Tim Coates podcast on Talis

Just listening to this. Interesting. Not much different from his blog, but a good starting point for those not familiar with him

Right now, he’s essentially saying that libraries should adopt Blockbuster’s circulation systems. He may have a point. Maybe we could go one better, reform tendering processes and switch to Open Source; even cheaper than Blockbuster! The issues around tendering processes that he and Richard Wallis skirt around are legal issues, not the finicky needs of librarians.

On to looking for new books. Someone has already made the point that libraries should be able to point to new books, whether they are coming out, when the library might get it.

Oh now he’s telling you what you’ll get when asking about what  new books are coming out. This is what is frustrating about him; he uses straw librarians. I don’t doubt that some librarians are like this. I know I’m damn well not.

Ooh, now he’s onto a Cenote like project, or a national/union catalogue. Some stuff like this is going on. He’s even hinting at Library 2.0 style union catalogues. How does this square with his blog comments against ‘librarians jargonning on about the digital library.’

Giving librarians power! Gosh, a bit of a departure. Making library managers individually responsible. But then all librarians are all about their own needs, all the time.

Whos is this ‘we?’ Who are ‘the public?’ What do ‘the public’ want? How do we know?


21 Responses to Tim Coates podcast on Talis

  1. I was just thinking about how it would be great to have an Amazon DVD rental type service from public libraries, but wrote it off as requiring way too much organisation and investment.

    How cool would it be though, to have a wish list of rentals from your public library (and this could apply to books too), and have these sent to you. I’d be only too happy to pay my £5.99 to a public library instead of Amazon. Not sure it would ever work though.

  2. Pete says:

    Oh, and the interview is much more of a monologue, but maybe that’s the point. The interviewer doesn’t seem to pick up on Coates’ combative approach and his broadbrushing of librarians.
    I don’t know, for example, that ‘librarians’ have ever said en masse that no-one wants libraries any more. Some have come close to that, sure. But most have merely said that people want different things from libraries alongside books etc.

  3. Pete says:

    S, you already pay for such things 😉 If public libraries could save the millions they apparently can, then maybe this sort of service could be offered for free.

  4. “No-one wants libraries any more.” Of course not. And none of us librarians want a job any more? How mental would you need to be – as a librarian – to say something like that in public?

    #3: Ah yes I know, but I’m feeling generous today 😀 I’d be willing to pay extra for a delivery service, and they could keep what comes from my taxes to maintain a physical location for those who don’t want to pay extra. Everyone wins, see?

    It would be much easier to take this ‘campaign’ seriously if librarians weren’t the ones in the firing line all the time. We are not the policy-makers, and we’re not the ones handed the 6 figure cheque to waste away as we please.

  5. Miriam Palfrey says:

    I actually came up with a proposal for the DVD rental thing last year but my head of service said that revenue from AV stock is declining (apparently on a universal basis)and it wouldn’t work.

    Why woudl librarians say that no-one wants libraries anymore? That makes no sense… then again I have never heard a librarian say that we don’t need/ want books either.

    I can’t listen to the interview at work. How much is it likely to raise my blood pressure?

  6. Pete says:

    No more than the blog, Miriam. To be really interersting it does need to be a debate as opposed to an interview.

  7. Michael says:

    I suspect it will evolve into a debate, since they’re trying to line up some other candidates.

    I’ll give it a listen tomorrow. The Talis podcasts are ususally pretty interesting.

  8. Pete says:

    Well, I commended you to Mr Wallis, Michael- along with other bloggers.

  9. As I said in the accompanying show notes for the Tim Coates Podcast, this is the first in a series with people of strong opinion in the debate about the future of Public Libraries.

    The series is intended to facilitate the debate by giving the protagonists, from the full breadth of opinion, the opportunity to put their views over in a neutral non confrontational environment. As facilitator I believe it is not my role to take the part of those with views opposing those of the interviewee. The debate hopefully will emerge as the series evolves.

    I am pulling together a list of further interviews with several people, including for instance someone from the MLA. These will be recorded and published over the next few weeks.

  10. Pete says:

    Fair enough Richard. I’m sure the neutrality will help. You did agree with him on the naffness of catalogues mind you 😉
    I guess what I’d like to see is an <i>actual</i> debate, e.e. Tim Coates and John Dolan. But that might generate more light than heat.

  11. Michael says:

    I finished listening to it this morning, and there’s nothing remarkable. It’s the same old arguments. Evidence for Coates’ claims is conspicuously absent, as ever; the reasoning he offers for the inherent success of his proposed model for library management is that “it’s all been thought through, it’s all proper”.

    There are too many generalisations: “librarians” do or don’t do something; “the public” have certain opinions. I won’t get into the ins and outs of this, Pete, because you’ve covered it more than adequately already. But all sweeping generalisations are wrong. 😉

    He complains that his ideas were poorly-received. He’d probably have had more success without the name-calling and insults on his blog, imho, but there you go. He says nobody listens to him, that councils won’t work with him, but then he talks about the councils he *has* worked with and what he’s achieved with them.

    So there’s nothing new here. The core of his message – that libraries could and should use their funding better – is a no-brainer. Everyone could use their money better, booksellers (and former booksellers) included.

  12. Pete says:

    I think it is the rhetoric that is the issue. He has some good points, and a lot to offer, but people aren’t going to listen whilst they are being kicked in the head (metaphorically speaking.)

  13. Miriam Palfrey says:

    I don’t really think he has a lot to offer.

    Most of his “good points” are not original (many of them are things that we were/ are already addressing or putting into practice). It hardly takes a genius to tell us that it would benefit library services to have nice buildings and a good range of books but I really don’t believe that Tim Coates has any idea how we are supposed to fund any changes which have to be made. He can bang on all he likes about Who’s In Charge but his information was based upon one authority which has since changed all of it’s practices (and I can’t say that I really blame the librarians of Hampshire who see Tim Coates as the reason behind their lost jobs).

    As Michael says, he makes statements without any evidence to back them up and it’s not just his linguistic style that is an issue. The content of his argument is that public librarians should just write off large sections of the community because they “don’t want ” to use libraries, when it is suggested to him that they might want to use our services if they knew about them he makes sweeping statements about how public library services don’t serve anyone.

    It is not just a matter of him insulting librarians and blaming them for policy change which they have no control over (irritating though that is). He clearly has no idea of how a PUBLIC service should serve the public. We are not a book shop and he can’t understand that.

    It is not just a case of people not listening to him because he is an aggressive, patronising, bully and can’t substantiate half of his arguments (although to be honest that’s reason enough). He either has no understanding of the purpose of Public libraries (that they are are supposed to serve all of the public, not just himself and his cronies) or he is telling us to do things which are already common practice in some (possibly many) places or which we would willingly do if we had the money (getting rid of all of our staff, even the professionals, won’t really provide new library buildings across the board).

    Finally, even if he DID have anything useful to offer, the fact that he never listens to (or indeed actually answers) any criticism of his rather flawed perspective is always going to be a stumbling block.

  14. Pete says:

    I agree with that point, but it is for us to convince him otherwise. Slowly, but surely, with evidence of our own 🙂

  15. Miriam Palfrey says:

    As others have said, I’m not sure he can be convinced, arguing with him may convince others though so it is certainly worthwhile. A long and frustrating experience, but worthwhile none the less.

  16. Miriam Palfrey says:

    Damn, if I’d thought for two seconds before writing the long post above then I would have realised that I could use HTML code to bold certain words rather than shouting. Bah.

  17. Pete says:

    I think he is open to persuasion, so long as the right register is used. Ultimately we need to remember he is one commentator amongst many, and we would do well to go out and listen to our users, get publishable responses to what they say and act on it where possible. Then we can say we are doing what ‘the public’ want.

  18. Miriam says:

    Having observed his approach for quite a while now I am pretty sure that he isn’t open to persuasion. He’s not interested in actually improving things, just in proving that public librarians are wrong and that he is right.

    I agree that we need to listen to the public but I also think that we probably listen a great deal more than we are given credit for.

  19. Pete says:

    Well, that is as may be. I am sure that he would say that being right and improving things aren’t mutually exclusive. But his rhetoric does concern me. In all honesty though, press aside, I’m not sure that the public listen to him any more than they do to me.

  20. Miriam Palfrey says:

    Speaking of evidence, http://icwales.icnetwork.co.uk/0100news/0200wales/tm_headline=-we–can-t-afford-to-use–libraries–children-think&method=full&objectid=18925510&siteid=50082-name_page.html

    this is a good example of the fact that a) people make decisions about using libraires without any knowledge of the services they provide and b) simply improving book stock will not change their minds (especially if they never set foot in a library in the first place).

    There is also a survey out today about use of email which is also of some interest.

  21. Pete says:

    Yes, I saw that a while back. There is an assumption that people know what public libraries are for and so will know whether they are for them or not.

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