So I’ve been following the news about public libraries for a while now. There’s a lot of depressing  and reactive stuff out there but gosh there’s a lot of good stuff out there too (check out this ideas list).  There is a danger of seeing just the trees near you, be they axed or blossoming, and not the wood. This is one of the reasons I do PLN (apart from the obvious lack of a social life I mean) : to give a sense to all who read it a sense of the big picture, be it nationally or internationally. But in the final analysis, however I try to balance it, it’s just one person’s view and bias always creeps in. And I can get terribly side-tracked or, sometimes, just plain wrong, on occasions. And this is why I like attending conferences – because there you can get the point of views of others, often the very best in what they do. You still have to watch out for bias (it’s a rare conference speaker who will criticise their audience or the organiser, for instance) and groupthink but there’s a lot to gain from it.

Which is why I try to go to as many as possible. It’s not easy, these days, not least because the work is always there waiting for you when you come back home, but I’ve never yet been to one which I regretted. This is always the more so when one hears from people from difference countries. We can get so caught up in our own mindsets and what is seen as possible and desirable, and miss out on what people are doing elsewhere. More mundanely, it gives one a chance to look up when so often we only have the chance to keep out heads down. So, I’d like to recommend going to conferences when you can, such as the “Global Excellence Tour” below. I promise you that you’ll come away with new ideas. And the food is normally good too.

Future Libraries – Global Excellence Tour

Global excellence

“These seminars examines the development of global excellence in libraries across the world. They will look at smart libraries, smart ways of working, smart cities and smart citizens. Find out how properly funded  libraries could underpin so much more than you think.  How are Australia, US and Europe transforming and delivering on civic and government agendas?

While 8 out of 10 people using the internet on a daily basis, these statistics hide a deeper digital divide. How can digital excellence free up libraries to deliver on their key community, inclusion and literacy roles? Key messages include:

·        Over the past year, growth in internet use has stalled. This suggests that all those who want to be connected, can get a connection and can afford the cost, have done so.

·        People that lack confidence, skills or are unable to afford connectivity are being left behind.

·        21% of adults still don’t have basic digital skills and can’t fully benefit from being online. Just because someone can use Facebook doesn’t mean they are confident in applying for jobs online.

·        Increasingly online benefits systems risk disenfranchising those who are already excluded. Approaches to addressing digital exclusion must be embedded in a broader approach to tackling social exclusion. Who but the public library?

Key discussion points will include::

  • Lessons so far – from those who have delivered on academic, local, national and regional initiatives. Learn about skills development, knowledge sharing and funding;
  • Data – the way forward for harnessing data plus options for deriving value
  • Investment – in light of funding pressures in local government, what innovative approaches are emerging to financing, new partnerships and collaborative working;
  • Standards – assessing the development of standards and interoperability frameworks, and the customising of services to local needs;
    Infrastructure – in light of Digital Strategy, how can it be ensured that libraries digital infrastructure is viable
  • Policy priorities – key issues for us involved in digital strategy, smart cities, local authorities and communities, and the citizens using smart city services.

Locations are London Kensington Conference and Events Centre (Monday 11th September), Glasgow Grand Central Hotel (Tuesday 12th), Dublin Hilton Garden Inn (Wednesday 13th), Cardiff Central Library (Thursday 14th). Speakers vary between venues.”

[I will be attending in London as a guest of the conference, make sure to say hello if you see me there and tell me ideas from your service that should be shared – Ed.] 



National news

  • Ambition Progress Indicators – the story so far (a lot can happen in a year…) – Libraries Taskforce. “Was it only 12 months ago that I started my secondment with the Libraries Taskforce? Released one day a week from my ‘day job’ as service manager for Sheffield Libraries and Archives service back in May 2016,”
  • Blood, bookworms, bosoms and bottoms: the secret life of libraries – Guardian. “I recently had the privilege of circling the world to write a book about libraries. My timing was excellent: after a short-lived e-books scare, physical books are back in fashion, and libraries are the place to be.” … “Only after I’d finished my library tour and my book could I see the image that emerged from the pulpy jumble of bookish stories. The picture is nothing less than a new understanding of what libraries are for – not art, architecture, education, politics, antiquarianism, digitisation or information science. Instead, it is about humanism and self-preservation. “
  • Commuter Hubs in libraries – Libraries Taskforce. “The first phase of the library commuter hub pilot included a number of libraries across London and was a success with overwhelmingly positive feedback. A recent survey showed that staff enjoyed a reduction in commuting costs, improved work/life balance and reclaimed precious time to spend with family and friends” … “This collaboration has benefited not only MoJ staff but also libraries in giving them an extra income stream from otherwise redundant (back office) space” [No balancing view is provided – Ed.]
  • Community Libraries Network – Community Libraries Network. “The Upper Norwood Library Trust, in partnership with Locality, the Libraries Taskforce and the Society of Chief Librarians, have established the Community Library Peer Network, a new initiative funded by Power to Change to be developed over the next 18 months. The project aims to expand the existing Locality-run Community Knowledge Hub by growing its membership to include a further 200 community libraries with shared interests and goals; developing cutting edge content and ensuring its long-term sustainability.” [This appears to be a basic free off-the-shelf Wordpress site, which normally is associated with hobbyists, but it appears genuine – Ed.]
  • Library cuts planned in Wales and Lincolnshire – BookSeller.

An online bookclub from Axiell
International news

  • Jamaica – National Library of Jamaica Lobbies United Kingdom Diaspora’s Support – Jamaica Information Service. “During the week-long working visit, the team made a special presentation to members of the Jamaican diaspora entitled ‘The Importance of Archives: Exploring NLJ’s Special Collections – Miss Lou Archives’ at which Mrs. Douglas said the NLJ is increasing its efforts to find a new home for the archives. She noted that in addition to the Jamaican diaspora, the team also anticipated the support of UK Government agencies and individuals.”
  • USA – Position Statement on Labelling Books with Reading Levels – AASL. “Labeling and shelving a book with an assigned grade level on its spine allows other students to observe the reading level of peers, thus threatening the confidentiality of students’ reading levels. Only a student, the child’s parents or guardian, the teacher, and the school librarian as appropriate should have knowledge of a student’s reading capability.”
  • USA – Public Libraries Are for Everyone: A Response to the Illinois Family Institute – CBLDF. “Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute thinks that librarians who celebrate Banned Books Week are hypocrites. In an article on the organization’s website last week, she argued that the real banned books are not the oft-targeted ones like And Tango Makes Three which depict same-sex parents or other LGBT characters. Rather, she says that what she believes to be the ideological opposite of those books — that would be “books that challenge Leftist assumptions about the nature and morality of homosexuality” — never even make it into libraries in the first place due to bias on the part of librarians” see also Florida: Public libraries still pushing Islam – Tea Party.
  • USA – Virtual reality headsets bring stories to life at San Jose public libraries – Mercury News. “The downtown library and Evergreen branch are two of ninety state libraries to launch virtual reality through Oculus VR and the California Library Association this year. The SPJL VR headsets are open to the public at no cost. Ball said Oculus hopes this initiative helps people who may not otherwise be able to experience virtual reality due to their economic and social circumstances.”

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeenshire – North-east prison inmates are brought to book – Evening Express. “Inmates at Grampian’s superprison are spending their time learning about evil gangs, tattoos and even brushing up on their English by reading the dictionary in the library.”
  • Bath and North East Somerset – Let’s get my library figures in order – Bath Chronicle / Letters. “as I illustrated to Kirsten Elliott, library usage has dropped nationally by over 30 per cent in a decade. If you extrapolate this going forward another decade, it follows that usage could fall below 20 per cent. So, despite Kirsten’s belief that we should maintain status quo, I suggest the re-think proposed by the Council represents good strategic planning and forethought.”
  • Brent – Five bright murals by Sudbury artist to brighten up Wembley Central – Brent and Kilburn Times. “The Friends of Barham Library (FOBL) recently received a financial boost from Wembley Futures and have commissioned one of their “artists in residence” to brighten up the area.”
  • Buckinghamshire – 35 children’s centres across Bucks face axe – Bucks Free Press. “A consultation has opened with people and organisations around Bucks being asked to complete a survey, available online and in Bucks libraries”
  • Calderdale – Opening date set for new £9m Halifax central library – Huddersfield Daily Examiner. “The new £9m central library in Halifax, next to the recently revamped Piece Hall, will open to the public for the first time on Tuesday, September “
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Animals take over Northwich Library for summer challenge – Northwich Guardian. “children have been flocking to Northwich Library for as part of the Summer Reading Challenge. Libraries across the borough have been holding a host of events for youngsters”. Including Chester Zoo.
  • Cornwall – Camborne Library to close on Friday for repair and refurbishment – Cornwall Live. “Camborne Library will temporarily close for several weeks to allow an extensive repair and refurbishment programme to be completed. Ownership of the building will be transferred to Camborne Town Council and the badly needed improvement works will allow the library to be used for greater community benefit.”
  • Coventry – Eight ways savvy parents can save money as kids go back to school – Coventry Telegraph. Includes libraries.
  • Croydon – Council on standby to take back control of public libraries – Inside Croydon. “As well as Hounslow kicking Carillion out of their libraries, Oxfordshire County Council is planning to exit a significant proportion of its contracts for various outsourced services. Croydon could be next.”. Councillor says “Following the contract termination on July 31 by Hounslow, Carillion have to make alterations to how they manage the Croydon contract and we continue to press for improvements to the service.”
  • Dorset – Friends of Weymouth Library (FOWL) has launched a new website to enhance their work – Dorset Echo. “Friends of Weymouth Library (FOWL), a volunteer group which raises the library’s budget and profile, has officially launched its online portal for residents. With the help of the library’s resident Digital Champion David Smith the group now has a shiny new website where upcoming events and library news will be shared.”
  • Glasgow – ‘The House that Heals the Soul’ by Nick Thurston at CCA, Glasgow – Blouin Art Info. “The exhibition focuses on the social as well as the political status of libraries. It’s a result of the active collaboration of the artist with the CCA. The exhibition will open up the space to house a selection of library and self-publishing resources alongside connecting artworks. The exhibition will explore the library space through various histories of, and approaches towards, protection and presentation of libraries’ collections, infrastructures and their users.”
  • Hackney – This week in Hackney 30 years ago: Fury as collection boxes are removed from libraries on mayor’s orders – Hackney Gazette. “Charity collection boxes featuring Noddy figures were booted out of Hackney’s libraries to make way for collection boxes for the mayor’s own charity – but she had not yet chosen one. “
  • Hull – Hull Central Library gets 3D printer and other hi-tech gadgets after £300k investment – Hull Daily Mail. ” section of Hull Central Library is set to be transformed into a new high-tech area with 3D printers, digital embroidery machines and vinyl cutters thanks to an investment of almost £300,000. The Makerspace/Fablab will be created on the second floor of the city centre library and will provide access to a variety of equipment, technology and tools.”
  • Manchester – New events and activities help make Manchester Libraries more popular than ever – Manchester City Council. “The total number of visits recorded rose to 2,917,370 in 2016/7, from 2,784,449 in 2015/6, while attendance at library-based activities and events increased by 30 per cent – with the total number of activities offered rising to more than 134,000, from less than 100,000 for the previous year.”
  • North Lincolnshire – £1m makeover set to give new lease of life to Scunthorpe Central Library – Scunthorpe Telegraph. “Scunthorpe’s Central Library is to be given a new lease of life with a £1 million project to transform it into a community hub.”
  • North Somerset – Refurbished library and children’s centre ready for grand opening – North Somerset Times. “The High Street facility has been closed since the end of April to enable North Somerset Council to transform the services it provides. The children’s centre, which was previously based at the infant school around the corner, has been moved into the library. The overhaul is one part of North Somerset Council’s community access review, which will enable the authority to make long-term financial savings. But, to ensure services remain protected, the council has invested more than £800,000 to transform libraries such as Yatton.”
  • North Yorkshire – Austerity ‘challenges’ facing Harrogate libraries volunteers – Harrogate Advertiser. “The library service has seen its budget almost halved from £7.8m in 2010 to £4.3m in 2017/18.” … “While libraries in many parts of the country are closing, North Yorkshire’s flexible, co-operative approach and the massive support of 1,200 newly recruited volunteers has resulted in the recent reconfiguration of the service being implemented without losing any libraries.” … “most people this newspaper spoke also said there were challenges and worries about the new community library system.”
  • North Yorkshire – Free computer help at community library – North Yorkshire County Council. “Bentham Community Library, Pioneer Projects and North Yorkshire County Council’s Adult Learning and Skills Service (ALSS) are to launch a weekly internet and digital help session on Tuesday afternoons.”
  • Northumberland – Anger as multi-million pound plans for three Northumberland leisure centres are shelved – Chronicle. “Multi-million pound plans for three new leisure centres have been shelved – because the charity behind them lacks an “operational business plan” … “The centre earmarked for Morpeth was set to house a new town library and council customer services centre, with a hotel and restaurant completing the town’s riverside development”
  • Sheffield – Telegraph Voices: How could an alternative venue replace the Library Theatre? – Sheffield Telegraph. “I’m fond of it. But facilities – stage, backstage, bar, disability access – are completely unacceptable and the fabric of the building is crumbling expensively away. Given the kind of money spent recently on libraries in Manchester and Liverpool (think upwards of £50 million) you could gut the Central Library and turn it into a fabulous attraction. A ‘destination building’ with a computer-age library using a fraction of the overall space. As it does now.”
  • Sunderland – New community library with ‘honesty policy’ opens – Sunderland Echo. “Shiney Advice and Resource Project (ShARP), a community centre in Shiney Row, opened its new library in July and has already reported a successful month, with its ‘honesty policy’ to book-loaning proving to be just the ticket for bookworms. The Beatrice Terrace-based community hub, which provides a range of services including an Electronic Village Hall that receives technical support from Sunderland City Council, has seen a number of new people access the centre, and hopes to be able to engage them with the additional support services it offers, including welfare and debt advice. “
  • Surrey – Walton library baby changing toilets an ‘in joke’ for parents unable to use staff-only facility – Get Surrey. ” parent of a two-year-old has questioned why Walton Library has a baby changing facility that is not for public use. The Walton resident, who asked not to be named, regularly takes their son to the library, which is part of The Heart shopping complex, to read the large selection of children’s books. ” .. “I’ve found that it’s a bit of an in joke with local parents, the baby change is now seen as a VIP area that you’re very lucky to be allowed in to,”

“I spoke to the librarian who informed me that the toilet is not usually available to the public as there is no budget for the toilet to be cleaned by professional cleaners, and it’s not part of their job”

  • Windsor and Maidenhead – Library staff assure residents there is privacy at new customer service desks – Maidenhead Advertiser. “Staff have assured library users that there is privacy available for customer services on offer after concerns were raised. Last week the Advertiser reported the concerns of a library volunteer, who said the new scheme to move customer services from the town hall to the library had led her to overhear a private discussion about emergency housing when she was stacking books on shelves. This week the council agreed to show the Advertiser the new layout in Maidenhead Library which includes three private interview rooms and ‘contact points’ where residents can discuss customer services seven days a week from 9am-7pm.”