Monday, 23 January 2017

Two kinds of chairs to go with two kinds of minister

I can't get my head round some of the stuff the new minister is saying. While any change from Lazy Vaizey was welcome, some of the stuff the new guy Rob Wilson is coming out with I find disturbing. His twitter account is a constant stream of tweets and retweets for charities and volunteer groups, which considering his role (minister for civil society) is to be expected. It's clear the new world for libraries is mutuals, volunteers, trusts etc. Anything but councils running libraries. The problem with this is when you want to run something efficiently, you know, that bit of comprehensive and efficient. Then you have to have strong process, do things in a standard way so you can report and measure things correctly and a staff culture fully signed on to get the things right. The minister, DCMS and senior leadership of the sector seem to obsessed with innovating and reinventing the wheel and fixated with whatever this weeks technical fad is or new exciting, but unproven method of delivery is. There's so much jargon (STOP SAYING COMMUNITY HUBS).  There's a line in The Thick of It that always springs to mind: "Unthink the unthinkable. You can't even cope with thinking the thinkable." I can't find a GIF with this quote but here's Malcolm anyway:
I supposed this may be partly my frustration over the library service getting ripped apart and the focus is on the wrong things.  There's too many library authorities duplicating back office functions in councils at great expense but the focus is on everything but that. Cutting funding and letting everyone making it up as they go along isn't innovation and it isn't localism, its just stupid. Which leads me back to the minister. In some areas he talks a good game but its not backed up by fact. For example, to the latest of what seems endless conferences he gave a speech via video link with this section:

  "If so, then changes - such as co-location with other services or sometimes closures may be actually justified, and indeed required, in favour of providing library services in other ways; maybe through outreach into communities or online. But, and I want to make this absolutely clear, councils should make decisions like this based on robust evidence - rather than reducing provision in ad-hoc or very reactive ways."

 Which sounds great, but when you compare this with something from government written on behalf of his department about library provision and mutuals:

 "Hard, up-to-date empirical data comparing success rates is pretty scant" 

 So councils have to come up with robust evidence for making changes to their services, but the government despite there being no data to support the model, can push mutuals as their favoured delivery model? Grrr
I'm also finding the relentless positivity annoying from the libraries task force. How can fix the problems without being honest about how things are. All the posts (apart from Leon's) are super positive and everything is awesome. How about we try and learn from failure as well as success? Also where's the new dataset that was due last year? Maybe Rob Wilson will actually intervene and finally start holding councils to account who cut library services unnecessarily, I doubt he will, but I'd be more than happy to be proved wrong.