Alan Davey, Chief Executive of Arts Council England spoke at the Society of Chief Librarians annual seminar focusing on the future of libraries. During his presentation he commented that libraries need skilled, knowledgeable staff and shouldn’t be replaced by volunteers. It’s very reassuring that he made this comment publicly in a room full of senior public library service managers. It would be interesting to know how many people in that seminar were nodding in agreement with Mr Davey? How many of those senior managers were nodding whilst the public library services they are leading are proposing to introduce volunteer run libraries as a replacement for skilled and knowledgeable staff? If they are nodding in agreement with Alan Davey, then shouldn’t they be standing up and fighting for their public library service and fighting for the library profession in the public sector, rather than having councillors dictate the outcome?
The Society of Chief Librarians are in an ideal position to stand up against the deprofessionalisation and downgrading of the UK’s public library service through reliance on a voluntary workforce. At the same seminar Ed Vaizey stated that he will be maintaining close communications with the SCL. They have the opportunity to make use of the power they have as public library service leaders and champions and can set the agenda, rather than having it set for them.
If the SCL do decide that their member organisations are happy to go down the volunteer libraries route, what message does this give their staff about the SCL’s opinion of their worth, of the library professions worth and are they the right people to be leading the profession in this sector?