For a little while now, I have been doing research in work and in PLN on the pros and cons of charging for events in libraries. I also attended an excellent event today on promoting reading events that energised me a bit. Here’s a few basic things learnt, both today and over the course of the last few months:

  • If you charge for an event, you get more people, who say they will attend beforehand, actually attending.  That payment shows they have invested, quite literally, in the event. People are far more likely to be no-shows at free events. A no-show at a paid event rarely asks for a refund and their seat can be sold again if there is a queue.
  • You get enthusiastic library staff (essential for point of sale) if the event is a good one and they can keep some (ideally all) of the profits to spend on their branch.  This can create a virtuous circle where a successful event can pay for things (e.g. a microphone, even a decent tablecloth) to improve the next event. My thinking here is that expecting staff to do extra for no benefit, with all the money gained going into a central pot is communism and communism (or perhaps more accurately “the tragedy of the commons“) has been fairly comprehensively proven not to work.
  • Publishers prefer it if you charge for an author event.  It gives the author, and the event, value and prestige. Free too often means bog-standard or the perception that it is.
  • To the big worry that charging can block access to events: (1) nowadays there would often be no funding for events if we don’t charge (2) this is extra quality stuff being provided and not part of the basic service and (3) a charge can be made that is returnable on the night or against the cost of a booksale / drink. Discounts can also be offered for library members or those on benefits.
  • Charging means higher quality and so you’d better deliver. Professional theatre shows can be put on, animal handling events can be done at half-term. Moreover, people care if they’re charged so you need to deliver.  Second-rate is not good enough if you’ve spent your own money on it. And libraries should never be second-rate. So more effort is put in  because I don’t want to be the one who has to address why someone felt short-changed. In other words, charging gives both the carrot (better events, income) and the stick as well.

That’s just a bit of my thinking so far.  It’s not rocket science, and people who I know who work with in theatres, entertainment or publishing consider all this very basic, even elementary stuff.  But it’s new for many libraries, and for me.

National news

  • 2016 in review and a look ahead to 2017 – CILIP. “CILIP is a community. We are a network of local, regional, specialist and national groups. Everything we do relies on the expertise and commitment of members in all parts of the community. As a community the bigger we are, the stronger we become and the more powerful our voice.” … “In the past twelve months alone, CILIP staff, Trustees and the Presidential Team have talked to and worked with local communities campaigning to save or reduce cuts to their libraries, pressured decision-makers in local authorities and contacted local MPs in places like Swindon, Berkshire, Birmingham, Lambeth and too many others. We have supported the demand from the Children’s Laureates that the Government investigate school library closures and reductions, and CILIPS have delivered an advocacy strategy for school libraries and librarians in Scotland.”
  • ASCEL and Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016-2021 – ASCEL. “The document provides advice and support, a direction of travel for public libraries, ideas and good case studies. It is good to see recognition of the many children and young people’s programmes we are involved in and recognition of the work ASCEL is doing.”
  • Community managed libraries – the next phase…. – Libraries Taskforce. “… the Taskforce is concerned about the long-term sustainability of community managed libraries and their ability to maintain a wide ranging, high quality service offer. However, we recognise that some local authorities are, for various reasons, considering heading down this route – and some already have done so. If that path is taken, we want to ensure that all parties involved make informed decisions: understanding the pros and cons and learning from others who have gone before, so that a high quality service is provided to local people.”
  • Confessional: What your librarian really thinks about you – Daily Mail. “My favourite customers are teenagers who love reading and ask for suggestions, and old people who want to chat about books. People are odd, though. A well-to-do fiftysomething borrowed the new Jilly Cooper recently. She didn’t enjoy it and was furious with me.”
  • Different delivery models: mutual – Libraries Taskforce. “To support any library service which is thinking about taking this route, we are putting in place some direct support. We are planning to offer four things: a technical advice scheme, where people who have specific skills help with business planning, legal and HR advice, financial management etc; toolkits to assist through the various processes involved in spinning out; peer support from those already working in mutualised libraries; masterclasses on specific issues (for example business growth, dealing with tax and pension issues). To be clear, spinning out to become a PSM is not necessarily the right model for all library services – and getting it up and running takes time, and requires hard work and dedication. Many of those who have taken this road to date believe strongly that they made the right decision, and wouldn’t want to go back to previous ways of working.”
  • Government wants libraries to do more online – UK Authority. “Ministers have said the vital local council service has “fallen behind” other cultural assets such as museums and galleries and must be brought up to standard.”
  • How can libraries survive and thrive in the 21st century? – BookSeller. “Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016-2021 is not a wish-list. It is a practical and achievable strategy for how we will reinvigorate the sector. And we will do this by working collaboratively with local authorities, library services, partners and library users across the country. We should be proud to have one of the best library networks in the world. But the sector cannot, and indeed must not, stand still. That is why we want local authorities to think differently about how they can best develop and utilise this important network.” Minister’s goals for libraries: (1) More innovation/efficiency (2) More library trusts (3) Using libraries for more government and council aims.
  • Is your library under threat? Share your experiences with us – Guardian. “If your library is under threat we’d like to hear from you. From petitions to protests, we’d like to know how you’re planning to help protect them. You can share your experiences with us by filling in the form below – anonymously if you wish. All information will be kept confidential and we will feature some of the submissions in our coverage.”
  • New plans for World Book Night 2017 – Reading Agency. “Today we announce new plans for World Book Night 2017. The targeted giveaway will see us working more closely with care homes, youth centres, colleges, prisons, public libraries, mental health groups and other charities to match books with new readers. ” General giving of new books stopped. “Special editions of the books will no longer be produced, removing a large cost to publishers and paving the way for smaller presses to participate. Publishers will match existing stock or undertake smaller print runs to supply one or more of the key audiences”
  • Review of the open library concept in UK public libraries – Apse Solutions. “The objective of the report is an independent review on the option of using the “open” concept to work alongside and in partnership with available staffed hours to maintain and increase community access to the library service”.  Funded by Bibliotheca, the report looks at the experience of “open libraries” so far in the UK, with an emphasis on advantages and how to implement.
  • The secret life of a librarian: What have I found in books? Streaky bacon and used condoms – Guardian. “My bosses have mostly been of the keep-your-head-down-and-don’t-rock-the-boat variety. Colleagues have ranged from shrinking violets to strident activists who share my passion for social change. And the customers – whom we endearingly call borrowers, like those little people who live under the floor – have come from every walk of life. Public libraries seem to attract more than their fair share of what might be called “characters”.” … “What I dislike most about the profession is its insistence on standards of excellence and a rule-bound culture which tends to exclude those for whom public libraries were founded in the first place – the deserving poor and, indeed, the undeserving poor as well. For it is a fact that libraries are used most by those who need them the least (the middle class) and used the least by those who need them the most (the working class).”
  • Taskforce to research ‘sustainability’ of volunteer-run libraries – BookSeller. “The Libraries Taskforce has pledged to undertake research into community-managed libraries following concerns about their “long-term sustainability”. It has also promised to create a new “peer support network” to ensure that libraries run by volunteers provide a “high quality service” to local people. In a blog post, Taskforce c.e.o. Kathy Settle said that local authorities which work in partnership with communities to deliver library services can be a “valuable [way] of augmenting the services available and ensuring close collaboration and engagement between public libraries and the communities they serve”. “
  • UK schools fail to climb international league table – Guardian. ““For the UK as a whole this is not a bad result: essentially no change,” said Robert Coe, professor of education at Durham University. “Now that the political contexts of the education systems of the four UK nations are entirely separate, people will increasingly concentrate on the performance of those separate nations.”

International news

“In March 2012 , the Dutch College of General Practitioners  launched an evidence based health information website that covers a broad range of topics in easily understandable language. In the two years that followed the site was accessed 18.1 million times , and for the topics included  on the site ,consultations with a doctor fell by 12% . By contrast , consultations for other conditions remained unchanged. This does not prove causality , but it seems a hopeful trend.” Netherlands – More health information lower demand – BMJ page 420  3 December 2016

  • USA – Adventures of a world-famous librarian – Slack. “Pearl worked at the Seattle Public Library at the time as the director of the Washington Center for the Book, and was well known locally due to her regular public radio appearances to recommend books. A year earlier, she had met a man who owned a novelty company at a dinner party and the idea to create a librarian action figure modeled after her was floated as a joke. Pearl never thought she’d hear another word about it.”
  • USA – A Message to Members – American Libraries. “Thank you for your candid responses to our press releases re: ALA’s Libraries Bolster Opportunities. We are sorry that these communications created confusion and anger regarding our Association’s position on safeguarding and promoting its commitment to our core values including diversity, equity and inclusion. We understand that content from these press releases, including the 11/18/16 release that was posted in error, was interpreted as capitulating to and normalizing the incoming administration. ALA administration and leadership issues an apology to all who were negatively affected by these communications.”

Local news by authority

  • Birmingham – Make some noise! Join the Save our Libraries rally this Saturday – Sutton Coldfield News. “Sutton Coldfield campaign group, The Library Lobby, are inviting everyone keen to show their support for Sutton Coldfield public library, or their own local library, to join them on Saturday 10th December in a march against the proposed cuts by Birmingham City Council”
  • Hertfordshire – Libraries lead the way in attracting visitors – Hertfordshire County Council. “Last year the county’s libraries were visited by 3.7m people (and 2m people visited online); more than the Science Museum (3.4m), the Tower of London (2.8m) and London Zoo (1.3m). The popularity of Hertfordshire’s libraries is due to the wide range of events and activities for young and old alike; from baby rhyme time and toddler tales to coding clubs for youngsters and tablet taster sessions for older people. These events ensure that libraries remain a place for everyone and help to create a community hub where people can meet like-minded others, learn new skills and get involved”

“I’m a librarian by day, and also in a choir – who sing about stuff that needs singing about… We recently did an event in Leeds central library about print and libraries and how empowering access to information is (a short film of the event is at : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoGH_O3tD6o)…. We want to work with other libraries particularly in the north and particularly where they are being hammered with cuts… is anyone interested? Please contact me : e.l.clement@bradford.ac.uk for more info.”

  • Leeds – Commoners Choir: Mechanical Movable Type – Commoners Choir / YouTube. “A short film of a Commoners Choir event held at Leeds Central Library in November 2016 to celebrate print, literacy and libraries. As well as a full choir concert (including this song in homage to Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of type) the walls were covered in words – quotes from the incredible history of the type revolution – and a letterpress printer made on-site souvenirs for everyone to take away.”
  • North Lanarkshire – Writer Kathleen Ruddy latest name to back campaign to save Newarthill Library – Daily Record. “The library is currently set to close on January 31 and a committee has set up a constituted community group to fight the decision. Kathleen said: “Libraries were important to me as a kid. I’d usually be found in the dictionary section looking up all the bad words. “Bless our libraries and all who read in them.” Earlier this year CultureNL announced that they could no longer afford to operate services from Newarthill Library. Local residents are seeking a judicial review over the consultation process by CultureNL which they claim was flawed. Since the new group was formed a huge online campaign with the Twitter hashtag #savenewarthilllibrary has helped show the level of support for the residents.”
  • Northern Ireland – Libraries NI announces plans for a Big Armagh Read – Portadown Times. “During March 2017, Libraries NI will encourage as many people as possible across County Armagh to read the selected book with the nine public libraries across County Armagh (Armagh City, Bessbrook, Brownlow, Crossmaglen, Keady, Lurgan, Portadown, Richhill and Tandragee) stocking multiple copies of the book for people to borrow for free.”
  • Sandwell – Santa Claus planning breakfast in Blackheath before festive rush – Halesowen News. “On Monday, December 19 Santa will be at Bleakhouse Library, Bleakhouse Road, Oldbury from 9.15am until 9.45am. Children can enjoy Christmas stories and breakfast with Santa before he goes off to prepare for the big day with tea and toast provided. Councillor Richard Marshall, cabinet member for leisure, said: “There’s a wide range of activities at Sandwell’s libraries in the run up to Christmas.”
  • Sheffield – Campaigners try to save Sheffield library from becoming five-star hotel – Guardian. “Actor Michael Palin has described the proposals as an embarrassment for the city of his birth and is among nearly 9,000 people to have signed a petition calling for the building to be kept as a public resource. The local authority says the art deco, grade II-listed building needs £30m worth of repairs, which it cannot afford after cuts to its budget by central government. Sichuan Guodong Construction Group has been given 12 months to explore the possibility of turning the building into the city’s first five-star hotel, which would result in library services being moved to a new, purpose-built building.” … “Scott said the proposals were for the building to be leased to the Chinese company, not sold, and that the hotel would raise an estimated £1m a year from business rates, which could be spent on a new library”
  • St Helens – Libraries to accept food in place of cash for late book returns – Liverpool Echo. “Anyone who returns their book late to a library in the area can reduce the price of their fine by £1 for every item donated – up to a maximum of £50. The project will run until Saturday, December 31, and all 13 of the borough’s libraries are taking part”
  • Swindon – Parish council is first to give hope as Swindon libraries face closure – Swindon Advertiser. “Stratton St Margaret Parish Council has been holding talks with Swindon Borough Council and looks set to be a part of the first wave of community libraries with the transfer of Upper Stratton Library in Beechcroft Road. “
  • Swindon – Shadow culture minister and CILIP push for Swindon libraries intervention – BookSeller. “Shadow culture minister Kevin Brennan [pictured] has called on the Secretary of State for Culture, Karen Bradley, to intervene in Swindon Council’s plans to close two thirds of the borough’s libraries. Posing a written question in parliament, Brennan has asked Bradley to make an assessment of whether Swindon Borough Council’s plans to close 10 out of 15 of its libraries comply with the duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service. Nick Poole, the c.e.o. of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, also pushed the government for intervention and slammed the consultation period which resulted in the proposed closures as “highly prejudicial”.”
  • Swindon – Swindon: Library automation equipment – Tenders Electronic Daily. “SBC is looking at ways to enhance the core service by extending opening beyond staffed hours by using technology that will enable a library to stay open unstaffed for permitted users to obtain services they require as if the library was staffed. The framework may cover any libraries in Swindon borough. It is anticipated that libraries will need the same technology therefore the contract will need to include potential future purchases.”
  • Swindon – Your chance to give library a new chapter – Swindon Advertiser. “…. groups wishing to take on the running of a library have until January to submit an expression of interest. By the end of March they will have to complete a full application. Among the requirements are audited accounts and an agreed constitution, as well as a full business plan with financial forecasts and funding proposals for the next five years. Prospective library providers must have, or be willing to acquire, public liability insurance for not less than £5,000,000.”
  • Warrington – Councillors set to debate library petitions at meeting – Warrington Guardian. “More than 10,000 people signed the Save Warrington’s Libraries petition in protest against community interest company LiveWire’s plans to make savings of £300,000 from the library service. The 10,711 signatures far exceeds the 1,500 names needed to force councillors to debate a petition.”