There’s been a lot of talk recently about two cases of non-council organisations taking over areas of libraries. The first, which has been rumbling around for a while, is in Bristol where two floors of the Central Library are being taken over by a Free School.  The concerns there are over loss of storage/office space for the library, a suspicion that the Free School has been given too good a deal and some doubt over the ideological motivations of the relevant councillors in the move.  The second is the taking up of considerable space in Cambridge Central Library by a private company for business offices.  This has similar themes – with extra concern over the commercialisation of the library and the speed with which the decision was made.  As well as these two, there are also mutterings about BT and Barclays providing WiFi and assistance in some branches nationally.  All of this ties in with the theme over exactly how public and neutral public libraries area.  In the end, of course, they are only as public and as neutral as the local council wishes them to be.  There’s no national rules in play.  If a council wants to set up the MacDonald’s Central Library with Tesco taking over two floors and the DVD collection sponsored by Netflix then there is nothing to stop them. It is purely the public reaction – and that of officers, too, however internal and quietly they do it – that will stop them.

The key here is  if such services are complementary or damaging to the core public library service.  This is a judgement that we see a lot with council One Stop Shops and other services in libraries and it’s part of the, I guess, risk assessment that each library needs to go through.  Something which I have no doubt is positive is another example I picked up at the Edge Conference.  This is the partnership that won the social category award – with MacMillan Cancer Support with Glasgow Libraries where the charity takes advantage of the neutral, welcoming and local space of the libraries and the library service takes advantage of the usage and – frankly – money that the other organisation brings.  Because the library service is being paid for by this, and is not losing overly much (apart from some space of course) so it looks to me like a true a win-win. Which is the essence of successful partnerships.

MacMillan @ Glasgow Libraries mini case study

“A diagnosis of cancer brings with it lots of questions and it’s not always possible to find answers for all of these during hospital visits. That’s why it’s vital the 3250 people who are diagnosed with cancer in Glasgow every year can access high quality information and support in their local community. Glasgow is to become the first place in the UK where everyone affected by cancer in the city will have access to local, community based cancer information and support services, thanks to an innovative partnership between Macmillan Cancer Support and Glasgow Libraries.

Macmillan Cancer Support are specialists in helping people diagnosed with cancer, their relatives and carers cope with the consequences of cancer, and this new partnership aims to ensure everyone in Glasgow can access the support and information they need on their doorstep. Glasgow Libraries serves a population of almost 600,000 people through 33 libraries and recognises the unique position it holds to deliver free information and support to anyone affected by cancer. The partnership  will eventually operate in 33 libraries and 2 leisure centres across the city, providing anyone affected by Cancer with information, emotional support and access to other services including complementary therapies, counselling and benefits advice. Find information, support and practical help or just someone to talk to.” Glasgow Libraries / MacMillan

The service is in 33 branches, either as weekly advice sessions or as “MacMillan Cancer Information Points”. Some spaces are entirely put aside for MacMillan.  MacMillan and Glasgow Libraries are both delighted by the partnership, with a similar agreement being under discussion in Edinburgh. Because of the way that MacMillan works, the other regions of the UK are managed separately and so it may be worth approaching them separately if your library authority is interested in a partnership.

No problems with neutrality with this one? MacMillan in Glasgow

No problems with neutrality with this one? MacMillan in Glasgow

National news

  • Damned if we do… – Leon’s Library Blog. “there is some questioning on whether or not this is the most effective use of the funding. Commenting on the above article Mick Fortune pointed out that “…leveraging the millions already invested in RFID and using Wifi to help link physical stock to relevant online resources – as is already being done in some European public libraries – and ticking three boxes at once – digital, WiFi and the exploitation of under-used resources” might be the best way forward … “. Concern over Barclays and BT funding “Leaving aside the rather naff name of ‘digital eagle’ (in the public sector we just call them IT support!) many voiced concern via Twitter regarding the ethics of such funding. Particularly from a Bank that has been mired in scandals around Libor, mis-selling PPI, and manipulating energy prices, all of which have incurred massive fines along the way.” … “At best the task force represents a mix of political expediency and financial pragmatism. Given that Labour has broadly hinted it will continue with Sieghart’s recommendations I see no genuine change of course from that quarter should they form the next government.”
  • Four things you might not know about Library RFID – Changing Libraries. “Over the past two weeks I’ve been talking to quite a few UK librarians about RFID issues. A few had misconceptions about some aspects of the technology and suggested that it might be helpful if I posted about them here. So here goes…”
  • ‘Leap in and have a go’ at marketing – Alyson’s Welsh Libraries blog. “it was an excellent day, celebrating all the fantastic marketing work undertaken by staff in archives, libraries and museums across Wales, often with very limited resources. You can see all the entries including the winning ones, and the judge’s comments, on the library staff toolkit website.”
  • Penarth Library – ProTeen Award Winner of the Welsh public library marketing award.  “We must be doing something right because they keep coming back”. Event attracting 40 to 50 teenagers. Other entries in the category are here.
  • Sieghart reveals task force digital ambitions – BookSeller. “The Leadership for Libraries task force is backed by £250,000 funding from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, will look for more funding from trusts and foundations, and hopes to appoint a “brilliant” chief executive in addition to chair Paul Blantern, William Sieghart has revealed. Speaking at a Westminster Briefing event, The Future of Local Libraries, in London yesterday (19th March), Sieghart praised Blantern, Northampton County Council’s chief executive, whom he described as “plainly a doer…who knows how to get best practice spread.” He also said: “I have high hopes we will get an announcement as to who will be the chief executive of this task force – and it is one of the most impressive people I’ve met.” … “Sieghart said that the digital world was “possibly the saving grace for the library movement …  “I would hope within 18 months every library in the country – including community libraries – will have wi-fi….The government and the task force will [also] look at big corporations making donations of kit – tablets, screens, keyboards etc.”

International news

  • Council libraries are using JobBridge for ‘free labour’, says Sinn Féin – Yahoo News (Eire). “Some 173 people have been hired as librarians as part of the JobBridge internship scheme since July 2011. A further 125 people have been taken on in roles such as archive assistants or clerks. Sinn Féin has criticised this figure, saying many of these interns are or were working in county libraries, while no such vacancies are listed on blicjobs.ie. Adam Brennan spent nine months interning with Monaghan County Council Library service, on the JobBridge scheme. He was hired to work on a cataloguing project which entailed uploading data to the library database. Brennan claims that early on in his internship he was told that there would be no chance of employment.”
  • Creating 21st century libraries – Labor to establish $50 million public library infrastructure fund and massively boost annual funding – Labor (Australia). ” Foley Labor Government will create a new $50 million Public Library Infrastructure Fund – and double the annual State Government per capita subsidy for NSW public libraries in our first term – ensuring they are the most modern and best-equipped in the nation.”
  • Devonport Library (Te Pataka Korero o Te Hau Kapua), New Zealand – Public Libraries News (New Zealand).  A look at one of the more beautiful local libraries built in recent years, including the strategy behind its artworks, Maroi connection and the digital catflap.
  • Libraries are Undergoing a Revival as Apartment Buildings – PSFK (USA). A look at some existing and new library projects involving redeveloping public libraries with private builders/apartments etc.
  • The Libraries, They Are A-Changin’ – ABC Radio (Australia). “Libraries have long been the place to escape into a novel, read through the newspapers or research those in-depth assignments. While many of us would think of our local library as a place with shelves and shelves of books, we’re also in the middle of a digital revolution where hard copy is being rapidly replaced by hard-drive. Fortunately, despite so much information now available online and book sales continuing to fall in favor of electronic publications, libraries are continuing to thrive as digitally enabled community hubs. Ont his Nightlife podcast Tony is looking at the role that libraries continue to play in our lives and what many of them are doing to ensure it stays that way for years to come. Joining him in the studio is CEO at Australian Library and Information Association Sue McKerracker, as well as Director of Engagement at the State Library of Queensland, Jane Cowell.” … UK and US “in dire straits” but Australia “in a very strong position” and keen to stay that way in five years.
  • Report: New York Public Libraries in Dismal Shape – Wall Street Journal (USA). “The Ulmer Park Library in Brooklyn’s Bensonhurst neighborhood suffers from chronic leaks, its ceiling panels stained and crumbling over the heavily used Chinese-language section. At the Port Richmond Library on Staten Island, the bathrooms are often out of order because of backups and burst pipes. And at the 125th Street Library in Harlem, a large third-floor space that with funding might serve as an education center or computer lab instead sits empty, its paint peeling. In a report to be released Friday, the leaders of New York’s three public-library systems confirm that the city’s library branches are in bad shape” … “city’s capital plan now includes $566.1 million for libraries, including an increase in library capital funding for fiscal 2015 to $229 million from $205 million. “
  • Social Library Foundation – (Spain). “The aim of the Social Library Foundation is to contribute to reducing social inequalities through cooperation with public library projects aimed at the most vulnerable segments of society: children and young people with reading comprehension problems who are often from families with difficulties; unemployed people and migrants at risk of social exclusion; older people who have contributed to society and who now are often alone, etc.” … Prize for “Public Libraries and Social Commiitment” won by library in Catalonia to aid young people with social/digital divide.


  • Fab Futures: Public Libraries In The Digital Age – Exeter Central Library, 15th May. “This one day conference will explore how digital developments are influencing the way local, national and international public libraries are changing. It will examine the story behind the setting up of Fab Lab Devon and the ways in which libraries can work with Fab Labs and maker spaces to support innovation, creativity, business and economy in their communities.” includes list of taster sessions.

Local news by authority

  • Bristol – Disappointment at Central Library decision – Bristol 247. “We have seen with sadness and disappointment that a Bristol Council Development Control Committee meeting voted seven to three (with one abstention) to stop two floors of the Bristol Central Library being used as library space. Cathedral Primary School has finally achieved its ambition of installing children’s classrooms into subterranean library basements.” … “This would be distressing at any time – we have advocated the folly of such a short-sighted act from the beginning – but that it should come now in the middle of a public consultation on libraries is grossly ill-timed.”
  • Bristol – Reader’s letter: Library consultation must be transparent – Bristol Post. “if the public are being asked to comment then the criteria for the decisions taken needs to be transparent and fairly applied. At present I don’t feel that it is either consistent or clear. I have read the current library consultation document and would encourage the Bristol Post to highlight that the City Council is withholding the specific reasons for the proposed closures.” … “Questions need to be asked about the validity of the council’s evidence, as it appears that the financial cuts to date have left the library service without the skills or capacity to actually undertaken a robust and consistent assessment of existing provision. “
  • Cambridgeshire – Cambridge Library innovation and enterprise Centre – Girl in the Moon. “I’m not perfectly sure what I think, but it seems to have sprung from nowhere rather quickly, which isn’t great. And I don’t like the idea of private running of library spaces, or of serious charging for space use.”
  • Cambridgeshire – Controversy over future of Cambridge library – Cambridge Student. A look at the different political positions. “The decision has now been called in for review by the County Council’s executive board in light of concerns regarding a lack of adequate public consultation.”
  • Cambridgeshire – Library: huge public outcry – Councillor Amanda Taylor. “We have big doubts about KORA, the company set to take over the third floor of the library, and we need much more information on them and how they would be operating: for example, would people have to pay to sit and read in that part of the library under their management in future? We also strongly believe that the library members should have a say in such a huge change, as well as the public of Cambridge. It is after all a public library.
  • Cambridgeshire – Why there’s furore at Cambridge Central Library and anger at Alexandra Gardens treesCambridge News. “There was a protest outside Cambridge Central Library yesterday against the county council’s decision to transform the library’s third floor into an enterprise centre to encourage business growth and boost employment prospects.” … “”It is a huge change for the library which means involving an outside company and the loss of a café which is popular with a cross-section of our community,” said Dr Huppert. “While I am completely committed to doing everything we can to support people looking for work and make it easier for them to do so, I am concerned that this project has not been properly thought through. “It would be completely wrong to go-ahead with such a project without a full consultation with library users and detailed information about the project and Kora.” A petition set up by Claire Dylan had been signed more than 1,400 times.”
  • Croydon – Closing libraries an ‘attack on the soul of the country’ – Secret Life of God. “Library services have been the low-hanging fruit of the recession … Do the politicians know what they’re doing? The decade 2008-2018 (the year when the current deficit-focused spending plans end) will see the dismantling of the national network of libraries that has put free books and a quiet place to read in the heart of every community. As I wrote in my last blog, this kind of provision hasn’t been in place very long: the public library movement that our Victorian forebears began only came to fruition with the 1964 Act. That it should have lasted so short a time and be extinguished so soon makes me sad. “
  • Croydon – Library closure would be ‘disaster’ warns Society chairman – Inside Croydon. “The chairman of the Norwood Society has sent an open letter to the Croydon councillors who represent Upper Norwood, and to the MP for Lambeth South, Steve Reed OBE, to appeal for help in raising more funds for Upper Norwood Joint Library, which he says will not survive the cuts announced in the past month by Lambeth and Croydon councils.”
  • Devon – Library shake-up – Kingsbridge Gazette. ” franchised out to an independent operation in the latest county council move to save cash. Hundreds of staff working at all 50 Devon libraries could end up working for a community owned ‘mutual’ not for profit body which would run the library service instead of the county council. “
  • Harrow – Harrow Council pledge to work with community over Bob Lawrence, North Harrow, Rayners Lane and Hatch End library options – Harrow Times. “Harrow Council’s cabinet met at the Civic Centre, off Station Road, Harrow, last night to plans to make £500,000 worth of cuts to library services across the borough. ” … “”Council officers are still in discussions with campaigners to explore options that could involve co-sharing or community run library facilities, but the proposals must be financially viable so that community run libraries are self sustaining. “I know that the potential closures are deeply disappointing for all the residents and campaigners who have supported their community libraries. The reality is that we are not able to keep ten libraries open in the face of £83 million budget cuts and declining usage.””
  • Lambeth – Lambeth Culture 2020: do we feel consulted? – Brixton Blog. “I was shocked at the transparency of box-ticking at last night’s Lambeth Council’s  Culture 2020 consultation, where local residents were ‘consulted’ on Lambeth Council’s proposals as to how they should run our parks, libraries and leisure facilities with a reduced budget.” … “The meeting seemed to rely on people having done extensive research into funding options, or to blindly trust our council and their own research.”

“Here are a hundred residents, passionate about the cultural assets of their ward, being made to feel like silly school children who haven’t done enough homework. It is the council’s responsibility to spell it out to their residents what they are doing and why, not to pay lip service to consultations to fulfill a legal requirement.”

  • Lambeth – Waterloo Library: little enthusiasm for volunteer-run service – London SE1. “The council is suggesting selling Waterloo Library and replacing it with a community library run by a social enterprise or charity using volunteers. Lambeth cabinet member for neighbourhoods Cllr Jane Edbrooke, who recently faced a hostile audience at the South Bank Forum, was heard in silence as she outlined possible changes to library provision in Waterloo. “Like you I hate these cuts,” said Cllr Edbrooke in her five minute address. “I don’t want to be making them.”” … “However, during the round table discussions there was strong opposition to a new Waterloo library being run by volunteers. Working people lacked time and were not experienced to so without professional leadership, said a resident from The Cut. One table voted to maintain the council’s direct control rather than outsource the service.”
  • Manchester – Ten of Manchester’s hidden gemsTime Out. Chetham’s Library is top: “The UK’s oldest public library, this one is often overlooked in favour of the limelight-hogging John Rylands. Tucked away behind Chetham’s School of Music, the library was founded by Humphrey Chetham back in 1653 and now houses over 100,000 books. The clinchers, though, are the moody decor and imposing architectural features that give the building its character, along with its perfect city-centre location.”
  • Oxfordshire – Makeover complete at Bodleian libraries – ITV News. Loads of money spent on new building for rare and in demand items.
  • Peterborough – Fifteen voluntary redundancies expected across Peterborough’s libraries – Peterborough Today. “The redundancies are anticipated to cost £120,000-£150,000 but mean nobody will be forced to leave their job.”

“Bretton, Orton, Central and Werrington libraries are to have their own assistant to oversee the new self-service technology, called Open+, during all un-staffed hours. Concerns were raised by councillors about the safety of these new Open+ assistants when they are on their own and how secure the libraries will be during un-staffed hours. The new assistants are yet to be appointed. Ms Roberts said: “There will be live CCTV and audio which can talk to people in the library. “Risk assessments are in place for lone workers and there are emergency phones.”