Shirley Burnham's Blog : 23rd September 2012


"Don't Bend a Wheel on the Outboard"
Messing with the structure of the Library Service will send it off the road

Public Libraries are the wheels on the vehicle that delivers literacy, education and the joys of reading to all generations.

Automobile wheels are of complex structure.  If a cowboy mechanic removes vital elements from them to save the customer money he renders the family car unsafe; it becomes unfit for the road.  I shall attempt to demonstrate how failure on the part of those responsible for it, either to understand the anatomy of the library service or the importance of its individual parts, will result in its breakdown or, at worst, a fatal car crash.

The Complex Structure of Automobile Wheels (and the Library Service)

1.  The outboard face (or a comprehensive network of accessible, dedicated library buildings that provide free access to books, ref materials, IT and expert staff)  [This] "is the part of the wheel you can see when it is bolted onto the car." [1]

"It is possible to bend a wheel on the outboard, or cosmetic face.  Such bends are generally more difficult to straighten, and damage to this area has a much greater chance of being fatal." [2]

Please note : DCMS, SCL, CLOA and LGA - Stop tampering with the structure of the Library Service, because the consequences of your actions, see above, could be fatal.

2.  The Center Bore (or professional Librarians) [is] "one of the most important points on the wheel.  This hole fits over the end of the axle when the wheel is bolted on.  It is this fit between the axle seat and the center bore that truly holds the weight of the car, as lugnuts only serve to keep the wheel on the axle." [1]  The library service must rely on people who have the expertise and qualifications to run it.

3.  The Plate (or paid, expert library staff of all descriptions) "The plate is the core of the wheel, the point of contact to the axle seat, the lug bolts and the lateral surface of the rotor.  Everything else on the wheel is connected back to the plate." [ibid]  Don't make the experts redundant

4.  The Spokes (or a comprehensive network of local, readily accessible branch libraries) "In essence, the spokes are the structures between the plate and the outer edge of the wheel.  They are designed to tie the wheel together, support the outer edge and resist impacts." [ibid]  Intervene, retain communities' access to branch libraries and books

5.  The Dish (or experienced, paid frontline library staff) "The more distance from the spokes, the more leverage an impact has to bend that outer rim, or in the worst-case fold the dish against a spoke and crack it.  This kind of crack is also not safe to repair, since the repair (Staff replaced by volunteers) is inevitably weaker than the original and can fail catastrophically." [ibid]  Keep paid, frontline staff

6.  The Bolt Circle
"The bolt circle is the circle described by the centers of the lug bolts." [ibid]
Library users and frontline staff interact and function together as the 'lug bolts'.   Libraries exist for the public to use; users want local libraries and quality staff.  When users flee the service due to a branch closure or the removal of staff, the 'lug bolts' are fatally loosened.

7.  The Valve Stem "Somewhere on the wheel a small hole must be drilled for a valve stem, that universal mechanism by which we fill our tires with air.  Just that small hole will often make one side of the wheel lighter than the other side enough so that a good spin balancer will often have to compensate for it." [ibid]
Library authorities: "beware where you drill your holes the consequences can be catastrophic."


I appeal to the new Secretary of State, Maria Miller, her Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, and to all Councillors and Chief Librarians to note the following:

"Structural damage to wheels generally occurs because of impacts that are hard enough to negate the protection of the tires.  Any wheel can and will bend if it gets hit hard enough." [2]

Your policy must be to maintain every component of the wheels that drive our cultural heritage.  Do not continue to allow the Library Service to be dismantled, reduced to distant hubs or turned over to well-meaning amateurs.

Do not, by means of your negligence or ideological 'visions' send the Library Service, our children's literacy and the future well-being of us all into the ditch !



1 Please click here  to read : Wheel Anatomy 101
2 Please click here  to read : Wheel Safety Maintenance How To Not Damage Your Wheels

Further reading :

Here  to read : Public Libraries News - Tally by Local Authority
Here  to read : Lauren Smith : What Do Public Librarians and Library Staff Do?
Here  to read : National Literacy Trust : New report shows illiteracy costing the world $1.19 trillion -
          "Illiteracy estimated to cost UK economy approximately 81 billion a year"
Here  to read : Unsung hero: Librarian devoted to getting us all reading