Archive for January, 2019

A couple of hundred ideas for public libraries, plus coverage in the Express and Independent

Editorial

Considering that it has been a fairly quiet few days, what a heck of a lot of national newspaper coverage. The Express continues its quite impressive “crusade” for libraries with a couple of big of articles this weekend and, I understand, more coming in the next week. The newspaper, not known for its pro-public service sympathies, is publishing a few pro-library articles a week at the moment, which is brilliant as I suspect the decision-makers tend to discount the Guardian (the normal reporter on library matters). The Independent too has published three stories this weekend too, which is fantastic. And all of these articles in both papers have been entirely positive about the sector which is great.

Oh, and I love the “50 times libraries surprised everyone” article by Boredpanda. There were a couple on there I’ve not seen before, including having the books lying down and spine up so people can clearly see their titles. I’ve been collecting ideas and innovations for public libraries for a few years now, by the way, and recently updated by seriously nerdy list here.

Changes

Ideas

More >

Preparing for the worst is useful but one can sometimes miss things

Editorial

Libraries Connected are doing their first official seminar in June, focusing on “what a future library offer might look like”. The first presentation mentioned is uncontroversial enough, being from Historypin who are a small tech concern dealing with small groups, local history and empathy, very trendy right now. This is the shiny bit that is nice and one expects. Then things get interesting with the second choice, who is the Chief Exec of Barking and Dagenham on rethinking public services. That London borough has rethought library services to such an extent that they have more than halved their budget since 2010. Then there’s a talk from Singapore libraries, which as reported on last post are doing wonderful things and I think can genuinely give pointers on how to run a top-notch library service, albeit in an environment without austerity. But gosh, the big raising of the eyebrows goes to the last speaker, an assistant director from Ealing. That council, in case you don’t remember, have just announced in committee papers the deepest potential cut I can recall seeing in a decade of reporting on public libraries, from £2.2m in 2019 to a pathetic £566k in 2022.

But. to those of you getting angry about this, I invite you to look at it differently. Another way to look at it is to say that the first LC seminar shows  isn’t messing about. It’s effectively preparing chiefs for how to cope with the worse austerity can throw at them.  But I would question the absence of anything to do with books or improving existing traditional services on the menu. When faced with the oncoming Austerity train, I guess it’s not many people that stop to look at the state of the tracks, so it’s understandable. But there are many library services out there who are not facing deep cuts, appearances to contrary. And, of these, there’s a ton of branches out there whose staff do not know how to, for instance, properly promote or display their book-stock because they’ve never actually been shown. Perhaps there should be a seminar on that soon. In the meantime, I asked LC why Ealing was asked and this is their answer below, which is fair enough and appreciated. I find it particularly encouraging that LC is not pretending that everything is perfect in the public library world. This continues a welcome trend which I have noticed before and will help retain everyone’s sanity (“am I just imagining these cuts?”), especially when one sees below what Northants has done in the last year (e.g. wiping out most its management) and one stops to consider that Bradford has announced three times worse.

“Libraries Connected are aware of the proposed changes to Ealing’s library services to have six libraries directly run by the council and seven community managed libraries run in partnership with local community organisations. These proposals are due to go out to public consultation next month and until that consultation has concluded we will not know what the future library provision for Ealing will look like. But we do know that during Carole’s eight years at Ealing she has demonstrated a strong commitment to safeguarding library services, winning a Guardian award in 2013 for joining with other local boroughs to protect libraries at risk of closure. Carole is working on a new library strategy for Ealing and as many of our members are currently in the position of trying to maintain their service provision in the face of unprecedented cuts,  we remain convinced that Carole Stewart will be a valuable addition to the Libraries Connected seminar.”

Changes

Ideas

More >

Who Does What In English Public Libraries

Editorial

I was asked the other day by someone reasonably senior in a library service for a guide for which bodies do what in the public libraries sector. It strikes me that I’ve never actually seen one so I’ve started creating one. It’s simple and misses a few things – sorry Carnegie and ASCEL, there’s note enough space and I’m not going to touch the minefield of volunteer libraries and parish councils – but should give some ideas. Also, some of it is open to interpretation. I got some push back from various people on Twitter about how certain bodies aren’t doing their jobs and that’s always going to happen. So, rather, use the chart as an idea for what should be happening, not necessarily what you feel actually is. And let me know if I have anything actually wrong.

I tweeted an original draft of this chart on Saturday night and it’s been amended a bit since then. One of the things I’ve never really properly grasped before is that while the DCMS has the duty of superintending libraries, it is the MHCLG who provided much of the funding, which is set-up that Nick Poole notes is bound to cause problems. Judging from Twitter, a few people are shocked by how small some of these bodies actually are. Anyway, comment directly if you wish or email me at ianlibrarian@live.co.uk with your thoughts. The chart is free to use and share under CC BY. If the image below does not open properly, it’s available via Google Docs. or via this tweet and, if worse comes to the worst and you’re reading this on a council machine with security blocks on it everywhere, email me and I’ll send it to you that way.

Wait until you realise it’s not the same outside of England.

Changes

Ideas

More >

Goodbye Libraries Taskforce, huge cuts to Bradford and Coventry, good news elsewhere

Editorial

So, effectively, it’s goodbye to the Libraries Taskforce, whose duties are now formally part of Arts Council England for a year until it, presumably, disappears forever. The Taskforce did some good work in highlighting the importance of public libraries to central government departments, although with questionable impact and depth, arranged training and was a good sharer of information on what the sector with its frequent blogs. I’m not sure what other concrete achievements it has, although to defend it further, it did come into existence at the toughest time in public library history, world wars included, and, as a civil service entity, was unable to criticise or otherwise hold the neglectfully hands-off government to account.

And it’s a government that absolutely does need to be held to account by someone if Bradford’s suggested 65% cut to library budget in two years goes through. It’s not as if it hadn’t been cut before, with volunteer libraries, co-locations and the full panoply of “savings” already in place from previous hacks to its budget. In a similar vein, Coventry, which amusingly is the 2021 UK City of Culture, is pruning £1m off a budget already cut by £1.4m. I understand the libraries minister is in the latter city this week with the DCMS libraries team. I hope this is not coincidental and he actually calls out such behaviour. The last decade has been a history of libraries ministers (with special mention going to the library-comatose Ed Vaizey) failing to meaningfully intervene in such deep cuts, though, as don’t get your hopes up.

And, finally, oh look, some good news. And not just in one library but in three. Well done East Sussex, Southwark and Suffolk on the improvements there and fingers crossed for the marvellous sound Preston project.

Changes

Ideas

More >

Not quite all quiet

Editorial

A relatively quiet few days, thankfully, although with rumblings from the current library battlegrounds of Ealing, Essex and Worcestershire. The key piece of news for me is one I missed when it happened: Kirkless joined the increasing trend towards going fine-free at the end of December. There are now eight services in the UK I know of that have taken this approach.

Changes

More >

Hurting Ealing and £120k for the Reading Agency

Editorial

Sorry to see that Ealing are discussing dramatic cuts from the current £2.2m down to, and I can’t believe I’m reading this right but I’ve checked , £566k in 2022. My goodness. Hopefully, the final cut will be better than the libraryageddon that those figures imply. On the other end of the scale, the Reading Agency have been awarded a handsome £120k to evaluate the Summer Reading Challenge. The SRC is the most successful national promotion that public libraries do, with by far the most impact, so that’s money well spent if it helps safeguard it.

Well done to the Edge Conference in Edinburgh which is now in its tenth year. It’s an excellent, compact but beautifully formed, couple of days that I enjoyed going to a few years back … and it has a very strong set of international speakers that you may not see anywhere else so it’s worth a look. Lastly, in my excited thanking everyone for my BEM last post,, I missed mentioning Judith Robinson from Kirklees Libraries, who received a British Empire Medal herself for services to public libraries. You do, of course, rock, Judith.

Changes

More >

A fine-free future, Essex and the New Years Honours

Editorial

I hope you all enjoyed the Christmas / New Years break. I certainly did. The main thing in the library news since way back on 16th December when the last news update was done has been the continued protests in Essex against the deep cuts there. The New Years Honours seemed to concentrate more than normal on the literary side with authors who campaign for libraries – including Julia Donaldson, Philip Pullman and Chris Riddell – all being mentioned. Public librarian side, congrats to Neil MacInnes – chief of Manchester libraries and the last president of Society of Chief Librarians/first of Libraries Connected, who got an OBE and to Tony Brown, Islington stock and reader development manager, who received a BEM (British Empire Medal). And a huge thank you to whoever nominated me as I got a BEM myself. Wow. Just … wow.

It’s been a big couple of weeks for libraries going fine-free, with the whole Republic of Ireland no longer charging late fees and Halton Council also announcing a one-year pilot of no fines. The whole Australian state of Tasmania has also gone the same way. It’s becoming clear that removing all fines – once unthinkable and then only something that happened elsewhere – is fast picking up momentum and is now something many library services are considering.

Changes

More >