Friday, January 08, 2010

File It!

Down at the Central Library in Ilford Town Centre there is rather good facility known as the Local Studies Library. I have used it myself. Lots of interesting stuff about the history of this area, and books written by Local historians who probably did some of their research at that very place. We know some of them. There is Peter Lawrence [ex-councillor], Georgina Green and the late Norman Gunby.

But this well-used service is now under threat. The proposal is to reduce the number of staff from six to one and be available by appointment only. The Ilford Hysterical Historical Society are not pleased. And neither is Ron Jeffries, author of Just an Essex Lad. He writes:

Dear Councillors,
I learned yesterday from the ILFORD RECORDER that next Monday's Cabinet Meeting will be considering a proposal to make the five fulltime members of staff of the Local Studies Library redundant from next April, replacing them with one member of staff who will see residents by
appointment only. If this goes ahead it will be a sad retrograde step. The Local Studies Library is a valued resource which many residents use. I have used the library in connection with research for writing material about St. Peter's Church in Aldborough Hatch. I have amassed a considerable amount of material about Aldborough Hatch, St.Peter's and Fairlop Plain. It was my intention to ensure that this material was passed to the Local Studies Library on my death. I will have to reconsider this if the plan to curtail the Library goes ahead.
My wife and I are pensioners. I mention this because when I was invited to comment on the Redbridge Budget I made the point that in my view the Council Tax should be increased in line with inflation or slightly above, rather than reduce services. May I urge Councillors not to reduce services, but to apply an increased Council Tax. Those who can afford to pay will do so willingly if services are not cut. Those who are unwilling to pay should be taken to court and dealt with there. Councillors need to set a strong lead and not fluff about trying to appease the few who complain about the Council Tax. Please keep as many services as possible.
Ron Jeffries

Plan for big cuts to library archiving service – WW Guardian

Fears over access to borough archives – Ilford Recorder page 5

And just to show it is not confined to Redbridge, similar proposals are being considered in Brighton.

I wonder if it’s a national trend?


  1. I could not disagree more with Mr Jeffries' comments about paying more Council Tax.

    How Mr Jeffries cares to spend his own money is his business - but it is not his business to encourage others to raid my pocket.

    As it happens, I have over the years given papers of local historical significance to the Local Studies Library, so I am not indifferent to the facility or to history generally.

    However, in straitened times, this is a luxury, and if staff cutting is required, so be it.

  2. I'm sure there are quite a few (somewhat bizarrely named) Council Officers job we could cut and divert the money to the Librfary.

    I too have used this facility on the past and found it to be immensely useful and the staff there knowledgeable and helpful.

    And to think (yet again) these petty Council beaurocrats are will to cut this accumulation of knowledge and experience.

  3. Dear Judith, please check the papers - if you can find them in the vast morass of Budget bumph.

    What's proposed for Local Studies is not a cut, it's a massacre. The qualified librarian will be made redundant, so will other staff.

    One staff member, a "collections officer", will be left to run the service, answer the phone, deal with enquiries, look after the collection. All this for a Scale 4 salary - one of the lowest salary grades in local government.

    Anyone who's used local studies will appreciate the high level of local knowledge possessed by the staff. It saves hours of time for eqnuirers. But all this is to be discarded.

    Oddly enough the Local Studies library is the first port of call for many planning enquiries - people find it easier and more accesible to use than finding when the Planning Dept is working.

    So local studies saves the council money - for I am sure planning officers are paid a lot more to answer questions that librarians who are among the worst paid council officers.

    I am pleased to learn Judith has given papers to the Library. I recommend others to do the same. But who in future will give papers to such a castrated service - for that is what it will become if these proposals go throug?

    Isn't it ironical that this cut is put forward by "Two Jags" Councillor Weinberg, a man with his own record of expenses? I never fail to wonder how Conservatives tolerate this man in such a high position.

    Clearly Conservatives have forgotten the need to Conserve...

    I regret that I must remain anonymous this time, but my views will be voiced elsewhere.

  4. I read with great dismay about the proposed cuts to the local studies archive. I have spent many, many weeks using this facility, which is always busy. The staff are dedicated and extremely knowledgeable. Indeed, their knowledge and help has enriched my research immeasurably.

    I cannot believe that given the level of use, it is possible to consider staffing cuts. The librarians are often hard-pressed to cope with the number of visitors, although I cannot praise them enough for their hard work, dedication and response to our needs. Many people who visit the archive, particularly those who are not computer literate or whose first language is not English, could not achieve their objectives without the aid of the staff,

    I am currently researching the history of Ilford’s allotment movement for a PhD at University College London. Without this resource, my research would not be possible. The Borough has a fascinating and rich heritage contained within all its history. My research, for example, sheds light on the Borough’s social history, urban development, political attitudes and responses to such situations as the World Wars and economic depression. I intend to present my findings to the archive, as have many previous researchers. What a tragedy it will be for everybody interested in local history, which ultimately is the history of our country, if there is no local facility to preserve these precious resources.

    To the Councillors who are proposing the cuts, I ask that you consider the following point taken from UNESCO’s Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage:

    That deterioration or disappearance of any item of the cultural or natural heritage constitutes a harmful impoverishment of the heritage of all the nations of the world.

    This situation applies to all of us, everywhere. Cutting this resource is a harmful impoverishment that will ultimately be to the detriment of all of us, and is without a doubt, the first step in ultimately closing the archive altogether.

    Please reconsider this foolish and irresponsible cost-cutting measure and show us, that you, our elected officials, value our local heritage as much as those of us who utilise this resource.


  5. Just to be clear here, Anon, all cllrs including cllr Weinberg now receive a fixed "allowance" set by Full Council, in place of the previous "expenses" regime.

  6. Lesley, suggest the above would make a good letter to the local papers. Links in the side bar.

  7. I've already sent it to all the local papers and the councillors!

  8. Of course, one solution would be to ensure that, all the musuem material is online, including pictures, but no doubt that is even more expensive.However, I remember the trumpeting, when the Musuem was first started, only a few years ago,perhaps some of the Redbridge I v2 budget should be diverted to the Musuem service, where it could be put to better use.

  9. the Museum Service, (which by the way does an awful lot of work with schools most of which will go)has become this years "allotments"
    which is only to be expected considering the Councillor in charge of Leisure, are we to expect a "Big Conversation Version 2" (as we paid the consultants large amounts of money to tell us what to do properly next time, although even without hindsight getting the figures right would have been a start)Let us hope it does not follow the same pattern as the other notorious Version 2 currently still trying to correct itself.