Editorial

The DCMS has released the latest (2013) reports showing how well each library authority are doing compared to the others.  This was a flagship (in so far as anything libraries-related Ed Vaizey does can be so called) policy last year and it is intended to allow anyone to hold their authority to account.  It is also intended to show who are the most successful councils which the others can then copy.  Sadly, there wasn’t much evidence of this happening last year: or at least it didn’t hit the newspapers. I was looking for mentions and there were barely any.  More could doubtless have been made of the data but the minister, in his wisdom (presumably the DCMS is so cash strapped it needs the money too?) has decided to charge £475 (plus VAT, naturally) to each authority if it wants the fully accessible works.  One could see that as shooting one’s own policy in the foot a little as, on the one hand, Ed is keen to show how open the data is but, on the other hand, £570 is too much for many to actually go the whole hog and actually use it.

This year, the cracks are starting to show even further.  It is entirely voluntary whether library services send in the data that the reports depend on. Unsurprisingly, it looks like 10 out of the 151 have simply refused to do so this year.  It’s impossible to tell why (budget cuts meaning there’s no staff to send in the information? A desire not to be embarrassed? The suspicion no one actually uses it?) but the mere fact that it’s not comprehensive limits its usefulness. Even worse it has, as of checking now, only 78 authorities actually on the list: one hopes the omission of the others are only temporary. In fact, this half-baked launch is inadvertently demonstrating the very weakness of Vaizey’s own approach – making things voluntary means the loss of the comprehensive and efficient and cutting staff to the bone means things don’t go right. How ironic, Mr Vaizey.

Changes

News

  • Grayling’s book ban: Prisoners should be encouraged to read more, not less – Independent. “Thanks to Frances Crook, the chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, the draconian restrictions have shot to public attention, and the best part of 10,000 people – including well-known authors from Philip Pullman to Linda Grant – have signed a petition calling for their immediate retraction.” … “Access to books ought to be an inalienable right in any civilised society”. See also Ministers defend ban on sending books to prisoners in England and Wales – Guardian and Grayling Ban on Books in Prison – Voices for the Library.”Voices for the Library strongly oppose this decision. This move to view the prison system as wholly punitive in ethos rather than as serving also as rehabilitative and restorative is short-sighted and counter to the ethos of prison libraries and those who work in them.”
  • Library comparison reports published – DCMS. “We have commissioned a comprehensive set of benchmarking reports, for a second year running, which are published today.  The reports, produced by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) will help library authorities ensure they are delivering a good level of service and review any areas for improvement.” Highly detailed reports but only 78 out of 151 included.

“We want all our library services to be the best they can, and this set of new and detailed reports will allow local authorities to identify areas for improvement and also look at what other places are doing in terms of service and good practice. Using the information will allow for better services for all library users and those responsible for running them” Ed Vaizey, Culture Minister.

  • Our Submission to Sieghart – Common Futures. Option to download full submission.  “In our submission, then, we stated that the core principles and organisation of a public library service in future should be: Third Spaces – locally rooted social capital factories, accessible to and welcoming of all, that bridge the online/offline divide and encourage literacy as well as STEAM skills development to nurture contemporary creative endeavour: Read/Write Oriented – facilitating the consumption, production and re-mixing of information, knowledge and know-how (including, data): A National Library Service underpinned by an Open, Enabling ICT Infrastructure – to facilitate access to information, knowledge and know-how on an anytime/anywhere basis: Enterprising Local-by-Default Library Services responsive to User Needs and Interests – to nurture digital inclusion as well as access to/production and re-mixing of information, knowledge and know-how in a trusted and supportive environment: A Locus for Citizen Interaction with Contemporary Culture, Public Services, Community Activities, Open Government and E-Democracy.”

International

  • Monica Dullard Public Libraries are Shhh… Hot – Melbourne International Comedy Festival (Australia). “If you think there’s nothing funny about libraries, well this show will completely change your mind! Enjoy a hilarious peep inside the covers and meet the characters on either side of the information desk, who inhabit our lovable public libraries. Library staff and borrowers alike will love this hot new comedy!”
  •  – Gigaom. “The library is partnering with New York-based startup Zola Books to offer algorithm-based recommendations to readers. The technology comes from Bookish, the book discovery site that Zola acquired earlier this year. Until now, the NYPL website had offered book recommendations based on titles other readers were checking out, reviewing or rating, rather than gearing recommendations toward a patron’s own searches or interests. With the Bookish partnership, the recommendations will be based on the content of a book itself.”
  • Slide Show: American Public Libraries Great and Small – New Yorker (USA). “In the course of eighteen years, beginning in 1994, the California-based photographer Robert Dawson took pictures of hundreds of public libraries across the United States. The results are collected in his new book, “The Public Library: A Photographic Essay,” to be released next month.”.  Includes pictures of 12 libraries (one closed, one built by slaves).

Events

  • CILIPS annual conference – 2nd/3rd June in Dundee. “The conference has some excellent keynote speakers: • Martyn Evans, Chief Executive of Carnegie UK opening the conference and discussing ‘Challenges, Choices and Opportunities'; • Iain Macwhirter, writer and broadcaster speaking about ‘impartiality in information provision in the independence debate'; • Rolf Hapel, Director of the ground breaking Aarhus Libraries speaking about ‘rethinking the public library'; • Ben Showers, Head of Library Futures at JISC looking at a digital future for libraries.”

Local news by authority

  • Brent – Campaigners offered space in Kensal Rise library building – BookSeller. “The Friends of Kensal Rise Library look set to be running a community library on the ground floor of their original library building, after coming to an agreement with the building’s owner and developer. The new agreement means that the Friends group will support the proposed re-development of the building into flats, but will have provision for two-thirds of the building’s ground floor to be used as a community library.” but with some caveats.
  • Carillion / Croydon – What next for Croydon libraries? – Croydon Citizen. “Following the publicity in the local press about Carillion, the purpose of the meeting was to find out direct from its representatives what plans they have for Croydon’s libraries and Norbury Library in particular. Neil Simpson and Elaine Collier, from its not-for-profit subsidiary CCS which runs the library contract, explained the company’s structure and experience. They evidently have a very experienced team, most of whom have been librarians. Collier has a respected librarianship background. As reported in the press there have been redundancies – none compulsory, all voluntary.” … “Volunteers will only be used to enhance the service and give added value. They would never replace staff, as a not-for-profit CCS is able to apply for grants and other available funding.” … “Given that Carillion runs the library service through its not-for-profit subsidiary, Labour needs to be clear why this is not acceptable if Carillion derives no financial profit.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Staff face job losses as council announces library closures – Chester Chronicle. ” the Localities Directorate, in charge of libraries, must make £8m savings towards bridging the authority’s £49m funding gap over the next three years. A leaked confidential council document shows 32.47 full time equivalent (FTE) posts will be lost, including 12.25 FTE librarians, but new posts will also be created, resulting in a net loss of 16.43 FTE posts.” … “Elton and Willaston libraries will be closed and replaced with a mobile library although the number of mobile library vehicles is being reduced from two to one. Bishops’ High School library will no longer be open to the public.” … ““A cull of librarians – signals the end of the service as we know it.”.  Council says ““Inevitably there will be fewer staff at larger libraries and work patterns will in some cases have to change so that busy times are catered for. However, there is no reason to suppose that it will be impossible to deliver children’s story times or indeed specialised events with the support of other services, organisations, and possibly volunteers.”
  • Cornwall – Penryn residents upset as library opening hours cut – Falmouth Packet. “Residents of Penryn, including library customers and community groups who use the library, are angered by what they see as needless change, which has gone ahead without any public consultation. While recognising that financial constraints may necessitate cuts in hours, they the council could have made a better choice of which days to change, and should have consulted with the public.”
  • Newcastle – Four Newcastle libraries to reopen – BookSeller. “Newcastle City Council closed 10 of its 18 libraries amid protests. However, Fenham Library reopened this weekend under a new partnership deal with Your Homes Newscastle, an arms-length management company which manages thousands of council houses in the city. Three other libraries are set to reopen soon under a deal agreed between the council and Newcastle College.”
  • North Yorkshire – Drastic cuts: council to face its ‘biggest challenge’ – Harrogate Advertiser. “Libraries, bus services, and children’s centres are to face the full force of the change, with many across the Harrogate district to be axed or completely overhauled. An army of volunteers will be needed to fill the breach, the authority has cautioned, calling on communities to ‘step-forward’ instead in these tough times of austerity.” … “NYCC currently runs 35 libraries in North Yorkshire, including Harrogate, Ripon, Bedale, Pateley Bridge, Starbeck, Sherburn and Tadcaster. A further seven – including Bilton and Woodfield Library, are ‘community-led’ and run by volunteers. The authority is now considering converting a further 23 of its 35 libraries – with the remainder to become hubs for community services.” See also Majority of North Yorks libraries could go to volunteers BookSeller.

“We can’t carry on with piecemeal, small-scale cuts. This is the biggest challenge in the authority’s 40-year history. We have got to have fundamental change. If the council funding is getting 34 per cent smaller, there is no way we can carry on with the services that we have done.” Richard Flinton, North Yorkshire Chief Executive.

  • Southampton – Library battlers fight for long-term pledge – Southern Daily Echo. Library campaigners “two 500-name petitions”. “They are demanding a guaranteed long-term future for Burgess Road Library amid fears it could fall victim to savage cuts. And they are also concerned over the future of Cobbett Road Library in Bitterne.”.  £100k extra money to temporarily reduce the level of cuts. “As part of the reprieve Burgess Road Library has seen its hours cut from 32 to 29 instead of the originally proposed 17.5.”.