As we all know, the United Kingdom once led the world in inventions and, perhaps not coincidentally, in manufacturing and some feel that public libraries can help see those days come back.  A big statement? Not according to Charles Vulliamy who emailed me from the USA. about something that, probably because of lack of investment is largely being ignored in the UK but appears to be taking the US library world by storm.  This something is Maker Spaces. Or Fab Labs or Hack Spaces or even Maker Faires: they’re all basically the same thing, with the difference in terminology showing how new and exciting it all is. It all boils down to a public  space (not necessarily a big one) being aside for computer design, programming, 3D printers and other such small things. The White House has just announced its own Maker Faire and library after library in the US (notably Chattanooga and now Toronto and Chicago) are getting on board.

“It’s certainly the case that the UK needs better tech education.. A makerspace in every other town would create a kind of mini Menlo Park in each community, which would create a good number of people with the kind of hacker mentality that gives great benefit to technology and industry at large.  I recently read that the main reason why the industrial revolution started in the UK was because there were so many hacker-types who each engineered incremental improvements to the machines that, collectively, enabled the scale of production that occurred. ” Charles Vulliamy

The idea is that future inventors, programmers, engineers and anyone interested can come along, learn more about the technology and work together.  The hope is that such a thing will provide the new skills vital to win the global competitive race.  The fear is that the UK is going to be left behind.  To see how far behind we are, have a look at these pages on the current UK position compared to that abroad. I noted the other day that the plans for the refurbished Exeter Library will include a Fab Lab and just yesterday that Northamptonshire have coding clubs but there could be so much more. This depends on political will and the push of professionals to make it so.  Perhaps it can be a national offer like books or information or online access.  I think it should. I for one am tired of tired libraries.  I’m tired of a tired country with declining industry and declining skills.  Perhaps it’s time to think big … by thinking small.




  • Bookseller Industry Awards – BookSeller. “Welcome to The Bookseller Industry Awards – the ultimate accolade for companies and individuals doing the best work in the book trade. As change starts to apply pressure to the traditional connections between publishers, agents, retailers and libraries, the Awards provide a welcome shared platform to celebrate success.” inc. Library of the Year.
  • HC UK makes all e-books available for library loan – BookSeller. “All of HarperCollins’ titles are now available in e-book and audiobook format for libraries in the UK via digital library supplier OverDrive. Good EReader reported that the terms for the titles are the same as they are in the US – each copy can be lent out 26 times before its license expires and it has to be ordered again.”
  • Lesley Pearse: Why I love libraries – We love this book. “As I hold my latest book,Survivor, in my hands, I marvel that it is the 22nd book I have written. And it all began with a library ticket.” … “Lesley Pearse on how libraries paved the way to her career as a best-selling author”

  • Magic of libraries – “A journey to the library through a world of books. There are at least 10 book references to spot. Can you see them all?” … “This is a short film commissioned by Time To Read. Inspired by the imagination books bring to our everyday life. Librarians in the North West have pioneered partnership working to encourage new readers into libraries. Time To Read is a partnership of librarians engaged in reader development activity in public library authorities in the North West Region. To find out more please visit: time-to-read.co.uk Or contact Jane Mathieson:  j.mathieson@manchester.gov.uk”
  • New chapter: February 2014 – Carnegie UK Trust. “Our Enterprising Librariesprogramme, not to be confused with the Arts Council of England programme of the same name, is working with our four partners in England and Wales to explore the potential of public libraries to support and promote economic wellbeing. Ben Lee of Shared Intelligence is providing the evaluation of this work, and with Ben’s support the four case studies form an emerging community of interesting and innovative practice. We will be publishing a short leaflet outlining the four case studies, in Gateshead Library, Neath Port Talbot, Northamptonshire and the Waiting Room at St Botolph’s in Colchester very soon.” [I also like the line ” Public Libraries News continues to be a fantastically useful resource for keeping up to date with debate and news” – Ed.]
  • ‘Third spaces’ offer flexible solution for working on the move – Guardian / Smarter working hub. “Many libraries across the country offer Wi-Fi for business people on the move and so it is always worth checking online before travelling to the next client meeting.”


  • Buckeye Library manager wins national award for after-school program for teens – Cleveland (USA). “”We are really a family. … I feel the library stepped up when our community was letting us down,” he wrote in his nomination. “I am so grateful for my five years of after-school fun, enrichment and guidance that I got from Holly and the Buckeye Library.” Camino said the staff quickly realized that they needed to figure something out for the teens when the busing cutbacks began. Many kids were finding their way over to the library from the schools across Wolff Road, and parents were happy that they had somewhere to stay until they could be picked up to go home. “They just found their way here,” Camino said. “They see us as a safe place in the community. The kids need someplace to go.”” … “The staff isn’t large enough to provide organized activities every day, so they started Teen Territory on Wednesdays, offering arts and crafts, video game tournaments, ping pong tournaments and other fun group activities. About a year ago, Camino added the Volunteen program, in which the kids do service projects for the Medina County District Library Outreach program and other agencies in the community. The teens make holiday cards and help with the Snuggle Up and Read program, which provides pajamas and books for children through United Way.”
  • Golden opportunity for public libraries to meet digital needs of women – Open Source (USA). “Women use the Internet 17% more than their male counterparts yet are underrepresented in programming and open source. Public libraries (and public schools) have a critical role to play with improving the dearth of diversity in coding and open source.” … “Public libraries, though, often place restrictions on the use of their computer workstations and accessibility, and these restrictions may have a profound effect on the ability of women and/or youth to learn to code or become involved in open source.”

“Even if the public library lacks the funding to provide such open opportunities, they can still make a huge difference by offering meeting rooms or space for eager and motivated kids and/or women to learn about open source or code themselves. There are public libraries welcoming tweens to hold their own Minecraft clubs using their space; without using any funds from the public libraries and kids usually bring their own computers too.”

  • International Library Days – Naple Sister Libraries (EU). “Some time ago we were asking you if you a had a library day, library week or similar celebration in your countries. We got some answers that we have decided to post here today. You can see the unedited original answers here. We would like to have more answers….  Several countries listed with the date and what happens.
  • Toronto Public Library Launches First Ever Digital Innovation Hub – Toronto Public Library (Canada). “While the Digital Innovation Hub provides access to new technologies like 3D printers and scanners, Raspberry Pi computers, Arduino kits, high definition video cameras and audio mixers, it is also intended to be a collaborative space where people can connect and learn from each other. There will be meet-ups, speaker events, and free classes on everything from 3D design to computer programming.” … “Coming up in March, the Library will launch its inaugural Innovator In Residence program. For six weeks, the Innovator in Residence will offer classes, demonstrations, and appointments with library customers on 3D design and 3D printing projects.”
  • What is Bibliotherapy? – Dublin City (Eire). “This list is the final list of 42 core books that has been recommended for placement in all libraries in Ireland. This list may be added to by local services to meet the needs of the patients in any particular area.” [very similar too, and apparently modelled on, Books on Prescription – Ed.]

Local UK news by authority

  • Brent – Library fraud investigation dropped by police – Get West London. “Brent Council complied a report after it was alerted to potentially fraudulent emails sent in relation to a planning application for the former Kensal Rise library building and passed the information gathered on to police.” … ““It is bitterly disappointing that the police have chosen to ignore the evidence found in the council’s own inquiries and drop their investigation. When the future of the building affects hundreds of Brent residents and the entire Kensal Rise community, any issue of alleged fraud must surely be a priority in order to maintain the trust of local people. “
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Boost for Northwich job hunters – Cheshire Today. “Cheshire West and Chester Council has joined with partner organisations to roll out an online job search system offering residents quick and efficient access to vacancies. The Kaonix system – which gives access to virtually all UK job vacancies – is available at community venues across Northwich and Winsford including libraries and Work Zones. It is free to use and jobseekers are given the support of a trained advisor to guide them through how to use the system and the registration process.”
  • Gloucestershire – Gloucestershire challenged to get online this month – Council. “People across Gloucestershire are being challenged to get online in February and March and try doing things the digital way, as part of the national Start Something Exciting campaign. Gloucestershire libraries are all UK Online centres and everyone working there firmly believes computers and the internet can make everyone’s life quicker, easier and better. It can even help you to get healthier!”
  • Isle of Wight – Council reveal list of buildings possibly up for disposal – On the Wight. “Seeing a number of ‘community’ libraries on the list may concern some readers, but be aware that disposal does not automatically mean the property will be sold on the open market. It also includes assets that may be disposed of via Community Asset Transfer.” …
  • North Yorkshire – £20m budget cuts agreed by council front bench – Press. ” North Yorkshire councillors have agreed a budget which could see council tax rise by 1.99 per cent and some libraries, children’s centres and recycling sites close.” … “The library service will be reviewed, with some libraries possibly closing unless communities take them over, and some children’s centres also face closure while a “significant” number of jobs will be lost.”
  • Nottingham – It’s more than just books on Saturday – Nottingham Post. “libraries celebrate National Library Day this Saturday. Visitors are being asked to call in and write about what they love most about libraries as well as take advantage of special offers. These include no fines to pay for overdue books returned that week and three-for-two on the cost of CD and DVD loans.”
  • Nottinghamshire – Last spin of the discs for libraries as CDs bite dust – Nottingham Post. “Digital downloads and live web streaming have sounded the death knell for CDs in Notts libraries. The number of loans of music CDs have plummeted by 97 per cent since 2003 to around 4,000 loans annually. Now, Notts County Council is set to press the eject button and sell off its stock of 7,332 compact discs. A decision to phase them out of libraries across the county from April is set to be confirmed today.”
  • Shropshire – Shrewsbury festival group sad at library funding crisis – Shropshire Star. “Officials from Shrewsbury Children’s Bookfest said demand for creative reading schemes is higher than ever in the county. But they claimed to have experienced a “very short-sighted approach” from Shropshire Council after asking local libraries to help promote one of their ongoing projects, and being told it would not be possible. Shropshire Council is beginning a review of its 22 libraries in a bid to save £1.3 million, with some branches possibly facing closure.”

“Concerns about the potential closures have also been raised by John Waine, director of the Oswestry LitFest. He said: “As a literary festival, we have worked a lot with Oswestry Library. We have seen the benefits of a strong library to the whole community. A library can be a kind of glue for a community. “The council has some really tough decisions, but losing any library would be a real shame.””

  • Southwark – Doing it by the book: Peckham Platform’s new era of independence – New AN. “Peckham Platform launches its new vision as an independent charity with the opening of Ruth Beale’s participatory installation, Bookbed. We talk to the artist and the organisation’s executive director Emily Druiff about libraries, socially-engaged practice and being a creative educational platform.”

“The more I hang out in public libraries, the more I become enthusiastic about them because of the different ways people use them,” says artist Ruth Beale. “I’ve wanted to make a ‘bookbed’ for ages, so for me that was a starting point. I’m so happy with it.”

  • Suffolk – Customer survey reveals satisfaction with Suffolk’s library service – Suffolk Libraries (press release). “A customer survey was carried out in November and December last year. The results show that people are still feeling positive about the service with the majority of people saying they felt there had been no difference in the library service or that it has even got better, despite recent changes. Over 1,500 people completed the survey from across the county and some of the key facts and figures are highlighted below: – 92% of people said library staff were excellent or very good. – 86% said the choice of books in the library was good, very good or excellent – Nearly 60% of people said they visited their library at least once a week and 28% visited once a month – Although the traditional use of libraries is constantly changing as the service develops, 93% of people who responded said they still used the library for borrowing books. The range of other services and options was also reflected including 7% of people saying they accessed ebooks, 18.7% of people using the free internet, 27% visiting for information and research and 17% taking part in regular activities for themselves or their children.”

“When asked if they had noticed any difference in the library service over the past year, 53.8% said it was about the same, 39.4% said it had got better and only 6.8% felt it had got worse” Survey

“The support and passion that ensured that all our libraries remained open has carried forward and although we are not complacent and there is still work to do, it cannot be underestimated how positive the position in Suffolk is compared to many other library services across the country. We are very grateful for this feedback and for the many helpful and constructive comments which we have received.” Tony Brown, Chair of Suffolk Libraries’ Board

  • Swindon – Library tells a different tale with lick of paint – Swindon Advertiser. “Liden Library has received a fresh lick of paint and had a mural installed after more than 15 years.” [15 years without decorations is sadly not unusual in many public libraries – anyone think they know a library which hasn’t been painted in more than 15 years? – Ed.]
  • Westminster – New £12m Marylebone library approved – Designing Libraries. Some good pictures of the planned new library and a description.
  • Wiltshire – Speed dating…in a library – This is Wiltshire. “The Regent Circus library is holding its first ever speed dating evening on Valentine’s Day between 7.15pm and 8.45pm to offer an alternative to the more traditional matchmaking venues such as bars or clubs. Speed dating in libraries first started out in Belgium and has become a regular activity in US libraries. Individuals will be encouraged to bring their favourite book, CD or DVD to act as the perfect ice breaker.”
  • Wrexham – Group Established To Save Gresford Library – Wrexham.com. “At the meeting a committee of a dozen local people was set up to look at ways of running the service and they will meet on February 11th. They will explore successful library trusts, how such an organisation can save money and potential locations including the present site.”