Comment

My Twitter feed suggests that Edinburgh Libraries has won the inaugural Library of the Year Award at the BookSeller Industry Awards.  Well done to them. Interestingly, two out of the five finalists were from Scotland, with the other three being from England.   That’s a very good proportion considering the relative sizes of the two countries and it’s another indicator of the funding and importance given to public libraries north of the border and the lack of it to the south.
It’s also noteworthy that another council leader has apparently had to step down at least partially due to controversy over public libraries.  The latest one is Ann John of Brent, a council whose name is now synonymous with library closures and where over half of the service points are now no more despite massive political protest.

News

  • Funding to secure National Library of Scotland – Deadline. “Funding to ensure the National Library of Scotland (NLS) remains a national and international asset has been announced by the Culture Secretary. The exterior of the NLS’s Causewayside building in Edinburgh is to be replaced, with support of over £2 million from the Scottish Government.”
  • Library jobs go in £700k budget cuts – This is Staffordshire.   “Funding for public libraries across the region has plunged by £735,000 in three years and at least 20 fully-qualified librarian posts have been lost. New figures reveal the scale of cutbacks to the libraries in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire and Cheshire East as councils target the library service in budget savings.”
  • Magic of public libraries – Yahoo voices (USA).   “And those librarians! Those kind, smiling, knowledgeable, attentive, and friendly librarians. Those innocent librarians, telling me to have a nice day while I’m carefully slipping a variety of gratis merchandise in my bag. They give me great customer service and I smile back at them, but I am no customer. I’m an embezzler. I took these things from you, librarians! Don’t you know I didn’t even pay for this little plastic card, even this was free! I’m not supporting you at all!”
“The public library service needs improving…. what libraries need are more books.  One of the expressions they [Carnegie] use is that the library building should be separated from the library service.  That’s rubbish.  The library building is the library service. If you say things like that, it opens the door for politicians to shut library buildings.  If they shut library buildings you have no chance.  They are so important for children, for older people and then for all the stages in between.  We have to fight a bit for libraries.” Open Book21:40 to 27.53- BBC Radio Four.   “Tim Coates talks about his new website bilbary.com which aims to increase the capacity of libraries to provide e-books for their customers, in the week that the Carnegie Trust UK produced a report urging libraries to adapt to a changing world.”

  • Public sector equality duty … another successful challenge to service re-provisioning –  Lexology.  “The English High Court as ruled that Surrey County Council breached its public sector equality duty by agreeing to introduce a plan to replace professional librarians with local volunteers, as part of its plans to replace existing library services with services to be delivered via community partnership models.”
  • Respond to PLR consultation – Alan Gibbons.   “As you will know, the latest government attack on literacy is its attempt to abolish the Public Lending Right Organisation. PLR, the return on the number of times your books are borrowed from public libraries, are part of an author’s income. For the vast majority who are not best sellers it is a vital part of their income. I would appeal to you all to respond to the government’s consultation exercise. I enclose the PLR letter and Campaign for the Book supporter and author Steve Barlow’s response as an example of a reply. I would urge all authors to respond, making their own individual points.” …
  • Temples of the lost art – Herald Scotland.  Threatening libraries “is primarily an English, Welsh and Northern Irish problem. Extra Scottish Government investment means our library service has been ring-fenced from closures. That said, some services have moved from council control to the purview of community trusts and staff numbers while opening hours have been squeezed. Purchasing budgets are also af-fected. As Falkirk librarian and Unison branch secretary Gray Allan has said: “If you can’t afford a key book for your studies and the library can’t afford to buy it either, how are you to achieve your full potential?”
“… with the very idea of the library under threat, libraries are every day proving that they are plugged into their communities. They reflect local people’s interests and give the community the space to play out those interests. (And at no cost, remember. How many buildings allow you to spend the day there without buying something?) If we get wrapped up in the idea of them being providers of books we are limiting what they can do. Also, the danger is that if we get hung up on book provision we leave libraries open to the spurious argument that when everything is increasingly available online then book-filled libraries don’t matter so much…”

“Libraries address a lack. They are a presence that fills in absences. Poverty can be about a financial absence. It can also be about a lack of access. Libraries are there for you to borrow the latest James Patterson book if you want to. But increasingly they are a space to address digital poverty, too. According to Government statistics from last year, 33% of UK households do not have internet access.”

  • Viewpoint: do we still need libraries? – University of Liverpool.  “Sue Charteris, who led the Wirral Libraries Inquiry in 2009, and current Chair of The Reader Organisation, will take part in the University’s Policy Provocations series to discuss her views on the role libraries can play in the future.  Sue argues that although the core purpose of libraries – giving universal access to a world of learning and ideas through books and reading – has not changed since the its inception in 1850, it is now time to rethink the service they provide.”
  • Writers won’t lose out if libraries lend ebooks – Observer.  The theory goes that if people can borrow ebooks for nothing, they will have no reason to buy them. The same argument was used against libraries until it turned out that library users spent more on books than anyone else.” … “Librarians, publishers and authors share an interest in getting people reading. They need to work together to sort out e-lending, and their first priority should be to find an alternative to OverDrive, which is incompatible with Kindle.”

Changes

Local  News

  • Brent – Cllr Ann John is no longer leader of Brent Council – Save Barham Library.  “Cllr Ann John is no longer leader of Brent Council! No details about why but it has been suggested that campaigning in Brent, particularly around the issue of closing libraries might have had something to do with it”
    • Shock cost of repairs to Kilburn Library – Brent Liberal Democrats (press release).  “In November 2010 Brent Council told Liberal Democrat Group Leader Paul Lorber that the cost of repairs and maintenance to Kilburn Library over the next 20 years was £117,360 – less than any other library except Preston (£93,000) or Barham Park (£90,000). After the Council recently announced a 4-month closure of Kilburn Library for repairs and refurbishment Councillor Lorber asked for an up date. This time the embarassed Labour Council had to admit that the cost would be £650,000 – a fivefold increase. The Liberal Democrats are demanding to know why the Council did not make this figure public in 2010 when the future of Brent’s libraries was under discussion – especially as Labour Councillors claimed it was shortage of money which made them decide to close six popular local libraries.”
  • Buckinghamshire – Future of Great Missenden Library secured by florist shop – BBC.  “Under the proposals, the county council will retain responsibility for a level of council staffing, at present two posts, while the community will supply volunteers. The business proposals also included putting a post office and a cafe into the library. Local florist, The Flower Room, was identified as the most suitable option by the council as offering “the most sustainable option for the future”.
  • Hertfordshire – New talking book service to triple titles available – Hertfordshire County Council (press release).  “Cabinet today (14 May) agreed to transfer Hertfordshire County Council’s Cassettes for Blind People service to the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB). The 378 existing users of the Cassettes for Blind People service will have their RNIB subscription paid for by the council and will have access to over 19,000 titles, compared to the 6,500 currently on offer.”
  • Northumberland – Glendale Gateway trust shortlisted for national award – Berwick Advertiser.   “Glendale Gateway Trust raised funding to extend its community centre and worked in partnership with Northumberland County Council so it could offer library and tourism services from the Cheviot Centre. By using council and trust staff time efficiently they have been able to triple the library’s opening hours to seven days a week. As a result, the number of book loans has risen by 20 per cent, visitor numbers have increased by 100 per cent and membership is up 65 per cent compared to the same period last year.”