That's a copy of the Handmaid's Tale in her hand.

Libraries Week 2017

Editorial

It’s good to see Libraries Week in full swing, with quite a few of the articles in today’s post linked to it in some way. I’m sorry to see that it’s not made the national press much more than BookSeller (although it’s a good article apart from chap called Ian Anstice spouting off) but great that so many libraries are taking part. The Week, which is descended in a direct line from Alan Gibbon’s Save Our Libraries Day (this was the PLN coverage of the first day in February 2011 which gained a lot of national coverage, it riding a wave of protest at the time) is now handled largely by CILIP. Having the Fun Palaces events the weekend before has already helped somewhat and the tone of it is defiantly positive, with the main messages being how well attended libraries are. And I almost said “still” are.  And that’s the thing. There’s so much bad news about libraries, not least on this very webpage, that one can get in an entirely negative mood. But that’s not right. There are brilliant libraries out there. The aim of this Week is to boost them and to make sure that stays the same, everywhere. One Week is not enough for that. But it’s a good start.

Being I was off last week (France was nice by the way) and then I got a virus (not so nice) this post represents only up from now to last Friday evening. I aim to catch up a bit more by the next post. Adieu for now.

Changes

National news

  • BBC Weather Watchers – Libraries Week. “Working with libraries and Libraries Week, BBC encourages people to learn more about storms and how we model the weather, and to do so in their local libraries where they can get help getting online and getting digital. To help you get started, you can find:”
  • “File Under Female” – A Celebration of Archived Women’s Art – CILIP. “By collaborating with WAL, Derbyshire Library Service and Libraries Week the project seeks to innovate the level of engagement and breadth of the audience reached through a creative partnership between artists and libraries.”
  • Fun Palaces – Society of Chief Librarians [Article appears to be untitled – title taken from webpage address – Ed.]. “if you’re feeling the force, head to Bridgwater Library where Jedi masters are on hand to train your young Obi Wan or Leia to navigate a laser maze and learn some Jedi moves. If you want to get your Halloween preparations underway early then head to Clayport Library’s ceramic workshop to make a ghoulish 3D gargoyle inspired by the stonework at Durham Cathedral. Or for a more sensual experience, head to Braintree Library’s exploration of the five senses.”
  • ‘Labour will bring back Library Standards’ – BookSeller. “In the Labour Party, we understand the value of libraries and the challenges they currently face. We would put an end to the local government cuts that have led to such widespread library closures, and will reintroduce library standards, which were done away with by the Tory-led Coalition, so that Government can guide and assess local authorities in providing the best possible service. A Labour Government would modernise libraries to help improve digital access and literacy. This Libraries Week, we’re promoting the importance of our public libraries because we want them to be accessible to as many people as possible, all year round and into the future.” see also this news covered in Norwegian libraries blog [Google Translate needed] and Labour has slammed the Tories’ austerity agenda for the most unlikely of reasons – The Canary.
  • Libraries Week 2017 – Leon’s Library Blog. “Welcome to Libraries Week 2017. A celebration of how fantastic and vibrant libraries can be. This is not to ignore the continuing crisis in libraries but for this one week let’s celebrate how awesome libraries and especially library staff are”
  • Lloyds Banking Group supporting Get Online Week – Libraries Taskforce. “guest post written by Nahid Saif, Senior Manager Colleague and Customer Digital Capability in the Digital Inclusion team of Lloyds Banking Group” … “As part of its commitment to help local communities and Britain prosper, this week Lloyds Banking Group is the lead sponsor for Get Online Week, in partnership with Good Things Foundation. This annual campaign aims to help close the digital divide by supporting more people to get the most out of being online and increase their Basic Digital Skills.”
  • ‘The magic of libraries': Why we need them, by Joseph Coelho – Book Trust. “Author Joseph Coelho mounts a passionate defence of libraries – and explains how they really help our communities.” … “My debut picture book, Luna Loves Library Day, has been inspired by my work in the dwindling number of libraries across the UK: their magic has been beautifully brought to life in the book by Fiona Lumbers’ gorgeous illustrations. In the book, Luna loves library day because every book she opens literally changes her surroundings. When Luna opens Maurice Mandible’s Bug Book, an insect-laden jungle appears among the shelves. The Book of Unexplained Mysteries makes creatures pop up between the book covers. But Luna also loves library day because it is the day that she gets to spend with her father, reading together.”
  • Over 1,000 venues participate in first Libraries Week – BookSeller. “Over 1,000 libraries are running events for National Libraries Week, beginning today (9th October), in a bid to “celebrate the transformation of libraries across the UK”. The inaugural Libraries Week has run will see a “huge” variety of creative activities on offer, including activities introducing people to coding, 3D printing and video making, as well as reading-based activities. The campaign is led by CILIP, the library and information association, and supported by libraries and partners across the UK. Nick Poole, CILIP chief executive said: “All over the UK, libraries are seeing a renaissance, transforming their services to meet the needs of a new digital generation. With 250 million visits a year and 15-24 year olds more likely to use their local library than any other age group, Libraries Week is a chance to celebrate the innovative work going on across all types of library.” also see comments.
  • The Ruffian in the Stacks: a short history of library book defacing – CILIP. Mystery student returns a copy of “The Rainbow” after adding a picture of Bungo et al on to the cover. “Not content with simply doctoring the books, Orton and Halliwell described how they would linger amongst the shelves, to “watch people’s reactions when they pulled out a title with a defaced cover.” In the case of the Rainbow incident we can’t say if the culprit was watching when their own creation was discovered, or whether there are other similar works out there waiting to be discovered; but with thousands of students as possible suspects, not to mention staff, unless the modern-day Orton and Halliwell strike again it is unlikely the mystery will ever be solved.”
  • Winners announced for London-wide short story competition – Voice. “Spread the Word announces the winners of a London-wide short story competition with local libraries, in conjunction with Libraries Week (Oct 9-15)” … “nineteen winners of the City of Stories writing competition, launched by Spread to Word and the Association of London Chief Librarians, to discover hidden talent in London libraries.”

An online bookclub from Axiell
International news

That's a copy of the Handmaid's Tale in her hand.

That’s a copy of the Handmaid’s Tale in her hand.

Local news by authority

  • Barnet – Why Are Public Libraries Closing? – Road to Somewhere Else. “The Tory-controlled London Borough of Barnet appears to be the model testing-ground for a future government-planned country-wide closure of libraries as part of a broader programme of austerity-driven measures. Cuts to library services in Barnet are severe and their impacts will come down hardest on children.”
  • Bath and North East Somerset – Bath Central Library move would ‘cheat future generations’ – Bath Chronicle / Letters. “Do we need to cheat the future generations by minimising this superb facility within a World Heritage City? In addition to the lack of key space and facilities, the proposed move would mean access would be severely disrupted by the bus gates.”
  • Bath and North East Somerset – Community libraries planned as part of new Council investment approach – Bath Echo. “The proposals aim to build on successful community library projects in the B&NES area, where volunteers run their own services which are tailored to their community’s needs.  Local independent libraries already exist in Chew Stoke, Larkhall and  Combe Hay. The plans form part of an ‘invest to save’ project by the Council,  with a proposed upfront investment of £275,000 to bring better more community-focused libraries to many areas that currently have difficulty accessing library services. As part of these plans, the Council will also be looking to work with local communities and parish councils to move existing branch libraries onto a community-led model.”
  • Birmingham – Unique new café set to open in bid to save Sutton Coldfield Library – Birmingham Mail. “FOLIO Sutton Coldfield is just one step away from securing £48,000 from Birmingham City Council’s Local Innovation Fund (LIF), which will be used to set up the new venture and will feature a soft-play area, an eatery serving cakes, snacks and drinks in the first floor library paying rent to the city council and share the financial burden placed on ‘the city’s most expensive library’”
  • Brighton and Hove – Brighton library opens for final time today before move – Brighton and Hove News. ” “Hollingbury Library will operate in its current building for the last time on Saturday 7 October, ahead of a move to two new locations in the area. “The library will reopen at the Old Boat Corner Community Centre in Hollingbury on (Tuesday) 14 November, with an increase in opening hours from the current three days a week to seven days a week. “A library service will also be available at Hollingbury and Patcham Children’s Centre at Carden Primary School in the new year, with a particular emphasis on books and services for young children and families in the area.”
  • Cambridgeshire – Libraries ‘should not be built because they are outdated’– Cambridge News. “Four new libraries are planned for Cambridgeshire, but one councillor says the plans are ‘outdated'” … “As part of draft budget proposals, Cambridgeshire County Council is considering putting £230,000 back into the library service book fund to ensure the stock remains relevant and up to date.”
  • Cambridgeshire – Robotics are coming to Ely Library – Ely Standard. “Activities include DNA bracelets in Wisbech Library and the robotics and coding in Ely. Other Cambridgeshire libraries will join the fun with events including storytime and rhyme time sessions, book clubs, treasure hunts, e-services drop in sessions, author talks and many more.”
  • Derby / Nottingham  – Library scheme is latest chapter in joining up of Nottingham and Derby services – Nottingham Post. “Library card holders in Nottingham can now access services in Derby’s libraries and vice versa” … “The next chapter in a major plan to join Nottingham and Derby closer together will see the two cities’ library services bound together. From this month, library card holders in Nottingham can now access services in Derby’s libraries and vice versa. Stock borrowed fro one city can be returned at another and people can access other services including e-resources and computers. This collaborative approach between Derby City Council and Nottingham City Council is aimed at people who travel between the cities – especially beneficial for those who work in one city and live in another”.
  • Devon – Award-winning authors named as first official Libraries Unlimited Patrons – Libraries Unlimited. “As libraries across the country celebrate National Libraries Week 2017 from 9th – 14th October, critically acclaimed authors, Michael Morpurgo and Stella Duffy, have been named as the first Patrons Libraries Unlimited.”
  • Durham – Temporary library to open as bulldozers move in on existing building – Hartlepool Mail. “Campaigners are celebrating after a successful petition to secure a temporary library in Peterlee. Town councillor Louise Fenwick launched a petition which quickly secured more than 500 signatures in support of a temporary facility. The existing library will close in December to allow for the demolition of the former college site by Tesco. A new library at Peterlee Leisure Centre is not due to open until autumn 2018, and campaigners were concerned that the town could have been without services for nine months.”
  • East Riding of Yorkshire – Godber works coming to libraries – Press. “Work by John Godber will tour libraries in the East Riding at the end of this month, as part of the Out of this Word programme. Godber has worked alongside a trio of emerging playwrights from The Writing Squad to re-imagine East Riding histories. The piece is entitled HERE and NOW and will see trainee librarians battling with books, boilers and bad parking.”
  • Essex – Self-help touchscreen computers installed in libraries to replace Halstead’s closed Citizens Advice office – Halstead Gazette. “The computer booths aim to give residents who cannot travel to the Braintree or Witham offices the option to get advice at the touch of a button. The kiosks are in Earls Colne, Halstead and Sible Hedingham libraries and are available to use whenever the libraries are open. They will help people find answers to common issues including debt, welfare benefits, housing, employment, plus family and relationship help.”
  • Flintshire – Theatr Clwyd’s future in doubt as council faces £11m budget black hole – Daily Post. “Cuts could also be made to the library service, which needs more than £400,000 trimming from its budget” … “Opposition member Cllr Janet Axworthy said: “There are difficult decisions to be made and there are big challenges ahead. “I do have concerns about libraries and Theatr Clwyd , we are all very concerned about the tough decisions we will have to make because it will an impact on the entire Flintshire community. Council tax payers, business rates payers and everyone in Flintshire expect us to be even handed in this process.””
  • Gloucestershire – Alan Bennett urges public funding of ‘indispensable’ libraries – Times and Star. “Leeds-born Bennett was speaking at the presentation of the inaugural David Vaisey Prize for libraries in Gloucestershire. “Libraries, like hospitals, like public transport, should come out of the rates. They are, or should be, a community service,” he said at the Cheltenham Literature Festival on Sunday.” … “The winning library was Bream Community Library in the Forest of Dean and volunteer James Robertson, 17, collected the £5,000 prize. “To win this award is massive,” said the teenager, who started volunteering at the library last year” … “The award was launched in honour of David Vaisey CBE, who dedicated his life to libraries, becoming head of the Bodleian Library at Oxford University and Keeper of the Archives there.” see also Alan Bennett: libraries are so vital that they should be publicly funded – I and Alan Bennett urges public funding of ‘indispensable’ libraries – AOL.
  • Greenwich – Elthamread Launch Event – Eltham Read. “Author Stella Duffy and Eltham MP Clive Efford jointly launched the 2017 Elthamread on 2 October. The launch, at Eltham Library, attracted a large crowd of enthusiasts. Clive Efford read the opening paragraphs of this year’s chosen Elthamread book London Lies Beneath and the book’s author, Stella Duffy, read the succeeding section. Clive revealed that he had been brought up in Walworth, where the book’s story is set, and was briefly a barrow boy in the East Lane market there. Stella, who was born in Woolwich, mesmerised the audience with her exhilarating reading from the book.”
  • Hampshire – Record number up to reading challenge – Farnham Herald. “A record 26,638 children have taken part in this year’s Summer Reading Challenge – up 1,200 on last year’s event. This year’s participants, aged four to 11, were tasked with reading six books borrowed from Hampshire libraries over a two-month period from mid-July to mid-September.”
  • Lancashire – Earby Library move to be considered – Lancashire Telegraph. “The Lancashire County Council cabinet will consider a report on Thursday about bringing it back into use after its closure by the previous Labour administration. Officers have recommended that the existing large building is in poor condition and not well-suited to a modern library service.”
  • Lancashire – Library group’s vow in revival campaign – Blackpool Gazette. “The Friends of Lytham Institute and Library are to launch a new petition calling for the library to be reinstated – more than 12 months after it closed its doors as part of a wave of economy cuts across the county by Lancashire County Council’s previous Labour administration.”
  • Manchester – Public Libraries: As Good Today As They Have Ever Been – Mancunian. “As an avid reader and visitor to many libraries in Greater Manchester (and further afield), there is one thing you cannot accuse libraries of not doing. Reinvention. Moving with the times.”
  • Norfolk – How many book loans were made at Norfolk libraries last year – and how many visits? – Eastern Daily Press. “Kicking off on Monday, and running until Saturday, the theme of the week is discovery – with a push to show off all that the country’s libraries, including the 47 in Norfolk, have to offer. From last September until now, there were 3.3m visits to Norfolk libraries, 4.5m books borrowed and 33,000 new members.”
  • North Yorkshire – Halloween storytime at Skipton Library – Craven Herald. “Library will be staging a Halloween special as part of next week’s family learning festival. Halloween storytime at the High Street library will take place on Thursday (October 27) between 2pm and 2.45pm. The festival, which will run in several North Yorkshire libraries, is being coordinated by national charity the Campaign for Learning as part of its aim to build a culture of learning everywhere.”
  • North Yorkshire – Libraries run family learning events – Press. “libraries are running family friendly activities from October 14 to 29, as part of the Family Learning Festival. The festival is coordinated by national charity the Campaign for Learning as part of its aim to build learning everywhere.”
  • Pembrokeshire – What’s On at Tenby Library – Pembroke Today. “It’s another busy month in Tenby Library, for both adults and children. Several events are linked to National Libraries Week, which is officially Monday to Saturday, October 9 to 14, but which starts early in Tenby Library with a visit from popular local author Judith Barrow, who will signing copies of her new book in the foyer tomorrow (Saturday).”
  • Somerset – Lots to shout about in Porlock library – Free Press. Volunteer library events for Libraries Week.
  • South Gloucestershire – New chapter for Chipping Sodbury as library relaunches with volunteer-run service – Gazette. “With South Gloucestershire Council facing a budget squeeze, the facility was earmarked for closure last year. But thanks to the efforts of local campaigners, the facility is staying open, and will be run by members of the community. A call for volunteers resulted in more than 40 people coming forward to help and, with training support from Sodbury Town Council, they are now ready to take over the staffing duties.”
  • St Helens – Events across town to mark national libraries week – St Helens Star. “Whether it’s finding out about the history of a particular area of the borough through the Archives on Tour event, or taking children along to the popular Read and Rhyme sessions – which introduce children to the wonders of books, rhymes, music and other fun activities”
  • Suffolk – Suffolk libraries alive with activity for first Fun Palace weekend – Ipswich Star. “Libraries across Suffolk took part for the first time, with zumba, Spanish lessons, Tapas, knitting, golf, kurling, computer coding, drumming and board games among the eclectic offering for Suffolk’s first year of the event”
  • Swansea – Refurbishment of Townhill Library – Sell2Wales.
  • Trafford – Love Your Library This Month – Metro. “Kicking off a month which is packed with activities, is the fourth annual Fun Palaces day on Saturday, October 7. Across the borough, libraries will be holding a whole day of fantastic free events which celebrate the arts, science and culture. Have a go at Morris dancing, herbal teabag-making, straw tower-building and much, much more. “
  • West Berkshire – Theale Library is reopening after campaigners fought to save it – Get Reading. Holly Webb reopens Theale Library after successful library campaign.
  • Wiltshire – Mobile library faces cuts – Gqzette and Herald. “Mobile library services in North and South Wiltshire are being revised as part of its two year cycle of reviews and changes will take place from February 2018. Under the proposed revised timetable there are no plans to change visits to some rural communities including Seend, Savernake and Lockeridge”
  • Worcestershire – Malvern Library awards winners of children’s reading challenge – Malvern Gazette. “Over 200 children successfully completed the challenge, which this year had the theme Animal Agents, collecting stickers, bookmarks and wristbands along the way. “

Wishing you all a few good days

Editorial

I’m off to France for a week so there won’t be a new post for a few days and Twitter is likely to be quieter too.  Here’s hoping for a quiet week full of good news. Wishing you a good few days.

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Open to all

Editorial

Public libraries always have appealed to a very broad section of the public and sometimes for diametrically opposed reasons. The quiet studier and the rhymetiming toddler could not be further apart. Throw in a few senior citizens and a group of teenagers and it’s amazing how libraries remain civilized., It’s one of the strengths and one of the weaknesses of libraries that they are jacks of all trades. One of the groups served can be especially challenging – those on the fringes of society, of which the homeless are an evident (and seemingly increasing) part. I was delighted to see the work in New Zealand on services for the homeless but it is not going to please everyone. Many members of the public, sometimes library staff, do not wish to be close to those whose hygiene or behaviour does not meet accepted standards. This has come to a head in New Zealand (again – it’s all related) with a questioning over if libraries should put on special services for the homeless.

To me, I think this is a bit like the loud/quiet conflict where the pendulum swung from quiet to loud and is now going back a bit to accommodate both.  In the same way that libraries should be able to balance out the needs of loud and quiet activities, they should also be able to cope with homeless/homed as well. Most do so, frankly, without really thinking about it. A quiet word there, a bit of reassurance, is often enough. We should be proud of the work libraries do for those on the edges of society. Ideally, of course, we should also be funded for it. And actively welcoming in people who others may cross the street to avoid is something that is never going to be easy. But being welcome to all is a sign of a library and, thinking about it, civilization itself.

Congratulations to Diana Edmonds, chief librarian for the multitude of GLL library concerns, who was given the title of “National Libraries Director” last week. Not many of those knocking around. This is a further sign, if any is needed, of the ambition of this non-profit – they were one of the chief beneficiaries of the tending out of leisures services a decade or two ago and they’re aiming for something similar in the libraries sector.

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Better? A look at GLL

Editorial

I had the opportunity to see a couple of GLL libraries (run under the public name of “Better”) at close quarters after agreeing to do a (paid – full disclosure here) talk for managers there on the current UK public libraries situation. GLL started off in Greenwich as a leisure company and has since expanded throughout the county, holding interests in all part of the UK. It has also started expanding in the library sector, with it becoming soon enough (in terms of branches and number of authorities anyway) the largest public library provider in the country. By the end of the year, it is expected to be running the library services of Greenwich, Wandsworth, Lincolnshire, Dudley and Bromley, as well as 12 prison libraries and a couple of other concerns, easily eclipsing other single-authority library trusts or indeed the beleaguered Carillion. GLL is also behind an somewhat controversial move towards installing “gymbraries” in Lambeth.

I’ve seen a fair bit for and against GLL so it was good to physically visit in Woolwich and Greenwich. I was there for a few hours and can confirm the libraries were busy, well-maintained, with good book-stock (in multiple languages, face-on displays plus magazines) and numerous PCs/good wifi. The library staff I talked to, frontline as well as managers, including professionally qualified librarians, seemed happy, some very much so. Interestingly, also, they’re not tied to the local government pay settlement and so have suffered less than council staff by pay freezes/below-inflation increases. The two libraries were co-located (one with council services, the other in a leisure centre) but with well-used at-the-front libraries. They recognise the need for regular (daily, not just weekly) children events and other things such as reading groups and have (a big tick in my book) quiet sections/rooms for the multitude with nowhere else to study.

On the other hand, I was surprised to see “no food or drink” posters in one and also a requirement for ID before joining (we’ve done away with this with no ill effect in my authority years ago), although this is hardly unusual nationally. Both libraries had book-sorting machines – the first I’ve seen – in little glass secure rooms (apparently, fingers can get mashed otherwise) which looked great fun to me but I did not see either working other than the one I put through just to see what happened, and indeed one was out of order due to some vandalism on the roof above. There was some tatty furniture in one branch, noted with much annoyance by the librarian I was with (who I suspect is going to get it replaced pronto), but again, this is hardly unusual in libraries and generally what I saw was certainly no worse than average, and a considerable improvement on many I have seen.

So why is this important to those who don’t work for GLL? Well, they’re growing fast, being expansionist and with regional support structures for leisure (buildings etc) that mean they’re placed to bid anywhere in the UK. I suspect they’re the main competition to other trusts (library or leisure) competing for contracts. I also suspect this is not good news if you work in some parts of the library service as they’re going to go with economies of scale where they think it would work (I certainly would in their position) but, when we’re all seeing deep cuts repeatedly up and down the country, well, there’s worse out there. Better the devil you don’t know, perhaps. From what I saw, they were positive (notably so – no defeatism here) and boasted of good increases to usage and visits. While not alone in the latter, it’s good to see and it’s been long-term in at least the two original boroughs (50% and 100% increases were noted). Obviously, the trust is less directly democratic than council libraries but on the other hand, when told by a council to cut, this is an organisation that will be able to question it rather than have to simply do it.

OK, that’s a general view and I am sure some things are bad (e.g. how gymbraries are being handled) and I missed much. They’re not angels (because who can afford to be, really, in 2017 UK) but I did not see any Satan-worship either, just busy libraries. It was just a day there, but, you know you can walk into a library and instantly sense if it is doing well or OK? Well, the two I visited were fine. And that’s something impossible to hide. And better than some.

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Massive boost to library funding in Sweden, co-locations rule in UK

Editorial

Quite a few changes reported this post, with co-locations absolutely being the order of the day. That cut in Hampshire is going to be big news when it hits the public consciousness next year. The anger is continuing over the “move it further away and halve its size” plan for Bath Central and. over in Plymouth, the council is welcoming the closure of five libraries as a move into the 21st Century. That may be depressing but Lancashire is showing the opposite move with £850k being spent in order to reopen libraries closed under the previous administration. Also, we have a volunteer library in trouble as the academy where it is house is suggesting they move out, with nowhere to go to. Internationally, the picture is pretty much reversed with a massive boost in spending announced for the already well-funded (to British eyes) Swedish system. There’s also a brilliant article on how great Australian libraries are.

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If you want a job doing …

Editorial

So I had a very interesting Sunday and Monday, the first day walking two Australian library chiefs around Storyhouse in Chester and the second attending the Libraries Global Excellence Tour conference in London. There were a lot of learning points from talking to experts in this country, Australia and the USA. The big ones for me were how libraries were seen by the Aussies as sometimes putting artificial barriers in front of their users. Seriously, the Australians looked at us pityingly for charging fines for adults. And then one questioned why libraries demand online renewals of items, wondering aloud if it was for our stats rather than for helping users. Questions like that as well as one about coping with the eventual disappearance of cards in wallets fair sent heads spinning. And don’t get me started on floating stock, seemingly widely accepted in the antipodes (and in Peterborough by the way, it turns out) but avoided most other places.

There was also a vision of another world – where Australian state libraries hold budgets and co-ordinate training and development and where libraries had to cope with only the one crisis (that of technology) rather the two (austerity). Oh and, by the way, their pay is something like twice ours, even taking the varying exchange rates and costs of living into account. Mind you, spiders.

But there’s no point dreaming for something different than what we have. As a friend far more knowledgeable than I (hi Mick) pointed out, the One Card achievement of South Australia pales a bit when one considers its population is only that of Kent and there’s a One Card situation in 19 Scottish authorities and in Manchester, as well as (I think?) Wales. These were achieved without the UK government doing anything and that is I think the brutal truth. If libraries need to achieve wonders, then that will nee to bee achieved by themselves. Collaboration for mutual benefit is the key here. Heck, it may even save money. Relying on Whitehall has not been a viable library strategy since around 1964 and wishing it was not so will not change matters.

Or move to Australia. Just, you know, big sharks too.

Changes

Ideas

  • Cinegi£100 cinema film hire.
  • Esports – Free computer games increase library use in kids [well, yes, they would wouldn’t they? – Ed.]

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PMLG

Sauna yet so far? Lessons from Finnish libraries

Editorial

This copy of PLN is coming out a day early as I am attending a conference on Monday so there’s not as much news as normal. The article that stands out for me is the one on Finnish libraries, which show them to be booming in both people and new ideas, with one even opening soon with a sauna. The legal protection in libraries under the law there is the explanation for this success, with it being noted that there has to be a minimum number of qualified librarians per library, unlike in this country where there is effectively no minimums of any sort, due to lack of government intervention and the lack of any library standards in England.

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Austerity + Localism =

Editorial

I was talking to someone else concerned about public libraries the other day. She asked (a) what could be done to prevent major cuts to libraries and (b) how come other countries are not undergoing the crises of the UK. My answer to the first was, simply, government intervention. One decision to intervene by a minister due a council reducing the budget too much would do it. After all, library budgets are tiny compared to other services the council provides and are only really worth attacking, given the public support for them, if it’s clear there’s going to no statutory response. The reason the government does not intervene is likewise simple: austerity is their decision in the first place (albeit one shared by many) and secondly localism – allowing the local councils to decide where to cut – is part of the unspoken deal that stops councils rebelling more than they are.

The answer to why other countries are not undergoing the UK crisis is closely allied to what I have already said. An organisation can cope with one major crisis at a time but UK libraries are coping with two: massive technological change and deep budget cuts. Places like Canada, Australia and New Zealand are faced with one but (largely) not the other, and generally have far superior library usage because of it.

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Volunteer library report plus “libraries as the mind of the city”

Editorial

Some new research has come out form the DDCMS / Task Force on volunteer libraries. This is much needed as it has been apparent for a while this is a part of the sector with an ever increasing impact but very little research. The report itself is notable for several inconvenient truths for both sides in the debate. For those who believe volunteers are a fine alternative to paid staff – and there are such people – then there are many problems listed, not least of which in the long term. For those who refuse to accept that volunteer libraries can be anywhere near as good as paid staff, there’s some evidence to the contrary here. The truth of course, as in so many things, lies between the extremes. There are some brilliant volunteer libraries and there are some dire ones. Some will be continue doing well in the long term, some will not. Such a patchwork should not be acceptable for an important public service in a wealthy country but that is what we have. Austerity and localism see to that. More research (and this was a pretty self-selecting sample) and evidence is needed, and quickly, to inform the debate.

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Let CILIP know any interesting library facts you may have via @CILIPinfo or by emailing  mark.taylor@cilip.org.uk.

In praise of children’s libraries

Editorial

OK, I’m biased. I order children’s stock as part of my job and I love doing class visits and school assemblies, with the Summer Reading Challenge aware ceremonies being a particular joy. But it’s been noticeable for some time how excellent the options are for chilldrens’ stock are, with serious superstars like Rowling and Walliams, leading the charge to keep kids interested. So it’s great to see a 16% increase in book sales to kids.

But this leads to the observation of a failing in public libraries, at least in many UK examples. One of the things widely know about that libraries need to work out is how to cope with the decline in adult book stock.  However, one of the things I rarely see mentioned is the need to rebalance space so there’s more for children. Walk into any decent library and it’s likely it is the “junior library” that’s packed, if anywhere is, often for rhymetimes. Yet that section is often given far less proportional space than anywhere else. Add in the need for housing prams and you sometimes get the odd situation of a packed children’s library and a quiet “adult section” taking up four or more times the space.  Yes, I know kids are smaller and aren’t in all the time but they normally bring a full-size parent along with them and, when it’s peak time for them, boy do you know it. Library planners need to give the amount of attention this key part of the business deserves. Why the section is often ignored is a bit of a mystery to me. Perhaps children are just not seen as “serious” enough in meetings where normally adults are of course the only ones present. But this needs to change. Library design is not child’s play, but perhaps it should be.

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