Review of Public Libraries 2017

Last year I looked at the possible trends in public libraries for 2017 and unfortunately the challenges I identified remain unabated. The situation has deteriorated even more so and the release of the recent Cipfa data details a sector in continuing crisis. What has remained a constant since the start of austerity is deep reductions in funding, staffing, resources, and hundreds of library closures. Conversely, there has been an increase volunteer led-libraries, co-location, and technology enabled access.

There is no evidence that this trajectory is likely to change under the current administration and all indications are for deeper and more damaging cuts to the national network in England over the coming year.

However, it would be unfair to imply that nothing good is happening within libraries. Library staff have managed to drive forward creative projects and service improvement despite the challenging circumstances. For the best examples of this see the Libraries Change Lives website. Equally, new library builds and improvements are still happening and welcomed by the communities they benefit. Public Library News provides the most comprehensive and regular updates from across the sector including a list of new or refurbished libraries. The Libraries Taskforce blog also highlights good work happening and best practice from other services. Unfortunately as a government funded body, the bias is for highlighting only positive stories rather than acknowledging the difficulties that beset the sector, and as such it lacks both impartiality or gives balanced coverage.

While not entirely doom and gloom the positives above need to be set in the overall context of ongoing funding cuts to local authorities and the continuing drivers of localism and devolution. All of which continue to provide a challenging environment for libraries. Not just public libraries but all those that rely on public funding either directly or indirectly such as schools, FE, HE, and health libraries.

Commercialism

Libraries are increasingly being challenged to adopt a more commercial approach in the way they market and charge for services. In principle this is nothing new and fees and charges have always played a role in raising income; from fines, room hire, photocopying, DVD rental etc.

What has changed is the emphasis placed on income generation as central to the core budget. That is, a failure to meet an income target can have a direct impact on service delivery with the need for further efficiency savings such as reducing the stock fund or even losing staff as a result. This is particularly true of library mutuals I would guess who no longer have the safety net of the local authority to soak up any overspends.

It also highlights the dichotomy as to why library services can attract large amounts of project funding from the Arts Council but still be subject to cuts and closures. Such funding is tied to a specific project work and does nothing to alleviate the underlying structural issues such as revenue funding.

While many in the profession object to libraries being treated as profit making organisations the approach is in keeping with government policy and ideology so is unlikely to change anytime in the near future.

Recruitment

Sadly, years of austerity, hollowing out, and de-professionalisation of the sector have made public libraries an unattractive proposition for new library graduates. An article in the bookseller described the relentless cuts as turning the sector into a ‘war zone’. The sad fact is public libraries are no longer an appealing long-term career prospect.

Speaking at a round table discussion with the APPG on libraries Nick Poole argued that despite the difficulties the sector needed to invest and encourage new talent. Looking at the information sector in the round I would agree. Many opportunities exist and will continue to expand, particularly in the areas of information and knowledge management, specialist libraries, and Higher Education.

However, it’s more difficult to argue a case for public libraries, when both national and local government, and all main political parties regard library staff, including qualified librarians, as replaceable by volunteers.

The recommendation by William Sieghart to encourage and develop the library workforce and especially new recruits and graduates’ seems unachievable now. The ambition to develop a programme similar to the TeachFirst concept for librarians appears to have been dropped by the Taskforce in favour of the more achievable goal of encouraging apprenticeships, although this too is not without its difficulties.

Pay in the public sector will continue to be depressed with either a real term pay cut or wages struggling to keep pace with inflation, also make public libraries less attractive to those entering the profession.

Despite this some councillors seem to enjoy increases or pay outs far in excess of those they expect of their workforce. While no means an isolated case the leader of East Sussex Council is to get a 37% increase in his allowance and proudly states that he is “worth the money and more”. It appears you can volunteer and still be paid the equivalent of a full time wage for doing so!

This from a council leader who is threatening to close libraries unless they are funded wholly by communities or other organisations. Presumably, any volunteers taking over the threatened libraries cannot expect the same level of recompense as Councillor Glazier.

Not to be outdone Paul Blantern former CEO of Northamptonshire County Council and Chair of the Libraries Taskforce enjoyed a pay out in excess of £100k when he quit his post this year. This at the same time 21 libraries were threatened with closure as the council can  apparently no longer afford to run them.

Performance

I won’t dwell too much on the recent Cipfa figures as a very good in-depth analysis has been provide by Tim Coates on UK Library News.

The figures sadly illustrate the continuing decline of the sector, with the Bookseller describing the results as showing the “catastrophic” scale of library closures in Great Britain. Overall the figures confirm huge drops in funding, increase in library closures – 449 since 2012 but other commentators have put this higher – a drop in expenditure by £66m for 2016-7 alone, and a decline in visitor numbers 14% over five years.

However, not all councils have returned their figures so the situation is likely to be much worse.

That the situation requires urgent strategic action on a national scale is obvious. What is not obvious is where this action will come from. All the major players, ACE, DCMS, Libraries Taskforce, have so far fundamentally failed to address or halt the decline.

Part of the issue is also the loss of focus on what public libraries are for and what they should deliver. Some of the underlying problems are due to technological and societal changes, but these effects have been exacerbated by political ideology around public finances and service delivery.

The SCL Universal Offers where partly meant to address this by formalising those areas that libraries where good at and how they could adapt to meet the changing information needs of the public. Despite being a continuing critic of the SCL as a organisation I have always been broadly supportive of the universal offers. However, after years of failing to alter the decline in usage we need now to start questioning the validity of the offers as an effective strategy.

While this might be heresy to some, and I certainly don’t advocate for immediately discontinuing them, I do believe the themes need revisiting to gauge if they continue to be fit for purpose in their current form. Equally, adding to the number of offers is both counter-productive and misguided.

Leadership

There still remains a lack of strategic leadership for the sector within England. Obviously, the government would not accept a body highly critical of it’s policies, which is why the make-up of the Taskforce is as it is. The majority of those round the table are beholden to the government either politically or financially.

That’s not to say that some of the organisations don’t carry out valuable work beneficial to the sector, such as the British Library. However, in 2016/17 79% (£93.9m) of the British Library funding came from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Equally, the SCL has benefited from closer engagement and have been successful in attracting additional money. This year it was awarded £2m over four years by the Arts Council as a ‘Sector Support Organisation’, allowing it to pay up to £65k for a new Chief ExecutiveEqually, six library services were also awarded National Portfolio Organisation status attracting just over £4m in funding between them. As Ian Anstice observed:

“It’s interesting to see that 3 out of the 6 library services to get the funding, by the way, are non-profit trusts. This is proportionately way higher than one would expect. The bids were also not public so it’s unclear, apart from what can be gained from press releases, as yet, as to what they will mean.”

So it’s no surprise that the SCL is heavily involved in promoting a cultural and arts agenda for libraries and advocating support for volunteer led libraries, both mainstays of government policy. As the latest minutes of the Taskforce noted:

“The Taskforce also undertook to provide support to community managed libraries to share good practice, and help develop sustainable community managed library business models and approaches. It is working in partnership with SCL and Locality to support a new Community Managed Libraries Peer Network…”

What was encouraging for those of us critical of the arts path being foisted on libraries with no debate was the Cilip interview with Gill Furniss, Chair of the APPG:

‘I am a bit disappointed. I did think public libraries fitted better in Civil Society. To me they are community assets and don’t go terribly well with arts, museums and culture. I see public libraries serving communities’ information needs and that they should be very much placed within a community and be valued by the community.’

She also believes the arts label comes at a cost. ‘It makes libraries seem very grand when you’re talking about arts and ­museums. We’ve got to get away from grand. We’ve got to be there with our sleeves rolled up in communities. I’d put it with housing and neighbourhoods.’

Whether Labour adopts this approach remains to be seen. Kevin Brennan, shadow library minister, is currently working on library policy but over the past seven years most Labour controlled authorities, including Gill Furniss’ home area of Sheffield, have followed their tory counter-parts in cuts, closures, and the replacement of paid staff with volunteers.

Independent voice

As such there is no independent body, with perhaps the exception of Cilip, that is willing to be publicly critical of government policy. Although a recent APPG round-table discussion in Westminster produced some heart-felt warnings there appears little political appetite to change course from any of the parties.

The APPG has yet to publish it’s list of activities so it’s difficult to know yet what it’s priorities will be and how it will bring together different political opinion into a coherent strategy. The LibDems are as equally to blame as the tories for the current crisis and despite both the Chair and Vice-Chair being Labour, as noted above Labour have a poor record on differentiating their stance in any meaningful way from that of the Conservatives.

What is needed is a clear and meaningful strategy that addresses the structural and financial difficulties besetting the sector, and a strategy that is intent on building relationships with all  stakeholders rather than creating division.

Unfortunately, Sieghart’s recommendations deliberately set to exclude campaigners, unions, and library users from the Taskforce. Given the emphasis on communities having a say it’s rather ironic that the users voice was intentionally left out at national level.

Sadly, the perhaps unintended but very foreseeable consequence has been to create a toxic relationship of distrust, accusation and counter accusation between groups that should be united in fighting for libraries.

Besides being politically petty the decision has built walls rather than bridges and bodes ill for the future should a new administration establish a different body. It would be very difficult for those currently at the table to cry foul if they were to be excluded.

It also raises the question of legitimate engagement and how far library organisations should allow themselves to be part of policies that are so at odds with the good of the profession and sector. Within any situation there is always nuance and complexity. Very few issues are black and white. That said, it is difficult to pinpoint any advantages to public libraries that engagement with the government has brought.

The campaigns run by Cilip in support of public, school, and health libraries, the outspoken criticism from authors and celebrities, all highlight the damage being done. So the question becomes at what point does engagement become collusion or self-harm? At what point are organisations putting their own needs above the good of the wider profession?

As Nick Poole recently tweeted as part of a thread: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Round-up

For myself, I see another challenging year of quiet desperation for public libraries with no obvious solution in sight. The government is too caught up in Brexit to give domestic issues much consideration. That’s not to be overly pessimistic but the evidence leads only one way and as we have all affirmed in the past year #factsmatter. To pretend otherwise is a dis-service to the profession.

For other reviews of the year see Nick Poole’s 2017 Review and Ian Anstice English Public Libraries key trends 2017

 

Shining a Light – Complaint from Tim Coates

An article appeared in the Bookseller today (27/04/17), which outline a complaint made to the Carnegie Trust UK about it’s recent Shine a Light Report. Below is the full text of the complaint from Tim Coates.

Carnegie UK Trust Report on Public Libraries-  April 2017 – “Shining a light”
 
Formal complaint to the Trustees of the Carnegie UK Trust-   by Tim Coates April 2017

Headline
My complaint is that the report ‘Shining a Light’ seriously avoids the truth of what is happening in public libraries. It omits evidence of long term decline it should have included. It fails to draw the right conclusions from data in the research it has carried out.

It should be withdrawn and changes made in the operation of the Trust in respect of their future work on public libraries
The danger is that poor management of the public library service is reinforced.

This complaint is absolutely not directed in any sense at all at Ipsos Mori who were commissioned by the Carnegie UK Trust to carry out research.

Tim Coates 
Tim Coates is a former managing director of Waterstone’s, Sherratt and Hughes, Websters Bookshops, the London Bookshed, Bilbary Ltd  and of WH Smith in Europe.  He is also former UK general manager of YBP (UK), the leading supplier of academic books to libraries worldwide. He is a consultant who has advised in the public library and academic library sectors in the UK and in the US for eighteen years. He is an expert on book industry supply chains.  He gave evidence to the House of Commons select committee on libraries in 2005, which was used extensively in the report of the committee.

He is a graduate of both Oxford and Stirling Universities, from the latter of which he holds a master’s degree in Management Economics. He is a published author and the editor of two series of titles of the history of the UK and the US: ‘Uncovered Editions’ and ‘Moments of History’.  He is the author of the report ‘Who’s in Charge? responsibility for the public library service (2002)’. He is currently an active contracted advising consultant to leading library vendors in the US on matters of both digital and print supply of material to libraries. He works in New York, California and London

Complaint
The report published in the name of the Carnegie UK Trust called ‘Shining a Light’ avoids the factual evidence of the essential, continuous and destructive decline of use in public libraries in the UK. It draws conclusions without evidence; it fails to highlight key findings; it has not researched the views of lapsed users (which are the most important group of consumers in a time of decline) and it is misleading in its summary. It is too closely aligned with the management groups who operate public libraries and their policies, who have generally failed to stem the decline. It does not correctly identify the general view, need and opinion of the public and their desire for the benefit of public libraries. On these grounds its policy advice is flawed.

This  complaint centres on the avoidance of important available evidence and three pieces of information that are contained in the research but wrongly described in the report

1. The data that has been omitted are the CIPFA annual reports on library usage, drawn directly from local councils and the CIPFA PLUS (public library user surveys) that are conducted regularly in local councils.

2. The first piece of evidence in the data in the report which is wrongly described is that a large number of people understand the importance of public libraries, but only a small portion of those find within them what they need. The report wrongly draws the conclusion that therefore people need more personal service. There is no evidence for that conclusion.  But the gap between the theoretical importance of libraries and the actual satisfaction they give, should provide the opportunity to finding out exactly where the disappointment lies. It could be and probably is the reason why use of the service continues to fall. It provides an agenda for constructive management action in a way that the report has not underlined or hardly mentioned

3. The second piece of evidence is the finding that is not sufficiently emphasised is that only 6% of library use is of computers and 70-80% is dependent on the quality of available printed reading material in the library Public Library User Surveys of 10 years ago show that the figure for computer use was then was about 15-20%: it has declined dramatically in ten years (Table 4.1)

4. The third piece of information in the report that is not given sufficient weight is that among library users the single improvement they seek most is an improvement in the range of books available when they visit and online  (Data booklet page 44)

5. In simple terms the significance of these findings is that the comments we so often hear from local councillors, library professionals and government officers that ‘library use is changing’ and that ‘we need to emphasise that libraries are not just about books’ are misleading for both the public and for library managers. Those officials imply that increasingly the public use libraries to access the computers and reading in digital forms that are available and that libraries should concentrate less on their book collections and pursue other activities than book reading.  This research shows that the opposite is true.  Use of computers in public libraries is less than half what it was a decade ago. It is a very small part of library use. What matters to users are the collections of available printed material when they visit and their ability to obtain quickly what they need.  Improving these features is the key to increasing use.   That is a really important management finding that the report fails to highlight or even mention.

Recommendations

1. The report should be withdrawn immediately and its findings and conclusions be re-written

2. The Trust should change its relationship with the library profession and management so that it is not so closely associated with them and it can be more objective in its work

General 

1. The decline in numbers of visits and book issues in all countries in the UK has been going on relentlessly for over twenty five years. That is the evidence reported annually by councils responsible for the operation.  It has been noted in many government and independent reports. There is no diminution in the rate of decline and it is particular to the UK as is shown in the attached set of 4 slides (page 7 and 8) which are taken from published data.  No management action of those twenty-five years has stemmed the decline, let alone reversed it. The report does not show this long term evidence. It should

2. The effect of the decline in use is now to be seen in councils closing libraries, handing them to volunteers and hollowing out the service by reducing material collections and reducing opening hours, all of which activities cause further decline. It is therefore a downward spiral out of which it will be hard to move.  The report does not mention these events, the reasoning behind them or causes of them, nor does it identify the consequences of them for the public

3. From the public point of view therefore, and in the interests of the wellbeing potentially provided by libraries, any report into the state of libraries in the UK must start by honestly facing up to these problems

4. The valid questions that can then be researched, from a public point of view, are

a. What are the causes of decline?

b. What are its consequences?

c. Is there any mitigation?

d. Is there any remedial action?

e. Who can take action?

f. What informs council decisions about libraries?

g. Do councils fully understand the public need for public libraries?

h. Do councils act fairly, economically, properly, legally and responsibly in response the public desire for libraries?

5. The report ‘Shining a light’ does not attempt to address these issues.

Sections of the report

A. Policy report

1. The ‘Foreword’ and the ‘Key Statistics’ that precede it, do not mention the general decline in use over the last twenty years.  In the whole UK in that time, numbers of annual library visits per person have gone down by 37% and the number of books loaned per person per annum have gone done by 63%. Both visits and issues continue to decline.  These are key and important pieces of relevant information that should have been shown.  They are part of a proper and honest understanding of the state of the service.

2. As a headline figure the report states that “Around half of people ..use the library”. Yet the DCMS taking part quarterly survey reports consistently and that the number of people using libraries is now below 35%.  This is a huge difference. The difference is mentioned later in a section of the report comparing results but no reconciliation is offered between the two figures. It makes this report difficult to read.

3. The ‘Introduction’ describes ‘two pictures’ of the public library service and a ‘debate’ between the two groups who have created those pictures: one of decline, the other of positive innovation.  The truth, however is that both these groups have particular interests and are not typical of people who use, no longer use or do not use libraries.  As in all consumer matters, the general view of the public is silently expressed –  by use or non-use.  That is what matters most. That is the purpose of research. It is not  the public debate that should concern management and the Carnegie UK Trust but rather the public use as shown in actual usage figures.

4. The ‘introduction’ lists 5 ‘lessons’ which, it says ‘are drawn directly from the data’.

a. ‘(The library service should) demonstrate value to policy- makers, decisionmakers and funders to maximise public and other investment’’.  There is absolutely nothing in the evidence in the report from which this conclusion can be drawn …  nor is it likely to be something that would cross the mind of library users.  Nor is it a function of libraries described in the 1964 Act which generally legislates for library funding. The 1964 Act defines the value of libraries as being to individuals – not to policy makers or local councils. There is a huge and important difference.  It is misleading to signal this as a lesson drawn from research when it is not.

b. ‘(Libraries should) increase focus on tailored personalised services… ‘.  This is a prejudiced and incorrect reading of the responses in the research which do not say this at all.  Common sense shows that respondents to the research questions are saying that ‘libraries are a good thing in principle but my current experience is that they don’t provide what I need’.   That is not the same as saying that ‘libraries should focus on tailored personal service’ (whatever that may imply).  An editor should have questioned the whole assertion in this paragraph

c. The finding, however,  – which stands out in the evidence –   that ‘libraries are important but they currently do not provide what I need’ is an absolutely crucial piece of information that should have been heavily underlined in the introduction to and the headline of this report. It could have led to very useful and constructive further work to find out what is meant and why this is true – but that opportunity is not clearly expressed, anywhere in the report. That is a major omission.

d. ‘(Libraries should) accelerate the development of a strong online presence ‘. Library managers have been saying they should develop a strong online service for twenty years and the key point in this research is that the respondents are clearly saying that the library service has not achieved anything so far of which they are aware.  That needs to be said, because whatever management mechanisms are in place, they clearly are not working effectively. That is the lesson that should have been underlined.

e. ‘(Libraries should) invest in innovation, leadership and outcomes based partnerships ‘.  There is nothing in the research from which this conclusion could be drawn.  From a users’ point of view, it is obscure government management jargon, which merely implies that the management of the services is lacking in obvious basic abilities.   It would be better simply to say ‘management of the service needs to be improved’ and describe what that means in words related to the research.

f. ‘(Libraries should) enhance learning between libraries and across jurisdictions (countries)’.  This implies that in some places there are practices that could be used in other places.  However, there is nothing in the evidence presented that shows that there is any good practice that is worth sharing or where it might be.  Nor does such evidence exist anywhere else.  Evidence – which is available (for example see former MLA reports) – certainly shows that projects of ‘peer review and learning’ in the library sector have generally been a failure – and if that evidence had been looked at it would have raised a question about whether this is key ‘lesson’ at all. It should not have been included

B. Ipsos Mori comparison with other available data

1. Ipsos Mori are a highly reputable market research company of international standing. They have worked for many years in the public library sector in the UK and have a fund of experience and information upon which to draw.  Any criticism in this document of the report ‘Shining a light’ is not and cannot be a criticism of Ipsos Mori.  If there are concerns about the report, they can only lie in the way that Ipsos Mori were briefed and how their information has been interpreted. Criticism falls on The Carnegie UK Trust.

2. The report contains a section called ‘Secondary Analysis : comparing data…’  It asserts that Ipsos Mori were commissioned to ‘conduct secondary analysis of existing data sets .. in order to compare the Trust’s findings with existing data.’

3. Yet the report contains no information derived from publications of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accountants’ (CIPFA) who have gathered detailed consistent library performance data from all councils responsible for libraries for more than thirty years.  There is no data from the Public Library User (PLUS) surveys regularly conducted to a standard method devised by CIPFA.  In fact these essential sets of data are ignored entirely by the report.

4. The authors of the report say that in the case of Ireland the only available data is from council returns (historically through CIPFA) and then say – without any reasoning or further explanation- ‘therefore there is no data at national level’ –  when clearly there is such data for each of the five countries (including Ireland) and it is very important.

5. Moreover, it is disappointing that Ipsos Mori were not invited to draw on their experience of analysing the performance of individual library authorities or on their other research in the past twenty years. There is no mention that they were so requested and there is no indication that they did so.

6. The data shown in the report from the research fundamentally contradicts the ‘secondary data ‘ (the DCMS taking part survey) and also the CIPFA data    (table 2.2) and yet no explanation is offered for the discrepancies. (For example, in England the Carnegie research asserts that 46% of people have used libraries in the last 12 months and both Taking Part and CIPFA place the figure at nearer 35%. –  and those differences appear in almost every table of data  –  that is a sizeable difference to which the report offers no useable explanation or reconciliation    – it does bring into question the methods that have been briefed and used)

7. This section of the report, which is not segmented into different types of library use, also shows that 70-80% of library use is dependent upon the reading materials available in the library.  That is an absolutely essential piece of information that should have been highlighted in the introduction and summary of the report (Table 4.1) It is not mentioned anywhere by the author of the report.

8. The report does not attempt to identify the views of lapsed library users.  In a state of decline that is the obvious source of management information. It should have been part of the brief.

C. Data booklet : Recommendations for how libraries could improve

1. The report has several tables suggesting ways that libraries could improve. In the data booklet pages 38-43 are devoted to tables listing ideas.  But these tables do not distinguish between the views of people who use libraries already and people who don’t use them at all.  The two sets cannot be mixed because the result of mixing can be misleading.   It is like asking what improvements could be made to the facilities of a railway station and combining the views of people who use trains (who might want more regular trains and clearer timetables) and those who never travel by train (who might like to see the building turned into a leisure facility).  It is not hard to see the danger of such confused presentation in the hands of a disinterested local councillor. In fact, we have seen good libraries (that needed more books and longer hours) turned into gymnasia simply because of this kind of confused analysis of the public need.

2. Some of the suggestions thus described are hard to believe. For example page 43 of the same section says that about 40% of people suggest that libraries could benefit from improved ‘maker spaces’. It would be surprising if 40% of the population had ever heard the expression ‘maker space’ (which is a library specific term) and that in turn makes one wonder just what question they were asked. It certainly seems unlikely to have been a spontaneous response and that the question asked must have led to directly to that answer.  And that in turn diminishes the value of the findings.

3. Page 44 does present a one page analysis which indicates the views of users and non-users, but still lists them alongside each other. That says clearly that the leading suggestion from library users is that libraries need more books.  That, too, should have been a headline of the report. It is a really important finding. It is not surprising.   However, it is not mentioned anywhere in the summaries.  It should have been. It is key to increasing use of libraries. It is also a point rarely made in government or local government documents.

4. It will be far easier to persuade library users to increase their use than it will be to persuade non-users to visit the library and the two marketing questions about how to achieve these two separate objects are completely different. The two findings should have been presented separately.

5. Pages 46-48 return to mixing the findings of users and non-users

6. Nowhere is there an analysis of lapsed users.  Lapsed users are the most informative group of all. When hearing their views we know that they have sufficiently valued the library in the past but now they do not – and they should be persuaded to give specific reasons. Lapsed users should have been the starting point, segmented by age.

7. Appendix 1 in this section (page 52)  –  shows that the questions suggesting improvements are indeed leading questions with , but it is not clear from where the ideas put forward have come. If they have come from separate groups of users and non-users it would help to make that all much clearer. If they have come from the authors of the report, that, too should have been said.

 

Tim Coates: Ten Steps to Changing Public Libraries

This guest post comes from Tim Coates, former Waterstone’s boss and library commentator. Tim is known for his outspoken views on libraries and recently criticised the government and councils for showing a lack of leadership. He also called for Ed Vaizey to be replaced.

Tim often comments on this blog and so I invited him to write a piece about what he views as the challenges facing library services and possible solutions, which he has kindly done.

Ten Steps to Changing Public Libraries

1. The first line of the CILIP charter says ‘for the public benefit ‘. That has to be the motto for everything.

2. That means increasing use of libraries as libraries (not as social services or council centres); using limited resources as efficiently as possible; and really understanding what makes people use libraries. There needs to be professional ‘consumer’ analysis . CILIP should conduct this initially and then on a continuous basis.

3. All training, including professional training, has to be directed at understanding and meeting people’s library needs – NOT the traditional academic ideas of information management . Training needs to change to be about service and books and information resources and open to anyone who works in the service. CILIP should facilitate and monitor this.

4. All people who work in libraries should give professional service, be equipped to do so and be acknowledged by the profession by virtue of their experience and skills – not their education. There should be no more demarcations about who can do which jobs – except by the ability to do those jobs properly. CILIP should oversee this.

5. The emphasis should be on local libraries in local communities with management and systems designed and empowered to give the best service. Localism means local libraries not local councils. The library systems for management and acquisition of material should be national and standard and able to be used by any local library with its own budget . CILIP should cooperate in this.

6. Councils need help to make best use of the budgets they can allocate to libraries and how much money is needed. Local residents should know what they should expect from local libraries and how well their local library performs . Local people should be able to look for increasing use of each individual library . CILIP should provide this, explaining all the while why good libraries are of benefit to the people within the jurisdiction of the council and why.

7. Councils should be able to call on CILIP for special projects and advice knowing that the priority will be to the service to local people and issues of that kind and will not be about protecting jobs.

8. There should be a national digital library as a resource available to all libraries and library users – CILIP should participate in facilitating this . This should be linked into and operated through one standard national library management system with the various book and material suppliers.

9. I believe that creating one absolutely standard ILMS specification (not a ‘minimum standard) is essential to the project on digital development – and to the future of the service as a whole . Without being disagreeable, it should not be carried out by a committee – but by the most expert group that can be found.

There should be no need to spend £20m on an umbrella system if the ILMS requirements were specified properly and totally standard.

10. With the emphasis on local: libraries rather than councils – there needs to be a wholesale reorganisation of the English library service into 6-10 regions . There should eventually be no council library authorities. CILIP should cooperate in the creation and establishment of these new larger regions and the removal of the old ones – it should work with national task forces on all these things

If it did these things there would be nothing ‘amateurish’ whatsoever about the library profession.

Tim Coates