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Friday, 24 January 2014

Government Policy and Volunteer Libraries

CILIP have criticised the government for using its web site to promote volunteer libraries without explicit ministerial sign off.  I find their concern a little strange, as there is no doubt that volunteer libraries are what Tory ministers want.  They have apparently even stopped meeting those who represent paid library staff, and they don't seem interested in the quality of the library service.

It is quite easy to see this as an example of how the government is dismantling public services, following a stage by stage and self reinforcing process.  Namely:

1) Denigrate local government staff as lazy, overpaid etc. (just the pronouncements of Eric Pickles give you plenty of examples)
2) Replace high quality professional services (such as Brent's library service) with underfunded poorly designed services staffed by volunteers who inevitably don't have the same skills as permanent staff.
3) Attack the resulting poor quality services as not worth taxpayers money, and therefore reduce funding still further.
4) Return to step one and begin again.

Resisting such a cycle means being strong minded in defining what the service is and how to measure its quality, not getting sidetracked.  In other words, defending value for money as opposed to the cheapest option.

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