The questions Friends will put to the library forum

April 12th is the date of the next library public forum at Tate South Lambeth. This is the fifth so far of the face-to-face meetings of library managers and local people, held every three months, where the library’s plans are set out and its performance is held up to scrutiny by the general public.

So what particular issues does the committee of Friends want the forum to look at this time round?

We want to know what progress there is on:

 the past year’s planned spending of £107,000  on building improvements

setting up a system for engaging local volunteers to support library activities

Both questions have been raised by the public at three of the past four forums, and library management has given assurances that both are in hand and early action is planned. But we have yet to see any solid evidence of action.

Thus as the 2013/14 financial year ended (on March 31st), there was no sign of a start up of the building improvements programme. The only capital projects carried out at TSL in the past year have been:

either

part of separate, service–wide programmes (such as the replacement of the computer keyboards, and the  renovation of the kitchen and the public toilet- although that did not bring the toilet into service  as the underlying problem – defective drains – was not dealt with)

or

carried out by Friends of TSL, using donations from local resident and business sources (such as the supply and installation of a blackout blind for the skylight over the film screening area, which has made possible daytime film performances, particularly suited to the oldest and youngest members of the community, and a new entrance mat to replace the rotting one there). In fact this list would have been longer if we had secured action from the library management in using the funds donated for a new, more informative, external notice board.

The issue of bringing in volunteers has, if anything, become more acute now that staff numbers at TSL are being reduced in line with the general retrenchment in the workforce in Lambeth libraries. It is essential that the library set up a system to attract such volunteers and to give them support and encouragement.. That support and encouragement includes adequate briefing and management by library staff, so that volunteers feel that their contribution of time and skills is effective and makes a difference. Otherwise, as has happened with one of the most popular activities at TSL – the weekly literacy club for 8-11 year olds – the erosion of volunteer numbers is threatening its continuation

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