Being able to neutrally and professionally choose and then display bookstock for the local community is a key skill for the library profession.  It’s a rare library that won’t have something that will offend somebody in it.  I remember the shock I saw on a user’s face when I showed him our copy of Mein Kampf.  Speaking personally, I’m an atheist (and a fairly hard-line one at that) but you wouldn’t know it from the bookstock – Dawkins is there of course but so are shelves on Christianity and other religions, New Age treatments and Wicca.  What I believe simply does not matter and the aim is that anyone using the library should not know either.  We are, after all, not there to be custodians of “our” books but rather that of the community and, if we forget that, then we’re in peril of losing more than just council funding.

So you can guess where I stand on the recent petition to ban the Sun from public libraries.  I find much of the newspapers’ contents embarrassing to say the least.  Page Three appeals to the lowest common male denominator.  But it’s also one of the most popular newspapers in the UK and I have no right to stop purchasing it simply because I don’t like it.  Heaven knows there’s a ton of other stuff that would go as well and the whole place would turn into an Ian Library and not a public one.  That’s not to say that the petitioners don’t make valid points about the Sun. Rather, I thnk that this is where the stock policies of each authority come in.  This should be regularly checked, neutral and rational document that is ultimately agreed by councillors, with the advice of officers and open to public critique.  It’s only then that we can be sure that what strikes us as the right thing to do is correct.  It’s a lot more boring and staid than a petition but in these matters I prefer the head over the heart. So, yes, take the desire to ban a newspaper to the local library but, please, no emotional appeals … because those same tools can be used quite as easily against you as for you.


UK national news

  • The death of the reading library – Spectator. Writer laments the replacement of quiet reading spaces in libraries (of all kinds, including academic and public) with spaces for laptops. “Something important is lost when libraries cease to serve those who want the honest pleasure of settling down at a desk in a silent room and opening up a book. Computers dominate so many other aspects of modern life that the library is the natural counterpoise – a place where one should be able to disconnect, shake off one’s wireless shackles, and enter onto a more cerebral plane. Would that librarians had the courage to ban computers from their fiefdoms.”

“Whereas every copy of the Spectator is typeset by hand by a craftsman compositor in a wooden form. No computers for us, oh no” Tom Roper on article above

  • Digital Inclusion Delivery Plan: ‘Dead or resting?’ – BBC. “There has been no progress report on the Digital Inclusion Delivery Plan published by the Welsh Government in March 2011, the Liberal Democrat Eluned Parrott complained during questions to the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty” … ” the percentage of Welsh adults not regularly using the internet has fallen from 34% in 2010 to 24% in 2013.”
  • Judith Kerr: E-books will not replace print for children – BookSeller. “Some books are “alright” as e-books, but only if they’re the type of book that is read once then cast aside, she said. “I don’t think printed books will ever disappear, they’re a totally different thing.””
  • Poorer boroughs lose out on arts spending, claims Labour – The Stage. “the second poorest areas will see an average council budget reduction of 10% by 2015/16 translate to an average 19% cut to theatres, libraries, museums, heritage and arts development by 2014/15, according to the findings.” … “The least deprived councils in England – which include some local authorities that have increased their culture budget, such as Chichester District Council and the City of London, according to the shadow minister’s data – have reported an average arts cut of 7%, while their overall budgets have been reduced by 6%.”
  • Sarah Orecchia: Businesswoman – British Library. “Sarah Orecchia used the Business & IP Centre to research her market and help with her business plan and attended a number of workshops. She has also been awarded a place on our small-business support programme, Innovating for Growth to help get her business to the next level. She founded UnBEElievable Health Ltd, producing all-in-one supplements containing one or more bee ingredients combined with other nutritional ingredients.”
  • Prison book ban may face legal challenge – BBC. “The Ministry of Justice will receive a claim from a female prisoner serving a life sentence, saying she has been left “in despair” by the ban.” … “Lawyers for the woman argue that the effects of the policy are particularly hard felt by women who depend on what they receive from the outside world to keep them motivated. The MoJ said the lawyers had no grounds for their case because they had run out of time to make it.”
  • SCL Appoints New Executive Officer – SCL. “Helen Drakard joins SCL at a very exciting time; the Universal Offers are being embedded across library authorities and as a result of ACE funding, strands of each of the offers are being further developed. Helen’s 18 years’ experience working in Public Libraries has given her a 360-degree awareness of current developments in library management and a fluency in professional, governmental and managerial issues.”
  • Top author champions workplace reading in the North West – Reading Agency (press release). “Top author Tom Palmer 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 visited 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 I think boycotting The Sun newspaper is a good idea – Informed. “In this article, the author raises their concerns about what materials can be viewed as appropriate for public libraries to stock, explains their position regarding why they believe The Sun cannot be regarded as suitable stock for a public library, and outlines why a public petition to remove it deserves support.” … ” You cannot choose to ‘unsee’ a sexist image blazoned across the front page. It is difficult to avoid the full page soft porn that accompanies each issue, every day and tough not to see the derogatory and eroticised headlines that accompany stories of the crimes frequently committed against women.”


  • Library coffee shops gaining ‘grounds’? – Kane County Chronicle (USA). ““It’s not a major money-making operation,” he said, adding that the café, which is located inside the entrance to the library, is on its third installment of coffee-shop vendors since its opening more than a decade ago. “All we’re trying to do is provide a great amenity for the community. Libraries are so much of a community gathering space … adding a food and drink element on site is part of the whole package.””
  • What I Told the American Library Association – Freakonomics. “40 million visitors to New York’s public libraries! And what are they doing there? Well, as you all know much better than I, they’re doing a lot of things. Not just checking out books, or reading newspapers. The public library  has become a different sort of institution – with a new set of opportunities and a new set of challenges. School and university libraries too: their mission has changed, perhaps not as much as the public library’s mission, but it’s changed. In all cases, the library has become, more than  when I was a kid, a sort of public square. The library is where we meet, where we mix, where we consume and produce whatever we need to consume and produce at our given point in civilization. And for that I – and 40 million other people in New York – are grateful. Even if you never step foot in a library, there is reason to be grateful for this institution”

UK local news by authority

  • Devon – Save Braunton Library – About Braunton. “Braunton library could be closed within a year due to cuts being proposed byDevon County Council. We have just two months to make our voices heard. The library is a lively and much loved part of our village with 30% of under 18s actively using it. We will not stand by and watch it disappear.”
  • Lincolnshire – Next chapter in story of library takeovers – Sleaford Target. “A team of 35 volunteers have come forward to take over the running of Ruskington library. It has been revealed that the group’s business bid that they had put forward to Lincolnshire County Council for the community library had been successful.” … “There will be three teams – a Tuesday team, a Thursday team and a Saturday team.”
  • Norfolk – Cuts threat after £30m King’s Lynn incinerator bill – BBC. “But the council said it now had to choose whether to cut £900,000 from the highways budget and a further £140,000 from the libraries book fund, or keep a chunk of a second homes’ tax windfall back from local councils, to cover the remaining £1m.”
  • Sheffield – Library group forming plans – LookLocal. ““It is obvious that Sheffield Council continues to prioritise its spending on high paid consultants, office makeovers and full time union officials. “They are, however, willing to support local groups who want to take over the running of these threatened libraries.””
  • Stoke – Dave Proudlove: Fenton library return would benefit whole city – Stoke Sentinel.  Fenton library was closed two years ago.  Local community group wants it registered as asset of community value as preparatory step to use it once more for the community. “Setting aside the moral quandary of a local community having to pay for the return of something that was theirs in the first place, this has to be a positive step forward. We can only hope the council takes the association and its ideas seriously.”