Monday, August 8, 2011

Libraries partner to survive in the UK

Well, I guess it's better than nothing. *
The Local Government Association (LGA) and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) released a report on Friday about the progress of several pilot projects in the Future Libraries program, and state that "libraries will increasingly rely on volunteers and community groups, with more books distributed from shops and village halls." Some of these ideas are pretty interesting: collaborations with museums and arts, "Bradford's book borrowing points in shops across the city, Hertfordshire's plans to expand in co-operation with adult social care and children's centres;" some are disturbing: relying on volunteers... how so, exactly? It's one thing to have members of the public on your board (commendable!) but if you cut the number of profesisonal librarians (staff cuts at 6000, no word on how many professionals that includes) providing professional service, you're dreaming if you think that these "innovations" will "increase numbers using libraries."

P.S. to the Guardian - seriously, a photo of a dude with grimy fingers stamping things? No wonder libraries in the UK have issues.... I haven't used a stamp in six years! Plus, would it kill you to show something other than our most mindless task?

*Yes, that is the nicest thing I could think to say right now.....

1 comment:

  1. This makes me want to cry: tears of frustration and anger.

    As the only staff member of a small, non-lending library (small = 11,000 catalogued books/manuscripts dated 1678-2010 -- that's not counting the 300+ titles from 2009-2011 waiting to be catalogued --, 539 periodical titles, 184 DVDs/videos, 40 metres of processed archival records -- double that for unprocessed --, plus 150,000 photo images that are only partially catalogued in a spreadsheet) -- I rely HEAVILY on volunteers.

    But, partially due to my institution's heavy reliance on volunteers, the cataloguing of those photographic images is, well: Volunteers have been working on that spreadsheet for 10+ years and have 55,000 entries. They've done a damn good job, but let me repeat that: 10+ YEARS, 55,000 entries = one third of our image collection. It will take us another 20 years just to catalogue what we already have, let alone new acquisitions.... No digitization program in place. Maybe an eighth of our total holding available online. Maybe.

    Trained, professional and para-professional people who know what they are doing, who show up consistently for shifts (because financial incentive is a lot more rewarding than gooey 'feel-good' incentives) make things easier to find and to make more items available for public consumption.

    Never mind trying to find the right combination of skill set/subject knowledge: my volunteers are all in their 70s and 80s. Health issues prevent my most tech-savvy volunteer from coming in (I've seen him maybe 5 times in the past year), and medical appointments understandably take priority over volunteer commitments -- and the volunteer hours permitted are limited anyway, due to, well: I'm the only staff member. And it's a part-time position at that (2 university degrees required for a position that has no benefits, no advancement space aside from incremental $$$ increases according to the union's schedule, and whose part-time hours are in threat of being reduced even more) a part-time position that took me almost a year to find. And I count myself damn lucky to have found it.

    And the public gets cranky and wonders why we don't have more convenient hours......