Friday 6 October 2017

The Friday Joke - 05/10/2017 - Suspended due to essential maintenance at local Libraries

If you've never met me and only read my blogs, I suspect that you will be a tad surprised, should you ever have the misfortune to spend some time with me. I try my hardest to be polite and nice to people, to put people at ease and to genuinely try and give them the benefit of the doubt. I am well known for enjoying the craic as they say where my Grandad was born. I try my hardest to present a cheerful demeanour to the world and to make people smile. I always enjoy putting together the Friday Joke. It is a bit of light relief and I hope that the readers of the blog enjoy it.

I am, therefore always highly fed up when I have to miss printing one, unless it is to promote a gig, or some other great local event. I believe that we should strive to make life joyous and a celebration. Once in a while, however, my sunny demeanour is disturbed and I feel a joke is not appropriate. Today is one such occasion. The source of my ire? A completely dishonest tweet from the Barnet Conservatives, in response to a Tweet from the Save Barnet Libraries campaign.
When you give evidence in court, you are asked to give three things. The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth. If you do not do this a Judge, Jury or Magistrate will deem you to be untrustworthy. Your evidence is likely to be discounted and you may well find yourself in trouble for perjury.

So how does the @BarnetTories tweet stand in this respect. Well if you apply this test to the statement, it would not be unreasonable to conclude that the Barnet Tories have done a marvellously good job as the custodians of the jewels that comprise Barnet's library service. But does the tweet tell the whole truth? Would M'Lud conclude that they are reliable, honest and decent witnesses? Or would he conclude that they are a tad shifty?

Lets present the evidence.

They state that unlike Brent, which is run by Labour,  no libraries have shut on their watch. But they are playing fast and loose with the truth. Lets take a look at Mill Hill Library. As a toddler, my mum would take me there and I'd select Thomas The Tank Engine books from the marvellous childrens library section on the left had side. Mum would bring these home and read them to me. This cycle was repeated with my own children. It is not in my nature to boast, but I believe that this is a critical factor in the incredible academic success of my children. The children's library had been refurbished and was a very child friendly place where youngsters could enjoy books while mums socialised. There are many reasons why you don't really want children and toddlers sharing a space with adult
library users. Hopefully I don't really need to spell these out.

Sadly, the childrens library in Mill Hill has shut. It has been taken over by the Mill Hill Hub. This provides all sorts of marvellous things, such as hot desking facilites for business people, a cafe and a space for performances. In many ways it is a good thing. But it is not a proper childrens library. There is still a library, in Mill Hill. It is 50% of the size of the previous library. Some libraries have had their size cut by far more. If you cut a library's size down by 50-75%, that means that there are a half or a quarter as many books. It means that more people are crammed in and the environment is less conducive to work. Now that is bad enough, but if you sack the librarian and let untrained volunteers run the show, it ceases to be a library. I have shelves of books in my house and I know what they all are. But is my house a library? Of course it isn't.

Now I have a degree of sympathy for our local Conservative administration. The government has put them in an impossible position with budget cuts. Whilst I believe that they are misguided to cut library provision, I can see why they have made such a decision. If they were honest and said "We would love to keep our local library service, but the government has cut our budgets to the point where it is unsustainable", I would applaud them for their honesty, if nothing else. But they can't do that because they know it would make the local Tory MP's, all with wafer thin majorities, even more vulnerable. So what do they do?

They do something which is despicable and dishonest. They put out leaflets which are misleading and dishonest. They have only "not closed libraries" if you think that children don't matter and that a room with a few books in it and a few people hanging around to tidy up is a library. To run a library, you need to be qualified, as in study and have exams. This means that when members of the public come in, you can answer their queries.

And then there is the opening hours. In 2012 these were the opening hours
Click for a more readable version
And what are they like today?
Click for a more readable version

So there are two different models of cuts, both of which I believe are short sighted, bad for our communities and unfair on residents who use libraries (typically, the elderly, young families and those with financial difficulties). The Brent model where you close half of the libraries, but keep a decent service at the rest or the Barnet model where you close half of the space, get rid of the staff and provide a service run by untrained amateurs (who are clearly decent and publicly minded people).

Not only that but many Barnet libraries are self service. These are closed to children and minors. In Barnet, children don't really seem to matter at all to our Conservative councillors, which may well be why OFSTED issued such a damning report of childrens services.  Despite the prosperity in Barnet, many live in poverty and many students and young people use the libraries as a quiet space for study and revision. I used to myself when revising for exams. There is no telly, no distractions. If the space is not open, it is shut. As you can see, your local library is shut far more regularly.

There is an ancillary matter as well to consider. They say they've spent £7 million on refurbishment and "new techs". None of this has been spent on libraries, it has been spent on making the space suitable for other purposes. So is this statement "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth".

So when the Tories say "Thanks for drawing attention to our £7m investment in new tech & refurbs to keep all libraries open! @BrentLabour closed 1/2 theirs instead. ", is it the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth". I'll let you, the jury decide in May next year

God bless the child, but not in Barnet. Here we bless vested interests. I can't lift your mood with a joke today with a joke, I apologise. But here is some truly awesome music that sums up how I feel and how I worry for our community. May God bless you!



CalvinCasino said...

God bless you too Roger.

CalvinCasino said...

Great list

Allen Ashley said...

Spot on, Roger. It's Tory lies, damn lies and statistics.