Swindon are introducing some of the toughest cuts in the country to their library service, aiming to keep just one council-run out of 15 at the end of the review.  The council directly quotes recent DCMS guidance saying that this is allowed.

In other news, the SCL are inviting one senior librarian from each service to attend its annual two-day session in order to work out how to cope with the drastic budget reductions being introduced as a result of central government austerity and the removal of effective statutory protection. Not that the SCL phrases the invite like that but everyone attending will know full well why the conference is being called “Changing Horizons: challenges, trends and new ways of delivering“. It is the job of chief librarians, after all, to implement some really hard choices and they need to learn about how best to do it.

Conservative libraries minister Ed Vaizey, whose government is mostly responsible for these tough times, will be speaking (to be fair, the SCL would invite any relevant minister, regardless of their record – it’s just that they’re Conservative this decade and the Conservatives, lest we forget, are in power due to the electorate) at the meeting as will also be, I notice, a former RAF fighter pilot as well as one or two genuine library experts such as Professor David Lankes. Although costing up to £435, the two days were fully booked last year.  Many senior managers appreciate the chance to discuss issues in private, with the invitation letter saying “Times are hard, budgets are tight, and the planning team know how difficult it is to justify attendance at the Seminar, but we know how much you value the time to reflect and to talk about the development of our services”. In their position, I’d want to do the same thing.

Those wanting to know what’s going on at those meetings but who are not senior librarians will likely be disappointed. If previous years are anything to go by, a minimum of publicly available information will come out of these sessions.


National news

  • Amazon Lockers – Lis-Pub-Libs. A look at the current state of affairs with Amazon Lockers in libraries and the alternatives.
  • Are paper books really disappearing? – BBC. “thanks to the variability in both e-reading trends and in research findings on the effects (or lack thereof) that digital reading has on us. What we do know, according to a survey conducted last year by Pew Research, is that half of American adults now own a tablet or e-reader, and that three in 10 read an e-book in 2013. Although printed books remain the most popular means of reading, over the past decade e-books have made a valiant effort at catching up.” … “the Times indicates that the first few months of 2015 actually saw a decline in the number of e-books sold. (Pew’s data, however, also show that the number of Americans who read at least one print book fell from 69 to 63% from 2014 to 2015.) “[The publishing] guys are all sort of breathing a sigh of relief, saying ‘Whew, half our market doesn’t like reading on screens,’” Stein says. “The problem is that they’re reading the tea leaves incorrectly.”… “. “We’re in a transitional period,” he says. “The affordances of screen reading will continuously improve and expand, offering people a reason to switch to screens.”
  • Changing Horizons: challenges, trends and new ways of delivering – Society of Chief Librarians. Conference 9th to 10th June, 1 delegate allowed per library authority (charges above). “Over the past year we have all faced challenges, and with the continuing need to think creatively, the Seminar is a safe space in which to discuss the implications of the 2015 Spending Review.” … “Last year, 100% of people attending stated that the seminar was a useful event and that they would recommend the seminar to a colleague.  We aim to offer the same high standard this year and we have already booked a number of high profile speakers including Libraries Minister Ed Vaizey, who will join us on day one to talk informally about the trends and challenges we all face.” … “There will be the usual superb facilities available at Scarman House including great food ” … “Times are hard, budgets are tight, and the planning team know how difficult it is to justify attendance at the Seminar, but we know how much you value the time to reflect and to talk about the development of our services” [N.B. information from emails received: information does not appear on website – Ed.]

Over the past year we have all faced challenges, and with the continuing need to think creatively, the Seminar is a safe space in which to discuss the implications of the 2015 Spending Review.”

A variety of sessions and workshops will provide an update on services which have taken the route of mutualisation, the progress in working towards a single digital presence for libraries and an opportunity to learn from those who have successfully managed significant financial challenges.  Other workshops will focus on the wider issues of cultural programming and retail in libraries

  • Let’s Make & Inspire: Techy Creation in Libraries – Information Twist.  “We’ve run a couple of code clubs and have plans to run more. As well as this we are running our first Maker Day event this coming Saturday, with the help of Carlos Iszak, who I met at the City Mash event last summer. Carlos will be coming in with his Maker Cart kit and people will get the chance to try out 3D printing, paper cutting technology, robotics and electronics. We are also encouraging those attending to share ideas they have about making with technology, things they’ve made and their experiences around digital making in general. I’m really excited about this event and I’ll be helping out with the robotics and electronics side of things – Arduino, Makey Makey, Littlebits. It’s a hands-on event and we want to give people the chance to explore these new technologies for themselves.”
  • ‘Libraries have betrayed publishers’, festival hears – BookSeller. “Nick Kent, the m.d of publisher Peter Owen, said libraries had a duty to support independent publishers but many had stopped spending money on books. “I do think the library service has completely betrayed the publishing trade in Great Britain, particularly the shrinking independent sector,” Kent said, in a session about the relationship between publishers and the library network held at the event on Friday (29th January). “It’s the duty of a civilised country to support publishers in bringing out works and there used to be a regular library sale for all new fiction in hardback. And I’m sure that was a long time ago now… but it did exist. And it’s important. Something needs to be re-established in that area.” However, other delegates defended libraries, suggesting that criticism should instead be directed at the government for reducing local councils’ budgets which had in turn lead to funding being axed for many local services.”

“The audience generally agreed that engagement with libraries typically increased sales in the “very long term” and engendered a “deeper, wider, more sustainable link with communities”.”

  • National Benchmarking Overview Report – Local Government Benchmarking Framework. Scotland only:  “Substantial increases in visitor numbers for sports (15.9%), libraries (28.6%) and museums (33.8%) have been achieved against a backdrop of a 15% reduction in gross expenditure. The growth in visitor numbers for libraries and sports facilities has slowed in the past 12 months. Public satisfaction rates for all culture and leisure facilities, except parks, have fallen in the last 12 months. “
  • Northern light goes out with school libraries – Times. Behind paywall. Philip Pullman lends his weight to campaign to save Scottish school libraries.
  • Speaking volumes – Carnegie UK Trust. “This leaflet sets out the range of ways in which public libraries impact on four policy areas – economy, education, culture and society – and how libraries contribute to the wellbeing of individuals and communities.” Updated for 2016.
  • Walkouts called to fight south London library cuts – Socialist Worker. “Unison union members in Lambeth are fighting the Labour-run council’s plan to close some of the borough’s ten libraries, turn others into gyms and cut the overall service.” … “In Bromley, Unite union members were set to strike from this Saturday for a week to defend local libraries from the privatising Tory-run council.” … “Unite members in Greenwich also voted by 90 percent for strikes last week to save the mobile library service.”

International news

  • Global – ‘Is OverDrive destroying public libraries?’ – TeleRead. “your privacy is very much compromised on multiple levels. Before it was just you borrowing a book from your local lib. Now everyone involved will have big dossiers about your borrowing/reading behaviours. The other issue is the filtering. We all might end up living in bigger filter bubbles due to corporate algorithms controlling our reading/borrowing actions.” … “Now a Japanese company called Rakuten, the same one that bought the Kobo e-book and hardware company, owns OverDrive, which is to “work closely” with the corporation’s other properties.”
  • New Zealand – The Invisible Digital Divide In Libraries: “I will get someone else to help you.” – Finding Heroes. “A large number of people working in libraries (maybe even a majority) are being silently left behind without being noticed. They stay away from using “new digital tools, don’t fully understand the digital jargon spoken by their peers, and don’t ask questions as peer pressure makes them think that they are the only ones who are not ‘in the know’.” They can be found at all levels in a library and as a result can have a damaging effect on the quality and consistency of services provided.”
  • USA – Keep Politics out of Nebraska Libraries. “No” on LB969  – Every Library. “The Nebraska legislature is currently reviewing a terrible bill for libraries that needs to be stopped. This bill is designed to remove the power of the community to control their own libraries through library boards of trustees. LB 969 would shift the responsibility for our libraries away from the trustees and librarians to be solely controlled by local Mayors and City Councils. This means that instead of serving communities and providing the resources that communities deserve in a fair and unbiased way, libraries will be forced to bow to the pressure of local politics to ensure their continued funding. LB 969 is isn’t the will of the people, it’s a political power grab. As one of the few institutions left where people of all classes and ability have unfettered access to education and information, this kind of hostile takeover of libraries will hurt our communities. ” [Interestingly, the proposal sounds very similar to that prevalent in UK council-run libraries – Ed.]
  • USA – Wichita City Council approves new libraryWichita Eagle. “The $33 million-plus project, which does not include the more than $3.6 million spent in land acquisition by the city in 2008, will be built on the southwest corner of Second and McLean. Council members Jeff Blubaugh and Pete Meitzner voted against it. “I believe Wichita’s advanced learning library is our next magic moment,” said council member Bryan Frye, who represents west Wichita.”

Local news by authority

“I really think you should try and come back with some volunteers. “

  • Brent – Brent Library Privatisation Ditched  – James Powney’s Blog. “One aspect of the Brent Council Budget papers of particular interest to me is the proposed spinning off of the service into some sort of trust or possibly to an independent contractor.  I thought it unlikely that this would yield a real saving, and that it might adversely affect performance (which has been exceptionally good since the Libraries Transformation Project was implemented).  It is therefore good news that Brent Council has apparently now realised that it will not work and ditched the idea in the latest budget.  Unfortunately, the financial saving budgeted for even though the hoped for mechanism, to reduce business rates via a tax avoidance scheme, has been abandoned as unworkable.  The current Cabinet has therefore come back to the position the previous one decided on back in 2012/13.  The savings target of £160k will now have to come from the running of the service.  It would have been far better if the Cabinet had been more realistic is assessing the likelihood of the saving back in 2014.  “

“Proposal ENS018 was to transfer the management of the library service to an established trust (or conceivably a new model that would share similar features) with an associated saving of £0.16m.  During 2015/16 this proposal was taken to Leading Members who indicated that, after further research and a feasibility study, service remodeling should not be taken forward. The saving expectation still stood and it is proposed the service will achieve a similar saving of £0.16m through management efficiencies in the Library, Arts and Heritage service.” Report of the Chief FInancial Officer – Brent Council.

  • Bristol – Library assistants must pass written exam to hold on to their jobs – Bristol Post. “Library assistants in Bristol who are mostly women on low pay and work part-time must pass a written exam in the hope of holding on to their jobs. The number of library assistants is being cut from April because all of the city’s libraries are being kept open but with less opening hours. It means they must face a selection process because there are not enough vacancies elsewhere in the council to redeploy them to other jobs. A library assistant who contacted the Post said: “Many assistants have over 20 years service, some have had long service awards, and all are dedicated to their jobs.”
  • Central Bedfordshire – Sarah Winman to call in on National Libraries Day – Bedford Today. “Central Bedfordshire Libraries are also hosting the ‘Mega Read’ in partnership with Headline Publishers and the Reading Agency. Already, 250 free copies of award-winning Sarah Winman’s newest and long-awaited novel, A Year of Marvellous Ways, has been handed out to members of the community ahead of her visit to Flitwick Library on Thursday, February 4 at 7.30pm. “
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Libraries sign up for global Harry Potter night – Guardian series. “Cllr Louise Gittins, Cheshire West and Chester Council’s cabinet member for culture, leisure and wellbeing, said: “It is so exciting to be joining up with thousands of other libraries, schools, bookshops and community centres …”
  • Derbyshire – Libraries in Derbyshire could close following review – Burton Mail. “library service in Derbyshire cannot continue unless the county council looks at some closures and further reductions in opening hours, says a leading councillor.” Possible closures from 2017.
  • Dudley – Dudley celebrations prepared for National Libraries Day – Halesowen News. “Emma Purshouse and Michael Thomas will be at Dudley Library between 10am and 1pm to create personalised poems for people to take away .. During National Libraries Day we want to invite people to come into our libraries to find out what services are available and we want to show how libraries and reading can enrich and improve the lives of people everywhere.”
  • Essex – Knit and natter naturals knock out 11,000 hats in charity drive – Essex Chronicle. “he Big Knit challenge saw volunteers craft mini woolly hats in aid of Age UK Essex at Knit and Natter groups in libraries across Essex.”
  • Herefordshire – Libraries are an essential service, so why are we losing them? – Hereford Times / Letters. “Until the local authority abandoned its duty under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service, the services outlined for WISH were provided by a first class reference library, manned by professional librarians, in Hereford City and also in other branches of the county library. This, of course, is Tory ideology implemented merely to destroy public services.”
  • Isle of Wight – Local authors signing debut novels during National Libraries Day – Island Echo. “It’s great to be part of National Libraries Day. Supporting your local library is very important”.
  • Lancashire – Free Press hands in your petition to save Valley’s libraries Rossendale Free Press. “More than 1,600 people – signing our petitions online and in the paper – backed the Free Press campaign to save the borough’s five libraries after Lancashire County Council (LCC) announced savage budget cuts.”
  • Lancashire – Local comedian helps campaign to save local Chorley library – Bee. “There were poem and story readings, with campaigners dressing up as their favourite book characters. Joanne Bithell is the leader behind the campaign – she tells The Bee libraries are so important in the community;”
  • Lincolnshire – District news from Louth and surrounding areas – Louth Leader. “Village library – Little more than three months after it was forced to close by Lincolnshire County Council’s austerity measures, Alford Library will reopen on February 2. Now run by volunteers, the facility will be known as Alford Focal Point and will be extending the facilities it provides to local residents.”
  • Lincolnshire – Gallery: Hundreds at reopening of Deepings Library – Rutland and Stamford Mercury. “More  1,000 people came through the doors of the revamped Deepings Library as it entered a new era of community involvement.” … “The group has taken over the running of the library after Lincolnshire County Council withdrew its funding. The council has spent about £175,000 refurbishing the building, and people were able to see what was new at the open day.” … “The library now has a paid co-ordinator, Louisa Crowson, whose role is funded partly from renting office space above the library out, partly from a precept increase by both Deeping St James Parish Council and Market Deeping Town Council, and partly from a private donation specifically for staff.”

“To get more than 1,000 is just amazing, and showed the pleasure and the relief that the community felt to have a static library – their own library – back.”

  • Lincolnshire – Hub would be music to Holbeach Town Band’s ears – Spalding Today. “As well as the potential to create a centre of excellence for music – with musicians from all backgrounds under one roof – it could open the way for grant-aid to help the band buy the Holbeach Library building at a cost of £100,000.” … “The library building is owned by Lincolnshire County Council, which is willing to sell it to the band, but the price tag means the band will have to seek grants” … “If the band can’t raise the sum, it will consider renting the library building which is due to be vacated later this year when the volunteers move to the Co-op.”
  • Northumberland – Charity behind Northumberland’s leisure centres and libraries asks for £1m bailout – Chronicle. “Non-refundable grant” of £1m asked for, due to ““historic governance of the organisation and a significant financial deficit”. Trust began in 2014. Council has asked for £3.5m cut over next two years.
  • Northumberland – Event in Alnwick for National Libraries Day – Northumberland Gazette. “The Alice in Wonderland-themed craft event takes place between 10.30am and noon for children aged four to 12” … “Any customer updating their contact details and choosing either email or text as their preferred notification method for information will be entered into the draw to win one of two seven-inch Kindle Fire tablets.”
  • Oxfordshire – Bicester town centre’s new library to open in April – BBC. “The facility will form part of Franklins House, the town’s new £6.6m community building off Manorsfield Road. The current Bicester Library, in Old Place Yard, will close on 19 March and staff will spend the following six weeks moving its stock to the new site. Oxfordshire County Council said the new library will be larger and will have improved facilities.” … “The library is planned to have more public computers, WiFi internet, regular activities, and Bicester Local History Society and National Careers Service will both have their own areas. “
  • Pembrokeshire – New chapter for campaign to secure library’s future – Tivy-Side Advertiser. “The newly established Newport Library Working Group is working with the county council to find a way forward and is now urging more people to join them in the fight to save the library. The group says it has already secured a reduction in rent on the current premises and many offers of volunteer help.”
  • Plymouth – Plymouth shop, pub, and mall to be transformed into pop-up libraries this weekend – Herald.
  • Sandwell – Libraries’ boost for dementia charity – Sandwell Council. “Staff and customers of Sandwell Library and Information Service have raised £4,887 for Better Understanding of Dementia for Sandwell (BUDS).”
  • Shropshire – Shifnal Library refurbishment – Shropshire Council. “Following a public consultation it has been agreed that Shifnal Town Council will take over the running of the Library and Customer Service Point from Shropshire Council.  They will move from their office in Broadway into the Library.  This involves building work and a refurbishment to provide a modern and flexible library space.  In order to achieve this, the library will need to close for a 6 to 8 week period from 1 February”
  • Suffolk – Kesgrave Library celebrates 10 years in permanent building – Ipswich Star. “From modest beginnings in a portable cabin serving just a handful of residents to the thriving and fully-fledged service it has become, Kesgrave Library has undergone something of a transformation over the years.” … “Among some of the successes staff hailed were the take-up in Sunday craft activities, with nearly 1,400 children taking part in craft activities last summer, and 275 youngsters completing the Summer Reading Challenge last year.”
  • Swindon – Libraries and Community-based Services – Emerging Model – Swindon Council. “The current model of library service delivery is aimed at delivering a core library service through multiple delivery points across a range of locations. This model does not enable different levels of services or support to be provided for communities who face more challenges, and in particular, where communities have higher levels of need or deprivation.”

“The Department for Culture, Media and Sport published guidance on 16 December 2015 on Libraries as a statutory service. In examples of decisions made in other areas it is clear that a comprehensive service cannot mean that every resident lives close to a library but that the service is accessible to all residents using reasonable means, including digital technologies. An efficient service must make the best use of the assets available in order to meet its core objectives and vision, and these is a clear link with the availability of council resources in determining what constitutes an efficient service.”