Outsourcing and business premises

One of the greatest achievements of the public library service is its neutrality. No-one is trying to sell you anything, convince you of anything, solicit your support or steer you away from one thing or towards another. It is provided regardless of your personal views and circumstances and free to anyone who walks through the door (or, increasingly, anyone logging onto the service online).

The minute that a library is situated in some corner of a commercial premises, or comes under the management of a private company, that will change. Users will be encouraged to borrow the material that suits the company, in a way that suits the company. It will cease to be about you and start to be about the bottom line. This is wrong and it is the reason why we oppose the involvement of the private sector – quite apart from some emerging evidence that it could lead to staff cuts, branch closures and a very negative attitude towards library personnel.

Similarly, voluntary organisations may well do wonderful work but they always, by their nature, bring their own agenda to the table – it’s their purpose for existing, after all. And that agenda may not serve all the citizens of a particular district or neighbourhood. That’s perfectly fine while the group is campaigning on an issue but not so quite good when it takes charge of a public service that’s supposed to be universally available. This is why we believe library services are always best operated by democratically-accountable local authorities and never by any kind of commercial or special-interest groups.