Sara Wingate-Gray, contributor to recently published e-book “The Global Librarian” was kind enough to send me some of her thoughts on the differences between the UK and US library scene:

I think what’s most interesting to note about some of the main differences between public libraries in the US and UK is the professional level of advocacy and support given to US public librarians and libraries, through, for example, the clout of the American Library Association (ALA): it’s a strong organisation, with a strong brand, which is unafraid to speak its mind on matters of import to its members, and happy to engage in lobbying (as allowed under its 501 (c)(3) non profit organisational status) to get its point across to its constituency.

“[The American Library Association is] a strong organisation, with a strong brand, which is unafraid to speak its mind on matters of import to its members, and happy to engage in lobbying”

A case in point is the very-clearly worded riposte (issued September, 2012) by Maureen Sullivan, ALA’s current President, to publishers seeking to limit access to ebooks in public libraries: this is currently one of the defining issues in our 21st century profession, and it’s very important that public libraries navigate a considered and responsible route for the benefit of our patrons, so Sullivan’s public response and stance was important. The importance of this advocacy role for the profession also, I think, cannot be overstated –alongside ALA’s National Library Legislative Day (which the ALA organises so that congressional representatives hear directly from librarians in their constituencies), a recent nationwide initiative – EveryLibrary– seeks to build “financial and tactical support to ensure that local library initiatives pass at the ballot box”. This organisation explicitly seeks to advocate and fundraise on a community level for public libraries, recognising the need to address the legal complexities of voter advocacy and political fundraising which enmesh the local reality for public libraries in communities on the ground. Such nationwide, strong responses by and for the profession are not so clear in UK public library professional circles, and appear to lack the impact and consistency of their US counterparts, arguably leaving a gap in advocacy and political engagement which is most sorely needed in the here and now.

“Such nationwide, strong responses by and for the profession are not so clear in UK public library professional circles, and appear to lack the impact and consistency of their US counterparts”

Perhaps an example of this is the UK’s response to the ebook/e-lending conundrum, which was recently assessed in the UK by the Sieghart Review: I found it interesting to note that the makeup of this independent panel was dominated by publishers, with only a total of two of the six panel members (including the Chair) explicitly representing the library community (British Library/Society of Chief Librarians), while more than 60% of those provided with a “registered meeting” with the panel were from the publishing sector alone. This to me does not speak to a strong voice for the UK library sector, despite the manifold individual and organisational voices that were heard as part of its written evidence response (which included submitted responses by both CILIP and many other public library authorities et al).

“I found it interesting to note that the makeup of this independent panel was dominated by publishers”

What’s interesting to see now is the similar situation that the profession in both countries finds itself in, that is, a climate of economics: what I mean by this is both the changing face of financial resources given over to our sector, and the legislative appetite in both countries for economically-driven results, measurements and impacts. These are in fact testing times for both countries, and solutions to impending closures are more nuanced than the public debate sometimes allows for, it certainly feels like that the US currently has a professional lead on the UK in terms of advocating the importance of public libraries to communities across their nation, with UK responses being very much situated within the local communities themselves (ie. local community public library campaigns and Voices For the Library as a community response to challenge impending closures).

“it certainly feels like that the US currently has a professional lead on the UK in terms of advocating the importance of public libraries to communities across their nation, with UK responses being very much situated within the local communities themselves (ie. local community public library campaigns and Voices For the Library) as a community response to challenge impending closures”

News 

  • 42 Library Stories You May Have Missed in June – OEDB. “The month of June has been a busy news month for libraries.  If you’re still catching up on your reading you’ll want to check out this list of articles, blog posts, and infographics”
  • 75 Of The Coolest Librarians To Follow On Twitter - Library Science List (USA). Very useful list but strong US bias, but good to see Phil Bradley included.
  • Challenge of Maintaining Andrew Carnegie’s Library Legacy - Nonprofit Quarterly (USA). A look at the issues of Carnegie libraries in New York.  “t would seem that the libraries have their plates pretty full just raising money to keep operating. How will they be able to deal with the problems of old Carnegie facilities unless they sell some of their inventory to capitalize improvements elsewhere in the system? Ideas?”

“Dagenham’s Rectory Library having stood empty for several years, is set to be handed to the Territorial Army (TA).  The library’s closure in 2010 has since been followed by three other library closures in Barking and Dagenham.  A consultation on closing yet another, Rush Green, is under way. Councillors, meanwhile, have agreed to allow the TA to take over the building for a peppercorn rent (foregoing the £15,000 a year the building is estimated to be worth).  Before it can be rented to the TA, however, an expensive security fence will have to be installed.  Such spending would be worthwhile said a report to councillors last month, because “a TA centre would provide training to local residents, improving their skills which can be applied to many aspects of their lives.”  It would also, apparently, boost self-confidence and help people trying to find work, the report claimed.  Wouldn’t a library be better for that?” Private Eye Issue No. 1344: 12-25th July Library News (p.28)

Ode to the Library

For calming moments, quiet nook
Revision meets best-selling book
Try Fact or Fiction, Fantasy
Or Movie Star Biography

We stroll the aisles, surf the net
An information search-and-get
To glean new facts
And leave no void
Librarians are well deployed

If MENSA scores you often strive
Their bookshelves have a vast archive
A meet up for your college course
Vital, local, news, resource

For membership or daily passes
Just turn up with your reading glasses!

The Bard of Godstone
All Rights Reserved, 2013

The Bard of Godstone Volume 1 is out now at lulu.com

  • PPRG Marketing Excellence Awards 2013 – CILIP. “While the commercial sector boasts large marketing budgets, library services make a little go a long way by using imagination, commitment and creativity. From stock promotions to storytelling projects, new online services to the launch of major new library buildings, the PPRG awards exist to celebrate achievement at whatever scale it may be.”
  • Urbana library to seek early separation with director – News Gazette (USA). “Another crowded meeting convened nearly a month after deep “weeding” of the adult nonfiction section became a controversy. Some speakers called for the replacement of Lissak, who has said the culling of books was a “misstep.” Weeding of the adult nonfiction books has since halted. Thousands of books were marked for removal from the stacks and shipped away, although some of those will be returned to the shelves. Patron Laura Haber called it a “crisis in leadership.” “The director has had power without accountability,” she said.”.  42% of adult non-fiction removed without consultation and without referral to stock management guidelines.
  • Weeding Gone Wrong or Leadership Gone Wrong ? – Librarylostfound. The #bookgate scandal at Urbana Library where a large proportion of stock was deleted without reference to need/staff due to need to prepare for the future was a management, not a weeding, problem.  Issue examined in depth. “The Urbana Free Library situation smacks of leadership failure on so many fronts, least of all weeding. All of us in libraries would do well to watch Urbana’s handling of this situation and note what happens going forward.”
  • What students really do in libraries: From texting and Facebook to online shopping, just 18% of time is spent actually reading - Mail. “While reading was found to be the most common activity, the study revealed that students are distracted by a multitude of other diversions during their library visits. Of the 730 students, 95 were observed multi-tasking, with listening to music the most common second activity they were engaged in. Working collaboratively on school-related projects accounted for just 5.6per cent of library time. Unsurprisingly, 73per cent of students who were working on computers were distracted by non-study activities, compared to just 44per cent of those not using computers.”

Local news

“Paul Stainthorp, spokesperson for the Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaign, said: “It’s the market towns and villages that will be hit hardest by library cuts. “You may be lucky enough to end up with ‘only’ a half-hour bus ride to the nearest council-run library – the county council thinks this should be good enough for you. “But for many people, the rising cost of travel means that a visit to the library will become an occasional luxury.”

  • West Berkshire – Creepy goings on at West Berkshire Libraries - Newbury Today. “Libraries will also be offering a ‘Swap Shop’ at various times throughout the school holidays to help readers swap any duplicate trump cards they have so they can complete their collection. West Berkshire Council’s executive councillor for culture, arts and leisure, Hilary Cole, said: “It’s widely recognised that children who visit libraries develop improved literacy skills as they have access to a wider range of reading material from an early age. This year’s creepy Summer Reading Challenge is a great way to encourage young readers to get reading and have fun at the same time.””
  • York - D-day on community libraries shake-up – Press. “Proposals for a community benefit society to operate the city’s libraries and archives from next April, which City of York Council says will be the first in the UK, will be discussed by the Labour authority’s cabinet next week.” …. “If approved, it would have a five-year deal and be eligible for tax breaks, being one-third owned by staff and two-thirds owned by the public …  The enterprise is expected to be called Explore Libraries and Archives Mutual and able to save £20,000 a year on VAT. All libraries and staff would be transferred to the new service. It will have a £250,000 five-year budget for repairs, £111,000 less than surveys showed needs to be spent on libraries apart from York Explore, and officials said bridging this gap will be a priority.”