It’s great to see public libraries being debated in the House of Lords, especially when the sector has the key support of John Bird of the Big Issue. The debate was a long one, with many useful points raised. The standard government response was to say how active they are.  However, it’s no point being active if one does not actually do anything.  Still, this is a new minister now. Let’s see if he’s any different. But let’s be positive and hope. Still being positive, it’s good to see a joint initiative on training coming from CILIP and the SCL.  There’s also a very good strategic look at public libraries by Leon’s Library Blog, with a very information comment by Nick Poole.


National news

  • Bringing libraries across England up-to-date – My Incubator Ventures. ” one of the big advantages of Mi Ventures is that it helps libraries to meet targets identified in the recent Government ‘Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016-2021’ whitepaper such as ‘to provide start-up business support’ and ‘to provide e-resources’ which, in turn, encourage ‘digital skills training’ and an ‘increased level of support for the disabled’.”
  • John Bird warns Parliament: Close libraries and you’ll be forced to build more prisons – Big Issue. “The problem with austerity is that it’s too expensive. Before we allow another library to close, we must ask: Is this a saving?”  Big Issue founder Lord Bird has warned that the government must be ready to build more prisons and homeless shelters if the libraries continue to close at the current rate.” … “I recommend that Her Majesty’s Government supply some emergency relief money to stop local authorities doing this dastardly deed, this process of philistinising our communities,” “
  • House of Lords attacks the government over library closures – Guardian. “His views were backed by a host of other members, including Gail Rebuck, chair of Penguin Random House and a Labour peer, who said that “our trajectory towards one library per 50,000 people is simply a disaster”. “We have a stark choice,” Baroness Rebuck said. “If we lose our celebrated bookshops and libraries we will never improve our nation’s literacy. We will also lose our next generation of authors and the source of our competitiveness in the creative industries. This simply cannot be allowed to happen.” … Government says “the DCMS “is currently investigating four further complaints relating to Harrow, Southampton, Lambeth and Lancashire”, where closures are either planned or under way, and that “if there is serious doubt that the library service provided by a local authority offers a comprehensive and efficient service, this government will not hesitate to order an inquiry”. see also War of words as pressure grows over future funding of libraries – Yorkshire Post.
  • It’s not a secret: 5th November Demo – everyone is talking about it – 5th November Demo. “The demonstration is backed by national unions Unison, Unite and PCS, by Jeremy Corbyn leader of the Labour Party and the Green Party as well as writers and campaigners.  “
  • Joint initiative to set out the future of the public library workforce – CILIP. “he Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) and CILIP, the UK’s library and information association have announced a new initiative to make sure the public library workforce continues to meet the changing needs of today’s audiences. The initiative will see the creation of a ‘UK Public Library Skills Strategy’, helping public libraries to attract, retain and develop talent, develop digital skills and deliver value for their funders and service users.” … “The Public Library Skills Strategy will support Local Authorities and organisations that provide library services with their staff development, training and recruitment”
  • Libraries and Get Online Week – Libraries Taskforce. “this guest blog was written for us by Luke Wilson from the Tinder Foundation, who manage the Get Online Week campaign” .. “This year Get Online Week celebrates its 10th birthday. Over the last decade, it has engaged more than 500,000 people – encouraging them to get online and see how the internet could make life easier, cheaper, healthier – and more fun. With more than a third of all Get Online Week events taking place in libraries, the library network has proved to be the backbone of the campaign”
  • Libraries, Bookshops and Booksellers – House of Lords / Hansard. “That this House takes note of the cultural, civic and educational significance of libraries, bookshops and booksellers in the United Kingdom.” Motion Agreed. John Birds said “My Lords, that was a very interesting trawl through all the reasons why libraries and bookshops are not fluffy. They are not some little thing that you can add to society when you have a few bob in your back pocket. It is interesting that, as was explained by all speakers today, we see libraries and bookshops as the very intellectual backbone of society. I will be carrying on, in my itchy sort of way. I would like to think from what the Minister has said that we will see a turnaround and a reversal of their slow decline. I thank noble Lords.”
  • Lords question government on library closures and Amazon taxation – BookSeller. “The government has defended its attitude towards the widespread closure of libraries in England during a debate in the House of Lords, with Lord Ashton asserting that he does “recognise the value of the service to local communities”. He also added that the government was currently investigating closures in four local authority areas.” … “Several speakers championed the great benefits of libraries for the local community, such as providing a safe space for children and those with learning difficulties to learn and socialise, along with benefits for mental health and potential partnership with career advise services. Many lords also questioned how the current wide scale closures of libraries by local authorities hit by funding cuts could comply with the law, which says that a comprehensive library service is a statutory requirement.  “
  • The Price of Everything… – Leon’s Library Blog. “Regardless of any other reservations campaigners might have about the Libraries Taskforce there should be no argument about the quality of the recent series of posts around the theme of how libraries deliver.” … “, the series shows that even amongst continuing bad news around library cuts it’s still not difficult to find exemplars of innovative library developments and the positive and demonstrable impact such services have on users. The mounting evidence reveals what those involved in libraries have known for a long time; that is, the essential societal, educational, and economic benefits that libraries bring.”Also includes a long comment by CILIP CEO Nick Poole including “effectively from this our tactics to address your point about money would be: 1) Slow and eventually stem the rot of ‘core’ investment in libraries by Local Authorities 2) Improve the availability of development funding to help public libraries develop, improve and promote their services 3) Review the way we currently spend money either locally, nationally or (most likely) as natural clusters of library services”

One aspect of the library story, unpalatable as it might be, is that libraries will continue to decline, not for want of being valued, but due to simple, unforgiving economics. To use a common idiom ‘money talks’ and that is the real narrative that needs addressing. Especially against a government economic agenda that knows the “price of everything and the value of nothing.”

  • Public Libraries: Opportunity or Obsolescence? – Not the RFID Blog. ” The ideal is to establish a single digital presence closely allied to a signal digital sign on, as they have in some other countries, most notably in Denmark. There RFID was implemented in a way that enabled library users to borrow books in one location and return them to any other public library in the country.  Local authorities in the UK have been experimenting with RFID card access to a range of local services but there is no single standard for providing this access nationally and so far, no discussion to include libraries. Many smartphones now use the same technology as cards for the same purpose – another discussion we should already be having.”

“I keep asking myself how a country like the UK, that places so much importance on economic and cultural investment in the creative industries, can possibly close down so many libraries? If there is hope I think it is this essentially economic argument that might win the day. After all how many creative, talented people have we heard telling us recently that “It started in the library…”?” Mick Fortune

  • What books mean to rough sleepers – and the library that helps them – Spectator. “To be homeless is to have no fixed address, which means you can’t borrow books from a public library — but it doesn’t mean you’ve no desire to read. Quaker Homeless Action set up this mobile library in 1999, making runs into London twice a week and lending books to more than a thousand homeless people a year. Borrowers only have to give a first name, which isn’t always their real name, and may take out two books for up to two weeks, although only around a third are actually returned.” … “According to Crisis, more than a third of homeless people in the UK say they often feel isolated and lack companionship. This was all too palpable that Saturday afternoon, but books are a way to counter this. The mobile library is a much needed hub around which conversations stutter into gear.”

International news

  • Canada – ‘A national disgrace’: Heated crowd walks out of public library consultation – CBC News. Attenders angry when they found out no member of the council was there and the entire thing was being run by consultants.
  • Denmark/EU – Win a scholarship to 2017 Next Library Festival – EIFL. “The theme of the Festival in 2017 is ‘Rethink’. The lively programme is shaped by participants, organizers and partners, and will include co-learning and co-creative sessions, keynote speakers, social events, and visits to the newest and most innovative libraries, cultural institutions and technology innovators in Denmark. The scholarships are funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Aarhus public libraries.”
  • Global – First responses to this year’s survey – Changing Libraries. “So far no-one has reported using their self-service devices for anything other than library work …”… “A respondent from North America expresses regret that they are still unable to use smartphones to issue stock – a possibility that has so far failed to excite the interest of supplier selling expensive self-service kiosks for some reason. The good news is that I know of at least two European universities that have developed this capability themselves and may well release products in the coming year.”
  • USA – Libraries Pool Big Data Analytics Investments – Baseline. ” investing in analytics is a good business decision. “We look at this as a way to better connect with our community,” she explains. “It’s about market segmentation.” Armed with the insights gained via the CIVICtechnologies service, each library gains a deeper understanding of the demographic it is serving. In the case of the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, the big data analytics service uncovered the fact that 76 percent of the community is made up of 21 distinct types of households. That information has changed both the offline and online resources the library promotes to various segments of the overall community”
  • USA – The Library of the Future Is Coming, and It’s All About Experience – Public Libraries Online. “to public libraries, detailing the shifts our field will see over the next fifty years. According to writer Chris Weller’s research, libraries five decades from now will transform into “all-in-one spaces for learning, consuming, sharing, creating, and experiencing,” even offering alternate realities for loan. Their emphasis will be on connectivity, not just physically providing technology to patrons, but also in linking them with sensory experiences. They will connect experience with the ever-present technological movements of social media, streaming content, and data.”
  • USA – US libraries seeking 21st Century model – BBC. “Nick Higgins, the director of outreach services, said there were 105,000 children in New York state with a parent in prison. ” … “The Telestory also runs Daddy and Me literary classes in prisons, and hosts family days where children come in and read books with their parents and make recordings. ” … ” in Texas, high school students are taking courses in digital media and journalism at Dallas Public Library. And in Philadelphia, librarians are helping to open up access to civic data.” … “Between 2008 and 2013, the number of public libraries dropped from 9,221 to 9,091, according to the latest data available from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). That is a drop of 1.4%, compared to the 8% of service closure points in the UK between 2010 and 2015.”

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeen – North-east Lego club set to launch after successful appeal – Evening Express. Large amounts of lego donated to libraries due to appeal to the public. see also Maersk donates Lego boat to Aberdeen library club – Energy Voice.
  • Bath and North East Somerset – Cuts made to Midsomer Norton, Paulton and Radstock library opening hours – Somerset Live. “While all three libraries will open for the same number of days a week, Midsomer Norton library will no longer open late on a Monday closing at 5pm instead of 7pm and will also have reduced hours on Saturday closing at 2pm instead of 4pm”
  • Bedford – Library consultation extended after bin cut ‘rush through’ slammed for ignoring residents’ concerns – Bedfordshire on Sunday. “She questioned why the consultation was planned to finish on Monday (October 17) when meetings were planned at libraries across the borough to inform residents of the proposals on either the same day or after the consultation period closed. She said: “Surely we want people to make informed decisions rather than knee jerk reactions so I ask the Mayor whether we can extend the consultation date?” Following this, the mayor agreed to extend the consultation period for an extra four days until Friday October 21.”
  • Birmingham – Business Improvement District calls for support in battle to save library – Sutton Coldfield Local News. “We deplore the closure of the library in Sutton Coldfield. The BID and its members are committed to promoting the town centre as a place to work, live and visit, and the closure of such an important part of the social fabric has to be questioned. “With Sutton Coldfield being the only town centre in Birmingham we have to ask; why the council is looking to close a library that is centrally located and well served by transport links including buses, trains and car park? Surely, this should be prioritised as a library to keep open. “The closure announcement also raises a number of pertinent questions on what the council ownership of the Red Rose Centre will mean for town centre. The council recently purchased the centre for £10.4m and one of the first acts as owners appears to be closing the library, which will dramatically affect footfall and could undermine the other businesses.””
  • Birmingham – Frankley Library avoids axe but faces reduced opening hours under Birmingham City Council consultation – Bromsgrove Advertiser. “Birmingham City Council announced on Monday (October 10) that two of the city’s 37 libraries will shut as part of proposals to make savings of £1.95 million per year. The library in Frankley, which has operated under reduced temporary opening hours since July, has avoided the axe but will see its current opening times made permanent”
  • Bristol – Business Plan for 2017/18 – Bristol Council, p.56. “We will be exploring options such as: • Community groups to run local community hubs which include library services; Running some services from shared buildings; Developing an alternative model to run the remaining Bristol City Council owned libraries as a Trust or a Mutual. The level of savings will depend on the approach taken.
  • Bromley – Union campaign strikes blow against Bromley Tories – Socialist Party. “Unite the Union members are celebrating another victory against the privatisation plans of the vicious Tories who run Bromley Council. The council had plans to hand eight libraries over to charities to run with volunteers only.”
  • Caerphilly – Ystrad Mynach library reopens after refurbishment Caerphilly Observer. £48k investment. “The improvement works include new internal furniture, shelving and staff desk, as well as new carpeting and internal decoration throughout. In addition, around £30,000 of new book stock has also been provided for adults, children and young people and a new wi-fi area has been installed to enable customers to use their own laptops and tablets”
  • Central Bedfordshire – New look pool plans unveiled – Dunstable Today.
  • Ceredigion – Concerns over Cardigan library council relocation plan – BBC. “The proposal, to change the use of council offices at Morgan Street in Cardigan, would mean the library is relocated from Canolfan Teifi, Pendre. But there have been 13 letters of objection from the public, and a 1,000-strong petition has been handed to Ceredigion council. Cardigan town council raised questions about parking and pedestrian crossings. Objections from the public included access problems, a lack of computer facilities and that it would be located “on a very busy road and at a dangerous junction”.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Get Online Week to bring people up to speed at Northwich Library – Northwich Guardian. “Libraries across the borough are taking part in Get Online Week from Monday, October 17. Get Online Week is the UK’s biggest digital inclusion campaign and has been going since 2007. Across the borough libraries are running a variety of events including IT buddy drop-ins, how to use your tablet and an introduction to family history online using websites such as Ancestry.com.” see also Get connected at your local library during get online week – So Cheshire.
  • Darlington – Anne Fine joins Crown Street campaigners in renewed effort to resist closure plans – Northern Echo. “Anne Fine joined campaigners as they renewed their efforts to save Darlington’s Crown Street Library on Thursday. With the help of the Madame Doubtfire creator, the Friends of Darlington Libraries took to the streets to canvass the views of the public.”
  • Edinburgh – Edinburgh Libraries Win COSLA Excellence Award – Scottish Library and Information Council. “Winning the award in the Tackling Inequalities & Improving Health category, Edinburgh Libraries has helped over 150 blind and partially sighted people access library services throughout the city. The innovative Edinburgh City Libraries ‘Visually Impaired People’ or VIP service, was designed by people from the visually impaired community and includes various partner associations. Groups of specially trained workers, volunteers and technical specialists were also involved in setting up the project. The service makes it easier for blind and partially sighted people to access library services – supporting their information, learning and employment needs while at the same time linking them to community initiatives and social activity.”
  • Halton – Chill out sessions give people feelgood factor at Halton’s libraries – Runcorn and Widnes World. “People are encouraged to relax, browse through books, papers and magazines and make friends at wellbeing Wednesdays. “
  • Lancashire – Bold new vision for Preston’s Harris Museum – Lancashire Evening Post. “Major plans to open up the city’s Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library have been unveiled as part of an ambitious £15m “re-imagining” project.”
  • Lancashire – Lifeline for doomed libraries? – Blackpool Gazette. “Anti-closure campaigners have joined Fylde MP Mark Menzies in welcoming the announcement that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport’s has launched an official inquiry into Lancashire County Council’s decision to shut a swathe of libraries across the county, including four of Fylde’s five.” .. Mark Menzies MP says “I accept that savings must be made by the county council but this has been one of the most blatantly biased consultations I have ever witnessed and has left an extremely sour taste in my mouth due to the disgusting treatment of Fylde taxpayers by the county council they help fund.”
  • Manchester – ‘For Valour’ – Exhibition to honour the Manchester men awarded Victoria Cross on display at Central LibraryManchester City Council. “The exhibition, which can be seen at Central Library’s Archives+ Centre,  includes replicas of the many medals awarded to the men for their extreme bravery during World War I – including their Victoria Crosses, which are the highest military decoration for gallantry.   It also provides display panels giving an insight into the men’s lives, both in peacetime and during World War I”
  • Manchester – Manchester Libraries celebrate Black History Month – Manchester City Council. “this year’s Manchester programme includes a special exhibition to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the death of Ahmed Iqbal Ullah, a 13-year old boy who was murdered in 1986 while defending younger Bangladeshi children from racist bullying.”
  • Norfolk – Norfolk uses data in libraries’ public health drive – Information Daily. “Norfolk County Council has won a national award for its libraries’ health education work, which involves tailoring each library’s work based on local public health data” … “The work also includes slipper swaps aiming to reduce falls by older people, which [costs? – Ed.] Norfolk and Waveney health and social care services an estimated £19m a year”

“What’s really striking is the flexibility of the library service and its capacity to contribute to the local health strategy and extend public health awareness in a way that works for the community, with this work embedded in every single library”

  • Sandwell – Every reception child to get free library membership in Sandwell as Booktastic launches – Halesowen News. Free library card to every reception child has led to big increases in usage.
  • Sheffield – 1,000 new books for Sheffield Library – Star. Given by council to volunteer libraries, meaning 100 new books each to 10 volunteer branches.
  • Somerset – Dog walkers under fire – Wellington Today. “Members were also informed that the mobile library service provided by Somerset Libraries Services has been withdrawn from Nynehead as there are no regular users and Wellington Library is less than three miles away from the village.”
  • South Gloucestershire – Council unveils second attempt to cut libraries after backlash stopped first – Bristol Post. “Residents across South Gloucestershire are vowing to keep fighting after the council unveiled a second plan to cut libraries to save hundreds of thousands of pounds. Council chiefs who abandoned plans to slash more than half a million pounds from library budgets by cutting opening hours and staff, after a huge backlash from library users and local residents, have now come back with a second attempt to save money. The Tory-run local council, which runs libraries from Thornbury and Filton to Hanham, Kingswood and Yate, has started a second consultation, on its revised cuts plan, and has urged people to contribute.”
  • Staffordshire – Blythe Bridge Library renamed Blythe Bridge Your Community, Your Library after volunteers take over – Leek News. “Blythe Bridge library is now overseen by The Care and Fun Club, with a team of helpers who will be running it for free. They held an open day on Saturday(OCT 8) to show off the range of activities being offered there and to unveil the name voted for by visitors.” … “Although the volunteers manage day-to-day operations, they have access to the council’s book stock and IT network. Maintenance and utility bills are also covered by the local authority”
  • Suffolk – Electricals retailer Hughes supports Suffolk Libraries technology initiative – Ipswich Star. “Suffolk Libraries’ “Get Connected” scheme involves a series of special workshops at which people can learn about how tablet devices work and the benefits they can offer. There is then an opportunity to borrow a tablet for up to three weeks,completely free of charge. The scheme was launched following a trial at Halesworth library for which Hughes, which is based in Lowestoft and has more than 40 stores across the East of England and the Midlands, provided a selection of tablets, together with member of staff to provide the necessary expertise. A total of 17 libraries are now offering the loan system, with more in the pipeline.”
  • Sunderland – One week left to have a say on future of Sunderland’s library services – Sunderland Echo.
  • Walsall – Council cuts: Walsall could be left without an art gallery within just four years as £85m savings needed – Express and Star. “Councillor Coughlan said: “If we continue with these austerity measures then in four years time we will be left with one library, no youth service, no art gallery and no performing arts centre. “Public services are at the point of breaking right across Walsall. “But we will listen to and respond to the community. We want to be honest with people about what austerity means and that is what we will be presenting in our papers.”
  • Waltham Forest – ‘This is a scandal’- communities hit back at plan to close Walthamstow libraries – Guardian series. “Protests were held at Higham Hill and Wood Street libraries this week, as Waltham Forest Council held consultations about their futures. The council wants to sell off the two properties and move the services to new premises, which it says will provide better accessibility and improved facilities for communities. Under current proposals, new library services would be provided as part of the redevelopment of the Marlowe Road estate and at a “multi-service hub” in Priory Court”
  • Warrington – LiveWire figures reveal which libraries issue the most books – Warrington Guardian. “Stockton Heath Library issued more books than any other in the town last year according to LiveWire figures. And the town centre library received the highest number of visitors. Both libraries now face closure under LiveWire’s plans to ‘modernise’ the service and cut £300,000 from their budget. The five libraries which issued the most books in the past year, Stockton Heath, central, Penketh and Lymm all face closure to be replaced by lending lockers and a reduced number of books at a new hub in Golden Square.” [The suggestions by LiveWire look increasingly ill thought out with each passing news article – Ed.]
  • Warrington – LiveWire plans to create library in Golden Square put on hold by councillors – Warrington Guardian. “Livewire’s  plan to take over Funky Dory Shoes in Golden Square were put on hold by councillors at a planning meeting last night, Wednesday. Proposals were submitted to change the use of the 229 foot unit so it could become home to a library, computer zone, box office, merchandise shop and space for film screenings. But councillors at a meeting of the development control committee said the details of the application were too vague, with no information about opening hours or specifics about how the space will be used.”
  • Warrington – Widening gap – Warrington Guardian / Letters.  Concerned over loss of Lymm Library and its impact on vulnerable, elderly, children and families. and Flawed Model – Plan to close local libraries and concentrating on hubs will lower usage as it is local libraries that are successful, not big libraries outside of town e.g. Orford Hub lends far less than old Orford Library did and Failed System – Tax avoidance and austerity means common people are being hurt, with libraries being closed.
  • West Sussex – Library’s baby boom with a little help by Gruffalo – Haslemere Herald. “a new membership card for their younger customers featuring the nation’s favourite picture book character – the Gruffalo. Joining the library is free and there are no charges to borrow books. Kids are also exempt from late charges if books are overdue.”