I’m always a bit bemused by the release of the annual CIPFA figures. For one thing, they tend to be released late (this one about 11 months afterwards). They’ve also lost their comprehensiveness – only 43% of library services responded this time. And then of course they’re impossible to get at, unless you’re a library service or very rich. Finally, there’s the analysis of them. The current one appears not to overly notice the big increase in usage was because libraries were open after Covid again or that income was a bit down because, well, the public wasn’t coming in. But, and it pains me to say it, they’re the best we have. Until library services get it together and produce something themselves or the government starts making reporting compulsory then we have to use the imperfect statistics. We just need to be aware of how bad they area and not rely on them or, actually, use them much.

I’m sorry to see the main cuts reported this week being in Scotland. That nation has had a notable better time of it than England in the previous decade. However, it’s great to see the threat of closure lifted from the Wirral and also that York has gone fines-free (and has even removed reservations charges). Woohoo. A final woohoo goes to the creativity of library services: I’ve been doing this newsletter for way over a decade and I’m still spotting new ideas coming out of the sector. I can’t wait to see more. Hopefully about how to get good statistics …

Changes by local authority

Ideas noted

  • My First Library Card –  specially designed for 0-5, part of My Firsts promotion to inspire young children to visit, join and regularly use their local library (Hertfordshire)
  • Photographic Voter ID help – (Cheshire East)
  • Stimkits – Lendable resources for children with autism (North Yorkshire)
  • Teddy Bear Trail – fundraising for libraries (Jesmond volunteer library)

National news

“Today is world book day. The First Minister is well known as a self-identified avid reader so, as she leaves office, how does she feel about being responsible for closing more public libraries than any of her predecessors?” Stephen Kerr Conservative

“I am proud of the support that the Scottish Government gives to libraries. Many libraries in my constituency and across the country had to close during the pandemic, but I have watched them reopen and become vital parts of local communities. I will continue to support libraries, and I will continue to support everything associated with the wonderful world of books. Perhaps I even look forward to having a bit more time to read books in future.” Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

They Work For You

International news

  • Canada – Toronto libraries are fighting for ‘intellectual freedom’ with new collection of exclusively banned books – CP24. “The collection features 50 adult, teen and children’s books that have been banned, challenged or censored across North America. “
  • USA – As LGBTQ book challenges rise, some Louisiana librarians are scared to go to work – PBS. “Scrutiny of libraries, books, teaching materials and curriculum has become a central issue for conservative politicians around the nation. In Florida, the education department has launched a statewide effort to review reading materials provided to children in schools, following a law that went into effect last summer that can impose harsh penalties on any educators who provide books deemed inappropriate. Librarians in Missouri were forced to remove books from shelves under threat of criminal charges last fall. Virginia established a tip line encouraging parents to report teaching materials about critical race theory, but it quietly shut down the effort last year.”
    • Call to Action for Digital Content – Good E Reader. “a March of Action for libraries. In response to the growing concern about fair access to digital rights, including ebooks, audio books and other digital resources, the coalition is hosting a series of virtual Congressional briefings in March 2023 regarding the future of digital rights for libraries.”
    • From letters to airplane tickets; this librarian has collected over 400 items in books left by visitors – First Post. “Starting from grocery lists, postcards, polaroid photographs, airplane tickets, notes, recipes, concert tickets, and even love letters, Sharon has seen it all and has now turned it into her passion. The woman who works at the Oakland Public Library in California also runs an independent page on the library’s website where all the forgotten mementoes are uploaded for public viewing.”

Local news by authority

Northern Ireland
  • Measuring our impact: Independent research into our social value – Suffolk Libraries. “Our latest impact report Suffolk Libraries, An impact analysis of services of Suffolk Libraries January 2023 by independent consultants Moore Kingston Smith estimates that every £1 spent on Suffolk Libraries’ services creates £6 in ‘social value’. This is based on a comprehensive study of the wide range of services and activities Suffolk Libraries provide and further discussion with people who benefit from them. The report also found Suffolk’s libraries generated £41m worth of social value and saves NHS services in Suffolk a whopping £542K per year.”
  • Swindon – Swindon library visitors drop post Covid as e-loans soar – Swindon Advertiser. “In the year ending in March 2020 there were more than half a million personal visits to the five libraries, which lent 532,000 items and there were 16,758 e-loans, of things like digital audio books, e-books and e-magazines. This far in 2022-23, which still has more than a month to run, personal visits have numbered 188,000. That’s well under half the pre-pandemic total, with 224,000 items being borrowed. In the meantime e-loans have multiplied six-fold to 93,471 this year.”
  • West Dunbartonshire Libraries face closure or moving location under West Dunbartonshire Council budget proposals – Glasgow Live. “Dalmuir Library could be moved within Dalmuir community centre under proposals to plug West Dunbartonshire Council’s £21.6 million budget gap. Balloch, Duntocher, Parkhall and Faifley libraries also face being co-located or closed.”
  • Wirral – Wirral Council: Plan to close nine libraries scrapped – BBC. “The local authority, which faces a £32m budget gap, also u-turned on plans to cut back on playgroups, the maintenance of parks, and street cleaning.” … “Greens leader Pat Cleary said: “Promoting an excessively pessimistic budget gap has inevitably led to heightened and unnecessary stress for staff and residents.”
    • York – Residents invited to have their say on Acomb Explore – York Explore. Consultation on new library.
    • York libraries to scrap all fines for overdue books – Yahoo News. “Even library books that have been gathering dust at the back of a shelf at home for years – and which you’ve occasionally felt guilty about not returning – will no longer incur a fine when you bring them back.” … “As well as removing late charges, the library service will also scrap the 25p fee for reserving books. ‘These changes are all part of work to improve the experience for library customers which will also include the launch of an app to make borrowing even easier, and brand-new self-issue machines being installed in all York’s libraries during March,’ Explore says.”
    • Date set for library re-opening – Dringhouses and Woodthorpe Ward. “The library closed on 13th February in response to concerns about the low temperature in the building, caused by a combination of winter weather and ineffective heating. A new boiler is being installed along with new convector heaters and new radiators. It has been confirmed that Listed Building Consent is not needed for these internal improvement works.”