Future of libraries: KPMG report

Some interesting discussion following on from the KPMG report into council services published today, and the recommendations it makes for libraries, which has done nothing to allay fears that trained public librarians may be replaced by unskilled volunteers in the future.

Bethan’s information professional blog is an excellent representation of the library industry response so far; namely, that KPMG have little understanding of the real and vital role played by libraries in the local community, and have made little attempt to find out (Bethan points out that the report gives no references!).

She goes on to say:

…they don’t know what information professionals do. They don’t know what libraries do. They don’t even really seem to know what libraries are. It looks like we need to go back to basics. Forget educating people about the value that information professionals add. Forget telling them how we can help them to find better, more authoritative sources of information. Let’s go right back to the very beginning: librarians facilitate information finding. Nope, too vague. Ok then: without librarians, there would be no books on your library shelves.

…Yes, volunteers can be trained to do everything librarians do! Of course they can. This can be done in a number of ways – the most common is a post-graduate course at a CILIP-accredited library school. If you work in a library, and you’re trained to help users find information, then you’re a librarian. Maybe not a professional librarian, but a librarian nonetheless. But volunteers without specialist library training? I can think of no quicker way to reduce a library to a building full of books.

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Elspeth Hyams has also blogged, over at CILIP’s Update blog, making the point that librarians need to keep pushing to be recognised. As is often said, if we don’t market ourselves proactively, library funding will continue to be eroded and librarians will continue to lose jobs.


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