Comment
The key thing about public libraries is that they are for the user and the user can be anyone.  These are a few examples that library workers all around the country will find familiar: 
  • A small child looking for Thomas the Tank Engine.  
  • The Year Six girl looking for the Hunger Games.  
  • A student looking for study space because there is no quiet at home.  
  • The transgender individual who is, for this is the world we live in, hunted down outside of the library and fears to live alone, who uses us for a safe haven.
  • A businessman looking to use a fax.  
  • The dancing group practising their moves in the room upstairs.
  • An unemployed man in his 50s learning how to do his CV.
  • The chap just coming in for a book.  Multiply him by a hundred.
  • The senior citizen who has no-one at home and relies on the library for people contact.
  • A supermarket worker, in her lunch break, photocopying a receipt
  • The first-time artist hesitantly asking to display their work
  • A gentleman researching their family history both on microfilm and online
  • The mum chatting with another mum while their children are bopping along at dancetime
  • A middle-aged woman who has an addiction to books and cannot meet it any other way
  • The group of teenagers who sit for thirty minutes on the sofa 
  • An older man with a history of mental health problems who has joined the reading group and now says hello to library staff, for the first time in years.
  • A chap using the toilets
  • The student finishing their dissertation in the reference library
  • A stamp collector using the Stanley Gibbons catalogues for the twentieth time
  • The basic skills groups coming in, with their tutor, to read the newspapers
  • Another group of people, normally men, who sit separately to read the papers, as they do every day, perhaps sometimes agreeing, sometimes arguing with each other on the issues of the day, sometimes just sitting, quietly enjoying the experience.
  • A group of people coming to play scrabble and chess
  • The quiet lad who reads through the Science Fiction section
  • The loud teenager with a hoodie, abusive in a group, who looks less scary when he is alone waiting for his friends, with clearly nowhere else to go.
  • A chap in tweed with a desire for more Westerns than Asda dream of selling
  • The tough-looking man who is looking for the CITB health and safety questions he needs to get a job.
  • A man with a problem with his car but no money to fix it looking for the Haynes manual which will save him a vital few pounds.
  • The man and a woman from Poland coming in to book their flight tickets home
  • A Christian researching commentaries or an atheist wanting to read Richard Dawkins.
  • A woman waiting for her friend in the foyer
  • The school group coming in to change their books
  • A group of children, perhaps ten years of age, drawing pictures in the children’s library for thirty minutes then asking, politely, if they can be displayed on the noticeboard.
  • Another child, with nothing to do and possibly no-one at home, asking for “jobs” to do.
  • A lady with a bag of books she wants to donate.  She joins after giving over the books, taking out as many as she has given.
  • The aunt who does not know how to use email but knows that we can help.
  • A tourist, or lorry driver or businessman or you, asking for directions.
  • The High School tutors using the study space as a place to sit with students who, for whatever reason, need to be educated outside of school.
  • The local councillor using the space to talk to his constituents
  • A chap asking for the bus timetables
  • The teaching assistant wanting a list of childcare books for her qualification
  • The lady from Africa with poor English asking for help with a visa.
  • A teenager using facebook because this is a vital part of young life that his lack of internet access at home would have excluded him from.
  • Another teenager who needs to use a computer for their homework.
  • The well-dressed couple coming in, for the first time in years, because their printer has broken.
  • A local history group researching records only available at the library.
All of these are not unusual.  All of these are almost daily occurrences.  Public libraries are there for all of these people. It is the role of libraries to be there for them.  By providing a brilliant service these users will continue to appreciate library staff.  If we annoyed any of them once, they would not be back.  By fighting to be as open and as helpful and as neutral as possible librarians fight for these users and, when the times comes, when times are hard as they are now, something wonderful happens.  The user fights as well.
 
News
  • Access, schmacess: libraries in the age of information ubiquity –  Eli Neuburger from Ann Arbor District Library speaks at an Australian conference in February 2012.  Superb talk about what the internet means for public libraries and suggestions for the future including “share stuff” and “fight for the user”.   Includes successful events including lego competitions, gamification, getting volunteers as players on computers playing for points.  “There’s a bright future for librarianship, just not on the desk”. 
  • British Library explores a thousand years of UK landscape – Daily Star.   “… new British Library exhibition on how landscape permeates some of the best British writing, and how writers have responded to space and place. The 150 works chosen to represent more than 1,000 years of British literature in “Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands” also throw up some unlikely comparisons. Where else would you see the original manuscript for “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” together with the six-centuries-older “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” the earliest surviving manuscript of the medieval romance poem?”
  • Dying tradition – Business World (India).  “2012 marks the centenary of the library movement in India. Today there aren’t enough libraries in the country; there is a great need to invest in them, both financially and emotionally” … “There is no doubt that internet activity has eaten into the library movement and there is plenty of funding required to maintain a library, especially with high standards. Maybe CSR initiatives or public-private partnerships could be encouraged some more to establish more such social places. In fact, William Kamkwamba, who’s been working on creating libraries across Africa, realised that libraries can act as engines of economic growth.”
  • How libraries can buy DRM free ebooks – Deborah Fitchett (USA).   If every library donates a small amount then some books can be available to them free forever via unglue.it. 
  • Portage library to offer telescope for patrons to check outPeter Scott’s Library Blog.  “When the stars come out, patrons of the Portage District Library will be able to see them more clearly. The library is the first in the state to offer a telescope that library card holders can check out thanks to a donation by the Kalamazoo Astronomical Society.”
“What springs to mind when you read these names: Bolton, Suffolk, Oxfordshire with Kent, Cornwall, Lewisham, Croydon and Greenwich? Library closures, I hear you cry. Screwing up the future of Upper Norwood library, I hear you wail. Handing over perfectly good libraries to an array of trusts and other providers, I hear you snort. Well yes, all of those, but there is something else. Yes, you’ve got it, they are all participants in the ironically entitled Future Libraries Programme. Laugh, I almost did!” Alan Gibbons.

Changes

Aberdeenshire – Rated “excellent” by Scottish Library and Information Council.   

Local News

  • Aberdeenshire – Top marks for local libraries – Donside Piper.  Aberdeenshire Council Libraries are celebrating after being given the stamp of approval by the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC). The council service was officially deemed excellent by the independent advisory body, following a visit by representatives of SLIC to assess the quality of library provision to local communities.”
  • Brent – Leader of Brent Council insists he was unaware of Kensal Rise Library events despite claims councillors knewBrent and Kilburn Times.   “, Cllr James Powney (Labour), lead member for environment and neighbourhoods, said he was told about three or four weeks ago that officers would move in this week to remove the Victorian reading room’s books. He said: “Yes I knew in advance, as indeed everyone.”
“We welcome the pledge made by the new Leader of Brent Council, Muhammed Butt, to host an urgent summit with All Souls College and community campaigners who are looking to take over the running of the Kensal Rise Library building . We urge All Souls College, (an Oxford college that has an endowment of over £230 million) to support this” Kensal Rise Library online petition.

  • Half of regular library users have stopped borrowing books – BNCTV.   “A report to be considered by councillors on Monday, 21st May, reveals that 5,500 people, who used to be active borrowers, have stopped using Brent libraries since the closure of Barham Park, Cricklewood, Kensal Rise, Neasden, Preston and Tokyngton libraries last October.” … “Monthly releases of library visitor numbers have shown that the overall number of library visits has fallen by about a fifth compared to the same period before the six libraries were closed. The need for a local library service is demonstrated by the popular Barham Volunteer Library, which is attracting dozens of people every Saturday despite being open only three hours a week and without the support of professional library staff.”
“Remember all the bland, posturing nonsense by book butchering councils that by closing libraries, sacking staff, reducing opening hours and cutting the book fund they would somehow make libraries leaner, fitter, ‘sexier’ and so much more twenty first century, yah? Well, here is the evidence. Mirroring similar catastrophic falls in borrowing in Lewisham after closures, the Brent public, robbed of their local libraries, have simply stopped using the service. This was as inevitable as the self-serving delusional claptrap spouted by council apparatchiks droning about world class services while those established over a century are cut to shreds.” Alan Gibbons.

  • Greenwich – Union claims victory in library row – This is Local London.   “Unite now claims that negotiations following the strikes have led to library workers not being put on GLL contracts, keeping the same terms as previously. Regional officer for the union Onay Kasab said: “I am proud of the fact that these workers were prepared to stand up and fight in defence of pay and conditions. “It is only because they have made clear that they will strike, that these assurances have been won.”
  • Hertfordshire – Tapes for blind service switch will triple titles – Hemel Today.   “A service providing audio books for blind and visually impaired people is being handed over to a charity by Herts County Council in a move which will triple the number of titles on offer. It was agreed by cabinet on Monday that County Hall’s Cassettes for Blind People service will be taken up by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB).”
  • Richmond – Replacement of the Library Management System – London Borough of Richmond on Thames.   Richmond look set to move away from the DS Open Galaxy system and the London Libraries Consortium, moving instead to the Civica Spydus system and the SELMS consortium.

Surrey – No gruffalos, but children have a right good read – Get Surrey.  “o mark London 2012’s UK Inspire Day, Surrey County Council organised The Big Read for Small Children event at the Forestry Commission’s Alice Holt Forest in Farnham, to encourage parents to read with their children.”

  • Wandsworth – Friends of York Gardens Library and Community Centre – Lloyds Banking.  This funding provides a hugely welcome shot in the arm for a much-loved children’s library in a struggling part of north Battersea. How we’ll use the money: we would aim to identify, recruit and train additional volunteers for homework club. This is a 2-hour weekly session for children aged 7-14, run after school finishes. It aims to help children who may not receive parental assistance with homework and school progress (for example, because English is not their parents’ first language).”
York Gardens Library and Community Centre (YGLCC) has been shortlisted by Lloyds Banking Group Community Fund to potentially win £5,000 to support the projects that we run for local young people. The money would be used to help ensure that we can continue to run activities like our much valued homework club for 7-14 year olds. You can vote to support YGLCC by clicking on the link below, and following the instructions or by texting VOTESW5 to 61119.”