“One upon a time” – Newcastle before the cuts.

A look into the past with Newcastle libraries chief explaining the strategy before the cuts hit and a challenge on library RFID are the two notable items today.

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library camp london

“You have two, maybe three, years”

The above eye-catching headline is not about libraries generally, nor the average time left for paid members of staff (although it feels like it) but the window of opportunity that public libraries have with e-books before things are settled.  An important article looks at the subject in some depth from different points of view.

In these hard-nosed times, one of the key weapons libraries have of defending their worth is to point out their economic value.  Two new resources have been produced by Carl Clayton (in his private capacity) that will be useful in this regard:

  • The economic value of public libraries - Depression costs the Uk £12bn. Bibliotherapy – as well as library’s help in job hunting etc – can greatly help those suffering from depression. “Every pound spent on library services will create a future saving in costs for the council. It is not possible to quantify this saving exactly but a comparison of the limited cost of the library service with the large costs of depression (not to mention other illnesses) indicates that this would be significant.”
  • Value of public library services - Covers “published reports that consider the value of public library services in a quantitative sense.”  Lists and summarises some very useful documents including some unfamiliar ones such as a Norwegian study showing that libraries have a cost benefit ratio of 1:4

For volunteers, a new court decision has meant that volunteers cannot claim under employment law unless they have a contract or are undergoing vocational training.  This removes an obstacle for volunteers taking over libraries in that it frees them from having to worry about employment law with their unpaid workers.  Of course, it’s also equally a detriment to those same volunteers who cannot appeal to the same rights that paid workers have, at least in this instance.

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“The library is a symbol of resistance”

 ”BBC Radio 4 wants to hear from library users for a major programme. They would like library users to contact them using the link on the BBC Radio 4 Open Book contact page explaining in not more that 1,000 words “what does your public library mean to you and your family … please encourage everyone to use the link and write about the importance of libraries and local concerns. I stress that they want to hear from library users, young and old.” Desmond Clarke, via email.

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12% of all libraries to be “community supported” in the “near future” – Arts Council England

The BookSeller has reported on the stakeholder meeting (covered here in the last but one post) and it makes some  subtly different changes, like the date of when 12% of libraries are likely to be “community supported” and what it actually means.  Otherwise, there’s an interesting conference in Edinburgh next year (the Edge) and the news that “free news” online may be on its way out will further support the argument for libraries.

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200 libraries lost in 2011


The CIPFA stats have already been widely discussed but a few new things still jump out to me.  The first is that usage is declining very much in line with library budgets.  It’s no secret that you get what you pay for.  The UK has decided that it wants a library service that costs 5.1% less (hang on, is that measured for inflation? If not, that’s a 7.6% cut in one year) than last year.  It therefore gets a library service that is 5.1% less attractive than last year.

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“We’re as frustrated as you are”: The Society of Chief Librarians “Stakeholder Forum” with library campaigners.


The following is a record of the meeting between the SCL and campaigners on Monday 10th December at Westminster City Hall, 4pm to 6pm..  It is largely written by myself but the SCL has given approval to it and made some amendments. The other campaigners have not themselves given approval for it and so it is not “fully agreed” in terms of formal minutes.  I have put in large quotation marks what I think are interesting points made but I need to point out these emphases are mine alone, as are the links.

The official SCL description of the meeting is here.

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Correction: Newcastle

David Fay from Newcastle Libraries has been in touch to provide a correction to an article I linked to and commented on yesterday that suggested that their PFI deal was soaking up nearly a third of their budget.  The correction reads:

The net annual cost to Newcastle City Council of the City Library and High Heaton Library is £155,579.25 as we receive credits of £3,200.149 from DCMS in the form of an annual grant which is payable during the length of the project.

CIPFA returns show that the City Library is once again the most visited library in the North East and the fourth most visited in the country”

David Fay, City Libraries’ Manager

Protests say don’t mess with libraries – be they in London, Newcastle or in schools.

Being the title of this blog is Public Libraries News, I tend not to cover school libraries but my heart is with them as well.  There are so many similarities between the two campaigns that I do sneak a story in here and there.  The recent survey that shows school libraries are in deep danger is an example.  The fact that the DCMS had the temerity to criticize the survey has angered Alan Gibbons – who has always equally championed both campaigns – who points out what weak ground they’re on.  Sadly, due to yet more cuts, the DCMS itself is even more of a shadow of its former self, with an estimated £34m cut.  Whether this will affect its funding of Arts Council England and thus it’s funding of grants for libraries, is as yet unclear.

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E-Lending debated on Radio Four: complete transcript


BBC Radio Four covered e-book lending last night (27:51 to 32:08).  It included contributions from the President of CILIP, the Publisher’s Association and the Society of Authors, as well as the new Birmingham Central Library.  It covers the debate in a basic easy-to-understand wayand I recommend it to you.  The transcript is below.

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Librarians answer questions with facts, politicians answer questions with …

Librarians answer questions.  We’re trained to do so and we pride ourselves on giving the correct answers.  There’s a whole interview technique of asking open questions (e.g. “What do you want?”) then closed questions (“Is this what you want?”) and then a final check up question (“Is there anything else we can help you with?”) just to make sure.  We make sure that the answer is an accurate one and try to avoid vagueness or untrustworthy information, even if it inconveniences us to do so. Politicians obviously think in a different way.  Their world is that of the elusive, the not-quite accurate and the self-aggrandising.  Take for example this exchange in parliament about libraries:

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