September 9, 2006
Susan Hill writes
Susan has just posted this, I shall send it to Mark Wood, who is the Chair of the MLA, with an invitation to comment.
"As I have said on this blog before, senior library managers have been actively TRYING for years to get rid of books and introduce almost anything else. They are the first generation of librarians who were not trained primarily as custodians of books. That is not their career-focus. Now that is fine, if there are people who want to have a career in providing public services of a different kind - whether computers, public meeting spaces, educational centres or whatever - I`m sure they have a function. Just don`t call themselves Librarians or use the Public Libraries for their activities if that means moving out the books to do so. Use other rooms. Use other buildings. There are usually rather a lot of free spaces in Town Halls.
If you had Sports Managers, a whole generation and senior and middle layer of them, saying actually, we don`t want to use our sportsgrounds for sports we want to use them for four wheel drive racing and paintballing games and meeting of the Caravan Club and we will do that and shunt football and tennis and cricket and running off to the side and give them no funding and never renew their equipment and let the grass grow - well, where`s the difference ?
The point about all of this is that the general public, which wants to borrow books from the library for which IT PAYS, do not know that this is happening, or if they do they assume it is the government or the council`s fault. What they absolutely do NOT realise is that it is the very librarians themselves which are the fundamental cause of the problem.
If it were the case that book writing and reading and buying were in decline, that all the bookshops were closing/going bankrupt/ publishers ditto, that the government said 'do not teach children from books, books are obselete, they should not bother with reading them..' then fine, I can see that libraries too would have to follow the general trend.
BUT the government is actually GIVING books to babies, it is saying all schools should focus on reading books and having reading hours. Waterstones have just added another third to their bookshop empire. Publishers - large - are making mega profits and small, are starting up. Writers are making fortunes. What is J.K.Rowling all about ? How did she come to be worth so many billions and rising ? And Dan Brown ?
Even the television and car man Jeremy Clarkson and the gardener and television man Alan Titchmarsh are selling a million of - guess what, BOOKS.
This is what baffles me. Baffles us all really. I do wish some librarian would come to me and explain their attitude in words of one syllable because I have clearly missed something somewhere."
Posted by Perkins at September 9, 2006 10:11 AM
All I can say to Susan Hill is that I agree with EVERY SINGLE WORD. No need for me to elaborate or expand on what she has said. It is all there and she is RIGHT
Posted by: elaine at September 9, 2006 4:32 PM
Right on, Susan! md
Posted by: Mary at September 9, 2006 6:24 PM
Susan, I agree with most of what you're saying. Library management is in a pitiful state. I work in a city library.
Please, however, don't refer to librarians being the cause of the problems. They're not. They're doing what management are telling them to do. Librarians and Library Assistants are heavily passionate about books and traditional library services. But management, usually ex-call centre managers, are intent on turning libraries into Starbucks.
Please keep pushing your views. I came to work in libraries because I love literature. I am a writer and a reader. I don't want to be given a daft title like 'Customer Care Assistant', I want to be a Library Assistant. I want to give you the service that my managers believe is old hat.
Posted by: Anonymous Library Assistant at September 15, 2006 11:39 AM
You're so right to protest, Susan. I don't know who is to blame, but the space for books at my local library shrinks all the time. My particular bugbear is that they throw out books all the time, selling thewm for ridiculous prices. These are often great books in good condition which are often the sort one wants available but doesn't have shelf space to have at home. Libraries could also invite donations of books from customers, but instead have a very wasteful policy. On the plus side, they are pretty good at getting a book for you - even buying it - if you request one they haven't got. It might arrive in weeks - but has been known to take 9 months!
Posted by: naomi parker at January 9, 2009 9:37 PM