Sad news from Calderdale as the council, which has cut a fair bit before, is aiming for more budget reductions to its libraries. This is in the same week as Conservative council leaders warn that a third of them (of which Calderdale isn’t one – it’s Labour) are considering cuts to libraries. Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any better, eh? In other news this week, Blaenau Gwent are merging library buildings with other services.

Also in this post, Fiona Williams from Explore Walk talks about their plans. Fiona broke ranks at the start of the second lockdown to talk to her local newspaper and is currently aiming to partner with a mini golf company, so I thought it would be interesting. While there are cons as well as pros to having libraries run by independent trusts, being able to speak to the press or explore fundraising options are evidently not barriers for them. The Head of eServices at Munich Public Libraries also updates us about the situation, very familiar, in Germany.

For a council by council breakdown of what services libraries are currently providing during these strange times, see this page.

Changes by local authority

Fiona Williams has plans

“This is long term planning, but very exciting”: A few questions answered by Fiona Williams, CEO of Explore York

You “went public” and put in the press you hoped libraries would stay open. Is this something you have more freedom to do as Explore rather than when the library service was run by a council?

I think it is, yes. Before, I would have had to go through the council’s press office.  Now, the reporter on the Press, who we have a close relationship with, rang me on Monday morning to ask what was happening.  I was able to respond immediately with what we hoped.  We do work closely with the council, but they don’t impose things on us.  It’s an equal partnership and has become very strong and positive

Would you have preferred to stay open during lockdown?

I’m happy with what we are offering.  To keep everyone open as normal would have been too risky I think and we wanted to ensure people are safe but can access PCs and books.  For me, access to PCs is so important at no one else is providing this in lockdown and people not online are so disadvantaged.   Explore is leading a city wide initiative to ensure everyone in York is online. We have 84 organisations signed up so far to work with us

How will you make sure York Explore has a “good” Lockdown 2.0?

We have redone our risk assessments and staff training so they feel safe in a covid secure space.  We are working with partners such as CAB to help their clients in need of access to a PC.  So we are reaching those most in need.  I am keeping in touch with all our staff to ensure everyone is up to date with what is happening

Is there anything exciting planned for the future you can tell us about?

Well we are talking to a mini golf organisation about setting up a course on library lawn, which is the space next to our main York Explore Centre.  The holes will all be themed to a particular part of York’s history.  We are doing this whilst we plan for a major reinterpretation of the whole area of St Leonard’s.  We are inside the Roman fortress and part of the medieval hospital of St Leonard’s.  We have Roman walls, medieval walls, Anglian walls – something from every era of York’s history.  We want to provide an exhibition space for the city’s archives and tell the story of the Walls.  I’m very excited about this and we are working with a range of partners to realise it.

It will be for a period of 5 or so years and each hole will be around a period of York’s history.  It should bring in lots of people, especially families – resident and visitors.  We have a grander plan for the area around York Explore that involved an exhibition space for the archives as well as an introduction to York’s Walls.  We want to use digital tech to reinterpret the whole area.  We are in the original Roman fortress and the medieval hospital, so there are endless opportunities for activity and events.  It will take a while to plan etc so this is long term planning, but very exciting. “

National news

  • The Award for Civic Arts Organisations – Gulbenkian. £100k award and two £25k awards for showing work during Covid, libraries can enter.
  • A celebration of culture and creativity in libraries – Libraries Connected. Friday 27 November 2pm. For library staff only.
  • CollectionHQ Partners with PressReader to Provide Worldwide Digital Content for Library Communities in U.K., Ireland – Business Wire.
  • Free Exhibitions ticket to the CILIP Conference – CILIP. “An Exhibition Only ticket gives you access to all of the suppliers in the Exhibition Hall, so that you can arrange meetings and find out about their products and services.”
  • Launch of Libraries Connected’s Culture and Creativity Module – Libraries Connected. 27 November 2pm. “Then on December 10 we are running a joint webinar with the Bridge Organisations sharing best partnership practice between libraries and (LCEPS) Local Cultural Education Partnerships.”
  • Libraries providing a lifeline: Libraries from Home – Local Government Association. “Lockdown has proved that libraries can extend their reach beyond borders and provide access to culture, learning and a means of connecting for people who may not be able to leave their homes.”
  • Modernise your library communications – British Library Living Knowledge Network. Wednesday 25 November 11am webinar. “Using examples and ideas from libraries and other cultural organisations, discover practical tips for modernising your marketing and developing a fresh tone of voice at this free webinar. Plus, learn how to effectively use video and audio to support your communications, from writing a brief to creating a finished product.”
  • Navneet Gidda: Libraries are London’s untapped Covid recovery resource – On London. ” not everyone in London can afford to buy books and those who turned to libraries during lockdown were met with closed doors.” … “Despite 72% of people in England saying that public libraries are important for their communities, our libraries are in a sorry state. Since 2010, there has been a 30% decline in spending on them” … “For many, libraries are virtually the only public space in the capital where everyone is welcome, and interactions are not heavily policed. For homeless people and those who live in poverty, libraries are the one place where they know they will get help and have a warm place to peacefully spend a few hours.”

“In the current crisis, libraries don’t just provide books, they also serve as a solution for unemployment, an antidote for mental health crises, and a respite from the rat race of life.”

Navneet Gidda is Communications Officer at think tank Centre for London

International news

“We relaunched our website in January, and that was probably the best thing we could have done – retrospectively – because this new website is much more aligned with how we want our physical space to feel to our patrons than it was before: welcoming, bright, spacious, engaging, open. Really a place to come back to for information and inspiration. That was part of our strategic planning even before the lockdown in March.

Something we then introduced very quickly with the lockdown was our free digital subscription with which patrons could gain access to all our digital materials. That was probably the most important reaction to having to shut down our physical branches. And we are very happy it was widely perceived, probably even by a new audience. E-books had already been quite a success at the Munich Public Library, but we saw a rise in digital usage and actually topped up our licences during shutdown. And we have no plans to cut down on our physical collection. We had a couple of thousand events last year – and we are actively exploring ways of bringing those events or new formats into the digital space.

Since our neighborhood libraries are open right now, we are also thinking about ways of using self-service technology (beyond self-checks) to expand our opening hours and do so in a safe and controlled way, maybe through open library technology. We have been very active on various social media channels over the past years, so nothing has changed in our social media output this year – a lot has changed wrt. content and interaction, of course.

We can already see financial cuts on the horizon, and we know that we will have to put a lot of thought into how to prioritize new projects, especially IT projects, in the coming weeks and months.”

Dr. Roland Poellinger
Head of eservices, being in charge of the digital strategy at Munich Public Libraries
  • Global – International library leaders explore the purpose and future of libraries – CILIP. “With international contributions from Canada, Sweden, South Africa and the UK, each chapter critically presents a short leadership provocation regarding libraries and their purpose, and the book encompasses impact, service delivery, collections, and staff skills.”
  • USA – Despite COVID Concerns, Library Measures Do Well at Polls in 2020 – Library Journal. Need to register to read.
    • Chicago Public Library says eliminating fines has paid off – Chicago Sun Times. “After eliminating overdue fees late last year, Chicago Public Library employees saw something that made everyone smile: a jump in the return of books overdue for six months or more. About 1,650 long-overdue books were returned in each of the five months after fines were eliminated Oct. 1, 2019. Before then, about 900 overdue books were returned each month, according to the library. The library system typically collected between $800,000 and $900,000 a year in late fees. That money is gone, but library official said what’s been gained is more important: valuable books and patrons who might never have returned.”
    • Musicians Mayfield, Markham plead guilty in fraud case – Independent. “Grammy Award-winning New Orleans trumpet player Irvin Mayfield and his musical partner, pianist Ronald Markham, each pleaded guilty Tuesday to a conspiracy to commit fraud charge stemming from their time with a charitable foundation that raised money for libraries.”

Local news by authority

Cheshire West and Chester Libraries worked with Museums, the Leader of the Council and the Mayor to produce a fun reading of “The Tiger Who Came To Tea”