One of the many odd things about the UK is the dominance of London. It’s where the big businesses are, where government is and where the money is. House prices there make it very hard for anyone established elsewhere to move to it without accepting long commutes or far smaller accommodation. Set against this, transport links are such that it often makes more sense to have a national meeting there, despite it being in the South East corner, than anywhere else, and this will only be increased when HS2 (specifically designed to save travel times to the capital) is completed. In the public library world, the DCMS (and hence the Taskforce), the British Library and ACE are of course based there, as is CILIP. However, there’s no real big public library there on the scale of the biggest regional libraries (such as Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham) due to the multiple number of London boroughs.

A wave of new appointments, is now going to concentrate power in the capital even more. The SCL, due to its previously tiny staffing, was not particularly London-centric but the decision has been made that it’s new expanded staff will be based there. This follows on from the interesting decision to base the person in charge for the single digital presence – surely a job which by its very nature could be handled largely by computer – in the British Library in London, amongst the most expensive real estate in the world. These appointments show the huge magnetic attraction of the capital and, to some extent, represent a pragmatic realisation a lot of the meetings and business is going to be conducted there. And also it needs to be remembered that the SCL is highly regional in nature, with its new President being from the North East and its current one from Manchester. However, the decision to place the posts there has necessarily barred many from applying and places the onus more than before on the new improved SCL to demonstrate that it is not becoming yet another London body but rather is still a local one to all the multi-distributed librarians throughout the country.

Changes by authority

Big Ideas in Manchester

Big Ideas Day at Manchester Central Library is a celebration of the year long Big Idea Generators project supporting innovation and enterprise across the ten Greater Manchester authorities. Funded by the Libraries Innovation Fund, this unique project runs until April 2018 in libraries across the city region.

There’s a full programme and it’s all free in the one day micro festival for start ups, entrepreneurs, innovators and anyone with a big idea.  From research to pitching, intellectual property to social media the workshops, activities, talks and exhibitions are designed to help entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground. Plus there’s also a chance to relax and play around with 3D printing, electronic music making and the Internet of Things in the Ideas Room.

For the more adventurous there’s even a pitching contest. In the Big Idea Pitch, local entrepreneurs and innovators can pitch their business concepts, product or invention to a panel of judges from the Greater Manchester business and investment community. Fantastic prizes are provided by WeWork, Virgin Atlantic, Crowdcube, ADV & StartUpu – regional provider of Virgin StartUp. See the full programme at the Big Ideas BlogSue Lawson.

National news

  • Culture is Digital – DCMS. Incudes several mentions of libraries, although often the British Library or the various national libraries rather than public libraries, and a box on “Case Study: How digital has increased public libraries’ reach”
  • Integrated communities green paper – Libraries Taskforce. “The Green Paper was published earlier today (14 March) and we were pleased to see that libraries’ current work on supporting and building communities, and their efforts in supporting social integration was fully acknowledged and celebrated. Work in Suffolk on Chat and Chill sessions, bringing people from different communities – explicitly migrant families – together was chosen to feature as a case study [page 46]. see also Integrated Communities Strategy Green PaperGov.uk. Includes forewords by Theresa May and Sajid Javid.
  • This World Book Day revealed a culture in crisis – KCW Today. “If libraries continue their steady wane and children are left to fend for themselves on an internet engorged with lies, damn lies and Donald Trump’s tweets then humanities future won’t bright, it’ll be spray tan orange.”
  • We’re hiring – Society of Chief Librarians. Three posts.

An online bookclub from Axiell
International news

  • Canada – Calgary Public Library – Designing Libraries. “ew Central Library, the greatest civic project in Calgary since the 1988 Olympics, is currently under construction. The awe-inspiring 240,000 sq. ft. New Central Library opens in late 2018. At Calgary Public Library, we are building not only a great new Central library, but also a great new Library system. Just as New Central Library will be a cornerstone of downtown Calgary’s redevelopment, Calgary Public Library will play a key role in community building for Calgary’s growing neighbourhoods.”
  • Global – 3 essential elements to consider when creating a voice for the library: storytelling, experience, and play – Interview with Matt Finch – Princh. “That means creating physical and digital spaces which are safe and well-designed, but also non-prescriptive: sandboxes, where visitors can shape what happens, even if it leads you into unpredictable circumstances.” … “here’s really no distinction between programming and collections. Collections are maintained through ceaseless conservation activity; programming creates enduring memories and legacies for communities.”
  • Israel – UK’s Independent ranks Tel Aviv as top literary town – The Times of Israel. “Tel Aviv beaches even offer lending libraries with books in multiple languages, given that warm sand and a beach chair — or towel — is a great spot for a read.
  • USA – Public libraries invited to apply for ‘The Great American Read’ PBS programming grants ALA. ““The Great American Read” will engage audiences with a list of 100 diverse books, encouraging audiences to read the books, vote from the list of 100, and share their personal connections to the titles. Fifty U.S. public libraries will be selected through a competitive application process to receive a cash grant to support programs and events related to “The Great American Read.””

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeenshire – Fresh plans for facilities in North-east delayed – Evening Express. “Aberdeenshire Council met on Thursday to discuss fresh proposals for culture and sport after it was forced to scrap controversial plans to create an arms-length trust. Councillors were due to approve the business unit plans at the meeting, however, they decided to defer a decision until next month.”
  • Blackpool – An important resource or on brink of redundancy? – Gazette. Various lines from different commenters, starting with “Let’s face facts, libraries are on the brink of redundancy. Information that used to take at least the good part of an hour(If you even found it) now takes 20 seconds.”
  • Bradford – Dionne Hood: PPC Librarian of the Year – Libraries Taskforce. “It was a really pleasant and unexpected surprise to be given the PPC librarian of the year award. A member of staff reminded me ‘but you’re not a librarian!’ and, yes, this is true – and like many of us who work in public libraries, I don’t even have ‘librarian’ in my job title and have no library qualifications. I came into libraries after having being made redundant from lecturing in Art and Design. But I soon realised that I loved working in libraries and I relished the possibilities and challenges of working in a new sector. I also realised that coming from an arts and education background and being a ‘creative’ has its advantages when dealing with the many changes and different ways of working expected from today’s library service.”
  • Cheshire East – Have your say on proposed new library opening times – Alderley Edge.Com. “In November the Council published it Pre Budget Consultation for 2018-21 which included closing the library in order to save around £50,000 a year. However, they reconsidered their plans following residents’ feedback and a campaign by local residents to save the village library. It now proposed that the library will remain open for five half-days per week, allowing Cheshire East Council to reduce costs by not having to pay lunchtime cover for regular staff.”
  • East Sussex – Time to lead by example? – Sussex Express / Letters. “Not everyone does drive and his probable response would be to ask a neighbour to drive them. I saw this ridiculous suggestion in a consultation paper from ESCC a few years ago in regards to bus time cuts in more rural areas.”
  • Kirklees – Save Heckmondwike Library – Telegraph and Argus. “It’s hard to believe but there is actually a Government Minister for Libraries called Michael Ellis, he doesn’t seem to have done anything about opposing library closures. “
  • Lancashire – Earby library to reopen in new location – Citizen. “Lancashire County Council’s cabinet have agreed to set up Earby Library in the New Road Community Centre nearly two years after it was closed by the council’s previous administration. “
  • Newport – Maindee library, in Newport, temporary closes its doors ahead of major works – South Wales Argus. “Maindee Library, in Chesptow Road, closed its doors at 1pm today so that major works could begin tomorrow. John Hallam, programme manager and volunteer at Maindee Unlimited, who have run the library since 2015, said they have allocated up to £150,000 funding for the project. He said: “The Arts Council of Wales gave us the funding. It is very visionary for them to be investing in something like a community-run library.”
  • Northamptonshire – Northamptonshire County Council: £10m public health grant probe – BBC. Council has used £10m of Public Health money for purposes other than it was granted for. “The news was disclosed to councillors by officers during closed-door sessions in the run-up to the recent budget, which approved cuts to library services and bus subsidies.” see also Tight timescale for groups hoping to run libraries in Northamptonshire revealed – Northamptonshire Telegraph.Steve Thatcher, speaking at the meeting, said plans to take over Finedon’s small library would require his team of campaigners to raise £20,000.” … “Groups can choose between anything from a cheaper “bronze” to a more expensive “platinum” package as part of their agreements.” [! – Ed.]. Council intends to charge volunteers for every aspect of the service including use of library computers, property and books. and Councils forced to sell off parks, buildings and art to fund basic services – Guardian.

” in reality Northamptonshire merely had the dubious honour of last month becoming the first local authority since 1998 to be unable to balance its books. According to last week’s report by the government’s spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, there are around 15 councils that could follow suit in the next three years. The most likely contenders seem to be the Tory-run Surrey, Somerset, Lancashire and Norfolk county councils.” Guardian

“To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what recent assessment he has made of whether Northamptonshire County Council is meeting its statutory requirements under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service.” Kevin Brennan MP (Shadow Minister)

“The Department has received a number of representations following Northamptonshire County Council’s decision to revise its library service provision. We are carefully considering the representations to determine whether they will be treated as a formal complaint under the 1964 Act. If so, the Department will begin the process of investigating the complaint.” Matthew Hancock MP (Libraries minister)

  • Rotherham – A ‘Flourishing’ library – in Mowbray Gardens, Rotherham – Libraries Taskforce. “One project that is going from strength to strength is focused on people with low level mental health issues or who are suffering loneliness and isolation: Flourish. Flourish uses art-based activities such as storytelling, creative writing, poetry and painting in collaboration with guest poets and artists who have the experience of working with those with mental health issues” … “Another group which uses the library is the national housing association Home Group. They host weekly drop-in sessions here: one for men and one for women. ” … “‘Heart of the Community’ was an innovative project started at the library to raise money to buy 24 hour community access defibrillators for each of Rotherham’s 15 libraries” … “The Butterfly Project raised awareness of and addressed child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Asian households”
  • Suffolk – New chapter for Eye as library to go ahead – Diss Express. “Plans for a new library in Eye will go ahead with the aim of creating a “modern library building in the heart of the town”. Approval with conditions was given by Suffolk County Council’s development and regulation committee meeting on Tuesday.”
  • Wakefield – Opening hours could be cut at Featherstone and Airedale libraries in move to save £300k – Pontefract and Castleford Express. “The authority is proposing to shut Airedale and Featherstone libraries for one day a week, as part of plans to save £300,000.”
  • Wandsworth – Wandsworth Council Tax and Budget 2018 – South West London TV.People more books in Wandworth than any virtually other London borough” … modernising and investing libraries, new libraries and refurbished.