Wishing all those who love and support libraries a very Merry,
and well read, Christmas
It’s good to see the new Public & Mobile Libraries Group up and running after such a long hiatus, particularly during such challenging times for public libraries.
The stated aim of the group is ‘…to provide information, training, development and networking opportunities to all levels of staff working in public and mobile libraries and to act as advocates for public library services.’
Despite the travails of the past year and the prediction of next year being even worse I am trying to enter the New Year with a sense of optimism. Therefore, I’m hoping the PMLG will provide the political advocacy for public libraries that has been lacking within Cilip so far and that they are not curtailed by the traditional reticence of the Council towards anything that smacks of confrontation with the government…or ACE…or the SCL etc! I am also hoping that the new raft of Council members are willing to be more critical in defence of libraries.
The PMLG has started well including a survey to members that gave quite a high priority to advocacy work. They have also produced an excellent new journal called Access and I would urge all members to read it. It also contains an article about PLN, the single most useful website about public libraries in the current climate. If anyone deserves to be nominated in the Queen’s birthday honours list for services to libraries it is Ian Anstice.
Anyway, I wish the very best of luck to the PMLG committee and look forward to seeing the work of the group develop.
Even allowing for the fact that the SCL is part of the LGA the statement was misguided at best and disingenuous at worst, managing in one short phrase to offend not only library campaigners, but totally misrepresent the reality of what is happening for many at a local level. Perhaps it will be some comfort to those in Lincolnshire to know that their library service is being changed ‘in tune with local community need’…but somehow I doubt it!
That said, this was a no win situation in which the SCL were damned if they did or damned if they didn’t criticise the volunteer figures so perhaps they should have taken inspiration from the song lyrics, ‘you say it best when you say nothing at all’ or for those of an older persuasion ‘silence is golden’.
The biggest disappointment is that although this is an official statement from SCL many individual heads of libraries will be just as dismayed as library campaigners.
Reported recently in the Harrowgate News ACE’s continuing misplaced mission to mould libraries to its cultural agenda gathers apace with no less than a new undertaking to change ‘…both the public and government perception of libraries and developing them as cultural hubs and creative spaces’, which apparently are the ‘…keys to the future sustainability of libraries.’
And there’s me thinking literacy, learning, and information provision are what libraries are about!
Both Desmond Clarke and Alan Wylie make telling points regarding ACE’s approach that I fully agree with.
The difficulty is knowing how to deal with ACE. On one hand they are the official government body tasked with overseeing libraries and therefore are in a position to do a great deal of good. On the other hand they have displayed a level of ignorance and incompetence towards libraries that is not only incredibly frustrating to both librarians and campaigners but also damaging to services.
Take Envisioning the library of the future for example, which many councils have taken at face value and have used to justify the widespread use of volunteers in libraries. Rather than supporting and developing libraries, ACE has enabled councils to hoodwink communities by promoting the over-optimistic and misleading findings and presenting libraries as little more than community hubs.
As I’ve argued before the SCL Universal Offers present a far better opportunity for public libraries and is more in keeping with their core mission. It is a great pity that ACE have not seen fit to work in partnership with the SCL to adopt and promote the offers as the real key to the future sustainability of libraries.