10:1 : volunteers replacing paid staff

Editorial

There’s not many commonly accepted figures when it comes to volunteers in libraries and, it comes to something, where I’m the one offering some of the most comprehensive data as a hobby in the evenings. This came up again when  I said on Twitter a week ago that there were roughly 10 volunteers needed to replace one paid member of staff. Leaving aside the myriad debating points about the pros and cons of volunteers, a few people asked me where the data to base this on was.  Well, there’s no real data. The state of public library research is such that no-one really knows. But the figure was based on reading seven years of media reports and noting the number of volunteers mentioned in a “new” volunteer library. It’s also based on the rule of thumb that it’s a rare volunteer that would volunteer more than half a day per week, and even though there are some that do, there’d be those who do less. And of course volunteers would likely take more holidays than a paid person. I suspect, in fact, that there’s more than a ten-to-one ratio but it’s one that is easily memorable and probably as good as any,

If anyone has any more data or thoughts on the issue, do let me know. The ratio is important because it shows the difficulty implicit in sufficiently training volunteers and the number needed when thinking of closing down a paid library. But as in so many things, the data just isn’t there at the moment. And it should be. Because otherwise a lot of what’s going on at the moment looks dangerously like guesswork and thus roulette with a national public service.

NB: The PLN server broke down last week which meant you’re getting a bumper post today. Hopefully, more frequent posts will be the order of the day from now on.

Changes

Ideas

National news

  • 5 reasons why your library should offer online reading groups – Axiell. “Reading groups offered by libraries play an incredibly important role in supporting the library’s mission to improve reading and literacy. ” A recent blog post on the Libraries Taskforce website serves to highlight just how important they are: help outreach, provide greater choice, be more flexible and inclusive, modernise.
  • Chances for life: PMLG & CDEG Conference 2017: Public Libraries for Social, Digital and Economic Inclusion – CILIP. “Public libraries are at the heart of their community. Libraries connect and empower excluded individuals. From supporting job seekers to providing social opportunities, the role the library plays for inclusion is profound and vital for personal and social prosperity.  This event explores future direction and best practice for inclusion.”
  • Changing Times – Leon’s Library Blog. Frances Hendrix: ” I just don’t think that we, as a profession, have ever had the clout, the PR skills, or the determination to raise the profile of our service and work inside our authority or direct to the public. It has often been the ‘outsider’ to the profession who have pushed the service to new activities etc.” … ” it is time for a new model for public libraries. Take them away from the dull, ill-informed and useless local government. Train our librarians to be more forceful, persuasive, business canny and energetic, with high levels of IT skills. Let us move on and up and rethink and fight for what we believe in”
  • Delivering local solutions for public library services – Local Government Association. “Written for all councillors who have an interest in supporting the development of public library services, this guide will take you through the how and why of transformation in your area. Whether you are a portfolio holder with responsibility for libraries and wider cultural services, or a ward councillor who has campaigned tirelessly to keep a local library open in a period of cost-cutting and rationalisation, it will set out ways in which you can ensure your library service excels and meets the needs of your communities.”
  • Ever wondered what Jane Austen would be like on Twitter? – Big Issue. “The project is jointly funded by the Arts Council England ‘Grants for the Arts’ lottery-funded grants programme and Time to Read – a unique partnership of 22 library authorities in the North West of England working together to promote reading.” … “The idea of one library in every authority putting on a top-notch show and, having a first-rate interactive display as well, is fantastic and I know that everyone, not just Jane Austen fans, will gain something from it.” says Ian Anstice [Yes, I’m involved in this one – Ed.]
  • Getting to grips with digital: A toolkit for libraries – Arts Council England / We Heart Tech / Curious Minds. Simple case studies and examples for how to use digital technology in libraries.
  • It matters that school libraries are closing – not just for reading but for helping young lives in need – I. “Any librarian will tell you about the significance of their pastoral role. The library is a haven. A place to come if you are new and haven’t made friends yet. A place to come if you are feeling unwell or overwhelmed. A place where you are always welcome and someone always has the time to listen to what you have to say”
  • Libraries Taskforce: future research priorities – Libraries Taskforce. “We’re actively discussing with partners how the projects listed can be taken forward and will say more in future blogs when these are progressing. One piece of good news is that we’ve already got agreement from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to fund one of the pieces of research – an independent evaluation of the Libraries Opportunities for Everyone: innovation fund.”
  • Libraries Taskforce Kathy Settle sets the records straight – Public Libraries News. ““As quotes were used without the full context I provided and, in a few cases, quotes were attributed to me when the remarks were actually made by others, I wanted to provide more details here.” ” … “I think we need to break that negative narrative. I recognise that’s difficult because there really are cuts and closures happening. We certainly don’t want to make it look as if everything is sweetness and light because we know that it’s not. But equally, if we don’t turn that narrative round and collectively start talking more positively about libraries, no one else is going to. And why would anyone want to invest in a service that sounds as if it’s failing?’ “
  • Library Excellence Tour – “The Library Global Excellence Tour 2017 is primarily aimed at senior leaders in public and academic libraries in the UK and Ireland. The tour, completely free to attend thanks to our sponsors, is designed to showcase global excellence and ambition in library service delivery and to inspire library leaders to achieve excellence in their service. Excellence is a quality that people really appreciate as it’s so hard to find, achieving it is never easy to do and this tour will showcase a snapshot of the best library service delivery globally. You will hear from the library movers and shakers who have delivered and you will get real world examples of what is possible in your service, state or nation, even in austere times”
  • More than a house for books – Arts Council England. “We’ve commissioned a series of three podcasts to highlight the important role libraries play in our communities. Libraries offer a safe space, providing access to digital & online learning, helping to combat loneliness and having a positive impact on people’s lives. The series cover three themes: Libraries for young people – looking at the impact libraries have on the early years; Libraries as a social enabler – exploring how facilities enhance lives; Digital transformation in libraries – examining how technology is benefitting libraries and communities. You can listen to the first episode now. Episodes 2 and 3 will be released over the next three weeks. ” Transcript. of the first episode [Has some excellent advocacy quotes – Ed.]
  • Opinion: Turn over a new leaf and get reading – Yorkshire Post. “Your local library is on hand to help get you started – a family reading hub in every community where children and adults can access books free of charge. “
  • Public finances – the implications for libraries – Libraries Taskforce. “Whilst much rhetoric is suggesting that austerity is over (or rather the public are tired of that narrative), the Chancellor will no doubt emphasise that we will still need to live within our means and a growing economy is needed to generate the tax revenues to fund public services.” … “In the absence of any more money, there are real opportunities for libraries if they can position themselves to contribute to the agenda for health and wellbeing, inclusive growth, new housing, lifelong learning and skills, and in shaping places to make them attractive to skilled workforces (who pay council tax) and businesses (who pay business rates).”
  • Reading groups, libraries and communities: an exploratory study – Libraries Taskforce.  blog about a recently published research report posted on the Libraries Taskforce website. “What part do reading groups play in the services that libraries provide for their communities? How central is their role and what do libraries do to foster them? Two years ago, we set out to explore these questions, spurred on by our own experience as members of a reading group and our awareness of the huge growth in reading groups that had taken place in recent years”
  • SCL to offer Mozfest bursaries – Society of Chief Librarians  “As part of the Universal Learning Offer SCL is offering 6 bursaries for the festival. This ticket covers entry to the festival on Friday night, Saturday and Sunday. It includes lunch, coffee, adult beverages, swag, and two days of building, making and learning (plus a party on Saturday evening!) ( Where possible SCL will also be including a negotiable contribution to travel costs- more info on application)”
  • Through the Barricades? – Leon’s Library Blog. “Chatting with a fellow campaigner this week we observed that anyone following news and updates about libraries via social media could be forgiven for thinking that two entirely different sectors are being talked about” … “campaigners, on a national level, are reluctant to acknowledge when positive changes or projects take place within library services, and despite massive reductions, there is still some fantastic work happening within the profession. On the other end of the spectrum, are the optimists who only highlight positive stories and steadfastly refuse to acknowledge the extent of damage being done to the library network. The main culprits of this approach are the Libraries Taskforce and SCL.”
  • Why the library is the hottest late‑night venue – Times. “Bath was the first university in the UK to introduce a 24-hour library, in 1996, but many have followed suit. Durham, Leeds, King’s College London and Reading have libraries that stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Now that students pay £9,250 a year in fees, they expect facilities to be open at times to suit them. Others go in the early hours to avoid the overcrowding during the day….”

An online bookclub from Axiell International news
International news

  • USA – 75 American Public Libraries Launch STEM Ed Programs for Underserved Communities – Campus Technology. “Public libraries are quickly becoming centers for STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) enrichment in the United States, with many starting to introduce interactive learning spaces. Recently, 75 U.S. libraries were chosen to receive resources, training and support to bring STEM education opportunities to library patrons as part of NASA@ My Library.”
  • USA – Charlottesville Libraries Weather Violent Protests, Offer Unity – Library Journal. “When staff opened the library on the morning of August 10, the Thursday before the rally, they found two signs with white supremacist messages on the building’s front door, which were quickly removed” … “Director John Halliday stayed in the building all day on Saturday to monitor the activity outside and update staff. Although the original plan was for Farrell to spell him at lunchtime, Halliday texted her that morning telling her to stay home. The park was already filling with heavily armed men in militia-type camouflage who were not with the state or local police or the National Guard, he reported, and a large crowd was gathering.”

“The building did not sustain any damage. And when the library opened Monday morning, its customary “Libraries are for everyone” sign was posted prominently in front.”

  • USA – How Nashville Has Beaten Bleak Predictions For Libraries – Nashville Public Radio. “At the Nashville Public Library, cardholders can check out packets of seeds to grow hot peppers and mustard greens. They can attend free yoga classes or a professional development book club for adult educators. Calling it a model for the nation and the world, Nashville’s public library was designated the 2017 Library of the Year by Library Journal and Gale this summer. If libraries could win an Oscar, this would be it. Despite bleak predictions about the future of buildings housing books in an increasingly digital world, the award applauds Nashville for reimagining what a library can offer.”
  • USA – Jeff Bezos Should Put His Billions Into Libraries –  Wired. Excellent article on how philanthropy could work for billionaires and libraries both. However, it would mean libraries being implicates in things like another article today: Amazon paid just £15m in tax on European revenues of £19.5bn – Guardian. But I am sure the pressure would be too much to resist.
  • USA – Most Buffalo and Erie County public libraries run out of free eclipse viewing glasses – WIVB. 2 million glasses (yes, million) given out.
  • USA – On Racism, Ignorance, and Librarianship – David Lankes. “… I talked about three things librarians and libraries could do in the wake of a terrorist act: fight violence with information and understanding; help the community develop their own narrative; continue to be the resource for your communities to come together. I still think this is a good game plan for any library in the wake of violence and tragedy. Counter false and ignorant claims with knowledge and learning; help the community construct and disseminate their own story so that one is not imposed from outside; and continue to be a place the community relies upon. A library should be a safe space, but it will only be that if librarians continue to understand the threats all their community members face and work to overcome them.”

“Racism is a state of ignorance. It deliberately denies the positive effect of diversity and inclusion. Purposefully living in a state of ignorance is counter to the values and mission of librarianship. Therefore, giving voice to racism does not further the conversation or learning of a community.” … “Shouldn’t libraries be place for all voices in the community? No. Libraries are not neutral microphones placed in a town square open to all comers. They are platforms of learning that acknowledge the full range of the views in a community, but with the community develop and support a learning narrative that pushes against racism and bigotry.”

  • USA – Two Big Wins for Libraries. Thanks to Your Support of EveryLibrary – EveryLibrary. “You might remember the Christian County Campaign because we alerted you to the illegal tactics used by the opposition. Many of you responded with your donations to help us fight back and that support allowed us to spend over $500 of your donations on educating the local voters about the importance of libraries and setting the record straight against that untruthful flyer that was illegally put in area mailboxes. Through the support of many of our previous individual donors and through the ongoing support of our vendor donors we were also able to provide pro-bono political consulting to the local campaign committee about how best to win their campaign.”

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeen – The Cafe Workshop @ Aberdeen Central Library   –  Scottish Library and Information Council. “Since 2006 the Public Library Improvement Fund (PLIF) has been supporting creative and innovative library projects throughout Scotland. Starting today, we’ll be taking a look at previous award winners on the first Wednesday of every month. Here is Library Operations Manager John Grant talking about the new Cafe Workshop @ Aberdeen Central Library, which has enabled members of the public to explore emerging technologies and the creative arts.”
  • Bath and North East Somerset – ‘Disappointment’ and anger at year-long closure of publicly-funded event room in Bath – Bath Chronicle.  publicly-funded event room used to host clubs, workshops and support groups in Bath has been closed for nine months and could stay shut for up to a year. The exhibition room at Bath’s central library can hold 75 people and has previously played host to storytelling events, coding clubs as well as writing groups and workshops for disabled people” … “A council spokesman explained the closure was related to the relocation of archives material, a broken rolled book shelf and an out-of-order lift. But Andy Halliday, former library manager, said the drawn-out closure of the space was “terrible” and that it was taking the council too long to re-open it”
  • Bedford – Bedfordshire libraries to open for longer – Bedford Today. “Bedford Central Library will be staying open on Sundays when the changes take place from Monday, September 4. Bromham, Wooton and Bedford libraries will introduce the ‘Library Plus’ service that gives you the freedom to use the library during staffed of self-serviced hours. During self-service hours you can still enter the library using your card and PIN. Library users can sign up for the Library Plus service from Monday, August 14 by visiting one of the locations. Councillor Sarah Holland said: “In the face of severe government cuts councils across the country are closing libraries, while in Bedford Borough we are keeping every single one of them open and even extending overall opening hours, and bringing Sunday opening to Bedford Central Library.”Kempston and Putnoe libraries decided not to introduce the Library Plus service.”
  • Bexley – Designs on £5m library and civic building for Thamesmead – South London Press. “The short listed practices are Adam Khan Architects, Architecture 00 Ltd / Studio Weave, Bisset Adams Ltd, Keith Williams Architects and Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter from Norway. The new library and civic building is to be at the heart of the first phase of the planned 1,600 new homes for the Abbey Wood and South Thamesmead housing zone desgned by master architects Proctor and Matthews.”
  • Brighton and  Hove – Allowing nursery and café to use building is marginalising library users – Argus. “NOT-for-profit pre-school has closed after missing out on a move to Hove Library. Happitots in Rutland Road, Hove, has shut after 30 years of providing affordable childcare after missing out to another nursery, Hove Village, in a council-run bidding process. Staff said the nursery – rated good by Ofsted – was being displaced from its current premises by a homeless shelter and its closure means the loss of five jobs. Library users have criticised the move to allow a nursery and café to operate in the historic Carnegie building saying its primary use as a place for books was being marginalised.”
  • Bury – Walshaw Sports Club steps up to help The Friends of Tottington Library – Bury Times. £500 donated. “Walshaw Sports Club, in Sycamore Road, Tottington, gave the money to The Friends of Tottington Library the community group formed to keep the library in Market Street open and running after the withdrawal of all council funding”
  • Carmarthenshire – Labour and Unison petition to safeguard Ammanford town hall and library – Llanelli Online. The joint petition by Carmarthenshire Labour Group and Unison calls on Carmarthenshire Council to keep Ammanford Town Hall and the Old Library open and retain all 67 jobs in Ammanford, engage in meaningful discussions with the trade unions and the people of Ammanford before future decisions are made and put local people first by fighting the cuts to local services. The Council’s proposal would see Ammanford Town Hall, Old Library, Ammanford, Nant y Ci and 5-8 Spillman Street close, as part of the Council’s Agile Working policy, with over 140 staff being affected.”
  • Cornwall – Could you volunteer at Penryn Library? – The Packet. “The council has agreed to take over the running of the library from September 11, and will also be moving its offices into the same building on St Thomas Street. This means the opening hours of the library will be extended from the current one day and two half-days each week to five days a week, and staff will be attending training sessions in the coming weeks on how to run the service.”
  • Cornwall – Helston Library prepares to relocate – This is the West Country. “From this Thursday the main library building will be closed, with reduced facilities moving to the One Stop Shop at Isaac House, in the Coinage Ope alleyway leading to the Tyacke Road car park. Here they will stay for around three months, while major redevelopment work is carried out on the library building in the Trengrouse Way Car Park. A £181,000 revamp will see the library, One Stop Shop and JobCentre Plus all brought under one roof, with the building expected to reopen to the public by the end of November.”
  • Cornwall – Library transfer ‘behind schedule’ – Camelford and Delabole Post. “In regards to the move of the library, town clerk, Esther Greig, confirmed to councillors that they are behind schedule. The town council has been working for many months to transfer the library service in the town from Cornwall Council to the town council, to ensure the service is allowed to thrive, and isn’t lost. The council heard that it is ‘looking unlikely to move before Christmas’.”
  • Dundee – Almost £1m still needed for Ferry library extension after crowdfund effort stalls – Courier. “The project will cost an estimated £1,828,000 with £948,500 having already been secured from Leisure & Culture Dundee (L&CD) alongside Dundee City Council. However, this means around £879,000 is still needed, with a JustGiving page having so far only accumulated £170 of contributions with some additional small donations also made through collection boxes at the library”
  • Flintshire – Members of the public will get a unique peek behind the scenes of Gladstone’s Library next month – Deeside. “The doors of the stunning Grade 1 listed residential library in Hawarden will be thrown open for one day as part of Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service, ‘Open Doors’ festival. Guided tours of the library’s secure store, which is usually closed off to the public, will take place on Saturday, 16th September.”
  • Gloucestershire – Gloucestershire reads the riot act on library closures – Countryfile. “As part of a new initiative, the David Vaisey Prize, four Gloucestershire libraries have been shortlisted to receive a grant to help them continue to offer vital services to their communities. Entries were received from 20 of the 39 libraries, each submitting an idea for a project that will get more people into reading”
  • Hull – Hull summer reading challenges encourages young people to discover culture – Hull Daily Mail. “The challenge, called The Hull fREADom Quest, invites children to follow an interactive treasure hunt around the city, reading books and completing challenges along the way” … “This year to celebrate Hull’s year as the UK City of Culture, rather than join in with the national summer reading challenge, we wanted to create our very own Hull-themed challenge” … “Six Hull-themed characters, including a friendly bee lady called Jean and an adventuring moth named Amy, were created by children from Cleeve Primary School, Bransholme in partnership with Hull Libraries.”
  • Kirklees – Two more community centres saved from closure after residents step in to help – Huddersfield Daily Examiner. “also being handed over is the Community Centre and Library on Market Street, Birstall, transferred to Birstall Community Holdings Ltd. Both centres have a covenant that restricts them to community use, with up to 30% commercial use”
  • Lambeth – Carnegie trust accuses council of ‘political expediency’ – Brixton Blog. “Lambeth council’s preferred “community partner” to take over Herne Hill’s Carnegie library has accused the council of “political expediency” in a bid to get the building open again before local elections in May next year. And in an open letter to council cabinet member Sonia Winifred, who is responsible for equalities and culture, the Carnegie Community Trust (CCT) says that it is finding it “very difficult” to get through to the council “the need to work in partnership with us and the community”. It says that “Instead of co-operative working we are continually being presented with fait accompli”. And it says a “side deal” between the council and GLL means that a charity could not run the building without contravening charity law.”
  • Lambeth – Lambeth Council reply to criticism from Carnegie Library campaigners – exclusive – Brixton Buzz. Council says “The project is about committing a one-off capital investment now, that will deliver year-on-year savings long into the future. This is essential in the current financial climate to make the building sustainable, protecting the community offer and library service in the area for many years to come, despite the government cuts that Lambeth has faced.” … ” am confident that when the Carnegie library reopens, that it will again be a much-loved and valuable asset for the local community. While we understand that some will continue to oppose our plans, similar warnings that were issued by campaigners about Upper Norwood Library and Waterloo library have not been borne out by the reality.
  • Lambeth – Library campaigners hit back against Lambeth’s claims about the Carnegie library’s future – Brixton Buzz. Campaigners respond to council article “We appreciate that you have inherited the current mess, which was not of your making. But it’s still not too late to start a clean-up. Strong feelings have been aroused not just by affection towards the library – with heavy and fast-increasing usage – but by the council’s cavalier attitude to every attempt made by local people to have their views respected … Government cuts have nothing to do with it. The council received a plan in April 2015 from the libraries manager to make the swingeing cuts it demanded while keeping all Lambeth’s 10 libraries running. It was not even looked at.”
  • Lancashire – Mothballed library to be given a new lease of life – Wigan Today. “The upset villagers of Parbold lobbied Lancashire County Council after it was announced that the library, on The Common, would be shut as part of a major savings programme. But the county’s new Conservative administration, which has engaged in a bitter war of words over libraries with their Labour predecessors, have confirmed the library should re-open soon. Parbold and Thornton, near Blackpool, have each been earmarked for a relaunch between this November and the following April.”
  • Lancashire – Veterans group to open new chapter at library – Burnley Express. “Chief executive Tony Hayes said: “We will be holding an opening day and inviting the community to meet us and inform them of various activities that we will be running. “We will he holding coffee mornings and IT courses for older people. We are also looking for volunteers and for a new member for our fund-raising team. For more information call 01282 219391.”The charity has now re-housed 129 veterans, obtained mental health treatment for 391 veterans and obtained six star lifts and bathroom conversions for elderly disabled veterans.”
  • Medway – Thomas Aveling Community library in Rochester will close – Kent Online. “A library in Medway will be closed as part of a shake up of local services. Thomas Aveling Community library will shut after a public consultation which ran between April and June of this year. The reason for the closure has been put down to limited opening hours and low use. A report from the council reads: “The decision to close Thomas Aveling library is due to it being a poorly performing library, with limited use.”
  • Newport – Newport charity Maindee Unlimited signs 25 year lease for Maindee library – South Wales Argus. “Maindee Library, in Chepstow Road, was saved just days before its closure in 2015, after Newport City Council agreed to let a group of volunteers take it over. The library was due to close after the council announced it was to make city-wide cuts to library provision and could no longer run it. Since then, Maindee Unlimited has been running the library, relying on volunteers. John Hallam, programme manager and volunteer at Maindee Unlimited, said: “This is an important milestone for the library. “I think it is one of the first council assets to be transferred to a community group in Newport.”
  • North Lincolnshire – Plans for £1.2m investment in town’s library, local link and health and wellbeing services – Scunthorpe Telegraph. “The council say extending Baysgarth Leisure Centre will create a one-stop shop for the people of Barton, providing advice information and support for all aspects of wellbeing, including access to library services. The local authority say services will be more accessible and in one location for residents”
  • North Somerset – New library and children’s centre in Pill to open in a week – North Somerset Times. “North Somerset Council has refurbished the library, in Underbanks, to enable the children’s centre to move into the building and it hopes it will be ‘worth the wait’. The library has been remodelled and an outside play area has been created for the children’s centre, which moved out of Crockerne Primary School as part of the council’s Community Access Review. The cost-cutting exercise saw children’s centres close in Yatton and Pill, and plans put in place to move their services to libraries in each of the villages.  While the move was primarily made to save money, by reducing the number of buildings the council is responsible for maintaining, the authority has invested £820,000 into the community buildings it has decided to keep.”
  • North Yorkshire – Library pilot scheme offers mobile options to get online – North Yorkshire County Council. Tablets and touchscreen PCs installed as experiment. “This is a pilot scheme, so before a decision is taken on whether to extend it to other libraries, library staff members want to hear from customers about whether the tablets provide the best way to access information and services.”
  • Plymouth – Plymouth pop-up libraries move a step closer to reality – Plymouth Herald.
  • Richmond – Richmond council investigating possible ‘internal redecoration’ of Whitton Library, but no date has been set –  Richmond and Twickenham Times. Although there is no official confirmation of when this will happen or how it will affect library users, the process of it being refurbished is in the “very early stages”. A council spokesperson said: “As part of the ongoing maintenance programme for all our libraries, we are currently investigating possible internal redecoration work at Whitton Library.”
  • Sheffield – ‘Community hub’ opens doors today – Star. Woodseats Library moves into GP co-location.
  • Staffordshire – Korben, 12, is youngest Stafford library volunteer – Staffordshire Newsletter.  “Korben is one of Staffordshire Libraries Services’ youngest volunteers and teaches children computer programming at Code Club in Stafford library.”
  • Stoke on Trent – Relocated Newcastle Library to offer new technology… but there will be fewer books – Stoke Sentinel. “A town’s relocated library will boast new hi-tech IT equipment, including tablets, a 3D printer and Raspberry Pi computers – but fewer books. Newcastle Library will move from its current location in Ironmarket to the new £15.4 million Castle House civic hub in October, with the new facility having a greater emphasis on technology.”
  • Sunderland – Fulwell library a ‘true community venture’ – Sunderland Echo.
  • Surrey – Can you talk in the library? We look at what you can and can’t do in Surrey’s libraries – Get Surrey. “There are strict rules governing singing, dancing and whether you are allowed to bring in livestock…but are you allowed to hold a conversation among the books?”. A look at the library bye-laws. “It seems like the days of the shushing librarian and a haven of peace are over. As Mark said: “The best way to experience the modern soundscape of a library is to drop in a visit one” and Surrey has 52 to choose from”
  • Swindon – Changes to Swindon Libraries from September 2017 – Swindon Libraries and Information Service. “As of the 1st September Swindon Libraries and Information Service will only be directly responsible for the 5 core Libraries, Central, North, Highworth, West and Park. All of these will continue to run much as they currently do at this time with the addition of Extended Opening Technology” … “Community Groups were given the opportunity to run the remaining Libraries and bids were invited in April for groups to take these on with a pot of transitional funding being made available to help facilitate this.”
  • Swindon – Library McLibraryFace will not be new name for library, say councillors in wake of Boaty McBoatFace fiasco – Swindon Advertiser. “As this will be a place for everyone – the community, local businesses and any non-parish visitors – we would like people to name it. The winning name will be announced Friday, September 1, ready for the opening on September 5. “And no, we can’t call it Boaty McBoatface.””
  • Windsor and Maidenhead – Library volunteer raises privacy concerns over new customer service hubs – Maidenhead Advertiser. “A library volunteer has called the new customer service desks in the library ‘unacceptable’ after she overheard a private discussion about emergency housing. Stressing her personal view to the Advertiser, Bridget Watson, who lives in North Town, says there is a lack of privacy in the library as residents are forced to discuss private matters such as housing and benefits within earshot of library visitors. The council moved customer services, including facilities, management, specialised business support, customer feedback and housing options, from the Town Hall to the Maidenhead, Windsor and Ascot libraries as part of phase one of a new scheme in July.”
  • Worcestershire – Libraries across Bromsgrove are first in the county to become members of the Dementia Action Alliance – Bromsgrove Advertiser. “libraries across the Bromsgrove district are the first in the county to become members of the Dementia Action Alliance (DAA). The accolade, which has been awarded to Bromsgrove, Rubery and Catshill Libraries, comes after all staff members completed Dementia Friends training over the last 12 months. Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme is the biggest ever initiative to change people’s perceptions of dementia and works towards transforming the way the nation thinks, acts and talks about the condition”

The problem of the time-poor and the money-rich

Editorial

I had a most entertaining meal with a few Australian library types a couple of evenings ago and discussed all sort of things, occasionally accompanied by sharp shocked intakes of breath as my companions realised how different the UK system was to theirs. One of the things discussed was the idea that libraries are increasingly used by those who have plenty of time and/or those who cannot afford an alternative. Depressing I know but hear me out. The thing here is that back before Amazon, Google and the internet even those short of time had limited alternatives to the public library – driving into town and reserving/buying a book from the local bookshop (probably a Waterstones even then) did not take that much less time than going to the library for the same thing. In fact, the library was probably closer. Nowadays one can purchase a book online at home via a click and have it delivered to your door the next day or even, if it’s an e-book. that second.

This means that those who have less time or more money are less likely to use a library now than then. There’s also another reason of course: many libraries have been hollowed out in that time, becoming less comparatively attractive. That is more to do with lack of investment than technology, as is clear to me when I visit a well-funded and beautifully appointed library (such as Manchester Central) as they all have a definite busy buzz about them. One of the reasons for this (by no means the sole one) is that they’re as attractive as many of the commercial alternatives to a person’s time. Now I’m not talking about stinking rich people here – they’ve rarely ever used public libraries anyway –  but rather that the number who make the rational decision about their library use, and decide against, are likely to be the more wealthy or more short of time. But those deciding against using libraries are becoming less and less comparatively rich or busy as technological change and cuts continue.

I don’t have any easy solutions to this. It’s just an explanation why many public libraries have the clientele they do: time-rich children and parents, money-poor jobseekers and students and time-rich (and often money-poor) senior citizens. Technology and hollowing out has made this more pronounced over the last decade or two. The very best libraries I’ve seen find alternatives: they provide things commercial alternatives do not (e.g. connecting people and empowerment in all its forms) and by doing so gain the trust and support of politicians who keep their funding. But there’s virtuous and vicious circles both at play here and you can probably tell which camp you’re local library is in quite easily. Just go in and look at the demographics.

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For some lucky kids, there is such a thing as a free lunch

Editorial

Suffolk Libraries, one of the few library mutual, has been confirmed in contract by the council for another five years. That’s fairly bittersweet considering the cuts the council has forced on them but it at least shows confidence in the model, often touted as one to improve efficiency in library services. Another such model – combining library services – is being tried in Bournemouth and Poole, with the downside being discovered by Bournemouth’s managers and specialists who are having their pay cut so as to equal that of their lesser paid neighbours.

Something special to bring your attention to is the lunch for children project at Plymouth. This is also happening in many authorities (Manchester, Oldham, Warrington, St Helens, Rochdale and doubtless others I don’t know about), normally partnering with other council or community agencies. It looks really successful and I suspect it’s a big new trend, as it has been successful in the USA for years. One to watch.

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National news

  • CILIP conferencePresentations available for many of the presenters [but not mine, I need to get that sorted – Ed.]
  • Equalities and Diversity Action Plan – CILIP. “committed to creating, implementing, monitoring and improving an Equalities and Diversity Action Plan with the aim of becoming an organisation that truly represents and achieves diversity and celebrates and encourages it in others.  The Equalities and Diversity Action Plan was launched on July 31st 2017
  • Fifteenth meeting of the Libraries Taskforce – Libraries Taskforce. Discussion about Cambridgeshire libraries. Delays to action plan due to general election and failure of some to respond. Culture. Mutuals. Subgroup on financing established. Reading and literacy. Other issues.
  • Library of Wales appoint UK’s first permanent Wikimedian – Welsh Country. “Jason Evans will make Wikipedia and its sister projects a core aspect of the Library’s activities and services. Building on the successful collaboration between the Library, Wikimedia UK and the Wiki community, he will lead activities associated with the Library’s collections, Wales as a nation and/or the Welsh language”
  • SOS Day for libraries – Unison. “Our SOS Day across the UK in October will show our support for libraries and raise awareness of the devastating impact cuts have had on this service. We will ask our members to show their support by joining their local library if they haven’t already, make sure they visit and use the great range of services on offer where they live. We will call on local and national decision-makers to take action on shameful spending cuts and ask councils to commit to providing comprehensive library services. To kick off this year’s SOS campaign, we want to hear from you. Tell us what your library does for you.”
  • Survey for UK Public Libraries – University of Sheffield. “The objective of this research is to investigate how the public library service in the United Kingdom engages its community through the promotion of local authors. Furthermore, how engagement and promotion of locally written literature positions the public library service as part of the unique literary heritage of the region/ local area and how this impacts the user demographic. “

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International news

  • Australia – Code Brown: Design Thinking & Beyond feat. @jeromical / Part 1 – Mechanical Dolphin. “And it wasn’t just about poo. We got to think about all things stinky and messy and bodily in these spaces. The rural library in NZ which coped with teens engaging in what was once called “heavy petting” (and more) by introducing wipe clean sofas and putting the family planning brochures on display right next to them. Or my own story, which was really about the smell of stinky feet.” … “Yet if you are serious about libraries being “the TARDIS on your streetcorner” – a magic space that can take you anywhere in knowledge and culture – that means accepting that people will use your TARDIS in ways you didn’t desire or foresee – and that some of these uses will be messy and troubling.”
  • Canada – Toronto Public Library gets in on the rebirth of records – CBC. “Toronto Public Library is getting in on the trend by adding 100 new records to their collection. The collection of more than 15,000 records is the largest of any public library in Canada. And librarian Beau Levitt had the honour of adding the new albums to the shelves at the Toronto Reference Library.”
  • Global – 4 important things users want from a library (and how to offer them) – Princh. “Sometimes, there is a big imbalance between what the users wish to have in a library and what they really get. As Mick Fortune mentions in our previous post, for many years libraries measured their success primarily by footfall and they only focused on that. Only in the last few years, libraries have really started focusing on getting to know their users better. Even so, all the studies, such as those made by The Pew Internet, Carnegie UK Trust, Museums Libraries & Archives UK, etc. end up showing the same results.”: opening hours, free. books and library staff.
  • USA – Free Lunch at the Library – New York Times. “Before opening their doors at noon, the librarians squeeze tables and chairs between the book stacks to prepare for the onslaught of hungry children. Usually, two or three dozen show up, but occasionally, up to 70 do. During the summer, they come to this tiny branch in Elmwood Place, a village in greater Cincinnati, for “Captain Underpants,” air-conditioning and, lately, a hot meal.”
  • USA – How Their First Library Card Teaches Kids Responsibility – EveryLibrary. “All those shiny plastic rectangles in your pocket signify bills to pay, money to spend, and all the other responsibilities that come with being a grown-up. But do you remember your first card? That first time you got a wallet and couldn’t wait to fill it with grown-up things, like photos, money, and cards! Perhaps that first official card of your very own was a library card. But a library card isn’t simply a way for kids to gain access to library materials, it’s also an ideal way to start kids on a path to responsible adulthood.”
  • USA – Livestreaming Library Chicks – Swiss Army Librarian. “Here’s something kind of neat we’re doing in my library: our Children’s Room has eggs in an incubator so the kids can watch them hatch, and then our IT person got the idea to livestream the eggs (and subsequent chicks) to our website. The eggs came from a farm in Western MA, and the chicks will go back there a couple weeks after they hatch. In the meantime, the incubator has been sitting on the Children’s Desk – and of course has been very popular with kids (and the local paper

National news

  • Barnet – Government to investigate Barnet’s library provision – BookSeller. “Libraries minister John Glen has told Barnet Council leader Councillor Richard Cornelius in a letter that the department of digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) is treating the representations made by Save Barnet Libraries campaigners Emily Burnham and Richard Strang as a formal complaint. This will see the DCMS investigate whether the council is fulfilling its statutory duty to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service, as set out in the Public Libraries Act of 1964.”
  • Barnet – Save Barnet Libraries campaign sees first victory after protest as culture ministry registers formal complaint – Ham and High. “Save Barnet Libraries campaigners are celebrating a small step towards victory after the culture secretary agreed to recognise their representations as a formal complaint – meaning the ministry will investigate the Council’s changes to library provision and could order them reversed.” … “In a letter addressed to Barnet Council leader Cllr Richard Cornelius, arts minister John Glen, whose purview covers libraries, says that his department is treating the representations made by Save Barnet Libraries campaigners Emily Burnham and Richard Strang as a formal complaint. This means DCMS will investigate whether the Council is fulfilling its statutory duty to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service”
  • Bath and North Est Somerset – Letter: Bath library move just wouldn’t be fair on disabled children – Bath Chronicle. “When I read Heidi I felt what it was like to use a wheelchair. It made me think how lucky I am to be able to run around and do cartwheels whenever I like. People in wheelchairs can do amazing things (just look at the Paralympians – they’re superhumans!) but Heidi’s friend, Clara, would find it really difficult to get around the library if it was on three floors instead of one.”
  • Birmingham – Councillors’ delight as Kingstanding Library receives extensive new makeover – Great Barr Observer. “”While others sat back, Barbara and I helped ensure funding was made available to help Witten Lodge Community Association work with us to help save and, hopefully, improve the service provided by the Kingstanding Library. “Unlike Walsall we decided that Oscott libraries needed to be kept open. “It was one of our main priorities and we know Oscott residents felt the same. All our behind-the-scenes efforts have been worth it.”
  • Bournemouth Library staff to see their pay reduced as part of jobs “realignment” – Daily Echo. “Library managers in Bournemouth will see their pay reduced as part of a “realignment” of jobs. The changes will see all the town’s 22 libraries kept open, without a reduction in opening hours, according to the council. However, new management roles will be created with pay based on scales in use in neighbouring Poole. At a council meeting on Tuesday, Cllr Jackie Edwards asked whether the staff were being “downgraded”. “I believe one of the consequences of the Bournemouth library service merger with Poole is the proposed downgrading of all the library managers, assistant and stock managers, approximately 30 people,” she said.”. All paid according to the (lower) Poole pay scale due combination with that service. Three year pay protection.
  • Bradford – Comic artist to host drawing workshops in district’s libraries – Telegraph and Argus. “Dr. Simpo has been a favourite with children at art workshops delivered as part of the annual Thought Bubble Festival. “
  • Bristol – Bristol libraries host UK’s first drag queen storytelling sessions for children – Bristol Post. “The brainchild of Tom Canham, ‘Drag Queen Story Time’ aims to teach children of all ages to embrace their individuality and spread a message of tolerance.” … “A crowd-funding campaign was launched in May to fund books and the essential DBS checks and the first ever session took place during Bristol Pride on July 8″
  • Bristol – “Libraries are the lifeblood of our communities’ – Bristol 247. “the fact remains that once the dust has settled and the public purse is healthy once more, the library doors that have been closed, that granted access to a world of information for generations, are likely never to open again.”
  • Bury – New Bury Council policy hopes to make it easier for groups to take over council assets – This is Lancashire. “The new policy means applications from groups to buy community assets from the council will be considered against ‘key tests’ designed to ensure a deal which is best for the council and residents. “
  • Central Bedfordshire – Four Central Bedfordshire libraries to have opening hours slashed – Bedfordshire News. £56k cut, “Following the public consultation these targets have now been reduced by almost £30,000 – meaning eight libraries will now see a either an increase in opening times or no reduction at all – and all will now be open on Saturdays. However four venues across the local authority area will be open for less time – including Ampthill, Houghton Regis, Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard.”
  • Cumbria – Future of West Cumbria’s branch libraries up for debate – News and Star. “People are being asked what they would like to see happen to libraries at Hensingham, Kells and Mirehouse in the future. Cumbria county Council wants to know how it can make better use of the libraries. A spokesman said: “All of these libraries are open for less than 10 hours service a week and levels of use, in terms of visits, PC use, and book borrowing, is low.”
  • Derby – Attempt to stop biggest ever shake-up of Derby libraries fails – Derby Telegraph. “The plan, which was approved by the city council’s Labour cabinet on July 12, also means the remaining ten smaller libraries will be turned over to their communities. It’s all aimed at saving the council about £700,000 a year”
  • Derby – Union hints it could take Derby libraries closure decision to the High Court – Derby Telegraph. “Derby City Council’s decision to hand 10 libraries to the members of the community to run could be heading for the High Court. Unison, the union which represents many of the 41 library employees who could lose their jobs in the move, has hinted that it is seeking legal advice, with the possibility of this leading to it seeking a judicial review.”. Conservatives also criticise Labour council ““Even if they successfully defended a judicial review then the timeframes would be shot to pieces along with the savings they are trying to achieve, certainly in the short and medium term.”
  • East Sussex – 12th year of the East Sussex Children’s Book Award – Libraries Taskforce. “Each September, schools across East Sussex, Brighton and Hove, and parts of Kent, have the opportunity to read the best new fiction titles out there and take part in the East Sussex Children’s Book Award. The Book Award is delivered by the School Library and Museum Service (SLAMS), part of East Sussex Libraries. The criteria for books to make the longlist are that they have been published in paperback in the past year and that they are suitable for children aged 9-11. Schools pay to participate, which gives them access to all the events and a copy of each of shortlisted books. The charge covers the full cost of hosting the Book Award”
  • Enfield – Kids can solve mystery at Enfield’s libraries – This is Local London. SRC.
  • Inverclyde – ‘Mini McLean Museum and Wee Watt Library’ Ready for Visitors – Discover Inverclyde. “The historic McLean Museum and Watt Library are widely considered as one of the best municipal museums in Scotland for the outstanding collections of art, local heritage, technology and culture. The Council is investing £1.8 million towards the refurbishment work alongside a grant of £287,000 from Historic Environment Scotland.” … “The new Inverclyde Heritage Hub is now ready to receive visitors at the former Business Store on Cathcart Street in Greenock. The historic McLean Museum and Watt Library complex is currently closed ahead of a £2 million refurbishment.”
  • Isle of Wight – Shanklin Library Helping To Support Summer Reading Challenge – Isle of Wight Radio.
  • Kirklees – Recommended holiday reads from the Kirklees libraries’ top ten and best-sellers charts – Huddersfield Daily Examiner. “The Kirklees top ten is packed with more of the same – NYPD Red from James Patterson, another cop thriller, but this time with a New York backdrop – comes in at number 2, and the same author is also featured with Alert (yet more New York detective fiction) and 15th Affair (murder mystery with a female detective).”
  • Lambeth – Protest Continues Over Plans To Close Lambeth Libraries – Londonist. “A large crowd is expected on Saturday morning as Lambeth library campaigners prepare to spend their second weekend occupying the historic Carnegie library in Herne Hill. The public library was first occupied on 31 March — the day that Lambeth Council planned to close the library ahead of the conversion to what it has called a ‘healthy living centre.’ Along with the nearby Minet library, the plan was to hand over the public asset to Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL), a not for profit organisation. GLL plans to convert these into what have become known locally as ‘book-ish gyms’. No costings or logistic of combining a library with a gym have yet to be produced.”
  • Lambeth – Re-opening of Carnegie Library moves a step closer as community partner chosen – Southwark News. “The re-opening of Carnegie Library – located just off Denmark Hill – has moved a step closer as Lambeth Council has chosen a partner to take community ownership of the building, writes Becky Morton… The Carnegie Community Trust (CCT) was judged by the council with “independent advice” to have submitted a stronger bid than rival organisation, Carnegie Library Association (CLA), which was formed by the Friends of Carnegie Library. The CCT said it remained opposed to the idea of a gym in the library’s basement and had “serious concerns” about some of the additional alterations proposed by Lambeth Council and Greenwich Leisure Limited, who will manage the gym.”
  • Lancashire – Library plans moving forward as new group set up – Blackpool Gazette. “Thornton Cleveleys Gala Committee has now said it would prefer the county council to operate a library service. It is now proposed to add Thornton Library to those which will reopen between November 2017 and April 2018. ” see also Volunteer dream fading but library will still re-open – Blackpool Gazette. “Coun Kay still hopes to have Thornton Library open this year and is working to ensure community groups will still be able to make use of the facility. She said: “I understand the Gala Committee has now withdrawn from the process.”.
  • Lancashire – Plans to reopen Parbold library are being considered – Visiter. “Both groups, however, have subsequently indicated that they would prefer the county council to operate a library service rather than continue with an asset transfer. It is now proposed to add Parbold Library and Thornton Library to those which will reopen between November 2017 and April 2018.”
  • Lancashire – Whalley Library set to be first in East Lancashire to reopen – Lancashire Telegraph.  “Whalley Library is set to be the first library to reopen after Lancashire County Council’s decision to save 22 libraries from closure in East Lancashire. New Tory culture boss Peter Buckley visited the library last week and is the first head of cultural services to do so in a cabinet post holder position. The deputy leader of Lancashire County Council Albert Atkinson, Whalley ward councillors Ged Mirfin, Joyce Holgate and Terry Hill and head of Save the Whalley Library group, Neil Martin, also attended the meeting at the library.” … “Cllr Mirfin said: “It could take up to three months to recruit the staff that are needed to run the library. “
  • Manchester – Tuck into books and lunch at Fallowfield Community Library this summer – Manchester City Council. “Read and Feed will run every weekday until the end of August, with support from Manchester Libraries and local volunteers.   Thanks to the initiative, children aged 4 – 11 years will be offered a free, nutritious lunch, after taking part in activities held to support the Summer Reading Challenge at the library.
    Families can drop into the library, based at the Place at Platt Lane, every weekday to enjoy storytelling sessions, reading, craft and Lego activities from 11.30am – 12:30pm, with lunch provided for participating children from 12:30 – 1pm.  Manchester council aims to roll the Read and Feed scheme out to more libraries across the city next summer.  Similar initiatives have previously been adopted elsewhere in Greater Manchester, by libraries in Rochdale, Salford and Bolton. “
  • Norfolk – Learn to read for free with Norfolk libraries – Bury Free Press. “Anyone aged eight and above can become a reader with the Norfolk Reading Pathway, which is run by the county council’s library and information service. The project uses the Yes We Can Read reading programme with those taking part asked to spare 30 minutes twice a week. Learners get involved in a fun and engaging way with one-to-one tuition using a phonics-based programme which builds their confidence and self-esteem. The project is running at all Norfolk libraries and aims to get people reading fluently within six months”
  • Northern Ireland – Cafes, libraries and church halls back breastfeeding in Northern Ireland – Belfast Telegraph. “The Public Health Agency (PHA) has introduced The Breastfeeding Welcome Here initiative which is designed to show community support for breastfeeding mothers. The scheme now has 500 venues providing supportive environments for breastfeeding mothers”
  • Pembrokeshire – Walk and talk in aid of community library – County Echo. “At the start of July, Newport Community Library celebrated their first birthday being run by volunteers, in conjunction with Pembrokeshire County Council.”
  • Plymouth – Council needs to find a developer to build a new £1.3m Plymouth library – Plymouth Herald. “A popular city library is set to be demolished, rebuilt and leased to the council as part of the ongoing Plan for Libraries project. St Budeaux library site is being marketed as a development opportunity by Plymouth City Council.” … “The development specification says the site offers ‘an exciting mixed use development opportunity within the centre of St Budeaux with a new public library, high quality residential (houses and/or flats) and other compatible commercial uses’.”
  • Plymouth – Lunch at the Library – Plymouth Council. “Every Wednesday in August at Devonport Library, St Budeaux Library and a Pop-Up Library at the Four Greens Centre in Whitleigh, children can pick up a free lunch and join in with family friendly activities. Free activities from 10am to 4pm include the Summer Reading Challenge, crafts, digital making, coding and more. Special guests include Dartmoor Zoo, the Theatre Royal, National Marine Aquarium, Shark Trust, Plymouth Music Zone, Devon and Cornwall Police, the Cats Protection League and authors Tom Palmer and Emma Carlisle. Every week, the first 100 children at each venue will be given a free book to take home and keep”
  • Salford – ‘Disgusted’ by library home delivery service axing – Leigh Journal. “As yet no alternative has been indicated. We haven’t a clue what will happen and I’m not sure the council does either. “
  • St Helens – Best-seller Carol’s tales of writing and olive farming go down a storm – St Helens Star. Carol Drinkwater: “Carol, known for her award-winning portrayal of Helen Herriot in the television adaptation of All Creatures Great and Small and five part documentary film series, The Olive Route, gave a talk at the Sutton Manor library about novels and life as an olive farmer in Provence. In front of an audience of 45 people, she spoke with the head of libraries’ service, Sue Williamson, about her experiences as a writer, farmer and actress and her work with UNESCO to help fund an Olive”
  • South Tyneside – Consultation over changes to South Tyneside libraries is extended by council – Shields Gazette. “The authority says it has listened to the views of residents and taken the decision to extend the consultation further so that as many people as possible have an opportunity to take part. Under new proposals library services would be on offer at four multi-service “hubs” at The Word, Hebburn Central Library, Jarrow Hub and Cleadon Park, while the council would also look to community groups to take over the running of Whitburn, East Boldon, Boldon Lane and Primrose libraries on a voluntary basis. The consultation will now run until September 30, after which the responses will be analysed and a report prepared for presentation to the council’s cabinet later in the autumn.”
  • Staffordshire – This year’s Summer Reading Challenge invites children from Stone to join the Animal Agents. – Little Bit of Stone. SRC.
  • Suffolk – Suffolk Libraries agrees new five-year contract with Suffolk County Council – East Anglian Daily Times. “Suffolk Libraries has announced it has agreed a five-year contract with an option for a further five years. At the end of 2016, the Suffolk Libraries Board voted unanimously to trigger the five-year extension to the current contract from August 2017. Tony Brown, chair of Suffolk Libraries’ board, said: “We are delighted to be renewing our contract with Suffolk County Council. “We feel that Suffolk’s library service is in good hands and that Suffolk Libraries, with the foundation and support it has built up over the past five years, offers the best chance of successfully meeting the challenges ahead”
  • Sunderland – Optimistic for Fulwell Community Library’s future – Sunderland Echo / Letters. “The opening was rushed but went off really well and this was due to the spirit of our volunteers without who this would not be possible. So many people gave their time and effort to ensure we started on the right foot”
  • Warrington – Animal magic as libraries launch summer reading challenge for children – Warrington Guardian. “Youngsters who manage to finish six or more stories will win a medal and a certificate for their hard work. They could also win the chance to become a keeper for the day at Walton Hall Gardens and Zoo. And Chester Zoo staff will be holding workshops at Woolston and Stockton Heath libraries to help children learn about nocturnal creatures and African animals.”
  • West Dunbartonshire – New adult reading promotion launched in West Dunbartonshire – Dunbarton Reporter. “Scotland’s national adult reading promotion – Read the Past Imagine the Future. The initiative is running in libraries across the area until Book Week Scotland in November, celebrating the 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.”
  • Wiltshire – Westbury Library internet ‘too slow’ – Wiltshire Times. “This is not in anyway an attack on the staff at the library, they are all very good and have enough on their hands without having to deal with people complaining about the internet connection when it is not their responsibility. It’s just not fair on them.” Wiltshire Council claims to have fixed the problem, but Ms Stroud says this is not the case.”
  • Wolverhampton – No convincing case to move Bilston Library – Pat McFadden – Express and Star. “Pat McFadden has urged Wolverhampton council to secure the future of Bilston Craft Gallery by ditching plans to move the town’s library from the site.” … “Bilston Craft Gallery currently houses the library, exhibition space and children’s activity centre Craft Play. Wolverhampton council has delayed a decision on the library’s future pending the result of a detailed feasibility study. A public consultation saw 635 people have their say on the issue, with 167 people backing the library staying at its current home and 138 opting for it to move to the Town Hall.”
  • Worcestershire – Plans revealed to relocate Community Contact Centre to the town’s library – Evesham Observer. “The centre, which has been based on Abbey Road since 2003, provides services on behalf of Wychavon District Council, Evesham Town Council, Worcestershire County Council and West Mercia Police. But time has been called on the venture after Wychavon District Council revealed it wouldn’t extend its lease with building owners West Mercia Police when it expires next year. Wychavon chiefs claim the site is too big for its needs and revealed Worcestershire County Council had suggested the centre move to Evesham Library on Oat Street.”
  • Worcestershire – Youngsters challenged to become ‘Animal Agents’ at Worcestershire libraries this summer – Bromsgrove Standard.

A week is a long time in public libraries

Editorial

I have just had a week off from all things library with the family, hence this bumper post now. Doing the news from the last ten or so days in one perhaps gives a clearer impression of what is going on. Which is a lot. One of the surprising things to the innocent bystander is the large number or refurbishments going on, often linked with co-locating with other services. The other thing is not so unexpected but a week’s list really brings it home: volunteer libraries are now a key part of the changing library world.

There are two contrasting non-profit stories. GLL continues their expansion, this time in Bromley, having already taken over Dudley this year on top of Greenwich, Wandsworth and Lincolnshire. They’re also involved, less happily, in Lambeth. The other story is from Suffolk, which is – while still a non-profit – a very different beast to GLL, being a library mutual. Their independence and undoubted innovation has not saved them from deep council funding cuts. The irony that they have received a big Arts Council England fund, which they can’t use to help the shortfall, is sadly a familiar one. Finally, I’ve received emails after the post on Carillion losing Hounslow, pointing out that the company have recently suffered a major share slide (from 301p to 71p) and that other councils have cut contracts with them too. Many strongly suspect Hounslow will not be the only library contract they will lose.

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500

Editorial

I’ve been adding up the figures month by month as news comes in and today’s the day. I count 500 libraries in the UK that are now staffed, if not entirely run, by volunteers. Of that number, the great majority are branches which have lost paid staff and the library users have been presented with the choice of volunteering or seeing their library close. Some are entirely new additional libraries. Each one is different, with some largely funded and stocked by councils apart from the staff and others entirely self-sufficient. What all but a handful have in common is that they have come on the scene since 2010. They’re a new phenomenon in many ways and, all the pros and cons aside, show how much people care for their local library service.

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The public libraries news divide

Editorial

There’s a strong divide in interpreting news about public libraries. On the one side, we have campaigners who tend to emphasise the negatives (hollowing out and closures) while on the other side we have organisations such as the Task Force who stress the positives. One point of view is angry at the reductions to library service and sees this as the important point to get across to mobilise public opinion. The other fears that such an approach misses out on positives and could give cuts to public libraries a feeling of inevitability. There’s fears I have heard many times  that emphasising the negatives means that people think that public libraries are tainted as doomed. Similarly, campaigners see the devastation going on and are outraged if asked to play it down. It’s hard to see how both sides can agree and, often, they don’t. Which is a shame because they’re actually, in many ways, otherwise mainly on the same side. Such slants can lead to disconnects like the one noted by the Private Eye below where it’s noticed the Task Force (and they’re hardly alone) use euphemisms for cuts.

I try to include both sides, the negative and the positive. I didn’t used to: to my shame, I tended only to include bad news (well, there was such a lot of it) for the first couple of years of PLN.  I did everyone, including myself, a disservice for doing so. In some ways I’m still with the campaigners (for instance, I use the term “cuts” and call volunteer libraries, well, volunteer libraries) but in others I will defend the Taskforce and others if they’re doing good work. I’ve even been known to defend the odd library closure. This can lead to situations where I’m criticised privately (and sometimes not so privately) by both sides for bias, on one memorable occasion for the same editorial. Well, at least I now know what the BBC feels like. What I’m trying to say to all of you is, public libraries should be the most neutral of places but news about them is often biased. Make up your mind based on the verifiable facts and who’s reporting it. As all public librarians should do in their work.

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Breaking news: Carillion loses Hounslow libraries

Hounslow has had a private company running its library services for longer than any council in the UK. Carillion purchased the Hounslow contract from Laing as part of a £65m deal to take over John Laing Integrated Services (JLIS) in 2013. Before that, the service was run by JLIS as a trailblazer for private running of libraries since 2008. I looked at the experience of Hounslow in a piece for CILIP Update way back in 2011.

Carillion ran the service as part of its non-profit arm “Cultural Community Solutions” (CCS) which also operates library services for Croydon, Ealing and Harrow. However, some question how non-profit CCS really is…

You will have noticed that I am using the past tense about Carillion and Hounslow.  This is because I have just received, after checking up on rumours , the following message from Hounslow council:

Contract with Carillion for library services

Councillor Samia Chaudhary, Cabinet Member for Green Policy and Leisure, Hounslow Council said: “The council is ending the contract for library services by mutual agreement with Carillion. Responsibility for the library service will transfer back to the Council on Tuesday 1 August. We believe that by bringing this back in-house, we can further improve what is a very valuable service for our residents and integrate this across our wider leisure and cultural services. Over the next three weeks, the Leisure team will work closely with HR, ICT, FM and Finance to transfer the service in-house. It will be challenging to complete the process quickly, primarily relating to the IT infrastructure, but our ICT team is confident that the necessary systems will be in place by 1 August.Our intention is that the service to the public will not change, and there are no plans to close any of the libraries during the transfer.” Official response from London Borough of Hounslow (received direct via email). Councillor Samia Chaudhary, Cabinet Member for Green Policy and Leisure, Hounslow Council.

It’s unclear as to what is behind the ending of the contract in such haste. One would normally expect such contracts to end at the same time as the financial year at the end of March. The last definite news in the public realm I noted was news of a new Marylebone Library and a move for Hounslow Library in February. The council has been Labour controlled since 2010.

I am sure the full story will eventually be heard but, for now, this has to weaken the case for privately run companies taking over library services.

More information on Carillion:

 

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The real reasons may not be so black and white

Charities and volunteers replacing public libraries is not so black and white

Editorial

I was interested to read about a charity that is delivering books to children, fulfilling a niche vacated by closing or closed public libraries in that area. The irony of it is that the charity. if I’m reading the figure right, are doing the same job at a far higher cost than the public library was able to achieve before. This ties in with an article in LocalGov that asks if cutting public services is a false economy. Certianly, the research I’ve on the subject concentrating on public libraries seems to conclusively show it is. David McMenemy, speaking at the CILIP conference last week, said that the replacement of paid public servants by volunteers and charities may be seen as a positive plus by politicians and others regardless of the need to do so and that seems to be the case. Well, at least sometimes.

The real reasons may not be so black and white

The real reasons may not be so black and white

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Bursting bubbles: CILIP Conference week

Editorial

I took a couple of days off work in order to be able to attend and speak at the CILIP Conference. The stand-out moment for me was, and was always going to be, listening to the Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden. A truly inspirational librarian. Then there was the chance to hear about what else was going on in the country (you’d think I’d know all that, but there’s nothing better than hearing the people themselves), a chance to think deep thoughts (on future trends and on the nature of information), actually consider ethics for one of the few times in my life and, of course, meet a whole ton of people who I’d seen on the internet for years but never actually met. And, of course, it was great that the conference was in Manchester, which benefits from some beautiful libraries, and whose ten-year-plus long-term library strategy seems to be paying off. There were a few announcements, such as on ethics and the public library skills strategy that I will doubtless cover separately later.

Outside of the conference bubble, this was the week that Lancashire promised to bring back 14 libraries (albeit with 5 run by community groups). It was also the week that Shropshire announced a long-term plan that will cut its libraries fro a respectable 28 in 2015 to a handful in five years. The Conservative LGA chief also warned that there may be no libraries by 2020, which to me sounds like major scare-mongering and as an opening negotiation position but was still downright gob-smacking to see in print.

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In praise of the People’s Network … and conferences.

Editorial

We take public computers in libraries for granted now. There’s often rows of them and they’re normally one of the busiest places in the library. People use them for all sorts of reasons: social, buying stuff (boarding passes a speciality), job-hunting, everything. And there’s normally a member of staff nearby helping out, working out why something hasn’t printed or patiently explaining how to do something to someone who simply does not have the computer experience to know. It’s one of the key ways that public libraries go some way to helping equality of access to people who would otherwise be barred by ability to pay. So it’s good to see a free e-book launched celebrating the People’s Network, without which libraries and communities would be poorer places than they are today.

That the launch was in the same week as the CILIP Conference in Manchester is not a coincidence and do expect further announcements this week to tie in with that.  I’ll be there both days and will tweet what people say. Well, not while I’m doing my session obviously but I’ll probably share that later anyway. I always find conferences tremendously useful but then I’m in the privileged position of being a speaker at the ones I attend (or these days can blag a press pass) and therefore get in for free. It’s notable that the numbers of those going to them from public libraries is reducing in this country as councils cut back on training.

That’s a long-term false economy but not a surprising one, when one sees the reductions going on. Thoughts this week to the paid staff of the 12 libraries who are either now volunteer or soon will be. I wish the volunteers well but it is a tragedy that such an important public service as libraries is being given to amateurs.

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