A theme for today’s news appears to be a debate about how far libraries should go down the line of moving from books (and even e-books) into something else.  A LinkedIn strand, populated by a wide range of librarians, decries libraries as simply stores for printed books and, it seems, the book generally.  That many people deeply care for the printed book was obvious as one campaigner described the views expressed as “anathema” to her.  She’s not alone, as this heartwarming post from Mashable demonstrates.

That times are changing is irrefutable.  Amazon are lending books, not just one at a time but also on a pay-more-the-longer-you-keep-it model A respected survey of the near future suggests we can expect augmented reality and open content within 2 to 3 years.  That’s way beyond the current social media / e-book stuff that libraries are still struggling with. Little wonder then that people think that the printed book, and sometimes the library, just ain’t what it used to be.

Librarians are trying their best to keep up and there are many positive moves in this direction.  The Public Libraries Information Offer is a very hopeful move, albeit one unlikely to be welcomed by the ultra-traditionalist. Library services are trying all ways, up to and including pole dancing, to get their message out, although due to a lack of anything near a national advertising budget or marketing plan, this is still very ad hoc and disappointing to manyNational Libraries Day is one of the few national pushes in this regard and it is heartening that some authorities are going all out in this regard.  It is very disheartening, though, that some authorities last year avoided doing any events for the day and that there are suspicions this year that this is happening again.

There can be very few other services where celebrating it is viewed with suspicion, even by a minority of its workers.  Similarly, there can be few other services where the main reason for the existence of the service – I’m talking the book here, in all its forms – seems to be unpopular amongst some professionals.  Let’s be clear on this.  A library is about so much more than books.  It can be a community centre, an IT suite, a health desk and a council information point and a hundred other things.  But a library without books (I include e-books in this) is not a library.  It is a community centre or a council One Stop Shop or … something else … but not a library.  It is the book that defines the library in the eyes of the public and it’s wonderfulness should be shouted about constantly by the profession.  Or the barbarians will treat us as merely community centres or One Stop Shops or … something else … and something unique and beautiful will be lost.  It would certainly be a brave move when the Government and local authorities are demanding so much bottom line from the sector.  However, we can see what is happening at he moment by claiming we’re the wonderful Jack of All Trades.  It ain’t pretty.

Anyway, I get tired of writing depressing summaries so I’m going to end with a laugh.  Below is a highly amusing Lord of the Rings parody that surprisingly turns into a celebration of libraries as they should be, with a good joke or five thrown into the mix.

Lord of the Libraries – The best libraries / Lord of the Rings spoof ever.


      1. Work by Raintree and Faber & Faber with Halton Borough Council and Lancashire County Council library services co-creating a project where librarians worked with local families, establishing them as champions for their favourite books and authors. The Reading Families’ selections were presented via libraries’ online channels, including their website, Facebook page, Twitter and Pinterest profiles, encouraging a wider community of local readers to connect with books recommended by their peers.
      2. Pan Macmillan, Headline and Canongate helped South Tyneside libraries explore ways of engaging young people online. For the launch of South Tyneside’s first-ever Facebook page, the team worked with three local comprehensives, offering students free copies of Wildwood by Colin Meloy, Ember Fury by Cathy Brett and What’s Up with Jody Barton by Hayley Long, and encouraging them to post reviews and engage in discussions about the books online. Author Cathy Brett thrilled the students by posting replies to students’ reviews, and Canongate also harnessed creativity with a competition to design a new character for Wildwood, with entries also posted on the Facebook page.
      3. Keynote speech on ‘Digital Public Spaces’ was delivered by journalist and commentator Bill Thompson. He argued that his library-influenced ability to read and to think deeply about text was what allowed him to operate successfully across all the ever-developing digital channels, and said that the challenge now for libraries, which had always offered access to “the private spaces of readers’ minds”, was to navigate occupation of new, liminal online spaces and, within them, how to continue to help readers find ways into texts.
      4. Miranda McKearney OBE, Director of The Reading Agency announced an online digital marketing resource guide resource, sharing the learning. This resources site, which was initially created to support the digital skills sharing projectand which is open to everyone, is at http://readingagency.org.uk/digitalskills It features blogs, interviews and videos by librarians, publishers and other experts on digital platforms and opportunities. These include master classes available to librarians for daily use, such as The Guardian’s Claire Armistead presenting on how to engage young people online, and Nicki Sprinz of Made by Many demonstrating the enormous possibilities of using Skype for events.

“The panel recognised that the ‘hybrid library’ which combined physical venues and human contact with digital presence and services was already well-established. They saw the need for combined ‘big thinking’ to position libraries as the most-trusted portals for digital information, and to make them ‘extraordinary emporia’ for material of all genres — especially as spaces dedicated to music, books and films etc disappear from our high streets — where exciting online and offline cultural conversations start. There was also agreement on how much libraries have to offer communities in terms of accessing information and cultural experiences, because they are free and accessible and inclusive, with a need to focus on existing best practice and innovation, not a narrative of only cuts and closures.”

      • Hotels add libraries for gadget-laden guests – USA Today. “”The (new space) gives guests a chance to congregate instead of staying in their rooms,” says Ian Harvey, the hotel’s general manager. “They can play cards, hold a meeting or read a good book … It’s all about engaging guests so that they linger, which raises the odds that they’ll eventually order something from a hotel bar or restaurant”
      • NMC Horizon Report, 2012 Museum editionNew Media Centre.  A look into what can be expected of new technology, of some relevance to libraries. “mobile apps and social media as technologies expected to garner mainstream adoption in the near-term horizon of one year or less. Augmented reality and open content make up the mid-term horizon of two to three years, while the Internet of Things and natural user interfaces round out the far-term horizon of four to five years.”
      • Self-help books “treat depression” – BBC. “Prescribing self-help books on the NHS is an effective treatment for depression, a study suggests. Patients offered books, plus sessions guiding them in how to use them, had lower levels of depression a year later than those offered usual GP care. The effect was seen in addition to the benefits of other treatments such as antidepressants, Scottish researchers report in the journal Pluss One.”
      • There are worse things than pole dancing – Library Campaign.  “The choice of activities has certainly got Midlothian Libraries an awful lot of attention in a very short space of time across the UK and if that draws in more people, allowing the service to shake off a stuffy image or attract people who would not usually use libraries that can only be a good thing.”.  Midlothian have done an excellent range of events for the day available here.

“What does drive me mad is the near-universal hopelessness of libraries at publicising themselves at all. The humblest pizza parlour knows to shove a few leaflets through doors, to tell people what it’s got. Meanwhile, I read endless research reports saying that people are amazed to find out what libraries offer – it’s just that nobody told them.”

      • Up the pole: Council tries to persuade more people to borrow books by holding dance classes in library – Mail. Reports pole-dancing story – see article above.
      • What’s a librarian doing in an ambulance? – Adventures of an ambulance riding librarian. “I have the best health informationist job ever.  And that’s not just because I get to ride out on the life-flight helicopter.  I work with intelligent, hard-working, caring health professionals – all who have a wicked sense of humor.  They made this librarian feel very welcome.  Our research positively affects the lives of the people we serve.  I couldn’t ask for more.”
      • What is the Public Libraries Information Offer – Society of Chief Librarians. “The importance of your role and your public library in the national drive to provide access to information and services to your residents and users cannot be underestimated. Public Libraries already have an excellent track record in supporting people to build digital skills and have significant expertise in helping people to navigate and manipulate online information. Public Libraries have a network of over 43,000 public access PCs.  This puts you and your library at the heart of service delivery that is to be ‘digital by default’ by 2015″ [NB. deadline for questionnaire completion is 20 January).
      • Why printed books will never die – Mashable. Reasons for the continued existence of printed books are – books have physical beauty, books have provenance, printed books are collectable, books are nostalgic, books are a different experience to e-books. “My fear is that the future might prove this article’s title should have been “Why Printed Books Should Never Have Died.”. However, comments show that (those reading the article at least) tend towards thinking the printed book is dieing.
      • Why online book discover is broken (and how to fix it) – Paid Content. The internet is just not working well enough as a method for people to discover new books and authors – which is why physical books (and, by extension, libraries_ are so important.
      • World Book Day 2013 “The biggest show on Earth” – National Literacy Trust. “This year World Book Day falls on Thursday 7 March, and plans for this national event have now been revealed. As in previous years, an excellent range of £1 books will be available for children aged 2-11 including books by top authors including Francesca Simon, Lauren Child, Anthony Horowitz and Shirley Hughes”

Local news

      • Herefordshire – Libraries supplementHereford Library Users Group (HLUG). An excellent look at the new libraries around the UK, reasons for them and a plea to Herefordshire for one there.
      • Islington – Dad’s Army on the march against such appalling cuts – Islington Tribune / Letters. “Libraries are our “crown jewels” and must be protected from any savage cuts imposed by central government. Library staff are just one example of local services engaging with the public on a one-to-one basis – important in a society where service delivery is being outsourced to private companies and machines are taking over from people who have been committed to their jobs over many years of loyal service.” Three letters.

“Can we also make the point that, although Cllr West made a promise not to close libraries, they have in fact been “hollowed out” through staffing and budget cuts. These cuts and the introduction of self-serve will, the stewards believe, lead to a poorer service.”

      • Midlothian – National Libraries Day – Midlothian Council.  Excellent range of activities available, not just pole dancing.
      • Swansea – Libraries host homework clubs to help pupils – This is South Wales. “Homework clubs are now running in the Central Library, and community libraries across the city, for any eight to 13-year-old who is a library member. The clubs provide space, quiet and facilities, with library staff on hand to help find any information which may be needed.”