BBC Radio Four covered e-book lending last night (27:51 to 32:08).  It included contributions from the President of CILIP, the Publisher’s Association and the Society of Authors, as well as the new Birmingham Central Library.  It covers the debate in a basic easy-to-understand wayand I recommend it to you.  The transcript is below.

Eddie Mair: Electronic books are on our minds now, they’re bigger than ever.  Millions of titles are available for download today. But what if you don’t want to buy a book?  Just borrow it, as people have done with books for decades in public libraries? Chris Valance has been hearing what the future might hold.

Voiceover: In 2013, Birmingham’s sky line will be transformed by one of the world’s most exciting and ambitious cultural projects

Chris Valance: What’s the future of the library?  Well, in Birmingham they’re building one vision of it.

Brian Gambles: My name is Brian Gambles, I am directing the project to build the new Library in Birmingham.  We;’ve just finished the five minute walkover from the late 1960s concrete brutalist building that is the existing central library which we can still see in the distance to arrive at the building site for the new library in Birmingham which will open 3rd September 2013.

Chris: And the new library will have all the latest gadgets

Voiceover: Wifi throughout and innovative interactive technology will be at the heart of the new library services

Chris:  But as the multimillion pound project nears completion, it is increasingly the case that you don’t need to be in a library to borrow a book.

Phil Bradley: Well, in fact I’ve got a tablet device here with me now. My name is Phil Bradley and I am the current President of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.  My home library service is Essex County Council.  I can go to Essex County Libraries and I can look through the books that are available to me, choose the one that I want and then that book will then start to download for me.  At the end of your borrowing period, if you choose not to renew it  that book disappears off your device.

Chris: Different libraries, technologies and publishers all manage e-lending differently, in part because there is a concern that e-lending could eat into e-book buying.  Richard Mollet is from the Publishers Association.

Richard Mollet: There is a fear that you can undermine sales – not just of e-books but also of books – if you make it so easy for people to acquire books for free through remote e-lending let’s say that that becomes a substitute for the purchase of books.

Chris:  In fact there’s no single view on how e-lending in libraries should work. Take for example the issue of where you need to be when you borrow an e-book.  Nicola Solomon of the Society of Authors says in a library.  Phil Bradley says anywhere with a net connection.

Nicola Solomon: If you feel that e-lending is going to be remote from libraries then we have a number of concerns.  If you’re sitting at your desk and you have a choice of buying an ebook with one click or borrowing an ebook with one click, what are you actually going to do?

Phil: You should be able to borrow the e-book from wherever happen to be.  That might be at home for example.  What we generally find – and there is lots of evidence to back this up – is that people who read will read more.  People who use e-readers will read more and they will consequently buy more books.

Chris: To try and sort out differences like this, the Government commissioned William Sieghart to undertake a review.  Richard Mollet thinks that if he doesn’t get the right answer, it will be more than just publishers that feel the pinch.

Richard: If e-lending becomes so easy that the number of people going into the library dramatically declines then I can imagine some local authorities, particularly those under particular financial pressure, will be looking into the library building and go “well, do we need to maintain this building in this location?”.

Chris; But Brian Gambles whose new Birmingham Library will have to include whatever the Review finds, says there is more to libraries than borrowing books.

Brian: There are many, many reasons why people go into a library.  Whether that is to use the study space, to use the community spaces. Just to borrow a book is actually a diminishing part of our business.

Chris: So imagine I’m visiting your library when it is built and constructed and you’ve got the Sieghart Review in, what would you like me to be able to do?

Brian: I would love you to be able to access the widest possible range of material and not, as like this moment, be constrained by frankly the fact that a bunch of professionals have not as yet managed to find a solution to a problem.

News

  • Dark and itchy night – New York Times (USA). “bedbugs have discovered a new way to hitchhike in and out of beds: library books. It turns out that tiny bedbugs and their eggs can hide in the spines of hardcover books. The bugs crawl out at night to feed, find a new home in a headboard, and soon readers are enjoying not only plot twists but post-bite welts.” … to deal with problem “a meeting is arranged so the patron can hand off the offending books or DVDs in Ziploc bags to an employee outside the library. ” … “But others have stopped borrowing books altogether.”
  • Odd things found in the library – LibraryThing (USA).  Loads of strange stuff (although poo and condoms feature prominently).
  • World Book Night partners with Yodel, pilots “homeless book club” – BookSeller. “Parcel carrier Yodel is to be distribution sponsor for World Book Night, delivering 20,000 packages of books to the 2,000 bookshop and library collection points around the country for volunteers to collect.” … “The WBN website has already processed 13,000 applications since its launch on BBC1’s “The One Show” on 9th November. Next year’s event will take place on 23rd April.”

Changes

Local News

“I don’t know whether councillors quite understand what a dire position we were in 12 months ago. “CYMAL was in a position to take over the library service and if they had done so, they would have charged us a lot of money to do so. “We are now hopeful we will achieve all the standards by next year.”

  • Newcastle – Protestors stage sit-in at Newcastle council meeting – Journal.  “Police were called to calm down the protesters and monitor the situation and the meeting was re-opened an hour later. The protest, which was organised by the national campaign group Coalition of Resistance, began outside the City Library at 5pm. Demonstrators walked to the Civic Centre via Northumberland Street.”

“I grew up in a mining village in the 80s and without the library, there would have been nothing else to do,” he said. Mr Teasdale said the council’s assurances that no-one would live more than 1.5 miles away from their nearest library once closures had taken place was not enough. “It might not seem like very far but it’s still difficult for children, disabled people and pensioners. I know that wouldn’t have been an option for me as a kid.”

  • Portsmouth – Accusations fly as council puts plan for new Portsmouth library on hold – News.  “The authority’s executive committee this week agreed that the proposal to create a new service in the Drayton shopping area should wait until an affordable funding model is identified.”
  • Renfrewshire – It will be Hall change for library – Evening Times. “The new building, which is scheduled to open in the spring of 2015, will offer a range of council services under one roof in the centre of the town. Customer services, housing, social work, advice works, Johnstone library, a theatre space, a cafe, community and conference spaces, the Marriage Suite and the Registration Service will all be together.”
  • Sefton – Huge turnout for Churchtown library meeting – Southport Visiter. “At the meeting, Meols councillor Nigel Ashton explained to an almost 100- strong audience of how the anti-closure campaign had progressed so far. He said: “We have been organising a petition through local shops and schools as well as online, and there are over 2,000 signatures already in support of keeping our library open.”
  • Clearing Southport beach of grass may help to save our libraries – Southport Visiter.”Clearing grass from the stretch of beach between Southport and Birkdale would increase the amount of cars parking there as visitors rise, according to Cllr Ted Hartill. The revenue created from the increase in parking on our beaches could then be used to fund our threatened libraries.” … “It is believed around £70,000 a year would need to be raised to save each of the threatened libraries in Ainsdale, Birkdale and Churchtown. With parking charges on our beaches currently set at £5, an extra 14,000 cars a year could save a library. Although this sounds a lot there was a drop of 16,000 cars parking on the beaches from 2011 to 2012″
  • Somerset – Cuts planned to Somerset libraries budget – BBC.  “John Irvine, from Friends of Somerset Libraries (FOSL), said: “The strategy is very good – we believe it could enhance future of the libraries. “But the overall budget that has been set is not sufficient and those savings of £860,000 aren’t viable.””
  • Wolverhampton – Boss in pledge over Wolverhampton libraries closures plan – Express and Star.  “People using libraries and community centres earmarked to be closed or moved under controversial plans have been told nothing will happen until new sites are found.”
  • Worcestershire – Have your say on proposed changes to Woodrow library – Bromsgrove Advertiser.  “cost-saving plans to re-shape the layout of Woodrow library to accommodate council services. ” …
  • Wrexham – New chapter for Chirk library – Leader.  “The main site on Chapel Lane is one of eight across Wales that will be revamped in a project funded by the Welsh Government aimed at increasing library use and learning. Part of the transformation will include the creation of a cultural hub with flexible activity space, a specially designed children’s library, exhibition area, improvements in library stock and equipment, and a garden area at the rear of the building.