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Chris Riddell (L), Ed Vaizey (C - discovering he's the same height as a Twit, honestly) and Sue Williamson at the official Big Friendly Read launch.

Goodbye Ed Vaizey

Editorial

So Ed Vaizey is no longer libraries minister.  Readers of Public Libraries News will know what he has done, and what he hasn’t, for public libraries in the six years he has been in charge. Before being in power, he stridently called for interventions in libraries but when he was in power, he did not intervene effectively – other than nodding through deep cuts – in a single one. A nice enough chap, even charming I understand, he was perhaps constrained by his background, his ideology, notably that of localism and austerity, and by his colleagues in doing anything more.  Certainly, the Sieghart Review and the Taskforce are welcome, although they However, claiming that libraries were thriving when they self-evidently were not and calling in question the number of closures and depth of cuts when the evidence was there was all to see was, I suspect, all him. Or is it? We will see with his replacement, who has already claimed on Twitter to be a supporter of libraries has a similar relationship with cold hard. politically uncomforable, facts.

In other news, I’ve been following news of Pokémon Go visits to libraries throughout the country and many library services have not been slow in taking advantage, at least in social media. That’s all great to see, as are all the wonderful pictures of children joining the Big Friendly Read.

National news

“Thank you for championing libraries and SCL over the past six years @edvaizey it has been a pleasure working with you” Society of Chief Librarians on Twitter.

  • Developers add gyms and libraries to property sites to help their elderly residents stay fit. A recent BBC investigation found that 343 public libraries in Britain have closed over the past six years, and a further 111 closures are planned this year. Add this to the fact that many pubs are also shutting their doors, and it is clear that the number of places where older people can socialise is dwindling. However, retirement home developers are attempting to tackle that problem.”

“The Dr Beeching of Libraries” Ian Stringer on Lis-pub-libs

  • Hancock takes on culture post as Vaizey exits – BookSeller. “Matt Hancock, MP for West Suffolk (pictured), has replaced Ed Vaizey as minister for culture and digital policy, as new prime minister Theresa May completed her reshuffle this weekend. Library campaigners have condemned Vaizey’s record in office but said Hancock has “a real chance to find a way forward to revive the service” … “Vaizey was appointed culture minister in 2010, and bitterly disappointed library campaigners by a lack of action in office, despite bullish talk while in opposition. His repeated mantra, that there was no crisis in the library service, despite the evident widespread cutbacks and closures, was a cause of particular anger.”.  Quotes from Desmond Clarke, Laura Swaffield {and myself – Ed.] and comment from Phil Bradley. See also Culture minister Ed Vaizey leaves the government – The Stage.

“Neither Matt Hancock nor the new secretary of state Karen Bradley seems to have any background in culture issues. That may not matter if they just listen. It’s encouraging that Matt has already tweeted that he is ‘a big supporter of our great libraries’. At least he’s noticed that it’s part of his brief. Libraries hardly figured at all in Ed’s weekly reports on his activities.” Laura Swaffield

  • My wayLeon’s Library Blog. ” It would be unfair to blame Vaizey for the all the problems of the public library sector over the last six years. The overriding factor has been one of ideology; from austerity, to localism, to devolution. But the ex-minister was certainly a strong advocate for these policies and ensured that libraries became a poster-boy for DIY community services.”
  • Pooh pips Potter to the post in Summer Reading Challenge poll – Reading Agency. “Winnie the Pooh has topped the list of favourite childhood book characters in a new poll, beating the popular wizard Harry Potter to the top spot. The list of favourite characters from childhood books shows Harry Potter in second place, and George from Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five in third, behind the timeless Winnie the Pooh. Other popular characters include Roald Dahl’s Matilda and Lucy from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” … “Ahead of the Summer Reading Challenge taking place in libraries across the country during July and August, the results shine a light on the benefits of reading, demonstrating what can be learned from our childhood favourites. Over a third (37%) of people said their favourite character taught them ‘It is okay to be different’. A third (30%) said they learned ‘How to be kind to people’ and a quarter learned ‘How to get through difficult times’.”
Chris Riddell (L), Ed Vaizey (C - discovering he's the same height as a Twit, honestly) and Sue Williamson at the official Big Friendly Read launch.

Chris Riddell (L), Ed Vaizey (C – discovering he’s the same height as a Twit, honestly) and Sue Wikinson at the official Big Friendly Read launch.

  • Supporting libraries in the digital age – Libraries Taskforce / Sharon Wragg. “Following last year’s £7.4m investment from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) which completed the installation of WiFi in 99% of public libraries in England, Tinder Foundation identified the need for research and insight into how WiFi could be maximised through the use of mobile technology and the importance and benefits of investing in the development of library users’ digital skills. As a result, Tinder Foundation, in consultation with the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce, launched the Library Digital Inclusion Fund, to help those with WiFi already installed to engage and support hard-to-reach learners who were socially and digitally excluded, and to deliver basic digital skills training using WiFi and mobile technology.” [I had previously doubted the suggested £7.5m projected saving was correct – it seems low when taken nationally – but the Tinder Foundaiton have sent me their working and that is indeed an accurate figure – Ed.]
  • Top library and information stories from the past 2 weeks – CILIP. Including links to talks from the CILIP Conference.
  • What is your name? What is your favorite color? What is the airspeed velocity of a library? – Libraries Taskforce / Margaret Craft. “setting a strategic direction like this is fruitless without the momentum for change, and that momentum depends on the awareness and support of everyone across the library sector that it will affect. That support demands more than just writing a sound document. Everyone needs to buy in – from library staff and volunteers on the ground, heads of service, partners, and decision-makers for libraries”

International news

  • Morocco – The oldest library on Earth was started by a woman, and finally everyone can visit it – Quartz. “Founded by a Muslim woman, the University of Al Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morroco, opened its doors in 859. Its library has been restored during the last three years by another woman, Canadian-Moroccan architect Aziza Chaouni. A wing will be open to the general public later this year.” However, it’s not the oldest library, see this: What’s the oldest continuously operating library in the world? St. Catherine’s Monastery of Sinai – Aleteia. It opened 300 years before.
  • USA – Library of Congress Gets a History-Making New Leader – Atlantic. “Carla Hayden is the first woman and African American to serve as Librarian of Congress” … “Hayden is credited with modernizing the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore’s 22-branch city library system. (She also successfully kept the library open throughout the Freddie Gray protests last year.) As president of the American Library Association in 2003 and 2004, she frequently and publicly criticized Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, which allowed federal law enforcement to access public-library borrowing records.”
  • USA – Pokémon Go: What Do Librarians Need To Know? – SLJ. “Though it remains to be seen whether Pokémon Go will be a brief fad or a long-term obsession, the game’s popularity has already helped to demonstrate how emerging tech creates opportunities for libraries to connect with and educate patrons in unexpected ways.”
  • USA – Protecting Patron Privacy – Library Journal. “An audience member laid out what she felt I was asking of the group. “You’re telling us to start selling granola when everyone else is running a candy store.” I thought about her comment for a moment. “Yes, but don’t you see? There’s about to be a huge demand for granola, and no one else will have it.””

Local news by authority

  • Bracknell Forest – Bracknell austerity protesters fail to stop £6 million cuts – Get Reading. “Members of the Defend Our Community Services (DOCS) group lobbied Bracknell Forest Councillors before the council meeting on Wednesday, July 13 protesting austerity measures the Executive committee recommended in May. Councillors paid little heed to the protesters once the meeting began swiftly passing more than £6 million of cuts and axing 10 jobs in a bid the balance Bracknell’s books.” … “Other members of DOCS, Diane Thomas, 70, Nicola Waugh, 52, Amanda Preece, 50, and Alan Cocks, 73, explained they worried about potential library cuts and argued the case for libraries as a cultural custodian.”
  • Bromley – All-out strike of council services planned for this week – Bromley Times. “Bromley library workers started seven days of strike action on Saturday. From July 16, libraries will face the latest wave of strike action, with the workers’ union Unite claiming “workers are taking action against cuts and privatisation”. All council services are planning an all-out strike on Wednesday, July 10″
  • Devon – People behind the business: Ciara Eastell, Libraries Unlimited – Exeter Express and Echo. “I’m the chief executive of Libraries Unlimited, a new social enterprise running libraries across Devon….  The best thing about my job is… Seeing the difference that great libraries can have on individuals and local communities – for example, helping people find a job, set up a business or seeing a child who grows to love books from the support of a librarian. At Libraries Unlimited, we want to ensure libraries can have as much impact as possible on the way people – of all ages – learn, read and connect with others. Over 120,000 people across Devon regularly use our services – that’s a great starting point for a new business and we’d love to welcome many more people back to libraries to see what’s now on offer.”
  • Dumfries and Galloway – Council engaging population – Galloway Gazette. Changing traditional libraries into ‘integrated facilities’ three years ago has increased footfall by 18 per cent. This welcome news was given to elected members at the Wigtown Area Committee monthly meeting in Stranraer on Wednesday, but Wigtown West Councillor Grahame Forster commented that although library attendance had gone up in Stranraer, there was no way of knowing why those going through the doors were there, since customer services, registration and libraries were combined”
  • East Sussex – Library opening hours expected to be cut – Argus. “Cabinet will meet on Tuesday to decide whether to agree revised opening hours which could save around £500,000 per year. The plan is an average 25 per cent reduction in opening hours across the county’s 24 libraries, following a 12-week public consultation. If agreed, opening times will continue to vary across the county but libraries will generally not open before 10am or after 5pm.”
  • Herefordshire – Book fair fund-raisers to become bi-annual at Ledbury Library? – Ledbury Reporter. “book fair in the Panelled Room of Ledbury Library raised £800 for stackable chairs, which will help the venue to host more community events in the future, including for local schools. In fact, the two and a half day book sale was so successful, plans are afoot to run book fair fund-raisers twice a year, for a week each time. Ledbury Library Development Group spokesman, Nina Shields said: “It became clear that the two and a half days was not long enough for the bibliophiles of Ledbury. The response with book donations and with people coming to buy was wonderful. We have nowhere to store the unsold books so will be selling them through other outlets. The amount raised is about £800 and as a result we will be able to buy the much needed stackable chairs together with a stand for storage.”
  • Lancashire – Calls for legal fight against Morecambe Library and kids centre cuts – Visitor. “After feelings ran high at a town meeting over the future of the library and children’s centres, there were calls for a legal challenge to government cuts in Lancashire. Councillors said they would back a judicial review if controversial plans to turn Morecambe Library into a self-service ‘satellite library’ and sell off Poulton, Balmoral and Heysham children’s centres go ahead.”
  • Leicestershire – Barwell is the sole library to close in cost-cutting plans – Hinckley Times. “Just one library has closed following cost-cutting plans by Leicestershire County Council to transfer control to community groups. Barwell is the only village library to shut down after volunteers pulled their bid to take responsibility because of fears over its long-term sustainability.”
  • North Lanarkshire – Children take part in last-gasp protest against closure of Coatbridge library – Daily Record. Old Monkland: “They staged a show of support for the Coatbridge facility this week – making posters and banners to protest against the decision that it will shut its doors for the final time in the next month. It is among four North Lanarkshire libraries, also including Petersburn in Airdrie, which will close following a £1.1million reduction in the management fee paid to operators Culture NL by the council. Read more at http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/local-news/children-take-part-last-gasp-8413888#jjTspi3oDPXpBxJZ.99″
  • North Somerset – Parish council set to take over under-threat village library? – Mercury. “Congresbury Library is one of several children’s centres and libraries which could be closed or merged into single buildings as part of money-saving plans proposed by North Somerset Council. The plans are out for public consultation until September 30 and although the council says it has not made firm decisions about possible closures or mergers, Congresbury Parish Council is already exploring the option of taking on the village library in Station Road.”
  • Northern Ireland – Video: Hands Off Our Libraries Campaign in Belfast – Belfast Telegraph. “Campaigners deliver a partition [sic] to the Department for Communities calling on Minister Paul Givan to make funds available to halt further cuts of library hours. “
  • Shropshire – Shropshire Council criticised for key services silence – Shropshire Star. “It comes after Councillor Malcolm Pate, leader of Shropshire Council, announced there would be an extension of up to 12 months for councils and organisations to look into taking on closure-threatened services such as libraries and leisure centres. In an unexpected twist Councillor Pate said “a little bit of money” had been found in the local authority’s budgets to allow towns and parishes more time to plan.” … “Councillor Cooper said: “We’ve had absolutely no notification from Shropshire Council. They just don’t communicate with us.”
  • Swindon – Cabinet offers cautious backing to libraries strategy – This is Wiltshire. “Cabinet has voted in favour of the libraries strategy, paving the way for a move from 15 funded libraries down to four. In a wide ranging debate during their meeting on Wednesday, cabinet members discussed issues including the role of volunteers, finding new income streams, the mobile library and the use of transitional funding. But observers hoping for greater clarification on detail or specifics will have been disappointed, instead it appeared that a sense of hope was the driving force behind the plans as they currently stand.”
  • Swindon – Last ditch attempt to save Swindon’s libraries – ITV. “Campaigners will be protesting outside Swindon Borough Council later in a final bid to save some of Swindon’s doomed libraries”
  • Swindon – Swindon library closures: Campaigners urge rethink – BBC. “Shirley Burnham, from Save Swindon’s Libraries, said they want “the town consulted properly”. “We hope for a rethink…a well costed and well thought out alternative,” she said.”
  • Waltham Forest – Update: Fight to save library from demolition enters next phase – This is Local London. ” vote to relocate four libraries in Waltham Forest, including the “much-loved” Hale End Library in Highams Park, was passed by the council on Tuesday (July 14). Campaign organiser, Oliver Shykles, said this was an “expected setback” and it is now up to concerned supporters to voice their anger against the plans. A consultation phase has begun where those wishing for the library to remain at its Castle Avenue site can actively oppose the council’s plans.”
Swindon: Campaigners were out in force to show their support for Swindon's libraries ahead of a full council meeting

Wifi, digital inclusion, NHS public libraries and a new Culture Secretary

Editorial

A couple of useful reports on public libraries – one on wifi and one on digital inclusion – to have a read through in this post. Arts Council England have also announced that the procedure for libraries to apply for their grants will soon change. In addition, there’s the amazing news that a Friend’s group in Suffolk has raised £30k for its library.  That’s a lot for a support group but, of course, small scale for a council but, if the council does not have any money …  There’s also an interesting article about the NHS in Staffordshire (there’s more info here by the way).

Speaking of Staffs, the new Culture Secretary comes from around there and has had some dealing with libraries in the past, speaking warmly of coffee mornings and attending the transfer of Werrington Library to a wellbeing centre, staffed by volunteers, So, she has at least shown an interest but, unsurprisingly, is of the same camp as other Conservatives on the way forward for libraries in these difficult times. By the way, Ed Vaizey has, at time of writing, not been promoted (or demoted) as far as I can see but is now a member of the privy council so will now be called “The Right Honourable”.

Changes

National news

  • Libraries affected by changes in ACE funding – BookSeller. ” ACE has decided to scrap the specific “Grants for the Arts” libraries fund, which will be discontinued in March 2018. Instead, libraries will compete with other cultural bodies for money from ACE’s new Grants for the Arts and Culture fund after that date. The new stream, which is renamed from its previous title of ‘Grants for the Arts’, will have a broad remit – “to develop great art and cultural activity for everyone”. It will typically supporting applications between £1,000 and £100,000. ACE will develop guidance for libraries in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians over the next 18 months. For the first time, libraries will also be integrated into the National Portfolio funding pot. Any ACE money won by libraries as part of this pot must only focus on arts and cultural activity, with local authorities responsible for funding libraries’ statutory work. More guidance on this will be published on 4th October 2016.”
  • Library Digital Inclusion Fund Action Research Project Final Report – Tinder Foundation. “From October 2015 – April 2016, we funded 16 library services across England to deliver innovative and sustainable digital inclusion projects, targeting vulnerable or isolated people to help them improve their basic digital skills. This final report contains the findings from the project and our recommendations for how libraries can best deliver and utilise digital inclusion activities going forward.”

“We calculate that project beneficiaries moving from face-to-face and telephone to online channels will generate potential cost savings of more than £800k per annum – more than £492 per person supported – across local and national government services in areas where library services participated in the project. This suggests that libraries are an important resource for local authorities and government services seeking to implement digital by default and channel shift agendas, and that investment in libraries to deliver digital skills is justified by a significant potential return on investment. It could be assumed that if similar activities were recreated across all 151 library services in England, over £7.5 million {sic – I think they mean £75 million – Ed.]  of cost savings could be achieved.”

 

  • NHS partners up with libraries to boost wellbeing – Guardian. “When her local library at Barton-under-Needwood needed volunteers, Fenwick stepped forward to help run it. On 25 April it became the first in Staffordshire to be run by volunteers, and one of eight that has an unusual partner: South Staffordshire and Shropshire healthcare NHS foundation trust. The trust’s decision to add library management to mental health, learning disability and specialist children’s services will be discussed on Wednesday 13 July at the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals’ annual conference in Brighton.” … “Under its five-year deal with the council, which can be renewed for further five-year periods and includes a commitment to maintaining opening hours, the NHS trust will receive no payment for running the eight libraries, but retains income from charges. Cardwell says the trust has two employees working on the project, but otherwise the libraries use their existing departmental services.”
  • Switching it on is only the start – Arts Council England. “Brian Ashley, our Director of Libraries, blogs about why ‘Free WiFi’ isn’t always free, and how libraries across the country are going above and beyond to get us online.” … “And switching on is only the start. Now we can confidently talk about free access to WiFi in all libraries all sorts of possibilities are opened up.”… “A new report by Shared Intelligence tells five stories of how libraries in different parts of the country have used their imagination and worked with partners to offer new services for local people. It contains some brilliant examples.” see also Making the most of wifi – Arts Council England / Shared Intelligence.
  • Theresa May, The Opposition and the threat to librarianship – Infoism. ” The elevation of Theresa May (presented as a kind of softer One Nation Tory – see here for more on One Nation Conservatism) certainly suggests that the threats we face to our ethical principles are not about to be brushed away, but instead become more pressing. We know that May has a particularly strident approach to mass surveillance, not for nothing was May named “internet villain of the year” at last year’s Annual UK Internet Industry Awards. It seems highly unlikely that upon becoming Prime Minister, May will suddenly abandon a long-held belief in mass surveillance, a policy that is a very serious threat to our ethical principles as outlined by CILIP. The question is, how will we as a profession tackle this threat.”
  • Theresa May’s cabinet: Who’s in and who’s out? – BBC. Karen Bradley becomes Culture Secretary (her voting record is here).

International news

  • Finland – Helsinki Central Library emerges from the needs of city residents – Good news from Finland. “The new Helsinki Central Library, due to open in 2018, was designed for the urban dwellers of Helsinki by the residents themselves. That’s the reason why the new library will have, among other things, a movie theatre, music studio, restaurant, open workspaces and a “citizen balcony” – not to forget the traditional library space, of course.”  … and it’s going to be built directly opposite from the Finnish parliament.
  • Nepal – Nepal’s Public Libraries Still in Distress After 2015 Earthquake – Public Libraries Online. “A significant portion of the over seven billion dollars’ worth of damage was suffered by Nepal’s public libraries. Libraries and archives there saw quite a bit of damage after the quakes and aftershocks, one of which measured 7.3. In particular, many of the Rural Education and Development (READ) centers, partners of ALA, suffered damage, along with the surrounding communities. The Nepal Library Relief Fund was set up to rebuild archives and libraries in Nepal damaged by the earthquakes.”
  • USA – Anonymous Republicans Blocking Librarian of Congress Vote – Publishers Weekly. “Public arguments against Ms. Hayden offensively suggest that, apparently because she is an African American woman, she would turn the library into a ‘monument to political correctness.’ Meanwhile, legislators refuse to vote but offer no arguments at all,” the editorial states. “The Senate should give Ms. Hayden the consideration she deserves”
  • USA – Demonstrating the Library’s ROI – Public Libraries Online. “A recent article in the New York Times, “Denying New York Libraries the Fuel They Need,” stated that the New York Public Library had over 37 million visitors in the last fiscal year. In contrast, the combined attendance at major sporting events for the Yankees, Mets, Knicks, Nets, Rangers, Jets, and Giants totaled only nine million people, yet the city’s budget for libraries pales in comparison to the budget for stadiums.”

Local news by authority

  • Barnet – Questions asked over move to up communications team budget at Barnet Council while other services face cuts – Times Series. “Anger has been expressed at plans to increase Barnet Council’s communication team budget by more than £450,000 – while other services face drastic cuts.” Library protesters pictured. Local blogger says ““Library staff are being made redundant and my local library, East Barnet, turned into a volunteer only library open just 15 hours a week. “The council should be there to deliver services to residents not spending money on spin.”
  • Bury – Petition launched to keep Ramsbottom Library open – Bury Times. “The Keep Ramsbottom Library Safe Facebook page and petition were set up by local resident Paul Jenkins. he petition came about as Bury Council launched the library service review. The consultation is designed to look at the services the libraries provide for the public before a decision is made next year about what changes to make. Mr Jenkins said: “The library is a focal point for us in the community and we already know how important it is to the people of Ramsbottom.”
  • Bury – Town hall answers rumours over library closures – Guide. ““Some of these rumours have been going around on social media. The consultation at this stage is just on service provision. “As a council, we have a duty to provide a library service to the public. “There aren’t specifics around budgets in this consultation because we didn’t want to set out a budget at the start and work towards it. What we want to do is look ahead and see what the needs are for the public.” … “It’s two-and-a-half years since the last consultation. To be frank and honest, we didn’t get it quite right last time. We made the savings that we were asked to because that was the first thing in that review. “The savings are the last thing in this one, we are trying to get it right this time so that we can provide a service that’s not only good for now but good for the next five or 10 years or more. That can adapt for the needs of all.”
  • Ealing – Ealing Central Library gets Primark move as council approves downsize – Get West London. “The library will now be housed in a smaller location and will lose 70% of its books as part of a bid to cut costs and improve its technology”
  • East Sussex – Council chiefs may slash library hours to save £500,000 – Eastbourne Herald. “East Sussex County Council’s Cabinet will meet on July 19, to decide whether to agree revised opening hours which could save the authority around £500,000 per year. Residents were asked for their views during a 12-week consultation earlier this year and proposals have been revised to take into account the feedback received.” … “Libraries that currently open later than 5.30pm would retain one evening opening until 6pm on a Thursday, with the exception of Ringmer Library. Following feedback from the public, changes have been made to the proposals for 11 libraries including Seaford Library having one late opening and Ringmer Library opening on a Saturday morning instead of a Tuesday evening.”
  • Lancashire – Rallying call to save our libraries – Blackpool Gazette. “Friends of Ansdell Library has stressed how vital it is that as many people as possible make their voices heard before the consultation period concludes on August 14.”
  • Lancashire – Ribble Valley councillors unite to fight closure of libraries and centres – Lancashire Telegraph. “A six-strong working group, chaired by Whalley councillor and deputy borough leader, Terry Hill, is looking into the impact of the potential losses of the centres”
  • Northern Ireland – ‘Only a matter of time before libraries close’ – Carrickfergus Times. “Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has said it is “disappointed” over plans to cut opening hours at local library branches. Under the proposals from Libraries NI, Ballymena Central and Carrickfergus Libraries are to be reduced from 50 hours per week to 45. The reduction forms part of an overall package of savings that Libraries NI is implementing.”
  • Suffolk – Aldeburgh Library set for £30,000 improvements thanks to Foundation’s fundraising – EADT. “Aldeburgh Library is set to close for the first fortnight of September while new decoration, shelving and IT equipment is installed. The work is being funded by the Aldeburgh Library Foundation (ALF), which has raised the five figure sum in just three years using profits from its popular adult education classes, loyalty scheme and charity Christmas cards. Suffolk County Council (SCC) and Aldeburgh Town Council have also provided grants.”
  • Swindon – Letters – Swindon Advertiser. “We all know the decision is done and dusted, so who’s kidding whom? The council merely go through the motions and await their collective Bafta award. What are frail and immobile pensioners supposed to do who live on Swindon’s outskirts? Four wall syndrome will return.”
Swindon: Campaigners were out in force to show their support for Swindon's libraries ahead of a full council meeting

Swindon: Campaigners were out in force to show their support for Swindon’s libraries ahead of a full council meeting

  • Swindon – Letters – Swindon Advertiser. (1) Letter by Nick Poole. “As the chief executive of CILIP, the UK’s library association, I am deeply concerned about the proposed cuts to Swindon’s libraries. I have written to the council leader, David Renard, urging Swindon Council to reconsider the extent of the proposals – which would see 11 out of 15 libraries in Swindon close. The decision to shut libraries cannot be just a cost-saving, spreadsheet exercise. We recognise the financial pressures that local authorities are under but these drastic proposals would massively reduce investment in Swindon and have disproportionate social and economic costs to the council and residents. I urge Coun Renard to consider the following points in the council’s debate…” (2) “Cameron says the British economy is strong and the fifth largest in the world. The fact that Britain can no longer afford libraries suggests that British economy is much weaker that Cameron has been telling us”
  • Waltham Forest – Campaigners angered by proposals to relocate libraries – Guardian Series. “Campaigners have expressed their anger at the council proposals to relocate libraries. Waltham Forest Council Cabinet voted to consult the public about relocating three libraries in Hale End, Higham Hill and Wood Street. A fourth library, in Lea Bridge Road, will be renovated.”
  • Warwickshire – Pirates and other performers haul in crowds at Warwickshire libraries – Leamington Courier. “Thanks to a £49,900 from the Arts Council, the library service ran 74 Fantastic Fun With Words sessions across 17 libraries in the county.”
  • Worcestershire – Council chiefs scale back cuts to library opening hours in Wyre Forest – Shuttle. “Controbersial proposals to slash 78.5 hours off library opening times across Worcestershire – including Stourport, Kidderminster and Bewdley libraries – has been scaled back, it has emerged. Worcestershire County Council has decided to reduce the cutbacks to 55 hours a week, after it faced criticism during a public consultation. It was revealed in April the county council had hatched a plan to shave opening hours off 17 different sites as part of a fresh plan to save £1 million. But following an outcry, 23.5 hours will be ‘added’ back into the mix, saving several libraries from unpopular changes”
11 million books for 5p per day, plus free internet access? It's a no-brainer, Wales

The increasingly ironically named Reading, Ealing’s Primark Library … and Pokémon Go

Editorial

Some pretty major cuts to libraries have been announced, with two things in common.  One is that they blame central government cuts. The other is that a big thing is made of the council not actually cutting more, often pointing out other authorities are doing even worse things to the people’s chances of equal access to information and literacy.  Ealing – the one that’s halving the size of its central library and selling 87,000 of its books – even says it’s proud it is not being even more savage.  So, these councils should be grateful to the seriously malicious library cutters, such as the recent Swindon, who make such a defence possible. Meanwhile, in the afore-mentioned Swindon, a member of the public – not even a public official – is straight-faced calling the cuts a new opportunity for community empowerment.  Doublethink appears to have won the argument.

But fear not, for a possible library saviour is coming across the horizon, and he may be yellow with a spiky tail.  Pokémon Go, when it gets here, is apparently quite keen on making public libraries centres … so expect lots of young people coming on to the premises looking everywhere with their mobile phones. And, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, find out, and work out how to make the most of it.

Changes

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Poem and illustration by @duddledum

Trusts cost more; co-locations, New York success and libraries meet UN targets

Editorial

A fair few changes over the last few days, with a fair bit being positive, mixed in with the normal depression.  Interestingly, Wrexham has decided to buck the general trend towards moving to Trusts, with their research showing it would cost £200k more per year to move to that model. Away from the UK, there’s a story from the USA about how libraries are thriving once more due to a revival in investment and there’s a report from IFLA on how libraries are able to meet every single one of the UN targets.

Changes

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The Big Friendly Success: Here comes the Summer Reading Challenge 2016

Editorial

It’s my favourite time of the year. No, not Christmas and not my birthday, or (ahem) my wedding anniversary but the start of the Summer Reading Challenge.  I love doing school assemblies promoting it and I’ve already had two whole junior school’s worth of children chanting “B F R”.  It’s the little things in life I enjoy.  And the impact that this has is lasting. I was in Asda the other week and a young man (16?) shouted “It’s Ian” and came up to talk to me.  Turns out he remembers the school assembly I did at this school six or seven years ago when I got them all chanting “Space Hop” (my assemblies don’t change that much) and was keen to tell me how he was doing and how he was going on to study further.  There’s a man who has a very positive association in his mind with libraries and an experience that is being repeated in its thousands up and down the country at the moment. So here’s to all the libraries, all the teachers and above all, all the children and parents who will make the Summer the busiest time of the year for libraries again this year. Long may it continue.

Changes

Ideas

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So, what does the Referendum result mean for public libraries?

Editorial

I know from talking to many people in public libraries and the public sector generally that it’s been a depressing few days, which at times has affected them more than even many general elections. There’s been no end of analysis of what the referendum result means for the country but none about what it means for public libraries. Let’s change that now:

  • Public libraries have been notable for not being used by many to find out information on the facts during the campaign. I’m aware of only a tiny handful of enquiries.  The great majority of libraries did not go out of the way to inform people either: indeed, they would have been often discouraged to do so because they’d have been accused of bias by one or the other side. The rules of council “purdah” may also have been invoked.  If libraries are a strongpoint of democracy and neutral information – as many believe they should be – then they signally failed in this test and need to plan to do better next time.
  • At this moment, it looks significantly likely that Scotland will have another independence referendum, which will probably result in a Yes vote. This means that the large number of leftwing MPs elected to parliament from north of the border will no longer be there.  This will cause a significant shift in the ease that Labour can hope to get in: basically, you’d need votes like those previously associated with landslides in order for them to stand a chance. In turn, this means that governments are probably going to stay right-wing, being more likely to continue to favour limiting public spending, and thus library budgets, in the longer term. Personally, also, for me, it means that I’ll have to start putting Scottish News in the International News section, which is just going to be plain weird.
  • As uncertainty rocks businesses and, at the very least, they will have to get used to new procedures, there is likely to be slowdown in economic growth. This may to some extent be offset by the cost of sterling though but, on balance, and especially looking at recent FTSE results, it’s not looking good for large parts of the British economy. This, again, means we’re more likely to face more cuts to public services than before.
  • Thankfully, public libraries don’t get much investment from the European Union in this country. They get some for new builds but there’s not much of that happening at the moment, although a few places are likely to notice. So, we’re not likely to significantly lose much money that way, Phew.

This is all guesswork of course. It may be that some of the money repatriated from the EU goes to public services and thus negates the impacts of austerity.  It’s possible that Scotland won’t go independent. But, at the moment, the balance of probability is that the short and medium term impact on public libraries will be negative.

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Chris Riddell loves libraries

A quiet couple of days for libraries: Hull enters centre stage?

Editorial

A quiet few days as, I suspect, the nation held its breath over the referendum. Good to see more Summer Reading Challenge references (I always love this time of year) and also nice to see good news from Birmingham, although it’s only an expansion of what we already knew. What I did not already know was that there’s an independent charitable trust in Hull with loads of money and a strong interest in libraries which wants to make itself known nationally. It will be interesting to see how that develops.

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Amazon linking revisited … and … Ed Vaizey says it’s all OK

Editorial

I’m always pleased, and a niggling part of me is surprised too, when I get feedback on something in an editorial.  My thanks to Jon Scown of Somerset Libraries who responded to my recent post on the linking to Amazon on the Libraries West catalogue:

“We noticed with interest the editorial in last week’s Public Libraries News about LibrariesWest linking to Amazon from our website, not least because we’ve been doing this since 2005 so it’s nothing new! I guess the profile of this has been raised since we launched our new website following our recent migration to the Symphony LMS.

I thought it might help to explain why we make the link and the benefits to the service and to customers. We’ve used the income to support a number of successful promotional campaigns over the years which we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford. For example, we ran a Join a Friend campaign to encourage library members to recommend the library to friends and family, and a marketing campaign when we launched our e book and e audio book services. The income from Amazon allowed us to produce high quality publicity materials and to buy prizes to support the campaigns. Alongside these campaigns we’ve also run a number of consortium wide promotions to support the Summer Reading Challenge and National Libraries Day.

I’m sure this will be of interest to the readers of Public Libraries News and demonstrate that there is value in making the link to Amazon.”

Jon then went on to say that “over the eleven years we’ve been doing it we’ve made several thousand pounds. So, there’s an idea, especially as it is balanced out by a link to a “buy it on the local high street” webpage as well, which I think is an excellent idea.

On the other hand, I’ve also heard from someone else that their authority tried it, “earned pennies” and then stopped. And it’s worth noting that a few thousand pounds would be worth possibly at tops one tenth of one percent of library income over the period described, although it’s clearly put to good use and ringfenced (always a good idea to do that if you can).

Ultimately, I think faced with an ever-shrinking budget individual library authorities (and others definitely in that boat –  Milton Keynes, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, for instance – have done the same) it’s an offer many will find too tempting to refuse.  Strategically and nationally, one still fears that it’s allying with an enemy who basically wants you closed down, while alienating potential supporters such as many booksellers and authors. But, faced with the needs we face, many library services will be willing to make that deal. And, by the look of it, Ed Vaizey will congratulate them for modernising at the same time.

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Humanity First

Editorial

A murder of an MP as she was leaving a library. Not many people think of violence when they think of libraries but it’s there. I’ve personally called the police numerous times, broken up fights before they started, called the ambulance after they ended, seen a few knives, dowsed the flames of an arson attack. But (and I’m aware there are one or two US readers of this who would disagree, sadly)  I would before last week never think that anyone would ever be shot in one, least of all an MP. Words cannot express. My best wishes to the staff and volunteers who were there on the day and to all the library staff, everywhere, who know that violence may be part of the job. May it not be the part in any MP’s job again any time soon.

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Catalogue takes you directly to Amazon or the Hive

Selling on to Amazon: thinking about linking

Editorial

I’m squeezing in a post this evening as I’m unlikely to find the time tomorrow. So, I’ll include something that has been sent to me about LibrariesWest, a consortium of several library authorities in the South West. The image below is a screen capture from the catalogue. Most of it will be familiar to everyone but the “Find on Amazon” and “Hive.co.uk” options may not be.  Linking to Amazon has obvious attractions – they’re fast, cheap, well known and doubtless (one sincerely hopes) paying commission.  On the other hand, Amazon are also well-known for their negative side (low wages, wiping out competition, something about taxation) which may not play well with library friends in publishing and bookselling. Indeed, the email to me pointing out the Amazon link goes on to ask “what is this about? Have our libraries sold themselves to Amazon? I can’t believe something like this is acceptable in [name of city], where there’s such a strong support for the local shops and where quite a few local bookstores had to close in the last year.”. The Hive link may be an attempt to balance this out as it takes directly to a link to buying the book on the high street, again something I’ve not seen before.  However, the Amazon link has clear pride of place (directly below the place reservation button) and one has click on the Hive logo to actually see what it was. I wonder how many people never try.

This example represents the dilemma that library authorities face. The link represents extra helpfulness for the customer and an alternative if the person wants a book quickly and the library cannot supply. It also, I really hope, provides income, which is something we all know is vital these days. On the other hand, it’s going to really annoy some core supporters of libraries and ally ourselves with a private company that, in the final analysis, wants us – and all other competition – gone. So, risk assess the options before one does initiatives like this and prepare to be challenged. by people a little less even handed than me, when they find out about it.

Catalogue takes you directly to Amazon or the Hive

Catalogue takes you directly to Amazon or the Hive

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