EXPERIENCED Library staff across Dorset are leaving as Dorset Council makes changes to the service.

The council says it is unaware of any job losses at this stage, but the Local Democracy Reporting Service has information which suggests that at least twenty mainly experienced, staff are to leave the service in the coming weeks.

Five staff are expected to leave Swanage library alone, ranging from management level to part-time, to be replaced by some on lower grades with the library halving its opening hours on Saturdays, said to be the most popular day of the week for families.

Those leaving at the Swanage library have between them clocked up more than sixty years of service.

New staff being employed from now on will have different job descriptions to existing staff to encompass a wider work role on pay grades between £23,893 and £25,119 for full-time posts, pro-rata for part-time positions.

The new positions, described as “library customer advisor”, include dealing with inquiries from the public about Dorset Council business as well as traditional library roles.

Complaints have arisen among library staff about the whole process of re-designing the service, which was started by the previous Conservative administration at County Hall.

“Staff had to re-apply for their jobs which was very stressful and some fell by the wayside,” said a close friend of one West Dorset librarian who is giving up her part-time job.

Several existing staff have been offered new positions, but not necessarily where they previously worked, one being asked to travel around 40 miles a day to work on Portland.

Dorset Council insist that the changes are to be ‘cost neutral’ and say they were made, after public consultation and with staff, with the aim of providing a more customer-focused service.

“Over the course of 18 months, through our #LetsTalkLibraries campaign, we consulted and collaborated with our customers, communities, employees and partners to develop a new Library Strategy, which was adopted and published in July 2023. The strategy outlines the library service’s contribution to Dorset and how we will support individuals and communities to be more connected, empowered and improve life chances. With a mission to “Inspire, Connect and Enable our communities through our services,” said a council spokesperson.

New library opening hours have been published and will come into effect on July 1st.

Said Portfolio Holder for Customer, Culture and Community Engagement, Weymouth councillor Ryan Hope: “All employees within the library service have had the opportunity, and were actively encouraged and supported to apply for permanent and newly revised roles. These new roles reflect a modern, relevant and customer focused library service and will allow for effective delivery of our strategy aims. Implementation of our new structure is aligned to the introduction of our new opening hours. Full support has been put in place for those who were unsuccessful at securing a role, or who personally chose not to continue in service, and for those who prefer working variable weekly hours… I have been given assurance, that our libraries management and HR teams are supporting all individuals through this change.”

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has evidence that staff will be leaving the service at Blandford, Bridport, Crossways, Dorchester, Ferndown, Gillingham, Littlemoor, Lyme Regis, Lytchett Matravers, Portland, Shaftesbury, Sherborne, Sturminster Newton, Swanage, Upton, Verwood, Wareham, West Moors, Wimborne and Weymouth.

The recruitment process to replace those positions closed on June 16th with interviews expected to be held in the coming days.