One of the things that has become obvious to me writing Public Libraries News over the last three years is that avoiding change is not an option.  It’s going to happen, like it or not and, if anything, the pace of change is accelerating.  This is both in terms of financial constraints and technological change.  Those library services which respond well to change are not immune to cuts, far from it, but such an attitude surely helps limit damage to the service as a result. One notably forward-looking library service the last few years has been Northamptonshire.  It’s not perfect – it’s had cuts, staff reductions and usage drops like so many other places – but the positive energy is noticeable.  They do things differently there: from running library conferences for other authorities, setting up a charity for business income and providing code clubs.  Now that new approach is reaping rewards, with the library service winning the prestigious Municipal Journal award for Best Council Services Team. Well done to them and well done to everyone of you who are facing down the challenges of today’s public library world, seeking a better way and keeping libraries open.  You’re all heroes.




  • 2014 Summer Reading Challenge set to inspire thousands of children to share love of reading with “pass it on”– Reading Agency. Libraries are getting ready to introduce children to an epic adventure that will keep them reading throughout the school summer holidays with Mythical Maze, the 2014 Summer Reading Challenge run by independent charity The Reading Agency. Now in its 16th year, the Summer Reading Challenge in libraries is the UK’s largest reading for pleasure programme for primary school aged children. Last year a record 810,000 children took up the challenge to read six books or more at their local library last summer; it runs in 98% of local authorities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. ” … “This year thousands of children will be inspired to share their love of reading by recommending or ‘Passing On’ a book to friends, family and carers, in turn making one of the books they read this summer one that has been recommended to them. The campaign has come out of The Reading Agency’s consultation with young people and is intended to inspire children to share their reading choices, ignite playground conversations and build confidence in swapping recommendations as they undertake the Summer Reading Challenge.”

The Reading Agency is also working with SOLUS UK Ltd to add some “digital magic” to the 2014 Challenge – for the first time, librarians and families will be able to download a free mobile App onto their devices which will recognize key Mythical Maze illustrations and trigger audio visual content including videos, games and messages from the mythical creatures.

  • Free books given away at food banks – BookSeller. “Booktrust has given away 2,500 children’s books to foodbanks as part of this month’s National Book Start Week. Between 9th-15th June, the charity gave away copies of Jez Alborough’s Super Duck (HarperCollins) to 60 foodbanks in England in partnership with Trussell Trust Foodbank network.” … “Booktrust is now looking to supply foodbanks with free books during next year’s National Bookstart Week. Any interested groups can contact nbw@booktrust.org.uk.”
  • How to save libraries from the e-predators – TES. “But although we should avoid iPad-phobia, I am unimpressed by how defensive many school librarians are being in response to the digital challenge. Before blaming Deary or school management or digital culture for sidelining books, they need to look to themselves and clarify what libraries are actually for. The main focus of any library must be books. If once that might have been stating the obvious, today such a view is shrugged off as hopelessly old-fashioned. Take a recent panel debate, which asked: “Can reading win the war against Angry Birds?” or the TES article concluding that “teachers can’t compete with addictive video games, but they can use the same principles to make their lessons just as gripping”. If librarians – who should be the guardians of a literary culture – believe that books need to be sexed-up to stand a chance against Call of Duty or Super Mario Bros., surely the war is already lost?” … “It’s as though libraries are seeking to ape the busy, interactive experiences of new technologies. It has become almost impossible to find a quiet area to be serious, studious – and, yes, to read. But isn’t a library’s raison d’être to provide a protected, hushed world free from distractions?” See also Alan Gibbon’s reply.
  • Public Libraries – House of Commons Hansard. Helen Goodman MP asks Ed Vaizey statistical questions about libraries, Ed Vaizey advises her to look up the answers herself.

“The first is that in the US library use and book lending continue to increase every year. They have never stopped – even though there have been population changes, budget cyclical increases and cuts, rise and fall of bookstores, and developments in technology as there have been here. .  This is a marked contrast with the UK where those library figures have fallen consistently for 25 years – as we have watched.  We don’t know why the UK library service has consistently declined –  no one has ever analysed the reason –  and that I believe that any ‘study’  (such as the Sieghart review) has to provide a convincing analysis of precisely that problem, before it can propose a solution (increased use has to be a clear target).   Such a study also has to show an understanding of how the service is managed so that any recommendations for improvement can be implemented in a way that those of the previous 30 studies since 1999, have failed to do.

The second is more specifically in the field in which I am working which is ebooks.  The first observation is that the kind of ebooks which are being read in large quantity are precisely those which are normally loaned out by libraries  – fiction, in all its genres, but particularly, romance, thrillers, historical fiction, science fiction, etc. –  and not illustrated non fiction etc .  Therefore one would expect libraries to have a larger take up of ebook use,  than the norm.  In fact this isn’t happening at all – and there is no sign of it.   This article in PW below is rather cheerily optimistic- but it does list the problems .   The worry is that if libraries continue to get left behind in the progress of ebooks, then effectively their reading role will be largely taken over by Amazon (and its competitors) in the same way that the much of the library function of providing useable information has been taken over by Google” Observations on public libraries – Tim Coates (via email).


  • Two Major Public Library Systems Are About to Start Lending Wi-Fi Hotspots – City Lab (USA). “The Knight Foundation has announced the winners of its annual News Challenge, which sought solutions that strengthen the Internet for free expression. The New York Public Library and the Chicago Public Library, two of the nine winners that will receive funding to launch projects at scale, are both focusing on lending out WiFi hotspot devices to households with limited Internet access. Both institutions believe this type of service can help tackle the digital divide in their cities, providing in-need individuals and families a way to engage with the Internet even during hours when physical libraries are closed.”
  • The library is … – Connetquot Library (USA). The library is a lot of things in this video including lego and free music.
  • Vermont: Collaborative Project Brings Maker Workshops to Public Libraries Around State – Library Journal (USA). ” The libraries are each offering two of the five modules: Creative Creatures, Squishy Circuits, Toy Hacking, E-Origami and E-textiles. Participants will learn how to use digital and physical tools to help strengthen their deductive reasoning, logical thinking and problem-solving skills.”

UK local news by authority

  • Brighton – Shh! Brighton and Hove bucks trend by opening libraries as others to fight to keep theirs – Brighton and Hove News. “Next month the new Mile Oak Library is due to open in the £13 million extension to the Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA) in Chalky Road. It is currently housed temporarily in the neighbouring sports centre. The library has long been shared by the school and the community.” … “All the public libraries in the area have been upgraded, with a growing number of computers – more than 200 – and wifi becoming more common.” … “The Economic Development and Culture Committee agenda included the Libraries Plan which carried the tagline “Libraries at the heart of our communities: broadening horizons, improving lives”.”
  • Lincolnshire – Library campaigners respond to council’s £41million underspend – Save Lincolnshire Libraries. “For the leader of the county council to now so flippantly tell the Echo that “careful financial management” has ensured that he and his colleagues can squirrel away £41 million of ratepayers’ money against the proverbial rainy day is nothing short of a direct kick in the stomach to those librarians, campaigners and communities who have paid for that “financial management” plan with their livelihoods, their man hours, their blood, sweat and tears, and their libraries. Out of touch does not even come close.”
  • Northamptonshire – Best Council Team Win For Northants Library Service – About My Area. “Northamptonshire County Council’s library service has won the Best Council Services Team category in this year’s 2014 Municipal Journal awards. The library service, which is called LibraryPlus to reflect the wide range of activities and information now on offer, was the only public library service to be shortlisted in this year’s awards across all categories.”
    Rhondda Cynon Taff – Council Supports ‘Community Ownership’ – Council. “Ø Lease granted to a Community Group to transform the former Maerdy Library into a neighbourhood learning and prosperity hub. Ø Lease granted to Beddau and Tynant Library Community Support Group to maintain use of Beddau and Tynant Library as well as providing additional education and training opportunities for the local community …  Ø Lease granted on a commercial terms the former Ynyshir Library for the expansion of the attached Art Gallery which will also incorporate community art projects “
  • Suffolk – Forest Heath to benefit from almost £1 million in arts funding from Arts Council England – Cambridge News. “In Forest Heath, libraries, museums, arts organisations, local authorities and commercial organisations will work with the local community to create the projects.”