Windsor and Maidenhead, the” tax avoidance capital” and one of the wealthiest parts of the UK, is considering cutting library opening hours by a quarter in order to save money. Elsewhere, Kingston has also announced a consultation but it is avoids mentioning if this is simply cover to cut funding or not. A new library has opened in Waltham Forest and another in the Vale of Glamorgan has closed for extensive refurbishment. Meanwhile, the troubled Library of Birmingham has been earmarked £3m of the £10m it needs just for maintenance. That place sucks in money. So – good news – this almost sounds like a normal news week pre-Covid.

A librarianship MA student is researching the use and purpose of volunteers at Oldham Libraries for her dissertation and is looking for information professionals to share their thoughts on the topic. The study will involve information professionals completing a survey about their experience and knowledge of volunteers. If you find the project of interest and would like to participate in this survey, please contact the researcher, Nicola Semple. Her email address is nicola.semple@stu.mmu.ac.uk

Changes by authority


I’ve been a fan of Whichbook for years and so was delighted to see that this one-of-a-kind book recommendation site has been radically improved. Rachel Van Riel, the Director of Opening the Book, the creators of Whichbook, very kindly agreed to answer my questions about it …

What is Whichbook?

A new way to choose a book where the reader is in control. Searching books sites and catalogues usually means keying in an author name or book title. But if you know the name already, your search is likely to turn up books you already know about. No surprises there. Whichbook starts instead from the reading experience you are looking for. Are you in the mood for something funny and optimistic or beautiful and a bit sad? Mix the mood sliders to match what you want and see what comes up. You can choose the race, age, gender and sexuality of the main character or spin the globe and pick the country your book is set in.

What is it like now?

This site is in a completely different league from the old one. The old one had the central idea but it was dated in design, you needed to be keen to use it. People still were keen – we averaged 35,000 a month – but this new one is so juicy and tempting – I defy anyone not to get sucked in to look at just one more possibility – and then another ….

So what’s actually new?

It’s dynamic and not linear. When you change the mood sliders, the book covers instantly rearrange to match, it’s magic. When you choose a main character, you can pick Asian and see a big choice, then choose gay, the book covers change instantly to show that. It’s a celebration of the richness of book cover design and a visual feast. Everything is intuitive – instead of a drop-down menu of countries to choose from, you can spin a globe and land anywhere and see which books are set there. And it is designed to work on tablets and phones as much as PCs and Macs. That’s been a huge job with such a complexity of interaction. But we knew that more than half of users access by mobile phone so it’s essential.

Is it free?

Yes, it’s completely free. For the first time, we have added a donate button as the site has had no public funding since 2003. We have looked at using ads too but they do spoil the design so we’d rather not.

How are the book choices made?

We concentrate on books which may fly below the radar – first-time authors, quirky titles and knock-out covers. Any user can suggest a book. We don’t include the big bestsellers as they don’t need any help to be found. Another great new feature, though, is that you can pick a current bestseller you enjoyed and see a selection of whichbook titles you might like to try next. That could be very useful for libraries with a big waiting list for bestseller reservations.

What’s the library connection?

Click on any book cover to get the book details and you can then Borrow or Buy. Borrow brings up a choice of UK library services with a link that goes straight to author/title level so you can see which branches hold it. The other big connection with libraries is that whichbook readers mostly work in libraries. We have just started a training programme with 10 new readers in Leeds Libraries.

National news

  • Libraries need change from the top – BookSeller. Tim Coates says “Public libraries have been losing the plot for years.” … “and if those currently in charge can’t see or do that, they should be replaced—and very quickly, this autumn. “
  • Together We Read – Digital bookclub. “During this two-week program, there will be no waitlists and no holds for the selected ebook. Download Libby to borrow the free ebook from your library using your phone or tablet. “

International news

  • China –  Concrete wormhole library – Designing Libraries. “The wormholes, of varying size and intervals, provide surprise and let in natural light. As well as provision for around 10,000 [censored – Ed.] books, the library has bicycle parking facilities, bathrooms and showers.”
  • Global – Libraries In Movement – Princh. A look at mobile libraries worldwide including those using donkeys and boats.
  • India – Pandemic is the perfect time to build community libraries, here’s why – Times of India. ” news of small community libraries being opened up in different places in Balochistan caught international bestselling author Paulo Coelho’s attention. The idea is to convert unused buildings or places previously misused for drug consumption into small community libraries in towns and villages so that people and young readers get a glimpse of the outside world through stories and books”
  • USA/Ireland/ – What’s it like to be a library cat during the pandemic – I Love Libraries. “Library staff know him to be extremely self-sufficient, but during the pandemic people have still been sure to drop by his hut to check in and share snacks.”

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