The purpose of a public library, Essex and the rest of the public libraries news

Editorial

A sort of congratulations to Essex for backing down a bit on closing libraries. The protests against the deep proposed cuts there has been impressive, with all sorts of protests going on, ranging from marches to gaining celebrity endorsements. The council has been a bit taken aback, it looks like, from all this but it’s conciliatory response still includes volunteer libraries. The reaction by campaigners has noted this and complained about it. This story does not have a happy ending yet.

As expected, my daring to issue a press statement from GLL about the Bromley strike led to attacks on social media, with the very first tweet being from a now definitively ex-friend snidely suggesting I was in the pay of the leisure trust.  I notice the CILIP response to an open letter, also about GLL as it happens, states that it won’t talk about the letter on social media and I can quite understand why.

I have been off ill again this week, which is very annoying on all sorts of levels. Apart from, well, being ill, It has stopped me doing a bunch of work for a start, left me with an abiding dislike of doing nothing and delayed me writing about the CILIP conference and doing some more work on the Bromley dispute. But I have got better enough this weekend for me, after I was challenged on the issue, to have a think about the purpose of public libraries. And I think this purpose thing is important because we are as a sector a bit rubbish at explaining what it is, which is a bit of a downer when we are trying to persuade people of our cause. So have a look at my thoughts below and see what if you agree. I’d be fascinated to hear your responses.

Changes

The purpose of public libraries

I was challenged a few days ago to explain what problem public libraries are designed to meet, which got me thinking. Once up a time, of course,  the answer was simple. It was a very Victorian paternalistic desire to provide reading, study, job-seeking and other “betterment” services to the “deserving poor“. The system set up for this was above all local, due to the knowledge that the expected clients could not afford to travel long distances.

Nowadays, we still do much of the same stuff, although we would recoil at using such patronising Victorian descriptions. However, we have also added a ton of other stuff that has on the face of it only a tangential relationship with what we did before. These include council services, theatre shows, preschool entertainment, community centre style offerings, village hall style room bookings and social groups. Basically, there’s not been a service yet that the public library service can seemingly say no to.

This is fine in a way in that the sector is still addressing the central need of  providing resources to the resource-less: social groups for the lonely, theatre shows for those without a theatre, training on how to use the internet etc. That’s all good. It’s also a strength in that it means the service is definitely changing with the times.

But some of this is highly questionable and smacks of us trying to look busy. After all, community centres do community centre stuff better, theatres do theatre better etc. Sometimes, this search for replacement activity results in libraries trying to muscle into these services while perfectly good and better alternatives exist nearby.

But the main problem with this Jack Of All Trades approach – just look at the universal offers sometime –  is that the service has greatly expanded its remit while at the same time the budget has substantially shrunk. This has led to a lower quality service overall, notably on the book side but also on the building quality and staff side as well.

Don’t get me wrong. As purposes go, “resources for the resource-less” is a pretty long-term and lofty goal. If Labour eventually gets its act together and wins an election then it is hoped by many that we will be showered with money and everything will be OK. If not then it means an increasing need to muscle in on funding previously given to the health sector, the cultural sector, the charity sector and, well, probably the kitchen sink sector too. But I think the major problem with this catch-all approach is that as long as librarians fail to put a limit on their ambition then they will forever find the funding wanting.

News

  • Call for proposals – Game Library Camp. “Do you have ideas on the use of games in libraries that you want to share, games you want to test, questions you want to explore? We are pleased to open the call for proposals for workshops and talks at Game Library Camp 2019. “
  • Cressida Cowell: New Children’s Laureate wants to ‘take on TV’ – BBC. “Boosting creative writing in schools and halting the decline of primary school libraries will be the focus of her attention in the first instance. ” … “Cowell said that despite many attempts by previous children’s laureates, “no-one has answered the question, ‘If your children can’t afford books and you don’t have a public library… and your primary school library has closed, how can you become a reader for the joy of it?'”
  • Labour won’t just end austerity, it will enrich people’s lives – Guardian. Shadow chancellor of the exchequer writes. “It would be wrong to think of this as just being about the bare essentials of life. In recent years, spending cuts have led to the neglect, privatisation and even closure of public libraries, parks and leisure centres. Not only does this undermine social ties, it can – to those without the means to pay – deny access to a rich cultural life.”
  • Libraries boost UK economy and diversity aside from culture, report claims – Museums and Heritage. “In the period between January 2016 to December 2018 the British library’s Business & IP Centres helped facilitate the creation of 12,288 new businesses and 7,843 additional jobs, according to the new report.” … “We look forward to partnering with even more libraries up and down the UK to create innovative hubs for aspiring entrepreneurs, as we work towards our goal of opening 20 Business & IP Centres by 2023 and expanding business support to high streets via branch libraries,” he added.”
  • Libraries told to focus on books as lending slumps – Times (partial paywall). “Lending rates have dropped at much faster rates than in the United States or Australia, with people in England borrowing on average fewer than three library books a year.”. Report notes librarians point to deep budget cuts then quotes Tim Coates saying UK librarians “partially to blame” for focusing away from books.
    • English library borrowing plummets while US remains stable – BookSeller. “Coates said: “25 to 30 years ago the public library sector in the UK, which means the leaders of the profession, the local and national politicians and government officers responsible for the service, consciously and deliberately allowed the number of books available for lending in public libraries to fall. It happened in every council.  “
  • Library of the Year: Harrogate Library triumphs on nine-strong shortlist – Bookseller. “North Yorkshire’s Harrogate Library has won The Bookseller’s Library of the Year Award 2019. A further eight libraries are also celebrated on the shortlist, unveiled today, including a school library and a specialist audiobook library.” … “t won on a shortlist which presented strong competition: two Scottish libraries (newly refurbished Montrose Library and high-achieving Shetland Library); an outstanding school library in Solihull’s Arden Academy; Eltham Library, with its literary play space for children, The Enchanted Story Garden; Libraries NI, the only full library service to be recognised this year; the unique London Library, with its impressive lending collection; and audiobook library Listening Books. For the first time, The Bookseller’s Library of the Year shortlist also includes a commendation for a volunteer-run library,”
  • Library workers ‘put heart and soul into service’ – Unison. ““In Camden, libraries we have the most reported incidents of violence and aggression across the council,” she said. She  recounted her experience of an incident where a library member was banned after a malicious download onto the library’s computer system. But as he was being escorted out of the building by a colleague from security, “he said: ‘Look what I’ve got’ and pulled out a gun. “Imagine if I’d have been a lone worker.”
  • NAG Public Libraries Project of the Year Grant Launched – National Acquisitions Group. “his new grant aims to enable public libraries to take forward an innovative project, which may have already had a pilot phase, and develop it further.  One award of up to £5000 will be available, depending upon the strength of your application.”
  • National Libraries Conference aims for ‘continued survival’ of service – BookSeller. “A National Libraries Conference, due to take place later this month, featuring authors and publishers aims to ensure the service’s “continued survival” in a digital age, organisers say. Staged in Harrogate at the Old Swan Hotel on 19th July senior librarians from across the country will be joined by industry experts and leading authors. Keynote addresses will come from chief executive of Arts Council England, Darren Henley and best-selling author and libraries advocate, Ann Cleeves.”
  • Public Libraries – House of Commons Briefing Paper 5875. “This Paper gives a brief overview of the provision of library services in England, the role of the Secretary of State, and the work of the Libraries Taskforce.” … “Since 2010/11, library net expenditure excluding capital charges has declined by 36% in real terms from £1.15 billion to £741 million in 2017/18. Between 2004/05 and 2009/10 spending in real terms declined by 4%.”
  • Response to open letter to CILIP – CILIP. Response to complaint about GLL being allowed on the “Employer Partner Scheme”. “It is perfectly normal for membership associations to maintain relationship-based memberships for both institutions and individuals – to the respective benefit of both.” … “With regard to your broader points, CILIP has no formal mandate to intervene in any 3rd party labour dispute. ” … Use of the word “Partner” may be dropped … The issues you raise are important and while we are satisfied with the overall structure of the Employer Partner Scheme, it is clear that there is more to be done to clarify how the scheme operates and to allay any concerns members may have. … Given the reductive nature of social media, we do not feel that it is helpful to rehearse the discussion about this letter (which is openly available on our website) further via twitter, although we will of course always do what we can to support individual members.”
  • “Summer Reading Challenge kicks off as one in three parents say reading slips in holidays – BookSeller. “One in three parents say regular reading with their children slips in the summer holidays, according to a Reading Agency survey ahead of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge. To mark the Summer Reading Challenge’s 20th anniversary, The Reading Agency and libraries are calling on families to make space for reading over the summer by setting aside time each day to read together. According to a Reading Agency poll of 1,500 parents from across the UK,  90% of parents and carers reported routines ‘slip’ over the summer, with regular reading, bedtimes and healthy eating all disrupted. “

International

  • Canada – What’s changed since St. Paul ended library late fees? Usage bolstered while overdue rate holds steady — so far – Twin Cities. “The library tracked circulation specific to the 42,000 patrons with formerly blocked cards. That group checked out 19,000 items — evidence that going fine-free actively drew them back to the library. From January to March, circulation system-wide increased by a fraction of a percentage point — 0.06 percent, to be exact. That may not sound like a lot, but the numbers had been trending downward until then. The uptick represents the first circulation increase since a series of library renovations drew patron interest in 2015, and the first uptick since 2009 not attributable to a branch remodel or reopening. Overall, seven of 14 branches saw at least a 1 percent increase in circulation. Two libraries in particular saw double-digit increases in circulation, and both are located in low-income, high-minority neighbourhoods. Circulation at the Dayton’s Bluff branch went up 15.5 percent. Circulation at the Arlington Hills Library, also on the city’s East Side, went up 13.1 percent.”
  • New Zealand –  How New Zealand libraries are adapting to the 21st century – Stuff. “We love our libraries, hard” … “Following the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes – and the Christchurch mosque attacks – people flocked to their local libraries. “What we saw in response to all these events was how much the local library was the place to go for community, for manaakitanga, for aroha, for a safe, caring place for people to be. People come to the library looking for sanctuary,” says Cuttriss.”
  • USA – ‘Utter Insanity’: Activist Mommy Launches Petition After Kids Crawl on Drag Queen at Library Story Hour – Christian Broadcasting News. Talks about a programme to “indoctrinate” children.

Local news

  • Aberdeenshire – North-east libraries to become testbeds for rural entrepreneurship – Mearns Leader.  “The Library Innovation Network Aberdeenshire (LINA) has been developed in partnership between Aberdeenshire Council and Robert Gordon University (RGU) to create modern public library spaces with networks of resource for local entrepreneurs and small and micro businesses.”
  • Argyll – Opinion: LiveArgyll is inspiring people in Helensburgh – Helensburgh Advertiser. “LiveArgyll is a charity set up by Argyll and Bute Council to run leisure and sport facilities, libraries, halls, community centres and sports pitches across Argyll and Bute.” … “There is much going on within our libraries under LiveArgyll, with the Space Chase Summer Reading Challenge during the summer holidays. New activities are also in the pipeline including storytelling, T-shirt design and clay modelling for kids to enjoy. Opening hours in the library are increasing to permit people to visit during lunchtimes. Residents who can’t visit the library in person can now use the new Borrowbox ebook and eAudiobook service.”
  • Ealing – Ealing Library Strategy – Ealing Council. Cut from £4.431m (2019-20) to £2.8m (2021/22). £1.64m cut. Greenford and Wood End to be co-located and closed, Hanwell to be co-located, Pitshanger to volunteers
  • East Sussex – Plans for volunteer-run Polegate library – Sussex Express. “Last year the county council agreed to Polegate Town Council (PTC) taking on the former library building in Windsor Way and running it on their behalf. Under this agreement PTC would have paid ESCC for all staffing and running costs to operate the library with the same services and facilities as other East Sussex libraries. However PTC informed ESCC in February it no longer wanted to progress with a service level agreement. Instead it proposed a community library operated by the Polegate Community Library (PCL), which has been formed from a management group that was exploring community library options for PTC.”
  • Essex – Letter: Leader must think we were born yesterday over libraries U-turn – Gazette Standard. “When asked the question why the council had made a U-turn on its decision to reduce the number of libraries in the county, he obviously became agitated, took on an air of self importance and suggested no such thing had taken place” … “Never in my life time have I seen such an outburst of oppostion to the intimated loss of libraries. Mr Finch and his councillors became very concerned as to their futures in politics.”
    • Campaigners call for guarantees over library staffing – Clacton Gazette. “Labour’s Julie Young suggested the move was a “need to save seats, not libraries”. She called for the libraries to be manned by paid County Hall staff. Thousands of people responded to the consultation, took part in protests and signed petitions. County Hall saw more than 21,000 responses, 1,000 letters and more than 50 petitions handed over. Susan Barker, councillor responsible for customers and culture, said: “Our future libraries strategy has changed drastically due to what people told us.”
    • Campaigners in new bid to save Essex library services – BookSeller. “In an 18-page report commissioned by Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE) without payment, Al Baghal said the survey used a number of leading questions that increased the chances of getting a positive response to the council’s plans.”
    • Essex library U-turn after celebrity-backed campaign – BBC. “Conservative-run Essex County Council had considered shutting 25 of its 74 libraries but leader David Finch has announced there will be no closures. However, the authority said volunteers would be sought to keep several smaller libraries running. Campaigners said they were cautious about using volunteers and wanted to see detailed plans.” … “An additional £3m will be invested in libraries over the next five years, Mr Finch said.”. Non-aligned councillor says “”[It would not have happened] if it was not for the public pressure, Save Our Libraries Essex, members of opposition and the Conservative councillors who have said something in private.”
    • Expert criticises reliability of ‘questionable’ libraries consultation – East Anglian Daily Times. “A leading expert in survey design has criticised the methodology of Essex County Council’s libraries consultation – prompting campaigners to call for a new one.” … “His findings identify various problems in the design of the council survey, saying it includes ‘leading questions’ and ‘complex questions, with difficult wording’ which “could lead to possible confusion’ with participants.”
    • Libraries saved as people power wins – Southend Standard.
  • Hertfordshire – Herts County Council appoints library service operator – but won’t say who it is yet – Watford Observer. “Hertfordshire County Council has selected the organisation it wants to deliver library services across the county. But – in line with EU procurement rules – it will not yet reveal whether the winning bid came from its own ‘public service mutual’. In October the county councillors decided to contract out library services, as part of a drive to save £500,000 without impacting on library services or improvements. And, at the same time, they agreed to set up their own organisation – a ‘public service mutual’ – that would submit a bid.”
  • Lincolnshire – Cleaner, greener, smaller mobile libraries to hit Lincolnshire’s roads – Sleaford Standard. “New, environmentally-friendly mobile library vehicles are to be introduced as Lincolnshire County Council works to become carbon neutral by 2050. The authority’s three large mobile libraries are coming to the end of their life and need to be replaced. In future, the council will be using smaller, environmentally-friendly vans to serve 234 stops across Lincolnshire, meaning less space for such a wide range of books stocked on board. To make sure communities have easy access to books between visits, the county council is approaching a number of parish councils to offer a collection of books to be based within the local community.”
  • Suffolk – What is digital borrowing? And why is it more popular than ever in Suffolk – East Anglian Daily Times. “Suffolk Libraries has revealed that in the past five years eBook and eAudiobook loans have risen by 151%. The news comes after data revealed that the number of physical book loans from Suffolk libraries had been dropping over the same period. According to Suffolk Libraries the total number of loans across all the formats offered by the library has increased by 2.5% in the past year alone. One area of real growth has been eAudio books: loans of these have increased by 50% in the last year.”
  • West Sussex – Library bans a playgroup from an under-fives ‘rhyme time’ session after complaints the children were singing about God – Mail. “A library has banned volunteers from a church-run playgroup from an under-fives ‘rhyme time’ session after complaints that the children were singing about God. Helpers from the Noah’s Ark group in Burgess Hill would visit the West Sussex town’s library once a month to sing songs about Bible stories.”. Council says “‘In Burgess Hill a partnership was formed with a local faith group some years ago before rhyme time sessions were offered across all libraries. ‘We have been very grateful to this group for their support but following feedback from families, we have decided to bring these sessions in line with the other Rhyme Times in our libraries which are led by staff. ‘Families can continue to access faith-based activities in community venues and library staff are very happy to help anyone looking for details of where they can join these.'”
    • Closing the library will leave a gaping hole in the heart of the community – Mid Sussex Times / Letters.  “For a year in 2013/14, I was able to volunteer with the library service and the children and family service to help deliver boxes of books to rural preschools. I learnt then how hard the librarians and volunteers are working to keep a vital service open and accessible to all. Of course, libraries aren’t just for the young, they are for everyone. I for one can say that if Hurstpierpoint were to lose its library, it would leave a gaping hole in the heart of our village. These cuts must be stopped.”
    • Further housing support cuts suspended — but reductions to West Sussex’s library service still on table – Littlehampton Gazette. “The libraries at risk would all be from the 13 rated as tier 6. They are: Angmering, Arundel, Broadwater, East Preston, Ferring, Findon Valley, Hassocks, Hurstpierpoint, Petworth, Pulborough, Southbourne, Southwater and Witterings.”
  • Wiltshire – Pop-up community banks proposed for Salisbury – which could see them in libraries and leisure centres – Salisbury Journal. “Cabinet member for finance Councillor Philip Whitehead called it an “exciting” initiative that could see pop-up banks launched in leisure centre and libraries in the county. “
  • Worcestershire – All libraries across Worcestershire will remain open despite staff cuts likely – Redditch Standard. “libraries across Worcestershire will remain open despite County Council chiefs admitting staff cuts are still likely.” Open Plus to be used.

Both sides of the argument: GLL, book issues and volunteers

Editorial

Trusts tend to get a bad press on library social media, and GLL due to its size more than anyone else. There’s an open letter against it included below and there’s currently strike action going on in Bromley, which is one of its services. In the normal PLN tradition of trying to cover both sides, though, I will mention here that GLL has ended lone-working in Dudley at no extra cost to the council and has included below a response on Bromley. If you feel the need to get angry at me for including these things, you are welcome to comment below but remember first the need for sharing information is part of the profession’s job. And that goes for both sides, and not just the one you agree with. This is also true for Tim Coates, who many of us have disagreed with for attacking the UK librarian profession at every opportunity. I include his chart on US, Australian and book issue trends here for you to make up your own mind. For me, the reason is fairly obvious – cut the bookfund and you cut the issues – but make up your own mind as to why.

I greatly enjoyed, as ever, the CILIP Conference this week, of which more at another time but I was saddened, after listening to a spirited talkthere, that the Libraries Change Lives Awards will not happen this year. Let’s hope they come back stronger than ever next year.

Right, good news bad news time. Havering have announced 5 libraries could be volunteer run and West Sussex have announced they may get rid of a mobile library and other services as part of a £500k cut. On the other side, Lewisham have cancelled deep proposed cuts and Nottinghamshire have rearranged opening hours for a slight increase. Being I mentioned volunteer libraries, I discovered on Thursday – while talking to an Austrian librarian – that 80% of their libraries are volunteer run and have been for decades, with a tier of government offering substantial training to ensure volunteer librarians are up to standard. Being that there are no standards in England even for paid staff, it seems unlikely that such a thing will happen here.

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US weirdness, the SDP again, Library Island and more fines free

Editorial

The more I read about US public libraries., the more foreign they sound. You can get into trouble in some for protesting when a member of the public brings in a gun, hidden or not. There is also no issue in many about adults watching porn on library computers, by the children’s library or not. Both are to do with the somewhat messed up views Americans have about their constitution. But another problem that has come up recently is religious fundamentalism and a certain unenlightened approach to anything but heterosexuality. There have been a ton of protests there about drag queen story times and just this week a protest from someone who genuinely believes the Earth is 6000 years old that libraries are a danger to children. Good grief. The American Library Association is trying to cope with mostly being far more liberal than a significant part of the country’s population but it must be a challenging time in such a divided country. It’s doing its best though and has just removed the name Dewey from a prize on account of Melvil’s behaviour, which was deeply inappropriate even when he was alive and is even more so now.

I need to report that my summary on the Single Digital Presence report last week was little inaccurate. The cost of the research is £266k (£236kI from Arts Council England plus £30k from Carnegie) and not the £320k reported. Oh, and it covers the UK – including Wales and Northern Ireland who effectively already have some form of uniform webpage – and not just England. However, I stand by my worries that this research, involved and well-run as it may be, but which at the moment is not giving a clear direction, is simply delaying a much needed national website for another 18 monthsor so and I have little hope of such a thing appearing for many years to come. This isn’t the fault of the British Library research but rather I think their brief and something more structural in the messed up and overly scattered national governance of public libraries in this country.

I have been in contact with Matt Finch for a while and heard much about his training so it was great to see him offering his “Library Island” training for free, of which more below. I am also delighted to report two more library services that have been fines free for apparently years but I had not included before – West Dunbartonshire and West Lothian. That makes 14 councils in the UK so far fines free.

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If you think it’s been a while since my last post, just wait for the Single Digital Presence

Editorial

Well, sorry about that. It has been a really long time since the last Public Libraries News post. This is due to me having a bout of glandular fever. It was not fun, it took a long time, and of course news kept on stubbornly happening – in the same way work emails do – when I was off work so it took me a while to catch up.

The preliminary report of the £320k (yes, £320k) British Library research into a single digital presence for English libraries has been produced. It gives a list of options for what a single digital presence may be … and suggests further research. The final phase of research is running until September 2019. and will build upon the June 2019 report to provide practical recommendations for the sector to consider about funding and governance models, drawing on user research and ongoing input from colleagues across the sector. The British Library have recommended that key elements of this work are owned and led by the public sector and will be looking at options for public investment. It is not the fault of the BL team, led by the very capable Liz White,  that I’m really frustrated by this but rather those who have repeatedly kicked it into the long grass in the first place. A single digital presence is up and running in several countries already and the fact that even the form, or source of funding, for an English one hasn’t even been decided upon is deeply frustrating. It suggests there is something spectacularly and embarrassingly wrong with the public library system and how it is run. But then we knew that already (see the structure chart at the top of this page). It’s clear to everyone that we won’t see anything this decade and, frankly, I’m a tad bit worried about whether we get something the next. It may well be beyond 2025 before we get a decent national website at this rate. And we must fear the possibility that we may never meaningfully will.

Something that is happening surprisingly quickly, on the other hand, is the move by libraries towards being fines free. Both Salford and Barnsley have announced they are removing fines since my last post. From my conversations with senior managers, it has become clear that few if any defend fines as an effective tool of getting books back – that would be difficult with the evidence coming in from those who have removed fines that it makes barely any difference – but rather that they’re simply more worried about the money that fines bring in that will be lost. That’s no way to run a welcoming library service free for all but it’s the way that cash strapped managers have to think. But gosh it’s such a good sell for councils when fines are removed that there’s hope many more others will get the needed impetus to do what is right soon.

Changes

Ideas

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Someone who should know better in Stroud

Editorial

Yet more “purdah”, where councils needs to be careful about what they say, due to the European elections, so it’s been a quiet fortnight. It looks, on balance, like a good couple of weeks for libraries, with no major cuts outside of Fife and a loss of a mobile in Redbridge. So I’ll include my response to a tweet from someone who should really know better in Stroud.

Changes

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EveryLibrary and Digital Hubs

Editorial

A quiet week locally due to the elections but two things stand out. One is the partnership with CILIP and EveryLibrary, partly ACE funded, to advocate for public libraries. EveryLibrary are a US campaign group that runs campaigns there to boost library funding, with some success. How their style will work over here is interesting. I’ve already received an email from them asking for money for the project, something which I’ve not seen in the sector before. Perhaps this is something we need. The other thing is digital health hubs. This is the NHS rolling out some services into the high street, including public libraries. The sector has been eyeing NHS cash for years and, with our neutral/welcoming and everywhere selling points, we have something to sell. Hopefully this will be the start of a nice friendship.

Changes

National news

  • Advocating for public libraries – Arts Council England. “As the Arts Council takes the lead on the work of the Libraries Taskforce, its Chair Steven Broomhead, Chief Executive of Warrington Borough Council, looks to the future of libraries and how the Taskforce partners can help shape it.” … “The Libraries Taskforce partners are working together more closely than ever before to achieve an impact on the sector that that will drive the core agenda and help library services to grow and develop. We are adamant that libraries must remain a focus for the decision makers in local and national government and that, in working together by harnessing our collective expertise and brokering power, we can help achieve this.”
  • British Library teams up with ten London boroughs to support entrepreneurs across the capital – London Post. “The British Library’s Business & IP Centre today celebrates the launch of a major new initiative, Start-ups in London Libraries, a three-year project to support London’s entrepreneurs from all walks of life to get their business idea off the ground. This coordinated network of free support for start-ups will officially launch in over 60 public libraries this month, in partnership with ten London borough”
  • CILIP and EveryLibrary Institute announce new partnership for libraries  – EveryLibrary Institute. “CILIP, the UK’s library and information association and the US-based Charitable Non-profit, the EveryLibrary Institute have announced an innovative new partnership to help librarians and information professionals across England build political support and improve future funding for libraries. The new partnership will harness the skills and networks of both organizations to transform the ability of public libraries to engage and demonstrate public support. Thanks to a generous grant from the Arts Council England, the project will allow CILIP to provide a new GDPR-compliant digital advocacy platform for library supporters. The EveryLibrary Institute will collaborate with CILIP and library sector organizations to allow them to:”
  • Digital health hub rolled out across more areas following pilot success – NHS Digital. “A digital health hub piloted in Nailsea has proved to be such a success that the NHS is scaling it up across England, as demand increases from councils in North West London, the Wirral, Blackburn, Middlesbrough and Stafford. 65 High Street, known as ‘Nailsea Place’, is a digital health and wellbeing learning centre. The local venue, which was established in 2018, has become a trusted place on the high street where staff and volunteers can help people to improve their digital skills and confidence, so they can engage with online services. ” … “This second wave of hubs will be in Blackburn with Darwen Library, Staffordshire Refugee Centre (ASHA), a community centre in Saltburn and the Grenfell victims support centre in NW London. “

“In view of  the publication of these documents , the development of “65 High Street, Nailsea” and the forthcoming  creation by Govt.  of a Taskforce on “The Future of the High Street”,, CILIP could do well to bring together a few like minded  Health and Library  Professionals  via the internet  to  prepare  to make a positive contribution to the Taskforce on The Future of the High Street  once it is  formed”. Dr Malcolm Rigler (via email. Contact him via email m.rigler at nhs.net).

  • Digital Public Service Innovation of the Year – Digital Leaders. One of the organisations one can vote for is Somerset Libraries. “The Somerset Digital Skills Talent Academy has delivered eight inspirational hands-on workshops in Taunton Library, showcasing digital skills and cutting-edge technology to groups of secondary school students. Delivered by the private sector in partnership with Somerset Libraries, sessions included film/animation; Robotics and coding; Virtual and Augmented Reality and 3D Printing and Scanning”
  • Libraries Week 2019: Why this year’s event is more important than ever – Lorensbergs. “This year’s Libraries Week will be Celebrating Libraries in a Digital World and it couldn’t be a more timely theme. For the second year running, our public library survey results indicate that libraries are seeing more and more people come in for help with digital skills and services. Almost 50% reported an increase, with most of the remainder seeing stable demand for this support (only one library authority reported a decrease).”
  • Telephone red kiosks become home to mini-libraries, information centre and defibrillators – Denbighshire Free Press. “BT is offering communities across Wales the opportunity to adopt their local phone box for just £1 to turn them into something inspirational for their local area. ” … ” exciting new ventures include conversions to mini-libraries, miniature art museums, cake shops and information centres. “

International

  • Australia – Lost Property clothing library is a brilliant solution to wasteful fashion – Treehugger. “Lost Property is one of these brilliant new clothing libraries. Based in Fremantle, Australia, it is on a mission to fight fast fashion and conquer wardrobe clutter, while still allowing people to indulge their desire for new and trendy styles. “
  • Canada – Halifax Public Libraries cooks up new approach to tackle food insecurity – CBC. “Dahl said for a long time, many librarians kept a box of granola bars in their desks for children who were hungry … The libraries now offer healthy snacks for kids after school and to adults through their “Snack Social” events. … Two kitchens are also going to open later this spring at the Halifax Central Library and the Sackville Public Library to better equip the facilities to offer food workshops.”
  • Global – Building Global Networks for Libraries with Marie Østergaard and R. David Lankes – Princh. “Marie starts the conversations by stating that libraries do not compete with one another, neither for money nor for visitors. As such, a global network is a great opportunity to gather knowledge and ideas from other libraries on how to serve your community better. She also draws attention to Public Libraries 2030 (PL 2030), a Europe-wide attempt to make libraries connect easier.”
  • Malaysia – 10 Stunning Libraries In Malaysia That Will Make Every Book Lover Happy – Says.
  • USA – Library Systems Report 2019 – American Libraries. ” The public library sector has not yet experienced a significant new cycle of innovation. It remains reliant on ILSes that are modified to fill in the gaps required to support critical integrations in ebook lending and other digital offerings. One of the key concerns for public libraries is whether they are poised to enter a disruptive cycle of innovation or if the current pattern of incremental advance­ment will continue.”
  • USA – Jessamyn West on Intellectual Freedom, Creepy Basements, and the Library as a Safe Space – Bookmarks. “libraries also act as a public space, where you can interact with all the public, in a society that is increasingly stratified and where people may only be interacting with people who are “like them” in some regard. You can get things you want to read/watch/view or do, in addition to just having access to things you need. And we’re paid for, public libraries are, by the public. We’re here for you. We won’t rat you out to ICE, we let you read whatever the heck you want, even if you’re a kid, and we offer a warm and safe space with wifi and a clean bathroom where you can be yourself. Obviously not every single library is like this, but it’s what we as a profession aspire to.

Local news by authority

  • Cornwall – Future of Launceston Library safeguarded for the community – Holsworthy Post. “The future of Launceston Library has been safeguarded for the community after a new agreement which will see it transferred to Launceston Town Council on May 1.” … “Launceston Library is remaining part of the countywide service meaning customers will keep their existing library cards and can still visit, borrow and order books online from other libraries in Cornwall.”
  • Denbighshire – Denbigh and Ruthin libraries urge residents to get creative – Free Press. “A series of libraries in Denbighshire are set to take part in Get Creative Week, the annual celebration of cultural activity in Great Britain which encourages people to try their hand at something creative and new in their community.”
  • Essex – Families call for ‘community hub’ to be spared the axe – Clacton Gazette. Despite major protests, Essex still pushing for volunteer libraries. “The campaign continues to positively reach out to Essex County Council and hopes it will change its mind when analysing the value for money the library provides.”

“To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what representations he has received on Essex county council’s proposed closure of its libraries. Tom Watson, Shadow DCMS

“DCMS has received a number of representations from local people and bodies about Essex County Council’s proposed Future Library Services Strategy for 2019 to 2024. The Council consulted on this from 29 November 2018 to 21 February 2019. DCMS officials are in regular contact with Essex County Council officers to discuss its libraries proposals and the importance of it meeting its statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service. We understand that the Council is currently analysing the responses to the consultation and their aim is to finalise the strategy and present to their Cabinet in Summer 2019. Michael Ellis MP, DCMS”

  • Manningtree streets filled with library protestors – Harwich and Manningtree Standard. “Hundreds of people took the streets of Manningtree to take part in a noisy protest march against proposed cuts to libraries. The Young People’s march saw children, their parents and other campaigners join together to march from the methodist church in South Street to the town’s library in High Street. Protestors donned fancy dress costumes and musical instruments to make their voices heard.”
  • Mum praises ‘amazing show of community spirit’ in children’s march against library closures – East Anglian Daily Times. “… hundreds of children turning out on the streets, with 400 people taking part in the march in Manningtree. Mum-of-two Holly Turner, who organised placard-making workshops before the Manningtree march, said: “Owners and staff from businesses lined the streets to cheer us on and on return the children filled the stage to chant and sing.
  • Will councillor you vote for fight to keep Essex libraries open? – Halstead Gazette / Letters. “Although I realise Colchester borough councillors have no power or control over Essex Libraries, I appreciate that many local people are outraged at Essex County Council’s proposal to close about 60 per cent of our Essex libraries including Prettygate, Stanway, Wivenhoe, West Mersea and Tiptree and wish to elect local councillors who share their views and will fight to keep these libraries open. With this in mind, I emailed all the group leaders of the political parties that are fielding candidates in the forthcoming Colchester Council elections, plus the independent candidates, to ask them to endorse the above aims of Sole so the electorate know this when deciding to whom they should cast their vote on May 2.”
  • Herefordshire – Library launches new ebook service – Bromsgrove Advertiser. Borrowbox.
  • Lancashire – Harris creates special space in heart of city – Lancashire Post. “Time does not quite stand still, but as befits its location, the city’s Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library, the step back in time allows you to enjoy spacious surroundings and a new view of the city. The cause for celebration? None other than the library’s one time reading room and more recently its community history library. It officially reopened last Friday as the re-named Heritage Reading Room and the change for those who will remember the former reading room is immense.”
  • Lewisham – The Library: An oasis for me and my daughter Save Lewisham Libraries. “Recently, on a trip to the opticians, my daughter had a complete meltdown. I stood while tears and snot and shouting happened. These events can leave you feeling drained and helpless. Once she had calmed down she elected to go to the library, a place where she feels safe and secure and where she can read, her mechanism to help her cope with life. I walked in and was greeted by a smiling face of a lovely librarian who knows both of us. She had been thinking of us as she had recently checked in a book that she thought my daughter would enjoy. Suddenly, the world felt a much better place. It may have been a small event for the librarian, but it was life affirming for me.”
  • Northamptonshire – Update on library consultation and future service – Northamptonshire County Council.
  • Sheffield – Thousands of pounds in fines for overdue library items – Star. “Since 2011, the council has collected £511,786 in overdue fines for books, DVDs and music.” … “Green councillor Martin Phipps asked about the charges through a written question to the council. He said: “Trafford Council recently abolished late fee fines to try to make their libraries more accessible and well-used and I think this is something we should definitely be looking at.”
  • Suffolk – Skulduggery in Stowmarket could be back in 2020, Suffolk Libraries confirm – Bury Free Press. “Library chiefs are hopeful of attracting more readers into crime fiction after ‘amazing feedback’ from the second Skulduggery in Stowmarket. More than 300 attended talks at Stowmarket Library last weekend from authors including: Charlie Haylock, Jaqueline Beard, Barbara Nadel and Kate Rhodes.” 
  • Vale of Glamorgan – Facelift for Penarth Library – Glamorgan GEM. “Changes to the library’s first floor will include replacing water-damaged carpets and wall plaster, as well as repainting the walls. The area will be reshaped to improve its study facilities, and new furniture and shelving will be introduced. Essential maintenance is also due to be carried out during the refurbishment, including the creation of an exit onto the roof so that gutter may be cleared and inspected regularly. This is following a recent drone investigation, which revealed that gutters overwhelmed with debris were the cause of significant water damage to the library’s interior.”

Purdah and the Commonwealth

Editorial

It’s election week and I know what purdah means so I’m going to keep this simple: read Leon’s article, look at the articles and then re-read Leon’s article on The Library Commonwealth. Thank you.

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Happy second retirement Jim Brooks

Editorial

Not all of you will know about Jim but he has been one of the most significant figures in public libraries for over a decade. He was until a week or two ago the Chairman of Little Chalfont Community Library in Buckinghamshire. Yes, one of the very first of the wave of volunteer libraries that since then have swept the country. Little Chalfont and its sister libraries were faced with closure back in the old days of 2006, years before austerity. Rather than just closing, the communities there took a different route and fought the council to keep them open, first as volunteer libraries despite council resistance and then with their support. It was the reported success of these libraries that played a persuasive part in councils encouraging more volunteer libraries when the cuts really started hitting four or five years later. Jim, along with others, provided his experience to other services but was always clear that he’d prefer the library service first and foremost to be council run.  He received a MBE for his service way back in 2011 and has been helpful ever since.

So, that was unexpected wasn’t it? Me paying tribute to a library volunteer. But the thing is Jim and the others are not the ones to blame for the destruction of many a paid library job in the last decade. They do their best to keep open the libraries they love and are in many respects the biggest supporters of the library. No, the ones to blame were and are those pushing austerity, and the electorate who voted them in, who decided to cut public service budgets by so much. Many councils have had their staffing cut by a third or a half – not just in libraries but for all of it – and the bloom in volunteers has been a reaction to that. Volunteers have not been an unmixed blessing, goodness knows. They have split campaigners right down the middle and they’re not as well-trained or skilled as paid staff can be. I could write whole essays on the cons and pros and have once or twice. But, in the communities where they’ve occurred, they have kept libraries open. And I refuse to blame them for that not least because councils have blackmailed so many of them. “Volunteer or the library closes” is the unspoken message I see time and again. And least of all people like Jim who have given over a decade of their retirement to keep a library serving its public.  wish him every luck and good fortune in his second retirement, away from Little Chalfont, where he will finally be able to do some travelling.

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The Library Book, The Public and the Mighty Ducks

Editorial

I’m a sucker for books and films telling me how great libraries are. One of the best books I’ve read recently is The Library Book by Susan Orlean, due to a number of factors. The first is, of course, the fact that the author clearly loves libraries but also there is the ongoing whodunnit thread of who burnt the library as well as it being an introduction to the US library system both now and the past. For this reason also, I’m looking forward to watching The Public. Mind you, I’ve always liked Emilio Estevez, even in the Mighty Ducks. You can always tell it’s been quiet news week (Brexit? Local elections?) when I slip in a film or a book in the editorial. Don’t tell anyone …

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That London Library By Euston

Editorial

Interesting to see that the British Library, based almost entirely in one big city in the South East of England, is considering opening up a “British Library North” in Leeds. About time, as anyone can attest who has had to travel hundreds of mile to visit a place that apparently serves the whole nation but in fact is almost entirely based in London and charges the heck (or, in BL terms, “full cost recovery”) out of other libraries (don’t dare use the word “provincial”, you hear me?) to borrow something it got given for free. It’s been good to see the British Library start to wake up to its wider role in the last few years, with 13 business and intellectual property centres in libraries around the country and a group of 22 library services (out of more than 200) it works with on some projects, but there’s a lot more that it could do before I stop thinking of it in my mind as “That London Library By Euston”.

Great to see more fines being removed, with one authority going fine-free and two more removing children’s fines. Something more confusing was the debt that York Explore somehow ended up owing to the council but, that’s OK, because the council is paying them an extra amount of money to allow Explore to pay it back. I think. My head hurts.

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