Friday, 21 October 2011

A response to Mr McTernan

My reaction to this article was inevitable. For a good half hour I was speechless. I could not even begin to contemplate how someone could think, let alone believe the drivel within this piece of poorly researched piffle.

Apparently “John McTernan has an MA in librarianship from Sheffield University and worked in libraries from 1984 to 1994” really? He worked in Libraries up until 16 years ago. In that case he must be up to date then. We don’t trust medical evidence from 1994 unless it has been re-investigated since then, so why on earth should we listen to a non-practicing librarian who unless he can produce proof he’s kept up to date? A non-practicing Librarian who clearly HATES Libraries and other Librarians.

I’d like to address some of his points
“This is a fight by middle-class liberals to keep libraries open not for themselves, but for the less fortunate. This is partly out of condescension, and partly guilt – because the protesters don’t use libraries either, and feel they may have precipitated the closures by their neglect.”

Really, and you know this how? It is ridiculous as an argument. So anyone who hasn’t been tortured should not protest against violent regimes then? We should stop giving money to Charity because we, our mother/sister/wife/daughter hasn’t had breast cancer etc? Yeah, that argument works...

“Yes, public libraries have been of huge benefit in helping us educate ourselves over the past 150 years. It’s an honourable tradition – but it’s over. Their defence depends on a deficit model, the argument that they fill a unique gap. But that’s simply no longer true.”

Ahh... WRONG, now who’s patronising eh? Libraries have been in existence for that long for a reason. That reason being to provide open access to information FOR ALL regardless of whether they can afford it or not. I do believe that people cannot hope to afford to have access to every piece of information they need in the course of their lives. They do fill a unique gap. ALL Libraries have access to information you could not find anywhere else. What we do have now thanks to computers and let’s face it, culture in general is an expectation that you can get what you want IMMEDIATELY. That’s the issue we are getting at here, people won’t wait for an Inter Library Loan, crikey! some people don’t want to click more than twice to get an article online, let alone wait for a book to arrive from another library! This is not something to blame Libraries for. Libraries have been a driving force for increasing access to information. Libraries are a service, not just a location.

“Access to information has been transformed by the internet. Google a subject and you can become ridiculously well-informed ridiculously quickly.”

Right, here we have another problem. I, on a daily basis repeat this phrase to my students “Just because it’s on the internet, it doesn’t make it true!” Any loony can and does publish on the internet. The fact that I have to remind MSc and doctoral students of this doesn’t bode well for people, who haven’t had the experience with the internet that most of my students have. Oh Google will give you an answer alright, but is it the right one? Is the question right? I’m reminded of the quote by Mark Twain (yes he who opened one of the threatened Libraries) “Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.”

If Google did have all the answers, why would academic Libraries spend so much on scientific bibliographic databases? Why would we spend huge swathes of our budgets on full text journal access? not forgetting the print stuff, some of which is not available online, certainly not for free, the publishers would never allow it, despite all the advances of the open access movement. Why would I spend so much time teaching people about search strategies? Why would public librarians provide and demonstrate their users different resources they select especially to support EVERYONE.

“Fast, cheap computing had spread to most homes, and to our whizzy new mobile phones. Where on earth is the gap that libraries are meant to plug?”

Do I really need to answer this again? apparently so!
1: Not everyone has access, some due to location, some due to income. This is more than you would think
2: Not everyone has the necessary skills to access correct information.
Libraries help with this. We might not always have up to the minute technology. But something is better than nothing.

Onto the next point!
“Virtually every kid has a desk at home – even if it often has a games console on it. And libraries at secondary schools are, in my experience, uniformly good and open places for young people.”

Do they? Government reports show that child poverty is increasing. Too many children are not fed or clothed properly. Do not sleep in a bed. Are not encouraged at home or where literacy or time with parents is restricted. Go to schools without Libraries or Librarians to staff them. What good is a games console when you need to study? Close Libraries and you condemn a generation.

“The crisis in our libraries is not because of the “cuts” – it’s because they are needed less.”

I don’t think so. Do you? Libraries are needed more than ever. EMA’s are gone. Community centres closed, youth groups gone and with them all associated help and programmes. Even the BBC held up by Mr McTernan as an example of good practice is having to scale back its online service as it has had it’s funding frozen.

Libraries might not be used by every person everyday, but they are free at point of access, like the NHS. Lets see if Mr McTernan wants to help close that next?

I’m a Librarian, I will I suspect according to be a biased liberal, so, thank goodness John McTernan has shown me the error of my ways. Close Libraries indeed... *Rolls eyes and goes back to cataloguing*

Oh and if you don't want to listen to me? Listen to Lauren


Yogesh Giri said...

Nice post

Angel Jem said...

Good points well made. I agree with all of them, but I also think Libraries will be necessary for the nouveau pauvre as well.They need libraries to have somewhere to go to fill their vast cavernous leisure hours when they can no longer afford expensive coffee.