Wednesday 8 August 2012

Society of chief barbarians

The SCL has today published their revised position on volunteers in public libraries. I had high hopes after these tweets:

But sadly they have produced a load of old waffle full of jargon:

The Society of Chief Librarians strongly supports volunteering in libraries. The Society firmly believes that volunteers add value to the public library service, as long as all volunteering activity is contained within a professionally managed and delivered framework. Volunteering is encouraged because it not only benefits volunteers, but also directly increases community engagement, adds value to the services available to customers and contributes to libraries being positioned at the heart of their local communities. Volunteers do become positive advocates for the service and many young volunteers do progress into full time paid employment within either the Library service itself or the wider local authority. The Society is clear that training and support for volunteers is crucial to a successful volunteering programme. Each local authority will clearly have a locally determined approach to volunteering. The Society believes that it is important to proactively promote volunteering in a positive way, so that Library Services are able to maximise the benefits that flow from the use of volunteers. The Society would also recommend that each local authority has a volunteering policy.

Just to help you, I have highlighted the parts that are meaningless waffle or jargon in grey.  The only constraint they have put on the use of volunteers is:

“as long as all volunteering activity is contained within a professionally managed and delivered framework”

This is basically a load of old tosh.  Oxfordshire country council are ignoring large parts of their own volunteering guidance (paying expenses to volunteers, not having volunteers as key holders etc.) And the volunteer requirements runs to more pages than the volunteer coordinator they are hiring at great expense to train the friends groups who in turn are responsible for training and managing the volunteers.

They do end their guidance with this line however:

“The Society fully endorses the National Volunteering Compact Code of Good Practice:”

Which is another 22 page jargon filled document, which I presume to endorse something you agree with it completely? I don’t know.
It does in one section under the heading:

“Government and the voluntary and community sector undertake to:”

Have the following line:

“Recognise that voluntary activity should not be seen as a substitute for paid work;”

And it goes on to repeat this "undertaking" in a slightly different way:

 “Government and the voluntary and community sector recognise that voluntary activity should never be a substitute for paid work;”

An undertaking isn’t the same as being against something, it a political word that is used to give wriggle room, like using aspiration to do something rather than promise.  The other massive problem is that it was first created in 2001, that is four years after Tony Blair and New Libor came to power. I doubt it is something that the current government support and I’m sure with a bit of googling I could easily find some government document that supersedes it.

As far as I’m concerned the SCL are still in my enemies of libraries venn diagram, they are saving their own skins by signing up to the ideological cuts to the library service. Up and down the land councils are making cuts to libraries and on the official council documents the officers are “recommending” using volunteers to replace staff so they don’t have to cut among their own ranks.

Link to the most jargon filled suicide note in history:

Which in turn has a links to a document created over eleven years ago has "undertakings" by the last government:


  1. Couldn't agree with you more, they are sacrificing the service and staff to further their own career prospects, it's a disgrace! The SCL have been plotting against the service and staff for years with their involvement in the Future Libraries Programme, the London Libraries Change Programme, the scrapping of the 'What's in Londons Libraries' website, their virtual refusal to support National Libraries Day and now this!

  2. Yup, with friends like these the library service doesn't need enemies. Sadly they are part of the greasy pole climbing craptocracy we call government.