The Blog Post Formerly Known as “Right to Reply”

This blog post originally said something other than what you are reading now. I had seen a blog post written by a “consultant” “library campaigner” or maybe even a sometime “author” who never seems to have  much positive to say. I do not normally pay much attention but the inaccuracies of this particular post and the attack it made on public librarians made me cross. He basically said libraries are closing because they are rubbish and then went on to blame all librarians. I felt the need to respond in an attempt to try to make him see things with….um a little more balance…it did not work and only served to make me crosser and I ended up venting in this very blog post – guess what, it did not make me feel  better…..Something else did. This evening I received an email from a lady who is supporting Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries efforts to stop the devastating 43% cuts to our library services. Her email moved me, put things into perspective and made me realise I was looking at things all the wrong way.  She is a lifelong library user who “cannot envisage life in Gloucestershire without a full set of properly staffed and stocked libraries” she values all library staff  “whether in public or specialist libraries” stating that “they need a huge range of skills for which they have undergone substantial training”

She finally  says that she has pleaded with the county councillors to “search their consciences and think again. We need a library culture if we are to remain a civilised and knowledgeable country”.

This is one of  many letters, emails and phone calls of support I have had from members of the public, students, charities, community groups, library staff (of all levels of seniority) councillors, authors, teachers, lecturers and journalists since I and three of my friends started Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries.  It has been incredibly moving to hear why libraries and properly trained library staff are so important to them. Tonight it made me think that for every agitator out there we currently have 70 passionate, positive campaigners here in our formidable team and the numbers are growing all of the time (hopefully beyond 5000 if our petition is a success!) These people remind me why I am working so hard to save our libraries and this evening they have reminded me to focus my energy on campaigning for what I believe in and to stop being distracted (as I was momentarily) by someone whose intention is to exude negativity and who is never going to even try to understand what I have to say. So I have rewritten this blog post as a celebration and I dedicate it to all of the wonderful Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries campaigners who are working so hard, to the tireless, brave campaigners at Voices for the Library and to the library staff, both in Gloucestershire and nationally, who are currently going through a horrendous time. You are all my inspiration.  In unity.


6 responses to this post.

  1. Well played. I have also left a comment, but it seems Tim only writes but rarely responds to criticism.


  2. He has posted both at

    I know this comes as a shock but I would actually agree with Tim on the essential points. There are some awful libraries out there – but they are there due to lack of funding and the lack of effective standards. There has been a lack of effective leadership at the national level. By that I mean that there has been no effective advocate either nationally or politically for libraries as long as I can remember. When was the last national marketing campaign? Where has been the national outcry been about what is happening to libraries (not closures but in reductions in funding) on the national stage?

    Whether it is fair to blame librarians for this is a different matter. It is certainly not the right time to get into a slagging match between ourselves.

    The enemy is very clearly out there – and it is not Tim or (I sincerely hope, or we are doomed) senior managers in the library service. It is those councillors who do not see the value (or the political capital) in keeping them open. It is the failure of the last 30 years or so that there are so many of these.


    • I have no intention of getting into a slagging match with him Ian and I have held my tongue on MANY occasions for this very reason. I do not have the time or energy for it. There are bigger battles to fight. There are some bad libraries and ineffective librarians but to tar them all with one brush is unacceptable. This is not what is happening here but if he convinces people otherwise then he is potentially undoing all of the hard work we have been doing. I think I have been very measured in my response – my original draft was a lot more coloured I can tell you! It is not a shock as I agree with some of what he says but the way he conducts his “campaigning” alienates and angers me and others which is exactly the point I am making. To ignore him completely when he makes such comments is urm anti-advocacy?


  3. Having had difficulties with the spam blocker myself in the past I thought I’d copy a response here; apologies for piggybacking on your excellent post Jo. 🙂

    As usual Tim, while we both agree on the sentiment, our approach differs. Books are of course important, and though it may surprise you, I still do visit my local library regularly and borrow books. I also have a large collection myself. Equally however I’m perfectly happy to download a book and read it on a computer or a Kindle or iPad.

    I’m perhaps ‘harder’ on libraries than you in fact, because I don’t believe that a library should be there ‘just’ to provide books, but to provide a full service to the community. To *all* of the community – not just the people who are able to visit the buildings, but those who are not, such as the housebound, the infirm, the shift workers and those out in very rural communities. The community is not based around a building – the community is based around *people* and a library must be in a position to reach out to all of them, and it cannot – however much you might like it – do this simply by providing a book based service.

    And, much though you may dislike to admit it, children do need access to the internet in order to do their homework, and students need to be able to research. This cannot – nor do I believe it should – simply be done with print based media. Libraries started to move on from that decades ago, more recently with CD-ROM and now the internet. For a library to remain relevant and dynamic in a modern community it has to be seen to be relevant and dynamic. Many of the comments that I see in opinion pieces in local and national newspapers lambast libraries as out of date places that just have access to books. This is a stick that is used to beat us over and over. These people, many of them as vocal as our champions, will not be impressed by more books or better buildings. A community needs to protect the library – I agree with you entirely on that – but in order for the community to see a need to protect the library, it has to offer more than books – it has to offer access to information, knowledge, education, 24/7 access and it has to be a hub around which everyone can rally.

    Your continual focus on bookstock at the expense of everything else and your unfortunate derision for the professional staff helps no-one. In fact, I would go so far to say that it is actually counterproductive and damaging to the libraries that you supposedly hold so dear. I would urge you to moderate your tone, and would, once again ask you to consider embracing the entire community, including the housebound, the infirm and the disabled rather than simply those who are able to enter the buildings.

    (I should also make the point that I’m speaking entirely in my own private capacity and not expressing an opinion on behalf of any professional organisation that I am associated with.)


  4. Jo, I am new to Tim – just been following things for a couple of months and I look for the good in everyone (well, OK, then, probably not those at the top of Glos Council…). The slagging match comment was directed more at Tim than anyone else though.


    • I try to see the good in people as well and I gave him the benefit of the doubt initially but he is so full of contradictions, generalisations and seeming political naivety that it is impossible to know what he is trying to achieve. If he put half the effort into positive campaigning as he did into putting peoples backs up and swiping at people I might find some respect for him. He seems to be against more things than he is for and I find that tiresome and not at all productive. It all rather makes me question his agenda and certainly does not make me want to accept his “help”. He reminds me of a petulant child seeking attention and the only way he can get it is by posting simplistic nonsense blog posts. I am all for a bit of a debate and a challenge but TGLB just facilitates playground pushing and shoving. Anyway, I rant. thank you for your comments about our campaign. I am glad you are finding some positive things to post about it. We have a great team here. I have had a lot of support from councillors, library users, library staff (both professional and other) and the media and it is all proving to be much more productive than sitting around instigating slagging matches!


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