The manager of a library at the centre of Suffolk’s Big Society plans has resigned because he does not share the vision of the county council appointed chairman of the body to run their 44 libraries.
Iain Rousham who left Aldeburgh library at the end of February says that Clive Fox, chairman of the new countywide library organisation and the Aldeburgh library Steering Group, initially wrote in the Group’s press release that Rousham was retiring. Iain asked for this to be changed so it reflected more accurately that he had resigned.
Rousham has made it clear that he disagreed with the plans put forward by the Steering Group
and its refusal to consult further with Aldeburgh people after the county council promised all libraries would stay open.
He also deplores the way in which SCC has divested itself of direct responsibility for running libraries.
Clive Fox: Policy disagreement led to resignation of his local library manager
The appointment in January of Fox, by Judy Terry the county council cabinet member responsible for libraries, to head the Industrial and Provident Society which will oversee libraries, was a surprise.
His views, demonstrated in the Aldeburgh proposal, are not widely shared among those who responded to the consultation, many of whom are now involved in pilot schemes to test a variety of approaches.
Rousham suggests, “Judy Terry, like a drowning woman, clutched at Clive Fox as a man who could deliver her plan.”
The Aldeburgh response to the consultation on the future of libraries last year was almost alone in not saying its first preference was a continuing county library service.
It proposed the Aldeburgh Triangle Knowledge Hub. The closely-typed 17 page document supported both the now abandoned Suffolk New Strategic Direction and the government’s then heavily promoted Big Society.
Income generation through a cafe and other retail, fines increasing over three years, charging for internet access and rising income from DVD rentals among them.
The Aldeburgh plan envisages more than half the costs of the library being met from commercial operations.
At the time it was thought that community libraries which were not taken over by local bodies would be closed. And communities would have to save the council 30% of its costs to keep their libraries open.
Later in the year the council said all libraries would remain open and that the contribution required from communities with be much less.
Rousham believed that Fox and the steering group at Aldeburgh should revisit the plan and have more consultation in the town.
“I asked the Steering Group, three times to go back to the community, but they refused,” Rousham said.
In a farewell message to Aldeburgh library users Rousham says:
I regret that the group did not then return to the community, as promised, for discussion and ratification. However, they have the best of intentions and I wish them well.
He also thanks the staff and describes his years working at the library as “the golden years of my working life”.
Earlier this week, Aldeburgh was the only library pilot scheme not represented at a meeting of the pilots called by the IPS to discuss the current situation.
In a reaction to this post James Hargrave writes on his blog
: “To my mind the appointment of Fox as Chairman is looking more and more like a mistake and it will be interesting to see if he survives this early embarrassing incident.”