I was so sorry to see that Desmond Clarke has passed away. We started exchanging emails almost back when I started PLN, back in 2010. He was a campaigning veteran long before then of course. We did not always agree on the solution to the problems that public libraries found themselves in but I never doubted his good intentions and, also, his gentle influence. He was one of the few campaigners that Ed Vaizey listened to, although of course that did not unfortunately translate much into action. There’s not many people outside the library world, when all is said and done, that spent so much time on working for their betterment. I’ll miss his emails and I’ll miss him.

The news that Bristol may close up to 17 branches is not unexpected. Back in January I’d reported that up to 19 were under threat and it looks like a similar number indeed are. The city library service has had a tough time over the last few years, the opening of Junction 3 excepted, and it’s not over yet.


National news

  • Desmond Clarke dies – BookSeller. “Former publisher and committed library campaigner Desmond Clarke has died at the age of 72.” … “Clarke was awarded the MBE in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to British Public Libraries and to Literature.” … “Laura Swaffield of The Library Campaign responded: “This is sad news indeed. Desmond has been an untiring campaigner for decades, always coming up with a new idea or initiative even when others felt like flagging. He leaves a large gap to fill. Our sympathies to his family.”

“It was very sad indeed to hear of the death of Desmond Clarke. I had never met Desmond but had had many phone calls and emails from him over the last few years regarding his unfailing efforts to support the demise of public libraries. He was utterly charming, energetic, clever and extremely articulate. He would phone to chat about ideas he had to do more to put pressure on various individuals and institutions to try to stop the closure of public libraries. He was full of sensible advice and ideas of what we could do, and I used him as an editor in many of the letters and articles I wrote, some of which were Desmond’s ideas anyway.

He was utterly charming at all times, lovely to talk to, and it transpired that his family had lived at a lovely house and grounds near Blackburn, and not too far where I live. He sent me some information about the family that I shared with local friends who were aware of the family. The house is now a hotel and when he was young Desmond had spent time at the house. He worked so hard for the public library cause and gave many people good advice and ideas. He lobbied and wrote letters and articles in support of the fight to save public libraries. The sector owes him a great debt of gratitude. His award of an MBE was totally deserved.

He and I shared memories on the very sad death of our mutual friend Matthew Evans, both he and Mathew being giants in the world of books and literature. He will be sadly missed. My condolences go to his wife and family.” Frances Hendrix on LIS-Pub-Libs

  • How will you mark 20 years since Harry Potter appeared? – Libraries Taskforce. “SCL will be marking the occasion by supporting Pottermore’s anniversary celebrations. Pottermore is the global digital publisher of Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World… Pottermore has put together supporting activities and a suite of beautifully designed materials that are available to download from the SCL website. The digital toolkit includes printable posters and flyers, a website banner and social media content.”

“If your eBook platform supports the campaign and most do, including OverDrive, BorrowBox from Bolinda, Askews & Holts, please join in on Pottermore’s simultaneous read campaign. It would be great if you could get involved in the Harry Potter anniversary celebrations. Why not send out a tweet linking to your library catalogue?”

  • Making the most of arts, culture and creativity – Sadiq Khan for London. One mention of libraries: “Work with boroughs to promote and protect London’s libraries, community centres, and suburban arts venues”.
  • Pottermore to allow free e-book library loans for two weeks – BookSeller. “The global digital publisher of Harry Potter and J K Rowling’s Wizarding World is ensuring “unfettered digital access” to the first book in the series through library distribution apps OverDrive, BorrowBox from Bolinda and Askews & Holts from 26th June, two decades since the Bloomsbury published the title. The unlimited number of loans will be available until 9th July.” … “The announcement comes as controversy over dwindling public libraries deepens. Former libraries minister Rob Wilson lost his seat following Thursday’s General Election and campaigners have called on his successor to hold local authorities to account. Children’s author and library campaigner Alan Gibbons said that Wilson had been a “virtually invisible minister”. He said: “The Tories have presided over an appalling period for the libraries sector, seeing hundreds of libraries close, book stocks slashed, a quarter of librarians dismissed and opening hours reduced dramatically.””
  • Taskforce meeting at the Free Word centre – Libraries Taskforce. “Our blog on 21 April explained how we were unable to blog, tweet and publish a number of items during the pre-election period. Now it’s over, we’ll resume blogging and tweeting and will start to publish the items mentioned…”.  A look at the Free Word Centre … “Summary of the Outcome session: increased reading and literacy” see also Fourteenth meeting of the Libraries Taskforce – Gov.uk. “The Taskforce was also pleased to note that, increasingly councils who were considering making changes to their provision were engaging earlier with the DCMS Policy Team, on the back of the steer provided in the Ambition document. This enabled the team to encourage them to explore a wide range of options to mitigate their plans”
An online bookclub from Axiell


International news

  • New Zealand – Forget books, libraries are all about the people – Stuff. “For years, libraries have been synonymous with silence and reflection, where people should be seen and not heard. But from the time the doors open at New Plymouth’s Puke Ariki library it’s a place of action.” A look at Puke Ariki, including a complaint about loud kids.  “New Plymouth’s facility is one of more than 300 libraries around the country which open its doors, both in person and online,  to 50 million visitors every year in New Zealand”. Beautiful building designed to be a busy community space.
  • USA – In Oregon, A Struggling County Just Shut Down Its Last Public Library – Vocativ. “A wave of sadness swept over Pinky England as she watched her two daughters dutifully stuff the borrowed books, CDs, and DVDs into the return bin at the Douglas County public library on Wednesday morning. It would likely be a long while before they did so again, if ever. Last fall, voters in this struggling Oregon timber county soundly rejected a tax measure to keep all of its libraries from closing down. After 10 of the system’s outposts shuttered this spring, only the central branch in Roseburg, home to about a one-fifth of the county’s 107,000 residents, remained open. But it too would lock its doors in only a few short hours”

“We have Google, but it’s not the same thing,” said England, 28, who home schools her two children, ages 7 and 9, and discovered libraries to be a safe environment to ask questions and learn as a little girl. “Maybe we’ll start sifting through the piles at Goodwill for materials? I don’t know.”

  • USA – How to design a library that makes kids want to read – TED. Designer shows what happened when he simply designed a logo that said “L!brary” (with a “!”) for some US libraries. Some nice ideas.
  • USA – The Library of Congress Makes 25 Million Records From Its Catalog Free to Download – Open Culture. “Prior to this, the ecords—which include books and serials, music and manuscripts, and maps and visual materials spanning from 1968 to 2014—have only been accessible through a paid subscription. These files will be available for free download on [the Library of Congress site] and are also available on data.gov.”
  • USA – Retail Co-Location: Coffee at the Library – Public Libraries Online. “The Starbucks team worked with the library to create a unique space. This isn’t just another coffee shop stuck into a library, but the design honors the rich history and legacy of the library itself, so library patrons don’t just get a cup of coffee, they get an experience” … “The library, much like the coffee shop, has become a community center. E-book lending means patrons don’t even have to visit the library, so program directors must give them reasons to do so.”

“Quiet is something the library has that sets it apart from the average coffee shop. While background noise can work for some, others put on noise cancelling headphones or use other devices to isolate themselves from the noise of the environment around them. Why are they not at the library, where it is quieter in the first place? In some cases, the answer is as simple as comfort. “

Local news by authority

  • Bexley – Southmere Village Library in Thamesmead Competition – E-Architect. “This new civic building will be at the heart of the first phase of the planned 1,622 new homes to be delivered as part of the Abbey Wood and South Thamesmead Housing Zone in the London Borough of Bexley. It will be located on the south side of Southmere Lake within 10 minutes’ walk of the eastern most terminus of the new Elizabeth Line at Abbey Wood. This new state-of-the-art building will serve the needs of new, existing and future communities, with a 21st century library, learning space and potential to accommodate other civic functions, including learning, health and wellbeing spaces. This competition provides an opportunity for creative design solutions to be explored that engage with the lakeside settings and Peabody’s commitment to investing in the local area.”
  • Bexley – Southmere Village Library Building – Tenders Electronic Daily. Technical details.
  • Bristol – Councillors hit out at ‘appalling’ and ‘devastating’ cut proposals concerning libraries and public toilets – Bristol Post. “Council leaders from both parties [Lib Dems and Conservatives] reacted badly to news of the consultation, which is asking Bristol residents to make tough decisions on the future of five key areas including libraries, community links, public toilets, school crossings and neighbourhood partnership groups.” Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Gary Hopkins, described the consultation as akin to captain of the Titanic “asking from which direction he should charge at the iceberg”.
  • Bristol – More than half of Bristol’s libraries could close – Bristol 247. “Bristol could lose more than half of its libraries if the latest round of stringent budget cuts go ahead. Under new proposals unveiled by mayor Marvin Rees, the number of libraries will go down from 27 to just 10, with a reduction in opening hours of the libraries that remain.” … “Eight public consultation events will be taking place across Bristol, with the consultation ending on September 5.” … “Gary Hopkins, Lib Dem group leader at City Hall, said: “The consultation asks for which of three unacceptable options should be implemented. A little like the Titanic captain asking from which direction he should charge at the iceberg from.” Tory group leader Mark Weston said: “The proposals relating to the city’s libraries are devastating… “This act will have a terrible impact on library-users and those of us who believe these branches play a vital role and function as community hubs in today’s society.””
  • Darlington – Community centre or redevelopment – Darlington Council to decide on the two options for the future use of Crown Street library – Northern Echo. “Darlington Borough Council is looking at two options for Crown Street library in the centre of town – develop the site for community use or sell the building for redevelopment and invest the money for future use. The Labour council’s plans to close the library and move its services into the Dolphin leisure centre has been bitterly contested by campaigners determined to protect the legacy of Edward Pease, who funded the building with £10,000 left in his will following his death in 1880”. Building will either pass to community use or be sold off.
  • Darlington – ‘I will chain myself to the railings to save library building,’ declares Darlington’s Labour MP Jenny Chapman – Northern Echo. “newly-elected MP has pledged to chain herself to the railings of the town’s central library to prevent the council selling it to a private developer. “The building needs to have a community use and a community ownership, which can take many forms these days,” said Jenny Chapman, who was re-elected for a third time, with a slightly increased majority. “It cannot be sold to be turned into a TK Maxx or a pub. I will chain myself to the railings to stop that.” The Labour council’s plans to close the library and move its services into the Dolphin leisure centre were a major issue on the doorstep during the campaign, with the other candidates – Peter Cuthbertson for the Conservatives, Anne-Marie Curry for the Lib Dems, Matthew Snedker for the Greens and Kevin Brack for Ukip – all pledging to keep the library open” [So it’s the building, not the  library, the MP is keen to save – Ed.]
  • Highlands – Sex offender intrusion prompts security review – Inverness Governor. “This sparked a review at 32 schools across the Highlands – including seven in the Courier’s patch – which share grounds with community facilities such as swimming pools and libraries” … “High life Highland operates 32 community facilities at schools across the region, from swimming pools to libraries, but a number of them are only accessible to the public after school.”
  • Monmouthshire – Lottery win for Wonky Box of Bettws – Times (behind partial paywall). “A crooked dilapidated phone box has been given £3,000 of lottery money to be straightened up and given a new lease of life. Known as the Wonky Box of Bettws, it was the focus of a campaign in the small village near Abergavenny, south Wales, and supporters spent months planning and raising funds. Long disused, it will be turned into a community information point with a small lending library and will also house a defibrillator…”
  • Orkney – Children’s Victorian library collection unveiled in Orkney – BBC. “Maria Cowan, 12, her 10-year-old sister Clara, and their young cousin Isabella Bremner began producing their own library in 1864, sometimes with the help of other children. They named it Minervian Library and it is held at Orkney Library and Archive. A selection of the short stories, fairytales, poems, plays and newspaper articles is now on display in the Orkney Museum in Kirkwall”
  • Westminster – British Esports Association bring after-school esports club to Maida Vale library – Esports Insider. “Children attending will be able to compete in Rocket League as well as try their hand at casting and coaching. There’s set to be eight gaming systems and a casting workstation – all supplied by London-based custom PC builder DinoPC. In addition to the frivolity of playing Rocket League, members and volunteers from the British Esports Association will be giving talks on careers in esports. Notable names include Ceirnan “Excoundrel” Lowe, a British Esports Advisory Board member and professional caster.”