Make a good neighbourhood just by building a library in the centre of it

Editorial

It’s always a little odd turning on the car radio listening to public libraries being described … and it has happened twice recently.  The first was a sobering examination by author AL Kennedy on what it means when a nation closes library and the second was a very positive couple of minutes by the recent Impac winner and his translator on the wonderful impact libraries have had on Colombia.  I produce a transcript of that last piece here and a link to a presentation detailing how Medellin has been transformed by investment in public libraries.

Vasquez: Libraries as institutions are important for me. Dedicated devoted librarians are my heroes. There are very strong links, which are difficult to explain, between the health of a system of libraries in a country and the health of its democracy

Kirsty Lang: We are always bemoaning the increasing lack of libraries here in Britain, what is the library situation like in Columbia?

Vasquez: It’s very good actually. It used to be deplorable but for the last, let’s say twenty years, some people have realised that libraries are a force for good, actually, and have been turning very complicated neighbourhoods into good neighbourhoods just by building a library in the centre of these places.

McLean: I went to Colombia a couple of years ago and I visited one of these incredible libraries in Medellin, which is the second city of Colombia, and it’s built up in the mountains above the barrios populares which are the horrible dangerous very poor slums and it’s an architectural marvel and it was really well used. We saw these very very poor children going in and signing up for books and having a great time. And there’s also the incredible biblioteca burro which is a man who goes around through the jungle with his donkey and lends books to people and collects them two weeks later.” IMPAC award winner Juan Gabriel Vásquez and his translator Anne McLean interviewed by Kirsty Lang on  BBC Front Row

UK national news

  • A Point of View: What happens when a library falls silent – BBC. Author AL Kennedy on library closures and what they mean. “maybe library closures do just slide by, because they often are regional affairs and also because some things which happen repeatedly somehow become less newsworthy” … “Volunteers can do a wonderful job – my local library at New Cross Learning is exemplary – but many communities now have a silence where there was a library – no easy access to books for precisely those people who might really need it, no computers to use, no meeting point to enjoy, more silence. ” Also available as ten minute radio broadcast on Radio Four.

“If I can’t imagine change, my future is passive, if I can’t imagine others as human, I’m dangerous, if I can’t imagine myself I become small. How do I know that? Because after a generation of dedicated book suppression, Britain’s public discourse prefers threats to facts, blaming to creating. And because I read, I know the silence we’ve imposed isn’t the peace of a library, it brings the quiet of a grave.” AL Kennedy

  • Are libraries to be the dinosaurs of the digital age? – Western Gazette. “In my view libraries are an essential part of the community, somewhere people can meet up and a source of local knowledge. Talking to users of local libraries it is interesting to note how important they are to young families who often see them as somewhere their children can meet with others and take part in reading activities and book related workshops.”.  Writer sees libraries as “a phoenix providing a community centre where people can exchange ideas, surf the internet and join with others.”
  • Bookseller’s Rising Stars 2014 - BookSeller. CILIP Councillor [And colleague in Voices for the Library - Ed] honoured: “Once described as “the most dangerous man in British librarianship”, Roper is proof that no matter how well established you are in your career, you can still be an upstart. In November, after helping lead the campaign against the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals’ attempts to rebrand itself, Roper was elected by CILIP members as one of four new council members in a bid to shake it up from within. At CILIP’s AGM, Roper also seconded a motion of no confidence in Ed Vaizey. He says: “I felt [CILIP] had lost their way and got a bit out of touch, and having said all of that I figured that I really should go and get stuck in. CILIP had suffered a serious loss of members; I wanted us to get a real grip of the situation and start recruiting new librarians. What’s next? “I thought CILIP was not talking out enough and was far too inward-looking, we now have a long way to go to win members back.”
  • Marketing Excellence Awards - CILIP. “The Marketing Excellence Awards are free to enter for any library and information service in the UK. Entrants do not need to be PPRG members, as the group seeks to celebrate innovation and achievement right across the library marketing sector. Entries are judged on campaign impact and effectiveness, as well as innovative use of communication channels.
  • Public libraries and social media: as local and as useful as your fingers - Public Libraries News.  My simple guide to using social media in public libraries, with the assistance of attending a session at the OUP Libraries Advisory Council. Main points include: social media is replacing even websites for many information requests, why councils sometimes block social media, why you should use different social media for different things and the need to keep the barriers down.
  • Small is beautiful and a reply from UKIP - Leon’s Library Blog. Congratulates Midlothian on winning Library of the Year 2014 award and agrees with Brent Council’s controversial “Library Transformation Project” which closed libraries but has resulted in increased issues and visits. UKIP reply about their public library policy was “We’re quite flexible on the means of keeping libraries open – one size doesn’t fit all in local government. Whether it’s franchising out a section to a coffee shop, or running it on a community/volunteer basis, we
    want to do all we can to keep front line services accessible to residents
  • Sword-juggling at Barking Learning Centre as authors, publishers and librarians network – Reading Agency (press release). “The Reading Agency held its latest road show event for publishers of children’s books, librarians and writers at Barking Learning Centre yesterday, Thursday 12 June. Networking with librarians from across London and the South-East author attendees included Julian Sedgwick, who demonstrated his skill at juggling with swords while simultaneously talking about his new book Mysterium: The Wheel of Life and Death; Jeff Norton, who encouraged the audience to put their best Zombie foot forward to prepare for his new series Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie; and Dave Cousins who introduced the F word of the moment (football of course) to the event, talking about his new book, Charlie Merrick’s Misfits.
    Each publisher gave a presentation about its latest children’s titles, and there were displays and giveaways, plus speed-meeting between libraries and publishers. The event was sponsored by Bertram Library Services, with the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham playing host.”

International news

  • Christine Kempkes (Director De Bibliotheek Amstelland) - This Week in Libraries (Netherlands). 43 minute video interview with the senior Dutch library manager: ” Christine tells us that she is inspired by libraries in New York. She loves to see libraries working together with the community in educating people and sees the community giving so much back to the library. There has clearly been a shift in focus in libraries from books to people. For a large group of people the library is the only getaway from their homes. We also talk about connecting leadership, entrepreneurship in libraries and taking care of your users and library strategies in tough times”
  • Makerspaces in Libraries - Libraries and Maker Culture: a resource guide  (USA). Lists academic and public libraries with Makerspaces, briefly describes them and links.
  • Reinvention of Libraries: Key Takeaways from Pew - Youtube (USA). Director of the Pew Internet Project on the changing role of public libraries and how they are perceived by the public.  Fascinating viewing despite the US focus.
  • Technology forcing libraries to transform – TVNZ (New Zealand). “The increasing popularity of E-books means libraries across the country are thinking more creatively about how to deliver their services. The Upper Hutt library is going through a transformation and is now home to music lessons, art classes, knitting clubs and writing workshops. “Public libraries these days are very much community hubs where we still connect people with information and we connect them with each other””.  Includes a ukulele club and the offer of a free pizza with eight children’s books read.

“Once upon a time we provided type writers and cassette players now we provide computers and scanners. In the future we will be providing 3D printers and other creative technology,” says Auckland Council libraries manager Allison Dobbie”

UK local news by authority

  • Brighton and Hove – Jubilee Library is second most visited in England – Argus. “More than one million people flocked to the Jubilee Library last year, making it the second most visited in England and the region’s top performer. Compared with other similar local authorities, the Jubilee is rated the most popular, best value and second highest for items in stock.” … “Committee chairman Geoffrey Bowden said: “It’s wonderful to see how our libraries have evolved from places to borrow books to providing a doorway to the World Wide Web.”
  • Devon – Exeter’s refurbished library attracts nearly 800 new members in two weeks - Exeter Express and Echo. Exeter’s “readers have always loved their Central Library – and now it seems that they love it even more after its £4.1m re-fit. During the first 16 days since Exeter Library re-opened following its major refurbishment, crowds have been flocking to see the improvements for themselves. Between May 22 and June 7, visitor numbers reached nearly 40,000 – an average 2,491 visits per day – which is an increase of 50 per cent on visitor numbers over the same period in 2010/11, prior to refurbishment.” … “The busiest day, Friday 30 May, saw a staggering 3,565 visitors to the library”
  • Leicestershire – Campaign against Leicestershire County Council plan to get volunteers to run rural libraries - Leicester Mercury. “petition with more than 1,000 signatures has been presented to County Hall opposing plans for volunteers and parish councils to run libraries. Conservative-run Leicestershire County Council has warned that up to 36 smaller libraries could be closed if no outside groups can be found to take them over.”
  • Leicestershire – County Hall to consult public on service changes - Melton Times. “We believe that communities can work with us to both help themselves and others to run some of these services, such as libraries. Town and parish councils are likely to play a crucial role in this.”
  • Lincolnshire – An impassioned appeal for Nettleham Library – Save Lincolnshire Libraries. “To close the Library, then to open it again when the economy improves, would be catastrophic economy; and a challenge, in all probability, too great ever to be surmounted: which would be an irrevocable loss to the community. We need to think our long-term strategy through clearly”
  • Lincolnshire – Lincoln libraries campaigner cuts ponytail for judicial review legal fund - Lincolnite. “Simon Draper underwent the chop on June 14 at Grafton House, Newland, as part of his wedding anniversary and birthday celebrations.” … “While Simon Draper is eligible for full legal aid, there is an expectation by the Legal Aid Agency that some funds are raised as contribution to the costs of running the case. The ponytail meanwhile will be donated to The Little Princess Trust, a charity which provides real-hair wigs to children who have lost their own hair through cancer treatment.”

“Libraries to me are a sanctuary. I’ve always loved reading and I think that threatening to close all the libraries in Lincoln bar one is not the right thing to do. Especially when during the consultation you weren’t given the choice to say no.”

  • Manchester – Everything Everything exclusive: Chaos to Order at Manchester Central Library - Creative Tourist. “Everything Everything, for one whole week, in Manchester’s Central Library. That’s got to be some of the biggest and best news to entice our ears in a little while. Because it’s not just the critically acclaimed, double Ivor Novello Award nominated, Manchester-based band who’ll be exploring the new spaces of the library – they’ll also be joined by music agency Brighter Sound, along with artists from a range of other disciplines. Taking the theme of Chaos to Order, the residency is the highlight of the Library Live programme, and plays with the idea that a library, though carefully coded and categorised on the surface, has chaos at its heart – that its shelves contain a riot of knowledge, connections, creativity and flux. “We have long been attracted to chaos,” Everything Everything explain. “Documenting the overload of information in which we live – its overwhelming vastness, its beauties and its dangers – has been central to our work.””
  • Staffordshire – Libraries are our cultural soul, now who will save them? – Express and Star. “Half the battle, I always thought, was in a name. Everyone knows what a library is. It’s a place with lots of books where pre-schoolers can go and have story time and sing The Wheels On The Bus and where grown-ups can get on the internet. A community hub was something else no-one had ever heard of, even if it was still going to do all those things.” … “So Staffordshire has at least been savvy enough to use the word ‘library’ in the plan its councillors haven’t quite yet unveiled. They’re going to be known as ‘library core’, ‘library local’ and ‘library extra’, the latter two sounding suspiciously like branches of Tesco.”.
  • Staffordshire – ‘Radical’ change for libraries in Lichfield and Burntwood? – Lichfield Mercury. Council says ““While communities love their Libraries the way people use them is changing,” he said. “We want to act now so that they remain relevant and popular for years to come. Libraries have already changed a great deal in the last decade, but user numbers are still falling. We need to change, radically, to reinvigorate our libraries so they are better used within their communities and to do this within the council’s financial resources.”

Robogals, Mini Makerspaces and Coding for Girls: Manchester shows a way

Editorial

Sue Lawson, Service Development Co-ordinator at Manchester Libraries, gained my attention recently with her involvement in the Public Libraries Festival crowdfunder and through LinkedIn.  She kindly agreed to describe to Public Libraries News some of the amazing stuff that she is helping to do in her libraries and without.  So, over to her (and, remember, if you don’t understand some of the words – it’s fine to check out what they are, I won’t tell) … and I hope it inspires you.  I’d be happy to hear more than anyone else involved in this or other interesting initiatives via ianlibrarian@live.co.uk.

“All the projects in this post are the result of leaving the library building and getting involved in different communities in Manchester. In this case the digital, techy, maker/hacker culture in Manchester. I also attend Manchester WordPress User Group and the Manchester Social Media Cafe and teach at Social Media Surgeries. In this way, I have formed mutually useful connections and expanded the libraries network resulting in all the collaborative projects I’m writing to you about now. NONE of these would have happened if I hadn’t left the library.

That’s also one of the principles behind LibraryCamp. It most definitely isn’t an event exclusively for librarians. It’s for anyone interested in libraries so we can collaborate across sectors and bring much needed digital and technical skills into public libraries) I believe that’s true at work too and I can’t emphasise enough the importance of leaving the library and going to other organisations events and just talking to people about libraries and potential projects. That’s my presentation topic at the IFLA satellite conference in August.

Current Manchester Libraries Workshops

  • Internet Radio Production – a free 12 week course taught by FC United community workers resulting in a full radio broadcast on FCUM Radio. This is third time I’ve run the course. It’s always oversubscribed. Here are some of the finished programmes.
  • Video games development for 9 – 16s. Taught by Matt George of Driveby.co.uk. Matt has created a platform computer game set in Manchester and the children, on the course are creating characters for scenes set in the library. They don’t need to know how to code – they can draw the characters with a paper and pencil and Matt imports them into the game.
  • Digital Creativity is a 5 week pre-employment course. Starting with mobile phone photos of Manchester the students learn about computers and the internet while turning their photos into banners that are sewn and made up. This course is again taught by FC United in conjunction with The Manchester College. Both the Internet Radio Production and Digital Creativity courses lead to qualifications from the Manchester College. Participants who complete the Digital Creativity course enrol on a Te​xtile and Industrial Sewing course where there is currently a skills shortage.
  • Robogals are fab! Every public library should make connections with their local chapter. ​ From their website: “Robogals is an international, student-run organisation that aims to increase female participation in Engineering, Science and Technology through fun and educational initiatives aimed at girls in primary and secondary school”. ​They have run 6 sessions at our libraries. The last one was in May in the Media Lounge in Manchester Central Library. The sessions involve building and programming robots using Lego Mindstorm kits. Super good fun!​
  • ​​Coding for Girls. I’ve been working with different groups at Manchester’s MadLab since its inception in 2009. I met the directors at the Manchester WordPress User Group in 2008 which I’d attended as I’d been given the job of doing a National Year of Reading blog. Initially I set up a sci-fi reading group at MadLab with director Hwa Young Jung. It was pretty innovative as the group crowd sourced the books for the year using an openly editable Google doc and then the library bought 20 copies. After the meet, the books went into circulation in Manchester libraries so we have a crowd sourced science fiction collection. Through the book club I met members of Manchester Girl Geeks. They run STEAM events for women and girls. At the same time I went to my first Librarycamp and was given a copy of Programme or Be Programmed by Douglas Rushkoff. My eureka moment and Coding for Girls grew from that! Workshops at Longsight and Wythenshawe Libraries for girls aged 12 -18 and their mums. We part​nered with Manchester Gi​rl Geeks whose members (all volunteers) taught the course. ​The aim was to get more girls involved in the summer Young Rewired State hack camps that run at MadLab. ​​Also local community leaders had told us there weren’t enough activities for teenage girls in their wards. ​Manchester Libraries provided the computers and a space and promotion. The sessions started with an inspiring talk from Sam Bail, one of the Manchester Girl Geek organisers and then we got into coding using lessons from CodeAcademy.com.
  • Mini Makerspaces. Coding for Girls led led to further partnerships and a series of electronic and arduino workshops we dubbed Mini-Makerspaces.
  • Curry and Coding at Longsight Library again
  • Digital Skills for Women – again in partnership with MadLab and Manchester Girl Geeks again and also received ESF funding​to pay for professional tutors from DigiEnable and Mozilla and Tandot.​ There were 4 different strands (3 sessions each) – Basic IT, Social Media, Web Development and Programming.

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Southend sends library cut plans back to the drawing board: more on Staffordshire

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Staffordshire goes volunteer, the Rhondda Revolts and Reasons to be Welsh

Editorial

More details of the consultation on library changes in Staffordshire have emerged, with 24 out of 43 branches being listed as possible for being run by volunteers.  The county joins a list of others (Lincolnshire – 32 out of 45, Leicestershire – 36 out of 52) going down this route.  It’ll be interesting if the changes go by without significant popular protest (as they have done apparently in Leicestershire) or reap the wrath of the whirlwind (as they’re currently doing in Lincolnshire).  Why some areas protest and others do not is a bit of a mystery: as is so often the case in public libraries, the research simply has not been done.

The people of Rhydyfelin in the Rhondda were definitely of the not taking it lying down category when the council decided at the last moment to close their library instead of another.  They won the right to take the council to judicial review over the absence of a public consultation, at which point the council reversed its decision.  You have to do those consultations, people.

Finally Wales continues its national approach to public libraries by announcing that it is introducing automatic provision of public library cards to all primary school children.  This follows on from their national reference and e-book websites and from their continued use of public library standards.  Makes me proud to come from West of Chepstow.

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Ideas

  • Yoga storytimesYoga stretches and movement will be woven into the story for a fun, interactive experience blending early literacy and health.

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Shadow minister Helen Goodman MP shows an interest

Editorial

The last post reported on Ed Vaizey’s appearance and talk about public libraries at a Society of Chief Librarians’ event.  The main news from this post is that his opposite number, Helen Goodman MP, is starting to take an interest as well. The Labour shadow minister’s statements are hardly showing revolutionary fervour - she’s OK with volunteers, for instance, running small branches as long as there’s paid qualified staff elsewhere – but they do show an awareness by someone on her team of what is going on.  I suspect if you parse carefully what she says then there’s not that much difference between her and Ed, who has always been careful not to disparage paid staff, but there’s a difference in emphasis – she’s coming across as more keen on standards (to avoid a “postcode lottery”) for instance.  Helen has started a brief enquiry into public libraries (there’s lots of those going on at the moment isn’t there?) and it will be interesting to see what the results are.  I hope that whatever they are, they’re far more different to her opposite number than what we’ve seen so far.  The general election is next year by the way.

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The Vaizey Network: 120 discuss the future of public libraries

Editorial

The minister in charge of libraries Ed Vaizey spoke to the Society of Chief Librarians today as well as other 120 other Great and Good.  This was for a seminar called “Reimagining the Public Library”. At the moment one can only go on tweets from the meeting but they are tantalising:

  • being asked if like the rest of the UK, England should have library standards? Ed responds ‘never say never’.
  • Ed says he wouldn’t replace Pub Lib Act, but statutory duty must remain.
  • I find it utterly bizarre to walk into a library today & not find wireless Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications
  • I would like to see more library authorities working together
  • My dream is still to have a libraries development agency.
  • “Openings and refurbs don’t get the headlines.” () Let’s change that!

“Will there be funding to action Seighart recs? Yes.

All of this looks very interesting.  Certainly an updated People’s Network is long long overdue, as is a libraries development agency.  Some of the ideas being reported on have been featured in Public Libraries News for months or years because they’re working well abroad (with special props to the USA in this regard) and it is great to see them having an airing here.  On the other hand, the suspicion on Twitter amongst those who noticed the event going on but were not invited to it was that election year is coming and the Government needs to be at least promising something on a subject that may well gain or lose votes.  In this vein, my colleagues at Voices for the Library have put together a post that is worth reading even if bitter experience makes it naturally more suspicious than welcoming.

Regardless of views, one can say well done to SCL for organising the event and getting the minister involved and so many people, clearly decision-makers, together to look at the future.  On the other hand, I (albeit from the biased position of one keen to report news) would have liked some more publicity and information about what was going on.  The technology now exists for there to be live streams of the event but there does not appear to have been any and, indeed, at time of writing  the home page of the SCL website makes no mention of the event  at all other than in its twitter feed.

On a finishing but unrelated note that would doubtless annoy Ed Vaizey immensely, I was phoned up by Radio Four to fact check some things for their “Point of View” segment going out on their network tonight (if you’re reading this on Friday).  So I know that the writer A L Kennedy will be talking about cuts to libraries and the importance of books at 8.50pm..

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Arts Council England release review on economic contribution of libraries

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When technology makes things worse, it’s probably because we’re doing it wrong

Editorial

Another couple of thoughts from the revelation of a book found in a public library that had not been out since 1997 is the change in stock management brought about by the introduction of self-service machines.  Back in the old days, weeding shelves were a simple matter for the librarian – one simply sat down and opened every book in turn, counting the number and frequency of date stamps on the date label. There were a load of other factors of course but the key one of how much the book was used was really easy to work out.  However, self-service changes that because, quite simply, there’s no date stamps any more.  The alternative is instead to use printouts based on whatever criteria one wishes (e.g. books that have not been out in six months in the thrillers).  This sounds simple but there’s two problems: the first is that it is surprisingly time consuming looking individually for every book and the second is that these printouts use proprietary technology that the library management system companies charge a hefty sum for.  So, if one does not pay or cannot afford to pay, one may have to use other ways (the state of the book, local knowledge, the Force) to weed instead.  Not ideal.

Another related matter to this is from a letter listed in this post about issuing films in a self-service library.  Now, ideally, the whole process should be done by the public (hence the term “self-service”) but in reality in many areas, this is not (literally) the case … and the reason is, simply, box security is not sufficient.  It’s easy to vandalise a DVD or game case and steal the item from it.  So, libraries have to go back to putting high value titles in locked drawers again, meaning that the member of the public has to both go to the machine and a member of staff. Oh dear, that’ll make the process twice as long then.  If they’re really unlucky, some self-service machines will then (completely unnecessarily in my view and that several authorities I know about it) demand their library card number and PIN number when they return it. This is not to say that I am against self-service: I’m not and I think that, realistically, there’s going to be a whole lot more of it as budgets decline. But we should not pretend that it does not come with its own problems because if we ignore them, they simply will not go away. After all, when technology makes things worse, it’s probably because we’re doing it wrong and the first step to correcting it is to admit there’s a problem in the first place.

For more on self service, see this page.

Please send any comments or news to me at ianlibrarian@live.co.uk or via the comments option.  Thank you for reading.

Changes

Ideas

  • Fun runs to raise funds for libraries.
  • STEAM events - same as STEM (Science Technology Engineering Maths) but also includes Arts.

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What does it mean if your library has a book in it unloaned since 1997?

Editorial

A newspaper reports that a book in Sheffield has not been loaned since 1997 and is still on the shelf: other books noted have been similarly friendless since 2000 and 2001.  Other reports I’ve seen from there suggest that this isn’t due to poor stock management in the city but rather lack of new books over the last few years.  After all, it’s easy to weed books – quite apart from going through each shelf by hand, you can just get a printout of all the books that haven’t been taken out for x number of years and remove them from the shelves and then automatically delete off the computer any you can’t find.  Generally, if a book has been on the shelf since 1997 and not been taken out, it means there’s not enough money and books have been left on the shelves to make them look full … or there simply has not been enough staff to take them off.  There’s also a small chance that the book has been left on the shelf because it fills a vital stock gap of course but that does not appear to be the case here.  For more information on this, see the PLN page Stock management – A complete beginners guide.

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

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Lincolnshire and Canada

Editorial

You’ll notice a new advertising banner if you visit PLN for the next couple of months: I’m advertising the Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaign bid to raise funds for their judicial review.  I don’t live anywhere near Lincolnshire but I’m supporting this as one of the grounds they are challenging on is that the reduced service will not meet the provisions of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act.  If they win on that point then there may be national implications for other councils.  It may also stop all those media reports who call libraries “non-statutory”.

Meanwhile, a Canadian union campaign against part-time paid workers caught my eye.  Yes, over in the UK unions are concerned about paid staff losing their jobs entirely and/or being replaced by volunteers while over in Canada, the situation is so different they’re concerned about workers not working full-time.  I have difficulty in seeing how a standard public library can survive without casuals and part-time staff myself but I envy the Canadians their funding.

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