Thursday, August 27, 2009

Recent Guardian Article on academic libraries - Thanks Jo!

This recent article in the Guardian had escaped my attention until I spotted the post on Jo Alcock's blog.

Please do flag this article up to anyone you think might be interested, including friends and family who may have a rather inaccurate view of librarians and what they actually get up to.


Paul Tovell said...

Hi there, thought I'd post this comment here too. This article is great news for academic librarians who have one more journalist on their side. But for us scruffians (read: public librarians), it’s another nail in the coffin for public perception of the local library service. And just when we were starting to pull out a few with the pliers of community engagement. OK, end of metaphor. Fantastic media validation for academic librarians, absolutely. But the article is plastered with the flashiness of university money and investment; the partnership in Worcester reads more like the uni holding up the failing public library – does the latter bring anything to this deal? Surely their contribution is more than agreeing a carpet colour and handing over their patrons on a platter? Can’t help inferring that working in a public library in Worcs is so dull that everyone’s hugely relieved when the university steps in to jazz the service and save the day. Very Saving Private Ryan.

Katharine said...

Thanks for this Paul.

I have gone back and read the article again in light of your comment, and yes, there is a section which is particularly unfair to public libraries:

"University libraries have of course traditionally been highly exclusive in terms of who they let in. Gown can wander the university's well-stocked book-stacks from early in the morning till late at night, while town has only had access to the scruffy municipal library that's open for a few hours a day if you're lucky."

Perhaps a letter to the editor requesting an article which better looks at work in public libraries might go some way to redressing the balance?

Academic and public libraries (only 2 of the many sectors of the library world) are funded very differently, and have different functions, and different users. They are not in competition with each other and there is no excuse for glorifying one at the expense of the other. That section of the article is, I agree, unfair and unrepresentative of the work of public libraries. The article also fails to point out how much academic librarians are going to need to learn from public librarians to make the project in Worcester work.

Something I would like to mention at this point, is that while there has been a lot of money spent on University libraries for new building projects etc over the last few years such fuinding has largely come from winning external bids, not from the university bank accounts. University libraries are suffering from the recession along with everyone else. We do not have an endless pot of money to be flashy with. Restructuring and redundancy are rife in the academic sector at the moment (hence my own recent change of role).

I fully appreciate your annoyance at the light in which this article views public libraries. have you considered contacting the editor? Or contacting CILIP and asking them to get involved? (they are, after all, supposed to be advocates on behalf of all sectors).

Paul Tovell said...

Hi Katharine, sorry if I sounded rude towards academic libraries in that comment - I meant no harshness towards you and your colleagues in that sector. It might be worth me contacting the editor, I'll give it some thought. I fully appreciate that academic libraries are being hit by the recession too, but it's great that the public and the media are concentrating on your new projects and image - now, we could do with advocacy like that!

Katharine said...

Hi Paul,

Sorry it's taken me a while to respond to your comment. I wonder, are you a member of CILIP and did you know that the CILIP Branch elections are coming up. If you are not already on a committee, perhaps a place on a CILIP Branch or Group committee would give you somewhere to make your voice heard and possibly offer you more opportunity to address issues that you feel should be taken forward?

If you are already on a Branch/Group committee perhaps we could arrange to do some work together?

Let me know if you are interested.