Comment

The London Evening Standard reports that the DCMS may be abolished after the Olympic Games.  There are some in the library campaigning world who see this as a good thing.  One has commented “Why wait for the Olympics?”.  On the face of it, there is much to be said for this view.  The DCMS has hardly set the world alight with its pro-library work.  The experience of many campaigns is that councils do what they want to their libraries and the DCMS may, or may not, talk to them about then may, or may not, talk to library campaigns.  What happens then is that nothing happens or, at best, a letter is sent explaining why nothing has happened.  About the only active thing that the DCMS has done is the Future Libraries programme.  This looked at several ways that public libraries could save money.  Some of its initiatives were interesting.  Most have hardly set the world on fire. Some, may actually be harmful in the long-term.
I should at this point say that I am not criticising the DCMS civil servants themselves.  They have no option over this.  They need to follow the directives of their masters and this means the ideology of the government of the day. Do the work or lose your job, basically.  
No, the problem is with their masters and, oh my, there may be worse to come on that score.  Ladies and gentleman, there are suggestions that the replacement department, possibly called the Department for Business, Creation and Innovation,  could be led by ….. Ed Vaizey.  Oh. My. Goodness.  The minister-technically-for-libraries, known by campaigners as Evaizive or Lazy Vaizey could get promoted.  The man who has done nothing, and made sure nothing is done, over the biggest crisis in public libraries in history, may be rewarded. More ominously, it could also potentially mean £1.6 bn being taken from the Arts and Culture.  It could potentially mean big trouble for the National Museum of Science and Industry, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Tate, the British Museum and – top on at least one hit list – the British Library.  After all, abolition of the department, the Institute of Economic Affairs points out, could cut 2% off corporation tax.
No, the abolition of the DCMS may be the very opposite of a good thing. 

News

  • Building collections: 300 years of the old libraryNAPLE blog.  “This year Trinity College Library Dublin will mark the tercentenary of the laying of the foundation stone of the Old Library, one of the great libraries of the Western world. The balance and symmetry of the architecture have made the building an icon for the organisation of human thought and expression. Its collections span over a millennium of recorded thought.”
  • Closing down DCMS could save £1.6bn - Institute of Economic Affairs.  
  • Don’t let the philistines destroy London’s arts, David – London Evening Standard.  Arts Council funding cut by 30%.  “And now I fear that Cameron is about to deal yet another blow to the arts by abolishing the DCMS altogether. There are well-sourced rumours in Westminster and the arts world that after the Olympics, the Government will announce that the DCMS is no longer needed.”
  • Internet: don’t need it, can’t afford it – Infoism.  Reasons for people not having the internet are explored: half don’t think its relevant, a third say they can’t afford it. a tenth say lack of skills.
  • Nesta report encourages “creative decommissioning” - Civil Society.  “The report uses eight worldwide case studies to demonstrate how imaginative decommissioning can result in affirmative action. One such case is from the London borough of Tower Hamlets, where underused libraries are being closed and  ‘Idea Stores’ opened in their place. Branded as “a reinvention of what a modern library could be”, these combine the traditional book-lending service with adult learning, after-school activities for children, local information, a café, health services and other cultural activities – all in one location. Despite a reduction in the number of libraries, the replacement Idea Stores are being used more intensely, with a rise in visits from circa 500,000 to two million a year since their introduction.”

Changes

Local News

  • Barnet – Interim library to open next weekBarnet Today.  “…announced following a public backlash over the closure of Friern Barnet Library is set to open next week. The interim library, which opens on Tuesday April 24, will be based at artsdepot in Tally Ho Corner, where the council plans to merge North Finchley and Friern Barnet libraries.” … “A council spokesman said the stop-gap library, which will be open for three hours a day, four days a week, will offer around 10,000 items, as well as newspapers, magazines and a study space. Activities for children and young people are also in the pipeline”
  • Camden – First membership cards issued at the new Keats Community Library - Camden New Journal.  “The renamed Hampstead library – housed in a wing of the home of Romantic poet John Keats – was saved by a committee made up of Hampstead-based civic groups and library users. Nearly 370 people – organised into half-day shifts – have volunteered to help run the library. Library director Steven Bobasch said: “We’ve opted to use an electronic system to memorise data, and then stamp books the old fashioned way to keep things simple.” … “It aims to raise at least £250,000 to set up a foundation, and will need to find £80,000 a year to stay open six days a week.” 50 people joined in one morning, aim is 1000.
  • Durham – Campaigners present petition to protect Belmont Library - Northern Echo.  “Yesterday, campaigners from Belmont, Durham City, presented a petition of more than 2,000 signatures to County Hall – making their case outside the building as Labour councillors arrived for a cabinet meeting.  The We Love Belmont Library campaign is fighting a proposal to reduce its opening hours from 43 hours a week to 20.”
  • Gloucestershire – Volunteers stock library shelves - This is Gloucestershire.  “Volunteer librarians are busy cataloguing books in readiness for the launch of the county’s first community library in Painswick. Campaign helpers are adding dust jackets and date labels before stacking bookshelves in the refurbished upper room of the Town Hall, from where the library will operate.”
  • Lancashire – Backs libraries - About My Area.   “The campaign features local library users on eye-catching billboards, phone boxes, and buses, as well as radio adverts. The campaign also features a competition to win a Kobo e-reader , aimed at generating feedback through an on-line survey. The face of the East Lancashire campaign is 17-year old Abida Tasneem, who is a volunteer at Haslingden Library.”
“The campaign builds on a pilot run in West Lancashire in the autumn, which saw the number of new members increase by 35%. In Skelmersdale, where much of the advertising was placed, new members role by a huge 92%. This pilot campaign has now been shortlisted for two national marketing awards.”

“Now here is a challenge to Culture Minister Ed Vaizey. Why not get active and launch a national campaign of advocacy encouraging all councils to follow Lancashire’s example? I am sure Lancashire has its financial pressures and I know there have been some service reductions, but elected representatives do not have to preside over a declining service. Even in these difficult times it is possible to bring the public flocking into our libraries. If we don’t the tendency to decline will be a self fulfilling prophecy.” Alan Gibbons.

  • Northamptonshire – Libraries advertising screens plan advertisedBBC.  Critic says “LSD [sic]screens are very cheap now and can be bought for next to nothing, so why they have authorised £165,000 to be spent on them? “It wasn’t long ago the libraries were facing closure – now it seems the money is being invested in the wrong area.” … but council says “”It will be used to keep library visitors informed with what’s happening at their local library and the wide range of services available, whether it’s a job club, free internet access on a Friday or a Rhymetime session, for example.”