New Library to be Privately Run?

In February Birmingham City Council advertised in the European Journal for firms interested in managing the new central library – and more.

The successful applicant will be expected to operate the Library of Birmingham (LoB) including but not limited to the City’s archive collection, support services for Community Libraries, the Mobile Library, Library Service at Home and management of the Council’s book fund.

This would appear to mean that community libraries will have no right to order their own books and little need for qualified staff, opening the way to them being run by volunteers as has happened elsewhere in the country.

This proposal was not included in the Labour manifesto last May or in the leader’s statement last June or in the consultation documents for this year’s budget.

Very few private firms will have the expertise to run a library the size of Birmingham. There is speculation that one bidding will be LSSI which runs 79 libraries in the USA where it has been widely accused of profiteering. Although the closing date for expressions of interest was March 5th no shortlist of tenderers has been released yet, and we do not know whether the Birmingham Libraries Service will be allowed to take part in the bidding.

The likely starting date for the contract would be 1st September, right from the opening of the new library. Otherwise the existing City Libraries Service would have to fill every post, and all of these would be entitled to be transferred under TUPE. This would not leave much scope for the contract winner to put in their own staff at senior levels.

This could be our last chance to save a publicly run and accountable library service in our city.

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3 Comments

Filed under Birmingham City Council

3 responses to “New Library to be Privately Run?

  1. Linda Ashford

    This is ridiculous. How would a private company from somewhere else know what the needs of Birmingham library users are. Or what is important to the hisory and culture of this city. It is time that the council made their decisions in consultation with the people of the city, instead of over their heads.

  2. Pingback: Birmingham Trades Council » New Library to be Privately Run?

  3. I can only surmise that after spending £188m? they now don’t have the money to run the project? The margins for a private firm will be very tight and the savings for the council relatively small so it’s ideological more than financial, but we’ll never see the detail in the contract as it will be deemed commercially sensitive. The firms interested will be the usual suspects; JLIS, GLL, LSSI and maybe Civica? I don’t think the in-house bid will stand a chance against these big guns?
    If this proposal succeeds, then it will be a disaster for the library users of Birmingham and the staff, just look at Hounslow, Santa Clarita and the protests over Greenwich!

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