Thursday, 31 January 2013

I would prefer a statutory library service to a OFFER

The SCL (Society of Chief Librarians) are developing a strategy to make best use of existing resources to help keep libraries relevant and accessible. They have been working with ACE, The Reading Agency and others to come up with four OFFERS that they think users want from public libraries. They are:
  • The Universal Health Offer
  • The Universal Reading Offer
  • The Universal Information Offer
  • The Universal Digital Offer 

They launched it this morning with the minister Ed Vaizey who put up his usual new speak about how the library service is in good health despite hundreds of service points closing and the service being handed over to the “volunteers” wholesale as the war between local and national government heats up.

Reading through the list of things under each of the OFFERS there are some good ideas in there and to be perfectly honest it’s the good libraries were doing anyway before Vaizey allowed them to be decimated. They talk about a national program and rollout in 2013 without going into any detail. As with all initiatives the main question is show me the money. Nothing is free and for the good libraries not already doing this stuff, where is the money going to come from to pay for all of this stuff?  Perhaps the LGA will lower its subscription costs to allow local authorities to plough some of that money into the library service? Perhaps Ed will find some cash for local authorities to do this like Mr Pickles did when the Daily Mail started kicking off about the bin collections?

No, what will happen is the statutory libraries will start doing some of this stuff if they are not already and the non-statutory libraries in the small communities that were doing this stuff (my local one already does most of the stuff on the list) are being cut and will not be involved, the already two tier service will be further widened. Otherwise someone has to train the volunteers and any of the low paid library managers and assistants who have managed to escape the chop. The“librarians”  or “OFFER facilitators” who rarely go into libraries these days will find lots of what Sir Humphrey calls “useful work” in their back office empires.

My favourite political novels of the last few years are by a former back bench MP called Christ Mullin, he said something along the lines of that under New Labour there was always funding for new and eye catching initiatives and the core funding for services was always at the bottom of the list of priorities. Sadly in the library service there is funding for neither.

You can read about it all here:

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