This week saw the CILIP Conference which was, of course, delivered digitally for the first time ever. Having it online was remarkably painless, with an excellent system in place and a lot of very good behind-the-scenes admin work to make it all run smoothly. It felt a lot smaller than normal in turns of sessions but the verdict at the end was that it was a successful conference, although there was some disappointment that the recorded sessions would only be made available to conference attenders.

The session I spoke at was on libraries during lockdown, with two chief librarians (Kathryn Boothroyd of St Helens and Emma Noyce of Hampshire) and Isobel Hunter of Libraries Connected. All were remarkably open and honest about the pain of this year and the challenges ahead. Budget cuts are looming and small libraries are looking vulnerable, especially as so many have stayed closed so much of this year plus also users now expected an enhanced digital offer while at the same time no reduction in the physical at the same or reduced budget. But, on the other hand, it was clear how wonderfully libraries had boosted what they do online, and also in their outreach to the public, to an extent that I think no-one had a right to expect before the crisis. Nick Poole said it best…

By the way, this was the only time – so far – that two dogs (which were assisting me by demanding walks, food and hugs while I was sat on my sofa attending the conference) got a mention in the introduction to the afternoon sessions.

But, away from the joys of dog ownership and the feel-good of the conference, the dark clouds are looming, with another serious cut announced in Bexley and outbreaks of Covid being reported in two public library services. So will the pivot of libraries in 2020 be enough to stave off bad news elsewhere? Well, that’s the true test of how successful this pivot has been. Stay tuned.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • A Chicago story with lessons for libraries everywhere – Guardian. “Chicago is not the first US library system to experiment with abolishing fines. But it is by far the largest. And the result, so far, has been that the libraries have got back most of their lost books, more people have started reading and more people from poorer areas now use the service. Relying on trust rather than punishment might sound utopian, but it works.”
  • Councils bid for vaccine role – LocalGov. “It said civic centres, sports halls, libraries, athletic stadiums, car parks and other council-owned facilities could be brought into rapid use to help the health service.”
  • Host your Zoom call ‘in Blickling Hall’ thanks to new National Trust venture – Eastern Daily Press. “Rather than having a photo of your nan behind you in a Zoom call, the National Trust has picked out Blickling Hall’s library instead. … The library is one of just six rooms from National Trust properties across the UK selected for people to use. Others include libraries at Greenway House, Devon, home of Agatha Christie, Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire and Sissinghurst Castle in Kent.”
  • Libraries Connected Day Seminar – Libraries Connected. Wednesday 2 December, 11.15 to 16.30. “Libraries are an essential part of the local economic, social and cultural recovery from Coronavirus and this seminar aims to help library leaders to demonstrate the value they bring, and to advocate for their work.”
  • Local Cultural Education Partnerships and Libraries: A partnership webinar – Eventbrite. Thursday 10 December 1.30pm. “In this webinar which will be opened by Dr Darren Henley OBE, we’ll be sharing great examples of partnership working and explore together how we can grow links between libraries and LCEPs across the country.”

International news

  • Australia – The Australian Libraries and Information Association and National Archives band together against disinformation – Canberra Times. “”I’d like to see a recommendation that the federal government work with the Australian Media Literacy Alliance to develop a national policy strategy, a framework and action – a call to action – for media literacy.”
    • Thank Freak libraries reopened – Writing Sparks. “Libraries are a great equaliser in our community, throwing their doors and services open to anyone who needs them, including book-devouring country kids like me. So, this Thank Freak goes out to libraries and to the wonderful, dedicated folk who staff them. Thank-you for providing books and so much more”
  • Finland – Åbok, Turku’s own Book-Tinder – Turku City Library. “Åbok (which went by the name “Book-Tinder” during processing), is an online service that helps the library’s customers find new and interesting reading and provides the opportunity to browse the shelves virtually.”
  • Netherlands – The hospitable library of the future – Designing Libraries. Huis Van Eemes “The House has an important core function for the village, combining two extremes: the peaceful surroundings of the library and the dynamics of the sports and culture centre”

“The editors of Library Journal need your help identifying the emerging leaders in the library world. Movers & Shakers profiles up-and-coming, innovative, creative individuals from around the world—both great leaders and behind-the-scenes contributors—who are providing inspiration and model programs for others, including programs developed this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. From librarians and non-degreed library workers to publishers, vendors, coders, entrepreneurs, reviewers, and others who impact the library field, Movers & Shakers 2021 will celebrate those people who are moving all types of libraries ahead.”

Movers and Shakers 2021
  • USA – D.C. Public Library Wants To Build Bigger Neighborhood Branches In Communities Without Easy Access – DCist. “One of the main things on the D.C. Public Library wishlist: replacing four of the smallest branch libraries — Northwest One and Rosedale in Ward 6, Deanwood in Ward 7, and Parklands-Turner, currently located in a leased storefront, in Ward 8 — with newer, bigger buildings that can offer meeting rooms, study space, greater access to technology, and spatial separation between book collections for different age groups. “

Local news by authority

  • Barnet – Barnet library could become Middlesex Uni business school – Times Series. “Barnet Council wants to move Hendon Public Library in The Burroughs to a new building across the road, claiming in a report this would “significantly improve” the service.” …”the council report says moving to a new building would “facilitate the provision of a broader and enhanced library offer” and give the library “enhanced visibility”.”
    • Moving Barnet library an ‘exciting opportunity’ – Times Series. Head of libraries says ” it does not necessarily make a particularly good location for the delivery of a modern, public library service. Having a modern building gives an opportunity to design a library service for today and the future. We will have more space than the current site, and it gives us an opportunity to provide a wider range of services from that building.” [Worth looking a the councillor photo – he is wearing a bow tie and has an actual curled moustache, pointing upwards – Ed.]
  • Bedford – Local inquiry into library provision in Bedford – DCMS. “The Secretary of State has considered whether to intervene by ordering an inquiry under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 (the Act) into the changes in library provision in Bedford. For the reasons set out below, the Secretary of State is currently minded not to order such an inquiry to help determine whether the agreed changes will offer a comprehensive and efficient library service.”
  • Bexley – Heavy cuts planned across Bexley Council libraries – Murky Depths. “Staff will be cut from with 28 out of 68 posts being lost. The cuts would see the main library in Bexleyheath close on Sundays alongside evening closure throughout the week and self service only in the mornings.”