Ian Anstice

Public librarian since 1994, user of public libraries since my first memories ... and a keen advocate of public libraries and chronicler of the UK public libraries scene. Library manager since 1998, winner of Information Professional of the Year 2011 and Winsford Customer Service "Oscar" 2012 and 2014.

Homepage: http://www.publiclibrariesnews.com


Posts by Ian Anstice

Shropshire 22 out of 28 to be community-run + ACE research.

Editorial

So today we have the news that Shropshire appears to be going the way of Leicestershire, Staffordshire and so many others and forcing most of its libraries to be run by “community groups”.  On the same day, we have Arts Council England bring out a definitive report showing that both users and non-users of libraries would be willing to pay more on their council tax in order to maintain their services.  Indeed, they’d be willing to pay almost twice as much, and the same report shows that health and wellbeing benefits of libraries alone repay most of the costs. Well done to ACE for conducting the research which will hopefully help reduce the number of such bad news stories from library authorities in the future.

Changes

Ideas

National

  • Ed Vaizey webchat – as it happened – Guardian.  No mention of libraries.
  • The Health and Wellbeing Benefits of Public Libraries - Arts Council England. “Public libraries make a positive contribution to people’s health and wellbeing and can save the NHS money, according to research published by Arts Council England. The new research, commissioned by the Arts Council and carried out by SImetrica, has quantified the economic value of benefits to health and wellbeing contributed by public libraries. It shows that people value public libraries in part because of the benefits to their quality of life and that the improvements to health can save the NHS around £27.5million a year.”

“Library users have a willingness to pay an average of £19.51 more in council tax a year to maintain library services, and non-users were willing to pay £10.31. This increases among those who use libraries for ‘health services’ (£39.03), ‘lectures and other events’ (£29.08), or as a ‘space for socialising’ (£26.44), showing that users value the impact libraries have on their health and quality of life. Aggregated across the country, the willingness to pay among users and non-users is £723.4 million per year to support libraries.” ACE report

The new research quantifies the economic value of the benefits to health and wellbeing contributed by public libraries. It shows that the benefits people gain from public libraries could be valued nationally at around £748.1million per annum. This includes benefits to their quality of life and improvements to health which can save the NHS around £27.5million a year.” ACE press release

  • Hearts and Minds – Arts Council England / Desmond Clarke. “we started by commissioning an evidence review which was published last June. As well as exploring what existing research has told us, it showed the links in the chain of evidence between what libraries do and the big objectives governments try to achieve: children and young people learning and getting qualified, more people in work, business success, healthier people and creative communities. Taken together, this provided a powerful body of evidence. But we still felt that there was a gap in capturing value in a way that could be used practically to help leaders make the best decisions. So we commissioned a further piece of research that looked at how libraries help health and wellbeing”
  • A master’s in librarianship could enhance your shelf life – Guardian / Students. “Biddy Casselden, who completed her own master’s in librarianship and information management at Northumbria University, and has since both taught on and led the programme, says it is important for career progression. “Most of my students are working, usually in a library environment, but are stuck at a certain level because they don’t have a professional qualification,” she says. “This is their route for career advancement.” “
  • Politicians vie for author votes at lively hustings – BookSeller. “The lively debate, which ended with Vaizey and Bryant arguing on stage over issues including funding for libraries, was moderated by SoA chairman Daniel Hahn. Vaizey said the Arts Council was working for libraries, and pointed to a recent announcement of funding for free wifi in libraries in England, but said that central government did not fund library provision, and that any cuts were by local authorities which “like to blame the government”. But Bryant pointed out that 80% of local authority money came from government, prompting an argument with Vaizey who disagreed that central government had anything to do with local library funding.” Greens will “commit” to libraries.

“Bryant said he thought it was wrong that a council chief executive was chairing the Leadership for Libraries task force, and that he would put ministers in charge of it. He also said library provision was legislated, and that he would prefer to see the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, which legislates that local authorities should provide a comprehensive library service, used properly rather than create a new law. “I want to see what a comprehensive library service looks like,” he said. “And I would like to see more cooperation across the nation between library authorities.”

  • Saving libraries: it’s a page-turner – Socialist. Coventry and Bristol featured. “Harrow Council voted on Thursday, March 19 to close four libraries across the borough, including Bob Lawrence, Hatch End, Rayners Lane and North Harrow libraries, as part of £500,000 of cuts to library services. However the council has also said it is willing consider proposals for a community-run libraries, and the North Harrow Community Partnership is hoping to achieve this. ” … “campaigners now hope to develop a comprehensive business plan with the help of volunteers, and welcome any suggestions to help guarantee the future of the library. “
  • TeenTech launch 11-16 Research and Information Literacy Award - CILIP (press release). “The CILIP Information Literacy Group(ILG), in partnership with the TeenTech initiative, is delighted to announce a new award for 11-16 year olds which will recognise excellence in research and information literacy. The Research and Information Literacy Award will celebrate how well young people can dispel the ‘Google Generation’ myth and show that they can be truly information literate researchers as they explore their ideas to make life better, simpler or easier. Winners of this award will have demonstrated their ability to search intelligently across a range of resources including search engines like Google, make excellent judgments about the information they have found and put it to ethical use in their project.”

International

  • A new chapter for Bellevue’s public library? Aging building and growing city, technology spur reassessment – Omaha (USA). “Bellevue’s attendance has grown to almost 159,000 visits a year, up from 151,000 in 2013. Program attendance increased 30 percent to 20,500 participants in 2014. But book circulation is decreasing as more readers turn to iPads, Nooks, Kindles and other e-readers. Omaha will open its first “digital library” at 72nd and Dodge Streets in November. The project, developed by Omaha’s Heritage Services, will have equipment and training for the future: 3-D printers, advanced software and librarians trained to help the entire community access the latest digital information and technology.”
  • Fun Palaces at Parkes Shire Library – Library as Incubator (Australia). “When playwright Stella Duffy announced that she was launching Fun Palaces in 2014, we were quick to sign up. The plan was to turn theatres, libraries, and museums into places where people of all ages could try their hand at art and science. On 4th and 5th October 2014, venues from the Royal Shakespeare Company to a Canadian radio station opened their doors to this kind of fun and adventure. Although we are a rural library, serving a region of farmers and miners six hours away from Sydney, we strive to provide world-class services to our community. We’ve always believed that children, teens, and families deserve the highest quality of provision. No-one chooses where they are born or who they are born to; the public library addresses this by offering everyone equal access to all human knowledge and culture.”
  • ‘Invest In Libraries’ – QGazette (USA). “members of District Council 37 and library advocates from all five boroughs launched a major campaign, “Invest in Libraries,” to reverse years of neglect and urge the city to appropriately fund the library system. The campaign will also release a new report detailing some of the most egregious examples of branches in need of capital funding. The newly-formed campaign, Invest in Libraries, is a partnership among the three library systems and library supporters across the city. The campaign is calling for $1.1 billion in capital funding for critical renovations and maintenance”
  • Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Says He Has a Debt to Pay to Public Education and the Public Library - Diana Ravitch’s Blog (USA). “Mr. Russo spoke about his debt to Gloversville’s schools and library, declaring: “I’m a product of public education, government-backed student loans, and publicly funded institutions like the Gloversville Free Library. If you’ve lost faith in them, you’ve lost faith in basic democratic principles.””
  • Rocket with iPads to engage kids at Hervey Bay Library – Fraser Court Chronicle (Australia). “The Fraser Coast libraries’ emerging technology projects also include a planned coffee table iPad kiosk for older patrons, an upcoming technology tool bar for hands-on exploration of new digital tools and a collection of Kobo e-readers available for loan. ‘The e-readers are now available for loan while the additional features should be ready for use by April,””
  • Underfunding and understaffing plague public libraries – AFCSME (USA). “Since 2009, front-line staffing at New York City’s public libraries has plummeted by 21 percent, according to union records.”
  • Up All Night at the Public Library – Public Libraries Online (USA). ” the Salt Lake City Public Library (SLCPL) in Utah is proposing to stay open 24/7. Opening all hours is unprecedented, and as a result SLCPL has created a webpage to address their community’s questions and concerns – http://slcpl.org/24hours.” … “Who will really use the library at these hours? Will it be the desired late shift workers, night owls, hipsters, and college students? Or will it instead be a haven for those with nowhere else to go and those looking for trouble? We keep hearing how libraries need to adapt or risk becoming obsolete, but is there really a demand for our urban libraries to be open 24/7?”

Local news by authority

“Our opening hours will be changing soon. This is because the City Council must make significant budget savings. It is anticipated that the Library will be open 40 hours a week. We aim to publish the new opening times/ days as soon as they are agreed. Please look out on this website for further information.” Library of Birmingham

  • Bristol – Libraries Something clearly wrong with funding - Bristol Post. Previous experience and large amounts of money spent elsewhere suggests to one writer that the council is not entirely correct in needing to cut libraries spending.
  • Bristol – Rationale for Libraries not in Group 1 or 2 – Supporting Information - Bristol Council. Additional information on the proposed threatened libraries.
  • Harrow – ‘Full steam ahead’ as campaigners prepare business plans for North Harrow library and Bob Lawrence library – Harrow Times. “campaigners now hope to develop a comprehensive business plan with the help of volunteers, and welcome any suggestions to help guarantee the future of the library. North Harrow library campaigner Garry Davine said: “We have to secure sufficient funding, which will be a challenge, but it is vital that the library is kept open and we will do everything possible to ensure this.””
  • Herefordshire – New wellbeing centre could change care in Kington – Hereford Times. “An ambitious project could see Kington’s library transformed into a wellbeing centre, where residents can get counselling, blood pressure checks and even video-call their GP. While the project is still in its early stages, it is hoped that the centre could become a hub for a variety of services in the town, filling in some of the gaps in care that are often found in rural areas.” [This article dates from October 2014 but the vacancies are now available – Ed.]
  • Kent – Good news for library users: a cut in fees…of 35p - Folkestone Herald. “Customers are currently charged a 35p fee if they order and reserve any item stocked within the county, but that service will be provided free of charge from April 1.”
  • Knowsley – Knowsley Reader SchemeReader Organisation. “Our Knowsley Reader Scheme seeks to develop a team of volunteers who will read one to one with older people in Knowsley care homes. As part of the programme, volunteers will be fully trained and supported by The Reader Organisation staff, with a focus on their own personal development and an impact on their wider lives. Volunteers will receive regular feedback from The Reader Organisation staff, through which their achievements will be recognised and celebrated.”
  • Leicestershire – Residents unite with plans to run Hathern Library – Loughborough Echo. “Following the proposal, as part of a cost saving initiative in late 2014 by Leicestershire County Council, to transfer the operation of the county’s libraries into community hands, Hathern Community Library Group has been formed out of a series of public meetings facilitated by Hathern Parish Council. “
  • Manchester – £45,000 funding boost for Manchester’s Business & IP Centre – Manchester Council. “Manchester’s Business & IP Centre at Central Library will receive £45,000 in new funding from the Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG), Arts Council England and The British Library. “
  • Manchester – New library opens its doors in Hulme – Manchester Council. “The library, on the ground floor of the leisure centre on Hulme High Street, will be jointly operated by Manchester City Council and the leisure centre operators, GLL. A new joint reception area for the library and leisure centre will create a welcome environment for everyone who wants to use the new facility. The library will be open the same hours as the leisure centre, with self-service facilities available when library staff aren’t there, to collect, borrow, return and renew books and to log on to internet-ready compurters. Library staff will be there throughout the week at the following times … The new library will be officially launched at 1.30pm on Saturday 28 March with Councillor Rosa battle who will be cutting the cake. Executive Member for Culture and Leisure, Councillor Rosa Battle, said: “The opening of the new library on Hulme High Street brings our leisure and library facility together under one roof. The move means that we can offer a better and improved service for our residents and we hope that the improved visibility and accessibility of the leisure and library services in one building will encourage new users to each facility.”
  • Manchester – Manchester Libraries awarded £250,000 to enhance children’s libraries – Manchester Council. “The funding boost from the foundation – a funding charity supporting excellence across the UK – will benefit Wythenshawe Forum Library, Withington Library, Longsight Library, Gorton Library, Newton Heath Library and North City Library in Harpurhey. Part of the funding will be used to enhance and create new informal ‘reading den’ spaces, with storytelling, play, discovery and learning as the focus.  “

“The Wolfson Foundation is committed to public libraries. We are delighted to be working with Manchester Libraries to provide inspiring and excellent facilities for children and young people.  The ambition is that children will discover the joys of their local library and that this will also have a significant impact on literacy levels. The funding is part of a pilot programme, and we hope that this type of exciting provision might act as a beacon – for libraries in Manchester and beyond.” Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation

  • Manchester + Salford – Manchester and Salford grow major free Wifi network, bringing superfast surfing to millions - Manchester Council. “The innovative £7.25m scheme is being run by Manchester City Council, Salford City Council and Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) – with funding from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Thanks to the scheme, Manchester and Salford are providing superfast free Wifi in public buildings right across the cities and on Metrolink trams. Free superfast wifi is to be made available in more than 120 Manchester council buildings including all libraries” … “Free Wifi has already been switched on at Central Library and at the Town Hall Extension, with a further 119 sites set to be up and running by the end of March.  The WiFi is under the name _BusyBeeMcr and users can surf from with no time limit throughout the week, when these venues are open.
  • North Yorkshire – Views sought on Norton library’s future as community “hub” – Gazette and Herald. “People are being asked for their views on how Norton library should be used to help secure its future. A steering group has been established to help transform the library in Commercial Street into a community “hub” ahead of financial cuts from North Yorkshire County Council.” … ““The help we have received is fantastic and we can now look at making a positive application to the county council to retain the library and develop it.”
  • Shropshire – Star comment: Libraries a challenge for groups – Shropshire Star. “The good news is that under new Shropshire Council proposals many libraries will be immune from council cuts. The bad news is that this will be because these libraries will no longer be a council-run service.” Council “hoping to see all of its 22 libraries, except those in the main six market towns, transferred to community groups.”

“Shropshire Council is looking for community organisations to run some libraries. Presumably that will mean a heavy reliance on local volunteers with the good of their community at heart. Will Salopians come forward to give their libraries the kiss of life? A chapter in Shropshire history looks like coming to a close – and there’s no guarantee of a happy ending.”

  • Wiltshire – The Reader South West wins at Wiltshire Public Health Awards – The Reader. “Our Wiltshire shared reading project, running in partnership with Wiltshire Libraries, picked up the prize for improved mental health and wellbeing across the area. Running since January 2014, Library Memory Groups bring the shared reading experience to people living with dementia and memory loss on a weekly basis. With poems and short stories that are read aloud, group members are immersed in a calm and relaxed atmosphere, with the texts being read and digested allowing people to piece together collective personal memories related to the stories and poems, which in turn encourages feelings of wellbeing.”

School libraries

  • Editorial - Books for Keeps.”I believe there is no real substitute for having libraries where children can actually handle the books, and having professional librarians, who read as widely as possible; find authors, stories, genres that excite; listen to the recommendations of others – especially young readers – discuss books with colleagues; attend book launches, unconferences and the occasional conference; and visit bookshops and other libraries. I believe they’re crucial to encouraging reading.” … supports school libraries with professional librarians, and points out that there is no mention of the latter in the recent government paper, Reading: the next steps https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reading-supporting-higher-standards-in-schools

A noble librarian faced with adversity triumphs

Editorial

Ferguson Library in the USA recently stayed open during pretty bad times.  More than that, it became a classroom for children whose schools were closed and a place of safety and regeneration in a community desperately in need of healing.  It’s manager, Scott Bonner, is understated when asked what he achieved but was very clearly the right person at the right time.  Have a listen to the podcast interview here and the Guardian article here for the full-on wonderfulness of it all.  So I’m really delighted about the winner of the best named prize in the library world, the Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity. Ferguson is an example of the importance of public libraries in communities, of their vital nature if the community itself has problems and of the danger in ignoring them to save a pound or two.

Changes

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No problems with neutrality with this one? MacMillan in Glasgow

Why buy happiness when the library shares it?

Editorial

There’s been a lot of talk recently about two cases of non-council organisations taking over areas of libraries. The first, which has been rumbling around for a while, is in Bristol where two floors of the Central Library are being taken over by a Free School.  The concerns there are over loss of storage/office space for the library, a suspicion that the Free School has been given too good a deal and some doubt over the ideological motivations of the relevant councillors in the move.  The second is the taking up of considerable space in Cambridge Central Library by a private company for business offices.  This has similar themes – with extra concern over the commercialisation of the library and the speed with which the decision was made.  As well as these two, there are also mutterings about BT and Barclays providing WiFi and assistance in some branches nationally.  All of this ties in with the theme over exactly how public and neutral public libraries area.  In the end, of course, they are only as public and as neutral as the local council wishes them to be.  There’s no national rules in play.  If a council wants to set up the MacDonald’s Central Library with Tesco taking over two floors and the DVD collection sponsored by Netflix then there is nothing to stop them. It is purely the public reaction – and that of officers, too, however internal and quietly they do it – that will stop them.

The key here is  if such services are complementary or damaging to the core public library service.  This is a judgement that we see a lot with council One Stop Shops and other services in libraries and it’s part of the, I guess, risk assessment that each library needs to go through.  Something which I have no doubt is positive is another example I picked up at the Edge Conference.  This is the partnership that won the social category award – with MacMillan Cancer Support with Glasgow Libraries where the charity takes advantage of the neutral, welcoming and local space of the libraries and the library service takes advantage of the usage and – frankly – money that the other organisation brings.  Because the library service is being paid for by this, and is not losing overly much (apart from some space of course) so it looks to me like a true a win-win. Which is the essence of successful partnerships.

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£7.4m for WiFi & success in the Arts

Editorial

It’s not every Budget that public libraries get mentioned but it happened this time. Over £7 million to help ensure all libraries get wifi plus another 57 libraries to be assisted by BT and Barclays.  This is stemming from the Sieghart Review and, fair play, it’s not the first of its recommendations to be enacted, which means that this review is that rarest of things: a report which is getting some results. This will not be enough for some, who are more than aware of the deep cuts that have affected libraries, but it is something. I like somethings … they’re so much better than nothings.

I went to the rather wonderful Arts in Libraries conference in St Helen’s today. Readers of my editorials will know that I am not certain about the positioning of public libraries in the Arts sphere: literacy and education currently look to be safer spheres but what is happening there (and in Blackpool, Lancashire and Manchester amongst others) sure is impressive.  Most impressive is that St Helens ascribes a good part of it’s trend-bucking rise in usage and issues to tapping in to the success of its Arts programme.  So it’s been a good couple of days for optimism. Shame about the drip drip of cuts below really but let’s hope that tap, at least, is turned off.

Changes

Ideas

  • Libraries are “marketing channels” - that should be funded for recommending things.
  • Library of things - loaning of items people vote for, including cameras, sewing machines, board games, bike repair.
  • Use spare library space to offer to an artist as a residency - Idea from Arts in Libraries conference.

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Task Forces and Tardises

Editorial

The England Libraries Task Force has had its first meeting and it’s all positive sounding but, then again, of course it would be.  The challenge will `be in delivering. There;s certainly no shortage of senior people on the Force (hmm, Force – that sounds a bit odd) as the list published below shows so we can but hope but, for me, the whole nature of it is a little diffuse, in keeping with the desire to link libraries to multiple agendas.  We’ll see if that’s a strength or a weakness over the next year or two.

Also this edition I’ve got a guest post from Matt Finch who will familiar to many for his work and has been mentioned a few times in PLN.  He’s back in the UK now and I hope to hear of great things from him.

“Re your interesting editorial on Columbus Metropolitan Libraries – looking at Wikipedia (sorry librarians!) the annual cost of the Columbus libraries is $45m (= approx. £30m) a year. So with a population of 0.875m the cost per head cost is £34.28. The CIPFA library stats indicate that UK public library expenditure per head in 2013/14 was £13.60 (english metropolitan districts spend was similar at £13.68). Does this indicate that UK councillors undervalue public libraries? In the UK the public get no vote on specific funding for their public libraries.” Comment by librariesmatter

Changes

The TARDIS on your streetcorner: Matt Finch on the public libraries of today and tomorrow

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New CILIP boss - A face to remember?

Be the King of one thing, don’t Jack it all in: Lessons from Columbus, Ohio

Editorial

One of the highpoints of the Edge Conference was listening to, and having a chance to talk to, Patrick Losinski, who is CEO of Columbus Metropolitan Libraries. I found what he is said very inspiring and useful but, as he himself said, the US system is different to ours (they can publicly campaign for funding for a start) so it’s more a case of working out what is common between us rather than blindly following.

Columbus is a big system – it has 22 branches, 875 staff, 874,000 users and 37,000 friends on facebook places, making it better used than any UK authority.  It’s interesting that those comparatively few branches are clearly a lot bigger than ours and more heavily used.  But a few years ago they feared that times were changing and wanted to change with them so they  did some useful research into what the public thought about what libraries were in their childhood compared to ten years from now.  The “old” public descriptions of libraries were on a theme of “quiet, research, reading and books” while the “new” ones are “community, technology, research, information and access”. They realised that print books were not as dominant as once they were (indeed,  Mr Losinski was bullish about ebooks and thinks that they are the future) but noted thatt the five largest publishers weren’t selling to libraries.  So, in a daring move that I can’t see UK libraries doing, the US libraries hired a lobbyist and effectively changed their minds.

“The “old” public descriptions of libraries were on a theme of “quiet, research, reading and books” while the “new” ones are “community, technology, research, information and access”.

However, the big learning thing for me was how Columbus spotted what, I guess, in commercial terms would be a gap in the market.  Very sadly, a large number of children in the city were behind in terms of literacy and kept on being behind throughout school  … and it was often of course kids from the same, poorer, areas.  So, the library service moved into this sector.  They have full-on programmes over the school holidays (where the difference between wealthier children – who go to Europe and get tutored – and poorer kids, who hang around on the streets, really kicks in), in the evenings and even on school buses.  Library workers go out, in teams of two, to churches, shelters and laundromats and give out a pack of books and a library card.  They aim for those with children, because people care deeply about their own children and hope for a better life for them. They go into a thousand homes in Columbus to work one on one with parents … not the kids.  Wonderfully, each Summer, they photograph pre-school children in graduation dress and the year they’ll graduate, such as “class of 2029″.  Tellingly, some parents argued with staff that they had got the graduate date wrong, because they did not realise they meant college, not high school. Their aspirations were simply not that high, but that of the library staff was.

“some parents argued with staff that they had got the graduate date wrong, because they did not realise they meant college, not high school. Their aspirations were simply not that high, but that of the library staff was.”

This is all working well,  Indeed, Columbus are currently building ten new libraries (more than probably all of the UK at the moment).  Columbus libraries aim to “own the out of school time for kids”. The new libraries are built for connections – with big windows, open spaces and  “Ready for kindergarten” centres.  The libraries aim is no longer to be just”efficient book delivery people” but rather vital for the future and society of their communities. They offer two year associate level classes being offered right in the middle of the building. When a company came calling asking to use libraries for coding, Columbus insisted that they do it in a high unemployment area. Using words like “workforce optimisation” really worked well with politicians. By the way, speaking of words and presenting information, the Columbus libraries strategic plan is a model of simplicity and I would recommend you all having a look and, frankly, crib from it.

“The libraries aim is no longer to be just  “efficient book delivery people”

For me, the whole thing was reminiscent of Australia, first in Queensland and then nationally, where libraries there “claimed the space” of adult literacy.  In Columbus, similarly, they aimed to “own the out of school time”.  Same tactic, different sector targeted due to local factors.  Tellingly the UK public library service has signally failed to do anything so simple or even, until recently, anything at all.  The Public Library Universal Information Offers, while useful, are far too diffuse and numerous for this purpose.  It’s hard, after all, to shoot multiple targets with only one arrow.  Patrick says that Columbus Libraries are “no longer in the library business, now we are in the youth of Columbus business” … and there’s always a future in youth. It is not longer being all things to all people: rather, it has decided what it wants to be I think this is the big learning point for us.  After all, UK public libraries don’t have much time to find their own speciality, rather than becoming poorer and poorer jacks of all.

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Soon to be in a library dictionary near you

Ook: Sir Terry Pratchett OBE (1948-2015)

Editorial
The death of Sir Terry Pratchett today hit me with surprising force.  My teenage years and onwards were filled with his books, with each new one a big event.  His titles combine the ability to make one laugh out loud with the shock of making you have to think as well.  You will recognise personalities and political stances, prejudices and whole historical periods in the Discworld books.  Sir Terry had a gigantically wide knowledge (both pop culture and some pretty darn academic stuff) along with a devilish skill with the pun.  But, cards on the table, of course one of the reasons I liked the Discworld books so much was the ape (don’t ever call him a monkey) librarian.  He was one of the key characters in the books despite being able to only say ook.  Genius.  This wasn’t entirely an accident: Sir Terry loved libraries and claims to have received his education in one.  See this video below.  It’s also interesting to think how important he was in the struggle to publicise dementia, something that public libraries are now thankfully taking a leading role on.  Yes, indeed, we have lost a great friend in him but we will never lose his books. Let’s try to make sure that our doors will remain open.

If you want to help them [the oppressed], build a big library or something somewhere and leave the door open.The character Rincewind in “Interesting Times” by Terry Pratchett.

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A nice new library in Medway.  Good quote too

Ed Vaizey: “there appear to be no grounds on which he would intervene in libraries ”

Editorial

Ed Vaizey, to the surprise of no one, has decided not to intervene in Sheffield.  His decision includes a decision that the cuts do not go against national library policy, which again is no surprise as there does not appear to be a national library policy that anyone can discern. Here’s the view of a Sheffield campaigner:

“He’s saying that the needs assessment is at fault, but it doesn’t matter because it’s still a comprehensive and efficient service – even though the flawed needs assessment results in a patchy, uneven distribution, leaving a quarter of the city, by area, without a library. Try telling that to the 6 local primary and infant schools who bring their children to our, now voluntary and financially very vulnerable, library. He’s still referring to “national library policy” without saying what that is, and doesn’t give the criteria by which he judged the service comprehensive and efficient. He’s also saying that libraries aren’t important enough to justify the expense of an inquiry. Basically there appear to be no grounds on which he would intervene in libraries – we already knew that, but he’s really excelled himself this time.” BLAG

For library users who are, therefore unsatisfied with a final decision by the council, it appears that legal action is the only effective step one can take.  It may therefore be opportune to read the following piece by a solicitor who has fought judicial reviews and has some experience of successful legal actions against councils.

On brighter news, hey, look … not one but two new libraries have opened in the last week.  Both look lovely, although it’s interesting one has opened despite protests about losing the old library. I’ve also added a new section, “School libraries”, at the end of the post because there seems to be a lot of links between them and public libraries.  Do let me know your thoughts.

Please email any news, views or corrections to ianlibrarian@live.co.uk

Legal Funding for Library Campaign Groups Fighting Closures – Solicitor Michael Imperato writes …

“There are times when you have to fight for your rights.  Libraries are under threat across the country and campaigners should not be frightened to seek legal advice.  The main concern is of course costs.  However, Legal Aid (LA) may well be available.

To obtain LA in such circumstances you need a “man of straw” i.e. someone (it can be a woman) who is on low income and has no real assets.  That person should have some link to the area in which the library is based but does not have to be a prominent campaigner themselves.  Ideally the campaigners should instruct a Lawyer who has credibility and good contacts with the Legal Aid Agency (LAA).  LA will be applied for in the name of the “man of straw” to allow the matter to be further investigated.  If LA is granted the Lawyer can undertake substantive work and, if need be, instruct a Barrister.  Win or lose the Lawyer will be paid (albeit at a low rate!) and the nominal client has the protection of the shield of LA in that he/she cannot have any costs orders enforced against them if Court Proceedings are issued but the case is ultimately lost.

The form of Legal proceedings in such cases is known as Judicial Review (JR).  Time is of the essence in a JR case so campaigning groups should line up their “man of straw” as soon as possible.  It is possible the LAA will ask the campaign group to make a contribution towards the costs but unless the library of concern is in a hugely wealthy area this should be nominal and well within the reach of most groups who do a little fundraising.

Therefore, campaigners fighting library closures should not commit themselves to paying large amounts of money on legal costs.  Instead they should explore the option of Legal Aid.  Armed with a “man of straw” and good arguments they should be able to obtain Legal Aid to take on the might of the Local Authority.”

Michael Imperato is a solicitor at Watkins & Gunn and is recognised as one of the country’s leading public law lawyers acting for individuals and campaign groups fighting service cuts. He has  advised in successful library campaigns and been involved in a number of high profile Judicial Review cases.

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Libraries on the Edge: some great ideas

Ed(ge)itorial

I’ve just had the honour and privilege of chairing a couple of sessions at the Edge library conference in Edinburgh, which is my most recent excuse for the lateness of this post.  I learnt many things there, which I will be covering in depth later issues but here’s the overview …  Patrick Losinski of Columbus Ohio seriously impressed with his tale of a library service that has effectively “claimed the space” of children when they’re out of school, gaining many millions of dollars in funding as a result.  Artefacto’s Library Wall – downloadable ebooks on a wall accessible via QR code – impressed with the passion and sheer ease with which it was done.  It was shocking that no library authority I am aware of in the UK is doing something similar. Libraries Without Borders talked about their work in refugee camps.  Seriously, all I could do was be in awe of their work. I also heard about the long-term large-scale partnership Glasgow libraries have with Macmillan Cancer Support to put their volunteers and surgeries in libraries.  The budget was in the millions.  That opened my eyes.

But what impressed me equally was the work of Edinburgh. They’re doing great things in many areas, including online and digital.  They also cleverly put on a library conference that pays for itself and they can send a lot of their staff to, meaning new ideas are part of their normal. The library service appears to have revolutionised it’s work with teenagers and I heard about some outstanding stuff reintegrating Polish migrant workers – sadly, often now unemplpyed and suffering from alcohol abuse – into the community.  They were all optimistic and open-minded.  It was a pleasure and well done to everyone.  So the next time you go to Edinburgh (and it was my first visit) make sure you go into a library as well.

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A weekend of library news

Editorial

The pre General Election frenzy is becoming apparent with more politicians than normal taking pot shots at eachother over libraries. Good to see Islington delaying cuts but sad to see that cuts, as yet unspecified, may affect Fife, home to the reportedly first ever Carnegie Library. In other news, it’s a shame to see the antisocial behaviour (familiar to many a library worker, me included) reported in Edinburgh but heartwarming to see the report from the decidedly pro-social child on Worcestershire’s The Hive.

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