The England Libraries Task Force has had its first meeting and it’s all positive sounding but, then again, of course it would be.  The challenge will `be in delivering. There;s certainly no shortage of senior people on the Force (hmm, Force – that sounds a bit odd) as the list published below shows so we can but hope but, for me, the whole nature of it is a little diffuse, in keeping with the desire to link libraries to multiple agendas.  We’ll see if that’s a strength or a weakness over the next year or two.

Also this edition I’ve got a guest post from Matt Finch who will familiar to many for his work and has been mentioned a few times in PLN.  He’s back in the UK now and I hope to hear of great things from him.

“Re your interesting editorial on Columbus Metropolitan Libraries – looking at Wikipedia (sorry librarians!) the annual cost of the Columbus libraries is $45m (= approx. £30m) a year. So with a population of 0.875m the cost per head cost is £34.28. The CIPFA library stats indicate that UK public library expenditure per head in 2013/14 was £13.60 (english metropolitan districts spend was similar at £13.68). Does this indicate that UK councillors undervalue public libraries? In the UK the public get no vote on specific funding for their public libraries.” Comment by librariesmatter


The TARDIS on your streetcorner: Matt Finch on the public libraries of today and tomorrow

For me, it started with Christchurch Libraries in New Zealand. When earthquakes devastated the city in 2010 and 2011, the Kiwis of “ChCh” demonstrated the abiding community value of libraries. When structural damage meant branches had to close, the wi-fi was left on so that survivors outside could use Skype and email to let loved ones know they were safe. Librarians went into emergency shelters to run storytimes which entertained children and gave parents time apart to reflect on their situation.

Christchurch’s example made me passionate about what libraries do for their community. I quickly realised that it had little to do with items on shelves. Even the 20-year-old UN public library missions don’t use the word “book”, although they do talk about reading. Libraries around the world increasingly host performance, play, and technology in new and unusual forms. Makerspaces with 3D printers, wine tasting videolinked to a vineyard thousands of kilometres away, interactive roleplay with kids besieged by the walking dead: librarianship in the 21st century is open to many weird and wonderful activities.

That doesn’t mean libraries have lost their focus. Quite the opposite: it reminds us that librarianship transcends any one medium. The education system is increasingly about training students to pass tests. Many digital materials are designed to make a profit out of the end user. But the public library is the one place you can go, whoever you are, wherever you are from, to explore to all of human knowledge and culture on your own terms. We fund state schools because no child chooses where they are born or who they are born to, and public hospitals because nobody chooses when they get sick or injured. Public libraries deserve the same support.

Over the last few years, I’ve worked with organisations across Australia and New Zealand to push the physical and conceptual boundaries of public librarianship. In 2013, our team in Auckland hosted a weeklong festival of burlesque for over-18s. This wasn’t publicly funded prurience, but a critical and celebratory exploration of sexuality in contemporary culture. In rural Australia, we ran a Comic Festival for all ages and took librarianship offsite, holding events in a local pub to engage new audiences and printing local writers’ work on takeaway coffee cups. A similar project in New Zealand saw librarians working offsite in retail stores to issue loans on the high street. For children and young people, we created boisterous time travel and monsters-versus-robots events. None of the activities were conventionally “shelfy”, but they were all pure library. They offered community engagement with literacy, culture, and self-directed learning.

Some people argue that the age of e-books has rendered public libraries obsolete. Nothing could be further from the truth. A public library is like the TARDIS on your streetcorner: just a box from the outside, but step through the doors and it can take you anywhere that humans have ever dreamed of.

Shelves are optional.

About Matt

Matt Finch creates media and events to help people learn, play, and explore. In 2014, he was a keynote speaker at the VALA library conference. Find out more at www.matthewfinch.me/about

National library news

Dr Paul Blantern, Chair, Northamptonshire County Council; Mike Cooke, Chief Executive, London Borough of Camden;  Felix Greaves, Deputy Director of Science, Public Health England; Laura Caton, Local Government Association; Dominic Lake, DCMS (deputy director of arts/libraries/cultural property); Keira Shaw, DCMS (head of libraries); Brian Ashley, Arts Council England (Director of libraries and Midlands); Jonty Claypole – BBC (Head of Arts); Jane Ellison – BBC (Radio 4 Commissioning Editor); Roly Keating – British Library (Chief Executive); Mark Taylor – CILIP (Director of External Relations); John Dolan – CILIP (Trustee); Kathy Settle – Government Digital Service; Sue Wilkinson – Reading Agency (Chief Executive); Ciara Eastell – Society of Chief Librarians (President: also head of libraries of Devon); William Sieghart – Chair, Independent Library Report for England; Jo Miller – Chief Executive, Doncaster Council; Pat Richie – Chief Executive, Newcastle Upon Tyne City Council; Anna Wadsworth – Secretariat: DCMS Make-up of England Libraries Task Force

  • Library task force starts work – BookSeller. “One of the key aims of the Leadership for Libraries task force will be to highlight to council decision-makers the wide 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 showcase their value.” … “Blantern admitted that the panel had no power to intervene in authority decisions, but said it could act to guide councils in future. ” … “Blantern said the value of libraries was in their ability to be at the heart of a range of services, as “trusted spaces, universally accessible and universally accepted. “

“One thing that has become very clear to me since I started is that there’s absolutely fantastic innovation happening out there, but people just don’t realise it. One very quick win that the task force can deliver is to highlight these things that are working” Dr Paul Blantern

  • Poem of the week: The Beautiful Librarians by Sean O’Brien – Guardian. Full poem with analysis. “In the title poem of Sean O’Brien’s new collection, The Beautiful Librarians, present-day social reality (punitive funding cuts to the UK’s library services) may help power both the nostalgia and the political critique. Time has been called on a particular kind of postwar social vision, honeycombed, for the speaker, by the memory of delight in the liberated horizons a local library made accessible”
  • Poole appointed as CILIP c.e.o – BookSeller. “Martyn Wade, chair of CILIP council, said: “We’re delighted that Nick will be the new chief executive. The recruitment panel agreed that Nick has the experience, passion and strategic ability to lead CILIP at this important time. On behalf of all Trustees I would like to congratulate Nick, we look forward to working with him. I’d like to thank Jill Colbert, who will continue in the role of interim chief executive until Nick starts.”The former CILIP chief executive, Annie Mauger, left in October to take up the role of director of national business units at the Chartered Institute of Housing.”
  • We need to remember that libraries are about books, not business – The Conversation. “Funding cuts and Google Books may all have their part to play – but the reality is that libraries need to step up their digital game in a big way if they are to see a future.” Looks at Sieghart Review: ” seeded within this discussion are other goals that are a little less comforting, particularly the need to secure “economies of scale”, “better use of taxpayers’ money” and “efficiency”. Rather strikingly, “books” are mentioned only mentioned a handful of times in the report (and in all cases, quite incidentally). This is worrying.” … “The centralisation being pushed by austerity-hit councils threatens to erase the richness and diversity represented by branch libraries, which often have deep histories of their own.” … “if the branch library is to be not only saved but sustained, the question inevitably arises: what other community services will have to be cut in its place?”


  • About IDNYC – IDNYC (USA). “New York City residents are now able to sign up for IDNYC – a government-issued identification card that is available to all City residents age 14 and older. Immigration status does not matter. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this initiative in his State of the City address in January 2014 and less than one year later proudly launched the largest municipal identification card program in the nation … You are able to use your IDNYC card at any public library in New York. The card can be integrated with your account at the New York, Brooklyn, and Queens Public Library Systems. This is the first time a single card can be utilized across all three systems. To use your IDNYC card at a library, ask a librarian or a library clerk at your local branch to connect your IDNYC card with your library account or sign up for a new library account and use your IDNYC card as your library card.”
  • By the book: Hickory Public Libraries’ employee receives top honor – Hickory Record (USA). “In the past year, Faulkner Kraus assisted about 1,700 people – about 30 percent of Hickory’s residents age 65 years and older, according to the 2010 Census. Despite being the only Hickory library employee in the senior department, Faulkner Kraus also finds time to create programming and connections between the Hickory library and local entities for seniors. Faulkner Kraus’s uplifting attitude coupled with her commitment to aiding the elderly led to her winning the 2015 Library Journal Paralibrarian of the Year Award this March. The Library Journal is extremely influential among librarians, a resource equivalent to what the Wall Street Journal is to stock brokers.”
  • Kern County Could Explore Privatizing Public Libraries – NPR (USA). “So how would LSSI provide more services for the same amount or less? Perez says while she hasn’t seen a formal proposal from the company yet… Perez: “I can only presume that can occur through diminishing benefits to employees. I can’t imagine any other way in which that is possible.”
  • Public Libraries and Hispanics – Pew Research Centre (USA). “When it comes to public libraries, immigrant Hispanics pose both a challenge and an opportunity to the library community. On the one hand, this group, which makes up half of the adult U.S. Hispanic population, is less likely than other Americans to have ever visited a U.S. public library and is much less likely to say that they see it as “very easy” to do so. At the same time, Hispanic immigrants who have made their way to a public library stand out as the most appreciative of what libraries have to offer, from free books to research resources to the fact that libraries tend to offer a quiet, safe space.”
  • The new libraries of Singapore – Designing Libraries (Singapore). “Petrisson Teo, writing for Urban Wire, visits new libraries in Singapore, focusing particularly on the specialist design library, library@orchard, the centrepiece of the National Library Board’s plans for Singapore.”

Local news by authority

  • Bristol – Don’t close Bristol libraries – Bristol Post / Letters. “I used Central, Redland and Henleaze every week, Clifton and Westbury-on-Trym occasionally, at various hours on various days. I found all well used, young families in the Children’s Library, people at the shelves, tables and screens. I did not use the other at-risk libraries, so cannot comment on their usage. They are, however, some distance from other libraries, a disadvantage to elderly and disabled people. I still visit Bristol about once per week and still use its libraries, now mainly Central and Redland (where this letter is being copied). Some years ago, the opening days and hours of many Bristol libraries were reduced to save money. Could the at-risk libraries be saved by reducing these further?”
  • Bristol – Plans to close seven Bristol libraries on hold – BBC. “The council said there were still likely to be job cuts. Forty posts were under threat in the original plans. It has guaranteed the libraries will not close in this financial year and consultation will run until 30 June. The city’s elected mayor George Ferguson, an independent, said they were trying to find “creative community solutions”. This could include using volunteers to help run libraries.”
  • Bristol – No libraries to close before 2016 – Bristol 247. “No libraries in Bristol will close before 2016, following a cross-party outcry about proposals, which could have seen seven libraries across the city shut … George Ferguson said that he has seen “a tremendous strength of feeling” about the future of libraries and that he had “been listening carefully”. “On one hand this is very encouraging as it means people are more likely to be part of the solution, but on the other hand it drives home that we absolutely need enough time to reduce any unnecessary risk to libraries and make a success of people’s good ideas from all sources,” he added.”

“On behalf of Bristol Old Peoples Forum (BOPF), I call on Mayor Ferguson and councillors to investigate ways of providing an annual revenue of £1.1 million to continue funding all Bristol branch libraries.Bristol has no need of a Lord Mayor, for example. The abolition of this token post would free up revenue. Sale of the Mansion House would generate capital to improve facilities in libraries such as buying new computers and installing lavatories. Another source of income could be generated by former Day Centres, Care Homes, Youth Clubs and Fishponds Library. If these buildings have been sold, the capital must have been invested. If they have not been sold, they can be rented out to create revenue. Bristol aims to become an Age Friendly city. Libraries, swimming pools, museums and community centres are essential in providing recreational, affordable leisure”. Bristol Old Peoples Forum

  • Cambridgeshire – Cambridge Central Library could be home to £600k enterprise centre – Cambridge News.”An enterprise centre helping businesses and job seekers could be a key part of a proposed £600,000 renovation of Cambridge Central Library.” … “The council says the changes could bring in “significant income” via charges for the services, as well as helping achieve its objective of boosting economic growth.”
  • Cambridgeshire – Don’t privatise the third floor of Cambridge Central Library 38 Degrees. “We urge Cambridgeshire County Council to consider alternative proposals that will retain the library’s community focus, and we do not believe this to be incompatible with financially viable solutions. The proposal report acknowledges that there are alternative options that might “respond to community demand and be installed at lower cost”. As members of the community the library serves, we demand that these be adequately explored before valuable community resources are lost for good.”
  • Kent – Faversham consultation: What you think about your library – Canterbury Times. “Kent County Council currently run the libraries but is looking at creating a charitable trust to take them on.”
  • Kent – Hundreds sign libraries petition, says Herne Bay Labour group – Canterbury Times. “Hundreds of people have signed a petition asking the county council not to transfer its library services to a charitable trust, Herne Bay Labour Party has said.”
  • Lambeth – Library trust is ‘shellshocked’ at Lambeth’s 60% funding cut – Inside Croydon. “The future of Upper Norwood Library has been thrown into doubt once again, this time after a Labour-run local authority announced its intention to reduce funding by 60 per cent in 2016” … “Lambeth has issued no fewer than 22 hefty documents as its “Cultural Services by 2020″ consultation, which it expects residents to read. This all includes plans to sell-off two libraries elsewhere in the borough and to reduce funding to another two in addition to Upper Norwood.”
  • Solihull – Fears for future of Dickens Heath library – Solihull News. “Council bosses have produced a draft report which looks at ways of “improving” library facilities across the borough, which includes plans for an “exit strategy” for Dickens Heath Library. But a Solihull Council spokesman was this week keen to stress that the authority was not looking to close the library but could relocate it to another building.”
  • South Tyneside – The Word is out in South Shields – Designing Libraries. “The centre will boast an impressive range of facilities including exhibition space, computer gaming area, design and innovation studio with 3D printers, digitised archives, meeting rooms, children’s immersive storytelling area, OpenZone IT suite, café and a rooftop restaurant and terrace providing stunning views over the river.” Includes images and full list of facilities.
  • Southampton – Ideas to keep libraries open ‘need proper council research’ – Bitterne Park Info. “Now the library consultation period has ended and before decisions are taken, we understand there will be an “evaluation”, “and all viable options” will be presented to cabinet – although it currently seems unclear precisely how “viability” will be assessed and tested, and by whom. Friends of Cobbett Road Library (FOCRL) have put in a number of suggestions that could help the library stay open, which were also discussed at a packed community meeting held on February 23, which was attended by a plethora of local politicians from across the spectrum.”
  • Telford and Wrekin – Southwater One, Telford – Designing Libraries. Case study for the new library, linking to a brochure from Opening the Book about their work on the library.
  • Trafford – Council receives “expressions of interest” in all three options for future of Hale Library – Altrincham Today. The “Council has received a number of “expressions of interest” in all three potential outcomes for the future of Hale Library. A report summing up the findings from the consultation period held in respect of the future of all libraries in the borough will be published tomorrow. It will reveal that there has been expressions of interest in all three proposals for the Leigh Road facility – the redevelopment of the current site to include a smaller library and residential homes; the development of a new library elsewhere in Hale; and the sale of the current library and replacement with a temporary library for the period up to the opening of the new Altrincham Library in 2017.” … “A petition set up in support of keeping Hale Library on its current site has already attracted over 1,600 signatures. Friends of Hale Library, who set up the petition, say it is a “well loved and vibrant community asset” and that it has come up with “a long term and financially viable solution” for its future.”
  • Vale of Glamorgan – Book thrown at library changes – Penarth Times. “Campaigners opposing Vale Council proposals to change library services had their worst fears confirmed last night (Monday, March 16) when a council committee backed a cabinet decision to close some libraries. The decision means if community groups fail to come forward to take on the libraries on a voluntary basis by May 18 then some libraries will close.” … “If community groups are do not come forward by May 18 and/or a business plan is not submitted or viable, the libraries, where it is proposed are volunteer-led, could close. “

School libraries

  • Librarians are restricting reading? – Jionalibrarian’s Blog. “this report seems to denigrate, or at the very least question, the very people in schools that will be running AR who themselves will want to challenge, push, develop and broaden the reading habits of the young people with which they work… by doing this the author, and Renaissance Learning by proxy, are treading a very fine line,  in my opinion “