Well done to Liverpool, whose newly revamped central library has just beaten the Shard, no less, to win the National Building Excellence Award.  I’ve been there and I think the judges made the right decision. The library shows what can be achieved with vision and sufficient funding.

Right, good news over, now let’s get on to a truly terrifying quote …

“He thought it would be alright because others were doing it”

This remark, apparently from a chief librarian, is taken from a report in Sheffield of a meeting and is about the legality of volunteer libraries lending books.  There are in fact some serious concerns about this issues, as shown by this from the Society of Authors, but the reason I highlight the quote is not to embarrass the person in question – that gets us nowhere and I sympathise with their predicament – but to point out the ad hoc nature of library change at the moment.  Things are happening so fast that best practice is barely even available, let alone formally grounded legal advice.  This will eventually all settle down (and ACE and SCL are doing their best, perhaps, given their narrow remits and dire budgets) but it’s no way to run a national public library service. But then, of course, the Government has decided that there is no such thing as a national public library service. It has decided to let the individual authorities go their own way, with minimal supervision, to do what they will in a time of dire cuts. Yinnon Ezra and the few others left on the DCMS team are thus left with the task of herding cats, with the all the success that that phrase normally implies.



  • Arts are more than a way to make money, Maria Miller – Guardian / Comment is Free. “The culture minister tells Hull what a financial boon being City of Culture will be. She’s missing the point”.  Several comments on libraries. “Unless it has taken some collective vow never to mention the arts (except to reassure critics that the end of reading and music are nothing to worry about), the coalition’s cultural life appears more calamitously empty than anything afflicting the crappest town in British history”
  • Call for unity at Speak Up For Libraries – BookSeller. “Library supporters must brace themselves for worse times ahead, and work together in spite of differences, speakers at the annual Speak Up for Libraries conference”

“Campaigning author Alan Gibbons emphasised that campaigners had to resolve themselves to face worse times ahead, saying campaigning was divided into “protest” and “persuasion” wings. “The protest wing has organised fantastic protests, but decades of defeats mean many don’t think they can win,” he said. “The persuasion wing sounds plausible, but government is not really interested. This is no time to shrug, no time to become pessimistic and think change is not possible. Nobody can predict when the mood will change. Next year could be more challenging than this. We have no choice but to maintain the coalition of persuasion and protest and discuss differences in a cordial manner.”

  • Ebulletin 142 – The Network.  A guide to glam (galleries, libraries, archives, museums) news and events, with a slant towards social exclusion inc. funding opportunities.
  • Future of libraries: keeping the service alive – Guardian / Service Delivery Hub. “he Arts Council said that libraries need to be positioned as the hub of the community; they will need to embrace digital technology and become more resilient and sustainable. Join us on Thursday 20 November from 12pm-1pm or leave your questions and points now in our open thread. We will debate the following questions: • Why are library services so important and how are they changing? • How can council library services be more resilient? • What examples are there of councils reinventing the service?” See comments.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone voted UK’s favourite children’s book – Guardian. “More than 24,000 readers voted for their favourite from the 100 best books to read before you’re 14 list, covering books from the past century, which was compiled by the children’s reading charity Booktrust. The list was split into four groups of 25 books for varying age ranges.”
  • Liverpool’s Central Library wins building award – Liverpool Daily Post. “Liverpool’s £50m refurbishment of Central Library beat London’s iconic Shard building to a major national award. The city scooped the National Building Excellence Award for its work to restore the historic building while creating a modern library.”
  • Michael Morpurgo: Bring back story time in every school – Telegraph. “Saying too many pupils are introduced to books merely as a tool to learn spelling and punctuation, he said: “You cannot force this medicine down their throats and say ‘you have to learn this because you’re going to be tested on it’.” … “he has now argued for a return to traditional “story time”, with half an hour at the end of the day given over to telling tales.”

“Literature is their birthright,” he said. “It’s not just for people who can afford stuff, it’s not just for clever people; it’s for everyone.” Michael Morpurgo

  • Outlook grim for public libraries – Good E-Reader. On Speak Up For Libraries “Perhaps the most important factor discussed was ways that libraries can demonstrate their relevance to both the public and the deciding policy makers. Rather than continuing to work in two camps–that of protest and of persuasion–speakers outlined the need for a united front for libraries and encouraged them to rely on demonstrating how vital they are within their communities. This important status comes down to seeking out the patrons who already take full advantage of their libraries and encouraging them to continue, while also reaching out to those members of the community who do not use the library. This outreach can attract more regular visitors by meeting needs that would-be patrons may not be aware of, such as streaming movies, magazine and newspaper downloads, ebook lending, MP3 downloads, and more.”
  • Steve Davies opening speech to Speak Up For Libraries: full presentation notes – Public Libraries News.

UK news by authority

  • Birmingham – Duke of Cambridge to visit the Library of BirminghamRewriting the Book newsletter. “On Friday 29 November we’re excited to be welcoming The Duke of Cambridge, who will tour the Library’s facilities, take part in a children’s story telling session, meet young entrepreneurs who use the library’s facilities and hear a poetry recital.” [That’s Prince William apparently – Ed.]
  • Bristol – Create Raspberry Pi centres in public libraries – Geroge’s Ideas Lab.”All public libraries to have one or more working Raspberry Pi systems for public use, plus a staff member able to explain the basics supported by online information. They should also have available to rent as minimal cost Raspberry Pi’s in user friendly form – probably using the Kano kit (see below).”
  • Bristol – Neighbourhoods & Communities Scrutiny Commission does not support the proposal – Love Bristol Libraries. “The Commission was not satisfied that the Equality Impact Assessments provided an adequate impact assessment of the proposals on library-users, library staff and, most importantly, young people.””
  • Bristol – Surely we can work out a way to save our libraries? – Bristol 24-7 / Letters.  “There are those who consider libraries simply as prime pieces of real estate. Why don’t we all just buy a Kindle or pop into Waterstones? But have you been in public library lately? It’s a wonderful, democratic public space, serving everyone from the wide-eyed toddler to those with failing eyesight, still imagining through audio books and CDs.” … “I am not advocating throwing libraries to the wolves. But there must be someone who can come up with a business model that is a halfway house between pure privatisation and a quasi commercial/social enterprise model that allows public authorities to retain some control while attracting private investment?” ,,, “Maybe I should set up a crowdfunding campaign that allows us all to keep a library open by each sponsoring one book on the shelf? Any takers?”
  • Cornwall – One stop shop to move into Camelford library – This is Cornwall. “Camelford’s library service and the town’s one stop shop are to merge after a Cornwall Council review. The local authority said after consulting with local councillors and other partners, from Tuesday, December 3, one stop shop services will be delivered from Camelford Library where staff will be offering a record and refer service and customers with specialist enquiries will be directed to the relevant services” … “One stop shops have already been moved into libraries elsewhere in the county, including in Bodmin, Hayle, Launceston, Redruth and St Ives as part of a strategy to offer more council services in one place to save costs.”
  • Sheffield – Library policy branded ‘poor’ – Sheffield Telegraph. “There was standing room only at the meeting in Greenhill which was called by the Friends of Greenhill Library. Locals were given a presentation by a representative from Sheffield Council, who outlined the reasons for the proposed closures. The council is planning to shut up to 16 of its 27 community libraries unless third parties step forward to run them. The presentation was followed by a heated two-hour question and answer session.”

“The head of library services was also asked about the legality of independent libraries lending books because it would function outside the public rights lending system. “He said he ‘thought it would be alright’ because others were doing it.” The spokesman said: “That raised further questions about the thoroughness of the analysis that underlies the library proposals if such fundamental issues such as the legal status of the independent library model have not been addressed.”