Friday, 11 May 2012

If people don't know what you're doing, they don't know what you're doing wrong.

Ed Lazy closing his eyes to closures

In March I put in a FOI to the DCMS asking what advice (if any) the minister for libraries Ed Lazy had received on whether he should intervene because a local authority isn't fulfilling its statutory duty under the 1964 act:

"It shall be the duty of every library authority to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons desiring to make use thereof,"

The last 8 words of which are always conveniently ignored by everyone in the debate I feel.

I put the original request in on the 15th of March 2012 and the department responded on the last possible day asking me to clarify my request.

I did clarify the request and again they waited until the last possible day to again respond but this time saying they wanted another month because they have to apply a "public interest test" on whether they should release the information.

Considering they are supposed to reply promptly to requests by law, the fact that in both cases they waited until as late as they could to respond means I think they are not following the law or at least not in spirit. 

The exemption they have used to delay further is section 36 of the act which is "Prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs." which did make me laugh because Ed Lazy hasn't conducted any public affairs in regards to libraries, his head has been firmly in the sand since he took office.

I’m sure there are further holes I can pick in the evasive and obfuscating response so far but I will leave that until June to see where the “public interest” lies in seeing what advice if any the minister has received from his officials. Sadly we don’t yet live in the utopia of transparent government though. And as Sir Humphrey Appleby remarked “If people don't know what you're doing, they don't know what you're doing wrong.”

Slightly off topic, as a non-librarian, FOI is the only real weapon I have to hold these buggers to account. The LGA, CILIP, SCL and the political parties are all failing to protect libraries and in some cases are complicit. Some (if not all) of these bodies receive public money in one way or another and I think they should hang their heads in shame, sorry if you belong to any of these organisations but as a non-library person its how I see it.

They are too busy wasting public money on poorly licenced new technology or doing what Sir Humphrey would call useful work. But no amount of toolkits, partnerships, conferences or other management double speak detracts from the fact that these organisations are not stepping up to the plate to protect libraries. They are too busy with their creative inertia to realise the ship they are on is sinking and unless they act soon the vocation of librarian won’t exist in public libraries in ten years.  I am happy to volunteer to make the service better for others but I’m not volunteering to replace librarians and library managers.

I do however get a sense that the political wind is changing, but its already too late for some libraries.

Link to the foi:

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