A report on Radio Four “You and Yours” about giving library cards to babies is worth a listen.  It’s part of a number of pilots funded by Arts Council England on encouraging library membership.  The results are good but Brian Ashley, the ACE libraries boss, points out just passing over a library card “doesn’t hack it” and the service needs to constantly engage with the user in order to join a library card owner into a library card user.  Laura Swaffield from the Library Campaign interviewed in the same programme points out that young families are more seriously affected by cuts than others as those prams make long journeys to a surviving library more difficult.

Then there is more today on the reopening of Exeter Central Libray’s after its refurbishment.  Some more pictures show a definite retro look that gives it, in my mind, a different look which is to be welcomed.  After from that stylist difference, the presence of a Fab Lab (the first in a public library in the UK I think – although St Botolphs has had one for a while) needs a mention as is the fact that the refurbishment came with significantly more books rather than the cuts in bookstock one often sees in such cases. Money came for all this, at least in part, from the sale of Exeter Airport.



Exeter Central Library refurbishment

Notable services provided:

  • 4 bookable meeting rooms
  • Café (inc. outdoor space)
  • Business support / intellectual property
  • Fab Lab inc. laser cutters, 3D printers, 3D milling machines, electronics printing
  • Design deliberately reminiscent of 1960s age of the building
  • Wifi throughout
  • 4000 new adult fiction, 1000 new large print, 188 shelves of children’s books (used to 103 shelves)
  • Shelves on wheels

Press coverage

  • Exeter Central Library revamp creates ‘Fab Lab’ for businesses – Exeter Express and Echo.
  • Exeter Central Library reopens after £4m revamp – BBC. “The £4m scheme at Exeter Central Library has taken about 18 months to complete. The refit, which was funded from the sale of Exeter Airport, includes a new foyer, cafe, larger children’s section and thousands of new books. It also features a model of a stack of books, created by three sculptors including Will Shakspeare.” … “An additional entrance in Rougemont Gardens to improve connections with the museum, arts centre and castle in the city’s cultural quarter has also been created.”
  • Pictures: Exeter’s Central Library is ready to open to the public – Exeter Express and Echo. “Fusion of 1960s and the modern”
  • School children protest against potential library closures in Devon – ITV. “On the day that Exeter’s Central Library reopens after a multi million pound refurbishment campaigners have been protesting about the potential closure of many of Devon’s rural libraries. School children in Braunton have collected 400 signatures on a petition calling for their village library to remain open.” … “The protests come as Exeter’s largest library reopens after a £4.5M refurbishment. The Authority is stressing that the money for the work came largely from the sale of Exeter Airport and under the law that cash has to be used for capital projects and couldn’t have been used to keep the county’s other libraries going. Exeter Library has a new large children’s section, a Fab Lab and even a cafe linking the High Street through to Rougemont Gardens.”


  • Baby Library Cards – You and Yours / Radio Four (nine minutes). A look at Norfolk scheme to give library cards to babies, one of 22 projects funded by Arts Council England to investigate effectiveness of automatic library membership to children.  Libraries and Registrars are in the same building so encouraged to join when registering a baby, often with parents who are lapsed users.  Noticing an increase in picture book usage. New members are reminded to use the library by a postcard.  Need to “systematically follow up the first approach” as only 10% of baby cards used otherwise.  500 library cards given out and around half those used.  Brian Ashley (ACE) says it’s a great symbol to give out cards but also need to encourage people over a number of occasions.  “Just giving them a card … doesn’t hack it”. Laura Swaffield (Library Campaign) points out that closures and other cuts are at historically bad levels.  Parents of children especially badly affected by cuts as prams make travelling to a more distant library difficult.
  • New management structure for PLR – BookSeller. “A new management structure has been installed at the Public Lending Right (PLR) office, following the transfer of its role to the British Library last year. The current registrar of PLR, Jim Parker, will now retire on 30th September this year, instead of the originally planned date of March 2015.” [Dr Parker is well regarded by everyone and this is a great loss – Ed.]
  • What is the future of libraries in the UK? Find out at NXL on Sat 24 May, 3pm – New Cross Learning. “Libraries are our best defence of democracy and our best defence against a widening gap between rich and poor, this book is a cipher and a testament to defending the mind”


  • A World Digital Library Is Coming True – New York Review of Books. “In the scramble to gain market share in cyberspace, something is getting lost: the public interest. Libraries and laboratories—crucial nodes of the World Wide Web—are buckling under economic pressure, and the information they diffuse is being diverted away from the public sphere, where it can do most good.”
  • Reason, Risk, and Reward: Models for Libraries and Other Stakeholders in an Evolving Scholarly Publishing Ecosystem – Cultural Anthropology (Global). “Because libraries have always had a role in the academic publishing ecosystem—both in supporting research that leads to articles and books and in providing those (and other) resources to serve as inputs for the next stage of knowledge production in a given field—it is perfectly logical for libraries to embrace and take leadership in the movement toward more open access.”
  • The role of public libraries in achieving national development goals – Elearning Africa (Africa). “These projects – centred on local libraries, in collaboration with an international network of funds and knowledge – are the beginning of a response to the difficulties facing Uganda’s, and Africa’s development in the hyper-urbanised internet age. IREX is optimistic about the role technology can play in enhancing the exchange of public information. But as programmes such as Beyond Access recognise, the challenges faced can be more easily overcome by local communities working together internationally.”
  • Who are you empowering? – In the library with the lead pipe (USA). “In brief: As librarians we continue to grapple with our role in a world of digital information. The case has been made for an enthusiastic embrace of cutting edge technologies and the development of a ‘startup culture,’ and a role as ‘gap filler’ supporting faster take-up of new technologies. Rather than blindly supporting a market-driven technology industry, librarians should ensure the privacy and autonomy of library users is protected. When considering how we can use technology, librarians must remember our core values, and our mission of empowering an informed and free citizenry.”
  • Why Public Access and Libraries are Still Relevant in the Era of Mobiles – Beyond Access (USA). “Even with the ongoing mobile revolution, people still need spaces where they can access computers and other technology. Places like libraries, telecenters, and cybercafes are crucial for economic and social development — they’re closing the global digital gap and boosting educational outcomes. This week, IREX and TASCHA are hosting an event to explore why. The Deep Dive Conversation will bring together information and communication technology experts including: Sonia Jorge (A4IA), Chris Coward (TASCHA), and Mark Surman (Mozilla Foundation).”

UK local news by authority

  • Cornwall – Camborne library sale plan a ‘blow to heritage’ – West Briton. John Passmore Edwards donated this and 24 others in 19th Century. Council looks to make money by moving library out of town centre. Current building, though, in poor state.
    Devon – New figures boost fight to save Axminster Library – Mid Week Herald. “The suggestion is to retain Seaton’s “higher use” library as one of several “Devon Centres”, with paid staff, while running Axminster’s with unpaid helpers. But a delegation of users campaigning against Axminster becoming a community-led library attended the town council meeting last week armed with figures to back their case. Speaking for the group Jo Hawkins told members they could show that Axminster was the most efficient library in the whole of Devon. It cost 75p per issue against £1.68 in Seaton and £2.13 in Barnstaple. Axminster also had less spend per head of population than any other Devon library- just £2.19 against £8.76 at Seaton and £10.43 in Barnstaple.” … ““If you use a fair statistic such as issues per opening hour Axminster has actually had an increase of 21 per cent,” she said. “Fourteen of the proposed Devon Centres have had a decrease in issues per open hours”.”
  • Kent – Kent looks to outsource over 90 libraries – BookSeller. “The authority is looking at the option of retaining the ownership of the libraries, but passing the running to bodies such as charitable trusts, arms-length companies and joint ventures.”
  • Leicestershire – Leicestershire libraries in need of volunteers to run service – ITV. “Just like the post office and the corner shop, the local library has always been a familiar fixture in our towns and villages. But now libraries in the East Midlands are facing an uncertain future, as councils make drastic cuts to their community budgets. In Leicestershire they are consulting to find out if library users would be willing to run the service themselves. Jane Hesketh reports.” 3 minute video, including a shot of a donation box with coins in it. Volunteers sought.
  • Leicestershire – Libraries solution is cut opening times – Leicester Mercury / Letter.  Points out danger of volunteers not having enough time or being adequately resourced.  Suggests reducing opening times instead.

“National Bookstart Week from Monday 9th to Sunday 15th June, sees  events across Northamptonshire Libraries and Children’s Centres  to encourage families to read with their child every day.  This year’s theme is ‘My hero’, which provides the perfect opportunity to enjoy favourite hero stories, and rhymes and enter a world of adventure and imagination!  Its also a great way to celebrate local heroes including parents,grandparents and carers who share stories with their children.” Northamptonshire – Theme includes Duck (from “Duck in a Truck”), invites sent out to councillors, group leaders etc.

  • Suffolk – Plans to move Eye library are shelved – Diss Mercury. “Proposals had been in the pipeline to move Eye’s Library from its current premises in Buckshorn Lane to the former Citizens Advice Bureau building in Cross Street for three years. But a survey of the new site found work would need to be carried out to the windows, doors and roof to bring it up to the standard required and the county council was not willing to pay for this extra maintenance. So the decision means the library – which is run by Suffolk Libraries, an industrial provident society (IPS) – will continue to operate from Buckshorn Lane.”
  • Vale of Glamorgan – Protestors say library proposals could lead to ‘death by a thousand cuts’ – Barry and District News. “Concerns have been raised about the willingness of volunteers to replace paid employees at four planned ‘community managed’ libraries across the Vale– with the warning that modernising proposals could lead to “death by a thousand cuts” to the library service. Councillors have also raised concerns about the consultation process not making clear that volunteers could replace paid employees, the increase in budget savings from £165,000 to £500,000 in under a year, and called for a second consultation into the review of library services across the Vale.” … “library staff were led to believe they were being made redundant before the proposals had been agreed. “

“Dinas Powys councillor Chris Franks warned that the local community would be unwilling to replace paid staff as volunteers, and that the strength of feeling would mean a supporting ‘Friends of Dinas Powys Library’ group would more likely be an ‘Enemies of Dinas Powys Library’ group. “