And of course that cut, which is between one-quarter and three-eighths of total public library expenditure depending on if you count inflation, is not uniform. Some places, often the wealthiest, have been cut less and some others, often not the wealthiest, have been cut more.

Anyway, happy birthday to the Library Campaign which started 40 years ago to the date I am writing this. Thank you to Terry for letting me know. I had no idea. And, wow, 250 delegates.

“On 4 February 1984 250 delegates attended The Cuts Conference, organised by Sheffield City Libraries and held in the city’s Town Hall.  Professor John Stewart (Founder and Director of the Institute of  Local Government Studies, University of Birmingham) and Paul Foot (radical investigative journalist) were keynote speakers. Dissatisfaction with the Library Association’s cautious approach to opposing cuts in library expenditure resulted in the Conference voting to establish an independent and more political campaigning group. £200 was raised on the day with Paul Foot offering to donate the royalties of his latest book to the cause. Thus was The Library Campaign born. “

Terry Hanstock

And also thanks to Chris Hamilton, an ex Chief Librarian, who has also emailed in (the comments box on the website looks to be not working) thoughts of his own below:

“My minor niggle is the impression the public and many heads of service have that central government funds (or doesn’t fund) public libraries. Many many years ago when I was a new HoS I learned with some incredulity that ‘our’ bit of the central grant wasn’t discrete but bundled in with the bit for highways maintenance – and so we were effectively doomed from the get-go.

It’s just so important – IMHO – that everyone understands how public libraries are funded and focuses any campaigning on those who have the power (if not the cash) to make a difference. Realistically, I can’t see any prospect at all of local government or central government doing anything other than squeezing libraries ever harder. With social care and schools absolutely on their knees, it’s very hard to argue convincingly for libraries.

What would help is making libraries as efficient as possible and ensuring that everyone knows what they do, wherever they are – having one good clear universal offer. The demise of the library standards should have been fought tooth and nail, and just gave cash-strapped local authorities the green light to start hacking. I remember a Chief Exec saying just after that that he understood libraries were a statutory service “but not very statutory”.   

Along with my group of ex-Chiefs, I wonder why the heck the management of public libraries isn’t centralised under one body, applying one set of standards – instead of all the replication and duplication of structures, systems and procurement. There really is a whacking great saving to be made and an opportunity for good ideas and best practice to be shared rather than wheels being reinvented by successive managements up and down the country.

If we always do what we’ve always done … we’ll just sink without trace.

I get really depressed by the constant merry-go-round of new initiatives here and cutbacks there, with inexperience and politics over-riding realism and strategy. I love libraries. They aren’t complicated. They’re in danger of sinking under the weight of reviews while the crew debates how to arrange the shelves. It would be so good if CILIP and all the other players really thought outside the box and got their act together before it’s too late.

Chris Hamilton

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Call for Speakers – Beyond the Horizon – CILIP North-East Conference – Monday 20th May 2024 (afternoon) – CILIP NE. “You could be involved with a new project, a different way of doing something, or just feel you’re already doing something great and think others would benefit from knowing about it. This is your opportunity to share something you’re excited about with other professionals, so you could talk about completed projects as well as work in progress.”
  • Can ‘super libraries’ survive spending cuts? – BBC. Varied services at Woolwich Central Library, council budget cuts mean libraries seen as easy target, “expenditure on libraries has fallen by a quarter (£232.5m) since 2010.” [Plus inflation of 47% in same era = £329m hence actually 3/8ths – Ed]. “”Books and reading are always going to be central to what libraries do,” he says, but he adds there’s a growing recognition that “libraries are a great way of delivering different things”.” but budget cuts mean this is getting harder to do.
  • CCN: council spending on libraries and culture reduces by nearly £500m – Room 151. “The research has found that in 2010/11 English councils budgeted to spend almost £1.6bn on library services, culture, heritage and tourism. However, authorities’ latest accounts show that £1.1bn was spent on these services in 2023/24, a £470m decrease from 14 years ago.”
  • Celebrate books, reading, and libraries with Bedford Borough Libraries during Love Libraries Month – Bedford Council. “The month will feature author events for fiction lovers and family-friendly events for those with young children. Special Storytime sessions at Bedford Central and Kempston libraries, for under-fives, promise an engaging experience with stories, rhymes, themed activities, library hunts, and free sticker books. The beloved Bookstart Bear will also be making an appearance at some of these sessions.”
  • Digital exclusion in the UK: Communications and Digital Committee report – House of Lords Library. “The committee found that the shift towards digital by default public services had not been accompanied by adequate support for those who struggled with digital access. It argued that libraries and communities had taken on additional responsibilities but had not been given sufficient resources or training.” … ” The government should build on existing examples [of digital inclusion hubs] in the UK, focusing on libraries and other local amenities.”
  • Governance and History: The Direction of Public Libraries in the UK since the Second World War – Public Library Governance. “Without a clear and persuasive strategic direction, the future of the public library as the great public sphere institution it has proved itself to be in the past is in great jeopardy. The approaches to public library gov­ernance and the role of the public library in the UK are tracked and the various perspectives from government, practitioners and users presented. There is a lack of clarity and consensus regarding a desired role of the public library in the twen­ty-first century.”
  • How a decade of austerity has squeezed council budgets in England – Guardian. “An exclusive Guardian analysis of 13 years of council data has detailed how local spending patterns have changed under austerity budgets. Between 2010-11 and 2022-23, net spending per person on cultural services was cut by 43% in real terms, on roads and transport spending by 40%, on housing by 35% and on planning and development by a third – with more cuts pencilled in for this year.”
  • Innovation Gathering 2024 – Libraries Connected. Wednesday 6 March, 10am to 4pm, Birmingham. “The event is aimed at library staff in development and middle management roles but is open to anyone working in public libraries. We particularly welcome attendance from anyone who hasn’t attended a Libraries Connected event before and people from ethnic minority backgrounds, who have historically been under-represented at our events.”

“replace selected chairs in the Upper Camera with heritage-style chairs in keeping with the neoclassical style of the location, whilst significantly improving the comfort of our readers”.

Meanwhile in Oxford University, they’re going with nice new posh chairs
  • Part of the Job: Patron-Perpetrated Sexual Harassment in UK Public Libraries – Public Library Quarterly. “Patron-perpetrated sexual harassment (PPSH) toward librarians is an under-researched area of sexual harassment studies and library studies. This study is the first on PPSH toward librarians in the United Kingdom and focuses on public librarians. 143 UK public librarians were surveyed about their experiences of PPSH over the past five years. Respondents had experienced 14 of the 16 sexual harassment behaviors in the survey, and 81.8% of respondents experienced at least one form of PPSH. Respondents’ age, gender, and ethnicity were also considered in relation to their experiences of PPSH. This study provides
    recommendations for the profession and future researchers”
  • Tory council cuts see care homes, creches and libraries disappear from Britain – Mirror.
  • The UK is dismantling its legacy of municipal splendour – Financial Times. “The UK government is now considering loosening the rules for allowing councils to sell off assets. This is bad news for everything from libraries to swimming pools, town halls to toilets. Since 2010, council assets have been sold off in attempt to fill a £15bn hole in central government funding. More than 800 public libraries, 1,000 swimming pools, over 200 playing fields, half of all magistrates courts and 1,000 public toilets have been closed. ”
  • World Book Day charity sparks outrage after suggesting libraries don’t encourage children to read – Manchester Evening News. “comments from the charity have caused anger after it suggested that libraries aren’t a key factor in encouraging kids to read. Listing the ‘building elements’ which support a child to read for pleasure, it asked ‘which six are correct?’ and next to ‘going to the library’, it put a red cross.” … “following last week’s criticism, it has now been changed, with World Book Day describing it as ‘an unfortunate mistake’.”

International news

  • Australia / Finland / Singapore – Playing in the “Third Place”: How Games and Play Are Transforming Public Libraries – Sage Journals. “Drawing on observation of library spaces and interviews with library staff in Australia, Finland, and Singapore (n = 27), we examine the myriad ways games and play are transforming the library: from its architectural design and furnishings to its daily rhythms, atmosphere, and acoustics.”
  • China – Feature: China’s libraries go smarter to stock more books, engage more readers – China News. “Book lovers are attracted not only to the library’s architectural design which resembles a reading space under giant ginkgo trees, but also its abundant collection of books and smart services. With a total construction area of about 75,000 square meters, Beijing Library houses over 8 million books. The towering stacks on the library’s basement floor contribute to the massive book collection capacity, which is part of the largest single entity of automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) for books in China” Public libraries seeing increase in investment.
  • New Zealand – How public libraries are aiding community engagement – RNZ.
  • USA – Public libraries in the Richmond area are being reimagined – Axios. $18m upgrade “ At 25,000 square feet, the new branch is around two-thirds larger than the old Midlo Library. ” Includes “A digital media center; Outdoor reading garden, complete with an outdoor classroom for storytime; Outdoor musical sculptures for kids; Improved seating for lounging and reading; And meeting spaces, plus a large community meeting room.”
    • Alabama pulls out of American Library Association – WSFA. “The states public library service voted to end its membership with the ALA because some members say the discourse became a distraction.” … ” Opponents contend it promotes Marxism, discriminates against faith-based organizations, and supports keeping sexual content in libraries.”. Governor wants to “restrict funds for libraries that don’t adopt policies to require more parental supervision in libraries.”
    • A Practical Guide to Privacy in Libraries – ALA. Book. “Written in a highly practical manner, this book is essential reading for library and information professionals who need to understand and support privacy in the library setting and a useful reference for students and researchers in the field who need to understand this topic in practice. “
    • Do the Research: Conspiracy Theorists and Public Libraries – Georgia Library Quarterly. “Information literacy instruction is already a traditional offering at libraries and is of imminent importance at this moment as mainstream media shares disinformation to boost ratings and compete with fringe media. Protecting patrons from information disorder, whether in the form of programming or infographics that strengthen patrons’ analytical skills, is a noble cause for libraries who are primed for the task”
    • This Week in Libraries – Publishers Weekly. Alabama censorship fight: “libraries cannot stand in place of parents on deciding what content is suitable for minors.”, censorship moves in Georgia calling the ALA “Marxist”, similar in Tennessee. USA survey discovers “75% of parents do not believe in the necessity of diverse books”
    • Trauma, Book Bans, and Libraries: A Resource Guide for Library Workers, Library Supporters, and Beyond – Book Riot. “Finding a positive to emerge out of several years of book banning feels like grasping at sand. We have watched the First and Fourteenth Amendment Rights of people be squashed, sat by as some of the most underpaid and overworked public servants in the country be called inaccurate and dangerous names, and experienced a rise in christofascism and stochastic terrorism across public schools and libraries. None of these are good, and none of these point to a healthy or thriving democracy.”

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