AGM 2014 IN BRIEF
by the Chair, Laura Swaffield
Thanks given to those who have helped in our work this year:
Unison for support in distributing the magazine – with no prior information as to its content.
Trustees, in particular: Geof Dron for much FOI correspondence (see below); Ian Stringer for information, advice and magazine articles; Alan Wylie for much background work and untiring use of social media.
[In explicably I omitted TLC Secretary Elizabeth Ash, who has worked long and tirelessly on essential administration (including sorting out thorny inherited problems), managed and improved the website and given us much publicity via social media. I apologise wholeheartedly!]
ELECTION OF TRUSTEES
The following Trustees were re-elected en bloc:
TLC is now working on a clearer ethos for the Charity, with a view to introducing an improved election process as soon as possible.
TLC CHAIR’S REPORT
There was not time to give the full report given here. An abbreviated version was delivered at the AGM.
Much has been achieved this year. Much more could be done with more helpers on board.
Our website has been revamped, with a better design, new areas for library campaigners’ views, the only national list of library groups and campaigns and daily digests of library articles in the news, collated by one of our members (and national library campaigner) Shirley Burnham.
Apart from numerous press releases, information given to journalists and researchers, interviews on local radio and a recent interview on Radio 4’s You and Yours…
A quote from The Library Campaign took up the whole front page of The Bookseller (21 February 2014), widely read in the library world. (Followed by more from us inside the magazine).
Another publicity success was our press release last July, in conjunction with other campaigners, which got major cover in the Guardian, the Independent, The Bookseller, CILIP Update and elsewhere. Its main point – that 1,000 libraries are likely to be lost by 2016 – was widely quoted, and is still being quoted this month.
All this is evidence that we are increasingly successful in publicising library campaigners’ concerns. As so often – locally and nationally – it is only library users who are speaking out for libraries and librarians. The national bodies are largely silent.
We have sent evidence on: extension of PLR rights to audio- and e-books (DCMS consultation), digital access (Cabinet Office team), the work of Arts Council England (Parliamentary select committee), the abolition of the statutory Advisory Committee on Libraries (DCMS consultation), and the Sieghart independent inquiry on public libraries.
We have written several times to libraries minister Ed Vaizey: chiefly about his neglect of the problems of volunteer libraries, while recklessly encouraging all comers to set them up. We also complained to the Parliamentary select committee pointing out that his promised report on library closures (delivered in January) avoided the issue completely.
We have briefed Helen Goodman MP, the new shadow minister for libraries. We are now chasing her up about her failure to include library users/campaigners in her consultation on libraries.
We have briefed the All-Party Parliamentary Group on libraries.
Trustee Geof Dron has sent a stream of painstaking Freedom of Information queries to the DCMS, ACE, the DCLG, the Cabinet Office and the Department for Education… mostly uncovering a blend of confusion and inaction.
We placed a prominent advert on public libraries’ plight in Total Politics, a magazine sent to all UK MPs, MEPs, council leaders etc.
We regularly meet the Society of Chief Librarians.
We are working with Campaign for the Book (Alan Gibbons), CILIP, Unison and Voices for the Library as Speak Up for Libraries. A successful national conference was run last year.
SUPPORT FOR CAMPAIGNS AND GROUPS
We have given advice to individuals on a number of topics including: campaigning for the endangered home library service in Bristol, the ongoing campaigns in Sheffield and Lincolnshire, sources of funding, information on library design, the campaign by Rhydyfelin Library Support Group in Wales and the serious problems faced by a volunteer library elsewhere.
We are the main sponsor of the Kickstarter-funded project by librarians to produce publicity on the value of public libraries. We have donated £1,000 to Save Lincolnshire Libraries’ appeal to fund a judicial review.
We have supported www.publiclibrariesnews.com, the only national information source on public library issues (another vital resource not provided nationally).
Finally, of course, we publish the only national magazine solely devoted to public libraries.
THE PLIGHT OF PUBLIC LIBRARIES
All this happens against a background that has never looked more grim. Where good work is being done, it is un-coordinated and patchily funded. There is much frustration at the muddle and waste.
Official national bodies do little or nothing to address the real agenda (in the case of the DCMS the neglect amounts to outright sabotage). And there is quite a gulf between their world and the real world in local libraries.
Also very clear is the failure of so many councils to realise what a fantastic – cheap – resource they have in their libraries. Worse, many refuse point-blank to listen when their own residents tell them the facts. Consultation is often a farce. Alternative ideas are rejected without consideration. And there seems no way to enforce decent practice here.
And, more than ever, we know that libraries’ plight is just one sign of political ill-will towards the whole concept of public service and public good. The Library Campaign takes no party political stance. Unfortunately, we do not need to. All the major parties seem wedded to a daft economic view that worships ‘the market’, sees public services as a cost instead of an investment, and is happy to see the death of vital public services nationwide.
The Prime Minister has cheerfully announced that a much smaller state is to be permanent policy. Even when the dodgy excuse of ‘austerity’ no longer applies.
Reluctant ‘volunteers’ must take on the running of just about everything that makes for a civil society, while the financial sector swallows billions to support its greedy, incompetent and sometimes criminal practices.
The Library Campaign is working harder than ever.
We have to.
WE NEED OUR MEMBERS
Every membership of The Library Campaign helps to further our work, adds another piece to the jigsaw and gives a further voice to library users.
Elizabeth Ash uses the membership database, for example, to monitor what is going on locally and to meet requests from the media for contacts with local campaigns and groups, often at short notice. This all helps to highlight the real situation.
We now send out two copies of the magazine to members. We know that several, as intended, pass on the extra copy or place it in public places.
Members are also needed to contribute to our expanded website – for instance, the new Your Views section (the first post, by a library worker on the imposition of self-serve kiosks, attracted much attention). We are building up a bank of free images to show on our website.
Much work has gone on to reconstruct and expand our list of Friends and campaign groups. It is the only such list available. But it requires constant updating. If you know of a group not listed, please let us know. Similarly, please let us know if you spot an error or dead link.
ADD YOUR VOICE TO THE CAMPAIGN
You can join us by taking up membership.
You can follow us and engage on social media:
If you are on Twitter, follow The Library Campaign at @LibraryCampaign.
On Facebook, find us at The Library Campaign
It’s a great way to keep in touch with current news.
The more members we have involved, the more we can achieve as a charity. A strong and active membership helps The Library Campaign to better represent the views of the various campaigners and friends of libraries groups.
The meeting was followed by an open meeting, where issues and priorities were discussed. We want your views. to find out more click here: TLC Open Meeting – views sought