Payday loan blocking and royal babies

Editorial

More and more English councils are banning payday loan sites from all of their computers, including ones in their libraries.  This raises a few questions  The first is that such sites are not illegal and cause no harm to anybody but presumably the adult who uses them.  They are thus different to the porn/terrorism websites that libraries already filter.  The second is that they’re not illegal so one would have thought that it is up to the adult in question to decide on these matters, not the council.  The third is that the Council are banning websites and the library services are all having to absolutely obey instructions and do the same.  Indeed, one suspects that the vast majority of library services couldn’t stop the banning if they wanted to because it is the council IT department that handles such things and not the library service. Finally, because the library staff are all employed by the councils making the decisions, they would be disciplined if they spoke out publicly against it.  Just in case you’re wondering, my own authority has not yet banned them which is why I can write this piece now.

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Extra copies of Cuckoo Calling by (we now discover) JK Rowling being unstocked in Suffolk

A place for the vulnerable … but, sadly, they don’t seem to be a priority right now

 

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Library as shop - New library in old Argos store in Hertfordshire

Fancy owning the library you work in? York goes Mutual.

Editorial 

Another day, another experimental model of library governance.  York have agreed to turn over its library and archives service to a mutual two-thirds owned by staff and one-third by the public.  It’s unclear as to what this effectively means in practice (will the shareholders be paid dividends?), although there does appear to be some risk involved.  It hopes to cut costs by £450k over three years by doing this, with the contract lasting for five years and with eligibility for tax breaks.  Unions are not enthusiastic about the change but the Council says it’s either this or direct cuts to the service. A council that has gone for the cuts route is Lincolnshire, where it has been announced that slightly over half of its 32 threatened librarieshave had at least some interest from the community to take them over rather than see them closed.  The council are clear that the libraries will close unless local people work in them unpaid.

Thousands of miles away, the mayor of Miami- Dade in Florida is wanting to close a large proportion of his libraries as he thinks they’re out of date – however, a TV report shows bustling libraries, depended on by the young and unemployed so much that the system gets over six million visits a year.  Perhaps the mayor should have done research before making such a rash claim.  As the teenagers in the report suggest, perhaps also one of the Miami libraries would have been a good place to start.

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Austerity in Spain boosts library use … so why not so much in the UK?

Editorial 

There’s a very interesting piece in the Independent on public libraries in Spain that report on a big rise in library usage there since the austerity measures came into force a few years ago.  It’s also interesting to read about a library there that seems to be a doppelganger for Friern Barnet, with locals taken it over after the council closed it.  What I find interesting about this is that Spain, like the USA, is seeing a rise in library usage to a level that is reported as historically high while at the same time facing cuts to the service itself.  This is not the case in the UK, where Austerity appears to have cut service provision but not provided a related boost in usage.  It is not clear why this is is, although if I had to put money on it, it would be the (still) higher comparative levels of welfare provision in this country and the relatively higher access rates to the internet (still lower then the rich of course) amongst the poor.  I’m not sure we can be happy about this but with tough cuts to benefits in the UK starting to take effect this year and the next, it may be that usage will start shooting up.  We are already starting to see this to some extent with the introduction of the online-only Universal Jobmatch.  Certainly, it would strengthen the position of public libraries in the UK if they were used rather more … the fact that we’d be doing more with less would also doubtless please the politicians too.

Cuts to Doncaster libraries have been controversial for several years but it hasn’t gone to court until now.  The Royal Court of Justices will be hearing the case at the end of this month, based on questionable legality of the mayor of the time (now no longer) pushing through cuts to libraries against the opposition of the majority of councillors.

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Trying to save her parents money by choosing the smallest library books

Editorial

Some interesting responses about the suggested no confidence motion on Ed Vaizey at the forthcoming CILIP AGM, reported on yesterday.  None of them actually defend the man. If you’re a CILIP member and are interested, email noconfidenceinvaizey@gmail.com for more information.

I look forward to hearing Michael Rosen on the future of public libraries in a two-part Radio Four programme in August and September.  He’s a keen advocate for libraries, comes up with great ideas (see his passion for automatic library cards for schoolchildren for example) and, as a non-librarian, can see things from the outside.

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Motion of no confidence in the libraries minister Ed Vaizey

 

News

I’ve seen for the last couple of years loads of people complaining about how ineffective Mr Ed Vaizey is.  There’s even a rather good song about it. People are especially annoyed that his pro-library comments (like this 2011 and this whole list ) compare so badly to his actions (or inactions).  It’s no surprise then that the recent BMA vote of no confidence in Jeremy Hunt has got people thinking. I’ve had three separate groups of people mention to me the possibility of a vote of no confidence in him, and this appears to be finally getting off the ground with an email sent to me today,  If you are a member of CILIP, therefore, have a read of this below:

Motion of no confidence in Ed Vaizey to go to CILIP AGM

We are calling on CILIP’s Annual General Meeting in September to support a motion of no confidence in Ed Vaizey, following the example of the British Medical Association, who passed a similar motion of no confidence in the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt. The motion, in draft form reads as follows:

“In view of his failures to enforce the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, this Annual General Meeting of CILIP has no confidence in Ed Vaizey, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, and instructs Council to work with all other interested parties to protect library, information and knowledge services”

CILIP members interested in supporting the motion are invited to contact noconfidenceinvaizey@gmail.com for more information.

In other news, the very same Mr Vaizey has confirmed that, pending a consultation, Public Lending Right will be extended to library e-book loans but only those “borrowed on site”.  Quite apart from seeming to miss the whole point about e-books, this will represent a tiny proportion of e-book lending and is likely to be seen as a crumb at best.  More welcome to the Society of Authors is the news that the overall amount their members will get next year will not be cut.  Such is what passes for good news these days.

Finally, I have received confirmation from Herefordshire that their decision to stop all interlending requests was cancelled after advice received from Arts Council England.  This was, presumably, that the new ban contravened the 1964 Act but this is not explicitly stated, Whatever the reason, the  breakdown of the councils’ estimate of £46 per interlending request makes scary reading. The Council inform me that they are reviewing the interlending charge, along with all of their services.

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Authors, Reading Agency and volunteers outside No.11 Downing Street

1 2 3 Creepy House!

Editorial

I’ve always loved the excitement and success of the Summer Reading Challenge. Getting kids to shout out its name (it changes every year – Reading Relay, Reading Rollercoaster, this year’s Creepy House) is a special highlight when doing school assemblies.  I remember getting in my car after an especially good one and still hearing the kids chanting “Space Hop“. Yes, they were chanting so loudly I could hear it through the wall.  It must have driven the teachers mad but we get loads of children coming in and asking to join because of it.  We give them stickers, a fold-out poster, freebies like a wristband (glow-in-the-dark this year) and, of course, a certificate and a medal at the end if they read six books over the summer holidays.  If you want to see what fun I have them it, this is my school assembly script. It’s fantastic and the best thing that happens in libraries all year.  It’s also national, with a 98% take-up by library authorities.

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DCMS to consult on abolishing an already abolished libraries body … with resultant changes to the 1964 Act that make libraries statutory

Editorial

The DCMS abolished the Advisory Council for Libraries for England (ACL-E) in 2011 during the Bonfire of the Quangoes.  It’s a shame that they did not check the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act at the time which made such a body compulsory and its abolition therefore illegal.  When it was pointed out (by a campaigner to the libraries minister Ed Vaizey) that this was so, it became clear that he had not realised what he’d just done wasn’t allowed by the Act.  Shortly after, the DCMS appointed a part-time advisor to do the job instead.  Sadly, it now turns out that the cost of ACL-E was just £2,500 per year and so cost far less than the advisor appointed to replace them.  Oh dear. Furthermore, the DCMS is planning to “consult” on the abolition of the already informally abolished ACL-E shortly and then formally end  it next year.  This is all fairly unedifying – rushed, with little regard to the Act, expensive and with a side order of dodgy consultations thrown in – but that’s not the important bit. The key here is that such a move would require a change to the 1964 Act that makes “comprehensive and efficient” public libraries statutory.  One fears that the DCMS may be tempted to “consult” on other changes to the bothersome (to them) Act at the same time.

In other news, a whole bunch of library campaigners have come together to look at the figures of libraries closed and those under threat and come up with the not unreasonable estimate of 1000 libraries likely to close.  They ask for the Minister (the same one behind the ACL episode above so the odds are not good) to intervene. Such a number of closures isn’t exactly going to help people accessing computers for vital Government services and jobs. Keeping with that theme, the Society of Chief Librarians have produced the biggest survey for a decade on library workforce skills which suggests it is a “reality check” to what can be provided with existing training and infrastructure.  The chances that the same Minister will intervene to help with that are, again, shall we say, slim.  Finally, over in Calgary, it appears that the first thought of many citizens caught in freak flooding was to return their library books.  Many are now raising funds for the Library to recover from the storm.  If only such energetic action could come from the Government in the UK for the metaphorical storm being experienced here.

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US and UK libraries advocacy compared … and an Ode to the Library

 

Sara Wingate-Gray, contributor to recently published e-book “The Global Librarian” was kind enough to send me some of her thoughts on the differences between the UK and US library scene:

I think what’s most interesting to note about some of the main differences between public libraries in the US and UK is the professional level of advocacy and support given to US public librarians and libraries, through, for example, the clout of the American Library Association (ALA): it’s a strong organisation, with a strong brand, which is unafraid to speak its mind on matters of import to its members, and happy to engage in lobbying (as allowed under its 501 (c)(3) non profit organisational status) to get its point across to its constituency.

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Miranda McKearney, Liz Pichon, Malorie Blackman, Janene Cox with SCL, ASCEL

CILIP gamble on rebranding passes one barrier, at some cost. 6 libraries pass to volunteers, Bury lose nearly a third of their library staff

Editorial

The CILIP rebranding took another step on Monday with the defeat of a motion to stop it.  The vote was close, 804 against and 752 for, showing that CILIP has no great mandate for the change.  The vote was also largely decided by proxy as the mood in the room, from most reports, was decidely against the rebranding.  Moreover, CILIP have lost some credibility amongst its membership by its reporting of the issue.  Those opposing the rebranding were given only minimal space (two paragraphs) in the magazine sent out days before the vote, as opposed to two whole pages in favour.  CILIP also took advantage of its mailing lists to email all members arguing for the rebranding – something the opposition simply could not match.  So, it seems, that the chiefs of the professional organisation consider the matter so important that it can afford accusations of apparent bias.  Let us hope it is so.  Reaction from everyone I am in contact with who are not CILIP chiefs has been almost universally negative, with one very senior librarian and several others  telling me that their subscription may be cancelled soon.  Bridges need to be rebuilt, and quickly.

Other news includes a community buying out its closed library from Tameside Council because they valued it so much.  Imagine being willing to pay £30,000 plus an apparent six-figure sum for something that you already effectively owned.  That’s how much people care for libraries.

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