Sunday, 17 June 2012

Can Icelandic Cash Save Oxford's Libraries?

If, as we are told, Oxfordshire County Council has now started to recover the money it placed in Icelandic banks, a total of £5 million, what is going to happen to that money?
Library campaigners should speak up now and demand that some of it is ear-marked to saving threatened libraries. Let's cross names off the list of closures, let's restore library opening hours and let's insist on paid librarians instead of volunteers or automation.
Oxford City Council also had £3 million invested in Iceland and can hope to recover most or all of it, which is some of the best news we have had all year. I think it should make a contribution to the costs of running Bury Knowle Library. Why? Because it rents out the building to Oxfordshire County Council, thereby making us pay to use what we already own.
We the residents and council-tax payers paid first to buy the building. Then we paid to lease it from the City Council! The minimum we can expect after that is to get a guarantee that our library will be maintained and the costs of running it properly with professional staff will be met in the future.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Are Library self-service machines dangerous?

A friend of mine tells me that he always gets an electric shock when he uses library self-service machines. You have to touch the screen and they zap you with an electric current.
This is just one more reason for disliking library self-service machines. Another one is that they cannot talk and cannot recognize you when you come back into the library next time. They can't answer your queries and can't sympathize when you return your books late and have to pay huge fines.
Are these impersonal contraptions going to be introduced in all our public libraries? Maybe everyone doesn't get electric shocks, but surely it is a loss of quality of life.
The world seems to be caught in an endless spiral of destroying jobs to save money, and thus putting everybody on the dole.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Headington Library as an issue in the City Council Election May 3rd 2012.

You may thank that our libraries are not an issue in the forthcoming City Council Election, to be held on 3rd May 2012. The public libraries are run by the County Council, aren't they? Yes, but Bury Knowle House and Park are owned by the City. (Note that I don't say thay are "owned by the Council" as public ownership does not mean being the property of the council. The councillors and council employees merely run the place).
Bury Knowle House and its park belong to the people of Oxford and are now leased out by the City Council to the County Council to be used as a library. I believe the lease is due to expire in 2016. What this means is that the people of Headington are paying to use something that already belongs to them. This does not seem to me either fair or logical. When there is a shortage of funding we cannot afford to pay for what we own already. I suggest that it would be better to make over the library building and park to the people of Headington for use as a library free of charge. Since the City Council used our own money to purchase the building, how can it then expect us also to pay rent?
The idea of one of our councils paying rent to the other just means that we are paying to use our own property - it is a stealth tax.
In view of the recurrent threat to libraries and attempts by the County to close them, I would question the right of the City Council to raise money by renting out our property and then spend the proceeds on anything apart from funding the library itself. The building should be owned by the local residents and used without charge of any kind.
This is one of my policy ideas and it will be on my leaflets in the forthcoming campaign (I am a candidate in Quarry and Risinghurst).
I have heard that there has been a court case that has decided that using volunteer staff to keep libraries open is illegal. I think that is unhelpful. Does the judge who decided this case ever use his local library? I wonder. He can probably afford to buy all the books he reads.
Of course I would like every library to have properly paid staff. It is awful to make librarians redundant and I don't want to underrate their specialist skills. However in a situation like the one we are in now with an economic mess on our hands, allowing volunteers to help could just provide one more option to avoid complete closure.