The “Future Libraries” report just produced is worth reading, especially for those who do not feel that budget cuts are not enough to worry about. From what I’m hearing and reading, though, about the sheer number of councils about to go bankrupt, well, that is by far the major threat at the moment. But that’s not the case everywhere. In the USA funding has gone up by 15% since 2010 while it’s reduced by, wow, 49% in England in the same period. That doesn’t mean public libraries there are having a golden time. Far from it, because censorship is the clear and present danger in the Land of the Free. This week saw a genuine video (I double-checked) of a Republican politician flamethrowing books she took from a public library. Yes, actually and literally flamethrowing them. At least, in the UK, one only has to worry about burning balance sheets.

It can be possible to see the changes in UK public libraries are seen by some as a good thing. And many indeed are. I miss the crowds of the 1990s but not the lack of story-times and reading groups. The Local Government Chronicle has a report that goes further, saying “It wouldn’t be remiss to say libraries are more community centres these days, and in the breadth of services they offer they can help improve the wider health and economic outlook for an area.”. Some changes are just sad, though. Norfolk are reinstating library fines and, from the context of the article, it’s not because there’s disagreement about the pros of getting rid of fines. Rather, it’s simply been done because of the need for money.

The changes in public libraries due to budget and council requirements is seen by some as move is too expensive. Having a library shared with a bank or just a few shelves in the council headquarters is not going to win the support of many such campaigners. The fear is that, by trying to add on so many other offers to that of the basic public library one, the sector will lose its sense of identity and no longer be seen as welcoming and friendly. Proponents of change point out, albeit between the lines, that it’s necessary if one wants a library at all.

Anyway, enough of depression. if you fancy a change of scenery, I’d advise a trip to Poland, as it has a genuinely good news story. The New Horizons Library just built there has deservedly won several awards and it’s easy to see why. To be honest, I want to move in. If I can afford the flight.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Cutting library funding comes at a high social cost – Herald. “At a time when every penny matters, libraries are proving to be crucial financial assets for individuals and families navigating the complexities of the cost of living crisis. From closing the attainment gap, to combating social isolation and bridging the digital divide, libraries connect and empower communities.”
  • Future Libraries – CILIP. “Part one is the horizon-scanning report, Come Rain or Shine: Preparing public libraries for the future in an age of uncertainty, which envisions the challenges and demands that public libraries will face from now until 2040. Come Rain or Shine provides an in-depth analysis of future scenarios that can impact public libraries to help library staff and leaders to become more agile in their strategies and activities. Like the weather, the future is unpredictable. Should we be warning about storms ahead or are we hoping for blue skies in public libraries? CILIP commissioned the report with funding from Arts Council England and in consultation with public library professionals from across the country.
  • Libraries are clearest example of successful local government transformation – Local Government Chronicle. “a library in 2024 is a lot different to a library in 2010 where book borrowing was the main focus. If you go to your local library now, you could take part in baby and toddler classes. Or drop in to a business start-up support service. If neither of them are applicable, you could use your library visit to go to your leisure centre too which is located within the building for efficiency of scale. It wouldn’t be remiss to say libraries are more community centres these days, and in the breadth of services they offer they can help improve the wider health and economic outlook for an area.” … “Councils know the social and economic value of libraries and cultural services but can’t spend what they don’t have”
  • Meet The Superhero Librarians Fighting For Their Queer Communities – Huffington Post. “Should I be worried as a librarian in the U.K.? We exist in a significantly different political climate than the U.S., and our far-right groups aren’t as large or visible. But fear, ignorance and anti-queerness exist, of course. This 2023 article in The Guardian cited research finding that a third of U.K. librarians had been asked by members of the public to censor or remove books. Librarians are an extremely valuable part of the fight against LGBTQ+ oppression, and if these attacks continue, then we’re all screwed. “
  • ‘Reading is so sexy’: gen Z turns to physical books and libraries – Guardian. “This week the 22-year-old model Kaia Gerber launched her own book club, Library Science. ” … “Gerber isn’t alone. Last year in the UK 669m physical books were sold, the highest overall level ever recorded. Research from Nielsen BookData highlights that it is print books that gen Z favour, accounting for 80% of purchases from November 2021 to 2022. Libraries are also reporting an uptick in gen Z users who favour their quiet over noisy coffee shops. In the UK in-person visits are up 71%.”
  • Thanks to a shadowy hacker group, the British Library is still on its knees. Is there any way to stop them? – Guardian. ” The very conditions that have allowed them to conduct their trade across the open plains of cyberspace are those they now aim to abuse, by shutting down the possibility for communication and knowledge-sharing, stealing and encrypting information, forcing users to buy back or lose their data, and bringing vital institutions such as libraries – which protect and share all of this knowledge for anyone to access – to their knees.”
How public libraries can work with 64 Million Artists

YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and beyond: video marketing for libraries and cultural organisations’ – CILIP. 15 March, online.

International news

  • Bangladesh – Libraries will solidify our foundation as a smart nation – Daily Star. “Libraries are beacons of ethical and sustainable development, nurturing economic and digital growth, as well as moral and ethical values. As we witness the continuous threat of isolation driven by technological and economic forces, libraries emerge as vital public spaces that connect communities and bridge the gap between knowledge and power.”
  • Canada – These books were challenged at Ottawa’s libraries last year – CBC Lite. “According to a report to the library’s board, there were seven “requests for reconsideration” during 2023. Six sought to pull books or DVDs from library shelves, while one asked to reclassify a graphic novel from the teen to the adult collection. Complaints covered everything from alleged racism or promotion of hatred to reports of inaccurate information or objectionable content.” … “According to the report, the library retained all of the materials in their existing collection areas. That includes the graphic novel, which remained in the teen section.”
  • Germany – German libraries up defences against far-right attack – Yahoo News. “Defaced and destroyed, books  torn up and political messages scrawled across their pages: the evidence of an alleged far-right vandalism spree at a city library in Berlin covers an entire table.” … “By targeting libraries, “the extremist right is trying to change the boundaries of what can be said”
  • Ireland – Clare libraries want you to Get Lost… in a Good Book – Clare Council. “Libraries throughout Clare are taking part in Ireland Reads, a campaign to get the whole country reading this month in the lead-up to a national day of reading on Saturday, 24th February.” … “Irish libraries have teamed up with publishers, booksellers, authors and others for the campaign, which is part of the government’s Right to Read programme and aims to celebrate reading and all the benefits it can have for wellbeing and enjoyment.”
  • Lithuania – Gamification – the key to attractive cultural activities and adult education in libraries – Naple Sister Libraries. “All the knowledge gained was applied by library specialists on the last day presenting new ideas for gamified education and projects, which they plan to implement upon returning to their library. The project is funded by the Erasmus+ program funds.”
  • Newcastle – Reading Ahead Challenge – Newcastle Council. “Anyone can take part in Reading Ahead. All you need to do is join the library and read 6 books (or other items) over the course of four months. Library staff in your local branch will provide you with a challenge diary for you to complete in your own time and will help you to choose reading material you’ll love. Reading Ahead participants are invited to library events, including our World Book Night celebration and Late Shows evening, and will attend a special celebration event for challenge completers.”
  • Palestine – Israeli Damage to Archives, Libraries, and Museums in Gaza, October 2023–January 2024 – Librarians With Palestine. List of libraries and museums damaged or destroyed. ” In this report, we offer a partial list of archives, libraries, and museums in Gaza that have been destroyed, damaged, or looted by Israeli armed forces since October 7, 2023. This report is necessarily incomplete. It is very difficult to determine the status of archives, libraries, and museums in Gaza during the ongoing Israeli bombardment. “
  • Poland – Biblioteka Nowy Horyzont Press Kit – Google Docs. Award-winning “New Horizons Library”. “focusing on creating three different spaces for three different personality types of users. Ensuring that each reader finds a space that suits his or her needs and character. ” … “We call the third room the room for extroverts. Its layout already allows the organization of activities in large groups, and modular furniture designed to size allows you to arrange the space according to your needs.”
Poland – New Horizons Library looks like no other library
  • USA = Maine library sparks outcry after stocking book titled ‘Irreversible Damage’ about ‘the transgender craze seducing our daughters’, with one local warning it could cause a suicide – Daily Mail.
    • Closing the book on libraries – Carolina Journal. “It’s no secret that libraries — public, academic, special, and school — have taken a sharp left turn in recent years. As more and more young people have graduated with degrees in library science, the profession has taken on a far more radical, activist turn than ever before.” … ” the radical left now controls most library organizations” … “librarians in the rank and file were quick to oblige, filling library shelves with age-inappropriate materials and leftwing propaganda. ” … the article says the reader should contact “the Association for Library Professionals (ALP), for more information, see here. A fledging association that will launch its website later this month, ALP seeks to return libraries to neutrality while stressing that libraries purchase age-appropriate materials. “
    • Library Advocacy and Funding Conference 2024 – EveryLibrary. July 24-26. “outreach, donor research, grants, legislation, coalition building, digital tactics, and marketing. And we’ll be expanding our track focused on navigating the book banning movement currently sweeping the United States.”
    • Libraries and Loneliness – Library Journal. “I’ve been worried about library visits for a while now, but my concerns have largely focused on the effect fewer visits will have on the future of libraries. What I learned is that I had it backwards. Yes, there’s a danger to libraries when fewer people use them; but the bigger threat in decreased library use is to the community itself.”
Burning library books is now seen as a votewinner. See Missouri GOP secretary of state candidate burns LGBTQ books in online video | The Hill
  • Pixelating Libraries: Bridging Books and Bytes – Public Libraries Online. “In the midst of book bans and budget cuts, I turned to art to navigate the challenges within our field. This artistic exploration delves into the unexpected but profound connection between video games and libraries. The union of video games and libraries may seem unconventional, but it has deep roots. Public libraries, once the gateway to computer experiences, evolved with the digital age. Today, as children immerse themselves in games like Roblox, it prompts contemplation on the evolving dynamics and its impact on library service”
    • This week in libraries – Publishers Weekly. ALA has five new core values “access, equity, intellectual freedom and privacy, the public good, and sustainability.” Increasing censorship, helped by social media algorithms.
    • Wake County libraries could expand to keep up with growth – WRAL. Caroline area has increasing population so libraries are looking at funding to renovate and replace libraries and add new ones.

Local news by authority

  • Bracknell Forest – Bracknell library closure claims are ‘simply not true’ – Bracknell News. “Bracknell Forest Council has plans to merge its libraries and customer services departments as part of a cost-saving drive. The plans could see volunteers take over the home library service, which delivers books to housebound people, but they don’t include closing libraries. Yet rumours that closures were in the works apparently spread among library customers and staff during December and January. Now the councillor in charge of libraries has said the claims are ‘simply not true.’” … “four management jobs would be ‘deleted’ as part of the merger. But he said there would be no reduction in opening hours or front-line staff serving library user”
  • Brighton and Hove – Proposal to freeze library fees – Brighton and Hove Council. “Like all council services, the city’s libraries have had to find savings and additional income as part of the proposals to close a £30 million budget gap for the next financial year. However, as part of the drive to minimise the impact of the cuts on frontline services that many people rely on, the proposal is to keep fees and charges across library services at the current rates, rather than introduce the 3.5% inflationary increase agreed across other council fees and charges.”
  • Buckinghamshire – Library theatre show promotes the benefits of gardening for mental health – Buckinghamshire Council. “The theatre tour is being jointly funded by Buckinghamshire Council’s Healthy Libraries programme and the national Rekindle programme. Rekindle is led by Creative Arts England and funded by Arts Council England and is designed to empower libraries to strengthen ties with local arts and make it more accessible to local communities”
  • Cardiff – Library campaigners slam council cuts proposals – Nation Cymru. “Proposals include slashing library opening times, closing some libraries on Saturday’s, more unpaid volunteers to discharge roles previously done by paid trained staff and ending provision of physical copies of newspapers and magazines. Adam Johannes from Cardiff People’s Assembly said: “If Cardiff Council’s proposals of almost half-a-million pounds worth of library cuts go through, our city library service will be devastated.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Planned cuts to some library opening hours – BBC. “a 6% reduction in opening hours spread across the area’s 22 sites, but all libraries would remain open.” … “A public consultation on the proposals runs until the start of April.”
  • Derby – Library plan set to deliver a service fit for the future – Derby Council. “Councillors will be asked to approve plans for the city’s 10 non-statutory libraries to be run by a Trust. The separate organisation could either run the community libraries itself or establish a new Trust to do so.” … “If plans are approved, the Council will launch a formal process to identify viable proposals from Trusts or organisations who want to run services. The Council could provide a grant and support packages to be negotiated as part of the formal process to find a Trust. “
  • Southend – Vital’ libraries across Southend will stay open after threat of closure – Yahoo News. “Two libraries could have closed and the opening hours of others slashed as part of proposals to tackle the council’s £10.7million financial black hole. In newly-published budget papers, all mention of reviewing the future of libraries has been removed – much to the delight of campaigning residents and councillors”
  • South Lanarkshire Hundreds sign petitions against closure of South Lanarkshire community facilities – Daily Record. ” South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture (SLLC) launched a public consultation on the closure of 37 halls, libraries and outdoor facilities.” inc. Hillhouse, Blantyre, Bothwell and Forth libraries.
  • Stirling – Dunblane Library closure fears prompts crunch meeting call – Daily Record. ““The squeezed budgets on councils all over the UK are very concerning at present but it’s about priorities and saving our libraries need to be at the heart of any budget decision process.”
  • Wandsworth – London’s ‘best libraries’ could be open for longer despite many closing down – My London News. “It comes after 154 residents signed a petition from Wandsworth Conservatives demanding the council increase the opening hours at Northcote Library in Battersea from four days a week to at least six days a week. The new library opened in April last year to replace the previous 1960s building opposite. The scheme was approved under the council’s old Conservative administration, before Labour took over in May 2022.”. Council is looking at “”how the current hours are performing, what residents need and what changes might be both beneficial and affordable”.”
  • Westmorland and Furness – Update on library services in Ulverston and Roose – Westmorland and Furness Council. “As the library is a statutory function, we’re required to consult on any changes, including any relocation of the library, so the local community will have the opportunity to comment on proposals once they are fully developed and public views will be taken into account as part of the process. We have also already been in contact with the Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport to inform them of the situation and they have indicated they are comfortable with our approach. Once the options assessment is completed we will be in a position to engage with stakeholders, partners, elected members and our community, so we are committed to keeping you informed when we have clear information about the options.”