Staffordshire, Sunderland, Bedford and … Ping Pong

Editorial

Staffordshire have started passing several libraries to volunteers while Sunderland have just started a consultation on cutting the library budget. At the other end of the consulting process, Bedford has announced that all libraries will stay open but, perhaps worryingly, have not said what shape that form will take. Councils can mean all sorts of things by “no libraries will close” including the traditional pre-2010 meaning of no change and more recent meanings like retired people staffing them in their spare time or the installation of  remote-control technology. Meanwhile, in Wales, Ystrad Mynach (l’ve always loved that name) Library is having a refurb, Malta is experiencing a lending surge and some USA libraries have installed table tennis tables.

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Lancashire cuts fallout, South Glos goes Open+ plus catalogue concerns

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Lancashire, Labour and Libraries

Editorial

The big news has to be Lancashire, where the council confirmed 29 libraries are to have their funding withdrawn late on the Friday before the bank holiday weekend. Suspicious timing aside, by my calculations, all the pain that this will put communities through accounts for barely one half of one percent of the cuts that the council has to make, while kicking up a maximum stink for the politicians at the same time. It just does not seem worth it, but the council seems intent on pushing through with the unpopular move.

The other big news is that both Labour Party leadership contenders have come up with big proposals for public libraries. Jeremy Corbyn proposes  a new library development agency and the creation of an “open knowledge library” where UK universities and public  won’t have to pay to access the research the government has already funded. Owen Smith, on the other hand, suggests closer collaboration between library services and longer term government funding settlements. This news comes after my last editorial ran saying Labour had been quiet about public libraries, following Chi Onwurah’s revelation she had planned a library campaign but then had to stop it because she wasn’t sure whether it was in her job description.

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A Labour library mess-up and the police in libraries

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You know where the parliamentary Labour Party has been when it comes to standing up for public libraries over the last year or so? Absolutely nowhere. And now we know why: the minister for libraries, Chi Onwurah, wanted to do something about it – indeed, did do a fair bit of research on it – but confusion as to who was doing what messed up the whole deal. I’ve emailed and tweeted Chi asking for the release of what research she has done as it would be such a shame to see such work going to waste.

Moving police, and traditional police jobs like lost-and-found forms, into libraries has also made the news.  Councils, and police forces, see the co-operation as sensible one to deliver services at reduced costs. Meanwhile, others worry that a police presence in libraries spoils their neutrality and would deter some (no, not criminals, although presumably they won’t be impressed either, I mean some ethnic and religious groups) from using them.  In practice, we’re all seeing such co-locations more and more often as cold financial reality makes bedfellows of more and more services that would once have been separate. There’s also advantages to a library for having, say, PCSO surgeries in the buildings. What’s needed, is a proper consideration of the impact before decisions are made.

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Fewer are Taking Part so let’s have a National Demonstration

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I’ve just had a very sunny week in Norway hence this is a combined news summary for the period since August 10th. So it’s a big one. The main news is the reduction in library usage – from, roughly, one half to one third of the population – in the last decade. That’s quite a steep decline. Public library popularity have also reduced in other countries of course but from the figures I have seen the reductions in budgets and usage are less, offset by increased visitors for “non-traditional” services and a slower decline in traditional numbers because, well, the stock is still good and the maintenance and furniture budget means they’re still attractive places to go. It’s also not helped, of course, by a rampant misunderstanding of the purposes of public libraries by some free-market extremists in this country – step forward the Adam Smith Institute below – who are positively gleeful at the destruction of something whose value they cannot, or will not, understand.

I’m glad to see that there will be a national libraries (and museums and galleries) demonstration on 5th November, an easy date to remember, to heighten the awareness of what is being lost.

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Since this picture was taken in Lough Library, the boy has persuaded his parents to buy a Labrador puppy.

Leading the way? Reading dogs in public libraries

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There’s some great initiatives in public libraries around the world but one I always think we don’t see enough of in the UK is that of bringing in dogs to help children with reading.  GLL mentioned that Lincolnshire libraries had a few reading dogs a week or two ago so I asked them for more information. The main story below is from them, followed by other links you may find useful. I’m aware Barnstaple also has reading dogs but does anyone else in the UK? If not, it’s worth asking yourselves if they’re possible – they do wonders getting reluctant readers into libraries, are great publicity and, frankly, the dogs are absolutely gorgeous.

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Lincolnshire libraries and reading dogs

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BFG at Louth Library during the Big Friendly Read

The quietest of times, the busiest of times

Editorial

The Summer counts as the quiet season for library news but the busiest for public libraries on the ground.  Tons of children coming to the desk asking for stickers and staff encouraging them to read more makes this the best time of year, with more events going on now than any other month. This post we have a report from Lincolnshire on what is going on there and I am sure it is being repeated elsewhere.  Do send me your stories about the great things you have done as well.

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The Big Friendly Read in Lincolnshire

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A communist approach to libraries? It’s falling short.

Editorial

Another mixed bag of news, with the continuing theme of councils – and proxy trusts – cutting down library services. It’s good to see Haringey bucking the trend with an upgraded library, though.  And it’s clear that a few councils have either backed down in a couple of cases because of unforeseen (and, really, in 2016, there’s no excuse not to foresee it) public pressure or because they never intended to put in such deep cuts in the first place and want to be seen as listening to the electorate.  The most interesting article I’ve read is that by Leon who points out that the new libraries minister is going to continue a hands-off approach, with an emphasis on facing further cuts to budgets by either alternative governance models (e.g trusts) or by replacing paid staff with volunteers. It will be up to campaigners to limit the damage inflicted to the service – which Frank Cottrell Boyce rightly lauds – anyway they can, with compromises sometimes being necessary.

I’m not sure if I have mentioned this before but I do find it ironic, almost amusing, that  right-wing Government is pushing for people to no longer being paid for labour but rather to work free for the good of all. It’s also quite interesting to note that it’s often those in the most prosperous areas that are willing to do it.  I’m not sure that many Conservative voters in Buckinghamshire realise that they’re inching closer to the Communist Manifesto by volunteering to keep their library open but it gives me a wry smile.  Perhaps Lenin mentioned Austerity a lot in the 1920s too. Anyway, up the revolution, my Tory (and many Labour: although – double irony – fewer Corbynista) friends. I guess.

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Take advantage of Love To Read

Editorial

More details on the BBC “Love To Read” promotion ae emerging.  The BBC tend not to do anything by halves, as I discovered when I was lucky enough to experience a children’s book promotion at the Library of Birmingham a couple of weeks ago, which featured hordes of people, Blue Peter and top league authors. So this is going to be a good thing for reading and, by extension, libraries. Take full advantage.  Other than that, it’s fairly quiet today in the UK, with a reduction in hours in Shropshire and a move of library in Staffordshire. Abroad, the article on a “secret” Syraina library is the stand out, showing how – when it comes down to it – libraries are actually pretty essential to people’s lives, especially when they have so little else.

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The first letter: New Libraries Minister speaks

Editorial

The new libraries minister has spoken, showing an interest in the field and an awareness of the Taskforce, amongst other things. He points out that his interest in volunteering has a bearing in libraries, which will be seen as a bad omen by many (especially paid staff) but he does single out young volunteers, which suggests he’s thinking more in terms of Reading Hacks.  It’s a good thing he has already had at least one meeting with public libraries people, anyway.

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