Ian Anstice

Public librarian since 1994, user of public libraries since my first memories ... and a keen advocate of public libraries and chronicler of the UK public libraries scene. Library manager since 1998, winner of Information Professional of the Year 2011 and Winsford Customer Service "Oscar" 2012 and 2014, honorary CILIP fellow 2015, CILIP Wales Library Champion of the Year 2016.

Homepage: https://www.publiclibrariesnews.com


Posts by Ian Anstice

“Normality” in 2021?

Editorial

Public libraries in England can open for browsing this week after more than three months of being closed. It is possible, what the vaccinations, that this will be last lockdown. Let us earnestly hope that it is and let us also wish the best for those thousands of library workers back in the front line tomorrow. Here’s to the thought that libraries, that will still tomorrow be quarantining items and have social distancing in place, will be able safely at some point this year be able to ditch the security measures and have events and what we used to consider the “normal” buzz of library life. And that the very thought of it does not sound strange. Make a silent wish with me, folks, and open those doors in a properly risk assessed manner in the meantime.

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National news

  • CILIP to receive £320,000 from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund – CILIP. “CILIP is among more than 2,700 recipients to benefit from the latest round of awards from the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund. This award will enable us to continue to develop a sponsorship programme for the Carnegie Greenaway Awards, invest in our training and CPD offer to support the sector and drive forward our digital transformation programme to ensure that CILIP’s resources, help and guidance are effective and accessibly for all our members.”
  • Community book exchanges flourished while libraries were closed in lockdown – I. “With bookshops, libraries and charity shops closed for much of the year, book lovers desperate for fresh reading material took matters into their own hands. Book exchanges popped up all over the country” … “Libraries and bookshops may soon be opening their doors again, but book exchanges are here to stay”
  • The Fight for Britain’s Libraries – Tribune / Alan Wylie. “And although there have been some articles written about the great work done by libraries during the pandemic, it’s actually library workers who have done the work – a subtle yet crucial distinction. Working from home has caused its own divisions, with lower-grade staff more likely to be working on the frontline than their higher-grade managers.”
  • Library Dividend: Encourage candidates in the May 6th Local Elections to celebrate the #LibraryDividend – CILIP. “CILIP is asking our members to reach out to your local candidates and encourage them to recognise the ‘Library Dividend’ – the tremendous social and economic impact of supporting strong local library services.”
  • A Love Letter to Libraries – Varsity. “We must protect libraries, academic and local, if we want to continue to make information, resources, and that indescribable ‘library experience’ – which I’ve been trying so hard to capture – accessible. “
  • An open letter to Kwasi Kwarteng – BookSeller. List of suggestions, including “Enhanced support for public libraries via central government, in particular for educational materials (including non-English-language materials to help with the levelling up agenda) and for digital access, ebooks, and downloadable audio.”
  • Public Libraries Project of the Year Grant Award – National Acquisitions Group. “NAG are pleased to announce that their Public Libraries Project of the Year Grant for 2021 has been awarded to Wandsworth Libraries with their “Roehampton Kaleidoscope” and Derbyshire Libraries with “Read, Play, Puzzle” and each will receive £5,000 from the National Acquisitions Group.”
  • Service recovery toolkit – April 2021 Word – LIbraries Connected. “This Service Recovery Toolkit has been prepared in consultation with Public Health England (PHE) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Updated 12.04.21”
  • Simon Armitage to embark on decade-long UK library tour – BookSeller. “Beginning with the letters “A” and “B” this spring, the tour launches in in Ashby-de-la-Zouch and will visit a variety of libraries during the week, stopping in Belper, Aberdeen, Bacup and Bootle. The week will include a reading from the entrance hall of the British Library featuring Joelle Taylor, founder of the national youth slam championships SLAMbassadors, and Theresa Lola, Young People’s Laureate for London 2019-2020. Readings from the first week of his trip will be streamed live from 26th April to 1st May.”

“It would have been easy to stream these events from my office or garden shed, but at a time when libraries are under threat and have been out of bounds during lockdown, reading from inside their physical structures feels like an act of solidarity — with books, with poetry and with communities.”

Simon Armitage

International news

Local news by authority

The Double Library: things should stay changed, only more so

Editorial

Once upon a time, libraries were entirely physical entities. Everything the library could offer was inside a physical building, nothing outside it, and if one could not get to it within specific times, it could not help you. Then digital came along and some services such as reference and books were available online, but not events. Then Covid came along and the physical was gone but the digital was beefed up, with events too. That’s where we are as of today.

Looking into the post-lockdown world, I would argue that we need to go further than this and, as the physical comes back, we cannot forget the digital. Both things need doing equally. We need to be able to offer every physical service online and every online service physically. So, yes, rhyme-times will come back but they should be on Facebook too. Author talks should be physical but also streamed. Reading groups should be physical but also on Zoom, etc. And, yes, online reference should be available in print. Because it is clear now that to do anything else is discriminatory. To only offer either the digital or the physical is to create a bar to one group. Some people don’t like or don’t have access to the internet. Another group, far larger, won’t be able to get to a particular place at a particular time.

Libraries need to examine everything they do and ensure it is available in both physical and online formats. Because the world has changed and, like a receding tide before a tsunami, it has revealed things to us. And if we don’t take note of these things and act upon them then, well, we sadly know what happens to those who don’t prepare for tsunamis. OK, that’s not a perfect metaphor – people who rush out and examine suddenly dry bits of coast don’t tend to do well a few minutes later – but I genuinely think the last year was earth-shattering. And libraries should shatter the earth with their response.

I expand a bit more on this in this short recorded zoom conversation.

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National news

International news

Local news by authority

Third time lucky?

Editorial

Welsh public libraries can reopen, carefully, now, with England a fortnight later and Scotland two weeks after that. I think this is the third time of reopening (I may have lost count) after a lockdown and let us hope it is the last. Apart from the normal news, there’s a fair bit about what the future will look like, with contactless and the need to concentrate on digital as well as physical being unsurprisingly foremost. Away from the news headlines, there is a also a lot of interest in cashless ways of paying fines, with of course the most cashless way being not to charge fines at all.

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Changes by local authority

National news

  • Commissioning: Future Funding Webinar – Libraries Connected. Recording. “This workshop sheds light on the processes around procurement, with advice on how best to approach these, and the ways that library services can engage with commissioners outside the procurement process. It is suitable for all library staff.”
  • Covid: ‘Christmas Day’ for families as Wales lifts travel ban – BBC. “Organised outdoor activities and sports for under-18s can resume and libraries and archives can reopen their doors.”

“Canongate are offering 10 authorities the opportunity to each receiving 1,000 copies of The Midnight Library by Matt Haig for World Book Night, with the aim of reaching adults who don’t regularly read for pleasure or have access to books. We’re inviting authorities to sign up to apply by 1 April, briefly outlining how they can reach those people (we don’t need exact plans as we appreciate it’s next week). All the details are on this form: https://bit.ly/WBNTML

The Reading Agency
  • “Libraries changed my life”: Author Kelly Yang on the mysterious power of reading – Book Trust. “I remember hiding in the library during lunch, crouching in between the aisles, hoping the librarian wouldn’t see me because we weren’t really supposed to be in the library at lunch. The librarian, of course, saw me. She came over, smiled at me — no judgement — and handed me a book. “
  • The library dividend – BookSeller. Nick Poole of CILIP writes. “Unless we can find a better way to pay for libraries, chances are we will see hundreds more closures in the next two to three years as we address the cost of public borrowing during the pandemic.” … “It is to address this that CILIP has been funded by the Arts Council England to lead a new Independent Review into Public Library Financing. The Review will explore innovative models for the financing of public libraries while still retaining their core identity as public services.”
  • Public Library Recovery: Lessons and Opportunities from the COVID Crisis – Innovative. Including Isobel Hunter from Libraries Connected. Recording.
  • Public Library Staff Introduction to materials on personal resilience – Libraries Connected. 8 April, 12 noon. “Using materials developed for the Leading Libraries Programme, we will demonstrate how these may be used locally to facilitate small team sessions.”
  • Queers in the Library – The Coast is Queer. Recorded online panel “discusses the potential of libraries as spaces for generating and nurturing queer communities as well as the limits of certain institutional forms of librarianship. Our panelists comprise workers in university and public libraries as well as creators of queer community libraries.”
  • UK councils funding crisis threatens essential services – World Socialist Web Site. “From April, the NAO expects remaining special educational needs and homelessness services to be gutted, while more theatres, libraries and community centres face closure.”
  • #uklibchat 12th April 2021 – #ebookSOS – UK Libchat. “If you work with e-books in any capacity, you may well have heard of #ebookSOS – a campaign to raise awareness and instigate change in the pricing, accessibility and functionality of e-books. Rachel Bickley and Caroline Ball will be helping us to lead this Twitter chat”

International news

Local news by authority

“”Public libraries are also a vital component in tackling digital exclusion. A priority of Coventry Libraries is to create improved access to digital services and increase the digital literacy skills of local residents. During 2019 to 2020 Coventry Libraries in the North East of the City have provided over 70,000 hours and over 100,000 sessions of access to public computers and Wi-Fi services. While reduced service has been provided during 2020, due to COVID 19, they are continuing with plans to increase access to public PCs, install new computers at both Bell Green and Foleshill Libraries and reintroduce computer help sessions, job clubs and benefits, debt and housing advice sessions.”

Carol Dinenage, Minister of State, DCMS.

An invisible swan event

Editorial

There is a term called a “Black Swan Event”. Wikipedia (get over it, traditionalists), defines it as “an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalised after the fact with the benefit of hindsight.”. Covid was definitely one of those things. But I like to think that this week is another week of library services doing their own swan impression, looking serene on the surface while paddling furiously out of sight. Councils throughout England are deciding, or have already decided, if and how many libraries will reopen come 12 April. It will, as ever, be a mixture, with some going full-out open from day one and others taking their time. Then there will be the timing of doing other things, things which are now too-distant memories, like story-times and other events.

And, soon enough, there will be the Summer Reading Challenge, with the likely take-up for that still being, in an unprecedented fashion, a complete mystery. Who knows how many people will return to libraries? To stretch the metaphor completely, post-vaccination 2021 usage is like an invisible swan at this point – we have no idea of its size or its shape. And it has the potential to be dangerous like any swan. But it could also be beautiful. Some could say that this could even be a golden year for libraries if things come back to normal and people come in desperate to be with people and the physical once more. But I would not want to stretch my neck out that far. It is, after all, not as long as that of a swan, real or imaginary.

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Changes by local authority

National news

  • The Government is defunding libraries and it is affecting racialised communities – Bad Form Review. “In 2010, funding for libraries topped £1bn, but last year it fell to a total of £725m; this year, on average, libraries face a further 14% reduction in their budgets. For some reason, these statistics do not seem to capture the public imagination, perhaps because libraries are a normalised, mundane part of life that people assume will always be there.”
  • Gov Starts GBP5bn UK Gigabit Broadband and Voucher Schemes Update – ISPreview. “The UK Government has today revealed new details of how their £5bn gigabit broadband roll-out scheme will work and rebranded it as “Project Gigabit“. As part of that they’ve also confirmed £210m for an extension of their rural Gigabit Voucher scheme and £110m to connect up to 7,000 rural GP surgeries, libraries and schools.”
  • Libraries Connected annual report 2019-20 – Libraries Connected. “Find out about all we achieved in our second year including our exciting new projects.”
  • Library Recovery: Lessons and Opportunities from the COVID Crisis – Innovative. 23 March, 11am, webinar. Speakers include Isobel Hunter CEO Libraries Connected and Sue Wills (Surrey). “The health crisis has brought challenges and opportunities for public libraries. Even while buildings have been closed, libraries worked with determination and innovation to bring their services to users in new ways, reaching 3 out of 10 people.”
  • Partners Toolkit for Read, Talk, Share – Reading Agency. “This toolkit includes information and resources, including visual assets, to help promote the Read, Talk, Share campaign. You can find press releases, a visual assets pack, and how to take part in our social media campaign with suggested copy for all channels. … “Books from the Reading Well mental health booklists are available now for free digital borrowing to support library users and staff. You can promote e-lending with downloadable social media images for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, with options to choose your lending partner logo.”
  • Timetable for further lockdown easing – Scottish Government. Libraries can open from 26 April.

International news

  • India – In this Kashmiri library, the power of books goes beyond words – Christian Science Monitor. “whenever I get time I come here, touch, feel, and smell [the books], with this constant hope that things will become normal again, and my library will once again thrive with people.”
    • The lure of libraries – Deccan Herald. “I probably married my husband because his family owned a circulating library called Serene” … “As soon as we got into the GT express or the Tamil Nadu or KK express (as it was then called), for the long 48 hour journey, the first thing was to check out the tiny library in one of the compartments”
  • SyriaHunting for books in the ruins: how Syria’s rebel librarians found hope – Guardian. ““Books don’t set limits; they set us free. They don’t mutilate; they restore. Reading helps me think positively, chase away negative ideas. And that’s what we need most right now.””
  • USA – Post-Pandemic Libraries – Medium. “it’s almost as if we’re after the type of hero worship that comes with bringing water to people after a natural disaster.”
    • Libraries are getting $200 million in stimulus funds. Here’s why – CNN. “t librarians say they’ve come to the rescue for those hit the hardest by the pandemic, becoming the only way many without internet access are able to get their kids online for school — or access medical services, make vaccine appointments or register for federal aid like stimulus checks and unemployment benefits.” … “The total earmarked for libraries is less than 1% of the total $1.9 trillion American Rescue but is a huge influx of cash for the Institute for Museum and Library Services fund. The $200 million is the largest single increase in the agency’s 25-year history and worth about 80% of its annual budget.”

Local news by authority

Something to think about

Editorial

One year ago, it all changed. Library workers, long told in conferences that “the library is not the building” discovered the truth of it as the doors were closed and locked in every building in the country. Those staff who had work computers at home got down to the work of promoting their online resources and putting on, incredible as would have seemed simply a month previously, recorded rhyme-times and the like. E-book use soared and councils saw public libraries as a much-needed good news story.

Throughout last year, library staff – again, limited to those with work computers – learned a whole bunch of new skills, Many others were co-opted into other departments and discovered the truth that they were council employees. Again, many new skills were learnt. When libraries reopened for the short periods between lockdowns, it was the front line staff – largely, those without work computers – who quarantined the books, cleaned the work surfaces and faced the masked public while the others mainly continued at home.

Now, with vaccination becoming general, hope is in the air, an incredible full twelve months after, and library services don’t really know what will happen. Will a relieved public throng back into libraries like never before? Or will people stay cautious or have discovered new things to do during lockdown? Will the Summer Reading Challenge be the busiest ever or a damp squib? Will, the horror, a new Covid variant develop and we all return to our tedious homes? We don’t know. But something which I have been thinking about for a while is that this crisis has widened the divide between those who continued working at home and those that did not. There will be many in libraries that have not physically seen a specialist librarian for a year. How we mesh together again, when we mesh together again, will be a challenge to us all when branches reopen. Start thinking about it now if you have not done so already.

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Changes by local authority

National news

  • Bolinda UK Ltd and CILIP join forces to activate Libraries Week 2021 – CILIP. ” This year Libraries Week will take place between the 4th and 10th October and will focus on the central role that libraries play in their community as a driver for inclusion, sustainability, social mobility and community cohesion.”
  • CILIP Pathways ready to deliver end-point assessments for Level 3 Apprenticeships – CILIP. “This Apprenticeship opens up a robust alternative route into the profession, enabling employers to attract and retain from a wider pool of talent”
  • Great public library services – Library Data Blog. “Newcastle library service began publishing open data in 2016, and have run two hackathons engaging the public with that data” … “Suffolk decided to go their own way and create their own software. This looks great, and runs on tablets within a stand that provides a barcode scanner. More information is available at this Suffolk Libraries Self Service Demo from 2018.” … “Leeds are well known for their digital inclusion programmes, such as 100% Digital Leeds. Note the top-quality accessibility statement on that site.” … ” was amazed to see in 2019 that a library service (North Ayrshire) was recruiting for a role called ‘Open data development officer’. As far as I know, this was the first dedicated role in open data for public libraries.”
  • Guardians of UK’s literary jewels at risk in V&A plan to cut key library staff – Guardian. “Thirty librarians have been told that their numbers are to be reduced to just 10, as part of a major restructuring at the museum.”
  • Library careers panel with CILIP NW – CILIP. 23 April 10am. “e’ll be joined by a panel of library colleagues from higher education, public libraries and health, who will introduce their role, their team and their organisation, before taking questions from the audience.”
  • Patron Point now available for public libraries in the UK and Ireland – Patron Point. “The company’s marketing automation platform connects to all popular library management systems and other third-party library data sources like eBook vendors and reservation system”
  • Re-engaging Library Customers – CILIP East Midlands AGM – CILIP. 27 April 9.30am. ” Ash Charlton will lead us in identifying the issues and solutions for re-engaging customers as life starts to return to our new ‘normal’. “
  • Summer Reading Challenge to have Wild World Heroes theme– BookSeller.”The charity has teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund to deliver the event across the summer, encouraging children to engage in reading about environmental issues, including plastic pollution and deforestation to wildlife decline and nature loss. Through taking part in the challenge, with free packs from public libraries or online, children will be able to join six fictional characters — “wild heroes” — to help solve some of these threats, learning about the importance of the environment while helping to restore nature levels in the neighbourhood of “Wilderville”.”
  • What’s the key to finishing that novel of yours? Try working at the library – Crime Reads. “nd so I got to work at the library, reading everything from US-set fiction to travel guides. Whatever I wanted to find out about, the library had me covered.”

International news

Local news by authority

  • Bracknell Forest – Praise for ‘lifesaving’ home library service used by Bracknell residents – Bracknell News. “One person told us we had literally saved their life.” … “328 residents in Bracknell Forest who are over 70, having to shield, or are clinically extremely vulnerable, registered with the contact-free delivery scheme, council data shows.”
  • Calderdale – Air quality in Sowerby Bridge and impact on health to be focus of innovative library project – Halifax Courier. “Calderdale libraries’ ‘Something in the Air?’ project, supported by researchers at the University of Manchester and funded as part of the Engaging Libraries programme was launched this week. Between March and September this year, there will be a series of free events that anyone can attend, to hear from specialists and to ask questions about all sorts of issues around air quality and health.”
  • Denbighshire – Denbighshire’s service was the best performing in Wales for the number of Welsh books borrowed per capita – Free Press. “The Welsh Government has praised the service in the Welsh Public Library Standards assessment report for 2019/20 saying it has a ‘strong commitment to health and wellbeing’ while its ‘intention to focus on the development of staff should enable Denbighshire libraries to remain at the heart of their communities and continue to deliver services effectively’.”
  • Hampshire – Villagers asked to remove ‘adult literature’ from communal red phone box library – I. “Hurstbourne Tarrant had lost access to its mobile library service because a lack of funding from Hampshire council forced it to cease. Access to such libraries have come under increased scrutiny in recent years. However, Hurstbourne Tarrant’s telephone box was bought by the council in 2019 and then used grant money to convert it into a library” … “However, the Parish Council noticed Nancy Holder’s Hot Blooded, and publications by Debbie Viguié – whose novels are sometimes catergorised as “erotic romance” – began to appear”
  • Inverclyde – Library celebrates Women’s History Month – Greenock Telegraph.
  • Milton Keynes – Milton Keynes Libraries to host online ‘Lines of Lockdown’ poetry event – MK FM. “Milton Keynes Libraries and Milton Keynes Islamic Arts & Culture are set to co-host an online open mic poetry night”
  • North Ayrshire – Council set to perform u-turn on disposal of ‘lifeline community facilities’ – Largs and Millport Weekly News. “Under-threat facilities, which included Largs Library, are set to be thrown a lifeline after playing key roles in the community effort during the coronavirus pandemic.”
  • Northumberland – Shaping the future of libraries in Northumberland – News Post Leader. “An extensive consultation between December 2019 and March 2020 saw more than 5,000 people, both library members and non-members, take part.” … “Building on the findings of the consultation a redesign of the service was approved by the County Council’s Cabinet to establish five Hub Libraries, serving each locality area.”
  • North Yorkshire – Home library service grows in popularity during Covid – Northern Echo. “Around 1,400 people across North Yorkshire currently benefit from the service and last year’s Covid restrictions and lockdowns saw increased demand for the service.”
  • Nottingham – Nottingham’s new central library delayed until next year – Nottingham Post. “The new building for the library is already there, as part of the complex which will also house the car park and the new bus station but like many other authorities Nottingham city council continues to face a challenge so there will be a delay to our original intention to complete the fit out of the new central library. “The sale of the Angel Row site means we can start the fit out of the new central library in the summer, aiming to complete next year.””
  • Powys – Powys libraries join dementia music campaign – Powys Country Times. “It is the first library authority in Wales to work with dementia charity, Playlist for Life, to distribute its booklet ‘Create the Soundtrack of Your Life”
  • Renfrewshire – Library books home delivery service is best seller – Renfrewshire 24. “Almost 200 people have signed up to Renfrewshire Leisure’s Libraries Direct service providing a free delivery service of library books to those over the age of 70, people with disabilities and families with children.”
  • Sandwell – Sandwell solution to lockdown loneliness – sharing a good book – Halesowen News. “It will include a new telephone reading group, one-to-one telephone conversations with Reading Befrienders, and online book readings for all ages which will be showcased on the library service’s Facebook page.”
  • Sefton – Iconic building closed for eight years could soon get new lease of life – Liverpool Echo. “The Carnegie Library in Crosby was shut by Sefton Council in December 2013 as part of a “libraries review” and a bid to save cash. Six other libraries across Sefton were also ordered to close the same year. Now documents on Sefton Council’s website reveal plans to transform the Grade II listed building into a “community hub” with office space, a bistro, and bar areas.”
  • Somerset – Somerset libraries reopen and launch Reading Friends service – Weston Mercury. “Almost all Somerset libraries have reopened this week, offering a limited-service as lockdown measures start to ease. “
  • Staffordshire – Services support residents as lockdown restrictions ease – Tamworth Informed. “From Monday (8 March) libraries at Biddulph, Burntwood, Codsall, Kidsgrove, Rugeley, Stone, Uttoxeter and Wombourne will reopen to offer essential PC use and ‘order and collect’ services. Until 12 April these eight will close between 1 and 2pm.”
    • Improvements in Burton town centre could see dozens of homes created – Staffordshire Live. “The project to regenerate the area around High Street, which fronts the Washlands and the River Trent, would also see the town’s library building bulldozed if its services were to be moved to the market hall, a council anticipates.” … “it “anticipates” demolishing existing “low value” buildings, such as the 1970s library building, off Meadowside Drive.” … ” agreed, in principle, to relocate the library, off High Street, to the market hall in the Market Place at a meeting in August – two months before the nine-day public consultation on the proposal was launched in October. When the library project was discussed this part of the meeting was in private and not open to the public. The authority had previously said Burton Library was the most successful library in the county.”
  • Suffolk – Suffolk Libraries launches new technology lending scheme – East Anglian Daily Times. Laptop lending. “The aim of the new Device to Your Door scheme which has been funded by Suffolk’s Contain Outbreak Management Fund is to provide help for those with no access to a computer or the internet at home.  “
  • Sunderland – Sunderland’s Culture House – Designing Libraries. “Central to the regeneration programme is the proposed new library. The stated aim of the project is to create the UK’s best new library in an iconic, 80,000 square feet building which will contain adult lending and reference libraries; libraries for children and young people; spaces for making, creativity and innovation; a local studies and archive centre (£650,000 has been agreed for the digitisation of collections).” 600,000 visitor target.
  • Wandsworth – Shakespeare week coming to Wandsworth libraries – SW Londoner. “Wandsworth libraries will be showing daily videos exploring the life and works of William Shakespeare to celebrate Shakespeare week. There will also be a live online event, which will feature a team of actors performing speeches from Shakespeare followed by a Q&A session for children to ask for any secrets on how to perform the legendary playwright’s work.”
  • Wigan – Libraries launch e-book service – Leigh Journal. “Libraries in the borough are launching a new e-book service which will give residents free access to up to 36,000 digital books and over 20,000 audiobooks. Any member of Wigan library services will be able to download the BorrowBox app”
  • Wokingham – New Twyford Library Approved – Wokingham.co.uk. “A new chapter is opening for Twyford Library as Wokingham Borough Council approves plans to create a brand-new facility in the centre of the village, converting the Old Polehampton Boys School.”
  • Worcestershire – Archive service to help Redditch residents trace their family trees – Redditch Standard. “The number of library customers accessing Ancestry Library Edition increased by 200 per cent in February, compared to the same period in 2020. Digital library membership has increased by 355 per cent in the last 12 months”
  • Census help is available – Worcester Observer. Zoom library sessions. “Join Tony Hutchings, Census Engagement Manager for Worcestershire from the Office for National Statistics as he explains more about the census, how you can complete the census, how information is captured as well as being on hand to answer any of your queries and signpost you to useful helplines”
  • Malvern Library set to become Rapid Covid Testing site – Worcester News. ““It’s great to see Malvern Library offering support to the local community by becoming the next rapid flow testing site.”

Tower Hamlets reprieve

Editorial

Tower Hamlets have reversed their decision to impose deep cuts on their library service. This will come as a relief not just to their library users but also to many in the library community, where the Idea Stores model from the borough is well-known and respected. The councillors of Croydon, however, whose library budget have rarely been envied at the best of times, are still going through with deep cuts there, although there is some impressive campaigning work going on to try and stop it. Elsewhere, library services are gearing up for their plans for when they are allowed to open on 12 April, with some services which had been completely closed, sticking a toe in the water with click and collect before then.

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Changes by local authority

National news

  • CILIP’s Library and Information Supplier Showcase – CILIP. 25 March, online. “Attendance for delegates is free of charge and you will need to register so that you can gain access to the virtual event platform.”
  • CIPFA Speaks: Budget 2021 and World Book Day – CIPFA. “his week’s packed episode featured CIPFA CEO Rob Whiteman with his reflections on the 2021 Budget, Libraries Connected on the impact of COVID-19 on libraries, and CIPFA student Faye Revely joined us for our recurring segment on working from home in public finance.”
  • Dr Seuss: Six books withdrawn over ‘hurtful and wrong’ imagery – BBC. “Among the six children’s titles being withdrawn are If I Ran the Zoo, Scrambled Eggs Super, McElligot’s Pool and On Beyond Zebra” … “Babar’s Travels was removed from the shelves of libraries in East Sussex in the UK after complaints of racism from words used such as “savage cannibals”. Similar complaints have led to some of Herge’s Tintin adventures being removed from libraries, or moved to the adult section.”
  • Libraries are a safety net, what happens when they are pulled away? – Big News. “Libraries are often referred to as “the last safety net”. When someone slips through the cracks of social care, they come to us. What happens when that “last safety net” is pulled away?”
  • Libraries are lifelines – BookSeller. “Whatever the future holds, the pandemic has made it clear that we need to rethink how essential services are made available to those who need them the most. Libraries are not expendable, and I hope that the way they are cared for in the coming years reflects the value that they hold for their communities.”
  • ‘Library job stopped me from suicide, they’re a sanctuary we can’t afford to lose’ – Mirror. “The library where Allie Morgan works became a sanctuary for gaunt, poverty stricken men and women, including an ex-heroin addict who said boredom was the killer that could make him use again.” … “After experiencing the magic of libraries first hand, Allie has written a book, The Librarian, telling the story of how she went from rock bottom to community activist and spokeswoman for library workers”

“The Library Communication Framework (LCF) is set to transform how library suppliers share information with each other in the future, building on the work that the SIP2 protocol has delivered in the past.  LCF will allow vendors to share not only basic transactional information (like SIP2), but additionally manage libraries’ users and stock better.  For libraries planning on upgrading any of their systems from 2021 onwards, LCF should form part of your understanding and be a (possibly mandatory) part of your specification or tender requirements.” BIC Webinar, 29 April.

  • Pandemic shows how ‘digital by default’ government services exclude those who need them most – Conversation. “And with libraries closed many are more cut off than ever before. Indeed, people rely on libraries for online access – a place to search for jobs, answer emails, access educational resources and stay in touch with the outside world.”
  • Working Internationally for Libraries Conference 2021 – CILIP. 25 June, 10 to 5pm, webinar. ” A unique programme of panel sessions, presentations and hands-on workshops draws on speakers from a diverse range of countries – from UK, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East – to share best practice, spotlight new ideas and showcase successful examples of international working projects.”
  • World Book Day: Is Covid lockdown giving reading a boost? – BBC. “Gone are the children’s dressing up competitions, reading extracts in school assemblies, the book reports and the festivities at the local library.” … “During lockdown, the Welsh government provided £250,000 towards digital library resources and one provider saw a 110% increase in borrowing of e-books compared to 2019.” … “It is not clear yet, but it is safe to assume bookworms cannot wait to return to bookshops and libraries again once restrictions end.”

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So it’s the 12th of April

Editorial

So, it’s the 12 April. That, surprisingly, gives public libraries enough time to get ready for what we all earnestly hope is the last time we come out of lockdown. Public libraries are in the same class as “non-essential retail” and means we open up more than a month before our colleagues in museums.

In other news, there’s mention of libraries being available for help with the census, some protests against cuts (notably in Lewisham) and a couple of mentions of reducing or getting rid altogether of fines. This was a definite trend before Covid and it will be interesting to see if it continues now.

Advert for Niche Academy from DCA

Changes

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“This week will see the third Smallprint Book Festival for children run by our library service. It is timed to coincide with World Book Day each year. So far it has proved very popular and this year it is totally digital, running from 4-6 March. We have an absolutely fantastic programme thanks to our enterprising Readers’ Services Team and talented and tuneful Community Library Officers. All the events will be promoted through our social media channels, where it looks fantastic. The team are trialling one school event which isn’t on this programme, working with local author Laura Fyfe to run a creative writing workshop with Cambusbarron Primary, P6 & P7. They are doing this as a Google Meet on Thursday 4th March and hope that it will give them a format to use for further events with schools.” Stirling – Smallprint Book Festival – via email. See festival webpage here.

Disturbingly normal

Editorial

As I write this, it’s the day before we find out what is happening with possible (or not) reopening after the third lockdown. Let us hope the vaccines mean that this is the last one we are in. This weird shut world is starting to feel disturbingly normal.

World Book Day looks interesting, as does the Future of Libraries webinar. There are some of the normal various interesting things and outright weirdness from the USA and a few initiatives from around our country, including a nice series of events from the ever-positive and busy Manchester library service.

Advert for Niche Academy from DCA

National news

  • CILIPS Annual Conference 2021 – CILIPS. “Our 2021 President, Cleo Jones, will host two days of keynotes, workshops, and talks online on June 7-8th on the theme of Reinvigorate and Renew: Emerging into a better, brighter, new world.”
  • The Future of Libraries – Aspen UK. 24 February 5pm webinar.
  • John Scally interview: ‘Libraries have to be for everyone’ – The Times. “The outgoing chief executive of the National Library of Scotland had to tear up the rule books”. Partial paywall, ironically.
  • Vintage launches Free Books Campaign partnership – BookSeller. “Vintage has launched a new partnership with the Free Books Campaign, a charity set up by education activist Sofia Akel to get books by authors of colour to those who cannot access them. Under the partnership, Vintage will donate 300 books to the Free Books Campaign annually. Twenty-five copies of 12 titles will be delivered over 2021”
  • Welsh Libraries Reaching Out Into the Virtual World – News from Wales.”“This grant of £169,950 has enabled us to appoint Kerry Pillai from Swansea Libraries as coordinator to organize, plan and deliver a range of training packages for library staff members across Wales. This will be technical training in the use of basic equipment and software apps for creating and delivering digital content, but also activities for staff to experiment and practice their skills – such as author talks, conversations between readers, reading group discussions, and illustration workshops.  The Estyn Allan project will also enable authorities to invest in basic hardware and software they need to produce good quality activities and content.””
  • World Book Day’s New Strategy Receives Major Boost From Arts Council Funding And New Partnerships, As Charity Announces First Ever Official World Book Day Song – FMCM. “The charity also announces its first ever official song by MC Grammar.” … “A partnership with Oak National Academy and the National Literacy Trust: HRH The Duchess of Cornwall will lead a day of special events for the online classroom” … “A World Book Day themed Live Lesson broadcast live on CBBC:” … “A partnership with Twitter: will help the charity reach more families directly online in lockdown. An official #WorldBookDay emoji will be launched to mark the annual celebration.” … “An extended partnership with McDonald’s: will see the food company include World Book Day’s £1 token in all its Happy Meal Boxes from 3 March to 13 April”

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Manchester – Manchester Libraries’ celebrations for International Mother Language Day. Cllr Rahman OBE, lead member for Culture introduces.

Picking our fights

Editorial

First, Covid news. A couple of councils are opening up for click and collect after weeks of being entirely closed and Bristol libraries are offering “surge testing”. Also, the Reading Agency funding for library services to help with loneliness.

But the big story, obviously, is a librarian or two objecting to the use “little library” being used about a free book-swap outside a house, which was covered by the BBC, the Mail and the London Evening Standard. This was, of course, on Twitter, where massive fights can start instantly and things can be taken out of proportion. It’s worth noting too that far worse insults were thrown at the librarians in return, who were expressing their point of view, without being personal about it.

OK, Here comes the paragraph I have worried about writing but needs to be said. I have been a coward for not saying it before …

I know this is a really unpopular opinion amongst some librarians but, personally, I think we lost the monopolistic use of the word “library” decades ago, if indeed we ever had it. The unfortunate book-lover did not claim to have a public library in her garden and I suspect people can tell the difference between a glorified bird-box and, say, an actual building. I also think that such enterprises are not contributing to closing libraries and even the most extreme councillor does not genuinely (even if it seems so officially) believe they can a proper replacement. The real threat to libraries would be budget cuts.

That last paragraph is going to get me absolutely vilified by some. So be it. Some have already told me there is something wrong with me and that, at this difficult time, some librarians are feeling threatened. This is true of course. But, really, public libraries are bigger than this. We provide a hugely beneficial service with limited resources and we need to pick our fights. And such as we have should not be with book-lovers trying to share their passion with others.

Single Digital Presence

“A guest-written editorial that featured in last week’s Public Libraries News contained a number of misrepresentations relating to the Single Digital Presence project. We are grateful for the opportunity to correct them. In depicting the project merely as a succession of research reports the article failed to convey that the report we published in June 2019 was just one element of a much broader programme. This has included designing prototypes for both a new national presence and for improved local library web-pages, testing these prototypes with existing and potential users, and also a continued and wide-ranging engagement with our close stakeholders throughout the library sector.

Last week’s article also referred to the project as a ‘digital library’. Although a part of our work is focused on improving public library users’ access to digital material, this does not involve the creation of a digital library for public libraries. Instead, our ambition is to improve access to information and services about public libraries, and to make it easier for users to engage with public libraries at the local level, both physically and digitally.

Finally, the figure the article quoted for the cost of the project was inaccurate: £1 million is more than double the amount of money that has supported our work to this point. In addition, the project has been undertaken by a team at the British Library since February 2018, and so we have been working on this for three years – not six years, as the article suggests. We welcome the opportunity to set the record straight, and will be posting further updates on our findings later this spring.”

Statement from the British Library

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  • Global – IFLA’s Section on Children and Young Adults’ “Safer Internet Day” Survey – IFLA. “The annual Safer Internet Day is now celebrated in approximately 170 countries worldwide. The campaign calls upon all stakeholders to join together to make the internet a safer and better place for all, and especially for children and young people. This survey is for librarians and/or related staff who serve children and young adults, or those who supervise those who do.”

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Read and have a think

Editorial

A quiet week, as befits one where almost all libraries were closed except for order and collect and PC use. Some great ideas though, including postcards to pin book packages, celebrity story-times plus also – my favourite – library zoom backgrounds. I’m therefore delighted that Barney Allan from DCA (their advert is below – thanks for the sponsorship, DCA!) send in an interesting piece. Read and have a think.

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A Digital Catch-22 for Libraries: Barney Allen from DCA on the problems with the library digital offer and worries over the “SDP”.

Libraries are seeing increased demand for digital services to reach users and meet their needs. Some have made good progress with digital loans, events and services. I work with service providers in these areas and it’s been good to see increased interest and take-up for our clients’ offerings.

I’m grateful for all this but more interested in a big anomaly here. Libraries say they are prioritising digital loans and services, diverting funds to e-content, striving to bridge the digital divide, promote digital literacy and other good things. Yet most UK library webpages, to quote one of our US partners,  ‘Look like someone threw up a bunch of code’. 

I’m interested to know why that is and if it can be fixed. Whenever I raise website issues with library people, they most often give me pitying head-shakes and say things like: ‘you don’t understand’ or ‘we’d get fired’ or even ‘but we have the Universal Offer’. It’s as if the impasse is absolute, the problems unsolvable and the finest minds in library leadership are resigned to a status quo of failure. It’s almost like it’s policy.

Digital circulations are still quite low – according to CIPFA – accounting for only a small percentage of total borrowings, which are themselves in steady decline. Measurement of anything in libraryland is always controversial and that’s probably fine too – maybe there are abundant unknowable benefits, it’s ‘not just about books’ after all, and who doesn’t have an aversion to capitalist KPIs? 

But data is well, data. If usage continues to decline, then funding is challenged and jobs are at risk, not to mention the whole edifice. Growing digital usage should be an escape route for libraries in danger. And if we can’t improve these dull, unnavigable websites, usage won’t go up, funding will go down and libraries will close. Most public library websites are entirely controlled by local authorities’ IT teams. They tend to prioritise practical things like clarity, utility and security to deliver services and protect data, which is fair enough. If I want to know the holiday bin collection rota or how to pay my council tax, I need no razzamatazz – just the facts, thank you.

But libraries seeking to establish a digital footprint in a teeming market have a different set of requirements. Whatever the goals – supporting reading and literacy, business, education, training, children and parents, inclusion, diversity, mental health, Covid – they all require the capacity to make us aware that these library treasures exist and engage us to the extent that we use them. If we can agree that online discoverability and engagement really are desirable if not essential qualities for library services now, how can we fix them if we can’t talk with the people who control them? Is there anyone else we can talk to?

On the fixing part, we can probably forget the current library leadership. Library strategy and leadership is in the hands of some powerful and well-funded agencies, including DCMS, The British Library, Arts Council England, CILIP, Libraries Connected, The Reading Agency, The Carnegie Trust and of course the local authorities. Big talk and mutual-admiration abound as does big spending on very little, here are just two examples:

  • Two out of three of the only blog pieces in the last 12 months on the DCMS library site were fanfares to imperial honours for librarians. So that’s alright then. 
  • The British Library has spent almost £1 million over the last six years producing world-beating reports on The Single Digital Presence,  the national digital library that remains conspicuous by its absence. 

So despite the plethora of management, reports and yes, money, UK digital library provision remains stunted and usage low.  And if it is to be a function of policy and leadership that libraries have unappealing websites that deliver unsatisfying experiences, there is probably nothing we can do about that.

Or is there? After all, locked-down libraries have smelt the digital coffee and some have achieved good things, albeit in a small way.  Users, God  help them, meanwhile may have had a look at their library websites and well, that’s all mostly. Could there be a workaround? Who else can we talk to? Some libraries already make good use of social media, and third party platforms to create and promote online events. Dave Rowe at Libraries Hacked has suggested libraries should be making new sites outside the arid local authority sandbox that are designed to serve the public rather than council and library management. Another way forward might be sponsorship. Whatever, the current toxic library mix of an absent leadership and a crippled web presence is preventing the sector from achieving it’s digital potential and failing the public. There has to be something we can do to unpick or go round this Catch-22. Next time we’ll have a look at the options in more detail.”

National news

  • Could libraries help us tackle loneliness? – Happiful. “A £3.5 million award to The Reading Agency has injected new life into libraries’ mental health and wellbeing programmes”
  • Covid: £2.25m National Library Wales jobs rescue package announced – BBC. “An extra £3.95m will go to National Museum Wales, Amgueddfa Cymru. The money will be provided over the current and next financial years. The Welsh Government has faced criticism for failing to increase its grant funding for the library, including an accusation from one senior source at the institution that ministers failed to “recognise the importance of our cultural institutions”.”
  • Covid: Oxford-AstraZeneca jabs to be given in old mobile library – BBC. “When the health board was searching for a suitable vehicle, Neath Port Talbot council donated a mobile library that had reached the end of its life transporting books”
  • Episode 82 Ian Anstice – Public Library News UK – Library Pros. Podcast. “Joining the podcast from across “The Pond” in Wales, UK is Ian Anstice, who publishes Public Libraries News, an online publication sharing what libraries are doing in the UK. Ian was so much fun to speak with. We talked about the origins of PLN as a blog and how it developed over time. We also talk about the forced evolution of digital programming because of the pandemic and whether it is sustainable or part of the “new normal” and how we quantify attendance and satisfaction.”

“Public libraries are also a vital component in tackling digital exclusion at all ages. There are around 2,900 public libraries in England, providing a trusted network of accessible locations offering free Wi-Fi, computers and other technology. The library staff, supported by volunteers, have been trained to enable them to provide library users with support in using digital skills. Libraries help tackle the combined barriers of skills, confidence and motivation by offering skills training, helping people to understand the benefits that using the internet and accessing online services can bring. Their vital role has been recognised during the current lockdown, with the new regulations enabling libraries to continue some services during this lockdown period including access to public PCs for essential purposes.”

Gillian Keegan The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

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