Wow, so that was a quite a victory for Labour. With such a majority, they have five years now to do what they can before the next election and, given the volatility of the electorate, the possibility of another change in government. There are huge challenges for Labour, including a distinct lack of money and economic weakness, and promises about not increasing taxation made pre-election. This will make it very difficult for them to follow the impulse, more natural to them than the Conservatives, to send money the way of local government and libraries. But it needs to be done. Local councils are on the verge of bankruptcy and public libraries have not had significant investment since, well, the last Labour Government. Hopefully, the capacity of libraries to do all sorts of things all over the country, not least boosting literacy, at cheap prices, means that the needed investment will be made. We can hope so. And perhaps the easiest low-cost maximum-impact way to start would be to find a way of removing late fees for all public libraries. Now that would be fine.

And then we have the problem of staff-less libraries. Back in the old days, a library was staffed by paid human beings. Since that Golden Age, increasing numbers of paid staff have been replaced by either volunteers or by technology, in terms of the ever expanding number of PIN-entry libraries. This lack of labour in libraries removes that chance of social interaction, and of unbiased expert help, that is one of the key selling points of the sector. It was done initially, mainly in other countries, as a way of expanding opening hours but, being the budget for UK libraries is what it is, is increasingly be done here to replace costly human beings. This has led to the Guardian writing an article called “The end of the librarian?” which is worth looking at. I’ve also collated information on the staff-less phenomenon here. If there’s still any human beings out there who wants to look.

National news

  • Libraries give us power. The next government must trust libraries to continue delivering for communities – Big Issue. CILIP CEO article. The public trusts libraries and that can be used.
  • Libraries should be at the heart of public life – Financial Times. Richard Ovenden. “The British public library system marks two important anniversaries this year. One hundred and seventy five years ago a debate was held in parliament which led to the Public Libraries Act of 1850, giving local authorities the ability to establish free public libraries through a modest increase in local taxation. Sixty years ago the Public Libraries and Museums Act of 1964 upgraded that law to made it a requirement for local authorities to provide the service.” … “In this anniversary year, it is a tragic irony that the system is now facing one of the most severe challenges in its history.” … “One solution? A distinct Minister for Libraries. A new ministerial brief could help highlight the contribution made by libraries across different areas of the government’s agenda.”

International news

  • Ireland – Turning over a new leaf – Irish Examiner. “GIY and Libraries Ireland have come together in a novel food and literacy education programme, beginning in Waterford but with the ambition to see the initiative evolve across Ireland, creating food-growing communities wherever there is a library to be found. Growing your own food is of course a positive climate action and also fosters food empathy and promotes sustainability, so along with the free seeds and information packs, the library will provide the know-how including online videos in this attempt to find a whole new audience for the superlative efforts of GIY. ” See LibraryLeaf.
  • USA – Placer County libraries extend hours to provide relief from excessive heat – Yubanet. California.
  • ALA 2024: Librarians Rally for the Right to Read – Publishers Weekly. “Freedom to read tops the list of librarians’ priorities, and the American Library Association’s 2024 conference emphasized the existential threats posed by book bans and the populist undermining of public institutions and trust.”
  • A Reader Asked for My Ultimate Top Ten Tips for the Most Effective Library Marketing Possible: Here’s the List – Super Library Marketing. Send emails, post only once a day on social media, put a bookmark into every reserved book, short script for staff to say about every event/promotion, talk to one community group per month, review your social media metrics monthly, plan calendar for 6-12 months ahead, speak to staff meetings about marketing, professional media releases, blog, 20 minutes per week to learn.

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