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

Cuts to CILIP and Surrey: Scotland and Libraries Connected gain

Editorial

CILIP are going through a major change, with 11 out of 54 posts being lost. Library services have had ample experience of that sort of thing so we all know what that feels like. Wishing them all the best for the future. Surrey are also having a major, major, major cut – with a cut in usage of 25% since 2010 being used – get this – to justify an over 50% cut in funding and ignoring all the other cuts there since 2010. So that’s not fixed in any way, no sir. There’s good news, on the other hand, from Scottish libraries, with £450k for various library projects and from Libraries Connected who have got £75k from ACE for regional work. I have no idea what the latter means but the press release makes it sound like a good thing so here’s hoping.

Changes

Ideas

National news

  • £450,000 funding boost for public libraries in Scotland – Press and Journal. “Successful bids were announced by Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, at Haddington library as part of the Public Library Improvement Fund (PLIF). A total of £238,107 has been allocated to support the nine projects, five of which are collaborative bids involving more than one library service and partners. The remaining funds will be used for national library initiatives, such as Every Child A Library Member, One Card and Book Week Scotland”
  • Book spend by England’s public libraries falls below £30m – BookSeller. “Spending by public libraries in England on printed books fell 20% year-on-year in the 12 months to end March 2018 to £29.1m (£36.3m the previous…”
  • David Walliams calls for ‘safeguarding’ of libraries – Guardian. “David Walliams, the comedian turned bestselling children’s author, has called for the “safeguarding” of libraries. Walliams, author of Mr Stink and Gangsta Granny, said that “access to reading” should be improved. Imagining what he would do if he were prime minister, Walliams, 47, told Radio Times magazine: “I’d … introduce new laws on children’s literacy.” … ““I used to go to the library every couple of weeks with my mum and dad and get out books like Stig of the Dump and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” he said.” … “His comments come after an analysis of government figures revealed that libraries in England have had their funding slashed for the fifth year in a row. The Library Campaign, a national charity, said further cuts to stretched services were “like taking a hammer to a wall that’s already full of holes”.” Walliams calls for better access to reading, ‘safeguarding’ of libraries – BookSeller.
  • Libraries Connected awarded funding for regional development – Libraries Connected. “Libraries Connected has been awarded £75,000 from the Arts Council to explore the support required by our regional networks. The project will focus on identifying how existing regional structures can be developed to make best use of the skills, expertise and capacity within the sector.” … “While Libraries Connected is funded as a Sector Support Organisation, their resources are largely directed towards national work. Providing support at a local and regional level will be a step change in delivering impactful sector development to help libraries to meet the structural challenges they face” … “Activist Group will lead on the first stage of the project, consulting with key stakeholders to build a business case and proposal for a future regional support offer. The project will also have a reference group made up of heads of service and senior managers” … “The project will also provide an independent facilitator to work with each regional structure over a period of six months to identify its existing skills, expertise and capacity, and to create a clear set of shared objectives focusing on initiatives that cannot be easily achieved by individual services acting alone.”
  • New CILIP structure and strategy from 2019 – CILIP. “While we have begun to see the first indications of membership growth in Q3 and Q4 of 2018, this growth has not happened quickly enough to offset the financial impact of a cheaper membership model. At the same time, a number of our trading activities (which normally offset fluctuations in membership) have experienced a very challenging year. ” … “Because of the size of our team (c. 54 people) and the need to deliver a completely new structure, all posts were initially put at risk of redundancy other than that of the Chief Executive. ” … “As a result of the consultation, 11 posts have been identified for redundancy plus two contracts which were scheduled to end in 2019 will not be renewed. A small number of vacancies have also been identified which will be advertised for internal and external recruitment. … “It is not appropriate to publish a list of redundant posts or their postholders” … “we do encourage members to contact Nick Poole nick.poole@cilip.org.uk) with any concerns “

Axiell Selflib
International news

  • New Zealand – 27,000 books to be decontaminated, library closed due to toxic mould – Stuff. “The Waikanae Public Library will remain closed for the foreseeable future following a discovery of Stachybotrys​ mould, known to be dangerous to humans.” … “Found in wet-damaged, cellulose-rich material such as Gib, ceiling tiles, wallpaper and carpet, Stachybotrys can produce toxins that suppress the immune system and cause cancer. “
  • USA – A Librarian Was Targeted And Killed After She Banned A Man From The Library – Buzzfeed News. “”We believe this was not a random act, and we do believe that the victim was targeted,” Chandler said. On Oct. 13, police were called to the library after Seay caused a disturbance, Chandler said. Seay, who had been living a few miles from the library for several months, was presented with a no trespassing order. Clark was the supervisor of the library branch and was working at that time. “That is the only contact that we are aware of between the suspect and the victim,” Chandler said.”
  • USA – Meet Baltimore’s longest tenured employee: A 77-year-old library staffer who’s been on the job 56 years – MSN. “That’s the stubborn streak in me,” Whitt said of her career’s longevity. “I like doing what I do. If you’re doing something you hate, why would you do it? I’ve been blessed working at Pratt. Not a lot of people can say that about their job.””

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeen – £24k in fines handed out by Aberdeen libraries – Evening Express. Newspaper concentrates on library service fining its users rather than number of memberships etc.
  • Bexley – Bexley Council budget: £50k savings from community libraries planned – News Shopper. “One proposal tabled by officers has been to reduce the grant the council gives to six community libraries by 20 per cent, which would save £50,000.”
  • Derbyshire – Proposals to change the way libraries are run to be considered – Derbyshire County Council. “Innovative proposals to change the way our libraries are run are due to be considered at a meeting next week “. More money and support to be given to volunteer libraries.
  • Devon – A message from our Chief Executive – Libraries Unlimited. Ciara Eastell: “I’ve been leading the library service in Devon for 10 years and have seen the service through enormous changes.  Working with staff from across the county during that time, we’ve been able to forge a powerful vision for libraries and their role at the heart of our local communities.  The culmination of that work has been the creation of Libraries Unlimited – a public service mutual that has achieved so much in its first 3 years”
  • Essex – 1 in 5 children can’t read well by 11….so don’t close libraries – Gazette News / Letters. “I would urge people to take part in Essex County Council’s survey on libraries which is open until February 20 and can be accessed on their website. Unless we all make our voices heard they will continue be a low hanging fruit that is picked by an authority desperate to make savings due to central government funding reductions.”
    • County-wide libraries overhaul could see hours cut back at town library – Dunmow Broadcast. “The number of hours Dunmow library is open could reduce by more than a half under proposals”
    • Political View by Coun John Mason, party leader, Rochford District Residents – Leigh Times. “If austerity is over why should rochford start losing our libraries?” … “ECC has no data about residents that are using the library service without making any book transactions. For example, people studying or using resources in the library without borrowing items, attending events or using the library as a place to meet friends or attend clubs, using the computers – Universal Credit – book clubs, charity events, junior readers and local displays like Remembrance. The list is endless.”
    • Libraries boss: We want views on next chapter – Gazette News. “Susan Barker, County Cabinet Member for Customer and Corporate, also said she did expect there to be the degree of negative reaction to the plans, which were publicised last month.But the Conservative, who has faced opposition from her own party on the matter, has stood her ground.” … “Under the plans, many of the libraries could be kept open if volunteers are happy to run them. Mrs Barker denied this aspiration could be unrealistic, a claim which has been made by many campaigners who say paid staff with expertise should still work in them.”
  • Lancashire – Bamber Bridge library is back open after two years – Blog Preston. “Bamber Bridge library has reopened after being closed for two years. The building in Station Road was due to be taken on by a Scouts group but Lancashire County Council pulled out of the deal. The Conservative-led administration promised in its manifesto to re-open libraries across the county which had been closed by the previous Labour administration. County councillor Barrie Yates reopened the library, which has 4,000 books, on Tuesday (11 December).”
  • Leeds – Leeds City Council set to offer free sanitary products – BBC. “Free sanitary products should be provided in schools and libraries in Leeds, according to a report to the the city council. The scheme, which aims to tackle period poverty, is to be discussed by senior councillors next week. The report also advises the council to lobby the government to declassify sanitary products as luxury items and remove the 5% VAT currently payable.”
  • Northamptonshire – The new plan for Northamptonshire libraries explained – Northants Telegraph. Summary of the situation so far.
    • Funds are ‘appropriate’ to invest in libraries says county council chief – Northants Chronicle. “A judicial review win for library campaigners has helped to bring forward the new proposals to retain a number of libraries which were previously at threat of closure by the authority. A consultation has started today on the proposals, and will end on February 6. The scheme includes roughly £1 million being ‘invested’ into the libraries through Section 106 funds. The ring-fenced funds are allocated to capital projects for infrastructure, but they cannot be used to run the library services themselves.”
  • Oxfordshire – Teenager urges writers to take part in libraries story competition – Oxford Mail. “Now in its fifth year, the competition showcases talented new writers in the county by making their stories available for any library user to read for free on the Overdrive eBook service – an online extension of the county’s network of more than 40 libraries”
  • Pembrokeshire – New library to open in Haverfordwest town centre – Western Telegraph. “The development, including a library, gallery, visitor information and coffee shop, is the result of an exciting partnership between Pembrokeshire County Council and the National Library of Wales. Funding to build the facility came from a range of sources including Pembrokeshire County Council, Welsh Government, the Wolfson Foundation, the Foyle Foundation, and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.”
  • Sheffield – Keep lifeline libraries open over festive period – Yorkshire Post / Letters. “when many places which may normally be open will be shut for the holidays. Professionally staffed libraries provide an antidote to this loneliness and they can be what keeps people going through periods like Christmas.”
  • Staffordshire – New library opens its doors – Staffordshire Newsroom. “The city centre library on the ground floor of the former St Mary’s Church, Lichfield, will welcome the public from 9am on Monday, December 17th. It is the culmination of a £1.4m investment over two years which also sees a tourist information centre installed on the ground floor and a versatile venue with gallery, heritage and performance space on the first floor, along with a history access point for digitised archive collections.”
  • Surrey – Surrey Archaeological Society fears for future of historic artefacts as libraries are ‘reshaped’ – County Border News. “They fear the skilled workforce protecting the manuscripts and writings could be lost under proposals by Surrey County Council (SCC) to restructure its library and cultural services. The council is now entering its final few weeks of consulting on cutting its cultural budget for 2019/20 by more than half from £8.7m to £4m.”
  • Thurrock – Ambitious council plans to save Thurrock libraries approved – Thurrock Gazette. Five year plan approved. Council makes point they’re investing in libraries, not closing them as in neighbouring Essex.
  • Thurrock Council- ‘no libraries will be closing’ – Braintree and Witham Times. “It guarantees that the borough’s 10 libraries will remain open with some being redeveloped into community hubs which will see other services integrated with the libraries.Among them will be learning facilities, health and well-being support and arts and culture events. Details on how the changes will be funded are limited but it is stated in the strategy that it will come from a “mixture of council investment and exploring income generation through different means”.”
  • Wandsworth – Loan a tablet as easily as a book at Balham and Putney Libraries – 2CQR / GLL. “For users the self-­‐service tablets make access simple to all types of digital and electronic media. They are ideal for workshops and events with content easily tailored to different target groups. Smaller and more compact than PCs, the tablets are space saving, portable and, for privacy, wiped clean when returned to the docking station.”
  • Warrington – Most borrowed library books in Warrington revealed – Warrington Worldwide. “Topping the list of most popular reads for adults was the gripping family drama The Affair, by Amanda Brook, while Jessica Parrish’s storybook The Adventure of Pugalugs was the most-borrowed children’s book.”
  • West Sussex – Crawley Library chalks up birthday milestone – Crawley Observer. “During the decade it’s been open, the library has welcomed more than 1,000 visitors a day on average”
  • Western Isles – Western Isles mobile library service could be scrapped – BBC. “The isles’ local authority, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, has sought £177,000-worth of savings through a redesign of the service. After an assessment of four options, council officers have suggested scrapping the current model and replacing it with “community hubs”.”
    • Western Isles mobile library service to continue – BBC. “After an assessment of four options, council officers had suggested scrapping the current model and replacing it with “community hubs”. But councillors voted 16-12 to retain the mobile libraries. Two new vans are now to be purchased, one for Lewis and Harris while the other could be allocated to North and South Uist.”

UK public library funding and usage both decline by 4% 2017/18. Coincidence?

Editorial

The newest comprehensive (well. OK, eight months after the event and missing one-fifth of all library services) annual Cipfa figures on public library performance have been released. They show a decline in usage of 4% mirrored by a cut in budget of the same, not taking into account the cut of around a further 2% due to inflation. Staffing is down by 4%, volunteer hours up by nearly the same and book issues down by around 5%. So it’s all around the similar amount. Correlation does not however imply causality but they’ve been similar-ish for years and there have notably not been such declines in use in the USA where funding has stayed fairly stable.

Well, that’s my take. Tim Coates, quoted in both the Guardian and the BookSeller, denies any impact caused by budget cuts and places the blame squarely on librarians being incompetent. So, if I’m being as balanced as those two sources, I guess it could be that as well. What does your direct personal experience tell you? I know which mine does.

Changes

Ideas

  • Calmness packs – include lava lamps, aromatherapy and noise cancelling headphones but, weirdly, no books.
  • Guerilla kindness – leaving positive messages in books.

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Well, at least in one way, UK public libraries are leading the way on privacy

Editorial

The launch of the very good guide to privacy for library staff was a nice surprise – befittingly, they kept that quiet – as it is very well written and includes an excellent call to arms by Aude Charillon as well as useful tips and examples. Do have a read. Sadly, I think the only thing many public library services are currently leading on privacy-wise is not sharing their performance data. There’s an excellent article by Libraries Stats on the continuing drama of CIPFA trying to control access to library figures (or, rather, “professionally collate” them and then refuse to give them to anyone who does not have £650) and also the rather poor record of some library services in sharing their data on request. This is a very ironic shame, and shameful, for library services. I was taught in library school that we were signposts to people, not locked doors, but that does not seem to be the case for many. I hope the trend towards Open Data apparent elsewhere finally reaches the library sector soon.

Well, I don’t often mention my own library service on the website, for obvious reasons of the need to keep work and blog separate. But it would be off of me if I did not mention Cheshire West and Chester Council library service winning not just the Transformation award for which it was entered but also the Overall Award as well, and it would also be wrong if I did mentioned they’re my employer. So, well done colleagues, well done library service and well done the Guardian for their continuing support for libraries. That’s at least something that’s not secret.

Changes

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Big dip in Summer Reading Challenge take-up, volunteers report and a libraries roadmap

Editorial

Three things catch my eye this post. The first is the decline in the Summer Reading Challenge figures this year – a 8% drop is quite serious. From talking to various people, the view is that those library services still doing outreach (and most specifically school assemblies) for it are doing far better than those who no longer do such things. There may be other factors – the theme (possibly, although I liked the Beano myself) and the weather – but, dudes, when you no longer tell people about your product, or can’t afford to d so, then people may not get to know about it. I don’t need an MA in Librarianship to work that out. Speaking of not needing qualifications (wow, I’m getting good at links, nine years in to this PLN thing), I include a report from Deepings volunteer library, which is reportedly going from strength to strength. What’s happening to volunteer libraries is a source of much heated debate – from those who say they’re abjectedly awful to those who thing they’re brilliantly brilliant – but good to hear from the people themselves, until there’s some actual research carried out.

Finally, CILIP, Libraries Connected and Carnegie have got together to look at how public libraries should evolve, with reference to what’s happening internationally as well as in this country. Good to see. It’s be fascinating to see what they come up with. I can say, though, from researching this for the last decade, that there’s no magic pill out there. It’s all down to having the resources, as well as the will, to change – and the strength and wisdom to know when not to change and avoid the shiny. Having said that, I’d like a funded research trip if there’s one going …

Ideas

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UN special report on the UK highlights plight of public libraries

Editor

To be honest, I was expecting the report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on poverty and human rights in the UK to have, at most, one glancing link to libraries. But how wrong I was. I guess I’m used to UK government reports who are, the best efforts of the Libraries Taskforce notwithstanding, often ignore public libraries. Philp Alston, the rapporteur, is Australian and thus comes from a country with a well-funded and advances public library system and, gosh, it shows. Word search comes up with fifteen uses of the word library in the report and some of them are very direct and damning. They highlight the importance of public libraries and the damage cuts to them are causing. Mr Alston also points out the peremptory  decision to fund Citizens Advice to do the job libraries are already doing may not have been the best. I like this chap and you will too. The Government meanwhile has, rather ironically, denied it is in denial, and gone straight back to fighting over Brexit. Hey ho.

Other news today includes the fall out over the deep cut in Essex (the deepest of a UK library service this year) but, thankfully, no further bad news. There’s a very good TED talk on why library services should not be exacting fines. If you are interested in this, I’ve done a summary of the current global situation here and also, to my mind at least, a hard-hitting and humourous article here. Finally, I’m delighted to have evaluation expert write a special article for you on how to get to know your users and non-users. It is of course well worth a read.

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It’s that time of year again – Essex announce one-third cut, Kent £1m

Editorial

It’s that time of year when councils need to announce their budget plans for next year if they are to have enough time to consult. Hence, Newcastle’s one third cut last post and this post’s news of a one-third cut, with up to 43 libraries closing or turning volunteer, in Essex and Kent’s £1 million cut. This will all deeply affect library provision in each of the services, with Essex being the stand-out due to the sheer number of libraries involved. It’s not often over 40 are threatened. The last time I clearly recall was Lancashire and, as news in this very post shows, that surprisingly ended with may reopening. Essex are at pains to show they have consulted already on the shape of their service and will consult on the proposals. It’s worth remembering the ultimate reasons for these cuts lie not with Essex or Kent or Newcastle but with the central government’s decision to continue austerity in practice, if not in name. There’s a petition about that if you’ve not already signed – it seems to have stalled again at just under 30,000 so now would be a good time.

I wrote a fairly critical editorial about Cardiff a short while ago and have given the council the right of reply below. Interestingly, and I have had a look, what I said and what Cardiff say, are not mutually exclusive. It’s all down to one’s point of view. As is so much else, especially I suspect in Essex today.

Changes by local authority

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Unbothered petition response, CIPFA as an active barrier to library data, and Newcastle woes

Editorial

A few things this week, led by the Governments unbothered response to the libraries petition. In a standard cut-and-paste response, the reply is that everything is fine, the Government is putting loads of money in and that funding is, anyway, a local matter. Everyone knows the first two are – shall we say? – not entirely accurate and the third one is, along with austerity, the problem in the first place and indeed the whole point of the petition. The takeaway from this is that library users will have to shout a lot louder to make a difference. So get more names on that petition, please. The second big thing over the last few days that angered me was reading a letter from CIPFA strongly encouraging local library services to avoid handing out usage data. As discussed below, this letter is only the latest piece of evidence strengthening the view that CIPFA is past its sell-by date and is now actively part of the problem and not part of the solution. But read the letter, and CIPFA’s reply, as well in order to make up your own mind.

The biggest bit of local news is the cutting by over a third of Newcastle’s library budget, including to the flagship Central library and the recently invested in East End Library. Forced by central cuts to council budget – and thus proving the lie to the Government’s petition response – the reductions will result in much false economy for what was once, but probably not for much longer, a top-notch library service. Also in the news, we have a whole array of previously largely standalone libraries moving into joint locations. Well, it’s cheaper and there may be some mutual benefits but the suspicion is that these are disguised cuts to the service, not improvements. I hope to be proved wrong on that.

But finally, a piece of joy. One library service is allowing any well-behaved dog – not just guide dogs – into its libraries on Fridays. Speaking as someone whose dog is currently dozing on my left, I have to strongly encourage that. There’s an article I briefly saw saying that “dogs are the new library cat” and I hope that is never proved wrong. Woof.

Changes by local authority

Ideas

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Cardifficulty

Editorial

Sad news from Cardiff, as it has become apparent the council is severely cutting the library service by stealth, cutting many paid and experienced library staff under the guise of a reorganisation. Time has shown that this is the easiest way to gut a public library service without having significant public protest. A closed library causes placards but one renamed a hub with half the floorspace and staff causes annoyance but little more. News received last week – and confirmed by exchanges on social media – is that many of the staff remaining are being quietly pushed out, with housing managers taking over many of the top jobs. You may not see this in the press but you will see sadly see this if you go to one of the libraries. Councils are learning to camouflage their cuts but the damage to the community will, I fear, not be so easily disguised.

Changes by local authority

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Petition hits over 24,600: tell a friend

Editorial

It’s great to see the petition to safeguard libraries for funding reaching (at time of posting) 24,582 signatures. This is already making an impact, with it being used in evidence when CILIP and others met with the libraries minister and others yesterday. I’d forgotten but there was another one back in 2012 and that, in six months, reached 17,569 names and the new one has five months left to go. Every extra person signing is that little bit extra pressure, and that little bit more evidence that libraries matter. Tell a friend.

Changes

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Libraries petition hits 15,000, helping to influence government

Editorial

It’s been great over the weekend to see the outpouring of support for public libraries for the “Protect library services by ringfencing government funding for libraries” petition. On Thursday, it looked like the petition would not reach 8,000 but due to the support of many people commenting on how important libraries are and retweeting, it hit the magic 10,000 – where the government needs to respond – on Saturday lunchtime and is now at a respectable 15,401 and going up at a couple per minute when checked. Notable supporters include – squee! – JK Rowlling, Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman, Malorie Blackman, Joanne Harris and Frank Cottrell Boyce and a ton of other authors. Thank you to Frances Belbin for starting the petition and to everyone who has taken part. It’s not over yet: the petition stays on the books until 24 March 2019 and if it hits 100,000 then it needs to be debated in parliament. It’s a dream. None of us are foolish enough I think to believe this will change government policy but it keeps the pressure up, means every one of us can do something and keep the snowball rolling. And it gives help. Sign now if you haven’t already – it takes 30 seconds and you need to confirm your email address – and tell others. It will give you, and libraries, hope. and the government a reason to think about libraries. I understand it is already helping in conversations with them.

My thanks also to my old tutor, Dr Bob Usherwood, who has taken the time to write below. It’s worth a read. And, yes, I know I am publishing pieces opposed to eachother but, well, I should . It’s what being balanced is all about.

Changes by local authority

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