Walcot

Withering on the vine: six-year figures for volunteer branch show danger

Editorial

Hard information on the impact of turning a council-run library into a volunteer-run one is hard to come by.  There’s not many examples over two years old, for a start. It was therefore interesting to read this post about a comparatively long running volunteer library in Swindon backed up by some hard figures.   The article – called “We will economise on the beaches” - is worth a read but, if you don’t have the time for that, then the difference in usage figures for Walcot (volunteer-run since 2009) and for its parent authority is probably informative enough:

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This Card Makes You Smart

Today we see some pretty good news for libraries, all in all, including refurbishments and a new library building.  There’s darker news, if one looks for it (especially if one worries about the increasing use of volunteers) but let’s stay positive today.   I especially love the slogans used in Edmonton Library (Canada) such as “This Card Makes You Smart”.  Loans increased by 13% due to the publicity that is sometimes so sorely lacking in the UK.  For what is happening over here, a new archive of resources has gone public, with the UK Web Archive listing 41 sites so far and on the lookout for more.

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Wales shows the way: £1.5m in library grants massively more than English equivalent

Editorial

The Welsh Government has once again highlighted its difference to England with an impressive list of investments in public libraries.  It has announced funding of over £1.5m for libraries.  This is a quarter of the amount Arts Council England has to play with for a population of less than one-seventeenth.  Furthermore, it appears to be for a year, as opposed to the two years of the ACE funding, meaning an investment nearly nine times more substantial per capita than that of England.  Wales has long since held on to public library standards, meaning that its councils are taken to task if they cut libraries, unlike across the border.  All is not well in the principality as campaigners in Newport will attest but this announcement will emphasise the importance of different approaches.  Wales is taking a hands-on role, with supervision and substantial investment. England, under the decidely non-interventionist Ed Vaizey, is far more laissez-faire.  It would be a rare library supporter who would say that the larger nation comes out better in such a comparison.

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Libraries cannot be around long enough, and they do not belong to any one person

There’s a very interesting article in the Guardian looking at how different non-profits and social enterprises are faring in taking over public libraries and a, frankly, beautifully powerful piece on the value of libraries from an eighteen year old in Nottingham.  Meanwhile, in Lancashire, the underperforming computers in the libraries there show the need for more investment if the Digital By Default government agenda stands any chance of being fair.

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“Have all other less harmful possibilities been explored?”

Editorial

The quote above is from a letter protesting about a library closure in my home town of Newport in South Wales.  It sums up to me what is happening in threatened libraries for the last few years, in that there are a whole pile of possibilities to look at before closing a building.  One of these options, of course – running it with volunteers – is at once the most controversial and the most common.  Others include less books, less staff, less opening hours, less everything in fact, except charges and self-service machines.  Another is co-location with others services.  Another is passing the running of libraries to another organisation such as a Trust or (whisper it quietly) a private company.  I must make a flowchart some day …

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captain underpants and the grabbits display

Public Library E-Lending Review published

Editorial

So it has come at last. The findings of the independent review on e-lending has been published and it looks, at first blush, pretty good.  The Government has also, to its credit, not backed away in horror from it.  A summary of its findings are below with the (completely positive) response to it so far.  For myself, I think it is as good as could have been hoped for and, in its pragmatism, offers a way forward that was perhaps not there before.

There are a series of tests the results of the Review will now go through to see if it amounts to anything which include (a) the response to it by publishers, (b) the willingness of Government to push through the legislation and to knock heads together if either side refuses to play ball (and I’m looking at you Amazon and you Big Publishers) and, finally (c) how library services can afford to pay for both an adequate supply of e-books and printed books at a time when its budget is under threat as never before.  The devil is in the detail but the Review itself looks pragmatic and a solid basis to work on.

Far more sadly, and on the same day, it has been announced that the Public Lending Right unit will be absorbed by the British Library.  This is despite 948 out of 1015 responses being against this move.

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Guardian reports that paid staff “have learned a lot from the volunteers”

Editorial

The Guardian have published an article on cuts to public libraries that positively portrays volunteers as an alternative to paid staff.  This is noteworthy as that newspaper as been at the forefront of covering the impact of cuts to public libraries over the last couple of years. The article, “Libraries run by volunteers as councils look to save money“, looks at the cuts in the Isle of Wight where five libraries are now volunteer-run, with a local councillor saying that it was the only way to save the branches and that the “permanent staff have learned a lot from the volunteers”.

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Hollowing out and new libraries in the country’s postcode lottery

Cuts in Peterborough and Bournemouth focus around keeping buildings open but cutting other things.  Both, disturbingly, identify buying less books and having less staff as an option.  This places both in the “hollowing out” part of the cuts equation.  As a nice change from the debacle over Friern Barnet Library, Barnet Council announce a nice new library – but, hang on, they’re selling the old one and only renting the one that is replacing it.

On the more positive side of things are Lancashire and Dorset.  It’s good to see that the former is continuing its largely good recent track record by putting in a £2.4 million “Youth Zone” (that sounds very Millennium Dome-ish doesn’t it?) in the same building as its Chorley library, although it will not directly affect it.  A new development that will directly affect a library is in Dorset where a new library (co-located with an adult learning centre) will open soon.

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The Librarian Unemployment Act of 2013

The headline today is from a quote in the Economist on the impact of e-lending.  Another item of note is an article arguing against the findings of the Capita report.  Both, for different reasons, make compelling reading (Ed.)

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Suffolk Bungay

Developed Countries Libraries down, Developing Countries Libraries up?

Some more disquiet on the decision by ACE/SCL to commission a survey to promote their new public library that resulted in research that suggested most people would not mind that they would close.  Most notably, The Reading Agency has dissociated itself from the research. Having said that, it is worth pointing out that the website (Bookmark Your Library) itself is a useful initiative and something that has been needed for years.  In addition, it is hardly the fault of ACE/SCL if the public are turning away from libraries.  However, without knowing the methodology of the research it is hard to know for sure, although the large sample suggests it’s accurate.

Two more items along this line are worthy of note.  The first is a newspaper article that argues that so many libraries as we currently have are not needed any more and so it makes sense to close a few in Sheffield.  The second is all the way from New Zealand and reports a big drop in usage, brought about by e-books and the internet.  This suggests a reduction in usage may be worldwide, which makes sense if the technology (and access to it)  is same everywhere, which in the developed world it largely is.  The increase in library usage in the USA would argue against this until one notes that there is an extreme poverty gap there and also that there are not the job centres that we are used to here, with libraries taking on their job search/application role.  On the other hand, in less developed countries, libraries seem as important – or possibly more so – than ever.  Articles today from Romania and Pakistan suggest that it is recognised that more money is needed in libraries there.

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