“A Flagship Community Library”?

A letter to the Swindon Advertiser on the Walcot Library which has no staff and is run by volunteers.

IF the Walcot Library is “a flagship community library” (SA, October 1), then God help the other local libraries when the council starts making cuts! It has no real library staff, is now shut on Saturdays and is no longer available for the local schools to use, because there’s no room available since the charity shop moved in. It is now, in fact, a charity shop with some stacks of books as a sort of afterthought. Comparison of library usage between the years 2008/9 and 2009/10 shows the figures for Walcot have gone down dramatically.

If Coun Mallinson had the eager troupe of volunteers that Coun Foley seems to think are going to appear out of thin air to staff the libraries, then he would not be in trouble now. The people who signed the petition do appreciate and value volunteers, when their services are used properly. They know that volunteers need training and support – their needs must be met, as well as the needs of the organisation using them. Coun Mallinson’s volunteers are charity shop volunteers who have been asked to keep an eye on the book stacks. They are not library staff, nor have they been asked to do, or been trained to do, the job that the library staff undertake.

So perhaps this is the shape of things to come. Staff the local libraries with volunteers, cut out the library staff and install automatic machines for taking and returning books – machines which are not capable of providing a library service, and then, if volunteers are not forthcoming, close down the library because “nobody wants to use it”.

Incidentally, it is not correct for the council to say that the Old Town Library is now open 40 hours a week. It is actually staffed as a library 18 hours a week – the rest of the time, people can choose a book from the stacks and use the automatic machine. The trouble is that the councillors who make the decisions do not seem to know what a library is for, although it is on all the library publicity… Learn More! Enjoy More! Discover More! A place where books are loved and treated with respect, where people can learn and discover new worlds of information not only from books but through the use of computers, and where library staff are there to help them do so. And that is particularly important in areas where educational attainment is low.

SHERRY WALDON Kingswood Avenue Park North Swindon

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