Friday, 10 October 2014

More about Library Camp 2014

To get some sort of order into my #notcurrentlyinafulltimejob life I have decided to adopt my work schedule of Friday being blog day. Which means that I can shift some of the blog lag that I mentioned last week and here is a fuller account of one of the Library Camp sessions. It was about the possibilities of Public Libraries breaking away from their council and becoming some sort of community interest library. I went to the session because for some months now I have considered that a local council in my area appears to be running down children's library services. There used to be a large team of children's librarians which has dwindled to just a few people trying to cope with lots of little suburban libraries as well as one main city library. I know that they are lucky to have children's specialists, as I found out in the PhD research many library services do not have any children's specialists at all, and my research proved that generally, services with children's specialists achieved a much better service for their under 18's than those who did not. However, I have thought that I could, with a group of children's librarian friends, make a far superior children's library service to the area. The problem with that is two fold, convincing my friends to start a business, and how to find the right sort of business structure to provide enough income not to make a loss. I think I have found out how to do it.

The Library Camp 2014 session was lead by Andy Sinnot about the way that the City of York Libraries split away from the council to become an Industrial Provident Society (like the Co-op) to become Explore York. I got really enthusiastic about what they had achieved and as you can see below I took copious notes, which I now have to interpret into some sort of sense to show my friends. (I realise now why I never managed to type up my lecture notes when I was a student. I think I have a very unique take on Mind Mapping!)

So, making sense of the notes below, York Libraries knew that something had to change and a senior manager supported the decision to become a basically different sort of organisation. The ethos of Explore York is that the library service is not pushed onto volunteers having to fulfil roles, if there is a job to be done, then that is a paid post. Volunteers are used as they should be, as icing on the cake, adding the extra special bits. The IPS (Industrial Provident Society) is owned by the staff (one third of the business) and individual members. It is run by a board of trustees, through a CEO, and there are staff representatives on the board. They have not entirely split away from the council, they have a somewhat symbiotic relationship at the moment. They library buildings are rented from the council, services such as HR and IT are bought back from the council (although that may change in the future). The library sells services back to the council, such as Adult Education classes. But, because they are an independent business they have discovered that their costs have dropped considerably because companies charge them less for things like buying a small bit of carpet. They are also eligible for applying for more funding and as a sort of charity they will be able to reclaim tax expenditure.

All this could not have been achieved without the support of the council, the enthusiasm of the senior manager, important legal advice and most importantly getting the backing of library staff. It will be interesting to watch how the service develops. I am seeing my friends next week, I wonder what they will think about my idea?

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