An incident at the volunteer-run Primrose Hill Library highlights one of the problems facing the Brave New World of libraries that have had their council funding withdrawn.  A new shop run by a chain (Space.NK in this case but it could have been anyone) attempted to donate some money to the library but is refused.  Local traders had campaigned against the shop and had even managed a 1000-name petition against it.

Big deal, you may say. No biggie.  But look at the implications of this. The library, through no fault of its own, has had to take a political decision.   It would have been political if it had taken the money and it was political when it did not take it.  In the eyes of the local population, it is no longer neutral.  Council-run libraries, by and large, don’t face these dilemmas because, simply, they generally don’t have to.  They may also cause major headaches for the Council if they do.  It’s therefore systematic that adequately funded traditional public libraries can be neutral.  It’s systematic that volunteer-run libraries sometimes cannot be.

Primrose Hill Library, although hardly rolling in money, is in an area more amenable to fundraising than most.  It raised £588,000 from just 500 people to get started.  It employs a professional librarian. The volunteers, therefore, did not imminently need to take Space.NK’s money.  It could make a decision that it felt was ethical.

Now change the situation to a poorer library.  It’s not in the position to turn down money.   The local betting shop offers to pay for its roof? Is that OK?  What if it wanted an advert, quite close to the children’s library, as a record of its generosity? The local off-license? MacDonalds? The library may decide their copy of “Super Size Me” was inappropriate if they took that money. The local church in return for some guaranteed space for religious works on the shelves? Synagogue? Mosque? Atheists? BNP? Name your bete-noire cause here.   There’s a possibility of the Brave New World of the Sponsored-By-We-Do-What-You-Hate Ltd public library, and it’s getting larger each passing day.

“Will The Primrose Hill Community Library regret telling Space.NK to shove their money? Advertising legend Bill Bernbach once said, “A principle is not a principle until it costs you money.” On this occasion, I hope he was wrong.  But I fear his words will turn out to be correct.  And that’s a bloody shame. What would you have done?  Taken the money?  Or turned it down on the basis that some residents don’t want Space.NK to open a shop in the neighbourhood?”” I owe my career to the British public library system” – Sally Nicoll. 

“Yesterday, Primrose Hill had its annual Christmas Fair, where traders take stalls along the length of Regents Park Road (aka Primrose Hill high street) and offer their carefully curated wares. Space NK wisely decided to take a stall as a peace offering and to prove that it is not the enemy, going so far as to offer its takings to the local community library. The library, which is cash-strapped, said it did not want them – presumably fearing the local wrath, perhaps because it is manned by those opposed toe the retailer’s impending appearance.” Stupidity IncRetail Week.


  • Andrew Eaton-Lewis: I think of mystery book sculptor as the antidote to Nadine Dorries – Scotsman.  “Each one was accompanied by a note – “In support of libraries, books, words, ideas” – that seems increasingly poignant as libraries across the UK continue to suffer from funding cuts (those in Newcastle being the latest victim – a decision that, as playwright Lee Hall wrote last week, “makes philistines of us all”).”

“you can offer something different – a thoughtful, imaginative, public spirited idea, presented humbly and generously. Such as a piece of art anonymously left in a library. Or, come to think of it, a library itself”

  • Bridge is empty, the captain has abandoned ship – Question Everything.  Freedom of Information request shows DCMS only has 4 and a bit (the part-time Yinnon Ezra) staff dedicated to public libraries.  “We know poor Dempster probably spends his day batting back campaigners emails but this means the minister has each person watching roughly 33.5 of the 151 library authorities … they don’t have enough staff in the DCMS on libraries to realistically have a handle on what is going on. “
  • Building a digital public library of AmericaDigital Shift (USA). “he DPLA will bring together digital resources that are today distributed around the country and make them easily accessible and useful. Today, digital library materials are scattered in ways that no single librarian or patron could find them all.”

“Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central, Labour)

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many members of staff in her Department work full-time on (a) libraries, (b) the arts and (c) the creative industries.

Edward Vaizey (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Culture, Communications and Creative Industries), Business, Innovation and Skills; Wantage, Conservative)

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport deploys staff flexibly across a range of projects and priorities. Currently, four full-time and one part-time members of staff are deployed to work on public libraries policy; seven full-time members of staff are deployed on projects that include arts and arts related policy, including cross-cutting projects across the cultural sector; and eight fall time members of staff are deployed on projects that include work on the creative industries. Press officers and legal advisors also support the work across these areas.”

They Work For You – House of Commons 26/11/12

  • Helsinki public library proposal – Designboom. “an elongated prism, which aims to retain its overall simplicity, yet allow for more refinement in detail and internal spatial qualities. being not only a library, but a multimedia centre and a communication platform for the people, the building is made to feel like an open easily accessible space.”
  • LibrariesPublic Sector Executive / Letters. Complains about current system and suggests “how about libraries getting together to offer a listing of ALL books, not just the ones currently in stock; and letting borrowers reserve ANY published book, no matter where it is geographically or whether it is in the shops yet. Host an Amazon, or IMDB-style review system so borrowers can comment on, find and reserve books in their preferred genre, and offer the option to manage the reserving system so that the first volume of a selected series is delivered as soon as it is available, followed by the succeeding issues in order, separated by a reasonable (again, selectable) interval to allow for reading time.”
  • New gold standard for marketing excellence in librariesCILIP. “Kay Grieves and Michelle Halpin as the recipients of this year’s Marketing Excellence Award. The pair from the University of Sunderland are the first to receive this highly prestigious award in three years and won for their ‘Adventures in Conversation: Our Quality Promise’ campaign encouraging library staff and customers to embrace social media to improve communication and to share feedback. The judges described the design and branding as outstanding, and were particularly impressed by the extremely well-thought out marketing plan that supported the year-long campaign.”

“Tonya Chirgwin, Chair of CILIP’s Publicity and Public Relations Group said: “Communication is the key to success. In these times of austerity it is vital that librarians and libraries are able to articulate the fantastic work taking place across the country.

  • Rwanda: a reading culture, its relevance and challenges – All Africa. “The Ministry of Education needs to emphasize the need for developing the culture of reading as early as possible. For example, there should be a reading hour/ library hour on the schools time table. This should include visiting the library and learners choosing what they want to read.”
  • Thrill of the new – National Library of New Zealand. A look at the new kiwi National Library.  400,000 digital images already online.  “In you’ll find power charging stations for laptops and mobile devices, and other technology support enabling research, content development and knowledge network exploration. You can come at it from another angle with the Lifelines table, using a massive touch screen to dig into your heritage.”
  • Turn off Google and go to the library – Design Edge (Canada).  “Librarians are pathologically helpful. Google could care less … Google is a great tool every designer should use and master. But it’s only one source. Libraries are filled with living, breathing search engines called librarians, eager to help you. It doesn’t matter if you’re not really sure what your question is, or if you think there’s no way they’ll be familiar with the topic you’re asking about. No matter what you say, that librarian is trained and ready to help you find your way. Instead of wandering the stacks aimlessly, ask a librarian a few questions and they’ll be able to expand your research options more than you could ever imagine, and that kind of catered human resource simply cannot be matched on the Internet. “

Picture of Who Else book jacket

New seventh edition of “Who Else Writes Like…?” is now available. “While commercial websites present automated recommendations based on the activities of their customers, the unique value of this guide is that the suggestions are based on considered, expert, opinion from experienced librarians.  In the economic downturn, libraries have been subject to cuts in professional staff, but Who else writes like…? brings that expertise within everyone’s reach.” Widen your literary horizons – Loughborough University.


Local News

  • Bath and Northeast Somerset Poetry comes to life with library event – This is Bath. “The ‘Poetry Liaisons’ evening, with guest poet Liz Brownlee, runs from 7pm – 8pm as part of the Council’s ‘After Hours’ programme of events designed to promote the wider use of libraries. It is suitable for anyone, whether new to writing poetry, more experienced or just a fan of reading or listening to poetry.”
  • Bournemouth – Expect change but no cuts to Bournemouth libraries – Bournemouth Echo.  “Library closures have been officially ruled out in Bournemouth as the council looks at other ways of making the service more efficient. Bournemouth residents are being invited to take part in a consultation as to how the library service can be improved and made cheaper to run.”
  • Calderdale – “Final” protest over new Halifax library – Halifax Courier. “Despite petitions containing thousands of names and three public consultation exercises, Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors say the old the library and archive must go to create space at Northgate for a large clothes store, which could create more than 200 jobs. DBOL has argued that the latest consultation questionnaire was designed, along with the supporting documents, to produce the result the cabinet wanted, and that therefore its results are not representative.”
  • Northern Ireland – Dungannon Library to host Christmas storytelling night – Tyrone Times. ” will host an evening of Christmas themed stories and songs with renowned storyteller Declan Forde.”
  • Islington – New library in Holloway announced as part of multi-million pound development – Islington Gazette.  “An ageing and underused library will be ripped down and rebuilt as part of a multi-million pound development announced today. … The library will be moved to a porta-cabin when work commences, although that is unlikely to be until January 2014. The development is expected to take up to 18 months. The scheme will also see new family homes built on the former site of Bramber House, which housed eight bedsits, 70 per cent of which will be social housing.”
  • Surrey – Leatherhead HelpShop move draws closer – Get Surrey.  “The plan to move the Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) HelpShop in Leatherhead to the town’s library, apparently saving taxpayers £40,000, has now been recommended to the local authority’s executive committee. Opponents see the library as outside the town centre and away from public transport links, making it difficult to reach for the many older people who use the HelpShop.”
  • Warwickshire – Mobile library service is under threat – This is Tamworth.  “The mobile library service, which currently consists of five vehicles, makes over 450 stops around Warwickshire, serving around 3,650 registered customers. But at a recent WCC Cabinet meeting councillors agreed that the service needs to make its contribution towards the £2m cuts facing library services across the county.”.  £100k cut … “”In some cases where stops with low usage have to be ended some residents may qualify for the housebound delivery service. The county council is set to engage with the public and local members and examine how a reduced fleet could continue to operate.”