. .

THIS WEEK Summer makeover: Surface dressing programme to ‘pothole-proof’ county roads

COMMUNITY UPDATE: Pevensey Mini History Festival

JOBSBOARD LATEST ON JOBSBOARD: Sussex Police: Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs)

The Network Volunteer group is invited to respond to this letter
The Big story: Playground of the vanities, What is happening with our precious library? Article is referenced in this letter. Available to read in the Pevensey Bay Journal, edition 19, in local newsagents, article also available online following publication this coming week

Dear Sir

I have read with interest your article in the Bay Journal on the library, the frontpage article in the Eastbourne Voice by Volunteer Network CIC and also their recent update about their plans for the library currently circulating in the Bay.

It was immensely encouraging to read that Volunteer Network CIC are committed to introducing an online library management system (LMS). This was something proposed and costed by FPBL in their own bid precisely because it enables online browsing of the stock held in the library, as well as renewing and reserving books from home.

It enables easy data capture of member’s contact details useful for promoting and marketing the service, as well as providing the extra benefits for users referred to in Volunteer Network CIC’s recent newsletter.

Acquiring a new LMS is a big investment and one not included in the low-cost plan Volunteer Network CIC recently got approved by ESCC, an omission that has caused some confusion over their intentions. Those contributing through Kickstarter funding thought their donations would be funding the retention of the county council service, the proposal that is now outlined in the most recent newsletter however is potentially even better as it enables the benefits of ESCC library membership to be dovetailed with the benefits of an independent library.

A good online LMS enabling access to the library is essential to meeting the expectations of library users many of whom for several years have become used to accessing library services in this way and the company are right that it is particularly important if young people are to be encouraged to use the service.

Volunteer Network CIC’s most recent newsletter with its clear focus on setting up a quality library service is a great start and it is good to see that despite two of the group personally underwriting the financial risk of the project they have decided to carry the cost of an online library management system.

Reservations of the entire county council library stock can of course already be made on the internet using any computer or phone whether at home, on the bus or in a library. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if library users in the Pevensey area could actually collect their reservations once again in their new independent local library through the re-introduction of a courier system that collected bundles of reservations from the nearest ESCC library?

The ex Library Manager will probably provide good advice about books that are popular but what about the need to access books that are not mainstream? Older paperback fiction can be easily and cheaply acquired locally including by donation. Previously our local library met wider ranging needs by holding graphic novels, expensive information books, large print books, young adult fiction, audio books, course books and some time ago, Quickreads. This kind of material as well as recently published books are costly to acquire. A quality wide ranging book stock that is regularly refreshed is essential to the success of any library and so it was good news to read this is budgeted for.

As indicated in the recent Bay Journal article well run libraries inevitably act as social hubs and if run by the community the service offered can be broadened out to meet local needs providing lots of activities for young and old. This offers potential improvements on the service previously provided by the county council, making far better use of overheads such as the building costs and featured in all the bids made to ESCC.

There has been a lot of discussion about whether a community managed library service should be run by a CIC (community interest company) or a CIO (charity). Actually, the main issue either way is that it needs to be visibly accountable to local people and others who are paying for the service. Traditionally, elected representatives have been accountable for the spending and delivery of local services, but this is not the case with social entreprises such as CICs.

In the recent newsletter we are told that a management committee and volunteers will run the project but that Volunteer Network CIC will take on overall responsibility. Until recently this company had a single Director although apparently it now has two. It would be better if there were a few more Directors with appropriate skills and experience to share accountability, particularly now that the company is responsible for delivering a local library service with local taxpayer’s money as well as the funds from other organisations.

‘We want to create a new friendly, community focused space where everyone will be welcome to come in and chat over a cuppa!’ How wonderful this sounds and it is a great aspiration. I remain a little sceptical. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Faced with views that may be challenging and inconvenient it takes humility to listen, address other people’s concerns and credit them with their work. Ego is a great motivator for driving projects forward, but responding constructively rather than defensively to concerns raised is more likely to secure longstanding support and respect within the community than any amount of flannel, froth and misinformation on Facebook. Issuing threats and circulating false information and allegations to control dialogue is not the way forward, such behaviour by any Directors would undoubtedly be frowned upon by the CIC Regulator.

Despite one or two misgivings, it is really good to see this group publicly confirming a commitment in large bold lettering to providing a good quality modern library service for this community.

The process of bidding for the library which was forced on to the community by the county council has resulted in intense hard work for all involved over several months and has been very divisive. Hopefully once the heat of competition brought on by the bidding process has dissipated, a first class, aspirational and inclusive library service with clearly stated objectives, accountable to the people that finance it, and ethical and transparent in the way it operates will emerge. An institution in fact that local people would not hesitate to support.

Kind regards
Margaret Martin, FPBL