Staff shortages in Kent

Prime Suspect

Editorial

I will shortly be speaking at the CILIP Conference on the reasons I’ve seen advanced against public libraries and my suggestions as to how counteract them. Almost all the reasons to cut libraries have not got any stronger than when I wrote this piece against them in 2011 but here is one which has – then two-fifths of people in the UK used libraries but the latest figures, just five years later, show the figure now at a third. That’s a big drop in five years and is used as a stick to beat the sector with. I’ve seen opponents such as The Institute of Economic Affairs cheerfully argue that such a trend means that the poor few remaining library users should be charged for the privilege.

However, one of the wonderful things about being in the world is that, somewhere, another country may be doing things differently. Such is the case in France which has reported no reduction in usage over the same period and, vitally, has not cuts on the scale of the UK.  In scientific experiment, such a country could be described as a control. In a murder mystery play, it would be seen more as a smoking gun. So, whereas there are doubtless other factors (such as e-books and the internet) to consider, austerity – with its big reductions in library staff, opening hours, stock and libraries themselves – creates less appetising libraries leading to less enticing offer leading to fewer people using them. Such a vicious circle is plain to see in many places. What the twin experiments of France and the UK shows is the relative strength of the factors in play. If ever the treatment of UK public libraries ever gets to be treated like a murder then the comparative trends of the two countries make it likely that Mr Austerity will be treated as a prime suspect.

Changes

Ideas

National news

  • CollectionHQ and Solus Announce Joint Initiative – CollectionHQ. “‘Gizmo’ is an Android-powered, mobile device from Solus which supports collectionHQ Action Plans via the Solus Staff App. This new offering helps to save time and deliver better customer service by enabling librarians to search the catalogue, place requests and update the LMS all from the library floor.”
  • Free and Reduced Price #NAG17 Conference Places – National Acquisitions Group. “NAG are offering some half price places to those working in public libraries who would be otherwise unable to attend #NAG17 this November in Leeds.  We recognise that training budgets have been drastically reduced around the country and we feel this is one way to support our members in public libraries. A limited number of these half price places are available to NAG members working in public libraries.  If you need to check whether your local authority is a NAG member, just drop us an email and we can easily do that for you.  Don’t forget, even if your local authority is no longer a member, you can join NAG as a personal member for just £55 a year for all the same member benefits…” {I have the honour of being keynote speaker for this conference – Ed.]
  • New Arrivals’ What Services are Public Libraries in the UK Offering to Refugees & Asylum Seekers, and how can we Improve Services for the Rising Numbers of this Vulnerable Group? – University of Sheffield. Questionnaire. MA Librarianship student. “The purpose of this research is to gain an understanding of what services public libraries are currently providing to Refugees & Asylum seekers, the level of awareness of services for this group, and what do participants believe public libraries can do or change to improve the services for this group.”
  • A new page? Libraries, austerity and the shifting boundaries of civil society – Leverhulme Trust. “During the course of my Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, I will undertake a series of case studies to unpack the challenges faced by public libraries under austerity. Working with libraries, and the neighbourhoods in which they are based, I will explore the everyday social world of the public library, giving particular focus to those groups excluded, less able or disenfranchised from local processes of participation, and for whom the library might offer a source of ‘community’ or inclusion. “

“Across Britain, people have shown that they believe there is a better way. In recent years, this Government have thrown away tens of billions of pounds in tax giveaways to the very richest and to big business, at the very same time as closing Sure Start centres and libraries, and tipping social care into crisis and our national health service into record deficit. Under Conservative rule, school budgets have been cut and college courses have been closed, students have been saddled with a lifetime of debt, and per-patient funding in the NHS is set to fall for the first time in history.” Jeremy Corbyn, They Work For You.”

  • On public libraries – Forward to Fellowship. “It feels like every edition of CILIP Update has a story about a threatened public library service at the moment, such as the recent reversal to the closure of public libraries in Lancashire in June’s CILIP Update. Darlington’s Crown St Public Library is where I began my library career …”
  • Organisation of LGBT Materials in Public Libraries – University of Sheffield. Questionnaire. “MA Librarianship student at The University of Sheffield Information School, conducting research on how public libraries organise their LGBT materials”
  • The UK government has become dangerously obsessed with facades – Guardian. “A problem with the police? Introduce new management jargon while cutting officer numbers. Issues with education? Rebrand schools while reducing the number of teaching aides. Sluggish economy? Showcase a few moderately successful startups while ignoring the tens of thousands of struggling small businesses. Finding it difficult to maintain libraries? Develop a strategic vision while closing library branches. Problems in the elderly care system? Introduce a rankings exercise while underpaying care assistants. Hospitals strained by increased demand? Hire a “transformational leader” who can give a great presentation. Facing a large-scale accident? Scramble government ministers to the nearest TV studio and promise to pass ill-thought new laws that create more problems than they solve.”
  • W.F.Howes Unveils Revolutionary New RBdigital App – Cision. “library members can access audiobooks, magazines, and eBooks all in one easy-to-use mobile app”
  • Young people value volunteer in public libraries – Society of Chief Librarians (Title taken from webpage address: article itself appears untitled). Focused on experience in Staffordshire. “As well as providing an opportunity for young people to gain skills and work experience evidence indicates that volunteering helps to improve their wellbeing. “. List of best practice points including having 2 to 4 volunteers per library to create a club experience, emphasise skills gained, evening training sessions.
An online bookclub from Axiell

Advertisement

International news

  • Australia – Record Funding For Victoria’s Public Libraries – Victoria. “The Victorian Budget 2017/18 provided $42.5 million for the Public Libraries Funding Program – a 2.5% increase from last year. More than $1.72 million from the record investment will go to Vision Australia’s information and library services, opening these services for people who are blind or have low vision, or a print disability. The funding comes on top of the $4.5 million Living Libraries Infrastructure Program, which provides grants to build, redevelop or refurbish libraries across the state. The Labor Government is also providing $4.4 million over four years for the Premiers’ Reading Challenge Book Fund, so public libraries can purchase materials to get more kids reading. Victoria is home to 275 permanent library branches and 30 mobile library services, with more than 2.1 million library members registered in the state.” [Population of state is 6 million – Ed,]
  • India – Catch ’em young: The new ‘mantra’ to revitalise public libraries – Economic Times. “most of the 70,000 plus public libraries in India have now turned into haunted houses with few visitors to grace their premises.” … “Consider the Summer Fest for children that IPLM organised recently in partnership with Delhi Public Library. Spanning over a period of one month, this fest aimed at bringing children to libraries in the Capital and engaging them in a host of activities that ranged from storytelling and poetry recitations to painting and stage play performances — all within the four walls of libraries “
  • Netherlands – The myth of the disappeared libraries – Warekennis. (in Dutch). 300 libraries out of 1000 have said to be closed in Holland due to local government budget cuts but this is not true (but rather a proposed “worst case” figure).  Also, it may have included mini service points and mobile library stops. However, number of staff have decreased 24% 2010-15 and stock cut by 20%. Councils avoided closing libraries and hollowed out staffing/stock instead. Volunteers have increased to try to make up the loss.
  • USA – ALA 2017 Spotlight: Librarians Gear Up for ‘the Fight of a Lifetime’ – Publisher’s Weekly. “How serious a time is this for librarians? In his latest budget proposal, President Trump doubled down on his bid to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services (and virtually all federal library funding) as well as proposing deep cuts to other vital programs, including education and broadband support. And more importantly, many of Trump’s positions run counter to the library community’s core values—equity, inclusion, and diversity among them. At the ALA’s National Library Legislative Day, held last month in Washington, D.C., retiring ALA executive director Keith Fiels urged librarians in attendance to stay engaged, warning that libraries today are facing “the challenge of a lifetime.””
  • USA – Millennials the Biggest Users of Public Libraries, New Study Finds – KTLA. “The Pew Research Center report found that 53% of millennials ages 18 to 35 last fall said they have used a public library or bookmobile within the last year. The data doesn’t include on-campus libraries. Only 45% of Generation Xers (ages 36-51), 43% of baby boomers (52-70) and 36% of the silent generation (71-88) said they visited a library during the same time period”. Wifi and printers are the big draws.

Local news by authority

  • Bristol – Bristol’s newest MP Darren Jones asks government to fund city libraries – Bristol Post. “The 30-year-old, who ousted Conservative incumbent Charlotte Leslie from the Bristol North West seat on June 8, has used his first question to parliament to ask about library funding.” … “The authority wants to keep the Central Library on College Green open and funded, but has suggested splitting the city’s libraries into two groups – large ‘Area Libraries’, which will open 47 hours a week and smaller ‘Local Libraries’, which will open 22.5 hours a week. Officers have proposed that the north-west, south and east areas of the city will each have one Area Library and two Local Libraries.”

“Our Mayor and councillors are between a very large rock and a very hard place, they have to balance the books by law. “So I’m pressing the Government to fund our libraries as part of a transformation programme – keeping the books that people want to borrow, but also turning libraries into digital community hubs.” Darren Jones MP (Labour)

  • Bristol – Change Starts One Book at a Time: A Love Letter to the British Public Libraries – Murder, She Read. Newcomer to British libraries uses them for many reasons – books, hotdesking and book clubs.
  • Bristol – Council announce public meetings to discuss budget cuts – find out where your nearest meeting is and how to get a ticket – Bristol Post. “Bristol City Council has announced that it will hold eight separate meetings across the city – two in each constituency – to discuss the cuts laid out in its ‘Your Neighbourhood’ consultation. Launched last week, the consultation sets out a number of options about how cuts could be made in five key council areas including libraries, school crossings, public toilets, dementia and adult disability services and neighbourhood partnerships. Cut options include reducing the number of city libraries from 27 to 10, cutting funding for public toilets and halving the number of lollipop people, among others”
  • Bristol – Bristol mayor tells protesters ‘come up with better ideas’ – BBC. “Marvin Rees said there was little point in having a “black-and-white argument over cuts or no cuts”. He was speaking after hundreds of people gathered to call for justice for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. A rival for his job said protest was “often the only way people feel they can make their voices heard”. Mr Rees, who took over as the Labour mayor of Bristol last year, said in October that budget cuts of £92m had to be made to Bristol City Council’s budget by 2022″

“We welcome constructive debate, but Bristol would be better served by a positive focus on what we can achieve together, rather than a black-and-white argument over ‘cuts or no cuts'” Bristol Mayor

  • Buckinghamshire – Dozens turn out for Little Chalfont Community Library’s 10th birthday celebrations – Bucks Free Press. “Around 90 people, including library volunteers, turned out to celebrate Little Chalfont Community Library’s milestone year at a party held for supporters of the library. Well-known faces included Chesham and Amersham MP Cheryl Gillan, Buckinghamshire County Council leader Martin Tett, Chiltern District Councillor Mimi Harker and Gill Roberts, chairman of the Little Chalfont Parish Council.”
  • Bury – Councillors urged to ‘take a hit’ to help save Bury libraries – Bury Times. “Bury councillors approved plans to close at least 10 of Bury’s 14 libraries at a cabinet meeting in January in order to save cash. But now Seedfield Tenants and Residents Association has put forward a suggestion to save the cash needed to keep five of the axed centres open by changing the borough’s electoral cycle and reducing the number of councillors in each ward.” … “The association claims the changes would result in a saving of £175,000 a year – enough cash to keep four or five library and community centres open. They also want the number of councillors in each ward to be reduced from three to two, saving a further £139,000 per year.”
  • Calderdale – Great new library … but how much will it cost ratepayers? – Huddersfield Daily Examiner. Council refuses to give cost of new libraries and archives centre (existing library demolished to make way for town centre development).  Council calls build complex with negotiations in advanced stage.
  • Darlington – Legal challenge delays decision on future use of Darlington’s Crown Street Library – Northern Echo. “Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet members – who also hold the role of trustees for the Crown Street Library building – decided in a special meeting held today to defer any decision on its future until the outcome of the latest legal challenge. The authority is facing the threat of a judicial review over plans to close the library grade II listed Crown Street building as part of a £12.5m programme of budget cuts. It was also confirmed in the meeting that the council had received an independent valuation of between £200,000 and £400,000 for the historic building.”
  • Devon – Story day held in Budleigh to raise awareness of school library funding campaign – Exmouth Journal. “The school, in Moor Lane, Budleigh Salterton, is trying to raise £55,000 to build its own on-site library in building previous used by Carousel Childcare.”
  • East Sussex – Hastings Library reopening delayed until next spring – Hastings and St Leonard’s Observer. “East Sussex County Council said the move has been made to give contractors more time to protect the fabric of the historic building. The library, in Claremont, has been closed since February last year for a complete revamp. The finished building will also house the children’s library, currently based in Robertson Passage. The facility, in the Grade II-listed Brassey Institute, was due to open its doors again this year, but the reopening is now scheduled for spring 2018. County council contractors have already installed a new roof and lift, rewired the whole building and replaced internal lighting. But the council said the refurbishment has unearthed a number of additional structural issues”
  • Glasgow – Glasgow libraries opened up services to blind users – Evening Times. “All 33 libraries citywide will be kitted out with Zoomtext readers that enlarge, enhance and read aloud content on a computer screen. They will also have hi-vis large-key keyboards that are easier for those who have sight-loss to use. The technology will be available to anyone who requires it in a bid to ensure that Glasgow’s much-loved library service is accessible to all who experience sight-loss.” … “Thanks to the RNIB, library users can now be paired with sighted volunteers in one-to-one sessions to assist in using some of the physical and online resources that may prove difficult to access”
  • Glasgow – Glasgow Lives: Margaret, Shawlands, principal librarian for Glasgow Libraries – Glasgow Live. Adores role and feels it is an honour. Speaks about the importance of the Summer Reading Challenge.
  • Hackney – Hackney festival launched to raise money for pop-up libraries in refugee camps – Evening Standard. “we thought about this idea of a camp-based library and then we realised that this one already existed so instead we decided to finance them. “As a collective, we want to support education. But it is also very much about integration and helping these people to get jobs in the places they are eventually resettled.””
  • Haringey – Highgate Library campaigners consider legal action – Ham and High. “Campaigners have begged an arts centre to abandon plans to relocate a much loved library at a packed public meeting.” … “Supporters of Highgate Library in Shepherd’s Hill told Jacksons Lane theatre met Jacksons Lane theatre bosses as the designs for the relocation were revealed for the first time on Thursday. About 40 library users listened to architect Katy Marks outline options including moving the 110-year-old library into Jacksons Lane’s theatre space. But in a heated exchange afterwards, supporters pleaded with Jacksons Lane to leave their 110-year-old library alone and take up a council pledge to match fund an Arts Council England bid instead of raising millions from the Shepherd’s Hill plot’s sale.” … “Warning that if the privately run venue went bust in the future the library could cease to exist, Ms Sivanandan said: “We want Jacksons Lane to flourish. “But you will not close our library. If we have to take legal action against Jacksons Lane we will.”” see also Highgate Library’s supporters furious at council sale decision – Ham and High. “Members of two campaign groups – the Friends of Highgate Library and Highgate Library Action Group (HLAG) – sent deputations to Haringey Council’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday ahead of a vote on an “in principle” decision to sell and dispose of the Shepherd’s Hill library” and Highgate Library campaigners divided over relocation proposal – Ham and High. “HLAG – set up to fight off a closure threat in 1988 – takes the position the library should remain at its present site, but, Susan said: “We’re duty bound to find out what the best thing to do is.” But the campaigners’ stance has split HLAG and forced a vote of no confidence in its chair with a second group of library users – The Friends of Highgate Library – taking the view the proposal should be fought outright.”
Staff shortages in Kent

Staff shortages in Kent

  • Kirklees – Call to Honley community as bid to take on the village library is discussed – Huddersfield Daily Examiner. “Joe Hodgson, chairman of the Friends of Honley Library (FOHL), said that from April next year, Kirklees Council would cut its library services’ budget by over 44%. Honley library is currently run by one paid member of staff supported by volunteers. But Mr Hodgson said the cuts could mean the loss of more than 50 staff across the library service and see all small libraries run fully by volunteers.”
  • Lewisham – Deskspace – V22. “V22 is offering deskspace at three of its sites across London. There are spaces at Forest Hill Library and V22 Shoreditch, with deskspace at V22 Dalston becoming available later this year. We believe it is important to cultivate a sustainable and affordable coworking environment in order to support the development of artists,entrepreneurs, start-ups, social enterprises, ‘tech for good’, not-for-profit organisations and freelancers. Many people just starting out find that having a desk in a shared workspace on a rolling lease helps get ideas out of their heads and into the world, and that they benefit from an environment where everyone is trying to tap their creative potential. As those ideas grow, they can expand into larger spaces and even different areas of London.”
  • Manchester – Manchester Libraries – Books to Go – Manchester Libraries. See also Digital Offer and  Summer Reading Challenge,
  • Northern Ireland – Young minds urged to embark on reading adventure – Belfast Telegraph. “There are almost 300 free events planned as part of the celebrations in libraries across the province from July 1. Valerie Christie, senior children’s services manager with Libraries NI, said children can hop on board this year’s Big Summer Read by collecting their travel card in a local library or from a mobile library”
  • Powys – Chance to see hub’s progress – Brecon and Radnor Express. “… 120 residents visited Brecon’s new Cultural Hub last week to see progress on the exciting development. Powys County Council and project contractors Kier held a two stage event at the site and the town’s library last week (Tuesday, June 6) giving the community a chance to find out about the initiative to renovate the museum and art gallery and provide a new area library, community and education facilities.”
  • St Helens – Best-selling authors to visit libraries to discuss new novels – St Helens Star. “Crime writer David Mark – author of the internationally acclaimed detective series, McAvoy – will visit Eccleston Library on Thursday, July 6 at 6.30pm to discuss his latest novel, Cruel Mercy, with crime fiction fans…”
  • St Helens – Dramatic performance of Oscar Wilde to be shown at library – St Helens Star. At Parr Library.
  • South Tyneside – South Shields library wins top design award – Shields Gazette. The Word: “The building designed by FaulknerBrowns Architects is one of 49 across the country to have won a 2017 RIBA National Award. It will now be considered for the shortlist for the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize, for the UK’s best building of the year”
  • Warwickshire – Information and Enquiry Librarian – We Manage Jobs. Standard full-time permanent post £24-27k.  “We are looking for an enthusiastic and experienced information professional to be the specialist lead in the delivery and continued development of the information and enquiry service across Warwickshire’s library and One Stop Shop service.”

Fact-checking the Kensington closed library

Editorial

I was asked about the closing library in Kensington yesterday. You may remember the emotional interview Channel Four did with people near Grenfell, which started with a local complaining that the council had sold the library to a private school. There was a challenge about whether it was correct or not? I also noticed a claim by the council that they were building a new library. So, let’s do some fact-checking:

– Yes, the council is planning to sell a library – North Kensington Library – to a prep school, although it looks like it’s a lease rather than a straight sale. This report from last year suggests that the school (Notting Hill Prep) will be given the first year free to pay for refurbishments. It will then pay c. 365k per year to the council.

The library is described by the council as “spread over three floors making it difficult for those with mobility issues and young children to navigate. Added to this the building is poorly insulated, expensive to heat and is also listed, which makes it hard to renovate to meet modern library requirements.”. The library has been used for 125 years.

The Friends of North Kensington Library have different views. They’re concerned about the loss of the building for public use and worry about the reduction of council provision in the area. A 3000 name petition has been collected to support this. The campaign suggests the move of the library to a new site would cost £11m.

– The council wants to move the library to the site of the nearby (50 metres away) Lancaster Youth Centre. It promises larger floor space, an improved range of books, magazines and newspapers as well as e-books to borrow, excellent Wi-Fi and IT facilities, space for children’s activities, quiet study areas and meeting rooms for groups, public toilets with baby change facilities..

So it’s a bit more nuanced than the fat-cat council simply selling off a public library but there’s more going on than simply a move to a more modern building. The local community clearly feels very strongly about the move but the council clearly also thinks it is improving matters. I don’t even live in London and can’t claim to know who is right but the one thing clear about this is how much people care about public libraries, the numbers that can be mobilised (3000 in this case, to some extent or another) and how councils need to tread carefully.

If you know more about this issue and you’d like to give a view, please email me via ianlibrarian@live.co.uk. Thank you.

Ideas

  • Card swaps – Display with pocket for each trading card, on a take one / leave one principle.

More >

An attempt to sum up what public libraries do, but with some problems attached. For my presentation at CILIP Conference - http://cilipconference.org.uk/engaging-audiences/

A surprise mention at Grenfell, and ideas

Editorial

I, like so many others, have been deeply affected by the sheer tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire and the issues surrounding it. One media report from Channel 4 News videoed local people about how they felt about the situation. The very first person on the video pointed out that the local libraries have been sold off.  I was not expecting public libraries to be brought into this but it shows their importance – they’re part of the community and to lose one, especially in the wealthiest borough, is seen as a measure of how much the council cares, as it is  in so many other places.

I’ve included no less than four new “ideas” in this post, which is quite a lot. I was quite taken aback by the crowdfunding the building of a library one. There’s something about public librarians that they’re always soming up with new ideas and being happy to share them. The ideas and innovations page regularly gets the most view on PLN – if you hve come up with an idea and want it included, please email me.  

Changes

Ideas

More >

Hi John Glen, libraries should not be pigeonholed and income generation’s not the answer

Editorial

Welcome to John Glen MP, who takes over the libraries brief in a more traditional portfolio than his predecessor including arts, culture, heritage, museums and tourism. It’s always interesting to see where libraries are put as it gives an idea of where our place is seen. Arts are brilliant as is everything else on the list – but one can’t help but think libraries are the odd one out. We could fit just as easily in Education.

Also, have a look at the quote by Nick Poole on the need for more action in the sector too. And does anyone know of a library authority that makes more than 10% of its budget on income (and I don’t mean fines)?

Changes

More >

Desmond Clarke

Editorial

I was so sorry to see that Desmond Clarke has passed away. We started exchanging emails almost back when I started PLN, back in 2010. He was a campaigning veteran long before then of course. We did not always agree on the solution to the problems that public libraries found themselves in but I never doubted his good intentions and, also, his gentle influence. He was one of the few campaigners that Ed Vaizey listened to, although of course that did not unfortunately translate much into action. There’s not many people outside the library world, when all is said and done, that spent so much time on working for their betterment. I’ll miss his emails and I’ll miss him.

The news that Bristol may close up to 17 branches is not unexpected. Back in January I’d reported that up to 19 were under threat and it looks like a similar number indeed are. The city library service has had a tough time over the last few years, the opening of Junction 3 excepted, and it’s not over yet.

Changes

More >

Farewell Rob Wilson, we hardly knew you

Editorial

Well, that was an election and a half. I’m not sure if anyone really knows what it all means yet and I won’t pretend to even be able to make a good guess. The only thing for sure is we will have a new minister in charge of libraries as Rob Wilson lost his parliamentary seat last week. He certainly seemed more interventionist than Ed Vaizey, although that is not exactly saying much. He visited troubled library authorities and even issued as “minded to intervene” in Lancashire, which is highly unusual and seemed to at least take an interest in the sector. He even found some funding for innovation, although the timetable for bidding for it was incredibly rushed. At the time of writing, it’s not clear who his replacement may be.

Changes

Ideas

More >

PLN - Email Banner BookClub 600x200-01

Take a deep breath, learn something new, improve

Editorial

If you’re reading this on Friday, with most or all of the general election results having come in, you will have more idea than I currently have on what the next five years holds for UK public libraries. More of the same or not. No matter what happens, always remember the importance of public libraries in so many different aspects of life and for all ages. If you work in libraries, be proud of what you do and aim to learn something new to make your work even better. If you advocate or campaign for libraries, take a deep breath. No matter what happens, your skills and your energy are going to be needed, no matter who you are.

More >

Celebrity advocates for libraries: Riddell, McDermid and 100 others

Editorial

It has been a real delight over the last year to see the many pro-library drawings by Chris Riddell popping up on Twitter.  He has been the children’s laureate for 2016/17, soon to be replaced by the next (mystery) children’s writer. This position is often filled by someone who rightly has worked out how important public libraries are to getting children to read.  I am delighted to see that Chris will not stop campaigning because his tenure is at end: he is becoming the president of the School Library Association. Whoever thought of asking him to do that job is a genius. Another example of a great advocate for libraries is Val McDermid who has been quoted, not for the first time, supporting public libraries. People, and thus the media, tend to listen more to celebrities than even (perhaps especially even) experts and so people like this are gold dust. Here’s a list of famous people I’ve noticed saying nice things about libraries. Can you let me know of any more? Email me as normal at ianlibrarian@live.co.uk.

Changes

More >

Ireland unifies, Welsh Standards compared with English atomisation

Editorial

The pre-election lull continues with very few local library stories compared to normal, especially as considering this post below covers more days than normal. There are two articles, though, that has a lot of reaction when I reported them on Twitter. The first is the news that the Republic of Ireland is aiming to unify its entire public library system, at least in so far as having a single membership card and being able to reserve items from anywhere in the country. Now, Ireland is a relatively small country, smaller than one-tenth of the UK, with only 333 branches and a population of under five million, so it’s easier for them but it does point the way forward. Sadly, though, I’m seeing at least as much atomisation in the UK (with, for example, more independent volunteer libraries and organisations involved) than I am the reverse.

The second story is the appointment of an independent library standards adviser in Wales. Until recently, at least, I met many involved people in England who argued that standards were not advantageous but rather that they encouraged a “race to the bottom” where councils aimed to spend less than their comparators. That argument, although it still amazingly holds sway amongst some even now, has taken a battering with the removal of English standards, where we can now see clearly now see just such a race to the bottom, not because of standards but rather due to their absence and the connected lack of effective superintendence of those who transgress.

Changes

More >

Check out what each political party has in store for public libraries

Editorial

It probably has not escaped your notice that there is a general election coming up shortly. As in most national elections, the subject of public libraries is spectacularly absent and none more so than this one which appears to be mainly about Brexit and personalities. I am noticing very few references to the sector in the news, with their main presence being in Lancashire, where the new Conservative administration has pledged to reopen all the libraries recently shut by Labour, although it’s not clear how many of these will be staffed by volunteers rather than paid staff.  Similarly, in Warrington (also Labour,-controlled by the way), there has been a mention of libraries in the Green candidate’s position, doubtless due to the large-scale cuts proposed there, swiftly followed by much public protest. But that’s pretty much it for the last few days. For myself, if one puts aside the whole policy of austerity (quite a big if, but go with it),  I tend to see Labour complaining about cuts to libraries in Conservative controlled councils and Conservatives complaining about cuts in Labour controlled councils. It can all get a bit confusing. As such, it has been very useful to see the recent CILIP survey on the manifestoes of the UK-wide political parties, which analyses what libraries can expect from each. Have a read.

Changes

More >