Viciously reducing bookfunds

Editorial

There’s a chicken and the egg thing going on with bookfund and book issues.  Or rather, a vicious circle. Councils are reducing bookfund claiming that fewer books are being read and then claiming that being that there are lower book issues they can cut bookfund more.  And then, when things get really bad, they can close libraries too. But, of course, if you have fewer books in the first place, you’re going to see declines in usage. It’s hard to borrow something that isn’t there. The fact that it is always easier to reduce bookfund than staffing is a contributory factor in the popularity of this strategy.

Lancashire, who close 20 libraries this week, reduced their bookfund from £2,423,923 in 2011-12 to £1,554,814 in 2014/15 (source: Cipfa).  That’s a huge reduction of 35.8%. Warrington LiveWire, in the news for wanting to close seven branches, including the oldest public library in England (which they will try to move into a, I kid you not, ex shoe shop) have cut their bookfund from £231,496 in 2012/13 to £103,944 in 2016/17.

Look, book issues (but not booksales) may be falling but they’re not falling that much.  A council can admit that they’re reducing libraries because of reduced budgets – like Lancashire, to be somewhat fair, has – but to claim that you’re cutting libraries because no-one is using them after you have annihilated their bookfunds – should be no-one’s idea of a valid argument.

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National news

  • British Library forms nationwide network of libraries to share knowledge, collections and creativity – British Library. “Funded by Arts Council England and the British Library for a two-year pilot period, the Living Knowledge Network aims to: Enable knowledge exchange – strengthening libraries’ collective ability to deliver world-class library services to diverse communities; Develop joint offerings for library users – collaborating on programmes, activities and shared content; Form a powerful partnership – working together on funding applications, evidence gathering and to share programmes of activity with a combined audience of 13 million.” … “The British Library’s partners in the Living Knowledge Network are: Birmingham City Council, Bournemouth Borough Council, Edinburgh Council, Libraries Unlimited, Glasgow Life, Kirklees Council, Suffolk’s Libraries Industrial and Provident Society (IPS), Leeds City Council, Liverpool City Council, Manchester City Council, Newcastle City Council, The Preston Harris Library, National Library of Scotland, National Library of Wales, First for Wellbeing, Norfolk County Council, Northern Ireland Library Authorities, Portsmouth City Council, Reading Borough Council, Sheffield City Council, Wakefield Council, Middlesbrough Council and Hull City Council.”
  • A long and barely coherent library rant: librarians…find positions of power – Forgotten Geek. “I’m not convinced librarians should be overtly political. We need to be aware of bias and not force our own on those who we help. We need to be aware, however, of what is occurring in the world and react accordingly. We should never be a censor.” … “Much of society needs a library, but I think it’s just as important that those of us who don’t need one, still use one. ” … “When SCL are backing cuts, what hope does a library campaigner have?” … “An Ipsos Mori poll, published in a Carnegie report by Liz Macdonald states that in all the nations of the UK, more than 70% of respondents thought that libraries were either essential or very important to the community. Yet usage is declining.”

“my message is that library campaigners are more than likely just yelling into an echo chamber. The people running libraries and hence making the decisions on budgets and services aren’t listening. They produce reports and taskforces but they don’t listen to information professionals. People in councils who are the budget holders and policy makers care little for libraries and see them as a way of saving money.”

  • International Games Day @ your library – International Games Day. “Last year 32 libraries in the UK took part (out of 2157 worldwide) and it would be great to get as many or more to sign up this year. You can register your library at http://igd.ala.org/register/
  • Libraries awarded over £2.3m of funding since launch of library strategy – Holyrood. “Scottish libraries have been awarded over £2.3m of funding since Scotland’s first strategy for public libraries was launched just over a year ago. At a conference today to mark the first year of the strategy, which was launched in June 2015, speakers looked at progress and showcased activities such as Macmillan @ Glasgow Libraries. The five-year ‘Ambition and Achievement: a Strategy for Public Libraries in Scotland 2015-2020’ outlines how to position libraries for the 21st century, where “immense amounts of knowledge, information and culture can be accessed almost instantaneously”.”

“The value of libraries has been questioned against the backdrop of increasing digital information and technology. “But it is the digital age that has helped libraries to deepen their engagement with local communities, forging out new ways to support people in the way they need. “People are still borrowing books, but more people are using their library to access digital information, as a space to learn and to take part in community events and as a local hub to access services”

  • Programme for Government – Welsh Government. “Work with communities to protect local facilities that bring people together, including pubs, libraries, museums, arts centres and leisure centres.”
  • Realising Ambition & Opportunity – One Year On – SLIC. “Public libraries are demonstrating tremendous strength and resilience in a digital information age, proving they have a key part to play in Scotland’s economic, political, social and cultural life. That was the message at yesterday’s event to mark one year since the launch of Scotland’s first public library strategy.” … see also Future of libraries defended at launch of new national strategy – Courier.
  • Realising Ambition & Opportunity – Celebrating One Year of Achievements from SLIC on Vimeo.
  • Twiddlemuffs: a win-win for Olton Library – Libraries Taskforce / Solihull. “Twiddlemuffs are a knitted hand muff with interesting bits and bobs attached inside and out. They have been designed and developed to provide simple stimulation for active hands, while promoting increased flexibility and brain stimulation.  Many patients with dementia have found the Twiddlemuff reassuring and comforting.” … “30 Twiddlemuffs have also been sent to a local nursery. A mother visiting the library was given one for her autistic child to use when stressed. When he used it at nursery, it was seen by nursery staff. They thought they were such a good idea they requested them for all of the children in the group.”

International news

  • Eire – Librarians to consider industrial action over staffless hours – Independent. Impact will be balloting members.
  • Global – International Library Innovators – American Libraries. “ALA Presidential Citations awarded to institutions in Canada, China, Singapore, and Switzerland” … “The National Library Board (NLB) of Singapore partnered with Singapore Polytechnic to employ design thinking methodology to develop a public library in an unusual retail setting. To understand library users’ experiences and changing habits in the use of media and social spaces, they engaged them in the design process and used the insights to conceptualize the library.” … “The Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) partnered with the long-running CHLY 101.7 FM radio show Changes: The Show on Sustainability to create Librarians on the Radio, a show devoted to promoting library services to the wider Vancouver Island community. The show highlights librarians’ passions and interests and connects both library users and nonusers to the larger library world. Library users learn about things that they did not know the library is doing. Nonusers learn that the library is not just about books.” … “The Inner Mongolia Library launched the Cloud Service Project in 2014 with two goals in mind: partner with local bookstores to strengthen demand-driven acquisition and increase the use of the library collection to promote reading. It has proven to be an innovative solution to a continued decline in public borrowing and user complaints about the unavailability of newly published books or high-demand items.”
  • USA – Librarians Get Their GAME On – American Libraries. “At the inaugural Gaming As Meaningful Education (GAME) conference, librarians met to explore how games can be used in education and programming to inspire creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. “
  • USA – Libraries in the age of inequality – Houston Chronicle. “Libraries are not about to become purely digital endeavors. The notion that e-books will completely replace physical books is tired.”

Local news

  • Cheshire East – Plea for Lego bricks to help build up kids’ club – So Cheshire. “Macclesfield Library is on the hunt for toy bricks in order to boost its popular children’s club. The Jordangate library in the town centre held a hugely successful Lego Club over the summer and now Macclesfield librarians are hoping to make it a regular thing – but they needs more bricks”
  • Dundee – Challenges for Dundee library after huge slump in visitors – Evening Telegraph. 33,000 fewer visitors in one year: reduction of around 15%, which was 30% up on previous year [Sounds to me like they’re simply not counting visitors accurately – Ed.]
  • Essex – #Harlow: Essex mobile librarian has receives a national award – Essex TV. “Tom Colloff, a supervisor with Essex Libraries, received the ‘Mobile Library Champion of the Year’ award for helping deliver a mobile service across hard to reach parts of the town.” … “I consider myself very fortunate to be a part of two such great teams at Harlow and in the Mobile Library Service and to have the support of so many wonderful customers around the county”
  • Lancashire – £128,000 facelift for Silverdale library – Lancashire Council. [This news article from 2012 has been deleted from the council website, possibly because the library is closing this week – Ed.]
  • Lancashire – Blackpool MP calls for public inquiry on Lancashire libraries closures – Blackpool Gazette. “Paul Maynard, the Conservative MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, has written to libraries minister Matt Hancock calling for a formal investigation into the decision to shut 29 libraries across the county including those in Thornton, Cleveleys, Lytham and Freckleton.”
  • Lancashire – Building consultation decision – Lancashire Council. Map showing where the children’s centres and libraries will be closed.
  • Lancashire – Final chapter for Lytham and Freckleton libraries – Blackpool Gazette. “In the meantime, bids to run Lytham and Ansdell libraries as community libraries, staffed by volunteers, are being considered and it is understood that it will be next month before the outcome of those is known.” … “Fylde MP Mark Menzies [Conservative] has asked Culture Secretary Karen Bradley to review the decision. “
  • Lancashire – Prepare to pay more for less from Lancashire County Council – 2BR. “Our top priority has to be looking after people with disabilities, the frail elderly and vulnerable children – which is why we’ve had a big row over the last few weeks over library closures and various other cuts in the budget. The key thing that the County Council has to find in the budget is money to look after the most vulnerable people in our society. And right now, I can’t guarantee that in three years’ time we will have sufficient resources to look after all of those people in the way in which they and their families would like them to be cared for.”
  • Lancashire – Silverdale library finally shelved this week as eleventh-hour hopes dashed – Westmorland Gazette. “Margaret Mackintosh, a leading light in the Facebook campaign to keep Silverdale library open, described the decision by Lancashire County Council as “depressing and disturbing” as well as “predetermined, cold and calculated”. Campaigners had hoped that the arrival of hyperfast, fibre optic broadband in Silverdale could lead to the Emesgate Lane building becoming the country’s first “one-gigabit library” – leading to a transformation of digital services and even a potentially crucial role during emergencies and disasters.”
  • Lancashire – These libraries in Preston and South Ribble close on FridayBlog Preston. “These buildings which have provided learning and information for people for decades are to close their doors on Friday for a final time.”
  • Lancashire – What next for two Hyndburn libraries to close at end of this week – Accrington Observer. “Oswaldtwistle and Clayton-le-Moors libraries will be mothballed on Friday, September 30 while Lancashire County Council (LCC) considers expressions of interest in transferring them to community hands. Wendy Sanderson, a member of the LAMP group which has expressed an interest in taking on Oswaldtwistle library, said the closure of the town’s 100-year-old library is upsetting. She said: “It is D-day for the libraries. Everybody is very upset – we don’t know whether they’re just going to board the library up and leave it derelict.”
  • North Yorkshire – Libraries are more than just books – Yorkshire Post / Letters. Wide range of services offered. Canadian writes that Canadian libraries doing very well and a library, once closed, will never reopen.
  • Oxfordshire – Night time access to books with out-of-hours library scheme in Summertown – Oxford Mail. “£25,000 ‘out-of-hours’ service was launched. Libraries in Summertown and Eynsham have been chosen for a trial scheme, that if successful, could be rolled out across the county’s 43 libraries.” … “”The people of Summertown love their library, we showed that by fighting to save it from the threat of closure five years ago. “People in the area have also been donating money for an upgrade ever since and we are about three-quarters of the way to our £80,000 target. He added: “Residents have been pushing for an extension to opening hours for a while, and this is great news.”
  • Swindon – We want your views and we listen to your ideas, says David Renard – Swindon Advertiser. “We have contacted as many groups and people who would be interested or affected by these potential changes as we can, and for some time – it was actually back in December when we started consultation on the parishes issue, and February for our proposals for libraries, so it’s been the best part of a year. “
  • Warrington – Annual library spend on books slashed over past three years – Warrington Guardian. “Figures revealed that the company’s budget for books was £231,496 for 2012 to 2013 but the amount fell year on year, with the 2016 to 2017 budget at £103,944. In 2013 LiveWire budgeted to spend £1.14 per resident on books but in the 2016 budget that number fell to just 50p per person.”
  • Warrington – Country’s oldest public lending library at risk – ITV. “Warrington was the birthplace of the public lending library, but now its own services are under threat.”.  TV interviews include with boss of Livewire, who claims decline in usage leads them no choice, and many users who say how much they value the libraries soon to be closed.

There’s more than one way to ban a book

Editorial

There’s more than one way to ban a book. Forcing people to pay for it, when they can ill afford to, is one. Not letting people know of its existence is another. Downplaying the importance of it, or saying it’s evil, a third. Getting rid of people who know about that book and will recommend it at just the right time is a fourth.  Oh, there are many ways. The UK counts itself fortunate that it does not censor like so much of the world and do not have the kneejerk “Harry Potter Is A Satanist” viewpoint of some in the USA but we need to be careful: censorship can be subtler than simply having a Censor. The link between closing librarians and losing librarians and Banned Books Week is rightly drawn out by a few articles in the UK – I think for the first time – in the post below. Worth a read. Like so many things which are banned.

Also, please note that it’s #FollowALibrary day this Friday. Get your social media tweets scheduled in now. Tell your friends. And your politicians.

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Party political responses to library cuts, volunteers, Open+ and authors

Editorial

It’s getting to the stage where you can almost tell how a MP is going to react to library cuts depending on which political party they belong to. If a Labour MP, they’re going to regret the cuts and blame it on central government austerity but, actually, not do much to stop it. If a Tory MP, the response will be that the cuts are a necessary part of national belt-tightening, now in its seventh year, and that different ways of running libraries (such as the ironically nineteenth century solutions of volunteers or having them run by parish councils) will result in as effective service at a lesser cost. Such is the response by two Warrington MPs in this post. A Locality report into volunteer libraries seems to support the Government view (unsurprisingly as they funded it), going into the practicalities needed for volunteers to replace paid staff.  However a close reading of the report itself makes it clear that, actually, it’s not very easy to do and that all but the most well-funded, numerous and determined community groups are going to find it a real challenge. That is also the lesson from several articles in this post all wanting extra volunteers to come forward for ex-council libraries who are finding they don’t have the numbers, or money, they need.

Other news includes a big mass letter by authors asking for intervention in public libraries from the new minister (who has been relatively invisible so far) and a great pro literacy speech by Michael Morpurgo. There’s also a very interesting article from the Republic of Ireland about the prospective dangers of remote controlled (Open+ and its clones) libraries: there has been very little such debate about it in England, presumably because councils see it as an easy way of squaring the circle of reduced budgets and increased hours, often glossing over the down sides.

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Award ceremonies galore, Lancashire, Yorkshire and the rest.

Editorial

Updating Public Libraries News can be a challenge when I work multiple evenings and that is the case at the moment.  However, I’m really pleased about the late shifts because this is because I am presenting medals and certificates to hundreds of children who have completed the Summer Reading Challenge. One thing I have learnt this year is don’t do eight award ceremonies in 48 hours, it kills the voice. Ah, but it’s so much fun though … and it’s great to see so many kids and parents celebrating reading. Anyway, here’s (most of) the news below.  I’ll fill in the rest when I have another spare evening, which may not be until the weekend now.

The cuts to Lancashire continue to make big news and the ongoing cuts throughout Yorkshire has led to some big reports, and investigative journalism, by the Yorkshire Post. The deep cuts to Warrington (along with the now standard overly glossy statements by LiveWire) are still being reported as are new changes to Wigan (where the newspaper reports the budget could be more than halved).

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14 new or upgraded libraries so far this year, with the latest opening in Slough

Editorial

Good to see a new library opening in Slough, although it’s somewhat offset by cuts in Gwynedd but, look, I get tired of concentrating on the bad news so, please forgive me, while I give you a list of new or refurbished libraries this year (see this page for previous years):

  1. Blaenau Gwent Ebbw Vale Library refurbished. (June 2016)
  2. Caerphilly £48k refurbishment for Ystrad Mynach Library. (September 2016)
  3. Camden New (replacement) library, combined with Cockpit Arts, as part of housing development.
  4. Cheshire East Crewe Library moves into co-location with leisure centre.
  5. Enfield £4.2m “transformation” of Edmonton Green Library planned: with added IT Centre, study spaces, local history and museum. (Library closed for one year from September 2016).
  6. Flintshire New co-located library opens at Deeside Leisure Centre: replacing Hawarden, Mancot and Queensferry which will close this month.(Feb 2016)
  7. HaringeyMarcus Garvey Library reopens after £3 upgrade (July 2016)
  8. Manchester – Arcadia Library and Leisure Centre opens : replaces Levenshulme Cromwell Grove Library. (Feburary 2016). Chorlton Library to be refurbished (February 2016).
  9. Oxfordshire Bicester to move into new £6.6m co-location on 11 April. Library to be “larger and have better facilities”.
  10. Pembrokeshire £3.4m new library/gallery/café in Haverfordwest.
  11. Slough £22m “The Curve” library and cultural centre opened.
  12. Southampton Woolston Library reopens in new building as part of property deal. (8)
  13. Southend Kent Elms Library to be refurbished: new entrance and meeting room. (9)
  14. Warwickshire – Southam Library opens (part of £12.4m development project) (January 2016) Reopening via refurbishment.  Alcester moved into co-located Globe House.

Yes, a few of these are replacing stand-alone libraries, sometimes more than one, but it’s still good to get to see some genuine investment going on. There’s life in the library yet. Let’s make sure it stays that way as much as possible.

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The library news since 8th September

Editorial

It’s looking to be a good year for the Summer Reading Challenge from reports I hear: I’m aware of more than one authority which has had a record number of starters. I look forward to hearing the final numbers from the Reading Agency.  In other, less upbeat news, the deep cuts to Lancashire libraries dominates the local news, with one (Conservative) MP even  asking for the ending the (Labour) council.

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A rallying cry against library volunteers

Editorial

Dawn Finch has upped the pressure again, after an excellent fact-finding interview with a volunteer a couple of days ago, with a “rallying cry” for those who know library volunteers are “exploitative and unsustainable”. Have a read of her original article, if you have not already done so, then perhaps her words in the BookSeller.

In other news, Lancashire has chosen World Literacy Day to rubber stamp the closure of large parts of its library service. They probably couldn’t read the calendar properly in order to appreciate the irony of this. Perhaps they need to visit libraries more to help them out. Oh, too late.

Finally, Warrington LiveWire – who, you will remember tried to push through several closures under the pretence it was modernising and expanding its service – woke up to a big front page with pictures of the libraries in question and the headline saying they are under threat. Should have been honest and upfront to begin with, guys. You’re opening yourself up to legal challenge if not just a ton of reputational damage. Mind you,  I understand some people who have been filling in the consultation get a reply saying thank you for enquiring about swimming lessons so perhaps it’s just being seen as them as a cunning cross-promotional drive for their pools.

“I know that for many this makes grim reading, but it is an important truth that many are trying to ignore. I have a thick skin and can take the flak and it’s worth it to get the truth heard. The post has been very well received and in the last 48 hours it has been read almost 2,000 times. Since I posted it on Monday afternoon I have had many messages from volunteers in both libraries and museums who all say that their situation is almost exactly this, but that they too are afraid to speak out for fear of alienating their every-diminishing pool of volunteers. They also say that they “don’t want to upset” the local authority as it will “only make things worse”. I want this to be a rallying cry, and a kick up the pants for anyone who thinks that handing everything over to volunteers is anything other than exploitative and unsustainable.” Dawn Finch, President, CILIP via email

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There’s consultations and then there’s …

Editorial

Consultations are oftentimes done well. They have the information, it is presented clearly, no decision has been made by the council beforehand and real options are given. Sufficient copies of the consultation are produced in paper form, and online, and it is well-publicised with a long enough period to allow everyone with an interest to, well, actually be consulted. Then, on the other hand, we have councils – and, of course, others – who appear to think that the best way to consult is to put their proposals in the hardest to understand terms possible, with the rosiest picture of the end result given, and, presumably, a firm hope that everyone will be fooled. Sometimes it is also abundantly clear that minds have been made up beforehand. These organisations, it can appear to the disinterested observer, make a travesty of the consultation protest and are doing it only to pay lip service to their legal obligations.

For an example of a consultation done badly, you need look no further than LiveWire in Warrington who have made their consultation so flowery that one needs a deep critical analysis to actually understand what is being proposed. The sad fact is that, of course, in the end, no-one is fooled by these exercises in public relations. If they’re fooled at the time then they’re jolly well not fooled when the library they’ve gone to for years suddenly has a padlock on it. For instance, compare the LiveWire papers with the newspaper report which makes it clear at least five branches are under threat (I actually think it’s seven, by the way: five possibly to volunteers and two are being turned just into book drops). Indeed, it only causes more anger amongst those who care for the service and make it harder for them to have a reasonable dialogue which, considering LiveWire want to pass five libraries to volunteers, is not a sensible thing for them to have done. These pseudo-consultations are almost anti-public relations.  They make everyone dislike and distrust whoever writes them.

So, if you’re looking to cut your library service soon, please tell the public that. Make sure people understand why you’re doing it and what the real options are, not just the ones you fancy. Use clear language. Give the public the respect they deserve (they pay your wages after all) and, who knows, something good may come of it.  They may actually come up with ideas that can help or make such a fuss that you realise how important that library is to the local people. Because, you do want to know that, don’t you?  You don’t want to be thought to be deceiving them or discounting them, do you? Do you?

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Staffordshire, Sunderland, Bedford and … Ping Pong

Editorial

Staffordshire have started passing several libraries to volunteers while Sunderland have just started a consultation on cutting the library budget. At the other end of the consulting process, Bedford has announced that all libraries will stay open but, perhaps worryingly, have not said what shape that form will take. Councils can mean all sorts of things by “no libraries will close” including the traditional pre-2010 meaning of no change and more recent meanings like retired people staffing them in their spare time or the installation of  remote-control technology. Meanwhile, in Wales, Ystrad Mynach (l’ve always loved that name) Library is having a refurb, Malta is experiencing a lending surge and some USA libraries have installed table tennis tables.

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Lancashire cuts fallout, South Glos goes Open+ plus catalogue concerns

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