Lobby for school libraries

  • Campaigners lobby for school libraries – BookSeller.  “A group of close to 150 campaigners is to lobby parliament for school libraries to be made statutory, with authors Chris Priestley and Philip Ardagh among those taking part today.”

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A whole pile of useful stuff: Prometheus articles debate public libraries

The little-known (to me, at least) periodical Prometheus has published some incredibly useful articles on the current debate about public libraries.  Starting from the wonderful Philip Pullman speech on Oxfordshire public libraries, it then has articles looking at all sides of the debate.  So there is an article showing that libraries benefit their local communities by 3.5 times their cost.  Another article by Desmond Clarke suggests cutting library authorities by a third, another that social justice is a vital and under-respected aspect of public libraries and also a satirical one at the end that may get some wry smiles from those who have seen the facts at the base of it in harsh practice. A trade unionist view on the neoliberalist attack on public libraries by the Coalition and others is also well worth a read.

The two stand-out articles for me, though, are from people normally victimised by library campaigners.  One of these, Darren Taylor from Eco Computers who has taken over a few Lewisham Libraries, will do a lot to improve his image amongst the readers of these pages.  He comes across as a deep believer in the wonder of public libraries and, if half of what is said is true (and he has had vocal detractors who, I am sure, will deny the facts in the article as soon as they read them) then he is doing great things.  The second article is from the much more hated, by campaigners at least, US company LSSI who pull no punches in attacking “passive” UK public library management and suggest that staff rest on their laurels.  It’s a point of view that is unlikely to win them many converts amongst library staff but, then, it is councillors, not staff, that they need to convince.

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A Barking library policy and more …

It’s been a few days since the last Public Libraries News update – real-life can get in the way sometimes – so there’s a lot of news in today’s post. The things that stick out to me are:

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E-lending, Amazon & VAT, library nurses

The title of this post says it all…

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Nurses, cleaners, librarians


“Yesterday, I marched with fellow library campaigners from Voices For The Library on the TUC March in London. We carried the Speak up for Libraries banner and met along the way campaigners from Brent S.O.S., SLAM and Lambeth as well as numerous other Library staff and supporters. The amount of support that we got for our message was amazing, with people clapping, taking photos and generally welcoming us.  Our main aim was to publicise the SUFL campaign and conference on 10/11/12, we handed out loads of leaflets and even got a mention on the march for libraries and library cuts, so a very successful and enjoyable day. So let’s use the Speak up for Libraries Conference on 10/11/12 to build on this, to come together to discuss a positive way forward and a plan of action!” Alan Wylie, Stop the Privatisation of Public Libraries.

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“Immortal” library e-books, and reading as a (declining) superpower

The decision by Random House to say that libraries “own” their e-books rather than lease them is an important one.  There’s a big difference between the two things, not least the power to cease permission to loan inherent in leasing.  For librarians, having only a short-term permission to loan an e-book title, somewhat sticks in the craw, especially with the possibility that it all could be (by Amazon?) snatched away. An “owned” e-book is a different beast because an owned e-book is an “immortal” book.  Well, not immortal, because the formats are changing so much.  But it’s a mind-boggling concept for libraries used to getting 20 or 50 issues out of a popular fiction book before it’s too grubby/tattered to use.  After all, an “owned” ebook is new forever.  The possibility of having e-books “donated” to the library by the public is also one that frankly makes my mind do somersaultsl. Another big thing this week is the ending of News Week as a printed publication because people just aren’t buying print news magazines any more. It all shows the need for a digital strategy more than ever, especially (as one interesting article points out) even those rows of library PCs are starting to look pretty out of date. The need for all interested parties to respond to the E-Lending Review as soon as possible is therefore fairly clear.

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DCMS figures

A lot to be pleased about?

The DCMS have released their latest figures on library usage which have pleased Ed Vaizey.  A bar chart of visits to libraries below suggests a somewhat less wonderful picture.  The speech by Tim Coates to the Frankfurt Book Fair has some very good things to say about how publishers and libraries should work together to mutually boost eachother.  Meanwhile, Ed has said in a written answer that several groups have already submitted their thoughts to the review panel on e-lending.

On a more local level, Brent Council has come under fire for allowing what locals at first thought were squatters using the closed Tokyngton Library.  They turned out to be security guards who appear to take a somewhat relaxed approach to taxing their cars. In the same borough, Councillor Powney, who has explained the council’s strategy in a special Public Libraries News blog post, has suggested that the disappointing trend in library visits in his authority was perhaps down to protesters putting people off rather than, say, the closure of six libraries.

The ambitious Cornwall outsourcing project has been dealt a grave blow by (a) the resignation of the deputy leader over the issue (b) the sacking of the pro-outsourcing leader of the council on the issue and now (c) the withdrawal of one of the two bidders for the contract. Finally, news has come in from Jim Brooks of the volunteer-run Little Chalfont Community Library that Surrey Council have refused his free offer of help.  He has now offered his expertise directly to the ten branches that will soon be volunteer run.  A summary to the experience of Little Chalfont Community Library can be found at this link.

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Grim Up North – Gateshead/Sefton/Trafford libraries cut


It’s not good news for libraries in Northern England urban areas today. According to council papers, Gateshead Council are considering moving five libraries (Sunderland Road, Low Fell, Winlaton, Lobley Hill and Ryton) towards being volunteer run with three more moving into cheaper locations, including one to a children’s centre. If the figures are understood properly, the proposed budget cut will mean that the libraries budget will move from £4.3m at the start last year to a mere £2.7m at the end of next year, a cut of over a third.  Sefton Council have moved a step closer to confirming the closure of seven libraries while apparently reprieving a further three.  Completing the cuts trio, a battlefield familiar from earlier on this year, the Manchester Evening News reports that Trafford, have announced that they are aiming to substitute some volunteers from a portion of paid staff inall their libraries in order to meet a cut of £136k p.a.

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Long live paper

Wigan have sold half a million pounds of antique books and Dudley Libraries has done a very nice refurb of one of their libraries.  Meanwhile, in the wider world, a US librarian calls for a broadening of the campaign about e-books and there’s a list of library “laboratories”, including one on a farm.  Also, a reminder that the important ACE Libraries consultation ends on this weekend.  It takes only a minute or do to fill in.  You know you want to.

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Embrace the future or be stuck in the past?

The DCMS is inviting submissions to its review into e-lending.  You don’t have to be a big cheese or official, so if you’re interested in the fate of libraries, write in.  Because, as is becoming obvious, at some point in the future – not immediately but at some point – e-books are going to take over from printed books.  When that time comes, the choice will be between some form of purely private (that is, pay for it or don’t get it) provision or one with free public access for all.  A system which means that access to books does not depend on access to money is a far more likely one to encourage innovation and the full development of our country’s talents, so  I know which future I’m hoping for.  Also thinking about the future is Philip Bradley, the President of CILIP, who has written and filmed a frankly quite brilliant article on the pitfalls of libraries ignoring the internet and e-book revolution.  It’s obvious that Norway is already up to speed on this and we need to be too.

A council which is facing the future in a controversial way is Cornwall, which is apparently to outsource pretty much everything it can, including libraries.  This is proving to be deeply unpopular, with the deputy leader resigning over the issue and a vote of no confidence in the leader scheduled for Tuesday.  Far further north, the proposed closure of seven libraries in Sefton is also making waves, with the decision going out to consultation.

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