The Support for Axminster Library campaign have gained a pile of Devon library related emails from a Freedom of Information request.  There’s a ton of them, many confusingly listed or with bits blacked out, but what there is has been combed through.  The result is that the campaign has come up with several things including the fact that Axminster Library is indeed funded below what it should be in terms of its usage and that there was a visit to the library by decision makers that was kept quiet in order to avoid campaigners being present.  This is being seen as important due to major cuts in funding, including the suggestion that Axminster may face closure if volunteers do not support it. Which is a shame because Axminster Library is pretty hot stuff – it’s busy, well-supported, has a lego club and even the only seed library I’m aware of in a UK public library – and the library campaign is understandably not happy.

To my mind, though, there’s no major scandals in the emails between the chief librarian (and current President of the Society of Chief Librarians), the relevant councillors and others.  Which is just as well for them because what there is is being used by the campaigners for all that it is worth. The major take-home lesson for all library workers from this is that all library-related staff – and councillors – need to be very careful in what they say even in internal emails.  Imagine if there was a disparaging remark about even one person in one of those discovered in Devon? It would have been easy enough for something to slip in what must be a stressful and busy time there.  So, treat every email as if it is a public one and write only what is publicly defensible.  This may sound like a bind but, frankly, professionals should be doing that anyway shouldn’t we?

In other news, my thanks to Carillion-owned Cultural Community Solutions Ltd for sending me details of the new lego activities that they are starting from the Summer in their several library services.  This includes the new and impressive (I can vouch for this as I’ve been shown the stuff myself by Lego Education) lego learning sets.  Most interestingly for those looking at income generation (and, on the other hand, those fearful of it) is that the weekly clubs will be charged for, as will lego parties, lego class visits and even lego teambuilding sessions for businesses.  That’s taking it to the next level … but in these days of deep budget cuts, perhaps it is the only way.

Finally, I’ve learnt that the public libraries debate between Ed Vaizey and Alan Gibbons is provisionally booked for 10th September.  Keep that date free. If the DCMS libraries section (hi folks, I know you read PLN regularly) would like the proper statistics for use in this debate, please email me at the address below. I’ll even tailor them for England only if you want as I know your boss Mr Vaizey has said in parliament that he refuses to use them as they mention Scotland and Wales occasionally. I’ve already sent them to Alan. While you’re here, you could also look at the international news section for how Australia is using its libraries to boost all sorts of things, including community cohesion and STEM.

Please send your news, views, government departmental requests for information, comments and corrections to ianlibrarian@live.co.uk.

Carillion Libraries and Lego Education

Carillion Libraries are working in partnership with LEGO Education to deliver exciting resources linked to the STEM and literacy curriculums to children developing an interactive learning environment in the library. Carillion manage library services on behalf of the local authorities in Croydon, Ealing, Harrow and Hounslow. Library staff have been trained on how to use the resources and deliver sessions and session plans are included as part of the resource. The resources include computer software that helps children build models step by step adding sensors to the models which brings them to life using basic coding and robotics.

Carillion Libraries will be launching the resources with a visit from LEGO Education to each of their four boroughs in July, with some taster sessions in the summer and the offer of regular LEGO clubs using the box sets of resources and computer software on a weekly basis from September. The aim is to deliver sessions in partnership with Family Learning and with schools. The websites give further information an example is the Ealing Libraries website.

The range of resources include:

The libraries will offer free taster sessions over the Summer. From then on there will be weekly lego clubs as well as other activities not previously seen in public libraries including “Lego parties”, the hiring out of Lego sets for INSET days in schools, team building sessions for businesses and – interestingly – class visits to libraries which will include 45 minutes in the normal library and 45 minutes using the lego. It is expected that most, if not all, of the latter will be charged for, with the class visits being pitched at £100.



  • Using lego to make money – Carillion Libraries will charge for weekly lego club, class visits including lego, lego parties and business teambuilding events.


  • Developing the digitally literate library workforce – Public Sector Executive. Ciara Eastell looks at the online training provided by SCL etc to all public librarians in England.  “I don’t think we were prepared for the level of participation we got on the Digital Skills Training Programme. This was the first training of its kind to be undertaken in public libraries and a lot of planning went in to the design of the training programme. We really listened to what library staff said they wanted to concentrate on, whilst also balancing what they would need to know to help deliver the government’s digital agenda. “
  • Radical Research – Lauren Smith. Looks at examples of libarry research that needs doing but is not being done e.g. the implications of filters on public access machines and the possibility of losing the opportunity of using the powerful research tool that is the Freedom of Information request.
  • Respected US professor says libraries are places of knowledge creation and librarians are our educators – CILIP. “In his exclusive UK appearance on his worldwide tour, distinguished US scholar R. David Lankes said librarians have the power to change the world by “promoting informed democracy” as he addressed delegates in a keynote speech at the opening of the CILIP Conference 2015 in Liverpool. Speaking to nearly 600 members of the UK and international library and information professions gathered at St. George’s Hall, Lankes said: “Libraries are not about books, and librarians are not about collections, nor are they about waiting to serve. Our libraries are mandated, mediated spaces owned by the community, and librarians are educators dedicated to knowledge creation who exist to unleash the expertise held within their community.”
  • SCL Continues to Raise Digital Skills and Leadership Standards – Society of Chief Librarians. “To date, more than 14,000 library staff members, 80% of the workforce, have completed a SCL Digital Skills E-learning programme. SCL commissioned Oakleigh Consulting to evaluate the e-learning programme and the highlights from their report are published today. Supporting Digital Access to Information and Services Executive summary 20-03-15. In  autumn 2014 SCL commissioned Shared Intelligence and Ethan Ohs to initiate a Digital Leadership Skills workforce development programme. The central objective of the pilot course was to create a training programme for current and emerging library leaders which took pressing issues relating to digital technology, and used them to explore and develop leadership skills and competencies. Seventeen library leaders took part in the pilot. The evaluation of the pilot course is published today. SCL Digital Leadership Report
  • Stressed, angry and demonised: council staff in austerity Britain – Guardian. “Staff are well into the fifth year of a public sector pay freeze that is unlikely to thaw until at least 2018. By 2016, the government will have slashed grants to councils by £11.3bn, and since 2010, 500,000 council workers have lost their jobs, according to Unison statistics. Pressure mounts on the staff who remain: 81% of local government respondents to our survey said they have to work beyond their hours to keep up with the workload, while 90% believe stress is a fact of life for public sector employees. “

“It’s hard to say no in a climate of insecurity – if you’re the procurement officer who has already been threatened with redundancy four times, or the assistant librarian asked to train volunteers you suspect will soon usurp you.”


  • Badass Girl Who Got Her Library to Open Up “Boys-Only” Robotics Class to All Genders Is Your New Hero – Cosmopolitan (Canada). “When Cash Cayen discovered the Timmins Public Library in Ontario, Canada was offering a robotics class, she got excited. But as Buzzfeed reports, there was only one problem—the class was only offered to boys.”
  • Five libraries nominated for the award as the world’s best public library – IFLA (International). “Five libraries are competing to win “Systematic – Public Library of the Year Award 2015”. The award was established by the Danish Agency for Culture and was sponsored this year by the IT company Systematic with a US $5,000 donation. Libraries from New Zealand, Sweden, Australia, Kenya and Spain, respectively, are in the running for the honour and US $5,000 prize money at stake, when the Danish Agency for Culture and Systematic unveils the world’s best public library 2015. This will take place at the annual meeting of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) in Cape Town, South Africa on 16 August 2015.”
  • The Fix — how to rescue Public Libraries – Medium (Australia). “Customer borrows audiobook about Genghis Khan. Enjoys it. A week or so after borrowing it she receives an email (sms/ DM/ IM/ FB message/ — delete or add to taste) from her Online-Librarian. The friendly, casual email asks if she’d like her Online Librarian to find any more goodies about Mongols, “Just click if you would, please just ignore if you prefer not to.” Customer clicks. Online Librarian sends back that he’s on it and will get back to her with a list of things she might like. …” … “The Public Libraries primary business model of information and entertainment search and delivery is broken. This collapse presents a real threat to the future of a vibrant and healthy democracy.” … “Libraries should abandon Search, Discovery and Delivery as their primary business focus and adopt a new model which markets a “Librarian-enriched” experience in information and entertainment consumption.”
  • Free public libraries are thriving in the digital age – Sydney Morning Herald (Australia). “Libraries are changing. The bookshelves are gone, resources are stored off-site and machines retrieve your request. You scan your own books at the checkout, and if you want to “ask a librarian” it’s an online form or phone call. Yet the latest figures from the State Library of New South Wales suggest that libraries are thriving, with 35 million visits in 2013-14 and 45 million loans recorded. Dr Alex Byrne, head librarian and chief executive of the State Library attributes this to innovation: adapting to digital times, providing free Wi-Fi, making services available remotely and hosting a variety of programmes and quirky events.”
  • Guest Book Review: Disaster Planning for Libraries: Process and Guidelines – Scholarly Kitchen (USA). “Guy Robertson’s Disaster Planning for Libraries: Process and Guidelines, is long on lists and short on practical advice for putting together a succinct disaster plan. Its strength is in risk identification and includes inventories of possible threats including toxic spills, train derailments, and nuclear power plant failures. Its weakness lies in the limited number of insights it offers for actually addressing these hazards.” … “The readily available, two-page template called the Pocket Response Plan for Collections (Council of State Archivists or Western States and Territories Preservation Assistance Service) goes unmentioned”
  • How a Public Library Can Improve Public Participation and Democracy – Biblioteket Tar Saka (Norway). “The Library Takes Up the Case (LTC) – this is the name chosen for a new kind (however based on traditional library principles) of Web-based knowledge portal that libraries should start offering to their communities, for the purpose of meeting one of the major challenges of our time; the uncertain future of public participation and true democracy.”
  • How to (Almost) Ruin a Great Library – Daily Beast (USA). “Public libraries have lately shifted their mission from culture to social services. The NY Public Library’s main branch was almost a casualty of this trend.” … “Its holdings are larger than any other local library system in America and also different. Millions of books and a priceless archival collection do not circulate but may be consulted by anyone with a library card at 42nd Street or one of the three other research facilities.” … “Acting in part on the advice of outside management consultants, library leadership began to “monetize[e] non-core assets” during the early 2000s. ” … “Then came the Central Library Plan. The idea was to gut the stacks and create a massive new circulating library inside 42nd Street” … “The library was forced to formally scrap the Central Library Plan in spring 2014 when an independent audit revealed that the full bill would have been in excess of $500 million, up from the original $300 million.” … ““This is a book about a world-class library that lost its way in the digital age.””

“Whoever’s behind it, the ascendant “21st century library” movement is doubly misguided: the motivation is too often nothing more than a play for more public funding and it’s not clear libraries are good at social services. Public libraries face powerful temptations to embrace fads and go where the money is. But sometimes, the real heroes are those with the patience and fortitude simply to muddle through.”

  • Kathleen Syme Library opens bringing a new hub to the Carlton community – The Age (Australia). “If books are all but dead, why has the City of Melbourne built three new libraries in the past three years, with a fourth one in the pipeline? These have been big investments.” … “a response to the inner city’s growing and diversifying population. “Our essential role is to provide opportunities for local, vulnerable and disadvantaged people to be empowered and participate in community life.”

“the international trend is to “scaffold libraries with other social infrastructure so residents can access a range of services… and it serves to build social cohesion. People value coming here and being treated as a citizen rather than a consumer.”

  • Why public libraries are the perfect ‘third place’ – Tessa Fox Reads. “In his book The Great Good PlaceRay Oldenburg explains that third places all share common features: They are neutral, meaning people can come and go without penalty, They are level, meaning everyone there is equal, Conversation is the main activity in third places, Third places are accessible — no reservation needed! Third places have many trusty regulars, Third places are unpretentious, The dominant mood of a third place is playful. Boy, these third places sure are sounding an awfully lot like public libraries … am I right?!”



  • Bristol – Submission from Royal National Institute of Blind People to Bristol City Council ‘Libraries for the future’ consultation – RNIB. a long, considered and well researched view on the value of public libraries. “The loss of the community asset is most keenly felt by vulnerable members of the local community, namely, the young, the old, the unemployed, the disabled and the poorer members of society. They are least able to travel to a library service further away or to purchase what they would previously have borrowed from the library. This is particularly the case for blind and partially sighted people as many find it difficult to travel outside their local area and do not have the financial resources to purchase large print and audio books.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Shared reading in Cheshire West and Chester – Reader Organisation. “Our new project in partnership with Cheshire West and Chester Council is bringing shared reading to carers and those they care for across the borough. Shared reading provides carers with the valuable time and space to connect with literature and others, improving wellbeing and building resilience. Weekly groups are currently running in Chester Library, Ellesmere Port Library and Northwich Carers Centre, with one-to-one sessions also available”
  • Lambeth – “At last, something I can talk about!” – Fun Palaces at Lambeth Libraries – Signal in Transition. “I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be working as a creative producer with the London Borough of Lambeth, helping their library staff to devise and deliver ten Fun Palaces with local communities on Saturday 3rd October 2015. Fun Palaces are the international movement creating pop-up venues for communities to try their hands at science and the arts. Last year, I worked with Parkes Library on Australia’s first Fun Palace which incorporated tabletop games and supervillainous challenges alongside creative play for all ages.”
  • Leicestershire – Burbage Parish Council makes bid to save village library – Hinckley Times. “Burbage Parish Council is the latest to throw its hat into the ring in a bid to save the village’s library. The parish council held an extraordinary meeting on Monday to discuss the issue and decided it would enter the running.” … “Only last week Leicestershire county Council confirmed Elliswood Brewery in Hinckley had put forward a proposal to run the library in Church Street.”
  • Leicestershire – First volunteer-run library to be launched – Loughborough Echo. “Barrow-upon-Soar is set to be the first library in the county to be entirely manned by volunteers, according to Leicestershire County Council. Last year, the council called for volunteers to run rural libraries otherwise they would face closure. The county wants to save £800,000 from its current £5.6m libraries budget and felt these cuts could be made from job losses. The council will be providing villages with a package of support, including funding for the next seven years, but will remove its involvement after such time. At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, June 16, the council detailed the current status of all 36 community libraries. It stated that Barrow-upon-Soar will be the first community library in Leicestershire and is set to open by mid to late July.”
  • Leicestershire – Volunteer with Us – Reader Organisation. ““I always come away feeling enthusiastic and refreshed. It’s great to meet other group leaders and share experiences.” We’re currently seeking volunteers to help run and assist in regular shared reading groups across Leicestershire as part of our project with Leicestershire Libraries. Volunteers will commit 1.5 hours per week (plus time for preparation and support) and will receive full training.”
  • Lincolnshire – Council merger – Let’s focus on north-west – Market Rasen Mail. “There would be the chance, if local voters choose, of using some of the resulting cost savings on things such as reinstating the warden system within our sheltered housing complexes and supporting libraries”
  • Lincolnshire – Wainfleet Library – Lincolnshire County Council. “Wainfleet Library will be closed from 1pm on Saturday 6 June. The County Council’s lease on the building is coming to an end, and, in light of the planned changes to library services, the authority has decided not to renew it. Efforts are being made locally to develop plans for a volunteer-run facility, something the Council wholeheartedly supports. In the meantime, the Council will be providing a mobile so people can continue to use services.”
  • North Yorkshire – Meeting to decide fate of North Yorkshire’s libraries – Darlington and Stockton Times. “North Yorkshire County Council’s executive committee will meet on Tuesday, July 7 to decide whether to press ahead with a recommendation to axe staff at 21 libraries, whilst offering some support to help them stay open. When the proposals to reduce some libraries to volunteer-run centres were first proposed, more than 17,000 people protested to the council.” … “Volunteers at Great Ayton have to raise tens of thousands of pounds every year and receive £30,000 a year from the parish council to keep it running. Speaking after the proposals were discussed at a scrutiny committee meeting at County Hall, Cllr Blackie said it left the community-managed libraries with the “haves and have-nots”.” … “The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals has expressed concern nationally at the trend for libraries to become volunteer-led, as councils balance diminishing budgets”

“The Executive Committee of North Yorkshire County Council is to consider the report and recommendations on Library cuts on 7th July at County Hall in Northallerton”

  • Sefton – Birkdale library; anger as Sefton is set to sell site to developers – Visiter. “The Friends of Birkdale Library group has expressed anger that the public building could be demolished to make way for 14 new homes. A Sefton Council report has revealed that they have received a lucrative offer to build 14 semi-detached homes on the site. Len Davies, vice chairman of the Friends of Birkdale Library, said to the Visiter: “I cannot understand the cabinet’s decision. There are 4,800 children in the Birkdale area that need a library. There are several schools within one mile of the Birkdale Library site.” … “Birkdale library closed in 2013, as part of Sefton’s radical cost cutting agenda. The closure was bitterly opposed by the Birkdale Library Action Group, and the ‘Friends’ group”
  • South Lanarkshire – East Kilbride library axed in council budget cuts hosts farewell tea for loyal customers – Daily Record. “Calderwood Library closed its doors yesterday after falling victim to local authority budget cuts. The closure was branded a ‘disgrace’ by loyal customers. ” … “The library was due to close its doors yesterday (Tuesday) and last week staff organised a farewell tea for their loyal customers. A whole host of groups used the library for meetings and it was also popular with young mums and children.”

“This is one the town’s best assets and it’s closing – it’s a disgrace. “The staff even taught me how to use a computer in my 80s. I have been using the library for 30 years and I am shattered it’s closing.”