I’ve heard rumours about the new libraries minister, Rob Wilson, for a while now.  Some suggest his ardent pro-volunteer bodes ill for libraries and others earnestly hoped that he would be an interventionist. Rumours that reached my ears about his speeches at the Ambition sessions held by the Task Force included suggestions he wanted large-scale closures. It turns out he’s not as extreme as all this suggests: well, not for a Conservative minister anyway.

Unlike his predecessor, the ever-optimistic (and sometimes possibly wilfully blind) Ed Vaizey, he’s openly acknowledging that there are problems. He repeats (like Ed Vaizey) that he will look into library closures but (unlike Ed, in office anyway) has actually taken an active interest in visiting an authority where deep closures are taking place. Don’t get too excited, though – Lancashire are still happily transferring libraries even after his visit so they must strongly suspect he’s not actually going to do anything.

He’s also keen on initiatives and ways to lessen the impact of the cuts, even suggesting (as so many do) that somehow, given the right management and genius thinking, libraries will be fine. Someone should show him the deal in the Isle of Man where an online  gambling company is financially supporting the mobile library service, taking over from another one. Taking advantage of low-taxed gambling companies to keep libraries open? Now that’s innovative.  So, having seen the last few months and read the speech by  Rob Wilson, my verdict he is not Satan but he’s no St George either. Libraries remain as wonderful and as under threat as ever and need to find our own solutions, without the strong shield of government.  Well, no-one can say we’re not used to that.


National news

  • Bibliotheca announces significant additions to its product range  – Bibliotheca. “Reaffirming its focus on connecting the library with its community, bibliotheca announces today 5 brand new additions to its product catalogue, extending its range in self-service, Tattle-Tape™ EM security and Automated Materials Handling. These new products build on the single product line that the company announced in early 2016 – following the merger with 3M Library Systems…”
  • CILIP invites expressions of interest to help develop library and information apprenticeship standards – CILIP. “the opportunity to shape future apprenticeships and vocational qualifications for the library, information and knowledge management profession through the creation of employer-led standards and is looking for interest and representation from across the whole profession.”
  • Fun Palaces 2016 – Fun Palaces. “We are proud that 59% of all Fun Palaces in 2016 happened in libraries across the world. Libraries told us it helped widen their offer as spaces for hands-on participation and welcomed new people in – of the participants surveyed 52% had not visited the library before. As one Maker said “it completely fits in with our ethos of community engagement and libraries as place-makers within a community where local people are enabled to share their skills and learn from each other.””
  • Information Literacy Award 2017 – Nominations now open – LILAC. “The CILIP Information Literacy Group & the National Library of Wales are proud to offer an award for achievement in the field of information literacy (IL). The award is open to practitioners, researchers and academics working in the IL field within the United Kingdom. Nominations from all sectors are welcome. The winner will receive £500 for personal use and £500 for their nominated charity.”
  • Irvine Welsh backs campaign against Scottish library cuts – BookSeller. “Author Irvine Welsh is backing a new campaign against library cuts in Scotland. The ‘Libraries Matter’ campaign, which will launch next month, will fight to keep libraries open in the run up to Scotland’s local government elections on 4th May. Welsh, whose novel Porno (Vintage) was the basis of the new Trainspotting 2 film, said: “I grew up in a scheme where every house and street pretty much looked the same. As a kid it was essential to have your imagination fueled by a psychic portal into different worlds. That was my library in Muirhouse. That was why I became a writer and why camera crews from all over the world and Hollywood film stars and executives descended on my home town for the premiere of the film of my book.” As part of the campaign, libraries body CILIP will ask government candidates if they will invest in public libraries, as well as ensure school libraries are staffed by a trained, on-site and full-time librarian”
  • Library Innovators Network – Society of Chief Librarians. “a community of professionals that works together to share and develop ideas to ensure libraries continue to remain an important part of UK communities. The Library Innovators Network was started in April 2016 to provide a space for public library staff to connect with their peers across the country. The network is supported by the Society of Chief Librarians and designed to be a community of practice, meaning our purpose and the topics we discuss are driven by the members who make up our community. As a community of practice our strength lies in our members and the information we are willing to share. The community is curated by Shared Intelligence; the topics, conversations and many of the resources provided are a reflection of the various members who share and contribute their thinking.”
  • Public libraries survey – Axiell. “Following on from Axiell’s 2016 Library of the Future survey, the specialist provider of technology solutions, is now building an industry report focusing on how library staff view the challenges and key issues facing their library and the sector as a whole. The report will touch upon a number of different subject areas that are front of mind for many library professionals today and, when complete, will offer some insight into how these topics and challenges are impacting the sector. The finished report will be sent to contributors upon request, and made available for free on the Axiell website. The short survey should take approximately 10 minutes to complete and the more participants the more statistically significant the findings.”
  • Rob Wilson’s speech to the London Library Ambition sector forum – Libraries Taskforce. “Ambition challenges councils and the library services they run to think and act differently. Standing still isn’t an option. The way people use libraries and other public services is continuing to change. So we all need to think in innovative ways.”.  Includes new co-location Curve in Slough and volunteer-run Farnham Common Library in Buckinghamshire as good examples. Keen to support those looking at new initiatives or passing to library trusts. ” … “changes – such as co-location with other services or sometimes closures may be actually justified, and indeed required, in favour of providing library services in other ways; maybe through outreach into communities or online.” … “councils should make decisions like this based on robust evidence – rather than reducing provision in ad-hoc or very reactive ways.” … “if we receive complaints as part of our superintendence role, and where local authorities do not appear to be meeting their statutory duties, we will investigate. Where needed, I will take action under the 1964 Act. Libraries will not be seen as a soft option.”

“Councils should embrace change; should seek to do things differently, and to be as bold as possible. If they do, DCMS will help them”

“”But I believe that if councillors think imaginatively about how libraries can help deliver their priorities, providing real leadership, then Local Authorities will start to see libraries as an asset to be developed.”

“The challenge is to think strategically about reform and service delivery and not to tinker piecemeal.” Rob Wilson MP, minister responsible for libraries

  • Where’s Wally? fun run 2017 – National Literacy Trust. “Clapham Common on Sunday 19 March  2017. Join hundreds of others to walk, jog or run your way around Clapham Common, dressed as the well-loved children’s character Wally, and help disadvantaged children gain the literacy skills and confidence they need to succeed. “

International news

  • Thailand – Let’s develop a culture of reading – Bangkok Post. “Creating more libraries can help. But library budgets should allocated also to the purchase of new books — covering interesting topics, and up-to-date — not just construction costs, decoration and on-line computer facilities. “In order to improve the reading culture, the government needs to invest money in buying content, buying updated books, those that can lure readers,” Mr Charun says. ”
  • Canada – Shaped by Our Community: A New Library Look – Halifax Public Libraries. “Meet your new Halifax Public Libraries brand. A playful and modern reflection of who we are and the people we serve.”. See also Shaped by our community – Halifax Libraries and We’re in the people business’: Halifax Public Libraries launches new brand – Global News. [The logo looks like a mess to me but the rebranding reasoning is interesting – Ed.]
  • USA – How to Create Awesome Book Displays – BookRiot. “Over the last 5+ years, my coworkers and I have devised a set of guidelines that have helped take our displays from good to great, so strap yourselves in while I give you an inside look at how our displays are created.”
  • USA – This woman figures out which books to put on public library shelves. How does she do it? Twin Cities. “Predicting the fickle and ephemeral tastes of St. Paul’s citizenry is hardly easy. She laughs out loud when a reporter asked whether orders are done annually. As in, just once a year. “No, no, that would be horrible. That would be disastrous!” Books must be considered monthly. Weekly. And the orders never stop. The wait lists are always there. Growing, taunting, reminding them there’s something to fix. St. Paul citizens tend to be unusually voracious readers — with dozens of additional demands every week.”

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeen – Aberdeen City Council next to benefit from Aberdeen’s digital transformation – CityFibre. “Aberdeen’s schools, libraries and other public buildings are set to receive a 21st century boost after Aberdeen City Council became the latest organisation to benefit from its connection to CityFibre’s transformational Gigabit City pure fibre networks.” … “Over 100 public buildings will be connected to the ultra-fast, pure fibre network, delivering cost savings and improvements to digital systems and services such as online administration, public Wi-Fi, and classroom e-learning.”
  • Birmingham – £150,000 Sutton Coldfield Library rescue plan put forward – Birmingham Post. “Sutton Coldfield councillors will be asked to stump up £150,000 to keep the town’s threatened library open. The library, based in the Red Rose Shopping Centre , is one of the city’s most expensive to run and has been earmarked for closure by Birmingham City Council as a cost-cutting measure. More than 6,500 names have been put to petitions calling for a library to be retained – even if it has to relocate to a smaller, more moderately priced building. The Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council was formed last March and this is its first major challenge. It is to debate a motion calling for it to use its own money to keep the service afloat on January 24.”
  • Birmingham – Library of Birmingham & British Library win lottery grant for South Asian project – Birmingham Newsroom. “Today (23 January 2017), the Library of Birmingham and the British Library have received £91,700 of National Lottery funding to present Documenting Histories, a partnership project celebrating the important role South Asian culture has played in forming Birmingham’s history and identity. At the heart of the project is a major exhibition which will open in July, drawing on both libraries’ rich collections, supported by a programme of complementary events and workshops during 2017.” see also South Asian heritage to be celebrated in Birmingham – Sat Press Releases.
  • Bolton – Reader Development Focus: Bolton Library and Museum Service “Making it REAL Literacy Project” Society of Chief Librarians. “Library staff visited children at nursery / school to read a story and collect completed library membership forms. Then the library and museum hosted families for bespoke story and rhyme workshops, on a theme of the nursery’s choice. The workshops also gave families the time and space to explore the library and books. Children and families were given their new library cards and began using the library straight away. Children were given a Bear’s Reading Adventure sticker book to encourage continued use of and excitement about the library….”
  • Bradford – Are you willing to help run Silsden Library? – Craven Herald and Pioneer. “A meeting to set up an ‘accountable body’ will be held at Silsden Town Hall – which houses the library – on February 6 at 7.30pm. Anyone is welcome to go along if they are interested in becoming trustees on the new organisation. A separate meeting was held recently to recruit volunteers to staff the library. Bradford Council recently last year that it would close several libraries across the district, including the one in Silsden, unless members of the community came forward to take over responsibility.”
  • Darlington – Crucial vote delayed again as Tory councillors force deferral in the battle to save Darlington’s Crown Street Library – Northern Echo. “Darlington people must be listened to, is the message from Tory councillors who have forced the deferring of a crucial vote on the future of Darlington’s library services. Contentious plans to cut and change library services across the town were expected to be approved at a council meeting this Thursday. The proposals would see the town’s mobile library service axed, Cockerton Library given over to volunteers and the historic Crown Street library closed, with the majority of its resources to be transferred to the Dolphin Centre”
  • Darlington – Darlington Library: keep it at Crown Street – Facebook. Campaign group.
  • Glasgow – DWP claims don’t add up – Evening Times. “Seven out of ten benefits claimants in the most deprived communities on Glasgow can’t use the internet to apply for benefits a survey has found. A shift towards on-line and digital services is one of the key justifications for the DWP plan to shut half of Glasgow’s Jobcentres. The Government says more people are choosing to access job seeking opportunities though the internet leading to a fall in the numbers using Jobcentres for services other than to sign on, reducing the need for on-site services”
  • Isle of Man – Mobile Family Library gets Microgaming boost – Microgaming. “Microgaming, through its PlayItForward community initiative, is supporting the Family Library’s mobile unit for the next three years.  Operating from their base on Westmoreland Road in Douglas, the Mobile unit of the Family Library travels all around the island, bringing a wide selection of books, audio CDs and other interactive material to people who are otherwise unable to get to a library. The vehicle is kitted out with over 2,600 books, covering a range of genres, and it also serves as an opportunity for people to meet, form friendships, and to exchange information.”
  • Lancashire – County Council Supports Transfer of Two Buildings to Penwortham Town Council – Lancashire Council. “Lancashire County Council has agreed to transfer the ownership of two buildings to Penwortham Town Council to enable it to establish a new independent community-run library, alongside other community uses, and a new community theatre, subject to final agreement over the terms of the transfer” … “The county council will also provide support to enable the town council to establish an independent community-run library in the Young People’s Centre building.  The council’s support package to establish this independent community-run library, which is in addition to the statutory service provided by the county council, includes £5,000 to provide public internet access and cover set-up costs, as well as shelving, an initial supply of books from the county’s store, and advice from a dedicated community library manager. When the independent community library becomes operational, the council will also continue to provide support through an annual grant of £1,000 to provide public internet access. “
  • Milton Keynes – Milton Keynes Budget 2017/18 – Milton Keynes Council. Stock development officer post to be lost – replaced by supplier selection. Increase in partners using libraries and paying for space. “Open library” technology to be introduced into three libraries (Kingston, Bletchley and Westcroft. £20k cut to bookfund. Interlibrary loans no longer offered with British Library given as an alternative (claimed that only 20 people use this service). £10k cut to school library service (detailed as a “£-10k increase in income”, other small changes including increased charge to schools and less new furniture.
  • Moray – Moray libraries launch online comic collection to entice young readers – Press and Journal. “More than 16,000 graphic novels, ranging from exciting superhero tales to stories about ponies, are now available for the region’s youngsters to download for free. The new ComicsPlus service offers library members unlimited access to classic titles as well as new releases – which can be viewed on smart phones, computers and tablet devices. Elgin Library’s RonaStephen, said staff had noticed a growing interest in comics over the past few years and view them as an ideal way to entice children to read more.”
  • North Yorkshire – Hambleton council to look again at policy that would tax community libraries – Press. “A council which has repeatedly refused to abandon plans to levy business rates on volunteer-run libraries is due to review its policy on the tax. Hambleton District Council has been warned by volunteers and councillors that failure to waive the 20 per cent business rates charge on charitable organisations could jeopardise some of the community ventures.”
  • Plymouth – Plymouth library closures must be scrutinised, say opponents – Herald. “Any decision about the future of Plymouth’s library network should be subject to scrutiny by a select committee and a vote in the council chamber, opponents say. On Wednesday a public consultation opens on plans to shut 10 “under-used” libraries and introduce a click-and-collect service.”