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.