Editorial

The DCMS appears keen to promote the concept that libraries are in long-term decline and that they need to evolve or die. That the department has a vested interest in shifting any blame from itself (and the libraries minister who has recently been the first such in history to have had librarians pass a vote of no confidence in him) hardly needs to be said.  Thankfully, the opposing viewpoint – that the deepest cuts in peacetime history to libraries budgets combined with a hands-off policy from the DCMS may also explain the figures – has also been given billing in the media.  Closures and “hollowing out” of library services are necessarily going to adversely affect usage.

In some ways, Buckinghamshire has been several years ahead of trend when it comes to public libraries.  It pushed through closures which caused protests and then volunteer-run libraries more than six years ago. The relative success of these then led to yet more volunteer run libraries last year, with the lessons having been learnt.  A heartwarming Big Society success story? Hardly.  The council has just now announced yet more cuts to the service, despite Bucks being one of those councils least affected by the cut in government funding. Another hard-learned lesson from Bucks therefore may be that volunteering in libraries doesn’t stop the cuts, it just encourages more.

Changes

UK

  • DCMS figures show dramatic decline in reading in English libraries – Good Library Blog / Tim Coates. Trends ten years ago suggests libraries only had thirty years left, unless they concentrated on books. Argues that if things were done efficiently then there’d be plenty of money for books, opening hours etc. “A good library is in itself socially inclusive and helps people who are deprived of resources – it does not have to be made into some kind of social help centre in order to be a useful resource”

“the DCMS has felt the need to go back to 2005/06 to find evidence of a “significant decrease” in library usage.  Did they find that a comparison with 2011/12’s figures (a drop of just 2.6%)  was not quite “significant” enough to justify their government’s policies and ministers’ woeful neglect of the service since taking office?” Shirley Burnham via email.

“”This has pretty much been a year-on-year decline, so it has been a steady pattern,” he said. “People change, and the way that they want services changes. Libraries need to evolve, and to offer relevant services.” DCMS spokesman.

“The decline in library usage came as no surprise to the library campaigner and children’s author Alan Gibbons, who described it as the inevitable result of recent governments’ “neglect of the public library service”.” Guardian reporting Alan Gibbons

  • Library visits drop by a quarter in eight years – BBC. “The decrease in library visitors has been a relatively steady trend since the DCMS’ annual Taking Part survey began in 2005. The drop has been seen in all parts of the UK and all age groups, the survey found.” … “Cllr Flick Rea of the Local Government Association said fewer than 5% of libraries had closed and councils were “working hard to innovate and re-design them” for the future.”
  • We need a strategic vision for libraries – Alan Gibbons.  Points out DCMS have no curiosity about decline in usage and suggest everyone from closed libraries will go to the surviving open ones until everyone ends up in one big library somewhere int he UK.

International

  • Chicago Public Library Tackles Youth Violence in Chicago Through the Arts – Show Me Chicago. “The October programs will feature actors from Steppenwolf Theatre performing excerpts from the book, about the people whose lives have been changed forever by the bloodshed in Chicago’s streets. Each program will be followed by a community conversation about ending youth violence and intolerance in Chicago. The free programs are open to teens, ages 13 and up, parents and community members.” … youth violence now “almost endemic”.
  • Go Goa III: Krishnadas Shama State Central Library, Goa – Anuradha Goyal Travels (India). A tour, with some great pictures, of the very well maintained and RFID’d central library.  [I especially like the fact that one needs to take one’s shoes off to enter – Ed.]
  • Great Indiana public libraries tour – Tess Gerritsen (USA). “I love public libraries. More than any other institution, they guarantee every American free access to great literature, educational resources and information on a vast array of subjects. For many, they are literally a window to the wider world. That’s why I’m embarking on a special two-week tour to celebrate and recognize libraries for the critical role they play in our communities.”
  • Library staff dealing with death threats after heroin bust – Kiro TV (USA). Security guard quits after drug-related crimes but library staff carry on, with extra security.
  • Pop-Up Libraries Blossom in Philadelphia and Beyond – School Library Journal (USA). “The books come by the hundreds almost daily. Boxes dropped off from yoga clubs, suburban book drives, and schools to be handed out at the Mighty Writers Street Libraries—pop-up libraries recently launched in Philadelphia to offer books to the city’s students and parents who watch as their access to titles diminish.”
  • Public libraries and Nigerian cultural development – Science Index (Nigeria). Including “some of the ways the cultures of different Nigerian ethnic groups have been negatively influenced; and the problems hindering public libraries in the country from performing their cultural functions creditably. It emphasizes that this category of libraries should be adequately supported for them to uphold, and project the good image of Nigerians through their cherished cultural activities.”
  • They Lend What??? The Magical World of Unique Lending Libraries – INALJ (USA). Includes dog lending (for 30 minute sessions), rollerskates, tools, vinyl records, unique (and expensive) works of art, seeds.
  • Vancouver Public Library launches Touch, a fundraiser to build library’s new digital lab – Vancouver Sun. (USA) “Library 3.0″ Inspiration Lab aims to help users create content (ebooks, photos, films) combined with new fundraising drive (“As well as marking its shift to the digital age, the library is also stepping away from traditional of fundraising, eschewing the sit-down dinner in favour of a diversion for Vancouver’s digerati that will feature Lady Gaga’s DJ Brendan Jay Sullivan (DJ Vh1); a silent auction with goodies like Recon Jet wearable computer sports glasses and others from Vancouver companies; interactive and live-tweeting story creation and other activities.”).

Events of note

  • Author event: Malorie Blackman – Southwark Council. 17th October. “Malorie Blackman will talk about and read from her work. This will be followed by a questions and answer session, and book signing.”
  • Public libraries: Re-imagining Carnegie – Andrew Carnegies’ International Legacy. 16th October, Scottish Parliament. “Public libraries in the UK and Ireland are at a crucial time of change: cuts in public spending and the impact of new technology raise questions about what libraries are for in the digital ageIf Andrew Carnegie was alive today how would he use his funding to support people to gain the knowledge and skills they need to better themselves and improve their prospects?  The seminar will explore the role of public libraries in the future and how they can be radically reimagined to fulfil their potential for today’s communitiesHow can libraries promote access to skills and learning in a digital context?”

Local news

  • Buckinghamshire – More changes afoot for library services – Buckingham Today. “A futher review of library services in Bucks aimed at saving another £300,000 over the next three years was announced by BCC this week. From November, mobile libraries will call only once a month, rather than once a fortnight, saving £100,000. BCC says it has already saved £488,000 through its new ‘County and Community’ model of library service delivery, which has seen smaller libraries, including Winslow’s, reinvent themselves as community libraries, staffed mainly by volunteers. And it says a further £200,000 has been saved by reducing duplication and back office costs and over £100,000 through improving its courier and information services.”.  Loss of mobile deliveries to private nurseries and elderly people’s homes.
  • Buckinghamshire – Guest Column: Tough story with a happy ending for community libraries – Thame Gazette. “We were adamant we’d learn from experiences nearly 20 years ago: earmarking uneconomic libraries for closure, then relenting and letting residents manage them, but without any support. This time it would be about partnership, not abandonment. The ensuing consultation demanded our best in diplomacy, relationship-building, and communication. Unsurprisingly, memories of the past die hard, and our starting point was to counter the cynicism, be honest about previous mistakes, and build trust and credibility.”
  • Derbyshire – Fears over future of newly-refurbished library after council announce job cuts – This is Derbyshire. Duffield: “Users of a newly-refurbished library say they are worried it could soon close as Derbyshire County Council starts to axe jobs and services.”

“At my age, I couldn’t get to Belper – the bus stop is too far away for me to walk to. The library is a little building but every time I’ve been in there’s been someone in it and on Saturday mornings it can be teeming with people.”

  • Glamorgan – Barry councillor urges ban on payday loan advertising in Vale libraries – Barry and District News. ““Recent research from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau shows that there are major flaws with the payday lender scheme,” said Mr Johnson.”
  • Lewisham – Council is hiding library numbers – Blackheath Bugle. “Calling all dedicated and hard-working volunteers in Lewisham’s so-called community libraries. Want to know how you’re doing? How many books you’re managing to lend? How visitor numbers are holding up? Well, tough. As of October 2012, Lewisham council has decided to stop allowing access to the statistics which it used to publish on a quarterly basis, often before anyone even asked.”
  • Lincolnshire – Academy in talks to run town library – Spalding Today. “University Academy Holbeach and the University of Lincoln are in talks with county council leaders to take over the running of Holbeach Library.

“Chris Penney, chairman of governors at University Academy Holbeach, said: “We’re one of the few areas of Lincolnshire to have a university presence and we acknowledge that a town of our size can’t be without a library.  We’ll work with the county council to ensure that a library presence remains in Holbeach.””

  • Lincolnshire – Have wishes of residents not been considered? – Guardian series. Parish councillor argues that Holbeach closure is pre-ordained, as is move to Academy control, despite strong wishes from the public to the contrary.
  • Lincolnshire – Libraries: Figures don’t stack up – Market Rasen Mail / Letters.  Questions “consultation”, suggesting it is a done deal [a recurrent theme in Lincolnshire – Ed.] and points to reasons why Caistor Library should not be cut. “Instead of committing libraries to a slow death we should be refocusing more on how we can increase the use of libraries in the community. The library in any town has always been the first place you turn to if you need advice. A community access point for advice and guidance. The number of books on lone is not a measure on how libraries perform, the County Council needs to think outside the box. Gives you confidence in how the County Council run things.”
  • Moray – Campaigners to face council in court battle to save seven libraries – STV. Fairly long television news article on the Moray closures.  “Campaigners held a private meeting in Elgin on Friday where they agreed unanimously to launch a legal case for halting the proposed council budget cuts.”
  • Neath Port Talbot – Unions’ call for library stance by communities – This is South Wales. “Unison have a national campaign ‘love our libraries’ use them or lose them,” he said. “The areas concerned need these local libraries and the services they provide. “We are calling on all the councillors in these effected areas to think long and hard about these damaging proposals to close the life blood of these vulnerable communities.”
  • Newcastle – Jedmond Library reopens after financial cuts in June – Jesmond Local. Reopened as volunteer-run “The library has received books donated from Oxfam books, and the Newcastle University literary unit also provided books selected by Seven Stories. The Home Group kindly supplied furniture and Roots and Wings marketing. Although the library is being allowed to operate rent-free, other maintenance bills such as gas and electric will still need to be met. In order to cover this some changes to the running of the library have had to be made, and a wide variety of events will be hosted in the building in order to raise funds, from story-telling master classes and vintage fairs to yoga classes.”

“At the heart of Jesmond,” he said, “is culture, the type of culture a library can offer. If it had been taken away there would be a hole.” Grundy added: “There is sadness that we are here at all however my sadness is eclipsed by the way people have stood up to the plate.” John Grundy

  • North East Lincolnshire – New chapter for Grimsby library as it closes for big revamp – This is Grimsby. “main library has closed for more than two months from today. The town centre building has closed so that essential electrical and heating systems to the basement, ground floor and mezzanine floor can be replaced. The top floor will close permanently.” … “”By doing these works to the central library now, it avoids closing the library completely, and we can take our time to consult with residents on the future of the library service across the borough as a whole.”
  • Northamptonshire – Library visitors across Northamptonshire drop by 62,000 in two years – Northampton Chronicle. “The declining visitor numbers have been outlined in a mid-term review of every library, which examined visitor numbers in March 2013 compared with March 2011. There were 266,795 visits during March two years ago, which fell by 62,295 to 204,500 this year. But Northamptonshire County Council says the fall in people going into libraries is balanced by around 15,000 ‘virtual visits’ every month, where people use library services online.” … “Services include running 600 events for cash-strapped families, running 18 job clubs, two credit unions and helping 603 people set up in business.”
  • Northamptonshire – Sponsorship for town’s library? – Daventry Express. “The library is yet to be built on the Chapel Lane Car Park near the Moot Hall, and will replace the current building scheduled for demolition ahead of the Mulberry Place shops. The document from Northamptonshire County Council says the new building has the potential to attract sponsors, but does not say if this will be for particular services or overall.”
  • Southend on Sea – Welcome to The Forum Southend-on-Sea – University of Essex. “The iconic building in Elmer Square, Southend, is the first of its kind in the country – thanks to the key partnership between Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, the University of Essex and South Essex College. By pooling resources they have produced a state-of-the-art hub of knowledge, learning and culture for all in the heart of Southend Town Centre. The Forum combines a joint public and academic library, a new home for the Focal Point Art Gallery and innovative teaching and learning facilities including a 200-seat Lecture Theatre.”
  • South Gloucestershire – Libraries in Yate, Chipping Sodbury and Winterbourne among those to close as Unison members take strike action in pay protest – Gazette. “Most South Gloucestershire libraries will be closed tomorrow (Saturday, September 28) due to strike action. Yate, Chipping Sodbury and Winterbourne libraries are among those affected by the action. Members of Unison voted to take part in one day of industrial action in response to changes to South Gloucestershire Council policies on enhancements and allowances paid to staff, to be introduced on 1 October. The union balloted 190 members on the council’s plan to introduce new contracts on staff who work weekends and night shifts, which Unison says will cut people’s pay by 10 per cent.”
  • Staffordshire – Focus on library services for older people – Tamworth Herald. “Staffordshire libraries are encouraging residents to find out more about services aimed at providing practical help to older people or support to their carers. In addition to services to the housebound, support for those wanting to learn about computers and the internet, local libraries can also assist those looking to obtain a bus pass and provides services for the hearing or visually impaired. Community libraries also offer a variety of welcoming social groups, events and activities including reading groups and ‘Knit and Knatter’ – all of which are aimed at bringing people together.”