St Just Library Service: through my eyes

Posted on: 2nd October 2015

St Just Library Service is much loved by many locally and I am totally committed to ensuring that we retain a library service, in the town and that it will increase its opening hours. That has been my commitment and it has not waned.

Due to the financial challenges upon Cornwall Council but a commitment not to close any library, Officers of the Council have been exploring other models to run them. Devolution to local Towns/ Parishes and community groups was initially favoured but then a legal challenge to another council, taking a similar approach caused the Council to have to consider what Leisure companies might be able to offer.

Some will remember a recommendation, going forward to Cabinet that was for all of Cornwall’s Libraries to be handed over to an outside organisation, possibly a not for profit one. I and many other Councillors were completely opposed to that, where local discussions and interest was in place to run the library locally. We stopped the wholesale outsourcing of libraries to allow the viability of local bids to be assessed. Those without a viable local bid will likely be put out, on mass, to an outside company.

Here is St Just there was interest from the Friends of St Just Library and the Town Council to run the library locally. Whilst they did not start the process united, it has been agreed that the Town Council’s preferred option, to consider a business case for the public library going to Cape Cornwall School, should be developed. To assist outside companies and local groups wanting to show they can run particular or all Cornwall’s Libraries, information was made public: costs and usage data for Cornwall’s Libraries. The local discussions are under way, supported by the school. No decisions are made.

Some concern has been expressed, on social media, about the current building, the jobs of librarians and the community groups currently using the library. I will give my views and the information I can on these matters, trying to make clear what are my opinions and what are facts.

The current library building: There are no plans to ‘sell off’ the current building. As part of some wider devolution discussions the Town Council has plans for that building but I am not in a position to share those beyond the fact they would preserve and enhance a Tourist Information facility. These discussions are still at a fairly early stage and it is for the Town Council and not me to provide information on any detail.

Jobs: I have been acutely aware, at this early stage of discussions for the future of our Library Service and the use of the current Library building, about those dedicated library staff. As a Councillor, I have urged officers to keep staff fully informed but it is tough as decisions are not made on what paid jobs might emerge and how they would be filled. I am going to state that another way, it has not been decided that current staff will or won’t become the future of either project and I raise the issue at every meeting I attend as the sooner this can be resolved the better. I would however stress that those staff are employees of Cornwall Council, not specifically St Just Library so even if, worse case scenario, no jobs emerge in the plans, that does not automatically mean the people in the posts will be made redundant as the Council does have redeployment policies. This is a very sensitive issue that I prefer not to see banded about casually, over social media.

Community Groups Using the Library: Discussions at the school have not precluded these groups transferring although it is possible some would not wish to or preferred time slots are unavailable. However, one thing St Just and Pendeen do not lack is community facilities (in my opinion) and many are suffering due to lack of use/ lack of funding. So, any groups that meet in the Library that could not or chose not to move, IF the library does go into the school, would be spoilt for choice over another community venue!

THE BOTTOM LINE: Here is my personal opinion. If we do not agree and come up with a local solution to St Just Library, a company, probably not a Cornish one, will come in and take over our library. For a few years, there might be tight conditions that stop them ending the library service. They probably would not be required to run a Tourist Information Centre. Down the line, I think we would be back discussing how we stop the closure of St Just Library with people who are not local. A local solution, even if not the one everybody LOVES, keeps the Library in local control. Everyone with a concern about the Library will easily be able to drop in to the Town Council or the School but much tougher to go to Somewhere Else Libraries Ltd!