So, Mr Johnson and the Conservatives have won a fourth term in office and will likely, gosh, be the government until May 2024. Putting aside Boris’s unlikely promise of investing in libraries even if his two conditions for it are met – the economy is booming and Brexit has happened – what does the electoral result mean for libraries?

Well, it means that there won’t be much extra money for a start. Say goodbye to whatever promises Corbyn made. After the dark days of cuts in the early 2010s followed by a still dark (but I fancy slightly less doom-laden) atmosphere in the last couple of years, we can expect things not to turn around any time soon. Best case scenario is the current low budgets for libraries remain stable. Worst case is, well, 2010/11 all over again. I’d probably go for the more optimistic (still quite grim) side of the scale on this one but being Boris is still an unknown quantity – who really knows what he believes? – so this is very much a guess. Terrifyingly, if Brexit proves a disaster, which it likely will, another wave of austerity is quite possible.

I suspect I am on far surer ground suggesting that councls cutting library services will be strongly encouraged to become trusts or other quasi-non council organisations. In addition, many councils are running out of money and so there may be quite an increase in trusts. This will at the least create a lot of extra work for the services being transformed and may or may not be good long-term, although it will certainly mean more entrepreneurship with all the good and bad that entails. We can also be fairly sure that volunteer libraries will continue to be lauded, although I know that many of them are now seeing the gloss come off because the first set of enthusiastic volunteers are leaving.

It is absolutely certain that there will not be any meaningful supervision of the sector and that such things as standards will remain a thing of the past. Also, sadly, and unless local councils get their act together with open data – doubtful – we can expect the ridiculously slow and income-driven Cipfa to remain the greedy guardians of performance data on the sector and fight any attempts to, well, do what their job should actually be (the quick and easy dissemination of data) because they are a monopoly and are determined to stay that way.

Finally, we can all stop pretending that public services, let alone libraries, are, in the final analysis, a deciding factor when it comes to general elections. If they had been, result would have been very different. We need to be prepared to leave or to work within the system that, over the last decade, has become increasingly tougher … and work in the service we still love and do such good work in until the bright promised future of post-Brexit UK(although who knows if Scotland will still be on board) in 2024 arrives. Ten years down, only another five to go.

Local news by authority

National news

  • Branching out – Wellston Journal. “In the last seven years one in six of all Wales‘ libraries have closed. A further 62 have changed hands and are now run either by outside organisations or with support from volunteers.” … “Llanelli library‘s building was completely renovated in 2012 and reinvented as “more of a coffee shop” than an austere library …”
  • Community and volunteer-run libraries – John Bevis. “There is no national strategy for the implementation of community or volunteer libraries. Councils may provide some professional librarian time, or none at all. Neither are there standards for range and depth of books, for IT provision, for a gateway to standard online reference works, national newspaper archives, links to the British Library… for any of the resources essential to meeting the obligation of library authorities to provide “a comprehensive and efficient library service”, as has been law since 1964. Community libraries may be run by the nicest folk you could hope to meet, but what they have to offer is pot luck.”
  • Held to account – turning activism into political support for libraries in 2020 – Libraries Deliver. “For the first time in living memory, four of the ‘main’ political parties in England – the Labour Party, the Conservatives, the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats – all included references to libraries in their Manifesto commitments. ” [Strictly true but the Lib Dems only mentioned libraries as a place to collect sanitary products – Ed.]
  • Jamelia: I needed kids clubs and libraries growing up, so now I’m voting Labour so everyone else gets them too – I. “My mother ensured we participated in experiences that enriched our minds. Though money was tight, we were able to use public facilities such as kids clubs, libraries, nature parks, leisure centres and a school with a thriving arts programme. “
  • Truth, lies, fake news, futures, Brexit – Matt Finch / Mechanical Dolphin. “Rather than chasing untruths in the media like a dog chasing a passing car, could information professionals be seeking to tend and moderate deeply local conversations about where communities choose to go next? Libraries are an obvious place to host such discussions – that’s why earlier this year I proposed the public library as the setting for community-centred foresight work, putting sophisticated strategic tools in the hands of local people.”
  • World Book Night Goes Digital for 2020 – World Book Night. “This year’s list features both paperbacks and audiobooks, with North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, Double Crossed by Brian Wood and Bedtime Stories for Stressed Out Adults edited by Lucy Mangan available for individuals to receive via an exclusive download code. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (which is celebrating a significant 42nd birthday in 2020) will be donated as both a paperback to organisations and an audiobook to individuals”

International news

  • AustraliaState Library Victoria proves libraries aren’t just about books: they’re about community – The Conversation. “State Library Victoria already holds a prominent place in Melbourne’s cultural and urban fabric. It is now ready for the future.”
  • Is reading an effective therapy strategy? Many experts think so – Sydney Morning Herald. “The concept is far from new, with Tsakalakis saying it can be traced back to ancient Greece. At that time, libraries were constructed next to hospitals. “And above the library there would be a banner or placard which read, ‘Places for healing of the soul.’ “So you’d go to the hospital for physical healing, and there was this understanding that libraries were places to seek solace and healing, and to nurture ourselves through stories.””
  • China China’s library officials are burning books that diverge from Communist Party ideology – Washington Post. “Library officials in northwest China recently hoped to demonstrate their ideological fervor and loyalty to the Communist Party by purging politically incorrect books and religious materials in emphatic fashion: They burned them. Then they uploaded a report — and a photo — to showcase their work.”
    • China to punish library officials for burning books – but only because they did it in public – Independent. “In October, the Ministry of Education called on school libraries across China to dispose of books “that damage the unity of the country, sovereignty or its territory; books that upset society’s order and damage societal stability; books that violate the Party’s guidelines and policies, smear or defame the party, the country’s leaders and heroes”.”
  • EU – Eblida and NewsGuard Announce Partnership to Bring Media Literacy Tool to European Public Libraries – Eblida / Newsguard. “The News Literacy Program, launched in the U.S. in late 2018, is now used by more than 600 libraries globally. While select library systems in the U.K., Germany, and Italy have joined the program since NewsGuard expanded to Europe in mid-2019, the partnership with EBLIDA will enable more libraries across the continent to use the anti-misinformation tool”
  • New Zealand New Zealand: Man Builds ‘stick Library’ For Dogs At Park, Lauded By Locals – Republic. It’s not a public library but it’s stil wonderful.
  • Norway – Oslo’s new main library – Designing Libraries. “Basement: cinema, 200-seat auditorium, freely accessible book depots. First floor: square, restaurant, café, newspapers, magazines, books for short-term borrowing. Second floor: fiction, history of literature, children’s section. Third floor: music, movies, comics, games, speculative fiction, workshops, recording studios, mini cinema, gaming rooms, movie screening stations, stage. Fourth floor: class rooms, reading rooms, books on art, architecture, health, technology, and science. Fifth floor: social sciences, history, psychology, philosophy, religion, literature about Oslo, the original Deichman collection, study desks, reading rooms, the art project Future Library.”
    • In Praise of Norwegian Libraries – Norway, One Year / Medium. “The library/culture house is a hub for community and a destination instead of an errand to run or a spot to grab books and pass through. Even towns like Hamar and Sandefjord have libraries/culture houses that seem rather ostentatious for smaller Norwegian municipalities.”
  • USA – L.A. libraries will stop collecting late fees for overdue books and other materials – Los Angeles Times. “Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Friday that the city will stop collecting fines for past-due books and other materials this spring, part of a larger effort to make the 73-branch library system more welcoming to the city’s neediest residents.”
    • No Holds Barred: Policing and Security in the Public Library – In the Library with the Lead Pipe. “For too long, the negative effects of police and security presence in libraries have been ignored or, at the very least, neglected. Police officers and security guards should be used judiciously just as one would use any other security tool available to library workers.”
    • U.S. libraries checking out book theft / ‘Most-stolen’ list will help curb crime – SF Gate. “The theft of books, CDs, videotapes and pamphlets from public libraries is a national problem, one that probably costs taxpayers millions of dollars a year. No one knows the size of the problem, but the American Library Association has taken a first step, e-mailing hundreds of libraries around the country and asking them to list their most-stolen items. “

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeenshire – North-east bookworms invited to take part in reading challenge – Evening Express. “Readers can take part in the Winter World Challenge individually, together as a family or as a group of friends. It starts on Saturday and will run through the winter months, ending on the extra day of 2020, which is Saturday February 29. To start the challenge, bookworms should head down to their local library and pick up a challenge card.”
  • Borders – No more fines for late Borders library books – Border Telegraph. “The scrapping of fees is in a bid to entice new members to join a local library and to encourage previous members to return and use a library service again. Members with outstanding charges have also had their fees removed, but are instead asked to make a small donation to Live Borders who will use it to purchase food for a local foodbank before Christmas.”

“Removing fines will be a permanent change and our aim is to ensure that our libraries are there for everyone. By removing this barrier it will help more people to discover their local library and achieve our charitable aims of keeping everyone healthier, happier and stronger in the Scottish Borders.”

Lisa Denham, Connected and Creative Communities Manager, Live Borders
  • Calderdale Rastrick Library to temporarily close for final stages of work – Halifax Courier. “Construction work has been taking place to deliver disabled access to the building, including the installation of a new ramp and the creation of a disabled parking space.”
  • Cornwall – New library, local studies and archive centre in Cornwall – Designing Libraries. “A derelict brewery in Redruth Cornwall has been transformed into a modern archive and library space, with £11.7m funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. “
  • Cornwall’s libraries let people pay fines with food – Pirate FM. “All food donated over participating library counters during December will then be passed on to local foodbank charities.” For fines up to £5.
  • Essex – Essex County Council denies ‘secret’ meetings with library takeover bidders – This is Local London. “Essex County Council has disputed claims that it held “secret” meetings with people and groups bidding to take over libraries. The authority held meetings for community groups interested in taking over the running of libraries … Campaign group Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE) handed out leaflets outside the Greenstead and Ongar meetings to dissuade groups and individuals from continuing with takeover bids, which it describes as a ‘closure plan by stealth’.
  • Inverclyde – All food donated over participating library counters during December will then be passed on to local foodbank charities – Greenock Telegraph. “The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals [CILIP] sees such a move in the latest budget round as a ‘short-term solution that will create long-term problems’. In an open letter to council leader Stephen McCabe, CILIP Scotland has called on the cash-strapped local authority to leave the ‘vital’ library service alone as it wrestles with more enforced cuts. “
  • Leicester – Libraries staff choose their favourite Christmas reads – Leicester City Council. “Overall favourite amongst the city council’s libraries staff was timeless ghost story A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Also singled out for recommendation were The Snowman, by Raymond Briggs, Kipper’s Christmas Eve, by Mick Inkpen, and How The Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr Seuss.”
  • Merton — Sensory project transforms children’s libraries – Designing Libraries. “Visit one of Merton’s award-winning libraries and you could find yourself in the heart of the forest, under the sea or at the South Pole being chased by racing penguins.” … “Each of the borough’s seven children’s libraries has been transformed into an immersive space as part of a ground-breaking project to make them an exciting place for all children, whatever their sensory needs. Project Sense, as it’s known, is the result of a successful £95k bid by Merton’s libraries for Arts Council funding.”
  • NorfolkWhoops! Library accidentally reveals a secret – EDP 24. “Norfolk’s biggest library has accidentally revealed the latest chapter in its success story – it is the best in Britain. ” … “The post has since been removed.”
  • Northamptonshire £184k loan to parish council agreed to help save Moulton library – Northamptonshire Chronicle. “It will see DDC [Daventry District Council] provide the parish council with £184,000 to purchase the surrender of the lease, on the condition that the parish council then provides a community library for a ‘sensible minimum period’ suggested as 15 years.”
  • Torfaen – Volunteer encourages others to take part in Torfaen Libraries ‘Read To Me’ service – South Wales Argus. “The service is intended for people who are unable to take part in a shared reading group because they are prevented from doing so by ill health or disability. It sees reading companions visit them weekly, reading aloud to the person on a one to one basis. “
  • Warrington – The best read library books in Warrington – Warrington Worldwide. “Topping the fiction list for adults is The Second Child by Caroline Bond, which was a designated “Book of the Month” – showing how popular the initiative is in encouraging library users to try new books. Big name thriller authors like Lee Child, James Patterson, Michael Connelly and David Baldacci were other popular choices.
  • West Lothian – Campaigners lodge petition to stop local library closing in the mornings – Daily Record. “Library users in Craigshill have lodged a petition with West Lothian Council to plead for the saving of morning opening in Almondbank library. The petition was lodged as the council unveiled proposals to change opening hours across its library branches in a bid to save money.”
  • Wiltshire – Community Library Manager – Wiltshire County Council. Salisbury, temporary for 2 years part time 30.5 hours per week £26,999 – £28, 785 pro rata.
  • Worcestershire – Celebrating library volunteers’ role in supporting communities – Tewkesbury Admag. “From leading a Lego club or Health Walk, being a digital champion or volunteering to deliver the Library Service at Home, these are just some of the ways volunteers are supporting their communities. Each week dozens of volunteers gift their valuable time supporting our county’s libraries. This Thursday to recognise their efforts, Worcestershire’s libraries are marking International Volunteer Day 2019 by celebrating their contribution. “