The big talking point on library-land social media the last few days has been something on the face of it pretty boring: Hertfordshire are changing their byelaws to include volunteers. The change means volunteers have the right to use the byelaws and puts them more on a par with paid staff. Presumably, Herts are worried that, if an incident occurs, then volunteers, who are sole staffers of many of their branches, with more cuts on the cards, would otherwise not be able to do legally do anything about it other than call the police. Also it suggests a whole bunch of other library services who rely on the unpaid to keep their libraries open will need to do the same.

The DCMS needs to approve the change but there will be no problem there. Nor will there be with Libraries Connected who – despite its recent public awareness of the impact cuts – has been an enabler for replacing salaried personnel with the free alternative almost since the start of the phenomenon. Some hope CILIP may raise a warning. My view is that this is an inevitable acceptance or, depending on your view, a further sliding down of the slippery slope, of the consequences of accepting volunteers as replacements for staff that started at around the same time austerity kicked off. Some would put the date earlier. Inevitable or not, it’s hard to see what else needs to be done before there’s effectively no difference between the paid and unpaid in at least some UK public libraries. Well, apart from qualifications, training, average time commitment and salary that is.

The rest of the news is remarkably good. Camden is refreshing its IT. This is, fair enough, every service should do anyway but these days is not a given. The proposed closure of several Moray libraries has been cancelled and there’s even a couple of re-openings, two new libraries and a refurbishment. This is brilliant news. Great news also for York Explore which has won a further, and remarkably long, 15 year extension to its contract. It looks like they have had to accept a reasonable reduction in budget to do it, though, although the mutual (which does not have to answer freedom of information requests) and the council have been a bit vague about that.


National news

“My Lords, this is a question in which all Members of this House can take a personal interest. Each of us could give testimony on what libraries have meant to us. When they were small, our children relied on them often, and even in the age of social media, it is the same thing all over again with our grandchildren. When local authorities have had to cut their budgets by 60% in recent times, closing libraries offers an easy way of saving money, but simply to say that the Government have outsourced responsibilities to local authorities is not good enough to address this question. Even if the DCMS has not conducted its own impact assessment, the unions have, and without repeating the statistics, it is a horrendous picture of dissatisfaction from those working in libraries at the service they are obliged to offer the public with fewer and fewer resources. Do the Government not feel it appropriate to put this further up the priority list and address this question with urgency, for the good of us all, and our families?” Lord Griffiths of Burry Port

“It is very easy to blame the Government when devolved decisions are not to the liking of people living elsewhere, such as noble Lords. I accept that when difficult decisions have to be made, they cause issues. We support local libraries by providing things such as wi-fi. Through Arts Council England we provide the Libraries Opportunities for Everyone Innovation Fund, the private finance initiative and the Libraries Taskforce; all are examples of centrally supporting the service. I accept that local authorities have had to make difficult decisions. Libraries actually have been retained and it is worth bearing in mind that many local authorities have refurbished or opened new. Therefore, it is a question of priorities and what a local authority thinks is important for its area.” Lord Ashton of Hyde, They Work For You.

  • Anywhere in the universe: a mission for libraries – Matt Finch / Mechanical Dolphin. “… a library can take you anywhere you want to go in the universe of information, knowledge, and culture.” … “A library lets people find stuff out for themselves.” … “Your community might want or need maker technology, Internet access, loanable tools and hardware, art supplies, an in-library recording studio. There are many ways to fulfil libraries’ mission and the medium is not specified. A great librarian could address their mission and serve their community whether they had a library with vast collections, or nothing more than a smartphone in their hand.”. Each library needs to ask “How is this helping people to find stuff out for themselves?”

“Great librarians are not teachers or preachers, inflicting lesson plans, assessments, doctrines, and dogmas on those they serve – they avoid the instructional paradigm wherever possible, surrendering command and control to the user if they can.”

  • Labour reveals lifelong learning commission panel – TES. Public libraries are not mentioned or included.
  • Mobile libraries data project  – Library Data Blog. “Mobile library data is complex, and presenting it is difficult. But each authority attempts to do this in isolation. After looking through every mobile library web page and timetable, there are few alike, despite trying to achieve the exact same thing.”
  • Scottish Coworking Network – Scottish Libraries. “Initially a pilot project at Edinburgh’s Central Library and several others, the Scottish Coworking Network (SCN) aims to create a national network of business hubs in underused spaces in Scotland’s public libraries, encouraging start-ups and digital innovation. The first national network of its kind, it is funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC). Members will be able to use any of the hubs within the network.”
  • Speed dating and public libraries: Warrington Livewire case study – Public Libraries News. “Warrington Livewire ran their first speed dating event at Orford Jubilee Neighbourhood Hub on Wednesday 13th February 2019. It was one of the few speed dating events to be held in a British public library and so represents a useful case study for the sector.  Previous speed dating events have taken place in libraries such as (successfully) in the Wirral in 2013 and Wiltshire in 2014, but are more frequent abroad such as in Belgium and the USA. So so it’s not a crazy or isolated idea. I was delighted to be able to talk to Wendy Molyneux, LiveWire Strategic Libraries Manager, who came up with the idea for a speed dating event, afterwards in order to see what she’d suggest if other library services want to give it a try.
  • World on Fire – Information Professional. “As a bus driver’s son who practically lived in his local library as a kid, I’m concerned about the impact of funding cuts on the public library’s core mission…. This doesn’t have to mean expensive new buildings like The Hive in Worcester – it could be much more pragmatic, and a good starting point might be for universities and colleges to explore letting library staff take “20 percent time” to support their community libraries. “

Hertfordshire Byelaws

“We are proposing to update Hertfordshire’s current Byelaws (which date back to 1996) to reflect the current DCMS guidelines. The only variation to these national guidelines that we are proposing is to expand the definition of a Library Officer to read “any officer employed, or volunteer appointed by the library authority in connection with its functions under the Act.” The purpose of this is to reflect the reality that we have 13 Community Libraries in Hertfordshire that are managed as a partnership between the County Council and local volunteer groups and supervised by volunteers on a day to day basis. These libraries are part of our statutory provision, so we feel it is important, for volunteers and library users, to ensure that the volunteers are able to invoke the Byelaws when supervising the library. This doesn’t reflect any change in our policy towards volunteers in Hertfordshire.” Hertfordshire Andrew Bignell, Head of Libraries and Heritage Services

Local Byelaws – Gov.uk.””the library officer” means any officer employed by the library authority in connection with its functions under the Act”. There are no mentions of volunteers in the whole document.

“The byelaws are not a change in policy towards staff and volunteers. The change is to ensure that public and staff have an equally safe experience by ensuring that volunteers have the permission to manage situations in libraries when they arise.” Libraries Connected

Volunteers’ rights. You do not have a contract of employment as a volunteer, so you do not have the same rights as an employee or worker. The volunteer agreement is not compulsory, but sets out what you can expect from the organisation you’re volunteering for. It does not form a contract between you and the organisation.” Volunteers Rights – Gov.uk.

“employed [ɪmˈplɔɪd] ADJECTIVE (of a person) having a paid job. “up to 40 per cent of employed people are in part-time jobs” Google

  • Mobile phones and talking could be allowed in Hertfordshire libraries – but volunteers will also become ‘library officers’ – Borehamwood Times. “Significantly, the proposed by-law changes also broaden the definition of a library officer in Hertfordshire to include volunteers. “
  • Bye Bye Bye-laws  – Leon’s Library Blog. “… while it might appear Hertfordshire are seeking a pragmatic solution it ignores the fact that the council created the problem in the first place by removing paid staff. It also becomes clear that giving volunteers the same authority as staff allows the claim of running a ‘statutory service’. With that in mind it will come as no surprise that the Council is considering outsourcing the library service and looking for a further £500,000 budget reduction on top of an already £2.5m saving in the last four years. Far from being pragmatic it is a cynical manoeuvre to enable further service and staff cuts.” … “Cilip seems to be tying itself up in knots by trying to be the representative body for all information sectors but such a broad church approach can lead to tensions between the different areas. Whether Cilip can reconcile the conflicting missions of different sectors and partner organisations remains to be seen.

. one for an view perhaps? A quiet word with the Council might discourage the use of an expression intended for paid staff to describe what is clearly volunteer substitution” Nick Poole, CILIP.


Axiell Selflib
International news

  • Eire – Dolly Parton charity launches free book programme for children in Ireland – Irish Times. “Once signed up each child will receive a free book to keep every month until they are five. The books will be addressed to the child and posted directly to their home. It is available to all children in each household and siblings will get different age-appropriate books. It is the first time the Imagination Library has been offered in Ireland …”
  • European Union – Public Libraries From 2020 to 2030 – Connect, Innovate, Advocate – Princh. “Building on the network of pioneering library leaders and European policy-makers which came together under PL2020, PL2030 will give libraries across Europe an extra edge through the curation of innovative projects and effective advocacy.”
  • Ghana – Londoner Opens Library In Ghana With Focus On Black Writers – Voice. “With continuing library closures across the UK, one Londoner’s experience abroad highlights the importance of these endangered and much-loved institutions” … ““We regularly serve over 1000 children by giving them access to great books through two Little Libreria, school libraries in underserved communities.”
  • Netherlands – LocHal, the library in a loco shed – Designing Libraries. “The LocHal is a new, world-class urban living room for Tilburg in a former locomotive shed of the Dutch National Railways.” … ” While there are the usual facilities for the traditional ‘book consumer’, the new library also provides ample opportunity for the creation of new knowledge. ‘Curatorship’ has become just as important as the books themselves: interaction with human experts offers a deeper, richer way to acquire knowledge and information. This new role is facilitated by the architecture. In addition to various areas for lectures and public events, the library has a number of ‘labs’ (laboratories) where visitors can learn new skills. These labs, with their remarkable design, can be found throughout the building”

Local news by authority

  • Bolton – All Welcome to Reading Friends – Advertiser. “Becoming a Reading Friend is a chance to take time out, meet new people and share stories. The launch is open to those interested in joining a Reading Friends group at Bolton Central Library or to anyone interested in introducing Reading Friends to an existing group.”
  • Camden – Camden is future-proofing its libraries with a £1.5m investment – Camden Council. “This includes installing brand new PCs, new self-service kiosks to make access to library services quicker and easier and upgrading computer networks, with faster internet connection.” … April 2019: introduction of new all-in-one printing, scanning and copying machines accessible from phone, tablet or laptop. Summer 2019: phased installation of brand new PCs. Autumn 2019: installation of new self-service kiosks to make accessing library services quicker and easier. End of 2019: computer network upgrade, with faster internet access.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Sandiway Library to be closed for six weeks from March – Northwich Guardian. “We apologise for any inconvenience caused to our customers while this building work takes place.”
  • Denbighshire – A drag queen story-telling event is coming to North Wales libraries – North Wales Live. “Story Time with Mama G is part of a series of events we are running for LGBT History Month including a talk by Jenny-Anne Bishop OBE about being transgender in North Wales and its historical culture of gender diversity. “
  • Essex – Community groups offer to take over our libraries to prevent closures – Echo series. “Essex County Council revealed 40 expressions of interest were received from groups offering to take over the running of some of the county’s libraries. ” … “”Concerns have been raised too and these will all be considered before a final strategy is drawn up later this year. “I am also encouraged by the number of community groups that have come forward who are interested in running community managed library services. Even though the consultation has now closed, expressions of interest can still be submitted up until June.” … “More than 30,000 people signed petitions, the council received 19,230 consultation responses and 40 groups put in “expressions of interest” The draft proposal is that 25 out of the 74 Essex County Council run libraries would close.”
  • Lambeth – Library and cinema for West Norwood – Designing Libraries. “The entirely new library includes Ratio flexible shelving from thedesignconcept to allow the library to be adapted to suit their many events; a dedicated, bright and engaging Children’s Area featuring bespoke furniture and wallpaper; a huge stock of regularly updated books and full access and reading equipment for users with disabilities. The library has also increased its opening hours.”
  • Lancashire – New chapter begins as Burnley neighbourhood library re-opens its doors – Burnley Express. “The re-opening marks the beginning of a new chapter for Pike Hill Library in Langwyth Road which was among 26 out of 73 libraries closed two years ago by Lancashire County Council.” … ““People in this local community have really missed their library and I couldn’t be more pleased that we are delivering on our commitment to reopen it.”
  • Moray – Moray Council budget: Libraries and Active Sports saved but council tax and music tuition on the rise – Press and Journal.  “The closure of libraries has also been taken off the table, with even Cullen and Tomintoul saved from the axe.”
  • Norfolk  – Norwich Millennium Revamp – Norwich Evening News. “After five months of hard work and long hours, the new Children’s Library, in the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library has a new look, much to the excitement of its young visitors. Featuring a brand range of books as well as resources for parents, the new-look library also boasts dedicated areas for little ones to play in, reading areas and a new sensory zone where children can relax.”
  • Reading – Reading Borough Council’s Sarah Hacker offers glimmer of hope that library hours could be increased – Reading Chronicle. “Hours were reduced in six of Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) seven libraries last year, in an attempt to save the cash-strapped authority £211,000. The council has offered community organisations the opportunity to present proposals for extending opening hours of their local libraries. Councillor Sarah Hacker, lead member for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, warned that hours could only be increased on a branch by branch basis and did not offer a guarantee that any proposals would be accepted.”|
  • Suffolk – A fresh Eye for Suffolk – Designing Libraries. “The plans for the project were agreed by Suffolk County Council in March 2018, with the new building being funded by the sale of the current site where the library has been for around 40 years. The old building was never designed to be permanent and the new library will provide a modern and purpose-built facility for the residents of Eye and surrounding areas to enjoy.”
  • Trafford – New library in Trafford officially opened by youngest and oldest members – Messenger. “The library, which opened on Market Street in December 2018 after the closure of the Stamford New Road facility, is already being hailed a success. Council bosses say it has seen an 89 per cent increase in visitors compared to the same period last year, and new member applications are flooding in. In just seven weeks, more than 11,000 books have been borrowed which is an increase of more than 42 per cent on the same period last year. Cllr Ross made a speech about the new library and its importance to the community and thanked the dozens of residents who turned out to the event. He said: “When the original library opened in 1892 it had 5,000 books and 2,200 borrowers. “Today Altrincham Library has over 25,000 books and over 26,000 registered borrowers.”
  • Warrington – Have your say on the future of the library service Warrington Worldwide. “Stockton Heath and Appleton parish councils are urging residents to make their views known on the borough council’s draft proposals for the future of Stockton Heath Library – and the library service generally. But time is running out. The consultation period ends on March …”
    • Love in the air at library date night – Warrington Guardian. “The event on Valentine’s Day was praised by both organisers and those looking for romance, and was one of the first in the UK to be held in a public library. Around 30 people participated, enjoying coffee, cake and the chance to meet the man or woman of their dreams.”
  • Warwickshire – Libraries to close for training – Leamington Observer. “Libraries and one stop shops across Warwickshire will be closed all day for staff training on Friday March 1.
  • Wirral – Libraries make ‘positive impact’ – Wirral Globe / Letters. “How refreshing to hear that Wirral Council have, finally, come to realise that our libraries are not simply “books in and books out” facilities. The 2008 fiasco, spearheaded by council leader Phil Davies, to close 11 randomly selected libraries rightly brought the wrath of the public on to his head.”
  • Worcestershire – Upton Library ‘safe’ after consultation period comes to an end – Malvern Gazette. “A meeting of stakeholders and volunteers was held to discuss the future of the building and what can be done to reduce overheads and make the library more commercially viable. Chris Mair, chairman of Upton Villages Together, the trust which operates the library, said: “The library is safe, what we now have to work on is the plan for the future.”. More volunteers.
    • Campaigners say St John’s library is ‘vital’ to local community – Worcester News. “Mark Davies, who led the meeting, held last Saturday, said: “I am pessimistic that there will be services that will be cut even if the Library remains open. We need to make sure that there are no jobs lost at all.” Mr Davies added: “The consultation is not our only means of saving the services. It is a campaign we need to build.” However, speaking after the meeting, Worcester MP Robin Walker reassured residents th”at the council may be able to find organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau to use rooms in the libraries in a bid to keep them open.
  • York – York libraries contract extended for 15 years – Press. “City of York Council has announced that the organisation currently running the city’s 14 libraries and archives services has won the contract to operate them from April 1. Explore Libraries and Archives Mutual Ltd took over running the libraries and archives services five years ago. It is a community benefit organisation, with a board of York people that local people can join.”

“Obviously need more detail re: budget but allowing £32m over 15 years would indicate an annual budget of £2.1m. Cipfa figures indicated budget of £2.8m for 2017/18 so seems to be quite a cut. And then there’s year on year inflationary costs to take into account.” @librareon