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

The third lockdown: damned if you do ..?


Rather than commenting directly on what is going on, this editorial will be an overview of the current state of play in this country’s libraries. Full details can be found here. After checking the status of each and every service, this appears to to be at least an acceptable rough-draft first estimate of what is going on:

  • more than two thirds of English public library services are offering some sort of click and collect service, normally from a small selection of branches. Over one-third are offering PCs for “essential use” and around a quarter have an operating home library service. On other hand, at least a fifth are entirely closed – apart from online of course.
  • in Wales, most are offering click and collect, but PC use is far rarer.
  • in Scotland, barely a quarter are offering click and collect, with very few offering PCs
  • Northern Irish libraries are providing click and collect in all branches but not PC usage.
  • In the whole country, it appears to be only Guernsey that is operating in any way similar to normality.

This completely mixed bag is the new normal and indeed reflects the variety present in library services before Covid. However, what is new is the intensity of the debate on social media about the wisdom of offering even click and collect in libraries.

Those in favour point out the lifeline library services can be for people, especially in such lonely times as now. They also point out that this service may strengthen the library’s hand when it comes to budget setting. Those against, including Unison, are worried about the possibility of infection, especially amongst staff and the most vulnerable, and doubt whether opening would have much impact on budgets at all. The strength of feeling appears stronger this time than in the second lockdown, presumably due to the increased rates of infection. Interestingly, everywhere appears to be sticking with quarantining books, even though this is a practice which has not taken place in many European countries.

It seems odd to discuss anything but lockdown at the moment so I’ll leave it there. I wish you all a safe and healthy week.

National news

  • £7.5m to be distributed to help tackle winter loneliness – UK Fundraising. “£5 million will go to Arts Council England for arts and library services, of which £3.5 million has been awarded by DCMS to national charity The Reading Agency, for its Reading Well and Reading Friends programmes”
  • Are libraries open during lockdown? – Express. Includes link to PLN.
  • Libraries sector in the New Year Honours list – DCMS Libraries. “Congratulations to the 6 people working in or with the public libraries sector in England who were awarded honours last week in recognition of their contribution to libraries.”: Mark Freeman MBE (President Libraries Connected / Stockton on Tees), Stellar Thebridge MBE (Warwickshire), Michael Clarke MBE (London), Terry Bracher BEM (Wiltshire), Richard Fawcett BEM (Thurston volunteer library). Jon Davies BEM (Kirklees).
  • Lyngsoe Systems to acquire PV Supa Group – Lynsgoe Systems. 2CQR part of deal. “Building on 50 years of combined experience … based on the Scandinavian design heritage … unifying two of the Library market’s leading players into one strong entity will deliver new complementary solutions and services to libraries across the world and even stronger support to the large existing customer base.”
  • Wiltshire and Swindon heritage services manager Terry Bracher is awarded a British Empire Medal – Wiltshire Times. “Mr Bracher, 58, is manager for heritage services at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in Cocklebury Road, Chippenham, and has been national chairman of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals local studies group for ten years.”
  • Tier 4 rules in full: What you can do in England’s highest Covid restrictions, as more areas added in review – I. ” Libraries can also remain open to provide access to IT and digital services and for click-and-collect service”
  • Union calls for libraries to be ‘completely closed’ during lockdown – LocalGov. ” Unison argues that even these limited services expose library workers and users to unnecessary risks in the face of a highly transmissible COVID-19 variant.”, Unison says “‘We recognise how important libraries are to local communities but for the moment we must focus on what is best for the health and safety of the public and library workers.’”

International news

Local news by authority

Lockdown 3, basically


A large number of libraries that have only recently come out of lockdown, in London and the South-East have basically gone straight back into them. The Tier 4 rules allow libraries to be open for digital usage and click-and-collect only so, for 17.7 million people, it means not browsing once more. Also in the South-East, it’s worth mentioning the campaign against library cuts in Croydon, which has been heavily involved in protest recently. Other than that, well, I’d like to wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. It has to be better than 2020 hasn’t it?

National news

  • CWA Library Initiatives – Shots Mag. “The world-famous CWA Daggers have been synonymous with quality crime writing for more than half a century. Only library staff can nominate authors for the CWA Dagger in the Library. Nominations are open until February 26, 2021 and up to three members of staff from each UK library can nominate.”
  • Five-year stats show library service entering ‘rapid decline’, finds Coates – BookSeller. The standard piece from Tim Coates at the end. There is some useful, and sadly depressing, information here.
  • Full list of businesses that must close in new Tier 4 and what can stay open – Mirror. Report libraries must close in Tier 4 areas.
  • Fun Palaces is growing – and changing – Fun Palaces. “We are sad and excited to announce that co-founders and co-directors Stella Duffy and Sarah-Jane Rawlings are leaving Fun Palaces; Stella at the end of January, Sarah-Jane in late spring/early summer. Kirsty Lothian, our producer since the beginning, will step up as co-director, and in January we will recruit for someone (or someones, as we are all currently part time) to join the HQ team, working alongside our Ambassadors across the country,”
  • Library Cuts Are an Affront to Democracy – Byline Times. “It would seem both bizarre and destructive to suggest that because we have done without schools, pubs and theatres during lockdown, that we don’t really need them at all. Yet this was the same logic propounded by Walsall’s council leader, Mike Bird, when he suggested he was considering whether, having done without libraries for so long during the Coronavirus pandemic, it is necessary to reopen them at all. This policy could be dismissed as a one-off act of local cretinism. However …”significantly, the strongest networks of libraries are typically found in countries with the most stable democracies.”
  • North Wales GPs, libraries and hospitals to benefit from £8m roll-out of ultrafast broadband – Denbighshire Free Press. “The Local Full Fibre Network Programme will see a total of 350 sites across Denbighshire, Conwy, Gwynedd, Anglesey, Flintshire and Wrexham switch from copper-based network to high quality gigabit broadband.”
  • Preston university scientists bring superheroes to life in book for children’s wards and libraries this Christmas – Lancashire Post. “The seven academics from the University of Central Lancashire have partnered up with the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and The Reading Agency to share their new book ‘Unmasked: The Science of Superheroes’, with libraries across the UK and children who are spending the festive season in hospital.” … “Public libraries throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will receive 7,000 free copies of the book.”
  • Tier 4: Stay at Home – Gov.uk. “community centres and halls must close except for a limited number of exempt activities, as set out below. Libraries can also remain open to provide access to IT and digital services – for example for people who do not have it at home – and for click-and-collect services”
  • Top Ebooks and Audiobooks from UK Public Library Authorities in 2020 – OverDrive. “Through the first 11 months of 2020, millions of ebooks and audiobooks have been borrowed from public libraries in the UK — a 66% increase from 2019. Ebook issues experienced the highest growth, 74% higher than this time last year. Audiobook issues also increased in 2020, 47% growth year-over-year. “

International news

Local news by authority

  • Bradford – Call for ‘urgent review’ of library’s £420,000 a year annual rent – Telegraph and Argus. “Council has once again been criticised over the £420,000 it pays each year to rent space for City Library, with campaigners saying a better deal could safeguard the District’s libraries for years to come. And one Councillor called for Council bosses to hold an ‘urgent review’ of the facility’s costs.” … “The £420,000 annual rent had been a huge strain on the library budget, but last year the Council revealed that the lease costs had been moved to other Council budget pots, and would no longer weigh down the stretched library budget.”
  • Caerphilly – Caerphilly libraries providing free sanitary products – South Wales Argus. “As part of their period dignity initiative, Caerphilly County Borough Council has made packs containing sanitary products available for free at all 18 of its libraries across the borough.”
  • Cornwall – Free festive craft bags from Cornwall Council – The Packet. “Cornwall Council’s libraries team want to make sure that younger people don’t miss out this Christmas and are encouraging families to get creative at home. They have produced more than 600 festive craft bags that will be available from local libraries, as well as the council’s two mobile library vans.”
  • Croydon – ‘What’s a library mummy?’ – South Norwood campaigners fear kids could grow up not knowing – My London. “Dozens of families came out to support their local library in South Norwood amid fears council cuts could see it closed for good.” … “More than 100 protestors gathered outside Pump House on Saturday, December 5. Libby Hamilton, whose petition to save the library has gained 2,600 signatures, said: “There was one little kid holding a sign saying ‘what’s a library mummy?’ – we really want our children to know what a library is and appreciate it.””
    • Campaigners fight to save Croydon libraries from cuts – Sutton and Croydson Guardian. “Campaigners in Croydon are fighting to save the borough’s libraries from closing after the declaration of a Section 114 notice and “effective” bankruptcy from the council has placed them under serious threat.”
    • Dozens of families come out in support of five Croydon libraries threatened with closure – London News Online. “Children’s author Laura Henry, creator of Jo Jo and Gran Gran on CBeebies, attended the protest. Afterwards, she tweeted: “I lived in South Norwood for 10 years. My sons and I practically lived in this library. “Libraries are the heart of a community and books and reading are super important.””
    • Five Croydon libraries under threat… again! – Library Campaign. “The campaigns for individual libraries combined forces as Save Croydon Libraries campaign to fight the cuts more effectively in the past, and are already networking again. Friends of South Norwood Library has joined with Save Sanderstead Library campaign and there are plans for a campaign for Shirley library too”
    • Save Croydon Libraries Campaign – SOS Library. Petition. “All these libraries merit saving. Some serve deprived or elderly communities. Some give easy access and offer parking as well as being on good transport links. They provide activities for the community, from birth onwards. We have fought to save our libraries before and we need to keep up the fight! Please sign and join the campaign!”
    • Save South Norwood Library – Friends of South Norwood Library. “Croydon Council has said it could soon close South Norwood Library. In a bid to solve a £67 million gap in the budget, the council is making huge cuts across the council and is considering closing five local libraries. This means our current library would be shut down, and our new library would close before it has even opened.”

“I would like to start by paying tribute to all librarians and other staff working in the public library services across our nation, and of course in my constituency of Stockport. Research tells us that public libraries are a vital part of our social infrastructure. They empower and equalise our communities. They strengthen communities, improve digital inclusion, and help with everything from physical and mental health to cultural engagement, literacy, diversity, inclusion, and of course education. I am incredibly proud of the library staff in my borough of Stockport. They do an important job and are a key part of our community. The Central Library in the heart of my constituency is grade 2 listed, internally and externally, and is one of the original Carnegie-funded libraries, built in 1913. My town has a beautiful heritage and iconic buildings, from the Victorian viaduct, to the Central Library, to the outstanding Underbanks.

Sadly, a combination of covid and years of central Government underfunding have forced many local authorities to close public libraries and reduce the offer available to communities. Of course, public health must come first and foremost, but we must recognise the positive impact that public libraries make on the wellbeing of our constituents. It is evident that we need a fair financial settlement from the Government so that local authorities can continue to support libraries and all public services. I welcome the statement made earlier in the Chamber, but, as ever, the devil is in the detail, and we need to make sure that the funding is made available to all councils rather than to specific shires. I have a record of campaigning against Government austerity policies over the past decade, and this terrible pandemic has highlighted the need to support our local authorities properly.”

Stockport – Navendu Mishra MP
  • Stoke on Trent – Christmas gifts and online festive fun at museums and libraries – Stoke on Trent Council. “Stoke-on-Trent’s libraries are running their click, call and collect service. As part of this, the libraries are also creating Christmas book bundles for children – with a range of festive options available for families to borrow. Librarians are also putting on a series of online activities for children and families to help everyone get in the festive spirit, including Christmas story times, craft sessions and sing-along events. These will all be available via Stoke-on-Trent Libraries’ Facebook page …”
  • Tower Hamlets – Help shape the future of Tower Hamlets’ library service – Let’s Talk Tower Hamlets. “Until now, Tower Hamlets has kept all its libraries and Idea Stores open in the face of continued government cuts which have seen 778 libraries close nationally since austerity was introduced a decade ago. Continued government changes to council funding and the Covid-19 crisis mean the council has to save £30m by 2024. This is on top of £200m already saved since 2010. You can find out more in our budget consultation. To do this, savings have to be made across the council including reducing the cost of the library service, which is £4.4 million a year. The savings proposed will deliver savings of £1.6 million.”
  • Worcestershire – There’s plenty to see and do at Worcestershire libraries this Christmas – Redditch Standard. Free poems: “Libraries in Redditch, Bromsgrove, Droitwich and Worcester are hoping visitors will use the service to reconnect with old friends or to simply let someone know they’re loved.”

Well, thank goodness 2020 is almost done


Well done everyone, you’ve almost survived what is doubtless a contender for one of the worst, or at least most memorable, years of your life. Make sure you’re ready for the holidays, stay safe and try to ignore the all-but-certain likelihood of a third Covid wave combined this time with – fun! – Brexit chaos in some shape or another. Libraries survived 2020 and I am sure they will 2021 as well.

There’s a couple of good news stories below as well as, sadly, a could of cases of libraries closed down due to positive Covid tests. My favourite story is the absolutely hilarious response from Walsall councillors in response to people reporting the words of their leader who, you’ll remember, closed down all his libraries and then questioned whether he should reopen them being no-one was using them. The councillors are shocked that such words were seen as suggesting that they may be considering closing a library or three. They also accuse reporters of twisting words. Alas for such an accusation, reporters quoted the leader verbatim. Merry Christmas to you Walsall councillors, you’re hilarious.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Delivering Public Engagement Digitally – Carnegie UK Trust. “The Engaging Libraries programme supports public library services across the UK to run public engagement activities on research within the themes of health, society and culture. It is funded by Wellcome Trust and Wolfson Foundation, and delivered by the Carnegie UK Trust. This digital learning leaflet shares what has been gleaned from the delivery of digital public engagement activities by two Engaging Libraries projects during the height of the coronavirus pandemic and first national lockdown.”
  • Libraries are vital to tackling loneliness – Municipal Journal. “Research conducted by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) in Manchester found more than 80% of library users who experience feelings of loneliness or isolation felt the library helped combat these feelings. The survey also indicated that respondents felt the library served as an information hub and community centre, providing visitors with an opportunity to meet others and engage in social activities.” … “Engaging Libraries Phase 2 is supporting 16 public library services across the UK to run public engagement activities on research within the themes of health, society and culture. It is designed to help facilitate partnerships between public library services and researchers, and spark people’s curiosity around topics that are relevant or interesting to them.”

International news

  • Japan – Libraries in Japan install machines that would disinfect books using UV light – International Business Times. “A number of libraries in Japan have now installed machines that will sterilise books using ultraviolet light. This would give their visitors that peace of mind knowing that a book that they would take out from the library would be free of viruses and they can avoid the risk of bringing the virus with them to their homes and families. Many libraries across the country are already installing the machine, which would take half-a-minute to sterilise a book. Aside from sterilising the book, it also flutters the pages to ensure that dust is cleared.”
  • USA – Why Some Libraries Are Ending Fines – Atlantic. “The last five years have been very busy in the world of overdue fines. In what has been the “Fine-Free Movement,” many librarians have begun to question the traditional policy of overdue fines, and attitudes have begun to change. Are fines consistent with a fundamental mission of libraries: to serve the public with information and knowledge? And to address that mission equitably across the diverse population of rich and poor library users?”. Comprehensive guide to the USA progress towards going fines-free.
    • Bookish: Natalie Portman to chair National Library Week – Yahoo Sport. “The Oscar-winning actress will serve as honorary chair of National Library Week, the American Library Association announced Monday. National Library Week runs next April 4-10. Portman will help promote the role libraries have played in their communities during the pandemic.”

Local news by authority

The worst nightmare, plus some ancient history from CIPFA


The leader of Walsall Council, who has kept all his libraries closed, is arguing that because no-one is using them any more they’re not needed. Presumably, he’ll go on to close all the schools and, shockingly, find they’re not used any more and make the obvious budget-saving decision there. Or he could shut himself away for a few months. Seriously though, this was a fear that the library sector has had since the first lockdown happened – that cash-strapped councils will notice that the world does not end when libraries close. Of course, that ignores all those people whose quality of life and opportunities are damaged, but if you can make a statement like “I’m a firm believer that if we haven’t used something for the past four or five months, do we really need it?” with a straight face or no headaches then I’m sure such a loss would cause you no sleepless nights. Or painful thinking.

That time of year – December – has come when CIPFA releases figures for library usage and budgets from April the previous year to March. That always felt like awesomely delayed reporting in normal years but, now in 2020, the report reads like a chronicle from past times. As a historical document, it’s very interesting, with the lowest number of library closures I can remember for example, but really it’s a pointless exercise. Other than proving, of course, that the way library data is collated and published needs serious revision. If you want to see the data, provided free to CIPFA by local services who want to give it, the statistical agency will be happy to sell it you at a ridiculously high, indeed prohibitive, price. If you do that, let me know. I have a bridge in London you may want to buy. After all, I’ll only need to barricade it off for four or five months and no-one will be using it.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Caroline Dinenage, Libraries Minister’s speech at the Libraries Connected Day Seminar – Libraries Connected. ” I have been impressed by the positive and quick reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic by the sector …  it has been moving to hear about the amazing work you have done … My department has been a strong advocate for libraries during COVID and has secured some notable exceptions for library services to the restrictions that have been imposed …  I will work across local and central government to continue to encourage a ‘libraries first’ approach … we must build robust, systematic, and consistent data and evidence”
  • COVID-19 and Communities Listening Project: A Shared Response – Carnegie UK Trust. Includes several mentions of libraries.
  • CWA Dagger In the Library – Crime Writers Association. “The CWA Dagger in the Library is an award for which librarians nominate an author. The Dagger in the Library is a prize for a body of work by a crime writer that users of libraries particularly admire. Only librarians can nominate authors for the award. It is one of the most prestigious crime writing awards in the UK”


  • Library spending fell by £20m in 2019/20 amid warnings of further cuts – Bookseller. “Data released by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA) following a survey of local authorities showed spending fell 2.6% from £744.8m in 2018/19 to £725m in 2019/20.” … “It also showed the number of mobile and static libraries fell slightly to 3,667 from 3,685 in 2018/19” … “total paid staff falling 2.4% from 15,300 to 14,925 year-on-year. In the same period, the number of volunteers reduced by 2.6% from 51,478 to 50,128 but their total hours worked increased by 1.4%.”
  • UK’s public libraries record another year of cuts, with yet more on the way – Guardian. “Falls in funding were matched by drops in borrowing, with budgets for next year set to fall by an average of 14%” … ” total funding for libraries in Britain down by nearly £20m in the year to March” … ” the number of books borrowed from libraries in the year to March 2020 – before the pandemic closed branches – fell by almost 9m year on year, to 166m. ” … “The number of borrowers was also down, the Cipfa figures revealed, to 7.3m from 7.5m the previous years, while the number of branches still open was 3,667, down by 18 from the previous year. “

“GLL libraries together serve a population of 2,032,700 people. The recently published CIPFA figures for 2019-2020 show that in total, GLL libraries issued 3,042 books per 1,000 population, 20% above the English average of 2,535 books per 1,000 population.

Wandsworth Libraries issued more books than any other London authority during 2019-20. The service issued 1,383,740 books, and was 1st in London for the 3rd year in a row. Bromley Libraries moved into 2nd place in London, issuing 1,295,592 books. And book issues in Greenwich Libraries increased to 864,046 books (7th highest in London): we were delighted with this, as Greenwich Libraries were 29th in the London rankings in 2012 when GLL took over the management of the library service on behalf of the Council.

Out of London, the picture is good, too, with Dudley issuing 850,728 books (the highest recorded figure in the West Midlands authority. Lincolnshire Libraries made progress with book issues, too and is in the top 20 counties for the first time.”

GLL press release

International news

Local news by authority

Here we go again


There will be a strong sense of deja vu in English public libraries this week, as they are allowed to reopen for browsing after the semi-lockdown of the last month. As before, each council will make its own choices about exactly how far it reopens its services so there is likely to be some variation, but basically many (normally not all) libraries in each council will offer browsing and PC access. Most services now have experience of click and collect so it will be interesting to see how many continue with that as well. What’s different than the first reopening is that libraries are already prepared and know what they’re doing. December is also traditionally a very quiet month.

It’s very much worse than before, though, for Croydon, who effectively declared bankruptcy last week and say they will cut services to a “bare legal minimum”. It’s hardly been a fantastically funded service before, having only recently gone back to the council after being run by the now defunct Carillion, and a veteran of some fairly serious cuts over the last decade. The fear is, as well, that Croydon’s announcement will be the first of many such elsewhere in the country.

Rishi Sunak’s announcement of £4 billion, including specific mention of capital budgets for libraries, has largely been met with scepticism online. Many point out that existing libraries barely have sufficient funding, with hundreds closed or passed to volunteers since the Conservatives took over a decade ago. The devil, as with most big funding announcements, will be in the detail, but one should expect at most a few nice library projects to come from this. It will more likely long-term be seen as, at best, a slight tinkering to improve the government’s public relations, than as a step-change in library provision. It is, after all, hard to be overly optimistic about it in a week when an entire council pretty much goes under, with more expected.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Libraries & The First Minister’s Reading Challenge – SLIC. “If your library is taking part in the Reading Challenge, we would love to hear from you about how you are promoting reading in the current climate and anything we could do to support you.”
  • Library Campaign – Includes info about public libraries, useful contacts, news and views, how to start and maintain a friends or campaign group, list of local groups, publicity tools and links to the back issues of the Library Campaign magazines. “We’ve worked really hard to provide something that gives all the most essential info (including of course a link to you!) in one compact, easy-to-use site without having to fight through a jungle of info,
    accessible to people who don’t know about libraries but also quite
    useful to those who do. Nothing else like it.”
  • On the level – CILIP 2020 Spending Review analysis – CILIP. “the decision to go ahead with a public-sector pay freeze (exempting NHS workers and people earning less than £24,000) will impact on millions of exactly those public sector workers that have worked incredibly hard to get the Nation through COVID” … ” it is hard to see how a complete freeze is justifiable” … “Unfortunately, today’s Conservative Government can’t just write off the impact of austerity. As a result, this isn’t a budget for levelling up so much as levelling off the deep scars inflicted by George Osborne’s 2010 austerity budget”

“While much here is welcome, and the wheels are already in motion to ensure that publicly-funded libraries (such as public libraries, schools and prison libraries) get a fair share of the investment funding that is being made available, we must now apply ourselves with determined effort to ensure that the next Spending Review marks a genuine turning-point in the recognition of the potential of our sector to help communities everywhere level up, not just for the short term, but long after 2020 is a distant memory.”

  • Out of the frying pan? Libraries post pandemic – Libraries Connected. “We asked our members what they were expecting next year. Many are facing a triple whammy of budget reductions, loss of earned income and the increased costs of running COVID secure services. Some have already publicly announced cuts …Libraries that know their budget position for next year have reported an average reduction of 14%. Income this year is down by 75%, and COVID security has used up another 4% of budgets. These figures are bleak … Library budgets have been reduced so much over the last decade, even small reductions now will have large impacts on what they can deliver.”
  • RNIB: Keep the RNIB Giant Print Library Open – Change.org. “RNIB has always had a truly excellent, free library service for children offering Giant Print, Braille and Audio books. They are now planning to close the Giant Print part of the library as they state that large print books can be bought elsewhere and that children can use electronic reading devices.”
  • Scotland becomes first country to make tampons and pads available for free – ABC 11. ” period products will be available to access in public buildings including schools and universities across Scotland. ” … “In 2019, it allocated another 4 million to make period products available for free in libraries and recreational centers.”
  • Spending Review: Partial public sector pay freeze and ‘levelling up’ fund for librariesall the key pledges – I. “Mr Sunak announced a pay freeze for all those working in the public sector next year but said this would not apply to NHS doctors and nurses, who will still receive a pay rise.” … “A new £4 billion “levelling up” fund to finance local infrastructure improvement projects – such as new motorways or libraries.”

International news

  • Canada – Halifax’s fine-free library program prompts return of long overdue books – Signal. ““Our best friend is someone who will make the effort to return a book after 30 years,” the library posted on its Instagram account. The library implemented a fine amnesty program in August when it reopened after the COVID-19 lockdown. It eliminated overdue fines, forgave existing fines and reset blocked library cards. A few months into the program, the library posted a picture of the book on Abraham Lincoln with a date due slip that showed it was borrowed last in February 1990.”
  • Germany – How German Librarians Finally Caught an Elusive Book Thief – Atlas Obscura. “A photograph of Schild, looking roguish in a suit and tie, still hangs in the Regional Library of Oldenburg. It’s on a bookshelf behind the information desk, next to the printer and some dictionaries. The photograph is out of the way and unmarked, and could even be mistaken it for a keepsake. Only library staff know that it’s a warning.”
  • Sri Lanka – Books by bike: Sri Lankan man runs mobile library for kids – Independent. “During his leisure time, Mahinda Dasanayaka packs his motorbike with books and rides his mobile library — across mostly muddy roads running through tea-growing mountain areas — to underprivileged children in rural parts of Sri Lanka”
  • USA – The Library That Dolly Built – Imagination Library. “”The Library That Dolly Built” is a feature-length documentary, covering the history, impact and future of Dolly Parton’s world-wide book gifting program. Featuring the music of Dolly Parton, the film is narrated by actress and author, Danica McKellar.”
    • 10 people share why they’re thankful for libraries – I Love Libraries. ““I believe libraries are sacred places. They hold the history, science, and imagination of the ages. From first holding a book which I could read on my own, at age four, to now seventy fours years later, I have discovered information, travel, novel perspectives, the past, innovative ideas, and so much more. My life has been enriched beyond measure.””

Local news by authority

A successful pivot


This week saw the CILIP Conference which was, of course, delivered digitally for the first time ever. Having it online was remarkably painless, with an excellent system in place and a lot of very good behind-the-scenes admin work to make it all run smoothly. It felt a lot smaller than normal in turns of sessions but the verdict at the end was that it was a successful conference, although there was some disappointment that the recorded sessions would only be made available to conference attenders.

The session I spoke at was on libraries during lockdown, with two chief librarians (Kathryn Boothroyd of St Helens and Emma Noyce of Hampshire) and Isobel Hunter of Libraries Connected. All were remarkably open and honest about the pain of this year and the challenges ahead. Budget cuts are looming and small libraries are looking vulnerable, especially as so many have stayed closed so much of this year plus also users now expected an enhanced digital offer while at the same time no reduction in the physical at the same or reduced budget. But, on the other hand, it was clear how wonderfully libraries had boosted what they do online, and also in their outreach to the public, to an extent that I think no-one had a right to expect before the crisis. Nick Poole said it best…

By the way, this was the only time – so far – that two dogs (which were assisting me by demanding walks, food and hugs while I was sat on my sofa attending the conference) got a mention in the introduction to the afternoon sessions.

But, away from the joys of dog ownership and the feel-good of the conference, the dark clouds are looming, with another serious cut announced in Bexley and outbreaks of Covid being reported in two public library services. So will the pivot of libraries in 2020 be enough to stave off bad news elsewhere? Well, that’s the true test of how successful this pivot has been. Stay tuned.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • A Chicago story with lessons for libraries everywhere – Guardian. “Chicago is not the first US library system to experiment with abolishing fines. But it is by far the largest. And the result, so far, has been that the libraries have got back most of their lost books, more people have started reading and more people from poorer areas now use the service. Relying on trust rather than punishment might sound utopian, but it works.”
  • Councils bid for vaccine role – LocalGov. “It said civic centres, sports halls, libraries, athletic stadiums, car parks and other council-owned facilities could be brought into rapid use to help the health service.”
  • Host your Zoom call ‘in Blickling Hall’ thanks to new National Trust venture – Eastern Daily Press. “Rather than having a photo of your nan behind you in a Zoom call, the National Trust has picked out Blickling Hall’s library instead. … The library is one of just six rooms from National Trust properties across the UK selected for people to use. Others include libraries at Greenway House, Devon, home of Agatha Christie, Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire and Sissinghurst Castle in Kent.”
  • Libraries Connected Day Seminar – Libraries Connected. Wednesday 2 December, 11.15 to 16.30. “Libraries are an essential part of the local economic, social and cultural recovery from Coronavirus and this seminar aims to help library leaders to demonstrate the value they bring, and to advocate for their work.”
  • Local Cultural Education Partnerships and Libraries: A partnership webinar – Eventbrite. Thursday 10 December 1.30pm. “In this webinar which will be opened by Dr Darren Henley OBE, we’ll be sharing great examples of partnership working and explore together how we can grow links between libraries and LCEPs across the country.”

International news

  • Australia – The Australian Libraries and Information Association and National Archives band together against disinformation – Canberra Times. “”I’d like to see a recommendation that the federal government work with the Australian Media Literacy Alliance to develop a national policy strategy, a framework and action – a call to action – for media literacy.”
    • Thank Freak libraries reopened – Writing Sparks. “Libraries are a great equaliser in our community, throwing their doors and services open to anyone who needs them, including book-devouring country kids like me. So, this Thank Freak goes out to libraries and to the wonderful, dedicated folk who staff them. Thank-you for providing books and so much more”
  • Finland – Åbok, Turku’s own Book-Tinder – Turku City Library. “Åbok (which went by the name “Book-Tinder” during processing), is an online service that helps the library’s customers find new and interesting reading and provides the opportunity to browse the shelves virtually.”
  • Netherlands – The hospitable library of the future – Designing Libraries. Huis Van Eemes “The House has an important core function for the village, combining two extremes: the peaceful surroundings of the library and the dynamics of the sports and culture centre”

“The editors of Library Journal need your help identifying the emerging leaders in the library world. Movers & Shakers profiles up-and-coming, innovative, creative individuals from around the world—both great leaders and behind-the-scenes contributors—who are providing inspiration and model programs for others, including programs developed this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. From librarians and non-degreed library workers to publishers, vendors, coders, entrepreneurs, reviewers, and others who impact the library field, Movers & Shakers 2021 will celebrate those people who are moving all types of libraries ahead.”

Movers and Shakers 2021
  • USA – D.C. Public Library Wants To Build Bigger Neighborhood Branches In Communities Without Easy Access – DCist. “One of the main things on the D.C. Public Library wishlist: replacing four of the smallest branch libraries — Northwest One and Rosedale in Ward 6, Deanwood in Ward 7, and Parklands-Turner, currently located in a leased storefront, in Ward 8 — with newer, bigger buildings that can offer meeting rooms, study space, greater access to technology, and spatial separation between book collections for different age groups. “

Local news by authority

  • Barnet – Barnet library could become Middlesex Uni business school – Times Series. “Barnet Council wants to move Hendon Public Library in The Burroughs to a new building across the road, claiming in a report this would “significantly improve” the service.” …”the council report says moving to a new building would “facilitate the provision of a broader and enhanced library offer” and give the library “enhanced visibility”.”
    • Moving Barnet library an ‘exciting opportunity’ – Times Series. Head of libraries says ” it does not necessarily make a particularly good location for the delivery of a modern, public library service. Having a modern building gives an opportunity to design a library service for today and the future. We will have more space than the current site, and it gives us an opportunity to provide a wider range of services from that building.” [Worth looking a the councillor photo – he is wearing a bow tie and has an actual curled moustache, pointing upwards – Ed.]
  • Bedford – Local inquiry into library provision in Bedford – DCMS. “The Secretary of State has considered whether to intervene by ordering an inquiry under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 (the Act) into the changes in library provision in Bedford. For the reasons set out below, the Secretary of State is currently minded not to order such an inquiry to help determine whether the agreed changes will offer a comprehensive and efficient library service.”
  • Bexley – Heavy cuts planned across Bexley Council libraries – Murky Depths. “Staff will be cut from with 28 out of 68 posts being lost. The cuts would see the main library in Bexleyheath close on Sundays alongside evening closure throughout the week and self service only in the mornings.”

Calderdale cuts while York Explores


Sad news from Calderdale as the council, which has cut a fair bit before, is aiming for more budget reductions to its libraries. This is in the same week as Conservative council leaders warn that a third of them (of which Calderdale isn’t one – it’s Labour) are considering cuts to libraries. Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any better, eh? In other news this week, Blaenau Gwent are merging library buildings with other services.

Also in this post, Fiona Williams from Explore Walk talks about their plans. Fiona broke ranks at the start of the second lockdown to talk to her local newspaper and is currently aiming to partner with a mini golf company, so I thought it would be interesting. While there are cons as well as pros to having libraries run by independent trusts, being able to speak to the press or explore fundraising options are evidently not barriers for them. The Head of eServices at Munich Public Libraries also updates us about the situation, very familiar, in Germany.

For a council by council breakdown of what services libraries are currently providing during these strange times, see this page.

Changes by local authority

Fiona Williams has plans

“This is long term planning, but very exciting”: A few questions answered by Fiona Williams, CEO of Explore York

You “went public” and put in the press you hoped libraries would stay open. Is this something you have more freedom to do as Explore rather than when the library service was run by a council?

I think it is, yes. Before, I would have had to go through the council’s press office.  Now, the reporter on the Press, who we have a close relationship with, rang me on Monday morning to ask what was happening.  I was able to respond immediately with what we hoped.  We do work closely with the council, but they don’t impose things on us.  It’s an equal partnership and has become very strong and positive

Would you have preferred to stay open during lockdown?

I’m happy with what we are offering.  To keep everyone open as normal would have been too risky I think and we wanted to ensure people are safe but can access PCs and books.  For me, access to PCs is so important at no one else is providing this in lockdown and people not online are so disadvantaged.   Explore is leading a city wide initiative to ensure everyone in York is online. We have 84 organisations signed up so far to work with us

How will you make sure York Explore has a “good” Lockdown 2.0?

We have redone our risk assessments and staff training so they feel safe in a covid secure space.  We are working with partners such as CAB to help their clients in need of access to a PC.  So we are reaching those most in need.  I am keeping in touch with all our staff to ensure everyone is up to date with what is happening

Is there anything exciting planned for the future you can tell us about?

Well we are talking to a mini golf organisation about setting up a course on library lawn, which is the space next to our main York Explore Centre.  The holes will all be themed to a particular part of York’s history.  We are doing this whilst we plan for a major reinterpretation of the whole area of St Leonard’s.  We are inside the Roman fortress and part of the medieval hospital of St Leonard’s.  We have Roman walls, medieval walls, Anglian walls – something from every era of York’s history.  We want to provide an exhibition space for the city’s archives and tell the story of the Walls.  I’m very excited about this and we are working with a range of partners to realise it.

It will be for a period of 5 or so years and each hole will be around a period of York’s history.  It should bring in lots of people, especially families – resident and visitors.  We have a grander plan for the area around York Explore that involved an exhibition space for the archives as well as an introduction to York’s Walls.  We want to use digital tech to reinterpret the whole area.  We are in the original Roman fortress and the medieval hospital, so there are endless opportunities for activity and events.  It will take a while to plan etc so this is long term planning, but very exciting. “

National news

  • The Award for Civic Arts Organisations – Gulbenkian. £100k award and two £25k awards for showing work during Covid, libraries can enter.
  • A celebration of culture and creativity in libraries – Libraries Connected. Friday 27 November 2pm. For library staff only.
  • CollectionHQ Partners with PressReader to Provide Worldwide Digital Content for Library Communities in U.K., Ireland – Business Wire.
  • Free Exhibitions ticket to the CILIP Conference – CILIP. “An Exhibition Only ticket gives you access to all of the suppliers in the Exhibition Hall, so that you can arrange meetings and find out about their products and services.”
  • Launch of Libraries Connected’s Culture and Creativity Module – Libraries Connected. 27 November 2pm. “Then on December 10 we are running a joint webinar with the Bridge Organisations sharing best partnership practice between libraries and (LCEPS) Local Cultural Education Partnerships.”
  • Libraries providing a lifeline: Libraries from Home – Local Government Association. “Lockdown has proved that libraries can extend their reach beyond borders and provide access to culture, learning and a means of connecting for people who may not be able to leave their homes.”
  • Modernise your library communications – British Library Living Knowledge Network. Wednesday 25 November 11am webinar. “Using examples and ideas from libraries and other cultural organisations, discover practical tips for modernising your marketing and developing a fresh tone of voice at this free webinar. Plus, learn how to effectively use video and audio to support your communications, from writing a brief to creating a finished product.”
  • Navneet Gidda: Libraries are London’s untapped Covid recovery resource – On London. ” not everyone in London can afford to buy books and those who turned to libraries during lockdown were met with closed doors.” … “Despite 72% of people in England saying that public libraries are important for their communities, our libraries are in a sorry state. Since 2010, there has been a 30% decline in spending on them” … “For many, libraries are virtually the only public space in the capital where everyone is welcome, and interactions are not heavily policed. For homeless people and those who live in poverty, libraries are the one place where they know they will get help and have a warm place to peacefully spend a few hours.”

“In the current crisis, libraries don’t just provide books, they also serve as a solution for unemployment, an antidote for mental health crises, and a respite from the rat race of life.”

Navneet Gidda is Communications Officer at think tank Centre for London

International news

“We relaunched our website in January, and that was probably the best thing we could have done – retrospectively – because this new website is much more aligned with how we want our physical space to feel to our patrons than it was before: welcoming, bright, spacious, engaging, open. Really a place to come back to for information and inspiration. That was part of our strategic planning even before the lockdown in March.

Something we then introduced very quickly with the lockdown was our free digital subscription with which patrons could gain access to all our digital materials. That was probably the most important reaction to having to shut down our physical branches. And we are very happy it was widely perceived, probably even by a new audience. E-books had already been quite a success at the Munich Public Library, but we saw a rise in digital usage and actually topped up our licences during shutdown. And we have no plans to cut down on our physical collection. We had a couple of thousand events last year – and we are actively exploring ways of bringing those events or new formats into the digital space.

Since our neighborhood libraries are open right now, we are also thinking about ways of using self-service technology (beyond self-checks) to expand our opening hours and do so in a safe and controlled way, maybe through open library technology. We have been very active on various social media channels over the past years, so nothing has changed in our social media output this year – a lot has changed wrt. content and interaction, of course.

We can already see financial cuts on the horizon, and we know that we will have to put a lot of thought into how to prioritize new projects, especially IT projects, in the coming weeks and months.”

Dr. Roland Poellinger
Head of eservices, being in charge of the digital strategy at Munich Public Libraries
  • Global – International library leaders explore the purpose and future of libraries – CILIP. “With international contributions from Canada, Sweden, South Africa and the UK, each chapter critically presents a short leadership provocation regarding libraries and their purpose, and the book encompasses impact, service delivery, collections, and staff skills.”
  • USA – Despite COVID Concerns, Library Measures Do Well at Polls in 2020 – Library Journal. Need to register to read.
    • Chicago Public Library says eliminating fines has paid off – Chicago Sun Times. “After eliminating overdue fees late last year, Chicago Public Library employees saw something that made everyone smile: a jump in the return of books overdue for six months or more. About 1,650 long-overdue books were returned in each of the five months after fines were eliminated Oct. 1, 2019. Before then, about 900 overdue books were returned each month, according to the library. The library system typically collected between $800,000 and $900,000 a year in late fees. That money is gone, but library official said what’s been gained is more important: valuable books and patrons who might never have returned.”
    • Musicians Mayfield, Markham plead guilty in fraud case – Independent. “Grammy Award-winning New Orleans trumpet player Irvin Mayfield and his musical partner, pianist Ronald Markham, each pleaded guilty Tuesday to a conspiracy to commit fraud charge stemming from their time with a charitable foundation that raised money for libraries.”

Local news by authority

Cheshire West and Chester Libraries worked with Museums, the Leader of the Council and the Mayor to produce a fun reading of “The Tiger Who Came To Tea”

Not like how lockdowns used to be


Well, that was nail-biting. Libraries finally knew what they were doing late on Tuesday for what they had to implement less than two days later, on Thursday. It turned out eventually that, like many things in this semi second lockdown, libraries will be far less closed this time than before. They will be able to, and many are, offer click and collect services, PCs “for essential purposes” (good luck defining that), home library services and one or two other things.

This has dismayed a few, such as Unison, who understandably worry for staff welfare. It’s worth pointing out though that the library service now is not what it was in March. There are plastic screens, hand gel, track and trace, stripped buildings, masks … the works. Indeed, the difference in safety levels between a highly risk-conscious library now and, well, any high street shop you can think of is stunning.

Strategically too, a quasi-open library service makes a lot more sense this time round. While it’s generally thought that libraries had a good first lockdown, the budget vultures will be circling like never before this year ends and to have thousands of branches entirely closed, dark and empty, may give them ideas. As it stands, libraries are able to make the case that they are being useful, and not just digitally, during this time and that may bring dividends later on. We can hope so anyway.

For the full breakdown of what is happening in every library service in the country click here.

  • The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020 – Legislation.gov.uk. 18 (1) allows click and collect, 18 (2) says “A person responsible for providing library services may open the library premises for the purposes of (a) support groups; (b) childcare provided by a person who is registered under Part 3 of the Childcare Act 2006; (c) education or training; (d) to provide essential voluntary services or public support services, including digital access to public services.”

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Are libraries closing in second lockdown? – Express. [Inaccurate report on Monday] “Libraries provide a broad spectrum of services in the UK beyond books, with computers, food, drinks and advice to offer. But lockdown threatens them much more than they already are, given their potential to become a coronavirus hotspot. As such, the Government has zeroed in on them alongside a swathe of other services it deems “non-essential” for daily living.” … “The Government has lumped them in with leisure, hospitality, community centres and tourism in its second national approach to COVID-19. As such, they will have to close for the duration until the Government’s proposed review date on December 2.”
  • Are libraries staying open during the second lockdown? – Metro. “Here’s what we know”. Details situation, including Wales and Scotland, as of Tuesday morning.
  • CILIP calls for better use of evidence in HM Government’s COVID-19 response – CILIP. “The statement welcomes the new Regulations for public library services in England, which will see them able to continue to provide online and ‘click and collect’ services, as well as some public access to computers. At the same time, it calls on employers to work with library staff and Unions to ensure that service provision is ‘COVID-safe’, particularly in schools, colleges and Universities which will remain open under the new rules.”

“The Government is providing local councils with unprecedented support during the pandemic with a £4.3 billion package, including £3.7 billion which is not ringfenced and £600 million to support social care providers. This is part of a wider package of almost £28 billion which the Government has committed to support local areas, with funding going to councils, businesses and communities. The 2020 Spending Review will look at pressures facing the sector and provide them with the certainty they need to aid financial planning.”

Baroness Barran, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
  • Coronavirus: What you can and can’t do after England goes into second lockdown – Sky News. “Leisure, hospitality and tourism businesses, community centres, libraries and recycling centres are all closed. Places of worship are shut except for funerals or wedding ceremonies.” [Not clear where the source for libraries is – Ed.]
  • Covid: toddlers from UK’s poorest families ‘hit hardest by lockdown’ – Guardian. “Sally Hogg, head of policy and campaigning at the Parent-Infant Foundation, said: “Sadly too many of our young children live in poverty, poor housing and without stimulating toys and books at home. These results show the impact that the closure of libraries, playgrounds and drop-in groups had for these children.”
  • Government clarifies if libraries, opticians and dentists will close in lockdown – Liverpool Echo. “According to Isobel Hunter, the Chief Executive of Libraries Connected, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is still in discussion with Cabinet Office to confirm the position for libraries during the lockdown.” (Tuesday 4.23pm)
  • Libraries That Are Local – Princh / Leon Bolton. “the library was local, enabling, as they do now, easy access for families, older people, teenagers, and jobseekers. In the intervening decades reading formats might have evolved, digital services developed, and service delivery changed but access to a local library remains as important now as it has always been.”

“A mistaken assumption amongst policy makers is to insist that libraries become ‘community hubs’, missing the essential point that local libraries are and have always been hubs of their communities.”

Leon Bolton

International news

  • Australia – Burning the Books, by Richard Ovendon, is a chilling history of the steady destruction of knowledge, which continues today – Canberra Times. “Ovenden uses this in the context of the huge cuts imposed on English local councils by the Conservative government in the last decade. In 2010, there were 4356 public libraries in Britain, but by 2019 the number had fallen to 3583.”
  • China – Chinese and British libraries look forward to new development – China Daily. “Chen Ying, deputy-director of the National Library, delivered a speech at the forum. She said libraries in China and the UK have adopted efficient measures since the pandemic’s outbreak, a positive contribution to the control of the epidemic. The present difficulty eventually will be conquered and the libraries will see new development.”
  • GlobalLibrary tales from here and there – CILIP ILIG. 18 November, 6pm. “Ayub Khan MBE and John Dolan OBE share their experiences of working together with the British Council and overseas Governments. What motivates developing countries and international institutions to invest in libraries? What are their aims and aspirations? What were the outcomes, envisaged and realised?”
  • Ireland – Irish librarians call for action on the electronic content crisis facing libraries and library users – Library Association of Ireland. “Irish Librarians and library-related organisations call on the Irish Government, publishers and other stakeholders to recognise, and take action against, the electronic content crisis facing libraries and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are deeply concerned about the rising costs and unfair licensing conditions for such content”
  • Norway – Kengo Kuma & Associates wins first prize for Ibsen Library proposal in Norway – Design Boom. Nice pictures. Article has no capitalisation because … style?
  • USA – Connections Summit 2020 – SirsiDynix. “Connections Summit 2020 is finally OnDemand. Prepare to learn, be inspired, and even entertained! Easily browse and select presentations you missed or want to re-watch. Sessions are fast-paced and concise with most being 20 minutes or less.”
    • Libraries, Publishers, and Readers: The Freckle Report 2020 – Go To Stage / Tim Coates. “The 2020 version Freckle Report covers two studies: a consumer survey that sought to discover how people get hold of what they read, and particularly where libraries fit into that; and a time study of ILMS data which shows how the data from the consumer survey is changing over time. A decline in per-capita visits to libraries is a noted finding, and the report makes several recommendations to reverse those trends”
    • Vandalization at major libraries aims at voter intimidation – BookRiot. “In 2017 and 2018, a rash of vandals damaged library books and spaces with swastikas as a means of intimidating Jewish patrons. Now, on the precipice of one of the most consequential American elections, vandals have turned to voter intimidation in their crimes. Outside the Boston Public Library in Boston, Massachusetts, vandals set fire to an official ballot box … “

Local news by authority

Lockdown 2


So, it’s lockdown in England again. Let’s take a moment to reflect on that and how ironic some of the news below about library re-openings look now. Hear that screaming sound? No, not that one, that’s you. I mean the other one. That’s the sound of a whole sector desperately going into reverse gear.

How far into reverse gear though? Currently, it’s unclear what this exactly means for public libraries. The general assumption is that they will be closed for browsing but there’s a lot of grey area. Click and Collect for “non-essential retail” is explicitly allowed so one assumes libraries can do that but the word “library” is not mentioned. The Government has specifically found time to mention vape shops though, which kind of puts us in our place. I have also heard the possibility of PC use being allowed. But no-one really knows at this moment. I will tweet as soon as I do (@publiclibnews).

4 November: public libraries will close in England for normal business. However, “click and collect” services and PC use is allowed depending on local service discretion and circumstances. For more info, see this page.

Changes by local authority

Lockdown 2

  • Covid-19: England gets ready for new four-week lockdown – BBC. “The prime minister said he expects the lockdown to last until 2 December, after which England’s regional tiered system would be reintroduced. But Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told Sky News the lockdown could be extended beyond that deadline.”
  • New National Restrictions from 5 November – Gov.uk. “Information on the new national restrictions, including what they mean for working from home and business closures, why they are being introduced and the financial support available.” … “Non-essential retail can remain open for delivery to customers and click-and-collect.”

National news

International news

  • AustraliaLoneliness in the Digital Age & Public Libraries – Jane Cowell. “Effective interventions are group based aimed at targeted audiences with shared interests. Having a learning outcome — something to do — also helps to break down some barriers and encourage participants to interact with each other. Empower the group to organise their own meet-ups in the library and to develop the group in their way. And remember one size does not fit all groups.”
  • EU – Drawing exhibition: a collaborative activity from Public Library in Aleksandrów (Poland) and Viana Public Library (Spain) – Naple Sister Libraries.
  • Finland – The brand new children’s mobile library Stoori invites visitors to adventure – Helmet. ” the mobile libraries bring library services to places where children and their families are, i.e. day care centres, schools and play parks. The routes for weekday evenings serve residential areas that do not have local libraries of their own.”
  • Ireland – Ireland’s Beautiful Libraries Make Us Want To Curl Up And Read Forever – The Travel. A look at some very old Irish libraries.
  • USA – What is Books to Treasure? – Tulsa Library. “Books To Treasure has grown into a Tulsa tradition for all second-grade students in Tulsa County. These youngsters receive a free copy of a treasured illustrator’s book, the chance to get their very own library card, and an opportunity to see the illustrator in person or, this year, online.” … “Children’s librarians and library staff typically visit schools in September and October to talk about the illustrator and talk about the importance of reading and the library. “
    • Charlotte removes the name of a white supremacist North Carolina governor from a branch library – CNN. “Library officials conducted an audit of its 20 branches last year to identify items on display that represented racism and injustice. The results of that audit found 10 items that needed to be removed from public display along with the name change of one of the branches — The Morrison Regional Library.”
    • City’s library system earns national honors – Cranston Online. ““The library supported the community through the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, pivoting to offer more than 200 virtual programs between March and June even as the buildings were closed for staff and patron safety, as well as offering tech help for students in distance learning and 3-D printing face shields for COVID testing center and senior facilities”
    • Librarian, Read Thyself – The Rambling. ” library workers have been conditioned by professional precarity and gendered expectations to be, above all else, reactive to need” … “Librarians can’t be missionaries or saviors; we’re workers under capitalism. Our need, I think, is to better recognize ourselves as such and recognize that even if we’re lucky enough to have fulfilling jobs, we’re not exempt from sustaining or passing on capitalism’s harms. “
    • Military Families and Public Libraries – EveryLibrary.
    • This outdoor escape room brings the social-distanced fun – I Love Libraries. “Peters Township Public Library in Pennsylvania, who created a Google Doc-based Harry Potter escape room that anyone can play online. Wisconsin’s McMillan Memorial Library has taken a different approach: staff set up a no-touch, outdoor escape room that community members can enjoy while maintaining social distancing.”
    • The Weight We Carry – American Libraries. “Vicarious traumatization (VT) occurs when we work with patrons whose traumatic stories transfer onto us …”

Local news by authority

“Campaigners with the Colchester Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE) campaign have reacted with concern to revelations that more Post Office services may be moved into library buildings. A pop-up Post Office opened in Prettygate Library last week, and this week it was revealed that attempts had been made to move Post Office services into Greenstead Library also. Campaigners say such moves will diminish the existing library service, discourage library users, and not provide a suitable long-term solution for the Post Office. ”

Essex – SOLE press release
Librarian Lunde Ljungberg

Chinese whispers


Great to see Public Library Apparel, featured in this blog a few weeks ago, reach their crowdfunding target. This will mean that an online shop, selling library-themed clothes, with some of the profits going to libraries, will open soon. Crowdfunding for more normal library things, though, is more challenging, as I suspect Libraries Unlimited will discover, asking for the public to fund refurbishing a van for mobile library use. This is the sort of thing that councils would normally fund and it’s a bit sad to see it now being a matter for charity.

Moving further afield, and perhaps more philosophically, I have been thinking about the implications of the British Library partnership with China recently. It’s a difficult issue and I’m not sure about it either way but I think the pros and cons could do with listing.

For partnering with China:

  • It’s a partnership with Chinese libraries, not their government. It keeps lines of dialogue open between professionals in both countries. Let’s keep politics out of this, librarians should work with each=other regardless of what their countries are doing.
  • An extension of the “soft power” diplomacy that the UK is famous for, influencing others at relatively low cost.
  • Helping to develop another country’s libraries, and our own. The partnership advances knowledge and mutual understanding.
  • The British Library partnered with 80 (yes, eighty) countries last year alone so this is normal. Under CENL, we brought 70 national library staff from almost 40 (out of 44) European countries together this month. So this is quite normal.
  • There won’t be any tangible impact to the Chinese by withdrawing from the partnership and there may be some harm, professional development-wise, in withdrawing.
  • Partnerships with organisations which are in countries which have problematic governments is common. My own wife’s school (she’s a teacher) has a partnership programme with a Sudanese school.
  • Where do we draw the line? If the French Prime Minister says something off, do we cease having anything to do with them?

Against partnering with China:

  • China is an authoritarian dictatorship engaged in outright ideologic if not ethnic cleansing. This can be seen in the last year in Hong Kong and with the Uyghurs. They, again just this year, imposed censorship in libraries and imprisoned a bookseller. I won’t mention their record in hacking because, frankly, as an owner of a website, I don’t want to give them ideas. Being authoritarian, there is no real separation between libraries and the State, with librarians expected to fully co-operate and assist actions which at least some in the UK would find abhorrent.
  • Soft power works both ways and China has a lot more power, and wealth, than the UK. While being connected to them, those involved may be (there’s no evidence of this, it’s just theoretical) may be influenced by them.
  • The ethics of the UK profession, specifically state the need to  uphold, promote and defend human rights, equalities and diversity, intellectual freedom, including freedom from censorship, impartiality and the avoidance of inappropriate bias … and a few other things that would be anathema to the Chinese regime.
  • The partnership, quite apart from any benefit, unintentionally implies that the British Library – the national library – does not see what the Chinese are doing, including their librarians, as wrong enough to cease their partnership. This gives the view, mistaken or otherwise, that the institution supports the Chinese, encouraging further partnership and support to the Chinese from others.

So, as I say, arguments on both sides. I’m not sure myself. But I think that the ethics and implications of the arrangement should be thought about publicly by our profession. We don’t live in a world where what we do is exempt from consequence, either way, and rightly too. Let me know what you think. I’m genuinely interested. Whisper it if you like.

Email ianlibrarian@live.co.uk

Changes by authority

National news

My department has not undertaken a recent assessment of the financial sustainability of public libraries in England.

The most recent assessment was the National Audit Office report published in 2018 on the Financial sustainability of local authorities for the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.

The Government is providing local councils with unprecedented support during the pandemic with a £4.3 billion package, including £3.7 billion which is not ringfenced and £600 million to support social care providers. This is part of a wider package of almost £28 billion which the Government has committed to support local areas, with funding going to councils, businesses and communities. The 2020 Spending Review will look at pressures facing the sector and provide them with the certainty they need to aid financial planning.

Caroline Dinenage, Secretary of State, DCMS, 19 October
  • Library ebook lending surges as UK turns to fiction during lockdown – Guardian. Increase in digital lending and events described. Nick Poole says ““Yes, absolutely we have found this new digital audience [but] we also need to continue supporting [the] face-to-face audience.”. Top ten borrowed lists.
  • Libraries see surge in e-book borrowing amid concerns over book hygiene during lockdown – Telegraph. Paywall.
  • McKee shares the secrets of Elmer success after lifetime achievement win – BookSeller. ““Going from being banned to winning a lifetime achievement award is very strange,” said McKee (pictured above), who thinks the librarians in question “didn’t get” the message behind Tusk Tusk: a 1978 story about two groups of elephants (one black, one white) that fight each other because of the colour of their skins. “My first wife was Anglo-Indian. We were invited to South Africa but we would have been staying at different hotels, so we didn’t go,” he told The Bookseller. “
  • Neil Gaiman thanks librarians Instagram. “A big thank you from me to librarians everywhere. You are heroes, and I am so glad you exist and do what you do”
  • New report shows Community Managed Libraries evolving into Community Hubs – Community Libraries Network. “CMLs have more and more been operating as Community Hubs and during the COVID-19 crisis have been important in helping maintain the health and well-being of their area. “
  • On your marks. Reset. Restart – DCMS Libraries. Business support service to be run from the BL Business and IP Centres based in libraries. “Although it has been a tumultuous year, it has also been a landmark moment for our services to business: in the March Budget, the Chancellor announced a £13 million investment to fund the expansion of the BIPC Network to 20 Regional Centres in England (outside London) by 2023 and a further 90 local centres in towns and rural and coastal areas”
  • Public Library Apparel – Kickstarter. Crowdfunding goal reached.
  • The row over free school meals is a loud and distinct testimony: those in power do not represent the people – Independent / Letters. “Rotherham council is consulting on turning libraries over to volunteers, following the example of neighbouring Sheffield and Doncaster councils, which did the same with their libraries years ago. Calling libraries “community libraries” and running them with volunteers was, and is, a deliberate ploy to mask cuts and hide the fragmentation and destruction of a crucial statutory service. It is disingenuous to say the least, and an insult to library workers and library users.”
  • Study will look at the reading habits of Scots 200 years ago – Press and Journal. “Experts at the University of Stirling have been awarded £1 million for a unique project that will aim to show what people really borrowed from 15 historic libraries, including some in the north and north-east, from 1750 to 1830.” … “It will give people a sense of the role libraries have played across history and recognise that without libraries knowledge could not have been spread and disseminated in the way that it has”–
  • ‘We are going to be needed more than ever’: A librarian on how her job has changed amid the Covid pandemic – I News. Anonymous Scottish public librarian interviewed. “More and more people are coming to her library in a small Scottish town for help with applying for benefits on the computers … It’s mostly quite frustrating because you realise how little help there is for people and you really are the safety net …  If I come down with a cold, and I’ve not got Covid symptoms, I’m just going to have to go in.”

How’s 2020 been for you? A few questions answered by Lunde Ljungberg,  Lejre Library & Archive, Denmark

Librarian Lunde Ljungberg
Librarian Lunde Ljungberg

What digital strategy have they found most successful this last year? For us at Lejre Library & Archive, the most successful digital strategy this last year has been to focus on presenting content and ”educating” our users in the accessibility to our digital services.  

Have their libraries experienced a big rise in digital usage in 2020 and a drop in physical loans? The last couple of years we have experienced a steady growth in usage of digital services, but due to the Covid-19 and people staying more at home we have already spend the entire digital budget for 2020 coming out of August. A change of usage that we need to take in consideration going into 2021. In 2019 the physical loans were on a rise at Lejre Library & Archive and in the first couple of months of 2020 we saw a continuing tendency, but because of the Covid-lockdown in the spring we are expecting a bit lower numbers this year.

Is this something you see as temporary or something which is likely to be permanent to some extent? We expect (and encourage) a continuous rise in digital usage in the years to come but not necessarily in contrast to physical loans and visits, more as a qualified supplement to the whole library experience.

What steps have they/are they thinking of taking to meet this change? We have at Lejre Library & Archive an approach to the (digital) library services, which you could call ”shared hosting”. Both in our physical libraries as well on our digital platforms we try to invite the local community and cultural partners to share a focus on a common user. We are not there yet but building on strong community-energy and always trying to facilitate a natural presence of the library in these processes we are confident that we will get there in the near future.

Are there new services you have introduced this year and why? From January 2020, all five libraries in Lejre Municipality are open for self-service from 6am to 22pm. All week. But there are no new digital services as such this year, more a growing production of already digital presence, facebook, instagram, video, streaming talks etc …

Has there been any training or investment in boosting social media provision?  No direct training of staff in matters of e.g. digital hosting, but Covid-19 created a necessary learning platform to reach users in alternative ways. The staff did not think twice and with courage – and an open mind – they raised the levels of digital presence within a very short period of time and in that way ensured the relationship with the users during unknown times. A relationship we can benefit from in the future we think. An interesting observation here is that some of the staff’s personal (literary focused) social media profiles also has increased in user interest and now produce cross-references to both libraries and literature.

Are they in a happy place nationally? How is the overall funding of libraries in their country this year? Lejre Library & Archive is one of the smallest library economies in Denmark, but the local energy and staff spirit is amazing, and in that perspective we only see good things coming for the citizens of Lejre Municipality

Lunde will be speaking at the Webinar: Digital strategy & innovation in libraries webinar on Tuesday 27 October 2pm.

International News

  • Ecuador – What it’s like to be a librarian in the Galapagos – I Love Libraries. “I work yards away from the sea, and the marine iguanas usually walk in front of the library’s door.”
    • People’s Libraries – Princh. “what every library should consider as its main mission: to be of the people, for the people and by the people. That is, “popular”.”
  • Nepal A library in rural Nepal – Designing Libraries. Earthquake hit part of Nepal raised international funds. Wifi and computerisation to happen shortly. Donations, especially of old e-readers, required.
  • New ZealandWeeding is essential for healthy library collections – Libraries Aotearoa. Library comes under fire for weeding books, explains why.
    • Libraries Looking Forward – Libraries Aotearoa. “We asked four attendees from New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific who joined the recent LIANZA Libraries Looking Forward panel to report back and reflect on their personal highlights of the popular event.”
  • Singapore – Children’s book with racist content moved to adult’s collection in public libraries – Yahoo. “The Library Consultative Panel, described as an “ an independent citizen-based committee comprising members from a cross-section of society”, provides recommendations to the board on its review of books that members of the public have raised concerns about”
  • SwedenSweden ‘to start lockdowns’ as it has world’s 12th highest Covid-19 death rate – Mirror. “health authorities are reportedly set to ask people to stay away from shopping centres, gyms, libraries and museums.”
  • USA – It’s Time to Talk About Covid-19 and Surfaces Again – Wired. Researcher “was aware of the practical issues raised by putting books in purgatory for so long, but she had a broader concern: that all this research was encouraging an undue fixation, or even a fear, of the objects librarians are meant to joyfully share with the public” … “In my opinion, the chance of transmission through inanimate surfaces is very small” … “That was months ago, and since then the scientific evidence has tipped in Goldman’s favor. And yet, here we are all the same, wiping down pews and hiding away books, among countless other disinfection rituals molded by those early perceptions”
    • A Reset for Library E-books – Publishers Weekly. “usage of e-books, digital audio, and other digital resources has indeed risen dramatically at the nation’s public libraries—no surprise. But the question remains: will this spike in usage be a game changer for digital content in libraries?” … ” the easing of prices and restrictions by publishers during the pandemic has helped—a lot. ” … “this is not a time for publishers and libraries to “put aside” their differences, librarians say, but to resolve them.”
    • What happened to YOUmedia?  – Chicago Reader. “The Chicago Public Library’s flagship teen program was a refuge for Black and Brown youth. Recent layoffs put that in jeopardy.”

Local news by authority

There may be a career in television waiting …