Public libraries in the UK are, famously, atomised, with 151 different library services in England alone. Getting all of these various services to work together, especially in this age of localism and in the absence of standards, is always challenging but the benefits of doing so can be immense.  There are various co-operative agreements (here’s 28 examples – contact me if you know of any more) between library services to be more efficient, with the biggest most obvious promotional arrangement the public would be aware of being the Summer Reading Challenge.  I like the SRC especially as it allows some sort of national promotion for public libraries.  This scheme has largely been unique but I’m glad to see that there are now more examples coming on stream, via the Society of Chief Librarians.

Those are quite big numbers but the SRC shows that there's scope for bigger ones.

Those are quite big numbers but the SRC shows that there’s scope for bigger ones.

I was involved in the Celebrating Shakespeare project this year, which provided materials for promoting the Bard as well as Arts Council England funding for artists and performers.  We had adults doing iambic pentameter sessions (not so successful) and a theatre group doing the Tempest (tremendously successful, with all three library venues being sold out, even at the cost of £10 per ticket in one case).  I also loved the social media campaign associated with it (6000 tweets, even though some taking part apparently need to learn what a selfie is) and the joy and energy it released.  The whole thing showed what can achieved with a directing hand, centralised resources and some seed money. All in all, 11000 people were involved in Shakespeare Week and a further 12000 people were involved in the Summer and Autumn, spread over 388 libraries.  This accounted for a large part of the number of library authorities in the UK, although some could not take part because of coping with cuts/restructures or because of the shortage of preparation time.  I understand that the project will continue next year and I wish it every success. But hang on, “a directing hand, centralised resources and some seed money”? In 2016? Can that be? Yes, it can.  Now let’s see, if more such projects can be – or not to be (sorry) – in future.



National news

  • Almost half of children leave primary school unable to read and write properly, performance tables reveal – Independent. “Education leaders say this year’s performance tables are worth little considering the number of complications and errors seen in this year’s Sats, and schools should not be judged on the results”
  • How to Get People Through the Library Door – Scottish Book Trust. Make the entrance attractive; use staff as role models; make the most of displays; make the most of technology. “One essential piece of kit I would advise you to have is a screen and projector so you can have dynamic displays of book trailers, live author events or vlogger videos. I couldn’t have done without mine; it was in daily use. ”
  • Celebrating Shakespeare in Libraries 2016 – “A Video montage of thIs years fantastIc Libraries Shakespeare Celebrations in Libraries across the UK”
  • FOI should still apply when services are outsourced: Information Commissioner – Local Government Lawyer. “The right to know about public services should be extended so that it is independent of the service provider, the Information Commissioner has said in response to a wave of outsourcings. “When a public service departs from a public body under an outsourcing contract, I do not believe that the requirements of FOI [freedom of information] should melt away as the contractor takes over,” Elizabeth Denham told attendees at an event in London to mark 250 years of freedom of information.”
  • New analysis shows extent of England’s library book spend drop – BookSeller. “Book spend for libraries in England has fallen by £35m since 2005, while book lending to adults and children has declined by 36.5% and 21% respectively in the last five years, new analysis from library campaigner and former Watersones’ m.d. Tim Coates has revealed. Coates’ analysis of a data report from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy – which was released last week – has shown that the purchasing of print books for libraries in England has fallen from £80m in 2005 to £45m last year. The figures also revealed that lending to children and adults has also decreased, with children’s books declining 21% from 94.6m loans to 78.6m loans in the last five years. Library book lending to adults has fallen 36.5% in the last five years – from 200m loans to 127m loans. According to the data, electronic items took 18.2% of the book fund and produced 1.3% of book loans.”
  • Parks, libraries, halls: cities pay price of austerity by selling their heritage – Guardian. “Councils up and down the country have been accused of “selling off the crown jewels” in their efforts to cope with funding cuts and the impending loss of £18bn in central government grants. Take just three examples. In Sheffield, the city council has agreed that a Chinese consortium can explore plans to lease the Grade II-listed central library and redevelop it into a five-star hotel, a move castigated as a “sad reflection” on the city; in Hornsey, north London the disposal of the town hall has been dubbed a “shameful handover of the family silver” …”
  • Public library loans show dramatic fall in last two years – Guardian. “Latest figures show that library book loans slumped by almost 16m in the last two years, with library campaigners calling the news “a clarion call to put books back at the centre of what libraries do” in a sector that has seen record closures and budget cuts. Library book loans continued a downward trend in 2016, with figures obtained by the Guardian revealing that loans for the year to 10 December fell on average by 14%, with loans to adults worst hit at 15% down. Loans of children’s books fell by just over 12%. However, this comes at a time when book sales in both sectors have continued to climb.”
  • We love our libraries – let’s protect them – We Own It. “The big baddie here is the government. We need to spread the word: their story about austerity is actually a lie. And we need to join together locally to protect our precious libraries from cuts and privatisation.”

International news

  • Australia – A library without librarians is a just a shed full of books – Conversation. “This sorry tale is not unique to art, or even to Canberra. It is a part of the inevitable consequences of a succession of “efficiency dividends” by the Commonwealth Government which is placing public institutions on a diet akin to anorexia”
  • Canada – How a Toronto dad and his son visited 100 libraries this year – TVO. “Inspired by a colouring book, five-year-old Jack Bennett and his father, Lanrick Jr., spent their year touring every one of the city’s libraries “
  • Denmark – Denmark’s first literature playground – Model Programme for Danish Libraries. “The playground in Bibliotekshaven by Gladsaxe Main Library, which was inaugurated in August 2016, is Denmark’s first literature playground. It is an example of an outdoor space that links play, learning and movement. It also represents an idea as to how libraries can make their offers visible outside the building’s walls, while at the same time contributing to the development of urban spaces.”
  • Israel – How Israel’s digital libraries became a success – DNA India. “Talking about how the concept became a success, Hadar Miller, Chief Information Officer at the National Library of Israel (NLI) said, “The concept of digital libraries started about five years ago, when we felt that there is a need to connect the entire country through one reading and learning platform. The digital library in Israel is not only catering to academic audience, it is for general public also. It reaches out to three sections — the academics and researchers, students and school teachers and to the general public.””
  • USA – Library Cat Outlasts Councilman That Wanted Him Gone – CBS DFW. “Elzie Clements’ final meeting as a member of the city council was Tuesday night. Clements tried to have Browser, the city’s docile grey tabby library cat, fired this past summer” … “In July, a city worker apparently demanded Browser’s removal after the worker was not allowed to bring a puppy to work at City Hall. Two-legged library workers were outraged, and many people who use the library often said that they were unhappy with Bowser’s dismissal. The White Settlement City Council took up the issue of what to do with Browser, with Clements being the lone vote to get rid of the favorable feline.”

Local news by authority

  • Barnet – Campaigners seek government intervention to prevent library cuts – Enfield Today. “The Save Barnet Libraries campaign is demanding an inquiry into the cuts by the council, which has submitted 12 separate planning applications to remove more than half of the current library space in the borough and turn it into private offices. The group has highlighted a procurement document which shows that the local authority has earmarked £12million to implement the changes – yet other figures show that forecasted savings are about £2.2m a year. Under the cuts, self-service machinery and CCTV will be installed so libraries can remain open without staff.”
  • Bath and North East Somerset – Bath Central Library on the move as part of Council plans to modernise services – Bath Echo. “Bath & North East Somerset Council has announced further plans to modernise library services across the area, including relocating Bath Central Library to Lewis House on Manvers Street.” … “Following the success of the joint library and One Stop Shop in Keynsham, plans have been announced that will also see Bath’s Central Library and Midsomer Norton Library modernised to reflect the changing way people use the library service.”
  • Birmingham – Powerful plea from Abisha Sharon, 8, to save Sutton Coldfield Library receives town council support – Sutton Coldfield Observer.
  • Brent – Wembley Library named as the third busiest in Britain – Brent and Kilburn Times. “According to a public survey carried out by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy only the Library of Birmingham and Manchester Central Library are busier.” … “The library, which is located inside Brent Civic Centre, recorded 1.38 million visits this year which is an increase on last year when it was visited 1.17million times. In addition all six libraries in the borough have been slightly busier than this time last year with a 0.6 per cent increase in visitor numbers.”
  • Devon – Adopt A Book – BBC Spotlight. Television clip of two minutes showing the old stock at Exeter Library and a scheme to encourage the public to pay for their preservation via “adoption”/sponsorship.
  • Dorset – Building disposals in bid to meet budget cuts – Dorset Echo. “Out of the 60 buildings sold or ‘given up’ 14 of them were libraries, day centres or learning centres. Other buildings included residential care homes, depots and workshops, offices and admin buildings. ” … “In the space of nine months from June 2012 to February 2013 six libraries were either sold or ‘given up’ by DCC. Portland Underhill Library, Chickerell Library, Wool Library and Puddletown Library were ‘given up’ and Charmouth Library and Stalbridge Library were sold. “
  • Greenwich – Greenwich people love libraries more than everyone else in the UK, figures show – This is Local London. “Libraries in Greenwich had the highest visits per residents of any borough in the UK last year. The 12 local libraries in the London borough saw 2,408,866 visits to its libraries in 2015/2016 according to statistics from the Chartered Institute for Public Financing and Accounting (CIPFA). This is the highest footfall in libraries out of all the London boroughs. This means 8,766 library visits per 1,000 residents – the highest visit rate across the whole of the UK.”
  • Lancashire – Eight more libraries may be saved as part of cuts reversals – Lancashire Telegraph. “Under a first wave of ‘asset transfers’ former county council buildings are being handed over to community interest groups in Oswaldtwistle, Crawshawbooth, Trawden and Clayton-le-Moors. County Cllr Marcus Johnstone, cultural services cabinet member, who also represents Burnley West and Padiham division, said there was now a community libraries manager in post to assist with future similar bids.”
  • Lancashire – MP demands answer on community library bidFriends of Thornton & Cleveleys Libraries. “A Wyre MP today demands answers on the future of Cleveleys and Thornton libraries following separate community bids to save them. Paul Maynard MP for Blackpool North & Cleveleys has written to Lancashire Councils boss, Jo Turton, asking for a situation report on the two outstanding community bids to rescue the closed libraries for community use. Thornton Gala Committee has put in a plan to re-open Thornton Library, and UR Potential, a young person’s charity based on the Fylde Coast, has put in a bid to open and run Cleveleys Library. Both bids have been supported by local county councillor Andrea Kay. The bids were put in before the closure date for consultation, since which neither organisation has heard from the County, despite 3 libraries in East Lancashire having their community bids agreed and funded.”
  • Lincolnshire – Massive £40m council cuts will slash social care, libraries and gritting – Lincolnshire Live. “Lincolnshire County Council is proposing cuts in order to balance the books and deliver its £452m worth of public services in 2017/18. Services will be squeezed despite the authority looking to use £27,000 in reserves and increasing its portion of the council tax by 3.95 per cent.” … “Much of the library service has become a network of community-run hubs which is expected to save £400,000 in 2017/18.”
  • Newcastle Upon Tyne – Between digital inclusion and social equality: the role of public libraries in Newcastle upon Tyne – Massimo Ragneda. ” This paper is based on findings obtained from qualitative research on the role of the public library service in reducing digital inequalities in disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Newcastle upon Tyne.”
  • North Yorkshire – Plea to help action group keep Ripon library open – Harrogate Advertiser. “From April 1 next year, Ripon library will become a hybrid library due to cuts in funding, which means that there will be only one member of employed staff, with a team of volunteers working alongside them. The Ripon Library Action Group held a drop-in session at the library on Saturday, December 10, to encourage people to sign up and volunteer.”
  • Sunderland – What we learned at Sunderland Council Cabinet: Expenses, libraries and football pitches – Chronicle Live. “Spare a thought for the humble library. They’ve had their funding cut year on year, many have been closed and several are now run on a purely voluntary basis. It is, in short, an awful time to be a library – and that isn’t going to change any time soon. Initial cuts of around £850,000 were confirmed in 2013 and the council intend to find more savings in the budget for the next financial year. The council need to have a new library strategy in place by April 2017 in order to hit their target of providing library services at a cost of £509,000 by 2019/20.”
  • Swindon – ‘Heartbreaking’ cuts to Swindon library service finalised – BookSeller. “Shirley Burnham, library campaigner with Save Swindon’s Libraries, described the “annihilation” of its service as “heartbreaking”. “It is important that the borough council acknowledges that to act in haste, without due care, is reckless”, she said. “All the ideas that have been touched on to date are untried and untested. If these are not viable for the long term they risk damaging future generations who live here. No doubt the Libraries Taskforce when describing inroads made into the integrity of the professional service as ‘innovations’, has done little to discourage Swindon and others from believing they have the green light to annihilate their service while getting rid of as many staff as they can get away with. This is heartbreaking for us all. We hope that there will be a complete re-think — locally and in Westminster.”
  • Swindon – Ministers suggest libraries could stay – Swindon Advertiser. “Minister Rob Wilson met officials from Swindon Council last week in a bid to seek a possible solution before the cuts are actually made. He said: “If we are going to build a country that works for everyone then we need to recognise that libraries are among our most valuable community assets and they remain hugely popular.”
  • Warrington – Helen Jones MP clashes with LiveWire boss over plans to close libraries – Warrington Guardian. “Livewire has clashed with MP Helen Jones after claiming she was unwilling to meet with them about plans to close libraries across the town. But Mrs Jones hit back, saying she would not be pushed around by the company, which she claims only wanted to speak to her after they started to receive ‘bad publicity’ about their proposals.”.  MP says “I am here to represent my constituents. I do not jump when an unelected and unaccountable body tells me to do so. “