Archive for August, 2013

Looking the gift horses in the mouth: co-location and outsourcing

Editorial

An interesting look at the positives and perils of co-location has come from on of the current epicentres of the libraries crisis in Lincolnshire.  The Co-Op has offered to take over six libraries and points to the way it has integrated a library into one of its shops.  Others, however, point out that the library is tiny and is not the way forward.  Faced with cuts and an idea that libraries are no longer necessary (despite the massive protests), however, one suspects which side the Council will choose.

Another alternative to council provision of libraries is, of course, the private sector.  The boss of JLIS has been talking to the Conservative Way Forward Group about the advantages of doing so: a message one suspects is falling onto fertile ground there.  However, all is not as rosy as he suggests with JLIS in Hounslow, as the comments in the article suggest.  Also, my article on the pros and cons of outsourcing libraries raises a few questions too – like how the Council gave them £5 million to run it in the first place.

See the this page on co-location and this page on outsourcing for more pros and cons.

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Go in poor, leave feeling rich

Editorial

The post title today comes from a wonderful summary of thoughts about libraries that have been put on Twitter.  There’s some great stuff there and I recommend a look. I have put some of the stand out quotes below as well.  Another thing that stood out for me today is an inspiring article summarising the changes that have taken place at Chattanooga’s library system.  I have put what are some of the key points below.  It shows the power of leadership and of fresh thinking that is possible in US libraries.  It may also be possible in UK libraries as well, of course, but I have not seen anything like it after reporting on the subject here for a few years.

This may be because of the different cultures of the two countries – we don’t shout about much and, far more importantly, councils appear to have libraries far more under their thumb in the UK than they appear to do in the USA.  Most importantly, though, I suspect is the incredible difference in funding.  UK libraries may have the buildings and we may have the staff but, in the current climate, they just plain don’t have the money.  At least I hope that is the reason, because otherwise we’re just plain second rate … and no librarian should accept that.  Nor, of course, should this country accept second-rate libraries but that is precisely what cuts of the current magnitude will provide.  If we’re lucky.

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If the pie is too small, the answer is to make the pie bigger

Editorial

The quote for this post is from a US librarian who argues that faced with smaller budgets, libraries are naturally going to be cut unless they find different funding streams.  The argument is most definitely not that of privatisation or outsourcing but rather of in-house entrepreneurial skill: to look for opportunities to expand libraries into activities that provide more funding.  The challenge here of course is in doing this while not alienating the core services of the library. As council services, public libraries do not have the luxury of ditching their clientele in order to try something new.

However, it’s not like we have any choice but to change. Derby has announced today that it’s likely to close libraries and other “discretionary” services.  OK, we know libraries are statutory, not discretionary, but that hardly seems to matter in this age of look-the-other-way libraries ministers.  In such an environment, it’s incumbent on all of us to look at ways of saving money and of making money.  It’s also important that each library authority looks to the future and develops an escape route (in quieter times, this would have been called a “roadmap”) to where it wants to be.  The State of Victoria’s strategy has been recommended to me by none other than Rachel Van Riel (of Opening the Book) as the best she’s seen so I recommend interested librarians (and if you’re not interested then you’re in even more danger than the rest of us)  have a look at it.  By thinking ahead, even if we can’t make the pie bigger, we can at least do our best to armour plate it.

Changes

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Playful libraries fill up with people

Editorial

The stand-outs for me today is the short video interview with Cory Doctorow and the rather great piece on “playful” libraries with lots of great pictures of libraries that understand the need for fun and utility to be combined.  This last article can be read in conjunction with a thoughtful piece on “how to fill the library with people” that will help those who can redesign their libraries or, even better, make new ones.

Changes

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National Libraries Day: there’s no excuse not to celebrate it

Editorial

The date of the next National Libraries Day has been confirmed as Saturday 8th Feburary.  It is to be the culmination of a week of celebration and events for all types of library.  Starting out less than three years ago as a spontaneous day protesting against library closures (with all credit for this going to Alan Gibbons), the event has matured at blinding speed into something which all aspects of the library sector should be able and willing to support.  So, if you have not done so already, get planning something special to help show the nation what excellent services libraries provide.

Changes

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CILIP’s suggested new name revealed, the e-lending pilot takes shape … and the rest of the news

Editorial

The pilots into different models of e-lending in English libraries have moved a step closer but the results are not expected until 2015.  This seems a very leisured approach in what is a very fast moving marketplace. On the one hand, it’s great that the money has been found to work out the best way forward.  On the other, a lot can happen in the two or more likely three years until something is actually implemented.  The last substantial physical bookseller in the UK, Waterstones, may no longer be round, for one thing.  This could lead to a monopoly (or duopoly) of online e-retailers with unprecedented power and only the public library service presenting a real alternative. So, what may seem a respectable and safe time scale to some may actually be a gamble. The results from the pilots had better be the correct ones because there may be no time for seconds before public libraries or real e-lending choice disappear for good.

Moving away from the urgent/essential into arguably more optional realms, we also have the rebranding of CILIP taking its next step with the announcement of the preferred new name for that organisation.  The reception I have seen to that name so far (on lis-pub-libs, Twitter, emails and blogs) has ranged from the grimly determined (“we cannot go against change”) to the frankly incredulous.  A summary of the facts, arguments and key statements so far is below.

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