It’s been an interestingly varied few days – helping to host a thriller writer at a library event on Wednesday and then, three days later, helping out at a magic show in another library.  The writer, Martin Edwards, is up for two awards in the USA this week but spoke a lot on how important joining the library was – the library he was speaking at, as it happens – in helping his career.  The magic show was from a professional  theatre company, funded by Arts Council England, and it was superb. Both were very well attended and top notch and I was proud to be part of them.  But they were as nothing compared to being was master of ceremonies for a town award’s night on Friday.  It was a real pleasure to realise I knew so many of the people in the audience and so many of the winners as well.  I knew them because I’d simply worked in the town library for so many years. You get to know people. And people get to know you. There was a lot of smiles and laughter and an awareness, hopefully not just on my part, of the key role libraries play in the town.  All in all, it was a good few nights to be a librarian.

National news

  • Anyone with a problem they can’t solve heads for my library – Guardian / Anonymous. “Some people, particularly children and those who are new to the UK, ask, “Is it free?” They look disbelieving when I tell them that it is. In a world where services and spaces are privatised, where everyone must pay, what libraries offer seems too good to be true.”

“Despite not having the latest bestsellers we’re busier than ever. The services we provide may be getting pared away, but other organisations have been pruned even more severely. Citizens Advice, once around the corner, closed its doors years ago. The council’s neighbourhood office, where people could go for help, shut more recently. The police station just down the road is no longer open to the public. So anyone with a problem they can’t solve heads for the library … I walk down the street in the evening and passers-by smile and wave. “How do you know them?” my partner asks. “From the library,” I say.”

  • Libraries as Social Hubs – Leon’s Library Blog. “Libraries are about physical spaces. That’s what the public values about them. Campaign after campaign has started not necessarily because of threatened withdrawal to services, although this undoubtedly plays a part, but because of the danger to the actual library building itself. The threat, or even the perceived threat, of closure is what galvanises public reaction” … “The tendency amongst policy makers over the past few years to insist that libraries become ‘community hubs’ misses a vital point: libraries are and have always been social hubs of their communities.” Also includes interesting comment from Rachel Van Riel.

“beyond the technology what the public really values is the library as a community space and social hub. Campaigners and volunteers understand this better sometimes than the profession itself. “

Public Libraries News advertiser charity insurance specialist, Ladbrook, last night won Best Customer Service Initiative at the prestigious Public Interest Awards in London for its work supporting UK libraries, in the face of local funding cuts. The awards were organised by the global financial professional body, the Chartered Insurance Institute. The Public Interest Awards recognise insurance companies that have gone above and beyond to educate, inform and benefit buyers of insurance in the UK.  Ladbrook won the prize for designing an insurance product to help the hundreds of newly forming volunteer libraries, stepping in to continue local services where local authorities have discontinued them. Ladbrook Insurance, based in Dinnington, Sheffield, was founded in 2000.  Last year it was acquired by Tim Larden, who committed the business to a strategy of specialising in professional services for charities and not-for-profit groups.  Ladbrook has enjoyed record levels of new business in the last six months and the team has expanded, with further recruitment planned for the coming year.” Ladbrook Insurance press release (received via email).

  • Striking at the heart of communities – UK public libraries in crisis – Cultural Foundation. “Nicky Crabb, Senior Associate at Apples and Snakes, has received an ECF R&D grant following the Idea Camp 2014,  towards their Library Takeover programme; a bespoke training programme for library staff and young people in two different London boroughs. In this piece, Nicky tells us more about the important community role of libraries.” … “Apples and Snakes works closely with libraries in 14 different London boroughs and each meeting begins with news of yet another budget cut, closure, or proposed privatisation of these valuable services. Many of the poets and writers we work with  have told us how their careers was inspired by visits to their local libraries, how their creativity was nurtured by the books they could freely borrow as their parents couldn’t afford books at home; or by the quiet space away from other distractions to read and write”

International news

  • Global / Russia – Rise of Pirate Libraries – Atlas Obscura. “The creators of these repositories are a small group who try to keep a low profile, since distributing copyrighted material in this way is illegal. Many of them are academics. The largest pirate libraries have come from Russia’s cultural orbit, but the documents they collect are used by people around the world, in countries both wealthy and poor. Pirate libraries have become so popular that in 2015, Elsevier, one of the largest academic publishers in America, went to court to try to shut down two of the most popular, Sci-Hub and Library Genesis.”
  • USA – Future of Libraries in America is (Tentatively) Bright – Shareable. “. Now that people had readers, they wanted to borrow ebooks from their local library. “It was a wild time,” says Keith Michael Fiels, executive director of the American Library Association (ALA). “Hundreds of thousands of people got Kindles and showed up at their library ready to borrow ebooks.”
  • USA – The once and future library – MIT News. Academics discuss future of library, with librarians. ““A thrilling change that is happening in libraries’ and archives’ approach to conservation is the value placed on the material culture. It’s not simply, ‘Let’s preserve this.’ It’s ‘Let’s preserve this tear. Let’s preserve these fingerprints. How can we repair the spine of this book without taking all the materials off?’” … ““My preferred library environment is well designed, welcoming, and has good signage. And for libraries, resources are important. You have to be able to know how to find materials. Having spaces that encourage you to think and feel and be creative are the most engaging spaces — not only for libraries. “

Local news by authority

  • Birmingham – Shakespeare Family Day – Library of Birmingham. Various free events listed.
  • Brent – Brent Libraries Bucking National Decline – James Powney;s Blog. “You can see Brent’s figures are surprisingly unaffected by the closure of six libraries in October 2011.  The seven day opening hours and other changes offset any fall, and subsequently visit numbers took off in a really remarkable way, bringing Brent to the highest point for which I have a record.  The black line shows the national falling off which has been going on since at least 2005.  It is shorter as the 2015/16 figures have not been collated yet.  Turning to book loans, there is a similar picture.  The Brent rise is much less marked, but the national decline is similar.”
  • Bristol – Five Bristol libraries face closure next Thursday due to strike action – Bristol Post. Strike due to library workers being forced to take on new working hours, more spread out, which mean it is far harder to take on additional part time work in order to make ends meet.
  • Cambridgeshire – Huntingdonshire libraries face cut in opening hours as part of savings drive – Hunts Post. “The county council needs to save another £500,000 from the library service in Cambridgeshire in the current financial year, having already made £2.5million in savings since 2012, and so launched a review into opening hours in January. The review ran for more than a month and included a survey asking people whether they would be in favour of cutting the opening hours of some of the county’s main libraries – including in St Neots, Huntingdon, and St Ives.”
  • Devon – Libraries Unlimited Launch on World Book Night – Libraries Unlimited. “Libraries Unlimited, a staff and community-owned social enterprise, took over the running of 50 libraries across Devon from April 1st. They are pleased to be welcoming local partners, authors and community groups to learn more about their mission & development plans for improving and extending services provided by the libraries and to celebrate what is the 6th Annual Celebration of reading and books across the UK – World Book Night.” .. “Culture Minister Ed Vaizey  says , “Libraries remain important to communities, not only as places to borrow books but as spaces where people can access a wide variety of information and services. Alternative governance models such as community co-operatives, mutuals and social enterprises can help maintain these important local services and put expert staff and communities at the forefront of decision making  I wish Libraries Unlimited great success as they start their new role in running libraries in Devon.””
  • Enfield – End of an era for libraries in the borough – North London Newspapers. “Decades of local authority provision of a comprehensive library service throughout the borough ended this month as the first “community library partnership” was announced. Ridge Avenue Library, at the corner of Church Street and Ridge Avenue in Bush Hill Park is now run by West Lea School who are based in Haselbury Road, Edmonton.” … “According to Micahel Hardyman, resident of Bush Hill Park and user of the John Jackson library in Agricola Place, a similar situation has occurred in that library, which he believes has impacted on the quality of service. He told The Advertiser: “It has become apparent that if volunteers only are present the service offered is poorer because they only have limited access to the IT system.”
  • Glasgow – Glasgow’s homeless to receive gift of reading – Evening Times. 50 World Book Night books to be donated to people in homeless shelters.
  • Lancashire – Community bid to save the libraries – Lancashire Evening Post. “Deputy leader Alan Vincent, together with Wyre and County Coun Vivien Taylor, Shaun Turner and Howard Ballard travelled to York to meet with the chief executive Fiona Williams, head of the Community Interest Company which has run York Library Service for the past two years. The meeting was for the councillors to examine the way in which the service is operated and to see how Libraries could be run at lower cost to the tax payer without having to close large numbers of community hubs. Coun Vincent said: “York spun its library service into a Community Interest Company two years ago making an immediate 20 per cent saving on cost with more to come.”
  • Newcastle – Internet giant Google to open ‘digital garage’ in Newcastle City Library – Chronicle. “The pop-up facility will open today at Newcastle City Library and will provide one-to-one training and digital masterclasses five days a week.” … “Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Central and Shadow Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, said: “Newcastle’s future economy will be digitally driven, I want everyone to be able to benefit from the fantastic opportunities digital is bringing so I urge all local businesses to take full advantage of the new Google Digital Garage, which offers free training and advice from online experts.””
  • Worcestershire – Library opening hours in Redditch and Bromsgrove to face the chop in £1m cutbacks – Bromsgrove Advertiser. “The controversial proposals will mean seventeen libraries across the county will be affected with opening times reduced by a total of 78.5 hours a week. In a leaked email seen by the Advertiser’s sister newspaper, the Worcester News, Worcestershire County Council could axe library jobs, introduce “unstaffed periods” inside the buildings and increase library fees as part of a fresh plan to save £1 million.”