There’s a lot in this post.  There’s two short articles for a start: I have a quick look at the Google Digital Garage at Manchester Central Library and also give a guest spot to a library technology company to speak about the implications of the 3M/Bibliotheca merger.

I’d also like to point out the fascinating experiment in Fife where late fees have been abolished on the same day as a non-profit trust takes over.  Library fines have always been an integral part of public library culture but I’ve noticed a fair few US library services getting rid of them and now it is happening in the UK.  The argument is that you gain more in increased usage, better public relations and (counter-intuitively)  late books now returned as people had previously been too afraid of the charges.  It’s a risky and gutsy move, and it may blow up in their faces or just be opening PR,  but how great it would be if it not charging made libraries more money. It would certainly make he service more open and inclusive. For more on library fines, fines recovery and the underpinning ideas behind charging and not charging, see this page.

Then there’s the, what feels like, standard bits of bad news for English libraries. Bradford, Croydon and Swindon are all announcing pretty big (even for these days) cuts to service, with the ones in Croydon and Swindon being potentially utterly devastating. There’s also a smaller, but still significant, cut in Worcestershire. Then there’s the next instalment in the ongoing Lincolnshire saga, with the council – after fighting it tooth an and nail for years – finally accepting non-profit trust GLL taking over its remaining council-run libraries and hoping for further cuts (£500k is mentioned) in return. I suspect I’ll be covering that county for years more in PLN.


Pass Go …

Thanks to 2CQR for the following article, which follows concern over the combination of two of the biggest library suppliers, Bibliotheca and 3M. 

Fears of a monopoly of library technology companies may be exaggerated

Fears of a monopoly of library technology companies may be exaggerated

“Once upon a time there were libraries with books…maybe newspapers, the odd magazine, quiet corners to catch up on a little R&R. The social history of modern libraries is fascinating and constantly presents challenging concepts for discussion and, as with the acceleration of the timescales of everything, we are seeing ever more views, opinions, comment … with R and R now appearing to mean react and respond. Maybe it was a seasonal thing, or just a reflection on less hurried times, that upon hearing of the latest mergers in the library supply chain and the accompanying noises, that the image of a well-known board game was conjured up.

Like Monopoly, libraries are part of our culture, enduring yet capable of arousing great passion. To most library users these are the familiar attributes we associate with our public or educational libraries. However, for librarians their purchasing departments and local authorities, it is the less desirable forfeit spaces; finance, accountability and return on investment that they keep landing on.  So where does the recent acquisition of 3m Library Systems by Bibliotheca fit into the game? From some we hear the frustrated cry that they are buying up the best property, will soon have all the stations and be managing the utilities. Others want to kick the board over and end the game, some scaremongers even seeing the whole game only being continued by taking their battleship token overseas.

What’s the reality?  Well, little has changed since The Library Management System Suppliers had their monopoly challenged by the Stock Management and Security Suppliers. This led to agreement amongst suppliers, recently through the new Library Communications Network, to give librarians a choice of equipment and suppliers. Now with software compatibility has come the development of high quality standardised, yet customisable products, and, with the expanded choice more innovation and competitive pricing. Phil Farrell CEO of 2CQR, previously 25 years with 3M, understands the concern of his former customers, “It’s not all about who has the most property on the board…it’s the quality of the property and the way you play the game”. So librarians can still enjoy Monopoly, moving around the board landing on reliable, experienced UK based suppliers who will help you avoid Chance, Jail and, in appropriate cases, Tax.”

National news

  • Ali Smith’s Public Library: civic space and intimacy – 50:50. “Smith’s latest collection opens with an anecdote about her and her editor Simon discovering a ‘library’ in central London. Intrigued by the library that doesn’t look like a library, they go in to discover more. What they find is a private members club; the only books displayed as décor. When it becomes clear they are not planning to join the club, they are coolly excluded.” … “Stories are shared about how libraries opened up the world, offering an escape from inner-city poverty and rural isolation; how libraries inspired a love of books; a love of writing; an interest in philosophy; a new career. Within every testimonial there is a palpable anger that this legacy is being slowly dismantled – most clearly stated in a passage on the legal case for libraries:”
  • The ‘atomised’ council is here to stay: stripped back to the most basic services – Guardian. “Birmingham’s city library has solicited public book donations in the absence of a budget to buy any, while 470 libraries countrywide have closed.” … “Though not quite the “slash and burn budget” many feared, this spending review lands on local government with a thud. “Unremittingly grim” is the assessment of Doncaster council’s chief executive. Measures allowing councils to retain business rates, add 2% to council tax for social care, and access a £250m pothole fund have been disparaged as “smoke and mirrors” and “a sticking plaster over a gaping wound”.”
  • Chair’s Report for 2015 – ASCEL. “This year the work of ASCEL has been focused heavily around the Universal Offers, in particular reading, learning and health. We’ve also been working to firmly embed the Children’s Promise and Library journeys as part of the suite of offers and are continuing our focus on workforce development, and we are delighted to be providing two sponsored conference places again this year.”

“”We are not getting the numbers completing the Challenge in our volunteer-led libraries with one or two notable exceptions, and some of our own smaller libraries are equally not getting the numbers – this is entirely down to staffing levels and enthusiasm, I would say … Some volunteer libraries have said they will do their own challenge but have not yet done so.  This would be regrettable as the national nature of the Challenge is so important to us, but we would have no control over this if they did wish to do so.  Also they would be unlikely to be able to buy such good incentives for the money in a home-grown scheme.” Anonymous on Volunteer libraries and the Summer Reading Challenge (via email)”

  • It is time ministers stood with councils to protect communities from austerity cuts – Herald Scotland. “Any Herald reader who has children at school, an elderly relative in a public sector care home, or who drives to work or the shops should be worried. The same goes for users of local libraries and leisure centres, to say nothing of council house tenants and those who simply like their local streets kept clean. “
  • National Libraries Day 2016 – Bibliotheca. “We have three grants of £1000 available to support UK libraries with their National Libraries Day plans on Saturday 6 February 2016.   We are looking for the most creative ‘outside the box’ ideas that will help libraries gain more momentum in their communities and encourage new members to join.  Any UK library can apply by simply completing the form below and telling us about your creative idea before 4pm on Friday 18 December 2015. “

“To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, if he will estimate the proportion of libraries which have reduced their opening hours in the last five years; and what assessment he has made of the effect of such changes on (a) library users and (b) community groups who use library premises.” Chi Onwurah MP (Labour, Newcastle)

“Each local authority is responsible for providing a comprehensive and efficient library service that meets the requirements of their communities, including consideration of opening hours.” Ed Vaizey MP – They Work For You.

  • Nielsen LibScan Public Library borrowing data for Period 8 (four weeks ending 8 August 2015) – Nielsen. “year-on-year, library borrowings have dropped when compared with Period 8 of 2014. The overall number of library loans through Nielsen LibScan decreased by 2.9% with Adult Specialist Non-Fiction loans decreasing by the biggest percentage, -8.6%. In contrast Children’s book loans have increased year-on-year by 0.9% to reduce the overall decline”
  • On Liberty, Reading and Dissent: Shami Chakrabarti delivers The Reading Agency Lecture 2015 Reading Agency. ““Words, first spoken, then delivered by script, print and now digital media, remain the principal means by which humans may contemplate, negotiate, mediate, adjudicate and agitate for a different world without constant need of violence. And human rights are the only truly universal language other than war.”

“It’s a privilege to give the Reading Agency Lecture; to reflect on the books that made me and the role of reading and free expression in democracy and dissent. When even our Human Rights Act is threatened, reading, thinking and arguing about abuses of power have rarely been more essential to protecting precious freedoms.” Shami Charkabarti

Google Garage

I was lucky enough to visit my current favourite big UK library, Manchester Central, on the first day that it’s Google Digital Garage opened.  This is where the search engine company takes over a part of the library for a few months to give one-to-one sessions to local businesses or seminars.  The sessions aim to give people an introductory understand to how to best put businesses on the web. As well as anything else, of course, the sessions also cover Google products, such as Google Analytics, and how best to use them.  It’s a soft sell at most, though, with no money changing hands.  For the library, it’s easy to see the attraction as it gets people in who would not normally use libraries and it makes the library look (even more so in the case of Manchester) modern and cool. For Google, it provides a high-footfall area with a reputation for fair dealing … that very reputation that libraries play with at their peril with commercial concerns. However, for Manchester I suspect it was a non-brainer as they already have a British Library Business and Intellectual Property Centre on the same floor and it’s a really good thing to tell the politicians about.

For other libraries looking into the possibility, the Google spokesman I spoke to said that they won’t necessarily do anything else in libraries – they are just finishing off at the Library of Birmingham and are doing at day at Leeds but that’s it – but it may be worth approaching them if you are interested and have a big space available in a big city.  I’m not sure if they pay your for the room hire though.

Google Garage at Manchester Central Library. Note the chipboard aesthetic to encourage a "start-up" feel

Google Garage at Manchester Central Library. Note the chipboard aesthetic to encourage a “start-up” feel

Google Garage very much encourages positive thinking and entrepreneurialism. On the other side of this board, a free seminar was going on

Google Garage very much encourages positive thinking and entrepreneurialism. On the other side of this board, a free seminar was going on

International news

  • Australia – Advancing Queensland Public Libraries Discussion Paper – Public Libraries Connect. “The Discussion Paper briefly outlines opportunities and challenges for the State Library of Queensland and Queensland’s public libraries against six priority areas; and aims to identify possible future directions for public libraries
  • Japan – Haruki Murakami’s library list is published, and Japanese librarians are up in arms – Los Angeles Times. “The Japan Library Assn. criticized the Kobe Shimbun newspaper for printing a photograph of a library card that contained the names of several Hyogo Prefectural Kobe High School students, including Murakami.” … “Agence France-Presse reports that the books Murakami checked out were by the French author Joseph Kessel, best known for his 1928 novel “Belle de Jour.” The novel is about a housewife who secretly works as a prostitute.” … “The library cards were leaked by a volunteer at Murakami’s alma mater, who tipped off the newspaper after finding Murakami’s name on them.”
  • USA – New Study Finds Low Levels of Digital Library Borrowing – Publisher’s Weekly. “The newest industry report from BISG, “Digital Content in Public Libraries: What Do Patrons Think?,” found that even though over half of library patrons surveyed are aware that their local libraries carry e-books and digital audiobooks, relatively few had borrowed them in the previous year. Only 25% of patrons reported that they had borrowed an e-book within the past year, and even fewer (9%) said they had checked out a digital audiobook.”
  • USA – November Poll Results: Health and Nutrition Programs and Resources – Web Junction. Many of those libraries surveyed accept food instead of fines to help the hungry. “Some libraries told us they serve food through Meals on Wheels, or other nutritional assistance programs such as the USDA’s summer lunch programs (see Lunch at the Library, for example) – often with help from their county schools. Many of these libraries make sure they meet their local county health department’s guidelines by using a community partner with a commercial kitchen, or by ensuring that all snacks served are commercially wrapped.”
  • USA – Renovation rejuvenates children’s library – Tennesseean. “an impressive new Nashville-themed, three-level  “reading fort”, complete with a bridge and several levels of reading and play areas, has been added as the department’s centrepiece.” … “There was also a push to make the children’s area more interactive than ever, by adding a new play space with a 5-foot tall puppet stage (designed to look like the Ryman Auditorium) where children will be encouraged to improvise their own shows. There are also several toddler height discovery tables with activities such as Duplos, trains and lights. And even a “crawl wall” climbing wall for little ones.”

Local news by authority

  • Angus – New chapter for Angus libraries as overdue book charges are consigned to history – Courier. “A month-long library fines amnesty last year indicated that charges discourage the return of overdue books, and the local authority has moved to stimulate the return of outstanding stock – while also attracting lapsed library users. The move coincides with a new organisation assuming control of culture, sport and leisure services in the county. From today, charitable trust Angusalive is in charge of providing these services to the community on behalf of Angus Council.”
  • Barnet – Saving Barnet Libraries – Crowd Justice. “We seek to challenge the unfair way the Council has proposed wholesale removal of staff from Barnet libraries, a step which, if taken, will unlawfully discriminate against the young, disabled, and other legally protected groups who will no longer have proper access to their local libraries.” … “We need £2400 to pay for a solicitor (John Halford, partner at Bindmans LLP) with great expertise in this field to gather and analyse the evidence, advise us and to write a letter before action, as a first step towards judicial review. We are raising £1200 as a first step to our full £2400 stretch target, so anything you can give will be very gratefully received”
  • Barnet – Thousands raised by campaigners to challenge library cuts – Times Series. “Campaigners have launched a crowdfunding appeal to raise cash to challenge library cuts in Barnet. More than £2,000 has so far been raised by the Save Barnet Libraries group in just one day.” … “On the appeal site, launched today (November 30), the campaigners said it aimed to challenge the proposals by judicial review. They said: “We seek to challenge the unfair way the council has proposed wholesale removal of staff from Barnet libraries, a step which, if taken, will unlawfully discriminate against the young, disabled, and other legally protected groups who will no longer have proper access to their local libraries.””
  • Bradford – Libraries will close across Bradford unless volunteers step up to run them, councillor warns – Telegraph and Argus. “Under the proposal, all but the seven most heavily-used libraries would become community-managed over a period of three years. ” … “”Where those communities are unable to take on those libraries in a community management model, they will close.” “
  • Cornwall – Have your say on the future of St Austell services  – Cornish Guardian. “The county authority needs to save £196 million from its budget over the next four years as a result of a cut in funding from central government, and as a result is asking town and parish councils to take on non-statutory responsibilities such as public toilets, libraries, open spaces and car parks
  • Croydon – ‘Possibility’ all Croydon libraries could close ‘apart from statutory ones’ says culture chief – Croydon Advertiser. “All but one of Croydon’s 13 libraries could close as part of the council’s attempts to balance the books following further cuts in government funding.” … “”It’s a possibility all of [the libraries] could close apart from what you would call the core statutory ones,” he told the Advertiser. “It’s a statutory service but it depends how you define what that is. You could go down to [just] the Central Library. “In all fairness you should have proper coverage across the borough and that’s what we’re committed to.” Council leader points to major hollowing out of libraries under previous (Conservative) administration. see also Croydon may close all but one of its libraries – BookSeller.

“Library funding appears likely to be among the hardest hit at a time when visitor numbers are up, despite reductions in staff, book budgets and opening hours. Overall visits increased 7 per cent in the first seven months of this financial year (April to October) compared to the same period in 2014, from 1.11 million to 1.91 million. New members increased 21 per cent, from 11,789 to 14,340. The previous administration outsourced libraries to the private sector, a decision Labour decided would be too expensive to reverse, despite another manifesto pledge.”

  •  Derby – More than half of Derby library opening hours could be unstaffed – Derby Telegraph. “libraries could be unstaffed for up to 60% of their opening hours, with people getting in using their cards. The move is one of four options for the city’s libraries service which are under consideration by the city council as it looks to make £50 million by 2019. Another of the options is the closure of some of the council’s 15 libraries and having longer opening hours at those remaining.” … “The other ideas are to hand over some libraries to be run by community groups or to share library buildings with other organisations, such as the police or Derby Homes, in a bid to reduce costs.”
  • Fife – Closure of Fife libraries will ‘hurt the vulnerable’. – Courier. “Fife library closures would impact the most disadvantaged communities. That was among the conclusions of Fife Council’s education, health and social care scrutiny committee when it discussed proposals to shut 16 of the region’s libraries. Councillors also raised concerns about the cuts faced by Fife Cultural Trust (FCT) just three years after it took over management of the service. The trust has already made more than £900,000 of savings. It must now identify a further £813,000 between now and March 2018.” … “The option of cutting the trust’s £700,000 book budget was dismissed.”
  • Lancashire – Castle Museum safe but libraries could be under threat in budget cuts – Clitheroe Advertiser. “A further £7 million will be saved by reducing the county’s libraries from 74 to 34. No further announcment has been made regarding which may close but a consultation process is expected to begin with library users in the New Year as some in the Ribble Valley may be affected.”-
  • Lancashire – Sister weeklies unite to save libraries threatened with axe – Hold the Front Page. “A petition to save up to 10 libraries threatened with closure by government cuts has been launched by two sister weeklies. The Accrington Observer and Rossendale Free Press are calling on readers to help save the libraries on its patch, after Lancashire County Council announced it may have to close up to half of the libraries under its control.”
  • Lancashire – To Cut Lancashire’s Libraries will Crush Communities – Speaking the Mind. “Libraries are saviors in themselves, not a vehicle for ‘savings’. Yet It appears that local authorities in are turning to libraries as one the first places to cut costs. This is almost ironic considering libraries are the places so many other people in society turn to, but for good reason– not just for borrowing books, but as a safe public space, a place of solace, an opportunity to interact, to be inquisitive and to learn. Councils and the government often refer to the importance of ‘community cohesion’ especially at times of difficulty, but to  close libraries is actually to destroy a dear community in itself.” Looks at different aspects and strengths of public libraries.
  • Leicestershire – Spring handover booked in for Market Bosworth Library plan – Hinckley Times. “Villagers are likely to take over the running of their local library in spring next year as plans progress for Leicestershire County Council to offload rural branches. Members of the steering group for Market Bosworth Community Library organised an open evening to update residents on the transfer scheme.” … “The group spent months working on a business plan which will provide the framework for the continuation of library services and an income stream. Market Bosworth was one of a handful of communities in the borough who expressed willingness to take over the running of their local library as the county seeks to hand over responsibility as part of cost-cutting measures.”
  • Lewisham – Proposed cuts to Lewisham libraries slammed as ‘short-sighted’ – East London Lines. “A proposal to cut £1M from Lewisham’s libraries budget and for community organisations to take over running three local libraries has sparked fierce opposition from local residents.” … “Lewisham’s library service has already seen substantial cuts in recent years with five libraries – Blackheath, Crofton Park, Grove Park, New Cross and Sydenham – already being run by community organisations.  According to figures from Forest Hill Society, a locally run society which promotes high standards of planning and services and Lewisham Unison, the local branch of the public service union, borrowing in these five libraries decreased between 60 and 90 per cent from October 2010 to October 2014. Lewisham Council has acknowledged that the issue of declining book borrowing is a bigger problem in the community libraries than in the council-managed libraries, but said in a statement that: “The [community] model is sound and is sustaining a library service that has increased the satisfaction of Lewisham residents.””
  • Lincolnshire – Lincolnshire libraries contract won by bidder previously ‘ignored’ by council – Lincolnshire Echo. “Lincolnshire’s library service is being outsourced to the same organisation the county council was accused of snubbing a year ago. Senior councillors claim the decision to let Greenich Leisure Ltd run the service from April 2016 will bring “significant savings”.” … “The council says GLL will now take on the new model library service agreed in February, not the older model they originally expressed an interest in running. It means that GLL will run the county’s 15 major libraries, online services and specialist support for readers and help support services delivered at around 30 community hubs run by volunteers.” … “we predict that, once the reduction in our property costs is taken into account, this move will save us a further £500,000 or so.” see also Council says Lincolnshire libraries take-over is a ‘win-win situation’ – Grantham Journal and Let’s start rebuilding the library service in Lincolnshire – Save Lincolnshire Libraries.
  • Reading – Mum urges council to leave Southcote Library alone – Get Reading. “Emma Reeves, presenting a 250 signature petition to add to 600 signatures already collected, said her petition was from people who did not want to see Southcote Library in Southcote Lane either closed or rehoused.”
  • Sutton – Renewed call for residents to have their say on Sutton’s looming £1m library cuts – Sutton Guardian. “Options include closing Beddington library, which the council said has seen “a low and diminishing usage”; ending the mobile library service; paring back opening hours; and recruiting volunteers instead of paid staff. Services could be privatised, as has happened in Croydon and Wandsworth.”
  • Swindon – Swindon Borough Council publishes draft 2016-17 budget – Swindon Council. “Some services and facilities traditionally provided by the council, such as street cleaning and libraries, would have significantly reduced funding from the council and support will be given instead to parish councils and communities to run them themselves. A Library Service Strategy would be developed which assumes a reduction in council spend on the service of at least £1.5m, or 75%, by 2020.”
  • Walsall – Walsall Council cuts: Volunteers invited to form DIY libraries – Express and Star. “Walsall Council is looking to axe the libraries and the mobile library service, along with 13 jobs, in a bid to save £487,912 during the next two year. Bosses say the axed libraries could be replaced with ‘book exchanges’ which would be run by volunteers. Community groups and organisations are being asked to come forward to run the services to replace the libraries that are set to close down, including those in Beechdale, Blakenall, New Invention, Pleck, Rushall and South Walsall.”
  • Warrington – Your chance to shape future of libraries across Warrington – This is Cheshire. “The organisation’s 33,000 library users, people who haven’t used a library for more than a year and those who’ve never used one of Warrington’s libraries before are being encouraged to give their views on how to bring the town’s 11 libraries into the 21st century. ” [NB. this is a highly positive press release. Freedom of Information request sent – Ed.]
  • Worcestershire – We need to shed another £475,000 from libraries across Worcestershire, say council chiefs – Droitwich Spa Advertiser. “Worcestershire County Council insists none of its 21 libraries will be forced to close but has kick-started a major new review of how to save cash. Bosses hope to plug all of the gap by asking more third parties to rent space at different sites, like the JobCentre Plus or cafes, a move they are calling ‘remodelling’.” … “The fresh savings target, for the 2016/17 financial year, comes after more than £2 million was taken out of the service in previous years. “