Initial Response to Libraries Review Staff Consultation

UNISON Response to Accommodation Office Options Review (FBC)


Initial Response to Libraries Review Staff Consultation

28th July 2016


This is Barnet UNISON’s first response to the Council’s current Consultation with staff regarding the proposed restructure of the Library Service.  The Council has yet to provide UNISON or Library workers with accurate costings for the proposed posts. The Job Descriptions for the proposed posts in the new structure were also delayed in being supplied to UNISON. Additional responses focusing on these issues and the job selection process will follow at a later date as we consult further with our members.

UNISON remains fundamentally opposed to the Library Restructure which is driven by an ideological push to privatise regardless of the financial cost, or the price that library workers will pay in lost jobs or the lowering of the quality, accessibility and safety of the Service.


  • Our engagement in this Consultation does not mean our Branch endorses the Council’s intentions for Barnet Libraries

If the proposed restructure is implemented staff based at the static libraries, particularly Library Customer Service Officers (LCSOS) will bear most of the burden of the 46% job cuts.

The Council believes these staff can be replaced with volunteers or machines. The proposal relies on recruiting and retaining enough capable volunteers to operate Libraries, even on the planned reduced level of service. It is proposed that the Library Community Engagement Team will deploy volunteers on a day to day basis and ensure there are a sufficient numbers on site. But volunteers will expect a level of flexibility far greater than staff in setting hours and sites for their duties.  UNISON believes that these factors will lead to unplanned closures of libraries.

Front line staff remaining after the restructure will suffer increased levels of stress due to having to deal with issues that cannot be resolved during unstaffed opening hours. This will only be exacerbated by the intention to open Libraries for whole days consecutively without staff present.

In the previous restructure of 2013 Librarians bore the brunt of cuts suffering 75% job losses. Bibliographic Services, Archives and Local History, the Home and Mobile Service suffered large cuts also. If these areas were to be cut further it is likely they would not be able to function at all.

Library Organisation and Leadership

The Consultation document states;

“The pace of change is unlikely to abate and the need for robust strategic business planning and the development of key strategic partnerships will continue to be vital for the long ­–term sustainability of the Library service.” (p 13)

But this planning has been demonstrably lacking in previous years as projects have been abandoned and partnership opportunities missed (arts depot). Ongoing IT problems and the recent IT Library Management System (Vubis) crash have highlighted the inability of the present Library Senior Management structure to respond to  difficulties, as do the delays in effecting  building and fixtures repairs or running to time in opening new sites (Colindale) or installing technology (Open+ pilot). This deficiency is mainly due to the Council’s positioning of the Library Service in its organisation and an over-reliance on outside agencies rather than any implicit failing of senior staff.

However the proposed restructure does not address these issues and gives greater control to non-library agencies.

  • UNISON calls for the placement of Libraries in the Council’s overall structure to be reviewed.

Placing the Library Service within the Children’s Service has not been a success. The wider remit of the Libraries to serve all age groups has not been fully served. Nor has it protected the provision of services for young people. The Council’s planned changes will see children, particularly those from  lower income families  adversely affected as access to libraries for under 15 year olds is restricted,  overdue fines for children are introduced  and an  increase in charged-for events and activities.

Libraries Manager (LM)

Staff numbers and the size of libraries will be reduced as well as four libraries being removed from direct Council control. The Operations and Customer Services Manager will have the following added to their role

“Responsibility for oversight of the Partnership Library Service Level Agreements and the extension of the LBB library volunteer programme” (P 13)

This is currently the responsibility of the LM yet it is proposed to increase the pay grade of the LM from SCP 51-54 to SCP 54-60 (Unified Reward grade L).

  • The Libraries Manager Post must be revaluated and any savings made used to offset the reduction in LCSO and other posts.


Library Customer Service Managers (LCSM) and Assistant Library Customer Service Managers (ALCSM)

The Council states

“The remit of the LCSMs and the ALCSMs would remain largely unchanged, though some complexity would increase. In addition to standard management duties, both LCSMs and ALCSMs would perform large amounts of frontline duty providing support to Library Customer Services Officers (LCSOs). Frontline managers would also be required to ensure service standards are maintained between the three different types of opening hours (staffed, volunteer supported and technology enabled) at each Core Plus and Core site.” (p 10)

LCSMs and ALCSMs already perform large amounts of front-line duty which this statement appears to disregard. LCSMs will also be expected to line manage   an extra ALCSM. They will have to operate and maintain three forms of opening hours, two of which are untried.

  • When and how will these managers receiving training for their new duties?

Library Customer Service Officers (LCSO)

The Council undervalues the LCSOs believing their functions can be carried out by volunteers and machines. This ignores the training, knowledge, skills and experience of these library workers.

The small number of LCSOs remaining will face increased pressures in the new structure.  The public will only have access to library staff for a very limited amount of time and much of this will be given over to dealing with difficult or challenging situations that cannot be resolved during unstaffed hours, as will many issues involving children’s library provision.  Yet LCSOs will be expected to cope with these as well as run events and activities and perform the other duties vital to running a library. 

“Each LCSO would generally be required to work at more than one site per day.” (p 10)

This will place undue pressure on staff with responsibilities for dependents. Part-timers will be expected to work during more days than at present.  This will incur higher travel and other costs on these workers. UNISON has yet to see real evidence that this has been considered by the Council.

  • Where is the Staff Equalities Impact Assessment?
  • How did the Council decide that 18 FTE LCSOs were sufficient number for the Library Service?

Local Studies Service

“One Library Customer Service Manager would linemanage the Heritage Officer

Based at the Local Studies and Archives Service. This post would move from the Business Development Division to the Operations Division” (p 10)

UNISON believes that Local Studies and Archives should not be moved to the Operations division. Operations already has and will have further onerous responsibilities without this extra responsibility.

The proposal also implies a demotion for the Heritage Development Officer who is currently line managed by the Business Development Manager (a senior position) and would place an unsuitable responsibility on the Library Customer Service Manager.

Home and Mobile Library Service

The Senior Library Customer Services Driver has been regraded to a lower pay scale and retitled Library Customer Service Officer Driver.

This is unjustified, particularly as the cutting of staffed hours in the static libraries and the handing over of four sites to “Partnership” organisations is likely to see an increase in use of the Home and Mobile Service. Library users who would prefer to have the benefit of the knowledge and skills of library staff will know this will always be available during Mobile opening hours. Children’s use of the Mobile Library could increase as under 15 year olds will not need to be accompanied by an adult.

  • Has an assessment been made of how the changes to the static Libraries will impact on the Home and Mobile Service?

Operations and Community Team Leader

“The Operations and Community Team Leader replaces the current Senior Operations Officer and would continue to take responsibility for all office and financial functions (coordinating and overseeing library banking, managing centralised deliveries to sites, overseeing all office and utilities procurement), overseeing management of the staff timetable and linemanaging the Operations Officer. In addition this post would linemanage the two Library Community Engagement Officers.” (p 11)

This is in essence an administrative post and it is not appropriate to include the management of the two Library Community Engagement Officers or to have responsibilities overseeing the Volunteer program or support and development of the Partnership Libraries. Knowledge and experience gained through a professional librarian qualification and/or experience of front-line library work is needed to train volunteers and to undertake monitoring visits.  It is also needed to advise and guide the Partnership libraries.


  • The Operations and Community Team Leader post should be removed from the proposed structure and the Senior Operations Officer post should be retained to carry out the specified office and financial functions. The Library Community Engagement Officers should report directly to the Operations and Customer Service Manager.


  •  If Operations and Community Team Leader post is to be included in the new structure then it should not an assimilation of the Senior Operations Officer post but should be offered as a vacancy open to application by library staff.

Service Development Teams 

Business Development Manager (BDM)

Deletion of this post also reflects the Council’s Workforce Strategy to reduce layers of management and management costs.” (p17)

This appears to be the only instance of the strategy being followed.  However the BDM is being replaced by two senior managers whose pay grades, while not reaching the upper range of the BDM pay scale, overlaps to a large extent. These two replacement posts are unequal in responsibilities but are given equal grading.

“The proposal reduces the number of specialist units and instead creates two Service Development Teams – Early Years and Schools and Stock and Services. Both Service Development Teams would be managed by a Service Development Manager” (p 120)

There is no need for two Service Development Managers, particularly as there is an imbalance in their responsibilities. The Service Development Manager: Stocks and Services will directly line manage 7 FTE staff and have indirect responsibility for 2.5 FTE posts. The Service Development Manager: Early Years and Schools will line manage 2.7 FTE staff with indirect responsibilities for a further 1.8 staff.

  • The Service Development Manager: Stocks and Services and Early Years and School posts should be merged into one single Service Development Manager.
  • If the Service Development Manager: Early Years and Schools Manager is to be retained it should not be assimilated from the Bookstart Coordinator post. This proposed post has remit to provide a service for all Children and not just pre-schoolers. Therefore it should be ring-fenced for current library post holders who fit the specifications outlined in the job description.


Service Development Librarians (SDL)

The Council states that there will continue to be 6 SDL FTE posts in the new structure. But UNISON doubts this will be the case. Since the present structure was put in place there have never been 6 FTE SDLs in place and working.  Vacancies have not been filled, maternity leave has not been covered, nor has Trade Union facilities time been covered. People have been appointed to a SDL role but have not acted in that part, instead working as IT support. At present there are 4.1 FTE SDLs, one of whom is on a temporary contract.  In addition, for much of the time the present structure has operated with no Service Development Team Leader in post (as at present).  This leads UNISON to believe that the Council has no intention of employing 6 FTE SDLs but is using this figure to counter any public discontent with the low number of Librarians working in the Library Service.

Service Development Librarian: Early years

The Bookstart Liaison Officers are being assimilated into this Service Development Early Years role.  UNISON has no objection to the Liaison officers being retained in the new structure but believe this is not a new role and does not warrant the inclusion of Librarian in the job title. UNISON believe this is being proposed to infer that more professionally qualified librarians are being added to the Library Service.

ESystems Officer

“The ESystems Officer would be linemanaged by the LCSM: Stock” (p 12)

“…and that cover can be provided during periods of annual leave and absence.” (p 12)

  • Will the E-Systems Officer cover for all colleagues in the Stocks and Services Team and vice versa?

Stock Services Officer

This post is to be downgraded. This is unjustified as libraries will not be staffed for most of their opening hours and so stock processing duties and other tasks are likely to increase for this post.

Questions to The Libraries Senior Management Team and Commissioners

  • When and how will Library Customer Service Managers and Assistant Library Customer Service Manager receive training for their new duties? 
  • Where is the Staff Equalities Impact Assessment?
  • How did the Council decide that 18 FTE LCSOs were sufficient number for the Library Service?
  • Has an assessment been made of how the changes to the static Libraries will impact on the Home and Mobile Service?
  • Will the E-Systems Officer cover for all colleagues in the Stocks and Services Team and vice versa?


Barnet UNISON opposes any reduction to existing Library posts or to any cuts to terms and conditions of our members.

If the proposed Libraries restructure is implemented then job losses unacceptable to Barnet UNISON will be incurred. Those staff that remain post-restructure, mainly those on the front-line will face increased stress from higher workloads and public demands.

Barnet UNISON also have great concerns about the safety of unstaffed libraries which have not been answered by the Council.  Library staff who will have to manage transitions from different types of opening hours during their working week are likely to face resulting challenges unconsidered by the Council.

The quality of the Service is likely to decline as staffed  opening time are replaced by machine and volunteer operated hours, stock cut and library space reduced.

But these adverse effects on Barnet Library workers and on the users of the libraries appears to be of little concern to a Council intent on abandoning responsibility and privatising the Service (Phase 3 of Barnet Future Library Service plan).

Barnet UNISON calls for:

  • The withdrawal of the proposed Library Restructure
  • The cancellation of the implementation of the Barnet’s Future Library Service plan
  • Cessation of the outsourcing  of the Libraries
  • Working with all stakeholders in the Library Service to produce a strategy that will minimise redundancies and maintain and improve the quality and accessibility of Barnet Libraries