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

A blueprint for libraries … and watching Bridgend with interest

Editorial

There’s something big and national going on at rhe moment called the “Blueprint project” going on at the moment looking at how public libraries should position themselves in the future. It’s early days yet but it looks like those involved want regional development organisationss. Being involved in one of these at the moment, Time To Read North West, I can attest how useful this would be. Although I’ve discovered 32 such examples of UK public libraries working together, there is still very little co-operation in some areas and much resultant duplication of effort. So it’s good that that may be change. I’m less sure about other changes listed like to the “legislative framework, funding routes, quality standards and digital connectivity”, for a variety of reasons. Particularly concerning is the “funding routes” one, which from what I can piece together, is pushing for more franchising out of central government work and also commercial partnerships. The problem with both is, of course, the danger of losing unique selling points of the library – like neutrality – in favour of simple money. Chiefs will need to be very careful about that, which will be hard when money is being waved around, and the initial experience of working with Sopra Steria, did not bode well, although I understand things are better now.

Well, that’s big picture stuff, let’s get granular now …  it’s good to see the Wirral may be getting some investment and that a £150k cut in Brent has been cancelled. A move towards outsourcing, which looked very likely, in Swindon has been cancelled, possibly due to the leading politician in favour of it no longer being in charge or possibly due to other factors like a concern that a non-local concern may take it over. In the bad news side of the coin, there’s warnings of cuts in Aberdeenshire and Bridgend. The last has already outsourced its library service so it will be interesting to see if the Awen Leisure Trust, which runs it now, will take such cuts lying down or will publicly protest them. It’s been fascinating to see such open disagreements happen in one or two Trusts, which I see as a bid advantage of them, so I’ll be watching Bridgend with interest.

Changes

National news

  • Assistant Programme Manager, Adult Reading – Reading Agency. London, £26k. “We are looking for an Assistant Programme Manager to manage and deliver key aspects of our adult reading offer and our work with less confident readers during this exciting new phase.”
  • Blueprint for libraries project update from Isobel Hunter – Libraries Connected. “The Blueprint project wants to look again at how we deliver and support public libraries in England, with a focus on national and regional structures. We are running this project with CILIP, supported by funding from the Carnegie UK Trust” … “We are in the first stage of what we hope will be an extended three-part programme to improve the foundations of the public library sector nationally. We want to look at systems in other countries for inspiration and ultimately broker new funding settlements with government.” … “Strong support is already emerging for regional organisations providing development and support to local libraries, as long as these do not replace local accountability and delivery.”
  • CILIPS Annual Conference 2019 – CILIPS. “The CILIPS Annual Conference returns to the Dundee Apex Hotel on 3-4 June 2019.  Our President, Yvonne Manning, will host two days of workshops and talks on the theme of ‘Courage, Laughter and Innovation: A Resilient Profession‘ ​Earlybird rates end on 18th April.”
  • Evaluation workshops: mythbusting and methodologies – Libraries Taskforce. “he Libraries Taskforce is running a series of workshops on evaluations for library staff. Facilitated by The Audience Agency, a national audience development consultancy and independent not-for-profit organisation”. Four workshops on offer at Chester, Exeter, Newcastle and London. “These workshops are funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Arts Council England and are free for all library staff to attend.”
  • The Library of Mistakes – BBC. “So while mainstream libraries face sharp budget cuts and possible closure, they opened the Library of Mistakes five years ago this month. Its mission: to learn how things went wrong in the past and, in particular, how things went badly wrong with money. “
  • Measuring Outcomes in Public Libraries – Insights from Darren Smart – Princh. “The key principle is that to measure outcomes you need both qualitative and quantitative data. ” … “This blog post outlines the whys and hows of measuring outcomes for public libraries and has been developed from the introductory presentation made at a recent workshop for The Libraries Taskforce …”
  • Roger Ratcliffe brings the library closers to book – Big Issue North. “My inbox is now awash with emails from Bradford Council advertising public meetings to discuss library cuts. Services will be concentrated in the biggest libraries, to become known as “community hubs”, and it is perfectly clear that the idea of local libraries like the one in Baildon will eventually be consigned to history. The same thing is happening everywhere as local authorities realise they have been starved of yet more cash by central government. From Hull to Manchester and Sheffield to North Yorkshire I hear stories of libraries under threat, either targeted for closure or their opening hours slashed as councils try to prioritise legal commitments to social care with what money they have.”
  • UK sales of YA dropped 21.5% in 2018 – Books and Publishing. “As an industry, we overpublish,’ said literary agent Molly Ker Hawn, adding that the ‘brutal’ decline of school libraries in the UK has also affected the YA market, with many schools lacking the budget to buy books and unable to pay a trained librarian. Author Lucy Ivison, who is also a librarian at a London school, said young people find many YA books being published a bit too ‘worthy’. ‘They go to school all day and they often want something fun in the evenings. We don’t even follow many of the prize lists any more, they just don’t want to read the books,”

Axiell Selflib
International news

  • Canada – The modern librarian is equal parts caregiver, local hero and geek squad member – Post City Toronto. “The library’s decision to bring in a social worker demonstrates its commitment to being not only a place to get and consume media, but to support and serve all Torontonians. In response to the rising demand for technological programs are the digital innovation hubs, located at eight library branches, including the Toronto Reference Library and the newly renovated North York Central Library. “

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeenshire – Schools, libraries, bus services to bear brunt of north-east council’s £22m cuts – Press and Journal. “Meanwhile, a review of libraries will also take place, which will look at staffing, opening hours, the current estate and ongoing investment in “mid-scale” libraries.”
  • Brent – Brent councillor defends library services in latest budget – Times series. “Cllr Krupesh Hirani, who is responsible for culture and leisure at Brent Council, said it “wouldn’t be right” to cut opening hours given the importance of libraries to the borough. At a cabinet meeting earlier this week, councillors agreed the council’s budget proposals for 2019/20, which included a series of cuts and savings. In the initial proposals, library opening hours were at risk, with the council earmarking a potential saving of £150,000 by making them part-time.”
  • Bridgend – Outdoor sports facilities and libraries under threat as Bridgend council sets final draft budget – Wales Online. “It said if financial pressures were not relieved the council would be forced to consider cutting “precious services” – closing libraries, leisure centres and day care services, ending full-time nursery education for three-year-olds and reducing budgets for primary, secondary and special schools.” … “Since 2015 BCBC has been paying Awen Cultural Trust to deliver cultural services in the council which include nine libraries, The Grand Pavilion in Porthcawl, Bryngarw Country Park and Maesteg Town Hall.” … “As part of its contract with Awen, BCBC plans to cut its management fee by £70k in 2019/20 with £60k subsidy cuts in 2019/20. It means there will be a review of accessibility of services and there could be reductions in services or opening hours, or potential closure of Awen facilities such as community centres or libraries.”

Keep our libraries council run,
Where the paid staff help us to have fun!
Keep our libraries council run,
It’s not as if it costs you a tonne!
To keep our libraries council run,
It’s the 6 figure execs you need to shun!
So keep our libraries council run,
Don’t pull the trigger on that gun!
Keep our libraries council run,
Keep the libraries west network united as one!
Keep our libraries council run,
And respect all the hard work that was done
To ensure our libraries are council run,
Who are you to deny a future person’s son,
The services we enjoyed that are council run?

Oliver Fortune, Bristol 2018 (via email)

  • Cardiff – Paedophile went to children’s section of library to watch youngsters and fantasise about having sex with them – Wales online. “The court heard the Canton library beach was the fifth time the defendant has breached a sexual harm prevention order.”
  • Essex – Just days left to comment on Essex Council plot to axe up to 44 libraries, as campaigners march on County Hall – Yellow Advertiser. “1,000 people marched on County Hall in Chelmsford last week to protest against Essex Council’s plot to shut up to 44 of the county’s 74 libraries. Basildon’s Vange and Fryerns libraries are both facing the axe after County Hall branded them ’not required’ and said it would no longer support them in any way. They are among 25 which have been labelled ’not required’ and which Essex Council will no longer financially support.”
    • Campaigners’ outrage as website for library survey collapses – on protest day – Gazette Standard. “Campaigners accused Essex County Council of blocking residents’ views at what might have been a peak time to access the survey. They said the glitch started on Saturday afternoon, the day of the protest against library closures, and lasted until Sunday evening. Yesterday the online consultation was extended by 24 hours and the council apologised for the “technical issues”. It comes days after the council was left red-faced over an image used in the Easy Read version of the consultation which appeared to depict a transgender person removing a wig.”
    • Campaigners from Coggeshall join protest against library cuts – Braintree and Witham Times.
    • Comment: Essex library lobby was a display of unity – Maldon Standard. “Communities throughout Essex showed their passion for local libraries as they demonstrated outside County Hall. Campaigners voted with their feet as they flew the flag of Southminster, Wickham Bishops, Danbury and other closure-threatened libraries. The gathering of hundreds of children, parents and grandparents in Chelmsford city centre was a clear display of solidarity and confirmation that, for many, libraries are a key part of our communities. MEP Alex Mayer branded Essex County Council’s proposal to close the 24 libraries as “a wanton act of cultural and education vandalism”. It was clear for all to see that the libraries’ defiant supporters of the 24 threatened libraries agreed as they chanted again and again: “No ifs, no buts, no Essex library cuts.””
    • Costumed campaigners plan to march between libraries – Gazette Standard.
    • Hundreds gather to protest in Chelmsford over countywide library cuts – Halstead Gazette. “hants of “No ifs, no buts, no Essex library cuts” were heard in the city centre as about 400 people carrying placards marched through the streets in a bid to save their community libraries. hants of “No ifs, no buts, no Essex library cuts” were heard in the city centre as about 400 people carrying placards marched through the streets in a bid to save their community libraries. “
    • Library closure could ‘lead to loneliness rise’ – Clacton Gazette. “Tendring Council’s Community Leadership Scrutiny Committee has discussed the issue and has made recommendations to the authority’s cabinet on what its response to the consultation should be. It said it strongly disagreed with the ‘evaluation criteria’ set out by County Hall to judge the need for each library.” … ““With loneliness as an ever-growing issue, particularly amongst the elderly population, Tendring Council feels it is counter intuitive to be considering closing libraries when these are often the places that are at the heart of communities.” “
    • School kids campaign after Tories reject £500,000 library investment – Halstead Gazette. “County Council’s ruling Tories rejected the Labour budget amendment, which would have included an additional £500,000, as a one off investment in the library service this week. It proposed money could be used to invest in the use of digital media with the libraries and book stocks, to support the promotion of libraries as community hubs and provide digital training to the community.
    • Spending on Essex libraries has dropped by 30 per cent –  Times series. “The figures show that from 2009 to 2010, just over £2.1million was spent on books, e-books and audio books for libraries. Between 2017 and 2018 the county council spent just over £1.6million. Since 2009 the council has also reduced spending on non-fiction, particularly expensive academic books, as these have been replaced with online content.”
  • Norfolk – Youngsters invited to revamped children’s library reopening – Evening News 24. “Council bosses say the new-look library will hold a brand new range of children’s books and resources ranging from board books, picture books and story books suitable from birth to seven years. The library will also be launching a collection of the latest parenting books, which offer practical support and guidance for new parents.”
  • North Yorkshire – Futuristic design at Harrogate Library – Harrogate News. “Virtual reality and digital arts will be among the futuristic and high-tech attractions at North Yorkshire’s first pop-up “Digital Makey” at Harrogate Library.”
  • Peterborough – New chapter for Peterborough’s Central Library as hub for entrepreneurs – Peterborough Telegraph. “The Business and IP Centre offers free access to millions of pounds worth business and intellectual property information, events, workshops and one -to-one expertise.”
  • Suffolk – Schoolchildren cast their creations in bronze – East Anglian Daily Times. “More than 30 students enjoyed workshops at Thurston Library where they turned designs for objects from their most loved books into clay and wax models.”
  • Swindon – Swindon councillors ditch plans to outsource libraries to mutual – Swindon Advertiser. “Members of the authority’s Conservative Cabinet agreed not to transfer responsibility for delivering the service to another body, in something of a change of approach. The council has been looking at moving the service to a Public Sector Mutual model, where a staff-owned consortium would run libraries. But Coun Keith Williams, the cabinet member for corporate and customer services, recommended that the plan be dropped and the library service be run, as it has been, from Euclid Street.” …. “He added that £100,000 of taxpayer’s money earmarked to manage the transition of the service has not been spent and will be returned to the council’s general fund. “

“We have looked at where other local authorities have outsourced library provision, and they are often run by one of two companies GLL or Libraries Unlimited. We have decided that this approach is just not suitable for Swindon. If we wanted to do this, we would have to put the contract out for tender, and we would not be able to restrict that to just our own staff.”

  • Wirral – More than £600,000 could be invested into Wirral’s libraries – Wirral Globe. “The cash is the first part of investment into the area’s library network and will be used to upgrade and modernise facilities.Work will include making buildings more accessible for those with disabilities and will provide updated IT and digital equipment for staff and library users. It is also hoped the investment will improve libraries as learning environments and to ensure they are able to host more events for local communities.”
  • Worcestershire – Still time to have your say – Worcester Observer. £800k cut. “To take part in the consultation visit Worcestershire County Council online and look for the libraries review. The closing date is Thursday, February 28. ”
    • Labour vows to reverse library cuts and invest £100,000 in helping Worcestershire’s homeless in council budget – Worcester News. “Councillor Robin Lunn, leader of the council’s Labour group, said: “We wish to focus what little money is available on protecting and in the case of libraries and homelessness adding to frontline services, to ensure they remain viable. ” … “Cllr Lunn said cuts to the council’s “hard-pressed” libraries could not continue and vowed to reverse proposed budget cuts and invest £325,000 extra. The council originally planned to slash £1 million from the library budget over the next three years but later reduced the cut to £800,000.”
    • Hagley residents vote to protect future of their library – Bromsgrove Advertiser. “Hagley residents voted unanimously to protect the future of their library at a meeting this week, as a consultation period on the future of Worcestershire’s libraries nears its conclusion. Hagley Parish Council put forward a motion calling for Worcestershire County Council to protect funding for a permanent, full-time member of staff and for funds to maintain the service. It also called for Hagley Parish Council to be able to ask for a rise in their precept to fund this should there be a shortfall from county council funding.”

“Councillor Jim Austin, the parish council lead for libraries, said: “Libraries are not just a book lending service, the library is part of the infrastructure of the community.”

 

 

 

 

Diversity and austerity

Editorial

I come from a fairly typical background in South Wales. My parents could not afford all the books I wanted and I had to catch the bus to the local library . Working hard at the local comprehensive I made my way to university in Exeter and then Sheffield and thus to libraries. I did not think at the time if my capability in doing this was in any way due to being male or white. But being I clearly remember racism and sexism being a big thing in 1970s and even the 80s I suspect it helped. So it’s good to see the need for diversity being recognised on the national level, not least because of the fact that, shockingly, 97% of the library profession is white compared to 88% of the population as a whole. And I remember in the 1990s when I started working that everyone thought, as a man, that I’d be on a fast track to promotion. Such thoughts may be less overt now but I suspect they’re still there.

I get accused sometimes of singing the praises rather too much of librarians and this is true. I love libraries and think there are few roles more rewarding to society and self than working towards the library ideal. But I’d be wilfully blind not to admit that there are problems in the profession. Last post, I touched upon the lack of apparent importance given to a core service, indeed the book is to many the core, by many in the sector. A rebalancing slightly away from gushing about makerspaces (which will only, when it comes down to it, ever be a side activity) and theatre shows (likewise) towards actually making our book offer look professional is long overdue. And this lack of diversity is something else that needs to be addressed.

The protests against the cuts in Essex continue to dominate the news. They clearly love their underfunded and under-appreciated (by the council) libraries there and it’s great to see. Whether the protests will actually achieve anything, other than possibly extract a few token concessions, is in question as English councils do not have a brilliant track record with actually listening during library consultations. It’s notable, in fact, that councils are far more likely change tack after reading the results of them in the other parts of the UK. Why this is may be open to question: possibly due to their being less True Believer Conservatives in power but presumably also to them questionably being (slightly) less affected by austerity. An example of this is Neath Port Talbot in this post who have cancelled four closures down to the public response. Good to see. And I hope the campaigners in Essex can take heart from it, and their councillors listen.

Changes

More >

Hello Library Sector, it’s me, Book

Editorial

Libraries Connected have done some work to their (previously very sparse) website and added links to some useful resources. There’s not much new there – and, my, it shows how few free resources there are for reading – but it’s good to see them there. Speaking of reading, LC (I can’t help but call it Elsie) have done some nice statistics summaries, which show that more than three quarters of library visitors are there for the books. I find the lack of serious projects or indeed discussion, or any kind of focus, on books one of the biggest black holes in libraries in the last decade. By rights, there should be initiative after initiative in boosting what is very much our core product. But no. apart from some sterling work by the Reading Agency, the focus of much of the sector has been on what are, ultimately, side projects like makerspaces and coding. These are great to be sure but there seriously needs to be some rebalancing going on.  Those books on the shelves are important and the lack of serious training or concentration on boosting their use is as dangerous as the repeated cuts to their funding over the years. Another curious stat gleaned from the LC tables is that, using the figure of 2,080 hours work per year per 1 FTE, a full eighteen times more work is done in libraries by paid staff than by volunteers. Yes, despite all the coverage, it’s the poor (down 5% in one year, salary freezes or pay increases below inflation for a decade) employees who are still doing the vast amount of the actual work.

The news that the National Literacy Trust is boasting about working with shoe shops to boost literacy is as puzzling as library services who are disregarding books and paid staff. NLT, please, dudes, hello. We’re Over Here. Work with us. Local authority-wise, there’s some good news in Buckinghamshire, Cornwall (who have, by the way, quietly passed a ton of their libraries to parish/town councils) and Milton Keynes. The £200k reduction in the previously announced big £1m Worcestershire cut is entirely offset by a £200k cut in Powys. Finally, the new post announced in CILIP has, to say the least, raised some eyebrows on social media after the deep job losses that occurred last year.

Changes

More >

A couple of hundred ideas for public libraries, plus coverage in the Express and Independent

Editorial

Considering that it has been a fairly quiet few days, what a heck of a lot of national newspaper coverage. The Express continues its quite impressive “crusade” for libraries with a couple of big of articles this weekend and, I understand, more coming in the next week. The newspaper, not known for its pro-public service sympathies, is publishing a few pro-library articles a week at the moment, which is brilliant as I suspect the decision-makers tend to discount the Guardian (the normal reporter on library matters). The Independent too has published three stories this weekend too, which is fantastic. And all of these articles in both papers have been entirely positive about the sector which is great.

Oh, and I love the “50 times libraries surprised everyone” article by Boredpanda. There were a couple on there I’ve not seen before, including having the books lying down and spine up so people can clearly see their titles. I’ve been collecting ideas and innovations for public libraries for a few years now, by the way, and recently updated by seriously nerdy list here.

Changes

Ideas

More >

Preparing for the worst is useful but one can sometimes miss things

Editorial

Libraries Connected are doing their first official seminar in June, focusing on “what a future library offer might look like”. The first presentation mentioned is uncontroversial enough, being from Historypin who are a small tech concern dealing with small groups, local history and empathy, very trendy right now. This is the shiny bit that is nice and one expects. Then things get interesting with the second choice, who is the Chief Exec of Barking and Dagenham on rethinking public services. That London borough has rethought library services to such an extent that they have more than halved their budget since 2010. Then there’s a talk from Singapore libraries, which as reported on last post are doing wonderful things and I think can genuinely give pointers on how to run a top-notch library service, albeit in an environment without austerity. But gosh, the big raising of the eyebrows goes to the last speaker, an assistant director from Ealing. That council, in case you don’t remember, have just announced in committee papers the deepest potential cut I can recall seeing in a decade of reporting on public libraries, from £2.2m in 2019 to a pathetic £566k in 2022.

But. to those of you getting angry about this, I invite you to look at it differently. Another way to look at it is to say that the first LC seminar shows  isn’t messing about. It’s effectively preparing chiefs for how to cope with the worse austerity can throw at them.  But I would question the absence of anything to do with books or improving existing traditional services on the menu. When faced with the oncoming Austerity train, I guess it’s not many people that stop to look at the state of the tracks, so it’s understandable. But there are many library services out there who are not facing deep cuts, appearances to contrary. And, of these, there’s a ton of branches out there whose staff do not know how to, for instance, properly promote or display their book-stock because they’ve never actually been shown. Perhaps there should be a seminar on that soon. In the meantime, I asked LC why Ealing was asked and this is their answer below, which is fair enough and appreciated. I find it particularly encouraging that LC is not pretending that everything is perfect in the public library world. This continues a welcome trend which I have noticed before and will help retain everyone’s sanity (“am I just imagining these cuts?”), especially when one sees below what Northants has done in the last year (e.g. wiping out most its management) and one stops to consider that Bradford has announced three times worse.

“Libraries Connected are aware of the proposed changes to Ealing’s library services to have six libraries directly run by the council and seven community managed libraries run in partnership with local community organisations. These proposals are due to go out to public consultation next month and until that consultation has concluded we will not know what the future library provision for Ealing will look like. But we do know that during Carole’s eight years at Ealing she has demonstrated a strong commitment to safeguarding library services, winning a Guardian award in 2013 for joining with other local boroughs to protect libraries at risk of closure. Carole is working on a new library strategy for Ealing and as many of our members are currently in the position of trying to maintain their service provision in the face of unprecedented cuts,  we remain convinced that Carole Stewart will be a valuable addition to the Libraries Connected seminar.”

Changes

Ideas

More >

Who Does What In English Public Libraries

Editorial

I was asked the other day by someone reasonably senior in a library service for a guide for which bodies do what in the public libraries sector. It strikes me that I’ve never actually seen one so I’ve started creating one. It’s simple and misses a few things – sorry Carnegie and ASCEL, there’s note enough space and I’m not going to touch the minefield of volunteer libraries and parish councils – but should give some ideas. Also, some of it is open to interpretation. I got some push back from various people on Twitter about how certain bodies aren’t doing their jobs and that’s always going to happen. So, rather, use the chart as an idea for what should be happening, not necessarily what you feel actually is. And let me know if I have anything actually wrong.

I tweeted an original draft of this chart on Saturday night and it’s been amended a bit since then. One of the things I’ve never really properly grasped before is that while the DCMS has the duty of superintending libraries, it is the MHCLG who provided much of the funding, which is set-up that Nick Poole notes is bound to cause problems. Judging from Twitter, a few people are shocked by how small some of these bodies actually are. Anyway, comment directly if you wish or email me at ianlibrarian@live.co.uk with your thoughts. The chart is free to use and share under CC BY. If the image below does not open properly, it’s available via Google Docs. or via this tweet and, if worse comes to the worst and you’re reading this on a council machine with security blocks on it everywhere, email me and I’ll send it to you that way.

Wait until you realise it’s not the same outside of England.

Changes

Ideas

More >

Goodbye Libraries Taskforce, huge cuts to Bradford and Coventry, good news elsewhere

Editorial

So, effectively, it’s goodbye to the Libraries Taskforce, whose duties are now formally part of Arts Council England for a year until it, presumably, disappears forever. The Taskforce did some good work in highlighting the importance of public libraries to central government departments, although with questionable impact and depth, arranged training and was a good sharer of information on what the sector with its frequent blogs. I’m not sure what other concrete achievements it has, although to defend it further, it did come into existence at the toughest time in public library history, world wars included, and, as a civil service entity, was unable to criticise or otherwise hold the neglectfully hands-off government to account.

And it’s a government that absolutely does need to be held to account by someone if Bradford’s suggested 65% cut to library budget in two years goes through. It’s not as if it hadn’t been cut before, with volunteer libraries, co-locations and the full panoply of “savings” already in place from previous hacks to its budget. In a similar vein, Coventry, which amusingly is the 2021 UK City of Culture, is pruning £1m off a budget already cut by £1.4m. I understand the libraries minister is in the latter city this week with the DCMS libraries team. I hope this is not coincidental and he actually calls out such behaviour. The last decade has been a history of libraries ministers (with special mention going to the library-comatose Ed Vaizey) failing to meaningfully intervene in such deep cuts, though, as don’t get your hopes up.

And, finally, oh look, some good news. And not just in one library but in three. Well done East Sussex, Southwark and Suffolk on the improvements there and fingers crossed for the marvellous sound Preston project.

Changes

Ideas

More >

Not quite all quiet

Editorial

A relatively quiet few days, thankfully, although with rumblings from the current library battlegrounds of Ealing, Essex and Worcestershire. The key piece of news for me is one I missed when it happened: Kirkless joined the increasing trend towards going fine-free at the end of December. There are now eight services in the UK I know of that have taken this approach.

Changes

More >

Hurting Ealing and £120k for the Reading Agency

Editorial

Sorry to see that Ealing are discussing dramatic cuts from the current £2.2m down to, and I can’t believe I’m reading this right but I’ve checked , £566k in 2022. My goodness. Hopefully, the final cut will be better than the libraryageddon that those figures imply. On the other end of the scale, the Reading Agency have been awarded a handsome £120k to evaluate the Summer Reading Challenge. The SRC is the most successful national promotion that public libraries do, with by far the most impact, so that’s money well spent if it helps safeguard it.

Well done to the Edge Conference in Edinburgh which is now in its tenth year. It’s an excellent, compact but beautifully formed, couple of days that I enjoyed going to a few years back … and it has a very strong set of international speakers that you may not see anywhere else so it’s worth a look. Lastly, in my excited thanking everyone for my BEM last post,, I missed mentioning Judith Robinson from Kirklees Libraries, who received a British Empire Medal herself for services to public libraries. You do, of course, rock, Judith.

Changes

More >

A fine-free future, Essex and the New Years Honours

Editorial

I hope you all enjoyed the Christmas / New Years break. I certainly did. The main thing in the library news since way back on 16th December when the last news update was done has been the continued protests in Essex against the deep cuts there. The New Years Honours seemed to concentrate more than normal on the literary side with authors who campaign for libraries – including Julia Donaldson, Philip Pullman and Chris Riddell – all being mentioned. Public librarian side, congrats to Neil MacInnes – chief of Manchester libraries and the last president of Society of Chief Librarians/first of Libraries Connected, who got an OBE and to Tony Brown, Islington stock and reader development manager, who received a BEM (British Empire Medal). And a huge thank you to whoever nominated me as I got a BEM myself. Wow. Just … wow.

It’s been a big couple of weeks for libraries going fine-free, with the whole Republic of Ireland no longer charging late fees and Halton Council also announcing a one-year pilot of no fines. The whole Australian state of Tasmania has also gone the same way. It’s becoming clear that removing all fines – once unthinkable and then only something that happened elsewhere – is fast picking up momentum and is now something many library services are considering.

Changes

More >