Volunteer libraries – not libraries

Very interesting article in the UK Guardian newspaper concerning volunteer libraries replacing closed public libraries in the UK.

There are a large number of libraries that have been closed or are threatened with closure. There are now also a number of libraries that have already been passed into the hands of volunteer or community groups.

Guided by the Future Libraries report community libraries are (at a remove) often in some way directed by local councils, so that they may still fulfil their statutory duty to provide library services. But to save money the council does not pay for any staff. Thus these libraries are run solely by groups or volunteers, with no librarians.

Whilst it may be of some benefit to have libraries remain open, without real qualified staff what are the benefits beyond a warmed room and a paper book swapping system?

The loss of professionalism in library provision cannot be supported, however much we may be pleased to see volunteers springing up to save buildings and collections. Buildings and collections do not make libraries, librarians make libraries. Maybe it would be better if these volunteer libraries were called what they are which is ‘community centres’


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