This seems to be a well balanced and sensible response from Cilip.
In funding the report, The Laser Foundation were of the view that Tim Coates opinions should be brought to the public domain and discussed, this would give the public library sector to prove him wrong, or if in part he is right then to do something about it. Certainly the report has given a very high profile to the sector, and those from the Laser Foundation who participated in the media coverage have taken the opportunity to put forward a range of information about the wider role of public libraries. In fact many people in 'high places', but not the library sector, have commented to me about public libraries and asked what needs to be done.
Now is the time to capitalise on the higher profile and to make change and plan for the future.
The Laser Foundation have a long term strategy involving some of those who are active in the sector and will be tomorrows leaders, movers and shakers, and the main objective is to develop and change the sector to survive and grow in the 21st Century. Our reaction to this report will be indicative of how those involved with public libraries intend to fight back, not moan and groan but act to protect the future. We need therefore to assemble evidence to prove Tim wrong if he is, or to make changes where he is right?
To pick up just one point Bob Mckee made, re the wide range of out of print books. We simply don't market that, it is a niche service that only public libraries offer, but how well known is it?
From: lis-pub-libs: UK Public Libraries [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Judith Howells
Sent: 29 April 2004 16:18
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: PUBLIC LIBRARIES REPORT -DIAGNOSIS MAY BE RIGHT - TREATMENT ISN'T
CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals
7 Ridgmount St, London WC1E 7AE.
Tel: 020 7255 0500 Textphone: 020 7255 0505 Fax: 020 7255 0501 Email: [log in to unmask]
News from CILIP
Thursday 29 April 2004
For immediate release (Please copy to online discussion lists)
PUBLIC LIBRARIES REPORT - DIAGNOSIS MAY BE RIGHT, TREATMENT ISN'T
UK's leading organisation for library and information professionals finds much to criticise in Libri report Who's In Charge?
The diagnosis may be right, but the treatment isn't - that was the immediate response from CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals to Who's in Charge? - a new report from Libri on the public library service in the UK.
Commenting in the Guardian on April 28 on the report, by former Waterstone's Managing Director Tim Coates, CILIP's Chief Executive Bob McKee said: "Mr Coates paints a picture of a public library service in terminal decline. It isn't. It certainly faces challenges - just like bookshops do from supermarkets selling cut-price bestsellers or the BBC does from cable and satellite. But [it] is still a huge operation."
Mr Coates's treatment is flawed, CILIP believes, because it makes the assumption that libraries are just like bookshops that happen to lend books instead of selling them. "Libraries don't just carry multiple copies of what's currently in print," Dr McKee told the Guardian's John Ezard. "They're required by law to be comprehensive, so they carry large numbers of out-of-print works as well. Managing them is a task that bookshops just don't have."
In an hour-long debate with the report's author Tim Coates on the BBC Radio 5 Live Simon Mayo Show on Tuesday, CILIP's Head of External Relations Tim Buckley Owen also questioned some of the assumptions behind the report's findings. "Bookshops extend their opening hours in the expectation of increased revenues and profit," he pointed out. "If libraries open late, they just see their costs increase."
Who's In Charge? raises several points that are worthy of serious debate, CILIP believes. Longer opening hours and more books on the shelves are certainly desirable goals - and CILIP also approves of the report's conclusions that management of libraries should be left to the professionals but that councillors must take proper responsibility for the service and assume leadership. Improved training and appropriate professional qualifications for public library staff were other recommendations that CILIP supported, and Tim Buckley Owen told the launch press conference that these were areas where CILIP could make a direct contribution.
However CILIP does have concerns at Mr Coates's contention that improvements can be achieved entirely within the existing public library budget. In a speech to MPs and authors at a House of Commons reception to celebrate 25 years of Public Lending Right, coincidentally held on the day of the report's launch, CILIP's President Margaret Haines said: "There is pressure from Government on public libraries to make even better use of the resources they already have. To be candid, this isn't the whole story; public libraries have suffered from years of under-investment, and increased efficiency is only part of the equation."
Mr Coates also bases many of his figures on highly questionable assumptions, CILIP believes. In a raft of responses to the newspapers on the day news of the report broke, Bob McKee rebutted claims that libraries spent £24 on each £10 book they bought, or that it took 28 librarians to put a book on a shelf. "By all means let's have a debate on where libraries go from here," Dr McKee said. "But let's have it on the basis of a proper understanding of how public libraries work."
Contact: Tim Buckley Owen, Head of External Relations.
Tel: 020 7255 0652. Email: [log in to unmask]
Notes to Editors
CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals is the leading professional body for librarians, information specialists and knowledge managers, with around 23,000 members working in all sectors, including business and industry, science and technology, further and higher education, schools, local and central government, the health service, the voluntary sector, national and public libraries. For more information about CILIP, please go to www.cilip.org.uk.
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