In my last post I commented on the debate that Tim Coates's views had initiated. That debate continues in the latest issue (4th-17th May) of Library & Information Gazette. On page 6 Tim Coates is interviewed by Tim Buckley Owen while on the facing page our very own Robert Gent (Derbyshire Libraries and member of the SINTO Executive) and Rob Froud (Somerset) respond. The two Robs make the point that Tim Coates understands the retail environment but does not understand the ethos of public service. They make some good points about equality of access and social inclusion which Tim Coates underplays. Their point about the "complex, multi-layered local government environment in which public libraries operate" is valid but Tim and our customers would probably respond that they are not interested in our problems, just our results.
I believe that almost all librarians are providing a good service in difficult circumstances (see below) but that should not give us a "Get out of jail free" card when it comes to receiving criticism. We must overcome our initial discomfort at being criticised and look in depth at the points that are being made. If we think that they don't "understand" our position is this because we are trapped inside the box and they have a fresh perspective? Perhaps our values are valid but there is no harm in putting them to the test.