A quiet few days: Cumbria, Anglesey and a fracking fund

Editorial

A reasonably quiet couple of days with a few libraries threatened in Cumbria and more detail on what is likely to happen in Anglesey. There’s a somewhat hard to believe report that fracking will result in £1 billion of community grants for groups, but it specifically mentions libraries so here’s hoping. There’s also a couple of things about health and wellbeing from the LGA and Task Force.

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National news

  • All to play for: games, libraries and sharing skills – British Library. “The Living Knowledge Network (LKN) regularly organises skills sharing days for members of partners in the network, and recently hosted a fun packed skills sharing day on the topic of games and playfulness in libraries, which took place on 9 November 2017 at Leeds Central Library
  • The Big Issue Big Book Giveaway – Nominate a group, we’ll send them books – Big Issue. “We believe in the power of words. With literacy levels struggling across the UK and library closures hitting hard, we want to give you a hand to get books to those who need them” … “Unfortunately though, libraries are under threat. Last year, £25m less was spent on libraries in Britain, a 2.6 per cent fall from the £919m the year before, a reflection of cuts by local authorities looking to free up cash for frontline services. The knock-on effects are disastrous – for reading groups, for those who can’t afford to buy new books, for those who need to use library computers to get online when they don’t have access at home, for the marginalised for whom libraries are a welcome sanctuary
  • Communities to share £1bn shale gas funding – LocalGov. “A £1b fund has been announced for communities near fracking sites to pay for extra facilities including parks, sports centres and libraries. Treasury exchequer secretary Andrew Jones said people living in the North and Midlands where there are significant shale gas reserves will benefit first.”
  • Helping people look after themselves – Local Government Association. “Local libraries also offer a Reading Well Mood-Boosting Books option, which includes uplifting novels, non-fiction and poetry. There is a dedicated recommended reading list for dementia too”
  • Library Family Adventure – Christmas Special – Society of Chief Librarians. A simple quiz game aimed at encouraging library use.
  • Patient and public information – how can libraries help? – Libraries Taskforce. “Librarians and libraries are absolutely the right people to support the creation, provision and signposting of patient information and there are a number of reasons why. We are experts in finding, appraising, and packaging information based on our users’ needs” … “One easy way for us all to collaborate in a really effective way is through Health Information Week. The next one is due to take place from 2-8 July 2018. This is an annual, multi-sector, national campaign to promote good health information to patients, the public and health professionals”
  • The Radical Librarians Collective, Lostock, and Nigel Sussman – Times. “The Radical Librarians Collective has asked us to clarify that it is not leading the debate on recataloguing and reclassification in university libraries as reported in our story “Universities may censor student reading” (News, October 29). We are happy to do so.”
  • Techniques to inspire, develop and implement change in your library – CILIP. Monday 11th December, London. “Keen to help your staff, library users and the wider community embrace change and challenge themselves to a brighter future? Curious about the possibility of embracing mess and play as part of your organisation’s information experience? Take a visit to Library Island and discover through hands-on activities and interactive challenges how information and health professionals from Michigan USA to Christchurch New Zealand have been pushing the boundaries of information science to drive change and develop new relationships both in and out of their organisations. Hear about the latest developments in international libraryland, including reports from the team behind the new vision for public libraries in Queensland, Australia.”

An online bookclub from Axiell
International news

  • EU – IFLA and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Share your story – Naple Sister Libraries. “IFLA is convinced that access to information and knowledge is key in order to help tackling these problems and achieve these goals. To demonstrate it, they need the evidence demonstrating libraries’ contribution to the UN SDGs and impact in the communities they serve. The tool they’re using for it is the IFLA Library Map of the World. This map has a section called SDG stories to collect SDG stories from libraries and countries across the world.”

Local news by authority

The future is here, so just look around

Editorial

“The future is here, it’s just not widely distributed yet” is a quote by William Gibson that I have had a chance to reflect on recently. I was asked to do a 15 minute lightning talk on the future of libraries by Oxford University Press, which got me thinking. How on earth do you know what the future holds? Well, taking Gibson at face value, you can just look around. One of the key things I noticed was that three of the library services around the table had been quite happily giving library membership for years without any ID requirements and with no ill effects. This came as a shock to the other library services who are still, presumably, turning away prospective members on an hourly basis due to the tradition of not trusting people. The future was there, around the table, and one only needed to look. I notice this repeatedly. What is done in one authority, sometimes neighbouring ones, is simply not known or not trusted in others. It’s a case of “not invented here” on a national scale and one which does not bode well for the sector.

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Canada and Cheshire East

Editorial

My pick of the articles today is that by Stephen Abrams on the experience of Canadian public libraries. He explains the challenges they have faced and how they’re reacting to them, including some very good ideas such as open data (hmmm), marketing (ahhhh) and social media training. He addresses, quite correctly, that the main crisis facing Canadian libraries is the technological change, not budget cuts, and stresses the need to persuade decision makers. I suspect they’ve not had things as bad over there as here but he makes some interesting points and it’s worth a read. In other news, Cheshire East may be closing a few of its libraries and continues the trend of looking towards alternative forms of governance, in this case the local leisure trust, as an option.

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What’s possible: the best thing to learn from others

Editorial

Talking to colleagues in other services, finding out what works and what they do that you thought could not work or never thought of at all. That’s the thing. I’m not big on ideas but I know a good one when I see one and have never felt guilty about taking advantage of the skills and experience of others. After all, we’re in public libraries and are not in competition with each other, only with private companies (who would ruthlessly crush libraries if they could) and perhaps most of all with ourselves. So I was delighted to hear about the experience of Surrey yesterday (I was at the National Acquisitions Group conference in Leeds) who said they increased their children’s non-fiction issues by 30% over two years by the simple expedient of putting in zig-zag shelving (paid for by the book-fund in Year One) so the titles could be face on, and weeding the dross. They have found since that they can spend less on the stock but issue more simply by doing this. In other areas they’ve boosted issues by buying backlist, and not just new titles. Simple things and easy to copy.

This got me thinking about others things which I know are successful in different library authorities either in the UK or internationally but other library services are ignorant or dismissive of. They include:

  • Not asking for any ID at all when joining.
  • Not needing a library card (or, even, card and PIN) to return a book on self-service.
  • Floating stock, where books stay in the library where they’re returned.

Chances are your service will do one or two of these but have either never considered the others or think it’s not possible. But it works elsewhere. Probably in another library service neighbouring yours in fact. Have a visit. Learn from your colleagues. And if you still say no then make sure you have a reason rather than gut feeling of “ah, but that won’t work here”. Because that’s not a good excuse by itself. Is it? It seems to me we have a whole world of people showing us what is possible out there and that’s a gift, a free valuable gift, that we ignore or dismiss at our peril.

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GLL now the biggest provider of public libraries in the UK

Editorial

I failed to note in the last post the official transfer of Bromley Libraries to GLL. Greenwich Leisure Limited (marketed as “Better”) is now the largest supplier of public library services in the UK in terms of branches and, one suspects, other measures too. Having expanded outside of London (Greenwich, Wandsworth and Bromley), it now runs council services in Lincolnshire and Dudley and is looking for more. Taking advantage of a national base already established by its leisure services, it is in a strong position to bid when a service comes up anywhere in England. It appears somewhat ignored in Taskforce and other official reports, which intentionally or otherwise strongly favour library-run trusts such as Devon and York. However, I have it down as the one alternative provider to watch, now that Carillion appears to be crashing out. Library mutuals and single-authority leisure/library trusts don’t have all the same advantages – economies of scale, national spread – that GLL have, although they share with it it’s more commercial approach and semi-independence (ish) from councils.

Single-council library trusts will try to expand, and I am sure will pick up a neighbouring authority here and there, but GLL already has the national infrastructure in place. I suspect its going to be one of the big winners (possibly the big one) when the dust settles from all the cuts to libraries. Whether you see this is a good thing or not ultimately depends on where you stand on non-profits running libraries. But the cold logic of the shrinking “market”, and libraries are in one like it or not, ultimately does not care what one’s political beliefs are. It cares about who does the job as efficiently as possible. And that’s why GLL will be a strong competitor, nationally. Publicised or not.

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Privatised probation services in libraries and “jubilant scenes”

Editorial

Libraries have always been Jacks of All Trades and open to all. A warm neutral and welcoming place. That is a great strength but in times of stress, it can also lead to uncomfortable collisions like probation services loudly using spaces next door to the children’s books. Co-locations and sharing with other services is seen as a great hope for libraries by many but the danger is that the library is damaged if the wrong alliances are made. On the other hand, though, in times of cuts, eight years long now for many councils, beggars can’t perhaps be choosers. But equally they should not be exploited and lose the qualities for which they are so valued.

In other news, it’s great to see Silverdale Library reopening. The newspaper reports “jubilant scenes”. That brought a smile when I read that. Here’s looking forward to more.

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Manchester becomes a UNESCO Creative City of Literature

Editorial

I’m delighted to see Manchester has just been announced as a UNESCO Creative City of Literature.  The city has so many beautiful libraries, historic and modern, capped by my currently most favourite library of all,  Manchester Central Library. It’s a city with a lot of going on, not least a lot of creative writing and reading. I hope the announcement will serve to make it even more so.

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Sunday 29th October 2017

Editorial

Thank you to everyone who responded to me plea for examples of good promotions of non-bestseller author / book events in libraries. One of the key things coming out is the need to it in with something else. A “hook” if you will. Things like food, drink, music and tying in with a special day on the calendar (be it Halloween or the Great British Bake Off) appear to work. As ever, charging splits opinion, with some worried that charging will deter people and others swearing by it for showing the events is high-quality and for making sure people actually turn up when they see they will. But I’d love more examples.  I want this list to be something good. Ooh, and also I only have UK examples so far and I know a lot of you are not from around these part. So email me at ianlibrarian@live.co.uk.  Thanks again.

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Ideas

National news

  • Connect Books put up for sale – BookSeller. “The group [Connect Books] aims to find a buyer and sell the business arm, which includes wholesaler Bertrams, Dawson Books academic library supply arm and e-commerce retailer Wordery, within 12 months”. Both the company’s UK and international library businesses suffered ..the firm blamed on “more challenging conditions impacted by the combination of Brexit, which has created inevitable uncertainty in the higher education sector, and volatile exchange rates, and ongoing austerity challenges especially in the public library sector”.
  • Do we need a UK Library User’s Guide to RFID? – Changing Libraries / Mick Fortune. “This guide is different from everything else I have written about RFID over the past 10 years or so. It is much shorter, and is for the individual who wants to write their own app as well as the ordinary citizen who just wants to borrow a book.” … “If there are any additional concerns about public interaction with the library they should be troubling librarians rather than the public. The reason for my saying this concerns recent advances in a technology called NFC (short for Near Field Communication) that have resulted in many smartphones being able to read and write to library tags. As I indicated at the start of this post some members of the public are already using this capability to develop their own apps to interact with library stock. For the moment this appears to be for purely benign reasons.”

“The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport does not seek to duplicate the collection of data that is collected and published by others. The Libraries Taskforce collected and published basic data about the number and locations of each public library in England as at 1 July 2016 and has worked with the libraries sector to define the data proposed for inclusion in a future core dataset for public libraries in England.” John Glen MP  [In actuality, the DCMS have never listed library closures, Taskforce or no, as presumably this would not be politically beneficial to the minister of the time, Labour or Conservative – Ed.]

  • Why I bother with libraries A Medley Of Extemporanea / Dawn Finch. “want a society where people have intelligence and are informed and creative. That matters to me and that’s what libraries (and in particular school libraries) do…”

An online bookclub from Axiell
International news

  • Australia – The Truth Worth Of Libraries Is Much Greater Than You Think – Huffington Post. “There are plenty of things that young generations feel aggrieved about being saddled with. Climate change and a long-running war in the Middle East are two that leap immediately to mind. But there are other things handed down by previous generations that seem to suggest extraordinary generosity and vision. One is libraries”. What seems like a socialist idea – lending books for free – in fact is a great investment.
  • Global – Librarians Are Secretly the Funniest People Alive – Electric Literature. “did you know that librarians have always been lowkey the most fun people on the planet? Here are seven times that librarians have debunked the stereotype that they are uptight scolds ready to shush those who dare to have fun in their sacred institution.”
  • Global – Open + Libraries: Sharing the Library Key – Medium / Jane Cowell. Cologne: “Budget limitations meant that Mondays could not be staffed and the library team saw the Open Plus model as a way to provide an ‘open library’ with minimum budget impact” … Arhus: ” For the main Central Library in Aarhus the Open Plus hours allow the library to be opened from 7am until 10pm with staff hours 8am until 8pm. A janitor walks the floors for evacuation purposes at night when staff are not in attendance.”

“There is certainly a view in the United Kingdom that Open Plus Libraries are being used to fully replace library staff and staff-less libraries are being implemented using this technology. And this was a concern expressed at one German Library service. However, their experience is that their Council understands and supports the wide variety of work the Library service undertakes with their staff and was excited to see the extensions for their citizens. So questions to ask yourselves are: Does your Council understand that the Library Service does more than check out books? If not then there is some advocacy work to undertake so that the library staff are valued for the impact their work has in the community.”

  • Global – Public Libraries and Developing Countries – Medium / Technology and the New Library. “The Gates Foundation is seeking to make the world’s public libraries assets in communities as centres for information and technology. They advocate for the equality of opportunity, to access online information and skills to interpret the information, for all individuals, especially those in developing nations or poor communities. The Gates Foundation is trying to help public libraries reinvent themselves as online information centres, to help their communities in a drastic way. The foundation began by funding free Internet access in public libraries around the US. They have expanded globally and are supporting access to the Internet worldwide.” 
  • USA – Important Emotional Labor of Librarians Most People Never Think About – Medium / EveryLibrary. “Being a librarian is not an easy job, and it’s not because we occasionally have to clean up vile messes. It’s not easy because, like Steven Assarian explained in his article, “As a Business Librarian, I Help People Find Their Passion,” people sometimes come to us at a crossroads. They’re afraid of making a mistake that may put their lives in turmoil. Heck, sometimes their lives are already in turmoil. Librarians take on that chaos; we have no choice but to face down the power, joy and suffering both, that people bring into our space. That’s the emotional labor of librarianship. It’s not something we often talk about to the public, or even that much to each other. But it’s real, it’s hard, and it’s important.”

Local news by authority

 

Darren Henley, Chief Exec of Arts Council England, Sarah Mears, Essex Libraries and Culture Offer Lead, Mag Astill and Neil MacInnes, President of SCL

Culture officially becomes a public library universal offer

Editorial

Culture has officially joined Learning, Information, Reading, Digital and Health as public library universal offers.  Some more information, a photo and a video from the minister are below. Ever since Arts Council England took over from the MLA back in 2010 as the agency responsible for government grants to libraries, this has probably been on the cards. There’s a ton of shows, ACE funded or otherwise, now playing in libraries and I suspect that is only going to increase with the Society of Chief Librarians becoming a Sector Support Organisation for ACE. The challenge this brings, with there now being six Offers, is for the key messages of why we use libraries to be clear. We’ve always suffered a little from being Jack of All Trades and now, officially, we have another trade. And what a trade. Those shows can be beguiling, and more than a little time-consuming and distracting. But they can also be wonderful. It’s up to SCL to ensure it’s all to the good.

On an entirely different matter, it was great to see a particularly annoying internet troll who decided to take on libraries being rounded upon and shown the error of his ways. More below.

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Places are still available at the NAG conference, 6th to 7th November in Leeds. Public library workers can get in at half price. More information via http://www.nag.org.uk/events/forthcoming-events/2017/10/workshops-and-papers-at-nag17/.

Ideas on promoting author / book events wanted

Editorial

I am looking for examples of promoting author / book events in libraries that are a bit out of the ordinary. Have you seen a successful library event that was due to something clever the library did to sell it? I’ve just come across one event where a book on Greek literature was tried in with a meal from a local Greek restaurant, leading to a sell-out Genius. Another had authors/poets scattered in shops/cafes and people walked between them. The thing you’ve come across need not have been quite so wonderful but I’d be delighted to hear about it. Any little hints or tips would be great. Because the more ways we can get people interested in reading, and libraries, the better.

Give your example via the comments or email me at ianlibrarian@live.co.uk. I’ll make sure a report on the best ideas will be made available to all. It may even make a difference to a library near you.

Thank you.

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