The more I read about US public libraries., the more foreign they sound. You can get into trouble in some for protesting when a member of the public brings in a gun, hidden or not. There is also no issue in many about adults watching porn on library computers, by the children’s library or not. Both are to do with the somewhat messed up views Americans have about their constitution. But another problem that has come up recently is religious fundamentalism and a certain unenlightened approach to anything but heterosexuality. There have been a ton of protests there about drag queen story times and just this week a protest from someone who genuinely believes the Earth is 6000 years old that libraries are a danger to children. Good grief. The American Library Association is trying to cope with mostly being far more liberal than a significant part of the country’s population but it must be a challenging time in such a divided country. It’s doing its best though and has just removed the name Dewey from a prize on account of Melvil’s behaviour, which was deeply inappropriate even when he was alive and is even more so now.

I need to report that my summary on the Single Digital Presence report last week was little inaccurate. The cost of the research is £266k (£236kI from Arts Council England plus £30k from Carnegie) and not the £320k reported. Oh, and it covers the UK – including Wales and Northern Ireland who effectively already have some form of uniform webpage – and not just England. However, I stand by my worries that this research, involved and well-run as it may be, but which at the moment is not giving a clear direction, is simply delaying a much needed national website for another 18 monthsor so and I have little hope of such a thing appearing for many years to come. This isn’t the fault of the British Library research but rather I think their brief and something more structural in the messed up and overly scattered national governance of public libraries in this country.

I have been in contact with Matt Finch for a while and heard much about his training so it was great to see him offering his “Library Island” training for free, of which more below. I am also delighted to report two more library services that have been fines free for apparently years but I had not included before – West Dunbartonshire and West Lothian. That makes 14 councils in the UK so far fines free.


Library Island

So I had a chance to talk Matt Finch about the making of his excellent Library Island resource free for anyone to use. For those of you not familiar with it – and it will be too many of you – it’s a training tool intended to make your library service think about what it needs to do in the future and how to put yourself in the shoes of your users and potential users. That sounds quite dry but, by all accounts, it is a fun game. Have a look at it here.

It has been tested in sessions all around the world from Australia to the USA and, in this country, notably in an event hosted by Libraries Unlimited. Although it requires a minimum of 15 people to do properly, Matt points out that this is an opportunity to invite partners/stakeholders along to help out and that it indeed strengthens the game to get their viewpoint. It can also help persuade them about the importance of libraries. In addition, getting people from all levels of the organisation – not just managers but library assistants and even caretakers – can help them understand the role of the library service better.

The game is a standalone activity, but forms part of a wider “scenario planning” approach which allows you to think about ten years or more ahead, trying different scenarios (e.g. halving of budget, increase in homelessness, NHS increasing spending on libraries …) but if this sounds like too long then Matt makes clear that it is not an exercise in science fiction or aiming to predict anything but rather to test your assumptions. And testing assumptions is important. Matt is clear that the library service should serve the needs of its local community. That sounds pat but time after time I see library services grabbing funding that’s available (I’ve given up reporting on ACE-funded theatre shows) with little thought for how it ties in with local need or indeed long-term strategy. I also see a lot of what Matt calls, in a wonderful phrase, “copy and paste innovation”, where a library service sees something shiny happening elsewhere and adopts it with little thought as to if it’s needed. For me, the ultimate example of this is makerspaces but there are others.

Matt, who I worry is one-man climate change inducing machine, has been to many countries in his travels and ended with a thought that rings true with me. This is that if you’re wondering about the future or if your service should do something or other then look abroad. Chances are that another country is already facing similar problems and you can learn from them. For instance, no-one tackles homelessness better than some New Zealand systems or has more of it than the USA so those are the places to look at if that’s an issue. But whatever you find out, remember it’s your local communities that your libraries are serving and not the other way around. Use examples from elsewhere but always this in mind. And then your library island will be a happy one.

  • My Visit to Library Island: Justin Hoenke – Mechanical Dolphin. “I’m featuring some accounts of the island from people who have attended Island sessions, or run Islands of their own, to give you a better sense of what it means to take part in, or even organise, your own Library Island. This week, we’re joined by Pennsylvania public librarian Justin Hoenke, who attended an Island session with colleagues from across the western part of his state in June 2019. The activity was embedded in a day-long event focussed on strategic & scenario planning for public libraries and their communities.”

“With Library Island, I felt differently about it from the moment I heard about it. Change?!?! Chaos?!?!? Games?!?!? Play?!?!?! Fun?!?!? What was this? Why were people smiling and moving around during this workshop? Library Island offered something different, a workshop that brought together learning with fun and unpredictability. At the end of the day with Library Island I was physically and mentally tired, but in a good way, a way I hadn’t felt in ages. I needed to get home and get to bed to recover, but my humming head wouldn’t let me fully put down the great experience I just had.” Justin Hoenke

  • Welcome to Library Island – Dr Matt Finch. Full text needed for roleplay training game designed to help library staff think strategically and secure funding. See Library Island Is Here. “This interactive training activity helps participants to explore strategy, innovation, and the messy business of working with communities. We’ve spent the last two years perfecting Library Island with university staff, health workers, museum professionals, students, and, yes, librarians. The free CC-licensed print-and-play kit is now available for download in PDF format. Feel free to adopt it, adapt it, and make your own visit to Library Island.

National news

  • 100 years of the library: The service we should value like the NHS – but don’t – Politics. “The 1919 Public Libraries Act effectively created libraries as we know them today.  It removed the rates cap preventing local authorities from establishing new libraries and paved the way for a service available to all for free. But this is not a centenary that will be celebrated. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has issued no press releases and there will be no commemorative events …. But this is about more than evil Tories taking kids’ books away. It’s about the hierarchy that governs the way we – the media, politicians, everyone – think and talk about public services, cherishing some, and curiously indifferent to the fate of others.”

“The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport monitors library service provision throughout England, but does not hold figures on the number of public libraries operating for all or part of their opening hours without staff. Following discussions involving the Department and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) the annual library statistics, will for the first time, report for each local authority the scheduled staffed and unstaffed opening hours per week for their libraries. This annual report will be published by CIPFA in November or December.” Mims Davis MP, DCMS Parliamentary Undersecretary.

  • Andy McNab: ‘At 16, I read my first book – and it changed my life’ – Guardian. “The main gist of what I tell anyone willing to listen is that the best soldier out there is the one with a library card.”
  • CILIP launches new Black Asian and Minority Ethnic Network – CILIP. “he network will provide a forum for BAME information professionals to share experiences, support each other and build connections. Working with CILIP and other partners, the network will support the advancement of BAME professionals in the workforce. The launch of the BAME Network will help to address the under-representation of people of colour within the library and information workforce as identified in the CILIP/ARA Workforce Mapping data (2015).”

“We appreciate the incredibly important work librarians do to champion authors and create welcoming spaces for all book fans. If you are currently employed as a librarian and can provide  proof of employment, you are eligible for a 40% discount on the price of a Capital Crime ticket. We’ve made 30 librarian tickets available and they will be sold on a first come, first served basis, with a limit of one per customer.” Capital Crime Festival 26-28 September, London.

  • How libraries change lives  – TedxExeter. “When was the last time you visited your local library? You might be surprised by what’s happening if you haven’t been recently. Ciara Eastell makes a strong case for these places of transformation and possibility, arguing that in an era of fake news and loneliness, we need our libraries more than ever.”

“We actively encourage people to speak to us as they are formulating their ideas for Engaging Libraries and are keen to be as helpful as possible. We are all friendly folk and can be contacted on  01383 721445 and engaginglibraries@carnegieuk.org). There is a blog that we published that gives a flavour of the programme and why we think public libraries are so well situated to connect people and ideas (because, guess what, they already do this!) and why we’re keen to support public libraries to establish partnerships with researchers:  https://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/blog/engaging-libraries-bringing-people-public-libraries-and-researchers-together-to-explore-health-culture-and-society/Jenny Peachey, Carnegie UK Trust via email.

  • Libraries on Twitter – Twitter Librarydata. Free tool to show what is trending on Twitter about the UK public library sector, other library sectors and internationally. “Data taken from the lists compiled by Sarah’s LibraryLists. For more exploration of libraries on Twitter, see Sarah’s Open Access article, Tweeting into the void?: creating a UK library Twitter list and analyzing best practice – successes and myths.”
  • Melvil Dewey’s name stripped from top librarian award – Guardian. “The American Library Association will rename the Melvil Dewey medal in recognition of their co-founder’s racial discrimination and sexual impropriety” … “The resolution explains that Dewey did not permit Jewish people, African Americans or other minorities admittance to the resort he owned, the Lake Placid Club. He also “made numerous inappropriate physical advances toward women he worked with and wielded professional power over” and was ostracised from the ALA after four women accused him of sexual impropriety, the resolution continues, declaring that “the behaviour demonstrated for decades by Dewey does not represent the stated fundamental values of ALA in equity, diversity, and inclusion”.”
  • More than 100 public libraries close every year due to Tory cuts – Mirror. “Since the Tories came to power, 817 have been shut or handed to volunteers, leaving 3,660 struggling on as councils try to balance books. Campaigners hope a Commons debate on the crisis next month will pressure the Government to protect library spending. Experts say the cuts are hitting the poor hardest as libraries cater for young parents, the old and jobless who cannot afford books.”
  • On-the-shelf idea: Time to get our libraries booked for business – City AM. ” why don’t we draw these threads together and transform a part of our local libraries into business hubs, which in turn could secure their future in the community?” … “We could repurpose a corner of all our local libraries into business “spokes”, radiating out from these main library hubs. The basic building infrastructure and good location already exists.”
  • Reading introduced as a prescribed treatment for mental health issues – South Wales Argus. “he scheme, which is known as ‘bibliotherapy’, is being launched in Wales following its success in England which has seen 931,000 people borrow over two million Reading Well books from public libraries. Free copies of the books will be available to members of the public to borrow from all 22 public library authorities in Wales from Wednesday, June 26, as well as supporting promotional material including leaflets containing the book list.”


  • Australia – Fee-free overdue policy prompts library renaissance among young TasmaniansABC News. “More than 8,000 new members signed up to the state-run library service in just five months between November 2018, when the changes were introduced, and March this year. It is a stark contrast to the loss of 900 members Libraries Tasmania encountered in the same period the year prior.” … “Data released in response to a question-on-notice during budget estimates showed the Education Department wrote off more than $330,000 in overdue fees last financial year as part of the reform. “We looked at what it was costing us in staff time, sometimes it was getting down to us chasing people through a debt collector,””
  • Canada – 10 big ideas from around the world to inspire Ottawa’s new super library – Ottawa Citizen. “The team behind the 216,000-square-foot project with a $193-million price tag is currently on what might be described as a library world tour, surveying standout institutions with an eye to shaping our own”. Many interesting examples from the world listed.
  • Global – What The Library Means To MePrinch. “we’ll take a look at quotes from people all over the world, from different demographics, backgrounds and stages in life; but all have been asked to share their personal thoughts, on what the library means to them.”
  • India – How Much Is India Spending On Its Public Libraries?Bloomberg Quint. “There were 70,817 libraries in rural areas and 4,580 in urban areas serving a population of more than 830 million and 370 million, respectively, according to the 2011 Census where libraries were notified (officially identified) for the first time. These numbers roughly translate to one rural library for every 11,500 people, and one urban library for over 80,000 people … There is no relationship between a state’s capacity to spend on libraries and its willingness to do so, studies have revealed … Public libraries in the U.S., U.K. and other European countries use library resources to cater to large populations. In the U.S., for example, the public library system provides services to 95.6 percent of the total population and spends $35.96 per capita annually, whereas in India the per capita expenditure on the development of public libraries translates to 7 paise [Less than one pence].
  • Pakistan – A Library Thrives, Quietly, in One of Pakistan’s Gun Markets – New York Times. “A local book lover, Raj Muhammad, hopes it becomes known as the home of the Darra Adam Khel Library. Located near a gun shop that his father built 12 years ago, the library opened in August, and Muhammad considers it a labor of love as well as a message to the area and the wider world. “I put books on the top of the gun market, making them superior to guns,” he said. “It’s a step for peace.” … “Now the military is helping Muhammad build a new library that can accommodate up to 65 people, seeing it as a way to help residents recover from years of traumatic violence.”
  • USA – Protesters against Maryland Drag Queen Story Hour outnumber event attendees – Life Site News. “About 100 Christians showed up throughout the day “to pray in reparation for the violation of childhood innocence and for the conversion of parents who’ve abandoned their God-given role as protectors of their children by bringing them to this depraved event,” according to Father Kevin Cusick, pastor of St. Francis de Sales Parish.”
    • Florida library’s LGBTQ prom canceled over safety concerns – Fox News. “the event met opposition when conservative activist Elizabeth Johnston campaigned against the affair, urging her supporters to follow her lead. That was when the library decided to cancel the prom. “Express your disgust that this pervasion is taking place in a taxpayer funded library,” Johnston told her 636,000 Facebook followers.”
    • Man behind biblical theme park warns that ‘libraries are becoming dangerous places for kids’ – Yahoo. “Ken Ham, who is the CEO and founder of Answers in Genesis, criticized libraries for supporting LGBTQ-friendly narratives in tweets on Sunday. Ham is the founder of Ark Encounter – a giant replica of the Noah’s Ark located in Willamstown, Ky., – as well as the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., which highlight and promote Christianity and Bible history.” and Man who thinks the earth is 6,000-years-old: ‘Libraries are becoming dangerous places for kids’ – Dead State.
    • Petition against Drag Queen Story Hour goes viral – Life Site News. “LifeSiteNews and Personhood Alliance have launched a massively successful petition campaign against the perverted “Drag Queen Story Hour” (DQSH) phenomenon. Personhood Alliance Education’s research has uncovered the fact that these offensive and dangerous events are actually partly funded and orchestrated by none other than the American Library Association (ALA).” … “The petition, therefore, urges the ALA to stop promoting homosexuality and the LGBT agenda and start promoting literacy again.”
  • USA – New York City Public Libraries Drop Kanopy Free Movie-Streaming Service – Variety. “Kanopy suffered a blow with the decision by New York City’s three public library systems — collectively the biggest library system in the U.S., with some 210 branches across the Big Apple — to drop the free movie-streaming service, citing high costs.” see also As Kanopy’s Popularity Grows, Can Your Library Continue to Afford It? – Indie Wire.”Kanopy said it did offer NYPL a capped model plan, but the two sides remained extremely far apart. IndieWire has learned that Kanopy insisted on a cap that was many multiples higher than New York was willing to spend.”
  • USA – Thinking outside the stacks: The Growth of Nature Smart Libraries – Children and Nature Network. “My data show that librarians want to participate in this movement, but they need your help. Nearly all of these initiatives represent the grassroots efforts of a unique constellation of actors working in specific local communities. After all, nation-wide 85% of public library funding comes from local jurisdictions. We need more research and knowledge creation on the impacts of these efforts, and we need your help to make this happen. Learn more about this project and its goals at Let’s Move in Libraries. 

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeenshire – Aberdeenshire libraries are going on a bear hunt – Press and Journal. “Knitted teddies are to be hidden across the region to celebrate We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. The search will be launched on Saturday July 6, in time for the school summer holidays, and small prizes will be on offer. Aberdeenshire Council’s communities committee chairwoman Anne Stirling said: “This is a really innovative way of marking the anniversary of this well-known children’s book by Michael Rosen.” … “Children and those young at heart can pick up a card from their local Live Life Aberdeenshire library to mark down the bears’ hiding places.”
  • Angus – New mobile libraries to serve isolated rural communities in Angus – Courier. “Angus Alive’s two new mobile library vans Isla and Glen were unveiled at Peel Farm in Lintrathen and will start their working life on Monday. The two new library vehicles, being slightly smaller than their predecessors, will make regular, scheduled visits to remote areas of the Angus Glens which have not had a library service in recent times.
  • Bath and North East Somerset – Brand new mobile library for B&NES to enter service at the start of July – Bath Echo. “The custom-designed vehicle will provide a full lending service giving access to DVDs, talking books and the three million books available from the LibrariesWest catalogue.”
  • Bolton – Cultural delights are what makes town great – Bolton News. “…libraries are a crucial part of any community. They give children access to exciting new worlds and knowledge without having to worry about the cost. The buildings are also local hubs – a great place for people to meet and socialise. Bolton Central Library is housed in a magnificent building, with a huge collection of books and fascinating and priceless archives.”
  • Buckinghamshire – You can now hire out your own tablet at Aylesbury Library – Bucks Herald. “‘Hublets’ are Samsung Galaxy tablets which customers can borrow for use within the library itself. All you need is your Buckinghamshire library card and PIN to release a Hublet for up to two hours, completely free.”
  • Cheshire East – Nantwich Library to launch 20th annual Summer Reading Challenge – Nantwich News. ““Last year more than 6,500 children took part across Cheshire East making us one of the highest participating authorities in the North West.”
  • Cumbria – TV licence to be bought for library – Times and Star. Town council buys tv licence for Cockermouth Library after county council declines to do so.
  • Derby – These Derby libraries will be handed over for a local charity to run – Derby Telegraph. “The Phillip Whitehead Memorial Library at Chaddesden Park and Blagreaves Library are set to follow in the footsteps of Sinfin, Spondon and Allestree libraries in becoming community managed libraries. A fourth library at Mackworth officially became a community managed library this month, on June 24″ … “A total of 10 libraries will be run by DHA [charity Direct Help and Advice] when the handovers are complete and this will leave five libraries still in city council control – Pear Tree, Alvaston, Mickleover, the Local Stdies Library and the Riverside Library in the Council House.”
  • Essex – Community won’t bid to run Manningtree library – Harwich and Manningtree Standard. “Members of Lawford, Manningtree and Mistley councils held an informal meeting to discuss the future of Manningtree’s library last Thursday. Essex County Council wants to shut a third of its libraries, while it hopes volunteers will run others, in a bid to save £2 million. But attendees of last Thursday’s meeting decided not to submit an Expression of Interest to the county council in the hope it would help to save the library service as it is.”
    • ‘No silence please over library plan’ – Clacton Gazette. “Tendring Council’s opposition – made up from Tendring First, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and independents – has called for an extraordinary meeting to discuss a motion concerning the future of libraries in the district. The motion calls on the cabinet of Essex County Council to rule out the closures or any reduction in opening hours of public libraries in Tendring and to instead concentrate on making better use of them as community hubs and to maximise the use of the buildings to generate income for the library service.”
  • East Sussex – Rallying call to Ore community to save local treasure – Hastings and St Leonards Observer. “The Save Ore Library Group is on the threshold of holding a public meeting and recruiting volunteers with a view to taking on the running of Ore Community Library. The Group was founded two years ago in response to plans by East Sussex County Council to close the library.”
  • Manchester – Watch a Brand New Manchester poem in 64 languages – Manchester Libraries Blog. “A brand new multi-lingual poem incorporating an incredible 64 different languages and written mostly by school children, takes pride of place from this week in Manchester Central Library for the next year.” … “Local school children and community groups have been invited over the last year to add new lines to a poem ‘Made in Manchester’ written by local poet Zahid Hussain. What makes the poem unique however is that the youngsters and others were all asked to contribute lines written in their own heritage language, to highlight the cultural diversity of the city – a city that is proud to be called home by people speaking more than 200 different languages.”
  • Norfolk – Plans for future of 11 axed children’s centres revealed – Eastern Daily Press. “A further three centres – in Loddon, Gorleston and Harleston – will be based in libraries and used to supplement their work with young children.”
  • North Yorkshire – Council pledges to continue supporting volunteer-run libraries – Craven Herald and Pioneer. “Stokesley councillor Bryn Griffiths said the continued success of the market town’s library was only due to residents agreeing to pay extra council tax for a library manager, as organising 32 volunteers was a complex job. Scarborough councillor Tony Randerson questioned whether the county would continue providing support staff. He said: “The libraries are coping on the basis that there is additional paid support by North Yorkshire County Council. Without that I think they would struggle really badly. It is essential that that support is kept on.”
  • Oldham – International bestselling author from Saddleworth inspired by local libraries – Saddleworth Independent. “When Saddleworth author Phaedra Patrick visited Oldham Library as a young girl, she dreamed that one day her own books would sit on the shelves there.” … “To celebrate the launch of her latest book, Oldham Libraries are running a social media competition on Thursday, July 27. A picture of Phaedra’s book will be posted in a mystery location and fans will be invited to guess where it is. A winner will be selected from the correct answers.”

“I am writing as a library user from Sheffield, I have been using libraries intensely since 2008, having always had an interest in reading. The interest I had for libraries and reading developed into a passion and hobby purely on the strength of visiting our beautiful art deco central library, which at the time had it’s own music library, fully staffed and stocked reference library and much more. In recent years our libraries in Sheffield have borne the brunt of austerity cuts, with 15 libraries now run by volunteers each with their own book collections in addition to the council controlled stock, these books are not on the main Sheffield Libraries catalogue meaning library users may be missing out on accessing particular titles.

The area of Tinsley, an area with high numbers of adults and children who speak English as a second language, now does not even have such a volunteer run library, having to make do with a small room full of books housed in a small room in the local community forum. This is despite the council owning an empty Carnegie Library literally just over the road. Book loans according to the councils own figures have declined at volunteer run branch libraries, as has income ironically in the same period charges for library fines, printing and other services were increased a few years ago. A new strategy obviously needs to be adopted in Sheffield, perhaps following the example of neighbouring Barnsley library service which has recently announced it is scrapping library fines in an attempt to boost library usage.

Libraries are such vital institutions, it is only right Sheffield gets the library service it deserves to enable future and current generations to change their lives as I have done mine through reading for pleasure.” Matt, Sheffield library user