Sue Lawson, Service Development Co-ordinator at Manchester Libraries, gained my attention recently with her involvement in the Public Libraries Festival crowdfunder and through LinkedIn.  She kindly agreed to describe to Public Libraries News some of the amazing stuff that she is helping to do in her libraries and without.  So, over to her (and, remember, if you don’t understand some of the words – it’s fine to check out what they are, I won’t tell) … and I hope it inspires you.  I’d be happy to hear more than anyone else involved in this or other interesting initiatives via ianlibrarian@live.co.uk.

“All the projects in this post are the result of leaving the library building and getting involved in different communities in Manchester. In this case the digital, techy, maker/hacker culture in Manchester. I also attend Manchester WordPress User Group and the Manchester Social Media Cafe and teach at Social Media Surgeries. In this way, I have formed mutually useful connections and expanded the libraries network resulting in all the collaborative projects I’m writing to you about now. NONE of these would have happened if I hadn’t left the library.

That’s also one of the principles behind LibraryCamp. It most definitely isn’t an event exclusively for librarians. It’s for anyone interested in libraries so we can collaborate across sectors and bring much needed digital and technical skills into public libraries) I believe that’s true at work too and I can’t emphasise enough the importance of leaving the library and going to other organisations events and just talking to people about libraries and potential projects. That’s my presentation topic at the IFLA satellite conference in August.

Current Manchester Libraries Workshops

  • Internet Radio Production – a free 12 week course taught by FC United community workers resulting in a full radio broadcast on FCUM Radio. This is third time I’ve run the course. It’s always oversubscribed. Here are some of the finished programmes.
  • Video games development for 9 – 16s. Taught by Matt George of Driveby.co.uk. Matt has created a platform computer game set in Manchester and the children, on the course are creating characters for scenes set in the library. They don’t need to know how to code – they can draw the characters with a paper and pencil and Matt imports them into the game.
  • Digital Creativity is a 5 week pre-employment course. Starting with mobile phone photos of Manchester the students learn about computers and the internet while turning their photos into banners that are sewn and made up. This course is again taught by FC United in conjunction with The Manchester College. Both the Internet Radio Production and Digital Creativity courses lead to qualifications from the Manchester College. Participants who complete the Digital Creativity course enrol on a Te​xtile and Industrial Sewing course where there is currently a skills shortage.
  • Robogals are fab! Every public library should make connections with their local chapter. ​ From their website: “Robogals is an international, student-run organisation that aims to increase female participation in Engineering, Science and Technology through fun and educational initiatives aimed at girls in primary and secondary school”. ​They have run 6 sessions at our libraries. The last one was in May in the Media Lounge in Manchester Central Library. The sessions involve building and programming robots using Lego Mindstorm kits. Super good fun!​
  • ​​Coding for Girls. I’ve been working with different groups at Manchester’s MadLab since its inception in 2009. I met the directors at the Manchester WordPress User Group in 2008 which I’d attended as I’d been given the job of doing a National Year of Reading blog. Initially I set up a sci-fi reading group at MadLab with director Hwa Young Jung. It was pretty innovative as the group crowd sourced the books for the year using an openly editable Google doc and then the library bought 20 copies. After the meet, the books went into circulation in Manchester libraries so we have a crowd sourced science fiction collection. Through the book club I met members of Manchester Girl Geeks. They run STEAM events for women and girls. At the same time I went to my first Librarycamp and was given a copy of Programme or Be Programmed by Douglas Rushkoff. My eureka moment and Coding for Girls grew from that! Workshops at Longsight and Wythenshawe Libraries for girls aged 12 -18 and their mums. We part​nered with Manchester Gi​rl Geeks whose members (all volunteers) taught the course. ​The aim was to get more girls involved in the summer Young Rewired State hack camps that run at MadLab. ​​Also local community leaders had told us there weren’t enough activities for teenage girls in their wards. ​Manchester Libraries provided the computers and a space and promotion. The sessions started with an inspiring talk from Sam Bail, one of the Manchester Girl Geek organisers and then we got into coding using lessons from CodeAcademy.com.
  • Mini Makerspaces. Coding for Girls led led to further partnerships and a series of electronic and arduino workshops we dubbed Mini-Makerspaces.
  • Curry and Coding at Longsight Library again
  • Digital Skills for Women – again in partnership with MadLab and Manchester Girl Geeks again and also received ESF funding​to pay for professional tutors from DigiEnable and Mozilla and Tandot.​ There were 4 different strands (3 sessions each) – Basic IT, Social Media, Web Development and Programming.



  • 2014 Library RFID Survey – Part Three – Supplier Performance – Changing Libraries (UK/Global). “It is once again the UK that gives Bibliotheca their greatest support – in the survey at least. Once neck and neck they have now cruised past all their competitors and have mirrored FE Technologies achievement by acquiring more customers than the rest of the market put together” … but are one of the poorest across a whole range of areas inc. helpdesk, developments, offering professional response, after-sales support, hardware failures and software problems. 3M (second in the UK in terms of numbers) is mid or high in the same fields.
  • Cilip Governance: fit for the future? – Leon’s Library Blog. ” a third of the Board will be appointed (unelected) and therefore directly unaccountable to the membership. I am not opposed to using appointed members as they can provide much needed expertise and experience. However, they would have ‘full and equal rights as members of the Board’ including the right to elect Cilip’s President. This continues to strike me as undemocratic. Therefore, I would urge a further amendment that only elected members can vote for the post of President.” … “I urge Cilip members not to let these proposals go through without rigorous scrutiny and debate. Cilip is our professional body so let’s help it modernise but also keep it democratic, accountable, and answerable to its members.”
  • Nine in 10 fear ‘serious financial trouble’  – Local Government Chronicle. “Two-thirds of council chiefs and leaders believe some local authorities will experience financial crisis in the next year, according to a survey by the consultancy firm PwC.”


  • National Acquisitions Group (NAG) Conference – 3rd/4th September in York. Collection development in public libraries, Accessibility issues for electronic resources, A project which looked at providing textbooks for students, Managing volunteers in public libraries, A look behind the scenes of the new Library of Birmingham, JISC will be there to tell us more about the Journal Usage Statistics Portal (JUSP)

UK local news by authority

  • Brent – Defending Brent Libraries Again – James Powney’s Blog. ”  I accept that a small number of activists cannot accept its [council’s public library policy] merits whatever the evidence, but I think that the election results both in May 2012 and May 2014 indicate that the electorate at large was not inclined to punish the Labour Party at the ballot box.  In fact the 2012 and 2014 results are arguably the best election results Brent Labour Party has ever had.” … “In fact, I would argue that the Brent Libraries Transformation Project is an exemplary case of how Councils should redesign services in the face of budgetary contraction.  The required financial saving of almost £1 million per annum was made as prefigured in the initial proposals in November 2010.  Despite the budget reduction, Brent Library service has improved on the two key standard figures of visits and loans. “
  • Devon – Huge turnout at ‘save our library’ meeting – Midweek Herald. “Angry residents packed Axminster Guildhall this week to protest at plans to downgrade the town’s library. They blasted a message to Devon County Council that any money-saving scheme to run it with volunteers is totally unacceptable. And they presented surprised officials with a cost breakdown – based on the authority’s own figures – to show that under-threat Axminster library actually offers better value for taxpayers’ money than any other in Devon.”

“The Head of Devon Library Service is the current President of the SCL. Increasingly, local campaigners are using a data base of CIPFA data over several years to question both assumptions made by council officers and the efficiency of individual authorities. This is likely to be highlighted in forthcoming Judicial Reviews for which expert statements are being prepared. While individual authorities can compare their performance with similar authorities (assuming that scrutiny committees are aware of the data), there is still no comprehensive analysis of the national trends over the past five years and, in particular, issues such as the escalating corporate service charges imposed on library authorities. I remember Yinnon Ezra and David Ruse trying to get this on the agenda five years ago. In one authority, corporate charges now represent almost half of the total library service budget” Desmond Clarke (via email).

  • Northamptonshire – High-tech facility will be library’s new home – Buckingham Today. “Towcester Library is currently based in Richmond Road but it will move to the Moat Lane Development for next year. It will be at The Forum – which will also be the home to new offices for South Northants Council, council chamber, a cafe, an adult learning facility and the county registrar’s office. But the library, which will be bigger with improved access to technology, will be the centrepiece when it opens its doors in March 2015.” … “Community groups and organisations who would like to discuss partnerships with the new library should come to the current library premises on June 19, between 10am and noon.”
  • Staffordshire – Stone library future secure in new plans – A Little Bit of Stone. “communities under the plans, with the county withdrawing from management and staffing. Stone library isn’t one of them and services would continue to be provided at the Market Square library by the county council, with the potential for other public sector partners to use the space and with “opportunities to be more flexible” to the needs of the Stone community.”
  • Windsor and Maidenhead – Less library book borrowing but borough business is booming – Maidenhead Advertiser. “Centres in the Windsor, Maidenhead and the rest of the Royal Borough have seen booming membership and an increase in the types of services available despite budget cuts and falling numbers of books borrowed. ” … “The number of residents registered at the 13 facilities soared by 27 per cent in five years.”.  Issue figures not as down as at other branches as “we buy popular books” … “Volunteers and shifting managers from behind their desks into front-line positions are now essential to making sure everything runs like clockwork, though they are mainly there to help out with information services.” … “iPads for relaxed tablet-based browsing” to be introduced at newly refurbished Maidenhead Library.