Legal action is being launched in Lincolnshire against the library cuts there.  There are four different grounds for a request for a judicial review.  Having followed this story from the beginning, I have been impressed by the hard work put in by the campaigners but, frankly, unimpressed by the work put in by the Council. We’ll see how it goes.

This is a weird time when there is a national push for libraries to provide services for businesses while simultaneously budget cuts elsewhere mean many libraries have less and less business resources.  I was therefore curious when contacted by Sophie Robertson of the City Business Library.  With the admittedly massive advantage of being in the City of London itself, this appears to be a thriving enterprise (check out its events webpage) … and it is also apparently the only stand-alone Business Library operating in the whole of the UK public library scene.  So I asked her a few questions which are printed with her replies below. From my point of view, it shows how diverse and excellent public libraries can be but also how much further the country has to go in order to spread such services out to all areas and not just Central London.



The City Business Library

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A busy business library: one of the very many events put on at the City Business Library

Would you be able to let me know how and when the library came about?

The City Business Library is financed by the City of London Corporation and originally began as a commercial reading room in the Guildhall Library, in the 19th Century A separate business library was then established in the 1970s. We have been at our current location in the Guildhall since late 2009.

Do you have income and is this a significant part of your costs?

The library is funded by the City of London Corporation, and supports the Corporation’s aims of helping the City’s SMEs and start-ups. Increasingly the library needs to generate income to supplement its funding. The events programme helps generate income, as well as room hire. The library has training rooms available for hire in the daytime, and for evening events the entire library can be hired.

How many staff do you have?

There are currently 10 members of staff. The Enquiries Desk is only staffed by professional librarians with an excellent business background.

How many enquiries do you get per year from how many enquiries?

Roughly 55,000 people visit City Business Library  per year to either use our facilities or attend a workshop.

If you had to sum up the library in one sentence what would it be?

The City Business Library is the only public library specialising in business information  in the UK –  no membership is required, specialist business information resources are available free of charge; a wide variety of seminars are held; it’s a quiet space to work in the heart of the City.

“The City Business Library is the only public library specialising in business information. Its long established services have evolved in recent years, to incorporate an extensive programme of seminars, workshops and networking events each month, mostly free or some are up to £5. The library’s inspiring location (it is based in the Guildhall, in the heart of the City of London) draws a wide variety of “blue-chip” speakers who volunteer their time. Business support agencies such as Start Up Loans, PRIME, GLE and NatWest Business Academy also frequently work with the library to host seminars and workshops.

The fifty or so events run at the library each month are varied; they include business start-up topics, health and wellbeing seminars and events supporting job seekers. This programme has served as an important way to attract new audiences to the City Business Library. People looking to start a business, sole traders and SMEs now make up the majority of users, alongside the traditional user groups of job seekers, business students and City firms. The events programme continues to develop, with new speakers each month, and fresh themes such as social media workshops and international trade seminars. It helps spread the word that this unique library exists and is open to anyone, whether you are based in London or nationwide. If this is something you are considering offering in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact us as we would be happy to give advice and assistance. For more information, visit the website; www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/cbl, call 020 7332 1812 or email:cbl@cityoflondon.gov.uk.” Sophie Robertson

National news

  • Calling all librarians! Your chance to meet Neil Gaiman: librarians’ competition now open – Reading Agency (press release). “The Reading Agency and publishers Headline are offering libraries promotional packs to display in April, encouraging readers to explore Neil Gaiman’s backlist. Librarians everywhere are also being invited to enter a special competition to write an introduction to the guide to ‘Neil Gaiman’s fictional universe’ which will form part of these promotional packs. Headline and The Reading Agency are looking for Neil Gaiman’s biggest UK librarian fan to write this introduction, and are offering as prizes a £250 limited edition signed copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane and a chance to meet the man himself. Entries should be 800 words maximum and should focus on Neil Gaiman’s fiction for adults.  To enter the competition, please send your introduction, by 28 February, to: competitions@readingagency.org.ukFurther information about this competition, and the Neil Gaiman promotional packs, can be found here.                                         
  • Dispelling library misconceptions on #NLD14 – Reading Agency. A collection of videos, quotes and pictures from all around the UK to show the diverse work libraries are involved in.  “Today is National Libraries Day, a day when library users and librarians celebrate everything they love about libraries. At The Reading Agency, we know there are a lot a damaging misconceptions around about libraries. We asked librarians and ourtwitter followers to suggest some which needed dispelling and the top 5 were: Libraries are boring, Libraries are irrelevant in the modern age, Libraries are old fashioned, You have to be quiet in a library, You have to pay to join or borrow from the library. Here’s what you sent us to help dispel these misconceptions…”
  • Get stuck in – BookSeller. “The Public Library Service faces another year long review, just at the moment when councils are threatening to close hundreds of community libraries if they are not taken over by local volunteers.” … “The public library service does not need yet another review or report. What it does need is a well developed strategic framework with a vision for a modern public library service that serves the diverse needs of the millions of people who rely upon and need libraries. It needs a framework that: Establishes a library development agency to support authorities and to provide effective leadership: Encourages the 151 separately managed authorities in England alone to share and merge their services: Optimises the use of technology to improve efficiency and standardisation: Removes unnecessary duplication and cost: Implements a national e lending service which removes the need for 151 authorities to separately get their act together: Ensures that any volunteer run libraries are properly supported by professional staff and any potential legal, regulatory and operational hurdles are resolved: Enables the public library service to support and promote literacy (including digital), reading, education and the acquisition of information and knowledge: Creates a viable public library service that supports the changing needs of today’s society”
  • Libraries are not boring: a short story for #NLD14 – Reading Agency. “To mark National Libraries Day 2014 we decided to run a social media campaign to help dispel some common misconceptions about libraries. We asked authors, Reading Activists and members of the public to send us photos, poems or short stories showing how libraries are NOT boring, irrelevant, old fashioned, quiet or expensive to join. Coral sent us this short story about a librarian showing a young person that libraries are definitely not boring…”
  • No one seems interested in feeding the minds of the young people – Voices for the Library. “The following guest post, written by Annie Creswick-Dawson, comments on the current situation of Birmingham’s Bloomsbury Library in Nechells. Nechells is a ‘deprived’ area of Birmingham where the Bloomsbury Library provided a study space, community room and library facilities.  Refurbished in the 1990s, it had deteriorated by 2013 and there were urgent repairs required for which funding had been agreed. However, at the last minute the funding was withdrawn. Following the theft of lead from the roof, the building was so badly damaged by heavy rainfall that neither the heating nor the lift could function and in October the Library was closed.  Although there had been an arrangement with a nearby community centre for temporary services to be run there during the repairs, the library service has so far been unable to provide any alternative service there. It is not yet even providing the service of a library van which they ’hope’ to provide once a week.”

“Primary Research Group Inc., (www.PrimaryResearch.com) publisher of research reports and surveys about libraries, is surveying library use of QR codes. The international study is open to public, academic and special libraries of all nations. The study is only open to libraries that have already used QR codes, even if in a very minimal way. Survey participants receive a free copy of the final report generated from the survey data. The institutional name of participants is listed but responses are aggregated or not attributed to particular respondents. To take the survey follow the link below: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LibraryUseofQR-Codes” Post on lis-pub-libs

UK local news by authority

  • Derbyshire – Young folk urged to have their say on Derbyshire County Council libraries – Ilkeston Advertiser. “Library visitors aged up to 16 will be invited to fill in a short survey between Monday 10th until Saturday 22nd February. The results will help the council to shape its library services for young people.”
  • Herefordshire – Importance of libraries celebtated across the county: video – Ledbury Reporter.  A whole ” lot of love was shown towards the county’s libraries at the weekend as the book-lending service faces up to financial cuts. National Libraries Day came just two weeks after Herefordshire Council’s cabinet approved a second round of cost cutting measures that could see more volunteers taking on the roles from the book professionals. And so there was understandably mixed feelings for many of those attending the county’s many libraries on Saturday.”
  • Kent – Minister Ed Vaizey picks Deal library as the place to be on National Library Day – Kent Online. “Government Minister Ed Vaizey dropped into Deal library at the weekend to mark National Library Day. The minister for culture, communications and creative industries and chose the recently refurbished library, in Broad Street. In 2011 the library was given a £645,000 refit, including a seating area with coffee machine, district council help desk, rooms which can be used by community groups and an area for children’s books and computers.” … “Now council services are available from libraries, and registrations of births and deaths can be recorded as well. Cath Anley, head of libraries, registration and archives at Kent County Council, believes this is a successful way of encouraging use of a central public resource. “Every child has to use a library in terms of registration, and when they leave every child receives a library pack,” she said. “Registration is working really well for us.””
  • Lincolnshire – Campaigners request judicial review over Lincolnshire library cuts – Lincolnite. “Under the proposals, 30 libraries will become community-run libraries, plus in some areas community hubs will be created where no library resources presently exist. Over 100 jobs would be lost in the process.”
  • Lincolnshire – High Court proceedings begun challenging the decision by Lincolnshire County Council to cut Library Services – Save Lincolnshire Libraries. “On Friday 31st January papers were sent to Lincolnshire County Council setting out details of a request for a Judicial Review, in the High Court, of the County Council’s decision on 3rd December 2013 to reduce its statutory Library Service. The claim was filed in the High Court, London, on Wednesday 29th January 2014.”

“First, that the consultation that preceded the decision was unlawful in that decisions had already been taken before the consultation began. The second reason is that the Council failed to take due regard of its obligations under the Public Sector Equality Duty as required by the Equality Act 2010. The Council had already identified that disabled people, older people, young people and women (particularly mothers of young children), were going to be hit by their plans but failed to ensure that the harm this was going to cause was prevented. In addition, it is claimed the Council failed to properly consider the proposal by Greenwich Leisure, a charitable social enterprise, to take over the whole Library Service whilst largely maintaining the library network. The fourth ground is that, if the cuts go ahead, the County Council Library Service will no longer be a comprehensive and efficient library service, as required by the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964.” Reasons for the legal action against Lincolnshire County Council

  • Sheffield – All Sheffield libraries could stay open with new cash deal – Star. “Sheffield Council today said each of those libraries now had a business plan outlining how it could be run by volunteers – but that they had called for funding to help. Groups would be able to ‘bid’ for money – to help pay for running costs such as heating and lighting, volunteer training and IT security – for up to three years. The money would come from public health funds. The plans are to be decided at a council cabinet meeting next Wednesday February 19.”
  • Sheffield – Closure threatened libraries get lifeline – ITV. Two minute video report.  “Plans to cut funding to over half of the city’s libraries were announced last year sparking widespread protests. The council said it needed to save £1.6 million from the library budget because of Government cuts. But now more money has been found. Martin Fisher is at the council to explain what’s happened.”
  • Sheffield – Council reveals all libraries could be on track to remain open  – Council. “The council last year announced proposals to keep 12 key libraries, including Central Library, running, with Tinsley remaining as a council library for the next two years. A further five were proposed as community-led co-delivered libraries with the rest to become independent libraries. The rest were able to stay open provided groups came forward with business plans to run them independently. Today Council leaders are also revealing that each of these libraries in the city now has a business plan outlining how it could be run by volunteers, which the council has supported with help and advice. “
  • Sheffield – We hope it’s not the final chapter – Star. “Hundreds of people took part in The Big Shhh! online campaign by posing for pictures with one finger to their lips to highlight their fight to keep libraries open. And more enjoyed a shelf-full of activities, from children’s storytelling sessions and displays of old photographs to writing workshops, to mark National Libraries Day on Saturday.”
  • Westminster – A-Z of Westminster Libraries – Westminster Libraries. “If you follow @WCCLibraries on Twitter, you may well have seen some of our tweets in honour of National Libraries Day on Saturday. Alongside our Triborough partners@RBKCLibraries and @LBHFLibraries, we tweeted an ‘A-Z of Libraries’ – a selection of things, such as Q for Quiet and G for Graphic Novels, that are on offer from your library service.” The idea was inspired by an ongoing list put together by library campaigning organisation Voices for the Library, though we added our own slant and our own specialisms :-).”