Neil Gaiman “”We have an obligation to tell our politicians the value of reading in creating worthwhile citizens.””

Editorial

I am becoming more and more convinced that the Reading Agency is the strongest force for boosting public libraries in the UK. Their national promotions, most notably the Summer Reading Challenge and the Six Book Challenge (but also other things like its work for reading groups), allow the multitude (in some ways, atomised) of library authorities to take advantage of national promotion and materials.  The agency networks amongst the very highest in the land, including an event held this year in 11 Downing Street and is highly regarded by – as far as I can tell – pretty much everyone.

I gain the impression that the Agency views the deep cuts in libraries budgets as a spur to new action rather than a barrier. One of these new initiatives, launched last year with Jeanette Winterson, is the annual Reading Agency lecture. The aim of these are to provide “a platform for leading writers and thinkers to share original, challenging ideas about reading and libraries as we explore how to create a reading culture in a radically changed 21st century landscape.”.  This year, one of my personal heroes, Neil Gaiman spoke and gave it both barrels in his defence of reading and of libraries.  Details of his speech are below.  If you work in a library, print off his remarks and re-read them when you’re feeling low or, even better, act on them when you can.  If you don’t work in a library, spread the message and influence those who you can.  If you see a politician, tell them, again and again, until it sinks in.

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“Feral child raised by librarians” Neil Gaiman to speak on libraries

Editorial

There will be elections for the important CILIP Council positions this year as more candidates have stood than places.  These voluntary posts are vital for the direction of the organisation which provides essential official representation for the public library profession in the media and other places.  Councillors are also the guides behind initiatives, which can be good or (and the unpopular renaming process springs to mind here) bad.  The aggro that these CILIP volunteers can receive is perhaps one reason that no-one has stood to become Vice-President (and this President next year) this year.  It remains to be seen how this is resolved.

Neil Gaiman has been, as well as a brilliant writer, a high profile supporter of public libraries for many years. He has described himself as being raised as  a “feral child” raised by librarians. So his speech tomorrow in the invitation-only second Reading Agency Annual Lecture on libraries at the Barbican Centre should definitely be one to pay attention to.  I look forward to reporting on it soon.

Changes

Ideas

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A minister in tune with the public

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Reasons to be cheerful or, well, part of one: the BBC public opinion survey.

Editorial

Many observers of public libraries have treated with sceptism the report by the BBC that more people think libraries have improved than declined over the last five years.  The news article - Public service cuts – did we notice? – BBC. says that “many people in Britain think the quality of public services overall have been maintained or improved in the past five years despite government cuts, a poll for the BBC suggests. More of the 1,031 people surveyed feel bin collections, parks and libraries, schools and bus services have improved than those who think they are worse.” … “libraries – the subject of many anti-cuts protests – three per cent more people say they’ve got better than worse, but among library users the score is plus seven”

The figures were naturally seized on the government as a sign of how well their policies are working and as a chance to put the boot in to those authorities who are not toeing the line:

“Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis said: “This survey shows that in many areas such as rubbish collections, schools and libraries, services and value for money are improving, illustrating how councils can both deliver sensible savings and protect the frontline. “But some councils are making lazy choices due to their failure to get a grip on cutting waste and inefficiency.””

But how statistically significant are these results? More >

OECD publish damning report on literacy; deep cuts expected in Wales; a loss in Doncaster … and goodbye Dan Jarvis

Editorial

A few items of note today:

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Northamptonshire experiments with Children’s Centre services in libraries

Editorial

Plans to move certain services away from children’s centres into libraries in Northamptonshire is raising some eyebrows.  On the one hand, there’s a natural fit between libraries and parents, as anyone who has ever been in a children’s library will attest.  On the other, there’s a worry over confidentiality and the suitability of discussing problems over the library counter.  In the final analysis though, it was recently revealed that Northamptonshire’s libraries suffered from over 120 closed hours due to staff shortages and, perhaps not entirely unrelatedly, a reduction in visitors of a fifth over two years.  Anything which will improve these figures is likely to be grabbed,

Changes

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Libraries of the rich and famous, of the poor and unknown and everyone inbetween

Changes

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“Libraries are the ideal place for people to go and get support for their great ideas” (Eric Pickles)

Editorial

A couple of national initiatives are in the news today. The first is £450k to be spread amongst ten library services to boost local businesses.  The second is an invitation to tender from the Society of Chief Librarians for the e-lending pilots – even if you’re not directly interested, the document is useful to read to get an idea of the aims involved.  Neither gained the interest of the BBC which has a story about a group called “The Kindness Offensive” who are running what appears to be a volunteer-run library in Islington in what appears to be a gesture of well-meaning goodwill towards libraries and books in general. There are surreal aspects (Mr “Goodfellow”? Really) to the story and one suspects the paid library staff in Islington where it is based may not be entirely on-side with the development.  However, something we should all be on side with is having therapy dogs in libraries. Anyone who has these at their library, do please let me know (via ianlibrarian at live.co.uk).

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John Connelly meeting librarians

Public Libraries News 2 Oct 2013: Stockport hours cut; Birmingham; Norfolk.

Changes

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CILIPS Mobile Donald Morrison Librarian

Scottish Parliament congratulates mobile librarian

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