The joy of work

Editorial

There is a joy to working in public libraries. I get a real up when I see a child jumping up and down in excitement because they’d found a book I remember ordering a month ago. Or when someone takes a book or two off a display that I put together. Or, the best of all, when someone thanks you or walks away obviously happy after I have answered their questions. Another satisfying thing is weeding a section of shelves because so much of my work is now on the computer, it’s great when an obvious physical difference is made. Planning and organising an event that gets sold out is pretty good too. Or planning for 13 months (yes, more than one year) for the Summer Reading Challenge and making sure lessons are learnt and there’s every chance it’ll be better for everyone than the year before. There is a real value to this which helps make up for other things which is just as well – in the words of Phil Bradley, no-one comes into this job for the money and the power.

National news

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, if she will make an assessment of the potential impact of the closing of the Libraries Taskforce in March 2020 on strategic planning for libraries.

Barbara Keeley Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

In September 2022, the Government appointed Baroness Sanderson of Welton as chairman of a new advisory panel to help develop a new strategy to make sure that public libraries are providing the best possible service for their communities. More detail can be found here. To date she has had numerous meetings with organisations with an interest in public libraries work, and has led two roundtable sessions …

Stuart Andrew Under Secretary DCMS
  • Library projects to receive share of £200k Scottish Government funding – Yahoo News. Public Library Improvement Fund (PLIF) : “including an additional support needs training programme in Aberdeen and the creation of ‘Live Well Health’ information hubs across Glasgow. Other initiatives awarded grants aim to combat social isolation, bridge the digital divide, help close the attainment gap and mitigate the impact of the cost-of-living crisis.”

Based on this dataset, DCMS estimates that around 230 libraries have permanently closed in the period 1 April 2010 to 31 December 2021 and not been relocated or replaced.

Stuart Andrew, Under Secretary DCMS

Changes by local authority

International news

  • Netherlands – Innovations in Libraries: Impressions of a Study Trip to the Netherlands – ZBW Mediatalk. ” In the Netherlands, for example, it is taken for granted that they offer consultation hours for advice on e-government. The self-image as a Third Place is also already omnipresent there. Public libraries are perceived as the living rooms of cities and are used accordingly.” … ” Everyone can get involved on a voluntary basis. Events are often organised at request of visitors. This way, the librarians know that there is a real need for a topic and what their target groups are interested in.”

Local news by authority

  • Redbridge – Step into a story at Redbridge Libraries for National Storytelling Week – Redbridge Council. “Redbridge is also a founding member of the Libraries Consortium spanning 23 councils across London, Luton, Essex and Surrey, enabling Redbridge residents to take advantage of a further 8 million books and other items, and access to services and facilities from over 380 libraries across London and the south east.”
  • Suffolk – Book now for our big Online Book Festival – Suffolk Libraries. “The festival features online interviews with a number of top authors including Elly Griffiths, Jill Mansell, Sarah Pearse and more. The festival takes place between 6 and 12 March with a different author interviewed every day.”
  • Suffolk Libraries welcomes John Grose as first Paws-itivity sponsor – Suffolk Libraries. Motor dealer signs up.  “Suffolk Libraries biggest ever fundraising campaign which will see colourful dog sculptures in all of the county’s libraries this summer. The ‘Library Labradors’ will all feature designs individually created by local artists.”
  • Wirral – Cheers at council meeting as Wirral golf course is offered a lifeline – Standard. “Councillors also agreed to allow Pensby and Prenton libraries to be transferred into community hands while Higher Bebington, Wallasey Village, and Irby libraries moved to final negotiations of community transfer before coming back to committee.” … “Recommendations for Hoylake Library to be sold off or rented out as well as Higher Bebington library and Woodchurch Library now being used for educational purposes have been recommended to Policy and Resources”

No words

Editorial

Well, after writing Public Libraries News since 2010, I sometimes think I have seen it all. And then I see Midlothian’s propose to replace all front-line staff with self-service machines and volunteers. That’s pretty gobsmacking in itself, honestly, but then it goes on to say that the council is planning to remove its printed books budget and rely on e-books instead. Anyone who knows the cost of e-books to libraries would be a bit surprised about how this could be presented as a saving but one suspects the council may not have entirely thought things through. The whole thing makes very little sense but then Midlothian has some history here, with an attempt to 2017 to get rid of all but one of those pesky hearts of the community and literacy cluttering Scotland that save people and show a way to a better life. That was silly enough but not buying printed books? What do I think of that? Well, like a Midlothian library in a few years, I have no words.

Changes by local authority

National news

“I had no money growing up. My dad was a labourer and my mum did everything to make ends meet. Men worked hard. Women worked miracles. But education was free. As was the local library. I knew books were my passport to a better life. #SupportLibraries

Ricky Gervaise
  • Do we need a Wales Libraries Act? – IWA. “While everyone must recognise that the UK government policy of systematically underfunding both devolved and local government to shrink the local state is at the core of our crumbling local services, surely a Labour administration in Wales should go the extra mile in defence of public libraries that could soon become an endangered species?”
  • In praise of “slow librarianship” – Nick Poole. “‘faster’ doesn’t necessarily equate to ‘better’ when it comes to helping people find real answers to real questions.”
  • Kerry Hudson: Libraries were a lifesaver for me – Herald Scotland. ” I don’t mean, ‘lifesaver’ as in, ‘Thank goodness I can order that new crime novel or use the wifi or shelter from the rain’. I mean without them I wouldn’t be writing in these pages. I wouldn’t be alive at all.”

“The news that Midlothian Council intends to implement cuts to the service that they say will create a total saving of £750,000 pounds over three years is bewildering to me. I’m no politician but you have to wonder whether the economy of saving £250,000 annually weighs up If you consider that the risk is not just losing a library but unofficial, and occasionally official, mother and baby support groups, outreach centres for elderly people, literacy, IT and benefits coaching hubs and, during this cost of living crisis, warm banks too.”

Kerry Hudson
  • Libraries and homelessness – Libraries Connected. Wednesday 1 March, 11am, webinar. “Discover some of the innovative work being done within libraries to ensure they meet the needs and expectations of people experiencing homelessness. London Libraries members will reflect on their pioneering homelessness training programme, while representatives of the Reading Agency and Homeless Link will discuss their own work in this area. “
  • Libraries Connected Innovation Network Gathering 2023 – Libraries Connected. Thursday 2 March, 10am to 4pm, Birmingham.
  • MozFest bursary applications now open for library staff – Libraries Connected. Six bursaries. “The Mozilla Festival, affectionately known as MozFest, is hosted by the Mozilla Foundation, it is a celebration for, by, and about people who love the internet, showcasing world-changing ideas and technology through exhibitions, talks and interactive sessions.”

International news

Local news by authority

  • Barnsley – Libraries – They’re Not Just For Books – Camerados. “Since opening, our Public Living Room has been busy, and staff have commented that they have seen many an intense game of connect four taking place in the space. Our communities have come together and filled in postcards, sat and chatted over a drink they brought in from the café next door. Someone has even left a copy of The Happy News newspaper for others to read to spread some positivity.”
  • Bolton – Free wellbeing workshops for body and mind on offer – Yahoo News. “The 90 minute “interactive and engaging” workshops will include discussions around the differences between physical health and mental health and wellbeing”
  • Bradford – Discounted baby photo shoots at Bradford library – Telegraph and Argus. “As part of a push to get more children reading, babies can be signed up to join libraries at Registry Offices at Bradford and Keighley. Bradford City Library has now joined forces with award-winning photographer Tim Simpson who will run Photo Booth sessions once a month. Tickets, at a discounted cost of £5, can be booked online via Ticket Source and will include a 30-minute photo booth slot and an 8 x 6” colour photograph of the baby. “
  • Bristol – Bristol Central Library could relocate in the future, council member says – BBC. “Plans to move Bristol’s Central Library on College Green were raised in mayor Marvin Rees’s draft budget in November but scrapped following an outcry. But council cabinet member Ellie King has refused to rule out moving the library, saying the Grade I-listed building was not fit for purpose. She said libraries should be seen as “a service, not a building”.
  • Cheshire East – “Shocking” CEC Labour plan to close libraries on Saturdays – Nantwich News / Letter. “Labour-run Cheshire East are proposing to shut libraries on a Saturday and reduce opening hours on other days.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester Council tax for 2023 could go up to the maximum – Cheshire Live. “. Libraries and social care are also among a wide range of council services due to come under the spotlight”
City of London

“I raise the plight of the Peacehaven and Telscombe conurbation, which has more than 23,000 people, with no further education provision, high levels of free school meals and pupil premium, and, despite improvements, below average rates of literacy and numeracy. Despite that, the county council wishes to downgrade the library from 900 square metres to 300 square metres and to reduce its opening times. Will the Minister join me in calling for libraries of an appropriate size in large towns? Will the Department publish statutory guidelines on the square meterage and opening times expected per population for large towns?”

East Sussex – Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour/Co-operative, Brighton, Kemptown

As the hon. Gentleman says, public libraries are run by local authorities, so it is up to each local authority to identify the needs of local residents. DCMS has previously received representations about the relocation of Peacehaven library and we have engaged with the local authority to understand the plans and their implications. The Secretary of State has a statutory power to intervene by way of a local inquiry if she considers that a local authority is not providing a comprehensive and efficient library service. That is taken seriously, so if a complaint is received, the Department will challenge the council and evidence will be carefully considered before it is decided whether a local inquiry is needed.

Paul Scully The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Midlothian

Asymmetric Warfare

Editorial

I’m currently finishing off an article for a French library journal on the experience of English public libraries after lockdown. It’s surprisingly upbeat so hardly my usual style. But I do think that the sector has done far better than one could reasonably expect after being closed or semi-closed for basically two years. Being me of course, and the public library sector, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. There are signs, such as in Cardiff, that bad times may be here again shortly but, on the other hand, public opposition still seems very effective, as we can see in Bristol, Essex and Nottingham. So, who will win this year? Central government cuts or hyperlocal campaigning? That’s not as clear cut an answer as it seems. In this asymmetric warfare, experience suggests its often the guerrilla that has the advantage. Viva la Libraryistas.

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Change by local authority

National news

  • £135m levelling-up funding goes to seven libraries but concern remains about long-term investment – Bookseller. “Successful bids include a combined library, music and arts venue in Harlow, a state-of-the-art leisure centre, library and cultural space in Farnborough, a creative workspace and redesign at Hackney Central Library, and a new modern library in Reading. More than £135m has been awarded to projects involving libraries. ” but concerns that long-term cuts in spending and budget worries in 2023 may negate gains.
“of all the self-defeating things we have done as a nation in recent years, closing the libraries that could help these children has been the worst.”

“Libraries have been levelling up for over 170 years so it seems natural that they should feature prominently on this list of successful projects.”

Isobel Hunter, Libraries Connected.
Up to three staff per library can nominate at Dagger in the Library nominations – The Crime Writers’ Association (thecwa.co.uk)
  • Osman, Haig and Rowling books among most popular digital titles borrowed from libraries via OverDrive – BookSeller. “According to OverDrive – which provides schools and libraries with access to e-books, audiobooks, digital newspapers and magazines – Osman e-books were the most popular last year, with The Man Who Died Twice and The Thursday Murder Club (both from Viking) coming in at first and second place. “
  • Scotland’s New £30,000 SLIC Fund Backs ‘Pioneering Library Projects’ – Publishing Perspectives. ” a broad base of strategic support from the BBC and BBC Scotland and the British Library to Carnegie UK and the Scottish Book Trust. The council was formed in 1991 and is not, in fact, a government organization. Instead, it’s an independent advisory body to the Scottish government. with membership both in the public sector and in educational institutions.”
  • Seminar and Forum – National Acquisitions Group. “Our call for papers is now open for both and closes on 3rd February 2023.  You do not need to be a NAG Member to present and all speakers receive a full free place and UK travel expenses.”
  • Video Marketing for Libraries: How to Create, Promote and Evaluate – CILIP. Friday 24 February, 10am to 1pm, Zoom. “Video is an increasingly essential tool to market library services and engage users, both on traditional platforms like YouTube and Vimeo, and on social media across Instagram, TikTok and Twitter. This hands-on workshop aims to familiarise delegates with several styles of video and give you a chance to try out a variety of useful tools.”

International news

Local news by authority

Devon
Essex
Hackney
Lewisham
  • Nottingham – Three local libraries saved from closure – Nottingham Council. “The council’s Executive Board today (January 17) voted in favour of keeping all existing libraries open, but with some shortened opening times across the library network, and Aspley Library modified to create a stock distribution and outreach hub while retaining it as a publicly accessible library. Earlier plans involved among other things the closure of Basford, Radford/Lenton and Aspley libraries, with Aspley’s being turned into a distribution hub for the library service. However, some savings have already been achieved through a staffing restructure in the libraries service, meaning only £79,000 of savings were needed from the original £233,000. This, along with strong public feedback against the closure proposals and emerging factors such as their important role of libraries during the cost-of-living crisis and as warm hubs, has allowed the council to look again at how to achieve the necessary changes and savings.”
  • Pembrokeshire – Mobile library to visit Narberth while library remains shut – Western Telegraph. Maintenance needed. “Narberth Town Council, which leases the library building from Pembrokeshire County Council, hopes that the work will start shortly.”
  • Redcar and Cleveland – Councillors unhappy about proposed temporary library move – Yahoo News. “Redcar and Cleveland Council is proposing to move Redcar library from its current base in Kirkleatham Street to the Tuned In! building about half a mile away in Majuba Road near the seafront. A new facility is due to be created in Redcar High Street as part of the £25m Town Deal plans, but won’t be in place until 2025 at the earliest.”
  • Sheffield – Have your say on library opening times – Sheffield Council. “We have an opportunity to extend the opening hours of the Council run community hub libraries from 31 to 34 hours per week and in order to do this we need to standardise the opening times.  Therefore we are consulting with library users and non users to identify the impact of the proposed change to the opening days and times.”
    • No one is allowed to walk within 3 metres of Sheffield library – Examiner Live. “a temporary exclusion zone was put in place around the building in Arundel Gate, Surrey Street and Tudor Square. This three-metre zone will include footpath closures along the whole length of the building in Surrey Street. Protective canopies have also been put in place along the Graves Building’s entrances and exits so the public and members of staff can be safe when using the building.”
  • Sheffield Central Library forced to close this morning – Star. Power cut.
Nottinghamshire
  • Shropshire – Shropshire libraries hosting friendly banking advice sessions – Shropshire Council. HSBC “hosting expert advice sessions to help people protect themselves from fraud, manage their money and learn about digital banking options.”
    • Libraries add another chapter to innovative prison project – Shropshire Council. “Three volunteer ‘human library books’ went to the prison to be ‘read’ by six selected prisoner representatives in a bid to open up frank conversations. Their subjects were health, sexuality, grief, and abuse.”
    • Ludlow library is hub for adult learning reading initiative – Ludlow Advertiser. “Books in the new Adult Reading Scheme Collection are graded, and the levels range from very basic to short novels and non-fiction, books for those with very limited literacy or who speak very little English, and titles for people with moderate literacy or dyslexia.”
  • Solihull – Library book amnesty – please bring your books back – Solihull Council. “Throughout January and February, Solihull libraries are holding an amnesty with anonymous drop-off points available at all libraries in the borough. This means customers won’t need to speak to a librarian, they can just  drop their overdue books into the library boxes. Returned items will then be logged back onto the system and replaced on the shelves for other library users to enjoy.”
  • South Gloucestershire – South Gloucestershire libraries named in top five in the UK for children’s reading challenge – South Gloucestershire Council. “Six thousand children aged between four and 11 took part in the 2022 challenge in South Gloucestershire, reading 100,000 books. This means almost 20 percent of all Primary age school children in the district took part.”
  • Southwark – C20 makes listing bid for Peckham Library – Twentieth Century Society. “Following concerns regarding an application for intrusive new rooftop plant equipment, C20 has submitted a listing application for the celebrated Peckham Library in Southwark, South London, recommending it be considered for Grade II* status. Designed by Alsop and Störmer, the library opened in 2000 and won the Stirling Prize for Architecture in the same year. It is widely considered one of the most important works of the late Will Alsop, who passed away in 2018, and a landmark millennial project.”
  • Staffordshire – Free creative workshops in selected Stafford libraries – Staffordshire Council. “The workshops will help people to explore what they love about where they live, taking inspiration from local heritage collections.  Workshops will also help boost people’s wellbeing through creative & social activity. “
  • Suffolk – Long Melford Library closed until further notice – Suffolk Libraries. “We were advised by the Royal British Legion over the weekend that they intend to close their building in Long Melford with immediate effect. We have not been given a reason for the closure.”
    • Ipswich Library to host menopause focus group – Suffolk Libraries. “The new programme is being launched after Suffolk Libraries received £170k of funding from the Department of Health and Social Care’s Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Health and Wellbeing Fund. The funding will enable Suffolk Libraries to launch a new project to provide support and advice for women who are experiencing the menopause and perimenopause.”
    • Join us for the Orwell Challenge and help raise funds for Suffolk Libraries – Suffolk Libraries. Request for Orwell Challenge walkers to raise money for library service.
    • Suffolk Libraries launch Paw-some Art Sculpture fundraising event – Suffolk Libraries. “PAWS-itivity will involve 45 dog sculptures featuring designs individually created by local artists in each of Suffolk’s libraries over the Summer of 2023.” … “The event aims to raise money to support Suffolk Libraries work at the heart of the community. It will also raise awareness of Suffolk Libraries as an independent charity”
Nottiinghamshire refurbishment

An encouraging year, in the end

Editorial

So this is the time of year when I traditionally look back on the last twelves months and see if I can spot any themes. Ones that stand out to me this year are:

  • Public libraries have bounced back quite a lot this year from Covid, with normal service being resumed in almost all and, crucially, many people coming back to use them. Statistics are far between and contested but it looks like fewer numbers than in 2019 but perhaps in line with other physical retail and the continued decline in usage we’ve seen for over a decade. But thankfully, people are using libraries once more. Phew.
  • Warm Libraries. Public libraries and councils moved fast after Martin Lewis tweeted about the need for “warm banks” as well as “food banks” this winter. Scores of library services registered as welcoming spaces for those who needed heating, with many offering hot drinks and coffee on top of the more traditional library and council services. This will hopefully strengthen the sector in the eyes of budget-holders next year. Libraries, which are neutral, free and more importantly in thousands of local communities, are the ideal thing for stuff like this. So far as I can tell, actual take-up of libraries as refuges was limited but it shows the speed the services can pivot and their utility.
  • Intolerance comes to the UK. Fresh off the well-funded push towards censorship in the USA against anything that doesn’t tie in with conservative beliefs – mainly LGBT and especially anything Trans – we saw a series of vocal and sometimes violent protests against Drag Queen Story Time and, less in the news, more attempts by the public to ban certain titles. These protest letters were often copy and pasted from US or US-influenced webpages. While instances of successful actual censorship were small but not non-existent in the UK, the many protests at the story-times may well have an impact in 2023. We’ll see.
  • Budget cuts were strongly threatened last year but in the end, with some notable local exceptions, did not make a huge impact on services. There are similar worries, possibly with more reason, in 2023.
  • Libraries of Things made an increasing impact, in a couple of incarnations. Tool (and other things0 libraries started in a few branches and, perhaps more interestingly, other things such as coats were starting to be donated and given out as well. The trend towards giving other items, such as feminine hygiene products, increased as did the providing of some novel services, such as sunshine-lights.
  • After what feels like an age, at least the name of the Single Digital Presence – “LibraryOn” – was announced. The job in producing it is being done very thoroughly (just the naming took a significant time) so one hopes it’s going to be worth it when it comes.
  • The continued government distractions meant another one (or was it two or three? Don’t know) ministers in charge of libraries coming and going. They don’t do much anyway – saying nice things but giving very little else. More funding for the sector is evident from Arts Council England, though. The recruitment of an ex Mail journalist as a chair of a new libraries working group made shivers tun down my spine but it’s too early to tell if she’ll go full bold-exclamation-mark when it comes to more serious work. Certainly, though, don’t expect much government funding or hands-on intervention. But do expect increasingly encouragement of volunteers, charities, and anything else that may replace actual proper funding of the sector.

Anyway, wishing you all the best in 2023! Public libraries are stronger now than I had any right to expect when I started these editorials way back in 2010 and this is down to the wonderfulness of them as a concept (and that’s pretty darn brilliant) but also the people who work and fight for them. Thank you. Now on to the next twelve months.

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National news

International news

Local news by authority

A warm Christmas

Editorial

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This is going to be the last post before Christmas and so it’s great to see public libraries doing so much great stuff. With the cold weather, the sector is really pushing it’s possibilities as a warm welcoming and neutral space to the fore. I’m loving things like “kindness racks” for people to donate and take clothes, places to recycle those troublesome used batteries, giving hot drinks, providing free activities and free charging of phones. This is full-on final chapter of Christmas Carol stuff but even more so are the library services who have removed fines and the two this week who have either “paused” fining or extended their fines amnesty. All this and we provide fantastic free loan of books too. My gosh what a sector to work for.

So, merry Christmas everyone. Wishing you all the best this festive season. May I wish you many more happy returns (and issues) in 2023.

Changes by local authority

National news

Nick Poole is the only person related to public libraries on the list
  • Green Libraries Conference – CILIP. London, 24 March 2023. “The 2023 Green Libraries Conference aims to connect library staff at all levels to share ideas and insights on environmental understanding and action. A free, one-day event for public libraries in England on the theme of ‘Working Together for People and Planet”
  • Hot drinks, free coats, cold, hungry children: the shocking reality of Britain’s winter ‘warm banks’ – Guardian. “On Thursday, she spent some of the morning at the Gainsborough library in south-east Ipswich, in one of the city’s newly designated warm banks. The modern building is kept heated to 21C; its cafe offers free hot drinks and has a welcoming smell of toast. It feels like a healthier and more cheerful place than her home, where she has been keeping the heating off during the day to save money, and has experimented with keeping some of the windows open in an attempt to stop the spreading mould.”

“… the staff here are proving a new kind of support in a subtle way and their approach seems to be working. People come in to print out a document and stay in the cafe for hot drinks. Rails of free clothes (known as “kindness racks”) are available for visitors to choose whatever they want. On Thursdays, library staff and volunteers pack up bags of pears, potatoes, bananas, apples, peppers and carrots, and sell them for the reduced price of £2. Cartons of free period products have been slotted in between book displays on the library shelves, to make it easy for people to help themselves.”

  • The Knowledge – This a link to subscribe to the free daily email from The Knowledge about current affairs. It’s a short update, and I’ve always found it interesting, with different articles to what normally sees plus some fun stuff. Not much to do with public libraries though. But, if you subscribe through the attached link, I get entered into a prize draw [! – Ed.]
  • North-east family’s donation to help local charity spread message to every UK child – Press and Journal. “It’s hoped, by Christmas, each library in the UK will have a copy of A Friend Just Like Me. The book was written for Ballater organisation A Bear Named Buttony, set up to break the “poo taboo” around stomas, bowel and bladder conditions.”
  • TalkTalk reveals more hybrid workers using libraries to reduce bills – News and Star. “Half of those that have used such alternative venues for work are now doing so for one or two days a week, with further third swapping home for local businesses or libraries three or four days a week.” see full TalkTalk report.
  • A Tube-Style Map Of London Libraries – Londonist. “not only includes 350 libraries, but also provides information about their facilities and how to get between them”
  • Webinars – British Library Living Knowledge Network. ” a series of recorded webinars that cover a wide range of useful topics for library staff. Build your knowledge of evaluating events, death positive libraries, engaging with teenagers and more.”
  • Where to keep warm this winter – BBC Moneybox. “We visit Widnes library and speak to the organisers of the campaign.”

International news

Denmark

Local news by authority

Denbighshire
Suffolk

Nearly Christmas

Editorial

Looking out of my window, there’s snow on the ground, and I notice the weather forecast says there’s going to be minus figure temperatures for the next week, so it’s no surprise that Warm Libraries continues to be a major theme in the news. It’s interesting to see how different library services are approaching things, with my salutes this week going to Libraries Unlimited who got funding for increased opening hours, Norfolk for offering bags of clothes and other materials, and South Lanarkshire going full-surreal with its welly swaps. Elsewhere, there are two moves of libraries, including a big one at Huddersfield. And there’s background noise about forthcoming cuts to council budgets and library services. Well, it’s nearly Christmas I guess.

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Changes by local authority

National news

  • Author Pamela Butchart on the cat who brought magic into her world – Herald. “My love of reading started in the Wellgate Library in Dundee. The library was a free and child-friendly space, so my mum took me there one day when we were out in town. And that’s where I found Mog. I loved the library as a wee one (and still do). I couldn’t believe I was allowed to take out not just one book but 10 books. I was so excited to go back every weekend and I didn’t have to worry about asking my mum for money because it was free. That’s why libraries are so essential – for many children it’s the only way they can access as many books as they would like. That’s the magic of libraries.”
  • British libraries under threat; the fight for funding – Impact. “There are things we can do to support our local libraries to try and prevent these closures. Penguin Books highlight examples on their website. We can become members, borrow books (this can even be online), donate, write to our local MP and use the space provided for work or reading. “
  • Designing libraries – DCMS. “To my mind, promoting strong, innovative and imaginative library design – and redesign – is key to it all. ACE has provided funding towards the first phase of DL’s redevelopment – a new content management system which will underpin further improvements. I am leading a small team taking the project forward.”
  • The Guardian view on local libraries: a resource that must be protected – Guardian. “The cost of living crisis has cast new light on their role as places not only to read and learn, but to keep warm. They cannot be allowed to dwindle” … ” Nearly one in four [chief librarians] think they will have to close local branches. In a report titled Reimagining Where We Live, the parliamentary committee of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport last month argued for increased central government support. It is vital that the government steps up. The cost of not doing so is unimaginable.”
  • Innovation Network Gathering 2023 – Libraries Connected. Birmingham, Thursday 2 March, £60. “This event brings public library staff together from across the UK to showcase their innovative work, create new connections and think collectively about how to improve their services to local communities. There will be a couple of external speakers and lots of presentations and sharing sessions from library services, making it a really interactive and informative day with lots of networking.”
  • Warm Banks in London: where can you find them? – BBC. Libraries have very frequent mentions. Same thing for Berkshire at Cost of living: Find warm spaces across Berkshire – BBC and Hampshire.
  • Why access to libraries and books are a human right for children – Herald. “Even in a forecast second tunnel of austerity, closing libraries or cutting school librarians shouldn’t be on the table. They are a symbolic place. They signal that we, as a society, believe in meritocracy. They show that we believe everyone can and does have the ability to read themselves to a better life. As Dr Seuss said: “The more you read, the more you will know. The more you learn, the more places you go.”
  • With local libraries, it’s quality that matters, not quantity – Guardian / Letters. “Your editorial (4 December) rightly identifies local libraries as an important community resource, but places too much emphasis on the number of branches and not on two central issues – accessibility and opening hours. There is little point in having a library that has no toilets, no facilities and which is inconvenient to reach. Nor is there much point in a building where the budget has to be cut back to such an extent that it is never open.” Brent prioritised library size over number.

International news

  • Ukraine – ‘Our mission is crucial’: meet the warrior librarians of Ukraine – Guardian. “When Russia invaded Ukraine, a key part of its strategy was to destroy historic libraries in order to eradicate the Ukrainians’ sense of identity. But Putin hadn’t counted on the unbreakable spirit of the country’s librarians” … “During this war, Ukrainian libraries now serve new roles. They operate as centres for displaced persons. They offer psychological counselling for traumatised populations. They provide space for art therapy. “Of course, we pay special attention to children,” Bruy says. The librarians even sew camouflage nets when they have the time.”
  • USA – Anti-LGBTQ+ Actor-Writer Kirk Cameron Shocked at Libraries’ Rejection – Advocate. “Fifty libraries from across the U.S. have either rejected or not responded to the former Growing Pains star’s offers to appear, his publisher, Brave Books, told Fox News. “Many of the same libraries that won’t give Cameron a slot, however, are actively offering ‘drag queen’ story hours or similar programs for kids and young people,” Fox News reports on its website.” … “, Cameron told Fox News, “This is proof that more than ever, we are getting destroyed in the battle for the hearts and minds of our children.” “Publicly funded libraries are green-lighting ‘gender marker and name change clinics’ while denying a story time that would involve the reading of a book that teaches biblical wisdom,” he went on. “How much more clear can it get?””

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeenshire – Final check out for Aberchirder library at its current location – Grampian Online. “The current library premises are open for just five hours per week to serve the local area and a planned move to refurbished space within the Primary School building will enable it to extend its offering. In the report to councillors is is explained that Live Life Aberdeenshire is expected to make savings of £210,000 in the libraries and museums service through expansion of click and collect (within libraries) at the expense of the Mobile Service, reduction in library buildings, replace existing systems with opensource products to provide access to a wide range of digital services and materials.”
  • Devon – Librarian Linda’s spreading the word – Dawlish Today. “The Newton Abbot mum loves books so much she’s set up a free reading library outside her home in Primrose Drive.”
    • Funding for extra opening hours for libraries – Libraries Unlimited. “The National Grid has awarded a £9,900 grant to Libraries Unlimited, the charity that runs the 54 libraries around Devon and Torbay. The money will mean extra staff time, heating and lighting in five libraries can be funded for between three and four more hours a week until the end of March. The funding is from the Community Matters Fund, provided by The National Grid and delivered in partnership with Localgiving.”
  • Dudley – Dudley library manager wins RNA librarian of the year award – Dudley News. “Most recently she worked with authors to provide talks for library users across the borough, which were really well attended and received.”. Romantic Novelist’s Association Industry Awards 2022: Winners Announced – Romantic Novelists Association. Librarian of the Year: Sharon Whitehouse, ​​Dudley Libraries, GLL.
Cheshire West and Chester – Warm Welcoming Spaces in Libraries is the focus of the corporate Christmas card

2023 Universal Library Offers, Warm Libraries and a Scottish Library Celebrity

Editorial

Things are already quietening down for Christmas, with the only real theme being a late few library services announcing their Warm Spaces offer. This can range from just mentioning their public libraries exist to, on the other extreme, extending opening hours, providing food and drink, plus advice. In other news, the annual launch of the Universal Library Offers Calendar for next year. I have recently become a convert for long-term planning, having already booked in scores of events for next Summer, so I’ll be looking through this calendar for ideas tomorrow.

There is another theme though, and that’s the lots of positive Scottish news (including from Sean McNamara who is fast becoming some sort of library celebrity). There’s talk of automatic library membership, “lend and mend hubs” and (my perennial favourite) dogs in libraries. Shame it’s so cold up there … well, except in the libraries, obviously.

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National news

  • It’s ok to fail. Creating playful learning spaces in libraries – Artefacto. “Practise what you preach and be inventive with your planning. You could even create a forum for your own staff and/or patrons, where participants are free to creatively engage with ideas on building a creative program together. But staff need to feel supported to deliver these innovative programs. There are resources out there to help them, and we’ve picked out a few below …”
  • New drive to make ‘every child’ a library card holder – Herald. “Pamela Tulloch, chief executive of the Scottish Library & Information Council (SLIC), said it is working with health professionals to promote information on the benefits of library membership to parents as early as during antenatal care. “What we would like to see is more children joining up as library members at birth,” said Ms Tulloch.”
This gives an opportunity for library services to say what they would use a grant for

Changes by local authority

  • Blackburn With Darwen – Blackburn Library opens for an extra 2 hours every Saturday afternoon and Darwen Library opens for an extra 3 hours every Friday morning (source: email). 

International news

Congratulations to Dave Rowe of Libraries Hacked for winning the data category in the Open:UK Awards

Local news by authority

  • Medway – Medway Libraries’ first international exhibition – Medway Council. “Explore how the Coronavirus pandemic has changed the concept of art at Medway Libraries’ first international exhibition at Chatham Library.”
  • Merton – Health and Wellbeing Zones launched in Merton’s libraries – Merton Council. “More than 700 people, including local GPs, councillors and the Mayor, attended the launch of the new Health and Wellbeing Zones at Morden Library. The zones are now available in all seven of Merton libraries, as part of the MindSpace project. The Health & Wellbeing Zones will give residents access to vital information, exclusive online content, and tech gadgets to help improve their wellbeing.”
  • Nottingham Knitted gift for council leader after libraries saved – West Bridgford Wire. “When they heard that their library is saved, they decided to thank the council by way of thanking Cllr David Mellen, the council leader.  The obvious way was to give him something knitted, and a scarf was made for him. The Basford Knit and Natter Group has contacted David Mellen to ask him when they can present the scarf.”
  • Oxfordshire – Free food waste caddy liners for households – Yahoo Sport. “Householders can pick up a free roll of food waste caddy liners to help deal with the extra food waste expected to be generated over the festive period.”
Nottinghamshire
  • Pembrokeshire – Town library closed ‘until further notice’ – Yahoo News. Essential building maintenance. “Narberth Library is a community managed partnership between Pembrokeshire County Council’s library service, the Friends of Narberth Library and Narberth Town Council. The library will be moving to the Old School site in Narberth late 2023/early 2024.”
  • Sheffield – Zest – Zest – ex-Upperthorpe public library is now a multi-use leisure/community centre. Library has very long opening hours, self-service. Joining also requires “2 proofs of ID”.
  • Suffolk – Gainsborough Library sees rising demand for food support – Ipswich Star. “Earlier this month, Suffolk Libraries launched the Be Kind in Kind campaign to support vulnerable people through a difficult winter. The initiative has seen the charity open all 45 of its libraries – including Gainsborough – to the community, offering a warm space, free hot drinks, kindness rack – so people can pick donated clothes – hygiene products and a safe place to meet people. “Since Suffolk Libraries launched the Be Kind in Kind campaign people have also been coming in to make the most of the hot drinks and our kindness rack,” added Mandy. “
  • Wrexham – Wrexham libraries offer a safe, warm space to visit – Leader.

Children’s libraries of all colours

Editorial

There’s been some negative trends in the last decade in oh so many ways but one of the things I’ve most appreciated is the increase in the presence of characters of colour in children’s books. Someone pointed out a few years ago that covers of books used to contain all white children, then animals and then only children of colour when they were essential to the plot. Nowadays it is common to see non-white children on book covers, no matter the story. Long may this, and the not-so-unrelated rise in the number of children’s author of colour, continue. And let’s hope some more positive trends come into play as well. More funding for Hackney would be nice,, for instance.

Local news by authority

National news

Compare with Norfolk equivalent below
  • Children’s authors of colour published in UK rose to 11.7% of market in 2021 – Guardian. “New research has found that 11.7% of children’s book creators published in the UK in 2021 were people of colour, up from 5.6% in 2017. Despite the big improvement, though, “the UK’s body of children’s literature overall remains far from representative” said Diana Gerald, chief executive of BookTrust, in the report’s introduction.”
  • Everyday Philosophy: Why we need libraries – New European. “Community libraries are different from these. They serve multiple purposes. They are, among other things, a democratic resource providing free access to information for all, including guided access to the internet for those who might otherwise be excluded. They have huge symbolic importance too, representing a commitment to the common good, and are staffed by experts who can help people from a wide range of backgrounds find what they are looking for, as well as services that they didn’t realise they might be able to use. Increasingly they are becoming refuges for the cold, vulnerable and homeless.”
  • In the spotlight with Darren Smart – Solus. Interview with Darren The Viking, BEM.
  • It’s ok to fail. Creating playful learning spaces in libraries – Artefacto. ” staff need to feel supported to deliver these innovative programs. There are resources out there to help them, and we’ve picked out a few below …”
  • Libraries and Sanctuary: Supporting Refugees and New Arrivals – Facet Publishing. “; learn from practical initiatives, ‘what works’ examples and longer case studies; identify gaps in library provision; and find inspiration to start similar initiatives in their own institution. Drawing on the author’s decades of work in libraries and social exclusion, this is a book for anyone seeking to create an inclusive and welcoming library community.”
  • Libraries at risk of cuts despite ‘unprecedented’ rise in users – BBC. “One is Gainsborough Community Library in Ipswich, which is selling cut-price bags of fruit and vegetables for £2 and has seen its sales almost double since the summer.” … “The charity [Libraries Connected] believes the chancellor’s announcement will lead to cuts in funding for libraries and other frontline services.”
  • Library Campaign Newsletter – Library Campaign. Topics include RNIB, Lewisham (proposed £90k cut), Peacehaven and Redditch consultations, Nottingham, Westminster, Libraryon, Government funding.
  • LILAC Bursaries – LILAC. “To have a truly engaging conference, we need delegates who bring a variety of perspectives and backgrounds. The LILAC conference is therefore offering 5 free places for people working in the following under-represented sectors/communities in the UK:”
  • PLR consultation 2022 – Library Data Blog. “I object to the proposed rate per loan increase. This is primarily due to it being incorrect, but also due to it being unsustainable.” … “n 1982, at the beginning of the PLR scheme, the rate per loan was 0.5p. If the rate had remained stable, accounting for inflation, it would now be about 2p per loan. It has steadily increased. This resulted in a peak of 11.26p last year, roughly 6 times what was initially proposed.”

International news

“We just are doing what public libraries do,” Cremer said. “We don’t really judge information, we are a reflection of the world and things that are in the world. We have information that has been published and mediated and checked for facts. So it’s a safe place that people can go to get access to that information. It’s not like we are handing out or advocating it in any way. It’s just there.”

Judith Cremer, the library director, Pottawatomie Wabaunsee Regional Library, Kansas

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeenshire – Banff library to launch Dog Friendly Saturday sessions – Grampian Online. “Similar schemes have been successful in both Edinburgh and Perth and Kinross, and will be piloted in Banff and Stonehaven libraries for a six-month period. There are many benefits to making libraries dog friendly. It can help encourage people who are lonely, have low confidence or are isolated to come with their dog to the library and meet new people.”
  • Angus – Angus librarians to ballot on strike action – Angus World. “The ballot, which opens on November 30 – comes in response to changes approved by Angus councillors which could see some library staff have their hours cut and be required to relocate away from their home base. For the third time since 2015, staff in libraries and access services employed as Information Advisers by ANGUSAlive – an arm’s-length organisation set up by Angus Council to deliver leisure and culture services – are facing plans to cut their pay and/or terms and conditions. Angus Council met on Thursday, November 3 to approve ANGUSALive’s proposals which also included changes to opening hours of libraries across the council area.”
  • Bath and North East Somerset – Libraries bring Christmas cheer to the community – Bath and North East Somerset Council. “There will be a Lego Lab for free creative play, Christmas crafts and stories and another chance to enjoy the dedicated sensory space at Bath Central Library. A new Christmas chalet outside the Guildhall during Bath Christmas Market on December 5 and 6 will bring library services to the community and an opportunity to enjoy a spot of crafting. …”
  • BoltonTen public libraries used as ‘warm spaces’ for people seeking relief from cold homes – Manchester Evening News. “All 10 Bolton public libraries open as Warm Spaces, people can drop in to get warm and join in lots of free activities such as reading, group events or using wi-fi and computers.”
  • Bristol – Bristol Central Library could relocate to Debenhams’ site – BBC. “Bristol’s library service budget faces large cuts, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS). Bristol Central Library could be moved into the vacant Debenhams’ store building in the centre of Broadmead to help, council leaders have suggested. Leaders said relocating from College Green was “just an idea” as the council attempts to find £47.7m in savings.”
  • Central Bedfordshire – Cost of Living: Central Bedfordshire Council opens sites as warm spaces – BBC. “libraries offered free Wi-Fi and access to public computers.”
  • Cheshire East – Cheshire East Council proud to become Sunflower Scheme employer during UK Disability History Month – Cheshire East Council. “customers and visitors will have access to one of these lanyards to borrow on site from our libraries and customer service centres.”
  • Devon – Tributes to leading light in town life – Tavistock Times Gazette. “Jan Horrell senior library supervisor at Tavistock Library, said: ‘Richard Martin was a long-time friend of the Library in Tavistock, in more recent years, the valued secretary and treasurer to the Friends of Tavistock Library, whose fundraising activities he supported with quiz questions, raffles and even dressing up.”
  • Hackney – Protests at Town Hall over Hackney plans to cut library staff – Easy London Lines. “With a third of library staff warned that they face redundancy, supporters of Hackney libraries protested outside theTown Hall on Wednesday night to put pressure on councillors to readdress the cuts.” … “99 staff members from libraries in Hackney have received letters from the Strategic Director Stephen Haynes notifying them that their jobs were “deleted”. UNISON puts the figure of cuts made by Hackney Council at £445,000, £195,000 more than initially proposed at the beginning of the year. As an MP, Abbott said she would consult with the councillors to not go forward with the cuts. “
  • Hertfordshire – Free cyber crime advice at Bishop’s Stortford Library – Bishop’s Stortford Independent. “Organised and delivered by officers from the force’s serious fraud and cyber unit, the sessions will provide practical tips for avoiding the most common types of cybercrimes.”
Compare with USA one above

“In the current economic climate, when we are promoting our libraries as warm spaces for people to spend time in to save money, we believe it is the ideal time to remove our library fines and offer a little extra help for people during these tough times.”

Councillor Sandra Graham, North Tyneside Council

Meeting some baser needs

Editorial

I wasn’t sure what to write in this week’s editorial – more on Warm Banks (or whatever we call them) perhaps or on the recent austerity-laden budget. But then I read something just below publishing about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It strikes me that libraries can meet all of these needs: self-actualisation (e.g. writing that novel, 3D printer), esteem (e.g. literacy, even owning a library card), social (e.g. knit and natter) and safety (neutral welcoming space). What went without saying until recently is that they provided warmth as well. But now that’s an actual selling point of libraries. And it seems to me that what level councils and library services aim for on the hierarchy is a pretty good indicator of how successful they are, and not just them, but for the society in which they a part of. In which case, it’s pretty low at the moment. But pretty essential too.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Cost of Living crisis: Libraries as warm banks – Dawn of the Unread. “By having multiple purposes, libraries are able to connect with communities that may otherwise not come into contact with books.” … “, the question of whether a library can be a focal point of the community seems to be the least important function at present. The current economic climate means the ambitions, at least in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, are purely physiological, to provide shelter and warmth.  “
  • Digital Leadership for Libraries empowering England’s public library workforce – CILIP. “five open-access, online learning modules created for public library workers, volunteers and apprentices. The modules are intended to create engagement with the principles and values of being a digital leader in the public libraries, unlocking the potential for all public library workers, and their services, to be confident digital leaders.”
  • Health on the High Street: The Role of Public Libraries – DCMS / Gov.uk. 215 people used ” M8 dual function automatic monitor (affectionally nicknamed FRED) which allows customers to accurately measure their height, weight, BMI, heart rate and blood pressure without supervision. They get a printout of the results and the data is also sent to their GP automatically if the customer consents to do so. The pilot was soft launched through local advertising via social media and by library staff and partners talking to their customers.”
  • Libraries vs. the Cost of Living Crisis – Book Riot. Free entertainment, easing financial pressure, warm banks. “While the fact that such a thing as a “warm bank” is necessary is a horrifying indictment of how bad things have become under austerity and late-stage capitalism, it’s reassuring that, once again, libraries are stepping up for their communities. “

International news

  • Iraq – Library Development in Iraq – Re-writing History – CILIP. 13 November, 5pm.
  • Ukraine – Forum on Building Partnership for Ukrainian libraries – Naple Sister Libraries. “Several hundred libraries were fully destroyed or damaged because of Russian missile attacks in Ukraine.
    To rebuild them it needs strong partnerships and ‘sisterships’ from the friendly libraries of Europe. That is why it is organized the Forum on 17 November 11.00-13.00 (Kyiv time) to present the situation of Ukrainian libraries and search for opportunities for cooperation.”
  • USA – They Want to Kill Libraries – Cory Doctorow. “Librarians are kind of upside-down cops: public employees who are stepping in wherever the rest of our services have failed. Cops are some of our highest-paid public servants and their salaries are going up. Librarians get by on a shoestring and their wages are being slashed. Progressives openly call for the police to be defunded — billionaire plutocrats hide their campaign to defund libraries behind groomer hoaxes.”

Local news by authority

Library ideas, impending doom and ACE funding

Editorial

One of the things I love about doing Public Libraries News is looking at what other library services are doing and wondering if it would work in my own. This week there’s a few things that I’m going to chase up when back in the office – BFI Replay, borrowing local theatre stars to do story-times and thermal cameras being the main ones. I’m not sure about the natural light lamps though or the idea of outsourcing to Capita which would then charge £8 per telephone call to a library, though.

In other news, one can’t help but notice the impending doom-laden clouds on the near horizon threatening deep budget cuts to councils next year. As if we’ve not been through enough. On the other end of the money scale, though, the week records a whole bunch of councils announcing Arts Council England funding. This is great but the fear must be that there’ll be an odd dichotomy between lovely arts events in councils announcing library closures. Although, of course, that’s assuming the Government doesn’t cut Arts Council England funding … you know, sometimes my pessimistic Welsh side really shows doesn’t it?

National news

  • About BFI Replay – BFI. “BFI Replay is a free streaming service exclusively available in UK public lending libraries. Thousands of digitised videos and television programmes from the BFI National Archive and partner UK regions and nations film archives are available to browse and enjoy, research or study – with some familiar and memorable, others rare and unseen for decades. If you are a UK lending library service and would be interested in knowing more about the service, use our enquiry form below.”
  • Bus and adult care services face cuts, English councils warn – BBC. “More than half suggested they were likely to look at reducing road maintenance, cuts to home-to-school transport, and changes to either the number or opening hours of libraries or recycling centres.”
  • Councils set to cut bus routes, libraries and streetlamps as austerity fears grow – Independent. “Only one in five county councils confident of avoiding bankruptcy next year” … ”
  • Ed Jewell elected new Libraries Connected President Elect – Libraries Connected. Chief Librarian at Jersey Public Library Service.
  • Libraries Connected celebrates after securing Arts Council England funding – Libraries Connected. £509k for two years initially. “Libraries Connected will have Investment Principle Support Organisation (IPSO) status, meaning we will support public library services to embed the Arts Council’s Investment Principles (Ambition & Quality, Dynamism, Environmental Responsibility and Inclusivity & Relevance) in their work”
  • Libraries Connected publishes new strategic plan – Libraries Connected. “a programme of collaborative research on the challenges and opportunities of the next decade” … public library service accreditation scheme, “Starting a public libraries data and evidence observatory”, “Launching an equality, diversity and inclusion learning and development programme for library services.”, “strategic advocacy programme”, “Establishing a commission on libraries and disadvantage to review the evidence on the role of public libraries in reducing social, environmental, financial and health inequalities”
  • McCulla Award – Local Studies Librarian of the Year – CILIP Local Studies Group. “The award is usually given for a recent major project, or as a lifetime award for someone near the end of their career. It comes with a prize of £250. Re-submissions from previous years are very welcome. “
  • Virtual hospital and GP appointments rolled out into libraries – STV. “Near Me rooms are now available in some GP surgeries and other locations such as libraries.””

International news

Local news by authority

Dorset – Time is running out to have your say – Dorset Council