The pre-election lull continues with very few local library stories compared to normal, especially as considering this post below covers more days than normal. There are two articles, though, that has a lot of reaction when I reported them on Twitter. The first is the news that the Republic of Ireland is aiming to unify its entire public library system, at least in so far as having a single membership card and being able to reserve items from anywhere in the country. Now, Ireland is a relatively small country, smaller than one-tenth of the UK, with only 333 branches and a population of under five million, so it’s easier for them but it does point the way forward. Sadly, though, I’m seeing at least as much atomisation in the UK (with, for example, more independent volunteer libraries and organisations involved) than I am the reverse.

The second story is the appointment of an independent library standards adviser in Wales. Until recently, at least, I met many involved people in England who argued that standards were not advantageous but rather that they encouraged a “race to the bottom” where councils aimed to spend less than their comparators. That argument, although it still amazingly holds sway amongst some even now, has taken a battering with the removal of English standards, where we can now see clearly now see just such a race to the bottom, not because of standards but rather due to their absence and the connected lack of effective superintendence of those who transgress.


National news

  • Consumer numbers explored at Book Expo – BookSeller. “Countering a prevalent myth that audiobooks often provide background wallpaper, 56% of those surveyed say they do nothing else while listening; 50% listen to relax before sleep, using audiobooks the way they do e or print books. The importance of libraries came through loud and clear once again: 27% of audiobook users discovered the format at the library. Going forward in an ever-more-crowded media marketplace, discoverability will be a major challenge for audiobooks, as it is for all formats”
  • TWA Digitisation Grant 2017 – Towns Web Archiving. “Last year the TWA Digitisation Grant was created because we knew that limited funding for cultural heritage digitisation projects was one of the primary barriers that UK heritage institutions faced when attempting to digitise and digitally preserve their collections. We received so many fantastic applications last year, from Institutions holding all manner of cultural heritage collections, that we decided to run the Digitisation Grant again in 2017…”
  • UK desperately needs new volunteers to fill yawning gaps in public services – Guardian. “Dedicated volunteers, worth £23bn a year in economic value, run libraries, maintain parks and staff hospital receptions, but more are still needed.” … “Volunteers are now running libraries, maintaining parks and staffing hospital reception desks. But how many of these public-spirited souls are new to volunteering and how many have simply switched their time and energy from other things? Does Christine’s new regular morning at the children’s centre come at the expense of her old shift at the charity shop?”

“To conceive of volunteers’ dedication as a temporary cover for cuts until the magic spending tap can be turned back on and publicly funded workers take their place is not only unrealistic, it does them a great disservice, and it overlooks the particular distinctive value that volunteers bring,”

  • Welsh Public Library Standards Independent Adviser – Welsh Government/Sell2Wales. “This contract will appoint a specialist independent adviser to assess the performance in 2016-17 of libraries who are part of local authorities, and to produce an overview report of performance during the three years of the fifth Welsh Public Library Standards framework from 2014-17. “
Plus free afterword by myself....


International news

  • Australia – Advocacy for public libraries – Public Libraries Connect. Presentations from Mylee Joseph and IFLA president.
  • Eire – Launch of Libraries Ireland: makes every library your local libraryMerrion Street. “The new service provides a single access for library members to over 15 million items in the 333 library branches across the country. The service allows members of the library to request titles and have these delivered quickly and efficiently to their local branches. The initiative also enables the introduction of a number of new services such as a single membership card across all public libraries. Each of these are services planned under the Public Library Strategy 2013-2017, Opportunities for All, a progressive programme for the development and enhancement of public library services. “
  • France – Tiny Traveling Library Delivers Books to French Villages That Need Them – Mental Floss. Behind its compact walls, the mobile home also holds a mini library composed of 3000 volumes. That collection is being put to good use: As inhabitat reports, the structure tours France, stopping in towns without access to bookstores or libraries.”
  • Global – China has the Most Public Libraries in the World – Maps of the World. “Currently China has the largest number of public libraries in the world. According to an OCLC data updated in 2016, there are 51,311 public libraries in China. Coming at the second place is Russia with 46,000 public libraries while India stands third with 29,800 libraries spread across the entire country. Coming fourth is Ukraine with 18,323 public libraries” [However, the same article states the UK has less than 1000 public libraries so treat with caution – Ed.]
  • Hong Kong – Libraries open fee-hike book – Standard. “Replacing a lost library card, for example, will soon cost HK$33 for adults and HK$17 for children compared with the present HK$25 and HK$17. Reserving library items will rise to HK$3.30 per item from HK$2.50. Temporary library card deposits, photocopying and printing will also cost more. But daily fines for late returns will remain unchanged at HK$1.50 for adults and 50 cents for young adults and children. Total fines per item also remain capped at HK$130 for adults and HK$25 for young adults/children.” [1 HK$ = 10p – Ed/].
  • India – India’s 70,000+ public libraries and its untapped potential: A study in contrast India Express.  “A meagre total of 75 public libraries are serving the over 200 million population of Uttar Pradesh. Compare this to 4,028 public libraries in Tamil Nadu that serve its 67.8 million population and a study in contrast emerges.”
  • Sri Lanka – Remembering The Jaffna Public Library Destroyed By Sinhalese Extremists – Swarayja. “25 years back, the splendid Jaffna public library, housing 97,000 rare books and manuscripts, was burned to the ground by rampaging Sinhalese Buddhist Mobs. The destruction of the Jaffna Public Library, the minority Tamil Hindu’s primary cultural institution, led to full-scale civil war. The shattered library served and still serves as a symbol of violation and ethnic violence.”
  • USA – Margaret Atwood Is Calling on All of Us to Defend Libraries – Glamour. “In a blog post on the New York Public Library website, Atwood described what could happen if our libraries are endangered. “There are an infinite variety of tyrannies and dystopias, but they all share one trait: the ferocious opposition to free thought, open minds, and access to information. Where people are free to learn, to share, to explore, feel and dream, liberty grows,” she wrote. “This is why the library matters so much. It is a democratizing and liberating force like none other. The library encourages new thinking in unexpected directions. It offers support to immigrants, students, to anyone with a well-developed curiosity or deep need for community. It is a place for minds to meet minds and hearts to move hearts.”
  • USA – New Trends in Library Security – American Libraries. Shows a big US bias (religious evangelicals, tax advice, concealed guns) but also includes several things useful in the UK (“entitled” patrons, vaping, etc).
  • USA – Tattoos and baseball caps: This is What a Librarian Looks Like – in pictures – Guardian. “From Gucci to Prada, so-called librarian chic is huge in fashion. But a new book by Kyle Cassidy reads between the lines to challenge the stereotypes of librarian style – and look at the ways in which they are the champions of our communities”
  • USA – Tax dollars are paying for drag queens to read stories to children – National Review. “While this story time is ostensibly meant to introduce children to new ideas and open their minds, it is clear that the events skew in a particular political direction. What sort of outcry would there be if there were a children’s event promoting American exceptionalism or traditional values? An event with books about gun rights or the value of life in the womb? No, that would never do. There is always the option of leaving agenda-driven events off of the calendar, of course, particularly when it comes to children’s activities, but that is evidently too much to ask in 2017, when everything has to be political, even story time for kids.”

Local news by authority

  • Barnet – Saving Broken Barnet: Mrs Angry’s pre-election guide – Broken Barnet. “… local public services … like libraries, for example. Remember those? It might be hard, for some of you. Because at the moment, only a handful of them are open. The rest are either only open occasionally, and run in so called partnership with volunteer groups, or have been shut for months so as to accommodate a truly devastating programme of building works that will see our libraries cut down in size, within the footprints of their own buildings, staffing halved, or in some cases entirely removed, book stock drastically culled –  and study space reduced to a minimum.  In fact, they are so scared of running the unstaffed libraries without, erm – staff, they are using security guards and managers to attend all the DIY opening hours, making a mockery of the whole process, and at unknown cost. Whether this continues after the election will be interesting to see.”. Closed libraries have had “Re-opening” banners put on them during the election.
  • Bath and North East Somerset – Library move would reduce services – Bath Chronicle / Letters. “I have been pleased on recent visits to Bath Central Library to see how full the study area is, and see that this large area is so much appreciated. I know that it was improved with new chairs the plug in facilities installed especially for plugging-in of laptops and a dedicated high speed broadband with two wifi hot spots in the area. These facilities coupled with the close proximity to the excellent reference books aids the students research opportunities. My big fear with the proposed move of this library to Lewis House is that the large space and materials currently available will be drastically reduced…”
  • Bracknell – Bracknell: Library automation equipment – Tenders Electronic Daily. “Short description: The Council is looking to procure self service kiosks with associated security gates, staff pads, handheld RFID scanners and RFID tagging of all stock in the 9 libraries. The Council wishes to procure technology to enable libraries to open without staff present, termed as technology assisted opening (TAO). TAO will be installed in 7 of the libraries with an option to install in the remaining 2 libraries if physical constraints can be overcome.” Cost £500k to £1m.
  • Croydon – The Reader tackle social isolation amongst elderly in Croydon – The Reader. “The City of London Corporation’s charitable funder, City Bridge Trust, has given £87,996 to The Reader to set up reading groups for over 75s in a three year project in Croydon
  • Doncaster – Favourite Things: Librarian Lesley on promoting reading in Doncaster – South Yorkshire Times. “Lesley Hurworth works at the Armthorpe Academy as Resource Centre Manager and librarian. She is also Chair of the Doncaster Book Awards Ltd and works to promote reading, especially among young people, as much as she can. “
  • Greenwich – GLL offer extended Sunday opening hours at Woolwich Library – GLL. “Woolwich Library will now open every Sunday as of 1st March 2015, between 12pm and 4pm. The extended opening hours mean GLL can provide further access to library activities and services for those not able to visit the library during working hours, as well as providing greater access for regular users in accordance with our aim to provide the best service possible for local residents.”
  • Hampshire – Hampshire babies being signed up to library when birth is registered – Daily Echo. “Parents are signing up their babies to their library at the same time as registering their births, as part of a new scheme in the county. In the past year, 1,267 babies have received their own library cards from Hampshire library service after visiting Hampshire Registration Service. The voluntary scheme has seen a fifth of all babies registered in the county join the library service since May 2016.”
  • Islington – Lewis Carroll Children’s Library Played Host to a Fun-Filled Educational Event – Broadway World. “In a special event, 60 Islington pupils gathered at Lewis Carroll Children’s Library on Friday 26 May to take part in an event to celebrate Carroll’s classic poem The Hunting of the Snark.”
  • Lambeth – Cost of Lambeth Council’s Your Nu Town Hall rises from £50m to £104m – Brixton Buzz. Repayable with interest. “The Cultural Services budget was cut [pdf] from £10.4m in 2014 to £6.5m by 2018. The Labour administration is still holding the line that it can’t afford to keep open public libraries at Carnegie, Minet and Waterloo”
  • Lancashire – Fresh reprieve for East Lancashire libraries– Lancashire Telegraph. “Campaigners have fought a determined battle to keep Whalley Library and Spring Wood Children’s Centre. But now under County Hall’s new Conservative administration, the sale of the Abbey Road building, which had an asking price of £400,000, has been halted. And moves to hive off library buildings in Earby and Barrowford have also been overturned by an emergency order proposed by new county council leader Cllr Geoff Driver and ratified by chief executive Jo Turton.” see also Reprieve for Lancashire libraries – 2BR.

  • North Somerset – North Somerset Council to spend £460,000 improving lights at Castlewood in Clevedon – North Somerset Times. “In the past two months North Somerset Council has made library assistants redundant, raised council tax and agreed its ‘hardest budget’ ever, however it has just agreed to spend almost half a million pounds on new lights for its headquarters”
  • North Yorkshire – Call for volunteers at Library – Minster FM. “Helmsley Community Library is celebrating two months of being community managed and is calling for more help as Volunteer Week approaches. June 1st to 8th is Volunteers Week 2017, and the library is hoping to encourage more people to sign up. Helmsley became a community managed library on 1st April, and is now successfully run entirely by volunteers.”
  • Peterborough – How to get more users to the library? – Interview with Peterborough Libraries from the UK – Princh. “In response to financial challenges, the need to save money while at the same time improve services to the public, the council rolled out the UK’s first open model of libraries. In essence, this reduced the cost of the library service by over 20% and provided a 50 % increase in availability of the service.” … “After considering more extreme alternatives, such as closing half of the libraries, which would have resulted in leaving local library users at a disadvantage, it was discounted in favour of Open Library concept.” … “The only slight problem we have encountered is accidental tailgating in our Central Library. Central Library is very popular and there are often queues waiting to get in. With Open+ members having earlier access, patrons who had not yet opted in assumed that the library was open and wanted to follow them in. We noticed this during the early stages, and used it as an opportunity to encourage more members to sign up, informing them that they no longer had to queue and that their library was open to use during the unmanned hours.”. £305k cut to budget but hours extended from 261 to 386 per week. Not available to under 16s. Half of all users have “opted in”.
  • Powys – The end of books? Tell that to 250,000 readers at the Hay Festival – Christian Science Monitor. “While the Hay Festival may restore faith that the technological age has not wiped out the love of ink-on-paper, other longtime rituals around reading are under threat: some, ironically, right in the Hay Festival’s front yard. Libraries around this region and country risk closure. Budget gaps have meant that anything seen as “non-essential” has found itself on the cutting block – including 11 of 18 libraries in this region, including the repository in Hay-on-Wye. Dismayed locals formed the Hay-on-Wye Library Supporters (HOWLS) last October when the local council first announced the cuts, and they were able to stave off imminent closure. But it’s unclear how long the library will remain intact. One plan is to move it into a new school under construction…”

“Pilates class to those with mobility limitations. And then, of course, are the books. Yvonne Van der Baan is checking out four thick works of fiction – she says she keeps non-fiction in her house as reference but depends on the library for the escapism she gets from novels. She guesses she’ll be ready to check out four more within three weeks. “Without the library, I wouldn’t exist,” she says.”

  • Redcar and Cleveland – Mobile library to stay on Redcar and Cleveland roads after ‘U-turn’ – Gazette Live. “Public feedback has helped prompt a U-turn over plans to take a mobile library service off the road in Redcar and Cleveland . And after a 12-week public consultation exercise, other proposed changes – including moving Loftus library into the old Co-op building – have also been revised. Under the plans, the borough council’s Cabinet has agreed to keep open both Loftus and Redcar’s Roseberry Square libraries for 31 hours a week instead of the proposed 14 hours. And plans to cut the mobile library service, saving £40,000 a year, have also been thrown out”
  • South Tyneside – Future of four libraries at risk of closure as South Tyneside Council tries to manage budget cuts – Chronicle. “The council is asking community groups to run Whitburn, East Boldon, Boldon Lane and Primrose voluntarily while major services move to the Word” … “The council wants to run its services from four hubs – The Word (National Centre for the Written Word) in South Shields, Hebburn Central, the Jarrow Hub and Cleadon Park. It says almost 80% of all items borrowed and 91% of all computer use takes place at these four sites. However, the authority is encouraging groups to come forward and run four branches on a voluntary basis – Whitburn, East Boldon, Boldon Lane and Primrose. Figures show that more than 45% of people who use these facilities also use one of the other hubs.” see also Funding cuts threaten South Tyneside libraries – ITV New and Consultation launched on the future of libraries in South Tyneside – Shields Gazette.
  • Staffordshire – Campaigners ask public to pledge support to save Stafford’s old Carnegie building – Staffordshire Newsletter. “The cash would help the repair, redevelopment and recommissioning of it to a cultural arts centre for the community. In return for becoming a pledger people will receive a pledge card, which they can use in the centre for a free drink each week once the café is up and running.”
  • Staffordshire – Council chiefs say new Lichfield Library will create a “first class” facility in the city – Lichfield Live. “Final plans have been unveiled for St Mary’s in the Market Square as it prepares to become the new home of the city’s library. The controversial move will see the facility switched from its current home at The Friary, which will then be converted for residential accommodation. But Cllr Gill Heath said the plans, which will include a permanent museum, exhibition and performance space, would pay off in the long term. The Cabinet member at Staffordshire County Council responsible for libraries, said: “This investment will ensure a first class library in the heart of Lichfield for the next 30 years, safeguard the future of two landmark buildings and support shops and businesses around St Mary’s.””
  • Suffolk – Drive to get Suffolk children reading for pleasure behind surge in youngsters enjoying books, say libraries – EADT. “The number of youngsters who say they enjoy reading is at its highest level for more than a decade, a survey has found – and libraries in Suffolk believe schools in the county have played a big part locally.”
  • Walsall – Pelsall Library to close next month amid cost cutting plans – Express and Star. “Pelsall Village Centre, which houses the facility, was unveiled to much fanfare in 2012 by Prince Edward – but now the library will shut on June 30 as the council looks to save £86m by 2020. The library, which campaigners say is the second most visited in Walsall, was earmarked for the axe last year. Protesters hoped an agreement could be reached to save it after nearly 2,000 people signed a petition and council bosses agreed to look again at the proposal in June – but it has now been announced that it will definitely shut”
  • Warrington – Warrington North candidates debate Brexit, air pollution and library services – Warrington Guardian. “The politicians also discussed the future of the library services across the borough. Ms McAteer [Green] wants services to be saved ‘at all costs’. She said: “They are absolutely fundamental and key. “I spent four or five years of my life working in libraries, they need to be protected. “People need to have books and kids need to have places to go, libraries should be protect at all costs.” Cllr Marks [Liberal Democrats], a former council leader, does not believe they should be saved ‘at all costs’. He said: “The world is different now in terms of the internet. “By involving the community and different organisations we can actually make the library service better than before at no extra cost.”It needs a big shake-up.” Mr Ashington [UKIP] insists he will do all he can to save libraries in the town. He added: “It is absolutely critical to the community to have a library where everything starts, they are linked to education. “I will fight to the death to save libraries in Warrington North and Warrington South.”