Librarians are victims of their own success

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I am very pleased to read that Hadston library is not at present under threat.

I am also pleased to read that volunteers are involved in the library service, and will continue to be valued.

However, I think it is inappropriate and unfair to take advantage of people who willingly give up their time in expecting them to manage and deliver the library provision.

When I tell people about my profession as a librarian, I get two reactions: the first being the usual round of ‘shhh’ jokes, and the second being ‘I had no idea you had to do that.’

I feel that librarians have become victims of their own success, in that our skills have become invisible. We need to think about how libraries can become part of our lives in this tough economic time.

Librarians are trained to help people find the most appropriate information from a seemingly limitless online space for their work, be that a school project, personal enrichment or postgraduate research, and we can do it well and economically.

The effective management of a library service is a demanding and skilled job, as a budget has to be employed to meet a local need that has been identified, and planning must take place to anticipate future developments in service use, which includes buying books that our patrons are most likely to want to read.

Expecting volunteers to carry out such tasks is exploiting precious goodwill as a consequence of misunderstanding the role of the librarians and libraries.

Therefore, I urge any public body who is considering this as a way of establishing ‘the big society’ to take the trouble to find out what public libraries and librarians actually do, how the resource can indeed be further integrated into the educational and leisure communities, before assuming that the good grace of people who want to become involved for no financial gain will get them out of a hole.

Christopher Jones,

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