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

Children's Laureate makes the importance of libraries clear (reproduced with kind permission)

A look at the ridiculous “there’s more libraries now” claim: plus also Chris Riddell cartoon + the Grace of Libraries

Editorial

The main news this post is about a strange claim made in the Guardian, Mail and many more local papers that the number of libraries in England have gone up by 2% since 2010.  The claim appears to come from the Press Association press release linked to a DCMS report about decline in children’s use of libraries.  The suspicion is someone in a government department either made a simple error or worked out some way of adding up all the libraries in a way that has not occurred to anyone else ever, perhaps including those book collections you sometimes see in train stations and village halls.  Needless to say, the claim has roused some consternation amongst public librarians and campaigners: I’ve been able to use statistics from them (and my own pages) to prove with the official figures a decline in numbers. See below.  But, basically, we know, they know, everyone knows that the numbers have been declining – and funding has been going down precipitously more – and to claim otherwise is just plain silly. Let’s hope whoever is responsible (hi DCMS Libraries Section: can you check if you know?) is told to be a bit more careful in future.

Now on to a couple of nice things: Chris Riddell has given permission to reproduce his lovely cartoon about the importance of libraries, which is shown below and, also, Grace Kempster has kindly written a piece on the magic and grace of libraries for PLN. It’s lovely, rings a lot of bells for me and can be read here.

Changes

Ideas

Drop in younger children visiting libraries

Children's Laureate makes the importance of libraries clear (reproduced with kind permission)

Children’s Laureate makes the importance of libraries clear (reproduced with kind permission)

  • Drop in younger children visiting libraries is worrying, says Chris Riddell - Guardian. “Children’s laureate gives hand-drawn response to figures revealing 26% decline in five- to 10-year-olds who had used library in the past seven days … Riddell, an author and illustrator, said: “A drop in younger children visiting libraries is of great concern. As children’s laureate, I am passionate about the role of libraries, both in schools and in the wider community. They are unique places where children can begin their journey as readers, as well as being creative hubs. “Some of my favourite events have taken place in libraries, and over the next two years I intend to visit as many libraries as I can.”

“Book Trust research shows that reading helps close the poverty gap and is actually more important for a child’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status. Well-resourced libraries remain a gateway to equality of educational achievement and an affordable source of great pleasure. All children should have easy access to a library.”

  • Fears over literacy after it emerges fewer children are going to libraries with number visiting down by a quarter in five years - Mail. “The number of five-to ten-year-olds who had used a library in the previous seven days fell by a quarter, according to a survey by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. In 2010, 18.7 per cent of children had done so, compared to 13.8 per cent in 2014. The number who had made a trip to their library at some point over the previous 12 months had fallen from 76.4 per cent in 2010 to 67.7 per cent. There was a smaller drop in the number of five-to 15-year-olds who had used a library in the past week, down 6 per cent, and a 7 per cent fall in those who had done so at least once in the year. But the number of 11-to 15-year-olds who had visited a library in the previous week rose by 15 per cent. The fall in numbers comes despite an increase in the number of libraries. There are 3,450 libraries in England, according to the most recent figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy – an increase of 2 per cent from 2010.
  • Fewer young children visiting libraries – Express and Star. [The claim of the number of libraries increasing also appeared in 30 other local papers – Ed.]
  • Taking Part 2014/15: Annual Child ReportDCMS.  Report shows decline in children using libraries but does not include any mention of library numbers.

A look at the statistics
CIPFA’s published statistics show that the number of static and mobile libraries in England decreased from 3,426 in March 2010 to 3,142 in March 2014 – a fall of 284. There are 434 libraries with some kind of substantial volunteer involvement according to CIPFA 2013/14 Actuals, included those run by volunteers, staffed by them or funded by them.

“Static Libraries March 2010 = 3041, March 2014 = 2908, Fall = 133. Mobile Libraries March 2010 = 385, March 2014 = 234, Fall = 151″ CIPFA figures reported by Desmond Clarke on LIS-PUB-LIBS

These numbers are all as of March 2014. Public Libraries News records at least another 59 libraries having closed or being passed to volunteers since then with 320 put under threat in the same period. There’s also around another 345 volunteer libraries which have largely replaced (rather than being additional to) staffed public libraries to some extent or another. In addition to these simple changes in buildings, a look at the authority by authority pages on PLN also show cuts of 10 to 50% in funding in particular authorities. It is expected that similar cuts, with some projecting way over 50%, will be exacted on top of this by 2020.

In conclusion, to produce a press release that fails to mention budgetary cuts when trying to explain declines in library user is highly suspect, not least because other English speaking nations (Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand) which have not experienced such cuts are not experience cuts in usage of such size and, indeed, some are reporting increases in use.

National

  • The Amazing Grace of Public Libraries (or aromatherapy for local living) – Public Libraries News. Grace Kempster OBE, Customer and Libraries Manager at Northamptonshire County Council [Correction: Grace took early retirement earlier this year and is now consulting – Ed.], on the magic of public libraries. “Very quietly, often too modestly, libraries are doing something ordinary and extra ordinary in everyday lives. They are there when it counts, open when you need them, a constant, letting be the shy child from the unkempt home who spends hours pouring over her dreams and escaping to different worlds.; offering a ready smile and a welcoming joke to someone who otherwise feels “left over/behind/out” – or just invisible and aged; and offering human warmth to the rusty voiced complainer – who has not spoken with another human these past seven days.”

“Libraries are cherished for the chance for change, the delicious prospect of difference and the dance of discovery. They ‘can be’ places to think, they ‘can be’ new worlds to dream in, they ‘can be’ respite for resilience from grim reality, they ‘can be’ places where the future is decided.”

International

  • Aarhus libraries – Powering Learning – Digital Watches Are A Pretty Neat Idea (Denmark). A look at the philosophy of Arhus Library which is very successful, including introducing a digital learning programme with local schools that has since become national. “Mash up library” idea of providing the space for other organisations.
  • Adventures in GLAM: From Specialist to Public Libraries – Lianza (New Zealand). “The idea of the GLAM sector is wonderful. I love the idea that galleries, libraries, archives and museums, all those amazing places to do so much to enrich our cultural lives, can be considered as one big spectrum. Yet moving around this spectrum can be an adventure and at times take some getting used to. I worked for several years in specialist military museum libraries in the UK and only fairly recently started working in public libraries. There’s a lot that’s the same – proving excellent customer service, knowing your collections and finding aids, finding solutions to problems etc. But there are many differences – specialist libraries, particularly those with a lot of historic material, are at the opposite end of the GLAM, and the library, spectrum to public libraries.”
  • How libraries can compete with Google and Amazon – Quartz (USA). “Visit the Central branch of New York City’s Queens Library at 12:55 pm on a Tuesday, and you’ll see about 100 people outside, waiting for the doors to open. At 1 pm they file in: Some settle in the comfy saucer chairs, while others rest in armchairs facing four TVs and open a newspaper. Splashes of blue and green interrupt white walls, and computer areas are separated by category: job information, adult learning center, and “young adult learning.” But the reach of the Queens Library extends beyond the walls of its 65 physical branches. Dotting the borough are thousands of New Yorkers logged into their own mini-libraries, using the library’s mobile app to do research for homework, or the WiFi hotspots they checked out to fill in the holes in broadband access at home, or accessing e-books on one of the libraries’ tablets they can take home.”
  • Kate Torney’s new challenge: why the state library matters for Victoria - Guardian (Australia). “Many were surprised at Kate Torney’s announcement that she was leaving her position as the head of news at the ABC, for the role of CEO of the State Library of Victoria. But whatever her reasons for the move, it would be a mistake to underestimate the importance of the library to Melburnians and also what an important job lies in wait for Torney. The State Library has an imposing facade not dissimilar to those of other great public libraries such as the New York public library. But as long as you pass the bag check test, it’s a place that feels as if it belongs to the people of the city.”

“Books and librarians were to make way for more wi-fi and “casual public spaces”, and there was mild uproar. Libraries – despite their sedate reputation – are changing, and that change may involve a fight. Torney will have plenty of interesting challenges ahead of her.”

  • Major Publishers Might Revise eBook Pricing for Libraries – Good E Reader (USA). “The Association of American Publishers has just released their annual data report and e-book sales are not doing that great. In the first three months of 2015 they have plummeted 7.5% from the same period last year. In all of 2014 e-books have more or less stabilize with only 3% growth from the year prior and this is forcing publishers to evaluate their policies on selling e-books to libraries. Libraries right now are at the mercy of publishers and these companies can charge whatever they want. The new Michael Connelly novel Burning Room costs $14.99 on Amazon, but  libraries are paying $106.00 per copy.  John Grisham’s Grey Mountain costs $15.99 for a retail edition, but costs libraries $85.00. Some publishers make libraries repurchase the title after 25 loans, while others have them expire after one year. There is little consistency with the pricing, but hopefully this will change.”
  • Sculptures of Kids Made From Books to Bring Librarians Back Into Libraries - Spoon and Tomago (Japan). “We carry our childhood books with us to adulthood: the morals, the lessons, the values. In fact, “books shape who we are” has become a commonplace saying. Such so that a new campaign in Japan to bring librarians back in to libraries interprets the saying literally.” … “The campaign, which was launched earlier this year by the YCBE (Yokohama City Board of Education), utilizes sculptures of children made entirely from books. It’s a literal representation of the notion that books shape who we are. The sculptures in various educational settings like classrooms and libraries and are accompanied by short phrases like “Read a book. See the world differently.””

Conferences

  • Lighting The Way: Libraries and Wellbeing – PMLG. “Incorporating the 2015 National Mobilemeet. Friday and Saturday 9th and 10th October 2015.  Public libraries have a major role in health and wellbeing – for individuals, families and communities.  This Conference will explore the health, social and economic aspects of our contribution to a better and stronger society. The programme includes: Speakers: Brian Ashley (Director of Libraries, Arts Council for England) on The Health and Wellbeing Benefits of Public Libraries; Andy Cope, author and motivational speaker; Dr Paul Blantern from the Sieghart Task Force; Chris Garnsworthy on ‘Re-inventing Mobile and At Home Services’; Alan Medway on Staffordshire’s work with Public Health; Andy Wright discusses how to design a dementia-friendly library; Mike Brook on ‘A LIbraryFest for Mental Health’; and Carol Brooks on ‘Personal Resilience’.”

Local news by authority

  • Birmingham – Google offers boost to troubled Library of Birmingham - Birmingham Post. “Technology giant Google is launching a venture at the Library of Birmingham as plans gather pace to build a new future for the £188 million building. The Silicon Valley giant has chosen the landmark building as the first UK site for a groundbreaking initiative working with businesses called Google Digital Garages. Part of the library, which recently saw its hours slashed in council budget cuts, will be given up for a new area offering the digital training for the skills small and medium-sized businesses need to thrive. It will open its doors on Monday. Coun Penny Holbrook, Birmingham City Council’s cabinet member for skills, learning and culture, said Google’s arrival was a shot in the arm for the library after 100 staff were axed and opening hours cut.”
  • Brent – What will be in the New Willesden Library Centre? - James Powney’s Blog. “Unlike other Brent libraries, Willesden is promised to open from 9am on week days (the rest open from 10am)”… lists items like 66 public computers and 14 iPads. ” The library also has a cafe, which is one of the features that makes Wembley Library such a success.  “
  • Camden – Camden library campaigners celebrate small victory in fight against closures – Ham and High. “Libraries chief Cllr Abdul Hai this week admitted that not enough work has yet been done to research alternative cost-saving measures as Camden Council looks to make £800,000 worth of cuts to the libraries service to help plug a £70 million funding gap. The cabinet member for customers, communities and culture has now agreed to develop its ongoing research into alternatives to closures, after speaking to the leader of the campaign to save West Hampstead Library, Labour councillor Phil Rosenberg.”
  • Fife – Campaign launched to save Kinghorn library from closure – Fife Today. “Led by local councillor George Kay, the high awareness campaign aims to gain the support of the people of the town to challenge the proposal by Fife Cultural Trust to close the facility as part of an £800,000 money saving package.” … ““Questions asked by myself have shown that Kinghorn uses less than £20,000 a year to provide what should be seen as a necessity of life. The library is not just about books, but about jobs, about social interaction and about a healthy barometer of the life of the Kinghorn community.”
  • Poole – Axed mobile library to be used at school for next three years – Bournemouth Echo. “Concerns have been raised about Poole’s mobile library, which is to be taken off the road and used as a static library at a Wallisdown school. Residents in the area were among those left without any provision after the axing of the vehicle which will save Borough of Poole £50,000 a year.”. Library service manager says “”By placing the vehicle permanently at Talbot Primary School we will be able to save these costs, whilst at the same time providing a community library for residents in the Wallisdown area.”

Wifi, de facto beating de jure and the efficiency of cutting hours

Editorial

Mr Vaizey has formally launched the Wifi in libraries scheme which will see an initial 100 libraries wifi’d up through the aid of two private companies, with the promise of at least the possibility of more to come. Barclays and BT will also offer on-site help to users. More locally, Cornwall has delayed passing off its libraries to someone else (presumably not Barclays and BT) for a short while and the judicial review hearing over Lincolnshire has included some gems like the council lawyer saying that the case is moot because many library staff have already received their redundancy notices.  This was said, presumably, to suggest that “de facto” beats “de jure”. We’ll see what the judge says about that soon.

Finally, Wirral Council have made the memorable suggestion that due to the libraries with severely cut opening times issuing more books per surviving open hour, they are “more efficient”, despite seeing large drops in actual issue numbers.  Nice one Wirral. That sort of sophistry would never have stood in the old days when there was a possibility of intervention but it’s now safe, and indeed probably resulted in pats on the back in the public relations office. After all, the Minister responsible (and who forcefully argued while in opposition for intervention in the Wirral) is now distracted by more important things. Like getting private companies to offer something that he should have made sure was universal in public libraries years ago.

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Bristol U Turn

Editorial

Faced with considerable opposition, Bristol has partially backed down on cutting its libraries. It had aimed to close seven (out of 27) branches but now will close “only” one and reduce the hours of the others down to 20 hours per week or more.  The cut will be £500k (which is surely serious enough)  instead of £1.1m, although it is unclear how the remainder will be found.  What is clear, though, is that the council backed down only due to considerable public pressure and that pressure would not have been found if people did not really appreciate their local libraries.

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The Law’s Still There: as Lincs and the Vale of Glamorgan know all too well

Editorial

There’s a couple of legal stories today – Lincolnshire will be in High Court again next week over their plans to cut the library budget and Vale of Glamorgan is facing a judicial review hearing in September or October over their plans (or, rather, lack of them) for Rhoose Library. The thing here is that, even in these days of ever tighter legal restrictions it’s still possible for campaigners to claim legal aid … and I know of two law firms (Public Interest Lawyers and Watkins & Gunn) with previous (and often successful) experience in public libraries keen to take on new cases.  That’s the good news for campaigners.  The good news for councils is that this is all avoidable. Please consult in good conscience, plan to take into account equal opportunities legislation and take things seriously, even about the supposed paper tiger that is the Public Libraries and Museums Act. Just deciding on cuts and aiming to ride roughshod over opposition is likely to get a council into some quite expensive and entirely avoidable legal problems.  Do it right and things are faster and cheaper in the long term.  And shouldn’t we be aiming to do it right anyway?

Changes

Ideas

  • Humorous signs on library vans - such as “Dr Jekyll’s Pharmacy” (Thanks to Stephen Heywood for this link – do email ianlibrarian@live.co.uk if you spot other good ideas that need publicising).

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Cuts in Camden, more details on losses in Bucks, Dorset and Worcs

Editorial

It’s more cuts today I’m afraid.  Some deep cuts have happened very much under the radar in Buckinghamshire – cuts of a fifth in some of the largest libraries. Camden have announced the first phase of cutting its libraries budget by £800k, which is going to hurt. Meanwhile, in the world of mobiles, Dorset is going to lose 75 stops and it has become clear that 3 out of 4 mobiles have been withdrawn earlier this year in Worcestershire. This will all doubtless please the writer from Kirkbymoorside who welcomes library closures (apparently because she never needs one herself) but the comments on her articles, and the people I meet every day in libraries, show thankfully that others know better.

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175 innovations for your public library service … and 343 volunteer libraries

Editorial

Ed Vaizey has declined to count the number of volunteer libraries in the UK, saying he’s not responsible for them and it’s not his (paid) job to do so. Many others, though, would argue that Mr Vaizey is precisely the most responsible man in the country for the phenomenon. However, if he really doesn’t want to do it himself, he could always use the PLN page that links to every one reported in the media. I count 343 as the absolute minimum this way, with each one linked and described, with 328 of those being in England. To make things even easier for him, please let me know of any additions or errors in the list – please email with this (and any other news and views to ianlibrarian@live.co.uk). Thank you.

In keeping with my (hopefully entirely safe and benign) obsession with lists, I’ve also created a page listing all of the “Ideas” I’ve spotted over the past couple of years.  There’s over 175 of them and I’ve categorised and listed them for your viewing convenience on this page.  Enjoy.

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Dedication’s all you need?

Editorial

Devon and Cornwall are moving towards running its libraries at arms length from the council and a council that’s already gone down that route, Suffolk, perhaps leading the way in lending out iPads. Speaking of innovation, I hear from the rather wonderful looking hive of activity that is Rhydypennau Library that they have a seed library as well as Axminster (who I thought were alone in the UK).  Any others out there?

However, the big news in libraries at the moment is about none of this.  It is about the Summer Reading Challenge, which officially starts on Saturday, although many authorities jump in way before then, with one I noticed starting on 1st July (won’t some people have completed it before the actual Summer Holidays then folks?). This year, the theme is Record Breakers and there will be an official national World Record attempt this weekend.  To those involved, I feel your pain about the bureaucracy of it all (got all your Lead Witnesses and forms sorted yet?) but hopefully it will be a big publicity and feel-good thing … and big collaborative things like that are what libraries need.  Although that Guinness World Record certificate (or at least a colour scan of it) is going to end up in my office if I have anything to do with it. And for those of you who remember the wonderful Record Breakers with Roy Castle, you will already know the truth about working in public libraries (perhaps more now than ever)  … dedication is all you need. 

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Hang on, we’ve seen this before: Isle of Wight + North Yorkshire go for Round Two

Editorial

Two councils which led the wave of cuts to libraries at the start of the coalition government have both announced or confirmed a second wave of big cuts at the start of the term of the new one. The Isle of Wight passed on five of its libraries to volunteers in 2011, more than halving paid staff over the course of one year.  This time it is quoting the example of these volunteer libraries in support of transferring a further three more, although this time with a paid member of staff, computers and stock, away from council funding.  Quoting austerity, the council says that otherwise it would simply close more libraries.  Meanwhile, North Yorkshire, which closed or pass to volunteers 7 libraries in 2012 and 10 mobile libraries in 2011, have confirmed deep cuts, again quoting the volunteer libraries from the previous round as evidence to pass more to volunteers this time.  It notes the large public response against such cuts during the consultation but, other than not cutting quite as deeply as initially suggested, has essentially gone on ahead as planned.

So, will we see a re-run of 2010-15 now in 2015-20? Watch out for announcements of closures from Brent, Gloucestershire or Somerset over the next few months to see how spooky (and depressing for those involved) this is going to be.

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The importance of being careful in emails … and charging for the latest in lego

Editorial

The Support for Axminster Library campaign have gained a pile of Devon library related emails from a Freedom of Information request.  There’s a ton of them, many confusingly listed or with bits blacked out, but what there is has been combed through.  The result is that the campaign has come up with several things including the fact that Axminster Library is indeed funded below what it should be in terms of its usage and that there was a visit to the library by decision makers that was kept quiet in order to avoid campaigners being present.  This is being seen as important due to major cuts in funding, including the suggestion that Axminster may face closure if volunteers do not support it. Which is a shame because Axminster Library is pretty hot stuff – it’s busy, well-supported, has a lego club and even the only seed library I’m aware of in a UK public library – and the library campaign is understandably not happy.

To my mind, though, there’s no major scandals in the emails between the chief librarian (and current President of the Society of Chief Librarians), the relevant councillors and others.  Which is just as well for them because what there is is being used by the campaigners for all that it is worth. The major take-home lesson for all library workers from this is that all library-related staff – and councillors – need to be very careful in what they say even in internal emails.  Imagine if there was a disparaging remark about even one person in one of those discovered in Devon? It would have been easy enough for something to slip in what must be a stressful and busy time there.  So, treat every email as if it is a public one and write only what is publicly defensible.  This may sound like a bind but, frankly, professionals should be doing that anyway shouldn’t we?

In other news, my thanks to Carillion-owned Cultural Community Solutions Ltd for sending me details of the new lego activities that they are starting from the Summer in their several library services.  This includes the new and impressive (I can vouch for this as I’ve been shown the stuff myself by Lego Education) lego learning sets.  Most interestingly for those looking at income generation (and, on the other hand, those fearful of it) is that the weekly clubs will be charged for, as will lego parties, lego class visits and even lego teambuilding sessions for businesses.  That’s taking it to the next level … but in these days of deep budget cuts, perhaps it is the only way.

Finally, I’ve learnt that the public libraries debate between Ed Vaizey and Alan Gibbons is provisionally booked for 10th September.  Keep that date free. If the DCMS libraries section (hi folks, I know you read PLN regularly) would like the proper statistics for use in this debate, please email me at the address below. I’ll even tailor them for England only if you want as I know your boss Mr Vaizey has said in parliament that he refuses to use them as they mention Scotland and Wales occasionally. I’ve already sent them to Alan. While you’re here, you could also look at the international news section for how Australia is using its libraries to boost all sorts of things, including community cohesion and STEM.

Please send your news, views, government departmental requests for information, comments and corrections to ianlibrarian@live.co.uk.

Carillion Libraries and Lego Education

Carillion Libraries are working in partnership with LEGO Education to deliver exciting resources linked to the STEM and literacy curriculums to children developing an interactive learning environment in the library. Carillion manage library services on behalf of the local authorities in Croydon, Ealing, Harrow and Hounslow. Library staff have been trained on how to use the resources and deliver sessions and session plans are included as part of the resource. The resources include computer software that helps children build models step by step adding sensors to the models which brings them to life using basic coding and robotics.

Carillion Libraries will be launching the resources with a visit from LEGO Education to each of their four boroughs in July, with some taster sessions in the summer and the offer of regular LEGO clubs using the box sets of resources and computer software on a weekly basis from September. The aim is to deliver sessions in partnership with Family Learning and with schools. The websites give further information an example is the Ealing Libraries website.

The range of resources include:

The libraries will offer free taster sessions over the Summer. From then on there will be weekly lego clubs as well as other activities not previously seen in public libraries including “Lego parties”, the hiring out of Lego sets for INSET days in schools, team building sessions for businesses and – interestingly – class visits to libraries which will include 45 minutes in the normal library and 45 minutes using the lego. It is expected that most, if not all, of the latter will be charged for, with the class visits being pitched at £100.

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Ideas

  • Using lego to make money - Carillion Libraries will charge for weekly lego club, class visits including lego, lego parties and business teambuilding events.

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Quiet please, at least some of the time

Editorial

It’s been interesting watching the response on my Twitter feed to an article from a library user complaining about the noise of a tots groups upsetting the peace and quiet of the library. The general viewpoint is that such an attitude is appalling and, indeed, the writer does not give themselves any favours by the angry and undiplomatic writing style. However, in continuance perhaps with my having sympathy for chief librarians in the last post, I have some sympathy for the complainant’s position.  One of the unique selling points of libraries – along with free internet access and free loan of books – is the provision of quiet study space, something which is in short supply elsewhere.  If we completely ignore that USP then we’re going to annoy people, including some dedicated users of our service, while we delight others.  The solution I tend to pursue is, in my ever middle-of-the-road opinion, to be a bit of both. Zone the space in the library so noisy activities can be in one space and quieter activities in another.  If the library is too small for that then zone the time, so people know when there’s going to be extra noise happening. The fashion needle has swung in many libraries from “shush” to “loud and proud”, and that’s great (I love being loud myself and a buzzing library is a happy library) but sometimes I feel that we can be condescending/abusive to some of our users if we ignore their needs. And can we afford to ignore a key selling point or a significant part of our users in 2015?

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