The second recommendation of the Carnegie report is

Strengthen status and voice in local authority structures

The reason why this is important is that at present the library sector has no effective influence at all over local councils.

It needs to have: and budget time is key
The normal process is this: the council finance director asks the director responsible for libraries to propose how to find £250k savings.

The director asks the chief librarian to do that without proposing closures, as they will be politically unacceptable.
The chief librarian responds by proposing

- 'use volunteers'
- 'cut opening hours'
- 'cut the book fund'

We have to break that cycle - it is killing
By mid January, after some tinkering, the cabinet of the council approves that plan

Then it becomes an issue for the press office to handle and to ward off any 'campaigners' who might object, by whatever means they can devise (consultations etc)

And in March it is done.
In making that proposal, the chief librarian will have said that 'volunteers are part of government community strategy' ; 'libraries are more than about books' and all that kind of stuff. So the cabinet of the council feel they are generally conforming to what people want.
And then, if, the local paper still gets cross about what's being done, everybody blames Central Government for being beastly, austere, capitalist etc etc.

It's easy to blame them. But they have nothing to do with what happened.
That's how we have ended up with public libraries with no books, ridiculous short opening hours, run by part time volunteers nobody using them and everybody in the office saying how wonderful they are for the community.

It's much worse than silly.
So what should have happened?

When the director and the chief librarian were asked to find savings, they should have said 'the priority is to improve the book collections, increase opening hours and provide trained staff. We will meet the budget requirement by cutting overhead'
I think I can honestly say that in twenty years I have NEVER EVER seen a chief librarian or senior member of the UK library profession advise that the spending priorities are books, opening hours and trained staff.

And they wonder why politicians don't support them.
Then we find that the 'sector' bodies (DCMS, ACE,LC etc) are actually chief librarians themselves, or represent them or confer with them.

So, instead of them attempting to understand the public need or speak for it, they always support what the chief librarians want and do.
And if these bodies were to find a way to speak to local council leaders, they would merely underline the mantra

More volunteers
Less Books
Shorter opening
More library 'trusts', which is an initiative to give chief librarians more freedom, and nothing to do with public need
And the end result of this, which has been going on for decades, is that the public library service is fast running out of any popular public appeal

But those in charge keep telling us how well they are doing- which is just their way of asking for more money.

It's very crazy
And if anyone wanted to see this process in action, you have only to look, for example, in

Essex
Sheffield
Devon
Lewisham

And many many more
For me, the biggest and most unpleasant deceit- which is perpetual, is that somehow 'librarians' and 'the library profession' and the 'library sector' are honourable and noble

Their constant recitation of how wonderful they are is an evasion and a delusion. Look at the figures.
People say to me - 'you won't make progress by criticising the people in charge'

Nonsense - the people in charge shouldn't be there

We need some truth and reality. What matters isn't the sensitivity of a few, but the public library service for everybody.
In summary - if, in your council, it is proposed that the libraries should be run by volunteers, the book fund should be cut, opening hours should be reduced or there should be some kind of trust or charity

Those proposals have come from chief librarians. They are plain wrong.
And I would be quite happy to sit with the leader of any council and show and explain to them what they should do.

They can meet any sensible budget pressure they need - but not in the ways that are being proposed to them.

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