Tuesday, 8 June 2010
Q: How is a library like a charity shop?
Or so said Alan Downey, one of the authors of the KPMG report 'Payment for Success - How to shift power from Whitehall to public service customers', on this morning's Today Programme.
Now, I'm not a public librarian, and I haven't the time or the intellectual capabilities to write the cutting analysis this deserves, but I would like to make few points in a slightly ranty fashion:
1. Mr Downey makes running a charity shop sound like a piece of cake. I doubt that it actually is.
2. People aren't falling over themselves to run charity shops as he suggests - several in the neighbourhood in which I live (not the classiest end of Cambridge) have recently closed, or are open only restricted hours.
3. Even given that running a charity shop isn't simple, running a successful library, especially in the areas where they are currently undervalued, is probably significantly more difficult.
4. If libraries (and other currently public-sector services) are going to be run in volunteers in the future, where are the skilled volunteers going to come from once the current crop of probably retired trained former-librarians has run out?
So, what to do? Many people are tweeting about this, which I suppose engenders a feeling of collective dismay (much better than being miserable alone). I suppose I'd like someone (CILIP? the MLA?) to make a hard-hitting statement about the value of libraries and the importance of professional librarians, but I'm not so hopeful. Maybe I'll contribute to the CILIP Conversation ('Defining our professional future') on this topic once I'm feeling a bit more coherent.
Edited to add: Better rants have been written by Elspeth Hyams and Bethan - go and check them out.
Further addition: There's a post and discussion about this on the CILIP Information and Advice Blog and at Optimus Librarian.