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To: Mayor Phil Goff and Auckland Council

Save Our Super City Librarians

Save Our Super City Librarians

Save our libraries and demand public consultation before any more staffing changes!

The 2013 libraries consultation document, Te Kauroa, promised to involve customers (a term we reject) in shaping library service. It stated that any changes would be rolled out in an "agile" experimental way (testing an innovation in a few locations before rolling it out further.)

Instead library administration have recently publicly unveiled Fit for the Future. Although this plan has been marketed as a service restructure and modernisation exercise, it appears to be little more than a top-down squeeze on library staff with the goal of saving money.

For these reasons, we appeal to you, as our democratically elected Mayor and City Councillors to intervene:
a. to arrest the EOI process as soon as possible
b. to maintain all remaining staff in their current roles and to commit to retraining/upskilling existing staff if process (c) concludes that this is necessary
c. to hold public consultation processes at the local level. If the goal of Fit for the Future is truly to improve and modernise service and get more people to use the libraries, then this should be done on a library-by-library basis under the guidance of that library's existing staff, patrons, and greater community.

Why is this important?

The people of Auckland #LoveOurLibraries and wish to #SaveOurLibrarians

It should go without saying, but:
• Libraries are priceless treasure troves of collective resources, built over time and accessible to everyone in our society.
• Libraries and librarians support people in their educational goals and personal aspirations.
• Libraries serve as community centres. In a time of escalating privatisation and commercialisation, libraries provide safe indoor public space.
• As a consistently friendly and helpful face, community librarians boost the mental health of their community.
• Libraries are especially important to vulnerable people: children, senior citizens, the lonely, the unemployed, the homeless, and new immigrants.

Mirla Edmundson, the General Manager for Libraries, is on the record as stating there will be no reduction of service at the local level; we dispute her claim because we see the existing library staff as an integral part of the service. We are also taking a stand because if staff are being let go and forced to play musical chairs this time, what else will be cut and mutilated in the future in the name of savings?

Mayor Goff campaigned on a pledge not to alter or reduce city services if we had a rates increase of 2.5% or more.

We feel the public should have been consulted on a systemic staffing change of the magnitude underway. In our name, some of our most beloved public servants have been unnecessarily placed under prolonged strain and stress, knowing their positions could be eliminated. We are already losing the skill sets of 74 employees who have agreed to redundancy arrangements and whom Ms Edmundson characterised as people who didn't "want to be part of the future."

Each of our libraries is a distinct entity, reflective and responsive to its community's composition, needs, and aspirations. Our libraries risk losing the institutional and community knowledge of staff members, often gained over years of devoted service, if most present positions are eliminated, staff may not be reassigned to their current library, and too many of the new roles force staff to divide their time between different locations.

Love Our Libraries is a grassroots citizens campaign that arose out of a specific request for help from library employees to community activists earlier this year. Quiet rumours of drastic reforms to our library system under the rubric of "Fit for the Future" were circulating, but mainly among followers of local politics. Although the ~1000 library employees had been given a consultation document, the feeling was that they had little power to prevent the changes being initiated and directed by administration. They were told not to release information into the public realm and indeed were even cautioned not to engage with our group, once management became aware of us.

Love Our Libraries officially launched outside Auckland Central Library on March 4, 2017. To date, our group has shared information with a largely unaware public and collected written and verbal testimonials from library patrons. On March 24, Love Our Libraries members met with Mirla Edmundson and two of her staff to hear their perspective and air some of our concerns. A record of our activities can be found on our public Facebook group page: www.facebook.com/groups/LoveOurLibraries

Now that the Fit for the Future staffing plans have finally been made public, we have launched this petition. If libraries are to change (and we don't dispute that evolution is inevitable and necessary), changes should be instigated and implemented at the local level. We believe all public servants deserve our respect and support. As our collective employees, paid from our city's shared resources, we wish to see them treated better than private sector standards. Instead of discarding existing staff, there should be opportunities for them to retrain or upskill.

For these reasons, we are attempting to halt the Fit for the Future reforms. Let's go back to the drawing board in an inclusive, bottom-up, and transparent way.

#LoveOurLibraries #SaveOurLibrarians

How it will be delivered

This petition was presented at Auckland's Governing Body on Thursday, April 27 and actually emailed in later that day with 3400 signatures to make it official. However, we have left it open because people are still learning about what is happening to our librarians and wanting to register their opposition.

Auckland, New Zealand

Maps © Stamen; Data © OSM and contributors, ODbL


Reasons for signing

  • Our libraries are important
  • Books save lives and empower people.
  • Totally support this. Libraries should feel like a second home. What value they add to a sense of local community - 'Young Artists Club' and 'Wriggle and Rhyme' and fun themed holiday activities are some of the things we enjoy all year long.

Updates

2017-08-22 23:31:11 +1200

Love Our Libraries emailed a letter to all Auckland Councillors on August 15 to share information about library staffing to enable them to ask hard questions of management.

• Management admits FFTF has resulted in 95 redundancies
• 21 were involuntary and arranged after the public was assured there would be a job for everyone left in the system who wanted one.
• Under LGOIMA we've confirmed that an additional 131 experienced staff have resigned over the past year.
• We've also learned that staff do not factor into Council's working definition of "Level of Service"
• Management has confirmed Madison temps are filling staffing gaps.
• For August, staffing shortfalls were projected to affect 41 branches, equating to 1610 hours per week.

2017-07-12 12:30:57 +1200

A letter to the editor of the New Zealand Herald, published July 11, 2017: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10209154243755135&set=gm.1653594257986453&type=3&theater

2017-06-29 15:32:10 +1200

Some much-needed media scrutiny in the wake of our sounding the alarm that branches may not be able to stay open for all of their scheduled hours next month. The General Manager admits here that temps *are* being used to fill gaps. That means less expertise for more ratepayer money, since their agency will clip the ticket. https://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/94088316/auckland-libraries-rejects-claims-restructure-could-result-in-rolling-closures

2017-05-20 08:56:07 +1200

The Auditor General has rejected our complaint in less than one day. I will try to have that decision appealed. It seems incredible that Council can't be held to account at least for the shoddy way they have carried out staff consultation and their dereliction of duty as an employer by causing prolonged stress and anxiety for hundreds of people.

2017-05-17 10:28:22 +1200

This morning a complaint has been lodged with the Auditor General on behalf of Love Our Libraries. The issues we raise the alarm about are:
1. Badly substantiated justification for reforms and confusion over their purpose
2. Lack of community consultation
3. Avoidance of scrutiny
4. Shoddy administrative process, including the staff consultation process
5. Dereliction of Council's duty of care as an employer

2017-05-16 10:43:23 +1200

A comprehensive and critical look at the library situation on the World Socialist Web Site: http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/05/13/nzli-m13.html

2017-05-13 10:39:06 +1200

Is there no end to the uncertainty for long-suffering library staff? The locations, times, and days of their new work schedules aren't even fixed, with management reserving the right to alter these after "the first period of time" (I'm told three months) https://scontent.fakl2-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/18199498_10208637655120742_3470731089886577861_n.jpg?oh=3e9917adc93e42b631a829e931bdd97f&oe=59AD88F1

2017-05-11 12:18:50 +1200

This morning Love Our Libraries and 16 supporters, including some on behalf of community organisations, sent an open letter to Mayor Goff with media outlets cc'd in. We reiterated our contention that Fit for the Future reforms are negatively impacting library service, which means the community should have been consulted. We question the propriety of his appointment of the Chief Operating Officer to respond to our concerns, since we don't see the changes as an operational matter, and ask the mayor to appoint a neutral third party to evaluate our concerns and recommend a remedy.
We also point out that the petition remains open and has garnered hundreds of additional signatures since it was presented on April 27.
23 members of the NZ Society of Authors have sent their own letter under separate cover.

2017-05-09 17:18:02 +1200

Radio New Zealand's Kathryn Ryan interviews New-York based writer, critic, and editor John Freeman. They discuss the decline of ebooks among other topics, statistics given around 24:30 in. http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player?audio_id=201843147

2017-05-04 10:04:16 +1200

Seven of Auckland's 20 Councillors have identified themselves as supporters. We believe a few more are on our side as well. Councillor John Watson of Albany Ward is very concerned about the stress the library staff have been under, and was key to getting this article published in Tuesday's Rodney and North Shore Times. http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/rodney-times/92142980/concern-for-library-staff-morale-during-restructure

2017-05-03 11:42:21 +1200

stuff.co.nz asks if libraries still matter to Aucklanders and the answer is a resounding yes: http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/92071512/do-libraries-matter-to-aucklanders

2017-05-02 13:46:34 +1200

World TV (Chinese news) story broadcast on April 28. The Love Our Libraries item begins at the 4:05 mark and runs for two and a half minutes! http://video.936.nz/watch_video.php?v=3K8XM3K9D336

2017-04-29 17:43:17 +1200

Yesterday the Acting General Manager of Libraries and Information posted an update on the Council website "to clear up confusion". I don't think we're confused; I think we are angry and worried about what is happening to the library staff. http://ourauckland.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/articles/news/2017/04/council-busts-library-myths/

2017-04-28 16:46:21 +1200

A blog I've written today to try to summarize the Fit for the Future debacle from inception until now: http://cheekygames.ghost.io/councils-poor-treatment-of-library-staff-could-leave-it-open-to-liability/

2017-04-27 23:58:16 +1200

TVNZ item from Thursday's noon newscast: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/love-our-libraries-save-librarians-petition-presented-auckland-council-over-plan-cut-funding

2017-04-27 13:44:08 +1200

Today's presentation to Council including Q&A with Councillors Collins, Lee, and Simpson. I sent the Council the list of signers just before 5:00 pm today but have left the petition open for now and see we've had another 150 signatures just in the past six hours! https://youtu.be/plhOldM2b3E?t=2m48s

2017-04-26 17:08:44 +1200

March 18 at Remuera Library:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AteVUy9gm7s

2017-04-26 10:26:13 +1200

We've done a round of media releases about tomorrow's petition presentation and already Radio Live has included an item on their news update. Newshub Live at 4pm ran a brief story and tomorrow TVNZ's Breakfast will air a story.
We've also sent an email to all 20 Auckland Councillors to brief them in advance. We encourage the public to contact their representatives on Council and ask them to support what we are calling for. Here is a list with contact details:
http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/AboutCouncil/representativesbodies/Pages/Wardcouncillors.aspx

2017-04-25 20:26:10 +1200

Perhaps the future isn't digital: http://www.smh.com.au/national/are-ebooks-a-waste-of-money-the-surprising-winner-when-it-comes-to-reading-20170320-gv27ac.html

2017-04-25 14:29:48 +1200

Former library employee shares her inside view of the Fit for the Future process in two blog posts: http://oyvey-kapai.co.nz/the-library-blues-part-1-the-restructure-process/ and http://oyvey-kapai.co.nz/the-library-blues-part-2-a-personal-perspective/

2017-04-24 18:50:39 +1200

An artist who works from home would feel disconnected without the library: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9By8Sb4X5M&t=3s

2017-04-24 10:09:04 +1200

Janet McAllister paints a bleak, thorough, and accurate picture of what's been happening in today's Herald: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11843800

2017-04-22 18:49:16 +1200

Very sorry to hear Radio New Zealand mention the library staffing issue in their news update today ( http://www.radionz.co.nz/…/story/201…/radio-new-zealand-news 1:48 minutes in) but it's strictly from the point of view of management and paints an overly rosy picture. We hope to hear more thorough coverage of the story there soon!

2017-04-21 12:34:35 +1200

A library patron sums up what's fantastic about Auckland Central Library: https://youtu.be/nNlglztYCFY

2017-04-20 20:18:17 +1200

1,000 signatures reached

2017-04-19 12:39:51 +1200

This is the business case for the Fit for the Future reforms: http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/AboutCouncil/HowCouncilWorks/PerformanceAndTransparency/Documents/fitforthefuturebusinesscase.pdf
How they imagine they can get more people using the libraries and partaking of activities with fewer staff is beyond me.

2017-04-18 11:16:45 +1200

A beautiful article about Auckland Central staff doing something to brighten the lives of some of our most vulnerable citizens: http://www.noted.co.nz/currently/social-issues/a-film-screening-brings-normality-to-aucklands-homeless-community/

2017-04-13 21:08:59 +1200

The second half of library patron video testimonials collected at St Heliers on March 16: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaUmF5V39Gc

2017-04-13 17:06:23 +1200

500 signatures reached

2017-04-12 13:59:16 +1200

The media has been covering the reduction in staff and the twisted game of musical chairs the remaining staff are being forced to play:
http://thespinoff.co.nz/books/11-04-2017/why-74-staff-have-taken-voluntary-redundancy-at-auckland-libraries/

2017-04-11 22:25:55 +1200

100 signatures reached

2017-04-11 15:47:04 +1200

Library patron testimonials collected at St Heliers on March 16: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0x5k75tBtN4

2017-04-11 15:28:49 +1200

50 signatures reached

2017-04-11 13:32:48 +1200

25 signatures reached

2017-04-11 12:03:56 +1200

10 signatures reached