Rise above the noise so it’s not just a library for today but a library for all time

Editorial

It’s an hour long and from the other side of the world but it’s worth listening to: the boss of one of the most forward-thinking US library services describes the best things his libraries are doing now and where he sees libraries in the future.  One of the notable things, from a UK perspective, is how brave and optimistic he is – and also how open he is to change and well-funded.  But there’s a lot of things there to think about and some ideas can be cherry-picked if not all of it.

“If we’re all things to all people then we’re going to be below average in lots of things … what’s important in your community? What can you do to rise above the noise so it’s not just a library for today but a library for all time?”

Please send any news or comments to ianlibrarian@live.co.uk.

Ideas

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An A to Z of how wonderful public libraries are

Editorial

I love a good publicity or advocacy tool, as you may have noticed from my coverage of the new Librarian of the Year Awards yesterday.  Well, another one has come along today in the form of a beautifully illustrated A to Z of public libraries.  Of course, it has not actually been produced yet but I’m sure us supporters of public libraries won’t let a little something like that get in our way.  So, watch the video and then consider supporting it.  It has raised over a quarter of its required funding already in barely a day but the more invested then the more you get out (a bit like a public library really) and the more likely this great promotional tool will be landing in the in-box of a cabinet minister.

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So many inappropriate captions come to mind

Awards: Make sure your library service makes a nomination

Editorial

I am delighted to see that a set of national awards have been set up for UK public librarians … and it’s about time as the USA has had them (in the form of the “Movers and Shakers” list) for some years.  I can see all sorts of positives from this – good publicity, an awareness by councils of the worth of their employees and an increased drive to be innovative or just plain amazingly excellent at one’s day job.  The down side noticed from the US is some sniping at “Rock Star Librarians” (although event this can be a good thing) but, what the hell, that’s a small price to pay for something so positive.

There are some limitations to the awards – one has to, oddly in my view, for such a public-facing job, be nominated by one’s employer for instance – but these are early days and one hopes that these things will evolve.  It would also be great if the awards had a special name like “Dewey” or something.  Councils may anyway receive nominations for outstanding librarians from the public (and indeed need to provide customer testimonials) and the more farsighted ones may even publicly encourage it.  I can also see profiles of the short-listed librarians appearing in Update (or here on Public Libraries News: guys, talk to me) and the winner even getting some national attention. Spread best practice and the good news all around, I say.

So if you know of a librarian deserving the award (and who doesn’t?) then make sure the chief librarian of the relevant authority knows too.

Changes

Ideas noted

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Enterprise in Libraries and Glamorgan cuts

 

Editorial

Some interesting research, funded by Arts Council England, on the state of play in raising income in libraries has come out today.  If you’re in charge of library services or are likely to be affected by changes then do have a look. Regardless of your views on this matter (and I think things have come to such a pass that everything needs looking at seriously) this is at least a good report in terms of seeing what is out there.  Or you could end up like the Vale of Glamorgan which is cutting it’s library budget by a fifth and losing £309k in staff.  For those many there who are in all likelihood now contemplating redundancy, income-generating alternatives must seem very attractive at the moment.

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Regularly using a library is equivalent to a £1,359 pay rise

Editorial

The DCMS have funded a report from the LSE which shows, through some very heavy statistical analysis that the benefit of libraries equivalent in benefit to the active user of a pay rise of £1359. Let’s do some fun analysis of this.  The Cipfa survey suggests an active library user base at 15% (this sounds very low to me but let’s go with it as we know that we’re at least not exaggerating what comes next) and the population of the United Kingdom according to the latest official figures is 63 million.  15% of that is 9,450,000.  Right, now times that very low figure by 1,359 which brings us the benefit just for active users of using a library of £12.8 billion.  The cost of the entire UK public library service is around £1 billion. Little wonder that Lucy Mangan in the Guardian says that the research either means the DCMS has it wrong on libraries or that the report they commissioned is wrong.  Either way, she points out, it’s not good news for them. But it’s good news for libraries and I think we can be grateful to the Government for commissioning research that adds to the pressure on local councils to keep them.  Now if only the DCMS would add some more practical pressure as well …

Changes

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22nd April 2014

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The unstaffed fully self-service library

Editorial

Some technology-related moves have caught my eye over the Easter weekend.  Bibliotheca have taken note of the current parlous state of UK public libraries finances and come up with a scheme that allows authorised members of the public to use library buildings while they are entirely unstaffed.  CCTV keeps watch and doors open and close at the appointed times.  This may be seen by some as the natural next step in a process which started with self-service machines and will be very attractive to library authorities, although perhaps less so to their staff.  A full description of the technology and some thoughts on have been provided by Mick Fortune and I recommend you have a read.

The announcement by the Government of a panel on digital inclusion has also raised an eyebrow at Public Libraries News Towers.  There’s no mention in it of the vital role that public libraries play in both providing access and assistance to those who don’t yet have internet access or an idea of how to use if they did.  Of course, that tuition may be a little difficult if there’s no-one in the building in the first place … but authorities may be weighing the cuts in in budgets with all possibilities and judging accordingly.

Changes

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Caught at least three ways: e-lending and librarians’ dilemma

Editorial

The Chief Executive of the Publishers’ Association has had a bit of a go at the CILIP-backed Right to E-Read” campaigned.  I can understand his concern about the name (it’s not the right to e-reading, he points out, but rather e-lending) and fear that such unfettered and free access would cut down on author’s (and publishers, naturally) earnings. After all, there has always been a suspicion amongst booksellers that libraries could hurt them.  It has always been the response of librarians (and some publishers too) that book-lending is a different and complementary activity to book-buying.  The current e-book pilots in the UK come as an attempt by all parties, brokered by the DCMS, to see what works best and if publishers etc do have something to fear.

I’m probably not alone as a public librarian in feeling conflicted at least three ways on this one.  I can see that E-lending is qualitatively different to lending in that the book is always “perfect” and there is no time-cost in obtaining it (that is, there’s no delay in actually going to the library/putting a reserve on the item).  Without some limits (be they the hated automatic delete or increased payments – but, if the latter, then who pays?) I know I’d always be borrowing e-books and not buy them (why would I buy them, again? If they’re always instantly there just by a couple of clicks?). On the other hand, one naturally fears that more e-lending will cut physical visits to the building what I am being paid to be in.  On the other other hand, the point of libraries is to allow access, damn it, not to provide me with a job.

What I know is that spats about the issue, while unsurprising, don’t help. It is to be hoped that the pilots/campaign come to a satisfactory conclusion, despite jockeying for position.

Children’s webpages

I was very pleased to receive the following from Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire Libraries about their websites for under 16s.  I’ve had a look and it’s pretty good stuff. Worth a check to see if your own library service can pick up a few tips?

“Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire Libraries have a quite comprehensive Children’s and Teenagers section on our Virtual Library.  We target the pages at three audiences – Under 6 (aimed at parents mainly), Children’s (7-12) and Teen Turf for 13-16 year olds, I have included links to these below so you can take a look. The content on these pages is targeted and designed for these audiences – the event listings, recommended web sites in QuickLinks, booklists, etc. We feel that it is vitally important to provide lots of useful information for children as they are a key user of the physical library services, but are looking for support and advice outside of library opening hours.”

Changes

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“Probably the librarians would like tea. Or chocolates. Or a reliable source of funding”

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Shadow Minister for Libraries speaks

Editorial

The Shadow Minister for Libraries, Helen Goodman MP, appears to have been spurred into action by the coachload of Lincolnshire library campaigners who visited parliament last week.  In a visit to Ermine Library, she stressed the need for professional librarians and a standard library service throughout the country, rather than the current “postcode lottery”.  She has written to the Minister demanding intervention in Lincolnshire where three quarters of libraries are under threat.  Councillor Nick Worth, the local man in charge of libraries, rather impressively – considering the sheer scale of the cuts he is overseeing if noting else – called the cuts a “win-win situation” for Lincolnshire.  After one does breathing exercises, perhaps also taking the dog for a walk and putting a cold flannel on your forehead, you’re probably going to be able to cope with the reason for this claim being that volunteers will mean the service is cheaper and that there will be an overall increase in service points as there will be some shelves of books in other buildings (hopefully not telephone boxes) as well.  Never mind the quality, look at the quantity appears to be his view. Whatever the result, the power of campaigning in grabbing the attention of politicians has been demonstrated.

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