I had a most entertaining meal with a few Australian library types a couple of evenings ago and discussed all sort of things, occasionally accompanied by sharp shocked intakes of breath as my companions realised how different the UK system was to theirs. One of the things discussed was the idea that libraries are increasingly used by those who have plenty of time and/or those who cannot afford an alternative. Depressing I know but hear me out. The thing here is that back before Amazon, Google and the internet even those short of time had limited alternatives to the public library – driving into town and reserving/buying a book from the local bookshop (probably a Waterstones even then) did not take that much less time than going to the library for the same thing. In fact, the library was probably closer. Nowadays one can purchase a book online at home via a click and have it delivered to your door the next day or even, if it’s an e-book. that second.

This means that those who have less time or more money are less likely to use a library now than then. There’s also another reason of course: many libraries have been hollowed out in that time, becoming less comparatively attractive. That is more to do with lack of investment than technology, as is clear to me when I visit a well-funded and beautifully appointed library (such as Manchester Central) as they all have a definite busy buzz about them. One of the reasons for this (by no means the sole one) is that they’re as attractive as many of the commercial alternatives to a person’s time. Now I’m not talking about stinking rich people here – they’ve rarely ever used public libraries anyway –  but rather that the number who make the rational decision about their library use, and decide against, are likely to be the more wealthy or more short of time. But those deciding against using libraries are becoming less and less comparatively rich or busy as technological change and cuts continue.

I don’t have any easy solutions to this. It’s just an explanation why many public libraries have the clientele they do: time-rich children and parents, money-poor jobseekers and students and time-rich (and often money-poor) senior citizens. Technology and hollowing out has made this more pronounced over the last decade or two. The very best libraries I’ve seen find alternatives: they provide things commercial alternatives do not (e.g. connecting people and empowerment in all its forms) and by doing so gain the trust and support of politicians who keep their funding. But there’s virtuous and vicious circles both at play here and you can probably tell which camp you’re local library is in quite easily. Just go in and look at the demographics.


National news

  • HarperCollins Publishers audiobook catalogue now available as pay-per-use on bibliotheca’s cloudLibrary – Bibliotheca. “cloudLibrary launched the pay-per-use model in May of 2017. Since then, the program has been adopted by libraries world-wide, offering audiobooks from publishers such as Simon and Schuster, Hachette, Blackstone, Disney, and Scholastic. The addition of HarperCollins titles allows libraries to provide a growing array of popular content with no upfront costs.”
  • Library World Records – 17th Edition out in September. “Library World Records is a fascinating reference book first published in 2004 after research work began on the book in 2002. The book was further extensively updated in a second edition in December 2009. Library World Records provides hundreds of intriguing and comprehensive facts about ancient and modern books, manuscripts and libraries around the world. 
  • Save your local! Should volunteers help keep our public libraries open? – Guardian. “Hundreds of UK libraries are still open – but only because voluntary staff have stepped in. Campaigners and professionals explain why this is a mixed blessing”. Follows on from my count of there now being 500 volunteer libraries in the UK, several volunteer libraries (Highgate, Isle of Wight, Kensal Rise, Lancashire) being briefly looked at, plus quotes from myself, Elizabeth Ash, Mandy Powell (CILIP) and the DCMS.

“Five of the Isle of Wight’s 11 libraries have been run by volunteers since 2011, with some training provided by the council for the 120-odd unpaid workers. “They would have closed, if the community hadn’t stepped forward,” says library services manager Rob Jones, praising the “brilliant job” they do. However, they should not be expected to provide the same expertise as professionals. “I can train my staff to do all these extra things – I can’t train the volunteers. There are so many of them and they do two or three hours each a week … They’re providing a different level of service.””

  • Unison to hold ‘SOS Day’ for libraries – BookSeller. “Trade union Unison is to hold a day of campaigning for libraries which will see the organisation call on decision makers to take action on “shameful” spending cuts. Taking place across the UK on the 19th October, the Save Our Services Day intends to show support for libraries and raise awareness of the “devastating impact” cuts have had on the service”
  • United Kingdom-Ceredigion: Library software package – Tenders Electronic Daily. £240k. “The provision of an On-line Family History Service for Welsh Library Authorities, Archive Services and Museums. This should provide access to a range of Family History Resources, such as census records; births, marriages and deaths; and other relevant records for Wales, the UK and other countries. The on-line service should have excellent usability and accessibility as well as training and marketing support and usage statistics. The on-line service should be bilingual. The contract is initially for a period of 2 years, beginning on the 1.4.2018, with the possibility of extensions for up to a further 2 years.”
  • Australia – Book delivery service in outback NSW a ‘saviour’ for residents on remote properties – ABC News. “The Outback Letterbox Library operates out of Broken Hill City Library where staff pack books based on the residents’ interests and sent them to their remote properties by mail or freight. The coverage area spans across to the South Australian, Queensland and Victorian borders and as far east as Brewarrina. Members of the Hill family join more than 500 members of the free service which is funded by the Library Council of NSW.”
  • Canada – Toronto’s amazing science fiction library, the Merril Collection, has a new head librarian – Boing Boing. ““I want people to associate us with somewhere to go, somewhere to investigate, somewhere to take their kids,” says Hosein. “I don’t know that we’ve opened up to a lot of younger audiences. Maybe our material isn’t associated for that age group, but there is some. And the younger people are the ones we want to be our future users.” “
  • Europe – Public Library Industry leader Ann Melaerts joins Axiell – Axiell. ” Ann Melaerts, formerly General Manager Library Division and VP Independent business units at INFOR, joins Axiell as Vice President & Business Area Director for Axiell Public Libraries. Ann will be responsible for sales from Axiell’s solutions and services portfolio to public libraries in Europe, which includes Axiell Quria, a cloud based library services platform, and Axiell Arena, an advanced and robust online discovery portal for libraries.
  • Germany – Nazi-looted books found in German libraries – DW. “The Lost Art Foundation has organized a program called “Initial Check” in order to enable the search for stolen books in smaller German libraries: The program has tasked three experienced provenance researchers to scour libraries in Saxony-Anhalt, and look for suspicious items. Their aim is to find out whether such inventory items are in fact looted goods. ” … “”Six thousand libraries across Germany are stocked with historical books. That is why I always tell my students: Not even the next generation of museum and library staff will be able to finish what you have started.”
  • Global – 10 most extraordinary mobile libraries – Ebook Friendly. Includes some really exotic ones.
  • Greece – One old minibus and 1,300 books: the mobile library for refugees in Greece – Guardian. “A pair of volunteers set about providing to provide a quiet space to read and study, amid the upheaval and uncertainty that faces those who have fled their homes ” … “When the authorities don’t allow access to camps, they park the bus outside and let the word spread inside, although they are often shut down without warning. But those who come to the library love it: children say it feels like home; a Syrian economics professor used it to translate his work into English and young Afghans keen to learn English started informal classes. Those leaving the camp have even donated their own books.”
  • Norway – Transforming Norwegian Public Libraries – IFLA. “This blog posting outlines two projects in Troms in Norway, which have proactively changed the role of the library, the first through examining use of library space and the second through presenting libraries as houses of literature.” … “. The model defines the role of the library in terms of four spaces: the inspiration space, the learning space, the meeting space, the performance space. During recent years, libraries have become active spaces for experience and inspiration and local meeting points and the model pays attention to this phenomenon. The research underpinning the model found that libraries were moving from “collection” to “connection”. The new paradigm is that libraries are moving from ”collection” to “creation”. Both “connection” and “creation” are important goals for the library.”
  • USA – “Stronger Together: Increasing Connections Between Academic and Public Libraries” – Stephen’s Lighthouse. “Since the library website is now the most common entry point to an academic library, this paper explores the opportunities for building connections between an academic and public library’s resources by hyperlinking to public library resources. Deepening these connections supports the mission of both types of organizations, namely to foster lifelong learning. It also suggests how such virtual collaborations, namely hyperlinking, can be used to set the stage for future collaborations.”

Local news by authority

  • Bury – Friends of Tottington Library in novel attempt to get more volunteers on board Bury Times. “In one of the more light-hearted developments in the long-running story about the future of Tottington Library, the community group set up to save it has released a rap video. Yes, you read that right. A rap video. Tottington ward councillors Yvonne Wright, Ian ‘Ian G’ Gartside and Greg Keeley, all members of Friends of Tottington Library, appear in the video which has been posted on the group’s social media accounts.”
  • Central Bedfordshire – Central Bedfordshire libraries to get longer opening hours – Comet. “The authority had last year consulted on a proposal to reduce opening by a total of 30 hours per week to meet an £85,000 efficiency target, identified in their Medium Term Financial Plan. That savings target has been reduced to £56,000 – so the libraries in Biggleswade, Sandy and Shefford will now open for an extra 13 hours per week, with Potton and Stotfold libraries opening for an additional 17 hours.”
  • Gloucestershire – Art of Libraries – re-imagining cultural education in Gloucestershire – Libraries Taskforce. “A good example of change comes from Dursley Youth Forum, who felt the books on offer at the library were not appropriate for their age group. In response, the Library offered the young people control over a significant stock budget of £1000 as well as the offer of hosting future meetings in the library. ‘Hush Hush’ has also been launched – an online digital space specifically for young people to play and share things happening in the town.”
  • Gloucestershire – Library could move in to town hall – Gloucestershire Live. “Stonehouse Town Council agreed to begin talks on a proposal to move the local library service, with Gloucestershire County Council. If the talks are successful Stonehouse Library could move to Stonehouse Town Hall” … “Under the proposals the library would be co-located with Stonehouse Town Council in Stonehouse Town Hall lasting a minimum of 25 years with a two to three year notice period” … “The county council is willing to invest in the Stonehouse Town Hall building to introduce a library space and create a joint town council and library building, if agreed this investment will guarantee the long-term future of the library in Stonehouse for years to come and could see the county council contributing towards running costs for the building based on the proportion of floor space occupied by the library.”
  • Lambeth – Furious Carnegie library campaigners issue press release documenting ‘catastrophic’ situation – Brixton Buzz. “In August 2017, the library is still closed. Nothing has been done to the building. Yet it has continued to incur all the costs – rates, utilities, insurance etc – that it paid when open, plus a massive extra £93,210 on security guards (up to March 31, 2017).”
  • Lancashire – Date set for library re-opening – 2BR. “The Council approved an additional £1.654 million to the 2017/18 revenue budget in order to meet the running costs of re-opening closed libraries. An additional £1.571 million was also agreed which will be needed for necessary building works and associated costs to enable the closed libraries to re-open.” … “Lambeth is now committed to spending £1.25m of taxpayers’ money on digging a hole in the basement of the library, to accommodate the gym. Just the hole. But it has not got gym company GLL to sign a commitment to fund or operate any gym.” … “Lambeth has now decided to hand the building (via asset transfer) to the “Carnegie Community Trust” (CCT). CCT has five self-appointed trustees, no members and a structure that specifically rules out any democratic participation. It has never held a public meeting and its plans are secret. Three of the five trustees have strong connections with the ruling Labour party.”
  • Lincolnshire – Kids have a hoot at Rasen Library – Market Rasen Mail. “The Summer Reading Challenge activities started with a hoot at Market Rasen Library when Brillo the Barn Owl and Eric the Little Owl made a visit with their owner Annette McKenzie. “
  • Monmouthshire – Summer reading initiative a success amongst children and families in Monmouthshire – South Wales Argus. “Among the county’s activities arranged in association with the challenge is Chepstow community hub’s Thursday stories & crafts session, which sees up to 20 children attend with parents. “
  • Somerset – Protest held in Burnham-On-Sea over possible cuts to local libraries – Burnham on Sea.com. Local branch of Labour Party (photo shows five people) unhappy with cut which threaten thelibrary.
  • Suffolk – Much-loved Rosehill Library in Ipswich celebrates completion of major makeover – Ipswich Star. “An Ipswich library which was threatened with closure six years ago has celebrated a project to improve the building and its facilities.” Funded by council. “The work has provided a fully accessible public toilet with baby changing facilities, a new extension at the back of the library to provide additional workspace and storage, a staff area and kitchen facilities to provide refreshments for library events. The layout has also been improved with full redecoration and a new carpet and self-service equipment.”
  • West Dunbartonshire – Clydebank libraries offer chance to win £50 in book tokens – Clydebank Post. “promoting Scotland’s national adult reading campaign with the chance to win £50 in book tokens. “