Introduction to the PMLG Teachmeet from Nick Poole
Good morning everyone,
Fantastic to welcome you here for this event which marks the culmination of #LibrariesWeek.
Over the past 4 days, we've seen activities up and down the country in every type of library, and tomorrow we will see community choirs in libraries celebrating their impact on health and wellbeing.
Today is a celebration of library people. I had my own moment this week when I was invited to speak about libraries on BBC radio.
They played a short segment with an interview with a library patron. It featured an interview with a woman whose husband had died that morning. They asked her why she was there and she said she'd come because she knew the librarians would help her find a book that would get her through her first night alone.
Because that's who we are. We are librarians for a reason. Because we believe that there is a better world to be had - a world in which the dignity of every single person matters, in which people have a right to be helped, in which literacy - all types of literacy - is the bedrock of equality. These are the values which unite us, and I am incredibly proud that they now find expression in our new Ethical Framework, which Dawn will be introducing to you later.
Its also why I am proud to lead a CILIP that has become a visible and influential champion of library and information people everywhere.
One of the first things I was told in this job, by a school librarian is that you can take a librarian and put them into an empty building and they will find a way to make it a library.
Little did I know that the Government would take that as a serving suggestion.
I think one of the first things I'd like to do today is send a note of solidarity and pride to every single person working to deliver library services to their communities. Whether or not you are a paid professional, whether or not you are chartered, whether you are volunteering your support - we must not allow a divisive political agenda to divide us, nor to distract us from what really matters - ensuring that everyone can benefit from a quality local library.
And what those libraries do for their communities is changing, as it has always changed.
Some of us here today have been having fun on twitter this week with the phrase "not just books".
So much rhetoric about libraries is about asserting what they're not anymore ('quiet', 'about books'). To my mind, we should be joyfully celebrating that they are capable of being all of these things & more (noisy, contemplative, digital etc) according to what their community needs.
We have so much to shout about in libraries. An extraordinary and diverse audience. A deep connection to our users built on trust. Thanks to our colleagues at EveryLibrary, we know that support for libraries crosses the political spectrum. We also know that the majority of people strongly support libraries, even if they don't themselves use them.
We know from this week the profound impact we have on health and wellbeing. I am really excited by the potential to bring together our communities of health librarians with public librarians to begin to develop a truly joined up national infrastructure for health and social care.
We also know about the impact public libraries have on education and attainment, skills and literacy - particularly digital skills - on local economies both rural and urban. We know the difference we make to peoples sense of place, to combatting some of the most pressing issues our society faces, like loneliness and social isolation.
We know what we, as library people, are capable of.
But it is time for us a profession to take control of the future of our public libraries in England, as they have started to do in Scotland, in Wales and in Ireland.
For too long, we have surrendered the future of this vital sector to people who don't know us, don't understand us, even in some cases don't like us. In too many cases the prosperity of this sector has been handed to people who aren't library people.
That is why I have been delighted to work with Libraries Connected, the Arts Council England and other colleagues to develop a blueprint for a radical transformation of the governance, funding and leadership of public libraries in England. In the face of immense pressure on Local Authority budgets, we are bringing together the answers to three fundamental questions:
- What will the public library of the future deliver for their communities?
- How will public libraries be lead and governed in the future?
- How will public libraries be funded in the future?
Our vision is of the public library as the Common Room at the heart of every community. A trusted physical and digital space and a set of key activities that can be configured and reconfigured to meet the changing needs of the community it serves.
Supporting this vision, we are calling for a Renaissance for public libraries in England - a programme of radical transformation and targeted large-scale strategic investment to ensure that every library service can be as good as the best.
Underpinning this programme of radical transformation, we are proposing 6 building-blocks which together will form the foundation of the future we want to see for our libraries:
- Targeted investment in the public library workforce to rebuild capacity and refresh the skills of library workers, building on the Public Libraries Skills Strategy
- The establishment of a new public library standard to replace the desperately outmoded and vague 'comprehensive and efficient'
- An infrastructure of regionalised support for public libraries, able to promote their development, target investment and feed insight into the national picture
- Support for public libraries to achieve financial sustainability and income in ways that are compatible with the ethos of our services
- The requirement under policy for evidence-based Local Library Development Plans, shared between the Library Authority and the Council
- A systematic programme of open data and metrics to promote the improvement, development and advocacy of public libraries
We believe that there is an opportunity to take charge of the destiny of public libraries through investment, innovation and leadership - a truly national public library service led by and with library people. The opportunity is now, which is why we're working with the Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group, Labour Party policy teams, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government and others to bring forward the case for support.
Today is a celebration of library people. In this age, in which access to information, digital skills, equal rights and representation are all being challenged, there is a vital new role for us as library people in helping to build the kind of just, tolerant and inclusive society we all want to live in.
I wish you a successful day and have an excellent conference.
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