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Summary – 8th March: Library Activism

1. Have you been involved in any library activism?

  • Website for Friends of local branch library group
  • No – because so far there are no cuts in local public library service (but would get involved if there were)
  • Worked with students (in US academic library). Worked with campus diversity and social justice groups: connecting people with resources on issues they felt were important campus-wide
  • Local authority library workers can’t speak out: but other professionals can speak out without immediate accusation of self interest e.g. nurses, teachers
  • Disappointed in the lack of protests from the general public about the general state of some of our libraries – e.g. messy shelves as no time to shelve

2. Aside from marching what else can we do, and are they effective?

  • Campaign – anything that gets attention (media, public) for your cause is good
  • Use Twitter to build influential contacts, especially in the media. They are all out there waiting!
  • Target school kids & teens! They are the library users of tomoro, we need them on board to secure a future for libraries
  • Create events aimed at youth so they grow up with libraries being a major part of their lives they can’t do without (what happened to CILIP Start with the Child programme?)
  • BabyBounce/Storytime, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man for life”
  • We need services for younger people, too.  Services for 11-14s often get “lost”
  • Reaching out to teens and kids is good, but not sure what will be left by time they’re old enough to vote!
  • Work with young people i.e. DoE volunteers 6th formers doing enrichment activities
  • The point is to reach people at all ages. Don’t just reallocate staff; have staff dedicated to young people’s services
  • On retirement as academic librarian became chair of local Friends group: speak to parish councils and write for parish magazines re public libraries
  • Activism doesn’t have to be national, local can often have a big impact on service users.
  • What became of the WI petition which garnered 17,000 + signatures bit.ly/oSYuEJ
  • Testimonials and petitions – it seems politicians don’t want to listen to people saying libraries are important

3. Are you going to the 13th March London Rally, how are you preparing for it?

  • Going [to the rally] for @whlibraries#lovelibraries #savelibraries. Hoping to lobby MP
  • I’m not attending any rallies, I am helping with library camps. Get togethers for staff to meet and swap ideas
  • Library camps are a great step, but how to inspire demoralized staff to attend/find time for them
  • I will be going to the library rally! I’d be good to meet up with fellow tweeters
  • I’ve never been to a rally before, but I feel like if I don’t do something to show my support, can’t cry when it goes
  • I can’t go to the library rally, as I am currently in the US! Otherwise I would be there for sure

4. If a million people marching in London failed to stop the war with Iraq, what does it take to directly affect government policy?

  • The advantage over the Iraq war protests is that opposition to library closures truly cuts across political lines
  • But ‘library’ can mean opposite things for different supporters: for a lot it’s still a quiet place with books, none of that fandangly technology DVDs taking up space
  • The failure of one is irrelevant. We try or we give in. Need to engage, debate and argue our case persuasively
  • The public loves its’ libraries, even if they don’t use them. We need to harness this, get them to use libraries
  • The issue is not how we get people to use libraries but how we integrate services with public education & access, and also how we provide outreach so that libraries are where people see them/need them
  • Need more plans of actions for individual libraries, as well as a forum/demonstration that brings them all together. For example, no library closures where I worked, but significant staff cuts that hugely damaged the service. But didn’t know how to fight back

5. What action could we take that might make politicians fear for their parliamentary seats?

  • 50+ age group very important politically and to libraries. Surely we can find support there?
  • Difficult to argue with councillors about library cuts when they have no budget from central government

5.a. Why do the libraries not have a single national presence? Does the fact we speak as individual authorities diminish our voice?

  • Central control might be damaging to services individually tailored to specific groups, but it does seem to diminish solidarity, even awareness of what is going on in different authorities
  •  I think I’d like to see library workers have a single presence, but libraries remain under local control
  • Until recently there was MLA, which of course was central (if not necessarily effective)
  • Scandinavian countries have a national library system. The public can borrow from any library.
  • Localism better for public libraries since funded by councils, and perhaps in future by districts
  • We need both local and national activism. At the moment activism is almost, solely localised
  • It might make a huge difference to be able to “attack”/collaborate on both fronts

6. What are the ethics of motivating volunteers in sectors being cut?

  • Volunteers keeping libraries open in evening or offering story time doing jobs paid staff used to
  • How would you feel about volunteers in other areas of local government, if it could bring your council tax down?
  • Who’s coordinating the volunteers? That’s a huge task in itself, likely requiring at least one paid post (possibly more)
  • Looks as if Friends group may be coordinating volunteers – OK if you have time and experience
  • Would be open to volunteer-run services only if they are effective & implemented by those working in service
  • Problem with many volunteer schemes: they seem to be set in place by those unfamiliar with spec. service demands
  • I volunteer for delivery of books to housebound but that service is not offered by paid staff
  • The main concern is if volunteers leave. If someone’s coordinating, programme has longevity. If not, service dies
  • Better that library service coordinates volunteers and have job descriptions, CRB checks and line managers (as opposed to Friends of Library group).
  • I’m a volunteer at a museum, however I go in when I like, I’m under no obliged hours, and museum doesn’t depend on me to run!
  • There is room for volunteers and it’s a good way to pick up experience, but SHOULD NOT be used to replace paid staff completely

7. Is there a quantifiable economic argument for keeping public branch libraries open?

  • If you use the library, it’s incredible value for money (a few pence for all that service!).
  • If you don’t use the library, other arguments can still be made (i.e. quality of life for others = quality for you) but that isn’t really an economic argument. (However I suspect there are many that can be made.)

8. What role do you think that central government should have in local authority library policy?

  • I like the idea of there being national communication, but any type of national agenda/control worry me because part of a vibrant library is its response to a specific local community. That’s harder to meet with national agenda
  • Central government should ensure local authorities do not ignore their duties or run down lib service
  • Hard when it seems to be central government who wants to see everything dismantled and privatised. Not holding my breath
  • The question was what central government should do rather than what the current government is doing – Ed Vaizey and Jeremy Hunt should be reminded of their job
  • MLA standards – but what now that MLA is gone?
  • National standards sound good, but I worry libraries will have to cope with demands unreasonable to their specific service
  • There are currently no standards of any kind. Up to the Secretary of State to uphold “comprehensive + efficient” service but no definition.
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One comment on “Summary – 8th March: Library Activism

  1. mace
    March 18, 2012

    Soooo much good stuff here, much appreciated!! Thanks for documenting the chats! I’m trying to be online whenever i can, but these summaries are great.

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This entry was posted on March 18, 2012 by in Discussion Summaries and tagged , , , , .

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