Manchester becomes a UNESCO Creative City of Literature

Editorial

I’m delighted to see Manchester has just been announced as a UNESCO Creative City of Literature.  The city has so many beautiful libraries, historic and modern, capped by my currently most favourite library of all,  Manchester Central Library. It’s a city with a lot of going on, not least a lot of creative writing and reading. I hope the announcement will serve to make it even more so.

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Sunday 29th October 2017

Editorial

Thank you to everyone who responded to me plea for examples of good promotions of non-bestseller author / book events in libraries. One of the key things coming out is the need to it in with something else. A “hook” if you will. Things like food, drink, music and tying in with a special day on the calendar (be it Halloween or the Great British Bake Off) appear to work. As ever, charging splits opinion, with some worried that charging will deter people and others swearing by it for showing the events is high-quality and for making sure people actually turn up when they see they will. But I’d love more examples.  I want this list to be something good. Ooh, and also I only have UK examples so far and I know a lot of you are not from around these part. So email me at ianlibrarian@live.co.uk.  Thanks again.

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Ideas

National news

  • Connect Books put up for sale – BookSeller. “The group [Connect Books] aims to find a buyer and sell the business arm, which includes wholesaler Bertrams, Dawson Books academic library supply arm and e-commerce retailer Wordery, within 12 months”. Both the company’s UK and international library businesses suffered ..the firm blamed on “more challenging conditions impacted by the combination of Brexit, which has created inevitable uncertainty in the higher education sector, and volatile exchange rates, and ongoing austerity challenges especially in the public library sector”.
  • Do we need a UK Library User’s Guide to RFID? – Changing Libraries / Mick Fortune. “This guide is different from everything else I have written about RFID over the past 10 years or so. It is much shorter, and is for the individual who wants to write their own app as well as the ordinary citizen who just wants to borrow a book.” … “If there are any additional concerns about public interaction with the library they should be troubling librarians rather than the public. The reason for my saying this concerns recent advances in a technology called NFC (short for Near Field Communication) that have resulted in many smartphones being able to read and write to library tags. As I indicated at the start of this post some members of the public are already using this capability to develop their own apps to interact with library stock. For the moment this appears to be for purely benign reasons.”

“The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport does not seek to duplicate the collection of data that is collected and published by others. The Libraries Taskforce collected and published basic data about the number and locations of each public library in England as at 1 July 2016 and has worked with the libraries sector to define the data proposed for inclusion in a future core dataset for public libraries in England.” John Glen MP  [In actuality, the DCMS have never listed library closures, Taskforce or no, as presumably this would not be politically beneficial to the minister of the time, Labour or Conservative – Ed.]

  • Why I bother with libraries A Medley Of Extemporanea / Dawn Finch. “want a society where people have intelligence and are informed and creative. That matters to me and that’s what libraries (and in particular school libraries) do…”

An online bookclub from Axiell
International news

  • Australia – The Truth Worth Of Libraries Is Much Greater Than You Think – Huffington Post. “There are plenty of things that young generations feel aggrieved about being saddled with. Climate change and a long-running war in the Middle East are two that leap immediately to mind. But there are other things handed down by previous generations that seem to suggest extraordinary generosity and vision. One is libraries”. What seems like a socialist idea – lending books for free – in fact is a great investment.
  • Global – Librarians Are Secretly the Funniest People Alive – Electric Literature. “did you know that librarians have always been lowkey the most fun people on the planet? Here are seven times that librarians have debunked the stereotype that they are uptight scolds ready to shush those who dare to have fun in their sacred institution.”
  • Global – Open + Libraries: Sharing the Library Key – Medium / Jane Cowell. Cologne: “Budget limitations meant that Mondays could not be staffed and the library team saw the Open Plus model as a way to provide an ‘open library’ with minimum budget impact” … Arhus: ” For the main Central Library in Aarhus the Open Plus hours allow the library to be opened from 7am until 10pm with staff hours 8am until 8pm. A janitor walks the floors for evacuation purposes at night when staff are not in attendance.”

“There is certainly a view in the United Kingdom that Open Plus Libraries are being used to fully replace library staff and staff-less libraries are being implemented using this technology. And this was a concern expressed at one German Library service. However, their experience is that their Council understands and supports the wide variety of work the Library service undertakes with their staff and was excited to see the extensions for their citizens. So questions to ask yourselves are: Does your Council understand that the Library Service does more than check out books? If not then there is some advocacy work to undertake so that the library staff are valued for the impact their work has in the community.”

  • Global – Public Libraries and Developing Countries – Medium / Technology and the New Library. “The Gates Foundation is seeking to make the world’s public libraries assets in communities as centres for information and technology. They advocate for the equality of opportunity, to access online information and skills to interpret the information, for all individuals, especially those in developing nations or poor communities. The Gates Foundation is trying to help public libraries reinvent themselves as online information centres, to help their communities in a drastic way. The foundation began by funding free Internet access in public libraries around the US. They have expanded globally and are supporting access to the Internet worldwide.” 
  • USA – Important Emotional Labor of Librarians Most People Never Think About – Medium / EveryLibrary. “Being a librarian is not an easy job, and it’s not because we occasionally have to clean up vile messes. It’s not easy because, like Steven Assarian explained in his article, “As a Business Librarian, I Help People Find Their Passion,” people sometimes come to us at a crossroads. They’re afraid of making a mistake that may put their lives in turmoil. Heck, sometimes their lives are already in turmoil. Librarians take on that chaos; we have no choice but to face down the power, joy and suffering both, that people bring into our space. That’s the emotional labor of librarianship. It’s not something we often talk about to the public, or even that much to each other. But it’s real, it’s hard, and it’s important.”

Local news by authority

 

Darren Henley, Chief Exec of Arts Council England, Sarah Mears, Essex Libraries and Culture Offer Lead, Mag Astill and Neil MacInnes, President of SCL

Culture officially becomes a public library universal offer

Editorial

Culture has officially joined Learning, Information, Reading, Digital and Health as public library universal offers.  Some more information, a photo and a video from the minister are below. Ever since Arts Council England took over from the MLA back in 2010 as the agency responsible for government grants to libraries, this has probably been on the cards. There’s a ton of shows, ACE funded or otherwise, now playing in libraries and I suspect that is only going to increase with the Society of Chief Librarians becoming a Sector Support Organisation for ACE. The challenge this brings, with there now being six Offers, is for the key messages of why we use libraries to be clear. We’ve always suffered a little from being Jack of All Trades and now, officially, we have another trade. And what a trade. Those shows can be beguiling, and more than a little time-consuming and distracting. But they can also be wonderful. It’s up to SCL to ensure it’s all to the good.

On an entirely different matter, it was great to see a particularly annoying internet troll who decided to take on libraries being rounded upon and shown the error of his ways. More below.

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Places are still available at the NAG conference, 6th to 7th November in Leeds. Public library workers can get in at half price. More information via http://www.nag.org.uk/events/forthcoming-events/2017/10/workshops-and-papers-at-nag17/.

Ideas on promoting author / book events wanted

Editorial

I am looking for examples of promoting author / book events in libraries that are a bit out of the ordinary. Have you seen a successful library event that was due to something clever the library did to sell it? I’ve just come across one event where a book on Greek literature was tried in with a meal from a local Greek restaurant, leading to a sell-out Genius. Another had authors/poets scattered in shops/cafes and people walked between them. The thing you’ve come across need not have been quite so wonderful but I’d be delighted to hear about it. Any little hints or tips would be great. Because the more ways we can get people interested in reading, and libraries, the better.

Give your example via the comments or email me at ianlibrarian@live.co.uk. I’ll make sure a report on the best ideas will be made available to all. It may even make a difference to a library near you.

Thank you.

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Northamptonshire’s deep cuts and the end of Voices for the Library

Editorial

Two things stand out for me in the last week and a bit (no, PLN is not going fortnightly – I had the flu). The first is that Northamptonshire is announcing big cuts to libraries. Now, this has all sorts of ramifications. The county was seen as a bit of a golden boy due to its alliance of libraries with health services and also its chief executive, Paul Blantern, was once chair of the Libraries Taskforce. Mr Blantern has resigned this month over the cuts forced on to the council, which amounted to more than £500m between 2010 and 2020. £500m. That figure shows that, in this age of austerity, no council safe from the depth of the cuts forced. It doesn’t matter what the arguments are or how efficient or imaginative your council: cuts of this magnitude are going to get you if yours is one of the councils that the funding formula decides it does not like. Alan Moore, a native of the county and writer of the Watchmen and V for Vendetta, has already shown what a false exonomy this is by threatening to take filming of his new show away from the area.

The second thing is the announcement that Voices for the Library is folding. Set up by a number of volunteer (back before that word raised concern amongst paid library staff) library supporters in 2010, the group aimed to publicise the good things about libraries and provide contacts for the media.  The deep cuts announced from 2010 onwards swiftly turned the group into something else as well: a protest against what was going on. I joined the group in 2011 as its interests (pro-library, publicity and, at that stage, campaigning) very much tied in with mine. I have since left the group as I have reduced by more blatant “campaigner” side but austerity, as Northamptonshire shows, is still very much alive and well. Voices will be missed.

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That's a copy of the Handmaid's Tale in her hand.

Libraries Week 2017

Editorial

It’s good to see Libraries Week in full swing, with quite a few of the articles in today’s post linked to it in some way. I’m sorry to see that it’s not made the national press much more than BookSeller (although it’s a good article apart from chap called Ian Anstice spouting off) but great that so many libraries are taking part. The Week, which is descended in a direct line from Alan Gibbon’s Save Our Libraries Day (this was the PLN coverage of the first day in February 2011 which gained a lot of national coverage, it riding a wave of protest at the time) is now handled largely by CILIP. Having the Fun Palaces events the weekend before has already helped somewhat and the tone of it is defiantly positive, with the main messages being how well attended libraries are. And I almost said “still” are.  And that’s the thing. There’s so much bad news about libraries, not least on this very webpage, that one can get in an entirely negative mood. But that’s not right. There are brilliant libraries out there. The aim of this Week is to boost them and to make sure that stays the same, everywhere. One Week is not enough for that. But it’s a good start.

Being I was off last week (France was nice by the way) and then I got a virus (not so nice) this post represents only up from now to last Friday evening. I aim to catch up a bit more by the next post. Adieu for now.

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Wishing you all a few good days

Editorial

I’m off to France for a week so there won’t be a new post for a few days and Twitter is likely to be quieter too.  Here’s hoping for a quiet week full of good news. Wishing you a good few days.

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Open to all

Editorial

Public libraries always have appealed to a very broad section of the public and sometimes for diametrically opposed reasons. The quiet studier and the rhymetiming toddler could not be further apart. Throw in a few senior citizens and a group of teenagers and it’s amazing how libraries remain civilized., It’s one of the strengths and one of the weaknesses of libraries that they are jacks of all trades. One of the groups served can be especially challenging – those on the fringes of society, of which the homeless are an evident (and seemingly increasing) part. I was delighted to see the work in New Zealand on services for the homeless but it is not going to please everyone. Many members of the public, sometimes library staff, do not wish to be close to those whose hygiene or behaviour does not meet accepted standards. This has come to a head in New Zealand (again – it’s all related) with a questioning over if libraries should put on special services for the homeless.

To me, I think this is a bit like the loud/quiet conflict where the pendulum swung from quiet to loud and is now going back a bit to accommodate both.  In the same way that libraries should be able to balance out the needs of loud and quiet activities, they should also be able to cope with homeless/homed as well. Most do so, frankly, without really thinking about it. A quiet word there, a bit of reassurance, is often enough. We should be proud of the work libraries do for those on the edges of society. Ideally, of course, we should also be funded for it. And actively welcoming in people who others may cross the street to avoid is something that is never going to be easy. But being welcome to all is a sign of a library and, thinking about it, civilization itself.

Congratulations to Diana Edmonds, chief librarian for the multitude of GLL library concerns, who was given the title of “National Libraries Director” last week. Not many of those knocking around. This is a further sign, if any is needed, of the ambition of this non-profit – they were one of the chief beneficiaries of the tending out of leisures services a decade or two ago and they’re aiming for something similar in the libraries sector.

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Better? A look at GLL

Editorial

I had the opportunity to see a couple of GLL libraries (run under the public name of “Better”) at close quarters after agreeing to do a (paid – full disclosure here) talk for managers there on the current UK public libraries situation. GLL started off in Greenwich as a leisure company and has since expanded throughout the county, holding interests in all part of the UK. It has also started expanding in the library sector, with it becoming soon enough (in terms of branches and number of authorities anyway) the largest public library provider in the country. By the end of the year, it is expected to be running the library services of Greenwich, Wandsworth, Lincolnshire, Dudley and Bromley, as well as 12 prison libraries and a couple of other concerns, easily eclipsing other single-authority library trusts or indeed the beleaguered Carillion. GLL is also behind an somewhat controversial move towards installing “gymbraries” in Lambeth.

I’ve seen a fair bit for and against GLL so it was good to physically visit in Woolwich and Greenwich. I was there for a few hours and can confirm the libraries were busy, well-maintained, with good book-stock (in multiple languages, face-on displays plus magazines) and numerous PCs/good wifi. The library staff I talked to, frontline as well as managers, including professionally qualified librarians, seemed happy, some very much so. Interestingly, also, they’re not tied to the local government pay settlement and so have suffered less than council staff by pay freezes/below-inflation increases. The two libraries were co-located (one with council services, the other in a leisure centre) but with well-used at-the-front libraries. They recognise the need for regular (daily, not just weekly) children events and other things such as reading groups and have (a big tick in my book) quiet sections/rooms for the multitude with nowhere else to study.

On the other hand, I was surprised to see “no food or drink” posters in one and also a requirement for ID before joining (we’ve done away with this with no ill effect in my authority years ago), although this is hardly unusual nationally. Both libraries had book-sorting machines – the first I’ve seen – in little glass secure rooms (apparently, fingers can get mashed otherwise) which looked great fun to me but I did not see either working other than the one I put through just to see what happened, and indeed one was out of order due to some vandalism on the roof above. There was some tatty furniture in one branch, noted with much annoyance by the librarian I was with (who I suspect is going to get it replaced pronto), but again, this is hardly unusual in libraries and generally what I saw was certainly no worse than average, and a considerable improvement on many I have seen.

So why is this important to those who don’t work for GLL? Well, they’re growing fast, being expansionist and with regional support structures for leisure (buildings etc) that mean they’re placed to bid anywhere in the UK. I suspect they’re the main competition to other trusts (library or leisure) competing for contracts. I also suspect this is not good news if you work in some parts of the library service as they’re going to go with economies of scale where they think it would work (I certainly would in their position) but, when we’re all seeing deep cuts repeatedly up and down the country, well, there’s worse out there. Better the devil you don’t know, perhaps. From what I saw, they were positive (notably so – no defeatism here) and boasted of good increases to usage and visits. While not alone in the latter, it’s good to see and it’s been long-term in at least the two original boroughs (50% and 100% increases were noted). Obviously, the trust is less directly democratic than council libraries but on the other hand, when told by a council to cut, this is an organisation that will be able to question it rather than have to simply do it.

OK, that’s a general view and I am sure some things are bad (e.g. how gymbraries are being handled) and I missed much. They’re not angels (because who can afford to be, really, in 2017 UK) but I did not see any Satan-worship either, just busy libraries. It was just a day there, but, you know you can walk into a library and instantly sense if it is doing well or OK? Well, the two I visited were fine. And that’s something impossible to hide. And better than some.

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Massive boost to library funding in Sweden, co-locations rule in UK

Editorial

Quite a few changes reported this post, with co-locations absolutely being the order of the day. That cut in Hampshire is going to be big news when it hits the public consciousness next year. The anger is continuing over the “move it further away and halve its size” plan for Bath Central and. over in Plymouth, the council is welcoming the closure of five libraries as a move into the 21st Century. That may be depressing but Lancashire is showing the opposite move with £850k being spent in order to reopen libraries closed under the previous administration. Also, we have a volunteer library in trouble as the academy where it is house is suggesting they move out, with nowhere to go to. Internationally, the picture is pretty much reversed with a massive boost in spending announced for the already well-funded (to British eyes) Swedish system. There’s also a brilliant article on how great Australian libraries are.

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