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A new requirement for all Bristol library assistants to undergo formal written exams as part of a ‘selection process’ for their own jobs has left staff angry and offended, according to emails leaked to the Cable.

Library management have not clarified exactly how performance in these exams will inform whether library assistants are to keep their jobs, be ‘redeployed’ or dismissed.

“We feel very disheartened, upset and undervalued at the recent announcements, particularly those of us who’ve been working in the libraries for a long time and have given so much to the service,” one library worker, who requested anonymity, told the Cable.

Bristol City Council stated: “As part of the restructure process which will include the forthcoming reduction in library opening hours, unfortunately there will be a small reduction in Library Assistant posts. While we do have some vacancies, we are facing the situation where we will not have enough suitable alternative posts to place all of our existing staff so as a result we have to have a selection process. Due to the number of staff involved that selection process is taking the form of written assessments, based on the employee specification for the job, instead of the more traditional panel interviews.”

The written examinations will be held in early February and will involve timed aptitude tests and exam questions based on work-related scenarios. Staff, some of whom have worked at the library for 20 years, say the exams bear no relation to their day-to-day work and will be discriminatory to those who have difficulty essay-writing or speak English as a second language.

Libraries have experienced large cuts to funding in recent years, the latest of which in Bristol is administered under the name ‘Managing Change – Libraries for the future’. A budget review ongoing since November last year has had at its heart reducing staff hours.

Unison, the public services trade union, have lodged a dispute with the council relating to the cutting of library assistant posts and shift pattern changes in the ‘Managing Change’ plan. The latest development on written examinations was announced by library management despite the ongoing union dispute.

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