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.

Homepage: http://www.publiclibrariesnews.com


Posts by Ian Anstice

Hayle Library, Cornwall

The South West Has All The Best Library Views

Editorial

Many thanks to those who have sent in pictures of their libraries.  I thought my view of a pet shop from my office was good until I saw some of these.  It looks like, though, that the South West of England has all the best views.  The one that kicked it all off was from as South West as one can get, the Scilly Isles, and the ones featured today are from Devon and Cornwall.  Mind you, the Americans really took it to heart when I posted the picture on the ALA Think Tank (ALATT) Facebook group: have a look at the pictures here.  ALATT, by the way, is an informal and friendly group where librarians post queries, curiosities and funny things that have happened.  There’s nothing like it I’m aware of in the UK … but I have been tempted to start one up.  Let me know if you want to give it a try.  Email address as usual is ianlibrarian@live.co.uk.

I must also point out the great idea that is storyspheres.  This gives you a chance not only to show the items you want on the internet but also to add sound files to them.  So that a library user could potentially “walk” around your library virtually and listen to stories (or the relevant sounds of the place) as they do so.  I’ve plugged this a few times and I do think that it’s worth a go.  Have a look at the video below for further delectation.

Salcombe Library in Devon

Salcombe Library in Devon

 

 

Another view from the lovely Salcombe

Another view from the lovely Salcombe

Hayle Library, Cornwall

Hayle Library, Cornwall

Hayle again: imagine what it looks like when the sun is shining

Hayle again: imagine what it looks like when the sun is shining

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changes

National

  • Conference nuggets from Wales - Alyson’s Welsh Libraries Blog. Lots of important notes. “Overall, the conference seemed to have a ‘ready for action’ and uplifting buzz and there was lots of mention of working together, particularly from the overall winner of the Welsh Librarian of the Year award Mark Hughes from Swansea University library.”
  • How to Listen to a Library using a Story Sphere – “If any library does not jump on this, I will be in despair” Mike Downes / Youtube.
  • Top 5 Reasons why Writers Love Libraries - Time to Read. Reasons are the books, the buildings, atmosphere, resources and “the adventure”.
  • Tree Week: London’s green and pleasant land - BBC. Article originally said “Like the libraries, we are not a statutory service” until it was pointed out them that libraries are a statutory service.
  • Why we love Novellas - Time to Read. “My personal experience in trying to talk to librarians about novellas is that they often don’t really know what they are, or certainly haven’t given them much thought as a distinct “genre”” … ” in many respects they do deserve to be picked out and given a space of their own, in order to help some library users” … “Directing people to the Novella Award gives us one more reason to pick out the novellas from our stocks and display them prominently. Some library services did this last year and report that readers were interested in the collections and borrowed enthusiastically. Tameside Libraries is one of these, where titles in a collection of 48 novellas have issued 359 times in just over 12 months. “

International news

  • Firm Donates Library To Riverine School – Guardian (Nigeria). Texaco donates “a hybrid library with a building, equipped with Internet facilities and other basic amenities to Ilaje High School”
  • A Food Truck for the Brain! Edmonton Public Library Releases Video Commercial for EPL2Go – Infodocket (USA). “EPL2Go vans appear around the city providing, “a full suite of services, including puppet shows and family storytimes, as well as digital fun with iPads, robotics, gaming and more. To learn more, take a look at a new video commercial for the EP2Go service that was shared on YouTube earlier today.”
  • Rijeka City Library prepares children and youth for a high-tech future – EIFL (Croatia). “The printing incubator was initiated with support from EIFL’s Public Library Innovation Programme (EIFL-PLIP). It has helped to transform our library into a community ‘makerspace’ – the first place in Rijeka to give young people free access to 3D printers and training so that they can learn to make toys, tools, ornaments, souvenirs and much more.”
  • San Antonio Public Library Opens 6,000 Sq. Ft. Teen Library Inside Central Branch – La Prensa (USA) (via InfoDocket). “hopes teens will use the space to collaborate, develop ideas together and build a community. More importantly though, he hopes it will become a place they can call their own. The 6,000 square foot Teen Library includes a lab that allows teens to explore 3D printing and emerging technologies, a recording studio with custom made sound panels, a Wi-Fi lounge area, a gaming space, a computer lab with Mac desktops, and of course, a teen book and resource collection. The collection offers an array of teen fiction novels, STEM materials, as well as Manga and graphic novels. “If you want to begin learning how to play a guitar, we can help, if you’re into sound mixing and video editing, we’ve got equipment that you can use,””
  • Then there were 100: Why the Toronto Public Library’s newest branch is the perfect modern library – Globe and Mail (Canada). “At Jane and Wilson, Black Creek branch is deep inside Sheridan Mall, where the TPL logo competes with the mall’s equally prominent Tim Hortons sign. Good thing that in 2009, the library changed its food and drink policy to permit eating and drinking, so you don’t have to make that difficult choice.” … new library has “beautifully realized the role it plays in the evolution of the commons in 2015, where the light is abundant and the WiFi is free.”

Local news by authority

  • Barnet - Petition - Change.org. “I am asking you to stop your outsourcing plans for the following services: • Education & Skills and School Meals services • Library Service • Early Years: Children’s Centres • Adult Social Care • Street Scene Services”
  • Birmingham – Demonstrate for the Library of Birmingham (and the wider library service) Saturday 13 June - Birmingham Against the Cuts. “The Friends of the Library of Birmingham has decided to call a demonstration on Saturday June 13th. It will be to oppose the drastic cuts to the LoB in terms of its opening hours, staff cuts and restrictions on the services it has been offering. It will assemble at the Waterstones book shop at the bottom of New Street at 12 noon and then march up New Street for a rally at the Council House at 1pm.”
  • Cornwall – Still time to have your say on Cornish libraries consultation - Western Morning News. “Cornwall Council launched a consultation after it was announced that library hours would be cut and the mobile services abandoned as it looked to save some £1.3 million next year.”
  • Devon – Chair of a new Libraries Mutual for Devon – Devon council. “We are looking for an experienced Chair to provide independent, ambitious and informed leadership at the critical stage in the organisation’s development. The Chair will have an important role in the launch of the new organisation; acting as its public face and raising its profile across Devon”
  • Hertfordshire – Library marks 50 years on Hitchin town centre site with events showcasing wider history – Cornet. “These are changing times for Hertfordshire’s libraries, with a wide-ranging restructure under way which will introduce a new three-tier structure and emphasise the place of each book base at the centre of its community. ” A look at the history and changes in the public library over the last half century.
  • Lancashire – Library books prescribed for dementia – Lancaster Guardian. “Events have been organised in libraries and museums to mark Dementia Awareness Week, which runs until Saturday May 23 and will include dementia friends’ sessions, a memory festival, and café and coffee mornings. “
  • Newcastle – Volunteers save Fawdon Library – ITV. “Volunteers have saved the library, based at Fawdon Community Centre, after it faced closure due to cutbacks in the council’s budgets. The library will reopen on Tuesday 26 May as a volunteer-run service. The volunteers have formed a collective called Friends of Fawdon Community Library, and will keep the facility open five days a week, Monday to Friday.” Fawdon Community Library website.
  • North Yorkshire – Costs could outweigh savings on library plan, claim campaigners – Northern Echo. “Campaigners fighting proposals to turn a library into a volunteer-run centre claim it could potentially lose the local authority more money than it would save. ” … ““This is an unconscionable waste of local resources. North Yorkshire County Council’s abnegation of responsibility in trying to force local people to run a community library is unfair and unsustainable.” The campaigners have also looked at the terms of the agreement drawn up in 2005 between Broadacres and the county council, which granted the council a 999-year lease of the library space. And they claim the council could potentially end up having to pay “substantial” compensation to Broadacres on terminating the lease.”

“We the undersigned petition North Yorkshire County Council to adjust their proposals to reduce drastically or remove paid staff from our public libraries. We suggest that at least one paid member of staff be retained in each library and at least two in ‘hybrid’ libraries” Save North Yorkshire Libraries petition – “This petition was signed across nine library towns; totals follow:Helmsley (221) , Kirkbymoorside (309), Pickering (318), Malton/ Norton (161) , Easingwold & Stillington (192), Thirsk (341), Scarborough for Scalby, Eastfield and Filey libraries (144) as well as Whitby (497). The figure posted below by NYCC includes the online petition (titled same wording) using the 38 degrees facility. Total Signatories: 2,433″

Other petitions: Calling for Stokesley library to remain within county provision and not be a community library and instead be a hybrid model library; Signatories: 2,047. Against the changes/cut backs&proposed cut back of professional staff at Whitby library; Signatories: 1,677. Save Knaresborough library; Signatories: 2,035. Protest at the imminent dismissal of the Settle library staff and request that the county council retain the present staffing levels at the new library at Limestone View; Signatories: 146. Starbeck library: I strongly object to Starbeck library being downgraded to a library run only by volunteers with the local community having to raise running costs. I would like Starbeck library to remain as a library funded by the county &retaining its experienced  staff; Signatories: 444. Petitions which arrived more recently, and are shown on NYCC ‘recent petitions’: Bedale Library: 2300 signatures and Eastfield Library (Scarborough) 88 signatures.” Information from email received from Save North Yorkshire Libraries Campaign

  • Shropshire – Shropshire libraries funding to be slashed by £1.3m – Shropshire Star. “Consultation is under way to look at how the buildings and the book lending service can survive and, as one council chief claimed at a meeting, even improve. Almost 50 people attended a public meeting in Gobowen to look at how its library could continue despite council funding cuts.” … “Services will look different but they will continue and will often be better.”
  • Staffordshire – £350k cuts planned to mobile libraries in Staffordshire - Stoke Sentinel. “Staffordshire County Council published proposals for a nine-week consultation yesterday after figures revealed less than one per cent of the county’s population borrowed an item from the travelling vehicles in the year ending April 2014. The proposals, which the council says will ‘focus on prioritising a service for those who need it most’ will be examined by a cross-party committee on June 1. If the plan goes ahead the two large travelling libraries will be reduced to one and the six mobile vehicles could be reduced to two.”
  • Vale of Glamorgan – “Delighted” council call Vale library progress “a success” so far – Barry and District News. “first step towards the creation of community libraries in Rhoose, Sully, St Athan and Wenvoe has been called “a success” by the Vale council. The council have also announced new opening times for Barry library. The Vale of Glamorgan council has revealed that expressions of interest have been submitted for each of the closure threatened libraries. This step is required to keep Rhoose, Sully, Dinas Powys, St Athan and Wenvoe libraries open following the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s library strategy being agreed earlier this year.”
View from Ilfracombe Library - not bad, my friends, not bad

South Ayrshire, Bromley … and a Herts Attack

Editorial

News includes the frightening news that South Ayrshire may be closing all their libraries. That seems like an exaggeration to me … let’s see what the real story is when it emerges.  Further south, Bromley is looking at six libraries being “community-managed”.  That phrase can mean a lot of things, from basically “volunteer-run” to volunteers raising funds for a mix of paid and volunteer staff.  In other news, the Guardian reminds Ed Vaizey that he has agreed to debate Alan Gibbons and lists recent cuts announced.  The one about Hertfordshire, though, understates the problem – it’s not just “cuts to mobile libraries” but rather closing all seven of them.  Finally, my thanks to Devon for this view from one of their libraries – it may not be on the beach like Scilly but it’s still darn good.

View from Ilfracombe Library - not bad, my friends, not bad

View from Ilfracombe Library – not bad, my friends, not bad

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Is this  the most stunning view from any library in the UK?

The most beautiful library view in the world?

Editorial

Linda Thomas, the manager of St Mary’s Library in the Isles of Scilly has sent me this rather amazing picture of the view from her workplace window and has laid down the challenge to everyone: can anyone beat it? I’m looking for photos from your library so we can judge if there is any better view out there.  Send them to me at ianlibrarian@live.co.uk and we’ll see if Linda gets the kudos of Most Beautiful View From A Public Library or not.

St. Mary's Library, Isles of Scilly: Is this  the most stunning view from any library in the UK?

Is this the most stunning view from any library in the UK?

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Calm (ish)

Editorial

One week after the election and things are still quiet, although it’s hard to say the mood is optimistic …

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Ideas

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Literally taking the cake: Ed Vaizey continues, under new boss John Whittingdale

Editorial

Although utterly revolutionary in many respects, as those in public service can testify, David Cameron is very loath to change his ministers once appointed.  This can be a good thing – after all, they can learn their brief far better than if they are just parachuted in for a year or so – or it can cause groans across entire sectors who had hoped to get rid.  I’ll leave it up to you to consider which category Ed Vaizey falls into. He knows public libraries well but we know that he won’t ever intervene. However, it’s unlikely any Conservative minister would.  He’ll also put on the best possible spin on the situation, again like any minister. Tampering around the edges, as much as can be done with the prevailing belief in his party of minimal government funding combined with minimal government direction, will be what will happen. He’ll continue doing small-budget things which may at one extreme nudge national impacts e.g. over WiFi (with the first vacancies currently being advertised) or, on the other extreme, may do nothing at all.  So we know who we’re dealing with and we know he knows the service fairly well. We also know he’s agreed to debate Alan Gibbons, which should be fun to watch, especially now blood sports are (officially at least – although Mr Whittingdale is a keen supporter of fox hunting) banned.  Ed’s new boss knows libraries too and, while he may be  little distracted dismantling the BBC, he’s probably better than the uninterested Sajid Javid.

Of all the possible people that could have responsibility for the library service, therefore, under a majority Conservative government, these two (shocked gasps) are not the worst … and possibly some of the best that we can hope for amongst those eligible.  We’ll see how optimistic or pessimistic that statement is over the years to come.

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Cartoon courtesy of @noHogarth

Five more years: new boss same as the old boss?

Editorial

So now we know: the Conservatives will not only be a partner in a coalition but, to the surprise of almost all, the holders of a parliamentary majority.  Most librarians I know are fairly depressed or shocked by this but we will need to at some point work out what this means for the sector and how we will respond it.  Here are my (completely uninformed and random) thoughts:

  • There will continue to be deep cuts to public library budgets, probably on the order of 20 to 50%, depending on local authority, over the term of this new parliament. This is similar to what has happened in the last parliament but will seem, if anything, to have more impact due to the service already having been cut. Councils will be desperate to save money any which way and so there will be as great as pressure as ever to put as many services as possible into council buildings – expect libraries to move into council offices, or vice versa, at an accelerated pace.
  • There’s going to be a lot of announcements of changes, for which read cuts, over the next year or so as councils push through decisions that have been delayed until the uncertainty of this election.
  • Volunteer libraries – which have been growing quickly in number but are rather unsupported and individual – will be increasingly assisted by local councils and, especially, national government.  This will take the form of best practice, guides and expert advice and perhaps central funding.  This will be necessary as more and more libraries (another 500? more?) are given the option of closing or having the paid staff removed.
  • The government will work at reducing the ease with which legal challenges can be made. This will reduce the power of local communities to challenge cuts to libraries in court and allow councils to reduce services with little regard to pressure, beyond concerns over adverse reactions at the next election.  This last will also not be a large feature as it is now clear that, when it comes down to it, insufficient people (both politicians and voters) care enough about public libraries for it to be an important electoral issue.
  • Those working in public libraries will be given the choice of adapting to the new conditions (more council orientated work, supporting volunteers, etc) or leaving (either pre-emptively or via voluntary, even compulsory, redundancy). Being that many qualified librarians have already gone, the next five years may effectively mean the end of professionally qualified librarians being a requirement in most authorities and may spell the end of qualified public librarians as a significant force, even if they are now. “Fighting” of course, as has already been pointed out on Twitter, is also an option and will continue, as it has in the old parliament, although with a weakened impact now that the Government has a majority, although this may change closer in the next two years or so due to by-elections or closer to the next election. This campaigning may divide the profession, as seen currently in Manchester, where the decision has been made to exclude some protesters from the library, which has resulted in some fairly negative comments from the Guardian and from Voices for the Library.
  • Whoever in central government is in charge of libraries (and it may well be Mr Vaizey again: we’ll soon find out even if it has not been announced by the time you read this) will be ideologically against intervention and will provide only limited, if at all, guidance to local authorities.  “Let a hundred localised flowers bloom” will be the order of the day, very much like it has been. It will be up to councils and others – notably the taskforce and the SCL – to do what they can.  It is likely that libraries will still remain under the Arts aegis (if Arts Council England survives) rather than in more politically important sectors like education.
  • Heaven knows what will happen in Scotland.  The nation already feels notably different to the rest of the UK.
  • If you’re in paid employment in a mobile library or a small library (and even in a larger one to a lesser extent – see the cull at the Library of Birmingham for example) then you’re going to be in constant doubt about your future for the next five years. One commentator has even done this amusing cartoon to suggest a possible (rather extreme but that’s the point of cartoons) future for mobiles…
Cartoon courtesy of @noHogarth

Cartoon courtesy of @noHogarth

But, frankly, none of us really knows what will happen even in broad strokes, let alone in detail.  What I have said above is simply a continuation of what has gone before and life is rarely like that. I hope that my prognostications are proved amusing wrong in the next few years.  There remains the obvious success of public libraries (as reported today in the USA and Singapore) in other countries, where usage is increasing and – with growing inequalities between rich and poor, those online and not online – libraries are needed as never before.  There are also – sometimes competing – trends such as for the need for quiet study spaces, for out-of-school literacy and for creative workspaces that may yet give ammunition for the sector.  The only thing that we do know is that the current boss will think much the same as the old boss, but without a putatively more centrist partner, and you are best to draw your own conclusions from that.

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Ed Vaizey agrees to defend his record … if he’s around long enough

Editorial

The minister in charge of public libraries, Ed Vaizey, has agreed to debate Alan Gibbons on his record.  This follows Mr Vaizey’s claim , reported previously, that everything was fine and thriving in the sector and almost no libraries have been cut.  Alan – who as a close observer of what is happening but unaccountably has a different view on the matter – has called him out on it.  Whether the debate takes place depends on whether they both agree terms and, of course, if Mr Vaizey remains being the relevant minister after Thursday … and that depends on all of us getting out to vote, one way or another.

Legal action brought by library users over changes to their libraries has become a bit of a feature of the last five years – I look forward to Mr Vaizey explaining why this is so in such a claimed great time for the sector – but what is happening in Shropshire has its own special twist: it’s not a council-wide action but rather specifically about one library that not even be closed down but rather just moving location. How this has got to the stage of legal action in the week of the General Election is beyond me but probably is some sort of combination between strong local feeling, poor proposals, dire council need and a lack of perceived genuine willingness on behalf of the council to listen to concerns.  It promises to be an interesting one to watch.

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Alan Gibbons + Private Eye calls Ed Vaizey out on figures, the SCL … and Obama cares

Editorial

The election is near and there’s still few comments, if any, on public libraries by politicians.  The one who has said something – Ed Vaizey – has, presumably as a joke, said that there’s been no major cuts to libraries and few closures.  Well done that man for putting the best possible spin on things at least.  Alan Gibbons calls him out on his figures, using Public Libraries News statistics., as does Private Eye.  And this is the thing, Ed knows the figures are there (he declined to use them himself recently, bizarrely arguing that because they include Scottish figures, they’re outside of his remit) that show he’s being economical with the truth but he’s still doing it because he thinks not enough people care or know to do him harm. Hardly the attitude you’d want for someone in charge of public libraries and an attitude he’d have criticised all over when he was in opposition.  My reading of him so far is that Mr Vaizey was one of the best shadow library ministers  and probably one of the worst library ministers in history.

Well done, therefore, to the 14,000 public library staff who have completed the SCL E-learning programme.  There were a few technical problems with one or two of the modules but it represents a vital first stage in getting all public library staff geared up and ready to help.  Such training needs to continue.  You may well know someone who works in a public library who still is not sure how to get someone an email address.  Such lack of skills does not help the library locally, nationally, the customer or indeed the member of staff themselves.  Well done to the SCL too of course.  It shows that, although limited in scope, such an organisation can actually do things.  Let’s hope they do more … and as much as possible of it publicly and not behind closed doors, as with their recent day on “alternative delivery models” for libraries.

By the way, did you know Amazon owned Abebooks? No, me neither, but they have been for seven years.

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When librarians should fear the quiet

Editorial

It’s a quiet time at the moment doing Public Libraries News as everyone’s eyes are on the election: councils are avoiding doing much that will be averse to them or, conversely, is positive and thus fall foul of the rules of purdah. The sad thing of course is that this should be anything but a quiet time.  That the sector is not being mentioned much is worrying for it and suggests that none of the parties realise the importance of libraries as a provider of equality, literacy and social welfare.  One would have thought that they would have noticed all the protesting and campaigns.

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New worlds and growls

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