The next phase of the Envisioning the library of the future consultation from Arts Council England has been launched. This stage looks at how people use libraries and what they want from them.  Unfortunately, it’s only available online which necessarily skews the results somewhat.  More worryingly, it’s almost impossible to spot on the Arts Council England website – in fact, I could not find it on there earlier and had to resort to using the direct link provided. In order to rectify this, albeit it in a tiny way, there is now an easy link to it on the Public Libraries News sidebar.  Assuming the reader can find the questionnaire, and have not been put off by the registration process (which is easy enough for experts but will doubtless turn away one or two less confident souls), the questions asked are:

Q1. In what ways do you/your family use public library services?

Q2. If you/your family do not use public library services, what are the reasons?

Q3. Why do you value public library services?

Q4. What do you think should be the main purposes of public library services?

Q5. Please describe what a visit to your ideal library would feel like, what you would hear and what you would see.

To their credit, ACE have recognised the limitations of the questionnaire to some extent by doing “focused research in face-to-face workshops with members of the public in various parts of the country so that we have a wide range of people contributing to our discussion”.  The results of all this research will be useful and exciting to see, although the answers may be guessable without such research.  My money is on the three most commone responses being “libraries are for books”, “opening hours are important” and “don’t close them”.

Indeed, it seems ACE has already come across this. Even before one is able to complete the questionnaire, the site warns “If you have any comments relating to current library issues, please direct them to your local authority rather than posting them here. Alternatively, there are other forums such as Voices for the Library and The Library Campaign that would welcome your views.“.  I’ve not seen Vaizey trying that line in parliament.  However, after he tires of his current repeat-after-me “40 new libraries have opened” and “we-are-monitoring-the-situation” lines (that Julia Donaldson noted on Newsround sounds like a dalek), one guesses it’s a possibility.  Keep an eye for it when the Select Committee on Library Closures finally announces its findings which, if the latest delay is not the last, will be in late October.

“I think there is increasing frustration with ACE’s failure to listen to the real concerns of library users and especially, to those who are campaigning for an “improving”, “comprehensive and efficient” service in every library authority. We have been able to talk with you and in the past, with the MLA, and to give evidence to both the CMS Select Committee and the All Party Parliamentary Library Group but ACE seems to maintain a closed door to the views of those for whom the service exists to serve! Concerns about issues such as escalating corporate service charges; the decline in literacy despite considerable investment by ACE and others; the need for a national e-book lending service (ACE did not mention e-book lending in its Library Development document!); the failure to encourage savings in overheads by merging authorities or their back-office functions; and the failure to optimise efficiency and service improvements through better use of technology are simply ignored or perhaps not understood.” Desmond Clarke via email.

“Arts Council England (ACE) has at last started phase 3 of its research on “the purpose and value of public libraries”, asking the general public (not asking library users as such, unfortunately). Even worse, a major chunk of it is online.

Please contribute – and please point out that people who are NOT online are a key group who depend on public libraries & will depend even more so in future, e.g. as benefits (insanely) become online-only. The Library Campaign tried to persuade ACE not to restrict this survey to online when many millions of library users do not have access to the internet at home.” Laura Swaffield, Chair of the Library Campaign.


  • Ebook lending review announced – Guardian.  “Industry specialists will look at the benefits of libraries lending ebooks in a move publishers say will have ‘serious implications’ for the book trade” … “”In the first half of 2012, sales in ebooks have increased by 188%, demonstrating a huge appetite for them as we increasingly use Kindles and iPads,” said Jarvis. “If libraries are to evolve and meet the needs of today’s communities, ebook lending must be a key part of their development.”
  • Further delay to Library Select Committee Report – BookSeller.  “The Select Committee Report into library closures will not be released until the end of October at the earliest, it has been confirmed. The news marks a further delay to the report, initially expected ahead of the summer recess.”

“The Library Closures Report will not be published until the end of October at the earliest. The publication date will be announced by press release. Please let me know if you would like us to add your contact details to our email distribution list to receive press releases for the Library Closures inquiry. Kind regards Keely Bishop Committee Assistant Culture, Media and Sport Committee Room 170, 7 Millbank London, SW1P 3JA 020 7219 6188 ” DCMS notification of delay.

  • Government wants e-lending to “transform” libraries – Public Service.
  • Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson on library closures – CBBC Newsround. 2 minute report covering library closures and Julia Donaldson’s letter to the Government about cuts.  She says “so many bookshops have closed” that libraries are needed.  Ed Vaizey repeats his claim that he looks at council cuts.  Interview with children who have lost their local Bolton library.  Some nice clips of the interior of St Helens Central Library too. Some great comments, from children:

“Our Library closed last year. We tried to object and wrote letters but nobody listened to us. We miss it a lot and wish it was still open. It had a fantastic selection of books and everyone in our class used it.”

  • Libraries urged to embrace e-lending – Telegraph.  “Librarians gave the move a cautious welcome. Mark Taylor of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) said: “It definitely throws up an issue of footfall and I think library buildings will change. “But technology is changing the way people consume books, and libraries have to change, too.”
  • New job and a long to-do list – Maria Miller / DCMS.  First blog by Secretary of State has a long list of things she has to do – but does not mention public libraries once.
  • Open not shut case – Times Higher Education.  “Visits to libraries are on the rise and forward-looking institutions are investing in new library facilities. This is because libraries and librarians remain as central as ever to the academic mission of their institutions. As the Moving towards an Open Access Future report recognises, “libraries play key information access roles in their institutions” and the skills that librarians already possess, such as managing metadata, will be vital in an open-access landscape. This is especially true since the “discoverability of open-access content will be key to its usefulness”.”
  • Pirated ebooks and how libraries can reduce it – Phil Bradley’s Weblog.  Looks at the most popular reasons for piracy and points out that libraries can solve all of them: “I think every single one of those key reasons why people pirate books is a key reason why publishers need to work with libraries. We can help reduce piracy, which in turn will increase sales of books. The harder that publishers make to legally borrow books, the more that they will be pirated, and the less money they will make in the long run.”


Local News

  • Barnet – Friern Barnet Library: Reopened by the Community– Big Issue.  “We decided we couldn’t give up – the library was too important. Such is the strength of feeling that a recent petition to re-open it has gathered nearly 3,000 signatures. A couple of weeks ago activists entered the building through an open window and occupied the place. This was fantastic because we have now been able to re-open the library for the community.” … “Council officials have been willing to talk to us, but the rooms they are offering in another building (almost two miles away) are simply not good enough. We’re doing the best we can to reclaim the library, but we need to see proper council library services run by trained librarians. We can’t let our lovely public buildings like this be sold off and bulldozed by supermarkets.”
  • Some contradictions at the squatted library – Indymedia London.  “when I visited, it became obvious that all is not completely at ease among the stacks. The local campaigners who have worked for months to oppose the closure and the squatters who have more recently reopened the library have not all been seeing completely eye-to-eye. Although it seems that the local campaigners and library staff are broadly supportive of the reopened library, there have been concerns and dissenting voices which go beyond the traditional ‘locals’ vs ‘activists’ tensions.” … “taking over a derelict building, opening it as a social centre and declaring you are running it as a living example of how people can do things for themselves without money is a very different thing to doing this in a recently closed library which people have campaigned to save as a proper public service employing paid staff.”
“Open Mic in Friern Barnet Library tonight, Thursday 27th Sept – 7-9  pm
tonight, amongst others: Arnie playing jazz,
Laraine with belly dancing show
and other special guests
everyone  welcome!
All performers welcome!
FANTASTIC NEWS over 3,000 books have been donated, **thank you** everyone. We also need SHELVERS! CHAIRS! TABLES! COMPUTERS!”
  • Edinburgh – Let’s celebrate libraries – Edinburgh Council.  Some great events at Edinburgh libraries.
  • Hampshire – Mobile library stops in Basingstoke could be axed– Gazette.  “The mobile library stops at 363 destinations in Hampshire, but 39 of these have fewer than two customers each or even none at all. Other stops, however, are very popular and would benefit from longer stays. Of the 39 under-used stops, it is proposed that 29 are withdrawn. “
  • End of a chapter for mobile libraries? – Basingstoke Observer.  “The stops were identified following an exhaustive public consultation exercise earlier this year in which parish and town councils, members of the public and drivers were sought for their views. The libraries in question have fewer than two customers each turning up one a month. In some cases the figure is no customers at all.”
  • Perth and Kinross – Libraries to launch e-book service – BBC.  2 year pilot service.  “Staff are currently being trained to run the new service ahead of the launch on Wednesday 31 October. Tutorials and demonstrations have also been organised for customers, who will be able to access the service from the Perth and Kinross libraries’ webpage.” … “The e-book lending service will be evaluated at the end of the pilot project, which is being funded by the Crockart Foundation – a trust set up to benefit the people of Perth and Kinross through local libraries.”
  • Tameside – Five libraries will close – Tameside Radio.  “Tameside Council has consulted extensively with local people in its plans through the Big Conversation and the majority of respondents (63 per cent) supported the preferred way forward of option 3-meaning every district assembly area will retain a library.”

The library service is a top priority for the Council and we know how much it is valued within our community. However it is important to remember that libraries are about services not buildings and I strongly believe this exciting new offer will provide a modern and comprehensive service which meets people’s needs while also remaining affordable in these challenging times of unprecedented Government budget cuts.

  • Council to close five libraries in bid to save £1m– Manchester Evening News.  “The move is expected to save the council £900,000 a year and seven people will lose their jobs. The other two options would have involved more closures but increased opening hours at the remaining branches.”

“I think I’ll be using Dukinfield library in future, but not as often as it’s not as easy to get to.  It’s so much easier for people to get to the ones in the community than those in the town centre.” The council has already had to cut £35m and is currently making further savings in the region of £30m which has seen more than 1,300 jobs go.”