This emergency will end sooner or later and, when it does, public libraries better be ready. This is both in terms of safety – we don’t want to infect anyone – and in terms of adjusting to the changes in society over the last few months. One imagines there will be a huge demand for visits to libraries at least initially but as well as that there will be a heightened expectation for our digital offering, which will need to be maintained. This is not going to be easy but it will be necessary.

On a more national scale, the post by Nick Poole below looks at the future of public libraries and how they should be positioned in the future. There is also an update on the much delayed Single Digital Presence – basically a national website for public libraries which would have been superb to have two months ago but looks like still being in pre-development, after at least ten years of research papers and discussion. I don’t blame the British Library for this – they’re doing their best in a systematic way to develop a top quality product – but rather the only people who could realistically pull it off, which is whoever happens to be the libraries minister. They’re the one who needs to bang heads and put money in to get it sorted and I’m not seeing much of that happening now or indeed during this last decade. Hopefully it will be different looking forward.

National news

  • Bibliothèques publiques britanniques contemporaines – Enssib. In French. “This book aims to look back at the massive closures of public libraries in Britain since 2010. What was the timeline of the more than 300 site closures? How can we understand its history and logic? For the first time accessible to French readers, specialized documentation, translated and editorialized, allows us to understand the stakes of the debate on public reading in a country historically spearheaded for its network of libraries. Directed by Cécile Touitou, assisted by Karine Lespinasse, the book brings together a collective of expert authors, French and British”
  • Capturing the Voice of CMLs – Community Libraries Network. ACE/DCMS surveying volunteer library response to Covid emergency.
  • A new future for Public Libraries – Medium / Nick Poole. “ibraries before COVID-19 had been in a kind of limbo. Having left behind the Victorian era that shaped them, with its basic belief in emancipation and education, there was an implicit question hanging over our institutions — “what will you be for, now that I have the world’s knowledge at my fingertips?”” … libraries have never stopped being a place of refuge and empowerment … COVID-19 is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our sector to correct this lingering sense of doubt. We must articulate — loudly and confidently — the role we intend to occupy in the daily lives of every citizen in our fast-moving, connected society. It is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss.”

“It is incumbent on every generation to re-shape libraries to meet the emerging needs of their future society. For too long, we have been in thrall to a previous generation’s idea of what public libraries are for. COVID-19 is a tragedy on a global scale. But it might also just be the impetus we need to transform public libraries. Let’s not waste it.”

Nick Poole, CEO, CILIP

“I’d love to be able to fast-track our work. Build the website, develop the app and get library users discovering new titles, connecting with each other and taking part in library activities all in one space online. However as we outlined in our report, a future-proof, sustainable digital platform that increases public library use in the digital and physical world requires a future-proof, sustainable technical infrastructure, supported by ongoing resource, and a clear and accountable delivery model.”

Jacob Fredrickson project manager of the Single Digital Presence project at the British Library.

International news

  • France – Media library in a landscape – Designing Libraries. “Thanks to the floor-to-ceiling window on the ground floor, users have the feeling of reading while being immersed in the surrounding landscape. The upper floor, on the other hand, offers a different experience. Through the curved glass window, the media reference spaces become part of the large crown of the plane tree.”
  • Germany – We are opening the book bus on the Südermarkt for now – Stadt Bibliothek. In German. “With more than 30,000 media items to be returned, we expect a significant influx of visitors and want to reduce the risk of infection for everyone to a minimum. For this reason, we are currently only opening the book bus for picking up pre-ordered media and returns. We will quarantine all returned media for 72 hours.”
  • Global – You can’t keep a good public library (locked) down – Eifl. A look at how libraries across all the world are coping with Covid.
  • USA – Alaska school board removes ‘The Great Gatsby,’ other famous books from curriculum for ‘controversial’ content – NBC News. “”I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou, “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller, “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald and “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison were all taken off an approved list of works that teachers in the Mat-Su Borough School District may use for instruction”. Good grief.
    • 2020 Library Systems Report – American Libraries. “Ex Libris, a ProQuest company, acquired Innovative Interfaces and shifted the balance of power, strengthening Ex Libris’s position in technology for academic libraries and propelling it as a major player in public libraries.” … and other changes.
    • Five Unexpected Benefits of Eliminating Library Fines – Infospace. Librarians and staff can provide better service to patrons; Being fine-free is more aligned with the real mission of the library; Libraries seeing an increase in item returns; Libraries can use their resources better; Eliminating fines can lead to a renewed appreciation for the library (or at least provide some good PR)
    • Why You Shouldn’t Do Curbside During COVID-19 | Backtalk – Library Journal. “Part of libraries wanting to implement curbside is to demonstrate our value to our county boards, administrations, and managers, because budget cuts are here and more are coming. But we need to figure out new ways to demonstrate our value without putting peoples’ lives at risk.”

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