The Welsh Minister in charge of libraries has spoken strongly in favour of libraries and directly contrasted this with the less-than-forthright approval shown in England.  This continues the trend where Wales and Scotland are notably different in their handling of libraries to that of Westminster.  Indeed, one senior librarian in Scotland has told me that Scottish librarians “look with horror” at what is happening south of the border and think something approaching mass madness is happening.

It’s no surprise therefore that someone working in Essex (rather than north of the border) said on the library professionals discussion board that the country was in debt so volunteers are sometimes a good idea (“there are surely cases where, with intelligent management, it’s better to have lively volunteers than a closed building”).  To paraphrase a Douglas Adams character, ten out of ten for bravery but, perhaps, minus several million for choosing your place to do it.  The line “But all I’ve read so far indicates a collection of very nice professionally qualified people, who can be a teensy bit precious!” met with the response “We’re not being precious.  We’re fighting for our livelihoods and for a set of core beliefs that many of us hold very dear”.

What sparked this debate was of course the ACE report on community, um, volunteer, um well unpaid libraries with the WI wading in on the side of those who say that such buildings are probably unsustainable in the long-run.  A couple of people have pointed out that, being the WI are often the same people as those running such branches, this view needs taking seriously.  CILIP have, incidentally, not yet at time of publication publicly reacted to the report but have said via email that they want to properly consider the report and its implications before responding.

Moving back north of the border, some in Scotland think there’s something slightly wonky there too.  The pole dancing event in Midlothian libraries – which resulted in some very impressive publicity for public libraries in the national media – is cited as part of a deeper malaise in the profession where books are not encouraged.  This is echoed in a (very sweary) post by Censored Genius which worries that libraries are chasing the 1% of the most change-friendly and ignoring their core market.  Better not tell, then, either of these about the Edge 2013 Conference which is promising to be one of the best looks at key trends in libraries and technology this year.

The oncoming changes in benefit rules is increasingly making itself felt in English libraries.  The Wirral – which has been merging its library and One Stop Shop staff – is expecting library staff “to identify whether people are “potentially eligible” for the support [a council hardship grant] and will help them  make an online application” from April.   Change happens and sometimes not in the way anyone in the profession would have thought or planned just a few years ago.  Especially in England.


  • ACE report: WI attacks while Vaizey defends – BookSeller. NFWI says report is “too polarised in favour of community managed models”, and failing to address the problems that volunteers and library users face.”

“The WI does not believe that volunteers are an acceptable alternative to paid library staff, and the reality is that they are being used to provide library services in increasing numbers. There now needs to be a far greater acknowledgment and appreciation of the challenges that volunteers are facing, so that local authorities can learn from this, and the overall sustainability of the library service is not jeopardised.” Ruth Bond, chair of NFWI.

  • Bookmobile – Oxford English Dictionary.  Does anyone know of the word “bookmobile” being used before it was in Oregon in 1924?
  • Edge 2013 Conference 28 Feb – 1st Mar 2013 – Naple Blog. A look at what promises to be one of the key looks at new trends in libraries and beyond this year.
  • Join Matt Haig to celebrate National Libraries Day – Bookbuzz. “Thousands of students in over 100 schools will unite on Wednesday 6 February 2013 to celebrate National Libraries Day and set a new Guinness World Record in collaboration with Bookbuzz author Matt Haig.  On the day, students in schools across the UK will take part in ‘Parallel Universes’, a simultaneous story-writing workshop between 12 and 1pm. Bookbuzz author and recently appointed writer-in-residence for Booktrust, Haig will write the start of a story; the students will then take over and finish writing the story themselves.”

“Librarians often chase after the newest coolest things. Things that one percent of their users have. And they justify this on the “potential growth” for that thing. Again, based on that one percent of users. So, of course, they will seem to be right for about a year or two when that one percent grows to six or fourteen percent. But what about the other 86 percent of your public? Did you abandon them for that new thing? No; you will force them to buy into that new thing. But in a typical passive-aggressive-librarian way. So you’ll force your borrowers to buy ereaders, then buy tablets, then get brain implants… because YOU want to be part of that ever-changing 1%.” Libraries: chasing the 1% – Censored Genius.

  • Libraries are on a slippery slope – Scotsman / Tiffany Jenkins. With response to Midlothian’s use of a pole dance exercise class for National Libraries Day: “The serious point is these kinds of stunts devalue libraries. A significant amount of the activities on offer take people away from books and the reading of them.” … “What is missing is a firm validation of reading. There are more events on offer that have little if anything to do with books and reading than those that do.” … “Most libraries now tend to have the latest thrillers and romances, which are fine and which I borrow, but the great canon of literature is often missing – as is anything that isn’t a little bit obvious or that is just a bit difficult. Expenditure is directed anywhere but on new stock. Key texts are often not available.”.  Comments also worth reading.
  • Making public libraries accessible to people with disabilities – Centre for Internet and Society (India). “Public libraries play a critical role in creating an enabling environment for citizens to gain knowledge, information and education. This is particularly true in the case of persons with disabilities who have limited access to purchase books through mainstream shops due to various barriers including lack of physical access to shops, lack of availability of books in accessible formats like Braille, etc.”
  • Photo essay: meet New York’s loyal public library patrons – Flavorwire. 16 photos and biographies of library users.
  • Thoughts on “Community libraries: learning from experience” report – Information Twist. “I can’t help reading this report as a green light “Yeah! Go for it” instruction book for local authorities who might not have considered the community/volunteer run library option otherwise.” … “I wonder how this fits in with the calls for a national library service and initiatives led by Arts Council England and Society of Chief Librarians that are aiming to unify library service provision across England?”
  • Welsh Government minister speaks powerfully in support of public library services – CILIP in Wales.  “At the launch of the First Incomplete Field Guide to Wellbeing in Libraries, at a conference in Newport on Thursday 16 January 2013, Huw Lewis AM, Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage, spoke powerfully in recognition of the significant contributions that public libraries make in supporting the health and wellbeing of people in Wales.  It seemed to be the consensus of delegates that Huw spoke more powerfully on this occasion than anytime previously,  in support of public libraries in Wales , noting the strong contrasts between the situation in Wales and England.”

“The Minister encouraged delegates to contact CyMAL at an early stage with any concerns about changes to public library services in Wales. CyMAL would seek to work in partnership with the Service and the Local Authority to address such concerns. The implication appeared to be that the Welsh Government would ensure that standards of public library service and provision in Wales must be maintained despite the current public sector financial restrictions. Lines in the sand have been drawn.”

  • What f**key is this? The Arts Council and community libraries – Doombrarian. Post very unhappy about use of term “community libraries” rather than “volunteer-run”. “Volunteer-run libraries should not, and cannot, become part of statutory library provision. Librarians should not be an endangered species. Free access to culture via libraries should never be anything other than universal, professionally staffed, and guaranteed into a  perpetuity which services that rely on the goodwill of volunteers can never hope to match. And the Arts Council should hang its head in shame.”


Local News

  • City of London – Official opening of Square Mile’s new library – City of London Council. “Artizan Street Library and Community Centre, which is run and managed by the City of London Corporation, has an extensive range of books, DVDs and CDs for loan.  Computers and printing facilities are available for all users and a dedicated children’s section will hold activities, including ‘Stay and Play’ and ‘Rhyme Time’. The community centre houses a well-equipped I.T. training suite and provides welfare rights advice, keep fit facilities, and space for children’s and young people’s activities. Rooms are also available for hire for individuals and community groups.”
  • Doncaster – Reason to stay cheerful … appeal granted – Save Doncaster Libraries.  “Have the closures/move into the voluntary sector libraries affected you?  This blogger has personally been unable to visit a library ever since, due to the few opening hours of her now seldom open and in a hut local branch, and all others being a car drive away and unable to be accessed within non-working hours.  If you have been affected we would love to hear from you.”
  • Hope in library closure battle – Star.  “Speaking afterwards, Ms Buck said: “I am very pleased we have been given permission to appeal. “I am only sad the Mayor has ignored local protests and failed to resource the libraries in the way the council intended.” A spokesman for Doncaster Council said the authority needed to study the judgement before making any comment on the decision.”
  • Dorset – Libraries ready to turn page as keys are passed over to new volunteers – Dorset Echo. The “doors of Charmouth Library are closed this week – but thanks to volunteers it will not be permanent. The library was closed on Monday for building work to begin following the transfer of the freehold from Dorset County Council to the Friends of Charmouth Library. Once it is re-opened on February 28, it will be officially handed over from the county council to Charmouth Central, a limited company set up specifically to take on the freehold.” … “Anyone who can help with decorating and other practical tasks is asked to contact…”
  • Newcastle – Anti-cuts campaigners set due date for sleep-in at Newcastle City Library – Sky.  “On February 23 campaigners will spend the night at the library as their fight against Newcastle City Council’s proposed budget cuts steps up a gear.”,  Council happy that it will not coincide with National Libraries Day “Head of Newcastle Libraries David Fay, who has given permission for a sleep-in, said: “I’m really pleased that talk of sleep-ins and occupations are not being confused with what should be a day of celebration.”
  • West Sussex – Fight to save Midhurst Library – Midhurst and Petworth Observer. Town councillors using “the new ‘community right to buy’ bill. This, he said was a ‘delaying mechanism’ which gave community groups the right to put off the sale of community assets for six months if they went on the market, to give the group time to try to put together a bid of 
its own.”
  • Wirral – Library staff to be tasked with managing crisis cash handouts – Wirral Globe. “Library workers will be asked to identify whether people are “potentially eligible” for the support and will help them  make an online application. Council leader Cllr Phil Davies said: “We have been merging libraries and one-stop shops for the past year to create a place where people can get general advice therefore there will be staff there who have the knowledge necessary to help those in need of the money.”