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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.
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    Tuesday, September 26, 2006

    Public Libraries: Criticism and CILIP (2)

    Following the publication of my message yesterday, I have received a lone supportive response from the profession, support from Tim Coates (naturally!), and an endorsing email from the Chairman of Libri, which I reproduce in full below.

    Dear Mr Armstrong
    I have been shown your recent e mail of 25 September and am sending you copies of recent media coverage related to the public library service.
    A lot of work has been done to assess the various published statistics and consultancy reports as well as replies to Parliamentary Questions etc.
    I have also spent considerable time meeting with the Minister, the shadow team, officials, MLA, SCL , LGA, PKF and PwC consultants and concerned organisations (eg Society of Authors, PA, Library Users) to understand the issues and to try to find solutions.
    There seems to be a serious lack of leadership, an absence of a shared vision for public libraries in the 21st Century and a task force to help the 149 library authorities implement urgently needed improvements to the benefit of the public. In many cases Chief Librarians face conflicting agenda driven by Government, the profession and local politicians.
    I do recognise that some authorities are endeavouring to fulfil their obligation to provide a "comprehensive and efficient public library service" but at least half are seriously under performing. For example, 49% of authorities are failing to achieve more than five out of ten of the Public Library Service Standards. We also face budget cuts and further threatened closures while failing to tackle inefficiency, old fashioned practices and labour intensive processes.
    The good news is that the Smith Institute (the Brownites) plan a seminar on public libraries and the Shadow Minister is soon to make a strong statement following their consultation and research.
    Sadly, the MLA and especially, its regional bodies, are seen as being remarkably ineffective.
    Kind regards
    Desmond Clarke
    Chairman, Libri

    It seems that I am not alone in looking for leadership and vision.

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