Conservative-run Southampton City Counci offers relatively generous library provision and is keen to keep it that way. Yet, of course there is an economy drive under way. Therefore without sacking staff or closing libraries they saving money by increasing the ratio of volunteers. As paid staff leave some of those replacing them will be volunteers.
Have the unions welcomed this mild and common sense approach? Er, no. They have called a strike. They are quick to insult the volunteers as "unqualified" – although often the volunteers are retired librarians.
Cllr John Hannides the Conservative Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture and Heritage, says a £550,000 spent on a new arrangement allows library users to reserve and renew items online and use self-service booths to check-out and return books in the library. This means fewer librarians are needed.
“Volunteers mean we can manage our costs looking to the future without seeing a reduction in the quality of the service. You don’t invest £550,000 in new technology and pretend it never happened.”
“We are committed to there being the expertise, the management know-how and support centrally to ensure that we can support a greater role of volunteers."