So it’s the end of 2017 and therefore time for a review of what the major trends have been. Or, rather, what my view of them are. If you think differently (or are screaming “but what about?” at the screen) do let me know … and, if you’re curious, here’s 2016 (via Leon). 2015, 2014 and 2013.


2017 Trends

  • Deep budget cuts and thus damage to provision. Cipfa revealed cuts of between 7 to 10% (depending on if you take into account inflation and a few other things) in the single year 2016/17, on top of repeated cuts since 2010. With Brexit proving to be more expensive and complicated seemingly with every passing month and relatively little concrete changing in public spending despite claims austerity is over (although the allowed increase in council tax without referendum becoming 6% is encouraging) we can expect more next year, and indeed, for as long as the current government is in office. Given their impact, the reduction in budget is the prism through which all other library trends must be viewed. Usage has also declined, with the suspicion (when compared to what is happening internationally) being that this is largely due to reductions in budget, although some of the trend is global.
  • Volunteer libraries push past 500. There were less than ten in 2010 and now they’re more than 10% of the total. Volunteer libraries are now a generally accepted part of the provision in more than half (81 of 151) library services in England, with the older ones (notably in Buckinghamshire) being over ten years old. We are seeing very few of these libraries failing, although there are repeated calls for more volunteers (not surprising considering that more than 10 volunteers are apparently needed to replace one full time paid member of staff). Substantial figures on how well these libraries are actually performing are very hard to come by (of which more later) but they’re here, expanding and won’t be going away any time soon, with their example being often quoted by councils seeking to reduce budgets.
  • Staffless libraries hit the 100 mark. This was the year when staff-less (entry by card and PIN) libraries went over 100 in the UK with at least 30 English authorities using it. Like volunteers, the technology is very largely being used to replace paid staff due to budget cuts but there are some cases when it is being used additionally, which is more the norm in other countries.
  • The Society of Chief Librarians is about to become a charity. The SCL is appointing its first chief executive after being run by chief librarians essentially as unpaid pro bono professional development. The money for this is coming largely from Arts Council England. This will mean the SCL will develop a further leaning towards the Arts / culture but this should make an impact on its overall performance too.
  • Data starts becoming a talking point. The inadequacies of CIPFA (highly delayed publishing, high cost etc)  have been apparent for many years but there has been a real push this year towards an alternative by several different bodies, notably the SCL, Task Force and CILIP. This is part of the more general “open data” movement. We can hope for big things in 2018 but any thing produced is likely to be voluntary, which makes one wary, considering how few public library authorities publish their own CIPFA reports on their own webpages now.
  • A heavy push for library trusts. The Task Force has been promoting this model of taking libraries out of direct council control and changing to trusts, as indicated by “masterclasses” (yes, there’s a lot of management speak in the Taskforce). Existing library trusts have even set up a separate trading arm to promote it. Given this, there’s been remarkably few going that way in 2017, although – given the necessary incubation period – this may be too early to tell. There may be a blossoming in 2018. In practice, the performance of these trusts has been impressive, especially the ability of Suffolk to negotiate a very good (well, in comparison to most other places) budget package for the next few years. Devon has also been negotiating and has taken over Torbay – the first library trust to expand beyond its borders – although it has not done so well negotiating, having to accept a sharp reduction in budget in its new dependency as part of the deal.
  • But a leisure trust becomes the biggest library provider. GLL (Greenwich Leisure Limited, branded as “Better”) now manage 113 libraries in Bromley, Dudley, Greenwich, Lincolnshire and Wandsworth. This makes it the biggest library manager in the UK by almost any metric. GLL are basically hovering up authorities despite a lack of Taskforce training sessions. This is probably due to experience (it’s been winning leisure centre contracts for years) and by economies of scale (it has a national infrastructure as opposed to the essentially local and relatively small-scale set-ups of any other non-profit library provider). Other leisure trusts have not fared so well outside of their own council borders.
  • Carillion looks to be on the way out. The only for-profit company running library services in the UK, Carillion, has had an awful year, suffering huge reputational damage. It has lost one library service and looks set to lose at least one other. While it’s not yet down the count (it still wins some contracts) it will have to go some to recover.
  • The Task Force is still here. The Task Force is getting into the role of training people and working out priorities, although there seems to be a slight bit of mission creep going on. It is fulfilling some of the functions of a development agency for libraries – something which has been needed for years – and much of what it is doing is useful. However, it is most definitely being used as a shield by government to show it is, honest, doing something despite obvious and drastic cuts to local library services. It is also, along with the SCL, keen on promoting only the positive side of what is happening to libraries. That’s a reasonable strategy as a service in decline is unlikely to receive funding but it means some very delicate footwork in this decade horribilis for library.
  • A mixed year for campaigners. I was sorry to see Voices for the Library (which I was part of for a few years) ending this year. In the end, the all-volunteer team simply moved on to other things, as is reasonable after seven or so years. On the other hand, CILIP is continuing to do excellent work and even managed to pull a stealth rebranding (something which caused no end of pain when it was attempted a few years ago) with little problem. Speak Up For Libraries (a partnership of various groups) appears to have gone quiet but on the other hand the first Libraries Week in October seemed to go OK. Locally, loads of campaigns are springing up when cuts are announced and have been notably successful (such as in Warrington and Lancashire, the latter even reopening libraries) on occasion. It was also a notably good year for library campaigners on Twitter, with some tweets reaching the hundreds of thousands of likes and retweets.

National news

  • 2017: a year on libraries – Julia Chandler. Communications officer of Libraries Taskforce gives her views, concentrating on good news. Favourite libraries include The Word, enjoyed Liverpool Library and a maker-fest, points out nice new libraries in Chester, Meopham and Halifax and a few other places and reveals an obsession with Carnegie libraries.
  • 2017 in review and a look ahead – CILIP. “Throughout the year we’ve been advocating for the importance of publicly funded library services. Work that started as the My Library By Right campaign continues today – through countless interviews on the radio up and down the country, appearances on BBC, ITV and Made in Cardiff news, in our many statements and comments speaking out about libraries in the media, in our letters to Councils and library leaders, and in our leadership role to speak out and act on behalf of our profession.”
  • Alternative delivery models – Libraries Taskforce. Report on training course on converting library service to mutual. ” representatives of nearly 50 local authorities turning up to benefit from the chance to hear how these pioneering organisations made the most of the opportunities, and worked through the very real challenges, of becoming a public service mutual.”
  • Library book spend falls £45m in 10 years – BookSeller. “”The publishing industry and the library industry need to bring themselves closer together for both their sakes –  in too many ways they have become separate for too long and that has inflicted serious damage on each. In the US we continue to build that bridge, but it is not happening here”, said Coates.” … “Meanwhile, the government has revealed that it intends to publish a full libraries data set before Christmas following pressure from campaigners”
  • A Library is not just for Christmas – Public Libraries News via The Library Campaign. “The thing is, public libraries are quiet over Christmas. It’s not our busiest time of year. That’s the Summer when hordes of kids come in with their parents and keep their reading levels up over the holidays, rewarded by stickers and medals. But it’s the season where the people using us most need us. They’ll do it quietly, walk in and do the stuff, whatever it is, be it browsing the books and taking out ten romances to keep them going over the few days we’re shut, or smiling gratefully at a simple task done for them or nodding to a familiar face. But it’s the time of year when they these people don’t have anywhere else to go. And we’re there for them, which makes me so proud, especially when I go home to my family, knowing that I’ve been part of a Christmas story for these people the quiet equal of any saccharine seasonal film my kids may watch on TV.”
  • Private equity firm Aurelius buys Connect Books – BookSeller. “The deal is expected to conclude in January, when Connect Books – which consists of wholesaler Bertram Books, online retailer Wordery, suppliers Dawson Books, Erasmus and Houtschild, and Bertram Library Services – will be rebranded back to Bertram Group.”

“No wonder the government is reluctant to release long overdue data collected by its Libraries Taskforce (see last Eye).  The figures collected every year by the independent Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) revealed last week that in 2016-17 a further 105 public libraries closed in England, Scotland and Wales. Local council spending on library services was cut by a whopping £66m, despite outcry at the mere £25m cuts in 2015-16.  Many surviving libraries have suffered severe cuts to opening hours and their ability to buy new stock. Next year’s figures are like to be no better.  Just days after the Cipfa figures emerged, Warwickshire council announced plans to stop Sunday opening at the three larger libraries where it is currently available (Nuneaton, Leamington and Rugby).  Convenient weekend opening hours have been highlighted repeatedly in government reports on how to modernise libraries, including by the Libraries Taskforce.” Private Eye – Library News

  • Public Libraries – They Work For You. House of Commons, 21 Dec 2017. John Glen MP (libraries minister) notes social mobility aspect of public libraries and how the Government is assisting libraries by setting up Taskforce and Libraries Deliver funding. Labour Plymouth MP notes library cuts in the town and hopes for no more. John Glen points out Plymouth can ask for arts funding and can partner with other arts institutions [! – Ed.], Conservative MP for Northants notes cuts there and asks about possibility of setting up a trust there, John Glen says will look into it, Labour MP notes similarity between library cuts and Scrooge, John Glen says its great that volunteers run libraries along with “thousands of librarians”, Conservative MP praises volunteer library in his area, Kevin Brennan shadow libraries minister points out 100 libraries closed last year and that libraries are engines of social mobility [quoting me, quit excitingly – Ed.] followed by libraries minister pointing out volunteers are great.
Always nice to be quoted in parliament

Always nice to be quoted in parliament

An online bookclub from Axiell
International news

  • Canada – Opinion: Public libraries make a smart economic investment – Edmonton Journal. “Public libraries remain one of the best investments governments can make to ensure our communities thrive and our economy prospers”
  • Canada – Urban Etiquette: Is segregating homeless library users a heartless idea? – Metro News. ” try not to think of people who look (and yes, smell) different from you as an entity that can be labelled and corralled in a separate space simply because you think what you’re doing is more important than what they’re doing.”
  • China – A closed book: Dumping of books reveals poor management of Hong Kong’s libraries – Hong Kong Free Press. “A mountain of boxes block one side of a quiet street. Some are torn, spilling their contents onto the floor. Closer inspection reveals the boxes to be filled with books – with barcode labels and stamped with the chop of “Hong Kong Public Libraries” in Chinese. According to a January 2014 report in the Oriental Daily newspaper, over 300 such boxes were found near a pavement in Ap Lei Chau. The boxes were sealed with tape from the Hong Kong Central Library and filled with library materials, some close to new and without any checkout records. All of them were marked with the words “withdrawn by Hong Kong public libraries” on their back pages.”
  • EU – Public Libraries 2020: Challenging the perceptions of policy makers – Princh. “Based not far from the EU institutions, the PL2020 team has a strong focus on putting libraries on the EU agenda. We work together with librarians, associations and advocates to raise awareness of the value of public libraries as partners for social and economic development under the Europe 2020 strategy. “
  • USA – The Extinction of Libraries: Why the Predictions aren’t Coming True – Huffington Post. “Technology gives people a platform but not a place, people need  a place and the library is increasingly becoming that place whether for business incubation and networking activities or for learning and growing”
  • USA – Father of Modern Libraries Was a Serial Sexual Harasser – History Channel. “Dewey is remembered today as an innovator who ushered American librarianship into the modern age. He helped invent the modern library, shaping everything from its organizational methods to its look to the roles of the librarians who were their stewards. But his pattern of sexual harassment was so egregious that women like Hasse dared to speak out against it, at a time when women were harshly judged for reporting sexual harassment. So many came forward that he was kicked out of the profession’s most prestigious association after an industry cruise in Alaska turned dangerous for women. “

“though Dewey championed women in library science, he also seemed to think that harassment came along with the job—and his obsession with female students’ sexuality was so overt that rumors circulated he asked them to submit their bust measurements along with their applications.”

  • USA – Other duties as assigned – Awful Library Books. List of the weird and wonderful things library staff need to do. “as you contemplate your future career goals, consider the following “extra” duties in library jobs. For you library veterans, make sure you include these skills on your next performance review or resume. Please share your own special “other duties as assigned” in the comments”

Local news by authority

    • Birmingham – Review of 2017 – July: Channel 4’s move, Library of Birmingham on a stamp and investor sought for Smithfield – Birmingham Post. “The Library of Birmingham was among a group of UK landmarks to be honoured on a new stamp. It was one of ten buildings selected for the Royal Mail’s Special Stamp set featuring contemporary architecture in the UK. Among the other structures chosen in July to feature were the Blavatnik Building at Tate Modern, the Eden Project and Everyman Theatre in Liverpool. Designed by Francine Houben of Dutch practice Mecanoo, she intended the Library of Birmingham to be a “people’s palace” and believed libraries to be “the most important public buildings”.”

  • Buckinghamshire – BBC Oxford. Volunteers seen as solution to cutting libraries. Buckinghamshire libraries chief David Jones says volunteers save 40% of running costs and he has been able to cut people’s salaries by £740k due to willingness of others to do jobs for free.
  • Buckinghamshire – Could 2018 spell the end for Bucks’ mobile library services? – Bucks Free Press. “More than 800 people have had their say about mobile libraries around Bucks, which could be scrapped by May next year under new proposals. The service is under threat due to dwindling numbers, with figures revealing that in the last two years, almost three quarters of the 65 service stops by the county council’s three mobile library vehicles are being used by less than five customers each time.”
  • Bury – Lib Dem cllr calls Bury libraries opening times cut as massacre – Bury Times. “Cllr Tim Pickstone says that with these new times there will only be two opportunities each week for a working family to visit all together. Cllr Pickstone said: “We opposed the closure of the ten libraries, but councillors were clearly ‘sold’ the idea that that closing 10 would secure the viability of the four that remain.”
  • Ceredigion – Volunteers to take over library after U-turn – Cambrian News. “After Ceredigion County Council chiefs confirmed they would bankroll the facility, the Llandysul Library Supporters Group announced their plans this week. Spokesperson Lesley Parker said they hoped to keep the library open for two-and-a-half days each week, having been promised the services of a professional librarian on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.”
  • Darlington – Darlington library worker rewarded for inspiring next generation – Northern Echo. “Suzy Hill was among the top five people in the country in the running for the Best Bookstart Rhymetime award. Ms Hill runs eight Rhymetime sessions a week at Darlington’s libraries and in doing so, helps to develop the language and social skills of babies and young children.”
  • Darlington – Government investigating complaints about the pending closure of Darlington’s Crown Street Library – Northern Echo. “Government is investigating complaints about the pending closure of Darlington’s historic Crown Street Library. Representatives from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) visited the town to gather evidence as they examine a formal complaint over proposed changes to library services. The grade II listed Crown Street building has been earmarked for closure under fiercely opposed plans approved by Darlington Borough Council as part of a £12.5m programme of budget cuts.”
  • Hartlepool – Getting creative at Hartlepool’s libraries – spot anyone you recognise from 2009? – Hartlepool Mail. “Send us your memories of nostalgic events in Hartlepool”
  • Lambeth – Greenwich Leisure Ltd will get Carnegie Library rent free for four years as Lambeth Council finalises plans for book-ish gym – Brixton Buzz. “Greenwich Leisure Ltd staff will be running the library facility for the majority of the time that it is open. The staff will be employed and managed by GLL. Qualified librarians will be available for two hours a day. GLL will be opening the gym in the basement in June 2018. This will be gifted to the company by Lambeth Council rent free for the next four years. From 2022 onwards GLL will pay an annual rent of £40,000, plus a ‘share of profits’ from the gym.”
  • Lancashire – Lancashire libraries offer free Christmas activities – Lancashire Telegraph. “Lancashire County Council has offered people the chance to listen to school choirs singing Christmas carols, seasonal stories or a visit from Santa Claus, there’s something for everyone. Other activities include attending a Christmas performance with sing-along fun or a pantomime theatre hunt followed by puzzles, games and crafts.”
  • Norfolk – Wymondham girl wins medieval themed mobile library naming competition – EDP 24. “Sir Learnalot’ was chosen as the winning submission, which is now emblazoned on the front of the van.” … “As part of her prize, Imogen, 12, was presented with a family ticket to Norwich Castle and Norfolk Museums, as well as a goodie bag from Norfolk Libraries and a bundle of Norwich Castle ‘keep sakes’. The mobile library is part of an ongoing partnership between Norwich Castle and Norfolk Libraries and aims to promote medieval history as part of the castle’s keep restoration project.”
  • North Lincolnshire – North Lincolnshire Imagination Library scheme recognised as the world’s most successful – Scunthorpe Telegraph. “The project, launched internationally by country music superstar Dolly Parton, sees all children who are registered to it receive a free book every month until their fifth birthday.” … “It has been in place in North Lincolnshire since February 2013 after a £250,000 investment by North Lincolnshire Council and since then, more than 363,000 books have been sent out to more than 14,400 children. And with 87 per cent of under-fives in the region registered with the Imagination Library, the North Lincolnshire scheme has been congratulated by the Dollywood Foundation for being the most successful international programme.”
  • North Lincolnshire – Plans tabled for new £1.2m library and wellbeing hub in North Lincolnshire – Scunthorpe Telegraph. “A  £1.2 million library and wellbeing hub for residents in a North Lincolnshire town has moved closer to becoming a reality. Plans have been submitted for the development at Baysgarth Leisure Centre, in Barton-Upon-Humber, by North Lincolnshire Council” … “We aim to bring a wide range of information, advice, leisure, health, wellbeing and lifelong learning opportunities together under one roof, making them much more accessible. There will also be an extended parking area to accommodate more customers.” … “The move will see the library and local link, currently based at Providence House, relocate to the leisure centre, along with the Health and Wellbeing Hub and Barton Adult Community Learning Centre.”
  • North Yorkshire – Partial closure for Skipton Library as building set for repair work in January – Craven Herald and Pioneer.
  • Northamptonshire – Boy, 9, makes speech to Northamptonshire County Council pleading for his library to stay open – Northampton Chronicle. “I just want it to stay open because it’s very important to some people.” Dad Nick then addressed the cabinet and explained he was expecting to be at Elliot’s school’s Christmas lunch, but instead his son had “dragged me here” because he was desperate to talk to the council and hand in his petition. “As you can see he’s articulate and he’s brilliant,” said Nick. “He’s nine years old and for the first five years it was me and him on our own, and he’s only articulate and brilliant because there was a Sure Start centre, because there was a library.”
  • Northamptonshire – Desborough residents looking into legal challenge of planned library closure – Northants Telegraph. “Paula Holmes, from the Save Desborough Library Group, said: “We felt it was worth doing as we’ve looked at some of the criteria [for the planned closure] and there are things that are subjective. “We want to raise the money to see if there is a case to answer and if we do we will. ”The initial target is £4,000, which will go towards instructing a barrister to review paperwork and documents, send a letter before action and advise on next steps”
  • Northamptonshire – Northamptonshire County Council chief got £95k pay-off – BBC News. In addition to Paul Blantern’s contractual payments. “In November, Blantern’s interim successor Damon Lawrenson wrote the authority did not have “enough money to cope” with the costs and demands for services, with the council’s 3,000 employees told to take a day’s unpaid leave as part of savings.”
  • Northamptonshire – Oundle Library – Hansard. “I rise to present this petition regarding the future of Oundle library on behalf of the people of Oundle and the surrounding area who rely on this vital facility that provides a range of important services for the community. The petition declares that the residents of Oundle and the surrounding area want Oundle library to remain open. A similar petition has received 1,474 signatures.” Tom Pursglove (Conservative MP for Corby).
  • Northumberland – No issues expected with library lease ahead of relocation – Northumberland Gazette. ” deal has been struck for the scheme to turn the Alnwick Playhouse into a community hub, which will house the library”
  • Pembrokeshire – More than a library: Haverfordwest town council visits new county library – Western Telegraph. “The town council recently agreed to help fund Pembrokeshire County Council’s new library so it could open all day on Saturdays instead of closing at 1pm, the current Saturday closing time. During the site visit, town councillors heard that the new facility will be much more than a library. It will also include tourist information provision, a coffee shop, and a top quality exhibition gallery in partnership with the National Library of Wales.”
  • Richmond Upon Thames – Whitton Library to close for nearly three months for revamp – Richmond and Twickenham Times. “Whitton Library will close for nearly three months for refurbishment in the new year. The works, taking place from January 13 to April 2, will include roof repairs, ceiling replacement, the installation of new lighting and a fully accessible entrance door. New shelving, display units, a study area with computers, seating and space for activities and events will be added to the interior.”
  • Shropshire – Library’s big books sell-off is ideal for festive presents – Ludlow Advertiser.
  • Suffolk – More Ipswich schools sign up for innovative Let’s Talk Reading scheme in improving childrens’ literacy – Ipswich Star. “The Let’s Talk Reading project was formed last year by Roger Fern and John Helleur in response to research published which suggested that half of students started secondary school two years behind their reading age in some parts of Ipswich.” … “So far 10 Ipswich schools have been working with partners including Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Libraries, with three more having signed up – St Helen’s Primary School, Ipswich Academy and The Oaks Primary School.”
  • Swindon – New chapter for Liden library as Santa drops in – This is Wiltshire. “The event was organised by the Swindon Community Library Trust which took over the running of Liden Library and Covingham Library earlier this year. “
  • Warwickshire – Big changes could be on the way for libraries due to funding cuts – Leamington Observer. “Funding cuts from central government have prompted Warwickshire County Council to look at reducing opening hours and Sunday services. County library spokeswoman Coun Kam Kaur said “Many people are now using online services to renew their books. The old tradition of libraries are changing along with technology. “This means people’s needs and demands are changing too, and the local authority needs to be forward thinking and adapt to those changes.” But Labour county councillors have vowed to do everything possible to preserve library services and opening hours.”
  • Warwickshire – Future of Warwickshire libraries under threat – Stratford Observer. “Funding cuts from central government have prompted Warwickshire County Council to look at reducing opening hours and Sunday services. County library spokeswoman Coun Kam Kaur said “Many people are now using online services to renew their books. The old tradition of libraries are changing along with technology”.
  • West Dunbartonshire – Library users give their thoughts on planned cuts – Daily Record. “the consultation’s online survey has already come under criticism. One resident contacted the council via Twitter to say the process seemed inadequate as there was no option for people using a library more than once a week.” see also Public consultation on plans to cut West Dunbartonshire library hours extended – Daily Record.
  • Worcestershire – Worcestershire libraries bucking the national trend – Malvern Observer. “visits increased from 2,770,023 in 2015/16 up to 2,827,561 in 2016/17, a rise of 57,538. By comparison, the West Midlands as a whole saw a decrease in visits by 1.5 per cent and across England, the visitor numbers dropped by 3.1 per cent.” see also Hive books its place in the nation’s top ten – Worcester Observer.