I was talking to someone else concerned about public libraries the other day. She asked (a) what could be done to prevent major cuts to libraries and (b) how come other countries are not undergoing the crises of the UK. My answer to the first was, simply, government intervention. One decision to intervene by a minister due a council reducing the budget too much would do it. After all, library budgets are tiny compared to other services the council provides and are only really worth attacking, given the public support for them, if it’s clear there’s going to no statutory response. The reason the government does not intervene is likewise simple: austerity is their decision in the first place (albeit one shared by many) and secondly localism – allowing the local councils to decide where to cut – is part of the unspoken deal that stops councils rebelling more than they are.

The answer to why other countries are not undergoing the UK crisis is closely allied to what I have already said. An organisation can cope with one major crisis at a time but UK libraries are coping with two: massive technological change and deep budget cuts. Places like Canada, Australia and New Zealand are faced with one but (largely) not the other, and generally have far superior library usage because of it.


National news

  • Free libraries are ‘instruments of culture’ – archive, 1910 – Guardian. “Some three hundred librarians from all parts of the country, as well as several visitors from Canada and the United States, attended the annual meeting of the Library Association, which was opened at Exeter yesterday and will be continued to-day and to-morrow. ” …
  • ITV’s Vera author announces support for literacy programme – Reading Agency (press release). “Bestselling writer Ann Cleeves, the author behind ITV’s Vera starring Brenda Blethyn and Shetland on BBC One, will name a character in one of her new books after the winner of a national literacy prize draw. Ann’s latest Vera novel, The Seagull, was published on 7 September.The competition is open to all young people and adults who complete The Reading Agency’s Reading Ahead programme, to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Ann says: “To share the gift of reading and of stories is a brilliant thing, so I am delighted to support this fantastic programme which helps people gain the confidence to read for pleasure. Please do get your organisation involved; one of the people you support may find themselves in my next novel.”
  • Proper Gander – Question Everything. Task Force volunteer libraries report: “The libraries task force has been almost on a daily basis producing reports and “toolkits” on their blog. There’s so many toolkits it’s in danger of turning into a giant swiss army knife.” … “here is plenty of good stuff in there (its here), don’t get me wrong. But frustratingly, book issues wasn’t really part of the study. “… “the reason why we did not look into the metric of book loans in more detail was due to the limitations of the information that community libraries were able to provide to us” … Looks at the dive in book issues in Walcot (Swindon) – “The other Swindon libraries didn’t have this level of decrease in issues. Are all the other libraries in the England handed over to volunteers having a similar decrease in issues? ” … “The final quick point I wanted to touch on with the task force is how it’s still not got any representation on it from library users”
“Struggling construction firm Carillion’s weird sideline running public libraries may be set to end as the company deals with the fallout from the share price crash following a profit warning sparked by problem contracts with roads and hospitals. Carillion acquired contracts to run libraries for four London boroughs when it bought up infrastructure management firm John Laing Integrated Services (JLIS) in 2013.  However, it ended its 15-year contract with Hounslow last month, six years early, as the council announced it was taking libraries back in house to improve them.
In Croydon, which selected JLIS to run its libraries just weeks before the company was acquired, the cabinet member for libraries is now Timothy Godfrey, who was a staunch opponent of the outsourcing deal when it was agreed.  He told local media that the end of the Hounslow contract meant there would have to be “alterations” in how libraries in Croydon are run, given that the services used a combined stock of physical and digital books while both were run by Carillion. Carillion’s troubles are also embarrassing for the government’s Libraries Taskforce, which highlights the outsourced libraries run by the firm in its “shaping the future” toolkit as an innovative and marvellous approach.” Private Eye. Library News (not available online).

An online bookclub from Axiell
International news

  • Australia – Alice: re-imagining the digital future of public libraries – FutureScot. “At State Library of Queensland we set out to research what a public library could be in the virtual realm.  We asked ourselves what could a digital public library be in 2020 and how could we completely re-imagine how users, creators, and content connect. We agreed that the role of public libraries is about connection.  Connecting people to each other, connecting people to content and information and also connecting people to their local place and we wanted to explore how this could be achieved in the virtual realm.”
  • Australia – Crossing Threshold Fear at State Library – Public Libraries Connect. Sometimes people who need libraries the most are too afraid to walk in the doors due to “threshold fear”. This article looks at how to combat it.
  • Australia – Libraries are at a crossroads. What exactly are they for in 2017? – Canberra Times. “What exactly are libraries for? Scores of rationales have been put forward; scores of stories have been told. Libraries are an attempt to impose order in a world of chaos. They are signifiers of power (consider the libraries of Mesopotamian kings and American presidents) and prestige (remember the libraries of America’s robber barons). They are an aide-mémoire of the species, a network of sanctuaries, a civilising influence in the New World, places of solace and education, sources of nourishment for the human spirit, cultural staging posts in which new arrivals can be inducted into their adopted countries. They are places for social connection and the creation of “social capital”. They are places in which to give birth. They are places of redemption.” see also The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders – Text Publishing.
  • Canada / USA – Does the digital world need libraries? – Mozilla. “libraries remain firmly at the heart of communities around the globe. What’s more, they’re actively evolving into information hubs for the digital age.” … “, librarians and staff need to be continuously updating their own skills. They need to ensure that their own digital know-how is sharp enough for them to meet the growing demands of library patrons. And these demands vary widely, ranging from asks for training on digital content management and data privacy, to requests for help taking Massive Open Online Courses.”
  • Denmark – Act regarding library services – Danish National Library Authority (2001). “During the preparatory legislative work we experienced a marked professional interest from many countries – and we actually promised to prepare an English version of the act once it was passed. That promise is hereby fulfilled.
  • Denmark – More open libraries: A Danish perspective – Princh. “We are now implementing a new library system which is common for all libraries in Denmark. This will ensure the cooperation between all public libraries and other educational centers”. Open Libraries: a lot of preparation and conversations. “we just used signs so people have some self-explanatory indications on where to find different key points at the library. We also marked everything just in case something is stolen so we could then trace it afterwards” … “Nothing has changed in the staff’s activities when it comes to the unmanned open library because there is no additional activity. ” … “Our open library opens at 8:00, but the library opens at 10:00. So, usually from 8:00-10:00, the staff work to get the library ready for the public.” [This whole article sounds like a different world – staff start at 8am but the library doesn’t open to 10! – Ed.] “we discovered that there are people who prefer the libraries when there is no staff present”

“Today our users get access to the library with their health insurance card. Every citizen in Denmark has a health insurance card and you can use this card to check in at the machine outside of the library and add the pin code that opens the door.”

  •  USA – In the ‘Fake News’ Era, Americans Increasingly Value Libraries – CityLab. ” Pew finds that the majority of American adults—61 percent—say their decision-making would be improved at least somewhat “if they got training on how to find trustworthy information online.” “
  • USA – Libraries and the Art of Everything Maintenance – American Libraries. “Wayne Seltzer remembers the day a middle-school student named Rebecca Bloom walked into the U-Fix-It Clinic at Boulder (Colo.) Public Library’s (BPL) makerspace, BLDG 61, carrying her broken electric scooter.” .. “Seltzer says libraries and librarians offer something special to these events: a space where everyone feels welcome and experiences dealing with a wide variety of people. Seltzer says he was grateful to have that experience on his side when a homeless patron brought in a pair of broken headphones.”

Local news by authority

  • Bristol – £75m new library for Bristol Uni as half of city’s libraries set to close – Bristol 247. “As Bristol faces the prospect of losing almost two-thirds of its libraries, the University of Bristol is planning to build a brand new £75m central library. Tuesday is the final day of a consultation that will see the number of libraries in the city go down from 27 to just 10, with a reduction in opening hours of the libraries that remain. But the closure of the council-funded libraries is coming at the same time as the University of Bristol is putting plans in place to build a new library within an enhanced main campus around a pedestrianised Tyndall Avenue.
  • Bristol – Campaigners urge for wider consultation before council considers closures of Bristol libraries – ITV News. “Campaigners fighting to stop the closure of nearly two-thirds of Bristol’s libraries have told ITV News the city will suffer ‘irreparable’ cultural damage if the cuts go ahead.” … “The public consultation is due to end tonight, 5 September, but there are calls for more time and alternative options to be considered before a final decision is made early next year.” … “Three options have been proposed but each propose 17 closures, with only the central library is safe, and some, like the one in Redland, would be closed under all 3 options. “
  • Cambridgeshire – Library & Resources Manager – Littlehey Prison – Public Sector Jobs East. 18.5h pw, £20k to £24k pro rata. “We have an opportunity for a qualified librarian to work alongside the current part-time Library and Resources Manager and join an established, supportive team at HM Prison Littlehey Library”
  • Cheshire East – Councils asked to progress creation of Cheshire history centres – Place North West. “Chester’s facility would be created at the former Business Enterprise site on Hoole Road, and Crewe’s at the former library site in the town, library services having been relocated to the town’s lifestyle centre in April 2016.”
  • Cornwall – St Keverne Library to close next week – and reopen as ‘mobile’ version – Falmouth Packet. “St Keverne Library will close to the public next week but then reopen as a “mobile” version. Cornwall Council claims that this will offer a “significantly bigger” selection of books than has been offered at its current base at St Keverne Primary School. This will close on Saturday, September 16 and reopen the following Wednesday in a mobile library van that will be parked outside the school every two weeks”
  • Derby – Libraries Week: the role of public libraries in health, wellbeing and democracy – Storge. “Often the most vulnerable, the most in need of public services and help to navigate them, and for who access to culture supports a sense of self-worth with positive benefits to health and wellbeing, are unable to independently or regularly log on to the online space. The Council’s plan to move Central Library from its long-time and purpose-built home on the Wardwick into the Council House somewhat supports this view of the library as a needed third space and will move it under the same roof as services including the JobCentre. Yet at the same time it carries a risk of diminish the perceived neutrality of the space as much as it aims to improve access and convenience.”
  • Durham – First look at new community library – Hartlepool Mail. “The existing library is located within the former East Durham College building, which is now owned by Tesco. The council has now reached an agreement with Tesco that will see the company paying £846,000 to purchase the library, enabling the site to be cleared. This money, along with almost £1million matched-funding from the council’s own budgets, will be used to develop the new state-of-the-art library facility at the leisure centre and carry out refurbishments to the pool changing area, replacing windows and creating a new reception space.”
  • Fife – Kinghorn turns the page on library’s future – Courier. “The village library was officially reopened on Sunday, after it was one of several closed to cut costs by Fife Cultural Trust. Volunteer group Kinghorn Library Renewed has taken over a lease for the building and, as well as lending books, is to hold community events. At its launch day, villagers came to see its greatly enhanced stock of more than 6,000 books and redecorated premises.”
  • Haringey – Authors protest ‘axing’ of Haringey children’s librarians – BookSeller. “Writers such as Neil Gaiman, Michael Rosen and Kaye Umansky have added their names to a campaign concerned over the alleged “removal” of all dedicated children’s librarians in the North London borough. However, a spokesperson for Haringey Council refuted the allegation, saying it has “retained the same level of children’s expertise across our libraries and customer services team” with no librarians losing their jobs, but instead having different, more “generic” job titles.”

“YA author and campaigner SF Said told The Bookseller: “Haringey Council deleted all their specialist children’s librarians positions in a staff restructure last year.  It is true that they retained the existing staff, and so technically have ‘the same level of children’s expertise’, but they have asked their specialist children’s librarians to take on duties which do not relate to their specialism, and so do not allow them the time or space to be dedicated children’s librarians”

  • Herefordshire – New charges introduced at Herefordshire libraries – Ledbury Reporter. “Herefordshire Council has reviewed its library charges and from October 9 will no longer give fines to children age five to 17; under-fives are already free. But the overdue fine for adults has increased from 17p a day to 20p a day. The charges for self-service printing and photocopying in black and white are staying the same, but for colour in A4 the charge is being increased from 20p to 40p and colour A3 increased from 30p to 80p.”
  • North Yorkshire – Library Friends group needs new leadership to survive – North Yorkshire County Council. Scarborough: “In its 17 years, the Friends group has raised thousands of pounds to support the North Yorkshire County Council library and has hosted regular meetings and events there. From small beginnings, it grew to a membership of 200 people. But now stalwart and long-time organiser Colin Langford is being forced to stand down because of poor health. Other committee members have also stood down or moved away, so without new blood to take over the group will end.”
  • Staffordshire – Out-of-hours self service system could be introduced at libraries in Lichfield and Burntwood – Lichfield Live. “The committee will also hear that during 2016/17 libraries across Staffordshire, including the mobile and travelling service and seven prison libraries, issued 1.4million items to 25,000 members – but overall issues for traditional libraries fell by 15.8% on the previous year, while visits to mobile libraries reduced by half.” [Several libraries were passed to volunteers 2016/17 – Ed.] … “The plan would see sites staffed for core periods during the day, but with registered users able to access the building for periods outside of these hours.”
  • Walsall – High hopes for library site’s future – Express and Star. “There are ‘high hopes’ for the future of a library building controversially closed down earlier this year after its reopening as a book exchange.” … “Despite Walsall Council’s Labour and Liberal Democrat administration claiming it wouldn’t close libraries prior to coming into power, a set of initial draft proposals released in October proposed 15 of 16 libraries across the borough would close, including Pheasey. ” … “Now, after a push from volunteers and councillor Chris Towe, the building hosts a book exchange which at first will open for two days a week, with the hope of increasing provision in the future.”