I know from talking to many people in public libraries and the public sector generally that it’s been a depressing few days, which at times has affected them more than even many general elections. There’s been no end of analysis of what the referendum result means for the country but none about what it means for public libraries. Let’s change that now:

  • Public libraries have been notable for not being used by many to find out information on the facts during the campaign. I’m aware of only a tiny handful of enquiries.  The great majority of libraries did not go out of the way to inform people either: indeed, they would have been often discouraged to do so because they’d have been accused of bias by one or the other side. The rules of council “purdah” may also have been invoked.  If libraries are a strongpoint of democracy and neutral information – as many believe they should be – then they signally failed in this test and need to plan to do better next time.
  • At this moment, it looks significantly likely that Scotland will have another independence referendum, which will probably result in a Yes vote. This means that the large number of leftwing MPs elected to parliament from north of the border will no longer be there.  This will cause a significant shift in the ease that Labour can hope to get in: basically, you’d need votes like those previously associated with landslides in order for them to stand a chance. In turn, this means that governments are probably going to stay right-wing, being more likely to continue to favour limiting public spending, and thus library budgets, in the longer term. Personally, also, for me, it means that I’ll have to start putting Scottish News in the International News section, which is just going to be plain weird.
  • As uncertainty rocks businesses and, at the very least, they will have to get used to new procedures, there is likely to be slowdown in economic growth. This may to some extent be offset by the cost of sterling though but, on balance, and especially looking at recent FTSE results, it’s not looking good for large parts of the British economy. This, again, means we’re more likely to face more cuts to public services than before.
  • Thankfully, public libraries don’t get much investment from the European Union in this country. They get some for new builds but there’s not much of that happening at the moment, although a few places are likely to notice. So, we’re not likely to significantly lose much money that way, Phew.

This is all guesswork of course. It may be that some of the money repatriated from the EU goes to public services and thus negates the impacts of austerity.  It’s possible that Scotland won’t go independent. But, at the moment, the balance of probability is that the short and medium term impact on public libraries will be negative.


Embracing Digital Services #futureoflibraries

“Public libraries are changing. Although the future of many public libraries is yet unknown, it is apparent that our service is still important and crucial to our communities. Many feel that the changes libraries are undergoing are threatening our traditional values and user accessibility.

Some users feel that the biggest threat to this is the use of digital services. However, it has become evident over recent months that these digital services are expanding and engaging our users. With many library services, it is now possible to obtain e-newspapers and e-magazines and download them onto any device including your Smartphone or Tablet. Many Library services, including Manchester, Edinburgh and Wrexham are already using Zinio, an online site and app that allows you to choose from 5,500 publications and download them straight from your library. These publications include Digital Photographer, Top Gear and What’s on TV to name just a few. This online service allows libraries to still provide magazines to their users; this platform is available 24/7 and is therefore a more accessible alternative, which allows members to access back copies of the magazines. Adopting this approach is not only helpful and more accessible to the customer, providing a greater range of materials and resources, but also allows local authorities to achieve value for money whilst creating more innovative services. Some Library Services are even using iPads in their main branches to allow patrons to read magazines in the library.

Another digital resource, which as a student I have found invaluable is Credo. Credo is an online platform which has over 600 ready reference titles including a wide range of topic pages and multimedia. This platform allows libraries to broaden their reference section and keep it up to date. It allows users to carry out in depth research on a particular topic and provides them with further links to areas which may be useful. Recently, I have been working on a presentation on right wing extremism and the National Front in France, a topic which we have very little information on in the library. Credo allowed me to search through over 41 different pieces of information to aid me in my project. It even referenced the articles in APA so I could carry out further research. This kind of system really can benefit students and adult learners up and down the country and allows the library service to further enrich the understanding of its users.

With many services such as Credo and Zinio which are listed above coming onto the market for Library users, Digital Services can allow us to maintain and safeguard our traditional values and make them more accessible to all. Librarians do understand that these online platforms can be a bit daunting to some customers, but we will always be available to help and assist you. If your local library service provides these services or something similar, I would recommend that you give it a try. You never know what you might discover.

Austen Lowe, Library Support Assistant with Bury Libraries and Specialist Customer Services Representative with Cheshire West and Chester Council “

National news

  • CILIP Membership 2018: fit for the future – CILIP. “The information, knowledge and library sector is changing as people experience more varied and diverse careers. CILIP membership needs to change to meet your needs. In consultation with the sector to develop CILIP’s strategy to 2020 we heard that membership needs to be more affordable, better value for money, be more open to everyone in the sector and provide clearer benefits. We are proposing to introduce a new approach to membership from January 2018, which will provide you with …”
  • Public Libraries: Centres of Value and Service Excellence in Communities – Society of Chief Librarians / Roly Keating. Chief Executive of British Library explains what services the British Library provide, including Business and IP Centres, to public libraries. “We hope our partnerships with public libraries will help deliver our commitment to support the sector as a whole, contributing to an increasingly confident national narrative around libraries as centres of value and service excellence in communities and helping to catalyse innovation”
  • Towards a Drone Loan Scheme: Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads – Common Libraries. “Drone loans could mean Using drones to scan RFID tags within libraries as in Biblo Toyen or Using drones to offer personalise library services through home delivery – see, for example, work underway in respect of Amazon Prime Air DHL Delivery Drones and Starship Technologies. On this occasion, we’ve taken ‘drone loans’ more literally to mean: public libraries loaning drones to their users. But, there’s plenty of scope to explore those other definitions with interested parties, and we’d love to hear from anyone who’d like to look at them with us.”

International news

  • Canada – The wacky world of the Vancouver Public Library on tour – Vancouver Sun. Special tour. “While you’re there, you could also solve the question of what caused the weird rash on the dead guy in the alley by checking out Hough’s Encyclopaedia of American Wood, and learning about Florida’s Poison-Tree wood. Heck, you can actually feel the wood, as Hough’s cheerful 13-volume encyclopedia has real pieces of wood (traverse section, radial section and tangential section) within its pages. Now that’s inspiration.” … “One of the coolest, newer aspects of the central branch is the Inspiration Lab. Just a year old, this physical space is all about dynamic communication. If you want to record a record of cat sounds or do a podcast about mice, you can utilize one of the five recording studios (one even has green-screen technology). You can book the spaces in three-hour blocks and like everything else in the library, the rooms and all the equipment are free.”
  • New Zealand – In praise of public libraries – New Zealand Immigration. “In our atomised society, three institutions bring people together, says Joanna Matthew. The church where they worship, the school their children attend and spanning the life of the community, the public library” … ““If you walk into the Waipukurau library on a Monday morning, there will be a group of knitters putting in their coffee orders,  readers browsing the shelves,  people parked up at every available outlet accessing the Wi-Fi, and a couple of students in a corner studying remotely. The library is at the heart of the community.”” … “as New Zealand’s communities have become more culturally varied, libraries have evolved to fit their needs. They have community language collections for both adults and children, ESOL teaching resources and a range of services that are either targeted at migrants – such as meet-ups to practise conversational English ¬– or that they may find useful, such as how to write a New Zealand-style CV and covering letter. Libraries link migrants with their first languages and communities of origin, even as they act as a good neighbour in helping them settle into life in New Zealand.”
  • Rwanda – Why public libraries are the pulse of community literacy – New Times. “Primarily, people visit a library to read, but in the process, these sessions bring diverse people together which can actually foster other social interests. Rwinkwavu Community and Library Learning Centre (RCLLC) is one such arena. RCLLC is run by Ready for Reading, a non-governmental organisation that strives to advance literacy and learning through community base initiatives by fostering ICT skills, literacy and a culture of reading.”
  • USA – Browse free or die? New Hampshire library is at privacy fore – Daily Mail. “The Kilton Public Library in Lebanon, a city of 13,000, last year became the nation’s first library to use Tor, software that masks the location and identity of internet users, in a pilot project initiated by the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Library Freedom Project. Users the world over can — and do — have their searches randomly routed through the library.” …””Libraries are bastions of freedom,” said Shari Steele, executive director of the Tor Project, a nonprofit started in 2004 to promote the use of Tor worldwide. “They are a great natural ally.” … “Lebanon Police Chief Richard Mello said last month he still has concerns. “Once you institute the Tor network, you essentially take those computers off the radar screen, so to speak,” Mello said.”

Local news by authority

  • Birmingham – Discovery Terrace closed for essential maintenance – Library of Birmingham. “The Discovery Terrace on Level 3 is currently closed for essential building maintenance. We will update all customers once these works are complete. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience that this may cause and we hope that you enjoy many of the other fantastic features the Library of Birmingham has to offer”
  • Blaenau Gwent – Education, Active Living and Learning Scrutiny Committee Minutes – Blaenau Gwent Council. “In response to a question raised in respect of the future of Brynmawr Library. In response, Anthony Hughes advised that a Library Review would take place with appropriate timescales set out.” … “A Scrutiny Task & Finish Group to be established to undertake a fundamental review of the library service with a view to determine the future strategic direction for the service moving forward”
  • Brent – Join me for dinner on 12th July – Save Kensal Rise Library. “Ida restaurant is hosting a very special evening in support of Kensal Rise Library on Tuesday, July 12th. Enjoy three courses for £35 and Ida will donate £10 from every meal to the library.”
  • Darlington – Campaigners urge Darlington Borough Council to delay decision on Crown Street Library – Northern Echo.
  • Devon – Libraries Unlimited aims to bring ‘commercial edge’ to Devon’s libraries – Express and Echo. “Those involved insist the move is not privatisation or about generating profit for shareholders, but will “bring a commercial edge to the library service to help it survive and thrive”. Three months in, chief executive Ciara Eastell says she and her colleagues are relishing their new freedom from council control.” … “Under a five-year contract with Devon County Council, the amount Libraries Unlimited receives will reduce each year, from around £7 million this year to £5.5 million in three years’ time. The new public service mutual is applying for charitable status, which would bring savings on business rates and enable it to access sources of funding which the council could not.” … “Potential ways of generating income include opening up libraries for use by groups, organisations and services, such as business advice sessions, language lessons or training for job seekers.” … ““We have 120,000 people in Devon who use libraries regularly, out of a population of 700,000, so there’s huge potential for growth,” said Ciara.”
  • East Lothian – Six-year-old’s plea as Prestonpans Library plans cause concern – East Lothian Courier. “PLANS to move council services into Prestonpans Library have come under fire, amid claims a 20 per cent drop in the number of users is “mince” … “Prestonpans Community Council met with East Lothian Council officials to discuss plans to close Aldhammer House in the town and spend £93,000 refurbishing the library to accommodate the services. And there was a personal plea made to save the library by six-year-old Manja Porteus, who attended the meeting with dad Tim, and expressed fears the changes would led to the eventual loss of the service altogether”
  • Lancashire – Anger at “snub” over libraries – Gazette. Councillor fails to meet library campaigner.
  • Northern Ireland – Libraries should return to the sound of silence – Belfast Telegraph. “In the past, entering a library was to step from the harassment and noise of the outside world into an oasis of calmness and silence.Everywhere we go these days, there seems to be the constant, irritating rattle of fingers on keyboard. Now, even the tranquillity of the library is being polluted with this sound – a sound which (to paraphrase Louis MacNeice) deadens and endures.
  • Northern Ireland – Protests at library cuts across Northern Ireland – Irish News. “A total of 14 branches are set to have their opening hours cut under plans announced by Libraries NI, despite figures from the former Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) showing a rise in the number of people using libraries.” .. “Sean Burns, spokesman for The Hands Off Our Libraries Campaign, said: “From Enniskillen to Carrickfergus, we found universal opposition to these cuts. “Our libraries don’t just provide books, they are community hubs. They provide vital resources for students, young families, people on benefits, the elderly and immigrant communities.”
  • Sheffield – A major priority – Star / Letters. Asks councillor that praised volunteers if he’s willing to (a) praise the paid staff they replaced and (b) if it is possible to replace the volunteers with paid staff.
  • Vale of Glamorgan – Campaigners win permission for second judicial review over library plans – Local Government Lawyer. “The hearing is due to be held in October, the Save Rhoose Library Campaign said. Vale of Glamorgan Council wants to save money by having Rhoose library run by volunteers rather than staffed full time. The campaign group argues that this will give an unsatisfactory service with the facility open for shorter periods. Save Rhoose Library said the council failed to provide sufficient information to justify its proposal, had issued misleading information about the role of volunteers when it surveyed opinion and had not properly assessed the impact of the proposal on school pupils and job seekers who relied on the library’s facilities.”
  • Wandsworth – Cllr Govindia explains how Wandsworth is saving money while protecting services – WandsworthSW18. “As local authority funding has been reduced in recent years the council has had to work to make savings while protecting front line services like weekly bin collections, libraries and the borough’s award-winning parks.” … “We have also transferred the management of our libraries to social enterprise GLL which saves £665,000 every year. With reduced back office costs we have kept every library branch open while councils with an in-house service have simply closed them.”
  • Warwickshire – Warwickshire residents give local library services thumbs up – Leamington Observer.
  • Worcestershire – Upton Villages Together sign lease taking control of Upton-upon-Severn library upkeep from Worcestershire County Council in a bid to reduce spending – Evesham Journal. “A lease was announced on Saturday which transfers the responsibility to maintain, develop and manage the building, to Upton Villages Together. It is hoped the plans will lead to “considerable savings” for the council and enable the library to expand its services. Upton Villages Together signed a lease with Worcestershire County Council to look after “bricks and mortar” of the library. The council will still provide normal library services”