Saturday 6th October 2018 ♦ New Surrey Performing Arts Library
- Progress Meeting -
More than 60 people attended a Saturday morning meeting in Leatherhead to hear progress on setting up a new performing arts library for Surrey and the South.
The main task was producing a report to SCC Cabinet setting out the details they require to reassure themselves our budgets and plans and are sound and well-researched.
Those present could also view a layout for potential premises offered by Woking Borough Council in the centre of the town, close to on-street parking and a multi-storey car park.
Plans include keeping the entire music and drama collection on a single floor, employing a professional librarian and an assistant, and a new online system for users to book sets in advance. After the initial presentation by NewSPAL trustee Barbara Eifler (Chief Executive of Making Music) there was plenty of time for questions from the floor.
The presentation slides can be viewed below this message.
While there are still many details to be finalised, the meeting was unanimous that NewSPAL's Trustees should continue their work and seek SCC approval this Autumn.
UPDATE: The Trustees presented the report to SCC Cabinet for consideration at their 2pm, 27th November, meeting in County Hall, Kingston. As you can read above, SPAL was not on the Cabinet agenda.
It may be taking longer than anyone hoped for, but let's all be clear that we have not lost any enthusiasm for securing the future of the Surrey Performing Arts Library - the nation's third largest public music and drama loans collection.
Presentation slides (To follow):
SCC Cabinet should have considered the future of SPAL at its 29 May meeting but, for a 3rd consecutive month, the report on SPAL from SCC's officers was delayed. The Leader of the Council hopes the report will come to the 26 June Cabinet meeting, in which case the report would be published, with the Cabinet agenda, on SCC's website about 19 June.
Nearly 50 people, representing a wide range of music and drama groups, attended the 29 May Cabinet meeting - wearing blue T-shirts urging Cabinet to Give SPAL to the community - to demonstrate their frustration with the continuing delay in bringing SPAL's future to Cabinet for a decision. More than 300 groups, and a large number of individuals, have pledged support to NewSPAL (the charity established on behalf of users to bid to take over SPAL).
NewSPAL trustee John Thornely asked a public question about the delay. A written reply from Cllr Denise Turner-Stewart, Cabinet member responsible for Libraries, was tabled at the meeting. (A copy is printed at the end of this update.) According to Cllr Mrs Turner-Stewart, the delay is because SCC is continuing "to explore options for interim arrangements for SPAL".
In a supplementary question, John Thornely queried why SCC officer time and money was still being spent on interim arrangements instead of working directly with NewSPAL on a long-term sustainable future. (The obvious interim arrangement is to leave SPAL where it is while all concerned work constructively and transparently on a permanent solution which saves the Council money but can be supported by users.) John therefore asked what ‘interim’ or ‘permanent’ outcomes SCC officers were working towards and when plans would finally come to Cabinet for a decision.
The answer was once again not very illuminating, except it appears there is now an intention to keep SPAL together (rather than the previous plan to separate drama from music), but it is unclear whether that is as an interim (whilst NewSPAL gets ready to take over) or as a permanent in-house solution. Even the 26 June Cabinet meeting is not yet guaranteed to be the one where the future of SPAL will be debated.
Meanwhile, NewSPAL is working on a statement of the criteria by which both its own and any alternative in-house proposal from Surrey Libraries should be judged - in terms of what is likely to secure the best sustainable long-term future for SPAL users. Watch out for further information soon.
Thank you to all the users and supporters who have given of their time and pledged support in terms of time, expertise and/or money.
WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW:
29 May 2018: Tabled reply from Cllr Denise Turner-Stewart at 29 May 2018 Surrey County Council Cabinet meeting to the public question asked by NewSPAL trustee John Thornely:
The Surrey Performing Arts Library (SPAL) is one of very few remaining specialist libraries in the UK in this field, illustrating the challenges of keeping a specialist library open in difficult times. Our objective has been to find a long-term solution for the SPAL that achieves savings whilst continuing to ensure the collection is accessible to users.
We are developing a proposal whereby we would continue to operate the collection more cost effectively by assimilating SPAL music and drama into the mainstream library service supported by trained library staff. The option for an independent future for SPAL was part of our user consultation as a possible way of safeguarding SPAL's longer-term future and we have been working with the trustees of NewSPAL regarding their proposition for the library.
There is a slight delay in finalising our proposals, whilst we are exploring options for interim arrangements for SPAL, particularly a recently identified opportunity for alternative relocation which needed technical property assessment in accordance with our duty of good governance.
We advised NewSPAL that we had to postpone the report from going to May Cabinet as the additional property information was not yet available and gave an assurance that this delay was solely in relation to interim arrangements for the library and not for any reason relating to longer-term arrangements.
We anticipate the report will be presented to Cabinet shortly, once our assessments are complete.
Ms Denise Turner-Stewart
Cabinet Member for Community Services
The Surrey Performing Arts Library is an award winning library for the performing arts – one of the three largest in England – currently run as part of Surrey County Council (SCC) Libraries.
It is used by hundreds of music and drama groups in Surrey and beyond, to hire multiple copies of plays and scores, and by individuals to borrow specialist books, music and other resources.
In the face of severe budget challenges, SCC propose to move the collection in April, splitting it over two or more libraries, and leaving it without specialist staff, to save money.
If that goes ahead, we believe this will quickly lead to the deterioration of the material and ultimately the loss of this great resource.
NewSPAL is a newly formed charity overseen by users for users, offering to take over the running of the performing arts library from SCC to safeguard it for the future.
NewSPAL needs your help to get going!
NewSPAL needs to prove to SCC that it has the support of users and that it can raise pledges of £125,000 and of volunteer time for the transition from SCC to NewSPAL.
If you value the thriving performing arts in Surrey and beyond...
Please pledge your support -
whether time, money, premises, expertise … and register for email updates here: