A valuable public space that doesn’t make a profit

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Arts funding, refurbishment and imperilment

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Reading spas, non-crises and fines exchanges

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Have even less of a say in the organisation you pay for

Editorial

2013 was a pretty terrible year for CILIP’s leadership.  Despite one-sided reporting, the flagship rebranding exercise (remember “ILPUK”?) got voted down at the AGM and, at the same meeting, the membership decided to pass a vote of no confidence in Ed Vaizey: a move which the Chief Exec and much of the Council disagreed with.  Finally, at the end of the year, the Chair of the Council, perhaps  associated too much with the unpopular rebranding, got voted out.

But that was then, this is a new year and there are new hopes. However, those new hopes took a bit of a dashing when I looked at the proposals for changing how CILIP are governed.  Much in it is good but the points that strike me are:

  • Almost no mention of how to ensure the Chief Executive (who as full-time and in charge of the organisation has immense power)  follows the interest of members. The part-time unelected President (of which more below) gets to manage the Chief Exec: something which may work well or may work spectacularly badly.
  • The President and Chair roles are merged and are no longer elected by the membership.  That’s right: the membership gets no direct say in who the leader of CILIP is going to be.  Now it’s fair to say that the votes for President have hardly been hard-fought in recent years but to give up on elections in this way seems a bit  depressing.  Remember, democracy is the worst from of government apart from all of the others.
  • One third of the Board’s members do not need to come from the library/information sector and, indeed, do not even have to be a member.  The membership has no direct say in who they are. One third is a very big proportion and could presumably act en bloc in a way that would be hard to stop by anyone else.
  • The President/Chair can be one of the co-opted members and thus never be voted on in any way by the membership of CILIP.

Librarians and Information Professionals are supposed to be the most democratic, neutral and fair profession there is and the new governance effectively allows for an unelected leader voted in largely by unelected Board members? And even if that works well then the Chief Executive can quietly control the whole kit and caboodle from behind the scenes anyway?

Time for a rethink, I think.

I commend to all of you are still CILIP members the chance to help shape the proposals differently. Email web@cilip.org.uk with your views.  Or risk having even less of a say in the organisation you pay for.

Changes

Ideas

  • Philosophy cafes - Aberdeenshire. “vibrant street level discussion on the issues of the day”.

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Two new libraries for Cambridgeshire

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It’s a barbaric world … so let’s learn to speak Barbarian

Editorial

We live in a barbaric world where money talks and culture walks.  Maria Miller, the advertising executive Culture Minister, has made it clear that the only culture she is interested in is that which makes money. This we can decry and cry about, feel superior with and generally protest about but it does not affect the fact that it’s true.  So, if the current Government persists in power (and, let’s face it, Labour are disturbingly similar to them in many policies) then we had better start speaking their language, or at the very least be able to win arguments using their own terms.  This may be ideological heresy to some but its pragmatism does not change the truth.  As such, the news that Arts Council England are launching what one suspects is the largest scale research project in the world on the economic benefits of public libraries is to be welcomed.  Previous research suggests that there is a notable magnifier between the money that goes into libraries and the benefit that the community reaps from it.  Let’s prove that to be true.  Let’s quantify the quality … because if public libraries can’t, then they run the danger that there won’t be much of them left, either in quantity or quality.

Changes

Bradford – 3 mobile libraries under threat.

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We offer amazing things

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Goodbye Advisory Council on Libraries

Editorial

After effectively abolishing the Advisory Council on Libraries (ACL) a couple of years ago, the government has finally got around (several months later than was promised) to formally consult on the subject.  This is something which the DCMS are required to do by law and it is clear that they’re not happy about it: the report makes very clear that they don’t want the ACL to be reconvened.  The view is that the ACL’s only job is to advise the DCMS on whether it should intervene in local councils and, being that they were not consulted the first and only time this happened, there’s no need for them.  Never mind that they presumably jolly well should have been.

Moreover, the report states that other bodies (such as ACE, the SCL, LGA and CILIP) provide this consultation and so the ACL is not needed.  This means that £2,500 (yes: just two and a half thousand pounds) per year it cost in terms of expenses etc can be saved. Critics of the abolition have pointed out in the past that the ACL provided a relatively independent and expert view at almost no cost.  However, this does not appear to matter – the Minister decided during the Bonfire of the Quangoes that it had to go and so it has effectively already gone.  Anyone is welcome to put their own views on the subject during the consultation but the clear subtext is that this will be politely ignored.  The ACL, barely noticed during its lifetime but providing an effectively free, expert and independent service nonetheless, is seen as a mildly embarrassing heirloom to be junked.

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Alice web header

Adventures in Libraryland

Editorial

One of the more wonderful things that libraries provide are events for children.  A theatre group can bring wonder to classes of kids and encourage some major library use.  However, getting funding for such activities is (it will come as no surprise to any of you to hear) is getting harder and harder.  So I was fascinated to see a library theatre group looking to address its funding by appealing online.  So I contacted them to get more info and here it is:

Alice web header

“Open Book Theatre Company creates innovative adaptations of classic novels in libraries.  We are a not-for profit organisation currently fundraising for our second project, ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ ( http://www.sponsume.com/project/alices-adventures-libraries). With so many public libraries threatened with closure, our aim is to remind people why libraries are such a vital part of our communities. We bring literature to life among the bookcases, encouraging people to explore their local library and reinventing the space in a lively and exciting way. Our hope is that, by rekindling enthusiasm for local libraries and reminding people of the great stories lining the bookshelves, libraries will see a rise in membership and support.

Our first project, ‘Dracula’, was performed in London libraries in October 2013 and received excellent reviews:

“This production is intimate and engaging and an event not to be missed…sticking two fingers up to the funding cuts which are resulting in libraries being closed…” Hannah Elsy, A Younger Theatre

“highlighting the connection between the great works of literature and the vital place libraries have in our society.” David Norman, Clandestine Critic

For more information, please see our website www.openbooktheatrecompany.com.  If you can help in any way, please to not hesitate to contact us at openbooktheatre@gmail.com. “

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£1.5m cut in one authority, £56k for new works of art in another.

Changes

Ideas

  • Repair cafes - “Repair Cafés are free meeting places and they’re all about repairing things (together). The types of items that can be repaired and reused include clothes, furniture, electrical appliances, bicycles, crockery, appliances and toys.”

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