Well, that’s not subtle: the new libraries minister is also minister for volunteers

Editorial

Rather confusingly, there is a new libraries minister.  It turns out that Matt Hancock, who has taken over most of the outgoing minister, Ed Vaizey’s, responsibilities, will not have the public library brief as well.  That honour goes to Rob Wilson MP who, rather delightfully, is also an MP for Reading. Less happily, his other duties are all about boosting volunteers and non-profits.  That may give a rather blatant pointer to where he will be standing on some of the key issues in libraries: it’s hard to see him coming out against increasing volunteers at the expense of paid staff in libraries when his other role is all about increasing them.  In addition, his own constituency is seeing some fairly major cuts to libraries.

The big news, other than this, is the big reduction to libraries announced in Derby.  Normally, before, the Central Library has been the branch most likely to be considered safe, with it being kept much the same as before while the poor branch libraries bear the brunt.  Not so in Derby.  There, it is specifically Central that will close, along with a massive 11 of the other 13, in order to cut costs. So that will keep a bare minimum of library provision in that city.  But don’t expect out new libraries minister to protest: after all, most of those others will be going to volunteers.

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National news

  • The DCMS & Civil Society (and Ed) – Stop the privatisation of public libraries. “This move is seen by many as an attempt by the government to re-position and re-invigorate (or even demote) their ‘Big Society’ agenda” … ” we’ve definitely seen a push towards offloading library services to Social Enterprises, Charitable Trusts etc and with the Minister for Civil Society now holding the libraries brief within the DCMS I would be very surprised if their wasn’t an escalation”
  • Libraries are key to combating digital exclusion – New Start. “We’ve learned that libraries are ideally placed to engage these audiences – but that in order to do so they’ve had to think a bit differently.”.  Key points: Partnerships are key to help libraries reach and support new audiences; Mobile equipment is needed to deliver outreach sessions, and engage older or more vulnerable groups; Libraries need to collect robust data to track the progress of their learners and programmes and demonstrate their impact; By helping to move people from face-to-face or telephone services to digital, libraries can help save significant amounts of money; Libraries’ experience in managing volunteers is invaluable in delivering effective digital inclusion support”
  • A load of old cobblers, Minister – Question Everything. “Vaizey was the best shadow minister for libraries, but the worst minister for libraries. The massive hypocrisy of his words after what he said in opposition, sat on his backside doing nothing in office while the library service was dismembered will be his legacy. His record of non-intervention during a time of massive cuts to the sector speak for themselves. He bottled the debate with Alan Gibbons and wouldn’t speak to users or campaigners. Preferring to only interact with those who had nothing but praise for his ineptitude.” … Matt Hancock “can’t be worse than his predecessor and I’m certain that whatever he does or doesn’t do, the SCL will think he’s a champion.”
  • Office for Civil Society is moving – NCVO. “Following a few days of rumour and confusion in the Westminster bubble, it has finally been announced that the Office for Civil Society and Innovation (to give it its full name) will be moving from the Cabinet Office to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). In doing so, it is following the Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson, who in effect remains in post, albeit now in a different department. I thought it might be useful to jot down a few reflections.”
  • Pokémon in libraries – Libraries Taskforce. ” in case people think it is all a bit of a waste of time, articles are showing that however fleeting it may be, it is currently driving lots of new traffic to businesses. So, as the article quoted at the top of this post stated, whether a brief fad or long term obsession, this is an excellent example of how libraries are well placed to exploit a technology based opportunity: from attracting new visitors to making life just a bit more fun.”
  • Rob Wilson given libraries brief at DCMS – BookSeller. “Nick Poole, chief executive of libraries body CILIP, said: “I would like to congratulate Rob Wilson on his appointment. I am sure he is relishing the opportunity to support and develop libraries as they improve life chances for families and communities across the country. Libraries add value to the UK economy by supporting enterprise and employment, they save the NHS money through public health initiatives, and are an essential part of improving literacy skills. “As minister for civil society, Rob’s experiences spearheading initiatives that improve social mobility, give everyone equal chances and create a stronger society will be invaluable. I look forward to working with Rob and his team to ensure that there is the political leadership, policy support and investment to create modern and sustainable library services that meet the information needs of the public now and in the future.””
  • Vaizey and Poole in Twitter spat over libraries record – BookSeller. “Amid a round of Twitter congratulations to Vaizey for his six years in office, Poole, c.e.o. of libraries body CILIP (The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), tweeted: “OK Ed Vaizey can’t resist – having been such a great arts/digital minister why did you struggle to champion or improve policy for libraries?” He added: “Genuinely asking – we couldn’t secure your engagement despite your reforming agenda. What is the government’s library blindspot?” Vaizey responded that Poole had misunderstood his role, saying that Poole had “ignored all [the DCMS] did”. He said: “It’s worrying you don’t understand how libraries work. You do know govt doesn’t fund them or run them?” … ““You took a very soft view on the allowances of the [1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act] at first and eventually undermined your own case for intervention,” Poole said.”
  • The why of libraries and librarians – Did you say Ode? “I was struck by the fact the volunteer library people seemed to think a library was about books, whereas the librarians defined the library as being about access to information. I think the librarians’ point of view then is representative of our profession: we do not believe libraries are about books – and yet so many of our residents (even those taking our defence), stakeholders, decision-makers think so. Where does this discrepancy come from? Where did we go wrong?”

International news

  • Czech Republic Why are libraries everywhere in the Czech Republic – New York Times. One library per every two thousand people.
  • Eire – Libraries strike halted as merger plans axed – Irish Examiner. Government ends place to unite all Irish public libraries. “Impact says it will await written confirmation of the decision to drop the merger plans, which the union expects will include a commitment to fill vacant county librarian posts, and will consider the finer detail before officially deferring its industrial action.”
  • Myanmar – Transforming libraries in Myanmar: The e-Library Myanmar Project – OUP Blog. “During the darkest years until 2011, when all information was cut off, I stayed a librarian because I believe in the power of information to improve and transform the libraries and the lives of the librarians in the academic society.” … “the impact of the e-Library Myanmar Project is to support educational change by increasing the availability and usage of e-resources to faculty and students and strengthening the role of libraries in improving teaching and research “
  • Pakistan – British Council library in Karachi reopens after 15 years – International Business Times. “The British Council library in Pakistan’s Karachi, which got closed after the 9/11 attacks, reopened on Thursday (21 July) after 15 years with a new avatar. However, general public will be allowed to get the access of the library from next month (August) only.” … “the new library is coming up with a new theme in which it is blending fundamentals of a traditional library with a touch of culture and technology. The library will work as a single stop portal for users by providing subscriptions to newspapers and magazines from across the world, privilege to choose from thousands of volumes from varied genres, access to digital books as well as online academic sources and articles, and it will also offer electronic checkouts for borrowed books.”
  • USA – Library exchanges late fees for blood – Pensacola News Journal. “Pensacola will offer patrons a little extra incentive to donate blood by offering to waive library fines up to $50 in exchange for their donation. The new incentive is part of a regular blood drive the library hosts in partnership with OneBlood.”
  • USA – The New York Public Library’s little-known “human Google” service answers any question by phone – Quartz. “The New York Public Library’s questions desk serves as a catch-all for the venerable library system’s 92 locations. Though its purpose is logistical (How do I download ebooks from the library?), for many, it’s basically a human Google (How many British monarchs have been left-handed?).”
  • USA – No Bundt Pan? Check One Out of the Library – Food52. “Traditional library systems (you know, the book kind) are also getting in on the act, creating entire libraries-within-libraries of kitchen appliances, seeds, and even cake pans. Browsing through the bakeware options available for checkout at the “Library of Things” in Hillsboro, Oregon is a pure delight, with oddball offerings like Thomas the Tank Engine-shaped pans sharing space with Doctor Who cookie cutters and donut molds. Kitchen appliances are given their own special section, and even some curious, food-adjacent items like cotton candy machines are ready to be borrowed.”
  • USA – Reading Conversations: RA for All Library Staff – WebJunction. “The program has resulted in a culture change. Everyone talks about books at all staff meetings now. Many proudly post their BINGO cards in their workstations, not only to show their progress but to share the titles of books they’re reading. Staff challenge each other to read different genres. They have even come up with their own additional team challenges. One staff-created challenge involved a Star Trek theme to encourage science fiction reading; “to boldly read where no one has read before!” One branch is staging a Mission Impossible challenge (“your mission should you choose to accept it . . .”), with teams of Pages and Custodians versus Clerks and Assistants vying for the most reads”
  • USA – West Virginia Libraries Pick Up the Pieces – American Libraries. “Loretta Jones, who will soon turn 82 but says she is “hanging on to 81 until I’m ready to let go,” has been leading recovery efforts at the Rainelle (W.Va.) Public Library since it took on five-and-a-half feet of river water in flooding on June 23–24. The president of the library’s five-person board of directors, Jones has been on the scene since the waters receded, recruiting a youth group to clear out soggy books on June 27, calling in other volunteers to remove furniture the following day, and signing up a contractor to tear out walls and insulation on June 29.”

Local news by authority

  • Barnet – Stop the destruction of Barnet Library Service and the sacking of Barnet Library workers – 38 Degrees. Unison petition against cuts and proposed changing to library service.
  • Blackpool – Library users brought to book as fines go up – Blackpool Gazette. “Borrowers will face a maximum fine of £10, up from £6, for overdue items although daily fines for late returns will remain at the current rate of 20p.” … “In future only children aged under 18 will be exempt from being fined for the late return of a loaned item. The cost of reserving books from other libraries will double from £2 to £4.”
  • Bury – Councillor asks for reassurance over future of Ramsbottom Library – This is Lancashire. ““In view of the fact that there were 70,750 visits to Ramsbottom Library in the 12 months from April,2015, can the leader of the council assure my constituents that Ramsbottom Library and Heritage Centre will not close as a result of the library review?” “
  • Cumbria – Consultation on proposed changes to Penrith Library opening hours – Cumbria Crack. ““Taking these issues into account we are now proposing some limited changes to opening hours that reflect these two issues.” The changes will not lead to staffing reductions – staff will continue to work the same hours, but more of these will be spent on essential operational activity ‘behind the scenes’ while the library is closed to the public. This time is needed to allow libraries to continue to offer a first class service when they are open.”
  • Cumbria – Shhh: Farron Quiet On Library Cuts – Cumbria Pink. Lib Dem MP Tim Farron criticised library cuts when Lib Dems were in opposition on the council but is now quiet when a Lib Dem council is cutting libraries.
  • Derby – Derby Central Library could close in council shake-up – Derby Telegraph. Council “hoping to save £648,000 by changing the way libaries are run. It has drawn up a series of options on how to go about it and one, which it is understood is the preferred option, is to close the Central Library and replace it with Riverside Library.” … “it is absolutely fantastic that Alvaston Library is being kept open under this plan. It is through a lot of hard work and lobbying through me and former councillor Mark Tittley that this has been achieved.”
  • East Sussex – Calls to stop cuts and save libraries – Argus. “Margaret Martin, chair of the Friends of Pevensey Bay Library, has sent this message to central government: “Please look again at what is happening to libraries and reverse the current policy to phase out the annual grant settlement to local authorities from central government. “Access to public services should not be a postcode lottery dependant on what local authority area you live in, which is what is happening as a consequence of making all council services dependant on raising council tax.”
  • East Sussex – Cuts to library opening hours: Thin end of the wedge – Pevensey Bay Life. “The council has done a detailed study to reduce the impact of these cuts on users, but of course for some library staff this will mean losing their jobs. The council has committed to not closing libraries until their strategic review reports at this time next year. At that point another £750,000 of cuts will be sought. After finding £500,000 from staff savings, £250,000 from the book fund, and another £500,000 from reducing library opening hours by a quarter, it is hard to imagine how this will be found other than through closing libraries.”
  • Lambeth – Carnegie trust won’t back council library planning application – Brixton Blog. “The Carnegie Community Trust (CCT), one of two organisations bidding to take over the Carnegie library in Herne Hill, has said it cannot support plans for the library’s conversion by Lambeth council and its leisure provider GLL. The trust, which has received council funding and has former councillors as trustees, has been criticised as unrepresentative by a rival group, the Carnegie Library Association, a charitable incorporated organisation, which is associated with the high-profile campaign against Lambeth’s plans for its libraries.”
  • Lambeth – Friends of Lambeth Libraries host pop up event after Waterloo library is closed, 3pm, Fri 22nd July – Brixton Buzz. “News has just reached is that Waterloo library has unexpectedly been closed without notice, prompting an action from the Friends of Lambeth Libraries today at 3pm “
  • Lancashire – Comedian pens letter to keep Whitworth library open – Rossendale Free Press. “Jimmy Cricket, who lives near Healey corner on the Whitworth border, has penned a letter expressing his ‘deep sadness’ at the thought of the closure. He said: “As a child growing up in Belfast, the library was the hub of community relations. “I used to lose myself in books like Treasure Island and Oliver Twist. “It brought me into another world and helped me to express myself and to formulate ideas and plans. “I support you and everybody in your quest to keep Whitworth library open. “The fact I ask myself is how the country that gave us Shakespeare would allow our libraries to close?”
  • Lancashire – Just £40k could save a Hyndburn library – Accrington Observer. “Figures from Freedom of Information show 405,091 people have visted Clayton-le-Moors, Rishton and Oswaldtwistle library in the last three years ” … “According to the council figures released to the Observer by Lancashire County Council under the Freedom of Information Act it cost the council just over £40,000 to run Oswaldtwistle library last year, while they spent £44,000 on Clayton-le-Moors and £37,000 on Rishton.” see also Just £60k could save a Rossendale library – Rossendale Free Press.Terry Hill is from Ribble Valley Borough council and is chairing the working group trying to save the services. He says that the decision to scrap Whalley library makes no sense whatsoever
  • Lancashire – Lancashire County Council underspent by more than half a million pounds – Lancashire Evening Press. Economy drive within council leads to there being more money, bringing need to cut libraries under question. Conservative opposition “demanded to know if the ruling Labour group would have taken a different approach to cuts if it had known these savings would be achieved saying: “People might begin to think the deputy leader (finance spokesman) is a bit like the young shepherd who called wolf.””
  • Lancashire – Loss of libraries and children’s centres will damage community – 2BR. “A group of councillors from the Ribble Valley is working out the impact that the loss of libraries and children’s centres will have on the community.”
  • Lancashire – Warning over town library complacency – Gazette. The one library that is planned to survive the cuts may be under threat itself. “The pair, who represent St Annes North and South respectively, say they have been advised that things could drastically change following the consultation process and are urging St Annes resusents to speak up for the library before the consulation closes midway through next month. “
  • Leicestershire – Falklands Vulcan bomber pilot will see new community library venture take off – Leicester Mercury. “Retired RAF pilot and Vulcan XH558 Chief Pilot Martin Withers whose late father was a Fellow of the Libraries Association, will attend the handover by Leicestershire County Council of Sapcote Library to a group of trustees and volunteers next month.”
  • Lewisham – Open Letter to Lewisham Council Supporting Professionally Staffed Libraries – Antigentrification. “This is part of the Save Lewisham Libraries campaign. Lewisham library workers will be on strike on Wednesday 20th July and there will be a public lobby outside Catford’s Civic Suite at 6.30pm for the Full Council Meeting in which bids for the future of Torridon Road, Manor House, Forest Hill and Catford libraries will be decided. “
  • Sandwell – Speed dating at Thimblemill Library – Sandwell Council. “An evening of speed dating at Thimblemill Library is being piloted on Saturday 3 September with a round-robin dating forum where everyone gets ten dates each lasting four minutes.

A small-talk master class will start the evening, which is the first of its kind for Sandwell Council’s Library Service.

  • Sheffield – Library policy failed – Star / Letters. “The current policy on libraries in our city has clearly put people off visiting, with visits to the branch libraries in our city at an all-time low since the staff were sacked. This means that vulnerable people such as the elderly, isolated and mentally ill, among others, are not engaging with a service that could enhance and even change their lives in so many positive ways.”
  • Shropshire – Alternative library services for Shawbury to be considered – Shropshire Live. “The ‘Closure of Shawbury Library and for alternative library service provision’ report will be presented to Shropshire Council’s Cabinet next Wednesday. Proposals highlighted in the report will ask Cabinet to consider closing the library from Autumn 2016, and for a new weekly mobile library service be introduced: the mobile library will offer a wide range of services for residents of all ages. Other recommendations include pursuing discussions with Shawbury Village Hall Committee, who are supportive in developing the Village Hall as a ‘Community Hub’.”
  • South Ayrshire – String of South Ayrshire libraries set to cut hours as council looks for £100,000 of cuts – Daily Record. “A string of libraries are to shut on Wednesdays as part of cost-cutting measures. Council chiefs reckon they will save more than £100,000 over the next three years with the reduced hours package. They have already pulled down the shutters for good at Coylton, Dailly and Dundonald. Now Alloway, Ballantrae, Carnegie, Forehill, Girvan, Maybole, Mossblown, Prestwick, Symington, Tarbolton and Troon will all be hit, which hours being sliced most days”

“A new minister has assumed responsibility for public libraries — but you’d hardly know it from the job title. While Matt Hancock was officially announced as “minister of state responsible for digital policy” at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, he nevertheless gets the libraries part of outoing Ed Vaizey’s old portfolio. Hancock was quick to reassure anxious library campaigners on Twitter that he was a “strong supporter of our brilliant libraries”, adding that he had visited Birmingham library earlier that day, before his appointment was announced.  His strong support hasn’t translated into any parliamentary contributions on the topic, however;  nor was he vocal about the threatened closure of libraries in his Suffolk constituency in 2011. In a speech to the Public Sector Mutuals Conference this month, he did briefly praise the outsourcing of all 44 of Suffolk’s public libraries to IPS, an industrial and provident society.  But IPS faces rapidly falling budgets from Suffolk county council and falling numbers of borrowers;  and its commitment to making no closures only lasts until the end of the current contract period, which is next July.” Suffolk – Library News – Private Eye, 1423 [Not available online – Ed.]

Chris Riddell (L), Ed Vaizey (C - discovering he's the same height as a Twit, honestly) and Sue Williamson at the official Big Friendly Read launch.

Goodbye Ed Vaizey

Editorial

So Ed Vaizey is no longer libraries minister.  Readers of Public Libraries News will know what he has done, and what he hasn’t, for public libraries in the six years he has been in charge. Before being in power, he stridently called for interventions in libraries but when he was in power, he did not intervene effectively – other than nodding through deep cuts – in a single one. A nice enough chap, even charming I understand, he was perhaps constrained by his background, his ideology, notably that of localism and austerity, and by his colleagues in doing anything more.  Certainly, the Sieghart Review and the Taskforce are welcome, although they However, claiming that libraries were thriving when they self-evidently were not and calling in question the number of closures and depth of cuts when the evidence was there was all to see was, I suspect, all him. Or is it? We will see with his replacement, who has already claimed on Twitter to be a supporter of libraries has a similar relationship with cold hard. politically uncomforable, facts.

In other news, I’ve been following news of Pokémon Go visits to libraries throughout the country and many library services have not been slow in taking advantage, at least in social media. That’s all great to see, as are all the wonderful pictures of children joining the Big Friendly Read.

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Swindon: Campaigners were out in force to show their support for Swindon's libraries ahead of a full council meeting

Wifi, digital inclusion, NHS public libraries and a new Culture Secretary

Editorial

A couple of useful reports on public libraries – one on wifi and one on digital inclusion – to have a read through in this post. Arts Council England have also announced that the procedure for libraries to apply for their grants will soon change. In addition, there’s the amazing news that a Friend’s group in Suffolk has raised £30k for its library.  That’s a lot for a support group but, of course, small scale for a council but, if the council does not have any money …  There’s also an interesting article about the NHS in Staffordshire (there’s more info here by the way).

Speaking of Staffs, the new Culture Secretary comes from around there and has had some dealing with libraries in the past, speaking warmly of coffee mornings and attending the transfer of Werrington Library to a wellbeing centre, staffed by volunteers, So, she has at least shown an interest but, unsurprisingly, is of the same camp as other Conservatives on the way forward for libraries in these difficult times. By the way, Ed Vaizey has, at time of writing, not been promoted (or demoted) as far as I can see but is now a member of the privy council so will now be called “The Right Honourable”.

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11 million books for 5p per day, plus free internet access? It's a no-brainer, Wales

The increasingly ironically named Reading, Ealing’s Primark Library … and Pokémon Go

Editorial

Some pretty major cuts to libraries have been announced, with two things in common.  One is that they blame central government cuts. The other is that a big thing is made of the council not actually cutting more, often pointing out other authorities are doing even worse things to the people’s chances of equal access to information and literacy.  Ealing – the one that’s halving the size of its central library and selling 87,000 of its books – even says it’s proud it is not being even more savage.  So, these councils should be grateful to the seriously malicious library cutters, such as the recent Swindon, who make such a defence possible. Meanwhile, in the afore-mentioned Swindon, a member of the public – not even a public official – is straight-faced calling the cuts a new opportunity for community empowerment.  Doublethink appears to have won the argument.

But fear not, for a possible library saviour is coming across the horizon, and he may be yellow with a spiky tail.  Pokémon Go, when it gets here, is apparently quite keen on making public libraries centres … so expect lots of young people coming on to the premises looking everywhere with their mobile phones. And, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, find out, and work out how to make the most of it.

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Poem and illustration by @duddledum

Trusts cost more; co-locations, New York success and libraries meet UN targets

Editorial

A fair few changes over the last few days, with a fair bit being positive, mixed in with the normal depression.  Interestingly, Wrexham has decided to buck the general trend towards moving to Trusts, with their research showing it would cost £200k more per year to move to that model. Away from the UK, there’s a story from the USA about how libraries are thriving once more due to a revival in investment and there’s a report from IFLA on how libraries are able to meet every single one of the UN targets.

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The Big Friendly Success: Here comes the Summer Reading Challenge 2016

Editorial

It’s my favourite time of the year. No, not Christmas and not my birthday, or (ahem) my wedding anniversary but the start of the Summer Reading Challenge.  I love doing school assemblies promoting it and I’ve already had two whole junior school’s worth of children chanting “B F R”.  It’s the little things in life I enjoy.  And the impact that this has is lasting. I was in Asda the other week and a young man (16?) shouted “It’s Ian” and came up to talk to me.  Turns out he remembers the school assembly I did at this school six or seven years ago when I got them all chanting “Space Hop” (my assemblies don’t change that much) and was keen to tell me how he was doing and how he was going on to study further.  There’s a man who has a very positive association in his mind with libraries and an experience that is being repeated in its thousands up and down the country at the moment. So here’s to all the libraries, all the teachers and above all, all the children and parents who will make the Summer the busiest time of the year for libraries again this year. Long may it continue.

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So, what does the Referendum result mean for public libraries?

Editorial

I know from talking to many people in public libraries and the public sector generally that it’s been a depressing few days, which at times has affected them more than even many general elections. There’s been no end of analysis of what the referendum result means for the country but none about what it means for public libraries. Let’s change that now:

  • Public libraries have been notable for not being used by many to find out information on the facts during the campaign. I’m aware of only a tiny handful of enquiries.  The great majority of libraries did not go out of the way to inform people either: indeed, they would have been often discouraged to do so because they’d have been accused of bias by one or the other side. The rules of council “purdah” may also have been invoked.  If libraries are a strongpoint of democracy and neutral information – as many believe they should be – then they signally failed in this test and need to plan to do better next time.
  • At this moment, it looks significantly likely that Scotland will have another independence referendum, which will probably result in a Yes vote. This means that the large number of leftwing MPs elected to parliament from north of the border will no longer be there.  This will cause a significant shift in the ease that Labour can hope to get in: basically, you’d need votes like those previously associated with landslides in order for them to stand a chance. In turn, this means that governments are probably going to stay right-wing, being more likely to continue to favour limiting public spending, and thus library budgets, in the longer term. Personally, also, for me, it means that I’ll have to start putting Scottish News in the International News section, which is just going to be plain weird.
  • As uncertainty rocks businesses and, at the very least, they will have to get used to new procedures, there is likely to be slowdown in economic growth. This may to some extent be offset by the cost of sterling though but, on balance, and especially looking at recent FTSE results, it’s not looking good for large parts of the British economy. This, again, means we’re more likely to face more cuts to public services than before.
  • Thankfully, public libraries don’t get much investment from the European Union in this country. They get some for new builds but there’s not much of that happening at the moment, although a few places are likely to notice. So, we’re not likely to significantly lose much money that way, Phew.

This is all guesswork of course. It may be that some of the money repatriated from the EU goes to public services and thus negates the impacts of austerity.  It’s possible that Scotland won’t go independent. But, at the moment, the balance of probability is that the short and medium term impact on public libraries will be negative.

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Embracing Digital Services #futureoflibraries

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Chris Riddell loves libraries

A quiet couple of days for libraries: Hull enters centre stage?

Editorial

A quiet few days as, I suspect, the nation held its breath over the referendum. Good to see more Summer Reading Challenge references (I always love this time of year) and also nice to see good news from Birmingham, although it’s only an expansion of what we already knew. What I did not already know was that there’s an independent charitable trust in Hull with loads of money and a strong interest in libraries which wants to make itself known nationally. It will be interesting to see how that develops.

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Amazon linking revisited … and … Ed Vaizey says it’s all OK

Editorial

I’m always pleased, and a niggling part of me is surprised too, when I get feedback on something in an editorial.  My thanks to Jon Scown of Somerset Libraries who responded to my recent post on the linking to Amazon on the Libraries West catalogue:

“We noticed with interest the editorial in last week’s Public Libraries News about LibrariesWest linking to Amazon from our website, not least because we’ve been doing this since 2005 so it’s nothing new! I guess the profile of this has been raised since we launched our new website following our recent migration to the Symphony LMS.

I thought it might help to explain why we make the link and the benefits to the service and to customers. We’ve used the income to support a number of successful promotional campaigns over the years which we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford. For example, we ran a Join a Friend campaign to encourage library members to recommend the library to friends and family, and a marketing campaign when we launched our e book and e audio book services. The income from Amazon allowed us to produce high quality publicity materials and to buy prizes to support the campaigns. Alongside these campaigns we’ve also run a number of consortium wide promotions to support the Summer Reading Challenge and National Libraries Day.

I’m sure this will be of interest to the readers of Public Libraries News and demonstrate that there is value in making the link to Amazon.”

Jon then went on to say that “over the eleven years we’ve been doing it we’ve made several thousand pounds. So, there’s an idea, especially as it is balanced out by a link to a “buy it on the local high street” webpage as well, which I think is an excellent idea.

On the other hand, I’ve also heard from someone else that their authority tried it, “earned pennies” and then stopped. And it’s worth noting that a few thousand pounds would be worth possibly at tops one tenth of one percent of library income over the period described, although it’s clearly put to good use and ringfenced (always a good idea to do that if you can).

Ultimately, I think faced with an ever-shrinking budget individual library authorities (and others definitely in that boat –  Milton Keynes, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, for instance – have done the same) it’s an offer many will find too tempting to refuse.  Strategically and nationally, one still fears that it’s allying with an enemy who basically wants you closed down, while alienating potential supporters such as many booksellers and authors. But, faced with the needs we face, many library services will be willing to make that deal. And, by the look of it, Ed Vaizey will congratulate them for modernising at the same time.

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Humanity First

Editorial

A murder of an MP as she was leaving a library. Not many people think of violence when they think of libraries but it’s there. I’ve personally called the police numerous times, broken up fights before they started, called the ambulance after they ended, seen a few knives, dowsed the flames of an arson attack. But (and I’m aware there are one or two US readers of this who would disagree, sadly)  I would before last week never think that anyone would ever be shot in one, least of all an MP. Words cannot express. My best wishes to the staff and volunteers who were there on the day and to all the library staff, everywhere, who know that violence may be part of the job. May it not be the part in any MP’s job again any time soon.

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