The news from Devon is not good.  After a 30% cut over the last five years, the service is undergoing a further 20%+ cut in the next three years.  That would be difficult to sustain for any organisation and I do not envy them the task: the blame for such a move must primarily be borne by central government who have mandated such a huge cut in Devon’s budget and by the libraries minister who has oh so carefully made it clear that there’s no way he’s going to intervene in library cuts under any circumstances.

The service, under Ciara Eastell, the President-Elect of the Society of Chief Librarians, is looking for ideas and offers on how to cope.  The options listed are what I am getting to see as the increasingly normal ones: retrenchment into fewer big libraries, co-location with other services and an appeal for volunteers/community groups to take over the smaller ones. However, the three month consultation is looking for ideas so other options may come forward.  This is, as far as I can tell, an information seeking exercise.  Expect harsher and tougher decisions if no good answers come back.

Another thing to bear in mind in this is that Devon is widely seen as a very forward thinking library service.  It’s won awards and, soon, will have one of the first (the first?) dedicated public library Maker Space in the country. The bosses there (from what I can tell from this distance – and I know others may argue differently) are very keyed into what works.  In the US or in South Korea, they’d be doing exciting things and looking forward to an expanding situation. They’re just facing a very much darker and difficult situation here and, I suspect, are really trying to do their best.

How the cuts are written about, incidentally, could be used as the very model an academic exercise in how people with different agendas report the same story.  The council press release is the epitome of rosy-tinted wonderfulness.  It’s the sort of thing that pleases councillors and infuriates those who actually understand what’s going on, not least of which any library supporter who will see right through it into the cuts beyond. The piece by Ciara Eastell, intended for a library practitioner audience, is far more moderate and, while obviously not pessimistic, is more realistic in tone.  There’s some real hope there. Then we have the BBC which, naturally, concentrates on the headline that 28 out of 50 may close.  The truth is, I suspect, some will close but some will be taken over by volunteers and some will survive in a council-run state.  Time will tell.  Best of luck to all involved, not least of which the many staff in the affected branches who have got to be feeling very bad right now, awards or no.

On another matter, my piece expressing bewilderment at the need to require PINs as well as library cards on self-service machines for taking out books in some authorities has caused some feedback.  It seems some library authorities do, some don’t.  Those that do argue it’s for security reasons.  Those who don’t, well, haven’t noticed much difference either way. There’s been, of course, no actual research done on whether PINs do improve security. It’s just guessing. For me, I can see the need for it, perhaps (and I remain to be entirely convinced) for adult films/games and some need of security for online subscriptions in order to stop someone in France accessing a subscription bought in Manchester.

But for books? Please. The unspoken truth in library circles is that, actually, it’s really easy to steal a library book.  I’m not going to go into details here for fear people will think a bunch of criminals read Public Libraries News and will seize on it to go on an orgy of theft.  I will instead content myself with giving difficult clues for just two of the multitude of methods that every library assistant knows every library thief is aware of. Ready? Thinking caps on, folks, here it comes.  Method 1 – books have tags in.  Now this impossibly hard hint for Method 2 – libraries have windows.  If you’ve managed to solve those two riddles, congratulations. I hope you’ll join with me in thinking that PINs for books just prevent legitimate usage and do nothing to prevent theft.

No, the only reason for PINs for book stock is over caution and lack of actual research, with perhaps some group think thrown in. Please don’t see technology as an opportunity for putting in new blocks to usage, folks. We need to encourage people into our libraries, not give them reasons to be frustrated with them.




  • Capita’s Public Libraries Newsletter – Capita. Canada Water has received its one millionth visit since opening in November 2011. “Edinburgh’s Library service has consolidated its place at the forefront of innovative technological developments with the launch of a brand new website. With links to more than 50 sites and apps, Your Library makes it easier than ever for library members to find information and services, learn new skills and pursue their interests.“; ” Read Liverpool, expands the e-library with more than 6,000 e-books to be downloaded for free in response to the growing demand for digital books.”. [Most of the other stories will be familiar to readers of PLN but it’s handy reminder – Ed.]


  • Future For Public Libraries: Specialized Features Not Starbucks – Book Patrol (USA/South Korea). “Why not put a jail in every library for it also has “different rules of conduct, catering to different community segments.”  They would compliment each other nicely by providing literacy services and job training to inmates while scaring the pants off the kids so they won’t go astray of the law. Thankfully, I recently ran across a story at the Korea Joonang Daily that alerted me to some of the awesome features that South Korea is adding to its public libraries. Over half of all the public libraries in Gyeonggi, a city northwest of Seoul “offer some sort of specialized features” with close to 100 “dedicated to some other function than book lending or reading””
  • Hard times: UK churches turning into pubs, libraries – Times of India. “Religious worship has been declining in UK for years, and church authorities are increasingly forced to rethink the management of their huge – and very expensive – estates. A wide range of other churches have been transformed into a climbing centre in Manchester; a circus school in Bristol; a supermarket, a library, a Sikh temple and lucury homes.” [Research has found four library churches in England so far – Devonport (Plymouth) and the volunteer-run ones in Peterchurch (Herefordshire), Luton, North Yorkshire and Stoke – and then of course there’s the “oldest reference library in England” in Welbourne – Ed.]
  • House budget dismisses role of IMLS – District Despatch (USA). “In a new budget released today from Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), the House Budget Committee Chairman denounces the critical role that the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) plays in supporting civic engagement, literacy and lifelong learning in more than 123,000 libraries nationwide. Rep. Ryan recommends that the federal government not have a role in libraries and that Congress shift the federal agency’s responsibilities to the private sector in his 2015 fiscal year budget resolution.” [This is clearly insane – and the ALA response is telling – Ed.]
  • NSW Public Library Association – NSWPLA (Australia). “NSW State Governments have short changed public libraries for years. We are now at crisis point. If the State doesn’t put in more, public library services in NSW will be at risk. You can help us do something about this by taking one, two or all of the following actions: Go to your local library and sign our petition. Complete our quick online survey. Join our mailing list so that you stay informed” … “Library funding was once split 50:50 State and Local Government. The State Government currently puts in only 7 cents out of every dollar and local councils now have to fund 93% of the cost of providing public libraries. The State Government contribution to libraries is the lowest of all states in Australia”
  • This graphic shows the history of mergers and acquisitions in the library automation industry – Library Technology Guides. [A useful look at which company took over who.  Did you know OCLC is so names because it started at Ohio College? – Ed.]


“This year’s NAG Conference is on 3rd and 4th September 2014 and is at the Royal York Hotel, right next to York railway station.  As usual, there will be a mix of interesting and stimulating papers and workshops on a variety of topics, including collection development in public libraries; accessibility issues for electronic resources; a project which looked at providing textbooks for students; managing volunteers in public libraries; a look behind the scenes of the new Library of Birmingham; JISC will be here to tell us more about the Journal Usage Statistics Portal (JUSP), and much, much more. We will post more information as it becomes available; we expect to start taking bookings in early-mid June, but of course we welcome enquiries at any time, just email us at nag.office@nag.org.uk

IAML’s Courses and Education Committee is organising the annual Music in Public Libraries Seminar. Date: Friday 11th April 2014 Time: 1.00pm – 4.30pm. Venue: The Reddaway Room, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge

UK local news by authority

  • Devon – Conversations with Communities: Devon’s Head of Libraries talks about the Council’s plans for public consultation – SCL. “Our service has faced a big challenge – we’ve had to save £3 million over the past 3 years, that’s 30% of the annual budget. My team and Devon’s communities have met this together and built a service that won the Bookseller Industry Award Library of the Year in 2013.” … ” I see my role as increasingly entrepreneurial, spotting opportunities to align the library’s contribution to public health, economic development and social care prevention.” … “It’s a tough time but I’ve no doubt that, if we manage it in an open and engaging way, we’ll learn far more about our library service and its future potential than we ever could alone.”

“As President-Elect of the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL), I’ve been in the fortunate position of seeing how other local authorities have reviewed their library services in recent years.  It’s clear that some have looked outwards and won the support of their customers and communities whilst others have rushed quickly towards library closures or swift handover of library assets to community groups with a limited amount of consultation and engagement.” Ciara Eastell, chief librarian, Devon.

  • Devon – Council seeks views on proposals for County libraries – Devon Council. “an ambitious vision for a public library service that is sustainable, receptive to communities’ needs, and fit for the future”.  Council is “is asking communities whether the proposals it is putting forward today are right for the service, with further engagement likely later in the year.” … “Arts Council England, which is responsible for public library policy, has published what it thinks a modern library service should offer. Their findings suggest that the Council’s ‘Devon Centre’ model, with multiple services brought under the one roof, is spot on for what a modern library service should offer.” … “22 Devon Centres, which account for nearly 80 per cent of the Council’s total library usage, would form the backbone of the county’s future library provision, offering high quality services to encourage reading; support access to information and learning; and promote access to wider cultural activity alongside a wider range of complementary community services.” …  consultation starts “Wednesday (9 April). Details of the proposals and information about engaging with the consultation will be available online at www.toughchoices.co.uk from mid April.”
  • Devon – List: 28 Devon libraries under threat of closure by council – Exeter Express and Echo. “A consultation on the proposed library reforms is expected to get under way later this month. Other local authorities elsewhere are also proposing cuts to the service, last month it was announced that 23 out of 35 libraries in North Yorkshire may close if community groups do not take them over.”
  • Luton – Libraries of Luton Arise protest – Luton Today. “Protesters will be outside the central library this Saturday afternoon from 11.30am to 1.30pm. Leader Doreen Steinberg has been campaigning against the library closures since January.”
  • Windsor and Maidenhead – Sunday opening hours trial for Royal Borough libraries – Windsor Observer. “Windsor library, in Bachelors Acre, Maidenhead library, in St Ives Road, and Cox Green library, in Highfield Lane, will all open from 11am-2pm on Sunday as part of a trial run of extended opening hours.” … “Councillor Eileen Quick, cabinet member for leisure and libraries, said: “The response from volunteers to enable us to extend the hours has been tremendous.” see also Libraries to open on Sunday from this weekend – Maidenhead Advertiser.