The History of FORE!

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For over ten years, since 1988, Haringey Council cut the amounts of money available to the Library Service in each budget, and never restored any of it. Cartoon This meant that opening hours, repairs and maintenance, bookstock and staff were all reduced, year by year, until what had been a fine service became a sad one.

Throughout this period user groups raised money, protested, demonstrated and wrote letters but to little avail in the long term. Matters were at crisis at a lowpoint when the final straw was placed in 1999 with the sudden publication of a Best Value Review.

Action stations

This Review suggested closing two or three branch libraries to ease financial pressures, and immediately the support groups and FORE! moved into top gear. At the meeting of the Policy & Strategy Comittee meeting called to discuss the Review, there was an outcry of unprecedented proportions against the contents of the Best Value Review from individuals and from library support groups. The Chairman, Cllr George Meehan, set up a Task Group under Cllr. Alan Richardson, Lead Member for Libraries, to consider the options in detail. FORE! chairs and members were involved, together with representatives from users in the Disability Action Group, the Racial Equality Group, Youth magazine "Exposure", and Unison. This large group began meeting in June to look at the whole problem.

Writing a report

It soon became clear that this group was not able to either collect data or write a conclusion, so FORE! began to create "LOOKING FORWARD", a survey of the past ten years of the Haringey Library Service its deterioration and a detailed critique of the Best Value Report (a copy of this report can be found on the Publication page).  The report that CPLUG (Camden Public Library Users Group) had written earlier was of great help.  We included a corrected statistical analysis of the figures (by local statistician and barrister George Stern), prepared and printed a User Survey covering four libraries, provided a questionnaire for councillors on their views on libraries, and set out a blueprint for the future.

Copies of "LOOKING FORWARD" were sent to all councillors, local newspapers, MPs, and the Department of Culture, Media & Sport. It received great acclaim, although to this day we have had no formal recognition from the Council.  A new Best Value Review was published in March 2000 which was completely different from the 1999 version and which incorporated many of FORE!’s suggestions as well as many new ideas. 150year Library Anniversary Coin

Present Situation

The basic problem of cuts in funding from 2.5% of the budget in 1988 to less than 1% in 1999 is the key factor in all the problems of the Library Service, which found itself with less and less of a voice or presence under Education.  In 2001 there has been a slight change - no budget cuts for libraries and an injection of £2000,000 for books.  The change in heart we attribute to the influence of FORE! in the debate and the glaring fact that Haringey is one of the four councils at the bottom of the Library lists of the Department of Culture, Media & Sport - with a statutory need to pull up to the middle level in three years to comply with the new Standards.

© 2001 FORE, all rights reserved. Drawings thanks to Ted Dewar