I’ve always loved the excitement and success of the Summer Reading Challenge. Getting kids to shout out its name (it changes every year – Reading Relay, Reading Rollercoaster, this year’s Creepy House) is a special highlight when doing school assemblies.  I remember getting in my car after an especially good one and still hearing the kids chanting “Space Hop“. Yes, they were chanting so loudly I could hear it through the wall.  It must have driven the teachers mad but we get loads of children coming in and asking to join because of it.  We give them stickers, a fold-out poster, freebies like a wristband (glow-in-the-dark this year) and, of course, a certificate and a medal at the end if they read six books over the summer holidays.  If you want to see what fun I have them it, this is my school assembly script. It’s fantastic and the best thing that happens in libraries all year.  It’s also national, with a 98% take-up by library authorities.

Authors, Reading Agency and volunteers outside No.11 Downing Street

Authors, Reading Agency and volunteers outside No.11 Downing Street

This national promotion, produced by the Reading Agency, means that it gets some very big celebrities involved and, as importantly makes a noise amongst the decision-makers.  This year, the long list of celebrities includes Malorie Blackman (Hi Malorie – I still can’t quite get over the fact you read Public Libraries News), Chris Riddell, the rapper Akala, Frank Lampard, Julia Donaldson, Michael Rosen, Jacqueline Wilson, Charlie Higson, Liz Pichon, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Cressida Cowell and Justin Somper.  It also means that the launch for it is often in impressive places like the House of Lords or, this year, No.11 Downing Street.

The Summer Reading Challenge appeals to children from all backgrounds with children with no books in the house coming in to ask to join for the first time, as well as those children who we see all the time. It’s something that libraries excel at – we’re not selling  anything to these kids.  It’s free.  It doesn’t matter if they have no money or tons of money, the reading challenge is there for them, as much as the library is.


Getting kids excited about reading by giving out freebies never fails

However, readers of this website know that all is not rosy in library-land.  The reading challenge costs money and libraries are being squeezed as never before.  It is a testament to the power of the challenge that no authorities have pulled out this year … but that may not always hold true.  Pressures on staffing already mean that some authorities such as Herefordshire are already stopping staff promoting via school assemblies and that may increase. From personal experience, that will cut take-up by around a third, and it’s the borderline kids (by which I mean, the on-regular library users) who will be most affected.  With the increasing atomisation of library services, the challenge will need to be “sold” to hundreds of separate new volunteer-run branches. So well done to the Reading Agency and to public libraries for the most powerful promotion of the year.  If you’ve got kids, get them to go into the library and ask to join it this year.  But don’t assume it’s going to be around next year unless you make a big noise about it.

So, breathe in, breathe out, shout out at the count of 3 … 1 … 2 … 3 … CREEPY HOUSE!



  • £1m Paul Hamlyn grant will support reading flashmobs, apps and games – Civil Society. “A library-based youth reading and volunteering programme that was highly commended at this year’s Charity Awards has just won £1m from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to enable it to scale up to reach 13 times as many young people. Reading Activists, a programme from the Reading Agency, wasshortlisted in the arts, heritage and culture category at the Charity Awards 2013.”
  • 20 library cartoons to make you smile – Ebook Friendly.  Does what it says on the tin.
  • Campaigners warn of libraries in crisis across England – Independent. Library Campaign press release is given strong coverage with the statistics from Cipfa, the 40 cut to local authority budgets and the statistics from Public Libraries News used to lead to a credible forecast of 1000 closures from 2009 to 2016.
  • Clever but poor boys ‘are 30 months behind richer peers in reading’: study – Guardian. “Bright poor boys are around two and a half years behind their rich, clever male classmates in reading, a study has found. Among clever girls, the reading gap between those from the richest and poorest homes was two years and four months. The report, commissioned by the Sutton Trust, reveals that high-achieving boys from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to perform poorly on international tests than those in other nations.”
  • German BiblioFreak library rebranding campaign freaks some out – TeleRead. Libraries in Germany have started a Bibliofreak campaign.  Compared with the “acrimonious” CILIP rebranding and the US “Geek the Library campaign.  The German programme is being tested in five libraries and then will go national in Spring 2014 if successful (see this newspaper article in German).
  • In Chicago, 3-D Printers Are Available To Anyone With A Library Card – Popsci (USA). “Starting this week, though, 3-D printing will be as easy as swiping a library card for Chicago residents. The city’s main downtown library, the Harold Washington Library Center, has opened up a free maker lab that anyone can access, with three MakerBot 3-D printers, laser cutters and a milling machine. It’s the first maker space to open in a major urban library.”
  • Iraq unveils plans for first new public library since 1970s – Asharq Al-Awsat (Iraq). “A British–Iraqi architectural firm has unveiled designs for a new public library in Iraq, the first to be built in the country since the 1970s. The avant-garde tear-drop design is the brainchild of the AMBS architectural firm and is set to be the jewel in the crown of Baghdad’s new Youth City project. The 480,000 square foot (45,000 square meter) building brings together form, function, and cultural significance and is designed to engage and empower visitors, and encourage open exchange. “

The English Arts Council will soon announce that Battersea Power Station is to be the new public library for the whole of England,. Every other library will be sold off and all the books moved to the iconic building on London’s South Bank. A new special free train shuttle will operate to the library from both Victoria Station and Clapham Junction. The building will also become the headquarters of CILIP and be operated by the council of the Society of Chief Librarians who said “This is the ultimate central library”. The whole building will offer free Wi-Fi and house extensive open collections of books and newspapers. The library will be open 24 hours every day of the year. The new website is called – in remembrance of the famous Pink Floyd Album Cover – www.pigsmightfly.com” – Battersea Power Station to be the new National Public Library – Good Library Blog – Tim Coates [Wouldn’t that be the Society of Chief Librarian? – Ed]

  • Library campaigners predict 1,000 closures by 2016 – Guardian.  The many comments are useful to read.
  • My little library in Anatolia – Millions (Turkey). A Turkish soldier is ordered to be a librarian – a wonderful article.  “Although the books were old and deep in hibernation, the people who came to read them were very much alive. So in my small library in a distant Anatolian town I learned an awful lot about what young Turkish men enjoyed reading under the gun. I watched them as they read for relief. I watched them as they read for pleasure. I watched them as they read for keeping sane.
  • New York Public Library Agrees in Court to Delay Central Library Plan – Infodocket / Library Journal (USA).”In the past eight days we’ve posted (see below) about two lawsuits that have been filed to stop the New York Public Library’s Central Library renovation plan.”
  • US ‘ahead of UK on library advocacy‘ – BookSeller.  “The UK lags behind the US on library advocacy, according to a researcher contributing to newly published title The Global Librarian. Writing on the Public Libraries News site, Sara Wingate-Gray, a doctoral student at University College London, said …”

Local news

  • Bristol – This will harm our wilting cultural reputation – This is Bristol. “AS a retired  librarian with many years service in the central library, I was dismayed by the report in the Bristol Post (July 26) of the proposal to use part of the central library as primary school classes. It shows a profoundly mistaken understanding of the nature of the Central Library and its part in the city’s history and, more importantly, its importance for our future.” … “Simon Cook (Culture, Arts & Community) shows a serious ignorance of reality if he supposes that the offices and storage space are not related to the direct public service. The removal of the ‘reserve stock’ to another building will add delay, possibly by several days, in supplying books needed by readers for which there is insufficient space on the ‘open shelves’. We should not join the much larger British Library which, with more excuse, often has to move stock across London from distant storage depots.”
  • Buckinghamshire – ‘E-book lending set to go through the roof – but it doesn’t spell end of libraries’ – Thame Gazette. ““By diversifying we are attracting new members as well as satisfying existing members.” He admitted that a big increase in e-lending does ‘beg questions’ about the need for physical library buildings. But he said libraries now act as a hub for IT training, community information and socialising: “The most powerful attraction of libraries is their power as a space. “They are an appropriate community setting offering free material, they’re welcoming and safe, with skilled staff to help you access information using technology. There are not many places like that.”
  • Calderdale – Council to sell Halifax HQ and library – BBC. “A council wants to sell its administrative headquarters and a neighbouring library in a bid to attract more shops to the town. Northgate House and the Central Library, in Halifax, will be sold by agents acting for Calderdale Council. Staff working in Northgate House will be moved to other town centre offices.” … “The council plans to build a £9.25m library and archive in Square Road to replace the existing facility.”
  • Islington – Word 2013 Festival – Islington Council. “The Word Festival is an ambitious initiative of commissioned activities, events and workshops which focuses on and explores the pleasure of reading and writing and freedom of expression. It will start in starts on 1 May 2013 and will be a celebration of the work of the borough’s literature sector, local writers and the local community. Through a unique collaboration between Islington Library and Heritage Services, Islington Arts Service, Free Word and the boroughs arts sector the activities, events and workshops will reach across communities in Islington”
  • Lancashire – Ribble Valley MP in reading plea to youngsters – Lancashire Telegraph. “Nigel Evans, who represents the Ribble Valley, said he hoped the contest would encourage more people to join their local library. He said: “I hope parents and carers in Ribble Valley will take their children to their local library this summer to sign up for The Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge. “It’s free and makes reading fun, a vital ingredient in building literacy.”
  • Lincolnshire – Video: Deepings MP John Hayes backs library campaign – Rutland Times. “We can dor this by working together”.
  • Lincolnshire – Concerns over threats to mobile libraries Rutland and Stamford Mercury. “The parish council has written to the county council saying it had “grossly under-estimated” the size of the community in the Thurlby area. At a meeting of the parish council last week concerns were raised that the consultation documents stated Thurlby had fewer than 100 houses, when the total is nearer to 1,000.”
  • Lincolnshire – Almost 180 jobs face axe if libraries go – Guardian series.  “The jobs of 177 people will be axed if the county council pushes ahead with “the biggest library closure programme the country has ever seen”.

“Despite the need for change, our ambition is to keep all of Lincolnshire’s libraries open. Coun Worth continued: “However, this is only going to happen with the support of our local communities. If communities don’t volunteer, they will be left with fortnightly mobile library services.”