I don’t know about you but I had Spain down as a country going through at least as much public service pain as we were. So I was surprised to see when I was there last week to speak at their public libraries conference, that, although they are indeed suffering cuts, things are different there.  For one thing, it looks to me like library staff are being retained while bookfunds are being slashed. Compare that to the attitude shown here recently, for instance in this recent quote from Leicestershire:

We understand these people are valuable but buildings, books or people and can’t cut books or computers. We have to cut the person.” Cllr Richard Blunt, cabinet member for libraries.

Well, that’s pretty blunt and that attitude shocked the heck the out of the Spanish when I told them about it.  To them, although there are some volunteer libraries in smaller places, they see the librarian as integral to the system, not as something easily replaced by the users.  There are other differences too, not least of which being that the conference was paid for by the State and not the professional association, keeping the attendance fee down to a mere 30 Euros for three days.  Because of that, there were over 200 public librarians there and the whole conference was about public libraries. To put that into context, the nearest thing to that we have in this country is the Umbrella conference which cost £340 plus VAT last year when it was in Manchester, with very very few public librarians being able to afford a place. So that’s a whole bunch of professional networking, best practice and learning just plain missing from the UK.

There were also other differences.  For one thing, amazing to me, there was until this year no Public Lending Right … and, my goodness, they’re annoyed about it.  The problem, you see, is that local library services have to pay it there rather than the painless national system. Which is not going well when there’s low budgets anyway and the fees payable can be pretty small and very fiddly.  A few were trying to work out the best way to avoid paying … which leads me on to yet another difference, which is the Spanish have a general distrust of the private sector with the assumption being that if a private company is doing State work then, probably, some corruption is involved. Another big difference, which is also the case in France, is that there a legal minimum price limit on books which means that books are expensive which means (bear with me) that libraries are (my theory any way) in more demand.  Finally, Spain is still building new libraries, although the new one I went too – with no self-service, big counters and an OPAC which (honest) had “OPAC” written on it – suggested to me state of the art here twenty years ago.  Mind you, before the more pro-techy of us get cocky, the Australian librarian I went around with pointed out that her libraries have moved beyond self-service machines now and have a fully mobile library system now.  Of that, perhaps more next post.



“Libraries are how people fall in love with books” Michael Morpurgo


“There’s a camaraderie about the library too. Barring the odd sulky schoolchild forced there for an assignment, everybody is there by choice and has a shared interest. Like cyclists nodding to one another as they pass on a snowy day, people are friendly – we know we have something in common just by dint of being there. If chocolate is the food of love, I saw someone hand in an actual love letter to a library once. A homeless man ahead of me in the queue for the desk handed the librarians a family-size bar of chocolate. ‘Because I’m always happy to be here,’ he said, hand physically on heart.” Love letters to libraries comment: one of seventy lovely comments on the article.

  • Carnegie Partners for Carnegie Library Lab Announced – Carnegie UK. “Each of the participants will receive funding of between £5,000 and £15,000 to develop an innovative project in their library service. They will also have access to a new programme of online learning material to encourage innovation and leadership, be provided with a mentor and have the opportunity to take part in networking and learning events. The impact of the Carnegie Library Lab programme is to be independently evaluated by social research company Blake Stevenson Ltd.”. Winners include (1) virtual library for preschool children (2) “library bike” outreach (3) late night Friday opening with support for writers (4) coding club (5) “digital toyboxes” (6) encourage copyright free materials (7) using Prezi for statistics.
Jacqueline Wilson surrenders hands up storytime

Jacqueline WIlson gives up finding anything better than Chatterbooks

  • Jacqueline WIlson visits Carshalton to celebrate Chatterbooks – Reading Agency. “Reading for pleasure brings children many rewards, but young readers at one lucky library in Carshalton (London Borough of Sutton) got a real treat yesterday (Sunday 16 November) …. a visit from top author Jacqueline Wilson. This followed their winning a UK-wide competition organised by national charity The Reading Agency’s ever-growing network of Chatterbooks reading groups for children.
  • Libraries, love letters, starfish and face fungus – Book Trust / Philip Ardagh. “I also appreciate what a local public library can offer just about everyone in its community. And note the word local. I’m delighted when huge, state-of-the-art, beautifully equipped, well-staffed (with a good ratio of qualified librarians) catch the attention of the media – with their impressive statistics on ‘increased footfall’ – increasing libraries’ profiles… …but there’s always a little niggle in the back of my mind as to the cost.”
  • Library A to Z launches today – Voices for the Library. “reasons politicians at both local and national level (including leading ministers in Government) will be receiving copies of the Library A to Z book and other campaign materials during launch week. The intention is to show them that properly funded and professionally run library services help transform society in many ways, including the improvement of literacy and reading skills, enabling access to digital services, supporting economic growth, promoting wellbeing and education.”
  • Neil Gaiman: Libraries are cultural ‘seed corn’ – Guardian. Long interview specifically on why Neil Gaiman likes libraries so much. ” I’ve talked to a lot of librarians, and one of the things that they do is help people who do not have web access. … You know, at least with the libraries there, you’re in with a chance.”

“I think the most important thing is a space that’s safe, and safe in all sorts of ways. Safe to work, safe to think. And [a space that has] librarians, because the librarians are the people who are curating the thing.” Neil Gaiman


  • Focus on Relevance: Tell politicians why libraries are vital | Editorial – Library Journal (USA). “These realizations led Wyman to understand the need to challenge basic assumptions and develop a stronger, more germane vision of libraries—one that she described as an effective “hybrid” between digital and brick and mortar. “We have to meet the needs of my grandparents and my grandkids,” she said. “I think we can get there.” This hybrid is already increasingly real in our libraries every day—but, point taken, we have more work to do there and in communicating to stakeholders in order to get the support libraries deserve.”
  • Survey reveals the most borrowed library books in Ireland – Irish Times (Eire). “What do a disappearing wife, the driver theory test and a lot of wimpy kids have in common? They are among the subjects covered by Ireland’s most borrowed books from public libraries this year. A survey of Ireland’s public library services by The Irish Times revealed that Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, the popular children’s book series Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney, and the Official Driver Theory Test feature frequently in the top five most borrowed book lists around the country.” Includes interactive map by area.

“For the majority of Kibera residents, the last time they set foot in a library was in primary school.  While primary school is free in Kenya, secondary school is prohibitive to many citizens because of the high costs.  Many cannot afford the fees and drop out to find work.  Therefore, books are seen as something for students.  The few informal public libraries in Kibera are mostly used by students and are overcrowded.  Individuals who enjoy reading are not able to regularly borrow books, and buying books is out of the question when you are struggling to pay for your daily needs.

Libraries in Kenya are not the community resource centres that they are in much of the world.  The wealth of knowledge and enjoyment that is in a library is simply unobtainable.  Tunapanda and Common Libraries want to bring the joy and empowerment of libraries to the residents of Kibera.  But, to do that, we need to reinvent what a library means, what it can offer and how it delivers those services. Together, we have the expertise to build a wireless mesh network in Kibera – one open and freely available to residents – a network with access to e-books from across the globe and East Africa.  It could carry educational talks and longer courses. It could also provide access to community information about local resources that are available – everything from health care centres to how to contact your MP. Most importantly, all of this will be available free of charge to everyone living in Kibera.

According to the World Bank, 93% of Kenyans are mobile phone users .  A large percentage of those phones will be smart phones that will be able to connect to the free network and download a book, talk or information. Larger educational content will also be available on low-tech DVDs or downloadable to pen drives to ensure that anyone can access the content. It is time to reinvent the library and make it relevant to users in their locale.  In a place like Kibera, a new kind of library is being formed.  It may not be made of bricks and mortar but could make education, information and enjoyment freely available to residents and, with that, all the difference.

We need your support to make this happen, so please give generously:  http://www.goteo.org/project/kibera-mesh-network/ . Thank you to those who have already given.

Tunapanda Institute and Common Libraries
  • The Importance of Being a Reference Librarian Booklist Online (USA). “The library—and the reference librarian—exists to serve the community. By interacting with reference librarians, community members become more information literate. And when a community is composed of members with a higher degree of information literacy, it becomes a better community. Libraries and reference librarians help the community learn and grow. Libraries and reference librarians help the community survive. Communities become better places when libraries and reference librarians are part of them. And that is why we still need reference librarians.”

UK news by authority

  • Barnet – Four-fifths of Barnet staff to be outsourced, claims Unison – Localgov. “The London borough has already moved out a third of its workforce as a result of its One Barnet transformation programme, according to Unison. The latest plans affect staff in street scene, adult social care, education and catering, early years children’s services and libraries. If the proposals go ahead it will mean more than 2,800 staff will have been transferred and it will have a workforce of just 332, according to the union’s figures.”
  • Birmingham – Martin Shaw: I don’t have nostalgia for Birmingham because the city I knew has gone – Birmingham Post. “For a start, he can’t stand the £188 million new Library of Birmingham next door to where we are talking. “I hate it,” the 68-year-old declares vehemently. “It’s monstrous. “Forgive me, I know Birmingham is very proud of it, but in my opinion it has nothing going for it at all. “It’s a very ugly building which dominates the space so emphatically. There are some wonderful buildings around it, like the Hall of Memory, which are overshadowed now. “Maybe it’s a generational thing, as I don’t like change.”
  • Brent – Campaigners to be given community space to run library in Cricklewood – Brent and Kilburn Times. “Brent Council have approved plans which will provide a community reading room in the new development where Cricklewood Library currently is. Friends of Cricklewood Library, a group of campaigners, will manage the new community facility. The decision follows the approval a similar proposal to run a community reading room on the former Kensal Rise Library site in Bathurst Road.”
  • Cumbria – Tories turn fire on Cumbria council cutbacks consultation – North West Evening Mail. “The document, unveiled by Cumbria County Council bosses last month, asked people to comment on 13 savings proposals, as well as seeking opinions on areas such as reductions in road gritting and volunteer-run libraries which could be consulted on in the future as the authority aims to cut £83m of spending by 2018.”
  • Edinburgh – Edinburgh libraries win funding for ‘digital toyboxes’ – STV. “Six Edinburgh Libraries are to host “digital toyboxes,” focused on encouraging young people to learn new tech skills after the service won a share of a £70K grant from the Carnegie UK Trust.”
  • Enfield – Consultation launched into new scheme to reform library services – Enfield Independent. “Enfield Borough Council has launched a consultation about its plans to create a “comprehensive” library service and “flagship” libraries. The authority says Edmonton Green library could double in size, and has mentioned ‘digital hubs’ and improved Wi-Fi as part of plans to have “community” libraries supporting possible flagship libraries across the borough.”
  • Inverclyde – King’s Oak pupils get stuck into books with new reading scheme – Greenock Telegraph. “Over the next few weeks primary ones from every school in Inverclyde will visit their local library and be given a free membership card, a Bookbug pack containing three picture books shortlisted for a major award and take part in a storytime session.”
  • North Yorkshire – Letter: ‘Change of government’ needed to save North Yorkshire libraries – Harrogate Advertiser. “By 2020 they will be cut to £4.2m. This means closing some more libraries, making many employees redundant, opening fewer hours and operating with many volunteers. The library was a vital part of my education and growing up. It’s important for today’s younger generation, especially those whose families don’t have enough money for food and heating, let alone books. Libraries are still important to me now. David Cameron says they have a moral responsibility to reduce taxes. For whom I ask myself. Not for the rich surely.”
  • Sheffield – New chapter for Walkley Library starts today – Star. “Walkley Carnegie Library, as it will now be known, is to be run in a joint partnership with the community and Forum Cafe Bars after Sheffield Council relinquished control of 15 libraries to save cash. Discussions are still continuing with the bar group but, from today, volunteers who stepped in to save their library from closure will be running it.” … ““At the moment the library is exactly the same as it was before but as we get going we hope to look at more activities and involve the community on what they want to see “
  • Shropshire – Author Michael Morpurgo has hard words over Shropshire libraries – Shropshire Star. “he said the closure of libraries would be especially detrimental for children. “There is a growing difficulty in getting children to read which needs to be tackled,” he said. “Parents have to read to their children to help them make their own ways in life and to develop into an all rounded adult.”
  • Southampton – Campaign to save under threat city library – Southern Daily Echo. “Families joined community leaders outside Burgess Road library to add their names to a petition in a bid to keep the centre open in the face of cuts from Southampton City Council. ” … ““If the libraries go, where do the children go?”
  • Staffordshire – Libraries: Staffordshire libraries consultation due to be discussed next year – Burton Mail. “The next step of a consultation into changes to library services in Staffordshire will not take place until February, when the findings are reviewed by Staffordshire County Council.”
  • Staffordshire – Staffordshire County Council library staff asked how to save their jobs – Stoke Sentinel. “There are 320 library staff employed by the authority, and dozens could potentially lose their jobs if they are replaced by unpaid volunteers.”
  • Walsall – Walsall libraries earmarked for closure in bid to save £500k – Express and Star. “Two libraries are earmarked to close in Walsall despite an increase in the number of annual visitors, it has emerged. Pheasey and New Invention have been put forward to shut in the next two years under proposals which will see a total of eight closed to save more than £500,000”.  Council says “This is a consultation. No decision has been taken.”