With the main question being "how do you define a library"?

Ealing and Harrow likely to outsource again, deep cuts in Somerset.

Editorial

Ealing and Harrow have both responded to the collapse of Carillion by temporarily continuing library services in-house. Reading behind the lines, and despite having had their fingers burnt, it looks to me that both councils – who have been sold on outsourcing once – are likely to go that way again. Who this is (hello GLL?) remains to be seen and precumably tendering would need to be done.

Elsewhere, more details have come to light about deep cuts to Shropshire and Somerset. In the former, only 6 libraries are going to be run by the council in six years, with the rest being euphemistically called “cost-neutral”. This apparently means that someone else has to pay for them, be it lower-tier councils or volunteers: so there will be a deep drive to cut costs (i.e. paid staff) and increase income (e.g. parish taxes, grants, fundraising). The timescale for this was originally wildly unrealistic and a brush with consultation has meant that the council has extended the time limit a bit longer, possibly even long enough in some cases., if Shropshire library users are lucky, for another national government to come in and reverse the deep austerity that necessitates such damage in the first place.

I am sorry to see Somerset is once more up against it, with 15 out of 34 libraries due to close or pass to volunteers. The county was one of the first to face deep cuts when I first started PLN and it was only a court case that got them to stop closing libraries that time. Five years later and it looks unlikely that such a court case would happen again, given the generally lower levels of service now expected in council services and the lessons learnt from what went wrong last time. This time, the hope must be that the consultation is taken seriously by the public (I am sure it will be by the council – one bitten twice shy and all that) and the reaction helps persuade the council to lessen the cuts. Again reading between the lines, it seems unlikely that the new revolving-door libraries minister will intervene in either case.

Changes

National news

  • Arts Council England announces new director of museums – Arts Council England. “Sue Williamson joins ACE as director of libraries and Birmingham from St Helens Library Service, where she most recently delivered its award-winning Cultural Hubs Arts in Libraries programme and oversaw the successful application to the Arts Council’s National Portfolio. Williamson also represented public libraries as part of a DCMS in a recent discussion on the future of digital technologies in arts and culture. “I am thrilled to be joining Arts Council England as Director: Libraries and Birmingham and to have the opportunity to support and champion the role of Libraries in delivering the wider cultural offer to the communities they serve. With the recent announcements of Coventry as the next UK City Of Culture and Birmingham as host for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, this is a time of great challenge and opportunity for the whole of the cultural sector in this area.””

“Three library services [out of 151] in England – Croydon, Ealing and Harrow – are managed for these local authorities by Carillion through its subsidiary, Cultural Community Solutions Ltd (CCS Ltd).  We [Libraries Taskforce and DCMS, through the Taskforce’s Chief Executive Kathy Settle] have made contact with the library services. We are available to assist and discuss with the library services if needed, however they have confirmed that contingency plans are in place and that they are proceeding with next steps. The library services are in contact with PWC, which has been appointed as special managers for the insolvency of Carillion, and discussions are underway about plans for the future. The Councils have been working with library staff and managers and the services have been opening and operating as normal. ” Libraries Taskforce

  • Library groups call for inquiry after Carillion collapse – BookSeller. “CILIP chief executive Nick Poole believes the Carillion collapse exposes flawed government thinking that private outsourcing provides the best quality services and highest efficiency. He called for a public inquiry into whether local and national government continued to knowingly to issue contracts for the delivery of vital public services to a failing company. “The current policies of austerity and privatisation are putting statutory services like public libraries at risk,” said Poole. “This is why CILIP is actively lobbying for a fair financial settlement for local authorities which enables them to meet the current and future needs of local communities and for standards which ensure that people receive the quality of service they have paid for.””. Also includes views from myself, Laura Swaffield of the Library Campaign and Tim Coates.
With the main question being "how do you define a library"?

With the main question being “how do you define a library”? With thanks to Mike Bedford

  • London libraries assess impact of Carillion collapse – Guardian. “Croydon council has reacted to the service provider’s liquidation by taking the service in-house again, while Ealing and Harrow are laying contingency plans” … “On Tuesday, Croydon council announced it would immediately terminate its eight-year contract with Carillion, which was set to run the borough’s 13 libraries until 2020, and take on the responsibility itself, rather than outsourcing to another firm. All 73 staff positions were guaranteed, it said.” … “Councillor Timothy Godfrey, cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, said that the council had been considering parting ways with Carillion for years, and claimed that the firm had failed to provide a satisfactory library service” … “The cost to the council to take on the borough’s library service would be slightly higher than paying Carillion, because Croydon council was a living wage employer, admitted Godfrey”. … “Harrow council is set to consider its future plans for its six library branches at a cabinet meeting on Thursday night, but a council spokesman said that it was business as usual, and maintaining consistency for residents and staff was its priority. Under Carillion’s care, no problems in the library service had been reported to the council, he continued, and while the current contract was working, it expected to need a new provider after Carillion’s liquidation.” see also Public sector looks for ways to plug gap left by Carillion – Public Finance.

““They hadn’t fixed the issues flagged when Hounslow left. They hadn’t been paying paper suppliers and photocopier engineers. Their annual library plan was always behind schedule. It’s been really unfair on the staff on the front line because they were the poor souls holding the service together, and they had no managerial support. There were staff paying out-of-pocket for things like for craft materials for activities with kids.””

  • Michael Ellis confirmed as new libraries minister – BookSeller. “Michael Ellis has been confirmed as the new libraries minister at the department of digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS), following Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet reshuffle last week. Ellis was formerly the deputy leader of the House of Commons. He is now parliamentary under secretary of state for the arts, heritage and tourism with responsibility for libraries”
  • On borrowed time? – BookSeller. “Meanwhile at Westminster, we have the third new libraries minister in 18 months: Northampton North’s Michael Ellis—an MP whose chief claim to fame thus far is persuading the government to put more money into pothole repairs. With the constantly rotating door of ministerial posts, will he stay in the role long enough even to master the brief? Waterstones m.d. James Daunt decried the “disgrace” of library cuts in an interview this week, saying the decline of the service will damage the future of British society; a view widely shared in this industry. If between them Khan and Ellis can push the case for libraries up national and local agendas, that assistance is badly needed; but the chronic threats to the service must be acknowledged, and whatever the digital opportunities for the library service, books and reading must stay absolutely at its core.”
  • Want to tackle loneliness? Stop closing libraries – Politics. “The knitting group changed all that. It arranges trips to garden centres and market towns. They get together for meals out. My mum now not only regularly visits the library but she also volunteers there. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it changed her life. But all that could soon come to an end. Northamptonshire county council recently opened a consultation on its library services. Three options were put forward. The first would require local groups to run many of the county’s libraries to keep them open. The second would see 21 out of 36 libraries closed. The third would see 28 out of them closed. Option two and three would see my mum’s library close its doors. Even the mobile library would be axed. This isn’t an isolated case”

An online bookclub from Axiell
International news

  • Australia – Who’d leave a television career to join a library?- ArtsHub. “They used to be quiet spaces; now they are the quiet achievers. We can all learn from libraries’ successes in recalibrating for 21st century audiences. ” … “The library sector is one of few areas of the information sector that has absolutely thrived in the digital revolution. ‘The unexpected twist is that libraries have never been busier. Almost half of all Victorians are members of libraries and [at the SLV] we get two million visitors a year – that is more than British Library and more than the Library of Congress in Washington”

“In recent decades, the adage that libraries were on death’s door spread quickly in the wake of online publishing’s popularity and the subsequent release of Kindles and other hand-held devices. While most of us weren’t really taking such claims on board, libraries were. Their response was strategic and timely, and a key example of how to successfully pivot in the era of digital disruption.  Within a few short years, librarians reinvented what libraries were – and could be – in an information rich, experience-driven, interconnected future. “

  • Turkey – Garbage collectors open library with abandoned books – CNN. “Garbage collectors in the Turkish capital have opened a public library comprised entirely of books once destined for the landfills. The library, located in the Çankaya district of Ankara, was founded after sanitation workers started collecting discarded books.”
  • USA – A New Home for AI: The Library – Inside Higher Ed. “The University of Rhode Island is taking a very different approach with its new AI lab, which may be the first in the U.S. to be located in a university library. For URI, the library location is key, as officials hope that by putting the lab in a shared central place, they can bring awareness of AI to a wider swath of the university’s faculty and student body.”
  • USA – Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves – In the Library With The Leadpipe. ” when the rhetoric surrounding librarianship borders on vocational and sacred language rather than acknowledging that librarianship is a profession or a discipline, and as an institution, historically and contemporarily flawed, we do ourselves a disservice.”

Local news by authority

  • Barnet – In profile: Garden Suburb Community LibraryCommunity Libraries Network. “We are based in a very small shop in the heart of the HGS just off a small shopping centre on the busy main road. As such we don’t get a great deal of passing trade, but serve the local community, and after another round of cuts in the LBB are now open and staffed for more hours than any other library in the borough. We are a company limited by guarantee and charity and have 7 trustees who divide responsibilities up between them. We are open 5 days a week (Tuesday – Saturday) and have two volunteer shifts 10.00-1.30 and 1.30-5.00. Two volunteers are on duty at all times and they are responsible for opening the library up, running it and closing at the end of the day. We have approximately 40 volunteers, all of which are DBS checked”

“After two years local volunteers began to run out, so we now use London-wide volunteer recruiting websites. This has resulted in volunteers coming from a much wider area, and also a decrease in the average age – initially we mainly had retired volunteers, now an increasing number are in their 20’s and 30’s. “

  • Barnet – Save Barnet Library campaigners battling cuts call for support over public inquiry – Ham and High. “Barnet is expected to make £2.2million savings out of £61.5m it needs to cut by 2020. Library users now need pin codes to access buildings, but critics of the move say teenagers are being shut out and pensioners feel vulnerable in unmanned spaces. Barnet now pays security guards to police unstaffed venues. Save Barnet Libraries campaigners called on former culture secretary Karen Bradley to set up a public inquiry into the library cuts, claiming Barnet was failing to provide a comprehensive service. However, at the end of last year Karen Bradley wrote to Barnet leader Richard Cornelius saying she was “minded not to order” an inquiry, but set a deadline of February 2 for further appeals to be submitted.”
  • Bradford – Commoners Choir in Burley Library – Ilkley Gazette. “This is part of the campaign to ensure that Burley retains its lovely community library. All are welcome and entry is free (although donations for library funds will be very welcome). “

“And they love libraries. Boff said: “There’s something about singing in a library that feels right. Possibly it’s to do with the physicality of the paper, the smell and weight of all those pulped trees having the effect of being in a forest clearing. We’ve sung in six libraries now, and they’ve all been very different buildings – but the long shelves of books all have the same allure, heavy and tactile, all those words packed tightly in leaves and rows.” “

  • Bury – Appeal for support as community group takes on Radcliffe library – Bury Times. “Bury Council has now closed the doors of Dumers Lane Community Centre and Library. But Friends of Dumers Lane Community Centre and Library have been successful in their initial bid to save it. The group’s business plan has been approved by the council, enabling them to move forward with the model. At this early stage in developments, Friends of Dumers Lane have called for help to oversee the long-term project.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Events planned across Cheshire West to mark Holocaust Memorial Day – Standard. “Cheshire West and Chester Council has organised events at schools, colleges and libraries, as well as working in conjunction with Chester Cathedral to enable pupils, residents and communities to reflect on the atrocities and consider their contemporary relevance today”
  • Ealing – Addendum to the report to Cabinet: Library Contract Extension from September 2018 to August 2023 – Ealing Council. “Delegates authority to the Executive Director Environment & Customer Services, following consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Community and Libraries, to take all necessary steps to manage the liquidation process and in particular to have authority to: a) Novate [This word means “transfer” in this context – Ed.] the existing contract to a suitable alternative service provider; b) Vary or terminate the existing contract as necessary; c) Award a new contract to a suitable alternative service provider; d) Investigate bringing the Library Services in house ; e) Enter into any necessary agreements to give effect to a) – d) and the liquidation process”
  • Essex – Essex mobile library cuts: Buckhurst Hill stops set to be scrapped under council plans– Epping Forest Guardian. “Mobile libraries will no longer visit Buckhurst Hill as the county council moves to shake up the service with volunteer led centres. According to a revised timetable to be voted on by Essex County councillors on Tuesday (January 23), the fortnightly Friday stops the mobile library currently makes in three Buckhurst Hill locations will be cut. Limes Farm in Chigwell will also be passed and stops in Epping reduced from three to one, in a move that could save the council £174,000 a year.”
  • Greenwich – Hawkins\Brown wins approval for £11.8m Plumstead library revamp – Architects Journal. “An £11.8 million local authority-backed scheme will see the existing Grade II-listed building in Greenwich, designed by Woolwich borough engineer Frank Sumner, refurbished and reworked to house a new library complex. A non-listed rear extension will be flattened and a two-storey addition built to provide new leisure facilities.”
  • Hertfordshire – Plans to relocate Hoddesdon’s 125-year-old Post Office have been unveiled – Hertfordshire Mercury. “A Post Office in Hoddesdon could be set to leave its home of 125 years in a move to the town’s library. The Post Office is proposing to move its High Street branch to a dedicated area in the library, accessed through the main entrance.”
  • Inverclyde – Budget consultation launched – Inverclyde Council. “Libraries – Central Library opening times and library headquarters reduction (£189,296) – Reduction in Central Library opening times. Libraries closure (£56,860) – Closure of the South West Library in Greenock. Libraries – transfer Inverkip and Kilmacolm libraries (£55,610) – Transfer of Inverkip and Kilmacolm to community groups.”
  • Lambeth – Lambeth Council to ‘re-open’ Carnegie Library in the Spring. Well, sort of… – Brixton Buzz. “The latest news from Lambeth is that they aim to provide a library service in the front two rooms of the Carnegie from mid February. Since our library has been downgraded to ‘neighbourhood’ status, library staff will only attend for two hours per day. At other times the library  rooms will be supervised by ‘customer care assistants’ from GLL’s gym operation in the basement. The central library room and (remnant of the) garden will be under the control of the secretive “Carnegie Community Trust” (CCT) organisation for its commercially-driven activities.”
  • Lancashire – Barrowford Library to reopen – Lancashire Telegraph. “The official reopening of Barrowford Library, which is situated on Ann Street, Barrowford, will take place next Monday at 9am. “
  • Lancashire – Rise in fees for libraries, museums and archives – 2BR. “For the first time in 13 years – fees for libraries, museums and archives in Lancashire will increase. The decision was agreed in County Hall this afternoon (18/1/18). Cabinet has agreed to increase the costs for: – The library reservation fee ; The late return of library books ; The commission on artwork and crafts sold in libraries and museums “
  • Moray – MSP brands school library cuts “educational vandalism” – Press and Journal. “The SNP politician argued that the Scottish Government had granted Moray Council £2million more than expected in last month’s budget settlement, and suggested that be used to safeguard the libraries which have come under threat. Mr Lochhead was backed by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland, which said that reducing school librarians would “lead to a poorer educational experience for pupils”.”
  • Northamptonshire – Joint response from all borough and district councils on proposed library closures – Northamptonshire Telegraph. “It has been issued on behalf of the chief executives of Corby Council, Daventry District Council, East Northamptonshire Council, Kettering Council, Northampton Borough Council, South Northamptonshire District Council and Wellingborough Council. It says: “We are concerned that the pace with which NCC is seeking to make the proposed changes is likely to result in a low level of community willingness to take on local libraries and that the opportunity to preserve and build on those facilities will be lost.”
  • North Tyneside – Killingworth campaigners launch fight against proposed cuts to library opening hours – Chronicle. “Under the plans, residents could have their bins collected fortnightly instead of weekly and libraries could have their opening hours cut. At this stage, it is not known which branches could be affected or what their proposed new opening hours would be.” see also Action group says ‘no more library cuts’ – News Guardian. “more than 100 Cullercoats residents, under the banner of a group called Friends of Cullercoats Library (FOCL), have now come together with an action plan to oppose any further reduction to its activities.”
  • Oxfordshire – Police step in over anti-social behaviour and dirty needles at Bicester library – Bicester Advertiser. “dirty needles and antisocial behaviour has lead to police officers being drafted in to help tackle problems plaguing Bicester Library. Thames Valley Police are believed to be reviewing CCTV after bookworms were left shocked by ‘threatening’ behaviour experienced by staff and visitors in the town library ‘on almost a daily basis’. Visitors fear the ongoing problems could put the future of the library, which opened in Pioneer Square in April 2016, in jeopardy”
  • Renfrewshire – Plans for new £5million Paisley library shelved – Daily Record. “Renfrewshire Council bosses announced plans for a new state-of-the-art Learning and Cultural Hub in December, but fears have now been raised about the viability of the project. Councillors were expected to agree a planning application to demolish 22 High Street — formerly the Internacionale fashion store — to make way for the library this week, but a decision has now been delayed, with a site visit planned. Councillor Kenny MacLaren fears the council has not allocated enough cash to make the project worthwhile.”
  • St Helens – Could Central Library be moved to the World of Glass? – St Helens Star. “The town centre library, situated in the Gamble Building, has been closed since last March for essential maintenance works, which were initially expected to be have been completed by December. However, the reopening was put back to an indefinite date as both the inside and outside of the building required reconstruction work running up “significant” costs, which led to speculation over the library’s future.” … “Possible town centre destinations including St Mary’s Market, the former Burton’s and Fat Face store, Beacon Building and the World of Glass have been considered, with the museum building the most likely option. “
  • Shropshire – Shropshire Council libraries strategy approved at cabinet – Advertizer. “Shropshire Council’s libraries strategy has been approved at cabinet, meaning Ellesmere and Gobowen libraries will have more time to become fully self-funded. The strategy was due to go in front of the cabinet at the end of last year but was postponed until last week. After a public consultation – which saw Shropshire Council receive more than 700 responses – it was decided libraries that were set to become fully-funded needed more time.”
  • Somerset – Library Services Consultation Announced – Somerset County Council Newsroom. “In summary, under the proposals, 15 of our 34 library buildings would be seeking community involvement to remain open. Where this is not possible, services would instead be provided either through outreach in community venues or through additional mobile library stops. For 7 of our libraries, the County Council is consulting on two alternative options – either to seek community involvement to maintain library buildings or to keep existing library services as they currently are.”
  • Somerset – Nearly half of council-run libraries in Somerset could be set to close – Somerset County Gazette. ““These are challenging financial times and we must put libraries on a sustainable financial footing for the long term, while still delivering a modern thriving library service across our county,” he said” see also Half of Somerset’s libraries under threat of closure BBC.
  • Staffordshire – Burton and Uttoxeter library users invited to have their say on ‘self-service’ plans – Burton Mail. “Library users are being urged to have their say on moves that could see them left to serve themselves. Uttoxeter and Burton libraries are two of 20 across Staffordshire that may make major changes. If they go ahead, the facilities would be open longer – but there would be spells during which they would be left unmanned. The changes have been proposed as part of a move to save £1.3 million by Staffordshire County Council, which is in charge of libraries.” see also Consultation meetings over the best way to manage some of Staffordshire’s libraries begin this week – A Little Bit Of Stone and Reshaping Libraries Consultation – Staffordshire County Council and Highbridge Library could close under council’s new cost-cutting plans – Burnham-on-sea.com.
  • Suffolk – Crime novelist Elly Griffiths to visit three Suffolk libraries – EADT. “Elly will be at Ipswich County Library on Saturday, February 10, from 2-4pm, before heading to Southwold Library later that day for an evening talk beginning at 7pm. She will then be visiting Beccles Library on Saturday, February 17, where she will be on hand from 11am as part of the library’s coffee morning. Tickets for the Ipswich event are £5 and £3 each for the Southwold and Beccles talks, with tickets for all events available at the respective libraries.”
  • Surrey – Warlingham Library volunteers celebrate five years – Edenbridge Chronicle. “Five years on this valued local resource has gone from strength to strength and has proved to be a resounding success. It has taken plenty of hard work during those five years by the loyal and committed group of 40 volunteers, several of whom have been there from the beginning, assisted by two paid (by the Parish Council) librarians, who run the library on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday each week.”
  • Trafford – Plans submitted for 6,000 sq ft Hale Library and community centre – and you can have your say until January 25th – Altrincham Today. “Two planning applications for the proposed development have been submitted by Hillcrest Homes, Hale Community Trust and Trafford Borough Council using local architects Calderpeel. One application details the plans to demolish the existing Hale Library and replace it with a mixed housing and retail development comprising six three-bed houses, two two-bed apartments and two retail units” … “The new Hale Library would be sited on the first floor, with a requirement of enough space for 17,000 books.”

Carillion gone

Editorial

So Carillion has gone. It ran three library services in London arms-length via a non-profit arm called Cultural Community Solutions. Within hours, Croydon, which has changed party control since making the decision to outsource its libraries and is now Labour, announced it would be bringing its libraries back in-house. It had clearly expected and planned for this moment. Less prompt are Harrow and Ealing (both also Labour) who were recommending extending their contract with Carillion just last week. Oops. Although in their defence they would have been stung with big fines if they had (albeit fines they agreed to when outsourcing in the first place). I have not heard or seen anything about what will be happening at those two councils, with the options either being taking back in-house or going to another provider, the obvious one being GLL if they’re willing to do so. My heart goes out to library staff at both councils who must be going through a difficult time.

This means that there are currently no public libraries in the UK run by a for-profit company. That’s the first time since Laing took over Hounslow a decade or so ago and represents quite a change from when I wrote this article in 2011 when US company LSSI was wanting to take over a tenth or more of the UK market. The truth is that private companies do not have a magic wand when it comes to running public libraries. There’s nothing they can do that a council can’t, as those up and down the country who have tried every income-generating and cut trick in the book can testify. Heaven knows times are tight enough without a percentage siphoned off to shareholders somewhere. Simply put, if your public library is making a profit for someone then you’re doing it wrong. Long may that mistake not be repeated in the UK.

Changes

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Statistics are wonderful things

On average, and statistically speaking, I wasn’t in pantomime last week

Editorial

This post is even later than usual being I’ve been in pantomime over the last couple of weeks. It was a fun amateur production, and being a librarian I felt really at home as Baron Hard-Up, but it did not half reduce my blogging time.

That's me on the right. Oh yes it is.

That’s me on the right. Oh yes I am.

While I was away, the Libraries Taskforce, in their most recent Libraries Deliver newsletter, has added up some useful council survey replies and come to the conclusion that more than twice as many libraries opened or moved since 2010 than were closed. At first blush, this will come as a shock to anyone who has even a passing relationship with the reality of the situation but, to be fair, the same article makes clear that this is only a reasonable claim if you discount the 500 or so volunteer libraries (really) and also if you count libraries possibly co-located with ten other services or in a corner somewhere as the equal to a stand-alone building. But it’s a claim you can expect the new libraries ministerial team, when they work out where their office is, will be using repeatedly, without any such qualifications any day now.

Statistics are wonderful things

Statistics are wonderful things

In other news, it’s interesting timing that Harrow and Ealing are recommending staying with Carillion running their libraries while at the same time it’s in all the newspapers that Carillion will go bankrupt without hefty government intervention. The reason, though, is clear: both authorities agreed to massive fines (£485k and £693k respectively) if they decided to leave the private company before ten years was out. They must now be privately regretting that, especially as the evidence suggests Carillion are far better at negotiating hard-nosed handcuffing contracts than, well, actually running a successful business.

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Always nice to be quoted in parliament

English public libraries in 2017: the key trends

Editorial

So it’s the end of 2017 and therefore time for a review of what the major trends have been. Or, rather, what my view of them are. If you think differently (or are screaming “but what about?” at the screen) do let me know … and, if you’re curious, here’s 2016 (via Leon). 2015, 2014 and 2013.

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Give yourself an early Christmas present

Editorial

Some more coverage on the dire recent CIPFA figures, which are analysed further (for yet more depression) and shown to be incomplete, meaning the real picture is (joy!) likely to be even worse than hitherto shown. The potential economic and political impacts oif this are explored (admittedly, partly by me) of this are explored in a New Statesman article. The public support for libraries was shown on Twitter by a double whammy from Dawn Finch – first the “tweet heard around the world” (see below) and then the #ThankALibraryWorker hashtag. Have a look at both if you can. Give yourself an early Christmas present.

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Co-locations, improvements and appeals for volunteers

Editorial

Some more generally good news for libraries this post, with a couple of new co-located buildings being planned and various library improvements being reported. There’s also a couple of volunteer libraries taking advantage of the season to ask for more volunteers, including one which is worried about the cost of its building becoming too much for it. Abroad, the decision by the USA to end net neutrality will start pressuring libraries (and a lot of other people) while a Canadian library takes an interestingly thoughtful stance on room hires to extremist groups.

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Public library budget for the UK falls roughly one-tenth in one year. Ouch.

Editorial

Total net expenditure on public libraries went down from £842k in 2015/16 to £771k in 2016/17, a decline of over 8% in just one year. Add in inflation and it’s more like 10% (or it would be if salaries weren’t semi-frozen). That would be awful enough if that was a one-off but it isn’t: there’s been real cuts to expenditure every single year since 2009/10 and there’s inflation in that period too (of 17%) to account for. So, that’s mega isn’t it? Brutal in fact. No surprise then that usage is falling. The surprise is that it’s not falling faster, After all, visits are down a mere 3% when the cut to funding was three times more.

So that’s one horror story. The other is, of course, how the figures themselves  are collected. Given by councils, CIPFA then collates them when the financial year finishes in April, presumably then does something else for a bit (because it’s now December), sends out a summary press release as a sales pitch and then charges an eye-watering charge for anyone wanting the full package. But, hang on, these are our statistics. Which we’re stopped from using unless we’re rich and don’t mind waiting, let’s think, more than seven whole months to see. And this is for the library profession, which should be fairly good on information. I’m glad to say that things are changing though. All of the organisations (well, apart from, presumably CIPFA but I don’t know) involved (SCL, Taskforce, CILIP etc) are keen on improving on the current mess. I hope they succeed. Then we’ll be able to tell for free and in real-time how fast budgets are declining. Hang on, that doesn’t sound fun. But at least it’s not downright embarrassing, unlike the current situation.

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“Libraries Unlimited” indeed – Devon expands

Editorial

Devon are the first of the library-only mutual to expand beyond its borders by taking over Torbay.  It’s a natural fit – Torbay is small and next-door – but signals the mutual need not just stay in their boundaries. GLL may have competition in sucking up library services, especially with the Government/Taskforce so openly backing the library mutual model. Meanwhile in Sheffield, the bizarre scheme to sell the central library to the Chinese as a luxury hotel in a £1 billion development has hit the buffers of reality: there may a £20m scheme for the library instead, although there is support for simply refurbishing the existing building. Good to see a new library – delightfully named “Cat and Mouse” opening in Islington and also that Gateshead, faced with charging the unemployed for seeking work online, ending computer charges. On the downside, another school library service – that of Derbyshire – is under threat.

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Good news and Christmas

Editorial

Good to see library news connecting with the general goodwill of the season. A news article from Warrington reports that no libraries may close (a big turnaround from the original proposals), although of course the devil may be in the detail, as yet unseen. Also – and I love this – West Dunbartonshire are putting out to consultation (rather than just voting through) deep cuts in their library opening hours due to a well-timed letter from CILIPS. Well done Scottish CILIP people. And it may be Christmas for Derby libraries every day as the council catches on, finally, that Section 106 money from new housing can be used for library projects. But the big applause must go to the library team at Plymouth who are keeping their library open on Christmas Day. It can be the loneliest day for so many so this is a really warm-hearted move. Well done those who volunteered to work that day. I hope it goes well, and the mince pies are delicious.

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Christmas for GLL, London library property boom and Japanese success

Editorial

Some interesting news stories today. GLL have officially taken over another library service, meaning they’re now running, by my count, five. In a further sign, if any were needed, that London is an increasingly foreign city compared to the rest of the country, another library there gets a new building as part of a property deal that would not have been so possible anywhere without its insanely high property prices. And then we have Christmas creeping up on us, with a story in the Guardian of how dedicated librarians are even at Christmas. This article also mentions the large number of volunteers being used, which ties in with an advert also today for a paid PhD on volunteers, describing them as “crucial” for the library service. No mention of volunteers, though, from Japan, where a new combined bookshop/library/restaurant model is apparently going great guns.

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