Monday, July 31, 2006

New Look for Margate Library

Plans for a major investment to modernise Margate Library and to deliver faster access to Thanet Council services have been approved by Thanet Council’s Cabinet.

The proposals would see a £600,000 investment in the Library, shared between Thanet District Council and Kent County Council, with a range of Thanet Council services transferring into the library building. These would include those currently based on the ground floor of the Council’s Cecil Street offices, including Environmental Services, Benefits and general enquiries and would, in the future, be available at one point of contact, instead of having to go to different desks for different services.

People would be helped by staff to use self-service kiosks and online services and would be able to browse the Library, while waiting to see officers, with private spaces available for private discussions. Under the plans, the refurbished Library and One Stop Shop could be open by the summer of 2007.

Building works are likely to take around four months and, during this time, the Library will relocate to the former Marks and Spencer building. The improvements will include fully accessible customer toilets with baby changing facilities and the creation of four interview rooms, which can be used by Thanet Council and library customers to meet privately with officers. The rooms will also be available for community use.

KCC Cabinet Member for Communities, Mike Hill said: “We have been making significant investment into Kent’s libraries to modernise and develop services for local communities which will meet demand by residents for easily accessible and wide-ranging facilities under one roof. Working with Thanet District Council, Margate Library will see a marked improvement for library services and the local people.”


Dane Valley Ted said...

Can I assume that as it will be automated to a large extent that the number of jobs at the gravy train(oops)council will be cut.

T.D.C is already one of the worst performing councils according to stats,will this new look help?
If it will that is fine, Or will it be another excuse to explain why they cannot do the job (at the present time)because they are in a transitional period.

Sorry to sound cynical,Same old excuses same old delay.

Anonymous said...

Can't say I've been in the Library in ten years since the opening hours were cut and the librarian told me I could order a book if I really wanted to but it would take a year to get and even then there would be no guarantee it would ever come.
The changes sound OK in principle but will they work?
Somehow I doubt it, what is it about TDC that makes things not work?
Is it low morale?
Is it low pay?
Is it untrained staff?

Apparently we have no TDC employed environmental health enforcement officers at the moment except 2 temporary private contractors who fortunately seem to be getting to grips with the problems.

I wonder how many other departments had job cuts last year and now employ contractors?

Anonymous said...

You make it sound so furry. If only you knew the truth.

Dane Valley Ted said...

anon 9:14
Do tell if you know

stuart said...

This is all a big con to move other departments into the library and out of the main council offices.

Certain departments that bring unsavoury people to the council offices that is.

Nuff said.

James Maskell said...

I use the library on an almost daily basis so Im happy about this news.

Anonymous said...

I wonder james if you would be happy if you knew the truth.a one stop shop will be horrible for the library-i hear they are going to lose some of there floor space upstairs [and booths put in not soundproofed either]so if some poor person wants to sit and read a newspaper ,he will more than likely have to put up with someone in the booth shouting the odds!it will utterly ruin the library and they are also losing the adult gallery!you like that james..?

Anonymous said...

Hey Stuart, I know what you mean about unsavoury people visiting the council offices.
They are often much like the people who visit the jobcentre only in order to keep receiving their benefits.
Yes they can be objectionable, smelly, maybe a sandwich short of a picnic, abusive, heavily tattooed, frightening, drug addicts, alcoholics etc etc.

Yet they are also the people most in need of financial help in this wonderful welfare state of ours which rewards making no effort to work with copious benefits.

There are other people there who need assistance through no fault of their own.

All these people take up the council officers' time which in an ideal world would be spent more productively.

It is an old business saying that 10% of your customers take up 90% of your time, this must be especially true for TDC.

Anyway I doubt whether most of these people would use the library much otherwise so maybe its a good way to get them into the reading habit?

I too doubt whether the changes will make the library a more congenial place to visit for existing users.

stuart said...

Anon 5:29pm - you misunderstood me, my comment was critical of the councillors who don't want these people frequenting their workplace, not the 'unsavoury' people.

I can't deny that I wouldn't want some of these people at my workplace either.

However i question whether the beer can drinking street brigade need to be moved to a more prominant town centre position. At least the place they sit their days out at the moment is tucked away at the top of the town!

Chris Wells said...

There is, and never has been a questionof Councillors or staff not wanting any particular group visiting their offices. This is a joint KCC/TDC efort to both upgrade the use and effectiveness of the library, which has had no major investment in a long time, and also improve the style and nature of the service offered by TDC. This has been done successfully elsewhere in the country, and the project manager for this was part of the team that achieved this elsewhere.

The current entrance layout and positioning seems wrong to me, but I have asked for a full report and discussion by the project leaders for an autumn KCC Local Board, which should come at the end of the consultation process.

If the project simply replicates the queing chaos of the current TDC system it will have failed. The hope is to discriminate more effectively those appointments that need time, and those which can be handled swiftly, reducing queues and difficulty.

I think if you hear the vision as I have heard it, you, like me, may be willing to give it a try.

stuart said...

Chris Wells you can talk it up as much as you like but ultimately it means less floor space for library and gallery related uses doesn't it?

But maybe TDC and KCC are right again. Perhaps libraries are not viable and getting your benefits sorted is the modern day alternative to borrowing a book?

Chris Wells said...

One of the criticisms I have of the current scheme is the 'loss' of gallery space. I put that in inverted commas because there will still be a gallery space, but used in the first instance for childrens projects. This is a real loss to the community as a whole and part of my response to the consultation will be on this subject.

I am not talking this up. I first met this scheme as a LOcal Board Member of KCC over a year ago, and have always had doubts as to the viability of the mixing of the 2 activities. However I have been reassured not by politicians but by a project manager with experience of making this work elsewhere and improving both the service to the community and the quality of engagement within the library. That is why I have asked for a full presentation in the autumn so you can all hear whatI have heard, whichnis far too long to replicate here.

Your comment about book borrowing is interesting. The sort of engagemnet public libraries are interested in is far wider than book borrowing, and is about providing direction and assistance with information, and research, which may end in a book, but not always. This I do have some knowledge of, as I have for some years worked as a trainer with CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) and hear from those working in public libraries all over the country how their role is changing.

I repeat, I have concerns, but many have been alleviated on hearing how it will work in practice. Hope you will come along to an autumn board and hear it as well. I have also provided detailed information to several people who have expressed doubts so they can look in detail at the proposals. Some of those are vehemently opposed. Thats fine. Thats what a consultation period is all about.

stuart said...

I'll await further information but I have yet to hear anything convincing about this 'project'.

If the council needs more space for these functions then I don't understand why more space is not aquired elsewhere.

I just can't see how this kind of thing can co-exist without spoiling the peaceful nature of the library and gallery.

Cllr David Green said...

Chris Wells may have known of these proposals a year ago, but most TDC Councillors only heard the detail comparatively recently.
At the moment, TDC own the building, with KCC being the tennent. I believe the initiative for change came from TDC, whilst the bulk of the money is coming from KCC's share of the windfall from applying Council Tax on second homes.
From a TDC viewpont, the move makes a lot of sense as moving the "front desks" from the main Council building will free up a lot of space, thus enabling TDC staff currently in other offices to move there. These other offices can then be sold off.
The proposals were recently discussed at scrutiny, where there was much concern at the effect of the many thousands of TDC "customers" flowing through the library reception. THere was also concern at the lack of real consultation and thge loss of important gallery space.
We were told that one of the concerns was to get away from sharing an entrance with the Court building as this gave the wrong image to the library.
TDC Cabinet rubber stamped the proposals on Thursday, and I was surprised to find that none of Scrutiny's concerns were reflected in the papers being considered. I understand that this was raised at the meeting and some reference to consultation was adeded as a recomendation.
Interestingly, there was another item on the TDC agenda concerning accomodation changes that assumed the the Library decision would be agreed.
My own view is that unless we are very carefull we will destroy the atmosphere of the library as a place of learning and appreciation.
Something similar is happening in Ramsgate with the rebuild of the fire damaged Ramsgate Library. That too is moving in the "community friendly" direction.
There is nothing wrong with this, Libraries must change with the times, but not at the expence of what is good in our central libraries. I've been told that if I want to do serious research in our libraries, I should be prepared to travel to Maidstone or Canterbury. I have bigger aspirations for residents of Thanet than that.

Anonymous said...

Yes David Green I have to agree that its not nice to have to go past all the hoodlums waiting for their turn standing outside the Court smoking just to get into the Library.
They also make it a grubby and fag end strewn area.

If there is a different entrance that would be good.

Anonymous said...

When will people start listening to the community?

So far we have Save Dreamland and now Save our Skatepark campaigns.

Do we really need a Save our Library?

Anonymous said...

OK. Two things:

1) If this is a consultation period, why have a great number of books already been discarded and sold off to accomodate this plan?

2)How can a loss of half the floorspace improve the quality of engagement within the library ?

Chris Wells said...

I will check, but I do not believe that a great number of books have already been discarded because of this project.

Half the floorspace is an exageration, but that is why you now have the chance to comment. If all the comments in the consultation highlight loss of gallery space and doubts about the entrance then some changes will almost certainly have to be made.

As for Cllr Green, I hardly know where to begin....There were twin hatted labour councillors at the meetings when I first heard of this, including Davids own wife, but in truth they were more intent on opposing the Margate traffic lights replacement on the same agenda.

The windfall tax from second homes came from Davids own Labour government I believe...a government that has specialised in windfall taxes, on oil companies for example when 75% of the price of fuel at the pump already goes straight to the government!

The concerns expressed at Scrutiny were the same as elsewhere, and are contained in the Cabinet decision document. Atmosphere in libraries is changing all over the country, in particular with the introduction of computer suites and the influx of younger people that go with that.

Libraries no longer expect to be the silent, forbidding places of our youth. They do aspire to providing the best sources of help for all who may seek information. In truth, many of us do not use libraries like we used to because of the internet and other sources of reading material. The main market has to think about those who cannot afford their own computers and buying books, and the type of help they may need. Thatis not so much dumbing down as recognising many of the changes in society all around us.

Often that is measured in quality of engagement, the type and nature of interaction between library and user. Many libraries have regular visitors whose sole engagement is to read the newspaper, others to hire videos or DVDs. These are not wrong, but demonstrate the more complex nature of a library service today. Librarians, information specialists as they are now often called, are happy to help, not so certain of publicising what they are actually doing to a wider audience. In truth, much of this debate is about services that are already declining and changing, and once again, we are in danger of nostalgia getting in the way.

Let us wait and hear the full debate in the autumn. I will make sure you all know when it is.

Anonymous said...

I can assure you, many books HAVE been disposed of. If someone has told you different, they are taking you for a ride.
If you are in doubt, go in and ask:
"Are books being disposed of to make way for the new layout?" should do it.

As for your reference to "Information specialists", they are a rare commodity on library premises these days as anyone with complex research to do will tell you.
I absolutely agree that libraries must and should change but that change should be for the better and not an elaborate PR exercise disguising a cheapening of the service and you needn't worry about the regular users who just want to study or quietly read. There won't be any.

Anonymous said...

Absolutly spot on anon 2:43!there wont be any because ther wont be any places to study or quietly read as the TDC booths will be so noisy

Cllr David Green said...

There was I actually thinking Chris and I were in agreement for once :-) Obviously not!

Chris Wells said...

I do have concerns about the mixed use, the loss of gallery space etc. Would simply prefer the debate is held as and when all sides of the issue can beaired, at the local board meeting for example.

Anonymous said...

Yes chris but by then it wont be a debate but what they want to do will be set in stone..we need to have a debate as a matter of urgency..