Friday, September 02, 2005

Rebranding Libraries
A new government report calling for the "rebranding" of public libraries was published yesterday by the Museums Libraries and Archives Council. The 39 page report argues that people's perceptions of public libraries are a major barrier to their use, and that Libraries must counter these misconception. The report also identifies the major role that Libraries could play in tackling the basic literacy problems experienced by over 7 million people in the UK. "Libraries, with their wide, local-based network and highly committed staff, are well placed to re-engage people into learning," says the report, "becoming a more inclusive service at the heart of the community."

Interestingly the report focuses on the high level of commitment among library workers as a key asset in the fight for literacy - but it never asks the question: "Why has the educational system failed 7 million people?" and while it addresses the need for Libraries to be better resourced it fails to suggest the need for better pay in Libraries. Library staff are expected to do the same job for a lot less money than teachers. Little wonder that another report published last week identified a looming staffing crisis in Libraries across the country. Another key point picked up by the report was the lack of faith that Library workers have in policy makers. Although the report does not say so, lack of investment in buildings, and continuing service restructuring are probably more damaging to the public perception of Libraries than anything else.

Indeed Libraries can and should be an important means for promoting literacy within the community, but the current thrust of government policy is to use libraries as a resource to tackle social issues that it has failed to resolve through the established Institutions. Libraries are being bounced into a new role at the expense of their equally important traditional role.
The report is available as a pdf download from the MLA website.