Something which passed by at the time, possibly because it made no mention of public libraries, was a report by Arts Council England late last year on trends in the British book market. It makes interesting companion reading to those of us (probably including everyone following this blog) who know what’s happening to public libraries. Before I get into that, though, I should say ACE are aware of libraries – I was at a meeting with them and publishers last week and libraries came up a lot, it’s just it got missed in the report.

First thing is that fiction sales are down by nearly one-half since 2008, with hardback fiction price-per-book down 44% since 2001 and paperback books down 25%. The reason for the book price drop is assigned to the removal of the net book agreement (1997), the massive success of online book discounter (mainly Amazon), and a “general collapse in the price of content” due to the internet. Capping all of this off is the impact of the ebook, which from 2010/11 reached 33% of all books sold (with up to 90% of those on the Kindle, a monopoly run by Amazon). In recent years, prices have improved slightly, as have print sales, although ebooks are still officially a quarter of the market, and may be more (as a substantial part of Amazon’s ebooks are not included). So, basically, the decline in issues in public libraries is not unique to that but a general thing. Well, I think we knew that. And book issues decline is not far out of whack with the trend in book sales in the same period.

But what drew my attention was something that was skirted around with in the report. Basically, the biggest impactor on book sales has been (a) book discounting, near-monopolised by Amazon and (b) ebooks,, also dominated by Amazon. Remember that the next time your finger hovers over the “buy” button on their site.


National news

  • End of the Library – New Zurich Times (in German, translated via Google). A Swiss look at the UK public library sector. “They are feeling bad. They are threatened with destruction. For years you always read about it, in discrete, but deeply melancholic articles. The library dying in the UK is a silent, creeping death that makes no headlines … Closing underfunded, internally hollowed-out libraries, suffering from long-term political cuts, by disinterest or neglect, is much harder to oppose” … “But not all is lost yet. There is still some resistance, especially from the Library Campaign, which vigorously documents and fights the decline of the beloved reading places. So if more libraries die, and that is to be foreseen, then at least they do not go down honorless and without a fight.”
  • Formulating your Business Plan Community Libraries Network. “Community [volunteer]  libraries can have some strong Unique Sales Points (space, captive audience, volunteer numbers, local reputation, footfall and location) but these need identifying and to some degree monetising with innovative new services to create the income that will sustain the whole operation. “
  • Libraries are Civilisations Festival partners – Libraries Taskforce. “The Civilisations Festival is a collaboration between the BBC and museums, galleries, libraries and archives, shining a light on British collections, sparking conversations and sharing ideas about what the term ‘civilisation’ means. Over 300 organisations are taking part as Festival Partners – with more than 250 events”
  • Literature in the 21st Century: Understanding Models of Support for Literary Fiction – Arts Council England. No mentions of public libraries in 57 page document. see also Ensuring the success of literary fiction – Arts Council England. General fiction sales down nearly 50% since 2008. Hardback fiction price down 44% in real terms since 2001, paperbacks down 25%, stabilising recently. £1bn removed from market at worst point. Due to removal of net book agreement (1997), Amazon, “general collapse in the price of content” due to the internet. All but top 1000 authors cannot now make a full living from booksales. Ebook sales impacted 2010/11 (with Kindle, Amazon again, up to 90% of the ebook market), Ebooks up to 33% of market share 2014, although down to 25% in 2016 (but a lot of ebooks not covered in that statistic so may be higher, possibly even still increasing). Prices now recovering slightly, and Waterstones no longer under threat. Continued barriers to minorities (including those from poorer backgrounds) entering publishing and authoring.
  • The Oddest Thing Found in a UK library book – Claire Fuller. “postcards, a ‘herbal’ cigarette, train tickets, receipts, hairclips, loo roll, ribbons, spooky tarot cards, and quite a bit of money. Some of the money was reunited with its owners, as was the baby scan photo found in a parenting book. “

An online bookclub from Axiell
International news

  • Afghanistan – Library on wheels brings joy of books to Afghan kids – AP News. “The children of Kabul love the blue bus — they rush toward it every time it pulls into their street, eager to come onboard, their young eyes brimming with excitement. But it’s no ordinary bus. Its name is Charmaghz, the Dari word for Walnut, and it’s a library on wheels”
  • USA / UK – Find Your Sister LibraryAmerican Libraries. “deputy director at Alexandria Library, planned a 13-city, 14-library tour of the United Kingdom—where language wouldn’t be a barrier. They started at Dundee Libraries in Scotland, with whom they developed a sister-library focus.” … “n Liverpool, they had encountered the most beautiful library either had seen—stunning architecture melding history with modernity and an emphasis on user experience.”
  • USA – Fire in the Library Board Game – Kickstarter. “Players are heroic librarians rescuing books to accumulate knowledge and earn bravery all while avoiding the flames before the library collapses”
  • USA – Library Storytime: It’s a Lot More than just the Story – Medium. “Storytime is not just a fun library activity, but the beginning of what can be a beautiful relationship for your child and your local public library.”

Local news by authority

  • Barnet – Fire safety issues in Barnet Libraries – Barnet Unison. “Barnet Unison have been inspecting Libraries to see if the FRA actions have been carried out. In most cases these have not been completed. Unison have raised this at a number of escalating meetings to the highest level and in our inspection reports.”
  • Derby – Look which city library is first in the city to be run by volunteersDerby Telegraph. “People in Sinfin will be able to borrow books from Derby’s first volunteer-run library when a city charity takes it over on May 14. By Christmas, it is intended that the programme will be rolled out so that 10 of Derby’s libraries will be run under the management of housing and advice charity Direct Help and Advice (DHA), based in Phoenix Street, in partnership with Community Action Derby and the Citizens Advice Bureau.”
  • East Sussex – Date announced for closure of seven libraries – Eastbourne Herald.
  • Northern Ireland – Northern Ireland library staff threatened over honouring former Israeli president Belfast Telegraph. “Online attacks on a Belfast library over its hosting of an event marking the centenary of the birth of a former President in Israel have been condemned” … “But it sparked fury on social media, and even an online petition titled: “No more war criminals or apologists for genocide in the Linen Hall library”” … “There is no suggestion that anything untoward was done or said at the event. “. This is a private subscription library.
  • Portsmouth – Libraries to offer mental health support – The News. “To help people manage their wellbeing and mental health, a variety of books will be made available on the topic. “
  • Renfrewshire – Library books could be delivered to housebound – Renfrewshire 24. “Renfrewshire Leisure hopes to introduce a new service after consultation has taken place with organisations that provide supportive care to people who are unable to get out of their homes. Tablets could be used to access the thousands of titles available in local libraries and books could be delivered by those who make regular home visits to the housebound.”
  • Somerset – Decision delayed on town library – Wellington Weekly News. “Somerset County Council has extended to June 13 a consultation exercise on its plans which was set to finish on April 22. The council said it wanted stakeholder groups to have more time to ask questions and to give itself longer to receive feedback on the controversial proposals.”
  • Sutton – Sutton Central Library: Reopening date announced after refurbishment Your Local Guardian. “Having been closed for months since last November, it will now feature a new children’s library on the ground floor, as well as an improved café, toilets, baby changing facilities and buggy park. There are also designs to accommodate children and adults with learning difficulties. New self-service machines will also be installed for taking out and returning books with upgrade computers and software.”
  • Wolverhampton – Penn Library officially open again after £60,000 makeoverExpress and Star. “Sparkling new Penn Library is open once again to visitors, after being closed since December while extensive work took place inside and out.” … “The new facilities are excellent, with new seating and flooring, including colourful tables and chairs for younger readers, creating a warm and welcoming environment for our customers.”