Speaking Up For Libraries

Speak Up For Libraries

The annual conference “Speak Up For Libraries” is on Saturday 23rd November, just over a week away.  The key decision-makers on public libraries will be there – amongst them, the DCMS libraries advisor Yinnon Ezra, the ACE Libraries Director Brian Ashley and Janene Cox, the president of the Society of Chief Librarians. So, if you want to hear what they’re thinking – and you should, because it’s your job and (probably) life’s work, they’re talking about – then do come along.  As well as this, a whole bunch of library workers and library users are going to be there too: I’ve had the privilege of going before and, I tell you, there’s never a dull moment.  For more details and to register, see http://www.speakupforlibraries.org/speakers.asp.

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edge

Five more years

Ideas noted

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How do we regain the e-reading ex library user? Here’s the scale of the problem.

Editorial

In a truly excellent piece by a pro-library non-user, the failure of the current public library system to appeal to what was once a traditional user is exposed.  The reasons are all to do with technology. The writer wants instant (no passwords) unlimited wifi in a world where many UK libraries still don’t have it at all.  She wants the very latest bestsellers on e-book form when still a fifth of UK authorities don’t have any and the UK e-lending pilot is moving with gradual (oh so necessary) slowness.  She also states what we all know: Amazon does a better job of knowing the customer than the library does.  Although public libraries have all the data on what books have been loaned, they simply don’t use it to recommend new books to customers.  Heck, to many authorities, a monthly email with the mention of the top ten borrowed books last month is still a pretty neat idea. Finally, she wants coffee – well, you’re not going to get that in many smaller libraries and there’s even some city libraries, even now in late 2013, that have not yet woken up and, well, smelled it yet.

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Where are the trampolines? UK children’s libraries falling behind

Editorial

I have been much taken with two great ideas for children’s libraries.  The first is in Mexico has shelves designed for climbing on and uneven floors that just scream excitement.  The second is from Spain and features play-area like nets suspended above the children’s library that can be climbed on and laid on. There are simply nothing like them in the UK.  The two big new shiny libraries in the UK – Liverpool and Birmingham – have children’s libraries that are boring in comparison.  The Liverpool one appears designed to be a dual use auditorium space and the Birmingham one (although the books actually have their own permanent sections and there are nice steps for reading on/class visits) can not claim to be revolutionary in any way.  Which is a shame, because the money was there in both projects for something really quite startlingly good – you know, for the kids – but, to me at least, the results simply don’t live up to it.  This is even more of a shame when one considers what a large proportion of usage children are and the importance of libraries to literacy.  Let’s hope the last of the trio of Big Shiny New Libraries started before the Austerity – Manchester – does not let us down in the same way.

Speaking of Big Shiny Libraries, the trend where smaller libraries are closed or turned volunteer while the money is spent on central libraries continues in this post.  Glasgow’s Mitchell Library is getting over £3m mainly just to put in a new fire alarm system (that’s bigger than some library authority’s total budgets) while Trafford are aiming to replaces large swathes of their staffing with the unpaid.  Mind you, Bradford say that volunteers do better than paid staff: the rush of energy released by them in four libraries has apparently doubled usage and is being used as a reason to reduce paid staff elsewhere.

Changes

Ideas noted

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“The internet is a privilege, libraries are a right”: outsourced or not

Editorial

There is an opportunity in every crisis for someone and that opportunity in Lincolnshire has been seized by the non-profit trust GLL and the private company Biblioteca.  Both are offering to take over some or all of the troubled libraries there. The move is highly significant for both entities – it would be the first library authority taken over by GLL outside of London and the first library authority taken over by Biblioteca in the UK.  Doubtless Carillion would also have expressed an interest but it is itself busy having just bought out Laing’s library concerns in four London boroughs.  The oddity is where LSSI is in all this: the US company has been a particular bete noire for campaigners but has failed to achieve a toe hold in the UK market.  The fact that it is not mentioned in the article suggests that it may not do so for a while yet.

Changes

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The new social workers

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West Berkshire cuts, legal definitions, Moray, Sheffield and Lincs

Changes

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The joys of library work

Changes

Ideas

  • Letters to Santa – At all Neath Port Talbot libraries.
  • Library Press – Seven London authorities (supported by Arts Council England) provide resources for publishing work.
  • Pantomime storytimes – Get pantomime groups to do storytimes in libraries.

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Honesty is the best library policy

Editorial

The rush to volunteer libraries continues with three authorities (Bradford, Hertfordshire and Plymouth) all announcing that they will be likely in the future.  Meanwhile, in Lincolnshire, the results of the consultation have made very clear that its respondents do no want cuts and see volunteering as a last resort … but it seems the Council is going to go ahead anyway.  This also appears to be the case in Sheffield where ITV reports that there is suspicion that some councillors in power are gerrymandering the closures so as to not affect their wards.  Thi latter council which is also wanting to charge full market rate for any volunteer group selfless enough to take on running the service.

It’s interesting to note that some councils seem to get how not to rile the public while others (Sheffield, Lincolnshire and Bristol being the chief culprits recently) do not.  The key appears to be to honestly consult with the public and not to obviously be doing it as a tick-box exercise after the key decisions have been made behind closed doors.  To do the latter will simply court public anger and, vitally, lead the councils concerned to possible legal action later on.  If a councillor cares about votes then honesty is, actually, the best library policy.

Changes

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David McMenemy: Candidate 2013

The kinds of questions we want communities to explore

Changes

An interview with Cilip Council candidate David McMenemy BA (Hons) MSc MCLIP FHEA

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