Through the Barricades?

Chatting with a fellow campaigner this week we observed that anyone following news and updates about libraries via social media could be forgiven for thinking that two entirely different sectors are being talked about.

On one hand is the pessimistic view of libraries in which the narrative of austerity, closures and cuts is dominant. Most campaigners tend to fall into this camp and with little wonder as local and national campaigns are the direct result of cuts to library services. You only have to throw a stick a short distance to find an example such as the battle taking place around Bath Central Library.

Sadly, this means that campaigners, on a national level, are reluctant to acknowledge when positive changes or projects take place within library services, and despite massive reductions, there is still some fantastic work happening within the profession.

On the other end of the spectrum, are the optimists who only highlight positive stories and steadfastly refuse to acknowledge the extent of damage being done to the library network. The main culprits of this approach are the Libraries Taskforce and SCL. Trawling through their social media accounts it’s as if cuts to library services don’t actually exist in the brave new world of shiny central libraries, co-location, and the all-singing, all-dancing community hubs.


The Forum, Hemel Hempstead’s new council, library and voluntary services hub

What saddens me is both sides are guilty of closed-minds sets with a refusal to acknowledge the others point of view, and so closes down any meaningful discussion.

While I fully sympathise why many campaigners have become jaded over government policy I disagree with the sometimes vociferous and vocal attacks over even minor issues.

That said, the Libraries Taskforce and SCL are to as equally blinkered with an almost pathological unwillingness to debate publicly. Only wanting to promote ‘good news’ ignores and glosses over the real issue of library reductions and makes the official bodies as guilty as the more negative campaigners of skewing the narrative.

Unfortunately, it looks like neither side is willing to debate rationally or honestly preferring instead to sling stones at each other over the ideological barricades.

There are no easy solutions here and much would depend on goodwill from both sides. What I would personally like to see is a public libraries debate (but not forgetting school libraries either). This could take the form of a conference (one/two days perhaps) in which groups, organisations and individuals would be invited to give presentations, backed by evidence, and ending with a panel discussion.

This would be a good way of bringing all interested parties together in one place; Speak Up for Libraries, Library Campaign, Cilip, Libraries Taskforce, SCL etc. And not forgetting individuals such as John Bird and Ian Anstice for example.

The difficulty is having a body with the gravitas and neutrality, trusted by both sides, to organise this. My suggestion is that the Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group, who have been very quiet since their launch, might have a part to play in setting this up.



35 thoughts on “Through the Barricades?”

  1. Leon – the figures showing use of the public libraries in the UK show appalling decline – in a few months we will see another set of annual horror stories when the next set of CIPFA figures are published.

    Even so people spend, through their taxes, nearly £1bn each year – so it isn’t surprising to see a few buildings with new purple chairs — about 10% of the estate of library buildings should be renewed every year . That’s what we already pay for.

    Unless someone acknowledges and addresses the actuality and the reason for falling use it can only continue

    The UK public library service is an international nightmare and a disgrace; and until you and your friends in the library profession realise and address and stop moaning that the problem lies somewhere else, the problems it will only get worse until in the end the whole public library service is effectively closed

    You are miles behind the time in thinking what people want and what constitutes good library service. It really is time to stop pretending that libraries are wonderful — mostly they aren’t.

    If you personally want to effect improvement, you need to change your approach and up your game


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim, as I have always said I am willing to engage in reasoned debate but being accused of ‘moaning’ is hardly a good starting place. Despite reading many of your comments I have never got to the bottom of what your solution for libs actually is. So here’s some questions for you:
      1. What is the reason for falling use
      2. What problems are I and my ‘friends’ (whoever they might be actually ignoring?
      3. What is your answer in terms of a detailed solution to save libs?


      1. Leon

        The reason for falling use is that the stock of reading material is poor and old ; the opening hours of libraries are too short and unpredictable and the interior state of the buildings is often unkempt and dirty in a way that people find unattractive . Quite often the personal service is of a poor standard

        If those issues had been addressed and improved over the last decades while they have been true, the library service would thrive

        The public library service is not in a debate about whether or not people should regard its work as positive or negative – it is in a serious and imminent crisis…. that’s what the figures say

        The money for these improvements can come from reduction in obvious huge overhead costs, in management structures, in supply methods ( which
        are ridiculously outdated) and in general improved standards of management . The service could be better run on two thirds of its existing cost

        The service lacks defined ambition and purpose

        You can blame councils and politicians for not forcing the changes that should have been made but they would have been better if they had been organised and volunteered by the library ‘profession’ which would have been more likely to
        Work and satisfactory


      2. OK that’s a start Tim. So would you maintain the existing structures eg funding from Central govt. Would LA’s still have control of libs. If you reduce mngt do you believe system could be run with current staffing levels or would investment be needed. Given the axe has tended to fallen on mngt in libs over last few years can you say what you optimum level would be. What authorities are over-burdened with mngt tiers, can you give examples. Are you able to distinguish between a mngt post and frontline eg does a supervisor post count as frontline or mngt. What supply methods would you promote if the current one is not fit for purpose eg each lib service or even each library buying its own stock. How would this be more cost effective than current procurement. Again can you give an example of what authority spends too much on stock under its current agreement rather than buying direct. How exactly would you run the service on two thirds of existing cost. If reading material is poor would you increase stock budgets. If opening hours too short how would you increase them eg technology and no staff. If staffed where would funding come from. Lots of generalities in you answer so flesh out with data and an actual proposed model. More than happy to give you the space to do so.


      3. Leon- those are all straightforward questions – quite easy to answer and about which to be constructive

        If you want to take this conversation further and can
        find a productive way to do it, I will be very happy to participate

        I’m not interested in having a debate – but I would be interested in taking action – and urgently if anyone wanted



      4. Not sure how either us can take action given that the TF etc are basically a closed shop in terms of ideas. However, if these questions are easy to answer then I am happy to post for you on my blog or perhaps the Bookseller could be approached. Or if you have your own blog site?

        What would your solution be in terms of presenting the answers?


      5. Leon – what is needed, as in any endeavour, is to identify the person who is responsible for improvement

        If they, in pursuit of their attempt to change things, were to ask – ‘ what would you recommend should be done, how can it be tackled, who can undertake the actions and what results can we expect ?’

        Then they can be given the answers and be the
        judge of what the priorities try and what resources will be needed

        That’s how things work . Two of the biggest problems of all in our public libraries is that there is no one who accepts responsibility for measured performance (i.e. How many people use the service) and there is no mechanism for making changes to bring improvement

        If someone at CILIP were to say – we will accept that role and we will strive to bring about the actions needed – then one would could respond to their request for advice

        In the US , where I work, this is all normal and understood


  2. I think the balance here is a bit wrong to be honest. First the stats on library closures, cuts to the funding of libraries over the years etc is pretty damning. Those of us who pay for these services have every right to get cross with the nonsense coming out of the DCMS, SCL and Taskforce, fiddling while Rome burns I think is the phrase. Secondly, we can expect lies, drivel and spin from politicians, but civil servants are supposed to be impartial and if they’re just parroting the line of the politicians, then they’re doing us who pay their wages a dis-service. It still amazes me there is no user representation on the libraries task force, I don’t think we’re even allowed to observe their meetings. I think the only time the public have been able to hold the taskforce to account by asking questions is at the speak up for libraries conference last year and both the representatives there were very dismissive of the views of the public.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, the TF is dismissive and that’s if you can get them to debate at all. But when even minor accomplishments in the prof are derided on Twitter or a different view advanced I think some campaigners are too quick to criticise.


      1. I always try and give credit where its due, think I heaped loads of praise on the SCL on my blog and in person for the universal offers when they used to have those library stakeholders meetings. But the rhetoric coming out of the taskforce is at times farcical and I cannot see how it can be met with anything but derision considering the state of things in the sector. But considering you acknowledge the lack of debate by the taskforce, is it any surprise people get angry with them on twitter, the only public forum we can to even attempt to engage with them?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. And you absolutely hit the nail on the head: people get angry with them and deservedly so. I totally agree.. But sometimes we have to put our anger aside. My argument would be we have to discredit them, their ideas, and their models for libs. But we have to do that by presenting a better alternative regardless of whether they agree with us or not. We have to debate and eventually win the argument. Even if that sadly means waiting years to do so.

        I am more than happy to tell the SCL and TF they are wrong and quite often do so but equally they are right at times. There is some good work going on in the prof. It doesn’t excuse all the bad stuff but it is happening.


      3. It doesn’t matter if we win the argument though, they’re in charge and are ignoring us. I do understand the position of the taskforce/SCL, they’re not trying to win our hearts and minds, they’re trying to win over their colleagues/politicians who actually control the purse strings. Politicians are only interested in shiny new initiatives and new buildings to stand in front of for photocalls. The bread and butter of the work done in libraries and the outcomes it generates is unsexy and difficult to point at so gets ignored. It suits their narrative and that of politicians to marginalise us and label us as moaners and ignore the bad stuff because it doesn’t win votes.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I can hear the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her Defence Secretary John Nott deliver their statement describing the successful landing of British troops on South Georgia during the Falklands conflict. Thatcher (a dyed-in-the-wool positive narrative lass) refused to answer questions from the press, ordering them to “rejoice”.

    Among those who might reject invitations to rejoice that there’s: “still some fantastic work happening within the profession” are people from all walks of life who are furious that their questions and dismay are ignored and misrepresented. These angry folk could be the thousands of dedicated library workers whose jobs have been eliminated, together with the campaigners who valued them. Such ex-staff, users and campaigners don’t have to go to the city of Bath to find a service more or less annihilated. They can stand still and look around at their own.

    I appreciate that this Blog in particular tries to be even-handed and fair. But, surprisingly, many good souls must run the gauntlet of criticism by those who probably still have employment and enjoy contact with those who are doing “the fantastic work happening”. That’s okay. Good luck to ’em.

    If your readership is old enough, it might recall ‘Pollyanna’, the children’s book of 1913 by Eleanor H. Porter. The title character is an orphan girl who, despite the difficulties of her life, is always extremely cheerful. A “Pollyanna” remains excessively sweet-tempered and optimistic even in adversity. I do not find her a very credible or likeable creature, and she’s preachy. Nor do I accept that an insistance on being Pollyannaish is an honest representation of the current crisis.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. None of the comments you make are actually mine in the post. I am more critical of the TF & SCL than I am of campaigners. And as someone who fights tooth and nail for lib services and recognises the damge done to them I still see good work being carried out. Not to acknowledge that is to be as blinkered as the TF is about cuts.


    2. I agree with Shirley.

      I’d be interested to hear the details of the “fantastic work happening within the profession”, and which authorities you are referring to here, Leon.

      And I’d like to know what you think the setting up of another coalition and another conference would achieve when Speak Up for Libraries already exists and is already fulfilling that role. Voices for the Library, Unison and The Library Campaign, Campaign for the Book are all part of that coalition, alongside individual campaigners like me.

      The fact is that whilst campaigners have engaged with the Libraries Taskforce, SCL, ministers and so on, often under the banner of SUFL, the willingness to engage is half-hearted or just not reciprocated.

      Whilst SUFL has met with a number of ministers I can recall hearing nothing more on more than one occasion when the information offered had been passed on following a meeting. Library campaigners pushed extremely hard to get user, worker, campaigner and union representation on the Libraries Taskforce but this was dismissed without discussion. Library campaigners also attended stakeholder meetings with the SCL for some time but these too have been kicked into the long grass, despite library campaigners chasing.

      Library campaigners are rightly angry about the situation and the willful destruction of the public library service.


      1. This is the point I make in my post. You will not acknowledge any good work going on. Day in, day out many library staff are still doing good work DESPITE the cuts. Highlighting such work by individuals – and I am not talking about the TF and SCL who I am far more highly critical off than many others – should not be subject to the approbation that is heaped on them on Twitter. There are coding clubs and maker spaces, there are reading groups, there is excellent work around books on prescription and reading ahead. Library staff should be allowed to celebrate their achievements and doing so is not some sort of implied endorsement of the very real cuts happening around them. Most don’t know year on year if they will have a job but still want to share they can still do good some good. So just some examples of the good work: East Sussex Children’s Book Award, Reading Groups in every authority, the Glassbox in Somerset, Memories of Fiction project, school meals for disadvantaged children in Plymouth libraries…the list goes on. The difficulty is not being unable to find enough examples it’s knowing when to stop.

        And none of this justifies or excuses the cuts. It’s not meant to. But too many campaigners attack individual librarians on social media when they dare suggest they might have done something useful. That’s both unfair and unwarranted.

        My criticism was never directed at the SUFL and I admire the work of the individuals involved. But it’s no use constantly expecting the mountain to come to you. I don’t agree that the SUFL fulfils the role you outline but I’m happy for you to prove me wrong. What is needed are representatives from the TF, SCL, Cilip, APPG (Gill Furniss and Lord Tope), senior library staff and management, John Bird, as well as a healthy cross section of all library staff. Added to that are the campaigners, unions, political parties, even the LGA. That is what a coalition should look like and what is needed. If the SUFL is capable of doing that then fantastic but personally I think Alan was right on Twitter when he said ‘our focus should be on grassroots activists/campaigners, a different tack.’

        What I do hope is someone out there in the sector does have the clout to achieve the above and that the SUFL will be happy to join in should it happen.


      2. Leon – the public don’t want coding clubs and maker spaces . They don’t want ‘books on prescription’ . If funds are limited they want resources and time to be spent on good book collections, longer opening hours and clean libraries with staff who are knowledgeable and helpful about the reading material



      3. I don’t disagree with you necessarily but as always…where’s the evidence? The public come to the coding clubs, and borrow the books on prescription, so obviously they do want it, or at least certain sections do. Whether that’s the right direction for libs is a different debate.


      4. Leon – the evidence that was is being done isn’t working is in the declining use of libraries

        If you really think that you can replace declining numbers of readers by a number of ‘maker space users’ then you are missing the totally obvious

        There is masses of evidence

        Every proper piece of market research about the public libraries in England identifies three priorities – stock , opening hours and the state of the buildings . I have been watching that research for fifteen years, it never changes

        No one single piece has suggested that it would be better to offer ‘maker spaces ‘ or ‘coding clubs’ —/ they are inventions

        Frankly anyone who truly thinks we will reverse the decline in use libraries by offering these joke services must be off their head . They shouldn’t have access to public money


      5. Tim, as always please don’t put words in my mouth. I did not say such schemes would stop the decline in usage. I actually said I agreed with you. But people do use these services and it’s no use pretending they don’t. Since there is masses of evidence, and I genuinely am interested in seeing it, please provide the links so I and others can review it.


      6. Leon – start by looking at your own public library user surveys and those of a few neighbouring councils

        What percentage of users have come in to find something to read ?

        You will find the answer is about 70-80%

        Now tell us what you deduce from that about how limited resources might be spent



      7. That’s not the same as ‘masses of research’ or ‘every proper piece of market research.’ I am critical of the TF or SCL when they make such claims without data so until you can prove different then it remains just an assertion. An assertion I agree with but nevertheless without evidence you can’t prove is not what the public wants. And even if ultimately it isn’t the right direction for libs it doesn’t take away from my point that it’s a good piece of work that deserves to be noted and not constantly harped at.


      8. Leon

        Actually they do constitute ‘masses of research’
        They have been conducted across the country in a fairly consistent way over many years — they are very important

        Their weakness is that they are only conducted among users and not lapsed users – but even so they reveal a great deal – both locally and nationally

        They make plain how important and essential book
        and reading collections are to public libraries

        Now go and have a look at some and see what they say

        If you want more research ask Ipsos mori for copies
        of their reports on individual councils – and then ask the reading agency for their research reports over the past twenty years

        There is plenty – if it properly conducted it says the same thing

        Then look at the figures of declining use reported to CIPFA

        There is only one issue facing the English public library service – it has to halt the decline in use

        If it does not do that there is every reason to cut its funding

        So if maker spaces, books on prescription and coding clubs will not reverse the decline in use we should stop investing time, energy and money into them . Simple


      9. Tim, I approved this comment because I prefer to approve most comments. But you’ve changed the argument totally. I’m not arguing against declining usage. But you asserted that people don’t want coding clubs and maker spaces and have still failed to back up that assertion. None of the sources above prove your point at all because we simply don’t ask those questions. The fact is there is no hard evidence for against such use. So unless your next comment is actual evidence that shows that the public don’t want such services then I won’t approve. If you think that is unfair then please feel free to start your own blog to argue why.

        I don’t mind a debate but at least keep to the point in hand.


      10. Leon – it’s very gracious and generous of you to approve my comments . I’m honoured

        The evidence you ask me for is in the generally available data

        This is my assertion : for thirty years the library profession in the uk has pursued a theory that ‘public libraries are more than about books’ . There was never any evidence that that was what the public wanted and it ran contrary to the 1964 Act .

        At that time every year there were over 600 m library visits and loans

        During that time, despite many changes in technology, the book industry at large has thrived both for adults and for children. There is plenty of readily available evidence for that

        Seeking to provide ‘more than books’ libraries have introduced more and more activities and crucially they have removed books in order to make room for them . The number of books now available for lending in libraries is half the number of thirty years ago . The evidence for that is in the CIPFA figures .

        During that time use of the libraries has declined to the point we now have around 200 million visits and book loans each year . The evidence for that is widely available . That fall in use is what I mean when I say ‘the public don’t want it’ – I mean they choose not to use the service as they would have done in the past

        The same decline has not occurred to the same extent at all in other countries . The evidence for that is available ( I have sent it to you in the past

        The figures for last year will be published in December and they will show another serious decline – we haven’t seen them yet but they are known in councils . The figures for the current year will also show a decline . We know that because libscan figures make that clear

        This year cilip and the Task Force have talked about using data . There is adequate data available but you and your colleagues prefer to ignore it

        When I say that people don’t want time and resource devoted to maker spaces, books on prescription and other fringe schemes , it is a general statement which is saying that by choosing not to use libraries ( as they are ) they do not find the current service and initiatives to be preferable to a library with books on the shelves . I say again the evidence is in the figures of declining use .

        I say again (as someone who has spent their working life successfully using figures to make decisions about peoples’ reading habits ) that the evidence is all clear, plain and straightforward and and so long as you and your colleagues live in denial of what it says, the public library service will continue to go down hill

        People want better and they deserve and pay for it


      11. No idea why I cannot reply to Leon’s reply, so posting here.

        Campaigners have never been unsupportive of library staff. In fact, library campaigners have spoken out about issues publicly when library staff could not.

        I agree with Tim that what people want from a library is a good core offer first – good book stock, properly staffed and funded libraries that have good opening hours. This also includes access to computers that work. When we have that, by all means, add on all the 3D printers, code clubs, theatre, acrobats, juggling seals etc, but only iif funds, time and resources allow.

        Some ideas are poor or of limited benefit and need to be called out for that. For example, Libraries Unltd recently teamed up with The Boatshed in Exeter (a pop up) to create a Pop-up library. In reality, this was just an old painted bookcase in a boat shed with a very small selection of donated books, with comments by the donor scribbled inside the cover.

        You also refer to Plymouth libraries offering school meals but this is only once a week. I agree this is a nice to have but it falls well short of addressing the real issue of children going hungry. It may well bring more children into the library though to access reading, but then so do activities put on to attract children to take part in the Summer Reading challenge.

        And Alan Wylie’s comment about SUFL refocusing energies on campaigning and activism was made precisely because SUFL has tried for years now to engage all parties and provided a platform for ministers, SCL, LGA, TF etc to engage with library workers, library users, library campaigners and unions. It has not worked and that is not due to lack of trying on our part.


  4. Agree with most of this.

    Two examples of one-sidedness:

    1. Users are protesting about moving Bath Central Library. They make some valid points, but they ignore the positive aspects of the plans being proposed. The proponents of the plan, on the other hand, say very little (as far as I can see) about the criticisms being levelled at their plans. One would hope the two sides could get together, with open minds and without rancour, to see if they cannot come to a mutually acceptable solution.

    And, this time not from a library but from an archive:

    2. Nottinghamshire published proposals to restrict the County Record Office’s opening hours for the usual free use, and to make a very hefty hourly charge for the rest of the hours. Everyone was up in arms and the proposals have been put on hold pending further consideration. OK – they do seem to have been formulated without being properly thought through; but hardly anywhere in the protests was there any acknowledgement of the key reason for the changes, which was (or at least purported to be) the need to put much more staff time into digitising the stock and making it available online in response to user demand.

    Both cases seem to be examples of (a) a lack of transparency in the planning; (b) an unwillingness by those in charge to listen to all interested parties; (c) a reluctance by those who have used the services in the past to recognise that the particular forms of free access they have enjoyed hitherto may not be the best forms for the future.

    Change can be good, indeed vitally important if free access to resources is to continue, but it needs to be planned carefully, without undue haste and certainly not as a way to give in to government pressure to save money at all costs.


  5. I have always thought of pubic libraries as evidence of the Uks attitude to learning, knowledge, freedom of information and the importance of reading for learning and leisure. As I have written before, in the small village I lived in queues formed once a week to await the arrival of the box of books coming from the larger library in the small town some 4 miles away.

    But since then everything has changed. Who would have thought that by the year 2000 plus, we could travel on our holidays with as many books as we wished on our iPad, courtesy of Amazon etc. However, even though I do just that, it is for mainly fiction, newly published, but my family and I still buy non fiction, travel and other illustrated books in hard copy.And we have a house full of books from all ages and all subjects. In fact my daughter, when she was at school and had a new project would despair when i said ‘oh we have a book on that’! Thus her essay on Archimboldo!

    Much else has changed since my youth, the range of TV programmes and the accessibility of TV and other devices., CD’s and video, and on line newspapers and so on., so I feel to some extent we, in the profession, have not done enough to keep up with the times, and with the offer we should have been making, and promoting that in a more professional manner.

    I admit I am fortunate and can afford to buy what I want and need, MANY others are not, and not only should a library provide the reading material, in a clean and accessible way (accessible by virtue of it being there, being clean and with sensible opening hours),.but also promoting its services in a much more proactive way.

    Book shops have done this very successfully., clean, bright, well stocked, open everyday except Sunday (although some may open Sunday), and bright displays both in and out of the store available on most high streets. Whereas many public libraries are rather dowdy places, with no facilities and poor toilets etc. Yes I know many tried to have coffee etc, but many haven’t changed in years. Also some have had some very peculiar rules. I recall working for one large authority where anyone titled (and there were quite a few in this up market area), was not charged fines!! I queried this, but the answer was, this is what we have always done. The same authority also did not allow females to wear trousers on the mobile. Again I broke this rule, as it was freezing in the winter. needless to say I wasn’t there long, but did leave of my own freewill.

    I worked in another authority in a very very busy branch library, and the volunteer staff, who normally worked on a Saturday, were absolutely fantastic. They were an additional resource mainly for check out and shelving, and the branch would not have worked without them.

    So what am I getting at? Well i just don’t think that we, as a profession, have ever had the clout, the PR skills, or the determination to raise the profile of our service and work inside our authority or direct to the public.It has often been the ‘outsider’ to the profession who have pushed the service to new activities etc. Take automation, the professional librarian in public libraries were not the pushers for this advance. When I worked in Birmingham it was the 2 universities (Birmingham and Aston, and at that time I was in Aston, and the then progressive and active public library), that pushed for the use of Marc records for instance. Laser, where I also worked, was fundamental in automating Inter Lending, providing union catalogues and extending the service UK wide.But there was resistance for all of these and many other initiatives that were frowned upon by many chiefs.

    The Professional Body must also be held to some extent, to be part of the problem. For many years their profile was low, their impact negligible, their aroma fuddy duddy.! It took the charisma, energy and vitality, as well as the contacts and charm of Lord Matthew Evans to get the ‘People’s Network’ off the ground.

    I can hear you now, ‘who does she think she is’ etc. Well these are my experiences and views. BUT our major issue as a service was/is being part of local government, which is not well known for its drive, energy, forward thinking etc., and often did not think highly of, or treat appropriately the head of the public library service. So much more could have been achieved working and supporting public libraries much better than they were. Some research projects LASER did for the British Library R&D many years ago, was to examine who and why people were obtaining material on Inter Library Loan from their libraries, many from tiny little branches. The whole world was their oyster, they requested books from all over the world to help with identifying illnesses, starting up businesses, on their own hobbies of for example collecting rare china, to support university research in all sorts of subjects. All done via their public library.

    Yes things have changed, access to information for the individual or the business (I recall the manic use and business of Birmingham Public Libraries Business library), with access to the worlds books, journals, research etc available at your desk and in your home.But of course so much more can be done n one’s own PC.

    So I suppose what I am saying in some way is., it is time for a new model for public libraries. Take them away from the dull,ill-informed and useless local government. Train our librarians to be more forceful, persuasive, business canny and energetic, with high levels of IT skills. Let us move on and up and re think and fight for what we believe in!!

    Christopher Pikes’s last paragraph is a good start!!

    Frances Hendrix


    1. Frances, wonderful comments and I agree with much in it. All I would point out is many campaigners want us to stay with useless local govt (something I’ve argued against for a long time) but just have more money. They also do not want business canny libs, seeing this as anathema to the role of public services. Being more business savvy will naturally lead to more entrepreneurial approaches, again something campaigners criticise. Equally, having higher levels of IT and understanding technology better will lead to projects such as open data (good) but also to involvement in fab labs, maker space, coding clubs etc. The very thing Tim has criticised. Personally I totally agree with you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Leon – I think Frances’ point is that instead of being strong and clear about what a good library is, over many years the library profession has allowed local authorities to set the agenda

        In my view ‘the universal offers’ have very little to do with what the public want from libraries or even what makes a good library . Instead they are a list of topics which somebody believes will appeal to local government officials and people in other government departments .

        If you asked someone in the street ‘what should be the universal qualities of a public library?’ they would hardly mention the items on the SCL list . But they would demonstrate what should be the qualities of the brand

        The 1964 Act doesn’t say that what makes a good library should be determined by what a local council wants or what it’s strategic goals are . It says quite clearly that the library should provide what the people who want to use it ask for . That’s very different.

        What is needed is for the public library profession to be clear and strong and demonstrates it understands what its users want . It doesn’t do that – or even attempt to do it . It has been weak and inward looking for thirty years . That needs to change – that is the thing that you could influence . Call for major change at CILIP so it genuinely becomes a body that protects the interests of library users above all else

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Frances Hendrix’ essay is wonderful

    Remember that even the richest (and most titled) person cannot afford all the books they need. Thats why libraries full of books will always always be essential.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Leon., I do despair., when I attended a Council meeting in Lancashire County Council re closures of libraries, a) I was the only person there (and no one was allowed to speak who was not on the council) supporting the library debate, and b) the debate was appalling., well to call it a debate is a gross overstatement!! So few councillors on any side said anything. There were far more people up in the Gods with me who were there to listen to reduction in buses and places for homeless.


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