You will of course have seen blogs and tweets and discussions on the the 'My Library by Right' petition. If you haven't signed it yet, please do. It's currently got 11,279 signatures, which while its an improvement on the 6K I ranted about in my last blog post on the subject still isn't every single member of CILIP! It's still fairly feeble in my opinion, but don't worry - for those of you with a nervous disposition I shan't be swearing in this update.
It's disappointing that the Society of Chief Librarians has failed miserably to support the campaign. I tweeted them a while ago to ask what they were doing, and their response was basically that they hadn't met to talk about it (quite why they can't use email or video conferencing is a bit beyond me, but there you go), and they were going to have to consider it. Well, now they have. On their website, under the title 'SCL's commitment to library services' they say this:
As a body largely comprising representation from local authorities, SCL recognises that it is for individuals and their local authorities to provide local responses to the My Library By Right campaign.
In other words it's a case of 'Not my problem mate, and it's more than my jobs worth'. There's plenty of very pointless fluff surrounding the statement, which when you consider what they are being asked to support is laughably contradictory. Try this paragraph:
For its part, SCL continues its work on an ambitious programme of innovation to further develop and embed the Universal Offers; supporting our workforce to deliver vibrant library services; building national and local partnerships that enable library services to contribute to relevant policy agenda, particularly those around economic development and health and wellbeing and contributing to the evolution of the Libraries Taskforce.
So how are they going to do that when there aren't any libraries left? These are all very grand eloquent words, but they are backed up by nothing at all. They are not even offering a guide to individuals and local authorities - they have simply washed their hands of the whole situation. There's nothing directly linking to the petition on their website, and the only other reference is from the blog of the President, which says this:
I completely understand that some people would have liked SCL to have signed up to CILIP’s My Library By Right campaign but, as our members know, SCL is not, and never has been, a campaigning body as the great majority of us – the Heads of Library Services across the country – are officers in local authorities, many in politically restricted posts.
This is woeful at best. This is only a political campaign in the very broadest of senses, since the focus is on keeping a strong and powerful library service - a 'vibrant library service' in SCL's own words, to contribute to the wellbeing of communities. Local councils of all colours are cutting libraries; if it was just one political party the SCL may have a point, but they don't. They're not even prepared to say 'it's a good idea, and we're entirely behind it, but can't be any more official than that'. They're not being asked to be a campaigning body - no-one is asking them to go out on the streets and man the barricades (just as well really) they are being asked to support people who ARE campaigning.
Librarians, libraries, and communities are being let down by the SCL refusal to support them. With friends like these, who needs enemies?