Kathy Settle, chief executive of the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce, has argued for the need to “break the negative narrative” around the discussion of libraries.
Settle made the comments in conversation with the CILIP chief executive Nick Poole, which has been published in a blog post on CILIP's website. The pair were speaking in the run up to the 2015 Spending Review, which will call on government departments and local authorities to make further budget savings.
Both have emphasised the need for a more positive dicussion around libraries, despite the fact that many across the country are being closed or passed over to volunteers to run in the wake of local government cuts.
Settle said: “I realise that campaigners and lobbyists will quite reasonably want to point out the cuts and the closures. You can see how effective they are too because that is the narrative you see in all the media.”
She added: “However, I think we need to break that negative narrative. I recognise that’s difficult because there really are cuts and closures happening. We certainly don’t want to make it look as if everything is sweetness and light because we know that it’s not. But equally, if we don’t turn that narrative round and collectively start talking more positively about libraries, no one else is going to. And why would anyone want to invest in a service that sounds as if it’s failing?”
Poole argued that the closures were due to “a lack of understanding by policymakers and the public about the full range of benefits a modern library can deliver.” He proposed that the only way to counter this lack of understanding is with “clear evidence, constructive options and positive messages.”
Settle said her aim with the taskforce was to “co-ordinate and amplify positive messages from the sector which illustrate the critical role of libraries.”
Veteran library campaigner, Desmond Clarke, described the discussion as "remarkably bland”. Meanwhile fellow campaigner Shirley Burnham said being “lectured about having to celebrate the value of what is going up in smoke” is “nothing less than astonishing.”
Tim Coates, former Waterstones boss and campaigner, added: “We don’t want to see either the campaigners or the press being blamed for the awful shortcomings of library and local council management."
He added: “The press do a noble job in trying to save our public library service. Ministers, civil servants and public officials accuse journalists of ‘a negative narrative’ instead of doing what they should do – which is work out what the problems are and what to do about them.”
The Spending Review 2015 will be published on 25th November 2015 and will kick in from 2016/17.