Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Very Bad Idea

The Guardian reported yesterday that libraries in Essex, Somerset, Bromley, Leeds and Southend will begin inserting advertising fliers into books checked out by patrons. "The plan is being run by the direct marketing company Jackson Howse, whose business development director Mark Jackson said the company was 'very proud' of what he described as 'a brand new channel' for direct marketing."

Gag. If this is the best idea library managers could come up with to raise extra money, they'd better find another line of work.

Jackson told the paper that if 300,000 adverts were inserted per month, a library could expect to receive about £10,000 revenue.

Guy Daines, director of policy at the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals "said that such a scheme should be operated with 'caution' and suggested there would be 'numerous practical difficulties, perhaps the most important of which is that a high percentage of people would find it off-putting.'" Daines added "'Like any other public sector institution finding a new stream of income is incredibly important.' However, he claims, there is a risk that advertising could put libraries' place in the community at risk. 'Free access and impartiality are at the core of what libraries do,' he said, 'so any kind of scheme which seems to compromise that position of impartiality and trust has to be looked at very carefully.'"

As someone who doesn't particularly enjoy having anything inserted into the books I buy or check out of the library (anybody need a gigantic stash of unwanted bookmarks?), this proposal is irksome to say the least. We are all exposed to far too much latent advertising as it is, and we certainly don't need more direct exposure to adverts in any form, let alone staring at us from across the "date due" stamp.

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