We’re often, it seems to me, behind other countries at the moment in terms of initiatives and programmes in libraries but there’s one thing which I have been aware of for years in the UK which is way and above what I have seen elsewhere.  This is the Get It Loud in Libraries phenomenon that brings some pretty darn good music to local libraries.  I finally caught up with one of the prime movers of this, Stewart Parsons, a couple of weeks ago and we got to talking.  While chatting – it was at a libraries conference – the manager of Skelmersdale Library came up to us and told Stewart that the gig he had put on in her library the week before was the best thing that had happened in her career.  Now that shows what a great impact this programme can have, and it’s not a one-off because I see stellar feedback from Get It Loud all the time on Twitter. So, of course, I asked Stewart to write a piece for PLN and I am very pleased that he agreed.  Please find it below and, um … rock on.



“Amplifying Libraries – Loud In Libraries Style” by Stewart Parsons of Get It Loud in Libraries

For those who kindly enquire about the health of Get It Loud In Libraries (‘Is it, like, still alive?’), I can confidently claim we power ahead still, people. As ever we harbour a huge desire to utterly electrify library spaces but we are now developing a programme bound up in a strategic intelligence. Something that hopefully sets us apart from a library events team simply ‘ putting on gigs in libraries’. Get It Loud In Libraries is as much about solutions as live music entertainment.

“we harbour a huge desire to utterly electrify library spaces”

Backtrack nearly two years and Get It Loud In Libraries was turned from a popular grassroots arts project into a Community Interest Company, a  not for profit organisation with charitable principles. After a few false starts with private investment we whooped when we scored grant funding from both the Arts Council England and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. This funding would allow us to develop the programme and install an increased number of gigs across a wider area of North West England. The grant will support our delivery to October 2015 – enough time to rock some very solid Carnegie Library buildings to their literary foundations.

After consulting libraries across four boroughs, we had a fixed tour map for expanding our delivery. The library tour now takes in Cumbria, Lancashire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester. In some ways it is a shame that the libraries are geographically so closely aligned. But it also allows us to share the model across a network in a strategy that allows us to disseminate astutely and allow library staff who know each other through other means to develop and learn. A significant change to the original formula is the fact that a learning platform pitched against every show allows young people to develop and finesse their digital skills.

“Rocking libraries as a catalyst for growth and experience, opportunity and success.”

The programme was always designed to allow young people to lead and learn but this formalised development will hopefully set up young people on the creative industries career path. One major success story thus far is the story of 17 year old Robbie Williams (yes I know). Robbie illustrated his maturity behind a mixing desk so well to our techie guys on a show with US band The Lone Bellow that he was taken on in a paid role. One minute he was supporting an intimate Loud In Libraries show, enjoying the mentoring opportunities, the next he was on tour with Gabrielle and Billy Ocean. It’s this kind of social elevation and career progression offered by the programme that acts as invisible energy for Loud In Libraries. Rocking libraries as a catalyst for growth and experience, opportunity and success.

Stewart Parsons, Libraries Cool Meister

Stewart Parsons, Libraries Cool Meister

It also serves as a glowing reminder for the directors of the programme that this is why we do what we do. Number one – we love libraries. Number two – we love music. Number three – we believe in life chances for young people. Package that up and then deliver the ethos in areas of low arts activity and challenging economic circumstances and you have everything you need to know about Get It Loud In Libraries. Of course the gig is the thing and always will be. Sell out shows with library savvy chart stars Clean Bandit and Nick Mulvey in intimate library venues packed with first time library -goers is a thrilling experience. Furthermore, to allow the library to act as tastemaker for popular culture is something of immense value for us; it isn’t happening in the big city libraries but the smaller, more provincial ones. It is this part of the strategy that helps us retain the wow factor in a non-stop cultural age where the consumer is bombarded with the invitation to wow 24/7 over practically anything.

“We are hitting our targets, developing new audiences and also encountering an ever changing library landscape where staging a gig with the hottest new band in the land might be the last thing on the minds of staff faced with budget and staffing cuts “

We are hitting our targets, developing new audiences and also encountering an ever changing library landscape where staging a gig with the hottest new band in the land might be the last thing on the minds of staff faced with budget and staffing cuts – all we can do as a programme and a company is be true to our beliefs and continue to articulate the project’s intrinsic value. Offering young people what they ‘heart’ most – music, in a place most frequent least – the library is where it all started. Future plans include addressing the callouts we receive from libraries beyond the North West and talking to funders about taking the model beyond borders to replicate the opportunities and experiences so many young library users tell us they value highly. Tomorrow we welcome Frank Turner to Liverpool Library for his Book Tour.

Love libraries, love music, love our job. Next shows: May 1st Rae Morris Kendal Library / May 22nd All We Are Oldham Library All details www.getitloudinlibraries.com


  • Leadership for Libraries taskforce – Gov.uk. Kathy Settle of Government Digital Service named as chief executive.
  • Mapping the workforce within libraries, archives, records, and information and knowledge management – Edinburgh Napier University. “We need your help to map the UK’s libraries, archives, records, information and knowledge sectors. There are about 270,000 people in the UK working in these sectors but currently a clear profile of the workforce does not exist. We are interested in the views of all people working in the sector, whether in paid or unpaid employment. Please complete the short (15 minutes) survey to help us accurately map these sectors. “
  • Why local government matters in this election – BBC. “”Individuals have paid the price of funding reductions, whether it is through seeing their local library close, roads deteriorate or support for young people and families scaled back. These local services need to be adequately funded in the next parliament if they are going to survive the next few years” – Cllr David Sparks, chair of the Local Government Association
  • Prototyping the Library of the Future – Today | Annemarie Naylor | TEDxBrum
  • A World Without Libraries – David Kendall. “This week we got the news that Shropshire are going the way of so many authorities and sliding their public funded libraries into volunteer control. I don’t think my son would be so much of a reader without access to public libraries. Sure, he would be able to read, and read well, but I’m not sure the compulsion to read for pleasure would be there … books for school, books for adventure and books for reading together. The nearest bookshop was an hour drive away and might as well have been on the moon. We all knew the library was the place we could dip into knowledge and dreams. Choose ten. Every week.”


  • Decaying Libraries, Crumbling Futures – Huffington Post (USA). “Our city’s public libraries, the frontlines in the war against inequality, are life-changing institutions that are frequently championed but surprisingly under-supported. Over a century ago our city took the pledge to maintain our neighborhood libraries. The sad reality is our city has fallen behind on that pledge. The release of “Long Overdue: NYC’s $1 Billion Library Fine,” a detailed report of the current maintenance crisis plaguing our city’s three library institutions — New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Library — shows firsthand the extreme need communities throughout the five boroughs are suffering from. “
  • Lacuna, A Public Art Installation and Free Library Made From 50,000 Books – Laughing Squid (USA). “Lacuna is a public temple to books that is made from 50,000 books itself. The 80-foot diameter art installation acts as a free library by encouraging observers to participate by browsing and choosing free books that have been generously donated by the Internet Archive. Its design is from the Flux Foundation, a non-profit large-scale public art organization. A crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter is running now to fund building materials and permits for the project’s completion. “
  • Library criticised over smacking book  – 3 News (New Zealand). “To Train up a Child by fundamentalist Christians Michael and Debi Pearl advises parents to begin “switching” their children with sticks when they are babies to teach them to obey. The book also suggests parents train their children by hitting them with plastic tubes, withholding food and hosing off children who have toileting accidents. The book has been linked to the deaths of three children in the United States whose parents were said to be following its advice.”. see also Remove the book, “To Train Up a Child” (which advocates child abuse) by the Pearls from the Auckland Public Library System – Change.org.
  • Like a Rock Star – A Little Free Library Goes on Tour – Public Libraries Online (USA). “Melissa Baker asked herself and her library director at Montgomery County (TX) Memorial Library System. And the answer resulted in their newly created LFL loan program, which they hope to begin in the spring of this year. “I see this as a natural consequence, resulting from not being able to limit the project to just one area in our county. We have seven public libraries in our county, and we do reach a large number of library customers on a regular basis. But we are spread out and there are many great potential places where a Little Free Library would add value to the community,” “
  • The public library service – Irish Times (Eire). “In the Dáil on Tuesday, during the debate on a private member’s motion on water charges, Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly stated that “the State builds libraries, yet people pay to take books out”. The Minister does not seem to be aware that it is a basic principle of a public library service that libraries be free, open and accessible to all. Thankfully, in most public library services throughout the country, citizens may still borrow books free of charge.”
  • Toronto Public Library scraps used book buying program – Star (Canada). “The controversial pilot project allowed readers to sell used books to the library for $5. It will formally end on March 31 after four months of losing money and offending authors” … “Launched Dec. 1, the initiative allowed Toronto residents to sell used books to the library for $5, provided the titles were on a list of in-demand adult fiction. The purpose of the program was to shorten hold times for readers and save money in a period of budget uncertainty. City Librarian Vickery Bowles acknowledged Tuesday that the project failed on both those counts in its short, four-month life span.” … “The library bought just 127 books by the end of February, according to a staff report released Monday. Paying staff to handle the purchase of those volumes cost $2,246. Buying the same number of books through the library’s regular acquisition process would have cost less”

Local news by authority

  • Bexley / Bromley – Bexley and Bromley councils partner to out source library services – Bexley Times. “Bexley and Bromley councils will work together in a joint procurement exercise to try and find external providers interested in running library services. The ‘soft marketing exercise’ will seek to identify any potential partners which would provide the best possible value for the council’s. Bexley Council cabinet member for community safety and leisure, Alex Sawyer, said: “Bexley and Bromley have operated successfully as a shared service since 2012. ‘Soft market testing’ is a way of seeking the best value approach to delivering these vital services that our residents value.”
  • Birmingham – Council’s 39 under-threat community libraries could be saved by deal – Birmingham Mail. “Coun Ian Ward, Labour deputy leader, told the Mail that feared closures are now ‘very unlikely’, although he warned that some jobs would go as they look to reduce the running costs. … After a year of talks and pouring over business plans city council bosses are now in the final stages of negotiating a staff cooperative deal under which the librarians would run the service and keep the much valued community facilities open to the public. Confirmation of the deal is not expected until after the May 7 election.”
  • Croydon / Lambeth – Library campaigners: ‘Broken promises will be on our minds’ – Inside Croydon. “Alun and Barbara Thomas have sent an open letter to their local councillors, decrying the decision of Lambeth and Croydon councils to cut funding for Upper Norwood Library. We are concerned at the latest developments concerning the funding of the Upper Norwood Library. We have been misled in assuming that future funding was secured at a level to ensure the future of the library. Some nine months ago MP Steve Reed and Tony Newman launched the “Upper Norwood Library Declaration” which created a sense of false optimism …”
  • Dudley – Dudley libraries shortlisted for top award – Stourbridge News. “For a third consecutive year, the Dudley team is in the final of the national Bookseller Industry Awards 2015. “
  • Dundee – New Books on Pain Management Available in all libraries– Leisure and Culture Dundee. “New books on pain management are now available in every library and mobile library in Dundee, Perth & Kinross and Angus thanks to funding from NHS Tayside. According to the NHS, 14% of the population suffer with chronic pain and that suggests 56350 people in Tayside are suffering with the condition. Last year the local Chronic Pain Improvement Board made a successful application to the NHS Tayside Board Endowment Fund to provide readily accessible public information on chronic pain. As a result, a selection of approved books has been purchased for every library.”
  • Dundee – Winner of Great War Dundee Children’s Book Prize Competition Announced – Leisure and Culture Dundee. “John Fulton has been announced as the first winner of the Great War Dundee Children’s Book Prize competition at a ceremony in Dundee’s Central Library. Theresa Breslin, Vice President of CILIPS (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland) and Carnegie Award winning author, announced the winner and presented him with his prize of a cheque for £2,500. The winning story, The Wreck of the Argyll, will be published by Cargo Publishing later this year on 25th September.” … “The competition came about after Dundee Library and Information Service made a successful bid to the Scottish Library and Information Council for funding to support a children’s book prize competition to mark Dundee’s experience of the Great War.”
  • Peterborough – Vivacity respond over ‘voluntary’ Peterborough library job cuts – Peterborough Telegraph. “Peterborough City Council has guaranteed that no one will be forced out of a job during sweeping changes to city libraries. Peterborough City Councillor cabinet member Lucia Serluca, whose portfolio includes libraries, assured councillors at a scrutiny meeting that any staff who take redundancy will do so voluntarily. However, Vivacity, the trust which runs Peterborough’s 10 libraries and will make the decision over job losses, says a final decision has not been taken.” … “Cllr Serluca told councillors: “There will be 15 job losses, but I can say with absolute confidence they have all come from voluntary redundancies.”
  • Sandwell – Sandwell Libraries to celebrate local First World War heroes – Halesowen News. “Over the next eight months, specially-commissioned pull-up banners featuring heroes from each town will be travelling around the borough’s libraries and museums. “
  • Shropshire – Shropshire libraries in limbo as cuts loom – Shropshire Star. “Shropshire Council hopes to find “alternative management” for a total of 14 library services in a bid to save £1.3 million. … If no solution can be found, services could be reduced or in some cases replaced with a mobile library service.” … “It was revealed that Shawbury library, based in the village hall, could possibly be reduced to a mobile library. Michael Lewis, head of the library service, said he understand concerns, but  he had “a very limited time to make the £1.3 million savings”. He said he could give the village until  September to find a group to take the library on, but then a six-week consultation into other options would have to begin.”
  • Shropshire – Shropshire to make 16 libraries volunteer-run – BookSeller. “The Shropshire Star quoted Teresa Ecclestone, area manager for north Shropshire libraries”