So I’ve just read that Middlesbrough Council are going to call all their libraries but one “community hubs”. Now, ask anyone what a library is and they’ll tell you. People love libraries or at least have a strong mental image of what one is or should be. Ask the same people what a “community hub” is and you may get a lot of scratched heads.  It sounds, and is, like a management term and not one which has organically developed. “Community” sounds like a great positive word and “hub” is very 21st Century.   It’s a term that is used by people who think libraries are on the way out, don’t understand libraries anyway or who have lost touch with the public.  Sounds great in meetings though but why not just call it a community centre? It means exactly the same thing, word for word, as community hub.  The reason is people know what a community centre is while “hub” sounds just so much more now.  When those in charge of such a literate thing as a library start changing the words, you know there’s trouble. And the trouble too often is there is no money and, because of that, intrinsically non-money making things like libraries are now services non grata amongst bureaucrats who don’t care, or who don’t care enough.

The tragedy is that “library” is the strongest brand we have.  Libraries and librarians are trusted.  By changing the name of a thing you change the thing and, that is the hub, sorry, nub. With cuts being so deep, the stand-alone library is an increasingly rare beast because it’s never going to turn a profit.  Cafes don’t bring in the money, people don’t want just another shop and room hire alone is not going to pay the bills, certainly not if one has to pay for all these annoying books and public access computers anyway.  What stands a chance is co-locating all sorts of services from all the other agencies strapped for cash into one building and the library will lose space to them. Done right, there can actually be a lot of synergy in this, the library can be resurgent once more bringing together the whole into something greater than the parts.  Done wrong and you don’t have a library any more; you have just another untrusted council office that people only go to when they have to, plus a whole bunch of people looking (presumably) at their “community hub” cards and wondering what they can take out with them.


National news

  • Axiell Launches Spark to Access and Perform Key Library Services Anytime, Anywhere – Business Wire. New cloud-based library management system launched. “enabling library team members or volunteers to easily access the Axiell Library Management System from internet connected PCs, tablets or smartphone. Spark is designed to make the running and managing of a library simpler and more efficient. Library and partner staff, and community volunteers can focus on delivering more value-added services for patrons in the library and also in the community.” … “. Whether qualified librarian or volunteer, Spark can be picked up with minimal training, enabling everyone to work more efficiently and manage a library more effectively. ” … “Spark also comes with a permission system where the team can be granted different levels of access depending on their role and authority, what they need access to, or perhaps on whether they are permanent staff or volunteer. “
  • From Librarian to Entrepreneur – Huffington Post. Using York Explore as an example: “These librarians are the among the vanguard of a new generation of public service entrepreneurs. Many public services (not just libraries but also adult social care, support services for schools and even building regulation services) face the twin challenges of reducing budgets and ever increasing service user expectations. Most services have now squeezed all they can through traditional efficiency drives and now need to think much more radically about how they can sustain their service- possibly by going it alone” [NB. writer is co-founder of company encouraging more mutuals – Ed.]
  • McNab in Antarctic trek for #ReadingJourney appeal – BookSeller. “McNab had to overcome illiteracy as a teenager to become the  author he is today. He has gone on to publish dozens of books and regularly topped the bestseller lists. He said: “I’m a textbook example of how reading can change your life: at 17, in the army, I was given my first book to read and it was the beginning of something fantastic. Reading gives you knowledge, it gives you power. I’ve seen first-hand the incredible work The Reading Agency does to open up reading to more people and I’m delighted to name them my charity partner as I join the Endurance South Pole 100 Expedition.””

Nigel Adams, Conservative, Selby and Ainsty: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, what guidance he has given to local authorities on the inclusion of volunteer-led libraries in the sampling arrangements for PublicLending Right.
Ed Vaizey, Minister of State (Culture Media and Sport); The British Library administers the Public Lending Right scheme and calculates PLR payments using loans data from a sample of public library authorities. Where a local authority includes a community – supported library in its statutory library service, loans from that library would fall within the PLR scheme. Further information is available at www.gov.uk/public-lending-right-how-it-applies

They Work For You, 30th October 2015.

  • #OurCulture and the library and information sector – have your say – CILIP. “Cultural organisations and interested individuals are already contributing to the debate – It would be good for us to have a strong and positive library thread or story running through each of the four themes. The theme for November is “People”- how people engage with culture and how do we ensure everyone can access and experience culture – but you can still contribute to the previous discussions.”
  • Public Library and Other Stories by Ali Smith review – passionate about the printed word  – Guardian. “When you are in a library, you might not know what book you are looking for but the chances are that, even if you don’t, you will find it. As libraries and bookshops close, that keenest of pleasures – browsing, roaming, happening on whatever it was you did not know you were lacking – is in jeopardy, a joy the internet cannot replicate. Smith’s book that, in inferior hands, could have been a worthy bore, is a brilliant, comprehensive, unpredictable defence of public libraries. It is also a collection of stories characterised by an imaginative freedom underpinned by her reading. You can travel anywhere on an Ali Smith library ticket.”

“In a talk at last summer’s Edinburgh book festival, Smith explained that while editing this book, she asked friends what libraries meant to them (their eloquent answers bookmark her stories) and that during that short time – a couple of months – 23 libraries closed. Over the last seven years, more than a thousand have gone. The passion with which Smith resists this decline is moving – she has an unswerving sense that we are what we read. Her stories illustrate, too, that our lives are defined by what we borrow.”

International news

  • Canada – Here’s A Novel Idea: A Pint-Size Lending Library As A Placemaking Intervention – Fastcodesign. “It’s no secret that a thriving downtown is good for a city. To coax residents to its historic core, the town of Newmarket, a growing suburb north of Toronto, got creative and used architecture to get the job done. Enter the Story Pod, a portable lending library designed by Atelier Kastelic Buffey. Though it’s only 64 square feet, the pavilion is a veritable jewel box, with thoughtful details incorporated throughout the design. Two pivoting doors fitted with custom steel hinges open—like a book—to reveal reading nooks. Solar panels power the LED lights inside and the whole structure can easily be transported (a necessity due to Canada’s notorious winter weather).”
  • USA – As U.S. Libraries Are Outsourced, Readers See Public Trust Erode – Bloomberg. “A Maryland company that runs public libraries has more than doubled in size in the past decade as governments seek savings. Bibliophile residents complain that an investment in knowledge and culture is being milked for profit. Library Systems & Services LLC is running into opposition as it seeks to add the 24 libraries in Kern County, California, to its portfolio of 82 in six states, allowing the county to shed a unionized workforce of 118. The county north of Los Angeles would be the largest addition for LSSI since the firm, which is owned by Wayne, Pennsylvania-based Argosy Capital Group Inc., got into the book business in 1997.”
  • USA – Walking while you work: Phoenix library adds treadmills to computers – AZ Central. “Phoenix library-goers can now feel the burn while they browse the web, through “active workstations” recently unveiled at three city branches. Library computer have been fitted to desks on slow-moving treadmills, allowing patrons the chance to exercise while they look for books or do their homework. The treadmill work stations are the result of a $20,000 Super Bowl Legacy Grant received this year by FitPHX, the city’s healthy-living initiative. Palo Verde, Harmon and Yucca branch libraries now each have one treadmill workstation with available speeds from 0.5 mph to 2 mph.”

Local news by authority

  • Bournemouth – Library could be closed and relocated as council seeks to save £250k – Bournemouth Echo. “The council is undertaking a consultation about shutting Ensbury Park library on Columbia Road and moving its services to the nearby Bournemouth Learning Centre on Ensbury Avenue. The council, which says it needs to find £250,000 of savings from its library budget, issued a statement saying the plan “would offer customers the convenience of accessing a range of services in one location and be more cost effective”.” … “the library is currently open for 19.5 hours a week and that if the relocation to Bournemouth Learning Centre goes ahead, residents will be able to access the services six days a week. “
  • Greenwich – 100,000 could visit new library by Abbey Wood Crossrail stop – South London Press. “Plans for a new library for Abbey Wood located in the multi-million Cross Quarter development next door to the railway station was approved at a meeting of Greenwich’s cabinet. The vision is for “an attractive and modern facility with the potential to attract as many as 100,000 visitors per year” at the development which also features a new Sainsbury’s store. The new library is to replace the existing facility in Eynsham Drive.”
  • Hampshire – Hampshire library service closure proposals part of public consultation – BBC. “Some of its 48 libraries, which in total cost £12m to run, are under threat as the council looks to save £1.7m by 2020. The county council said more than 100 of its mobile stops had fewer than four customers and it cost £161 per person who used its mobile service. A public consultation on the proposals will run until 16 January.”  Cost per visit is £11 to a mobile library, £2 to a static one.
  • Lambeth – Calls for Lambeth Council Labour Cabinet to resign following decision to convert libraries into gyms – Brixton Buzz. Council “recommended turning three libraries into gyms. Conservative Group Leader Cllr Tim Briggs has ‘called in’ the Culture 2020 report for the Overview and Scrutiny Committee [pdf] to consider when it next meets at the Lilian Baylis School on 10 November.”
  • Middlesbrough – Libraries to become thing of the past under plans to revamp facilities as ‘community hubs’ – Gazette Live. “Plans have been drawn up by Middlesbrough Council over the future direction of the library service – which will see all except Central Library renamed as “community hubs”.” … “They include operating all libraries as “hubs” – adding additional services and letting other agencies take up space. A council report into libraries’ future said: “All existing libraries would be rebranded as community hubs and the range of services within them would be expanded to reflect the wider role.” … “It is planned that all libraries will be rebranded by April 2016 and would require “modest investment” in new signs. Other key proposals are: Encouraging other agencies to take space in the “hub”; Providing access to services previously only available in central council locations; The report also reveals that an application has been made to the Arts Council for £60,000 to install wi-fi in some buildings.”
  • Powys – Library teams up with blind peoples’ charity for initiative to get people online – Cambrian News. “Machynlleth Library and the RNIB have teamed up to help people with sight loss enjoy the benefits of being online. Under the initiative, residents with visual impairment of any age or ability can get free one to one technical support at the library or at home to get the most out of new technology, whether it is a laptop, tablet or smartphone. The support includes help adapting computer equipment or advice on the best equipment available with library and RNIB support setting up equipment to use Powys County Council library eBooks and e-audiobooks which are available free of charge.”
  • Southampton – Inquiry into Library provision in Southampton – Friends of Cobbett Road Library (press release). “Library Campaigners in Southampton have written to The Rt Hon John Whittingdale OBE MP, Secretary of State asking for a local inquiry into Library provision in Southampton. Five out of eleven libraries in the city, and also the mobile library will have council funding withdrawn as from the end of March 2016.  The future of each one looks at best shaky, and for some at least, the future is likely to be non-existent. Southampton City Council claim that groups have come forward and aim to provide volunteer run libraries but the members of Cobbett Road Library Friends Group as well as many other library users and groups from other libraries do not see this as a sustainable option in the particular cases of these libraries, especially with the costings involved and the lack of suitable volunteers with time available.” … Royston Smith MP and Caroline Noakes MP have both expressed their support for the requested inquiry.” see also Library campaigners ask minister for local inquiry  – Bitterne Park Info.
  • West Berkshire – Calcot children’s centre and Burghfield Common Library threatened – Get Reading. Overall council cut of £4.6m includes merging Burghfield Common and Mortimer libraries into one building in Mortimer and cutting one of the two mobile library services.
  • Wokingham Villagers demand return of librarian – Henley Standard. “Scores of people have signed a petition calling on Wokingham Borough Council to reinstate Ros Fernley, who was moved to Woodley library earlier this year after taking a six-week break due to illness. She took over at the library in Church Street, Wargrave, in 2008 and set up various activities, including a bridge club and coffee mornings.  Residents claim that since her departure the service has gone downhill and she is being badly missed.  The petition reads: “We the undersigned are appealing to the head of Wokingham libraries to please return our librarian, Ros Fernley, to Wargrave. Ros is the face of Wargrave library, always with a welcoming smile and so very helpful. She is missed enormously; she knows everyone who enters the doors. “