Archive for May, 2017

Check out what each political party has in store for public libraries

Editorial

It probably has not escaped your notice that there is a general election coming up shortly. As in most national elections, the subject of public libraries is spectacularly absent and none more so than this one which appears to be mainly about Brexit and personalities. I am noticing very few references to the sector in the news, with their main presence being in Lancashire, where the new Conservative administration has pledged to reopen all the libraries recently shut by Labour, although it’s not clear how many of these will be staffed by volunteers rather than paid staff.  Similarly, in Warrington (also Labour,-controlled by the way), there has been a mention of libraries in the Green candidate’s position, doubtless due to the large-scale cuts proposed there, swiftly followed by much public protest. But that’s pretty much it for the last few days. For myself, if one puts aside the whole policy of austerity (quite a big if, but go with it),  I tend to see Labour complaining about cuts to libraries in Conservative controlled councils and Conservatives complaining about cuts in Labour controlled councils. It can all get a bit confusing. As such, it has been very useful to see the recent CILIP survey on the manifestoes of the UK-wide political parties, which analyses what libraries can expect from each. Have a read.

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Putting books on the streets, not soldiers

Editorial

I live close enough to Manchester that I know of, at one remove, several people who were at the concert. I’ve been at the venue myself a few times. The first thing that struck me was that the so badly misled man that killed so many children and others, would have seen them and knew full well what he was doing. I only realised later that he deliberately planned to kill such innocents probably days in advance. The natural response to all this is hate and fear and, dig into social media (or read the Daily Mail), and you’ll sadly see both. Thankfully, the other response has been to make clear that such an atrocity will not affect how we live. As such, while putting soldiers in the streets may make sense tactically, some may question if it sends a good strategic message.

Public libraries have a role in making things better. The sector exists to provide free information, ideally checked at least at one remove for accuracy, to the public. The library provides a place where all people can come in for free, rub shoulders with eachother and find the  facts, and common things that bring us together, not things that  push us apart. Moreover, it remains the ultimate in terms of normality for many people. Be grateful for that, work hard for all and, perhaps, do a display or two showing that Muslims are just people like anyone else or on peacemakers, not warmongers. A guide on how to explain such murders to children wouldn’t go amiss. But, most of all, go to work, do your job, smile and -what’s the phrase? – keep calm and carry on. That’s the ultimate victory, not just for libraries but for the democratic world.

Putting books on the streets, not soldiers, would be the course of action I’d most like to see.

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Well, at least the Lib Dems mention libraries

Editorial

The manifestos of the three main English political parties have now been published and it’s clear who’s the winner when it comes to at least mentioning public libraries. The Labour Party are at least aware of some of the issues around libraries, offering a return to Library Standards and money for IT. The Liberal Democrats are, well, at least aware of the word “libraries” and how it can be used in a sentence, offering the sector part of £2 billion to co-locate services. The Conservatives, on the other hand. don’t mention the word library once in their entire document. I get the feeling that does not bode well.

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Labour Manifesto on libraries and questions over volunteer libraries

Editorial

The Labour Manifesto has been released, and with it some indication of what that party sees as key for public libraries. The key thing is that they will cease the reduction in council budgets generally that has caused such grief to the sector. The second is that they will reintroduce Library Standards. They also talk about updating the wifi and computers, which would be welcome. So, it’s got a couple of good points but is perhaps not as revolutionary or committed as some would wish. But then, at least Labour mentions libraries. It will be interesting to see if the Conservatives do and, in that unlikely event, whether it will be just helping volunteers take them over. We’ll see.

On that subject of volunteers by the way, the Private Eye reports that volunteer libraries in Surrey cost similar amounts to paid libraries but are not as successful [This comment in square brackets added later: the Eye piece strictly says that usage has reduced in nine out of the ten: it may be that other paid libraries have seen similar declines. As such it’s worth pointing out the piece pointed to the cost rather than making a strict comparison – Ed.]. That will be music to the ears of those against them but, until we have clear statistics of cost and usage for a significant number of volunteer libraries, their success or otherwise is still guesswork. The ongoing lack of such figures is suggestive of them not being a good news story overall but we simply cannot tell without the data.

Other points of interest this post is the tremendous success of Storyhouse in Chester in its first open weekend, with 300 (!) new members being joined, and some more discussion from the USA as to the wisdom and effectiveness of library fines.

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National news

  • How can case studies support libraries and information services? #CILIPW17 – CILIP Wales Conference. “Although we may hear the negative comments about local library services, driven by cuts and book borrowing, I’ve heard so many positives which can feed into powerful, newsworthy case studies. I look forward to seeing them in the public domain! And if your local information or library service has made a positive difference to you, why not let them know?”

“Labour will end cuts to local authority budgets to support the provision of libraries, museums and galleries. We will take steps to widen the reach of the Government Art Collection so that more people can enjoy it.”

“Libraries are vital social assets, valued by communities across the country. Will ensure libraries are preserved for future generations and updated with Wi-Fi and computers to meet modern needs. We will reintroduce library standards, so that the government can assess and guide councils to delivering the best possible service”

Labour Manifesto

  • Library design awards – Designing Libraries. “he Public Library Building Awards UK and the Republic of Ireland, administered by the Public Libraries Group of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) and An Chomairle Leabharlanna, the Irish Library Council, were last awarded in 2009 before becoming victims of economic recession. A judging panel visited shortlisted libraries and awarded both overall winners and winners in specific categories and latterly there was also a public choice winner, voted on by delegates at the CILIP Umbrella conference at which the awards were presented. There is a need for a public library design award and Designing Libraries is currently in consultation with interested parties to revive the award.
  • Privacy in libraries (keynote talk given by Paul Pedley at CILIP in Wales – Libraries Privacy Blog. “librarianship is one of the only professions that explicitly expresses privacy rights in its codes of ethics” but ““We keep talking about how libraries are heralds of privacy, but we are terrible at it”. Looks at self-service reservations/holds, self-service receipts, online databases, blogs complaining about the public, colocations where sensitive information can be overheard/seen, body odour, commercial interests. CCTV, web analytics and browser histories, roles of librarians in larger picture.

International news

  • Australia – A picture is worth… a million lines of data – Public Libraries Connect. “State Library of Queensland has commissioned the development of a prototype Data Visualisation Tool which incorporates data from the Queensland Public Libraries Statistical Bulletins from 2011-2016. Data visualization is the presentation of data in a pictorial or graphical format which enables you to see information presented visually, so you can more clearly understand patterns or difficult concepts. The aim of the Data Visualisation Tool prototype is to examine whether data patterns, anomalies and opportunities can be more easily identified, analysed and understood through a variety of simple visualisation techniques.”
  • Canada – Toronto Public Library expanding program that lends out wireless internet – CBC News. “The Toronto Public Library partnered with Google Canada last summer to lend out some 200 Wi-Fi hotspots for six months at a time. Now, after a survey of those who borrowed the devices found 97 per cent of people were happy with the program, library officials are hoping to get 500 into circulation by the end of the summer. “We could expand it tomorrow and we’d still need more,” Coun. Sarah Doucette, who sits on the library board, told CBC Toronto.” … “Google has now contributed $250,000 to the pilot project, while Rogers is now providing the devices for free as well as offering two years of service, according to a report given to the library’s board.”
  • Indonesia – Malang public minivans become mobile libraries – Jakarta Post. “The minivans in Malang have added an extra function and become mobile libraries, a perfect feature to enrich the experience of passengers who previously had to deal with the boredom of waiting for the drivers to start their engines, sometimes under the scorching sun. Public minivans that also function as mobile public libraries seems like a perfect match for Malang, a town well-known as one of the top educational towns in Indonesia with its four state universities, 10 major private colleges and dozens of diploma-level education centers.”
  • Spain – La Diputación de Barcelona lanza ‘BiblioLab’, el nuevo modelo para las bibliotecas públicas / The Diputación de Barcelona launches ‘BiblioLab’, the new model for public libraries – La Vanguardia (In Spanish). “Experimentation and interactivity are the cornerstones of this “radical change”, “, 300,000 Euro project. Including a kitchen, remote-controlled car, “libraries must “adapt to the new digital revolution” and has applauded that models such as BiblioLab “give citizens access to science, creativity or literature among a wide range of possibilities.” For his part, Cano said that the project promotes “learning, creativity and citizen participation”, although he has pointed out that the basic functions that have preserved libraries throughout history will continue to be maintained, noting that they have always been been places of social inclusion”
  • USA – Libraries Are Dropping Overdue Fines — But Can They Afford To? – Huffington Post. “… libraries did not institute fines in order to shame, punish or make money off of patrons, Todaro emphasized. Rather, a fine is “supposed to maximize use of the material” by providing a small but sharp reminder to return what we’ve borrowed. “People want those books,” she told HuffPost, “and there’s not enough.” What’s more, she explained, replacing a lost or stolen book eats up more library resources than delinquent borrowers may realize ― not just in the price of the new book, but in costly human labor to acquire and process it. Fines provide a classic economic motivation for cardholders to avoid those negative externalities.”

“Slate’s Ruth Graham looked at the aftermath of a Colorado library district’s elimination of overdue fines in 2015 and found that the financial loss was manageable and the boost to morale ― for both patrons and librarians ― was striking. Perhaps most notable: “95 percent of materials are returned within a week of their due date.” Such a simple move might seem too good to be true, but perhaps sometimes the simplest solution really is also the best for all concerned.”

  • USA – Making Libraries Sing – Library Journal. “Instead of focusing on a genre of music, or items to add to your collections, this column offers a shout-out to a librarian with a double life, and the work she and others do to bring music to patrons in a variety of ways”

Local news by authority

  • Bury – Victoria Wood statue to be erected in Bury Library Gardens – British Comedy Guide. “The statue will be placed in Library Gardens in the centre of her home town of Bury, Greater Manchester”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Chester Storyhouse welcomes 10,000 visitors in its first weekend – Chester Chronicle. “Storyhouse recorded 10,000 visits over the opening weekend, with 3,500 visits on Saturday. More than 2,000 books were loaned from the library and 300 new library cards issued, compared to six on the same Saturday in 2016.” … ” library had regular storytelling in the dedicated storytelling room, arts and crafts and messy play. The restaurant was fully booked and was a bustling hub across the weekend.” … “Other spaces include a 150 seat studio theatre, open plan foyers, hospitality spaces, and a library that spills across all areas of the operation – including a dedicated children’s library complete with wet play, arts and crafts spaces and a storytelling room.”

“We saw families in the library, teenagers in the cinema, couples at the theatre, groups of friends in the restaurant and in every corner individuals reading books or tapping away on laptops. Here’s to many more people discovering Storyhouse soon”

  • Cheshire West and Chester – Storyhouse opens – cinema, theatre, library – Designing Libraries. “Storyhouse is a major new civic cultural hub presenting drama, film and literature, housed in the redundant shell of a 1930s Odeon in the centre of Chester. For Bennetts Associates, the design architects, the project presented an opportunity to create an innovative city-centre public building which will be open 12 hours a day, re-occupying the art deco cinema interiors and re-inventing the way a city library is used and perceived.”
  • Falkirk – Denny Library, Falkirk – Designing Libraries. “As part of a £7.6 million regeneration project, with the library being the centrepiece, the modernised library is entirely flexible to facilitate the library’s busy events and activities schedule that is now available to the community.”
  • Leeds – Library moves out as work starts on new Bramley Community Hub – West Leeds Dispatch. “Bramley Library has temporarily closed its doors as work starts to transform it into a one-stop community hub for Leeds City Council services. The work is part of a £379,555 package of work which includes improving customer areas, two new glass enquiry rooms, a new reception area, new housing office, restoration of existing oak screens and parquet floors, redecorating and new public toilets. The library building, on Hough Lane, is being emptied before handing over to contractor Aspect Building Solutions. Building work is due to start on site in the first week in June for an eight-week period.”
  • Merthyr Tydfil – Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Centre – Designing Libraries. “FG Library & Learning created a winning design for Merthyr Tydfil Public Library Service that recognised the more leisure-orientated nature of the space, which includes Landscape library shelving, a funky StoryWall in the children’s area, café-style tables and chairs, and quiet seating booths with power for laptops and tablets. Given that the variety of soft seating would be used as part of the café area as well as the library, seats were upholstered in stylish stain-repellent and waterproof Halcyon fabric, which is also anti-microbial and bleach-cleanable so ideal for areas which require extra protection. This brand new, co-located facility has expanded services into the community, making them more accessible, and although the library is staffed for just 24 hours per week, it is open through self-service from 6.00am to 10.00pm every day. Initial studies show visitor figures have increased by 139%, and user comments have been incredibly positive.
  • North Somerset – Library assistants at risk of redundancy after community services overhaul – Mercury. “North Somerset Council reviewed its libraries and children’s centres at the end of last year to try to save £500,000 by 2019. The council hoped to make as few redundancies as possible, but it has decided it may have remove eight library posts. These include making five library supervisors and three lead librarian assistants redundant if they cannot be found jobs elsewhere in the council. A decision is not likely to be made until after May 16. Yatton Library is closed while the village’s children’s centre is moved in, and is expected to re-open on August 14. Worle Library is being moved into the nearby children’s centre.”
  • Powys – Hay Festival cash keeps town library open – BBC. “The Hay Festival has agreed to continue funding part of the library’s operating costs following a county council review of 11 branch libraries. The council said revised budget savings meant it now had until the end of the December to agree the library’s future. One option is to move it into a new school from next January. Hay-on-Wye Library Supporters chairwoman Anita Wright said the next steps were to find a sustainable solution for the library’s future. Community groups and councils have taken over running a number of the county’s other libraries, such as Crickhowell which is managed in a partnership with the high school.”
  • South Tyneside – Union outrage over plans for community groups to run South Tyneside libraries – Shields Gazette. “Unison and the South Tyneside Public Service Alliance have hit out against the council’s Library Reconfiguration Plan which would see community groups take over the running of some libraries” … ““Our councillors have got really hard decisions to make as the council struggle to balance the budget, but there are also choices. “Libraries provide value for money, a range of services to a wide selection of people in communities, reach all age groups and enable them to deliver on the council aims, objectives and vision for the future. “Our branch libraries are the last free open, inclusive, spaces left in communities”

“Back in 2011, Surrey councillors discussed turning ten county libraries into community partnered libraries (CPL).  This was civic-speak for getting rid of professional librarians and relying on volunteers.  At the time, cultural services head Peter Milton said the cut in paid librarians would save around £400,000 a year.  So how did that turn out?

The council went ahead with its money-saving plan and created the ten CPLs, managed by a council cost centre for community-led services.  The cost centre used to manage mobile libraries and prison lending, too, but the mobile libraries service was closed in 2011 and responsibility for the prison service was transferred elsewhere, leaving the cost centre in charge of just the CPLs.

The annual costs of this centre exceeded £400,000 in the three years from 2012/13 to 2014/15 and fell slightly to £356,525 in 2015/16 — costs remarkably similar to Milton’s original savings target for slashing librarians’ jobs.  Meanwhile, nine out of ten of the volunteer-run libraries have seen borrowing fall since they lost their paid staff.  Tattenhams library near Epsom, for example, lent more than 45,000 books in 2009/10 and just over 30,000 in 2015/16.” Surrey – Private Eye (Not available online), Issue 1444, P.33

The key to staffless provision is, apparently, keys.

Editorial

A few threads today. We have both viewpoints on volunteer libraries from Sheffield, where there is both a glowing report on how the community is rallying around and a damning letter pointing out the cut to paid staffing is less than half the continued subsidy to the volunteers. There is also mention – the first I’ve spotted from the UK – in the same angry letter of a council library changing from being dewey to being categorised. From Sunderland, we have confirmation that the branches earmarked previously for volunteers will be going that way soon, leaving only 3 out of 11 with “professional” (I suspect this largely just means “paid”) staff. Then in Warrington we have the first inkling of what the libraries “saved” after protests last year will look like. From across the water, we also have one of the chiefs of the Little Free Library movement defending his corner. It turns out that they’re not fat-cat bourgeois conspirators bent on destroying libraries after all. So, that’s at least one less thing to worry about. Finally, news from Perth and Kinross that the “Every Child A Library Member” campaign has, unsurprising, led to a whole lot of new child members and, presumably, an increase in usage. However, like so much else in libraries, there’s no real statistical evidence to show the impact of the campaign on kids reading more. Yet.

Did I say finally? Not quite yet. As the real corker for me is the Australian public library that is now at the cutting edge of library provision by allowing its members 24/7 access 365 days per year. How is it doing this? By giving them keys. In your face, staffless technology solutions.

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It’s library science, not rocket science

Editorial

As you know, I bang on about Tower Hamlets a bit because they have a sustainable and successful libraries model, with a strong sense of mission and high levels of use. A week ago, I noticed an article about a strong showing by another London borough, Greenwich, and did some digging. I can report that Greenwich does indeed have really high, and growing, levels of usage and so I talked to the  manager there, Diana Edmonds, about the strategy to achieve this. Her answer is included below.

One thing that is likely to get some reading this annoyed at this point is that Greenwich Libraries are run by a leisure trust, GLL. Such trusts have not been wonderful in some authorities and, indeed, GLL has come in for a fair bit of flack itself. To me, that’s not the point when reporting this success. What is important here is that we have examples of thriving library services to learn from and we should do it. What they’re doing is not rocket science. It’s library science. So have a look and see what you can gain from them … and share your successes as well.

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National news

  • Enemies of the state​:​ the 40-year Tory project to shrink public services – Guardian. “What is the social glue that binds us to Britishness if not the things we share collectively? Government underpins pride in who we are. When fine old town halls from Sheffield to Hornsey, north London, are sold off as boutique hotels, when councils sell slices of parks, when libraries and local museums close, we lose what defines us. Contracts with Capita, Virgin, Sodexo and the rest are written on water. The sale of everything from power stations, property and basic transport systems to foreign powers is a form of treason other countries resist”
  • Fake news: the role of libraries and staff in supporting information literacy – #uklibchat. Your chance to put a subject for debate to the next online Twitter chat on 6th June.
  • SLIC Commissions Impact Research – Scottish Library and Information Council. “The Scottish Library and Information Council in partnership with Carnegie UK Trust has commissioned the Library and Information Statistics Unit (LISU) at Loughborough University to carry out research into measuring the impact of Scotland’s libraries. Over the coming weeks the LISU will contact Scottish public library services as well as key partners and stakeholders such as CILIPS, COSLA and the Improvement Service to gather evidence. The Association of Public Libraries Scotland, which represents all 32 local authorities, will also help the Unit with their research.” … “The research could equip libraries with important statistics and help to influence decision makers. It will also be a valuable addition to existing quantitative measures such as SLIC’s Economic Value Toolkit, which provides library and information services with everything they need to assess how cost-effective their services are.”
  • Welsh Librarian of the Year Award 2017 – CILIP. Shortlisted candidates at Welsh Librarian of the Year Award 2017: Shortlisted Nominees.

“We have transformed Greenwich libraries since we took over their management in 2012. Libraries are really important in this Borough. Like most parts of London,  some areas have high levels of deprivation – and people in lower socio-economic groups tend to use libraries more than more affluent communities. Also London is a young people’s city – and they are young people with no space to study. So the library becomes their destination. And there are families – again perhaps without a great deal of money – so the large number and variety of children’s activities is really popular. We often get over 100 to a Rhyme Time in Greenwich. Woolwich, the busiest library, is right next door to a huge Tesco Extra – with lots of parking; it is also on the DLR and the mainline train service – as well as on many bus routes in the Borough.

Our aim is to increase the use of the libraries we manage – and we are absolutely focussed on that. It is the first point on the agenda at every staff meeting. I ask the team to focus on 5 key areas;

        The library building – this is so important. Wherever possible we refurbish – or change layouts to make the best of the buildings we have.

       Stock – vital. We review stock versus issues and adjust so the customer gets what they want to read

       ICT – we find that ICT accounts for around 26% of our use – and we need to offer the best. We refresh every 4 years.

       Staff – we want staff to be kind, knowledgeable and professional. I am so pleased with our new training programme – designed for all levels. We also support people to obtain qualifications. Each library has a library manager – and their responsibility is to develop their own library within our general guidelines.

       Activities – libraries should be social spaces – so we provide loads of activities – for all ages.” Diana Edmonds, Head of Libraries, GLL.

Plus free afterword by myself....

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International news

  • Australia – Indigenous Knowledge Centres: Queensland Public Libraries finding a niche – Public Libraries News. “There are stories from all around the world about how wonderful libraries are.  This story caught my eye from Australia, where public libraries have realised they have a place in supporting indigenous communities” … ““we’re also a more comfortable trusted place for Aboriginal people to ask about health, wellbeing, and how they live their daily lives – this can be less intimidating than the health service””
  • USA – Public libraries transform for digital native generations – Talk Business. “Public library visits per capita have increased 83% in Arkansas during the past 20 years, despite a national decline in the print publishing industry over the last decade. Close to a quarter of public library collections budgets are now spent on electronic books, both nationwide and in Arkansas, according to the latest available Public Libraries Survey (2014) from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.” … “librarians entering the workforce from college have extensive training in tech, and “are ready to hit the ground running,””
  • USA – “Purrfect” Literacy Program – Public Libraries Online. “At this point, public libraries function as community centers where people come to convene, learn and grow, not just check out books and study. And it seems like the next logical step is to not just bring the community into the library, but to reach out to the community itself. This can be done in new and sometimes surprising partnerships. Reaching out to a local humane society or shelter, for example, where cats waiting to be adopted need to develop social skills, is a perfect union for public libraries looking to do something creative to encourage children’s literacy skill development. Cat and child enrichment, increases in adoption, and community engagement are all fostered through a program like this.”

Local news by authority

  • Angus – Library and Access services coming together – Brechin Advertiser. “Angusalive and Angus Council have joined forces to agree the transfer of face-to-face Access services to library buildings in Brechin, Kirriemuir and Monifieth” … ““This is an excellent opportunity for us to provide local services at one unified site, rather than two separate buildings, and ensure our resources are where they are needed most to help the communities we serve.”
  • Darlington – Darlington library campaigner and MP hopeful supported cuts to library services in London – Northern Echo. “Self-styled library campaigner and MP hopeful Peter Cuthbertson has defended himself against allegations of hypocrisy after supporting cuts to library services in London. The Westminster councillor was recently announced as the Conservative candidate for the upcoming general election in Darlington, where he lost out to Labour’s Jenny Chapman in 2015 by 3,158 votes. His campaigning has largely focused on the battle to save the historic Crown Street Library, which is facing impending closure as a result of council budget cuts, which will see central library services moved into the Dolphin Centre” … “Darlington-born Cllr Cuthbertson has now been accused of using it as a vote-winning “political football” while lending his support to cuts and changes to library services in Westminster, where he is a serving councillor. “
  • Derby – Emergency meeting called to save library in Derby suburb – Derby Telegraph. “An emergency neighbourhood forum to discuss the future of the library is taking place in a Derby suburb tomorrow night. More than 200 people have already taken part in a survey about the future of Spondon Library – one of 11 currently under a cost-cutting review by the city council across Derby. A consultation was conducted by Derby City Council at the end of last year, which was looking to save more than £600,000 by closing some libraries and encouraging others to remain open with the use of volunteers and a £17,500 hand out from the authority”
  • Lancashire – Fulwood library will reopen “soon” – Lancashire Evening Post. “County Coun Geoff Driver, leader of the victorious Conservative group, had a key question for officers when he stepped back into county hall on Monday – have contracts been exchanged? Coun Driver, whose party won overall control with 46 seats, said he had asked for a hold to be put on all library sales. He said: “Fulwood library contracts have not been exchanged so we will not be exchanging contracts and will be reopening Fulwood as a library.I haven’t got a date yet – it will be as soon as possible. It’s been closed long enough.” Would-be buyers Turf Tech of Cable Court Fulwood declined to comment. The company has already lodged a change of use application with Preston Council, seeking to change the historic Garstang Road library into offices with extra parking spaces. “
  • Liverpool – ‘Are we closing the book on the library?’ – University of Liverpool. “Is the era of the physical book and its traditional home, the library in a fixed building, at an end? Will the digital revolution simply do away with the library? Do we just keep libraries open out of nostalgia for an out of date artefact? Alan Gibbons examines the history of the book, its resilience, the place of libraries in an age of austerity and the role of literacy in social mobility”
  • Medway – Thomas Aveling Library facing closure and staff at Grain Library may be replaced by volunteers – Kent Online. “One Medway library is facing closure with another set to be run by volunteers, as the council looks for ways to save £95,000 from the libraries’ budget. A public consultation is underway into plans to close the Thomas Aveling Community Library in Rochester while the council is looking at the possibility of replacing paid staff with trained volunteers at Grain from July. According to an email seen by the Medway Messenger, the closure of Thomas Aveling will save £35,800 and changes at Grain, £14,700.”
  • North Lanarkshire – Library group wants your ideas to thrive – Motherwell Times. “The Supporters of Newarthill Library are looking for ideas about how to ensure it is used more by the community. The group, which was instrumental in saving the facility from closure, has developed close working relationships with CultureNL and senior library staff and wants to see it thrive. Angie Walker, chairwoman of the group, said: “Our vision has always been to make the library accessible for all and we are planning more events and activities but we want to give you, the local community, an opportunity to have your voice heard.”
  • Northern Ireland  – Education and libraries support critical thinking – let’s invest – Irish News. “More people in Northern Ireland are now using public libraries than they were five years ago. Forty three per cent of people in Northern Ireland now identify themselves as library users –  up from 40 per cent in 2011. So, why then, were cuts recently announced to library services? We need to invest for the needs of our population – as library use is on an upward curve.” … “If you care about the role of libraries and education – and how it can benefit our society as regards critical thinking among our younger population, the EA [Education Authority] wants to hear your views on the proposed direction, outcomes and associated actions to help achieve these outcomes:”
  • Plymouth – Council boss denies misleading residents with ‘Peverell Library saved’ leaflet – Herald. “The leader of the council says he sees no problem with a leaflet announcing a city library has been “saved” – despite admitting it could still shut. Last week Conservative councillors sent out pamphlets and e-mails saying Peverell library “will stay open and will not close”. … “Councillor Bowyer says no decision has been taken and he was expressing a “personal view”
  • South Tyneside – Four libraries in South Tyneside at risk of closure as budget cuts continue to bite – Chronicle. “South Tyneside Council is looking for volunteer groups to run Boldon Lane, East Boldon, Primrose, and Whitburn libraries as they face cutbacks” … “Almost 80% of all items borrowed and 91% of all computer use already takes place at one of these four centres. But the future looks less rosy for branch libraries in Whitburn, East Boldon , Boldon Lane and Primrose. In the face of having their budget slashed by almost 50%, the council is encouraging groups to come forward to run the four libraries on a voluntary basis.”
  • Worcestershire – Water works temporarily closes Catshill library – Bromsgrove Advertiser. ” due to urgent and essential maintenance work to the water system. “
  • Wrexham – Volunteers celebrate successful first year of Hope Community Library – Leader Live. “People descended on Hope Community Library on Saturday, based at Castell Alun High School, to mark one year since it was taken over by the community. Kate Williams, secretary of the Friends of Hope Community Library, said: “It went really well.”

Election results, Lancashire and a “Storyhouse”

Editorial

Everywhere in the UK is in purdah in preparation for the General Election so there will be a lot less news than normal from this country.  However, the local elections on Thursday show some trends, of which you will be probably well aware. The biggest is that Lancashire, infamous for closing so many libraries recently, has changed from being Labour to Conservative-controlled. The cuts to libraries appears to have played a significant part in the election result and the new Conservative councillors appear to be clear any libraries not already sold will be taken off the market and that any sales money will go into libraries. For those librarians thinking, though, of toasting the Tories, it looks like this will mean more community groups and volunteers taking over libraries rather than return to paid staffing. This is austerity after all.

But even in austerity, there are high points. The Storyhouse project in Chester, in which I have an interest in that I work for that authority and am the lead for children’s bookstock for it, gets a review in the Guardian.  I can’t comment much, and I’m obviously biased anyway, buy my gosh the place looks wonderful. Make sure you see it when you can. I will be doing a review of it soon.

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Give Equality of Information

Editorial

I was speaking at a conference yesterday on the theme of the unique selling points of libraries and how branches try to do too much and also, perhaps, claim too much. I’ve embedded the presentation below. I suggested a good elevator pitch (you’ve probably heard me say it before) was that libraries provide equality of access to information. There were a couple of suggestions from the audience. One was that libraries are brilliant at networking and that needs to be in there too, which is a pretty good point, although thinking about it I think that comes in as one of the explanatory bullet-points below the main statement.  Another was simply to say libraries give equality of information. Wow, a sales pitch for public libraries in four words. You should be able to get that time in. Try it on a decision-maker today.

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Come August, 700,000 kids will have one

Print books are alive and well … and some worrying public library trends.

Editorial

Two related big stories this time. The first is from the Publisher’s Association which shows that the printed book is alive and well and not likely to be wiped out by the e-book any time soon. Phew, that’s alright then. The second are all related to Tim Coates, that firebrand of library campaigning, who has complained that the Shining A Light report by Carnegie UK is far too optimistic and needs withdrawing. The full text of this can be found here. What I find most interesting about it is not the complaint per se (and besides, being Carnegie UK commissioned me to write a blog post on it, I would not in good conscience be able to comment either way anyway). No, what interests me are these statistics:

It's not looking good for British Libraries - Statistics courtesy of Tim Coates

It’s not looking good for British Libraries – Statistics courtesy of Tim Coates

Well, those are depressing aren’t they? There’s a few caveats with this, of course, as with all use of statistics.  Only three countries are mentioned for a start and the performance indicators used are very basic, albeit important. And that graph of doom at the end showing no books issued at all in 2026 is questionable.  However, those first two charts do show that the rapid decline in usage in the UK is not inevitable because, if they were, then the US and Australia would show the same trend. What it suggests is there’s something going on in the UK that’s not going on in the other two countries. And, to me, the big thing has to be the cut in UK funding for libraries, about which anyone who has ever read the news, or worked in libraries, would be more than aware of. Or there’s something else seriously wrong going on in UK libraries. I’ll let you decide what you think the problem may be, but problems there are. But it there’s problems, there’s solutions and,  as a starter, Nick Poole from CILIP touches on some things that could help in a special post for Public Libraries News here.

Changes by local authority

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