Although the last ten years have been pretty darn tumultuous ones for public libraries, one thing has been constant – the number of public library services in England being 151. That is going to change on 1 April, when Bournemouth and Poole formally unite (along with Christchurch) to become the 150th – or first, depending, on how one looks at it – library service. I understand that the publicity from the new council on its creation will feature libraries, which is great. Best of wishes to them.

It seems like barely a PLN post goes by without another library service announcing it is going fine-free and this one is not going to go against the trend: Bridgend’s libraries will become the first in Wales to take the step on 1 April. Not so wonderful is another Welsh trusts in Blaenau Gwent which, if I’m reading the news report correctly, spent money earmarked by the council for books on other things it needed instead. Hmm, not so impressive. Finally, a big thanks to Caitlin Murphy who has kindly answered a few questions on her role in social media for London Libraries below.

Changes by authority

An interview with Caitlin Murphy of @LDNLibraries

Caitlin Murphy knows her social media

How long have you been involved in social media / what’s your background?

Like most people, I initially started using social media for personal reasons to keep up with friends and family. In 2006, I was tasked with putting together a directory for a membership organisation I worked for, which was going to be a very tedious task. My boss still wanted the printed book, but he let me start a Facebook page, which turned out to be very successful, not only as a way for members to connect, but also for the organisation to promote itself and its events, and it is how they do their membership directory today. I’ve keenly followed the development of social media platforms since.

When did you take over the London Libraries @LDNlibraries twitter account and how come?

We didn’t so much take it over, bur start anew as we didn’t have the login details for the previous account – a good lesson there – this was in late 2016 to promote events around the first Worlds of Possibilities Festival that was to take place during Libraries Week. We organised the festival, wrote up the Arts Council grant application and did the publicity around the events. The @LDNLibraries Twitter account represents London’s public libraries across all the local authorities. We set up the Twitter account in October 2016, along with a Facebook page and Instagram account. We learned quickly that Twitter was the most popular platform for us to use, and have focussed on it the most. We think that while Facebook is good for events, and Instagram for sales or promotion, Twitter fits best with our brief, which is promoting public libraries in London.

Do you have a strategy with it? What do you cover? What don’t you cover?

Our first step was to consider the tone that we wanted to strike. Because its not an account for one library or one authority we needed a broad brush for this large canvas. We aim to be welcoming, approachable and a bit irreverent, and remind people that libraries adapt with the needs of their communities. Ultimately people go to the library because they want to, either for leisure or study or personal advancement and so library accounts need to reflect that welcoming atmosphere and spirit of possibility. We work to make the account reflect that balance of usefulness and pleasure.

In terms of strategy, we always use an image, we always tag 10 accounts – usually other London Libraries, but sometimes authors, publishers, news outlets, bloggers, or listings sites. Initially we put out posts that could be modified by other libraries to suit their audience, for example #NationalStoryTellingWeek or #Halloween to promote good practice. The widened scope of library Twitter has been hugely encouraging. More authorities are using Twitter as a platform and using it really well.

“we always use an image, we always tag 10 accounts”

We aim for 50 RTs as that should get us 5000 impressions or so. The vanity metrics aren’t important, but we do need to know whether our tweets are being received well or if we need to alter anything.

Any hints and tips you can give? Are including Twitter handles and hashtags a good idea?

Reaching more people in wider audiences would certainly help. If libraries were to promote their social media presence more in the libraries and on their websites and in the library I’m sure their followers would rise dramatically. Websites should indicate Twitter, Facebook and Instagram account handles (as below). And libraries should display their handles on the opening hours sign on the library doors, at the self check-outs and service desks.

” libraries should display their handles on the opening hours sign on the library doors, at the self check-outs and service desks”

A Twitter tag cascade would also help with retweets and cross promotion. We retweet as much as we can, but the volume is ever increasing. I would suggest that, when neighbouring authorities post something, they tag one another and retweet. Reaching out can only help libraries promote the amazing things that they are doing and the events they are hosting. In term of hashtags, be opportunistic!.Planning is good, but checking what’s trending on a certain day and tweeting about it has gotten us some of our most popular Tweet results and demonstrates that libraries feel the pulse of current events.

Some library services have to cope with limited freedom due to corporate social media policies. Any suggestions for what can be done for them?

Some authorities have one account for all of their libraries and some authorities have individual accounts for each library. Some accounts can’t be tagged in images, but can be mentioned in posts. I head some good advice at a conference once which was “Ask forgiveness not permission.” You can take it from there. Practically, there is nothing that stops an individual from promoting what they see in a library, be it a chess club or an author talk.

Orkney Libraries are the famous example of Twitter social media accounts. What do you think of them? Are there other good library accounts you’d suggest following?

Orkney is an inspiration as an account because you can really see the personality behind it. They obviously put a lot of thought into the tone that they want to strike. Its also remarkable because it’s not a place that anyone is going to casually find themselves at, but people are so interested in. They have really succeeded in making the ordinary really interesting and extraordinary with humour and intelligence. @ShetlandLibrary is also fantastic and the way that the two accounts have built a friendly rivalry is very entertaining. They also have a supportive rapport with @AnnCleeves based on her Shetland novels which is lovely to watch. Twitter has the reputation as being a venting ground, and those accounts have really demonstrated how to rise above that and have concentrated their efforts on promoting the wonderful things that happen in their libraries in a hugely entertaining way. Look up their Fortnite tweet. We’re still chuckling! @NYPL is very good – and they have linked accounts, cross-promoting their blogs and events such as @NYPLRecommends, @LIVEfromtheNYPL and @young_lions, which shows their incredible effort and coordination. Love them or hate them, @Waterstones does great book tweets, and good images of their book displays.

Any other questions you’d like me to ask but I haven’t?

I’ve mentioned Twitter a lot because that has been our greatest success, but I think that Instagram deserves consideration for libraries as it is growing so rapidly with audiences that may not use Twitter as actively. Instagram is image based and posting links is limited, but with some research it can reach out to a different audience. And it would be a fabulous tool for people who use the library to show their affection for books and learning.

“I think that Instagram deserves consideration for libraries as it is growing so rapidly with audiences that may not use Twitter as actively”

Caitlin Murphy is a communications consultant with expertise in internal communications and stakeholder engagement. Her career has taken her from Toronto to Moscow and now, London. She also really enjoys libraries.


  • Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole agree council tax – BBC. “The borough councils of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole are set to merge into a single unitary authority in April as part of a reorganisation of local government in Dorset.”
  • Concern for elderly as hundreds of computers are lost to Scotland’s libraries – Herald. “Resarch revealed by Open Knowledge International, which campaigns on data literacy, shows that Scotland had 4,264 computers in libraries in 2017-18, 281 fewer than in 2010/11. The decline in publicly accessible computers comes amid a greater push for government and other essential service providers, such as banks to digitise their services to cut costs. Age Scotland raised concerns about the loss as increasing numbers are being pushed onto the internet to get vital services.”
  • Essential reads: Sally Rooney, Lee Child, Jojo Moyes and Stephen Fry top list of top e-books in UK libraries – Evening Standard. “The list was compiled by Libby, an app for borrowing e-books and audiobooks from libraries.”
  • This is your last chance to sign the petition to protect our libraries – Big Issue. “At The Big Issue we never tire of banging on about the power of reading to improve lives,” says Big Issue editor Paul McNamee. “We have lobbied for better literacy across Britain. We have called for libraries to be kept open.
  • UK libraries dumped 11% of computers since 2010-11… everybody has one anyway, right? – Register. “Almost 4,000 computers have been cut from public libraries in England since 2010, with some 680 internet-connected machines lost in the past year. The figures, collated from Parliamentary information sources by UK Labour’s shadow digital and culture team and published by Huffington Post, show the extent of budget cuts on local services across the country.”
    • Digital exclusion will worsen as 4,000 public computers cut from libraries and jobcentres – FE News. “Research published from the House of Commons Library – commissioned by Labour’s shadow culture team –  shows that almost 4,000 public computers have been cut from libraries and jobcentres. Good Things Foundation knows from our work with our network across the country that having access to a computer and having digital skills can greatly improve a person’s life chances and quality of life.”
  • UK publishers urged to tackle library crisis – BookSeller. “Coates, a former Waterstones boss, argues the main problem with libraries is not a lack of funding but a shortage of books inside them. According to his analysis of figures last December, library spending on books fell 20% in year-on-year in the 12 months to the end of March 2018 ” … ““In America public libraries thrive and publishers support them. Publishers in the UK have lost interest in public library services because they now sell so little to them . What they are missing by this lack of concern is the longer term advantage that libraries offer of bringing readers into the market.” The campaigner has continually questioned why library services in the US and Australia appear to have held up while figures for the UK show a service in decline.”

Axiell Selflib
International news

  • Canada – This Library Takes an Indigenous Approach to Categorizing Books  – Yes Magazine. “The library aims to counter Western, colonial bias and better reflect the knowledge of Indigenous peoples. By offering an alternative to the widely used Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress classification systems, this library aims to take steps toward decolonizing the way information is sorted, cataloged, and shared.”
  • USA – Library fines hit Seattle’s lower-income neighborhoods hardest – Crosscut. “the proposed seven-year, $213.3 million property tax levy the mayor rolled out last week, Seattle Public Libraries would do away with late fees, following a trend of libraries across the country looking to make access to their materials and services more equitable. “We find that fines are barriers in ways that they really shouldn’t be, and they don’t need to be, and we can have a better system,”
  • USA: Library fines with Meg DePriest and Beth Crist – Princh. “Should library fines be abolished? Are they a vital source of revenue for libraries, or do they do more harm than good? Are they in line with the mission of libraries, or are they contradictory to it? You can find the answer to these and many other questions in episode two of the Princh Library Lounge! In this episode our host, Vicky Woolbarn, is joined by Beth Crist and Meg DePriest, two experts on the topic of library fines.”
  • USA – Oh it’s such a perfect library – Big Issue. “New York Public Library is issuing 6,000 new library cards emblazoned with Mick Rock’s iconic photograph of Reed as featured on the Transformer album sleeve, to celebrate the opening of the Lou Reed Archive.”

Local news by authority

  • Blaenau Gwent – Council gave trust £82k to spend on library stock but only £27k was used – South Wales Argus. “he county borough’s libraries are run by the Aneurin Leisure Trust, with money transferred from the council into a book fund to run services. Blaenau Gwent council allocated £82,000 to the book fund for 2017/18 but only £27,000 was spent by the Trust. Spending on resources for libraries in Blaenau Gwent is the lowest in Wales, according to the Museums, Archives and Libraries Division (MALD) of Welsh Government.”

“The meeting heard the council is working with the Trust to try to increase further the amount it spends on libraries. At a scrutiny meeting on Monday, Cllr Phil Edwards asked how many years libraries had been ‘robbed’ of funding which had been allocated for resources.”

  • Bridgend – Good news for book borrowers as Pyle Library reopens – Glamorgan Gem. “Pyle Library reopened this week and there was good news for all libraries in Bridgend county borough – fines on overdue books are to discontinued. Awen Cultural Trust, which runs the libraries, announced that it will be abolishing all late fines from April 1.” … “The registered charity, which runs 12 branches, a mobile library and a housebound service on behalf of Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC), will be the first in Wales to eliminate the fines, following in the footsteps of some libraries in England and the Republic of Ireland. “
  • Cheshire East – Conservatives launch Cheshire East manifesto for May’s election – Winsford and Middlewich Guardian. “Maintain the borough’s libraries and children’s centres”
  • East Dunbartonshire – Three East Dunbartonshire libraries ‘saved’ after new funding is found – Herald. “The fate of the libraries – around 40% of the local authority’s complement – were discussed on Thursday night as the local authority met to set its budget and how it fills what they say is an almost £8 million shortfall. In an 11th hour move, the Conservative/Liberal Democrat council administration has agreed £200,000 extra funds for its culture arm, the East Dunbartonshire Leisure Trust, which operates the library service to stave off any closure.”
  • Hertfordshire – St Albans Library reopens after major refurbishment – Hertfordshire County Council. “St Albans Library recently reopened its doors after a short closure, to show off all of its new and exciting features to the public. The library has had a complete facelift, with an improved children’s area, IT and study facilities, new low-level shelving to make the most of the views of the St Albans skyline, a bookable meeting room and a new CreatorSpace facility, which will be fully open to the public from Monday 25 March.”
  • Highlands – Bravery award for Fort William ‘gun’ incident librarianBBC. “A librarian has been recognised for her bravery in an incident where a man came into her building holding what looked like a handgun. Sandra MacLean, 63, who was working as a supervisor at the time, “calmly and discreetly” evacuated Fort William library of visitors and staff. After alerting police, she then went back into the building to make sure the man was still there. Ms MacLean left the library and locked it to make sure he could not escape. The man, who was 26, was jailed for 18 months in connection with the incident which happened on 25 May 25 2017. The gun was a replica.”
  • South Gloucestershire – Kingswood Library closes its doors but will reopen nearby soon – Bristol Live. “Kingswood Library has closed its doors while work is carried out to relocate it across the road. The library building, which was located at the end of Kingswood High Street, will be closed permanently from today (March 18). But the service will open to the public again on April 8, just across the road inside Kingswood Civic Centre.”
  • Suffolk – New chapter for The Coffee House duo at Bury St Edmunds Library – Bury Free Press. “Lucy Newell and Jessica Darnell, who run the business, moved into the library, in Sergeant’s Walk, at the beginning of the month after the lease at their Ixworth premises expired.”
  • Windsor and Maidenhead – Container library set to tour Royal Borough on the back of a lorry – Maidenhead Advertiser. “The container library was officially relaunched at an event outside Wraysbury Town Hall on Wednesday. The mobile library is attached to the back of a lorry and is set to journey across the Royal Borough. Its destinations will include Sunningdale, Wraysbury, Holyport, Shifford Crescent and Woodlands Park, and will contain hundreds of books, as well as eBooks, eAudiobooks, large print books and eMagazines. The self-service kiosk will also allow residents to make payments for council services like council tax or green bin subscriptions.”