It’s heartening to see the new libraries minister visiting Lancashire to have a look at how its council is cutting its library service. The council has taken a lot of flak due to the sheer number of branches involved, some seemingly dubious consultations  and, more recently, making some controversial announcements over Christmas, being accused of trying to “bury bad news”.  Don’t get too excited, though. The minister, Rob Wilson, is unlikely to actually intervene in the county. That would be going a bit too far for a government still tied to the twin stakes of austerity and localism. No, he will probably merely use the visit to grandstand, showing how concerned he is without actually doing anything.  That’s still, though, more than I can remember Ed Vaizey doing in his tenure in the job, where he seemed to spend what little time he devoted to libraries either saying how much they were thriving or visiting carefully selected branches that fitted his views. I’m hoping Rob Wilson is made of sterner stuff.  We’ll know soon enough.

Other news that pickled my interest comes from the USA, where staff have got into trouble for using fake patrons to issue books that otherwise their computers would have ordered them to withdraw.  This over-reliance on computers by libraries is an issue.  Many of us will have learnt how much harder it is to withdraw books in self-service libraries which no longer have those handy date-stamps on them, for instance.  Meanwhile, those computer printouts that list what to withdraw, in the libraries lucky enough to have them,  often take no account of the actual condition of the book or that it’s a classic that no library should do without. The ideal I suspect, as in most things, is a happy medium between an entirely time-heavy (and open to bias and error, however some may say otherwise) staff-based revision system on one hand and emotionless garbage-in garbage-out obeying of the computer printout on the other.


National news

  • Government minister visits Lancashire following complaints about county council’s library closures – Lytham St Anne’s Express. “Government Minister Rob Wilson will visit Lancashire on Tuesday (Jan 10) to investigate the county council’s decision to close 28 libraries. He will meet council leader County Coun Jennifer Mein following Wyre and Preston North MP Ben Wallace’s request for the Government to call in the closures decision” … “The council recently announced it is selling six libraries and Fulwood and Freckleton libraries are now on the market. But Mr Wallace has warned that if the Government decides the council has acted incorrectly it could be forced to reverse its decisions. He said there could be a potential high cost to Council Tax payers if sales went ahead and had to be reversed.”
  • Speak Up for Libraries Conference – Speak Up For Libraries, London 18th February. Includes Library Taskforce CEO Kathy Settle,  Lord John Bird and Alan Gibbons, Sessions include the role of the library worker, mutual and other delivery models, data and unstaffed/volunteer libraries.

“I am pleased to support the ‘Libraries and Health’ initiative. Health literacy is an important determinant of health. GPs have an essential role in supporting patients to develop health literacy skills in understanding and using health information. The ‘Libraries and Health’ initiative will be a helpful  resource for people in making the best use of resources, through increased understanding, confidence and skills to enable decision-making that is shared between doctors and patients” Professor Nigel Sparrow OBE Senior National GP Advisor and Responsible Officer CQC, Libraries and Health.

International news

  • Eire – Staffless libraries: 111 people had membership withdrawn in pilot libraries, one over drunkenness – Journal. ” 111 people had their open library membership temporarily withdrawn during the pilot open libraries scheme in Offaly.” … “One member had their open library membership permanently withdrawn due to being under the influence of alcohol. More worrying was the fact that there were six incidents of children being left unsupervised in the library during unstaffed hours”
  • UK/USA/Australia – Sing Me a Library – Library As Incubator. Matt Finch looks at music in libraries, in all its forms. “We all know the modern library is a place of play and exploration anyway – so, whatever community you serve, there’s never been a better time to rethink how musical your institution should be.”
  • USA – Fake borrowers at Florida library probed – USA. “Staff at a Florida library created fake readers to foil computer systems that recommend throwing out books unread for months or years. An investigation found bogus borrowers had “read” thousands of books. Library staff have been suspended while officials work out if the fakes meant the libraries received more state cash. Staff said their action had helped save cash as it kept perennially popular titles that would have had to be bought again if they had been thrown out.” see also Automated book-culling software drives librarians to create fake patrons to “check out” endangered titles – Boing Boing.
  • USA – Jill Bourne: LJ’s 2017 Librarian of the Year – Jill Bourne. “Bourne built relationships with Silicon Valley tech companies and organizations (including eBay, PayPal, and Microsoft) to enhance public access to technology and applied learning through STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) education and Maker programs..  Patrons can work as volunteers (SJPL pays $20 an hour against fines). Bourne collaborated with labor unions, the city council, and San José leaders to work out this solution. Two staffers are dedicated to the volunteer program, which is structured to hold special events, so that dozens of volunteers work together. “They’re so excited to get back to the library, it’s like a social event”
  • USA – The most popular books at US public libraries this year, mapped by city – Quartz. “Some books’ popularity were driven by library initiatives. For instance, the San Francisco Public Library’s “One City One Book” program encouraged its patrons to read Season of the Witch by David Talbot, shooting it to the top of its most popular book list.”
  • USA – Public libraries open window to a virtual realm – Carroll County Times. The experience of one library with virtual reality headsets.

Local news by authority

  • Bath and North East Somerset – Bath and North East Somerset Council to ‘save’ £49 million by 2020 putting 150 jobs at risk – Somerset Live. “As many as 150 jobs are at risk as the council makes cuts to achieve the savings including 25 in the library sector.”
  • Birmingham – Labour and Lib Dems pulling together to save Sutton Coldfield Library – Sutton Coldfield Local News. “Labour and Liberal Democrats in Sutton Coldfield have joined forces in campaigning against the closure of the Royal Town’s library. While each of the parties has its own petition against the closure, they have agreed a coordinated approach to presenting these to Birmingham City Council at their forthcoming Council meeting on Tuesday 10th January, along with a third petition from Unison”
  • Birmingham – Public views on BCC’s proposed new model for community libraries – Library Lobby. “During the public consultation period so far, we have visited all of the community libraries to obtain the views of users and library staff. In addition we had many inputs to our social media and responses to items on our website and mailing lists. We attended, and contributed to, the four BCC public consultation meetings and some of the briefing sessions in individual libraries. We held a public meeting in October. This note summarises the key points arising from these and other inputs” 
  • Bradford – Army of volunteers make a success of community library – Telegraph and Argus. “Jim Dowzall runs Idle’s community library at the age of 82 with a team of 26 part-timers who he brought together. The library opened in March at the Wright Watson Enterprise Centre and operates two-and-a-half-days a week. And it is going from strength to strength while other Bradford libraries face uncertain futures because of Council cutbacks, Mr Dowzall said.”
  • Brighton and Hove – Cuts to book fund pose new threat to Hove library warn campaigners – Argus. “Former Green councillor Christopher Hawtree has said that a quarter reduction in the budget for library books poses a new threat to the future of the Carnegie less than six months after it” was threatened with closure.
  • Coventry – Unison calls for halt to Coventry council closure plan for libraries, youth clubs and children’s centres – Coventry Observer. “A three-month consultation period ended last month and key decisions are set to be taken from this month when the universal youth service is set to end. Unison the union, which represents thousands of council workers, has issued a statement saying ‘fundamental questions have not been answered’”
  • East Riding of Yorkshire – Revealed: how many still use our libraries – Pocklington Post. “Statistics obtained by the Pocklington Post via the Freedom of Information Act found that 58,890 members of the public used the library service between April 2010 and March 2011. This figure rose to 63,263 between 2015-16 – an increase of seven per cent. Pocklington joins both Stamford Bridge and South Cave libraries in having an improvement in footfall in the past six years. Darren Stevens, head of culture and information, said: “We know that the numbers of library users have held up well, and following our recent review, the council has shown its commitment to libraries by deciding to keep all branches open. However we would accept that the usage numbers we are quoting are estimates.”
  • Edinburgh – The Girl on the Train tops Edinburgh Libraries lending lists – Edinburgh Reporter. “In Edinburgh the library service has just counted up the most borrowed books of 2016, and it turns out we like crime and mystery best of all. And whether it is in book form or as an electronic download, The Girl on the Train tops both polls. Scottish writers feature in the top ten with Peter May and Ian Rankin sitting alongside Stuart MacBride. Culture and Sport Convener, Councillor Richard Lewis, said: “It’s always fascinating to discover which fiction titles the public choose to withdraw from our libraries the most, and this year it’s a good mix – though featuring some of the country’s familiar favourites like Ian Rankin and J.K. Rowling (aka Robert Galbraith).”
  • Essex – Book spending by Essex Libraries halves in five years – Herts and Essex Observer. “A Freedom of Information request to Essex County Council revealed that only £935,670 was spent in 2015-16, compared to £1,708,349 in 2010-11. County-wide library membership also reduced, from 309,276 to 259,192. Author Ajay Ahuja, who grew up in Harlow attending Stewards Academy and Harlow College, said a library book had changed his life. “When I was at Harlow College we used to spend time in the library, and there was a book I took out that pretty much changed my life,” he said.”
  • Glasgow – Glasgow library-based cancer support service reaches milestone – Evening Times. “More than 10,000 attendances have now been recorded at the city-wide Macmillan @ Glasgow Libraries outreach programme since it launched in 2012. Offering emotional and practical support to people affected by cancer, the service operates across the city’s 32 community libraries and the Mitchell. Janice Preston, Head of Services in Scotland at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “The Macmillan support services have been a real lifeline to many people affected by cancer in Glasgow since the link-up with libraries launched.”
  • Herefordshire – Hereford library to re-open – Hereford Times. “Library will re-open later this month more than a year after being closed following an asbestos scare. The library and museum in Broad Street which was closed in September 2015 will re-open on January 31, following the phase one completion of building work. Customers can look forward to a refreshed ground floor interior, including new meeting rooms and accessible public toilets. Further work on the development of the building will follow. The county library will also welcome WISH (Wellbeing Information and Signposting for Herefordshire) which will operate from the main library when it reopens.”
  • Lancashire – Anger as Whalley library goes on the market – 2BR. “The announcement has prompted an angry response from the residents of Whalley and Billington. It has struck everyone as not only incredibly crass but is regarded by many people as thoroughly duplicitous behaviour by Lancashire County Council trying to bury the announcement at a time when they hoped no-one would be watching out for it”
  • Lancashire – Earby Library to go up for sale – Craven Herald and Pioneer. “Mr Hartley said: “Earby is geographically separate from everyone else, and as bus services aren’t what they used to be we need a centre for the local population and surrounding villages.” Last year, it had been mooted that the New Road Community Centre would be considered as a possible location for a new Earby Library. “Those discussions never happened,” said Mr Hartley. “We offered to accommodate the library, but that offer hasn’t been taken up.””
  • Lancashire – Fury over ‘duplicitous’ timing of Whalley Library sale announcement – Lancashire Telegraph. Councillors “have condemned Lancashire County Council’s decision to sell Whalley Library and the timing of its announcement late on the Friday before New Year. The decision to axe the building, which saw a footfall of more than 3,000 people a month, has been branded ‘duplicitous behaviour’ by ward councillor Ged Mirfin. Cllr Mirfin, who co-chairs the Save Whalley Library Group, said: “The announcement has prompted an angry response from the residents of Whalley and Billington.”
  • Lancashire – Hands off our library – 2BR. Local councillor says “Not only should this just be a library, but it could be used as a service centre. “It may well still be utilised for education purposes, and I know that Whalley School are interested, so we’ll have to pursue that and see where it takes us. “There is a thought of it being used perhaps as a nursery, as a feeder nursery school particularly for Whalley Primary School which is short of space. “If indeed this is sold, particularly for some commercial purpose, then that would be devastating for this area, it’s such a great facility.””
  • Lancashire – ‘I’m absolutely incandescent’ – Lancashire County Council puts former libraries up for sale – Lancashire Telegraph. “Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans said: “I’m absolutely incandescent. “The consultation process should be carried out afresh. “The voices of the people in Whalley have been completely ignored.” The council said it is being faced with a ‘difficult’ budget position and is having to make ‘huge’ savings. Cllr Mike Goulthorp, who represents Earby on Pendle Council, said: “It’s unfortunate we have not be able to get any community response.”
  • Northamptonshire – A healthy, happy, connected community: it starts in the library – Libraries Taskforce. “More than simply a place to borrow and read books, libraries have transformed into vibrant community hubs. A place where people find out about – and access – community services, learn new skills and connect with others. A place that silently combats social isolation, helps people find work, facilitates community groups and connects students with the latest in research. Libraries are vibrant, multifaceted places. Each one constantly evolving and reinventing to become more relevant than ever. In Northamptonshire, we are aiming to take this up a level. Given the idea behind First for Wellbeing is to build up a true community of local wellbeing experts and services, it is only fitting that libraries take the role of our physical and spiritual ‘home’ – or 36 ‘homes’, for that matter. Libraries are now used to hold meetings, community events and adult learning courses. More often than not, our wellbeing advisors will use libraries to conduct client appointments and that all important first wellbeing assessment.”
  • North Yorkshire – Bilton Library forced to close temporarily after “major” overnight floodHarrogate Advertiser. “Greta Knight, chair of Trustees at the Library, said she was close to tears when she saw the damage and the library would be closed until January 16 at the earliest. She said: “Water has been pouring out from the boiler non stop from last night until 7.30 this morning and the library has taken the brunt of the damage.”
  • Staffordshire – Silverdale Library relaunched as enterprise centre – Sentinel. “Taking on the High Street facility is not-for-profit firm Business Enterprise Support (BES), which is going to re-launch the library as an enterprise hub.”
  • Staffordshire – Watch: Library is still important to Burton as councils across the country cut funding – Burton Mail. “Library users in Burton were not surprised to hear that library funding had been cut across the country but still believe it is a valuable asset. Roger Easton, from Burton, who is over 70, said: “I personally don’t use it very often but my wife brings our granddaughter here for the story-telling and nursery rhyme sessions. She is 15 months old and she really enjoys it. “If you come on a Tuesday or Friday you will see lots of parents and children enjoying themselves. My granddaughter is a member of the library and there is no penalty if she returns it late or has an accident. They also give out a free pack to children.”
  • Suffolk – Library users urged to support Suffolk Libraries by paying their fines and returning overdue books – EADT. “Book borrowers who have failed to return overdue titles or racked up fines are being urged to return books to libraries in Suffolk and pay their debt, as more than £200,000 of fines remains unpaid.” … “Fines are 13p per day for overdue adult books, and 1p per day for children’s books. The maximum overdue charge on an adult book is £6.37, while the nominal charge for overdue children’s books is designed to promote responsibility among younger readers. “
  • Swindon – Library lessons on internet use – This Is Wiltshire. “Swindon Libraries are once again offering their popular computer courses and are encouraging residents of all ages from across the town to sign up for their latest courses beginning this month. The library service is running free computer courses during January for people who would like to learn how to use the internet. Those taking part can either use their own laptop or one of the library computers to learn how to use a search engine, find information on health matters or learn how to pay bills online.”
  • Torfaen – Councillors to consider proposed £250k cuts to Torfaen’s library service – Free Press. “In March 2016, Torfaen County Borough Council agreed measures to address a project shortfall of £26 million in its budget from 2016 – 2019. As part of these cuts, £250,000 was outlined for all three of the borough’s libraries — Blaenavon, Cwmbran and Pontypool. In a lengthy public consultation, which closed on Sunday, December 18, the public were invited to give feedback on three options that would help save the required £250k.” … “The report also states that if a library were to close as part of proposals, Welsh Government may choose to “claw back” a percentage or all of the funding. This could affect grants for the three libraries including Blaenavon’s £100,000, Pontypool’s £300,000 and Cwmbran’s £80,000.”
  • Warrington – Politicians furious at plans to close library next to school without enough books – Warrington Guardian. “… politicians are calling on LiveWire to save Padgate Library after an Ofsted report found a neighbouring school does not have enough books. Inspectors ordered University Academy Warrington on Insall Road to improve after a visit in November, when Ofsted said the school lacked a proper library. arrington North MP Helen Jones has been highly critical of plans to shut nine libraries across the town, including Padgate Library which sits next to the school. The Labour politician said: “This situation is fast becoming like something from Alice in Wonderland.”