Diversity and austerity

Editorial

I come from a fairly typical background in South Wales. My parents could not afford all the books I wanted and I had to catch the bus to the local library . Working hard at the local comprehensive I made my way to university in Exeter and then Sheffield and thus to libraries. I did not think at the time if my capability in doing this was in any way due to being male or white. But being I clearly remember racism and sexism being a big thing in 1970s and even the 80s I suspect it helped. So it’s good to see the need for diversity being recognised on the national level, not least because of the fact that, shockingly, 97% of the library profession is white compared to 88% of the population as a whole. And I remember in the 1990s when I started working that everyone thought, as a man, that I’d be on a fast track to promotion. Such thoughts may be less overt now but I suspect they’re still there.

I get accused sometimes of singing the praises rather too much of librarians and this is true. I love libraries and think there are few roles more rewarding to society and self than working towards the library ideal. But I’d be wilfully blind not to admit that there are problems in the profession. Last post, I touched upon the lack of apparent importance given to a core service, indeed the book is to many the core, by many in the sector. A rebalancing slightly away from gushing about makerspaces (which will only, when it comes down to it, ever be a side activity) and theatre shows (likewise) towards actually making our book offer look professional is long overdue. And this lack of diversity is something else that needs to be addressed.

The protests against the cuts in Essex continue to dominate the news. They clearly love their underfunded and under-appreciated (by the council) libraries there and it’s great to see. Whether the protests will actually achieve anything, other than possibly extract a few token concessions, is in question as English councils do not have a brilliant track record with actually listening during library consultations. It’s notable, in fact, that councils are far more likely change tack after reading the results of them in the other parts of the UK. Why this is may be open to question: possibly due to their being less True Believer Conservatives in power but presumably also to them questionably being (slightly) less affected by austerity. An example of this is Neath Port Talbot in this post who have cancelled four closures down to the public response. Good to see. And I hope the campaigners in Essex can take heart from it, and their councillors listen.

Changes

National news

“I saw the film I, Daniel Blake before I started working at the library and I thought it must be an exaggeration. But that scene, when he’s holding the mouse up to the screen and trying to control it, that’s exactly what happens on a regular basis,” she says. Grainger is happy to help anyone who walks in but finds the situation frustrating herself, particularly as libraries are facing cuts.”

  • CILIP wins approval for new Apprenticeship standard for Library and Information Sector – CILIP. “The CILIP-led ‘trailblazer’ group has successfully won full approval for a Level 3 Apprenticeship Standard for the library and information profession. The Standard is for Level 3 – Library/Information/Archive Services Assistant and fulfils a vital role in ensuring that employers in all sectors are able to offer high-quality apprenticeships, which help build their information capability and develop up-to-date skills.”
  • Community Business Trade Up Programme – School for Social Entrepreneurs. “The programme is designed to develop the skills, strengths and networks of the participants so they can go on to increase their local impact and income from trading. Public libraries have been identified as a organisation type that could benefit greatly from the support on offer. “
  • Damning report blasts Tories ‘in denial’ over council cuts – hours after they vote through new ones – Mirror. “With perfect timing, the Public Accounts Committee has savaged the government for slashing libraries and youth work – hours after it was, yet again, accused of slashing council funds” … “MPs on the Public Accounts Committee spoke out just moments after the House of Commons approved town halls’ 2019/20 budget in a huge row. Communities Secretary James Brokenshire boasted the package will give town halls “a fairer future” as “core spending power” will rise by £1.3bn to £46.4bn. But the actual “revenue support grant” from the government is being cut by £1.3bn, Labour say – with officials having to make up the difference from council tax.
  • Diversity within the Profession – speech to CILIP West Midlands Members Day – CILIP / Nick Poole. “… all of us that hold leadership positions in this sector have to confront the fact that we are where we are because of a system of unseen privilege – a system which lifts some of us up while holding others down.” … I don’t want the word ‘professional’ to be an empty badge – I want it to stand for the values that we hold dear as a profession – for human rights, equalities and diversity, preservation of access to knowledge, public benefit, intellectual freedom, impartiality & confidentiality.” Libraries have ” a workforce that is 97% white, compared to a UK population that is 88% white. Predominantly female, except in leadership roles. Predominantly older. A high academic barrier to entry. A high proportion of people who remain in one role for 15-20 years.”

“I spent Monday afternoon working with a journalist on an article about whether the UK is ready for an additional 2m people claiming Universal Credit in 2019. About whether it is right for Government to say “go to the library, they’ll help process your application” and then systematically underfund our national public library network and promote the transfer of libraries to people who are not professional librarians.”

  • The English Public Library Sector – Public Libraries News. Updated chart showing who does what in English public libraries.
  • Neutrality and activism in libraries with Jane Cowell and Nick Poole – Princh Library Lounge Podcast. “In our first episode of the Princh Library Lounge our host Vicky Woolbarn talks with Jane Cowell and Nick Poole about library neutrality and how it plays a part in the day to day of libraries. Our guests are Jane Cowell, Chief Executive Officer at Yarra Plenty Regional library in Australia and Nick Poole, Chief Executive Officer at Chartered Institute of library and information professionals (CILIP) in the UK. Check out this episode to hear all the great insights they shared with us”
  • Save our libraries: Schools in pleas to parents as money runs out for books – Express. “”We regularly hear from schools who have no or very little budget and so unfortunately parents and carers are being asked to contribute. “It’s concerning because it means school libraries are now filled with old-fashioned, second-hand books which just aren’t diverse enough”
  • “We’re beyond capacity for this”: how universal credit’s online application could shut out the people who need it most – Prospect. “The public library is promoted by the DWP as a port of call for such people. However, when you consider that last year 127 public libraries were closed, 712 full-employees lost their jobs and over the past six years £200 million in funding has been cut, this advice seems like a shirking of responsibility. Lorensbergs, the company that provides most of our public libraries’ computer booking systems, says that half of public libraries are seeing an increase in users asking for help with digital skills. A recent survey they conducted also found that less than 20 per cent of these libraries are meeting this demand without the use of volunteers.” … “If the DWP is expecting libraries and local authorities to pick up the slack, then far more support needs to be given. Until then: give people the option of buying a banana at the counter.”
  • What It’s Like To Slash Millions From Council Budgets: Local Authority Leaders Speak Out – Huffington Post. “o acute are the financial challenges that even the most basic services – such as libraries, school lollipop patrols, street lighting, road repairs, cemetery maintenance, gritting – are now being considered for savings. “
  • Who needs libraries anyway? How the Tories warped the purpose of local government – New Statesman. “Financial pressures are endangering the future of libraries, youth clubs, bus services, street cleaning, park maintenance – and everything else we expect from our councils.” … “Collecting bins, maintaining local roads, promoting public health and library services are legal functions – but they can be easy for pressured councils to work around. “

Axiell Selflib
International news

  • Australia – ALIA report indicates 1000 new librarian jobs by 2023 – Public Libraries Connect. “an increase of 400 jobs in the sector by 2023, with the number of librarians increasing by 1000 and the number of library technician and library assistant positions predicted to reduce by 300 each over the same time period.”
  • Australia – How public libraries in Australia are running their own battery recycling schemes – Eco Recycle. “Libraries are ideal collection points. They enjoy thousands of visits from community-minded people every month. And because they are found in convenient locations, it’s much easier to schedule a trip to the library than, say, an out-of-the-way waste and recycling centre.”
  • Bangladesh – ‘Libraries can become ideal community spaces’ – Independent. “Kirsty is currently working as the Programme Director of the British Council’s “Libraries Unlimited” programme, a Bill and Melinda Gates-funded initiative to transform the library landscape of Bangladesh.”
  • Eire – Libraries had €1m in fees on books when fines were axed – Times. “At the beginning of the year, €1,038,181 was owed to libraries across Ireland in fines accrued since mid-2015, according to the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA), which runs the centralised library system.”
  • USA – Organic Role of Libraries as Centers of Inclusiveness and Support – Nonprofit Quarterly. “eople may check out fewer books from libraries than they used to, but libraries have continued to grow as their role as community hubs deepens. Here at NPQ, we have profiled libraries that have become maker spaces, supported gardening, and rented out musical instruments. In some cities, librarians have been trained to administer Narcan to interrupt opioid overdoses. In Ferguson and in Baltimore, as those cities were in a state of unrest after the killings of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray, respectively, the libraries served as sanctuaries, remaining open to the community. They have, in some cases, even been affordable housing partners”

Local news by authority

  • Argyll – Ruth Wishart’s Point of View: Let’s celebrate the joy of libraries – Helensburgh Advertiser. “Yet for all the dire predictions about the death of the book – not least when Kindle e-readers hit the market – the magic of the bound volume stubbornly refused to go away. “
  • Bradford – History group’s call to find achievable solution for Keighley Library – Keighley News. “A Keighley group invoked the name of late historian Ian Dewhirst in its appeal to find a way forward for the town library. Keighley & District Local History Society says the town cannot afford to lose the Bradford Council-owned facility, which has been earmarked as a potential “community hub” within cost-cutting plans. These proposals to shift other council and community sector services to the premises have triggered concerns that existing provision might be harmed. Bradford Council says it wants to keep all its 29 libraries, but warned there would be redundancies.”
  • Cambridgeshire – Julie Deane opens Cambridge Central Library’s Business & IP Centre – Cambridge Independent. “The new service means that anyone starting a business, or considering starting a business, can walk into the library and access free services including use of meeting rooms, wifi (free for the first half-hour, £1 an hour thereafter), free mentoring, advice and access to local business networks. The Cambridge centre is the 11th to open in the UK, and follows other cities including Sheffield, Hull, Glasgow, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester to offer the facility.”
  • Cheshire East – Council Tax to rise by 2.99% to fund more services, says Cheshire East – Nantwich News. ““Our recycling rates are in the top 10 per cent of all local authorities and our much-used libraries are in the top five in the country – while life expectancy for Cheshire East residents is also higher than both regional and national averages.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Northwich Library to close for two weeks as new technology is installed – Guardian series. “The self-service technology will be put in place at the Witton Street library between February 25 and March 9, reopening at 9am on Monday, March 11. Additional works will also take place during the closure, including reconfiguration of the space, some shelving replacement, re-carpeting and minor re-decoration.”
  • Conwy – Conwy’s mobile library service could be scrapped – North Wales Pioneer. “A public consultation is currently being held to get residents’ views on the mobile and home libraries as part of a review of Conwy County Borough Council (CCBC) services. The mobile and home library provide services to many vulnerable or isolated members of the community, but some stops have only one or no regular customers.”
  • Derby – Derby kids more likely to read social media than books, says ex-head teacher – Derbyshire Live. “A retired head teacher in Borrowash fears a rise in child illiteracy and mental health issues if the village’s library is handed over to volunteers. Margaret Smith, who lives in the village and is chair of governors at a school in the area, is one of the members of the Borrowash Save Our Library group. The group was formed to fight Derbyshire County Council (DCC) plans to hand the town’s library, along with 19 others, over to volunteers. The community-managed library model, agreed by the Conservative-led authority just before Christmas, seeks to save the council £1.6 million.”
  • Essex – Essex County Council has not budgeted for any savings in its library closure consultation – Clacton Gazette. “Sue Barker, county councillor responsible for libraries, spoke to Gazette head of content Dom Bowers and Essex University student Jacob Ottaway about her plans in the latest Colchester Chat podcast. They discussed Sue Lissimore’s resignation from the cabinet as she fights to save Prettygate library, why books raids are a bad idea and the fact the county council has budgeted for any savings.” 30 minute audio interview.
    • Cross-party unity against proposed library cuts and closures – Saffron Walden Reporter. “The Liberal Democrats, the opposition party on Essex County Council, have started a county-wide petition which already has thousands of signatures, and more than 150 more people in Saffron Walden signed it in less than an hour on Saturday. “
    • D-Day looming for Essex’s under threat libraries – Gazette Standard. “Essex libraries have been anything but quiet since November. From book raids and protests to petitions and community meetings, people are being encouraged to ditch silence for making as much noise as possible to save their libraries. Essex County Council’s consultation on their future comes to an end on February 20 after three months.” … “More than 13,000 residents have completed the council’s consultation while 5,000 people have signed petitions calling on them to remain open at all costs. “
    • Headteachers join the march to save Essex Libraries – Maldon Standard. “Mid Essex Secondary Headteachers (MESH) are supporting Saturday’s march (February 9) against these closures. Mr Tom Coen, headteacher at Saint John Payne Catholic School in Chelmsford, will be addressing protesters at the event, reading a statement out on behalf of all headteachers in the mid Essex area who are also opposing the council’s plans.”
    • Hundreds march against library closures in Essex – ITV News. “Hundreds of people joined a protest in Chelmsford against proposals to close a third of libraries in Essex.” … “Tom Coen, Headteacher and St John Payne Catholic School, said: “Students will frequently tell us that they visit their libraries particularly in times leading up to revision and exams, they make great use, so it will have a detrimental impact to their ability to prepare for examinations.”
    • Hundreds of protesters gather in Chelmsford at county hall in bid to save at risk Essex libraries – Gazette.”Protesters from across North Essex gathered outside the county council offices in their hundreds in the hope they can save their libraries. Banners were raised representing libraries including Prettygate in Colchester, Sible Hedingham, Southminster, Danbury and the rest of the 24 out of 74 county libraries at risk. The campaign group, Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE) led the march through the streets of Chelmsford City Centre which started at the Saracens Head in High Street to the county hall in Market Road.”
    • Library campaigners to stage protest at Sible Hedingham library – Halstead Gazette. “Residents of Sible Hedingham will be staging an outdoor protest outside of the Essex County Council library in the village. The protest is set to take place on Saturday at 10.30am, with 30-40 people expected to turn up.”
    • Library closures could leave Uttlesford with ‘worst’ service provision in country – Saffron Walden Reporter. “Stansted Labour Party condemned Essex County Council for running down local libraries with an “agenda to close them”, while continuing to concentrate all public services in the “more affluent” town of Saffron Walden. Freedom of information requests by Stansted Labour spokesman Daniel Brett show that in the past three years, the library has seen its opening hours cut by about 19 per cent from 18.5 to 15 hours per week last year. Its book stock has declined 14 per cent to less than 7,000 items.”
    • MP for Saffron Walden shows support for local libraries – Saffron Walden Reporter. “Kemi Badenoch, MP for Saffron Walden, visited Thaxted Library to discuss the services it offers to the community.”
    • Protest planned in bid to save Sible Hedingham library – Halstead Gazette. “Residents in Sible Hedingham are still battling to keep the service open following proposals by Essex County Council to close a number of smaller libraries. A public meeting was held at Hedingham Sport and Social Club on Tuesday, when more than 20 residents met to discuss the matter.” … “Campaigners have now decided to stage a protest outside the library in Sible Hedingham on Saturday, February 9, at 10.30am. Some campaigners are also planning on attending a demonstration in Chelmsford later that afternoon.”
    • Silver End Library costs Essex County Council £13,000 – Braintree and Witham Times. “figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request show just £13,000 will be saved per year if a village library is shut down. It has left residents questioning the reason for the potential closure of libraries across the county.”
  • Fife – New opening hours and Saturday sessions at Fife libraries – Courier. “Across Fife the public wanted libraries to open on Saturdays and at least one evening a week. Users also wanted branches to open for at least an hour across lunchtimes, even those with only one staff member. As a result Saturday openings will be implemented from May 7. Where venues already opened on Saturdays, many will see their hours extended.”
  • Hampshire – Driver arrested after car ploughed into Gosport Library – UK Nip. “A car has ploughed into a local library by ploughing through the main doors. The Ford Focus crashed into the front of Bridgemary Library in Gosport on Sunday. A 33-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of burglary. Police said a man was reported to have entered the building but nothing was stolen. Hampshire County Council said the building would remain closed on Monday.”

“… after three years of negotiations with Harrow Council, North Harrow Community Library finally opened in late 2018. Harrow Council closed three libraries three years ago having closed the central reference library before this. A group of local residents led by Mr Kamal Shah – I was one – became trustees and registered the Library with the charity commissioners. Harrow Council  eventually agreed to help the community library to be set up. The library still have to raise up to £25,000 a year and we are all working hard on this. About 70 Volunteers help the Library to run and it is open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.” Harrow – North Harrow Community Library.(email received)

  • Leeds – Leeds Central Library to host first Collections in Verse showcase – Entertainment Focus. ACE funded. “the inaugural Collections in Verse showcase will celebrate the Caribbean community’s impact on the cultural landscape of Leeds”
  • Moray – National library organisation calls on Moray Council to reconsider axing libraries – Press and Journal. “The local authority proposes to shut sites in Burghead, Cullen, Dufftown, Fochabers, Lossiemouth and Tomintoul. Opening hours would also be reduced at facilities in Buckie, Forres and Keith as part of the budget cutting proposals. The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS) has, however, called on Moray Council to reconsider. It fears the proposals would damage communities, remove an important service and badly affect local groups.”
  • Neath Port Talbot – Library closure plans shelved by Neath Port Talbot Council – BBC. “Four libraries threatened with closure are to remain open after a public outcry backed by politicians. Neath Port Talbot Council had planned to close the libraries in Baglan, Cwmafan, Glynneath and Skewen or transfer them to community groups. Council leader Rob Jones said a public consultation showed people “passionately” supported the service. However, he warned the £1.7m spent on libraries every year could come under threat again depending on a review.”
  • Northern Ireland – HRH The Princess Royal opens Coleraine Library – Coleraine Times. “The Princess Royal, HEH Princess Anne officially reopened the newly refurbished Coleraine Library at a special ceremony held last Thursday.”
  • Powys – Debate over libraries’ future under way in town of books – Brecon and Radnor Express. “Cllr Powell started her tour of under-threat libraries at the Kingdom of Books on Monday morning where she was greeted by around 30 people. The library, now co-located with the new Hay-on-Wye primary school, is one of ten smaller rural libraries which is being threatened with closure. Powys council is looking to save £200,000 from its library service, understood to fund the libraries’ professional staff, threatening both smaller libraries and the mobile library.”
    • Welshpool Library delegated decision – Powys Council. “Welshpool’s library will be relocated to the town’s Powysland Museum safeguarding the future of both services in the town, if an intended decision is confirmed, the county council has said. The move, which is likely to take place later this year, completes a review of county council owned buildings in the north of the county.”

“Despite the consultation and the strong response, Powys has not changed any of their proposals and plan to downgrade the library, including lower staffing, by locating it on the small ground floor of Powysland Museum. So much for consultation. They did not even hold  a meeting with the community … At least the new consultation (28 January) on 10 of the smaller libraries includes some information and a set of meetings.” Anonymous (by email).

  • Reading – Library Not Just for Reading – Newton News. “Kids and adults alike in County Durham can get creative at their local library this February at a series of art and crafts sessions.”
  • Redbridge – Redbridge libraries set for major upgrade – Ilford Recorder. ““The new and improved online library services will help make books more accessible as well as providing brand new opportunities to local authors and journalists. “We’re so fortunate to have such a widely used library network in Redbridge and I remain committed to investing in services like these, making our libraries future-proof and accessible for generations to come.”
  • Sheffield – Sheffield library dedicated to black literature ‘will help tell untold stories’ – The Star. “Sheffield’s only library dedicated to black history and culture has been officially reopened following a major refurbishment. Volunteers have spent two years reviving the library at the Sheffield And District African Caribbean Community Association (SADACCA) building on the Wicker, after it fell into disuse.”
  • Stoke on Trent – Will this be the year Fenton gets its library back? – Stoke on Trent Live. “At the end of the 19th century Fenton was the only Potteries town without a public library – now in the 21st century it is just one of many places where you’re no longer able to borrow a book. Fenton library was built in 1906, thanks to the generosity of the New York philanthropist and self-made millionaire Andrew Carnegie, who donated £5,300 to meet the cost. It was closed in 2012 during a raft of council cuts. But regeneration charity Urban Vision has been in talks with Stoke-on-Trent City Council to take over running the building. The city council said an agreement had been reached for Urban Vision to take ownership of the building. However, after missing out on a funding stream, Urban Vision says it is in talks with the Heritage Lottery Fund, ahead of submitting a fresh grant application”
  • Warrington – Draft Library Strategy 2019-2022 – Warrington Council.
  • Worcestershire – Worcestershire: save the libraries, reverse all the cuts – Socialist Party. “Worcestershire’s Tory county council wants to close nine community libraries, and sack workers and reduce opening hours in at least six others. We say no. Enough is enough. The decade of decimation has seen the council slash its services by £168 million, making over 2,000 council workers redundant. Countless other jobs and services have been “outsourced” – privatised at knockdown rates, with little protection for workers transferred to profit-hungry private sector companies.”
  • Wrexham – Libraries in Wrexham could be placed in schools and other community buildings as part of review – The Leader. “Libraries in Wrexham could be relocated to schools and other community buildings as part of a bid to save £130,000. Wrexham Council is preparing to undertake a review of the 10 libraries in the county and has revealed that co-location of facilities is one of the options it will examine. It forms part of a package of cuts approved by executive board members last month totalling £6.1 million. The local authority will also consider the option for branch libraries to be taken over by communities, as well as looking at the possibility of lone working.”

Hello Library Sector, it’s me, Book

Editorial

Libraries Connected have done some work to their (previously very sparse) website and added links to some useful resources. There’s not much new there – and, my, it shows how few free resources there are for reading – but it’s good to see them there. Speaking of reading, LC (I can’t help but call it Elsie) have done some nice statistics summaries, which show that more than three quarters of library visitors are there for the books. I find the lack of serious projects or indeed discussion, or any kind of focus, on books one of the biggest black holes in libraries in the last decade. By rights, there should be initiative after initiative in boosting what is very much our core product. But no. apart from some sterling work by the Reading Agency, the focus of much of the sector has been on what are, ultimately, side projects like makerspaces and coding. These are great to be sure but there seriously needs to be some rebalancing going on.  Those books on the shelves are important and the lack of serious training or concentration on boosting their use is as dangerous as the repeated cuts to their funding over the years. Another curious stat gleaned from the LC tables is that, using the figure of 2,080 hours work per year per 1 FTE, a full eighteen times more work is done in libraries by paid staff than by volunteers. Yes, despite all the coverage, it’s the poor (down 5% in one year, salary freezes or pay increases below inflation for a decade) employees who are still doing the vast amount of the actual work.

The news that the National Literacy Trust is boasting about working with shoe shops to boost literacy is as puzzling as library services who are disregarding books and paid staff. NLT, please, dudes, hello. We’re Over Here. Work with us. Local authority-wise, there’s some good news in Buckinghamshire, Cornwall (who have, by the way, quietly passed a ton of their libraries to parish/town councils) and Milton Keynes. The £200k reduction in the previously announced big £1m Worcestershire cut is entirely offset by a £200k cut in Powys. Finally, the new post announced in CILIP has, to say the least, raised some eyebrows on social media after the deep job losses that occurred last year.

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A couple of hundred ideas for public libraries, plus coverage in the Express and Independent

Editorial

Considering that it has been a fairly quiet few days, what a heck of a lot of national newspaper coverage. The Express continues its quite impressive “crusade” for libraries with a couple of big of articles this weekend and, I understand, more coming in the next week. The newspaper, not known for its pro-public service sympathies, is publishing a few pro-library articles a week at the moment, which is brilliant as I suspect the decision-makers tend to discount the Guardian (the normal reporter on library matters). The Independent too has published three stories this weekend too, which is fantastic. And all of these articles in both papers have been entirely positive about the sector which is great.

Oh, and I love the “50 times libraries surprised everyone” article by Boredpanda. There were a couple on there I’ve not seen before, including having the books lying down and spine up so people can clearly see their titles. I’ve been collecting ideas and innovations for public libraries for a few years now, by the way, and recently updated by seriously nerdy list here.

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Preparing for the worst is useful but one can sometimes miss things

Editorial

Libraries Connected are doing their first official seminar in June, focusing on “what a future library offer might look like”. The first presentation mentioned is uncontroversial enough, being from Historypin who are a small tech concern dealing with small groups, local history and empathy, very trendy right now. This is the shiny bit that is nice and one expects. Then things get interesting with the second choice, who is the Chief Exec of Barking and Dagenham on rethinking public services. That London borough has rethought library services to such an extent that they have more than halved their budget since 2010. Then there’s a talk from Singapore libraries, which as reported on last post are doing wonderful things and I think can genuinely give pointers on how to run a top-notch library service, albeit in an environment without austerity. But gosh, the big raising of the eyebrows goes to the last speaker, an assistant director from Ealing. That council, in case you don’t remember, have just announced in committee papers the deepest potential cut I can recall seeing in a decade of reporting on public libraries, from £2.2m in 2019 to a pathetic £566k in 2022.

But. to those of you getting angry about this, I invite you to look at it differently. Another way to look at it is to say that the first LC seminar shows  isn’t messing about. It’s effectively preparing chiefs for how to cope with the worse austerity can throw at them.  But I would question the absence of anything to do with books or improving existing traditional services on the menu. When faced with the oncoming Austerity train, I guess it’s not many people that stop to look at the state of the tracks, so it’s understandable. But there are many library services out there who are not facing deep cuts, appearances to contrary. And, of these, there’s a ton of branches out there whose staff do not know how to, for instance, properly promote or display their book-stock because they’ve never actually been shown. Perhaps there should be a seminar on that soon. In the meantime, I asked LC why Ealing was asked and this is their answer below, which is fair enough and appreciated. I find it particularly encouraging that LC is not pretending that everything is perfect in the public library world. This continues a welcome trend which I have noticed before and will help retain everyone’s sanity (“am I just imagining these cuts?”), especially when one sees below what Northants has done in the last year (e.g. wiping out most its management) and one stops to consider that Bradford has announced three times worse.

“Libraries Connected are aware of the proposed changes to Ealing’s library services to have six libraries directly run by the council and seven community managed libraries run in partnership with local community organisations. These proposals are due to go out to public consultation next month and until that consultation has concluded we will not know what the future library provision for Ealing will look like. But we do know that during Carole’s eight years at Ealing she has demonstrated a strong commitment to safeguarding library services, winning a Guardian award in 2013 for joining with other local boroughs to protect libraries at risk of closure. Carole is working on a new library strategy for Ealing and as many of our members are currently in the position of trying to maintain their service provision in the face of unprecedented cuts,  we remain convinced that Carole Stewart will be a valuable addition to the Libraries Connected seminar.”

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Who Does What In English Public Libraries

Editorial

I was asked the other day by someone reasonably senior in a library service for a guide for which bodies do what in the public libraries sector. It strikes me that I’ve never actually seen one so I’ve started creating one. It’s simple and misses a few things – sorry Carnegie and ASCEL, there’s note enough space and I’m not going to touch the minefield of volunteer libraries and parish councils – but should give some ideas. Also, some of it is open to interpretation. I got some push back from various people on Twitter about how certain bodies aren’t doing their jobs and that’s always going to happen. So, rather, use the chart as an idea for what should be happening, not necessarily what you feel actually is. And let me know if I have anything actually wrong.

I tweeted an original draft of this chart on Saturday night and it’s been amended a bit since then. One of the things I’ve never really properly grasped before is that while the DCMS has the duty of superintending libraries, it is the MHCLG who provided much of the funding, which is set-up that Nick Poole notes is bound to cause problems. Judging from Twitter, a few people are shocked by how small some of these bodies actually are. Anyway, comment directly if you wish or email me at ianlibrarian@live.co.uk with your thoughts. The chart is free to use and share under CC BY. If the image below does not open properly, it’s available via Google Docs. or via this tweet and, if worse comes to the worst and you’re reading this on a council machine with security blocks on it everywhere, email me and I’ll send it to you that way.

Wait until you realise it’s not the same outside of England.

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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.

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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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