March 16, 2012
Management of the public library service
You wouldn't rate Ed Vaizey as chief executive of the public library service. He is letting it fall apart
The reason why organisations (in both private and public sectors) have chief executives is so there is someone to whom those who use or pay for the service can look to give an account of what is happening, how money is spent, how plans for improvement are progressing and so forth
It can hardly be disputed that one of the problems with the public library service is the way that it is managed. This is more than an issue of the chief executive- it also lies right throughout the entire organisation.
Who does train the management?
Who decides what the management should be capable of doing?
Who takes responsibility for developing future management?
What is a local public library trying to achieve?
What is the role, in library management, of a council, or the 'profession' or a 'chief librarian'?
And if we can't easily answer these questions, how can we expect the library service to operate and use public money properly?
It isn't just about money-- it's about all this, too.
Posted by Perkins at March 16, 2012 11:32 AM
Well, let's see... Libraries in Bolton, Brighton & Hove, Gloucestershire, West Norwood (London#, Aberbargoed #definitely Wales#, Hertfordshire, Dorset, Bristol, Brent and Denaby and Carcroft #Doncaster#, to be axed; and 21 library and museum posts to be chopped in Hampshire.
Volunteers nobly taking over in Rutland, Oxfordshire, Bidford by Evesham, Studley by Redditch, Trafford #Manchester), North Yorkshire, Camden, Ealing and Dorset. A scheme for Suffolk collapsed so it's goodbye to all that, and all those books...
Self-service creeping in in North Somerset and East Devon; and according to "Public Library News", over 100 libraries have been withdrawn between April 2011 and February 2012.
Ed Vaizey, Minister of Irresponsibility and, supposedly, Culture, met with the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries (FOGL) about library cuts and, in their words: "shifted his ground constantly ... showing ... lack of conviction, or even interest, in the serious plight of the public library service;" did NOT agree "that any library services are in crisis," felt that "there are many situations in which it is appropriate to close libraries" and thinks "communities funding and running their own libraries is a good idea."
He has since ignored FOGL completely, to the extent that they've submitted a formal complaint against him and, according to the International Business Times, he thinks staff cuts are "an opportunity."
Some libraries have been saved, and there's even a billionaire in San Francisco by the name of Brewster Kahle building a repository of every physical book ever printed in case of a cataclysmic internet failure; but that doesn't change the fact that, more than ever, the library service and most of this country is being run by a lily-livered bunch of spineless jerks who wouldn't know how to commit to a belief or ethos if it hit them in the face. They either shift their ground or blame the previous party in power for everything including the weather.
In Mark Steyn's recent work "After America: get ready for Armageddon" he sums the whole problem up as a loss of spine on the part of the West (my words, read the book and see what you think); Ed Vaizey is obviously hoping the whole problem will solve itself via the noble efforts of well-meaning volunteers, closures, burgeoning self-service, more closures and gradual erosion. I think his actual intention is literally to do nothing.
He's as fit for the job as Jabba the Hut would be to run the Triathlon.
Posted by: James Christie at March 18, 2012 8:50 PM