A SURVEY of nearly 2,000 library staff by Unison, the UK’s largest union, 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.
Funding cuts have been directed at library services but in Wiltshire, where there has been a successful campaign to recruit volunteers, cracks are now appearing.
Last week it was revealed that Ludgershall library, which is run by volunteers, has had to close on Thursday afternoons for the next six months because the number of volunteers has dropped off.
It has prompted an appeal for more volunteers.
Ludgershall councillor Chris Williams said: “It is a good way to support local services and getting to know people.”
The union says library staff nationwide 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’.
One third report that libraries have reduced their opening hours, and a third have introduced charges for previously free services.
Some 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.
A total of 439 libraries have closed since 2010, with another 280 (245 buildings and 35 mobiles) now under threat.
Nearly 4,000 full-time equivalent jobs have been lost from the sector.
Heather Wakefield, Unison head of local government, said: “Volunteers cannot be relied on to replace trained skilled library staff – the library service is being run into the ground.”