It’s that joyful time of year in the election period when all the manifestos have been published and librarians can again play the game of pressing CTRL and F with the search term “libr” on them and see if it comes up with any results. So what does such a tactic show this year?

As normal, all of the party manifestos largely treat libraries as an afterthought but there are some interesting differences between them. The Conservative manifesto only mentions the already announced £250 million to be shared between museums and libraries and anything else cultural. That sounds nice but this amount is over five years and the amount for libraries will be far less per year than recent cuts in it overseen by the same party.

So, not much joy there then, but more than with the Liberal Democrats who mention libraries only as a location for the collection of free sanitary products. Let that sink in for a while before we move on.

The Greens, who I would have thought would have been right behind libraries, mention the word once for tool/equipment collection points and once to point out that they’ll keep libraries thriving. Labour, on the other hand, have clearly been alerted to the sector as they promise £1 billion – not just £250 million – for libraries, galleries and museums but also specifically mention updated IT for public libraries and the reintroduction of library standards.

Well, OK, I am probably being unfair on the Lib Dems who doubtless will spend more on local services than the Conservatives, who have shown a deep desire to cut them more andmore over the last decade. And libraries under the Greens would likely see a renaissance of the sort they have not seen since Carnegie more than a century ago. But the clear gold star goes to Labour who actually appear to show some understanding of the sector beyond that of the typical person polled at a street corner.

A shame then that, if current polling is to be believed, none of these parties stand a chance and the Conservatives will get in with a comfortable majority. Their track record has been demonstrably negative for the sector since 2010 and there is nothing in their manifesto or demeanour that suggests this will change. It suggests that, nationally, libraries should expect, best case scenario, another five more years of only slightly better conditions than now and, worse case, a continued deep decline in funding by a government continuing its policy of neglect for libraries. Library services and librarians should make their long term plans with that in mind.

NB It’s purdah time so I need to reiterate again and specially that this editorial reflects entirely my own views outside of work – and not that of my employer or anyone else in the library sector.

Changes by authority

Party Manifestos

“We will ensure libraries are preserved for future generations and updated with Wi-Fi and computers. We will reintroduce library standards so that government can assess and guide councils in delivering the best possible service.”

“We will invest in the towns and communities neglected for too long, with a £1 billion Cultural Capital Fund to transform libraries, museums and galleries across the country”

Labour Party Manifesto 2019

“£250 million to support local libraries and museums ”

Conservative Party Manifesto 2019

“End period poverty by removing VAT on sanitary products and providing them for free in schools, hospitals, hostels, shelters, libraries, leisure centres, stadiums, GP surgeries, food banks, colleges and universities. “

Liberal Democratic Party Manifesto 2019

” Encourage a shift from models of ownership to usership, such as with car-sharing platforms and neighbourhood libraries for tools and equipment “

” We will support councils to also use this funding to nurture arts and culture in their areas, keeping local museums, theatres, libraries and art galleries open and thriving. “

Green Party Manifesto 2019

National news

  • Complaint concerning CCHQ misrepresentation on social media – CILIP. “I am writing on behalf of CILIP, the UK’s library and information association, to complain in the strongest possible terms about the action taken last night by the Conservative Party in re-branding the @CCHQPress twitter account as ‘fact checking UK’ alongside the televised Leaders Debate.” … “We are therefore submitting this formal complaint on the basis that in taking this action, your Communications Team and any Party Leadership that sanctioned this action are in clear and material breach of your own Conservative Party Code of Conduct.”
  • Ken Follett: Author makes plea to save our libraries – Daily Express. “My family was not poor, but a book was either two and six, or five shillings, and young families like ours did not have much disposable income. So I would only get books for my birthday and at Christmas. Then, one glorious day, I discovered libraries and their promise of unlimited free books for ever. Suddenly, it was Christmas every day. In fact, I would say the first big thrill of my life was joining Canton Library in Cardiff, aged seven”
  • Libraries leading the way in exploring challenging issues – Carnegie UK Trust. “The £500k programme will support 14 projects across 16 library services to partner with universities to engage their local communities with research. Projects will cover a wide variety of topics from fake news and air quality to the menopause and multilingualism.”
  • McDonnell: Labour’s broadband plan is just like a public library – Wired. ““The development of free libraries – the ability to access information, and at the same time to engage culturally with the rest of the community has always been a principle that we’re trying to advocate,” says McDonnell when asked why Labour would make its proposed national broadband service free of charge – a world first, if actually implemented. “It’s the same principle of the NHS.””
  • Mozfest 2019 – Libraries Connected. “The Mozilla Festival (also known as MozFest) covers a range of topics focusing on creating a better internet. The theme for this year’s Mozilla Festival was healthy AI. The sessions were organised in broad topics as in previous years – web literacy, openness, digital inclusion, decentralisation, privacy and security, youth zone, queering, neurodiversity, dialogues and debates. Libraries Connected gave bursaries to six library workers to attend the festival.”
  • Participation in Summer Reading Challenge up 2.6% – BookSeller. “The Reading Agency has reported 722,731 children took part in public libraries’ Summer Reading Challenge this summer, representing a 2.64% increase on last year’s participation.” … “Following an 8% fall last year,” …”Next year the theme of the 2020 Summer Reading Challenge will be “Silly Squad”, celebrating funny books with bespoke artwork from Laura Ellen Anderson, children’s book author and illustrator behind the Amelia Fang series published by Egmont.”
  • Public Library Champion of the Year 2019: Remarkable Community Support at Carrickfergus Library – Lorensbergs. “The ways in which Jillian McFrederick and her team at Carrickfergus Library engage and serve their community are truly inspirational. Particularly noteworthy is the wide range of demographics that are supported through the many library programmes and activities.”
  • The Summer Reading Challenge encourages 722,731 children to read this summer – Reading Agency. “This year’s overall figure includes 37,177 children under 4 taking part with special pre-school materials – an increase of 32% on last year.” … “95% of library authorities across England, Scotland and Wales took part this summer.”

International news

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