Editorial

More and more English councils are banning payday loan sites from all of their computers, including ones in their libraries.  This raises a few questions  The first is that such sites are not illegal and cause no harm to anybody but presumably the adult who uses them.  They are thus different to the porn/terrorism websites that libraries already filter.  The second is that they’re not illegal so one would have thought that it is up to the adult in question to decide on these matters, not the council.  The third is that the Council are banning websites and the library services are all having to absolutely obey instructions and do the same.  Indeed, one suspects that the vast majority of library services couldn’t stop the banning if they wanted to because it is the council IT department that handles such things and not the library service. Finally, because the library staff are all employed by the councils making the decisions, they would be disciplined if they spoke out publicly against it.  Just in case you’re wondering, my own authority has not yet banned them which is why I can write this piece now.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not a fan of payday sites and their rates of interest (and their seeming blanket advertising) are shocking to behold. I’d much rather they did not exist.  Credit unions are the way to go, guys. However. it seems to me that the banning of them, without any real debate, raises major questions about the independence and neutrality of libraries or, rather, the lack thereof.  For, when it comes down to it, many librarians are going along with the extension of filtering and, one suspects, may not even seriously think about the ethical implications.  The logical extension of this is that anything can be banned that a council feels should be banned.  Tobacco websites? Junk food sites? UKIP? The Greens? Is there a cut off point where librarians refuse? There may not be … because, painfully, in this country, librarians simply don’t have the power or the right  to stand up to the politicians when it comes to freedom of access.  They can of course help influence the decision, if they know about it beforehand, but often librarians may not be even in the loop before such decisions are made. Of course, perhaps this is all to the best (it’s a democracy and those councillors are answerable to the public, not to librarians, after all) but it does put the damper on any who see library staff as the safeguard of neutrality.

On another matter, congratulations to William and Kate Windsor on their new baby.  The new step-grandmother, the Duchess of Cornwall, is a keen supporter of literacy and libraries so one can hope that the new prince will join up to their local library as soon as possible.  It would be a great demonstration of the down-to-earth nature of the young Royals and also superb publicity for libraries as well.  How great, too, to see a library service sporting the words “by Royal Appointment” on their library cards.  It probably won’t happen but, William, Kate, if you’re reading this … many authorities won’t even ask you for ID and it’s a great way to fill those precious hours with the new one. Baby Bounce and Rhymetimes could be your new friends.

Changes

News

  • 8 Ways The Librarian Of The Future Will Keep Themselves Busy - Teach Thought (USA).  Interesting infographic,
  • Amazon vs. your public library - Fortune (USA). Barclays research analyst says public libraries a threat to dominance of Amazon in e-book market: “”As e-reader users become more familiar with the library system’s free alternative, and as libraries reduce the friction associated with borrowing e-books, we believe digital content revenue growth at Amazon may soften”. However, limits on number of e-book titles that libraries can provide (due to worries from publishers) is hobbling this contest,  On the other hand, Amazion and libraries are helping eachother with 10% commission on any e-book sales driven from Amazon link of library online catalogues.

  • Libraries will survive - Youtube (USA).  2010 video that’s worth a watch if you’ve not seen it before.
  • In with the old: Houston library scores major design award for mid-century mindfulness – Culture Map (USA). “The community’s fears of an attack were not realized, but the monks decided they needed a new way to protect their treasured library from any future threats. Last year, they accelerated a program of digitally copying biblical scripts with the help of multispectral imaging specialists from around the world …”
  • Library design: creative solution for a contemporary interior – Minimalisti. Some beautiful shelving solutiions that public libraries could have fun with.
  • Love libraries love volunteering - Star CIC. 14 London boroughs working together on library volunteer project with a policy of no job substitution. “the project has signed up almost 4,000 new volunteers and delivered over 76,000 volunteering hours, a monetary equivalent of almost £650,000 of investment. “
  • Monks in Egypt’s Lawless Sinai Hope to Preserve an Ancient Library – Time Magazine (USA). “he monks decided they needed a new way to protect their treasured library from any future threats. Last year, they accelerated a program of digitally copying biblical scripts with the help of multispectral imaging specialists from around the world …”
  • New Book is A Real-Life Thriller About Rare Book Theft at New York Public Library – Library Journal (USA). “A new book from a University of Illinois expert in crimes against rare books tells the real-life story of the biggest score in rare-book theft and the dogged hunt for the perpetrators by the special investigator of the New York Public Library.”
  • ‘Other’ E-Book Pricing Problem – Huffington Post (USA). “While the e-book world takes a minute to digest the court ruling finding Apple conspired with book publishers to jack up the price of e-books to consumers, it’s worth noting that there is another e-book pricing battle going on. Consumers are the ultimate victims here, also, but those most directly affected are public libraries. Some book publishers don’t lease e-books to libraries at all, depriving library customers of versions of popular best-sellers. Others set the lease rates exorbitantly high, squeezing the already squeezed library budget.” … “Now, state and local governments are just starting to become involved on behalf of their libraries and the library patrons.”
  • Somalia’s national library rises amid the ruins – Star (USA). “It is hard to imagine the faded yellow building, where a few families eke out an existence, was once Somalia’s National Library. Mogadishu’s ruins blend one building to the next, so there is little to distinguish it from the bombed-out remains of nearby parliament buildings. But that may soon change if all goes to an ambitious plan to restore Mogadishu’s library  …”
  • Why blocking pornography is an offense against all of us – Phil Bradley’s Weblog. Criticises the policy.  ” it’s not about if you watching pornography or not. It’s about the right to chose to watch material that is at stake. It’s about a government, under the usual ‘we must protect the children’ mantra to control the rest of us.”
  • Why you probably don’t go to public libraries (but should) - Slow Way (USA). List of the ways that libraries have improved and removed barriers – that the public may not have noticed yet.

Local news

  • Derbyshire – Plans scrapped for new Glossop library – Buxton Advertiser. Plan to spend £2m on new library 100 metres away from loved gothic “unsuitable” existing library scrapped after change of administration.  £500k of repairs needed on existing site.  “At present, the library only occupies the ground floor of the 1888 building; the top floor which is currently empty and the basement is used by the Millenium Cellar, a youth drop-in centre.”
  • Hertfordshire – Author officially opens Harpenden’s new library service – Herts Advertiser. “Frances Button, Herts county council’s cabinet member for libraries, said: “This development is great news for local people. The library is now in a central location with better access for our many users and improved use of space with all our library services and stock on one level.””
  • Lincolnshire – Protestors make voices heard at libraries consultation – Guardian series. “Coun Phil Dilks led the protest outside. He said: “We’re objecting to the consultation being held 11 miles away when most residents are at work.””
  • Plymouth – Council bans payday loan advertising – ITV. “Plymouth City Council has taken the step of banning payday loan websites from advertising on billboards and bus shelters. The council is also blocking computer access to 50 of the most popular payday loan websites across its network including in libraries and community centres.”
  • Suffolk – Shadow puppet workshops aim to inspire children – Suffolk Libraries (press release). “The workshops are being run by Wishworks in partnership with Creative Arts East and follow a series of performances in libraries in July. The workshops are £2 to take part in and will give children a chance to create their own story and watch it come to life with shadow puppets after which they will have the opportunity to perform their story themselves.”