Libraries have reopened in England in the patchwork nature that one has come to expect from our wonderfully diverse network, with some still offering only click and collect, some bookable browsing for varying periods and some with no restrictions on browsing at all. The reports I have heard are of the expected pile of returned books and busy-ness on the first day followed by a calming-down reasonably quickly. Books are still being quarantined and the social distancing measures so familiar after the last lockdown are back again. So it’s all got a feeling of deja vu about it, really. What is different this time is the hope that, with vaccines, we have seen the last lockdown. I am sure we all really hope that is the case.

Now a possible glimpse at the future. I have been talking to some Australian librarians who have, of course, been reopen for months because they live on a huge remote island with a government who realised the blindingly obvious importance of closing borders. They report that, even with their relatively mild brush with the virus, visitor numbers are still down. This ties in with what I am hearing and feeling myself – that Covid means that, even when what passes for normality returns here, there will be a sustained reduction in visitor numbers to buildings for quite a while, as the cautious stay away. And not just the cautious. There will be others who have discovered digital alternatives and it is those that libraries will still have to cater to, with a probable permanent increase in online use of library services, although at a lower level than the peak we saw last year.

Finally, I notice that this newsletter has now passed the 2000 subscriber network. Thank you to you all for making that possible.

Advert for Niche Academy from DCA

Local news by authority

National news

“Now libraries must again follow the lead of retail, building their brand in a virtual space, engaging through social media and other online channels with an ever-wider community to encourage take-up of all the services the library has to offer, from leisure reading to study and research.”

Sarah Godowski, Director of architects Bisset Adams
  • Save libraries to end education inequality, top author urges PM – Express. ” Cressida Cowell is demanding an end to “library poverty” where some primary schools have great provision while others have none at all.”
  • Social media project / Internship – DCA. DCA are “funding a social media project and are looking to collaborate with a UK library and information science student or postgraduate with an interest and aptitude for social media as a tool for promoting library usage and specific offerings from the library. Our budget is £250 per month, for 5hrs per week at £12.50 per hour for an initial six month period. There is the potential for the project to become a longer-term appointment for the right candidate.”
  • Universal Library Offer virtual seminar – Libraries Connected. Tuesday 15 June. “The day will focus on our four Universal Library Offer themes and aims to inspire you by offering practical ideas that can easily be put into practice. The event is aimed at mid-level library managers and development staff working in libraries, but anyone is welcome to attend.”. £20 – £100.

International news

  • USA – Libraries and Pandemics: Past and Present – JStor. “In 1918, library books were seen as fomites (or objects likely to harbor infectious microbes); today we know that paper and books are not reliable conductors of viral agents, for the most part.” … ” The 1918 flu pandemic was the first in which libraries were central to disseminating public health information” … “The 1918 influenza pandemic had a profound impact on how librarians do their work, giving them a chance to reevaluate what was working and what wasn’t in old models.”
  • Sharp rise in parents seeking to ban anti-racist books in US schools – Guardian. “Jason Reynolds’ Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, a history of racism for children and teens, was the year’s second most challenged title. In their complaints, parents claimed that Stamped contained “selective storytelling incidents” and “does not encompass racism against all people””. “The Hate U Give” was challenged because it was “thought to promote an anti-police message””

Local news by authority

  • Nottingham – ‘Quite a big name’ – positive response as Sainsbury’s confirms plan to open in Sherwood – Nottinghamshire Live. “The food giant has pledged to open a convenience store planned as part of the redevelopment of the Sherwood Library site”… ” It will be nice just to have the library back as a community hub that people can use.” … “Owned by Nottingham City Council, the buildings at the existing library site in Spondon Street are in a poor state – and the authority has deemed that the library no longer meets the “standards expected” by users. Working with contractor Hockley Developments, the council’s redevelopment plans have been put forward – planning documents revealing that a “blue-chip retail operator” was be announced in due course to operate from a ground floor unit.”
  • Surrey – Surrey County Council joins The Libraries Consortium – Library Technology. “Members will be able to use their library card at any of the 380 member branches, crossing boundaries into London boroughs, and reaching as far as Essex and Luton. Shared catalogues will offer choice from more than 8 million items of stock, which can be delivered to any Surrey Library in days”
  • Swindon – Swindon library click and collect and Steam shop return when lockdown eases – Swindon Advertiser. “The click, call and collect service which allows customers to reserve books online or by telephone has only been available at Central Library during the current lockdown. From Monday, the service will also be available at Highworth, North Swindon, Park and West Swindon libraries.”
  • Warrington – Plans for £100,000 improvements at Penketh Library moving forward – Warrington Worldwide. “Warrington Borough Council and LiveWire are progressing with refurbishment works at Penketh Library following consultation with the local community and The Friends of Penketh Library on what improvements should be made.
    The council will shortly be going out to tender to identify a contractor to carry out the works, which will breathe new life into the library and create a more vibrant, flexible space for the whole community to enjoy.”
  • Wiltshire – ‘We feel so grateful to be open again…’ – This is Wiltshire. “One customer told library staff: “I’m so, so grateful you have reopened, I missed the library so much.””
  • Worcestershire – Libraries are open to public – Worcester Observer. Browsing and PCs available. “Only storytime sessions for pre-school children will be re-introduced at a later date, April 22.”