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, honorary CILIP fellow 2015, CILIP Wales Library Champion of the Year 2016.

Homepage: http://www.publiclibrariesnews.com


Posts by Ian Anstice

2 new mobiles in Angus, Capita/Barnet troubles, Quick Reads endangered

Changes

National news

  • Capita to raise £700m as losses deepen – BBC. “Capita has reported a £513m annual loss as the outsourcing firm set out plans to revive its indebted business. Profits were wiped out by £850m of one-off costs, mainly from writing down the value of acquisitions made under its previous management. The company said it would raise £701m through a rights issue to fund a reorganisation of the business. Shares closed 13% higher at 180.8p in London, valuing Capita at just over £1.2bn.” [Many councils, notably Barnet, rely on Capita – Ed.] see also Some call it outsourcing. I call it spivvery – Guardian. “The Tory councillors of Barnet used David Cameron’s spending cuts as an excuse to outsource large chunks of its public services. Their aim was to turn the borough into a no-frills “easyCouncil”. And by far the biggest 10-year contracts – everything from HR to highways – ended up with Capita. Less than five years since the outsourcing began, Barnet has paid £327m to Capita – and the problems keep mounting up. Bins haven’t been collected; when the snow fell a couple of months ago, gritting trucks weren’t on the road; a few months before that, Capita failed to do the council’s accounts on time. The outsourcing was meant to save Barnet money; last week it was announced the council will need to make more cuts to close a “budget gap” of £39.5m.”
  • Getting the reading fix – BookSeller. “Quick Reads was launched in 2005 at the BA Conference in Glasgow, as part of the already established World Book Day, targeting the UK’s forgotten 12 million non-readers. The first list appeared in 2006 with Val McDermid, Maeve Binchy, Richard Branson and John (now Lord) Bird. The books from all publishers were financed by the industry with support from The Arts Council, National Book Tokens, all the literacy agencies, UnionLearn and libraries. ” but see also A Quick end? – BookSeller saying that Quick Reads has lost sponsorship and so is likely to cease new titles after this year.

An online bookclub from Axiell

International news

Local news by authority

  • Angus – New Angus mobile libraries lined up at cost of £270,000 – Courier. “Communities committee councillors have signed off spending on the new vans, which will come in at a total cost of almost £270,000. The authority has £113,000 set aside in its vehicle replacement fund for the new vehicles and Angus Alive, the council’s arms-length culture and leisure trust, is to seek more than £150k of external funding to buy and kit out the hi-tech machines. Montrose SNP councillor Bill Duff said: “I think this is a good news story. “Angus Alive has sought external funding and that will help finance these vans, which I understand will be available early in 2019.”
  • Brighton and Hove – Planned changes to historic library stalled after vote Argus. “Councillors at Brighton and Hove City Council’s meeting on Thursday night voted for the plans for Hove Library to be halted after criticism from residents and conservation groups about how the planning process was handled. A dozen objections were made to the planning application, with some stating the proposed changes to the ground floor of the library would damage the historic internal fittings and character of the building.”
  • Bromley – Bromley library workers win strike campaign – Socialist Worker. “The campaign has won concessions from the employer on all the main items in dispute. This includes the immediate filling of 17 vacant posts, protection for pay and conditions that goes beyond the legal protection provided by ‘TUPE’ (workers were transferred out from the council to Greenwich Leisure Limited – GLL – in November 2017), a pay increase from this April, implementation of the London Living Wage and paid trade union facility time.” … “Bromley council had itself withdrawn from national pay bargaining some years ago. The win at GLL means that the vast majority of Unite members will actually get a better pay increase than they would have done at the council.” see also Bromley library strike called off after pay agreement reached – Edenbridge Chronicle.
  • Ceredigion – Opening Ceremony of Llandysul Library – Facebook. Now volunteer. Author Ruth Jones opens.
  • Cheshire East – New library opening hours confirmed – Alderley Edge. “Councillor Craig Browne said “In addition to these times, I am looking to operate a volunteer-led session, which will enable the library to be open on either a Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon/evening. I will shortly be contacting all the residents who have already come forward and offered to volunteer; however, if anyone else would like to join the group of volunteers, please drop me an email.””
  • City of London – Dragon Café in the City – “It is a relaxing space, and is open to everyone. Located in Shoe Lane Library, Dragon Café in the City offers a range of free activities and events to promote and support mental wellbeing. Dragon Café in the City also provides an open, quiet and calm environment, to reflect or to practice mindfulness on your own – A space to look after your own wellbeing – mind, body and soul.” … “Designed to help City workers and residents open up about mental health challenges”.  Part of Engaging Libraries.
  • Darlington – Letters: ‘Library – beautiful, inspiring and precious. I fear for its future’ – Northern Echo / Letters. “Judicial Review of Darlington Borough Council’s proposals to move the Crown Street library to the Dolphin Centre will be heard in Leeds on June 18 and 19. Crown Street was a gift from the Pease family to the people of Darlington so they could improve themselves and lead better lives. The council is the custodian of this gift to protect it, not to destroy it.”
  • Dudley – Partnership Manager, Dudley Libraries – Lisjobnet. £39k permanent full-time. “GLL is looking for a Partnership Manager to oversee our libraries service provision in the Metropolitan Borough of Dudley in the West Midlands. We have recently taken over the management of library services across Dudley so this is a key role that will lead on supporting and developing the service to take it to the next level of excellence. There are 14 libraries and three library links in the borough which offer communities a place to learn, to study and to meet other people. The libraries provide an excellent range of books, e-books, audio books and DVD as well as ICT facilities. All libraries offer a programme of activities appropriate to the needs and interests of the communities that we serve. ” … “You will have a degree and/or postgraduate qualification in Librarianship and be a member of CILIP.”
  • Hertfordshire – The way Hertfordshire’s libraries are run could be about to change – but senior county councillor says that proposals aren’t privatisation – Hertfordshire Mercury. “Although this will still need to be supported by the full council, it means that the libraries are likely to leave public control. Being part of a ‘public service mutual’ means that they are not owned and run by the county council, but that any profit they do make must be reinvested into the library service.”
  • Lambeth – Lambeth Democracy campaign launches on 23rd April demanding a ‘democratic reform of Lambeth Council’ – Brixton Buzz. “The discussion will focus on Lambeth’s undemocratic plans to flatten the Cressingham estate and turn popular libraries into unwanted privately-run ‘book-ish gyms,’ and commentary on the councils’ finances.”
  • North Lincolnshire – New Scunthorpe community hub to open next month – Lincolnshire Reporter. “Work to turn a Scunthorpe library into a community hub with IT facilities, employment, housing and health advise, meeting rooms and activity spaces is on track to open next month. The project is part of North Lincolnshire Council’s regeneration plans to transform the town centre in a £60 million investment. Scunthorpe Central will open to the public on May 14, 2018.”
  • Sefton – Anger as library is halved in size to make way for gymChampion. “THE council’s decision to close the first floor of Maghull Library at the Meadows complex on Hall Lane has been met with opposition from residents – with one claiming the choice of books “is now halved.” Sefton Council has said the library services on the first floor have been moved to the ground floor to make way for a new fitness studio. However the move has angered some library users. John Mullin, from Maghull, said: “Maghull used to have its own stand-alone library for a long time, but the building was sold and the library moved to the Meadows complex.”
  • Trafford – Trafford MBC: Why we’ve abolished library fines LGC (behind paywall). “Sarah Curran, head of customer service at Trafford MBC, explains how it’s hoped axing library fines will encourage more people to use services…”

“Down to a t”: the new confusing world of public libraries

Editorial

Things are getting complicated in libraryland. It used to be that councils ran libraries, kept them running – or not – and that was it. Now, all sorts of different organisations run libraries and we’ve had our first case last week of one non-council library organisation (GLL) coming in to keep open three Lincolnshire libraries that another non-council library organisation (now defunct charity “Learning Communities”) no linger could. It used to be that councils funded events or programmes, or not. Now we have a libraries mutual, York Explore, seeking to crowdfund the Summer Reading Challenge, the first such attempt at this I’ve seen. And then we have GLL – that name again – settling a strike with library workers in Bromley, without any council involvement. The reason for all this is, of course, money (or the council’s lack of it), a fact which means that it’s likely Hertfordshire will be going that way soon too. And, confusingly, for us typers, Herefordshire too. Which allows me to make the puny observation that trusts now suit some councils down to a “t”.

And then we have volunteer libraries. Read the post below from the “Community Managed Libraries Conference” to get the state of play there and draw your own conclusions, not least from the recorded speech of the libraries minister (embedded).

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It’s almost local election time … plus libraries and privacy

Editorial

It’s good to see libraries starting being mentioned by political parties in the run-up to the local elections. Also good to see is Aude Charillon going on from strength to strength, this time doing workshops on library privacy. I’d say that definitely all librarians, and frankly probably library assistants too, need to have at least a basic awareness of how to keep private online. People will come into the library and ask for time to time and it’s a bit embarrassing if they’re met by blank stares. And, who knows? It could be something that libraries can actually take a lead on. We’re information-based and in most communities, and there’s a need out there – it’s in the news quite a lot – so it’d be great to see.

Changes

Ideas

National news

  • Librarians and Privacy in the Age of Cambridge Analytica Vable. “ Despite the security breaches, storage of personal messages, and targeted advertising, I have not deleted my Facebook account. As a qualified information professional who should know better, this pertinent tweet said it all: ‘I would like to think that I am privacy literate but I am fully aware that I don’t know what I don’t know. #uksg18″
    On Moaners : An Update – Johanna Bo Anderson’s Blog. On CILIP’s social media policy.
  • Overdrive and Bookseller pair up for libraries focus – BookSeller. “The Bookseller, with sponsor Overdrive and partner The Reading Agency (TRA), is launching a Libraries of the Year focus, to highlight the work libraries do to encourage reading, improve literacy and provide access to books” … ” These will form a basis of a report, to be distributed to 4,000 UK libraries, MPs and advisory bodies, on the value libraries play in their communities. Additionally, The Bookseller will hold a discussion with the 10 libraries, with one of them to be named Library of the Year.”
  • Public urge Arts Council England to prepare for the future – Arts Professional. “Key issues raised by respondents included: Ensuring a sustainable livelihood for artists; Protecting and improving arts education; Preparing for more digital interaction with the public; Protecting the wellbeing of the planet; Focusing more funding on research and development; The impact of Brexit on artistic collaboration.”

Taking a stand for privacy: a series of free workshops for public library staff funded by the Carnegie UK Trust and delivered by Aude Charillon (Newcastle Libraries). “If you work in a UK public library – as a library assistant, librarian, library manager or in any other role – this workshop is for you. The aim of the workshop is for public library staff to be informed citizens when it comes to how the Internet works, how it impacts their online privacy and how to protect it – and for them to in turn take a stand to protect citizens’ privacy in libraries”

The aim of the workshops is for all of us to be informed citizens when it comes to how the Internet works, how it impacts on our online privacy and how to protect it – and for us to in turn take a stand to protect citizens’ privacy in public libraries. We’ll cover such things as: what personal information is shared when an individual accesses a website or uses a mobile app; basic digital privacy tools and practices;steps to take to better protect the online privacy of citizens using library services. Dates and booking details: Taunton Library, Thursday 26 April 9:30-13:00.  To book a place please contact the Taunton Library Glass Box on GlassBox@Somerset.gov.uk; Wales: Brecon Library, Wednesday 9 May 10:00-13:30  Book a place via Eventbrite; London: British Library, Thursday 10 May 9:30-13:00 and 13:30-17:00 Book a place for either the morning or the afternoon via this Eventbrite page. [via email]

An online bookclub from Axiell
International news

  • Eire – Book could be closed on library fines Times. “The government is considering scrapping late fees in libraries in an effort to get more people to use them. A spokesman for the taoiseach said yesterday that a memo on the issue was brought by Michael Ring, the rural and community development minister, and there was extensive discussion among ministers about the plans. As part of an effort to remove barriers to the access of libraries, the potential abolition of fines for the late return of books is under consideration as part of a new national strategy.”
  • Global – A Roundup of Fierce Fictional Librarians – BookRiot. “We’re celebrating libraries and their champion guardians this week. Therefore, I’ve rounded up some of the coolest librarians in fiction. They fight crime, they possess knowledge that ranges from useful to impressive, and they look good doing it. Did I include your favorite?”
  • Global – Tell us your story: Libraries’ global storytelling manual – Matt Finch / Mechanical Dolphin. “The International Federation of Library Associations, IFLA, has released a new guide designed to help librarians and library advocates to tell compelling stories about library activities, projects and programmes, showing their impact on communities and people’s lives.” … “”IFLA invites librarians and library advocates from all countries to submit their stories through the LMW SDG Stories platform.””
  • USA – Apparently unfamiliar with “libraries”, GOP Gov. candidate Bill Schuette proposes radical idea of “dedicated reading centers” to solve illiteracy crisis in Michigan – Eclectablog. “Mr. Schuette is, apparently, unfamiliar with the concept of the “library” and the staff position of “librarian”. However, his political party — the Republicans — are quite familiar with these concepts. Or at least they should be; they’ve been defunding them for years.”
  • USA – Thirteen Reasons Why tops most challenged books list, amid rising complaints to US libraries – Guardian. “The libraries association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom has also begun to record incidents of hate crimes in libraries. There were 23 reported in 2017, it said, ranging from the scrawling of swastikas on library walls to the destruction of Muslim religious texts. “In two cases, one in a public library parking lot and another within a university library, men made death threats to women wearing hijabs,” said the ALA in its annual State of America’s Libraries report, which has just been released.”

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeenshire – Aberdeen libraries challenge residents to read six minutes every day – Evening Express. “The Six Minute Reading Challenge kicks off on World Book Night – Monday April 23 – and runs until the end of May. The library service is challenging people to take part by reading for a minimum of six minutes every day during that period.”
  • Ceredigion – Gavin & Stacey’s Ruth Jones to mark volunteers’ takeover of library – Cambrian Times. “Saturday, 21 April, when renowned actor and author Ruth Jones cuts the ribbon at Llandysul Library to mark the occasion of volunteers running the library in partnership with Ceredigion Library.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Northwich Library offers a relaxing place to read – Northwich Guardian.The Relax and Read group is intended to be a social, informal group to reduce isolation and anxiety through everyone enjoying good stories and poems collectively. “
  • Cornwall – Camelford Library re-opens as a community hub – Camelford and Delabole Post.Camelford Town Council has moved its offices into the library building, ensuring customers can access more local services in one location. At the same time, the management of the library has been handed over to Camelford Town Council as part of Cornwall Council’s devolution programme.”
  • Croydon – What the Labour party in Croydon is promising in its manifesto ahead of the upcoming local elections – Croydon Advertiser. Libraries number 5 in manifesto. “When asked why libraries ranked so highly in the manifesto, he said:”Libraries are vital community hubs. “They are also facilities where a local budget devolved to residents could be introduced so people can have more say in which facilities are on offer at their library.””
  • Cumbria – Town centre library to close and move into nearby archive centre News and Star. “Whitehaven’s library building is to close and the service moved into the nearby archive centre. The county council has revealed its plans which will see the archive centre shut its doors for a year while refurbishment and building works are carried out ready for the transfer. Once the library has moved into its new home, the Lowther Street building will be sold-off to help fund the revamp of the archive centre with any remaining cash being pumped back into the service.”
  • Darlington – Darlington library’s ‘community asset’ status is lost Northern Echo. “A historic library’s status as an ‘asset of community value’ has expired, representing a fresh blow for campaigners battling to save it from closure Currently the subject of a judicial review, Darlington’s Grade II listed Crown Street Library is earmarked for closure as part of a £12.5m programme of swingeing budget cuts. Unless a legal challenge mounted by campaigners is successful, proposals to cut and change library services will result in the much-loved library and community hub closing its doors forever while the majority of its resources are moved to the nearby Dolphin Centre leisure facility.”
  • Derbyshire – Woodville, Melbourne and Etwall libraries among those which could be taken over by community groups Burton Mail. “Controversial plans to transfer three South Derbyshire libraries to community groups to save £1.6 million have been described as “devastating” by a council’s Labour leader. The Conservative-run Derbyshire County Council is set to launch a consultation into the future of its 45 libraries – including Woodville, Melbourne and Etwall.” see also Controversial library plans challenged by Opposition Groups – Labour Party. “They have produced a draft strategy but are now adding other ideas into the mix that aren’t in the original plans at all. The consultation is now completely flawed. How can the public respond when they don’t know exactly what the plans are?”
  • Herefordshire – Fears voiced over libraries’ futureLedbury Reporter. “Questions from members of the public touched upon concerns raised by the potential outsourcing process and the subsequent accountability, before representatives from individual support groups made presentations. ” … “All were sceptical about the risks involved in services being sub contracted with no strong business case being made to support the idea. ” … “Even the bidders refer to the unlikelihood of them being able to run the service without a subsidy,” said Nina Shields, the deputy chair for the Joint Action for Herefordshire Libraries (JAHL). “
  • Kirklees – Labour pledges £45m ‘cultural quarter’ plan for Huddersfield town centre – Huddersfield Daily Examiner. “It’s one of the manifesto pledges for Labour ahead of the May 3 local elections. It is expected to include a cultural quarter for Huddersfield town centre, with investment in the library and art gallery, the Piazza and market hall.”
  • North Yorkshire – County council accused of prioritising officers’ pay over services – Richmondshire Today. “Opposition members of the Conservative-led authority have called for a review of top officers pay, saying it was unacceptable that nine officers are paid more than £100k while residents face rising council tax and key services are reduced.” … “Other members said while frontline staff and services such as libraries had gone since the government’s austerity drive forced the council to cut its budget by 34 per cent over a decade, no senior posts at the authority had been cut back and their pay had remained unchanged.”
  • Northamptonshire – Fight to save Northamptonshire libraries taken to High Court after young girl’s plea – Northampton Chronicle. “Specialist lawyers from Irwin Mitchell – who represent the girl, who is their client, and her family – had previously written to Northamptonshire County Council both before and after its final decision was made at the end of February, urging it not to close the libraries, or potentially face a judicial review in the High Court.”
  • Worcestershire – Library recognises autism awareness – Ludlow Advertiser. “To coincide with the day, Worcestershire libraries are celebrating one year of being “Autism Friendly”. It is almost exactly a year since the County’s Libraries and Learning Service has signed up to the Autism Friendly Library standard.”
Yes we can

Northants gets taken to court over library cuts, twice

Editorial

Northamptonshire Council, already becoming a by-word for mismanagement, with the Government expected to bring in Commissioners to run it, is now facing not one but two legal challenges against cuts to its library services. Such challenges can be very hit and miss but Northants has been such a good example of what not to do that I reckon there’s a good chance. Just to drive the point home, the council is now, apparently in all seriousness, aiming to use libraries as advertising spaces to bring in extra money. Whether there be any space left, what with the protest placards, though, is hard to say. As a counterweight to this desperation, it’s important to remember good things are happening elsewhere. For example, I’ve included a few Designing Libraries stories in this post, as I often do. These show refurbishments and new library buildings (although many are co-locations) and the pictures are often a joy to behold. I advise you to have a quick look at one to wash off the disgust if you read one of the Northants articles.

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15:1 ACE General Council plus something taught in library school

Editorial

Congratulations to Ciara Eastell, chief of the Devon libraries (including Torbay) trust Libraries Unlimited who becomes part of the “General Council” of Arts Council England. No, I had never heard of the General Council either – but here’s some info on it. It looks to me that Ciara is the only representative from public libraries out of the sixteen members so I hope more are appointed from the sector soon.

I mentioned the Bromley library strike last post and was accused of pro GLL bias on Twitter for providing info sent to me by GLL as well as the info in the local newspaper and union webpages. I rather hope that it wasn’t anti-union bias – I was a steward myself (although for Unison, not Unite) for years  – but rather pro-information bias, showing all the info available to me at the time. In the same spirit, I include info from both sides below again. As background to this decision, if it is needed, I see PLN as a place for getting all information on public libraries and so think this is appropriate. It is up to the reader to then make up their own mind on what is going on there but I refuse simply to show one side simply because I may agree with it more.  I’m human and so bias will creep in but it’s not something that I deliberately build in (although the “editorial” and other sections where it’s clearly me speaking on my own behalf will be personal). This dedication to facts was something taught to me, I think, in library school.

And if ever we need a clear picture then it’s now, with so much clearly biased info in other sources. Indeed, I think this is something that is a strength of libraries. If you want the answer that ties in with your pre-conceived view, go to the left or right-wing media source of your choice. If you want the facts, one should always go to a library.

Ideas

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“A pair of armbands for many in the UK”

Editorial

Derbyshire have announced major cuts, with up to 20 out of 45 libraries, plus two mobiles passed to community groups. The councillor announcing the news managed to keep a straight face on video as he described this as “good news” for Derbyshire, which is impressive. He’ll doubtless go far. There’s also a smattering of other news in the UK, including co-locations and refurbishments. Notably, Cornwall continues its quest to pass a major part of its library service down a tier to town/pass councils. This is apparently working out fairly well, with no apparent problems with worries over double taxation.

There is a also a strike going on in Bromley where library workers are striking for more than the 2% pay increase (really just another in a line of pay cuts to local government stretching back to 2010 as inflation is estimated at around 2.5 to 3%) that is being accepted nationally. The strike is being described by Unite as being against the greed of GLL, which runs Bromley Libraries, although 2% is the standard national rise for councils, and GLL according to its press release agreeing to raise everyone to the London Living Wage level in the library service for the first time.

In other news, we have several interesting articles springing from the NUT conference about the importance of libraries, including the lovely description of them as “a pair of armbands” for many in the UK, helping keep them afloat. Finally, we have more information on what is happening with the Taskforce, with a lot of their staff being transferred to ACE and the DCMS this year. Although there is funding two more years for the Taskforce to go, it looks like it is already winding down, with other bodies taking over staff and workload, with the final details being hammered out over the next year.

Changes by authority

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Library, Library, Library? A TV show featuring libraries, plus SCL on London choice

Editorial

A couple of emails to share with you ..

First, a television company has been in touch, saying it is looking for areas of the UK which have either never had a library or lost one more than a few years ago. The aim is to build/provide a top-class library in that area and show the impact it can have. The company has been impressed by research from New York that building a library had a positive impact on unexpected things like the crime rate and spousal abuse. There’s no promises – and the series has not even been commissioned as yet – but if it comes off then it could be amazing. Naturally there are concerns about how the library would be funded, and especially if it had paid staff, which I will pass back but I think this is too good to miss. If you have an area in mind for the proposal, email me or Beth Morrey direct on beth.morrey@rdftelevision.com.

Secondly, I was querying the decision by the Society of Chief Librarians to base its offices in London. This is the official reply:

“… at the moment SCL doesn’t employ any staff it only has freelance self-employed workers like myself who work from their own offices but once they have a CEO and support team in place they wanted an office base for them. Having approached a number of libraries and scoped a selection of locations across England SCL decided on a London office. Some of the reasons for this decision were that a large number of partners such as the BBC, British Library, CILIP, The Reading Agency etc. are London based and many of the partnership meetings take place in London. London is also easily accessible for people to travel to from across the UK, we were offered a space in a library which met our budget and office requirements and this was the location where our new CEO is based. SCL are currently in the process of signing a tenancy agreement so I can’t announce the precise location until it has all be signed off and agreed.” Helen Drakard, Society of Chief Librarians

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Meanwhile, in bookselling, Amazon takes over

Editorial

Something which passed by at the time, possibly because it made no mention of public libraries, was a report by Arts Council England late last year on trends in the British book market. It makes interesting companion reading to those of us (probably including everyone following this blog) who know what’s happening to public libraries. Before I get into that, though, I should say ACE are aware of libraries – I was at a meeting with them and publishers last week and libraries came up a lot, it’s just it got missed in the report.

First thing is that fiction sales are down by nearly one-half since 2008, with hardback fiction price-per-book down 44% since 2001 and paperback books down 25%. The reason for the book price drop is assigned to the removal of the net book agreement (1997), the massive success of online book discounter (mainly Amazon), and a “general collapse in the price of content” due to the internet. Capping all of this off is the impact of the ebook, which from 2010/11 reached 33% of all books sold (with up to 90% of those on the Kindle, a monopoly run by Amazon). In recent years, prices have improved slightly, as have print sales, although ebooks are still officially a quarter of the market, and may be more (as a substantial part of Amazon’s ebooks are not included). So, basically, the decline in issues in public libraries is not unique to that but a general thing. Well, I think we knew that. And book issues decline is not far out of whack with the trend in book sales in the same period.

But what drew my attention was something that was skirted around with in the report. Basically, the biggest impactor on book sales has been (a) book discounting, near-monopolised by Amazon and (b) ebooks,, also dominated by Amazon. Remember that the next time your finger hovers over the “buy” button on their site.

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Size isn't everything

The austerity genie has well and truly left the bottle: volunteer libraries

Editorial

I’ve been following some of the tweets from the Community Managed Libraries Conference and look forward to the blogging/posts that will result from the event. But for now I think it’s useful to say that, look. we all know the issues surrounding volunteer libraries is a painfully difficult one. Heck, when there’s even a disagreement about their very name, you know there’s a problem. But it needs to be remembered that volunteers are persuaded to work for free in public libraries because, largely, they love them. They want to see libraries surviving in their local communities and conferences like this one will assist in making such branches more professional and sustainable. On the other hand, and this is the cruel thing, the more successful volunteer libraries are then the more councils will close down paid-staff libraries.

It’s all so sad when the natural strongest supporters of libraries are inadvertently, and with the best will in the world, used against paid staff. But I don’t think this is part of an evil political master plan. And I have a lot of sympathy for councils faced with difficulty budget decisions and, most of all, with the pro-library volunteers themselves. I also of course, not least because I am one of them and (self-interest aside) I know what staffing and managing a library involve, have sympathy with paid staff. But that’s just how it is.  Bottom line is, I think all of this is the result simply of budgetary pressure and local steps resulting from it. As austerity goes on, and despite hopeful headlines, it shows no signs of stopping, the ranks of volunteer libraries will swell above their already impressive 500+ number. Some will fail. But some will also succeed, at least in terms of staying open. I doubt any will ever become fully paid staffed ever again, as has sometimes been hopefully suggested. There are no perfect answers for any side. Paid staff will be threatened. Volunteer staff largely realise paid staff will be better. National organisations realise that, at the very least, the situation inevitably leads to atomisation. But volunteer libraries are here and it’s best to get used to it.

The genie is out of the bottle but it looks like no-ones (apart from a few ideologues we may never meet) wishes have been granted.

Changes

Why Suffolk chose to build our own self-service kiosk system, by Leon Paternoster, Suffolk Libraries

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IFLA and good news from St Helens

Editorial

Northamptonshire is again in the news, with the DCMS announcing they will look at complaints about cuts to its library service. There’s also more news about cuts in Somerset and East Sussex amongst other places. I more positive news, the Arts work that St Helens Libraries undertake has played a role in giving the borough city-wide recognition.

I don’t normally pay much attention to IFLA. It’s the global librarian association and I tend to concentrate on more parochial issues of direct concern to British public librarians. Small-minded possibly but I often find it hard to associate with their publications, initiatives and conferences. But I suspect this is my failing and not theirs. So have a look at the various links below about their recent conference and make up your own mind.

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