The move by Wales towards the ambition of having one library card to be able to be used in all library services in the nation is highly laudable. Public libraries should be about reducing barriers to access and this is an obvious one – you’d need 22 library cards at the moment to get the full Welsh set. And some of these services would be big enough to justify a mere single library in a lot of England: Merthyr Tydfil has a population of 43,000, Caerphilly 41,000. But the nation as a whole has a bigger population than that of all of Greater Manchester. So it’s great to see the Welsh Government is providing £1m towards that goal. If scaled up to England’s population, this would be a very respectable £18m. Which would be six times more than the last three years of funding for the English Single Digital Presence, which has now lost its never-fully-believable ambition to be single and becoming “LibraryOn”.

There are considerable challenges, as Orkney have found (currently actively asking people to stay away) or Bournemouth Christchurch Poole just this week. But it’s do-able. Various English library consortia of library services have shown this. But perhaps the biggest challenge is in terms of scale – it’s 18 times harder in England – which would need considerable funding in library terms. But this would bet tiny in national terms. The Rwanda scheme alone has cost £240m until the end of last year. Crucially, though, it would need a strong directing hand and interest. Which the current English situation is distinctly lacking.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Brought to book: Library cash plea amid ‘brutal cuts’ to budgets – Scottish Sun. Labour criticises SNP policy. “The party’s analysis indicates the number of facilities dropped from 627 in 2009/2010 to 538 in 2022/2023. Its culture spokesman Neil Bibby MSP said: “Years of brutal cuts to council budgets have devastated communities, causing the closure of one in seven libraries and threatened the future of more.”
  • Greater Manchester Festival of Libraries 2024 – University of Manchester. “From June 12-16 2024, Greater Manchester will once again celebrate the Manchester City of Literature Festival of Libraries – which promises a rich tapestry of vibrant events for all ages and interests”. See also main webpage.
  • How are libraries adapting to the rapid advancements in AI technology? – Cryptopolitan. “Libraries are a place where artificial intelligence can have a greater positive impact. AI can reduce librarians’ workload so that they can focus on community engagement. Virtual presence is becoming an essential part of library culture.” … “The librarian’s role is important in keeping everyone on board. AI can be used as a tool, but it can never be a replacement.”
  • Library Campaign mini-conference and AGM – The Library Campaign. Saturday 15 June, London or online. “Author Louise Candlish will talk about her books, and why libraries matter.”
  • The Reading Agency launches Reading Well for Dementia collection – Bookseller. “The Reading Agency is launching a curated list of books, Reading Well for Dementia, at libraries across England and Wales to help those affected by the condition. The series, dubbed by the charity as a “curated collection of books and resources designed to… support the health and wellbeing of those affected by the condition”, launches, in partnership with public libraries during Dementia Action Week”

Welsh libraries receive almost £1m for new shared digital platform – South Wales Argus. Welsh Government funded. “the digital library will allow people to share their resources with other libraries.” and “pave the way” for a single Welsh library card. [If sized up to England’s population, this would be £18m – LibraryOn, the closest English comparator, receive £3m – Ed.] see also Welsh libraries to get new digital platform – UK Authority. SirsiDynix, project led by Gwynedd.

International news

  • Global – Are librarians non-playable characters? – IFLA. There is “a sense that librarians do not have any agency”. Librarians are controlled by others, e.g. councils or universities, and so are not independent. This gives a sense of powerlessness. “we need to be ready to challenge, both when we see fatalism and passivity in our own attitudes, but also when we see others discount libraries and what they bring to the table.”
  • Australia – Cumberland Council’s book ban has been overturned, but what is really happening in Australian libraries? – Conversation. “The change was short-lived. People fought back. More than 40,000 signed a petition to lift the ban. Only two weeks later, the Council reversed its decision, voting decisively (13-2), following impassioned pleas by residents, and with many people protesting on the streets.”. Bans “are also part of a wider reactionary movement” … “As the outcry over the short-lived Cumberland City Council ban shows, everyday Australians value libraries and the information they provide to their communities. Public support is needed to defend against future attacks and to send a message to governments that banning books is not acceptable.”
  • How are N.Y. libraries adapting to people’s needs? – Spectrum Local News. New teen areas, social workers.
  • Ivanka Trump’s Tweet About Libraries Is Getting Trolled By Librarians. Here’s Why – Fortune. Ivanka “tweeted a recognition of the work libraries and librarians do around the country, but some librarians didn’t appreciate her support. That’s because her father, President Donald Trump, released a budget proposal earlier this year that, if passed, would cut federal funds for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a federal agency that provides the main source of federal support for the country’s libraries museums. Library organizations used Trump’s tweet to disparage her father’s budget blueprint”

Local news by authority

  • Cornwall – Comics Plus eComics – Cornwall Council. “Access a collection of over 19,000 titles. Work is available from publishers like Disney, Dark Horse, IDW and more.”
  • Edinburgh – Council to scrap library fines permanently – Edinburgh Reporter. “Overdue book fines are to be permanently scrapped by Edinburgh libraries – as the council prepares to write off almost £50,000 owed by library users. Since the pandemic no overdue fines have been issued in the capital, and now the local authority will join a growing number across Scotland to completely do away with them. Council officers said the charges are “increasingly viewed as being out of step with a modern, accessible, and welcoming service” and the move could result in increased use of a more “equal” service and help tackle poverty.”
  • Fury at cuts to library opening hours – Edinburgh Reporter. “Officers were accused of putting elected members in a “very difficult position” and acting “dangerously” by seeking approval for a consultation on changes to library service times against their expressed wish. Council officers say the library estate could be “maximised” by “redistributing” operational hours across the city – closing some branches earlier and others later. All options currently on the table, set out in a report, would result in “an overall net increase to opening hours across the city” and save the cash-strapped authority between £70,000 and £225,000 a year. However as councillors agreed to review the library service to develop a new “strategy and vision” in December, they agreed it should not lead to any being closed or having their opening hours reduced.”
  • Essex – Library booking charge paused thanks to avid-reader – BBC. “the councillor responsible for libraries said he would “not proceed” with the proposal “in its current form” after being told about an avid reader in Holland-on-Sea. Mark Durham told a full council meeting that she reserved and borrowed about 20 books every fortnight and returned each one “diligently”. “I, therefore, came to the conclusion that rather than unfairly disadvantage this lady and others like her,”
  • Gateshead – New look Pelaw Library now open – Gateshead Council. “This project is part-funded by the UK government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.”
  • Hampshire – Helping new parents and their babies to flourish at Hampshire libraries – Hampshire Council. ” free weekly event at selected libraries across the county, specifically for parents and carers with newborns.” … “New Parents Meet and Connect is one of two pilot health schemes being delivered through the Library Service that aim to support new families. The second, called First Words Together, supports babies – from birth up to their second birthday – with speech, language and communication development.”
  • Havering – East London borough plans to axe nearly half their libraries to save £300,000 – Evening Standard. “The council has also proposed slashing their budgets to buy new stock by a one-off reduction of £161,000 (around 61%), and then decreasing it by a further £60,000 over the next two years. By retaining just six centres – which see more than 80% of visits per year, according to council data – the authority hopes to put the extra £300,000 towards a more balanced budget.”