Uncategorized

No Ambition

Editorial

I was sorry to see deep cuts to Swindon confirmed, although with one fewer library loss than expected.  50 FTE job losses means, in the part-time dominated world of libraries, far more actual jobs lost than that, with families affected as well, a month before Christmas.  Moreover, it means two-thirds of all libraries in the borough being closed or passed to volunteers. Meanwhile, up in Redcar and Cleveland, branch closures (apart from the mobile) have been avoided but a loss of over 100 opening hours per week is still fairly major.

These reductions, repeated seemingly in every post, are serious enough to warrant urgent action but that’s the opposite of what we’re getting from the Government.  While the Ambition document waits yet more days/months/eons until it is finally published, the Taskforce has to wonder about its purpose in life.  To avoid it simply becoming known as the Blogforce, the Government needs to actually do something, at the very least allowing it to go in one direction. Minister, you’re employing these people, now use them, sort of thing. However, the tale of the last six years has been of general neglect of the sector even while deep cuts mean the service is diminished as ever before.  This lack of ambition for the sector by libraries ministers is shown by the continuing, well, lack of Ambition.

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Ideas

National news

  • Call for papers – CILIP. “It has never been more important to secure a positive future for the library, information and knowledge sector, and the communities we serve. We will do this together by understanding the big future trends and planning how we can identify opportunities, successfully adapt and influence the outcome; and develop our skills and ability to innovate and create services that meet current and future needs. We want delegates to leave the CILIP conference with insight, inspiration and practical skills to positively secure the future.”
  • Delay to Libraries Taskforce report ‘a disgrace’ – BookSeller. “A first draft of the report, Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016-2021, produced by the Libraries Taskforce at the behest of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), was released a full eight months ago. Meanwhile in a blog post for The Bookseller published in June, the Taskforce chief executive Kathy Settle said she expected publication of the final report in the summer. But no final document has yet been released. Following the departure of culture minister Ed Vaizey, Rob Wilson was appointed as new libraries minister in July”
  • Everybody In – An Inclusion And Diversity Charter for the Children’s Book World – Everybody In. “The key aim of the Everybody In charter is to help all those involved in the book world to move forward in making books more inclusive.  The charter has been developed in close liaison with publishers, booksellers, libraries, authors, illustrators, teachers, and organisations such as The Publishers AssociationThe Booksellers Association and ASCEL. Other key agencies have also endorsed the charter, including YLG, the SLA and the Society of Chief Librarians. The key to Inclusive Minds is its collaborative nature, drawing together all relevant parties to work together. Everyone working with children and books must play a part in ensuring that all children can find authentic representations of themselves in books, as well as seeing those who are different from them. To this end, the charter is open to all audiences so that we can take collective responsibility. “
  • Librarian of Congress Dr Carla Hayden confirms for CILIP Conference 2017 – CILIP. “CILIP, the library and information association, is excited to announce that Dr Carla Hayden, the 14th Librarian of Congress will be the opening speaker at the CILIP Conference 2017. The first African American and first female to be appointed to the prestigious role, Dr Hayden was nominated by President Barack Obama in February and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in July 2016. Listed by Fortune Magazine in the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders Dr Hayden heads the Library of Congress as it moves to grow its influence and reach through digital transformation and opening up access.  “
  • Shadow culture minister Brennan slams government over library stats – BookSeller. “Shadow culture minister Kevin Brennan has criticised the government for not undertaking robust research into library closures, while vowing to hold ministers to account over the widespread axing of services. Speaking exclusively to The Bookseller, Brennan, who was appointed shadow culture minister with responsibility for libraries last month, said he was “extremely aware” of the importance of libraries in the community and holds his advice surgeries in his local library. He emphasised that the party will “hold the government to account” and “press the case” for “proper” library provision.”

“What we need, as an opposition, as far as libraries are concerned, is to hold the government to account”, Brennan said. “[The government is] very reluctant to reveal the true number of closures that are going on and very reluctant to reveal the number of hours that libraries are remaining open. We know that there’s increasing reliance on volunteers, as there’s been a huge number in the cuts of actual professional library staff. Probably by a quarter, since 2010 in the numbers, while volunteers have more than doubled in that time. There’s nothing essentially wrong with there being a voluntary element to providing a community library service, but ultimately you won’t get a proper professional library service if you solely rely on volunteers.” Shadow culture minister Kevin Brennan

International news

  • Modern libraries have to navigate tricky societal questions, professor says – CBC. “The warm and inviting public library is often a favourite haunt for families and children, but Freeman said it is also an important space for anyone who is marginally housed or experiencing homelessness, or for newcomers to Canada trying to find out what’s happening in the community or navigating technology.”
  • Eire – Minister says further 23 ‘staffless’ libraries to open extra hours – Irish Times. “Concerns have been raised about the impact on employment but Mr Coveney said it would not impact on the number of staffed hours, with employees continuing to provide services at these times. “It allows library members the freedom and flexibility to use the library at times that suit them,” he said. He was replying to a series of written Dáil questions from Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams who questioned the rationale for the proposed roll-out of staffless libraries. He also asked what libraries would be operated without staff. Libraries in 20 counties will offer the extra hours under the scheme which is expected to cost about €1.94 million, of which the department will pay €1.41 million. The libraries will contribute the remaining €500,000.”

Local news by authority

  • Bradford – Care for elderly, library services, community halls and public toilets all face cuts in Bradford Council’s latest budget – Ilkley Gazette. “Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe revealed how her authority plans to slash £82m from its budget over the next two years, in a set of proposals which also included cuts to libraries, public toilets, street lighting and community halls” … “Libraries – many of which are already having to move to volunteer-run arrangements – will face further cuts”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Move planned for Chester Library – Cheshire Today. “The public is being invited to drop-in sessions to find out more about the changes taking place with Chester Library between now and the opening of Storyhouse – the new £37m theatre, cinema and library space.” … “Visitors will be able to find out more about the new Storyhouse library including the dedicated children’s library, complete with an arts/crafts messy play area and a storytelling room; dedicated family and local history section; improved digital facilities and services; flexible event spaces; increased opening hours and opportunities to get involved”
  • Cumbria – Bid to cut library hours to save cash – Times and Star. “Letters announcing the review have been sent out last week by the county council to library workers in Cockermouth, Maryport, Seaton, Moorclose, Aspatria, Keswick and Wigton libraries. Workington and Silloth libraries will not be affected by the proposal. The county council will enter into formal consultation with staff on TuesdayProposals include lunch time and Saturday closures. A council spokesman said: “Government cuts to the county council over the last few years have resulted in huge financial pressures, including those on libraries.”
  • Devon – Libraries Unlimited becomes registered charity – Libraries Unlimited. “Libraries Unlimited, the independent organisation responsible for running all of Devon’s library services has been granted registered charity status by the UK Charity Commission. The organisation, which took full control of the county’s libraries in April 2016, is a staff and community owned social enterprise commissioned by Devon County Council.” … “In order to become a registered charity, Libraries Unlimited had to prove that its purpose is exclusively charitable and set up for public benefit. Libraries Unlimited met the criteria through the charity’s objectives, which include; promoting and encouraging a love of reading, providing free access to information, guiding and supporting people to explore and connect with the wider world, offering a welcoming space to meet, socialise and enjoy new experiences and to support the health and wellbeing of individuals and local communities.” … “Phil Blay has joined the charity as Head of IT and Digital, joining Chief Executive, Ciara Eastell, Head of Service Delivery, Joanne Launder, Head of Finance and Operations, Paul Love and Head of Commercial and Innovation, Steve Turner.”
  • Edinburgh – Tony Black: Don’t let them take our libraries without a fight – Scotsman. “I worry about the future for storytellers. In 2016 it seems our fastest growth area in the United Kingdom is in food banks. Our book banks –the libraries – are becoming an afterthought. When the masses can’t feed themselves, so goes the logic, any other hunger they might have, for knowledge or even simple entertainment, gets pushed aside. And so our libraries have become easy targets for cuts. “

“If you doubt that we can afford to keep our libraries, perhaps you’ve listened to all the rhetoric about the UK being broke, then ask yourself where the money for illegal wars and invasions of foreign countries comes from? Likewise, from which top hat have we pulled the £31 billion budget to renew our weapons of mass destruction? The Queen’s new £370 million repair bill? Westminster’s £5.7bn refurbishment? Hikes to MP’s salaries and perks?”

 

  • Greenwich – Greenwich Centre Library named as one of London’s best cultural venues – News Shopper. “The award-winning Greenwich Centre Library came second in the local culture category for the ‘Time Out Love London Awards’. Time Out magazine holds the annual competition which encourages readers to vote for their favourite venues and attractions across the capital. The categories are restaurants, pubs, cafes, shops, bars and local culture. Only Greenwich Park did better in the category. Cllr Denise Scott McDonald said: “What a successful week for libraries in the Royal Borough of Greenwich! The Greenwich Centre is one of the newest Royal Borough hubs but it has already won such a great award befitting of the quality of services it delivers.”
  • Liverpool – Lister Drive Library rebuilding plan wins £3.9m lottery cash – Liverpool Echo. “The Heritage Lottery Fund today confirmed the grant to the Andrew Carnegie Library in Tuebrook that will see the derelict building converted into a multi-purpose hub.”
  • Redcar and Cleveland – 100 job losses, bins and libraries – what you need to know about £25m Redcar and Cleveland cuts – Gazette Live. “Yet despite fears that bin collections will decrease and libraries will close, the council says it is protecting frontline services wherever it can.” … “The headline: no libraries will close completely. But there are big changes to opening times. It’s proposed that three libraries – Redcar Central, Guisborough, and South Bank – will open 47 hours a week and be rebranded as ‘community hubs’ offering a range of services. Five more will be classed ‘modern libraries’ and will open 31 hours a week at Grangetown, Marske, Saltburn, Skelton and Ormesby. The remaining five libraries – Brotton, Dormanstown, Laburnum Road in Redcar, Roseberry in Redcar and Loftus – will be classified as community libraries and will open 14 hours a week, with Roseberry and Loftus moving to new locations. The changes represent libraries across the borough opening for almost 100 hours less a week than at present – but plans will save £400,000, coupled with the closure of the mobile library service.”
  • Sheffield – Volunteers welcome Sheffield Council’s library funding pledge – Star. “Bob Mynors, one of the volunteer managers at Stannington Library, said: “Stannington Library welcomes the renewed package of support from the council, as this will give us some financial stability for at least the next three years. “We’re also pleased that it’s not just about grants but about other forms of professional and practical support as well. “This helps us to run efficient libraries, and shows how much the council values the work of all the library volunteers.” The preferred option does come with a warning, though. A report to councillors ahead of Wednesday’s meeting says: “If there is a budget reduction in future years for the library, archives and information service, it may not be affordable for the service to continue to pay for all of the co-delivered libraries from its core budget.”
  • Swindon – Park library saved but ten others now face a fight to survive on their own – Swindon Advertiser. “Coun Mary Martin, the cabinet member responsible for libraries, said: “I would like to thank everyone who took the time to take part in the public consultation as well as fellow councillors on the member task group as all their input has been invaluable in putting together this updated draft strategy. “I am pleased we have been able to increase the core provision to include Park library. Discussions are already well underway to secure community-led library provision at Wroughton, Covingham and Upper Stratton and so I am asking cabinet colleagues to approve transitional funding for these at this stage.”
  • Swindon – Securing a sustainable future for Swindon’s Library Services – Swindon Council. From page 90, full details of cuts to library service.

 

  • Walsall – Bloxwich Councillors bid to save Bloxwich Library and Theatre – Bloxwich Telegraph. “The loss of the library staff, facilities and book stock as well as the attached 1964 theatre, which was, along with the 1960 library, rejuvenated in 2009-10 and has since gone on, with the help of Bloxwich Library Forum, to become a successful music and drama venue and much more, would be very damaging. This kind of cultural vandalism is simply insupportable, and once these facilities are gone, they will never return.”
  • Walsall – Campaigners fight for future of closure-threatened Aldridge Library at protest – Express and Star. “About 80 people, ranging from toddlers to pensioners, urged Walsall Council to save Aldridge Library from the axe at the weekend, along with another 13 libraries also under threat. The Labour-led authority, which needs to find £86 million in savings over four years, has proposed shutting all but one of the borough’s 15 libraries as part of cuts, leaving just the library in Walsall town centre open. Conservative Councillor John Murray, who represents Aldridge Central and South on Walsall Council, said: “People come here because this is the only place they can access computers for work.”
  • Warrington – MP Helen Jones slams LiveWire as ‘shambolic’ over libraries consultation – Warrington Guardian. “Ms Jones is calling for the community interest company, which is responsible for running Warrington’s libraries and leisure services, to be stripped of its control of the town’s libraries. The company has been criticised for its handling of a public consultation into plans to save £300,000 by closing some libraries.” … ““They conducted a consultation based on dodgy figures which they then had to withdraw. I also understand that they are paying a former council officer a five figure sum per year, as a consultant, for a couple of days work per week,” she added.” … “There is no independent input and, as far as I can discover, no independent assessment of how board members are performing.  “

The usage of the Summer Reading Challenge is down. Why?

Editorial

Three quarters of a million children undertook the Summer Reading Challenge (SRC) in the UK this year.  That’s a brilliant achievement for public libraries and cannot be understated. From direct personal experience, I know how well this promotion improves the reading of children over the holidays and, also, how much excitement my children gained from it. The theme was excellent and the promotional materials professionally produced (unlike so much so many libraries have to put up with) and benefitted from economies of scale.  In the two authorities I directly know about (neither of which experienced significant cuts last year), usage went up by over 10% and it was the most successful year ever in both library services.  So why the drop nationally? Well, the most obvious answer has to be the cuts to library services, as the quote from Lambeth below shows. If there are fewer libraries in an authority, fewer staff and fewer books then there’s going to be fewer users.  It’s not rocket science.  In addition, some library authorities have withdrawn from doing the SRC, which to my mind is a real shame. Oh, and by the way, overall library usage (especially in terms of book issues) is down year on year.

That’s not to say the SRC is perfect.  The biggest example is the need to buy year-specific medals each time that can cause real problems on limited budgets. Why? Because medals can only be bought months before the Challenge and they cannot be used the next year. So, one has to estimate numbers needed and hope you get the figures right. Buy too many and you’re wasting resources. Buy too few and suddenly the need to promote the SRC is replaced by panic that too many will complete, promotion is dialled back and, even, mad-dash searches for medals from other services or, even, shops, are made.  But, such annoyances aside, the SRC is still by far the biggest promotion any library service does (or, if it isn’t, it should be), still the best by a long shot and something we all should be participating in.  It’s part of what makes the Summer so busy and so job-affirming. And three quarters of a million children know the reason why.

Finally, I need to correct something I said in the last editorial.  Devon’s Libraries Unlimited are consulting on the removal of Saturday enhancements and I need to make clear that a decision has not yet been made on whether staff’s pay will be cut in this way.  My apologies that I intimated otherwise. Indeed, I’ll go further and point out that looking to reduce expenditures like this is something that every authority, Trust or not, will inevitably consider as budgets are reduced and so it’s hardly the unique fault of this non-profit. Rather, if you’re into blame, look to the council that cuts the budget, the government that cuts the council’s budget and, ultimately, the electorate that voted for such a government. The role of libraries, and their supporters, has to be to highlight the benefits of the service, what the loss is if it is taken away and – a key point – work out how best to deal with such cuts as are inflicted and turn out to be unavoidable. Campaigning is one aspect of this but the search for reductions that least affect the service is another.

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At least they can complain when they’re being cut: Suffolk Libraries speaks out

Editorial

Suffolk Libraries, one of the poster boys of innovation in the UK, is facing a cut to its budget. I can imagine some would see this as a vindication of their dislike for libraries being run by a non-profit trust. I, however, see things differently. All authorities, or many of them, are facing such cuts and the news from the Autumn Statement appears to suggest that this is not going to change any time soon.  However, while council-controlled public library services have to just accept the cut and hope for public protests, Trusts can be a little more active in their defence and the news from Suffolk shows precisely this. No council library chief could comment in a way that the Chair of the Suffolk Libraries board has. This gives such Trusts more defences than a traditionally run service. That doesn’t mean they’re perfect, especially if they’re Leisure-dominated and thus (at least in the case of Warrington LiveWire) seemingly ignorant about libraries and willing to sacrifice them to protect their leisure arm. And it doesn’t mean they’re always nice, as the staff at Devon Libraries Unlimited are discovering, with their Saturday enhancements being taken away. But Library- run Trusts do have their strong suits. And this is one of them.

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Being free about being free: the charging survey results

Editorial

My big thanks to the many of you that took the time to do the quick survey on charges for crafts and drinks. I have put the results in full via this link. The results reveal that, six years into austerity, libraries are still reticent to charge for some small-scale extra services, although those that do report few problems about doing so.  Equally, even having a donations tin out on the table is a rare sight.  It’s a bit worrying to see several not being sure about the licensing laws, although this may just indicate how rarely alcohol is served in many branches. My personal experience is that people don’t mind having a donations tin out for crafts and other events.  In addition, such money can be kept in-branch to pay for future crafts and drinks, which is a real gift in some cash-strapped libraries which may otherwise struggle to supply such things. Moreover, there seems to be a public assumption made by many of the public that “free” means “not very good” and – almost universally – that missing a free event one has a ticket for (despite knowing this takes the opportunity away from someone else) is OK. So many branches may be missing out by giving things out for free, for all sorts of reasons. On the other hand, this does mean that the library is very much a charge-free zone for many people, including parents of young children, meaning that ability to pay, unique in the High Street, is not a concern.

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Refurbishments, commitments and shocked librarian reactions to President Trump

Editorial

A very positive (and rare) article in the Telegraph on libraries is a nice accompaniment to a couple of pieces in the Guardian on school and public libraries. Continuing the positive new, there’s three refurbishments of libraries – including one with 3D printers – as well as (well, hopefully positive, it’s too early to tell) the replacement of Nottingham Central Library. Rounding off the national news is a call from CILIP for (gosh) leadership and commitment to public libraries from the Government.

But the main thing I will remember this week is the absolute shocked reaction by US librarians to the news of Donald Trump being elected. They’re a lot more political over there than British librarians, I can tell you. With many on the ALATT Facebook group (normally a bunch of very nice and supportive librarians) almost hitting open warfare when anyone suggested that anyone who voted for Trump wasn’t a sexist or a racist. The battle lines have been drawn there. We will see how long the war goes on and if anyone outside of library staff rooms notice (and the implications if they do).

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Focus on school libraries

Editorial

Some impressive campaigning from children’s laureates, past and present, for school libraries plus the Read On Get On coalition notes the impact of their reduction on reading.  It’s good to see school libraries being highlighted.  Because of their less public nature, cuts to school libraries often don’t get the publicity that anything similar in public libraries would receive.  But the impact of the loss of a school library when it  comes to a child’s literacy is incalculable. Moreover, there is a natural partnership between school and public libraries. Here’s wishing them the best.

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250 ideas and innovations in public libraries … and the rest of the public libraries news

Editorial

As well as reading and summarising all the news I see about public libraries, one of the jobs that is also done, is spotting new ideas for the sector.  This is ongoing on the blog but every now again I copy and past them into the “Ideas and Innovations” page.  I’ve just done that again, added them all up and there’s 250 ideas there now. Gosh, that’s a lot of ideas. I’m sure one or two will be useful to you.  Have a look at Ideas and innovations in public libraries here.

Thanks to all those who completed my little survey last week: I’ve had a look at the results and there’s some useful stuff in it.  More on that later this week.

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Bananas linked by wires to computers

More money for Kingston, more volunteers in Staffordshire and others

Editorial

Code Clubs have come into their own in many libraries this year and it’s good to have a piece from the SCL below on them. Also good to see investment in Kingston, although there is the normal news about more volunteer libraries. And of course the shame that is how LiveWire is treating libraries in Warrington continues.

I’m still doing the survey on what public libraries charge for things like craft sessions and for drinks for events. It’s to get some idea of what’s happening nationally as well as seeing if these are extra bits of income that can be made without affecting usage (or not).  The survey is tiny (only four questions) and will take you less than a minute if you don’t put any comments in.  So, do me (and possibly yourself as I will be publicising the results) a favour by completing the survey here. The survey is entirely anonymous.  Thank you.

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Ideas

Cracking the Code in Manchester Central Library

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Coding clubs triple in libraries, linking library books to Amazon … and a really quick survey

Editorial

I’m doing a survey on what public libraries charge for things like craft sessions and for drinks for events. It’s to get some idea of what’s happening nationally as well as seeing if these are extra bits of income that can be made without affecting usage (or not).  The survey is tiny (only four questions) and will take you less than a minute if you don’t put any comments in.  So, do me (and possibly yourself as I will be publicising the results) a favour by completing the survey here. The survey is entirely anonymous.  Thank you.

Ideas

  • Library Extension – Free way to have your library book availability show on Amazon, GoodReads, Overdrive.
  • Smart scales – BMI/Weight scales available in libraries.

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A big protest in favour of libraries and others this weekend.

National demonstrations in favour of libraries: #LoveToRead and Placards

Editorial

Anyone would think it was planned this way.  The BBC led #LoveToRead campaign culminated this weekend, with loads of selfies on library twitter feeds and programmes such as Cerys Matthews on Radio 6 being broadcast from Orkney Library, on the same day that around two thousand people protested in London against libraries (and other services) being cut. It was good to see the “soft” #LoveToRead promotion palatable to council services and the BBC going on at the same time as the “hard” campaigning of placards and protest that chimes with protesters and the unions. The comparative merits and strengths of both tactics can be debated but the timing is impeccable to influence the autumn statement to be announced on the 23rd. Those behind both campaigns can both feel proud of themselves this weekend.

A big protest in favour of libraries and others this weekend.

A big protest in favour of libraries and others this weekend.

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Ideas

  • Chat and chill – Acclimatising women [Not men, in this case – Ed.] new to UK to life here.

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