The news is dominated by two releases from the DCMS / Libraries Taskforce. Both are useful, welcome and flawed.

The first set of releases are all about the process of moving library services away from direct council control and towards being non-profits. The libraries minister is clearly invested in this, as his video to a “masterclass” on the subject showed, and you can expect to see this as part of a concerted push to there being more library trusts in the future. There are case studies from library trusts who have gone through the process with fairly detailed guides on how to check if such a move would be good for the particular part of the country you are in. While honest and open, sadly, these reports would not be approved by a scientific journal as the writers of them are the trusts themselves, who would be foolish to criticise their own actions, not least because the four in question have now formed a service to sell their expertise on the subject to hopefuls. As such, one can only consider them as the “pro” part of any diligent survey on whether you should change to a trust. No-one, of course, is being encouraged or paid, to do the “con” part. Which is a shame because I actually quite like library trusts but I think all options need to be deeply looked at, and biases or gaps in the data (however unconscious) will not help clear decision-making.

Speaking of biases and gaps, the second set of releases is all about the much-heralded and delayed new “dataset” for English public libraries. The new file presents a list of all the library buildings reported by councils in July last year. It simply contains the name of the branch, address and contact email. This is the very minimum that one could expect and represents no improvement (other than an updating) over the last dataset released in 2012. Well, except that one covered all of the UK. There are strong hopes that this one, at least, will be updated and there are fairly ambitious plans to expand it into something more than a direct mailing list. However, it took ages (remember this data is nine months old) to get even this sorted and I imagine there are all sorts of strong local and national pressures to limit the release of anything, well, embarrassing … almost as if the decline of the library service due to budget cuts is somehow a secret. For any sector this is embarrassing, but for one which pretends to deal with information, this is bordering on the humiliating, as the image capture of the “no data” screen below shows. It’s not a pipe dream – the Netherlands has managed it but, as the Dutch discovered, it needs to be done over the protests of senior managers, be they public librarians (at least officially) dedicated to free information or their seniors, who may not like others really seeing how they’re doing.

Finally, thank you for all your kind comments about my previous post on the end of the tri-borough experiment and what it means to merging of library services.  LibrariesWest have quite rightly been in touch to point out they’re doing a very nice combined service in the South West, thank you, although not to the depth of the erstwhile London scheme.  For a list of all such partnerships I know about – see this nicely open and freely available list . Do you see how useful that is, library chiefs? Just think if all data was available that way. Think of the wonders that could be achieved. Stop thinking of worst case scenarios. Because you’re in one. Start thinking of ways out.


National news

  • Alternative delivery models: masterclass reports – Libraries Taskforce. “On 16 February, we published a guest blog from Fiona Williams, Chief Executive of Explore York Libraries and Archive. She talked about how they had formed a consortium (Optimo) alongside the three other existing libraries mutuals – Libraries Unlimited, Suffolk Libraries and Inspire Culture, Learning and Libraries – and consultancy firm Mutual Ventures. DCMS, through the Taskforce, commissioned Optimo to run two free Masterclasses on Alternative Delivery Models.” … “Both Masterclasses were fully booked, with representatives of nearly 50 local authorities turning up to benefit from the chance to hear about the experiences – and the very real challenges – that these pioneering organisations have been through.” … “Rob Wilson, Minister for Civil Society, filmed a keynote address especially for the events. ” … “The focus was very much on the practicalities “
  • Inspire: Culture, Learning and Libraries – DCMS. Nottinghamshire trust case study.
  • Libraries: alternative delivery models toolkit – DCMS. “Toolkit and case studies to support those looking at alternative delivery models for their library services.” … “This toolkit is designed to support library service managers, council commissioners and transformation teams, councillors, Friends Groups and community groups to consider the desirability, viability and feasibility of a range of alternative delivery model (ADM) options for their library services. It demonstrates and describes a staged approach to investigation and establishment. It also describes the characteristics and potential advantages/disadvantages associated with each type of ADM. We want to enable the user to undertake a robust, objective and evidence-based analysis of the various options should they wish to explore moving to a different delivery model.”
  • Libraries shaping the future: good practice toolkit – DCMS / Libraries Taskforce. A look at how libraries can deliver the “seven outcomes” and other forms of best practice.
  • Libraries Unlimited case study – DCMS. Devon trust case study. and Libraries Unlimited: the journey from investigation to establishment – DCMS and see also Libraries Unlimited: stakeholder engagement – DCMS.
  • Libraries Core Dataset: survey – DCMS. “This is just the first step in creating a core dataset for libraries. Deciding on what form it should take, how it is collected and the process of automating it, will be a longer piece of work we’ll undertake over the coming year.”
  • Library data: The story so far and next steps – Libraries Taskforce. “Despite all our checking, we know this basic dataset won’t be perfect – handling this quantity of data means the occasional error is bound to creep in. If you spot any errors or missing information, do let us know by emailing library-data@culture.gov.uk. We’ve published the dataset on data.gov.uk as that is a directory of open government data. This is because we want to encourage people to use the data and develop innovative ideas and insights based on it – we’d love to hear from anyone via library-data@culture.gov.uk who takes up this challenge”

Reliable, open data about public libraries is the bedrock for good decision making. Having open data that can be examined and laid across other data-sets such as transport links, health information, urban infrastructure, education and socio-economic status will enormously contribute to effectively managing and developing library services. While the publication of this data is welcome the lack of a full dataset including opening times and number of staffed hours is disappointing. I look forward to working with the Taskforce to expedite the publication of a full data set.“ Nick Poole, CEO, CILIP 

  • Lords urged to make ‘positive intervention’ in decline of libraries – BookSeller. “Libraries body CILIP has urged peers to intervene in the declining library service ahead of a debate in the House of Lords today (30th March) on libraries and other arts services. The library and information association has highlighted the “profoundly damaging” effect the “severe neglect” of the public library service has had on society ahead of the debate, which takes place in the House of Lords at 1pm today. The debate will see Nicholas Le Poer Trench, the Earl of Clancarty, ask the government what steps it intends to take to protect and improve local arts and cultural services, including museums, libraries and archaeological services.”. Includes thoughts from Nick Poole, me, Alan Gibbons, Laura Swaffield, Desmond Clarke and Tim Coates.
  • Privacy, Surveillance and librarianship – Slideshare. Ian Clark. “Presentation delivered in conjunction with Camille Regnault for librarians at a CPD25 Aspects workshop on Privacy and Surveillance, 28th March 2017”
  • Public libraries in England: basic dataset – Data.gov.uk. Simple details (authority, name of library, address) for every library in England.  “Static public libraries in England (statutory* and non-statutory) as on 1 July 2016. also includes libraries that were temporarily closed on that date, eg. for refurbishment. Publication of this basic dataset provides a definitive source of data on public libraries in England that everyone can point to and use. This dataset will form the basis of a wider core dataset for public libraries in England. Building on this initial exercise, we will look at existing data collection (largely focused on inputs and outputs) and also aim to capture data which covers outcomes and impacts and the wider variety of activities libraries undertake. This dataset has been validated by all 151 library services in England, but handling this quantity of data means the occasional error is possible. If you spot any errors or missing information, please library-data@culture.gov.uk.”
  • Suffolk County Council: expert commissioning – DCMS. The story of how Suffolk Libraries was spun out from the council.  and Suffolk Libraries: developing your governance structure – DCMS.

International news”

  • USA – What Donald Trump Doesn’t Understand About Libraries – Cosmopolitan. “I wish I could say that Trump is attacking libraries because he knows that the information literacy we exist to create is exactly the skill our electorate needs to shut down his lying, cheating, hate-mongering administration. I wish I had confidence that he thought that hard, or strategically, about any of the terrible policies he’s spent the first 50 days of his presidency advancing. But I don’t. I think that instead, like many of the out-of-touch, wealthy Americans who voted for him, to whom the $17 to buy a picture book is an afterthought, who are likely among the 75 percent of Americans with in-home broadband internet, he thinks libraries are a luxury. And he thinks refusing the 0.00006 percent of support the federal government currently grants those libraries makes him look tough and fiscally conservative. But, in reality, they make him look callous and short-sighted. Americans need libraries, and libraries need the IMLS.”

Local news by authority

  • Bath and North East Somerset – Bath and North East Somerset Council calls out ‘inaccuracies’ in campaigners’ scathing attack – Bath Chronicle. “Bath Deserves Better plans to march through the city on Saturday (April 1) in protest after sending its petition signed by more than one per cent of the Bath and North East Somerset electorate to B&NES Council earlier this week. This means it automatically triggers a debate at full council or the local authority can choose to host a public meeting or an enquiry. More than 1,600 people have signed the petition saying they have no confidence in the current leadership of B&NES.
  • Bradford – Volunteers come forward to make a success of Silsden Library re-launch – Telegraph & Argus. “… re-launch of Silsden Library as a community-run facility has come a significant step nearer, with the recruitment of new volunteers. An initial batch of prospective library assistants has already undergone training and more sessions will follow over the coming weeks. Peter Cannon, chairman of the library management committee, said: “We are very pleased with progress, and can now envisage the library re-opening very soon.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – End of an era at Chester library.. and the start of a new one – Chester Blog. “Chester Library closes on Friday ready for its move to the exciting new Storyhouse building in May. The new library  inside the former Odeon and described as “world class” will feature a dedicated children’s library, including a art/craft area, dedicated family and local history section and digital facilities and services. There will be flexible event spaces and the opening hours will be massively extended with Storyhouse open until 10pm every night including Sundays”. A look at the old library and hopes for the new one.
  • Devon – Figures reveal how cuts are hitting Devon’s arts funding and youth centres – Devon Live. “No libraries have closed in Devon following the transfer of the service to a social enterprise, Libraries Unlimited, last year. But (library) staff are in for quite substantial pay cuts and Devon County Council is left holding a massive pensions time bomb,” said Mr Connett”
  • Newport – £2.5 million for council services – South Wales Argus. “Newport City Council‘s Labour-run cabinet approved the plans, which include £400,000 for library and museum services, £300,000 into roads, street cleaning and maintenance and £100,000 for play facilities, as well as a previously-approved £1.1 million for school renovations over the next two years, yesterday, Monday. ” … “Speaking at yesterday’s meeting council leader Cllr Debbie Wilcox said authority’s financial department had determined some of the money the organisation has kept in reserves will not be needed, and therefore could be used for projects”
  • North Yorkshire – Action group faces new battle to save Ripon library from closure – Harrogate Advertiser. “Volunteers who have fought for months to save Ripon library from closure fear that the city’s car parking charges could undermine their efforts and threaten the stability of the service. Due to cuts in funding, the library will launch as a hybrid service on Saturday, which means that it will only be operated by one member of employed staff with a team of volunteers working alongside them. Ahead of the transition, the chair of Ripon Library Action Group has told the Gazette that a number of volunteers have approached him to ask if their car parking charges will be lifted by Harrogate Borough Council when they take up their posts – all of them emphasising their commitment to helping out at the library, but also raising concerns at charges being a potential barrier to them volunteering long term.”

“We really feel for those workers who will be leaving or moving on and wish to convey our deepest thanks for all their dedication for the library users of Pickering.”

  • North Yorkshire – Libraries in Pickering, Kirkbymoorside, Helmsley, Norton and Malton get ready to begin new chapter – Gazette & Herald. “Pickering Library is hosting a “hello and goodbye” evening to mark its change to a hybrid library. The event will be held tomorrow (Thursday), from 5pm to 7pm, and will provide an opportunity for people to meet the library support group and volunteers, as well as bid farewell to the current library staff. Kevin Butt, from the support group, said: “As from April 1, we will have one full-time staff member and one back up member who will spend 14 hours at Pickering. Other than that there will be volunteers on hand to run the library. There are no changes to the opening hours and all current community activities will remain and we have no plans to change anything as there is no point in changing a good product.”

“In Scarborough Library I  bought a ‘-A Librarian’s Odyssey’ second hand . There was a local connection: a  postcard photograph shows the victory parade in 1945  by the River Derwent at Malton and Norton. Fifth Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment ‘B’ Company commander- Major Ken Harrison-  salutes smartly  They, and the crowd , serious: austere times.

Ken -a librarian – served seven years in the infantry. ‘The Snappers’ of East Yorks, who were part of the 50th Tyne Tees (‘TT’) Division enduring Malta, North Africa, Sicily, Italy -and then D Day where  Ken was  wounded on day one but returned and fought all the way almost to Arnhem.  ‘The Snappers’ and other war weary soldiers of the TT- some Green  Howards, Durham Light Infantry’  – returned to  the UK  to train less experienced men to carry on. The Army was running out of men.

Even in war austerity Britain’s libraries  and publishers ensured that soldiers had plenty to read : raids on Europe but also  anthologies of poetry, prose and dramas  – in wartime  pocketbooks for soldiers by Yorkshire’s Herbert Read and General Wavell-  to  sustain spirits. People swapped books or marked favourite bits. Ken Harrison’s posting in Yorkshire lasted  10 months. From his job in Cheshire he rose near the top of his profession- Westminster Libraries. He died in  2006; right to the end he was a ‘Bookman’ : he never ceased his reading or his charity work-for what is now ‘Bookaid’.

The Memorial to D Day dead for 2019- 75 years on-  is to be paid for by fines on the banks.  Could not some further confiscated   moneys  (today’s Tesco news  and the BT Fine are huge) be put towards rebuilding  the ’ national network of staffed libraries smashed by the ‘crash’? A salute to staff, volunteers- and readers ” North Yorkshire – Letter from John Dean – Via email.

  • North Yorkshire – Volunteers take North Yorkshire libraries into the future – NE Connected. “The library service reconfiguration comes into effect on 1 April. Most libraries will continue without a break in service and with the same opening hours, but some libraries will close briefly before re-opening and some will have revised opening hours. Opening hours and other details of community-managed libraries can be found at www.northyorks.gov.uk/libraries from 1 April.”
  • South Gloucestershire – The fight’s not over, vow Hanham Library campaigners – Week In. “Campaigners say they will continue their fight to keep the current number of staffed hours at Hanham Library – especially as a proposed swipe card system giving users seven-day-a-week access has been ruled out. Following two rounds of public consultation, South Gloucestershire Council is pressing ahead with its controversial library service review to save £500,000 a year, which from October will see staffed hours cut and swipe card access introduced at most libraries in the district. Of those who took part in the most recent consultation, 74% did not want staffed hours reduced and there was a recurring feeling that the outcome had already been decided and that nothing they said could change the mind of those in charge.”
  • Sunderland – Meet the five-year-old fighting to save her Sunderland library – Sunderland Echo. “A public consultation was launched in January to ask the public for their views on the future of library services in the city. The St John Bosco RC Primary School pupil got straight on the case and produced a home-made banner calling for the library, in Hylton Lane, to be saved. Elsie, who lives with mum Danielle, 31, a hairdresser, and dad Chris, a 35-year-old off-shore inspector, now plans to present the banner to the library with her nanna.”
  • West Berkshire – Wash Common library to close tomorrow – Newbury Today. “Speaking about the library Councillor Dominic Boeck, Executive Member for Culture said: “It’s sad to see Wash Common library close but it is a small branch, expensive to run and the home branch for only a few of our library users. “At a time when we have to save money we simply couldn’t afford to keep it open when we have our largest library up the road in Newbury.”