Archive for March, 2019

It’s an honour

Editorial

Good to see computers being replaced in Lancashire this week but, overall, the Huddington Post estimates an impressive 4000 public computers have been lost since 2010. Perhaps if public libraries were more respected then not so many would have been killed. Libraries Connected have a plan about that, wanting to encourage more people to be nominate especially impressive public librarians for the Honours List. You can read about it below, and my thoughts on why you should in a separate post. Another MBE here or BEM there won’t make all the difference of course but it can’t hurt. What will make a difference is yourselves, working hard to make your library services as good as possible and spreading the news that libraries are worth more than any honour.

Changes

Ideas

National news

  • Book Aid International: Speaking Up For Reading – Princh. “as part of many of the programmes we run with libraries across the world, we include a grant for an event to promote the library and reading in the way they think would impact their local context best. While format and exact content of these events may vary, there are some common elements which tend to make reading promotion events a success.”
  • Dominic West: Why I find libraries so sexy – Belfast Telegraph. “West, who chooses erotic poetry to share as one of his books on the BBC podcast, says he finds libraries “the sexiest places in the world”. “I think because it’s transgressive, because you’re supposed to be quiet,” he says. “Maybe because it was my student days when I spent most of my time in a library, and I suppose I found my eyes wandering, most of the time, off these sacred texts on to whoever was in there. “But I’d always try and have a go in the library… It’s obviously sexy, or a church. Churches are the funniest places in the world, libraries are the sexiest,” he said”
  • Exclusive: 4,000 Public Computers Slashed From Libraries And Jobcentres Under ‘Austerity Cuts’ –  HuffPost. “HuffPost UK can reveal new research by the House of Commons Library and information from parliamentary questions has shown 3,761 computers have been slashed from libraries since 2010, and 352 from job centres this year. In the last year alone, 680 computers with internet access were cut from libraries in England. The data lays bare the extent to which access to computers in public places is being diminished at a time when government services are increasingly moving to digital-only application models.”
  • A librarian is a librarian but an OBE is an OBE by Ian Anstice – Libraries Connected. “…If you know someone who is deserving of an award, please nominate them. It will please them, despite any modest protestations to the contrary, it will help them, and it’s a way of showing your appreciation, even if your identity will – depending on the award – stay confidential. And, also, it will help the standing of the profession. Frankly, it’s a non brainer. Nominate that colleague you admire or appreciate today”

“The New Year 2020 Honours round is now underway, and we would love to hear from you if there is someone you work with that you believe is deserving of a National Honour. Libraries Connected are looking for library people who are outstanding at what they do, have demonstrated innovation, and changed the way things are done to make life better for other people. We are really keen to identify people from all levels of library teams, from Heads of Service to frontline workers. Honours are not only an accolade for an individual, but also help shine a light on a whole team and the wider library sector.

If there is someone you would like Libraries Connected to consider nominating for a National Honour please email me at helen.drakard@librariesconnected.org.uk letting me know:

– Their name & job title/role.

– Details of relevant work or volunteering they’ve done.

– How they have changed things

– What makes them different from others doing the same thing

– How they have improved things for other people”

  • Happiness is the silence of libraries. Don’t close them – Evening Standard. “Happiness can be built on access to books, DVDs and back issues of BBC Wildlife magazine. As a free local resource it brings together characters from all walks of life and gives people what they need without trying to sell them things they don’t. It’s a great shame so many libraries have been forced to close, with more set to follow.  I can make do without ping-pong, “micro-roasted” coffee and “super-fast” wi-fi. Thank God there’s no 24-hour access — I love being asked to leave at 5.30pm.”
  • UXLibsV – Sponsored places – UX Lib. User Experience in Libraries conference 17 to 19 June, London, “We are very aware that the cost of our conference might be out of reach for some library staff, especially those working in public libraries and further education. This year we are offering 2 sponsored delegate places in recognition of this fact. As an organisation that also actively seeks to support diversity, we are also offering an additional sponsored place to a BME delegate (from any sort of library).who otherwise could not attend.”

Axiell Selflib
International news

  • New Zealand Librarians of Christchurch – Matt Finch / Mechanical Dolphin. “The Tūranga central library in Christchurch, Aotearoa New Zealand went into lockdown during the terror attacks which occurred in the city centre last Friday.” … “Librarians onsite looked after the visitors in their care, while the service’s social media team provided emergency communications, as they previously had during the earthquakes which struck the city in 2010 & 2011”

“Christchurch’s librarians have been tested by crises that no community should face, and proved themselves to be brave, compassionate, effective, and resolute. They are heroes of the information profession. Spare a thought for them this weekend.”

  • USA – Grand Prairie Launches Vending Library in Epic Rec Center – Library Journal. “When the center opened last November, visitors were greeted with “Epic Reads,” a library vending unit located prominently in the new building’s atrium. From the outset of the new center’s planning process, which began in 2014, “we wanted to make sure we got public input, and [we] did a series of focus groups throughout town. One of the key components that kept coming up was a library element,”

Local news by authority

  • Cambridgeshire – Do you think Cambridgeshire libraries should scrap computer charges? – Cambridgeshire Live. “If this proposal is agreed, computers will be free for all to use all the time from 1st April and the library service will look at how to manage demand for computers so they are available for those who most need them. Furthermore, an upgrade of the 330 library computers is set to be rolled out later this year to improve the service for all.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Cash-strapped Cheshire councils have sold assets worth £111m – Cheshire Lives. “The former Frodsham Library sold for £340,000. And the site once occupied by Hoole Library went for £250,000 to make way for St Martins Academy Free School. “
  • Devon – Welcoming Alex Kittow as our new Chief ExecutiveLibraries Unlimited. “Alex is currently Chief Executive of Bristol-based charity Southmead Development Trust and will succeed Libraries Unlimited’s founding Chief Executive, Ciara Eastell OBE, to oversee the running of our 54 libraries and four mobile libraries across Devon and Torbay.” … “Alex has been in his current role for nine years, where he has played a pivotal role in increasing the traded income, securing and delivering a number of contracts and grant-funded projects.”. No prior library experience apart from when his children use them.
  • Essex – Essex County Council Libraries Consultation – Mark Francois MP. MP pleads for two libraries not to have reduced funding.
  • Best-selling author owes all to libraries – Halstead Gazette. Vasseem Khan: “When I was growing up there was little money to buy books in my house and so libraries helped fuel my love of reading. Without them I wouldn’t be an author today. ”
    • 47 community groups interested in running libraries in Essex – Gazette Standard. Councillor responsible for libraries says “The meeting on March 12 has been called by the chairman at the request of six councillors to debate a motion about libraries. This is a debate rather than a decision. The meeting is not being held to decide the future of any library or to consider petitions. The decision on whether or not to adopt the draft libraries strategy will be taken by Cabinet, likely at some point in the summer. The consultation closed last month and as I have said on a number of occasions, no decisions have been made as we are analysing the 21,000 responses.”
    • Essex library closures: Bid to change proposals fails – BBC News. “At an extraordinary meeting of Essex County Council an amendment was passed which did not rule out closures, but agreed to explore using libraries as community hubs. The council said it needs to “bring libraries into the 21st Century”. Opponents have described the plans as “an act of cultural vandalism” … “The meeting had been called after more than 57,000 signatures were gathered for a petition opposing the changes, which would take effect by 2024.”
  • Lancashire – Faster wi-fi to speed up Lancashire libraries computers – Lancashire Telegraph. “Spending of up to £2million was authorised by councillors for the upgrade last week. Lancashire County Council’s cabinet approved installing 584 public access computers to replace the current equipment across every one of its libraries.”
    • East Lancashire libraries move to help autistic users – Lancashire Telegraph. “Clitheroe, Bacup and Nelson are to introduce a weekly calm hour for users on the autistic spectrum. During the special 60 minutes they will be even quieter than usual. During this hour the noise in the libraries will be further reduced by measures including the muting of barcode scanners, scheduling no events or activities and the lights being dimmed.”
    • The Lancashire libraries looking for a little help from their friends – Pendle Today. “Residents interested in supporting the development of their local library are being encouraged to set up a friends group. Currently, fewer than half of Lancashire’s 66 libraries have a support association attached to them and there are opportunities to establish new groups in all corners of the county.”
  • Newcastle – Newcastle East End Library to move in May – and users fear the worst – Chronicle Live. “A community library in Byker will be relocated in May amid council cost-cutting plans, it has been confirmed. The East End Library and Community Hub is being merged into the Shields Road Customer Service Centre as Newcastle City Council slashes its libraries budget by £1.7m. Concerns were raised this week that the latest changes at the library could spark an exodus of visitors, after a previous reduction in opening hours caused numbers to drop by 84%”.
  • Northern Ireland – Blogging for Wellness’ with Libraries NI – Derry Journal. “The events will help attendees explore how they can improve their lives through blogging and hear success stories shared from a variety of other bloggers. Delivered by TrainingMatchmaker.com the events will have bloggers, vloggers and podcasters reveal their motivations behind blogging, why they started and share top tips on what has helped them become successful.”
  • Pembrokeshire – Pembrokeshire County Council says new library a huge success – Western Telegraph. “Glan-yr-afon/The Riverside – Haverfordwest’s new flagship cultural centre – is proving to be a “huge success with the public,” the county council has said. Figures just released reveal that it attracted over 30,000 visitors in January alone – the facility’s first full month of operation.” … “This is up by over 25,000 – 520 per cent – on the January 2018 figure for the temporary library off Dew Street. “
  • Powys – Campaigners to step up efforts to secure Knighton Library’s long-term future – Powys Country Times. “The possible closure of Knighton Library at the Community Centre, due to withdrawal of funding by Powys County Council (PCC), has been averted, at least for the next 12 months. News of the reprieve has been welcomed by the Mayor of Knighton, Cllr Nick Johns, but calls have also been made for residents of the area to act now to help preserve its long-term future.”
  • Rhondda Cynon Taff – Budget cuts the main reason RCT’s library service failed to meet staffing and opening hour targets – Wales Online. “In the annual assessment of RCT’s libraries in 2017-18 the judgement was that they are “average” when compared with other services across Wales. But the assessment did say that a reduction in staff hours and opening hours had negatively affected performance in terms of targets with officers pointing to reducing budgets causing these cuts to hours. Councils submit an annual return to the Museums, Archives and Libraries Division (MALD) of the Welsh Government and an independent panel then assesses the return and the library service’s performance.”
  • Somerset – Plan to relocate Street Library after funding withdrawn – Somerset Live. “On 5 November 2018, Somerset County Council withdrew funding for 15 (of 34) libraries, including Street. The council hopes that many of these libraries will aim to develop “Community Library Partnerships” where communities would support library buildings in partnership with the local authority. Library services will continue to be delivered in Street and good progress is being made towards signing a partnership agreement between Street Parish Council, the Friends of Street Library group and Somerset County Council which would secure the long-term future of a library in Street.”
    • Somerset County Council signs Community Library Partnerships – County Gazette. “Six Community Library Partnerships were signed last week, as volunteers and groups stepped forward to take on responsibility of their local library. Existing library buildings will remain open, with community partners working together with Somerset County Council in the following six communities: Bruton, Nether Stowey, North Petherton, Somerton, Watchet and Wiveliscombe from April 1.”
    • Bright future for Watchet Library – County Gazette. “Oliver Woodhams of Somerset County Council’s Library Services visited on Tuesday, March 5 to officially establish a community supported library partnership. The deal means Watchet Library has been saved from what otherwise would have meant closure as a result of SCC’s 2018 strategic review of library services in Somerset.”
  • Vale of Glamorgan – Mary Poppins, a Hungry Caterpillar and a Wizard walk into Barry Library… – Glamorgan GEM. World Book Day: “Residents were invited to attend the fancy dress competition and take part in a whole range of children’s literature-inspired activities.”
  • Warrington – Libraries matter for all our futures says Steven Broomhead – Warrington Guardian. “For the past year I had the privilege of chairing the government’s National Libraries Task Force which is about providing leadership, ambition and support to public libraries in England. ” … “The social and economic return on the tax payers investment is huge – estimates suggest that every £1 invested in libraries produces a return of up to £7. Unfortunately as austerity has bitten local councils the investment in libraries has reduced by £213m nationally since 2010 with a 50 per cent reduction in Warrington. In 2016 I chaired the Warrington Local Libraries Partnership Group that with council agreement determined that all of our libraries should remain open and receive new £1m+ capital investment in the buildings and books.” … “The number of book issues in our town has fallen by 20 per cent in the past five years but the number of visits has increased partly due to an increased range of activities provided in the libraries ‘space’. ”
    • Padgate Library set for Kate Ellis murder mystery premiere – Warrington Guardian. “Kate Ellis’ Murder in the Lemon Grove will be performed for the first time at Padgate Library from 6.30pm to 8.30pm on Thursday, April 4. The event has been organised by Livewire’s community librarian team. Chris Everett from Livewire said: “We’re delighted to announce the premiere of this new murder mystery whodunnit by Kate Ellis.”

If not now, when? Plus a fair bit of good news

Editorial

A fair amount of good news today. In a subject close to my heart – not least because I’ve seen children cry and people walk away from libraries over the issue – another library service, Blackpool,  has announced that it will get rid of all fines. That makes nine services in the UK so far and I understand that there’s a lot of interest out there from other ones as well. The debate about practicality of waiving fines seems to be over before it even started: the time has come for getting rid of fining your customers,  it’s just working out how to fund it.  In other news, Powys has backed down from £200k cuts thus continuing the tradition of Welsh and Scottish councils being more willing to change their minds on the issue than their English counterparts. Cambridge has scrapped new computer charges after noticing they were only making one tenth of the expected income, due to, well, the people who use them not having tons of money. And a Suffolk library is being refurbished and having its opening hours extended. It’s a joy to report on libraries today frankly. My thanks also to Liz Gardner for taking the time in this post to explain the idea and practice behind having video bedtime stories. It strikes me as a really good and duplicatable idea. Get on it, Public Libraries News readers.

Finally, it’s the couple of weeks of the national library petition. It’s got nearly 33,000 signatures already but could do with a ton more. Get on it, sign it and tell people you know how important it is. Because, of if not now, when?

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Night libraries

Editorial

A tweet that said “what if public libraries were open late every night and we could engage in public life there instead of having to choose between drinking at the bar and domestic isolation” has been liked, at time of press, 223 000 times. Now one suspects that this is mainly because Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex, with over 3 million followers, tweeted on it with a comment but still, that’s a lot of people agreeing with it, which suggests some pretty heft pent up demand.

So let’s look at the concept of “night libraries”. If a neutral observer looked at the opening hours of the typical public library, there’d be a few conclusions to be drawn. One is that they’re largely for people who do not work as they tend to have the bulk of opening hours during the daytime, only a few hours each week in the evening and, mostly, one would be lucky if they were open for more than half a day over the entire weekend. Another conclusion could be, if one were more cynical than I, that they were there to be suited to staff desires and availability – who wants to work late night after late night? – in some cases rather than that of the public. Yet another would be that, well, in many areas being open in the evening would not work anyway: there’s some fairly dead areas out there after dark and antisocial behaviour would spike, especially in places like public libraries that are quite rightly open to all. There’s also the comment, which I really like, by @Librareon, who said “Hey! I’d settle for being able to afford day time libraries” which gets to the heart of the problem: opening hours cost money and libraries aren’t really awash with that commodity at the mo.

But, effectively, it still means that the majority of libraries are only open at times that suit those who, for whatever reason, do not work. There is demand, especially in cities, for libraries to open for longer. I’ve seen this at Storyhouse, open pretty much to 10 or 11pm most evenings, including Sundays, and I’m sure Chester is not unique. The challenge, for those areas where it would work, if we want to widen their appeal, is to find ways of doing it. And that means the money. I’m not sure Open+ would appeal to the tweeter really, although I’d be interested to hear otherwise. With Chester, it was a combination with a theatre (and a decision very early on not to barrier the library when the staff there went home). That may be the solution in some lucky places. In others, there will be other ways. I hope to describe them here and, being I write these posts at night, perhaps one day in one of them.

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