Rather than commenting directly on what is going on, this editorial will be an overview of the current state of play in this country’s libraries. Full details can be found here. After checking the status of each and every service, this appears to to be at least an acceptable rough-draft first estimate of what is going on:

  • more than two thirds of English public library services are offering some sort of click and collect service, normally from a small selection of branches. Over one-third are offering PCs for “essential use” and around a quarter have an operating home library service. On other hand, at least a fifth are entirely closed – apart from online of course.
  • in Wales, most are offering click and collect, but PC use is far rarer.
  • in Scotland, barely a quarter are offering click and collect, with very few offering PCs
  • Northern Irish libraries are providing click and collect in all branches but not PC usage.
  • In the whole country, it appears to be only Guernsey that is operating in any way similar to normality.

This completely mixed bag is the new normal and indeed reflects the variety present in library services before Covid. However, what is new is the intensity of the debate on social media about the wisdom of offering even click and collect in libraries.

Those in favour point out the lifeline library services can be for people, especially in such lonely times as now. They also point out that this service may strengthen the library’s hand when it comes to budget setting. Those against, including Unison, are worried about the possibility of infection, especially amongst staff and the most vulnerable, and doubt whether opening would have much impact on budgets at all. The strength of feeling appears stronger this time than in the second lockdown, presumably due to the increased rates of infection. Interestingly, everywhere appears to be sticking with quarantining books, even though this is a practice which has not taken place in many European countries.

It seems odd to discuss anything but lockdown at the moment so I’ll leave it there. I wish you all a safe and healthy week.

National news

  • £7.5m to be distributed to help tackle winter loneliness – UK Fundraising. “£5 million will go to Arts Council England for arts and library services, of which £3.5 million has been awarded by DCMS to national charity The Reading Agency, for its Reading Well and Reading Friends programmes”
  • Are libraries open during lockdown? – Express. Includes link to PLN.
  • Libraries sector in the New Year Honours list – DCMS Libraries. “Congratulations to the 6 people working in or with the public libraries sector in England who were awarded honours last week in recognition of their contribution to libraries.”: Mark Freeman MBE (President Libraries Connected / Stockton on Tees), Stellar Thebridge MBE (Warwickshire), Michael Clarke MBE (London), Terry Bracher BEM (Wiltshire), Richard Fawcett BEM (Thurston volunteer library). Jon Davies BEM (Kirklees).
  • Lyngsoe Systems to acquire PV Supa Group – Lynsgoe Systems. 2CQR part of deal. “Building on 50 years of combined experience … based on the Scandinavian design heritage … unifying two of the Library market’s leading players into one strong entity will deliver new complementary solutions and services to libraries across the world and even stronger support to the large existing customer base.”
  • Wiltshire and Swindon heritage services manager Terry Bracher is awarded a British Empire Medal – Wiltshire Times. “Mr Bracher, 58, is manager for heritage services at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in Cocklebury Road, Chippenham, and has been national chairman of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals local studies group for ten years.”
  • Tier 4 rules in full: What you can do in England’s highest Covid restrictions, as more areas added in review – I. ” Libraries can also remain open to provide access to IT and digital services and for click-and-collect service”
  • Union calls for libraries to be ‘completely closed’ during lockdown – LocalGov. ” Unison argues that even these limited services expose library workers and users to unnecessary risks in the face of a highly transmissible COVID-19 variant.”, Unison says “‘We recognise how important libraries are to local communities but for the moment we must focus on what is best for the health and safety of the public and library workers.’”

International news

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