The latest (December 17th) “Report under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 for 2012/2013” from the British government’s Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), the body responsible for libraries in Britain, among other cultural services, has been received with less than total approbation by pro-library campaigners. As Public Libraries News remarks, “Its purpose is to show what great work the DCMS is doing in public libraries and, as such, it is more a work of propaganda than a serious overview (for example, it notes approvingly the CILIP Knowledge and Skills Base but, for some reason, doesn’t mention the vote of no confidence in Ed Vaizey by the same organization).”
“This report highlights the extensive work which is being devised and delivered by Government, Local Authorities and the wider network of stakeholders to support the development and delivery of the public library service designed to meet the changing patterns of demand and use,” states the Report’s conclusion.
In particular, the Report’s claim that “whilst there have also been a number of library closures, it is difficult to get a definitive measure, but our estimate of static library closures, since the beginning of 2010, based on consulting a number of sources, is around 90,” has been widely derided. And there are huge, perhaps unbridgeable, gaps in trust between the DCMS and its responsible minister, Ed Vaizey, and professional library bodies like the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals (CILIP).
“Ed Vaizey believes he has won the argument that keeping libraries open with volunteers is an acceptable alternative to a professionally run service,” states Leon’s Library Blog, run by member Leon Bolton, a professionally qualified and chartered librarian. “Cilip and the government are at opposite ends of the spectrum over public libraries. Cilip would like a comprehensive and efficient library service, well-resourced and appropriately staffed/managed, while the government wants the exact opposite. Ed Vaizy, Maria Miller, and all the other ministers are dedicated to an ideology of neo-liberalism, a programme of austerity, and a vision of a ‘Big Society’, and that’s why Vaizey doesn’t need to bother with Cilip – or indeed anyone else interested in protecting libraries – because he genuinely doesn’t share their point of view.”
In the circumstances, any report on library services coming out of his department is liable to back up his view. And so it seems.