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

Lewisham - Unison poster organising march to "save Lewisham Libraries"

“Fund it better”

Editorial

My thanks to a PLN reader who pointed out that the Atlantic article on the decline in usage of US libraries over recent years stated that the drop had a lot to do with budget cuts (or increases in areas which saw usage rise).  I neglected to mention this in my summary. It’s something which has resonance in the UK where the decline in library usage mirrors closely (or, much of the time, is less than) the cuts to their budget.  English library budgets have fallen far more than the 14.3% decline in usage that the BooKSeller reports or the larger figure that the DCMS figure itself suggests. Don’t get me wrong, budget cuts are not the only woe. I’m sure that some of the decline is due to general global trends like e-books – research I’m doing into the usage and budgetary trends of libraries in Europe and beyond show that it’s not just the UK that’s seeing drops, and also it’s not just those countries who have seen big cuts to budgets. That’s not a message that will be popular with everyone. However, the Atlantic article ends with a sentiment I think almost all of us can agree with: ” if the public wants to reverse the trend and make the local library more useful, it should do one thing that evidence supports: Fund it better. “

Changes

National news

  • 5 Famous British TV Writers On How Libraries Influenced Their Lives – Buzzfeed. “A library is more than a building. It’s a statement of intent. A shared space. A sanctuary. We remove these pieces of civilisation at our peril. Brick by brick” says Mark Gatiss. ” It was waiting for me in that public library, a secret waiting to be mine. No wonder, 30 years later, I stood the Doctor in a library. He always goes to the most wonderful and powerful places.” says Russell T Davies.
  • Adam Yates has Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries winner’s jersey in his sights – South Yorkshire Times. “Earlier in the day Yates was on hand to help deliver bikes donated by the public to the Yorkshire Bank Bike Library in Doncaster to see first-hand how the initiative is benefitting the local community. Adam dropped off the bikes in the recently commissioned Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries van ‘Brian’, named after the legendary Yorkshire cyclist Brian Robinson. Yates added: “I think the Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries is a fantastic idea. It’s great that the people of Yorkshire can donate their old bikes so that they can be re-distributed to the public. Hopefully watching the pro’s cycle through Yorkshire will encourage more people to come down to Bike Libraries like the one I’m at today and get involved in cycling.”
  • ‘Apologetic’ customer finally returns library book due in 1948  – Telegraph. “Auckland Libraries wrote on Facebook: “A wonderful customer came to see us with a confession today! As a child she was a patron of Epsom Library until she moved out of Auckland – and accidentally took a library book with her! “Today she finally managed to return it to us. It’s a fair few years overdue but in excellent well-read condition.”
  • Library usage falls 14.3 percentage points since 2005 – BookSeller. “The report, commissioned by the DCMS in partnership with Arts Council England and entitled Taking Part: a focus on libraries, measured the number of people who use libraries and looked at the most common reasons for changes in individual library use over time.”
  • Page 94: the Private Eye podcast – Private Eye. Includes interview with Jane MacKenzie, the journalist that does the Library News column. She looks at the importance of libraries (making the interesting point that many people may have the internet at home but only one member of the family controls it) and how the best way to save them is to protest.

International news

  • Australia – Hit the library, get a drink, start a riot – Vocal / Matt Finch. “The same boomer generation that has pulled the rug out from under young people in careers, education, pensions, and housing is also threatening our access to knowledge and culture. Cuts to Australia’s arts organisations are bad enough, but a neighbourhood library is even more important: it’s the place where all, rich and poor, young and old, can learn, explore, play and create on their own terms.”.  A look at Fun Palaces.
  • USA – How Libraries — Yes, Libraries — Are Helping People Ditch Stuff They Don’t Need – Huffington Post. “Have you ever checked out a sewing machine from your local library? What about a guitar or a 3D printer? If you haven’t, you might soon. Public libraries across the country are housing so-called “libraries of things,” from which people can borrow useful items for a short time instead of buying them outright. This is a largely hidden feature of the growing “sharing economy,” but it may be poised to take off as many Americans become increasingly concerned about waste and environmental sustainability. ” … “Since the SPL opened its Library of Things, the number of monthly visitors has increased, and librarians are fielding more and more requests to add items to the program’s inventory. Sass hopes the library will add sports and camping equipment soon. “

“Talk of the sharing economy tends to revolve around flashy startups — Uber and AirBnB, for example — that disrupt markets by making existing products and services more convenient. But public libraries were sharing before sharing was cool, lending books and other goods to people who, in some sense, collectively own them. “

  • USA – Weeding the Worst Library Books – New Yorker. “The library’s director, Jeff Scott, announced that his staff had “deaccessioned” texts that weren’t regularly checked out. But the protesters who gathered on the library’s front steps to decry what became known as “Librarygate” preferred a different term: “purged.” “Put a tourniquet on the hemorrhage,” one of the protesters’ signs declared. “Don’t pulp our fiction,” another read. In response, Scott attempted to put his policy in perspective. His predecessor had removed fifty thousand books in a single year, he explained. And many of the deaccessioned books would be donated to a nonprofit—not pulped. Furthermore, after new acquisitions, the collection was actually expected to grow by eighteen thousand books, to a total of nearly half a million.” … “Kelly and Hibner created the site in 2009. Each week, they highlight books that seem to them so self-evidently ridiculous that weeding is the only possible recourse. They often feature books with outlandish titles, like “Little Corpuscle,” a children’s book starring a dancing red blood cell; “Enlarging Is Thrilling,” a how-to about—you guessed it—film photography; and “God, the Rod, and Your Child’s Bod: The Art of Loving Correction for Christian Parents.””
  • USA – What You Can Do to Combat Librarian Burnout – 5 Min Librarian. “Whatever the problem, if you’re in burnout mode, the best way to fix that is to take a few minutes for yourself and regroup. (If it’s really bad, you may need to take a few days off, but let’s hope we can fix it before it gets to that point.) I am very lucky in my current job, but I’ve had situations in the past where I’ve just been so burned out, I felt like I never wanted to set foot in a library again – and that is completely unlike me, and it needed to be fixed. I hope my tips and tricks help you, too.”

Local news by authority

  • Bristol – How use of Bristol’s libraries declined over the last five years – Bristol Post. “In 2011-12, some 1.5million items – mostly books – were borrowed from Bristol’s 28 libraries. Five years later, in 2015-16, only 1.25million items were taken out of libraries. But surprisingly, four libraries saw the number of items borrowed increase in the last year. Henbury, Shirehampton, Whitchurch and Wick Road all saw their usage rise in the last year. It comes just before library assistants are set to go on strike today.” … “A crowd-funding campaign to transform the now-closed Eastville Library has hit the £2,000 mark. People can donate to the cause to change the old library into a community hub. The project, led by the South Lockleaze and Purdown Neighbourhood Group (SLAP) requires £20,000.”
  • Cornwall – Cornwall’s libraries look set to stay open as talks continue about their future – Cornish Guardian. Council will retain libraries with reduced staffing levels until after the local elections in 2017 or until parish councils take them over. “In Wadebridge, the town council is keen to take control of the town’s library and One Stop Shop –but is disappointed that only one of the neighbouring parish councils has offered to join in the venture. So far only St Endellion parish council has indicated it would be willing to help underwrite the financial risks of running the Wadebridge library.”

Lynn West, Library Supervisor for Ashburton and Ivybridge, said that issues to young people from Ashburton library had increased by over 40% since the move, while borrowings of teenage fiction had risen by nearly two thirds. Lynn said: “The library is now on many young people’s route to school, and it is open when they are passing by. As a result, we are seeing lots of parents and younger children popping in, while younger users are very confident about using the automated machine to take out or return books. It is not surprising, then, that the rate of increase is significantly higher than across the rest of Devon.”

  • Dumfries and Galloway – Three local services in Sanquhar will be combined as the council completes refurbishment works – Cumnock Chronicle. “The council are bringing together the Customer Service Centre, Library and Registration office in Sanquhar. D&G Council claim that they require to complete some capital works to refurbish the existing Customer Service Centre and allow it to become fit for purpose.”
  • Essex – Grandmother reads grandson bedtime stories from over 10,000 miles away – Halstead Gazette. “A tech-savvy grandmother is using a library’s services to read her grandson bedtime stories from over 10,000 miles away. Penny Warland, 66, from Braintree, uses Skype on a wifi connection at Braintree Library to call four-year-old Riley who lives in Australia. She rings at 9.30am, which corresponds with Riley’s 6pm bedtime on the other side of the world. Mrs Warland said: “When grandchildren move away there’s a danger that you end up only knowing them by the photos you’re sent.”
  • Glasgow – Free Wi-Fi now available in all the city’s libraries‏ – Evening Times. “One in three households across the city – that’s more than 86,000 homes – is still without access to fixed broadband internet. Now anyone can access the internet, thanks to Glasgow Life and BT, supported by the Scottish Government Public Wireless Programme Fund.”
  • Hammersmith and Fulham – Comic Book Giveaway in Local Libraries – Hammersmith Today. “Saturday 7 May is free Comic Book Day. In an event taking place around the world comic shops and libraries will be giving away comics. You can collect yours from your local library with all four libraries in Hammersmith & Fulham participating. Why not check out their graphic novel collections while you are there and see what else your library has to offer?”
  • Kensington and Chelsea – Council accused over plans to lease Kensington’s oldest library to private school – Evening Standard. “Campaigners have attacked plans to lease Kensington’s oldest library “on the cheap” to a £5,800-a-term prep school. North Kensington Library, which opened in 1891, is due to be leased to Notting Hill Prep School, and library facilities moved to a new building on the site of a nearby community centre. The school for five- to 13-year-olds, where writer Richard Curtis and Princess Diana’s brother Earl Spencer have sent their children, would pay Kensington & Chelsea council about £365,000 a year to lease the building, but residents claimed the council was asset-stripping public facilities in order to give to the private sector.”
  • Lambeth – Crystal Palace campaigners reject library deal as a sop – Inside Croydon. “our hard-working bookish gyms correspondent, reports on the latest twist in the tale of the Upper Norwood Library, a saga so full of back-stabbing and manoeuvrings that it makes Game of Thrones seem chaste and innocent” … “The campaigners were unimpressed with an 11th-hour announcement by Lambeth Council that it is to staff Upper Norwood Joint Library for 35 hours per week for two years, dismissing the news as little more than a calculated sop.” … “one librarian from the general Lambeth pool, does not ‘save’ the library.”
  • Lambeth – Fighting for Our Libraries in Lambeth – Platform. “I’m an A-Level student taking English Literature, History and Theatre Studies and books have always been a large part of my life. Most of my reading materials were borrowed from Carnegie Library in Lambeth, which was gifted to the people of Lambeth by Andrew Carnegie in 1902. However, on 31st March, it was officially closed by Lambeth Council to re-open as a ‘healthy living centre’: a fee-paying gym with an unstaffed ‘lounge’ containing an unconfirmed number of books. “
  • Lancashire – ‘Ridiculous’ to axe library after refurb – Lancaster Guardian. “A Carnforth-based author says the potential closure 
of Bolton-le-Sands library 
is “ridiculous” after it 
underwent a £300,000 
refurbishment last year. Robert Swain said that Lancashire County Council should have considered the possibility of its closure before spending £282,895.21 on a complete refurbishment in summer 2015. Bolton-le-Sands library is on a list of county council services that could face the axe.”
  • Leicestershire – Last chance for Melton people to have say on future of council’s libraries, museums and learning services – Melton Times. “The council’s budget-saving proposals include reducing the number of libraries which are fully funded by the authority, reducing the number of county council funded museums and heritage venues and charging for some of its services.”
Lewisham - Unison poster organising march to "save Lewisham Libraries"

Lewisham – Unison poster organising march to “save Lewisham Libraries”

  • Staffordshire – 6,300 sign petition to force Lichfield Library debate – Lichfield Mercury. “Campaigners calling on Staffordshire County Council to hold a public consultation on the future of Lichfield Library and the Friary have handed in a petition bolstered by more than 6,300 signatures. The Save Lichfield Library petition was set up by Robert Pass, chair of Lichfield and Burntwood Green Party after the council announced the plan to relocate the library to St Mary’s in the Market Square.” … ” “We collected another 600 signatures on Saturday and the campaign is showing no signs of running out of steam, but council rules dictate that the petition must be submitted this week if it’s to be debated at the next full meeting of the county council.”
  • Staffordshire – Children’s book about World War One dog is available at Staffordshire libraries – Staffordshire Newsletter. “Using part of the Heritage Lottery Fund grant for the ‘Reaching Out Arms – the Story of Cannock Chase in World War I’, the Friends of Cannock Chase have bought a 20 copies of The Anzac Puppy and given then to nine libraries.”

Taking Part and Polish train station libraries

Editorial

The DCMS “Taking Part” survey has done a special focus on public libraries.  It’s useful as it looks at adult usage over the past ten years. The trend shows a clear decline – I think we all knew that that would be the case, with reasons being arguable, but with the given reasons of those surveyed being, quite simply, e-books and preferring to buy.  It’s also noteworthy how important a factor children are in adult’s use of libraries.  There’s a lot of crossover there that perhaps library design does not always follow.  Elsewhere, I’m loving the Polish train station converted into a library.

Changes

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Cuts in North Somerset, a strike in Bristol and petitions over library moves

Editorial

North Somerset – quiet on these pages for a few years – has announced that libraries and children’s centres will co-locate (with all the benefits and problems that implies) for an overall cut of £500k. Meanwhile, nearby in Bristol, all libraries will be closed for day while staff strike over changes to working conditions which mean, they claim, that many are effectively being paid less for working more. Over in Staffordshire, it looks like quite a few branches have had to close temporarily due to staff shortages and, in addition, the county has received over 6,000 names on a petition over the move of Lichfield Library. People in Brighton and Hove are not looking delighted over the move of Hove Library either.

Changes

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A few good nights to be a librarian

Editorial

It’s been an interestingly varied few days – helping to host a thriller writer at a library event on Wednesday and then, three days later, helping out at a magic show in another library.  The writer, Martin Edwards, is up for two awards in the USA this week but spoke a lot on how important joining the library was – the library he was speaking at, as it happens – in helping his career.  The magic show was from a professional  theatre company, funded by Arts Council England, and it was superb. Both were very well attended and top notch and I was proud to be part of them.  But they were as nothing compared to being was master of ceremonies for a town award’s night on Friday.  It was a real pleasure to realise I knew so many of the people in the audience and so many of the winners as well.  I knew them because I’d simply worked in the town library for so many years. You get to know people. And people get to know you. There was a lot of smiles and laughter and an awareness, hopefully not just on my part, of the key role libraries play in the town.  All in all, it was a good few nights to be a librarian.

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More remote-controlled libraries and digital trends

Editorial

Axiell have jumped on the remote-controlled libraries technology offer (for the pros and cons of which see here) meaning that the majority of library system suppliers in the UK offer something in this field.  For councils, this is quite tempting – increase your hours while cutting costs – but there’s down sides to it as well, as those locked out due to IT problems or those under 16 are discovering. In other news, by coincidence, the same company Axiell has sent me a guest blog which includes somethings I’ve not come across before (“Internet of Relations” anyone?).

Changes

Top digital trends for libraries to follow in 2016; Influencers that make community engagement better 

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Moranifesto, promoting libraries and party manifestos

Editorial

Some good “think” pieces about libraries this week, notably from Caitlin Moran and from Nick Poole. Malorie Blackman bigs up libraries in the Guardian, pointing out how important they are to having a fair chance in life. We also have a look at the manifesto for the Welsh elections by the main political parties, which always show – when it comes down to it – what parties really think about libraries. Looks like UKIP don’t think anything. Then there’s a surprising amount on libraries in Islamic countries (and all the more welcome it is for being unusual), including some spectacularly heroic work in Mali and Afghanistan. Finally, there’s a whole ton of local news, fleshing out the cuts in Hampshire but also noting library promotions like Books on Prescription and World Book Night.

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Harry Potter and the DCMS library investigation

Editorial

I’ve had a week off so there’s a lot of news today with the main personal bit I’d like to share with you being how utterly fantastic the Harry Potter Studio Tour is. Gosh, I remember those books when they first came out and getting them in libraries … anyway, in main library news, Dudley (not Dursley, keep up) becomes a mutual in order to meet cuts to budget. Leicestershire has announced yet another major round of cuts to libraries and Powys has also announced many of its smaller branches are under threat.  Meanwhile, at the DCMS, the minister has (as expected) said there’s no problem in Lincolnshire slashing its library services but – to some shock, not least of all by the council one suspects – it has announced it will look into the cuts in Lambeth made famous by the recent sit-in.  But an investigation is actually nothing much. That’s what it did to Lincolnshire. What matters is if it says that the council has not met its statutory duties.  And that I’ll believe when I see it.

Changes

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The only hand of cards left: the strength and weaknesses shown in the Lambeth protest

Editorial

The power and limitation of protest was seen in Lambeth, in spades, this week.  The sit-in – for a very impressive week and more, with quite a few involved – attracted a lot of attention and culminated in what appears to be well over a thousand marching in the borough’s streets on Saturday.  I’ll say that again, well over a thousand. Marching, In the streets. For a library. The protest deeply embarrassed the council (or should have done, of which more in a tiny bit) and was reported in the national as well as local media. The local councillors, and anyone else paying attention, now conclusively know that libraries are a (in the words of the Institute of Economic Affairs ant-library spokesman a week or two ago) “hot button” issue and, if you close them without co-opting the public onto your side (e.g. “Volunteer or the library will close”) then you’re in for a world of political hurt.  The reputation of GLL, who must have come into this thinking they would be seen as the good guys, has also been somewhat tarnished by association.

Now for the down side. The council simply got a court order and would have evicted the protesters, if the latter hadn’t left peacefully.  Also, at time of going to press, the councillors also seem not have changed their attitude one jot and the cuts will still occur. In what they apparently consider to be safe seats, councillors instead turned the blame onto the protesters themselves – accusing them of drinking wine, of all things, and suggesting they were bored of the whole thing with one councillor (seriously) tweeting a picture of a cat yawning – instead of having a hard look at why people were angry. As the Guardian points out, it made the local Labour councillors the defenders of the Conservative Government’s and directly associated them with Austerity, as well as with arrogance and a bit of incompetence thrown in.  But, these are councillors with the electorate (who voted them in) and the law on their side.  They can do what they like for their term in office and they have the power. Using power against them, in the terms of sit-ins and protest marches, is a last-ditch gamble, as many campaigners knew. Having failed to persuade the councillors by other means, it was time for the placards. But, faced with a council, which had clearly already made up it’s mind, it was the only hand of cards they had left.

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The other 11% are just plain misinformed

The other 11% are misinformed: 89% say public libraries are crucial

Editorial

After an impressive 24,000 votes were cast in a Money Saving Expert Poll, 89% said that libraries were crucial.  That’s pretty impressive and shows that politicians – and certain media (I’m looking at you Jeremy Vine) – may not be entirely with the public when they question the role of the public library in the modern age. I’d also recommend them watch, an excellent TedX talk by Laurinda Thomas, former president of LIANZA in New Zealand, which demolishes such superficial shows and points out how important libraries are for communities. Perhaps Shropshire also need to have a look (and perhaps even more of a look at what constitutes as legal), being it took local users going to the courts to stop them moving Church Stretton Library where the locals did not want it moved. The worrying thing here is, like in West Berkshire, it looks like the council failed to do its legal homework properly before trying to cut costs. Obey the law, guys, it’s kind of expensive otherwise. Finally, our colleagues school libraries were feeling the media focus as unions asked for them to be included in OFSTED inspections in order to protect them.  Finally? Well, perhaps not quite, as I recommend to you the continuing twitter feud between Orkney and Shetland Libraries.  It’s the social media gift that keeps giving.

Changes

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Crazy Horse the Librarian - Available via this link

Crazy horses?

Editorial

As of the time of being published, I understand that the occupation of Carnegie Library in Lambeth is still going on by protestors (“just” plain library users many of them) keen to see it not being turned into a gym. There’s even a plan to have a Carnegie Occupation march on Saturday. This is all horribly embarrassing for the council there but is it enough? There’s lots of news coverage on it below. Also this issue I have a short interview with Alan Duckworth, who sounds quite a character, about his experience of being a reference librarian for 40 years. I don’t see public libraries going the way that Alan thinks reference libraries are going: they’re far too important and wonderful for that.

Changes

A short interview with Alan Duckworth, author of “Crazy Horse the Librarian”

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