September 14, 2006
Who's in Charge
Just to go back to basics again: for those who haven't read my report "Who's in Charge? Responsibilty for the public library service", here is the 'executive summary' that it contained.
My view then, 2 years ago, was that about £250m per annum is essentially money that is wrongly spent in the service. From the public point of view it is wasted money. So I am not just campaigning for more books: I am urging that the whole operation be run in a proper, responsible and professional manner, which befits the scale of public expenditure. It is true that - if it were run in such a way- one of the things we would see would be a greater investment and improvement in the book collection, but as I hope is clear from the report, that is by no means all that needs to be done.
The full report is available at various places that can be found on "google", but if you want a copy please send me an email. It has been translated into several languages, but I'm afraid I only have it in English.
Executive Summary "Who's in charge? Responsibility for the public library service
1 In the past seven years, use of museums and archives in this country has doubled. Since visitors have been recorded, use of the public library service has fallen each year until 2003/4, for which figures are yet to be fully reported. In the past seven years of decline in use, funding of the library service by local councils has risen by 25%.
2 In the library service there is so much good work in progress to introduce reading to those who
are excluded and to those who are isolated. Libraries have always been a centre for learning
through life. However, today’s reality is that if we do not address the fundamental structural
problems of the library service, there may be no libraries to provide these excellent services to
readers in ten or fifteen years’ time.Those who are responsible for libraries must change what they are doing, and the way they approach their work. Change in the library service requires change in the library profession and in the way in which library professionals are managed by councils.
3 This independent report is a working paper which takes a very broad view of the issues, identifies the problems of the library service and lays out that which needs to be addressed. It cannot and does not offer a prescriptive solution to every single question raised. It is intended as a first step in what must be an urgent programme of action.
4 The report finds that those responsible in local councils for managing the library service have lost users because, while they have focused effort on some particular needs, they have not been able to
a Respond to the urgent public requirements of a library: the need for a broad range of books
and reading material; the need for libraries to be open at times when users are able to visit; the
need for the entire community to find libraries to be clean, welcoming places to visit and in
which to study;
b Devote the resources needed to meet these requirements;
c Control costs, improve productivity and maintain value for money for taxpayers;
d Bring continuous improvement to operating systems and management;
e Report to and involve their elected councillors in the need to allocate resources and measure
service in any way adequately. As a consequence councillors have not been made fully aware of
the extent of the public dissatisfaction and decline in use of the service. For this reason,
councillors have been unable to fulfil their duties and have not insisted on improvement where
they should have done so.
5 This report also finds that, while the DCMS and the Audit Commission (and the MLA) have recognised some of these problems and proposed many initiatives to remedy them, all these proposals have been
a Because they did not sufficiently recognise the decision making processes that operate within
b They did not use their authority to insist upon improvement.
6 This report recommends areas of action for the attention of councils. In particular it calls on
councils to commit themselves over a number of years, and, without increasing overall funds, to:
a Treble expenditure on books and reading material
b Increase opening hours by 50%
c Institute a programme of library redecoration and redesign.
Councils should, by careful planning, be able to achieve this reallocation of resources by improved productivity and the introduction of new systems and methods of working.
7 The report emphasises the essential role played by “friends of libraries” and other library “contacts” in the community and calls for councils to provide these groups with clearer, more understandable information about the local library service.
8. The report also proposes ways in which Government could support a programme of change
designed to bring about these improvements.
Posted by Perkins at September 14, 2006 9:55 AM