Bury proposes 10 out of 14 branches cut: Bristol will cut deeply too.

Editorial

Two big announcements of library cuts today.  Bury will be closing/transferring at least 10 out of 14 of its libraries in a £1.4m cut.  The last deep cut I am aware of from there was 2013/14 (£570k) which was scary enough but the £1.4m cut announced there now is, by my calculations, a full halving of their total libraries budget.  By coincidence,, another library authority beginning with a B – Bristol – has also confirmed a £1.4 million cut to its libraries. While they have not officially announced what this means in terms of library closures, one unofficial source tells me that this could mean up to 19 of 28 libraries closing or being passed to volunteers/community groups. Their last deep cut was in 2015 where £1.1 million was taken from roughly £5.7m budget (this figure extrapolated from media reports) which led to big protests and thus the closing of only one library. It may well be that this further cut means such hollowing out is not an option this time and we can expect far more in terms of closures (hence the alleged scary figure of 19) but we shall see.  If all this is right, by the way, then that’s 39 libraries under threat in three days. Gosh, I hope this year does not continue in that vein.

Changes

National news

  • Making the right connection helps to combat loneliness – Guardian. “Ingrid Koehler, service innovation lead at the Local Government Information Unit, says local authorities are waking up to the cost of social isolation, but some of the traditional ways that councils helped to bring people together are suffering due to budget cuts. According to Unison, 467 libraries, 578 children’s centres, and more than 300 youth centres have closed across England since 2010. “What we’re talking about is the reading group at the library, the festivals and events, the allotments, the play groups and the community centres where clubs can meet,” says Koehler. “Some of these universal services, which are about just providing a venue and the opportunity to meet people, are slipping away. “I don’t think we have a handle on what the decline in universal services such as these will have on loneliness. The impact won’t have truly hit yet, but I think it’s on its way.””
  • Nielsen LibScan Public Library borrowing data Period 11 (4 weeks ending 5 November 2016) – Nielsen. “Library loans for Period 11 of 2016 (to 5 November) were down 14.3% year-on-year, a smaller decline than the previous 2 periods. Total loans for Period 11 were 5.2m. This time it was the Children’s, Young Adult and Educational category which declined the least when compared to the same period the previous year. There was a drop of 13.4% in loans for this category whilst the Adult Fiction category dropped by 14.3%.”
  • Striking photos of readers around the world – BBC. Some amazing photographs. ““Readers are seldom lonely or bored, because reading is a refuge and an enlightenment,” writes Paul Theroux in the foreword to the new Phaidon book Steve McCurry: On Reading. “This wisdom is sometimes visible. It seems to me that there is always something luminous in the face of a person in the act of reading”
  • Ten thousand books were pulped’ – your library stories – Unison. ““The library I worked in from 2015 to December 2016 was ‘hubbed’ last October and my fully qualified librarian manager was forced into accepting ‘voluntary’ severance, as was my library assistant colleague.” … “Members of the public themselves were mystified as to why the library should be in this housing office – and some of my former library borrowers were very upset to see me in the same location as the place where they have to come to discuss their benefits difficulties” … ““Despite their assurances,” she recalls, “they did nothing to protect the stock, which became damp and mouldy. 10,000 books were pulped.” The closure became permanent.” … “Paul Smith from Somerset told us about cuts to mobile libraries in his area: there were six mobile libraries and six drivers in 2017 – now there is just one of each left.” Unison are asking for more stories from libraries.

International news

  • Eire – Irish book community ‘dismayed’ over library tender – BookSeller. “Bookselling Ireland (formerly The Booksellers Association of Ireland) and Words Ireland, an umbrella organisation for seven literature bodies, have released a joint statement expressing their “dismay” at the tender decision. They say that 60% of the new €6m annual contract on offer has been awarded to suppliers outside Ireland, meaning €14m of business will be going outside of the country. Last year, the national tender for academic libraries also went to a non-Irish supplier, meaning that “a total of €28 million has been removed from the book industry here in Ireland”.”
  • Global – IFLA World Library and Information Congress Participation Grant – IFLA. “It is our great pleasure to announce that the IFLA World Library and Information Congress 2017 has made available funds to provide support for 20 delegates to attend IFLA WLIC 2017 by waiving their registration fee. Additional expenses (travel, accommodation etc.) need to be covered by the grantee themselves.”
  • Indonesia – It’s a shame Pune doesn’t have a single library worth its stature – Daily O. “To sustain the culture of a knowledge-producing hub, we need to have institutions that can talk of a multitude of resources. Libraries are the havens that act as a solid base to maintain the knowledge edifice. It comes as a rude shock that Pune has few libraries of national, let alone international stature.”
  • USA – 2016 Annual Report – Building Success for Library Advocacy – EveryLibrary. “The full report discusses our strong donor support, our campaigns wins for public libraries, our growth supporting school library communities, the extensive outreach we are doing to voters and Americans through VoteLibraries and our Action platform, and a host of thanks to our volunteers, donors, supporters, and corporate partners”

“With over 60 library campaigns supported and 45 wins, we can proudly say we have helped over secure over $200 million in stable tax funding for those libraries. We grew our social media reach by 10 times in 2016 and are now able to communicate directly and effectively with over 100,000 Americans through our Facebook and Twitter feeds. Our key strategic initiative was launching our Action platform at action.everylibrary.org. This allows us to create and field petition drives and other calls-to-action that have supported individual librarians and the future of the entire library industry”

“A note that said, “It’s Hard Interrupting a Donkey. They Hit Everything. My Only Neighbor Excludes Yall. Never Open Water With Heat Around Torches? Same code as always…I’m counting on you! Write me back in the book Reusing Old Graves, by Douglas Davies.” I figured out that it stood for – I HID THE MONEY. NOW WHAT? Our library did not own the book mentioned, nor did anyone in our county system so the trail went cold. —Karen Nootbaar, Northland Public Library”

Local news by authority

  • Birmingham – Sutton Coldfield campaigners call for Town Council funding to help save the library – Sutton Coldfield Local News. “Members of the campaign group The Library Lobby are asking Sutton Coldfield Town Council to “put its money where its mouth is” and commit funds to ensure the survival of a town centre library.” … “In the December Town Council meeting it became clear that the Town Council has funds at its disposal: it has a surplus of £308,000 for the year 2016-17, and currently almost £200,000 unallocated out of its 2017/18 budget”
  • Brent – Major step forward by Brent’s Community Libraries – Friends of Barham Library. “Barham and the 3 other Community Libraries in Brent (Cricklewood, Kensal Rise and Preston) are making progress. Following a successful Grant bid to Brent’s Voluntary Sector Fund the 4 Community Libraries are able to go ahead with obtaining the services of a Professional Librarian. The Advert for the Professional Librarian and supporting documents are shown below…”
  • Brighton and Hove – Postman Pat creator slams new library fines – Argus. “John Cunliffe, the creator of the popular television show character and previously a librarian in Brighton, says that the council’s new policy is “evidence of the nanny state in action”. It was agreed by Brighton and Hove City Council last week to raise income levels by fining children when they are late returning library books. Mr Cunliffe, 83, a semi-retired writer, from Yorkshire, said: “This whole business of library fines is against what libraries are all about and these fines will just end up charging children who are trying to read more and educate themselves”. Conservative opposition councillor agrees: ““It doesn’t seem a lot, ten pence a day and a maximum of £2.50, but for some parents it might frighten them off.””
  • Bristol – The 123 cuts Bristol City Council plan to make to their budget (but there are still more to come) – Bristol Post. “Instead of closing down libraries, they are suggesting they could be run by volunteers or share buildings with other council services.” see also Bristol Council to axe 1,000 staff – Bristol Cable. “The 2014-17 financial plan currently being executed was drawn up under Mayor Ferguson. It imagined the council making savings of £34m through measures such as: Savings in delivery (£9.1m), improving business efficiency (£8.3m), reducing Council running costs (£6.5m) or a review of the library service (£1.1m). In addition to that, extra pressure on social care has increased the amount the Council needs to save by an additional £8m. Nowhere do the plans mention shedding a sixth of the workforce and it is not clear whether the Council still expects to make all of the savings identified by the previous administration.”
  • Bristol – Corporate Strategy consultation 2017-2022 – Bristol City Council. £1.4m cut (-£300k first year, -£740k second, -£360k third). “This would focus our investment and efforts on a smaller but high quality library service in Bristol. This would include retaining the Central Library and a redesign of the service within the lower cash limit”
  • Bristol – Unison response – Unison. “Co –location of council services is an interesting proposal but requires careful planning and proper investment. We note that previous similar proposals for libraries were not taken forward, resulting in a serious impact on our members. We look forward to seeing more detailed proposals about this idea” .. “A recent “temperature check” made for dire reading and showed that staff are depressed, angry and frightened for the future. Some of our members covered by the disability provisions in the Equalities Act have had to take grievances to get their reasonable adjustments. The proposals in the strategy for libraries appear to be a resurrection of the “Libraries for the Future” scheme from 2015 , albeit with a potentially higher level of cuts. A politically driven fudge arising from these proposals severely impacted our members working lives and incomes, resulting in a dispute and industrial action. These issues have still not been resolved and we still consider that we are in dispute with the council over the working patterns. Any future plans for the service must resolve our ongoing dispute.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – WayWord in your local library – Storyhouse. “From Monday 20 – Friday 24 Feb, free arts and crafts will be on offer every morning from 10am – 12.30pm where you will find a friendly creative activity host to help you and your family make and create! WayWord crafty stuff happening at the following libraries…”
  • Bury – Bury could lose at least 10 of its 14 libraries in new cuts blow – Manchester Evening News. “Council chiefs say the move will save around £1.4m a year. Selling off closed sites for development and leasing buildings could net nearly £400,000 a year of that headline figure.”
  • Bury – Bury to lose at least 10 of its 14 libraries – Bury Times. “In the worst case scenario the proposals could potentially see 11 of the facilities shut down, as major changes are made to the borough’s library services. More than 4,000 people took part in the first public consultation and, now, the decision on the future of Bury libraries will be made by councillors next week. Bury’s cabinet will table proposals on Wednesday, hold another public consultation, and then make a final decision at a meeting April.”.  Councillor says ““The current library service is not sustainable. Staff levels have reduced by 30 per cent since the last review, meaning that libraries cannot fulfil their opening hours and are sometimes closed at short notice. “Also, some of the library buildings are not in great condition and will need major investment in future years, money which we simply don’t have.”
  • Darlington – Campaigners refuse to quit Darlington’s Crown Street library fight – Northern Echo. “Darlington Borough Council is planning to close the town’s Crown Street library and move the service to a nearby leisure centre. Activists took the opportunity to continue their fight when they quizzed members of the council’s cabinet committee, tonight. Yvonne Richardson challenged the authority to listen the people of the town and involve them in any decision making process.” … “Christine Fishwick, of the Friends of Crown Street Library, handed over 100 drawings made by children from the town’s schools supporting the fight to keep the building open as a library. ” … “In a passionate defence of the council’s proposals for the Crown Street Library, Cllr Nick Wallis, the cabinet member for leisure and local environment, said people were failing to separate the issue of the library service from the future of the actual building itself. “
  • Essex – Essex Libraries have issued an appeal for donations of any unwanted Lego – Essex TV. “Children of all ages love Lego, but it also has a real educational quality helping the development of motor skills and creativity, and learn about problem solving skills. “If we are successful in gaining enough Lego, then we will be looking to launch a series of Lego clubs across the county where children can come together to take part in activities and Lego based challenges. “These clubs have worked really well in other parts of the country and it would be fantastic to see it happen in Essex.”” see also Plans to launch ‘library lego clubs’ for children – ITV News.
  • Middlesbrough – Plan to turn ‘daunting’ Central Library into flagship destination for families – Gazette Live. “Plans are being drawn up to turn Middlesbrough’s ‘daunting’ Central Library into a ‘flagship destination venue’ to attract more families.” … “LGA assessors also found the role of Central Library was “undeveloped and still reflected a relatively traditional approach”.” … ““Some of these changes would be minor, such as changing the configuration of existing spaces, and could be accommodated within existing budgets, whilst others would require more fundamental investment.” Funding bids are likely to be submitted over the next two years after the development of new plans for inside the building.”
  • North East Lincolnshire – Cleethorpes library: ‘Cuts mean asking people what they want for library provision in resort’ – Grimsby Telegraph. Leader of council writes after speculation over future of Cleethorpes Library: “following recent coverage over the issue of Cleethorpes library, can I take this opportunity of reassuring your readers that this council, and this administration, is fully committed to ensuring the town’s library provision is maintained.”.  Says council is asking public what provision is needed.
  • Oldham – Discover a world of comedy, drama, new writing and storytelling at Oldham’s libraries – Saddleworth Independent. Many professional theatre shows and author visits. “Councillor Barbara Brownridge, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood and Co-operative, said: “Live@thelibrary has become a huge part of our library offer and one we are truly proud of. “We have something for all ages and we’re supporting established and emerging local talent.”
  • Plymouth – Plymouth schoolgirl’s plea to council: ‘Don’t close our library’ – Herald. “Lucy Woodman, aged eight, was horrified to learn that Efford library is one of ten slated for closure under Plymouth City Council’s “transformation and change” scheme. She started a petition and enlisted the help of her friends at High View Primary School. Mum Nicky Williams said: “I was reading The Herald at the kitchen table and Lucy was just really adamant that this should not happen. “We’ve been going to the library since she was a baby, it’s somewhere she is used to going, it’s literally opposite her school.””
  • Plymouth – Stop the closure of libraries in Plymouth – Change.org. “We call on the Council to keep our local branch libraries open. They are vital for children who want to learn to read, adults who can’t afford to buy books, people who use the computers and printers to find a job, do research, family history and to access online services. They host book groups and children’s events, are staffed by professionals who can help, and are valuable free, public spaces in a world that charges for everything.” [375 signatures at time of checking – Ed.]
  • Plymouth – Top authors back campaign to save Plymouth’s libraries – Herald. “Former children’s laureate Michael Rosen and bestselling novelist Neil Gaiman have shown their support for the cause on Twitter.”
  • Southend – Library set to close for three months to get big makeover – Echo. “Westcliff Library, in London Road, is set for a major refurbishment that will reinvent the layout of the main library. The work will create a new welcoming area for customers with a new front desk and there will also be a private meeting room available for hire” … ““The meeting room will facilitate business gatherings or community groups in a safe local space and will provide a great way to meet up with friends or colleagues. Other work being carried out will include a new welcome desk, new flooring throughout, new signage, a complete rewiring, new lighting including emergency lighting. We apologise for any inconvenience to customers but hope the wait is worth it.” “
  • Thurrock – Work continues to save East Tilbury Library and Bata Collection – Your Thurrock. “Thurrock Council has been able to remove some Bata items and stored them at 1 Big Storage, located across the road – who kindly donated some space after hearing what had happened. Cllr Macpherson explained: “Not everything can be moved yet; access to the building remains difficult until remedial works can take place to ensure visitors to the building are safe. The structural engineer visited the library last week and after their report is shared, we can expect the works to start. “There was also a further incident over this weekend (Saturday 14 January) and I encourage everybody to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the police.””
  • Vale of Glamorgan – ‘Let yourself into the library’ – Llantwit Major Today. “By the end of 2016 there were a growing number of libraries across many authorities in the UK that had adopted the open library in some form. As with many other locations, at Barry Library there will be a staged approach so that customers can become familiar with the new technology so that demand can be assessed. The intention at Barry is initially to extend opening hours on weekday evenings, while providing access on Sundays is another possibility.”
  • Waltham Forest – Higham Hill Library granted asset of community value by Waltham Forest Council – East London and West Sussex Guardian. “Higham Hill Library has been made an asset of community value by Waltham Forest Council, even though it could be moved under £3million worth of cuts. The shock decision comes as local protest groups are passionately advocating to keep it where it is. Campaigners are trying desperately to rouse communities to save library services by responding to a consultation, which ends on January 31″
  • West Dunbartonshire – Clydebank libraries to offer free IT courses for beginners – Clydebank Post. “West Dunbartonshire Council Libraries team have released a new timetable for the free computer and tablet courses held throughout the town. The Quest courses start on January 23 and offer participants a range of computer-related training. A six-week iPads for the beginner course kicks off at Dalmuir library on Monday; on Tuesday Android tablet courses begin in Clydebank library and in both Parkhall and Duntocher library residents can start an eight-week computer course on Wednesday.”
  • Wigan – Consultation event to discuss the future of Atherton Library services – Leigh Journal. “Wigan Council is proposing to move the library from York Street to the former town hall building. Currently empty, the building on Bolton Road is set to become a community hub. The council has vowed to keep all 15 libraries in the borough open despite many having closed their doors all over the country”

 

 

Plymouth to cut 10 libraries, “Reading Allowed” review and goodbye Obama

Editorial

In this post, Plymouth joins the expanding list of councils to announce a desire to close more than half of its libraries. Doing a Livewire, it does its best to present this presumably cost-driven move as modernisation and even “transformation” but it seems that many people are not buying this approach, with the council already being called barbarians and crazy.  The local newspaper, the Plymouth Herald, has already come out strongly in favour of keeping the libraries open and so the council looks set for a fight. Meanwhile, in Norfolk, the council has taken the unusual step of guaranteeing no cuts to libraries in 2017/18 and a very snazzy looking new library (co-located with borough council offices and other services) has opened in Hemel Hempstead.

Meanwhile, we are in the last few days of the Obama presidency. Despite being blocked by Congress on so many issues, the Obamas have shown themselves to be wonderful supporters of libraries and literacy.  I am sure the profession there will be very sorry to see them go, not least because they are already worried about what Trump – pretty much the opposite of President Obama in almost every way – will do for (or, more likely, against) public services, privacy and diversity.  It promises to be a bumpy few years ahead.

A quick review of “Reading Allowed: True stories of curious incidents in a provincial library” by Chris Paling

I was delighted to be sent a review copy of this book a couple of months ago.  It’s set in quite a large public library in London – the location is never explicitly mentioned but it’s certainly not somewhere I’d call “provincial”.  What comes across is how tough the library is.  There’s drug dealers and criminals described in pretty much every chapter, with the security guards (called “Facilities”) being kept very busy dealing with them when they’re not sorting out blockages in the toilets.  Clearly, the library is fulfilling a unique role in dealing with those marginalised by society. What next comes across is the strong affection the author feels for the clientele. I can completely identify with this myself as you really get to know someone when you work in libraries and they become, if not your friends, then someone you care about and want the best for. It’s an easy to read book, quite humorous in places and quite thoughtful in others.  Chris sums up the feel of working a busy big library facing a death by thousand cuts very well and I am sure many working in the sector would read it with recognition. Meanwhile, those who don’t use libraries but still happily pronounce their death (see Plymouth for a new example below) may be quite shocked by all the wonderful things provided.  Out on 2nd February, I recommend you read a copy, even though I can recognise myself being described a “pundit” (really!) on one of the later pages.

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An inspector calls in Lancashire, probable U-turn in Warrington and Open+ in Eire

Editorial

The libraries minister has visited Lancashire to have a look at the library closures by that council. It’s a Labour controlled council and I understand the closures were all in Conservative-controlled areas so that may have been a factor as well as the anger of public who felt that the consultation was one in name only.  Reports of his visit are widely differing, with some thinking that he’ll step in while the council itself has apparently used it as an opportunity to show off how “comprehensive and efficient” they still are.  They’re also still happily selling the already-closed library buildings.  Soft or hard, his visit is the first real test in terms of how interventionist or not this minister will be.  We’ll know soon enough.

One of the most botched proposed cuts to library services by leisure/library trust LiveWire, coupled with one of the angriest and loudest responses by library users, has been in Warrington over the last few months.  I know from colleagues that it is being used almost as a case study in how not to do it.  I’m therefore delighted to see that these cuts looks like they’re going to be reversed, with Warrington Central Library staying open (the original plans was for the magnificent Victorian building to be closed and the library service moved into – yes – an ex shoe shop) and several branches which had been slated as being replaced with book collection lockers (yes, lockers) staying open.  The devil is the detail, though, and nothing is confirmed as yet. Possibly ironically, last week, the protests started hitting the fan in Bath where the council released a similarly deceptive consultation about “modernising” its library (mainly by closing the big central library in the busiest part of town).  One hopes councils (and trusts) learn one day to be honest with the public about what they’re doing but there’s little sign so far.

Finally, one of the most amazing things to watch has been the difficult and acrimonious passage that Open+ and similar technologies have had in the Republic of Ireland.  Introduced with barely a whisper of complaint in the UK, all hell has apparently broken loose in Eire about it, with the latest being an ex-minster publicly calling the system “daft”. Meanwhile, in Wales, the Vale of Glamorgan announced last week they’re be introducing the technology, to a positive response so far in the press.

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Refurbishments, a new library/leisure trust and PIN-only Camden mornings

Editorial

It’s good to see a couple of library refurbishments on the list and what appears to be an old-style complementary Friends of the Library group or two being set up. Gives me hope for 2017.  In other news, Flintshire are becoming a combined libraries/leisure trust.  This was once quite the thing (and the success of GLL in Greenwich and Wandsworth reported below, albeit with a strong library leader, shows it can work) but I suspect that many authorities are having second thoughts with the debacle of Warrington Livewire’s cack-handed cutting of its libraries.  There’s also the news, which I must admit took even me somewhat a-back, that five libraries in Camden will now only be available in the mornings if one swipes one’s library card and type in a PIN at the door.

Finally, I received a short and somewhat tragic email from a retired librarian in the North West who worries that his love of donated books at his local supermarket will somehow contribute to the end of libraries. Bless him and bless us.

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Libraries minister goes to Lancashire but will he intervene?

Editorial

It’s heartening to see the new libraries minister visiting Lancashire to have a look at how its council is cutting its library service. The council has taken a lot of flak due to the sheer number of branches involved, some seemingly dubious consultations  and, more recently, making some controversial announcements over Christmas, being accused of trying to “bury bad news”.  Don’t get too excited, though. The minister, Rob Wilson, is unlikely to actually intervene in the county. That would be going a bit too far for a government still tied to the twin stakes of austerity and localism. No, he will probably merely use the visit to grandstand, showing how concerned he is without actually doing anything.  That’s still, though, more than I can remember Ed Vaizey doing in his tenure in the job, where he seemed to spend what little time he devoted to libraries either saying how much they were thriving or visiting carefully selected branches that fitted his views. I’m hoping Rob Wilson is made of sterner stuff.  We’ll know soon enough.

Other news that pickled my interest comes from the USA, where staff have got into trouble for using fake patrons to issue books that otherwise their computers would have ordered them to withdraw.  This over-reliance on computers by libraries is an issue.  Many of us will have learnt how much harder it is to withdraw books in self-service libraries which no longer have those handy date-stamps on them, for instance.  Meanwhile, those computer printouts that list what to withdraw, in the libraries lucky enough to have them,  often take no account of the actual condition of the book or that it’s a classic that no library should do without. The ideal I suspect, as in most things, is a happy medium between an entirely time-heavy (and open to bias and error, however some may say otherwise) staff-based revision system on one hand and emotionless garbage-in garbage-out obeying of the computer printout on the other.

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Honours and the year in review

Editorial

It was lovely to see two library people receiving honours. Ciara Eastell, head of Devon non-profit Libraries Unlimited and past president of the Society of Chief Librarians – who coincidentally I went to library school with (Sheffield, class of 93-4) – and Desmond Clarke, ex publishing boss and now national library campaigner. Both have done what they can for public libraries.  I was less happy to see the ex-boss of Warrington Livewire, which is currently devastating its libraries, also receive an honour.

Normally at this time of year I would do a post on the major trends in public libraries in the last year but I see Leon has beaten me to it.  I recommend it to you.  The only things I would add to it are Open+/remote-controlled libraries, which are really taking off this year, for better or for worse and the rise of parish/town councils paying for libraries, often by raising their parish rates.  This last represents a possible ray of hope for libraries as parish/town councils are not limited in the same way in raising council tax than larger councils. I can foresee hundreds of libraries moving from the county/borough councils to smaller, more atomised, local authorities in order to take advantage of this and it represents a get-out clause for the Government which is otherwise tied to austerity and localism.

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Merry Christmas, see you in the New Year

Editorial

Look, let’s not beat around the bush.  It’s been a difficult year. Odds are that you’ve done a ton of work and you’ve been either directly affected by cuts to your library or library service and/or have heard of such things in neighbouring authorities. In the UK, we have what looks like more austerity, added now to the uncertainties of Brexit, while in the USA we have what appears to be a narcissistic bully who has difficulties with facts about to take control. You and I deserve a break.

So have a great Christmas. Forget all this library stuff for a few days. See you in the New Year.

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Those are quite big numbers but the SRC shows that there's scope for bigger ones.

Celebrating “Celebrating Shakespeare”

Editorial

Public libraries in the UK are, famously, atomised, with 151 different library services in England alone. Getting all of these various services to work together, especially in this age of localism and in the absence of standards, is always challenging but the benefits of doing so can be immense.  There are various co-operative agreements (here’s 28 examples – contact me if you know of any more) between library services to be more efficient, with the biggest most obvious promotional arrangement the public would be aware of being the Summer Reading Challenge.  I like the SRC especially as it allows some sort of national promotion for public libraries.  This scheme has largely been unique but I’m glad to see that there are now more examples coming on stream, via the Society of Chief Librarians.

Those are quite big numbers but the SRC shows that there's scope for bigger ones.

Those are quite big numbers but the SRC shows that there’s scope for bigger ones.

I was involved in the Celebrating Shakespeare project this year, which provided materials for promoting the Bard as well as Arts Council England funding for artists and performers.  We had adults doing iambic pentameter sessions (not so successful) and a theatre group doing the Tempest (tremendously successful, with all three library venues being sold out, even at the cost of £10 per ticket in one case).  I also loved the social media campaign associated with it (6000 tweets, even though some taking part apparently need to learn what a selfie is) and the joy and energy it released.  The whole thing showed what can achieved with a directing hand, centralised resources and some seed money. All in all, 11000 people were involved in Shakespeare Week and a further 12000 people were involved in the Summer and Autumn, spread over 388 libraries.  This accounted for a large part of the number of library authorities in the UK, although some could not take part because of coping with cuts/restructures or because of the shortage of preparation time.  I understand that the project will continue next year and I wish it every success. But hang on, “a directing hand, centralised resources and some seed money”? In 2016? Can that be? Yes, it can.  Now let’s see, if more such projects can be – or not to be (sorry) – in future.

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Reading, Feeding and staying open on Christmas Day: innovation continues.

Editorial

Up and down the country, library staff are looking at ideas for bidding for the £3.9 million Libraries Innovation Fund. I can see from the website statistics that a lot of you are looking at my list of 250 library ideas. There’s three new ideas today, with the most promising in my mind coming from Rochdale where the need to feed children’s bodies and minds are combined in a Read and Feed scheme. Genius. This ties in with a fair number of things for libraries and communities and I hope the idea spreads.  I’m not sure I’d want to do it myself but another idea is opening for a hour or two on Christmas Day itself to welcome the lonely (and presumably those critically short of something to read) into the library on what can be the most depressing day of the year. I understand that this is the second year that one library has done this and all I can say is that anyone involved should be up for awards.

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Minister “leads fight back” + Torfaen

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