First, Covid news. A couple of councils are opening up for click and collect after weeks of being entirely closed and Bristol libraries are offering “surge testing”. Also, the Reading Agency funding for library services to help with loneliness.

But the big story, obviously, is a librarian or two objecting to the use “little library” being used about a free book-swap outside a house, which was covered by the BBC, the Mail and the London Evening Standard. This was, of course, on Twitter, where massive fights can start instantly and things can be taken out of proportion. It’s worth noting too that far worse insults were thrown at the librarians in return, who were expressing their point of view, without being personal about it.

OK, Here comes the paragraph I have worried about writing but needs to be said. I have been a coward for not saying it before …

I know this is a really unpopular opinion amongst some librarians but, personally, I think we lost the monopolistic use of the word “library” decades ago, if indeed we ever had it. The unfortunate book-lover did not claim to have a public library in her garden and I suspect people can tell the difference between a glorified bird-box and, say, an actual building. I also think that such enterprises are not contributing to closing libraries and even the most extreme councillor does not genuinely (even if it seems so officially) believe they can a proper replacement. The real threat to libraries would be budget cuts.

That last paragraph is going to get me absolutely vilified by some. So be it. Some have already told me there is something wrong with me and that, at this difficult time, some librarians are feeling threatened. This is true of course. But, really, public libraries are bigger than this. We provide a hugely beneficial service with limited resources and we need to pick our fights. And such as we have should not be with book-lovers trying to share their passion with others.

Single Digital Presence

“A guest-written editorial that featured in last week’s Public Libraries News contained a number of misrepresentations relating to the Single Digital Presence project. We are grateful for the opportunity to correct them. In depicting the project merely as a succession of research reports the article failed to convey that the report we published in June 2019 was just one element of a much broader programme. This has included designing prototypes for both a new national presence and for improved local library web-pages, testing these prototypes with existing and potential users, and also a continued and wide-ranging engagement with our close stakeholders throughout the library sector.

Last week’s article also referred to the project as a ‘digital library’. Although a part of our work is focused on improving public library users’ access to digital material, this does not involve the creation of a digital library for public libraries. Instead, our ambition is to improve access to information and services about public libraries, and to make it easier for users to engage with public libraries at the local level, both physically and digitally.

Finally, the figure the article quoted for the cost of the project was inaccurate: £1 million is more than double the amount of money that has supported our work to this point. In addition, the project has been undertaken by a team at the British Library since February 2018, and so we have been working on this for three years – not six years, as the article suggests. We welcome the opportunity to set the record straight, and will be posting further updates on our findings later this spring.”

Statement from the British Library

National news

International news

  • Global – IFLA’s Section on Children and Young Adults’ “Safer Internet Day” Survey – IFLA. “The annual Safer Internet Day is now celebrated in approximately 170 countries worldwide. The campaign calls upon all stakeholders to join together to make the internet a safer and better place for all, and especially for children and young people. This survey is for librarians and/or related staff who serve children and young adults, or those who supervise those who do.”

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