“Apart from being vomited on, the job is not without its challenges”

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UK national news

  • 21st Century Libraries – Are we there yet? – Helen Milner. Chief Executive of the Tinder Foundation summarises what her organisation has done and can do for libraries, looking at best practice in the sector. “Frankley Library, for example, is a centre for excellence specialising in the support of people with disabilities. They have dedicated training suites to support disabled people. Lancashire Libraries, are delivering digital skills training across the whole library authority with a focus on supporting job seekers and great partnerships with local Jobcentres. Southampton Libraries are a part of our NHS Widening Digital Participation programme working with MacMillan Cancer support to deliver training to inform volunteers and those affected by cancer.”
  • BookSeller Children’s Conference - BookSeller. Includes manager of Haringey Children’s Libraries and a school librarian focusing on how bookshops, libraries and publishers etc working together can boost book sales.
  • The big interview: Library enemies brought to book - This is Wiltshire. Interview with public library campaigner Shirley Burnham [who is a big provider of new to this website, amongst others including Desmond Clarke, Alan Gibbons, the Library Campaign and LIS-PUB-LIBS - Ed.]. ““I am not a politician, a consultant or a librarian, so should people like me speak out? Yes, because it is the users who must tell the policy makers what the service they value should be like and why it matters to them.” … “There are those who say libraries are a relic of the past, that their functions have been taken over by the internet and that few people want them. Shirley disagrees: “All you have to do is brighten up libraries, make them more user-friendly, refresh the stock and tell the people that the libraries are there.”

“A community centre with a shelf of books in it isn’t a library. A library has to have books, it has to have knowledgeable staff, it has to be open when people want to use it. And it’s a neutral space. Nobody’s got an agenda in the library. Whatever background you’re from, whatever religion you espouse is totally irrelevant. Whoever you are, you’re welcome in the library. It’s very different from places that are run by committees. Libraries should continue under council control, with paid staff.” Shirley Burnham

  • WF Howes launches E-book service for libraries - WF Howes. “The service is launching with over 12,000 titles, all of which are available for simultaneous multi-access download by library members, in a large variety of genres ranging from crime and thrillers, to modern fiction and romance, and celebrity biographies to sports, hobbies and self-help. The launch sees the addition of the eBook format to the OneClickdigital platform, the most widely installed and used audio platform in the UK library market”

International

  • 10 People The Library Can’t Live Without – Huffington Post (USA).  Some familiar (and unfamiliar) characters here.
  • IFLA eLending background paper - IFLA. “IFLA has published a very interesting paper drawing an updated state of worldwide library e-Book lending. You’ll find useful information about the different e-Book licence and purchase models in libraries worldwide, library advocacy initiatives such us the EBLIDA Right to e-Read Campaign or the ReadersFirst Initiative and so on.” (via NAPLE Blog).
  • IFLA launches Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development – Voices for the Library. “Today we welcome the launch of the Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development, which was announced at the IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) World Library and Information Congress in Lyon. The declaration was drafted by IFLA along with its strategic partners and “calls upon United Nations Member States to make an international commitment through the post-2015 development agenda to ensure that everyone has access to, and is able to understand, use and share the information that is necessary to promote sustainable development and democratic societies.” “
  • What is a library? - Christopher Pressler (Eire). “A library is two things at once – a fixed cooperative of materials and readers and an unfixed collective where both readers and materials are removed, replaced and recycled. Libraries are still and fluid at the same moment. This remarkable state is achieved by the conjoining of concepts, in the form of books and other information, and of conceivers, in the form of authors and readers in the same space at the same time.”
  • What the ‘death of the library’ means for the future of books - The Week. “Libraries are actually an invaluable public and social resource that provide so much more than simple shelves of books (or, for those in rural areas, a Bookmobile like the one this author grew up with). A world without public libraries is a grim one indeed, and the assault on public libraries should be viewed as alarming”
  • Who’s Saving Whom? - Library Journal / Annoyed Librarian (USA). 3D Printers: Points out that public libraries are doing well in the US and don’t need “saving”.  Also suggests that 3D printer sales have been poor and so libraries giving them space is helping printer sellers and not so much the other way around. For an entirely positive spin on 3D Printers in libraries see Library 2.0 – Boulder Weekly (USA)

UK local news by authority

  • Devon – Libraries’ future uncertain as public consultation ends – North Devon Journal. “Results are being “collated, digested, and deliberated over” by senior managers and councillors who will make recommendations to the council’s cabinet in October” see also Council considering views on libraries – Exmouth Journal. “The council says it has received more feedback from the consultation than it ever has before, including 5,500 completed questionnaires, seen 2,500 people attending local library drop-in centres, seen 1,000 people attending public meetings, and also received many emails, letters and petitions.”
  • Flintshire – Flintshire Council facing up to £18m in budget cuts - Daily Post. “All services the council provides will come under scrutiny including education, social services, leisure services, libraries and waste collections.”
  • Kirklees – Villagers’ Meltham Library plan could save Kirklees Council 80% – Huddersfield Daily Examiner. “Meltham residents have submitted a plan to keep their library open at one-fifth of the cost. But those campaigning to keep Meltham Library open say they still need practical and financial support from Kirklees Council.” … “They hope to move the library from Meltham Town Hall across the street to the Carlile Institute where it will operate on the same floor as the community run post office.”
  • Lincolnshire – Future of libraries has still to be decided admits Lincolnshire County Council – Horncastle News. “The council’s plans for wide-ranging cuts to libraries were thrown into chaos recently after campaigners won a High Court ruling. Locally, opening hours at Horncastle Library were and the futures of libraries at Coningsby/Tattershall and Wragby were thrown into doubt with the council planning to hand control to community groups. The council is coming under increasing pressure to announce any fresh plans.”
  • Milton Keynes – Libraries in Milton Keynes play their part in improving the nation’s health – Milton Keynes.co.uk. “Get Reading Get Well is a national collaboration between the Reading Agency and The Society of Chief Librarians and currently has two schemes running. The aim is to improve the nation’s health through books and reading. Reading has none of the side effects associated with prescription drugs and often achieves good results more quickly. In Milton Keynes the council’s libraries are participating in a scheme called Books on Prescription, which aims to bring reading’s healing benefits to people suffering from a range of common health conditions.”
  • Sheffield – Sheffield librarian is ‘privileged to do a job I love that makes a difference’ – Star. “The mum is Sheffield Council’s early years librarian, a rare role for local authorities, and spends her days encouraging ‘reluctant’ readers to explore the world of books, play and creativity on offer in the city’s facilities. During her working day she regularly dons a bear suit, drives the van and turns random corners – from parks to flat courtyards, travellers’ sites and festivals – into creative hotspots.” … ““The service is for hard-to-reach groups, it is like a stepping stone between the outside world and libraries. “I get to meet people from all walks of life, it’s not just about under-fives as we get the whole family.”

“I think libraries mean the world to people. “They are a safe environment, somewhere people can go and find out any information. If you have any problem you can start at a library, if the answer isn’t in there then the staff can point you in the right direction. “They are a safe community space – it is not just books. I always used to take my boys to libraries, they loved it and I just wanted to pass that on.” … “Apart form being vomited on, the job is not without its challenges. It has revealed there are still many adults in the city who cannot read, or lack the confidence to help their children learn.

“How we treat our libraries expresses what sort of society we have made for ourselves, tabulates what it values that can’t be recorded on a spread-sheet. If we want ours to be a society where we are more than just producers and consumers; then we should be building libraries not looking for ways to close them down.”

  • Wolverhampton – Libraries close as staff go on holiday - Express and Star. “Staff numbers at the city’s libraries has been reduced from 156 to 79 under £123 million cuts – leaving gaping shortages. When the remaining staff took their booked off holiday over the past few weeks, it was discovered there was not enough cover to keep some of the libraries open. On other occasions, staff sickness have also led to forced closures.”

 

City of Philistines, Ditching Dewey and Grumpy Librarians.

Editorial

The main news story over the last few days have been the cuts to Liverpool’s libraries.  Alan Gibbons calls it changing Liverpool from the City of Culture to the City of Philistines.  Other news includes several novel ideas, with the one that first caught my eye being Google Street View – something which has been bubbling around for a little while now. The other idea is forgetting Dewey (how dare I! The blasphemy of turning one’s back on an American from a century ago!) and modelling the bookshelves around the user not the stock.  This has been credited with a doubling of usage in the Netherlands but that will have little push with librarians elsewhere – after all, this is inertia we’re talking about.  Heck, we’d have to relabel the spines of our books.  The danger is that on this subject we’re like the grumpy librarians in this article who blame the users for messing up the stock, when the whole purpose of the stock is the user.

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Librarians of the Year

Editorial

It’s great to see public librarians being recognised for their exceptional service.  Well done to those who received the awards and for all those others who were nominated.  This is the first year that the awards have taken place and I hope that this becomes a firm tradition, with benefits including improving the standing of the winners in their communities and also for the profession as a whole.

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Carnegie UK Trust says: Get Your Innovation On

Editorial

Carnegie UK Trust have been having a good month or two.  They recently produced the excellent “Speaking Volumes” advocacy tool and now they have announced more details of a £200,000 library innovation fund that intends to “future-proof public libraries”, develop innovative ideas and, by the by, encourage innovation and leadership skills amongst library staff. In these days of traditional funding cuts, a mass (often forced) emigration from the profession and an increased questioning of the library role by those who hold the purse strings, this is to be strongly welcomed.  The challenge for those applying - and for the Trust itself – is not be distracted by glamorous but irrelevant ideas but ones which may make a real difference to the UK public library service.  Don’t get distracted by the shiny, people.  Think about things which have potential for the long term.  We, literally, can’t afford not to.

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Liverpool sinking, stock floating … and a request for information

Editorial

The big news is that the Liverpool Mayor’s recommendation to the Council is that the city loses more than of its libraries. People are not impressed and, to be fair, neither is the mayor – he says that due to Austerity programme, he had no choice and that “We’ve tried to come up with a proposal that obviously everyone’s going to hate.  It’s not something that we feel, you know, people are going to welcome”.  Well, no one has welcomed it yet and no one is likely to.  It may also be that not all of the problem is down to the Government spending programmes, although a lot of it undoubtedly is. The cut may also have at least something to do with the £50 million spent on refurbishing Liverpool Central Library, notably the high interest rates inevitably attached to such a PFI scheme.  It’s a beautiful Central Library alright.  However, only 40% of those consulted say that they will use it if their local branch closes so it’s beauty may be lost on the local people of Liverpool.

In these times of tighter budgets, we should be looking at all ways of reducing spending.  One of the ideas I’ve seen raised from time to time is the idea of dynamic or floating stock, where stock has no “home” branch as such.  Such a system can save on transport and staff time but I’ve seen no real research done on the system in practice.  I’ve put together a brief description, pros and cons and a case study on a new page here if you’re interested.

I have been asked if I know of any requests for interventions in library cuts made to the DCMS/Secretary of State. We already know about the requests in Brent, Isle of Wight, Lewisham, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Doncaster and Bolton but would be very interested to hear of any more.  Thank you.

Please email ianlibrarian@live.co.uk with news, comments, ideas or queries. Thank you.

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Access to Research: 20% of libraries fail to take up free resource. Why?

Editorial

I was surprised to hear that after a full six months, the free online “Access to Research” resource has not yet been taken up by one in five of library services.  Why? It’s free, after all. At the time of the launch, I had reservations about the scheme but concluded that a starving man should take any crumb: well, it seems that a significant minority of libraries won’t.  On the face of it, it’s a no-brainer: it offers ten million academic articles at minimum hassle (you sign up – that’s it) and it’s free.  Mind you, it’s only be used by a pitiful 14,500 individual users in its first six months so it’s obviously not that good despite the positive spin being put to it.  14,500?  Many individual town libraries see more users than that in a month.  So, what’s going on? Well, it’s not been heavily publicised. Don’t get me wrong – it’s been given as much publicity as anything else but there’s just not enough money in public libraries for it to make an impact.  Also, it’s only available, weirdly, by physically visiting a branch rather than via a computer at home.  Some even think it’s a ploy by publishers in order to deny further access.

Other reasons for what appears to be a low take-up rate may be that it is, by the nature of the beast, not a popular tool but one for academics only.  It’s also just a pilot and, times being as they are, many authorities may be concentrating on more pressing things (like keeping the doors open) than an online academic resource.  I understand the Society of Chief Librarians will be reminding the last fifth of what they’re missing as well so that will partly make up for the low-level (because it’s a free service, there is no money) publicity behind the launch in the first place.  In addition, the Publisher’s Licensing Society (PLS), the organisation behind Access, does have some resources (posters, FAQ booklets, desktop icons, microsite etc) to further  things along.

Well, whatever the reason for the (what to me at least) appears to be low take-up so far, public libraries are going to lose the resource after two years if it is not a success.  As Joanna Waters from the PLS has told me: “A final point to note is that this is a pilot, and if after two years the service is deemed as not fulfilling its criteria by stakeholders it will be reviewed as to whether we should continue to offer the service. It would be a shame obviously, as it could be a useful way to extend access to academic materials, for free, to those who would otherwise find it difficult to get hold of them, and of course it is currently another free service to add to the library offering.”.  So, does your library service offer Access? If not, make enquiries as to why not.  It may be they simply missed it.  If they do offer it then make sure that it is being promoted.  If the library services has taken it up, promoted it but it’s not working so well, is it because the service is not good enough - and, if so, how can it be improved? Let’s tell them. Because heaven knows public libraries need all the help they can get, and it’d be a shame if we fail to take the free opportunity up with both hands.

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Ideas

  • Business loyalty card for library customers and community shops - Aldeburgh Library, Suffolk.

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Downwardly mobile?

Editorial

Mobile libraries are not having a good time of it at the moment: my records show Bromley’s decision to close it’s sole vehicle is the eighth mobile library gone since April: while only two static libraries have gone the same way.  One of the reasons of course is that it’s one thing to get volunteers to run a static library but a whole other thing for them to maintain a vehicle, find drivers and pay the insurances.  Mind you, of course, perhaps Bromley is missing a trick as there may be money in mobiles: Cambridgeshire certainly hope so as they have started offering advertising on them. That advertising idea is just one of seven I’ve spotted for this post: the large number due to a SCL report on digital skills that includes some interesting case studies.

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Things to do in Kilmarnock, and in your library, before you die

Editorial

Last week I was mostly in Scotland doing geocaching - including a nice one in the grounds of the Dick Institute library in Kilmarnock by the way – so you’re getting a whole week’s news in one (well, not quite all – there’ll be more catch-up at the next post). There’s the usual depressing news from England (sorry, don’t blame me, blame the Austerity) but also some interesting news from other places, including from a very successful Dutch library that shows doing things differently (and having some investment) can make a huge difference. By the way, do please nominate your favourite library for the “1001 libraries to see before you die” project at IFLA.  My favourite has to be Liverpool Central Library for the reasons I explore here, what’s yours?

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New Milton Keynes Library under construction in Kingston retail park

The deepest cut in UK public library history? Kirklees goes (almost) all out

Editorial

Kirklees is the latest authority to announce the large scale cuts to library services of a scale far greater than the current libraries minister, Ed Vaizey, thundered in disgust about when he was in opposition. Indeed, in terms of numbers of branches under threat as a proportion of total branches, this is the deepest proposed cut so far announced, almost certainly in peacetime UK history.  Granted, the Isle of Wight, back in 2011, suggested closing all but two of its libraries but it only had 11 to begin with, while Kirklees appears to have over 20. The proposed budget cut is over 50%:  truly gigantic, but my sources tell me, even this may not be the lowest announced over the next couple of years. Kirklees frames its proposals around the now-familiar offer to the community – that is, volunteer or your library will close – and, interestingly, they mention the  earlier takeover of one of their libraries, Denby Dale, by a community group (which includes an ex President of CILIP as one of their number).  However, my guess is that they’ve been keen on cutting libraries there for years – my first reference is in the first year of the Coalition - and so such cuts would have happened anyway.  It’s austerity that is the killer here, not volunteers.

Other news this week can be seen as the same story as Kirklees but with different local flavours.  Hull are deeply cutting opening hours by almost a third, with a few volunteers and a move to a Trust thrown in.  This is especially sad to me as I remember a phone call with their councillor that was then responsible for libraries a few years ago who told me how great libraries were and how he’d never cut them. Time have changed.  Sheffield, further along the line in its cut cycle than Kirklees, has announced all libraries will stay open, but with at least ten being run by the unpaid with limited council support.

Right, to balance out this depressingness, let’s get two positive stories in.  The first is the Welsh public libraries report which looks very useful and promotes the essentialness of the service in local communities.  Secondly, Birmingham have been given a substantial amount of money from the Wolfson Foundation for promoting their libraries to young people.  iPads, ebook readers, projectors and 3D printers are mentioned … I hope they will also do music and Minecraft as well.

Moving away from the public sector but in a move that has already been seized upon by at Forbes - who should know better – as suggesting that public libraries can be cut still further, Amazon have announced a lending scheme for some of its books.  Initial looks at it I have seen suggest there’s a few, a very few, famous titles in there and hundreds of thousands of titles few would want to read. Crucially, Amazon’s new off does not appear to offer a community atmosphere in a local building, someone who knows you, neutral expertise, study space, personal computers, printed books, a photocopier, newspapers, storytime, reading groups, display space or coffee.

Finally, you may have noticed that this is the first Public Libraries News post for a week. This was due to illness. The next one is also due in a week but this is for a happier reason: I’m off on holiday.  In the meantime, and despite everything, keep being awesome my friends.

Do you have any comment or news?  Then please send to ianlibrarian@live.co.uk.  Thank you. Positive news stories and library ideas warmly welcomed.

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What’s the effect of volunteer libraries on the Summer Reading Challenge?

Editorial

I was curious about the practical effects of volunteer libraries on the Summer Reading Challenge (SRC), which is the biggest part of the promotional year for most public libraries.  So, I checked with the Reading Agency and then with Little Chalfont Community Library, which is perhaps one of the most established and certainly one of the most famous of them.

Anne Sarrag, Director of the SRC, was kind enough to speak to me about the experience with volunteer libraries.  She reports that the Challenge is well-established, with the budget for it often being ring fenced by authorities.  A common model is that the parent library service will still buy materials and provide training for the volunteer library staff.  Of course, the volunteers may not be able to open the library as much as before or have as much quite new stock but it gives back up to the paid libraries and access to those who cannot get to them.  So, at least, I gained the impression from talking to her, that they’re  better than a closed library.

Indeed, sometimes the volunteer library may wish to purchase more promotional materials than the parent authority can due to cuts in budget.  Volunteers have in some cases raised funding to buy more than council.  However, the TRA preference is for all branches in an authority to offer the same provision.  At the other extreme, there are some volunteer libraries who have been cut adrift by the parent authority and are not supported by them.  In this case, the non-statutory branch have occasionally asked for free materials to which the TRA has to, with regret, decline. I gather that the TRA have to tread a fine line here: they cannot help those campaigning against the closure of their library – even by tweeting – because this would cross the path into politics.  In addition, the agency also has commercial sponsors, with the programme being supported by Tesco in Scotland, which may be scared off by any sign of a loss of absolute neutrality.

Keeping the same standard SRC offer means that volunteer branches are not allowed to charge users for joining the scheme and must talk to the children’s manager in that authority in order to co-ordinate the offer to the public.  Otherwise, there’s be a danger of competition between paid and volunteer branches in schools.  The SRC also ensure that any such volunteer staff visiting schools are CRB checked, which is something that not all paid library staff visiting schools are.

Overall, there appears to have been no reduction in SRC take-up due to volunteer libraries or library closures.  Indeed, there was a healthy increase in SRC membership last year.  This may be due to all sorts of reasons, including an overall improving trend masking a local decline, the efforts of volunteers being successful or children moving to libraries that are still open, or a combination of all three.

Now for an idea of how this translates to a particular volunteer library:

“Buckinghamshire only give us a small selection of promotional materials which is not enough to make any presence felt in the library and restricts our ability to get involved fully. I think it presents quite a negative image for community libraries left out of a national scheme if visitors come in expecting us to be part of it. Three local schools promote the scheme for us so we buy more packs, medals and information leaflets to meet potential demand. It may seem expensive but I have to buy in set pack quantities from the official printers. We have shared costs with Chalfont St Giles in the past split packs but now we’re both enrolling more children it doesn’t work the same.

Over the past two years we have grown our participation from about 12 to 89 children and last year 23 of those completed the course & earned their medals. I think it definitely helps to keep our borrowing figures up in the summer months; families who take part are always very positive about it. I’d like to increase our activities in the library around the challenge with fun days like the circus one a few years ago and … we may be able to do a bit more this year. One limiting factor for the volunteer libraries is the demographic of the volunteer staff, many of whom find the children’s section confusing and lack confidence promoting the scheme to visitors unless asked about it. I need to increase the volunteer training to overcome some of the resistance I’ve felt in the past.” Ruth Penn, Little Chalfont Community Library.

“I would say that it goes well with us because Ruth puts in a great deal of time and effort, liaising with BCC and the SRC organisers, and in publicizing it with local schools. So you get back what you put in” Rohan Dale, Little Chalfont Community Library

Now, Little Chalfont is a very well established volunteer library which can be expected to be a “best case” scenario for the genre.  Doubtless, there are other libraries of the same ilk who are not doing half as well but the impression I get from my tiny amount of research on this subject (which is more, mind you, than anything done anywhere else – public libraries are not exactly good at this sort  thing) is that, overall, we’re not seeing the widespread destruction on the ground which may be feared, which is something that all of us who have seen the positive effects of the SRC on children can be fully grateful for.
Does this ring true to you? Have you any other experiences of volunteer libraries running the Summer Reading Challenge that you are willing to share? If so, please send this and/or any other news to ianlibrarian@live.co.uk.

Erratum

In the previous post of 17th July, I said that the Gloucestershire judicial review merely meant that the council redid the necessary parts and then acted as it would have done previously.  It has been pointed out to me that this is not the case and that three static libraries remained opened due to the decision.  My thanks to @FOGLibraries for the correction.

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