Today I received a letter which has been circulated to all NI library staff advising that the library budget isto be cut by a further £1.4 million by March 2015. This notification of cuts was delivered to the library service last month by the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure (DCAL), the same DCAL as headed up by Sinn Fein Minister Caral Ní Chuilín. .
This announcement comes with the added news of how things are set to get worse in the coming years. These cuts are said to involve a reduction in the level of new stock, scheduled maintenance, staffing, programming, travel and training.
There is to be a full review of staffing to ensure libraries provide the core services and a reduction in opening hours by November 2014.
The staffing budget is to be cut by £520k which will see the removal of listed vacancies and agency sickness cover which will also impact on outreach work carried out in deprived communities. Furthermore there are cuts to the staff development budget.
The stock budget is to be reduced by £489k which will involve a decrease in the level of new stock purchased and also in the purchase of daily local newspapers.
Marketing to promote free Wi-Fi has been cancelled.
Library service staff are also to be given the option of a voluntary reduction in hours. The Library service has stated that these cuts will also mean ad-hoc closures of libraries due to a reduction in staffing levels and available cover.
Libraries provide an invaluable resource for many in our communities from mothers & toddlers groups to older members of the community and everyone in between. Libraries provide more than books, they are a social hub, the provide services to marginalised and disadvantaged communities and this service needs to be protected.
From helping reduce social isolation in the elderly, to providing a whole raft of services across our communities the library service and its staff do a fantastic job on an already limited budget, yet the powers that be in Stormont are implementing cuts of £1.4 Million against the library service after just wasting £17 Million on the failed Education and Skills Authority.
It would seem that the politicians would be better off looking at the amount of public money they are wasting before they cut essential services. Don't forget it wasn't the Tories who wasted that £17 million quid, nor have they forced the library service to cut their services!
REJECT ALL CUTS!