A fair amount of good news today. In a subject close to my heart – not least because I’ve seen children cry and people walk away from libraries over the issue – another library service, Blackpool,  has announced that it will get rid of all fines. That makes nine services in the UK so far and I understand that there’s a lot of interest out there from other ones as well. The debate about practicality of waiving fines seems to be over before it even started: the time has come for getting rid of fining your customers,  it’s just working out how to fund it.  In other news, Powys has backed down from £200k cuts thus continuing the tradition of Welsh and Scottish councils being more willing to change their minds on the issue than their English counterparts. Cambridge has scrapped new computer charges after noticing they were only making one tenth of the expected income, due to, well, the people who use them not having tons of money. And a Suffolk library is being refurbished and having its opening hours extended. It’s a joy to report on libraries today frankly. My thanks also to Liz Gardner for taking the time in this post to explain the idea and practice behind having video bedtime stories. It strikes me as a really good and duplicatable idea. Get on it, Public Libraries News readers.

Finally, it’s the couple of weeks of the national library petition. It’s got nearly 33,000 signatures already but could do with a ton more. Get on it, sign it and tell people you know how important it is. Because, of if not now, when?



Burton Bedtime Stories

“The original series of Burton Bedtime Stories was made in November 2018 and shown on social media in the 14 days up to Christmas Day. The idea was something which Kate at East Staffordshire Children’s Centre and I came up with over a coffee one day. We had noticed that a lot of parents / carers we had come into contact with were not sharing books with their children because they lacked confidence having seen the celebrity Bedtime Stories in children’s television and thought they couldn’t do a good enough job themselves, because they had poor reading skills themselves or because they struggled with English as it was not their first language.

“We had noticed that a lot of parents / carers we had come into contact with were not sharing books with their children because they lacked confidence”

We decided to make some Bedtime Story films where ordinary people from Burton upon Trent reading picture books they enjoyed, had shared with their own children etc and which could be borrowed from Burton Library. Obviously we had no budget (as usual!) so I enlisted my son Dan Brown (Dan Wareing is his professional name) who is a broadcast journalist in London to do the filming / editing for us.

The original series of films got over 15,000 views on Facebook alone and created a lot of interest and lovely feedback about how the films were making parents / carers feel that they could read to their kids. Since the films calms out, we have had a lot of people borrowing the books from the library and then watching the films over and over whilst sharing the physical book with their child. Because of demand (including even more people asking if they could be volunteer readers) we decided to make 7 more films to celebrate stories for World Book Day. These are the ones we are showing this week. Again, Dan has been good enough to do the filming for free.

We’re planning another series for Empathy Day in June using books from the Empathy Day Collection and we’re going to try doing ‘Burton Bedtime Stories live’ for the SRC and asking local children to choose the books we read. Definitely had a good impact in the local community and has helped raise the profile of the library too.”

In a follow-up email, Liz Gardner addressed the issue of cost and the need for skills when filming…

“There are probably local film-makers (professional or amateur) who would be happy to support a project like this for less because it’s good PR for them. Also students on media or performing arts courses at local colleges, 6th form and university often have to produce portfolio work which links to community projects. A chat with the course leader usually gets results. You have to ask really early though, preferably during the academic year before you want to do the project. There are often amateur film-makers in communities too, existing volunteers or young volunteers maybe, who might fancy helping or libraries could even just film using a mobile phone on a tripod. Plenty of simple free film editing apps available e.g iMovie
The whole point of the films is to show that everyone can share a story. It doesn’t need to be highly polished, it just needs to reflect a love of reading and the power of the local community. “

National news

  • A novel approach – Lenstore. “It can be tricky to make time for reading, but would those postponed pages really take you that long to conquer? Take our test to determine how your reading speed compares to the Great British Public, and see how long it would take you to tackle some of the nation’s best-loved books.”.
  • Campaigners Warn Of ‘Book Poverty’ As UK Celebrates World Book Day – Independent. “As children across the UK don Matilda and Harry Potter costumes in celebration of World Book Day, shadow culture secretary Tom Watson has condemned the “scandal” that the number of books borrowed from public libraries in England has plummeted by almost 100m since 2011. Research commissioned by the Labour party shows that the number of books borrowed from libraries fell from 255,128,957 in 2011 to 157,387,109 in 2018 – a 38% decrease.”
  • Fraser Hutchinson joins The Reading Agency as Head of Publisher Partnerships – Reading Agency. “As Head of Publisher Partnerships, he will lead The Reading Agency’s work connecting the publishing world with libraries and readers. This includes book promotions in libraries, author events, offers for reading groups and partnerships with literary prizes.”
  • George Osborne’s policies took a wrecking ball to our public spaces – and our society – Guardian. “Shared civic spaces, such as libraries, make us all stakeholders in our community. But, since 2014/15, more than 12,000 public spaces have been sold, at what cost to our social fabric? “
  • Great British sell-off: how desperate councils sold £9.1bn of public assets – Guardian. “Far-reaching research by the Bureau for Investigative Journalism and HuffPost UK has found that nine years of swingeing central government cuts to local council budgets have resulted in a vast and irreversible sell-off of public assets. Of England’s 353 local authorities, 301 replied to the primary Freedom of Information (FOI) request, which revealed that between 2014 and July 2018, more than 12,000 publicly owned assets, worth a total of £2.8bn, have been offloaded by local councils”
  • Libraries and parks face closure in bid to pay for social care services facing multi-billion pound funding gap, LGA warn – Telegraph. “The Local Government Association (LGA) has insisted that this year councils will have to further divert funding from local amenities – including bus services, parks, filling potholes, libraries and leisure centres – to try and protect vital adult social care services.”
  • Library Resources for Overall Health – Princh. “Libraries provide information, resources and space for the public to learn about and obtain improvements in all aspects of health, at a low cost or no cost at all. This opportunity for people to access a single place with the tools to help them achieve a healthy lifestyle in all three areas (physical, mental and social) is what makes libraries so instrumental and unique.”
  • MP Column: Library services cuts are hampering learning opportunities for young people, says Sir Kevin Barron – Retford Today. “New data reveals that the number of books issued from public libraries in Yorkshire and Humberside has fallen by nearly ten million since 2011, writes Rother Valley MP Sir Kevin Barron.”
    Public libraries in England: extended basic dataset (as on 1 July 2016) – Gov.uk. Comprehensive list of libraries, updated January 2018. Shows the large numbers closed (XL) or passed to volunteers in some way (variously designated CL, CRL, ICL)
  • Revealed: The Thousands Of Public Spaces Lost To The Council Funding Crisis – Huffington Post. “The local government funding crisis has become so dire that councils are being forced to sell thousands of public spaces, such as libraries, community centres and playgrounds – and are using some of the cash to pay for further service cuts and redundancy payments”. One third of sell-off money spent on making redundancy payments.
  • Sticking plaster won’t save our services now – Times (behind partial paywall). “The services we take for granted have been pared so deeply that many are unravelling. The danger signals are flashing everywhere. Local authorities have lost three quarters of their central government funding since 2010. They are cutting and selling off wherever possible: parks, libraries, youth services.”
  • Uber cars stock children’s books to boost bedtime reading for World Book Day – City AM. “The ride-hailing company has teamed up with Penguin Random House imprint Puffin and the National Literacy Trust to launch a “mobile libraries” programme ahead of World Book Day, on 7 March.”
  • UK community groups receive funding to help vulnerable EU migrants – Financial Times. £9m outreach fund libraries can bid for. “UK organisations such as food banks, addiction centres and libraries are to receive public funds to help vulnerable EU nationals apply for settled status, to avoid a “second Windrush” generation losing their legal rights after Brexit. Migration campaigners have been warning that the pressure to register 3.5m EU citizens with new immigration credentials in the next two years could result in mass disenfranchisement, especially among the elderly, disabled, homeless and mentally ill. Those lacking internet access or necessary language skills are also at risk. Immigration officials are working on the basis that as many as 10 to 20 per cent of all EU nationals in the UK could be considered vulnerable and in need of assistance with the process. “
  • Virtual Reality Adventures at your Local Library – Lorensbergs. “The event I described is the latest in Hertfordshire Libraries’ ‘Creator space: out of the box’ series. This technology event includes fun and innovative ways to teach children in the entertaining and relaxed environment of their library”
  • Voyage of the Data Treader: Put your library on the map – Libraries Taskforce. “Manchester Central Library is the setting for Library Data Camp 2019, a free day dedicated to exploring data and open data in libraries on Monday 11 March.”
  • World Book Day: Alarm as number of children who read for fun slumps – Express. “Sue Wilkinson, of The Reading Agency charity said: “We know local authority budgets are under pressure but we hope they will recognise the powerful role libraries play in helping them achieve their ambitions, for the children of today and for future generations.””

Axiell Selflib
International news

  • USA – Libations in the Library – American Libraries. “The idea of alcohol at a library-sponsored event may strike some as unusual. But supporters say that serving alcohol increases event attendance, particularly among younger adults, and cultivates a public image of the library as a hip, up-to-date social setting.”

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeen – Exclusive: We won’t shut Aberdeen libraries – council co-leader rules out ‘draconian step’ in budget cuts – Evening Express. “A raft of cost-saving options were unveiled last week to plug a £41.2 million funding black hole, among them a proposal to close all libraries, with the exception of Central Library, to save £863,000. However, city council co-leader Douglas Lumsden, who heads up the ruling Labour, Conservative and Independent administration, has since told the Evening Express they will not take the “draconian step” of closing libraries, when it meets to put forward its budget tomorrow.”

“The administration, however, will not take the draconian step of closing libraries. We value libraries within our communities and we will continue to protect places of learning from SNP Government budget cuts.” Meanwhile Liberal Democrat group leader Ian Yuill said it has also abandoned the controversial library proposal within its own alternative budget.”

“The fines were never in place as a money-making scheme, they were designed to encourage people to return their books on time. However, we know that this can have the opposite effect. At a time when every penny counts even a small fine could be a reason for someone not to return a book.”

  • Cambridgeshire – Cambridgeshire County Council to drop £1 an hour charge for using library computers after predicted income falls short by 91 per cent – Cambs Times. “A charge for using Cambridgeshire library computers – introduced partly as a result of a survey that found 87 per cent support – is being dropped after it produced only a tenth of the predicted income.” … “The charge was introduced last May after 102 out of 117 people who responded to a survey throughout the previous September and October felt that the council “should start charging for services”.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Temporary closure of Tarporley Library – So Cheshire. “Tarporley Library will be closed during the Easter holidays due to building work taking place at Tarporley High School.”
  • Darlington – Calls for Darlington library to become a venue for events – Darlington and Stockton Times. “A survey to gather views on the future shape of Darlington Library is set to conclude, with many residents saying they do not want radical changes. Darlington Borough Council officers told a meeting of the authority’s place scrutiny committee that discussion events and responses submitted online had generated views that the Crown Street library should host numerous events. Councillors were told residents had called for a sympathetic refurbishment of the grade II listed building following the authority reversing its decision last year to relocate the library to the Dolphin Centre and invest £2m on the Crown Street site.”
  • Derbyshire – Appeal for volunteers to run almost half of Derbyshire libraries – Derbyshire Times. “Coun Lewis added: “Councillor Barry Lewis added: “Libraries are being transferred to communities up and down the country and we’re confident community libraries in Derbyshire will thrive with local people at the helm. “They’ll be able to offer a wider range of services and opportunities for their residents, tailor-made to suit their needs, possibly extend opening hours and apply for grants that are not open to the council. “We’ll be with them every step of the way to ensure they succeed.”
  • Ealing – Libraries facing the cut – Neighbour’s Paper. “This edition leads on the threat to our libraries. The Council proposes 7 out of the 13 libraries to be run by volunteers rather than paid staff, implying a sacking of employees. We realise that the Council has a £57 million budget gap due to Government funding cuts. Goodness knows what the answer is. How can this be happening in Britain, the 6th biggest economy in the world? Are we really this poor?”
  • Essex – Action in campaign to save local libraries – Leigh Times. “Children from Hockley schools handed in letters they hace written to County Hall in Chelmsford in a bid to have their voices heard. The children are too young to sign the petition created by residents which currently has more than 4000 signatures.”
    • County Hall protest to be held at Essex libraries meeting – Clacton Gazette. “About 60,000 signatures were collected from residents opposing moves to close a third of the county’s libraries. As a result, a special full council meeting has been called at Essex County Council’s headquarters. This will take place next Tuesday from 10am at County Hall in Chelmsford with protesters from Save Our Libraries Essex rallying from 9am by the atrium entrance in Market Road.”
    • Essex pupils hug library in World Book Day protest – BBC. “Pupils from St Michael’s Junior School in Galleywood, near Chelmsford, formed a ring and sang songs around Galleywood Library. It is one of 25 libraries set for closure in Essex by 2024 under plans laid out by Essex County Council. It comes after Brentwood Borough Council designated Shenfield Library an asset of community value.”
    • Manningtree campaigners hit out at MP’s library letter – Halstead Gazette. “campaign leader Holly Turner said: “The content of his letter is disappointing, especially when we have seen the detailed responses sent to Essex County Council by his colleagues. “It would have been incredibly heartening to see him highlight specific areas of concern but sadly this hasn’t happened.”
    • Shenfield Library designated an asset of community value – Yellow Advertiser. “Shenfield library has been designated as an asset of community value (ACV) – potentially helping ensure its continued use as a library. However the decision from Brentwood Borough Council does not immediately mean it will be saved from a decision from Essex County Council (ECC) to halt funding.”
  • Kent – Revamp of Kent library opening hours agreed by Cllr Mike Hill – Kent Online. “Cabinet member Cllr Mike Hill heard that the majority of the 5,547 responses to a 10-week public consultation on the proposals had been in favour of the plans, which broadly see staff time and opening hours allocated to those libraries that are most used. Though actually the margin was small, with 44% agreeing or strongly agreeing, and 37% disagreeing or strongly disagreeing. Others were uncertain.” … “Taken over all, there will still be a reduction in total library opening hours, which KCC hopes will save it £960,00 over the next two years, but at least all the county’s 99 libraries will remain open.”
  • Lancashire – Cleveleys library set to reopen, two years after it was closed – Fleetwood Library. “Plans have been agreed for the phased reopening of libraries, and Cleveleys is the 15th to reopen following the reopening of libraries in Silverdale, Parbold, Burnley, Bolton-le-Sands, and Fulwood in late 2017, and Freckleton, Oswaldtwistle, Barrowford, Whalley, Lostock Hall, Thornton, Earby and Bamber Bridge last year. Burnley’s Pike Hill Library has reopened recently.”
  • Merton – Crime and thriller novels top of the reading list at Colliers Wood Library by Laura Fletcher, Wimbledon High – Richmond and Twickenham Times.
  • Newcastle – Newcastle Lib Dems reveal how they would protect libraries and save tip from closure – Chronicle Live. “Newcastle’s Lib Dems are calling on their political rivals to drop budget cut plans that would force disabled drivers to pay for parking and slash library opening hours.”
  • North Tyneside – Letters: Rising to the challenges – News Guardian.  “It’s a pleasure to see the 10 branch libraries in North Tyneside flourishing as hubs of the community. Despite facing huge financial cuts demanded by central government, the council has kept its promise and found ways to keep them all open.”
  • Powys Powys budget deal lifts threat to libraries – BBC. “A threat to the future of 10 libraries in Powys has been lifted in a deal to get the county council’s budget passed. Several independent and Conservative councillors voted last month against their own leaders’ bid for £12m cuts.” … “Libraries savings of £200,000 dropped”
  • Suffolk – Long Melford Library announces plans for renovation and increased opening hoursSuffolk Free Press. “Long Melford Library hopes to revitalise local interest in its facilities after announcing plans for a renovation and increased opening hours. The library confirmed it will close for a week at the end of this month to allow the refurbishment to take place, after which new opening hours will take effect at the start of April. The changes, which were approved following a recent public consultation and are supported by the Suffolk Libraries Board and Suffolk County Council, will see longer hours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.”
  • Sunderland – Sunderland Libraries Launch 200 Million Minutes Reading Challenge – Sunderland Magazine. “The children took part in a storytelling session at the City Library on World Book Day (March 7) to help kick off the 200 Million Minutes Reading Challenge. This challenge aims to get kids around the world to read for a collective 200 million minutes. The challenge – which will extend over 26 days – is part of a global campaign to slash illiteracy and create a better future for children and young people. The 200 Million Minutes Reading Challenge – which will continue until Children’s Book Day on 2 April – will see Sunderland kids joining forces with schools, families, community groups and businesses all over the globe in order to surpass the record-breaking target.”
  • Warrington – Speed dating to become regular event – at the library – Warrington Worldwide. “This follows the very successful inaugural event that was held for Valentine’s Day when around 30 people went along to the library in the hope of finding friendship or romance. The free speed dating evenings are to be held on the last Wednesday of March, June, and September – with a December date to be confirmed. Following feedback from those who attended last month, different age groups will be invited along to each event.”
  • Wiltshire – Martin Field has loved reading from an early age and is not surprised about the backlash over plans to move the library – Salisbury Journal. “Small wonder that feelings run deep over plans to relocate Salisbury library. I’d much rather borrow a book, knowing it had been read and loved by others, than buy a new, soulless paperback. For others libraries are company for the lonely; a gateway to leisure and information unfettered by wealth or social standing. “