COMMENT: Prying shame of library survey

COMMENT: Prying shame of library survey

COMMENT: Prying shame of library survey

First published in News
Last updated
Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author by

CAN somebody please explain to me why a tweedy, bespectacled librarian needs to know my 13-year-old daughter’s sexuality before she orders a book for her?

I don’t know how much money was spent on a recent Hertfordshire Library Service survey into borrowers’ “needs”, but however much it was, it was too much.

Surely, when calculating what to stock and what to chuck, all a librarian needs to know about children’s preferences is how many Harry Potters or Tracy Beaker novels get borrowed each week?

Instead, my daughter was asked whether she was heterosexual, homosexual, bi or “other”. 
As she didn’t know what the first three things meant (or so she tells me), she ticked the last box and wrote “straight” on the form.

Silly girl. I wish she’d written “transgender”, if only to give some pen-pusher at County Hall a nervous breakdown trying to reconcile a library customer (or should that be end user?) who has undergone gender reassignment, with someone whose birth year is 2001.

Don’t get me started.

I’m cynical enough to believe such surveys are merely job-preserving exercises in self-aggrandisement for people with nothing better to do, but then I suppose someone has to keep the self-serving “diversity-awareness” industry going.

All this prying into “lifestyles” has been thrown into sharp focus in our house this week as my husband, who has just been made redundant, is currently looking for a job.

He won’t mind me telling you it’s a shock to his system to have to “sell” himself for the first time in a legal career that spans some 30 years.

In fact, the last time he applied for jobs, either speculatively or in answer to a specific advert, he was writing his applications with a quill pen.

Now though, Him Indoors is discovering job applications are even more complicated than taking a book out of the library.

On paper, he sounds great.

Team-player, self-starter; attentive to detail; able to see the big picture; good at delegating; someone who likes to see a project through from start to finish; good at motivating others; works well on own initiative; straight – and why don’t you mind your own ruddy business?
Yes, my exasperated husband pretty much wrote that last bit on one particularly intrusive and badly devised application form.

For a start, it doesn’t take much grey matter to work out if an applicant claims to offer every one of often mutually exclusive qualities described above, they are either lying or they have a multiple personality disorder.

And as for the question about sexuality . . .

“I treated it with the contempt it deserves” was my husband’s lofty reply when I asked which box he’d ticked.

Well darling, I guess you won’t get that job, but at least you’ll give the person sifting through the replies something to talk about at the water cooler.

I’m all for fairness and for giving people a chance, especially if they come from a group that met prejudice in the past, (I’m a woman after all), but does an employer really need to know your religion or sexuality if you’ve got the right qualifications and experience?

Still, if even libraries want to know which way you swing before they lend you a book, how long will it be before they ask which way you vote before they let you take out an Enid Blyton novel?

The library questionnaire about “needs” reminds me of an intriguing sign I once saw promoting “sheds for all purposes”, which I’m sure was supposed to read “all-purpose sheds”, though the former sounds much more fun.

Similarly, a friend tells me she once spotted a hoarding bearing the words “for all your bouncy castle needs”. 

How on earth do they know what my bouncy castle needs may be?

Perhaps they asked my library.

Comments (13)

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12:51pm Fri 7 Mar 14

Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford says...

These surveys are an utter waste of time and money. The libraries are a service, they don't need to know and shouldn't know their customers sexuality, they should just know how to provide the service required.

County Council needs some Ukip councillors to try to stop this sort of nonsense.
These surveys are an utter waste of time and money. The libraries are a service, they don't need to know and shouldn't know their customers sexuality, they should just know how to provide the service required. County Council needs some Ukip councillors to try to stop this sort of nonsense. Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford
  • Score: -9

1:03pm Fri 7 Mar 14

Sara says...

"County Council needs some Ukip councillors to try to stop this sort of nonsense."

Last year the voters of Hertfordshire firmly disagreed.
"County Council needs some Ukip councillors to try to stop this sort of nonsense." Last year the voters of Hertfordshire firmly disagreed. Sara
  • Score: 7

1:45pm Fri 7 Mar 14

Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford says...

Sara wrote:
"County Council needs some Ukip councillors to try to stop this sort of nonsense."

Last year the voters of Hertfordshire firmly disagreed.
Sara,

last year the voters were not aware you were going to waste their money on pointless surveys. Next time we will make them aware of exactly how wasteful you can be of taxpayers money.

What is your view on this survey Sara? It's all very well attacking the messenger, but what about a policy or principle from you on this matter?

More to the point, what are you, Sara Bedford, LibDem councillor going to do about it?
[quote][p][bold]Sara[/bold] wrote: "County Council needs some Ukip councillors to try to stop this sort of nonsense." Last year the voters of Hertfordshire firmly disagreed.[/p][/quote]Sara, last year the voters were not aware you were going to waste their money on pointless surveys. Next time we will make them aware of exactly how wasteful you can be of taxpayers money. What is your view on this survey Sara? It's all very well attacking the messenger, but what about a policy or principle from you on this matter? More to the point, what are you, Sara Bedford, LibDem councillor going to do about it? Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford
  • Score: -7

3:22pm Fri 7 Mar 14

LibraryOwl says...

I think it's a bit incredible that they you are suggesting that a library won't lend an item before first knowing a person's sexuality. I cannot believe for a second that this is true, or that you yourself believe this to be true.

Books for young adults tackle tough subjects- berevement, rape, abandonment, homelessness, poverty, gang violence and all manner of things. LGBT issues are fctionalised in all manner of YA books, and rightly so. Your council is probably trying to determine people's sexuality in the same way that they will need to know ages and sexes. In order to provide an inclusive and relevent collection for lending.

Also your descriptions of librarians as "tweedy and bespectscled" are absurd. What sweeping generalisations. If the library annoys you so much, stop using it.
I think it's a bit incredible that they you are suggesting that a library won't lend an item before first knowing a person's sexuality. I cannot believe for a second that this is true, or that you yourself believe this to be true. Books for young adults tackle tough subjects- berevement, rape, abandonment, homelessness, poverty, gang violence and all manner of things. LGBT issues are fctionalised in all manner of YA books, and rightly so. Your council is probably trying to determine people's sexuality in the same way that they will need to know ages and sexes. In order to provide an inclusive and relevent collection for lending. Also your descriptions of librarians as "tweedy and bespectscled" are absurd. What sweeping generalisations. If the library annoys you so much, stop using it. LibraryOwl
  • Score: 16

5:44pm Fri 7 Mar 14

Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford says...

How on earth did libraries exist before they knew the borrowers sexuality? Especially the young ones.

It must have been murder for librarians back then, eh Sara?

When will our councils get their noses out of our private lives and get on with their jobs? Empty the bins, maintain our roads, run libraries and leave our sex lives where they belong - with us in total privacy.

This sort of intrusive thinking really gets my goat!

Any councillor who thinks they have any right to know the slightest thing about everyones sex lives should be an ex-councillor.

No wonder Ukip is becoming so popular, we all think this sort of thing is unwelcome, intrusive, stupid and a waste of time and money.

Sara, I'm still waiting for your answer. What do you think about this intrusive and unneccessary intrusion into peoples private lives? What will you do about it?
How on earth did libraries exist before they knew the borrowers sexuality? Especially the young ones. It must have been murder for librarians back then, eh Sara? When will our councils get their noses out of our private lives and get on with their jobs? Empty the bins, maintain our roads, run libraries and leave our sex lives where they belong - with us in total privacy. This sort of intrusive thinking really gets my goat! Any councillor who thinks they have any right to know the slightest thing about everyones sex lives should be an ex-councillor. No wonder Ukip is becoming so popular, we all think this sort of thing is unwelcome, intrusive, stupid and a waste of time and money. Sara, I'm still waiting for your answer. What do you think about this intrusive and unneccessary intrusion into peoples private lives? What will you do about it? Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford
  • Score: -13

8:00pm Fri 7 Mar 14

cgpc Rob says...

TRDC didn't post that they were holding the library consultation on their website until I informed Cllr Button

CGPC didn't post the dates of the consultation either, even though we discussed it at council and requested that the clerk put it on the website on Latest News

Dear Councillor Button
I can confirm this will be posted on our Community Notice Board as soon
as either Mr Khan or Mr Snow pick up this email and can take the
appropriate action.

Steven Halls,
Chief Executive,
Three Rivers District Council,
Three Rivers House,
Northway, Rickmansworth,
Hertfordshire, WD3 1RL.

-----Original Message-----
From: Frances Button ; David Sansom
Subject: RE: Libraries

Dear Mr Ridley

Thank you for your email. I'd be delighted if Three Rivers District
Council would be kind enough to advertise the forthcoming Library
Consultation on their community noticeboard and I hope that by picking
up your email that this will happen.

The Library consultation started last month and runs to the end of
December. All District, Borough and Parish councils and local
newspapers as well as many other community groups were advised and
invited to participate and cascade the information. A consultation
meeting is being held in each of the ten Local Authorities in
Hertfordshire, and Three Rivers' consultation is in fact the last. For
those who could not attend these meetings, a drop-in session was
organised at every library in the county. Croxley's was one of the
first - Wednesday 30 October - and I am advised that each library had
posters and signs in their libraries advertising there drop-in sessions.
I advertised the Oxhey drop-in session widely in my County Division in
advance and received several emails from residents who could not attend,
all of which I have forwarded for inclusion in the consultation.

Each library has hard copies of the consultation document and supporting
information. The nearest remaining drop-in session is at Watford
Central library on Thursday 19 December between 10am and 12 noon.

The meeting is being held at Three Rivers House because there were
concerns that a large turnout could be too big for the library itself.
That remains to be seen but I am hoping for a good turnout on 5
December, and hope to see you there.

Kind regards

Frances

Frances Button
Cabinet Member for Customer Service, Performance & Libraries

Hertfordshire County Councillor for Oxhey Park
(Carpenders Park, Moor Park & Eastbury, Oxhey Hall)
07713 743063


-----Original Message-----
From: Family Ridley
Sent: 26 November 2013 23:09
To: Frances Button; Ty Harris; Ralph Sangster
Cc: ann.shaw@threerivers
.gov.uk; Steven Halls; David Gauke ; David
Sansom
Subject: Libraries

Cllr Button

Found this on the Watford Observer website but not on TRDCs community
noticeboard, when will TRDC put it on, especially as you are using their
premises,

Have requested Cllrs from CGPC to get it posted, don't hold out on that,
requested that CGRA do and they have.

Do HCC/TRDC contact/email all the parish councils and residents
associations with this info and request that they put it on their
website under latest news etc. how do both councils promote?

I personally can't make it but hope the evening is a success

CGPCllr R J Ridley
TRDC didn't post that they were holding the library consultation on their website until I informed Cllr Button CGPC didn't post the dates of the consultation either, even though we discussed it at council and requested that the clerk put it on the website on Latest News Dear Councillor Button I can confirm this will be posted on our Community Notice Board as soon as either Mr Khan or Mr Snow pick up this email and can take the appropriate action. Steven Halls, Chief Executive, Three Rivers District Council, Three Rivers House, Northway, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, WD3 1RL. -----Original Message----- From: Frances Button [mailto Sent: 27 November 2013 12:34 To: Family Ridley; Ty Harris; Ralph Sangster Cc: Ann Shaw (Internal use only) DO NOT DISABLE; Steven Halls; David Gauke [MP]; David Sansom Subject: RE: Libraries Dear Mr Ridley Thank you for your email. I'd be delighted if Three Rivers District Council would be kind enough to advertise the forthcoming Library Consultation on their community noticeboard and I hope that by picking up your email that this will happen. The Library consultation started last month and runs to the end of December. All District, Borough and Parish councils and local newspapers as well as many other community groups were advised and invited to participate and cascade the information. A consultation meeting is being held in each of the ten Local Authorities in Hertfordshire, and Three Rivers' consultation is in fact the last. For those who could not attend these meetings, a drop-in session was organised at every library in the county. Croxley's was one of the first - Wednesday 30 October - and I am advised that each library had posters and signs in their libraries advertising there drop-in sessions. I advertised the Oxhey drop-in session widely in my County Division in advance and received several emails from residents who could not attend, all of which I have forwarded for inclusion in the consultation. Each library has hard copies of the consultation document and supporting information. The nearest remaining drop-in session is at Watford Central library on Thursday 19 December between 10am and 12 noon. The meeting is being held at Three Rivers House because there were concerns that a large turnout could be too big for the library itself. That remains to be seen but I am hoping for a good turnout on 5 December, and hope to see you there. Kind regards Frances Frances Button Cabinet Member for Customer Service, Performance & Libraries Hertfordshire County Councillor for Oxhey Park (Carpenders Park, Moor Park & Eastbury, Oxhey Hall) 07713 743063 -----Original Message----- From: Family Ridley Sent: 26 November 2013 23:09 To: Frances Button; Ty Harris; Ralph Sangster Cc: ann.shaw@threerivers .gov.uk; Steven Halls; David Gauke [MP]; David Sansom [Tory] Subject: Libraries Cllr Button Found this on the Watford Observer website but not on TRDCs community noticeboard, when will TRDC put it on, especially as you are using their premises, Have requested Cllrs from CGPC to get it posted, don't hold out on that, requested that CGRA do and they have. Do HCC/TRDC contact/email all the parish councils and residents associations with this info and request that they put it on their website under latest news etc. how do both councils promote? I personally can't make it but hope the evening is a success CGPCllr R J Ridley cgpc Rob
  • Score: -7

1:07pm Sat 8 Mar 14

Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford says...

No answer from Sara, the LibDem Cllr.

If she can't justify this intrusion into our personal lives, why did her local party sanction it?
No answer from Sara, the LibDem Cllr. If she can't justify this intrusion into our personal lives, why did her local party sanction it? Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford
  • Score: -8

4:24pm Sun 9 Mar 14

Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford says...

There you have it. Sara cannot or will not answer.

The reason? This intrusion into our personal lives is not only unwelcome, it is indefensible. No-one can justify why a librarian needs to know your sexuality to provide a library service to you.

The LibDems doing things they don't need to do, worrying things, that we don't want them to do, wasting our money doing it, and then when questioned refuse to answer but criticise those that dare to question them.

What a shower!

It really is time for a change, we need to get rid of this sort of intrusive and stupid thinking from council.

Local elections in May.

Vote Ukip and stop this nonsense.
There you have it. Sara cannot or will not answer. The reason? This intrusion into our personal lives is not only unwelcome, it is indefensible. No-one can justify why a librarian needs to know your sexuality to provide a library service to you. The LibDems doing things they don't need to do, worrying things, that we don't want them to do, wasting our money doing it, and then when questioned refuse to answer but criticise those that dare to question them. What a shower! It really is time for a change, we need to get rid of this sort of intrusive and stupid thinking from council. Local elections in May. Vote Ukip and stop this nonsense. Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford
  • Score: -10

10:04pm Mon 10 Mar 14

Spectatre says...

Are you seriously saying that your daughter couldn't borrow a book until she revealed her orientation? If this happened, the majority of this article would have been documenting how you got this person fired. Which they would have been, like a shot. Instead most of this is about your husband's struggle to find work.

I think the survey your child filled out happened to include a question about orientation (along with the other usual ones about race/gender/ethnicit
y), and you were opposed to this. You could have just opened with the perfectly valid question, 'why does the library want to know my child's orientation?', but I suppose that's not as catchy.
Are you seriously saying that your daughter couldn't borrow a book until she revealed her orientation? If this happened, the majority of this article would have been documenting how you got this person fired. Which they would have been, like a shot. Instead most of this is about your husband's struggle to find work. I think the survey your child filled out happened to include a question about orientation (along with the other usual ones about race/gender/ethnicit y), and you were opposed to this. You could have just opened with the perfectly valid question, 'why does the library want to know my child's orientation?', but I suppose that's not as catchy. Spectatre
  • Score: 9

8:44pm Wed 12 Mar 14

plumsparkle says...

This article did make me laugh. The questionaires were offered to all library customers so that everyone who wanted to, had a chance to have their say. I am quite sure that if your daughter had asked for a book to be ordered for her, this would have been done without any reference to the questions on the form. I also have a suggestion for this hapless couple in case they should be faced with a form again - don't answer the questions if they offend you - simple!
I am sorry your husband has lost his job, but ridiculing 'tweedy, bespectacled' librarians (how much pen-chewing did that one take?) is such a lazy comment. Just a generalisation in order to get to your main point which was your husbands jobless state.
I assume you probably know that the questions on the form were not devised by frontline library staff, but as the previous post said - it needed to be a catchy headline, forget about reality.
This article did make me laugh. The questionaires were offered to all library customers so that everyone who wanted to, had a chance to have their say. I am quite sure that if your daughter had asked for a book to be ordered for her, this would have been done without any reference to the questions on the form. I also have a suggestion for this hapless couple in case they should be faced with a form again - don't answer the questions if they offend you - simple! I am sorry your husband has lost his job, but ridiculing 'tweedy, bespectacled' librarians (how much pen-chewing did that one take?) is such a lazy comment. Just a generalisation in order to get to your main point which was your husbands jobless state. I assume you probably know that the questions on the form were not devised by frontline library staff, but as the previous post said - it needed to be a catchy headline, forget about reality. plumsparkle
  • Score: 15

3:17pm Thu 13 Mar 14

Hairy Hornet says...

"Tweedy bespectacled librarians" What about the hair bun? Dont think you'll make journalist of the year with this coffee morning style moan.
"Tweedy bespectacled librarians" What about the hair bun? Dont think you'll make journalist of the year with this coffee morning style moan. Hairy Hornet
  • Score: 7

6:27pm Sat 15 Mar 14

lambchop1 says...

I'm sure Watford Observer readers will realise a member of the library staff would never ask a young person (or anyone for that matter) their sexual orientation before 'letting' them borrow a book! As to 'tweedy, bespectacled librarian' - has the columnist never heard of Geek Chic? It's all the rage!
I'm sure Watford Observer readers will realise a member of the library staff would never ask a young person (or anyone for that matter) their sexual orientation before 'letting' them borrow a book! As to 'tweedy, bespectacled librarian' - has the columnist never heard of Geek Chic? It's all the rage! lambchop1
  • Score: 7

12:12am Sun 16 Mar 14

Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford says...

I feel sure that Sara (LibDem councillor) will not answer the question put to her on this topic. It is the first time I have noticed sara shy away from answering a question on her patch.

As a county and local councillor, she should have an answer. Not to answer is an abdication of responsibility.

If Sara is not up to the job and allows mistakes like this to happen on her watch then maybe she's not right person to be a councillor.

If she and her fellow councillors have made a mistake, shouldn't they admit it, learn from it and move on?

If it's not a mistake, she should justify this action.

See the LibDems in action.

Sorry, that should say "See the LibDems inaction".
I feel sure that Sara (LibDem councillor) will not answer the question put to her on this topic. It is the first time I have noticed sara shy away from answering a question on her patch. As a county and local councillor, she should have an answer. Not to answer is an abdication of responsibility. If Sara is not up to the job and allows mistakes like this to happen on her watch then maybe she's not right person to be a councillor. If she and her fellow councillors have made a mistake, shouldn't they admit it, learn from it and move on? If it's not a mistake, she should justify this action. See the LibDems in action. Sorry, that should say "See the LibDems inaction". Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford
  • Score: -6

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