The winners of Libraries Improvement Fund grants have been announced, with 25 services sharing £5 million. The largest grant is £495k (Sandwell) and the smallest is £62k (Reading). Before we get too excited by this government largesse, it’s worth remembering the £5 million fund is less than a third that given to museums at the same time, a sector with fewer visitors and buildings. To put it into more perspective. one private subscription library, Leeds, announced extra funding more than twice that of the largest LIF receiver in the same week. And just one building, a new combined library/museum in Wakefield, will cost more than three times than the entire national award. So, it’s a nice thing, it’s good one could apply for building improvements, and well done to the library services involved but the scale fo the funding is just plain woefully inadequate given the challenges to the sector, which is often most obvious in its buildings. So, I hope the sector becomes like Oliver, and asks for more. Substantially more. And if we get it, well, that would be a Twist indeed.

In other news, Blackpool has continued being fines-free for another year, reporting that it has seen no increase in the amount of unreturned or late items. I understand Libraries Connected is researching the fines-free model as well and seeing how/if other services can go down that route. It seems that the whole pro-fines argument has shifted in the last ten years from “Fines are needed as otherwise we will lose stuff” to “We’d like to get rid of fines but we need the income from them” as the main reason why many library services have not gone down that route. The strength of that argument (and the weakness in library budgets it shows) will be tested in many more services soon, as the number of services going fines-free continues to grow.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • £48 million to safeguard nation’s critical cultural heritage – Gov.uk. £5 million for libraries: “The Libraries Improvement Fund is helping to transform library services in England by helping them upgrade their buildings and digital infrastructure so they can respond to the changing ways people use them. Twenty-five library services are being supported in this round of funding, including Sandwell Library and Information Service in the West Midlands (£495,000) and Sheffield Libraries (£340,000).”
    • Over £6m in new funding granted to Yorkshire museums and libraries – here’s where – Yorkshire Post. “Almost £150,000 will support Barnsley Council to redevelop Dodworth Library to allow more flexible use of the space and improve access for users.” … “Sheffield will also receive £340,000 to pay for library upgrade work, with Leeds receiving £267,000 and Bradford and Scarborough £200,000 each.”
    • Cultural Investment Fund: Data – Arts Council England. “This includes £24 million through round two of the Cultural Development Fund to help regenerate communities through improved growth and productivity. The Museums Estate and Development Fund is awarding £18 million to help museums improve their infrastructure and carry out urgent maintenance works. We’re also investing £5 million in 25 library services to upgrade their buildings and technology, through the Libraries Improvement Fund.”

Table from Cultural Investment Fund: Data | Arts Council England

International news

Local news by authority