Archive for November, 2016

No Ambition

Editorial

I was sorry to see deep cuts to Swindon confirmed, although with one fewer library loss than expected.  50 FTE job losses means, in the part-time dominated world of libraries, far more actual jobs lost than that, with families affected as well, a month before Christmas.  Moreover, it means two-thirds of all libraries in the borough being closed or passed to volunteers. Meanwhile, up in Redcar and Cleveland, branch closures (apart from the mobile) have been avoided but a loss of over 100 opening hours per week is still fairly major.

These reductions, repeated seemingly in every post, are serious enough to warrant urgent action but that’s the opposite of what we’re getting from the Government.  While the Ambition document waits yet more days/months/eons until it is finally published, the Taskforce has to wonder about its purpose in life.  To avoid it simply becoming known as the Blogforce, the Government needs to actually do something, at the very least allowing it to go in one direction. Minister, you’re employing these people, now use them, sort of thing. However, the tale of the last six years has been of general neglect of the sector even while deep cuts mean the service is diminished as ever before.  This lack of ambition for the sector by libraries ministers is shown by the continuing, well, lack of Ambition.

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The usage of the Summer Reading Challenge is down. Why?

Editorial

Three quarters of a million children undertook the Summer Reading Challenge (SRC) in the UK this year.  That’s a brilliant achievement for public libraries and cannot be understated. From direct personal experience, I know how well this promotion improves the reading of children over the holidays and, also, how much excitement my children gained from it. The theme was excellent and the promotional materials professionally produced (unlike so much so many libraries have to put up with) and benefitted from economies of scale.  In the two authorities I directly know about (neither of which experienced significant cuts last year), usage went up by over 10% and it was the most successful year ever in both library services.  So why the drop nationally? Well, the most obvious answer has to be the cuts to library services, as the quote from Lambeth below shows. If there are fewer libraries in an authority, fewer staff and fewer books then there’s going to be fewer users.  It’s not rocket science.  In addition, some library authorities have withdrawn from doing the SRC, which to my mind is a real shame. Oh, and by the way, overall library usage (especially in terms of book issues) is down year on year.

That’s not to say the SRC is perfect.  The biggest example is the need to buy year-specific medals each time that can cause real problems on limited budgets. Why? Because medals can only be bought months before the Challenge and they cannot be used the next year. So, one has to estimate numbers needed and hope you get the figures right. Buy too many and you’re wasting resources. Buy too few and suddenly the need to promote the SRC is replaced by panic that too many will complete, promotion is dialled back and, even, mad-dash searches for medals from other services or, even, shops, are made.  But, such annoyances aside, the SRC is still by far the biggest promotion any library service does (or, if it isn’t, it should be), still the best by a long shot and something we all should be participating in.  It’s part of what makes the Summer so busy and so job-affirming. And three quarters of a million children know the reason why.

Finally, I need to correct something I said in the last editorial.  Devon’s Libraries Unlimited are consulting on the removal of Saturday enhancements and I need to make clear that a decision has not yet been made on whether staff’s pay will be cut in this way.  My apologies that I intimated otherwise. Indeed, I’ll go further and point out that looking to reduce expenditures like this is something that every authority, Trust or not, will inevitably consider as budgets are reduced and so it’s hardly the unique fault of this non-profit. Rather, if you’re into blame, look to the council that cuts the budget, the government that cuts the council’s budget and, ultimately, the electorate that voted for such a government. The role of libraries, and their supporters, has to be to highlight the benefits of the service, what the loss is if it is taken away and – a key point – work out how best to deal with such cuts as are inflicted and turn out to be unavoidable. Campaigning is one aspect of this but the search for reductions that least affect the service is another.

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At least they can complain when they’re being cut: Suffolk Libraries speaks out

Editorial

Suffolk Libraries, one of the poster boys of innovation in the UK, is facing a cut to its budget. I can imagine some would see this as a vindication of their dislike for libraries being run by a non-profit trust. I, however, see things differently. All authorities, or many of them, are facing such cuts and the news from the Autumn Statement appears to suggest that this is not going to change any time soon.  However, while council-controlled public library services have to just accept the cut and hope for public protests, Trusts can be a little more active in their defence and the news from Suffolk shows precisely this. No council library chief could comment in a way that the Chair of the Suffolk Libraries board has. This gives such Trusts more defences than a traditionally run service. That doesn’t mean they’re perfect, especially if they’re Leisure-dominated and thus (at least in the case of Warrington LiveWire) seemingly ignorant about libraries and willing to sacrifice them to protect their leisure arm. And it doesn’t mean they’re always nice, as the staff at Devon Libraries Unlimited are discovering, with their Saturday enhancements being taken away. But Library- run Trusts do have their strong suits. And this is one of them.

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Being free about being free: the charging survey results

Editorial

My big thanks to the many of you that took the time to do the quick survey on charges for crafts and drinks. I have put the results in full via this link. The results reveal that, six years into austerity, libraries are still reticent to charge for some small-scale extra services, although those that do report few problems about doing so.  Equally, even having a donations tin out on the table is a rare sight.  It’s a bit worrying to see several not being sure about the licensing laws, although this may just indicate how rarely alcohol is served in many branches. My personal experience is that people don’t mind having a donations tin out for crafts and other events.  In addition, such money can be kept in-branch to pay for future crafts and drinks, which is a real gift in some cash-strapped libraries which may otherwise struggle to supply such things. Moreover, there seems to be a public assumption made by many of the public that “free” means “not very good” and – almost universally – that missing a free event one has a ticket for (despite knowing this takes the opportunity away from someone else) is OK. So many branches may be missing out by giving things out for free, for all sorts of reasons. On the other hand, this does mean that the library is very much a charge-free zone for many people, including parents of young children, meaning that ability to pay, unique in the High Street, is not a concern.

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Refurbishments, commitments and shocked librarian reactions to President Trump

Editorial

A very positive (and rare) article in the Telegraph on libraries is a nice accompaniment to a couple of pieces in the Guardian on school and public libraries. Continuing the positive new, there’s three refurbishments of libraries – including one with 3D printers – as well as (well, hopefully positive, it’s too early to tell) the replacement of Nottingham Central Library. Rounding off the national news is a call from CILIP for (gosh) leadership and commitment to public libraries from the Government.

But the main thing I will remember this week is the absolute shocked reaction by US librarians to the news of Donald Trump being elected. They’re a lot more political over there than British librarians, I can tell you. With many on the ALATT Facebook group (normally a bunch of very nice and supportive librarians) almost hitting open warfare when anyone suggested that anyone who voted for Trump wasn’t a sexist or a racist. The battle lines have been drawn there. We will see how long the war goes on and if anyone outside of library staff rooms notice (and the implications if they do).

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Focus on school libraries

Editorial

Some impressive campaigning from children’s laureates, past and present, for school libraries plus the Read On Get On coalition notes the impact of their reduction on reading.  It’s good to see school libraries being highlighted.  Because of their less public nature, cuts to school libraries often don’t get the publicity that anything similar in public libraries would receive.  But the impact of the loss of a school library when it  comes to a child’s literacy is incalculable. Moreover, there is a natural partnership between school and public libraries. Here’s wishing them the best.

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250 ideas and innovations in public libraries … and the rest of the public libraries news

Editorial

As well as reading and summarising all the news I see about public libraries, one of the jobs that is also done, is spotting new ideas for the sector.  This is ongoing on the blog but every now again I copy and past them into the “Ideas and Innovations” page.  I’ve just done that again, added them all up and there’s 250 ideas there now. Gosh, that’s a lot of ideas. I’m sure one or two will be useful to you.  Have a look at Ideas and innovations in public libraries here.

Thanks to all those who completed my little survey last week: I’ve had a look at the results and there’s some useful stuff in it.  More on that later this week.

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Bananas linked by wires to computers

More money for Kingston, more volunteers in Staffordshire and others

Editorial

Code Clubs have come into their own in many libraries this year and it’s good to have a piece from the SCL below on them. Also good to see investment in Kingston, although there is the normal news about more volunteer libraries. And of course the shame that is how LiveWire is treating libraries in Warrington continues.

I’m still doing the survey on what public libraries charge for things like craft sessions and for drinks for events. It’s to get some idea of what’s happening nationally as well as seeing if these are extra bits of income that can be made without affecting usage (or not).  The survey is tiny (only four questions) and will take you less than a minute if you don’t put any comments in.  So, do me (and possibly yourself as I will be publicising the results) a favour by completing the survey here. The survey is entirely anonymous.  Thank you.

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Ideas

Cracking the Code in Manchester Central Library

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Coding clubs triple in libraries, linking library books to Amazon … and a really quick survey

Editorial

I’m doing a survey on what public libraries charge for things like craft sessions and for drinks for events. It’s to get some idea of what’s happening nationally as well as seeing if these are extra bits of income that can be made without affecting usage (or not).  The survey is tiny (only four questions) and will take you less than a minute if you don’t put any comments in.  So, do me (and possibly yourself as I will be publicising the results) a favour by completing the survey here. The survey is entirely anonymous.  Thank you.

Ideas

  • Library Extension – Free way to have your library book availability show on Amazon, GoodReads, Overdrive.
  • Smart scales – BMI/Weight scales available in libraries.

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A big protest in favour of libraries and others this weekend.

National demonstrations in favour of libraries: #LoveToRead and Placards

Editorial

Anyone would think it was planned this way.  The BBC led #LoveToRead campaign culminated this weekend, with loads of selfies on library twitter feeds and programmes such as Cerys Matthews on Radio 6 being broadcast from Orkney Library, on the same day that around two thousand people protested in London against libraries (and other services) being cut. It was good to see the “soft” #LoveToRead promotion palatable to council services and the BBC going on at the same time as the “hard” campaigning of placards and protest that chimes with protesters and the unions. The comparative merits and strengths of both tactics can be debated but the timing is impeccable to influence the autumn statement to be announced on the 23rd. Those behind both campaigns can both feel proud of themselves this weekend.

A big protest in favour of libraries and others this weekend.

A big protest in favour of libraries and others this weekend.

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Ideas

  • Chat and chill – Acclimatising women [Not men, in this case – Ed.] new to UK to life here.

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