Advocating for libraries in an era of cuts


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A presentation on public library cuts updated from June 2012 for a lecture at the University of Strathclyde in January 2013.

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  • Introduction PhD student and campaigner/advocate
  • Unstable environment – extent of cuts in socio-political context Money being spent on nuclear weapons – but apparently there is no money
  • Stakeholders: Government, local council, library users, community groups, whole of society, local business, publishers, authors
  • Arts Council England taken over responsibilities from DCMS – massively reduced budget, lack of expertise, not sure what they’re doing
  • Ebook publishers Very difficult to sort out ebook contracts with public libraries at the moment Some debate about whether libraries should even offer ebooks - do they need to be provided through individual authorities paying for contracts or could one national body do that and make it cheaper and more efficient Issues with different types of ebook
  • Questions about what public libraries should be like – at the same time as fighting against closures and cuts, trying to articulate different ideas about how libraries need to improve when there’s not a clear sense of what the role of libraries actually is Emphasising the role of the library – advocacy Some people have a traditional view of libraries – not realistic? Should it seek to encourage people to have aspirations? Should they stock populist material
  • Challenging cuts - activism
  • Legal challenges have had different outcomes. Some campaigns have considered legal action but not been able to follow through due to lack of funding. Some have been granted legal aid but had to find half the funding themselves. Some decided against going to court because they don’t want to ask taxpayers to pay for a service and pay to defend the service they’re already paying for. Councils have responded in different ways – some backed down before it even went to court, some were confident they’d be okay and have been, some have been caught out. Some have changed plans, some ploughing ahead with minimal amendments.
  • National Libraries Day
  • Implications of cuts – what solutions councils are coming up with All of them have their downsides
  • Closures
  • Volunteer libraries
  • Alternative governance – privatisation and outsourcing LSSI backing out of tender bids Not obliged to give FoI responses or make their accounts open to public
  • Values Trying to advocate values – councils often don’t get it Libraries serve humanity  : This law encompasses the assistance of individuals and the lofty ideal of the “furtherance of the higher aspirations of mankind”. [18]:8  This law also implies an altruistic desire to provide a quality service and to exceed the expectations of all users. Respect all forms by which knowledge is communicated  : Gorman advocates the use of various forms of “carriers of knowledge and information”. [18]:9  He recommends a utilitarian approach – using whatever is more effective, cost effective, or advantageous. Use technology intelligently to enhance service  : Librarians, Gorman argues, must welcome and integrate new technologies. Yet he is clear that print-on-paper will remain the “pre-eminent medium for the communication of cumulative knowledge”  [18]:10-11  Technology must be used to solve problems and improve services, and achieve cost-effectiveness, rather than adopted for its own sake. [18]:10 Protect free access to knowledge  : Allowing the records of the past to disappear is, from Gorman’s perspective, “a kind of censorship”. [18]:11  It is the librarian’s responsibility to ensure intellectual freedom because Gorman asserts, a “society without uncensored libraries is a society open to tyranny”. [18]:11 Honor the past and create the future  : Gorman advocates the need to balance nostalgia for a pre-digital past with the need to embrace new technologies, in a selective way based upon the extent to which they will enhance the library service. [18]:1  He points to a need to respect the accomplishments of predecessors in the field of information science, whilst celebrating new developments in the field of librarianship.
  • Need for professionals Reference skills
  • Public lending right – responsibilities possibly being handed to British Library Possibly not going to include lending from volunteer libraries Argument that it works well as it is and doesn’t need to be moved Concern that standards will drop and authors will lose out Won’t be available for volunteer run library loans
  • Literacy Research has shown that children who use libraries are more than twice as likely to have an above average reading age It’s about functional literacy but imagination, empathy, care for the world around them as well
  • Fragmentation
  • Advocating for libraries in an era of cuts

    1. 1. Advocating for libraries in an era of cuts Lauren Smith Department of Computer and Information Science University of Strathclyde image
    2. 2. Spending Cuts • £81bn cut from public spending over four years • 7% cut for local councils • 265 libraries (224 buildings and 41 mobiles) are currently under threat or have been closed/left council control since 1/4/12 out of c. 4612 in the UK • Emphasis on Localism for provision of public servicesCC image
    3. 3. “There Is No Alternative” • Tax avoidance and evasion by corporations and the rich and is estimated to cost the state £95bn a year • Average pay of FTSE 100 directors has risen 55% • Corporation tax has been cut • The government have not delivered on a manifesto pledge to clamp down on tax avoidance • Last year banks paid out over £7bn in bonuses • There has been no reform of the banks image
    4. 4. Stakeholders
    5. 5. Arts Council England • Museums, Libraries and Archives Council abolished October 2011 • Responsibilities passed to Arts Council England • £13m funds cut to £3m • ‘Envisioning the Library of the Future’ May 2012 • Expertise in arts rather than education – emphasis on cultureCC image
    6. 6. eBook Publishers • DRM • Pricing structures • Remote lending • Compatible formats • Whether publishers want to work in partnership with libraries at allCC image
    7. 7. The Role of the Public Library • Education? • Aspirational? • Entertainment? • Populist? • Leisure? • Symbolic? • Information? • Neutral? • Entertainment? • Values?CC image
    8. 8. Campaigning • Local campaign groups • Voices for the Library • The Library Campaign • UNISON • Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) • The Bookseller • Authors • Campaign for the BookCC image
    9. 9. Legal Challenges • May 2011: Legal action underway in Suffolk until council performed u-turn • November 2011: High Court ruling that Gloucestershire County Council’s original plans for public library service cuts were unlawful • March 2012: Court found Surrey Council’s plans for volunteer libraries were unlawful • July 2012: Application for Judicial Review in Doncaster challenging elected mayor’s refusal to change budget despite two thirds of councillors voting in favour of an amendmentCC image
    10. 10. #NLD13• Many local authorities banned from holding events
    11. 11. CC image
    12. 12. Closures • Reduced access to learning and information resources • Impact on schools and home-schoolers • Impact on communities and local businesses • Impact on community space • Impact on reputation of council • Impact on authors and publishersCC image
    13. 13. Local Solutions for Future Local Library Services• Public-private partnership• Merging with GP surgery• Merging council, police and cultural services• Merging library service across councils• Merging different types of library
    14. 14. “There have already been library closures andmany of these new projects are in their infancy.Though we hope they all succeed this is far fromguaranteed. Its vital government recognises thatthis record of innovation does not mean it cankeep cutting funding and expect councils to workmiracles, perpetually doing more with less.Theres a critical mass and were already stretchedto the limit. Further cuts on top of those werealready managing could well result in libraryclosures across much of the country.” Local Government Association
    15. 15. Volunteer-Run Libraries Benefits Drawbacks •Community •Pressure on involvement and communities control •Sustainability •Library remains open •Quality •Cheaper for council •Skills •Legal issuesCC image
    16. 16. ‘Community’ Libraries• Variety of models of community library• Can be statutory – but no mention of what they need to consider other than not charging for books (e.g. will they be responsible for decisions about what donated stock to keep?)• Concern report encourages replacement of trained, paid staff with volunteers• unity_libraries_report_guiding_principles.pdf
    17. 17. Community interest cannot be assumed, but needsto be assessed. Some communities are less able toget involved with service delivery and aresometimes less interested. Often, suchcommunities are the very ones that most readilybenefit from the provision of library services.Therefore, councils should consider whether it isappropriate to offer additional tailored support inthese areas. Arts Council England (2013) “Learning from Experience: guiding principles for local authorities”
    18. 18. Opening the door to privatisationIn areas with less capacity for communityaction, there may well be local communitytrusts or social enterprises which do have thecapacity to lead on the delivery of acommunity library and who may have a trackrecord in engaging the local community. Somelibrary authorities have used this route toinvolve communities, where it has localsupport. Arts Council England (2013) “Learning from Experience: guiding principles for local authorities”
    19. 19. Privatisation • Open Public Services agenda • Profit motive • Potential charging for services • Cost to council • Loss of neutrality • Risk of bankruptcy • Lack of transparency • Reduced staff pensions and employment rightsCC image
    20. 20. Library Values 1. Libraries serve humanity 2. Respect all forms by which knowledge is communicated 3. Use technology intelligently to enhance service 4. Protect free access to knowledge 5. Honor the past and create the future Gorman, M. (1995) ‘Five new laws of librarianship’. American Libraries, 26 (8), pp.784-5CC image
    21. 21. Librarians and Library Staff • Professional education • Trained, skilled and experienced • Technical abilities • Collection management • Neutral and non-judgemental • Paid to perform tasks volunteers may not want toCC image
    22. 22. Public Lending Right • DCMS Consultation on proposals to transfer PLR funding and functions to British Library from PLR in Stockton on Tees • PLR will not apply to volunteer-run libraries that are not part of statutory provision • Copyright legislation means that volunteer libraries may need licence from author to loan booksCC image
    23. 23. Literacy "According to Unesco (the United Nations agency which promotes knowledge), the biggest single indicator of whether a child is going to thrive at school and in work is whether or not they read for pleasure.” Frank Cottrell Boyce image
    24. 24. Fragmentation • Lack of national standards for libraries • ‘Postcode lottery’ across country and within local authorities • Inefficient, un-networked service locally and nationallyCC image