Archive for June, 2017

the Frog Pod and is essentially an iPad kiosk for children. The concept is that children learn through play by using specially loaded Apps within the library to help them with reading, writing, maths, creativity, problem solving, coding and much more. My concept is that the pods complement the traditional book offer, and prepare children for digital skills, rather than replace it. See www.frogpod.com for more info

It’ll be here soon: Libraries Week 2017

Editorial

Libraries Week is not long away. Events often need a lead time of several months and there’s the Summer Holidays between now and October, with its’ twin threat of staff being on leave or being too busy to do anything else because of the Summer Reading Challenge, So I’m pleased to see a bit more information on the Libraries Week webpage and a chance for services to put their events on. And it’s going to take some preparation as the webpage says “To take part your library must be ready to run a week of compelling activities designed to appeal to your community and give visitors a great experience and exciting day out”. So get your thinking caps on. It will be here before you know it.

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NPO Oh Oh: £6m extra over four years. But bad news for Bury

Editorial

The existence of “National Portfolio Organisations” (NPOs) will come as surprise to many of us but they’re a big deal. Arts Council England provides £1.6 billion (yes, billion) over four years to them. This year is the first that libraries became eligible to apply and today it was announced that there were seven successful candidates. While an insignificant part (1/118th) of the total number of NPOs and an even smaller proportion of the funds (1/255th), the £6.27m given should be enough to make a significant impact. I’m hopeful this will especially be the case with the (normally cash-strapped) Society of Chief Librarians who get £2 million as a “Sector Support Organisation”. That’s £500k per year to advocate for public libraries and it should be a game changer for them and, hopefully, for marketing for public libraries generally.

It’s also great to see the Reading Agency keeping its funding (£475k per year – yes, SCL will get more than the TRA). Overall, £30m is going to non-library literature based groups. It’s interesting to see that 3 out of the 6 library services to get the funding, by the way, are non-profit trusts. This is proportionately way higher than one would expect. The bids were also not public so it’s unclear, apart from what can be gained from press releases, as yet, as to what they will mean.

However, it’s not a good day for everyone. Bury has confirmed that 10 out of 14 of its libraries will cease with only one previously under threat saved and no “extra” money found to help the library service to provide for it. There’s also reductions in staffed hours in North Somerset, although overall hours may increase as Open technology is being installed there. There is obviously a structural issue with extra Arts funding on one hand and library services not being able to keep libraries open on the other but that problem lies with central government and not with those services who have quite rightly bid for the money.

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Staff shortages in Kent

Prime Suspect

Editorial

I will shortly be speaking at the CILIP Conference on the reasons I’ve seen advanced against public libraries and my suggestions as to how counteract them. Almost all the reasons to cut libraries have not got any stronger than when I wrote this piece against them in 2011 but here is one which has – then two-fifths of people in the UK used libraries but the latest figures, just five years later, show the figure now at a third. That’s a big drop in five years and is used as a stick to beat the sector with. I’ve seen opponents such as The Institute of Economic Affairs cheerfully argue that such a trend means that the poor few remaining library users should be charged for the privilege.

However, one of the wonderful things about being in the world is that, somewhere, another country may be doing things differently. Such is the case in France which has reported no reduction in usage over the same period and, vitally, has not cuts on the scale of the UK.  In scientific experiment, such a country could be described as a control. In a murder mystery play, it would be seen more as a smoking gun. So, whereas there are doubtless other factors (such as e-books and the internet) to consider, austerity – with its big reductions in library staff, opening hours, stock and libraries themselves – creates less appetising libraries leading to less enticing offer leading to fewer people using them. Such a vicious circle is plain to see in many places. What the twin experiments of France and the UK shows is the relative strength of the factors in play. If ever the treatment of UK public libraries ever gets to be treated like a murder then the comparative trends of the two countries make it likely that Mr Austerity will be treated as a prime suspect.

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Fact-checking the Kensington closed library

Editorial

I was asked about the closing library in Kensington yesterday. You may remember the emotional interview Channel Four did with people near Grenfell, which started with a local complaining that the council had sold the library to a private school. There was a challenge about whether it was correct or not? I also noticed a claim by the council that they were building a new library. So, let’s do some fact-checking:

– Yes, the council is planning to sell a library – North Kensington Library – to a prep school, although it looks like it’s a lease rather than a straight sale. This report from last year suggests that the school (Notting Hill Prep) will be given the first year free to pay for refurbishments. It will then pay c. 365k per year to the council.

The library is described by the council as “spread over three floors making it difficult for those with mobility issues and young children to navigate. Added to this the building is poorly insulated, expensive to heat and is also listed, which makes it hard to renovate to meet modern library requirements.”. The library has been used for 125 years.

The Friends of North Kensington Library have different views. They’re concerned about the loss of the building for public use and worry about the reduction of council provision in the area. A 3000 name petition has been collected to support this. The campaign suggests the move of the library to a new site would cost £11m.

– The council wants to move the library to the site of the nearby (50 metres away) Lancaster Youth Centre. It promises larger floor space, an improved range of books, magazines and newspapers as well as e-books to borrow, excellent Wi-Fi and IT facilities, space for children’s activities, quiet study areas and meeting rooms for groups, public toilets with baby change facilities..

So it’s a bit more nuanced than the fat-cat council simply selling off a public library but there’s more going on than simply a move to a more modern building. The local community clearly feels very strongly about the move but the council clearly also thinks it is improving matters. I don’t even live in London and can’t claim to know who is right but the one thing clear about this is how much people care about public libraries, the numbers that can be mobilised (3000 in this case, to some extent or another) and how councils need to tread carefully.

If you know more about this issue and you’d like to give a view, please email me via ianlibrarian@live.co.uk. Thank you.

Ideas

  • Card swaps – Display with pocket for each trading card, on a take one / leave one principle.

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An attempt to sum up what public libraries do, but with some problems attached. For my presentation at CILIP Conference - http://cilipconference.org.uk/engaging-audiences/

A surprise mention at Grenfell, and ideas

Editorial

I, like so many others, have been deeply affected by the sheer tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire and the issues surrounding it. One media report from Channel 4 News videoed local people about how they felt about the situation. The very first person on the video pointed out that the local libraries have been sold off.  I was not expecting public libraries to be brought into this but it shows their importance – they’re part of the community and to lose one, especially in the wealthiest borough, is seen as a measure of how much the council cares, as it is  in so many other places.

I’ve included no less than four new “ideas” in this post, which is quite a lot. I was quite taken aback by the crowdfunding the building of a library one. There’s something about public librarians that they’re always soming up with new ideas and being happy to share them. The ideas and innovations page regularly gets the most view on PLN – if you hve come up with an idea and want it included, please email me.  

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Hi John Glen, libraries should not be pigeonholed and income generation’s not the answer

Editorial

Welcome to John Glen MP, who takes over the libraries brief in a more traditional portfolio than his predecessor including arts, culture, heritage, museums and tourism. It’s always interesting to see where libraries are put as it gives an idea of where our place is seen. Arts are brilliant as is everything else on the list – but one can’t help but think libraries are the odd one out. We could fit just as easily in Education.

Also, have a look at the quote by Nick Poole on the need for more action in the sector too. And does anyone know of a library authority that makes more than 10% of its budget on income (and I don’t mean fines)?

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Desmond Clarke

Editorial

I was so sorry to see that Desmond Clarke has passed away. We started exchanging emails almost back when I started PLN, back in 2010. He was a campaigning veteran long before then of course. We did not always agree on the solution to the problems that public libraries found themselves in but I never doubted his good intentions and, also, his gentle influence. He was one of the few campaigners that Ed Vaizey listened to, although of course that did not unfortunately translate much into action. There’s not many people outside the library world, when all is said and done, that spent so much time on working for their betterment. I’ll miss his emails and I’ll miss him.

The news that Bristol may close up to 17 branches is not unexpected. Back in January I’d reported that up to 19 were under threat and it looks like a similar number indeed are. The city library service has had a tough time over the last few years, the opening of Junction 3 excepted, and it’s not over yet.

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Farewell Rob Wilson, we hardly knew you

Editorial

Well, that was an election and a half. I’m not sure if anyone really knows what it all means yet and I won’t pretend to even be able to make a good guess. The only thing for sure is we will have a new minister in charge of libraries as Rob Wilson lost his parliamentary seat last week. He certainly seemed more interventionist than Ed Vaizey, although that is not exactly saying much. He visited troubled library authorities and even issued as “minded to intervene” in Lancashire, which is highly unusual and seemed to at least take an interest in the sector. He even found some funding for innovation, although the timetable for bidding for it was incredibly rushed. At the time of writing, it’s not clear who his replacement may be.

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PLN - Email Banner BookClub 600x200-01

Take a deep breath, learn something new, improve

Editorial

If you’re reading this on Friday, with most or all of the general election results having come in, you will have more idea than I currently have on what the next five years holds for UK public libraries. More of the same or not. No matter what happens, always remember the importance of public libraries in so many different aspects of life and for all ages. If you work in libraries, be proud of what you do and aim to learn something new to make your work even better. If you advocate or campaign for libraries, take a deep breath. No matter what happens, your skills and your energy are going to be needed, no matter who you are.

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Celebrity advocates for libraries: Riddell, McDermid and 100 others

Editorial

It has been a real delight over the last year to see the many pro-library drawings by Chris Riddell popping up on Twitter.  He has been the children’s laureate for 2016/17, soon to be replaced by the next (mystery) children’s writer. This position is often filled by someone who rightly has worked out how important public libraries are to getting children to read.  I am delighted to see that Chris will not stop campaigning because his tenure is at end: he is becoming the president of the School Library Association. Whoever thought of asking him to do that job is a genius. Another example of a great advocate for libraries is Val McDermid who has been quoted, not for the first time, supporting public libraries. People, and thus the media, tend to listen more to celebrities than even (perhaps especially even) experts and so people like this are gold dust. Here’s a list of famous people I’ve noticed saying nice things about libraries. Can you let me know of any more? Email me as normal at ianlibrarian@live.co.uk.

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