Friday, 19 March 2010

Three of a kind

You wait ages for a document about libraries to arrive… and then three turn up at once (with another one on the horizon)!
Today I have been looking at three reports relevant to libraries in different sectors:

The Library and Information Manifesto: 6 priorities for the next government is presented as a document for using with candidates in the next election as a way of influencing the next Government. How achievable this is in terms of the realities of an election campaign is debatable but CILIP intends that the document can be used as an agenda for discussion at local level as well. The focus on six specific priorities means that many librarians may well disagree with what is and is not included (I personally lobbied for a reference to the needs of businesses for focused information provision) but this should not prevent everyone using this as a useful tool. What is significant is that CILIP has upped its game in providing guidance to the profession on how the manifesto can be used effectively. From the YouTube video of Peter Beauchamp to the Use the Manifesto page on the website there are clear guidelines on how we can get the maximum impact from this. Librarians can often be heard complaining that CILIP "is not doing enough" but now the ball is clearly in our court and we must show what we can do.

Sharper Investment begins with the assertion that “Cuts to museums, libraries and other cultural services are unpalatable – we must resist them in favour of imaginative alternative solutions. Our call, to government and councils, is to recognise that cultural services can help communities recover from the impact of the recession." It then calls for calls for more creative planning to ensure the public get the most out of the £2bn-plus that national and local government invest in museums, libraries and archives.
It proposes solutions, based on long-term partnership between local government, central government, and museums, libraries and archives themselves, each responsible for their side of a bargain. Museums, libraries and archives are asked to make a wider public impact concentrating "less on sustaining costly buildings and storing unseen objects, and more on opening up fantastic collections of books, records and iconic artefacts for learning and enjoyment". Local government is asked to utilise the value of museum, library and archive services for wider purposes and central government is asked to ensure the longer term funding and statutory framework in which councils, museums, libraries and archives can have the freedom, flexibility and stability to plan for far reaching change.

The report concludes "In this economic climate, no change is not an option. If we do nothing, change will happen, but through closures and reductions. The public will notice reduced service, worse service and poorer, less accessible collections. Through the suggestions in this prospectus, we hope for cleverer investment in museums, libraries and archives that will get the most out of them, and deliver long term benefits for all".

Challenges for academic libraries in difficult economic times is described as a guide for senior institutional managers and policy managers. It has four core messages:

  1. HE librarians are expecting budget cuts over the next three years.
  2. The scale of the cuts means that libraries must rethink the kinds and levels of service they provide in support of their universities’ missions. The scope for further simple efficiency savings is small, and so librarians are having to think more strategically.
  3. Library directors from across the sector are keen to use the current financial difficulties as an opportunity to rethink what the library does, and to do things differently. But they have as yet few concrete proposals that will transform services or yield large-scale savings.
  4. Libraries and their directors have a critical role to play, but they cannot do it all themselves. Leadership and partnership with champions from across the HE and information sectors will be critical to sustaining the outstanding position of UK universities.

The CILIP Manifesto is intended to be used by all librarians to influence election candidates and local policy makers. The other two documents are aimed at heads of services to use as an agenda in discussions with senior managers. However all three should be promoted within the relevant libraries to library staff at all levels for the following reasons:

  1. All library staff should be aware of and committed to the strategic goals of the library. This means more than the ability to parrot the library's mission statement. It means being aware of what the library is trying to achieve and the problems it is facing.
  2. Change management is not just about convincing staff to accept change when it is being forced upon them. It should be about raising awareness of what change may happen and why.
  3. Library staff should be advocates for the library service both within and outside the workplace. The idea that library staff should be neutral and not speak up in support of their own library service is wrong - as long as they are not party political.
  4. The front line staff of today are the library managers of tomorrow. They must be given an understanding of the big strategic issues that the profession is facing.

These documents should not be hidden on a shelf in the chief librarians office. They must be made avilable and promoted to all library staff.

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