The library innovation funding has been awarded and announced.  It gives an idea of what libraries themselves consider innnovative and also what ACE is interested in funding. While there is a pleasing variety of grants given, none are entirely new ideas to me (with ideas mainly being copied from the USA), although some are probable firsts in the UK. The clear winning idea, probably to no-one’s surprise, is the currently fashionable makerspaces. One thing for sure is that we will know with a certainty after two years or so whether makerspaces in libraries will be a success or not.  I have a concern that, like code clubs, they will be popular and look good but do not tie in entirely comfortably with the core role of public libraries. It may be that by moving libraries into a more active teaching role with things like FabLabs rather than traditionally more passive/assisting provision library services will be energised and revolutionised. Or it may be that they become time sinks and a distraction from the more important work public libraries provide. At least now, well. we’ll find out, as it is the purpose of this innovation funding in the first place.

Of the other ideas, the one that strikes me as the most innovative is providing free meals to children over the summer holidays in Plymouth: this has been successfully practiced in the US for years and it will be interesting to see how it goes here. There’s also the promise of this as being part of having public libraries as the third space for children away from school and the home: a natural area for the sector that could do with developing. Sadly, though, I am seeing nothing on something I was really hoping for. This was promoting library services, which has long been one of the key weaknesses of the sector. £200k less for the seven different varieties of maker space and £200k for a publicity campaign could have made a massive difference, but it may be no bid was made for that.

Finally, it’s worth noting the tough line that GLL are taking in Lincolnshire with those with fines over £20. They’re not alone in doing so and it shows that many library services are increasingly having to get very tough on charges/costs in order to keep library services running.  It’s a shame though that we’re reduced to this in the UK while the tide in the USA appears to be turning towards not charging fines at all.


National news

  • Annual report to Parliament on public library activities during 2016 – Gov.uk. “There remains a strong library service in England, with the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy annual library statistics indicating there were 3,036 libraries and total net expenditure of £701 million invested by local authorities in 2015/16. Libraries are still popular and there are a large number of visits each year. In 2015/16 alone there were 177 million book loans and 211 million visits to libraries in England – more than the total attendance at English Premier League football matches, cinema admissions in England and the top 10 UK tourist attractions combined.”.  A good, if highly rose-tinted, survey of the sector.

“To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, with reference to the post on the Libraries Taskforce blog of 8 August 2016, entitled Book dataset first steps, for what reason the library provisions dataset has not yet been published.” Gill Furniss MP (Labour)

“We will publish data about public libraries in England shortly.” Rob Wilson MP, Libraries Minister. They Work For You.

  • Literacy, coding and soft play: opportunities for everyone in our life-changing libraries – Arts Council England. “A literature-themed soft play area to help children to read and learn, a ‘human library’ where people can gift their talents to someone in need, and activities to reduce social isolation and digital exclusion are among the projects being funded.” see also Winning libraries for innovation funding are revealed – Localgov. and And the successful projects are…. – Libraries Taskforce and Recipients of £4m libraries fund revealed – BookSeller.
    • Soft play area (£121k) themed on books – Greenwich (GLL).
    • Makerspaces of various flavours – (243k) – Hull.  (£208k) – Redbridge (Vision).  (£85k) – Sandwell.  (£79k) – Warwickshire, (£97k) – Stockton. Makerspaces for kids (£104k) – Kent. (£245k) – Devon.
    • Helping emergent readers 8 years+ (£98k) – Norfolk
    • Whole-family learning club (£50k) – Telford & Wrekin.
    • Reading activities (£138k) – Bournemouth and four other authorities.
    • Literacy + culture for young people (£142k) – Merton.
    • Services for learning difficulties (92k) – Slough (CCS/Carillion).
    • Summer school (£60k) – Lewisham.
    • Early years (£52k) – Staffordshire.
    • “Techno Labs” for unemployed “(£231k) -Lincolnshire (Council/GLL).
    • Digital gaming and stories (£226k) – Nottingham
    • Learning for 8-18 year olds (£75k) – Liverpool
    • Human Library / volunteer pool (£99k) – Sefron
    • Digital outreach (£52k) – Barnsley
    • Special educational needs (£74k) – Bradford
    • Creative workshops (£60k) – Tameside
    • Business support (£250k) – Manchester
    • Digital media (£91k) – Middlesbrough
    • Laptop/tablet loan (£178k) – West Sussex
    • IT for disadvantaged (£128k) – East Sussex
    • Health and family support (£145k) – Essex
    • Volunteer advocates for disadvantaged (£151k) – Luton
    • Volunteer readers for children (£98k) – Norfolk
    • Tablet loan (£238k) – Hampshire
    • Free meals and books over school holidays £56k) – Plymouth

International news

  • USA – How Libraries are Making Comic Conventions Accessible – Vice. “This was the annual Boise Library Comic Con, which draws nearly 10,000 Idahoans with artist tables, panels, and cosplay. Keithley took out his phone to exchange a few tweets and a photo of the boy with industry colleagues. Within minutes, Stan [Lee] himself had written back. “That’s a great costume!” his message concluded.”

Local news by authority

  • Blackburn with Darwen – Blackburn Central Library hours reduced due to cuts – Lancashire Telegraph. “The loss of four hours a week is being blamed on government grant cuts to Blackburn with Darwen Council. It will now close at 5pm on Wednesday evening as opposed to 7pm. On Saturday’s it will shut at 2pm finish instead of 4pm . Martin Eden, the council’s director of environment and leisure, said: “Due to the continued savings the council has to make in the light of government’s austerity programme we are having to look at how best to serve library users with a reduced budget.”
  • Bristol – Campaigners take over closed Cheltenham Road Library to block £9m deal for luxury flats – Bristol Post. “A library in Bristol has been commandeered by activists just three weeks after it closed down, to highlight the lack of accommodation in the city for the survivors of domestic violence. They hope to turn the Cheltenham Road Library into a much-needed community space, and to try to block the sale of the site to developers. Bristol City Council closed the library at the end of February and are in the process of selling the building to developers to turn the site into upmarket flats. The council is creating a new library further up the A38 in Gloucester Road in Bishopston.” see also We invite you to join us”: Activists occupy Cheltenham Road LibraryBristol Cable.
  • Bury – ‘They feel abandoned’ – Fears for elderly and youth amid library closures – Bury Times. “He argued Bury Library was not a “welcoming space” particularly for the over 65s. He continued: “Especially compared to local community libraries. I don’t think what’s happening here is going to support Bury communities. People who come to our community library tell me they feel abandoned by Bury Council.” Responding to his comments, Councillor Trevor Holt admitted he was horrified that it had come to looking at closing libraries calling it “obscene” but added the council was moving into “unchartered” waters fiscally.”
  • Devon – Libraries Unlimited awarded funds to rollout new library services in North Devon – Devon Council. “Barnstaple Library will be home to a new Fab Lab PLUS, equipped with specialist digital machinery such as 3D printers and laser cutters, as well as providing training, workshops, and courses on creative writing and digital content creation including vlogs, blogs and videos. To ensure the facilities are available to new and existing service users in North Devon and Torridge, a new outreach programme will allow digital tools and opportunities to visit communities in Bideford and Ilfracombe with the mini Fab Lab, a mobile digital making lab.”
  • Essex – Council asks public for views on latest plans for regeneration in Pitsea – Echo News. “The new project will focus on land currently occupied by The Place leisure centre, Pitsea Library and Pitsea Area Housing Office. The Place is currently under-used by the local community and would require an unsustainable level of investment to make it fit for purpose. Proposals have been drawn up to provide a high-quality and flexible community space in its place, with leisure facilities being expanded at Eversley Leisure Centre. The revamped site would also include a new Pitsea Library, subject to successful negotiations with Essex County Council, which runs the library.”
  • Essex – Historic Southminster Library has to reopen, urge concerned residents – Clacton Gazette. “residents fear Southminster Library may be lost for good as it remains closed after more than two months. The library, on Queenborough Road, was originally closed in January due to heating issues. It was due to reopen on Friday, but that date has passed and the library is still shut. Residents are worried about the future of the historic building. Doreen Sims, of Station Road, Southminster, is one of those concerned the village may lose its library.”
  • Isle of Man – Isle of Man Family Library fights for its future – ITV News. “The Family Library on Westmoreland Road, Douglas has been running as a charity since 2012, when the government stopped funding. A three-year funding deal was struck initially with a private sector business and then a family trust stepped in to continue a portion of the funding – with the agreement that the Library found a significant portion of its £240,000 itself.” … “The library now needs committed additional funds of at least £85,000 per year, to contribute to a budget that has not changed in five years. As well as the Douglas branch, the charity also operates a Mobile Library, visiting schools, residential homes and the prison. The Family Library is now in need of corporate sponsors, providing information packs for either firms or independent investors.”
  • Lambeth – Campaigners question council libraries decisions – Brixton Blog. “Library campaigners have suggested that Lambeth council may have rejected an alternative plan for its libraries because it was already in advanced negotiations over the future of some of them with its leisure provider GLL. Defend The Ten – the campaign that opposes plans for a gym in Herne Hill’s Carnegie library and other aspects of council policy – today (21 March) released details of a report on the council’s plans by the People’s Audit project. It says that negotiations between the council and GLL were “well advanced” in October 2015 when the council issued its Culture 2020 report – apparently for consultation.”
  • Lincolnshire – More good news for young people in Lincolnshire libraries – GLL (press release). ““We are very excited to have been awarded this large sum from Arts Council England to support Forging Lincs – our continued development of Lincolnshire libraries as places of learning, technology, craft and opportunity. The money will be spent on bringing together and supporting young people in Lincolnshire in a series of workshops and IT activity.” In other good news for Lincolnshire Libraries, the refurbishment programme  continues apace.  Lincoln and Sleaford now feature new children’s libraries,  teenage libraries and furniture refits while Market Rasen and Boston have enjoyed complete refurbishments. Stamford’s new children’s library is themed around the Mid Lent Fair, Skegness gets some ‘kerb appeal’ with an external redecoration and bookworms in Mablethorpe have new shelving accommodating new book stock.”
No More Mr Nice Library?

Lincolnshire: No More Mr Nice Library?

“… as of the 1st April, GLL will be using a debt recovery company for any borrowers with accounts above £20. I’m absolutely disgusted by this.  As a library volunteer, I’ve just been emailed a copy of the poster that will be displayed, receipts we have to hand out, plus instructions for dealing with the cash which is to be held separately. I’m seriously not happy about being involved in such a thing … to be honest it has me seriously considering quitting.

Basically, that libraries can be a lifeline for vulnerable people, and the library service is threatening people with debt companies for debts they may have no way of paying. Debts as small as £20, which is ridiculously low to be taking enforcement action. That if someone dies their families may end up with debt letters before they even find that they had library books out. That people won’t be able to use the library till debts are paid, which if it includes internet, can cut off the poorest from online jobsearching, universal credit accounts, family contact…  The thought of elderly clients who have forgotten they had a book or who have been in hospital ending up with a scary looking debt company letter… Even if the fines can be overturned if not justified, you can’t take back the kind of hurt you inflict on people who are fairly likely to be vulnerable.” Lincolnshire Volunteer on new GLL debt recovery scheme (via email).

  • Manchester – Central Library celebrates third anniversary of big transformation – Manchester Council. “The chance to join in live electric music sessions is just one of the huge variety of activities and facilities on offer in the iconic Grade-II listed library – which reopened on 22 March 2014, following a successful four-year project to completely refurbish its interior. Since then, the library has received more than 4.1 million visitors and loaned out more than 640,000 items.”
  • Northamptonshire – Registration offices move to Daventry library – Daventry Express. “Daventry registration offices relocate to the library today as the county council aims to make it easier for customers to access health services when registering births, marriages and deaths”
  • Oxfordshire – Librarian took his own life after losing job – Oxford Times. “Petrus Willemse was a former Buddhist monk who was hired as a part-time librarian for three years at Oxford Central Library after being employed on a casual basis. However when the budget cuts to the service lead to him losing his librarian job – which ‘meant more to him than could have been imagined’ – his friends and colleagues said the talented musician couldn’t cope.”
  • Walsall – Outrage as Library Service of the Year shortlistee slated for closure – BookSeller. “Walsall Council is to reduce its library service – which has been shortlisted for Library of the Year at the British Book Awards – by more than half, in what has been described as a “highly ironic” and “criminal” decision. The nine libraries threatened with closure (out of a total 16) are Beechdale, Blakenall, New Invention, Pelsall, Pleck, Pheasey, Rushall, South Walsall and Walsall Wood. They are due to close this June, despite the service being nominated for Library of the Year at the British Book Awards last week.”

“According to the judges, Walsall Libraries were shortlisted for the award because they were a “fine example of how libraries can go on changing lives despite constant uncertainty over funding”. The service has also been recognised for its “dedicated staff” who put on “an energetic programme of events, led by the 2016 ‘Walsall Year Of Reading’.” “Overall visits to the libraries increased year-on-year—no mean feat given the budget cuts inflicted on the service”, the judges added. Author and librarian Gemma Todd, who writes under the name G X Todd, told The Bookseller that the move to close the libraries just as they’ve been recognised by the British Book Awards is “criminal”.”