Freepint reports one person’s poor experience of London PLs. They go on to ask why we can’t just dissolve the PLs and ‘get our taxes back,’ though no use for the freed up money is specified. Perhaps it could be part put with some PFI money to half-build a hospital or school which then turns out to be dreadful and a burden on taxpayers for years to come 😉
Seriously, why have a tax funded PL system? The respondent seems to suggest that private libraries will naturally and necessarily be better. Now I have never used a private library. I am sure they are great. But we should never assume that private = good. Look at the ‘private’ railways- still heavily subsidised with public money. And we have all had poor customer service experiences in private businesses. I once left a bookshop without what I wanted because the assistant misspelled the author’s name- this was pointed out to me after I had left the shop.
PLs should certainly offer good customer service, but we should not assume that the examples of poor service reported are typical- any more than my experience in the book shop is.
What is needed is a basic look at what PLs are for. They are not (pace the Freepint post) there to enable people to run a small business, although they can contribute to it. With respect to the issues of bookstock, change and what libraries are for (as discussed by Tim Coates with respect to Hampshire,) libraries still are about books and access to them. They need to change over time, this is true, to make the investment worth while- not simply to keep librarians in jobs as Mr Coates says, but to make sure that the service is seen as worthwhile. But any change needs to be rooted in what people want from the library service, not in what services councils think libraries should have stuffed into them.
Where are the public librarians in all this? Not the officers, not the councillors, but the staff? Where is their voice?