The following editorial, passed along by Peter Sheilds, is “a very balanced commentary (written in April) on the Devon Libraries budget cuts and consultation, posted on the excellent ‘Public Libraries News‘ which is a blog maintained by a librarian on the unfolding national picture of library closures and community takeovers.”
Devon shows how hard things are
by Ian Anstice
The news from Devon is not good. After a 30% cut over the last five years, the service is undergoing a further 20%+ cut in the next three years. That would be difficult to sustain for any organisation and I do not envy them the task: the blame for such a move must primarily be borne by central government who have mandated such a huge cut in Devon’s budget and by the libraries minister who has oh so carefully made it clear that there’s no way he’s going to intervene in library cuts under any circumstances.
The service, under Ciara Eastell, the President-Elect of the Society of Chief Librarians, is looking for ideas and offers on how to cope. The options listed are what I am getting to see as the increasingly normal ones: retrenchment into fewer big libraries, co-location with other services and an appeal for volunteers/community groups to take over the smaller ones. However, the three month consultation is looking for ideas so other options may come forward. This is, as far as I can tell, an information seeking exercise. Expect harsher and tougher decisions if no good answers come back.
Another thing to bear in mind in this is that Devon is widely seen as a very forward thinking library service. It’s won awards and, soon, will have one of the first (the first?) dedicated public library Maker Space in the country. The bosses there (from what I can tell from this distance – and I know others may argue differently) are very keyed into what works. In the US or in South Korea, they’d be doing exciting things and looking forward to an expanding situation. They’re just facing a very much darker and difficult situation here and, I suspect, are really trying to do their best.