Monday, May 06, 2013

Mutual discomfort

Having a glass of Doctor MacAndrew's Thunder Liquid in the temperance bar in Hannigan's Truss Boutique with Ken Barmy. He's in contemplative mood.

"I'm glad I'm unlikely to persuade venture capitalists to give me a shit load of money."
"Wouldn't you like a shit load of money?" I asked.
"Oh yes. But I'd be tempted to set up a mutual organisation for the libraries."
I understand his dilemma: I disapprove of the setting-up of Call Me Dave's "Just like John Lewis honestly" privatisations of public services but like Ken I sometimes worry that despite our deeply-held conviction that public services should be publicly-accountable and part of democratic organisations, there's the possibility that library services need rescuing from some of their local authorities.Luckily, for both of us, this is a purely philosophical quandary.
"Mind you, if I were to take over the libraries I'd set conditions." 
"To tell," I encouraged. 
"They could keep three libraries; I wouldn't want to know." 
"Too quiet?" 
"Too expensive for nobody to be using. Look at _____, the number of books they issued last month is what most of our branch libraries issue in a day. And we're paying way over the market rent for the place. Basically, it's just there to provide a nice little income for the school. Same with ______. And nearly all the books being issued are to the school they're set in. We're providing these schools with an excellent free school library service and paying them way over the odds for the privilege of providing them with the service. Conkers to that."
Amen to that. It would be easy to go off on one about the ways of schools.
"What about the third one you wouldn't want?" 
"Oh? The central library of course. Complete dog's breakfast. It's just a drain on resources - every bugger and his dog interferes with it and we're not allowed to actually run it as a library. Well, bollocks to them, I'd even let them keep the stock if they wanted. I'd just want the libraries we could run properly and deliver services in without having to constantly jump through hoops for permission to even do the basics."
" You've got to have a central library, Ken, how can you survive without a flagship library?" (I was being deliberately provocative). 
"Flagships are for people who like dressing up like Lord Nelson." 
This is quite true: does your local authority have a flagship social services office or a flagship environmental health office? No, of course not.

It's probably just as well that neither of us would be in a position to be setting up a mutual...


Gadjo Dilo said...

Hmm. Continuing the Nelson idea, maybe the best use of a flagship is as somewhere where somebody can always be put in the enemy's firing range wearing a lot of shiny medals. Ideally not Nelson himself - he was a duckie - but some less necessary managers might jump at the chance.

Kevin Musgrove said...

You read our minds…