ACE Libraries report launched – Missing in action?

Today Arts Council England has published the final part of its ‘Envisioning the Public Library’ research. The Library Campaign comments:

This duplicates research that has been done many times before – not least by the Arts Council itself.

What’s missing is action.

It is heart-breaking that time and money has been wasted in this way.

Libraries are closing at an unprecedented rate. Others are hacked to pieces.

Desperate communities are trying to take them on to save them – and are getting no help or advice.

We are trying to fill the huge gap left by DCMS and Arts Council inaction. Unpaid, in our spare time.

If they can’t see this is a crisis – and won’t do anything to help – please can we have their money?

 

You can read the report here :  The Library of the Future.

ACE logo

8 comments for “ACE Libraries report launched – Missing in action?

  1. Desmond Clarke
    May 23, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    I do not believe that I am being unfair to ACE in suggesting that this report
    tells us nothing that was not known from previous consultancy reports
    and research studies, including the two year Library Modernisation Review.

    More significantly, it does not address the critical need
    for effective leadership and advocacy, highlighted in the past by
    the All Party Parliamentary Library Group, CMS Select Committees
    and by ministers and shadow ministers.

    Frankly, the report is in part rather patronising and wholly platitudinious
    to those who need and rely upon public libraries. I suggest, it will be
    a considerable disappointment to many.

    To illustrate my concerns, after 15 months of work, ACE has
    concluded that the priorities for a 21st century public library service are:

     1. Place the library at the hub of the community
     2. Make the most of digital technologies and creative media
     3. Ensure that libraries are resilient and sustainable
     4. Deliver the right skills for those who work for libraries

    I hope we will all raise our individual concerns so that a report about an essential public service is not left unchallenged.

  2. Trevor Craig
    May 23, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Serious question, is this really the level of research that we get from government?

    You would imagine that having librarians involved, people who are supposed to understand data it would be proper robust bit of research like you’d get from a scientific paper. The outsourced part of the study alone cost somewhere between 65k and 85K
    See http://www.publictenders.net/tender/149309

    And yet they spoke to fewer people than regularly use my local library, which is tiny.

    The online thing nobody knew about (I told my local council), they told the “library relationship managers” and a few others outside of the sector but nobody else. There is a spreadsheet with the email address of most of the libraries in the country on the DCMS website, have they never heard of email merge or even mail merge to let people know?

    I would imagine with all the staffing time spent on it by the various staff, the true cost of this drivel was probably nearer quarter of a million pounds, yet it has no hard data, offers no solutions to the problems and draws no conclusions on a proper way forward.

    Is this all the upper echelons of library management does churn out one of these every couple of years at great cost but with no benefit?

    The giant elephant in the room of community libraries not saving money they seem to be ignoring, we all know that sacking low paid library managers/assistants and replacing them with self-service and dozens of volunteers doesn’t save any money yet nobody is properly researching this?

    No wonder the country is in a mess. We need better policy based on real research, not this sort of drivel.

  3. Shirley Burnham
    May 23, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    Excuse me for being lazy – This is the comment I posted on The Bookseller. I’d be hard-pressed to think up another :-

    COMMENT
    On 2nd December 2009, Roy Clare former CEO of the MLA sent me a mail saying this:

    “Thank you, I enjoyed your essay, Shirley. If only we could be confident that this everlasting review would get somewhere.
    Roy”

    Nearly four years on and some 3-dozen *reports* later … Here we go, again.

    How was this Report ever approved for publication by the ACE ‘Council’? Did they not observe that, when re-hashing old ideas, it is important to quote one’s sources and build upon what has already been discussed – rather than present a rather patronising reiteration of other’s work as if it were something new.

    If the ACE finds its Library duties onerous and can produce no original thought, could it not say so? Why spend public money on a Report which does not add a scintilla of expertise to assist citizens (taxpayers) who are relying on and defending what is a rapidly deteriorating statutory Service?

    By means of illustration, here are two random extracts from the MLA’s ‘Public Library Services: The MLA View: November 2009

    “Library services ought to be an integral part of local delivery, synthesised with services for adults and young people and supporting education for personal, family and community development. Delivery partners vary by location, but typically include other branches of the local authority, plus schools, colleges, universities, museums, archives, surgeries, nurseries and centres for children and for adult day-care.”

    “An accent on consumers demands new skills and more rounded leadership. Qualified librarians are needed alongside experts in learning, digital and customer services, complemented by greater use of volunteers for specific tasks. Council-wide volunteering programmes can improve service delivery to communities, involving people and helping them to share and develop skills and experience, with benefits for employment and the economy.”

    I have a ton of similar stuff in my archive which either echoes or matches the little that ACE has published today. It illustrates that the Report contributes nothing new, with one glaring exception :

    It *corrupts* what has been discussed in depth and rejected in the past – by making repeated references to all libraries becoming community centre hubs to be run or staffed by the community and/or volunteers. That is a radical departure and one that illustrates the total disconnect between the ACE and the reality on the ground.

    That the ACE could be supporting such a view is beyond belief and must be challenged.

  4. Phil Jones
    May 24, 2013 at 9:44 am

    “…over 10,000 viewed the online conversation” – what a wonderful way of capturing people’s “views”, well done ACE on consulting so thoroughly. It begs the question how many people actually commented and how well the consultation was promoted to the public. I also highly suspect they’ve conflated page hits with unique individuals so the actual number of people who “viewed” the online conversation would be far smaller. The number of people who “viewed” the conversation and weren’t part of setting it up is probably even smaller.

  5. Laura Swaffield, Library Campaign
    May 24, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Lots of comments on this wretched report are flying in from the great & the good – MPs, librarians’ organisations etc.

    They all basically say: lovely report, urgent need for money.

    But there won’t be any money, will there? Come off it. This is a new world.

    Let me spell it out further.

    Nobody disagrees with the content of this report. It’s what everyone has said, again and again, in endless previous unused reports.

    However, the context has changed. The library landscape has changed radically since the last few reports came out.

    Hundreds of communities have lost their ‘hub’. Hundreds more will do so. Some will be replaced by a hotch-potch of ‘community libraries’ that might do anything – or nothing much. Some people will have nothing but a long bus-ride they can’t afford, to a mega-hulk library in a distant city centre.

    The change is already striking. And the trend will accelerate for some years to come.

    Maybe all this is wonderful. Maybe not. The point is that ACE seemingly hasn’t even noticed it is happening at all.

    I know it’s a frightful bore compared to playing Fantasy Library. But somebody needs to pick out the issues and address the problems in this completely new library world.

    If ACE won’t do it, give the money to people who will.

  6. Laura Swaffield
    May 24, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    Comments on this report are now flying in from the great & the good – MPs, librarians’ organisations, etc.

    The consensus is: great report, money needed. But there won’t be any money, will there? This is a new world.

    Let me spell it out further.
    Nobody disagrees with the content of this report. It’s what everyone has said, again and again, in endless previous unused reports.

    However, the context has changed. The library landscape has changed radically since the last few reports came out. You have to plan for the real situation.

    Hundreds of communities have lost their ‘hub’. Hundreds more will do so. Some will be replaced by a hotch-potch of ‘community libraries’ that might do anything – or nothing much. Some people will have nothing but a long bus-ride they can’t afford, to a mega-hulk library in a distant city centre.

    The change is already striking. And the trend will accelerate for some years to come.

    Maybe all this is wonderful. Maybe not. The point is that ACE seemingly hasn’t even noticed it is happening at all.

    I know it’s a frightful bore compared to playing Fantasy Library. But somebody needs to pick out the issues and address the problems in this completely new library world.

    If ACE won’t do it, give the money to people who will.

  7. Laura Swaffield
    May 24, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Hooray!
    We are not quite alone in our views!

    Publishers Melville House analyse the ‘defensive’ ACE report and suggest 4 ‘priorities’ different from those proposed by the ostrich-like ACE. Refreshing!

    http://www.mhpbooks.com/whats-the-future-for-the-uks-local-libraries/

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