Speak Up for Libraries

All of the main (non-political) national leaders of public libraries were together for the Speak Up For Libraries conference on Saturday.  The main messages I took away from the conference (and from a busy last week where I was in a meeting with the SCL and another one with the  APPG as well) were:

  • Things are going to get worse for libraries funding next year. The funding for local authorities is being cut more and most of the easy (and many not so easy) cuts have already been made.  If the austerity programme stays as it, this could be a permanent state of affairs until there is very very little left of local government outside of the “hard” statutory provision (and libraries are “soft” statutory the conference heard yesterday, from Yinnon Ezra of the DCMS).
  • The main national bodies are working as well as they can together, within the limits of their own roles.  The SCL is moving forward with national offers and training, Arts Council England is funding as much as it can, CILIP is recovering from its rebranding failure and moving on.  They all have less money than before and are trying their best … which normally means sharing what they have, in terms of expertise and funding … it’s best practice and working together.
  • Even Yinnon Ezra has said he is working.  Having said that, the DCMS is laughably non-interventionist: Yinnon said they don’t even “bother much” with consultations. Chats and sharing best practice is as bad as it gets with the deep library cutters.  Sometimes this works and sometimes it fails.  
  • That the strong feeling from ACE, SCL, DCMS and CILIP is that campaigning can work – and is sometimes the only hope – but that positive campaigning (on what a great impact libraries have) is better than negative (such as questioning the competence of the council).
  • It’s all about the money … but if you market and place yourself well enough in an organisation then the money can come to you.
  • Alan Gibbons and Phil Bradley have now been joined as library heroes by Steve Davies.

The relevant links are:




“My main point is that more than £1 million was spent on consultancy fees related to new technology and to improving processes with little benefit.  ACE even removed the advice given by the MLA on meeting agreed national and international standards” Desmond Clarke

  • In Trusts we Trust? – Leon’s Library Blog. Looks at current situation of deep cuts, weak voice of librarians and what to do.  “The way forward is to release the creativity of both library services and the communities they serve by establishing libraries as social enterprises. Ultimately, the only truly sustainable service is one that allows for a genuine partnership between libraries and communities. For me, this most definitely would not involve privatisation as commercialisation would take control away from staff, exclude the community, and put profit not people as the guiding vision.”
  • Libraries: a plea from a silence seeker – Spiked. “’I’m in a Kent library, people are talking loudly, and it’s difficult to concentrate. No surprise here, you might say. Long gone are the days when libraries were places for quiet study, learning and working. Rather, in the past 20 years, they’ve been turned into ‘community centres’, where the focus is on activity, play and interaction. We all know this. But the problem to which I refer here is not noisy library users – but the people actually running the place.” … “Quiet areas are the most conducive to the human will to work. When people work side by side, that’s when genuine community arises. Librarians must realise that silence is golden. “

“I feel, however, that we have reached a tipping point. Of course librarians stopped enforcing silence and ejecting loud people years ago (how judgmental!), but now they are themselves often the offenders “

  • London book benches: are you sitting comfortably? – Guardian. “Benches resembling giant open books, the volumes ranging from Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows to George Orwell’s 1984, will be installed at various sites in the capital for a stretch of 10 weeks.”.  Private sponsors required for some lovely seats.
  • Minutes of meeting between Society of Chief Librarians and campaigners, 20th November 2013 – Public Libraries News. Campaigners included Desmond Clarke, Elizabeth Ash, Laura Swaffield and Trevor Craig [I was also in attendance – Ed.].  Meeting discussed the work of the SCL and campaigner/stakeholder concerns regarding volunteers, the abolition of the Advisory Council on Libraries and the sharing of services.
  • Self service library counters: I hate ’em – Mumsnet. Not much love for self-service machines from many a commenter on this page (although some like them).  Many despise seeing staff standing around chatting while users are struggling with the machines.  [Some home truths here for some poorly trained library staff – Ed.] Others think they’re great.  Library of Birmingham gets a roasting too.

“I work in a library; we help people with the self service machines. We sort of hover and try not to pounce on people asking if the need help. It was easier when we had a desk. The RFID machines make our jobs much more difficult; books not returned correctly, reserves going out for issue, items issued that shouldn’t be. They are the In thing though and our managers want them. I like it when I get to help someone, rather than trying to get a blasted machine to work.”

  • Top authors at London road show linking libraries and publishers – Reading Agency (press release). “Publishers, librarians and writers including Lottie Moggach (Picador), Damian Barr (Bloomsbury) and Lisa Jewell (Cornerstone) attended The Reading Agency’s latest ‘road show’ event linking publishers, librarians and writers. Held yesterday (21 November) at Swiss Cottage Library in north London, the road show provided a vital forum to build relationships for running exciting events, promotions and projects for adult readers.”

International news

Join us: stand up for our library – Toronto shows the world how to do a library campaigning video.

  • Chicago Public Library embraces high-tech – American Libraries. “The award-winning Innovation Lab at Chicago Public Library (CPL), home to a Maker Lab featuring 3D printers, laser cutters, vinyl cutters, and a milling machine, took center stage this week at a conference held at the Harold Washington Library Center in downtown Chicago.” … “We are a victim of our own success in a sense because so many people want to see us keep [the Maker Lab], and we’ll probably keep elements of it, but the lab space is designed to change,”
  • Draft public library strategy for the Republic of Ireland – Republic of Eire. “The Library Development Committee plans to develop a single national library management system to maximise accessibility,  cost-efficiency, reach and impact. It will also develop a framework for standards and guidelines for ICT in public libraries and a policy for shared acquisitions, including a national acquisition consortium for print and electronic resources.”.  See also Irish Times article The walls come down in the modern library.

UK news by authority

  • Bristol – Central Library – Unison statement – Unison. Long list of problems with moving in a Free School into the Central Library. One point is “What looks like a good financial deal for the people of Bristol is no such thing. We don’t believe that the premium of £600,000 will adequately cover the staffing costs of reviewing the hundreds of thousands of items in the store and elsewhere in the building; the cataloguing of over a hundred thousand items; moving hundreds of thousands of books and materials internally and to the bookstore; relocating over 25 staff; structural changes to the building e.g. the new loading bay, heating and lighting; changes to B Bond (the probable bookstore): shelving and rolling stacks”

“Protest ‘Honk Your Horn’ : we stopped counting after 200 honks!! 526 signatures in 3hrs!” Save Bury Library on Twitter.

  • Cornwall – Library closures ‘cannot be ruled out’ – BBC. “The service is under review as the section of Cornwall Council’s budget that includes libraries has to make £1.3m of savings. Some libraries already have reduced opening hours, but none have closed.”

“A council spokesman said the number of people using libraries annually had dropped by about 500,000 to under two-and-a-half million over the last two years. He said the authority had also been analysing how much each library visit costs the taxpayer, which ranged from 58 pence in Truro to £2.53 in Padstow. He added that one mobile library service had worked out at £39 a visit.”

  • Croydon – Library staff’s jobs at risk following Carillion takeover – East London Lines. Quotes from Carillion and from others.
  • Croydon – Dr Who Peter Capaldi takes time to support Upper Norwood Library – Croydon Advertiser. “The greeting from the Time Lord came as the library prepared to hold a Doctor Who day tomorrow (Saturday) to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the television series. His handwritten message says: “Save the Upper Norwood Library from extermination says the new old Doctor Who Peter Capaldi.”
  • Havering – Collier Row Library users enjoy revamp – Romford Recorder. “The library in Collier Row Road has been painted inside and out, new flooring and lighting have been installed, new tables put in, and there is a revamped children’s corner. The upgrade has also created a workshop and study area for group and individual study.”
  • Herefordshire – Libraries face draconian cuts – Hereford Libraries Users Group.  See also Budget 2014 – Herefordshire Council. £700k cut 2014/15, “We face the prospect that at the very least, all libraries barring the city library in Hereford and possibly Leominster and Ross, although the outlook for these looks bleak too, are likely to become community libraries, but the outlook for the last two looks bleak as well.”

“libraries were probably not part of the future for the Council and were likely to end up with community groups and volunteers. On being reminded of statutory responsibilities he said that it was likely that Government would amend these in the future. On this point a Cabinet Councillor, who was present, said that the Local Government Association was telling the Government that they either had to reduce the cuts or amend the statutory responsibilities.”

  • Lambeth – Library users and workers welcome the launch of the Lambeth Manifesto for Libraries – Library Campaign (press release). “Library users and workers welcome the launch of the Lambeth Manifesto for Libraries Library users and workers are welcoming the launch of the Lambeth Manifesto for Libraries. The manifesto, supported by Children’s author and national library campaigner Alan Gibbons, lays out the local commitments for the borough following the publication of the National Voices for the Library Manifesto for Libraries, produced in consultation with thousands of library supporters from across the country, earlier this year.”

“The Lambeth Manifesto for Libraries asks local politicians make four commitments to the Library Service: (1) A commitment to increase book stock to at least the average amount of books of other London authorities – Lambeth Libraries have only 50% of the average London borough book stock. (2) A commitment to increase staffing to at least the average amount of staff of other London authorities – Lambeth Libraries are proposing to reduce the staffing levels to the lowest in London (3) A commitment to increase public IT access to at least the average amount of other London authorities – Lambeth Libraries have only 50% of the average London borough public IT provision[2] (4) A commitment to keep all nine public libraries open with no cuts to opening hours”

  • Lincolnshire – County Council U-turn boost for local libraries – Horncastle News. “Councillor Nick Worth, Executive Member for Libraries, said: “One thing that was clear from the consultation was that rural communities valued their mobile services, so 146 more mobile stops have been included in the revised proposals.” … “Under the revised proposals, Horncastle and Woodhall Spa libraries will be listed as two of the county’s five ‘Tier 2’ facilities with opening hours of between 18 and 31 a week. As well as these two facilities, the county council have received an expression of interest from a community group regarding the future of Wragby Library.”  See also More than 100 jobs lost under revised library plans – Lincolnshire Echo.”the authority still intends to keep just 15 council-run library buildings. Ten of which will run between 40 and 48 hours a week and five which would open between 18 and 31 hours a week.” and Last ditch bid from Labour councillors to save Lincolnshire libraries defeated – This is Lincolnshire and Libraries: the big debate in Lincoln – Guardian series and Deepings library given no reprieve from county council cuts – Rutland and Stamford Mercury.
  • Liverpool – Literary detectives uncover library secret – Liverpool Express. “he eagle-eyed visitors spotted some red letters on the literary pavement which leads into the building, and embarked on a mission to crack the mysterious code. More than 500 people took part, with 200 solving the clues which led them to… well, that would be telling, and we’re not going to ruin the answer for future puzzle-solvers!”
  • Torbay – Keep warm, keep safe is the message at the next Brixham Library’s 50 Plus event – Torbay Council (press release). “Following the success of the 50 Plus events … a range of statutory and charitable a partners have once again come together to offer practical information and advice for everyone in Torbay who is 50 or over to help them live their lives to the full.”. Examples include “Brixham does Care; Healthwatch Torbay; Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service; Brixham Blind and VIP Club and Torbay Libraries Inclusion Services offering internet taster sessions.” … “All those attending the event will be able to enter a prize draw to win a KOBO e-reader with which they can download free e-book and e-audio book loans from the Torbay Libraries online library of over 1000 electronic titles.”
  • Wiltshire – Free tea and biscuits for councillors but volunteers have to pay – Bath Chronicle. “Councillors who recently awarded themselves a 22 per cent pay rise enjoy free tea and biscuits at the taxpayers’ expense – but make the volunteers who work for nothing to keep libraries open pay for theirs.”

“Meanwhile, volunteers who work for nothing in Wiltshire’s libraries have to either bring their own tea and coffee, or contribute to a fund with their colleagues. Two years ago, Wiltshire made widespread redundancies across the library service and instead recruited volunteers from the community to work to keep libraries open. One volunteer, who declined to be named, said: “I love volunteering in the libraries and it’s great to know we are doing something worthwhile to keep such a valuable resource open. “We have to pay for our own tea, so it is a bit annoying to find that the only people who don’t are the councillors themselves”.