Local authority-run libraries need a significant increase in resources, including investment in library staffing, according to Fórsa. In a submission to a public consultation on the strategy for public libraries, which is currently underway, the union also called for a re-think on ‘staffless’ libraries, and sought commitments that libraries would remain safe spaces for staff and users.
The Fórsa submission, which was informed by the input of members and branches, argues for the filling of vacant posts with recruitment at the grade of library assistant.
The union also expressed concern that responses were being sought after a 25-page confidential draft of the strategy document – which Fórsa officials have seen – had already been compiled. The head of the union’s Local Government and Municipal Employees’ divisions, Peter Nolan, said he “hoped and expected that the union’s ideas, observations, reservations and recommendations can and will be taken into consideration in any final draft.”
In the submission, Fórsa called for:
• a forum for consultation with elected members and users
• a specific forum for staff consultation which directly involves operational staff at all levels within the services
• a convention whereby all references in local authority literature would brand libraries as local authority libraries rather than as ‘Libraries Ireland’ libraries, which has no corporate status
• an unambiguously expressed commitment to ensuring that libraries remain as safe spaces for staff and users
• a significant increase in resources and investment in library staffing. This, Fórsa argued, must include the filling of vacant posts. The union emphasised recruitment at the grade of library assistant
• a re-think concerning ‘staffless’ libraries
• a programme of professional development and training for library staff.
The union also complained about how library staff were referred to in the draft, saying they were not shown sufficient respect. Peter said: “Issues of language are easily overlooked, but are very important in terms of the signals they send and the role that language plays in forming our impressions and prejudices.”
In a similar vein, Fórsa also noted the use of euphemistic language to refer to proposed staffless libraries. It said the emphasis placed on staff being “able to move freely among users” implied that staff would not work in issuing and returning items.
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