Archive for October, 2012

One in five in ACE to go.

Arts Council England have announced that one in five of their staff will be made redundant.  I know that few library campaigners will shed a tear over this.  However, for me, I will for two reasons.  One is that they’re human beings too, trying their best under difficult circumstances.  The other is that this is going to greatly reduce the number of people looking after libraries, on top of the already great reductions caused in the recent move from the defunct MLA to ACE only a few months ago.  One can therefore take as one will the protestations from ACE that their service will not be worse, just different.

My thanks to Gary Archer, who sent me links to a couple of interesting articles to sending and receiving texts in libraries (like this).  So, it’s possible.  The reason it is not done so much is answered by another commenter, Alan Wylie, who points out that the money is barely there for the basic IT service, let alone option extras.  How Libraries are going to cope with the big increase in usage caused by the Government’s Digital by Default strategy next year is anyone’s guess.  Good news, though, from Harrow, who promise to fix/replace all their many broken library computers by April next year.

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Why libraries are missing out by not texting, Harrow’s broken PCs and no new Barnet library.

I was talking to a teenager today who could not communicate with me by “normal” means.  Pretty normal for a teenager you may think … but this is not what I mean.  This teenager is a very intelligent chap and wanted to contact the library – he had a few ideas about how we could improve things – but had failed.  This was despite him (a) knowing where we were, (b) our opening hours, (c) our phone number and (d) our email address but none of that was of use to him.  You see, he simply uses forms of messaging many public libraries, at least at branch level, doesn’t.  He texts, he facebooks, he tweets.  Some public library branches do all of these, most don’t do all.  Public libraries can, and should be, masters of information technology and communication and, as it was brought home to me today, we sometimes fall behind that ideal.

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Lobby for school libraries

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

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

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

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

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A Barking library policy and more …

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

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E-lending, Amazon & VAT, library nurses

The title of this post says it all…

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Nurses, cleaners, librarians


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

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

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

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A lot to be pleased about?

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

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

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

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Grim Up North – Gateshead/Sefton/Trafford libraries cut


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

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