The new libraries minister has announced that his department will be investigating Lancashire over its shotgun closure of at least 21 libraries. Several Conservative MPs have called for an investigation into the Labour-led authority after considerable public protest about the deepest cuts to libraries in the country this year.  A dilemma now confronts Lancashire: whether it will continue with its plans or hold on until the DCMS makes up its mind. West Berkshire put its plans on hold when it was faced with concerns from the ministry that it had not done things properly.  However, things have perhaps gone too far already if libraries have been closed. This will be a key test for the Rob Wilson MP: will he wave through such cuts like his predecessor Ed Vaizey or will he show a different character.  We shall, as ever, see.

My article on the Idea Stores in Tower Hamlets has received a great deal of interest, with several different organisations asking me for more information and contacts, which I have supplied.  Below is an email from an Idea Stores managers who has emailed with the full permission of his managers. I hope it is of interest.

More on Idea Stores

You are spot on with everything you say. Having worked in lots of public libraries across London and the South East many are experimenting but getting it totally wrong. Massive cuts to staffing and opening hours make things worse. None of that applies here, if anything there are long term plans to expand the number of Idea Stores and to offer more services.

I would recommend a look at Idea Store Watney Market where they have incorporated a council ‘One Stop Shop’ into the Idea Store (Separate staff) you can pay your council tax, chase up about rubbish collection, find out your councillors contact details and then read some newspapers/ take out some books. All under one roof which takes One Stop Shop to a whole new level. There is massive potential for councils with vision to implement similar in their boroughs’ unfortunately there is so far (as your article mentions) little to no coherent vision (or attempts to build one) anywhere else in the UK.

One thing I would like to expand on is the Idea Stores retail focus. Have a good look at the way Waterstones presents their stock (merchandising). Front facing books, staff recommendations (shelf talkers). Add lots of clear signage, plus very tidy shelves and Idea Stores start to look very much like book shops. Why no one else has caught on to this is baffling as it’s so much easier to find things. It also promotes certain stock which ties in with the physical book displays and what’s on the screens (as you mentioned). All of this is commonplace in retail and Idea Stores, it’s time for libraries to catch up.” Mark Johnson, Idea Store Coordinator, Bethnal Green Library.

Changes by local authority

National news

“Libraries are a vital community resource,” added Big Issue editor Paul McNamee. “They are a place of knowledge, a place of learning, but for some they are also a place of refuge, of companionship and of simple human interaction.”

  • Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson named shadow culture secretary – The Stage. “Tom Watson has been appointed Labour’s new shadow culture secretary – the sixth person to hold the position since May 2015”
  • Invitation to tender: Development of the Public Library Universal Culture Offer – Society of Chief Librarians. “SCL has identified the need to develop a 6th Universal Offer focused on culture to bring the contribution that libraries make to our cultural landscape to the fore and provide a platform for future development of the cultural offer of the public library sector. As with all the Universal Offers, SCL expects that the Universal Culture Offer will reflect the wide range and diversity of people using public libraries, including children and young people.” £15k for research/report, to be ready by March 2017.
  • Reading Agency Lecture 2016 – British Library. “In conversation with Reading Agency Chief Executive Sue Wilkinson, Gemma discusses what reading means to her, the barriers faced by people who struggle to read and her activism around young people’s mental health. Her guide to life for young adults, Open: A Toolkit for How Magic and Messed Up Life Can Be will be published by Pan Macmillan in March 2017.” … “This event is part of #LovetoRead , is a BBC campaign to encourage reading for pleasure and to create a national conversation about books. The campaign culminates with the #LovetoRead weekend on the 5th and 6th November when everyone, young and old, will be encouraged to take time out and curl up with a book.  Across BBC television documentaries and special programmes, radio stations, book clubs, social media and libraries this is a national discussion about the books and reading that matters most to us, and to inspire new discoveries.”

International news

  • USA – Enhance Library User Experience with ‘Design Thinking’ – Public Libraries Online. “As an architect and librarian, I find that many people don’t consider themselves designers, or creative in any way. In actuality, we are all designers simply by living our lives – what we choose to wear, how we arrange our homes and workspaces (or don’t), what books we read, and TV shows we watch (or don’t). These are are all design decisions. You are the designer of your life, whether you do it consciously or not. With spreadsheets,  oil paints, words, or singing in the shower, we are all creative. The maker movement is just the newest recognition of the human need to create.”
  • USA – Public Libraries: A Vital Space for Family Engagement – Harvard Family Research Project. “In this Call to Action (PDF), Harvard Family Research Project and the Public Library Association explore what family engagement is, the research behind why families matter for children’s learning, and why libraries matter for family engagement. The paper concludes with ways that libraries around the country are encouraging family engagement “
  • USA – Why public libraries need to support open source – Open Source. “Libraries are changing. Do your part to help them change for the better—to be more open and enthusiastic supporters of open source. Wouldn’t it be great if you asked an open source question at the reference desk and was met with a smiling answer, rather than a sorry-I-can’t-help-you shrug?”

Local news by authority

“When the city council started imposing the cuts, the private philanthropy dried up. People just felt they were paying for the cuts.”

  • Darlington – Friends of Darlington Libraries need volunteers – Darlington and Stockton Times. “Campaigners hoping to save the Crown Street library from closure are appealing for help. Next week, the Friends of Darlington Libraries will take to the streets to drum up responses to Darlington Borough Council’s (DBC) public consultation. The authority is currently asking the town’s residents for their views on changes to library services.” … “They need volunteers to help them distribute the surveys”
  • Devon – Libraries Unlimited and University of Exeter secure £200,000 Arts Council England research grant – Libraries Unlimited. “A two-year research project to understand the impact of libraries on local communities in Devon has been awarded a £200,000 grant from Arts Council England (ACE). Libraries Unlimited and the University of Exeter Business School have teamed up to undertake research into the value of our libraries, and how they can best meet the needs of their users.” … ““Our findings will be incredibly useful not only to libraries but other cultural organisations such as museums and galleries as they seek to better understand the value they create for society as well as understand and face the challenges that lie ahead.””
  • Devon – Libraries Unlimited: the journey so far – Libraries Taskforce / Ciara Eastell. “Libraries Unlimited was established as an independent staff and community owned mutual and came into operation on 1st April 2016. Staff transferred across and I became the organisation’s Chief Executive, having previously been the Head of Libraries, Culture and Heritage whilst in the Council.” … “Key ingredients we had which – together – helped make the process of transfer a success included:” [Long list] … “. Behind the scenes though, the sense of pace and forward momentum has been palpable.” … “In 18 months, we have seen our network of Friends Groups grown from 14 to 44 providing us with a ready source of support and funding for our libraries at a local level and input into the governance of the organisation as a whole. Other exciting partnerships include our growing links with the University of Exeter. “

“We talk much more about the value, mission and purposes of libraries than we ever did as a service within the local authority. We use our purposes every day to inform the way we’re changing the organisation.”

  • Glasgow – Day of poetry will get Glasgow rhyming for a reason – Evening Times. “Railway stations, street corners, bus stations and libraries will today be challenged to ‘say it with a poem’ as part of a partnership between Glasgow Libraries and The Big Issue. on October 6. Big Issue vendors and performance poets will be delivering impromptu poetry performances and passing on the message to ‘love your library’ at many of the city’s landmarks, including pop-up events at Central and Queen Street railway stations and Buchanan bus station”
  • Herefordshire – Proposals to centralise customer services but retain county libraries – Hereford Times. “Council customer services could be centralised in Hereford and Belmont library could be run by the community under new proposalsThe future of the library service in the county will be discussed at Herefordshire Council‘s cabinet on Thursday in light of budget pressures- the council needs to save £760,000 of a £1.8m budget. The proposals include retaining the library service in Hereford city and the five market towns. But forming a centralised face to face customer service in Hereford city, supported by improved online access.”

  • Lancashire – Gala team’s library hopes – Blackpool Gazette. Thornton Cleveleys Gala Committee looks to take over Cleveleys Library with volunteers.
  • Lancashire – Government confirms it will investigate Preston library closures – Blog Preston. “The county council has received notification that the Minister for Civil Society Rob Wilson MP is treating the comments made by Mr Wallace as a formal complaint. A letter from Mr Wilson states: “As part of the process for consideration of the complaint, I have written to the Leader of Lancashire County Council to notify her that we are treating representations received as a formal complaint. Officials will also be requesting from LCC all the relevant information regarding changes to the library services. This detail will be carefully considered and analysed by the Department. “There is not a set timetable for the Secretary of State to consider a complaint that a local authority may be failing to carry out its duties in accordance with the Act. The timescale will vary and is dependant upon a number of factors including the complexity of issues to be addressed and the volume of detail to be analysed. All relevant detail will be carefully considered to enable the Secretary of State to decide whether a local inquiry is necessary to resolve any real doubt about the council’s compliance with its statutory duty under the Act. “You should be aware that it is for the Council’s elected members to decide whether or not to continue with the implementation of their plans, prior to the outcome of the Secretary of State’s consideration of the complaint and determination as to whether or not to order a local inquiry.””
  • Lancashire – One library is saved but other buildings need bids – Lancashire Evening Post. “there was joy in the community of Adlington with the news that agreement has been reached with Chorley Borough Council to keep Adlington Library open. This is now guaranteed to stay open thanks to the borough’s financial support and be staffed until March 2018.” … “The Chorley news was announced by the County Council’s Deputy Leader County Coun David Borrow, who said it was also hoped agreement could be reached on keeping library services in Coppull and Eccleston”
  • Lancashire – Thirteen business plans to save libraries and children’s centres accepted – 2BR. “A total of 119 expressions of interest were submitted which led to 49 detailed business cases. Those business cases were assessed against the criteria in the council’s Community Asset Transfer Policy”. Councillor says ” “In normal circumstances we would not have been forced to take the decisions we have but the financial challenge we face is anything but normal. Through the property review we have done all we can to ensure that people still have good access to good services while delivering millions of pounds of savings.”
  • North Lanarkshire – Final chapter as libraries in Airdrie and Coatbridge to close – Daily Record. Old Monkland and Petersburn Libraries close at end of October.
  • North Somerset – Congresbury Library plan may lead to council tax rise – North Somerset Times. “Congresbury Parish Council has confirmed it intends to take on the management of the village’s library in order to safeguard its future. The library is one of several across the district which are part of a consultation process being carried out by North Somerset.” … “The parish council estimates the library will cost about £4,000 per year to run, and would fund it by raising the council tax precept – but this would only amount to a £3 increase for a band D property each year.”
  • North Yorkshire – Cross Hills Library supports learning festival – Keighley News. “North Yorkshire are staging activities as part of the annual Family Learning Festival. Families will be able to take part in a range of events during the UK-wide initiative, from October 15 to 30. The theme this year is It’s a Wonderful World”
  • Renfrewshire – Skoobmobile library bus praised in national awards – Renfrewshire 24. “The children’s mobile outreach service – featuring friendly book monsters known as Skoobs – had been one of three finalists shortlisted in the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals’ Change Lives Award for best practice in UK library services. The Skoobmobile, operated by Renfrewshire Leisure, stocks a broad range of children’s books in a flexible space with a range of activities based around play, reading, physical and digital activity for children up to the age of 12.”
  • Warrington – 70 oppose plans for library closures – Warrington Worldwide. “More than 70 people – including school children, teachers, a head teacher, parents and other library users – demonstrated outside Stockton Heath library to oppose any plan to close libraries in Warrington.  Only 24 hours notice was given of the demonstration or, organisers believe, even more people have turned up.  BBC television were present to film the protest.  At the same time, organisers announced plans for a “Borrow-a-book” day on Saturday, October 15.  The aim is to encourage people to borrow a book on that day.”