Editorial – It’s the library users without gloves I worry about

The Guardian asked me to write a piece on my experience of working in public libraries in winter. Many thanks to those of you who have tweeted and shared it. I include it below for those others of you who may be interested. I wrote it from the heart.

“There are a lot more homeless people using libraries these days. They will come in and stay in for hours and hours. Those who are dressed warmly are doing comparatively OK, but I wonder what those without gloves will do after the library closes. I hope they have a homeless shelter or somewhere else warm. We do what we can to help – sometimes we’ll phone the council hotline to try and find somewhere for them to stay. Many are so grateful when something is arranged.

The great thing about libraries is that everyone can sit down and be part of our community. The homeless people that visit us will see families, the young and old and, hopefully, feel part of normal human life. That’s just as important as the books and computers we offer.

Inside my library, there are also a lot of people you’d probably think of as quite well-off: such as retired types in tweed jackets. We see more of them in cold snaps, because they often live in quite big houses that cost a fortune to keep warm. There’s no social stigma about reading a book or a newspaper in the library. The thing about public libraries is they’re warm and open to all without any barriers. There will be no funny looks from the staff. You don’t have to buy a cappuccino to hang out all day and no one asks you why you’re there. My library does not even ask for ID if you want a library card to go on a computer.

We have groups of old men who wait for the library to open, even in the snow, and are there almost all day. They’ve formed a sort of social club by themselves and I am glad they’ve found each other.

In my experience, people who work in libraries love talking to people. I certainly do. I enjoy helping people, hearing their life stories on the way, and seeing what they really need, rather than simply what they have asked for. A good librarian is an extrovert and we use that to talk and to help. I’ve had people come in for a book and leave with computer course details, or signed up for an event. They’ll often know the names of my children, and me theirs.

Come the evenings, we see the teenagers. Sadly, many have been turfed out of their homes by parents who don’t appear to care what their child is doing, even in the cold. You can tell it’s freezing when they don’t cause a fuss, just simply sit down and talk among themselves. We also get kids using the library for quiet study. That’s a rare thing in some homes. I like to think we’ve helped quite a few get to college or university. Libraries are a place of warmth in the community throughout the year, but that becomes quite literal during the winter. The idea of libraries no longer being here? That gives me the shivers.”


National news

  • Fictional Librarians and stereotypes – #uklibchat. “We thought we’d enjoy a different type of topic this month – we all know and love a variety of fictional librarians and info pros from the depressing Madame Pince in Harry Potter, to Giles in Buffy, but what does it mean? What do they get right about what we do? Does it have an impact?”
  • It’s the library users without gloves I worry about – Guardian / Ian Anstice. “In this cold weather, public libraries are warm and open to all. The idea of them no longer being here gives me the shivers”. Experience of libraries when it’s cold. 1540 shares and 556 comments as of check on Sunday 6.18pm.
  • Playful publishing ponder – Games for Libraries. “I was wondering whether we could do something else a tad playful that might be fun to create AND useful for people to access afterwards. Perhaps getting a bunch of people together to write something in 1 day (maybe 2)? “
  • University of Sheffield ranked number one in world for library and information management – University of Sheffield. “The QS World University Rankings has expanded to include library and information management as a subject in its league table for the first time this year, with 50 institutions from across the world featured. Sheffield topped the table, coming joint first with the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA.”

An online bookclub from Axiell
International news

  • Australia – In a cool public library on Australia’s hottest day, I revisited what the state can offer – New Statesman. “When I joined my family at the library in the late afternoon, they were in high spirits. Yes, the public space was safely air-conditioned, but that was the least of it. The library is cool in every sense, a kind of interior garden designed to encourage a love of learning. The returns desk is a gap in a lush green bank of real plants. Toddlers arrive at their selection of books via a giant slide. The staircase has a shallow rake and soft steps that double up as seats: it’s inviting to climb, but forgiving if someone falls. Imagine Scandinavian public investment and social cohesion reworked for a sunny place: this is Woollahra public library. “
  • Belgium – 10 public libraries in Belgium – The Word [OK, I realise this could come across as a contender for most boring title ever but I’m nerd enough to find this interesting – Ed.]
  • Eire -Library records of 20 people in Dublin edited to include sexually explicit information – The Journal. “Shortly before the August 2017 audit of Malahide Library, Fingal County Council contacted the DPC informing it of a recent incident where a library staff member based in another local authority inadvertently came across the borrower record of a library borrower in Fingal which contained data entries of a highly inappropriate, sexually explicit nature. Fingal County Council then established that the records of 20 Fingal library borrowers had been edited in this manner and these records had, in fact, been imported from the previous library management system Galaxy onto Sierra. The DPC noted that there was no way of tracing the borrower records on either the Galaxy or Sierra systems to help identify the source of the edits. It said that staff in each library were using generic logins to access the systems.”
  • USA – Dolly Parton Gives The Gift Of Literacy: A Library Of 100 Million Books – NPR Ed. “The country music legend is also a champion of early childhood literacy, through her Imagination Library. Every month, the nonprofit program mails a free book to more than a million children — from infants to preschoolers. Parton visited the Library of Congress on Tuesday to celebrate a major milestone in the Imagination Library’s history: delivery of its 100 millionth book. Not bad for a program Parton founded more than two decades ago as a small, local effort to help kids in her native Sevier County, Tennessee.”

Local news by authority

  • Cheshire West and Chester – Cheshire West residents face 5% council tax hikeChester Chronicle. ““Cheshire West used to be a council that found innovative ways to deliver public services without raising council taxes and still managed to build a theatre, new schools, museums, libraries and leisure centres as well as fix the roads, pavements and bridges.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Community artwork goes on display in Winsford – So Cheshire. “The artwork is a small scale version of the steel artwork soon to go on permanent display in the newly transformed Town Park (reopening later this year).
  • Cornwall – Camelford Town Council prepares for library takeover – Camelford and Delabole Post. “Camelford will be able to access more public services in one place following the handover of Camelford Library and Information Service to Camelford Town Council as part of Cornwall Council’s devolution programme. From April 4, Camelford Library and Information Service will be managed by Camelford Town Council, but will remain part of the countywide library service.”
  • Darlington – Darlington Council’ criticised over ‘resolutely non-negotiable’ position on doomed Crown Street library – Northern Echo. Councillors “have again come under pressure to explain why a £4m plus funding pot cannot be used to preserve a “much loved” library. Darlington Borough Council revealed in December that there were funds available for investment in services due to “innovative financial investments” and the release of redundant earmarked reserves.”
  • East Sussex – Hastings Library reopens with unveiling of artwork by Sir Quentin Blake – Hastings Observer. “Artwork designed by a world-renowned illustrator has been unveiled as Hastings Library opened its doors today (Friday, March 2) following a multi-million pound revamp. Local resident and celebrated artist Sir Quentin Blake’s work adorns the Children’s Library, which relocated to the Brassey Institute as part of the major project.”
  • Hampshire – Council funding boost for library that campaigners feared would soon close – The News. “There have been fears in recent years Emsworth Library could close or move to smaller premises, as county bosses save money, with campaigners saying it would be a big blow to the town centre and residents. But now HCC has delivered good news and indicated the library is no longer on borrowed time. Councillor Andrew Gibson, the council’s executive member for culture, recreation and countryside, said: ‘As part of our strategic investment to modernise our libraries, we are currently installing self-service technology to all branches, so that customers can easily borrow and renew books and access other resources. “
  • Lancashire – Lancashire’s libraries will be ‘open for more hours’ – Lancashire Post. “A shake-up of library working hours across Lancashire will see the facilities open for longer in total, council bosses have said The new system – that could include job cutbacks – will be discussed by Lancashire County Council’s cabinet on Thursday, March 8. If adopted, it would cap a reprieve for several of the county’s libraries that were under threat of closure.” 
  • Lincolnshire – A new chapter for volunteer run library in Burgh le Marsh – Shoreham Herald. “new £133,000 volunteer run facility now open to the public. Thanks to the hard work of members of the community, the project to build a dedicated modular library building, situated in Tinkers Green, has been completed. Volunteers took over the running of the library from Lincolnshire County Council in 2015. It was previously located in the village’s Recreation Centre – having been there since 1980.”
  • Northamptonshire – Northants County Council U-turn over library opening hours – Northamptonshire Telegraph. “Every library in the county will open three days a week after Northamptonshire County Council bosses reversed their shock decision to offer just one day of services at 21 libraries. The authority had faced heavy public criticism after it revealed on Tuesday that 21 of its county libraries would only be able to open on one day per week with immediate effect. Members have had to cut all but essential spending after a S114 notice was issued imposing strict spending controls. Separately from that, on Wednesday the council also decided to cut its libraries budget for 2018/19 which meant that eight large libraries would be retained and a different 21 libraries would close. ” … “Corby and East Northants MP Tom Pursglove had announced that he was considering asking Secretary of State for Digital Culture, Media and Sport Matt Hancock MP to investigate the council’s decisions on library closures because he believed they may not be fulfilling their obligations under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964.” see also Calls for ‘urgent’ enquiry into plans to axe 21 Northamptonshire libraries – BookSeller and Library groups react to Northamptonshire County Council budget slash – Northampton Chronicle and Town council committed to securing future of Thrapston Library – Northants Telegraph and Children spend World Book Day protesting outside Brackley Library over cutsBanbury Guardian and Northants passes revised budget – Public Finance and Library Closures – Do they breach statutory requirements? – Northamptonshire Green Party.
  • North Somerset – Fears library will close if its relocated – North Somerset Times. “Councillors fear Nailsea’s library service will shut down completely if it is moved to an empty shop in the town.” … “North Somerset Council is planning to close its current library buildings in Clevedon, Long Ashton and Nailsea to save about £140,000. A mobile service could serve Long Ashton in the future, while Nailsea and Clevedon’s library service is earmarked to be relocated to ‘smaller premises’ or ‘shared facilities’.
  • Somerset – Library protest ‘sends message’ to county council – Wellington Weekly News. “Some 150 people took part in the protest last Wednesday which featured the Wiveliscombe Ukulele Band performing ‘Where Have All the Libraries Gone?’, written especially for the event. Townsfolk also had the opportunity to sign a big book containing hundreds of names opposing library plans and children made badges saying how important the library is to them.”
  • Stockton – Under-threat library reopens after being given last-minute lifeline – Gazette. “A library has reopened following a tooth-and-nail battle to keep it open. Fairfield Library, on Fairfield Road, Stockton, has now opened to the public and is to share its site with a nursery. The refurbishment follows a libraries review by Stockton Council, which is facing Government funding reductions of £74m a year by 2019/20. The review raised doubts about the future of the library but a strong opposition to its closure followed. Those who use the library campaigned to keep it – and it was decided Egglescliffe Library, on Butterfield Drive, Egglescliffe, would close instead.”

  “Due to extreme weather conditions today, Bramhall Library will go into Open Plus mode from 5pm allowing only those customers who have registered for this service to gain access to the library.We apologise for any inconvenience caused to our customers.” Stockport Libraries @SMBC_Libraries