A couple of things spring out to me today that show how libraries may change in the future, or are in some cases already changing.  An excellent article from the Wall Street Journal looking at how libraries are changing in the digital age, shows how libraries have always changed in the past as well.  It concludes that failure to innovate is the real dangers that libraries face.  I suspect that is very much the same thought behind the new website/group Common Libraries (from the Locality team) which looks to assist those who, in management speak, think out of the box – things I really like the idea of such as Maker Spaces are part of their bag.  Of course, they have an uphill struggle to convince campaigners and others that they’re not just Trojan horses for volunteers … but I think they deserve that chance.  Stop throwing the tomatoes at me: we’ll all be far better using the energy (you throwing, me dodging) in examining what they’re actually doing and seeing if it is useful.  From reading all of the news reports every day, I’d say we’re a good two or three years behind the USA in implementing change in public libraries and anything which can give us a leg up should not be automatically rejected.

There’s also a promise of change in the new national English inquiry into public libraries.  Most people aware of it are pretty sceptical that is the case but, hey, let’s hope it is. I put the word “English” in there to distinguish it from the Welsh inquiry into public libraries (what do you mean, you didn’t know there was one?) which comes from a very different mindset (less emphasis on volunteers for one thing).  We’ll see which makes the biggest difference, for good.  Or for ill.




  • Bold move – Leon’s Library Blog. “The news that staff at Birmingham’s libraries are proposing a new community library cooperative as an alternative to closures or handing over libraries to volunteers indicates that librarians are increasingly recognising that the only way to protect services is to take on responsibility for them. As I continuously advocate not for profit trusts are a sensible and pragmatic way forward in the current harsh financial climate so I applaud the staff for taking this approach.”
  • Common Libraries – A new venture, with funding from Arts Council England and others to explore and assist in different ways of working for libraries, including maker spaces.

“We believe that library services should provide access to as well as enable development of a multimedia commons. We use our expertise in design, technology, community engagement and enterprise to work closely with library service users and providers … Over the past five years, we have contributed to relevant research for national bodies and advised local government. We’ve also helped establish a test-bed for library service transformation at St Botolph’s Waiting Room, working in partnership with Essex Libraries and supported by the Carnegie UK Trust, and have managed community-led library services in numerous locations at the local level. We’re also involved in the delivery of a national programme exploring the potential for communities to develop digital assets and enterprises.”

  • Crime wave hits Scottish libraries – Reading Agency (press release). “Anticipating the 8 May publication of Hour of Darkness, the latest Bob Skinner adventure, staff in participating Scottish libraries will this month begin promoting Quintin Jardine’s books across their libraries. The chance to play host to the bestselling author for reader events is being offered as an incentive to the most supportive libraries for late summer/autumn 2014.”

“My dad used to say, ‘People are afraid of death, but they’re not afraid of ignorance.’ He was right, but times are changing. Libraries have a crucial role in promoting lifelong learning. They are an essential part of a healthy community, and they must be cherished, and protected at all costs.” Quintin Jardine

  • In times of crisis, arts and culture have an even higher importance – BookBrunch. Norway’s approach is in stark contrast to that of the UK, with a national e-lending scheme already in place and a commitment to spend 1% of the national budget on Culture.  “Norway prides itself on its patronage of the arts. As far back as 1965, it established what is known as Innkjøpsordningene for litteratur, a state-backed purchasing arrangement managed by Arts Council Norway for Norwegian books (although in 2012 it was extended to include a small number of books in translation), in which 1,000 copies of most new fiction releases are bought and distributed to libraries around the country. With this, publishers are guaranteed a minimum sale of 1,000 books for adult fiction titles – the number rises to 1,550 for children’s books – which means larger print runs and, crucially, that books of merit get a look-in, even if they’re not expected to make much of a return. To top it off, authors receive a higher royalty on copies of their books bought under this scheme.”

“I’m a member of the CILIP Public and Mobile Libraries Group and am also the Chief Editor of its journal, Access.  We are currently looking for public and mobile libraries staff to contribute articles, news items, letters, book reviews and opinion pieces for our publication.  This is open to any member of staff at any level in a public library authority.  If you are interested, please drop me a line either at mobeena.khan@hertfordshire.gov.uk or at pmlgaccess@gmail.com for more information or for contributors guidelines.  Having a piece published can also help demonstrate commitment to professional development for your PMDS, ACLIP or Chartership portfolio.  Do get in touch if you have any ideas.” Posted on lis-pub-libs

  • Libraries Fight Back Against Planned Closings – Good EReader. “While this action is limited to Lincolnshire for the time being, the implications of the legal proceedings could have farther reaching, global repercussions. Libraries are currently fighting to stay relevant in the digital reading age, and even libraries that are already taking digital action with innovations such as ebook lending, technology renovations, and MOOCs are struggling to demonstrate to stakeholders that they serve a vital function in the community. The outcome of this campaign could mean more councils around the world feel confident in making financial decisions that attack the existence of libraries, or could mean that councils don’t want to take the risk on libraries fighting back in court and winning. However the proceedings end, it is all money that could have been better spent on keeping libraries open to the public”
  • Libraries in Wales: balancing the books in times of public sector cuts – Assembly in Brief. “Over the last ten years visits to public libraries in Wales have risen by approximately 21 per cent (see the Welsh Government’s Programme for Government update), whilst those in the UK as a whole have experienced a general decline. This figure alone could seem to indicate the good health of the public library sector in Wales. But as public libraries will have to compete with other local authority services for a decreasing pot of funding in the forthcoming years, this good health is far from guaranteed. The Assembly’s Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee has started work on an inquiry into public libraries in Wales, where it will discuss issues like these with people involved in the sector including local government library staff, the Minister for Culture and Sport and library-users themselves.” … “On average, Welsh local authorities will see a 3.5 per cent reduction in Revenue Support Grant funding from the Welsh Government in 2014-15, compared with the 2013-14 allocation.” …. “Throughout the inquiry, the first public meeting of which takes place on 12 February 2013, the Committee will discuss the role of volunteers in Welsh libraries. They will also seek to explore other new and innovative ways councils can save money whilst protecting – and possibly enhancing – the role that libraries play in modern Wales”
  • Page: ‘new library review will bring real change’ – BookSeller. “Page said all the members were keen to ensure the report had an impact. He said: “The structure of the public library service doesn’t make it easy to take singular, decisive action. But the people around the table feel strongly about making sure there can be action.” He added: “Taking part in the previous Sieghart report was enjoyable and very interesting, and really moved the debate on. The final report suggested strong, implementable changes. The new report has a big topic, a huge number of stakeholders, and I hope we can create something similar.” Some library campaigners have criticised the announcement of the report, urging the government to act on libraries immediately rather than hold a further review of the area.”

“When asked how the report would differ from previous reviews, which have been largely ineffective, the DCMS said: “The focus in the past has tended to be about the buildings themselves, rather than a reflection of the service as a whole and how it may need to transform in response to differing expectations within the wider economic context along with changes in demographics and technology.” The body added: “There has also been little or no consideration about the role of volunteers or different models of delivery.””

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  • Children’s Centres plus Libraries: a new fusion – 6th March in Northampton. “This one-day conference will bring together senior leaders and decision-makers from public libraries, children’s centres, early-years and children’s literacy, and registration services – enabling participants to come into contact with a range of case studies from around the country. Speakers include Andrea Leadsom MP – Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on SureStart Children’s Centres;  Viv Bird, Chief Executive, Booktrust; and Margy Whalley, Director of Pen Green.   The conference is held at The REC Centre, Towcester Road, Far Cotton, Northampton NN4 8LG – 5’ from J15 of the M1 (with access to free parking on-site), 1 mile from Northampton railway station and home to our Far Cotton library. Please contact me (jsolis@northamptonshire.gov.uk) if you would like to book a place or if you have any queries about this event.   The cost is £90 (including lunch and refreshments).”

International news

  • Do People Need Libraries in the Digital Age? – Wall Street Journal (USA). “In a digital age, we need librarians more than ever to help sort through it all. Libraries of the future shouldn’t be bookless because, like endangered species, the nondigitized physical texts of the past, and the ones that are still being printed, need a protected space” … “Google recently launched a program called “Helpouts” which connects people with experts. There’s no reason future libraries couldn’t do something similar, acting as a hub for putting people in touch, via Skype or in person, with book authors, professors, and learned members of the community. A number of places around the world are already setting up such “living libraries,” allowing people to contact people in the know directly.”

“What may well have destroyed the Great Library was a failure to continue to innovate. The library faced budget cuts and bureaucracy and damage from smaller fires that could well have impacted its bottom line.”

  • This Is What a Librarian Looks Like – Slate (USA). “The result is a celebration of the diversity in the librarian community. “I realized I had a stereotype in my mind of what a librarian looked like, which is one of the reasons I wanted to do this project. Whenever I think something is true, I’m often wrong” … “Cassidy’s project also seeks to address the budget cuts and understaffing plaguing libraries across the country today. In interviews, Cassidy asked librarians to talk about the challenges libraries face and why now, perhaps more than ever, they’re important. “I see this really as battle. I don’t think it’s too much hyperbole to say it’s a fight in their communities for civilization, to give people access to not just knowledge but technology”.

Local UK news by authority

  • Birmingham – Birmingham’s draft budget 2014+ and our Public libraries – Birmingham Libraries Campaigns.  “Library services in Birmingham to be cut by a total of £2.34m to be made in 2014-15. £690k to be cut from Community Library budget rising to £1.058m in 2015-16.  The draft budget confirms closure of four Community libraries”.  A look at the official budget figures and lines for library expenditure.
  • Bolton – Mobile library is lifeline for people like Betty from Horwich – Bolton News. “Betty Holding was devastated when she could no longer drive to Horwich Library to pick up her regular supply of books following a stroke last year.   But thanks to the Library Link service supplied by Bolton Council, the library is now being brought to the great grandmother’s doorstep.   In the last six months she has has had about 65 books delivered by council worker Adam Dietrich, who drops off books to 20 people around the Bolton area each day.”
  • Ceredigion – Book almost closed on library volunteers – Carmarthen Journal. “The town council had been concerned that without enough volunteers the  service would have to close this year. So far 15 people have informed the town council they would be willing to help  run the library. The town’s library was due to close as a result of a £10 million cut in  Ceredigion Council’s budget.” … “The town council has already agreed that it will foot the cost of keeping the  library open if enough volunteers can be found. It will also fund training for volunteers in order to ensure they have the  required skills to operate the library.”
  • Cornwall – Cuts may turn St Just library ‘into a book store’ – This is Cornwall. “”For St Just Library, this means the need to save circa £18,300 and the proposal  is to reduce the opening hours by nine hours each week. It will only be open the  equivalent of one whole and two half days.”
  • Doncaster – Fresh fight to save Doncaster library – Star. “The fight is on to save Bessacarr Library which was spared the axe 18 months ago when volunteers stepped in. But Doncaster Council has unveiled plans to merge Cantley and Bessacarr libraries, with both buildings closing to be transferred to a new combined base – which could be in the community centre on Goodison Boulevard.”
  • Hampshire – Mobile library stops to be axed – Gazette. “The council has drawn up a list of mobile library stops that will be withdrawn in 2015, in a bid to make budget savings of 12 per cent.   The county intends to cut one of its mobile library vehicles from January 2015, reducing the number from four to three – resulting in approximately one third of mobile library stops being cut.” … “It claims that the average cost per book issued from a mobile library is £2.52, compared to £1.05 from a branch library or discovery centre.”
  • Lincolnshire – Campaigners fight plan to close most of Lincolnshire’s libraries – Peterborough Today.
  • Lincolnshire – Row over future of Caistor library – BBC Radio Lincolnshire. Council wishes to leave Caistor Community Centre without public library despite still having two years of contract still to go.  Locals fear either damage to Centre or a severely diminished service if left with volunteers … but they also fear the council will do whatever it wants to do.
  • Surrey – County Council launches two apps to help citizens – Digital by Default. “A free app has been launched by Surrey County Council that allows readers to borrow a book by scanning its barcode which will display a list of the nearest libraries stocking it. Then anyone with a  library card can reserve it immediately from their smartphone or tablet computer.”
  • Torbay – Mobile library plans ‘ridiculous’ – BBC. “… the total focus on finances means the quality of the care in the Bay is being hit. The mobile library has an enormous amount of care as part of its service.” Torbay Council said the library service intended to contact all current mobile library customers to see if an alternative form of provision would be appropriate to “ensure their reading needs could be met”. George Jones, one of the mobile library users described the proposals as “absolutely ridiculous. We rely on the service”. 700 people use service.