One of the many fascinating things about public libraries is that they’re so very diverse. In the UK, and in many other parts of the world, each library service (or the council or other body that controls it) is effectively its own kingdom, with its own rules and norms. This is shown by variation in even neighbouring services: requirements to join (normally one of three, with no evidence of a connection between it and theft rates – none, one, two including proof of address), fines (from, increasingly, none, to sky’s the limit), number of loans (anything from normally 6 or 8 to limitless), stock (size and composition), how to loan (self-service or staffed), size of library per thousand population, staffing (staffless, unpaid, paid but none professionally qualified, etc). Really, there’s no end to it. Moreover, each individual library within a service often has its own character, depending on neighbourhood, building and even the personalities of those working there. And, of course, in England even more diverse. After all, England quite literally has no standards when it comes to libraries. Which means that the individual library offer can appear pretty darn random at times.

So it’s not surprising that an organisation like GLL/Better has wide variations, even in one week of news. Recent statistics and surveys reported by GLL shows its libraries to have some of the highest usage in England along with high satisfaction rates. On the other hand, the situation in Dudley – which it runs on behalf of the council there – is looking pretty dire. The council is looking to cut it so much that only 2 or 3 of the current 13 libraries may still be open in three years. It’s worthwhile pointing out that this has nothing to do with GLL – it’s the council that decides these things – but still it’s interesting how different things can be even within services run by the same organisation. And it’s a reminder that diversity represents a rainbow, from the brightest to the darkest colours.


Changes by local authority


National news

International news

  • Australia – Toy libraries becoming more popular as parents borrow in bid to beat cost-of-living pressures – ABC News. “There are more than 380 registered toy libraries across the country, with an estimated 130,000 members”
  • Canada – Okanagan Regional Library receives $1.6 million from province – Penticton Western News. “The funds are part of $45 million the province has earmarked for libraries throughout B.C., funding which was announced March 24. All 71 B.C. public libraries, and organizations that help libraries deliver their services, will receive one-time grants in addition to their annual operating funding. This aims to give libraries flexibility to address local priorities including longer hours, bigger digital collections and better access to literacy and lifelong learning opportunities.”
  • Global – The technology career ladder – Lorcan Dempsey. “Library leaders should be drawn from across the organization. Any idea that technology leaders are overly specialised or too distant from general library work is outmoded and counter-productive.” Academic library focused but some relevant points.
    • Public libraries are critical social infrastructure – Press Reader. “Contemporary libraries are the lifeline for communities in times of crisis. But as sociologist Eric Klinenberg noted in the New York Times, libraries are criticized and abandoned at the exact moment when they are most needed because “the founding principle of the public library — that all people deserve free, open access to our shared culture and heritage — is out of sync with the market logic that dominates our world. It’s also because so few influential people understand the expansive role that libraries play in modern communities.”

“I’m so saddened that this level of behaviour has now perpetrated Irish public libraries. But I am also not wholly shocked as despite a massive change in public attitudes to LGBTQIA+ rights, and bodily autonomy from when I grew up there in the 80s and 90s, there is still a religious and conservative undercurrent that has more influence than people realise. I am also disgusted that librarians are being targeted, as librarianship was always seen as a respected profession in Ireland – far more so than in the UK. I found that out very quickly to my huge disappointment when I moved here. I am proud of the librarians who are standing up for young people’s access to material but angered that the councils are hiding behind parental consent beyond the initial sign up. No-one ever policed my choice of books growing up in the library. Outside of it though, I remember the uproar in primary school of us sharing Judy Blume books secretly through the senior classes. They treated her books like moral semtex. Hiding and culling books on LGBTQIA issues entrenches shame and limits young people from accepting their whole selves. That’s what it used to be like in Ireland when church and state controlled the narrative. We can’t go back there again.”

Email about the current attempts at censorship in Irish libraries received

Local news by authority

  • Dudley – Waterstones Children’s Laureate to visit Stourbridge Library – Stourbridge News. “Coelho is set to visit and join a library in every local authority in the UK”
    • Fears raised about the future of Dudley’s libraries – Dudley News. “Dudley Council has proposed nearly £1.5 million in savings on library services over the next few years.” … opposition says ““With the additional £1 million paid to GLL in 2021, the library contract has cost the council £4,230,000 since 2017, but it has not achieved the projected savings and the number of library users have declined significantly due to GLL’s mismanagement.””
  • Greenwich – Record numbers of visitors to South London libraries ranked busiest in the UK – London News Online. “Residents are making the most of the 12 libraries in Greenwich, the borough ranking as the location with the most visits compared to its population.  Woolwich Centre Library also stood out nationally by being the second busiest library in the UK. 547,440 people walked through its doors between 2020 and 2021.”
  • Gwynedd – Gwynedd Libraries Service announces vision for next five years – In Your Area. VR Hubs plus “Development of the Library of Things – People can borrow useful things for their homes and more, for example, tools, electrical items and toys. It saves money and is less harmful to the environment than buying new and using only once. The library, known as Petha, will be available at the Dyffryn Ogwen, Penygroes and Blaenau Ffestiniog Libraries. Improving Penygroes Library – Thanks to the grant from the Welsh Government Transformation Capital Grant Scheme, the space at Penygroes
    Library will be improved and improvements at the Dyffryn Ogwen library will also include a new wellbeing garden.”
  • Hertfordshire – Cuffley Community Library Open Day – Hertfordshire Council. First year anniversary of volunteers. “We are proud to celebrate our achievements over the past year and have a special day planned that will appeal to all our visitors”
  • Kent – 200 protest to save Folkestone Library – Socialist Party. “Local activists spread the word for a protest and within 24 hours of the call, a demonstration of around 120 people gathered outside the library demanding that it must be kept open. Anger against the threatened closure has spread quickly, shown by the support for the ‘Save Folkestone Library’ Facebook page.” … “We decided that the pressure must be maintained and so we called another demonstration and rally. Over 200 people, mums and children, young and old, marched …”
  • Lancashire – Lancashire Libraries are supporting voters to be election ready – Lancashire Council. “Lancashire Libraries will be offering trained staff to help people navigate the voting application process. Voters who require support when registering to vote can visit their local library. Staff will be available to help people access the website and apply. Support is also being offered by libraries across Lancashire to help voters complete their Voter Authority Certificate application. An appointment may be required in advance.”
  • Liverpool – Liverpool libraries where children discovered their love of books – Liverpool Echo. Old photographs of people using libraries 1960s to 1980s.