At time of writing, the smart money is on social distancing keeping on for quite a few weeks to come. So much so that it looks likely that the crucial summer period for libraries will be affected. I’m still personally having difficulty working out how the sector will physically reopen with such distancing in place but there’s a lot of thinking going on sector-wide about this, which is really encouraging.

What is obvious now is that this virus is causing a wide spectrum of experiences amongst the public, with the poor and the lonely suffering disproportionately more than the wealthy. This is echoed in library workers with some being told to stay at home on full pay with little work to do, others being able to work full-time at home in some form or another and still yet others taking active physical and, sometimes, front-line roles.

Another variation is in furloughing. Trusts can do this but councils services cannot:

“Where employers receive public funding for staff costs, and that funding is continuing, we expect employers to use that money to continue to pay staff in the usual fashion – and correspondingly not furlough them.”

Coronavirus Retention Scheme.

So we have a case in Greenwich, run by a leisure trust, where staff are furloughed. Thankfully at not 80% pay but, due to a deal which unions hope will be copied elsewhere, on full pay. Speaking of Greenwich, I talked to Diana Edmonds (the Director of Libraries for all GLL) about wider developments and the interview is here.

Finally, my apologies. Embedded below are not just one but two video interviews with me, one from the wonderful Bury Libraries in my capacity as a librarian and the other with a sponsor of PLN, DCA, of which the full length interview will be released shortly. I feel I don’t come across well on video – slightly too many biscuits and an inability to pronounces r’s properly – but watch them if you will.

National news

  • ACE gives libraries £151k for e-books and audio – BookSeller. “Arts Council England (ACE) has announced a £151,000 investment into library services to buy e-books and digital audio products. Under the programme, each of the 151 public library services in England will receive £1,000 for immediate and unrestricted use for new digital stock. ACE said library services had seen a significant rise in membership over the past month, up by 600% compared to this time last year. The investment would help them increase the breadth and availability of digital products while also benefiting publishers through library purchasing, ACE said.”
  • Britons are reading more in lockdown, says survey for World Book Night – Guardian. “The survey is also backed up by figures from libraries around Britain. Although branches are shut, there has been a boom in registrations, according to the Local Government Association, with Hampshire county council reporting a 770% increase in new digital users, Cornwall a 630% increase and Hertfordshire an increase of 332%.”
  • Carnegie Library Lab: Final Project Snapshot from Cohort 3 – Carnegie. “Carnegie Library Lab aimed to support innovation and leadership in the public library sector across the UK and Ireland. This final snapshot outlines the key successes of our third cohort of Carnegie Library Lab Partners and their next steps. The Partners participated in Carnegie Library Lab from June 2018 to December 2019”
  • Coronavirus: Libraries see surge in e-book borrowing during lockdown – BBC. “Loans of online e-books, e-magazines and audiobooks were up an average of 63% in March compared with last year. And 120,000 people joined libraries in the three weeks after lockdown began, Libraries Connected said.”
  • Digital ThinkIn – Libraries after Covid 19 – what happens next? – Libraries Connected. “The event is hosted for us by Tortoise Media and follows a ThinkIn for Heads of Service on 29th April. We hope the two discussions will help us think beyond the current crisis in ways that informs planning in individual services, and also directs the support work of Libraries Connected and other national bodies.”
  • Joseph Coelho to helm National Shelf Service’s World Book Night event – BookSeller. “YouTube book recommendation series the National Shelf Service has announced a series of World Book Night broadcasts, to feature a bedtime reading hour with poet and author Joseph Coelho. Ten broadcasts will be scheduled throughout the day on 23rd April, beginning at 11 a.m. with e-book recommendations for children and young adults from librarians. Coelho will read a bedtime story.”
  • Public library services and Coronavirus, GLL a few weeks in – Public Libraries News. An interview with Diana Edmonds of GLL about how her services are doing.
  • Record number of complaints about LGBT+ children’s books in US – Independent. “children’s books featuring LGBTQ+ characters made up a record 80 percent of the most challenged books in US libraries.”
  • A short reflection on being a Carnegie Partner – Carnegie. By Maria Reguera, Carnegie Partner, Vision Redbridge Culture & Leisure. “All in all being a Carnegie Partner has given me the audacity to try and fail, and to learn from it and try again until I succeed, and to encourage others around me to do the same.”
  • Spring 2020 Magazine – Library Campaigner. The latest news and editorial on public libraries in the UK.
  • Stepping into Leadership – Carnegie. “Originally developed as part of the Carnegie Library Lab (CLL), created by the Carnegie UK Trust (CUKT) to encourage creativity, innovation and leadership in public libraries in the UK and Ireland, this course can be accessed by those working in the library and information sector.”

International news

  • JapanJapan: Drone will buzz shelves at Chiba library to check book inventory – Access. “he drone and artificial intelligence (AI) will be adapted to eliminate the troublesome, time-consuming task of regularly examining books at libraries imposed on human staff.”
  • Netherlands – Dutch libraries are open online and provide extra (remote) services – Naples Sister Libraries. “the ThuisBieb-app (Home Library app) was launched for iOS users and contains over a hundred free ebooks.” … “. On March 17, we saw a peak of 43,000 visits a day to the online Library, and in the days that followed, the number stabilized at an average of 32,000 to 35,000 visits per day. We also see a tripling of the page views for e-books.”
  • USALibrarians Under Pandemic Duress: Layoffs, Napkin Masks, and Fear of Retaliation – Book Riot. “Some libraries have their staff working entirely from home, while others have their doors shut to the public but are having staff report. Those operating with staff in the building run the gamut in terms of what they’ve provided their employees in terms of health and safety protection.”
    • Public Libraries After the Pandemic – Publishers Weekly. “, I suspect that Covid-19 will change some people’s perspective on what can and should be shared. I fear many people will begin to overthink materials handling and the circulation of physical library collections, including books. It’s a reasonable assumption that people will emerge from this public health crisis with a heightened sense of risk related to germ exposure.”

“Some observers have dubbed this crisis “The Great Pause.” But I believe librarians cannot pause. Librarians cannot sit back and wait to unlock the library doors again. We must take this time to begin thinking about how public libraries will function in a society that will certainly be changed for the short term, and may be changed forever.”

Local news by authority

“Since closing our physical library buildings in March, we have moved many services online to provide a continuity of service for customers. We are also maintaining book deliveries for vulnerable people who are housebound. While asking to maintain these services, Royal Borough of Greenwich has also asked us to furlough the majority of workers under the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which guarantees 80% of staff wages. Funding will come from the Council to top up wages for both casual and permanent staff to full pay.

“We understand the need to offset costs at this time and are grateful to RBG who share our wish to provide valuable public services which support local communities’ health and wellbeing. The decision has been reached with agreement of RBG, GLL and the union and under the circumstances represents the best outcome for library workers, the library service and local communities during the crisis.”

Diana Edmonds, GLL / Greenwich