Continuing disagreement with the Arts Council England report on volunteer libraries seems to the order of the day. Some reports suggest that the evidence – at least in Camden where the move to volunteers resulted in a collapse in usage – may not have been given the attention it should have deserved in what will be seen by many councils as a blueprint for shedding paid staff.  The feeling is that the “cons” of volunteer libraries have been downplayed in the report.  The use of workfare volunteers, apparently by Eco Computers in its Lewisham libraries is also not a popular move. The spectre of people being forced to work in libraries for free has been raised, although the owner of Eco Computers disputes this.  It’s therefore not surprising that Phil Bradley called last week an “entirely insane” one for public libraries.  Also not popular, at least amongst those holding the purse strings, are mobile libraries, with three more announced as likely to disappear.

In amongst this carnage, questions about the use of technology in libraries may seem academic, but there is some discussion in the US – presumably where survival is not such an all-consuming topic – about how this should be approached, with 3D printers being the poster boys/girls.   Pew Research apparently shows the public want books and reference librarians first, though, and a 21-point list of when it is wise not to innovate include at first glance up to 16 (can you spot which ones?) that may mean it’s not an overly wise thing to do in the UK at the moment.


  • Arts Council & Local Government Association Collaborate on Library Research Camden Public Library Users Group. “the case studies document includes the Primrose Hill Library case and this appears to be a report written by Camden Council. It goes into great detail about the library consultation process without mentioning that the on-line version (accounting for approximately half of the responses) was widely condemned as being greatly biased towards a predetermined outcome and the paper version only a little less so. Further, it states: “Of the £2 million savings target for the service, £400,000 a year was realised as efficiency savings in 2011/12 without affecting the service delivered to customers.”

The evidence points to the fact that the way the £400,000 cut was implemented (before central government funding cuts) did affect the service delivery badly. I will not repeat my comments on the subject (these can be seen here). Essentially, the key performance indicator, total issues, dramatically collapsed for Camden’s largest libraries (Swiss Cottage & Holborn) after 2010. This should have been easily picked up by competent researchers – the curves have long been available on the internet.”

  • Beyond the bullet points: missing the point and 3D printing – Virtual Dave, Real Blog. R. David Lankes says “Librarians change the world. Librarians are radical positive change agents that work with their community, sometimes following, but often provoking and pushing. A good librarian challenges what could be, not simply reifies what is.”
  • Library branding and innovation culture – Hastac. Points out the 21 times when an organisation should not innovate. [In the UK, I count 16 possibly relevant ones – Ian]
  • Library services in the digital age – Pew Internet (USA). “Patrons embrace new technologies – and would welcome more. But many still want printed books to hold their central place” … “80% of Americans say borrowing books is a “very important” service libraries provide. 80% say reference librarians are a “very important” service of libraries. 77% say free access to computers and the internet is a “very important” service of libraries.”
  • Our view: public library not designed as site for snoozing – Press- Citizen (USA). “When it comes to sleeping at the Iowa City Public Library, there’s a big difference between:• Nodding off momentarily while reading/studying,• And curling up in one of the couches or comfy chairs and dozing for hours on end. The first is a temporary, natural and sometimes unavoidable by-product of making good use of public resources at the library.The second is an abuse of the public facilities being offered.”
  • Public library resources (infographic): how likely Americans say they would be to use the following resources in public libraries – Pew Internet (USA). “There was no overwhelming public clamor for any of the activities. Still, there was fairly consistent interest in them and there was a notable segment of population – a quarter or more of respondents – who said they would definitely use each of the activities we queried and most times more than half the public said it was at least somewhat likely to take advantage of these new services.”
  • Romantic novelists and public librariesGuardian / From the archive. 26 January 1971: “The Romantic Novelists’ Association, wounded by being so cruelly spurned, is to carry out a survey of how libraries treat romantic fiction”

“Whether borough librarians are masterful men is a question best answered by Mrs Borough Librarians. Somehow it seems inconceivable that there could be anything but a happy ending for the romantic novelist. Surely her heart will accelerate alarmingly as the librarian’s grey eyes darken with passion, and he sweeps her books into his arms and along to the fiction shelves, where they will know the bliss and security that should have been theirs from the beginning.”

  • Social media cheat sheet Edudemic. Looks at Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google+, Tumblr and Digg.  Explains what they are, when to use them and how to use them.  Excellent easy infographic.
  • Taken as read – Scotsman / Letters.  Media ignores library book events and only covers controversy like the pole dancing. “It was good to see “libraries” in the dailies without the addition of the word “closure”. It’s worth noting that libraries have now become multi-use spaces – and anyone who thinks they’re the same as they were 30 years ago hasn’t been in one for a while.”
  • Thumbs up for Livemocha from Richmond Public Library – Livemocha. “it’s important that we have an online language-learning tool for ESL learners, as well as for those who need to do business in another language, for people who travel, and for students.”
  • Tour de ten libraries – David Gorton. “,I’m playing ten Lancashire libraries in one day on 8th Feb,the tour being called “The Tour De Ten Libraries” as it visits Bradley Wiggins village Library. I’ll be playing the”National Libraries Day” song + another Library song when i visit them. Also @tourdelibraries on Twitter.
  • What has the library ever done for us? – Lucy Marcovitch. “There’s a lot of anxiety about libraries here in the UK. Like all the most valuable social resources in this country, they are under threat of closure through ever-decreasing lack of funding and the current vicious cuts in public spending. Library closure is rarely off the agenda, but it’s usually in a local context – now closures are becoming a national reality. In advance celebration of National Libraries Day on February 9th, I wanted to add my voice to the clamour of dismayed outrage, and relate how a library literally (ho ho) helped save my sanity.”
  • What is the Arts Council thinking of? – Library Campaign. “We want ACE to explain how it spends its money – and how it justifies research that has infuriated the whole public library world. An alleged scandal tops off a week in which Arts Council England (ACE) – and by implication its funder, the government – have been shot down in flames by public library users and librarians.” … “We have already complained several times to ACE about its refusal to ask library users or volunteers when consulting on the future of public libraries. It has repeatedly declined. Let’s see the data.”
  • When is a volunteer not a volunteer? – Phil Bradley’s weblog. Looks at Workfare and the ACE report. “This has been an entirely insane week in the world of librarianship, with this nonsense following on hard from the ridiculous ‘report’ produced by the Arts Council, which is a total disgrace. Not for one moment does their report think to question the concept of ‘community’ run libraries. More double speak as well… any public library is *already* a community library – because it is in a community and for a community.”


Local News

  • Doncaster – Court of Appeal agrees to hear Doncaster libraries case – Local Government Lawyer. “On 5 March, the full council voted – by 43 votes to six with three abstentions – to include the proposed amendment in the budget.The following day the Mayor said he would not implement the budget as set by the council and would instead continue with his plan to close libraries or transfer them to volunteers. The Court of Appeal will be asked to consider – amongst other points – the powers of a democratically elected council to propose binding amendments to the council’s annual financial strategy.”
  • East Lothian – Lothians arts funding slashed by councils – Edinburgh Evening News. “Mobile libraries also face the axe with both Mid and East Lothian councils setting out plans to drastically reduce the service by April.” … “East Lothian library staff face a cull, with planned reductions to branch posts and a major reduction to the mobile library service.  This follows Midlothian Council’s decision to reduce their service by half to make savings of £30,000. Councillor Bob Constable, Cabinet Member for Public Services and Leisure at Midlothian Council, said: “We are currently consulting on the redesign of the mobile library service which will look at how we can best use the resources that we already have. “Reducing the mobile library service is due to save over £30,000, which can be ploughed back into front-line services.””
  • Harrow – Commissioning of Libraries and Leisure Management Services: Outcome and Recommendations Harrow Council. “To notify Members of the outcome of the joint procurement exercise and seek a decision for the award of contract or other options”
  • Lincolnshire – Alford Library in appeal for volunteers to extend opening hours – Skegness Standard.  “Alford Library has appealed for volunteers to step forward and help it extend its opening hours. Volunteer Jay Smedley said: “Can you spare a few hours a month to help open the library on a Thursday morning?”
  • Luton – Consultation on the future of Luton’s library services – Luton council. “Luton Culture manage Luton’s libraries on behalf of the Council. The total budget for Luton’s library service is currently in the region of £2.7 million. The Council recognises the importance of the library service and the place it has in the community, however tough decisions need to be made to meet the budget challenge, and this will inevitably involve reducing or stopping some of its services”
  • Newcastle – Libraries sell old stock – Journal. “books, CDs and DVDs are being sold off in Newcastle this weekend, although the city council says it has nothing to do with proposed library closures.” … “A sale at Newcastle City Library last September raised £2,000 for the library service.”
  • Suffolk – Bury St Edmunds: older residents are affected by loss of mobile library service – EADT. “Suffolk Libraries IPS, said the county council had made the decision in November 2011 adding the fleet had dropped from six vehicles to three. Miss Hempstead, 40, of Whitby Road, used the mobile library as did her mother Verna, 69. She said it was a reason for older people to get out the house and it was a place where they could socialise, as well as a service for borrowing books. She said one man, aged 89 and who has mobility problems, started getting ready for his trip out at 11am as he looked forward to it so much.”
  • Surrey – Coding kids – Surrey council. “Surrey County Council has joined forces with Code Club, the national organisation aiming to give every child in the UK the opportunity to learn code. A free eight week course at Woking library is teaching youngsters basic computer coding skills to help them better understand and navigate the digital world.”