Sieghart…or jumping through hoops!

Well, another day and another library consultation over. Given the long list of reviews and reports into libraries over the past few years it’s hard not to be cynical and see the current one as the usual hoop exercise…as in jumping through!

That said, it would be foolish not to make a submission on the extremely unlikely chance that this is the one that will make the difference…so I’ve duly added my tuppence worth.

Feedback was asked around three questions:

  1. What are the core principles of a public library service into the future?
  2. Is the current delivery of the public library service the most comprehensive and efficient?
  3. What is the role of community libraries in the delivery of a library offer?

The fact that the report has been commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Communities and Local Government should give pause and makes me wonder what the underlying motivation is. Or to put it another way: is this the usual political machination by the government to undermine the public library service?

The scope of the review is to ‘…produce an independent report considering the current structure and role of public libraries, including community libraries, in England as well as identifying any opportunities for future delivery.’

Colour me suspicious but question two immediately raised a certain amount of disquiet. Although I have concerns about the efficaciousness of the principle of ‘comprehensive and efficient’, for many it is all that stands between library services and widespread closures (cue Lincolnshire).

Then there’s question three about community libraries. Many campaigners and observers have already pointed out that the term means different things to different people. So to begin with a clear explanation of the term is required to ensure a shared understanding and frame of reference.

However, I think it’s safe to assume that in this context the term refers to a library that is either run by volunteers/community group outside of local authority control, or operated by volunteers with a lesser or greater degree of support from the local authority.

The fact that the review blithely refers to such libraries indicates that the panel implicitly accept them as a viable model of service provision. Again, this is a reflection of current government philosophy rather than a genuine invitation to discuss the principle of so called community libraries.

Now, the report should be seen in a wider context including the fact that ACE has recently commissioned Locality to ‘…explore existing good practice and assess the further potential to enable enterprise amongst library service providers’ – for ‘library service providers’ read ‘community libraries’.

So it will be interesting to see if Sieghart does indeed produce an independent narrative or if, as I suspect, this is just another fudged report exploited by the DCMS to justify and extend the use of volunteer run libraries.

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