EveryLibrary and Digital Hubs

Editorial

A quiet week locally due to the elections but two things stand out. One is the partnership with CILIP and EveryLibrary, partly ACE funded, to advocate for public libraries. EveryLibrary are a US campaign group that runs campaigns there to boost library funding, with some success. How their style will work over here is interesting. I’ve already received an email from them asking for money for the project, something which I’ve not seen in the sector before. Perhaps this is something we need. The other thing is digital health hubs. This is the NHS rolling out some services into the high street, including public libraries. The sector has been eyeing NHS cash for years and, with our neutral/welcoming and everywhere selling points, we have something to sell. Hopefully this will be the start of a nice friendship.

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National news

  • Advocating for public libraries – Arts Council England. “As the Arts Council takes the lead on the work of the Libraries Taskforce, its Chair Steven Broomhead, Chief Executive of Warrington Borough Council, looks to the future of libraries and how the Taskforce partners can help shape it.” … “The Libraries Taskforce partners are working together more closely than ever before to achieve an impact on the sector that that will drive the core agenda and help library services to grow and develop. We are adamant that libraries must remain a focus for the decision makers in local and national government and that, in working together by harnessing our collective expertise and brokering power, we can help achieve this.”
  • British Library teams up with ten London boroughs to support entrepreneurs across the capital – London Post. “The British Library’s Business & IP Centre today celebrates the launch of a major new initiative, Start-ups in London Libraries, a three-year project to support London’s entrepreneurs from all walks of life to get their business idea off the ground. This coordinated network of free support for start-ups will officially launch in over 60 public libraries this month, in partnership with ten London borough”
  • CILIP and EveryLibrary Institute announce new partnership for libraries  – EveryLibrary Institute. “CILIP, the UK’s library and information association and the US-based Charitable Non-profit, the EveryLibrary Institute have announced an innovative new partnership to help librarians and information professionals across England build political support and improve future funding for libraries. The new partnership will harness the skills and networks of both organizations to transform the ability of public libraries to engage and demonstrate public support. Thanks to a generous grant from the Arts Council England, the project will allow CILIP to provide a new GDPR-compliant digital advocacy platform for library supporters. The EveryLibrary Institute will collaborate with CILIP and library sector organizations to allow them to:”
  • Digital health hub rolled out across more areas following pilot success – NHS Digital. “A digital health hub piloted in Nailsea has proved to be such a success that the NHS is scaling it up across England, as demand increases from councils in North West London, the Wirral, Blackburn, Middlesbrough and Stafford. 65 High Street, known as ‘Nailsea Place’, is a digital health and wellbeing learning centre. The local venue, which was established in 2018, has become a trusted place on the high street where staff and volunteers can help people to improve their digital skills and confidence, so they can engage with online services. ” … “This second wave of hubs will be in Blackburn with Darwen Library, Staffordshire Refugee Centre (ASHA), a community centre in Saltburn and the Grenfell victims support centre in NW London. “

“In view of  the publication of these documents , the development of “65 High Street, Nailsea” and the forthcoming  creation by Govt.  of a Taskforce on “The Future of the High Street”,, CILIP could do well to bring together a few like minded  Health and Library  Professionals  via the internet  to  prepare  to make a positive contribution to the Taskforce on The Future of the High Street  once it is  formed”. Dr Malcolm Rigler (via email. Contact him via email m.rigler at nhs.net).

  • Digital Public Service Innovation of the Year – Digital Leaders. One of the organisations one can vote for is Somerset Libraries. “The Somerset Digital Skills Talent Academy has delivered eight inspirational hands-on workshops in Taunton Library, showcasing digital skills and cutting-edge technology to groups of secondary school students. Delivered by the private sector in partnership with Somerset Libraries, sessions included film/animation; Robotics and coding; Virtual and Augmented Reality and 3D Printing and Scanning”
  • Libraries Week 2019: Why this year’s event is more important than ever – Lorensbergs. “This year’s Libraries Week will be Celebrating Libraries in a Digital World and it couldn’t be a more timely theme. For the second year running, our public library survey results indicate that libraries are seeing more and more people come in for help with digital skills and services. Almost 50% reported an increase, with most of the remainder seeing stable demand for this support (only one library authority reported a decrease).”
  • Telephone red kiosks become home to mini-libraries, information centre and defibrillators – Denbighshire Free Press. “BT is offering communities across Wales the opportunity to adopt their local phone box for just £1 to turn them into something inspirational for their local area. ” … ” exciting new ventures include conversions to mini-libraries, miniature art museums, cake shops and information centres. “

International

  • Australia – Lost Property clothing library is a brilliant solution to wasteful fashion – Treehugger. “Lost Property is one of these brilliant new clothing libraries. Based in Fremantle, Australia, it is on a mission to fight fast fashion and conquer wardrobe clutter, while still allowing people to indulge their desire for new and trendy styles. “
  • Canada – Halifax Public Libraries cooks up new approach to tackle food insecurity – CBC. “Dahl said for a long time, many librarians kept a box of granola bars in their desks for children who were hungry … The libraries now offer healthy snacks for kids after school and to adults through their “Snack Social” events. … Two kitchens are also going to open later this spring at the Halifax Central Library and the Sackville Public Library to better equip the facilities to offer food workshops.”
  • Global – Building Global Networks for Libraries with Marie Østergaard and R. David Lankes – Princh. “Marie starts the conversations by stating that libraries do not compete with one another, neither for money nor for visitors. As such, a global network is a great opportunity to gather knowledge and ideas from other libraries on how to serve your community better. She also draws attention to Public Libraries 2030 (PL 2030), a Europe-wide attempt to make libraries connect easier.”
  • Malaysia – 10 Stunning Libraries In Malaysia That Will Make Every Book Lover Happy – Says.
  • USA – Library Systems Report 2019 – American Libraries. ” The public library sector has not yet experienced a significant new cycle of innovation. It remains reliant on ILSes that are modified to fill in the gaps required to support critical integrations in ebook lending and other digital offerings. One of the key concerns for public libraries is whether they are poised to enter a disruptive cycle of innovation or if the current pattern of incremental advance­ment will continue.”
  • USA – Jessamyn West on Intellectual Freedom, Creepy Basements, and the Library as a Safe Space – Bookmarks. “libraries also act as a public space, where you can interact with all the public, in a society that is increasingly stratified and where people may only be interacting with people who are “like them” in some regard. You can get things you want to read/watch/view or do, in addition to just having access to things you need. And we’re paid for, public libraries are, by the public. We’re here for you. We won’t rat you out to ICE, we let you read whatever the heck you want, even if you’re a kid, and we offer a warm and safe space with wifi and a clean bathroom where you can be yourself. Obviously not every single library is like this, but it’s what we as a profession aspire to.

Local news by authority

  • Cornwall – Future of Launceston Library safeguarded for the community – Holsworthy Post. “The future of Launceston Library has been safeguarded for the community after a new agreement which will see it transferred to Launceston Town Council on May 1.” … “Launceston Library is remaining part of the countywide service meaning customers will keep their existing library cards and can still visit, borrow and order books online from other libraries in Cornwall.”
  • Denbighshire – Denbigh and Ruthin libraries urge residents to get creative – Free Press. “A series of libraries in Denbighshire are set to take part in Get Creative Week, the annual celebration of cultural activity in Great Britain which encourages people to try their hand at something creative and new in their community.”
  • Essex – Families call for ‘community hub’ to be spared the axe – Clacton Gazette. Despite major protests, Essex still pushing for volunteer libraries. “The campaign continues to positively reach out to Essex County Council and hopes it will change its mind when analysing the value for money the library provides.”

“To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what representations he has received on Essex county council’s proposed closure of its libraries. Tom Watson, Shadow DCMS

“DCMS has received a number of representations from local people and bodies about Essex County Council’s proposed Future Library Services Strategy for 2019 to 2024. The Council consulted on this from 29 November 2018 to 21 February 2019. DCMS officials are in regular contact with Essex County Council officers to discuss its libraries proposals and the importance of it meeting its statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service. We understand that the Council is currently analysing the responses to the consultation and their aim is to finalise the strategy and present to their Cabinet in Summer 2019. Michael Ellis MP, DCMS”

  • Manningtree streets filled with library protestors – Harwich and Manningtree Standard. “Hundreds of people took the streets of Manningtree to take part in a noisy protest march against proposed cuts to libraries. The Young People’s march saw children, their parents and other campaigners join together to march from the methodist church in South Street to the town’s library in High Street. Protestors donned fancy dress costumes and musical instruments to make their voices heard.”
  • Mum praises ‘amazing show of community spirit’ in children’s march against library closures – East Anglian Daily Times. “… hundreds of children turning out on the streets, with 400 people taking part in the march in Manningtree. Mum-of-two Holly Turner, who organised placard-making workshops before the Manningtree march, said: “Owners and staff from businesses lined the streets to cheer us on and on return the children filled the stage to chant and sing.
  • Will councillor you vote for fight to keep Essex libraries open? – Halstead Gazette / Letters. “Although I realise Colchester borough councillors have no power or control over Essex Libraries, I appreciate that many local people are outraged at Essex County Council’s proposal to close about 60 per cent of our Essex libraries including Prettygate, Stanway, Wivenhoe, West Mersea and Tiptree and wish to elect local councillors who share their views and will fight to keep these libraries open. With this in mind, I emailed all the group leaders of the political parties that are fielding candidates in the forthcoming Colchester Council elections, plus the independent candidates, to ask them to endorse the above aims of Sole so the electorate know this when deciding to whom they should cast their vote on May 2.”
  • Herefordshire – Library launches new ebook service – Bromsgrove Advertiser. Borrowbox.
  • Lancashire – Harris creates special space in heart of city – Lancashire Post. “Time does not quite stand still, but as befits its location, the city’s Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library, the step back in time allows you to enjoy spacious surroundings and a new view of the city. The cause for celebration? None other than the library’s one time reading room and more recently its community history library. It officially reopened last Friday as the re-named Heritage Reading Room and the change for those who will remember the former reading room is immense.”
  • Lewisham – The Library: An oasis for me and my daughter Save Lewisham Libraries. “Recently, on a trip to the opticians, my daughter had a complete meltdown. I stood while tears and snot and shouting happened. These events can leave you feeling drained and helpless. Once she had calmed down she elected to go to the library, a place where she feels safe and secure and where she can read, her mechanism to help her cope with life. I walked in and was greeted by a smiling face of a lovely librarian who knows both of us. She had been thinking of us as she had recently checked in a book that she thought my daughter would enjoy. Suddenly, the world felt a much better place. It may have been a small event for the librarian, but it was life affirming for me.”
  • Northamptonshire – Update on library consultation and future service – Northamptonshire County Council.
  • Sheffield – Thousands of pounds in fines for overdue library items – Star. “Since 2011, the council has collected £511,786 in overdue fines for books, DVDs and music.” … “Green councillor Martin Phipps asked about the charges through a written question to the council. He said: “Trafford Council recently abolished late fee fines to try to make their libraries more accessible and well-used and I think this is something we should definitely be looking at.”
  • Suffolk – Skulduggery in Stowmarket could be back in 2020, Suffolk Libraries confirm – Bury Free Press. “Library chiefs are hopeful of attracting more readers into crime fiction after ‘amazing feedback’ from the second Skulduggery in Stowmarket. More than 300 attended talks at Stowmarket Library last weekend from authors including: Charlie Haylock, Jaqueline Beard, Barbara Nadel and Kate Rhodes.” 
  • Vale of Glamorgan – Facelift for Penarth Library – Glamorgan GEM. “Changes to the library’s first floor will include replacing water-damaged carpets and wall plaster, as well as repainting the walls. The area will be reshaped to improve its study facilities, and new furniture and shelving will be introduced. Essential maintenance is also due to be carried out during the refurbishment, including the creation of an exit onto the roof so that gutter may be cleared and inspected regularly. This is following a recent drone investigation, which revealed that gutters overwhelmed with debris were the cause of significant water damage to the library’s interior.”

Purdah and the Commonwealth

Editorial

It’s election week and I know what purdah means so I’m going to keep this simple: read Leon’s article, look at the articles and then re-read Leon’s article on The Library Commonwealth. Thank you.

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Happy second retirement Jim Brooks

Editorial

Not all of you will know about Jim but he has been one of the most significant figures in public libraries for over a decade. He was until a week or two ago the Chairman of Little Chalfont Community Library in Buckinghamshire. Yes, one of the very first of the wave of volunteer libraries that since then have swept the country. Little Chalfont and its sister libraries were faced with closure back in the old days of 2006, years before austerity. Rather than just closing, the communities there took a different route and fought the council to keep them open, first as volunteer libraries despite council resistance and then with their support. It was the reported success of these libraries that played a persuasive part in councils encouraging more volunteer libraries when the cuts really started hitting four or five years later. Jim, along with others, provided his experience to other services but was always clear that he’d prefer the library service first and foremost to be council run.  He received a MBE for his service way back in 2011 and has been helpful ever since.

So, that was unexpected wasn’t it? Me paying tribute to a library volunteer. But the thing is Jim and the others are not the ones to blame for the destruction of many a paid library job in the last decade. They do their best to keep open the libraries they love and are in many respects the biggest supporters of the library. No, the ones to blame were and are those pushing austerity, and the electorate who voted them in, who decided to cut public service budgets by so much. Many councils have had their staffing cut by a third or a half – not just in libraries but for all of it – and the bloom in volunteers has been a reaction to that. Volunteers have not been an unmixed blessing, goodness knows. They have split campaigners right down the middle and they’re not as well-trained or skilled as paid staff can be. I could write whole essays on the cons and pros and have once or twice. But, in the communities where they’ve occurred, they have kept libraries open. And I refuse to blame them for that not least because councils have blackmailed so many of them. “Volunteer or the library closes” is the unspoken message I see time and again. And least of all people like Jim who have given over a decade of their retirement to keep a library serving its public.  wish him every luck and good fortune in his second retirement, away from Little Chalfont, where he will finally be able to do some travelling.

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The Library Book, The Public and the Mighty Ducks

Editorial

I’m a sucker for books and films telling me how great libraries are. One of the best books I’ve read recently is The Library Book by Susan Orlean, due to a number of factors. The first is, of course, the fact that the author clearly loves libraries but also there is the ongoing whodunnit thread of who burnt the library as well as it being an introduction to the US library system both now and the past. For this reason also, I’m looking forward to watching The Public. Mind you, I’ve always liked Emilio Estevez, even in the Mighty Ducks. You can always tell it’s been quiet news week (Brexit? Local elections?) when I slip in a film or a book in the editorial. Don’t tell anyone …

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That London Library By Euston

Editorial

Interesting to see that the British Library, based almost entirely in one big city in the South East of England, is considering opening up a “British Library North” in Leeds. About time, as anyone can attest who has had to travel hundreds of mile to visit a place that apparently serves the whole nation but in fact is almost entirely based in London and charges the heck (or, in BL terms, “full cost recovery”) out of other libraries (don’t dare use the word “provincial”, you hear me?) to borrow something it got given for free. It’s been good to see the British Library start to wake up to its wider role in the last few years, with 13 business and intellectual property centres in libraries around the country and a group of 22 library services (out of more than 200) it works with on some projects, but there’s a lot more that it could do before I stop thinking of it in my mind as “That London Library By Euston”.

Great to see more fines being removed, with one authority going fine-free and two more removing children’s fines. Something more confusing was the debt that York Explore somehow ended up owing to the council but, that’s OK, because the council is paying them an extra amount of money to allow Explore to pay it back. I think. My head hurts.

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151 becomes 150, social media and one more fine-free

Editorial

Although the last ten years have been pretty darn tumultuous ones for public libraries, one thing has been constant – the number of public library services in England being 151. That is going to change on 1 April, when Bournemouth and Poole formally unite (along with Christchurch) to become the 150th – or first, depending, on how one looks at it – library service. I understand that the publicity from the new council on its creation will feature libraries, which is great. Best of wishes to them.

It seems like barely a PLN post goes by without another library service announcing it is going fine-free and this one is not going to go against the trend: Bridgend’s libraries will become the first in Wales to take the step on 1 April. Not so wonderful is another Welsh trusts in Blaenau Gwent which, if I’m reading the news report correctly, spent money earmarked by the council for books on other things it needed instead. Hmm, not so impressive. Finally, a big thanks to Caitlin Murphy who has kindly answered a few questions on her role in social media for London Libraries below.

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It’s an honour

Editorial

Good to see computers being replaced in Lancashire this week but, overall, the Huddington Post estimates an impressive 4000 public computers have been lost since 2010. Perhaps if public libraries were more respected then not so many would have been killed. Libraries Connected have a plan about that, wanting to encourage more people to be nominate especially impressive public librarians for the Honours List. You can read about it below, and my thoughts on why you should in a separate post. Another MBE here or BEM there won’t make all the difference of course but it can’t hurt. What will make a difference is yourselves, working hard to make your library services as good as possible and spreading the news that libraries are worth more than any honour.

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If not now, when? Plus a fair bit of good news

Editorial

A fair amount of good news today. In a subject close to my heart – not least because I’ve seen children cry and people walk away from libraries over the issue – another library service, Blackpool,  has announced that it will get rid of all fines. That makes nine services in the UK so far and I understand that there’s a lot of interest out there from other ones as well. The debate about practicality of waiving fines seems to be over before it even started: the time has come for getting rid of fining your customers,  it’s just working out how to fund it.  In other news, Powys has backed down from £200k cuts thus continuing the tradition of Welsh and Scottish councils being more willing to change their minds on the issue than their English counterparts. Cambridge has scrapped new computer charges after noticing they were only making one tenth of the expected income, due to, well, the people who use them not having tons of money. And a Suffolk library is being refurbished and having its opening hours extended. It’s a joy to report on libraries today frankly. My thanks also to Liz Gardner for taking the time in this post to explain the idea and practice behind having video bedtime stories. It strikes me as a really good and duplicatable idea. Get on it, Public Libraries News readers.

Finally, it’s the couple of weeks of the national library petition. It’s got nearly 33,000 signatures already but could do with a ton more. Get on it, sign it and tell people you know how important it is. Because, of if not now, when?

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Night libraries

Editorial

A tweet that said “what if public libraries were open late every night and we could engage in public life there instead of having to choose between drinking at the bar and domestic isolation” has been liked, at time of press, 223 000 times. Now one suspects that this is mainly because Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex, with over 3 million followers, tweeted on it with a comment but still, that’s a lot of people agreeing with it, which suggests some pretty heft pent up demand.

So let’s look at the concept of “night libraries”. If a neutral observer looked at the opening hours of the typical public library, there’d be a few conclusions to be drawn. One is that they’re largely for people who do not work as they tend to have the bulk of opening hours during the daytime, only a few hours each week in the evening and, mostly, one would be lucky if they were open for more than half a day over the entire weekend. Another conclusion could be, if one were more cynical than I, that they were there to be suited to staff desires and availability – who wants to work late night after late night? – in some cases rather than that of the public. Yet another would be that, well, in many areas being open in the evening would not work anyway: there’s some fairly dead areas out there after dark and antisocial behaviour would spike, especially in places like public libraries that are quite rightly open to all. There’s also the comment, which I really like, by @Librareon, who said “Hey! I’d settle for being able to afford day time libraries” which gets to the heart of the problem: opening hours cost money and libraries aren’t really awash with that commodity at the mo.

But, effectively, it still means that the majority of libraries are only open at times that suit those who, for whatever reason, do not work. There is demand, especially in cities, for libraries to open for longer. I’ve seen this at Storyhouse, open pretty much to 10 or 11pm most evenings, including Sundays, and I’m sure Chester is not unique. The challenge, for those areas where it would work, if we want to widen their appeal, is to find ways of doing it. And that means the money. I’m not sure Open+ would appeal to the tweeter really, although I’d be interested to hear otherwise. With Chester, it was a combination with a theatre (and a decision very early on not to barrier the library when the staff there went home). That may be the solution in some lucky places. In others, there will be other ways. I hope to describe them here and, being I write these posts at night, perhaps one day in one of them.

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Going bye the board?

Editorial

The big talking point on library-land social media the last few days has been something on the face of it pretty boring: Hertfordshire are changing their byelaws to include volunteers. The change means volunteers have the right to use the byelaws and puts them more on a par with paid staff. Presumably, Herts are worried that, if an incident occurs, then volunteers, who are sole staffers of many of their branches, with more cuts on the cards, would otherwise not be able to do legally do anything about it other than call the police. Also it suggests a whole bunch of other library services who rely on the unpaid to keep their libraries open will need to do the same.

The DCMS needs to approve the change but there will be no problem there. Nor will there be with Libraries Connected who – despite its recent public awareness of the impact cuts – has been an enabler for replacing salaried personnel with the free alternative almost since the start of the phenomenon. Some hope CILIP may raise a warning. My view is that this is an inevitable acceptance or, depending on your view, a further sliding down of the slippery slope, of the consequences of accepting volunteers as replacements for staff that started at around the same time austerity kicked off. Some would put the date earlier. Inevitable or not, it’s hard to see what else needs to be done before there’s effectively no difference between the paid and unpaid in at least some UK public libraries. Well, apart from qualifications, training, average time commitment and salary that is.

The rest of the news is remarkably good. Camden is refreshing its IT. This is, fair enough, every service should do anyway but these days is not a given. The proposed closure of several Moray libraries has been cancelled and there’s even a couple of re-openings, two new libraries and a refurbishment. This is brilliant news. Great news also for York Explore which has won a further, and remarkably long, 15 year extension to its contract. It looks like they have had to accept a reasonable reduction in budget to do it, though, although the mutual (which does not have to answer freedom of information requests) and the council have been a bit vague about that.

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