The big news today is the official launch of the Access to Research Initiative which allows access to over eight thousand online journals free of charge to the public if they physically come into the library.  It’s also, crucially, free for the public library authority as well.  This initiative is one of the best news stories for libraries for ages. One hopes that all library authorities will sign up to it quickly, with many thousands of extra visitors coming into libraries because of it.  Click here for a librarian’s guide to the programme.

Mind you, there’s other big news out there as well in the shape of an Early Day Motion in parliament in favour of National Libraries Day.  It’s a cross-party affair and all those who care for libraries are asked to get their MP to sign it in order to boost its impact.  National Libraries Day itself has been notably more accepted by what passes as the library establishment this year: library suppliers are offering discounts to celebrate it, a major league author (organised by the Reading Agency) is officially patron of it and, crucially, it looks like pretty much every library authority is taking part in it.  The day has come a long way since Alan Gibbons wondered if it would be a good idea (and, I remember very proudly, emailed me to ask my view) three years ago and that’s because it makes so much sense. Well done to all involved.

Finally, I’m turning over a section of this post to Northamptonshire Libraries. This service is clearly taking the need to be innovative and to change in order to improve (and survive) very seriously and I’ve reported on them before.  Below, I’m very pleased to have a short interview with one of their Principal Librarians and from a brief report on a children’s initiative from another.  Have a read and see if you agree and/or want to adopt some of their ideas.

If you have anything you would like to see covered in Public Libraries News, or have a news story or point of view, please contact me via ianlibrarian@live.co.uk

The business of libraries: What the private sector – and public libraries – has taught a library manager

Ann Lovely

Anne Lovely is a Principal Librarian at Northamptonshire County Council.  I noticed her business background on LinkedIn, got in touch and asked her about it and this article is the result.  A qualified librarian, she spent 15 rewarding years working in major accountancy firms in the City of London, running information services and then marketing and event organisation before moving to Germany for a few years. On returning to the UK, her second career in the public sector, with Northamptonshire Libraries, came about based on “the entirely selfish motive of wanting some volunteering experience to boost my CV”.  The volunteering never happened but she was encouraged to apply for a paid role and, she tells me, “it was with some apprehension that she launched into what has turned out to be a new career – armed with skills that were honed in the city – now to be utilised in public libraries in Northamptonshire”.   Here is her story:

“How did I adapt? The answer is – very quickly!  My communication, interpersonal and relationship building skills enabled me to quickly become part of the team,  overcoming a certain amount of suspicion from a number of long established public librarians. I was definitely the new kid on the block. But my business-like approach and ability to question, challenge and seek constant improvement, rather than just accept the status quo – ‘because we always do it like that’ – was seen as a breath of fresh air by like-minded colleagues.  I soon realised that the skill of being able to recognise what you can change and what you have to accept was a really useful asset – no point in wasting energy on the unchangeable – move on and do what you can where you can.   

In the business world, you learn to move quickly with changing circumstances:  acting on the information you have available today and not beating your self up if things change tomorrow.  This is a skill that I now find invaluable as the public sector has had to increase its pace, to reinvent itself and find innovative ways to deliver services.  Flexibility and the ability to think outside the box are definitely assets in the public sector these days and these skills enable me to take opportunities as they arise. Resilience is also an asset as you inevitably get knocked back from time to time. 

Other skills from a long list that have been transferable – and invaluable – include time management and the ability to respect other people’s time, the ability to prioritise and focus on the important while having several projects on the go at any one time, delegation and trusting people to get on with the job without interference and, last but not least, project management, where my skill   enabled me to take the lead role on a high profile government funded intergenerational project.   I have also used consultancy skills to deliver… well, consultancy!  We have worked with other library authorities in areas such as customer service and community engagement. 

Where is the grass greener?   It cuts both ways.  After all, my library and information skills helped me to forge a successful career in the business sector and now the business experience is helping me to lead change and transformation within an innovative local authority – one that, with evening and weekend-rich opening hours (including Sunday, in every library) delivers  advice to local people  looking to start their own business, now offers over 44 volunteering opportunities with the emphasis on developing the skills of the volunteer and increasing employability and skills, has self service, wifi and digital signage in every library and encourages customers to help themselves, then go on to help each other.    I consider myself very lucky to have joined such an innovative public library service – one that is ready for change and challenge, empowers its staff, aims high and finds ways to deliver services to the people who matter – the people of Northamptonshire.  Customers come first – whoever they are – private clients or members of the public – and excellent customer service matters wherever you find yourself.” 

I also received this from Northamptonshire that shows an imaginative approach:

Code Club in Northamptonshire

Code Club in Towcester Library, Northamptonshire

Code Club is a nationwide network of free volunteer-led after-school coding clubs for children aged 9-11. They create projects for  volunteers to teach at after school coding clubs or at non-school venues such as libraries. The projects that are developed at code club teach children how to program by showing them how to make computer games, animations and websites. Volunteers go to their local club for an hour a week and teach one project a week. Code Club linked us up to digital branding agency LookTouchFeel.co.uk. Employees from the company give up their time to run the code club at Towcester Library. They have been teaching children to create web pages and the basics of programming. As coding is on the new curriculum and with a growing interest by young people in creating digital content we are keen to offer this in more of our libraries.” Adele Finch, Northamptonshire Libraries.”

Early Day Motion in parliament for National Libraries Day

“That this House recognises that public library services are an essential part of communities across the country; welcomes the role they play in providing access to learning for millions of people and how they serve as a hub for local people; notes the importance of the professional expertise and skills of library staff in delivering a quality service; further recognises that libraries best benefit our society when they are well-funded and supported through strong national leadership; and joins in celebrating the importance of the work of public libraries across the UK as part of National Libraries Day on Saturday 8 February 2014.” Early Day Motion 1028, Parliament.uk

“The EDM was sponsored by MPs across the House.  Please could you write to your MP and ask them to sign the motion. Please also ask them to visit their local library so that they can see for themselves the excellent services provided by our public library service and the great work that library workers do. Our public library service is increasingly coming under attack and we need to make politicians across the UK realise the importance of it and encourage them to do more to protect and support it.” Get your MP to sign up for libraries – Unison

Access to Research

  • Public libraries get online access to research journals – BBC. “Hundreds of thousands of research journal articles are to be made available on computers in public libraries. The Access to Research initiative will give the public access to articles on health, biological research, engineering and social sciences for the first time. More than 8,000 journals from around the world are included.” … “The PLS says the move will “strengthen the position” of public libraries at a time when they are “under pressure”. “It will have an immediate effect in extending access to the great majority of journals for the benefit of everyone in the country,” it adds. The technology involved has already been tested by 10 local authorities in 250 public libraries and the initiative will now be extended throughout the UK, initially for a two-year pilot.”

“With less than 1% of the global population, we produce over 6% of global articles but this still means the vast majority of global research is not subject to the UK’s open access policy. This will connect people, including students and small businesses, to a wealth of global knowledge, maximising its impact and value.” David Willetts, Universities and Science Minister.

  • Discover a world of published academic research in your public library  – Publishers Licensing Society. “The aim is that provision through public libraries in this way will enhance the ‘walk-in’ access already available at university libraries, and would enable anyone to have free access to a wealth of journal articles and conference proceedings at their local public library. Access to Research will benefit those looking for authoritative information relevant to their interests and needs.”
  • Librarian briefing for Access to Research Initiative – Gives an easy guide to how it will work in practice, including screen shots and necessary actions before an authority can take part.
  • What is the Access to Research Initiative? -Access to Research.  “The Access to Research service is a new initiative to give free, walk-in access to a wide range of academic articles and research in public libraries across the UK.  On the back of a successful technical trial, run in libraries from ten local authorities (September – December 2013), the service is being rolled out across the UK from January 2014 as part of a two year pilot. Subjects include art, architecture, business, engineering, history, languages, politics, philosophy, mathematics and the sciences. All content provided is digital and can be accessed from your designated library terminal, via a search delivery service called Summon.”

National news

  • National Libraries Day ‘will have good support’ – BookSeller. “Previous years have seen some authorities fail to take part in the annual celebration, designed as an opportunity for libraries around the country to showcase what they have to offer and their role in local communities. But author and campaigner Alan Gibbons, who helped to found NLD, said he thought the day would be celebrated more widely than ever before. He said: “In previous years there have been issues with some areas with councils that didn’t want to take part, but I think the message has got through now that the day is a chance to show off libraries and shout about all the things they do. I’ve been doing lots of library events and everywhere seems ready to do something.”.  Support and quotes from prominent authors, Reading Agency, CILIP and Library Campaign.


  • Lilac -“The LILAC Conference is pleased to announce that we are offering 3 free conference places for librarians working in the following sectors: Schools/FE, Public, Health (NHS). Your conference place includes 3 days attendance of all LILAC sessions and our social events. (networking evening and conference dinner). To be eligible for a place you must be a librarian or information professional working in the above mentioned sectors. You will have to show your commitment to information literacy by writing a short personal statement and explain what benefits you would gain from attending the conference and how you intend to use your conference experience in your home institution. If you would like to be considered for a free conference place then please go to the Bursaries web page where you find a link to our application form: http://www.lilacconference.com/WP/bursaries/


  • Minnesota’s libraries are rushing to adapt to a post-book world – Star Tribune (USA). “In the two most recent years for which final statewide numbers have been released, metro area libraries saw a drop in circulation of more than 2 million items, and visits fell by nearly 900,000. In St. Paul, since circulation peaked in 2009, it has fallen by 25 percent. Yet e-book downloads from libraries are soaring, suggesting that people still want to read — they just don’t have to visit the library to do it.” … ““I would argue that libraries have an identity crisis as they try to be all things to all consumers and figure out a niche, and are spending a lot of taxpayer dollars in the process,”

“Libraries might be thought of as “changing the menu and how we serve the meal,” said Marlene Moulton Janssen, director of the Anoka County system, which has done very little building or renovation. “It’s less physical, more digital. But we’re still fulfilling the mission we’ve always had, to connect our communities to ideas, information and inspiration.”

Local UK news by authority

  • Birmingham – 30% cut to be made from local library services over five years – Birmingham Libraries Campaigns. “Spending on Community Library services in Birmingham will be cut by over 30% over a 5 year period if proposed cuts for 2014-15 are agreed by the City Council when it meets on 4th March 2014. This works out as a cut of £2.42 per person on libraries in the city since 2010.” … “We need to be reminded that these cuts to our libraries have been going on for a long time and of the overall scale of these cuts. Public libraries have been ‘hollowed out’ of books and librarians over the last five years.
  • Brent – Books damaged as pop-up library is demolished before dawn – Get West London. “Phil O’Shea, part of the library campaign, said: “I heard it was being taken down at 5am. The extraordinary thing is that for over two years while the pop-up library has been here there hasn’t been one incident of vandalism. Taking it down they have broken all the shelving and there were plants here as well, the books have been damaged. They could have talked to the campaign before they took it down but we knew nothing about it.” The pop-up library was set up by the Friends of Kensal Rise library after the service was closed by Brent Council in 2011.”
  • Doncaster – Time to have your say… Latest consultation now available – Save Doncaster Libraries. “The key paragraph in Mayor Ros Jones Budget proposal is this.  “This will mean a further possible 8 community managed libraries in addition to the 12 already in place across the borough. There is the potential for community managed libraries in these locations: Askern, Armthorpe, Bentley, Cantley, Conisbrough, Hatfield, Tickhill and Woodlands.” Yes, of 24 libraries in Doncaster, the proposal is that only 4, four, will be council-staffed and managed.”
  • Dorset – Libraries team up with best-selling author – Dorset Echo. “Libraries across Dorset are joining forces with best-selling author Martina Cole, the well loved queen of crime drama, for this year’s Six Book Challenge. Now in its eight year, the national initiative is organised by The Reading Agency to encourage more people to read. Last year over 35,000 people across the UK took part.”
  • Liverpool – Liverpool’s libraries mustn’t crumble – Liverpool Confidential. “Now the public libraries are being decimated, closed and dismantled. Where are the public’s books? The still-new Central Library, on William Brown Street, is very popular but does it represent a centralisation of resources at the expense of the local inner city branches?” … “In other cities, libraries are becoming chameleons and changing; idea stores and community based centres are replacing and occupying the old hollow shells. Liverpool needs more community imagination and engagement and libraries should be copies, in miniature, of a world as we would love it to be. Let us see them re-occupied in the manner of local museums, with galleries and chapels containing knowledge and local objects.”