Saturday, December 4, 2010

Please put a penny in the old man's hat

After the razzmatazz of its launch in an 'important speech' at a venue quite near London's exclusive Mayfair district, the Libraries Alliance went all quiet, but now we know: it needs cash.

In a post today, we learn that, 'in the case of public libraries, Library Alliance is being set up to try to improve the quality of the dialogue between local councillors, specifically and local people. It wants to cut through all the various forms and stages of advice that are given by others unless there are genuine reasons why those are needed'. We have to confess ourselves puzzled. The second sentence isn't written in the clearest English, but the thought behind it is even more opaque. Who are all these unnecessary advisors lurking behind hedges, ready to leap out and frighten us?

It continues, 'I am looking for moral and financial support to do this - if anyone reading this has access to means. This project will in the end replace CIPFA and the MLA, and all those bodies and it will replace them with a properly informed dialogue between people who read and local councillors who provide libraries".  Here we find ourselves once more baffled. 'CIPFA and the MLA, and all those bodies'; all what bodies? And a dialogue between people who read and councillors who provide libraries sounds a little limited. How might it go?

People who read: Don't close our library
Councillors: Sorry, no money
People who read: Oh well, in that case, fair enough. Good to have a properly informed dialogue, though

Exeunt omnes

We're charitable types; indeed only this morning we put 2p in the Chamber of Commerce's collection to give the pensioners, bless them, some Christmas cheer. But we're disinclined to put our hands in our pockets for the LIbrary Alliance. Try Mr Cameron; he's quite wealthy, we understand, and may approve of what you're doing.


  1. Skippy the Bush KangarooDecember 6, 2010 at 5:04 PM

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! He's going to replace CIPFA, is he? So Tim is going to set up an organisation which will collect data on local services and then make it available? It's not the collection of money to do this that is so amusing, although he'll need a lot more than 50 grand, it's the collection of power.

    To do this Tim will need to be able to define a set of data, and then compel councils to provide it. This data will need to be robust and comparable, and to ensure this councils (which are alrady facing 30% budget cuts) will need to change or set up new systems. Their taxpayers no doubt will see this as a complete waste of time and money. And he will need power because he will need to compel councils to collect and make public the data. He will have to be given that power, and it won't be given to him. No one is going to trust any old tom, dick and harry with holding a whole sector of public services to account and, in any case, has Tim not noticed that there's been an election and a government's in place which says "localism" at every turn and is busy slashing and burning every standard and target and indicator against which local services have to report?

    Who is going to give him he power? Jeremy Hunt, Ed Vaizey, Eric Pickles? David Cameron? The Queen? Kate Middleton? God?

    This is an idea from Planet Lunacy. It is brilliant. It might just work. Just not here. Not now. And not ever.

  2. G'day, Skip, a fair point well made. We wonder if TC is not like the protagonist of a tragedy, whose overweening ambition and impiety brings about a bloody downfall.

  3. And, perhaps, more importantly, who on earth are the Libraries Alliance? Is it a one man band with TC, or are their others involved? In which case who are they?

  4. Surely you don't expect the Libraries Alliance to be transparent and open, Skorpy? The new culture of openness has passed Tim by, witness his attitude to comments on his blog.
    However, if the LA (initials that will stir memories among many of us) is a Community Interest Company, there may well be requirements for them to register and declare officers, etc. Who fancies playing detective?

  5. 'transparent and open' the notoriously shy and sly members of CoatesWatch, perhaps? Lacking the courage of their convictions they hide in the background lobbing their bile anonymously.

  6. We're anonymous, Miles, true. It's sad that we have to be, but there it is. But we stick to all the ethical conventions of blogging, whether it be in relation to comments, persistence of items, feeds, encouraging debate and so on. If the blog owner had stuck to the norms the Good Library Blog could have made a useful contribution. We think it's telling that Tim chose to ignore, or was ignorant of, all these things

  7. "Lobbing bile" sounds rather revolting, but perhaps a fair description. Bile is a corrosive juice which anyone who has had pancreatitis will know. It is an essential part of the digestive process, but should go down, not up. Yours appears to travel northwards; this gives the patient at the very least heartburn, or at worst a gradual breakdown of mental and physical function. For Christmas, perhaps you can pause and decide on something more positive to do ?

  8. Shirley Burnham and P Miles, don't you think it's a legitimate question to ask who the backers of the Library Alliance are, and that the issue of who posts on this website is an absolute sideshow? The Library Alliance is making big claims to take on a role representing the public.

    If that is indeed the case then it is entirely proper that clarity is established as to who are the people involved in the Library Alliance so that judgement can be exercised as to in whose interest those people are acting.

    If they are disinterested individuals who are prepared to establish what the public want and then to act on that, then fair enough, more power to their collective elbow, and everyone who cares about libraries will stand with them.

    If they are people who push a particular line without reference to evidence about what the people of this country might be thinking (even if they disagree with it), and arrogantly assume that they know the public's mind, then we should know that.

    If, indeed, the people behind the Libraries Alliance stand to gain in a commercial sense if councils or government act in a certain way towards libraries, then there is a conflict of interest that precludes the Libraries Alliance from claiming to speak for anyone but themselves.

    That, on his Good Library Blog, Mr Coates has refused to set out this information when asked, can only raise legitimate concerns and suspicions about who the Library Alliance are and what their agenda might be.

    As I said, if they prove to be disinterested people ready to act on what people want to see then great, they'll get my support and that of many library users and library staff.

    But, Shirley and P, please don't cloud the issue here. The issue is that Tim is keeping this information to himself.

    Which can only breed suspicion.

  9. Skorpy, don't you think it's a legitimate question to ask who the backers of CoatesWatch are? What is their agenda? Whose vested interests do they represent?

    Nothing positive or constructive appears on this blog - snide innuendo mostly.

    Tim Coates was willing to give the requested details to the anonymous poster Big question had he/she provided an email address. The details of the Library Alliance at Companies House are perfectly straight forward - no accounts lodged as it was only incorporated in November!

    This blog seems to imply that the Library Alliance has been set up for financial gain - ethical blogging, sniggering schoolboy spite or malicious defamation ?