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.