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.

More >

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.

More >

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.

More >

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.

More >


Maker Spaces in Libraries: An expert takes us through the how, why and why nots

3D printers and Maker Spaces are officially “cool” in library circles at the moment. A whole new website, Maker Librarian, was launched just this week.  Senior people are talking about them for big city libraries and I am aware of at least one that has been purchased.  So, I was delighted when, after I had written an article about 3D printers, a real Maker Space library expert got in touch and agreed to share his experiences. Here, then, is an interview with someone with a lot to say about how, why (and also, in some cases, why not) UK public libraries should be interested.

More >

Watch their every move: Amazon launches UK lending service

Amazon have announced their “Kindle Owner’s Lending Library” will be available in the UK before the end of this month.  In America, the scheme has been described as a “nail in public libraries’ coffins“. Britons will pay £49 per year to get to borrow one book at a time and will get a faster delivery of Amazon products.  This will increase their loyalty to the brand. The range includes Harry Potter and 200,000 other books.

This all sounds great. but for those in favour of public libraries, or who believe in the free flow of information and ideas, there may be a worry. Amazon have refused to allow public libraries to offer e-lending on the Kindle.  This will doubtless affect library loans and have a bearing on the e-lending review currently being undertaken.  It will also further increase Amazon’s dangerously large part of the UK book market.  It’s notable that even Waterstones – whose boss once called Amazon a “ruthless, money-making devil” – have decided that they are too powerful to resist.  Amazon will likely never reach monopoly levels – that’s probably an unattainable goal, even more so with Apple out there – but a scary influence by one private company on what is published/available is quite possible.  Some would argue it has already arrived.  Look at what the BBC Technology correspondent says:

“However benign a figure Mr Bezos [Amazon’s boss} cuts, his power over what gets written and read grows by the day. That means anyone with an interest in the future of books will have to watch his every move from now on.” Rory Cellan-Jones

There are other stories today that suggest the increasing ascendancy of the digital world.  The US Education Secretary has called for all textbooks to become digital, following on (sort of) from a South Korean initiative.  There’s also the introduction of an E-book reader that costs less than £10.  This last move represents, along with Amazon’s announcement that it is selling its e-readers at cost, a substantial move towards the free e-reader becoming a reality.

More >

The future, bad and good

Some looks at the future, some worrying but others wonderful, today from different sources. Let’s get the bad news over with first.  Ken Chad argues that ebooks are a greater threat to public libraries than the current cuts whereas Tim Coates stresses in the Telegraph that, on the contrary, ebooks could be great for libraries if only publishers stopped restricting them.  Mick Fortune expresses concern about the changing of the role of library self-service machines from being devices for the library to being devices for paying council tax etc; and wonders if libraries will get their money back. The, admittedly more distant, good news is that Maker Spaces could be the saviour and there’s a whole new website just gone online looking at how public libraries can get on board.

Back to the here and now, a judge has given the squatters at Friern Barnet Library three more months and, in a weird mirror image of what is happening to its counterpart in London, the Glasgow Women’s Library is moving to a new home.  Finally, and perhaps weirdly to many librarians, Hampshire records that its loaning of magazines has been a success.

More >

Hilda Ogden joins campaign for libraries

Things that catch my eye today are: thee likely closure of several libraries in Sefton continues to make the news, with the most notable new development being the actress (Jean Alexander) who used to play Hilda Ogden joining the fray;  down south, the group occupying Friern Barnet Library are going to court tomorrow (Wednesday) at 10am.  Supporters are urged to follow the hashtag #savefblibrary or to sign the petition;  That rare thing, a new library, is starting to be built in Essex, although there are rumours received by Public Libraries News that those staffing it will be largely unpaid.  Today is also the day for libraries to start submitting grants for £6m for Arts Council England funding,  Finally, the reason why old books smell nice is explained.

More >

Poster of Light of Learning protest poster

Forgotten campaigns, Alexandria burning … and some hope


  • Alexandria burning; or, the future of libraries, and everything else – Library Journal (USA). “This article is more a plea for respecting the old forms, rather than merely trashing it in heedless favor of the new. Libraries can provide a sanctuary, a place of repose and meaning outside the silicon buzz of contemporary life. ” … “While libraries unquestionably need to stay up with current trends—providing Wi-Fi access and downloadable ebooks—they can also cater to the needs of those who are less eager to embrace the new gizmos of the moment.”. Suggests dividing libraries into loud/tech areas and quieter/traditional areas.

“In our haste to make friends and be “relevant,” the library world sometimes neglects those it leaves behind. The authors believe there needs to be a balance—even if it comes to segregation of the friendliest sort—between the new and old, and libraries are best positioned to straddle both these worlds, a place of robots and fireside rugs.”

More >

blackheath visits-compared-old-and-new

One visitor in 2012 for every five last year: Blackheath Library one year on



  • Learn to read from a Wookiee – StarTribune (USA).  “Don’t be surprised if you see Imperial Stormtroopers, Jedi, Rebels or various configurations of R2-D2s on the streets of America on Saturday. They will be enjoying Star Wars Reads Day at your local libraries, schools, independent bookstores, Barnes & Nobles and Books-A-Million.”

More >