Sometimes a thing comes along that crystallises your thinking and makes you realise things about your work. One of these for me was watching a recording of the “Promoting Diverse Content” webinar put on by Libraries Connected. The excellent panel made clear a few fundamental things wrong about libraries. Libraries too often treat non white literature as different and not as a fundamental part of our normal collections, sometimes not buying good material because it is felt that it does not reflect the user base.

Jolly well reflect good books, not your clientele, who will show they actually enjoy reading stuff by non-whites was the answer to that. Don’t treat your readers like they’re racist. Another was that hunting out such books should be our job, and that we shouldn’t blame side-lined authors and publishers for not having it on Askews or Peters but rather push for them ourselves. Finally, I could not help but thinking that seasonal promotions libraries do, like Black History Month, are getting a bit tokenistic now and that we should consider other options. After all what would think people think about a White History Month? And worse than that, isn’t that absolutely everything else we do?

A video all library staff should watch

So a lot of potentially far-reaching stuff to think about but this also raises another library failing. Far too much over the last decade has the crucial task of choosing the books been passed on to suppliers. These are companies, while very good, who respond to commercial pressures and, rigidly, to the buying templates services send them. These templates that are sometimes old and depend on someone in the library service to change it to reflect current needs. Some library services no longer have these skills, and most staff ratios certainly don’t reflect demographics. So this is a bit of a provocative editorial and deliberately so. Have a think yourself. But make sure you watch the webinar first, including the questions at the end.

National news

Whichbook has been updated. Have a play at https://www.whichbook.net/
  • The case for public libraries: Creating a safe place for everyone – Living Libraries. “We’re currently spotlighting our policy intervention, Living Libraries: The case for public libraries in the words of those who use, work in and run them. In this short publication, we make eight recommendations for decision-makers, on four themes: health and wellbeing; community; information; and the environment. Read on to find out more about the second strand of our research, on the vital role libraries play in communities:”
  • Coronavirus: Hundreds of libraries could close amid Covid-19 crisis, warn campaigners – Independent.”Councils are going to be cutting anything they can lay their hands on because the situation is so severe,” Laura Swaffield, chair of the group, told The Independent. “And in these situations, we know from years of experience, they come for libraries because they are seen as an easy target. The numbers lost are not going to be good.” … “Ian Anstice, a librarian who runs the super-comprehensive Public Libraries News website, said he also feared for the future.”
  • The library — like working from home, but better – Nick Poole. “You could not invent a network of trusted locations with the power to help get the nation back on its feet like our public libraries. No commercial enterprise could achieve the same scale or reach, with the same impact as cost-effectively. Thanks to initiatives like the British Library’s business and IP Centres, no other network could leverage the same authoritative startup support, nor provide the same platform for inclusive local economic growth.”

International news

  • Australia – Rosewood Library shines bright – Public Libraries Connect. “Performance-wise, the new library is less than four weeks old at time of writing but in that time has amassed several hundred new members and circulated over 4,500 loans”
  • Global – “The Futures You Didn’t See Coming” at CIL & IL Connect Conference, 23rd September – Mechanical Dolphin. “On September 23rd, at 09:30 AM Eastern Time, I’ll be joining Erik Boekesteijn at the online CIL & IL Connect 2020 conference for a quick chat about foresight and futures for information professionals, their institutions, and the communities they serve. Erik is running a daily interview strand with a range of information professionals and their allies as part of the event.”
  • Nigeria – British Council Launches Digital Library – This Day Live. “Access to the Digital Library will be free for 3 months for every registered member.
    As a member of the Digital library, there will be access to world-class resources, from online study resources and academic journals to popular eBooks and audiobooks, award-winning movies and documentaries, magazines and newspapers, comics and graphics novels from around the world and learning resources for skills development.”

Local news by authority

Because council tax only goes so far
  • Summer Reading Challenge Continues – Hertfordshire Council. “There is still time to pop into any of the libraries listed above to collect your free pack. The online challenge ends on 30 September, but you can still continue the challenge at home beyond that date.”
  • Lancashire – Padiham, Colne and Clitheroe libraries latest to reopen next week – Pendle Today. “Libraries in Clitheroe, Colne and Padiham are among another 15 branches due to be reopened by Lancashire County Council next Wednesday”
  • Liverpool – Joe Anderson puts halt to controversial city centre zip wire – Liverpool Echo. “Mayor Joe Anderson has stepped in to halt a plan for a zip wire that would have landed on the roof of Liverpool Central Library, after weeks of controversy over the scheme. The city’s planning committee approved an application for the zip wire to pass from the Radio City tower and over St John’s Gardens before landing on the roof of the library. However, the decision faced serious opposition from conservationists, architects and residents who said it would lead to the “disneyfication” of the city centre.”
  • Moray – Library scheme in Moray to be expanded after proving hit with readers – Press and Journal. “An “order and collect” scheme was launched at Elgin Library two weeks ago to give residents access to the service again. Since then, 257 collection slots have been used with 976 books borrowed. Now Moray Council has confirmed that the ordering service will be expanded elsewhere due to the demand. Libraries in Forres, Buckie, Keith, Aberlour and Lossiemouth will be running the scheme from Monday.”
  • North Yorkshire – North Yorkshire libraries press ahead with phased reopening – North Yorkshire County Council. ““Some customers thought browsing meant look but not touch, but this isn’t the case,” said County Councillor Greg White, Executive Member for Libraries. “So we apologise for any confusion. You can now enjoy selecting books to borrow. Many of you have visited, but we know others have not yet done so, so why not put on your face covering, use our hand sanitiser and venture in to see for yourself how safe we have made it for you.”