July 5, 2006
I thought, for the benefit of new readers on the site, I should go back and re-state what this blog is about.
Firstly public libraries are important in communities, both large and small. They need to be well stocked with good collections of fiction, non fiction, reference works, new books and old books; newspapers and reading material and information in abundance in whatever form it comes. They are also places of private study and that often means providing access to the internet at work stations and desks. The detail of that provision should lie in the hands of the community in which the library stands- but local councils should provide proper funding and ensure community needs are met to the highest standard. They need to be open as long hours as it is safe to be so and be well presented clean buildings. When staff are available they should be knowledgeable, helpful and pleasant. They should provide particularly for the needs of children and those who study at any age and, of course, they should go out of their way to cater for anyone with any disability. A good local library should reach out to those in its area who are not easily able to visit it.
Secondly, libraries are better if the funds they have are used efficiently. Access to national collections, to book suppliers to property management, to databases and national libraries and use systems for information retrieval which are the best that are available. In these and similar matters there is no value in individual libraries inventing or researching their own individual solutions and economies. There is a need for one national agency- not to manage the library service- but to support individual libraries in their quest for excellent efficient local service. Councils should also act, not to provide management that burdens their libraries but to enable their local libraries to provide the best possible libraries for all who need them, in their communities. The most important staff in the service are those available in a library to keep it open and provide help to readers who need it.
In the pursuit of these things I harrass Government departments, councils, national and regional bodies and quangoes who currently hold responsibility for or influence over the public library service and often seek to shame them for their ineffectiveness and expense. We pay, across the UK, over £1.2bn for the library service- and, whether or not we have a current requirement, we are entitled for that amount of money, to see an extremely high standard of service.
For the most part, sadly, many of these simple requirements are not met in many partsof the country. That is why there is a need for people to be aware that the problems of the library service are not shortage of money, nor of a national desire to have a service (in the lowest and highest places), but rather that those funds and that desire and somehow fail to be translated, by those who have responsibility for doing so, into reality.
Throughout these messages I try to offer my (and my friends') management experience of how these problems could be resolved. We have done this for a long time in the face of tough ear plugs and waving arms of resistance. It would be far better for those who do not listen to bury their pride and come purposefully to the table to talk, but I have learned not to hold my breath while we wait, nor to believe any of the promises of good intention and action which we hear almost every day.
Posted by Perkins at July 5, 2006 12:57 PM
A suggestion from Josephine Public.
The dreaded Dome, I think, would make a suitable depository for donating unwanted books of every kind.
The deputy prime minister, who seems to have lots of spare time at present, and has always taken a keen interest in the Dome and it's future. Casino Royale? Perhaps he could be made responsible for the donated books being allocated to needy libraries?
Hmmmmm,on second thoughts, not a good idea, baring in mind his "track" record on management.
Posted by: Margo Harker at July 5, 2006 8:54 PM
Here in Conwy, North Wales, our pathetic excuse for a library service is about to be devastated at the hands of people who would surely be happier running a branch of Starbucks. These so called librarians (barbarians?) admit that spending on books is already about the lowest in Wales (£1.30 a head) and the provision of libraries well below the Welsh Library Standards yet they've just advised the Council to close 6 of our 13 libraries! Ironically for a "Library & Information Service" they are refusing all FOI requests for documents supporting their closure plans. I note that in a recent article in Readers' Digest Tim identifies bloated management costs and minimal spending on buildings as a curse blighting public libraries and so I've researched Conwy's costs. Tim reckons successful book chains spend roughly equal parts of their budget on each category, books and staffing, and deplores libraries that spend as much as "55 percent of budgets on wages and top heavy management and as little as 11 percent on buildings". Conwy's official figures are 64 percent and 1 percent respectively! Despite the best endeavours of library management to intimidate junior staff into keeping quiet and toeing the party line their embargo on information is leaking like a sieve. Staff with integrity have provided all sorts of facts and figures but we desperately need support and publicity. For more info you can call me anytime on 01492-547590.
Posted by: Christopher Draper at June 21, 2007 9:31 AM
Tim, thanks for giving us all some hope with your recent work at Hillingdon.
Walthamstow's libraries are being defended by the St James Street library campaign, see
and as part of an innovative "Trail of Destruction" event event on Sunday 9 September 2007, see http://www.e17arttrail.co.uk/index.php?page=9&passed_index=141.
Come and join us. All welcome!
Posted by: Walthamster at August 30, 2007 12:31 PM
I just came across your blog and comments about how libraries are used and wanted to let you know about a new initiative that has just started in Portsmouth Central Library.
VISUAL LIBRARIES - Leave your Mark.
A collaborative, visual project which encourages you to sign out a Visual Library Book and ‘Leave Your Mark’.
45 Visual Library Books have been placed in Portsmouth Central Library and each has its own theme ranging from; Portsmouth, My City, When I Open My Eyes, Whilst I Was Waiting, Love, What’s in My Pocket and Memories. The intention is for you to feel free to explore the Visual Library Books and choose a theme that you like.
In collaboration with:
COPIC, Rhodia, Seawhite of Brighton, Portsmouth City Council and the University of Portsmouth.
A Visual Library Book is whatever you want it to be, a sketchbook, a journal, a diary, a notepad.
You can ‘Leave Your Mark’ in whatever way you want, ranging from drawing, writing, sewing, adding photographs, markings, printing and sticking. How you make your marks is entirely up to you. All we ask is that you have fun with the different themes.
To view the pages of the project as they develop from people all over the city.
For Further Details: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
University of Portsmouth
Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries (CCI)
School of Creative Technologies
Winston Churchill Avenue
Tel- 023 92845481
Email - email@example.com
NEW : http://www.visuallibraries.com
NEW - Bike Stand Project with Portsmouth City Council and Wayne Hemingway - http://www.flickr.com/groups/bikestands/
Flickr Website - http://www.flickr.com/create_up/
Website with current projects can be viewed at: http://web.me.com/sambrook
Posted by: claire sambrook at February 22, 2009 7:34 PM
Having just discovered the good library blog, it has brought back many memories for me as an ex-member of the Library Campaign. Reading the correspondence pro and anti volunteer run libraries, made me ask the bloggers (and Perkins) what, in the 21st century are public libraries FOR? I was a public librarian for 26 years in a big local authority with 20+ branch libraries. As fiction became cheaper and cheaper to buy, we kept telling ourselves "Ah, but we are still the only source of free information" Now t'Internet (seems) to fill that space. Now I own a small second-hand bookshop, and sell cheap fiction and collectible non-fiction. The appetite for books seems undiminished, thank goodness. I don't use the public library in the small town where I live as anything I really want has to be ordered, so i ask the users and professionals out there "What are libaries actually supplying?"
I write this because i really want public library services to continue, but am unsure as to what form they'll take...
Posted by: Katherine at May 8, 2010 2:50 PM
I am working on a story about libraries. I would love to have a chat with you. Could you please provide me with your contact details?
I can be contacted on 07706154283 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by: Anna Meisel at January 21, 2011 2:51 PM
I am one of the people involved in the successful campaign to keep Goodmayes Library in east London open, which saw a diverse and relatively poor community rally around its much loved facility
We managed to gather 6000 signatures in just over one week and challenged the council arguments at every level resulting in a withdrawal of that closure threat last friday
now we have been invited in to talk about library futures and would welcome the opportunity to talk with you about some of the ideas in your blog
if you can make time to contact that us would be very much appreciated
from We Saved Goodmayes library
Posted by: chris connelley at February 16, 2011 2:08 PM