A very interesting experiment has taken in place in York. The library trust there, Explore, launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay for its summer reading challenge. At the end of the two month campaigning time, the service had reached its goal and raised very slightly more than its £11,117 target. On the face of it, this shows the success of the campaign and, I am sure, would encourage many others to think about going down the same route next year, even for something as fundamental as the main annual promotional push. However, crowd-funders allow one to look at who is donating unless they specifically ask to be anonymous so we can see where the money came from. Which is what I did:

  • £7350 – the vast bulk was one anonymous donation Friday before Monday deadline. I understand it was not from the council.
  • £2850 – 3 library friends group donations. This money would presumably have gone to the library service in any case for other projects.
  • £315 – 3 York Council employees (inc. £300 from the officer in charge of outsourcing: he clearly believes in what he’s doing).
  • £291 – 23 named donations, of which a quick google search comes up with no York Explore or council connections.
  • £290 – 13 anonymous donations, untraceable.
  • £239 – 8 York Explore employee donations inc. £160 from three very senior posts.
  • £50 – 1 donation from local children’s activity magazine
  • £20 – 1 donation from York bookshop

It’s clear from this that there’s no large number of small donors out there who funded the campaign, with the number of total donations being only 50 in total. Moreover, just 4 donations accounting for 10/11ths and one alone accounting for three quarters. Without that one big donation and, discounting the friends groups funding which would have gone to the library service anyway, the total amount raised would have been £1205, barely one-tenth of the total, with half of that coming from York Explore or council employees. So, the message if one digs deeper, for library services wanting to go down this route is that funding is not guaranteed and will come from a relatively small number of people.

Let’s be clear on this. I’m not attacking York Explore for trying crowdfunding. They’re actually doing well compared with many library services, having closed no libraries and this new library of theirs at Burnholme looks rather nice. No rather I see this as a test to see if there is widespread public support for this sort of funding in the ever harder financial environment that library services find themselves in. With budgets constantly being cut, it was only a matter of time before someone tried this and, in many ways, others will benefit from this experiment if it is learnt from. No, what I want to do is for the right lessons to be learnt. From my analysis, it’s clear that crowdfunding is not an easy answer and will result in small numbers of funders. It’s also rather high risk, which is what was discovered in an earlier experiment in Dundee, where a crowdfunder for £948k for a library expansion raised just £200 from a grand total of four donors. So, if you’re looking for non-traditional funding possibilities for what the public sees as fairly core services, it may be one should look elsewhere.

However, if anyone knows who donated that £7k, do let me now … I have a proposal for funding a news website on public libraries I’d like to talk to them about.


National news

  • Caitlin Moran: ‘I address the taboos that need to be busted’ Guardian. “I like writing useful books. I didn’t go to school. Everything I learned was from reading everything that interested me in Wolverhampton’s Warstone’s library.”
  • Do libraries run by volunteers check out? – Guardian. “Over the last decade, around 500 UK libraries have been handed over to ordinary people to run for free. This option is seen as a good alternative to closures – but how do the volunteers feel?”. Long article in volunteer libraries looking at the Bradford experience. Also see 100+ comments [If you’re brave enough – Ed.]

“Like other community-run libraries, Burley lost all of its paid staff, who were replaced with a team of around 50 volunteers. But that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, Swan says. “The library staff we had weren’t local, they came in to do a job. While it was often a perfectly fine job, they didn’t have the incentive to be as engaged with the community.” Usage of the library has grown steadily month on month, Swan says, both in terms of visitors and books borrowed. “I’m really thrilled with what we’ve achieved,” she says.” article

“Where I live, in Northern California, public libraries are vibrant places. A number of libraries, originally built immediately pre-war or post war, have closed and moved into superb new buidings. There are permanent, trained librarians, and a of of volunteers. As well as books and electronic media which can be borrowed, there are used book sales with books sold for $2, $3 to the occasional maximum $10. If the local library that I had grown-up with in England had been allowed to progress in such a manner as these California libraries, that would have been a marvelous development. However, this library is now a hollowed-out shell of its former self, on its uppers, with a few permanent staff who wonder if they will have their hours cut (again), let alone make it to their planned retirement.” Comment

“A bored council functionary sitting behind a library desk, watching the clock is hardly likely to be a better advocate of the joys of reading than a well read, enthused and engaged volunteer.” Comment

“I think it’s a good idea to have volunteers working in libraries, so long as they can do the job. Though it’s probably best to have a few paid, qualified staff, particularly in the larger city centre libraries; that is, if such places still exist these days … ” Comment

  • Posters; famous faces – CILIP. Clemantine Wamariya, author and human rights advocate, and Viv Goskop, writer and comedian, have given their support to a poster campaign for libraries. The posters have been created by CILIP, the library and information association, and are freely available to libraries and library supporters”
  • What we talk about when we talk about a single digital presence – British Library. “Over the next few months we’ll be conducting research across the UK to inform what this “single digital presence” might be.  We want to understand how a digital platform might inform future service design and how this can reflect the best of what public libraries can offer. We intend to explore how this might promote public library use (including physical visits) as well as amplifying the impact and importance of libraries at local, national and international level.”
  • Who was Ashurbanipal? – The British Museum. “” … “Ashurbanipal developed the first systematically collected and catalogued library in the world. He wanted a copy of every book worth having and sent his minions across the empire to gather all the knowledge in the world. Assyrian books were mostly written on clay tablets, not on paper, in a script called cuneiform, which used little wedges to make up symbols. In total he gathered hundreds of thousands of these tablets, around 30,000 of which are now in the British Museum.” compare with Preparing Libraries for Nuclear War – Jstor Daily.

International news

Local news by authority

  • Barking and Dagenham – Barking and Dagenham libraries: a new NPO, and hosting the Libraries Taskforce Libraries Taskforce.  “Libraries are viewed as a vital part of the solution, and have developed their links with schools and colleges to cement their position as a much needed part of the overall infrastructure. They are proud of their libraries, and the investment shows: Dagenham library was awarded Library of the Year at the British Book Industry awards in 2016, and Barking learning centre was shortlisted in 2017. LBBD were also awarded LGC council of the year this year.”
  • Cambridgeshire – Cambridgeshire Culture and Community Service: The Library Presents – Libraries Taskforce. “The Library Presents brings a high quality, diverse selection of arts activities into the heart of villages and towns across the county. Arts activities include performances, exhibitions and film, digital art and workshops. As one of six library authorities across England to be awarded NPO funding, we are extremely pleased and grateful but also incredibly aware of the responsibility we have to ensure the planned programme actually achieves what we hope.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Children can be Mischief Makers at libraries this summer – So Cheshire. “There’s a whole programme of events and activities planned at libraries across the borough over the summer for families to celebrate the Summer Reading Challenge, everything from fun science to making your own comic book.”
  • Darlington – Thanks to the Friends of Darlington Library – Northern Echo / Letters. “I would like to thank the Friends of Darlington Library for their hard work and commitment over such a long time in representing the overwhelming views of the people of Darlington who do not want to see the Crown Street library and its services transferred to the Dolphin Centre and other buildings. “
  • Durham – ‘No intention’ to close libraries in County Durham – Northern Echo. “There is no intention to shut County Durham libraries in an upcoming review, councillors have been told. “
  • East Sussex – New home found for Langney Library – Eastbourne Herald. “Plans to re-open Langney Library as a community-run facility are forging ahead after the library group accepted an alternative unit in the area’s Shopping Centre. Following discussions with the owners and management at Langney Shopping Centre, the Langney Community Library group plan to run the library as a Charity Incorporated Organisation and use volunteer staff”
  • Flintshire – Behind Closed Doors: Flintshire Council slammed over private libraries meeting – Deeside.com. “In September last year the running of the local authority’s library, heritage and leisure facilities were transferred to a not-for-profit trust called Aura Leisure and Libraries Ltd. embers of the council’s organisational change scrutiny committee were due to debate the employee-owned company’s annual report at a meeting today (Monday 25 June), where officers recommending to exclude the press and public for that item. However, the move was opposed by Hawarden resident John Butler who attended to call for the report to be heard in public, describing the proposal as ‘unacceptable’.” … “In response, the council’s Chief Executive Colin Everett warned that holding the debate publicly could give Aura’s rivals an advantage by disclosing commercially sensitive information.”
  • Herefordshire – Call for a rethink on future of Herefordshire’s libraries – Hereford Times. “Mark Ferrero, chairman of Joint Action for Herefordshire Libraries, has written to Herefordshire Council cabinet members saying outsourcing could lead to significant extra costs due to possible contract failures. Croydon Council took back control of its library service earlier this year after government services provider Carillion, which managed the town’s libraries from 2012, went into liquidation.”
  • Leicester – Controversial plans to close Leicester library to save £14k a year put on hold again – Leicestershire Live. “A Leicester library has been thrown a lifeline after controversial plans to close it were put on hold for “at the very least the next three months”. Leicester City Council was due to relocate Rushey Mead’s library service from its current building, in Lockerbie Avenue, to a nearby recreation centre earlier this month in a bid to save £14,000 a year.”
  • Newcastle – Health and wellbeing hub set to open in ‘at risk’ Newcastle library – Chronicle. “A new plan to keep Fenham Library open by transforming it into a health and wellbeing hub will go ahead. Councillors voted unanimously to give the proposal the green light at a meeting o  Newcastle City Council’s planning committee on Friday morning. The authority unveiled its idea to revamp the library by introducing new facilities, such as a gym and a cafe, earlier this month.”
  • Northamptonshire – No takers for four of 21 Northamptonshire libraries under threat of closure Northamptonshire Telegraph.
  • North Yorkshire – Library volunteers ride the waves of discovery – North Yorkshire County Council. “Funded by the Arts Council, Whitby Library has been working with Scarborough-based art and science organisation Invisible Dust, the County Record Office and volunteers from Whitby and Great Ayton libraries on projects to contribute to the Cook 250 festival, which is organised by Scarborough Borough Council and local groups.”
  • Somerset – New plans to revamp Bridgwater Library and Blake Gardens Bridgwater Mercury. “Representatives from Somerset Libraries, Somerset County Council and Sedgemoor District Council outlined potential plans for an external funding bid for a scheme to the Bridgwater Town Development Forum at a meeting last week (June 19). “
  • Swindon – Letters: Monday, June 25, 2018 – Swindon Advertiser / Letters. “Now we hear that SBC is coming back with plan B. Only 18 months after the last big idea they have now decided to appoint a commercial manager to increase the prospects of income from the library service. Even their own cabinet member Keith Williams accepts that the library service cannot make money. How can it? It’s a service which lends books and facilities, rather than selling them.”
  • Torbay – Unitary moots reverting to district status amid financial struggleLGC. Unitary considers becoming once more part of larger authority [This would probably mean libraries reverting to Devon but, being Libraries Unlimited have both contracts, this may not cause many issues for library staff short term – Ed.]
  • West Dunbartonshire – One Stop Shop service launches in library amidst privacy worries – Daily Record. “The new One Stop Shop at Alexandria Library has been officially launched despite fears about a lack of privacy for vulnerable users. The hub provides residents with help to access services ranging from council tax payments to school clothing grants and waste collections. Concerns were raised last week about users having to discuss personal issues in public, after it was revealed a desk and chairs in the middle of the library were being used following the service’s move from Mitchell Way to the library.”
  • Westminster – Call all stargazers! Westminster Reference Library will now lend out telescopes as well as booksGet West London. “A librarian’s dream has become a reality at Westminster Reference Library, which has received funding to offer telescopes – not only books – for loan to curious night sky gazers. ” … “Amateur astronomer Marc Stowbridge spearheaded the idea of loaning telescopes from local libraries in the United States from 2008, and it has since spread to more than 100 libraries across the USA.”
  • York – Thank you, Summer Reading Challenge crowd funders – York Explore. “Yesterday (June 25) was the deadline for independent groups to put forward bids to run the libraries which Northamptonshire County Council has said it can no longer afford to run. Finedon library in Berry Green Road, Wollaston library in Newton Street, Far Cotton in Towcester Road, Northampton, and St James library in St James Road, Northampton, have not had any takers. The closure of the libraries is subject to a judicial review which is expected to be heard at the high court next month (July). “