Archive for November, 2017

Libraries are here to share info, not hide it: the joy of Open Data

Editorial

I was at the rather marvellous “Voyage of the Data Treader” unconference yesterday. There were quite a few big learning points for me during the day. The first was that “open data” if done properly can help reputation (not damage it, as many fear), save money (fewer Freedom of Information requests) and can lead to unexpected things. This last shouldn’t have surprised me because – you see that map on the righthand side of the website? – that was done by Libraries Hacked using PLN blog entries. I had no idea it was possible before he did it as I just don’t code. What made it “open data” is that I had taken the decision years ago to publish with a creative commons license meaning anyone could use it. I hadn’t realised that it was “open data” at the time (and it was 2010 so very few probably did) but I’m glad I made that decision. Newcastle is too, by the way – apparently, it’s adherence to publishing its data saves it £250k on FOI requests.

Another thought. Public libraries suffer a lot from not having their enough about them public. The Libraries Taskforce lacks the power to force authorities to make them public and there’s no chance the current government would give them that power. So “open data” in libraries has to be voluntary. To do this, there will need to be awareness of both the carrot (save money, look good to your public) and the stick (“what is your council hiding?”, how come it’s not one of the “open” ones?). We’ll see if that works. But the mood yesterday was clearly that things were moving towards more “open” sharing of information. And that can only be a good thing. After all, I’m sure none of us joined the library sector to hide information.

Changes

National news

  • Automated checkouts ‘miserable’ for elderly shoppers – BBC. “Automated checkout machines put off about a quarter of older people from going shopping, a survey from a housing charity for the elderly suggests. They can find the automated checkouts “intimidating” and “unfriendly,” according to the charity, Anchor. Without someone to talk to at the tills, shopping can be a “miserable experience,” a spokesman said. The British Retail Consortium said it was important for shops to be welcome destinations for all of the community.”
  • A more open, accessible and inclusive CILIP – Research Information. “The information profession has radically changed in recent years and it is continuing to evolve, writes Nick Poole …”
  • ‘It’s just mistake after mistake’ – stories from the universal credit catastrophe – Guardian. “The fact that UC depends on an internet connection makes it very difficult for a lot of people to access, not least because of the government’s closure of hundreds of public libraries.”
  • PLR increases but drop in registered loans ‘disheartening’ – BookSeller. “The British Library Board has recommended that the Public Lending Right (PLR) rate be increased to 8.2p per loan in 2018. The increase, which is 0.38p up on this year, is the result of the reduction in the estimated number of loans of books registered for PLR. The Society of Authors has said it accepts the new rate but has urged the government to ring-fence and increase the PLR fund in any future spending review. A spokesperson said: “The decreased estimate for PLR-registered loans is disheartening, doubtless caused by cuts to library services and exclusion of some volunteer-run libraries from PLR.”
  • Scotland launches single library card pilot – BookSeller. “Five councils are taking part in the scheme which will be extended to the whole of Scotland if successful following an evaluation of the pilot by the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC). One Card has been developed to encourage greater access to libraries by removing barriers between services and gives holders access to more than 120 libraries and 1.6 million books. It was launched on Friday (17th November) in Aberdeen by culture secretary Fiona Hyslop and the pilot has been supported by £15,000 from the Scottish government’s Public Library Improvement Fund. The project will run for six months across the Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Highland, and Perth and Kinross council areas”

An online bookclub from Axiell
International news

  • Canada – Who do Canadian public libraries serve? – Mary F Cavanagh. A look at how public libraries describe their users (or “customers” or “patrons” or “members” or “clients”) and what this implies.
  • Finland – Nuorten näköistä – a project for the young people in Iisalmi at Iisalmi City Library (Finland) – Naple Sister Libraries. Partnership with youth services “The cooperation has been developing positively and the results have been beneficial. For example, we have brought a popup library in a local Bake a Cake event and taken a part in a first Zombie run event ever in Iisalmi. One of the most popular event has been monthly “Toimintatiistai – Action Tuesday” which has included for example robots, LittleBits building kit and so forth”
  • Philippines – Book Stop pop-up library project – Designing Libraries. ” It is a network of mobile spaces spread across the city, each garnering far more foot traffic than the typical library. The Book Stop refrains from trying to reinvent the purpose of libraries. It instead works on rethinking the physical architecture and the distribution system of libraries, emphasising casual serendipity and ease of access.”. Basically, mobile stairs to sit on with information inside.
  • USA – Promoting Healthy Communities: Connecting Public Libraries with Health Information – Public Libraries Online. “Faced with confusing medical terminology, conflicting reports, and a constantly changing healthcare system, people are looking to their local public libraries for guidance. That’s why the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) is partnering with the Public Library Association (PLA): to help libraries meet the challenges of keeping up with evidence-based health resources and producing successful health programming.”

Local news by authority

  • Bexley – Bisset Adams wins Thamesmead library contest – Designing Libraries. ” ‘We wanted to create a design which tells a story about the lake and the environment. It’s a truly sustainable structure constructed from cross-laminated timber, which is left exposed to create a warm interior environment. We also wanted it to be fun. The concept was inspired by the swans nesting by the lakeside. We used the pattern of a swan’s nest as a texture for the perforated cladding of the cantilevered upper box, which faces out to the lake and created a “bed of reeds” for screening the children’s library from the main space. We hope it will be a very special place to learn, browse and study.'”
  • Blaenau Gwent – Library takes readers in Blaenau Gwent on a journey to wonderland in celebration of digital app scheme – South Wales Argus. “The Adventures in Wonderland Project was a library based reading initiative developed with a range of partners including Head4Arts, Cardiff University, Literature Wales, Betwyll and Twletteratura. Focused around Lewis Carroll’s classic book ‘Adventures in Wonderland’, the project linked reading with digital literacy and enabled the libraries service in Blaenau Gwent to engage with new users, promoting reading through a fun web based app.”
  • Devon – Woman who has worked tirelessly to promote libraries across Devon receives OBE – Devon Live. “Ciara Eastell, Chief Executive of Libraries Unlimited, has been presented with her OBE Honours by Prince William during a Royal ceremony at Buckingham Palace” … “With more than 20 years’ experience working in the library sector, Ciara has been leading Devon’s library service for nine years, and in 2016 headed up the spin-out from Devon County Council to form Libraries Unlimited, a staff and community owned charity and social enterprise.”

“During its first year of operation, Libraries Unlimited secured more than £500,000 of additional funding, opened two new libraries and rolled out innovative new services across the county. In addition, the organisation is set to become an Arts Council England (ACE) National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) from April 2018, providing high-quality art events and activities in libraries across the county to appeal to an even wider and more diverse audience.”

  • East Sussex – Huge turnout at protest against Polegate Library closure – Eastbourne Herald. “More than 100 people gathered in protest against the proposed closure of Polegate Library on Saturday (November 18). Schoolchildren, residents, councillors, and even dogs turned out in force with banners and placards to show the county council how much the treasured facility means to them. “
  • Enfield – Edmonton Green Library Case Study – FG. “The Edmonton Centre brings together a completely refurbished library set over 2 floors and the Council’s Customer Access facilities. FG Library & Learning worked with Ingleton Wood Consultancy and Enfield Council to create a vibrant, multi-functional public space.” Nice colourful open spaces.
  • Essex – Chelmsford library will open a new ‘families zone’ in £316,000 revamp – Essex Live. “£316,000 makeover of Chelmsford Library will see a brand new ‘families zone’ open. A new state-of-the-art hub will be developed, including a children’s zone to create a space to help them learn. The project plans to change the way the library provides a variety of activities and support for families, in a bid to become a ‘one-stop shop for free family services. This includes the award-winning Rhyme Time sessions, friendship and toddler groups, play and learn sessions, sensory play, breastfeeding support drop-ins, health advice, and other children’s literacy and learning services.”
  • Lancashire – Have your say on library opening hours in Lancashire – Lancashire Evening Post. “The Lancashire County Council consultation runs until November 26. Questionnaires, obtainable from libraries, must be returned the day before or views can be shared on line until the 26th. So far more than 1,500 people have taken part in the consultation and councillors will take a final decision on new opening hours early next year.”
  • Norfolk – Drive to get children coding sees more than 500 pocket computers donated to Norfolk libraries -Eastern Daily Press. “More than 500 of the devices have been donated by the Micro:bit Educational Foundation as part of a drive to encourage children to get creative with technology – rather than just tapping away on tablets”
  • Norfolk – Harry Potter quiz coming to atmospheric Medieval gaol – Eastern Daily Press. “Teams of up to six people are invited to take part, with other libraries around the country rising to the challenge. The quiz will comprise five rounds of 10 themed questions about the Harry Potter books with two extra questions structured around the Hogwarts subject areas, shedding light on the broader history of magic. Meanwhile, from Saturday Yarmouth library will host a display inspired by the British Library’s new exhibition Harry Potter: A History of Magic.”
    Northamptonshire – Have your say on the future of Higham Ferrers Library – Northants Telegraph. “The town council is hoping to use the consultation to find out people’s views on the library, including how much they use it, what they use it for, whether they would be prepared to be a volunteer to help keep it open and are they prepared to pay more council tax to retain the service.” … “Feedback will be considered as part of the discussion on whether the council can support the library financially.”
  • Nottinghamshire – Inspirational refurbishment for Beeston Library – Designing Libraries. “The refurbishment has seen the venue become one of four flagship libraries in Nottinghamshire, with Beeston library benefiting from an extensive arts and cultural programme including exhibitions, learning activities, workshops, performance, community and family events. The library opened earlier this year with an impressive grand new entrance, increased energy efficiency, new shelving and a re-design of public spaces for modern library use. The library has a Discovery Room – a space for hands on learning, creativity and innovation – improvements to the meeting areas and exhibition spaces and, importantly, 10,000 items of new stock.”
  • Pembrokeshire – Council thanked for library Friday openings – County Echo. “County Council have thanked Fishguard councillors for continuing to fund their local library. Fishguard Library will continue to open six days, thanks to a decision by Fishguard and Goodwick Town Council to fund opening hours on Fridays for a further year” … ““It’s clearly been a great success,” he said. “The feedback from the local community has been excellent, with people using the library on Fridays for a whole host of reasons, including job hunting, research and events such as Feel Good Fridays.”
  • Perth and Kinross – New library pass for Tayside ‘removes the barriers’ – Evening Telegraph. “The single library card pilot is part of a Programme for Government commitment and has been supported by £15,000 from the Public Library Improvement Fund, which is part of a Scottish Government fund to support creative and innovative library projects.”
  • Sandwell – Domestic abuse victims to get support from Sandwell library appeal – Halesowen News. “Special boxes will be in place at all local libraries – including Cradley Heath, Blackheath, Oldbury and Rounds Green – for people to drop off donations to help people seeking help at sanctuaries. The work will commemorate International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Saturday (November 25), also known as White Ribbon Day, and the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, which run from November 25 to December 10.”

Library chuggers coming soon? Suffolk Libraries decides the best person to run it is not a librarian

Editorial

Library trusts in England haven’t been around for long, with the oldest being just two or three years old. As such, their chiefs are the library managers who took them out of council control. So the first changing of the guard, caused by the retirement of the Suffolk boss Alison Wheeler, was an interesting one to watch, and not least because of the 17-page vacancy pack. No, it was one to watch to see who would get it and where they would come from. And now we know. It’s someone from a charity and with apparently no library experience. That gives a clear indicator as to the direction of travel Suffolk has already gone on: the skills needed are now those of an independent fundraiser and not of a public librarian. It’s a truism that the higher up an organisation one goes then the less specialist skills you need and that’s the case in libraries as well as elsewhere, and Suffolk is not the first library service to have a non-librarian running it by any means. But it gives a view into the future, and the present, that would perhaps have surprised those in the library sector ten years ago and shows the financial and political pressures that such services are expected to have to face.

Interestingly Hertfordshire have just announced that they’re thinking of going down to the libraries trust route because it is “supported by national government” and it’s certainly true the Taskforce is heavily pushing the model. As funding is reduced in authority after authority, on a cycle of every two to four years, the siren call of the Trust is going to get louder. But it means that library services will become more akin to charities than statutory council run services, with all that implies. The first library chugger may not be far away.

Changes

Ideas

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A quiet few days: Cumbria, Anglesey and a fracking fund

Editorial

A reasonably quiet couple of days with a few libraries threatened in Cumbria and more detail on what is likely to happen in Anglesey. There’s a somewhat hard to believe report that fracking will result in £1 billion of community grants for groups, but it specifically mentions libraries so here’s hoping. There’s also a couple of things about health and wellbeing from the LGA and Task Force.

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The future is here, so just look around

Editorial

“The future is here, it’s just not widely distributed yet” is a quote by William Gibson that I have had a chance to reflect on recently. I was asked to do a 15 minute lightning talk on the future of libraries by Oxford University Press, which got me thinking. How on earth do you know what the future holds? Well, taking Gibson at face value, you can just look around. One of the key things I noticed was that three of the library services around the table had been quite happily giving library membership for years without any ID requirements and with no ill effects. This came as a shock to the other library services who are still, presumably, turning away prospective members on an hourly basis due to the tradition of not trusting people. The future was there, around the table, and one only needed to look. I notice this repeatedly. What is done in one authority, sometimes neighbouring ones, is simply not known or not trusted in others. It’s a case of “not invented here” on a national scale and one which does not bode well for the sector.

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Canada and Cheshire East

Editorial

My pick of the articles today is that by Stephen Abrams on the experience of Canadian public libraries. He explains the challenges they have faced and how they’re reacting to them, including some very good ideas such as open data (hmmm), marketing (ahhhh) and social media training. He addresses, quite correctly, that the main crisis facing Canadian libraries is the technological change, not budget cuts, and stresses the need to persuade decision makers. I suspect they’ve not had things as bad over there as here but he makes some interesting points and it’s worth a read. In other news, Cheshire East may be closing a few of its libraries and continues the trend of looking towards alternative forms of governance, in this case the local leisure trust, as an option.

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What’s possible: the best thing to learn from others

Editorial

Talking to colleagues in other services, finding out what works and what they do that you thought could not work or never thought of at all. That’s the thing. I’m not big on ideas but I know a good one when I see one and have never felt guilty about taking advantage of the skills and experience of others. After all, we’re in public libraries and are not in competition with each other, only with private companies (who would ruthlessly crush libraries if they could) and perhaps most of all with ourselves. So I was delighted to hear about the experience of Surrey yesterday (I was at the National Acquisitions Group conference in Leeds) who said they increased their children’s non-fiction issues by 30% over two years by the simple expedient of putting in zig-zag shelving (paid for by the book-fund in Year One) so the titles could be face on, and weeding the dross. They have found since that they can spend less on the stock but issue more simply by doing this. In other areas they’ve boosted issues by buying backlist, and not just new titles. Simple things and easy to copy.

This got me thinking about others things which I know are successful in different library authorities either in the UK or internationally but other library services are ignorant or dismissive of. They include:

  • Not asking for any ID at all when joining.
  • Not needing a library card (or, even, card and PIN) to return a book on self-service.
  • Floating stock, where books stay in the library where they’re returned.

Chances are your service will do one or two of these but have either never considered the others or think it’s not possible. But it works elsewhere. Probably in another library service neighbouring yours in fact. Have a visit. Learn from your colleagues. And if you still say no then make sure you have a reason rather than gut feeling of “ah, but that won’t work here”. Because that’s not a good excuse by itself. Is it? It seems to me we have a whole world of people showing us what is possible out there and that’s a gift, a free valuable gift, that we ignore or dismiss at our peril.

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GLL now the biggest provider of public libraries in the UK

Editorial

I failed to note in the last post the official transfer of Bromley Libraries to GLL. Greenwich Leisure Limited (marketed as “Better”) is now the largest supplier of public library services in the UK in terms of branches and, one suspects, other measures too. Having expanded outside of London (Greenwich, Wandsworth and Bromley), it now runs council services in Lincolnshire and Dudley and is looking for more. Taking advantage of a national base already established by its leisure services, it is in a strong position to bid when a service comes up anywhere in England. It appears somewhat ignored in Taskforce and other official reports, which intentionally or otherwise strongly favour library-run trusts such as Devon and York. However, I have it down as the one alternative provider to watch, now that Carillion appears to be crashing out. Library mutuals and single-authority leisure/library trusts don’t have all the same advantages – economies of scale, national spread – that GLL have, although they share with it it’s more commercial approach and semi-independence (ish) from councils.

Single-council library trusts will try to expand, and I am sure will pick up a neighbouring authority here and there, but GLL already has the national infrastructure in place. I suspect its going to be one of the big winners (possibly the big one) when the dust settles from all the cuts to libraries. Whether you see this is a good thing or not ultimately depends on where you stand on non-profits running libraries. But the cold logic of the shrinking “market”, and libraries are in one like it or not, ultimately does not care what one’s political beliefs are. It cares about who does the job as efficiently as possible. And that’s why GLL will be a strong competitor, nationally. Publicised or not.

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Privatised probation services in libraries and “jubilant scenes”

Editorial

Libraries have always been Jacks of All Trades and open to all. A warm neutral and welcoming place. That is a great strength but in times of stress, it can also lead to uncomfortable collisions like probation services loudly using spaces next door to the children’s books. Co-locations and sharing with other services is seen as a great hope for libraries by many but the danger is that the library is damaged if the wrong alliances are made. On the other hand, though, in times of cuts, eight years long now for many councils, beggars can’t perhaps be choosers. But equally they should not be exploited and lose the qualities for which they are so valued.

In other news, it’s great to see Silverdale Library reopening. The newspaper reports “jubilant scenes”. That brought a smile when I read that. Here’s looking forward to more.

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