Friday, 18 June 2010

A light when all others fail

Sheffield is reeling today from the news that three major projects have been cancelled by the Government.

Although Paul Scriven has pointed out that these cuts do not in themselves cause any job losses the view of many in Sheffield is that the city has been let down by the Government.

We are facing hard times and many people will be hit by unemployment. It is at times like this that public libraries should be seen as a light when all others have failed. They provide information and support for those looking for work. They support small business start-ups. They are a welcoming and inclusive community centre. They provide free Internet access. They support learning. They provide access to books for leisure reading. A community like Sheffield needs its libraries. The trouble is that libraries themselves are threatened by cuts. Next Friday Rachel Cooke is speaking at the SINTO Members' Day on The Threat to Our Libraries - and What We Can Do To Save Them. It is an event that should be supported by librarians in our region.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Bad times just around the corner

My inspiration for my annual report to SINTO this year will be Noel Coward:

There are bad times just around the corner
There are dark clouds hurtling through the sky.
And it's no good whining
About a silver lining
For we know from experience that they won't roll by.

As he says (and you really must try to do the voice as you read this):
From Colwyn Bay to Kettering
They're sobbing themselves to sleep
The shrieks and wails
In the Yorkshire dales
Have even depressed the sheep

One thing we must face up to as a profession is that there are people who think that cuts to library funding are not only inevitable they are desirable. Many genuinely believe that libraries no longer have a function in today's world.

Not enough library services and librarians have adopted Web 2.0 technology and therefore they don't understand the true nature of the change that has happened - either the positive or the negative aspects. The profession as a whole also has difficulty in articulating its own case succinctly or forcefully.

Two SINTO events are designed to give librarians the chance to step back from crisis management and take a longer term view. At the SINTO Members' Day on Friday 25th June Observer journalist Rachel Cooke is giving the keynote speech The Threat to Our Libraries - And What We Can Do To Save Them. This is an "outsiders" view - albeit a friendly outsider - and it will be valuable to hear her analysis of the problems we face.

Then on the 7th July Biddy Fisher, CILIP President is giving a talk on Our Professional Journey. Biddy is heading up CILIP's Defining Our Professional Future programme. Many librarians will be turning to CILIP for support in the coming months - and many will also use them as a scapegoat. This is an opportunity to hear what she has to say.