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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.

National

CILIP and ARA have contracted Edinburgh Napier University to map all workers in the UK’s libraries, archives, records, information and knowledge sectors as this data is no longer collected since the closure of the sector skills councils representing us. The research findings will help with advocacy targeting governments and employers, to develop relevant and robust policies, and to develop better and targeted services. The survey should take no more than 15 minutes to complete and you could also win £200 worth of vouchers of your own choice. Put yourself on the map by completing the survey by 30th April 2015. We need to reach as many people as possible, so please help us by forwarding this on to anyone you know working in the sector. Key groups currently under-represented in the survey are: men, those in the East of England, East Midlands and Northern Ireland, those working in Information Management, knowledge Management, commercial/business, schools, national libraries and archives, armed forces, legal; front line workers, library/archive/information assistants etc… Many thanks, John Chambers, CEO, ARA, Jill Colbert, Interim CEO, CILIP. You can access information about the workforce mapping survey here

  • Library supply chain under pressure – BookSeller. Currently behind paywall.
  • Masters in Librarianship: opening my mind to a whole new world - Research Information. “What I love about libraries is that they are places for learning about how to learn. And I am realising that life is all about constantly learning new skills and knowledge. I am currently taking the part-time distance Masters course at the University of Aberystwyth, in Wales …”
  • Punjab keeps waiting for public libraries Act – Hindustan Times (India). “Punjab is still without a public libraries Act that has been implemented in 20 other states for a single, unified system of control and organisation of these sources of information. The Act facilitates sharing of resources and access to the largesse of funds from the central government under various schemes. Punjab was to implement it in 1993 but political apathy has caused it to linger for two decades. “A fresh look at the Act was taken in 2011 when Sewa Singh Shekhwan was education minister,” said Balbir Kaur, librarian at Patiala’s Central State Library, largest in the state and run by the department of higher education.”
  • WBN authors defend libraries and teachers – BookSeller. “Authors gave a passionate defence of libraries and teachers at an event held last night (23rd April) to mark World Book Night. Writers including David Almond, Lynda La Plante [pictured] and Irvine Welsh made speeches and gave readings during the event at the Shaw Theatre in London, the flagship event of World Book Night, which saw thousands of volunteers across the UK giving out 250,000 books to people to spread the love of reading.”

“The library is one of human kind’s greatest inventions, a great democratic force. People are saying they don’t matter any more but they do matter, they are central to our culture, and we lose them at great peril.” David Almond

International

  • California’s Homeless Find a Quiet Place – National Geographic (USA). “On  a recent visit to the Sacramento library, the high number of homeless patrons I saw there surprised me. Seeing them in that quiet space, consumed by traditional media, I was struck by the difference between them and most of society with its 24/7 connection to streaming digital media. I began this project to take myself out of my own patterns and habits, to change my perspective, to observe, to listen, to understand, and to share this place of quiet.” … “Leah Esguerra reaches out to homeless patrons in the main branch of the library. “Libraries are the last bastion of democracy,” she says.”

“Being homeless often means living off the mainstream grid, unplugged from the Internet, email, and streaming media. Public libraries provide the homeless with a way to connect, and many homeless say that browsing the stacks and reading a book there eases a weary street-level perspective of life.”

  • ‘Here to serve:’ Halifax libraries say they’re more welcoming, less rule-based, these days - Talk Halifax (Canada). “Laying down the law is not the approach the CEO of Halifax Public Libraries believes is the most effective when it comes to fostering an atmosphere where everybody should feel welcome in libraries.” … “Kachan explained many frontline library staff have been trained in non-violent crisis intervention and mental health first aid. Branches with particularly high volume of young people also employ teen library assistants.”

“In FY2012 there were 1.5 bil. in person visits to public libraries in the US. A 10 yr increase of 20.7%. #FactFriday” IMLS (USA).

  • MRI shows association between reading to young children and brain activity – Eureka Alert (USA). “”We are excited to show, for the first time, that reading exposure during the critical stage of development prior to kindergarten seems to have a meaningful, measurable impact on how a child’s brain processes stories and may help predict reading success,” said study author John Hutton, MD, National Research Service Award Fellow, Division of General and Community Pediatrics, Reading and Literacy Discovery Center, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “Of particular importance are brain areas supporting mental imagery, helping the child ‘see the story’ beyond the pictures, affirming the invaluable role of imagination.”
  • Online presence is one way Metropolitan Library System innovates – NewsOk (USA). New library website “… results can be filtered efficiently, similar to those on popular sites such as Amazon.com. It also will include newspapers and other periodicals in search results, and a revamped section for upcoming library events, news releases and a place for readers to post reviews of books. The system also will be available in Spanish. The kids catalog has been redone with clickable pictures and book covers that young readers can easily identify and select.”
  • Tigo transforms Street Library into Ghana’s first Digital Mobile Library – Enews.gh (Ghana). “Tigo Ghana has taken a giant step towards digital inclusion for children in rural Ghana by outdooring its new Mobile Digital Library. The project which is a partnership with Street Library Ghana, founded by its 2012 Changemaker, Hayford Siaw has the interior of the van beautifully fitted with tables and chairs and laptops. It also has additional tables and chairs and laptops which can be set up outside the van to cater for additional children. Explaining the rationale for the project, the Head of Corporate Communications and CSR for Tigo, Gifty Bingley, explained that Hayford was previously travelling around rural Ghana with hard copy books in his mini-van to encourage children to read.” … “According to Hayford even though children in rural Ghana study ICT as a core subject, several of them have neither seen nor touched a computer. He looked forward to introducing them to the computers and going through the downloaded books. “
  • When Google is your librarian and Starbucks your WiFi, do we still need public libraries? – Washington Post (USA). “Palfrey, the former head of the Harvard Law School Library and the founding chairman of the Digital Public Library of America, wants a library revolution, one that remakes the institution’s technology, goals and training. Libraries are in peril, he writes, facing budget cuts and a growing perception that technology has rendered them less necessary. All that’s at stake, Palfrey argues, is America’s experiment in self-government. “If we do not have libraries, if we lose the notion of free access to most information, the world of the haves and the have-nots will grow further and further apart. Our economy will suffer, and our democracy will be put at unnecessary risk.”” … ““Libraries must act as ambitiously networked institutions,” he reiterates, and must “connect their network effectively with partner institutions: archives, historical societies, museums, and other cultural heritage organizations.”

“For centuries, libraries have remained essentially separate, even competing with one another to establish and maintain the greatest collection,” Palfrey writes. Now, they need to “recast themselves as platforms rather than storehouses.” This transition won’t be easy, he cautions, and will require giving up lots of old, bad habits.” … “Just as we all love a memory of a childhood experience, we love the idea of libraries in general.” But that can be a “patronizing sort of love,” Palfrey cautions. And it won’t get libraries to where they need to be or how they need to think.”

Local news by authority

  • Birmingham – 30 student protesters banned from Library of Birmingham – I am Birmingham. “Anti-cuts protesters who were today protesting against the reduced opening hours at the Library of Birmingham have been reportedly issued with banning orders, preventing them entering the building in future. According to reports from those present, students taking part in a rally and occupation at the library this evening were held in the venue’s lobby, unable to enter or leave, while staff and police are said to have issued around 30 of them with 3-month banning notices. The banning order slips seem to be hand-written and the details of those attending don’t appear to have been collected.” … “Protesters from Birmingham Against the Cuts, TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition), Birmingham Trades Union Council and Friends of the Library of Birmingham were joined by members of the public, college and university students and other library users to rally against the new updated hours for the library, which see opening times slashed by 30 hours a week, from 73 hours to just 40.”
  • Birmingham – Trojan Horse One Year On: Headteacher who warned the government five years ago reveals plans to create ‘families’ of schools  – Birmingham Mail. “When it comes to really looking at the life experience of children, it takes a whole city to raise a child,” he said, adding that BEP [Birmingham Education Partnership – Ed.] would lean on the council to boost community facilities such as parks and libraries.”
  • Brent – Brent Central: Lib Dems, libraries and the Labour tide - Guardian. “Following last year’s borough vote, Labour councillor Samuel Stopp argued that his party’s main opponents had paid a price for what he called “relentless negative propaganda focused on local controversies” for which they offered no solutions and for a general loss of campaigning energy. He cited car parking and library closures. The latter got a lot of publicity back in 2012. Six were shut. Novelist Zadie Smith, who grew up in Brent and whose most recent work is set there and named after its postcodes, joined the opposition to the policy. But in the council chamber, Brent leader Muhammed Butt told the Lib Dems he had “nothing to apologise for.” After all: “These closures were made because of cuts by your government putting us in an impossible situation.” At the time, the Lib Dems had 17 councillors. Two years later, only one survived. Now, Labour is proudly pointing to a big new library building in Willesden. It must be hard to be the protest party when your leaders are running the country. No wonder Labour believes Brent Central will be theirs.”
  • Cardiff – Row breaks out over removal of books from Rhydypennau Library – Wales Online. “The Friends of Rhydypennau group say that up to 1,500 books have been removed from the library and that it is the start of the council trying to reduce provision. They say that by reducing the books will impact on the borrowing figures. The library was one of seven in the city that faced closure during budget cuts earlier this year. Chairwoman of the Friends of Rhydypennau Library group, Madhu Khanna-Davies, said: “To diminish our stock at a time when the long term future of Cardiff’s threatened community libraries is still uncertain left me feeling uneasy and concerned about the negative impact upon the service and the possible reasons behind this decision.”
  • Coventry – Election hopefuls called on to pledge support for Coventry libraries - Coventry Observer. “Campaigners from ‘Save Coventry Libraries’ have invited candidates to take part in the ‘Library Pledge’ at the Godiva Statue this Saturday (April 25) – promising to never vote for a reduction in Coventry library services.” Greens, Socialists and one Conservative have signed pledge.
  • Coventry – Library Pledge to be unveiled at Godiva Statue in Coventry city centre - Coventry Telegraph. “The city council announced in February that every library in Coventry will remain open for at least another year. However, there is no guarantee that some libraries won’t close over the next two to three years as the council shaves £65million from its budget following reduced Government funding. Campaign member Vicky Cowell said: “Libraries are so much more than just places where you can find and read books, information and access computers. “They are community hubs, places of warmth and connection where no-one is trying to sell you a product or ideology.”
  • Croydon/Lambeth – Properly fund our Library as a statutory town centre library for Crystal Palace - Change. Petition: “The joint funding of the Upper Norwood Library by both Lambeth and Croydon for more than 100 years is a model of cross-borough co-operation that benefits the entire community of Crystal Palace. Residents in Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood have consistently made clear their support for a properly funded, professionally staffed library in public consultations held by both councils. We want to see the Upper Norwood Joint Library receive at least the same funding per head of population as equivalent town centre libraries in Croydon and Lambeth, and Croydon to meet their commitment to fully match all funding from Lambeth including the endowment fund.”
  • North Yorkshire – Our libraries at threat while Government fritters away public finances – UKIP Richmond. “When I see to my horror my local library suffer (or even close) I will remember the wasteful £18 billion a year spent on wind-farms that “don’t go when the wind don’t blow”, the £10 billion a year spent of foreign aid – going to countries developing their own space programme, the £55 billion a year to prop up an undemocratic and recession-hit EU, and the missed opportunities of developing our youth, trading with the high-growth Commonwealth, incentivising scientific education and investing in our rural communities. I do not blame our local councillors at North Yorkshire County Council for coming up with these difficult library proposals, but come May I will no longer be voting Conservative. I just love my community and my country too much. UKIP will take my vote.”

New worlds and growls

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It’s your time … at least in the US

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“Getting rid of a member of your team”: a ten year old’s view on library cuts

Editorial

I get tired of writing about libraries occasionally so it’s great that I sometimes get sent people’s thoughts that I can publish.  The one below is a rather wonderful letter (I’ve transcribed it, keeping in the original spelling and grammar) from a ten year old girl to her pro-library grandfather.  It’s a bit of a gem.  Enjoy.

“Dear Grandad

Below, I have written a letter attempting to to persuade the government and county council to keep librarys going. xxx

Critics of libarys have had the idea to demolish the treasure trove of books, causing hundreds of people to be sad or / and angry. This would destroy some hapiness for all the community – Mothers, Fathers, babies, children and senior citizens. For these reasons, it has come to the attention of many people why libarys should be kept alive.

Many critics would argue that children no longer need books or enjoy them and are much more intrested in gadgets. However, without books, children’s literacy levels would shoot down. So therefore books help childrens spelling and vocabulary. In addition to this, children discover lots of new facts and information from books, and it is impossible to argue with the fact that they cannot learn of the information they need from their own books at home. If a child was collecting a series of books, they can find a new one that have not brought yet in the library for free.

Although some people against the idea may say no-one goes in the library any more so there is no point in it, it is a well known fact that it is commonly used as a meeting point. It is a safe point and is useful for preparing children in year 5 and 6 for there next school, as they will be used to walking with friends and by themselves. Furthermore, older children can arrange to meet their friends by it, as everyone knows where the library is, because it is a safe environment to be in.

Even though critics argue that it lies unused by teenagers who are uninterested by books, that is untrue. It is obvious that librarys have computers that teenagers can use for homework if they do have one at home. Moreover, teenagers would enjoy watching the range of films that the library holds. Because of this, it is clear that teenagers do enjoy libarys.

In conclusion, the points about keeping libraries open are more powerful and compelling then the points against. Therefore why do we have to close out wonderful librarys, when they do not cost much and are part of our community? Can you imagine having to get rid of a member of your team? Therefore it is obvious that we must keep our libarys open!

I also recommend reading the article on the “Real Purpose of Libraries” by the wonderful Scott Bonner below.  It’ll set you up for the week.

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Lib Dems and Green manifesto mentions: big cuts in Enfield and Trafford

Editorial

A big thank you to Post Lib for allowing me to publish their article which includes statements from the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Greens on public libraries.  Since my last post, UKIP and the Lib Dems have published their manifestos.  UKIP barely mention libraries (apart from noting that they’re run by local councils) but the Lib Dems have more to say:

“Complete broadband rollout to every home, and create an innovation fund to help keep local GPs, post offices and local libraries open … Develop the Community Budgets model for use in rural areas to combine services, encouraging the breaking down of barriers between different services. This will help rural services like GP surgeries, pharmacies, post offices and libraries open by enabling them to cooperate, share costs and co-locate in shared facilties … Support local libraries and ensure any libraries under threat of closure are offered first for transfer to the local community” Liberal Democrat Manifesto

To my embarrassment, I had not noticed that the Greens decided to publish their manifesto as a non-searchable image file rather than as a PDF like the other parties.  I therefore missed their statements on libraries (because they did not show up using CTRL-F).  Their full statements are below:

“We need to improve the way the UK is governed, passing power back to the people, back to where they live and work. Local councils have been starved of the funds they need to do their job. That is why requests for social care go unheeded, libraries are shut and public parks neglected …” under Localisation

“Increase government arts funding by £500 million a year to restore the cuts made since 2010 and reinstate proper levels of funding for local authorities, helping to keep local museums, theatres, libraries and art galleries open.” under Media,Sports and the Arts

“We were treated to post-election surprises such as increased VAT and huge cuts to essential public services such as benefits, libraries, children’s centres and mental health support. By contrast, the Green Party produced a worked-out financial plan in its 2010 manifesto.” Chapter 16 Green Party Manifesto

Away from the election, Enfield (Labour) has announced major cuts to libraries while Trafford (Conservative) have confirmed closure of two with significant cuts to others.

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Ideas

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Party Manifestos: Tories mention libraries in 2 or 3 sentences, Labour and Greens not at all

Editorial

There are no mentions of public libraries in either the Green or Labour Party Manifestos.  The Conservatives give two or three sentences:

“We will continue to support local libraries. We will help public libraries to support local communities by providing free wi-fi. And we will assist them in embracing the digital age by working with them to ensure remote access to e-books, without charge and with appropriate compensation for authors that enhances the Public Lending Right scheme.” Conservative Party Manifesto

Those who read PLN (and thank you for doing so) will know that this short paragraph hides a multitude of sins but the fact that Labour and (rather shockingly) the Greens don’t mention the sector once is rather shocking, especially given the unprecedented media coverage given to libraries over the last electoral term.

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The bottomless well: the lack of Library Standards in England

Editorial

The absence of standards for libraries in England is an increasingly glaring one but whenever I ask chief librarians or other very senior staff about it, the answer is that standards simply mean a dive to the bottom, not to the top.  The idea goes that in times of cuts, councils would look at the minimum level of service required and cut their funding accordingly.  The problem with using this argument is of course that councils will do that anyway, minimum standards or no. What we’re seeing at the moment is many councils (with Lincolnshire being the most obvious recently) looking at seeing what they can get away with, seeing that they can get away with a lot (at best, one library per 45,000 people at the last non-intervention by Vaizey) and going with it or perhaps pushing it a bit more. Where there are standards in other countries (like Scotland and Wales)  then at least there is a minimum.  We don’t even have that in England.  How far can you fall when the well is bottomless?

A guide to the defunct English Library Standards can be found by clicking this link

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Subsidy loss + Read On Get On

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Don’t look at the man behind the curtain

Editorial

Two more libraries – presumably because of the financial new year – have been passed on to Trusts but the main news is that the politics is heating up.  People are noticing there’s a general election coming up. The Labour Mayor of Liverpool, who has been busy cutting libraries, claims that you ain’t seen nothing if the Conservatives get into Number 10 – he says there won’t be a library left by the end of the term if they do. Leon, on the other hand, in his blog, points out that it doesn’t seem to matter if it’s the Tories or Labour when it comes to libraries: the only real hope lies with the “small” parties.

There’s also an excellent piece on the grim reality behind volunteer libraries by Dawn Finch and a no less superb piece by Pedronicus pointing out that there’s a disconnect between all the shiny talk about 3D printers and the cuts actually taking place.  Someone pointed out to me while discussing this that in one consultation they were asked about 3D printers while the council was looking to cut several hundred thousand pounds: it was like being asked what type of Ferrari you wanted while not being able to afford the Mini any more.  Or being distracted by the big shiny lights while the man behind the curtain pulls the levers and steals your library.

Changes

Erratum

My calculations about the number of libraries per head in Lincolnshire that Ed Vaizey has agreed is acceptable was in error due to not taking into account that North Lincolnshire, as well as Northeast Lincolnshire, are unitary councils.  They therefore have libraries and so their population needs taking into account.

North Lincolnshire Council has got 167,500 population so that makes a total for Lincolnshire County Council alone of 682500.  682500 divided by 15 branches equals a still eye-watering 45500 people per branch.  England has a population of 53 million, that divided by 45500 equals 1100.  There’s 2900 libraries in England so that still makes 1800 libraries that Ed Vaizey would accept are not needed under this revised figure.  It is also worth noting that Lincoln, which has a population of 94600 would only have one branch under the council’s proposals.

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2000 fewer libraries? Ed Vaizey again decides not to intervene

Editorial

Mr Vaizey has again decided not to intervene in a library service that is severely reducing it’s number of branches and budget. In his letter saying he is “minded not to intervene” in Lincoolnshire, he makes it clear that 15 static libraries, online provision and a housebound book delivery service meet the statutory requirement for provision.  It accepts that the other 30 branches can be closed or passed to volunteers but, crucially, does not include them in making its final judgement – they are therefore effectively entirely optional and the council can do with them as it pleases, electorate willing.  The county council of Lincolnshire accounts for around 850,000 people so that raises the bar to 56,000 people per branch library being an acceptable figure.  So those who think that one should have a library in anything smaller than a middle to large town should consider writing to the minister before 24th April.

It’s worth bearing in mind, by the way, that that ratio would mean the secretary of state would be happy with less than one thousand libraries in all of England: 2000 – or two-thirds – fewer than now. One of the reasons for this acceptance appears to be that housebound library services are a “replacement” for those who cannot get into a local library, which is a scary thing where someone delivering the books to an incapacitated person in their own home can be used as an excuse to close down a vital service.

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