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What's Happening to our Libraries?

As a longstanding Library volunteer, I feel well-placed to question the sudden introduction of Card Access Technology at the four small branch libraries including Raynes Park and West Barnes. 

Having weathered successfully the financial cutbacks imposed by the government upon local councils, Merton could until recently be seriously proud of its library provision. 

However, the latest developments have taken many aback. On Monday 15th November I arrived at the Raynes Park library to run my regular story session.  A small notice (A4) had been pinned up explaining that the library can only be accessed between 9.30am and 1.00pm by use of a library card and pin number. On Saturdays and from 1.00pm the current rules apply. 

Obviously, on this occasion the staff were present outside and were as helpful as ever, but I was surprised that neither I nor any other user had been forewarned of the imminent change. I checked the Merton site afterwards and there was no mention at that point of the new entry system.

Nor had I received any email notice. 

It makes sense to require members to have their cards with them, just as we need other cards for buses and tubes. It is free to join the library, so the new entrance system, once firmly in place, should not prove a barrier and will free up staff to deal with other matters within the library. 

However, the change was brought in abruptly and is tied up with other more questionable cost-cutting issues.  The Head of Library Services, Anthony Hopkins,  explained to me that the intention is to save money by reducing the bill for Security Personnel – and that to compensate there will be more CCTV which can be accessed remotely to keep an eye on things. Help! 

Let’s get this clear: the security officers at the Raynes Park and West Barnes Libraries are outstanding workers, who undertake willingly a range of tasks for which they are not paid. Also, without their presence there will be times when other staff will be on their own. Lone working? Is this the plan? 

Following the pandemic (when, quite rightly, we were scarcely allowed in), libraries need to recover and move forward. This should be done safely and in cooperation with the community rather than through plans and schemes drawn up and implemented without our input or any consensus. 

Clare Townsend 


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