I normally produce a review of the year, with the major trends of the year around Christmas time. Well, there was only one major thing happening in 2021, as there was in 2020, and it is the same reason why there was no Christmas PLN post this year. Covid. It has impacted and influenced everything libraries do in a way I cannot believe has been done before in my lifetime, with the possible and arguable exceptions of the digital revolution and austerity. The virus has led to a dramatic decrease in physical library visits, not least because initially buildings were locked up, but then due to limited services and concerns over infection. It has also seen a big increase in digital usage, although not to the same extent.

What will be the most important trend of 2022 will be whether libraries recover their physical usage,a nd to what extent. It may not be talked about much but it’s the elephant in the room. It’s known that at least some library users have found alternative sources than libraries or that they have developed different habits. There is little more disruptive than lockdowns and so expecting usage to come back to the way it was before would anyway be a foolish thing to do. It’s worth noting too that some libraries are reporting usage almost back up to normal already while others are still way down so, as in anything with UK public libraries, the picture is mixed.

Given this change in usage, I would expect most sectors to go all-out with publicity and promotion to remind people that we are once again open to business. Due to the fractured nature of the public library sector, though, and a long-term absence of major national publicity or promotional campaigns, it would be an optimist who would expect such a thing from UK libraries. There is simply no budget, residual skills or serious expectation. Irish libraries can do it, it seems, but not us. There is a hook that we can place such publicity on this year – the long-awaited launch of the Single Digital Presence – and much brilliant that can be said about public libraries, now as ever. But until I am pleasantly surprised. public libraries will be as devoid of effective national publicity as they have been for several decades. After all, lack of marketing and promotional budgets have been a long term trend for public libraries our entire lives, no matter I suspect how old you are. Covid is a newcomer in comparison. And the slow publicity asphyxiation of the sector is having a huge impact, possibly as impactful long-term as the virus is short and medium term.

Changes by local authority

  • Dudley – Extra two hours opening in nine libraries per week.

National news

International news

Local news by authority

“Coseley, Cradley, Gornal, Kingswinford, Long Lane, Lye, Netherton, Sedgley and Wordsley libraries will now open Monday & Thursday 10am – 5pm and Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10am – 4pm.  That’s an extra two hours per library per week”

Dudley – Email from GLL