Editorial

The DCMS abolished the Advisory Council for Libraries for England (ACL-E) in 2011 during the Bonfire of the Quangoes.  It’s a shame that they did not check the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act at the time which made such a body compulsory and its abolition therefore illegal.  When it was pointed out (by a campaigner to the libraries minister Ed Vaizey) that this was so, it became clear that he had not realised what he’d just done wasn’t allowed by the Act.  Shortly after, the DCMS appointed a part-time advisor to do the job instead.  Sadly, it now turns out that the cost of ACL-E was just £2,500 per year and so cost far less than the advisor appointed to replace them.  Oh dear. Furthermore, the DCMS is planning to “consult” on the abolition of the already informally abolished ACL-E shortly and then formally end  it next year.  This is all fairly unedifying – rushed, with little regard to the Act, expensive and with a side order of dodgy consultations thrown in – but that’s not the important bit. The key here is that such a move would require a change to the 1964 Act that makes “comprehensive and efficient” public libraries statutory.  One fears that the DCMS may be tempted to “consult” on other changes to the bothersome (to them) Act at the same time.

In other news, a whole bunch of library campaigners have come together to look at the figures of libraries closed and those under threat and come up with the not unreasonable estimate of 1000 libraries likely to close.  They ask for the Minister (the same one behind the ACL episode above so the odds are not good) to intervene. Such a number of closures isn’t exactly going to help people accessing computers for vital Government services and jobs. Keeping with that theme, the Society of Chief Librarians have produced the biggest survey for a decade on library workforce skills which suggests it is a “reality check” to what can be provided with existing training and infrastructure.  The chances that the same Minister will intervene to help with that are, again, shall we say, slim.  Finally, over in Calgary, it appears that the first thought of many citizens caught in freak flooding was to return their library books.  Many are now raising funds for the Library to recover from the storm.  If only such energetic action could come from the Government in the UK for the metaphorical storm being experienced here.

Changes

News

  • Apple conspired to fix e-book prices, judge rules – BBC. “Manhattan Judge Denise Cote said the iPad maker “conspired to restrain trade”. But the firm’s spokesman, Tom Neumayr, said Apple would appeal against the ruling and fight “false allegations”.”

“Who is running the Shop? It was announced in 2010 that the Advisory Council for Libraries (ACL) was being closed down, even though it now transpires that its direct costs were just £2,500 per year. The Council, which included eight independent senior people with a wide range of experience and expertise, thus stopped meeting. Did someone wake up to the fact that the ACL was prescribed in the 1964 Public Libraries Museums Act? I had to tell Ed that it was, to his evident surprise. So they decided to appoint a paid Advisor, who was a retired local government director of culture. He could never match the experience and expertise of the ACL or its independence of judgement. The DCMS now realises that they need to set up a public consultation because you have to amend the Act! They have incurred considerable extra cost while losing valuable  advice. Yes, Minister!” Desmond Clarke via email. See also his 2009 BookSeller article on the issue.

Section 2 of the Act mandates “There shall be two Library Advisory Councils, one for England (excluding Monmouthshire) and the other for Wales and Monmouthshire, and it shall be the duty of each Council to advise the Secretary of State upon such matters connected with the provision or use of library facilities whether under this Act or otherwise as they think fit, and upon any questions referred to them by him.”.

“”A library is a rainbow in clouds … so that at all times the pure can see the possibility of hope”” Maya Angelou – Quoted in this wonderful pro NYPL piece (USA – Youtube)

  • Library Campaign warns of library ‘slaughter’ – BookSeller. Campaigners estimate 1000 branches will close in foreseeable future … “Campaigners say that with 201 library service points cut last year, 336 threatened with closure this year so far, and a further 40% in funding expected by 2016″

“Laura Swaffield, Chair of the Library Campaign, said the Government should intervene in areas which are seeing large cuts, as well as providing better information for groups looking to take over libraries that would otherwise shut. She said: “Many communities are now trying to run their own libraries, as the only way to save them. They get no national help or advice. Not from the government, not from Arts Council England (ACE). At the recent Library Campaign conference in London, Jim Brooks of the Little Chalfont volunteer-run library in Buckinghamshire reported that 130 volunteer groups have found their way to him, desperate for help. Jim is the only national resource giving advice. It’s absurd.”

  • Libraries Shift to Social Services, Reconsider Literacy – Heartlander (USA). “One hundred thirty thousand letters meant $47 million for the New York Public Library. A few weeks ago, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed to cut the library’s budget by 18 percent and potentially closed several branches. Despite limiting service hours from other budget cuts, NYPL now boasts the largest library budget in the country at more than $245 million. The library released a statement saying New Yorkers, by writing to stop the cuts, had demonstrated their belief that libraries are not a luxury.”
  • Nelson: Library slowly turns page on flood damage – Calgary Herald (Canada).  After massive floods, the first thought of many was to return their library books and help the library.  Fundraising shows the importance the library holds.
  • SCL Publishes Workforce Development Survey – Society of Chief Librarians. “In the biggest survey of its kind in over a decade, more than 8,550 people from 120 Public Library Authorities completed a skills audit in December 2012 … he results of the survey have revealed a mixed level of confidence and underlined some gaps in the workforce competence. SCL is committed to working with our partners to develop a programme of training and support that will ensure our staff and our volunteers are ready to support and enable our customers to access life essential information and services on-line.”

“Over 90% of all customer contact is direct, with less than 5% (4.7%) through electronic means and another 2.2% by phone … More than 25% of staff are unaware of the changes at a national level which will effect customers’ information needs with only 16.9% strongly or fully aware … Customer facing library staff are less confident than volunteers, specialist enquiry staff and team managers in accessing the websites, knowing the range of subject on those websites, using search tools, directing users to particular parts of those websites and downloading and saving files … The audit has provided a useful indication of the way forward for the  development of public library staff. It is a snapshot of staff skills and competencies against a benchmark identified by the sector. It has reaffirmed the strengths of public libraries and their role in supporting individuals and their digital capability and the process has been an important challenge to the sector, individual Public Library Authorities and a “reality check” on the ability of Public Library Authorities to deliver life critical information for citizens in a  digital age.” Public Library Universal Information Offer Workforce Development: Supporting Digital Access to Information and Services: Skills Report – SCL.

Libraries provide easy, usable and affordable digital access and our library staff and many of our volunteers have a consistent track record of training, coaching and supporting people to go online. This report shows that public libraries are well placed to help deliver the Government’s digital agenda, however it has also highlighted that there is a skills and competency gap and we do need to develop a training programme to ensure that all of our staff and volunteers are skilled and confident to progress this important agenda’” Janene Cox, SCL President

Local news

  • Doncaster – Library cafe set to re-open ‘by popular demand’ – Doncaster Free Press. “Doncaster Council says it is reopening at the Waterdale site café due to popular demand. A launch event takes place on Monday, July 15, featuring award-winning local crime novelist Stephen Booth.”
  • Glasgow – Library use shelved for asbestos repair job – Evening Times. “Knightswood library will shut on July 29 for a planned programme of upgrades and repairs costing around £300,000. As well as removing the asbestos, Glasgow Life also plans to fit new windows and automatic doors.”
  • Lincolnshire – Mablethorpe Town Council ‘wholeheartedly’ rejects cuts to Lincolnshire’s library services – Louth Leader. “Coun Steve Palmer presented an in-depth analysis on the cuts at the meeting and explained that cutting these essential services will result in ‘social deprivation isolation’ as libraries are one of the only ‘essential hubs’ left as village pubs and shops are closing all around us. He also voiced the fact that the cross party scrutiny committee at the County Council rejected the whole proposal in a vote of 5/3. He urged the town council to completely reject the proposal. Coun Joyce Taylor asked: “What are they trying to do to us? We live in a high deprivation area.”

“What are they trying to do to us? We live in a high deprivation area.”

  • North Somerset – Library reopens after makeover – Mercury. Winscombe: “The new library opened on July 2 with an extension, double-glazed windows and a relocated entrance door. There are now three brand new public computers, wi-fi access and soft seating areas. Self-service kiosks have also been installed so customers can borrow, return and renew items themselves.”
  • Southend – Protest march to save Southend libraries – Echo. “The Stand Up for Southend Libraries group will hold a march and rally in the town calling for all branch libraries to be kept fully-staffed on Saturday, August 10. Organiser Peter Passingham, assistant secretary for Southend Unison’s local government branch and a library assistant at Southend Central Library, said: “We’re having the demonstration as a positive show of support for a quality library service and we want to make it clear users from different branches all agree we need a properly funded service right across the town.”  Council says trying to save all libraries isn’t saving the issue but, rather, “avoiding it”.

“The real community spirit is in our campaign and all the people standing up for their local library, not in a rush for “volunteers”, which is just a cover for cuts.”