It’s been a very busy few days for me, with lots to think about for the future of libraries interspersed with more prosaic but no less important domestic matters. The thing that has come from it most clearly for me though is the need for a positive, open and optimistic frame of mind.  It is all too easy in UK public libraries in 2015 to get depressed or focus on the tasks immediately ahead of you and not further afield.  Sometimes, perhaps, at the moment it’s impossible to do otherwise.  But if one has the chance to look up (and one is not fearing immediately for one’s job) then, and I’m going to annoy a few people here, this is actually a most interesting time to work in the sector.  Libraries have never been in such pressure as now and so, counter-intuitively, there should be never a better time to try something new, to re-examine priorities and to (heavens above) look what the community wants and try to serve those needs.  This may even be concentrating on what libraries have traditionally been good at (study areas, expert advice and free materials are actually pretty good unique selling points) or it could be something radically differeny.  The point is that there’s a world of innovation out there and it needs to be critically examined.  We need to look atthe things we do and ensure that they’re right and we need to look at new innovations – and I’m loving the books on buses idea – and how to fund them if they stand up to scrutiny.  This is not easy, perhaps the hardest thing to do we can but, you know, we have to.  And, by doing so, we can make public libraries better than they ever have been before. Especially if we can take the decision makers with us. More on that, perhaps, in another post soon.



National news

” the meeting felt that the more pressing need was some specific, pragmatic user experience (UX) work and outputs would benefit all stakeholders. The rationale can be summarised in the following way:

Public libraries are in deep trouble, They are in an increasingly competitive environment for ‘library services’, Hard times are *exactly* the time to put resources into innovation, There is huge value in looking at how we can improve the user experience. ‘UX’ is a growing agenda for business and the public sector. (e.g. Gartner 2015: “Renovating the customer experience is a digital priority.”). While tech isn’t the whole answer of course it can play a vital role”

  • Little Chalfont Community Library annual report 2014/15 – Annual report from Buckinghamshire Library which has won national awards and is often used as a case study gives an idea of what’s involved.
  • Marketing Excellence Awards 2015 – Winners Announced – PPRG (CILIP). Winners include “Aberdeen City Libraries participated in the Wild Dolphins project which saw life-sized sculptures appear on the streets of Aberdeen. They volunteered to display small sculptures designed by schoolchildren in libraries and created the Library Dolphin Trail to encourage families to visit and find out more about library services and resources.”, “the first ever festival run by Leeds Libraries, which took place in February 2015. The aims were to showcase the range of activities and services they provide, raise awareness of their work and engage with new and existing customers in a fun and innovative way.” and “Cityread London is an annual initiative which promotes reading for pleasure and redefines the capital’s libraries for emerging generations of Londoners. Every April it selects a novel set in London and brings it to life, through a month-long programme of author talks, interactive performance, book groups and other events.  The judging panel was highly impressed by the huge range of really innovative, exciting, and well-targeted engagement activities.”
  • Our National Library Science Experiment Concludes – Common Libraries. “, we conducted a ‘National Library Science Experiment’ and supported x5 ‘Hack the Library’ days to better understand the potential for Common Libraries to enhance the appeal, resilience and sustainability of libraries in future, before presenting our work at two national events for further discussion, with funding from Arts Council England. Today, we’re delighted to publish the findings from our recent activities working with library authorities around the country.” … “with 20% of library authorities in England expressing initial interest and 10% actively participating. Maker Instruction Set loans proved of interest in places as diverse as NewcastleNorthamptonshire and the City of London. And, we were particularly pleased to learn that, in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, staff opted to use the Baking Macaroons Instruction Set in a group setting and, as a result, a library user stepped forward and now runs a fortnightly ‘We Can Make Club’; so far, those involved have made lava lamps, planted seeds and, even, made a bird house!”

As part of our work with the Speak Up For Libraries Coalition we are seeking the views of UNISON library members on their experiences of volunteer-led libraries. If you have any experiences of being part of a library service that has been handed over in part to volunteers then please share your experiences with us. Speak Up for Libraries would welcome hearing from anyone with a view about volunteer-led ‘libraries’ (often called ‘Community Libraries’), whether it be that of a volunteer, a library worker or a library user. What works well and what doesn’t? What are the challenges and considerations? What is the impact on the library service and what do you see as the future? The information you provide will be used to inform SUFL advocacy and that of its coalition partners. A summary of the evidence will be produced and made available for wider use. All information received will be anonymised unless specific permission has been given to identify the contributor and the names of library or library service.Please email queries, comments and information to SpeakUp4Libraries@gmail.com” Unison

  • Real life stories win Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals – Telegraph. “Tanya Landman has won the CILIP Carnegie medal for Buffalo Soldier, which is based on the life of Cathy Williams, an African-American woman and former slave who enlisted in the army as a man, keeping her gender secret for two years … Shackleton’s Journey, a non-fiction account of the explorer Ernest Shackleton’s crossing of the Antarctic written and illustrated by William Grill, wowed judges of the CILIP Kate Greenaway medal for the best illustrated children’s book of the year.”


  • Charleston shooting victims included librarian and recent college grad – Kron4 (USA). “Cynthia Hurd’s brother took some comfort in knowing that his sister died in the church she grew up in and loved. Hurd, 54, was the manager of one of the busiest branches of the Charleston County library system. In her honor, the system closed all 16 of its branches Thursday, the day after her death. She grew up in Charleston, and her mother made sure they went Emanuel AME Church on Sundays, Wednesdays and any other time it was open, said her brother Malcolm Graham, a former state senator from North Carolina.” … “She was also looking toward retirement after 31 years of library work. The library issued a statement remembering Hurd as “a tireless servant of the community who spent her life helping residents, making sure they had every opportunity for an education and personal growth.””
  • Roanoke puts ‘Books on Buses’ to encourage kids’ summer reading – Roanoke (USA). “As part of the Star City Reads program, Mayor David Bowers announced the launch of Books on Buses in front of a group of young children and day care teachers at the city’s Main Library on Monday. The program is designed to encourage grade-level reading by providing free books for parents and children on their daily commute on Valley Metro buses. Approximately 20 to 30 packets containing five children’s books each will be available on three city buses. “One [of the buses] is the VA bus up to the VA hospital, one is the Valley View bus and one is the Goodwill Salem bus,” said Bowers.”

Local news by authority

  • Birmingham – British Library joins Library of Birmingham for cultural partnership – Birmingham Post. “The British Library is teaming up with the Library of Birmingham on a new cultural partnership which will include a special project to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. The ground-breaking initiative has arisen from talks designed to help support the cash-strapped Library of Birmingham as the city council struggles with budget cuts. A cultural partnership, the deal will allow both organisations to share expertise and work on joint projects around the Library of Birmingham’s world-class historic archives and collections.”
  • Bristol – Stephen, aged 8, collects 450 names for petition to save library under threat of closure – Bristol Post. “His father, Graham said: “He came home one day and said he was going to start a petition and we said, ‘OK, off you go, then’ and thought nothing more of it. “But within a short space of time, he had got about 300 names.” Stephen started by collecting names from family and friends before turning to class mates and staff at Sea Mills primary school. He now has names on the petition from as far afield as Australia and New Zealand. Tim Wallis, convenor of the Friends of Sea Mills Library, said: “Stephen is very focused about his petition.”
  • Coventry – Anti-cuts protest before first full meeting of newly elected Coventry City Council today – Coventry Telegraph. “Anti-cuts campaigners will protest ahead of the first full meeting of the newly elected Coventry City Council today (Tuesday). The group will arrive outside the Council House at 1pm an hour before the full council meeting is due to start. A combination of groups, including Save Coventry Libraries, are due to attend in a bid to put pressure on the council and fight budget reductions. Council leaders have warned of swingeing multi-million pound budget cuts amid a £65million reduction in central government funding.”
  • Coventry – Protest at council against libraries and disabled jobs service cuts proposals – Coventry Observer.  “Tile Hill has joined other areas including Finham, Earlsdon and Willenhall in starting a petition to protect their library from potential cuts in future years. Coventry council’s ruling Labour leaders earlier this year mooted the prospect of libraries closing in the face of ongoing government funding cuts under a policy called ‘City Centre First’, before announcing a full review of the service.”
  • Fife – Communities to be consulted on Fife’s proposed library closures Fife Today. “, after concerns were raised by Councillor Brian Goodall, SNP group leader, and following a brief meeting between councillors and cultural trust board members, it was decided that public consultations would be carried out before the executive committee makes a decision on the proposals at its meeting on September 29.”
  • Fife – Public urged to fight ‘tooth and nail’ to save closure-threatened libraries in Fife – Courier. “North-east Fife’s SNP MSP, MP and councillors have joined forces in a campaign to prevent up to six library closures across the constituency … Describing the proposals as “disproportionate” and “unjustifiable”, MSP Roderick Campbell has written to Fife Council’s chief executive to urge the council’s executive committee, which meets tomorrow, to reject the proposals. He has also asked the Scottish Government to intervene.”
  • Lincolnshire – Lincolnshire County Council library plans to be challenged again in the High Court – Save Lincolnshire Libraries.  Looks at the grounds for the judicial review including (1) failure to consult about alternative proposals (2) council reduced the library service and (3) failure to consider alternatives under best value.

“The Committee has also supported the decision to limit the cut to the Libraries NI budget to 7·5% in the hope that no libraries will have to close. This will, however, mean that the Department and other arm’s-length bodies carry a larger cut. With respect to libraries, temporary and relief staff have already gone, and, after a consultation exercise, Libraries NI is examining its options regarding opening hours. The reality is that libraries will be forced to open for fewer hours, and the budget for new stock will see a considerable fall. The Committee is a strong supporter of our libraries; they are at the heart of our communities and offer considerable potential to be developed further as the arts and cultural hubs that help to build community cohesion and offer opportunities for expression to our people.” Northern Ireland – Budget (No.2) Bill 2015: Second Stage – They Work For You.

  • Redbridge – Redbridge’s libraries bringing communities together – Ilford Recorder. “The most recent report by CIPFA (the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy) reveals there were 282 million visits to UK branches between March 2013 and March 2014 – 12 per cent less than 2010, when there were 322 million. This picture is indeed bleak, but Redbridge is bucking the trend. The same report revealed Redbridge Central Library is the 14th busiest in England, with 634,675 visits during the last recorded year.”

“The libraries are not simply about dishing out books – they provide us with so many opportunities for human interaction.” … “Libraries give you a sense of belonging in your environment, which means you look after it and the people in it.””

  • St Helens – St Helens council plans for £23m cuts to services in next two years – Liverpool Echo. “This could mark the end of the road for some or all council-run libraries across the borough, with the chief executive suggesting other providers may have to step in. Councils are obliged to ensure there is library provision available, but not to run libraries themselves.”
  • Staffordshire – UKIP ready to fight alongside the Green Party over future of mobile library service – Lichfield Live. “UKIP have offered to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Green Party, if Staffordshire County Council decides to completely scrap mobile library services across Lichfield and Burntwood” … Greens say ““Our party firmly opposes Staffordshire County Council’s proposed cuts to the mobile library service,” he said. “We believe that the cuts under consideration directly contradict Staffordshire County Council’s statutory duty under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 to provide ‘a comprehensive and efficient library service’.”
  • Suffolk – Ipswich County Library launches new Enterprise and Innovation Hub – Suffolk Libraries. “The new space has been named The Carnegie Room to mark the library’s connection with entrepreneur Andrew Carnegie and some of the funding to build the library in 1924 was donated by the UK Carnegie Trust. The hub was launched at an event attended by Brian Ashley, Head of Libraries at Arts Council England, Suffolk County Councillor Sarah Stamp, Portfolio Holder for Communities, plus guests from Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, Eastern Enterprise Hub, New Anglia Growth Hub, Suffolk Libraries Board and Friends of Ipswich Library. Suffolk Libraries has developed the Enterprise + Innovation Hub as a dedicated centre supporting local entrepreneurs, start-ups, business owners and creative minds. Located on the recently adapted second floor of the library, the hub provides three main services: hireable meeting space, business advice and information, and a communal ‘MakerSpace’ (named ‘The Lab’) which contains 3D printers, computer coding kits and professional sewing machines.”
  • Swindon – Council hires new staff to ease pressure on library – Swindon Advertiser. “In recent months, the library has suddenly closed because there have not been enough staff to run the facility. It was usually manned by only one person, meaning if they had a day off or were sick then no-one was available to take over. This has subsequently led to much frustration from local residents but it is now hoped the problem has been resolved.” … “Agreements have been reached with existing staff to increase their hours while a number of other staff have been hired. “
  • York – No plans to close York libraries – York Press. “Concerns had been raised that plans for the library in Huntington to develop a health and wellbeing hub in partnership with a GP surgery, could be an indication that the library may eventually close.” … “Fiona Williams, chief executive of Explore York Libraries and Archives, said more than 8,000 people had joined libraries in the city in the first five months of 2015, with more than 2,200 children attending under-fives story time, and more than 150 volunteers working at venues around the city. “