Disappearing bookstock, Dudley and Devon

Editorial

The reduction in amount of books libraries have on their shelves made several national newspapers this week while, on the other hand, a local piece ascribes the success of Cheshire East in attracting borrows to its substantial book-stock.  Could be a lesson there. There’s also a question about how much stock is “officially” on the shelves but is actually lost. This is a question that haunts many library services, whether it is down to theft or to inadequate housekeeping practices or both. Meanwhile, a very interesting blog post by Leon questions several aspects of the decision by Dudley Council to pass its library service on to GLL and another news article with some more detail (some of it showing the shocking impact the cut will have on some salaries) on the loss of Saturday enhancements for staff in Devon.  Both posts are worth a read.

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Media mentions heatmap

This shows longer term trends in authorities than this post alone.  Only authorities with 6 or more are included. :

  •  Plymouth (17, -7), Bath and North East Somerset (12, +2), Manchester (9 – this is all positive news), Warrington (8, +2), Walsall (7, =), Cornwall (6), Darlington (6, -1), Devon (6, new), Kirklees (6, =), Lancashire (6, =),

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Enhanced payments for weekend working and Austerity

Editorial

I was sorry to read that Libraries Unlimited in Devon, still a new organisation, is removing enhanced payments for weekend working from its staff. However, before we all say that this is another bit of evidence to show that it should only be councils that run libraries, it’s worth pointing out that many councils have done the same thing, and some of them considerably earlier. Here’s a short and doubtless very incomplete list. The press statement from Devon also points out that they haven’t closed any libraries, unlike many traditional councils (hang your head in shame, Lancashire). The truth is that, regardless of governance, library services up and down the country are all working on different ways of reducing the impact of austerity.  It’s the central government agenda of reducing funding on council services that’s at fault here … and we need to remember that that decision was decided on democratically, or at least as democratically as this country is (which, admittedly, is hardly perfect). Mind you, councils that distort the truth (like Bath who refused to accept they were doing a U-turn even while their “your library is moving” sign was still on display, nice going there) come a close second.

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A glass half full

Editorial

It’s good to see that public libraries have the highest customer satisfaction of any public service. It’s lovely also to be able to report on plans for improving libraries in several authorities. This ties in nicely with a conversation I had with a national journalist today who was clearly interested in the bad news happening in libraries and not necessarily about the good: the good is always there and not “news”. This reminds me to say that, look, good things are happening in libraries. For all the bad news about cuts that I have to include every night, I’m sure there’s a hundred stories about how great libraries are and what a positive impact they are in people’s lives – it’s just that this isn’t reported because it’s always going on. So, nationally, the glass may be half empty but it’s also half full as well. As a post on communication from the Taskforce (also below – it’s like today has a theme) indicates, the great things that libraries do need trumpeting. So grab your musical instrument of librarianship and blow.

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The good, the bad and the good or bad: Haringey, Coventry, Dudley, Liverpool and Wolverhampton

Editorial

A mixture of the good and bad. Haringey have overturned previously reported plans to cut library opening hours and are instead investing £2 million in them instead. That’s quite some U-turn. From the news report I read, it seems like they did an honest consultation (hi Livewire, see it can be done) and the result was taken on board. It’s also good to see Coventry also having a rethink and reducing the cuts there, although four libraries are still to become volunteer, which is hardly nothing.  It’s interesting to see GLL taking over another library service (that’s four so far I think) in Dudley.  The leisure trust has now completely overcome its London roots and must be seen as a force to be reckoned with nationally.  Whether that’s good or bad, depends on how you feel about non-profit trusts. On the bad side, Liverpool are cutting the libraries budget by nearly £2 million and trying to pass on four libraries to others and Wolverhampton are going for full-on co-locations and volunteers. Expect a lot more from those two councils in PLN soon.

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Media mentions heatmap

This shows longer term trends in authorities than this post alone.  Only authorities with 6 or more are included. :

  •  Plymouth (24, -1), Bath and North East Somerset (10, new),  Cornwall (6. new), Lancashire (6, -5), Birmingham (8, -2), Darlington (7, -1), Walsall (7, +1), Warrington (6, =), Manchester (6 – this is all positive news), Kirklees (6, new)

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The public can be such banes to council plans

Editorial

Councils in Bath & North East Somerset (“BANES”) and Warrington have both needed to accommodate to public anger at plans to cut library services this week. The concessions may be more apparent than real – BANES are simply going to do a consultation on moving Central into a co-location away from the town centre (and with half the space) rather than a fait accompli.  Of course, seasoned readers of PLN will know the likelihood of a council actually changing its plans after a consultation in anything but in the mildest terms in order to show they listened but, with anger pretty high in the spa town, which is hardly a normal area of mass political dissent, it’s a step in the right direction. Warrington council, while supporting the initial (in my view highly flawed and biased) consultation are creating a group to see how they can best keep libraries open.  Again, PLN readers will suspect this will simply boil down to “volunteer or we’ll close it” but I am sure we all hope to stand corrected soon.

Meanwhile, the Taskforce have produced two posts on mutualising library services. With austerity now in its seventh (eighth?) year, this is seen as one of the best ways of maintaining library services along with volunteers, co-locations, increased use of volunteers and (increasingly) pressuring parish/borough councils to stump up cash instead.  To their credit, the Taskforce do not present any of these options as a panacea. Which is just as well: those councils which make cuts to libraries often find out the items on the efficiencies/savings/cuts menu can be unpalatable when presented to the public. But then it’s the same public so often who voted for austerity in the first place.

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Libraries offer futures: and the Big Issue is for the future of libraries

Editorial

A noticeably quiet couple of days with the main thing being to me two pro library campaigns, both of which are not just local over closures.  It’s good to see the CILIPS Library Matters campaign picking up some strength in Scotland before the election there, with another celebrity author on board. A very pleasant surprise was the Big Issue campaign that has just launched.  It’s worth a look as it says very nice things about libraries and John Bird, now a Lord, is clearly a powerful ally. Across the water, public librarians are now turning their sense of shock over President Trump’s presidency into action. It’s going to be a tough tightrope for them.  Although the political position of libraries are different there (they’re often not under direct council control whereas anyone employed in libraries getting political in the UK in working hours would presumably just plain be disciplined or dismissed) they still have to presumably be neutral.  The challenge is going to be how to balance the political desire to act with the expectation that librarians remain unbiased.  I simple don’t know how that will turn out in these strange times in America.

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Political games, not standing still … and waving placards

Editorial

There’s a couple of examples of libraries being used as pawns in political games before local elections in May today, with opposition parties scaremongering and the party in power (often the same party as in opposition doing the same thing elsewhere) crying foul.  Libraries have never really hit the headlines in the media before elections and I’m curious to see if such mentions increase or quiet down.  In terms of actual news, I’m sorry to see that West Berkshire have confirmed a big budget cut, although they’re avoiding closing libraries by relying on volunteers and parish council handouts.  That’s bad news for the staff (which will be reduced by half) but good news for the libraries minister who had been called on to intervene if the council actually closed many,  On the other hand, good news in Torfaen where Unison are claiming a major victory in repealing a £240k cut.  The union has done some notably good work in South Wales, although it has been notably less active nationally in the sector. Meanwhile in parliament, the libraries minister received two friendly questions from MPs of his own party, re-emphasising once more his view that “standing still is not really an option”.  Which, it seems, is true – as people enthusiastically waving placards in Bath, Darlington, Lambeth, Plymouth, North East Lincolnshire, Walsall and elsewhere show.

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Ideas

Media mentions heatmap

This shows longer term trends in authorities than this post alone:

  •  Plymouth (25), Lancashire (11), Birmingham (10), Darlington (8), Walsall (6), Swindon (6), Warrington (6).

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Wales, E-resources and co-located Gymbraries

 

The BBC has produced a large survey of the state of play in Welsh public libraries.  It makes interesting reading, with the excellent work being done nationally (on, for example, e-resources) being at least counterbalanced by the effect of cuts on local library services. Library e-resources are looked at in a guest post hosted by the Libraries Taskforce which points out that too often excellent resources are hidden behind inadequate, or even downright obstructive, council websites.

There’s a bit of other news as well but I will continue the thread on the damaging of library unique selling points started in the last post by just mentioning co-locations.  As with supplier stock selecting (and it was rightly pointed out to me – thanks Jane –  that if expert librarians work with the supplier very well, it’s not a bad thing, the problem is when they don’t or when there aren’t any librarians any more), co-locations can be really good. The right co-location can attract traffic into the library and not detract from the neutral and welcoming atmosphere that is a key library USP.

The downside, though, is where the co-location is forced upon the library and services which detract from such an atmosphere become uneasy bedfellows.  These bad co-locations can damage the neutrality of the library, especially when the service is poorly understood by those in the driving seat.  A probable “bad” co-location is up for grabs as I’m writing this with the imminent decision on combining gyms and libraries in Lambeth.  This has been the source of much anger and parody, which is a shame as the instigators (GLL) have done good work with libraries from what I have seen elsewhere.  If the combination (I’ve seen it called a “gymbrary”) does go ahead, let’s see how neutral and welcoming it is to library users.  I hope my fears on the subject are proved wrong.

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Ideas

Media mentions heatmap

This shows longer term trends in authorities than this post alone:

  • Lancashire (23), Plymouth (19), Birmingham (8), North Yorkshire (8), Swindon (7), Warrington (7)

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Waterstone’s recovery hints at what libraries should do

Editorial

Two conflicting stories this post. One is the story of libraries facing a big cut in usage over ten years, which I’ve covered in previous posts. The other is how Waterstones has made a dramatic comeback.  Now, Waterstones and public libraries are very different to each other – even Daunt could not have coped with the cuts some libraries are being forced to take and would probably have been driven to madness by council bureaucracy – but there are things that libraries can learn from him.  This is that local control over bookstock is important. You need to have experts choosing for particular libraries to match the needs of local communities.

Driven by budget cuts, many library authorities have forgotten the need for tailored local stock and farmed out book purchasing to large library suppliers. While (very importantly) saving on staff time and cost, this necessarily means a loss of that local connection and, also, a downgrading of the librarian role, with often the loss of professionals who have spent decades learning what goes best where. Sadly, thus is lost one of the many unique selling points (USPs)  that a public library once had, and some still have, that have been lost in the drive for efficiency.  I’ll be coming back to other disappearing USPs in future posts – councils appear in some ways to have spent decades removing them – but for the moment it’s great to see Waterstones rediscovering theirs, not least because I love bookshops more than any other high street outlet. Well, except libraries of course.

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USA and Canada see library usage rise: 3/4 budget cuts in Walsall and Kirklees

Editorial

Those people who say the decline in public libraries are inevitable should look at what is happening in the USA and Canada some time. Just today, there are stories that show that library visits (even book issues) in the USA are increasing long-term and the big authority of Hamilton in Canada saw an increase of 13% over one year. Neither the USA overall or Hamilton have seen deep cuts to their budgets. How that’s going to change with Trump as President one can sadly guess at but the figures show that the decline in UK library usage is not pre-ordained. If you think it is, explain why it’s not happening there.  Sadly, however, why the cuts are happening here is pretty evident. From just today’s announcements – Kirklees will soon have reduced their libraries budget by 72% by my reckoning (check the figures below) and Walsall are reported as cutting their budget from £4m to £1m, another cut of three-quarters. Meanwhile, West Berkshire are proudly announcing that they won’t close as many libraries as they originally wanted to because they’re going to depend on volunteers and parish/town council donations instead. Faced with such cuts, it’s pretty clear the decline in Britain is more a case of Austerity killing them than anything else.

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Media mentions heatmap

This shows longer term trends in authorities than the list above.

  • Red: Lancashire (27), Plymouth (15)
  • Amber: Birmingham (9), Swindon (7), Warrington (7), Bath and North East Somerset (6), Darlington (6).

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