It’s always a little odd turning on the car radio listening to public libraries being described … and it has happened twice recently.  The first was a sobering examination by author AL Kennedy on what it means when a nation closes library and the second was a very positive couple of minutes by the recent Impac winner and his translator on the wonderful impact libraries have had on Colombia.  I produce a transcript of that last piece here and a link to a presentation detailing how Medellin has been transformed by investment in public libraries.

Vasquez: Libraries as institutions are important for me. Dedicated devoted librarians are my heroes. There are very strong links, which are difficult to explain, between the health of a system of libraries in a country and the health of its democracy

Kirsty Lang: We are always bemoaning the increasing lack of libraries here in Britain, what is the library situation like in Columbia?

Vasquez: It’s very good actually. It used to be deplorable but for the last, let’s say twenty years, some people have realised that libraries are a force for good, actually, and have been turning very complicated neighbourhoods into good neighbourhoods just by building a library in the centre of these places.

McLean: I went to Colombia a couple of years ago and I visited one of these incredible libraries in Medellin, which is the second city of Colombia, and it’s built up in the mountains above the barrios populares which are the horrible dangerous very poor slums and it’s an architectural marvel and it was really well used. We saw these very very poor children going in and signing up for books and having a great time. And there’s also the incredible biblioteca burro which is a man who goes around through the jungle with his donkey and lends books to people and collects them two weeks later.” IMPAC award winner Juan Gabriel Vásquez and his translator Anne McLean interviewed by Kirsty Lang on  BBC Front Row

UK national news

  • A Point of View: What happens when a library falls silent – BBC. Author AL Kennedy on library closures and what they mean. “maybe library closures do just slide by, because they often are regional affairs and also because some things which happen repeatedly somehow become less newsworthy” … “Volunteers can do a wonderful job – my local library at New Cross Learning is exemplary – but many communities now have a silence where there was a library – no easy access to books for precisely those people who might really need it, no computers to use, no meeting point to enjoy, more silence. ” Also available as ten minute radio broadcast on Radio Four.

“If I can’t imagine change, my future is passive, if I can’t imagine others as human, I’m dangerous, if I can’t imagine myself I become small. How do I know that? Because after a generation of dedicated book suppression, Britain’s public discourse prefers threats to facts, blaming to creating. And because I read, I know the silence we’ve imposed isn’t the peace of a library, it brings the quiet of a grave.” AL Kennedy

  • Are libraries to be the dinosaurs of the digital age? – Western Gazette. “In my view libraries are an essential part of the community, somewhere people can meet up and a source of local knowledge. Talking to users of local libraries it is interesting to note how important they are to young families who often see them as somewhere their children can meet with others and take part in reading activities and book related workshops.”.  Writer sees libraries as “a phoenix providing a community centre where people can exchange ideas, surf the internet and join with others.”
  • Bookseller’s Rising Stars 2014 – BookSeller. CILIP Councillor [And colleague in Voices for the Library – Ed] honoured: “Once described as “the most dangerous man in British librarianship”, Roper is proof that no matter how well established you are in your career, you can still be an upstart. In November, after helping lead the campaign against the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals’ attempts to rebrand itself, Roper was elected by CILIP members as one of four new council members in a bid to shake it up from within. At CILIP’s AGM, Roper also seconded a motion of no confidence in Ed Vaizey. He says: “I felt [CILIP] had lost their way and got a bit out of touch, and having said all of that I figured that I really should go and get stuck in. CILIP had suffered a serious loss of members; I wanted us to get a real grip of the situation and start recruiting new librarians. What’s next? “I thought CILIP was not talking out enough and was far too inward-looking, we now have a long way to go to win members back.”
  • Marketing Excellence Awards – CILIP. “The Marketing Excellence Awards are free to enter for any library and information service in the UK. Entrants do not need to be PPRG members, as the group seeks to celebrate innovation and achievement right across the library marketing sector. Entries are judged on campaign impact and effectiveness, as well as innovative use of communication channels.
  • Public libraries and social media: as local and as useful as your fingers – Public Libraries News.  My simple guide to using social media in public libraries, with the assistance of attending a session at the OUP Libraries Advisory Council. Main points include: social media is replacing even websites for many information requests, why councils sometimes block social media, why you should use different social media for different things and the need to keep the barriers down.
  • Small is beautiful and a reply from UKIP – Leon’s Library Blog. Congratulates Midlothian on winning Library of the Year 2014 award and agrees with Brent Council’s controversial “Library Transformation Project” which closed libraries but has resulted in increased issues and visits. UKIP reply about their public library policy was “We’re quite flexible on the means of keeping libraries open – one size doesn’t fit all in local government. Whether it’s franchising out a section to a coffee shop, or running it on a community/volunteer basis, we
    want to do all we can to keep front line services accessible to residents
  • Sword-juggling at Barking Learning Centre as authors, publishers and librarians network – Reading Agency (press release). “The Reading Agency held its latest road show event for publishers of children’s books, librarians and writers at Barking Learning Centre yesterday, Thursday 12 June. Networking with librarians from across London and the South-East author attendees included Julian Sedgwick, who demonstrated his skill at juggling with swords while simultaneously talking about his new book Mysterium: The Wheel of Life and Death; Jeff Norton, who encouraged the audience to put their best Zombie foot forward to prepare for his new series Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie; and Dave Cousins who introduced the F word of the moment (football of course) to the event, talking about his new book, Charlie Merrick’s Misfits.
    Each publisher gave a presentation about its latest children’s titles, and there were displays and giveaways, plus speed-meeting between libraries and publishers. The event was sponsored by Bertram Library Services, with the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham playing host.”

International news

  • Christine Kempkes (Director De Bibliotheek Amstelland) – This Week in Libraries (Netherlands). 43 minute video interview with the senior Dutch library manager: ” Christine tells us that she is inspired by libraries in New York. She loves to see libraries working together with the community in educating people and sees the community giving so much back to the library. There has clearly been a shift in focus in libraries from books to people. For a large group of people the library is the only getaway from their homes. We also talk about connecting leadership, entrepreneurship in libraries and taking care of your users and library strategies in tough times”
  • Makerspaces in Libraries – Libraries and Maker Culture: a resource guide  (USA). Lists academic and public libraries with Makerspaces, briefly describes them and links.
  • Reinvention of Libraries: Key Takeaways from Pew – Youtube (USA). Director of the Pew Internet Project on the changing role of public libraries and how they are perceived by the public.  Fascinating viewing despite the US focus.
  • Technology forcing libraries to transform – TVNZ (New Zealand). “The increasing popularity of E-books means libraries across the country are thinking more creatively about how to deliver their services. The Upper Hutt library is going through a transformation and is now home to music lessons, art classes, knitting clubs and writing workshops. “Public libraries these days are very much community hubs where we still connect people with information and we connect them with each other””.  Includes a ukulele club and the offer of a free pizza with eight children’s books read.

“Once upon a time we provided type writers and cassette players now we provide computers and scanners. In the future we will be providing 3D printers and other creative technology,” says Auckland Council libraries manager Allison Dobbie”

UK local news by authority

  • Brighton and Hove – Jubilee Library is second most visited in England – Argus. “More than one million people flocked to the Jubilee Library last year, making it the second most visited in England and the region’s top performer. Compared with other similar local authorities, the Jubilee is rated the most popular, best value and second highest for items in stock.” … “Committee chairman Geoffrey Bowden said: “It’s wonderful to see how our libraries have evolved from places to borrow books to providing a doorway to the World Wide Web.”
  • Devon – Exeter’s refurbished library attracts nearly 800 new members in two weeks – Exeter Express and Echo. Exeter’s “readers have always loved their Central Library – and now it seems that they love it even more after its £4.1m re-fit. During the first 16 days since Exeter Library re-opened following its major refurbishment, crowds have been flocking to see the improvements for themselves. Between May 22 and June 7, visitor numbers reached nearly 40,000 – an average 2,491 visits per day – which is an increase of 50 per cent on visitor numbers over the same period in 2010/11, prior to refurbishment.” … “The busiest day, Friday 30 May, saw a staggering 3,565 visitors to the library”
  • Leicestershire – Campaign against Leicestershire County Council plan to get volunteers to run rural libraries – Leicester Mercury. “petition with more than 1,000 signatures has been presented to County Hall opposing plans for volunteers and parish councils to run libraries. Conservative-run Leicestershire County Council has warned that up to 36 smaller libraries could be closed if no outside groups can be found to take them over.”
  • Leicestershire – County Hall to consult public on service changes – Melton Times. “We believe that communities can work with us to both help themselves and others to run some of these services, such as libraries. Town and parish councils are likely to play a crucial role in this.”
  • Lincolnshire – An impassioned appeal for Nettleham Library – Save Lincolnshire Libraries. “To close the Library, then to open it again when the economy improves, would be catastrophic economy; and a challenge, in all probability, too great ever to be surmounted: which would be an irrevocable loss to the community. We need to think our long-term strategy through clearly”
  • Lincolnshire – Lincoln libraries campaigner cuts ponytail for judicial review legal fund – Lincolnite. “Simon Draper underwent the chop on June 14 at Grafton House, Newland, as part of his wedding anniversary and birthday celebrations.” … “While Simon Draper is eligible for full legal aid, there is an expectation by the Legal Aid Agency that some funds are raised as contribution to the costs of running the case. The ponytail meanwhile will be donated to The Little Princess Trust, a charity which provides real-hair wigs to children who have lost their own hair through cancer treatment.”

“Libraries to me are a sanctuary. I’ve always loved reading and I think that threatening to close all the libraries in Lincoln bar one is not the right thing to do. Especially when during the consultation you weren’t given the choice to say no.”

  • Manchester – Everything Everything exclusive: Chaos to Order at Manchester Central Library – Creative Tourist. “Everything Everything, for one whole week, in Manchester’s Central Library. That’s got to be some of the biggest and best news to entice our ears in a little while. Because it’s not just the critically acclaimed, double Ivor Novello Award nominated, Manchester-based band who’ll be exploring the new spaces of the library – they’ll also be joined by music agency Brighter Sound, along with artists from a range of other disciplines. Taking the theme of Chaos to Order, the residency is the highlight of the Library Live programme, and plays with the idea that a library, though carefully coded and categorised on the surface, has chaos at its heart – that its shelves contain a riot of knowledge, connections, creativity and flux. “We have long been attracted to chaos,” Everything Everything explain. “Documenting the overload of information in which we live – its overwhelming vastness, its beauties and its dangers – has been central to our work.””
  • Staffordshire – Libraries are our cultural soul, now who will save them? – Express and Star. “Half the battle, I always thought, was in a name. Everyone knows what a library is. It’s a place with lots of books where pre-schoolers can go and have story time and sing The Wheels On The Bus and where grown-ups can get on the internet. A community hub was something else no-one had ever heard of, even if it was still going to do all those things.” … “So Staffordshire has at least been savvy enough to use the word ‘library’ in the plan its councillors haven’t quite yet unveiled. They’re going to be known as ‘library core’, ‘library local’ and ‘library extra’, the latter two sounding suspiciously like branches of Tesco.”.
  • Staffordshire – ‘Radical’ change for libraries in Lichfield and Burntwood? – Lichfield Mercury. Council says ““While communities love their Libraries the way people use them is changing,” he said. “We want to act now so that they remain relevant and popular for years to come. Libraries have already changed a great deal in the last decade, but user numbers are still falling. We need to change, radically, to reinvigorate our libraries so they are better used within their communities and to do this within the council’s financial resources.”