Thursday, 4 August 2011

Trust me. I'm a librarian.

Today I am featuring a guest blogger - Prof Bob Usherwood. Bob has been chair of SINTO for the past 9 years and has helped us to be an effective organisation with a firm focus on professionalism. This blog is based on his summing up the presentations at the SINTO Members' Day last week which I have transcribed so it is not in the polished style of writing that Bob usually employs. Bob, in common with many library professionals, is not a blogger or Tweeter but it behoves (lovely word that) those of us who do inhabit the blogosphere to remember that challenging and radical ideas can exist elsewhere.

Bob's Blog!
I would like to pick up on some of the themes in today's presentations.
First of all the idea that librarians are political. Some of us have been saying this for a number of years and one of my heroes, E A Savage (1942), wrote a book about the librarian and his committee in which he examined this relationship. Two recent books; Libraries and Social Justice by Pateman and Vincent (2010) and the Holts (2010) in the US also stress the importance of politics to libraries. We need to grasp and learn about the importance of lobbying, how to get on with politicians and so forth.

Another major theme was how we evaluate and demonstrate the value and impact of libraries. This goes back to the debate about qualitative and quantitative research and the fact that politicians tend to look only at the numbers of bums on seats or book issues. As Einstein said "Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted".

Then there is the whole idea of the role of print in the digital age. Among the older generation 25% do not have access to computers.

One thing that came through but was not stated, and annoys me, is how politicians these days are trying to set library services against other public services. I remember the Mayor of Doncaster and the Council Leader in Oxfordshire saying "Well I hope those people who are protesting against library cuts will talk about the old people who won't be served; or the young people who won't be served; or people with dementia." I only wish they had seen the kind of thing that Carla and Becky have done on services to the homeless and dementia patients to show that library services are an integral part of such services. It is wrong to pitch one part of local government services against another.

The whole idea of professional leadership has come up in different ways. Leadership from CILIP; the relationship between librarians and elected members. I think it was Becky who mentioned the importance of trust and that is something we should sell harder. I remember when I was doing some work on library public relations a colleague in a marketing agency said "trust is marketing's magic ingredient". At a time when the Murdoch's of this world are polluting the information area, trust is one thing that libraries can demonstrate.

Holt, Leslie E & Holt. Glen E. (2010) Public Library Services for the Poor: Doing All We Can. Chicago: American Library Association 158pp £45. 50 ISBN 978-0-8389-1050-4.

Pateman, John and Vincent, John (2010) Public Libraries and Social Justice
Farnham: Ashgate 199pp £40 ISBN 978-0-7546-7714-7

Savage, Ernest A, (1942) The Librarian and his Committee London Grafton

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