Library staff urged to vote against service cuts

The Cathaoirleach of IMPACT’s Local Government and Local Services Division has urged all eligible library staff to vote in the union’s industrial action ballot, which closes on Friday (24th November). Sean Reid said a strong mandate was needed to boost the union’s campaign against ‘staffless’ library services, which will lead to poorer services and job losses.

Sean said members who had not yet voted could do so by contacting their local IMPACT branch. The ballot closes at noon on Thursday.

IMPACT called the ballot in response to management plans for a large-scale pilot of after-hours staffless services, which staff fear will ultimately lead to completely staffless libraries with sharply limited services to the public.

Sean said there were widespread fears about health and safety protections for library users and workers, and the possible erosion of staff terms and conditions. “We know that local authorities treat libraries as a Cinderella service and, if staffless services are deemed an option, councils will inevitably seek further savings by extending unstaffed services into core opening times,” he said.

IMPACT says the extension of staffless arrangements will leave library users unable to get assistance from trained and qualified staff, or benefit from cultural and educational events. IMPACT says this would hit less advantaged communities and individuals hardest, because wealthier and better educated groups generally need less help and can afford to pay for more cultural and educational experiences.

A previous pilot in three locations demonstrated that the vast majority of users continued to visit libraries during core, staffed hours.

IMPACT national secretary Peter Nolan said: “This initiative is a sinister plan to cut costs and services under the guise of extending opening hours. Our libraries remain critically underfunded and nobody seriously believes local authorities will resist the temptation to save more cash by replacing staffed hours with the much more limited range of services available on a staffless basis.

“This will short-change communities. There’ll be no school visits, no storytelling, no help to find what you want, no security presence, and none of the hundreds of educational and artistic events that libraries provide throughout the year. Everyone will lose out, especially the elderly, students and people from disadvantaged communities and backgrounds. Meanwhile, management’s own data from the initial three pilots clearly demonstrates that the vast majority of us prefer to visit our local library during core hours when expert staff are there to help.”