Sunday, 11 December 2011

The thin end of the wedge

For God's Sake. Peter Andre and Boris Johnson reading books. And people "buy" this?

"Mayor of London to recruit ‘library champions’ to boost library services", as publicised on this PR website. The Huff has an even crazier piece.

You put lipstick on a pig, and it's still a pig. You make a skilled librarian redundant and replace him or her with a 'library champion', and you're still sacking a skilled professional and replacing them with an unskilled volunteer.

Lipstick on a pig

Any education or library organisation that buys into this is either naive, stupid, gullible, or politically weak. "The Love Libraries programme is being delivered by a consortium of organisations made up of the Association of London Chief Librarians, the Reading Agency, and Chief Leisure Officers Association ... Mike Clarke, Chair of Association of London Chief Librarians, commented: 'London's public libraries already benefit from thousands of volunteer hours every year but we think there is potential for much more. This isn't about replacing the valued paid staff...'"


Maybe you honestly think that, Mike. Or maybe you're a bit thick; or maybe I'm the thick one and this is cunning politics. Because the scheme is pure politics. Though I can't really see how going along with mass librarian replacements with volunteers (and you can deny it all you want, but this is what the bottom line is) can be politically astute for library organisations. It is not about "Loving libraries"; it's about not funding the library services provided by skilled and experienced libraries, but papering over this fault with some volunteers.

And the end result will be Boris and co saying either:
  1. Look! London libraries are being well used due to the 2,000 library champions! Proof that we don't need to pay librarians.
  2. Even with 2,000 library champions, use of libraries in London still fell. They've had their day.

Also: £100,000 of funding. That's £5 per volunteer. Wooo; am sure they will be professionally trained on that {/sarcasm}. Whereas that £100K would be the wages of not one but several front-line library staff (yes, skilled librarians aren't on a gold-plated mega salary, to put it very mildly).

And to those who naively say "But you're slagging off brave volunteers who give up their time?" the response is:

  1. Why do you conveniently ignore the sacked people who, one way or the other, they will be replacing? You see a volunteer gained. You pretend not to see a skilled information professional made redundant. More the fool you.
  2. Will you be equally complacent if - or when - your local teachers, police, nurses and other public sector staff are replaced by unskilled volunteers?
  3. Will YOU have no problem when you are sacked and replaced by some volunteer, with the implication that someone with no experience can carry out your roles just as well as you can?
  4. Do you think the quality of information provision will remain high, with a library service run by volunteers and content provided by donation? If you do, then you are truly a fool; a cost-avoidance service presents opportunities for every organisation around to get their stuff into the public domain, no matter how dubious. Kent is a good example of this.

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