Speaking up for libraries; deep cuts to West Berkshire and Darlington. New library in Warwickshire

Editorial

The campaign for public libraries hotted up still further with the Speak Up For Libraries lobbying for parliament. Some great speeches were made. Sadly, it looks like the only national news source to pay attention was the Guardian, although it has to be said that that newspaper has covered a lot of library stories recently.  However, it’s only when Conservative papers like the Telegraph start paying attention that one feels a breakthrough will have been made.

In other news, more details of the deep cuts announced in West Berkshire and some new information about cuts to Darlington.  Both authorities would, if cuts happen as proposed, be down to nearly one library each, like Swindon proposed last week.  This looks like the new lowest level in the “race to the bottom” that councils are willing to go to with cutting libraries.  After all, it’d be hard for even the current minister to keep a straight face about the statutory importance of libraries if a council proposed no libraries.  Although one feels that even that is only a matter of time. Deep library closures in rural areas may be less than expected, however, as it looks like the Government is reducing the level of cuts in the countryside at least in the next year or two.

News

National news

  • Bibliotheca launches Cloud Library in the UK – Bibliotheca. “Chris Millican, Bibliotheca UK’s Commercial Manager comments: “The Cloud Library has been the premier method for eBook lending in the US and Canada for the past four years, with the recent enhancement to provide audiobooks as well. It’s now time for UK libraries to experience the best in class library e-lending solution available. Cloud Library has proven to be a favourite for US and CA library users, with reviews and rankings proving how simple, convenient and enjoyable the entire experience is. With no complicated Digital Rights Management, library staff will experience fewer support queries and a higher rate of collection circulation.”  “
  • Libraries saved me, now they need rescuing – Guardian. Author Karin Slaughter on the importance of libraries. “…when he noticed that I, his youngest daughter, showed an interest in reading, he took me to the local Jonesboro library and told me that I could read any book in the building so long as I promised to talk to him about it if I read something I didn’t understand. I think this is the greatest gift my father ever gave me.” … “Although it is widely agreed that libraries add tremendous value to communities, libraries have long been underfunded, understaffed, and under-supported by local governments, in both the US and the UK. Which is why, in 2010, I started the Save the Libraries foundation to raise money for libraries in need. Several years ago, I was at a Library Association conference, and half the librarians I was used to seeing were unable to attend because of budget cuts, or because they had been forced into retirement or simply fired. ” … “When I started the foundation, which has earned more than $300,000 (£206,000) for libraries, it was immediately clear that the funds we raise need to go to UK as well as US libraries”
  • Library at Work 1922 Film includes screen time for Islington, Croydon, Nottingham and Cardiff.
  • Library campaigners descend on parliament to defend public funding – Guardian. “Authors including Cathy Cassidy and Philip Ardagh have joined librarians lobbying MPs to protect the service from cuts that have seen 441 branches closed since 2010″ … “Librarians and supporters from across the UK descended on parliament in London, urging MPs to focus on what they see as the root cause of the decline in libraries – laying the blame on “apathy and ignorance” in local and central government.” … “At a packed hall in Westminster, flanked with colourful handmade banners with “save our libraries” slogans, young adult author Cathy Cassidy recalled her first visit to a library when she was seven. “When I was growing up libraries were magical magical places,” she said. “When I went home that evening I told my family and we went back to the library. I developed a habit with my father going to the library. I loved it and ate it all up and ended up with three libraries”

“Sadly the first library I went to in Coventry is under threat. The libraries in Liverpool where I went as an art student are under threat, with some already handed over to community groups. The libraries in Scotland that my children visited are under threat. It’s the same story over and over.” Cathy Cassidy

“The entire public library service is at risk and the culture minister is failing to pursue its interests. I have challenged Mr Vaizey to debate this publicly when library users from all over the country can attend. He can visit Hammersmith library on National Libraries Day, but can’t offer us a Saturday when the library community as a whole could express itself. School report on the DCMS: must do better.” Alan Gibbons

  • Library cuts slow down research into my local area – Unison. “My local studies archive service is an important source of the history of my local area and is vital for keeping our community’s knowledge of our local heritage alive. For me and many others it’s an important part of our local library service. Our archives centre is state of the art and was only built a few years ago, with the help of lottery funding. But the centre has been forced by government spending cuts to regularly reduce its opening hours”
  • Love letters to libraries: Robin Ince, Meg Rosoff and other famous names check in – Guardian. “In 1971, a librarian in Michigan asked public figures to write to local children explaining why their new library was a good thing. For National Libraries Day on 6 February in the UK, writers and public figures have written love letters to theirs”
  • National Libraries Day 2016 was ‘truly inspirational’ – BookSeller. “The support for National Libraries Day, which took place on Saturday (6th February) and saw communities across the UK participate in more than 850 events, was “truly inspirational” and featured endorsements from authors and illustrators Sir Quentin Blake, Michael Rosen and Sarah McIntyre” … “According to statistics from The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) – which organised the day along with the Society of Chief Librarians, the School Library Association and The Reading Agency – this year’s National Libraries Day saw 857 events celebrating the British public library network, which is up from 720 events last year. Libraries and supporters used the hashtags #LibrariesDay and #NationalLibrariesDay, which trended throughout the day”

“The day also saw multiple anti-cuts protests, with crowds gathering in Lambeth at the Carnegie Library to protest the library being transformed into a fee-charging gym (below), and Upper Norwood Joint Library, which the council is planning to make a “much reduced” service and turn over to community trust. Arts Council England also organised a letter campaign to support National Libraries Day, with figures in the media including celebrity chef Nadiya Hussain, British astronaut Tim Peake and authors Ann Cleeves and Meg Rosoff, asked to write love letters to libraries which can be read here.”

  • National Libraries Day: If walls could talk… – Big Issue. “then someone told me you were sick, that you were being attacked, that you were on the ropes and you might not make it back into the fight. And I found that I was scared I might lose you forever. People who I had never seen with you, who I didn’t even think knew you, told me you were ageing, and frail and out of touch. They said you had no purpose any more and that you were terminally ill and that it would be kinder to turn off the life support. And I found I wanted to cry. And that I loved you still. And that you are at the roots of who I am”
  • ‘National scandal': library campaigners lobby parliament – BookSeller. “Cassidy said: “Councils have a duty to offer a comprehensive and efficient service, but instead our libraries have been bled dry and this is a national scandal. “Some amazing libraries are really pushing boundaries but we need change and support at government level. We have a government and councils that are launching expensive schemes to get children reading whilst simultaneously closing their very best access to free books. It makes no sense at all.” She added: “Libraries build communities, weave those communities together and help people climb the ladder towards their own potential, one book at a time. It is beyond shameful that Britain can even think of closing libraries, slamming the door on culture and opportunity for young and old alike.”” … “campaigners from Barnet, Lambeth, Lewisham, Lincolnshire, Telford, Croydon, Yorkshire, Bristol, Swindon, Hillingdon, Herefordshire, Cardiff, Wirrall, Liverpool, Norfolk, Birmingham, Derbyshire, Dorset and Brent also gathered “

“We have a great debt of gratitude to library campaigners – it is you people who have been out there, fighting… that is what has kept libraries going and library workers going… the people in libraries who are not allowed to speak up, you have kept it going.” Dawn Finch, CILIP President.

  • Nielsen Book launches Pubtrack Digital UK – Nielsen. “the first dedicated e-book sales reporting service for the UK. Replicating the US platform which has been operating for over five years providing the US publishing trade with regular e-book market information, PubTrack Digital UK consolidates UK e-book sales data from a panel of participating publishers to form a market measure using publishers’ invoiced sales data.”
  • Region marks National Libraries Day – ITV. Two minute segment on ITV North East, looking at Newcastle City Library. Anne Cleeves interviewed. “There would be no Vera without libraries”.
  • Speak Up For Libraries – crisis or opportunity? – Voices for the Library. ” Alan Wylie delivered this powerful speech and highlighted important issues about the future of our public libraries.” … “Is the current situation facing libraries a crisis or an opportunity? I suppose the answer depends on who you are. If your library has been cut or closed then it’s a crisis. If you’re isolated, vulnerable, elderly and or disabled and your housebound or mobile service has been cut then it’s a crisis. If you’re a job-seeker and there are no trained staff to help you with Universal Jobmatch and you risk being sanctioned then it’s a crisis. If you’re poor with young kids and your local library now charges for Under 5’s and Babybounce sessions then it’s a crisis. If you’re a young person and can no longer access the new staffless library then it’s a crisis. If you’re a library worker whose health is suffering due to stress and short-staffing or you’ve been made redundant then it’s a crisis. On the other hand if you’re Ed Vaizey, the government, a ‘transformation’ consultant or a privatiser then it’s one big opportunity” … “The best way to stay public is to be public – truly, defiantly, radically public””
  • Tory MPs threaten to rebel over local government funding settlement for rural areas – Conservative Home. One MP said ““Councillors have done the right thing, and done it well, in saving vast amounts of money in the last few years. But now all the fat is gone, all the meat is gone and government wants to gnaw on the bone. I’m not having my local swimming pools and libraries closed down. They’re crossing the Rubicon. I think up to 30 MPs will rebel – which would mean the vote being lost. Serious questions have to be asked about the professionalism and reliability of the Whips’ department.”

International news

  • USA – Maker kit program turns libraries into places for content creation, not just consumption – Knight Foundation. “Librarianship is a funny profession–the day is often a mixture of hokey jokes from people who haven’t been in a library in years, and strategizing ways to implement robotics and computer coding into programs for everybody from preschoolers to seniors. When people see what libraries actually get up to these days, they’re almost always surprised. So many people in America depend on their libraries to help them forward when it comes to technology, and lots of libraries have answered that call with aplomb, learning as they go.”
  • USA – Why don’t public libraries deliver? Washington Post. “Why doesn’t the library team up with somebody with real expertise in the logistics of home delivery — Amazon, UPS or one of the many food delivery services that have sprung up over the past year or so — to figure out a way to cover “the last mile” — the journey from the library to my house and back again? Then it really would seem even more like Amazon Prime, and I can’t imagine that that wouldn’t help grow the market for library books.” … “With Knight’s backing, Make it @ Your Library has created Maker Kits that are largely technology-based, and partnered with the Illinois State Library to circulate those kits throughout the state. The kits include everything from engineering toys to 3-D printers, and have been in constant circulation throughout Illinois since November 2015. While more detailed analysis is in the works, “the kits are very popular and fly out the door to another library as soon as they are returned,” according to Kathleen Bloomberg, associate director library operations. “

Local news by authority

  • Bolton – Bolton library card holders to get access to millions more books stored in libraries across North West – Bolton News. “Bolton and six other Greater Manchester councils’ libraries networks will operate a shared online catalogue system — giving access to 2.8 million books and other items held within the participating library services. “
  • Cambridgeshire – ‘Our lobbying has paid off’ says Steve Count as Cambridgeshire County Council nets extra £3.2m – Cambridge News. “The county council has been handed the sum for 2016/17 and 2017/18, as Whitehall wilted to pressure from cash-strapped councils across the land.” … “No party has overall control at Shire Hall – prompting fears of budget deadlock at the meeting of full council next Tuesday. “Most of the other parties at the council want to charge an additional 2 per cent, and therefore burden residents of Cambridgeshire with a higher council tax bill,” Cllr Count added.” … “School crossing patrols, mobile libraries, community transport and road maintenance have all been spared from the chop.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Fate of Bishops’ High and Elton libraries hangs in the balance – Chester Chronicle. “The local authority is asking for views on proposals for Bishops’ High and Elton libraries which would see them close to the public and be replaced with alternative ways to access the libraries service.” … “Elton Library is located in a community centre in the village of Elton. The library is currently open on a Thursday afternoon for 4.25 hours and provides a small selection of book stock for lending. There are no IT facilities. It is proposed to offer an improved library service to Elton residents via the mobile library.” … “Bishops’ High Library is a dual-use library based at Bishops’ Blue Coat High School in Great Boughton. It is open for ten hours a week split between Mondays and Thursdays and is used by the school for the rest of the week. The consultation explains how it is proposed to withdraw public access to Bishops’ High Library and provide alternative access to the public library service from neighbouring libraries, which are all less than two miles away.”
  • Darlington – ‘Don’t sacrifice our libraries’ – Darlington Arts group urges council rethink – Northern Echo. Concerns over Cockerton Library. “the case of Cockerton Library, Darlington Borough Council has had several opportunities to work with the community over the past three years in order to devise a future for the library and has failed to take advantage of them. “
  • Dorset – A national charity is encouraging more families to visit libraries – Dorset For You. Looks at BookStart sticker scheme.
  • Hertfordshire – Blind dates with books mark national libraries day in Hitchin – Hertfordshire Mercury. “Titles were hand-picked by staff, who then wrapped them and wrote a brief description on the packaging. Readers both famous and local wrote tributes to libraries about what the service means to them and took part in a quiz.”
  • Hertfordshire – New opening hours for libraries – Herts Direct. “Library opening hours across Hertfordshire have changed in response to feedback from library users across the county.” … “From November, Watford Central Library will join Borehamwood, Harpenden and Hoddesdon in offeringLibrary Express’ – where part of the library is opened for extended hours. Meanwhile, Bovingdon, Harpenden, Radlett and Waltham Cross Libraries offer extended access through ‘supervised self-service’ with the support of volunteers and partner organisations. “
  • Kirklees – Book lovers abandon Kirklees libraries in their droves – Huddersfield Daily Examiner. “There were nearly a quarter-of-a-million fewer visits overall compared to 2012/13. Huddersfield’s central library suffered a drop of over 100,000 visits during that time. The library on Princess Alexandra Walk had a total of 508,982 visitors during 2014/15, figures released exclusively to the Examiner show.” … “Even so, Kirklees’ network of libraries had 1.96m visitors last year.” … “The biggest drop from 2013/14 to last year – a fall of 41% – was Thornhill Lees which is set for closure in April.” … “The shrinkage in library visits has been revealed amid a huge shake-up of the library service.” [NB. This is still nearly 4.5 visits per year for every man, woman and child in the borough – Ed.]

“1.96 million people came through our library doors last year and we are really proud of that achievement. Libraries are more than just books, as we all know, and we are doing some great work with users and community groups to support Early Intervention and Prevention, Health and Wellbeing and Economic Resilience. Needless to say I am very disappointed with the negative tone of the report” Carol Stump, Chief Librarian, Kirklees (via email).

  • Lambeth – GLL chief replies to union accusations – Brixton Blog. “Mark Sesnan, managing director of GLL, the organisation that runs Lambeth council’s leisure services and is set to turn three of its libraries into gyms, has told Brixton Blog that: “We believe in the future of libraries. We want to protect and improve them and extend opening hours and improve accessibility” … “He said GLL had “nothing to do” with a decision on the future of the mobile library service in Greenwich. “This is a council decision and they are currently consulting the public on the future of that service,” he said, adding that the consultation is not due to end until the middle of next month.” … “Sesnan also told Brixton Blog that the unions’ charge that threequarters of GLL staff are on zero hours contracts is not true, adding: “many of our staff, such as coaches and exercise and swim teachers, do work sessional hours”.”
  • Lambeth – Lambeth Councillor Scott Ainslie joins Brixton Library picket ahead of Cabinet protest tonight, Mon 8th Feb – Brixton Buzz. “The campaign to save Lambeth libraries has gathered momentum after Cabinet rubber-stamped a decision to sell off Waterloo Library and gift South Lambeth, Minet and Carnegie Libraries to Greenwich Leisure Limited to run as gyms. A fifth library, Upper Norwood, will be turned into a “community hub”. “The council decision leaves no libraries at all in the borough north of Brixton, an area where more than 40% of people live in social housing and many households rely on library services,” added Cllr Ainslie.”
  • Lancashire – Battle to stop sell-off of Garstang Library coming to a head – Garstang Courier. “petition to save the library has been set up with 326 signing up to save the library. The closing date for signatures is February 16. With National Library Day on Saturday, Julie Dobson, communications office at LCC, said: “We’ve now come to the end of stage one of the process. We will now analyse the responses, finding out what is important to the public and what they want from the library services moving forward. There’s no timeline as to when stage two will begin, but when it does, it will be a 12 week consultation with the public. On February 11 we’ll have a full council meeting and there we will see what resources we have and what money we have got to implement the changes people want to see.”
  • Lancashire – Community ownership of assets and community service provision – Lancashire County Council. “Over the coming months there will be a number of opportunities for interested parties to potentially take over the management of council buildings or provision of services and we would welcome expressions of interest. “
  • Lancashire – Lancashire Archive Service consultation 2016 – Lancashire Archive Service. “However, the Archive Service must operate with a significant reduction of 33% to its current overall budget. In order to meet these budget challenges we are proposing to change the hours the service will be open to”
  • Lincolnshire – Rasen MP Sir Ed condemns “unfair” funding cuts – Market Rasen Mail. Notes libraries and other services cut and that other reductions would be unfair.
  • Southampton – Author Sandra Horn joins fight to keep five libraries in Southampton open – Southern Daily Echo. “Sandra was one of several people who helped a group called Friends of Cobbett Road Library stage a day of free activities at the facility on Saturday. Members marked National Libraries Day by highlighting the importance of the building, which has been at the heart of the community since 1939. Sandra, who took part in storytelling sessions for children, said she was “devastated” when she first heard that the city council was planning to axe the service to save money”
  • Swindon – Council urged to reconsider library decision – Swindon Advertiser. Nick Poole of CILIP condemns decision. “a new low”.
  • Swindon – Is this the final chapter for Swindon’s libraries as locals denounce 60% cuts?  – Guardian. “The weekly event of Rhyme Time is one that would pass by most residents of Swindon. But for the dozen or so parents who come every week with their children – some as young as three months – it is one of the simple yet essential services offered by their local library. And, as such, it is under threat.

“Claire Ruiz, 39, breaks off from a rendition of Humpty Dumpty with her 18-month-old daughter, Anna, to add: “Libraries are clearly an essential service and I cannot quite fathom how anyone could think they should be shut. We are supposedly a forward-thinking country, but shutting the libraries would set back an entire generation.”

  • Swindon – Library calls not useful – Swindon Advertiser. ” Coun Gary Perkins suggested that Wroughton’s library could be relocated within the Ellendune Community Centre.  This proposal has not been discussed with either Wroughton Parish Council or the Ellendune Community Trust and it is not mentioned in the report to Swindon’s Cabinet. It would therefore seem that this suggestion does not form part of Swindon’s current proposals.  Wroughton’s library is much valued and loved by local residents and Coun Perkins’ comments have caused unnecessary alarm and distress in the community.”
  • Telford and Wrekin – At least four of six under-threat Telford libraries will be safe, say council leaders – Shropshire Star. “Telford & Wrekin Council cabinet member Councillor Shaun Davies made the claim as he revealed a deal had been brokered to save Hadley Library following talks between Hadley & Leegomery Parish Council and Hadley Learning Community (HLC), where it is sited.
  • Telford and Wrekin – Hadley Library set to be saved as Council hails response to budget cuts – Shropshire Live. “It looks extremely likely that Hadley Library will now be saved as a result of a deal between Telford & Wrekin Council, Hadley and Leegomery Parish Council and the Hadley Learning Community. Telford & Wrekin Council says it is confident that more positive announcements will be able to be made in relation to the future of other libraries in due course, although all changes to the proposed cuts are subject to the approval of the council’s Cabinet.”
  • Vale of Glamorgan – Community groups will take over control of five Vale of Glamorgan libraries – Wales online. “Five libraries in the Vale of Glamorgan which were under threat of possible closure will be taken over by community groups. Libraries in Dinas Powys, Sully, Wenvoe, St Athan and Rhoose will be taken over by community groups from April. Vale of Glamorgan council say they will provide £100,000 for set-up costs and improvements.”
  • Warwickshire – New Southam library is now open – Leamington Observer. “The long-awaited facility has been built on Tithe Place – the same location as the former library – as part of a £12.4million project which also includes 75 retirement apartments and a neighbourhood police office. Warwickshire County Council made an arrangement with Orbit Homes whereby the land could be developed in exchange for the new library being provided as part of the development. Southam county councillor John Appleton said: “We are pleased that the library’s site is now accommodating so many services for local people. “The library itself will offer more computers and a much more versatile space inside for adults and children, reading groups and many others who would like to use it.” see also Southam library opens week ahead of schedule – Warwickshire News.
  • Warwickshire – Plans unveiled to axe Sunday opening at three Warwickshire libraries – Coventry Telegraph. “The county’s larger hub libraries currently open for four hours each on Sundays, but it has been argued that reducing opening hours to six days a week in the three branches will reduce running costs by nearly £55,000 a year. ” … ““While Sundays are not the busiest day of the week for the three libraries, Sundays generate expensive running costs.”
  • West Berkshire – Newbury author Robert Harris attacks library cuts – BBC. “Conservative-run West Berkshire Council has proposed shutting down several small libraries as part of £18.9m cuts next year. Harris, author of Pompeii, said the news of the plans “hit me like a bombshell – I couldn’t believe a limb is being amputated in that way.” The authority said it had been left with “no choice” in the face of cuts.” … “Local Government Secretary Greg Clark announced a £90m increase in funding for rural councils in 2017 after complaints from local authority leaders that they’re not as well funded as urban areas.”
  • West Berkshire – West Berkshire libraries set to close due to £19m council cuts – Newbury Today. “It could mean seven libraries, many of which serve the most rural and isolated communities, will be closed down. The proposals are belived to include Wash Common, Burghfield Common, Hungerford, Lambourn, Pangbourne, Theale and Mortimer.The council described the closure of libraries as “unthinkable” weeks ago, but said it had been left with little choice as is battles with a 44 per cent reduction in government funding. One library employee, who didn’t want to be named, told Newburytoday: “We got the phone call from the council. “They said they are proposing to cut all the libraries except Newbury and Thatcham. It’s devastating news.””
  • Wiltshire – Save our libraries – Swindon Advertiser. Letter write concerned that Wiltshire councillor says volunteers should replace paid staff.

It was a Happy National Libraries Day

Editorial

It has been brilliant seeing all the images about various events for National Libraries Day.  I really enjoyed taking part in it myself, going to a local leisure centre and asking people what they thought about libraries.  The responses were overwhelmingly positive and gave a real buzz.  As did seeing the National Libraries Day hashtag trending at number two on Twitter.  Pretty much everyone, too, got into the spirit of it, with notably fewer authorities seeing it with suspicion as being a campaigning thing (as it that were a bad thing) than previously.  All in all, it felt like a real birthday for libraries and everyone was partying, with public libraries being given a small modicum of the attention that they deserve, if only for a day.

The one duff note in the whole affair was libraries minister Ed Vaizey, comic villain of many a past PLN editorial (the reason I’ve not posted much recently is because I’ve been in pantomime last week by the way), claiming that he intervenes in libraries all the time and that Labour is the one that closes libraries.  You may “intervene” Ed, but you never actually stop any cuts happening, and library authorities – like Conservative-run Swindon just this week who want to get rid of 14 out of 15 – know that. And, by the way, since April, in those authorities which threatened library services with a majority party in control, six are Labour controlled and eight are Conservative. I thought people should know that, even if the libraries minister apparently does not.

Changes

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Charges for SCL conference

Swindon proposes just 1 out of 15 libraries to survive: SCL plans 2 day conference

Editorial

Swindon are introducing some of the toughest cuts in the country to their library service, aiming to keep just one council-run out of 15 at the end of the review.  The council directly quotes recent DCMS guidance saying that this is allowed.

In other news, the SCL are inviting one senior librarian from each service to attend its annual two-day session in order to work out how to cope with the drastic budget reductions being introduced as a result of central government austerity and the removal of effective statutory protection. Not that the SCL phrases the invite like that but everyone attending will know full well why the conference is being called “Changing Horizons: challenges, trends and new ways of delivering“. It is the job of chief librarians, after all, to implement some really hard choices and they need to learn about how best to do it.

Conservative libraries minister Ed Vaizey, whose government is mostly responsible for these tough times, will be speaking (to be fair, the SCL would invite any relevant minister, regardless of their record – it’s just that they’re Conservative this decade and the Conservatives, lest we forget, are in power due to the electorate) at the meeting as will also be, I notice, a former RAF fighter pilot as well as one or two genuine library experts such as Professor David Lankes. Although costing up to £435, the two days were fully booked last year.  Many senior managers appreciate the chance to discuss issues in private, with the invitation letter saying “Times are hard, budgets are tight, and the planning team know how difficult it is to justify attendance at the Seminar, but we know how much you value the time to reflect and to talk about the development of our services”. In their position, I’d want to do the same thing.

Those wanting to know what’s going on at those meetings but who are not senior librarians will likely be disappointed. If previous years are anything to go by, a minimum of publicly available information will come out of these sessions.

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Michael Rosen quote supporting libraries

Speaking up for libraries 2016

Editorial

I am passing over the editorial section of PLN to Speak Up For Libraries today in order to promote the lobby of parliament on 9th February. Get there if you can.

Alan Gibbons holding Support for Libraries Overdue sign, with Westminster Hall in background
“Speak up for Libraries’ Rally at Westminster Central Hall, London.
Photo shows author Alan Gibbons.

Best-selling writer Jake Arnott is the latest celebrity to sign up for the Speak Up For Libraries (SUFL) lobby of Parliament on 9 February. “Throughout our history,’ he says, ‘the library has proved to be the most effective and resilient memory system for our culture and civilisation. The public library creates a collective consciousness. Any attack on it simply adds to a social dementia.”

The day begins with a public rally at Central Hall, Westminster (10am-1pm), with a line-up of speakers chaired by campaigning author Alan Gibbons. All welcome, whether joining a lobby or not. Alan’s Campaign for the Book is part of the SUFL alliance, alongside librarians’ professional association CILIP, campaigners’ charity The Library Campaign, UNISON and Voices for the Library. Supporters from as far away as Gateshead, Shropshire, Lancashire and Lincolnshire will then descend on the Commons to lobby MPs to focus on the root cause of libraries’ grim situation – apathy and ignorance in local and central government. “These people are fighting hard locally to keep libraries alive. They are desperate to show this is a major issue for the whole nation,’ says Laura Swaffield of The Library Campaign. “And it’s not too late for others to join us.”

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Last chance to apply for up to £15,000 funding and expert advice and mentoring.

Huge response to SCL statement: at least we all care about libraries

Editorial

There was a pretty much unprecedented response, in terms of blog reads and comments,  to the President of the Society of Chief Librarians’ post on the previous edition of Public Libraries News.  Some, not all, of the responses can best be characterised as extremely opposed, although I personally understood the SCL position a bit better at the end of it, even if I wish they’d start putting their head at least a little above the parapet. I don’t want to enter the fray too much again here, perhaps I have done too much to stoke the fires as it is, but would recommend you read the comments on the previous post if you want to understand it all. For me, I can at least take comfort that all sides genuinely and deeply care for the service and with the fervent hope that numerous chief librarians and library staff will jolly well get on the board with the #MyLibraryByRight campaign anyway. And also that everyone involved will sign the petition for goodness sake, and get people you know to sign it as well.

Changes

Ideas

  • Apply to YA Shot for author visits
  • Community skill sharing – workshops and courses provided by community members. In the village of Red Hook these recently included languages, bee-keeping, brewing and maple tree tapping.
  • Memory Lab – a project funded by the Library of Congress raising awareness of personal archiving and digitising. The Memory Lab will be a free DIY space where the public can transfer obsolete formats such as VHS and audio cassettes to digital files
  • Patron request system – automatically buy one copy of any book or DVD the first cardholder in the service asks for.
  • “Senior Services” – “a relaxed, comfortable area with armchairs, newspapers, book and dedicated programming, giving senior citizens a homelier library space. “

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Ciara Eastell, President of the Society of Chief Librarians

Tangible benefits: the SCL defends its record

Editorial

The decision by the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) not to formally support the #MyLibraryByRight campaign caused a furore amongst supporters of libraries on social media, lis-pub-libs and probably other places as well.  There was even a comment or two on my previous post.  Similarly, there was much debate about welcoming Halifax bank employees into libraries to help with It issues. So much so, in fact, that I have done a special page listing all the arguments for and against commercial involvement in public libraries. The President of the SCL (and chief of Devon Library Service and, coincidentally a classmate of mine from library school, all of which kind of puts my career into perspective), Ciara Eastell has taken the trouble to write a piece for PLN, which I very happily publish it here.  One of the things I’ve noticed doing this blog over the years is that everyone, on all sides, care deeply for public libraries and make valid points and Ciara is no exception. Over to her (with the choices for quotations being mine).

Ideas

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Halifax give a little extra help (or do they?) and the SCL fail to directly support #MyLibraryByRight

Editorial

My twitter feed was full of people being angry about the new scheme where two thousand Halifax Bank employees will help with IT training in public libraries. The scheme, brokered by the Society of Chief Librarians is supposed to greatly increase the amount of training sessions available.   The anger was not over that but the commercialisation of libraries it implies. When many of us were trained, perhaps too many years ago now, one of the key things we were taught was not to show bias towards a particular company.  When I do talks to people one of the key things I say is that we provide a place, alone in the town centre, free of commercial adverts and people wanting your money.  Halifax argue that nothing has changed and the training is done entirely impartially.  However, even taking into account their benevolence, there is an obvious clash of values here that is nowhere acknowledged in the official coverage.  Perhaps in these days of frequent cuts (South Gloucestershire gets it in the neck today) neutrality is something we cannot afford and we take what help we can. Or perhaps in these times it is more important than ever (like having quiet study spaces) and we forget about it at our peril.

Keeping with the SCL, it is regrettable, but not surprising, that they have failed directly to support the #MyLibraryByRight CILIP campaign.  The SCL has always seen itself as an apolitical organisation which cannot, as a collection of council employees, make any overt stand on the big issues of the day. Rather, the body works – as well as what amounts to a largely voluntary organisation of hundreds of equal members can – to provide some sort of national training, initiatives and co-ordination.  At the end of the day, if ever a history of this dark chapter in libraries is written, the SCL are unlikely therefore to be seen as the heroes of the story. But they would argue, as the old CILIP used to, that they work better behind the scenes and do more that way than by waving placards. CILIP have realised that that simply does not work, for them, in the current climate. But SCL are in a different situation (or at least think they are) and see things differently. On other hand, the Society of Authors and the Reading Agency (neither of which are run by librarians) have no such scruples and have come out in support of the campaign. Well done to them.

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Fun Palaces, memory support library cards and silent bears

Editorial

I was delighted to receive a piece by Zoey Dixon on Fun Palaces in Libraries.  They’re creative and popular, causing an extra 5,000 (five thousand!) people to visit a Lambeth library in one day.  It doesn’t cost much and really fits in with encouraging science and the arts in libraries.  Another great idea is from Essex, where a “Memory Support Library Card” means those who have dementia will not have to pay late fees.  A simple, understandable, idea which it would be great to see go national.

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No money, no policy and shouts of protest

Editorial

A piece in the Telegraph on the drastic reductions in library book stock since 2010 is made fascinating by the DCMS trying its best to make the figures look like a good thing. Apparently, it’s all about “removing costly unused stock” (which I assume they mean to be reference books but those are not included in the figures mentioned: do your research, DCMS) and concentrating on the rise of e-books. The fallacy of that last is shown by the percentage quoted. A quick tip here, by the way, is that unless a total actual base number of issues is given, a percentage in the hundreds is meaningless.  If anything, it shows how small the actual figure is if it can be increased by 420 per cent.

Ed Vaizey – much loved (or at least mentioned), as you know, by myself and many of the readers of these posts – has now celebrated more time as arts minister than anyone else in history. It is unlikely that many librarians would see this as a good thing, although he at least does use a library occasionally even if he has not shown himself not overly willing to effectively superintend them.  His statement on the arts quotes that a minister should give “money, policy and silence”.  Since 2010, libraries have been given drastically reduced amounts of money, no policy and have been in the limelight like never before, with shouts of protest drowning any imagined silence.  Unless of course he means the silence of closed libraries. In that, at least, his tenure has been successful.

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Democracy of space

Editorial

Good to see some more publicity for the campaign for the statutory nature of libraries: Joanne Trollope leads a useful article in the Guardian. It’s a shame, though, that there’s still at time of writing fewer than 10,000 names on the petition. Time to encourage some more to sign.  This is especially important as the cuts march on. Newcastle have announced that total opening hours will be more than halved, which is pretty major.

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