March 24, 2010
Doom! - unless we act now
No Perkins hasn't suddenly taken up research into global warming, it's still public libraries that worry her.
The figures issued by the DCMS for library usage called NI 9, have really really shocked.
They show that between December 2006 and December 2009 the percentage of the population using the public library service fell from 49.5% to 37.6%.. That is to say by 12% in just three years. Unless that pattern is stopped the use will be nil in just 12 years. Simple arithmetic
That corresponds exactly to the forecast made by the Audit Commission research department who said. in 2002, that, unless there is a radical change in approach the service would be finished in 20 years-- ie by 2022.
The three things they highlighted that would reverse the trend were restoration of the book stocks, longer opening hours and better buildings. They deduced that from an analysis of the available market researxch. The report is called "Building Better Libraries" by Michael Carpenter and Ingrid Koehle and nobody in the library world took a blind bit of notice.
Perkins was booed for repeating the prediction in a report called "Who's in Charge?" (www.amazon.co.uk) in 2004- but she was right, too
Gerald Kaufman underscored these same things in his select committee report, which has been ignored.
Carpenter and Koehle were completely right. Unless we now restore the book collections to where they were in early nineties - ie we buy 30 million extra books; we undertake a rapid programme to improve buildings and we open most libraries late in the evenings every day, the library service will be finished. Nothing to do with funding- though cuts will hasten the end- it is just entirely the fault of the management. ~Sorry chaps - although most of those responsible will be in the sun on fat pensions paid for by the rest of us. But your legacy is a demolition site.. if you care.
The end is nigh. I don't see any of the urgency that is needed in the Hodge review. That is its big problem. The answer doesn't lie in PLR for "e-books" or even Starbucks I'm afraid.
Posted by Perkins at March 24, 2010 11:10 PM
We share your view that radical and rapid action is needed (although we may not agree what that action should be!). Do have a read of our most recent blog at www.audiencesuk.org
Posted by: David Brownlee at March 26, 2010 1:20 PM
Dave -- are you a voice of the DCMS? or some associated agency? Who is "we"? .
Posted by: perkins at March 26, 2010 2:00 PM
We're an independent organisation with charitable objectives, although we and our members (12 individual Audience Development Agencies – again all not-for-profit) do receive funding from a number of sources, including the Arts Councils of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Audiences UK is completely apolitical and we have no axe to grind. We exist to encourage collaborative working to increase engagement with culture. We only re-launched as Audiences UK two weeks ago, which is probably why you haven't heard of us.
Have a look at our website – it explains who we are and what we do. Our members are experts in understanding audiences and helping cultural organisations grow and broaden their audience base. Although most of the agencies started off working in the arts, most are now working in other parts of the cultural sector, including museums, heritage and libraries.
Of all parts of the cultural family, the stats for libraries are the most concerning. We’re really keen to engage in the debate and bring what expertise and experience we can offer to an issue of real importance.
My details are on the ‘contact us’ tab on the website.
Posted by: David Brownlee at March 26, 2010 3:06 PM
David- with the greatest respect you are not 'independent' - you are funded by the Arts Council, which in turn is funded by the DCMS and the state. You are a State body- and it behoves you to support state policies. Otherwise you risk your funding. You appear to have been given a mission to preach the worst forms of political correctness.
I was suspicious when I read this remark on your blog "if libraries were less full of stock, what new and exciting things could you do with the freed-up space that would actually give new reasons to visit?" -- Just what kind of jolly exciting things are you thinking of-- syrup sponges?
My view is that the book stock in public libraries, which we are learning has fallen by a lot more than 20m books in the last ten years, is poor - and the first priority is to increase and improve it , not free up the space.
Books in libraries do not 'gather dust' - where on earth did you receive your education? Who are you trying to insult? People who read?
I disgree with your view-- totally.
Much is said in Government and indeed in the DCMS reviews of putting the public view at the heart of policy making. I have worked in this field a long time and I assure I have never, ever, seen research that suggests that space in libraries which was used in the past for book collections should be 'freed up". All the public research says the exact opposite. Your derision of the value of books and reading shames you and your new endeavours. I suggest you go and ask some real people what they think of their libraries, and get some properly imformed research in order to review your opinions
Posted by: perkins at March 26, 2010 6:42 PM
I have posted a comment on the 'audiences' website and I know of another contributor. Neither comment has yet appeared. It is puzzling that this site, which carries a link (if you search hard enough,) to very positive DCMS statistics to Oct 2009 -- re. children's usage of libraries -- is, in the person of Mr Brownlee, now contradicting these. I trust that he will hurriedly hunker down and find out from real people what the truth of all these matters is, check his facts and, on principle, refuse to be the mouthpiece of those with a purely political agenda -- thus ensuring that his own integrity and that of his website are not fatally compromised.
Posted by: Shirley Burnham at March 28, 2010 3:53 PM