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A public library news miscellany

Editorial

Lots of changes today, with some new libraries, some closures and plenty in-between. Other notable stories include the launch of Dementia books on prescription and the tale – very rare someone is brave enough to write publicly – of what it is like to be a librarian in an authority that’s trying to get rid of you.

Changes

UK national news

  • Libraries – it’s a “question of priorities” – Infoism. “Let’s not pretend that by cutting library services rather than cutting other services you are not having a massive impact on the most vulnerable. You are. It’s just that rather than hitting them directly, you are hitting them in areas that they won’t realise they need until it’s too late. You are not protecting them, you are merely delaying the harm you are doing to them. If it comes down to a “question of priorities” then cutting back and closing library services suggests that your priority is not to protect the most vulnerable, but to protect your own interests.”
  • A Library scheme with no libraries? – Library Stuff / Barbara Band. “But what amazes me about this launch is that Norman Lamb, Minister of State for care and support, and Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for culture and the digital economy, were both there. Now the former could be excused for not being aware of the current situation regarding the mass closure of libraries with the handing over of many others to volunteers but Mr Vaizey has no excuse. Libraries are his remit, he is fully aware of the devastation of the public library system that is occurring throughout the country because he refuses to do anything about it. He knows that the structure for delivering this scheme is probably non-existent.”
  • North Country Leisure becomes subsidiary of UK’s largest not-for-profit leisure firm – Journal. “GLL also has expertise and experience in managing wider cultural services such as libraries, children’s centres and sports development, providing councils a joined-up service solution at a time of financial pressure.”
  • Reading Well Books on Prescription to help people with dementia – Reading Agency. “Public libraries in England have launched the latest Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme to support people with dementia and their carers, it is announced today. The ground-breaking scheme, which we run in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians, with funding from Arts Council England, already helps over 275,000 people with common mental health conditions feel better through self-help reading. Now, it is turning its attention to the enormous need for quality-assured support for dementia care in the UK. see also Library scheme to support dementia sufferers - BookSeller.

“The 25 titles on the Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia list have been recommended by health experts as well as people with lived experience. The list includes a range of books offering information and advice about dementia and normal aging, support with living well after diagnosis, practical advice for carers, personal accounts, and suggestions for shared therapeutic activities. The list is unveiled this afternoon at the official launch at the Wellcome Trust supported by Minister of State for Care and Support, Norman Lamb and Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey.”

International news

  • Call for participation at sister libraries programme - Naple Libraries (EU). “The programme is open to public libraries situated in any of the participating NAPLE countries/regions that wish to find a partner library in another country in order to establish a cooperation programme. Right now the libraries that can participate are those situated in Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, Slovenia and Spain.”
  • Financial literacy - Naple Libraries (EU). “Public libraries are “uniquely situated to promote literacy” (IFLA Section on Reading) but today’s complexity demands more than reading, writing, and numeracy skills: Atomic learning has identified a list of  12 of what they call “21st century skills”, including digital citizenship, health literacy, critical thinking & problem solving, etc. Financial literacy is one of them and can be defined as “the ability to use knowledge and skills to manage financial resources effectively for a lifetime of financial well-being” (President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy).”

Events

  • CILIP Conference 2015 - CILIP. 2-3 July in Liverpool. “Our carefully put-together programme has been designed to appeal to professionals from across the sector. Keynote speakers include the Director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabati and author R.David Lankes and they will be featured alongside twenty breakout sessions, delivered from experts across the library and information world. “
  • Library Management Systems Suppliers Showcase - CILIP. 6th March in London.

UK news by local authority

“Think also about the current library staff and those who have already lost their jobs. I believe they are not allowed to speak to the media or anyone else about their plight and what is happening to our libraries. I want to assure them that I, and the residents of Lincolnshire, will be eternally grateful for the service they have given and continue to give, despite great stress and low morale. It is telling that there have been no apologies from the Executive to those staff and no thanks to them either. People reveal their true natures in the way they treat those unable to fight back”

  • Lincolnshire – Lincolnshire libraries saga: Martin Hill blames a lack of scrutiny – Lincolnshire Echo. “The leader of Lincolnshire County Council Martin Hill says the chance of a libraries outsourcing deal was missed due to a lack of scrutiny. Councillor Hill was speaking at this morning’s audit committee meeting which considered a damning report into his authority’s handling of the future of libraries.” … “Labour has now rounded on the council following the publication of an internal audit’s findings.
  • Lincolnshire – Julie Harrison’s speech on libraries 
  • Lincolnshire – Libraries: Speech to Lincolnshire County Council - Labour Rose. “Charles Dickens would have dropped everything to have been here today to defend Libraries.Just as he dropped everything over 150 years ago when the Mayor of Manchester invited him to the opening ceremony of the first free Library. In his acceptance note he said “The occasion is far too important and the example too noble to admit hesitation’.”
  • Lincolnshire – Reporting from the Lincs Library Frontline – Behind the Gag – Save Lincolnshire Libraries. “The ongoing and seemingly endless saga of Lincolnshire Libraries has if we are honest inevitably divided opinion amongst librarians themselves. There are some who just want the whole sorry mess sorted out once and for all and others who think that the continuing fight is worth pursuing. What is clear though is that the people who are the very heart of this; i.e. librarians, feel gagged from speaking out no matter what higher management might say about avenues being open to them. Morale is understandably at an all time low as some staff have been forced to take second part time jobs in order to make ends meet after being given pitifully and laughably short hours”

“It seems somewhat ironic that £22 million has been spent on a ‘library’ to house one book that no one will actually read and it is yet again an example of how Lincoln attracts the investment at the expense of more deprived areas. The Magna Carta celebrations are of course important but in this era of austerity surely a more toned down development at Lincoln Castle would have been in order and more efforts made to secure funding for modern libraries.”

  • Milton Keynes – Library opens to customers today – take a look around!MK Web. “The new Kingston Library officially opened its doors today (Tuesday January 27). The building boasts modern facilities such as a self-service checking out system, unlimited Wi-Fi and sockets for customers to use their own laptops and tablets in the library space. Many are the first of their kind in Milton Keynes. The library will have a community focus, hosting a children’s hour, story time, play activities, screenings and music. Meeting space will also be available for community groups to hire, and the library’s top floor is home to Explore Learning, who are renting the space”
  • Northern Ireland – Future cuts to libraries not ruled out – Fermanagh Herald. “Libraries NI told the Fermanagh Herald that they have £1.4m of worth of cuts to make across the North, and said that there is an ongoing review of budgets heading into 2015 – which could impact on the county’s three libraries: Enniskillen, Irvinestown, and when completed, Lisnaskea. A spokesman said: “As a result of budget cuts, Libraries NI is required to save at least 4.4% of its budget (£1.4 million) in-year by March 2015. Further in-year savings have not been ruled out and immediate steps must be taken to deliver these spending cuts.”
  • Stoke on Trent – Library opens at leisure centre in Abbey Hulton - Stoke Sentinel. “Staff at the Abbey Hulton-based Wallace Sports and Education Centre, in Abbey Hulton, have taken over the running of the book collection service as part of Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s wider volunteer-led library initiative.” … “The mini leisure centre library now houses 250 books, which are replaced and refreshed every six weeks.” … “There are now 10 such facilities including at Ball Green Methodist Church, Swan Bank Methodist Church in Burslem, Blurton Hub, Fenton Hub and the Whitfield Valley Community Centre in Fegg Hayes – to name a few. And more volunteer-led libraries are expected to appear in the coming weeks and months.”
  • Thurrock – The future of Thurrock Library Service consultation – Thurrock Council. “There is a strong commitment to both the provision of a library service in Thurrock and the development of this to make it relevant to resident’s changing needs.  In recent years work to support shared delivery with Community Hubs has been developed along with a move towards an improved service for those with limited mobility who are unable to visit libraries through our Home-link Service. We are now developing the next phase of our library delivery transformation and as a part of this we need to also make a 39% saving due to funding changes. To achieve this whilst developing the service on offer for residents we are consulting on the following proposals:” [Some questionable points:  e.g. “Do you think local communities should be able to run their local libraries and seek external funding to support them?” but fails to explain to people that they already pay through taxation for what is a statutory service. Also lists possible services from the library with no mention of information/reference services at all – Ed.]
  • Worcestershire – Hagley Parish Council steps in to save library – Stourbridge News. “An agreement has been reached whereby the county council will continue to provide a library service through the support of volunteers while the parish council takes over the responsibility for the building and the premises management costs involved. “

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t: the dilemma of a good librarian in austere times

Editorial

An interesting exchange went on in the House of Lords last Thursday.  A question on libraries, including one or two attempts to try to ring-fence funding for them, was waved away by reference to innovations – and especially the move to volunteers – going on in public libraries.  Cuts of up to 50% were acknowledged but with a feeling that councils are doing their best, and doing well, at avoiding these cuts actually affecting the public.  This presents a bit of a problem to local councils, and not only in the realm of public libraries.  For by doing the best they can, by working hard to minimise the impact of the deepest cuts in peacetime history, on the voter, councils are making more cuts more palatable to the politicians and to the electorate.  Of course, it would be even worse, at least in the short and medium terms, if councils failed to do the best they could.  They would be accused, quite rightly, of self injury and the public would show no mercy.  In this they would be, goaded on by political parties whose ideology values skilled public workers very little and which does not understand the difference between the words “cut” and “saving”. It’s especially sad to see stalwart defenders of public libraries, who have become volunteers, used in this way.  But in this new world of damned if you do, damned if you don’t, everything is fair game.  The trick is to learn how those in public libraries can change the game and win it.

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National Libraries Day: all growed up

Editorial

I remember the start of National Libraries Day.  It was the first year that the Coalition’s cuts had really hit, public libraries were in danger and people were in shock or getting angry.  Alan Gibbons suggested a national day of protest for libraries, then called Save Our Libraries Day, and it happened – hundreds of events and protests around the country.  It was an amazing event and I am very pleased to say that I played a part, albeit a tiny one, in it. That day served its purpose and did great work for public libraries.  I’m pleased, though,  to say that over the last years, the day has  grown from being a protest to being a day of celebration of this great national service.  Some councils had difficulty adjusting to this at the start: there was some suspicion of politics but that has largely all gone. Pretty much every authority I know of now sees National Libraries Day as an important day in their calendar and so it should be.  It is the only time that we have just to celebrate our service.  Not books, not computers, not digital inclusion but the whole darn thing.  The wonderful service that is provided and too many once took for granted and too many now take as something that can be endangered. Make sure you get to the library on the day, look around, smile that it’s still there and work out how you can make it better.

Changes

Ideas

Correction

For some reason I said Salford was undergoing a second round cuts in the first line of the last post.  The eagle eyed would have noticed that it was in fact Trafford. This was corrected on the online edition but was too late to have been corrected for the direct mailing.

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Poop-pooping to London libraries in February

Trafford, Lincs, Staffs, Cardiff … everywhere, really

Editorial

Trafford [Sorry, this post somehow said Salford to begin with – Ed.] is undergoing its second major round of library cuts this government, aiming to withdraw three libraries, much to the chagrin of the local Labour MP who has noticed that the Conservative-run council has picked branches in less prosperous parts of the city.  Elsewhere, both Lincolnshire and Staffordshire are having trouble with getting people to run their libraries for free, with another volunteer group withdrawing in Lincs and Staff having to tone down its plans due to lack of interest.  You know, I know this may come as a shock, but there may be a reason why people are paid to do a lot of library jobs.  It certainly seems that people understand that in Wales where no less than one thousand people attended a meeting to save their local library in Rhiwbina.  One thousand.  Incredible.  The public clearly understand something about the importance of the library there.

Finally, my thanks to Brian Ashley who has again written in (Ed Vaizey, feel free, to join his example) to give his view on the news, specifically on the libraries taskforce and Art Council England’s stance to it.  My thanks to him.

Please send any corrections, news, comments, highly paid job offers or legacies to … ianlibrarian@live.co.uk

The publication of William Sieghart’s report and the establishment of the taskforce, to be chaired by local authority chief executive Paul Blantern, provides a great basis for developing England’s public libraries and the Arts Council looks forward to playing a full, positive and constructive role in that process.  

We have been clear that, in England, leadership of the sector is collaborative. Responsibilities have always rested with a range or organisations but the taskforce brings them together in a more established and effective way than before. The Arts Council’s  particular role as the national development agency for libraries is agreed with DCMS and we believe that we have made a positive contribution to supporting and developing libraries since we took over that responsibility in October 2011. Our strategic development role with the sector is now part of our contribution to the taskforce, of which we are an integral part and the Arts Council continues to be the national development agency for libraries. 

Those who benefit from and depend on public libraries will be more interested in what happens next. The ideas set out in William’s report sit very comfortably with the Arts Council’s vision for libraries: libraries inspire and empower people to lead active lives, developing themselves and making a positive contribution to the community. Through ‘Envisioning the library of the future’ we have identified four development priorities for public libraries in England. We are also providing grant-funding programmes to enable library services to explore new ways of working to deliver these priorities. This will continue including our contribution to the work of the taskforce. Brian Ashley, Director, Libraries, Arts Council England.

Changes

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Of reports and raspberries

Editorial

You may remember the Sieghart report that was published by the Government the very last day before Christmas. Well, it looks like things are happening with it.  William Sieghart has hinted that there will be some corporate techy stuff happening shortly (still hush hush) and the boss of the new taskforce has said that things will need to be done within months or they will have failed. That’s good.  What I’m seeing from the sidelines is a general and deepening disappointment (now that there’s been time for it to sink in) with the scope of the report and questions over its actual independence so concrete results would be very welcome.

Sorry to see that, after a year or two of pain and public protest, Lincolnshire’s council have decided to jolly well do what it wanted to do in the first place without regard for what library users or, indeed, anyone else up to and including the courts say.  Unsurprisingly this is not going down well in the county.  It shows that, when it comes down to it, councils can do whatever the heck they want.  No wonder Ed Vaizey is being nominate for a Golden Raspberry Award.

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Welcoming the homeless in

Editorial

You know them.  The old chap who sits in the same spot each day, perhaps waiting by the door when you open.  The lady who sleeps, with a smell of alcohol around her.  The young gentleman who strides in and using your computers for as long as he can. They’re the users who come in but we do not invite in. The ones who do not talk or talk too much. They are the homeless and many libraries have them, some have a lot, but we have them like we have air: it’s a given, not a strategy. Well, one Canadian library has changed that by officially welcoming them. OK, so they do it on their website (which is not where I would start with this group) but it’s the spirit of the thing. Well done to them.  Can you say your library has done so much?

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In praise of local libraries and school library services

Editorial

Sorry to see Coventry being the next library service to take massive cuts to its service provision. Suggesting closing all the libraries and moving what can be salvaged into five council “hubs” is a new one on me.  Normally, at least a few of the larger buildings are left.  The concerns here are manifold: how much of the new “hub” would actually be for the library, the cost involved in setting up all of these new places and what happens to the old, often beloved, library buildings.  The biggest concern, of course, is that there’s only going to be five libraries in the whole city: Helen Skelton in the Telegraph points out that this could be the first generation of children in the UK who do not grow up with widespread access to free books and, by the sound of it, those who cannot afford transport in Coventry will shortly be agreeing.

Also, sorry to see Falkirk losing its school library service (SLS).  A good SLS can be a fantastic value multiplier for schools who not only gain from bulk discount and frequent exchanges of stock but also expert advice as well.  Indeed, a SLS can be self-financing, as schools pay in to support a service which is of such obvious use to them.  I do hope Falkirk Council have considered that option before they decided just to delete a line in the budget which may have such an impact on the literacy, and life outcomes, of so many children.

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Je Suis Charlie, Birmingham, Library song and the Magna Carta

Editorial

I was shocked to see the events in Paris at the Charlie Hebdo offices. I simply don’t know what the public librarian response to it should be but that by R. David Lankes below is a good place to start.  But, I hope, every librarian will stand up and be able to say “Je Suis Charlie”. Remember that when you’re asked to cut or not stock something just because someone doesn’t agree with it for some reason.

Birmingham Council appear to have shot themselves in the foot by publicising what appears to be their private imaginings about the British Library helping to save the Library of Birmingham.  The British Library has confirmed to me and to others that, while they wish the LoB every good wish, they simply had not even been approached by the council before the story was made public.  Sheesh.  No wonder Birmingham is in the mess it is in (well, apart from Austerity) if this is how they do things.

A new library campaign song has been recorded but pictures of closed/threatened libraries and/or of library staff who have lost their jobs (or users who now have no library) are needed.  If you can help, please email weneedlibraries@gmail.com.

Changes

Magna Carta & the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act – By Shirley Burnham

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The British Library mooted as saviour for the Library of Birmingham

Editorial

It’s great to see that the British Library, amongst others, may be coming to the aid of the gigantic new Library of Birmingham. The BL are, it has been reported in the Birmingham Post, looking at putting a “regional centre” in there.  Whatever this may turn out to be (and such a thing would naturally cause a precedent for elsewhere in the UK) it’s hopefully going to be a good thing. For, the BL has always seemed a little, well, stand-offish to me in public library circles, especially for those of us in still what is occasionally called “the provinces”.  This has, though, recently been changing.  Their business and intellectual property centres scattered around the country, like this one in Newcastle, are in libraries and, although reluctantly, they are now in charge of the Public Lending Right Unit. It’s also interesting to note that their chief executive, Roly Keating, was amongst the panel for the recent Independent Report on Public libraries. I’ve seen what an impact having a state library concerned with strategy and supporting public libraries can have, after looking into the excellent work of the State Library of Queensland and it’s a shame there’s nothing like it here. Such a relationship of research, support and expertise can made a big impact but it’s almost completely lacking here.  In fact, for most public library staff, the British Library is known for only one thing – being an insanely expensive lender of last resort which mercilessly penalises lost books.  The BL could be of so much more use for public libraries, but if it is content for now merely to rescue the largest public library in the European Union then that’s a great start.

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Ideas

Correction

  • I had incorrectly listed the threatened Bob Lawrence Library as in Brent.  It is of course in Harrow.

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New Year’s Honours List

Editorial

Congratulations to the four people below who have been named in the New Year’s Honours List and have connections to public libraries.  All of the honours are richly deserved and reflect service over and above the norm.  However, the decision to honour the Staffordshire chief (currently managing deep cuts to her service – although the award was for work elsewhere) and the chair of one of the first volunteer-run libraries has raised some eyebrows.  The feeling is that the Government, intentionally or otherwise, is reinforcing a message already received loud and clear in many library services that the move towards volunteer run libraries is to be praised and a positive response to deep funding cuts. This represents a challenge for public library campaigners who need to argue loudly for paid staff, an argument that given the hostile climate now needs strong evidence and clear arguments to succeed.  This email I received highlights the challenge:

“The professional librarians answer to less money and lower library usage is not very clear. If anything their answer appears to be defensive and unsatisfactory i.e. if the taxpayer won’t give us the money to run all the libraries the way we would like then we should close the smaller libraries and retrench to just running the bigger libraries in the traditional way. Whilst that may be a neat and tidy solution for professional librarians I’m not convinced it is the optimum policy for residents.” Personal email received

    Anyway, here’s a look at the Honours winners in more detail:

  • -Janene Cox – Order of the British Empire – “For services to Libraries” – Janene has not only been responsible for Staffordshire Libraries but is also the Past President of the Society of Chief Librarians and a panel member in the recent Sieghart Independent Report on Public Libraries. The SCL (and Sieghart) has been notably pragmatic about changes to public library funding, accepting (at least in England) the need for volunteers and has maintained a professional and moderate attitude to the deepest cuts in public libraries in living history.  It has concentrated instead on pushing the reasons why public libraries are important to local and national agendas. More locally, 24 out of 43 of the libraries in Staffordshire are currently being considered for passing to volunteers and there are recently announced plans (see below) for the complete withdrawal of the mobile library service.  This makes it one of the authorities facing the deepest cuts in England and Janene is in charge of it (although she is Commissioner for Tourism and Culture now so presumably does not have direct operational control).  Having said that, it’s hard to find a senior library manager not having to cope with serious cuts at the moment or in the recent past and the award is for her work with the SCL. It’s also worth bearing in mind that, although senior in library circles, Janene is just another officer when it comes to what her bosses want – so if she’s told she has to significantly cut the service then she has not choice but to do the best she can.
  • Tony Hoare – British Empire Medal - “For services to the community” – Organiser of the group that saved Chalfont St Giles Library when Buckinghamshire Council wanted to close it several years ago.  The success of this volunteer-run library, and that of neighbouring libraries, has been used numerous times in other councils in order to encourage similar.  Having said that, this library (and that of nearby Little Chalfont) have been careful to not directly promote volunteer-run libraries – they’re seen here (as I suspect in many places) as a last resort alternative to no library at all.
  • Annemarie Naylor – Member of the British Empire – “For services to community asset ownership” – Director at Common Futures, and an Associate Director (Community Assets) with Locality.  Annemarie assists in transferring council owned buildings to non-council community control. She has been involved with public libraries and. I know from personal experience that she is a keen and passionate supporter of them.
  • Martyn Wade – Order of the British Empire – “For Services to Culture in Scotland” – National Librarian and Chief Executive, National Library of Scotland. Martyn Wade is also chair of CILIP Council.

See the Full list of honours.

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