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Public library manager, creator of Public Libraries News, IWR Information Professional of the Year 2012.
Posts by Ian Anstice
A couple of national surveys have some bearing on public libraries. The first from the National Literacy Trust shows that children spend more time on computers than on print-reading for the first time ever and also goes on to say that those who read print are twice as likely to be above average readers than those who read digitally. The second is from the Office of National Statistics and says 7 million Britons don’t have online access and 16 million don’t have even basic online skills. Both show the need for public libraries which are the key providers of printed works to children and online provision for all.
In local news, the decision on the stark cuts proposed for Herefordshire have been delayed until full council on 24th May. In the few days since the news of the cuts have become public, nearly 5000 people have signed the online petition against it and a paper petition is being started. Also locally, Dorset have opened the £2m refurbished Christchurch Library while Cheshire East have decided to move towards a volunteer-staffed library for the first time.
- Children turn away from books in favour of reading electronically – Independent. National Literacy Trust survey covered: “34, 910 children between the ages of eight and 16.”Children are spending more time time reading on computers or other electronic devices than on books, magazines and comics for the first time, according to a study out today.” … “research also shows those who read print as nearly twice as likely to be above average readers as children who read electronically (26 per cent as opposed to 15.5 per cent). In addition, those who only read on screen are four times less likely to say they enjoy reading (12 per cent compared with 51 per cent).” See also Children’s on-screen reading overtakes reading in print – National Literacy Trust.
- Cuts hit poor women hardest: shame on our government – Guardian. “the majority of single parents, carers, part-time and public-sector workers and very old persons are women, which means they’re either on a low wage and/or benefits, and when they need legal aid, a refuge from domestic violence, family planning, a nice warm library, Sure Start, clothes, transport, heating, a decent home and food, they now can’t have any, or can’t afford enough.”
- Emergent digital services in public libraries: a domain study – Emerald. “This paper aims to explore the emergence of digital services in the public library domain via an extensive study of the websites of all Scottish public library services. … This is the first national study of Scottish public library websites and its findings should be of value as a result.”
- Failing to Read Well The Role of Public Libraries in Adult Literacy, Immigrant Community Building, and Free Access to Learning – Public Libraries Online. Look at adult literacy classes in US for immigrants. “As a government institution with a strong commitment to free access of information, libraries have been able to continue to provide library services, including literacy services to adult learners and their families. Due to extensive budget cuts, these educational gains are being threatened.”
- Incredible Hulk statue to transform image of US library – Guardian. Reports on the Northlake hulk crowdfunding project recently featured in Public Libraries News, Some interesting comments both supporting the idea and attacking it for dumbing down.
- Library’s Future Is Not an Open Book – Wall Street Journal (USA). Long article looking at the changing face of public libraries in the USA and especially the large showpiece city ones. However, even use of the computers is declining … so what to do with the space?
- Mobilemeet – CILIP. 14th September. “The Public and Mobile Libraries Group are back with another September slot for this year’s meeting of the best and brightest library vehicles from around the UK. Mobilemeet will feature presentations and an opportunity for discussion of some of the most significant issues facing mobile library services, aimed at the widest possible range of delegates from Members, Middle Library Service Managers to Mobile Library Drivers and Assistants. This year we are focusing on “Good News Stories”. These include: new vehicles, rebranding or changing the role of mobiles through partnership working, mobile community hubs, front door to council services and specialisation of services.
- No Need to Apologize to Your Librarian – Eleventh Stack. “When I tell people what I do for a living, and then they realize that I serve the public, sometimes I get a twisted face of pity coming at me. “. Lists the common apologies heard in a lovely positive way.
- Public Libraries and First Responders: Partners in Emergency Response – NNLMSCR (USA).
- Seven million Brits have ‘never used the internet’ - BBC. “7.1 million remain offline, with the elderly and disabled still the least likely to be connected.”. Figure down 1 million since 2012. Also “”Sixteen million adults don’t have the basic online skills to confidently take advantage of digital tools.”
- Vote to halt cuts to library opening – Herald (Eire). Dublin “councillors have passed an emergency motion seeking to overturn a decision made by council officials to restrict some library opening times by up to 17 hours a week … The proposed cut in opening hours is due to staffing shortages caused by the public sector recruitment moratorium and the retirement of library workers”
- Cheshire East - Hurdsfield to be volunteer-staffed in 2014 and given to Peaks and Plains Housing Trust, Weston Library to be closed.
- Dorset - Christchurch Library opens after £2m upgrade.
- Waltham Forest - £5m for Chingford, Leyton, Leytonstone and Walthamstow converting them to “Library Plus” to include libraries taking on “birth registrations, children’s centre activities and adult learning courses, as well as possibly including police meetings”
- Birmingham - Public Appeal to stop the privatisation of the Library of Birmingham – Communities against the cuts. “We write as individuals and organisations coming from the Labour movement of this city, past and present, who have deposited collections in the City’s archives. We note that where ever privatisation takes place it leads to poorer public services and worsening conditions of employment for workers. As the Cabinet papers make plain this ‘commissioning to the market’ ‘will provide a good opportunity to reduce costs of staffing’. Libraries are a quintessential public service open to the benefit of all. Archives are a gift of history to future generations. When we deposited our archives we did not anticipate that they would potentially become a source of profit to a private company. This is a betrayal and corruption of our gift to the future.”
- Brent – Councillor who oversaw library closures fails to make selection shortlist – Brent and Kilburn Times. “A source has revealed to the Times that Cllr James Powney has failed to make the shortlist to stand as a Labour candidate for the Kensal Green Ward.”. Libraries cuts mentioned as a prominent reason.
- Cheshire East – Campaigners celebrate as Hurdsfield library saved from axe – Macclesfield Express. “Hurdsfield to be volunteer-staffed in 2014 and given to Peaks and Plains Housing Trust, Weston Library to be closed.” … “The trust already owns the rest of the building, which houses its offices and a hairdressers. It plans to renovate the building to merge the library into more of a community hub, with a range of activities and book swaps. The current, council-paid librarian will remain for a year but then volunteers will run the library.”
- Dorset – Christchurch Library and Learning Centre reopens after £2 million upgrade – This is Dorset. “Christchurch Library and Learning Centre has re-opened after a £2 million redevelopment. After almost a year of renovations and building work, visitors can enjoy 60 per cent more space to facilities.” … “”There is also the financial benefit that the relocation of the adult education centre will save £50,000 a year.”
“We want this library to be a community hub, somewhere that all residents can make use of, whether it’s for books, study space, the free use of computers or to hold community meetings and events.”
- Ealing – Library and Leisure Services to be Contracted Out – Ealing Today. “John Laing Ltd. will take over the running of the library service. They already run the libraries in Hounslow and Harrow and the latter borough would act as the client on behalf of London Borough of Ealing in what would be a shared contract.” … “Ealing Unison has called for a lobby of the Council meeting from 6.30pm on the 21st May. They claim there has been no proper consultation”
“The Council believe that the new contracts will help them meet their annual savings targets of £250,000 per annum for leisure and £233,000 for libraries. There is no definite indication that the new contract will involve library closures although the report to be presented to the Council on the proposals states, “officers have continued to explore alternative delivery models for all static libraries in an effort to continue to provide a comprehensive library service that achieves value for money.”
- Herefordshire – Council postpones cuts decision – BBC. “Council leader John Jarvis said the matter would now be heard by full council on 24 May. Expecting a decision, about 80 members of the Unison union gathered outside the council’s Brockington HQ.” … “More than 4,000 people have signed a petition against possible closures of museums and libraries in the county.”. Council leader says 4000 people need to come up with ideas about how they can save services themselves. 80% Unison members vote in favour of strike on issue.
- Herefordshire – Library News - Private Eye. “In one of the most drastic library service cutbacks threatened so far, rural Herefordshire may lose all bar one of its public libraries. All that’s been officially revealed is a plan in a council agenda paper to more than halve the county’s £3m culture and leisure services budget. It says: “The full range of options will be explored from community led delivery to income generation opportunities and selective closures, service reductions and reduced opening hours.”However, library staff have already been briefed that their budget will drop to just £250,000 in the next two years. Only Hereford City library is safe, they were told, unless a mysterious “someone else” steps up to take on the 10 branches in the market towns and villages. Despite Herefordshire having one of England’s most rural and widely dispersed populations, the mobile library service was scrapped two years ago.”
- Herefordshire – Protesters gather outside council headquarters despite vital meeting being called off - Hereford Times. “Protestors against the cuts gathered at Brockington as planned. Even Book Start Bear was there”
- Herefordshire – Council meeting deferral came following feedback from ‘councillors, the public and reviewing public petitions’ – Ledbury Reporter. Just. Read. The. Comments.
- Herefordshire – Libraries in the firing line of Herefordshire Council cuts – Ledbury Reporter. “The very future for culture in the county is at stake tomorrow as Herefordshire Council’s cabinet decides whether or not to back savage cuts that leave libraries and museums out on a limb. But those at the sharp end are fighting back rallied by an unprecedented show of support.”
- Herefordshire – Library threatened with closure – Ross Gazette. “The Minister for the Arts opened it with much fanfare in March 1988, holding it up as a beacon of council excellence. Fast forward 25 years and after countless – and costly – consultations, pay reviews, job evaluations, and restructuring, Ross Library is at crisis point.”
“We knew it was going to be hard but this is a domesday scenario. It is fundamentally, morally and ideologically wrong. It is like Dr Beeching for local government. People talk wistfully about the return of trains. Well, they may be talking like that about libraries. Once they are gone they are gone and there is no going back.”
- Herefordshire – Paul Rogers Blog: Libraries and Museums should be saved- Hereford Times. “if any of libraries situated in the market towns and villages go, what is the alternative for service-users, especially the elderly and less able who are traditionally avid library visitors?”
- Manchester – Twist in the tale as Manchester library protesters win reprieve – Manchester Evening News. “Campaigners packed out Manchester town hall for a two hour debate in which councillors agreed an extension to the planned closure date of June 29.”… “many Labour councillors also attacked their own party’s plan – dubbing a report drawn up by officers as ‘disappointing’ and ‘patronising’. Campaigners said it failed to reflect the strength of public opinion, adding that hundreds of objection letters had not been fully considered.”
“We understand that the community really value and are passionate about their libraries and that they want to be involved in moving the process forward to ensure the retention of a library service in each of their communities. A one-size-fits-all model will not work, which is why we reiterated our commitment at committee to work with each community and other partners to bring forward specific proposals for each of the six libraries affected.”
- Sefton – Mum urges council to rethink Carnegie Library closure – Crosby Herald. “A Crosby mum, whose ten children all learnt to read at the Carnegie Library, has urged Sefton Council to rethink its closure plans. Sam Garner, 47, said her children, who range in age from 25 to five, have all benefited from the library on College Road.”
- Sefton – Campaign group submits business plan to save Southport’s libraries – Southport Visiter. “Members of the recently- formed Ainsdale, Birkdale and Churchtown Library Group have launched a business plan to keep Southport’s libraries open.” … “The ABCLG has now put together a plan to save £140,000 and keep Southport’s three libraries open. The savings would be achieved by reducing the opening hours of Ainsdale, Birkdale and Churchtown libraries from 30 to 24 hours a week, and by using volunteers to support the paid library staff.”
- South Ayrshire – Furious woman hits out at Ayr library – Ayrshire Post. “officious staff refused to let her share a computer with her elderly mum and sister – claiming it breached health and safety rules. They insisted that the trio stump up £15 each to sit at three separate machines to research their family history.” … “South Ayrshire Council insist the £15 fee does not go to them, but is payable to a service called the Digital Imaging of the Genealogical Records of Scotland’s People (DIGROS), which charges for its use.”
- Southend – Library services “will be improved” - Echo. If volunteers step in. “there are no closure plans, as long as the public or community groups do their bit to keep some of them open.” … “The “amalgamation” of Thorpedene and Friars libraries will improve them, the council says, as the two existing buildings are not fit for purpose and are close to each other anyway.”
“In some areas if people don’t want to safeguard them it will be very difficult, it would perhaps suggest that they don’t want their libraries as much as we thought.”
- Southend – Petition to save Southend libraries – Echo. “275 people signed a petition to save Southend’s branch libraries at a lively information event outside Westcliff Library. A steady stream of people stopped to hear about Southend Council’s proposals which could see some branch libraries closed unless community groups step in to run them.” … “In total more than 500 people have signed the petition, which is organised by Unison.”
“Their reasons for needing the branch were different – students did homework there, unemployed people who searched for jobs on its computers and pensioners who would be unable to travel to the new Forum library being built in the town centre or a proposed “hub” library in Leigh or Eastwood. They immediately signed the petition …”
- Sunderland – Concern over Sunderland library closure plans – Sunderland Echo. “Sunderland City Council bosses insist the response has been one of the largest they have ever seen. However, a scrutiny committee report highlighted concerns that current library users, who it claims are predominantly older people, “may have been less engaged in the consultation than non-users … While the report accepts hard copies of the consultation document were placed in libraries, there is concern that Wearside library staff did not encourage visitors to complete the form.”. 95% of the 2700 consulted say they or their family were library members.
- Tri-borough – I’ve seen the future; David Ruse and the Tri-borough experiment! – Stop the privatisation of public libraries. “budget of £16m, 360FTE staff and 21 sites. He then went on to say that 10 senior management posts had been cut to 4, the stock team had been reduced and that there was only 1 children’s specialist in the service”. Volunteers “not substituting but assisting” … “paid staff are shared between the boroughs under Section 113 of the Local Government Act 1972, David said that they had looked at TUPEing staff over to Westminster, the lead borough, and ‘salary harmonisation’ but use Section 113 instead. All this had led to savings of £1.237m.”. Self-service had led to job cuts but was not detrimental to the service. Rosy view not shared by unison stewards. “Sharper procurement” next in line to save money.
- Waltham Forest – Anger as smaller libraries miss out on £5 million investment in Waltham Forest - Guardian series. “Library users have slammed Waltham Forest Council’s multi-million pound investment in four libraries as smaller facilities miss out on the funding. The council is spending £5 million turning four libraries in Chingford, Leyton, Leytonstone and Walthamstow into ‘Library Plus’ centres, offering a range of services in addition to lending books and having computers. However, not a penny of it will go to the borough’s smaller libraries.”
“It really does stink. When we’re talking about £5 million and it’s going to just a few libraries, that’s pretty outrageous. The investment won’t be that good for the people in the borough who can’t travel to these ones. People looking for jobs might not have the money to reach them and it would be hard on the elderly.”
I saw a great project a couple of days ago from a small town called Northlake (30,000 residents) near Chicago which shows how imagination and the internet can be used together in order to, at next to no cost, publicise a library and raise funds for it. The plan, you see, is to purchase a nine-foot-tall statue of the Incredible Hulk for the library. That, I think, would be reason enough but that is actually only the “hook” to get funding for a lot of new technology for the place. Technology that will spectacularly position the library at the forefront of provision for its area. Why the Hulk? Well, the branch itself prides itself on its graphic novel collection (it was 2,300 but it’s even bigger now – someone saw the publicity and donated 1,000 more) but also, I think, it’s the sheer incongruousness of the concept that’s the winner. It’s relevance to the UK is that it shows clearly what can be done with no resources. Even if they don’t get their Hulk statue, Northlake has gained more publicity than ever before, probably revolutionised its image and gets to keep whatever money has been raised, which already runs to a couple of thousand dollars.
I hope after reading the words of Tom Mukite, a trustee of the library, who is intimately involved with the project, that you will agree with the Ron Marz, known for his work on Silver Surfer and Green Lantern, that “Every library should have a hulk”
It’s interesting to note that the Scottish side of the librarian professional body CILIP has issued a statement expressing its “deep concern” about cuts in Moray. These cuts (7 out of 15 may close) are of proportions familiar enough to those in England but may be a worrying harbinger of things to come north of the border. CILIP (England) itself has long since given up (if it ever started in the first place) producing announcements for each new authority that announces cuts in its own turf, presumably because their frequency would get a bit monotonous.
Speaking of cuts, as I so often do, I should point out the current bete noir of Herefordshire faces an unconfirmed 9 branches being withdrawn, not 10. The tenth, Peterchurch, is already volunteer run: a possibility interestingly missing from a 1976 article on library cuts that is otherwise quite eery in its similarities to today.
The full scale of the proposed cuts to Herefordshire Libraries are becoming clearer, with the petition against the closures of all but one of them coming up time and time again with testimonies of how important the local branches still are. There is also some anger at the LGA forgetting that libraries are statutory in their desire to stress how many will close if there continue to be cuts to council budgets.
Set against such cuts, it’s going to be tough for the new Arts Council England (half-time) libraries director, Brian Ashley, to accentuate the positive but it is clear that this is what he plans to do. I know what he means, to a point: there are indeed many great things happening in libraries, every day, and this needs to be emphasised, No-one, after all, wants to be associated with a declining service, employees and users alike. However, balancing the news of the biggest cuts to library services in history with good news is going to be a challenge for Brian and he will need all the help he can get. As such, I’ll start him off with this song below (sent to me very kindly today) which lists many good things about libraries while at the same time not failing to mention the bad. Sing it to the tune of “These are a few of my favourite things” by the way:
William Sieghart, leader of the panel of experts who recently produced “An Independent Review of E-lending in Public Libraries in England”, National Poetry Day founder and the brains behind Poetry on Prescription, kindly agreed to do a brief interview for Public Libraries News, which is printed below. Mr Sieghart will be touring libraries in Kent and Westminster promoting his poetry anthology, Winning Words: Inspiring Poems for Everyday Life. More details of the tour can be found here.
There’s a mixture of good and bad news today. The good news are refurbishments in East Sussex, North Tyneside and Windsor and Maidenhead. These range from nearly finished projects to plans still on the drawing board but they all show a faith in the future or libraries. Bad news comes from Herefordshire, where council papers, suggest that spending on Culture (including libraries) will be nearly halved over three years with cuts and transfers to volunteers proposed.
Bad news also from Manchester which further confirms closures of six libraries, with £87k to be spent per year to aid volunteers to run alternatives. Campaigners have noted that all of these closures are all in deprived areas, which raises certain legal concerns, as the quote below demonstrates:
Ealing and Harrow libraries look set to be outsourced to Laing. Meanwhile, there’s food collections in Wigan libraries for local food banks and there are also two unrelated articles about non-payment of late fees in Camden and Essex. More internationally, there’s a great defence of public libraries in New Zealand (under very hostile questioning) and the Australian library association want to hear your views on the future of libraries. Right, after all of that, here’s a treat … a not entirely serious suggestion for 3-D printers being the saviour of libraries in a somewhat unorthodox way:
- 294 libraries (259 buildings and 35 mobiles) are currently under threat or have been closed/left council control since 1/4/13 out of c.4265 in the UK. The complete list is on "Tally by Local Authority" page as are other changes to budgets such as cuts to hours, bookfund and staffing. Public Libraries News estimates 78 libraries and 14 mobiles were lost in 2012/13, although this is likely to be an understimate. CIpfa have calculated that 201 library service points were lost 2011/12 . Public Libraries News has tracked down links to 142 of these via counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day. Full Fact have analysed the accuracy of the figures. For a list of new and refurbished buildings see this page,
- geraldine cooke on Two surveys show the importance of libraries
- librariesmatter on One of our favourite things
- Ian Anstice on Library Campaign’s call to action on volunteer libraries: “Let’s get real”
- Ian Anstice on Library Campaign’s call to action on volunteer libraries: “Let’s get real”
- Steve Truffer on Could the 3D Printer save the public library service?
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Disclaimers and thanks
Please note that this website is maintained entirely in my own time and should in no way be seen to reflect the opinions or otherwise of my employer.
I would also like to add at this point my thanks to Shirley Burnham for her frequent emails with relevant public libraries news which I then use as a a large part of the material for this site.
Warren O'Donoghue of Rabbitdigital Design has been wonderful in designing and creating this website, maintaining it and basically being there for the one hundred and one web problems that seem to surface all the time.
A mention should also go to Sally Pewhairangi who runs the excellent "Finding Heroes" library news website and daily email service, providing valuable insights from the world and, as interestingly, from New Zealand.
Top Posts & Pages
- Changes by local authority
- Two surveys show the importance of libraries
- Campaigning tactics
- "We now have six examples of poor to terrible performance by community libraries based on hard data"
- A Hive of noisy activity
- Volunteer-run libraries
- "Every library should have a Hulk": An interview with the man behind a great libraries idea
- Protecting library services? A look at the new Capita report on public libraries
- Bad news in Herefordshire, good news elsewhere. Questions in Manchester and Isle of Wight