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There was a time …

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National news

  • Digitisation Grant 2018 winners announced – Townsweb Archiving. “The Grant offers funding of up to £5000 to enable UK cultural heritage institutions to digitise their collections and open up access to them online, you can watch the full winners announcement video below” … “Bexley Local Studies and Archive Centre won the first prize award, the Primary Grant for £5000, with its proposed project to digitise a large proportion of photographic negatives from its Kentish Times Newspapers collection. The project was submitted by Bexley Archives manager Gemma Cook and plans to digitise 15,000 unique negatives, which feature photographs taken by Kentish Times photographers between 1964-98, in order to make the collection digitally accessible.  
  • From bedtime stories to bribes: how to get your child reading more – Guardian. “A good way to start a long summer of reading is to take children to the library and sign them up for the Summer Reading Challenge. The children’s author and poet Joseph Coelho took part in a precursor to this initiative when he was 10, and still recalls the thrill of nudging his little spaceship counter along the Velcro backing, one notch for each book read. “It turned reading into a sport,” he says. And that turned him into a reader.”
  • Non-core services likely to disappear as funding dwindles, NLGN survey finds – Public Finance. “Most councils will not be able to provide discretionary services such as libraries and park maintenance in five years time, according to a survey of council leaders and chief executives.” … “Just one in three councils feel they will be able to provide services beyond those required by law in 2023, the latest version of the New Local Government Network’s leadership index found.” … “NLGN director Adam Lent said: “In the next five years we could be seeing areas stripped of their libraries and park maintenance, with roads full of potholes.”  [Libraries are covered by law – Ed.]
  • We are Still Here – Community Libraries Network. “Power to Change, the organisation set up to grow and support community businesses in England is supporting us again for one year to create a sustainable Peer Network and to increase our regional Presence.”

Axiell Selflib
International news

  • Eire – Reading matters: Libraries are proving their worth – Belfast Telegraph.Henrietta ­McKervey visits Dublin’s Kevin Street Library, newly ­reopened and proving a vital community space” … “The reading room next door is quiet and cosy. ” … “It’s a calm place,” he adds. Then, gesturing in the direction of the children’s library, “And a noisy one”  … “There are people who think a library isn’t for them. But it is. It’s an individual space and a community space. It’s your space.””

“There was a time, Teeling says, when the Irish public library services looked to the UK as the beacon and tried to emulate what was happening there. “But now, apart from a few examples, we are far ahead of them.”

  • New Zealand – People are loving this New Zealand library’s creative meme-inspired poster – Belfast Telegraph. “Central City Library in Auckland posted an evil Kermit the Frog meme up on its walls in July, gently roasting patrons’ inability to just stick to one book at a time. Library-goer CW posted a photo of the display on Twitter, saying: “Walked into my local library and felt attacked.” … “The tweet now has 13,000 likes, and plenty of other book-lovers agreeing with CW’s sentiment. Chelsea Heap, senior library assistant and person responsible for the meme display, said: “We generally keep displays up for about a month depending on the engagement with it.”
  • USA – 13 Awesome Children’s Libraries Around The U.S. That Will Make You Want To Be A Kid Again – Book Riot.I asked fellow librarians to shout out some of their favorite children’s libraries and children’s library spaces from around the USA. Check ’em out below. I’ve included a mix of spaces that are big and innovative, as well as those that are smaller and make creative, savvy choices within a tight budget and space situation. “
  • USA – Being a Victorian Librarian Was Oh-So-Dangerous – Jstor. ” a number of female librarians did experience breakdowns, requesting long leaves of absence to recover. In 1900, the Brooklyn Public Library Association proposed “to build a seaside rest home for those who had broken down in library service,” McReynolds writes. One speaker at the American Library Association’s 1910 conference claimed he knew fifty librarians who had become incapacitated by the work, including some who died before their time.”

Local news by authority

  • Bath and North East Somerset – Success of Saltford’s library and post office ‘will be down to the community’ – Somerset Live. “ome 60 volunteers have come together since a Bath and North East Somerset Council consultation brought the library’s future into question last year, and then the post office closed its doors soon after. But the demand for both services is obvious. Residents have donated £4,000 in just two months – more than double what organisers hoped to raise in the first year – and the facility will sell cards and stationery to bring in extra income to cover the lease and running costs. It also has the support of the parish council.”
  • Cambridgeshire – Reading together – book groups in Cambridgeshire Libraries – Libraries Taskforce. “Cambridgeshire has more than 250 registered reading groups. We have approximately 350 titles designated as reading group stock. Sets vary from 4 to 25 copies comprising standard print hardback and paperback but other formats are available including audio, large print, e-audio and e-book. For speed and efficiency of processing and distribution, physical sets are held centrally at our distribution centre.” … “In May 2017 we implemented an annual reading group fee of £30. The annual fee provides up to 12 free item requests per month. We currently charge a £1 reservation fee, linked to borrower category rather than stock category. “
  • Ealing – Backlash to plans to close an Ealing library and ask volunteers to run new site – Get West London. “residents and businesses have clubbed together to gather more than 2,000 signatures on a petition calling for the council to think again whilst Conservative councillors demanded the decision be reviewed.” … “At the council’s overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday, August 2, Conservative councillor Seema Kumar, said: “This is a much loved library in an award winning high street. “Some 100,000 people use it each year and the number of books being loaned out has gone up from 44,000 to 47,000. “Closing the library would be a terrible loss.”
  • East Lothian – Lack of consultation over Prestonpans Library change is criticised – East Lothian Courier. “East Lothian Council plans to move the majority of its services from its Aldhammer House offices in Prestonpans into the town’s library. The move comes just 16 months after a public consultation on similar plans in which three quarters of those who took part objected to the change, leading the council to scrap the proposal.”
  • Edinburgh / Glasgow – Letters: Glasgow, not Edinburgh, should be City of Literature – Herald Scotland. “The Mitchell Library has had several extensions since it was built on its present site in 1911 – indeed by 1981 it was believed to be the largest local reference library in Europe. Contrast this approach with that of Edinburgh, the world’s first Unesco City of Literature, where the city council has been both neglecting and asset stripping its once-great Carnegie library, the Central Library, selling off adjacent buildings including the children’s and music annexes, and disposing of common good land long reserved for the library’s expansion for a Virgin hotel development on a hopelessly cramped site which will engulf the original 1890 A listed building in gloom. Some even suspect there are moves afoot to dispose of the Carnegie building altogether. “
  • Lancashire – Bamber Bridge library will be reopening – Blog Preston. “Bamber Bridge’s library is going to be reopened as a county council-run library. Previous proposals for the 1st Bamber Bridge Scouts to take on the building and also operate a community library have been scrapped. Lancashire County Council says the Station Road building will remain a county council building and be reopened in the near future.”
  • Northamptonshire – Northamptonshire County Council: The story behind the cash crisis – BBC. “Northamptonshire County Council has voted to make radical cuts to jobs and services as it attempts to fill a £70m shortfall. Children’s services, road maintenance and waste management are among the areas now facing cuts. So how did the council find itself in this crisis?”
  • Northern Ireland – NI libraries bring in £400,000 in book fines – BBC. “Northern Ireland’s libraries have fined the public almost £400,000 in the past three years. Figures also reveal that almost £40,000 of that amount has yet to be recouped. Libraries NI runs 96 libraries and said it has introduced measures to encourage customers to return books and other items, rather than pay fines. Total overdue fines amounted to £396,050 since 2015, according to data obtained by BBC News NI.” … “Total book fines in Northern Ireland have fallen by 25% – from £147,904 a year to £110,606 a year – since 2015/16.” … “In February, Trafford Council in Greater Manchester was the first UK council to abolish all library fines and the Irish government is also considering scrapping the penalties.” [Rutland was the first – Ed.]
    Sheffield – Bid to boost Sheffield library membership after figures show fall in book borrowing – Star. “As part of the ‘Discover More’ campaign existing members who may not have visited a library for a while are also urged to reconnect with their love of books.” … “This comes just a day after the Sheffield Star revealed book lending at the city’s 16 volunteer-run libraries has dropped by about 57 per cent in the last four years.” see also Dramatic fall in book borrowing at Sheffield libraries taken over by volunteers – Star. “The council stressed the figures do not capture all book loans and pointed out there has been a decline in library visits nationally.”
  • Somerset – Somerset considers staff taking unpaid leave amid audit warning – Local Government Chronicle. “Somerset CC has floated the idea of asking staff to take unpaid leave over the next two Christmas holidays in a bid to save £1m, according to Unite, as auditors warn the county could run out of money within three years.”
  • Sunderland – New Sunderland project to support people with dyslexia – Sunderland Echo. “The project will use software on all public access library computers, to allow people to use their keyboard and screens to convert text into speech, helping them to complete on-line forms. “
  • Waltham Forest – Waltham Forest Council votes to sell historic Wood Street Library – Chelmsford Today. “Protestors who fought hard to save Wood Street Library lost the battle after a vote last night. The plans were originally debated by the council’s cabinet on July 17 but were called in for an extraordinary neighbourhood scrutiny meeting held last night.”
  • West Dunbartonshire – Read all about it… new-look Balloch library is great Daily Record. “The library was the first in West Dunbartonshire to benefit from the rebranding and branch improvement project which includes book quotes on the wall, use of historic photography and modern information boards. The cafe space has leather chairs, giving visitors the opportunity to relax while reading newspapers. The branch also benefits from new display cases promoting the latest books in the library, and signage directing readers to their preferred genre.”
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?

Ideas

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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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Ideas

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Libraries have innovation all sewn up

Editorial

Innovation is not a problem in libraryland. Have a read of the new ACE report “Libraries welcome everyone” to see this in action and then read the article by Carnegie on the Taskforce website. You can then have a wistful browse of an article about French beach libraries (come on Llandudno!) and then read about toy sleepovers. Then, perhaps have a giggle at the silliness of the reactionaries who worry about Drag Queen Storytimes. Moving on to tech, it’s good to see Somerset having 360 degree pictures of all their branches on their webpages (a boon for those with autism) and browse their open date on library usage. I remember when “knit an natter” and “adult colouring” classes were new ideas and now they’re basically everywhere. No, innovation is not a problem. And successful ideas spread – I’m seeing toy sleepovers happening in many places and more and more DQSTs happening in the UK. Both started out in the USA (I think) and have spread. This innovation is to be encouraged. And is encouraging.

Changes by local authority

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A city square with a roof

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Libraries Unlimited

Editorial

I included in the last post, and tweeted, an open letter from an ex-member of Devon (Libraries Unlimited staff) which raised serious questions about the way Devon’s library services were being managed. There was a lot in the post that was concerning so I emailed Ciara Eastell,, Chief Exec at LU for a response on four specific questions I had from it. Ciara has now sent the following back to me, which I publish below in full. I also asked another question about why some staff have needed to sign non-disclosure agreements, but I am told this is not happening at all and so the question has not been included.

 Have the number of managerial grades gone up, and frontline staff gone down, since the start of Libraries Unlimited? Why?

Changes to staffing structures since our transition from a local authority service to an independent organisation, and the increase in management staff, have been largely due to creating a number of new roles for work that would previously have been carried out by Devon County Council. This includes HR, communications, premises, IT, security, finance, health and safety and others, plus the creation of our Creative Director role that is funded by Arts Council England through our National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) status.

At the point of transfer, 34% of our staff (in FTE) were in supervisory roles or above – this includes supervisors of medium sized libraries up to senior management level. In comparison, we had 66% on lower grades (library assistant/senior library assistant levels). As at end of March 2018 (latest available figures), we have 38% of our staff on supervisor level or above and 62% of staff on lower grades. As stated above, the changes are as a result of increased support services needed to run an effective independent organisation.

Where does money received from donations go?

All money that we raise through our range of fundraising activities is invested directly back into library services. This includes investing in extra events and activities and better equipment and resources for our libraries, to enhance our core offering. >We fundraise for both specific projects and resources (such as our Adopt A Book scheme and our recent fundraising campaign for increased activity in prison libraries), as well as fundraising generally. All money raised through general fundraising is put towards specific projects and events, with 50% of local library donations being put directly into that library and the rest invested into county wide improvements and enhancements, such as improved services for children and young people.

We gained registered charity status in November 2016, and launched our first fundraising activities towards the end of last year. Many library services and cultural organisations are able to fundraise to enable greater impact within their local communities. We welcome the opportunity to share our experiences and learn from others as we all seek to ensure that libraries and cultural organisations reach and engage with more people. As a charity, we have the added benefit of being able to benefit from Gift Aid, which means the money we generate from many fundraising activities can go even further.

Is there is a route of communication between frontline staff and trustees?  

We have two staff trustees on our Board, so those members of staff are freely available to be contacted by any member of the team. We also have two community trustees who are members of Friends Groups and are therefore directly in touch with their local library and with Friends Groups across the county. In addition, our trustees get out and visit libraries as much as they can. Their Board meetings are held in various libraries across the county, and they regularly attend events and activities at libraries. Just in the last month we had an event at Northam Library which was attended by one of our independent trustees and the Chair of our Board was also at the launch of the Summer Reading Challenge in Exeter Library. We also organise an annual trustee tour, hosted by library supervisors to ensure trustees visit as many libraries as possible during their tenure.

In terms of more formal opportunities, we have an Annual General Meeting (AGM) which both staff and trustees attend. Every year our AGMs have offered staff and trustees the chance to engage with one another.  However, it’s important to understand the differing roles of trustees and senior managers. Trustees, including staff trustees, are there to drive the broader strategic direction of the organisation; as with all charities, they are volunteers giving their time freely in support of the mission and vision of Libraries Unlimited. The day-to-day running of the organisation is rightly the responsibility of senior managers. As well as two staff trustees, we also have an elected Staff Forum, who meet on a regular basis with the Chief Executive and senior managers. The Staff Forum is an important route for any member of staff to raise concerns, queries, issues or suggestions, and the staff representatives on the Forum decide where and who the particular item needs to be raised with.

Is there anything else you want to say?

At Libraries Unlimited we are incredibly proud of the difference we make to people’s lives on a daily basis. All of our libraries, large and small, offer a variety of services that meet the varying needs of the communities of Devon and Torbay. Our team of over 350 staff work hard to provide support and encouragement to those who visit. They greet people with warm, friendly smiles, with knowledge and professionalism. As a charity, everything we do is focused on our core mission, to bring ideas, imagination, information, knowledge and creativity to people’s lives. All of our staff and volunteers, from customer service assistants to the senior management team and our trustees, are absolutely committed to our cause. We are proud that, working closely with Devon and Torbay Councils, we have not closed any libraries, and each one is run and managed by paid and experienced members of staff. We believe that what libraries need is positivity. They need the people that love and value libraries to help spread the word about what it is that makes them special, and for people to work together to raise awareness of the excellent community resources that libraries provide. At Libraries Unlimited, we continue to focus on our six core purposes and on delivering diverse and high-quality library services for the benefit of people and communities of Devon and Torbay.”

Changes by authority

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Catch it if you can: sharp decline in bookfunds and lack of minorities in childrens’ books

Editorial

I don’t often entirely agree with Tim Coates.. Few public librarians do as he tends to blame the profession for its miseries, which, considering the budgetary reductions since 2010 is a hard line to take. However, he’s written an excellent piece in the BookSeller pointing out the dramatic reductions to bookfunds in the last decade. Tim has access to the full CIPFA figures for decades and so can do this sort of thing. Sadly, such statistics are barred from ordinary mortals by prohibitive (and ridiculous, considering CIPFA gets the figures for free) fees. But if they’re halfway correct then it shows the annihilation of bookfund in the UK which could go a significant way to explain why book issues have reduced so much in the same time. It’s hard to borrow something that’s not there.

In other news, the shocking lack of ethnic representation in children’s books – with only 1% of books published last year having a BAME main character – has been exposed in a new report. Perhaps public libraries could do something about that by selecting bookstock differently. That is, if they still have bookfunds. Finally, there’s been two lengthy reports emailed in about a film documentary of NYPL. It sounds like quite something. Catch it if you can.

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Libraries of the Year

Editorial

There’s some great things going on in libraries. I see so much brilliant stuff in the news doing this blog and in my work regionally and locally. Up and down the country, library services are looking up from their books and reaching out the local community and beyond, working out what they need to succeed. Those services lucky enough to have both staff and have those staff be active and busy, rather than wait for people to walk through the door (and, yes, this still happens in places) can be something to behold. So well done to Liverpool Central, one of my favourite libraries, and to the others on the list. You do us proud and are, literally, examples for all. And, lest we forget, thanks also to the BookSeller who set up this award. It’s a magazine that’s taken for granted a little and perhaps not seen much in many libraries these days, with there often being limited numbers subscribed to it and perhaps just one paper copy per service, if that. But it does sterling work and its support for public libraries – comparable only to the Guardian – has been notable for as long as I can remember, with the current issue being a brilliant example of how it both reports on libraries and seeks to support them.

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Enough money for Trump

Editorial

Further from my last editorial on the new DCMS Secretary of State, none other than the great Bob Usherwood emailed in to point out Jeremy Wright MP defended the so-called “ban” on prisoners buying books. See this. Yay. On the plus side, in the same article the MP does advocate for using the prison library instead so it’s not all bad.

In other news, well done to Lancashire who has reopened its twelfth library after the change in controlling party there. As a reminder, and somewhat confusingly for some, it’s the Conservatives who are in control there now. In addition, one notes that Ealing are looking to close down a recently refurbished library and change it to a volunteer one, perhaps in a local church. Not that, it seems, they’ve actually asked the local church yet. And Ealing is Labour. And Labour are as likely to cut libraries as the Conservatives, with both fine with volunteers (although Labour perhaps more hesitantly). What’s clear is that the overall political environment in England is austerity and so whoever is in charge looks around to make cuts. It’s not that the world is turned upside down – it’s just you have to zoom up a little to see the real cause, which is a continued national deep cut in spending on local services. There’s still enough UK money for Trump (who must be the anti-librarian in so many ways) to have at least £5 million set aside for his golf trip to Scotland. As ever, when it comes down to it, spending is a political choice. But that choice is more forcibly made in central rather than at local level.

Note: I described Nominet as a private company yesterday in my coverage of Two free guides for small businesses: Why get online, and How to get online. It is effectively a non-profit trust. My thanks to the Libraries Taskforce for pointing this out.

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Mr (W)right? A new Culture secretary appears.

Editorial

One of the dominoes falling from the current government changes means that we have a new person in charge of the DCMS (Mr Ellis’s boss), which has oversight of public libraries. A quick google search shows Jeremy Wright MP has had at least one advice surgery at Kenilworth Library, which is great, and I don’t begrudge him, when he at the time earned £190k per year, the 90p he claimed to drive from there to a local firework display at all. He was also at the opening of Southam Library. where he is on record as saying ““This is a huge achievement and this building will become, and already is, at the heart of the community for everyone – from the very youngest to the very oldest.”.  Other than that, he looks very much a normal non-rebellious Conservative MP who had become attorney-general a couple of years before. Its worthy of note, though, that Mr Wright – whose brief includes digital – does not have an active Twitter account, although he is on Facebook. If you need lessons, Jeremy, I am sure the library can help you …

Changes

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