Following the Leader…

libraryFor anyone who hasn’t yet read it I would highly recommend the excellent post by Nick Poole ‘Giving public libraries strong leadership and commitment.’ In it he lays out a coherent vision and set of principles for public library provision , averring that:

“A strong public library service is the foundation of a literate and inclusive society and a competitive knowledge economy. Great local libraries are an investment in communities, providing a cost effective way to improve health, support business start-ups, improve literacy and skills, and do all of this in a way that is open to all.”

The 10 key principles outline a clear stance on developing public libraries in England to hopefully curtail the massive reductions taking place nationally. This includes calling for emergency relief funding and intervention from government bodies where local authorities are being shown to fail their statutory provision.

It’s certainly a vision that many within the profession and campaigners should be able to support. If there’s a drawback it’s the reliance on the proposals being adopted by the same bodies who have so far failed to provide national leadership or a framework of protection for libraries.

However, due credit to Cilip for taking the lead in articulating what the sector needs to firstly survive and then hopefully develop.

Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England

In marked contrast we are still awaiting the publication of the Libraries Taskforce Libraries Deliver: Ambition. Although, originally due for publication by the end of July this year, the report was held up due to the appointment of a new libraries minister, Rob Wilson.

A further update was provided by the Taskforce in September but with no firm deadline in sight. It’s concerning that a report that was on the verge of being ready for publication over 3 months ago is still languishing in the DCMS, while the sector remains rudderless, libraries closures announced almost daily, and hundreds more staff lost to the profession.

But never mind at least it allows the new minister time to get his feet under the table!

Obviously, we have no way of knowing if or how far the report has been amended, or if any changes will be for the better or worse. Certainly Ed Vaizey was no friend to libraries so perhaps Rob Wilson’s view will be more positive. That said, how long does it take to amend an almost complete document. Then again perhaps the new minister’s view is so different to his predecessor that it requires a major revamp?

It will be interesting if the final product will be recognisable to everyone who attended the consultation workshops and if it fits with the work done and expectations raised at them.

What Next?

Perhaps Cilip has chosen to deliberately steal a march on the Ambition report. Certainly, it has challenged fellow members of the Libraries Taskforce to support the Principles for the Leadership and Development of Public Library Services in England as outlined in the blog post. Whether they will or not remains to be seen.

Partly, Cilip’s reaction could be borne out of the frustration with the long delay in publication of the Ambition document. Equally, there might be a perception that the report will fail to provide the guidance that’s needed for the sector and Cilip is setting out its stall in advance. This remains to be seen and comparing the two side-by-side will no doubt be highly informative and perhaps not a little contentious.

The one thing that is clear however is that only Cilip is currently offering a strategic framework and the leadership that the sector needs, while the others lag behind.

The test to how successful Cilip will be is how closely aligned its vision is to the Taskforce’s and what the fall-out will be if there is a wide discrepancy between the two.



4 thoughts on “Following the Leader…”

  1. Leon – I hesitate to suggest to you, reading your last few posts, that there is a mild air of complacency in the library profession .

    We are supposed to believe that everything they stand for, are and do is wonderful -that nobody understands them and that they are desperately deprived of the money to which they are entitled

    The public library service in England draws more funding than all other cultural activities combined – we have only lost 10% in number of the smallest libraries in the last decade – and yet use is down by 30-40%

    It would be lovely to hear what the “profession” could to improve its service and its efficiency alongside it continuous plea for support from the philistines who do not give them proper valuation


    1. Hi Tim, I actually agree that there is an air of complacency, just not necessarily in the profession overall but certainly in particular sections. You know as a sector we do not get to decide our own destiny but are subject to the whims of the DCMS, LGA etc. The TF was supposed to bring all interested bodies together to find a way forward but has yet to accomplish this. In December it will be 2 years since the publication of the Siegahrt report with relatively little of importance achieved (any thoughts yourself around that?).

      I accept at face value your figure around funding as a cultural activity but equally Libraries are the only statutory service within culture and is as such will receive more funding. We could also debate if libraries only fulfil a cultural role and thus comparisions with other cultural institutions might not always be useful.

      Again I agree that there are ways the profession could be more efficient, personally I prefer regional consortia, but again we get stymied by politics i.e. localism, devolution, and the absolute reluctance of LAs wanting to work across boundaries. The ridiculous situation is councils would prefer to close libs or hand to vols rather than cooperate with a neighbouring council!

      Be interested in your thoughts (Post maybe?) on the TF & members and how perhaps it could be more efficient.


      1. Leon – thanks – my view on the task force is pretty simple

        The Sieghart review was poor and failed to address the most important questions – particularly the decline in use of libraries . It didn’t look at usage figures at all . The Task Force needed therefore to tackle that matter and in two years it has studiously avoided it

        The Task Fotce doesn’t have the right people and it doesn’t have the right agenda .

        The DCMS has been appalling – but then it has been consistently appalling for 20 years

        – and finally to your comment that the fate of public libraries is in the hands of other people – if that is true then CILIP has no business posturing as an authority ., Influence comes not from position but from having something useful and intelligent to contribute .

        I think the two candidates for senior roles in CILIP whose writing you have published are hopelessly inadequate for the task in hand

        And being an active voice – as you are – you should say that and try and stir your colleagues to find more dynamic and perceptive leaders— maybe even you


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.