Safety is at the top of everyone’s minds at the moment so it is reassuring seeing the statement from Libraries Connected. I know from personal experience that library services up and down the country are taking the health of their staff as a priority and being very careful with the services they offer. However, I also hear from heart-rending emails and private and public social media messages that this is not the case in every service in the country. With 150 in England alone, perhaps that is too much to hope for, but it is disappointing nonetheless.

Going fines-free was a movement really taking hold before Covid in the UK and, ironically, pretty much every service in the country had to waive fines as the buildings were closed. It’s therefore newsworthy that Walsall has decided to jumpstart the movement again by getting rid of fines from April. Interestingly, the arguments they put for the move – that fining print items but not digital is starting to look odd and that people are holding on to late books to avoid paying fines – are not ones I’ve seen overly before. So perhaps more will follow suit, assuming that the need for income does not over-ride everything. And, hanging over it all, there is the worry of all those thousands of books gathering dust in houses since March last year. What will happen to them we will find out this year.

Advert for Niche Academy from DCA

Changes by local authority

National news

  • ACE makes £152,000 grant for library e-books and audio – BookSeller. “Arts Council England (ACE) is awarding £152,000 to help public libraries buy e-books and digital audio products after demand soared during the pandemic. Each of England’s 150 public library services will be given £1,000, with £2,000 going to Libraries Connected to cover costs in distributing the funds. ACE said there had been a 146% increase in demand for digital stock at libraries during the coronavirus crisis. The grants would help increase supply of products like children’s books, health and wellbeing titles and popular fiction while also benefiting publishers, who will receive a large share of the grant through purchases made by libraries, the organisation said.”
  • Digital Delivery Services – Carnegie UK Trust. “we want to support organisations to develop their capability and confidence to explore providing services online or test new out new digital techniques where appropriate, to ultimately ensure that individuals receive the services they need to support their wellbeing through and beyond this pandemic”. Various reports.
  • Libraries Connected statement on English libraries in lockdown – Libraries Connected. “all decisions on services should be driven by a comprehensive risk assessment carried out with staff and unions. This should also include individual risk assessments, where appropriate, that reflect the specific circumstances of individual staff. “
  • Oak National Academy launches virtual library with NLT – BookSeller. “The launch of the free digital library comes as over 2.2 million pupils accessed Oak National Academy in the first week of term, taking part in over 15 million lessons after measures were taken to close schools across the UK to the majority of children on the first day of term.”

“Public libraries are also a vital component in tackling digital exclusion. There are around 2,900 public libraries in England providing a trusted network of accessible locations offering free Wi-Fi, computers, and other technology. The library staff, supported by volunteers, have been trained on digital skills to enable them to provide library users with support in using digital. Their vital role has been recognised in exceptions to tier and national restrictions, where after the first lock-down public libraries have been permitted to allow people to use library buildings for public PC use to access essential public services.”

Carol Dinenage MP, Secretary of State. in parliament.
  • Virtual library ‘a wake up call’ for sector over promised national website – BookSeller. “… following news this week that Oak National Academy has launched a new virtual library in partnership with the National Literacy Trust, some have expressed their frustration over the SDP’s slow progress and warn other organisations could fill the gap. Ian Anstice, who runs website Public Libraries News, told The Bookseller: “The announcement that an academy is supplying e-books rather than the public library service should be seen as a combined wake-up call and kick in the teeth to the sector. A national website is something that is highly possible and should have been done years ago. The fact that there is nothing, not even a nationally organised ‘find your local library’ webpage, is an embarrassment to a sector that is, after all, based on information provision.””
  • Virtual library gives children in England free book access – BBC.
  • Welcome to the Future Funding programme – Libraries Connected. “We are using a development model to guide this so that libraries can align the generation of sustainable income with the needs of their communities.” … ” Future Funding will help libraries to generate the income they need to continue and grow their key role in our social infrastructure.”

International news

  • Kenya – Catalogues of three McMillan libraries to be digitised – Star. “The project by the county government of Nairobi, British Council and Book Bunk will enable access to Kenya’s colonial history. 137,705 books at the McMillan Library and two of its branches in Eastlands, Kaloleni and Makadara  will be digitised.”

Local news by authority