Editorial 

There’s a very interesting piece in the Independent on public libraries in Spain that report on a big rise in library usage there since the austerity measures came into force a few years ago.  It’s also interesting to read about a library there that seems to be a doppelganger for Friern Barnet, with locals taken it over after the council closed it.  What I find interesting about this is that Spain, like the USA, is seeing a rise in library usage to a level that is reported as historically high while at the same time facing cuts to the service itself.  This is not the case in the UK, where Austerity appears to have cut service provision but not provided a related boost in usage.  It is not clear why this is is, although if I had to put money on it, it would be the (still) higher comparative levels of welfare provision in this country and the relatively higher access rates to the internet (still lower then the rich of course) amongst the poor.  I’m not sure we can be happy about this but with tough cuts to benefits in the UK starting to take effect this year and the next, it may be that usage will start shooting up.  We are already starting to see this to some extent with the introduction of the online-only Universal Jobmatch.  Certainly, it would strengthen the position of public libraries in the UK if they were used rather more … the fact that we’d be doing more with less would also doubtless please the politicians too.

Cuts to Doncaster libraries have been controversial for several years but it hasn’t gone to court until now.  The Royal Court of Justices will be hearing the case at the end of this month, based on questionable legality of the mayor of the time (now no longer) pushing through cuts to libraries against the opposition of the majority of councillors.

Ideas

Changes

News

  • 5 Public Libraries That Have Gone to Seed – Modern Farmer (USA). “They started small. Rebecca Newburn estimates that her seed library, the Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library in California, was the sixth to sprout up in the country and one of the first in a public library when she started it in 2010. Just three years later, Newburn says, these libraries are “going fungal.”  There are over 90 seed libraries today.”
  • The austerity story: How Spain fell in love with books again as locals flood back to libraries – Independent. Fascinating news article with strong parallels to the UK in that a library is closed by the local council and then taken over by volunteers (see, for example, Friern Barnet).  Due to the high levels of unemployment. Spain is seeing a big growth in the usage of libraries, especially by men and from the unemployed but also for leisure reading.
  • Calcasieu libraries to loan cake pans – KPLCTV (USA). “Library director Gabriel Morley said people who went to community meetings are all for it. “This was one of the more popular ideas. They didn’t want to go out and buy a ‘My Pretty Pony’ cake pan and use it one time and then never have another use for it. I mean they’re $15 to $25 a piece, and once your kid has the birthday party, you really have no use for the cake pan,” said Morley. You can see on the web, Calcasieu is not the first system with such a program. They’ve budgeted $1,500 dollars to buy about 150 cake pans to share between branches.”
  • Do surveys matter? - Illinois Libraries Matter (USA). “I’m often asked if a library should conduct a survey of its community.  The simple answer is yes.  How can a library develop a solid strategic plan or marketing plan if it does not have reliable data on how the community and patrons regard and use the library? The fact is that while libraries think they know their community, they often have misconceptions that may lead to ineffective marketing.”

“It is important to note that public libraries are able to lend e-books, both on library premises and remotely, without the PLR scheme being extended. Until such a time as the PLR scheme is extended, it will continue to be the responsibility of library authorities to reach appropriate agreements with non-print rights holders of those works, or with other parties on behalf of those rights holders, in order to license the lending of their non-print works.” Ed Vaizey answering parliamentary questiion, They Work For You.

  • E-reader workshops in public libraries – FutrureBook/BookSeller.  “I work for Surrey library service, and there’s a number of us – library authorities  – who are starting to run workshops for the public. Ours has been described as a “petting zoo”.  We take along Kobo, Sony, Elonex, and Bookbox e-readers, and two tablets, an iPad and Samsung Galaxy.”

“Our main intention, of course, is to promote our ebook service and help people to use it.  The DRM (digital rights management software) is a minefield for anybody who isn’t tech savvy, so we can help customers get through it step-by-step … It’s also clear, working with the public, how fast the tablet is replacing the e-reader.  Our initial workshops focussed on e-readers but we’re having to re-think, as so many people are coming in with tablets, particularly iPads.”

  • In Praise of the Library – Big Heat (USA). “Seriously, there’s nothing like a library. A bookstore comes close, but it’s missing the whole frisson of ‘free’, ‘due date’, and ‘late charge’. And while bookstore clerks are helpful – if you can find a bookstore anymore – the library ladies remember your name, have the scoop on new arrivals, and if you ask nicely, will hold one of your favorites until you can run by to grab it. Bliss!”
  • Report: 30 percent of Americans without Internet access – Bellingham Herald (USA). “The lack of access is particularly common for seniors, with about 54 percent of Americans aged 65 and older having no Internet access. That makes computers and computer classes at libraries and senior centers “really popular,” according to Vigil, whose library offers free computer classes in English and Spanish every week.
  • Tel Aviv Opens Its First Public Library With A Sea-View – No Camels (Israel). “The library, located at the famous “Metzitzim Beach,” offers 500 titles, from novels to poetry and children’s books. And the library is catering not only to Israelis, it also carries books in English, French, Russian and Arabic. The library will be open each day from 7:30am to 7:30pm.”
  • What Should Public Libraries Offer? - Continuations (USA). A very useful article, not least for all the comments afterwards.  Basically, go for maker spaces, lego, coffee (a lot of coffee), meeting room space, office space, business networking and events.
  • Your not so local library - Reading, interrupted. “Public libraries could help us get a feel for a town and its people.  We could look at what books are being recommended, what literary events are being advertised.  We could observe the children being read to in the local language.  Maybe it would help us imagine what it would be like to live there, the latest novel in our bike basket as we rush home to make dinner before the sun sets……”

Local news

“At the hearing, the Court of Appeal agreed that all of the appeal points raised by the Claimant should be considered at a full hearing before a three judge Court of Appeal, including:

- The powers of a democratically elected Council to propose reasonable binding amendments to the Council’s annual financial strategy;

- Whether the budget constitutes a Council ‘strategy’ which the Mayor is required to follow.

If the Claimant is successful in her appeal, the Court of Appeal will have the power to quash the Mayor’s decision thus restoring the previous council-funded library services while the Council and Mayor reconsiders the financial strategy.”

  • Havering - Plans for new Harold Hill Library given go ahead – Romford Recorder. “Cabinet approved the plans for the library in the eastern arcade of the Hilldene shopping centre, off Farnham Road on Wednesday July 10. The cost of the new library is funded from the sale of land at Gooshays, subject to planning procedures and is part of the Harold Hill Ambitions programme … s a result of the consultation, the front of the building has been changed to look more inviting and it has been designed to allow scope to provide an additional level if required in the future.”
  • Lincolnshire - Community shows united front in fight for library – Guardian series.  “About 200 people went to a public meeting at The Deepings Centre in Market Deeping on Thursday” … “Coun Dilks said more than 3,000 people had already signed a petition opposing the closure and once that number reached 3,500 the issue would have to be debated by the full council.”
  • Lincolnshire – Save our libraries - Socialist Worker.  Praises the benefits of libraries and blames bankers etc for the austerity.

We, the undersigned, object to the proposal by Merton Council to use the Wimbledon Library/Marlborough Hall site for retail, offices, business and finance, restaurants and cafes, and/or residential developments. This site was donated for public use as a library 100 years ago, and we support keeping the site as exclusively for library, adult education and community use. We call upon Merton Council to remove the Wimbledon Library / Marlborough Hall site from the Sites and Policies Plan.” Merton – E-petitions.

  • Merton – Save Wimbledon Library - “Merton Council are trying to introduce a new policy that will open up the Wimbledon library site to ‘an appropriate mix’ of the following uses : - Office - Retail - Residential - Finance and business - Restaurants and cafes - Community and an ‘enhanced’ library. This change of policy is needed to allow developers to submit plans to do this. So, you will read there are ‘no plans’ to do this at this stage (see blog)  It’s wordplay – ‘no plans’ means ‘no submitted developers plans (yet).’  The policy changes first; next come typical town centre ‘plans’. Only the entrance wall of the site is protected, and the site is now designated as ‘secondary shopping frontage’.  The preferred use of shopping frontages is retail, and there is a promise of ‘greater customer floor space’ (see info section). This is our space.  We will eventually lose it forever with these policy proposals. We can stop this, but we will have to act by Aug 23rd”