As of the time of being published, I understand that the occupation of Carnegie Library in Lambeth is still going on by protestors (“just” plain library users many of them) keen to see it not being turned into a gym. There’s even a plan to have a Carnegie Occupation march on Saturday. This is all horribly embarrassing for the council there but is it enough? There’s lots of news coverage on it below. Also this issue I have a short interview with Alan Duckworth, who sounds quite a character, about his experience of being a reference librarian for 40 years. I don’t see public libraries going the way that Alan thinks reference libraries are going: they’re far too important and wonderful for that.


A short interview with Alan Duckworth, author of “Crazy Horse the Librarian”

Crazy Horse the Librarian - Available via this link

Crazy Horse the Librarian –

Available via this link

So, why “Crazy Horse?” Crazy Horse, because just as that noble warrior saw his happy hunting grounds dwindle and his skills grow redundant as the pale face proliferated, so has the reference librarian’s role diminished under the onslaught of IT.

What has been your library experience? I’ve worked for 40 years in libraries all over Lancashire, in mobile libraries, prison libraries, branches big and small, but mainly reference libraries in Blackburn, Lancaster, Accrington and Chorley. I remember as a raw recruit being asked by some schoolchildren for information on Jethro Tull.  I sent them off to the music library, whence they soon returned in the company of the music librarian, who gave me a pithy but helpful talk on the Agrarian Revolution.

As far as being helpful goes, well I always let tramps sleep, so long as they didn’t snore too loudly.  I was always a stickler for silence.  Mobile phones became the bane of my existence..  I was most use in the spheres of family and local history, focussing the enormous enthusiasm people can bring to these pursuits and often leading them to a lifetime of endeavour.

What changes have you seen in your time? Libraries have changed in the 60 years I’ve been involved with them.  No longer temples of learning, no longer repositories of culture.  You’ve a good chance now of finding Jeffrey Archer or Josephine Cox on the shelf, but maybe not Graham Greene or Virginia Woolf.  It’s an age old argument that was lost many years ago by people like me.  It’s not just libraries that have change, but the world.  As a country we’ve decided we can no longer afford libraries.  One day the good old fashioned, hefty reference tome will be a rarity, a theme I explore in a novel Magicke Booke, written under my pen name Lorenzo Dali.

What future do you see for reference libraries?  Reference libraries have gone or are going.  When once you would have needed a reference librarian who could navigate the labyrinthine stack, or free climb up a cliff face of crumbling Hansard and drop down safely with a precious volume, now you just need somebody who can master a mouse.”

National news

  • £2.3m for libraries, museums and archives in Wales – Welsh Government. “The funding includes £1million to modernise six community libraries in Bala, Brecon, Cardiff, Haverfordwest, Holywell, and Merthyr Tydfil, It will be used to establish the libraries as new community hubs, where customers can access a range of other services such as housing or leisure facilities, as well as an extensive range of library amenities. It will help them to improve their services and attract new users.”
  • CILIP Libraries Change Lives Award – CILIP. “The CILIP Libraries Change Lives Award is a national award open to UK-based library, information and knowledge-based services or initiatives from any sector that have a positive and demonstrable impact on their user community. The award is organised by CILIP’s Community, Diversity and Equality Group and CILIP. Recent winners include North Ayrshire’s ‘Appiness‘, Northamptonshire Libraries’ ‘Enterprise Hubs‘, Surrey Libraries’ Domestic Violence, How Surrey Libraries Can Help, Kent Library and Archives Making the Difference: Opportunities for Adults with Learning Difficulties and The City of Edinburgh’s HMP Edinburgh Library Partnership.”
  • Councils defend ‘difficult’ service spending cuts – LocalGov. “Spending on services such as pest control and public toilets has been cut by as much as 40% by councils since 2010, according to new research.  The investigation by the Press Association found money for many local amenities, including parks and libraries, had been cut by as much as quarter. Budgets for tackling infectious diseases are down by a half.” … “A spokesman for the Local Government Association said: ‘Councils are increasingly having to do more with less and to try and protect services. ‘This means having less to spend on many of the other services people value, such as filling potholes and funding leisure facilities like pools, gyms and parks, libraries and museums.’. “A DCLG spokesman said: ‘Councils will still have almost £200bn to spend on local services over the lifetime of this parliament. ‘They also have more freedom over how they allocate their resources to meet local needs while devolution deals mean we’re transferring greater powers than ever before from Whitehall to town halls.’”
  • Google Digital Garage 2016 – UK Online Centres. ” Tinder Foundation and Google are partnering to ensure the resources can reach businesses with the lowest digital skills. It’s an exciting project that provides the opportunity to boost local economies by helping businesses use digital better. Successful organisations will engage with and help sole traders and micro businesses to access and use Google Digital Garage resources as part of a rounded package of support to improve their digital capability, delivered to meet their needs. People setting up in business can be helped too.”
  • Library network to become autism friendly – ASCEL. “Today is not only World Autism Awareness Day but also International Children’s Book Day. And following research showing that more than 9 in 10 people with autism would use their library more if some autism friendly adjustments were made, the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL) is to offer training and support to all 3000 of the nation’s public libraries.” … “The project, which was supported using public funding by Arts Council England, will lead to a training video for librarians, fact sheets, signage and social stories. The training will be launched at the Society of Chief Librarians seminar in June.”
  • Life in an outsourced library service – Libraries Taskforce / Gov.uk. “The pros and cons of outsourcing within the public sector is a political debate to be had elsewhere. For library staff who find themselves working under an outsourced arrangement, they are a practical reality that need to be understood. Outsourcing can be used as something of a catch-all term and can mean anything from outright sell-off to mutualisation. There are likely as many kinds of outsourcing arrangements as there are organisations willing to outsource. Therefore, we can only speak from our experience of working under an outsourced agreement to manage the library service at Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth (BRNC).”


International news

      • Afghanistan – To Feed Hungry Minds, Afghans Seed a Ravaged Land With Books – New York Times. “At first glance, it is not much of a library: two shelves of about 1,600 books and magazines in a basement room deep into a dusty alley of adobe homes in rural Panjwai District, in southern Afghanistan. The mattresses and blankets stacked in the corner still give the vibe of the guest quarters the room once was. But the register shows how parts of the community here, particularly younger residents, have come to value any chance to indulge their curiosity, in a place that was at the heart of the original Taliban uprising in the 1990s and became a watchword for the tragedy and deprivation brought by war.”
      • EU – Libraries welcoming refugees – NAPLE Sister Libraries. “Last month we showed you how to apply to the call for participation in EAEA Grundtvig Award for adult education and refugees. Now we want to present some initiatives about how the libraries are helping to this collective. Libraries welcome refugees arriving into European countries with plenty of activities for both children and adults, as well as access to information and education. We´re going to summarize some initiatives but you can see all them here …”
      • Global – Could your Library be the Public Library of the Year 2016? – IFLA. “The award for best public library in the world 2016 will again this year be given to a library that is either newly build or located in a building that has not previously been used as a library. The award is presented in collaboration with the firm Systematic and with the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Public Libraries Section. The prize is $US 5,000. “
      • Uganda – With its first mobile library, Uganda starts to build a reading culture – Christian Science Monitor. “Only 18 percent of third-graders could read a second-grade-level English story, according to a 2013 study. Founder Rosey Sembataya hopes her mobile library will help build ‘a generation of book guzzlers.'”
      • USA – E-books are not the answer to a literacy crisis – Washington Post. “The Open eBooks initiative is laudable, but it fails to address the root of the country’s literacy crisis. While it will make textbooks and storybooks accessible to those lucky enough to have the technology, without critical intervention to create a culture of reading in every home and school, that access has little chance of making any meaningful change.” 
      • USA – How libraries can save the Internet of Things from the Web’s centralized fate – Boing Boing. “Everyone thinks libraries have a positive role to play in the world, but that role differs greatly based on whether you’re talking to a librarian or a patron. Ask a patron what libraries have in common and they’d probably answer: they share books with people. Librarians give a different answer: they share a set of values. It’s time for libraries to step up to those values by supporting access to the Internet and taking the lead in fighting to keep the Internet open, free, and unowned. “
      • USA – In San Jose, Poor Find Doors to Library Closed – New York Times. “When Damaris Triana, then 8, lost several “Little Critter” books that she had borrowed for her sister, the library here fined her $101 — including $40 in processing fees — a bill that was eventually turned over to an agency to collect from her parents. The $101 is a small part of a whopping $6.8 million in unpaid fines at the San Jose Public Library, an amount that exceeds unpaid fees at some larger cities around the country.” … “As the total of overdue fines has increased, so has the number of cardholders who owe $10 or more and are prohibited from borrowing materials or using the library’s computers. Damaris, now 10, relies on her cousin’s card or uses her school’s library, where there are no fines for late or lost books.”

Library news by authority

      • Barnet – Campaigners devastated as councillors vote in favour of cuts to Barnet libraries – Times Series. “Campaigners say councillors are “sticking two fingers up to democracy” as they voted in favour of cuts to library services. Proposals looking to save £2.27 million were approved as Barnet Council voted 31-27 in favour of the plans during a full council meeting at Hendon Town Hall on Monday” … “Cllr Thomsptone said: “Three main changes include live CCTV cameras in the libraries, the age limit has lowered to 15 including Year 11 students and people and children who are under age will have access to online and digital library services.” “
      • Barnet – ‘Children will be at risk if library staff are cut’ – North London Newspapers. “The future of Barnet libraries will be considered at the full council meeting at Hendon Town Hall tonight. Proposals include reducing the number of staffing hours across 14 libraries by more than two-thirds from 634 per week to 188 per week as a means of saving cash. But the safety of children who use libraries unaccompanied could be compromised if libraries lose staff, and the number of books borrowed by members of the public could fall, according to the office of Labour’s London Assembly member for Barnet Andrew Dismore. … “Mr Dismore said the self-service system [Open+ – Ed] at the library hadn’t worked since March 6 and was taking far longer than promised to be fixed. He said: “It’s beyond belief for the conservatives to vote to spend £1.4 million to install this failed system in Barnet’s 13 other libraries.” ” see also Protesters fighting to save Barnet libraries will unite as councillors will decide on its future – This is Local London.
      • Darlington – Campaigners to hold meeting to find imaginative ways of saving Darlington’s libraries – Northern Echo. “Arts organisation Darlington for Culture (DfC) has organised the event to discuss ideas for maintaining Crown Street Library, Cockerton Library and the mobile library service, which are threatened as part of borough council cutbacks. DfC believes the closure decision should be delayed by the council to allow a “more considered approach involving the wider community”.” … ” volunteers say they do not believe the council should be absolved from blame, saying they are unconvinced that the proposed replacement library in the Dolphin Centre will be an adequate replacement. “
      • Devon – Devon’s libraries become staff and community owned organisation – North Devon Journal. “Braunton Library staff and the chairman of its campaign volunteer group said recent developments in library provision across the county spell ‘very exciting’ times ahead. From April 1 Devon County Council commissioned library services to Libraries Unlimited, a staff and community-owned social enterprise, which involves increased support for library staff from volunteer organisations and input from other members of the community. Libraries Unlimited is managed by Chief Executive Ciara Eastell and led by a Board of Trustees recruited from library staff, library Friends Groups and independent members of the Devon community”
      • Hampshire – Era of mobile libraries to end – News. “Council leaders are set to agree at a meeting on April 18 that mobile library services in Hampshire end in June. The Hampshire County Council service will be replaced by a ‘home library service’, delivered by volunteers, as well as free online learning sessions for communities that are losing their mobile library stop” … “Meanwhile, a report says no decisions will be taken on the future of ‘Tier 3’ libraries until the end of 2017. These are smaller libraries currently managed by the county council, but one proposal is some of these be managed by the community”
      • Hampshire – Stay of execution for Hampshire library services after decision on future put back to 2017 – Get Hampshire. “A  handful of libraries across north-east Hampshire have been given a welcome reprieve after closure concerns – but the end of the county’s mobile service is in sight. There were fears tier three libraries with less opening hours such as Yateley and Odiham could be closed as part of a Hampshire County Council (HCC) review. But there is some hope for campaigners after the results of HCC’s draft library strategy to 2020 were published. A report to the council’s culture and communities select committee stated: “No decisions will be taken on the future of tier three libraries until the end of 2017. “If changes are proposed to any tier three library, there will be separate consultations with the relevant local communities and organisations.””
      • Lambeth – Lambeth issues possession order as Carnegie Library campaigners stand firm on Day 5 of their occupation – Brixton Buzz. “Supporters were out in force today outside the occupied Carnegie Library, as Lambeth enforcement officers turned up mob handed to deliver an interim possession order.” … “The notice informed the campaigners that they were occupying the library without the consent of the council, with a court hearing scheduled for May 4th at Lambeth County Court..” … “Lambeth councillors may not understand the importance of keeping libraries open, but these kids certainly did. They told us that the closure of the library had left them in tears.” see also Carnegie Library protestors handed court order – BookSeller and Carnegie Library sit-in to stop cuts rocks Labour councillors in Lambeth – Socialist Worker.

“Swaffield said the protest is “creating the kind of ripples we need”. She added: “There has started to be ructions within the Labour party with many councillors realising that the plans are nonsense. We want to change policy and not just organise an amazing occupation. We actually want to achieve results that will change the council’s decision.”

      • Lambeth – Library under siege – Signal in Transition. “It’s unclear to me how such venues could deliver public library services in the sense that the UN and the International Federation of Library Associations define them. I feel great sympathy for local politicians in the UK, faced with the stark choice of cutting from services which all deserve to have their budgets spared. But Lambeth’s decisions on library provision are baffling to me.” … “Even more uncomfortably, at last year’s Switch Library Conference in Australia, Lambeth Council’s Director of Corporate Affairs Mark Hynes was a guest speaker (PDF download), touting his borough’s approach as a positive vision of the future, supported by the Lambeth community” … “Meanwhile Lambeth councillors have been responding to library lovers’ concerns with derogatory social media posts.

It’s scary to imagine a world where library lovers have to stand their ground against the police and read up on their rights to peaceful occupation but it’s even scarier to imagine a world where we trade away libraries for gyms with bookshelves, while senior officers of the council making that trade jet around the world to put a gloss on these actions for the library conference circuit.”

    • Lincolnshire – Under new management! Greenwich Leisure takes over 15 Lincolnshire libraries – Lincolnshire Echo. “Lincolnshire’s library service is being outsourced to the same organisation the county council was accused of snubbing. At a Judicial Review in the High Court in July 2014, campaigners Save Lincolnshire Libraries claimed that the authority missed the best chance to protect libraries from closure by not fully investigating a bid by GLL. Now it will also handle the county’s online library services and specialist support for those unable to reach their nearest library because of disability, age or ill-health. GLL has also pledged to support the community hub libraries. Peter Bundey is Greenwich Leisure’s deputy managing director.”
    • Swindon – Library volunteers soldier on despite not having equipment for five months – Swindon Advertiser. “A dedicated library volunteer has defended his team of volunteers who have battled on to keep the library open – despite having had no computers since Christmas. Peter Mallinson, 80, revealed that Swindon Borough Council had not provided the new Walcot Library with facilities such as telephones or a book renewal system until a few weeks ago, yet they have still soldiered on. The library moved from Sussex Square to Sussex Place five months ago.”
    • York – YP Letters: Volunteers are no substitute for library staff – Yorkshire Post. “There’s been a marked deterioration in library services. Public libraries once had good systems for borrowing books from other authorities to meet reader requests. Now obtaining a book not in the York system is a matter of applying to the British Library, an expensive business. Inter-library cooperation is a thing of the distant past, to our loss. While I appreciate the efforts of the remaining staff at York Explore, using volunteers, however well- intentioned, is not a satisfactory substitute for experienced staff. There are plenty of genuine voluntary groups short of volunteers. Why should volunteers be expected to cover for jobs robbery?