I am really disappointed in the state of children’s libraries in this country but, then, my imagination has high standards.  To me, the children’s section should be a place of wonder and of entertainment.  The basics are weekly rhymetimes, story times, colouring in sheets and loads of books in colourful displays.  Extra points for play cookers, teddy bears, cushions and toys.  Ideally, I’d also be going for big animal shaped kinderboxes, reading caves, frequent class visits and a primary school reading group too, with full marks only really gained for aquaria and petting zoos. Children’s libraries are for a clientele with a radically different taste than our other customers and so they should be demonstrably different in looks and feel to the rest of the library: they should be friendly, exciting and also a place of safety. In this, the world has some truly amazing examples like this mountain of books in Mexico and, noted today, the co-located children’s library and hands-on museum in New York.

So, it was with some disappointment that I visited the two biggest new libraries (Liverpool and Birmingham) recently. Both of their children’s libraries were pretty boring places, with the biscuit taken by Liverpool where, apparently, a dedicated space can’t even be found and the place serves as an auditorium as well.  Birmingham – which has had truly mind-boggling sums of money thrown at it (which is noticeable everywhere apart from the somewhat non-awe inspiring room stuffed with old books at the top) – has a tedious children’s section, notable only for a stepped section which was being used by no-one when I visited.  So, if you’re lucky enough to be in a position to be in charge of, building or refurbishing a children’s library, come on and make it exciting and different. Children, as the Summer Reading Challenge has shown, are an ever more important part of the public library mix and they deserve, generally, better than many UK libraries are currently giving.

Send me pictures and information to prove me wrong (or right) via ianlibrarian@live.co.uk.



“At one session this week, I paused to ask the group what they were making of a Katherine Mansfield story and one man, who has dementia, said “Happy.  Happy is the feeling I have right now.  I’m just happy reading this story.”  I know what he means.  I’m starting to love this job. “

  • Library posters – Phil Bradley.  If you’ve not seen them yet, please have a look.  They’re great reworkings of old propaganda posters promoting libraries instead.  Ideal for campaigners and libraries alike. There’s also some more modern posters as well.

  • Gecko – The Library.  Music video with the public library as a central theme: “If you want knowledge then go to the library…”
  • Time to consolidate? – Leon’s Library Blog. “Along with other public services, libraries enjoyed quite a settled period of expansion and investment until relatively recently. However, given the current austerity programme, the drive towards a smaller state, and the continuing strain on the public purse, the downwards pressure on resources is set to continue well into the future. Rapid and profound changes are taking place and this will ultimately change the nature and set the tone of library provision for decades to come. Therefore, those that manage services need to seek the best possible models of provision in order to ensure public libraries survive, remain relevant, and continue to serve their communities.”

“There is no universal model that offers the perfect solution for public libraries. Nevertheless, strategic alliances and collaborative service models could offer not only savings but a more secure future and heads of service would be remiss not to consider them. The harsh fact is we have, and will continue to have, far less resources than previously. The challenge is to transform services to mitigate against this.”


  • 10 Observations of NYC Libraries from a Catalan Point of View – Vilaweb (USA / Catalonia). Boss of Catalonian libraries looks at New York libraries and notices: friendly staff, combination with bookshops (e.g. BookSeller’s Guild), writers and artisist in residence, unwillingness to charge for loans but high late fees, generous loan limits and easy to obtain library cards, innovative spaces for children and youth, philanthropy (with two of three staff employed full time in soliciting funding), language courses,
  • America Gone Wrong: A Slashed Safety Net Turns Libraries into Homeless Shelters – AlterNet (USA). “A dirty little secret about America is that public libraries have become de facto daytime shelters for the nation’s street people while librarians are increasingly our unofficial social workers for the homeless and mentally disturbed.” … a fairly harrowing article about how bad things are in the US for many on low or no wages and how the public library has become their home.

  • Children’s library discovery centre – Queen’s Library (USA).  Excellent joint children’s library and children’s museum in Queen’s combine hand’s on exhibits and experiments with books for loan on the same subject right on the next shelf.
  • Public libraries to get a massive facelift under National Mission on Libraries – India Education Diary.  Aim to modernise and digitally link 5000 libraries. ““Public libraries have a crucial role in dissemination of knowledge and information. Through innovative ways, we are going to engage citizens in both the physical and digital space and help them access reading material in print and electronic form with the help of ICT”.

“The new-look libraries will have Wi Fi enabled reading rooms with modular furniture, modern lighting system, carrels for scholars, senior citizens and specially abled persons, modern signage, power backup, purified drinking water equipment and washrooms. In addition, there will be specially designed furniture and games facilities for children, besides Internet, conference room, recording room and training-cum-meeting room.”

  • Quick Guide to Library Cats – OEDB (USA). “There are currently over 300 living resident library cats throughout the world today, 200+ of which reside in the US according to the Library Cat Map.  Library cats have been welcomed as rodent-killers since the early 19th century in Europe and even dating back to ancient times in Egypt in the libraries of temples. Here are 6 famous library cats, as well as resources to find out about many more!”.  Includes link to all of the library cats known, living or dead, in the UK.
  • Thomas Kasonde Mukonde – Pestalozzi (Zambia). ” I was looking for something to channel my education and experience into and Lubuto approached me. I was more than glad to join them. I see public libraries as a way to achieve my broader goals of social justice: promoting children’s rights. Public libraries in Zambia are in dire need of resuscitation. I’m glad to be part of an organization that is helping with this.”
  • Tories target embassies, libraries, public sector jobs in deficit-reduction measures – Canada.com. “Embassies are being sold, government libraries closed, thousands of public sector jobs eliminated and billions of dollars are going unspent in the name of one broader Harper government goal: eliminating the deficit.” … “Even books aren’t safe from the deficit-reduction measures. More than a dozen federal government departments and agencies are closing at least 37 libraries by the end of 2014.”
  • Trends in library usage – Wikipedia (USA).  Includes public libraries.  Includes international trends and is linked to articles but with a strong US bias.
  • US kids don’t read much on e-readers, tablets – News 24. “Two-thirds of young children in the US now have access to an e-reader or tablet, but only half of them actually use the device to read, a research institute said in a study published on Friday.” … “Sixty-two percent of children had access to either an e-reader, a tablet or both – but only 49% of them used the devices for reading, either alone or with their parents, the study found. And when they did read, it was typically for about five minutes a day – compared with about half an hour with printed books.”


  • i2c2 – 6th/7th March at The Studio at Manchester. “We’re going to bring together a bunch of people in March 2014 for a two day conference of inspiring each other to innovate and be more creative in our libraries. There will be talks, workshops, fun and games galore. We’ll talk to each other about successes and challenges, thinking about how we can use what we learn from one another to improve libraries.

UK news by authority

  • Barnsley – Library faces closure for weeks in relocation – Star. “recommendations are being put forward to councillors to approve a temporary move of Barnsley’s central library in Shambles Street. Wellington House, on nearby Wellington Street, would provide a temporary location, with a view to then developing a new, purpose-built library as part of a £57million town centre investment scheme. The proposal is that the current central library would close on Friday, March 21, and reopen at Wellington House on Thursday, May 15.”
  • Cornwall – Cutting back library hours – This is Cornwall. Cutting of hours in most of the 37 libraries.  Defence of this move and explanaitons about consultation.
  • Dumfries and Galloway – Move to slash library hours in book town sparks war of words – Herald Scotland. “Council has come under fire after it said it intends to switch Wigtown library from a full-time service that stays open 40-and-a-half hours a week to one that is available for 17.5 hours. A petition launched on the internet attracted hundreds of signatures within a few hours, while authors and members of the public called for the library service to remain unchanged. Wigtown has gained a reputation as Scotland’s capital of literature, and it is estimated that the library was used by more than 40,000 visitors last year.”
  • Hampshire – Future uncertain for Kingsclere library – Basingstoke Gazette. 3 libraries under threat (Kingsclere, Grayshott and Milford-On-Sea) 12% budget cut by 2015.  Volunteers looked for to replace paid staff. “Cllr Chapman said that other Hampshire libraries which are now community run have gone on to become very successful, adding: “In some cases, the opening hours have been extended after community groups took over.””
  • Herefordshire – Library cuts plans approved by Herefordshire Council – BBC. “The authority is trying to cut about £700,000 from its libraries budget by sharing library buildings and relying more on volunteers.” … “Libraries in Hereford, Leominster and Bromyard will be protected from most of the changes”.
  • Hertfordshire – Councillors to review library performance – We Heart Libraries. “Physical library visits are projected to increase by 0.9 per cent while online library visits are projected to increase by 41.6 per cent. Library issues are projected to increase by 1.5 per cent and new library members are projected to increase by 5.5 per cent. However, the number of active borrowers, defined as people who make at least one visit and borrow one item in a year, has fallen slightly. This figure does not currently include online users. The annual Summer Reading Challenge enjoyed its most successful year ever in 2013, with 18,472 children participating (an 18.1 per cent increase on 2012).”
  • Lincolnshire – Is there new hope for libraries in Sutton on Sea and Alford? – Louth leader. “After the decision of the nine executive councillor’s at Lincolnshire County Council to withdraw professional staff from 30 libraries including Alford and Sutton on Sea, leaving those communities with the only option of funding and running them or having a woeful mobile service, the communities have responded to the challenge and they both have formed steering groups. Both groups are now working tirelessly to get in an official expression of interest before the deadline of January 31.” … “The council will offer £5,167 a year and a one off £15,000 for capital costs but the rest will have to be found by the communities.”

“I believe the original reason given to save the council £1.93m a year has not been achieved and does not even save the revised £1.7m. Furthermore, it brings forward delays in implementing the change over to volunteers. “This means it won’t be until 2018 and they won’t break even thanks to the estimated £3.6m the whole process has cost with the consultation, redundancies and additional costs taken into account”

  • St Helens – Library donations prove a hit for St Helens food bank – St Helen’s Star. “A scheme which sees library users wipe out their fines by making donations to the St Helens food bank has proved such a success that it is to be extended. During a trial period in November and December people whose books were overdue were able to pay their fines by giving food parcels. The council’s library team knocked £1 off every fine for each item donated. If the fine was less than £1 it was cleared. Fines are normally 10p per day for a book and 40p for DVDs.” … “Donations can include almost any tinned or dried packet foods including tinned meat and vegetables, soups, packets of rice and pasta and cereals. No fresh food will be accepted.”
  • Stockton – Findings of Roman villa archaeological dig go on display at Ingleby Barwick library – Darlington and Stockton Times. “Members of the public had a chance to view the findings of the report, published by the Council for British Archaeology, during a special launch event at Ingleby Barwick Library today (Wednesday, January 22) where a copy of the report was presented to the library. For the next six weeks, visitors will also have an opportunity to see a small display of artefacts which have been uncovered over the past decade, from Roman jewellery to Bronze Age pottery and hunting tools dating back to 4000 BC.”
  • Surrey – Libraries launches new family reading program – Surrey Leader. “Surrey Libraries has announced an innovative new literacy program designed  to help families with newborns. Called Read To Baby, the program encourages parents to make reading a priority for their children from infancy. One thousand of Surrey’s most vulnerable families will be provided with Read to Baby early learning kits in 2014.” … “The Read to Baby kit is a beautiful keepsake bag filled with a storybook, music CD, parent guide, as well as some fun and easy pre-literacy tips. Surrey Libraries is collaborating with local organizations to identify one thousand families with newborns who would most benefit from Read to Baby, and provide them with the kit.”
  • Swindon – Library truths – Swindon Advertiser. “It is now generally accepted that “consultation” in council-speak just means the Cabinet has decided what the reduced budget will be for the library service and how this will be achieved. But, because the Government requires the public be engaged in the process, they will gather library-lovers’ comments and throw them in the bin and tick the relevant box to show they have “consulted.””