libraries in the Richmond Borough should be 'privatised', i.e. being run by a trust/social enterprise, with a radical review of the service.

Richmond Council is quite right in reviewing the service, and resources should be concentrated fairly and squarely on the larger Borough libraries which are presently open at least five full days a week.

There are probably around four small libraries which could close, with local residents travelling to a larger Library either within the Richmond Borough or in another Borough such as say Kingston.

The use of a mobile library is a most sensible suggestion, particularly in those parts of the Borough where libraries are closed.

I am sure that Borough residents would want to ensure that front line services such as schools, street cleansing, highway maintenance/street scene improvements and refuse/recycling collections are maintained and enhanced instead of preserving the current out-dated library network.
I would strongly endorse the comments of 'A Spicer'. Libraries in the Richmond Borough should be 'privatised', i.e. being run by a trust/social enterprise, with a radical review of the service. Richmond Council is quite right in reviewing the service, and resources should be concentrated fairly and squarely on the larger Borough libraries which are presently open at least five full days a week. There are probably around four small libraries which could close, with local residents travelling to a larger Library either within the Richmond Borough or in another Borough such as say Kingston. The use of a mobile library is a most sensible suggestion, particularly in those parts of the Borough where libraries are closed. I am sure that Borough residents would want to ensure that front line services such as schools, street cleansing, highway maintenance/street scene improvements and refuse/recycling collections are maintained and enhanced instead of preserving the current out-dated library network. nlait
  • Score: 0

5:05pm Thu 6 Jan 11

twickers425 says...

Libraries are a fantastic community resource and centres of learning. The only way to fight privatisation and closure is for those affected to take action. Don't believe the Tory lies that this is financially necessary. Proper taxation of wealth would solve the deficit overnight.
Libraries are a fantastic community resource and centres of learning. The only way to fight privatisation and closure is for those affected to take action. Don't believe the Tory lies that this is financially necessary. Proper taxation of wealth would solve the deficit overnight. twickers425
  • Score: 0

4:22pm Fri 7 Jan 11

janeyboo says...

I too agree with some of the sensible positive comments here about the suggestion of outsourcing the libraries to - hopefully - library management specialists who just happen to function in the private sector. Anyone who remembers the impact that exposure to competition had on what in the 70s were appalling municipal leisure centres and pools - now we have a burgeoning private and public sector of gyms and fitness centres ! A mixed competitive market. Most boroughs' bins are now collected by private sector contractors and performance in most places has improved through good contract management and the earth didnt fall in. So why, when we're talking of handing libraries to specialist library management contractors do people leap to the very odd conclusion that they will lose libraries and reduce opening hours. If the authoirity selects the right partner surely privatisation could be a positive alternative and can guarantee the sustainability of the service because they will need to be run efficiently and minimum conditions can be specified in the tender documents. Come on, let's think outside the box and we can both protect the service AND save our council funds ! Don't dismiss good ideas before at least investigating them fully !
I too agree with some of the sensible positive comments here about the suggestion of outsourcing the libraries to - hopefully - library management specialists who just happen to function in the private sector. Anyone who remembers the impact that exposure to competition had on what in the 70s were appalling municipal leisure centres and pools - now we have a burgeoning private and public sector of gyms and fitness centres ! A mixed competitive market. Most boroughs' bins are now collected by private sector contractors and performance in most places has improved through good contract management and the earth didnt fall in. So why, when we're talking of handing libraries to specialist library management contractors do people leap to the very odd conclusion that they will lose libraries and reduce opening hours. If the authoirity selects the right partner surely privatisation could be a positive alternative and can guarantee the sustainability of the service because they will need to be run efficiently and minimum conditions can be specified in the tender documents. Come on, let's think outside the box and we can both protect the service AND save our council funds ! Don't dismiss good ideas before at least investigating them fully ! janeyboo
  • Score: 0

10:39am Mon 10 Jan 11

JSBeaven says...

Sigh. I wish somebody would tell me how, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, privatisation will both save money and improve services?
Paying somebody else to do what the local authority is currently already doing is bound to cost more as the third party will charge a profit. This will be offset by job losses, closures, and reductions in funding for books and refurbishment, or through increased charges.
Im not sure what box janeyboo is in if she thinks that it will save money and improve services!
The only way to save libraries is to stop the senseless criticism of them and promote them as a key part of community services and make our elected authority accountable for their preservation.
Sigh. I wish somebody would tell me how, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, privatisation will both save money and improve services? Paying somebody else to do what the local authority is currently already doing is bound to cost more as the third party will charge a profit. This will be offset by job losses, closures, and reductions in funding for books and refurbishment, or through increased charges. Im not sure what box janeyboo is in if she thinks that it will save money and improve services! The only way to save libraries is to stop the senseless criticism of them and promote them as a key part of community services and make our elected authority accountable for their preservation. JSBeaven
  • Score: 0

3:18pm Sat 22 Jan 11

AACR2 says...

It's laughable the suggestion that privatisation will improve the library service.

First off, the council will pay the private company to run the service on it's behalf, so where is the saving?

The private company running the service will wish to make a profit; that is money removed from the funding of the service. To improve its profit margin, the private company will drive down costs by reducing wages (not paying for professionally trained staff and by reducing overall levels of staffing) and by spending less on new resources.

Let us not forget also that the infrastructure handed over to the private company (the buildings, computer equipment (network, software, servers, terminals and peripherals), stock - books, DVDs, etc) have all been paid for out of taxation. How will these resources previously owned by the residents of LBRUT be handed over: for free, on a lease?

As we saw in the credit crunch, there's no guarantee at all the privatising / deregulating services automatically leads to more efficient practices, the opposite in fact.

No, there's only one reason for privatising services and that's to ensure the continuing transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich at a level to which they are accustomed. Far better for the rich to pay less taxes than do their civic part in providing decent services for all.
It's laughable the suggestion that privatisation will improve the library service. First off, the council will pay the private company to run the service on it's behalf, so where is the saving? The private company running the service will wish to make a profit; that is money removed from the funding of the service. To improve its profit margin, the private company will drive down costs by reducing wages (not paying for professionally trained staff and by reducing overall levels of staffing) and by spending less on new resources. Let us not forget also that the infrastructure handed over to the private company (the buildings, computer equipment (network, software, servers, terminals and peripherals), stock - books, DVDs, etc) have all been paid for out of taxation. How will these resources previously owned by the residents of LBRUT be handed over: for free, on a lease? As we saw in the credit crunch, there's no guarantee at all the privatising / deregulating services automatically leads to more efficient practices, the opposite in fact. No, there's only one reason for privatising services and that's to ensure the continuing transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich at a level to which they are accustomed. Far better for the rich to pay less taxes than do their civic part in providing decent services for all. AACR2
  • Score: 0

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