Thursday, 25 July 2013

Is that gross breadsticks or net breadsticks?

The public library service is in crisis, it needs help. Large numbers of libraries are being cut, the rest are being hollowed out and handed over to volunteers. What's left might still look like a library service on a smaller scale but like the set of Coronation Street its a wooden facade, designed to look like a street but it only has two dimensions and is supported by a wooden frame and in this metaphor the frame isn't librarians is volunteers and the facade will not stand up to the wind and will fall as the volunteers are not strong enough to hold it up.

Campaigners despite legal challenges and huge campaigns cannot breach the bubble of creative inertia that surrounds the DCMS. All councils have to do is get the process right with the correct boxes ticked and they can close as many libraries as they like and hand the rest over to unwilling volunteers. The DCMS and the minister in my view are breaking the 1964 public libraries act both in spirit and in fact and we are currently unable to stop them. The civil servants in the DCMS have failed the public who they are supposed to serve. The minister in opposition was a lion in defence of libraries and was calling for intervention in the Wirral publically, putting forward a early day motion and calling for intervention and saying if it didn't happen libraries being a statutory requirement was meaningless. Now a couple of years on and hundreds of libraries closed/probably many times that handed over to unwilling volunteers later and there isn't a crisis. We know politicians can be two face at the best of times but Vaizey has really raised the bar with his contrary positions on public libraries. His line "I don't accept the public library service is in crisis" goes down in history for me with other great political lies of the last few years like:

  • Saddam Hussein's regime is despicable, he is developing weapons of mass destruction
  • I did not have sexual relations with that women
  • Read my lips, no new taxes
  • I pledge to vote against any increase in tuition fees in the next parliament. 

We cannot allow him to keep repeating the lie unchallenged. The great line of Cicero that politicians are not born, they are excreted was surely meant for Ed and his conduct over libraries. I take my hat off to Jo Richardson and Tom Roper for putting forward the no confidence vote in Vaizey, they have stepped up and shown great courage and integrity in putting this motion and I hope all their colleagues can back them to the hilt, it would be very wrong to lobby on the side of Vaizey. I hope therefore CILIP can come together with one voice and make it clear to the DCMS and Vaizey that their head in the sand approach to the superintendence of the library service is a insult to the staff and users of the library service. I know things can be fractious between campaigners and librarians and we won't agree on everything but I hope we can agree on this, Vaizey isn't doing the job he is paid to do.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The first rule of politics: never believe anything until it's been officially denied

After the attempt to halt the re-brand some at CILIP have suggested it’s time for the profession to have a vote of no confidence in E-Vaizey at their next AGM in September. The exact text is:

"In view of his failures to enforce the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, this Annual General Meeting of CILIP has no confidence in Ed Vaizey, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, and instructs Council to work with all other interested parties to protect library, information and knowledge services"

I hope that the profession can now unite and put a line in the sand. Nearly four thousand staff lost since 07-08 with many more surely to go in the next few years. A thousand libraries to close by 2016 and probably as many handed over to the voluntary sector, this will be a sector on its knees and CILIP can either stand up and fight or the library sector as we know it will fall and disappear in the next decade.

Ed Vaizey while in opposition said the following when The Wirral were planning to close eleven libraries in 2009:

"Andy Burnham's refusal to take action in the Wirral effectively renders the 1964 Public Libraries Act meaningless. While it is local authorities' responsibility to provide libraries, the Act very clearly lays responsibility for ensuring a good service at the culture secretary's door. It Andy Burnham is not prepared to intervene when library provision is slashed in a local authority such as the Wirral, it is clear that he is ignoring his responsibilities as secretary of state, which in the process renders any sense of libraries being a statutory requirement for local authorities meaningless."

Four years later and massive chunks of the library service hollowed out, decimated and culled and the best he can come up with is:

I don’t accept that the public library service is in crisis

Vaizey has redefined hypocrisy in his role as library minister and he must be held to account, his inaction is utterly contemptible and shameful. The library service which was protected by the 1964 act has been rendered completely defenceless since the government closed the MLA, ACL and nobbled the power transferred to ACE to ensure that nobody outside the DCMS in officialdom can utter a single word in favour of intervention. The head in the sand approach to superintendence is pre-planned and calculated to ensure nothing will be done, regardless of how badly councils cut their library services.

I’m sure there are those at CILIP who will not want to rock the boat, but the boat is already hulled below the waterline and at this stage it’s about getting off the boat alive then seeing what can be repaired, there is no value in playing nice and following the line of quiet diplomacy because that approach has failed. I’m also aware that CILIP isn't just a public libraries body, do you really think once the public library sector is decimated the academic libraries won’t be destined for a similar fate? Make no mistake the barbarians are coming for those libraries too, they just have to kill the public libraries first.

I really hope this vote can be supported by all in CILIP, not just because it is a vote about your very survival as a profession but because it’s the right thing to do.

A quote from Carl Sagan, a man sadly gone but worth a thousand Vaizeys:

“The library connects us with the insight and knowledge, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, with the best teachers, drawn from the entire planet and from all our history, to instruct us without tiring, and to inspire us to make our own contribution to the collective knowledge of the human species. I think the health of our civilization, the depth of our awareness about the underpinnings of our culture and our concern for the future can all be tested by how well we support our libraries”

If you're a member of CILIP please email: and if you're not a member, perhaps it’s worth joining if the organisation if its finally going to step up and fight for libraries.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Press statements are not delivered under oath

The CILIP rebranding nonsense is seeming to rumble on forever. With Library budgets slashed, librarians culled, spiraling PFI liabilities due to low growth and high inflation and the small rural and branch libraries being handed over to volunteers so they can sack the low paid library managers and assistants you would think CILIP would be issuing a call to arms and speaking out in defence of libraries. Nope. Instead they are going through a "consultation" exercise that reminds me of how councils do consultation, I.E badly. The options given were so pathetic I suspect the decision had long been decided behind closed doors and the consultation is just paying lip service to give the appearance of process and buy in for members. The way it has been handled is very damaging to the brand "librarian" the best brand they have but seemingly the very word is holding back the true professionals. I decided to come up with a few name suggestions since I tried this on twitter and bumbled it up:

LALALA (Librarians Against Libraries and Librarians Association)
SOILED (Society Of Information Libraians & Educational Development)
ARSE (Association of Reading Support Entrepreneurs)
FECK (Federation of Enterprise Changemaking Kindlers)

Just a few ideas to help. You may think that what CILIP do with their time and their members hard earned money is none of my business. You are wrong, CILIP is selling out the branch and rural libraries to the morons that believe volunteers running libraries is a way of saving money and providing a sustainable library service. The leadership in the library profession has failed to promote libraries to the people who hold the purse strings and instead have spent their time navel gazing and jumping on every blue sky band wagon that passes by. They are as much responsible for the mess we find libraries in as the councillors and politicians slashing the libraries budgets in my opinion.

I hope CILIP gets some leadership that actually looks to try and fight for libraries otherwise I hope they split out the public libraries part and those people can go their own way, my own view is public libraries would be better off if CILIP didn't exist.