“A jewel in the crown of our social landscape. As much temples for the lonely as feeding houses for the mind”

@publiclibnews IMHOlibraries are a jewel in the crown of our social landscape. As much temples for the lonely as feeding houses for the mind

— Ragged University (@RaggedTalks) March 3, 2014

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If you have any news, views, corrections or comments please send them to ianlibrarian@live.co.uk, thank you.

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Campaigners should not have to pay to protect libraries

Editorial

The Leader of Lincolnshire council has claimed that all councils who try to reform their public library service have judicial reviews raised against them.  He then went on to say that those who dare to try to obtain judicial reviews should pay for them themselves. Let’s look at the truth and implications behind the words. There have been seven applications for judicial review so far but there are 151 library authorities in England alone … so that’s hardly “all” then. One must also question the word “reform” – thirty out of forty-five libraries will be closed or passed to volunteers, expressly because of the need to cut £2 million from a £6 million budget.  So we’re not talking “reform” here: we’re talking a response to cuts of one-third. Finally, the application for judicial review may need up to £25,000 in legal aid – so what the Leader is effectively saying is that only rich people should be able to challenge the legality of local council decisions.  The Leader may have no problem with that but public libraries are famously for all groups, notably those without a few tens of thousands of pounds to spare … so his response should anger everyone who cares for public libraries and thus also care to keep the power to question those in authority who cut them so drastically.

Changes

  • Scottish Borders – Libraries/museums/halls to be transferred to new Trust to save £276k.

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A valuable public space that doesn’t make a profit

Changes

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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

Changes

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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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