Uncategorized

Taking Part and Polish train station libraries

Editorial

The DCMS “Taking Part” survey has done a special focus on public libraries.  It’s useful as it looks at adult usage over the past ten years. The trend shows a clear decline – I think we all knew that that would be the case, with reasons being arguable, but with the given reasons of those surveyed being, quite simply, e-books and preferring to buy.  It’s also noteworthy how important a factor children are in adult’s use of libraries.  There’s a lot of crossover there that perhaps library design does not always follow.  Elsewhere, I’m loving the Polish train station converted into a library.

Changes

National news

  • #40bookyears libraries competition- win Elmer furniture – National Libraries Day. Five prizes of £1500 of furniture each. “Simply share a photo that you feel represents 40 years of chidren’s books Tweet your entry using the hashtag #40bookyears and also email a copy of your entry to andersenpublicity@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk, stating which library you are from in your tweet or email.”
  • ‘Back to the Future’ as Axiell release their new RFID Solution. – Changing Libraries / Mick Fortune. “RFID companies have been quick to respond to the challenge of keeping libraries open in these austere times. All the major UK providers now offer individually designed solutions to enable cash strapped local authorities to extend opening hours by managing access to buildings outside of staffed hours with some of the more desperate authorities now rumoured to be considering using this opportunity to remove staff from some service points altogether.”
  • Cultural Education Challenge – Arts Council England. “The Cultural Education Challenge is our call for the art, culture and education sectors to work together in offering a consistent, and high quality, art and cultural education for all children and young people. ”  See also ASCEL statement on the ACE Cultural Education Challenge – ASCEL.
  • Nielsen LibScan Public Library Borrowing data Periods 1-2 (8 weeks to 27 February 2016) – Nielsen. “Looking at the Nielsen LibScan public library borrowing figures for  Period 1 (four weeks ending 30 January 2016), the data suggests a bright New Year for library loans. Compared with Period 1 of 2015, there had been growth of 2.5% – the largest year-on-year monthly increase since 2014. Children’s Young Adult & Educational in particular had strong growth, with a rise of 5.4%. Could this be a signal that the trend of decreasing loans was beginning to reverse? Sadly not, the Nielsen LibScan borrowing figures for February brought us back down to earth. Overall there were more than 1m fewer loans than Period 2, 2015. Fiction loans declined by 21.0%, Trade Non-Fiction by 27.0% and Children’s Young Adult & Educational by 15.3% year-on-year …”
  • Public libraries can access tt-exchange donations – Technology Trust. “We’re happy to announce that public libraries are now eligible to request a range of donated IT products. That means they’ll be able to access a range of IT donations – from Microsoft Office software and servers to Symantec security products to Adobe Acrobat XI and loads more.”
  • Shakespeare SelfieStorify / Sarah Mears. A page of tweets, with some excellent pictures, from the recent library twitter campaign commemorating Shakespeare.
  • Taking Part focus on: librariesDCMS Statistical Release. “In the year ending September 2015, 33.9 per cent of all adults had used a public library service in the 12 months prior to being interviewed. This is a significant decrease since data collection began in 2005/06. In the year to September 2015, the vast majority (94.8 per cent) of adults who used the library in their own time or as part of voluntary work physically visited a public library building or mobile library to make use of library services. Over the same time period, 94.2 per cent of adults who had used a library were very satisfied or fairly satisfied with their library experience. This is a significant increase from 2010/11 when the question was first asked. “. Adults are significantly more likely to use libraries if they have children or if they used a library when they were a child themselves. All adult demographics have reduced library usage but women use libraries significantly more than men. Wealthier people use libraries more.

“To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, what assessments he has made of the role of libraries in reducing digital exclusion.” Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister.

Libraries play a significant role in supporting digital engagement, by providing computers and WiFi to enable people to access the internet and digital services, as well as offering digital skills training and support. Thanks to Government funding, free WiFi is available in 99% of public libraries in England. DCMS and the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce are working with national partners to develop the role of libraries in improving digital engagement. From 1 October 2015 to 31 March 2016, The Tinder Foundation, in partnership with the Taskforce, carried out a Libraries Digital Inclusion Action Research Project. This supported 16 library authorities across England to pilot and assess new approaches to build digital engagement in socially excluded, hard to reach groups. The Foundation published interim findings in February 2016, and a final report is due in this summer that will help inform future digital engagement activity for libraries.” Ed Vaizey, Minister. They Work For You.  

“To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, what statistics his Department collects on the use of computers in libraries.” Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister.

“The annual library statistics compiled, and published in December 2015, by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy indicate that from 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015 there were 26 million recorded hours of use of computers in public libraries in England” Ed Vaizey, Minister. They Work For You.  

International news

  • Canada – Local libraries in jeopardy as province announces looming closures – Compass. “On Wednesday, it was announced 54 of the 95 public libraries in Newfoundland and Labrador would close over the next two years. In a news release, the Provincial Information and Library Resources Board (PILRB) said it’s notifying employees impacted by the move and will release a list of libraries earmarked for closure once that work concludes. Government reduced PILRB’s budget by $1 million in the provincial budget.”
  • Global – 5 left-field libraries where you should read freaky books: Probably not great for reading Jane Austen – Huck. China: “A steel and glass box beneath, the building is covered in fruit tree twigs, allowing light through in beautiful patterns through the summer and keeping the interior warm during the winter. It achieves something that so many architects strive for – an inventive design that remains in keeping with its surroundings”.  Another one in China: “The Times say that there are some problems with people’s feet smelling – you have to take your shoes off to protect the floor, and that’s a problem in the summer – but what it lacks in fine aroma it seems to make up for in beauty.”. Also features libraries in Japan, the Hague, Germany, Mexico.
  • India – Suspected right-wing vandals burnt Kerala library, people donate books with a vengeance – News Minute. “Less than a month after a popular library in Malappuram district was torched by suspected arsonists, well-wishers have donated books with a vengeance, and the final tally is double the number destroyed in the fire. On March 23, around 5,000 books were burnt in the AKG Memorial Library in Malappuram district’s BP Angadi. Two RSS workers have been arrested in connection with fire, which police suspect was an extension of the rivalry between local communist and RSS workers. The damage was to the tune of Rs 40 lakh.” [£41k – Ed.]
  • Poland – A railway station turned into a modern library and cultural center – Ebook Friendly. “The revitalized train station is now the main office of the Rumia Public Library. It’s not only a modern, friendly, and functional place where every book lover would want to spend as much time as possible. Station Culture has been an essential factor in increasing the number of library patrons in the city area.”
  • South Africa – Boost for reading as Gauteng pledges cash for libraries – Times Live. “Three new libraries will be built at a cost of R69.9-million and about R54-million will be spent in completing an archive centre for the province. The department will also spend R117-million to support 11 municipalities in their efforts to improve library services‚ and a total of 14 libraries will be fitted with internet connectivity at a cost of R2-million.”
  • USA – (Don’t) Break a Leg: Children’s Librarian as Performer – Public Libraries Online. A simple guide to entertaining children. Know yourself, your voice, your audience, be your own bouncer, take breaks, refresh your material.
  • USA / UK – Cuts Too Deep? England’s Public Libraries in Trouble – Public Libraries Online. “One thing is very clear with all these cuts: It is the underprivileged members of society that are really the victims. And perhaps Anstice [I’m quoting myself again, someone call an ambulance – Ed.] is correct that American public libraries might indeed view what’s happening in England as a cautionary tale. But all’s not lost in England as Birdi concludes: “[P]ublic libraries haven’t disappeared yet – but if we stop talking about them…we’re not exactly contributing to a rosy future.”
  • USA – Librarian creates place of hope & love for neighborhood – USA Today. “Her parents were lost to drug addiction and mental illness during her youth. She and her two siblings bounced from home to home, moving in and out of foster care. But two things saved a young Shanika — her grandmother and the library. From the time she was 6 years old, Shanika would walk with her older brother and sister to the old Emerson Avenue branch of the Indianapolis Public Library at 36th and Emerson, a few blocks from her grandmother’s home. Even when her siblings got older and stopped going, she didn’t…”
  • USA – The New Code of Conduct is inhumane and out of touch – Libraries are for everyone. “​A quick summary of the key concerns we have noted include: 1. Library users with “offensive body odour” can be asked to leave the library. 2. Patrons are asked to limit the number of bags they bring to the library with them. 3. Patrons must be “engaged in library services.” Sitting quietly, chatting with friends, and using the library as a warming or cooling centre do not qualify as being “engaged in library services.” We believe that the building itself, as a public space, is a service that the library offers.”
  • USA – Return on investment of Ohio’s public libraries and comparison with other states – Ohio Library Council. “When the economic benefit above is compared with statewide total operating expenditures of $687.5 million, the ROI from Ohio’s public libraries in 2014 was 3.89. This means that for every $1 spent by public libraries in Ohio, $3.89 in benefit was delivered to Ohio residents.””
  • USA – Top Three Challenges of Library Relocation – Public Libraries Online. Decide what to take, how to pack it, what to do with the rest.

Vacancies

  • Assistant Programme Manager, Reading Hack – Reading Agency. “The Reading Agency is looking for an enthusiastic and experienced project manager to join the Reading Hack team. As a key member of the team you will be responsible for encouraging young people to engage with this exciting new programme and supporting libraries and schools as they develop their Reading Hack offer.”

Local news by authority

  • Brighton and Hove – Labour suffer setback in Hove Library sell-off plans in face of Green and Conservative opposition – Argus. “Green councillors have forced controversial plans to close the historic Hove Library building to be put on hold. Councillors were due to vote on the business case for the sale of the 1908 Andrew Carnegie building in Church Road, Hove, tomorrow but the agenda item was pulled yesterday afternoon. The proposals were set to be defeated after a Green amendment calling to put the plans on hold received backing from the Conservatives. Green councillor Ollie Sykes said the business case for selling off the grade II listed building to fund the creation of a new cultural centre with a library 400 yards further west at Hove Museum was riddled with “flaws and inconsistencies”.”
  • Bristol – Library assistants go on strike – Bristol 247. “Bristol librarians gathered outside libraries across the city on Thursday as they went on strike to protest against altered shift patterns. Outside Bedminster library, striking library staff cheerfully held up signs saying, “Honk for Libraries” and “You know things are messed up when Librarians start marching.” Although they declined to comment without a union representative on hand (“I think they’re afraid of what we might say,” one woman joked), the assistants passed out fliers to passersby with information about the strike and tips on how to support library assistants. The fliers, published by public service union Unison, detail how the shifts negatively impact library assistants by requiring them to work shifts “over more days, for fewer hours at a time”
  • Cornwall – Questions over library’s future rumble on, as council learns of cost implications – Cornish and Devon Post. “Launceston library’s building could cost the town council hundreds of thousands of pounds if the running of it was devolved from Cornwall Council, a meeting heard last week. At last Tuesday’s meeting of Launceston Town Council, a presentation was given about the financial implications of the town council taking over Launceston library. The town council had previously agreed to commission business consultancy ‘Perfect Moment’ to carry out research to help the council in considering the future of the library at a cost of around £11,000. The report looked at the financial implications of the town council taking over Launceston library, and Kevin Brownridge of Perfect Moment gave a presentation to councillors and members of the public present at the meeting last week.”
  • Devon – Okehampton Library takes part in Libraries Unlimited launch – Okehampton Times. “Last Saturday, the organisation held a @Librariesunltd selfie day social media campaign, urging people to take selfies in their local library. Among those to take part in Okehampton was Cllr Kevin Ball. The library’s friends group received a grant from Cllr Ball’s locality budget for a projector screen, stand and picture book box, which he got the chance to look at during his visit.
  • Harrow – Outgoing mayor says the voluntary sector is key to Harrow’s future – Harrow Times, “Cllr Suresh also said Harrow library service is also benefitting from the help of volunteers after “a lack of funding to employ people in libraries”. Speaking of what he thought should be Harrow’s priorities going forward, he said: “The voluntary sector in Harrow needs more attention and constant monitoring and training.”
  • Lambeth – Saving my library card in the hope of better times – Secret Life of God. “On 31st March, Lambeth ‘decommissioned’ UNJL and made all its staff redundant. The service is to become The Crystal Palace Community Learning Hub, with (some of?) its books available for loan on one of its two floors and no dedicated librarians. (When I first published this blog yesterday, this was supposed to happen this Sunday, 1st May, but it’s since been announced the transfer will happen on 1st July.) I won’t bore you with all the twists and turns that led up to this situation, although as a former member of the campaign to save UNJL and the trust which will run the hub, I know quite a bit of the background. The library’s change of fortunes is part of the now notorious decision by Lambeth Council to turn some of the borough’s libraries into gyms, which led to the recent nine-day occupation of Carnegie Library in south London”
  • Lambeth – Another Lambeth Council library U-turn as Labour group agrees to keep librarians at Upper Norwood – Brixton Buzz. “Lambeth Council has undertaken yet another U-turn over the controversial libraries policy. The Labour administration has now announced that the Upper Norwood Joint Library will retain library staff, with 35 hours of provision provided per week. The library will be managed by the Upper Norwood Library Trust, with £85,000 funding from the Council. The original Culture 2020 proposals were for the library to be funded using the money raised by the sale of other libraries.” … “It raises questions as to why a similar model can’t be put in place at the Carnegie and Minet – both of which are under threat of becoming book-ish gyms.”

“Lambeth’s  bonkers scheme to open gyms in two of its libraries, keeping an unstaffed book collection on site as a sop to readers (Eyes passim), has attracted the attention of the Department for Culture Media and Sport despite DCMS’s record for slumbering through mass closures elsewhere. Campaigners who staged a sit-in at the Carnegie Library were able to claim a partial victory after the DCMS announced a rare investigation into plans to outsource the buildings to Greenwich Leisure Limited as “healthy living centres”, saying it was treating locals’ criticisms as formal complaints under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964.

This doesn’t mean the government will necessarily do anything to stop gymification;  this month DCMS wrote to Lincolnshire council to confirm that, following an investigation, it would not proceed to a local inquiry over plans to cut 32 libraries in the county as culture secretary John Whittingdale is content that the remaining mere 15 branches offer a “comprehensive and efficient service reflecting the declining library usage and resources”.  However, the timing of the new investigation stings Labour-run Lambeth in the midst of mayoral and London Assembly elections. Currently there is no plan for DCMS to investigate planned savage cuts to library services and opening hours in Lancashire, Hampshire, Powys, Leicestershire (which is facing a second round of cuts) or many other areas.” Lambeth – Library News – Private Eye. Issue 1417.

  • Lancashire – New digital library service has launched – Lancashire Libraries. “BorrowBox is an online application allowing library members to download e-books and audiobooks straight to their smartphones, iPads, tablets, laptops or computers. The availability of this free service means that customers can browse, download and read items 24 hours a day, seven days a week…”
  • Lancashire – Political row over libraries protest in Wyre – Fleetwood Weekly News. “Wyre Conservative councillors are calling on Lancashire County Council not to carry out its plans to close more than half the county’s branches. There are fears that libraries in Wyre could be among 40 of Lancashire’s 74 branches to close later this year as a result of huge savings needed.”
  • Plymouth – Plymouth’s new library to stage Shakespeare play – Herald. “The library opened in its new home, on the corner of Armada Way and Mayflower Street, in March 2016. And on Saturday, April 30, it will host the Librarian Theatre (below), a new company travelling the country creating shows based on classic plays and stories and already praised by top writers such as Margaret Atwood” … “The actors adapt the plays to be performed between the bookshelves at libraries and bookshops, and their first show, The Book’s The Thing, is described as a “rapid re-telling” of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy Hamlet – only with a woman in the central role.” … “They are a not-for-profit organisation who aim to work alongside the library sector to deliver accessible, affordable and professional quality theatre to local communities”
  • Sheffield – Listed Walkley Library in Sheffield to house bar – BBC. “Part of a Grade II-listed library in Sheffield will become a cafe bar under plans approved by the council. The Walkley Library building, on the corner of South Road, will continue to house a library. But True North Brew Company, which owns several pubs in the city including the York in Broomhill, plans to renovate and extend the 1904 building to accommodate a bar. The plans were passed by Sheffield City Council on Monday. Chris Reece, chair of the Walkley Carnegie Library charity, said it had been run by volunteers since November 2014.”
  • Southampton – Southampton’s Burgess Road library reopens thanks to volunteers – Romsey Advertiser. “instead of closing for good, Burgess Road Library in Southampton has now reopened under new management. The library was one of five faced with potential closure after the city council withdrew its funding. However this week the library is back open and running the same activities enjoyed by hundreds of residents under a team led by volunteers and a local church. Christ Church Southampton has taken over the management of the facility from the council and it reopened to the public this week.”

Cuts in North Somerset, a strike in Bristol and petitions over library moves

Editorial

North Somerset – quiet on these pages for a few years – has announced that libraries and children’s centres will co-locate (with all the benefits and problems that implies) for an overall cut of £500k. Meanwhile, nearby in Bristol, all libraries will be closed for day while staff strike over changes to working conditions which mean, they claim, that many are effectively being paid less for working more. Over in Staffordshire, it looks like quite a few branches have had to close temporarily due to staff shortages and, in addition, the county has received over 6,000 names on a petition over the move of Lichfield Library. People in Brighton and Hove are not looking delighted over the move of Hove Library either.

Changes

More >

A few good nights to be a librarian

Editorial

It’s been an interestingly varied few days – helping to host a thriller writer at a library event on Wednesday and then, three days later, helping out at a magic show in another library.  The writer, Martin Edwards, is up for two awards in the USA this week but spoke a lot on how important joining the library was – the library he was speaking at, as it happens – in helping his career.  The magic show was from a professional  theatre company, funded by Arts Council England, and it was superb. Both were very well attended and top notch and I was proud to be part of them.  But they were as nothing compared to being was master of ceremonies for a town award’s night on Friday.  It was a real pleasure to realise I knew so many of the people in the audience and so many of the winners as well.  I knew them because I’d simply worked in the town library for so many years. You get to know people. And people get to know you. There was a lot of smiles and laughter and an awareness, hopefully not just on my part, of the key role libraries play in the town.  All in all, it was a good few nights to be a librarian.

More >

More remote-controlled libraries and digital trends

Editorial

Axiell have jumped on the remote-controlled libraries technology offer (for the pros and cons of which see here) meaning that the majority of library system suppliers in the UK offer something in this field.  For councils, this is quite tempting – increase your hours while cutting costs – but there’s down sides to it as well, as those locked out due to IT problems or those under 16 are discovering. In other news, by coincidence, the same company Axiell has sent me a guest blog which includes somethings I’ve not come across before (“Internet of Relations” anyone?).

Changes

Top digital trends for libraries to follow in 2016; Influencers that make community engagement better 

More >

Moranifesto, promoting libraries and party manifestos

Editorial

Some good “think” pieces about libraries this week, notably from Caitlin Moran and from Nick Poole. Malorie Blackman bigs up libraries in the Guardian, pointing out how important they are to having a fair chance in life. We also have a look at the manifesto for the Welsh elections by the main political parties, which always show – when it comes down to it – what parties really think about libraries. Looks like UKIP don’t think anything. Then there’s a surprising amount on libraries in Islamic countries (and all the more welcome it is for being unusual), including some spectacularly heroic work in Mali and Afghanistan. Finally, there’s a whole ton of local news, fleshing out the cuts in Hampshire but also noting library promotions like Books on Prescription and World Book Night.

More >

Harry Potter and the DCMS library investigation

Editorial

I’ve had a week off so there’s a lot of news today with the main personal bit I’d like to share with you being how utterly fantastic the Harry Potter Studio Tour is. Gosh, I remember those books when they first came out and getting them in libraries … anyway, in main library news, Dudley (not Dursley, keep up) becomes a mutual in order to meet cuts to budget. Leicestershire has announced yet another major round of cuts to libraries and Powys has also announced many of its smaller branches are under threat.  Meanwhile, at the DCMS, the minister has (as expected) said there’s no problem in Lincolnshire slashing its library services but – to some shock, not least of all by the council one suspects – it has announced it will look into the cuts in Lambeth made famous by the recent sit-in.  But an investigation is actually nothing much. That’s what it did to Lincolnshire. What matters is if it says that the council has not met its statutory duties.  And that I’ll believe when I see it.

Changes

More >

The only hand of cards left: the strength and weaknesses shown in the Lambeth protest

Editorial

The power and limitation of protest was seen in Lambeth, in spades, this week.  The sit-in – for a very impressive week and more, with quite a few involved – attracted a lot of attention and culminated in what appears to be well over a thousand marching in the borough’s streets on Saturday.  I’ll say that again, well over a thousand. Marching, In the streets. For a library. The protest deeply embarrassed the council (or should have done, of which more in a tiny bit) and was reported in the national as well as local media. The local councillors, and anyone else paying attention, now conclusively know that libraries are a (in the words of the Institute of Economic Affairs ant-library spokesman a week or two ago) “hot button” issue and, if you close them without co-opting the public onto your side (e.g. “Volunteer or the library will close”) then you’re in for a world of political hurt.  The reputation of GLL, who must have come into this thinking they would be seen as the good guys, has also been somewhat tarnished by association.

Now for the down side. The council simply got a court order and would have evicted the protesters, if the latter hadn’t left peacefully.  Also, at time of going to press, the councillors also seem not have changed their attitude one jot and the cuts will still occur. In what they apparently consider to be safe seats, councillors instead turned the blame onto the protesters themselves – accusing them of drinking wine, of all things, and suggesting they were bored of the whole thing with one councillor (seriously) tweeting a picture of a cat yawning – instead of having a hard look at why people were angry. As the Guardian points out, it made the local Labour councillors the defenders of the Conservative Government’s and directly associated them with Austerity, as well as with arrogance and a bit of incompetence thrown in.  But, these are councillors with the electorate (who voted them in) and the law on their side.  They can do what they like for their term in office and they have the power. Using power against them, in the terms of sit-ins and protest marches, is a last-ditch gamble, as many campaigners knew. Having failed to persuade the councillors by other means, it was time for the placards. But, faced with a council, which had clearly already made up it’s mind, it was the only hand of cards they had left.

More >

The other 11% are just plain misinformed

The other 11% are misinformed: 89% say public libraries are crucial

Editorial

After an impressive 24,000 votes were cast in a Money Saving Expert Poll, 89% said that libraries were crucial.  That’s pretty impressive and shows that politicians – and certain media (I’m looking at you Jeremy Vine) – may not be entirely with the public when they question the role of the public library in the modern age. I’d also recommend them watch, an excellent TedX talk by Laurinda Thomas, former president of LIANZA in New Zealand, which demolishes such superficial shows and points out how important libraries are for communities. Perhaps Shropshire also need to have a look (and perhaps even more of a look at what constitutes as legal), being it took local users going to the courts to stop them moving Church Stretton Library where the locals did not want it moved. The worrying thing here is, like in West Berkshire, it looks like the council failed to do its legal homework properly before trying to cut costs. Obey the law, guys, it’s kind of expensive otherwise. Finally, our colleagues school libraries were feeling the media focus as unions asked for them to be included in OFSTED inspections in order to protect them.  Finally? Well, perhaps not quite, as I recommend to you the continuing twitter feud between Orkney and Shetland Libraries.  It’s the social media gift that keeps giving.

Changes

More >

Crazy Horse the Librarian - Available via this link

Crazy horses?

Editorial

As of the time of being published, I understand that the occupation of Carnegie Library in Lambeth is still going on by protestors (“just” plain library users many of them) keen to see it not being turned into a gym. There’s even a plan to have a Carnegie Occupation march on Saturday. This is all horribly embarrassing for the council there but is it enough? There’s lots of news coverage on it below. Also this issue I have a short interview with Alan Duckworth, who sounds quite a character, about his experience of being a reference librarian for 40 years. I don’t see public libraries going the way that Alan thinks reference libraries are going: they’re far too important and wonderful for that.

Changes

A short interview with Alan Duckworth, author of “Crazy Horse the Librarian”

More >

Lessons from last week: an extreme message works

Editorial

Extremism works in news coverage. That’s the message that the excellent PC Sweeney writes about, after his experience of forming the only US pro-library lobbying group and that’s the conclusion I’ve come to after studying all of the news about libraries (and I mean, all of it) since 2010. We saw this last week. That was one gigantic amount of media coverage on Tuesday, and it was factually based and researched (even understating the true state of affairs) but the reaction to it by those who fail to fight for libraries (Ed Vaizey) or who actively want them gone (the Institute of Economic Affairs) was extreme. Ed made two statements – that budget cuts were not influencing library closures and that volunteers were not replacing paid library staff – that were demonstrably untrue and simplistic, but they got national air play. The IEA argued that no-one used libraries and that no-one should therefore worry about them closing and got on BBC Breakfast. This is the standard of debate amongst our opponents – to exaggerate or to have no regard to the facts but to say a simple message and hope no-one checks. To counter this, we need to stay factual (look, we’re supporting libraries, I refuse to adopt the dirty methods of our opponents) but we also need to shout loud, very loud, about what is going on, or we will be drowned out by those who want libraries gone.

This goes against the “Ambition” document of the Libraries Taskforce and the policy of the Society of Chief Librarians, who are pushing for a consistent “positive narrative” for libraries. That’s great, and I’d agree in a perfect world, but it’s clearly ineffective when campaigning.  You don’t and won’t see people with “Our library is closing but Central is doing great things with 3D printers” placards. And as a national media strategy, it’s a complete non-starter. Because an evolving library service is good for nothing but a two minute interest piece every couple of years or so, and that’s not time we – or the 111 libraries the BBC conservatively estimate are under threat this year – have. So why push such a moderate rose-tinted agenda? Because being positive is how you get on in any organisation. I don’t mean that in an insulting and nasty way. There are many good committed and genuine people in the Taskforce and the SCL.  I just mean that it’s a category mistake.  Such a positive narrative is a necessary one for getting along in an organisation and a feasible one for encouraging people, long term, to use libraries but it’s one that makes no sense to a campaigner out there to save their library or for those of us who see this as an altogether more short-term and brutal affair. Look at the Lambeth protests below. That is an excellent demonstration of how to make a noise, get noticed and an all-else-has-failed throw of the dice. The Council is getting a bloody nose out of this and hopefully will think again, or not do cut libraries next time.  A positive narrative would have done nothing. But it would have been music to the ears of Ed Vaizey and the IEA.

Changes

More >