No more news of cuts, thank goodness, although many reverberations (especially in Lancashire) from reductions already announced.  On the good news side, Access to Research, the (in my view anyway) under-used and under-publicised but very useful e-resource will be continued in public libraries.  Next week, apparently, we will be reading a report on a possible £20 million “unified digital platform” for public libraries.  This sounds great but the devil will be in the detail like (a) who pays, (b) will it simply be a cumbersome addition on top of existing library webpages and (c) will BiblioCommons who is writing the report win the contract for the service they themselves recommended.  Should be fun.

Great to see the CILIP petition break through the 5,000 mark today, helped by a wonderful quote by Neil Gaiman.  Do sign yourselves and encourage others to do so if you can.

National news

“Publisher-turned-philanthropist William Sieghart has been given a CBE in the new year honours for “services to public libraries”. Sieghart chaired the independent review of libraries and in December 2014 produced a report on the future of public libraries, which warned against the trend of volunteer-led libraries. While Sieghart’s service has been officially recognised, his actual report has been all but forgotten.  A year on, the taskforce set up in response to his recommendations could claim one solid victory:  George Osborne’s announcement of $7.4m for wifi in libraries.  Alas, it was a bit late, as the Arts Council explained:  “By the time the funding programme launched in July 2015 a number of local authorities had installed their own solutions.”  Meanwhile, a further 106 libraries had closed down during the year;  as a result just £2.6m of the funds could actually be given out. With hundreds more public libraries under threat of closure of being handed to volunteers in 2018, a gong for Sieghart may be the only lasting outcome of his review.” Library News, Private Eye

  • CIPFA library stats – a race to the bottom – Libraries Hacked. “The aggregated multiple authority data is theirs and subject to copyright, and funded by their paying subscribers – though completely made up of public data that was collected through public funding. This may have been an efficient method of compiling statistics across multiple authorities a number of years ago, but there are public data portals that can hold such data and make it freely available, as well as making aggregating/combining and comparing the data for different authorities relatively easy – see data.gov.uk and LG Inform Plus. The concept of an annual survey is also outdated …”

“With detailed open data the public can oversee decisions made by their local authority, and analyse the data themselves to provide important local (and national) insights. That is their right in the same way that they have a right to a library service.”

  • Councils see libraries as ‘easy targets’ for cuts – BookSeller. “Councils have been accused of seeing libraries as “soft options” and “easy targets” when it comes to deciding on budget cuts and run the risk of “undermining rights” by not fulfilling their legal duties to provide library services, campaigners have said. Following government cuts to local authority budgets, dozens of libraries across the country are under threat as councils review their budgets before the new financial year in April, with some already revealing plans for severe reductions to their library services.” … “CILIP c.e.o. Nick Poole said the cuts “undermine rights which are enshrined in the Equality Act, Human Rights Act and Public Libraries & Museums Act.” “We have a situation where our national network of libraries is being dismantled while government fails to provide the guidance that local authorities need to provide the comprehensive and efficient library services they must, by statute, provide ..” [also includes quote by myself and from Alan Wylie – Ed.]
Help keep the barbarians from libraries by signing the petition

Help keep the barbarians from libraries by signing the petition

  • Public Libraries News 2015 – Libraries Hacked. See the library news for every authority in the UK easily and graphically by this rather clever hack on this very website.

“The SCL and ACE are planning to publish early next week a BiblioCommons Report recommending an investment of £20 million in a unified digital platform. When some of us last September had sight of the draft report, a number of issues were raised even though there is regard for the BiblioCommons product itself. These issues no doubt have been largely addressed in the final report but some questions will remain and in particular that the proposals relate to additional investment over and above existing systems and not for their replacement.

While welcoming a major investment in technology, campaigners will be concerned that this should not distract the Taskforce, the SCL and ACE from addressing the immediate issues faced by library authorities, including the impact of budgetary cuts and the continuing decline in usage and borrowing. After ten months, we are still waiting for the Taskforce to develop a clear vision for a modern library service and an action plan to start addressing the complex resource management, structural and performance and delivery issues. I have no doubt that there has been much lobbying of national and local government behind the scenes but there is mounting frustration that the immediate challenges are being ignored and the service seriously threatened as users fall away. There is probably also a need for much better communication.

No one doubts the need to invest in technology but we must not lose sight of the immediate challenges which are leading to closures, reduced opening hours, lack of investment in resources and the transfer of libraries to volunteers. The need is for a balanced and carefully considered action plan.” Desmond Clarke (via email)

  • Successful Access to Research pilot leads to extension of service – RealWire. “The Access to Research initiative, which gives users in public libraries free access to over 10 million academic articles, has been given the green light by publishers and librarians to continue … The service was originally launched as a pilot by the Universities and Science Minister in 2014, in order to support expanded access to publicly funded research in the UK. Two years on and over 80% of UK local authorities, representing more than 2,600 libraries, have signed up to the initiative from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Since the launch, over 84,000 users have accessed the service and an independent report, commissioned by the Publishers Licensing Society (PLS) and the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL), and co-funded by PLS and Arts Council England, has confirmed the value of the Access to Research service to users.”

International news

  • Canada – New Halifax library draws 1.9 million visitors in first year – Herald News. “There were 1.9 million visits during the Halifax Central Library’s first year of operation, more than double the 900,000 visits officials had anticipated while planning the library. Overall, there were 2.86 million visits across the 14-branch network, an increase of 22 per cent from the previous year.  “We thought, at first, when the Central Library numbers were so big when it first opened, we thought that we’d see a corresponding decrease in the other library use,” said Coun. Waye Mason (Halifax South Downtown), library board vice-chairman. “And what we saw was the other libraries actually went up two to three per cent across the board.” But Halifax Public Libraries may be a victim of its own success, because it will have to do more with less, submitting a budget that is $130,000 below last year’s request.”
  • USA – New York Public Library Invites a Deep Digital DiveNew York Times. “Mansion Maniac, a whimsical online toy created by the New York Public Library, may seem like envy bait for the real-estate have-nots. With the help of a Pac-Man-like icon, users can explore the floor plans of some of the city’s most extravagant early-20th-century residences, culled from the library’s archives. But the game is what you might call a marketing teaser for a major redistribution of property, digitally speaking: the release of more than 180,000 photographs, postcards, maps and other public-domain items from the library’s special collections in downloadable high-resolution files — along with an invitation to users to grab them and do with them whatever they please.”
  • USA – OverDrive Reports Record eBook, Audiobook Loans in 2015 – Digital Reader. “eBook circulation rose by almost a fifth, while 36% more audiobooks were checked out in 2015 than in previous years and streaming video usage almost doubled. That is impressive, but it’s also worth remembering that the figures reflect loans made by new partners signed during 2015, and not just increased activity at existing library partners, and so the stats represent OverDrive doing more business more than an increase in library ebook adoption among patrons. That still remains either low or disappointingly low, depending on which survey you look at.”

Local news by authority

  • Bristol – Does Bristol still need its public libraries? – Bristol Post. More computers, fewer books, changes in opening hours. “Some of the biggest changes libraries have seen in the city for a generation will come into force this Spring, following the most comprehensively engaged public consultation in Bristol City Council’s history.”
  • Caerphilly – Plaid and Labour clash over decision to reopen Aberbargoed library – Caerphilly Observer. “The library was originally closed in March 2012 by the then Plaid Cymru administration because of cost, and the fact that Bargoed had a new library. Aberbargoed Library, in Pant Street, was then reopened by the Labour Party in 2013, following its local election win, at a refurbishment cost of £90,000. A fresh war of words has now erupted over the number of people using the reopened library. Figures obtained by Plaid Cymru under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that there were less than ten visits an hour at the library between April and September last year. Bargoed had 60 visits an hour over the same period. The number of items loaned out at Aberbargoed also averaged just five items an hour.”

“The figures indicate that Aberbargoed library and resource is not well used and hasn’t been since it reopened in 2013. Its reopening was nothing more than an expensive vanity project by the Labour group which taxpayers could ill-afford. And the council has already cut library opening hours across the county borough.”

  • Fife – North east Fife campaigners claim library closures decision is ‘unsafe’ – Fife Today. “Following a three hour debate on Tuesday – and after a tied vote of 7-7 – scrutiny committee chairman Councillor Susan Leslie used her casting vote to support a motion by SNP councillor Julie Ford requesting Fife Council agrees to find additional one-off funding of £571,000 to ensure all Fife libraries proposed for closure can be kept open for a further year. “
  • Kent – Tributes paid after Whitstable campaigner Richard Stainton dies – Canterbury Times. “Mr Stainton, of Sydenham Street, recently campaigned at Whitstable Library Square in an attempt to save the town’s local library service and he helped to organise the successful Whitstable Literary Festival (WhitLit).”
  • Lancashire – Battle cry to save Longridge Library – Longridge News. “Longridge Town Council wants as many people as possible to lobby Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services, Marcus Johnstone with letters and emails and through social media if they want the library to be saved.” [There are three online petitions so far to campaign for threatened Lancashire libraries: Save Longridge Library, Save Garstang Library and Save Ingol Library – Ed.]
  • Lancashire – Ingol library closure: Petition set up against against council cutback for ‘much needed resource’ – Blog Preston. “The epetition is already gathering signatures and states: “We the undersigned petition the county council to consider carefully the need and support that this Library gives to the members of the Ingol ward and surrounding areas. “Many residents may not have access to books, internet and social clubs without this much needed social entreprise. This Library is well supported by our residents young and old alike. Please do not close this much needed resource.””
  • Leicestershire – Libraries, museums and services for elderly under cost review – Loughborough Echo. “The decision on where the actual cuts will fall has not been finalised and the council will be calling on residents to have their say as part of the plans to save more than £1.8m. ” … “The council wants to help communities “support themselves” and “be empowered to design and create their own cultural activity.” The council will also further review its network of “fully funded venues” and explore the use of technology to increase self-service at some venues. The local authority will also look at reviewing and reducing targeted services that are funded solely by the council.” … “Already, the council has made dramatic changes over the last year including cutting library staff in Loughborough, Shepshed and at village libraries. It also called on local groups to take over the running of their village libraries or face closure and reduced library opening hours by 20 per cent.”
  • Norfolk – Keep calm and colour in at West Norfolk libraries – Lynn News. “People across West Norfolk are being invited to colour themselves calm during a series of regular events at the borough’s libraries. Sessions are being held at the libraries in Lynn, Gaywood, Dersingham, whose group members are pictured above, Downham and Hunstanton. Pens and pencils are provided at all locations, while sheets are also provided at Gaywood and Downham.”
  • North Yorkshire – Capita chosen as North Yorkshire library management system provider – CloudPro. “North Yorkshire County Council has chosen Capita to provide its countywide library management system, helping the local authority reduce costs, while providing users with a more efficient service. Capita will provide the council with its cloud-based Chorus LMS platform rather than using the libraries’ existing hardware, which was expensive to run because of the maintenance needed. Additionally, moving to the cloud means staff can be re-deployed to improve customer experience rather than having to fix on-premise systems when they go wrong.” see also the official Capita press release from which this was taken.
  • Swindon – We are all set to tackle the budget, says council chief – Swindon Advertiser. “We are also considering some specific changes to a number of services. For example, we are looking at different ways of providing services in the community such as libraries.”
  • Telford and Wrekin – Telford & Wrekin Council will shut vast majority of its libraries with massive cuts – Wrekin News. “Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard [Conservative – Ed.]has responded to the proposals. He said: “The Borough Council need to spend its very large budget far better than they currently do. “There is no excuse for closing libraries and local community services. ” Rather than blame the government they should be getting better value money for each pound of taxpayers’ money they spend.””
  • Walsall – Walsall Council cuts: Thousands oppose library closure plan – Express and Star. “a petition opposing the closure of Pleck library has gained momentum with more than 3,000 names, according to campaigner Shabir Hussain. As part of an alternative option to closure, Mr Hussain claims Pleck library is the cheapest to run in the borough, at £38,179 – making up less than two per cent of the budget for libraries.”
  • Wrexham – Trust ‘to protect libraries, museums and culture’ in Wrexham – News North Wales. “Wrexham Council’s executive board will meet next week discuss proposals to establish a trust to take on the management of the services, with community well-being and development chief Lawrence Isted expected to get the nod to go ahead with the scheme. Once established, Cllr Hugh Jones, lead member for communities and partnerships, said there would be a possiblility the trust could run other county services.”