I was speaking at a conference yesterday on the theme of the unique selling points of libraries and how branches try to do too much and also, perhaps, claim too much. I’ve embedded the presentation below. I suggested a good elevator pitch (you’ve probably heard me say it before) was that libraries provide equality of access to information. There were a couple of suggestions from the audience. One was that libraries are brilliant at networking and that needs to be in there too, which is a pretty good point, although thinking about it I think that comes in as one of the explanatory bullet-points below the main statement.  Another was simply to say libraries give equality of information. Wow, a sales pitch for public libraries in four words. You should be able to get that time in. Try it on a decision-maker today.



National news

  • A crude strategy but here to stay: Biddy Casselden on volunteer public libraries in the United Kingdom – Public Libraries News. “Biddy Casselden is that rare thing – an academic who has taken an interest in public and volunteer libraries. Her doctoral thesis “A delicate balancing act: an investigation of volunteer use and stakeholder perspectives in public libraries” is a very useful insight into volunteer libraries and how councils should organise them. Here she takes some time to answer a few of my questions.
  • Engaging Libraries programme open for applications – Carnegie UK Trust. “Applications are now open for our Engaging Libraries programme which will support public libraries across the UK and Ireland to deliver creative and imaginative public engagement projects on health and wellbeing. The £150,000 programme is a partnership between Carnegie UK Trust and Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation that supports scientists and researchers to take on big problems, fuel imaginations, and spark debate. The initiative will provide funding and support to innovative public libraries to help them bring people together, sparking debate and creating conversations about health and wellbeing in local communities.”
  • Major report on libraries’ future slammed as over-optimistic – Guardian. “In an open letter, Coates says that the report, called Shining a Light, omits key evidence about the impact of cuts and underfunding and “seriously avoids the truth of what is happening”. He adds that the report “fails to draw the right conclusions from data in the research it has carried out” … “The Carnegie UK Trust expressed surprise at any suggestion the report was over-optimistic. “There is clear evidence from many sources of the pressures libraries are experiencing,” said a spokeswoman. “Our report quotes the number of library closures and job losses reported since 2010 and the headline of the media release displayed on our website was ‘Call for action as new study reveals drop in frequency of library use’.””
  • Our public libraries are vital for the nation’s future and must be backed – Herald Scotland. “The Shining a Light report was the result of a five-year longitudinal study into attitudes towards and usage of public libraries in the UK. A majority of those surveyed agreed that libraries were important to their local community with one in two people in Scotland identifying themselves as library users. The report found that more than 70 per cent of households with primary school-aged children are using public libraries while the number of young people using libraries has increased. It is for reasons such as this that Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland has been running our Libraries Matter campaign over the last few months and asking councillors to support public libraries and professionally staffed school libraries. We are pleased to see libraries included in most of the party manifestos and we want to see this followed by action after tomorrow’s elections.”
  • ProsperCreative United. “Applications are open from 27th March 2017 for Prosper- the new, Arts Council England-funded business support programme for the arts, museums and libraries. Prosper offers the opportunity for arts and cultural organisations, companies or individual entrepreneurs in England to participate in nine months of free, dynamic and impactful business support activities to improve resilience, commercial capacity and investment readiness.”
  • Scotland’s First Deputy Minister ‘intends’ national school libraries policy – BookSeller. “John Swinney outlined his plan in a Scottish Parliament session in response to a petition sent by Duncan Wright, campaigner and CILIP Scotland (CILIPS) trustee, on behalf of Save Scotland’s School Libraries. The petition called for a national strategy and Swinney told the Public Petitions Committee it was a “fair point”. He said: “I acknowledge and strongly support the provision of school libraries, which are an important part of the work that we undertake in encouraging an appreciation of literacy and literature among young people. I do not think that there is unanimity on the need to have a national strategy, but the petitioner makes a fair point about the importance of having such an approach and it is my intention to formulate such a strategy.” “
  • SoA calls on next government to offer ‘more than just words’ to support authors – BookSeller. “The Society of Authors (SoA) is calling on the next government to offer “more than just words” to help support British authors and the culture sector, asking instead that it acts with funding, legislation and transparency.” … “Its members also want to see a commitment from future governments that any loss of funding to authors, translators and illustrators owing to Brexit is replaced and funding to libraries increased. The SoA is also seeking reform of Scottish and Northern Irish libel law, which currently differs from the rest of the UK. ” … “According further to the survey, key priorities for the government related to the book trade should include lower business rates for independent bookshops, keeping libraries open, VAT free e-books, freedom of movement, better funding for the arts, tackling corporate tax avoidance and strong copyright legislation.”
Plus free afterword by myself....


International news

  • Germany – A Behind-the-Scenes Tour of Public Libraries in Germany – Laurel Decher. “5,600 of the libraries were run solely by volunteers. The other 2,000 had full-time staff. German libraries buy a lot of books. Collectively, the libraries had an acquisitions budget of 105 Million Euro.”
  • Italy – Meet the Romans with Kahoot!, a mobile application for playing at the library – Naple Sister Libraries. “The tool chosen by the library for designing this experience is Kahoot! It’s a free game-based learning platform. It allows you to include quizzes, discussions and surveys about a topic using a web browser. The tool is easy to use, and you can add image and video. You can project the game designed and attendants can join in trough their own devices.”
  • USA – Library Systems Report 2017 – American Libraries. “The library technology industry has entered a new phase: business consolidation and technology innovation. Development of products and services to support the increasingly complex work of libraries remains in an ever-decreasing number of hands. Not only have technology-focused companies consolidated themselves, they have become subsumed within higher-level organizations with broad portfolios of diverse business activities. The survivors of this transformed industry now bear responsibility to deliver innovation from their amassed capacity. Modern web-based systems delivering traditional library automation and discovery capabilities are now merely table stakes. Real progress depends on building out these platforms to support the new areas of service emerging within each type of library.”
  • USA – Trump drops the mother of all bombs on libraries – The Hill. “The proposed zero funding for libraries fits into a pattern to “uneducate” the American population. That’s a comment I received on Take Action for Libraries Day from a listener on Wisconsin Public Radio. “

“Denying libraries the funding to offer services in rural communities and overlooked urban areas drops a bomb on their futures. Our nation could have built 40 new libraries for the cost of the 60 missiles fired at a Syrian air base.”

Local news by authority

  • Barnet – Barnet parties clash over “fake news” leaflets describing library access for children – Times series. “The leaflets, released by the Liberal Democrats, include a comment that “under 18s will be barred” from libraries while refurbishment work takes place. However, Barnet Conservatives branded this a “misleading statement” that could put off students during their exam period. The Liberal Democrats criticised the Conservatives for changing opening hours during the annual school exams period.”
  • Blackburn with Darwen – Blackburn with Darwen Healthy Living nominated for library takeover – Lancashire Telegraph. “Blackburn with Darwen Healthy Living, which is a finalist for the Social Responsibility Award, took over the library when it was threatened with closure, and now also runs a community gym there. Chief officer Abdul Mulla said: “The council was closing the library so we took it over and now it’s run 22 hours a week by 15 volunteers. “We also run art and craft classes for local mums and children, and during the week schools bring their pupils along.”
  • Bristol – Brand new Bishopston Library opens its doors – Bristol 247. “It was a good day for literacy as more than 180 people flocked inside the brand new Bishopston Library within its first hour of opening. Plagued with controversy and years of delays, the development on Gloucester Road has been a long time in the making, but there was only joy on Wednesday as the community made the facility their own. With final finishing touches still to be added, the bright, modern two-storey library opened its doors with little fanfare slightly earlier than the official time of 11am to let in the crowds lining the streets outside.” … “Finally, there is a real sense of optimism in the air.”
  • Cornwall – Helston Library to be halved in size – first look at redevelopment plans – Falmouth Packet. “Helston Library is set to be halved in size as part of a £181,000 redevelopment to house the job centre under the same roof. However, a new dedicated children’s library is being proposed in an area currently used as a garage and storage. The Packet can reveal the first look at plans for the building, which is set to close for five months from next month so that major internal renovations can be carried out. A planning application has now been submitted to Cornwall Council, whose cabinet members approved the £181,000 refit in March, paid for by £81,000 of capital contributions and borrowing the remaining £100,000.”
  • Greenwich – Greenwich bucks national trend as libraries post highest annual visits on record – News Shopper. “There were more than 240,000 visits to Greenwich libraries last March, up 9 per cent on last March and the highest monthly figure on record. On top of that, the over two and a half million visitors to Greenwich libraries in the past 12 months is the highest annual total on record. Book issues in March were up 12 per cent on figures for the same month in the previous year, marking eight months of continuous growth. Children in particular have been flocking to local libraries, with book issues to children this March were up by 16 per cent on last year. Greenwich council have said that on the reasons why is their libraries have modern electronic equipment with self-service checkouts. Another is thanks to the popularity of the Greenwich One Card, an all-in-one library, leisure centre, and local discounts card.”
  • Lambeth – Lambeth library campaigners rally against Lambeth council at lively public meeting – Brixton Buzz. “Last night, campaigners fighting Lambeth’s unpopular plans to convert libraries into privately-run, librarian-free ‘bookish gyms’ held a lively rally at Longfield Hall in Knatchbull Road, SE5.”
  • Lancashire – Darwen’s ‘Beautiful’ library and theatre granted Grade II-listed status – This is Lancashire. “According to a Historic England report, the library and theatre was recommended for Grade-II status due to its ‘striking and well-designed’ appearance which demonstrated high standards of craftsmanship.”
  • Lancashire – Parties make play for your vote at LCC elections – Rossendale Free Press. “onservative group leader Coun Geoff Driver has pledged to reopen libraries closed by the Labour administration, and support new community-run libraries with ‘financial and professional advice’. They are committed to reinvesting in subsidised bus routes and putting an extra £5million of reserves into highways maintenance” … “Although LCC has been without a majority ruler, the remainder of the chamber, six Liberal Democrats, one Green and one Independent, have predominantly backed the Labour group on controversial budget decisions to reduce spending and cut public services, including libraries and museums.”
  • North Somerset – Pill pop-up library opens during refurbishment – North Somerset Times. “The Pill Salvation Army church, in Heywood Road, is hosting sessions from 10am to noon and 1.30-5pm every Friday while the village’s library, in Underbanks, and children’s centre are merged as part of North Somerset Council’s community access review. Although the review’s primary focus is to reduce costs, the council is investing £820,000 to improve its community buildings.”