Monday 20 January 2014

Show me the money

As branch and rural libraries are spluttering and coughing, struggling to stay alive, we campaigners rail against the evil Tories (they're all Tories) and shake our fists at the sky in futility. The professional bodies have failed on a epic scale to get the politicians to listen and understand the importance of libraries. To be fair, the politicians are just ignoring the professionals and now Vaizey has a out because of the no confidence vote he doesn't have to even pretend anymore. The biggest problem we as campaigners have is there is no real opposition, Labour, Liberal Democrats or Tories. Whatever the impotient, incompetent cocktail of the three we get in Westminster in 2015, libraries still won't be on the agenda. Protesting parliament won't help, 10,000 turned out against Blairs illegal war in Iraq and it didn't make any difference, the rich even had a go and foxhunting is still on the books. We aren't going to get Vaizey to do his job whatever we do and lacking a super rich sponsor to take the DCMS on in legal challenge we have to fight this at the grass roots level.

We have to be like Christians trying to stop persecution by Romans, not by fighting but by converting councillors into library fans. Obviously, there are some councillors out there who are ideological morons, happy to accept without question any old crap in the Torygraph, Sun, Mirror or Guardian as they have fixed, narrow views. But there are lots of councillors out there who within the constraints of their local parties we can reach out to and try and get them onside. By far the best way to do this in the current climate is by getting them to understand how libraries actually save money. There isn't a great deal of evidence in the UK to support this but its blindingly obvious to anyone that uses a library who has improved their career because of the library, the pensioner who is kept out of the care system because of their frequent trips to the library, the young kid getting bashed and bullied at home and school who finds wisdom and solace in books and rather than going off the rails and getting into trouble with the police, makes something of his life because of books. We all know libraries enrich, inspire and improve anyone who steps into them but linking the sets of data together showing this in a quantitative way isn't easy. What we have to do it act like the parties do, create simple key messages and keep repeating them to councillors and everyone we meet until we're blue in the face:

This is how the parties do it, facts and evidence doesn't come into it. A simple message and we keep banging on about it. People can be naturally lazy and want easy, simple answers and ideas. I know there are lots of different opinions amongst campaigners who don't want to push the economic argument but if we're to convince Tories (they're all Tories now by the way) then it has to be a about economics, the qualitative stuff isn't on a spreadsheet fiance system so it doesn't matter. We also have to try and convince the LGA, ACE and others of this fact and try and get them to actually do some proper research rather than the endless utter crap that has been churned out on our behalf and with our money down the years. 

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