The BookSeller have published an interesting article on library usage, pointing out that it is only at one-fifth to one-third of pre-covid levels. There are many reasons for this situation, some of which are listed below, but it’s still a worrying statistic to be made public at a time when councils are looking for ways to save money:

  • much usage has moved online. On the other hand, while such usage is often larger than any single physical library branch, it won’t account for a significant amount of the fall. There were 157m book loans in 2018, while the article states that ebook loans March to August were 3.5m. The “600% increase” figure often quoted as an e-lending rise is not an overall accurate figure for the whole period.
  • many libraries are still closed, on reduced hours or click and collect only.
  • unlike shops, libraries are not promoting themselves or encouraging visitors. The focus is on safety, not income. Libraries need to be models of safety for their councils, and being risk averse, unlike retail.
  • the unique returns aspect of libraries means quarantining of books unlike in shops. This may have a knock-on effect in highlighting risk to users and in keeping popular titles outside of circulation.
  • A significant user base for libraries is amongst the old: a demographic most at risk and thus less likely to go out.

An example of an authority trying to save money is Kent, which has the largest number of library buildings of any UK authority, has announced that it will 66 of its 99 branches closed until 1st April 2021. Those normally working in the closed branches have been moved to open ones. Also, reading between the lines, the closure of Stockport Central Library and its moving some time next year to a co-location in an old Argos shop is as likely to be as much about saving money as modernising the service, although it is true that sometimes both can be achieved.

Changes by local authority

National news

The American Library Association’s Games and Gaming Round Table (GameRT) is proud to announce that despite COVID-19, International Games Week (IGW) will take place from November 8 to November 14, 2020.  Libraries of all stripes around the world are encouraged to sign up between now and October 24 to be eligible for a drawing for one of three special GameRT Loot Boxes. While GameRT encourages participants to hold a gaming event at their Library during IGW, due to the pandemic, any event held during the month of November can be counted.  This year, GameRT will be spotlighting freely available print-and-play games and listing resources available for libraries to use to set up gaming events online at games.ala.org

Darren Edwards, Lis-Pub-Libs
  • Levelling Up Our Communities – UK Government. Report by Danny Kruger MP (Conservative) to the Prime Minister on improving community. “The local Library is or should be a crucial element of the social model we need to create, or re-create. Libraries are no longer dusty book depositories. Increasingly they serve as digital hubs and information centres for communities, and places for classes and sessions of all kinds. The British Library’s Business and IP Centre network is supporting local libraries to assist people in starting their own businesses. Even more is possible: siting BBC local radio stations in libraries, spreading the Library of Things network, using libraries for cultural events and exhibitions, and working with Historic England to establish new libraries in old buildings.” … “Government should make a major commitment to support the local library as the hub of the 21st century community”
The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles, 9781982134198
  • Library footfall down 80% on last year – BookSeller. Libraries Connected “… collects weekly figures and, up to the week ending 13th September, they show a very gradual uptick in the number of physical users since lockdown ended for libraries from early July, with footfall still at only around 20% of last year’s level.” … many libraries still closed so those open more at 35% … “the figure is still far lower than for the commercial high street, where more shops have opened fully and footfall has peaked at close to 70% of previous levels.”
  • Public Library Apparel – KickStarter. “Apparel to raise awareness and funds for public libraries in the UK.”. Check out these literary themed t-shirts to support ailing libraries – Big Issue.
  • Public Library Reopening Poll – Summer 2020 – Lorensbergs. “The results provide a snapshot of the services available at late August/early September and libraries’ plans for the months ahead. A total of 96 library authorities have taken part, with participation stretching across the UK. The findings represent how it’s been necessary for library authorities to respond according to the guidelines and different circumstances of their local areas.”
  • Transforming the digital offer for public libraries – BookSeller. “Our goal was not just to conceptualise what a website for public libraries might look like, but rather to think more deeply and strategically about how to improve the use of digital technology throughout the whole public library sector. ” … “We believe that a national digital presence should help everyone discover the power of the public library by making access to knowledge easier and more enjoyable, and supporting every public library to deliver digital services of the highest quality.” … “to build a national digital channel for public libraries” and “develop patterns and designs that local libraries can use and re-work”

International news

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