A survey of nearly 2000 library staff (including Scotland) by UNISON, reveals a service in jeopardy, with the public paying the price as they lose their local library or face increasing charges, dwindling opening hours and shrinking staffing levels in those that remain.
Library staff are working harder than ever to keep services running and report escalating stress levels as a result - one in four are stressed at work ‘most of the time’. This is hardly surprising given that 60% have seen full time job losses, and more than half (54%) have seen a reduction in part time posts. 79% say they are working harder to try to maintain the same level of service, whilst 57% say it is impossible to maintain the same level of service as existed before the coalition’s drastic cuts.
One third report that libraries have reduced their opening hours, and a third have introduced charges for services previously provided for free. Libraries are also placing limits on services, such as internet use, which is problematic for people who can’t afford a home computer and rely on library access to search and apply for jobs and benefits.
The position in relation to privatisation and reliance on volunteers is not as bad in Scotland yet. However, hard pressed councils are cutting library provision here and the coming budget round will no doubt see more proposals like those in Moray.
Great local campaigns like Love Moray Libraries illustrate why libraries have been at the heart of Scottish communities for more than a century. Lets keep it that way!