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Rebranding and self-promotion can work, honest …

Editorial

The CILIP rebranding survey has caused so much controversy that a number of members have requested a meeting to halt it. I don’t want to go into the rights and wrongs of this myself (but I do rather like the word “library” … even if half the current members of CILIP don’t have that word in their job title) other than to use it as a way to remind everyone of the positive nature of some rebrandings.  This is shown today in a timely article about York:  I hope the overhaul of the Voices for the Library website, launched today (Monday), is as successful.

Another article today is about the importance of self-promotion so, taking a note from its writer, I will mention to you my review of the wonderful new Liverpool Library (with loads of pictures) and a sneak preview of the presentation I’m doing at the French libraries conference on Friday about the main themes of the last few years in UK libraries. You know, it feels odd self-promoting this stuff (must be a British thing I guess) but every library and authority should be doing similarly, especially now when it is so much more important than ever before.

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DCMS in crisis? Oh no, it’s thriving.

Editorial

To the surprise of no-one, the DCMS has officially declared that it will not be intervening in Bolton (5 out of 15 libraries closed) and Isle of Wight (5 out of 11 closed).  If one wonders what the department actually does with its time, it seems you’re not alone – George Osborne rumoured to be considering abolishing the department regardless of what the completely-invisible-where-libraries-are-concerned DCMS boss Maria Miller tweets to the contrary.  Her deputy, Ed Vaizey has gone on record to say that libraries are not in crisis but are, rather, “thriving” so there does seem to be some history of denial in that department.

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Well done to Edinburgh. Not so well done to …

Well done to Edinburgh Libraries who have emailed me to say that they have fully a fifth of the shortlisted places for the Scottish Connect Awards.  This covers all council services in that nation and shows what public libraries can do.  Their tremendous success is due to some imaginative initiatives and a general can-do attitude that can be see in this document that demonstrates how they are changing lives.

Not so well done to CILIP for their rebranding consultation exercise that came as an unwelcome surprise to the admittedly not-as-large-as-it-once-was number of public librarians who are still its members.  It also appears to have come as a bit of a shock to its President as well. The suggestions for new names that it contained, none of which contain the word library. have been met with strong distaste and some incredulity. The general manner of debate on the bulletin board Lis-Pub-Libs got so heated that it was enough for its co-owner to start deleting posts.  At a time when libraries are in crisis, all this is hardly helping. I include a collection of representative and important items on the subject here for your interest and for the record.

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Shambles

Editorial

Manchester are delaying the closure of several libraries amidst talk of an “omnishambles”, with the new proposals meaning they stay open but with some sort of reduced service.  In a similar level of apparent competence or otherwise, it is becoming clear that somehow Herefordshire’s decision makers were not aware of the statutory nature of public libraries,  The decision by Croydon to outsource its libraries is gaining some coverage, notably due to the decision by the councillor in charge to both outsource it and call in his own decision for scrutiny.  Finally, there’s a very full report on the new and rather wonderful Liverpool library.  I’m aiming to go there tomorrow and hope to take some pictures.

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Public library campaigning: the easy bit may have just ended in Herefordshire.

Editorial

The level of opposition to the proposed closures in Herefordshire have taken every by surprise, most especially the council.  Over 8,000 people had signed the petition against a 75% cut, including closing all but one library.  This was unprecedented, as was the packed attendance at the council meeting which discussed the cut, which was standing room only.  Faced with such resistance, the Council have changed their plans.  Instead of closing, they’re looking likely to go with volunteers (or some form of non-council organisation) running the five town libraries under threat but still close the four smaller ones.

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lcagm

The name is Library, Public Library

Editorial

Some promising news from Herefordshire where the local MP reports that the cabinet member responsible for Culture says “It is my clear view that we can not close our Market Town Libraries as that would be a failing in our statutory duty”.  It looks like the 1964 legislation still has some teeth, which will come to the relief of many. Sad news for Sefton, though, where it looks likely that seven libraries will go.  “Mitigators” like abolishing the 80p reservation charge have been suggested but well. hmmm, I’m not sure that that is going to be quite the same somehow.

Something else I am not sure about is the rebranding that the professional association of librarians, CILIP, is going through.  Options for renaming include several names (including the execrable “The Knowledge People”) but none which actually have the word “library” in.  Well, technically (as its President Phil Bradley pointed out to me on Facebook), one could keep the name CILIP where the L stands for library but that’s it.  As Lauren Smith (who was briefly its Vice President) has pointed out, any trade whose professional body is too ashamed to speak its name is, well, not in a very good state.

Finally, more reactions have come in about the Arts Council England report. How it has been received appears to be:

  • Those with a vested interested in supporting it have supported it.
  • Those who are neutral or who have a dim view of Arts Council England think it is at best a missed opportunity and, at worst, the sign of bad times to come.

I am, sadly, in the second group.  However, I hope to be convinced otherwise by the ACE libraries director Brian Ashley when I am on panel talking to him on the 29th June.  Details below and I hope to see you there:

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Adapt and survive: Arts Council England’s stark message under the gloss

Editorial

The major research project Envisioning the library of the future and the ACE response to it, both released today, make clear that the hard times are here to stay and that libraries will either face dramatic change or go under. The research sees no respite for a decade and does not offer any escape other than a dramatic retooling towards an increased reliance on the community and exploring alternative, distinctively entrepreneurial, methods of funding.  As such, it recognises the grim reality of the situation, accepts it and tries to work out possible solutions.

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“The only place where I would willingly obey the laws”: Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones on libraries

Editorial

The idea of Keith Richards once being an avid public library user is a wonderful one and is even better because it’s true. Another wonderful thing is a new library, and there are a couple in the news today.  You can get married at the one in Derbyshire due to it being co-located with a Registrars.  The other one, just announced, is in Bradford and is going to happen only because the existing building has serious asbestos problems.  More information on cuts are coming out from Sefton (where 40 staff could go) and Southend (where there may soon be only three professionally qualified librarians for the whole borough).

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Two cheers: Monday 20th May 2013

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UK libraries one third less funded than USA counterparts.

Editorial

International comparisons are dangerous but I have often been impressed by the provision in US libraries.  Now I know how.  There are 9,000 of them and they are funded with around $10bn.  We have 4265 libraries (at the last official count) and fund them with, at current exchange rates, around $1.5bn.  So a UK library has, on average, 3.87 times less funding than the average US one.  That’s a massive difference and suggests something more than simply that their individual libraries may be bigger.  Another difference is that the US population is 5 times bigger than ours with 6.6 times the funding.  On average then, their public library system is 1.3 times better funded by head of population.  Of course, they have nearly half of the number of libraries per head as well: 1 library per 14686 in the UK, 1 library per 34877 in the US.  This last difference is presumably because of the far wider geographical spread over there. So, on average we have over twice as many libraries per head but they’re each funded nearly 4 times worse than the average US one. Remember that if ever you wonder why US libraries are doing better than British ones at the moment.  If anyone else wants to do comparative figure for other countries, by the way, this website looks good for getting the number of people per library, although the all-important budget per country appears more elusive.

Moving away from the global picture, Essex have opened their first new library in 25 years but, in a sign of how times may have changed since the last one, it is being staffed by volunteers from the start, with paid staff in support.

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