Friday 5 December 2008

Target Driven Phantom Libraries

When is a Library not a Library? Lambeth council cut two of its libraries and couldn’t rack up enough hours to get good star ratings at inspection. Que Faire? Listen close, children. Lambeth Councillor Andrew Sawden will explain:
Government target monitoring does not ask for the hours libraries are open over a whole year, just scheduled opening hours in one particular week - whatever week the 31st March, the end of the financial year, happens to fall. Lambeth, fearful that its other library target figures were not robust or reliable, and could lead to the inspectors marking the council down, decided to exploit this loophole.

Cllr Sawdon was told by the Council that the consequences of losing the 1* cultural services rating would have undermined efforts by Lambeth to retain its 3* rating.

So, a week before the inspection, the Council opened library temporary outlets, which it dubbed “cultural information hubs”, and counted them in its opening hours statistics.

By the end of the week after the “cultural information hubs” — a room in a youth club in Brixton, a room in a children's centre, and a room in a council housing office in Clapham — had managed to issue only 25 books between them over three weeks, and although they then stayed open another three weeks, the total number of book issues in those weeks was zero; the Council then closed them down.

Top scoring location was Union Road Housing Office, Clapham (20 books, 10 during inspection return week). Brixton Children’s Centre... lent five books during its brief life-time, hampered by the fact that the building it set up in was still a building site, and not actually open as a children's centre. The wooden spoon was taken by the Marcus Lipton Youth Club in Brixton, which issued no books at all during the entire period it was open.

The Cost? a cheerful £70,000 — or £2,800 a book. Let’s hope they were all Gutenberg Bibles, at least. This all proves that human idiocy beats artificial intelligence every time. Me no Lambeth Council tax payer. I’ve no narrow political axe to grind about this gobsmackingly foolish waste of public money — but it does indicate the kind of nonsense excessively target driven culture can produce. It sounds like such a clever idea, until you try it on real human beings...
h/t Lambeth Councillor Andrew Sawdon

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