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

O Canada

Editorial

If you like to see nice shiny new libraries the have a look at link below to a whole pile of new Canadian libraries. There’s nothing there that would strike someone as particularly shockingly innovative – well, apart perhaps from the community kitchens – but it’s good to see so much money being spent. Looking back to this country, it’s great to see, gosh, actual books being bought in Hampshire – shockingly, a public survey showed people wanted them, who’d have thought – and sad to see a deep cut confirmed in Hertfordshire, although I understand the council there is genuine in trying to seek the best possible future for libraries after facing some fairly stiff cuts. If you think, though, like apparently many Canadians, that there’s a lot of life left in libraries and that they give huge value rather than cost, then there’s a Library Campaign meeting this Saturday and a protest march on Saturday 3 November, both in London.

Changes

Ideas

National news

  • Annual general meeting – Library Campaign. Includes talks led by Jon Richards (national secretary for local government, Unison), Angela Montague (Lincolnshire library campaign) and myself looking at local campaigns, underlying trends, how campaigners can work together nationally and what the Library Campaign can do to help. London, Saturday 20 October 2-4pm.
  • Consulting on the next ten years – Arts Council England. “What we are sharing for consultation today is not a strategy. It’s not even a draft strategy. It is instead a group of ambitious challenges that we think we need to set for ourselves and which we believe respond both to the evidence that we have gathered and the significant achievements of the current strategy.”
  • Libraries Week and Fun Palaces 2018 – Julia’s Blog. “I’m hoping to visit as many new libraries as possible – and will try to fit in some with specific connections or memories for me. While I probably wont be able to make it to Kendal – the first library I was a member, or Brackley library where Mum  worked, or the Huw Owen at Aberystwyth University, I did travel to the end of the Metropolitan line today, and visit Uxbridge. I was a member there when I moved back to London after studying, and remember seeing Anna McCaffrey at a ‘meet the author’ evening.” see also Communications hints and tips by Julia Chandler, which is a work in progress for public libraries on, well, communications. Contact via https://juliac2.wordpress.com/contact-me/.
  • PM launches Government’s first loneliness strategy – Gov.uk. Libraries mentioned a few times. DCMS “will raise awareness of the role that libraries can play, including through Libraries Week” and has “has recently delivered free wifi across all libraries in England through Arts Council England.”. Also government says it will “Support grassroot opportunities to strengthen local social relationships and community ties through funding for the sport and volunteering sectors and threading awareness of social connections through existing programmes such as the work of uniformed youth groups, and through partnership working with libraries, museums and the arts.” and notes Men’s Sheds uses libraries. Recognises Libraries have a “role to play” so will assist their evaluation and include loneliness as a them for 2018 Libraries Week. Notes Norfolk’s “In Good Company” campaign. British Library and CILIP were consulted in creating the strategy,
  • World Book Day 2019 – World Book Day. “World Book Day is putting more books than ever into its campaign to provide every child and young person in the country with a book of their own. Catering for all age groups, from toddler to teen, the expanded list of 13 new £1 titles announced today for World Book Day 2019 was created to appeal to the widest possible range of children and young people, tastes and abilities, and features characters from all over the world. The list brings together exclusive new stories by much-loved authors Malorie Blackman, Patrice Lawrence, Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Waterstones Children’s Laureate Lauren Child, world-renowned characters Wimpy Kid, Percy Jackson and Lego Minifigures, and a whole range of new tales for everyone to explore. “

Axiell Selflib
International news

  • Canada – Canadian Cities’ Red Hot Library Development Continues | October 2018 – Ex Libris Association. List of libraries upgraded or built anew, looking at common themes. “In 2018, Canada’s urban libraries are continuing their aggressive development of new and renewed branch facilities as innovative, interactive and integrated community hubs. Learn more about Edmonton’s, Calder branch, Halifax’s Dartmouth North and Musquodoboit branches, Kingston-Frontenac’s Rideau Heights branch, Lethbridge’s Main Branch Modernization Project, Markham’s Aaniin branch, Bibliothèques Montréal’s Benny branch, Regina’s Albert Branch at mâmawêyatitân centre, Toronto’s Albion, Amesbury Park and Eglinton Square branches, Vaughan’s Pleasant Ridge and Vellore Village branches, Victoria’s James Bay branch and Winnipeg’s Windsor Park branch” see also Calgary’s old central library likely won’t sit empty long – CBC.
  • Canada – Public libraries making Halloween less scary for parents – Bay Today. “Some public libraries are helping families by holding a free costume exchange day. Next Tuesday, October 9, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Callander Public Library, people are invited to drop off any unwanted costumes to give away or exchange for a different costume”
  • USA – 12 Authors Write About the Libraries They Love – New York Times. “Those of us launched from bare-bones schools in uncelebrated places will always find particular grace in a library, where the temple doors are thrown wide to all believers, regardless of pedigree. “

“Still, if there is a heaven, one of the many mansions it must contain is a red brick Victorian building, all wood and shelves, waiting for me. And the shelves will be filled with books by beloved authors, as good as or better than the ones I knew. I will read my way through the adult library, and then, to attain perfect bliss, I will enter the children’s library, and never need to leave it. Not even to eat my sandwiches in the parking lot.” Neil Gaiman

“My first library gave me the freedom to exist in private, to choose and even be greedy. I took 10 books the first time — illustrated books, fables, fairy tales and happy stories of white children and their kind parents. A week later, now initiated, I was allowed to walk to the library by myself, carrying the 10 books I had finished reading, knowing I could choose many more to furnish my vast secret room, my imagination, all mine.” Amy Tan

Local news by authority

  • Dorset – Voices: In an age of misinformation we should turn back to books – Dorset Echo. “Libraries are less used and many have closed and people easily avoid face to face interaction due to the use of email and social media – it’s too easy” see also Almost £50,000 owed in library fines – enough to run a Weymouth library for more than a year – Dorset Echo.
  • Hampshire – Splashing cash on new library books – Daily Echo. “Winchester Discovery Centre is set to receive £30,000-worth of new stock, as well as a resorting of the library’s layout. Hampshire County Council says it comes after feedback from users who said they found it hard to find the most popular items on offer”
  • Hertfordshire – Libraries could shut under plans to axe £500,000 Watford Observer. “The authority has already been forced to cut £2.5million from the library service budget in the last four years, but now needs to make further savings. ” se also Councillors to decide on future for Hertfordshire’s libraries – Hertfordshire Council. “Councillors will be considering the next steps for our Inspiring Libraries strategy at a meeting of the Education, Libraries, and Localism Cabinet Panel on Thursday. Over the last four years the county council has invested £4 million in library buildings and technology, whilst making savings in the services revenue budget. With continued pressures on budgets across the council, we launched a consultation earlier in the year to get residents’ and library users’ views on proposals to operate our library service in a different way. “
  • Newham – Nando’s chickens out of opening restaurant in Canning Town Library – Newham Recorder. “Restaurant chain Nando’s has dropped its plan to take Canning Town Library, next to where the GMB was born, after pressure from the trade union.” … “The company was in negotiations to transform the first floor of the library into its latest branch and the plans were recommended for approval by Newham Council.”
  • Northamptonshire – Consultation starts today on £8.2m Daventry town centre cinema proposals – Northampton Chronicle. “The proposed three to four screen cinema at North Street would be scheduled to open by summer in 2020, with the library relocating to ‘modern new premises’ at the Abbey Resource Centre in St John’s Square”
  • Northern Ireland – Belfast Central Library at 130: ‘No longer are we just librarians’ – BBC. “More than 38,000 people took part in 4,030 knit and natter groups here in 2017/2018. Thousands are also signing-up for other library-organised sessions like creative writing, tea and newspapers, introduction to iPad, mindful colouring, rhythm and rhyme and jobs clubs” … “The initial Libraries NI budget allocation for 2016/2017 was £27.76m – £1.68m less than the previous year. Additional funding of £225,000 was later secured to avoid a planned reduction in opening hours.”
  • Northern Ireland – Communities encouraged to share love of literature with ‘One Book’ – News Letter. “Libraries NI is encouraging enthusiastic readers from all over Northern Ireland to come together to read the same book this month – Turning for Home. The aim of the exciting new literary initiative is to bring communities together by giving them a shared experience of reading. Whether in work or at home, One Book NI is all about coming together and starting conversations.”
  • North Yorkshire – Christmas card pop-up shops in libraries – North Yorkshire County Council. “Shops will open in the libraries at Filey, Harrogate, Knaresborough, Northallerton, Richmond, Ripon, Scarborough and Skipton. They sell a wide range of charity Christmas cards as well as a range of seasonal gifts and products. The pop-up shops in the libraries are run by teams of local volunteers and are part of a network of more than 300 shops run by Cards for Good Causes across the UK. They raise funds for more than 250 charities including Cancer Research UK, Barnardos, NSPCC, Alzheimer’s Society and the RNLI.”
  • Pembrokeshire – £120,000 funding boost for Neyland library move – Milford Mercury. Money from Transformation Capital Grant Programme provided to move library to athletic club community hub.
  • Powys – Welshpool: Public meeting on future of town library to be held tonight – County Times. “Starting at 7pm at Welshpool Rugby Club, the meeting has been described by organisers as an informal meeting to share ideas regarding the proposed move of the library. Last week a petition was launched after an information leak revealed plans to relocate the library within nearby Powysland Museum by the Powys County Council, leading to fears that library services could be downgraded”
  • St Helens – Record Breaking numbers take part in ‘Mischief Makers’ Summer Reading Challenge – St Helens Star. “Organised by the Reading Agency, This year’s Summer Reading Challenge, titled ‘Mischief Makers’ to mark the 80th anniversary of the much-loved children’s comic, Beano, saw a total of 2,315 children start the challenge – with 1,702 going onto complete it by reading six books from their local library over the summer” 71 up on last year.
  • Somerset – Meeting will discuss future of under-threat North Petherton Library – Bridgwater Mercury. “The group was set up after a public meeting in June, arranged by the North Petherton Town Council, to respond to Somerset County Council’s proposed plans to cut back its library service. Since then a Steering Group, helped by town councillors, has been working on operational arrangements and a draft constitution, and these will be put before the meeting.”
  • Southwark – Borough’s John Harvard Library first in Southwark to get super-fast Wi-Fi – Southwark News. ” Borough library has become the first in Southwark to get free and fast fibre-optic broadband for all of its users. The John Harvard library on Borough High Street now has free ultra-fast broadband, following a council partnership with internet provider Community Fibre. The Wi-Fi network now boasts a 1 Gigabit per second connection, meaning films and books and websites can be downloaded in seconds.”
  • Staffordshire – Deadline looms for bids to take over running of Cheadle Library – Stoke on Trent Live. “Groups and organisations wanting to take on the day-to-day running and management of a town centre library can apply this month. Bids will be considered for five Staffordshire libraries including Cheadle, Cheslyn Hay, Clayton, Eccleshall and Penkridge. Successful applicants will be supported by the county council to take over the day-to-day running and management of the libraries.”
  • Suffolk – Mark Murphy BBC Radio Suffolk. Covers the library wellbeing service as part of Libraries Week, 38 minutes in.
  • Suffolk – Suffolk Libraries offering free sanitary items to help fight period poverty – Suffolk Libraries. “Suffolk Libraries is piloting providing free sanitary items, no questions asked, in ten different libraries. The items have been donated by supporting organisations East of England Co-op, Pink Parcel and Bloody Good Period and can be requested by completing a simple, discreet form in the library and handing it to a member of staff.”
  • Warrington – Labour candidate criticised after incorrect Penketh Library Facebook comments – Warrington Guardian. “Mr Watson, insists the ‘I’ve’ in his comments should have been typed as ‘we’ve’. He added: “Labour are running a positive campaign about celebrating what makes Penketh great and making improvements.”
  • Wiltshire – Wiltshire Council launching a free library to home delivery service – Salisbury Journal. “If you or someone you know loves reading, but are unable to get to the library because of a disability, ill health, mobility issues or due to caring responsibilities at home, Wiltshire Council’s home library service will be delivered by volunteers and free of charge.. It is available for eligible customers who have no one to visit the library for them.”
"Librarian of Congress, Dr Carla Hayden, shared some powerful and moving words with us this #LibrariesWeek and we have to say, we couldn't agree more." - taken from the British Library Facebook page

That was the Libraries Week that was

Editorial

Last week, as I imagine absolutely everyone reading this will know, was Libraries Week. Scanning all of the news about the sector, as I do, it’s obvious that the Week does raise the profile of the public libraries. Most interestingly, the libraries minister himself, Michael Ellis, was seen in a public library or two, and even spoke about them, and I understand that even the DCMS minister his or herself (I see their name so rarely I can’t remember) was seen to show a momentary interest too. All the normal allies of libraries – basically, authors and the Guardian – raised their interest and it was notable that the BBC mentioned it a few times too. Most public libraries these days, unlike back when it started, marked the week as did Libraries Connected. And, of course, befitting the origin of the Week in protest, Labour used it to publish the result of a cuts survey. Much of the publicity, indeed the majority, was positive and that’s great because, frankly, the two things Joe Public thinks they know is that libraries are closing (they’re not, massively, but rather being hollowed out) and are becoming outdated due to ebooks (just no).

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The good and the bad

Editorial

I was asked this weekend why there’s only bad news in Public Libraries News. Well, there isn’t. A look at the stories today (and I’ve, honestly, not done a special feel-good edition) shows a 11:2 ratio of stories that are positive comparted to two which could be taken as negative in the national and international news. However, in the local news, the situation is reversed with the ratio being 13 :5  negative to positive.  Well, that’s interesting. I suspect part of the reversed polarity here is that, quite simply, there’s quite a few cuts going on in the UK when compared to elsewhere. Certainly, the news I see from the EU, Australia and New Zealand is almost all about investment and new ideas and even in Trumpian USA, there’s a more positive feel, although how long that will last is open to question. But I do do some editing – for example, I only cover a smattering of the enormous number of ACE-funded theatre shows in libraries covered because, well, it’s not really news to anyone else but those wanting to go. And I must admit to taking the decision to not cover the business event in Northamptonshire libraries, although perhaps I should have done (especially to balance out the unremitting disasters otherwise now associated with that borough once lauded as fantastic innovators) because there’s a ton of those as well everywhere. I just assume everyone knows they’re happening. So it’s bias but, hopefully, justified. Let me know if you think otherwise.

But, yes, there’s a lot of good stuff going in the UK too and it’s easy to forget that. In local news, it’s the bad stuff – the cuts – that gets the attention not the good. It’s like that phrase “If it bleeds, it leads” and that’s what PLN reflects when I summarise the reportage. I try to include both the good and the bad and while I once, yes, only really covered the bad news (PLN was described, approvingly as it happens, as “agitprop” in 2011) that’s no longer the case. If one wants a largely only a good news storyline then the Taskforce blog (and I’m not criticising them, I understand the reasoning and I’d do the same in their shows) is the way to go. I imagine Libraries Connected, if it ever does do news (and there’s not much of it at the mo) will be the same.

However, if you have good news to share – and I know many library authorities do – and you want it covered in PLN then I will. Do send in a few words (no more than 200) to me at ianlibrarian@live.co.uk and I will see what I can do.

By the way, a note on Devon having 60,000 new members reported last time. I think this is the gross figure but, overall, the loss of existing members means it has seen a reduction in gross terms: from 104,445 in 2015/16 to 98,412 in 2016/17 according to CIPFA.

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A “New Radical” library service, more no fines, and some sad news

Editorial

Libraries Unlimited, although not untouched by controversy, is having a rather food year. It has taken over neighbouring library service Torbay, claims 60,000 new members and is now being held up as a model for others to follow. Other news includes the now normal smattering of staff cuts, new volunteer libraries, reviews, co-locations and, more thankfully, a multi-million pound repair jobs. Also increasingly normal now are reports of library services removing fines. There is now stronger evidence than ever before that removal of fines does not affect returns and can increase use. I expect to see more library services, who can afford it (or who can persuade their councillors it makes excellent public relations) going down this route. Finally, on a sad note, there’s been news that long-time library campaigner Alan Gibbons has lost a son in a road accident. See the fundraising page below and do read the poem, even thought it may have you in tears afterward.

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In praise of Chris Riddell and Neil Gaiman

Editorial

There’s been a few things which have been brilliant in the last ten years of public libraries. The Orkney Library Twitter account (and their wannabe rivals Shetland) is one. The Summer Read Challenge as well The brilliant art of Chris Riddell and words of Neil Gaiman have been another. They’ve both been resolutely pro library for all of this period, with some of the best advocacy artwork and writing coming from them. Do have a read of their essay in pictures and feel proud of being involved in libraries.  Michal Ellis MP, Conservative minister, clearly thinks big new libraries is another good thing in the last decade – me too – although doubtless in his case it’s more a look-what’s-that-behind-you and a nothing-to-do-with-me excuse to the deep cuts in library funding and usage since his party came into office.

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Crowning achievement

Editorial

The big news, especially for those who have been following the drama these last two years, is the announcement that Crown Street Library in Darlington will stay open. This simply would not have happened without the strong public response to the new, the campaigning and protest and, indeed, the legal challenge. The real challenge, though, now will see what the surviving library will look like – the fear is that cuts will be made to staffing and that other services will be brought in, reducing the space and “offer” that has made the library so successful in the first place. But, for now, well done Darlington campaigners. Well done.

Other news that strikes the eye is the large amount of refurbishment going on in Hampshire – well done again – and the confirmation that open technology, which is relatively slowly but surely spreading like self-service did, will be universally adopted in Bracknell Forest. Finally, interesting to note King’s Lynn – not a name that shouts urban deprivation to me – has had to call in the security guards. As a result, I’ve started a twitter poll on security guards in libraries which I’d love it if you could contribute to. Thank you.

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Themes of fewer fines, US ideology, co-locations and the increasingly obvious failure of CIPFA

Editorial

Public Libraries News is back, due to PlusNet slightly messing up a change in internet provider, from a longer than expected Summer break. There are a few main themes over the last few weeks. The first is that there is a continuing move away from charging fines, especially in the USA, that can only be applauded. I also love the idea of providing free telephone access and utilizing Instagram for storytelling. For those entirely envious of our American friends, though, it’s also noticeable that libraries there are under ideological attack from, normally, right-wing evangelical and pro-gun sources. The furore, easily findable on the internet, over drag queen storytimes is quite amazing and compares badly with their easy reception in the UK. Speaking from the standard anti-gun position prevalent in the UK. moreover, it’s easy also to be horrified by the need in some US states to allow the public to come in with hidden firearms.

In England, there’s a continued move towards combining public libraries with other services, often in new but smaller builds. This has clear budgetary and footfall advantages but is sometimes somewhat over the top, as in Newcastle where someone thought it would be a good idea to include a drug and rehabilitation centre in the same building as the children’s library – a move that has not gone down well with residents, especially as this aspect of the development was kept secret until the last moment.

The continued, and embarrassing, failure of the public library sector to get its act together over statistics has hotted up with the Taskforce publicly pointing out the shortcomings of the ridiculously old-fashioned, limited and egregiously expensive CIPFA statistics. The current provision is redolent of the 1950s in its slowness, limitations and blatant secrecy but also combines profiteering so any improvement is to be welcomed. For that to happen, though, the multitude of risk-averse public library services need to actually be willing to openly share data. What they’re scared of – the public becoming aware of reduced usage and cuts in budgets as a result – has already come to pass but this has not yet resulted in concrete action. One hopes the day will come soon.

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There was a time …

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The guide to using the BookStart Bear includes unexpected horrors

A funny thing happened on the way around the library

Editorial

A few “extra” features today, Craft Council have been in touch about their collections and resources for library loan and Silva Linings have similarly contacted in order to let libraries know about a carer-based theatre show they’d love to tour in libraries. There’s also an email from Bristol to let everyone know about the weekly lunchtime lectures they put on there. I love this sharing of info and glad to be service. But I must say I love the idea of entering librarianship “to engage my passion for pushing in other people’s chairs” (and if you don’t know why, you don’t work in a library) even more. And the BookStart Bear guidelines absolutely cracked me up. Working in libraries, I often think one has to have a sense of humour and it’s not shown on PLN enough. What funny thing has happened to you recently?

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Joanne Fitzpatrick, library manager, student and … witch

2018: when merely being life-changing is not enough

Editorial

There are now two councils, Northamptonshire and East Sussex, who have announced that they aim to provide a “legal minimum” level of service. This is due to deep (nearly 50%) cuts in government funding since 2010 and, at least in the case of Northants, fairly gross financial incompetence. It’s suspected that more will be added to the list. So, that’s bad news for libraries. The sector has “statutory” protection but that is overseen by the DCMS minister who has resolutely failed to effectively uphold any standards in the past and has yet to intervene despite some fairly (75%+ I believe) cuts in some council library services. And it’s not even like English public libraries have any standards to begin with, although they once did. I like the “libraries change lives” motto but when councils are aiming for a “We’ll try not to be directly responsible for killing anybody” level of service, merely life-changing may not be enough.

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