Universal Offers reduced to four, or possibly increased to six

Editorial

Thank you everyone for a strong response to my article last post on the purpose of public libraries. I include some of the responses below. By coincidence, the Universal Offers have just been reviewed and give an idea of what library services are expected to actually do. Thank goodness that there are now fewer Offers – I had feared that they would grow in number and barely anyone can remember the old list now. There are now just four, although two are combined (Information and Digital, Culture and Creativity: with “Creativity” being new) so there is a case that the number has actually increased to six by stealth. The last one, Health and Wellbeing also has an “and” in it of course, because for some reason just “Health” is not enough of a buzzword. So the  public library service is still expected to do a very wide spectrum of things with very little actual focus. However, I personally am delighted that “Reading” is, thank goodness, still on its own and at the top of the list.

Changes

Purpose of libraries

“… I entered the profession (as it was then…) at a time when outreach was accepted as an important part of the library remit. However its role was to draw people into libraries so that they could be introduced to the books and information waiting there and that they might not otherwise have crossed the door to see. Recently it has seemed that these activities which were once a hook have become the sole purpose of the service, and as you rightly say are competing with other organisations providing similar things either more or less successfully but certainly not differently. You query the paternalistic intentions in the founding of many libraries – I would also say that libraries then actually expressed pride in the achievements and aspirations of individual towns and communities, and a thriving and well stocked library was one example of a prosperous community. I don’t think there can be any question that books (hard copy or digital) and unbiased information are any less needed now than they were a hundred years ago. The National Literacy Trust website offers stark figures regarding the literacy levels in the UK, and it is known that (like children’s reading levels over the summer) adult levels fall post formal education but can be restored with practice. This is apart from all the benefits of broadening the mind, dispelling prejudices and thinking laterally which reading can encourage. By letting access to library materials decline the world of fake news and its perpetrators increase their influence to the detriment of us all.” Retired library manager.

“I wouldn’t attempt to answer the question “What problem are libraries designed to solve?” because it is too limiting. As well ask what problem universities are designed to solve!  Public libraries exist so that everyone can have free access to existing human knowledge. Problems of recording and preservation are (with a few limited exceptions) the remit of other libraries and other organisations, but freedom of access (place, time, cost) and expert guidance are very much the province of the public library.” “Erstwhile school librarian”

“I totally agree with your editorial below: At [a conference] I had the same feeling; delegates were confronted with a plethora of 3d printers, toys, self-publishing, etc that seemed to be peripheral to the core library mission of providing free content across a range of formats. The fact that a) most people don’t know what libraries have and b) don’t know how to access it seems to be lost on much of the library leadership, who seem to be trying to do a thousand different new things at once – mostly badly. If they were to stick to their knitting and focus on marketing their free content and training users and staff in getting to it, they would engage more users, increase usage, and have a good story to tell funders.” Library supplier

“If people don’t “get” someone’s message, what needs to happen in order for connection to be made? The fault is rarely if ever 100% with the recipient… “like parks, but for information and culture” is as close as we’ve got yet (and even that is pretty hard external sell) … [Public Libraries News] is the most thought through.” Matt Finch

“I was thinking (again) and if organizations that have a clear purpose are being cut and under some threat – making big generalisations here – what hope for libraries? We’re good at talking ourselves up between ourselves, but where’s our elevator pitch for the wider world?”

“Something I was playing with today was that the library is a place to explore ideas; the problem it seeks to solve is what is it to be human. Novels ways to explore different viewpoints, meeting place to exchange & debate, creative activities to express & try out ideas.” Twitter.

“Interesting but narrow take on what a public library is for. For me it is simply “helping people to help themselves” Darren Smart

National news

  • Backlash grows against unstaffed libraries – Guardian. “East Finchley is one of about 150 libraries across the country now using “open library” technology to introduce unstaffed hours. This means you can access buildings, even if there are no library staff present, with your library card and a pin number and use self-service scanners to return and check out books.” … “There are clear benefits, but some argue that a library without a librarian isn’t a library at all. “It’s a folly … it is dishonest to represent this as a library service when taxpayers have paid for a quality service with a librarian,” said Nick Poole, chief executive of the UK Library Association.”
  • Drag queens oust God from the reading corner – Conservative Woman. “While God is being ejected from the reading corner, libraries are engaging badly made-up middle-aged men in frocks to read stories about sexual diversity to children. “
  • Four refreshed Universal Library Offers announced – Libraries Connected. “Libraries Connected today launches their refreshed Universal Library Offers, which demonstrate work that every public library service does to enrich the lives of individuals and their communities. The four revised offers are: Reading; Digital and Information; Culture and Creativity; Health and Wellbeing.
  • Is LIS research important to information professionals? – Robert Gordon University. Questionnaire for an MSc in library and information studies.
  • Nielsen Book to sponsor Libraries Week in two-year CILIP partnership – BookSeller. “Nielsen Book has joined forces with library and information association CILIP to sponsor its reading campaign alongside National Libraries Week in a new two-year partnership. The deal, announced today (17th July), sees Nielsen get behind Libraries Week, which this year focuses on the facilities’ future in a digital age and runs from 7th to 12th October. It will also support the Building a Nation of Readers campaign, which is attempting to bring together authors, publishers, booksellers, distributors and libraries to identify challenges to reading and potential collaborations.” …”A separate deal, also announced today, will also see Libraries Week sponsored by Rakuten OverDrive, a digital reading platform for libraries and schools.”
  • Philipa Coughlan meets Stephen Booth – NB Magazine. “My local library was a lifeline to me when I was growing up. It was not only where I discovered a love of books and reading, but it gave me a great start to my early education. I don’t think I’d be where I am now, making a living as a writer, without the existence of that little branch library. So I’m very sad when I see them closing. I do a lot of library events now as an author, and the situation is very patchy in different parts of the country. Some areas are losing most of their libraries, while others, like Nottinghamshire, have managed not only to survive, but to thrive. So we know it can be done. But it often comes down to political will on the part of particular local authorities, who too often see libraries as a ‘soft target’. I think it’s very short-sighted, as a good library puts far more back into the community than it costs. I have high hopes that Nottingham can do something splendid with its new central library. It’s a UNESCO City of Literature after all – and if any city should have a wonderful flagship library, this is it.”
  • Project: To what extent do Members of Parliament engage with public libraries in their constituencies, and how does this shape their perceptions of libraries? – University of Sheffield. “I’m a Masters student at the University of Sheffield currently working on my dissertation. I’m investigating how Members of Parliament engage with the public libraries in their constituencies, and am attempting to get responses from both Members of Parliament and frontline library staff in West and South Yorkshire. “
  • We have libraries that are under-utilised – why not revamp them as centres for women in business?‘  – Daily Telegraph (behind paywall). Libraries should offer private space to women who want to start businesses, MPs report say – Daily Telegraph. “In a bid to boost female entrepreneurship in post-brexit Britain, the group say that libraries should be “used more widely across the UK to provide the home of business hubs including specific support for women owned businesses.” The All Party Parliamentary Group for Women and Enterprise says that “there is a national decline in the traditional use of libraries”, but the “unique reach and accessibility” of the buildings can attract a more diverse audience and host business support services.”

International news

  • Australia – How public libraries can help prepare us for the future – The Conversation. “Long-term planning is always challenging. It’s simply impossible to gather data from events that haven’t happened yet. Sometimes we may detect trends, but these can fall apart under what some foresight experts call “TUNA conditions”, when we face Turbulence, Uncertainty, Novelty or Ambiguity. Think of someone trying to predict that experiments with debt on Wall Street would lead to the global financial crisis and the political ripples that have followed. Think of trying, today, to foretell all the long-term consequences of climate change … Enter scenario planning”.
  • Canada – Online critics poke fun at Canada ‘warship’ library – BBC News. “The building – still in the midst of its revitalisation – is being compared to a tank, a battleship, even a deceptive dating profile picture. The criticism is centred over its current form compared to some original architectural renderings. “How did we get from A to B? Embarrassing. It’s so ugly,” said one Twitter user.” … “Another said: “Don’t judge a book by its cover. And don’t judge an unfinished building by its cladding.” Others pointed out that residents were lucky to “to live in a city that loves libraries” regardless of what the building looks like.”
  • Eire – Libraries across country to get funding for educational support– RTE. “Funding of €650,000 from the Dormant Accounts Action Plan 2019 has been allocated to libraries across Ireland. The money will be used to provide supports for marginalised and socially disadvantaged communities.”
  • USA – Free Book Vending Machines Launched Across All NYC Boroughs – CBS New York. “When you think vending machines, it’s usually chips and soda. But these are filled with free books, and they’re for everyone, reports CBS2’s Cindy Hsu. The idea is to promote reading for toddlers to 14-year-old readers, especially in under-served communities” … ““They can take as many as they want, they are free. One hundred percent, and you don’t have to return them,” “
  • USA – Libraries Must Draw the Line on E-books  – Publishers Weekly. “We have reached a tipping point. Access to digital content in libraries is more than a financial issue; it is an equity issue. Ask yourself this: if libraries are effectively shut out of performing their traditional roles in the digital realm, do you trust Amazon to be the public’s open nd fair discovery engine?  To those who are truly stakeholders and champions of libraries, I ask you to weigh in and stand with us. And I challenge all librarians and library supporters to think about what our next steps will be.”
  • USA – National conference teaches librarians how to sneak drag queens past parents – Lifesite News. “The conference was held just as disturbing stories came to light across the country about Drag Queen Story Times (DQST) held in public libraries.”

Local news by authority

  • Barnsley – New Barnsley library opens in £180m regeneration project – BookSeller. “A new state-of-the-art library has opened in the centre of Barnsley as the “cornerstone” of a £180m regeneration project. Part of the Glass Works scheme, the new facility officially opened its doors on Saturday 13th July with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a poetry reading by Ian McMillan. The four-storey library is situated in the Lightbox building, which has a transparent glass exterior designed to illuminate Barnsley’s new town square.” … “Each of the floors provide digital services including cutting-edge virtual reality, a training suite with a 65-inch interactive touch screen and tablet computers. Fully accessible, it also includes a sanctuary room for people with autism and will host a music and memories group supported by the Alzheimer’s Society, designed for people living with dementia and their carers.
  • Bexley – Diversification sees boost in library visits – Bexley Times. “Visits to libraries in Bexley have soared by 45,000 compared to last year … “The Libraries at Night project was a great success earlier this year and along with our annual BookBuzz festival, the activities put on at all of our libraries bring all sorts of people in. Author visits, comedians and even live rock music are all part of the fun.” He added: “Our Crayford Library is home to a post office, Welling Library offers freelance or start up office space – The Workary – and the Central Library is home to our Local Studies and Archive Team. All our libraries run special sessions and clubs that range from ‘Bexley Battle Gamers’ to ‘Gardeners Coffee Club’. These are just some examples. Our community libraries continue to be busy and by managing their own time and programme have branched out in ways that would not have been possible before.”
  • Brent – Preston Community Library is ‘highly commended’ in The Booksellers prestigious awards competition – Brent and Kilburn Times. “The volunteer-run Preston Community Library (PCL), in Carlton Avenue East, has been recognised in The Bookseller Library of the Year 2019. They are the first community library to ever be shortlisted as the competition usually recognises publicly funded libraries. Volunteers celebrated its shortlisting on Sunday by awarding its annual certificates of excellence to children who entered The Saman Shamsie Young Writers’ Challenge”
  • Bromley – Bromley libraries: Council meeting halted after public outbursts – News Shopper. “Bromley library protesters forced a council meeting to be halted this week after calls for a review of the controversial service were pushed back until September. Two members of the public shouted “you’re a disgrace” at councillors as they proposed pushing back a debate on Greenwich Leisure Limited’s management of Bromley’s libraries. Workers are currently on indefinite strike over pay and vacant job posts, claiming they are being asked to act as management with no extra pay to fill gaps.” … ““The service is being run into the ground and that is not what was promised. We cannot continue to ignore this situation.” In response, council leader Colin Smith pointed out that the contract with GLL is already set to be reviewed at a scrutiny meeting in September. He said: “Naturally we would argue and rebut much of that, but there is little point tonight. The contract is being reviewed in September. I move no further debate tonight and we take it in September.”
  • Cumbria – Barrow Library will be hosting a BBC Virtual Reality experience throughout JulyEvening Mail. “The national tour has been devised in partnership with the BBC, Libraries Connected and the Scottish Library and Information Council. The experience will give members of the public the opportunity to try out new virtual reality experiences with state of the art headsets supplied by the BBC.”
  • Essex – Campaigners’ challenge over £18k library promise – Gazette News. “County Council bosses were unable to tell campaigners and councillors where proposals to give volunteers £18,000 to run libraries had come from. Council leader David Finch and culture boss Susan Barker were quizzed about the figure at a scrutiny meeting. Under the proposals any community-run libraries will be given a grant of £18,000 split across three years. But campaigners demanded to know how the council had reached the figure, when they say it can cost more than £30,000 a year to run some services.” … “The council employs around 660 staff across 225 full-time equivalent roles. Mrs Barker said: “If nobody comes forward we still need those 660 people.”
    • Everything you need to know about Essex County Council’s new library strategy – Gazette Standard.
    • How to run a library campaign: Save Our Libraries “Emma Batrick, a SOLE organiser, explains how the campaign has grown and how it is now organised. Andrew Coburn – a CILIP member, Library Campaign Treasurer, former Essex library services employee and longstanding UNISON officer – gives a professional view of the workforce.”
    • Josephine Backman Juliff, 11, key to Essex library success – Chelmsford Weekly News. “he Hamilton Primary School pupil made it her mission to spread the word about the importance of the service. And Josefine has been instrumental in giving young people a voice in the discussions. Josefine, who starts secondary school at Paxman Academy in September, also went out of her comfort zone to give an impassioned speech to more than 600 people. Josefine didn’t stop there decorating a window at her home with information on how to save the libraries and giving out leaflets.”
    • Library decision is ‘closure by stealth’ – Bishops Stortford Independent. ““I would say this revised strategy is worse than the proposed one. It represents a stealth closure of the library service across swathes of the county – a service that ECC is statutorily obliged to provide,” said parish councillor Daniel Brett. “Until and unless they agree to funding staff and maintaining stock, computers and staff at Stansted library, the fight for the library is not over.”
    • MP Sir Bernard Jenkin praises Manningtree community for efforts to save libraries – Harwich and Manningtree Standard.
    • Tendring Council promise no libraries will be closed – Clacton and Frinton Gazette. “A motion by Labour group leader Ivan Henderson, which calls on the county council to rule out the closures or any reduction in opening hours of public libraries in Tendring and to instead concentrate on making better use of them as community hubs was passed unanimously. “
  • Hertfordshire – Chance to use Berkhamsted’s library without a librarian – Mix 96. “The new system – known as ‘open+’ – replaces the traditional library membership card with a swipe card and PIN system.” … “Despite the change, the traditional opening hours at Berkhamsted – when the library will be staffed by a librarian – will remain the same. But the ‘open+’ system will allow users to access the building for an extra 31 hours a week.”
  • Manchester – Museum pieces find new home during Manchester redevelopment – Jewish Chronicle. “Items from Manchester Jewish Museum will be displayed in Central Library pop-up while permanent premises are closed for reconstruction” … “Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham will open the pop-up on July 15 and it will be open to the general public from the following day. “We’re thrilled to be moving into such a busy and prestigious venue,” museum chief executive Max Dunbar said.”
  • Norfolk – New King’s Lynn library business support scheme launched – Lynn News. “The Business and IP (Intellectual Property) Centre at the London Road building is the first of three hubs to be set up around Norfolk, following the establishment of a similar centre in Norwich.”
  • North Yorkshire – Library of the Year: Harrogate Library triumphs on nine-strong shortlist – BookSeller. “Harrogate Library’s energetic approach and packed programme has seen it become a real centre of the community, with a strong track record across the board: with children, with older teenagers, experienced adult readers and library newcomers alike”
  • Oldham – Oldham Libraries to create three ‘Libraries of Sanctuary’ – Oldham Council. “The £47,000, awarded from the Control Migration Fund (CMF) – the Home Office Funding – earlier this year, will be used to build better community relations and foster good community relations, which will benefit the whole town. Free courses, classes and activities will be developed, including English conversation classes and cultural activities. Monthly community activities will also be on offer alongside a wealth of volunteering opportunities to increase volunteering at libraries and in their local area.”
  • Suffolk – Suffolk Libraries launches the first ever celebration of the county’s library service– Suffolk Libraries. “The first ever Suffolk Libraries Day will take place on Saturday 12 October 2019, at the end of National Libraries Week. Special events will be taking place at all 44 of our libraries, with the aim of showcasing everything libraries have to offer the community. The day will also raise funds to support the county’s library service.”
    • Chantry Library given £15,000 makeover – Ipswich Star. “Large parts of the work at Chantry Library, which has been open for 52 years, were paid for by its Friends group of volunteers who fundraised for the improvements. The Friends of Chantry Library spent £892 on a new carpet for the children’s area, £371.31 on new black out blinds and £2,190 of painting of walls inside the premises. New furniture worth £11,906.30 in total was paid for out of Suffolk County Council’s library reserve fund.”

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

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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.

Changes

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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 …

Changes by authority

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