Over the last few weeks a number of concerns about the management of the Library and Heritage Service in Wandsworth by GLL have been raised with me, I have posed a number of questions. Diana Edmonds, the GLL Head of Libraries has sent me the following comments on the questions and the issues.
The answer is reassuring. However, there is no room for complacency. The establishment of Friends groups, like the one that already exists at Putney, would be helpful to enable users to have a say in future developments, and help promote the library with events, so that useage goes up. Communicating with users through email about forthcoming events and developments and seeking views, would help.
I will continue to raise issues about the Heritage Service and publicity of heritage activities in the libraries as a member of Heritage Wandsworth Partnership. Many of the events in the Heritage Festival will take place in libraries, starting with an Open day I have been organising at Wandsworth Town of stalls, displays, talks and an associated walk. Full Festival details will be published soon.
On the future of Croydon libraries see my posting on Croydon Citizen http://thecroydoncitizen.com/politics-society/next-croydon-libraries
Are the numbers using the Wandsworth Heritage Centre lower than comparable local archives/local studies?
CIPFA statistics for visitors to archive services in 2012/13 for Wandsworth and neighbouring local authorities are detailed below:
CIPFA statistics for the same period for other Inner London boroughs are provided for comparison:
Tower Hamlets: 1457
In terms of comparative size of holdings, Lambeth have 200m3, Wandsworth has 136m3 (or did at that point, although it has increased a little since then). Tower Hamlets and Hackney both have 211m3, so Wandsworth is actually performing better than services with larger holdings.
Is there a limit to the number of local history publications on sale and if so, is this a situation inherited from Council managers?
We will be pleased to sell more local history publications in the Heritage Centre – and indeed in local libraries, but there have been supply difficulties in the past.
We have recently approached both the Clapham Society and the Streatham Society for details of publications for sale and have now raised an order for material from the Clapham Society.
We are still waiting for a response from the Streatham Society, although we purchased several copies of a publication by one of their members for re-sale at the end of last year. We are also hoping to buy material from the Wandsworth Historical Society, but have had supply issues on previous occasions. We are also pleased to sell self published material by local authors if the items are relevant to the local area – and indeed have some arrangements in place to do this.
Is there adequate publicity at each library about the Heritage Service?
Additional information about the Heritage Service has been included in this year’s Festival brochure. We are also considering improvements to the website as well as printed information in individual libraries. A photo shoot to provide suitable images for use in publicity material is being undertaken this week.
Withdrawal from the London Libraries Consortium
The withdrawal from the London Libraries Consortium formed part of GLL’s bid to manage the Library Service in the London Borough of Wandsworth. Wandsworth has been a member of the Consortium for 9 years and joined when there were 3 members with a similar spend on stock. There are now 17 members with very different levels of spending on stock and corresponding differences in the amount of material available for loan. This has resulted in more and more material from Wandsworth being out on loan in other boroughs with significantly less material being borrowed in return. So while Wandsworth meets 75% of reservations from its own stock, and would meet more if material were not out in other boroughs, other library authorities meet less than 40% of requests from their own stock. For every item borrowed by a Wandsworth customer, two items are lent. New material is particularly popular and many new books do not reach our shelves before they are lent to another library authority. Indeed, for some time, Wandsworth Libraries have deliberately placed a stop on the loan of bestsellers.
We feel that this is no longer economically viable. The loaned material is not available to customers in Wandsworth while Wandsworth incurs considerable costs in terms of stock retrieval and transportation simply in the process of lending to customers outside Wandsworth.
We should like more material to be available for Wandsworth customers. We shall, of course, continue to provide an efficient reservation service for items which are in stock but out on loan, and a request service for material which is not in stock in Wandsworth. Wherever possible, for items such as large print and talking books, for instance, we prefer to buy rather than borrow, because it builds the collection of material available for local customers. This often ensures that the request is satisfied more quickly – and also ensures that the item is available for other customers who would not reserve the item but will, nonetheless, enjoy using it. Adult fiction and non fiction will be purchased either from our standard suppliers or from internet bookshops who can supply very quickly. Specialist items will be borrowed from the national and international sources which we use currently.
Has the overall quality of service improved or been deteriorating since GLL took over?
I asked staff for their comments on this question, and they provided a list of improvements;
- The IT upgrade for the People’s Network PCs replaced hardware which was over 10 years old, much of which was no longer fit for purpose, Equipment including scanners is now available for use by members of the public. Comms lines have also been upgraded, giving considerably faster access to online services. Our next upgrade will include colour and A3 printing. The price of printing was halved in January 2014.
- New online resources are now available, including The Driving Test, Mint for company information and Freegal, the music download series.
- The purchase of new stock has continued much as before the transfer, with qualified librarians selecting stock for libraries in the Borough. Wandsworth Libraries has a good stock budget but is currently part of the London Libraries Consortium and lends a great deal of material to other library authorities. Wandsworth lends 2 items for every item borrowed – and so customers may not see a full representation of stock purchased by Wandsworth Libraries on its shelves. Newer stock is particularly attractive and may be borrowed by another authority before it even reaches the shelf. Wandsworth Libraries is in the process of withdrawing from the Consortium and we anticipate being able to display a better range of material in our libraries when the withdrawal is complete, as well as being able to develop collections suited to the interests of the customers using particular libraries.
- Libraries are actively promoting books and authors. We have had a number of visits from authors including Penelope Lively and are currently promoting the CityReads programme with events and promotions. Events have already been planned for Heritage Month and for Family Learning. Book groups have continued to operate; a new adult reading group has been established in Battersea Park Library which is proving very successful.
- Work with children has been developed, with more class visits from local schools and nurseries. We held a very successful Summer Reader Challenge this year and also hosted a live streaming event with Cressida Cowell, a well known children’s author, which was viewed live by over 600 schools across the World, as well as by 100 children and teachers from local schools in Southfields Library.
- The number of learning opportunities has increased with sessions of IT support, English conversation and CV writing, as well as the regular programmes of more formal learning opportunities in Roehampton Library and in the Learning Centre in Battersea Library. Wandsworth Town Library is working with the local Job Centre to provide sessions on using IT to find a job, while a new “Start your own business” has started in Roehampton Library. The National Careers Service supports programmes in Battersea Park Library while Balham Library is now working in partnership with Krypton, a learning provider, to assist job seekers with CV writing.
- Arts programmes have been developed with regular exhibitions in Putney Library and a special exhibition to celebrate LBGT month at Balham Library organised by Wise Thoughts. The HeART project was launched at Wandsworth Town Library, with a trail of artwork. Southfields Library has also been working in partnership with Aspire, again showcasing the artwork.
- Library buildings are being systematically reviewed and upgraded, with areas being redecorated and improved with new furniture and fittings. New technology to improve the efficiency of the library service has been introduced, with self issue machines now available in the 4 smaller libraries, and an automated sorter being installed in Balham Library. Library hours are being extended, too, with both Balham and Putney Libraries now open on Friday afternoons. This is already proving popular with our customers who expect to be able to use a library when it is convenient for them.
Are there are problems with getting books people want to read?
At present, Wandsworth Libraries use the London Libraries Consortium to satisfy reservations, securing items which are not available by purchase or Inter Library loan. We are not aware of any issues which would affect the supply of specific items.
What is the percentage of households without access to internet in Wandsworth?
Wandsworth Council’s website states that 85% of residents have internet access, presumably giving 15% who do not.
Are there plans for shared facilities within Wandsworth libraries or other strategies to increase visitor numbers?
We are reviewing the potential for a Community Bookshop operating from Northcote Road Library and are open to other partnership activities taking place in libraries.
Are members of staff being moved around libraries?
We have moved a number of members of staff who have been based in the same library for a several years, in order to give the staff opportunities for development. Many members of staff are also attending a variety of training courses organised by GLL.
Diana Edmonds, Head of Libraries, GLL
31 March 2014