Some majorly bad news has come in from Havering where it has been announced that over a third of the library budget will be cut.  This looks set to be achieved via cuts to services (such as the ending of the reader development scheme and children’s programmes), job losses and a deep cut into opening hours at six branches.

Moving away from this sad news, the 1st September is the first day for applications to the Carnegie UK LibraryLab project. This looks to be a very good partnering/funding/training programme for the successful candidates who must put forward an innovative idea (not necessarily digital) for public libraries.  It’s the sort of thing that a national libraries development agency should be providing but, being we don’t have one of those, let’s make sure to make full use of this instead.

Finally, I’m pleased to say that Gareth Hatton, the Public Library Champion of the Year, has agreed to let the readers of Public Libraries News have an insight into the wonderful work he does, the benefits that public libraries can bring to businesses and the tools that he uses. There’s some good hints and tips in there.



Gareth Hatton, Public Library Champion of the Year

The Public Library Champion of the Year at work

The Public Library Champion of the Year at work

How long have you worked for Businessline?

Last year I celebrated 10 years since I originally started working for Businessline, which is a largely free and professional business information service provided on behalf of, as well as being based within, Wrexham Library. During this time the service has developed and evolved through the introduction of numerous new services and resources, attracting an ever increasing number of enquiries year on year.

What’s your favourite part of the job?

There’s two main aspects of my role at Businessline that I enjoy equally as much, the first of which is having the opportunity to both meet and work directly with a wide and diverse variety of clients on a daily basis, ranging from individuals considering starting their own business, through to existing SME’s, students and job seekers. It’s wonderful to be able to share a client’s enthusiasm and passion for their business, offering relevant support and information, through to the point where their initial idea comes to fruition, when they successfully launch their business. It can also be extremely rewarding, when for instance, an existing client informs us of their success in attracting new sales contracts, as a direct result of the information I’ve provided. As an example, through the information we provided, one of our clients was awarded the contract to supply all the bags for the 2012 Olympic Games. The range and number of enquiries we attract from sole traders through to larger more established companies provides a continued and interesting challenge, the outcome of which allows us to have a direct influence on the local economy, which is again very fulfilling and a constant motivation to providing a high level of customer service.

“part of my role that I particularly relish is being given the creative freedom to suggest, develop and implement new services and to organise events that will be beneficial to local businesses”

The other part of my role that I particularly relish is being given the creative freedom to suggest, develop and implement new services and to organise events that will be beneficial to local businesses. As well as re-launching the Businessline web-pages in 2011, which resulted in a 92.6% increase in unique visitor numbers and continued growth numbers in subsequent years after implementing further improvements. In recent years I’ve raised the necessary finances to organise a number of keynote speaker events, which have featured presentations from some of the country’s leading business speakers and have also launched a number of new services

Can you give an example or two of how you help new and growing businesses?

Starting a business can understandably be an exciting yet daunting experience. Through our subscriptions to numerous specialist and market leading resources, together with our knowledge of both the local business environment and the channels of support which are available, we’re able to provide a wide variety and in-depth range of services, specifically aimed at individuals looking to enter the world of self-employment, all of which try to make the process as easy as possible. During an initial consultation with a client aiming to start their own business, we provide a generic business start-up pack, which overviews the key considerations to be made, such as checking whether there may be any restrictions on running a business from the clients residential address, through to choosing the right legal status for their business, the legal issues to be aware of when choosing a name for the business and organisations that must be contacted. Having gained an understanding of the type of business a client wishes to start we then provide a Business Opportunity profile dedicated to their business idea, which details any trading issues, regulations and licences that may be applicable for the type of business they wish to start, together with any qualifications which must be held. As clients progress on their journey to launching their business we continue to provide support which includes sourcing suppliers, detailing local forms of marketing, providing direct e-mail, telesales or postal marketing lists in line with a clients needs, credit checking potential suppliers / business-to-business customers and much more.

Any tips on how to give good customer service?

Delivering a level of customer service that not only meets but exceeds clients expectations is what I very much strive to deliver, providing reliable, informative and complete responses to client enquiries as efficiently as possible.  The main customer service objective and goal I both set myself and adhere to that others may wish to take into consideration is to Be approachable, reliable and develop a professional relationship with each client: I feel its good practice to immediately try and build a relationship with a client whereby they feel comfortable to either return or contact us by email with any areas of uncertainty, questions or requests for additional information. Rather than viewing each person as making a single enquiry I like to instil a commitment to providing additional support as and when necessary, whereby a client is able to view Businessline as a valued asset to their business, which is capable of influencing their future prospects. I believe that its due to this approach that I still work closely with many businesses who I’ve now provided support to for circa 10 years, whilst also attracting many referrals and recommendations. Of course delivering reliable and valuable information in a timely fashion after each consultation is imperative to maintaining customer satisfaction.

Any particular websites or reference works you use the most / would recommend?

Among the specialist online resources we subscribe to the COBRA (Complete Business Reference Advisor) is one of our most valued, well utilised and reliable databases. Making use of this resource on a daily basis we’re able to supply up-to-date details on a comprehensive range of business areas. KeyNote from whom we source market research information is also a key resource and highly beneficial to both new business start-ups, existing SME’s and students. Within our business  library we also stock a number of specialist directories such as the “Showmans Directory” and “Events Guide” which are particularly beneficial to crafts businesses for instance looking for details of events at which they can exhibit, complete with direct contact details for the event co-ordinators. Finally, in terms of freely accessible websites again, there’s a vast range we utilise, ranging from the Licence Finder on the GOV.UK website, which highlights any licences a business may need, the NOMIS website for statistics relating to the labour market within the UK and the Valuation Office Agency website to help clients identify the rateable value and from this the rates payable for any premises they are considering renting. We also make regular use of industry specific websites such as the Nationwide Caterers Association etc as and when appropriate.


  • Carnegie Library Lab – “Applications for Carnegie Library Lab open 1 September. Read on to find out how you can get ahead of the game! Carnegie Library Lab is the Trust’s new programme of work aimed at enhancing innovation and leadership in public libraries. Applications will open 1 September 2014 with successful applicants beginning their eighteen-month journey with us in November 2014.”
  • Kate Mosse: my skill is storytelling, not literary fiction – Guardian. “Ever since the millennium, the e-revolution, plus the credit crunch, has sponsored all kinds of apocalyptic predictions about books, with regular bad news from the digital frontline. In America, even bestselling authors such as Malcolm Gladwell have taken to YouTube to denounce Big Brother, aka Amazon. In Britain, book-selling is said to be on the rocks, libraries doomed, the ebook all-conquering, with the Visigoths of online selling storming through Waterstone’s.”
  • Will digitisation destroy libraries or make us stronger? – Guardian. Head of Wellcome library argues that “Digitising books collaboratively allows libraries to share the burden of preservation without jealously hoarding the same stock.”.  Concern over passing resources to commercial entities such as Google who may cease provision at any time. “By embracing the opportunities digitisation offers to give more people more access to more books, libraries are ensuring that no one company or organisation can exert a monopoly. By making digitised books freely available, they ensure that no other library is disadvantaged and that there are as few obstacles to access as possible. Well-planned, collaborative digitisation can allow libraries to share the burden of preservation so we don’t all end up jealously hoarding the same dwindling stock of physical books.”


  • Auditor: Thousands misspent at Chattanooga Public Library as Director, top aides cited in report – Times Free Press (USA). “A city auditor’s investigation of Chattanooga Public Library leaders reveals cracks in the foundation of a two-year renaissance that has put the library at the forefront in the world of public libraries. City Auditor Stan Sewell’s report released to city officials Wednesday criticizes Chattanooga Public Library Director Corinne Hill for excess reimbursements for worldwide trips, including extra hotel nights on personal time, and states that her top two employees have been reported to the state for suspected fraud.”
  • Calgary public libraries poised to eliminate card fee – Calgary Herald (Canada). “Calgary Public Library’s board has approved a 2015 business plan that does away with membership fees. “The new CEO was quite surprised when he moved to Calgary when he had a fee, because free and equal access is an important principle for public libraries,” said Druh Farrell, a board member and city councillor. CEO Bill Ptacek, who arrived last year from the Seattle area, is leading a library rebranding and has targeted boosting the library’s membership levels ahead of the $245-million new central library opening in 2018.”
  • D.C. adds a social worker to library system to work with homeless patrons – Washington Post (USA). “Among the many roles for which public libraries are appreciated, there’s one that can be problematic: de facto day shelter for homeless people … Libraries in other cities have addressed homelessness in various ways. Philadelphia has a cafe and Seattle a coffee cart run by workers who were previously homeless; Dallas produces podcasts of interviews with its homeless regulars. But as far as Badalamenti knows, D.C. is only the second U.S. city to hire a library social worker, following San Francisco.”
  • Do “One Book” Programs Make a City Read? – Public CEO (USA). “the single book idea, in all its manifestations, shows a curious pivot in how public institutions put their energy into supporting book reading and discussion among residents: Before, in the traditional library system, it was the sprawling possibilities of thousands — millions — of books and periodicals offered to citizens. Today, it is one book at a time. Not that both strategies can’t or don’t exist. Ideas, books and knowledge are as much of a civic priority as they were when the public library was invented centuries ago. But it’s important to remember that no single program is a problem-solver. No literary city is curated by a single person or organization. It is not one “big idea” that counts, but an unending diversity of them.”
  • Eat At Chipotle Tuesday To Benefit D.C. Public Libraries – DCist (USA). “For the second year in a row, Chipotle will donate 50 percent of the proceeds from meals purchased at D.C. locations Tuesday to the city’s libraries. The promotion runs from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. at every D.C. Chipotle. Diners need to show the below flyer, either on a phone or printed out, to make their meal benefit the D.C. Public Library Foundation. The burrito chain will donate up to $5,000.”
  • Ferguson Libraries Step Up to Serve Community in Turmoil – Library Journal (USA). “Last week, Ferguson Library created an “ad hoc school on the fly” while the public schools were closed, where children could be taught by working and retired teachers, with volunteers helping them manage the students. Grouped by their grade level, children learned math and science in the mornings and arts in the afternoons.”

“This is totally, exactly, right in the wheel house of what any library does, what every library does. We have a dramatic moment, and a dramatic circumstance caught the nation’s attention, but this is exactly what libraries do every day” Director Bonner, Ferguson Library.

  • Land of 10,000 lakes now has a floating library – Star Tribune (USA). “The Floating Library is a real library. It has books that can be checked out, and it has a librarian, and what more do you need? Well, for starters, you’ll need a canoe or a kayak or a paddleboat or water skis (on second thought, maybe not water skis) or some other floating device (an inner tube?) to get to the library, which is somewhere in the middle of Minneapolis’ Cedar Lake.”
  • Library lending drops, ebook demand soars – Dominion Post (New Zealand). “About 334 fewer items are being borrowed from the capital’s 12 libraries each day as fewer borrowers step through the doors. But while traditional borrowing is dropping, more are visiting the council’s website and there has been a 65 per cent surge in the number of ebooks being downloaded there.” … “Researchers don’t think the physical book will disappear, but libraries are adjusting – just like TV and film theatres have adjusted in the past – to a world where our clients have a wider range of different options for information and entertainment. Libraries still are a really important part of that offer”
  • New York Public Library – A Place for Everyone  Times Colonist (USA). A look at the history and facilities of one of the greatest libraries in the world.
  • News Challenge to explore role of libraries in the digital age – Knight Blog (USA). “We’re hoping to hear ideas for leveraging the assets that libraries have built: physical spaces open to anyone; professional staff trained in how to seek, retrieve and share information; and a legacy of aiding new readers, new entrepreneurs and new Americans. In recent years we’ve seen libraries leverage the Internet and digital approaches for education, entrepreneurship, the arts and “making.” In a digital age we see libraries–public, university, archival, virtual–as key for improving Americans’ ability to know about and to be involved with what takes place around them.”
  • Open a book in the open air: 8 outdoor libraries and bookstores – From the grapevine (global). Includes a mobile beach library and a garden library.

UK news by local authority

  • Barking and Dagenham – Barking mobile app launched to get more youngsters writing – Barking and Dagenham Post. “A new social media app aimed at getting more young people into creative writing is about to launch in Barking. Created by social enterprise Brighter Steppings, on Pickering Road, Storybrite allows users to read and post their own stories in 100-word chapters. Aiming to tackle an apparent decline in writing interest among the younger generation, a team of youngsters, met each week at Dagenham Library to discuss the appearance and design, while developing their own creative abilities. A whopping 120 people downloaded the app in its first two weeks and Brighter Steppings co-founder Seun Oshinaike was even invited to appear on satellite station the Islam Channel, to talk about the project.
  • Birmingham – Borrowing and visitor numbers double at the Library of Birmingham in first year – BBC. “People have borrowed about 316,000 books, DVDs and CDs since the new library opened on 3 September 2013. Campaigners against council cuts said the money would have been better spent on revamping community libraries. The number of items borrowed represented a near 100% increase since 2011-12 at the old Central Library. More than 2.7 million people visited the library in its first year, compared to the 1.2 million who went to the Central Library in 2011-12, the last full year it was open. At that point, the Central Library was the second-most visited library in England behind Norwich, which had 1.34 million visitors that year. Figures released by the city council meanwhile showed membership had increased at the new library by 140% from the old Central Library, to a total of more than 250,000 people.” … “But Bob Whitehead from the Community Against the Cuts group said the £189m spent on the building would have been better invested refurbishing local library services in places such Kings Norton and Northfield. “This was basically a prestige project,” he said.”
  • Derbyshire – Thousands in South Derbyshire could lose mobile libraries – Burton Mail. “Derbyshire County Council is proposing to scrap all but two of the services that currently tour the district, which would leave thousands of people without access to a library. Of the 383 communities which currently have access to a mobile library service in South Derbyshire, 240 would lose it should the proposal be accepted.”
  • East Lothian – Library hours cut in £20k council savings bid – Edinburgh Evening News. “Seven libraries will have their hours reduced from December in a bid to help trim £20,000 from council budgets. East Linton, Musselburgh and Port Seton will lose two-and-a-half hours each week, with Gullane and Port Seton set to be hit by three hours. Longniddry and Haddington libraries will also be affected, with officials cutting opening by two hours and 90 minutes per week respectively.” See also Budget savings to hit East Lothian libraries – East Lothian News.
  • Essex – Newport Free Grammar School teen is helping others teach children how to read – Saffron Walden Reporter. “Joe Sivell, who has just finished his GCSEs at Newport Free Grammar School, spent three consecutive summers volunteering at Saffron Walden library, where he helped children with the Library Summer Reading Challenge. The 16-year-old was asked by his supervisor to share some pointers with new volunteers – and the tips were so good that the Reading Agency has decided to use them on its website to help other volunteers. “I hoped I could cut to the chase,” Joe said about his technique. “I condensed all of that information into 10 top tips that I thought would help a new volunteer to fit into the role quickly and easily. I hoped that the tips would simplify, and perhaps demystify, the requirements of the job.”
  • Havering – Council budget: Services at risk as Havering Council aims to make drastic spending cuts – Romford Recorder. “The councils proposals, which will be scrutinised by fellow councillors and the public, include slashing the library services budget by more than £1million and the early help and troubled families service by £900,000.” … ” On top of the £1.138million slashed from libraries both Queen’s Theatre and Havering Music School will see their grants reduced by £200,000.” see also Council budget: Ex-libraries chief slams ‘vandalism’ – Romford Recorder.

“Cllr Roger Ramsey, leader of Havering Council, said: “Our starting point was that we are not willing to close any libraries. We have refurbished most, just opened a new library in Rainham and we are having a new one built in Harold Hill, so we had to think of another way.” The Conservative administration is proposing to keep Romford, Hornchurch, Harold Hill and Rainham libraries open six days a week, but reduce the opening hours of the other six to three-and-a-half days a week. Former councillor Andrew Curtin, who was responsible for Havering’s libraries until May, said: “Already I have been contacted by residents who want to know what they can do to stop this act of vandalism.”

  • North East Lincolnshire – Plan launched to help save two threatened libraries in North East Lincolnshire – Grimsby Telegraph. “But now, a social enterprise has submitted plans to take over the running of Humberston library and the award-winning Grant Thorold library. The man behind the venture, who does not wish to be named, said he hopes he can also give new life to Scartho library. As reported, the St Giles Avenue centre had also been earmarked for closure in October but has been granted a stay of execution until “at least January” after Grimsby Institute pledged to continue running it along with other services.”
  • Sheffield – Councillor insists Walkley ‘will have library’Star. “Confidential negotiations are continuing regarding Walkley library, where two business plans were submitted to take it over, one from the community and another from The Forum Group of bars. Library campaigners and volunteers are undergoing training so they are ready to take over on Monday, September 29.”
  • Sheffield – ‘Set up to fail’ – Sheffield library lease fears weeks before takeover – Star. “Campaigners who have worked tirelessly to save local facilities from closure were presented with three-year leases, which meant they would not have been able to secure external funds, rather than longer ones they expected. The Town Hall chief responsible for libraries insists leases will be ‘tailored’ to meet group needs. Sheffield Hallam MP and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg wrote to the council to raise fears libraries were being made ‘unviable’.”
  • Windsor – Extra opening hours for Royal Borough libraries – Local Berkshire. “The Royal Borough’s cabinet was last night expected to approve plans to make permanent a year-long trial which provided 14.5 extra opening hours a week across four libraries. The extra opening hours have been on offer at the Windsor, Maidenhead, Cox Green and Sunningdale container libraries after a council-run volunteer recruitment drive.” see also Sunday opening scheme at Royal Borough libraries made permanent – Windsor Observer.

“This really is a fantastic story when other authorities are closing their libraries. Perhaps we could sell our expertise to those local authorities who don’t do it as well as we do?! “It will of course take a little bit of time to bed in smaller areas” Cllr Quick, Windsor [Windsor is in one of the most prosperous areas in the country and has had one of the least reductions in spending – Ed.]