Well, that was nail-biting. Libraries finally knew what they were doing late on Tuesday for what they had to implement less than two days later, on Thursday. It turned out eventually that, like many things in this semi second lockdown, libraries will be far less closed this time than before. They will be able to, and many are, offer click and collect services, PCs “for essential purposes” (good luck defining that), home library services and one or two other things.

This has dismayed a few, such as Unison, who understandably worry for staff welfare. It’s worth pointing out though that the library service now is not what it was in March. There are plastic screens, hand gel, track and trace, stripped buildings, masks … the works. Indeed, the difference in safety levels between a highly risk-conscious library now and, well, any high street shop you can think of is stunning.

Strategically too, a quasi-open library service makes a lot more sense this time round. While it’s generally thought that libraries had a good first lockdown, the budget vultures will be circling like never before this year ends and to have thousands of branches entirely closed, dark and empty, may give them ideas. As it stands, libraries are able to make the case that they are being useful, and not just digitally, during this time and that may bring dividends later on. We can hope so anyway.

For the full breakdown of what is happening in every library service in the country click here.

  • The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020 – Legislation.gov.uk. 18 (1) allows click and collect, 18 (2) says “A person responsible for providing library services may open the library premises for the purposes of (a) support groups; (b) childcare provided by a person who is registered under Part 3 of the Childcare Act 2006; (c) education or training; (d) to provide essential voluntary services or public support services, including digital access to public services.”

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Are libraries closing in second lockdown? – Express. [Inaccurate report on Monday] “Libraries provide a broad spectrum of services in the UK beyond books, with computers, food, drinks and advice to offer. But lockdown threatens them much more than they already are, given their potential to become a coronavirus hotspot. As such, the Government has zeroed in on them alongside a swathe of other services it deems “non-essential” for daily living.” … “The Government has lumped them in with leisure, hospitality, community centres and tourism in its second national approach to COVID-19. As such, they will have to close for the duration until the Government’s proposed review date on December 2.”
  • Are libraries staying open during the second lockdown? – Metro. “Here’s what we know”. Details situation, including Wales and Scotland, as of Tuesday morning.
  • CILIP calls for better use of evidence in HM Government’s COVID-19 response – CILIP. “The statement welcomes the new Regulations for public library services in England, which will see them able to continue to provide online and ‘click and collect’ services, as well as some public access to computers. At the same time, it calls on employers to work with library staff and Unions to ensure that service provision is ‘COVID-safe’, particularly in schools, colleges and Universities which will remain open under the new rules.”

“The Government is providing local councils with unprecedented support during the pandemic with a £4.3 billion package, including £3.7 billion which is not ringfenced and £600 million to support social care providers. This is part of a wider package of almost £28 billion which the Government has committed to support local areas, with funding going to councils, businesses and communities. The 2020 Spending Review will look at pressures facing the sector and provide them with the certainty they need to aid financial planning.”

Baroness Barran, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
  • Coronavirus: What you can and can’t do after England goes into second lockdown – Sky News. “Leisure, hospitality and tourism businesses, community centres, libraries and recycling centres are all closed. Places of worship are shut except for funerals or wedding ceremonies.” [Not clear where the source for libraries is – Ed.]
  • Covid: toddlers from UK’s poorest families ‘hit hardest by lockdown’ – Guardian. “Sally Hogg, head of policy and campaigning at the Parent-Infant Foundation, said: “Sadly too many of our young children live in poverty, poor housing and without stimulating toys and books at home. These results show the impact that the closure of libraries, playgrounds and drop-in groups had for these children.”
  • Government clarifies if libraries, opticians and dentists will close in lockdown – Liverpool Echo. “According to Isobel Hunter, the Chief Executive of Libraries Connected, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is still in discussion with Cabinet Office to confirm the position for libraries during the lockdown.” (Tuesday 4.23pm)
  • Libraries That Are Local – Princh / Leon Bolton. “the library was local, enabling, as they do now, easy access for families, older people, teenagers, and jobseekers. In the intervening decades reading formats might have evolved, digital services developed, and service delivery changed but access to a local library remains as important now as it has always been.”

“A mistaken assumption amongst policy makers is to insist that libraries become ‘community hubs’, missing the essential point that local libraries are and have always been hubs of their communities.”

Leon Bolton

International news

  • Australia – Burning the Books, by Richard Ovendon, is a chilling history of the steady destruction of knowledge, which continues today – Canberra Times. “Ovenden uses this in the context of the huge cuts imposed on English local councils by the Conservative government in the last decade. In 2010, there were 4356 public libraries in Britain, but by 2019 the number had fallen to 3583.”
  • China – Chinese and British libraries look forward to new development – China Daily. “Chen Ying, deputy-director of the National Library, delivered a speech at the forum. She said libraries in China and the UK have adopted efficient measures since the pandemic’s outbreak, a positive contribution to the control of the epidemic. The present difficulty eventually will be conquered and the libraries will see new development.”
  • GlobalLibrary tales from here and there – CILIP ILIG. 18 November, 6pm. “Ayub Khan MBE and John Dolan OBE share their experiences of working together with the British Council and overseas Governments. What motivates developing countries and international institutions to invest in libraries? What are their aims and aspirations? What were the outcomes, envisaged and realised?”
  • Ireland – Irish librarians call for action on the electronic content crisis facing libraries and library users – Library Association of Ireland. “Irish Librarians and library-related organisations call on the Irish Government, publishers and other stakeholders to recognise, and take action against, the electronic content crisis facing libraries and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are deeply concerned about the rising costs and unfair licensing conditions for such content”
  • Norway – Kengo Kuma & Associates wins first prize for Ibsen Library proposal in Norway – Design Boom. Nice pictures. Article has no capitalisation because … style?
  • USA – Connections Summit 2020 – SirsiDynix. “Connections Summit 2020 is finally OnDemand. Prepare to learn, be inspired, and even entertained! Easily browse and select presentations you missed or want to re-watch. Sessions are fast-paced and concise with most being 20 minutes or less.”
    • Libraries, Publishers, and Readers: The Freckle Report 2020 – Go To Stage / Tim Coates. “The 2020 version Freckle Report covers two studies: a consumer survey that sought to discover how people get hold of what they read, and particularly where libraries fit into that; and a time study of ILMS data which shows how the data from the consumer survey is changing over time. A decline in per-capita visits to libraries is a noted finding, and the report makes several recommendations to reverse those trends”
    • Vandalization at major libraries aims at voter intimidation – BookRiot. “In 2017 and 2018, a rash of vandals damaged library books and spaces with swastikas as a means of intimidating Jewish patrons. Now, on the precipice of one of the most consequential American elections, vandals have turned to voter intimidation in their crimes. Outside the Boston Public Library in Boston, Massachusetts, vandals set fire to an official ballot box … “

Local news by authority