My twitter feed was full of people being angry about the new scheme where two thousand Halifax Bank employees will help with IT training in public libraries. The scheme, brokered by the Society of Chief Librarians is supposed to greatly increase the amount of training sessions available.   The anger was not over that but the commercialisation of libraries it implies. When many of us were trained, perhaps too many years ago now, one of the key things we were taught was not to show bias towards a particular company.  When I do talks to people one of the key things I say is that we provide a place, alone in the town centre, free of commercial adverts and people wanting your money.  Halifax argue that nothing has changed and the training is done entirely impartially.  However, even taking into account their benevolence, there is an obvious clash of values here that is nowhere acknowledged in the official coverage.  Perhaps in these days of frequent cuts (South Gloucestershire gets it in the neck today) neutrality is something we cannot afford and we take what help we can. Or perhaps in these times it is more important than ever (like having quiet study spaces) and we forget about it at our peril.

Keeping with the SCL, it is regrettable, but not surprising, that they have failed directly to support the #MyLibraryByRight CILIP campaign.  The SCL has always seen itself as an apolitical organisation which cannot, as a collection of council employees, make any overt stand on the big issues of the day. Rather, the body works – as well as what amounts to a largely voluntary organisation of hundreds of equal members can – to provide some sort of national training, initiatives and co-ordination.  At the end of the day, if ever a history of this dark chapter in libraries is written, the SCL are unlikely therefore to be seen as the heroes of the story. But they would argue, as the old CILIP used to, that they work better behind the scenes and do more that way than by waving placards. CILIP have realised that that simply does not work, for them, in the current climate. But SCL are in a different situation (or at least think they are) and see things differently. On other hand, the Society of Authors and the Reading Agency (neither of which are run by librarians) have no such scruples and have come out in support of the campaign. Well done to them.


National news

  • Barclays and the library marketing opportunity – Infoism. “Barclays are not promoting their banking services in doing this, they are solely concerned with helping people develop their digital skills and get online. I don’t buy this. In fact, I have never bought this. As my grandfather (an Arkwright style shopkeeper who would be appalled his grandson has turned out to be a socialist) used to say “nothing is free”. ” … “I think we’ve generally done ourselves (the profession as a whole) a huge disservice when it comes to digital skills support. We know this stuff. We know this stuff better than Barclays do.”
  • Before Google, there was the library… – Money Saving Expert Forums. Quite a few comments on why people like libraries, don’t like the changes in libraries and how libraries can do better.
  • Community management of library services – legal issues legal issues legal issues legal issues – Locality, “The purpose of this note is to set out the legal issues which arise in relation to the community management of libraries.  This note is prepared in a context of radical proposals around libraries by a number of local authorities across England and Wales, in recognition of the public spending restrictions currently being applied to the public sector.” [2011 but may be of interest – Ed.]
  • Creating the public library of the futureLocal Gov. “Libraries can be – and many are – more than just institutions for literacy and self-development. The recent report by the Art Council shows that library services are moving with the times and in the last few years it highlights how communities are directly helping to support and even manage libraries. Some councils such as Middlesbrough Council are particularly progressive. The council has drawn up plans that will see all except its Central Library renamed as a ‘community hub’, adding services and expanding on existing ones to create a wider role.”
  • Fight For Your Right: Back the Libraries Campaign – Society of Authors. “As you may have seen, the SoA has been supporting and publicising the My Library By Right campaign. … This is the same argument we have been making about cuts to library services and we’re delighted to join forces. Several prominent authors have lent their backing to the campaign but we’d love everyone to get involved in any way they can.”
  • Halifax Champions Digital Skills in First Libraries Partnership – Halifax / Lloyds. “Halifax has teamed up with the Society of Chief Librarians to create a ‘first of its kind’ partnership aimed at helping the almost six million adults in the UK who have never used the internet to get online. Over 2,000 Halifax members of staff, who have pledged to be Digital Champions, will be available to boost the support of IT taster sessions. The Digital Champions will lend their help in addition to the current support provided through public libraries across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

“Being internet savvy is absolutely essential in today’s society – whether that be through shopping online, using social media or simply sending an email. The IT Taster Sessions ran by the libraries, and supported by the Halifax Digital Champions, are already making an enormous difference to help people use the internet and give them the confidence to get online.”” Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy

  • The Reading Agency support #MyLibraryByRight  – Change.org. “Today, Sue Wilkinson, CEO of The Reading Agency, announced that “we are wholeheartedly supporting CILIP’s My Library By Right campaign. Libraries are a statutory service and recognising this is an important step in ensuring that they are available to everyone.””

“The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) revealed in December that it had sought legal opinion from human rights barrister Eric Metcalfe over the government’s persistent shilly-shallying and blaming of local authorities for the decline in library provision.  They say the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act all impose a duty on ministers to intervene when councils propose to make big cuts in library services.

Since there was no sign this had prompted action from culture secretary John Whittingdale, yet more local campaigns are also bringing in the lawyers.  A date was set last week for a judicial review of the decision to move the library in Church Stretton, Shropshire, from the town centre to an out-of-town space within a secondary academy school.  The campaign has been backed by shopkeepers who fear the small town centre is already at risk due to Post Office and bus route cuts.

Campaigners in the London borough of Barnet, Meanwhile, have sent a letter before claim over plans for cuts and unstaffed libraries.  Their crowdfunded legal action will challenge the consultation and safety assessments in relation to “technology enabled opening”, under which library users can let themselves into unmanned libraries using their library card and a pin number.” Library News, Private Eye.

  • SCL’s Commitment to Library Services – Society of Chief Librarians. “As a body largely comprising representation from local authorities, SCL recognises that it is for individuals and their local authorities to provide local responses to the My Library By Right campaign.” … “SCL welcomes the opportunity to grow its relationship with CILIP, recognising the potential benefits for communities in working together to develop sustainable library services, delivered by an engaged and well supported library workforce.”
  • Self-service loans from your mobile – SOLUS release their long awaited apps. – Changing Libraries. “Borrowers in RFID equipped libraries will be able both to issue items at the shelf and clear security in a single operation. Those still using barcodes will be able to use their devices cameras to issue items but will still have to deal with whatever security system (if any) is in use separately. Returns can also be handled using mobile devices. Dovetailing with the launch of “self-service” within the Library App, SOLUS has also announced the Q1 launch of “SOLUS Pay”, its mobile payment solution, which will allow users to make payments from within the App.”
  • Successful applicants – Arts Council England. £90k for Get It Loud in Libraries “The Get It Loud in Libraries project plans to engage the 14-25 age group and their families with public libraries by developing a new improved touring library network to showcase the best new high quality live music. The live programme will be underpinned with digital workshops and learning and participation opportunities.”. £26k “Libraries West will tour Travelling Light’s production The Mysterious Vanishment of Pobby and Dingham to an established consortium of local libraries in the south west. The project will explore the role and future of libraries as touring venues within the context of other venues and networks and make recommendations to sustain and develop touring in the future.”

International news

  • USA – Libraries, meetup groups get into adult coloring craze – Mail. “Libraries across the country are holding adult coloring programs more and more in response to the spike in interest, according to the American Library Association, including New York City, Denver and Milwaukee. There are also groups popping up through Meetup.com.”

Local news by authority

  • Bradford – Bradford Council has bowed to pressure and will hold an additional consultation on the future of threatened libraries – Telegraph and Argus. “Council has bowed to public pressure and has just announced that a consultation meeting about the future of Shipley libraries will now take place in Baildon. On Monday, the Telegraph & Argus reported how the decision to discuss possible closure of Baildon, Burley, Menston and Silsden at a meeting in Keighley library tomorrow had been branded “insulting” and “barmy” by leading opponents. hey argued it was unfair to expect people to travel so far for a one-hour meeting or attend an earlier drop-in session.”
  • Bradford – Volunteers flock to staff new super library – Telegraph and Argus. “When closure of Idle Library was announced just over two years ago, community action group Inspired Neighbourhoods, chaired by ward Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, saw it as an opportunity to make a purpose-built new amenity. Grants and funding were secured to transform the site of a disused Methodist church on Albion Road, replacing it with a state-of-the art building incorporating seven business units above enough space for public meeting rooms and a library.”
  • Caerphilly – Caerphilly library celebrates popular second year – Campaign series. “Library is celebrating a successful second year in its custom-built town centre location. In 2015, the library welcomed 218,000 visitors, loaned over 134,000 items and staff fielded almost 274,000 enquiries.” … “The library houses a customer service centre and cash office which allows members of the public to access a wide range of council services. Another feature of the library is its heritage space, which hosts exhibitions and displays from the New Tredegar Winding House Museum and community organisations”
  • East Sussex – Battle council discusses library cuts consultation – Rye and Battle Observer. “East Sussex County Council (ESCC) opened a public consultation on cutting library’s opening times on Monday, January 11.” … “Battle Library’s times would be reduced by 10 hours if ESCC’s proposals go through.” … “ESCC is proposing to reduce opening hours across all 24 of its libraries by around 25 per cent on average, in a bid to reduce library running costs by around £500,000. This would help towards the library service’s savings target of £2m over the next three years, according to the local authority.”
  • Herefordshire – Ambitious plans put forward to transform Hereford Library into modern community hub – Ledbury Reporter. “Hereford Library Users Group (HLUG)’s plans to revolutionise the city’s Broad Street library by changing its interior entirely are detailed in a new 16-page document. HLUG was invited to work with Herefordshire Council to explore options for future service delivery of a library in the city following December’s cabinet meeting. And the group says its ideas for The Rankin Centre – named after philanthropist James Rankin who enabled the library to be built – include the interior being completely replaced, with added floors and virtually double the usable space.”
  • Isle of Wight – Report from the executive member for tourism, culture and heritage to the meeting of full council – Isle of Wight Council.  Notes libraries are a statutory service and quotes their obligations. “The Full Council agenda item includes a possible choice on cutting libraries but please note that libraries are a statutory service.  “
  • Lambeth – Book-ish Gyms back on agenda at Full Lambeth Council meeting as Cabinet member rejects Green proposal to consider in-house solution – Brixton Buzz. “Little has been said about the proposal put forward by Susanna Barnes – mainly because Cllr Edbrooke has tried to shut down this suggestion as she pushes ahead with her deeply unpopular book-ish gyms”
  • Lambeth – Labour peer urges Lambeth Council to save Waterloo Library – London SE1. “”I have just moved into the Waterloo area and am so impressed by the constant use of my new excellent local library, with its IT facilities, clearly very much needed, its good collection of local books and its helpful staff,” said Baroness Whitaker. “In my view it would be very damaging to the neighbourhood of Lower Marsh, the local vibrant shopping street, for it to be deprived of its library. “
  • Lancashire – Responses to Consultation – Lancashire County Council. (51 minutes in) Libraries important for books and as community hubs,
  • Lincolnshire – False dawn? – Secret Librarian. Summary of the turbulent times in the borough so far.
  • Lincolnshire – Gagged and bound – Secret Librarian. “The ongoing and seemingly endless saga of the Library Service’s future did inevitably divide opinion amongst librarians themselves. There were some who just wanted the whole sorry mess sorted out once and for all and others who thought that the fight was worth pursuing. However we are now at a stage where the County Council have got their way through their heavy handed steam roller tactics and it remains to be seen what awaits the service when the not for profit charitable organisation takes over in April. For now there seems to be a kind of limbo existence as there has been no communication from them as yet.”
  • Lincolnshire – Reporting from the Budget Meeting, Lincolnshire CC Offices, 19th January 2016 – Save Lincolnshire Libraries. “At the top of the County News (CN) list of “discretionary services” is libraries, which of course is not discretionary but statutory. I drew this to the meeting’s attention. I also mentioned that the figure of a £6million budget next to the library service included £2 million savings already earmarked.”

“Cllr Hill also informed the meeting of the need to halve the bus service subsidies ( whilst protecting “Call Connect”). Everyone was against this, apart from a few people whose experiences were that buses outnumbered passengers on some routes. There is an issue here for the Council’s Library Service plans, as arguments from our campaign that closures of libraries would mean that many more people would not be able to reach a statutory library service were countered by LCC saying that they could use the bus service to gain access, and “Call Connect” would provide necessary back-up. The likelihood is that, if these cuts go ahead, Call Connect will not be able to pick up the shortfall.”

  • Newcastle – The Government hopes that a public weary of local council cuts will let them off the hook – Chronicle. “The session I went to was about the proposal to reduce library opening hours. I wanted to hear from library users about the impact that these proposals would have and also listen to ideas about what we might do differently. I love libraries. I think libraries are a statement of what we stand for a city and I would fight to the end to save them from the Tory chopping block. We were clear this year that the budget proposals must not include any library closures. It has been really difficult to achieve that and whilst sacrificing library opening hours is disappointing it has saved all of our libraries from closure. Sitting in the consultation session at the City Library this week confirmed my view that libraries are not a luxury, they are a necessity.”
  • North Yorkshire – Craven libraries explore community-run solution – Craven Herald and Pioneer. “”We’re now out talking with groups in Settle, Cross Hills, Ingleton and Bentham to find out how they will run their libraries,” she said. “By doing this now, we’re giving people more time to get them up and running by April 2017. “The county council is still going to put a lot of infrastructure in. We’ll continue to pay for books, the reservation service and van delivery, as well network and broadband access for the public PCs.”. Settle: “He said so far about a half a dozen volunteers had come forward, and the parish council had come up with a possible plan to see if parish councils across South Craven would make a donation towards running costs. “
  • St Helens – St Helens prepares for global Harry Potter event  – Liverpool Echo. “Young witches and wizards in St Helens can enter its Central Library through platform nine and three-quarters, for a night of games, crafts and book readings on Thursday, February 4. Children are invited to dress up in their best magical gear for the sorting ceremony, with the chance to be sorted into one of Hogwarts school’s four houses.”
  • Shropshire – Summer date for town council move into Shrewsbury Library – Shropshire Star. “Shrewsbury Town Council hopes to move its offices to the town’s library and take over the running of the service by the summer.” … “The authority has been in discussions with Shropshire Council in an attempt to reach an agreement to relocate its main offices to the historic Castle Gates library since last November. Under the proposal the town council is also looking to take on the management of the town’s library service.”
  • South Gloucestershire – South Gloucestershire Council meets tonight to discuss consultation on closing Chipping Sodbury Library under savings programme – Gazette Series. “The small library on High Street is costing hard-up South Gloucestershire Council £42,000 a year to run but many of its visitors also use the much bigger Yate Library less than a mile away, leaving only 194 unique members who are costing the authority £216 each. Campaigners devastated at the potential loss of the much-loved library have this week launched a fight to save the facility, which opens two days and two mornings a week.”
  • Southampton – SCA interested in running Cobbett Road Library – Bitterne Park Info. “With council funding for Cobbett Road Library withdrawn from April, its future could be bleak. One ray of hope, however, is that Social Care in Action (SCA) has expressed interest in running it. We talk to SCA chief executive Ruth Marriott, left, who explains the current state of play, and what SCA running the library might look like in reality.”
  • Warwickshire – Alcester Library set to move to new home in Globe House – Redditch Standard. “The market town’s current library will close its doors tomorrow (Thursday) and will reopen at its new home on February 8. That means from Friday (January 22) to February 7 Alcester residents will briefly be without a library in order for the move to take place. However, members will still have access to services online 24 hours a day, seven days a week where they can renew and reserve items as well as access e-books and a range of free online reference material. County Councillor Mike Gittus said he was very much looking forward to the re-opening of Globe House which will bring together a great range of services under one roof”