A potted history of the changes made to Doncaster Libraries and Information Services over the last five years and the implications this has had. Read The Picture Today for more information about how the libraries are struggling to provide a service.
Customer Service Centres: Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council (DMBC) decided to develop ‘one-stop’ Customer Service Centres (CSCs) to serve as council information points around the borough. The libraries were a ready-made network of 26 static branches. 4 to 6 of these were to be developed initially, with DLIS & CS staff were to be trained to cover both roles. A lot of money was spent on adapting buildings. There are now 12 CSCs.
Restructuring: DMBC staff were restructured. DLIS was taken out of the Education directorate, which had worked well for many years, was well respected and supported. The libraries staff structure was split into 2 different directorates:
Customer Service: All counter front-line staff, including libraries which were not CSCs were taken under the CS umbrella.
Prioritisation of services: This system was confusing – branch staff did not know who they answered to, and their managers had conflicting priorities. CS schemes took priority and library managers needed to ask permission to use library staff to carry out library projects.
Although libraries had initially welcomed the CS concept, it was now clear that DLIS had in effect been taken over by DMBC staff who understood nothing about how a library service operated and who had little or no interest in them.
Neighbourhoods & Communities: The library service itself, along with library managers and senior staff (specialists with responsibility for developing and promoting the library service) moved into this completely separate directorate.
Head of Libraries – late 2005: The Head of Libraries left due to illness and has not been replaced.
In August 2010, as a result of a of consultant’s recommendations, this post now been advertised. However, it is only advertised internally as ‘interim’. A professional library qualification is not immediately ‘essential’ for the post, and the post must be taken up immediately. This gives the impression that the council already has someone in mind for the post.
The two senior library managers who took responsibility between them in the absence of a Head of Libraries were not acknowledged or given respect by CS Heads and spent the next three years fighting to maintain the position of the library service within DMBC.
Restructuring – November 2006: the council decided to combine the two areas of DLIS and place them in Customer Services, which mean that DLIS managers still had no responsibility for their own staff. This caused unhappiness, confusion and problems for staff and managers.
Prioritisation of services: Priorities for library counter staff were increasingly focussed towards CS. Library managers felt as though CS felt they had to justify their existence at all costs, and that library/book/reading-based projects were of little value or importance in the grand scheme of CS.
Impact measurement: The CS focus became quantitative rather than qualitative and was based on statistics and figures. This is problematic for library services, which mostly result in impact that can only be demonstrated qualitatively.
Role of libraries: The importance of the community aspects of libraries, for example developing and maintaining relationships with potential and current library users, schools, local groups, etc. was not recognised or encouraged.
More libraries became CS centres. DLIS had to fight for the term ‘Library’ to be included on exterior signage. A CS report stated: “Some of our CS centres contain libraries”, indicating that library services were no longer valued.
User enquiries: For a period, all incoming phone calls to all libraries were diverted to a CS call centre. The public were deeply dissatisfied with this scheme and it was stopped. It was apparent thatCS did not realise the type and range of calls received by libraries, or the value placed on the personal relationship between branch staff and library users.
Staff recruitment: library experience, book knowledge, reading interest, children’s work, etc. was not regarded as necessary. Some of the early adverts for CS staff made no mention of libraries, so appointees did not know until they started work that the majority of their work would be library-based. Some appointees were left very quickly.
Staffing by end of 2006: 12 qualified, trained librarians in public-facing roles (two principal librarians, children’s librarians, reference librarians, local studies librarians, central librarians, outreach librarians)
Senior and branch library staff noticeably began to leave the service. Up until this point the staffing situation had been very stable.
Jan 2008: the much-delayed library service restructure was published. This was devised totally by CS managers, with no input from library managers. The Head of Service post did not appear on the structure.
Late 2008 – redundancies were offered and taken by many. A mass leaving ‘do’ was held in December 2008.
Staffing by end of 2008: There were and are still no qualified, trained librarians working in public facing roles DLIS. There are three qualified posts in bibliographic services (back-room roles) and two qualified posts in the Schools Library Service.