Archive for July, 2019

Go (North) West

Editorial

So we have a new prime minister. Oh well. Moving on …

It’s great to see another library service going fines-free. Well done to Oldham, which is now the fifth in the North West alone to remove a key barrier to equality and usage, and the fourteenth in the UK as a whole. Also, in the North West I’m also delighted that Warrington – which went through an absolutely disastrous consultation about cuts a few years ago but has since come good – is looking to the future and that Manchester continues to go great guns. Elsewhere, outside of that region, things are less good, with ongoing drama in Northamptonshire and Essex as well as strike action brewing in Bradford.

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Universal Offers reduced to four, or possibly increased to six

Editorial

Thank you everyone for a strong response to my article last post on the purpose of public libraries. I include some of the responses below. By coincidence, the Universal Offers have just been reviewed and give an idea of what library services are expected to actually do. Thank goodness that there are now fewer Offers – I had feared that they would grow in number and barely anyone can remember the old list now. There are now just four, although two are combined (Information and Digital, Culture and Creativity: with “Creativity” being new) so there is a case that the number has actually increased to six by stealth. The last one, Health and Wellbeing also has an “and” in it of course, because for some reason just “Health” is not enough of a buzzword. So the  public library service is still expected to do a very wide spectrum of things with very little actual focus. However, I personally am delighted that “Reading” is, thank goodness, still on its own and at the top of the list.

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The purpose of a public library, Essex and the rest of the public libraries news

Editorial

A sort of congratulations to Essex for backing down a bit on closing libraries. The protests against the deep proposed cuts there has been impressive, with all sorts of protests going on, ranging from marches to gaining celebrity endorsements. The council has been a bit taken aback, it looks like, from all this but it’s conciliatory response still includes volunteer libraries. The reaction by campaigners has noted this and complained about it. This story does not have a happy ending yet.

As expected, my daring to issue a press statement from GLL about the Bromley strike led to attacks on social media, with the very first tweet being from a now definitively ex-friend snidely suggesting I was in the pay of the leisure trust.  I notice the CILIP response to an open letter, also about GLL as it happens, states that it won’t talk about the letter on social media and I can quite understand why.

I have been off ill again this week, which is very annoying on all sorts of levels. Apart from, well, being ill, It has stopped me doing a bunch of work for a start, left me with an abiding dislike of doing nothing and delayed me writing about the CILIP conference and doing some more work on the Bromley dispute. But I have got better enough this weekend for me, after I was challenged on the issue, to have a think about the purpose of public libraries. And I think this purpose thing is important because we are as a sector a bit rubbish at explaining what it is, which is a bit of a downer when we are trying to persuade people of our cause. So have a look at my thoughts below and see what if you agree. I’d be fascinated to hear your responses.

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Both sides of the argument: GLL, book issues and volunteers

Editorial

Trusts tend to get a bad press on library social media, and GLL due to its size more than anyone else. There’s an open letter against it included below and there’s currently strike action going on in Bromley, which is one of its services. In the normal PLN tradition of trying to cover both sides, though, I will mention here that GLL has ended lone-working in Dudley at no extra cost to the council and has included below a response on Bromley. If you feel the need to get angry at me for including these things, you are welcome to comment below but remember first the need for sharing information is part of the profession’s job. And that goes for both sides, and not just the one you agree with. This is also true for Tim Coates, who many of us have disagreed with for attacking the UK librarian profession at every opportunity. I include his chart on US, Australian and book issue trends here for you to make up your own mind. For me, the reason is fairly obvious – cut the bookfund and you cut the issues – but make up your own mind as to why.

I greatly enjoyed, as ever, the CILIP Conference this week, of which more at another time but I was saddened, after listening to a spirited talkthere, that the Libraries Change Lives Awards will not happen this year. Let’s hope they come back stronger than ever next year.

Right, good news bad news time. Havering have announced 5 libraries could be volunteer run and West Sussex have announced they may get rid of a mobile library and other services as part of a £500k cut. On the other side, Lewisham have cancelled deep proposed cuts and Nottinghamshire have rearranged opening hours for a slight increase. Being I mentioned volunteer libraries, I discovered on Thursday – while talking to an Austrian librarian – that 80% of their libraries are volunteer run and have been for decades, with a tier of government offering substantial training to ensure volunteer librarians are up to standard. Being that there are no standards in England even for paid staff, it seems unlikely that such a thing will happen here.

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