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Tim Coates blogs for better libraries

I’m speaking on the Community & Collaboration panel at the Global Information Industry Summit in a couple weeks about how to choose the right social networking tools for whatever it is your company wants to do. That is, choosing the right tool instead of trying to add the whole laundry list, “Blogs, wikis, RSS, and podcasts.” The point of the panel is to talk about what we’re trying to accomplish, then about the tools (software/systems) that will help.

When you are going to prepare a meal, don’t you think first about whom you’re serving, what you have in the cupboard, and how much time you have? Then you come up with a possible menu, and finally you make sure you have the tools you need. But in the world of social media, many people seem to begin as if they were going into a cookware store and choosing the most exciting and weird pieces of equipment on display before giving any thought to the occasion or the diners.

We’re planning to show examples of successful and unsuccessful efforts to build community online. When I think about successful blogs I always come back to the Good Library Blog, which Berkshire set up and sponsors for Tim Coates in the UK. When I met Tim early last year I sensed almost instantly that he needed a blog as a platform for his campaign for improvements in the library service, and it has turned out to be a stunningly perfect medium for him, and for the many people who regularly comment. In fact, the tide seems to be turning for Tim, and for UK libraries. Here’s something that’s just appeared in the Bookseller magazine:

Bob McKee and the ‘busted flush’14.08.07

The battle lines used to be quite easy to draw in the library sector, with the firebrand Tim Coates and his supporters championing books and longer opening hours on the one side, and the DCMS, CILIP and the MLA on the other, talking about social inclusiveness and diversity. (I’m sure that pretty much everyone involved would dissent with my over-simplified analysis here, but let’s not split hairs).

But now CILIP has done a volte face [CILIP is the UK professional body (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals)] and publicly roasted the folks in charge for pretending everything is rosy when clearly it ain’t.

Most library chiefs intone in the language of press releases, but chairman Bob McKee doesn’t (ever) mince his words: “This is just spin-doctoring to cover up the reality of budget cuts and job losses. The truth is that without adequate professional expertise the quality of service will be reduced and the future of the service put at risk.”

He’s almost starting to sound like Tim Coates—the man who McKee infamously dismissed as a “busted flush” (whatever that actually means).

Meanwhile Coates has to be congratulated on his phenomenal achievement in Hillingdon. Finding a way to balance the books without cutting books, branches or opening hours is no mean feat in itself. To actively extend those things AND come up with more than a quarter of a million pounds in savings is momentous. £260,000 is a small drop in the grand scheme of the service’s £1bn annual budget, but it’s huge when you think how many rural libraries have closed to save as little as £60,000 a piece.

The naysayers are going to have a tough time arguing with him now.

One thought on “Tim Coates blogs for better libraries

  1. A rather shallow analysis, if I might say. A good library is not the same as one set up in the interests of publishers.


    When I investigated what happened at Hillingdon, I found..

    1. Library staff too frightened to speak.
    3. An insistance by the consultant, Coates, that a particular wholealer/publisher be used to supply books to the libraries. The publisher publishes the consultant’s books.
    3. Huge question marks over the operation, or lack of, of the scrutiny committee in Hillingdon Council. The scrutiny committee is supposed to over see decisions, to ensure that allegations of corruption do not arise.

    It rather looks to me that in the guise of all these ‘efficency savings’ and ‘elimination of waste’ .. the interests of publishers have been inserted.

    Within days of the recent General Election in the UK, with the Conservatives as the largest party in circumstances where the electorate refused to give them a majority…, a senior minister appointed to the goverment department responsible for libraries is a director in International Thomson Publishing. The new minister is also the Member of Parliament who has said nothing about the upcoming closure of a popular village library 2 miles from where he lives. [ It’s closing becuase of ****ing Wall Street, ****ing bankers, and the ****ing City of London, not because of these spurious ‘inefficencies’ in public service that you corporations are so keen on spouting about.

    The interests of public library members are not the same as publishers, or their consultants.

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