As you may have noticed from last week’s editorial, the subject of intellectual freedom and public libraries is on my mind a bit recently. This is partly due to me being about to do a short presentation on it at the CILIP Conference this week. But it’s also because it’s, well, been in the news a lot. The far-right in the USA have been targeting public libraries for a while now for a range of things that they don’t agree with. Being this is the USA, this includes turning to children’s libraries with guns and liberally scattering accusations of paedophilia around.

This infection is now spreading to other countries, with Canada reporting multiple outbreaks as well. The disease of aggressive close-mindedness is also, worryingly, becoming part of the scene in the UK with very similar tactics (thankfully, minus the guns) being deployed against drag queen story-times here. The time when such thought-burning trends could be seen as part of just one country’s make-up appears gone. The internet has allowed such prejudice to go global as easily as local. And the English-speaking world, being able to understand American bigoted social media posts and the like easily, is as susceptible as anywhere else. Perhaps even more so.

Of course, being British, some of this tragedy translates as something closer to comedy. You will recall from last week that Nottingham, which is moving forward with its plans to close libraries, decided to ban a radical feminist author from speaking last week. But of course they still have the author’s books. And that of JK Rowling, who prominently thinks the same way. So why? Well, I guess censoring book-stock would be going a bit too far. And banning Harry Potter is, amusingly, exactly what the Religious Right in the USA would want to do. And also there’s a court ruling that could be used against such a thing. But the author is going to sue anyway. Because, well, this is the world we live in now.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Anti-vaxxers select their next target – Scout News. “Where America leads, Britain follows. Protesters are trying to cancel a tour of the Drag Queen Story Hour traveling across England and Wales this summer. ” … “we don’t know the exact contents of the show, but I’m willing to bet any schedule that involves reading aloud the adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare won’t be especially damaging to children.” … “A group called Outreach WorldWide, which has campaigned against Covid jabs, has turned its attention to LGBT affairs. Based on Telegram, where it has 4,000 members, it has been instrumental in protesting against the story tour. It has encouraged members of its 37 regional teams to complain to their local library and contact their councillors and MPs to get the event cancelled.”

“it’s not like the event is being forced upon children. It’s ticketed and in libraries over the summer holidays, so unsuspecting children are unlikely to wander in. And even if they did, they are only likely to find a solitary drag queen reading the works of Michael Rosen. There are far worse things children could be watching.”

  • CILIP Conference – CILIP. Last chance to book for 7 and 8 July. “Libraries, Information and Knowledge for Sustainability”
  • Essential services websites in UK ‘should be accessible to all’ – Guardian. DCMS minister says “Public libraries play an important role in tackling digital exclusion. About 2,900 public libraries in England provide a trusted network of accessible locations with staff, volunteers, free wifi, public PCs, and assisted digital access to a wide range of digital services,”
See Dagger in the Library – The Crime Writers’ Association (thecwa.co.uk)
  • Inflation could push English councils into bankruptcy, say leaders – Guardian. “When budgets were set earlier this year, councils were typically factoring in average pay and inflation costs of about 3%. However, inflation is now at 9%, with the Bank of England predicting it will hit 11% by October.”
  • Libraries Connected welcomes Ayub Khan MBE as new President – Libraries Connected. “As the first Black President of Libraries Connected, Ayub has vowed to use his platform to encourage more people from diverse backgrounds to pursue a career in libraries.”
  • Libraries key to closing post-pandemic literacy gap, new report reveals – Libraries Connected. “Public Libraries and Literacy Recovery – produced for Libraries Connected by the National Literacy Trust and supported using public funding by Arts Council England – examines the role of libraries in raising the literacy skills of children whose learning has been disrupted by the pandemic. It highlights evidence that, despite the huge achievements of teachers and librarians in supporting pupils through periods of school closures, the pandemic has exacerbated the literacy gap between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers.”
  • Library fines – Libraries Hacked. ” Library fines are a policy that should be informed by data. Libraries cannot argue to continue doing something with no affirmative research, just because they don’t think there’s enough research to stop.” … “no service has released any publicly available open data that would make such analysis possible. “

“Why would someone return books to the library if they were going to have to pay £20, and they need that to feed their family? It’s more likely they’ll stop using the library.”

  • New training programme aims to improve diversity in library leadership – Libraries Connected. “The modules, which were produced by the Birmingham Leadership Institute at the University of Birmingham, are structured around four core leadership capabilities: Leading for Resilience, Leading for Dialogue, Leading for Inclusion and Leading for Innovation. Unlike many online learning modules, Leading Libraries has been designed to be worked through gradually, allowing time for personal and group reflection. It can be accessed by all library staff, regardless of seniority.”
  • Website survey – DCA/Koios. “a new survey for librarians designed to shed some light on how library websites are perceived and used. The survey includes questions on discoverability, purpose, and utility and asks how successful librarians think their websites are at supporting the library mission. The survey takes five minutes to complete and DCA will make a donation to Clear Voice Interpreting Services, a social enterprise that supports refugees and other people in need with free translation services, for every response received.”

International news

  • Australia – Decolonising Libraries: Who controls the narrative? – ABC. “Hit play to hear Kerry’s story and learn what you can do to make sure libraries are a safe space for all.”
    • The world gets worse, but public libraries are forever – Sydney Morning Herald. “With all they have to offer, it’s odd then that the main users of libraries are babies, students and tech-phobic grandmothers looking to print out emails at 8am. The rest of us should rediscover the public library’s infinite assets. In fact, take my credit cards because the most valuable card in my wallet now is my library membership. (Note: Don’t take my credit cards.)”
  • Canada – Libraries in Canada hit by wave of hate, threats, as right-wing groups protest all-age drag events – CBC. “More than half a dozen libraries and drag performers, from Saint John to Victoria, reported being inundated online and over the phone by homophobic slurs and, in some cases, threats of violence” … “library staff were, among other things, accused of assisting paedophiles and threatened with lawsuits. Their personal information was also circulated online.”. Comments include “one that said it was time to “light the torches,” and another that called for Saunders and a fellow performer to be burned alive.”
    • Calgary’s Central Library is a stunner to rival Seattle’s – Washington Post. “Visitors could easily spend an entire afternoon engrossed in the Calgary Central Library’s architecture, amenities and programming — or not. It’s also a beautiful place to simply pass the time and people-watch.”
  • Ireland – Library reopening: ‘It’s one of the last great sanctuaries’ – Irish Times. ” you quickly begin to believe that if librarians were running the show, the world would be a better and nicer place. ” … “In February, when Libraries Ireland asked people to join the Ireland Reads campaign (irelandreads.ie) and pledge to put aside time to read a book each day, 570,000 people signed up.”

“It’s inherent in being a librarian that you move with the times, you move with society, you move with the world. You still work with people, that hasn’t changed. The library is a safe, secure, democratic space. it’s not for any one category or group. It’s a place where people can be free to meet, they don’t have to spend money. It’s one of the last great sanctuaries.”

  • New Zealand – Horowhenua Libraries To Be Fine-free – Community Scoop. “We want our libraries to be inviting to everyone, allowing equal access to the information and inspiration found within the walls and resources, however fines can deter people from enjoying the services our community centres provide.”
  • UAE – UAE unveils ‘Library of the Future’; over 1.1m books available for readers – Baaghi. “‘Mohammed bin Rashid Library’, a new cultural beacon in the region.” £225m cost (1 billion UAD). … ” “The economy needs knowledge … politics needs wisdom … nations need to learn … and all of that can be found in books.” see also Dubai opens new book-shaped library – Book Riot. “It’s been deemed the largest cultural project in Dubai. In addition to its unique design, it features eco-friendly features such as solar panels and and water recycling, used for its green spaces.”

Local news by authority

  • Barnet – Barnet City of Stories Home Celebration Event – Eventbrite. “Come along to this special free event celebrating the launch of the City of Stories Home Anthology featuring talented new writers from across London, alongside published authors.”
  • Bradford – Bradford Libraries scrap overdue book fines from today – Telegraph and Argus. “This decision has been taken in recognition of the financial pressures facing communities, particularly given the current cost of living crisis. Several library services across the country have dropped the charges and noticed more use of libraries and more stock returned.”
Manchester – Me and My Library: Sandra and Barbara at Gorton Library
  • Cheshire East – Cheshire East libraries helping support people in crisis – Winsford and Middlewich Guardian. “Adults coming in to browse the book stock and borrowing of books has not returned to pre-pandemic levels yet” … “Winter wellbeing resources were delivered to all Cheshire East libraries enabling other agencies working in communities and library staff to provide residents in need with much needed equipment including duvets, hot water bottles, gloves, and slow cookers.”
  • Coventry – Digital Spaces present event to showcase at Coventry libraries – Coventry City Council – News Anyway. “a two-day showcase of live events that will feature digital activities, artwork and immersive experiences that celebrate Coventry Libraries as places of creativity, community and new perspectives.”
  • Croydon – Croydon Mayor makes statement on South Norwood Library – Croydon News. “mayor has blamed “rising costs and construction delays” after a new library left empty for two years was put up for rent as a shop.” …”In 2021, there was a chance the library was going to be sold off as the building was not finished to the standard expected, but the council said it would use Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) money to make it usable.”
  • Devon – Secret Book Quest on a mission to reverse the literacy gap – Libraries Unlimited. “The Secret Book Quest – aimed at kids aged five and older. The Secret Book Quest has been challenging them to read a total of 50 books to collect all the stickers, decipher the code, and win a special prize”
  • Dorset – Dorset Library Service participates in the ‘Gadgeteers’ Summer Reading Challenge – News Anyway.
    • New proposed strategy for libraries across Dorset – Bridport News. “Councillors reviewing the future strategy for the service say that while libraries should change to meet emerging needs and offer new services books should still be at its core. A new proposed overall strategy recognises that there has been a year on year decline in library use with some age groups seldom, if ever, stepping inside one.” … “the pattern over the last 20 or 30 years had seen the heavy use of libraries for younger children and their parents, followed by a drop in interest and then more library use by older people.”
  • East Lothian – Continued staff shortages impact opening of several East Lothian libraries – East Lothian Courier. “Council libraries have faced closures ever since the Covid-19 outbreak, but recent staffing issues have resulted in difficulty fully reopening the sites. Six of the county’s smaller libraries have been affected, with the larger facilities remaining open on normal hours.”
  • Essex – New partnership with HSBC UK to improve financial literacy – Essex Council. “We have joined forces with HSBC UK to bring a series of pop-up events to residents, sharing the bank’s financial literacy programmes in Essex Libraries.” … “They will offer face-to-face guidance around things like digital banking, fraud awareness and managing finances.” … “I am delighted that colleagues from HSBC UK are partnering with us to support our levelling up agenda”
  • Gloucestershire – Proposal to move Stroud Library to shopping centre approved – BBC. “Gloucestershire County Council has agreed to move it to the Five Valleys Shopping Centre in Stroud. The council is expected to enter into a 25-year lease for the property within on the lower ground floor of the shopping centre in King Street. More than 500 people took part in a survey asking for people’s views on the proposal, with 70% in favour.”
  • Highlands – High Life Highland libraries offer boost for those with type 2 diabetes – Ross-shire Journal. ” provide iPads to support those with type 2 diabetes. Packed with information and support the project is a partnership with NHS Highland, Diabetes Scotland and AbilityNet to support those at risk of developing diabetes as well as those newly diagnosed with the condition.”
  • Inverclyde – Summer Reading Challenge set to sizzle – Inverclyde Council. Events include “the BodyWorks roadshow from Glasgow Science Centre, ‘Wee Storybox’ storytelling sessions, ‘Animal Man’ visits, and silent discos, as part of the challenge. “