Enhanced payments for weekend working and Austerity

Editorial

I was sorry to read that Libraries Unlimited in Devon, still a new organisation, is removing enhanced payments for weekend working from its staff. However, before we all say that this is another bit of evidence to show that it should only be councils that run libraries, it’s worth pointing out that many councils have done the same thing, and some of them considerably earlier. Here’s a short and doubtless very incomplete list. The press statement from Devon also points out that they haven’t closed any libraries, unlike many traditional councils (hang your head in shame, Lancashire). The truth is that, regardless of governance, library services up and down the country are all working on different ways of reducing the impact of austerity.  It’s the central government agenda of reducing funding on council services that’s at fault here … and we need to remember that that decision was decided on democratically, or at least as democratically as this country is (which, admittedly, is hardly perfect). Mind you, councils that distort the truth (like Bath who refused to accept they were doing a U-turn even while their “your library is moving” sign was still on display, nice going there) come a close second.

Changes

More >

A glass half full

Editorial

It’s good to see that public libraries have the highest customer satisfaction of any public service. It’s lovely also to be able to report on plans for improving libraries in several authorities. This ties in nicely with a conversation I had with a national journalist today who was clearly interested in the bad news happening in libraries and not necessarily about the good: the good is always there and not “news”. This reminds me to say that, look, good things are happening in libraries. For all the bad news about cuts that I have to include every night, I’m sure there’s a hundred stories about how great libraries are and what a positive impact they are in people’s lives – it’s just that this isn’t reported because it’s always going on. So, nationally, the glass may be half empty but it’s also half full as well. As a post on communication from the Taskforce (also below – it’s like today has a theme) indicates, the great things that libraries do need trumpeting. So grab your musical instrument of librarianship and blow.

Changes

More >

The good, the bad and the good or bad: Haringey, Coventry, Dudley, Liverpool and Wolverhampton

Editorial

A mixture of the good and bad. Haringey have overturned previously reported plans to cut library opening hours and are instead investing £2 million in them instead. That’s quite some U-turn. From the news report I read, it seems like they did an honest consultation (hi Livewire, see it can be done) and the result was taken on board. It’s also good to see Coventry also having a rethink and reducing the cuts there, although four libraries are still to become volunteer, which is hardly nothing.  It’s interesting to see GLL taking over another library service (that’s four so far I think) in Dudley.  The leisure trust has now completely overcome its London roots and must be seen as a force to be reckoned with nationally.  Whether that’s good or bad, depends on how you feel about non-profit trusts. On the bad side, Liverpool are cutting the libraries budget by nearly £2 million and trying to pass on four libraries to others and Wolverhampton are going for full-on co-locations and volunteers. Expect a lot more from those two councils in PLN soon.

Changes

Ideas

Media mentions heatmap

This shows longer term trends in authorities than this post alone.  Only authorities with 6 or more are included. :

  •  Plymouth (24, -1), Bath and North East Somerset (10, new),  Cornwall (6. new), Lancashire (6, -5), Birmingham (8, -2), Darlington (7, -1), Walsall (7, +1), Warrington (6, =), Manchester (6 – this is all positive news), Kirklees (6, new)

More >

The public can be such banes to council plans

Editorial

Councils in Bath & North East Somerset (“BANES”) and Warrington have both needed to accommodate to public anger at plans to cut library services this week. The concessions may be more apparent than real – BANES are simply going to do a consultation on moving Central into a co-location away from the town centre (and with half the space) rather than a fait accompli.  Of course, seasoned readers of PLN will know the likelihood of a council actually changing its plans after a consultation in anything but in the mildest terms in order to show they listened but, with anger pretty high in the spa town, which is hardly a normal area of mass political dissent, it’s a step in the right direction. Warrington council, while supporting the initial (in my view highly flawed and biased) consultation are creating a group to see how they can best keep libraries open.  Again, PLN readers will suspect this will simply boil down to “volunteer or we’ll close it” but I am sure we all hope to stand corrected soon.

Meanwhile, the Taskforce have produced two posts on mutualising library services. With austerity now in its seventh (eighth?) year, this is seen as one of the best ways of maintaining library services along with volunteers, co-locations, increased use of volunteers and (increasingly) pressuring parish/borough councils to stump up cash instead.  To their credit, the Taskforce do not present any of these options as a panacea. Which is just as well: those councils which make cuts to libraries often find out the items on the efficiencies/savings/cuts menu can be unpalatable when presented to the public. But then it’s the same public so often who voted for austerity in the first place.

Changes

Ideas

More >

Libraries offer futures: and the Big Issue is for the future of libraries

Editorial

A noticeably quiet couple of days with the main thing being to me two pro library campaigns, both of which are not just local over closures.  It’s good to see the CILIPS Library Matters campaign picking up some strength in Scotland before the election there, with another celebrity author on board. A very pleasant surprise was the Big Issue campaign that has just launched.  It’s worth a look as it says very nice things about libraries and John Bird, now a Lord, is clearly a powerful ally. Across the water, public librarians are now turning their sense of shock over President Trump’s presidency into action. It’s going to be a tough tightrope for them.  Although the political position of libraries are different there (they’re often not under direct council control whereas anyone employed in libraries getting political in the UK in working hours would presumably just plain be disciplined or dismissed) they still have to presumably be neutral.  The challenge is going to be how to balance the political desire to act with the expectation that librarians remain unbiased.  I simple don’t know how that will turn out in these strange times in America.

More >

Political games, not standing still … and waving placards

Editorial

There’s a couple of examples of libraries being used as pawns in political games before local elections in May today, with opposition parties scaremongering and the party in power (often the same party as in opposition doing the same thing elsewhere) crying foul.  Libraries have never really hit the headlines in the media before elections and I’m curious to see if such mentions increase or quiet down.  In terms of actual news, I’m sorry to see that West Berkshire have confirmed a big budget cut, although they’re avoiding closing libraries by relying on volunteers and parish council handouts.  That’s bad news for the staff (which will be reduced by half) but good news for the libraries minister who had been called on to intervene if the council actually closed many,  On the other hand, good news in Torfaen where Unison are claiming a major victory in repealing a £240k cut.  The union has done some notably good work in South Wales, although it has been notably less active nationally in the sector. Meanwhile in parliament, the libraries minister received two friendly questions from MPs of his own party, re-emphasising once more his view that “standing still is not really an option”.  Which, it seems, is true – as people enthusiastically waving placards in Bath, Darlington, Lambeth, Plymouth, North East Lincolnshire, Walsall and elsewhere show.

Changes

Ideas

Media mentions heatmap

This shows longer term trends in authorities than this post alone:

  •  Plymouth (25), Lancashire (11), Birmingham (10), Darlington (8), Walsall (6), Swindon (6), Warrington (6).

More >

Wales, E-resources and co-located Gymbraries

 

The BBC has produced a large survey of the state of play in Welsh public libraries.  It makes interesting reading, with the excellent work being done nationally (on, for example, e-resources) being at least counterbalanced by the effect of cuts on local library services. Library e-resources are looked at in a guest post hosted by the Libraries Taskforce which points out that too often excellent resources are hidden behind inadequate, or even downright obstructive, council websites.

There’s a bit of other news as well but I will continue the thread on the damaging of library unique selling points started in the last post by just mentioning co-locations.  As with supplier stock selecting (and it was rightly pointed out to me – thanks Jane –  that if expert librarians work with the supplier very well, it’s not a bad thing, the problem is when they don’t or when there aren’t any librarians any more), co-locations can be really good. The right co-location can attract traffic into the library and not detract from the neutral and welcoming atmosphere that is a key library USP.

The downside, though, is where the co-location is forced upon the library and services which detract from such an atmosphere become uneasy bedfellows.  These bad co-locations can damage the neutrality of the library, especially when the service is poorly understood by those in the driving seat.  A probable “bad” co-location is up for grabs as I’m writing this with the imminent decision on combining gyms and libraries in Lambeth.  This has been the source of much anger and parody, which is a shame as the instigators (GLL) have done good work with libraries from what I have seen elsewhere.  If the combination (I’ve seen it called a “gymbrary”) does go ahead, let’s see how neutral and welcoming it is to library users.  I hope my fears on the subject are proved wrong.

Changes

Ideas

Media mentions heatmap

This shows longer term trends in authorities than this post alone:

  • Lancashire (23), Plymouth (19), Birmingham (8), North Yorkshire (8), Swindon (7), Warrington (7)

More >

Waterstone’s recovery hints at what libraries should do

Editorial

Two conflicting stories this post. One is the story of libraries facing a big cut in usage over ten years, which I’ve covered in previous posts. The other is how Waterstones has made a dramatic comeback.  Now, Waterstones and public libraries are very different to each other – even Daunt could not have coped with the cuts some libraries are being forced to take and would probably have been driven to madness by council bureaucracy – but there are things that libraries can learn from him.  This is that local control over bookstock is important. You need to have experts choosing for particular libraries to match the needs of local communities.

Driven by budget cuts, many library authorities have forgotten the need for tailored local stock and farmed out book purchasing to large library suppliers. While (very importantly) saving on staff time and cost, this necessarily means a loss of that local connection and, also, a downgrading of the librarian role, with often the loss of professionals who have spent decades learning what goes best where. Sadly, thus is lost one of the many unique selling points (USPs)  that a public library once had, and some still have, that have been lost in the drive for efficiency.  I’ll be coming back to other disappearing USPs in future posts – councils appear in some ways to have spent decades removing them – but for the moment it’s great to see Waterstones rediscovering theirs, not least because I love bookshops more than any other high street outlet. Well, except libraries of course.

Changes

Ideas

More >

USA and Canada see library usage rise: 3/4 budget cuts in Walsall and Kirklees

Editorial

Those people who say the decline in public libraries are inevitable should look at what is happening in the USA and Canada some time. Just today, there are stories that show that library visits (even book issues) in the USA are increasing long-term and the big authority of Hamilton in Canada saw an increase of 13% over one year. Neither the USA overall or Hamilton have seen deep cuts to their budgets. How that’s going to change with Trump as President one can sadly guess at but the figures show that the decline in UK library usage is not pre-ordained. If you think it is, explain why it’s not happening there.  Sadly, however, why the cuts are happening here is pretty evident. From just today’s announcements – Kirklees will soon have reduced their libraries budget by 72% by my reckoning (check the figures below) and Walsall are reported as cutting their budget from £4m to £1m, another cut of three-quarters. Meanwhile, West Berkshire are proudly announcing that they won’t close as many libraries as they originally wanted to because they’re going to depend on volunteers and parish/town council donations instead. Faced with such cuts, it’s pretty clear the decline in Britain is more a case of Austerity killing them than anything else.

Changes

Media mentions heatmap

This shows longer term trends in authorities than the list above.

  • Red: Lancashire (27), Plymouth (15)
  • Amber: Birmingham (9), Swindon (7), Warrington (7), Bath and North East Somerset (6), Darlington (6).

Ideas

More >

Library media heatmap - watch out for the red dots

An at-a-glance heatmap of UK public libraries

Editorial

Library media heatmap - watch out for the red dots

Library media heatmap – watch out for the red dots

I’m going to be trying out a new feature for a while – making  a note each post of those library authorities under the most media scrutiny.  This will be done making use of the map of the UK which has been on the right hand side of the website for some time now.  Made by a clever coder, this map links every “Local News By Authority” mention I make and puts them in the correct place on the United Kingdom (expect for the Isle of Man which, for some reason, ends up in Lancashire – go figure).  Because every link is attached to a dot, differently coloured due to the number of media mentions, it’s easy to spot the areas under the most scrutiny.  It’s worth pointing out that such mentions may theoretically be for positive reasons as well as for negative ones but I’ll keep an eye out for those and mention them if they occur. They haven’t done so yet.

So, for the first one, the red “danger” areas are Lancashire, with a massive 27 mentions reflecting the sheer number of branches being cut there, and Plymouth with 13.  In the still-scary orange dot category are Bath and North East Somerset, Birmingham, Darlington, Swindon, Warrington and (seemingly everpresent) North Yorkshire. I hope that by doing this I’m hoping this will give the reader an at-a-glance heatmap of the state of UK public libraries.  We’ll see how it goes.

Ideas

National news

  • ElucidateCILIP UKeiG. “Amy Icke, recipient of UKeiGís Early Career award, reports on the IASL (International Association of School Librarians) Conference 2016, held in Tokyo, 21st – 26th August 2016. The theme of the event was ìA school library built for the digital ageî and Amy outlines and discusses key conference themes illustrated with examples delivered by librarians working in a range of countries including Japan, Australia, Sweden and Canada. Key messages for our readers in all sectors includes..”
  • Family Learning in Local Communities – Libraries Taskforce. “A new project from Common Vision sets out to study the informal activities that lay the foundations for healthy, resilient communities and contribute to intergenerational mixing and exchange. With the decline of the traditional town centre and new forms of technology facilitating social interaction, the ways in which we form and strengthen relationships are changing. This applies to relationships within families as much as other social groups” [There is a survey you can take part in.  I found it, though, quite obtrusive when I completed it, as it demands your personal contact details right at the start, with no explanation as to why.  You can put false information in the fields easily if you would prefer anonymity. Let’s hope this apparently professional company learns to do surveys correctly next time – Ed.]

“To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, how many public libraries have closed since February 2016. ” Tim Farron MP

“The Department for Culture, Media and Sport monitors proposed changes to library service provision throughout England, however the Department does not hold complete figures on total public library closures since February 2016.” Rob WIlson MP – Public Libraries: Closures: Written Questions – Parliament UK. [My working theory is that the only reason the Government is not keeping these figures is because they do not want to know / do not want to have to answer this sort of question because they’d find it embarrassing – Ed.]


International news

  • Canada – Arnprior’s librarian named Public Librarian of the Year by the Ontario Library Association – Inside Ottawa Valley. “One of her major achievements has been the launch of the iPod Project, where the library partnered with the Grove Nursing home to provide its residents with iPods and personalized playlists. ” … “The library raised nearly $4,000 to purchase 60 iPods and the music for the individual playlists”
  • Global – 10 most extraordinary mobile libraries – Ebook Friendly. “From donkey-drawn trolleys to huge ships, you’ll see here outstanding vehicles that are designed to carry the most important cargo in the world – wisdom.”
  • USA – Library Cats Leave Some Sneezing, Others Feline Fine – American Libraries. “Though everything turned out all right for the lucky kitty, the incident illustrated just how contentious having a cat in a library can be, even when the cat is popular with patrons. Perhaps that’s why the number of library cats in the United States has declined drastically in recent decades.” … “In an attempt to minimize the allergens present on library materials, staff members swipe each book with a Clorox wipe. Still, Sharp knows patron allergies are an ever-present concern.” … “Before adopting Stacks in 2009, Zumwalt consulted local veterinarians about allergies. “They said that as long as we kept the hair vacuumed, we really shouldn’t have any problems,” ” … “Frannie Shue, Centre County library director, is a big fan of “Saturday Caturday,” saying, “It’s a nice alternative for libraries that do not have cats—but love cats as much as books.””
  • USA – Mirrors and Windows: Diversity in Children’s Picture Books – Public LIbraries Online. “Working for an inner-city library, I am very conscious about choosing books that reflect what my storytime children look like and the culture to which they can relate. When searching for non-white main characters in picture books, I find it is much more dif­ficult than it ought to be.” … “Books are windows, but also mirrors. We often can relate to most any story in some way, however, if we cannot connect to the illustrations that do not mirror us, we will become apathetic to stories.”

Local news by authority

  • Barnet – Job Opportunity: Library Manager based in Barnet – Inclusion Barnet. “We are a voluntary organisation in Barnet, North London and we are about to take over the running of two branch libraries as community-based ‘partnership libraries’, working with the London Borough of Barnet.” … “we can offer an attractive salary, a positive and inclusive working environment and a warm and supportive team around you, including a CEO with a background in library management”
  • Bradford – Volunteers urgently needed to help run Thornbury library – Telegraph and Argus. “Unless more volunteers respond to an appeal soon to help keep Thornbury Library open, it will close on April 1. Bradford Council announced in February last year that the branch based in the Thornbury Centre in Leeds Old Road would be one of fourteen libraries across the district to shut unless local communities could find enough helpers to staff them. But the take-up at Thornbury Library has been “a bit slow so far” according to parish priest and chairman of the Thornbury Centre, Father Nicholas Clews.”
  • Darlington – Crucial vote delayed again as Tory councillors force deferral in the battle to save Darlington’s Crown Street Library – Northern Echo. “The proposals would see the town’s mobile library service axed, Cockerton Library given over to volunteers and the historic Crown Street library closed, with the majority of its resources to be transferred to the Dolphin Centre” … “In an unexpected move, opposition councillors have provided the much-loved library with a last minute stay of execution by demanding further scrutiny of Darlington Borough Council’s long-opposed proposals. Responding to concerns repeatedly raised by campaigners, Conservative councillors have ‘called in’ the agenda item concerning library services ahead of Thursday’s final vote on the issue.” see Library Call-In – Darlington Council and Forward Plan – Darlington Council.
  • Hounslow – Library to re-open partially after two month closure following ceiling collapse – Get West London. “Part of Brentford library will reopen this weekend more than two months after the ceiling collapsed. The Grade II listed building on Boston Manor Road has been closed since November 10, last year, after the plaster from one of the ceilings in the children’s section fell overnight.” … “However the children’s section will remain closed until works are completed with the aim of fully re-opening on March 11″
  • Leeds – Chief Librarian – Leeds Council. “Leeds City Council is delivering an ambitious programme of more locally determined and integrated services which help ensure that all who live, visit and work in the city have access to quality public services. As part of this development, an exciting opportunity has arisen to lead and develop the Library and Information service across the city, an integral part of our proposition to deliver more integrated and accessible services.  ”
  • Leeds – Mannequin Challenge – YouTube. [I’ve seen a few of these now and this is pretty good – Ed.]
  •  Plymouth – Anthologia: Library Closure Special  – Tall Tales. “In response to the local library cuts suggested in Plymouth this week, several local writers have banded together to form ‘The Library Party’. This group has the aim of raising awareness of the proposed cuts and helping the public voice their concern and objections to the closures. This special Anthologia has poetry and micro-fiction from local Plymouth writers. Each piece focuses on the issue, libraries or the essential service provided by this ancient institution. There are also images explaining what is proposed and links to the petition within this page. “
  • Plymouth – Council told libraries are ‘community hubs’ at first public meeting over closures – Herald. “Jennifer Pointer, a mother of two, who attended the meeting with her family, felt that the closure of the school’s library would be wrong as for her libraries are “a life-line”. “I had quite bad post natal depression,” said Mrs Pointer, “The library was a good way to meet other mums and talk about it – they are a bit of a life-line.”. Many responses ask for investment in libraries to improve them rather than closing them.
  • Swindon – Libraries minister comes to Swindon as community deadline looms – Swindon Advertiser. “Last month Coun Mary Martin met with MP Rob Wilson, whose ministerial portfolio includes libraries, and on Thursday he came to Swindon to take a closer look at the plans” … “As part of the visit, he was shown the central library as well as Covingham library, which is well-advanced in its set up as a community run facility.” Covingham is one of the few community libraries where a clear path to a secure future has emerged. A trust model, devised by ward councillors and recently registered with the charities commission, has received the backing of local library supporters and the borough council” … “”It was a productive meeting to give the minister an update on the work that is going on towards protecting our vital libraries and to discuss further options for where the government can provide assistance. “I’m greatly encouraged, we seem to be making good progress.”