Monday, 18 June 2007

The future of libraries.

Winter Gardens, Sheffield.
In my posting of the 14th May I mentioned the debate between Tim Coates and the library profession represented by Rob Froud and Robert Gent about the future of public libraries. Tim has accused public librarians of poor leadership and failing to meet the needs of users while Rob and Robert suggested that Tim does not understand the ethos of public services and has a limited vision for public libraries. Now Frances Hendrix has entered the argument in the 15th June issue of the Gazette with a claim that public librarians lack a long-term vision for the service. "What vision do Froud and Gent have for the sector?" she asks. "What is the brave new world for public libraries when all around us is changing at breakneck speed?"

Some people are very wary about getting involved in an argument between two opposing camps. They believe that there are issues to consider and debate but are suspicious of people who want to get on a soapbox and make personal attacks. Flaming is a popular pastime but seldom generates light as well as heat. On the other hand calm, well-balanced discussion does not get the level of publicity that we need. We owe it to our profession and our users to argue passionately about what we believe in.

I hope that tomorrow's SINTO members' day will show both balance and passion. The theme of "Skills for the future" is inseparable from our vision of what the future will hold. As one of the presenters will argue, what the profession needs are analytical skills to help us make better decisions.

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