Archive for July, 2016

A communist approach to libraries? It’s falling short.

Editorial

Another mixed bag of news, with the continuing theme of councils – and proxy trusts – cutting down library services. It’s good to see Haringey bucking the trend with an upgraded library, though.  And it’s clear that a few councils have either backed down in a couple of cases because of unforeseen (and, really, in 2016, there’s no excuse not to foresee it) public pressure or because they never intended to put in such deep cuts in the first place and want to be seen as listening to the electorate.  The most interesting article I’ve read is that by Leon who points out that the new libraries minister is going to continue a hands-off approach, with an emphasis on facing further cuts to budgets by either alternative governance models (e.g trusts) or by replacing paid staff with volunteers. It will be up to campaigners to limit the damage inflicted to the service – which Frank Cottrell Boyce rightly lauds – anyway they can, with compromises sometimes being necessary.

I’m not sure if I have mentioned this before but I do find it ironic, almost amusing, that  right-wing Government is pushing for people to no longer being paid for labour but rather to work free for the good of all. It’s also quite interesting to note that it’s often those in the most prosperous areas that are willing to do it.  I’m not sure that many Conservative voters in Buckinghamshire realise that they’re inching closer to the Communist Manifesto by volunteering to keep their library open but it gives me a wry smile.  Perhaps Lenin mentioned Austerity a lot in the 1920s too. Anyway, up the revolution, my Tory (and many Labour: although – double irony – fewer Corbynista) friends. I guess.

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Take advantage of Love To Read

Editorial

More details on the BBC “Love To Read” promotion ae emerging.  The BBC tend not to do anything by halves, as I discovered when I was lucky enough to experience a children’s book promotion at the Library of Birmingham a couple of weeks ago, which featured hordes of people, Blue Peter and top league authors. So this is going to be a good thing for reading and, by extension, libraries. Take full advantage.  Other than that, it’s fairly quiet today in the UK, with a reduction in hours in Shropshire and a move of library in Staffordshire. Abroad, the article on a “secret” Syraina library is the stand out, showing how – when it comes down to it – libraries are actually pretty essential to people’s lives, especially when they have so little else.

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The first letter: New Libraries Minister speaks

Editorial

The new libraries minister has spoken, showing an interest in the field and an awareness of the Taskforce, amongst other things. He points out that his interest in volunteering has a bearing in libraries, which will be seen as a bad omen by many (especially paid staff) but he does single out young volunteers, which suggests he’s thinking more in terms of Reading Hacks.  It’s a good thing he has already had at least one meeting with public libraries people, anyway.

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Well, that’s not subtle: the new libraries minister is also minister for volunteers

Editorial

Rather confusingly, there is a new libraries minister.  It turns out that Matt Hancock, who has taken over most of the outgoing minister, Ed Vaizey’s, responsibilities, will not have the public library brief as well.  That honour goes to Rob Wilson MP who, rather delightfully, is also an MP for Reading. Less happily, his other duties are all about boosting volunteers and non-profits.  That may give a rather blatant pointer to where he will be standing on some of the key issues in libraries: it’s hard to see him coming out against increasing volunteers at the expense of paid staff in libraries when his other role is all about increasing them.  In addition, his own constituency is seeing some fairly major cuts to libraries.

The big news, other than this, is the big reduction to libraries announced in Derby.  Normally, before, the Central Library has been the branch most likely to be considered safe, with it being kept much the same as before while the poor branch libraries bear the brunt.  Not so in Derby.  There, it is specifically Central that will close, along with a massive 11 of the other 13, in order to cut costs. So that will keep a bare minimum of library provision in that city.  But don’t expect out new libraries minister to protest: after all, most of those others will be going to volunteers.

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Chris Riddell (L), Ed Vaizey (C - discovering he's the same height as a Twit, honestly) and Sue Williamson at the official Big Friendly Read launch.

Goodbye Ed Vaizey

Editorial

So Ed Vaizey is no longer libraries minister.  Readers of Public Libraries News will know what he has done, and what he hasn’t, for public libraries in the six years he has been in charge. Before being in power, he stridently called for interventions in libraries but when he was in power, he did not intervene effectively – other than nodding through deep cuts – in a single one. A nice enough chap, even charming I understand, he was perhaps constrained by his background, his ideology, notably that of localism and austerity, and by his colleagues in doing anything more.  Certainly, the Sieghart Review and the Taskforce are welcome, although they However, claiming that libraries were thriving when they self-evidently were not and calling in question the number of closures and depth of cuts when the evidence was there was all to see was, I suspect, all him. Or is it? We will see with his replacement, who has already claimed on Twitter to be a supporter of libraries has a similar relationship with cold hard. politically uncomforable, facts.

In other news, I’ve been following news of Pokémon Go visits to libraries throughout the country and many library services have not been slow in taking advantage, at least in social media. That’s all great to see, as are all the wonderful pictures of children joining the Big Friendly Read.

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Swindon: Campaigners were out in force to show their support for Swindon's libraries ahead of a full council meeting

Wifi, digital inclusion, NHS public libraries and a new Culture Secretary

Editorial

A couple of useful reports on public libraries – one on wifi and one on digital inclusion – to have a read through in this post. Arts Council England have also announced that the procedure for libraries to apply for their grants will soon change. In addition, there’s the amazing news that a Friend’s group in Suffolk has raised £30k for its library.  That’s a lot for a support group but, of course, small scale for a council but, if the council does not have any money …  There’s also an interesting article about the NHS in Staffordshire (there’s more info here by the way).

Speaking of Staffs, the new Culture Secretary comes from around there and has had some dealing with libraries in the past, speaking warmly of coffee mornings and attending the transfer of Werrington Library to a wellbeing centre, staffed by volunteers, So, she has at least shown an interest but, unsurprisingly, is of the same camp as other Conservatives on the way forward for libraries in these difficult times. By the way, Ed Vaizey has, at time of writing, not been promoted (or demoted) as far as I can see but is now a member of the privy council so will now be called “The Right Honourable”.

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11 million books for 5p per day, plus free internet access? It's a no-brainer, Wales

The increasingly ironically named Reading, Ealing’s Primark Library … and Pokémon Go

Editorial

Some pretty major cuts to libraries have been announced, with two things in common.  One is that they blame central government cuts. The other is that a big thing is made of the council not actually cutting more, often pointing out other authorities are doing even worse things to the people’s chances of equal access to information and literacy.  Ealing – the one that’s halving the size of its central library and selling 87,000 of its books – even says it’s proud it is not being even more savage.  So, these councils should be grateful to the seriously malicious library cutters, such as the recent Swindon, who make such a defence possible. Meanwhile, in the afore-mentioned Swindon, a member of the public – not even a public official – is straight-faced calling the cuts a new opportunity for community empowerment.  Doublethink appears to have won the argument.

But fear not, for a possible library saviour is coming across the horizon, and he may be yellow with a spiky tail.  Pokémon Go, when it gets here, is apparently quite keen on making public libraries centres … so expect lots of young people coming on to the premises looking everywhere with their mobile phones. And, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, find out, and work out how to make the most of it.

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Poem and illustration by @duddledum

Trusts cost more; co-locations, New York success and libraries meet UN targets

Editorial

A fair few changes over the last few days, with a fair bit being positive, mixed in with the normal depression.  Interestingly, Wrexham has decided to buck the general trend towards moving to Trusts, with their research showing it would cost £200k more per year to move to that model. Away from the UK, there’s a story from the USA about how libraries are thriving once more due to a revival in investment and there’s a report from IFLA on how libraries are able to meet every single one of the UN targets.

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The Big Friendly Success: Here comes the Summer Reading Challenge 2016

Editorial

It’s my favourite time of the year. No, not Christmas and not my birthday, or (ahem) my wedding anniversary but the start of the Summer Reading Challenge.  I love doing school assemblies promoting it and I’ve already had two whole junior school’s worth of children chanting “B F R”.  It’s the little things in life I enjoy.  And the impact that this has is lasting. I was in Asda the other week and a young man (16?) shouted “It’s Ian” and came up to talk to me.  Turns out he remembers the school assembly I did at this school six or seven years ago when I got them all chanting “Space Hop” (my assemblies don’t change that much) and was keen to tell me how he was doing and how he was going on to study further.  There’s a man who has a very positive association in his mind with libraries and an experience that is being repeated in its thousands up and down the country at the moment. So here’s to all the libraries, all the teachers and above all, all the children and parents who will make the Summer the busiest time of the year for libraries again this year. Long may it continue.

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