May 10, 2007
About Philip Pettifor
Philip Pettifor is one of the main creators of the current campaign to save the British Public Library Service. Sadly he died, far too young and far too suddenly, earlier this year. We have made this link in his honour and memory.
Philip Pettifor was one of the most cultured people you could have met. He read widely and digested everything; he could recollect astonishing quantities of English literature and history. Yet his early genius was a musician. He was sent to Cambridge as a choir scholar and later became a leading choral tenor in the best choirs of the country.
He made his living as a communications and press agent who worked for many leading British companies advising them how to handle their relations with journalists and with their own staff. In this field he was one of the most respected and liked experts. There was no side to him and he was one of the clearest thinkers one could have met. He not only had a terrific sense of humour and fun but he was also a deeply loyal friend and supporter of those with whom he worked. Many people turned to him in crisis or difficulty and at those times he was a wonderful ally.
He was a natural to the book industry and became involved in communications strategies for both Sherratt and Hughes and then Waterstone's in the late 80's. When the charity Libri was trying to define its view on the state of public libraries in 2001 it was natural to turn to Philip to ask him "What are we trying to say?"
It was Philip's idea that the report "Who's in Charge?" should have the title it carried; and it is a tribute to him that so often it is that question which is raised when there are discussions about how to make improvements in libraries. The report was subjected to his heavy editing skill and has stood scrutiny because of that work.
He wanted to make sure that the national press picked up the problems that were raised by that work and to his great pleasure he obtained more press mention for Libri and the report in the year of it publication than all other public library press combined- including that from the professional and ministerial bodies and the minister himself. Everyone now says- "well that report got a lot of attention" - and that is entirely because of Philip.
I thought it was the best publicity and press campaign I have ever seen in the book publishing industry.
In the year following he created a website and a further report called "From University to Village Hall" which is a wonderful and truthful portrayal of the dismal state of the service. All Philip's material from that website is now available here in this page in his memory.
He was my best friend for twenty years and I talked to him regularly and constantly during the last couple of years when we worked on libraries. We were very close indeed and on the day before he died he made me promise not to give up our work. I miss him greatly.
July 18, 2005
Libri is a new charity. It was formed four years ago by a group of enthusiasts for public libraries dismayed at their recent decline.
Libri’s mission is to encourage a vibrant and relevant public library network, focused on its prime responsibility of providing books the public with a good choice of books for reading and reference. A network where each local library can develop as a centre of community involvement, and which everyone in the local community wants to use.
We believe that the public library service has important lessons to learn from all sectors of the book trade and the information provision sector. Learning the lessons will help create a public library service that is efficient, serves the needs of local communities and maintains public libraries as the heart of community life.
Demand for books has never been greater. The public library service is excluding itself from this trend and the time is ripe for change.
Welcome to Libri
Libri’s new report – From University to Village Hall - is published today July 18th 2005. The report tracks developments in the world of public libraries over the past year since our first report Who's in Charge? was published.
Regrettably we cannot report on any major improvements to the dire situation we reported on last time: book issues continue to decline; costs continue to escalate; value for money is eroding fast. Even the bright spot of a 4% increase in library visitors has failed to stem the decline in book issues. Use of The People’s Network seems to be almost entirely for email and internet (web surfing and searching, downloading music and mobile phone ringtones, online games, plus internet banking, online shopping and flight booking). Web-based chat interaction was also a common use among young people until banned by most library services for safety/security reasons.
In addition we have identified a significant trend for senior librarians and library policy makers - the DCMS and the MLA, among others – (wrongly) to no longer see providing books as a prime responsibility. This became clear during the recent evidence hearings of the Select Committee where witness after witness explained that there were new social roles for libraries to fulfil, only some of which have to do with books. We see this as an excuse for the failure of public libraries to deliver what the public wants. Further, we believe that the public library will fulfil all its social roles if it does books properly: a good modern stock for reading and reference, available at times convenient to the public, and in premises which are welcoming, clean and decent.
The Libri website exists so that you can find relevant information to help you take part in an informed public debate. If there is any other statistical information you would like to have about your locality, write to email@example.com
We said this last year “Public Libraries are on the verge of extinction. Action is needed NOW to halt their decline and renew their central role in community life.” Unfortunately, this continues to be true.
July 16, 2005
Has the tide turned for libraries?
You may have read reports that the tide had turned for libraries. These reports were based on a June 1st 2004 dated press release from the Museums, Libraries, Archives and Libraries Council (MLA) - http://www.mla.gov.uk/news/press_article.asp?articleid=702 - which pointed to a 5 million increase in library visitors.
What the release didn't tell you was that this 5 million represents an increase of just over 1% over the previous year. Another thing the MLA didn't say was that these visitors were not borrowing books.
You can download Libri's analysis of these data in this press release The death of the library book? . You can also download a spreadsheet which gives details of the best and worst performing library authorities.
This year on May 25th 2005, the MLA produced the same good news item - http://www.mla.gov.uk/news/press_article.asp?articleid=808 – with library visits “soaring”. This time it was a 4% increase in visits – and if this means visits are soaring, what word should we use to describe the near 6% fall in book issues. The majority of the increase in visits is due to free computer access via the People’s Network. Very little use is made of the network for lifelong learning, with the bulk of activity being email and internet.
Who's in charge?
Libri's first report Who's in Charge? was published on April 27th 2004. The report by Tim Coates is both an analysis of what is wrong with libraries today and a recipe for their renewal. The report was roundly attacked by many in the library community who do not seem to share either our belief in books, or the need to radically alter the way libraries operate so that they deliver the service the public wants, when and where they want it.
Public libraries, says Tim Coates, have failed to meet “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.”
Tim Coates’s new report – Who's in Charge? - describes the sorry state of public libraries today using data from national sources and from the Hampshire library authority, and presents concrete proposals to rescue the service by making it relevant to the library users of today.
With a long record of success in the book trade - Paul Hamlyn called Tim “the best book-seller in England” – he was nevertheless for many years seen as the bad boy of publishing following his attacks on the – now abolished – price-fixing Net Book Agreement. Tim’s outspoken views on the decline of public libraries over the past five years have not endeared him to librarians. Who’s in charge? is likely to prove equally controversial with the library establishment.
July 15, 2005
Libri comment to DCMS Select Committee response
Given that it has taken the DCMS four months to issue this report, one might have expected more than bland assurances that they had foreseen all the problems identified by the Select Committee, were already implementing the correct measures, and therefore no further action was required.
It displays a lack of leadership to say that extending and implementing key standards - on book loans, materials for the disabled, opening times, value for money, the three "E's", the balance of management and frontline staff, free internet access, and the quality of and response to user consultation - should be left to local authorities. Local authorities are under intense financial pressure and are making the cuts at the points of least resistance. Too often this means libraries. In fulfilling his statutory responsibility of delivering a comprehensive and efficient library service, the Minister must be more creative in devising ways of ensuring delivery which do involve passing the buck to those where the financial pressure is most severe.
It is, of course, always good to see new money provided for libraries.
But we should remember that this £2 million a year for two years represents
just 0.2% of the annual spend on libraries in the UK. We should also
remember that saving £2 million is well within the capability of even a middle-sized library authority which sets out to improve the efficiencies of its book purchasing.
The Libri report - From University to Village Hall - could have been written as a response to the Minister's limp comments to the Select Committee's proposals. Of course libraries need £4 million. But more than that they need leadership and direction - and that is what is lacking at both the DCMS and the MLA.
July 14, 2005
Download From University to Village Hall. Published July 18th 2005
(Left-click to view, right-click and 'Save As' to download).
Libri’s review of the library data from 2003/4 together with highlights of other events in the library world over the past 12 months. In view of the almost zero advances made in the majority of areas – this report says the public library service ‘Must try harder’ or the precipice looms.
Download The death of the Library Book and its spreadsheet. Published October 18th 2004
(Left-click to view, right-click and 'Save As' to download).
Libri's analysis of the 2002/3 data is contained in this press release. The spreadsheet gives details of the best and worst performing library authorities.
Download Who's in charge?. Published April 27th 2004
(Left-click to view, right-click and 'Save As' to download).
Tim Coates controversial paper describing the precarious state of the public library system in the UK as a result of failing to meet the needs of the public. The paper describes what needs to be done to restore the service to its pre-eminent position. Tim says this…. “Public libraries have failed to meet 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.”
July 13, 2005
An article on libraries from the New Statesman's 'Book Business' column.
Library Visits ‘soar’ (by 4%) says MLA. Figures show book issues continue long-term decline by 6%.
David Lammy MP appointed Minister for Culture, including Libraries, at DCMS
Labour Election manifesto makes policy as plain as plain: Where they offer new services like childcare, after-school education for pupils, and IT learning our libraries are successful. We will develop a strategy for the modernisation of our libraries which builds on the best, strengthens library leadership, sharpens customer focus and harnesses local popular support. We will encourage further cooperation in back-office functions and identify the best ways to improve our library infrastructure.
Select Committee report on a ‘failing’ library service. Calls on DCMS to ‘raise its game’: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmcumeds.htm
Minister calls for review of Library Supply Chain and overall efficiency.
26th October 2004
Deborah Orr: A Trip to the Library Should be Inspiring
25th October 2004
CULTURE MEDIA AND SPORT COMMITTEE - New Inquiry: Public Libraries & Press Notice
15th October 2004
Guardian Article: Libraries hit by fall in book borrowing
2nd May 2004
strong>28th April 2004
Reaction to the report in:The Guardian (Leader)
27th April 2004
Libri article on the BBC News website