One of the highpoints of the Edge Conference was listening to, and having a chance to talk to, Patrick Losinski, who is CEO of Columbus Metropolitan Libraries. I found what he is said very inspiring and useful but, as he himself said, the US system is different to ours (they can publicly campaign for funding for a start) so it’s more a case of working out what is common between us rather than blindly following.

Columbus is a big system – it has 22 branches, 875 staff, 874,000 users and 37,000 friends on facebook places, making it better used than any UK authority.  It’s interesting that those comparatively few branches are clearly a lot bigger than ours and more heavily used.  But a few years ago they feared that times were changing and wanted to change with them so they  did some useful research into what the public thought about what libraries were in their childhood compared to ten years from now.  The “old” public descriptions of libraries were on a theme of “quiet, research, reading and books” while the “new” ones are “community, technology, research, information and access”. They realised that print books were not as dominant as once they were (indeed,  Mr Losinski was bullish about ebooks and thinks that they are the future) but noted thatt the five largest publishers weren’t selling to libraries.  So, in a daring move that I can’t see UK libraries doing, the US libraries hired a lobbyist and effectively changed their minds.

“The “old” public descriptions of libraries were on a theme of “quiet, research, reading and books” while the “new” ones are “community, technology, research, information and access”.

However, the big learning thing for me was how Columbus spotted what, I guess, in commercial terms would be a gap in the market.  Very sadly, a large number of children in the city were behind in terms of literacy and kept on being behind throughout school  … and it was often of course kids from the same, poorer, areas.  So, the library service moved into this sector.  They have full-on programmes over the school holidays (where the difference between wealthier children – who go to Europe and get tutored – and poorer kids, who hang around on the streets, really kicks in), in the evenings and even on school buses.  Library workers go out, in teams of two, to churches, shelters and laundromats and give out a pack of books and a library card.  They aim for those with children, because people care deeply about their own children and hope for a better life for them. They go into a thousand homes in Columbus to work one on one with parents … not the kids.  Wonderfully, each Summer, they photograph pre-school children in graduation dress and the year they’ll graduate, such as “class of 2029”.  Tellingly, some parents argued with staff that they had got the graduate date wrong, because they did not realise they meant college, not high school. Their aspirations were simply not that high, but that of the library staff was.

“some parents argued with staff that they had got the graduate date wrong, because they did not realise they meant college, not high school. Their aspirations were simply not that high, but that of the library staff was.”

This is all working well,  Indeed, Columbus are currently building ten new libraries (more than probably all of the UK at the moment).  Columbus libraries aim to “own the out of school time for kids”. The new libraries are built for connections – with big windows, open spaces and  “Ready for kindergarten” centres.  The libraries aim is no longer to be just”efficient book delivery people” but rather vital for the future and society of their communities. They offer two year associate level classes being offered right in the middle of the building. When a company came calling asking to use libraries for coding, Columbus insisted that they do it in a high unemployment area. Using words like “workforce optimisation” really worked well with politicians. By the way, speaking of words and presenting information, the Columbus libraries strategic plan is a model of simplicity and I would recommend you all having a look and, frankly, crib from it.

“The libraries aim is no longer to be just  “efficient book delivery people”

For me, the whole thing was reminiscent of Australia, first in Queensland and then nationally, where libraries there “claimed the space” of adult literacy.  In Columbus, similarly, they aimed to “own the out of school time”.  Same tactic, different sector targeted due to local factors.  Tellingly the UK public library service has signally failed to do anything so simple or even, until recently, anything at all.  The Public Library Universal Information Offers, while useful, are far too diffuse and numerous for this purpose.  It’s hard, after all, to shoot multiple targets with only one arrow.  Patrick says that Columbus Libraries are “no longer in the library business, now we are in the youth of Columbus business” … and there’s always a future in youth. It is not longer being all things to all people: rather, it has decided what it wants to be I think this is the big learning point for us.  After all, UK public libraries don’t have much time to find their own speciality, rather than becoming poorer and poorer jacks of all.


UK national

  • Funding boost aims to turn libraries into startup incubators – Wired. “Libraries might conventionally be seen as non-happening places, but a £650,000 funding boost is set to add a further two UK libraries to the ten already taking part in a scheme aiming to disrupt conventional libraries.”
  • Libraries: an anachronism? – Leon’s Library Blog. “Rather than using facts, figures and stats (although they can be a useful weapon in the armoury of our arguments) my reply was one based on the principles that libraries are emblematic of. An acknowledgement that in the narrow neoliberal, consumerist society that many politicians and corporate interests are trying to enforce on us, libraries can indeed be seen as an anachronism, but one that represents the best of civic mindedness, and of which we should be proud and treasure.”
  • Library ticket plan aims to get youngsters reading – Sunday Times. “Fiona Hyslop, the culture minister, has indicated that a pilot will be launched this year after 30 local authorities expressed enthusiasm for the idea. “The development of the pilots is still at an early stage but the intention is to give children a completed library card at various stages from birth to primary school. The pilots will run in the next financial year and will encourage Scotland’s children and their parents to enjoy books from an early stage.”
  • Library task force starts work – BookSeller (behind paywall) “A new task force for libraries, which met for the first time this week, will focus its attention on sharing best practice between councils, promoting the role of digital and shaping a workforce for the future.” “One of the key aims of the Leadership for Libraries task force will be to highlight to council decision makers the variety of roles that libraries play in their communities – be it boosting health, safety or information agendas. It will also look to help services to share their skills and show case their value.” Dr Paul Blantern is quoted as saying “We have to be realistic, we can’t save every building. What we’re trying to do is build a real library service that is fit for the future.””

“The library service is falling into its own dystopian tale. The story fits all the tropes: a bleak landscape of buildings far from their former glories and managed into a state of terminal decline by an authoritarian state whose apparatchiks speak the language of obfuscation. A plucky band of supporters fighting on, one day stumbling upon a once magnificent building in Birmingham City Centre, “Goddamn, you,” one shouts, “you really did it.” BookSeller editorial

New CILIP boss - A face to remember?

New CILIP boss – A face to remember?

  • Nick Poole new CEO at Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals – CILIP (press release). “Nick Poole will become Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals from 22 June 2015. Nick is currently CEO of the Collections Trust, an independent UK charity working with libraries, archives and museums.” Nick served as a Trustee of CILIP between January 2010 and November 2014, he was CILIP Treasurer for 2012 and 2013. [For full information, Nick Poole has his very own website, with online CV, portfolio and an invitation to “Work With Nick”.  He was educated at top private school Westminster and then Cambridge. – see http://nickpoole.org.uk/ .  He is @NickPoole1 on Twitter – Ed.]

“I want to ensure that the skills and expertise of our members is championed as widely as possible, nationally and locally.  These are challenging times for our community, and CILIP needs to be able to offer leadership, support and encouragement to professionals working to promote information literacy across industry, media, education and Government.  I know CILIP as a member and as a former Trustee and Treasurer and I cannot wait to work with our members, Trustees, committee members, staff and partners to build a strong and positive future for our community.” Nick Poole

  • Social Media for Creative Libraries – Phil Bradley. “Social Media for Creative Libraries explains how librarians and information professionals can use online tools to communicate more effectively, teach people different skills and to market and promote their service faster, cheaper and more effectively. Based on his acclaimed work How to Use Web 2.0 in Your Library, Phil Bradley has restructured and comprehensively updated this new book to focus on the activities that information professionals carry out on a daily basis, before then analysing and explaining how online tools can assist them in those activities.”
  • UK’s leading attractions celebrate bumper rise in visitors – Travel Daily Media. “Libraries attracted substantial numbers with the Library of Birmingham – which opened in 2013 – being the most visited free attraction outside London, in 10th place with 2,414,860 – proving to be an attraction in its own right. The British Library saw visits to its public exhibitions and programme rise by 52%.”


    • Building a Society of Avid Readers – CRI English (China). National reading rate still at very low level. ““The legislation has set clear requirements on public libraries. Most of the books in public libraries should be available for people to borrow. The libraries at the county level should be connected in the network to other libraries in the same administrative areas, so that readers could return to and borrow books from any one of those libraries. The public libraries should also share their digital resources with various kinds of reading gadgets in the same administrative areas.”
    • Conclave to seek solutions for transforming public libraries – I paid a bribe (India). “The three-day event “India Public Libraries Conference 2015” (IPLC 2015) comprises of a two-day conference on the theme “Transforming Public Libraries in India” and a day-long workshop for the library officials. The meet is part of an initiative by non-profit organisation Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) and Developing Library Network (DELNET), with financial support from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to strengthen and upgrade public libraries in India.”
    • A Facilitative Mindset: Five Steps to a Customer-Service Culture – Public Libraries Online (USA). “Good customer service is a behavior. We act based on what we believe, our prior experiences, and how we feel in the moment— which includes our status in relation to others. Therefore, internal culture must change. People can’t achieve an authentic facilitative mindset without trusting that they are valued and supported by their coworkers and the administration”
    • Is the Library Really Dead? – Timeline (USA).  Interesting timeline of threats to libraries since Alexandria. “The rise of makerspaces – and libraries that lend tools, seeds and appliances – is a promising sign that libraries will continue to fulfill their role as communal spaces for knowledge exchange while keeping up with modern technology. But how libraries preserve and organize knowledge in the digital age remain pressing questions. Digital libraries are great at gathering massive amounts of information, but haven’t formalized standards for preserving it over time. In our age of information overload, organizing and contextualizing that information, the function of any library, is both more important and difficult than ever.”
    • Never trust a corporation to do a library’s job – Medium (USA). “After a series of redesigns, Google Groups is effectively dead for research purposes. The archives, while still online, have no means of searching by date. Google News Archives are dead, killed off in 2011, now directing searchers to just use Google. Google Books is still online, but in recent years, likely discouraged by a decade of legal wrangling still in appeal. The official blog stopped updating in 2012 and the Twitter account’s> been dormant since February 2013. Even Google Search, their flagship product, stopped focusing on the history of the web. In 2011, Google removed the Timeline view letting users filter search results by date, while a series of major changes to their search ranking algorithm increasingly favored freshness over older pages from established sources. (To the detriment of some.)
    • Public libraries increase access fee – Hivisasa (Kenya). “The Kenya National Library Servive (KNLS) has scrapped off membership fee and introduced a new fee and pricing structure. The move has attracted a lot of concern among users who feel they will be required to pay more for the services.” … “Starting from April 1 2015, entry to the library will be charged at Sh20 whether one is a member or not. According to a KNLS official who wished not to be named, membership cards will only be used for borrowing.”

UK local news by authority

      • Bristol – Act of hypocrisy for Lib Dems and Conservatives to oppose cuts – Bristol Post / Letters. “Well, Simon and Geoff, none of us wants to shut down libraries. But I do have to remind you that you are part of the coalition government that has devastated local government funding over the last five years. Your LibDem-Tory coalition government has cut the council budget by tens of millions of pounds. Bristol is in the second year of an £83 million budget cut, amounting to some 30% of the budget.
      • Bristol – Save Wick Road Library – Public Meeting – Storify. Full and crowded meeting with MP and councillors. With pictures, detailed summary of what was said and the issues.
      • Cardiff – After budget reprieve Rumney library could be set to move to new site – Wales Online. “Cardiff council have said the existing building on Brachdy Road is not “sustainable” and requires repair work. They say it is not big enough to operate as a hub and rent out space. The council say the most popular alternative building suggested during the public consultation was the youth centre on Llanstephan Road and they plan to create a Community Partnership Hub in the building.” … “Becky Harford, from the Community Action for Rumney Library (CARL) group, said they want more information about the services on offer and access to the library. She said: “We are pleased that a library will remain in Rumney, however we can neither support nor object to plans for Llanstephen Road as we do not fully understand those plans.””
      • Croydon – MP Reed ‘guaranteed’ library’s ‘future’ for just nine months – Inside Croydon. ” it is barely a year since Steve Reed OBE, the MP for Lambeth South, got together with Tony Newman, the leader of the Labour group on Croydon Council, to sign what they portentously called “The Upper Norwood Library Declaration” (with a title like that, you’d think they were about to announce “Peace in our time”, or that Reed might have said that he could feel the hand on history on his shoulder…). They produced website reports and all sorts to boast about it. After less than nine months, that “future” that Reed and Newman “guaranteed” for Upper Norwood Library is looking very short-term indeed. Lambeth Council – of which Reed used to be the leader – is axing half its library service, including cutting its funding to Upper Norwood by 60 per cent. And if Lambeth does that, then for some reason Croydon Council feels it must do the same.
      • Devon – Devon libraries to become independent ‘mutual’ organisation – BBC. “Andy Bowman, from the union, which represents library staff, said: “The authority could cut back the amount of money it pays for the ‘mutual’ library service, forcing it to cutback on the number of libraries and staff. “It’s abdicating its responsibility to this new body and distancing itself from the bottom line decisions as to who has jobs and what libraries stay.” However, the Conservative-led council said that in response to “overwhelming support” from communities who wanted to work more closely with the libraries, the new organisation would “continue to deliver an affordable, sustainable and innovative library service”.”
      • East Renfrewshire – Shadow board selected to oversee East Renfrewshire’s Leisure Trust – Barrhead News. “The leisure trust will see all community halls, sports centres, libraries and the recently opened Barrhead Foundry transferred to an independent trust in order to save ERC money. The council will retain ownership of the buildings however their day to day running will be over seen by the trust, including the provision of staff. “
      • Gwynedd – Concerns raised over cost-cutting closure threat to Harlech library – Cambrian News. “It is understood that Gwynedd Council is likely to close libraries that are open fewer than 20 hours a week. Libraries in Dwyfor and Meirionnydd which could be affected are Bala, Criccieth, Harlech, Nefyn and Penrhyndeudraeth. Harlech resident Rosy Berry said she was deeply concerned by news their library could close.”
      • Isle of Wight – Lord Louis Library to house Isle of Wight libraries headquarters – Isle of Wight County Press. “Lord Louis Library, Newport, will be reconfigured — and some books removed — to make way for the Isle of Wight library service headquarters, which is moving into the building next month. The Isle of Wight Council will save £100,000 by relocating the headquarters and book repository from its current location at Somerton to the library. The reference section will be merged into the main library and the children’s library will move back to its former location, where the reference section is currently located.”
      • Kent – Kent’s flawed library consultation – CliKent. ” addition to seeking to better inform those residents attending roadshows (or otherwise responding to the consultation document) an email is being sent to every KCC councillor alerting them to the deficiencies of the consultation document, and in some cases misrepresentation within it, to which their constituents are being asked to respond.”
      • Kirklees – Fiery town council meeting – Mirfield Reporter. “Coun David Pinder accused of inaction over Mirfield Library, leading to a heated exchange with a member of the public. Roger Johnson, from the Friends of Mirfield Library, said he had invited Coun Pinder to attend several meetings since the group’s inception last October, but said he would receive the “usual Pinder brush-off”. Coun Pinder interrupted: “Be careful, I know a lawyer.””
      •  Lambeth – Save Lambeth’s Libraries – campaigners pledge to keep up the fight – Brixton Buzz. Full report of meeting. “Lewisham cut their libraries, now run as ‘community libraries’ by volunteers, and had a 73% drop in services in the first year. A devastating number. ‘Community libraries’ do not necessarily provide internet. They are not even necessarily free, able to charge for membership. They are unlikely to keep all of the books, and in providing other services will probably get rid of many. There will no longer be anything like free storytime.”
      • Leicestershire – Progress on community libraries – Loughborouh Echo. “Plans to let community groups run libraries in rural villages such as Rothley and Barrow-upon-Soar are set to take a step forward this month. Leicestershire County Council’s ruling cabinet will later this month receive an update on 27 groups that have come forward” see also Council’s plan to offload libraries continues – Hinckley Times.
      • Lewisham – Lewisham Way micro-library wins PM award – Brockley Central. “The creator of London’s smallest library which is housed in a disused red telephone box has been named a Point of Light on World Book Day by Prime Minister David Cameron.  Sebastian Handley, 46, launched the Lewisham Micro Library 15 months ago on the corner of Lewisham Way and Tyrwhitt Road in Brockley. It is London’s smallest library and is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and has proved a huge success in his local community with hundreds of visitors.”
      • Lincolnshire – Downing Street bid to save library – Spalding Today. “Talks were held in Downing Street on Monday in a bid to find a solution that may keep a public library open in Market Deeping. South Holland and The Deepings MP John Hayes and county council executive member for libraries Coun Nick Worth were joined by councillors from The Deepings and members of the Save Deepings Library campaign. Details of the talks have not been made public, but hopes are high that a rescue plan can be put in place.”
      • Orkney – Orkney Library and Archive praised in parliament – Orcadian. “Speaking during a debate yesterday, celebrating the contribution libraries make in Scotland, Mr McArthur drew MSPs’ attention to the success of library staff in Orkney at widening access to the services available. ,Mr McArthur said: “Not only does Orkney boast one of the oldest libraries in the country, it can also lay claim to having one of the most successful. Orkney Library and Archive has demonstrated real creativity in the way it delivers its services and reaches out to new audiences.”
      • Southampton – Library services quietly being cut – Daily Echo / Letters. “I am researching for my own interest a particular subject and need a photocopy from a newspaper held in the Chicago Public Library and they need the request to be passed through a library system, however Southampton libraries now do not allow for these requests despite the fact that I am quite happy to cover the full costs of the operation.”
      • Southampton – Protest to save city libraries – Bitterne Park Info. “A peaceful protest takes place in Southampton city centre on Wednesday (March 18) in an effort to save libraries from closure. It starts from the Bargate at 1pm. Organisers are urging anyone who cares about the future of the city’s libraries to join them as they walk – dressed in black – to the Civic Centre with books, to hold what’s been described as a “read-in”, before the full council meeting that afternoon”
      • Stoke – Kathie McInnes: Will volunteer-run libraries survive? – Stoke Sentinel. “Swan Bank Methodist Church stepped in and opened Burslem Book Room. At first, it was staffed entirely by volunteers, with books supplied by the city’s library service. Now, two years on, the community-run venture has just taken on its first paid member of staff after securing a grant. Working alongside a team of helpers, new library engagement officer Emily Adams is fizzing with ideas. She’s already launched a craft group for pensioners and story time sessions for toddlers.”

School libraries

  • The Results Are In: Libraries Matter – Medium. “When it comes to our school libraries, it can be easily supposed that our libraries are enhancing children’s reading habits, but we wanted to test this assumption and find out more … Measuring the impact of thousands of libraries across multiple countries is quite a formidable undertaking, but with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we commissioned an independent, external research team to examine our libraries in Laos, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Zambia, and South Africa … A closer look revealed that training staff within the schools to manage the library instead of training external library managers proved to be far more impactful …”

“we have been able to confirm empirically that our libraries are helping children become independent readers.”