Hardy in Miami, Foolhardy in Moray

Editorial

It’s impressive to see Miami deciding to spend its reserves rather than closing libraries.  They have a year to get things sorted there. Over on this side of the pond, Moray have decided to hang the delay and, as we learnt yesterday, to close many of its libraries as soon as possible, despite legal advice to the contrary.  This looks likely to result in legal action – going publicly against legal advice sometimes does that – and has resulted in even the Brent councillor responsible for the closures in that London borough (which was mitigated to some extent by spending elsewhere, unlike in Moray) calling it “foolhardy”.  Mind you, in Scotland, they may actually have a Government that actually cares about libraries.  It’s the first real test of how different things are north of the border.

Changes

Reasons for libraries spotted

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Protesters against library closures “can sue the council and see how far they get”

Editorial

Moray Council have voted to close 7 out of 15 of their branches, despite strong legal advice against the move.  The Conservative/Independent controlled council cites improved transport links and broadband as the reasons why libraries legislation does not apply.  However, others take a different view, and legal action is already being talked about.  The council in Sefton is also closing libraries and is also apparently laying itself open to a legal challenge.  Indeed, a councillor there has said that anyone who thinks they’re discriminating against certain areas “can sue the council and see how far they get”.  Subtle.

The CILIP AGM is shaping up to be one of the most important in the last 20 years.  First we have the joy of the suggested rebranding (see my last post on the issue) and then there is the vote of no confidence in Ed Vaizey to follow.  Bob Usherwood (who once lectured me in library school and is a past president) entered the fray today with an impassioned plea for voting for no confidence in the minister responsible for libraries. If you are a CILIP member and can’t get to the AGM, do please consider voting by proxy.  Let me know if you don’t know anyone going and I can help you out with details of some who are.

Changes

Ideas

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CILIP rebranding editorial … plus the Library of Birmingham continues to impress many (but not all)

Editorial

The CILIP rebranding exercise will soon be over. Gripped by the greatest crisis and changes in libraries in their peacetime history, the professional organisation has decided that what really matters is to change its name and logo.  The reasons for this appear to be that the old name is not ideal (true enough) and that Change Is Good. The first attempt at this, which included an amateurish survey and names such as the abysmal The Knowledge People and no mention of the word “library” (other than the “L” in CILIP) only narrowly scraped through a member’s revolt in July.  Stung by this, CILIP then came up with a new name “Information and Library Professionals UK” that, while at least accepting the word  “library” is not much more inspiring. When it was pointed out that the inevitable acronym for the organisation would be the open-to-ridicule ILPUK, the response of the organisation was that acronyms would not be allowed and then, when the unreality of this position became clear, it announced that an appropriate hashtag was being worked on.  We have not yet heard what that may be, although it is notable that ILPUK has already begun to be widely used in professional conversations and by the Guardian as well

The suggested name may well be insufficiently different to the old one to be worth the change and, in addition, is decisively inferior to it due to the inevitable shortening it will incur.  More importantly, the way that CILIP has pushed through the rebranding so far (notably the biased coverage in Update where there was a whole article in favour of the rebranding and only three paragraphs in the news section covering objections to it) is also seen by many as unedifying and may reveal a deeper problem with the organisation.  For the truth is, that although it has indeed improved over recent years and does get involved in advocacy nowadays, it can barely be said to be well-loved by the profession.  The fact that it costs around £200 per year for almost all employed members (twice the subscription of the far more effective US ALA) does not help either.  So something needs to change.  A vote against the rebranding may, therefore be counter-intuitively good for the organisation. It would show that it cannot bulldoze through changes and that it needs to listen more.

In the unlikely event that you are both interested in public libraries news and are a CILIP member (many public librarians are either being made redundant or are stopping their membership due to either its cost or disillusionment as to its efficacy) it is therefore essential that you vote.   If you can’t attend the AGM where the vote will take place, use your proxy vote.  Email me and I’ll let you know of someone if you don’t know of anyone yourself.  And, while you’re at it, it is also worth considering voting in favour of a no confidence motion in the libraries minister, Ed Vaizey.  There’s a man whose level of competence pretty much all librarians agree on.

Changes

Ideas noted

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Social unity, local variety

Changes

Ideas

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Transcript of Michael Rosen’s “Our Libraries: The Next Chapter” on Radio Four

 First broadcast  11am Wednesday 4th September 2013

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“A city without books, a city without libraries, is like a graveyard”

Editorial

The Library of Birmingham opened today, with stirring speeches and a queue to get in that lasted an hour after the doors opened.  The quote for today’s post is from that opening.  The importance of libraries, and not just big ones (perhaps especially not big ones) can be seen in, as a campaigner pointed out today, newspaper reports of petitions totalling 25,000 today … and today is a typical day.

Selling points for libraries noted today

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Malala Yousafzai says that there should be libraries everywhere

Editorial

Sometimes a decision is made that is just so correct one can only just nod and agree.  Well done to the Library of Birmingham for choosing Malala Yousafzai to do the official opening.  For those who are unfamiliar with the name, this is the girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for daring to suggest that girls have a right to education.  This is her view on the opening:

“It is my dream that one day, great buildings like this one will exist in every corner of the world so every child can grow up with the opportunity to succeed.” Malala Yousafzai before the opening of the Library of Birmingham

The other thing that caught my eye today (other than a bitter Telegraph article decrying the Library of Birmingham as being an “advertisement” for the city: what’s wrong with that?) is the statement by the Carnegie UK Trust that it accepts closures of some Carnegie libraries are necessary.  The non-profit organisation is aiming to encourage libraries under threat to diversify instead.

Changes

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A postcard from the past about what the future might have been: Birmingham opens at last

Editorial

A bumper edition of news today due to having to catch up with two weeks of news.  This is because hackers (apparently of the East European persuasion) sufficiently hacked the site that it had to be locked down until we could be more sure of its security.  Getting it back on track means you may have received several posts from this address yesterday if you subscribe: don’t worry, they’re fine and it was all part of the process to get things sorted.  Let’s hope that the hackers move on to (now) easier targets: perhaps ,say, the consultancy firm behind the abysmal CILIP rebranding.

The big story over the last couple of weeks has clearly been the imminent opening of the Library of Birmingham.  It looks fantastic and the reviews have largely been highly positive.  For myself, I see its transformation (like the two other big libraries Manchester and Liverpool) as a postcard from the past about what the future might have been.  As Will Hutton points out, no such civic building could be contemplated today.  The Big Library opulence also strongly contrasts with what is happening at branch level.  It’s a sad thing that local libraries in all three big cities are being cut, with Birmingham having had a 28% reduction.  So, if one can’t easily get to the big central hub, it’s not so good.  But that is to rain on the parade. The opening of the Library of Birmingham is to be welcomed and enjoyed.  I really look forward to seeing it myself and I envy the city’s inhabitants its proximity.

Changes

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Looking the gift horses in the mouth: co-location and outsourcing

Editorial

An interesting look at the positives and perils of co-location has come from on of the current epicentres of the libraries crisis in Lincolnshire.  The Co-Op has offered to take over six libraries and points to the way it has integrated a library into one of its shops.  Others, however, point out that the library is tiny and is not the way forward.  Faced with cuts and an idea that libraries are no longer necessary (despite the massive protests), however, one suspects which side the Council will choose.

Another alternative to council provision of libraries is, of course, the private sector.  The boss of JLIS has been talking to the Conservative Way Forward Group about the advantages of doing so: a message one suspects is falling onto fertile ground there.  However, all is not as rosy as he suggests with JLIS in Hounslow, as the comments in the article suggest.  Also, my article on the pros and cons of outsourcing libraries raises a few questions too - like how the Council gave them £5 million to run it in the first place.

See the this page on co-location and this page on outsourcing for more pros and cons.

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Go in poor, leave feeling rich

Editorial

The post title today comes from a wonderful summary of thoughts about libraries that have been put on Twitter.  There’s some great stuff there and I recommend a look. I have put some of the stand out quotes below as well.  Another thing that stood out for me today is an inspiring article summarising the changes that have taken place at Chattanooga’s library system.  I have put what are some of the key points below.  It shows the power of leadership and of fresh thinking that is possible in US libraries.  It may also be possible in UK libraries as well, of course, but I have not seen anything like it after reporting on the subject here for a few years.

This may be because of the different cultures of the two countries – we don’t shout about much and, far more importantly, councils appear to have libraries far more under their thumb in the UK than they appear to do in the USA.  Most importantly, though, I suspect is the incredible difference in funding.  UK libraries may have the buildings and we may have the staff but, in the current climate, they just plain don’t have the money.  At least I hope that is the reason, because otherwise we’re just plain second rate … and no librarian should accept that.  Nor, of course, should this country accept second-rate libraries but that is precisely what cuts of the current magnitude will provide.  If we’re lucky.

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