The Society of Chief Librarians has been subcontracted by French company Sopra Steria to provide assistance for visa applicants from October 2018. The SCL press release says its for 56 library services, although other news reports, including Sopra Steria, say 56 libraries, which is quite a difference. The process seems quite involved, with the need to submit “biometric information including photos, fingerprints, and signatures and their supporting evidence at a single appointment”. My twitter feed, naturally full of library campaigners, is raising lots of questions about neutrality, training, confidentiality, work time and if library staff would be obliged to report anyone who it turned out was in the country illegally. I’m sure all of this has been thought out and so I have emailed the new Chief Exec Isobel Hunter to ask these questions and look forward to an answer. For the SCL, the reasons for taking on the contract are fairly clear – raising profile, and income, from amongst the government.  I just hope, though,  no-one from the government has looked at the SCL website recently, which is still leading on news from 2016 and promotes five (not six) Universal Offers. I hope the website will be overhauled soon with the forthcoming name change for the organisation.


National news

  • Bacon, cheese slices and sawblades: the strangest bookmarks left at libraries – Guardian. “Please stop using cheese as a bookmark. Please. We give away actual bookmarks for free. Or like use a receipt or something. Just not perishables.”” … “Bacon, it turns out, appears to be a bit of a thing, with librarians previously reporting the discovery of surprise rashers all over the place. “
  • Funding awarded to deliver six innovative library projects – LocalGov. “Recycled robots and ‘libraries at night’ are just some of the projects chosen to receive funding from the Library Lab initiative. The Carnegie UK Trust have selected six library staff members to receive funding of up to £15,000 to deliver innovative new projects.” see also Local libraries receive share of £65,000 Library Lab funding for innovative projects – Carnegie UK. “Six public library staff have been chosen to be part of the Carnegie UK Trust’s Library Lab programme, and will receive funding to deliver new projects in their library – from recycled robots to coding for children. Carnegie Library Lab was set up to help library staff across the UK and Ireland develop innovative and practical projects, as well as gain access to a wide range of personal development opportunities.”
  • May news – Community Managed Libraries Peer Network. “We’ve been mapping all our members to see where they are in England. If you are interested in finding out who your nearest members are or maybe want to get in touch and support each other, you can view the map here.”
  • Mills & Boon ties knot on Royal wedding packs for libraries – BookSeller. “The HarperCollins romance imprint has collaborated with the literacy charity on the #RoyalRomance campaign to deliver “bespoke Royal Wedding packs” to libraries nationwide, all of which have sold out in 24 hours with 100 libraries signing up.”
  • Orwell’s Down and Out, live in libraries – Libraries Taskforce. “We want Down and Out Live to be accessible to as many people as possible. Last year, we were delighted to work with libraries on 1984 Live, our acclaimed dramatised reading of the whole book in a single day (watch it here). The response was brilliant. Libraries organised screenings, put up Orwell displays, set up ‘selfie’ photo booths, screened the classic 1980s adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four, and organised guest speakers to speak about ‘Orwellian’ topics. With your help, members of the public across the country were able to be part of this event, and we achieved well over 8,000 streams. The performance took 11 hours. We know that in some libraries, members of the public stayed to watch the whole thing.”
  • Professor Mary Beard discusses the importance of the Hellenic and Roman Library – YouTube.
  • UK Home Office hands Sopra Steria £91m digital visa contract – Register. French company. “Under the contract, Sopra Steria will provide an application process from over 60 locations across the UK, including 56 local libraries. Applicants will be asked to submit biometric information including photos, fingerprints, and signatures. The evidence will then be copied and sent to UK Visas and Immigration.” see also New assisted digital contract for libraries – Society of Chief Librarians. “Local libraries will provide convenient and welcoming community service points which applicants can visit in person with their documentation, and enjoy all the other library facilities on offer.” SCL says “library services” not “libraries”. “Local libraries will provide convenient and welcoming community service points which applicants can visit in person with their documentation, and enjoy all the other library facilities on offer.” and Home Office picks Sopra Steria to deliver digital visa service – Government Computing. “it is expected that people using the service will be able to submit biometric information including photos, fingerprints, and signatures and their supporting evidence at a single appointment.”

“It is my understanding that payment will be outcome-based, providing the supplier with a strong incentive to deliver a quality and efficient service”                 “

An online bookclub from Axiell
International news

  • Africa – Failure to support public libraries affects book donation organisations – Info Trust. \”the economic downturn has also affected purchasing power; rapidly declining public library services, many of them now without book acquisition funds and relying on free books shipped by overseas book donation organisations to fill their shelves, and inadequately trained and skilled publishing and book trade personnel.”
  • New Zealand – Auckland librarian claims she wasn’t paid to cash up – Radio NZ. “Auckland Council joins 16 of New Zealand’s largest retailers now accused of forcing their employees to work without pay, through either an unpaid daily morning meeting, or unpaid end-of-day cash-up. Leonie Ariel told Checkpoint she worked at Ōrewa and Whangaparāoa Libraries for six years total before resigning in March last year, and said she regularly worked unpaid overtime.” … “Auckland Council has in recent years pushed hard for the city’s 55 libraries to work with less funding, resulting in many staff wanting to leave.”

Local news by authority

  • Cardiff – Building Reslient [sic] communities through the further development of community hubs – Cardiff Council.
  • Carmarthenshire – Services have been ‘cut to the bone’ in Carmarthenshire, the council leader has claimed – Wales Online. “Cllr James also mocked the purchase of mobile libraries that “were too small for an officer to work in”, and pointed out that governing arrangements for the City Deal had not been finalised since the deal was signed in March 2017.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – The Slow Readers Club set for fully-booked library gig – Northwich Guardian. ““Off the back of the Charlatans festival and with Slow Readers Club being such a fantastic name, that’s how it all came together.” While many of us associate libraries solely with books and IT services, the truth is that many groups are putting them to use outside of the stereotype. We could yet see more gigs across such venues in Cheshire.”
  • Cornwall – More power being handed down in Cornwall, says top councillor – Cornish Times. “One of the largest areas of double devolution has been Cornwall’s library service which has seen libraries transferred to other local groups to run them. This has helped Cornwall Council make budget savings while Cllr Hannaford says it has also improved the service.” … ““I had a red line in library devolution and that is no closures which is something we have managed to achieve,” she explained. “And in some cases we have improved the service. Penryn Library, for example, is open for longer. “The libraries are now reacting to local needs and adding value to the service. We still maintain the oversight of the libraries and the back office and book ordering and IT, but it is now down to the local communities to give it a local flavour.”
  • Cumbria – Authors to visit south Cumbria libraries in reading campaign – Mail. “Writers of books published during the last year will be coming to Barrow and Grange libraries as part of the Read Regional 2018 campaign. Cumbria’s libraries throughout June as part of Read Regional 2018. Founded by New Writing North in 2008, the campaign is funded by Arts Council England and is produced in partnership with Cumbria County Council’s library service and 22 other library authorities across the North of England.”
  • East Sussex – Pay more for a reduced service – Eastbourne Herald / Letters. “Having read through the 600+ pages of the Transformation Programme Appendices, ESCC will be complying with their obligations because 17 libraries will remain open. Accessibility to those libraries that remain open will be a problem for numerous individuals and for a variety of reasons.” … “s for Polegate, the town council have expressed an interest in running the library service, which is an admirable ambition. At the 2018 Annual Town Assembly it was suggested that the annual cost to run Polegate Library would be around £72,000, this cost to be borne by Polegate council tax payers and, in future years an estimated £25 extra per annum for band D properties. One resident thought that coffee and cake sales could help to supplement the income, hardly a sensible mix in a library.”
  • Hertfordshire – Hertfordshire County Council funding woes force decision to sub-contract our libraries – Welwyn Hatfield Times. “Plans to create an independent organisation to deliver Hertfordshire’s libraries on behalf of the cash-strapped county council are set to be introduced next year, as the library service struggles to find £3 million in savings.”
  • Kent – Bockhanger Community Centre will be demolished Kent Online. “The 50-year-old Bockhanger Community Centre in Kennington will be replaced with either turf or hardstanding until a decision about its redevelopment is made. It will cost Ashford Borough Council (ABC) £150,000 to demolish the site, which is home to Bockhanger library.” … ““The demolition won’t take place before November as we are working with the library to help them relocate. “We have had some public consultations, including sessions in the hall recently, but we received very little feedback.” The hall’s library is expected to be replaced by a mobile service.”
  • Leicestershire – Locations of smart libraries are revealed – Loughborough Echo. “Self-access technology will see extended opening hours, meaning people who are members of the library service will be able to enter the library and use the facilities, using their access card to enter the building at times when there are no staff on site. Book groups, and other community groups are also able to use the space during library-plus hours. Anyone wishing to set up a community group can use the library as a meeting space within smart library hours. The move follows a trial at Syston Library which ran from early 2017.”

“To begin with, the self-access technology will be operational outside of staffed hours, but due to the demands on the council’s budgets we will be looking at reducing staffed hours in libraries. “

  • Northamptonshire – Council says no to buying Higham Ferrers library building – Northamptonshire Telegraph. “The council’s own survey in December showed that, out of 423 responses, 95 per cent of people wanted to keep a library in Higham and 80 per cent would be willing to pay extra council tax to facilitate it. At a fiery meeting attended by several members of the public, members of the council agreed not to buy the building but did say that they were prepared to back a community-run book lending service.”
  • North Yorkshire – Cyclist plans next fundraising challenge – York Press. “On April 1, Geoff Strangwood, 63, of Kirkbymoorside, cycled 60 miles on a tour of community-led libraries, including Helmsley, Norton, Pickering and Derwent Valley in Scarborough. He said the ride took all day, but next year he will push for a higher distance of about 100 miles.”
  • North Yorkshire – Letter: The value of library volunteers – Craven Herald and Pioneer. ” in the experience of North Yorkshire County Council professional librarians, largely volunteer-run libraries can take up to 2-3 years to recover their numbers. ” … “It is not wise, however, to assume that being mainly volunteer-run is the sole cause of a library’s decline. There are now all sorts of ways to acquire books and reading material”
  • Oldham – Kate selected for ‘Carnegie Library Lab’ scheme – Oldham Evening Chronicle. “Oldham Libraries Development Officer Kate Smyth has been selected to participate in the prestigious ‘Carnegie Library Lab’ programme, a unique 18-month funding and development programme for public library staff across the UK. Kate is only one of six library staff to be selected for the programme from a UK-wide competition. She has been awarded £8,500 to deliver the ‘Count and Code’ project which will encourage children between the ages of 3-6 to explore, investigate and learn through counting and coding activities.”
  • Reading – Reading Borough Council revealed the project to transform Southcote Community Centre will start on Monday – Reading Chronicle. “The single-storey extension will include a new main entrance and reception desk and upgraded library facilities for community use. ” … “The upgraded centre will also house a multi-purpose IT training room, which will allow the space to be converted to accommodate additional library facilities.”
  • St Helens – Emotional dementia story to be told in library performances – Reporter. “Performed by Emma Decent, ‘I Don’t Know What I’m Supposed To Be Doing’ is Emma’s personal story about her mother’s dementia, how it affected her and others. The phrase was something Emma’s mum said repeatedly in the early days of the condition, which is associated with a decline in memory or thinking skills. It features as part of the award-winning Cultural Hubs, arts in libraries programme.”
  • Sheffield – Central library – Star / Letters. “It is now official that Sheffield’s beautiful art deco central library will be replaced with a bland, tedious new building. For those who may have missed it, the Sheffield Labour manifesto for the local elections we have just had pledged that “We’re going to build a new Central Library and culture hub, which generations to come will be proud of”. This decision makes no sense given that Sheffield Council commissioned their own feasibility study into redeveloping the Central Library a few years ago. The cost of doing that is likely to be less than relocating the library and then converting it into a ‘cultural hub’, even though it already is a cultural hub. “
  • Somerset – Tory council at risk of bankruptcy calls for funding system fix – Guardian. “The county, which has already announced unpopular plans to close two-thirds of its Sure Start children’s centres, more than half of its libraries and make big reductions to its learning disability services, must now find further cuts. There has been heightened concern over the sustainability of local authority finances since Northamptonshire county council declared effective bankruptcy in February. It was subsequently taken over by government commissioners.” … “the review makes it clear that the county has struggled to deliver planned savings for two years, and has been reliant on reserves to patch up its budgets. “For the last two years only 65% of agreed savings have been delivered and whilst there may be specific reasons for this, this level of delivery is simply unsustainable in the future.”
  • Stoke on Trent – Major £3.8m plan revealed to relocate library and children’s centre into town hall – here’s what it’s going to look likeStoke on Trent Live. “A library and children’s centre will both move into a town hall as part of a £3.8 million refurbishment. Tunstall Town Hall, which is already a local centre, is set to be transformed over the next 12 months so that greater use can be made of the Grade II listed building. The town’s library will be relocated from the nearby Victoria Institute, while the children’s centre will be moved from its current building further down High Street.”
  • Sutton – Sutton Central Library re-opens following £700,000 refurbishment – Sutton Guardian. “Upgrades to the library include a family history centre, a children’s library on the ground floor and new study spaces and quiet zones. Madeline Barratt, head of libraries, heritage and arts called the refurbishment a labour of love. “Sutton Central Library is the flagship site for the service and was badly in need of modernisation,””
  • York – More cafes planned for libraries – Press.A survey of library users in 2016 shows that although people value libraries as calm and welcoming spaces, “their enjoyment of the spaces is reduced when they are noisy, smelly, or intimidating, and there were some requests to improve the exteriors of the buildings, so there are mixed feelings about the quality of the current spaces.” … “The documents go on to say that while Tang Hall library is due to move into a new home on the redeveloped Burnholme site, Acomb’s library has been so successful that it could benefit from enlargement, and Clifton too could be in line for a replacement or upgraded library. ” … “Its initial five year contract is due to expire next spring, so the assessment of need will form part of plans for a new contract for the service. “