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

Portmsmouth goes fine-free, a couple of new libraries … and Surrey ends newspapers

Editorial

Well, well, well. To be honest, I was watching the trend in other countries towards removing library fines and thinking that it would never happen here due to austerity … and. well, it’s happening. Portsmouth has joined four others in the UK (it’s the third in England) and announced it the move. Gosh. It’s a good news story for them and I hope others take it up as well. I’m also loving seeing stories about the new Colliers Wood Library and the official opening of Oxford Central (did you ever get the lift fixed?). But, hey, before we get too upbeat, let’s walk over to Surrey where there’s now no newspapers other than the “I”, their online provision and what the public feel like donating. Well, at least it means no taxpayers money there is going to the Mail.

Changes

National news

    • Cuts to Welsh libraries see paid staff fall by 20% – BBC. “Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) figures reveal full-time paid staff fell from 1,112 in 2012-13 to 890 in 2016-17 – a 20% drop. Meanwhile, the number of volunteers increased 13-fold, from 93 to 1,288. The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) said councils were finding “innovative ways” of keeping services in a climate of cuts. CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman said the overall budget cut to Welsh libraries in the last decade had been less than that in England – 18% compared to 25%.” see also Libraries without staff are ‘just a room full of books’ – BBC. Video and CILIP Cymru Wales statement: Annual CIFPA statistics on public library services in Wales – CILIP. “If the Welsh Local Government Association truly wants to raise the aspirations and attainment of everyone, they must recognise that it is first and foremost professional librarians and trained staff that make a quality innovative library service – not the books, the buildings or the computers.”
    • Do people trust librarians? – Libraries Taskforce. “Medical staff topped the list, with 74% of British adults saying they thought they would provide trustworthy information, followed by teachers and police officers (both at 49%), librarians (46%) and lawyers (39%). Bottom of the list were politicians, with 2% of respondents saying they thought they would provide trustworthy information.”
    • Only half of pre-school children being read to daily, UK study finds – Guardian. “The proportion of toddlers being read to every day has dropped by a fifth over the last five years, according to research warning that the decline is a significant threat to child development. The annual Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer survey from Nielsen Book Research, interviewed 1,596 parents of 0 to 13-year-olds, and 417 14 to 17-year-olds in the UK last autumn. It found that while 69% of preschool children were read to daily in 2013, that figure had dropped to just 51%.”
    • Regulations on the re-use of public sector information – Libraries Taskforce. “The good news is that there is published guidance for libraries and other cultural sector bodies thinking about re-use, produced by The National Archives. This guidance sets out clearly what libraries should do to comply. The Regulations only apply to “public task” information in libraries. Understanding what your public task consists of is not always straightforward – but there are some local authority and university library services that have already published public task statements. Take a look at some examples…”
      Society of Chief Librarians Innovation Network National Gathering 2018 – Society of Chief Librarians. 27 March, Manchester. “This yearly event brings library staff together from across the UK to share the work they are doing, create new connections and think collectively about how to improve the services we provide our local communities.”

An online bookclub from Axiell

International news

  • Temple of Knowledge – StoryCorps. “Ronald Clark’s father was custodian of a branch of the New York Public Library at a time when caretakers, along with their families, lived in the buildings. With his daughter, Jamilah, Ronald remembers literally growing up in a library, creeping down to the stacks in the middle of the night when curiosity gripped him. A story for anyone who’s ever dreamt of having unrestricted access to books.”

Local news by authority

  • Birmingham – Police could be housed in fire stations after building closures – Birmingham Post. “Residents in Sutton Coldfield and Solihull could also be visiting police in the local library when the station front offices close the police commissioner’s strategic board was told.”
  • Bromley – Bromley library staff and care workers vote for action amid outsourcing chaos – Unite. “Britain’s largest union, Unite warned of possible strike action hitting services run for Bromley council by two contractors today (Thursday 22 February), after library staff and care workers overwhelmingly backed action in two separate strike ballots. 100 per cent of library staff working for Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) across the London borough’s 14 libraries backed strike action on a turnout of 87 per cent in a dispute over staffing, pay and time off for union duties.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Crime-writing duo at Northwich Library next month – Northiwch Guardian. “Crime writer Margaret Murphy and forensic expert Helen Pepper have teamed up to write novels and will tell all at Cheshire West libraries.”
  • Devon – Bideford Library will not be moving to The Burton – North Devon Gazette. “Plans to move Bideford Library into The Burton were first floated in 2013 and The Burton at Bideford and Libraries Unlimited (LUL) have been in discussion since then. But this week both organisations have mutually agreed that while they will continue to work closely on joint community projects, the relocation of the library to The Burton will not go ahead.
  • Lambeth – Lambeth Tories pledge to halt estate regeneration, save libraries and protect parks in alternative Budget – Brixton Buzz. “Over the next months we will look at what remaining options there are to save libraries at risk from being closed down by Labour councillors, or turned into unwanted gyms, and the impact of the changes to the beautiful Carnegie library.”
  • Northamptonshire – Council executive’s firm won contract after her £50k pay-off – BBC and KPMG issue Northamptonshire County Council with law breach warning – BBC.
  • Oxfordshire – ‘Why you should visit Oxford’s library of the future’ – Oxford Mail.the official reopening of the Oxfordshire County Library, which has had a major makeover as part of the new Westgate development in Oxford. If you haven’t been in yet, please visit soon and join the 2000-strong list of new members since the library reopened before Christmas.”
  • Portsmouth – Library ‘won’t lose out’
as fines for late book 
returns will be scrapped – News. “Portsmouth Library Service has confirmed that over 6,000 items were overdue in 2013, nearly 5,000 were late in 2014, over 4,500 were late in 2015, and just under 4,500 were overdue in 2016. More than 7,000 were still outstanding from 2017, though this figure is expected to decrease as more books are still expected to be returned. Cllr Linda Symes said: ‘Cutting out library fines is something that is really starting to catch on with places around the world and closer to home taking similar steps. In this day of the internet where there is so much choice it is important to give people a reason to want to come to the library and not put them off.”
  • Powys – Minister officially opens Knighton Library – Hereford Times. “Funding from the Welsh Government Community Facilities Grant of almost £500,000, a capital grant through the Museums, Archives and Libraries Transformation Capital Grants scheme and a range of other grants and capital contributions from Powys County Council, Knighton Town Council, Reserve Forces & Cadets Association and Radnor Hills has resulted in the community hub becoming a reality.”
  • Reading – Reading Borough Council hopes to save more than £200,000 by reducing library opening hours – Reading Chronicle. “ll seven of the council-owned libraries will remain open under the new proposals, but cuts could hit full-time workers and children hard if evening and weekend times are scrapped. Councillors were ‘saddened’ to have to look at stripping back library services, but said it was inevitable in the face of unprecedented cuts to funding.”
  • Somerset – Fears for library prompt protest – Wellington Weekly News. “Somerset County Council has announced plans for the library to be run by a community partnership or to be replaced by a mobile service. Julian Mellor, chairman of the attempt to force the authority to change its mind, said: “These proposals are horribly short-sighted.” see also Hundreds give view on library – Wellington Weekly News. More “than 1,500 people have so far registered their views about the future of Wellington library service since the launch of the consultation process, says Somerset County Council.”
  • Staffordshire – Consultation event in Burntwood to showcase proposals to use technology to extend library opening times – Lichfield Live. “Staffordshire County Council is seeking views on proposals to introduce an automated system and alter the way the mobile library service operates.
  • Staffordshire – Library consultation continues – Tamworth Informed. and Needham Market Library asks customers for their thoughts on proposed change to opening hours – EADT. “The proposal would involve no change to the total hours open, but the opening pattern would be slightly different on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.”
  • Surrey – No more newspapers at Surrey Libraries – Eagle Radio. “Surrey County Council has announced this week that they will be withdrawing newspapers from libraries as part of £100,000 library budget cuts”
  • Swindon – SMAG needs new homeSwindon Advertiser / Letters. “I have heard that library campaigners who gained a meeting with Mr Vaizey would find his manner quite encouraging. Then they would return home to find the slashing of budgets, loss of professional staff, reduction of hours, closure of libraries, eviction of libraries from prime locations, and handing over of libraries to parishes, voluntary groups or fitness companies continuing unabated. So, what does Mr Vaizey have to say about museums? Firstly, “The digital transformation needs to continue”. Secondly, “we really need to challenge the bricks and mortar motif of the museum itself.” Could it be that in Mr Vaizey’s view neither libraries nor museums serve any purpose in a digital age, and that looking at a photo of an object, or a photo of a painting, is the same as looking at the real thing?”
  • Walsall – Walsall library revamp to cost an extra £250k – Express and Star. “A survey has revealed extensive roof work costing at least £250,000 is needed on the listed 113-year-old Edwardian landmark including replacing insulation and hand-made clay tiles. But determined council leaders insist it will not hold up the £4.3m works and are confident it will still all be ready by November this yea – despite not having chosen a builder yet.”
  • Western Isles – From library coffee shop to creative space Stornoway Gazette.a number of authorities in Scotland have set up Makerspaces within their libraries, with great success, and the Comhairle’s library service was inspired by these to create a similar opportunity for local residents.”

Throwing tables and spitting in the face: the lesser known side of libraries

Editorial

There are many  libraries, perhaps, that have no problems with antisocial behaviour. Where the worst that can happy is a child shouting “bogies” as they leave. Where the public tuts if someone swears loudly and then things go back to normal. Then there are the others: the ones with  drug users or alcoholics regularly using the place, where people have been known to throw chairs, and not just at empty space. Where groups go in to fight eachother. Where disgusting things are found on the carpet. Those are public libraries as well, and often serving quite as important purpose as all the others. The staff in these buildings need to learn strategies to deal with the behaviour they face: they learn not to shout, but to lower voices. They understand the importance of always going through with a threat if made. Some have learnt that a confrontation is only one where there are two sides: that acting bored or discussing their holidays with the troublemaker can be far more effective than threatening the police. But, sometimes, enough is enough. The police need calling and hopefully things get sorted. Sometimes even that does not work and, well, then it’s hard. This is not a well-known side to libraries, at least in the popular media, but it’s there. And, if you’re reading this and recognising your workplace as similar then I salute you.

Changes

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If variety is the spice of libraries …

Editorial

It’s interesting to see how widely charges and fines vary between library services. Last week, we saw that fines range from nothing to 50p per day per item. This time, there’s a news story about Cambridgeshire libraries introducing charges for computer use and author events. Such things are standard practice in many library services but apparently novel there. “Premier membership” is an idea that has been tried before, with uncertain success as far as I can tell. The most unusual thing I can see on the list is charging for storytimes which is unusual (but not unique – hello Milton Keynes).. And this is the thing, there’s so much variety in libraries  that the odds that the novel idea has probably been done elsewhere, sometimes surprising even a deep library nerd like me.

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Love Libraries, Love Reading

Editorial

It’s Valentines Day time and love is in the air. Included below is a short interview with Shirley Everall who was given the award a while ago for promoting Romances. It’s a section that gets some attention this time of year but remember, Romance is a section for all the year around, not just for Valentines.

I’d give to signal some love too to the libraries of the increasingly inappropriately named Reading Council, who are facing further cuts this year on top to previous ones. I know from emails received how hurt the staff are there and how they can see the service is being hollowed out, libraries kept open or no. The council makes no bones about placing the blame squarely on central government.  Mind you, a quick search shows the same council paid out over £4m in equal pay claims , with a provision of over £11m for it, plus £1.5m in legal fees battling the decision and, in addition, has recently paid £20 million on a big office block (the finances on this are really murky) so there’s perhaps a bit of blame for them too.

Finally, and I dread saying this, after the previous piece, but it needs saying, that, look, bad news gets the headlines. This is especially so on PLN as it’s a news compiler of media stories which are already biased towards bad news. “Libraries does well” does not get reported in the press so much but there’s still a lot of those around. I see some great examples of successful library services out there. The sad thing is that the recurring bad news more than camouflages this. But there is good news there, great librarians like Shirley Everall and, also reported on today, Dionne Hood, continue to do brilliant stuff. And my it looks fun. So I think we should remember that too. So my love to those suffering like Reading (and, yes, Northamptonshire, and Somerset and … look, I’m trying OK?) but also to those libraries still able to do the good stuff. The picture needs to include both.

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Unsettling: a new Chief Exec for the Libraries Taskforce

Editorial

Kathy Settle has left the Taskforce. In the process, I believe, meaning the team is cut down to just four to cope with what ‘s needed, including a new libraries minister. During her time, the Taskforce has done a ton of meetings, seminars and tried – without any formal powers – to pull together an idea of what is needed for libraries and to try to start getting it done. And quite a lot needs to. Some of those things – notably around trusts and volunteer libraries – has not met with universal acclaim but in such a controversial and heated sphere as this, that’s hardly surprising, especially when one considers that the Taskforce is basically Civil Service, with all that implies. With a revitalised CILIP and an expanded soon-to-be-charity SCL this year, the question will be which, or if, of these tasks moves out of the realm of the Taskforce on to others. It’s also been good to see the ACE chief showing an interest. The decision not to appoint a replacement but to have her role added to another within the Taskforce shows that expansion may not be in the works. What else is in the works remains a topic of interest.

The decision to remove all fines in Trafford has had a wide press, breaking out into the national media, and has raised much conversation online. I’m aware that there are strong factors why libraries still charge (not least finance departments who insist they do) but it looks like the time is coming for change. I’ve written a separate post, which I’m going to admit to being very proud of, called So you’re dependent on fines: The seven step plan to removing your addiction  which I naturally recommend you read. I’ve tried to keep it fun and thought-provoking. and it’s quite short too

Happy to discuss more, on anything, either through the comments or at ianlibrarian@live.co.uk.

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It’s not all fine: Trafford remove all late fees from 1st April

Editorial

Trafford has shocked the UK public library world by announcing that they will be removing all library fines from 1st April. The reasons put forward for that by councillors is that fines are off-putting for customers, no fines will increase usage (and indeed will increase returns as people know they won’t get fined if they’re late) and that there should not be any barriers to accessing libraries. Children were especially mentioned as benefitting from no fines and Trafford will also be giving a library card to every child. One suspects as well that it will be a nice thing to say the council has done if local elections are coming up.

This is not the first library service in England to remove fines – Rutland does not have fines and I understand from Twitter that there’s one or two in Scotland (West Lothian and West Dunbartonshire) – but it is the first major (sorry Rutland) or metropolitan library service in England to go down this route and so will inevitably be noticed more. It also ties in with a global trend I’ve been noticing for a while (especially in the USA and Australia) where libraries have been removing fine due to it being a barrier (after all, we’ve removed physical ones years ago), inequitable and no longer needed now we have the power to automatically online renew.

The big barrier to this in the UK is of course where the money is going to come from if we get rid of fines. Charging people for late books does bring in some money that will need to be replaced in another way. There’s also – no surprise in the library world this – a fundamental lack of research of shared data on how effective removing fines are. We need that evidence shared in order to spread good practice and identify bad. Personally, I am tired of seeing people arguing over fines in libraries and I know that fines are a reason people tell me socially they no longer use libraries. So I really hope this is a successful experiment. And an experiment that produces what a good experiment always does: actual shareable data on the result.

There’s more information on pros and cons on fines (and the thorny problem of fines recovery) on this page.

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Well, that can't be safe - the Library Lion in action. Credit: Graeme Braidwood

Bring on the authors

Editorial

It’s a strange thing about Arts Council England. I’ve seen pretty much everyone else nationally and locally being criticised over the years for their stance on public libraries but almost nothing about ACE. The reason I suspect is they’re a bit out of context and also a bit like, well, Father Christmas, albeit one with an interest in culture rather than presents and carefully written bids rather than who’s been naughty and nice. They’re also somewhat limited in what they can fund. So we don’t hear much from them other than seeing the results in lots of shows and artworks going on in libraries such as the “Library Lion” below and also some of the projects that Time To Read runs (also below). It’s good therefore to hear from them and this week we have none other than the boss, Nicholas Serota, talking libraries to CILIP.

He comes across as an intelligent chap and he is to applauded for the post, with thoughtful comments, although it’s clear his expertise in other sectors. For example, he wonders why authors aren’t as involved in libraries as artists are in galleries. Well, the reason is that they’re qualitatively different – people read the books at home while art has to be seen in the gallery. However, there’s always more space for authors to be involved in libraries, especially as they’re just such supporting people and the e-book revolution hasn’t really taken place as many thought it would. It’s my pleasure in Time To Read to help this process and it’d be great to see more of it nationally as well. Bring on the authors.

National news

  • Building The Literacy Library – Crowdfunder. 1 in 8 children don’t have a book at home. Over £50,000 raised for new library to help teachers and schools.
  • Entries now open for the Libraries Change Lives Award – CILIP. “Applications are open for the 2018 CILIP Libraries Change Lives Award for innovative library and information projects and services that have a positive and demonstrable impact on their user community and reflect intelligent service design or best practice delivery. “
  • Fake Non-Profits – lies, damned lies and Carillion’s non-profit companies – Ed Mayo’s Blog. “When we look at the accounts submitted to Companies House, the story becomes visible. Cultural Community Solutions made no profit because it looks as if it has paid all of its profit out to others including companies in the Carillion family. From year to year, gross profit is simply eaten up by the ‘administrative expenses’. In 2016, they were exactly the same figure.” … “As a non-profit, they could also do something that other commercial, or indeed in-house services, could not, which is to claim discretionary relief on business rates payable on library premises. As with the big fostercare companies financed by offshore venture capital, designed to escape taxation, the financial profits this non-profit passed through to Carillion were in every possible way a gift from the taxpayer.” … “Anyone can call themselves a non-profit, just as many can claim to be a social enterprise, but there is an underlying first principle that needs to be recognised, as in the International Statement of Co-operative Identity, which is that of independence.”
  • Making sure there’s time to read – Libraries Taskforce / Time To Read. [This is a post by me in day job – Ed.] “Time To Read is a unique collaboration between the North West library authorities to promote reading for those aged 16+ via shared projects, promotion, news and best practice. Its origins can be traced back all the way to 1996. Membership of the partnership fluctuates but currently numbers 22 out of the 23 eligible services, each paying in an annual subscription which covers a part-time co-ordinator and such things as meetings and promotions.”
  • A progressive professional body for a global sector – Research Information. Ayub Khan, president of CILIP: “four-year plan to 2020 is shaped around the central goal of putting ‘library and information skills at the heart of a democratic, equal and prosperous society’ … “anything else – so keeping libraries on the agenda will be a challenge. I will focus on libraries’ future potential, as well as their proud traditions.”

Dear Librarian

Just a quick note to remind you to nominate for the CWA Dagger in the Library 2018. It’s very easy to do: just go along to  http://daggerreads.co.uk/dagger-in-the-library/ and submit your nomination. Up to three staff members of each library can nominate. Please note this year we’re looking for a mainstay of crime writing; someone who has published more than 10 books and whose first book was published before 2008. In 2018 we want the Dagger in the Library to reward those authors (crime fiction and non-fiction) who have given most pleasure to library users over the years. The deadline is February 28, and we are pleased to have the support of The Reading Agency. Please pop to the site and nominate before the deadline – it takes about 2 minutes.

’d also like to remind you about the Margery Allingham Short Story Competition. That’s for a short story up to 3,500 words loosely around the Golden Age writer’s definition of what makes a mystery. That definition, and other details, are on the CWA website here. Entry fee is £12, and the prize is £500 plus books and two passes to CrimeFest 2019 – a fabulous mystery writers convention in Bristol not to be missed. You can download a poster on the Short Story page or here from DaggerReads.

I’ll be writing to you soon about National Crime Reading Month in May.  Meanwhile, please do send in those Dagger in the Library nominations! There are so many authors who have given pleasure to library users for years, and this is a great chance to say thanks on the readers’ behalf.

Yours

Dea Parkin – Secretary of the CWA

  • Some thoughts on ‘Library Lion’ – Untied Artists. “I started to wonder if it would be possible to create a site specific performance of the book that drew on my experiences as a parent at storytime, captured and shared the magic of the book, and was somehow able to comment on the fact that libraries are nothing less than essential to a thriving, caring, enlightened community.” … “after quite a lengthy process of grant bids and negotiations with libraries, schools, publishers and venues, I’m really pleased with the results, and we’ve been able to bring the show to some quite ‘low engagement’ areas. This week, before performing to a small group of SEN students in Gornal Library, I had a quick chat with the wonderful librarian there. Note librarian in the singular.” see also Library Lion – Untied Artists. “Dudley Libraries, Untied Artists and Birmingham Rep bring this beautiful children’s book to life in celebration of an endangered species – the local library.”
Well, that can't be safe - the Library Lion in action. Credit: Graeme Braidwood

Well, that can’t be safe – the Library Lion in action. Credit: Graeme Braidwood

  • Special agent for library development – CILIP. “The Arts Council England is the development agency for public libraries and Sir Nicholas Serota, its chair, believes the sector could use the experience of other cultural organisations as it builds a public library service fit for the 21st century.” … “The extent of his influence not only depends on the priority and resources that ACE directs towards libraries, but also on the extent to which the sector and local authorities are prepared to listen.” … “I think the core of the library activity remains freeing imaginations through access to literature, knowledge in its broadest sense. But I think we’re really talking about reinventing what that dog is rather than adding something to” … “Libraries are places that are trusted, they are places that are regarded as safe. That’s often not true of some arts ­organisations, which can be regarded as being elitist and separate” .. “Becoming entrepreneurial is not a comfortable process” … “Writers have probably been less engaged in the development of libraries than they might be”

“I think libraries and ­librarians have a responsibility to try and build a service that is ­inspirational as well as simply offering cover for basic needs. And that’s probably where the Arts Council has a part to play.”” Sir Nicholas Serota

An online bookclub from Axiell More >

No-one can accuse Sajid of being long-winded

Amazon show a future, but it’s probably not the one for libraries

Editorial

The history of public libraries over the last few decades has been one of automation. There was Browne Issue tickets (row after row of cards) being replaced by computers then the internet replacing much reference work followed closely by self-service machines and, now, in over one hundred buildings, card-and-pin entry so no staff need to be present at all. Amazon have just apparently gone one further even than this by not requiring a bank card (or in our case, library card) at all. I’ve often thought that the ultimate conclusion – as long we have buildings and stock that is – is the doors scan you as you leave, recognise the library card (or app) in your pocket and leave with books but with no swiping. Amazon have brought this day closer but there are major problems with their approach when it comes to libraries. First off, libraries need to recognise not just the type of good (e.g. the book) but the item (e.g. that particular copy of the book). Secondly, the system apparently requires little cameras everywhere – well, there goes privacy then but, then again, many libraries have CCTV all over. Finally, the system requires on everyone to have a mobile phone and an app. Well, that goes against a couple of key library things right there, not least of which is being open to all, regardless of ability to pay. So if such a system comes to public libraries it will be in radically different form, or it will be a radically different library.

Changes by authority

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With the main question being "how do you define a library"?

Ealing and Harrow likely to outsource again, deep cuts in Somerset.

Editorial

Ealing and Harrow have both responded to the collapse of Carillion by temporarily continuing library services in-house. Reading behind the lines, and despite having had their fingers burnt, it looks to me that both councils – who have been sold on outsourcing once – are likely to go that way again. Who this is (hello GLL?) remains to be seen and precumably tendering would need to be done.

Elsewhere, more details have come to light about deep cuts to Shropshire and Somerset. In the former, only 6 libraries are going to be run by the council in six years, with the rest being euphemistically called “cost-neutral”. This apparently means that someone else has to pay for them, be it lower-tier councils or volunteers: so there will be a deep drive to cut costs (i.e. paid staff) and increase income (e.g. parish taxes, grants, fundraising). The timescale for this was originally wildly unrealistic and a brush with consultation has meant that the council has extended the time limit a bit longer, possibly even long enough in some cases., if Shropshire library users are lucky, for another national government to come in and reverse the deep austerity that necessitates such damage in the first place.

I am sorry to see Somerset is once more up against it, with 15 out of 34 libraries due to close or pass to volunteers. The county was one of the first to face deep cuts when I first started PLN and it was only a court case that got them to stop closing libraries that time. Five years later and it looks unlikely that such a court case would happen again, given the generally lower levels of service now expected in council services and the lessons learnt from what went wrong last time. This time, the hope must be that the consultation is taken seriously by the public (I am sure it will be by the council – one bitten twice shy and all that) and the reaction helps persuade the council to lessen the cuts. Again reading between the lines, it seems unlikely that the new revolving-door libraries minister will intervene in either case.

Changes

National news

  • Arts Council England announces new director of museums – Arts Council England. “Sue Williamson joins ACE as director of libraries and Birmingham from St Helens Library Service, where she most recently delivered its award-winning Cultural Hubs Arts in Libraries programme and oversaw the successful application to the Arts Council’s National Portfolio. Williamson also represented public libraries as part of a DCMS in a recent discussion on the future of digital technologies in arts and culture. “I am thrilled to be joining Arts Council England as Director: Libraries and Birmingham and to have the opportunity to support and champion the role of Libraries in delivering the wider cultural offer to the communities they serve. With the recent announcements of Coventry as the next UK City Of Culture and Birmingham as host for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, this is a time of great challenge and opportunity for the whole of the cultural sector in this area.””

“Three library services [out of 151] in England – Croydon, Ealing and Harrow – are managed for these local authorities by Carillion through its subsidiary, Cultural Community Solutions Ltd (CCS Ltd).  We [Libraries Taskforce and DCMS, through the Taskforce’s Chief Executive Kathy Settle] have made contact with the library services. We are available to assist and discuss with the library services if needed, however they have confirmed that contingency plans are in place and that they are proceeding with next steps. The library services are in contact with PWC, which has been appointed as special managers for the insolvency of Carillion, and discussions are underway about plans for the future. The Councils have been working with library staff and managers and the services have been opening and operating as normal. ” Libraries Taskforce

  • Library groups call for inquiry after Carillion collapse – BookSeller. “CILIP chief executive Nick Poole believes the Carillion collapse exposes flawed government thinking that private outsourcing provides the best quality services and highest efficiency. He called for a public inquiry into whether local and national government continued to knowingly to issue contracts for the delivery of vital public services to a failing company. “The current policies of austerity and privatisation are putting statutory services like public libraries at risk,” said Poole. “This is why CILIP is actively lobbying for a fair financial settlement for local authorities which enables them to meet the current and future needs of local communities and for standards which ensure that people receive the quality of service they have paid for.””. Also includes views from myself, Laura Swaffield of the Library Campaign and Tim Coates.
With the main question being "how do you define a library"?

With the main question being “how do you define a library”? With thanks to Mike Bedford

  • London libraries assess impact of Carillion collapse – Guardian. “Croydon council has reacted to the service provider’s liquidation by taking the service in-house again, while Ealing and Harrow are laying contingency plans” … “On Tuesday, Croydon council announced it would immediately terminate its eight-year contract with Carillion, which was set to run the borough’s 13 libraries until 2020, and take on the responsibility itself, rather than outsourcing to another firm. All 73 staff positions were guaranteed, it said.” … “Councillor Timothy Godfrey, cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, said that the council had been considering parting ways with Carillion for years, and claimed that the firm had failed to provide a satisfactory library service” … “The cost to the council to take on the borough’s library service would be slightly higher than paying Carillion, because Croydon council was a living wage employer, admitted Godfrey”. … “Harrow council is set to consider its future plans for its six library branches at a cabinet meeting on Thursday night, but a council spokesman said that it was business as usual, and maintaining consistency for residents and staff was its priority. Under Carillion’s care, no problems in the library service had been reported to the council, he continued, and while the current contract was working, it expected to need a new provider after Carillion’s liquidation.” see also Public sector looks for ways to plug gap left by Carillion – Public Finance.

““They hadn’t fixed the issues flagged when Hounslow left. They hadn’t been paying paper suppliers and photocopier engineers. Their annual library plan was always behind schedule. It’s been really unfair on the staff on the front line because they were the poor souls holding the service together, and they had no managerial support. There were staff paying out-of-pocket for things like for craft materials for activities with kids.””

  • Michael Ellis confirmed as new libraries minister – BookSeller. “Michael Ellis has been confirmed as the new libraries minister at the department of digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS), following Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet reshuffle last week. Ellis was formerly the deputy leader of the House of Commons. He is now parliamentary under secretary of state for the arts, heritage and tourism with responsibility for libraries”
  • On borrowed time? – BookSeller. “Meanwhile at Westminster, we have the third new libraries minister in 18 months: Northampton North’s Michael Ellis—an MP whose chief claim to fame thus far is persuading the government to put more money into pothole repairs. With the constantly rotating door of ministerial posts, will he stay in the role long enough even to master the brief? Waterstones m.d. James Daunt decried the “disgrace” of library cuts in an interview this week, saying the decline of the service will damage the future of British society; a view widely shared in this industry. If between them Khan and Ellis can push the case for libraries up national and local agendas, that assistance is badly needed; but the chronic threats to the service must be acknowledged, and whatever the digital opportunities for the library service, books and reading must stay absolutely at its core.”
  • Want to tackle loneliness? Stop closing libraries – Politics. “The knitting group changed all that. It arranges trips to garden centres and market towns. They get together for meals out. My mum now not only regularly visits the library but she also volunteers there. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it changed her life. But all that could soon come to an end. Northamptonshire county council recently opened a consultation on its library services. Three options were put forward. The first would require local groups to run many of the county’s libraries to keep them open. The second would see 21 out of 36 libraries closed. The third would see 28 out of them closed. Option two and three would see my mum’s library close its doors. Even the mobile library would be axed. This isn’t an isolated case”

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Carillion gone

Editorial

So Carillion has gone. It ran three library services in London arms-length via a non-profit arm called Cultural Community Solutions. Within hours, Croydon, which has changed party control since making the decision to outsource its libraries and is now Labour, announced it would be bringing its libraries back in-house. It had clearly expected and planned for this moment. Less prompt are Harrow and Ealing (both also Labour) who were recommending extending their contract with Carillion just last week. Oops. Although in their defence they would have been stung with big fines if they had (albeit fines they agreed to when outsourcing in the first place). I have not heard or seen anything about what will be happening at those two councils, with the options either being taking back in-house or going to another provider, the obvious one being GLL if they’re willing to do so. My heart goes out to library staff at both councils who must be going through a difficult time.

This means that there are currently no public libraries in the UK run by a for-profit company. That’s the first time since Laing took over Hounslow a decade or so ago and represents quite a change from when I wrote this article in 2011 when US company LSSI was wanting to take over a tenth or more of the UK market. The truth is that private companies do not have a magic wand when it comes to running public libraries. There’s nothing they can do that a council can’t, as those up and down the country who have tried every income-generating and cut trick in the book can testify. Heaven knows times are tight enough without a percentage siphoned off to shareholders somewhere. Simply put, if your public library is making a profit for someone then you’re doing it wrong. Long may that mistake not be repeated in the UK.

Changes

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