A few obvious key stories today.  The first is that Wales has launches its new set of standards: they’re more qualitative than before but not necessarily easier than the previous ones.  Why is this notable?  Well, because Wales is starting to feel the touch of austerity, with big cuts affecting such places as the Vale of Glamorgan and Rhondda Cynon Taff and it will be interesting to see what impact, if any, the presence of standards have.  I get the feel that they had previously shamed a few councils into improving but now Wales is in a tougher climate and this will be the real test.

At least Wales has standards, though, which is not the case in England or, more specifically, Lincolnshire where the Council has made clear it is going through with major cuts despite an ongoing judicial review.  The council has made clear that it’s determined to cut £2 million mainly by removing 100 paid staff.  It has also made clear that even if the review does count against them then they will simply sort out the technical process side and keep the staff cut … which shows that, when it comes down to it, English law is not an emphatically strong tool for library campaigners.

Finally, a just plain good story about academic research which shows the importance of library buildings (note, not the books or the service) as therapeutic places.  The mere fact that they offer a quiet, neutral, non-judgemental and publicly owned space is enough.  As the article notes, libraries “have never been just about the books”.


  • 20 Libraries That Changed the World – OEDB. “Libraries – especially those open to the public — perfectly embody the idea that education and culture exist as a basic human right, not the exclusive domain of the privileged elite. As such, they certainly play an integral role in keeping the species moving forward (or, at least, in circles that sometimes move forward) and ensuring the survival of important slices of history, culture, philosophy, science, math, and, obviously, literature. Thanks to the following institutions, both the shape of libraries and the world completely changed in large and small ways alike.”

“The absurd problems in reaching items on high shelves at the new £190m Library of Birmingham were initially blamed on health and safety rules. Six months on from the library’s grand opening, library users are still regularly being told that they cannot access reference books on the higher shelves for fear of injury to staff.  This is because the mobile platform lift intended to allow safe working at height around the building has not yet arrived. “Health and safety farce put archives beyond reach”, reported the Birmingham Post on 3 April. Nonsense, retorted the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which is fed up being blamed for this kind of thing.  “Bad planning and failure to purchase appropriate equipment is behind this story, not health and safety,” said Samantha Peace, HSE director for the Midlands region.  She added that it would be relatively easy for the library to hire safe equipment to reach the top shelves – and let researchers get on with their studies, already delayed by the 18-month closure of the city’s central library, until a longer-term solution is installed.” Library News in Private Eye, Issue No. 1365 (p.27).

  • BookSeller public letter to Chris Grayling about banning sending of books to prisoners – BookSeller’s Association. “some prisons don’t, in effect, have a library at all.  And those that do, access to the prison library can sometimes be restricted to as little as one visit every six weeks … In a recent Inspection Report on Wetherby Prison, young boys were spending 16 hours a day in their cells during the week and 20 hours on weekends.  They could have improved their minds during much of this time by reading, and thereby reducing their chances of reoffending.  But this was not  happening.  What an opportunity missed.”
  • How the Public Library Is a Refuge for the Restless Mind – Next City. UK academic study shows the therapeutic nature of the library – it has quiet, security, no pressure and a sense of common ownership … and that’s even without mentioning the books. “Her work, she says, suggests that we need to broaden our minds when we consider the value of public libraries, and the levels of public funding we put to them. She points to a push in the U.K. toward cost-cutting measures that challenge the standing of the library building, like the sharing of services via digitally networked local libraries. “It’s all driven by,” says Brewster, “‘that libraries are just the books.’” But they’ve never been about just that.”
  • If it was a ‘tough choice’ to cut my job, then come and tell the children why – Guardian. “Thanks to austerity, many kids in Enfield will now be missing my songs and stories – but it’s the poorest who will miss them most” … “For the past five years I have been working as an early years library outreach worker, delivering stories and songs to children under the age of five in children’s centres across the London borough of Enfield on behalf of the library service. Last month the team of five people that I was a part of was reduced to a team of one person.”

“I would like the coalition government to look into the eyes of the children and mothers and fathers and carers who are losing these services the way I have. I want them to really take a moment on a human level, not as a statistic on a page or a line in an article, to understand what they are doing. It shouldn’t be me struggling not to cry as I sing a final goodbye song to groups of children; it should be them..”

“Since the Welsh Government introduced public library standards 12 years ago, we have seen improvements in the services and a more consistent library offer across Wales. As a result all public library services now offer free access to computers and the Internet, physical visits to libraries have increased and so has investment in libraries. I am very pleased that local authorities recognise the value of the Welsh Public Library Standards, and the role councils play in ensuring we have high quality library services which strive to improve year on year and reach more challenging targets.” Minister for Culture and Sport, John Griffiths.

  • New standards for Welsh public libraries – Alyson’s Welsh Libraries Blog. “The new framework includes 18 core entitlements and 16 quality indicators. Local authorities will be asked to report annually against these. The framework is divided into four areas and the entitlements and indicators fit in underneath these. The four areas are: customers and communities; access for all; learning for life; and leadership and development.”

“What’s the point of the standards?’ some may ask. Well, they help the Minister fulfil his duty to “superintend and promote” the public library service as outlined in the Public Libraries and Museum Act 1964, as well as being a guide to local authorities as to their duties to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” service under the same Act. Since standards were introduced in Wales they have helped create greater consistency of the library offer across all 22 local authorities, and have also led to service level improvements across all authorities. People can view the published annual reports on performance to see how well local authorities are currently doing.”

  • SoA urges improvement of prison libraries – BookSeller. “SoA chief executive Nicola Solomon (pictured) used the letter to outline the statutory duty of prisons to have a library, with all prisoners allowed access for a minimum of 30 minutes every two weeks. She warned: “We understand that in many prisons, access to library facilities does not comply with the statutory  minimum… Despite this statutory obligation we learn that book stock in many prisons is poor, often damaged or out of date and that inter-library loan requests are often slow or not actioned at all.””
  • ‘We Need Diverse Books’ calls for more representative writing for children – Guardian. “”At every conference I or my writer friends attend, there are kids asking why they can’t find books with characters who look like them, either on the cover or in the pages,” wrote Oh on her blog . “The same thing happens at book signings, except there the kids are saying they’ve always wanted to get into writing, but don’t think they’ll be successful because they’re people of colour.””


  • Coldplay lyrics found at Tauranga library – Stuff (New Zealand). “Two young Tauranga women are reeling after discovering the secret handwritten lyrics by Coldplay in a book at Tauranga City Library today. Lauren Bracken and Annalie Tennant today tweeted a photograph of the lyrics to Coldplay’s A Sky Full of Stars found inside Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting Hill House book at Tauranga Library”
  • Libraries Working To Bridge The Cultural Divide – Huffington Post (USA). “Although we know the diversity of our country continues to grow, the percentage of children’s books released each year either by a person of color or with a multicultural theme has been virtually unchanged over the past 18 years” … “The paper is a call to action for libraries to continue efforts to include more diversity in programming and materials for children, so that they can continue to meet the informational and recreational needs of the communities that they serve. “


  • The Future of Local Libraries and Cultural Services – 3rd June in London. “at a time of shrinking budgets and increasing service demands, libraries need to keep finding innovative ways to safeguard library and cultural services.” … “The symposium will: Explore the areas of shared services, future public service library delivery and communities libraries, Consider how libraries can further harness digital opportunities, Assess funding arrangements and support available to libraries”

UK local news by authority

  • Lincolnshire – Community hub plans approved for all Lincolnshire libraries – Lincolnite. “A protest march is currently being planned after the announcement of current libraries getting a reduction in opening hours from May 6, but the council argue this is only temporary until the community groups take over the running of libraries affected.”
  • Lincolnshire – Libraries: council reveals the successful bids for services that faced closure – Lincolnshire Echo. “Lincolnshire County Council has this morning revealed that community bids for libraries in 30 locations have succeeded. These include three areas that don’t currently have services. Elsewhere, communities in seven ares are being asked to develop their plans further, of which three are in areas currently without provision.”.  Council chief says “I’m not expecting the Judicial Review to say think again but if it does, we will have to bear in mind the review looks at the process, not the decision, so we would have to look again at the process.”
  • Lincolnshire – Council set to name the groups chosen to run 30 Lincolnshire library ‘hubs’ – Lincolnshire Echo. “Lincolnshire County Council is expected to reveal which volunteer groups have been chosen to run 30 local libraries on Friday. The local authority is also set to unveil a raft of other logistical updates aimed at paving the way for the new “community hubs” to come into effect in March next year.” … “Some changes have already been introduced including the removal of reservation charges and limiting the number of reservations to 10. Guest card charges have been introduced along with fines for the late return of reading group sets. More than £170,000 of library stock has been procured for the community hubs through the Mid-Anglia Stock Consortium.” … “Work has also taken place on the computer systems that will enable volunteers to access information, but not library users’ personal details.”

“The council has been forced to delay providing leases to the successful applicants until the outcome of Judicial Review, planned for July 8 and 9 at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, is known. But the authority is continuing to do as much preparation work as it can ahead of the hearing, and that includes announcing which groups will voluntarily run the 30 libraries as community hubs.”