Libraries Connected are doing their first official seminar in June, focusing on “what a future library offer might look like”. The first presentation mentioned is uncontroversial enough, being from Historypin who are a small tech concern dealing with small groups, local history and empathy, very trendy right now. This is the shiny bit that is nice and one expects. Then things get interesting with the second choice, who is the Chief Exec of Barking and Dagenham on rethinking public services. That London borough has rethought library services to such an extent that they have more than halved their budget since 2010. Then there’s a talk from Singapore libraries, which as reported on last post are doing wonderful things and I think can genuinely give pointers on how to run a top-notch library service, albeit in an environment without austerity. But gosh, the big raising of the eyebrows goes to the last speaker, an assistant director from Ealing. That council, in case you don’t remember, have just announced in committee papers the deepest potential cut I can recall seeing in a decade of reporting on public libraries, from £2.2m in 2019 to a pathetic £566k in 2022.

But. to those of you getting angry about this, I invite you to look at it differently. Another way to look at it is to say that the first LC seminar shows  isn’t messing about. It’s effectively preparing chiefs for how to cope with the worse austerity can throw at them.  But I would question the absence of anything to do with books or improving existing traditional services on the menu. When faced with the oncoming Austerity train, I guess it’s not many people that stop to look at the state of the tracks, so it’s understandable. But there are many library services out there who are not facing deep cuts, appearances to contrary. And, of these, there’s a ton of branches out there whose staff do not know how to, for instance, properly promote or display their book-stock because they’ve never actually been shown. Perhaps there should be a seminar on that soon. In the meantime, I asked LC why Ealing was asked and this is their answer below, which is fair enough and appreciated. I find it particularly encouraging that LC is not pretending that everything is perfect in the public library world. This continues a welcome trend which I have noticed before and will help retain everyone’s sanity (“am I just imagining these cuts?”), especially when one sees below what Northants has done in the last year (e.g. wiping out most its management) and one stops to consider that Bradford has announced three times worse.

“Libraries Connected are aware of the proposed changes to Ealing’s library services to have six libraries directly run by the council and seven community managed libraries run in partnership with local community organisations. These proposals are due to go out to public consultation next month and until that consultation has concluded we will not know what the future library provision for Ealing will look like. But we do know that during Carole’s eight years at Ealing she has demonstrated a strong commitment to safeguarding library services, winning a Guardian award in 2013 for joining with other local boroughs to protect libraries at risk of closure. Carole is working on a new library strategy for Ealing and as many of our members are currently in the position of trying to maintain their service provision in the face of unprecedented cuts,  we remain convinced that Carole Stewart will be a valuable addition to the Libraries Connected seminar.”



National news

  • Head of Adult Reading – Reading Agency. “We are looking for an ambitious and experienced strategic manager to take on the challenge of developing and leading a new adult reading offer for the organisation which has Reading Ahead and Quick Reads at its heart and which is designed to inspire people to develop their reading skills and become ambassadors for reading in their communities.”
  • Honoured female writers back our literacy campaign – Express. “Sue Wilkinson MBE, chief executive of charity The Reading Agency, swung behind our calls for a national rethink on how best to protect Britain’s libraries from the prospect of gradual extinction. Mrs Wilkinson said: “We back the Express’s crusade to save public libraries. “At The Reading Agency we partner with libraries to deliver all our programmes.” …. “She was joined in her support for the crusade by Debbie Hicks MBE, who was recently acclaimed in the New Year’s Honours for services to promotion of reading.”
  • Libraries across the north and north-east bringing in profits from overdue, damaged and lost books – Press and Journal. “Despite a cap on fines in Aberdeen, tenths of thousands of penalties have been racked-up by readers since 2016. And in the Highlands, where the number of fines have been steadily increasing in recent years, the sums levied by frustrated librarians are even higher. In the Granite City, overdue library books have resulted in £77, 681 worth of fines being dished-out since 2016.”
  • Man who loved libraries – Andrew Larsen and Katty Maurey. Review copy received. Picturebook describing the life of Andrew Carnegie, especially his early years, migration, young adulthood and philanthropy. Good on those parts: does not cover his tough stance towards unions or how he made his money in much detail. Subject matter may be too old for preschool and pictures too young for KS2 but that’s the problem with this format … and Carnegie is such a towering figure still in libraries (see Carnegie UK Trust which is still a major player and is directly reliant on his bequests) that it’s good to have a book or two on him around.

Axiell Selflib
International news

Local news by authority

  • Bradford – Public meeting hears how budget cuts will affect Ilkley Library – Ilkley Gazette. Cuts to staffing and a third off book-fund. “Many people were concerned that the changes to a community hub would reduce the library offer. One woman said: “I am not fussed about the library becoming a community hub. I brought my children here and now I bring my grandchildren here. It’s already a wonderful resource for reading.”
  • Bristol – How the future of Bristol’s libraries could be decided – Bristol Post. “Bristol City Council is looking for people who have ideas on how the city’s library service should be run. The authority’s cabinet agreed last year to spend more than a quarter of a million pounds to create a new plan to keep as much of the city’s library service open as possible. The need for a new strategy comes after Bristol mayor Marvin Rees  performed a u-turn in July and announced plans to scrap £1.4million of budget cuts which would have seen 17 of the city’s 27 libraries close.” …. “Options under consideration include “community led solutions” – which may mean putting libraries in to community trusts – and sustainable “building use” – which suggests the idea of combining libraries with other community hubs may still be on the cards.”
  • Cardiff – Librarian killed himself after being told to reapply for his job due to council cuts – Metro. “Pontypridd Coroner’s Court heard how he had no known mental health problems, but relatives believe he had been badly affected after losing the job he had been doing for years.” … “Mr Davidson had been allegedly given a different role at Cardiff council after failing to get his own job when he was asked to reapply for it.” … “Anthony didn’t make any complaints that my have caused concern. Prior to finding out about Anthony’s passing, he said he was taking a few days leave”. Anthony Davidson found hanged.
  • Essex – “People are getting everything electronically now,”: residents share their views on future of county library service – Dunmow Broadcast. “Maria Glendoepel, from Flitch Green, said the library service should be kept for children and elderly people, despite not using the library herself. She said: “I don’t use the library anymore – it’s a shame. I either buy books or share books with friends.” … ““I’m not a member, but I’m in there every day reading. I read the papers,” Mr Kellick said.” … “Susan said it was books that gave her father an extra two years when he had dementia, but books do need to be geared towards the older generation – and although large prints do already exist, she said they need to be lightweight”
    • ‘Libraries should be priority for county council spending’ – Saffron Walden Reporter. “The consultation on the future of library services in Essex has reached its half-way point …  Lesley Lancaster, 45, from Saffron Walden, says funding for libraries should be a priority for the county council.She said: “I take my granddaughter occasionally, she just adores it – she spends a lot of time moving the chairs about but it’s getting her used to being in an environment with books and realising there is something else other than the iPad”
    • Petition to save libraries throughout Maldon launched – Maldon Standard. “Concerned campaigners have launched a petition urging County Hall to ditch the plans.Bryan Mogridge has had 8,140 people sign the petition so far.”
  • Glasgow – Far-right thug stalks SNP MP at library surgery – The National. “The SNP’s Stewart McDonald was forced to call in Police Scotland yesterday after far-right thug Tommy Robinson tried to disrupt a constituency surgery in a Glasgow library. Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who founded the racist English Defence League, said he simply wanted to know why the MP thought he was a racist” … “There were fears the high profile stunt could lead to some of Yaxley-Lennon’s more deranged supporters taking matters into their own hands. “
  • Northamptonshire – Northamptonshire library service reduced by a fifth this financial year – Northants Telegraph. “In total 46 staff have left, 39 with redundancy packages totalling £273,000. Twenty-four library managers have gone, leaving just 10 remaining. A total of 146 staff now remain as part of the service and the authority has created 12 new customer assistant posts.”
  • Staffordshire – Successful library applicants announced – Staffordshire Newsroom. “Contracts have been offered to a parish council, local community group, business enterprise organisation and two Rotary Clubs to take on the daily management and delivery of Staffordshire County Council’s libraries at Cheadle, Cheslyn Hay, Clayton, Eccleshall and Penkridge.” … “Under the agreements community groups deliver the statutory library service and have access to the county’s stock and IT network, with support and guidance from officers, while the council remains responsible for agreed utility and maintenance costs” … “The Rotary Club applications in Cheslyn Hay and Eccleshall follow the success of the Rotary Club of Rugeley’s management of Brereton library. The first time a Rotary club in the UK had taken on such a project, Rugeley’s success in Brereton has been reported as far away as Chicago.”
  • Warrington – Plans to bring Snoutwood Trotters to Penketh Library ruled out – Warrington Guardian. “proposals to incorporate a cafe at Penketh Library have been scrapped due to it costing up to £128,500. Thirteen months ago, the council’s executive board committed to keeping all of the town’s libraries open subject to robust business cases following widespread anger over plans to close sites across the borough. In total, £1 million is planned to go towards repairs, maintenance and investment at existing buildings, on top of £150,000 that has been designated to enhance the book fund budget.”
  • Wiltshire – Community Library Manager – Wiltshire Council. £32-33k. “The Community Library Manager is responsible for the management and delivery of library services and outreach in Chippenham Library and the library in nearby Malmesbury.”