The hack into the British Library is important. For such an important institution, and one that is when all is said and done, all about storing data, to be so vulnerable to attack, says a lot about the lack of proper cyber protection in British public organisations. And this does not just cause embarrassment to the institution and worries to staff (I am still a bit unsure as to why photos of staff passports were on the system). Due to the apparent interconnected nature of the system, the catalogue is still down so researchers’ work is blocked and authors will have Public Lending Right payments delayed. In addition, the hack looks also to have severely damaged the financial reserves of the British Library and so potentially causes a hazard long-term.

Zooming out from the British Library, hacking is a very global, professional and profitable concern and it’s not only such comparatively big names as the British Library that get affected. Just in the past couple of months, a local council or two, plus at least one Canadian library service, have been as well. Heck, I have even seen this very website being the subject of hacks. And of course it’s a lucky one of us that has not personally been the subject of a phishing scam. However, this is not just a threat but an opportunity for public libraries. This sector can have a role in making life better. Cyber security and information literacy are closely connected and public libraries can help the public understand and mitigate the risks. I hope that we do so.

But this is going to be challenging as the library service is so atomised and under financial pressure that a large-scale sufficiently-funded national plan for doing so appears unlikely. Have a look at the excellent Twitter (I still refuse to call it X, please can Elon Musk please go away?) thread from Nick Poole below on the subject and also how the delay in the Single Digital Presence is affecting things. But bear in mind that the scheme is actually on track now and so this complaint may hopefully be a historical one shortly. It’s been a long time coming but we should get it soon. After all, what else can cause a delay? Wait. Oh no. What do you mean it’s a British Library project?

Changes by local authority

National news

  • British Library to burn through reserves to recover from cyber attack – Financial Times. “the British Library will drain about 40 per cent of its reserves to recover from a cyber attack that has crippled one of the UK’s critical research bodies and rendered most of its services inaccessible.” £6 to £7 million will be spent. Catalogue still down. Some “users criticised the library for taking more than a month to notify them of the cyber attack.” see also Richard Osman among authors missing royalties amid ongoing cyber-attack on British Library – Guardian. ” PLR payments will not be paid as expected while the British Library, which manages the service, fights to restore its crippled systems.”
  • Charity launches support scheme for at-risk libraries in wake of budget cuts – Guardian. “Around 650 libraries will receive resources from Libraries Connected programme, as almost one in five council leaders fear bankruptcy this year or next” … scheme “offers a confidential peer support network, resource library, tailored training and communications support”… ““We are deeply concerned by the growing number of councils issuing statutory section 114 notices, and the effect this is already having on library services,” said Libraries Connected chief executive Isobel Hunter.”
Thought-provoking thread from Nick Poole

“Ultimately, the council funding crisis cannot be solved without a fair, long-term financial settlement for local government,” said Hunter. “Until then, we are ready to work with local authorities to deliver the best possible library service within the financial constraints they face.”

Isobel Hunter, Libraries Connected

International news

  • Ireland – A new world of happiness opens at Boyle Library – Roscommon Herald. “A new interactive light projector to provide inclusive, sensory stimulation has been launched at Boyle Library. Provided in Boyle thanks to Dormant Accounts funding from the Department of Rural and Community Development, the projector is designed by Social-Ability and manufactured in the UK.”
  • New Zealand – LIANZA 2023 Conference Opening Video – LIANZA. “shows the amazing range of people who use libraries and their enthusiasm reveals the value of access and support they get from libraries.”
  • Nigeria – Access and Use of Public Libraries by Disabled Persons In Nigeria – Quest Journals. “that library building were not design to take care of people with special needs, coupled with the poor state of public library services in general. The need for public libraries to embrace the use of ICTs was recommended.”
  • Palestine – Here’s how you can help resurrect Gaza’s libraries. – Lit Hub. “it becomes almost impossible to imagine Gaza as a place where life, let alone culture, can once again flourish, but it’s important to remember that it can, and it will. One of the people committed to that resurrection is Mosab Abu Toha, the Palestinian poet, New Yorker contributor, and founder of the first English language library in Gaza. (Abu Toha, as you may recall, was kidnapped by Israeli forces on November 19th while trying to enter Egypt at the Rafah checkpoint. After being beaten, interrogated, and stripped of his possessions, Abu Toha was released two days later”
  • USA – The Week in Libraries: January 5, 2024 – Publishers Weekly. “I Love My Librarian” award winners, a library has been closed for four months due to arguments over a drag story hour, in-fighting in the Indiana public library system, librarian awarded $250k for being sacked over refusing to censor books.
    • Freckle Project Surveys and Reports – EveryLibrary. “Since April 2019, the Freckle Project has been asking a key question of American readers: “Where did you get that book”. Through a series of public-facing surveys, project lead Tim Coates has been able to track the habits of reading – and the evolution of format changes – before, during, and after the COVID pandemic. Public libraries are deeply impacted by changes in reading habits, format preferences, and choices about where and how people acquire their next book, ebook, or audiobook.”
    • OverDrive Reports Another Record Year for Digital Library Circulation – Publishers Weekly. “OverDrive said that 2023 was another record-breaking year for digital library circulation, with a 19% increase in library checkouts of digital media over 2022. In all, library users worldwide borrowed some 662 million e-books, digital audiobooks, and digital magazines, OverDrive reps announced in a release this week. In addition, 152 library systems reported more than a million digital checkouts in 2023, up from 129 last year.”

Local news by authority

  • Bournemouth Christchurch Poole – Library to close tomorrow for essential maintenance work – Bournemouth Echo. “Canford Cliffs Library, on Western Road, is due to shut temporarily.” … “Hours are set to be slashed by an average of 10 hours a week, at each library, from April, as part of cost-cutting plans. Expected to save £440,200, the council is expected to announce further budget cuts to save £12.6 million”
  • Cardiff – Cardiff: Bins could be removed from residential streets – BBC. “It is not just bins in the firing line – libraries across the city could have more restricted opening times and use more volunteers to save money. One of several tabled options proposes closing eight hubs and libraries for one extra day each week, saving £308,000. These include Central Library Hub, Whitchurch Hub, Penylan Library, Rhiwbina Hub, Rhydypennau Hub, Canton Library, Cathays Heritage Library and Radyr Hub. Another option is for all hubs and libraries, apart from Penylan Library, to change their opening hours to 09:00-17:00 and stay open throughout lunchtime to save £120,000. To allow for late accessibility, Central Library Hub would stay open until 18:00 for one evening a week.”
We’re going on a f**t hunt …