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Library staff 'living in a constant state of uncertainty'

Published 22/10/2015

Since its formation in 2009, Libraries NI has lost 114 employees through voluntary redundancies
Since its formation in 2009, Libraries NI has lost 114 employees through voluntary redundancies

Morale among library staff in Northern Ireland is at a record low, a Stormont committee has heard.

Seven years of redundancies and stringent budget cuts have left stressed out frontline workers facing a barrage of complaints from dissatisfied customers, MLAs were told.

Irene Knox said: "We are almost living in a constant state of uncertainty."

Since its formation in 2009, Libraries NI has lost 114 employees through voluntary redundancies rolled out every year.

A further 19 people are expected to leave through the civil service voluntary exit scheme, vastly reducing resources for essential programming dedicated to children and heritage.

Ms Knox was giving evidence to the Culture Arts and Leisure committee.

She warned that officials could not continue to "salami slice" the library service.

"We have been through a number of strategic reviews; we have been reducing opening hours; we have been reducing programming; we are reducing the stock budget.

"Staff are being faced, all the time, with complaints from customers about reduced stock or it not being available.

"Losing stock, losing colleagues - all of that has a really negative impact on people," Ms Knox said.

It was also revealed that spending on stock had been slashed from £3.4 million four years ago to £2.7 million this year.

A further £50,000 in-year reduction had meant libraries had missed out on some recent publications - adding to the dissatisfaction of users.

Ms Knox said: "Stock is the lifeblood of our service."

Democratic Unionist Party MLA David Hilditch said the future for libraries looked bleak.

"There's stark, difficult days ahead, no doubt," he said.

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