Sheriff Vaizey

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I remember when Sheriff Vaizey galloped in to town on his grey dappled mare – the sun shone through a dust cloud that trailed him all the way from the northern territories. He’d been up that way on the hunt for Andy “Red Gun” Burnham. Vaizey didn’t like Burnham’s ways – in cahoots with a posse of book rustlers and funding bandits who were shutting down the libraries left right and centre… leaving communities abandoned like information ghost towns.

Vaizey was a member of the well-reknowned 1964 Club in those days. It’s said that “Red Gun” was taking a drink at the saloon, when in swaggered Vaizey, spurs a chanking, looking around at the assembled bandits, cowboys and rustlers, spat out a slug of chewin’ tobaccy and said:

“Andy Burnham’s refusal to take action in the Wirral effectively renders the 1964 Public Libraries Act meaningless. While it is local authorities’ responsibility to provide libraries, the Act very clearly lays responsibility for ensuring a good service at the culture secretary’s door. If Andy Burnham is not prepared to intervene when library provision is slashed in a local authority such as the Wirral, it is clear that he is ignoring his responsibilities as secretary of state, which in the process renders any sense of libraries being a statutory requirement for local authorities meaningless.”

Ed Vaizey sheriff badgeWell, you can imagine what sort of reaction that provoked from Red Gun. Soon chairs were flying, bottles of bourbon smashing against mirrors behind the bar, people stumbling backwards over tables. As the dust settled Vaizey strode out of there and his adversary was found as a crumpled heap of a man stuffed into a brass spittoon by the bar.

When they heard about this legendary Vaizey,  a few of our towns folk decided to offer him the Sheriff’s post – we could do with a strong man to sort out our own library troubles. Everything was hunky dory at first – he said he was going to do this and that. He made a few speeches to the town council about how great libraries were and how he’d defend them to the hilt.

As time went on nothing changed. No libraries were saved. It seems that Sheriff Vaizey was keener on sleepin’ in the jail house and big-wigging with the mayor than going out on the prairie to deal with those troublesome library varmints we had pestering us and rustling our books. Seems like one battle was enough for him and these days he’s more content to sit back and watch more libraries close around him. Why, I don’t know? Gets me to thinkin’ that maybe his words to “Red Gun” were a bluff. I don’t rightly know that it was Sheriff Vaizey who sorted Red out and planted him in that spittoon – maybe it’s a legend he created himself.

So, maybe it’s time for Sheriff Vaizey to hang up his badge, Stetson, spurs and other cowboy clichés and let someone else who gives two hoots about the library situation replace him. Or maybe we could just tie him onto the saddle of his grey dappled mare, slap its hind quarters and watch him ride off into the sunset to the theme tune of Bonanza.

“Hi Ho Vaizey! Away!”

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Ed Vaizey, Libraries, You and Yours

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I listened to Ed Vaizey (Conservative MP and Minister for Communication, Culture and the Creative Industries ) being interviewed on BBC Radio 4 “You & Yours” (19/01/2011) about libraries.

During the interview he said “We (Conservatives) have never said – and it’s a gross misrepresentation of what we have said – that somehow volunteers should replace professional librarians.”

“No-one is suggesting that volunteers should take over the role of professional librarians…. Nobody is saying that there’s a strategy to replace  professional librarians with volunteers.”

Lauren Smith (Save Doncaster Libraries and fellow Voices For The Library campaigner) pointed out that there are libraries being run up and down the country solely with volunteers and without librarians.

To this, Mr Vaizey responded with “That’s the point… Currently run without professional librarians. So those libraries are already open.”

What did his response mean? Was he suggesting that because there are libraries already being run by volunteers that this proves they can be run successfully without professional librarians?

Lauren continued with the statement that these volunteer libraries are not fulfilling the role of what a library should and could be.

Anyway, the Government’s Future Libraries & Big Society programme is advocating the use of volunteers, but it’s not specifically saying to what extent. In the context of libraries it’s not saying, “Don’t get rid of librarians and trained staff.” It’s as woolly as the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964… open to interpretation and gives councils an opportunity just to dump local library services if they feel like it… and some are planning just that. Take a look at Gloucestershire Libraries.

Mr Vaizey also made the comment, “I’m constantly telling people what the role of libraries is, but I can’t tell every single person in the country.”

Really? I can’t see how the Minister responsible for libraries in England, who can easily get the ear of anyone he wanted to via the media, is unable to spell out the importance of libraries! I have witnessed lots of campaigns springing up over the past few months that are very effective at spelling out why libraries are important. If they are capable of it, why isn’t Mr Vaizey?

He also went on to say, “You have to elect councillors who believe in libraries and you have to campaign in your local area to get councils to back their libraries.”

I’d question why we should have to persuade local councillors of the importance of a local library service? We don’t vote in councillors with the thought of “Hmm! I wonder if they’ll support libraries?” You’d expect them to support and fight for any statutory service the council was responsible for, as part of their job, wouldn’t you? I would.