Difficult to know quite where to start really. I'd missed out on this turmoil due to being unwell, and when I come back to look at Twitter et al there's a right old row going on. Let's start with the blog post at the centre of the row.
"David Cameron’s vision of a “Greater Britain” is intertwined with creating a very British knowledge economy" I'm really not sure exactly what this means. It's a political comment and observation to start with, but I'm not sure what a 'very British knowledge economy' means. Unless it's the destruction of libraries, the encouragement of well meaning but untrained volunteers and so on. His vision is not my vision, and it's not the vision of the majority of people in this country.
"Public libraries provide equal access to information and knowledge that underpins the drive for equality that the Prime Minister calls for. In communities, Universities, schools, prisons, healthcare and banking it is our professional skills that will unlock the transformative potential of this economy." I think that's the job of all libraries really, not just public libraries. Do public libraries provide equal access? Only in places where there are libraries. This government seems hellbent on reducing access without any care or concern about the people who need - not want, but need - their services. I agree that libraries are vitally important, but I'm less sure on what the 'transformative potential of this economy' means. Again, this seems to me to be a politically charged statement and observation. The way that the economy appears to being transformed is not to aid and assist and create equality - quite the opposite in fact. A library should be open for people to address issues that matter to them, to obtain information to bolster their cause, to inform and enlighten them. A strong democracy requires a strong, well educated population, and that doesn't happen by closing libraries.
"In many ways, he presented a more inclusive and liberal narrative than might have been expected from a Conservative Government that came to power with a strong majority" Political commentary. We have a government that wants to implement greater control over the internet using the excuses of terrorism and child abuse, to reduce welfare and assistance, that wants to give the government greater control, not less. This is not an inclusive and liberal agenda. This is an agenda based on more power and more money for those who already have it at the expense of those that don't.
"For those of us engaged in advocating for the interests of library and information professionals, the speech is an opportunity to look at what we are already doing that can help the Government deliver on these key agendas, while flagging areas in which urgent support is needed through policy, intervention and investment." First of all, it's necessary to agree on what the Government wishes to deliver, before we are in a position to decide if we want to help them obtain it. I'm very uneasy with the idea of assisting the Government to continue down a road that is unremittingly anti professional, anti intellectual, anti poor, anti disabled and so on. I do however agree that we need to flag up areas where we feel that the Government is not doing well. This means that we - as a profession - need to take a political standpoint, and to define what that standpoint is. At the very least it is the protection of libraries, and the development of library services for those that need them most. With the best will in the world I cannot see how we can achieve that within the confines of the Government's agenda which is pro-austerity and anti library.
"The Prime Minister put social justice front and centre in Conservative policy, making a commitment to an “all out assault on poverty” and to promoting policy which would “finish the fight for real equality”." Politicians say a lot of things. Sometimes they actually mean a few of them. I don't believe that this is one of those times. I see nothing - NOTHING - to make me believe this.
"CILIP is calling on the Government to make good on this commitment via policies which will promote the sustainability and accessibility of library services in communities across the country" This I agree with. We need to put our professionalism at the heart of everything that we do, our morals and ethics should reflect our concern for our users. It is OUR job to stand up and fight in whatever way we can for those who cannot do it themselves. We need to alert our users to restrictions on their freedoms, on the threats to their privacy and to protect them by providing them with as much information and power as we can. Not so that they can attack this or any other government - but so that they have the knowledge to decide for themselves on what best to do, be that to support to denounce what those we have put into power decide to do.
"Libraries and information services are central to this vision as community hubs, trusted public spaces, places for learning" The vision being referred to it a crusade to get more homes built and to create more communities. Are they central to that Conservative vision? If libraries are central to the vision for a better community, a more inclusive community, a more equal community then why are they not currently central to the development of local communities? Rather, instead of building an improving communities their closure is doing the exact opposite. Until the Prime Minister actually comes out and says that libraries are central to the vision of a better community, and proves it with actions, I doubt his interest in our profession or our role in society.
"CILIP’s members are committed to promoting information literacy skills for all." Yes, we are. However, we can only do that when we have those skills ourselves. We need to be expert in those areas, and that comes from good quality training. Clearly I have a particular bias at this point since I'm a trainer myself, but what I have seen is the wholesale destruction of professional training services, the piecemeal attempts to provide it by groups, the financial interests of third party trainers and the limited role that CILIP itself plays in training. I see a reduction in every area, and while the CILIP VLE is to be applauded, much more needs to be one. I know that I'm not the only person who is furious at seeing the Barclay's bank adverts for 'digital eagles'. It should be OUR job to do that, and OUR professional body taking a lead.
In the addendum to the blog post we see the comment:
"CILIP is non-partisan and politically-neutral". The blog post is actually very political, making assumptions about Tory policy, and aiming to assist the Government do whatever it is they are considering. I want statements that start from the position of the profession, and those of the clients and members of our libraries that we support. If we do believe in a " fair and economically prosperous society is underpinned by literacy, access to information and the transfer of knowledge" then we need to show it. We need to call out any government that does not fully match our vision and our view of the world. The government should exist to better the lives of its citizens, and it's role is to support US, it is not for us to act as poor cousins begging for scraps. We need to set out a vision, to criticize and praise as appropriate - that means acting politically, but it also means that we are neutral in that we put our beliefs front and centre, irrespective of which colour is in government.
I'm disappointed in the entire tone of the CILIP blog post, not least because it appears to put the needs of the Government above those of the members and our users. Consequently, rather than just moaning on Twitter, speak up loudly in CILIPs 'Shape the Future' consultation, especially the questionnaire.