Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The future of libraries debate

There was an interesting editorial in The Guardian today.


A week ago this appeared on the BBC site.

Tim Coates, who is a library campaigner and consultant, said: "I believe we will lose between 600 to a 1,000 libraries in the next 12-18 months and that may be only the beginning, we are seeing the destruction of the public library service."


And on this morning's Radio 4 you could have heard this:

a 30 minute programme about libraries still available on BBC iPlayer

What's the Point of... Series 33 The Public Library

Former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, campaigner Tim Coates and Arts minister Edward Vaizey join Quentin Letts as he asks, what's the point of the public library? (NB: Quentin Letts sounded to me as though he was playing Devil's Advocate, or trying to stir up an argument).


And if you missed it - there was a five minute discussion on The Today Programme back on 24th August 2010.

Library Usage is 'rather depressing'.

Richard Charkin, of Bloomsbury Publishing, and author Marina Lewycka debate why people do not use libraries as much as they used to.


But to finish on a more positive note, here you can find The Reading Agency strongly defending the value of the Summer Reading Challenge (administered through the library services), in the Education section of The Guardian.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Make 'em less attractive and you can close 'em down...

Libraries need investment to thrive

An article in yesterday's Guardian by John Harris that speaks for itself, and needs no comment from me...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Job Hunting, or borrowing fishing rods...

Public Libraries: enablers of Americans' dreams...

...a friend forwarded me the link to this interesting article on Common Ground (originally published in the Seattle Times)...

I found it useful to compare how libraries are adapting to changing circumstances, about how communities push back when attempts to close libraries are made, how they adjust to lowered funding, etc.

I fond especially interesting the quoted fact that Andrew Carnegie originally planned a place that would attract young people in, and only then encourage them to read...with him it was swimming pools or boxing gyms, with us it is free computer access...

Very intriguing, to compare the similiarities, and contrast the differences, between the library's function in the US and in the UK (for instance).

Saturday, August 21, 2010

De-skilling libraries

Read this article about 'privatising libraries by stealth' - Terence Blacker in The Independent...

"A country's public library service is a sure indicator of how highly it values its citizens, its children and its future. There may well be a place for the new localism around the outer fringes of the service – the library is a focus of local life, after all – but, if the Government allows it to slip into decline in the hollow name of community, Ed Vaizey's promises and his boss's Big Society will be exposed as a heartless sham."

Yup, here we go again - libraries run as sort of charity swap shops, by a bunch of local volunteers...only Tories who can afford to buy what they want when they want it could ignore the 'added value' libraries bring to communities, particularly in deprived areas.

The Big Society, huh. What a lame, and unvivid image. Apparently "The Big Society is a society in which we as individuals don’t feel small."

The Future Libraries Programme from the Ministry of Culture, Media and Sport (which just about sums up the government's level of cultural appreciation).

The press release.

Watch the speech.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Poems about libraries

I stumbled over a translation of one of Ernst Jandl's poems the other day, so this may become an occasional theme...


all those letters
that can’t get out of their words
all those words
that can’t get out of their sentences

all those sentences
that can’t get out of their texts
all those texts
that can’t get out of their books

all those books
covered with all that dust
the good cleaner lady
with the duster

(tr. by Peter Lach-Newinsky)

peter lach-newinsky's word and image lab

Poem found at this page

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Missing Stock

It is sad to read how much of our stock is unavailable to new library users, either seriously overdue (and unlikely to come back) or simply 'Lost or Stolen'.

South Wales Echo 6th Aug 2010

The glib answer is that people have forgotten what libraries really are - the whole idea of 'borrowing and returning' (i.e. sharing) perhaps so out of date in a world where people like 'owning' things.

With houses, perhaps the illusion that you 'own' it makes you feel secure, but with a book you will never read twice, it seems folly to clutter that very house up with stuff that needs dusting.


Libraries have tried Amnesties (they don't really work) and a few years ago even tried a 'recovery firm' which threatened people with fines, loss of credit rating, etc - and we recovered a large amount of stock (and got some fines paid off, too) but that seems like a guaranteed way of losing our friendly image.

That very 'friendly and tolerant' image, however, makes us a target for amateur and professional thieves - as shop-lifting here is so much less dangerous than in a big store. And in the past people taken to court have been found not guilty when they claimed they intended to return the stock, had forgotten to put it on their card, etc.

I suspect that 'educating the public' into these old socialist ways (sharing, access to tools for the poor, etc) might prove very difficult, but perhaps the Green argument might eventually prevail.

Buy reference books, and things you might need for some time, borrow material you only wish to use once.
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