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

Editorial

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

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

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

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

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

Carillion Libraries and Lego Education

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

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

The range of resources include:

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

Changes

Ideas

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

National

  • Developing the digitally literate library workforce - Public Sector Executive. Ciara Eastell looks at the online training provided by SCL etc to all public librarians in England.  “I don’t think we were prepared for the level of participation we got on the Digital Skills Training Programme. This was the first training of its kind to be undertaken in public libraries and a lot of planning went in to the design of the training programme. We really listened to what library staff said they wanted to concentrate on, whilst also balancing what they would need to know to help deliver the government’s digital agenda. “
  • Radical Research – Lauren Smith. Looks at examples of libarry research that needs doing but is not being done e.g. the implications of filters on public access machines and the possibility of losing the opportunity of using the powerful research tool that is the Freedom of Information request.
  • Respected US professor says libraries are places of knowledge creation and librarians are our educators - CILIP. “In his exclusive UK appearance on his worldwide tour, distinguished US scholar R. David Lankes said librarians have the power to change the world by “promoting informed democracy” as he addressed delegates in a keynote speech at the opening of the CILIP Conference 2015 in Liverpool. Speaking to nearly 600 members of the UK and international library and information professions gathered at St. George’s Hall, Lankes said: “Libraries are not about books, and librarians are not about collections, nor are they about waiting to serve. Our libraries are mandated, mediated spaces owned by the community, and librarians are educators dedicated to knowledge creation who exist to unleash the expertise held within their community.”
  • SCL Continues to Raise Digital Skills and Leadership Standards - Society of Chief Librarians. “To date, more than 14,000 library staff members, 80% of the workforce, have completed a SCL Digital Skills E-learning programme. SCL commissioned Oakleigh Consulting to evaluate the e-learning programme and the highlights from their report are published today. Supporting Digital Access to Information and Services Executive summary 20-03-15. In  autumn 2014 SCL commissioned Shared Intelligence and Ethan Ohs to initiate a Digital Leadership Skills workforce development programme. The central objective of the pilot course was to create a training programme for current and emerging library leaders which took pressing issues relating to digital technology, and used them to explore and develop leadership skills and competencies. Seventeen library leaders took part in the pilot. The evaluation of the pilot course is published today. SCL Digital Leadership Report
  • Stressed, angry and demonised: council staff in austerity Britain – Guardian. “Staff are well into the fifth year of a public sector pay freeze that is unlikely to thaw until at least 2018. By 2016, the government will have slashed grants to councils by £11.3bn, and since 2010, 500,000 council workers have lost their jobs, according to Unison statistics. Pressure mounts on the staff who remain: 81% of local government respondents to our survey said they have to work beyond their hours to keep up with the workload, while 90% believe stress is a fact of life for public sector employees. “

“It’s hard to say no in a climate of insecurity – if you’re the procurement officer who has already been threatened with redundancy four times, or the assistant librarian asked to train volunteers you suspect will soon usurp you.”

International

  • Badass Girl Who Got Her Library to Open Up “Boys-Only” Robotics Class to All Genders Is Your New Hero – Cosmopolitan (Canada). “When Cash Cayen discovered the Timmins Public Library in Ontario, Canada was offering a robotics class, she got excited. But as Buzzfeed reports, there was only one problem—the class was only offered to boys.”
  • Five libraries nominated for the award as the world’s best public library - IFLA (International). “Five libraries are competing to win “Systematic – Public Library of the Year Award 2015”. The award was established by the Danish Agency for Culture and was sponsored this year by the IT company Systematic with a US $5,000 donation. Libraries from New Zealand, Sweden, Australia, Kenya and Spain, respectively, are in the running for the honour and US $5,000 prize money at stake, when the Danish Agency for Culture and Systematic unveils the world’s best public library 2015. This will take place at the annual meeting of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) in Cape Town, South Africa on 16 August 2015.”
  • The Fix — how to rescue Public Libraries – Medium (Australia). “Customer borrows audiobook about Genghis Khan. Enjoys it. A week or so after borrowing it she receives an email (sms/ DM/ IM/ FB message/ — delete or add to taste) from her Online-Librarian. The friendly, casual email asks if she’d like her Online Librarian to find any more goodies about Mongols, “Just click if you would, please just ignore if you prefer not to.” Customer clicks. Online Librarian sends back that he’s on it and will get back to her with a list of things she might like. …” … “The Public Libraries primary business model of information and entertainment search and delivery is broken. This collapse presents a real threat to the future of a vibrant and healthy democracy.” … “Libraries should abandon Search, Discovery and Delivery as their primary business focus and adopt a new model which markets a “Librarian-enriched” experience in information and entertainment consumption.”
  • Free public libraries are thriving in the digital age – Sydney Morning Herald (Australia). “Libraries are changing. The bookshelves are gone, resources are stored off-site and machines retrieve your request. You scan your own books at the checkout, and if you want to “ask a librarian” it’s an online form or phone call. Yet the latest figures from the State Library of New South Wales suggest that libraries are thriving, with 35 million visits in 2013-14 and 45 million loans recorded. Dr Alex Byrne, head librarian and chief executive of the State Library attributes this to innovation: adapting to digital times, providing free Wi-Fi, making services available remotely and hosting a variety of programmes and quirky events.”
  • Guest Book Review: Disaster Planning for Libraries: Process and Guidelines - Scholarly Kitchen (USA). “Guy Robertson’s Disaster Planning for Libraries: Process and Guidelines, is long on lists and short on practical advice for putting together a succinct disaster plan. Its strength is in risk identification and includes inventories of possible threats including toxic spills, train derailments, and nuclear power plant failures. Its weakness lies in the limited number of insights it offers for actually addressing these hazards.” … “The readily available, two-page template called the Pocket Response Plan for Collections (Council of State Archivists or Western States and Territories Preservation Assistance Service) goes unmentioned”
  • How a Public Library Can Improve Public Participation and Democracy – Biblioteket Tar Saka (Norway). “The Library Takes Up the Case (LTC) – this is the name chosen for a new kind (however based on traditional library principles) of Web-based knowledge portal that libraries should start offering to their communities, for the purpose of meeting one of the major challenges of our time; the uncertain future of public participation and true democracy.”
  • How to (Almost) Ruin a Great Library – Daily Beast (USA). “Public libraries have lately shifted their mission from culture to social services. The NY Public Library’s main branch was almost a casualty of this trend.” … “Its holdings are larger than any other local library system in America and also different. Millions of books and a priceless archival collection do not circulate but may be consulted by anyone with a library card at 42nd Street or one of the three other research facilities.” … “Acting in part on the advice of outside management consultants, library leadership began to “monetize[e] non-core assets” during the early 2000s. ” … “Then came the Central Library Plan. The idea was to gut the stacks and create a massive new circulating library inside 42nd Street” … “The library was forced to formally scrap the Central Library Plan in spring 2014 when an independent audit revealed that the full bill would have been in excess of $500 million, up from the original $300 million.” … ““This is a book about a world-class library that lost its way in the digital age.””

“Whoever’s behind it, the ascendant “21st century library” movement is doubly misguided: the motivation is too often nothing more than a play for more public funding and it’s not clear libraries are good at social services. Public libraries face powerful temptations to embrace fads and go where the money is. But sometimes, the real heroes are those with the patience and fortitude simply to muddle through.”

  • Kathleen Syme Library opens bringing a new hub to the Carlton community - The Age (Australia). “If books are all but dead, why has the City of Melbourne built three new libraries in the past three years, with a fourth one in the pipeline? These have been big investments.” … “a response to the inner city’s growing and diversifying population. “Our essential role is to provide opportunities for local, vulnerable and disadvantaged people to be empowered and participate in community life.”

“the international trend is to “scaffold libraries with other social infrastructure so residents can access a range of services… and it serves to build social cohesion. People value coming here and being treated as a citizen rather than a consumer.”

  • Why public libraries are the perfect ‘third place’ - Tessa Fox Reads. “In his book The Great Good PlaceRay Oldenburg explains that third places all share common features: They are neutral, meaning people can come and go without penalty, They are level, meaning everyone there is equal, Conversation is the main activity in third places, Third places are accessible — no reservation needed! Third places have many trusty regulars, Third places are unpretentious, The dominant mood of a third place is playful. Boy, these third places sure are sounding an awfully lot like public libraries … am I right?!”

Vacancies

Local

  • Bristol - Submission from Royal National Institute of Blind People to Bristol City Council ‘Libraries for the future’ consultation – RNIB. a long, considered and well researched view on the value of public libraries. “The loss of the community asset is most keenly felt by vulnerable members of the local community, namely, the young, the old, the unemployed, the disabled and the poorer members of society. They are least able to travel to a library service further away or to purchase what they would previously have borrowed from the library. This is particularly the case for blind and partially sighted people as many find it difficult to travel outside their local area and do not have the financial resources to purchase large print and audio books.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Shared reading in Cheshire West and Chester - Reader Organisation. “Our new project in partnership with Cheshire West and Chester Council is bringing shared reading to carers and those they care for across the borough. Shared reading provides carers with the valuable time and space to connect with literature and others, improving wellbeing and building resilience. Weekly groups are currently running in Chester Library, Ellesmere Port Library and Northwich Carers Centre, with one-to-one sessions also available”
  • Lambeth – “At last, something I can talk about!” – Fun Palaces at Lambeth Libraries - Signal in Transition. “I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be working as a creative producer with the London Borough of Lambeth, helping their library staff to devise and deliver ten Fun Palaces with local communities on Saturday 3rd October 2015. Fun Palaces are the international movement creating pop-up venues for communities to try their hands at science and the arts. Last year, I worked with Parkes Library on Australia’s first Fun Palace which incorporated tabletop games and supervillainous challenges alongside creative play for all ages.”
  • Leicestershire – Burbage Parish Council makes bid to save village library - Hinckley Times. “Burbage Parish Council is the latest to throw its hat into the ring in a bid to save the village’s library. The parish council held an extraordinary meeting on Monday to discuss the issue and decided it would enter the running.” … “Only last week Leicestershire county Council confirmed Elliswood Brewery in Hinckley had put forward a proposal to run the library in Church Street.”
  • Leicestershire – First volunteer-run library to be launched - Loughborough Echo. “Barrow-upon-Soar is set to be the first library in the county to be entirely manned by volunteers, according to Leicestershire County Council. Last year, the council called for volunteers to run rural libraries otherwise they would face closure. The county wants to save £800,000 from its current £5.6m libraries budget and felt these cuts could be made from job losses. The council will be providing villages with a package of support, including funding for the next seven years, but will remove its involvement after such time. At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, June 16, the council detailed the current status of all 36 community libraries. It stated that Barrow-upon-Soar will be the first community library in Leicestershire and is set to open by mid to late July.”
  • Leicestershire – Volunteer with Us – Reader Organisation. ““I always come away feeling enthusiastic and refreshed. It’s great to meet other group leaders and share experiences.” We’re currently seeking volunteers to help run and assist in regular shared reading groups across Leicestershire as part of our project with Leicestershire Libraries. Volunteers will commit 1.5 hours per week (plus time for preparation and support) and will receive full training.”
  • Lincolnshire – Council merger – Let’s focus on north-west - Market Rasen Mail. “There would be the chance, if local voters choose, of using some of the resulting cost savings on things such as reinstating the warden system within our sheltered housing complexes and supporting libraries”
  • Lincolnshire – Wainfleet Library - Lincolnshire County Council. “Wainfleet Library will be closed from 1pm on Saturday 6 June. The County Council’s lease on the building is coming to an end, and, in light of the planned changes to library services, the authority has decided not to renew it. Efforts are being made locally to develop plans for a volunteer-run facility, something the Council wholeheartedly supports. In the meantime, the Council will be providing a mobile so people can continue to use services.”
  • North Yorkshire – Meeting to decide fate of North Yorkshire’s libraries – Darlington and Stockton Times. “North Yorkshire County Council’s executive committee will meet on Tuesday, July 7 to decide whether to press ahead with a recommendation to axe staff at 21 libraries, whilst offering some support to help them stay open. When the proposals to reduce some libraries to volunteer-run centres were first proposed, more than 17,000 people protested to the council.” … “Volunteers at Great Ayton have to raise tens of thousands of pounds every year and receive £30,000 a year from the parish council to keep it running. Speaking after the proposals were discussed at a scrutiny committee meeting at County Hall, Cllr Blackie said it left the community-managed libraries with the “haves and have-nots”.” … “The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals has expressed concern nationally at the trend for libraries to become volunteer-led, as councils balance diminishing budgets”

“The Executive Committee of North Yorkshire County Council is to consider the report and recommendations on Library cuts on 7th July at County Hall in Northallerton”

  • Sefton – Birkdale library; anger as Sefton is set to sell site to developers – Visiter. “The Friends of Birkdale Library group has expressed anger that the public building could be demolished to make way for 14 new homes. A Sefton Council report has revealed that they have received a lucrative offer to build 14 semi-detached homes on the site. Len Davies, vice chairman of the Friends of Birkdale Library, said to the Visiter: “I cannot understand the cabinet’s decision. There are 4,800 children in the Birkdale area that need a library. There are several schools within one mile of the Birkdale Library site.” … “Birkdale library closed in 2013, as part of Sefton’s radical cost cutting agenda. The closure was bitterly opposed by the Birkdale Library Action Group, and the ‘Friends’ group”
  • South Lanarkshire – East Kilbride library axed in council budget cuts hosts farewell tea for loyal customers – Daily Record. “Calderwood Library closed its doors yesterday after falling victim to local authority budget cuts. The closure was branded a ‘disgrace’ by loyal customers. ” … “The library was due to close its doors yesterday (Tuesday) and last week staff organised a farewell tea for their loyal customers. A whole host of groups used the library for meetings and it was also popular with young mums and children.”

“This is one the town’s best assets and it’s closing – it’s a disgrace. “The staff even taught me how to use a computer in my 80s. I have been using the library for 30 years and I am shattered it’s closing.”

 

Quiet please, at least some of the time

Editorial

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

Changes

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This US library made at least $400k from being sponsored by its users, including in wills

Sympathy for the devil: why even chief librarians don’t have it easy

Editorial

There is an image amongst some who care about public libraries that chief librarians are somehow selfish bureaucrats who care only for their own careers.  I regularly see and hear senior library staff being spoken of disparagingly and, as someone who sees a little of both sides, inside and outside of libraries I can both understand this viewpoint but at the same time fully understand and sympathise with the situation that senior library managers are in.  The problem, you see, is that the British electorate have voted for large cuts to public services.  They may never say that aloud but those who have voted for any of the three main political parties would understand that that came with the territory.  Those that argue that our voting system is broken and that the will of the public was somehow malformed due to the first past the post system have to bear in mind that that very same public voted against proportional representation.

So we have to live with democratically imposed reductions to budgets and it is the senior staff in each service, especially those as seen as more expendable like (sadly) libraries who have to somehow implement them. I know of, directly, two chiefs who have been privately in tears over what they have had to do.  They would not have been emotionally so affected if they were somehow callous self-seeking individuals. Don’t get me wrong, such nasty people do exist, especially those that spend their lives too much in meetings and not enough on the front line, but they are not, please to goodness, the majority and all should not be painted with the same brush of blame.

So, don’t shoot the messenger.  It’s the task of those who care for the sector to work out how best to retain and change it over the next five years being in mind that austerity is going to continue to be our travelling companion.  We need to look at ways to reduce costs, increase income and usage while at the same time maintaining the neutral welcoming free ethos of the public library. If that strikes you as a tough call then you, too, may have the beginnings of sympathy for the chief librarian.

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The best of times, the worst of times

Editorial

It’s been a very busy few days for me, with lots to think about for the future of libraries interspersed with more prosaic but no less important domestic matters. The thing that has come from it most clearly for me though is the need for a positive, open and optimistic frame of mind.  It is all too easy in UK public libraries in 2015 to get depressed or focus on the tasks immediately ahead of you and not further afield.  Sometimes, perhaps, at the moment it’s impossible to do otherwise.  But if one has the chance to look up (and one is not fearing immediately for one’s job) then, and I’m going to annoy a few people here, this is actually a most interesting time to work in the sector.  Libraries have never been in such pressure as now and so, counter-intuitively, there should be never a better time to try something new, to re-examine priorities and to (heavens above) look what the community wants and try to serve those needs.  This may even be concentrating on what libraries have traditionally been good at (study areas, expert advice and free materials are actually pretty good unique selling points) or it could be something radically differeny.  The point is that there’s a world of innovation out there and it needs to be critically examined.  We need to look atthe things we do and ensure that they’re right and we need to look at new innovations – and I’m loving the books on buses idea – and how to fund them if they stand up to scrutiny.  This is not easy, perhaps the hardest thing to do we can but, you know, we have to.  And, by doing so, we can make public libraries better than they ever have been before. Especially if we can take the decision makers with us. More on that, perhaps, in another post soon.

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So if it’s going so well over there …

Editorial

One for the things I notice scanning the library press is how different the situation is in different countries.  Reports today show libraries are booming in the US and Australia yet here they are not doing so well.  There is more than one answer to why that is the case there but not so much here. Libraries have more independence in those countries to campaign and do long-term planning for a start.  In the US, also, the divide in society is such that so many more people don’t have access to the internet or indeed space that the library is vital, especially in a country that does not appear to have Job Centres or the other paraphernalia of a caring state that we are (still) familiar with.  In Australia, adult literacy is seen as a big thing for libraries and they get funding for that.  In some places in the US like Columbus it’s educating children outside of school that is key. In the UK, none of these, not even internet access, are such big deals and thus the libraries have less leverage for the final big over-arching factor. That other big difference is, of course, money.  The other countries have cuts to be sure but nothing, apparently, in the same league as the UK.  To keep the sporting allusion going, therefore, we need that strategy quickly if we are not to get demoted yet another division.

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March photo

Strife in Fife? Library cuts go further than expected

Editorial

16 out of 51 libraries are under threat in Fife.  That’s a lot of buildings and more than I can remember seeing in danger in Scotland, a country that has avoid the cuts better than England.  Doubtless some of those branches are unsustainable in terms of usage or the state of the building (or both) but the scope of the cuts there are more than most people were expecting.  Expect a whole bunch of voluntary (probably not compulsory) redundancies.  This, while it sounds fairly civilized, and may well be welcomed by some in that library service will affect and worry even some others who accept it.  After all, most people work in libraries because they love them (see the great Guardian article on the magic of libraries for more about this) so having to leave them will be a shock and, also, a gamble, for some involved. Working in libraries for twenty or thirty years is not uncommon and voluntary redundancy can feel like being cast adrift. This cut will not disturb the sleep of the DCMS as Scotland does not come under their responsibility so it cannot be used in the debate that Alan Gibbons confirms will go ahead with Ed Vaizey.

Meanwhile. the first annual report is to be debated for Explore York, a mutual which is being seen as a possible model for libraries elsewhere in England.  I look forward to reading it.

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Legal action against the DCMS over cuts to public libraries: appeal for information

Editorial

Paul Heron from Public Interest Lawyers has been in touch with regard to gaining national information on the failure of the DCMS to properly investigate and respond to cuts to public libraries.  The full details are below. Please respond if you can help.

Judicial Review challenge of Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s failure to investigate Sheffield library closures 

What we’re doing 

Public Interest Lawyers are acting on behalf of a client who lives in Sheffield, and is supported by Broomhill Library Action Group (‘BLAG’).  We are challenging the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (‘DCMS’) and their failure to conduct an inquiry into the changes of library services in Sheffield.

We have sought permission to make an application for judicial review. This is the first step of a judicial review claim, in which we have to show that we have an arguable case against the Secretary of State. If we are granted permission (which is not guaranteed) the matter will be heard at a full hearing in the High Court.

Why? 

 As you will be aware library provision has changed dramatically across the country over recent years, with many Local Authorities making cuts to jobs and services. Some libraries have been shut and in others volunteers are expected to bridge the gaps.  The DCMS has a responsibility to oversee library provision across the country, and to ensure that Local Authorities satisfy statutory provision requirements.  We are aware of at least seven library campaigns who have asked the DCMS to hold an inquiry into the changes. Each of those requests have been refused. Indeed the Secretary of State has not conducted an inquiry since 2009 in the Wirral.

At this stage it would appear that the DCMS is either:-

  1. Not considering requests for inquiries properly or at all, or
  2. Has a ’blanket policy’ which has lead it to refusing to conduct inquiries, or
  3. It is not fulfilling the duty to superintend library provision

What can you do? 

We would like to hear from individuals or campaign groups who have contacted the DCMS, asking for them to consider an inquiry into local library services.  Did you request an inquiry but receive no response? If you received a response what did it say? This information will assist us in building up the bigger picture of the DCMS and their apparent refusal to engage in any inquiries into local library provision changes.

Please contact Emily or Paul if you think that you could help: Emily.mcfadden@publicinterestlawyers.co.uk or Paul.Heron@PublicInterestLawyers.co.uk or 0207 404 5889.

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Library stereotypes in the national media + the volunteer dilemma

Editorial

The BBC will soon be recording – in front of a live studio audience so, hey, get a ticket – a radio comedy about libraries.  Sounds good but the title of it – “Shush!” – and the description of the characters are absolutely hideous and cling to every stereotype going.  On a similar note, the stereotypes in the article on the Express on Stoke changing its bye-laws to allow people to be loud and to sleep did not surprise me.  Many journalists have problems with the fact that libraries have changed in the last fifty years.  What did surprise me was the need that Stoke has to have its bye-law change ratified by the DCMS. In this age of minimal funding combined with minimal interference, the fact a local council has to ask the minister before allowing people to speak loudly seems a bit behind the times.

In other news, figures from Warwickshire show book loans from libraries taken over by volunteers has halved.  That’s pretty bad but the council points out that without volunteers there’d be no loans there at all.  I am aware that some librarians, fearful of their jobs and the national implications, would much rather have seen the library close than be passed to the unpaid but, on the ground, that’s a far harder call to make. If I was not a librarian, I suspect I would much rather live in a community with a volunteer library than none at all. But then one has to wonder about the quality of those volunteers and their training: would I be (to the delight of the BBC and the Express) be shushed as I entered? Would I be able to contain myself if I saw something that would not be acceptable in a council library? Or would the volunteer library, full of enthusiastic people who want to be there, be better than what they replaced (and I hear in some poorly funded areas where staff were poorly managed before that this was the case)? What would be my – or your – feelings about that?

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Wales feels the pinch; SCL and ASCEL positivity

Editorial

Interesting to see how many items today are from Wales: looks like the cuts are having an impact there as much as in England now. In other news, there’s some positive stuff from the SCL and ASCEL.  That last stand for the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians and, to my shame, I had to check that up.  It’s not an organisation that has played a prominent role in public libraries news and that’s odd because there’s no more important demographic for public libraries as children.  I look forward to seeing more from them.

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Finding a warm welcome and navigating to a new life

Editorial

Malorie Blackman has been an excellent children’s laureate and it’s been a pleasure to follow her work over the last two years.  I’m saddened therefore that her tenure has come to an end but also really pleased that Chris Riddell is the next laureate, especially as he is so clearly (like Malorie) pro library.

Interlending has continued to be a hot topic on Lis-pub-libs and I have reported snippets on PLN.  This is due to a suggestion from one authority looking to end interlending in order to cut costs.  I know that some authorites have already de facto ceased interlending already so it is good to get this out into the open.  As budgets get tighter, public libraries are forced to re-evaluate their costs and what they can charge for.  Rather than making such decisions alone, such debates help better inform. Which is good because public libraries are supposed to be good at information but all too often councils appear to do things in vacuum.

Ed Vaizey makes some prominent appearances on this post. He seems to be reconnecting with public libraries, which is fantastic, despite the cynicism that this may raise in many quarters.  Sieghart and the Libraries Task Force can take at least partial credit for this, even though Mr Vaizey still has clear difficulty (as to be fair any politician raised in our dysfunctional political system would) facing up to the impact of cuts to the service and the reasons for it.

Ideas

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