NPO Oh Oh: £6m extra over four years. But bad news for Bury

Editorial

The existence of “National Portfolio Organisations” (NPOs) will come as surprise to many of us but they’re a big deal. Arts Council England provides £1.6 billion (yes, billion) over four years to them. This year is the first that libraries became eligible to apply and today it was announced that there were seven successful candidates. While an insignificant part (1/118th) of the total number of NPOs and an even smaller proportion of the funds (1/255th), the £6.27m given should be enough to make a significant impact. I’m hopeful this will especially be the case with the (normally cash-strapped) Society of Chief Librarians who get £2 million as a “Sector Support Organisation”. That’s £500k per year to advocate for public libraries and it should be a game changer for them and, hopefully, for marketing for public libraries generally.

It’s also great to see the Reading Agency keeping its funding (£475k per year – yes, SCL will get more than the TRA). Overall, £30m is going to non-library literature based groups. It’s interesting to see that 3 out of the 6 library services to get the funding, by the way, are non-profit trusts. This is proportionately way higher than one would expect. The bids were also not public so it’s unclear, apart from what can be gained from press releases, as yet, as to what they will mean.

However, it’s not a good day for everyone. Bury has confirmed that 10 out of 14 of its libraries will cease with only one previously under threat saved and no “extra” money found to help the library service to provide for it. There’s also reductions in staffed hours in North Somerset, although overall hours may increase as Open technology is being installed there. There is obviously a structural issue with extra Arts funding on one hand and library services not being able to keep libraries open on the other but that problem lies with central government and not with those services who have quite rightly bid for the money.

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NPO news

  • Devon – Libraries Unlimited introduce arts and culture programme to Devon Libraries after receiving Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation status – Libraries Unlimited. £680,000 over four years. “we will deliver a high-quality cultural offer to library users and local communities across the county over the next 4 years.  We aim to delight and surprise people through the exciting work we will develop and deliver as an NPO.  Libraries are already regarded as community hubs, bringing people together in a safe and open space to benefit from access to a range of reading, digital, information and health and wellbeing services.  This new funding by Arts Council England means we can build on that to make libraries even more engaging, enlightening and inspiring spaces for everyone in the community.” … “Libraries Unlimited will be working with local, regional and national organisations such as the Wellcome Trust, Kaleider, the British Library, Knowle West Media Centre, the University of Exeter, the Bike Shed Theatre and the Burton Art Gallery as well as building new international partnerships.”
  • SCL Named Arts Council Sector Support Organisation for Libraries – Society of Chief Librarians. “This award will allow us to deliver the highest impact to public library development and advocacy. We will: Represent the public library sector nationally, regionally and locally and communicate the value of libraries to decision makers and the general public. This is especially crucial now, at a time when the impact of austerity measures has been felt deeply within the public library service; Build on the success of the Universal Offers for Public Libraries, which have delivered national partnerships across libraries and raised the profile of libraries across many Government agendas; Broker national partnerships with a wide range of organisations to support delivery of services and to attract additional investment in libraries; Drive innovation and new thinking around the important role of libraries in a modern society. With our network of members and the dedication and talent of thousands of library staff and volunteers, we will ensure that SCL supports the delivery of excellent library services for everyone.”
  • St Helens – Funding Boost For St.Helens Libraries & The Heart Of Glass – St Helens Arts Service. “This year was the first time we were able to apply for this recognition -which is given to some of the best arts organisations in the world – but St.Helens Library Service was always in a strong position as it has delivered Cultural Hubs: Arts in Libraries programme since 2013, winning the Best Art Project category of the National Lottery Awards in 2016. We will now need to submit a business plan to Arts Council England by December 2017, and will form a board- type group to oversee the Cultural Hubs project to decide how the money – £110,000 per year- will be allocated over the next four years to develop the project further. Cllr Sue Murphy, St.Helens Councils portfolio holder for library services, said:  “It’s an honour for our library service to be among the first seven library services in the country to achieve this recognition and it is a great testimony to our Cultural Hubs project -which we’re extremely proud of – and of course to our team of dedicated library staff who without, such projects would not be possible. “
  • St Helens – Heart of Glass and St Helens Libraries receive Arts Council England national portfolio funding boost – Star. “the library service’s Cultural Hubs programme was named the UK’s favourite Lottery-funded arts programme in 2016 and the investment will enable it to develop its work further. The news will come as a boost to the service. In March St Helens Council launched a six-week review into the library service in the face of budget cuts. This year is the first library services were able to apply for national portfolio recognition from ACE. The service’s Cultural Hubs: Arts in Libraries programme was launched in since 2013, winning the Best Art Project category last year. The Library Service will now need to submit a business plan to Arts Council England by December 2017, and will form a board- type group to oversee the Cultural Hubs project to decide how the money – £110,000 per year- will be allocated over the next four years to develop the project further”
  • We’ve announced our National Portfolio Organisations for the next four years – Arts Council England. “In all, 831 organisations will receive a total of £1.6 billion over four years for 844 projects. Importantly, we’ll be investing £170 million more outside London and there will be significantly increased investment in places like Reading, Bradford, Plymouth, Northumberland and Stoke.”

National news

  • Privacy and Public Benefit – Carnegie UK Trust. “Public libraries have played an essential role in championing access to information and supporting the development of digital skills. The Carnegie UK Trust is working with the CILIP The Library and Information Association to explore how public libraries can help individuals make informed decisions about their online privacy and security as they seek to maximise the benefits of the online world. As part of this work, The Trust looked internationally for areas of best practice. North American public libraries and librarians have been high profile advocates for citizen’s rights with regards to data privacy and have played a significant role in enabling citizens to better understand online data privacy. To explore how librarians in the UK and Ireland might develop a similarly enhanced role on this public policy issue, The Trust hosted an international study visit to New York to explore the theme of Public Libraries and Online Data Privacy…”
  • Programme Manager, Children’s Reading – Reading Agency. “The Reading Agency is looking for an experienced project manager to join our Children’s Reading Team, to lead and manage the delivery of the Summer Reading Challenge.” … “This is a full time contract, based at our office in Central London, offering a salary of £32,000 per annum”
  • Sensory Story Wall – FG Library. Modular wall design for children’s libraries.
An online bookclub from Axiell

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International news

  • Australia – Australian Library Design Awards 2017 – Designing Libraries. City of Perth Public Library: “To best serve this community, the library was designed to allow the best possible use of spaces and services. In addition to the physical collections and stock for borrowing, the library has dedicated floors targeted to different demographics: a floor for very young children with appropriately designed furniture and soft surfaces, as well as a young adult floor with study rooms and recreation areas, a History Centre for quiet study, bookable meeting rooms, hire facilities and many spaces for reading, studying and relaxation”
  • Eire – The Summer Stars Reading Adventure is back in public libraries throughout Donegal this summer – Donegal Now. “Join Binky and Zoink at your local library and join in the fun during Summer 2017. Summer Stars is a free programme, open to all children in all local libraries in Donegal.”
  • Lithuania – Lithuanian libraries challenge their readers – Naple Sister Libraries. “June 15 – August 31, 2017 the action “The Challenge of Reading” takes place in Lithuania. This is a fun game, whose gist is to fulfill 10 reading assignments during the summer. Everyone can participate in the game: from beginners to experienced readers. During the first week, 80 libraries and several thousand participants took up the challenge of reading”
  • United Arab Emirates – Turning a new leaf at Dubai libraries – Gulf News. “Municipal officials here look at libraries, see their potential, their resources, their ability to educate, inform and entertain, and wonder how can they harness these places of learning and transform them, making them more meaningful and relevant. That’s where innovation comes in. In Dubai, the municipality has opened a series of libraries at public beaches. Yes, we all have enjoyed reading a book while relaxing at the beach. It’s a simple marriage of convenience, one that makes you wonder why someone never thought of that before. Now, the Municipality has taken this innovative thinking one step further, opening a series of libraries at Dubai parks.”
  • USA – 2 Million Free Eclipse Glasses Coming to US Libraries – Space. “Public libraries across the United States will distribute more than 2 million pairs of free eclipse glasses to skywatchers for the total solar eclipse that will sweep over the country on Aug. 21, 2017. The glasses will be provided by a major outreach program initiated by the Space Science Institute (SSI).  “
  • USA – ALA 2017: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Urges Librarians to ‘Stay Strong’ – Publishers Weekly. ““I want to stand up in front of you and say thank you for what you do every day,” Emanuel said. Acknowledging President Trump’s proposal to eliminate virtually all library funding, the mayor, a former chief-of-staff for President Barack Obama, urged librarians to stand tall, and insisted that libraries have “never been more important” than today, as they lay the “common foundations” for Americans at a time when Americans are becoming increasingly “polarized.””
  • USA – Madison’s Library Takeover – American Libraries. Library let the community decide on what it wanted. “Over the course of a year and a half, the Library Takeover project—inspired by a similar teen program founded by Apples & Snakes and Half-Moon Theatre in the UK—went from grant proposal to three fully realized, polished library programs that were informed by community input at each step in the process.”
  • USA – My Library Doesn’t Really Have a Strategy-Now What? – Super Library Marketing. “An overall library strategy is important because your marketing strategy needs to support and directly align with your library’s strategy. Otherwise, what the heck are you doing anyway? How do you market anything when you don’t know what your library’s goals are? It’s like going on vacation without a plan..”
  • USA – Why Social Justice in the Library? – Library Journal. “Some libraries of all types, however, are reevaluating the role they play in their community, questioning whether it is still good enough to provide equal access, or if it is time to pursue an active equitable access that focuses on empowering the less powerful and amplifying the voices of the unheard.” … “For many librarians, however, venturing more deeply into social justice work can feel tricky, despite what our professional ethics might recommend.” … “ALA has embraced community engagement through Libraries Transform, a big step toward the convergence of practice and principle. What remains to be seen is whether our profession as a whole, from library science programs to conference proceedings and collegial expectations, will itself transform, informed by the anti-oppression and social justice actions of our peers. In actively including communities previously barred from the conversation, libraries may finally make good on the promise of equitable access.”

Local news by authority

  • Bradford – Huge turnout for official opening of Silsden Community Library – Keighley News. “200 people attended the official opening of Silsden Community Library on Saturday. Town mayor Peter Robinson and Keighley MP John Grogan joined residents as the popular facility reopened in the town hall. The politicians chatted with members of the steering group that came forward to keep the library open after it fell victim to public spending cuts. The library, formerly run by Bradford Council, will now be staffed by a team of more than 60 volunteers.””
  • Bury – Bury Council set to retain four libraries – Radcliffe, Bury, Ramsbottom and Prestwich – following review – Guide. “Radcliffe Library is set to be saved after more than two thirds of people responding to a public consultation said they wanted it to stay open. The library’s future was in doubt after Bury Council announced a major review into library services across the borough last year. A report will be presented to members of the council’s cabinet on Wednesday night which proposes that Radcliffe Library will remain open, along with libraries in Bury, Ramsbottom and Prestwich. All other libraries across Bury are set to close in August under the plans. Funding for the four remaining libraries will remain the same as if only three had remained open.”
  • Cambridgeshire – Doors to new community library open to villagers – Hunts Post. “The library, based at Brampton Community Centre, opened on June 5 and will be managed and run by volunteers three days a week – with the support of Cambridgeshire County Council. Councillor Mathew Shuter, chairman of the highways and community infrastructure committee, said: “The county council is very pleased to have worked closely with the community to help them realise their ambition for a library in Brampton, and are delighted to see access to library services extended in this way.””
  • Cheshire West and Chester – A love letter to Storyhouse – Mrs Rachel O’Kelly. ” Well you came along and gave them exactly what they wanted. A £37 million pound investment in our beautiful city. A 100 seat cinema, showing the big hits as well as smaller independent films. A theatre sitting up to 800, a restaurant and bar, and wrapping it’s arms lovingly around the whole building, is the library.” … “Firstly the kids library, it’s a joy to enter with it’s bright colours, it’s decorative items and the comfy window seats. You don’t feel you have to hush them every five seconds through fear of disapproving tuts and stares They have their own small theatre space where story time, and music time takes place, They can so arts and crafts here, dressing up, puppets I’ve seen it all.”
  • Derby – Derby City Council members approve £2.7m to be spent on Council House revamp – Derby Telegraph. “Work to re-configure the ground floor of the city’s Council House, which would see Job Centre Plus move in and Derby’s main library potentially established there, should be completed by May 2018. In a distinctly end-of-term Derby City Council cabinet meeting this week, attended by far fewer councillors than normal, the nod was given to £2.71 million being spent on redeveloping the Council House – just five years after £32 million was spent refurbishing the whole building.”
  • East Sussex – Hundreds of kids beat the streets as scheme gets off to running start – Hastings Observer. “Taking place until 26 July, Beat the Street is transforming East Sussex into a giant game with players tapping special sensors called Beat Boxes dotted across the county. The response to Beat the Street has been incredible with thousands of people visiting their local library or leisure centre to -collect a card and get involved. Rhona Drever from East Sussex Libraries and Information service said: “We have been completely overwhelmed with people coming in to libraries to pick up a ‘Beat Card’ to play Beat the Street. It is clear the game has captured the excitement of everyone living in East Sussex.” … “More than 250 schools and teams in East Sussex are competing against each other to see who can journey the furthest and win up to £500 worth of sports and fitness equipment.”
  • North Somerset – Libraries facing cuts to opening hours – Mercury. “As part of North Somerset Council’s community access review, which is looking into library and children’s centre services in the district, libraries in Worle, Winscombe and Yatton will see their opening hours reduced on July 2. But the council has also revealed plans to introduce an Open+ scheme at six of its venues – including the three facing reductions – later this year.”
  • Oldham – live@thelibrary: a cultural programme with Oldham Council libraries – Libraries Taskforce. “cultural offer has been at the forefront of our plans. Our libraries have always been a local community hub, providing a gateway to cultural experiences with activities such as author visits, poetry readings and theatre performances. However, when funding was made available through the Arts Council Grants for the Arts Libraries Fund, it provided us with the opportunity to rethink and rebrand our cultural offer – both the programme of activity and the space from which we delivered it. Our response during 2015 was to upgrade the Performance Space in Oldham Library to create the home for a cultural programme: live@thelibrary. The full cost of renovating the space was £134,765, and the grant went towards this” … “Oldham is an area of low arts engagement so it was particularly encouraging that many of those who came to see Boomtown Gals were experiencing live theatre for the first time in their local library”
  • Suffolk – ‘It is the most natural thing in the world’ – Suffolk celebrates Breast Feeding Week – Ipswich Star. “Supporters gathered at Ipswich Library today to mark a national campaign which aims to raise awareness of the benefits of breast feeding and to break down any barriers which may stop women from doing so” … “Alison Wheeler, chief executive of Suffolk Libraries, said: “Libraries are very supportive, welcoming and empathetic community spaces and we encourage breast feeding. Most libraries have a nice quiet corner or more open spaces – wherever the mothers feel more comfortable.””
  • Suffolk – Suffolk Libraries launches new supporters’ scheme – Suffolk Libraries. “Suffolk Libraries Extra offers individuals and businesses the chance to make an annual donation to get more involved and help the library service as it faces financial challenges. People can sign up at three different price levels: £20 for Silver membership, £50 for Gold, or £150 for Platinum. For more information and to apply, visit the Suffolk Libraries Extra page, call 01473 351249 or visit any library. You can also email extra@suffolklibraries.co.uk if you have any questions about the scheme. All money raised will go into a dedicated Development Fund which will be used to support and improve the services we provide.”
  • York – Carers help at libraries – Press. “a collection of books designed to support people living with long-term conditions and their carers”
Staff shortages in Kent

Prime Suspect

Editorial

I will shortly be speaking at the CILIP Conference on the reasons I’ve seen advanced against public libraries and my suggestions as to how counteract them. Almost all the reasons to cut libraries have not got any stronger than when I wrote this piece against them in 2011 but here is one which has – then two-fifths of people in the UK used libraries but the latest figures, just five years later, show the figure now at a third. That’s a big drop in five years and is used as a stick to beat the sector with. I’ve seen opponents such as The Institute of Economic Affairs cheerfully argue that such a trend means that the poor few remaining library users should be charged for the privilege.

However, one of the wonderful things about being in the world is that, somewhere, another country may be doing things differently. Such is the case in France which has reported no reduction in usage over the same period and, vitally, has not cuts on the scale of the UK.  In scientific experiment, such a country could be described as a control. In a murder mystery play, it would be seen more as a smoking gun. So, whereas there are doubtless other factors (such as e-books and the internet) to consider, austerity – with its big reductions in library staff, opening hours, stock and libraries themselves – creates less appetising libraries leading to less enticing offer leading to fewer people using them. Such a vicious circle is plain to see in many places. What the twin experiments of France and the UK shows is the relative strength of the factors in play. If ever the treatment of UK public libraries ever gets to be treated like a murder then the comparative trends of the two countries make it likely that Mr Austerity will be treated as a prime suspect.

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Fact-checking the Kensington closed library

Editorial

I was asked about the closing library in Kensington yesterday. You may remember the emotional interview Channel Four did with people near Grenfell, which started with a local complaining that the council had sold the library to a private school. There was a challenge about whether it was correct or not? I also noticed a claim by the council that they were building a new library. So, let’s do some fact-checking:

– Yes, the council is planning to sell a library – North Kensington Library – to a prep school, although it looks like it’s a lease rather than a straight sale. This report from last year suggests that the school (Notting Hill Prep) will be given the first year free to pay for refurbishments. It will then pay c. 365k per year to the council.

The library is described by the council as “spread over three floors making it difficult for those with mobility issues and young children to navigate. Added to this the building is poorly insulated, expensive to heat and is also listed, which makes it hard to renovate to meet modern library requirements.”. The library has been used for 125 years.

The Friends of North Kensington Library have different views. They’re concerned about the loss of the building for public use and worry about the reduction of council provision in the area. A 3000 name petition has been collected to support this. The campaign suggests the move of the library to a new site would cost £11m.

– The council wants to move the library to the site of the nearby (50 metres away) Lancaster Youth Centre. It promises larger floor space, an improved range of books, magazines and newspapers as well as e-books to borrow, excellent Wi-Fi and IT facilities, space for children’s activities, quiet study areas and meeting rooms for groups, public toilets with baby change facilities..

So it’s a bit more nuanced than the fat-cat council simply selling off a public library but there’s more going on than simply a move to a more modern building. The local community clearly feels very strongly about the move but the council clearly also thinks it is improving matters. I don’t even live in London and can’t claim to know who is right but the one thing clear about this is how much people care about public libraries, the numbers that can be mobilised (3000 in this case, to some extent or another) and how councils need to tread carefully.

If you know more about this issue and you’d like to give a view, please email me via ianlibrarian@live.co.uk. Thank you.

Ideas

  • Card swaps – Display with pocket for each trading card, on a take one / leave one principle.

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An attempt to sum up what public libraries do, but with some problems attached. For my presentation at CILIP Conference - http://cilipconference.org.uk/engaging-audiences/

A surprise mention at Grenfell, and ideas

Editorial

I, like so many others, have been deeply affected by the sheer tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire and the issues surrounding it. One media report from Channel 4 News videoed local people about how they felt about the situation. The very first person on the video pointed out that the local libraries have been sold off.  I was not expecting public libraries to be brought into this but it shows their importance – they’re part of the community and to lose one, especially in the wealthiest borough, is seen as a measure of how much the council cares, as it is  in so many other places.

I’ve included no less than four new “ideas” in this post, which is quite a lot. I was quite taken aback by the crowdfunding the building of a library one. There’s something about public librarians that they’re always soming up with new ideas and being happy to share them. The ideas and innovations page regularly gets the most view on PLN – if you hve come up with an idea and want it included, please email me.  

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Hi John Glen, libraries should not be pigeonholed and income generation’s not the answer

Editorial

Welcome to John Glen MP, who takes over the libraries brief in a more traditional portfolio than his predecessor including arts, culture, heritage, museums and tourism. It’s always interesting to see where libraries are put as it gives an idea of where our place is seen. Arts are brilliant as is everything else on the list – but one can’t help but think libraries are the odd one out. We could fit just as easily in Education.

Also, have a look at the quote by Nick Poole on the need for more action in the sector too. And does anyone know of a library authority that makes more than 10% of its budget on income (and I don’t mean fines)?

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Desmond Clarke

Editorial

I was so sorry to see that Desmond Clarke has passed away. We started exchanging emails almost back when I started PLN, back in 2010. He was a campaigning veteran long before then of course. We did not always agree on the solution to the problems that public libraries found themselves in but I never doubted his good intentions and, also, his gentle influence. He was one of the few campaigners that Ed Vaizey listened to, although of course that did not unfortunately translate much into action. There’s not many people outside the library world, when all is said and done, that spent so much time on working for their betterment. I’ll miss his emails and I’ll miss him.

The news that Bristol may close up to 17 branches is not unexpected. Back in January I’d reported that up to 19 were under threat and it looks like a similar number indeed are. The city library service has had a tough time over the last few years, the opening of Junction 3 excepted, and it’s not over yet.

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Farewell Rob Wilson, we hardly knew you

Editorial

Well, that was an election and a half. I’m not sure if anyone really knows what it all means yet and I won’t pretend to even be able to make a good guess. The only thing for sure is we will have a new minister in charge of libraries as Rob Wilson lost his parliamentary seat last week. He certainly seemed more interventionist than Ed Vaizey, although that is not exactly saying much. He visited troubled library authorities and even issued as “minded to intervene” in Lancashire, which is highly unusual and seemed to at least take an interest in the sector. He even found some funding for innovation, although the timetable for bidding for it was incredibly rushed. At the time of writing, it’s not clear who his replacement may be.

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Take a deep breath, learn something new, improve

Editorial

If you’re reading this on Friday, with most or all of the general election results having come in, you will have more idea than I currently have on what the next five years holds for UK public libraries. More of the same or not. No matter what happens, always remember the importance of public libraries in so many different aspects of life and for all ages. If you work in libraries, be proud of what you do and aim to learn something new to make your work even better. If you advocate or campaign for libraries, take a deep breath. No matter what happens, your skills and your energy are going to be needed, no matter who you are.

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Celebrity advocates for libraries: Riddell, McDermid and 100 others

Editorial

It has been a real delight over the last year to see the many pro-library drawings by Chris Riddell popping up on Twitter.  He has been the children’s laureate for 2016/17, soon to be replaced by the next (mystery) children’s writer. This position is often filled by someone who rightly has worked out how important public libraries are to getting children to read.  I am delighted to see that Chris will not stop campaigning because his tenure is at end: he is becoming the president of the School Library Association. Whoever thought of asking him to do that job is a genius. Another example of a great advocate for libraries is Val McDermid who has been quoted, not for the first time, supporting public libraries. People, and thus the media, tend to listen more to celebrities than even (perhaps especially even) experts and so people like this are gold dust. Here’s a list of famous people I’ve noticed saying nice things about libraries. Can you let me know of any more? Email me as normal at ianlibrarian@live.co.uk.

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Ireland unifies, Welsh Standards compared with English atomisation

Editorial

The pre-election lull continues with very few local library stories compared to normal, especially as considering this post below covers more days than normal. There are two articles, though, that has a lot of reaction when I reported them on Twitter. The first is the news that the Republic of Ireland is aiming to unify its entire public library system, at least in so far as having a single membership card and being able to reserve items from anywhere in the country. Now, Ireland is a relatively small country, smaller than one-tenth of the UK, with only 333 branches and a population of under five million, so it’s easier for them but it does point the way forward. Sadly, though, I’m seeing at least as much atomisation in the UK (with, for example, more independent volunteer libraries and organisations involved) than I am the reverse.

The second story is the appointment of an independent library standards adviser in Wales. Until recently, at least, I met many involved people in England who argued that standards were not advantageous but rather that they encouraged a “race to the bottom” where councils aimed to spend less than their comparators. That argument, although it still amazingly holds sway amongst some even now, has taken a battering with the removal of English standards, where we can now see clearly now see just such a race to the bottom, not because of standards but rather due to their absence and the connected lack of effective superintendence of those who transgress.

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