Ed Vaizey, the UK Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, has not had a good weekend. The Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals (CILIP), the British professional body for librarians, voted at its annual general meeting on September 21st in favor of a no confidence motion in his oversight of UK library services, by a crushing majority of 669 members for to 200 against, with 103 abstentions. And in The Guardian, Malorie Blackman, current UK children’s laureate, added her criticism of “swingeing cuts” in UK library services and Vaizey’s failure to act to protect them.
“We’ve all seen the pressure on public library services in England and we’re all extremely concerned by them,” said John Dolan, Chair of the CILIP Council, after the vote. “We gave evidence to the Government’s Select Committee Enquiry on Library Closures. We continue to speak up for professionally delivered public library services in the media. We take a lead role with National Libraries Day, and many members get involved. We are supporting the Speak Up For Libraries coalition, whose members include Unison, Voices for the Library and the Library Campaign.”
When first launched, the CILIP campaign for a no confidence vote looked as though it might be simply the work of a radicalized minority within the organization. It’s now clear that it represents the opinion of the great majority of UK library professionals.
Both CILIP and Blackman’s case, in her words, is that: “the 1964 Libraries Act states that every authority must provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service, and that the government’s duty is to investigate when there are serious complaints that this is not the case. Yet this government has not once seen fit to intervene.”
Where this leaves Vaizey and his policies now is an open question. As well as losing the trust of librarians, he has also failed to dodge the blame for cutbacks in UK library services through the division in Britain between local financing and central oversight. And Blackman seems to be holding him to account as far as the potential development of a semi-literate society in the UK.
“Libraries are the best literacy resource we have,” she concludes. “Without them, literacy may increasingly become the province of the lucky few, rather than the birthright of everyone.”