Northamptonshire Council, already becoming a by-word for mismanagement, with the Government expected to bring in Commissioners to run it, is now facing not one but two legal challenges against cuts to its library services. Such challenges can be very hit and miss but Northants has been such a good example of what not to do that I reckon there’s a good chance. Just to drive the point home, the council is now, apparently in all seriousness, aiming to use libraries as advertising spaces to bring in extra money. Whether there be any space left, what with the protest placards, though, is hard to say. As a counterweight to this desperation, it’s important to remember good things are happening elsewhere. For example, I’ve included a few Designing Libraries stories in this post, as I often do. These show refurbishments and new library buildings (although many are co-locations) and the pictures are often a joy to behold. I advise you to have a quick look at one to wash off the disgust if you read one of the Northants articles.


Norfolk Reading Pathway

“In Spring 2017, Norfolk Library and Information Service (NLIS) embarked on an innovative project, by taking an active role in helping adults across the county learn to read. With funding from the Arts Council’s Libraries Opportunities for Everyone Innovation Fund, NLIS set up the Norfolk Reading Pathway (NRP) to galvanise an army of volunteers to support learners in the community, on a one-to-one basis, to develop their reading skills. NRP would represent a new type of community engagement for the service and reach out to a significant population in the county.

NRP would target disadvantage in a rural county, where long distances and limited transport result in poor access to services. Estimates suggest that 1 in 7 adults of working age in the UK have the lowest functional literacy skills; in Norfolk, this equates to a potential audience of 83,000 adults. Approximately 13% of Norfolk’s working age population (66,000) have no qualifications, compared to 11.3% nationally. Lack of qualifications is linked to poor literacy skills which are also linked to poor economic, social and health outcomes. NRP’s aim was to engage with at least 150 volunteers and 750 emergent readers using Yes We Can Read*- a one-to-one phonics based teaching reading tool, which enables anyone who can read fluently to teach a poor or non-reader to read in 6 months or less.

NLIS chose Yes We Can Read as their key resource as it’s a fully guided tool to teach reading, which requires no training. The coach is guided through the whole process – from teaching individual phonic sounds, to blending sounds, building words and sentences… and on to reading fluency. A step by step progression grants the learner regular successes. Yes We Can Read builds confidence and self-esteem in both coach and learner. It is a fun and engaging way to learn, for anyone who has struggled to read. NRP recruited two project officers to set up and run the project across the county, with responsibility for recruiting and managing volunteers, recruiting learners, engaging with local agencies and businesses to ensure the project outcomes were delivered and for ensuring the sustainability of NRP beyond the Yes We Can Read program. Partners included public sector organisations such as Adult Social Care, Children’s Services, Health, social housing providers, Job Centre Plus and 37 of Norfolk’s schools.

The project has proven to be a huge success. After just 9 months, NRP had recruited and inducted over 180 volunteer coaches across the county, and had hit their target in referrals, resulting in 605 completed and current learners. Before starting Yes We Can Read, 75% of learners sampled said they were unable to read; 98% said their confidence was affected by their poor reading ability. Half way through the programme, 70% reported improved reading; on completion, 80% stated they could now read. Now funding has ended, NRP has been absorbed into the normal library service, largely led by library managers but with an overall lead of a community librarian, supported by a team of volunteer locality staff. NLIS is committed to NRP and continuing literacy development across the county. For more details, please contact Catherine White via email info@gatehousebooks.com or telephone 01925 267778. *Yes We Can Read – IBSN 9781842310755, published by Gatehouse Books” Catherine White, Gatehouse Books.

[Addition – Please note that the 70% and 80% figures quoted at the end of this article should be treated with caution due to the small numbers of those who have completed. Gatehouse Books and Norfolk have emailed to point this out – Ed.]

Yes we can

Yes We Can

National news

 “The Local Government Association (LGA) has made a two-year pay offer from 1 April 2018 – 31 March 2020 for council, school and other members on NJC pay … 16% pay increase for those currently on the lowest scale point (scp) 6 over two years; pay increase of between 15% and 4.3% for those on current scp’s 7 – 28; 4.04% over two years for those above current scp 29 – including those above scp 49; new pay spine from 2019, with new scale points 1-43 and even 2% pay gaps between scp’s 6-28Pay up now for council and school workers – Unison. Unison has accepted this pay offer.

“I am an MA Library and Information Studies student at UCL, currently researching the use and management of volunteers in Public Libraries. I was wondering if any subscribers to this list have used volunteer-run Public Libraries, or Public Libraries where volunteers have been used? If so, would you be willing to please share your user experiences with me, as part of my research?  I would be hugely appreciative of any help with this.” Gina Baber. Please email her at gina.abraelle@gmail.com if you can help. Reproduced from Lis-Pub-Libs after checking with Gina.

An online bookclub from Axiell
International news

Local news by authority

  • Birmingham – Sutton Coldfield library reborn Designing Libraries. “Refurbished Sutton Coldfield town centre library, incorporating the Little Green Bookworm play café, has opened today, thanks to an inspiring collaboration.”

” I’m a member of save Coventry libraries, your post says Coventry has only had one Library closed.  Coventry has actually had the following closed. The mobile library service stopped, Arena park Library closed. Willenhall  Library, moved into a community centre & a room full of books in a community centre that is earmarked to be bulldozed isn’t a Library.  Earldon, Finham & Chelsmore Libraries are all now solely run by volunteers, the   average life span of such Libraries are around 18 months, thus not council run & not a proper library, as they are don’t offer a full & comprehensive service.  Another 5 libraries are earmarked to become partnership libraries.  Thus Coventry will only have 5 libraries left, were there was 17.   #SaveOurLibraries” Email received

  • Derbyshire – Tory leader accuses Labour MP of misleading public over Derbyshire library plans – Derbyshire Times. “Ruth George, Labour MP for the High Peak, has set up an online petition which claims that libraries would shut if volunteers do no come forward to run them. But councillor Barry Lewis, leader of the council, accused Mrs George of ‘scaremongering’ and urged her to retract her ‘misleading statement’.”
  • Dundee – Dundee librarian uncovers ‘secret code’ in books – BBC.Georgia Grainger, 23, began working at Charleston Community Library in Dundee six weeks ago. She soon discovered multiple books from the same wartime romance series had the page seven underlined in pen. Georgia shared her discovery on Twitter as the Mystery of the Page 7 Vandal and her tweets went viral. She had 9,000 retweets and more then 25,000 likes.”
  • Essex – Essex opens Chelmsford families hub Designing Libraries. “Chelmsford’s new children’s library and local hub for family services has officially opened following a £316,000 makeover.”
  • Hertfordshire – Plans to relocate Hoddesdon’s 125-year-old Post Office into town library given go ahead – Hertfordshire Mercury. “The move comes as a result of the new partnership between Hertfordshire libraries and the Post Office as they join forces to provide both services in the same building. The Post Office branch will therefore move from 72 High Street, just a short walk away to 98 High Street. Post Office customers will be welcomed into a modern, open-planned branch with four serving positions via the library’s main entrance.”
  • Lambeth – Lambeth candidates sign the pledge: vote libraryNews from Crystal Palace. Pictures of councillors who signed pledge not to cut libraries. see also Rachel Heywood thrown out of the Labour party and given a five year ban for standing as an Independent – Brixton Buzz. “Heywood wasn’t happy with party policy on estate ‘regeneration,’ book-ish gyms and what she described as a “control and command” approach to local government. The local Vauxhall Consituency Labour Party tipped off Labour HQ. It wasted no time in chucking Heywood out of the party that she has served as a local Councillor for twelve years:”
  • Leeds – National Poetry Day: examples from Leeds libraries – Libraries Taskforce. “For the last few years we have gone big for National Poetry Day [which takes place in the autumn each year], from working in partnership with BBC 1xtra and RoundHouse for Words First to producing our own film. Poetry is celebrated within our library service as a method of expression and learning within our culture and reading offer.”
  • Northamptonshire – Northamptonshire libraries in legal action against closure BBC. “Twenty-one libraries threatened with closure have lodged legal actions against a decision that would see them lose funding. In February, Northamptonshire County Council voted through the closures as part of £40m of budget cuts. Two separate legal actions have been lodged questioning the validity of the authority’s consultation. A council spokesman said the authority would be defending the legal challenges. Law firm Watkins & Gunn, acting for 20 of the under-threat libraries, lodged an application for a judicial review on Friday. A separate legal action has been made by Desborough Library.”
  • Northamptonshire – Schools and libraries to become advertising sites to pay for Northants County Council’s marketing departmentNorthamptonshire Telegraph. “The cash-strapped county council will be turning its buildings and roundabouts into advertising sites to pay for its marketing and public relations staff. Schools, libraries, county parks and office buildings will all be used to generate income for Northamptonshire County Council. The local authority, which is in dire financial straits, has 200 buildings and 150 roundabouts, which will be used to raise much-needed cash. The marketing department costs £396,000 to run and employs nine full time staff. The authority estimates the scheme could raise up to £2.6m but a large chunk of this would go to a contracted advertising agency who will manage it.” … “The plan to use funds made from billboards at libraries has been called into question by library campaigners.”
  • Nottingham – Storysmash in Nottingham – Libraries Taskforce. “Storysmash was an ambitious 12 month project looking to increase library engagement with young people 11 – 25 across Nottingham, and to increase literacy skills. The project used digital gaming as a vehicle for that engagement using the freely available software, Twine. A program of 71 “Twine” workshops have been delivered that teach participants how to create their own branching narratives / interactive fiction games, similar to the Fighting Fantasy “Choose your own adventure” books written by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone.”
  • Somerset – Residents fighting Highbridge Library closure win Town Council support – Burnham on Sea.com.
  • Southend – Fears over new prices to loan library books – Echo. “At the end of March, Southend Libraries left Essex Library Service and joined a larger consortium called the South East Libraries Management System (SELMS). According to the council, the scheme, which is linked to libraries in Brighton and Hertfordshire, will provide a cheaper service for residents. However concerns have been raised by readers who have discovered to reserve something which is not in one of Southend’s libraries, will cost them £3 per item”
  • Warrington – Dementia friendly public spaces Designing Libraries. “Operated on behalf of Warrington by community interest company LiveWire, the £16m facility, now partially open (March 2018), will offer floodlit tennis courts and football pitch, swimming pool, sports hall, fitness studios, NHS health suite, conference facilities, concourse with food outlets – and a library and library terrace.”
  • Worcestershire – The Hive at five: where are we now? – Designing Libraries. “The Hive in Worcester is a pioneering partnership between a university and a local authority with a shared belief in learning and inclusion”