July 19, 2012
If Dan Jarvis believes the DCMS are not competent to handle public libraries why is he asking them to conduct a review of ebook lending?
Dan Jarvis (The Shadow Minister for the Arts, with responsiblity for public libraries) is playing the age old game of blaming the other party for stuff when his own party is just as useless
The proper response to anything he or his sidekick send out is "What about Brent and Lewisham ?- your party is just as incompetent as any other"
However he and the Societies of Authors and Librarians and the good campaigners of Gloucestershire are rightly pointing out (in an article in the Bookseller) that the DCMS is a complete shambles - as it always has been when dealing with public libraries. Their library shelf has thirty reports and studies gathering dust from the last ten years alone.
So, my question is, Why, if they are so useless, are we asking the DCMS to conduct a review of the problem of ebooks in libraries? They are not competent, qualified or in a position to influence what councils or librarians will do. They are a waste of time and money - and we haven't got any of those to spare.
There is no one in the English public library service who can tackle problems of ebooks or anything else. Because the administration of the library service is washed up, down the pan, finished. Money is better spent in local councils buying more books, or on something else altogether. The English public library service is an unmanageable, irredeemable mess. It is doomed to miserable decline and failure. The hurtful thing is that the pain and the suffering will go on for another ten years. Then it will gasp its last.
Don't be surprised to find that on that day that the last trumpet sounds for libraries, the wallies in the DCMS will still be drawing large salaries and writing letters to tell everyone it was never anything to do with them.
Mr Jarvis should stop playing politics and sort out his own back yard. The Labour Party and Brent Council have still not asked All Souls college 'please can we have our library back in Kensal Rise? We are very sorry, we didn't mean to destroy it and show such ingratitude for the gift you gave us; we will pay to repair the building and run a decent library as we always should have done; please accept humble apologies for our terrible and appalling behaviour".
That is what Dan Jarvis should be doing and saying. It would be a lot more impressive than whingeing about the DCMS who his predecessors failed to sort out in all the years they were in charge
July 15, 2012
We should pay librarians, authors, editors and publishers
In the debate about public libraries there is lot of proper argument that librarians, those people who actually work in public libraries and help readers with their questions, should be paid - because they need to be expert and experienced. It is a fair and valid argument supported by experience to be correct - libraries run by free volunteers rarely function properly.
But much of the same debate insists that the books should be free to be read and loaned. That means, although we don't often say it, that (apart from the purchase of one first copy which is then read many times) we don't pay the people who wrote them or illustrate them, the people who prepare and give them most of their quality, the people who print them and indeed the people who invested in the creation and the labour of producing them. That, when you think about it, doesn't seem fair
We shouldn't fool ourselves that the 'Public Lending Right (PLR)' payment is proper compensation for this work: firstly it only goes to authors, and not to editors and publishers, and secondly it is a token amount. It is a very important device, but it is more symbolic than it represents true worth. For 300 million book loans last year PLR paid out about £6m - which is 2p per loan, or £2 for a 100 readers. Not even two cups of tea.
We may well believe that people need access to free books, but that doean't mean we should not pay the people who create and make them. For example, we believe that people should have free access to medicine and health care- but nobody suggests we should not pay doctors, or nurses or the people who make medicines. They get paid, and the subsidy is for the whole service, not just part of it.
We give older people free bus passes, but we still pay the bus drivers who look after them and the people who made the buses still have their income.
The big problem which the public library faces is that has always worked on an ill thought-out basis - and present circumstances are questioning everything. We should pay everyody fairly and properly - but we can't afford to, evidently, and carry on in the way that we always have.
That is why the advent of ebooks has raised such an impasse - the librarians want to be paid - but so, too, does everyone else involved with creating the books. It's not hard to understand but it is proving difficult to resolve. It might help if everyone understood the problem.
July 7, 2012
The DCMS is to close
Over many years Perkins has exerted a powerful influence particularly in bringing to an end the careers of many who have been responsible for damaging the public library service.
Included in her list of trophies are several Ministers under the Labour Government (Lammy, McIntosh etc), two chief executives and chairmen and indeed the whole body of the MLA; She was the cause of the end of the appalling regional MLA offices; Perkins brought about the end of the dreadful London Libraries Change Programme. She played a powerful part in the closure of the ridiculous Audit Commission (where the executives spent a lot of time at the races). She has seen the departure of several chief librarians.
It is a proud record - some of the achievements have taken much longer than they should have done - the SCL still survives, for the time being and so, indeed, does the LGA, despite Perkins' unwelcome attentions. Even the House of Lords is on Perkins' hit list
But now Perkins can proudly announce what may be her best achievement so far: the DCMS is to close- announcements will be made after the Olympic Games (unless they make such a hash of their contribution that the closure needs to come earlier
Bye Bye Dempster,Criag and Jonathan and and all the Sarah's and Ian's and Catherine's. You have comprehensively ruined the library service, so it is time to go
Oh - and bye bye Ed.
July 6, 2012
A letter from Dempster Marples
The Culture Select Committee of the House of Commons recently held an inquiry into public library closures. Their report is still awaited.
From the list of evidence they received it is hard to tell what line of approach they used, but in my view what they should have done was to ask people from all over the country of their experiences when faced with the possible closures or the downgrqding of the standard of service
Then the evidence would have descrinbed the extraordinary difficulties local councils place in the way of intelligent people asking to be told about the factual matters that relate to their local services. They would have seen the incomprehensible language that is used, the astonishing inability to account for simple expenditures, the bizarre use of language for subjects which have no technical content whatsoever.
They would have been told about the evasion, the lies and the incompetence that characterises local government in our country, among both highly and low paid officials and from councillors themselves. It would have been and is an extraordinary saga
They would have seen how that type of behaviour is not confined to local government, but operates in the government departments, offfiiclal central bodies, the House of Lords and indeed of most MP's themselves - who often present themselves as inept in public administration to a degree which is frightening
And in the particular matter of public libraries they would have been shown the many letters written by a gentleman whose mother called Dempster Marples and the dossier of absurd correspondence written in the name of Jonathan Stephens and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport
And of course they would have assembled the sorry tale of Minister Ed Vaizey and the attempts that have been made by ordinary plain, sensible citizens to bring him into the land of the sane, the mildly interested and the living- while they watched their library service be destroyed for no good reason at all.
I have been recipient of most of the emails that circulate upon this matter and I could even prepare a book of them - to show what a crazy world our governors inhabit- and it would be called "A letter from Dempster Marples"
Bless Mrs Marples