Opposition is the hardest word

There has, quite rightly, been suspicion and not a little outrage at an official government website that is actively promoting individuals and communities to take over libraries. Now, for those of us on the front line of public library cuts, this doesn’t really come as much of a surprise. However, what is causing consternation is that the government appear to be advocating volunteer led libraries not as a last resort but proactively as a viable, cost-effective alternative.

Cilip has expressed concern and sought clarification from the government and Ed Vaizey over the wording and implications involved, and called for the government to reiterate its commitment to statutory public library services.

Now, Cilip is absolutely right to be concerned and to raise this issue and I applaud them for doing so. However, the real question is what happens next? What will Council do when clarification is provided, or indeed if clarification is provided? Can we expect stronger opposition from our professional body over the whole issue of volunteer led libraries?

Rather than highlighting a weak policy backed by ineffectual advocacy Cilip should be developing a new strategy to actively address the issue of volunteer led libraries and the Government’s rush to impose them on communities regardless.

Opposition might be a difficult concept for Cilip to grasp (evidenced by the lack of willingness to proactively highlight the motion of no confidence in Ed Vaizey) but so far, the usual tactic of quiet, backroom diplomacy has failed spectacularly. For those of us in public libraries the diplomacy has been so quiet as to be deafeningly silent.

However, as any politician knows, while cooperation and conciliation are preferred, conflict and opposition are also useful tools in the arsenal.

2 thoughts on “Opposition is the hardest word

  1. Ok, if not volunteer libraries, then fully professionally staffed libraries. So, what do you want the council to cut instead? Social services? Bins? Museums? SEN? Road repairs?

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    • Hi Sue, unfortunately, many of the libraries closed are not staffed by qualified professionals but tend to be smaller community based libraries. They also tend to be in areas of social disadvantage or isolation where they are needed the most (see my posting ‘why reading matters’)

      Most of the services that you mention have, in the main, also seen a reduction in budgets in real terms. However, those within arts, heritage and leisure seem to have taken the biggest hits, with many libraries facing reductions of between 30% – 50%.

      Those that manage library services are well aware of the financial pressures that local authorities are under and are willing to shoulder their share of the cuts. All we ask is that those cuts are fair & proportionate and take into account the important role libraries play in delivering council priorities.

      Libraries help raise literacy levels, provide community space, provide access to IT – up to 30% of homes do not have access to the internet and within an 18 month period public libraries helped 2.5 million people to go online. Libraries run job clubs, provide access to health information (Books on Prescription for instance), provide storytimes and rhymetimes for children, and the list goes on. This provision is not a luxury but is integral to the social and economic wellbeing of the country.

      Handing over libraries to volunteers endangers the above. It is short sighted, produces very little savings, and is an unimaginative response when more creative solutions exist.

      The following websites provide excellent information about libraries:
      Public Library News
      Voices for the Library

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