Excellent piece from Leon about the need for a more balanced narrative about public libraries. You know the sort of thing. Campaigners on one end only reporting bad news and being angry on side while, on the other, official professional library stuff only emphasising the good news, with neither side really acknowledging the truth of the other. Leon argues that we should be happy to talk about the good as well as the bad, the bad as well as the good, and I agree. I thought Isobel Hunter’s first impressions about libraries after taking the helm at Libraries Connected was the closest I’ve seen for a while and Nick Poole can do balanced too. But too often I read only one side or the other in the news, and I am as guilty sometimes as anyone else, so Leon’s blog is timely and welcomed.

Speaking of balancing acts, now its time to go back to philanthropy for a bit. I’ve been thinking about my previous editorial. First thing is that after some rooting around, I find that  philanthropy funding public libraries directly, even up to 100% of the service, is legal as far as I can see as long as the local authority is still providing a service that satisfies the minister (not exactly hard) and other legislation such as on equalities. So I was wrong there. Secondly, of course, in reality, it’s a rare to non-existent council that would say not to any private donation as long as it was politically or ethically abhorrent.  So, as much as pretty much everyone in libraries would say that they’d want the sector to be paid for properly by taxation, when it comes to it, pretty much every council would take the money. And I suspect staff would too, if their jobs depended on it. Moreover, the current government would clearly strongly welcome such moves – they’d get rid of funding public services entirely if they could, and see no problems with MacDonalds Library with Fries  – and Labour would not be far behind them. So, OK, pragmatically, thank you Banksy. Make the cheque out to … oh, what do you mean, you’ve not actually said you’d pay anything yet? Darn it.


National news

  • Libraries: where the world’s memories are stored – BBC. “A new book from Taschen, Massimo Listri: The World’s Most Beautiful Libraries, features images taken by Listri of the oldest and finest libraries around the world, from medieval to 19th-Century institutions and private to monastic collections. It claims to be ‘a bibliophile beauty pageant’.”
  • Striking The Right Balance – Leon’s Library Blog. Conversation about libraries is split between campaigners who emphasise negativity (doom, cuts, closures) and others e.g. SCL who stressed the need for “a positive narrative”. “In a work context we would not knowingly mislead our users. Whether undertaking research or signposting to information we would seek to present a balanced view, based on the available resources and evidence, and allow the user to make their own conclusions. And yet most stories around libraries fall at either end of the narrative spectrum. I would argue that as a profession our responsibility to maintain a balanced approach – which is not to be confused with neutrality – is an ethical imperative. We need not ‘sit on the fence’ or occupy some wishy-washy middle ground. We can engage in positive advocacy and at the same time be assertive in challenging decisions that adversely impact on services and users. We can celebrate the success of a brand new library while highlighting the risks of localism and devolution where it leads to fragmentation and hollowing out of services.”

Axiell Selflib
International news

  • Netherlands – Football Makes Reading Fun IFLA. “Encouraged by players from Dutch professional teams, the children read as many books as they can during a period. A formula that catches on.” … “You can score anywhere! With this in mind, the Library in association with the Dutch Premier League is carrying out a unique reading project for pupils aged 8-10: Score a Book! In six regions across the Netherlands, from February until April, 11,000 pupils will be reading (‘scoring’) as many books as they can for nine weeks.”
  • South Africa – Young man turns home into public libraryRandfontein Herald. ” A youngster has turned his home in Mohlakeng into a library after the original one sustained damage during protests. ” …”With the recent spate of violent service delivery protests that affected Mohlakeng, the local library was one of the public service buildings badly affected. With the local library in ruins due to being burnt by protesters, youngster Neo Mathetsa has offered his home on Moroka Street as a library. Due to the extensive media coverage of his kind deed, he soon received book donations from far and wide.”
  • USA – Socialist Democrat’s Post On What Will ‘Terrify’ Republicans Sparks Troll Wars – Daily Wire. “Democratic socialist and leader of the #AbolishICE movement Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has continued to frequent the headlines since her upset victory over the incumbent Democrat who many believed would be Nancy Pelosi’s successor. Amid working to mainstream her radical positions, Ocasio-Cortez took to Twitter to declare what will truly “terrify” the GOP. “If you think the GOP is terrified of my politics now, just wait until they find out about public libraries,” she wrote in a tweet. [GOP = “Grand Old Party” = Republicans – Ed.] see also Free libraries highlight the bloody history of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s politics – Washington Examiner. “New York [Public Library]  is the result of the generosity of a corporate lawyer named Samuel J. Tilden. He made his money working for the railroads and, at the time of his death in 1886, he gave $4 million of that money, worth about $108 million in 2016 dollars, to establish a library in New York City. and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez taunts Republicans for being ‘terrified’ of her progressive policies – Independent.

Local news by authority

  • Bracknell Forest – Hundreds of thousands to be spent on new libraryBracknell News. “£750,000 will be spent on a new library in Harmans Water, Bracknell after savings are made from other libraries in the area. The new library will replace the current Harmans Water facility and Bracknell Forest Council (BFC) is set to contribute £431,000 towards the construction. However £400,000 will be saved from the running costs of the borough’s libraries after new technology is rolled out to help customers and staff. Councillor Iain McCracken, executive member for culture, resources and public protection said: “The introduction of this technology follows an extensive public review of library services in 2016 and the value our residents placed on their libraries in creating a sense of community and combating social isolation in the elderly.” … “Currently, over 100 volunteers run Bracknell’s libraries, dedicating between 850 and 1000 volunteer hours per month. “
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Storyhouse: How an innovative library has energized the life of a cultural hub – Libraries Taskforce. “he venue is housed in a converted art-deco cinema, it is open 7 days/week until 11pm, the longest opening hours of any library in the UK.” … ” an innovative solution which would see the library become totally integrated into the building’s operation and planning, and more than that, it would become the most vital ingredient in the cultural mix, bringing people in throughout the day and creating an atmosphere as rich with socialising and study, as it is with storytelling.”

“Storyhouse has become the all-day ‘hang-out’ of choice for over a million visitors since opening 12 months ago. Driving the incredible success of the theatre and cinema has been the powerful and constant presence of the library throughout the building. The success of Storyhouse makes the case for putting libraries front and centre as part of integrated cultural hubs, where the books literally become the ‘glue’ holding the whole building together.”

  •  Darlington – ‘Get rid of council cabinet not Darlington library’Darlington and Stockton Times / Letters. “Go to other towns with a Quaker heritage and the buildings are proudly still standing and put to good use. Our library has character, a calm atmosphere and very knowledgeable, pleasant, friendly staff on duty.” … “There is a generation out there in this town who have no interest in their heritage which is a great pity for their future” see also Why is mine a 99? – Northern Echo / Letters. “It was two years ago that the council took the decision to close the library and make minimal savings by offering a worse service in the Dolphin Centre. There are no plans for what to do with the library building – board it up, buckle it down and see what turns up. Two years ago, in the depths of austerity, when every penny was sacred, this may have been an understandable decision, but two years on, the council budget is balanced and times have changed. The battle now is to keep the town centre alive so it can develop into its future shape. Boarded-up bookends at either end will make it look dead and unattractive, and having a derelict library in the middle will look like an ugly self-inflicted wound.”
  • Halton – Anthology makes dream come true for budding new writersRuncorn and Widnes World. “writers are celebrating after their short stories have been published in a new anthology. Almost 60 budding writers attended an eight week Write Time, Write Place creative writing course for beginners at Halton’s four libraries.”
  • Norfolk – A love letter to my local library – Eastern Daily Press. “ow you might think that, because I’m an English teacher, daughter of publishers, writer and book obsessive, I might have an agenda with this article. And I do. I want you to go to your local library, pick up a book, sniff it, read it and then take home armfuls of books to your children. Books are powerful magical things and libraries are their portal. Libraries are excellent for parents of children of all ages. Here are some reasons why and I hope it persuades you to visit your local one.”
  • Oxfordshire – Oxfordshire county libraries’ summer prize draw starts – Herald Series. “Oxfordshire County Council‘s 43 libraries will invite readers to fill in a postcard explaining their favourite summer reads, to fit themes of ‘history makers’ or ‘having a laugh’. Each person who takes part in the ‘Oxfordshire Reads’ scheme, which runs from today until September 8, will be entered into a prize draw featuring tickets to some of the county’s best attractions.”
  • Renfrewshire – Paisley Central Library set for temporary move Renfrewshire 24. “Paisley Central Library will be moving to a temporary home in the town centre – ahead of a new state-of-the-art facility opening on the High Street. The library has to leave its current home next to Paisley Museum in September when the building closes for a £42m revamp to turn the museum into an international-class destination based around the town’s unique textile heritage and collections. Library provision will move to a new learning and cultural hub at 22 High Street by 2021, with a temporary library to be built next to the Lagoon leisure centre and due to open in January 2019.”
  • St Helens – Visitor numbers for St Helens libraries falls by almost 30 per cent St Helens Star. “number of visitors to St Helens’ libraries is down by almost 30 per cent, in part due to the closure of Central Library, a council report has revealed. A six-week review of the borough’s library services took place from March to April of this year, due to ‘unprecedented financial challenges’. The new strategy is due to be finalised in early 2018-19 and if accepted will go out to public consultation. Central Library has remained closed since November 2017 due to the significant remedial work required in the Gamble building.” … ““Some of the customers of Central Library will have transferred their business to a branch library. “However, a large proportion will not have access with no viable town centre alternative.”