It’s looking increasingly likely that Covid may, in various versions, be with us for quite some time to come. Perhaps like influenza it will never be truly eradicated but, rather, we will need to get regular jabs to fight against the latest variants. So what does that mean for libraries? Well, it means that there may be a quick superficial return to normality but, actually, no underlying return to what was standard two years ago. Even if normality is declared by the government in a couple of weeks, few would doubt that the cautious may take a while to come back in, especially if the infection rate continues to rise. People have had over a year of being told it’s dangerous, after all.

At least some people are now so comfortable with digital alternatives that they may not come back to traditional library services. This means that libraries will need to consider shifting budget long-term away from the physical to the digital, which many will be loath, for good reasons, to do. A more pessimistic possible scenario is that cash-strapped councils look at the (hopefully) short-term but steep decline in physical use and simply just reduce the printed book budget instead, and close libraries. Optimistically, of course, another alternative is what we have seen the last year or so when at least some councils have really appreciated what library services have been doing.

Something that is noticeable is that usage is returning more in some services than in others and in some branches in those services more than others. Location and type of building, the user population, and what is allowed in each service, appear to be the factors here. Many people come into libraries for events and activities and so it is only with the return of fear-free events that we may see something like “regular” numbers coming back. But when will people be fear-free? Well, the next couple of months will be crucial here in finding out, especially the final numbers for the Summer Reading Challenge.

I remember a seminar a year ago entitled “Libraries After Covid”. That title proved really optimistic at the time but now perhaps no less so. It’s even possible that this very editorial looks optimistic if the government needs to backtrack on plans if infection rates continue to rise. But I think what we can safely say, in any currently realistic scenario, is that, like every other sector, public libraries will probably need to cope with the fall-out from Covid, in one way or another, for a long time to come.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • CILIP Webinar: BL Single Digital Presence Update CILIP / British Library.  Led by Liz White and Becca Mytton. SDP will be used to promote physical library as well as digital. Help local library services improve their digital services too. So, not single – a national presence plus also local library digital services, filling the gaps local services cannot. Ensure every library service has engaging local presence. SDP should be accessible via PC/mobile and be capable of being added on to. ACE provision for local services to bid to boost digital, around 50 services expected to benefit. Live site some time in 2022. Open dialogue with BL welcomed.
  • Death positive libraries: An invitation – Libraries Connected. “library services have been developing events and activities that focus on engaging residents in conversations around death, dying and planning for end of life since 2018. ” … “Almost 80% of British adults find it difficult to talk about death, even though we all have to face it.” … “The time is now right to scale up and rollout a framework of support so that all UK library services can be death positive libraries.”
  • Future Funding Showcase – Libraries Connected. 8 July, 1 to 3pm. “You’ll hear why income generation is so important, what the course will cover and you’ll have the opportunity to meet the trainer and mentors.”
  • Independent Review of Public Library Financing Panel announcement – CILIP. “All eight members of this panel have extensive experience in public and academic libraries, local government, lifelong learning and the cultural sector.”. Aim is “to identify the opportunities and risks inherent in our current model for the resourcing and funding of public libraries; to identify under-exploited opportunities to secure a more diverse and sustainable funding base for the future and to set out a roadmap of recommendations for how this might be achieved.”
  • Know your rights: the key to eBook access – CILIP. “The law, or our understanding of it, is the biggest threat to a fragile status quo, Ben says: “The goal posts have been moved, sometimes by licensing and sometimes by less-than-helpful law changes, particularly in the UK.”” … “Ben says that the UK is the English-speaking state whose public libraries are most adversely affected by eBook pricing and restrictions:” … ““Overall, the UK has the least attractive licence terms, the highest prices, and the lowest availability.”.
  • Let’s stop saying that libraries are more than just books – NoveList. “I have a problem with that sentence, “Libraries are now about more than just books.” Every time I hear it, what I hear is “books aren’t really that important.” Then the follow-up thought in my mind is: “I guess this other stuff the library is doing is way more exciting.” It makes the value of books seem so very small and perhaps even irrelevant. “
  • Libraries Hub – Libraries Week. “In 2021 Libraries Week celebrates how libraries support active and engaged communities. Visit our ‘Get Started Guide’ to explore our marketing and publicity toolkits and download posters and social graphics in four eye-catching designs to showcase how your library is Taking Action and Changing Lives. Discover editable posters and social graphic templates via the links below.”
  • Marketing the Library webinar 1: Campaign planning – Libraries Connected. Wednesday 21 July, 11am to 1pm. “This is the first of three webinars in our Marketing the Library project. It will take you through the seven key steps of campaign planning, answering the question ‘Why plan?’ and including identifying a target audience, producing clear messaging and measuring success.”
  • Oliver Dowden, be on the level about investment – Big Issue. “If you’re genuine about levelling up and making sure nobody is left behind, stop closing libraries. Stop shutting gateways to opportunity. If the £200m estimated cost for the new Royal yacht was awarded to UK libraries, it would just about take them back to the funding level they were at in 2010 before austerity bit. There is an estimated £8 return on every one pound invested in libraries. The more we put in, the more everybody gets out. In so many ways.”
  • Sustaining Professional Confidence in a Changing Work Environment – British Library. 15 July, 11am to 12 noon. “he continually shifting landscape for many has had an unsettling effect on our professional confidence with many feeling apprehensive about moving into the next phase. How will it feel working closely again with colleagues? How comfortable will the conversations feel? How can we challenge our limiting self-beliefs and regain our assertiveness ? This webinar is focused around giving you the confidence to look ahead positively with some reminders about communicating effectively as well as overcoming any barriers you may face.”
  • Why Britain’s economy can’t afford to lose the public library – Big Issue. “Nick Poole reiterates the importance access to books and information, making the economic case for the UK’s libraries”

International news

  • Australia – Managing a Library Service through a Crisis: Part 1 -The Governance – Jane Cowell. “This is a story of a library service responding to a crisis in four parts. Part 1 is The Governance (this post) as a government corporation we must have a sound basis for our decision making and also who can make what decision. Our Communication (Part 2) in a crisis was essential, both with staff and with our communities and supporting and managing the Staff (Part 3) as another critical response to the crisis. The Work (Part 4) that we undertook also had to respond to the immediate situation our communities were facing and respond to their actual need in ever changing times.”
  • Global – Lighthouse Sessions 2021 – Public Libraries 2030. “Over the month of June, we hosted sessions focused on civic participation, democratic renewal and innovation in libraries. We welcomed various guest speakers over the course of these sessions to gather their insights into how libraries can develop new activities. “. Videos of 3 talks.
  • Iraq – Thousands of great literary works donated to Mosul library that was destroyed by ISIS – National World. 2 000 title donation “British artist and author Edmund de Waal’s library of exile was displayed at the British Museum until January and remained there during the height of the pandemic until transportation to Iraq could be arranged earlier this month. The acclaimed installation featured the works of almost 1,500 writers from 58 countries forced to leave their countries of origin for political reasons. Readers at the Iraqi institution’s famous College of Arts will be able to browse through the pages of literary greats – from the ancients Ovid, Voltaire and Dante to the more contemporary, including the Chinese poet Ai Quing, Hannah Al-Shaykh from Lebanon and Samar Yazbek from Syria.”
  • New Zealand – Auckland Council to remove library overdue fines from 1 September 2021 – Our Auckland. ““We’ve been researching and building the case for the removal of library fines and although fines were introduced to encourage returning of borrowed items, they have evolved to become barriers to equitable access to information and lifelong learning. Libraries who have removed the fines have experienced greater rate of return of items borrowed and membership growth,””
  • Poland – An unusual place in Marszałkowska. In this library you can listen to music, play games and bake a cake – R and R Life. “A unique place has opened in the Śródmieście district of Warsaw – a library where you can bake a cake, spend free time with your neighbors, listen to music, play on the console or board games. “We are destroying the biggest myth about libraries – we don’t have to be completely silent,” said Alexander Ferenc, mayor of the district.”
  • Singapore From Idea to Exhibit: A Curator’s Musings – Medium. “The National Library and Public Libraries were, and still are, a large part of the lives of many Singaporeans. Many grew up borrowing books from the libraries and spending their leisure hours there. However, not many people are familiar with the fascinating journey that our libraries went on to get to where they are today. Many stories can be found within our libraries, but we think it’s time to tell the libraries’ story.”
  • South Africa – The Hot-Spot Library Was Born In Two Shipping Containers In A Cape Town Slum – NPR. “Built around a pair of aging shipping containers, it may not look like your conventional library. But for the residents of Scottsville, a neighborhood torn apart by drug abuse and gang violence, it offers a safe space to escape the harsh realities of daily life and to explore different worlds in the pages of thousands of donated second-hand books.”
  • UAE – UAE-based global non-profit foundation to deliver 15 libraries to refugees and children – Gulf News. “Under the joint project, Kalimat Foundation will deliver 15 libraries, each containing 100 Arabic language books. “
Barack Obama says libraries have been very important for his life

Local news by authority

  • Birmingham – Birmingham stabbings: Man admits Jacob Billington killing – BBC News. “University library intern Jacob Billington, 23, died and seven others were injured in five separate incidents in the early hours of 6 September.”
  • Borders – Libraries set for early phased reopening – Southern Reporter. “Four libraries – in Galashiels, Hawick, Eyemouth and Peebles – will reopen on a phased basis with limited opening hours to measure public demand for the services.” … “Visits will be limited to 20-minute slots “
  • Bristol – Bristol City Council cuts library books budget by £30K – Bristol Post. “Campaigners have criticised Bristol City Council for cutting £30,000 from its library books fund. The money, which is just over five per cent of the £560,000 reading materials annual budget, is being redirected to help pay for a new regeneration service.”
  • Caerphilly – Caerphilly Libraries Service ranked in Wales’ top three – Wales 247. “Caerphilly County Borough Council’s Libraries Service has been ranked in Welsh Government’s Ranking Table as joint 3rd place, of all 22 local authorities in Wales. The Ranking Table is based upon the results from an all-Wales assessment for 2019/20”
  • Coventry – 1,000 free copies of the 2021 International Booker Prize winner delivered to libraries across Coventry – Coventry Observer. “1,000 free copies of the 2021 International Booker Prize winner All Night All Blood is Black are being delivered to libraries across Coventry as part of the UK City of Culture. The Big Coventry Booker Read will bring the city together in a ‘virtual book club’ to read and discuss the winning novel this summer.”
  • Denbighshire – Denbighshire Libraries Open Up for Browsing Again – News from Wales. “They will still need to make an appointment to use a library computer, book a study space and to access One Stop Shop services by phoning their local library.”
  • Devon – From Exmouth with love: lockdown quilt inspired by books – Exmouth Journal. “A quilt made in Exmouth and inspired by a love of books and reading is going on tour around libraries in Devon. The quilt has been created by Exmouth & District University of the Third Age (u3a) members and depicts shelves of books and a curious cat. 
    It took 12 quilters 80 hours of work to design, cut and stitch. The beautiful quilt will tour libraries over the next year and it will be raffled to raise money for Libraries Unlimited.  Raffle tickets will be available in libraries and online.”
  • Glasgow – Mike Dailly: Glasgow communities won’t give up their local libraries – Glasgow Times. Behind paywall.
  • Isle of Man – Isle of Man Family Library could be given one year reprieve – BBC News. The family and mobile libraries on the Isle of Man could be secured for a further year after the Treasury agreed to consider providing funding. Those behind the facilities had said closure was being considered after a government grant ended in April 2020. Minister Alfred Cannan said a further £125,000 would be provided “on receipt of an appropriate business case”. The funding would be to ensure the running of the mobile library for a further 12 months.”
  • Peterborough – New Peterborough BookBench sculptures installed across city – Peterborough Telegraph. “The trail, produced by Wild in Art and led by Peterborough Reads from the National Literacy Trust, launches this week in museums, shopping centres, cultural hubs and libraries across the city. Over the past year, 11 local schools and six artists have been busy designing the benches, taking inspiration from a wide variety of topics, including outer space, chickens, Mr Men, fairytales and the travels of Paddington Bear.”
  • Reading – ‘Tired’ Reading Central Library could move location – Get Reading. “A council report said the library “does not currently provide an attractive environment for customers, despite the ongoing best efforts of library staff and piecemeal changes over the years”.” … “It is one of the busiest council buildings in Reading, welcoming more than 200,000 visitors a year pre-Covid, providing services over three floors and generating more than £300,000 per year in income. The library, which is on the corner of Abbey Square and Kings Road in the town centre, opened in 1985 and has never had a full refurbishment.” … “It has set aside more than £1 million in its capital budget to either refurbish or create a new central library in Reading.”
  • Suffolk – First look inside town’s newly-revamped library – EADT. “Saxmundham has unveiled its newly-revamped library – which promises to be bigger, better and more modern than ever before. The site, which is part of the Saxmundham Hub, boasts more up-to-date facilities and greater space for community activities. There is also a new children’s section, new books for people to read and fresh carpets and furniture.”
  • Swansea – You can now pick up free Covid lateral flow tests from Swansea libraries – Wales Online.
  • Warrington – Padgate Library officially open – Warrington Worldwide. “The plans for the £142,000 redevelopment were produced by Warrington Borough Council and LiveWire – which manages the Insall Road library – in conjunction with a working group made up of members of the local community and the Friends of Padgate Library group.
    Priorities included making the library frontage brighter and more attractive to make it feel safer, especially in the winter months.”
  • West Sussex – Chichester Library to undergo four months of conservation work – Chichester Observer. “The work will see the concrete ribs renovated and the original windows refurbished, as over the years water has seeped into the concrete building and caused the internal steel to rust and expand leading to ‘spalling’ which forces the concrete off. The original windows also need an overhaul to improve the way that they work, the council said.”
  • Wirral – Public consultation begins on Wirral Library Strategy – Wirral Globe. “aims to deliver an attractive, relevant, modern and flexible library service.”