Heath Library kids demand happy ending

Thursday, 27th May 2010


Published: 27 May 2010

LIBRARY chiefs have been labelled “meanies” by children over plans to move a popular librarian from leading a reading group to a basement sorting job.

Youngsters gathered outside the Heath Library in Keats Grove yesterday (Wednesday) to demand that Paula Rundell is kept on in the same role. 

It is understood Ms Rundell, who has barely missed a single Rhyme Time reading morning in 11 years, was told by library bosses last week she would be moved to a role at Swiss Cottage Library where she will be tasked with sorting through stock. 

The move comes into effect next week. 

The switch is part of changes that will see around two-thirds of library staff across the borough being moved to different libraries.

Last night, Camden Council insisted the changes, made under the Growing Your Library project, are part of an “improvement drive”.

A spokesman said: “As part of the drive to improve libraries, we are working to balance the range of staff skills and experience across libraries. This includes supporting adult learners, working with children and promo­ting reading.”

The spokesman added that most staff had been given their first or second choice of transfer. 

The Town Hall need to make savings of around £2million over four years in the library service and have already cut 14 posts. Baby Bounce at West Hampstead and Highgate libraries –  similar to Rhyme Time but for younger children – was dropped last month. 

Alexander Price, aged eight, who lives in Keats Close, just a short walk from Heath Library, went to Rhyme Time as a toddler and has been an avid reader ever since. 

He said: “I feel really upset and angry. I want to say to the council staff that they should not [move Ms Rundell] – it’s very mean. The job she does, no one else can do, and the job she is going to do, anyone can do, just putting books in bags.”

Most staff were told last week that they would have to move to a different library at the start of next week, giving them just one week’s notice. It is understood one librarian who has been at the same library for 28 years is one of those being “redeployed”. 

Julie Spooner, whose three sons have all been Rhyme Time regulars, said: “I don’t know if they plan to replace her or if they plan to get rid of Rhyme Time, but it seems odd. Why move her and replace her with somebody else?” 

Lee Montague, of the Friends of Heath Library, called the changes “absolutely irrational”. 

He said: “When you’ve built up a good relationship between the public and librarians, why change them to start building up that relationship again?”

Mr Montague added that by removing Ms Rundell the council was “depriving the kids” of Hampstead of a learning mentor who inspired a love of reading.

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