One of the issues in public libraries is lack of promotion of the services they provide. For years, most library authorities have had zero publicity budget and have even had to bid with other council departments for use of the public relations and graphic design services .. and lack of budget,  heaven knows, is not going to get go away soon.  In two ways, though, public relations is easier than ever for public libraries.

The first way is when the library service is no longer under direct council con control.  In those library services which are run by library trusts, the internal bureaucratic barriers to publicity that councils excel in are removed. Library trusts can also have more freedom in allocating the budgets (sadly, no bigger than before) how they want, which can mean at least some is spent on public relations.  An exemplar of this is Suffolk which has (uniquely in my experience) a public relations officer and is pretty nifty with publicising everything it does. An anti-example, though, are those library services unlucky enough to be part of leisure trusts dominated by leisure officers who do not understand libraries and are negative about them. Warrington, at the moment, is the biggest instance of this, where glossy public relations is apparently being deployed by the Livewire Trust to justify cutting, not improving, the service.

The second way is social media. This has revolutionised what publicity can be done on a seemingly zero budget. Almost all library services, now, have at least Twitter and Facebook accounts and many have blogs and others as well. Most I see also do regular publicity emails to those who have signed up. There’s also the joy of working with partners (BIDs, hyperlocal news, blogs etc) who will publicise your event for you at the cost a single email. This is now such a key part of library services that one would be very suspicious of any member of library staff with any publicity duties at all who is resistant to it or, even worse, claims it’s not part of their job.

Because public relations is a key part of the job and it always has been.  It has just been that for years public libraries have been able to avoid it,  because the public kept coming in anyway. That’s now not always the case and, as our services expand while the budgets contract, we need to shout more and more about them. Make a noise in your library today.

PS. The phrase “Don’t Keep It To Your Shelves” was used at an Oxford University Press meeting I attended last week.  I love it. Feel free to use it yours(h)elves. I’ve promised to promote them (see how this game works?) in return so do have a look at their webpages for librarians.


National news

  • Basic data set – a short delay – Libraries Taskforce. “Unfortunately, the time required to chase outstanding returns, collate the responses, and quality assess the spreadsheet for publication took longer than anticipated.”
  • Call for papers – LILAC.
  • Digital Inclusion in Libraries – upcoming webinars – Tinder Foundation. “We’re hosting a series of special webinars designed for Library Online Centres, delivered by Library Online Centres! This is your chance to pick the brains of other library services, think outside the box of your own delivery, and get some new ideas to try at home. Each session is only half an hour – and because they’re webinars you can just log on, listen in, and join the conversation from the comfort of home or work.” Includes “Discover Digital”, “Using Learn My Way in a Library setting” and “Recruiting and Managing volunteers “
  • Helping everyone achieve their full potential: how libraries deliver – Libraries Taskforce. “Learning is not just about the formal process though, lifelong learning is for everyone – whether it’s a new skill, a means of getting more out of a hobby, or meeting others who share your interests and learning together. Delivery through libraries underpins local authority priorities such as wellbeing, economic growth and productivity, and social cohesion and mobility.  Below is the icon we have created to symbolise this outcome. To make it easier to spot related content, you’ll start to see this on material produced by the Libraries Taskforce that relates to work being done that supports this outcome. It’s freely available to download from this folder.”: Looks at Universal Offer, Idea Stores, Lego Education, Skills for Life, songwriters, children’s university.
  • Lords to debate library ‘crisis’ and independent bookshops – BookSeller. “Campaigners have called for the House of Lords to intervene in the “crisis” in the public library sector and to pledge its support for independent booksellers ahead of a debate about the significance of libraries and bookshops in UK society. Organised by Lord John Bird, founder of The Big Issue magazine, the debate will see speakers – including Penguin Random House chair Baroness Gail Rebuck – discuss the cultural, civic and educational significance of local libraries and independent bookshops in the United Kingdom in the House of Lords on Thursday 13th October” Campaigners and others quoted in long article.

“We are asking the House of Lords to intervene and mitigate the impact of the impending literacy and skills crisis by urging the government to include in the Autumn Statement emergency relief from closure of public libraries, to revisit the draft Ambition for Public Libraries in England and strengthen it through the establishment of a clearly-mandated and appropriately resourced development function for public libraries, and to restore the Advisory Council on Libraries to provide ongoing expert advice on libraries, books and reading programmes.” Nick Poole, CILIP

  • Place free of judgement – “On 29 October 2016, over the course of 9 hours, teenagers in Worcester, Telford and Cannock will be taking control of their local libraries, and performing live to a worldwide audience. Through a unique project supported by Arts Connect and ASCEL West Midlands, the group have been working with award-winning artists Blast Theory and author Tony White to re-imagine libraries, storytelling and their place in the world. This work will come to life in an ambitious and fun 9-hour takeover of the three libraries, starting in Telford (3pm – 6pm), then Cannock (6pm – 9pm) and ending in Worcester (9pm – midnight). The young people involved have been invited to reimagine the role of libraries as cultural centres and explore the power of storytelling. The stories that have been developed from the workshops will be told in three consecutive performances which will be streamed live on http://aplacefreeofjudgement.co.uk from 3pm – midnight Saturday 29 October 2016. This ground breaking project forges a new approach to collaborative arts engagement between artists, teenagers, audiences and local authorities.”
  • Think libraries are obsolete? Think again – Guardian / Alan Wylie.  Looks at cuts and arguments. “The bigger picture is that libraries are part of the social glue that binds us. They offer recourse to the law, they offer access to educational opportunities, they empower us and ideally they provide a safe, trusted and non-commercial public space, and they help to foster democratic involvement. All major reasons for keeping them but sadly also major reasons for cutting them. The situation facing public libraries in the UK is definitely a crisis and emphatically not an opportunity; unless perhaps you’re a private company or a consultant. But there are protests and petitions taking place up and down the UK, and more than 300 authors have signed a letter to the culture secretary urging her to set a new course for libraries. And there has been a victory in Bromley, where the council has U-turned on plans to privatise some of its libraries, thanks to pressure from the Unite union and the local community. A national demonstration is only weeks away and the fightback continues. There is still hope”

Local news by authority

  • Barnet – Volunteers running Libraries is Outsourcing – John Burgess. “This is critical moment in the future of Libraries. Volunteers are being used now to push through brutal austerity policies and take the livelihoods of thousands of low paid Library workers. Imagine if you will, going into work today. There you are carrying out your job, earning your living, paying your bills feeding your family. Next you receive a tap on the shoulder, you look up and a stranger says ” excuse me, erm, this is all a bit awkward for me, I really am unhappy about this but if I don’t do this there will be nothing left.”. You reply “What?””
  • Bexley – Council scraps library privatisation plans – Bexley Times. “Bexley Council has scrapped plans to privatise the borough’s libraries under a joint outsourcing exercise with Bromley Council. Proposals to outsource the borough’s libraries were revealed last October, but the council has decided to continue running the library service in-house following the receipt of tenders. Joint outsourcing was originally mooted because the two boroughs share the responsibility and cost of managing their back office library services. Cabinet member councillor Peter Craske said: “We have worked really hard to keep our libraries open and we are looking forward to making them even more of a focus for a wide range of leisure and community activities in the future.””

“A number of boroughs have transferred over to charities, to staff who are not paid and non-expert, and we do not think that is the way forward.”

  • Bromley – Council refuses to back down on library ‘privatisation’ after Bexley scraps outsourcing plan – Bromley Times. “Bromley Council has pledged to continue with plans to ‘privatise’ its libraries after Bexley Council announced its withdrawal from a joint outsourcing project.” … “the council says it will continue to press ahead with the tendering process and sought to reassure residents that there would be no sell-off of assets. Executive councillor for renewal and recreation Peter Morgan said: “The council’s plans have not changed and the tendering process is continuing, with proposals being evaluated and when we can say more, we will.”

“The economies of scale and efficiencies that a potential tenderer could provide could bring forwards savings which will allow us to maintain the current library service. Apart from the multi-million-pound investment in libraries in recent years, there is still the potential to bring forwards library upgrades and potential savings by developing existing sites and this is exciting but is still at an early stage.”

  • Coventry – ‘Our council seem to take more notice of outsiders so perhaps they will take note’ – Coventry Telegraph. “The Midlands TUC Creative & Leisure Industries Committee (CLIC) has been disturbed to hear of the proposed cuts to the libraries and museums of Coventry. The Midlands CLIC is made up of unions from across the cultural sector including BECTU, Equity, MU, NUJ, PCS, Unison, NUT, UCU and WGGB.” … “We urge Coventry City Council to end the diminishing of public cultural facilities and services in the city. By doing so you would make a public statement about the type of city you are aspiring to build”
  • Derby – Campaigners fighting to save Mickleover Library to hold meeting to discuss their plans – Derby Telegraph. “Derby City Council wants to close 11 of Derby’s 15 libraries, including Mickleover, in a bid to save £648,000 a year. Now, Conservative councillors have called on residents to air their views on the plan.”.  44 out of 100 jobs at risk.
  • Lancashire – Campaigners aren’t giving up on Adlington library yet – 2BR. “Lancashire County Council’s executive scrutiny committee will meet later today to consider a number of business cases from groups hoping to keep some libraries in the county open.” … “Friends of Adllington library are now hoping that they’ll be able to take over the running of it after working with Chorley Borough Council to produce a business plan. It’s the latest in a long road for people in the village who are desperate to keep it running”
  • Lancashire – Chorley residents could be forced to use Horwich library after closure despite recent rivalry – This is Lancashire. “A report that went to the council’s cabinet meeting earlier this month indicates that users of the soon-to-close Adlington facility could travel the 2.6 miles into neighbouring Horwich to use the services at the Lord Street premises, once the closure takes place. “
  • Lincolnshire – Volunteer Crisis – Save Lincolnshire Libraries. “we continue our campaign by recording what is happening to the service. This includes libraries that have closed for good, volunteers that confirm they are not genuine volunteers but feel forced into saving their community resources and volunteers withdrawing their offers. Help us make this record a true account by letting us know what’s happening with your library, community hub or volunteer group via our contact page.”
  • Sheffield – Fully-staffed libraries affordable and essential – Yorkshire Post / Letters. “With the total libraries budget comprising less than one per centof the total spend of Sheffield City Council, it’s not as though campaigners and library users are asking for the moon on a stick to have 16 small libraries staffed on a part-time basis. “
  • Swindon – Headteachers slam Swindon’s plans to close 11 libraries – BookSeller. “Twenty-five headteachers have written an open letter to the council urging it to reconsider the “drastic” plans to close most of the region’s libraries and the mobile library provision.”
  • Swindon – Libraries are haunts of the vulnerable so easy targets, says Barrie Hudson – Swindon Advertiser. ” head teachers have written a letter of protest at council plans to shut down all but a handful of our libraries … They are among thousands of people who voiced their horror during the consultation period, so you may be wondering why the local authority hasn’t thrown the scheme out like something mouldy from the back of a fridge.”.  Points out council consultations have no real meaning and are a formality. Also says that the most vulnerable are keen users of libraries but are least likely to protest.
  • Wakefield – Warning to ‘use it or lose it’ over local libraries across Yorkshire – Yorkshire Post. ” one such library in Wakefield, which has actually seen an increase in membership and longer opening hours since being taken over, says it is possible to make it work. But, organisers have warned, there is only a limited amount of money available. “I dread to think what the future is for libraries,” said Philippa Petty, business co-ordinator at Ackworth Community Library near Wakefield. “Hours are being cut, staffing is being cut. It doesn’t bode well. “I don’t think the future will be volunteer led libraries. Where the funding will come from, I don’t know. There’s only finite amounts of money for a finite amount of libraries.” … ““We now have 1,400 members – more than when it was a local authority library,” she said. “We are open more hours – it was four part days a week, it’s now six. Our library has become a community library. It’s come alive.”
  • Warwickshire – Police offer front of counter services at Wellesbourne Library – Herald. “Wellesbourne Library has joined others across the area in offering front of counter police services as the force looks to improve access to its services across the county. Wellesbourne, Alcester, Shipston, Warwick and a number of other libraries across the county are now offering police services as the force works in partnership with Warwickshire County Council. Front of counter services at Stratford Police Station will not be affected and will continue as normal.”
  • Wokingham – No danger to library – Henley Standard. “The council says it needs to save £20million over the next three years due to a cut in its government grant but it says that libraries, including the one in Church Street, Wargrave, will not be affected.  In 2011 residents fought plans to privatise the library after the council announced that companies were being sought to take over the service in order to save £170,000 a year. More than 2,000 people signed a petition opposing the plans, which were later scrapped. The council will hold drop- in sessions for residents to discuss the latest cuts, including one at the St Mary’s Church Centre in Twyford on October 17 from 7pm to 9pm.