Friends of Puddletown Library, Dorset
12 December 2008


Chair of Friends of Puddletown Library   11 December 2008

Dear Shirley

It's clear from your website and from our conversation this morning that I can give you no lessons in drumming up support.  The fact that you have a local MP on-side, have so many members and can generate so much supportive activity leaves me lost in admiration.

One small observation:  if your council is serious about requiring increased usage and borrowings before it will contemplate saving your branch, why not use your many members to come in twice a week and take out the maximum number of books allowed, even if they are not going to read them? Such a tactic could double your figures in very short order.

But you don't seem to need advice.  What I can offer is a warning of the Orwellian doublespeak of your council. They have asked your organisation, it seems, to take over, as volunteer librarians, the whole 18 hours that your branch is open 'on the Dorset model.'  Such an arduous undertaking is far removed from the reality of the Dorset model.

Here, with the support and encouragement of our county council, 'friends' groups in both Puddletown and Burton Bradstock (villages of about 1,000 people) have taken over merely four hours a week on a voluntary, unpaid basis  -  in both cases supplying less than half the hours that the two branches are open.   Thus we still have the help and guidance of a professional librarian for more than half our total hours of opening.

To do this the county Library Service staged a comprehensive training programme for about a dozen members of the 'friends' groups from each of the two villages.  In both, volunteers have for the past six weeks been keeping their libraries open, without supervision, using two volunteers for each session.  Although we do our best we are conscious that there are questions we cannot answer and procedures we cannot undertake, so we leave details for our professional librarian to clear up next time the branch is open.  We do not like having to tell people that they'll have to come back in two days' time, but it is occasionally necessary.  So far our library users have been gratifyingly tolerant, but there is no doubt that both villages still rely on professional input for their libraries to function effectively.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind the the 'friends' groups in Dorset could not contemplate shouldering the burden of supplying much more than the four hours of opening they at present provide.  It would, in my judgement require at least 60 trained volunteers to undertake the 18 hours of opening which the Old Town Library offers now.  And furthermore you would then still lack the professional input we so much depend on here.

'The Dorset model' is being, it seems to me, quite shamefully misrepresented.  It is at best an aid to keeping small branches open:  it is not a wholesale take-over of those branches' duties

I invite you to test my opinion against that of the 'friends' group in Burton Bradstock.
(Contact details supplied)

I hope my comments are helpful.  I wish your campaign every success.

from Mike Chaney
Chair of Friends of Puddletown Library