A fair bit about censorship in the UK this week, although from a different slant to what we are used to from the USA. Over here the articles are from several generally right-wing newspapers, and whatever GB News is, complaining about the ease with which children’s books can be banned. One ban is because of the use of the word “n*****” and the classic Fungus the Bogeyman ban is due to the use of the “g******g”. Both words, to be fair, especially the n* one, that few would push for protection of. The articles are warning that we have library censorship in the UK but it’s more covert than in the USA. And of course another crucial difference is that the censorship is from what is seen as from the left-wing rather than from the right. A similar line of argument is also in an article this week from an ex-school librarian who has resigned due to not wanting to put what she considers overly woke books on the shelves for children. On the other hand, there is the anonymous and unverified source from Hampshire Libraries which says that Pride displays are not being allowed to be publicised due to one complaint. Put together, these complaints suggest that British libraries may not be entirely up the intellectual freedom fight. And that the media will be unforgiving.

Which is unfortunate, because CILIP clearly thinks this is very important. The CILIP ten pledges to the public and the incoming government which “sets out how CILIP, and the profession we represent, will keep libraries and their place in society as a trusted and essential service at the top of the new Government’s agenda”. The relative importance of various items is curious. “Access to culture” is half of the very first pledge, jammed together with the completely different “to deliver trustworthy information”. You’ll be glad to know that reading does get a mention, but at only number four as “the right to read”, again jammed together with the not-the-same-thing “and intellectual freedom”. However, there’s no mention of the word “book” or indeed even “ebook”, presumably because these are seen as the tool and not the use. As a call to arms, as you can probably tell, I think this is somewhat lacking and suggests campaigning-by-committee. But if I see a party leader, or indeed any politician of any level, waving it around then I’ll be glad to be proved wrong.

Changes by local authority

National news

“Take a short break on Saturday afternoon, 15 June, to swap notes with other library supporters and chat to a best-selling author – in London, or online. It’s TLC’s mini-conference and AGM. It’s free, and open to non-members. The venue is Victoria library, 160 Buckingham Palace Road, SW1W 9TR. It’s close to Victoria Coach Station and a short walk from Victoria station and tube (or take a 170, 185, 211 or C10 bus). Or, of course, just put your feet up at home… Tea, coffee and biscuits will be served from 1.30pm. The meeting starts at 2pm. 

We’re delighted to have as our guest Louise Candlish, best-selling writer of psychological thrillers – now shortlisted for this year’s Dagger in the Library award from the Crime Writers’ Association (pic below.) We already know her as a supporter of libraries, who will have insightful answers to your questions. We’ll then move on to discussing your concerns, and what The Library Campaign is up to, with a short AGM, finishing at 3.30pm. (We have vacancies for trustees. If you want to know more, contact us at thelibrarycampaign@gmail.com). Please register here – if you plan to attend online you must do so to receive the link.”

Email from the Library Campaign
  • Are little libraries doomed to be filled with rubbish books? An argument with myself – The Spinoff. “Why does it feel so sacrilegious to throw away a book? And do the little free libraries that dot our suburbs primarily exist to assuage our guilt? ” … “Big public libraries are more pleasant to visit, have a bigger selection of books that people actually want to read, provide heaps of services to the community. And get this: they’re also free.”
  • Fungus the Bogeyman and a Jules Verne classic are among the books banned from libraries after a single complaint – LBC. “More than a dozen books have been removed after members of the public complained about their content or because librarians deemed the books offensive. They include Briggs’s Fungus the Bogeyman, McKee’s Three Monsters, Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon, Chris Claremont’s The Uncanny X-Men and Victor Appleton’s Tom Swift series. Louise Cooke, emeritus professor of information and knowledge management at Loughborough University, said the increasing tendency to remove anything that could offend someone is “massively” dangerous.” … “Jo Cornish, interim chief executive of CILIP, said: “Our general view as a profession is that it’s better for the reader to have access to material, not proscribed by law, than it be banned.” article also covered in multiple other titles – GB News; Daily Mail; Daily Express; Times.
  • How libraries changed from local sanctuaries to antisocial behaviour hotspots – Telegraph. “Colchester Library is just one of the latest reading idylls to be affected, with incidents including fires and physical assault” Good look at library, with lots of people saying how well they use it but main focus is on the bad behaviour of kids these days.
  • Incoming ministers ‘will face UK public services on brink of collapse’ – Guardian. “The IfG said it was not plausible for the victorious party on 4 July to stick to current spending plans at a time when the performance of hospitals was arguably the worst in the history of the NHS, prisons were at crisis point, and councils were shutting libraries and cutting back on waste collection and social care.”
  • Libraries Connected Awards 2024 winners revealed – Libraries Connected. “he winners were chosen by an expert panel including Lesley Parr, the award-winning author of children’s historical fiction. Parr was joined by judges from organisations including Arts Council England, The Reading Agency, the Queen’s Reading Room, the Guardian Foundation and digital book platform OverDrive, creator of the Libby reading app for libraries and Sora reading app for schools, which again generously sponsored the Awards. Celebrated crime writer Ann Cleeves – creator of the Vera Stanhope, Jimmy Perez and Matthew Venn series – was chosen as recipient of the inaugural Public Library Champion award.”
  • New Libraries Connected President Ed Jewell sets out his agenda – Libraries Connected. “Our communities need free, well-funded, properly staffed and dynamic public libraries if they in turn are to constructively engage with the challenges ahead; be that in dealing with immediate issues such as the cost-of-living crisis, mental health and educational attainment, or developing challenges, such as the advent of AI, climate change and the changing nature and make-up of those very communities. ” … “I want to ensure our funders and key stakeholders fully appreciate the potential that properly funded public library services can achieve. That libraries are natural partners within local authorities to work with, to deliver programmes that achieve broad educational, health and cultural ambition”
  • Trust Libraries: 10 Pledges for libraries to a new Government – CILIP. Pledges are (1) Information and Culture (2) inform better decisions in government (3) Warm and welcoming spaces (4) Reading and intellectual freedom (5) learning (6) imagination (7) green (8) business (9) research and innovation and (10) ethical.
  • We Make Music Instrument Libraries – North Edinburgh News. “Scotland’s flagship Tinderbox Orchestra announces Live in Libraries UK & Ireland Tour to spread a campaign that gets musical instruments into public libraries so people can borrow them for free, just like borrowing a book”
  • Why I quit as a school librarian Progressive activism is now considered the norm – UnHerd. “I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I decided to quit my post as an assistant librarian at a private school, but it was most probably when Andersen Press defended its decision to publish a book intended for under-sevens that contained illustrations of men in fetish gear.”

International news

Local news by authority

“All staff had to apply for their own or another job. They had to fill in a long, detailed application and then be interviewed … There are 40 (!) vacancies altogether on Dorset Council Jobs website for Libraries Customer Adviser posts, full time and part time.  The new hours are to start 1st July – but [they’re] obviously never going to get new people in post by then are they?  Getting rid of casual staff but trying to keep them on whilst short staffed – and then not use them again … So it looks like staff decided they didn’t want to jump through the hoops of applying.”

Email received anonymously from Dorset
  • Dudley – Dudley libraries to host authors at first writer’s festival – Halesowen News. “Running from June 8 to 22, the new book festival will feature crime and thriller authors Lindsey Davis, Priscilla Masters, Natalie Marlow, Caz Frear and Angela Marsons; family saga authors Annie Murray and Joanna Toye; romance writers Miranda Dickinson, Sally Jenkins and Suzan Holder and fiction writer Mike Gayle among others.”
  • East Riding – Get set to go Live ‘n Loud in local libraries – Bridlington Echo. “The festival runs from Monday 22 July until Saturday 31 August and includes a varied and exciting programme – featuring live music, forensics, activities, author visits and much more. “. Funded through Arts Council England.
  • Guernsey – Woman recognised for improving library accessibility – BBC. “Jackie Burgess, the community and wellbeing lead at Guille-Alles Library in Guernsey, was named first runner up in the Vision and Print Impaired People’s category at the Libraries Connected awards.” … “Mrs Burgess has been recognised for spearheading the library’s Stories on USB service, which provides blind and visually impaired islanders with free audiobooks”

Hampshire Libraries have instructed staff not to post any pride displays on social media, and a planned pride month promotion of books for teens has been removed from Borrowbox. Staff are disappointed, but cannot speak out publicly, both because they’ve been told the pre-election period applies. if you look at Hampshire Libraries Branches social media you can see the lack of posting, and look at Borrowbox to see there are no pride bookshelves”

Hampshire – anonymous email