World Book Day: A wonderful opportunity for libraries

 

Editorial

World Book Day has come.  This means classes of children coming in, normally in some sort of fancy dress, learning about how wonderful public libraries are.  I’ve already done a school assembly (got to love 250 children screaming “World Book Day”), opened a new school library and did two class visits (“We’re Going On a Bear Hunt” is famous but may I also recommend “Here Come The Aliens“)  … and that was just on Monday.   The Day (and, let’s be honest, the whole week) is a wonderful opportunity for public libraries to get children in as schools are so keen to get involved this week.  Indeed, it’s great when schools phone you and not the other way.  I try to squeeze as many activities as I can in and I hope all public libraries are able to do the same … and keep those statistics too.

World Book Day is all about. well, books, of course and so it’s only appropriate to mention some fairly good evidence that has come in from the US that suggests that it is not public libraries per se that are declining but rather those in the UK where book funds have been cut.  Across the Atlantic, material funds rose 2% on average in 2013 and usage went up 2%.  This tallies well with the UK experience where declines in usage appears to mirror somewhat cuts in funding. So one may wonder whether it’s not that UK public libraries are dieing: rather it appears they are being murdered or, rather, suffering from neglect.

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Book Blendings

Ideas

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“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

Ideas

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Community

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

Changes

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Reading spas, non-crises and fines exchanges

Ideas

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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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