Labour council backs scheme to encourage library volunteers

The council is “making it easier than ever before” – their own words – for people to volunteer to work in the borough’s libraries.

A missive from Fisher’s Folly last week announced, “a new online system” that allows people to “select from a range of different activities”. By “people”, the council does not mean properly trained, professional librarians or museum curators paid to do the job, but enthusiastic residents, some as young as 13 according to an example provided in the press release, who are offered a reward scheme and discounted shopping if they put in the hours. It takes 100 hours to qualify for the discount card, so the expectation on the volunteers is considerable.

“It doesn’t matter how much they try to dress it up as some sort of feel-good community service,” one disgruntled Katharine Street source said. “This is another step towards de-professionalising the library service and the Museum of Croydon – something which residents, trades unions and some Labour councillors have spent years fighting against under Tory austerity.”

The council is staging a “celebration” for the borough’s volunteers at Central Library on Saturday, from 11am.

“Prospective volunteers are also invited to the event,” the council’s press release smarms, “where they will have the chance to find out more about volunteering in Croydon libraries, meet other volunteers from across the borough and enjoy a free performance by poet, comedian and musician John Hegley.” That should be worth the admission charge alone.

Oliver ‘Ollie’ Lewis: encouraging volunteers to help in libraries

Behind this shift towards volunteer librarians is Oliver “Butt Plugs and Shit Shows” Lewis, supposedly the Labour-run council’s cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport.

“Thousands of people use our libraries every year and our volunteers help many of them make the most of the facilities,” said the Labour councillor, presumably without consulting with the appropriate trades unions who represent professional library staff.

“I’m grateful for the time all of our volunteers give to help our staff and would encourage others to get involved. If you’re looking for something new to do this year why not find out more about volunteering at your local library.” So that’s alright then.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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