Comment

I have always been taught that excellent customer service is the key to a good library (or, indeed, retail) service.  Libraries need to give the customers what they want, when they want and in the way they want it.  That the best libraries excel at serving the public by providing books, ebooks, information, internet access, meeting rooms, all of thes things in the same space, often for free.  The best libraries should also, we’re told, bend over backwards to help enquiries on any issue from all people of all backgrounds, even trying to guess what the future will hold and changing their service accordingly.  By doing this, library staff believe that they are providing excellent customer service and thus ensuring the future of their public library.
They are wrong.
You see, it has become increasingly clear that the true customer of the public library is not, counter-intuitive as it may seem, the public.  They have an impact, yes.  One cannot completely ignore them or it will annoy the real customers of the library, that is, the people who really matter.  Who are these people?  It’s the councillors, stupid.  One can be as brilliant as anything with the customers, provide great cappuccino and glossy new books, have a wonderful Facebook page, 90% plus high satisfaction ratings (common with libraries that) and have high and rising usage.  Doesn’t matter.  What matters is if the councillors are on board, if the councillors believe what the libraries are doing is relevant to the aims of the councillors.
Failure to persuade the councillors of their importance to them makes it completely irrelevant what else a library does.  Sure, the public will eventually let the council know they’re unhappy and this might have an impact on what the councillors think of the library service. However, library users definitely don’t want to rock the boat overly, especially these days, when they are just plain glad to have them open. No, the most important thing for any library (and thus also anyone who cares about their library) is making the councillors realise libraries are relevant to the council’s goals – whatever those goals are.  Well done to Hillingdon and Hull for that.  If libraries ignore this basic rule, the councillors will ignore the library … and close them down.  See Croydon and Doncaster for the truth of this. 
428 libraries (339 buildings and 89 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.
Things you can do today

News

  • All hail the public libraryNewsarama (USA).  Greg Pak: “In honor of the public libraries that provided me with constant, free access to knowledge, literature, and inspiration, here are a few musings about the stories that compelled me as kid…. 
Good to meet 12 apprentices at local McDonalds yesterday” Ed Vaizey, minister (technically) for public libraries, tweet of the day.  Apprentices get from £2.60 per hour for two years.  

  • Higgins addresses the 2011 Annual Conference of the Northern Ireland Theatre AssociationMichael D Higgins (Eire).  The new President of Ireland speaks on libraries, amongst other things.  “”Another striking statistic is that 40 per cent of those using PCs in public libraries were non-nationals and 44 per cent were unemployed.”
  • Internet (Governance)They Work For You.   “It follows that the exploitation of online delivery options by the Government needs to be costed in a way that ensures the availability of services to those who do not go online, which might involve paying for facilitation, perhaps at local libraries or in post offices. However, if it is not built into the Government’s model, it will bring online delivery into disrepute and widen the digital divide into a chasm, ultimately creating a problem that will involve even more expense to solve than building in the solution at the design stage.” Alun Michael MP at a Westminster Hall debate.
“I started to cry. Readers looked up reproachfully, and the librarian reprimanded me, because in those days you weren’t even allowed to sneeze in a library, let alone weep. So I took the book outside and read it all the way through, sitting on the steps in the usual northern gale. The unfamiliar and beautiful play made things bearable that day… ” Jeanette Winterson: all about my mother – Guardian.  As part of a longer piece, describes how important he local library library was to her while she was growing up – the public library helped her to survive.

  • Public Libraries in the UKDeborah Fitchett (New Zealand) summarises keynote talk given by Martin Molloy at LIANZA conference on the national libraries picture in the UK including budget cuts, technological change, protests and need to emphasise importance of service to councils and politicians. In partial note form but makes interesting reading.  Mr Molloy is chief of libraries for Derbyshire.  “Enviable usage figures and exception satisfaction levels. But confusion and lack of competence of politicians re purpose and value of libraries. Public library community also confused, lack of confidence, clarity, vision – librarians ill-equipped to defend services. “Toxic mix of short-term fixes and so-called radical solutions.”

Changes

Doncaster – Cantley Library may be moved to Sycamore School as part of community centre.  Questions over if any of the 12 branches council says will be volunteer run will find necessary volunteers.

Local News

  • Doncaster – Overview & Scrutiny (Round Two), Mystery Volunteers and the Silent Death of our Library ServiceSave Doncaster Libraries.  Labour have called in plans for scrutiny on Nov 10th due to worries over Equalities Impact Assessment.  Sprotborough Library Action Group does not wish to run library regardless of what council says, similarly in Bessacar.  “We are not convinced that any groups have expressed an interest in running libraries – this is not because libraries are not wanted or needed – the outcome of consultations has already shown that people think libraries are important – but because, as we have repeatedly stated, Doncaster communities are in no position to run libraries.”
  • Oxfordshire – Save the back office at all costs Question Everything.   “The library service is being cut by 25% and of that 25%  almost all the cuts are to the front line 86.22%.” … “Keith [leader of Council] will keep spouting the social care v libraries nonsense to wind the voters of Oxfordshire up and muddy the waters. He should get the back office sorted before a single front line service gets cut. By the time voters get a chance to have their say on his competence in 2013 he will be long gone as his division will have disappeared.”
  • Westminster – Miserable Rich and the Real Tuesday WeldSongkick.   “It’s time to stock up on garlic and deck the halls with boughs of cobwebs as Arctic Circle presents a special co-headline show with The Real Tuesday Weld and The Miserable Rich this Halloween within the spooky confines of the Westminster Reference Library.”