“Library dystopian” type- blogs

I sometimes read “library dystopian” blogs. That is, people who blog about the end of librarianism (books, reference work, libraries etc), and I get really cross.

I came late to Librarianship. I had a career in design and print for 26 years before I needed a change, and chose librarianship.

I get cross on so many levels, when I read blogs/articles about the death of libraries. Yes, its happening to a large proportion of UK and US libraries. How can people be so stupid? I get indignant – why did those in the profession not stop it – did they not see the warning signs?

I have lots of family in the UK. A cousin tells me that they cut the acquisitions budget for Southend, Essex, Libraries for a number of years. As they weren’t renewing stock, books on shelves got older, customers stopped visiting. Then “they” chose the falling numbers of customers, to defend closing half of Southend’s Libraries.

How sad. This is a similar tale throughout the UK. Reducing budget leads to less footfall which leads to library closures.

Did my UK colleagues not protest quick enough? How can business people not realise that lack of investment leads to reduced usefulness of a service?

I don’t believe that libraries competition is technology (e-books, the internet etc) – history demonstrates that librarians and libraries are extremely good at adapting to customers needs. I think it is budget-creators who think that we can continually make do with less that are responsible.

I’m passionate about what I do. My family and I have also made huge commitments and sacrifice so I can study (personal back-story here), and also work in this industry. Selfishly, I’m concerned our sacrifice means nothing.

I worry that we may follow overseas trends – but really hope that New Zealand will learn from the mistakes that the UK and US have already made. After all, what will they do when the libraries have gone?

Inconceivable to me.





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6 responses to ““Library dystopian” type- blogs

  1. As someone who has recently come to libraries too, I often wonder if our profession is lacking business acumen. There seems comparitively little emphasis on ‘getting more business’, and an expectation that we will be loved for our virtue and good deeds.

    • Yes, I agree. I think one thing our library system is good at, is recognising the importance of outreach – across all our services. And we are improving by seeking new ways.

      At the Hui we attended the other day, someone hit the nail on the head: “libraries” aren’t just about buildings.

  2. One note: It’s really NOT happening to “a large proportion of” US libraries. I’ve investigated this, and in fact much less than one-half of one percent of U.S. libraries (not branches) closed within the past 12 years (many more new libraries opened than old ones closed). Yes, branches have been in trouble in some cities–but only dying villages and towns actually let their public libraries die. The UK is another issue, and I’ll just bite my tongue there…

    • I’m relieved to hear it. One of the problems with participating in social media is you get to hear / read so much more than the newspapers or TV ever reports. And it’s scary. Am too scared to read some blogs.

      I have many contacts in both library-land and also the genealogy world – both of whom have a vested interest in what is happening within libraries and archives.

      I have seen what I’ve interpreted (and hope) to be early signs of recovery in some areas of the UK – hoping that this is the case!

  3. Kathryn

    I think you’ve missed a key point of difference between New Zealand and the UK where this is concerned. In the UK there is huge polarisation of opinion on the value of public libraries in particular, whereas here in New Zealand libraries seem to be more highly valued across the board. The issue is that all sorts of public sector organisations have been hugely overspending for a number of years. Now it’s come back to bite them and the people in charge of budgets in the UK are taking advantage of the polarisation to make libraries a soft target. I think you are mistaken to think that librarians in the UK are doing nothing. The problem is that so many librarians don’t want to be managers and so you end up with the situation where there’s noone to speak up for libraries at the higher end of organisations where the decisions are made.

    • Hi Kathryn, thanks for taking the time to respond.

      I lived in the UK for nearly 12 years, my husband is English and I have English relatives. I can’t say that I noticed any particular negative opinions from members of the general public about libraries while I lived there.

      Comments I’ve heard in recent times however, is that the opinion that funding cuts have led to reductions in acquisitions and services, which have led to a drop in foot fall, which have led to libraries being devalued and closed because they are not needed . . .

      My questions about our UK colleagues were rhetorical. I wasn’t having a go at them. I know from my social media streams, that there is alot of activity going on. My tweetstreams are full of librarians and genealogists alarmed with what is happening. I guess that’s the problem right there. Without social media, we would be alot less aware, if we were reliant on newspaper or TV coverage to get the same reports.

      Thanks for your comments

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