As you know, I bang on about Tower Hamlets a bit because they have a sustainable and successful libraries model, with a strong sense of mission and high levels of use. A week ago, I noticed an article about a strong showing by another London borough, Greenwich, and did some digging. I can report that Greenwich does indeed have really high, and growing, levels of usage and so I talked to the  manager there, Diana Edmonds, about the strategy to achieve this. Her answer is included below.

One thing that is likely to get some reading this annoyed at this point is that Greenwich Libraries are run by a leisure trust, GLL. Such trusts have not been wonderful in some authorities and, indeed, GLL has come in for a fair bit of flack itself. To me, that’s not the point when reporting this success. What is important here is that we have examples of thriving library services to learn from and we should do it. What they’re doing is not rocket science. It’s library science. So have a look and see what you can gain from them … and share your successes as well.



National news

  • Enemies of the state​:​ the 40-year Tory project to shrink public services – Guardian. “What is the social glue that binds us to Britishness if not the things we share collectively? Government underpins pride in who we are. When fine old town halls from Sheffield to Hornsey, north London, are sold off as boutique hotels, when councils sell slices of parks, when libraries and local museums close, we lose what defines us. Contracts with Capita, Virgin, Sodexo and the rest are written on water. The sale of everything from power stations, property and basic transport systems to foreign powers is a form of treason other countries resist”
  • Fake news: the role of libraries and staff in supporting information literacy – #uklibchat. Your chance to put a subject for debate to the next online Twitter chat on 6th June.
  • SLIC Commissions Impact Research – Scottish Library and Information Council. “The Scottish Library and Information Council in partnership with Carnegie UK Trust has commissioned the Library and Information Statistics Unit (LISU) at Loughborough University to carry out research into measuring the impact of Scotland’s libraries. Over the coming weeks the LISU will contact Scottish public library services as well as key partners and stakeholders such as CILIPS, COSLA and the Improvement Service to gather evidence. The Association of Public Libraries Scotland, which represents all 32 local authorities, will also help the Unit with their research.” … “The research could equip libraries with important statistics and help to influence decision makers. It will also be a valuable addition to existing quantitative measures such as SLIC’s Economic Value Toolkit, which provides library and information services with everything they need to assess how cost-effective their services are.”
  • Welsh Librarian of the Year Award 2017 – CILIP. Shortlisted candidates at Welsh Librarian of the Year Award 2017: Shortlisted Nominees.

“We have transformed Greenwich libraries since we took over their management in 2012. Libraries are really important in this Borough. Like most parts of London,  some areas have high levels of deprivation – and people in lower socio-economic groups tend to use libraries more than more affluent communities. Also London is a young people’s city – and they are young people with no space to study. So the library becomes their destination. And there are families – again perhaps without a great deal of money – so the large number and variety of children’s activities is really popular. We often get over 100 to a Rhyme Time in Greenwich. Woolwich, the busiest library, is right next door to a huge Tesco Extra – with lots of parking; it is also on the DLR and the mainline train service – as well as on many bus routes in the Borough.

Our aim is to increase the use of the libraries we manage – and we are absolutely focussed on that. It is the first point on the agenda at every staff meeting. I ask the team to focus on 5 key areas;

        The library building – this is so important. Wherever possible we refurbish – or change layouts to make the best of the buildings we have.

       Stock – vital. We review stock versus issues and adjust so the customer gets what they want to read

       ICT – we find that ICT accounts for around 26% of our use – and we need to offer the best. We refresh every 4 years.

       Staff – we want staff to be kind, knowledgeable and professional. I am so pleased with our new training programme – designed for all levels. We also support people to obtain qualifications. Each library has a library manager – and their responsibility is to develop their own library within our general guidelines.

       Activities – libraries should be social spaces – so we provide loads of activities – for all ages.” Diana Edmonds, Head of Libraries, GLL.

Plus free afterword by myself....


International news

  • Australia – Indigenous Knowledge Centres: Queensland Public Libraries finding a niche – Public Libraries News. “There are stories from all around the world about how wonderful libraries are.  This story caught my eye from Australia, where public libraries have realised they have a place in supporting indigenous communities” … ““we’re also a more comfortable trusted place for Aboriginal people to ask about health, wellbeing, and how they live their daily lives – this can be less intimidating than the health service””
  • USA – Public libraries transform for digital native generations – Talk Business. “Public library visits per capita have increased 83% in Arkansas during the past 20 years, despite a national decline in the print publishing industry over the last decade. Close to a quarter of public library collections budgets are now spent on electronic books, both nationwide and in Arkansas, according to the latest available Public Libraries Survey (2014) from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.” … “librarians entering the workforce from college have extensive training in tech, and “are ready to hit the ground running,””
  • USA – “Purrfect” Literacy Program – Public Libraries Online. “At this point, public libraries function as community centers where people come to convene, learn and grow, not just check out books and study. And it seems like the next logical step is to not just bring the community into the library, but to reach out to the community itself. This can be done in new and sometimes surprising partnerships. Reaching out to a local humane society or shelter, for example, where cats waiting to be adopted need to develop social skills, is a perfect union for public libraries looking to do something creative to encourage children’s literacy skill development. Cat and child enrichment, increases in adoption, and community engagement are all fostered through a program like this.”

Local news by authority

  • Angus – Library and Access services coming together – Brechin Advertiser. “Angusalive and Angus Council have joined forces to agree the transfer of face-to-face Access services to library buildings in Brechin, Kirriemuir and Monifieth” … ““This is an excellent opportunity for us to provide local services at one unified site, rather than two separate buildings, and ensure our resources are where they are needed most to help the communities we serve.”
  • Darlington – Darlington library campaigner and MP hopeful supported cuts to library services in London – Northern Echo. “Self-styled library campaigner and MP hopeful Peter Cuthbertson has defended himself against allegations of hypocrisy after supporting cuts to library services in London. The Westminster councillor was recently announced as the Conservative candidate for the upcoming general election in Darlington, where he lost out to Labour’s Jenny Chapman in 2015 by 3,158 votes. His campaigning has largely focused on the battle to save the historic Crown Street Library, which is facing impending closure as a result of council budget cuts, which will see central library services moved into the Dolphin Centre” … “Darlington-born Cllr Cuthbertson has now been accused of using it as a vote-winning “political football” while lending his support to cuts and changes to library services in Westminster, where he is a serving councillor. “
  • Derby – Emergency meeting called to save library in Derby suburb – Derby Telegraph. “An emergency neighbourhood forum to discuss the future of the library is taking place in a Derby suburb tomorrow night. More than 200 people have already taken part in a survey about the future of Spondon Library – one of 11 currently under a cost-cutting review by the city council across Derby. A consultation was conducted by Derby City Council at the end of last year, which was looking to save more than £600,000 by closing some libraries and encouraging others to remain open with the use of volunteers and a £17,500 hand out from the authority”
  • Lancashire – Fulwood library will reopen “soon” – Lancashire Evening Post. “County Coun Geoff Driver, leader of the victorious Conservative group, had a key question for officers when he stepped back into county hall on Monday – have contracts been exchanged? Coun Driver, whose party won overall control with 46 seats, said he had asked for a hold to be put on all library sales. He said: “Fulwood library contracts have not been exchanged so we will not be exchanging contracts and will be reopening Fulwood as a library.I haven’t got a date yet – it will be as soon as possible. It’s been closed long enough.” Would-be buyers Turf Tech of Cable Court Fulwood declined to comment. The company has already lodged a change of use application with Preston Council, seeking to change the historic Garstang Road library into offices with extra parking spaces. “
  • Liverpool – ‘Are we closing the book on the library?’ – University of Liverpool. “Is the era of the physical book and its traditional home, the library in a fixed building, at an end? Will the digital revolution simply do away with the library? Do we just keep libraries open out of nostalgia for an out of date artefact? Alan Gibbons examines the history of the book, its resilience, the place of libraries in an age of austerity and the role of literacy in social mobility”
  • Medway – Thomas Aveling Library facing closure and staff at Grain Library may be replaced by volunteers – Kent Online. “One Medway library is facing closure with another set to be run by volunteers, as the council looks for ways to save £95,000 from the libraries’ budget. A public consultation is underway into plans to close the Thomas Aveling Community Library in Rochester while the council is looking at the possibility of replacing paid staff with trained volunteers at Grain from July. According to an email seen by the Medway Messenger, the closure of Thomas Aveling will save £35,800 and changes at Grain, £14,700.”
  • North Lanarkshire – Library group wants your ideas to thrive – Motherwell Times. “The Supporters of Newarthill Library are looking for ideas about how to ensure it is used more by the community. The group, which was instrumental in saving the facility from closure, has developed close working relationships with CultureNL and senior library staff and wants to see it thrive. Angie Walker, chairwoman of the group, said: “Our vision has always been to make the library accessible for all and we are planning more events and activities but we want to give you, the local community, an opportunity to have your voice heard.”
  • Northern Ireland  – Education and libraries support critical thinking – let’s invest – Irish News. “More people in Northern Ireland are now using public libraries than they were five years ago. Forty three per cent of people in Northern Ireland now identify themselves as library users –  up from 40 per cent in 2011. So, why then, were cuts recently announced to library services? We need to invest for the needs of our population – as library use is on an upward curve.” … “If you care about the role of libraries and education – and how it can benefit our society as regards critical thinking among our younger population, the EA [Education Authority] wants to hear your views on the proposed direction, outcomes and associated actions to help achieve these outcomes:”
  • Plymouth – Council boss denies misleading residents with ‘Peverell Library saved’ leaflet – Herald. “The leader of the council says he sees no problem with a leaflet announcing a city library has been “saved” – despite admitting it could still shut. Last week Conservative councillors sent out pamphlets and e-mails saying Peverell library “will stay open and will not close”. … “Councillor Bowyer says no decision has been taken and he was expressing a “personal view”
  • South Tyneside – Four libraries in South Tyneside at risk of closure as budget cuts continue to bite – Chronicle. “South Tyneside Council is looking for volunteer groups to run Boldon Lane, East Boldon, Primrose, and Whitburn libraries as they face cutbacks” … “Almost 80% of all items borrowed and 91% of all computer use already takes place at one of these four centres. But the future looks less rosy for branch libraries in Whitburn, East Boldon , Boldon Lane and Primrose. In the face of having their budget slashed by almost 50%, the council is encouraging groups to come forward to run the four libraries on a voluntary basis.”
  • Worcestershire – Water works temporarily closes Catshill library – Bromsgrove Advertiser. ” due to urgent and essential maintenance work to the water system. “
  • Wrexham – Volunteers celebrate successful first year of Hope Community Library – Leader Live. “People descended on Hope Community Library on Saturday, based at Castell Alun High School, to mark one year since it was taken over by the community. Kate Williams, secretary of the Friends of Hope Community Library, said: “It went really well.”