February 13, 2011
What should the public library 'profession' be?
It should embrace equally all those who work in public libraries, full time, or part time, whether they have academic qualification of any kind of whatever nature- or whether they have none at all.
It should strive to serve the public as its readers and users and local councillors as its employers and funders
It should endeavour to share experience and raise the levels of service and value for money in every way it can.
It should encourage the highest standards of library practice and management, of resources of books and reading and information, and of library design, facility and access.
It should be a benevolent, kindly, supportive and helpful, institution developing excellent libraries and library services and encouraging library use among those of all ages, circumstances and backgrounds.
It should be non political in every sense
It should endeavour to seek a constant legacy of improvement and renewal
Membership should be £10 per annum -- honorary members of the public welcome, too
Posted by Perkins at February 13, 2011 5:46 PM
I'll pay a tenner for that.
Posted by: Herbing at February 13, 2011 11:10 PM
Where does Perkins get the figure of £10 from if he would be so kind as to divulge?
Could I ask Perkins for a wee bit of pro bono research - when was the last time (what year) the budget for libraries was at the same level as is proposed for the financial year ahead, and do you have any statistics as to how many libraries the UK had at that time?
Posted by: Library Web at February 13, 2011 11:45 PM
Gareth, the answer to the second question is quite easy- if we speculate that the UK budget for libraries for 2011-12 will be 25% less than it was in 2010/11, then the answer is as follows. In 2010/11 we spent £1,093m. In 2000/1 we spent £791m, which is actually 27.8% less. At that time there were 4,600 libraries. If we believe the current projections, there will be about 4,000 at the end of 2010/11. Inflation in this field hasn't been that much during the decade, in fact book prices have gone down slightly and IT prices have gone down by a lot. Why £10? - a bit more complicated, but I think it is so important that all library staff feel able to join, rather than the few who are in CILIP.
Posted by: perkins at February 14, 2011 9:24 AM
"It should strive to serve the public as its readers and users and local councillors as its employers and funders."
Out of interest, what happens when the two clash?
Posted by: Ian at February 14, 2011 10:07 AM
Ian, thanks. One of the most common causes of misunderstanding between users and councillors is the lack of simple information. At present in user groups with which I am working, people don't understand the structure of how councils work (cabinets, leaders, portfolios, directorates etc) and they certainly have no clear, consistent information about how money is spent, or indeed how much there is. If we began to make those things all clear, then there would be a sensible ground for discussion about priorities and a way to resolve any conflicts sensibly.
Posted by: perkins at February 14, 2011 10:15 AM
OK, you couldn't pull out of your database how far back it would be when the UK last had 4000 libraries could you as well - would be much appreciated (I won't trouble further).
There has been some backlash against coateswatch btw if you haven't caught it already:
And a few other respected professionals in the field have commented elsewhere similarly also. If whoever it is walked into my library and started behaving in that manner they would be thrown out very quickly. I can't be at all sure but I seem to be arriving at the conclusion myself that it is political (left wing thuggery). Having said that it would help if a certain cat would not put his paw right in it just after a lot of hardworking librarians have just spent a day busting a gut trying to raise awareness of what was going on with our libraries.
As to the £10, I can't comment on whether there is £13 or so worth of cruft sitting around in the libraries or not - but being on the ground (if I still have a job!) I will after the cuts be able to comment on storytimes, bookstart packs, rotating displays/promotions, quality of the books, staffing levels, the state of repair of the computers, etc. The libraries do badly I think at this point as well need to put some resources into the future - this is not at this point a mature industry, it's very much on the climb again, and if the libraries do not respond to the changing society around them then how much longer they will last as a tradition I'm not sure - and then someone could indeed be yelling bad management.
Posted by: Library Web at February 14, 2011 3:39 PM
When I say not a 'mature industry', the libraries are no longer on a plateau. I'm not sure the phrase 'growth in the sector' is technically correct either, but it would be correct to say there is certainly a great deal of change, both paradigm, and incremental.
Technology wise I think it is probably fair to say that the libraries responded to Web 1.0 'quite well' (note not 'brilliantly') with LMSs, OPACs, organising the peoples' network with its applications software and databases/subscriptions, most staff being skilled by now also. Web 2.0 though is a different kettle of fish - it seems to cut a lot deeper change wise - not just a matter of tactics. A new body of literature, fundamental assumptions about copyright in ruins, new models of learning (I could probably go on if I thought about it). A community library I think has to ask what is the preferred media of its community, but increasingly that will be an ipod and ipad generation. There is Web 3.0 as well, bringing some organisation to this mass of tangled hyperlinks, hypothetical and very much experimental at this stage, but it is the librarians who want to do this.
(OK, I'll shut up now ;)
Posted by: Library Web at February 14, 2011 8:42 PM
Just to go back to basics for another second, and to quietly avoid my usual point about "complementary" services, I would like to remind everyone that there is a danger we can think ourselves so sophisticated that we get lost in Library Web's tangled mass of hyperlinks. I did a bit of writing recently. It was well received by my movie star. The three stories I wrote were all first drafted on paper by hand, and they were pretty good. All hyperlinks, databases, search engines and indeed reference books can do is aid the creative process. They can't actually do it for us. This may seem to be a staggeringly obvious point to make, but I have noticed, again and again, a strong tendency to eulogise those technological tools to such an extent that people forget they're just a means to an end. They're just tools, and so are a lot of the robot ant boys who foist them on dim councillors at great expense. The machines didn't write my stories. I did. They just helped. it's nice to have a building where books and machines can help people be creative. It's called a library.
Posted by: James Christie at February 15, 2011 2:09 PM
My way of responding to Gareth is to say "come and stand in front of a room full of people worrying that the council are about to close their library and see if they understand what you mean about Web 1.0" I am in those kinds of meetings most weeks at present, and I have to believe that people wouldn't have a clue what you meant. DVD's they know about.
Posted by: perkins at February 15, 2011 4:25 PM
James and Perkins, curiously I've just written a comment to a post on the subject of RFID, talking about peoples' values and self-service - http://j.mp/hDe6bd
I've also tagged onto the end of this post a paragraph with some more of the things off the top of my head that I think libraries should be doing in this day and age technology wise.
Can I say that a community library must focus on the values of the community using the library very closely - IMHO a lot more than they do at the moment, especially with the trend to put building managers in community libraries and manage them from the centre otherwise (somewhat alienating for the community). I have in the back of my mind more or less continually the values of the community of people whose library I am in (though having said that I have tended to be a somewhat peripatetic library assistant, so I can't really do more than this). I found myself in a conversation with someone visiting the library a while ago saying to them that "the library would not (I would hope!) change over to ebooks while the values of the community were still for paper books" (he was worried the libraries would force ebooks on people I think - which I must admit I'm a tad worried about also, if e.g., the policy were a way to reduce costs). In another library however I found myself talking to a local playwright and discussing the merits of ebooks and the reading experience and paper books (I had found a copy of the interlibrary loan request he had made on the Internet - note ILLs are expensive).
To conclude I'm getting the feeling that there is maybe somewhere between 10%-30+% of the community using technology which the libraries are still not using. And this number will only increase. There are reasons why libraries should at this point at least look into this technology I think.
Perkins, I would hope that you could say to the campaign groups you speak to that their library will continue to serve their needs as best it can, but that also there is an exciting future for the libraries for the younger generation - these youngsters are going to be able to use their libraries in new and exciting ways that their parents never could. While the libraries do not usually meet 'survival needs', and we appreciate this is this day and age of cuts, they are still though very much a high value in our lives - and I hope the campaign groups you speak to Perkins will appreciate the value of the time and energy they are able to put in.
Posted by: Library Web at February 15, 2011 6:39 PM
A thought that has just popped into mind a moment ago. Out-of-copyright books, many of which can be found on the Internet nowadays, should the libraries be thinking about bringing these under their wing - instead of people going to the Internet for them, hosting them on the library servers.
Maybe libraries don't need to because there are websites like Gutenburg. But libraries can do this rigorously, and also at the moment library staff do not refer people to ebooks, if they were brought under the library's custodianship then library staff would be trained in them.
One problem with the web is that material is liable to be there one minute, but if you go back to the same website a year later it is by no means certain the website will still be there. The libraries could offer a more permanent solution.
Posted by: Library Web at February 15, 2011 6:58 PM
I think it does, in this case, bear repeating that Web 1.0, Web 2.0 and for all I know, Web 3.0 are just buzz words referring in general terms to the fact that the internet is growing and the ways it is used changing. It does not refer to a specific type of software or upgrade. It is, in other words, a load of poncey rubbish which should be stuck down the waste disposal with most of the "Update" articles ever published, half of CILIP's senior "management", most of Dewey, many of the IT geeks infesting offices and all of the inverted snobbery which has, I strongly suspect, led to librarianship itself virtually (and sadly) going down the waste disposal.
I simply wouldn't be able to assemble an argument to keep libraries open for Tim's people based on such subject matter, and the basic attitude that terminology like Web 2.0 and metadata can somehow replace the bricks and mortar facts of life (ie libraries with books and DVDs in them) has, I think, infiltrated far too many faux-trendy committee meetings staffed with senior pseudo-professionals who, to put it bluntly, don't have to worry about bills, pensions or employment because they're in secure well-paid jobs. The rest of us aren't, and have little time for such airy-fairy nonsense.
Strike that, no time at all.
That was fun. I haven't been mean, vicious and satirical for a while. Probably due to a lack of subject matter now I'm no longer reading "Update", but I've missed making suggestions like dumping CILIP senior management in Sierra Leone (or better yet, Egypt...) and think I'll go back to my roots.
Watch this space, and remember the Alamo.
Posted by: James Christie at February 16, 2011 1:47 PM
Tim - any idea what happened to the comment I posted yesterday? It doesn't seem to have made it past moderation for some reason?
In response to Jim's comments above, as Barney Frank once said: "trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it."
Posted by: Ian at February 16, 2011 11:10 PM
I didn't see it - can you post it again? Please try not to be offensive - I don't think referring to commenters in the way you just have helps anyone. You and your friends may think it is funny, but I don't.
Posted by: perkins at February 16, 2011 11:32 PM
Many apologies for any offence caused.
Back to the topic in hand. In my comment I put forward the following scenario: A councillor insists to the library service introduces a new service but this service results in a cut in the book fund. In your guidelines above, you state: 'it should strive to serve the public as its readers and users and local councillors as its employers and funders'. Given the situation I described, how can librarians both take into account the needs of their users as well as the demands on their councillors? Which should suffer? The bosses, or the users? This situation does happen, and I have certainly experienced it. Just interested in how your guidelines would be applied in this case.
Posted by: Ian at February 17, 2011 6:35 PM
Ian, of course the decision about how to spend taxpayers' money lies with the councillor, that is without question.
I don't know where you work or what you do, but one observation I would make is that councillors are often not well briefed in the detail of what makes the service useful. You can hardly have missed the advice which is constantly given that books are not the thing that makes the library service work these days. It is not hard to believe that some councillors have come to think that other things might be more important. I wish that hadn't happened.
Posted by: perkins at February 17, 2011 9:33 PM
Ok, thanks for that response Tim. By the way, have you edited my comment as it is not exactly as it was written? I'm a bit concerned if comments are being stealth edited without this being noted and would appreciate you clearing this up for my own piece of mind. Can you clarify whether my comment has been edited please? Many thanks.
Posted by: Ian at February 17, 2011 10:23 PM
Ian - yes I edited your comment. I think that is the third time in the history of this blog that I have edited a comment. I specifically asked you not to be rude, and you were. Please don't do that again, or I simply won't post your comments any longer.
Posted by: perkins at February 17, 2011 10:57 PM
I agree with your proposal. CILIP has been dragging its heels, trying to preserve its professional status, despite overwhelming evidence that it can't claim to be a profession in the same way as doctors, engineers and lawyers. I'm a professionally qualified librarian by the way.
Posted by: Smithy at February 20, 2011 12:39 PM
Smithy, please do tell where you came across this 'overwhelming evidence' that librarianship 'can't claim to be a profession'? I personally think that Annie Mauger has been doing a very good job of opposing the disproportionate and unfair cuts in library funding, that are being proposed across the country.
Posted by: James Miller at February 20, 2011 4:24 PM
I'm also concerned by this attempt at rudeness, and I don't answer to Jim. I came to this blog through sheer frustration with the profession - getting anywhere seemed as difficult as dealing with a dinner table - and there did and does seem to be a bias against books, which I don't like because I spent three years single-handedly getting a historic rare books library together again. I then worked as a librarian in the private sector and spent years having my ego and career hopes demolished by those who, as Perkins suspects, seem to be trying to turn librarianship into an academic "profession".
I myself also strongly suspect there is a large element of ego in some of these protests. There are probably those who've made careers by espousing the kind of drivel I (after fifteen years) could no longer stand and now cannot endure being mocked and satirised, which I've really enjoyed doing, frankly, and will continue to do. I actually got letter of the month in "Update" once for just repeating some claptrap from one of their articles and contrasting it with a poignant reader's plea - "is there, like, a video rental place for books?" - in the back of the same issue! You couldn't make it up.
But it's important to keep such comments general. I haven't said whom I'd like dumped in Sierra Leone or Egypt, or shot out of the shuttlebay doors of the USS Enterprise in their underpants. I did liken CILIP to the Judean People's Front (Life of Brian) but did not single out a particular member, did try to come halfway with CILIP, and just called for a bit of calm in my contribution of February 15th at 1.48 p.m. I will also alter my position if shown proof of genuine change, but jargon will not impress me.
Rudeness, I would say, is the reaction of someone unable to argue logically or coherently, or at the most basic level, of someone whose ego cannot cope with the possibility that he or she might actually be wrong about something.
Posted by: James Christie at February 20, 2011 6:34 PM