Goodbye Libraries Taskforce, huge cuts to Bradford and Coventry, good news elsewhere

Editorial

So, effectively, it’s goodbye to the Libraries Taskforce, whose duties are now formally part of Arts Council England for a year until it, presumably, disappears forever. The Taskforce did some good work in highlighting the importance of public libraries to central government departments, although with questionable impact and depth, arranged training and was a good sharer of information on what the sector with its frequent blogs. I’m not sure what other concrete achievements it has, although to defend it further, it did come into existence at the toughest time in public library history, world wars included, and, as a civil service entity, was unable to criticise or otherwise hold the neglectfully hands-off government to account.

And it’s a government that absolutely does need to be held to account by someone if Bradford’s suggested 65% cut to library budget in two years goes through. It’s not as if it hadn’t been cut before, with volunteer libraries, co-locations and the full panoply of “savings” already in place from previous hacks to its budget. In a similar vein, Coventry, which amusingly is the 2021 UK City of Culture, is pruning £1m off a budget already cut by £1.4m. I understand the libraries minister is in the latter city this week with the DCMS libraries team. I hope this is not coincidental and he actually calls out such behaviour. The last decade has been a history of libraries ministers (with special mention going to the library-comatose Ed Vaizey) failing to meaningfully intervene in such deep cuts, though, as don’t get your hopes up.

And, finally, oh look, some good news. And not just in one library but in three. Well done East Sussex, Southwark and Suffolk on the improvements there and fingers crossed for the marvellous sound Preston project.

Changes

Ideas

National news

  • Libraries Taskforce – Arts Council England. “We have taken on the work of the Libraries Taskforce until March 2020 … The Libraries Taskforce, previously the responsibility of the DCMS, delivers on the recommendations from the Independent Library Report for England. We want to build upon and add value to existing good practice, partnerships and other activities that are already supporting public libraries. We will also promote libraries to national and local government and to potential funders, and create a strong narrative about the contribution public libraries make to society and to local communities.”
  • Voyage of the Data Treader 2 : put your library on the map– Eventbrite. “Voyage of the Data Treader 2 is a library data camp dedicated to exploring data and open data in libraries through a mix of workshops, discussions, and data playing. Anyone interested in using data to improve library services is welcome”. Manchester Central Library, 11 March.

Axiell Selflib

International news

  • Australia – The library as a public space– Designing Libraries. “An underground library in Sydney’s Green Square public plaza has opened, described as a ‘space-making not space-taking’ design project.” … “At its centre is a subterranean garden that offers a quiet space to read in the fresh air. There is also an amphitheatre and a café.”
  • Global – Coolest Library Cards From Around The World – Nerd Daily. Only one from the UK (well done Kensington and Chelsea), the rest are from USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. [Addition 17.1.19: thanks to Julia Chandler who has pointed out Southwark is also included – Ed.].

Local news by authority

  • Bradford – Libraries budget to be cut by 65 per cent over two years – Telegraph and Argus. “Although all the Council run libraries in the district will remain open, library staff are likely to bear the brunt of the cuts, with a swath of job losses expected.In the 2019/20 financial year Bradford Council plans to cut around £950,000 from its libraries budget. The following year a further £1,050,000 is expected to be slashed from the budget.” … “The report says that under the new proposals three of the Council run libraries, in Shipley, Keighley and Bradford, would become “community hubs” offering a wider range of Council and community sector services. The other seven Council run libraries will be retained. There are also no plans to reduce the community run libraries.”

“Overall it means the service’s budget will fall from £3,120,900 this current financial year to £1,120,900 by 2020/21 – a drop of over 65 per cent in just two years. “

‘Community hub’ plans for Keighley Library as cuts bite – Keighley News. “The planned move is part of a package of measures being drawn-up as the council faces having to slash nearly £1 million from its libraries budget in the next 12 months. “

Public can hear budget proposals at an event at Ilkley Library next week – Ilkley Gazette. “Although all the Council-run libraries in the district will remain open, including Ilkley Library, staff are likely to bear the brunt of cuts, with a raft of job losses expected.”

  • Cornwall – Town council to take over library and information service in new partnership agreement with Cornwall Council – Bude Today. “management of Bude Library and Information Service will be handed over to Bude-Stratton Town Council on March 1, 2019, in a new partnership agreement with Cornwall Council. Under the arrangement, Bude-Stratton Town Council will employ the staff, and will own and maintain the building. Cornwall Council will provide the book stock and all the IT systems to enable county-wide access.”
  • Coventry – Panic buttons could be given to library staff if new £1.2m cuts go ahead – Coventry Live. “Library staff in Coventry could be made to carry panic buttons and personal alarms if plans to make them work alone as part of another £1.2 million of cuts to the service are approved. The plans aim to save the council £319,000 a year over the next four years – and are expected to bring more job losses. As well as seeing the number of management and non front-line staff reduced, the potential cuts would also mean only one member of staff working alone at four libraries in the city. That has seen the council planning to introduce a number of measures to reduce the risk to lone workers – including providing them with panic buttons, personal alarms and portable personal communication devices to show their location and “detect non-motion”.”
  • Devon – Tavistock Library hosts successful pop-up soup kitchen over festive season – Tavistock Today. “Staff and volunteers at Tavistock Library opened their doors over the festive period with a pop-up soup kitchen. Residents of Tavistock headed to the library on December 20 where hot soup and bread were served by library staff and volunteers of the Tavistock Scrap Store. Soup ingredients, bread and butter were donated for the cause by volunteers and local businesses, including Friends of Tavistock Library, Continental Fruit of Tavistock and Tappercation of Okehampton. Three delicious flavoured soups were handmade by Linda Hitchcock, with around 180 servings ready to serve by 10am. Almost 100 people made use of the soup kitchen and the library services available.”
  • East Riding of Yorkshire – North Library to host a wizard book night – Bridlington Free Press.
  • East Susses – New look Crowborough Library – Crowborough Life. “The new-look library, at Pine Grove, boasts an expanded children’s area, a newly created space for teens and young adults and comfy reading locations with new furniture” … “Since the scheme, carried out at the same time as a Crowborough Town Council project to install new windows in the Pine Grove complex, began at the end of November, the library has been running from a temporary location at Beacon Academy.  To mark the reopening, people are invited to come along and see the new-look facility and enjoy a cup of tea and slice of cake on Saturday 26th January from 11am.”
  • Essex – Letters: Let’s unite to stop Essex County Council closing our libraries – Gazette News. “I am saddened and appalled by Councillor Beverly Davies referring to the book-raid event at Prettygate Library as a “cheap stunt”. This was a grassroots event organised by local people who are passionate about libraries and the importance they play in communities.As a Prettygate councillor she should be supporting their aims, which are to keep the library open.”
    • Marches held in Chelmsford and Colchester against library closures – Gazette News. “That’s why it’s essential people continue to put pressure on Essex County Council to think again by supporting the campaign, completing the consultation, and spreading the word about the march at County Hall on February 9.” “
    • Three parishes to join forces to save Manningtree library – Harwich and Manningtree Standard. “Manningtree Town Council is holding a joint meeting with Mistley Parish Council and Lawford Parish Council to discuss the Essex Library Strategy Consultation and specifically the future of Manningtree Library.So far, more than 12,000 people have taken part in Essex County Council’s online consultation on the future of multiple libraries – including Manningtree’s – in the county which face the axe”
  • Glasgow – Revealed: Staff at Glasgow libraries face threatening behaviour, abuse and inappropriate conduct – Evening Times. “With 18 million people accessing these facilities across the city every year, it would seem only a minority pose as a threat to employees and associates, with just six customers banned from leisure facilities in the last 12 months. The information was obtained through a Freedom of Information Request to Glasgow Life. Reasons for the long-term withdrawal of their membership included assaulting a member of staff, threatening behaviour, violent actions displayed towards employees, inappropriate conduct, theft and misuse of a membership card.”
  • Lancashire – Heritage Lottery Funding Awarded for Re-imagining the Harris – Harris Museum. “We’re proud to announce that we have received initial National Lottery support* for the ambitious Re-Imagining the Harris project. Made possible by National Lottery players, it aims to establish the Harris as the UK’s first blended museum, art gallery and library. Having recently celebrated our 125th birthday, and already attracting 1000 visitors a day, we aim to be a centre for Preston’s cultural and social life, a source of inspiration, pride and creativity for the next 125 years. We will make the Harris truly special again.”
  • Oxfordshire – Happy ending: How we saved our library – Express. “If you think you’re beaten, you usually are. That’s what I kept saying to myself during the first months of 2011 as I and other members of the Save Botley Library campaign group battled against what appeared to be overwhelming odds to keep our much-loved local library open. This particular library was one of 20 threatened by cuts made by Oxfordshire County Council.”
  • Somerset – Friends of North Petherton Library hosts first annual general meeting – Bridgwater Mercury. “The Friends of North Petherton Library held its first annual general meeting last night (Monday, January 14) to elect its committee members and to reflect on the progress made so far. “
  • Southwark – Southwark opens new Grove Vale Library – Designing Libraries. “The new Grove Vale Library is almost twice as big as its former site, good news for the oversubscribed children’s story-times and rhyme-time sessions” … “The name of the library, the extra morning opening hours, new books, free Wi-Fi and some of the many groups and clubs, all reflect the wishes of local users.” … “The council commissioned local artist, Lasma Liepina, to create a large-scale artwork (illustrated above) for the entrance of the new library”
  • Suffolk – Suffolk’s newest library is opening soon – Suffolk Libraries. “The new library in Cross Street was designed and overseen by Concertus Design & Property Consultants Ltd and constructed by building firm RG Carter during 2018, and handed over to Suffolk Libraries just before Christmas. The current library closed for the last time last Sunday (13 January) and staff are currently moving and setting up everything at the new library so that it is ready for opening. Tony Brown, chair of Suffolk Libraries said: “It’s hugely positive to be able to open a new library. It’s been a great team effort with Suffolk County Council, Concertus and RG Carter working together with Suffolk Libraries to deliver a modern facility that will provide a better library environment and experience for everyone in the local community.”

Feel the love

  • Warrington – ‘Novel’ way to meet people as LiveWire launches library speed dating event for Valentine’s – Warrington Livewire (press release). “Library speed dating is being held next month in Warrington – just in time for Valentine’s. Enjoy a novel way to meet new people this Valentine’s when LiveWire holds its first Speed Dating event in the library at Orford Jubilee Neighbourhood Hub in Warrington. The free event – for people aged 30 and over – is being held on Wednesday 13 February at 7.00pm. It is being organised by LiveWire’s team of Community Librarians, who have been in contact with a dating agency for tips on how to make the event – thought to be one of the UK’s first library speed dating events – a success.” … Another unusual library event taking place soon is a ‘Mocktail’ making class being held at Lymm Library, as part of ‘Dry January’ on Saturday 26 January from 11.00am to 1.00pm. Learn how to make a ‘Pom Collins’ using healthy ingredients. Cost is £1.50 per person or £5 for a family of four. Suitable for all ages. Booking is essential at the library.”
  • Worcestershire – Worcester school head’s plea to keep Warndon library open – Worcester News.

Not quite all quiet

Editorial

A relatively quiet few days, thankfully, although with rumblings from the current library battlegrounds of Ealing, Essex and Worcestershire. The key piece of news for me is one I missed when it happened: Kirkless joined the increasing trend towards going fine-free at the end of December. There are now eight services in the UK I know of that have taken this approach.

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Hurting Ealing and £120k for the Reading Agency

Editorial

Sorry to see that Ealing are discussing dramatic cuts from the current £2.2m down to, and I can’t believe I’m reading this right but I’ve checked , £566k in 2022. My goodness. Hopefully, the final cut will be better than the libraryageddon that those figures imply. On the other end of the scale, the Reading Agency have been awarded a handsome £120k to evaluate the Summer Reading Challenge. The SRC is the most successful national promotion that public libraries do, with by far the most impact, so that’s money well spent if it helps safeguard it.

Well done to the Edge Conference in Edinburgh which is now in its tenth year. It’s an excellent, compact but beautifully formed, couple of days that I enjoyed going to a few years back … and it has a very strong set of international speakers that you may not see anywhere else so it’s worth a look. Lastly, in my excited thanking everyone for my BEM last post,, I missed mentioning Judith Robinson from Kirklees Libraries, who received a British Empire Medal herself for services to public libraries. You do, of course, rock, Judith.

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A fine-free future, Essex and the New Years Honours

Editorial

I hope you all enjoyed the Christmas / New Years break. I certainly did. The main thing in the library news since way back on 16th December when the last news update was done has been the continued protests in Essex against the deep cuts there. The New Years Honours seemed to concentrate more than normal on the literary side with authors who campaign for libraries – including Julia Donaldson, Philip Pullman and Chris Riddell – all being mentioned. Public librarian side, congrats to Neil MacInnes – chief of Manchester libraries and the last president of Society of Chief Librarians/first of Libraries Connected, who got an OBE and to Tony Brown, Islington stock and reader development manager, who received a BEM (British Empire Medal). And a huge thank you to whoever nominated me as I got a BEM myself. Wow. Just … wow.

It’s been a big couple of weeks for libraries going fine-free, with the whole Republic of Ireland no longer charging late fees and Halton Council also announcing a one-year pilot of no fines. The whole Australian state of Tasmania has also gone the same way. It’s becoming clear that removing all fines – once unthinkable and then only something that happened elsewhere – is fast picking up momentum and is now something many library services are considering.

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Cuts to CILIP and Surrey: Scotland and Libraries Connected gain

Editorial

CILIP are going through a major change, with 11 out of 54 posts being lost. Library services have had ample experience of that sort of thing so we all know what that feels like. Wishing them all the best for the future. Surrey are also having a major, major, major cut – with a cut in usage of 25% since 2010 being used – get this – to justify an over 50% cut in funding and ignoring all the other cuts there since 2010. So that’s not fixed in any way, no sir. There’s good news, on the other hand, from Scottish libraries, with £450k for various library projects and from Libraries Connected who have got £75k from ACE for regional work. I have no idea what the latter means but the press release makes it sound like a good thing so here’s hoping.

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UK public library funding and usage both decline by 4% 2017/18. Coincidence?

Editorial

The newest comprehensive (well. OK, eight months after the event and missing one-fifth of all library services) annual Cipfa figures on public library performance have been released. They show a decline in usage of 4% mirrored by a cut in budget of the same, not taking into account the cut of around a further 2% due to inflation. Staffing is down by 4%, volunteer hours up by nearly the same and book issues down by around 5%. So it’s all around the similar amount. Correlation does not however imply causality but they’ve been similar-ish for years and there have notably not been such declines in use in the USA where funding has stayed fairly stable.

Well, that’s my take. Tim Coates, quoted in both the Guardian and the BookSeller, denies any impact caused by budget cuts and places the blame squarely on librarians being incompetent. So, if I’m being as balanced as those two sources, I guess it could be that as well. What does your direct personal experience tell you? I know which mine does.

Changes

Ideas

  • Calmness packs – include lava lamps, aromatherapy and noise cancelling headphones but, weirdly, no books.
  • Guerilla kindness – leaving positive messages in books.

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Well, at least in one way, UK public libraries are leading the way on privacy

Editorial

The launch of the very good guide to privacy for library staff was a nice surprise – befittingly, they kept that quiet – as it is very well written and includes an excellent call to arms by Aude Charillon as well as useful tips and examples. Do have a read. Sadly, I think the only thing many public library services are currently leading on privacy-wise is not sharing their performance data. There’s an excellent article by Libraries Stats on the continuing drama of CIPFA trying to control access to library figures (or, rather, “professionally collate” them and then refuse to give them to anyone who does not have £650) and also the rather poor record of some library services in sharing their data on request. This is a very ironic shame, and shameful, for library services. I was taught in library school that we were signposts to people, not locked doors, but that does not seem to be the case for many. I hope the trend towards Open Data apparent elsewhere finally reaches the library sector soon.

Well, I don’t often mention my own library service on the website, for obvious reasons of the need to keep work and blog separate. But it would be off of me if I did not mention Cheshire West and Chester Council library service winning not just the Transformation award for which it was entered but also the Overall Award as well, and it would also be wrong if I did mentioned they’re my employer. So, well done colleagues, well done library service and well done the Guardian for their continuing support for libraries. That’s at least something that’s not secret.

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Big dip in Summer Reading Challenge take-up, volunteers report and a libraries roadmap

Editorial

Three things catch my eye this post. The first is the decline in the Summer Reading Challenge figures this year – a 8% drop is quite serious. From talking to various people, the view is that those library services still doing outreach (and most specifically school assemblies) for it are doing far better than those who no longer do such things. There may be other factors – the theme (possibly, although I liked the Beano myself) and the weather – but, dudes, when you no longer tell people about your product, or can’t afford to d so, then people may not get to know about it. I don’t need an MA in Librarianship to work that out. Speaking of not needing qualifications (wow, I’m getting good at links, nine years in to this PLN thing), I include a report from Deepings volunteer library, which is reportedly going from strength to strength. What’s happening to volunteer libraries is a source of much heated debate – from those who say they’re abjectedly awful to those who thing they’re brilliantly brilliant – but good to hear from the people themselves, until there’s some actual research carried out.

Finally, CILIP, Libraries Connected and Carnegie have got together to look at how public libraries should evolve, with reference to what’s happening internationally as well as in this country. Good to see. It’s be fascinating to see what they come up with. I can say, though, from researching this for the last decade, that there’s no magic pill out there. It’s all down to having the resources, as well as the will, to change – and the strength and wisdom to know when not to change and avoid the shiny. Having said that, I’d like a funded research trip if there’s one going …

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UN special report on the UK highlights plight of public libraries

Editor

To be honest, I was expecting the report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on poverty and human rights in the UK to have, at most, one glancing link to libraries. But how wrong I was. I guess I’m used to UK government reports who are, the best efforts of the Libraries Taskforce notwithstanding, often ignore public libraries. Philp Alston, the rapporteur, is Australian and thus comes from a country with a well-funded and advances public library system and, gosh, it shows. Word search comes up with fifteen uses of the word library in the report and some of them are very direct and damning. They highlight the importance of public libraries and the damage cuts to them are causing. Mr Alston also points out the peremptory  decision to fund Citizens Advice to do the job libraries are already doing may not have been the best. I like this chap and you will too. The Government meanwhile has, rather ironically, denied it is in denial, and gone straight back to fighting over Brexit. Hey ho.

Other news today includes the fall out over the deep cut in Essex (the deepest of a UK library service this year) but, thankfully, no further bad news. There’s a very good TED talk on why library services should not be exacting fines. If you are interested in this, I’ve done a summary of the current global situation here and also, to my mind at least, a hard-hitting and humourous article here. Finally, I’m delighted to have evaluation expert write a special article for you on how to get to know your users and non-users. It is of course well worth a read.

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It’s that time of year again – Essex announce one-third cut, Kent £1m

Editorial

It’s that time of year when councils need to announce their budget plans for next year if they are to have enough time to consult. Hence, Newcastle’s one third cut last post and this post’s news of a one-third cut, with up to 43 libraries closing or turning volunteer, in Essex and Kent’s £1 million cut. This will all deeply affect library provision in each of the services, with Essex being the stand-out due to the sheer number of libraries involved. It’s not often over 40 are threatened. The last time I clearly recall was Lancashire and, as news in this very post shows, that surprisingly ended with may reopening. Essex are at pains to show they have consulted already on the shape of their service and will consult on the proposals. It’s worth remembering the ultimate reasons for these cuts lie not with Essex or Kent or Newcastle but with the central government’s decision to continue austerity in practice, if not in name. There’s a petition about that if you’ve not already signed – it seems to have stalled again at just under 30,000 so now would be a good time.

I wrote a fairly critical editorial about Cardiff a short while ago and have given the council the right of reply below. Interestingly, and I have had a look, what I said and what Cardiff say, are not mutually exclusive. It’s all down to one’s point of view. As is so much else, especially I suspect in Essex today.

Changes by local authority

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