The Summer Reading Challenge (SRC) officially started last Saturday, 10 July. It’s by far the biggest promotion that public libraries in the UK put on each year, and normally attracts hundreds of thousands of children to come in, take out some books and read. It’s one of the reasons that August is one of the busiest months of the year for libraries and why children’s libraries are as successful as they are. It is also, for me, one of the high points of the year, not least because I can normally (but not this year) embarrass myself in front of hundreds of children in school assemblies. The Reading Agency and the many library services that take part in the SRC are to be congratulated each year for doing so much to encourage children to read.

And this year no less than before, and probably more. For this year there is very real uncertainty amongst staff both about safety procedures and also about the number of children who will take part. I remember 19 months ago planning what SRC supplies my service needed and being fairly sure to within 5% as to what was needed. The pandemic meant I was wrong by 100%. This year, no-one can be sure to 5%, 15%, possibly even 50%. And this also is indicative of long-term worries over business as well. Will people 100% come back to physical libraries? There’s encouraging signs from Australia that, yes they do, eventually. But for now, in the UK, facing uncertainty both about this Summer and beyond, in terms of safety and usage, the real Heroes may well be the staff as well as the children. Perhaps that was ever the case but this year it’s just more obvious.

Wishing you all the best everyone, let me know how you’re getting on.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Covid leaves UK councils with £3bn financial black hole – BBC. “In the London borough of Bexley, 264 staff posts will be deleted, while library opening hours and road repairs will be reduced.”
  • Creating Space for Kindness. An experiment with public libraries in Scotland – Carnegie UK. “Small-scale ‘kindness initiatives’, delivered by local libraries can play a role in helping to improve wellbeing. This short report sets out why kindness matters to wellbeing and why it makes sense to consider how libraries can enhance this core aspect of wellbeing in local communities. It does so through describing a set of ‘kindness initiatives’ that were supported by the Carnegie UK Trust and delivered by 10 public libraries in Scotland. The report highlights the value of creating space to talk about kindness and the impact that this can have on individual and community wellbeing.”
  • National Acquisitions Group Award for Excellence – National Acquisitions Group. “
  • NAG makes an annual award designed to promote excellence, original thinking and innovation by a library team or individual within the field of Acquisitions. For 2020 the winner will receive £200 plus £100 as a donation to their nominated charity.  The prize will be paid directly to the individual. ”
  • National Poetry Day to spotlight over 40 books in recommended lists – BookSeller. “Recommended titles will be promoted to over 4,000 reading groups and the UK library network via the Reading Agency”
  • Read, Talk, Share – How the Reading Agency helped libraries tackle loneliness – Gov.uk/DCMS Libraries. “Read, Talk, Share’ expanded The Reading Agency’s already successful Reading Well and Reading Friends programmes, enabling  public library services to step up to tackle loneliness and support mental health. Together we and our library partners  mobilised to reach those most in need of social connectivity,  overcoming the challenges of delivery in a pandemic, including the closure of library buildings and the difficulties of distance engagements. The flexibility, commitment and support of library staff and management to deliver this has been amazing.”
  • Same, Same But Different prepares for English library tour – Libraries Connected. “The tour will visit 26 libraries and spaces across England from 27 July to 26 August. These will include Stoke, Nottingham, Luton, Birmingham, Black Country, Cheshire, Middlesborough and Reading. The tour will adhere to the most up-to-date government guidelines around Covid-19.”
  • Scottish councils plan to save £141m over next year to pay for covid pandemic response – Daily Record. “It comes as fears grow that public services will suffer as a result with libraries, leisure centres and museums unable to reopen following lockdown.” … “Glasgow Life, an offshoot of the city council, said it had lost £38m due to the closure of venues during the pandemic.”

International news

  • Australia – The little library that has a 20 per cent chance of winning best in world – Sydney Morning Herald. “At Sydney’s Marrickville Library, you can get pizza delivered to your lounge chair or secret nook. Even better, you can eat it there or in the sunken garden while using the wifi.” … “Another finalist, the new Deichman Bjørvika in Oslo Norway, includes a secret and hidden library for the future. The six-storey building has a gaming zone, secret rooms for children and views of the fjord. As well as borrowing from the collection of 450,000 books, locals can learn to sew or play the piano.”
  • USA – Bloomington PD in spotlight over tweet about ‘thefts’ from Little Free Libraries – Bring Me The News. “The tweet, posted on Friday, sparked hundreds of responses, most of which point out that the whole idea behind Little Free Libraries is that the books are free, calling into question the notion of “thefts.” Hilarious.
    • Episode 6: The Post-Pandemic Workplace – Apples Podcast / Libraries Lead in the New Normal. “As the information infrastructure and services providers of communities, are there new, more permanent needs and demands to meet for businesses, workers, parents, and students? And, what about the library workforce? Will librarians and support staff also work in hybrid formats?”

Local news by authority