Northamptonshire’s deep cuts and the end of Voices for the Library

Editorial

Two things stand out for me in the last week and a bit (no, PLN is not going fortnightly – I had the flu). The first is that Northamptonshire is announcing big cuts to libraries. Now, this has all sorts of ramifications. The county was seen as a bit of a golden boy due to its alliance of libraries with health services and also its chief executive, Paul Blantern, was once chair of the Libraries Taskforce. Mr Blantern has resigned this month over the cuts forced on to the council, which amounted to more than £500m between 2010 and 2020. £500m. That figure shows that, in this age of austerity, no council safe from the depth of the cuts forced. It doesn’t matter what the arguments are or how efficient or imaginative your council: cuts of this magnitude are going to get you if yours is one of the councils that the funding formula decides it does not like. Alan Moore, a native of the county and writer of the Watchmen and V for Vendetta, has already shown what a false exonomy this is by threatening to take filming of his new show away from the area.

The second thing is the announcement that Voices for the Library is folding. Set up by a number of volunteer (back before that word raised concern amongst paid library staff) library supporters in 2010, the group aimed to publicise the good things about libraries and provide contacts for the media.  The deep cuts announced from 2010 onwards swiftly turned the group into something else as well: a protest against what was going on. I joined the group in 2011 as its interests (pro-library, publicity and, at that stage, campaigning) very much tied in with mine. I have since left the group as I have reduced by more blatant “campaigner” side but austerity, as Northamptonshire shows, is still very much alive and well. Voices will be missed.

Changes

Ideas

National news

  • A busy week for libraries: marking 20 years of public computers – Lorensbergs. “This week we’re not only celebrating Libraries Week but also marking the 20th Anniversary of the People’s Network. First conceived as a ground-breaking Government initiative in 1997, the People’s Network is a 40,000-strong resource of public access computers provided and supported in public libraries since early last decade.”
  • An Announcement and Final Blog Post from Voices for the Library – Voices for the Library. “Unfortunately, we ourselves are volunteers running an organisation in our spare time. We are unhappy to say that we can no longer undertake the work required to be a voice for public libraries. It is with great sorrow that we have decided that it’s time to close the doors on Voices for the Library. The irony of this is not lost on us. As libraries are increasingly forced onto local community groups to run them on a so-called voluntary basis (there is nothing “voluntary” about it), we are clear that there is only so much volunteers can do before reality hits and the service starts to fall apart at the seams. Volunteer run libraries are, in essence, a disaster waiting to happen for the people that rely on their local public library service (and it is theirs, not the councillors).”
  • Bennett praises public libraries as lifeline for kids – Morning Star. Alan Bennett “The author, who has previously likened library closures to “child abuse,” told the Cheltenham Literature Festival on Sunday: “Libraries, like hospitals, like public transport, should come out of the rates. They are, or should be, a community service.””
  • CILIP AGM 2017 – Leon’s Library Blog. Libraries Week, Ethics, Libraries Change Lives, honorary fellowships, “It was an excellent day and a chance to catch-up with colleagues old and new and the opportunity to network. I would certainly encourage all members to attend an AGM if they get the opportunity”
  • CILIP Board Elections 2017 – Leon’s Library Blog. “Cilip members have the opportunity to vote for three new Board members over the coming weeks, 2nd – 27th November. There are four people standing, including myself, and further details can be found on the Cilip website. The fact that there are more candidates standing than positions available is good for the democratic process and demonstrates the willingness of the nominees to work for the good of the profession. Dawn, Naomi and John have kindly agreed for their details to be listed below.”
  • Community Responses to Local Austerity – Experiences from the ‘Community Library’ – Jackson Law. Undergraduate dissertation including literature review and interviews with volunteer libraries. “community libraries are found to successfully prevent closure and even to produce more vibrant and community- engaged library services. However, issues of coercion, inequalities in volunteer capital and concerns over the long term sustainability of community libraries reveal the pressures faced by community responses to austerity. This paper concludes by arguing that in the long term, community libraries and community managed responses to austerity are likely to contribute to inequalities in service provision across the UK as they continue to find success in affluent areas but struggle to survive in areas of existing deprivation.”
  • Engaging Libraries Projects Revealed – Libraries Taskforce. “Rachel Heydecker from the Carnegie UK Trust writes about the projects awarded funding via the new scheme they set up in partnership with the Wellcome Trust” … “Engaging Libraries is a pilot, supported by £200k of funding from Wellcome, which encourages public libraries to engage local people in imaginative and interactive projects exploring health and wellbeing topics. In fact, the quality of applications was so high, that Wellcome committed an additional £85,000 to fund not 8-10 projects as originally planned, but 14 projects from across England, Scotland and Wales.”. 120 applications received.
  • Internet Safety Strategy green paper – Gov.uk. Includes mention of public libraries. “The 3,000 libraries in England offer many ways of engaging both children and parents and carers, locally and nationally. There are several ways in which libraries could deliver messages about online safety. We will encourage them to: Embed online safety aspects into existing library projects and events; Run family learning sessions to help adults to support their children online; Display online safety material and signpost resources for library staff, parents and children.” … mentions code clubs …  “Public libraries support Safer Internet Day, often delivering workshops and drop in sessions to help heir communities feel more confident about being online. The UK Internet Safer Centre creates ducation Packs and complementary Safer Internet Day TV films tailored for 5-7s, 7-11s, 11-14s, 14-18s and parents and carers.” Consultation.
  • Invitation to Tender: Evaluation of the Single Sign On pilot – Society of Chief Librarians. “SCL is partnering with Jisc to develop a single sign on service for public libraries. This service will allow registered members of public library services to sign into the online library once rather than having to sign in separately to use separate aspects of the public library’s online offer. The pilot single sign on service went live in April 2017 and is scheduled to continue until November 2017.”
  • Jayne Dowle: Libraries give us a chance to turn a new page in life – Yorkshire Post. “although I support the laudable aims of Libraries Week, which is happening until Saturday, I am not sure I feel comfortable with running away with the idea that libraries can be all things to all people … there is a danger that this idea of libraries, as a one-stop shop for sorting out everything from your photocopying to registering to pay your tax, is clouding the notion that reading is enjoyable, books are the key to other worlds and that learning for the sake of learning should be celebrated.”
  • Libraries Minister celebrates Libraries Week – Libraries Taskforce. John Glenn says very positive things about libraries and is shown smiling in pictures of him visiting them. “I take seriously my Department’s role to superintend and promote the importance of public libraries, and I am determined to champion and support them as best I can. I have therefore already written to recently elected Members of Parliament and to the directly elected Mayors of Combined Authorities, to highlight the important contribution of libraries in their local areas.” [No mention of any problems or cuts though – Ed.]
  • Libraries Taskforce: six month progress report (April – September 2017) – Gov.uk. Mainly training “masterclasses” and “toolkits” and publicity. Helped with communications, blogging. “libraries first” approach to decision makers, publicity at conferences, worked on data and evidence, toolkits, training on income generation, alternative governance and volunteer libraries. Aiming to continue in next six months inc. more toolkits and training. see also Taskforce meets in Canning Town – Taskforce. “From the Amazon lockers in the entrance, to space for lots of pushchairs to be parked in the children’s section, it’s clear that this library has been designed with lots of input from what the community wants.” and Masterclasses on evidence-based strategic planning and libraries benchmarking toolkits – Taskforce.
  • Riddell becomes honorary fellow of CILIP – BookSeller. “The former children’s laureate was presented with Honorary Fellowship of CILIP, the library and information association, as part of the UK’s first Libraries Week this week. A CILIP spokesperson said: “Chris is recognised for using his art and his influence to promote the unique value of libraries and librarians in people’s lives.”
  • A sneak peek at the British Library’s Harry Potter exhibition – BookSeller. “As part of the British Library’s Living Knowledge Network, 20 public libraries from across the UK will be joining together to present their own interpretations of Harry Potter: A History of Magic on 20th October. The Living Knowledge Network partners will draw on their own collections and regional connections to magical traditions and folklore to make displays.”
  • Training volunteers to support reader development – Society of Chief Librarians. “We know from our research last year that volunteers play a key role in supporting reader development. However, little training was in place to help volunteers to fulfil this role. As a result, SCL joined forces with Leicestershire County Council’s library service to develop a training package specifically designed for and by volunteers.” … “SCL have also commissioned Opening the Book to develop an online training module for library staff to develop skills and confidence in talking to readers. This will be available via the our Learning Pool site so look out for this release towards the end of the year.”
  • UK Libraries to Engage Public on Major Health Issues – Carnegie UK Trust. “Fourteen innovative public library projects across the UK have been funded to inspire conversations, curiosity and debate within their communities. The £200k programme will help libraries use creative methods to bring people together, using ‘selfies’, comic books and teddy bears, to explore ideas related to health and wellbeing. An additional four projects and £85k has been awarded due to the high standard of applications received” inc mental wellbeing sanctuary (City of London), online and children (Essex), empathy (four library services), end of life (Redbridge), body image (Leeds), brain development (East Dunbartonshire), teddy bears and wellbeing (Dundee), young people and wellbeing (Lancashire), happiness (Bolton), comics/cosplay (Oldham), ageing (Torfaen), healthy food (Bexley), learning disabilities (Somerset), mental health (Norfolk).
  • The UK no longer has a national public library system – Guardian / Laura Swaffield. “Local councils have seized on the volunteer idea as an easy answer to budget cuts. Each local authority has struggled to find its own solutions, with local residents doing whatever they can. The commitment of volunteers is wholly admirable, but the result is that as a country, we have been left without a coherent library service and we have seen no real attempt to find out how well community-run libraries work. ” … “The government has sat back and watched the most drastic change in decades to an essential frontline public service. In an affluent country, with key needs for information and human connection, this is unforgivable.”
  • Workary wants to help make public libraries work – Startacus. “We are liking the sound of The Workary, a group of co-working spaces across London that support public libraries by transforming under-utilised space into affordable ‘work’ & ‘life’ spaces for local startups, entrepreneurs and residents.”
  • Worlds of Possibilities – The London Libraries Festival – Libraries Taskforce. “Worlds of Possibilities, the first ever London Libraries Festival, starts this Wednesday and runs for four days through to Saturday 14 October. We are thrilled to offer a range of artists, authors and thinkers. Jah Wobble will be live in conversation with Mike Tyrell and will perform with his band, the Invaders of the Heart; Elizabeth Kostova reading from her new book, The Shadowland, and Jessica Hynes talking BAFTA nominations and W1A. All just part of the hundreds of events happening across the London library network, all for free.”

An online bookclub from Axiell
International news

  • European Union – Library Project of the Month: Naple Sister Libraries – Princh. “Sister Libraries is a cooperation program created by NAPLE (National Authorities on Public Libraries in Europe), an informal organization of the NAPLE Forum. Its goal is to harmonize the European policies in the field of public libraries by exchanging information and expertise to highlight the value of public libraries in Europe” … “To this day, there are 95 libraries from 14 different countries that have accomplished 37 sisterships.”
  • Global – Could Libraries Become The Fifth Branch Of Power? – Princh. Libraries as fake news debunker and as a trustworthy source of information. “Altinget, an independent online newspaper in Denmark recently published a discussion with Steen Bording Andersen, Chairman of the Danish Library Association. In this article, Andersen presents and supports the idea that libraries should take the role of the fifth branch of government since the press and the internet are failing.”
  • New Zealand – New Zealand library cracks case of the missing books – Guardian. “Auckland library staff grew increasingly puzzled when books kept turning up in unusual places, tucked under tables and chairs and hidden in hard-to-find spots around the library” … “The mystery was eventually solved when the library called a meeting with the city’s rough sleepers, and it was revealed many of them – who were unable to get library cards because they didn’t have a home address – had been hiding their books so they could come back to them the next day, and not risk losing their place.” also covered in Glamour and Daily Mail and New Zealand Herald.
  • New Zealand – New Zealand Library Recreates Kardashian Photoshoot – Lad Bible. “A gang of shushing book wardens have grouped together to recreate a slice of the Kardashian lifestyle in the South Pacific by producing a photograph that parodies the world-famous shot of the Los Angeles brood that once graced the cover of the Hollywood Reporter. What’s more, its gone viral and been liked over 5,000 times on Facebook.”
  • Turkey – Turkish minister of culture says 169,000 books to be withdrawn from libraries – Turkish Minute. “ 169,141 copies of books are planned to be withdrawn from public libraries as part of an ongoing investigation into the faith-based Gülen movement, the İhlas news agency (İHA) reported on Wednesday.
  • USA – 7 Insidious Myths About Libraries and Reading (the first two kill me) – EveryLibrary. Good clickbait advocacy.
  • USA – Public libraries in the city to forgive late fees for kids 17-and-under – AM Network. “All three city library systems pledged to dismiss overdue fines piled up on the cards of kids and teens, allowing them to start with a clean slate beginning Thursday. Officials said about 927,000 youths hold library cards across the city — but more than 160,000 of them have been blocked from checking out books, DVDs, tablets and other materials because they owe fines of $15 or more.”
  • USA – We Can’t Be Complacent Anymore – PL Talks With Patrick Sweeney – Public Libraries Online. ” I started as a library manager about 10 months before the great recession and I had to lay off almost half my staff less than a year into my career. It was wildly eye-opening because I really had no idea about how political the funding mechanisms were for my day-to-day operations. I wasn’t politically savvy, I didn’t take the time to do the political organizing and building around the library, I didn’t understand that I needed stronger political networks and allies, and when the city came looking for cuts, they came looking to cut the department that would get them the least amount pressure or negativity from the residents or their political allies. Unfortunately, that department was the library.”

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeenshire – Public asked to vote on final stage of Banff Library revamp – Press and Journal. “Aberdeenshire Council has reopened Banff Library after a four-month renovation period and is seeking public opinion to influence what future customers will experience when they walk through the doors.” … ” new-look facility has moved on from the past and now boasts new digital resources and even a 3D printer. Other improvements include access to an upstairs museum through a lift, along with an upgrade of the electrics and security systems throughout the premises. As part of the refurbishment, the main library room has also been refreshed with new furniture including seating and themed graphics for the children’s area.”
  • Barnet – New library opens at Finchley Church End after relocation and redesign – Times series. “Church End Library in Regents Park Road, Finchley, is open following a redesign and relocation three minute walk from its old site. The library is one of four “core plus” libraries which offer the most extensive range of services and opening hours, after a recent consultation has led to changes to opening hours and facilities at all 14 libraries in the borough, all of which remain open. Church End along with Colindale have been opened in brand new buildings and so far, 11,000 residents have signed up to use the new technology-enabled service to enter using a pin code during unstaffed hours.”
  • Bath and North East Somerset – Lib Dems fight two ‘ill-thought’ council library decisions – Bath Chronicle. “Council plans to house Bath library and the One Stop Shop in one building have come under fire from opposition politicians. The high-profile plan to “integrate” both services in The Podium building as well as plans for changes to community libnrary services were revealed by the authority earlier this month. The Liberal Democrat opposition have slammed the proposals, saying the council “is completely failing residents”.”
  • Bath and North East Somerset – Plans for new approach to delivery of community libraries given the go ahead – Bath Echo. “Cabinet also agreed to the investment of £275,000 in a programme which will build on successful, independently-run community libraries in Bath & North East Somerset, such as those in Chew Stoke, Larkhall and Combe Hay, to deliver a network of community-run libraries with locally managed services tailored to their community’s needs. 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.” … “The libraries could be run in a wide variety of spaces including cafes, a hall, health centre, or even a local shop, with room for events or space to meet depending on the community.”
  • Bolton – £600,000 renovation plan to bring historic Carnegie library in Great Lever back into use – Bolton News. For unconfirmed “community use”.
  • Bolton – Bartender aims to cheer you up at Bolton libraries – Bolton News. “A travelling ‘happiness bar’ will be popping up in libraries in a bid to spark conversations about mental health. It is one of 14 library projects across the UK chosen to inspire debate on the issue. Bolton Libraries are working in partnership with housing agency Bolton at Home and community interest company Breakdown Bolton. A ‘bartender’ will speak to people about the ‘five ways to wellbeing’ while encouraging them to take part in community activities such as health walks and mindfulness classes.”
  • Bournemouth – Letter to the Editor: Keep our libraries, get rid of councillors – Daily Echo. “… now we have a councillor in Bournemouth who thinks the best way to run libraries is strip out 80% of books and charge for services. As you say Cllr Rose the public are outraged. This showing up in over 100 slamming comments in Echo on-line within hours.” see Libraries must cut books and charge for services to survive, says councillor – Daily Echo. “should cut the number of books they stock by 80 per cent, says a Bournemouth councillor. It is one of several potentially controversial proposals by Cllr Nick Rose, who believes his scheme will help to preserve the town’s libraries. Cllr Rose, who brought up his plans at a meeting of the borough’s community committee earlier this month, is proposing that libraries do more to raise their own funding by becoming hubs for learning and activities – including charging parents for currently free ‘wriggle and rhyme’ sessions.”
  • Bradford – Under-fives invited to count their adventures at Keighley and Silsden libraries – Keighley News. “Bradford Libraries have launched a new campaign “20 things to do in the library before the age of five” to encourage young families to visit. The campaign will be launched during Bradford Family Learning Festival which takes place from from October 21 to 29. Some of the items can be ticked off during the festival, such as meeting Bookstart Bear, joining the library, borrowing a book and attending a storytime.”
  • Brent – Library in Kensal Rise gets £75,000 council boost – Kilburn Times. “Campaigners for the Kensal Rise Library in Bathurst Gardens received the grant from Brent Council as part of its Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). Margaret Bailey, chair of Friends of Kensal Rise Library (FKRL) said: “After a seven-year campaign we are finally looking forward to opening our library. With the support of Shepheard Epstein Hunter architects and MDS London, our newly appointed builders, the work that we have fundraised for will soon begin. “We have managed to raise more than £200,000, which will go towards the refurbishment of the empty space and towards the first year of operations.”
  • Bristol – These are the libraries which could be closing in Bristol – Bristol Post. “It has been one of the most unpopular of the council’s proposed cuts, and now Labour has given its first hint as to which of the city’s 27 libraries might face the axe. It appears the authority is leaning towards choosing the first of three options laid out in its recent public consultation, which would see Bristol’s nine best maintained libraries kept open. This means Avonmouth, Shirehampton, Sea Mills, Redland, Clifton, Westbury, St Paul’s, Horfield, Lockleaze, Hillfields, St George, Bishopsworth, Marksbury Road, Filwood, Whitchurch, Stockwood and Wick Road would each have their council funding pulled.”
  • Cambridgeshire – ‘Large metal’ fitting crashes to the floor in children’s section of city library – Cambridge News. “Cambridge Central Library, in Lion Yard was shut today (October 14) after a “large piece of metal”, thought to be the surround from a light fitting, fell from the ceiling in the children’s section of the library at about 5pm on Friday evening.”
  • Bristol – These are the libraries which could be closing in Bristol – Bristol Post. “This means Avonmouth, Shirehampton, Sea Mills, Redland, Clifton, Westbury, St Paul’s, Horfield, Lockleaze, Hillfields, St George, Bishopsworth, Marksbury Road, Filwood, Whitchurch, Stockwood and Wick Road would each have their council funding pulled. The council said it needs to close 17 of the city’s 27 libraries to save £1.4million. The central library has been ring-fenced and is not at risk of closure.”
  • Bury – Group’s bid to take over running of Dumers Lane Community Centre & Library – Bury Times. “Group  bidding to take over the running of Dumers Lane Community Centre and Library is inviting residents to share their ideas for the building’s future. Friends of Dumers Lane Community Centre have submitted an expression of interest to Bury Council to run the library, and want to bring residents and community groups together to hear how they would like to see it used.”
  • Cheshire East – ‘People, People, People’ the theme at Knutsford’s poetic celebration of Libraries Week – Knutsford Guardian. “The ‘People, People, People’ event will see Margaret Holbrook and former Cheshire poet Laureate John Lindley visit the Toft Road library from 6.45pm tomorrow evening.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Free creative writing workshops to be held at Cheshire West libraries – Chester Chronicle. ” grant of £3,971 has been awarded by the Arts Council England’s National Lottery funded Grants for the Arts programme. The Write Time Write Place project is a series of eight-week adult creative writing courses taking place in libraries from October to December 2017.”
  • Coventry – Augmented reality book reviews – Coventry City Council. “An augmented reality book review is a recorded book review which has been linked to a book cover, which can be scanned and viewed using the camera on your smartphone or tablet.” … “The exhibition contains 25 book review videos recorded by Radford primary school. Instructions will also be provided on how to view the below book review videos:”
  • Cumbria – Library gigs to be autumn highlights in South Cumbria – The Mail. “Indie rock four-piece Vant are set to play Barrow Library on Thursday 9, before Welsh singer-songwriter Betsy plays Kendal library on Friday 24. “
  • Derby – Protesters brave bad weather to support Derby libraries – Derby Telegraph. “A small number of people braved bad weather to protest outside two of Derby’s libraries during a national day of action set up by public sector union Unison. Ten of Derby’s libraries are currently being offered by the city council to community groups to manage, while the authority retains five at Pear Tree, Alvaston, Mickleover, Riverside (inside the Council House) and the Local Studies Library in Full Street” see also Derby library staff told they can’t take part in day of action – Derby Telegraph. “Two libraries – Chellaston and Allenton – will tomorrow defy the council by holding events to mark the day which is being staged by Unison across the country.” … “In the meantime, an organisation has come forward to run all 10 libraries, but Unison is unsure how this will affect jobs of existing staff.” Direct Help Advice wants to run all ten. “The charity offers specialist legal advice on homelessness, unemployment and skills wants to run 10 of the city’s libraries has vowed to maintain book lending and free internet access for users, using a network of volunteers and charities to assist.” and One bidder wants to save 10 Derby libraries the council won’t run any more – Derby Telegraph.
  • Derbyshire – Residents given say on libraries and roads as council axes £51 million from its budget – Burton Mail. “For the year ahead its savings target is £22 million, of which £15 million savings have already been identified. “
  • Devon – Leaders join forces to plan next steps for innovating and enhancing public library services – Literature Works. “Leaders from a diverse range of sectors came together at ‘Leading practice in unlimited value creation’, an Action Research Summit at the University of Exeter last week, to discuss how library services and other social enterprises and charities can better understand their social impact, and use it to ensure financial sustainability.  The Summit was hosted by the University of Exeter Business School as part of the two-year ‘Unlimited Value’ research project led by the University of Exeter in partnership with Libraries Unlimited, Open Data Institute (ODI) Devon and the Real Ideas Organisation (RIO), and funded by Arts Council England (ACE).  This was the first in a series of events that aim to better measure and understand the impact of libraries on their local communities. In doing so, it is hoped that Libraries Unlimited will be able to identify new partnerships and opportunities that will help to ensure its sustainability.
  • Devon – Writer Ian Mortimer opens Chagford’s new heritage centre and refurbished library – Okephampton Today. “The library moved into its new, purpose-built extension to the Jubilee Hall in December last year, but has only just been fully fitted out with new shelving and a fresh layout. The heritage centre has moved into the space of the old library, but the room has been divided and completely refurbished. It now consists of two distinct areas: a reading and reference room and an archive room.”
  • East Sussex – Hundreds sign petition to save their library – Argus. 200 signatures. “The Tory-led East Sussex County Council is proposing to shut down seven libraries across the county. Local Liberal Democrat spokesperson James Gardiner, and member Rob Parsons handed in the petition. Mr Gardiner said: “It is quite clear that the council has miscalculated on this.” see also More than 1,000 people sign petition to save Eastbourne libraries – Eastbourne Herald.1000 sign for Willingdon and Langney and Residents discuss next steps of campaign to save library – Hastings Observer.”Campaigners have set up a website, a Twitter account and an email account in addition to the existing Facebook group, Save Ore Library. Various events are being planned in the coming weeks including a benefit concert featuring local musicians, a fund-raising auction, a march and demonstration and a fun day in December” and Observer: Wrong time for councillors to vote for increased allowances – Uckfield News.
  • Enfield – Enfield’s busiest library reopens after £4.2 million refurbishment – Enfield Council. “Edmonton Green library has reopened after a £4.2 million top-to-toe refurbishment. Work at the library, the borough’s busiest, forms part of Enfield Council’s ambitious plans to provide an unparalleled 21st century library service for residents. The two storey building has been transformed and upgraded to provide a modern library and digital access centre, with dozens of state of the art computers, free wi-fi, extensive study space and self-service kiosks. There is also an array of fabulous learning resources for students and children and a dedicated local history and museum space to celebrate the area’s rich history.”
  • Essex – Essex County Council wants your views on future of mobile libraries – East Anglian Daily Times. “There are less than three weeks left for residents to have their say on the future of Essex’s mobile libraries”
  • Essex – Scheme gets kids talking about death – Gazette News. “No Filter gets young people to discuss things affecting young people through internet blogs, vlogs and podcasts. The scheme is run by Colchester Council and Essex County Council and has just been given £20,000 by two health charities. Engaging Libraries, which is run by the Carnegie UK Trust and Wellcome Trust, is behind the funding.”
  • Glasgow – Glasgow Lives: Wilma, Whiteinch, retired librarian – Glasgow Live. Set up first book group in city 20 years ago.
  • Greenwich – Greenwich loves libraries as borough sees record number of visitors in September – News Shopper. Stock issues were up 12 per cent across the borough as a whole – with children’s books up a massive 22 per cent. Investment in stock, free WiFi, self-service facilities and the Greenwich One Card are proving effective in bringing people into libraries, according to the council, with us of library IT facilities increasing by 10 per cent”
  • Hertfordshire – Celebrations at Berkhamsted library’s official opening – Mix 96. “The new library (which has been open since May 2017) is located on Berkhamsted High Street, and is part of a modern development of luxury apartments set in the heart of the town.” … “31% increase in visits to the library in its first three months of opening.” … “At the event Cllr Douris also announced that we will be launching the new Open+ service at the library in November giving customers access to the library outside of normal opening hours.
  • Hull – Residents urged to make their voices heard as Holderness Road Library to move – Hull Daily Mail. “Holderness Road Library will move from its current base, at Mount Pleasant behind ASDA, when the lease on the building runs out next May. Hull City Council have opened up a consultation on where the facility’s users would like the new library to be, with three potential locations to choose from. The Balfour Community Centre, Drypool Green Community Centre in Durham Street and East Park are the options on the table at the moment.”
  • Isle of Man – Sandra is retiring from library – to spend more time reading – Isle of Man. “Mobile Family Library is a huge part of the community,’ said Sandra. ‘I have made so many friends over the years as we’ve taken our books to the parts of the island not everyone else can reach.”
  • Isle of Wight – Isle of Wight assisted digital pilot under the Government Digital Services Framework: A success story – Libraries Taskforce. “Can we put together a bid that would potentially require 320 hours of 1 to 1 support for customers in four of our libraries for an eight week period between March and May 2017? It’s the kind of question that catches you off guard when you get an email when you are on leave.” … “We began to notice spikes of activity which followed the reminder letters which were sent by ONS to residents who had not yet completed forms; this did help us to plan accordingly”
  • Kensington and Chelsea – Council ditches £17m plans to relocate North Kensington Library – Get West London. “Money will instead be diverted towards council plans for spending £155m on homes for survivors and victims of the Grenfell Tower fire”
  • Lancashire – Community centre could be new home for library – 2BR. Lancashire County council discussed the future of Earby and Bamber Bridge libraries decisions had been deferred to allow time for further consideration. The local scout group will take over Bamber Bridge library.”
  • Lancashire – Decision made by County Hall on future of East Lancashire library – Lancashire Telegraph. Earby Library to reopen. “Earby Library, on Cemetery Road, Barnoldswick was one of the libraries which decisions had been deferred to allow time for further consideration. Lancashire County Council’s cabinet has given permission for a feasibility study to consider the costs and other implications of re-establishing Earby library in the New Road Community Centre rather than the former library building.”
  • Lancashire – Flying start for petition to revive library – Blackpool Gazette. Lytham’s library reopening is delayed and campaigners petition to keep issue in spotlight.
  • Manchester – Investing in Manchester’s libraries – Libraries Taskforce. “The City’s libraries are valued more than ever, with the 22 libraries receiving 3 million visits last year, an increase of 4%, and Manchester Central Library, one of the country’s most visited, receiving 1.5 million. In addition, there were nearly 7 million visits to our 24×7 online services” … “The service has received £75 million investment, including the £50 million transformation of Manchester Central Library, in the last 10 years, and we have relocated 80% of its libraries into new or refurbished or co-located premises. The recent Adult Public Library User Survey reported that over 93% of customers were satisfied with the service – the highest satisfaction rating we have ever received.”
  • Merton – Royle Family star Hynes backs local libraries – Morning Star. “Speaking during National Libraries Week at Wimbledon Library in south-west London, the star of sitcoms the Royle Family and Spaced told bibliophiles: “Local libraries in London are very important. I used to go with my toddler and pram, sit with other mums and read a story. “You connect with other people, take books out. It’s a communal, purpose-built space — it’s fantastic”
  • Moray – Union vows to ‘resist’ library closures in Moray – Press and Journal. “Protests and marches were staged to resist the council’s drive to shut seven buildings in the area four years ago. At that time, the libraries in Hopeman, Findochty, Portknockie and Rothes were closed while the centres at Cullen, Burghead and Dufftown were given a reprieve. But now, it is feared they might face the axe as part of the authority’s drive to plug a £14million black hole in its finances.”
  • Newport -It’s the Weekend: The importance of libraries in the local community – South Wales Argus. “In Gwent, and in particular Newport, there are many libraries which are still up and running – with some being volunteer based. One of these libraries has now turned into an arts centre while still having a library for children to use. Cwtsh Arts Centre is located in Stow Hill, in Newport, and officially opened in 2015″
  • North Yorkshire – More than 9,000 join county’s reading challenge – North Yorkshire County Council. “Children signed up to read at least six library books, collecting picture cards and other rewards along the way. More than 9,600 signed up and almost 8,000 children completed the challenge. Each was awarded a certificate, a medal and an Animal Agents-themed wrist band. The theme involved clever creatures trained to use their skills and natural instincts to unravel mysteries with drawings by Tony Ross, award-winning illustrator of the Horrid Henry series”
  • Northamptonshire – Alan Moore will scrap plan to shoot TV series in Northampton if libraries are closed – Nene Quirer. “The writer and film-maker – who has endured an unfair reputation as a recluse because he chose to remain a Northamptonian when success as a graphic novelist beckoned him to America – accused council decisions of turning his beloved town into a “degraded, devastated wasteland” and declared: “I’ve had enough.”” … “I have had enough,” Alan said “I am not going to be reduced to a shill that will somehow validate their continuing destruction of this town. ” see also ‘This place helped me come out of depression': Mum tells of impact Northampton library closures would have on residents – Northampton Chronicle see also Alan Moore rails against plan to shut down libraries that ‘made’ him – I.

“Twenty-one out of 29 libraries being closed? Why would anyone do that? Why would anyone increase the levels of ignorance and illiteracy because that is what this will do. Why would anyone do that unless they were hoping to increase their natural electorate? People who think: It is actually better for us if everyone is not very keen on reading, not very well informed about things and will just respond to any headlines that we care to serve them. I can see that makes for a much more malleable population,” Alan Moore

  • Northamptonshire – Consultation over Northamptonshire council plans to cut £9.6m – BBC. “Irthlingborough councillor Sylvia Hughes told the meeting that one option would be for community groups or businesses to take over smaller libraries. ” see also Northamptonshire libraries ‘could be community-run’ – BBC. “Under the plans, 21 libraries could become community-managed while 15 larger venues would remain under direct county council management. A further option would be to close the county’s smaller libraries. Campaigners say closing libraries could “devastate” communities. However, the council says no decision has been made. The council will meet on Thursday to discuss proposals to start a 12-week consultation on the plans.” and ‘Dark day’ for library services in Northamptonshire as county council announces proposals that could see 28 closed – Daventry Express.
  • Northamptonshire – Chief executive of cash-strapped Northamptonshire County Council resigns – Norhtampton Chronicle. “At the current rate of supply, Northamptonshire will have made £500 million of cuts in the decade between 2010 and 2020 just to balance the books. In the last few minutes, Dr Blantern has announced his intentions to stand down from the £185,000 a-year-post. In an email sent to staff, he wrote: “It is with mixed emotions that I write to you today to let you know that I will be leaving Northamptonshire County Council this month after ten highly rewarding and enjoyable years at the authority.”. Authority “on the brink of financial collapse”
  • Pembrokeshire – Neyland councillors go head-to-head on library move plans – Western Telegraph. “The public were invited to have their say on whether the library, which currently shares a building with the town’s customer services centre, should be rehomed at the town’s new Athletic Club development. “
  • Sheffield – False economy of libraries run by volunteers – Yorkshire Post / Letters. “around three years since Sheffield Council replaced a professional library service provided by professional library staff at 16 branch libraries with a volunteer-run service. The original plan was for voluntary groups to be able to raise funds to keep the libraries open independent of the council, saving the council £800,000 a year. In reality this proved wildly unrealistic, as volunteer groups such as the one in Stannington were unable to raise anything like the amount needed to keep branch libraries open, with the council saving face by raiding the health and social care budget to fund its failed volunteer-led model.”
  • Sheffield – In profile: Sheffield Library Service – Community Libraries Network. “This month Sheffield Library Service have written to tell us about their libraries service and the different models they operate within the city; the support provided for the different library types and how this works in practice for them.”
  • South Tyneside – The Word in numbers as South Shields library celebrates first birthday – Shields Gazette. “The Word, National Centre for the Written Word attracted almost 400,000 visitors and won 12 top industry awards. Hailed as a library for the 21st century, it has seen membership grow by a staggering 176% compared to the same period in the previous year when the town centre facility was based in Prince George Square. Meanwhile borrowing has also increased, with 44,000 more books issued.” … “The Word has also hosted more than 300 events including author talks, writer workshops, storytelling, digital media sessions, poetry slams, performances and has seen nearly 5,000 tickets booked for events.”
  • Staffordshire – Libraries’ hours could be extended under new plans – Express and Star.”12-week consultation to consider how to run Staffordshire’s library service over the next three years will be launched in the New Year” see also Plans for self-service extended opening times at libraries in Lichfield and Burntwood to be debated in 2018 – Lichfield Live.
  • Staffordshire – Stone’s library is put forward for community status’ – Stoke Sentinel. “Stone’s library has been proposed as one of the next venues to become a community-run facility, it has been revealed. The news comes amid mounting fears for the future of the High Street following the closure of a Stone bank. And uncertainty over the future of the town centre’s Post Office has sparked fears for the future of the High Street.” … “This month Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet is due to be asked to approve a 12-week public consultation on the second phase of its “libraries transformation”, which would open in January 2018 if approved”
  • Sutton – Sutton library prepares for £700,000 major refurbishment – Guardian series. “Sutton Central Library on St Nicholas Way will shut on November 13 to revamp the facilities to make it a 21st Century service. Specific features are being built in to help adults and children with learning difficulties. A technology inspired children’s library on the ground floor will be introduced. The ground floor will also see the cafe, toilets, baby change facilities and buggy park improved.”
  • Swindon – Clock ticking for crowdfunding support for library – Swindon Advertiser. Stratton St Margaret Parish council trying to support public library withdrawn from council, with volunteers. “Plans are now afoot to secure lottery funding to put towards a disabled access lift to the venue. The council has also launched a Crowdfunding page to help with the running of the library. So far a crowdfunding page has received £365 in donations of the £10,000 needed within the next two and a half weeks. “
  • Wandsworth – Wandsworth Libraries Diversity Month – Better.
  • West Berkshire – New chapter at Theale Library re-launch – Newbury Today. “Young people and parents flocked to Friday’s event clutching copies of books to be signed by special  guest, children’s author Holly Webb.”
  • West Sussex – Honour for librarian – Argus. “Martin Hayes, local studies librarian for West Sussex, has received an Honorary Fellowship of CILIP, the library and information association. It is for the impact of his work which helps local people to learn about where they live and their community.”
  • Wiltshire – Out of this world display at library sci fi day – Gazette and Herald. Devizes. “Mayor Nigel Carter and Wiltshire councillor Darren Henry were able to join in the fun as droids, daleks and a Back To The Future style car took over the usually sedate community hub and its concourse. The event was organised by children’s author David Johnson just days after the hub was officially declared open and it was a chance for people to see the revamped library which now includes a number of meeting areas and updated computer area.”
  • Windsor and Maidenhead – Concern over security risk at library contact points – Windsor Observer. “The contact-points, where residents can have their council service requests dealt with in person, were introduced to Maidenhead, Windsor and Ascot libraries in July. But last week regular Maidenhead Library goer, Kathy Swift, 60, slated the set-up as she could clearly overhear conversations at the two desks, which are within centimetres of the regular book shelves.”
  • York – Protect our libraries plea – Press. “The city’s facilities are “popular and well used”, according to Liberal Democrat councillor Ian Cuthbertson, putting the area in the top five per cent nationally when it comes to library use. Now Cllr Cuthbertson is asking other councillors to back a push to protect the 16 staffed libraries with key negotiations due in the next two years. He said: “York’s libraries are popular and well used by residents – in terms of visits by library users, the service is in the top five per cent of authorities nationally.”
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.

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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.

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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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