Paid library staff in Surrey should stay: Campaigners

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Campaigners fighting community library plans in Surrey have written to the county council chief setting out reasons for keeping paid library staff.

Surrey Libraries Action Movement (Slam) addressed the letter to the county council chief executive, David McNulty.

Slam chairman Mike Alsopp said the local authority needed "to look again at the removal of paid staff".

A Surrey County Council spokesman said the letter had just been received and the authority could not yet comment.

The case has been subject to a judicial review at the High Court, where Mr Justice Wilkie is due to make a further ruling in May.

'Flawed decision-making'

The open letter said there were serious questions about the effect of removing paid staff which had not been considered, but must now be considered thoroughly and put to the cabinet.

Campaigners said the current plan was to offer volunteers two hours of training, which would cover use of library self-service points, customer registration, making book requests, identifying good quality books, understanding stock display and location and being aware of legal requirements relating to customer service.

But Slam said full-time paid staff were able to develop knowledge of library users and their needs, develop relationships with library visitors, provide information, show people how to use reference sections, make fiction book suggestions and cater for the needs of disabled users.

The letter said: "It is difficult to see that the training outlined above comes even close to properly addressing these issues."

Earlier this month, the council's decision for 10 libraries to be run by volunteers, in a bid to keep its 52 libraries open, was ruled unlawful by High Court judge Mr Justice Wilkie.

He said the decision-making process had been flawed because training for volunteers had not been fully discussed.

Campaigners welcomed the decision but Surrey County Council said the ruling did not suggest the scheme could not go ahead.

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