Archive for February, 2018

Throwing tables and spitting in the face: the lesser known side of libraries

Editorial

There are many  libraries, perhaps, that have no problems with antisocial behaviour. Where the worst that can happy is a child shouting “bogies” as they leave. Where the public tuts if someone swears loudly and then things go back to normal. Then there are the others: the ones with  drug users or alcoholics regularly using the place, where people have been known to throw chairs, and not just at empty space. Where groups go in to fight eachother. Where disgusting things are found on the carpet. Those are public libraries as well, and often serving quite as important purpose as all the others. The staff in these buildings need to learn strategies to deal with the behaviour they face: they learn not to shout, but to lower voices. They understand the importance of always going through with a threat if made. Some have learnt that a confrontation is only one where there are two sides: that acting bored or discussing their holidays with the troublemaker can be far more effective than threatening the police. But, sometimes, enough is enough. The police need calling and hopefully things get sorted. Sometimes even that does not work and, well, then it’s hard. This is not a well-known side to libraries, at least in the popular media, but it’s there. And, if you’re reading this and recognising your workplace as similar then I salute you.

Changes

National news

  • Agenda: How public libraries have a vital role in boosting the health and wellbeing of Scots – Herald Scotland. The role public libraries play in supporting individuals and carers with health information needs has often gone unnoticed. Yet it can be life-changing. There has been a shift in thinking, with recognition of the value libraries offer, and how integral they are to the delivery of national policies. The action plan highlights the need to work with libraries to link people to useful sources of health and care information and to develop accessible resources that better meet people’s needs.”
  • Bucking the trend – Taskforce meets in the Woolwich centre – Libraries Taskforce. “The library service in Greenwich has been shown over some years to be one of the most successful in sustaining and increasing use – from 1.49 million visits in 2009/10 rising to 2.55 million in 2016/17, and from 656,000 book issues in 2009/10 to 762,000 in 2016/17. Figures supplied by GLL indicated that Greenwich’s 12 local libraries had seen the highest number of visits per 1,000 residents of any borough in the UK over the last 2 years.” … “There was an interesting discussion around stock, recognising that, although GLL spent less than many in-house services, it got more usage, primarily because of rigorous measurement of usage around the ratio of stock to loans, and by using data on lending patterns to inform purchasing policies.
  • Ensuring the Resiliency and Value of Public Libraries: Working in Partnership to Maximise Opportunities and Meet Local Needs – Public Policy Exchange. 5th June, London.
    Outsourcing Fundamentalism, Hasn’t Herts heard of Carillion? and SCL/Taskforce backed vol-led ‘libraries’ conference comes to Sheffield – Stop the privatisation of public libraries. Alan Wylie looks at some library news inc. asking Paul Blantern “at a Speak up for Libraries conference a few years ago whether he thought that an outsourcing fundamentalist was a good choice to chair a Taskforce on public libraries he just laughed it off, hope he’s stopped laughing … “
  • Scotland’s Library and Information Professional of the Year Nominations now open – CILIPS. “Nominations are now open for the annual recognition award being presented by CILIP in Scotland. Scotland’s Library and Information Professional of the Year, sponsored by Bolinda Digital, is our annual cross sectoral award honouring a CILIP member in Scotland for outstanding achievement and accomplishment in post.”
  • Top professionals for trustworthy information revealed – CILIP. “A YouGov poll commissioned by CILIP, the library and information association, has revealed the professionals the public believe are most likely to provide trustworthy information. Medical staff topped a list of ten professional groups with 74% of British adults saying they would provide trustworthy information, followed by teachers and police officers (both at 49%), librarians (46%) and lawyers (39%). Bottom of the list were politicians, with 2% of respondents saying they would provide trustworthy information.”

An online bookclub from Axiell
International news

  • EU – Erasmus+ opportunity for library cooperation: the Mills of Folk Knowledge project – NAPLE Sister Libraries. “This widening of the scope for Erasmus+, plus the designation of 2018 as Year of the European Cultural Heritage, is an opportunity for public libraries in Europe to apply for grants in cooperation with others.”
  • New Zealand – Library Boss – New website for librarians. “The Library Boss knows digital literacy is crucial for librarians and provides the tools for you to flourish with grace and flair. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a library qualification, are new to the profession, or haven’t got a handle on this digital thing at all.”
  • Norway – The extraordinary Stovner library: the shape of things to come – Designing Libraries. “The ‘social library’ is the driving idea behind the Deichman Stovner library. Here, people of all ages will find a flexible, inclusive space in which to read, create, discuss, and have new experiences.” … “an inspiring and flexible space that lays claim to 1100 square metres in the Stovner shopping mall. ‘The mall is the heart of Stovner and the library belongs where the people are,'” … open 7am to 11pm via card/pin entry … “orld-class set designers produced extraordinary props”
  • USA – Flirting with Fame among the Librarians – The Coil. Alex Halpern: “the best part of the last few months, aside, perhaps, from sharing a page in American Libraries Magazine with Dolly Parton, has been meeting and hearing from so many amazing librarians across the country and across the world, who are doing such impressive, notable work for their communities with little to no recognition.” .. The list of librarians I admire is a lot longer than I could ever fit into an essay like this”
  • USA – ‘Sad’ dog looking for kids to read to him is now all booked up – Today. Twice a month, Sting visits a Minnesota library so that young kids can read to him as part of a program called Paws to Read.He’s participated for the last two years.”

Local news by authority

If variety is the spice of libraries …

Editorial

It’s interesting to see how widely charges and fines vary between library services. Last week, we saw that fines range from nothing to 50p per day per item. This time, there’s a news story about Cambridgeshire libraries introducing charges for computer use and author events. Such things are standard practice in many library services but apparently novel there. “Premier membership” is an idea that has been tried before, with uncertain success as far as I can tell. The most unusual thing I can see on the list is charging for storytimes which is unusual (but not unique – hello Milton Keynes).. And this is the thing, there’s so much variety in libraries  that the odds that the novel idea has probably been done elsewhere, sometimes surprising even a deep library nerd like me.

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Love Libraries, Love Reading

Editorial

It’s Valentines Day time and love is in the air. Included below is a short interview with Shirley Everall who was given the award a while ago for promoting Romances. It’s a section that gets some attention this time of year but remember, Romance is a section for all the year around, not just for Valentines.

I’d give to signal some love too to the libraries of the increasingly inappropriately named Reading Council, who are facing further cuts this year on top to previous ones. I know from emails received how hurt the staff are there and how they can see the service is being hollowed out, libraries kept open or no. The council makes no bones about placing the blame squarely on central government.  Mind you, a quick search shows the same council paid out over £4m in equal pay claims , with a provision of over £11m for it, plus £1.5m in legal fees battling the decision and, in addition, has recently paid £20 million on a big office block (the finances on this are really murky) so there’s perhaps a bit of blame for them too.

Finally, and I dread saying this, after the previous piece, but it needs saying, that, look, bad news gets the headlines. This is especially so on PLN as it’s a news compiler of media stories which are already biased towards bad news. “Libraries does well” does not get reported in the press so much but there’s still a lot of those around. I see some great examples of successful library services out there. The sad thing is that the recurring bad news more than camouflages this. But there is good news there, great librarians like Shirley Everall and, also reported on today, Dionne Hood, continue to do brilliant stuff. And my it looks fun. So I think we should remember that too. So my love to those suffering like Reading (and, yes, Northamptonshire, and Somerset and … look, I’m trying OK?) but also to those libraries still able to do the good stuff. The picture needs to include both.

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Unsettling: a new Chief Exec for the Libraries Taskforce

Editorial

Kathy Settle has left the Taskforce. In the process, I believe, meaning the team is cut down to just four to cope with what ‘s needed, including a new libraries minister. During her time, the Taskforce has done a ton of meetings, seminars and tried – without any formal powers – to pull together an idea of what is needed for libraries and to try to start getting it done. And quite a lot needs to. Some of those things – notably around trusts and volunteer libraries – has not met with universal acclaim but in such a controversial and heated sphere as this, that’s hardly surprising, especially when one considers that the Taskforce is basically Civil Service, with all that implies. With a revitalised CILIP and an expanded soon-to-be-charity SCL this year, the question will be which, or if, of these tasks moves out of the realm of the Taskforce on to others. It’s also been good to see the ACE chief showing an interest. The decision not to appoint a replacement but to have her role added to another within the Taskforce shows that expansion may not be in the works. What else is in the works remains a topic of interest.

The decision to remove all fines in Trafford has had a wide press, breaking out into the national media, and has raised much conversation online. I’m aware that there are strong factors why libraries still charge (not least finance departments who insist they do) but it looks like the time is coming for change. I’ve written a separate post, which I’m going to admit to being very proud of, called So you’re dependent on fines: The seven step plan to removing your addiction  which I naturally recommend you read. I’ve tried to keep it fun and thought-provoking. and it’s quite short too

Happy to discuss more, on anything, either through the comments or at ianlibrarian@live.co.uk.

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It’s not all fine: Trafford remove all late fees from 1st April

Editorial

Trafford has shocked the UK public library world by announcing that they will be removing all library fines from 1st April. The reasons put forward for that by councillors is that fines are off-putting for customers, no fines will increase usage (and indeed will increase returns as people know they won’t get fined if they’re late) and that there should not be any barriers to accessing libraries. Children were especially mentioned as benefitting from no fines and Trafford will also be giving a library card to every child. One suspects as well that it will be a nice thing to say the council has done if local elections are coming up.

This is not the first library service in England to remove fines – Rutland does not have fines and I understand from Twitter that there’s one or two in Scotland (West Lothian and West Dunbartonshire) – but it is the first major (sorry Rutland) or metropolitan library service in England to go down this route and so will inevitably be noticed more. It also ties in with a global trend I’ve been noticing for a while (especially in the USA and Australia) where libraries have been removing fine due to it being a barrier (after all, we’ve removed physical ones years ago), inequitable and no longer needed now we have the power to automatically online renew.

The big barrier to this in the UK is of course where the money is going to come from if we get rid of fines. Charging people for late books does bring in some money that will need to be replaced in another way. There’s also – no surprise in the library world this – a fundamental lack of research of shared data on how effective removing fines are. We need that evidence shared in order to spread good practice and identify bad. Personally, I am tired of seeing people arguing over fines in libraries and I know that fines are a reason people tell me socially they no longer use libraries. So I really hope this is a successful experiment. And an experiment that produces what a good experiment always does: actual shareable data on the result.

There’s more information on pros and cons on fines (and the thorny problem of fines recovery) on this page.

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Well, that can't be safe - the Library Lion in action. Credit: Graeme Braidwood

Bring on the authors

Editorial

It’s a strange thing about Arts Council England. I’ve seen pretty much everyone else nationally and locally being criticised over the years for their stance on public libraries but almost nothing about ACE. The reason I suspect is they’re a bit out of context and also a bit like, well, Father Christmas, albeit one with an interest in culture rather than presents and carefully written bids rather than who’s been naughty and nice. They’re also somewhat limited in what they can fund. So we don’t hear much from them other than seeing the results in lots of shows and artworks going on in libraries such as the “Library Lion” below and also some of the projects that Time To Read runs (also below). It’s good therefore to hear from them and this week we have none other than the boss, Nicholas Serota, talking libraries to CILIP.

He comes across as an intelligent chap and he is to applauded for the post, with thoughtful comments, although it’s clear his expertise in other sectors. For example, he wonders why authors aren’t as involved in libraries as artists are in galleries. Well, the reason is that they’re qualitatively different – people read the books at home while art has to be seen in the gallery. However, there’s always more space for authors to be involved in libraries, especially as they’re just such supporting people and the e-book revolution hasn’t really taken place as many thought it would. It’s my pleasure in Time To Read to help this process and it’d be great to see more of it nationally as well. Bring on the authors.

National news

  • Building The Literacy Library – Crowdfunder. 1 in 8 children don’t have a book at home. Over £50,000 raised for new library to help teachers and schools.
  • Entries now open for the Libraries Change Lives Award – CILIP. “Applications are open for the 2018 CILIP Libraries Change Lives Award for innovative library and information projects and services that have a positive and demonstrable impact on their user community and reflect intelligent service design or best practice delivery. “
  • Fake Non-Profits – lies, damned lies and Carillion’s non-profit companies – Ed Mayo’s Blog. “When we look at the accounts submitted to Companies House, the story becomes visible. Cultural Community Solutions made no profit because it looks as if it has paid all of its profit out to others including companies in the Carillion family. From year to year, gross profit is simply eaten up by the ‘administrative expenses’. In 2016, they were exactly the same figure.” … “As a non-profit, they could also do something that other commercial, or indeed in-house services, could not, which is to claim discretionary relief on business rates payable on library premises. As with the big fostercare companies financed by offshore venture capital, designed to escape taxation, the financial profits this non-profit passed through to Carillion were in every possible way a gift from the taxpayer.” … “Anyone can call themselves a non-profit, just as many can claim to be a social enterprise, but there is an underlying first principle that needs to be recognised, as in the International Statement of Co-operative Identity, which is that of independence.”
  • Making sure there’s time to read – Libraries Taskforce / Time To Read. [This is a post by me in day job – Ed.] “Time To Read is a unique collaboration between the North West library authorities to promote reading for those aged 16+ via shared projects, promotion, news and best practice. Its origins can be traced back all the way to 1996. Membership of the partnership fluctuates but currently numbers 22 out of the 23 eligible services, each paying in an annual subscription which covers a part-time co-ordinator and such things as meetings and promotions.”
  • A progressive professional body for a global sector – Research Information. Ayub Khan, president of CILIP: “four-year plan to 2020 is shaped around the central goal of putting ‘library and information skills at the heart of a democratic, equal and prosperous society’ … “anything else – so keeping libraries on the agenda will be a challenge. I will focus on libraries’ future potential, as well as their proud traditions.”

Dear Librarian

Just a quick note to remind you to nominate for the CWA Dagger in the Library 2018. It’s very easy to do: just go along to  http://daggerreads.co.uk/dagger-in-the-library/ and submit your nomination. Up to three staff members of each library can nominate. Please note this year we’re looking for a mainstay of crime writing; someone who has published more than 10 books and whose first book was published before 2008. In 2018 we want the Dagger in the Library to reward those authors (crime fiction and non-fiction) who have given most pleasure to library users over the years. The deadline is February 28, and we are pleased to have the support of The Reading Agency. Please pop to the site and nominate before the deadline – it takes about 2 minutes.

’d also like to remind you about the Margery Allingham Short Story Competition. That’s for a short story up to 3,500 words loosely around the Golden Age writer’s definition of what makes a mystery. That definition, and other details, are on the CWA website here. Entry fee is £12, and the prize is £500 plus books and two passes to CrimeFest 2019 – a fabulous mystery writers convention in Bristol not to be missed. You can download a poster on the Short Story page or here from DaggerReads.

I’ll be writing to you soon about National Crime Reading Month in May.  Meanwhile, please do send in those Dagger in the Library nominations! There are so many authors who have given pleasure to library users for years, and this is a great chance to say thanks on the readers’ behalf.

Yours

Dea Parkin – Secretary of the CWA

  • Some thoughts on ‘Library Lion’ – Untied Artists. “I started to wonder if it would be possible to create a site specific performance of the book that drew on my experiences as a parent at storytime, captured and shared the magic of the book, and was somehow able to comment on the fact that libraries are nothing less than essential to a thriving, caring, enlightened community.” … “after quite a lengthy process of grant bids and negotiations with libraries, schools, publishers and venues, I’m really pleased with the results, and we’ve been able to bring the show to some quite ‘low engagement’ areas. This week, before performing to a small group of SEN students in Gornal Library, I had a quick chat with the wonderful librarian there. Note librarian in the singular.” see also Library Lion – Untied Artists. “Dudley Libraries, Untied Artists and Birmingham Rep bring this beautiful children’s book to life in celebration of an endangered species – the local library.”
Well, that can't be safe - the Library Lion in action. Credit: Graeme Braidwood

Well, that can’t be safe – the Library Lion in action. Credit: Graeme Braidwood

  • Special agent for library development – CILIP. “The Arts Council England is the development agency for public libraries and Sir Nicholas Serota, its chair, believes the sector could use the experience of other cultural organisations as it builds a public library service fit for the 21st century.” … “The extent of his influence not only depends on the priority and resources that ACE directs towards libraries, but also on the extent to which the sector and local authorities are prepared to listen.” … “I think the core of the library activity remains freeing imaginations through access to literature, knowledge in its broadest sense. But I think we’re really talking about reinventing what that dog is rather than adding something to” … “Libraries are places that are trusted, they are places that are regarded as safe. That’s often not true of some arts ­organisations, which can be regarded as being elitist and separate” .. “Becoming entrepreneurial is not a comfortable process” … “Writers have probably been less engaged in the development of libraries than they might be”

“I think libraries and ­librarians have a responsibility to try and build a service that is ­inspirational as well as simply offering cover for basic needs. And that’s probably where the Arts Council has a part to play.”” Sir Nicholas Serota

An online bookclub from Axiell More >

The paradox of outsourcing: gilded ghouls versus cold-eyed austerity

Editorial

Still more fall-out from the collapse of Carillion. Both Harrow and Ealing have confirmed that, at least for the moment, their library services will be in-house rather than simply farmed out once more. Moreover, there are suspicions that Carillion was not the only private company to be worried about out there. Capita too, which although it does not directly run libraries does provide various support systems up and down the country to them, has also come under the spotlight with big drops in share prices and people worried that it too may collapse. What seems to have happened with Carillion was that it went in with the lowest possible bids for services, spent as little as it could on services, and hoped to make money by ever expanding, collapsing when its debts got too big to hide this way. Well, that’s a classic pyramid / Ponzi scheme. The hope is Capita shows itself not to be in the same category.

It would not have been such a big problem if councils weren’t so starry-eyed about the private companies. The now ex-boss of Northamptonshire and erstwhile chief of the Libraries Taskforce is on record as saying he would outsource anything. The weird mix  of the trust that ran his libraries (part university, part NHS, part council) will be a devil’s web to unravel if it proves necessary to so. And it may, because the council has warned it will likely get rid of many of its libraries. Last week it also said it may be bankrupt soon as well.

This love-in with outsourcing seems sharply at odds with what Philip Pullman has last week called “the cold-eyed dogma of austerity”. Carillion has shown that if it seems too good to be true, then maybe it is. And watch out for your pension too. Why the paradox? It seems to be down to blind adherence to  ideology and pro-profit bias (leaving aside the possibility of quasi-accepted semi-corruption in some form e.g. becoming a Director in the private company when no longer in post ) that can square this circle.

However, it is important not to tar everyone with the same brush. Library trusts are obviously very different beasts to the all-devouring too-big-to-fail Ponzi schemes. Similarly, it’s hard to see GLL in the same category. True non-profits do not ultimately act or behave the same as profits, even though sometimes (as in Lambeth below) there’s bad news stories about them. It is to be hoped that the current crisis will mean politicians are more clear-eyed when it comes to privatisation and non-profits see this as a warning not to copy the gilded ghoul Carillions of this world. Cross your fingers something good will yet come out of this trauma.

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Ideas

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