Minutes of September 2018 FOLOB meeting


Present : Mary Wilkins (Acting Chair); Graham Childs; Philippa Hands; Stephen King;
Stuart Richardson; Martin Sullivan (Secretary)
Apologies: Ann Gallagher; Lynn Gregory; Janet Moir; Naomi Paul; Sarah Teversham;

Philippa Webster; Bob Whitehead (Chair)


1 MINUTES OF MEETING of 2 JULY  – Agreed as accurate




2.1 The group discussed what its next steps should be to secure its core aim : to change the BCC Cabinet’s policy on the funding of the library service by restoring it to its previous level. We had achieved as much as we could towards this aim but there were many obstacles to making the final step, despite the evidence of strong public support. Points raised included :


  1. i) the possibility that the new Ward Forums, which could be in operation by April 2019, could provide a vehicle to press our case


  1. ii) the BCC localism initiative proposed involvement in the local implementation of policies developed by BCC committees without any community participation in decision-making at strategic level. Parts of it seemed to draw on David Cameron’s Big Society initiative, aimed at moving volunteers into work previously undertaken by paid public sector employees


iii) The data on library use forwarded by Richard Hatcher showed the following figures for the percentage of the population of the West Midlands making at least one visit to a library in a year (figures are to the year ending in June): 2006 : 48%; 2017 : 34%; 2018 : 31%. In other words, 69% of the WM population never visited a library


  1. iv) we should have closer involvement with Birmingham Against The Cuts


  1. v) no libraries had been closed but they had been hollowed out and conditions had deteriorated for staff and users. There were rumours that BCC was contemplating closures because of the high costs of necessary repairs and refurbishments.


  1. vi) we needed people to manage our presence on social media


vii) we should be organised in such a way that we could react strongly and speedily to major events such as library closures or other cuts


2.2 Agreed: to put the following package of proposals to the AGM in November:


  1. i) to use the new Ward Forums, and any citywide bodies which might be formed, to pursue our case. We should publicise meeting dates and brief supporters to attend and to raise specific issues


  1. ii) closer involvement with BATC – send reports and a representative to BATC meetings


iii) consider meeting every two months instead of monthly


  1. iv) greater involvement with trades unions, starting with affiliations


  1. v) using the new Ward Forums and any other new bodies in the BCC structure /cont.


  1. vi) activating our social media


vii) continuing the regular meetings with BCC



  1. i) Sutton Coldfield – our forecast of the consequences of the installation of a café and children’s play area were accurate – the noise level is high, deterring many users- it is now mainly used for PCs and by parents and children; it is not really operating as a library. No evidence that café and play users have any interest in the library. There is still no sign of a tenant for the second floor.


  1. ii) Stirchley – the establishment of a volunteer network highlighted BCC’s negligence in failing to produce a revised policy on library volunteers,


iii) Bartley Green – the secrecy in which the long-delayed establishment of a community centre in this tiny library was alarming. Our concern was that the library would be squeezed into a corner and that the role of volunteers would involve duties currently undertaken by paid staff.


  1. iv) Erdington – becoming more of a DWP centre than a library, the area of which had been moved to one side to accommodate this. There were similar issues re DWP in other libraries


  1. v) Aston – there were issues about staffing levels and other matters re this library


  1. vi) Birchfield – there had been an assault at this library, which had been reported to the police. There was verbal abuse at many libraries, especially during the lunch hour when services were reduced.


vii) volunteerism – Unison officers were taking up this issue on a number of fronts with BCC




  1. i) future of regular meetings with BCC: Agreed – to continue with these as they gave a useful means of direct contact with BCC when we needed to raise issues


  1. ii) AGM: 5.30 p.m. on Monday 5 November. A draft annual report would be put to our October meeting


iii) interview with South Birmingham Radio – Bob Whitehead did an interview and phone-in on 27 July on the issue of West Heath Library (BCC’s promise to rebuild this library after its demolition had been broken, and the plan to install a library area in Oddingley Hall had been repeatedly delayed).

  1. iv) affiliations
    – we should seek more, starting with the Trades Council.


  1. v) finance report – the bank balance is £324.45


  1. vi) nursery closure protest at BCC meeting at 11 p.m. on Tuesday 11 September – a library speaker would be welcome at this rally


5 FUTURE MEETINGS 2018-2019 (all on Mondays at 5.30 p.m.)


1 Oct 5 Nov AGM 3 Dec 7 Jan 4 Feb
4 March 1 April 13 May 3 June 1 July


5 September 2018