Advocating Libraries: Essays Presented to Robert Craig

Beverly P. Lynch (Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles, USA)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 1 October 2004




Lynch, B.P. (2004), "Advocating Libraries: Essays Presented to Robert Craig", Library Review, Vol. 53 No. 8, pp. 415-416.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The title of this book, Advocating Libraries, says in two words what all librarians do and what Robert Craig, the first Director of the Scottish Library Association (SLA) and then of its successor, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS), did masterfully, at the highest level of excellence, for over two decades. This remarkable collection of essays celebrates Craig's accomplishments and, in the process, brilliantly presents the development of libraries in Scotland over the past generation. Chapter after chapter in this fine book describe the ways in which librarians in Scotland embraced change as the design and structure of local government changed during the period, how they managed change as libraries were reorganized, closed down, placed in new departments of local government, and then, ultimately, led change in libraries.

The book is organized into four sections, each with several chapters. The section on the book in Scotland introduces to the reader unfamiliar with the Scottish literary scene the contemporary Scottish writers and the role played by the Scottish Arts Council in nurturing them. A chapter on bookselling and publishing in Scotland also is a good introduction to what is happening in Scotland in terms of the book trade.

The second section on “Information policy, technology and practice” introduces the reader to the initiatives in public policy in Scotland so vital to the expansion of library service. It highlights the important work of the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) as the advisory body to Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Executive on library and information matters and summarizes many of the initiatives developed under the SLIC umbrella. Craig directed SLIC from its inception in 1991 in addition to his executive work in SLA and CILIP. His contributions to national information policy development in Scotland and to the design and execution of SLIC programs are acknowledged and lauded throughout this book. His political skills in the policy area are awesome. As one writer acknowledges, “His political skills … have been put to effective use on behalf, not just of the library community in Scotland but, more importantly, for the benefit of the whole realm”. (p. 62).

The section on policy, advocacy and professional bodies includes important chapters by several of the major leaders in the library profession in the UK: George Cunningham, Gavin Drummond, Bob McKee, Rhona Arthur, and Ross Shimmon. These chapters offer a primer on library association leadership and contributions and give the international reader new insights into the work of the professional associations in the UK and roles they play. Drummond effectively details how SLIC came about and how the Scottish Library Association leadership worked with government leaders, seeking political support for important library issues, winning on some issues and losing on others, but all the time keeping before the government the issues of importance to libraries. Rhona Arthur acknowledges that the SLA, under Craig's leadership, concentrated on advocacy and building productive partnerships, thus effectively raising the profile of libraries across the sectors.

The last section, “Scottish library and information service developments” includes chapters on public libraries, school libraries, libraries in higher education, and in healthcare. Alan Hasson provides a good description of the current state of public libraries in Scotland. He selects the central government's interest in efficiency as a major challenge. He singles out the major work of the SLA and SLIC in developing national standards for libraries in response to the government's interest in benchmarks and the acceptance of these standards by Scottish central and local government as a primary example of the important work these two bodies, led by Robert Craig, have carried out in Scotland. Pressures on school libraries are well documented in the chapter by Liz Knowles. Stuart James presents the current scene in academic libraries and centers the discussion in relation to higher education policy in the UK. The impact of the report of The Joint Funding Councils’ Libraries Review Group (the Follett Report) is considered in some detail. The final chapter on “Libraries and Information Services in Healthcare” acknowledges the important work of Robert Craig in posing the important issues and setting out a new agenda. The authors comment: “This review of healthcare library and information issues demonstrates one of Robert Craig's strongest suits. He has the enviable knack of working with other people, organizations and sectors to address their aims and issues on their agenda; and of doing so by harnessing the potential of library and information services to progress these aims and issues. In the process, the library and information service sector is itself enhanced” (p. 210).

Advocating Libraries is an important contribution to library and information science literature. It will enhance the understanding of Scottish librarianship at home and abroad. It also gives a wonderful description of what a truly outstanding association executive is able to do for the association's members and their needs, as well as the needs of the population the profession seeks to serve. The reader inevitably laments that Robert Craig has retired. Craig is a great listener; as a result, when with him, the other person does all of the talking! The book reflects that situation. “What does Robert think of this?” one wonders, “And what would he want us to do about it?”

In the foreword to the book Derek Law writes about the 2001 awards dinner of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts: “… and the nominations for the BAFTA Interactive Entertainment Awards in the Learning Category are: George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and the Scottish Library Association”. Law goes on: “Craig … could quietly revel in the fact that he and his team had pulled it off again. Of course, we came second to Spielberg, but if a man is to be judged by the company he keeps, Robert Craig had just moved that judgement to a new level” (p. 11).

Librarians in every country strive for such recognition (and such company!). In Scotland it was Craig's quiet yet forceful leadership, working discreetly in the background, that took librarianship in Scotland to the highest levels of professionalism and accomplishment. This book of wonderful essays, well written, well edited, in a well‐designed book, describes that excellence and the process of getting there.

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