Sep 20 2012 by David Holmes, Chester Chronicle
FORMER city MP and ex-librarian Christine Russell is concerned about Tory plans to run a library using volunteers.
Labour understands Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) wants to relocate Hoole library from a dilapidated building in Hoole Road to Hoole Community Centre but run by volunteers supported by a qualified librarian.
Ex-Labour MP Ms Russell, who attended the London School of Librarianship where she gained the Professional Librarianship Qualification, fears a long-term plan to run all libraries using volunteers.
“I think it’s the thin end of the wedge – it’s Hoole today but it could be Lache, Blacon and Upton tomorrow,” said Ms Russell, who worked as a librarian in Camden, at the University of Glasgow and for Dunbartonshire County Council.
“Volunteers can be really, really, valuable but they are no substitute for proper fully qualified trained staff. What happens if they all decide to go on holiday together, lock the door and go away?
“This is the flaw of the Big Society. Volunteers are good for the heart of a community but at the end of the day you need qualified paid staff who have the responsibility to be there and open up the building and manage the place.”
Hoole ward Labour councillor Alex Black said: “Everyone knows that Hoole’s library is located in an inadequate building. But the proposal to sell the land on which the library stands and the building next to it will net the council a handsome profit. We believe that money should be used to retain the professional staff currently employed in the library in a fit-for-purpose location.”
Council spokeswoman Laura Johnson said: “We have been working closely with local members to develop a solution that provides a positive location for the library whilst also helping to sustain an existing facility.
The council said it was still waiting for a response from Hoole Community Trust, which runs the centre.
Ms Johnson added: “Until we have that, discussions regarding staffing are premature.”
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