The history of public libraries over the last few decades has been one of automation. There was Browne Issue tickets (row after row of cards) being replaced by computers then the internet replacing much reference work followed closely by self-service machines and, now, in over one hundred buildings, card-and-pin entry so no staff need to be present at all. Amazon have just apparently gone one further even than this by not requiring a bank card (or in our case, library card) at all. I’ve often thought that the ultimate conclusion – as long we have buildings and stock that is – is the doors scan you as you leave, recognise the library card (or app) in your pocket and leave with books but with no swiping. Amazon have brought this day closer but there are major problems with their approach when it comes to libraries. First off, libraries need to recognise not just the type of good (e.g. the book) but the item (e.g. that particular copy of the book). Secondly, the system apparently requires little cameras everywhere – well, there goes privacy then but, then again, many libraries have CCTV all over. Finally, the system requires on everyone to have a mobile phone and an app. Well, that goes against a couple of key library things right there, not least of which is being open to all, regardless of ability to pay. So if such a system comes to public libraries it will be in radically different form, or it will be a radically different library.

Changes by authority

National news

  • Applying for funding masterclasses – Libraries Taskforce. “The Arts Council is currently running some workshops for library staff to help them apply for their Grants for the Arts funding. Sessions are still due to run in Exeter Phoenix on 25 January, Nottingham Playhouse on 1 February and Cambridge Junction on 8 February. To compliment this, the Taskforce is now running 4 masterclasses which will particularly focus on supporting services who want to apply for non-Arts Council funding.”
  • Carillion and LS&S; the dangers of library privatisation – Stop the privatisation of public libraries. “Right from the start Unison, the main union representing library workers, experienced barriers in negotiating recognition agreements which really isn’t that surprising considering Carillion’s involvement in a major blacklisting scandal. If you wanted tangible proof of their mismanagement you only had to visit Croydon Central Library, it was a mess with half-empty and untidy shelves, one of the worst children’s libraries you’ve ever seen and a visible lack of staff or even self-service kiosks that worked, it was a disgrace.”
  • Chief Librarian – British Library. “The British Library is seeking an exceptional leader to be its new Chief Librarian, in succession to Caroline Brazier, who retires this summer after 15 years of distinguished service to the Library. The successful candidate will join the organisation at a critical and exciting moment in its history, as it delivers its ambitious Living Knowledge vision ahead of its 50th anniversary in 2023.”

An online bookclub from Axiell
International news

  • Canada – Nelson: World eagerly awaits Calgary’s new central library – Calgary Herald. Architectural Digest chooses library as one of twelve most eagerly awaited buildings.
  • Global – The Public Library of 2027 – Medium. By looking at past trends, we can libraries will be ever more places to interact.
  • USA – Inside Amazon Go, a Store of the Future – New York Times. “the technology that is also inside, mostly tucked away out of sight, enables a shopping experience like no other. There are no cashiers or registers anywhere. Shoppers leave the store through those same gates, without pausing to pull out a credit card. Their Amazon account automatically gets charged for what they take out the door.” [The key here is that library systems need to identify each individual item, Amazon need only identify each product – and of course one needs the app in the first place – Ed.]

Local news

  • Bromley – Bromley library staff and care workers threaten strike amid outsourcing row – News Shopper. “Trade union Unite has questioned Bromley Council after strike action was threatened by workers at two of its contractors. Potential action at Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL), which employs 36 workers at 14 libraries, and Certitude Support, which employs 20 care workers, could impact services in the borough. Onay Kasab, Unite regional officer, said: “Tory-controlled Bromley Council has been a major cheerleader for the privatisation of public services, but GLL and Certitude Support have woefully failed to live up to the public service ideal, hence the two strike ballots.” … “The GLL ballot is about staffing, pay and time off for union duties. Staff are at breaking point, with workers being shipped in from neighbouring boroughs to help cover the gaps. This is the only thing that has stopped Bromley’s libraries from closing because of inadequate staffing. ” Council leader responds ““I understand that Mr Kasab still feels that his union were, and to quote him verbatim “done in by the Labour Councillors on Greenwich Council over Greenwich Leisure Ltd, but the simple fact of the matter remains that to date, GLL have provided a good service to Councils of both political leanings and that the transfer of Bromley’s library service to their management has thus far passed off well. “
  • Croydon – Staff left in the cold for four months after heating at Norbury Library broke – Croydon Advertiser. “Staff at the library have been coping with a lack of heating since October, though the problem is finally expected to be fully fixed this week. The librarians have managed to keep the public service running throughout the winter, retaining popular services and children’s events like Bookstart Rhymetime every Friday, and adult reading groups. The lack of heating came to light during the collapse of Carillion, which has been running Croydon’s libraries under contract since 2012 but went into liquidation on Monday, January 15.”
  • Ealing – Save Ealing Libraries from Being Outsourced & Save Library Jobs – Change.org. “Ealing, along with Croydon, Harrow and Hounslow, outsourced its library services in September 2013, to the contractor John Laing Integrated Services, which sold the contract on to Carillion in 2013, and it was, in turn, subsequently managed under the umbrella of ‘Cultural Community Services’.  Following the collapse of Carillion (January 16th) we object to the library service remaining outsourced by Carillion or any other private company. We, the undersigned, petition, the Council to intervene to terminate its contract with Carillion and bring all of Ealing’s 13 libraries back under Council control to safeguard its future library provision plus guarantee the jobs of library staff.”

“Ealing Library is not just another business on the high street, it is a sanctuary, a safe place, and a place of learning. It is a place that has turned lives around, and saved lives. It should never be left to companies who are motivated by financial profit . The jobs of the people that work at this library must be protected. The people who have dedicated so much of their lives to this place must be respected. I have always received a wonderful welcome when I visit this library, and I know how much it means to the community. Save it, and you’ll save us.” Benjamin Zephaniah

  •  East Sussex – Revamped Hastings library to open doors to the public in March – Hastings Observer. “The interior of the library, in the Brassey Institute, in Claremont, has been completely refurbished with new furniture, more computers, free Wi-Fi and improved toilet facilities. Cllr Bill Bentley, the county council’s lead member for community services, said: “The newly refurbished and extended library is a fantastic asset to Hastings, and demonstrates our commitment to continuing to invest in a library service that is fit for the future”
  • Essex – Cutbacks to mobile libraries sees half of district’s stops scrapped – Maldon Standard. “Residents in the district are amongst the most regular users of the facilities, however 28 of the district’s 50 mobile library stops will be scrapped as part of an £80,000 saving for the council. “
  • Gloucestershire – £16,000 make-over brings all the comforts of a coffee house to Cheltenham Library – Gloucestershire Live. “Cheltenham Library will undergo a £16,000 refurb this March that will see its all-new study area compete with high street coffee shops as a destination for people to work and study whilst enjoying a hot drink. The make-over will see the library’s balcony area kitted out as a ‘comfortable area’ for work and study with new plush sofas and hot drink facilities.”
  • Lambeth – Pressure groups step up campaign over library plans – SW Londoner. “Even though, the library is set to reopen on February 15, Friends of Carnegie Library, a community group in Herne Hill, have opposed the council’s plans to make changes to the service. Jeff Doorn, chair of Friends of Carnegie Library, said: “We had a full library, open 36 hours a week, fully staffed by professional librarians with nearly 20,00 books, many clubs, activities and events. It was a thriving, successful library with increasing membership, [who were] visiting and borrowing every single month. “We want the library to reopen as it was and more. But in fact, it will be much reduced”
  • Lancashire – Big increases in library charges and Gawthorpe Hall entry – Lancashire Telegraph. “The authority’s Opposition leader Cllr Azhar Ali and his Labour colleague Mark Townsend, leader of Burnley council, have criticised the rises for hitting library users and deprived families”
  • Lancashire -Library friends groups to be given bigger roles when taking over libraries – Lancashire Telegraph. “Proposals agreed mean friends of library groups will have a bigger role in supporting the service to develop and promote library-based activities rather than acting as ambassadors”
  • Lancashire – Row erupts over plans to transform former Trawden library – Lancashire Telegraph. “proposals to transform a former library into a village post office and community shop. Trawden Forest Community Centre has submitted plans for a change of use of Trawden Library in Church Street. The building would have a mixed use, split into a post office and community shop and another library. But the group, who formed three-and-a-half years ago to open a community centre in the village, said Lancashire County Council was ‘dithering’ on transferring the ownership of the building.”
  • Leeds – Leeds LibraryFest 2018 – Leeds Inspired.
  • Manchester – Augmented reality First World War collection to be showcased at Central Library – Manchester Council. “While her paintings appear conventional at a first glance, Blippar allows the viewer to unlock the creative journey of each painting with their smartphone, stripping away the countless layers of paint and revealing the deeply personal process beneath every piece through poetry, animation and music.” [iPads are given out sothere’s no need to download an app – Ed.]
  • North Yorkshire – Volunteers thanked for saving North Yorkshire’s libraries – Northern Echo. “The chair of North Yorkshire County Council, Cllr Helen Swiers, met about 40 volunteers from libraries at two tea parties held in their honour at County hall in Northallerton on Monday (January 15) and Wednesday (January 17). She told the volunteers: “I would like to express my sincere thanks on behalf of the county council for all that you have done to keep the libraries not only open, but thriving.”
No-one can accuse Sajid of being long-winded

No-one can accuse Sajid of being long-winded

  • Oxfordshire – Abbey Hall could reopen as library in new ‘community hub’– Oxford Mail. ” a ‘community hub’ around Abingdon’s Guildhall could see the town’s library move into the Abbey Hall. Oxfordshire County Council, which runs the library, and Abingdon Town Council, which owns the Guildhall, unveiled this week an agreement to work more closely to join up public services within Abingdon.”
  • Somerset – Somerset libraries under threat again – BookSeller. “The council has proposed the closures despite a 2011 High Court ruling which said that Somerset and Gloucestershire County Councils would not be able to withdraw funding from some of their libraries. The body said that the proposals “seek to put the service on a sustainable footing for the long-term, at a time when all council budgets are under enormous pressure”.”
  • Somerset – Somerset says only volunteers can keep libraries open – Guardian. “Speaking about the new consultation, Friends of Somerset Libraries’s John Irven, who was part of the legal action in 2011, told ITV News: “The question will come when we look at the final resources available, how much local communities can or can’t contribute into these areas and what the ultimate solution is. But let’s not pre-judge it before we start, let’s actively engage and hopefully come up with solutions.”” see also Fifteen Somerset libraries could be closed – ITV.
  • Staffordshire – Big Lottery windfall will help village library start new chapter – Sentinel. “The village is set to welcome back a permanent library this year, following a succesful bid by Glean Hub ( Gnosall Library, Environment Nurture Hub) to re-open the facility. Last week the Newsletter reported that Glean Hub had received a £200 boost from Gnosall Freemasons towards the project. And at last week’s Gnosall Parish Council meeting there was news of an even larger donation. Councillor Mary Booth, Glean Hub trustee and vice chair, said: “We have been successful in our application to the Big Lottery Fund. We have a grant we are going to receive of £9,830; that is fantastic news for the new year.”
  • Staffordshire – The fight is on for Penkridge Library for the second time – Sentinel. “The fight is on yet again to save Penkridge Library from being moved into the community and run by volunteers. Staffordshire County Council has launched its consultation on the future of its libraries and Penkridge is earmarked for the move – for a second time. A major campaign in 2014, which saw more than 2,500 people petitioning, forced the council to re-think the proposal and keep Penkridge within its management. And residents say they are determined again to ensure Penkridge’s future”
  • Wiltshire – Mobile library times ‘changing in response to demand’ says council – Wiltshire Times. “Over 760 people replied to the authority’s regular two-year consultation exercise, and the council says every effort has been made to incorporate customer suggestions and comments into the final routes, which will begin on Monday, February 12. “