How do we regain the e-reading ex library user? Here’s the scale of the problem.

Editorial

In a truly excellent piece by a pro-library non-user, the failure of the current public library system to appeal to what was once a traditional user is exposed.  The reasons are all to do with technology. The writer wants instant (no passwords) unlimited wifi in a world where many UK libraries still don’t have it at all.  She wants the very latest bestsellers on e-book form when still a fifth of UK authorities don’t have any and the UK e-lending pilot is moving with gradual (oh so necessary) slowness.  She also states what we all know: Amazon does a better job of knowing the customer than the library does.  Although public libraries have all the data on what books have been loaned, they simply don’t use it to recommend new books to customers.  Heck, to many authorities, a monthly email with the mention of the top ten borrowed books last month is still a pretty neat idea. Finally, she wants coffee – well, you’re not going to get that in many smaller libraries and there’s even some city libraries, even now in late 2013, that have not yet woken up and, well, smelled it yet.

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Where are the trampolines? UK children’s libraries falling behind

Editorial

I have been much taken with two great ideas for children’s libraries.  The first is in Mexico has shelves designed for climbing on and uneven floors that just scream excitement.  The second is from Spain and features play-area like nets suspended above the children’s library that can be climbed on and laid on. There are simply nothing like them in the UK.  The two big new shiny libraries in the UK – Liverpool and Birmingham – have children’s libraries that are boring in comparison.  The Liverpool one appears designed to be a dual use auditorium space and the Birmingham one (although the books actually have their own permanent sections and there are nice steps for reading on/class visits) can not claim to be revolutionary in any way.  Which is a shame, because the money was there in both projects for something really quite startlingly good – you know, for the kids – but, to me at least, the results simply don’t live up to it.  This is even more of a shame when one considers what a large proportion of usage children are and the importance of libraries to literacy.  Let’s hope the last of the trio of Big Shiny New Libraries started before the Austerity – Manchester – does not let us down in the same way.

Speaking of Big Shiny Libraries, the trend where smaller libraries are closed or turned volunteer while the money is spent on central libraries continues in this post.  Glasgow’s Mitchell Library is getting over £3m mainly just to put in a new fire alarm system (that’s bigger than some library authority’s total budgets) while Trafford are aiming to replaces large swathes of their staffing with the unpaid.  Mind you, Bradford say that volunteers do better than paid staff: the rush of energy released by them in four libraries has apparently doubled usage and is being used as a reason to reduce paid staff elsewhere.

Changes

Ideas noted

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“The internet is a privilege, libraries are a right”: outsourced or not

Editorial

There is an opportunity in every crisis for someone and that opportunity in Lincolnshire has been seized by the non-profit trust GLL and the private company Biblioteca.  Both are offering to take over some or all of the troubled libraries there. The move is highly significant for both entities – it would be the first library authority taken over by GLL outside of London and the first library authority taken over by Biblioteca in the UK.  Doubtless Carillion would also have expressed an interest but it is itself busy having just bought out Laing’s library concerns in four London boroughs.  The oddity is where LSSI is in all this: the US company has been a particular bete noire for campaigners but has failed to achieve a toe hold in the UK market.  The fact that it is not mentioned in the article suggests that it may not do so for a while yet.

Changes

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The new social workers

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West Berkshire cuts, legal definitions, Moray, Sheffield and Lincs

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The joys of library work

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Ideas

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Honesty is the best library policy

Editorial

The rush to volunteer libraries continues with three authorities (Bradford, Hertfordshire and Plymouth) all announcing that they will be likely in the future.  Meanwhile, in Lincolnshire, the results of the consultation have made very clear that its respondents do no want cuts and see volunteering as a last resort … but it seems the Council is going to go ahead anyway.  This also appears to be the case in Sheffield where ITV reports that there is suspicion that some councillors in power are gerrymandering the closures so as to not affect their wards.  Thi latter council which is also wanting to charge full market rate for any volunteer group selfless enough to take on running the service.

It’s interesting to note that some councils seem to get how not to rile the public while others (Sheffield, Lincolnshire and Bristol being the chief culprits recently) do not.  The key appears to be to honestly consult with the public and not to obviously be doing it as a tick-box exercise after the key decisions have been made behind closed doors.  To do the latter will simply court public anger and, vitally, lead the councils concerned to possible legal action later on.  If a councillor cares about votes then honesty is, actually, the best library policy.

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David McMenemy: Candidate 2013

The kinds of questions we want communities to explore

Changes

An interview with Cilip Council candidate David McMenemy BA (Hons) MSc MCLIP FHEA

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John Dolan at Libraries Rally March 2013

Arts and Lincs

Editorial

The ten year strategy of Arts Council England has been revised and now firmly includes libraries within it. Part of the challenge for ACE must have been not be seen to simply just add “and libraries” to the end of each key point and to some extent they have succeeded.  It is clear, though, that ACE sees libraries very much within it’s own world of Arts and Culture and there is very little mention of literacy, online provision, providing health and other information within it.  Library authorities wanting funding from ACE will do better to think in terms of art projects rather than in terms of unemployment or education. This is a great shame as, frankly, Arts and Culture are hardly the key things we wish to stake our future on at the moment.  This Government sees things in terms of pounds sterling saved and produced, not in terms of intangibles. The report does have one notable interface with grim reality though – ACE are investing “in research and development of new and emerging business models for library services”.  That’s looking at how good libraries are being run by volunteers, private companies and trusts.  We’ll see what they say.

Finally, even in what was seen by many (including the council’s own scrutiny committer) as a consultation so one-sided as to be almost unfit for purpose, with no option for “no change” and an emphasis on volunteers, very strong public feeling cannot be hidden.  This is the case in Lincolnshire where many of the 6000 respondents were “angry and upset” at the proposals, with over two-thirds thinking the cuts would make a detrimental impact on their community.  However, even this, it seems, has not been enough to sway the councillor in charge of libraries who focuses on those who have come forward to volunteer in order to keep libraries open and seems keen to push through cuts regardless.  So why have a consultation in the first place?  Well, a cynic could suggest that it means that the council and the DCMS can say that the public have been consulted and so that the Secretary of State has a reason to not intervene, yet again.

Changes

An interview with Cilip Council candidate John Dolan OBE BA DipLib MCLIP

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Andy Dawson, riding to victory?

House of Lords Grand Committee debates public libraries

House of Lords Grand Committee Tuesday 29th October PM

Parliament Live (16:44 to 17:27).  Debate brought by Lord Stevenson of Balmacara “to ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the contribution being made by voluntary staff to a sustainable public library system in the United Kingdom:

  • Labour peers: Said service was in crisis and that system where minister is in DCMS but libraries are under local authorities with very little oversight and intervention is “quite mad”. Stressed number of closures was way above what Ed Vaizey had claimed and that volunteers meant two tiers of library service was developing.  NFWI report on volunteers on libraries and CILIP surveys showing cuts repeatedly quoted. Need to have volunteers as additional but not substituting for paid staff.  The great work done by libraries for non-reading adults (e.g. Kent and Book Beyond Words) lauded. Awaiting response of Government to DCMS select committee report on library closures. Volunteers need more guidance.  Most struck by Neil Gaiman’s speech that said that US prisons found best indicator of future crime levels was amount of illiteracy in schools.

“When an organisation the size of the WI tells you you’re doing something wrong, you’d do well to listen”

  • Conservative peers: Said that movement of libraries to ACE was to “improve cultural mix” and the appointment of a specialist advisor and the realease of comparative figures for authorities was important.  Stressed that although it was up to local authorities to provide the service, “professional librarians are at the core of every library service”.  Also said that volunteers have been aroundofr years and not new and emphasised how many were complementary and not subsitutes for paid staff. Government believes in importance of paid staff but room for both that and “community-supported libraries”.  Investment in libraries continues e.g. Library of Birmingham

“professional librarians are at the core of every library service”

 

Ideas

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