Thursday, November 25, 2010

Who is H. Adenough?

Occasionally there's been some speculation about the identity of the CoatesWatch team. We have nothing to say on the matter except that we are freeborn Englishmen and women. We have to say that H. Adenough is not one of us, though we wish that he or she were. H. Adenough commented thus on a recent Bookseller article about the idea that the MLA might find a home with the Arts Council:

It is about time that Tim Coates admitted that his interests in public libraries are far from independent minded (witness his close relationship with the publishing and retail arms of the book world), and that his claim to speak on behalf of library users rests on the thinnest of ice. His relentless bullying of the library world is based upon a series of ill-judged but eloquent, media-savvy assertions based on a highly selective use of evidence oft-repeated to please his small but enthusiastic claque of supporters. I am sure that he would like to be remembered as a saviour of public libraries; sadly his epitaph is more likely to be of one who (however inadvertently) undermined their strength at a time when it was needed most.

In the comments on the same post, we have spent the evening trying to imagine the tones of voice in which the first sentence of Roy Clare's contribution might be read. The possible variations are many. Readers, record your own version and send it to We will put them up on the blog and may give a small prize, perhaps a Waterstones voucher, for the best.


  1. Sadly it appears, for some librarians at least, Tim Coates seems to be striking a chord with the public, and said librarians are burying their heads in the sand pretending this is not happening.

    I by no means agree with Tim Coates, but I do think his vision for the libraries is a contribution to the vision for the future library service, and Coates Watch is doing Public Libraries a disservice by dismissing his contribution with prejudice and 'biblio' racism. His mistake from my brief knowledge of the subject was i) saying libraries could operate on ~75% of the budget they currently have (I would have preferred 'strategic finance issues' rather than this - libraries can make good use of every penny they can get), and ii) saying that he had very little respect for librarians, which was abrupt, no one likes being insulted, but it would maybe have taken the interpersonal skills of the almighty himself to get through to the current institution that some people were not otherwise happy - librarians are not very receptive to the people they serve, and people are expecting more but not getting any response, and so hence I say he has maybe struck a chord with the public.

    Whatever the prognosis, Tim Coates as a phenomena has to be acknowledged as a reality, and factored into library planning. That (as a library assistant) is my own expectation at least.

    Why can't publishers/booksellers and librarians just get on! Publishers/booksellers provide people with the reading they want and value, and it is readers who then create libraries and librarians to manage those libraries and their reading. Quoting McColvin, all this "printed, manuscript, graphic and related records by which knowledge, ideas and imagination can be conserved and disseminated" is essentially extremely useful stuff, "enabling men to do, think, feel and understand better than they could if they depended solely on their individual experience and that of those with whom they were in immediate contact", especially valuable in the complex world of today that we live in. Even with fiction the fact we enjoy a good story tells is that we are getting something to do with our values right (i.e., genetically). So can publishers and booksellers and librarians please stop all this squabbling and can we see them getting on with the job please ;)

  2. You know the poor old writers must be completely bemused by all this, wondering what they are going to do with us all as well :|

    The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say. ~Anaïs Nin

    If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it. ~Toni Morrison

    The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium. ~Norbet Platt

    Maybe writers would like publishers/booksellers & librarians to stop fighting so that they can just get on with their job.

  3. Writers need publishers/booksellers to get their books to the people they have written them for, but they value the libraries also because many more people will see and read their books than if relying on the market alone. So I would guess it in their interests as well as the public's to see a healthy value chain. (I'd guess it's also a Reader Development issue as well.)

  4. (Having said it's a Reader Development issue also, perhaps the Arts Council might like to see these two groups getting on more maturely as well in the interests of the health of our culture.)

  5. So there you have it, The Public, Writers, The Arts Council England: Coates Watch will you stop behaving like a small child and do your job!

  6. A 'claque' is a group of persons hired to applaud an act or performer, whereas a 'clique' is described as "often associated with children and teenagers in a classroom setting". I wonder, are you a clique ? Whilst you may have noted a comment from Roy Clare on the same Bookseller article, you are selective as to whom you quote. Is this evidence of another claque or just an oversight by the clique ? Under my own name I would defend anyone's right to free speech, but that apparently consigns me to a claque. Your clique favours the poison-pen approach : not very creditable, honestly.

  7. Gratifying to have so many comments, even if several seem to come from the same pen. But no podcasts! Come on, do try.
    We prefer to see ourselves as a cabal, Shirley.

  8. Definition of 'Cabal' - "Cabals are sometimes secret societies composed of a few designing persons. The term can also be used to refer to the designs of such persons or to the practical consequences of their emergent behaviour, and also holds a general meaning of intrigue and conspiracy. Its usage carries strong connotations of shadowy corners, back rooms and insidious influence; a cabal is more evil and selective than, say, a faction, which is simply selfish; because of this negative connotation, few organizations use the term to refer to themselves or their internal subdivisions."

    A poison-pen cabal ? How exciting this must be for you. And, it seems, you are proud of it. No explaining some people.

  9. Blog Owner: I am not sure how representative Tim- or Shirley, or me- actually are. Absent a vote, or evidence of polling opinion, none of us can claim a mandate to speak for "users."

    CoatesWatch: But Tim does articulate the views of some users and as such should be engaged on those issues, or not at all.

  10. @readwithsandy tweeted me about some Reading Agency work:

    "Our Reading Partners scheme is revolutionising the way libraries and publishers work together to reach readers."

    So libraries and publishers/booksellers can get on :)

  11. Well said, Shirley. I simply cannot picture them as fearless, freeborn Englishmen and women. More like timid house elves intent on maiming or severely injuring their victims - frit that their employers may find out. No names, no pack drill is the motto of these particular Dobbys, I suspect

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  13. Shirley, we find Restoration political history fascinating and the names of the five members of the cabal frequently comes up on University Challenge and in the crossword. In case you don't recall, they were Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley and Lauderdale
    House elves . Be more original if you can, Miles. We don't ban anyone here, but mentioning Harry Potter may make us change our mind.
    We could make some cogent points about how the book-selling, library supply and publishing industries are not small enterprises made up of Hugh Grant types in tiny bookshops waiting for Julia Roberts to walk through the door. In fact all three industries are dominated by gigantic capitalist behemoths who are accountable to no one.
    But hell, we're satirists. We don't toe the line of any organisation in the library world. We're here to expose pretentiousness and pomposity. Speaking of which....see our next post.