I have been much taken with two great ideas for children’s libraries.  The first is in Mexico has shelves designed for climbing on and uneven floors that just scream excitement.  The second is from Spain and features play-area like nets suspended above the children’s library that can be climbed on and laid on. There are simply nothing like them in the UK.  The two big new shiny libraries in the UK – Liverpool and Birmingham – have children’s libraries that are boring in comparison.  The Liverpool one appears designed to be a dual use auditorium space and the Birmingham one (although the books actually have their own permanent sections and there are nice steps for reading on/class visits) can not claim to be revolutionary in any way.  Which is a shame, because the money was there in both projects for something really quite startlingly good – you know, for the kids – but, to me at least, the results simply don’t live up to it.  This is even more of a shame when one considers what a large proportion of usage children are and the importance of libraries to literacy.  Let’s hope the last of the trio of Big Shiny New Libraries started before the Austerity – Manchester – does not let us down in the same way.

Speaking of Big Shiny Libraries, the trend where smaller libraries are closed or turned volunteer while the money is spent on central libraries continues in this post.  Glasgow’s Mitchell Library is getting over £3m mainly just to put in a new fire alarm system (that’s bigger than some library authority’s total budgets) while Trafford are aiming to replaces large swathes of their staffing with the unpaid.  Mind you, Bradford say that volunteers do better than paid staff: the rush of energy released by them in four libraries has apparently doubled usage and is being used as a reason to reduce paid staff elsewhere.


Ideas noted

UK news

  • Network E-bulletin – A guide to funding opportunities, guidance etc on social exclusion.
  • New ACE strategy: Keep calm and carry on… – Arts Professional. “What museums, libraries and collections add to the previous footprint is breadth. Connecting galleries to museums in ways which reflect audiences more, reintroducing the notion of libraries as cultural centres – especially powerful given the emphasis on digital – and offering new ways to connect with children and young people, are some opportunities identified.” … “The potential interrelation between arts, museums, libraries and the creative industries is underplayed, a result of the emphasis on ‘great art and culture’.”.  The dominance of London in ACE (and philanthropic) funding is also mentioned.
  • October issue of the Public and Mobile Libraries Group newsletter – CILIP. Includes details of awards and scholarships.
  • There is always a bigger fish – Question Everything. On purchase of JLIS by Carillion: ” I’m amazed that a contract can be bought and sold like a commodity and there is nothing the council can do about it. If you make a agreement with someone, you make it with them, you shouldn’t end up bound to someone else” … “Things libraries do don’t have an apparent return on the balance sheet and a private company might not recognize the importance of this and believe its just money wasted. Of course all of this could be mitigated by a proper contracts and clear service level agreements but when the service provision is being bought and sold like this and councils are powerless (or unwilling because they have to save face or are ideological idiots) its clear these contracts aren’t good enough.”

International news

  • Children’s Library in Mexico Features Bookshelves that Double as Climbing Structures – Inhabitots (Mexico). One of the most imaginative children’s libraries in recent years [although a bit flawed: grey? how can any kid get some of those books from the walls? health and safety worries too? On the other hand, this building shows how traditional and boring the new mega libraries in Birmingham and Liverpool (especially) have been with their children’s sections – Ed.]
  • Don’t Miss These Must-Reads! – Public Libraries Online. “Staff working in U.S. public libraries across the country nominate pre-publication adult titles, and the ten titles with the most nominations make the list, which is then published and promoted in libraries and the publishing industry.”
  • Experience design of server farms – Medium). A look at the data storage companies that keep the information behind the internet running.  Many are highly secure control-orientated buildings but the Internet Archive is intentionally in public view in a converted church.  All of these are open to destruction (be it legal, criminal or accidental) but, then, so were libraries; ““What happens to libraries is that they’re burned,” says Kahle, “and they’re typically burned by governments.” see also The libraries that governments will burn in the future – io9.
  • Imagine space – Ottawa Public Library (Canada). “The Ottawa Public Library (OPL) and the United States Embassy in Ottawa (Embassy) are working together to launch Imagine Space – an American Corner, a Makerspace that will create a hands-on learning experience and collaborative environment to exchange ideas in pursuit of innovation. This collaboration between the Embassy and OPL is an extension of the vibrant and wide-ranging ties between the United States and Canada. ” … “Corners are spaces in local institutions, such as libraries, that the U.S. government helps to support. Corners offer information about the U.S. or tools and technologies, and informative and engaging programs devoted to bilateral collaboration.”

“Libraries are places devoted to learning and discovery. In its May 2013 customer engagement campaign, Imagine, OPL found strong community interest in new technologies and tools, and hands-on learning and creation. This space responds to that need, and aligns with OPL’s mission to help connect people to each other and world.”

  • Interview: CEO, National Library of Korea on Librarians Becoming ‘Information Mediators” – Infodocket (South Korea). ““Basically, we want to run a service that actively approaches (readers). Up to now, libraries’ role had been to collect and organize information for people to seek out,” Lim told The Korea Herald. “We want to approach people and say, ‘Don’t you need this (information)? I think this may be of interest to you.’””
  • Korean libraries embrace new, expanded roles – Korea Herald (South Korea). “The policy plan places importance on expanding the library’s functions. The ministry wants libraries to provide seniors with a venue for lifelong education and also help narrow the gap between information haves and have-nots, including migrant workers and multicultural families. ” … “Korea, after all, has a relatively weak foundation when it comes to libraries. While European public libraries serve an average of 10,000 users, Korean public libraries handle more than 66,000 people. There are only 3,300 librarians at Korean public libraries; one librarian, on the average, serves a whopping 15,000 Koreans, far below the level recommended by the International Federation of Library Association and Institutions of 1 librarian per 2,500 users.”

  • Library Vending Machine – BookRiot (USA). “Changing demographics and difficulty securing new funds for new libraries, The Pioneer Library System in Norman, Oklahoma decided to to use technology to meet its patrons needs. So last week, it opened the first 24-hour library vending machine in the United States. Built by EnvisionWare, this fully automated machine will be able to to dispense more than 400 pieces of media (books/DVDs/audiobooks) and store more than 1000 returned items.”

“This particular model costs $200,000, which includes a touchscreen terminal that patrons use to check materials in and out. The machine can also serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot, with either open or password-protected internet access. Patrons can also pick up holds and pay fines with credit cards.”

UK news by authority

  • Bradford – Four community-run libraries bucking trend to double visitor numbers – Telegraph and Argus. “The libraries, in Addingham,Denholme, Wilsden and Wrose, were taken over by volunteers in 2011 after being threatened with closure. These libraries, and others which have been moved into other public buildings to save overheads costs, were hailed as success stories at a meeting of the Regeneration and Culture Overview and Scrutiny Committee last night. Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe (Lab, Windhill and Wrose), executive member for culture, said: “At Wrose community library, it has been a revelation, actually, about how hard these volunteers have worked.””
  • Bradford – The libraries that governments will burn in the future – Keighley News. “The information has been released as the council carries out a review into its library service. Most used site and the costliest to operate was Shipley, with 264,041 visitors and a bill of more than £350,000. Among the least visited were Wilsden (3,082) and Denholme (3,742).” … “the purpose of the report is to get the council to agree an ‘operational model and delivery strategy’ for the next three years, and no decisions will be made without full public consultation.”
  • Croydon – Controversial company Carillion take over Croydon’s libraries despite facing accusations for blacklisting – East London Lines. “The new contractor of Croydon’s libraries, Carillion, is currently being held accountable by the High Court after 14 compensation claims for backlisting its workers were lodged against the company.” … “Croydon Council said, with regards to the reasons behind the sale to Carillion: “We have put a number of detailed contractual questions in order to understand the nature of the sale and its implications. Library services will be unaffected by this sale as the overall company structure remains unchanged. The contract terms continue to be binding regardless of the ownership of the company delivering the service, and staff will continue to enjoy protection under the terms of their employment contracts.”
  • Glasgow – ‘Iconic’ Mitchell Library set for £3.4m refurbishment programme – STV. “The 102-year-old building, which is one of Europe’s largest public libraries, is set to benefit from a new fire alarm system and improved lighting. A new family history centre will be created as well as upgrades to study space and public lifts. Floors within the library will also be relocated.”
  • Lincolnshire – 23,000 sign petitions to save libraries – Spalding Guardian. [NB. articles says it’s largest library petition in UK – this is the case (I believe) under the current government) but the Wirral’s petition in 2009 was 60,000 – Ed.]. “Paul Bywater, a volunteer with the group that has expressed an interest in taking over Crowland Library, said:

“Our steering group has not become involved in the politics or mechanics of the situation and have purely concentrated on ensuring that there is a Plan B available should the county council close the library in its present form. “Other groups and individuals are challenging the closure and should they be successful in saving the Crowland Library and the staff, we shall be delighted.””

  • Lincolnshire – GLL, Bibliotheca and Lincolnshire Libraries – Stop the privatisation of public libraries.
  • Lincolnshire – Libraries consultation – Sheffield Hallam University Final Report (31 October) – Lincolnshire County Council.  Full (over 2MB) report on consultation is possibly the most negative ever for a council library consultation: widespread anger at the cuts proposed and a strong feeling that using the consultation as a method to drum up volunteers was too soon and prejudged the results.
  • Lincolnshire – People of Lincolnshire: We Salute You! – Save Lincolnshire Libraries. “In terms of the survey response rates, the quantity of completed surveys was high and the volume of qualitative data generated within these was exceptional. In over a decade of research work the analysis team of SHU had not experienced any survey (on any topic) generating such a high volume of qualitative data/ written comments.” … ““Many participants found the survey and consultation events unsuitable or inadequate ways to communicate their feelings. This section also mentions ‘substantial praise’ for library staff.”
  • Lincolnshire – Survey reveals scale of opposition to Lincolnshire library cuts – Stamford Mercury. “The team told the council’s public safety scrutiny committee there was “widespread opposition” to the plans from the 6,000 people who responded to the consultation.” … “The team found there was “fundamental disagreement” with the proposed cuts, which were viewed as a “highly unfair and short-sighted approach that would result in permanent damage to the county. And many respondents found the survey and public consultation events were “unsuitable or inadequate ways of communicating their feelings.””
  • Monmouthshire – Public meeting to discuss the future of Usk Library – South Wales Argus. “The Save Usk Library Action group has welcomed the chance to talk with Monmouthshire council but is standing firm in its fight to retain the library. The council’s chief executive, Paul Matthews has agreed to hold the public meeting following strong feeling at a budget consultation meeting last month.” … “The group’s facebook page has attracted more than 500 ‘likes’ as well as on online and paper petition which have nearly 1,000 signatures calling on Mr Matthews to keep the library open.”

“As this is the only publicly-funded building we have in Usk, well-used by all sectors of the community, we are determined not to lose this vital hub for our community.”

  • Neath Port Talbot – Meeting to save closure of Briton Ferry Library tonight – This is South Wales. “Councillors hope people come forward volunteering to run the facility for the community at the meeting, which follows another packed meeting at the library last week. Briton Ferry is among nine libraries across Neath Port Talbot threatened with closure, as part of budget savings of £17.3 million”
  • Neath Port Talbot – Plans in place in Resolven, Briton Ferry and Blaengwynfi to save libraries from closure – South Wales Evening Post. Volunteers may take over all three libraries.
  • Somerset – >Chard library to receive a makeover – News. “In addition to the installation of self-service a number of other improvements will be made including the fitting of energy efficient lighting, a new enquiries desk, a new shelving layout, replacing and updating signage, a new front door and general decoration.”
  • South Gloucestershire – Strike to shut South Gloucestershire libraries today – Bristol Post. “Union Unison claims that the council wants to cut Saturday-working payments by a third, with staff losing up to 10 per cent of pay, and some even more than that. Library staff are among a number of lower-paid workers, also including care staff in elderly people’s homes, staff in Vinney Green Secure Unit and civil enforcement officers, who have voted to reject an offer of a short-term buy-out payment in return for giving up the Saturday payments.”
  • Trafford – Council set to make staff take unpaid holidays in new cuts – Manchester Evening News. “Volunteers would also be needed to help run the borough’s 14 libraries. Council bosses said they are confident enough people will come forward to keep all 14 libraries open, with 70 people already volunteering in libraries across the borough and another 130 applying. Librarian jobs would be lost through voluntary redundancies or retirement with the council continuing to pay the running costs of the buildings.”
  • West Berkshire – Council draws up £11m cuts – Newbury and Thatcham Chronicle. “Jobs will be lost, particularly in the planning enforcement department, with schools losing their lollipop wardens unless they foot the bill themselves and the Tourist Information Service being scrapped altogether. Library opening hours will be cut to save £175,000 over two years,”
  • Westminster – London’s French expats get their own library – Independent. “The Church Street Library in Westminster hopes to attract French expats after it struck an entente cordiale with the Place des Fêtes library in Paris. The two libraries have already swapped 150 books.” … ” London is now France’s fifth largest city by population, with 400,000 French people.”
  • York – Libraries seek volunteer helpers – Steve Galloway. “York Libraries are being privatised by the Labour run Council. While generally we want to see residents fully involved in their local libraries, it would be a shame if professional standards were jeopardised. Libraries should continue to be the centre of our local communities.”