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A weekend of library news

Editorial

The pre General Election frenzy is becoming apparent with more politicians than normal taking pot shots at eachother over libraries. Good to see Islington delaying cuts but sad to see that cuts, as yet unspecified, may affect Fife, home to the reportedly first ever Carnegie Library. In other news, it’s a shame to see the antisocial behaviour (familiar to many a library worker, me included) reported in Edinburgh but heartwarming to see the report from the decidedly pro-social child on Worcestershire’s The Hive.

Changes

UK national news

  • A reply from Labour…sort of – Leon’s Library Blog. Reply from current shadow arts minister, Chris Bryant: “The next Labour government will ensure a Culture Minister will chair the “task and finish group”, set up following the Sieghart review into libraries in order to provide leadership to the sector. It will also work with the Department for Communities and Local Government to encourage greater collaboration and cooperation between the 151 library authorities in England, and give councils longer term funding settlements so that councils can better plan ahead, deliver savings and meet local needs.”
  • Essential reading for those destroying our libraries - Independent. “Surveys come and go, but I did find one arts survey published this week rather interesting. The 24 Hour Culture Survey asked more than 2,000 people in the West Midlands what cultural activity they had taken part in over a 24 hour period (which included a Friday night). No, going to a movie did not come top, nor did a gig, not the theatre nor going dancing. The most popular cultural activity was spending time in the local library. As libraries across the country suffer ever more cuts and closures, this finding will, I hope, give both government and local authorities pause for thought.”
  • Our finances are flashing red: local government must be funded properly – Public Finance. Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool “As I told parents and staff from our children’s centres, all I can offer is a reprieve for two years unless central government ends its financial masochism. If not, councils like mine we will barely be able to fund statutory services in future, meaning disaster for children’s centres, leisure services, libraries and so much more that we all value.”

“The Reading Agency has released its book collection titles for the 2015 ‘Record Breakers’ Summer Reading Challenge it was announced today. The Summer Reading Challenge in libraries is the UK’s leading reading for pleasure programme for primary school aged children; it runs in 98% of local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland every summer and in 2014 returned to Northern Ireland. 2014 was a record year involving 839,622 children, with 81,908 children joining  the library as new members. The 2015 Summer Reading Challenge is called Record Breakers, delivered in partnership with Guinness World Records: the global authority in record-breaking achievements and publishers of the annual Guinness World Record ™book. The Record Breakers theme brings together fact and fiction, challenging young readers to explore  astonishing real-life achievements and world records. This year’s book collection of 71 titles, which reflect the Record Breakers theme and introduces new authors where possible, are selected by children’s librarians, library suppliers and children from titles submitted by a wide range of independent and corporate publishers including those from The Reading Agency’s children’s reading partners scheme.  The titles include the World Record edition of Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb’s Paper Dolls, Penny Dreadful is a Record Breaker by Joanna Nadin and 100 Speed Facts by Steve Parker for younger children and James Patterson’s and Chris Grabenstein’s Kenny Wright Superhero, George’s Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy & Stephen Hawking and Steve Backshall’s Bizarre Beasts for older children. The complete book collection list can be found here.” Reading Agency

International

  • For the love of public libraries – Daily Item (USA). “Nobody does personalized and customized learning better than libraries,” according to the Urban Libraries Council. “They meet the individual where they are — from a new mother wanting to get her infant off to a good learning start to an immigrant learning English to become a productive part of the new economy. Helping people move to the next rung of their learning ladders.” Where the population is too sparse to support art galleries, museums, concert halls, movie theaters, and stage plays with ticket sales, public libraries are windows to culture and enrichment for so many Pennsylvanians, according to a column in The Daily Item last year.””
  • Public library personnel walk out; seek to oust Gonzales - Mvariety (USA / North Mariana Islands). “Joeten-Kiyu Public Library patrons yesterday were surprised to see its doors closed and its employees outside in the parking lot. They staged a “walk out” five minutes before the library was to open at 10 a.m., saying “they can no longer bear the climate of fear” created by the public library’s executive director, John O. Gonzales. “He walks in and everybody just ‘quakes’ because we know he is going to berate us in front of everybody and tell us we are failures. He threatens to give us low performance ratings and fire us from our jobs,” the employees said.”
  • Underground library needs support – Mail and Guardian (South Africa). “The library, a tiny one-room house with precast walls and a corrugated iron ceiling, was started after its chairperson Neo Mathetsa realised most young people of school going age in his community could not read.  He then turned his one-roomed house, hidden behind his mother’s four-room house, into a library. “

Grants

  • IFLA Conference Grant 2015 – CILIP is providing a “first-timer” grant (for a personal CILIP member who has not attended an IFLA conference outside the UK or, if different, outside their country of residence). The award will cover the main costs of registration, travel and accommodation for the IFLA World Library & Information Congress (WLIC) in Cape Town , 15-21 August 2015. In addition there are two partial grants of £750 open to all personal CILIP members.  Apply today and you may be one of the lucky recipients attending the most important international library and information conference which has around 4000 delegates from across the world.  But hurry the deadline for applications is 13 March 2015. You will find further information at:  CILIP IFLA 2015
  • Travelling Librarian Award 2015 – This award is jointly sponsored by the English Speaking Union (ESU) and CILIP. It is open to UK personal members of CILIP. It provides a fantastic opportunity to undertake a study tour of libraries and related agencies in a Commonwealth country or the USA. The award is for £3000 and usually the study tour will take place for 2-3 weeks in the autumn. The theme of the study tour is chosen by the applicant. Recent examples include a tour of Australia to learn about the process of building and maintaining collections around an international sporting event;  a study tour exploring how libraries in the United States enriched the democratic process during the 2012 Presidential elections, and, about to take place, a study tour looking at  higher education outreach activities in Pretoria that promote the literacies necessary for study. The closing date for applications for the 2015 award  is 27 April 2015. Further information is available on the ESU website, www.esu.org/travellinglibrarian,  and the CILIP website, www.cilip.org.uk/travellinglibrarian

UK local news by authority

  • Bristol – Lobby of Bristol City Council Cabinet – Save Our Libraries – Bristol Trades Union Council. “Mayor George Ferguson and his Conservative – Liberal – Labour – Green rainbow cabinet are proposing the possible closure of seven of our public libraries and the slashing up to a third of library staff. users and thousands more occasional users. Behind their florid propaganda however lies a savage cut of £1.1 million per year – or 20% – from the budget.”
  • Bromley – Bromley staff balloted for strike action over ‘privatisation’ plans – Localgov. “Unite regional officer, Onay Kasab, said: ‘Unite is drawing a line in the sand over the drive by this Tory council hell-bent on privatising and outsourcing much valued public services, such as libraries. ‘The council has declared war on public services, public service workers and the trade unions. It is not acting on behalf of residents.’”
  • Bromley – Lambeth and Bromley - Stop the privatisation of public libraries.  Summary of recent news for Bromley. “Bromley are taking a leaf or two out of Barnet’s book and looking to privatise most of their services and workforce, withdraw union facility time and last but not least decimate it’s library service.”
  • Edinburgh – Airgun-wielding kids among 72 hit with library ban - Edinburgh Evening News. “Setting fire to leaflets, physical assault, racist abuse and riding bikes on library premises all appear in a new list of antisocial behaviour incidents. In total, around 72 people were told to stay away from libraries for up to a month between April 2012 and March last year. As young people spend more time in libraries thanks to services such as free internet, professionals said it was unacceptable that staff face threats of assault.”
  • Fife – Fears ‘funding crisis’ will see library service cuts in Fife – Courier. “Fears are mounting that swingeing cuts are on the way for Fife’s library service as staff were called to a crunch meeting to discuss a “funding crisis”. After the meeting staff have been left feeling the service — in what is the home of the world’s first Carnegie Library — is going to be hit hard as bosses try to bridge a yawning financial gap.” … ” “Labour are using the Fife Cultural Trust as a way of blaming somebody else when Labour votes to close libraries.” Council leader David Ross said: “For the SNP to claim their alternative budget proposals would have solved this financial problem is laughable.””
    Islington – Islington Council pass budget cutting 188 jobs but saving ‘key services’ – Islington Gazette. “As reported in the Gazette in May a number of crucial services such as libraries, leisure centres and the PlusBus for disabled residents had been weighed up by council officers as potential casualties. Councillor Hull said these were safe for now, but could not make promises should further strains be put on the budget. “Many of Islington’s residents rely on the essential services the council provides, he said. Our priority in setting this budget has been to protect those services – libraries, leisure centres, swimming pools, children’s centres and adult social care,” he said.”
  • Lambeth – Campaigners loudly protest latest budget cuts - Brixton Blog. “Targets for cutbacks this year include library closures, children centres and “integration” within the council’s health programme. News of the dramatic scaling down of council expenditure – imposed by the government – was greeted with dismay by campaigners outside Lambeth town hall. “As well as libraries, children’s centres and day centres are also in the firing line,” said Jon Rogers, Lambeth Unison branch secretary. “We will contest every single cut.” Others involved in the protest included the unions GMB, Unite and the National Union of Teachers, as well as supporters from the “Save Cressingham” campaign, Guinness Trust activists and protesters of the cuts to Lambeth’s Libraries.”
  • Lambeth – Lambeth and Bromley – Stop the privatisaiton of public libraries. Summary of recent news for Lambeth. “Lambeth are once again looking to cut their library service, not very ‘co-operative’ of the ‘co-operative council'”
  • Lincolnshire – Cuts to frontline services such as fire service and libraries should be last resortLincolnshire Echo. Letter from Labour councillor chief.  “In Lincolnshire, the ruling Tory-led council is sitting on millions of pounds in reserves, and is still cutting services. An example of this is the farce over the libraries. The county council used a mere £100,000 of tax payers’ money to carry out a consultation and the conclusion was that the people of Lincolnshire wanted to keep their libraries.”
  • Lincolnshire – Government probes council’s library service – East Lindsey Target. “This investigation will help Culture Secretary Sajid Javid determine if a local inquiry is needed in response to a complaint from retired chief librarian Maurice Nauta. Mr Nauta, from Nettleham, wrote to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport objecting to the council’s plans for Lincolnshire’s library service and the DCMS confirms the matter is being treated as a formal complaint.”
  • Lincolnshire – Lincoln Parliamentary hopeful Elaine Smith vows to take just £24k of her salary if elected - Lincolnshire Echo. Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate says ““Any money on top of this will be put towards a solidarity fund to support grassroots community and workers’ campaigns like Save Lincolnshire Libraries, Defend Our Fire Services and Lincolnshire Disabled People Against Cuts.”
  • Peterborough – Library is vital to literacy levels – Peterborough Today / Letters. “Whilst fully appreciating the pressure on spending that the council and Vivacity are under we find it difficult to accept the drastic proposals that are being made for the libraries in general and in particular those affecting the Werrington Community Library. Levels of literacy in the country are falling and Peterborough is no exception. At the same time we are cutting an area that is trying to help to stem this decline, namely the effectiveness of the local libraries.”
  • Scottish Borders – Councillors sceptical that sports trust can run region’s libraries etc - Border Telegraph. ““I am sceptical and remain to be convinced this is the best way forward,” said Councillor Ron Smith at last week’s full council meeting. “I can see the pros and cons of such an arrangement, but the pros all appear to be financial while the cons relate to the continued provision of these important services which enrich the lives of so many Borderers,” added the executive member for planning and the environment.”

I refer to my previous correspondence of 8 January in which I indicated that the timescale for a final decision by the Secretary of State had been revised to Friday 27 February.I write to inform you that the Secretary of State is carefully considering the detailed submissions made in this case and now anticipates a decision by Wednesday 11 March 2015..” DCMS letter to Sheffield campaigners

  • Scottish Borders – Hawick wealth could be run by pool group – Hawick News. “Councillor Watson McAteer said: “Like others I will need convinced this is in the best interests of Hawick. BSLT appear to operate their trust well but whether or not taking on board museums, libraries and other public buildings fits their operating model will be a matter for them to agree.” And voicing his concerns for the town, he added: “I have a concern that Hawick’s common good moveable assets are not catalogued and in such circumstances handing over any of our heritable artefacts is not something I would support.””
  • Trafford – Hale businesses say village library plans are ‘detrimental’ to enterprise – Messenger. “Hale Business Association has warned that the reduction of services at the village library would be ‘detrimental to the viability’ of future enterprise in the area.In an open letter to Trafford Council, the association said borough authority proposals that include downsizing the facility to make room for residential homes are ‘driven by the potentially high value of the site for redevelopment’. They point to the Government-commissioned ‘Portas Report’, that found high streets needed to retain ‘community hub’ regions to remain viable and vibrant.”
  • Walsall – Five Walsall libraries saved in budget deal – Birmingham Mail. “The ruling Labour group announced a climb down on two of the most controversial areas of its proposed £29 million budget cuts for 2015/16. The Libraries, including Pheasey, Walsall Wood and Streetly, and green waste services were only given a one year stay of execution as £655,000 funding was found from reserve to cover costs.”
  • Worcestershire – Michael and the Hive Library Worcester - Vimeo. “Michael’s Mid Term Project was to create something to show his favourite building. His choice was the Hive Library in Worcester. Michael explains some of his favourite things about the library and thanks to the lovely staff we even got an interview to explain when it was built and how big it is.”

Cuts, ideas and appeals

Editorial

Protests about cuts in Thurrock may have assisted in reducing the impacts of the cuts there, although the small print may mean the improvements are more apparent than real.  Anouncements of cuts have come out in Hartlepool and more details on deep cuts have come out about Lambeth.

Moving away from the general depression, there’s some interesting initiatives like Raspberry Pi workshops (not a new thing but one I have not highlighted on these pages before) and also, would you believe, literary anarchists.  Finally, for something completely different, there’s an appeal to help out recording a play based in a library and for your local library card to be sent for a collection forming in Australia.

Changes

Ideas

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A home for the homeless

Editorial

One of the things you notice about libraries is that no one is turned away.  As long as you’re not disturbing anyone or trashing anything then it doesn’t matter who you are, what money you have or where you come from, you can come in.  A library is the one place where you should be able to come in, no questions asked. Which is why this tweet below showing a picture from a San Diego Library so annoyed me.  It’s a way to keep the homeless out – if you’ve got big bags then you can’t come in.  Doesn’t matter if you disturb anyone when you get in or not, tough, your misfortune means we can say no.  The sneaky policy means the library service can say, hand on heart, that it has no policy against the homeless.  Just that, strangely, they don’t see that many any more. Fancy that. Like the twitterer, I like nothing about this.

 

This is an example of a deliberate barrier put in place but there are many other, less obvious barriers that we can all be guilty of.  Way back when, my library service required two forms of  ID to join.  I was turning away people who wanted to use the service.  Now, we require no ID at all and – you know what? – it’s made no noticeable difference on lost stock but it sure as heck means I don’t turn people away now.  It also means that if you are guilty of the crime of not having an address then you can join the library.  Which is how it should be. Don’t get me wrong, if someone is disturbing other people in the library, they are ejected and if they steal things, we treat it seriously – but to stop people using the service because of bureaucracy is not somewhere we should be in 2015. The library’s place as the home for the homeless, the temple for all religions and none, places a heavy task on library staff to leave their prejudices (conscious or not), not bags, at the door.

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Being open about weeding

Editorial

The withdrawal of 240,000 books from Manchester Central Library – and their selling to booksellers/recyclers – has again raised its head, three years after the original story.  For me, it illustrates the need for trust and open-ness. Librarians need to, when getting rid of a ton (especially many tons) of stock remember that the stock is not theirs.  It is owned by the council and thus the public.  Staff therefore need to be able to justify what is being cut in terms of a policy and, as (as a possibly pre-emptive step never before undertaken), actually let the public know they’re doing it.  Public libraries are the most open of buildings and staff rightly pride themselves on the skills that they have, but one of those should be being up front about what is happening to books.  It’s not, after all, waste or bad practice to get rid of books.  No library, except those desperate cases with no new stock coming in at all, can survive for long without weeding its stock. We should be proud of the process and explain why and how we’re doing it rather than – as is so often the case – hiding the fact.

Let me be clear, I have no reason to believe that Manchester did anything wrong in getting rid of stock – it had a policy, apparently only duplicates were got rid of, and everything else that I have seen about that building impresses the heck out of me – but the negative news coverage goes to show that public relations is very important.  Perhaps councils, because it’s a rare library service that actually controls its own PR, should be up front and say that each item costs money each year to store (I’ve recently seen the figure of £4 per item quoted) and now of all times we simply can’t afford to do that for all books, let alone ephemera and paperbacks published ten years ago. Being open about such things may inspire trust, and trust is exactly what we need to remember we hold the items in.

Using my time machine, I can confidently predict that Ed Vaizey will say that he will not be intervening in Sheffield when he produces his final decision on 27th February.  Oh OK, you got me, I don’t have a time machine … but who needs one to be able to predict what this most non-interventionist of ministers will decide?

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The Vacuum Cleaner performs his autobiographical one man show Mental. (copyright Karen Thornburn)

Necessity is the mother of invention? Libraries in 2015

Editorial

There’s a ton of imaginative stuff going on in libraries, if one pushes past the heavy curtain of budget cuts.  My thanks to St Helen’s libraries for sending me details of their Arts in Libraries project, which was brought to my attention after a piece written on the need for more theatre in libraries.  The boss of their service tweeted me saying they’re already doing a ton of stuff … and indeed they are. The thing is, of course, that these things are now never dependent on internal resources: ideas have to be free (see the fantastic Hovermark idea below), cost very little or have the capacity for commercial sponsorship (I have hopes for Awesome Boxes in that regard), receive outside funding (like St Helen’s) or require partnership (see this excellent US article). There’s more stuff going on as well: a conference in Edinburgh next month will be covering innovations and I’m including further details about this today: I’m going so I hope to see you there and would love to hear from you about what is going on in your service.

Changes

  • Hertfordshire - (Clarification from council) – £2.5 million cut in library service per year expected to be reached by third year (£1m cut each Year 1 and Year 2, £500k cut Year 3).

Ideas

  • Awesome boxes - Customer puts the library book they loved in a special box when returned in branch or online.
  • Hovermarks - Downloadable copyright-free bookmark that points towards the spine, not cover, allowing the bookmark to be read when books is shelved and not on display.
  • “Play stations” at story times - Provide toys, with play activities and “play tips”, integral to programme.

Arts in Libraries – St. Helen’s case study

Since 2011, St.Helens Council’s Arts and Libraries services have been working together to programme high-quality arts participation projects and performances. The Cultural Hubs programme, funded through The National Lottery and distributed through Arts Council England’s Grants For The Arts (Libraries) fund, began in 2013. It has enabled a programme of performances, plays, gigs, workshops, courses, events and exhibitions in all 13 libraries within the borough of St Helens.

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A week of public library news

Editorial

A bumper edition of a week of news today.  The lateness is partly due to library stuff – organising the county final of a schools poetry competition (Poetry By Heart) and staffing a stall at a community event on Saturday.  Anyway, let’s look at what’s going on – more details about the cuts in Hertfordshire and more on volunteers in Staffordshire combines with cuts to Shropshire and the ongoing saga in Lincolnshire.  Breaking news from the last is that the DCMS will be looking into the cuts after it agreed to take a letter of complaint from a campaigner seriously.

Changes

Ideas

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Glory days

Editorial

Some positive news today.  The good people of Cardiff have campaigned mightily to save seven threatened branches and the council has agreed to save them all, although it is unclear in what format. Meanwhile, in Scotland, West Dunbartonshire has not only backed down from closing Balloch Library but is going to buy it a new public toilet as well as spending a mighty £500k to improve Clydesbank Library. Meanwhile in Walsall, it has been announced that, while eight libraries will still be closed, it’s going to happen three or more months later than expected.  That last one provides a bit of a hint as to what may be going on – councils may not be keen on closures in May, what with the election and all. Indeed, the next few months may be glory days for saving threatened libraries as councils realise a closed local civic building is not a votewinner. But only if people campaign.

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It's a bit colourful.

Sanctuary, celebration and love: not bad, people, not bad.

Editorial

It’s been a great weekend.  Loads of people have used libraries, of all ages and backgrounds, finding in them what they need, regardless of their ability to pay.  By their presence, the buildings have contributed to local communities, provided equality in a world increasingly without it and been appreciated by hundreds of thousands.  Oh, and it’s also been National Libraries Day. There’s been a lot said (and great to see the Sunday Mirror printing an application form) about closures and cuts and anger but the main words that have sunk into my mind are sanctuary, celebration and love.  Those are not half bad words for any job. Be proud.

Changes

David Whitehouse on the importance of libraries More >

LibrarianFirst?

Editorial

The findings of the Independent Report on Public Libraries included the suggested action to do something like Teachfirst for public libraries in order to encourage new and talented young people into the sector at an affordable price. With the help of the Society of Chief Librarians, The Creative Society and Arts Council England, that suggestion has now become reality.  The details are:

  • 50 paid internships for unemployed 16-24 year olds in England to work in the public library sector.
  • Only for posts where “where job roles and skill sets are common to arts organisations. For example: front of house, education and outreach, marketing, digital media.”
  • Organisations can apply for “part wage grant”, explaining what post it is for, its sustainability etc.
  • For one year or more, “Learning how to do the job by doing it”.

The press release is here and more details are here. If I understand this right then that second point means there is a barrier against the apprentices being used, as some fear, to simply replace paid employees or to fill vacancies.  The challenge for library services will be to find roles that fill the criteria and are sustainable. But that is fine. After all, we want new people coming in doing this kind of thing and if it means that library services can experiment, at cut rates, with new roles then there will be few complaints.  At the not exactly young age of 44, I am often the youngest working in some branches I visit and so an initiative like this is to be welcomed. It is also great that action points in a report on libraries is actually being implemented, rather than being just talked about and bodes well for the other suggestions as a whole.

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Changing the narrative

Editorial

R David Lankes has written an excellent piece for National Libraries Day where he looks at how US libraries faced cuts and declining usage but survived and have grown stronger than ever.  This was achieved, he says, by “controlling the narrative”, making public libraries being creative and inspiring places to be rather than their old image of books and social welfare.  Strangely, this was a sentiment also echoed by a Canadian in the useful #uklibchat debate on public libraries who said “Libraries & Librarians must be prepared to change from traditions, must take risks try new things. Get out in the community”. My glib response to him at the time was “Agreed. Now try that with 50% less budget over 4 years, half the staff and no political will. Report back” but it strikes me that, actually, libraries across the country are radically changing from their traditions and going out to the community. Albeit in radical ways that, ironically, the Canadian would probably be shocked with, but no one can see UK libraries have not been changing, just only not in ways entirely controlled by the libraries themselves.

The question is for UK public libraries not should we but can we change the narrative.  The narrative of the last few years has been of saving libraries and of reduced usage.  The campaigning message may be useful for a short while nationally but, like Save the Whales, reduces its impact over time.  The reduced usage narrative is that of defeat and is poisonous: we need to get away from it.  But it seems to me that budget cuts have been so deep, the political lack of understanding of public libraries so disconnected from the reality and, yes, the lack of leadership (structurally at least) so dysfunctional that to blame librarians for the failure to change into 3D community workshop engineering hi-tech wunderkinds is a bit much.  But that’s the challenge, my friends.  We need to convince the politicians that libraries are relevant to their goals and the public that libraries are places to be cherished (and not just with placards).  This may be very hard with some public-service hating anti-professional and deeply ideological politicians but there are other people out there and even the most dyed in the wool reactionary is not demonic.  The SCL and CILIP are trying to do what they can (albeit within tightly controlled parameters) in this.  There are, in some of the things I see in reports innovation (such as the BL Business Centres, the one Maker Space, the joy of the Summer Reading Challenge) that say there’s hope but there needs to be more.  And that’s going to be hard.  But it needs to be done. Frankly, if it would improve things, I would even say nice things about Ed Vaizey.  Now that really would be changing the narrative.

Ideas

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