One of the problems of library management is to decide when a rule is needed: it’s so tempting to be seen to be  managing by putting one in which then causes more problems not less. This is why the worst libraries have lots of posters saying “don’t” up on the walls.  The truth is, though, that the vast majority of the public know the rules and, if they don’t, a quiet word will solve it.  In my authority, we call it the “97:3” rule – 97% of the people know how to behave, 3% of the population not so much.  Putting up a bunch of rules ain’t going to affect that 3% but they run the risk of annoying the inoffensive 97%. We’ve seen it recently in the downright odd decision in many authorities to demand both a library card number and a PIN in order to self-issue a book and the good people of Croydon are seeing it currently in a strange decision that seems designed to annoy students.

For Carillion-controlled Croydon libraries appear to be actively barring students from using their buildings. Tables are artificially divided into “study” and “non-study” areas and woe betide the student who decides not to sit at the (overcrowded) study tables and dares sit at a (normally empty) “non-study” table instead.  To make things even worse, users are only given a half-hour break if they want to keep their ridiculously rationed space. Now, one can see the management thinking here – at some points during the year, there’s obviously a conflict between students and non-students using tables.  But to restrict things is this manner serves only to annoy those are, perfectly validly, using the library for study. “Why visit this condescending institution?” says a letter writer in Croydon Guardian and, barring a change in the rules, many of us would probably agree.  You’re supposed to be attracting in users, Carillion, not sending them away angry.



“The Speak Up for Libraries alliance is urging people everywhere to make public libraries a central issue in local elections. This is a once-in-four-years chance to make sure local councils understand that libraries are a low-cost, essential resource for their work – and deeply valued by local residents. Already, many library services are threatened by deep cuts, widespread closures of vital local branches – or the damaging policy of turning branches over to be run by volunteers Yet the unprecedented cuts to government grant that local authorities are facing mean that libraries, despite being a statutory service that councils must provide, are once more in danger of being seen as soft targets for savings. Such cuts often save little but do great damage.

If people wait another four years, their own library could go. Nationally a postcode lottery will become a reality with only some communities benefiting from the presence of a professionally run library. Libraries remain the lynchpin of communities, offering access to learning, reading, information and enjoyment. Libraries are a trusted public space, a place for everyone. They play a crucial role in improving literacy standards and in combating the digital divide. Speak up for Libraries believes that libraries, far from being obsolete, are more important than ever. That is why we are asking local politicians, and the government, to make a public commitment to their survival and development.

Speak up for Libraries is asking local councillors to sign up to the following manifesto when standing for election; (1) Acknowledge that libraries are important to people – especially when times are hard for individuals and communities. (2) Give a commitment to engage with communities to design services that meet their needs and aspirations. (3) Ensure library services are properly resourced and staffed. A commitment to a service that is publicly funded, managed and run by paid professional staff. (4) Recognise that properly funded library services contribute to the health and well-being of communities and so complement the work of other public services. And lobby the government to: (a) Give libraries a long-term future, with a vision for their future development and clear standards of service (b) Enforce the commitment in law to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service. This commitment should also include digital, ICT and e-book services.” Speak Up For Libraries

  • Community Libraries (part three): less is more – Leon’s Library Blog. ” I make no apologies for believing that a professional service, delivered by experienced, paid staff is not only the preferred but the superior model that ultimately benefits, and is more inclusive of, the whole community. Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that as professional librarians we manage and deliver services in difficult circumstances, with reduced resources and limited budgets. Therefore, like it or not, our choices will be informed by financial constraints and how best to utilise and manage limited resources for the benefit of the service and the communities we serve.” … “Less can most definitely be more when developing services with limited resources if the focus is on quality rather than quantity”

“The sad fact is many smaller libraries are underused, badly located, in poor condition, and expensive to maintain in comparison to usage. Despite this, many campaigns focus on saving the building rather than taking a rounded view of the overall service. This is where the role of the professional librarian is essential, to take a wider, more strategic view.”

  • Crowdfunding an illustrated A-Z defending libraries – Boing Boing). “”a library crowdfunding project I am involved with. It is aiming to creatively highlight the value of public libraries to those who believe they are outdated or irrelevant. This is particularly important at the moment as many local authorities are closing libraries and reducing their hours, as a result of cuts in central government funding.” I put in £20!” [Project, at time of writing, has received £1400 of £2000 needed in one week – Ed.]
  • Giving the green light to (minor) unlawfulness – Local Government Lawyer. “Some big news for public bodies: it’s now alright to act unlawfully. Don’t get too excited though, there’s a catch: it’s only alright to act a little bit unlawfully. Sounds silly? I agree. But depressingly this is soon likely to be law as a result of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill currently working its way through the House of Commons. Clause 50 of the Bill states that the High Court and Upper Tribunal must not grant permission for judicial review, and must not grant any relief, if: “…it appears to the court to be highly likely that the outcome for the applicant would not have been substantially different if the conduct complained of had not occurred.”: So from now on, a public body will not be amenable to judicial review, even if it has clearly and indisputably acted unlawfully, as long as it is highly likely that its unlawful conduct did not cause the claimant’s situation to be “substantially different”.”
  • I fear that Universal Credit will leave tenants struggling – New Statesman. “The design of the new system assumes almost everyone will apply and make all changes online. Our evidence shows 40 per cent of affected tenants don’t have access to the internet and almost a third (30 per cent) say they would not be confident making a benefit application online.” … “Apparently there could be as many as 7 million claimants moving to Universal Credit over the next few years. That is a huge undertaking. Every one of these claimants will depend on the transition being smooth and efficient. I can find no one who is fully confident that will be the case.  If we are to avoid soaring arrears, acute hardship and people being left without food then no corners can be cut. Getting this wrong is just not an option.”
  • Library book “Library Book is a tour through a hundred years of library history, culminating in a dramatic transformation from Victorian edifice to 21st-Century information hub.” … “The authors will be on Tour throughout May 2014. In a journey across the UK, they will seek out unusual libraries and stories. They will visit new libraries in shopping centres and in phone boxes, libraries closed by Councils and then re-opened by volunteers, and even libraries in pubs. At these events, the authors will talk about the current situation of libraries in the UK, recounting the surprising ways in which local communities have responded to recent changes. The authors will tell the story of Weston library, and talk about their experience of making Library Book. They will suggest that this story can tell us much about the wider situation and the importance of libraries to their community. These events will also be a place for discussion, engaging with local residents and providing a space to ask: what should a library be in the 21st Century, and what is the future of libraries in the UK?”. List of tour dates.
  • On the Move: How Bob Hoskins helped adults learn to read – BBC. ” A national campaign to tackle illiteracy was boosted by the series. On the Monday after each episode, says Auckland, “there would be queues around the block” at adult literacy centres. There’s a strong argument, he says, that this makes Hoskins “the best educator Britain has ever produced”.”
  • Philip Pullman leads authors condemning inadequate prison libraries – Guardian. “Society of Authors’ letter charges justice minister Chris Grayling with failure to fulfil statutory responsibilities” … “Philip Pullman, the Society’s president, called the rules which place a blanket ban on families sending in small items to prisoners – thus preventing the receipt of books – “despicable”, and called on Grayling to rescind the “mean and vindictive piece of legislation” at once.”
  • Top author champions workplace reading in the North West – Reading Agency (press release). “Top author Tom Palmer will see/has seen first-hand the transformational role of reading in the workplace, as encouraged by national charity The Reading Agency’s partnership with the Rugby League World Cup 2013 (RLWC 2013), to promote and run its Six Book Challenge with sports fans and anyone wanting to develop a reading for pleasure habit.  He will visit Sainsbury’s Distribution Centre on the Haydock Industrial Estate in St Helens on Wednesday 7 May. Participation there in the Six Book Challenge has been led by Usdaw/Unite Learning representatives in partnership with Sainsbury’s, supported by specially branded RLWC 2013 materials and incentives, which are targeted at sports fans who might not otherwise pick up a book and enjoy it.”
  • Why the Smart Reading Device of the Future May Be … Paper – Wired. “Maybe it’s time to start thinking of paper and screens another way: not as an old technology and its inevitable replacement, but as different and complementary interfaces, each stimulating particular modes of thinking. Maybe paper is a technology uniquely suited for imbibing novels and essays and complex narratives, just as screens are for browsing and scanning.”


  • Dublin Coldplay fan finds handwritten Chris Martin lyrics in Dundrum library – Breaking News (Eire). “The band announced their plan for the worldwide lyrics hunt on their website, where they’ve also posted updates as lyrics are found.” … “Dundrum library spokeswoman Susan Lynch said: “(This was) a wonderful idea by Coldplay…to involve libraries in a worldwide hunt for these much-coveted handwritten lyrics. “
  • Effective door to door campaigning –  Illinois Libraries Matter (USA). Keys to successfully passing a referendum on extra library funding were: decide what you want to accomplish, write your script and design your materials, find your walkers, plan your route.
  • Libraries as Creative Lab Spaces – Canada Cloud (Canada). “Public libraries around the world are changing dramatically. Part of the transformation involves use of space evolving from rows of books to spaces for creation and exploration (e.g. makerspaces). One of the traditional roles of the public library in society is facilitating the creation of knowledge in our communities.”
  • Library nerds: This candle will lift your soul with the smell of old books – Lost At E Minor (USA).  Does what it literally says on the tin.
  • Love in the Stacks: Romance at the library – USA Today. “Today we get to hear from Sean Gilmartin, Romance Writers of America’s 2014 Librarian of the Year” who pushes the cheapness of library books end encourages the loan of e-books.
  • Poland: New Statistics Show More Items Being Borrowed From Public Libraries – Library Journal (Poland). “nationwide figures recently released by the Ministry of Culture and the National Library [in Polish] show that Poles borrowed nearly 1.5 million more publications in 2012 than in the previous year.”
  • Public Libraries Funding Campaign Morning Tea – City of Canterbury (Australia). “Join Public Library Champion and Award winning local author, Nadia Wheatley on Thursday May 8 …  and show your support for the Public Libraries Funding Campaign. Together we can save our libraries!  Expenditure on public libraries from the state has decreased as a proportion of total public library expenditure from 23% in 1980 to only 7% in 2013. This has and will continue to impact on the ability of local libraries to meet the needs of their communities. This is an historic issue that has now reached a crisis point.”
  • Read and read and read, author Shoo Rayner exhorts children of Oman – Times of Oman. “Many schools in the UK don’t have libraries, and too many children no longer have proper reading skills, something he hopes to change. He says illustrations are a wonderful way to draw children into books and encourage a love of reading.”

UK local news by authority

  • Croydon – Library’s ridiculous system will not let me study there – Save Croydon Libraries. Amazing system of differently coloured tables for studying and not studying leads to overcrowded study tables and students being told off for sitting at “non-study” tables. “How does this promote a library’s purpose?” … “Why visit this condescending institution?”
  • East Sussex – Views sought for proposed changes to mobile libraries – Hastings St Leonards Observer. “The authority says the changes, which would also affect the mobile office service, will reduce the cost of the service by £131,600 from £259,600. A consultation into the proposals was approved by cabinet last Tuesday (April 22) and residents will be able to have their say before the consultation closes at the end of July.”
  • Hampshire – Libraries in county set for scrutiny by team – News. “A team of seven people from Hampshire County Council is due to be set up to write a new strategy for libraries. The group will look at the county’s 48 libraries, three Discovery Centres and four mobile library vehicles.”
  • Kirklees – Idea for community trust to run Kirkburton and Shepley libraries – Huddersfield Daily Examiner. “Councillors are assessing a Trust to safeguard the future of Kirkburton and Shepley libraries. Led by Kirkburton Parish Council, the idea has won support from Kirklees Council leader Clr David Sheard, who yesterday met parish councillors Robert Barraclough and Cassandra Whittingham and Andrew Cooper to hear more. The Kirkburton Library Community Trust would run both libraries and could bring tax breaks, boost funding and have greater community input.”

Lincolnshire trends

  • Lincolnshire – “An analysis of published CIPFA data indicates a dramatic increase in Central Service charges imposed by the Council on Lincolnshire Library Service which is planning to either close or transfer 40 libraries to volunteer groups. There seems to be no explanation for these increases.” Desmond Clarke
  • Lincolnshire – Council pushes ahead with volunteer libraries plan – Localgov. “A council facing a judicial review of its proposals to put volunteers in charge of libraries has decided to push ahead with its plans.”
  • Lincolnshire – Groups chosen to take over libraries as review date set – Lincolnshire Free Press. “Almost 40 groups, including community centres, parish councils and educational establishments, have put in business plans to take over the libraries. Holbeach county councillor Nick Worth and executive member for libraries said: “I’m delighted that we’ve got business cases in for all the libraries in Lincolnshire.”
  • Lincolnshire – Library: He told me it would be open longer – Lincolnshire Free Press. “We now have just four half day openings, and the library closed the rest of the time. It is not even open on Thursdays, which is the busiest day of the week in Holbeach. Prior to this we had one day closure, three full days, two half days. Thursday was of course, open all day. County Councillor Worth (because he certainly does not represent the district) assured me in writing that the Holbeach Library would be open for a longer period of time as a result of his proposals.”
  • North East Lincolnshire – Leisure boss will depart earlier than anticipated – Grimsby Telegraph. Lincs Inspire Trust does not include libraries as yet “While most of this work has been completed ahead of schedule, the council’s decision to carry out a review of the borough’s libraries means this service will not be transferred within the timeframe originally planned.”
  • Sheffield – Library timespan ‘threat’ – Star. “Volunteers who asked Sheffield Council if they would have to start running facilities without any professional support were told the aim was for ‘groups to take over their library by September 29, to avoid the library being closed and boarded up’. Several groups are preparing their final library business plans for a June deadline after the authority decided to relinquish control of 15 out of 28 libraries to meet budget cuts.

“They think this is a partnership but it doesn’t feel like one, it feels like they want it done by a certain date and if we don’t go along with that they will shut it down.”