Libraries Connected have done some work to their (previously very sparse) website and added links to some useful resources. There’s not much new there – and, my, it shows how few free resources there are for reading – but it’s good to see them there. Speaking of reading, LC (I can’t help but call it Elsie) have done some nice statistics summaries, which show that more than three quarters of library visitors are there for the books. I find the lack of serious projects or indeed discussion, or any kind of focus, on books one of the biggest black holes in libraries in the last decade. By rights, there should be initiative after initiative in boosting what is very much our core product. But no. apart from some sterling work by the Reading Agency, the focus of much of the sector has been on what are, ultimately, side projects like makerspaces and coding. These are great to be sure but there seriously needs to be some rebalancing going on.  Those books on the shelves are important and the lack of serious training or concentration on boosting their use is as dangerous as the repeated cuts to their funding over the years. Another curious stat gleaned from the LC tables is that, using the figure of 2,080 hours work per year per 1 FTE, a full eighteen times more work is done in libraries by paid staff than by volunteers. Yes, despite all the coverage, it’s the poor (down 5% in one year, salary freezes or pay increases below inflation for a decade) employees who are still doing the vast amount of the actual work.

The news that the National Literacy Trust is boasting about working with shoe shops to boost literacy is as puzzling as library services who are disregarding books and paid staff. NLT, please, dudes, hello. We’re Over Here. Work with us. Local authority-wise, there’s some good news in Buckinghamshire, Cornwall (who have, by the way, quietly passed a ton of their libraries to parish/town councils) and Milton Keynes. The £200k reduction in the previously announced big £1m Worcestershire cut is entirely offset by a £200k cut in Powys. Finally, the new post announced in CILIP has, to say the least, raised some eyebrows on social media after the deep job losses that occurred last year.


National news

  • £400m cuts leave museums in crisis – Express. “In contrast to devastating losses in our communities, the Royal Opera House – which has been trying to shake off its elitist image – receives an annual subsidy of £24million through Arts Council funding. The Daily Express can reveal it is public library services up and down the country that have suffered the worst of the dramatic cutbacks – with shire counties and rural areas seeing the biggest impact. Analysis carried out by the County Council Network (CCN), which represents all county councils in England, shows spending of £1billion on libraries eight years ago fell to £717,016 last year.”
  • Funding for libraries down 40 per cent as cities are hit hardest by austerity – Big Issue. ““Councils have managed as best they can but the continued singling-out of local government for cuts cannot continue. There is a very real risk that many of our largest councils will in the near future become little more than social care providers. Fairer funding must mean more funding for cities.”
  • Head of Sector Development – CILIP. £41-52k. “We are looking for a results oriented and creative manager to drive our professional and commercial business development  “
  • If the shoe fits – Leon’s Library Blog. “The inclusion of Clarks, KPMG, and Penguin Random House in the partnership with the NLT seems a perfectly natural fit (pun intended!) given that they all have links with the NLT Board of Trustees. Whether KMPG and Clarks are appropriate organisations to support such a scheme is open to debate. Also, as many on Twitter pointed out, the cost of Clarks shoes is likely be prohibitive to many of the disadvantaged constituencies that this scheme aims to target.” … “libraries didn’t get a mention at all. Even the accompanying document; Improving the home learning environment barely mentions libraries and certainly no library organisations were consulted as a sector expert” … “This real issue here is a ‘small-state’ philosophy, the withdrawal of the government from public services, and the over-inflation of the philanthropic or charitable model to take its place.” see also Children don’t want to chat in shoe shops – engage them in places they actually like – I News.
  • Libraries are at risk and we can’t protest, says whistleblower – Express. “”I talk to a lot of library staff in other library authorities who are facing losing their jobs,” he said. “The biggest worry of most of them is not the loss of earnings. Few people are working in libraries for the money and the power, after all. No, what gets them the most is that they can’t tell the public what they really feel.”
  • Library Walk On: Build Healthier and Happier Communities With Reading – Princh. “We know all about the social benefits of reading. Add in the health and environmental benefits of walking and you’ve got Walk On. Walk On sessions let our libraries in Fife, Scotland play a role in building healthier and happier communities and takes activities outside our physical spaces.”
  • Library activity in England – Libraries Connected. 77% used a library for books, next most popular use is 20% “use free wifi.
  • Toolkits – Libraries Connected. List of useful resources in various subjects, paid or unpaid, open or tied to memberships, in the following subjects: advocacy, children and young people, community development and engagement, digital, event management and evaluation, library and customer service skills, management skills, reader development (mostly charged Opening The Book courses), service improvement and delivery
  • UK library funding – Libraries Connected. £768m total funding, 5% drop in FTE paid staffing in one year. Assuming the standard 2080 hours per FTE, paid library workers still provided 18 time more hours than did volunteers and 3.3 books were borrowed per every UK inhabitant.

Axiell Selflib

International news

  • Canada / USA – Stonewall defends ‘vital’ LGBT children’s books after spate of ban attempts – Guardian. “Earlier this week in Canada, the Ottawa Catholic School Board was reported to have pulled Raina Telgemeier’s acclaimed graphic novel Drama from the shelves of primary schools, moving it to middle and high schools where it would “more appropriately target 13+ students”. Aimed at children aged 10 and older, the book follows a girl who wants to help with her school play, and features a side story in which two boys kiss. It has proved controversial in the US in the past, with the American Library Association naming it as one of the country’s most challenged books.” … “Meanwhile in the US this week, a group of parents in Kansas attempted to have several children’s books featuring transgender characters – including picture book I Am Jazz – removed from the children’s section of Andover library. The protesters described them as “sexual revolution agenda, indoctrination of children”
  • Trump supporter ‘shows up to library with gun’ because drag queen was reading stories to children – Independent. “James Greene was arrested on suspicion of trespassing after refusing to leave Houston’s Freed-Montrose Library, but claimed he was detained for being a “white Christian” and accused staff of satanism. ” … “We have a bunch of homosexuals that are molesting children,” he is heard telling officers. “They are doing it with your help.” [Good grief – Ed.]
  • China – Prefabricated modular library by Dot Architects built in just seven days – De Zeen. “Dot Architects has completed a school library in rural China constructed in a week by amateur builders using the WikiHouse open-source architecture platform.”
  • Italy – The tiny library bringing books to remote villages – BBC. “The retired schoolteacher converted his three-wheeled van into a mobile library, the Bibliomotocarro. Driving the hills and mountains of Basilicata, Italy, La Cava is able to reach children in remote villages like San Paolo Albanese, which only has two children of primary school age”
  • USA / India – The Chronicler of Libraries – The Times Of India. Marshall Breeding interviewed. “… don’t want to judge what’s best by how much financial resouces they have and how much technology they have. What’s the impact on what they do for their communities is what we look for”

Local news

  • Buckinghamshire –Aylesbury Library opening after major refurbishment – Mix 96. “The library has had a complete renovation to include many fantastic new features and a total reworking of the space with brand new furniture throughout.” see also Detailed plans for new-look Aylesbury library – Mix 96.
  • Cheshire East – Our libraries take top spot in national survey – Cheshire East Council. “Libraries across the country could take a leaf out of Cheshire East’s book as once again the borough proves to be among the best for bookworms. A survey by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has found that the borough’s libraries have outperformed many others. Cheshire East features as the top unitary authority for the number of library books loaned per 1,000 population (4,876), number one in the North West and fifth in the whole of the UK. ”  … “Despite a challenging financial climate, Cheshire East Council has managed to keep all its libraries operating, helping residents with information, services, assistance with ICT, reading and entertainment.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Harry Potter Book Night event to be held at Chester Storyhouse – Cheshire Live. “Last year more than 100 witches and wizards attended the event at the multi award-winning theatre, independent cinema and library.”
  • Cornwall – New mobile libraries coming to Cornwall – The Packet. “Two new mobile libraries are set to take to the road soon and will be offering more than just books. The new vans are “on order” and, as well as offering a selection of books, will give people a chance to get online and use computer services.” … “he two mobile libraries operated by the council stop at 155 places around Cornwall and in 2017 loaned out 51,662 books. The council’s micro libraries issued 4,603 books in 2017. ” … “It has been suggested that the council could work with more organisations to run services from the mobile and micro libraries including the Department for Work and Pensions, Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service and the NHS. ” Consultation.
  • Coventry – Library cuts in Coventry ‘nail in coffin’ before UK City of Culture 2021, union says – Coventry Observer. “Trade union branch Coventry City Unison, which represents staff, slammed the proposals as an ‘express service to nowhere’. A Unison spokesperson said: “What an express model would look like for service users was not detailed. “What was also not consulted on, either by staff or the public, was to introduce single staffing in four libraries – Aldermoor, Caludon Castle School, Canley and Coundon.”
  • Durham – Get creative and crafty at East Durham libraries this February – East Durham News. “For just £1 a session, children can create their own animated film, make an out of this world space artwork or listen to a pirate themed tale at a family storytelling session.”
  • Essex – Hundreds show support at meeting to keep Manningtree Library open – Harwich and Manningtree Standard. “About 100 residents attended a meeting to discuss the Essex Library Strategy Consultation – and more specifically the future of Manningtree Library. More than 12,000 people have already taken part in Essex County Council’s online consultation on multiple libraries, including Manningtree Library, facing closure.”
    • Bookworms’ joy at new home for Southminster library – Maldon Standard. “Southminster Library is now located in the Parish Room in Queenborough Road. It follows the move from the old police station which had seen many temporary closures in recent years due to heating problems. A parish council spokesman said: “We were approached by Essex County Council early in 2018 with a view to the relocation.”
    • Campaign takes to the streets for Manningtree library – Halstead Gazette. “More than 30 campaigners took to the town centre on Saturday urging residents to sign a mum’s petition to keep Manningtree Library open. The library is one of 25 in Essex which faces being scrapped within the next two years by Essex County Council to save about £2million a year.”
    • Comment: Library loss will leave hole in Sible Hedingham – Halstead Gazette. “It is reported the running of Sible Hedingham Library on its own does not make a dent in that saving, only costing just under £15,000 to keep open every year.  .. The population of Sible Hedingham are right to continue battling for their facility, like many other communities. “
    • Council apologises for transgender pic in libraries document – Gazette News. “Essex County Council created an Easy Read version of its survey asking residents what they think of proposals to close a third of libraries in the next five years. Complaints have been fired after an image of a person appearing to be scratching their head in confusion was used next to the transgender box for the question: Are you a man, woman or transgender? At a closer look it appears the figure is removing a wig.”
    • Councils make library provision pledged – Leigh Times Series. “Rochford District Council has pledged to work closely with Essex County Council on both the shaping and delivering future library provision throughout the district and will support the retention of a library service in all the current five existing areas of the district. ” … ““However, we are mindful that the county council also has a duty under the 1964 Libraries and Museums Act to provide a library service for our residents. We are largely rural communities and we will endeavour to ensure that Essex County Council also considers this within its review, taking into account the Equality Act 2010 and access to services.””
    • Residents invited to join protest outside town library – Saffron Walden reporter. “Mayor of Saffron Walden, Councillor Paul Fairhurst, is urging residents to join a non-political, silent protest outside Saffron Walden Library on Saturday in response to the county council consultation on the future of libraries.”
    • Residents urged to save North Weald Library from closure – Guardian series. “Residents of North Weald Village, Hastingwood and Thornwood Common will have the opportunity to meet with parish councillors and staff to find out more. “
    • SOLE protest against library closures outside Town Hall -Gazette News. “The demonstration was organised by the Colchester branch of the Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE) campaign and was staged outside Colchester Town Hall before Colchester Council’s Cabinet meeting. “
    • Town bosses pen angry letter about Harwich Library cuts – Harwich and Manningtree Standard. “Harwich Town Council has penned a letter to the county council in response to its online consultation on the future of 25 Essex libraries facing the axe. ” … “”Harwich Town Council believes that any reduction is unacceptable and detrimental and would inevitably lead to a hit and miss service even when the library is supposed to be open as volunteer cover cannot be guaranteed at any given time.”
    • What is the next chapter for our libraries in a digital age? – East Anglian Daily Times. “Andrew Coburn, spokesperson for SOLE, said: “It’s not a fait accompli. We want to keep up the pressure, so they will scrap the plan, and try to improve the library service and invest in it.””
  • Milton Keynes – MK Libraries thrive despite national trend for closure – MK FM. “MK’s Westcroft Library is to reopen on 29 January in a new home on Wimborne Crescent following an eight month build and a £1.2million investment. The purpose built library will feature a children’s section designed in the style of a knight’s castle and with new furniture throughout. New Libraries Xtra technology will provide out of hours access via membership swipe cards and the library has greatly extended its opening hours including Sundays. Westcroft is the latest MK library to receive investment.  Last year Bletchley Library had a £700,000 refurbishment.  MK Council’s commitment is to keep libraries open and improving and this sets MK against the national trend, where spending on libraries fell by £30m in 2017-18[1] and 127 libraries closed.”
  • Neath Port Talbot – Library closures top a list of people’s worries over Neath Port Talbot Council’s budget – Wales Online. “Library closures and cutbacks to a service for vulnerable and disadvantaged people top the list of council budget concerns for people in Neath Port Talbot. The local authority is faced with making millions of pounds of cuts next year in order to balance the books. Under its draft budget proposals, four of its eight libraries are under threat – in Baglan, Cwmafan, Glynneath and Skewen – as are youth clubs and various services such as free transport for post-16 students with special educational needs and the Welfare Rights Unit.”
  • Norfolk – Fancy testing out a ‘Code-a-pillar’? New family festival set to showcase creative technologies – North Norfolk News. “DigiFest is a celebration of methods of digital creation, from animation to electronic music, aimed at four to 16-year-olds. In the workshops – which will take place in each of the county’s libraries – budding film makers can try their hand at stop motion, artists can build automatic drawing robots, and for younger children a ‘Code-a-pillar’ will give an opportunity to learn some early coding skills.”
  • Northamptonshire – Burton Latimers residents back library buy out – Northants Telegraph. “It is proposing to pay staff to run it alongside volunteers and to open for 33 hours per week. The town council will have a remaining £30,000 a year from the wind farm funds to support community …”
  • Oldham – Oldham Library invites you to join their political party – Oldham Council. Theatre show.
  • Powys – Powys libraries review – ideas sought to save £200k – Powys Council. “Powys County Council has announced a review of its library provision and is seeking support and funding ideas from Powys residents, communities, town and community councils, partner agencies, charities and local businesses in a bid to save £200k during the financial year ahead. ”
  • Reading – Children Celebrate Toy Library Launch at Reading Central Library Reading Council News. “Reading Library Service’s Toy Library, which was previously housed in Southcote, has now moved to Reading Central Library and is housed in a fun new castle themed enclosure.”  … “As well as families, registered childminders, early years settings and schools in Reading are also encouraged to make use of the toy library.”
  • Suffolk – Suffolk siriusly loves Harry Potter – Ipswich Star. “fans in Suffolk have loaned the popular books 3,600 times over the past year, as many fans prepare to dress up as wizards for the annual book night.” … “Both muggles and wizards are invited to celebrate the best-selling books at a number of Harry Potter book nights across Suffolk libraries.”
  • Warrington – Share your views on future of town’s library services – Warrington Guardian. “six-week consultation giving residents the chance to have their say on the council’s draft strategy – Transforming Warrington’s Public Libraries – has been launched. The strategy, developed by the libraries partnership board, aims to ensure services remain sustainable and relevant. It underpins the council’s £1 million investment in a programme of repairs, maintenance and refurbishment at all 12 of Warrington’s libraries, along with a £150,000 towards the book fund budget”
  • Worcestershire – Worcestershire County Council says it is reducing controversial library cuts by £200,000 – Worcester News. “Worcestershire County Council originally planned to slash £1 million from the county’s library budget over the next three years but has announced it would now be reducing the cut to £800,000. ”