Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Five things I want to happen in 2012

‘Tis the season for arbitrary lists. At this time of year, we exercise our human urge (or perhaps just librarianly urge) to rank, classify, and categories our experiences and we consume ‘top tens’ of books, films, music, or fantastically tedious graphs from across the year, lists of cultural events in order of significance, and lists of resolutions or wishes for the coming year. Last year, my arbitrary list looked back on the year just passed; this year, I want to look forward to the year ahead. These are some of the things I want to happen in 2012.

I want...

...the DCMS Select Committee on Public Library Closures to make the right decisions.

Next year, the Department of Culture, Media and Sports is launching an inquiry into the public library closures across the UK. This is due to the “unprecedented cuts in library services throughout the country and the inaction of the relevant ministers” *coughEdVaizeycough*. This inquiry has fantastic potential for public libraries: high-ranking Members of Parliament will be discussing libraries and the value of libraries for communities and we have an opportunity to influence their discussion and make sure that they see the right evidence. Some of the ideal results of this Committee inquiry include the strengthening of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, a firm definition of “comprehensive and efficient library service”, increased protection of trained and paid library staff, and a moratorium on all closures until more research has been conducted on the impact of closures and until councils have done proper consultations with their constituents. This ideal scenario depends entirely on what kind of evidence the Committee receives and so I urge everyone reading this to stop reading this and go write some evidence.

Read Voices for the Library’s post and read John Kirriemuir’s post. Voices would like evidence sent to us by the 20th of December; the Committee wants correctly formatted evidence sent to them by the 12th of January. This is our chance to make a real difference for threatened public libraries so please take some time over the holidays to write something about why libraries are important.

...CILIP to become an organisation to be proud of.

I am a member of CILIP. I have been a member of CILIP since I started pursuing librarianship in 2009. But I don’t think CILIP is perfect and I certainly don’t support everything that comes out of it. This year I gave serious thought as to whether I should renew my membership or not. Every time I think about CILIP’s problems, I think about this blog post from Phil Bradley. I think about what our professional organisation could be; I think about what our profession would be like without a central organisation; I think about the professional organisation described in this paragraph:

CILIP HQ: the heart of librarianship in the UK?

This professional organisation could provide really good recruitment facilities, it would be able to represent librarians in their organisations, it would be able to be the voice that librarians scared for their jobs could listen speaking on their behalf. It would be able to talk to LIS schools, enthusing students, it could get into career seminars for children still at school. It could really assist and inform employers on what qualifications a 'professional librarian' should have, and it could help monitor them.

And then I renew my membership. Because I want that professional organisation and, for the moment, I think the benefits of CILIP outweigh the problems. Next year, the President and the Vice President will be two people who I know want to do the best job they can, who I know are willing to make personal sacrifices for libraries, and who I hope will make CILIP into the organisation described above. Good luck, Phil and Lauren (and continued good luck to Annie). While CILIP still stands up for the profession, I will support it.

...more discussion about a UK National Digital Library.

Earlier this year, Ed Vaizey said he had no plans to establish a National Digital Library service for the UK. As electronic materials, ebooks, and the Web become more important in education, in research, for leisure, and in most spheres of life, it seems short-sighted to not plan to develop our national electronic resource services. Although the country is planning on spending billions of pounds on our transport infrastructure and on certain 2-week sporting events, our information infrastructure is falling behind. We desperately need more of our national information materials to be made accessible for more people and we need to ensure that materials owned by the public don’t fall into private-sector hands like those of Google Books. The books and documents in our libraries belong to us: we need to have access to them and we need to digitally preserve them for a future that’s speeding towards us.

...less conflict, more communication.

It seems like there has been more conflict between different groups in the past few years. Between the rich and the poor; between the public sector and the private sector; even arguments about something as innocuous as public libraries tend to turn vitriolic and divisive. On a large scale, there is a widening divide between the haves and the have nots: this year we had riots across England which were quickly blamed on a feral underclass and we still have Occupy movements across the Western world protesting the divide between the 1% and the 99%. George Monbiot writes about this divide and the media coverage of it here.

The riots in Salford. Can't we all just get along?
On a smaller scale, there are divides between librarians of different sectors: fragmentation of the profession was a talking point earlier this year and since we’re all stretched thin working with reduced budgets, fewer resources, and fewer staff, we have less time for communication with each other.

The solution to our conflicts is communication. We need to talk to one another, we need to pool our talents, and we need to share resources – nationally and locally. In terms of librarianship, disparate groups working towards the same end need to communicate to avoid pointless duplication of efforts. In terms of the national picture, we need to understand other groups: we need the traditional political right-wing to stop blaming the poor for being poor and we need the traditional political left-wing to stop villifying the rich many of whom have legitimate belief systems and real human concerns. We need everyone to talk to everyone else to reach compromise with regards to the sharing of resources. Basically in 2012 we need to understand one another: to put on someone else’s shoes and walk around in them.

...all of us to make these things happen.

These things won’t just happen. The future is not immutable. We make it how we want it to be. If we want the above things to happen in 2012, we need to make them happen. We need to think about what we want and we need to take action. What do you want to happen in 2012 and how do you intend to make it happen?