With the UK’s library system apparently in full crisis disarray, Speak Up For Libraries, “a coalition of organisations working to protect library services and staff, now and in the future,” has announced a conference, on November 23rd in London, “to support those that care about their libraries – including library users, campaigners and staff – to understand more about the challenges facing libraries, what can be done and to set a national agenda.”
Speak Up For Libraries includes the UK’s Campaign for the Book, The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (itself already the platform for a determined campaign against UK Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries Ed Vaizey), The Library Campaign, public service union UNISON, and Voices for the Library. The coalition has already created a 3.43-minute online video in defense of libraries and a Facebook page, and held its first conference in November 2012. A Twitter feed is also available via @SpeakUp4Libs.
UNISON’s role in the umbrella organization may raise some eyebrows. While UNISON is obviously committed to keeping library services running and fully funded, its first priority is, naturally enough, its members. In any actual campaign or negotiation, therefore, there’s a danger that its interests may not be 100% aligned with users and the other parties alongside. For example, UNISON is known to be skeptical – perhaps with good reason – on the issue of charitable trusts as vehicles for public services, which could be a solution in some instances.
In a conference, however, they’re entirely entitled to back the event and present their own point of view. And given the UK’s current climate of opinion, I doubt anyone will cleave to politicians before librarians. CILIP appears to be acting as the main coordinator for the event, and further details can be found here.