Further Pew Internet Research survey results continue to show the importance of public libraries (and of books and of librarians) to the US public.  It also demonstrates, to my mind at least, the need for such research in the UK as it would be a powerful weapon for library services in their dealings with policy makers. Interestingly, the two most important services, as seen by the public are books and library staff, with quiet study space not far behind.  This ties in with what Norfolk Libraries say today about their continued success as the most popular library service in the UK – that keeping well maintained book stocks is key.

The other item of note is continuing talk about the proposed job losses by Carillion.  The company has recently become one of the few controllers of multiple library services in the UK (alongside the Tri-Borough and GLL) after purchasing the library arm of John Laing.


  • Library staff numbers continue downward spiral – LocalGov.
  • Norfolk & Norwich Millennium tops list of most popular UK libraries – Guardian. “Top 20 list offers bright spot in survey that reveals declining services, book stocks and staffing levels” … “In a sector beset by austerity-driven library closures, the Norfolk library service has “worked very hard to respond to the needs of library users and to stay relevant”, head of libraries Jennifer Holland said. “Part of it is that we keep very well maintained book stocks, and listen to what people like to read, as well as embedding the library service at the heart of delivering council objectives on things like education and employment.”

“17 december 10.30-12.00 (Stockholm time) to the meeting Read with me 2014, the first international meeting, about how to start up the international reading book club. See you in this room: . You need a headset with usb-connection and a webcamera.” Link to a film about a virtual reading club.

  • Rural impact of library changes research – Arts Council England. “The objectives of this project are to better understand, add to existing knowledge, and provide learning to local communities and authorities on: * the issues, challenges and opportunities for rural areas arising from changes to library services * good practice and shared learning on how to shape library services in rural areas to meet local need (including alternative models of delivery) * the possible future role of statutory and non-statutory libraries in rural areas”

“We have carefully selected a sample of rural areas that broadly represents different types of rural geography and the main factors that may affect library usage and management which could usefully address the research objectives. The aim is to identify good practice and possibly more challenging issues in order to clarify what models might best work in particular types of rural areas and circumstances. The details of discussions in each area will necessarily remain confidential to encourage free exchange of views within discussion groups, but the learning generated across the eight places will be brought together and shared through the final report. The eight areas taking part in this research are Buckinghamshire, Cumbria, Devon, North Yorkshire, Suffolk, Surrey, Wakefield and Warwickshire.”

“We’re fighting a battle, you and I, every day, a lot of little guerilla skirmishes in the underground war to preserve the imagination.”

International news

  • How Americans value public libraries in their communities – Pew Internet (USA). “Americans strongly value the role of public libraries in their communities, both for providing access to materials and resources and for promoting literacy and improving the overall quality of life. Most Americans say they have only had positive experiences at public libraries, and value a range of library resources and services.” [Major research by Pew Internet continues to demonstrate not only the importance of public libraries but also the importance of conducting such research, perhaps more lacking in the UK – Ed.]

“Some 90% of Americans ages 16 and older said that the closing of their local public library would have an impact on their community, with 63% saying it would have a “major” impact.”

UK news by authority

“To accompany Birmingham’s impressive new city centre library comes a new website at a staggering cost of £1.2m – and that’s before annual running costs. According to figures released under freedom of information, the whopping design, licensing and content creation price, plus a huge £190,000-a-year support charge, will be paid to Capita’s ghastly Service Birmingham (Eyes passim), which “procured the library website on behalf of the city council”.  Capita previously built the city council’s website, which came in two years late and four times its original budget — so it was clearly the obvious choice for the job!

One web designing told the Eye that an ordinary web design firm could probably have done the whole job for around £150,000, including getting it to work on all phones and mobile devices, which it currently doesn’t, even though that was included in the contract specification.  Still, at least the site is “available 24 hours a day” — which was also specified, one would hope unnecessarily.

Many large councils’ entire websites cost less than half what Birmingham is paying for its library site.  As for running costs, recent figures for the London borough of Bexley, which provides the same Overdrive e-lending service as Birmingham, estimate that running the Bex-L site costs £6,000 a year in staff time.

How else could Birmingham have spent £1.2m?  The money would certainly be a help to the city’s 39 branch libraries, many of which are under threat as the service review proposes to switch to volunteer and community-run libraries in “non-priority literacy areas and housebound and mobile services”.” Birmingham – Library News – Private Eye, Issue 1355 (p.28)

  • Carillion (Croydon/Ealing/Hounslow/Harrow) – The law of the building site; Carillion and public libraries – Stop the privatisation of public libraries. “f a recent comment posted on my site is to be believed, and I have no reason to doubt it, then it looks as if Carillion have tried to introduce the law of the building site into public libraries” …” This shocking news about Harrow fits in with the other bits and pieces I’ve heard from Ealing and Croydon where staff are being threatened with redundancies and ‘restructuring’, many more will flee with ER/VR packages if they can get them”

“Carillion is currently in consultation with employees and their recognised Trade Unions regarding the operation of the library services. It would be wrong to comment on these discussion but Carillion is committed to providing a high quality and sustainable library service for the benefit of the communities these libraries service.” Response from Carillion to PLN query about rumours of job losses.

“20 Hours remaining for you to become involved in this exciting project linking a volunteer run library in New Cross with  public art experts Artmongers.  With the giant light-box we will create, you would be able to make art as part of a group, suggest themes, nominate artists – all of which will give much needed creative energy  to this truly courageous experiment.”  See this webpage – Lewisham

  • Norfolk – Norwich library keeps its title as the busiest in the UK – EDP. “The latest UK library survey issued by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy shows that for the seventh year running the library, based in The Forum in Norwich, has been named as the UK’s most popular library.”
  • North East Lincolnshire – Join in live debate on future of libraries in North East Lincolnshire this Friday – Grimsby Telegraph. “Councillor Mick Burnett and the council’s head of culture, leisure and sport, Sue Wells, will be online between noon and 1pm to answer your questions, as the authority embarks on an eight-week public consultation.”
  • North Yorkshire – £100k boost for library art scheme – Gazette and Herald. “As part of the three-year Creative Residences Programme, North Yorkshire County Council’s library services will see 24 artists based in eight libraries across the area as they work with members of the community on various projects.”
  • Northamptonshire – Ruth named a literacy hero – Northants Telegraph. “The youth programme co-ordinator for Northamptonshire County County’s library service has been named a Literacy Hero. Literacy Heroes is a new initiative by the National Literacy Trust in celebration of their 20th year of working to improve literacy skills. Launched earlier this year, the National Literacy Trust was looking for people who have overcome problems with reading and writing, or helped inspire other people to improve their literacy skills.”

“Her work has included setting up creative writing groups, running workshops with children and young people in schools and libraries to engage them with literacy and creating the young adult arts groups model, where libraries recruit volunteers with an arts background to run regular groups for young people.”