Two related big stories this time. The first is from the Publisher’s Association which shows that the printed book is alive and well and not likely to be wiped out by the e-book any time soon. Phew, that’s alright then. The second are all related to Tim Coates, that firebrand of library campaigning, who has complained that the Shining A Light report by Carnegie UK is far too optimistic and needs withdrawing. The full text of this can be found here. What I find most interesting about it is not the complaint per se (and besides, being Carnegie UK commissioned me to write a blog post on it, I would not in good conscience be able to comment either way anyway). No, what interests me are these statistics:

It's not looking good for British Libraries - Statistics courtesy of Tim Coates

It’s not looking good for British Libraries – Statistics courtesy of Tim Coates

Well, those are depressing aren’t they? There’s a few caveats with this, of course, as with all use of statistics.  Only three countries are mentioned for a start and the performance indicators used are very basic, albeit important. And that graph of doom at the end showing no books issued at all in 2026 is questionable.  However, those first two charts do show that the rapid decline in usage in the UK is not inevitable because, if they were, then the US and Australia would show the same trend. What it suggests is there’s something going on in the UK that’s not going on in the other two countries. And, to me, the big thing has to be the cut in UK funding for libraries, about which anyone who has ever read the news, or worked in libraries, would be more than aware of. Or there’s something else seriously wrong going on in UK libraries. I’ll let you decide what you think the problem may be, but problems there are. But it there’s problems, there’s solutions and,  as a starter, Nick Poole from CILIP touches on some things that could help in a special post for Public Libraries News here.

Changes by local authority

National news

Come August, 700,000 kids will have one

Come August, 700,000 kids will have one: Animal Agents images for the Summer Reading Challenge revealed.

  • Best librarian characters in fantasy fiction – Oxford University Press. Discworld librarian, Irene from the The Invisible Library, Cheshire Cat from Thursday Next, Lirael, Dewey Denouement from Series of Unfortunate Events. [I took this as a it of a challenge and added some titles, now over 100, to Books which feature public libraries – with the help of an appeal on Twitter – Ed.]
  • Carnegie report slammed for ‘avoiding the truth on libraries’ – BookSeller. Tim Coates “argues that the Carnegie report avoids “important available evidence” including CIPFA annual figures and “three pieces of information that are contained in the research but wrongly described in the report”. Coates said the trust’s assertion that people need more personal service from libraries lacks evidence and claimed the evidence around only 6% of library usage being attributed to computers and 70-80% being dependent on available printing reading material is “not sufficiently emphasised”. Coates also said that the report did not outline strongly enough that the single improvement library users seek most is a better range of books.” see also Tim Coate’s presentation on the statistics Use of Public Libraries in the US, Australia and England/Scotland/Wales/NI and Information Wars – The Library Campaign. “Public libraries need to go on cultivating their ability to future-gaze, innovate and test out new ideas.”

If you or your library team ran a campaign in 2016 to market all or part of your service, now is your time to shout about it! CILIP’s PPRG is looking for examples of good communications work: from stock promotions to storytelling projects, new online services to the launch of major new library buildings, the Marketing Excellence Awards exist to celebrate achievement at any scale. Open for entries until 31 May – apply via the form on this page” Email from CILIP PPRG: 

“Our view on the future of public libraries must be open, inclusive and progressive. It should not be defined by what we want to defend but by what we intend to build for the future” Nick Poole

  • Record books sales as e-reading loses out to words on a page – Scotsman. “Sales of printed books were up by 8 per cent to £3bn – the highest for four years – but e-books were down by 3 per cent to £538m. Non-fiction titles put on 9 per cent to £884m, boosted by big sellers such as the Lean In 15 series by Joe Wicks. Revenue from children’s books also increased, by 16 per cent to £365 million.” see also ‘Screen fatigue’ sees UK ebook sales plunge 17% as readers return to print – Guardian. “Britons are abandoning the ebook at an alarming rate with sales of consumer titles down almost a fifth last year, as “screen fatigue” helped fuel a five-year high in printed book sales. Sales of consumer ebooks plunged 17% to £204m last year, the lowest level since 2011 – the year the ebook craze took off as Jeff Bezos’ market-dominating Amazon Kindle took the UK by storm.” and UK Publishing has record year up 7% to £4.8bn – Publisher’s Association.

“The titles that sold really well last year did not lend themselves to digital,” says Lotinga. “People prefer to give, or read, children’s books like Harry Potter titles in print, and healthy cooking titles and biographies sell very well in print compared to ebook format.”

  • Shining a Light – Complaint from Tim Coates – Leon’s Library Blog. “My complaint is that the report ‘Shining a Light’ seriously avoids the truth of what is happening in public libraries. It omits evidence of long term decline it should have included. It fails to draw the right conclusions from data in the research it has carried out. It should be withdrawn and changes made in the operation of the Trust in respect of their future work on public libraries  The danger is that poor management of the public library service is reinforced. This complaint is absolutely not directed in any sense at all at Ipsos Mori who were commissioned by the Carnegie UK Trust to carry out research.”
  • Taking Part focus on: Diversity Trends, 2005/06 to 2015/16 – DCMS. Shows mixture of usage by demography and region for libraries, museums, etc.

International news

  • China / Mexico – First Chinese Library opens in Mexico to promote cultural exchange – People.cn. ” The first China-themed library in Mexico was inaugurated on Monday in a bid to promote cultural exchange. Books on Chinese history, art, culture, traditional medicine and music, among other topics, as well as digital and video archives, can be found at the new Chinese Library at Mexico City’s Anahuac University. Officials from China and the prestigious private university were on hand to inaugurate the 14th library of its kind worldwide, as part of celebrations marking 45 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries.” [Excellent example of a library being used for diplomatic/soft power projection purposes – Ed.]
  • India – Rajasthan : Books on Hindu deity to be included in public libraries – Hindu Jagruti. “Rajasthan education minister Vasudev Devnani on Friday announced inclusion of books on Lord Parshuram in public libraries and a chapter on the Hindu deity in the moral science school textbooks. The announcement came hours after members of a Brahmin organisation, the Vipra Foundation, met Devnani on the occasion of Parshuram Jayanti.”
  • New Zealand – The real value of Librarians – Wireless. “Auckland Libraries say they will save $1.8 million by cutting 5 percent of staff. But what about the human cost?”. Same shiny meaningless language used in management communiques as in the UK; “The language used in statements such as these – slick, cheerful, and bureaucratically opaque – is not just infuriating for library staff who have been strictly warned time and time again not to express their own feelings about Fit to the Future to media or the public. It is crushing.” see also Why do we still need libraries? – Newsroom. “We might say that the enduring support for their provision symbolises our society’s high regard for literacy, learning, culture and quality of life. “
  • USA / Global – Checking Out Securely: The Challenge of Staffless Libraries – Public Libraries Online. “Automated checkout has its place. Computer databases and artificial intelligence make research even faster. Still, no automated system can offer a friendly smile, a helping hand, and an eye to security that provides an immediate response to problems as they occur.”
  • USA – How Libraries Became Public – Inside Higher Ed. “What made the vision of “free to all” so attractive in the late 19th century? Why now do we have to pay for “free” information services with our privacy and, ultimately, our freedom? And, given this dismal state of affairs, why do free public libraries persist? “

Local news by authority

  • Bath and North East Somerset – Libraries have passed their sell-by date – Bath Chronicle / Letters. “With decreased funding councillors have to prioritise what they can and cannot afford. I am therefore amazed when residents are ‘up in arms’ when, for example, councillors put crucial care for the elderly above maintaining status quo with the library. Something has to give and I suggest services that take care of the people – their health and well-being, are more important than a library.”
  • Birmingham – Sutton Coldfield Library’s short-term future looks secure as town councillors commit funds – Sutton Coldfield Observer. “long term future of a Sutton Coldfield community facility moved a step closer to being secured after town councillors committed funds to keep it until the end of the summer. After some hard fought negotiations Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council confirmed on Tuesday (April 25) at its full council meeting, that it will pay its remaining allocation of £120,000 in three stages, subject to Birmingham City Council completing two tasks as its side of the bargain.”
  • Buckinghamshire – Aylesbury study centre to relocate to library as part of £360,000 plansBucks Herald. “Aylesbury Study Centre is being merged with Aylesbury library as part of plans announced by Bucks County Council yesterday (Tuesday). The study centre, currently based at New County Hall, will be moved to a new library hub. Head of Community Focus at Bucks County Council David Jones said: “Bucks County Council is investing £360,000 to create a new library hub for Aylesbury fit for modern requirements, fully accessible and with longer opening hours.”

  • Highlands – East Caithness Community Campus opens for public to use – John O’Groats Journal. Wick “library, gym and swimming pool are now all under one roof as the East Caithness Community Campus finally opened its doors to the public. High Life Highland (HLH) is now encouraging people to use the state-of-the-art facilities which it is hailing as among the best in the Highlands. HLH facilities manager William Durrand said the difference in choice between the new campus and what existed previously in the town cannot be compared.”
  • Kirklees – Budget 2017: Kirklees Council leader slams Tories’ “nonsense” attempt at altering budget to save libraries – Huddersfield Daily Examiner. ” Kirklees Council’s leader has dubbed a Conservative bid to alter the council’s budget as “nonsense.” The Conservative group offered no alternative plan when more than £100m in cuts were voted through by councillors last February. Despite offering no amendments, the Tories were the only ones to vote against the vast downsizing of many frontline services.”
  • Lambeth – Lambeth library campaigners call public meeting – Brixton Blog. “Lambeth libraries campaigners protested outside Brixton Rec at the weekend, demanding that the council and its leisure provider GLL/Better, which runs the Rec, re-open the closed Carnegie library in Herne Hill and the Minet in Myatt’s Fields.Contractors are soon due to start increasing the depth of the Carnegie’s basement to accommodate a gym which will be run by GLL. The council is also expected to announce soon which of two competing bids to run the Carnegie as a community centre has been successful. Defend the Ten library campaigners, who say it is not too late to re-open the two libraries and run them with a full library service, are organising a public meeting at 7pm tomorrow (2 May)”
  • Lambeth – Lambeth and Oasis discuss redevelopment of Johanna school site – London SE1. “Lambeth Council is preparing to enter formal talks with the Oasis group of charities over the potential redevelopment of the Oasis Academy Johanna primary school site in Waterloo, to include an expanded school, homes, offices and a public library” … “A future redevelopment could include a permanent home for Waterloo Library – currently in temporary premises at the Oasis Centre – as well as allowing the primary school to expand to two forms of entry.”
  • Lancashire – Fylde coast library bid must be ‘right’ – Blackpool Gazette. “Community organisations have given a cautious welcome to the announcement in principle that they are to be given ownership of Fylde coast libraries by Lancashire County Council.”
  • Lancashire – Government gets involved with decision over Lancashire’s libraries – 2BR.
  • Lancashire – More Lancashire libraries set to be handed over to communities – 2BR. “Decisions have been agreed in principle to transfer ownership of a further four library buildings to community organisations, with the county council to help establish independent community libraries in three of them”. Adlington and Ansdell to Friends groups, Thornton to “Gala Committee”, Bamber Bridge to scouts.
  • Lewisham – V22 Manor House – V22. “Many libraries have been closed or depleted across the country amid devastating cuts in previous years. V22 wishes to return the library at Manor House to a full service, and to build on many of the services previously offered, including events for children, facilities for jobseekers and activities for pensioners, as well as to renew the IT infrastructure and introduce digital literacy workshops.  The London Borough of Lewisham’s library service will continue to provide advice, training and access to books from its own collections and the London Libraries Consortium. Under-utilised spaces upstairs will be let as studios, offices and deskspace to generate income for the building, providing opportunities for local creatives, freelancers and entrepreneurs”
  • Nottingham – Bakersfield library set to be demolished to make way for luxury four-bed home – Nottingham Post. “The news comes just weeks after Nottingham City Council announced it was intending to sell the Bakersfield site in order to fund a new community centre and library in the old police building in Sneinton Dale”
  • Rutland – Calls to halt Oakham library revamp project after £309,000 overspend by Rutland County Council – Stamford Mercury. “Rutland County Council’s cabinet last week agreed the extra cash for the project, which involves “essential” work to the library building and construction of a new purpose-built extension to re-home Visions Children’s Centre. The council had already approved £220,00 in June 2016 for the library; and an additional £400,000 for the relocation of the children’s centre and £60,000 for the library in September 2016 – bringing the total spend now allocated to £989,000. Now residents of Alwyne Close, next to the library, are querying where the additional funds have come from at a time of austerity.”
  • Slough – Plans for old Slough Central Library site met with lukewarm response – Slough Express. “Plans for homes, hotels, shops and restaurants on the site of the old Slough Central Library received a lukewarm response from councillors at a pre-application meeting on Wednesday.”
  • South Tyneside – Authors look to encourage reading in South Shields – Shields Gazette. “The events are part of Read Regional, run in partnership by New Writing North, South Tyneside and 22 other library authorities across the region.”
  • Swindon – Staff could get a share in the core libraries under new delivery model – Swindon Advertiser. “On Wednesday, cabinet members voted to consult on the establishment of a ‘public services mutual’ to oversee the running of Central, West Swindon, North Swindon, Park and Highworth libraries. If implemented, the mutual would be set up as a charity, with ownership of the service shared between the council, communities and staff.”
  • Thurrock – Teenagers given opportunity to help youngsters read at events across Thurrock libraries – Thurrock Gazette. “Thurrock’s libraries are again on the lookout for volunteers aged between 13 and 16 to help over the summer holidays for this year’s Summer Reading Challenge ‘Animal Agents’”
  • Waltham Forest – Thousands showed their love for under-threat Hale End Library in Highams Park – Guardian series. “More than four thousand people celebrated Hale End Library, in Highams Park, at the first ever Love Hale End Library Day on Saturday (April 22). As part of a campaign to increase the library’s use, the event sprawled across Highams Park from its site in The Avenue to the Overground station car park. Last year the council backtracked over its plans to move the library to smaller premises in Signal Walk, near the Tesco superstore. It followed a campaign which gathered thousands of signatures in opposition to the plans with further thousands joining online groups in solidarity. Among the attractions on the day were a vintage market, a 3D printer and workshops on everything from making a torch to learning how to darn.”
  • WIltshire – Calls on council to fix ‘disgraceful’ library internet speed – This is Wiltshire. “Rachel Stroud visits the library daily to use Ancestry, a programme installed on the computers that people can use free of charge instead of having to pay for a subscription at home, to research family history for people. But the 48-year-old, of Alfred Street, Westbury, claims the internet speed is so slow to the extent she is unable to access the programme and also cannot reach other sites including eBay.”