Librarians and race relations workers in London are shocked at proposals to close the library at the Commission for Racial Equality to members of the public.
According to current plans, management has allocated no funds to the library service in the budget, current staff members are to be redeployed and the library itself is to be placed under lock and key – openable only to research staff under the Communications Team at the CRE’s HQ in Victoria. Up till now the CRE’s library, manned by one chartered librarian and a full-time assistant, was open to both CRE staff and the general public and provided an excellent, professional service on British race matters.
Four months ago, when it became clear at the start of the financial year that cuts would have to be made across the whole of the CRE structure, management wanted to close the library altogether, even sell its assets to another body. But after representations from some of the Commissioners and organisations, including the unions at the CRE, that it was a valuable resource, management had a rethink. Now the library will be kept as an internal resource. But there appear to be no arrangements made, as yet, for obtaining new stock or for accessioning journals or cataloguing new materials.
Concern at the move to close the library to the public has come from a range of groups, including the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals. With the Runnymede Trust having closed its library down and the Institute of Race Relations library running a skeleton service (because of lack of funds), the CRE library was the one place in the capital that could be relied upon. According to the CRE management, there have not been enough members of the public using their library. But, according to the unions, this only takes account of the number of visitors to the CRE’s offices and not the many phone queries the library staff deal with and the help they give to CRE and Race Equality Council staff.