If libraries are puzzling out their future role then, all around the world, pieces of this jigsaw are coming into place.  Today, we have news of 500 robots being made available in Chicago libraries, lego and duplo being used for children’s sessions, minecraft for teens and, of course, the normal smattering of mentions of 3D printers and Maker Spaces.  Individual libraries are doing different ones of these all around the world, with the UK doing well in lego but no so much on the others, presumably due to financial constraints.  All of the projects serve the same purpose: to get our users interested in the subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (known for short as STEM). This is quite different to the traditional Arts-based focus of public libraries and that is importance because, in this world where the barbarians are inside the gates, being able to prove libraries can improve “hard” skills and future GDP is going to be handy.

It also seems to me that all of these subjects, although not to my knowledge being put altogether in any one building, have a natural synergy that only libraries (as public buildings open to all ages) can make the best use of.  The pre-schooler who plays with duplo will naturally move on to lego will naturally move on to Minecraft will naturally move on to robots and thus to Maker Spaces and thus to cutting edge technology and design. Public libraries could be, excuse the punning, wrap-around dare centres where vital skills (and I’ve not even touched on reading and IT skills here: we’ve got those pretty much sorted already) are introduced and encouraged, in a natural progression to those who enter. All we need now is to puzzle out how to get the funding (and, actually, we’re not talking much money here), the skills (shouldn’t be a problem) and the will to do it.  There’s nothing insuperable there and it may just be super.

FIve steps to wrap around STEM at your library:

(1) Duplo for preschoolers – combine rhymetimes with making a duplo figure of what the story was about, with a song to match.

(2) Lego for junior school – how to host a lego club and why you should do it.

(3) Minecraft for late junior school/early secondary – how to do it, what to look out for.

(4) Robots for secondary school – 500 now available in Chicago.

(5) Maker Spaces for college age and beyond – Current situation and guides.


  • Challenge accepted? – Leon’s Library Blog. Options to library cuts inc. closures, volunteers, hollowing out, trusts … but are there other options out there? Does anyone know?
  • Italian prisoners get cut sentences for reading as UK ‘book ban’ continues – Independent. “The regional council of Calabria, in southern Italy, has approved a bill to reduce jail time for three days for each book read.” … meanwhile in the UK: ” “These new mean and petty prison rules just add stress and strain while doing nothing to promote rehabilitation and personal responsibility.””


  • Chicago Public Library ‘Finch Robots’ ready for check out – ABC (USA). ” The gadgets, known as Finch Robots, were donated by Google Chicago and made the library the first in the nation to have them available for people to take home. They can be coded to move, make noises, light up and even draw. Some of the programming can be done by children as young as 8 years old.”.  To be kept at six branches. See also Finch Robots are coming to Chicago Public Library – Digital Hub.
  • Coursera To Open Learning Hubs at Some NYC Public Libraries – Wall Steet Journal. “Online Education Company Will Provide Classrooms for People Who Want to Discuss Lectures”
  • Earth Day at the library – All Purpose Guru (USA). “The Kathleen Clay Edwards branch is probably the only branch library in the country with an “environmental resources librarian.” It is located in otherwise completely undeveloped Price Park, which is regulated under a conservation easement”
  • Elderly initiative turns new page with Dubai library services – Gulf News. “Senior citizens of Dubai have been granted complimentary public library membership as part of wider privileges for the elderly. Emiratis aged over 60 can receive free membership and priority services to all eight Dubai Public Library (DPL) branches.”
  • First lady gives Clark County libraries top public service award – Las Vegas Review Journal (USA). “for its efforts to fine-tune its collection and programs to help residents struggling with foreclosure, job loss and bankruptcy during the recession.”
  • Future of Libraries – Medium (USA). “How can the role of a library be re-imagined to suit the needs of the digital age?”: the “library should be adapted into being a modular platform that can be shaped and adapted to the actual needs of it’s local community.” More computers for poorer areas where people can’t afford them, less for more affluent areas where community space is needed more.  May need to specialise libraries so e.g. there’s a tool one or a seed one. “A technology library dedicated to programming education and technology workshops that could also serve as a place for people to try out new technologies (like 3D printers) that they might not otherwise be exposed to.”
  • Kw+hg architects rounds out public library at musashino place – Design Boom (Japan). “musashino place’ is a public facility offering support to the entire community of the tokyo suburb from which it takes its name. designed by kw+hg architects, the building functions primarily as a library, but also provides spaces for youth activities, lifelong learning, and civic events. located near the musashisakai station, it is easily accessed by a wide population, and is complemented by the adjacent kyōnan fureai hiroba park. The structure is organized as a repetitive framework that different programs can occupy flexibly. voids between rooms, and windows to the exterior, are consistently treated with radiused corners. breaks in the floors create spacious double and triple height cavities throughout the building, producing a more public environment.”
  • Lego programs at the library – Public Libraries Online (USA). “Amy, a librarian in Missouri, has written a blog post about hosting a library LEGO club. If your library doesn’t already have LEGOs to use for a free build or other LEGO related program, Amy suggests an initial purchase of at least $250-300 (she says her library has spent $500-$750 so far on LEGOs).”
  • Minecraft Craze at the Public Library – Public Libraries Online (USA). “Another librarian shared that a reluctant reader started using Minecraft at her branch and since then has become enthusiastic about reading Manga; the student’s teacher has complained to his mother that the student reads too much during class now”
  • Six people, IT firm charged in alleged scheme to rig bids at Library and Archives Canada – Ottawa Citizen (Canada). “The bureau said that among the accused are two former managers and one former director at Library and Archives.”
  • Summer Reading List Built for Little Ones – Read Build Play (USA). “To help parents lay the foundation for literacy, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), has created the LEGO® DUPLO® Read, Build, Play 2013 Summer Reading List. Featuring rich stories that are proven winners, the list has five books for children 1-3 and five books for children 3-5 (available at your local library).  Combined with the Parent Activity Guide and LEGO DUPLO bricks, this unique list makes it fun for parent and child to read, build, and play along with stories.”
  • To read, and not to read, in Lebanon – Daily Star (Lebanon). Crowdfunding project for new public library. Also looks at level of reading, including the rather startling statistic that a typical Lebanese reads only six pages per year for leisure.
  • Uganda: Connecting Farmers in Uganda -Why Empowering Public Libraries with Technology is So Important – Humanitarian News.

UK local news by authority

  • Bristol – Reader’s letter: there should be safeguards on library PCs – Bristol Post. “It beggars belief that Bristol City Council’s library staff were unaware (Sexual act in library while watching porn Bristol Post May 6) that a man had been arousing himself while watching pornography in both Henbury, and Southmead libraries. According to your report he had been accessing pornographic sites for some five weeks before his behaviour was spotted by two women who were accompanied by young children.”.  Reader suspects more may be happening and library staff are reluctant to deal with it as it would decrease usage.
  • Camden – Council election manifestos: Greens want to restore Camden’s community centres and libraries – Ham and High. “The Green Party is trumpeting restored investment in community centres and libraries as one of its key pledges among its 2014 local election manifesto.
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    On Tuesday, the party launched its manifesto at Highgate Newtown Community Centre, in Bertram Street, Highgate, and pledged to give all necessary funding to reverse cuts and prevent any more closures of libraries or community centres”
  • Haringey – Public Libraries:  where has the wifi service gone? – Haringey Online. “Crouch End library stopped broadcasting its free wifi over two weeks ago. Front desk staff seem to have no idea why… or if/when the service is going to be reinstated. Apparently this is a borough-wide problem”
  • Lincolnshire – Congratulations on your SCL appointment: an open letter to Helen Drakard – Save Lincolnshire Libraries. “What I have been surprised at is the apparent lack of comment and involvement by senior librarians across the country, and in particular CILIP and SCL. Now I could easily have missed something, but I am kept in touch through national contacts with what is happening elsewhere. I therefore wonder if, in your new role you could encourage statements from SCL and/or colleagues individually to express dismay at what is happening here and all over the country? Also, I suggest your group could ask for intervention by the new SoS ? It is all well and good his predecessor preferring to await the result of our JR before being minded to act. Meanwhile actions are being taken by authorities which will be difficult to undo.”
  • Lincolnshire – Dates are booked in for library campaign – Skegness Standard. “Campaigners who are fighting cuts to Lincolnshire’s libraries will have their case heard in the High Court in London on July 8 and 9. In the meantime the county council has announced new opening hours for libraries, while pledging to give community groups who want to take over their library extra time to come forward.”
  • Salford – Tories under fire over Working Class Movement Library leaflet – Salford Online. “The Working Class Movement Library was opened at the former Salford nursing home Jubilee House in 1987.” but a Tory electioneering leaflet says it has been “receiving tens of thousands of pounds of your money over the last few years and yet you cannot walk in and read any material” … “The library holds thousands of rare and unique books and pamphlets on the social history of Salford and further afield, including the Sufragettes, the miners strikes, the Chartist movement and trade unions worldwide. In return for the council grant the library opens its doors to any member of the public on a daily basis between Tuesday and Friday. An appointment must only be made in advance if researchers want to look at specialised material. “
  • Sheffield – Labour is aiming to strengthen its grip on Sheffield – Sheffield Telegraph. “Liberal Democrats say they are campaigning “to overturn Labour’s anti-business policies”, promising to work alongside local businesses to help create more jobs. They also point to Lib Dem support for the proposed Ikea store in Attercliffe. They continue to oppose the closure of up to 16 community libraries and accuse Labour of “wasting millions of pounds on high-paid consultants, office makeovers and political pet projects, like the Park Hill development”.”

“Everyone knows the council faces challenges, but local people have been clear that closing libraries is not the right way forward. Yet instead of listening to local concerns, Labour’s town hall bosses continue to waste money on their priorities at a time when every penny counts.”

  • Vale of Glamorhan – Pure hypocrisy – Barry and District News. “Despite hitting the Vale residents with one of the highest Council Tax rises, cutting services, increasing parking charges etc, they are now considering on top of all this using volunteers to run several libraries within the Vale”