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Thursday, 27 October 2016

Dynamism in the Libraries Debate

A comment here wonders what I make of the proposals to reduce Walsall's libraries to just one.  I am no expert on Walsall, but it looks like another local council doing its best to cope with central government cuts that are frankly unsustainable.  George Osborne's economic strategy was counterproductive, constantly missing its targets, and Philip Hammond has been pragmatic enough to accept that.

Provided they have good transport links, urban areas may be in a position to follow a Brent type strategy of fewer buildings open for longer with more in them.  In Brent that has seen both usage and borrowing go up, as well as higher levels of public satisfaction.  This kind of thing has also worked in other praised authorities,  

The other thing that strikes me about the Guardian piece is its similarity to many other pieces I have read.  It is frustrating that journalists appear not to be able to get beyond these staples: cuts to budgets, closures (never any diffrentiation between closing different kinds of library), personal anecdotes about libraries in the past.

The famous legal duty to provide libraries has been effectively rewritten by first the Bailey case and then the Draper case in Lincolnshire.  The Sieghart Review's emphasis on Wifi provision further strenghens the case for IT facilities being considered as part of the overall library provision.  Yet the government still seems to have failed to catch up with these developments

Chi Onwuroh had an IT background, and Tom Watson _ who now covers the DCMS portfolio _ is enthusiastic about the digital economy and how it is changing our society.  I would have thought this plays into a pro-library agenda quite easily if only campaigners would engage in a more persuasion orientated mode.

Likewise, I think it a great pity that there is talk about parts of libraries being used as cafes, but this tends to be discussed simply in terms of commercial rents.  Such a use could also have a big impact on how libraries are used more generally.  Hence my frustration at the slow progress in Willesden

Then there is a whole other debate about what is a community hub, and how can such things be managed most effectively, which is perhaps a subject for another post.

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