IF you visit a library in Kent this Saturday, you probably won't notice anything different. And you certainly won't come across any special event or activity.
Odd? Not especially, until you realise that it is National Libraries Day, a now annual event to celebrate libraries.
Kent County Council is facing claims it is 'snubbing' the national day of celebration from several campaigners who have questioned why there are no events planned to mark the event.
Unlike many other authorities, KCC has opted not to put on a specific programme for the day. Inevitably, that has led to claims the council is downplaying the event because it does not want to draw attention to a shake-up that some fear could mean cutbacks.
For its part, the council says it has a year-round programme of activities and it is focusing on promoting those. There's no major scandal here. But a briefing note from managers to staff appears a little sensitive over the fact that nothing is going on.
The note says staff approached about National Libraries Day “must refer all enquiries from members of the public, community groups and organisations to your district manager."
The memo says: “As NLD is a Saturday, the busiest day of the week for us, all our staff will be fully engaged in helping people to use our wide range of services. There is much to celebrate about libraries in Kent and we will mark National Libraries Day in the best way possible - by continuing to deliver the best quality service to our very many satisfied customers.”
One council library worker told us that staff had effectively been silenced.
In a statement, KCC said: “Managers were briefed on National Libraries Day and advice was given to staff on how to deal with enquiries. The message reminded staff it is not appropriate to engage in campaigning activity which undermines Kent County Council’s commitment to the library service. However we do fully support the National Library Day’s aim to celebrate libraries, librarians and library staff in all sectors and there are more than 14,500 events throughout the year being held in local libraries, from children’s reading sessions and coffee mornings to computer training sessions.”
CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, which backs the event, said: “We want to see as many local authorities get involved as possible. It is disappointing but there’s nothing mandatory that says councils must be involved.”
Ironically, the low key approach adopted by KCC has only served to draw attention to its lack of activity - which was surely not intended.
Education secretary Michael Gove faced MPs to answer questions on a range of subjects this week. He was characteristically confident but less convincing when pressed about the use of private emails by him and his advisers to conduct government business.
He and his department have faced claims that they have done so to avoid the public gaze over potentially sensitive issues. It was because of this that we asked - via the Freedom of Information Act - whether he or his advisers had done so in relation to Kent county council's challenge through the High Court over the cancellation of the Building Schools for the Future project.
That was three months ago. We're still waiting for a response.