Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Canada beware, the 'red menace' is no longer under our bed!

I worked for Hackney Libraries between 1991 and 2002, 11 very turbulent years which saw at least 4 restructurings, at least 4 Heads of Service, a year long strike and the closure of 7 of the 14 libraries. There was always a feeling amongst the library staff there that we where being used as guinea pigs in a number of management style experiments, one of them conducted by John Pateman.
John along with Naila and Shiraz Duranni set up a 'Black and Ethnic Minority Stock Group' which according to this abstract from the 'Library Review' sought;

"to involve black staff, at all levels in the library service, in the selection of stock for the black community. As a first step, 25 per cent of the stock fund was allocated to the purchase of black stock. This helped to make up for historical underfunding and was part of a longer term strategy to match library resources to the community profile. The BSG was a successful experiment in staff empowerment and led to the selection of stock which was relevant to the black community."

I'm not going to spend time analysing the success or failure of this initiative but i will say this, I agree that at the time BEM workers in Hackney where vastly underrepresented in key positions and the decision making process and the needs of BEM users weren't being fully met but many of us had concerns about the kind of stock being bought and whether our BEM users actually wanted or needed it? John was also heavily involved in the Cuba Solidarity movement and we sent box after box of discarded books there.

What i can remember from this time is that the libraries were very poorly managed and although not entirely John's fault he was the Head of Service!

From Hackney John then moved to Merton where he caused controversy by allegedly advertising for new staff through the pages of the 'Morning Star', see a very interesting discussion on 'Coates Watch' relating to this;
It's worth pointing out for reasons of balance that during his time at Merton they won an award for their services to Refugees and Asylum Seekers.

From Merton he moved to Lincolnshire and again steered them towards another award relating to combating social exclusion and furthering equalities.

And now he's fled the sinking ship and moved to Canada to take up the post of Chief Librarian for Thunder Bay Public Library where he has already stirred things up;

"The bay city’s new chief librarian, John Pateman, says that before accepting the position he did his homework and “sensed that (Thunder Bay) was a well-resourced system that was already involved in marketing itself.”
See, right there, there is the problem. While Francis sits and does nothing but thinks he can dash into action in 2018 and put the city on the map, Thunder Bay under the internship of Timm seems to be out there marketing itself and look at the results, it ends up with a forward thinking world class chief librarian or one from a world class city."

Wonder what they'll say when he starts boxing books up for Cuba?


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