Outgoing culture minister Ed Vaizey and CILIP c.e.o. Nick Poole have clashed on Twitter over the former’s record on library leadership.
Vaizey, who was first appointed culture minister in 2010, was sacked last week as new prime minister Theresa May completed her reshuffle. He was replaced by Matt Hancock.
Amid a round of Twitter congratulations to Vaizey for his six years in office, Poole, c.e.o. of libraries body CILIP (The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), tweeted: “OK Ed Vaizey can’t resist – having been such a great arts/digital minister why did you struggle to champion or improve policy for libraries?” He added: “Genuinely asking – we couldn’t secure your engagement despite your reforming agenda. What is the government’s library blindspot?”
Vaizey responded that Poole had misunderstood his role, saying that Poole had "ignored all [the DCMS] did". He said: “It’s worrying you don’t understand how libraries work. You do know govt doesn’t fund them or run them?”
Poole said: "DCLG [department for communities and local government] fund public libraries, you had the policy mandate. Is ‘someone else’s problem’ really what you want to be remembered for? I’ve worked in policy for 20 yrs Ed, I know the role of government. You decided not to use your leadership role. I’d like to know why."
Poole said that while he “freely acknowledges” the “good” Vaizey did, Vaizey “also adopted a policy of non-intervention to prevent poorly-planned closures”.
“You took a very soft view on the allowances of the [1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act] at first and eventually undermined your own case for intervention,” Poole said.
Vaizey responded by saying that the goverment had reviewed “every single [case]” and “didn’t think [the closures] breached the act.” Vaizey added: “I didn’t take a soft view. My officials reviewed every case thoroughly. I respected their advice. That’s not soft.”
Poole, who was part of the Libraries Taskforce team, said that CILIP had put forward “many of the ideas” in the Ambition for Libraries document but was disappointed to not have been able to discuss them in person.
Vaizey then accused Poole of "posturing". “So you were part of the team I set up with Kathy Settle [chief executive of the Libraries Taskforce] but it turns out your beef is we didn't have a meeting??” Vaizey said. "Okay so you sat at the table that has drawn it up. Are you saying it's not good? Seriously, stop posturing."
Poole responded: “No, Ed. It's not that we didn't have a meeting. It's that the public deserve a better plan for their libraries”.
Other library campaigners have also criticised Vaizey's record on the service.
After Hancock was appointed as culture minister last week, he tweeted that he was: "Energised to take up the challenge to make UK tech & cultural centre of the world".