Labouring the Point, Honours and Autism

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Open Minds Open Libraries … but what’s on the #SCLHorizons?

Editorial

It’s been a busy week. The conference of Unison stewards on public libraries was illuminating, with a brilliant presentation from Neath Port Talbot (coming here soon) on a step by step guide to campaign. Other key messages from the event was a disillusionment with Labour’s record on public libraries and a strong desire for Unison itself to involve itself more strongly.  By the way, if you want Labour or Unison to up its game, talk to them. There’s a lot going on and libraries will be missed if we do not make ourselves heard.  Speaking of which, we got to talking about good slogans.  “Open Minds Open Libraries, Closed Libraries Closed Minds” was popular, although there were others.  I even did a quick poll on Twitter:

I know “Libraries Change Lives” is a CILIP slogan but I can’t see them protesting if it’s on every billboard.  Then on Thursday, I visited the Idea Store in Whitechapel. I’ll be doing a separate review on that but the messages are clear from that: invest in good libraries in popular locations, promote reading and don’t get distracted. Simples. Then, speaking to the CILIP ILIG group in the evening gave me lots more to think about, not least about the long term future of this blog. More on that, again, another time.

A conference I’m not attending, but would have loved to, is the annual SCL gathering. This meeting of a large proportion of the chief librarians has often been shrouded in mystery in the past but it’s becoming more and more open, with many tweeting from it and a full programme of talks being available. Check #SCLHorizons on Twitter to see what the bosses are (publicly at least) thinking.

Elsewhere, the ruling Labour group in Brighton and Hove have been beaten by a combined Green/Tory vote over libraries. There’s going to be strike in Barnet over the deep cuts to libraries planned there…. and there’s the general new background of councils steamrollering cuts despite public protest UK wide. Over in South Korea, on the other hand, they’ve just announced further major investment in libraries. Odd that.

Right, now I’m off to meet a coachload of Ghanaians who are visiting us, including one very excited eleven year who will be staying in our house. So, if my next post is late, you’ll know why.  Have a good weekend everyone.
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Waiting for things to happen

Editorial

I’m doing a talk on the challenges facing UK public libraries to a Unison library seminar on Monday (6th) and the presentation is below if you want an idea of what I think are (some) of the main points. The day is looking at how we should campaign for libraries and my talk is an introductory scene setter, giving the challenges but carefully not giving any ideas on solutions. This is just as well because there’s an awful lot of confusion about what a “solution” to the current crisis in public libraries may be. The Taskforce is emphasising pragmatism and strategic development and are being strongly criticised for taking too long about it and not being ambitious enough by campaigners. Many councils are deciding on budgets that force library chiefs to looks at hollowing out, volunteers or commercial support to meet the cuts and are, again, strongly criticised for doing so by campaigners. On the other foot, many people in senior library positions, I am sure, would criticise campaigners for wanting a minimum of change and special pleading for the libraries sector or solutions that it is unlikely the current Government would ever agree to. Observers take all sorts of positions, from thinking libraries are no longer needed to being passionately in favour of libraries.

I’m not sure where I am in this – after all, I’m an observer, library manager and campaigner all in one – but I do know that the more we do not move forward, the more the real creators of all this mess are smiling or, more accurately, carrying on blissfully unaware. As long as the politicians (sadly, still, of both main parties, although notable far less so under Corbyn)  in London believe in austerity and fail to understand the central importance of libraries to communities, to education, welfare, equality and, ultimately, the success of the nation then little arguments don’t matter. We need clear big strong arguments, memorable statements and images and unified campaigns to get this done. Or perhaps that’s just me going for special pleading. But something needs doing, together, by all of us. And I’m waiting, as an observer, manager and campaigner, for this to happen.

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Nearly 9 people visit a UK library every single second. I knew I was busy ...

It’s not enough to just be aware of what is going on in UK libraries

Editorial

There’s some great things going on in public libraries abroad: the drone that flies above a children’s library in Norway scanning RFID tags is getting a lot of publicity for example, but there’s a lot more besides. This post includes: the fantastic First 5 Forever campaign in Queensland which has really raised the profile and funding for libraries there; a superb library Instagram account (which itself includes lots of good ideas); getting fathers into libraries; a hilarious library promotional video and an example of a US library (why is it always US libraries? Don’t they have emergency services?) helping out in a crisis. I started off this blog six years ago to get an idea of what is going on nationally, and I think that has succeeded, but it’s equally as important to look at what is going on internationally, and to learn from it.  I hope you do too.

Not least because UK news is often somewhat depressing, of course – and we have consultations on library cuts announced in no less than three different councils this time – but we also have other trends. The pressure on parish and town councils to take over public libraries appears to be gathering apace.  In addition, it’s notable that the two library-led trusts – Suffolk and York – tend  to be reporting only good news. That may mean they’re brilliant or it may mean that they have excellent public relations, or both.

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Wales, Standards and Library Drones

Editorial

I’ve never come away from a conference without learning anything and my couple of days at the CILIP Wales conference in Swansea was no exception.  Kathy Settle of the Taskforce made very clear that library standards had absolutely no chance of adoption in England, Nick Poole talked about strategy and disagreed with Kathy as diplomatically as possible. I also up a lot about what was happening in Wales: some pretty unsettling stuff but a lot of co-operation as well and good people who cared for libraries. The talks concluded by a very entertaining talk on cycling around Scandinavian libraries which made very clear that they spend way more than the UK on the service: a fact borne out today by a post describing a new children’s library which looks utterly fantastic and, apparently (I’m not sure I still entirely believe this), even has drones flying around scanning RFID tags.

My big thanks to CILIP Wales, not least for the surprise presentation of the inaugural Welsh Library Champion of the Year Award. Knew I should have worn a tie. It was a pleasure to hear how useful PLN was in Wales and, interestingly, how many followed on Twitter. My best wishes and thanks to you all.

Ideas

  • RFID drone – Drone scans library to locate all books.

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Stephen Fry stands up for public libraries

New “Library Fund” and Stephen Fry poster

Editorial

CILIP have started a new fund for libraries and information services, with £10,000 of their own money and a fundraising campaign to increase the figure. It’s important to note that this fund is not solely for public libraries and is not intended for campaigning, which has caused some disappointment and confusion in the reactions I have seen. Rather, it is ” to support a range of projects and activities that improve access to information and knowledge, literacy, health, digital inclusion and life chances”. Something else CILIP has done this week is to get Stephen Fry to endorse a library campaigning poster: it’s freely available to download, share and print and I suspect we’ll be seeing it in  a lot of libraries very soon. Get your copy from their site today.

In the real world, there’s a big new refurb in Enfield and it looks like more than half the libraries will close/leave council control in Moray.

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Traffic delays due to library campaigners

Editorial

The news that it is costing Lambeth more money to guard its closed libraries than it would have cost to keep them open is a new low in the odd way that some councils treat libraries. Some councillors, of all political stripe, have shown themselves adept at making an already bad situation worse. Barnet, for example, managed to tender out its library computer system without adequate maintenance safeguards, meaning a loss of library data (and inconvenience to staff) months ago still encumbering them now. Other councillors simply do not understand the important work libraries do, or wish to make some sort of point – be it about the wonderfulness of the BIg Society or the evils of Austerity or whatever. It’s good therefore that people are willing to protest, as was the case in Lewisham this weekend with hundreds protesting.  I wonder how many countries can say traffic delayed due to library campaigners? Well, the UK joined the undoubtedly short and tragic list this weekend.

Changes

Ideas

  • Tactile reading – Briefcases containing architectural models.
  • Workrary – Non-profit company leases out libraries as business workplaces.

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“Cameron can come to ours and assist those trying to get online”

Editorial

Reaction to opening hour cuts in Northern Ireland has been notably negative, as has the continuing dismay over the gigantic cuts to Lancashire. A news item I’ve noticed is that Norwich Millennium Library, one of the most popular libraries in the UK, has gone down the Open+ remote access route for some hours and sections. It’s a sign that the system is going to be used in all sizes of library, from the smallest to the largest. and that the market for it will be something that expands while the library budgets generally contract.

Finally, stand by to get angry as David Cameron explains away library closures to a ten year old boy as due to “technological change”.  Reactions to this from my Twitter feed, disregarding the several tweets including swear words (I’m shocked, you hear, shocked), include:

  • “So how about we shut the House of Commons library and replace it with computers?
  • “Not so – my local library was packed with people using computers AND books the other week”
  • “those who say ‘libraries antiquated/underused’ almost always those w/ no direct need/experience of libraries themselves”
  • “omg that man. Does he not realise libraries are more important than ever. shame on you.”
  • “Because, you know, people who can’t afford tech or need place to study don’t count”
  • “This will be where I point out we still have accountants despite the invention of calculators (for starters…..)”
  • “How sad! Wake up and see how both are important and essential. It should not be one or the other…”
  • “Doesn’t look as if Cameron realises that lots of poeple also need libraries to access technology
  • “If our PM visited them more often perhaps he’d understand how incorrect that is.”
  • “Libraries are about connecting with the community-Cameron can come to ours and assist those trying to get online.”

and, my personal favourite:

  • “”I have never lived in a small or disruptive household””

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Information on every library service in the UK since 2010

Editorial

A few times recently people have been surprised when I have mentioned that they can see the major changes in any UK library authority in the UK since 2010 via the Public Libraries News website. I suspect this information could be very handy for anyone looking for a job, or business, or a better understanding of any library service so here’s all the relevant links below. Normally, you’d need to click on the By Authority tab at the top of the webpages, then Changes then choose the relevant link.

I’ve worked hard to ensure it’s all accurate but if there’s anything that needs changing then please contact me, as always, on ianlibrarian@live.co.uk.

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It's (almost) that time of year again: Summer Reading Challenge 2016

She’s moving her lips … plus good new ideas, cuts in North Lanarkshire and Warrington

Editorial

It’s always amusing tracking the statements of politicians and seeing how their phrasing carefully manages to give the best possible impression without actually lying. Major points to Baroness Nevile-Rolfe in this regard who has said in the House of Lords that only 110 libraries have closed since 2010 and the Government was doing loads of stuff to support them. Presumably she did this with a straight face and her fingers crossed behind her back. Her definitions carefully avoid all the cuts in the “changes” section below – the 4 libraries under threat are in Scotland (so aren’t mentioned in the England figures), the 2 mobiles are excluded twice (they’re in Scotland and they’re not “static”) and of course the cuts in opening hours in Warrington don’t count at all. Elsewhere, the major cuts to Lancashire (which, if all 40 turn volunteer, wouldn’t be included in the Baroness’s’s’s definitions) are getting the attention they deserve in the local press, if not in parliament.

Away from the good Baroness, there’s a few ideas I’ve not seen before, including the beautifully termed “tiebrary”, plus information on the fantastic national reading promotion for libraries which is the Summer Reading Challenge.

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