Library Service bear the marks of a full-scale series of biting remarks
by the Audit Commission Inspectors in their recently published Report
on the Best Value review of 1999. A savage indictment of the service
was offered, with a bleak view of "poor service and no possible improvement"
as the final word. Haringey Council stood condemned, as well they should
have been, and FORE! (the umbrella group of user groups) which had published
a strikingly similar report in 99 felt vindicated.
Susan Chinn - FORE!
Nglish is a 1dfly pwrfl tl wth 1 lrg drwbk - rkic splng. The gr8 advntg of nglsh is its smpl grmr, so y nt smpl splng? Thnk of the +vntgs of usng txt in nrml lfe - no mr hvng 2 lf thru dkshnrs, nuspprs & bks 1/3 sz (1/3 cst, 1/3 sps). All u nd is a teengr 2 tch u the lngng 4 < 1 hr. Perhaps txt is a little extreme, but should we not do something about the illogical spelling of english English? After all, english English is a minority language in the English speaking world. The English have always made use of any useful foreign word or phrase that they have stumbled across, so it would not be a very great change in practice to steal the simplified spelling of awkward English words from the outside world. The cost to the country of continuing with the present system is enormous and, eventually, the rest of the world may become completely out of step with us.
BTW - Aplgs 2 SMSrs 4 ne txt splng mstks.
ADDENDUM (12th July 2001) Well, well. We now have positive proof of the power of the LLL website. The new Concise Oxford Dictionary, published today, has TXT words included in it. Surely not a coincidence. A.T.
In the early summer of 2000, when the Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) published its consultation document "Standards for Modern Public Libraries", hopes were raised that there was a major change in attitude taking place to the way public library performance was managed. The DCMS had, at long last, noticed that the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act contained the statement that it was the duty of the Secretary of State for Culture Media & Sport "to promote the improvement of the public library service provided by local authorities". That this duty has been totally ignored by successive Secretaries of State since 1964 is obvious from the continuous and universal decline in the library service provided by those local authorities. The DCMS dictionary must have a very strange definition of the word "duty".
Against this background of long term DCMS failure and a rising concern in the general population (ref. Culture Media & Sport Select Committee Report No 6, May 2000), the Secretary of State, Chris Smith, has to be applauded for last year's initiative. This produced the wide-ranging consultation document and, after a short response period, a long gestation period, when a committee considered the responses. This committee was made up of representatives of those groups defined in paragraph one of the consultation document as "the principal stakeholders" in the public library service, namely library professionals, local government bureaucrats and DCMS civil servants. It will be noticed that the users of public libraries are not considered to prime stakeholders and it is not clear how far down they come in the hierarchy of groups associated with public libraries.
It is obvious that the composition of the library standards committee, or steering group as it was known, must have dictated the outcome of its deliberations. Just how likely was it, from day one, that it would strongly promote "the improvement of the public library service", as required by the 1964 act?
Although the library professionals would be, to varying degrees, in favour of raising standards, they would be ranged against the battle hardened bureaucrats of local government, dedicated to cost reduction above all else. The DCMS civil servants would, theoretically, be the driving force for improvement. However, this pro-active role is not one in which they have any noticeable track record. It is unlikely that the passive habits of decades can be changed overnight. Therefore, it would seem that the views of the local government heavyweights would be bound to bias the committee towards setting targets which are fairly easily achieved from the debased levels that currently exist.
In February, at the end of the gestation period, the DCMS produced a draft standards document, "Comprehensive Efficient and Modern Public Libraries - Standards and Assessment" (accessible on the DCMS website www.culture.gov.uk ). A companion document was also issued at the same time which analysed the responses to the consultation document.
Unfortunately, provisions of these library standards tend to support the predicted committee bias. They do not represent a new, bright vision for the future of public libraries. In this respect, it is an opportunity missed. But this does not mean that the exercise has been a total waste of time. A floor has been set to the continuing decline in library service. It is true that the pain inflicted on most local authorities will be low, but some of them will need to consider how they can raise the standard of service from bad to mediocre.
Is there anyone out there who believes that these comments are wrong?
What do you think about the individual requirements of the draft standards?
What do you think of the one mile travelling distance to a library?
What do think of the suspicion that it is possible to meet the library standards and still significantly reduce book stocks (allowing the installation of ICT equipment perhaps or just reducing buildings and staff down to the absolute minimum)?
Let us know.
Library Campaign is pleased to see LLL officially off the ground and
especially the turnout you got.