Ed Vaizey, the minister responsible for libraries has sent a letter to the responsible councillors and library chiefs about the help they can expect from Arts Council England after the demise of the MLA.  It ia available here, along with a link to the “Future Libraries: change, options and how to get there” whihc it serves an introduction to.  It is in the relentlessly upbeat tone that one has come to expect from a certain kind of bureaucrat, which I discussed in a previous post.  I have, in keeping with these previous post, translated key passages for your enlightenment and amusement.  Other interpretations of the words are welcomed as I am aware that reading similar material from the DCMS and numerous local authorities has made me somewhat cynical and jaded.

“We anticipate some councils will still need to address the requirement for ongoing efficiencies in the remainder of the spending review period.”. Some councils have not yet made the deep cuts made essential by Central Government.  They will need to so soon.

“Some have made interim or temporary savings pending more strategic consideration of this valuable and important service”. Some councils (Hi Gloucestershire! Nice to see you Somerset! Yo Doncaster, how you doing?) have made short-term and short-sighted cuts but not yet the deeper long-term cuts required.  Others (Hi Brent!) have made kneejerk cuts due to the severity of the cuts and short timescale demanded by the Government.  It is now the time to work out what we can salvage from this mess.

“As a result, following the transfer of the library function from MLA to the Arts Council, we are pleased to confirm that the Arts Council will continue to work with the LG Group on a further phase of the Future Libraries programme.”.  Following the destruction of the MLA, the Arts Council have decided to continue with the Future Libraries Programme due to the lack of any viable alternative, them having no idea what they’re doing yet and being forced to take over the service with little notice and pretty much no consultation.  They’ve also taken on key officers from the MLA so it’s hardly going to be a case of new blood or new thinking anyway.

“We are not able to offer the same package of support as was available in phase one of the programme and we are keen to hear from councils what sort of support might be most useful to them.”.  We’ve savagely cut the amount of funding available to the Arts Council for this purpose from £13m to £3m.   We are therefore at a loss as to how best spend this comparatively tiny amount of money so that it would make any effective difference and so would really like to pass the buck to the poor councils themselves.

“We would also like to take this opportunity to update you on the support that could be available to councils from the LG Group and the Arts Council as part of the Future Libraries programme.”. This letter would be really seriously depressing if it stopped here and so we need to throw in some fig leaves.  Prepare yourself for a seemingly impressive at first glance list that in effect amounts to expenditure of roughly three rounds of bitter down the local.

“Through phase two, councils will be able to benefit from the following:” = In late 2011/12 councils will have to accept all they can get, which is…

“- Continued access to an online forum to share good practice (this is currently achieved through a libraries Community of Practice, which will migrate to the LG Group’s new Knowledge Hub)” = “A free online forum, that is currently not even posted on every day now, that will soon move to a funkily named new website for no readily apparent reason.”

“- A simple self assessment tool to help you benchmark your current or proposed change process to the ‘reform and change model’ in the publication enabling you to identify any specific support needs.” = “A rule of thumb guide to see what you can and cannot get away with, enabling to see if you need to call for a support parcel from Medecins Sans Frontiers”.

“- Access to Member and Officer peer support and or consultancy support.”  = “Contact details of other people in the same mess as you plus some limited specialist expertise that we are paying exorbitant amounts for as we have sacked all the specialists who would have done this as part of their job earlier this year”

“- Learning events targeted at Members and Officers.” – “Read with Peter and Jane sessions for those of you who have not come on board fully with the grim reality of the reduction  in your library services, plus special tips on what language to use in order to sell the cuts to your electorate.”

“- It will also bring together the innovation taking place elsewhere, to create a practical and sustainable model of a modern and efficient library service that can contribute effectively to delivering better outcomes for individuals and communities.” = “We’re also going to encourage you to blackmail your local communities in order to do your work for free and show you how a private company can take over your problems for you while somehow making a big profit.”.

Let me know if I have missed anything, like the mention by the minister taking any action according to the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act to ensure a “comprehensive and efficent service”.  That’s got be in there somewhere.  Hasn’t it?