Too good a gift horse for the checking of the mouth

Editorial

A fair bit of news, from Friday and the weekend, with a few significant developments.  The scope of Arts Council England, with special attention to its concentration of funds to London, is going to be the subject of a short inquiry from the Culture, Media and Support Select Committee.  Many have not been impressed with the placing of libraries within the remit of ACE, where very pleasant investment in sculpture and art sits uneasily with unprecedented high levels of cuts and closures.  However, one must question where else public libraries should be placed.  With a quango answerable to Michael Gove or Eric Pickles? There are very few favourable alternatives.

Another notable development is the item from Sir Merrick Cockell, the chief of the Local Government Association, who says in the Telegraph that councils will need to offload libraries and other services onto volunteers if they’re going to survive.  The Observer disagrees with volunteers in an article that has nothing for scorn for Ed Vaizey’s praise for the increase in the unpaid working in libraries last year.  Cllr Powney and others have pointed out that there are actually disturbingly few figures one can use to analyse how successful volunteer libraries are.  The Cipfa figures themselves depend on authorities replying honestly and consistently as they are never checked: the capacity for inaccuracy is therefore great.  Research, though, simply does not need to be done to see why the option is often being used. When budgets are being cut at this level, and the public still want public services, then volunteer libraries are simply too attractive an escape route to be ignored.

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Goodbye Yinnon Ezra

Editorial

In a surprise move, the half-time DCMS Specialist Advisor for Libraries, Yinnon Ezra, has announced he is leaving his job after just one year. Yinnon has worked largely behind the scenes in the last year but has – among other things – written a couple of interestingly useful blog posts and spoken at the Library Campaign conference.  However, it is questionable how much he could have achieved in just one year and in a part-time capacity. Whatever has been done, the decision leaves a vacancy as the libraries advisor to Ed Vaizey which may or may not be filled.  The post itself is a quasi replacement for the abolished Advisory Council for Libraries which, it turned out, was a statutory requirement.  A consultation about its abolition, although promised, has still not materialised.

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30 libraries threatened in Leicestershire, 4 mobiles cut in Devon … but big increase in Greenwich

Editorial

Continuing the great tradition of Public Libraries News being a very depressing read, we have very large cuts announced in Leicestershire (with plans around 30 libraries going to volunteers or closing) and a halving of the Devon mobile library fleet (from eight to four vehicles).  £500k is also being cut from Cheshire West and Chester.

In a change from regular programming, however, we also have news from Greenwich of Woolwich Library achieving a year on year 56% increase in visitors, making it the busiest library in London.  The success of this library should be studied and lessons learnt for the benefit of others. Sadly, I don’t live anywhere near the capital so I can’t do it for you but from what I can gather, it is hardly revolutionary – co-locating mutually beneficial services in one building, adequate funding, excellent staff and good outreach.  The fact that the library is run by GLL (who are an expanding non-profit Trust) will raise a cautionary note amongst some readers so all the more reason for someone impartial to have a good look, report and spread the news as soon as possible. Any takers?

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No more Mr Nice But Dim: Vaizey boosts unpaid libraries

Editorial

Happy New Year everyone.  I’ve just taken ten days off Public Libraries Newsing and so there’s a reasonable amount of stuff today, I still have 150 news alerts to go through so there will be more stuff I’ve not covered yet which will be included later this week.

The notable item in this post is the Daily Telegraph coverage of the 44% annual increase in volunteers in libraries revealed by local authorities in their returns to Cipfa.  The libraries minister Ed Vaizey goes on record as saying how great it is that this is happening and how it saves so much money and can lead to new libraries opening. This has understandably caused some outrage amongst paid library staff and campaigners who see such a move as a dire threat to the service.  Other news reports corroborate the suspicion that volunteering to save a local library assists in the withdrawal of paid staff elsewhere. Ed, who has come across, at best, as a bit like Tim Nice But Dim on occasion in the past in his positive statements about libraries despite the mayhem that is happening to them under his watch is now being seen, notably by Alan Gibbons, as implementing a very deliberate political programme to cut council services.

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Changes in branch numbers 2007/8 to 2012/13

The following, taken from the Cipfa figures (based on returns from local authorities: they’re not independently audited) was put on Lis-pub-libs by Lionel Aldridge.  It is reproduced with his kind permission here.  

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Library Campaign advert

Start here, go anywhere: Great plans and ideas from abroad, not so much from UK

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Awesome boxes, librarian laureates and model programmes

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“We feel that it is only library users and campaigners that stand up for librarians”

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Lincoln libraries protest march

Top UK public library trends of 2013

It’s nearly Christmas and so it’s a good time to have a look at what the main public library events and trends have been in 2013.  They’re in what I consider to be rough order of importance and, being I’m a librarian and not a journalist. I’m naturally putting the most important one first.  Of course, we all have different views and I’ve doubtless missed something out you’d like to have seen included.  Therefore, please use the comments to put in your own views or email me at ianlibrarian at live.co.uk.

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Christmas Mini-Challenge launched by Reading Agency

News

  • A place of their own: Reading Activists change young people’s lives- Reading Agency. “When a group of boys started showing up at the library in St Helens, displaying anti-social behaviour, the library team had a choice. Ban them, or help them. They chose the latter, and decided to get them involved in the Reading Activists project.”
  • Cressida Cowell launches Christmas Mini-Challenge for young readers - Reading Agency. “After the record-breaking success of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge for children Cressida Cowell, bestselling author of the How To Train Your Dragon books, today launches national charity The Reading Agency’s first-ever Christmas Mini-Challenge. Children who head to their local library and read any three books they like over the school winter holidays (12 December 2013 to 6 January 2014), logging them on their own profile on the Summer Reading Challenge website (summerreadingchallenge.org.uk) will receive a special ’virtual badge’ to add to their profile, plus a secret reward video message from Cressida Cowell.”

“At this year’s AGM, SLIC Chair Fiona McLeod MSP announced the re-launch of the Innovation and Development Fund (IDF) for 2013/14. The IDF was introduced to offer Scottish library services support for creative service development and to encourage experimental approaches to service delivery. This year, a total fund of £40,000 is available for innovative projects that support SLIC’s four strategic objectives: quality standards and evaluation; innovation and service development; co-ordination, collaboration and co-operation; and workforce development. Applications will be accepted from Friday 13th December 2013 until 5pm on Monday 3rd February 2014. For more information and to apply for funding, please download the application pack from the SLIC website http://www.scottishlibraries.org/news/.”

International news

  • Denver Public Library is seeking local music for its brand-new Volume Denver program – Westword (USA). “The Denver Public Library is seeking local music for a flagship program it’s preparing to launch this spring called Volume Denver … Ideally, the library would like to launch the site next spring with a healthy selection of local music for cardholders to have access to. The site will be browsable by artist or album, with detailed information about each act and links to the individual websites. With 647,078 CDs checked out from the Denver Public Library system last year, an estimated 400,000 cardholders and over nine million visits to the library’s website alone in 2012, the potential for exposure for the scene to new listeners is obviously immense.”
  • New Edmonton Public Library digital space boasts 3D printers, book-printing machine – Metro (Canada). “The EPL Makerspace allows the public to access high-end technology such as a 3D printer, Espresso book printing machine and a green screen equipped with a camera and photo-editing software. “The idea is most people don’t have all of this at home – the pros have it. This is giving the average Edmontonians the chance to get their hands on some basic to mid-level and in some cases, pro-level tools and really try something,””
  • Stockholm library interior - CG Society (Sweden). Computer generated image concepts of new library designs certainly have the “wow” factor, even if those walkways scare the bejeebus out of you.
  • Whole Lot of Americans Would Be Angry if Their Public Library Closed – Atlantic Cities(USA). “overwhelming majorities agreed that public libraries “play an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed,” in promoting literacy, and in improving the quality of life in communities. Women, minorities, the unemployed, and people from lower-income and less-educated families were also the most likely to value library services as “very important.””

UK news by authority

  • Brent – Library Planning fraud investigation still awaited as developer consults in a pub – Wembley Matters. “Many people are asking when the police investigation in to the fake email support for Andrew Gillck’s change-of-use planning application for Kensal Rise Library be completed. It is, after all, three months since the council was first handed evidence of online fraud – an attempt to inflate local backing for Mr Gillick’s proposals. Brent later claimed that it had passed this material to the police. Not exactly, alas. The council had simply forwarded its findings to the civilian-run national fraud and internet-crime reporting centre, Action Fraud.”
  • Bristol – Love Bristol Libraries - Facebook. For more on the the decision to lease out several floors of Bristol Central Library to a Free School.

National Libraries Day – Saturday 8 February 2014: “The Bus Pass Poets invite everyone, including councillors, to support this celebration in one of Bristol’s 27 local libraries. What ?   Join us and read library poems by local and famous writers such as Julia Donaldson and John Hegley.  Design your dream library. A competition for under 16s. Sea Mills Library. Bus 41 to Sunny Hill; Sylvan Way. When ? 11 am – 12 noon 2 -3 pm. NB Every branch library is open on Saturday. There’s still plenty of time for other groups to put on an event. Julie@jboston.plus.com Tel 0117 942 8637. National Libraries Day aaron.hussey@clip.org.uk

  • Camden – How a team of volunteers saved Camden’s at risk libraries – Guardian / Local Leaders Network. By Tulip Siddiq, councillor in Camden. “Volunteers have proven particularly vital in Camden. After I was elected in 2010, Camden council was faced with an £80 million shortfall and, together with my colleagues, I had to reduce my budget by 22%. One of the recommendations was to close nine of the 13 libraries in the borough but having lived in Camden since I was teenager I was reluctant to sell off these buildings”

“My priority was to ensure that the new libraries were supported by the council at the critical early phase. I put in place a year of transitional funding from the council, peppercorn rent wherever possible and facilitated training from council staff to show the new volunteers the ropes. I also founded the Camden Library Network, as a forum for our libraries regardless of how they are funded. I didn’t want single community libraries to become isolated in the future.” … “In an ideal world, the council would keep running all its local libraries with no reduction in service at all but, as things stand, the community libraries in Camden are an inspiring example of residents taking charge of a public service, keeping it open while maintaining links with their local authority.” Tulip Siddiq, cabinet member for Culture, Camden Council

  • Carillion (Croydon, Ealing, Harrow, Hounslow) – Update on Carillion – Stop the privatisation of public libraries. “Approx 100 individuals have been given “at risk of redundancy” notices across Croydon, Ealing, Harrow and Hounslow Libraries and Culture. Carillion employ about 500 people in Libraries in the four Boroughs, so this is about 20% of all staff.  The distribution of “at risk” individuals/roles is not evenly distributed across the Boroughs, some have less some have more. These restructure proposals were written in early 2013 before the Carillion buy out of JLIS. The implementation date for the new structure, which would involve a minimum of 30 job losses across the four Boroughs, has been set for 1st of February 2014. I’ve been told that there are both zero hours and agency staff in all the Boroughs. These people could theoretically be sacked with a week’s notice, so may be that’s where this comment came from. In respect of Children’s and Youth Services, and library services in general, I’ve been told that Carillion appear to have no basic interest in these and really only bought JLIS out to gain access to their ‘Facilities Management’ contracts. I’ve also been told that negotiations are ongoing over restructuring and redundancies and that the zero-hours issue has also been raised.”
  • Cornwall – Truro library is most-visited in the south west - West Briton.  “expenditure on libraries in the south west faced one of the largest percentage reductions. The region saw a 4.3 per cent reduction in total expenditure in the last year, according to CIPFA. Mark Read, head of shared services at Cornwall Council, said: “The team at Truro Community Library has worked very hard to promote the library which even boasts its own community garden – magically transformed into Santa’s grotto in the run up to Christmas.”
  • Lincolnshire – “Gagged” staff speak out as D-day for libraries looms - Lincolnshire Echo. Sickness and disciplinary records will count against staff fighting eachother for the remaining jobs. Staff regularly warned not to speak out against cuts or face disciplinary action. Staff “dragging themselves to work” in order to gain better chance of being re-employed. Council said they “could not stop” staff speaking out but reminded them that if they did so there would be consequences.
  • Sheffield – Fight is on for Sheffield city library – Star. “More than 100 residents crammed into a public meeting at Upperthorpe Library at the weekend to put their opinions on record as part of a 12-week consultation over plans to shut libraries across the city.”
  • Swindon – Cuts risk to history - Swindon Advertiser / Letters. “Next week two local studies librarians will have to compete for a single job as Swindon Borough Council makes more cuts to its public services.” … “To cut staff in this area is to promote a message that Swindon’s history, and the physical evidence of it, is not important and the council is prepared to let it perish.” … “consider the half a century it took to deliver the Central Library itself, a facility that has had its services reduced ever since it opened.” Long list of signatories to letter.