It’s a strange thing about Arts Council England. I’ve seen pretty much everyone else nationally and locally being criticised over the years for their stance on public libraries but almost nothing about ACE. The reason I suspect is they’re a bit out of context and also a bit like, well, Father Christmas, albeit one with an interest in culture rather than presents and carefully written bids rather than who’s been naughty and nice. They’re also somewhat limited in what they can fund. So we don’t hear much from them other than seeing the results in lots of shows and artworks going on in libraries such as the “Library Lion” below and also some of the projects that Time To Read runs (also below). It’s good therefore to hear from them and this week we have none other than the boss, Nicholas Serota, talking libraries to CILIP.

He comes across as an intelligent chap and he is to applauded for the post, with thoughtful comments, although it’s clear his expertise in other sectors. For example, he wonders why authors aren’t as involved in libraries as artists are in galleries. Well, the reason is that they’re qualitatively different – people read the books at home while art has to be seen in the gallery. However, there’s always more space for authors to be involved in libraries, especially as they’re just such supporting people and the e-book revolution hasn’t really taken place as many thought it would. It’s my pleasure in Time To Read to help this process and it’d be great to see more of it nationally as well. Bring on the authors.

National news

  • Building The Literacy Library – Crowdfunder. 1 in 8 children don’t have a book at home. Over £50,000 raised for new library to help teachers and schools.
  • Entries now open for the Libraries Change Lives Award – CILIP. “Applications are open for the 2018 CILIP Libraries Change Lives Award for innovative library and information projects and services that have a positive and demonstrable impact on their user community and reflect intelligent service design or best practice delivery. “
  • Fake Non-Profits – lies, damned lies and Carillion’s non-profit companies – Ed Mayo’s Blog. “When we look at the accounts submitted to Companies House, the story becomes visible. Cultural Community Solutions made no profit because it looks as if it has paid all of its profit out to others including companies in the Carillion family. From year to year, gross profit is simply eaten up by the ‘administrative expenses’. In 2016, they were exactly the same figure.” … “As a non-profit, they could also do something that other commercial, or indeed in-house services, could not, which is to claim discretionary relief on business rates payable on library premises. As with the big fostercare companies financed by offshore venture capital, designed to escape taxation, the financial profits this non-profit passed through to Carillion were in every possible way a gift from the taxpayer.” … “Anyone can call themselves a non-profit, just as many can claim to be a social enterprise, but there is an underlying first principle that needs to be recognised, as in the International Statement of Co-operative Identity, which is that of independence.”
  • Making sure there’s time to read – Libraries Taskforce / Time To Read. [This is a post by me in day job – Ed.] “Time To Read is a unique collaboration between the North West library authorities to promote reading for those aged 16+ via shared projects, promotion, news and best practice. Its origins can be traced back all the way to 1996. Membership of the partnership fluctuates but currently numbers 22 out of the 23 eligible services, each paying in an annual subscription which covers a part-time co-ordinator and such things as meetings and promotions.”
  • A progressive professional body for a global sector – Research Information. Ayub Khan, president of CILIP: “four-year plan to 2020 is shaped around the central goal of putting ‘library and information skills at the heart of a democratic, equal and prosperous society’ … “anything else – so keeping libraries on the agenda will be a challenge. I will focus on libraries’ future potential, as well as their proud traditions.”

Dear Librarian

Just a quick note to remind you to nominate for the CWA Dagger in the Library 2018. It’s very easy to do: just go along to  http://daggerreads.co.uk/dagger-in-the-library/ and submit your nomination. Up to three staff members of each library can nominate. Please note this year we’re looking for a mainstay of crime writing; someone who has published more than 10 books and whose first book was published before 2008. In 2018 we want the Dagger in the Library to reward those authors (crime fiction and non-fiction) who have given most pleasure to library users over the years. The deadline is February 28, and we are pleased to have the support of The Reading Agency. Please pop to the site and nominate before the deadline – it takes about 2 minutes.

’d also like to remind you about the Margery Allingham Short Story Competition. That’s for a short story up to 3,500 words loosely around the Golden Age writer’s definition of what makes a mystery. That definition, and other details, are on the CWA website here. Entry fee is £12, and the prize is £500 plus books and two passes to CrimeFest 2019 – a fabulous mystery writers convention in Bristol not to be missed. You can download a poster on the Short Story page or here from DaggerReads.

I’ll be writing to you soon about National Crime Reading Month in May.  Meanwhile, please do send in those Dagger in the Library nominations! There are so many authors who have given pleasure to library users for years, and this is a great chance to say thanks on the readers’ behalf.


Dea Parkin – Secretary of the CWA

  • Some thoughts on ‘Library Lion’ – Untied Artists. “I started to wonder if it would be possible to create a site specific performance of the book that drew on my experiences as a parent at storytime, captured and shared the magic of the book, and was somehow able to comment on the fact that libraries are nothing less than essential to a thriving, caring, enlightened community.” … “after quite a lengthy process of grant bids and negotiations with libraries, schools, publishers and venues, I’m really pleased with the results, and we’ve been able to bring the show to some quite ‘low engagement’ areas. This week, before performing to a small group of SEN students in Gornal Library, I had a quick chat with the wonderful librarian there. Note librarian in the singular.” see also Library Lion – Untied Artists. “Dudley Libraries, Untied Artists and Birmingham Rep bring this beautiful children’s book to life in celebration of an endangered species – the local library.”
Well, that can't be safe - the Library Lion in action. Credit: Graeme Braidwood

Well, that can’t be safe – the Library Lion in action. Credit: Graeme Braidwood

  • Special agent for library development – CILIP. “The Arts Council England is the development agency for public libraries and Sir Nicholas Serota, its chair, believes the sector could use the experience of other cultural organisations as it builds a public library service fit for the 21st century.” … “The extent of his influence not only depends on the priority and resources that ACE directs towards libraries, but also on the extent to which the sector and local authorities are prepared to listen.” … “I think the core of the library activity remains freeing imaginations through access to literature, knowledge in its broadest sense. But I think we’re really talking about reinventing what that dog is rather than adding something to” … “Libraries are places that are trusted, they are places that are regarded as safe. That’s often not true of some arts ­organisations, which can be regarded as being elitist and separate” .. “Becoming entrepreneurial is not a comfortable process” … “Writers have probably been less engaged in the development of libraries than they might be”

“I think libraries and ­librarians have a responsibility to try and build a service that is ­inspirational as well as simply offering cover for basic needs. And that’s probably where the Arts Council has a part to play.”” Sir Nicholas Serota

An online bookclub from Axiell

International news

  • Bangladesh – Can revitalization of public libraries bring back bookworms? – Dhaka Times. ” at a time when the government is aiming to build Digital Bangladesh by 2021, libraries, at the heart of the information-centred society, have somehow been excluded from the development plan, say information management professionals.”
  • European Union – Turn on Literature, a cooperation project in libraries about literature and the digital technologies – NAPLE Sister Libraries. Change in reading: “The EU-project “Turn on literature” is all about addressing these issues.  Three libraries from Bergen (Norway), Ramnicu Valcea (Romania) and Roskilde (Denmark) are in cooperation with authors, artists and researchers  approaching the field of digital literature through:”
  • India – In the City: A Library….a photographic journey that revisits the dying culture of accessing public libraries – Booked For Life. Decline obvious. “libraries. We can lament here, but I must also say that the apathy is on both sides. Sometimes, institutions do not give the vibe of being member-friendly. At the end of the day, institutions are alive if people are using them. The tragedy is that we are not using them”
  • USA – Apple And Walmart Inject New Life Into Sleepy E-Book Market – Forbes. “The e-book market has stalled. Back in 2013, e-books were predicted to exceed print books in sales by now. But instead, according to Nielsen data, 2013 turned out to be the peak year for e-book sales, and the market has declined slowly ever since. 2016 figures from AuthorEarnings suggest that unit sales of trade e-books (that is, the kinds of books you’d buy at a retail store, as opposed to a college textbook, medical treatise, etc.) have settled down just above 20% of overall trade book sales. That number probably underestimates the real total somewhat; for example, it doesn’t include titles published through Amazon’s own imprints, which are likely to sell proportionately more as e-books than in print. But it’s fair to say that e-books are not doing to books what digital has done to music” Amazon control 83% of market.
  • USA – The unexpected role librarians are playing in Sacramento’s homeless crisis – Sacramento Bee. “as the homeless crisis deepens in the capital city and around the country, libraries increasingly are seeing people with untreated mental illnesses that cause them to act oddly, or put themselves or others in danger”

Local news by authority

  • Argyll – ‘Innovation hub’ mooted for Helensburgh’s library – Helensburgh Advertiser. “The idea is to create the hub within Helensburgh library to support start-up businesses and bring ideas from theory to the market place. People would pay to use the hub and the facilities where they would have access to business advice, mentors, areas for networking, high speed broadband, sources of finance and a potential customer base.”
  • Essex – New volunteer-run libraries – Leigh Times. “Six new volunteer-run community libraries could be coming to Essex as a result of a consultation on the county council’s mobile library service. Six community groups and organisations have come forward and expressed an interest in hosting a volunteer-run library.”
  • Lincolnshire – Deepings Library supports national scheme – Stamford Mercury. “Deepings Library in Market Deeping recently became a ‘learning destination’ in the scheme which means children can go there and get stamps when they take part in activities it puts on, such as its Lego club and reading challenges.”
  • Northamptonshire – MP visits Middleton Cheney’s under-threat library – Banbury Guardian. “Middleton Cheney’s under-threat library was visited last Saturday by MP for South Northamptonshire, Andrea Leadsom. The MP was greeted by the Library Action Group, the Library Supporters Group and residents who rely on the services provided” … ““I have been impressed with both the strength of feeling about maintaining these vital facilities, as well as the willingness of the local community on each visit to rise to the challenge of taking running their libraries into their own hands,” she said.”
  • Northamptonshire – Northamptonshire Libraries to pilot Axiell Quria – Axiell. Northamptonshire libraries, already an Axiell customer, will be the first in the UK (and the second site globally after Drammen, Norway launched Quria in September 2017 to implement Axiell’s latest library management solution. The pilot project will culminate in Quria being rolled out to all of Northamptonshire’s Public libraries and traded partners after a period of implementation and user feedback. “
  • Northamptonshire – Northamptonshire’s libraries will stay open another year but communities must take over, says final budget plan – Northants Telegraph. “The controversial proposals, which were open to public consultation last year, included options to close all of Northamptonshire’s small libraries and make almost half of its trading standards staff redundant.Now, the council they intend to introduce a “community-managed library model” where they hand over responsibility of smaller libraries to unpaid local volunteers.They will provide financial support to the libraries during 2018/19 as a “transition year” and pay a year of rent and utility costs from April 2019/20. After that, they will belong to the community.”
  • Wandsworth – MP Drops In For Coffee at Southfields Library – Putney SW1. “Putney MP Justine Greening popped into Southfields Library to show her support for the fundraising efforts of library staff and users. She attended the coffee morning at the library on Friday 2 February to meet staff from Better who were raising money for Cancer Research UK”
  • West Berkshire – “This council should not be propping up West Berkshire Council” – Newbury Today. “Conservative-run West Berkshire Council has been accused of using its Tory colleagues on Newbury Town Council to help “prop up” its statutory services. Liberal Democrats on the town council made the claim as councillors approved the budget for 2018/19, including a £31,000 contribution for the West Berkshire library service”