Archive for February, 2019

A blueprint for libraries … and watching Bridgend with interest

Editorial

There’s something big and national going on at rhe moment called the “Blueprint project” going on at the moment looking at how public libraries should position themselves in the future. It’s early days yet but it looks like those involved want regional development organisationss. Being involved in one of these at the moment, Time To Read North West, I can attest how useful this would be. Although I’ve discovered 32 such examples of UK public libraries working together, there is still very little co-operation in some areas and much resultant duplication of effort. So it’s good that that may be change. I’m less sure about other changes listed like to the “legislative framework, funding routes, quality standards and digital connectivity”, for a variety of reasons. Particularly concerning is the “funding routes” one, which from what I can piece together, is pushing for more franchising out of central government work and also commercial partnerships. The problem with both is, of course, the danger of losing unique selling points of the library – like neutrality – in favour of simple money. Chiefs will need to be very careful about that, which will be hard when money is being waved around, and the initial experience of working with Sopra Steria, did not bode well, although I understand things are better now.

Well, that’s big picture stuff, let’s get granular now …  it’s good to see the Wirral may be getting some investment and that a £150k cut in Brent has been cancelled. A move towards outsourcing, which looked very likely, in Swindon has been cancelled, possibly due to the leading politician in favour of it no longer being in charge or possibly due to other factors like a concern that a non-local concern may take it over. In the bad news side of the coin, there’s warnings of cuts in Aberdeenshire and Bridgend. The last has already outsourced its library service so it will be interesting to see if the Awen Leisure Trust, which runs it now, will take such cuts lying down or will publicly protest them. It’s been fascinating to see such open disagreements happen in one or two Trusts, which I see as a bid advantage of them, so I’ll be watching Bridgend with interest.

Changes

National news

  • Assistant Programme Manager, Adult Reading – Reading Agency. London, £26k. “We are looking for an Assistant Programme Manager to manage and deliver key aspects of our adult reading offer and our work with less confident readers during this exciting new phase.”
  • Blueprint for libraries project update from Isobel Hunter – Libraries Connected. “The Blueprint project wants to look again at how we deliver and support public libraries in England, with a focus on national and regional structures. We are running this project with CILIP, supported by funding from the Carnegie UK Trust” … “We are in the first stage of what we hope will be an extended three-part programme to improve the foundations of the public library sector nationally. We want to look at systems in other countries for inspiration and ultimately broker new funding settlements with government.” … “Strong support is already emerging for regional organisations providing development and support to local libraries, as long as these do not replace local accountability and delivery.”
  • CILIPS Annual Conference 2019 – CILIPS. “The CILIPS Annual Conference returns to the Dundee Apex Hotel on 3-4 June 2019.  Our President, Yvonne Manning, will host two days of workshops and talks on the theme of ‘Courage, Laughter and Innovation: A Resilient Profession‘ ​Earlybird rates end on 18th April.”
  • Evaluation workshops: mythbusting and methodologies – Libraries Taskforce. “he Libraries Taskforce is running a series of workshops on evaluations for library staff. Facilitated by The Audience Agency, a national audience development consultancy and independent not-for-profit organisation”. Four workshops on offer at Chester, Exeter, Newcastle and London. “These workshops are funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Arts Council England and are free for all library staff to attend.”
  • The Library of Mistakes – BBC. “So while mainstream libraries face sharp budget cuts and possible closure, they opened the Library of Mistakes five years ago this month. Its mission: to learn how things went wrong in the past and, in particular, how things went badly wrong with money. “
  • Measuring Outcomes in Public Libraries – Insights from Darren Smart – Princh. “The key principle is that to measure outcomes you need both qualitative and quantitative data. ” … “This blog post outlines the whys and hows of measuring outcomes for public libraries and has been developed from the introductory presentation made at a recent workshop for The Libraries Taskforce …”
  • Roger Ratcliffe brings the library closers to book – Big Issue North. “My inbox is now awash with emails from Bradford Council advertising public meetings to discuss library cuts. Services will be concentrated in the biggest libraries, to become known as “community hubs”, and it is perfectly clear that the idea of local libraries like the one in Baildon will eventually be consigned to history. The same thing is happening everywhere as local authorities realise they have been starved of yet more cash by central government. From Hull to Manchester and Sheffield to North Yorkshire I hear stories of libraries under threat, either targeted for closure or their opening hours slashed as councils try to prioritise legal commitments to social care with what money they have.”
  • UK sales of YA dropped 21.5% in 2018 – Books and Publishing. “As an industry, we overpublish,’ said literary agent Molly Ker Hawn, adding that the ‘brutal’ decline of school libraries in the UK has also affected the YA market, with many schools lacking the budget to buy books and unable to pay a trained librarian. Author Lucy Ivison, who is also a librarian at a London school, said young people find many YA books being published a bit too ‘worthy’. ‘They go to school all day and they often want something fun in the evenings. We don’t even follow many of the prize lists any more, they just don’t want to read the books,”

Axiell Selflib
International news

  • Canada – The modern librarian is equal parts caregiver, local hero and geek squad member – Post City Toronto. “The library’s decision to bring in a social worker demonstrates its commitment to being not only a place to get and consume media, but to support and serve all Torontonians. In response to the rising demand for technological programs are the digital innovation hubs, located at eight library branches, including the Toronto Reference Library and the newly renovated North York Central Library. “

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeenshire – Schools, libraries, bus services to bear brunt of north-east council’s £22m cuts – Press and Journal. “Meanwhile, a review of libraries will also take place, which will look at staffing, opening hours, the current estate and ongoing investment in “mid-scale” libraries.”
  • Brent – Brent councillor defends library services in latest budget – Times series. “Cllr Krupesh Hirani, who is responsible for culture and leisure at Brent Council, said it “wouldn’t be right” to cut opening hours given the importance of libraries to the borough. At a cabinet meeting earlier this week, councillors agreed the council’s budget proposals for 2019/20, which included a series of cuts and savings. In the initial proposals, library opening hours were at risk, with the council earmarking a potential saving of £150,000 by making them part-time.”
  • Bridgend – Outdoor sports facilities and libraries under threat as Bridgend council sets final draft budget – Wales Online. “It said if financial pressures were not relieved the council would be forced to consider cutting “precious services” – closing libraries, leisure centres and day care services, ending full-time nursery education for three-year-olds and reducing budgets for primary, secondary and special schools.” … “Since 2015 BCBC has been paying Awen Cultural Trust to deliver cultural services in the council which include nine libraries, The Grand Pavilion in Porthcawl, Bryngarw Country Park and Maesteg Town Hall.” … “As part of its contract with Awen, BCBC plans to cut its management fee by £70k in 2019/20 with £60k subsidy cuts in 2019/20. It means there will be a review of accessibility of services and there could be reductions in services or opening hours, or potential closure of Awen facilities such as community centres or libraries.”

Keep our libraries council run,
Where the paid staff help us to have fun!
Keep our libraries council run,
It’s not as if it costs you a tonne!
To keep our libraries council run,
It’s the 6 figure execs you need to shun!
So keep our libraries council run,
Don’t pull the trigger on that gun!
Keep our libraries council run,
Keep the libraries west network united as one!
Keep our libraries council run,
And respect all the hard work that was done
To ensure our libraries are council run,
Who are you to deny a future person’s son,
The services we enjoyed that are council run?

Oliver Fortune, Bristol 2018 (via email)

  • Cardiff – Paedophile went to children’s section of library to watch youngsters and fantasise about having sex with them – Wales online. “The court heard the Canton library beach was the fifth time the defendant has breached a sexual harm prevention order.”
  • Essex – Just days left to comment on Essex Council plot to axe up to 44 libraries, as campaigners march on County Hall – Yellow Advertiser. “1,000 people marched on County Hall in Chelmsford last week to protest against Essex Council’s plot to shut up to 44 of the county’s 74 libraries. Basildon’s Vange and Fryerns libraries are both facing the axe after County Hall branded them ’not required’ and said it would no longer support them in any way. They are among 25 which have been labelled ’not required’ and which Essex Council will no longer financially support.”
    • Campaigners’ outrage as website for library survey collapses – on protest day – Gazette Standard. “Campaigners accused Essex County Council of blocking residents’ views at what might have been a peak time to access the survey. They said the glitch started on Saturday afternoon, the day of the protest against library closures, and lasted until Sunday evening. Yesterday the online consultation was extended by 24 hours and the council apologised for the “technical issues”. It comes days after the council was left red-faced over an image used in the Easy Read version of the consultation which appeared to depict a transgender person removing a wig.”
    • Campaigners from Coggeshall join protest against library cuts – Braintree and Witham Times.
    • Comment: Essex library lobby was a display of unity – Maldon Standard. “Communities throughout Essex showed their passion for local libraries as they demonstrated outside County Hall. Campaigners voted with their feet as they flew the flag of Southminster, Wickham Bishops, Danbury and other closure-threatened libraries. The gathering of hundreds of children, parents and grandparents in Chelmsford city centre was a clear display of solidarity and confirmation that, for many, libraries are a key part of our communities. MEP Alex Mayer branded Essex County Council’s proposal to close the 24 libraries as “a wanton act of cultural and education vandalism”. It was clear for all to see that the libraries’ defiant supporters of the 24 threatened libraries agreed as they chanted again and again: “No ifs, no buts, no Essex library cuts.””
    • Costumed campaigners plan to march between libraries – Gazette Standard.
    • Hundreds gather to protest in Chelmsford over countywide library cuts – Halstead Gazette. “hants of “No ifs, no buts, no Essex library cuts” were heard in the city centre as about 400 people carrying placards marched through the streets in a bid to save their community libraries. hants of “No ifs, no buts, no Essex library cuts” were heard in the city centre as about 400 people carrying placards marched through the streets in a bid to save their community libraries. “
    • Library closure could ‘lead to loneliness rise’ – Clacton Gazette. “Tendring Council’s Community Leadership Scrutiny Committee has discussed the issue and has made recommendations to the authority’s cabinet on what its response to the consultation should be. It said it strongly disagreed with the ‘evaluation criteria’ set out by County Hall to judge the need for each library.” … ““With loneliness as an ever-growing issue, particularly amongst the elderly population, Tendring Council feels it is counter intuitive to be considering closing libraries when these are often the places that are at the heart of communities.” “
    • School kids campaign after Tories reject £500,000 library investment – Halstead Gazette. “County Council’s ruling Tories rejected the Labour budget amendment, which would have included an additional £500,000, as a one off investment in the library service this week. It proposed money could be used to invest in the use of digital media with the libraries and book stocks, to support the promotion of libraries as community hubs and provide digital training to the community.
    • Spending on Essex libraries has dropped by 30 per cent –  Times series. “The figures show that from 2009 to 2010, just over £2.1million was spent on books, e-books and audio books for libraries. Between 2017 and 2018 the county council spent just over £1.6million. Since 2009 the council has also reduced spending on non-fiction, particularly expensive academic books, as these have been replaced with online content.”
  • Norfolk – Youngsters invited to revamped children’s library reopening – Evening News 24. “Council bosses say the new-look library will hold a brand new range of children’s books and resources ranging from board books, picture books and story books suitable from birth to seven years. The library will also be launching a collection of the latest parenting books, which offer practical support and guidance for new parents.”
  • North Yorkshire – Futuristic design at Harrogate Library – Harrogate News. “Virtual reality and digital arts will be among the futuristic and high-tech attractions at North Yorkshire’s first pop-up “Digital Makey” at Harrogate Library.”
  • Peterborough – New chapter for Peterborough’s Central Library as hub for entrepreneurs – Peterborough Telegraph. “The Business and IP Centre offers free access to millions of pounds worth business and intellectual property information, events, workshops and one -to-one expertise.”
  • Suffolk – Schoolchildren cast their creations in bronze – East Anglian Daily Times. “More than 30 students enjoyed workshops at Thurston Library where they turned designs for objects from their most loved books into clay and wax models.”
  • Swindon – Swindon councillors ditch plans to outsource libraries to mutual – Swindon Advertiser. “Members of the authority’s Conservative Cabinet agreed not to transfer responsibility for delivering the service to another body, in something of a change of approach. The council has been looking at moving the service to a Public Sector Mutual model, where a staff-owned consortium would run libraries. But Coun Keith Williams, the cabinet member for corporate and customer services, recommended that the plan be dropped and the library service be run, as it has been, from Euclid Street.” …. “He added that £100,000 of taxpayer’s money earmarked to manage the transition of the service has not been spent and will be returned to the council’s general fund. “

“We have looked at where other local authorities have outsourced library provision, and they are often run by one of two companies GLL or Libraries Unlimited. We have decided that this approach is just not suitable for Swindon. If we wanted to do this, we would have to put the contract out for tender, and we would not be able to restrict that to just our own staff.”

  • Wirral – More than £600,000 could be invested into Wirral’s libraries – Wirral Globe. “The cash is the first part of investment into the area’s library network and will be used to upgrade and modernise facilities.Work will include making buildings more accessible for those with disabilities and will provide updated IT and digital equipment for staff and library users. It is also hoped the investment will improve libraries as learning environments and to ensure they are able to host more events for local communities.”
  • Worcestershire – Still time to have your say – Worcester Observer. £800k cut. “To take part in the consultation visit Worcestershire County Council online and look for the libraries review. The closing date is Thursday, February 28. ”
    • Labour vows to reverse library cuts and invest £100,000 in helping Worcestershire’s homeless in council budget – Worcester News. “Councillor Robin Lunn, leader of the council’s Labour group, said: “We wish to focus what little money is available on protecting and in the case of libraries and homelessness adding to frontline services, to ensure they remain viable. ” … “Cllr Lunn said cuts to the council’s “hard-pressed” libraries could not continue and vowed to reverse proposed budget cuts and invest £325,000 extra. The council originally planned to slash £1 million from the library budget over the next three years but later reduced the cut to £800,000.”
    • Hagley residents vote to protect future of their library – Bromsgrove Advertiser. “Hagley residents voted unanimously to protect the future of their library at a meeting this week, as a consultation period on the future of Worcestershire’s libraries nears its conclusion. Hagley Parish Council put forward a motion calling for Worcestershire County Council to protect funding for a permanent, full-time member of staff and for funds to maintain the service. It also called for Hagley Parish Council to be able to ask for a rise in their precept to fund this should there be a shortfall from county council funding.”

“Councillor Jim Austin, the parish council lead for libraries, said: “Libraries are not just a book lending service, the library is part of the infrastructure of the community.”

 

 

 

 

Diversity and austerity

Editorial

I come from a fairly typical background in South Wales. My parents could not afford all the books I wanted and I had to catch the bus to the local library . Working hard at the local comprehensive I made my way to university in Exeter and then Sheffield and thus to libraries. I did not think at the time if my capability in doing this was in any way due to being male or white. But being I clearly remember racism and sexism being a big thing in 1970s and even the 80s I suspect it helped. So it’s good to see the need for diversity being recognised on the national level, not least because of the fact that, shockingly, 97% of the library profession is white compared to 88% of the population as a whole. And I remember in the 1990s when I started working that everyone thought, as a man, that I’d be on a fast track to promotion. Such thoughts may be less overt now but I suspect they’re still there.

I get accused sometimes of singing the praises rather too much of librarians and this is true. I love libraries and think there are few roles more rewarding to society and self than working towards the library ideal. But I’d be wilfully blind not to admit that there are problems in the profession. Last post, I touched upon the lack of apparent importance given to a core service, indeed the book is to many the core, by many in the sector. A rebalancing slightly away from gushing about makerspaces (which will only, when it comes down to it, ever be a side activity) and theatre shows (likewise) towards actually making our book offer look professional is long overdue. And this lack of diversity is something else that needs to be addressed.

The protests against the cuts in Essex continue to dominate the news. They clearly love their underfunded and under-appreciated (by the council) libraries there and it’s great to see. Whether the protests will actually achieve anything, other than possibly extract a few token concessions, is in question as English councils do not have a brilliant track record with actually listening during library consultations. It’s notable, in fact, that councils are far more likely change tack after reading the results of them in the other parts of the UK. Why this is may be open to question: possibly due to their being less True Believer Conservatives in power but presumably also to them questionably being (slightly) less affected by austerity. An example of this is Neath Port Talbot in this post who have cancelled four closures down to the public response. Good to see. And I hope the campaigners in Essex can take heart from it, and their councillors listen.

Changes

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Hello Library Sector, it’s me, Book

Editorial

Libraries Connected have done some work to their (previously very sparse) website and added links to some useful resources. There’s not much new there – and, my, it shows how few free resources there are for reading – but it’s good to see them there. Speaking of reading, LC (I can’t help but call it Elsie) have done some nice statistics summaries, which show that more than three quarters of library visitors are there for the books. I find the lack of serious projects or indeed discussion, or any kind of focus, on books one of the biggest black holes in libraries in the last decade. By rights, there should be initiative after initiative in boosting what is very much our core product. But no. apart from some sterling work by the Reading Agency, the focus of much of the sector has been on what are, ultimately, side projects like makerspaces and coding. These are great to be sure but there seriously needs to be some rebalancing going on.  Those books on the shelves are important and the lack of serious training or concentration on boosting their use is as dangerous as the repeated cuts to their funding over the years. Another curious stat gleaned from the LC tables is that, using the figure of 2,080 hours work per year per 1 FTE, a full eighteen times more work is done in libraries by paid staff than by volunteers. Yes, despite all the coverage, it’s the poor (down 5% in one year, salary freezes or pay increases below inflation for a decade) employees who are still doing the vast amount of the actual work.

The news that the National Literacy Trust is boasting about working with shoe shops to boost literacy is as puzzling as library services who are disregarding books and paid staff. NLT, please, dudes, hello. We’re Over Here. Work with us. Local authority-wise, there’s some good news in Buckinghamshire, Cornwall (who have, by the way, quietly passed a ton of their libraries to parish/town councils) and Milton Keynes. The £200k reduction in the previously announced big £1m Worcestershire cut is entirely offset by a £200k cut in Powys. Finally, the new post announced in CILIP has, to say the least, raised some eyebrows on social media after the deep job losses that occurred last year.

Changes

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