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Statement condemning SCL/UKVI deal

Participants of the Radical Librarians Collective condemn the deal between the Society of Chief Librarians and UK Visas and Immigration. We call on library and information workers to sign this statement by emailing us at rlc@riseup.net, and to help resist the deal and its implications for the future of public library services.

Since 2010, the Home Office has been ruthless in its pursuit to effect ‘hostile environment’ policies which up until recently introduced de facto border controls in schools, hospitals and banks as well as used charity data to deport homeless migrants (Bradley, 2018; Hall, 2018; Taylor, 2018).

Last year, a freedom of information request by the BBC highlighted a secret agreement between the Home Office, the Department of Health and NHS Digital. It revealed that ‘NHS Digital was sharing confidential patient information collected by frontline services with the Home Office on an industrial scale to help it locate and deport undocumented people’ (Bradley, 2018). Although the government has since U-turned on some of these breathtakingly underhand arrangements, questions remain about the degree to which Home Office initiatives combined with public services could foster a culture or perception of informal gate-keeping, ‘because of new duties put on [staff]’ (Campbell, 2018).

This represents only part of the concern about the deal that was recently struck between the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) and an initiative ‘to support applicants for in-country visas on behalf of UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)’ (Bernard, 2018).

Any system which boasts that it will ‘streamline’ services whilst dealing with complex issues such as the immigration status of individuals should be carefully scrutinised, particularly as many are concerned about the impacts of such a stress test on an already demoralised front-line workforce. There is some evidence indicating that the scanning service is already at risk of failing applicants who then ‘cannot re-submit any documents at a later date’ if there is an administrative or communication error (UKmarriagevisa.com, 2017). Although SCL have said in their recent statement on Twitter that library staff would not know the results of visa applications, the fact remains that they represent the human face of such transactions and may be put under pressure to offer advice that they are not qualified to give (UKSCL, 2018).

The firm contracted to deliver the service, Sopra Steria, has also been linked to a colossal loss of patient data between 2011 and 2016 (Campbell and Duncan, 2017).

Library staff are also deeply concerned about:

  • Library workers being seen as agents of the application process rather than offering independent help and support, thereby undermining the crucial role of libraries as trusted spaces for all;
  • SCL acquiescing to, and public libraries participating in, a softer but arguably more insidious form of gate-keeping following the Windrush scandal, which would allow HO divisions to take advantage of the largely open, inclusive and supportive role of public libraries, to attract undocumented or otherwise vulnerable people (and equally for users to be put off from using library services. See: Littlejohn, 2018);
  • SCL capitulating to pressure for libraries to ‘demonstrate their value’, by enabling conditions to shape the nature of service delivery in ways that run counter to the ethics that should be present in such spaces (IFLA/UNESCO Multicultural Library Manifesto);
  • the strain such initiatives will likely impose on workers who are already under considerable pressure to provide support or guidance on often complex, sometimes life-changing decisions (employment, benefits, housing), which exist outside their remit and for which there is minimal support available;
  • how any further mishandling of private data by Sopra Steria may negatively affect the positive public perception of libraries as trusted services;
  • how outcomes of the partnership will likely influence public libraries’ key performance targets;
  • setting a precedent for outsourcing immigration services to public libraries at a time when such unethical pressures on public service workers should be rolled back.

If we are serious about achieving a more inclusive and diverse public library service which actually cares about breaking the glass ceiling for minorities, asylum seekers, refugees, temporary residents and migrant workers in the UK, we need to start by protecting and restoring the foundations of our public library services in order meet our statutory obligations ‘to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons’. This includes taking the ‘radical’ step of adequately funding libraries to serve culturally diverse communities, ‘as an integral part of any library’s full range of library and information services, rather than an isolated or additional part’ (IFLA/UNESCO, 2006; Leong, 2016), and diversifying the library workforce so that library users can see themselves represented (see Bayjoo, 2018).

We believe that the creeping normalisation and increased presence of Home Office divisions in public libraries will actively work against the creation of an inclusive and diverse public library service. This is especially important considering that it can no longer be claimed that the recent ‘Windrush’ crisis was simply an administrative error – an unintended consequence of successive immigration regimes. It was a result of repeated and concerted efforts to appear tough on migration, and we now know that ministers were fully aware of the impacts of such policies (Perkins and Gentleman, 2018). As such, as library and information workers, we need to think critically about the incremental impact of such proposals, and resist the death of library ethics by a thousand cuts.

Signed:

Kevin Sanders
Camille Herault
Emily Nunn
Simon Bowie
Eve Lacey
Angus Sinclair
Diana Stevenson
Alice Corble
Sarah Arkle
Liam Livesley
Morgan Wilkinson
Dan Grace
Mike Saunders
Steve Carlton
Emily Prince
Rebecca Oliva
Layla-Roxanne Hill
Alex Clarke
Matthew Fellion
Stuart Lawson
Siobhán Britton
Charles Oppenheim
Pete Smith
Bryony Ramsden
Jen Fox
Clare Playforth
Martyn Everett
Sibyl Ruth
SarahLouise McDonald
Madeleine Noor Baker
Matt Imrie
Catherine Riches
Julie Hart
Kristina Macdonald
Lloyd Roderick
Library Freedom Project
Mike Stores
Owen McKnight
Sue Taylor
Lauren Smith
Katy Wrathall
Solomon Clarke
Johanna Anderson
Rosie Hare
Daniel Payne
Jonas Herriot
Katie McNamara
Jen Bayjoo
DILON
Ellie Clement
YiWen Hon
Mobeena Khan
Karen Raynor
David Hughes
Tom Maher
Dan Holden
Kate O’Neill
Jenny Foster
Frances Marsh
Karen Daniels
Laura Steel
Rebecca Howes
John Krug
Harri Ollikainen
Trevor Craig
Laura Ennis
Stephanie Jesper
Elspeth Ewing
Jo Barber
Louise Livesey
carlin anderson
Suzi Horsley
Leanne Young
Demelza Jones
Zoey Dixon
Ross Noon
Siobhan Cottam
Ian J Simpson
Helen Monagle
NLPN
Camila Garces
Shaun Kennedy
Harriet Notman
Sarah Denman
Anna Zajda
Hannah Hickman
Jess Haigh
Kathleen O’Neill
Michelle Bond
Ka-Ming Pang
Laura Woods
Thomas Peach
Tom Cook
Naomi Nile
Tanya Williamson
Lyn Denny
Carly Lightfoot
Terry Connolly
Rebecca Wray
Caroline Beatty
Lisa Clark
Elizabeth Jackson
Marie Lancaster
Thomas Ash
Peter Barr
Ingrid Francis
Harriet Davidson
Andrew Day
Karen Butcher
Lucy Hannaford
Jane Buggle
Caitlin McCulloch
Tim O’Dell
Emily Hopkins
Mick O’Dwyer
Liz White
Siobhan McGuinness
Alexandra Burton
J. David Cheyne
Andrew Gray
Matt Mahon
Bethan Ruddock
Andreas Walker
Graeme Tierney
Jo Richardson
Andrew McAinsh
Megan Wiley
Julie McGregor
Sarah Pearson
Emma Sillett
Phil Bradley
Kat Steiner
Martin Strugnell
Leah Emary
Vanessa Farrier
Rachel Shearer
Hugh Jordan

Sources:

Bayjoo, J. (2018). Hi from DILON. Available: https://libdiverse.wordpress.com/2018/04/09/hi-from-dilon/

Bernard, M. (2018). Public libraries giving users the digital help they need. Available: http://goscl.com/public-libraries-giving-users-the-digital-help-they-need/. Last accessed 20 May 2018.

Bradley, G. (2018). The Government is contemplating destroying patient confidentiality in the name of border control. Available: https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/news/blog/government-contemplating-destroying-patient-confidentiality-name-border-control. Last accessed 20 May 2018.

Campbell, D and Duncan, P. (2017). NHS accused of covering up huge data loss that put thousands at risk. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/feb/26/nhs-accused-of-covering-up-huge-data-loss-that-put-thousands-at-risk. Last accessed 20 May 2018.

Campbell, D. (2018). NHS will no longer have to share immigrants’ data with Home Office . Available: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/may/09/government-to-stop-forcing-nhs-to-share-patients-data-with-home-office. Last accessed 21 May 2018.

CILIP. (2017). Existing ethical framework. Available: https://archive.cilip.org.uk/research/topics/ethics-review/existing-ethical-framework. Last accessed 25/05/2018.

@dawnafinch. (2018). Did I miss a memo? When did library workers receive all this extra training in things like universal credit, employment law, housing law and benefits and now immigration law? The Govt keeps sending pe. Available: https://twitter.com/dawnafinch/status/997501252748677122. Last accessed 20 May 2018.

Hall, K. (2018). Business Arrow Policy UK Home Office hands Sopra Steria £91m digital visa contract. Available: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/05/18/home_office_hands_91m_digital_visa_contract_to_sopra_steria/. Last accessed 20 May 2018.

IFLA/UNESCO. (2006). IFLA/UNESCO Multicultural Library Manifesto. Available: https://www.ifla.org/files/assets/library-services-to-multicultural-populations/publications/multicultural_library_manifesto-en.pdf. Last accessed 28/05/2018.

Leong, J. (2016). Library services for immigrants and refugees: actions and principles from a global perspective. Available: http://library.ifla.org/1334/7/081-leong-ppp-en.pdf. Last accessed 25/05/2018.

Littlejohn, G. (2018). David Lammy ‘appalled’ at Home Office after arrest of Windrush constituent. Available: https://inews.co.uk/news/david-lammy-slams-the-home-office-after-windrush-constituent-is-arrested-after-being-invited-to-confirm-immigration-status/. Last accessed 29/05/2018.

Newland Chase. (2018). UNITED KINGDOM: New Application Service Announced for Work and Study Visas. Available: https://blog.newlandchase.com/united-kingdom-new-application-service-announced-for-work-and-study-visas?utm_content=71840103&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter. Last accessed 24/05/2018.

Perkins, A and Gentleman, A. (2018). Government knew for years that Windrush generation hurt by ‘hostile environment’ . Available: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/22/government-aware-for-years-that-hostile-environment-hurt-windrush-generation. Last accessed 28/05/2018.

Taylor, D. (2018). Homeless charity aided deportation patrols in search for rough sleepers . Available: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/05/st-mungos-homeless-charity-helped-target-rough-sleepers-to-deport. Last accessed 20 May 2018.

UKmarriagevisa.com. (2017). UKVI document scanning service widely introduced around the world in 2017. Available: http://www.ukmarriagevisa.com/new-ukvi-scanning-service-introduced-for-some-participating-countries.html. Last accessed 20 May 2018.

UKSCL. (2018). 1/7 Here is a series of tweets with more detail on the new assisted digital contract we announced last week. 21 May 2018 Available: https://twitter.com/UKSCL/status/998572540254720000. Last accessed 23/05/2018.

Wylie, A. (2018). The Society of Chief Librarians, Sopra Steria and visa/immigration services in libraries!. Available: https://dontprivatiselibraries.blogspot.co.uk/2018/05/the-society-of-chief-librarians-sopa.html. Last accessed 24/05/2018.

Follow-up to “Barriers to Engagement”

Following the 2016 RLC national gathering in Brighton, a “Barriers to Engagement” document was created on our RLC Sandstorm site. It was advertised via email and Facebook, and was the pinned tweet for @RadicalLibs until February 2017. The aim of the document was to facilitate positive feedback that would help RLC improve its behaviours and practices.

This blog post is an attempt by the admin committee to create clear action points from the document. In the spirit of openness, the document is still available so you can see how we have tried to create an action point for each suggestion. These are only the ideas of four people and are not expected to be concrete rules for RLC; instead they are intended to form a basis for further discussion and additional suggestions. It is expected that these action points will change over time, as we become aware of other barriers.

This blog post will be discussed at the 2017 RLC national gathering in Glasgow to ensure that RLC is actively attempting to mitigate barriers to engagement within the group. Through this, we hope to encourage greater diversity among those participating in RLC activities and committees.

Special thanks to Katherine Quinn, who was prompted by one of the suggestions to contact other organisations and discover what they were doing in that area. Her full report can be seen at the end of the shared document.

Action points:

Organisation of RLC

1) Clearer information about the admin committee has been put on the website (‘Who is RLC’), which includes inviting volunteers to be part of the committee and also information about RLC’s history.

2) A glossary of terms and suggested reading have been created to provide pointers for those who feel that they need a better understanding of radical theory in order to participate in discussions:

Glossary of terms

Suggested reading list

3) A manifesto has been created, but this has not really been added to. Maybe this could be one of the points for discussion at the 2017 national meet-up?

Manifesto

4) It is acknowledged that training is available, which could help RLC to reflect on itself and our aims – for example, http://www.seedsforchange.org.uk/training. Making use of this training would only be possible at a national meet-up, but we would then still have the problem of effectively excluding those who were unable to attend the event. Maybe this could be one of the points for discussion at the 2017 national meet-up?

Meet-ups

As far as we are aware, there are no longer any regular regional meetings. The following points are things to be considered should regional meetings start up again, or for the next national meet-up in July 2017. A document has been created and put on the website, the contents of which set out the things that should be taken into consideration when organising RLC events. It is possible to add to this document, so please send any suggestions to rlc@riseup.net or tweet us @RadicalLibs.

5) Venue accessibility should always be the main factor to consider when arranging venues for events and meetings – for example, try to avoid organising events in pubs or bars so that this does not make people feel excluded on the ground of religious beliefs, and when organising London events at LARC, try to book the downstairs room for mobility reasons.

6) Communications accessibility should always be the main factor to consider when facilitating discussions – for example, using colour communication badges http://autisticadvocacy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/ColorCommunicationBadges.pdf. There are various existing source of information on this topic, for example:

http://www.seedsforchange.org.uk/accessiblemtg.pdf

https://ladiyfestsheffield.wordpress.com/resources/a-guide-to-organising-your-own-feminist-events/

7) Encourage a child-friendly atmosphere and/or try to establish crèches alongside meetings as required. For the 2017 national gathering in Glasgow, Jess Haigh has volunteered to lead with this and is on the organising committee who are going to be asking “if you would require childcare in order to attend the meeting, what would your needs be?” to best plan for this.

8) When determining the date on which to hold a meeting, use date-picker software like Doodle, Loomio, or Sandstorm’s Framadate to select the date that is best for the majority of people.

9) There are some tools that can be used to encourage participant involvement and enable people to get the most out of an event. However, it is essential to be aware that these may directly conflict with certain other steps taken towards ensuring the accessibility of communications (for example in the case of red badge wearers under the colour communication badge system).

KQ to look into proposing a session in Glasgow that enables collaborative feedback discussion about questions such as “why do I want to be in RLC?” “if RLC didn’t exist as it is, what would I want in its place?”  and “do I feel part of what I have described?”

Examples of facilitation tools are available from e.g. https://www.trainingforchange.org/tools/facilitation

Other points

10) We obtained contributions to a document of recommended actions and practices of radical behaviour, which was used to create a blog post. https://rlc.radicallibrarianship.org/2017/02/15/radical-librarianship-in-daily-practice/

11) It was suggested that we could have a specific, journal-based chat on Twitter – i.e. #radjc – to look at articles relating to radical librarianship. This would provide both for theoretical discussions and for conversations around more practical topics, utilising both #radjc and #radlibchat. Although this would be affiliated with- and promoted by RLC, people should not feel obliged to participate if they do not want to, or if they cannot spare the time. In order to do this, we would need volunteer(s) to organise #radjc.

 

Radical Librarianship in Daily Practice

It can be taken for granted that individuals involved with Radical Librarians Collective want to implement radical practices into our working lives. However, we may often find it difficult to do so, for example, if employers and colleagues have alternative (maybe even anti-radical) attitudes. In order to help, various radical librarians have made suggestions for ways to introduce radicalism in practice even in potentially hostile environments.

1) Connect with other radicals.
RLC is one radical community but there are many others all over the world. Building relationships with other radically-minded individuals and organisations can be very rewarding. They can be sources of solidarity, collaboration, and inspiration. They can help to give you the courage to make the changes that you want to see in your workplace – if someone else was able to achieve something, then why not you? Trade unions can also be excellent organisations to participate in, both in terms of meeting other radicals and also contributing to a group that can work towards making changes to your working environment.

2) Talk about radical topics.
Help to raise awareness of radicalism within your profession, for example talking with colleagues about an event that you attended, or encouraging those who are sympathetic to join the RLC mailing list. If you work with Open Access, think about how you can promote it as a political/social movement rather than just a bureaucratic procedure and requirement. Digital privacy and security are increasingly important, so raise your users’ (and colleagues’) awareness of the issues and tools that are out there.

3) Contribute to a culture that embraces change.
There are lots of ways you can start to chip away at working environments where the established status quo at first seems unassailable. For example, you can point out entrenched mistakes, oversights, and bad practices – embarrass your employer into making positive changes and thereby improving both the quality of the service. If you are invited to speak at an event, check out who else is speaking and – if you find that they are mostly white/male – then raise this as an issue with the event organisers.

4) Make meaningful changes where you can, no matter how “small”.
There may be some things that are beyond your ability to change, so don’t let these depress you and instead focus on the positive impact that you can effect. You might also be able to implement small changes yourself without needing to go through the chain of command, for example, promoting radical books in displays and website highlights, or organising events to celebrate things like Black History Month and LGBT Month. If you do training sessions, you might also be able to use radical themes as source material – for example, getting users to create letters to an Amnesty prisoner in a Microsoft Word training session. You can certainly foster critical thinking and good information literacy in your users through training sessions, and you can even conduct your training in a radical way through using open discussions rather than conventional lecture-style teaching.

5) Don’t allow your work to dominate your life.
In many organisations, it may be implicitly – or explicitly – expected that you will work longer and harder than the minimum required by your contract, for example, working through breaks, staying late, or taking work home with you. In an environment where this is the norm, then one of the most radical things you can do is to prioritise your non-work commitments. Make sure that you fulfil the minimum required of you, but refuse to do more than this. This requires you to decouple your sense of self-worth from your work, which may be an ongoing struggle. Ultimately, this can help you to focus on more important aspects of your life, like family or community, and to escape the structures of domination and rigid authority that many of us work within.

If you have other ideas, or specific examples that you’d like to share, then please share them with the RLC mailing list at RLC-DISCUSS@jiscmail.ac.uk!

RLC SE group: future meetings

At the RLC SE meeting in October, the main discussion point was the future of RLC SE. This discussion was held in the light of reduced attendence at meetings and limited responses to communications, which has been experienced consistently over the past months.

Following on from this meeting, an email was sent out at the end of October to ask everyone on the RLC SE mailing list whether they still wanted to be involved and whether a move to one-off meetings focused on special events would be better. The responses to this email suggested that people did want to be involved, but that a variety of factors meant that regular meetings were no longer an effective way of doing things.

As a result, we intend to cease regular monthly RLC SE meetings, instead focusing on the organisation of one-off events, like cryptoparties, talks and discussions, perhaps in conjunction with other groups. Dates for these one-off meetings will be determined by polling the RLC SE mailing list, and will be advertised via Twitter and email as usual.

The admin committee remains happy to organise events, but it is not within their remit to decide what events happen – suggestions for event ideas are therefore strongly encouraged from the rest of RLC SE.

Meanwhile, we will continue to improve the library space at LARC, so please let us know if you would like to help with this.

Contact RLC SE via email or Twitter.

/RLC SE admin committee

#radlib16 – The 2016 Gathering in Brighton

RLCbrighton_sm

The fourth Radical Librarians Collective gathering is on Saturday 9th July at the Cowley Club in Brightonbook here.

Everyone who subscribes to the principles of the Radical Librarians Collective is welcome and encouraged to attend. To ensure that we remain free from sponsorship and any corporate influence, the gathering is free to attend with voluntary donations welcomed to cover the associated costs.

As with all gatherings of the Radical Librarians Collective, #radlib16 will adhere to the agreed safer spaces policy which you can read here. The safety and inclusion of everyone that attends is fundamental to the day. If you have any additional suggestions to ensure that the safer spaces policy reflects this, please do let us know.

We will be posting regular updates leading up to the gathering, on Twitter using the #radlib16 hashtag and here on the website – see the dedicated Brighton page.

If you have any questions, contact RLC via email or Twitter at @RadicalLibs.

RLC London primer

We’re coming together because we all identify as radicals, in one way or another, and agree that a radical approach to library and information issues is necessary in the current climate. What do we mean by radical? Well, we’ve put together a short primer of the kind of thinking that reflects the starting point for our conversations at this event, some basic principles that frame the kind of discussions we feel is vital at this juncture. Happy reading!

Colin Ward “Anarchism as a theory of organisation”

Steven Sherman  “Another Structure of Knowledge Is Possible: The Social Forum Process and Academia”

RadLibCol’s safe space policy

See our Wiki for all the details about the event, such as the venue. If you’d like to pitch a session, check out our pitches page. We look forward to seeing your ideas!

You can also follow us on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.

In order to cover costs, we will be asking for a donation on the day from those who can afford to contribute.

Finally, please let us know if you can no longer attend so we can offer your place to someone on the waiting list.

See you in London!