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Thursday, 16 October 2014

Social Justice and Libraries

Leon's Library blog has a characteristically thoughtful piece on social justice and libraries.  Essentially, it highlights the problems of potentially hollowing out the libraries service.  I think Brent's Libraries Transformation Project helped us to avoid this, but as the austerity regime continues into the distant future, it becomes more of a possibility.

At the moment, Brent Libraries provide a range of services _ Homework Clubs, English conversation groups, language classes, materials in different languages, the Six Book Challenge, training in useful skills like IT and so on.  I think it fair to say that Brent Libraries treat all this as a core part of what libraries do.  The temptation for budget makers will be to whittle away at these activities, especially as many of the users are less politically articulate than the better organised lobby groups. This will be all the more likely without a clear budget strategy

During the numerous conversations that I had with some of the campaigns during the library litigation, some of them were extraordinarily scornful of this kind of thing.  Suggestions were made that deprivation data should be ignored, libraries simply run for existing users.  One of the grounds of challenge to the Council decision was that we included Equalities as part of our assessment criteria of the various bids to run the former library buildings.  Some resented having such a criterion.  Other resented not so much the criterion as the idea that they might be expected to realise this would be a concern.  It is not hard to imagine such critics dismissing such activities as not really what libraries do. 

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