Friday, November 16, 2007

Oh, to be a Library administrator in London in the springtime

With the exception of Controller Gina Barber who approved its submission in October, Board of Control must be commended for wading through the Library Board's 53-page Sustainability Business Case (PDF), released in October, detailing its request for a minimum 4.7 per cent or an "ideal" 6.4 per cent budget increase for 2008. Since its release, the request has apparently been adjusted to a 6.1 per cent increase, as argued before Board of Control yesterday by the Library's Chief Executive Officer, Anne Becker. This figure does not appear as any one of the alternatives in the October submission, so one can only surmise the specific threats to taxpayers contained in this latest request from the previous document.

A year after council caved into the Library's ultimatums to close branches and reduce operating hours if it did not accede to a 4.6 per cent increase instead of administration's 3 per cent target, this year's Sustainability Business Case warns that even a 4.7 per cent increase will still result in the closure of the Glanworth Branch (open four hours per week) and reduced hours of service in other small branches. Whether or not these are practical alternatives — and we would argue that the Northridge and Carson branches, both one-staff limited-hour branches in areas serviced by other branches, should also be closed — they are calculated to have an intimidating political effect on council:

Residents around small branches "came out in droves" to meetings held during the last year, Becker said. "They said … 'Don't touch our library.'"
This is of course an entirely predictable response, even if it hadn't been invited by the Library, when the costs of services to a minority are distributed at large for them.

At the same time that the Glanworth Branch closure and reduced operating hours at smaller branches and for the Telefact service are threatened under the 4.7 per cent increase, the proposal would provide for new Monday openings at four larger branches, whereas the "ideal" 6.4 (or 6.1?) per cent increase would simply maintain all current operating hours. Confusing? Well, yes, but then clarity is not a Library objective. "Capacity utilization" of "community needs," however, is a primary Library objective. What this means, precisely, is best left to the imagination — where, of course, it is meant to be for the optimal suggestive effect — although it will probably have something to do with further accommodations of vagrants and drug users. All we know is that under both the 4.7 and the 6.4 proposed increases, capacity utilization is achieved. Hoorah!

What "community needs" means in reality is that the Library is simply following the City's ambition to be all things to all people, which is why shouldn't be surprised to see the Library's gambit succeed just as well this year as it did last year… and the year before, and the year before, etc. Why should the City discipline its departments when it will not discipline itself? It always bears repeating that the Library has received an average annual increase of 4.8 per cent over the past five years, which begs another question: When will the pace of the community's needs finally match the pace of its resources?

It's also interesting to see that the Library's manipulative and emotive strategy has been adopted by Windsor's Library Board as well.


NIAC said...

How many droves make a quorum?

I am all for public access to well-managed, propery-administered library systems. Who the hell wants to be strong-armed by a librarian. (Fetishes aside, of course.)

Instead of threatening to close branches if demands aren't met, I think that the counter-threat ought to be "close some, or your budget won't be approved at all...and adminstrative jobs will be cut".

MapMaster said...

I have no doubt that administrative jobs should be cut, or at least that administrators — starting with the CEO — should be replaced if they can never even approach spending targets. But the real problem is the 9-member Library Board (including Controller Gina Barber and Councillors Nancy Branscombe and David Winninger) that approve the administration's ambitions and demands.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Barber, Branscombe and Winninger opposed Becker's plans at a public meeting regarding the future of Carson library -- this according to several people who actually attended the meeting.

MapMaster said...

I'm delighted to hear that Barber, Branscombe and Winninger do not merely conform to the administration's every whim… but they did unanimously approve administration's plans to go well over the budget target again.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised that anyone thinks that only the government can - nay, must - run lending libraries. And I'm even more surprised that people throw millions of dollars at a bunch of government-employed bureaucrats, say, "Here, it's too complicated for any of us to buy a bunch of books and videos and lend them out to people so you better do it for us," and then act all shocked and disappointed when the bureaucrats abuse their monopoly over people's paycheques by demanding more and more money for giving fewer and fewer services.

We have an amazing invention for discovering the true value of goods and services, which is available for every single person to use whenever they want and which can be operated in complete freedom. It's called the Free Market. What you're describing - extracting taxes out of people at gunpoint and then giving the money to jobs-for-life bureaucrats and expecting them to conform to extremely vague definitions of service - is the opposite.