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:  noconfidenceinvaizey@gmail.com 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.


  1. What would a CILIP no confidence in the Minister statement achieve exactly?

    Wouldn't it be similar to public sector unions saying they don't like public sector cuts i.e. stating the obvious but achieving very little.

    1. In itself not a great deal, but the minister must not be allowed to go round telling the world the library service isn't in crisis when it clearly is. A professional body must give voice to its members views and concerns. Will it make a difference on its own? Probably not, but everyone remembers the slow hand clap Blair got from the WI, Teresa May getting booed by the police federation or George the towel folder getting booed at the paralympics. Politicians go round talking disingenuous, simplistic bollocks designed to placate the Daily Mail and Murdoch press and ignore the real issues we face because they are either too stupid to fix them, won't because it upsets their tiny core vote/funding pool or because it is at odds with their narrow, ideological and dogmatic worldview. I include all parties in that. I hope libraryuser1 we both value libraries, I presume so because of your name and the fact you found my blog, I urge you to email your councillor and MP and tell them to do all they can to protect the library service. Thanks very much for your comment