Not a good time to be down by two-thirds? Kent and Stockport

Editorial

The BookSeller have published an interesting article on library usage, pointing out that it is only at one-fifth to one-third of pre-covid levels. There are many reasons for this situation, some of which are listed below, but it’s still a worrying statistic to be made public at a time when councils are looking for ways to save money:

  • much usage has moved online. On the other hand, while such usage is often larger than any single physical library branch, it won’t account for a significant amount of the fall. There were 157m book loans in 2018, while the article states that ebook loans March to August were 3.5m. The “600% increase” figure often quoted as an e-lending rise is not an overall accurate figure for the whole period.
  • many libraries are still closed, on reduced hours or click and collect only.
  • unlike shops, libraries are not promoting themselves or encouraging visitors. The focus is on safety, not income. Libraries need to be models of safety for their councils, and being risk averse, unlike retail.
  • the unique returns aspect of libraries means quarantining of books unlike in shops. This may have a knock-on effect in highlighting risk to users and in keeping popular titles outside of circulation.
  • A significant user base for libraries is amongst the old: a demographic most at risk and thus less likely to go out.

An example of an authority trying to save money is Kent, which has the largest number of library buildings of any UK authority, has announced that it will 66 of its 99 branches closed until 1st April 2021. Those normally working in the closed branches have been moved to open ones. Also, reading between the lines, the closure of Stockport Central Library and its moving some time next year to a co-location in an old Argos shop is as likely to be as much about saving money as modernising the service, although it is true that sometimes both can be achieved.

Changes by local authority

National news

The American Library Association’s Games and Gaming Round Table (GameRT) is proud to announce that despite COVID-19, International Games Week (IGW) will take place from November 8 to November 14, 2020.  Libraries of all stripes around the world are encouraged to sign up between now and October 24 to be eligible for a drawing for one of three special GameRT Loot Boxes. While GameRT encourages participants to hold a gaming event at their Library during IGW, due to the pandemic, any event held during the month of November can be counted.  This year, GameRT will be spotlighting freely available print-and-play games and listing resources available for libraries to use to set up gaming events online at games.ala.org

Darren Edwards, Lis-Pub-Libs
  • Levelling Up Our Communities – UK Government. Report by Danny Kruger MP (Conservative) to the Prime Minister on improving community. “The local Library is or should be a crucial element of the social model we need to create, or re-create. Libraries are no longer dusty book depositories. Increasingly they serve as digital hubs and information centres for communities, and places for classes and sessions of all kinds. The British Library’s Business and IP Centre network is supporting local libraries to assist people in starting their own businesses. Even more is possible: siting BBC local radio stations in libraries, spreading the Library of Things network, using libraries for cultural events and exhibitions, and working with Historic England to establish new libraries in old buildings.” … “Government should make a major commitment to support the local library as the hub of the 21st century community”
The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles, 9781982134198
  • Library footfall down 80% on last year – BookSeller. Libraries Connected “… collects weekly figures and, up to the week ending 13th September, they show a very gradual uptick in the number of physical users since lockdown ended for libraries from early July, with footfall still at only around 20% of last year’s level.” … many libraries still closed so those open more at 35% … “the figure is still far lower than for the commercial high street, where more shops have opened fully and footfall has peaked at close to 70% of previous levels.”
  • Public Library Apparel – KickStarter. “Apparel to raise awareness and funds for public libraries in the UK.”. Check out these literary themed t-shirts to support ailing libraries – Big Issue.
  • Public Library Reopening Poll – Summer 2020 – Lorensbergs. “The results provide a snapshot of the services available at late August/early September and libraries’ plans for the months ahead. A total of 96 library authorities have taken part, with participation stretching across the UK. The findings represent how it’s been necessary for library authorities to respond according to the guidelines and different circumstances of their local areas.”
  • Transforming the digital offer for public libraries – BookSeller. “Our goal was not just to conceptualise what a website for public libraries might look like, but rather to think more deeply and strategically about how to improve the use of digital technology throughout the whole public library sector. ” … “We believe that a national digital presence should help everyone discover the power of the public library by making access to knowledge easier and more enjoyable, and supporting every public library to deliver digital services of the highest quality.” … “to build a national digital channel for public libraries” and “develop patterns and designs that local libraries can use and re-work”

International news

Local news by authority

Just before the second wave

Editorial

Sorry to see that Hay on Wye, a place synonymous with books, will now have a library run by volunteers. Wales is notably less reliant on the unpaid than English libraries and so this represents a worrying development. Otherwise, the news continues to show a return to normal, although with one service amusingly reintroducing click and collect not because their libraries aren’t open – they are – but because the public liked the service. How the increasingly obvious and long-feared second wave will affect the national picture remains to be seen.

Changes by authority

National news

  • BookTrust’s Time to Read campaign supports transition to primary school for 740,000 children – Charity Today. ““We love to encourage parents to read with their children. Sadly, this year we can’t do it in person so our lovely library staff will be connecting with our parents and children virtually, helping parents and children see that’s there’s no right way to read a book. Using a variety of voices, styles and experience our library teams will read this years’ Time to Read book and share tips on reading aloud, beamed straight into homes via the schools. A familiar book, an enthusiastic parent and a friendly librarian what better combination to encourage reading this autumn.””
  • CILIP Conference 2020 – Reimagined – CILIP. October 13, 2020 – November 19, 2020. ” Reimagined will be a series of satellite events throughout Autumn, culminating in an incredible one-day event on 19 November with all of the elements that you would expect if you were to come to a live venue “
  • The history of book burning – New Statesman.” In 2018-19, there were 3,583 public libraries in the UK compared with 4,356 in 2009-10: 773 have closed.”
  • ‘Libraries and Rural Touring Arts’ – maximising the potential of our nation’s libraries – Rural Touring. “… the NRTF Libraries Project, funded by the Arts Council England will support the delivery of rural touring arts in libraries by recognising and promoting the high-quality creative activities already happening in rural libraries across the UK, strengthening and boosting ambition by sharing resources, contacts, expertise and knowledge, funding opportunities to map, review, learn, expand and develop the touring potential of libraries and bring organisations and professionals together to network, support, educate and collaborate on a national scale.” NRFT Conference – free digital conference includes one day, 13 October, on libraries.

Are you interested in standing as a candidate in the CILIP BAME Network’s Inaugural Elections? Do you want to find out more and ask questions? Then join us for a Zoom meeting on 24th September between 5.15pm-6pm. This is an opportunity for you to ask members of the CILIP BAME Network Steering Committee about what each role within the Committee will involve as well as about the work we have been involved with to date. If you are interested in joining this meeting please email info.bame@cilip.org.uk.

Mobeena Khan

International news

Local news by authority

“So many library users loved the surprise element of discovering what books had been chosen for them but just as importantly it also allows us to stay in touch with customers who are limiting their contacts and don’t want to browse the shelves just yet.”

June Souter, libraries service development manager

A normal news week, sort of

Editorial

Windsor and Maidenhead, the” tax avoidance capital” and one of the wealthiest parts of the UK, is considering cutting library opening hours by a quarter in order to save money. Elsewhere, Kingston has also announced a consultation but it is avoids mentioning if this is simply cover to cut funding or not. A new library has opened in Waltham Forest and another in the Vale of Glamorgan has closed for extensive refurbishment. Meanwhile, the troubled Library of Birmingham has been earmarked £3m of the £10m it needs just for maintenance. That place sucks in money. So – good news – this almost sounds like a normal news week pre-Covid.

A librarianship MA student is researching the use and purpose of volunteers at Oldham Libraries for her dissertation and is looking for information professionals to share their thoughts on the topic. The study will involve information professionals completing a survey about their experience and knowledge of volunteers. If you find the project of interest and would like to participate in this survey, please contact the researcher, Nicola Semple. Her email address is nicola.semple@stu.mmu.ac.uk

Changes by authority

Whichbook

I’ve been a fan of Whichbook for years and so was delighted to see that this one-of-a-kind book recommendation site has been radically improved. Rachel Van Riel, the Director of Opening the Book, the creators of Whichbook, very kindly agreed to answer my questions about it …

What is Whichbook?

A new way to choose a book where the reader is in control. Searching books sites and catalogues usually means keying in an author name or book title. But if you know the name already, your search is likely to turn up books you already know about. No surprises there. Whichbook starts instead from the reading experience you are looking for. Are you in the mood for something funny and optimistic or beautiful and a bit sad? Mix the mood sliders to match what you want and see what comes up. You can choose the race, age, gender and sexuality of the main character or spin the globe and pick the country your book is set in.

What is it like now?

This site is in a completely different league from the old one. The old one had the central idea but it was dated in design, you needed to be keen to use it. People still were keen – we averaged 35,000 a month – but this new one is so juicy and tempting – I defy anyone not to get sucked in to look at just one more possibility – and then another ….

So what’s actually new?

It’s dynamic and not linear. When you change the mood sliders, the book covers instantly rearrange to match, it’s magic. When you choose a main character, you can pick Asian and see a big choice, then choose gay, the book covers change instantly to show that. It’s a celebration of the richness of book cover design and a visual feast. Everything is intuitive – instead of a drop-down menu of countries to choose from, you can spin a globe and land anywhere and see which books are set there. And it is designed to work on tablets and phones as much as PCs and Macs. That’s been a huge job with such a complexity of interaction. But we knew that more than half of users access by mobile phone so it’s essential.

Is it free?

Yes, it’s completely free. For the first time, we have added a donate button as the site has had no public funding since 2003. We have looked at using ads too but they do spoil the design so we’d rather not.

How are the book choices made?

We concentrate on books which may fly below the radar – first-time authors, quirky titles and knock-out covers. Any user can suggest a book. We don’t include the big bestsellers as they don’t need any help to be found. Another great new feature, though, is that you can pick a current bestseller you enjoyed and see a selection of whichbook titles you might like to try next. That could be very useful for libraries with a big waiting list for bestseller reservations.

What’s the library connection?

Click on any book cover to get the book details and you can then Borrow or Buy. Borrow brings up a choice of UK library services with a link that goes straight to author/title level so you can see which branches hold it. The other big connection with libraries is that whichbook readers mostly work in libraries. We have just started a training programme with 10 new readers in Leeds Libraries.

National news

  • Libraries need change from the top – BookSeller. Tim Coates says “Public libraries have been losing the plot for years.” … “and if those currently in charge can’t see or do that, they should be replaced—and very quickly, this autumn. “
  • Together We Read – Digital bookclub. “During this two-week program, there will be no waitlists and no holds for the selected ebook. Download Libby to borrow the free ebook from your library using your phone or tablet. “

International news

  • China –  Concrete wormhole library – Designing Libraries. “The wormholes, of varying size and intervals, provide surprise and let in natural light. As well as provision for around 10,000 [censored – Ed.] books, the library has bicycle parking facilities, bathrooms and showers.”
  • Global – Libraries In Movement – Princh. A look at mobile libraries worldwide including those using donkeys and boats.
  • India – Pandemic is the perfect time to build community libraries, here’s why – Times of India. ” news of small community libraries being opened up in different places in Balochistan caught international bestselling author Paulo Coelho’s attention. The idea is to convert unused buildings or places previously misused for drug consumption into small community libraries in towns and villages so that people and young readers get a glimpse of the outside world through stories and books”
  • USA/Ireland/ – What’s it like to be a library cat during the pandemic – I Love Libraries. “Library staff know him to be extremely self-sufficient, but during the pandemic people have still been sure to drop by his hut to check in and share snacks.”

Local news by authority

Do libraries treat their readers as racists?

Editorial

Sometimes a thing comes along that crystallises your thinking and makes you realise things about your work. One of these for me was watching a recording of the “Promoting Diverse Content” webinar put on by Libraries Connected. The excellent panel made clear a few fundamental things wrong about libraries. Libraries too often treat non white literature as different and not as a fundamental part of our normal collections, sometimes not buying good material because it is felt that it does not reflect the user base.

Jolly well reflect good books, not your clientele, who will show they actually enjoy reading stuff by non-whites was the answer to that. Don’t treat your readers like they’re racist. Another was that hunting out such books should be our job, and that we shouldn’t blame side-lined authors and publishers for not having it on Askews or Peters but rather push for them ourselves. Finally, I could not help but thinking that seasonal promotions libraries do, like Black History Month, are getting a bit tokenistic now and that we should consider other options. After all what would think people think about a White History Month? And worse than that, isn’t that absolutely everything else we do?

A video all library staff should watch

So a lot of potentially far-reaching stuff to think about but this also raises another library failing. Far too much over the last decade has the crucial task of choosing the books been passed on to suppliers. These are companies, while very good, who respond to commercial pressures and, rigidly, to the buying templates services send them. These templates that are sometimes old and depend on someone in the library service to change it to reflect current needs. Some library services no longer have these skills, and most staff ratios certainly don’t reflect demographics. So this is a bit of a provocative editorial and deliberately so. Have a think yourself. But make sure you watch the webinar first, including the questions at the end.

National news

Whichbook has been updated. Have a play at https://www.whichbook.net/
  • The case for public libraries: Creating a safe place for everyone – Living Libraries. “We’re currently spotlighting our policy intervention, Living Libraries: The case for public libraries in the words of those who use, work in and run them. In this short publication, we make eight recommendations for decision-makers, on four themes: health and wellbeing; community; information; and the environment. Read on to find out more about the second strand of our research, on the vital role libraries play in communities:”
  • Coronavirus: Hundreds of libraries could close amid Covid-19 crisis, warn campaigners – Independent.”Councils are going to be cutting anything they can lay their hands on because the situation is so severe,” Laura Swaffield, chair of the group, told The Independent. “And in these situations, we know from years of experience, they come for libraries because they are seen as an easy target. The numbers lost are not going to be good.” … “Ian Anstice, a librarian who runs the super-comprehensive Public Libraries News website, said he also feared for the future.”
  • The library — like working from home, but better – Nick Poole. “You could not invent a network of trusted locations with the power to help get the nation back on its feet like our public libraries. No commercial enterprise could achieve the same scale or reach, with the same impact as cost-effectively. Thanks to initiatives like the British Library’s business and IP Centres, no other network could leverage the same authoritative startup support, nor provide the same platform for inclusive local economic growth.”

International news

  • Australia – Rosewood Library shines bright – Public Libraries Connect. “Performance-wise, the new library is less than four weeks old at time of writing but in that time has amassed several hundred new members and circulated over 4,500 loans”
  • Global – “The Futures You Didn’t See Coming” at CIL & IL Connect Conference, 23rd September – Mechanical Dolphin. “On September 23rd, at 09:30 AM Eastern Time, I’ll be joining Erik Boekesteijn at the online CIL & IL Connect 2020 conference for a quick chat about foresight and futures for information professionals, their institutions, and the communities they serve. Erik is running a daily interview strand with a range of information professionals and their allies as part of the event.”
  • Nigeria – British Council Launches Digital Library – This Day Live. “Access to the Digital Library will be free for 3 months for every registered member.
    As a member of the Digital library, there will be access to world-class resources, from online study resources and academic journals to popular eBooks and audiobooks, award-winning movies and documentaries, magazines and newspapers, comics and graphics novels from around the world and learning resources for skills development.”

Local news by authority

Because council tax only goes so far
  • Summer Reading Challenge Continues – Hertfordshire Council. “There is still time to pop into any of the libraries listed above to collect your free pack. The online challenge ends on 30 September, but you can still continue the challenge at home beyond that date.”
  • Lancashire – Padiham, Colne and Clitheroe libraries latest to reopen next week – Pendle Today. “Libraries in Clitheroe, Colne and Padiham are among another 15 branches due to be reopened by Lancashire County Council next Wednesday”
  • Liverpool – Joe Anderson puts halt to controversial city centre zip wire – Liverpool Echo. “Mayor Joe Anderson has stepped in to halt a plan for a zip wire that would have landed on the roof of Liverpool Central Library, after weeks of controversy over the scheme. The city’s planning committee approved an application for the zip wire to pass from the Radio City tower and over St John’s Gardens before landing on the roof of the library. However, the decision faced serious opposition from conservationists, architects and residents who said it would lead to the “disneyfication” of the city centre.”
  • Moray – Library scheme in Moray to be expanded after proving hit with readers – Press and Journal. “An “order and collect” scheme was launched at Elgin Library two weeks ago to give residents access to the service again. Since then, 257 collection slots have been used with 976 books borrowed. Now Moray Council has confirmed that the ordering service will be expanded elsewhere due to the demand. Libraries in Forres, Buckie, Keith, Aberlour and Lossiemouth will be running the scheme from Monday.”
  • North Yorkshire – North Yorkshire libraries press ahead with phased reopening – North Yorkshire County Council. ““Some customers thought browsing meant look but not touch, but this isn’t the case,” said County Councillor Greg White, Executive Member for Libraries. “So we apologise for any confusion. You can now enjoy selecting books to borrow. Many of you have visited, but we know others have not yet done so, so why not put on your face covering, use our hand sanitiser and venture in to see for yourself how safe we have made it for you.”

And then there was one

Editorial

Recovery continues, although the latest Libraries Connected figures showing a far slower return to libraries than to shops. This is, however, honestly to be expected as still only a small fraction of branches are fully open, with most only offering partial services and many still closed, although Sandwell is now the only library service not to have any form of physical service at all.

In other news – now there is other news – it’s been reassuring to see the huge fight put up in Glasgow over possible closures, resulting in the assurance this week that all branches are safe. Like most book readers, I do like a happy ending and the Scottish have apparently managed to get one there.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Boris Johnson and the revenge of the school librarian – TES. “Lining the shelf just behind Mr Johnson’s head were titles with rather unflattering associations for any political leader, including “The Twits”, “The Subtle Knife”, “The Resistance”, and “Betrayed”. And sticking out like a sore thumb was “Fahrenheit 451”, a dystopian novel about a society where books are banned.
  • Burning the books by Richard Ovenden – BBC Radio 4. 14 minutes, first episode of five. “Richard Ovenden, director of the Bodleian Library, explains how attacks on libraries and archives have been a feature of history since ancient times, but have increased in frequency and intensity during the modern era. Libraries are far more than stores of literature, through preserving the legal documents such as Magna Carta and records of citizenship they also support the rule of law and the rights of citizens.”
  • Lesley Pearse launches Libraries Connected #LibrariesFromHomeLIVE virtual event series – Libraries Connected. “Hosted via Zoom, Facebook Live and Live Webinar the series will kick-off with Bristol Libraries on the 10th September and conclude with a special Friday Fizz! Event with Manchester Libraries on the 25th September.”
  • Libraries: helping local communities find work – Arts Council England. “As the country tries to recover economically from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, libraries are extremely well-placed to help people looking for work and support their communities.” … “Data provided by Norfolk Library Service, Somerset Library Service and Wandsworth Library Service to Libraries Connected for the weeks immediately following lockdown indicate that …”

Libraries have always supported their local communities by offering resources and facilities throughout people’s lives – from toddler rhyme times to supporting the elderly, the isolated and the vulnerable. However, as the economy begins to recover from Covid-19, libraries are extremely well-placed to help those people who are looking for work. I know that up and down the country, library staff will be doing everything they can to support those in their community who need to get back to work or change career path.

Sue Williamson, Director, Libraries, Arts Council England
  • Reading Challenge aims to support pupils returning to school – Grampian Online. “he challenge is available to all primary and secondary schools as well as community groups and libraries in Scotland, and aims to build positive reading cultures and improve literacy for young people. Now in its fifth year, the programme is run by national charity Scottish Book Trust and over a third of all schools in Scotland took part in the challenge last year. The First Minister’s Reading Challenge aims to support teachers and pupils returning to school after lockdown with additional resources and funding.”
  • Troubled Capita to Sell Another Software Business – CBR. “Capita’s Education Software Solutions business also includes “Reading Cloud”, a library and resource management system that is used by some 15,000 schools, and AGILIT-e: management software for universities that is used by 30 higher education institutions in the UK and Ireland, according to Capita.”
  • Webinar: Phased Reopening of Libraries :Warwickshire Libraries and IF_DO Architects  – Bibliotheca. Tuesday 1 September 2pm.
  • We’re back! How public libraries have been reopening their doors – Libraries Connected. “We have just a snapshot of around 1 in 3 public libraries at the moment, but we’ll be collecting this data over the coming months to build up a more detailed picture of how library services are recovering. ” … “In the first week of opening, libraries saw 8% of their usual visitor numbers, and over the 6 weeks to mid- august this rose to 15%. However, this comparison is based on footfall numbers last year when all library sites were open, so with the 15% figure is more likely to be between 20 and 40% of usual footfall for those sites that are open. “
  • What Does Quality Mean for a Modern Library Service? – Libraries Connected. Recording of video chat, virtual consultation.

International news

  • To-Go Library Services – ALSC Blog. “…  as the months wear on, we’ve come to realize that patrons (much like their hard-working librarians) are pretty burnt out on technology. So last month when we reopened to the public, the Youth Services Team rolled out a few fresh ideas for engaging with our community.”

Local news by authority

And then there were two

Editorial

Generally, libraries are continuing to reopen and usage is slowly, so slowly, beginning to rise. It looks like that usage drops after the inevitable spike of opening and then slowly recovers. The question for all library services is when that recovery will reach pre-lockdown levels. And if it will reach pre-lockdown levels. After all, there’s a lot of people out there, who out of previous habit used libraries but will now have had four or five months now to explore digital alternatives. It will also take a time, how long no-one knows, for our more cautious users to decide things are safe enough to come back. And that will in turn depend on if there’s a second spike or not, and when this nightmare fully ends.

More specifically, only two library services in England are currently not offering any physical service (inc. click and collect) at all. One of these, Barking and Dagenham, have been extra careful since the beginning and announced a long while ago they’d reopen on 1 September. The other, Sandwell has just a note saying “closed until further notice” on their webpage. Elsewhere, Glasgow Life – the trust that runs libraries – is having a budgetary problem brought on by lockdown and has announced some libraries may not reopen, much to the chagrin of the public and the local paper. Even Nicola Sturgeon is stepping in there.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • 1000 Tiny Fun Palaces – Fun Palaces. 3 and 4 October. “While Fun Palaces usually have anything from 20 to 2000 participants, in response to Covid-19, we are encouraging extra-small, hyper-local Fun Palaces this October.”
  • Beyond digital literacy: STEM learning ideas from library professionals in the UK and Ireland – CILIP.
  • The complicated business of keeping books clean of COVID-19 – Jisc News. Academic library perspective.
  • Digital events in public libraries: learning from our lockdown experiences – Libraries Connected. 10 September. “Colleagues from three public library services will be sharing their experiences of developing creative digital activity for their communities during lockdown. They will be describing how they planned the programme, the impact their activities have had and will reflect on skills used/needed and other lessons learned.”
  • Libraries: A place to learn to love culture – DCMS Blog. “Library services are opening again with enthusiasm. Reopening libraries with social distancing measures in place is going smoothly, with libraries placing a strong emphasis on safety of both staff and users.  As more measures are relaxed, libraries will begin to move back to running events.  “
  • Libraries Week – CILIP. “In 2020, Libraries Week will take place between the 5th and 10th October, celebrating the nation’s much-loved libraries and their vital role in the UK’s book culture. We will be encouraging libraries in all sectors to celebrate books and reading, showcase their reading offer and the contribution they make towards building a Nation of Readers.”
  • Shop – Reading Agency. Special emailed appeal – “We’d really appreciate if you can include a call-out for adult librarians to be added to our weekly newsletter – they can email zoe.sadler@readingagency.org.uk“. Also, the Agency are “encouraging the libraries to order packs to use them wherever they can – putting posters in windows, bookmarks on desks, instead of the creative displays they usually make. We also have digital packs available with social media assets and downloadable activities”
  • Survey – DCMS. 10-20 minute survey. “This survey has been commissioned by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to better understand the needs of its stakeholders. Your answer will remain anonymous and will be used to inform DCMS’ preparedness efforts.”
  • With coronavirus lockdowns many libraries (and librarians) have been more fabulous than ever – Guardian. A “First Dog on the Moon” cartoon to make ever public librarian proud.

International news

Local news by authority

Hertfordshire – Minnie’s Library Episode. A lovely personal way of updating users of what”d going on. We hope your house gets tidied soon, Minnie.
  • Hampshire – Have your say over Aldershot, Fleet, Farnborough and Yateley library hours – In Your Area. “Hampshire County Council wants to cut opening times at 40 libraries to help save £1.76 million”
  • Islington – Phased reopening of Islington libraries announced – Islington Gazette. “Archway Library, Central Library, Finsbury Library, N4 Library, West Library and the Local History Centre will be open Monday to Friday from 11am to 4pm and Saturday 11am to 5pm.”
  • Kent – More libraries and archives search room to reopen – Kent County Council. “A further 12 Kent Libraries will reopen over the course of week beginning 24 August. These will be the first libraries to also offer a socially-distanced book browsing service for customers so they can select books from the shelves.”
  • Lambeth – Lambeth Heritage Festival – Lambeth Council. “With over 40 different events, there will be something happening on just about every day of the month. The big difference is that this year everything will be online. You can chose from virtual walks, archive film screenings, online talks, podcasts, virtual reality films, banner making and drawing workshops, discussion groups, virtual building tours and author interviews – hopefully there should be something for almost every taste.”
  • Lancashire – Lancashire County Council is reopening more of its libraries this week – here is the full list of all that are now open – Lancaster Guardian. “In Lancashire 26 libraries have now reopened their doors, with 14 opening in the last week, including, Heysham, Longridge and Ribbleton”
  • Liverpool – Zip Wire decision to be challenged in court – Engage Liverpool. “The Victorian Society announced in a press release this afternoon (19.08.20) that they have started legal proceedings against Liverpool City Council’s decision to grant planning approval to create a zip wire visitor attraction through the historic core of the St George’s Quarter (also known as the Culture Quarter in the UNESCO World Heritage Site documentation) involving a huge new construction on the roof of the Grade II* Listed Central Library.”
  • Manchester – Inside the new normal at Manchester Central Library – Manchester Evening News. “A maximum of 250 visitors will be allowed into the library at any time, with hand sanitiser stations available on all four floors.”. Face masks and test and trace in place. “floor cafe will be opened, with slimmed down seating for social distancing and a reduced menu.”. … “Space inside the library’s fantastic Wolfson Reading Room – with its huge dome roof and wonderful echo – has been reduced from 300 to 60, but it is open.” Reduced opening hours.
  • Norfolk – Two more Norfolk Libraries set to re-open – Watton and Swaffham Times. “Swaffham Library and St Williams Way Library in Thorpe St Andrew are set to reopen on Tuesday, August 25 with safety measures in place.”
  • Northern Ireland – All local libraries set to reopen next week – Derry Journal. “Several libraries across Derry and the wider north west will reopen for the first time in five months next week, it has been confirmed.”
  • Nottingham – Next chapter for Nottingham’s Central Library – My Nottingham News. “While the progression for the new Central Library continues at pace as part of the new Broadmarsh Car Park, Bus Station and retail development, a decision has been made to not re-open the Nottingham Central Library at its current location on Angel Row, since its closure on Friday 20 March following the COVID-19 lockdown. “
  • Nottinghamshire – Retford Library set to reopen after extensive refurbishment – Lincolnshire Live. “The county council say the refurbishment has made the library more visible and accessible to the local community with easier to navigate shelving, which will also be able to be moved to create larger spaces for performances and cultural activities.”
  • Peterborough – Three Peterborough libraries to open next week – Peterborough Telegraph.
  • Sheffield – List and reopen Tinsley Carnegie library, Sheffield – Change.org. “We the undersigned petition Sheffield City Council to list the handsome Tinsley Carnegie library building, and to apply for funding to reactivate it for its originally intended purpose, to provide a much needed free library for the area of Tinsley.”
  • Shetland – Community / Librarian with ‘huge sense of fun’ nominated for national award – Shetland News. “Catherine Jeromson is up for the 2020 library and information professional of the year award from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland.” … “Her nomination highlights her improvements to the mobile library, and services for the visually impaired. Her work with the library’s Twitter account – which has received widespread attention, partly due to some light-hearted banter with Orkney Library – is also noted.”
  • Staffordshire – Staffordshire’s mobile library service prepares to return – Express and Star. “Staffordshire County Council has announced the return of the mobile service as part of the library service’s phased reopening, with two vehicles travelling to smaller communities around the county. The mobile service will be limited initially to no more than two communities per day per vehicle, and borrowers will not enter the vehicle but deposit their books with staff and collect new loans arranged in advance.”
  • Warwickshire – Southam Library latest to reopen – Leamington Observer. ““Our other library buildings remain closed just for the time being – although we have ten other library locations offering the ‘Click and Collect’ service – but there will be further announcements about the opening of more libraries around the county very soon.””
  • West Sussex – Libraries are back open in Crawley – Crawley News 24. “All 36 libraries are now open for people to browse the shelves, but the number of visitors allowed in the buildings at any one time will be limited to allow for social distancing.”
  • Wiltshire – Westbury Library will reopen next month – White Horse News. Click and collect plus bookable PCs. ” Libraries were given the go-ahead by the government to open in July. However, instead, Wiltshire Council chose to run the public consultation about how libraries could be opened safely, in a move that was criticised by the local community”
  • Worcestershire – Worcester Festival: What’s on for today? – Worcester News. “Worcestershire Libraries are part of the Living Knowledge Network and they have opened up their Network to Library users providing exclusive access to cultural events, include literary and cultural debates; author talks and panel discussions on key cultural developments.”
  • Wrexham – Wrexham Library Service: creating green spaces inside and out – The Leader. “Sprucing up our green spaces both indoors and outdoors is right on trend, and there are plenty of titles on design, planting, DIY projects, indoor plants, as well as vegetable and herb patches to offer inspiration and guidance.”

“In a word, online”

Editorial

At time of writing, it has been 144 days since the official start of lockdown and things are continuing to open up. Holidays are being taken, relatives visited and shopping done. However, many places abroad are seeing the much-feared second wave and the curve for the UK itself is looking worryingly upward-turning. In public libraries, more services are being added and librarians continue to emerge blinking (and, one cannot help but notice, often very tanned) into the new world, with as far as I can tell only 3 out of 150 English services (Barking and Dagenham, Bedford and Sandwell) still not offering some sort of physical service.

Speaking personally, the high point of my week was hosting a very successful session from John Kirk, who did a brilliant online Twits show for 40 or so enthralled (and highly participating) children. Interestingly, that’s more kids than I’d normally expect for a physical show. We got talking afterwards (see the interview below for the result) and discussed what will be happening to libraries medium term. And basically what we agreed was that it is going to be online. It looks like Covid may well come back, or at least not go away, and that the risks it induces mean that physical events will be difficult for the foreseeable future. This, combined with more people getting used to teleconferencing, shows the need for us to do more of that. And, as time goes by, the quality will need to continue to improve.

The good news is that digital should be very cheap and it is just the skills and the will that libraries need to develop. For example, it’s far less costly for a library service anywhere in the country to hire a storyteller like John for Zoom than it would be to pay his travelling expenses. And if 2 or 3 library services clubbed together, it’d be frankly ridiculously cheaper. So the opportunity is there. Libraries just need to grab it, as they have done before, and not let the digital slip but, rather, continue to improve.

An interview with John Kirk, professional storyteller

What do you enjoy most about storytimes in public libraries? 

I have been working in public libraries since 2012.  To date, I have worked with 80 library authorities in England, Scotland and Wales and a few school’s library services.  I love working in public libraries.  For me, it’s all about getting out there, meeting new people, seeing new places and sharing the fun of stories with family audiences.  I suppose these are also the things I have missed the most during the lock down.  Nobody treats me and my work with more respect than the library staff I have worked with and it’s a real privilege to be a small part (in some cases a fixture) in some family’s summers. 

Nobody treats me and my work with more respect than the library staff I have worked with

What do you least enjoy? 

My life has changed hugely over the time I have been telling stories in libraries.  As the years have passed I do more and more travelling.  It’s very satisfying to work with library audiences across the UK but the nights away from my three year old daughter can be tough at times.  I also find it quite hard to have built relationships with librarians, to hear about cuts and restructures and then to invoice people I consider friends – there are some libraries whom I would pay to work with I enjoy visiting them so much, honestly I would! 

Is there something that a library service did that really impressed you?) 

Librarians are an incredible breed of people.  I don’t think they always get the credit they deserve for what they do in their communities.  They are also risk takers and I owe what has been a fabulous period of my life to people like Sean Edwards, Geoff James, Lesley Davies, and Hilary Marshall to name just a few of the wonderful people who have been so very supportive of my work. 

For me there are a couple of authorities who offer a really varied programme of activities and then promote them really well to their audiences (not to embarrass them but Brent and Redbridge). 

For me the biggest challenge that libraries face is telling the world how great the stuff they do is; that libraries are about more than books.  For me there are a couple of authorities who offer a really varied programme of activities and then promote them really well to their audiences (not to embarrass them but Brent and Redbridge).  Most libraries now push events on social media but nothing beats proactive staff talking to their service users about what they are doing and posters, big, colourful posters. 

Looking at the changes wrought by the current crisis, where do you see storytelling in the next year or so? 

In a word; online.  In the week before lock down I was touring Yorkshire Libraries.  On the Monday we managed to persuade a group into a library in Wakefield, on the Tuesday Rotherham Libraries ran me round to the local schools but by that evening remaining dates in Sheffield, Barnsley and York were indefinitely postponed.  In the following weeks I had to cancel my plans and bookings for summer 2020 and put an entirely new plan in place.  This summer I have run sessions using Youtube, Facebook Live, Zoom and Google Meets literally all over the country (in one day I worked with Stoke on Trent, Bristol and Swindon and North Tyneside without going beyond my front door!). 

I’d love to think that on a given date at a given time I could do an event and simultaneously broadcast to every library in a given authority.  Yes, it’d probably be a technical headache but imagine the sense of community when the different audiences could see each other joining in with a story?  Then there are all kinds of opportunities to work with other library services.  One of my favourite moments of the summer was when I told “The Gingerbread Man” and staff from Croydon, St Helens, Hertfordshire, Thurrock, Swansea, Kingston and Tameside Libraries were there because they had promoted the event in their authorities.  To be a part of the discussions afterwards was very special. 

Two children at home interacting with John Kirk onTV
John Kirk, and children, in action

Yes, this isn’t how I saw my summer and I am gutted not to be telling Mr Gum in libraries as planned but actually the crisis creates an opportunity for storytellers like me to work with more libraries in far flung places at much more affordable prices (I don’t have to charge travel expenses to walk from the kitchen to the spare bedroom).  I can see libraries reopening but I can’t see face to face events taking place for a while yet.  That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to do live events.  It’s a lot easier for a public audience to socially distance if the front portion of the room isn’t taken up with my kit. 

Is there anything libraries can do to adapt to the new world better? 

I think that libraries have to embrace the new normal and the technology.  If you don’t have an active social media channel where you control the content and are engaging with service users everyday this should be a priority – Greenwich Libraries Baby Rhyme Time sessions on Facebook are brilliant example of how social media can work harder for library services.  I know that there has been resistance to Zoom from some councils because of security concerns.  I will always preference video conferencing over video sharing platforms because in a shared space, albeit a virtual one, you can interact with the audience.  In my retelling of Roald Dahl’s “The Twits” I encourage the adult in charge to spray sticky glue (water) over my audience.  I have also developed a scavenger hunt storyline for families with children 3+.  These elements of my sessions have been very popular and came about because I have tried to push the limitations of the technology and make my storytelling a 4D experience. 

How did you get into storytelling? 

Twenty years ago I trained as an actor.  When I decided to stop I struggled with an office job and it was suggested that I should write my own show.  When a school described me as a storyteller the title stuck.  I am still a high energy performer with a fairly theatrical style but these days I do a lot more traditional storytelling.  I have been very lucky with the authors I have worked with; people like Jeremy Strong, Terry Deary and Tom Palmer were brilliant to work with but the key moments were when Haringey Libraries recommended me to tell Michael Morpurgo’s “Private Peaceful” as part of City Read 2014 and when I got the rights to tell Roald Dahl’s “The Twits” in 2016; in two years I went from working in a small area of north London to travelling to libraries, schools and festivals around the country and to date have worked as far afield as Germany and the UAE.  I love what I do.  I wouldn’t have changed the last twelve years for anything but it’s not been without challenges and whatever the world looks like for me after the current crisis you can be sure it’ll include storytelling. 

How do you adapt storytelling to Zoom? 

It hasn’t been easy but I try to make everything I do fit the camera.  I am very conscious of framing when I tell a story to the camera.  I also like to play with my proximity to the camera (I’ll come right up to it and I’ll talk directly to members of the audience).  I’ve already mentioned some of the ideas I have played with to make my sessions more interactive but I also encourage the children to pull faces and I do a lot of role play and movement within stories.  I am also conscious of the adult watching and encourage them to take photos, leave comments and like and share videos.  It’s all about getting them to come back to the library’s website and enagage with the next activity so that when services return, libraries hit the ground running. 

How do kids take to it? 

I do tell a lot of different stories but by far the most popular are by Roald Dahl.  I use wigs, instruments and props to find fresh and dynamic ways to tell my stories which hold the children’s attention but The Twits and The Enormous Crocodile endure as masterpieces and I reckon a child would be hooked by Dahl’s words if they were watching whilst wearing a swimsuit in an igloo.  Seriously though, the feedback has been beyond my wildest expectations and I’m just so happy to have been a part of my seventh Summer Reading Challenge. 

Have you been surprised by anything online / had an amusing moment etc? 

A couple of weeks ago I completely forgot I was supposed to be running a session and had to do all my preparation in literally ten minutes – I can laugh about it now but at the time I was frantic.  I was interrupted by a lawnmower whilst running a session for Thurrock and one of my neighbours went to check on another of my neighbours after hearing a lot of shouting – it was me, I had the windows open!  They’re all quite used to it now and some say they know all the words! 

John Kirk is originally from Chorley in Lancashire but is now based in East Sussex.  He’s trained as an actor, been involved in several theatrical productions, as well as doing other jobs. John works regularly work in early year centres, primary schools, libraries and museums and has been involved in several major events including the Cultural Olympiad (2012), Great War commemorations (2014-2018) and #Shakespeare400 (2016)His website is here.

National news

  • 1000 Tiny Fun Palaces – Libraries Connected. Watch recording of webinar from Stella Duffy “This year, Fun Palaces weekend on 3 and 4 October will be different – sometimes smaller, always safer, but as ever remarkable. We hosted this webinar on 4 August led by Fun Palaces’ amazing and inspirational Director Stella Duffy to talk through the new possibilities for extra-small, hyper-local Fun Palaces in libraries.”
  • ‘George Eliot’ among 25 female writers being republished using their real names – CNN. “The 25 novels are being offered as e-books, which are free to download via the prize’s sponsor, Baileys. Physical box sets of the republished titles will also be donated to libraries across the UK.”
  • Library Open Data: an update – DCMS Libraries. ” How can we engage services and library staff to understand how important this data could be? How do we make sure that staff have the skills and confidence to take on a data role? We hope that some of the examples on the schema site will go some way to highlighting what can be done if data is published in an open and standard format.”
  • Local advocacy – Libraries: An essential part of local recovery – Libraries Connected. “In our new local advocacy resource, we’ve identified five key areas where libraries can play a central role in meeting the needs of individuals and communities who may be struggling to overcome the effects of the Covid-19 crisis.”
  • Supporting public libraries through a national digital presence – British Library. Looking at the minimum viable product (that is, the least that can be done for it to be worthwhile) and what more could be achieved, plus progress before and future plans.
  • What does quality mean for a modern library service? – Libraries Connected. 21 August 2pm webinar. “The session will begin with some provocations from speakers outside of the sector talking about what a quality library service means to them. The virtual floor will then be open to everyone who would like to contribute, or just listen in on what should be a great discussion.”
  • When will libraries open in Scotland and have they reopened in the rest of the UK? – Metro.

International news

  • Colombia – Pandemic pen pals: How Colombian libraries lift spirits – Christian Science Monitor. ““the kids kept coming to the library,” she says, and family programming continued. “It’s the protective space of the community, a space of liberation from the problems of the neighborhood. Here, libraries have played a really important role in constructing peace, but even more than that, creating community.””

“The written word allows us to understand other humans, and whether we’re reading a novel, a story, or a letter, it helps us understand we’re not alone,”

  • EU – Will European public libraries be set back tens of years from 2021? – Biblioteket tar saka. As well as the likelihood of budget cuts “it will not be easy to run, or to re-invent, a library in a generalised two-meter society where events are forbidden, 75 % of chairs are removed, services to customers have to comply with social distancing rules and library’s outreach is restricted in many ways.”
  • Ireland – Libraries remove vital trans teen book after disgraceful far-right letter writing campaign linking LGBT+ lives to paedophilia – Pink News. “Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin consists of six interviews with trans teenagers about their lives and was published in 2014. Since then, the book has been assailed by anti-trans activists who have called for it to be banned. Cork City Libraries opted to remove Beyond Magenta from its shelves and have it re-processed for “adult/YA lending” – which requires adult consent – after they received a letter from a far-right activist.”
  • Lebanon – Help rebuild Beirut’s libraries – Libraries Deliver. “Among the tremendous human tragedy and loss of life caused by the explosion in Beirut on the 4th August came the heartbreaking news that three of the main municipal public libraries in the city had been destroyed”
  • Pakistan – Charting the Role of Pakistani libraries in a Post-COVID19 World – Global Village Space. “Crisis like these can be redefining moments and with close collaboration, technology, and digital transformation, public libraries in Pakistan can break free of their old mold and have an overhaul, which is long-due. It is a pity that very few public libraries have any online services and have remained closed, but that could change with collaboration between volunteers, NGOs and the government.”
  • USA – Envisioning the New Model Library: Navigating through the pandemic and beyond – Hanging Together. “Our broad questions include:
    • Will the current environment of physical distancing and precautions persist in the post-pandemic era? • If so, will most of our services and programs continue to be offered in an online environment? • How will we – or can we? should we? – create experiences similar to the physical spaces in our libraries in our virtual library spaces?””

Local news by authority

Slow recovery continues

Another week of recovery and things gradually returning to normal. Only 6 out of 150 English public library services do not offer either a browsing or click and collect service at the moment, with services also reopening elsewhere in the British Isles. At least two mainland library services are also operating mobile libraries.

In the libraries that are open , and from the library library services I am in contact with, the picture appears to be that of a slow increase in usage week on week (apart from the initial rush) as people become more confident in coming out into public spaces. It’s all dependent on there being no “second wave” of course so cross fingers. And wear a mask, it’s the law.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Library Open Data: an update – Gov.uk. The big question is what happens next and how do we integrate use of the schemas into everyday business as usual for library services?”
    • Library Open Data. “These pages describe a core dataset for public library open data. Having standard data will enable local services to share data analysis, and build open applications from that data.”
  • Our Survey Says…E-learnings from Lockdown – LinkedIn.”First rule of e-content in libraries: Usage always disappoints. ” … “only 9% said they had ‘total control’ over this aspect of their library offer.” … “80% who said that they have no strategy for promoting their library sources to non-users” …” most libraries make little effort to reach non-users and that their e-resources are underused.”
  • Quiz: Which librarian from pop culture are you? – Book Riot. “f you are a lover of books and reading, there is a good chance you were obsessed with a fictional librarian at some point. Perhaps you still are! Whether it’s Marian, Giles, or Twilight Sparkle, there are several iconic librarians in pop-culture that inspire admiration.”
  • Urgent investment needed to boost mental health recovery – LGA. “Libraries, leisure, housing, money advice and other essential council-run services, alongside statutory mental health services and public health, all play a crucial part in supporting people’s mental wellbeing.”
  • What does quality mean for a modern library service? – Libraries Connected. “Libraries Connected are working with Arts Council England and CILIP to develop an accreditation framework for public libraries. An important part of this work is to engage as many people who care about libraries as possible.” 21 August 2pm.
  • What Re-opening looks like in some CMLs and a call for Volunteers – Community Managed Libraries Network.

International news

  • Australia – Snapshot of Australia’s public library services – Public Libraries Connect. ” in 2018-19, there were more than 273,000 public library programs country wide attracting over 7.4 million attendances, an increase of approximately 23,000 programs and 400,000 attendees from the previous year.” … “Other key highlights include total expenditure on public libraries has increased from $1.14 billion in 2015-16 to over $1.32 billion in 2018-19, and access to public library services provided through 1,683 service points – an increase of 13 service points from the previous year.”
  • USA – Blackstone’s $4.7B acquisition of Ancestry raises privacy questions – Med City News. ” privacy experts said more consumer protections are needed, when the world’s largest real estate owner — which has an ownership stake in Change Healthcare, Hilton, and several other large brands — is buying a genetics company.”

Local news by authority

Public library issues to be reduced by half in 2020?

For a guide to how each library service in the UK is approaching reopening, see this webpage.

Editorial

Physical public libraries are slowly coming back to life, with only 11 out of 150 English library services not physically open in some way. Many library services are offering at least a few open to freely borrow from as well. Meanwhile, click and collect has become the norm in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, with opening up more hopefully coming soon. So reopening is continuing apace. Also in the good news category, many in libraries will also be breathing a sigh of relief, no pun intended, that it will soon be mandatory for masks to be worn in libraries.

However, with no regular or one-off events and with only a fraction of all libraries being open and a minority of them being more than than click and collect, it’s no surprise that library usage will take a dive this year. RIBA points out that the 3 months of closure along will likely have cost 50 million of an expected c. 226 million visits annually. Adding in that library service overall will still be very limited in August – the busiest month of the year for the sector – and that people may well be slow in coming back, it is possible to envisage anything up to a halving of physical visits, and of issues of physical items, to libraries this year.

I’m of course careful to say “physical” as 2020 is proving a Wonder Year for the digital offer of libraries, especially in online joining and loan of ebooks, as well as a flowering of social media. However, being this was starting from quite a low base in many library services, it seems to me at least that this is unlikely to seriously affect the overall figure to a significant degree.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather have libraries slow to open and be safe than fast to open and not be. Libraries should never kill people, after all. But the cost of being such a responsible sector is a real one. The fear is that some of the people visiting us may find other ways of getting what they need and may not come back. How many that will be is perhaps, along with possible deep cuts to council budgets, the most serious question facing libraries today.

National news

  • Coping with Covid: How library design will need to change – RIBA Journal. “Flexible spaces that allow for social distance, quarantined books and fewer touch points will need to maintain the sense of welcome and community” … “According to Libraries Connected, the national umbrella body for public libraries, there were more than 226 million library visits last year, suggesting that over 50 million visits were lost in the three months of closure.”

“How libraries can return to being the all-welcoming places they were before the pandemic is one of the biggest concerns for senior librarians. They are used to bringing people together, so actively keeping people apart goes against their natural instincts. It will require sterilising the space but not the experience.”

“I’m pretty sure that library stats will be in decline, but I wanted to draw to your attention the fact that CIPFA does not collect any statistics for community managed libraries which are not part of the “statutory network”, as defined by the relevant local authority. So all books borrowed through our library, for example, are deliberately omitted from all “official” statistics. We do collect the information, but no-one seems interested in collecting it”

Chris Clarke
Friends of Jesmond Library

International news

Local news by authority

Quantity has a quality all its own

For the list of how libraries in the UK are reopening, see this page.

Editorial

Every now and again, a debate flares up about public library usage statistics. It has on one side those concerned about the (UK) decline in book issues and visits to public libraries over the last decade or so and on the other those who query the worth of such statistics and point instead to the wonderful impact and personal stories libraries can achieve, plus also that digital usage has gone up.

As ever, I tend to suspect both extremes. While libraries can indeed not just be described by black-and-white data (especially the dodgy stuff that CIPFA prints), it seems to me that if we have fewer people using us then we have lesser impact, heartwarming personal stories or no. I also suspect that physical visits have a stronger impact than their digital counterparts, although admittedly this is just a gut feeling on my part. On the other hand, simply counting the number of books issued, without regard to what impact they have, seems limiting at best.

But I do find myself drawn to the quote “Quantity has a Quality all it’s own” and not just because it allows me to have three “qu” words in a sentence. There needs to be a substantial number of people using libraries in order to justify them and the fewer they are, the more worrying it is. And in the UK, usage has fallen and continues to fall – for whatever reason (my favourite suspect is budget cuts) – faster than in similar countries such as Canada, the USA, Australia or New Zealand.

And this decline cannot be helped by the extended closures that many libraries are still experiencing, although less than a tenth of English public library services have yet to announce their plans for reopening while a few are already on their second and even third wave of recovery. News from branches continues to be generally good, with some complaints starting to be recorded about some libraries not yet being open. Worries about people not wearing masks – not mandated in libraries unlike in shops – appear to be minor at the moment.

So that’s good. Perhaps we can start breathing again, soon anyway. Although, sadly it seems not in Hampshire.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Coronavirus: New guidance on face masks and coverings released for England – BBC. “rules on face coverings were in place for shops and public transport but not for some other enclosed spaces such as libraries, register offices and civic centres.”
  • DCA Survey Results – Digital Content Associates. “DCA surveyed over 85 librarians and library-related staff or managers during July 2020 to give voice to their experiences and learning during the explosion of digital usage during the Covid-19 lockdown. “

“72% of respondents either agree or strongly agree that their e-resources are being underused

Nearly 80% of respondents have no strategy for reaching non-users

Nearly 40% of respondents thought users had little or no awareness of their digital offering 

95% of respondents said their library doesn’t use any kind of search engine optimisation or marketing to promote their library”

Alicia Pocock, Digital Content Associates
  • The Jason Farradane Award 2020 – CILIP. “It will be awarded to an individual or a team in recognition of exemplary and innovative practice. This may take the form of a specific project, a piece of research or the development of a service or resource, for example.”
  • Public Library Apparel: a quick interview with Lottie Begg – Public Libraries News. “I had an email out of the blue from Lottie Begg, who is starting a Kickstarter to start “Public Library Apparel”, producing public library related clothing and raise funds for the sector. Intrigued, I got in touch to ask a few questions …”
  • Remembering Josephine Cox: British Author Whose Books Sold Over 20 Million Copies – She The People. “Cox has also been one of the most borrowed authors from the UK’s libraries” and campaigned against closures.
  • Sports centres face uncertain future as Government vows to tackle obesity – Yahoo News. “Mark Sesnan, managing director of Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), the UK’s largest operator of non-profit public leisure facilities, estimated it would take three to four years to recover from the crisis. GLL, which runs more than 250 sport and leisure facilities and libraries across the UK, had no help covering its non-staff costs during lockdown. He told the PA news agency: “We’ve used our reserves to pay for that, but they’re running out and running out fast.”

International news

  • Canada – Overdue: Throwing the book at libraries – Globe and Mail. ” libraries operate largely with public funding, which has been disrupted far less than commercial revenues their competitors rely upon. As a result, libraries are likely to gain still more market share at the expense of booksellers in the months and years ahead.” … “The dirty secret of public libraries is that their stock-in-trade is neither education nor edification. It’s entertainment. ” … “A commercial publishing industry is unsustainable if four out of every five readers are reading at no charge.”
  • China / Hong Kong – National security law: Hong Kong’s librarians must stand firm to protect intellectual freedom – South China Morning Post. “When asked for his reaction to his books such as I Am Not A Hero (2013) having come under review for being potentially subversive, democracy activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung reportedly said: “This is like the live-action version of Library War, fully staged!” … “No one is saying it is going to be easy to stand on principle. Yet bearing in mind those basic principles, hopefully ingrained in each and every librarian, will be the only way that libraries, and their keepers, can survive these latest assaults on our integrity.”
  • EU – Emerging international voices: the Goeth-Institut programme with IFLA – Goethe. Need to be under 35. “The Goethe-Institut is looking for young library advocates to share best-practice examples of libraries worldwide engaging with their digital communities. Apply to participate and become a part of an international network”
  • Lithuania – Kamishibai theater and book at Panevėžys City Public Library (Lithuania) – NAPLE Sister Libraries. “Kamishibai stories can be made individually, in pairs (one illustrator, one writer), in small groups or as a class project. “

Local news by authority

“It is very evident that a massive change of direction is needed in terms of priorities for investment at both local and national level across the UK in light of what is happening to businesses and the economy post lockdown. Sheffield makes an interesting case study in this respect. The main investment priorities for the Council in Sheffield seem to be to create more retail and office space in the city centre, and in the suburbs. This is despite there being high profile examples of businesses downsizing and not requiring office space anymore in the city centre. The council is also pressing ahead with a highly controversial scheme to shoehorn catering outlets and office space into Walkley Carnegie library, despite local opposition from businesses and the fact that existing catering outlets in the area are struggling and even closing in light of the downturn in trade due to the lockdown.

In light of the economic downturn due to lockdown, a much better strategy for Sheffield and the UK would be to invest in professionally staffed library services and expanded market spaces for independent traders to allow people educational opportunities in order to live greener lifestyles and get better jobs, and to allow independent traders to fill the gap left by the absence of big brands which may be closing down or downsizing. Professionally staffed library services have a big role to play in rebuilding our economy post-coronavirus given the huge positive benefit they have to local economies and the role they play in teaching people to live cleaner greener lifestyles and raise educational attainment.””

Matthew Smith, Sheffield – by email.