Library World

AS you know some time ago I was seeking promotion to head office, unfortunately some git at head office changed the rules because they wanted their mate to get the promotion. So not being a woman I was prevented from applying for the post left vacant by Neil Gerrard's retirement. But as I had already written my promotion acceptance speech I did not want to wast it so I have reproduced it here for you. It mainly concerns my greatest achievement, the libraries and how I single handedly modernised them.

As you know, I'm the youngest local managing director in London and like our beloved ex-leader Tony Blair I'm bringing my youthful, cleansing energy to the stale old backwater I now rule.

New year, new Waltham Forest, new libraries! New, young libraries! We're bringing in a breath of fresh air - quite a lot of fresh air, in fact, as there's not much else inside the remodelled libraries. Fresh water too, in the case of Walthamstow central library, thanks to the leak in the roof. Well, we only paid 3.5 million to get that old building made over, so you can't expect much. I say "we paid" actually of course it was you council-tax payers who paid. Jolly nice of you.

As you may have noticed, we've got a huge library investment programme going on. We call it 'refurbishing', you know, like the way the UCKG have refurbished the old Granada/EMD cinema, or a bulldozer refurbishes an inconveniently placed old house. We're redesigning all the libraries into handy multipurpose buildings. Won't it be nice when we rent them out for something much more useful? I'm sure you're all impressed with the remodelled libraries. You know they're libraries because there's a sign up outside saying "library".

You'll be glad to hear we're investing 10 million on cleaning up Waltham Forest libraries. Yes, we've already got rid of nearly a quarter of a million books, and there's plenty more to go. Out with those dusty old volumes! And the new ones! And the specialist ones that cost hundreds of pounds! And the reference sets that cost thousands! Out with the wooden shelves - they must have been worth a few quid! Out with those boring old librarians! Out with the library assistants!

In with the new! Not new books, don't be silly. New CDs and DVDs, new computers. They're always new, because the clever check-out system we've installed instead of staff means that they get stolen faster than we can replace them. We were particularly successful at St James Street library: out with everything, and we've closed the place down.

Don't let anyone tell you I haven't got a sense of humour. (In fact, let them tell you that and then give me their address.) We closed St James Street library without telling anyone - on April Fool's Day! How they must have laughed as they rattled at the doors and pushed their books back through the letterbox. They took weeks to catch on: they thought it must be closed for redecoration. What am I like, eh?

But we didn't do that just for the fun of it. We'd noticed that a lot of school kids were hanging around there, and you know how dangerous that is. They were doing things - you know, reading books, that sort of stuff. A lot of old people used to hang around there too, as there aren't a lot of facilities in that area. People used to come in and let their kids play in the children's section while the parents were - yes, you guessed, reading books.

Reading gives people ideas. And ideas are dangerous. A lot of local people are whining that they got more education from libraries than they ever did from school. But as we've pointed out with the museum and gallery: it's not for the likes of us. Not if I can help it.

Now they're whingeing that we closed St James Street illegally because we didn't do a disability assessment, or an equality-impact assessment. Whatever those are! Just because it had the only disabled-access loo in the area. Let them hobble half a mile to the pub loo, they need the exercise.

In fact, I'm just trying to improve people's health. The nearest library is now Walthamstow central, a mile away uphill through a crowded market. The kids' area there is huge, with two big openings so you can't take your eyes off them, and only a few books so they won't want to stay long. But the parents won't stay long anyway as, you guessed again, there aren't a lot of books. So a nice brisk walk there and back. Another health target met!

We had some of those St James Street library campaigners in here the other day complaining that there's nowhere except a library where you can borrow books, but you can get half an hour's Internet access for 20p from half a dozen places down the High Street, but. Quick as a flash, I retorted "But we provide computer access free!". I could tell that impressed them -- they were lost for words.

I wish you'd stop complaining that we never consult you. We're always doing consultations - just look at the money we've spent on them. Oh, you want us to actually do what you ask for? Are you never satisfied? We even had the Prince's Trust here in 2007, and they commented on how few facilities the St James Street area had. So we created a new facility: a nice empty library building just ready for, er, something. Something young! Something new! Or something!

I know we have our critics who carp that we promised to build a brand new library on the town-centre arcade site, and turn the Walthamstow library building into an arts centre. The arts council even got the funding lined up, and all we had to do was back it. Then the council dropped out so they lost the funding. Moan, moan, moan. Always digging up the past instead of moving on. Well we gave them part of what they wanted, didn't we? We got rid of the books that were cluttering up the library and painted it up nicely. Now it looks like an art centre. Just without any art. Or any books.

They whinge that Tottenham just down the road got the spectacular new Bernie Grant arts centre, designed by a big-name young architect, for little more than we're spending on ripping bookshelves out of our libraries. Outdone by Haringey council, they wail, the shame of it! But look at the down side. Tottenham will be infested with artists, dancers, musicians and tourists. And who wants people like that hanging around? As we realised with the William Morris gallery, if you publicise that sort of place, you get outsiders tramping through your borough, spending their money in your shops, wearing out your pavements. Not while I can stop it!

And as for you library whingers, you can shut up right now. We've seen your library records. We know where you live.

The word "compromise" is not in my dictionary. Well, it might be, but I can't seem to find one."