The rush to volunteer libraries continues with three authorities (Bradford, Hertfordshire and Plymouth) all announcing that they will be likely in the future.  Meanwhile, in Lincolnshire, the results of the consultation have made very clear that its respondents do no want cuts and see volunteering as a last resort … but it seems the Council is going to go ahead anyway.  This also appears to be the case in Sheffield where ITV reports that there is suspicion that some councillors in power are gerrymandering the closures so as to not affect their wards.  Thi latter council which is also wanting to charge full market rate for any volunteer group selfless enough to take on running the service.

It’s interesting to note that some councils seem to get how not to rile the public while others (Sheffield, Lincolnshire and Bristol being the chief culprits recently) do not.  The key appears to be to honestly consult with the public and not to obviously be doing it as a tick-box exercise after the key decisions have been made behind closed doors.  To do the latter will simply court public anger and, vitally, lead the councils concerned to possible legal action later on.  If a councillor cares about votes then honesty is, actually, the best library policy.


National news

  • Co-located library downside: a trip to a Birmingham combined clinic/library – Public Libraries News.  John Kirriemuir is unimpressed with the staffing, the stock management and the signage.  The blood on the carpet and the head wounds are a bit distracting too.
  • Councils told to raise game on business rates collection as arrears top £1.2bn – Local Government Lawyer.  Shires have best rate of collecting. “The research comes after the Government earlier this year (April) introduced a business rates retention scheme allowing councils to keep up to half of the business rates income they collect, rather than – as previously – paying it all into a ‘national pool’. This means that, from 2013/14, a council’s income is directly affected by the business rates it collects.”
  • Lack of ‘quiet time’ hits children’s reading – BookSeller. “Egmont’s research found that children’s growing access to digital resources is coinciding with a decline in being read to at home and at school, resulting in many children not enjoying reading. Alison David, consumer insight director for Egmont UK, said: “There seem to be fewer times when children are at a ‘loose end’—the times that they would traditionally pick up a book to read—while digital devices are at their fingertips from a very young age.””

“Some 34% of parents say children already spend too long looking at screens, and 74% say they would prefer their children to read a physical book.”

“It would appear that there is a split when it comes to online content, with universities and colleges making more content available on electronic devices and redeveloping libraries into learning hubs and study spaces, and non-academic libraries retaining their original materials-based focus.”

  • My comments to Dan Jarvis on the Labour policy review on libraries – Stop the privatisation of public libraries / Alan Wylie. “The first thing to say is that your vision for libraries is not dissimilar to the one being pushed by the government” Letter to ex minister for libraries looking at his proposals and where Alan disagrees.
  • Not so ace – Leon’s Library Blog. “ACE think libraries should be integrated into a wider arts & culture strategic framework. The mistake is to assume that libraries are a strand of cultural provision when in fact arts and culture is but one strand of partnership working and activity that libraries undertake.” … “The Envisioning the Library of the Futurereport, with its over-optimistic view of the impact of library closures and the ability of volunteers to fill the gap is still derided by many within the profession.” … “It also brings home the fact that the biggest mistake was to place libraries in with ACE in the first place.”

“For me, arts and cultural activities for libraries are a ‘nice to have’. Whereas, education and information access are an essential ‘have’. In times of limited, and dwindling, funding I know where I would choose to concentrate my resources.”

International news

  • Four Librarians, Four E-readers, Two Years – Digital Shift (USA). Dedicated e-readers like the Nook and early Kindles were a transitional technology – it’s likely that in the future, e-reading will be done on all-purpose tablet PCs.
  • How Public Libraries Connect People to ICT for Development – ICT Works (Botswana, Chile and Philippines). “Using data from Botswana, Chile, and the Philippines, Public libraries connecting people for development: Findings from the Global Impact Study summarizes the study’s key findings with a focus on libraries, situating these venues in the context of national development, discussing some disputed issues, and providing recommendations for policymakers, library practitioners, and researchers. The results show that a central impact of public libraries is promoting digital inclusion, information access, and development of ICT skills through technology provision, particularly for marginalized populations and those who face challenges using and benefiting from computers and the internet.”

  • “Libraries to the Rescue” – Free 4 All Film (USA). “This week is the one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy.
  • Did you know your public librarians are trained first responders? Watch how the people of Queens turned to their libraries to survive the disaster. This short film is our tribute to all librarians who serve their communities during crises. Please share and help honor your public library.”
  • Mountain Range of Shelves Turns This Kids’ Library Into a Playground – Gizmodo (Mexico). “Learning to read is a massive adventure in itself, but discovering the library—a magical place where the stories are plentiful and the books are free—is downright mind-blowing. In an effort to match the fun between the pages, the Mexican branding studio Anagrama transformed the interior of a local heritage site into Niños Conarte, a geometric mountain range of literature.”  Amazing photos.

UK news by authority

  • Bradford – End of the road could be near for mobile library service amid cuts – Yorkshire Post. “A report, entitled Library Services: Strategic Options Review, to be considered by councillors next week, says that “based on levels of current usage against cost, the mobile service is not financially viable” and recommends it be withdrawn.” … “In Bradford this means we are looking at co-location and community management where possible. We’ve already started doing this.”

““The mobiles are also a valuable part of the library service with dedicated staff and normally I wouldn’t want to stop this service. But these are not normal times. The Government’s cut our budgets by another £115m over the next three years on top of the £100m which we’ve already taken out.”

  • Bradford – Future of district’s libraries to be debated by Bradford Council – Telegraph and Argus. “The most popular, Shipley, recorded an annual total of 264,041 visits last year, while the three least attended were Wilsden (3,082), Denholme(3,742) and Queensbury (3,782).” … “They also reflect the fact that Bradford Central Library, normally the most popular, has been closed since the end of 2011 after the building was found to be a fire risk. Its replacement will open in City Park in December.”
  • Brent – An All-Soulless story for North London library – Oxford Student. “Campaigners have responded with frustration to comments made by All Souls’ College representatives about the future of the Kensal Rise Library Building. Margaret Bailey, a member of the Friends of Kensal Rise Library (FKRL) commented this week on behalf of the group that they were “bemused” by the “contradictory” attitude taken by All Souls, who control the building, and developer Andrew Gillick towards how the building would be redeveloped.”
  • Camden – Susan Cooper wows readers at free library event – Reading Agency. “Readers enjoyed the chance to hear The Dark Is Rising author Susan Cooper in conversation with fellow children’s book writers at Swiss Cottage Library in north west London yesterday (31 October), in a free event organised by national charity The Reading Agency and publishers Random House. The award-winning author, in the UK on a rare trip from her home in the USA, was in conversation with Sally Gardner, winner of the 2013 Costa Children’s Book Award and CILIP Carnegie Medal for Maggot Moon; Geraldine McCaughrean, twice winner of the CILIP Carnegie Medal and author and illustrator Chris Priestley of Tales of Terror acclaim. The event was chaired by Clive Barnes of the International Board for Books for Young People, who reminded the audience how rare it is to have four children’s authors of the same calibre in the same room at the same time. “
  • Croydon – Council criticised after libraries operator is bought out within weeks – Guardian series. “It is understood members of staff at the libraries were not informed of the sale and only realised a change had taken place after they noticed their emails had changed last weekend.” … “There is also confusion as to how the handover with Carillion will take place, with employees being told that previous arrangements with JLIS such as child credits are now suspended until further notice.” … “A spokesman from Carillion said they are undertaking an operational review to gain an understanding of the library service and it will ensure all staff are kept fully informed of any future developments.”

“From our point of view this is exactly what happens when you outsource services. There is a lack of stability for staff and service users.” Unite steward

  • Hertfordshire – Broxbourne councillor calls for support for library service in Hertfordshire – Hertfordshire Mercury. “The statement in the document hinting at a strategy of creating ‘hub’ libraries serving a larger area was slated. The report stated: “We could move towards fewer but better libraries. “This would mean closing some libraries, and reinvesting the money saved to improve buildings, services and opening hours in others.”.  Volunteer libraries also to be considered.

“The likelihood of new libraries being constructed is low, according to the report. It read: “It is unlikely that new exclusively library buildings will be financially viable in future. “The library strategy will therefore need to determine how we continue to invest in library buildings so that they are modern, flexible, fit for purpose and meet local people’s needs.”

  • Hertfordshire – Meeting to discuss future of library services in St Albans – St Albans Review. “The meeting will be part of an extensive countywide consultation with local residents about what Hertfordshire libraries might look like in ten years time. The consultation is the start of a process by Hertfordshire County Council to develop a new ten year strategy to ensure the county’s libraries continue to provide a modern and relevant service. A total of ten public meetings are being held, one in each district of the county. ” See also Meeting to discuss future of Watford library – Watford Observer. “”Our aim is for Hertfordshire libraries to be fit for the future, providing residents with the right services in the right places.”
  • Lincolnshire – libraries consultation is slammed as ‘waste of time’ – This is Lincolnshire. “Independent councillor Stephen Palmer added: “The whole feedback is obvious. People don’t want their libraries to close. We could have written it ourselves. “It has proved an absolute waste of time.” Cllr Charmaine Morgan added: “The consultation was a loaded gun approach. “This scrutiny committee did not approve this consultation in the first place. “This consultation cost £50,000 during hard times and I am absolutely furious about it because there is nothing in this report that surprises us. “It was an absolute waste of time and money.”
  • Lincolnshire – Libraries needs assessment consultation – Sheffield Hallam University.  Library survey shows over two thirds think that cuts to libraries would have significant detrimental impact on their communities and that respondents were angry with the proposals, much preferring the status quo.  Also strong feeling that questions about willingness to volunteer was jumping the gun and assuming that no changes would be made as result of consultation.
  • Lincolnshire – Library closures: it was UKIP who wrote the letter – Guardian series. “I did berate two Conservative party members, but not just for supporting the closure of Crowland’s Library, as the writer indicates, but also for being two faced, since later they have supported the continuance of the library, but with voluntary labour replacing the librarians that they want to sack.”.  Looks at reasons why volunteer libraries are not the answer.
  • Neath Port Talbot – 100 people attend meeting about Resolven library closure – This is South Wales. “Held at St David’s Hall in the centre of the village, residents heard from head of partnership and community, Russell Ward. He told those attending that £17.3 million had to be cut from next year’s budget, and that £240,000 of that had to be cut from the libraries allocation.” … “villagers asked why libraries didn’t come under the education budget. “I have argued that point,” said Mr Ward.”
  • North Lanarkshire – Trust appoints new reader to libraries – Cumbernauld News. “The freelance arts writer and radio broadcaster will be focussing on devising and initiating a series of reader development programmes and workshops aimed at multi- generational family reading groups. The Readers in Residence programme, funded by Creative Scotland and managed by Scottish Book Trust, will take place in four library authorities until September, 2014 to help build reading communities.”
  • Northern Ireland – Reprieve for Carnlough library – Larne Times. “Larne Council has pledged its commitment to redevelop Carnlough library, after the under-threat facility was granted a reprieve this week. Libraries NI, who previously announced its intention to shut the facility, has now stated that the building is to remain open. However, its support for the retention of the branch is dependant on the building’s landlord (Larne Borough Council) pressing ahead with plans to carry out improvement works on the facility to make it sustainable.”
  • Plymouth – Plan for you to run Plymouth’s libraries – Plymouth Herald. Wifi to be introduced in all libraries. “Cllr Tuffin said that Cabinet should consider transferring ownership of premises where it is no longer financially viable to maintain them solely as a public library. And he said the council should explore the option of using volunteers. “There are currently more volunteers running libraries in the UK than there are paid staff,” [NB. this is true in simple number terms but being volunteers tend to work for on average one tenth or less of a paid member of staff, is highly inaccurate – Ed.] “The libraries could be rebranded as “community resource centres”. They could become one-stop shops for council services such as issuing or renewing bus passes, payments, and complaints. Some city libraries could host Job Centre Plus “back-to-work” courses for the unemployed, and could share space with facilities such as credit unions.”.  Ebook-lending also considered. “The council is expected to spend £3.03million on libraries in this financial year, but they will generate an income of only about £270,000. Two thirds of the budget goes on staffing costs.” See comments by Phil Bradley and others.
  • Sheffield – Campaigners protest at Sheffield library closure plans – ITV. “Campaigners took to the streets in Sheffield today to show their support for the region’s libraries. The hour-long protest, outside the Central Library, was dubbed the “big Shhhhhhhush” as it culminated at 1pm with the age-old library refrain.”
  • Sheffield – City Council say libraries may have to be “run differently” – ITV. Council “assured library campaigners that they would keep as many libraries open as possible but said that they may have to be “run differently”.”
  • Sheffield – Opinion: save city’s libraries – Star. “Libraries are not profit-making businesses. Libraries are catalysts for learning; for the young, the old, the deprived and the affluent. They’re a social service, ultimately. But not in and around Sheffield, they’re not. What they have become is a political football, booted from pillar to post to score points.”
  • Sheffield – ‘Petty’ Sheffield library closures anger – Star. “Concern has been expressed that the south and west of Sheffield has been targeted disproportionately for closure of 16 branches – because the areas have more Liberal Democrat  councillors. Two of the 11 libraries to be retained are in the south or west, at Ecclesall and Woodseats. The council will only pay the bills at five more branches so volunteers could keep them open. It would cost £140,000 to cover running costs at the other 11 sites. The Star understands decisions on which libraries are closed are being left to councillors – with some officials within the council feeling the policy is ‘not worth the grief’ for the small amount of savings.”

“It seems mean spirited and petty to decide based on the way people vote. “Surely there are better ways to score political points than hurting communities?”