It probably has not escaped your notice that there is a general election coming up shortly. As in most national elections, the subject of public libraries is spectacularly absent and none more so than this one which appears to be mainly about Brexit and personalities. I am noticing very few references to the sector in the news, with their main presence being in Lancashire, where the new Conservative administration has pledged to reopen all the libraries recently shut by Labour, although it’s not clear how many of these will be staffed by volunteers rather than paid staff.  Similarly, in Warrington (also Labour,-controlled by the way), there has been a mention of libraries in the Green candidate’s position, doubtless due to the large-scale cuts proposed there, swiftly followed by much public protest. But that’s pretty much it for the last few days. For myself, if one puts aside the whole policy of austerity (quite a big if, but go with it),  I tend to see Labour complaining about cuts to libraries in Conservative controlled councils and Conservatives complaining about cuts in Labour controlled councils. It can all get a bit confusing. As such, it has been very useful to see the recent CILIP survey on the manifestoes of the UK-wide political parties, which analyses what libraries can expect from each. Have a read.


National news

  • 10×10 Stories from Finland celebrates literacy by bringing beloved Finnish books to the UK – Finnish Institute in London. “The Finnish Institute in London celebrates the centenary of Finland’s independence by highlighting the importance of literacy, literature and libraries. ‘10×10 Stories from Finland’ campaign has collected 100 books written by Finnish authors, translated into English, in cooperation with British publishing houses. The books are donated to 10 different libraries around the UK during 2017.”
  • Are our books displayed the wrong way round? Cambridge librarian reveals the fashion used to be for spines to face the wall – Telegraph. “Placing books on shelves with the spines facing outwards is a relatively recent phenomenon, according to Mark Purcell, former libraries curator for the National Trust and now overseeing the research collections at Cambridge University Library. Until fashions changed in the 18th century, book titles and authors were not printed on the spine but written in ink on the edge of pages. The turnaround happened when the wealthy decided that having titles embossed in gold leaf would add a certain cachet.”
  • “But I have promises to keep…” – CILIP. A look at the party manifestos. “As you might expect, policy relating to the public sector and public services follows a fairly clear left/right split. On the one hand, parties such as Labour and the Green Party make clear commitments to restoring investment in Local Authorities lost through the previous era of austerity and to re-nationalising (or nationalising) industries which they consider should be under public ownership.  On the other hand, the Conservative Party Manifesto has very little to say about Local Government – signalling an intention to continue with the previous twin policies of devolution and decreased funding. “

“If the General Election 2017 returns a majority Conservative Government, it is likely that this increased financial pressure will start to trigger an increased tendency towards Unitary Authorities, and in turn toward greater harmonisation across library authorities. Unfortunately, a continuation of austerity would almost certainly mean that some councils continue to explore the transfer of library services to ‘volunteer-led’ models, thereby exacerbating the existing postcode lottery of provision. As a sector, we will need to consider how best to secure the long-term future of the public library service, both at a local and national level, including a concerted effort to secure fresh investment into the modernisation and development of libraries and to maintain the quality of service by employing paid professional staff. “

  • Developing a Children and Young People’s Universal Health Offer – ASCEL. “The report states that there is clear potential for public libraries to support the health and wellbeing of children and young people in their local communities and recommends areas of focus for public libraries divided by age category, early years (pre-birth/0-4 years), children (5-11 years) and young people (11-18 years).”
  • Leading writers to take up residencies in London libraries – BookSeller. “Leading writers Irenosen Okojie, Courttia Newland, Bidisha, and Alex Wheatle MBE are to take up residencies in London libraries as part of a new literary initiative in association with Arts Council England, Spread the Word and the Association of London Chief Librarians. City of Stories is a London-wide celebration of writing, reading and stories designed to inspire Londoners to reveal their stories as part of a two-year literary initiative.” .. “The project, which will run from 2017 to 2018, will run 40 free short story writing workshops in June 2017 for adult learners, and those with English as a Second Language”

“Ruth Harrison, director of Spread the Word, said: “Spread the Word is delighted to be working with the Association of London Chief Librarians to find and celebrate Londoners’ stories at a time when dialogue and understanding is much needed. Libraries are essential to the life of a writer; helping them to engage readers with their work. It is vitally important that we celebrate what makes London one of the greatest cities on earth – its people and their creativity – and to promote the value of everyone’s voice being heard.”

  • Lifetime achievement award for Gwynedd librarian and dedicated Welsh language ambassador – CILIP. “Hywel has worked for the Library service in Gwynedd for over 30 years, initially as a Children’s Librarian and then as Chief Librarian. He has represented Welsh public library services in many areas over the years, most notably contributing to Welsh Libraries strategies and Public Library Standards and the development and promotion of Welsh language library stocks and services including large print and audio books. “
  • Making the case for privacy in libraries after an atrocity – Infoism. “When I write/talk about surveillance and its effects, I always make it very clear that I am talking about mass surveillance, not targeted surveillance. It’s an important distinction for me. No-one in their rights minds would oppose targeted surveillance. ” … “To date, there is no evidence that mass surveillance would have prevented a single terrorist attack.” … “Many people working in libraries get jumpy about the argument that we should be encouraging the use of encryption in libraries, not least because they argue we should not impede attempts to apprehend those engaging in criminal activity. But it’s important to remember that these tools only really offer protection for the average member of the public, they do not protect those that are of interest to the security services. If you are a target of the state, no amount of privacy orientated tools will protect you.”
Plus free afterword by myself....


International news

  • USA – Along with all its other woes, Marvel also has a library problem – Comics Beat. “While working on my recent piece on comics in libraries for Publishers Weekly, I came upon yet another problem for Marvel: working with libraries – another source of easy money for most publishers – isn’t much of a priority for them. I had to cut this section out of my piece because of space, but librarians weren’t shy about it. As one prominent librarian put it to me, “People [in the library space] ask me is there a way to contact Marvel and I say, ‘nope it’s just impossible.’ Often, they’re people who want to buy 200 copies of something. I say ‘Good luck!’””
  • USA – For these Philly librarians, drug tourists and overdose drills are part of the job – Philly. “I visited the century-old library that sits atop Needle Park in Kensington because I’d heard its staff was the first in the city to learn how to administer the lifesaving overdose antidote Narcan.  They have been using the spray so often that they can tell the type of overdose simply by the sound coming from the lavatory: Heroin victims slide sluggishly into unconsciousness, the librarians have found, while victims of deadly fentanyl collapse instantly, with a thud that resonates through the entire building, which is called the McPherson Square Branch.” … “Until last year, she recalls just one overdose in the library. Then heroin exploded. Since then, there have been four overdoses in her building. None has been fatal.”
  • USA – Librarians: Build Your Brand. – Bubble Up Classroom. ” I love the idea of bringing branding into schools and building a professional brand. And, I find it makes such logical sense as the director of a library program because our goals so closely align with the purpose of branding: We need to share our library story, communicate our messaging, and build relationships.”. Talks about personal brands too. [I have to fear what people see my “brand” as – Ed.]

Local news by authority

  • Barnet – FoI data shows increased PR spending by Barnet Council which could have been spent on libraries – Borehamwood Times. ““Barnet would rather spend its citizens’ money on propaganda rather than to give the taxpayers the proper professional library service they actually want. “Surely it would be better to spend the money on policies that are good and therefore popular – £400 a day would have kept the librarians employed and the libraries open.””
  • Bradford – Library fun – Keighley News. “The children’s activities will include scavenger hunts, special spring story-times and craft sessions. “
  • Cheshire West and Chester – A new chapter for Chester: Bennetts’ Storyhouse – Architect’s Journal. “Off the lobby to the right is the entrance to a children’s library, taking advantage of the smaller scale of linked cellular spaces converted from a row of once-discrete retail units to provide a series of reading, workshop and storytelling spaces. These are kitted out in flexible plywood furniture and fittings and provide an appropriately community-facing street presence for Storyhouse. The rest of the boasted 700m of library shelf-space is less satisfyingly spread around the edges of the restaurant, upper foyer and glazed capsule of the new ‘secret’ cinema at mezzanine level. While the latter’s rich, cocoon-like interior, lined in crimson velvet curtains and bringing to mind the cabaret space in the dream sequences of Twin Peaks is a reprise of the high-level cultural offer and functional clarity of the theatre spaces, it serves to underline how library users seem to have got the raw end of the deal at Storyhouse. The shelving flowing around such ‘other’ spaces is clearly an attempt to break down the old stuffiness and barriers of the traditional public library and increase engagement and cross-pollination. But, despite a couple of nooks, it represents poor provision for those library-goers who might just want to sit down to concentrated study or to read, in what remain primarily distracting, busy circulation spaces. At worst, the books can appear like ‘storytelling’ shop-dressing. “
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Storyhouse welcomes 10,000 in first weekend – Storyhouse. “The very first performance was Storyhouse’s specially written inaugural in-house production – The Beggar’s Operawhich went down to a riotous standing ovation. Over the opening weekend 10,000 people walked through the doors, with 3,500 visits on the first Saturday alone. More than 2,000 books were loaned from the library and 300 new library cards issued on the Saturday – compared to just six on the same Saturday in 2016.”

“At 8am, Storyhouse’s doors were unlocked for good, and won’t be closed to the public again until Christmas day”

  • Durham – Council fits up leisure centre for new library – Hartlepool Mail. “People could exercise their minds as well as their bodies as a proposal is put forward to create a library inside a leisure centre. The £1million project has been drawn up by Durham County Council to improve provision in Peterlee.” … “Given the recent successful co-locations of our libraries into Stanley and Newton Aycliffe leisure centres, we are now considering this option for Peterlee. “As well as looking at practical delivery issues, we are assembling funding from private and public sources to help deliver this £1million project. “It is our intention to keep local people informed as the project progresses.”
  • Glasgow – Open Call: The House That Heals the Soul – CCA. “Public libraries have become one of the last remaining spaces where people can gather without expectation or requirement. With the future and financing of libraries and library buildings becoming increasingly precarious, this exhibition aims to explore the radical potential of libraries as sites of resistance, shelter, sharing and knowledge exchange. The show will support a dialogue around the importance of librarians as interlocutor and curator, as well as giving access to CCA’s spaces for reading and viewing of work” … “We are looking for proposals from anyone who would like to make use of the exhibition and library space during the exhibition. This could be a talk, screenings, or workshops, or simply the use of an empty shelf to share your books”
  • Haringey – Highgate Library ‘being sacrificed’ in possible move to Jacksons Lane – Ham and High. “Members of the Highgate Library Action Group (HLAG) sat in silence as bosses from Jacksons Lane and council leader Cllr Clare Kober made the case for transferring the service and disposing of its home to fund it. Explaining how visitor numbers have dropped across the borough except in libraries getting investment, Cllr Kober – speaking at HLAG’s AGM on Wednesday – said: “It’s about upgrading the library’s offer not a way of reducing staff or service quality. “We support Jacksons Lane. There’s an opportunity to provide a much better service,” she said. When questioned about the possible sale of a council asset, Cllr Kober said: “With difficult choices what do you privilege most – services or buildings? I know where I land in that debate – on the side of services.””
  • Haringey – My initial observations and concerns re proposals to collocate Highgate Library and Jacksons Lane arts centre – Stop the Privatisation of Public Libraries. Express fears over whole process.
  • Lancashire – Lytham Library hope leads to new friends group – Blackpool Gazette. “A Lytham Library friends’ group has been formed amid anticipation of the building being reopened by the incoming Conservative regime at County Hall. As the Tories took charge at County Hall at yesterday’s annual meeting, the group has already given strong indications it will reopen libraries closed by the previous ruling Labour group last autumn.”
  • Lancashire – Tory pledge to reopen all county’s shut-down libraries – Lancashire Evening Post. “Coun Peter Buckley, handed the cabinet job to restore Lancashire’s decimated library service, has promised the Conservatives will honour their election pledge to reverse the closures made by Labour. Less than 24 hours after taking office Coun Buckley met senior council officials to discuss how the service could be put back together and then announced plans to visit areas where libraries had been closed or were under threat to devise a plan of action. “We will honour the pledges that we set out in our manifesto,” he said. “I will be visiting libraries and speaking to the people concerned. “This was a key issue at the election. Some of the communities would like to extend what they want to do with their libraries and so it may not be that we will re-open the libraries exactly as they were. That’s not a u-turn, it’s listening to the community.”
  • Manchester – Manchester businesses pledge to get Reading Ahead – National Literacy Trust. “organisations attended the Read Manchester business lunch at Manchester Central Library on Wednesday 17 May, which was hosted by the new Manchester City Council chief executive, Joanne Roney OBE. Welcoming guests to the event, Joanne shared the important impact that reading has had on her life and highlighted how “reading can be the pathway out of poverty and deprivation.””
  • North Yorkshire – Home library service in North Yorkshire is seeking more volunteers – Darlington and Stockton Times. “The home library service provides free delivery for people who, perhaps because of ill health or disability, find it difficult to get to the library or to carry books. Books are carefully chosen for each customer by the library team then the delivery volunteers deliver them once a fortnight. Volunteers also tend to spend time at each house having a chat about the books – and the customers enjoy having a regular visitor.”

  • Northumberland – Library funding must be increased – Northumberland Gazette / Letters. “it appears that the reason for the plight of libraries in schools, and in general, is because of lack of funding from both the county council and the Government”.
  • Nottingham – Finnish visitors pass on the gift of reading – My Nottingham News. “Nottingham City Council’s Libraries Service will today receive ten books, courtesy of The Finnish Institute in London” … “The book donation is part of a project called 10×10 Stories from Finland which celebrates literacy by bringing beloved Finnish books to the UK. Through this, The Finnish Institute in London aims to celebrate the centenary of Finland’s independence by highlighting the importance of literacy, literature and libraries.”
  • Nottingham – New £1m library for Sneinton ready to open its doors – Nottingham Post. “Work on a £1m overhaul of library services in Sneinton and Bakersfield is nearly complete, with the new Dales Centre ready to open its doors next week. After a major revamp which began last year, the former police station site in Sneinton Dale opens as a library on Tuesday next week (May 30). The new modern, open plan library replaces the former Sneinton and Bakersfield libraries, and will also operate as a ‘joint service centre’ housing neighbourhood policing offices.”
  • Nottinghamshire – New chapter for Keyworth Library – Nottingham Post. “Keyworth Library in Church Drive has been redecorated inside and out by operator Inspire, and features a new layout, new heating, lighting, shelving and flooring, an accessible toilet, and automatic doors.”
  • Somerset – Libraries vacancies – Somerset County Council. “Somerset Libraries are looking for a creative and ambitious leader with the confidence, drive and influence to make things happen”
  • Staffordshire – Summer of science courtesy of Kinver Community Library – Kinver Community Library. August events, £5. “We have arranged for the Think Tank (Birmingham Science Museum) to run a series of exciting days both here in the Library and at the KSCA (Kinver Sports and Community Association in Legion Drive).  There’ll be a different focus on each day: ‘Space Day’, ‘Fabulous Forces Day’ and ‘Bodies Day’, and on two of the days there’ll be an amazing Planetarium Dome popping up at the KSCA.”
  • Suffolk – Mildenhall Hub planning application goes in – Bury Free Press. “A formal planning application has now been made for a Mildenhall Hub, in Sheldrick Way, l bringing together Mildenhall College Academy, a leisure centre, larger swimming pool, health centre, library and other public services including a Jobcentre and Citizens’ Advice Bureau”
  • Wakefield – This town wants its library back – Wakefield Express. “A town has been without a proper library for nine months after the discovery of asbestos in the building put the brakes on a refurbishment project.” … “More than 700 people in Ossett have signed a petition calling on Wakefield Council to speed up work to reopen the library after its closure last September”
  • Warrington – Warrington North constituency candidates for General Election 2017 – Liverpool Echo. Green candidate: “Ms McAteer first got involved with the Green party in 2005. She has supported local campaigns including the fight to prevent the closure of the YMCA; campaigning to keep libraries open; and opposing fracking.” No other mentions of libraries.
  • Wiltshire – Library problems – Wiltshire Times / Letters. “… library spokesperson made a statement saying the problems in Westbury Library, mainly the computers, are now fixed.  I strongly dispute this. The  internet has become slower and slower, and some sites (Amazon, eBay etc) have become a nightmare to use.  It is blatantly obvious that the problems are still there and nothing has been done.”… “The ‘new computer’ that Wiltshire Council stuck in Westbury Library still doesn’t print, so is inconvenient to use and often has connection problems (despite the librarians reporting it numerous times).”