Some lovely images have poured in from librarians responding to my challenge about children’s libraries.  Here’s the Barbican children’s library which is big on colour and animals, always big easy wins as far as I’m concerned. Extra points for the mobiles hanging from the ceiling too, although that “no mobile phones” sign is something I’d think twice about:

Kids Library BarbicanOn the subject of the Library of Birmingham’s children section, I got this from a PLN reader which puts a better gloss on what I thought about it when I was there:

“… my two children would disagree with you – we were visiting Birmingham for the weekend and my two girls (aged 4 and 7) chose to go in the library for a look around – they were intrigued by the building design and the huge escalators. Once inside, when they spotted the children’s section they were desperate to go and explore – building their own ‘reading den’ using the different coloured cushions against the steps (and fighting off other children to get them – if you got up to find a different book your cushion may move…). I didn’t notice any colouring sheets (usually a big hit) but all the tables were full of families so they could have been there and we’d missed them. Lots of children were playing and/or reading on the steps – this was probably about lunch time on a sunny Saturday afternoon last weekend. I also missed any artwork or themed displays (I wasn’t looking for them) but my girls both wanted to go back the next day and there were people queuing to get in at 11am on Sunday morning. If nothing else, it created a sense of awe and wonder about a space to read and borrow books – which makes a change to our local library and children’s section which is damp and in the basement. We’re not weekly library users – the girls’ books are more likely overdue than not but they chose to go into the library (and we’d just come from the Aquarium) so I think that it worked for us.” Emma Stagg

Having said that, though, there was a fair amount of agreement from others about being disappointed there. This comment was from Paul Hollins: “Birmingham children’s section surely can’t have had any input from library staff. I agree with comments others have made and would add that the yellow concrete floor now has cracks in it. It looks like a warehouse.” and this one from Joan Henderson: “I have to agree about Birmingham, such a missed opportunity to make something imaginative and fun. Instead we have a rather bland and bilious yellow space.”.  I really hope that the newly refurbished Manchester Central Library will impress when it opens in a few months.

KidsLibraries Brum

The stepped area in Birmingham’s children’s library

Then I had a very valid email from another reader, Ivana Curcic, who points out that it’s not primary school age children that libraries are missing.  It’s the teenagers.  She also reasons that children’s libraries should be above all safe places and places for children to read, which would mean that they can’t be too exciting:

“Children libraries should be safe places, where children read and write, learn and create. While creativity can be used in many activities, children should try to use it alongside with reading and writing–the playground should be somewhere else, perhaps just outside this space. So as quietly as possible (not silently, but quietly), children learn to appreciate stories, information, learning and understanding what happens around them. There are of course more lively group activities with music, crafts, poetry and songs. Children’s libraries are different because there is a strong development of the mind.

While the examples you give are inspirational, they have not inspired me. The Mexican library is a bit too edgy for the readers of my library–I see many potential injuries …  My understanding is that children come to libraries in great numbers, it is the teens that don’t. While we should not be content with children just coming to the library (I hear so many children passing by and asking the parent excitedly if they can go into the library, when they can come to the library… on the street we get the treatment of celebrities, so there must be something we do right), I think many actually think of inspiring activities and offer children a safe place to step into a world of imagination and learning.” Ivana Curcic

Finally, I had this from Anna Matthews from who signs off her job title as “Devon Libraries Development Officer & New Music Composer”, which I think is unutterably fantastic. She cares so deeply about things that she emailed me at midnight with details and pictures about Newton Abbot Library (in the Passmore Edwards Centre) which “has a railway theme complete with toy trains and the local children chose the railway stops on the mural”.  Sounds great.  Here’s a picture she sent:

With a train theme and a rail map on the wall to Hogwarts, Newton Abbot wins ... for now

With a train theme and a rail map on the wall to Hogwarts, Newton Abbot wins … for now

So brilliant children’s libraries are out there but I want to see more.

Has anyone else got a children’s library they’re proud (or not so) proud of?  Send your thoughts and pics to ianlibrarian@live.co.uk 


  • Christmas Mini-Challenge an online hit with young readers – Reading Agency (press release). “As a result, the Summer Reading Challenge website notched up 6,794 unique visits and 72,780 page views, with the average duration of a visit to the site lasting an impressive 5 minutes 28 seconds. Spurring children on was the reward of a special ’virtual badge’ to add to their profile, plus a secret reward video message from Cressida Cowell for everyone who successfully completed the Mini-Challenge; 682 did so in this inaugural Mini-Challenge year. Libraries and schools promoted the Christmas Mini-Challenge by downloading a special promotional poster, and parents were invited sign up to a special Facebook page for all the latest Christmas Mini-Challenge news.  Librarians got into the festive spirit by creating fun and interactive video blogs for the Christmas holidays; for example The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Libraries’ blog included tips on how to make cost-free Christmas decorations from recycled materials, including a Christmas tree made from old books which took pride of place in Barking Library.”
  • Improving the public’s health – King’s Fund. “Local authorities have been given renewed responsibility for public health as part of the health and social care reforms introduced in April 2013, alongside dedicated funding and a new public health outcomes framework. But given the scale of need and the challenges facing different local communities, how can councils decide which aspects of public health to prioritise, and what actions are most effective? While detailed guidance is yet to be developed, this report fills the gap by providing information and resources in nine key areas to help council leaders answer these questions. It brings together a wide range of evidence-based interventions about ‘what works’ in improving public health and reducing health inequalities. It presents the business case for different interventions and signposts the reader to further resources and case studies.” [Sadly, there is no mention in this important document of the role of public libraries – Ed.]

“This is a report which aims to provide local authorities with evidence about what works in improving public health. Unfortunately it makes no reference to the role of libraries or reading, nor to the role of art and culture. There are several sections where libraries/reading could have been mentioned – early years, helping people get jobs, access to green and open spaces and leisure and community resources, wellbeing and resilience” Carl Clayton, via email in private capacity.

  • Real books should be preserved like papyrus scrolls – Guardian. “The role of libraries is essential here, as secure repositories for the written word. And here I must admit a fear. In their rush to digitisation – an enthusiasm I find in most librarians I meet – there is the danger that libraries may too quickly abandon their crucial historical role. Already they have cut back, for instance, on the purchase of magazines and journals, and subscribed, instead, to their electronic versions. Think of all the shelf space that you free! How convenient not to have to arrange and rearrange, add texts as they arrive, dust and archivally preserve! But these new electronic versions may prove as fragile as the papyrus scrolls of Herculaneum and Alexandria: one moment of conflagration and they are gone.”


  • The economic and social value of information services – Fesabid (Spain). [It’s in Spanish only but this is another guide to the value of public libraries that could prove useful – Ed.]
  • James Reilly backs protest against turning his local library into a dole office – Journal (Eire). ““The library is a vital resource in the town with a range of community benefits. The Minister is persuaded of the importance of these concerns,”
  • Library Lovin’: Your Guide to L.A.’s 9 Best Branches – Los Angeles Magazine (USA).  With my favourite being the opulent Beverley Hills Library (naturally) with a coffee and fudge shop in it.  And a car.
  • Library of the Future Is Here – Atlantic Cities (USA). “The library of the 21st century still has books, but it also has 3-D printers, laser cutters, sewing machines, and spaces for conducting business meetings. It offers computer coding classes. It has advanced video- and audio-production software. All things that might and individual may find too expensive but can still benefit from using.” … “”It used to be, when I came in here, the priority was on developing the collection and buying really high-end research materials,” Hill says about her arrival at the library in 2012. “Those big bound reference tomes that cost thousands of dollars.” Looking through the budget, she thought, “Oh, my lord, how much money did you spend on this last year? That’s a total waste of money.””

“”If we can’t shine in this environment, in this economy, shame on us,” says Corinne Hill, the director of library system in Chattanooga, Tennessee—a system that has thoroughly migrated into the current era.”

  • No. of public libraries to increase to 1,100 in five years – Korea.net (South Korea). “The government plans to open 50 new public libraries every year for the next five years, increasing their number to 1,100 by 2018. In line with this, the number of books per capita will also rise to 2.5 over the same period. ” … “The government also plans to open “library service aid centers” at major regional libraries across the country for the disabled and for foreign residents. In addition, it will provide 500 books each to 1,000 libraries in rural areas and in less affluent regions, increasing the supply of materials for the disabled from 5 percent of published material in 2012 to 10 percent by 2018, and open ten centers for multicultural families each year.  “When the five-year plan is completed in 2018, Korea will be on par with other countries that have a well developed system of public libraries,” said Choi Eun-ju, chairperson of the Committee on Library and Information Policy. “
  • Public libraries in Sweden – Deciphering Hieroglyphs.  Some pictures of the Kulturhusef in Stockholm, with truly amazing chairs.
  • Slashed Budgets Mean Libraries Need Digital Lending More than Ever – Good E-reader (USA).  “In light of the need to reduce staff and cut operating hours, ebook lending becomes more vital than ever, especially under systems that allow patrons to browse for ebooks via the library websites and borrow them directly through the online portal for web-based or device agnostic reading. Another initiative would be that which Simon & Schuster has already implemented, in which libraries can use ebooks and then sell those titles to patrons after a predetermined time period. Finally, offering libraries affiliate status to a wide variety of book retailers’ or publishers’ websites for patrons to purchase titles would add much-needed revenue at a time when libraries are simply hoping to keep their doors open.”


  • IFLA Public Libraries Section 2014 Satellite ConferencePublic Library Futures in a global digital world?” – 12-13 August 2014 at the  Library of Birmingham. “The conference will focus on the themes of the library as a physical and a virtual space in the digital age and the public library as an economic driver that helps to regenerate and build communities.  Speakers will come from across the globe, including award winning US and European projects and our UK hosts sharing case studies of good practice in times of change. More details will be available shortly, but please register your interest and we will contact you as soon as more information is released.”
  • YLG London UnConference 2014 – 2nd March 10am to 4pm at Balham Library. “This Unconference is aimed at people with an interest in promoting Reading for Pleasure to children and young people; we intend to have a day filled with sessions offering support, advice and ideas on: Story times and picture books, Practical advice for engaging with a teenage audience, Ideas for reading promotion, Raised stock awareness, Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Shadowing, including CKG Judges past and present talking about the process, Reading groups, Representatives from publishing houses will be talking about their books, Anything you’d like to talk about! Members of the CILIP YLG London Committee will be available to talk to all day”

Local UK news by authority

  • Birmingham – faces £2m library cuts – BookSeller. “Jolyon Jones, a spokesman for campaign group Friends of the Library of Birmingham, told theBirmingham Mail that politics was influencing which areas were impacted the most. He said: “It seems that the more marginal the constituency, the more protected the library service. We are pleased to see that in Hall Green and Edgbaston there are no cuts proposed. But in Ladywood the Labour committee has put two libraries under threat.””
  • Bradford – Stephen’s plea to save Bradford’s libraries – Telegraph and Argus. “Stephen Wilkinson, 23, has collected almost 400 signatures through on his online appeal started in response to Bradford Council review of the district’s library services. He said: “The Council is proposing cuts to libraries and basically I just thought nobody was doing anything about it. Nobody was really defending it on a mass scale.””

“National Libraries Day – Saturday 8 February 2014 2 -3 pm invite you to read library poems by Julia Donaldson, Chrissie Gittings, John Hegley and Bristol writers. The Bus Pass Poets idea was inspired by Judith Brown, Chair of Bristol Older People’s Forum, who celebrated with a ballad and this chorus:- Hang onto your bus pass Or they’ll take it away Hang on to your bus pass The bus pass must stay”. www.bopf.co.uk Facebook:Love Bristol Libraries Buspass.poets@hotmail.co.uk” Bristol – Bus Pass Poets

  • Central Bedfordshire – National Libraries Day events – Biggleswade Today. “Central Beds Councillor Brian Spurr, executive member for sustainable communities, services, said: “We love our libraries and we know residents do too which is why we’ve invested in them so heavily. “National Libraries Day should be fantastic because we’ve got such a packed series of events”
  • Dumfries and Galloway – Outrage at Scotland’s Book Town library cuts – BookSeller. “Author Philip Ardagh branded the plan to cut the library’s opening hours “crazy”. An internet petition launched against the cuts attracted hundreds of signatures within a few hours. A spokesman for Dumfries and Galloway Council said that it had begun a review of library services and was currently consulting with members of the public on how they would be delivered in future. Councillor Ronnie Nicholson, chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee, said: “Our integrated libraries are at the heart of our communities, delivering vital services.””
  • Hampshire – County council’s plan to shave stops off library service in a bid to save £130K – Southern Daily Echo. “County bosses have drawn up a list of 100 stops which they claim are not viable as the authority bids to shave off 12 per cent of its budget. Under plans to save £130,000, the five-strong fleet of mobile libraries will be reduced to three by next year. But the service, which takes library books to isolated rural areas, nursing homes and the housebound, will also be slashing stops by nearly a third.”
  • Lincolnshire – Councils step in to try to run Deepings Library – Stamford Mercury. “Market Deeping Town Council and Deeping St James Parish Council have written to Lincolnshire County Council to express their interest in running Deepings Library.”
  • Midlothian – Pick up a book and a date at Love your Library Day – Midlothian Libraries (press release). “Book lovers in Midlothian are being given the chance to take part in a unique ‘speed book share’ event. The concept is based on ‘speed dating’ but participants talk to strangers about their favourite book and not themselves.  And there’s still a chance you may meet your perfect partner as it’s all part of Midlothian’s Love Your Library Day 2014.  Speed book share is open to everyone, particularly those who have read something great recently and want to share it with others.  Over the course of an hour, those taking part will have a chance to convince others during a series of short conversations on why they should read their choice of book. ” … For full listings of all the free activities on offer for Love your Library Day please log on to: http://www.midlothian.gov.uk/events/event/509/love_your_library_day_2013
  • Sheffield – Groups need fair set of proposals to run libraries – Star. “I am writing to you in response to the many comments from the council about the number of community groups who wish to run libraries. This is disingenuous, if not a misrepresentation of the facts. Any groups trying to save libraries from closure are effectively forced into submitting a business plan for that library. Failing to submit a business plan would mean the library being earmarked for closure. In all the cases that I am aware of, a business plan has been submitted in a bid to keep the library open, while a campaign to save it in a sustainable way is undertaken. The council proposals, are entirely unworkable.”