One year ago, it all changed. Library workers, long told in conferences that “the library is not the building” discovered the truth of it as the doors were closed and locked in every building in the country. Those staff who had work computers at home got down to the work of promoting their online resources and putting on, incredible as would have seemed simply a month previously, recorded rhyme-times and the like. E-book use soared and councils saw public libraries as a much-needed good news story.

Throughout last year, library staff – again, limited to those with work computers – learned a whole bunch of new skills, Many others were co-opted into other departments and discovered the truth that they were council employees. Again, many new skills were learnt. When libraries reopened for the short periods between lockdowns, it was the front line staff – largely, those without work computers – who quarantined the books, cleaned the work surfaces and faced the masked public while the others mainly continued at home.

Now, with vaccination becoming general, hope is in the air, an incredible full twelve months after, and library services don’t really know what will happen. Will a relieved public throng back into libraries like never before? Or will people stay cautious or have discovered new things to do during lockdown? Will the Summer Reading Challenge be the busiest ever or a damp squib? Will, the horror, a new Covid variant develop and we all return to our tedious homes? We don’t know. But something which I have been thinking about for a while is that this crisis has widened the divide between those who continued working at home and those that did not. There will be many in libraries that have not physically seen a specialist librarian for a year. How we mesh together again, when we mesh together again, will be a challenge to us all when branches reopen. Start thinking about it now if you have not done so already.

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Changes by local authority

National news

  • Bolinda UK Ltd and CILIP join forces to activate Libraries Week 2021 – CILIP. ” This year Libraries Week will take place between the 4th and 10th October and will focus on the central role that libraries play in their community as a driver for inclusion, sustainability, social mobility and community cohesion.”
  • CILIP Pathways ready to deliver end-point assessments for Level 3 Apprenticeships – CILIP. “This Apprenticeship opens up a robust alternative route into the profession, enabling employers to attract and retain from a wider pool of talent”
  • Great public library services – Library Data Blog. “Newcastle library service began publishing open data in 2016, and have run two hackathons engaging the public with that data” … “Suffolk decided to go their own way and create their own software. This looks great, and runs on tablets within a stand that provides a barcode scanner. More information is available at this Suffolk Libraries Self Service Demo from 2018.” … “Leeds are well known for their digital inclusion programmes, such as 100% Digital Leeds. Note the top-quality accessibility statement on that site.” … ” was amazed to see in 2019 that a library service (North Ayrshire) was recruiting for a role called ‘Open data development officer’. As far as I know, this was the first dedicated role in open data for public libraries.”
  • Guardians of UK’s literary jewels at risk in V&A plan to cut key library staff – Guardian. “Thirty librarians have been told that their numbers are to be reduced to just 10, as part of a major restructuring at the museum.”
  • Library careers panel with CILIP NW – CILIP. 23 April 10am. “e’ll be joined by a panel of library colleagues from higher education, public libraries and health, who will introduce their role, their team and their organisation, before taking questions from the audience.”
  • Patron Point now available for public libraries in the UK and Ireland – Patron Point. “The company’s marketing automation platform connects to all popular library management systems and other third-party library data sources like eBook vendors and reservation system”
  • Re-engaging Library Customers – CILIP East Midlands AGM – CILIP. 27 April 9.30am. ” Ash Charlton will lead us in identifying the issues and solutions for re-engaging customers as life starts to return to our new ‘normal’. “
  • Summer Reading Challenge to have Wild World Heroes theme– BookSeller.”The charity has teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund to deliver the event across the summer, encouraging children to engage in reading about environmental issues, including plastic pollution and deforestation to wildlife decline and nature loss. Through taking part in the challenge, with free packs from public libraries or online, children will be able to join six fictional characters — “wild heroes” — to help solve some of these threats, learning about the importance of the environment while helping to restore nature levels in the neighbourhood of “Wilderville”.”
  • What’s the key to finishing that novel of yours? Try working at the library – Crime Reads. “nd so I got to work at the library, reading everything from US-set fiction to travel guides. Whatever I wanted to find out about, the library had me covered.”

International news

Local news by authority

  • Bracknell Forest – Praise for ‘lifesaving’ home library service used by Bracknell residents – Bracknell News. “One person told us we had literally saved their life.” … “328 residents in Bracknell Forest who are over 70, having to shield, or are clinically extremely vulnerable, registered with the contact-free delivery scheme, council data shows.”
  • Calderdale – Air quality in Sowerby Bridge and impact on health to be focus of innovative library project – Halifax Courier. “Calderdale libraries’ ‘Something in the Air?’ project, supported by researchers at the University of Manchester and funded as part of the Engaging Libraries programme was launched this week. Between March and September this year, there will be a series of free events that anyone can attend, to hear from specialists and to ask questions about all sorts of issues around air quality and health.”
  • Denbighshire – Denbighshire’s service was the best performing in Wales for the number of Welsh books borrowed per capita – Free Press. “The Welsh Government has praised the service in the Welsh Public Library Standards assessment report for 2019/20 saying it has a ‘strong commitment to health and wellbeing’ while its ‘intention to focus on the development of staff should enable Denbighshire libraries to remain at the heart of their communities and continue to deliver services effectively’.”
  • Hampshire – Villagers asked to remove ‘adult literature’ from communal red phone box library – I. “Hurstbourne Tarrant had lost access to its mobile library service because a lack of funding from Hampshire council forced it to cease. Access to such libraries have come under increased scrutiny in recent years. However, Hurstbourne Tarrant’s telephone box was bought by the council in 2019 and then used grant money to convert it into a library” … “However, the Parish Council noticed Nancy Holder’s Hot Blooded, and publications by Debbie Viguié – whose novels are sometimes catergorised as “erotic romance” – began to appear”
  • Inverclyde – Library celebrates Women’s History Month – Greenock Telegraph.
  • Milton Keynes – Milton Keynes Libraries to host online ‘Lines of Lockdown’ poetry event – MK FM. “Milton Keynes Libraries and Milton Keynes Islamic Arts & Culture are set to co-host an online open mic poetry night”
  • North Ayrshire – Council set to perform u-turn on disposal of ‘lifeline community facilities’ – Largs and Millport Weekly News. “Under-threat facilities, which included Largs Library, are set to be thrown a lifeline after playing key roles in the community effort during the coronavirus pandemic.”
  • Northumberland – Shaping the future of libraries in Northumberland – News Post Leader. “An extensive consultation between December 2019 and March 2020 saw more than 5,000 people, both library members and non-members, take part.” … “Building on the findings of the consultation a redesign of the service was approved by the County Council’s Cabinet to establish five Hub Libraries, serving each locality area.”
  • North Yorkshire – Home library service grows in popularity during Covid – Northern Echo. “Around 1,400 people across North Yorkshire currently benefit from the service and last year’s Covid restrictions and lockdowns saw increased demand for the service.”
  • Nottingham – Nottingham’s new central library delayed until next year – Nottingham Post. “The new building for the library is already there, as part of the complex which will also house the car park and the new bus station but like many other authorities Nottingham city council continues to face a challenge so there will be a delay to our original intention to complete the fit out of the new central library. “The sale of the Angel Row site means we can start the fit out of the new central library in the summer, aiming to complete next year.””
  • Powys – Powys libraries join dementia music campaign – Powys Country Times. “It is the first library authority in Wales to work with dementia charity, Playlist for Life, to distribute its booklet ‘Create the Soundtrack of Your Life”
  • Renfrewshire – Library books home delivery service is best seller – Renfrewshire 24. “Almost 200 people have signed up to Renfrewshire Leisure’s Libraries Direct service providing a free delivery service of library books to those over the age of 70, people with disabilities and families with children.”
  • Sandwell – Sandwell solution to lockdown loneliness – sharing a good book – Halesowen News. “It will include a new telephone reading group, one-to-one telephone conversations with Reading Befrienders, and online book readings for all ages which will be showcased on the library service’s Facebook page.”
  • Sefton – Iconic building closed for eight years could soon get new lease of life – Liverpool Echo. “The Carnegie Library in Crosby was shut by Sefton Council in December 2013 as part of a “libraries review” and a bid to save cash. Six other libraries across Sefton were also ordered to close the same year. Now documents on Sefton Council’s website reveal plans to transform the Grade II listed building into a “community hub” with office space, a bistro, and bar areas.”
  • Somerset – Somerset libraries reopen and launch Reading Friends service – Weston Mercury. “Almost all Somerset libraries have reopened this week, offering a limited-service as lockdown measures start to ease. “
  • Staffordshire – Services support residents as lockdown restrictions ease – Tamworth Informed. “From Monday (8 March) libraries at Biddulph, Burntwood, Codsall, Kidsgrove, Rugeley, Stone, Uttoxeter and Wombourne will reopen to offer essential PC use and ‘order and collect’ services. Until 12 April these eight will close between 1 and 2pm.”
    • Improvements in Burton town centre could see dozens of homes created – Staffordshire Live. “The project to regenerate the area around High Street, which fronts the Washlands and the River Trent, would also see the town’s library building bulldozed if its services were to be moved to the market hall, a council anticipates.” … “it “anticipates” demolishing existing “low value” buildings, such as the 1970s library building, off Meadowside Drive.” … ” agreed, in principle, to relocate the library, off High Street, to the market hall in the Market Place at a meeting in August – two months before the nine-day public consultation on the proposal was launched in October. When the library project was discussed this part of the meeting was in private and not open to the public. The authority had previously said Burton Library was the most successful library in the county.”
  • Suffolk – Suffolk Libraries launches new technology lending scheme – East Anglian Daily Times. Laptop lending. “The aim of the new Device to Your Door scheme which has been funded by Suffolk’s Contain Outbreak Management Fund is to provide help for those with no access to a computer or the internet at home.  “
  • Sunderland – Sunderland’s Culture House – Designing Libraries. “Central to the regeneration programme is the proposed new library. The stated aim of the project is to create the UK’s best new library in an iconic, 80,000 square feet building which will contain adult lending and reference libraries; libraries for children and young people; spaces for making, creativity and innovation; a local studies and archive centre (£650,000 has been agreed for the digitisation of collections).” 600,000 visitor target.
  • Wandsworth – Shakespeare week coming to Wandsworth libraries – SW Londoner. “Wandsworth libraries will be showing daily videos exploring the life and works of William Shakespeare to celebrate Shakespeare week. There will also be a live online event, which will feature a team of actors performing speeches from Shakespeare followed by a Q&A session for children to ask for any secrets on how to perform the legendary playwright’s work.”
  • Wigan – Libraries launch e-book service – Leigh Journal. “Libraries in the borough are launching a new e-book service which will give residents free access to up to 36,000 digital books and over 20,000 audiobooks. Any member of Wigan library services will be able to download the BorrowBox app”
  • Wokingham – New Twyford Library Approved – Wokingham.co.uk. “A new chapter is opening for Twyford Library as Wokingham Borough Council approves plans to create a brand-new facility in the centre of the village, converting the Old Polehampton Boys School.”
  • Worcestershire – Archive service to help Redditch residents trace their family trees – Redditch Standard. “The number of library customers accessing Ancestry Library Edition increased by 200 per cent in February, compared to the same period in 2020. Digital library membership has increased by 355 per cent in the last 12 months”
  • Census help is available – Worcester Observer. Zoom library sessions. “Join Tony Hutchings, Census Engagement Manager for Worcestershire from the Office for National Statistics as he explains more about the census, how you can complete the census, how information is captured as well as being on hand to answer any of your queries and signpost you to useful helplines”
  • Malvern Library set to become Rapid Covid Testing site – Worcester News. ““It’s great to see Malvern Library offering support to the local community by becoming the next rapid flow testing site.”