The report on the digital side of public libraries was released today. At first sight, it is a solid and useful report on public library usage that will fall firmly into the “too long, didn’t read” report for many. Certainly, I’ve only skimmed it. I can report that it looks thoroughly researched, although it looks surprisingly insular and seems focused on technological explanations for library usage. There does not appear to be any international comparison with library services which may have helped change some of the assumptions: for example, the decline public library use is blamed fairly and squarely on technological change while it is fairly obvious from other countries that usage can increase in public libraries which are consistently funded. I’m sure a few other countries may have researched going down a unified library website approach as well (although, I can’t think of many off hand) which could be learned from.  Not having it read it fully, I can also not comment on the recommendations, there may even be an international section (although words like USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand or “international” or even “Wales” or “Scotland” are entirely absent when doing a word search).  The big question, though, is that many would find it hard to believe that £20 million over three years will be found willingly from public library authorities facing budgetary decimation. Either that money therefore won’t come at all and nothing will happen or it will come from other, as yet, unknown, benefactors, possibly even the obvious choice (at normal times but possibly not in austerity Britain) of the Government.

It will probably take a few days for me to read the full report and I’d welcome any feedback on the report in the meantime: please comment or email me at ianlibrarian@live.co.uk. Confidentiality, if desired, is guaranteed.


National news

  • Essential Digital Infrastructure  for Public Libraries in England  – Society of Chief Librarians / BiblioCommons. “This report argues that a standards-based digital platform is the only viable technology for realising recent strategic goals articulated by leaders for England’s public libraries.  The platform would allow libraries and their partners to innovate, collaborate and share in ways they cannot now do.  The report further argues that the primary mode of service on this platform must be co-production — among library authorities, and among library staff, national and local partners, and importantly, end users.  We show how new digital divides have made the mission of libraries — literacy, learning, and community inclusion — as relevant as it ever was.  And that in order to provide an energetic response, libraries must invite their users into their digital spaces: their catalogues, their websites, their ebook readers, their online events calendars.  We argue that these two measures, a standards-based digital platform and co-production of services, will reinvigorate libraries and create substantial, tangible outcomes in literacy, digital and social inclusion, health, education, and economic participation.” Cost will be £20 million over three years with claimed benefits of £8m annually and £100m generally.
  • James Patterson donates £10,000 to flood-hit UK bookshops – Guardian. “Patterson, a perennial feature on bestseller lists on both sides of the Atlantic for his gritty thrillers, has already donated more than £360,000 to more than 200 UK independent bookshops. “Right now, we need places in the world where people can go out and talk about books, and independent bookstores and libraries are those places. So I want to do whatever I can do to shine a light on the problem,” the author has said in the past. “A lot of people are turning to ebooks. Ebooks are fine but it’s not fine to put small, independent bookshops out of business, it’s not fine for libraries to be closed down and school libraries to have less funding. Those are not good things.”. Amazon have sent six rolls of absorbent towel.

“The Patients Association believes that patients and carers should be given the opportunity to be actively involved in decisions about their health and social care and treatment and need access to good information in the right format to do this. Libraries are ideally suited to providing this so we look forward to the development of this special interest group.  We are keen to work with public health departments, NHS Trusts, CCGs, primary care and local authorities on any specific projects to make this happen.” Heather Eardley, Director of Development, The Patients Association [via email received – Ed.]

  • Lobby of Parliament for libraries on 9 February 2016 – Join us! #SUFLlobby16 – Speak Up For Libraries. “11am Speeches, music, video and information on how to lobby your MP. 1pm onwards Delegates will make their way from Central Hall Westminster to the House of Commons to meet with their MPs.  “
  • New report looks at creating a Single Library Digital Presence to support Public Libraries in the future – Society of Chief Librarians. “Key findings from the report include: Today’s library IT was largely designed 30 years ago; Library websites frustrate users instead of serving them; Current library digital infrastructure keeps libraries from sharing audiences and resources online with national nonprofits and government partners; Current digital infrastructure prevents one library from adopting the best practices of another and discourages innovation rather than promoting it; Libraries struggle to partner nationally because each library system has its own set of software speaking different languages, rather than a shared digital infrastructure speaking one common language.” … “To consider how best to develop an effective digital presence for libraries SCL will engage with all partners and a wide range of library users and suppliers to determine what level of investment will be needed to achieve the project aims.”

“Open+ does not deny access to under 16’s. The parameters and rules of open+ are completely flexible and decided locally by the library. The objective of open+ is for each authority or individual library to decide on their ideal opening hours (and the budgets can decide on how many of those hours can be staffed). Every individual in the community can then have access to their library, to borrow a book or use a PC when they want. If the library can increase supply then demand will increase from all demographics and user types. Under 16’s, like everybody else, are free to use the new extended hours of library access 7 days a week. However, it is not uncommon for libraries to elect not to allow children in the library at night by themselves but this is a local decision not a restriction by default of open+ ” Daren Ratcliffe, UK Managing Director, Bibliotheca [via email]

  • Perspective on a Single Digital Presence for libraries – Society of Chief Librarians. President Ciara Eastell blogs: “BiblioCommons’ conclusion is the failure has arisen from a combination of having 151 different library websites; most library websites being deeply embedded and constrained by local authority websites and the way in which Library Management Systems have evolved over the past 20 years.”
  • Really angry… – Phil Bradley’s Weblog. “moment, so this is your warning; the blog will not be a nice read for some/many. There’s a petition out at the moment, “HM Government: act now to protect my statutory rights to a quality public library service” However, it would seem that most library and information professionals don’t give a flying f* about it. ‘What’s that?’ you say ‘Of course librarians want to save their library services, not to mention all of the friends groups out there!’ You can read more about the petition/campaign over on the CILIP site. The campaign started on December 15th, and to date the petition has 6,133 supporters. 6,133. In. a. month. Some people seem to think that this is rather good, however, I think it’s pathetic, derisory and damaging…”

International news

  • USA – Drones @ The Library – Public Libraries Online. “we talked to someone who knows a lot about the topic, Anthony White, Coordinator/Supervisor of Programming, at Arapahoe (Colorado) Libraries. They’ve had their drone programming in place for a while now and he’s got some great information for you.”

“One of our library district’s strategic goals involves investing in new technology so that we can let our patrons learn and ask questions about things they are interested to try out, but not necessarily purchase for themselves. We work with everything from virtual reality, such as the Oculus Rift, to robotics, such as the Beam Robot. Drones are currently one of the biggest buzzes in the technology community, so for us, it was a perfect fit for what we call “Show and Tech.” These are travelling technology shows that happen both inside our libraries and out in the community. We’ve gone everywhere from small business luncheons to museums, letting people go hands on with our technology and, perhaps more importantly, engaging in discussions about what the real-world applications are.”


  • Public and Academic Libraries – Learning and Working in Partnership – National Acquisitions Group, 14th-15th September. “If you are interested in speaking at Conference, we are looking to fill some slots both for papers and workshops, so please do contact us with an outline.” [via LIS-PUB LIBS]

Local news by authority

  • Birmingham – Birmingham’s 145,000 overdue library books – BBC. “Books borrowed more than 20 years ago are among tens of thousands overdue from Birmingham’s libraries. A total of 145,671 overdue books have stacked up fines of £422,930 since 1995, according to council figures. The unreturned books make up more than 7% of the 1,984,954 literary works owned by the authority.” … “Library staff appealed for donations last August after the council stopped buying books for some of its 38 sites amid cuts.”

Dear Librarians, It’s completely understandable that you are not able to celebrate National Libraries Day on Saturday 6 February 2016 in the way it is intended.However I believe that librarians will be reading “The Gruffalo” by Julia Donaldson to children at 11 o’clock in Bristol libraries.I hope to meet some friends in the afternoon of National Libraries Day to discuss  Owen Jones’  “The Establishment: and how they get away with it.”  Presumably we will have to do this in a branch library as Bristol Central Library will be closed for a month while part of it is converted into the Cathedral School. Do you know if the Mayor and the Cabinet are finding alternative accommodation for the public on National Libraries Day and during the time the library is closed?” Bristol – Julie Boston [Letter sent to council and newspapers, copied in email received – Ed.]

  •  Cambridgeshire – Review of Library Service – Public Library Consultation – Cambridgeshire County Council. In February and March 2015, we asked you what you thought about the County Council’s strategy: “Library Services in Cambridgeshire: Developing Our Approach for the Future“. This strategy identified four key themes that are shaping the development of the service. These are Building community resilience; Enabling more than delivering; Maximising the use of our assets; Supporting the “Digital First” agenda.”‘; Maximise the opportunity to generate income” … “Proposals include a combination of reducing opening hours at larger libraries, reducing management and professional staff and spending less on new library stock”
  • Clydebank – Clydebank libraries upgrade to superfast fibre-optic broadband Clydebank Post. “Superfast fibre-optic broadband is now available at all Clydebank libraries ‒ and there’s no more queuing for a computer as residents can log on wirelessly using their own devices. The £15,000 project was fully funded by the Scottish Government’s Public Library Improvement Fund and offers broadband speeds of up to 152Mbps. The UK average is 100Mbps.
  • Dudley – Online help at Halesowen and Cradley libraries – Halesowen News. “Four levels of support are on offer including on-the-spot help with simple problems and drop-in sessions for help with Internet and e-mail, smartphones, tablets, online applications and form filling. “
  • Fife – Closure-threatened Fife libraries given another reprieve – Courier. “final decision on whether to accept a controversial plan to shut 16 libraries to save cash will be made at a full council meeting in March.”
  • Hampshire – More people urged to have say on strategy plan for libraries – News. “So far, around 8,600 people have responded to Hampshire County Council’s plans for public libraries, making it one of the most popular consultations held by the authority.” … “more people are being asked to get involved as some libraries could face closure.”
  • Lambeth – A proposal that will save all Lambeth libraries – and meet the Council’s budget target – Friends of Tate South Lambeth Library. Proposal to run libraries by a staff/mutual trust. “The proposal was first put to Lambeth officers in April 2015, during the public consultation on the Council’s proposals for cultural services policy to 2020. It was not taken up by Council officers, who instead put forward their proposal for half of Lambeth’s libraries to become library service points, with minimal book and computer provision and no staff, and with three of these to be centred on a gym. Their proposal – set out in the document Culture 2020 – was approved by the Council last October. However Council officers were forced – by popular pressure and the recommendations of  a Council committee –to offer an opportunity to the Libraries  manager to develop her proposals.”
  • Lambeth – Lambeth library staff vote overwhelmingly in favour of strike action as fightback against book-ish gyms begins – Brixton Buzz. “A Unison ballot has led to 89% of staff voting in favour of industrial action to save the libraries and protect jobs. An extended period of strikes will now be discussed by the union.”

“The choice of this library to be turned into a gym was purely on the basis of what the gym operators felt would be best for them – completely ignoring that this library has recognition all over the UK for the work it is doing for accessibility for everybody.” Kate Hoey MP

  • Lambeth – Tate South Lambeth Library leads UK with newest Prodigi machine – Vauxhall CIC (press release received). “A benefactor has given a remarkable reading machine to the ʻLibraries for Everyone/ DTVIPʼ scheme in Vauxhall – on condition that Tate South Lambeth remains a full-service library. ” … “Christina Burnett of Vauxhall CIC, which set up Libraries for Everyone/DTVIP with Lambeth Libraries and Archives, said: “Weʼre thrilled to have the latest Prodigi machine to help people overcome the barriers to employment, information and internet access caused by visual impairment or dyslexia.  This machine will restore independence and productivity to many who are currently excluded from the vital resources in public libraries.””

“This is the last bit of kit we needed to have a full set of what we think every library should have to be accessible, and a man who came to the library for the first time today said “You have given me a new life”.  He  said it had been his first happy day since he began to lose his sight in 2007.  Makes it all worthwhile.”

  • Lancashire – A rather damning open letter from the former head of Lancashire County Council’s Cultural Services to the Leader of the Council regarding the proposals to close Museums & Libraries Lancashire County Council Conservative Group. “Not long ago Lancashire possessed what was regarded as one of the finest public library services in Western Europe. With one stroke the County will be creating at best a patch-work mediocre service, whilst in some areas it will be reduced to some of the poorest provision in the North West. ” … “certainly, the line in the budget papers that a reduction to 12 libraries (from 74!) ‘would meet … its statutory obligations’ represents a totally ludicrous interpretation of the legislation” … “For the County Library Service, since the principal decision to close 40 libraries has already been taken, the proposed consultation is entirely spurious and a complete smoke-screen to hide the fact that the public will have no genuine say over whether or not their library closes. “
  • Lincolnshire – Letter: ‘Lincolnshire County Council is swinging its axe at the wrong target in libraries’ – Lincolnshire Echo. “The organisers of the ‘Save Lincolnshire Libraries Campaign’ have voiced the opinions of thousands like me, who wished to retain the former system of a professional library service, managed by professional librarians.” … “In their haste to dispense with something which, it must be said, is rightfully ours, one may be excused for assuming that certain councillors may never have used a library – or are even unaware of the unacceptable literacy standards that still prevail in some Lincolnshire schools. Another reason for retaining a professional service.”
  • North Yorkshire – Friends of Bentham Library seek volunteers and funds to secure future of much-loved ‘heart of the community’ – Westmorland Gazette. “The much-loved ‘heart of the community’ is staffed by professional librarians for ten hours per week, and by volunteers for six-and-a-half, to cover the hours lost when opening times were reduced by North Yorkshire County Council. From 2017 the High Bentham library will be completely managed by the community, and the Friends of Bentham Library (FOBL) are actively looking for more help and a new venue that costs less to run, so they can keep the library open.” … “Bentham Town Council pledged to support the library financially at its recent meeting, and Cllr Brockbank said the council already made a valued contribution by paying FOBL’s liability insurance.”
  • St Helens – Creative workshops at St Helens Libraries to help provide antidote to new year blues – St Helen’s Star. “With the new year often a difficult time when people can feel down and worried about the year ahead, ‘Creative Alternatives’ will offer people who experience poor mental health access to a variety of sessions in drawing, painting, crafts and creative writing, all led by trained artists. “
  • Shropshire – Judicial Review on Church Stretton Library to be heard in April – Shropshire Live. “On 27th March 2015 Shropshire Council decided to close the Church Stretton Library in its current building at the heart of the community and move it out of town to be run by a private company at the school on Shrewsbury Road; thus marking the end of our exemplary vibrant community hub, with its visitor information centre, registrar, customer services and library, to create an isolated, single-use library.” … “The High Court has now listed the case for hearing on the 4th and 5th April 2016.”
  • Solihull – Revamped Library’s new name reflects role at the heart of Solihull – Birmingham Mail. “Solihull Central Library will be given a new name as a £2.3million refurbishment programme nears completion. ‘The Core’ will include the town’s main library, the Arts Complex Theatre, Solihull Connect, a community advice hub and a number of voluntary and community sector organisations. Council bosses decided to refurbish the library in Homer Road to make it more user-friendly for staff and customers and it has been designed to offer residents access to a range of information and advice agencies in one central location. The refurbishment is due to be completed by the end of February.”

“Glastonbury library will soon be overhauled and be a place not only for books and the internet but to see the police, the citizens advice bureau and local council and public health representatives —all sorts of things delivered under one roof, achieving a welcome saving for local government.” James Heappey MP in parliament.

  • Suffolk – Revamped library is the ‘pride of Elmswell’ – Bury Free Press. “The community rallied behind the Friends of Elmswell Library and Suffolk Libraries groups to raise more than £15,000 to complete the revamp.” … “The library, which has been hailed ‘the pride of Elmswell’, has seen extensive work completed including a new space-saving moveable shelving, new furniture and improvements to the children and young people’s areas. Students from West Suffolk College also lent a hand, decorating the inside of the library with a fresh lick of paint. Emma Yarrow, Elmswell Library Manager, said: “Elmswell Library Friends, with the support of very generous fund-raisers and organisations, managed to achieve something really very special.” … “The new design incorporates ‘dementia friendly’ aspects, with plain carpets so as not to confuse or distress those who are living with the condition, a grey entrance mat instead of a black one, so as not to cause confusion, and our signage is clear and easy to understand.”
  • Swindon – Libraries aid social care – Swindon Advertiser. Shirley Burnham: “As is regularly the case, “tackling” a budget means hurling oneself at the knees of our public libraries and bringing them down. I can identify a contradiction in some statements from Cllr David Renard and, specifically, this one: “We will build resilience, which will allow us to focus more preventative services on social care issues before they arise and help more people to take care of themselves.” To that I respond that our public libraries are eminently qualified to foster healthy living, community inclusion and independence in those who are frail, elderly, visually impaired or otherwise disabled.”
  • Trafford – Hale Library – an update on progressFriends of Hale Library. “… we are now close to finalising an interior layout for the new building that will deliver an excellent library on the first floor and vastly improved facilities for the Bowling Club and Seniors Group on the ground floor.” … about to submit for planning permission.
  • Walsall – 100 gather to oppose Pleck library closure – Express and Star. “The protest saw campaigners from the Friend’s of Pleck Library group, headed by Shabir Hussain and Naheed Gultasib, stage loud chants and display brightly coloured banners in a bid to keep the popular Darlaston Road library open. It is the second time that the library has been earmarked for closure, along with others in the borough, as part of the council’s bid to save £25 million. Ms Gultasib, who is also a lecturer at Sandwell College, described the library as the ‘jewel in Pleck’s crown’.” … “More than 3,000 people have signed a petition opposing the closure in recent weeks.” see also Hundreds protest against planned closures of Walsall libraries – Walsall Advertiser.
  • Wrexham – Trust ‘to protect libraries, museums and culture’ in Wrexham – Leader. “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.” … “An options appraisal was done to consider merging the services into one trust and it was determined this was the most viable sustainable model in the medium to long-term”