Friday, 18 February 2011

Caught in the crossfire: #libnews digest number 6

This week has seen quite a bit of discussion on what the "Big Society" really is and the idea that it is a euphemism for cuts has started to filter through the press. What's interesting about this piece in The Independent is the reaction of the third sector. As the idea hits the ground there's a definite notion that the resources needed for community involvement are not there. There's a bit of a subtext to this article reporting on the potential for public libraries to be run by a US private company - is the Big Society a smokescreen for the privatisation of our public services? This post from the Practical Ethics blog caught my eye as an entertaining (if radical) exploration of the ethics of the situation.

It's certainly a highly political situation. The Mail accuses Labour councillors of slashing services just to spite the Tories whilst protecting their own salaries (see BBC News article for a more objective view on the same theme). Standing on the outside it looks like services are getting caught in the party political crossfire.

In the meantime it seems nobody quite knows where to stand on library cuts. In Gloucestershire Lib Dem Councillors attempted to delay cuts and condemned their Tory partners in central government as "reckless". Hardly a marriage made in heaven.

In some areas councils have responded to public support for libraries by reversing decisions to make cuts. But sadly, in most places, there seems to be a distinct failure to listen. Gloucestershire council seem to be particularly cloth eared and it's a similar story in Somerset. Again there are very real fears that throwing public library services over to communities will lead to inconsistencies in the level of service in different areas and actually deprive the areas that most need libraries.

Whichever way you look at it - it's a bit of a mess.

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