Award ceremonies galore, Lancashire, Yorkshire and the rest.

Editorial

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

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

Changes

National news

  • Cleeves pens murder mystery script to support libraries – BookSeller. “Crime writer Ann Cleeves has written a murder mystery script for libraries and booksellers to use in “author-less” events. The gesture is Cleeves’ way of thanking librarians and booksellers for their support during her career, as well as an acknowledgement of the “funding gap” left by cuts to libraries that can make such public events and outreach work difficult or impossible. The murder mystery script, Blood on the Bannocks, will equip public libraries with everything they need to hold murder mystery nights for readers. It is available from 12th September on Pan Macmillan’s website. It requires four volunteers to play the parts of the suspects and a prize for the winning investigator. The initiative follows similar efforts in 2012 when Cleeves also provided a murder mystery pack to libraries that was a “huge success”, according to the Reading Agency. “
  • Download the Code: Fun Palaces Comic Maker – Signal in Transition. “This means that coders can rework and reimagine the comic maker in new forms – or institutions can take our comic maker and put their own images into it instead. Imagine the Summer Reading Challenge using next year’s images in a site like this for example – or a library/museum/etc putting in images from their collections. In the Fun Palaces spirit – which is also the librarians’ spirit – of belief in everyone’s right to both access and create knowledge and culture, we’ve put a site online for people to tell their own stories in words and images – then released the code behind the site so that even that digital infrastructure can be used to build new, amazing, unpredictable things.” See Fun Palaces Comic.  
  • Exclusive: ‘Tragedy’ as Yorkshire councils slam the book shut on libraries – Yorkshire Post. “The figures, uncovered through a series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, show that cash sums spent on library services in the region have fallen by nearly £7m since 2011.” … “with 80 per cent of services in some parts of the region now being run by volunteers. ” … “In East Lincolnshire, expenditure had dropped 42 per cent since 2011, with the authority saying this was because the number of libraries run by the trust it funds has dropped from 10 to four. ” see also How volunteers are writing what could be the final chapter for Yorkshire’s libraries – Yorkshire Post.
  • Glasgow Women’s Library: a treasure trove that shows how far feminism has come – Guardian. “When Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, officially opened the renovated premises in the former Bridgeton Public Library in Glasgow’s East End last November, she described the facility, which celebrates its quarter-century this month, as a “national treasure”. Now recognised as a collection of national significance and the only accredited museum dedicated to women’s history in the UK, the GWL’s current bevvy of supporters reads like a roll call of Scotland’s most gallus women: comedian Susan Calman recently launched her memoir there, interviewed by broadcaster Muriel Gray; while national poet Jackie Kay and writers AL Kennedy, Denise Mina and Louise Welch have all contributed work ….”
  • Improved digital access and literacy: how libraries deliver – Libraries Taskforce. “Post number 5 in our summer series illustrating how libraries deliver against a wide range of outcomes. Shortly after the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web, this piece focuses on digital matters: both access to online channels, and the skills needed to understand how to get the best out of the sites and services available.” … ” A 2014 BT report estimated the value of digital engagement to a new user at around £1,064 a year, however in 2015, around 14% of the UK population still lacked household internet access. “.  Looks at examples in libraries.
  • ‘Libraries Pay’ – Nick Poole’s opening remarks at CILIP PMLG Teachmeet – CILIP. “There is an idea that ‘money’ is a dirty word for libraries, that it sullies our professional ethics. That libraries live in an idealised world far away from the world of commerce. But if the past 8 years of austerity have taught us anything, it’s that all of the social good we deliver needs to be built on a strong foundation of economic strength. ” … “One of the things I am most excited about today’s event is that it takes a balanced view of what ‘economic’ activity really means for libraries. We’re going to look at income generation alongside the wider question of the economic value we deliver for our places and our communities. “
  • Nielsen LibScan & BookScan for Libraries webinar – Nielsen. Wednesday 28 September 2016, 11am. “The webinar will provide a step-by-step guide to the following: The key differences between author and title charts; How to run a timeline and trended timeline; How to understand and manipulate the reports to inform your stock selection” Free.
  • Poem for the National Library Demo, 5th November – YouTube. Alan Gibbons reads the poem. “Join us on Saturday November 5th at 12pm at the British Library, Euston Road, London.”
  • Try to keep our libraries open – Yorkshire Evening Post / Editorial. “As communities across Yorkshire have already learned to their cost, there is no turning back when a library is closed and the network would be even more threadbare if it wasn’t for volunteers giving up time to keep branches open. In fairness to the councils, the 20 per cent funding cut is in line with the rest of local government. Perhaps the time has come when councils, and Government, need to be more hard-nosed. What about opening shops inside the larger libraries, with profits going towards new books, or the powers-that-be exploring whether a chain like Waterstones would be prepared to sponsor branches for tax breaks?”
  • Watch: The 2016 Libraries Change Lives Award Shortlist – CILIP. Videos of Norfolk’s “Healthy Libraries”; Renfrewshire’s “Skoobmobile” and Sefton’s “Lost Voices”.
  • Working with job seekers in Solihull – Libraries Taskforce. “The library service in Solihull has been working with ReCom, a local charity whose aim is to help more people benefit from getting online. They help individuals, the community and organisations benefit by running Computer Clubs for the over 55s, and offering IT training to charities and community groups among other things, all with the goal of bringing people closer to employment. These goals meant they were therefore a good partner to work in the library.”

International news

  • Eire – Sligo libraries face closure due to council staff cuts – Irish Times. “County associated with WB Yeats may lose two of its three libraries if staff cuts go ahead “
  • USA – New Librarian of Congress Offers a History Lesson in Her Own Right – New York Times. “For Dr. Hayden, who was sworn in on Wednesday as the 14th librarian of Congress, the unrest was the test that clarified her values: Libraries are about far more than books. “The people of that neighborhood protected that library,” Dr. Hayden said during a recent interview in her new office overlooking Capitol Hill. “There were young men who stood outside. It was such a symbol.” At 64, Dr. Hayden is the first African-American and the first woman to lead the 216-year-old library, one of the world’s largest, and the nation’s leading repository of knowledge and culture. “To be the head of an institution that’s associated with knowledge and reading and scholarship when slaves were forbidden to learn how to read on punishment of losing limbs, that’s kind of something,’’ she said.” [This is one article of many: congratulations to Dr Hayden – Ed.]
  • USA – University to buy football scoreboard with thrifty librarian’s money, outraging critics – Independent. $100k of librarian’s bequeathment goes to library, $1 million for a new scoreboard.

Local authority news

  • Aberdeenshire – Union urges “fight” to keep council leisure services in-house – Press and Journal. “Aberdeenshire Council has drafted in consultants to examine options for a shake-up of facilities such as swimming pools and libraries. The cash-strapped authority considered setting up a separate charitable trust in a bid to slash costs six years ago but dropped the idea. It said then that an arm’s-length external organisation could save hundreds of thousands of pounds in costs such as VAT and rates. And now the authority has revived the prospect, by commissioning Ernst and Young to carry out a study looking at various options.”
  • Bromley – Unite hails ‘significant victory’ as group pulls out of community library takeovers – Bromley Times. “The ongoing feud over Bromley’s library services took another turn this week, as Community Links Bromley announced it would not be taking over a handful of libraries. Following strike action in July, Unite has called the move “a significant victory against the fragmentation of the borough’s library service”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – IOP Physics in the Field activities for children : Illustrating the Impacts of the STEM Ambassadors programme – All About STEM. “Over the summer holidays, the libraries within Cheshire West & Chester took part in a national initiative called the ‘Big Friendly Read’. To supplement their activities, STEM Ambassador, Harold Stockdale, and colleagues from the Merseyside branch of the IOP were invited to provide PitF activities for children, their parents/guardians and members of the public attending particular libraries.  The PitF activities are relatively simple demonstrations of phenomena usually involving everyday objects.  These activities are very much “hands-on” and visitors to the PitF are encouraged to try the activities for themselves. The PitF volunteers are able to provide explanations of what happens (sometimes what happens is counterintuitive) and this hopefully encourages children and adults to try the activities at home and think about the science behind what’s happening.” [I’m quoted – Ed.]
  • Essex – Computers and WiFi in Epping Forest libraries to be unavailable tomorrow – Epping Forest Guardian. “Essex County Council says an “essential upgrade” means the PCs and Wi-Fi will be unavailable all day”
  • Essex – @FunPalaces project becomes a reality through Essex libraries – Essex TV. “This year for the first time a number of Essex Libraries will become Fun Palaces on Saturday 1st October. Witham Library will be transformed with hands-on science and art activities for children and adults. Based around the events of Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Snow Queen’, the day will see science experiments, craft projects and group activities aimed at children.”
  • Lambeth – Library campaigners target Rec – Brixton Blog. “At 2pm, children will gather at Brixton Library for a party to celebrate the [summe reading] challenge in Lambeth. The campaigners say the scheme keeps children entertained and reading through the summer holidays – preventing the “dip” in reading skills that sets back progress until school starts again. Numbers attending have grown spectacularly in Lambeth, year by year. Last year 409 children completed the challenge at the now-closed Carnegie Library, which campaigners say was the busiest children’s library in the borough and another 196 at Minet Library, also now closed.”
  • Lancashire – Bid for call-in on county council’s controversial library cuts – Lancashire Evening Post. “A cross party group of councillors comprising four Conservatives, two Labour and one Green councillor – Tory opposition group leader Coun Geoff Driver, his deputy Coun Albert Atkinson and Tories Coun Michael Green and Susie Charles, Green Councillor Gina Dowding and Labour councillors Kim Snape and Bev Murray.”
  • Lancashire – Closing a vibrant venue – Lancashire Evening Post / Letters. “My hopes were raised when they produced a consultation document to take my views into consideration but, even before it had ended, they had again appeared to have announced the sale of the building. What was the point of paying for the consultation if it was already being ignored? The people of Fulwood pay their community charge the same as all the other areas of the city, so why are we being singled out? I know that year on year the Government gives less money to councils, but shouldn’t they be less wasteful rather than take from some and not others?”
  • Lancashire – Cuts to buildings confirmed – Blackpool Gazette. “Lancashire County Council has now confirmed it will sell off more than 100 buildings which house libraries and children’s services as it looks to make £150m of savings by 2020. Among those to be sold off are Fleetwood’s Northfleet, Cleveleys and Thornton Libraries…”
  • Lancashire – Former MP David Borrow to quit county politics – Lancashire Evening Post. “The controversial cutbacks the Preston North West councillor is currently presiding over placed him on a collision course not just with members of the public appalled at plans for closure of libraries, Children’s and Young People’s centres, but also with some within his own party who have been angered at the prospect of a Labour led authority imposing what they regard as Tory Government imposed cuts.”
  • Lancashire – How do you use Adlington Library? What would you like to see in an Independent Community Library? – Surveymonkey.  Volunteers run own survey for taking over council library.

  • Lancashire – Last chance talks on future of libraries and children’s centres – Visitor. “A cross party group of councillors will make an eleventh hour appeal next week in a bid to reverse cuts to libraries and children’s centres. A special meeting of Lancashire County Council’s scrutiny committee will be held on September 22 to consider whether to call in last week’s cabinet decision to close more than 100 buildings and shake up or close care services for some of the most needy in the county.”
  • Lancashire – MP asks minister to intervene to stop Lancashire library closure – Lancashire Evening Post. “Wyre and Preston North MP Ben Wallace has asked Culture Minister Karen Bradley to investigate Lancashire County Council’s decision to close numerous libraries including Fulwood library.”
  • Lancashire – Politically Correct – Blackpool Gazette. ”  Labour’s public consultation on their library closure plan was a sham. Nothing changed, despite the public outcry, despite the petitions, despite the submissions, despite the hard work of the friends groups, and despite the alternative plan suggested by Wyre Conservative Councillors” …”This is despite the county’s annual underspend of short of £1m, or the £15m they forgot about, or the fact their annual budget is just over £2bn, or the fact that an alternative Conservative budget in March showed a balanced budget without any library closures. “
  • Lancashire – Pressure grows to reverse Fulwood library decision – Blog Preston. “The fight to save Fulwood Library from closure is not over, with a “Call In” meeting now being held on Thursday 22 September to challenge the council decision. Campaigners fighting to save Fulwood Library from closure urged a Preston MP to trigger a ‘call-in’ process to have Lancashire County Council’s plans examined”
  • Lancashire – Silverdale villagers protest against library closure – while Carnforth wins reprieve – Westmoreland Gazette. “Margaret Mackintosh, one of the organisers, told the Gazette of their frustration that Silverdale had been poised to be the country’s first “one-gigabit library” with the arrival of hyperfast broadband in the village last week. “
  • Leeds – Leeds library closure ‘tragedy’: Funding cut by more than £1 million – Yorkshire Evening Post. “The figures, uncovered through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, shows that cash sums spent on library services have fallen by 12 per cent since 2011.A total of 19 out of 53 have been closed, with three of its remaining 34 now run by volunteers. “This is a tragedy,” said Dr Lauren Smith, of the national Voices for the Library campaign. “There’s a real feeling of hopelessness. It’s absolutely not alright. Libraries are not just about book provision. They help with improving life skills, access to information, lots and lots of support. “
  • Sheffield – Libraries need staff – Sheffield Star / Letters. “The politicians seem to have got off lightly, with no awkward questions asked of councillors to justify their supporting of policies which have led to the decline in and lack of statutory status (and therefore easier closure of) 16 out of 28 of the city’s libraries.”
  • Shropshire – February deadline set for Church Stretton Library decision – Shropshire Star. “After being in limbo due to a legal wrangle, Shropshire Council has released a “timeline” for fresh decisions over the future of the the library – and expects to be discussing applicants at a cabinet meeting on February 8. The “proposed next steps” for seeking a new group to take the library were discussed by Church Stretton Town Council last night”

“Bad news from Surrey, where the county council gave only a few weeks’ notice before reducing the opening hours of a number of libraries. Bookham library will now be closed every weekday lunchtime — a move that has infuriated local residents and means the closure of literacy classes.  Local Lib Dem councillor Paul Kennedy has started a petition against the Bookham changes, pointing out that the council carried out no consultation on the reduced hours.  “You start creating a self-fulfilling prophecy where nobody ever goes as they don’t know if it’s going to be open,” he argues. Horsley Library also faces lunchtime closures, while Guildford, Dorking and Leatherhead are having their hours cut. The council’s website claims that “our people are our greatest asset”.  This doesn’t seem to apply to the county’s librarians, a quarter of whom have lost their jobs since a staffing review in December 2014.  The council argues that the latest reduction in library hours will save £250,000 a year.  Part of that sum can go towards paying Surrey chief executive David McNulty a £100,000 bonus on top of his £200,000 salary.  He will receive the bonus in 2018 if he meets certain targets… including cost savings.” Surrey – Library News – Private Eye Issue 1427

  • Telford and Wrekin – Telford library reorganisation approved by councillors – Shropshire Star. “Six libraries had faced the axe as part of Telford & Wrekin Council’s cost-cutting budget proposals. But cabinet chiefs last night met at Addenbrooke House, in Telford, and unanimously voted in favour of plans that will see the services continue. Three of the six under-threat libraries – Donnington, Dawley and Stirchley – will be run by town or parish councils.”
  • Wakefield – Have your say on changes to library opening times – Wakefield Express. “Wakefield Council has amended its proposed changes to library opening hours after listening to feedback from residents. The council is to reduce opening times at all 13 of its libraries in order to make a saving of £150k as identified in this year’s budget report. By introducing a small reduction to opening times at all its libraries, the council will be able to continue to provide these services right across the district.”
  • Warrington – Famous firsts, figures and important dates – Warrington Council. “1848 The first public library in the country is opened in Warrington, supporting the town’s museum” [This library is due to close, with the library being moved into a retail unit in the town centre – Ed.] see petition Save Warrington’s Libraries – 38 Degrees.
  • Warrington – Residents turn out in force to oppose Stockton Heath Library closure proposals – Warrington Guardian. “Around 30 residents made their way to Sandy Lane Centre to have their voices heard over the threat to the future of the village site. Those in attendance had the support of each parish councillor and members agreed to write to council leader Cllr Terry O’Neill and LiveWire to make their objections known. Parish councillors urged all residents who want to save Stockton Heath Library to e-mail senior councillors, respond to the LiveWire consultation, sign the public petition and join the ‘Save Warrington’s Libraries’ Facebook group to ‘pile on the pressure’ to get the ‘terrible plans dropped’.”
  • Warrington – UK’s first public library threatened with closure – BookSeller. “Warrington Central Library originally opened in 1848 as the first rate-supported library in the UK, before moving to its current premises in 1858. Rates were the local tax-raising system in place at the time. A petition has been launched to save the libraries from closure. It currently has 5,801 signatures.” … “However, Livewire insists that the central library will not close. Managing director, Emma Hutchinson told The Bookseller: “Warrington Central Library is not being closed.  The plans are to move it to a new location in the centre of town – less than a five minute walk from where it is now.  This will make the library more visible and more accessible for a larger number of people.” [This will actually be a retail unit – and I understand a lot smaller than it is now – Ed.]
  • Wigan – Library shake-up is next savings plan – Wigan Today. “More than half of the current library budget has been earmarked as part of cutbacks prompting the plans for a shake-up. A public consultation will be launched before the end of this year with council bosses pledging to keep as much of the current service open as possible.”. £1.4m cut. Cuts in staff, merging services and volunteers considered.

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

Editorial

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

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

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

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The library news since 8th September

Editorial

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

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A rallying cry against library volunteers

Editorial

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

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

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

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

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There’s consultations and then there’s …

Editorial

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

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

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

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Staffordshire, Sunderland, Bedford and … Ping Pong

Editorial

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

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

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Lancashire, Labour and Libraries

Editorial

The big news has to be Lancashire, where the council confirmed 29 libraries are to have their funding withdrawn late on the Friday before the bank holiday weekend. Suspicious timing aside, by my calculations, all the pain that this will put communities through accounts for barely one half of one percent of the cuts that the council has to make, while kicking up a maximum stink for the politicians at the same time. It just does not seem worth it, but the council seems intent on pushing through with the unpopular move.

The other big news is that both Labour Party leadership contenders have come up with big proposals for public libraries. Jeremy Corbyn proposes  a new library development agency and the creation of an “open knowledge library” where UK universities and public  won’t have to pay to access the research the government has already funded. Owen Smith, on the other hand, suggests closer collaboration between library services and longer term government funding settlements. This news comes after my last editorial ran saying Labour had been quiet about public libraries, following Chi Onwurah’s revelation she had planned a library campaign but then had to stop it because she wasn’t sure whether it was in her job description.

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A Labour library mess-up and the police in libraries

Editorial

You know where the parliamentary Labour Party has been when it comes to standing up for public libraries over the last year or so? Absolutely nowhere. And now we know why: the minister for libraries, Chi Onwurah, wanted to do something about it – indeed, did do a fair bit of research on it – but confusion as to who was doing what messed up the whole deal. I’ve emailed and tweeted Chi asking for the release of what research she has done as it would be such a shame to see such work going to waste.

Moving police, and traditional police jobs like lost-and-found forms, into libraries has also made the news.  Councils, and police forces, see the co-operation as sensible one to deliver services at reduced costs. Meanwhile, others worry that a police presence in libraries spoils their neutrality and would deter some (no, not criminals, although presumably they won’t be impressed either, I mean some ethnic and religious groups) from using them.  In practice, we’re all seeing such co-locations more and more often as cold financial reality makes bedfellows of more and more services that would once have been separate. There’s also advantages to a library for having, say, PCSO surgeries in the buildings. What’s needed, is a proper consideration of the impact before decisions are made.

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Fewer are Taking Part so let’s have a National Demonstration

Editorial

I’ve just had a very sunny week in Norway hence this is a combined news summary for the period since August 10th. So it’s a big one. The main news is the reduction in library usage – from, roughly, one half to one third of the population – in the last decade. That’s quite a steep decline. Public library popularity have also reduced in other countries of course but from the figures I have seen the reductions in budgets and usage are less, offset by increased visitors for “non-traditional” services and a slower decline in traditional numbers because, well, the stock is still good and the maintenance and furniture budget means they’re still attractive places to go. It’s also not helped, of course, by a rampant misunderstanding of the purposes of public libraries by some free-market extremists in this country – step forward the Adam Smith Institute below – who are positively gleeful at the destruction of something whose value they cannot, or will not, understand.

I’m glad to see that there will be a national libraries (and museums and galleries) demonstration on 5th November, an easy date to remember, to heighten the awareness of what is being lost.

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