The big news for me this week was the spreading of the idea that councils can decide what books libraries should have on their shelves to that normal paragon of library-ness, Australia. In descriptions that sound almost identical to similar debates in the USA, one said it was a matter of following their religion. Meanwhile, in Ireland, such challenges are being met with a strengthening in the power of libraries in being able to oppose those who wish to direct what others are allowed to see and read. There’s been no such strong challenge in the UK as yet to that common in the USA and now in Australia. When there is, we’ll see if we are non-geographically closer to the USA or Ireland.

Some things happen over time so slowly that one does not notice them happening until years afterwards. I had one of these “oh” moments a while ago when thinking about children’s fiction and non-fiction sections and then adult non-fiction sections. The realisation was that, actually, there’s no hard difference between them now in terms of why they’re used. If one can get the answer to most factual questions by speaking a question to one’s watch, as one of my daughters does, there’s no need for a Library of Alexandria type approach to non-fiction sections. What this means in practice is that the purpose of most non-fiction books, child and adult, are essentially leisure now. And, scarily, that means that all of the books in a library are essentially for leisure purposed. That’s not to say they’re not important, due to their power in health and welfare, literacy, awareness etc. But it does mean that those staff who want one of everything are missing the point. For that, see the internet. For the library, see the stuff people actually want to read. And that is overwhelmingly the fun stuff, one way or another.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Brought to book: Library cash plea amid ‘brutal cuts’ to budgets – Scottish Sun. Scottish Labour says “Years of brutal cuts to council budgets have devastated communities, causing the closure of one in seven libraries and threatened the future of more.” … ““The SNP must give a cast-iron guarantee it will not inflict more cuts on these vital services by reducing the Public Library Improvement Fund.”” … “Investment fell from £135million to £92million in ten years.”

“Our local volunteer-run library has recently reopened after being unceremoniously dumped by the local council as a cost-saving measure: a common occurrence as I understand it. We took over the original building, which was a small branch library (and I mean small!). Again, like so many similar enterprises, refurbishment has been protracted but we now have a popular, pleasant space which is also destined to become a small community hub. So, we have a staff toilet downstairs, but in no way shape nor form is this accessible by anyone but an able-bodied person. Building costs and lack of space mean that we can’t afford to get a loo installed on the ground floor and the downstairs loo is unlikely to change. I don’t think this problem is widely discussed(?) but I’d appreciate any other readers’ experiences and hopefully solutions to this tricky problem! Can you help? “

“Captain Bogbrush”
  • How rental ‘libraries of things’ have become the new way to save money – Guardian. “Clothes rental for children is one of the latest chapters in how “libraries of things” are becoming an increasingly common way to save money, space and waste. The theory is simple: instead of buying a household item or a piece of clothing or some equipment you might use once or twice, you take it out and return it.”

“Libraries Change Lives, 24-28 June 2024 – building on a proposal from Baroness Sanderson’s review of public libraries this will be a week of advocacy demonstrating the value of libraries ahead of this year’s General Election.

Green Libraries Week, 7-13 October 2024 – our annual celebration of libraries with a focus on the climate and sustainability.”

CILIP explains the about the two Weeks
  • TikTok bookshelves to open across UK to get young people reading – Independent. “TikTok is teaming up with the National Literacy Trust (NLT) to place “BookTok Bookshelves” in 11 UK areas that need a boost in literacy levels. Cities like Birmingham, Blackpool, Bradford, Doncaster, Manchester, Middlesborough, Newcastle, Nottingham, Peterborough, Stoke and Swindon will get 20 BookTok Bookshelves starting with around 100 books each. The shelves will be placed in areas which see a lot of children over 13, like youth clubs and community centres.”

International news

  • Australia – I’m no stranger to having work banned. If you want to protect kids, this is not the way to do it – Guardian / Opinion. ” I know a book ban is not something we can simply spin as good publicity. These bans come from a rightwing playbook designed to continue a culture war against LGBTQ+ people that chips away at fundamental human rights protections in policies. These attempted bans – whether they are upheld or not – do real world harm to members of my community.”
    • Labor councillor stands by vote to ban same-sex parenting books in Sydney council libraries – as it happened – Guardian. “This decision was made in line with my religious beliefs and I will not be comprising those beliefs.”
    • Rainbow Street Libraries Launch in The Face of Book Ban – Star Observer. “Following the recent decision by Cumberland City Council to remove books about same sex parenting in local libraries, local organisation Street Library Australia have launched a colourful campaign against the book ban.” … “The group took to their facebook page to offer free local libraries to residents in the area, on the proviso they paint them rainbow in support of the issue.”
    • Sydney council bans same-sex parenting books from libraries – video – Guardian. “Western Sydney’s Cumberland city council has voted to place a blanket ban on same-sex parenting books from local libraries in a move the New South Wales government warns could be a breach of the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act. The amendment, put forward by a councillor, Steve Christou, proposed that the council take “immediate action” to remove same-sex parents books and materials in its library service. Six councillors voted in favour of the amendment and five voted against, while four councillors were not present to vote”
  • India – Beyond shelves, binding selves – Times of India. A look at public libraries in the country.
  • Ireland – Dublin City Council condemns recent anti-LGBTQ+ library protests – GCN. “Following the recent spate of anti-LGBTQ+ demonstrations and actions targeted at Irish libraries, Dublin City Councillors have passed a motion condemning the attacks and have endorsed their faith in the Library Management” … “the Dublin City Libraries’ management has confirmed that no publications have been removed as a result of the protests.”
  • Italy – Public libraries as social infrastructures: libraries’ response to the COVID crisis in the Emilia-Romagna region – Cultural Trends.
  • USA – John Oliver on public libraries: ‘Another front in the ongoing culture war’ – Guardian. “You do get the sense that people who want to censor these books can have no real idea of what’s inside them or, indeed, if they’re even at the libraries they’re protesting at all,” Oliver said, citing a case in Idaho where activists demanded that more 400 books be removed from the library, even though it already didn’t have them. “As far as protests go, that’s about as meaningful as marching to the Hollywood sign to demand that Frankie Muniz return his Oscar for Schindler’s List,” he joked. “He’s not there, he wasn’t in that, and the very fact that you’re protesting this tells me you’re probably not familiar with the material.”
    • SNF Dialogues Recap – Beyond Books: How Libraries Can Serve the Publ”ic – National Herald. “he first SNF Dialogues discussion in the US explored the multifaceted role of libraries as cornerstones of democratic societies, and how they transcend their traditional role as repositories of books to actively facilitate community participation and advance civic engagement.” … “They are community centers, safe havens during crises, bastions of knowledge and equality, and shining examples of democracy, especially in uncertain times”
    • The Week in Libraries: May 10, 2024 – Publishers Weekly. Legal action in defence of library rights in Alabama.

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeenshire – Portsoy and Whitehills communities asked to help shape future provision of local library services – Aberdeenshire Council.
  • Birmingham – Umbrella group launched in Birmingham to help save city’s libraries – Planet Radio. “Local campaigners are urging others to have their say in the council’s public consultation to save as many as possible. Acocks Green campaigner Joe Simpson’s told us they’re making good progress so far and that locals should use it as incentive to keep fighting.”
    • Hundreds gather to protest against council cuts – BBC. “”What we’re seeing today is the people of Birmingham people coming together to protest about the council cuts that have been forced upon Birmingham City Council by austerity that’s been implemented through government cuts to council funding,” “
  • Bournemouth Christchurch Poole – Residents asked about future of libraries – Bournemouth Echo. “BCP Council wants to know how you currently use the library service and what you hope to see in the future.Library open hours have been slashed by an average of 10 hours per library each week, as part of cost-saving measures for its 2024/25 budget.”
  • Bracknell Forest – Twyford Library announces opening of new location next month – Bracknell News. “The new library will open in the newly refurbished Old Polehampton Boys School on the opposite side of the close. The beautiful new space will benefit from improved library spaces with high ceilings and large windows letting in natural light.” Open 21 hours per week.
  • Bromley – Orpington Literary Festival 2024 – Orpington 1st. “A week of town centre events celebrating the written and spoken word, brought to you by Orpington 1st in partnership with Bromley Libraries, supported by Orpington Rotary.” … ““We’re really pleased to work with Orpington’s business community for this year’s literary festival. It’s a fantastic opportunity to highlight the importance of literature and the vital role which libraries play in our community.”
  • Cheshire East – Fears Bollington Library could be shut down within months – Macclesfield Nub News. “The recently-formed Friends of Bollington Library Committee claims that Cheshire East Council is planning to consult the public on proposals to close Bollington Library with effect from January 1 2025.”
  • Devon – Beach toy plea for seafront libraries – Mid Devon Advertiser. “Teignbridge Leisure is looking for donations of unwanted buckets, spades, balls and beach toys to fill its seafront libraries in Teignmouth and at Dawlish Warren.”
  • Falkirk – Falkirk Council libraries branch out with new garden lending initiative – Falkirk Herald. “Gardening bags can now be borrowed from all eight libraries across the area and are designed to equip budding gardeners with th -e tools and knowledge to cultivate fresh, home grown fruit and vegetables.” … “Each bag contain hand tools, gardening books and kneeling mat, as well as seeds, plant markers and growing advice cards and recipe cards so people can start cooking with what they have grown.” Due to  £8300 from The Europe Challenge Fund.
  • Hampshire – Blood pressure monitors now available from Hampshire libraries – Hampshire Council. “Each monitor is borrowed on a ‘first come-first served’ basis. It comes in a box, with a leaflet containing easy-to-follow instructions on how to use the device and understand the results, as well as what to do if you are concerned about the readings. “
  • Haringey – Haringey Council’s Head of Libraries, Brian Mihayo, receives nationwide Top Talent recognition – Haringey Council. ” Brian helped secure trust and foundation funding for a major project supporting young people to design and organise diverse cultural events and innovative programmes across Haringey libraries, including concerts, comedy nights and spoken word performances.”
  • Havering – Havering launches new library strategy – Havering Council. “The library strategy consultation, which will run for 12 weeks until 2 August 2024, comes at a difficult time for the borough. The Council continues to face financial challenges while delivering our legal duty to provide services for the most vulnerable along with the services residents say they value most.” – £300k cut. Five libraries to close: Collier Row, Elm Park, Gidea Park, Harold Wood an South Hornchurch.
  • Manchester – The Enlightenment – Simon Armitage lyric shines a light on libraries for Manchester’s Festival of Libraries – About Manchester. “The track has been specially commissioned for Festival of Libraries 2024, with words by poet laureate Simon Armitage, music by Richard Walters and Patrick Pearson, and guest vocals from Josephine Oniyama. The Enlightenment will be released on streaming platforms on Friday 7 June and will be performed live for the first time at Manchester Central Library as part of the festival on Wednesday 12 June (doors open at 7.30pm)”
    • Blue Peter Book Club live takes off in Manchester Central Library – Manchester Council. “Blue Peter, the BBC’s iconic children’s TV series is partnering with Manchester Libraries and The Reading Agency on an exciting new project – Blue Peter Book Club Live. It launches in Manchester Central Library on Saturday 18 May with a fun-filled, free event, open to all and the chance to meet Blue Peter presenters Abby, Joel, and Shini along with Henry the Blue Peter Dog. ” … “A book inspired art-installation created by 10,000 local school children, creative crafts, special story times, masses of books and a chance to meet some magical classic book characters will make it a day of adventure and fun where classic stories come to life in the library.”
  • Norfolk – Plans for new library and bus station in Hunstanton – EDP. “Norfolk County Council has finalised plans to redevelop the former library and revamp the bus station at Hunstanton and hopes to start work later this year.”
  • Somerset – Could you volunteer to help the Home Library Service? – Somerset Council. “olunteers are needed across Somerset to help keep a vital Somerset Council library lifeline thriving.”
  • South Lanarkshire – Award-winning authors back protests to save libraries in Cambuslang, Halfway and Blantyre – Daily Record. “Just under 40 authors and literary figures have shown their support for the Save Our Libraries protest taking place this week.” … “Author of Fallen Angel, Chris Brookmyre, added: “We all appreciate that in these difficult times, difficult choices must be made but, in my opinion, libraries should always be among the last things a council cuts when it needs to save money.”
  • Southend on Sea – Pub-goers see ‘light’ – and save burning library – BBC. “At about 21:00 BST on Tuesday, drinkers at a table in The Old Walnut Tree, Southend-on-Sea, noticed a ‘light’ inside Southchurch Library. They realised it was on fire. With the help of pub staff they filled “large containers” with water, dashed over, and poured it through a broken window.””
  • Suffolk – Suffolk Libraries Board member takes on tandem skydive – Suffolk Libraries. See Just Giving page..
  • Wirral – Gym sorry over library bench ‘alcoholics’ claim – BBC. “A firm which wants to turn an ex-library into a gym has apologised over comments suggesting a bench outside is “popular with local alcoholics” and should be removed. Nomad wants to convert the former council building in Hoylake, Wirral. A document lodged with Wirral Council said the use of the bench by “alcoholics” jarred with its brand.”
  • Worcestershire – Dementia in Focus at Worcestershire Libraries – Worcestershire Council. ” Library Service is teaming up with the Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK Herefordshire & Worcestershire, and The University of Worcester for Dementia Action Week, taking place from 13th May to 19th May.” Reading Well books. “Groups include Classic Film Club, Reminiscence Groups, Knit and Natter, Hook Buddies, and Scrabble, all of which offer engaging activities beneficial for individuals with dementia.”
    • Libraries Unlocked to be introduced at Malvern Library – Worcester News. Once the system is up and running, library members aged 15 and above will have the chance to upgrade their membership.They will then be able to use the library facilities outside the regular hours of operation”
  • York – ‘It’s a safe space, welcoming and free’ – York’s unique library service celebrates ten years – York Mix. “Explore York Library and Archives is marking a whole decade of providing the community of York with a public library and archive service with a series of family-friendly fundraising activities and events.” … “There is currently no further comment on the contractual dispute” between Explore and York Council over proposes budget cut.