Another CIPFA account of changes in UK public libraries has been released. Putting aside its lateness, probable inaccuracies, omissions and stupefying cost (over £400) and secrecy (share it at your peril), it sadly remains for now the best we have to see what’s going on.  Hopefully that we change soon. What we see is a cut in budget in one year of 2.5%, a cut in staff of 5% and bookfund of 8%.  The cut in budget is not startlingly deep but comes after years of other cuts, meaning it’s tougher than one would think. There’s a decline in usage too, inevitably. How much of that is due to cuts and how much to other factors (internet, smartphones etc) is a moot point, although its clear from looking at other countries, it’s not just the budget that reduces usage. I’ve seen campaigners today squarely blaming library staff (mainly chief librarians but also others), and CILIP for the decline in usage. That strikes me as unfair, perhaps blatantly so. The reasons for the declines are manifold, with the keys being the obvious ones of budget cuts combined with technological change. Now, for the first time in years, at least, there is a plan to do something about it and organisations (such as CILIP and also, much to my delight, the SCL) pushing things forward.  Beneath the dark figures, there is hope. So let’s cling on to that, enjoy our libraries, fight for them (by working in them and using them) and aim to make the future brighter than the past.



National news

  • Changing times, changing roles – Libraries Taskforce / Leon Bolton.  “the impact of deficit reduction and austerity has changed the public library landscape considerably, with the main drivers for change being the decrease of the central government grant to local authorities, the Localism Act, and the drive towards decentralisation and devolution in England.” … “the importance of strong strategic leadership is paramount to provide vision and aspiration. Perhaps more importantly, library leaders will need the mental flexibility and managerial adaptability to bring all these distributed elements into a coherent whole to ensure the continuing success of libraries into the future.”
  • Insecurity, fear, frustration and helplessness – BookSeller. “Library workers across the country have had six years of being at risk of losing our jobs and our libraries. Every year, we go through the same process of budget proposals, potential cuts, risk of redundancy letters, and consultation processes where we must ask all our customers to fill in questionnaires. Every year, we get nominated for cuts and every year we don’t know if we’ll even have a library or a job in six months’ time. A rolling process of insecurity, fear, frustration and helplessness. Helplessness because, as employees, we’re not allowed to canvas for support. “
  • Libraries ‘bearing the brunt’ of council budget cuts – BBC. “The government said libraries were “hugely important” and it was “committed to helping them flourish”. According to CIPFA, the number of library visits fell 5.5% last year to 250 million and the number of permanent staff members dropped by 5.3% to 17,064 over the same period. The Library of Birmingham is the most frequently visited, with 1.6 million visitors last year, followed by Manchester’s Central Library with 1.48 million visitors and the Wembley library in Brent with 1.38 million.”

“Here are some informal suggestions about finding ideas for possible projects. Projects should be new and innovative for your service but you can base them on ideas tried out by other library services in England and elsewhere.

The Network for Social Exclusion: The Network’s Website is at www.seapn.org.uk  and includes information on courses, good practice, specific socially excluded groups, as well as the  archive of the Network Newsletter. This is an invaluable resource.

Public Library News has a useful section on innovative ideas in libraries: https://www.publiclibrariesnews.com/practitioners/ideas-and-innovations-in-public-libraries

R David Lankes Expect more http://davidlankes.org/: This US academic has spoken at CILIP and SCL conferences and has inspired many with his vision of the role of the library today. His book and the web site are a useful starting point to the thinking behind this project.

UK Case studies: There are many examples of good practice in the UK. A recent description of the role that libraries can play in supporting individuals and groups with multiple needs was the recent SCL statement on refugees and asylum seekers. The fact is that the services that support these groups can equally support resident populations who are facing similar problems. http://goscl.com/library-leaders-across-england-and-wales-confirm-the-welcome-offered-to-refugees-and-asylum-seekers-from-public-libraries/

Carnegie UK Trust: has published a list of case studies Libraries as Social Hubs part of their library advocacy work.

The EU funded Public Libraries 2020 programme has produced a series of advocacy videos case studies about the role of public libraries. Libraries change lives is a short animated film describing the role of libraries. PL2020 Tour – MEPs compilation contains comments from a number of MEPs about the role of libraries. Other videos provide examples of a wide range of library activities.

Museums, Libraries and Comprehensive Initiatives is a report from the US Institute of Museum and Library Services which provides case studies of how museums and libraries play a supporting, and sometimes leading, role in community-wide change and revitalisation in the context of collaborations among groups in multiple sectors to achieve a common outcome. Libraries and museums are community hubs or anchors and are linked statistically to subsequent neighbourhood revitalisation” Carl Clayton (Arts Council England) on possible ideas for bids for £4m funding.  Knowledge Hub.

  • ‘Staggering’ £25m fall in libraries spending revealed – BookSeller. “A total of 67 libraries have closed in Great Britain this year, while library funding has been slashed by £25m, figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) have revealed. The data report released today (8th December) shows that the number of libraries fell by 1.7% in 12 months to 3,850 in the year to April 2016. This number is lower than the closures a year previously, which saw a drop of 106 libraries (2.6%). The fresh figures mean a total of 478 libraries have closed across England, Scotland and Wales since 2010. At the same time, visits to libraries were down by 5.5% from 265m to 250m for the financial year to 2016, according to CIPFA.  This is a larger decline than a year prior, which saw the number of visits drop 3.9% from 276m to 265m. The figures for services England, Scotland and Wales also showed that total expenditure for library services fell by £25m, from £944m to £919m in 2015-16. The previous year saw funding stripped by £50m from to £944m in 2014-15” … “Over a five-year period, the figures show that visits to libraries have fallen by 16.2% to 250m in 2015-16. Over that time the number of full-time equivalent staff has fallen by 19.3% from 21,138 staff members in 2011-12 to 17,064 in 2015-16, while the number of volunteers has soared 90.2% from 23,397 to 44,501 in 2015-16.”
  • UK library budgets fall by £25m in a year – Guardian. “The main plank of government policy towards libraries is to shift them into the voluntary sector. This shift in strategy is reflected in the new Cipfa figures: though paid library staff fell by 5.3% from 18,028 to 17,064, volunteer numbers rose by 7.5% to 44,501.”

International news

  • USA – Blockchain Roundup for Info Pros – Information Today Inc. “Information professionals should note the shifts that are happening with the advent of blockchains. From smart contracts that do not require trust brokers (such as banks or lawyers) to broker-less authorities (such as governments obviated by direct democracies), blockchains promise the upheaval of tradition and staid, white-collar positions.”
  • USA – What Trends May Come in 2017 – Information Today Inc. “As we start to recover from the—how to put this delicately—“interesting” year of 2016 (seriously, what other year in recent memory has had such high highs and low lows? … it’s time to look ahead to 2017, specifically, to the information industry trends we’ll be talking about next year. Information Today sought out three info industry experts, each with a different take on what to watch for. Justin Hoenke has a list of best practices he’d like to see libraries adopt. Leigh Watson Healy talks about the importance of putting data first. And Jason Griffey predicts an even more decentralized web.”

Local news by authority

  • Barnet – ‘There’s still time to stop our library being turned into office space,’ say campaigners – Barnet Today. “Campaigners staged a demonstration outside Chipping Barnet Library in protest over plans to convert part of the building into commercial office space as well the installation of self-service machinery, which will partly replace the jobs of library staff. Around 30 campaigners staged a “read-in” outside the closed front doors of the library building yesterday (December 5) on the day it was closed for two months for the refurbishment work.”
  • Bristol – £92 million council cuts: Bristol’s libraries back in the frontline for shake up – Bristol Post. “During the next four years, the council is expected to commit itself to saving up to £1million in running the city’s 28 libraries. The council backed off making the saving a few years ago after an outcry by campaigners when plans were revealed to close down seven libraries. Now council officials are taking a different tack. Instead of closing down libraries, they are suggesting they could be run by volunteers or share buildings with other council services.”
  • Devon – Devon libraries promote Christmas reading challenge – View News. “More than 11,000 children across Devon took part in the annual Summer Reading Challenge, a national initiative that challenges children to read at least six books during the school holidays. Now children are being encouraged to take up the Christmas Mini-Challenge and read three books of their choice from a local library in return for milestone rewards. The challenge runs online till Friday. January 6th 2017. To take part children are asked to create a profile on the Summer Reading Challenge website and log their reading achievements over the Christmas holidays. Upon completion, children will be awarded with a virtual badge, reward video and a certificate.”
  • East Sussex – New computers boost for libraries’ network – Uckfield FM. “New computer terminals have been installed at all of the county’s 24 libraries in a nine-month scheme to improve East Sussex County Council’s network of free-to-access PCs.” … “Among those benefitting from the £477,000 upgrade are users of the IT For You scheme, which offers advice and support on using IT to prepare a CV and apply for jobs.
  • Norfolk – The top 10 books borrowed from the Forum library in Norwich last year – Eastern Daily Press. “New figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) found that the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library, based at the Forum in Norwich, saw 984,445 items borrowed during 2015 to 2016, the highest number in the UK. In previous years, the popular library has been named the busiest in the UK – a title this year scooped by the Library of Birmingham – with six consecutive wins up to 2013.”
  • North Somerset – Self service libraries in North Somerset ‘to cut costs’ – BBC. “Reducing staffed library opening hours and sharing buildings in North Somerset will save £250,000 per year, the council has said. Under the plan, five libraries will introduce self service operation and one will be run by a parish council. The equivalent of 11 jobs will be lost while some sites will also move and merge with children’s centres, meaning a loss of six full time roles.”
  • North Yorkshire – Library Volunteers Needed In North Yorkshire Libraries – Yorkshire Coast Radio. “North Yorkshire County Council are launching a campaign to get people to volunteer in libraries. The campaign, which launches later this month, encourages people to make a difference in their communities by helping to keep libraries open. Currently, there are 10 community-managed libraries operating up and down the county, with a further 20 planned for the new year. The change comes as a result of government cuts in funding which has seen the library budget reduced from £7.8 million in 2010 to £4.3 million in 2017/18”
  • Nottingham – Sale of Nottingham Central Library will go ahead – Business Desk. “By selling the Angel Row site to developers, we can invest in a new and updated library facility which otherwise we couldn’t do. By bringing inward investment to the city, Nottingham gets a new library, new grade A office space and new jobs.” … “Developer Henry Boot revealed last month that it is set to transform Nottingham’s Central Library into a 120,000 sq ft Grade A office scheme after the City Council said that it was offloading the building.”
  • Rotherham – Libraries to loan out life-saving equipment and training at the heart of South Yorkshire communities – Sheffield Telegraph. “The British Heart Foundation (BHF)’s Rotherham Heart Town partnership will deliver life saving community CPR training kits and public access defibrillators (PADs) to all libraries over the next few months. Under the pilot project, the BHF is funding community CPR training kits for all 15 libraries. These innovative Call Push Rescue training kits include everything needed to learn CPR in half an hour. Members of the public will be able to borrow the kit for local community organisations and return it after their training session, just as they would a book. “
  • Swindon – Councillors in Stratton raise doubts over library takeover plans – Swindon Advertiser. “On Tuesday evening, members of the Stratton St Margaret Parish Council met with representatives from Swindon Borough Council to discuss handing control of Upper Stratton Library in Beechcroft Road to the parish council. But after a lengthy debate, councillors decided they had insufficient information to proceed and deferred their decision until January. Despite parish council chairman Joe Tray’s enthusiasm for the takeover, there was a noticeable air of scepticism, though Coun Tray insisted there was never any intention to proceed without the full support of members.”

“The Department is currently monitoring the situation in relation to Swindon Borough Council’s proposals for its library service. Subject to any decisions the Council’s Cabinet take, we will consider if further investigation is needed to determine whether there is serious doubt about the Council providing a comprehensive and efficient library service. I have met with the Hon Member for North Swindon and Swindon Borough Council’s library portfolio holder to discuss the Council’s proposals.” Rob Wilson MP, libraries minister.

  • Swindon – The future of libraries in Swindon to be decided – ITV.
  • Swindon – Hours cut at five core libraries while 10 face uncertain fate – Swindon Advertiser. “Cabinet members voted unanimously to approve a strategy which will see funding withdrawn from ten of the town’s 15 existing libraries – the remaining five will see significant reductions in staffed hours. The plans are the latest in a series of restructuring efforts aimed at reducing the amount the council spends on services as it looks to save almost £50 million by 2020, the library cuts are expected to save £1.5 million.”
  • Swindon – “Libraries can saved” – Swindon Advertiser / Letters. “Justin Tomlinson, the MP for North Swindon suddenly pops up in Friday’s Adver stating that he is an unashamed library fan. He also says that he knows that Coun David Renard, the leader of SBC is passionate about our local libraries. Both of these men belong to the Tory Party, which is responsible for the cuts causing the closures of our libraries. Justin states that he has been meeting with the Save Swindon’s Libraries Group and representatives of the community libraries, to look at options to protect our libraries. He speaks as if the lack of money is an inevitable result of circumstances. Actually it is his government’s political choice and not an economic necessity.”
  • Swindon – Swindon libraries campaigners ‘need more time’ – BBC. “Sarah Church, from Save Swindon Libraries, said “even established community groups” would struggle to come up with a plan in that time. She added: “We need to look carefully at what steps the group can now take to save the smaller libraries.””