Did Philip Larkin ever worry about key performance indicators? In Britain, there are 4500 public libraries, and government budget cuts are likely to close 500 of them. In the Observer Magazine of 1 May 2011 (not online), Ian Stringer, a retired librarian in Barnsley, said:
“The council once asked us for an assessment of outcomes, not output. Output was how many books we’d stamped out, and outcome was something that had actually resulted from someone borrowing a book. So say someone took out a book on mending cars and then drove the car back, that’s an outcome; or made a batch of scones from a recipe book they had borrowed.
“It lasted until one of the librarians told the council they’d had someone in borrowing a book on suicide, but that they’d never brought it back. The council stopped asking after that.”
The headline above comes from Larkin:
New eyes each year
Find old books here,
And new books,too,
Old eyes renew;
So youth and age
Like ink and page
In this house join,
Minting new coin.