I used to work at a public library. I don’t anymore. In fact, right now I don’t work in any library at all.*
Last year, the local council cut my (former) library’s budget exponentially. The library was allowed to cut any aspect of its services except one: we couldn’t close any branches. It was decided that meant cutting all of our enquiry desk staff and reallocating them to outreach positions (at a pay cut for those who had been librarians). After minimal training, library assistants were reallocated to the few remaining reference desks.
The local council knew branch closures are such a hot-button issue. They were likely aware that both staff and the public would put up a fight if they closed a branch. So instead, they went for something without a public face: cutting staff essential to providing a quality service.
The cuts were announced around the same time that certain necessary government services went online. The government failed to provide training programmes for those with low or no computer literacy skills, so local council employees referred the baffled and upset to the library with the vague words, “they might be able to help you.” New patrons flocked to the library. Demand increased while staff numbers began to dwindle. It was disheartening and put a tremendous strain on all of us. I had no idea what to do about it, or whether I could do anything at all. In the end I left.
YA Library UK will continue to run, some changes need to be made. This site was created for people who had the enthusiasm to provide teen services in their library, but who faced barriers like inexperience, limited budgets, and staff resistance. People who needed a demonstrable outcome to get real support for teen services, but didn’t have a clue where to start, or any guide to teach them. People who were doing the YA ordering and trying to figure out how to get the books young people actually wanted to read.
In many cases these concerns have become subordinate to cuts and closures. Without a library, a staff, or a budget, how can we provide a service to anyone, let alone teenagers?
I want to hear from you: what are the main challenges you’re facing in your library? Closures? Budget cuts? Staff cuts? If you’re still running a teen library service, what are your challenges there? Budget? Local (dis)interest? Colleagues who laothe teens? In some libraries, I know that many of these issues intersect.
In response to your feedback, I will formulate new directions for YA Library UK that respond more effectively to the current climate in public and school libraries. So please comment below (anonymous commenting is on!), tweet or email me and let me know about the challenges you’re facing.
*If you’re wondering what I’m up to these days, you can visit the updated about page.