https://librariestaskforce.blog.gov.uk/2016/05/25/a-shared-vision-for-public-libraries/

A Shared Vision for Public Libraries

[Editors note: this post was written by Jacqueline Widdowson, chair of CILIP’s Public and Mobile Libraries Group, after she attended the Ambition workshop in Manchester central library]

The seven 'Purposes' adorn the bright white walls of the large meeting room. Pinned next to each, A1 sized blank pages invite answers to the questions: "Is this ambition realistic?"; "What would you change?"; and "Are the proposed indicators the best ones to track progress?"

Preparing the room for the workshop in Manchester central library. Photo credit: Julia Chandler/Libraries Taskforce
Preparing the room for the workshop in Manchester central library. Photo credit: Julia Chandler/Libraries Taskforce

Entering the 'Ambition for public libraries in England workshop - North West' I am curious as to how the organisers will tackle such a mammoth task as unpicking a 21 page consultation document with a group of nearly 100 participants from a wide range of backgrounds. Surely this is a mission impossible. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find a well-paced event that systematically looked at each and every section of the ‘Libraries Deliver’ paper. In a repeating pattern of overview presentation followed by facilitated group discussion, we progressed through the document in less than three hours. A pleasant networking opportunity midway through arrived in the form of a walk-around, where each participant penned their opinions on the wall-mounted paper. I found myself circuiting the room twice, as reading the growing list of other people’s ideas, and discussing points as we moved around, gave me additional thoughts of my own.

Commonality of purpose

So what was the outcome of this workshop? Only time will tell, but this document seems to be doing something right. The diverse collection of individuals scattered around the room, ranging from LMS Suppliers to Councillors and even - that most precious of voices - the public library user, look to be generally in agreement. I am not suggesting that no comments, questions or concerns were raised – battling through the important details is after all the purpose of this event. However, a positive vibe permeates the discussions, as contributors frequently find themselves on the same page. Despite coming from different backgrounds, commonality of purpose united the assemblage; with many people voicing similar priorities, familiar obstacles and above all the same sentiments.

It is hard not to feel that the ‘Libraries Deliver’ document is the beginning of a new chapter in the history of public libraries. The Libraries Taskforce still have a long-road ahead, but one of the most vital activities underway has already begun: people are talking. Not just library folk talking amongst themselves either, the most significant thing here is that many different partners and stakeholders are in at the ground-level helping to shape a united approach to service delivery.

Have your say

The consultation closes on the 3rd June, make sure that you have had your say before then to help shape the future of public libraries in England.

To read the full report visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/libraries-deliver-ambition-for-public-libraries-in-england-2016-2021/libraries-deliver-ambition-for-public-libraries-in-england-2016-2021

To respond to this consultation visit: https://docs.google.com/a/culture.gov.uk/forms/d/1lGZV1u3bctGL-OA9MgFJyCTGckLOuBZ_uIZr_IjMeC0/viewform
Or email: librariestaskforce@culture.gov.uk

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Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of DCMS or the Libraries Taskforce

2 comments

  1. Comment by Elizabeth Ash posted on

    Sadly, it is not the case that stakeholders are in at the ground level.

    Library users, library campaigners, library workers and the unions were frozen out from the off and little has persuaded the Taskforce to address this. This is a point that has been raised many times, including directly with the Taskforce on several occasions -early on at an SCL stakeholder meeting with library campaigners and again at the Speak Up for Libraries conference, for example. It is also a point that was stressed and pursued by The Library Campaign, but to no avail.

    I raised this again at the workshop at the British Library in London, attended by just a dozen or so people last week, not long after the event in Brighton was cancelled due to low numbers.

    Whilst this exercise may give the appearance that the most precious of voices are being heard, I can assure you that it is certainly not the case, and it is not for want of trying to press the point home to the Taskforce.

    Reply
  2. Comment by Geoffrey Dron posted on

    "It is hard not to feel that the ‘Libraries Deliver’ document is the beginning of a new chapter in the history of public libraries. The Libraries Taskforce still have a long-road ahead, but one of the most vital activities under way has already begun: people are talking. Not just library folk talking amongst themselves either, the most significant thing here is that many different partners and stakeholders are in at the ground-level helping to shape a united approach to service delivery."

    This sounds like it's been written by a PR firm. It reeks with complacency. All sense of urgency has been expunged in favour of a reference to 'a long road ahead..'. Well, as that road is travelled, cash-starved councils like Lancashire will be continuing to decimate library services while Vaizey sits on his hands in the DCMS's ivory tower.

    If anything, this sort of rubbish merely confirms the growing suspicion that the Taskforce has been set up by the DCMS and LGA to disguise inaction with reference to the Sieghart report. It's hard not to feel that it's an exercise in the black arts for which Whitehall is infamous.

    Reply

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