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

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 …

A premature library history of 2020

I studied History at university and was taught the importance of various forms of evidence and differing points of view. It so taught me the need for the long view that I tend to think judging the impact of anything later than the Romans as premature. So, it’s perhaps pointless to try to give a judgement on that frantic and hopefully unique period in our lives when Covid unmistakably came to our shores in February and March this year. But I do have some preliminary thoughts that I will be sharing at the (virtual, of course) CILIP Conference this November.

The first thing to say is that the library sector as a whole responded remarkably well and put health and safety first over issues. Secondly, I think library management pivoted quickly over a period of two/three weeks from trying to continue business as normal to closure and beyond. The entire careers of successful managers, after all, was up to that point focused on keeping things open. But when that turned out not to be viable (and of course when their councils told them they had to), things happened quickly. The idea of closure went from causing shocked laughter to official policy in far less than one month.

Then, during lockdown, libraries concentrated on their digital side and what their staff could do away from their buildings. The sector, actually, one when thinks about it, was well-placed to take advantage of things. E-books were made for lockdown and staff who have spent their lives talking to customers were ideal for talking to the shielded and the vulnerable over the phone.

When libraries opened again, they did so with commendable caution. Being non profit-driven certainly helped in this regard and gave them the window to pause often not possible to other places on the High Street. However, ironically, they are possibly less well-placed, strategically, now when they’re open than when they were closed. The buildings are distinctly quieter than before and none offer the range of events (or, even, study tables) that attracted so much business before. Much of the traditional user base is also understandably reluctant to risk infection. Councillors may just see the comparatively empty buildings and draw their own comparisons come the tricky Covid budget-settling to come.

How libraries cope with this, and whether their lockdown success will be noted or seen (as some have already suggested) as a sign that they can be virtual instead, is going to the big thing we discover over the next few months. And I hope history will confidently record their success. In a thousand years or so.

Looking forward to seeing you, virtually alas, in November.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Agenda: The future of libraries is both physical and virtual – Herald Scotland. “Scotland’s public library sector had to transform overnight. Closing the doors to our library buildings and taking mobile libraries off the road goes against the very essence of libraries, which are founded on free and equal access for all. However, librarians and library staff across the country used the tools and technology at their disposal to maintain their communities. We’ve seen fabulous examples of libraries creating new virtual events and digital initiatives to ensure people continued to access what they needed.”
  • Call for presentations – LILAC. “LILAC welcomes proposals which address information literacy from all sectors and contexts. For LILAC 2021 we invite you to present on any aspect of information literacy, there are no specific themes. ” 7-9 April.
  • Learning from Lockdown: 12 Steps to Eliminate Digital Exclusion – Carnegie UK Trust. “‘Learning from Lockdown: 12 Steps to Eliminate Digital Exclusion’ is a response to this challenge, setting out a series of 12 recommendations calling for ambitious action from policy makers, practitioners, academics and industry to tackle this issue. The recommendations build on our work on digital inclusion over the past decade, and particularly draw on learning and reflections from the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown period.”
  • Librarians’ Virtual Toolkit – Working with Readers in Interesting Times – West Midlands Readers Network. 5 November, 2 to 4pm. “An afternoon of talks and presentations about working with readers and reading groups”
  • Libraries Digital Bootcamp – Basecamp. 12 November, 2 to 5pm. “The Bootcamp will offer you the opportunity to learn new techniques and skills, find out how other library services have delivered online activity and have a lot of new ideas to take away.”
  • Libraries in Lockdown – Libraries Connected. “Over 75% of libraries delivered online events during lockdown and library teams made over 130,000 calls to local people who were shielding or vulnerable, reveals new research from Libraries Connected.” … “Leaders of over 130 library services responded to our online survey and we carried out video interviews with a further 20 leaders” … “Just over half of library services managed to increase their online audiences” [this seems fewer than one would expect – Ed.]
  • Libraries sector in the Birthday Honours list – DCMS. Biographies of the nine library-related Honours recipients.

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.

DCMS has a statutory duty to superintend, and promote the improvement of, the public library service provided by local authorities in England. To assist delivery of this statutory duty, DCMS issued a joint letter with the Local Government Association to all local authorities in England requesting detail of restoration of their library services given the opening of physical library buildings is now permitted. This detail is assisting the department’s engagement with local authorities and its ongoing monitoring of library service provision.

DCMS continues to work closely with Libraries Connected and other key stakeholders to ensure that the Libraries Connected Service Recovery Toolkit remains relevant and continues to assist libraries with their opening and reintroduction of their services during the pandemic.

In response to the rise in demand for e-lending immediately following the closure of libraries in March, Arts Council England provided £151,000 (around £1,000 per library authority in England) to supplement existing e-book funding

Baroness Baran, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, They Work For You.
  • Library lockdown success could threaten physical services, leaders warn – BookSeller. “The report also showed library membership remained stable during lockdown with some services seeing spikes of up to 32% despite the facilities’ closure, the report said. Membership to access digital resources increased by 27% with some services more than doubling the number of those signing up. Audiobook checkouts also increased during lockdown by 113%. However, some respondents said the lockdown success “could be viewed, erroneously, as a substitute for a physical offer, or adequate as a definition of a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service under the Libraries Act.”” … “The report also noted the scale of e-book lending is still small compared to physical withdrawals and warned with costs “unlikely to be sustainable”.”

“My concern coming out of this is that we are about to enter a brutal round of public finances — I cannot expand due to capacity and organisational reasons, the public expect us to, and I know what’s likely to come”

Respondent to library lockdown survey
  • Local Libraries join The Reading Agency to launch the ‘Reading Well for children’ booklist – News From Wales. “To coincide with World Mental Health Day, which took place on Saturday 10th October, local libraries are joining with The Reading Agency, the Society of Chief Librarians Cymru and Libraries Connected to launch a new collection of ‘Reading Well for children’ books.”
  • Making a Difference: Libraries, Lockdown and Looking Ahead – Carnegie UK Trust. “This report into UK public library services explores their role supporting individuals and communities during lockdown and the barriers they faced during this time. It also explores their role in supporting the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and what it would take to unleash the full potential of what public library services have to offer us all. The report identifies a number of key messages and action areas for local and national governments, sector support bodies and the sector itself.”
  • Queen’s Honours for libraries – Libraries Connected.
  • SLIC Library User Survey – Scottish Library and Information Council. “SLIC has commissioned Blake Stevenson Ltd, a social research company, to assess the impact of the strategy on library services across Scotland. As part of this, we are keen to hear library users’ views …”
  • Webinar: Digital strategy & innovation in libraries – Bibliotheca. “How can libraries meet growing user expectations and reimagine services that will meet future community needs? Join us for an engaging discussion into evolving digital behaviors, how this impacts library experiences and how physical library spaces play a vital role. Hear from Danish and German libraries paving the way with visionary ideas and future-proof implementations.” Tuesday, 27th October, 2020 at 2PM

International news

  • USA – Step Inside The Museum of Obsolete Library Science – The Met 150. “We are forward thinking, technology-savvy, and driven to find the most modern way possible to fulfill our patrons’ needs. However, the dirty little secret is that sometimes the old stuff, while no longer useful, is actually cool.”
  • The story behind the library takeout video – Duke Today. “With its playful animation, catchy chorus and infectious beat, his roughly three-minute synth pop music video has become a viral hit on campus and beyond with at least 17,558 views on YouTube. Nearly six weeks after its release, he’s still hearing glowing feedback from colleagues from across campus.”

Local news by authority

Wandsworth – Marsha De Cordova, the MP for Battersea and Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, visited Battersea Park Library on 9th October to celebrate National Libraries Week.

Hail to the chiefs


There were several librarians named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours this year. The name that stood out to me was Isobel Hunter, the current and first CEO of Libraries Connected, who despite only being in post two years has not put a foot wrong in what could have been quite a difficult time, ensuring that LC has had a strong founding. A notable thing to me is that those honoured have been at chief or very senior level in libraries. While understandable, because they’re at the level that can get things done and are thus noticed, this I think is a bit of shame as there are tons of highly committed and gifted librarians who may not get to that level but still make a huge difference. See my article here for more thoughts on the subject.

Changes by authority

National news

  • CILIP announces Honorary Fellowships including Library Champion Bobby Seagull – CILIP. “Bobby Seagull and CILIP are delighted to announce that he will be continuing in the role of CILIP Library Champion for 2020-21. In recognition of his services to libraries” … “Alongside Bobby, Honorary Fellowships are also being awarded to Margaret Casely-Hayford, CBE, for services to children’s literature and illustration through her leadership of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards Diversity Review; and Pamela Martindale, for her sustained and significant contribution to the library, information and knowledge profession through professional registration.”
  • How can libraries play a positive role in the Covid crisis? – Eurolis. Zoom, Wednesdays 14, 21 and 28 October 2020, from 4 to 6pm. Speakers from UK, Portugal, Poland, Catalonia (Spain), Italy, Germany and France.
  • How shipping container libraries can help save the public library crisis – Open Access Government. Shipping Container boss praises shipping containers.”BiebBus is a mobile container-based in The Netherlands, which has the ability to let kids have fun and explore the world of books before travelling on to a new place. We all love novelty and shiny new things, and can often get bored when things stay the same. With portable, alternative libraries which are only in town for a limited amount of time, people may feel more of a need to visit. It’s new, and it’s an experience people can try out with their friends.”
  • Libraries Week features nationwide Haig event and Bonnier book club launch – BookSeller. “Libraries Week kicks off today (5th October), featuring behind the scenes looks at authors’ bookshelves, a nationwide live reading of The Midnight Library by author Matt Haig (Canongate) and the launch of a Bonnier book club.”
  • Living Libraries – Soho Radio. “a celebration of public libraries in the words of people who use, work in and run them. Sarah Pyke and Shelley Trower present the Living Libraries oral history project, 2019-2020 at the University of Roehampton, supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The oral history collection is copyright of The British Library Board and is used with permission.”
  • Supporting economic recovery – Local Government First. “With their offer of access to computers, job clubs, CV writing support, skills training and targeted support for start-ups through Business and Intellectual Property Centres (BIPCs), libraries have an important role to play.”
  • TWA Heritage Digitisation Grant – Amended to Reflect the Changing Face of 2020 – Town Web Archiving. 3 grants of £3000 each open to libraries.
  • Why libraries hold the key to a start-up revolution – Times. Behind paywall.
  • Young north-east football fans can support reading challenge – Grampian Online. “This year’s 4-4-2 Reading Challenge has been launched with Peterhead FC supporting the initiative in the north-east. It is the third year of the successful programme which is spearheaded by the SPFL Trust, Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC), and Scotland’s libraries.”


  • Susan Hill and Mary Berry awarded damehoods in Queen’s Birthday Honours – BookSeller. “Librarians were well represented in the Birthday Honours. Receiving OBEs were Libraries Connected chief executive Isobel Hunter “for services to public libraries”, and Julie Oldham, head of Library and Museum Services at Bolton Council, and professor Steven John Broomhead, “for services to public libraries” in Chorley, Lancashire. MBEs were awarded “for services to libraries and the arts” to Andrew Bentley in Cheshire and “for services to public libraries” to Michelle Alford in Lancashire, Janet Holden in Suffolk, Sarah Smith in London and Gateshead Library Service manager Stephen James Walters.”
  • Andrew Bentley – Queen’s Birthday honours see Holocaust survivor, Storyhouse boss and Crewe hospice fundraiser recognised – Cheshire Live. “Storyhouse chief executive Andrew Bentley, who has been working hard to try to save the theatre from the devastating financial impact of the coronavirus lockdown.”
  • Steven Broomhead – Steven Broomhead awarded MBE in Queen’s birthday honours – Warrington Guardian. “Professor Steven Broomhead’s name was listed among others deserving of recognition for their contribution to society following the publication of the full honours list. The award comes following his leadership and chairmanship of the National Libraries Taskforce, in which he helped to implement the Independent Library Report and reinvigorate the national public library service.” … “Prof. Broomhead was previously chair of Warrington’s Libraries Working group, which formed to review the results of consultations over the borough’s provision.”
  • Council Chief receives MBE for services to libraries in Queen’s Birthday Honours – Warrington Worldwide.
  • Peter Gaw – Inspire CEO honoured in Queen’s Birthday Honours list 2020 – West Bridgford Wire. “The British Empire Medal (BEM) has been awarded to Peter Gaw the CEO of Inspire – Culture, Learning and Libraries in the Queen’s birthday 2020 Honours list in recognition of his service and commitment to Libraries and Culture.”
  • Janet Holden – Suffolk’s community heroes celebrated in Queen’s Birthday Honours – East Anglian Daily Times. “Janet Holden. For services to Public Libraries (Halesworth, Suffolk)”
  • Julie Oldham – Bolton librarian to be honoured by the Queen for a second time – Manchester Evening News. Julie Oldham received an MBE in 2002 and now has OBE. She retired this year. ““During my career I have been privileged to work with some fantastic people who have inspired me and worked with me to deliver our services, often through challenging times.”
  • Stephen Walters – Gateshead individuals honoured – Gateshead Council. “Stephen Walters, Gateshead Council Libraries Manager, awarded the British Empire Medal for services to public libraries”

International news

  • USA – A former Austin Library employee is accused of stealing $1.3M in printer toner – CNN. Bought it for the library and then stored it in garage until sold online. He also allegedly fraudulently used library credit cards.
  • Walmart’s new store design proves browsing is dead – Fast Company. “Walmart is rearranging many items across the store, consolidating categories such as electronics, toys, and baby products into their own dedicated sections rather than having some items scattered. Then they’re loading these stores with clearer signs to point you around the space. These signs match up with the exact categories and icons you’ll also find inside the surprisingly great Walmart app. The intended effect is what the company is billing as a “seamless” shopping experience between the digital store and the physical one.”

Local news by authority

“The library building in Barras Street has sat empty for over a year in the heart of our town centre with no refurbishment work even commencing during this whole period. “I just hope that Cornwall Council learn from this debacle and ensure we are never put in this position again where decisions are taken to vacate buildings before the next steps have been secured and agreed.”

Cornwall Councillor for Liskeard Nick Craker

“Libraries were listed as a ‘discretionary service’ to be potentially looked into despite the council having a ‘statutory duty’ to provide efficient library services to residents. The council leader acknowledged libraries are statutory but said RBWM could be looking at a number of avenues to deliver the service such as changing the opening times, the number of libraries and their locations in the borough, integrating the service into another model, etc.”

A busy start to the month


There’s quite a lot of special Days and Months at the start of October – Black History Month, National Poetry Day, Fun Palaces and Libraries Week all on at the same time. The one with the hardest time in these Covid days is Fun Palaces which normally relies on face-to-face demonstrations and crafts. The organisers have done a valiantly good job but it’s impact will be far less this year. The others are more in keeping with having Zoom events and things on social media.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Black History Month in Libraries – Libraries Connected. Lists what various library services are doing: so far Hertfordshire, Lambeth, Manchester, Newham and Oldham and mainly (obviously) online events.
  • Books for the future: why we need copyright libraries – Book Riot. “copyright libraries are such an important part of our culture and our national heritage. Preserving knowledge and stories in a way that makes them accessible for future generations is a worthy task, and something the librarians in these libraries take incredibly seriously. “
  • National Library of Wales’ finances need ‘urgent attention’ – BBC. “The Welsh Government-commissioned review concluded the library faced a threat to its financial viability. Up to 30 jobs could be lost if the review was ignored, the head of the library in Aberystwyth warned.” … “The report said the library’s income had declined in real terms by 40% between 2008 and 2019. It had also cut its staffing by 23% in that time.”
  • National called to verse on National Poetry Day – National Poetry Day. “‘The interactive National Poetry Day map features hundreds of poetry celebrations across the UK, led by local libraries, schools and bookshops: care homes are connecting with school children via Gyles Brandreth’s #PoetryTogether2020 initiative and English Heritage has seized
    on poetry to celebrate untold stories in an unprecedented link between National Poetry Day and Black History Month.”
  • Public Library Apparel – KickStarter for public library clothing to support the sector.
  • Service recovery toolkit – Libraries Connected. Updates to take into account Track and Trace, facemasks and “rule of six” for group of activities/events.
  • SoA calls for increase to ‘meagre’ PLR – BookSeller. “Sheila Bennett, head of libraries strategy and delivery at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has written to the SoA to pass on the recommendation that PLR is increased from 9.03p to 9.55p. The increase reflects a reduction in the estimated number of loans of books that are registered for PLR”
  • Solus UK acquires Boopsie Mobile App Division from Demco, Inc – Library Technology Guides. “All Boopsie customers will be migrated to the latest Solus Library App at no additional cost to their existing subscription.”
  • UK Libraries have loaned out 3.5 million ebooks during pandemic – Good E-reader. “It is estimated that all branches lent an additional 3.5 million ebooks from 13th March to 14th August.  Chrys Mellor, libraries general manager for North Yorkshire County Council, said ebook and audio were up 78% and 3,000 new members have signed up for cards during lockdown.”
  • Webinar – Children, wellbeing, and libraries: an expert-led discussion – Libraries Connected. 22 October 2pm. “Education, primary care, and mental health experts discuss the impact of the pandemic on children’s wellbeing and how public libraries could support recovery.”
  • World Book Day plans outreach with book club and library collaboration – BookSeller. “A new monthly book club and greater outreach to public and school libraries are among the World Book Day plans for 2021, the charity’s c.e.o. has revealed at this year’s Bookseller Children’s Conference. “

International news

  • Global – Ebook loans, book dispensers: how are libraries adjusting to the pandemic? – Yahoo. US/UK/Singapore.
  • USA – Publishers Worry as Ebooks Fly off Libraries’ Virtual Shelves – Wired. “orrowers like Adler are driving publishers crazy. After the pandemic closed many libraries’ physical branches this spring, checkouts of ebooks are up 52 percent from the same period last year …”
    • American classics among most ‘challenged’ books of the decade in US – Guardian. “Marking the start of Banned Books Week, the American Libraries Association (ALA) has reviewed all of the censorship reports it has received over the last 10 years to come up with the 100 books that readers and parents have most frequently tried to have removed from libraries and schools in the US.”
    • Goodnight Nobody – 99% Invisible. Podcast looking at New York children’s librarian who introduced the children’s library but also censored books, bossed everyone around after retiring and, yes, carried a puppet around with her that she pretended was human.
    • A mysterious librarian is the breakout star of Netflix’s “Hilda” – I Love Libraries. “Two years ago, the animated series Hilda premiered on Netflix, and a minor character called “The Librarian” (voiced by Kaisa Hammurlund) quickly became a fan sensation. Although she only appears in about three minutes of the show’s first season, this feisty librarian has been mentioned in 20 fanfiction stories on Archive of Our Own and has a Tumblr blog dedicated to her.”
    • Reopening, Reimagining – Brooklyn Public Library podcast. “This episode, we ask how the pandemic can help us re-imagine what we use libraries for. Plus, we talk to LA County Library about how extreme weather is impacting their reopening, and dig into the science of how we are keeping you (and your books) healthy.”

Local news by authority

Not a good time to be down by two-thirds? Kent and Stockport


The BookSeller have published an interesting article on library usage, pointing out that it is only at one-fifth to one-third of pre-covid levels. There are many reasons for this situation, some of which are listed below, but it’s still a worrying statistic to be made public at a time when councils are looking for ways to save money:

  • much usage has moved online. On the other hand, while such usage is often larger than any single physical library branch, it won’t account for a significant amount of the fall. There were 157m book loans in 2018, while the article states that ebook loans March to August were 3.5m. The “600% increase” figure often quoted as an e-lending rise is not an overall accurate figure for the whole period.
  • many libraries are still closed, on reduced hours or click and collect only.
  • unlike shops, libraries are not promoting themselves or encouraging visitors. The focus is on safety, not income. Libraries need to be models of safety for their councils, and being risk averse, unlike retail.
  • the unique returns aspect of libraries means quarantining of books unlike in shops. This may have a knock-on effect in highlighting risk to users and in keeping popular titles outside of circulation.
  • A significant user base for libraries is amongst the old: a demographic most at risk and thus less likely to go out.

An example of an authority trying to save money is Kent, which has the largest number of library buildings of any UK authority, has announced that it will 66 of its 99 branches closed until 1st April 2021. Those normally working in the closed branches have been moved to open ones. Also, reading between the lines, the closure of Stockport Central Library and its moving some time next year to a co-location in an old Argos shop is as likely to be as much about saving money as modernising the service, although it is true that sometimes both can be achieved.

Changes by local authority

National news

The American Library Association’s Games and Gaming Round Table (GameRT) is proud to announce that despite COVID-19, International Games Week (IGW) will take place from November 8 to November 14, 2020.  Libraries of all stripes around the world are encouraged to sign up between now and October 24 to be eligible for a drawing for one of three special GameRT Loot Boxes. While GameRT encourages participants to hold a gaming event at their Library during IGW, due to the pandemic, any event held during the month of November can be counted.  This year, GameRT will be spotlighting freely available print-and-play games and listing resources available for libraries to use to set up gaming events online at games.ala.org

Darren Edwards, Lis-Pub-Libs
  • Levelling Up Our Communities – UK Government. Report by Danny Kruger MP (Conservative) to the Prime Minister on improving community. “The local Library is or should be a crucial element of the social model we need to create, or re-create. Libraries are no longer dusty book depositories. Increasingly they serve as digital hubs and information centres for communities, and places for classes and sessions of all kinds. The British Library’s Business and IP Centre network is supporting local libraries to assist people in starting their own businesses. Even more is possible: siting BBC local radio stations in libraries, spreading the Library of Things network, using libraries for cultural events and exhibitions, and working with Historic England to establish new libraries in old buildings.” … “Government should make a major commitment to support the local library as the hub of the 21st century community”
The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles, 9781982134198
  • Library footfall down 80% on last year – BookSeller. Libraries Connected “… collects weekly figures and, up to the week ending 13th September, they show a very gradual uptick in the number of physical users since lockdown ended for libraries from early July, with footfall still at only around 20% of last year’s level.” … many libraries still closed so those open more at 35% … “the figure is still far lower than for the commercial high street, where more shops have opened fully and footfall has peaked at close to 70% of previous levels.”
  • Public Library Apparel – KickStarter. “Apparel to raise awareness and funds for public libraries in the UK.”. Check out these literary themed t-shirts to support ailing libraries – Big Issue.
  • Public Library Reopening Poll – Summer 2020 – Lorensbergs. “The results provide a snapshot of the services available at late August/early September and libraries’ plans for the months ahead. A total of 96 library authorities have taken part, with participation stretching across the UK. The findings represent how it’s been necessary for library authorities to respond according to the guidelines and different circumstances of their local areas.”
  • Transforming the digital offer for public libraries – BookSeller. “Our goal was not just to conceptualise what a website for public libraries might look like, but rather to think more deeply and strategically about how to improve the use of digital technology throughout the whole public library sector. ” … “We believe that a national digital presence should help everyone discover the power of the public library by making access to knowledge easier and more enjoyable, and supporting every public library to deliver digital services of the highest quality.” … “to build a national digital channel for public libraries” and “develop patterns and designs that local libraries can use and re-work”

International news

Local news by authority

Just before the second wave


Sorry to see that Hay on Wye, a place synonymous with books, will now have a library run by volunteers. Wales is notably less reliant on the unpaid than English libraries and so this represents a worrying development. Otherwise, the news continues to show a return to normal, although with one service amusingly reintroducing click and collect not because their libraries aren’t open – they are – but because the public liked the service. How the increasingly obvious and long-feared second wave will affect the national picture remains to be seen.

Changes by authority

National news

  • BookTrust’s Time to Read campaign supports transition to primary school for 740,000 children – Charity Today. ““We love to encourage parents to read with their children. Sadly, this year we can’t do it in person so our lovely library staff will be connecting with our parents and children virtually, helping parents and children see that’s there’s no right way to read a book. Using a variety of voices, styles and experience our library teams will read this years’ Time to Read book and share tips on reading aloud, beamed straight into homes via the schools. A familiar book, an enthusiastic parent and a friendly librarian what better combination to encourage reading this autumn.””
  • CILIP Conference 2020 – Reimagined – CILIP. October 13, 2020 – November 19, 2020. ” Reimagined will be a series of satellite events throughout Autumn, culminating in an incredible one-day event on 19 November with all of the elements that you would expect if you were to come to a live venue “
  • The history of book burning – New Statesman.” In 2018-19, there were 3,583 public libraries in the UK compared with 4,356 in 2009-10: 773 have closed.”
  • ‘Libraries and Rural Touring Arts’ – maximising the potential of our nation’s libraries – Rural Touring. “… the NRTF Libraries Project, funded by the Arts Council England will support the delivery of rural touring arts in libraries by recognising and promoting the high-quality creative activities already happening in rural libraries across the UK, strengthening and boosting ambition by sharing resources, contacts, expertise and knowledge, funding opportunities to map, review, learn, expand and develop the touring potential of libraries and bring organisations and professionals together to network, support, educate and collaborate on a national scale.” NRFT Conference – free digital conference includes one day, 13 October, on libraries.

Are you interested in standing as a candidate in the CILIP BAME Network’s Inaugural Elections? Do you want to find out more and ask questions? Then join us for a Zoom meeting on 24th September between 5.15pm-6pm. This is an opportunity for you to ask members of the CILIP BAME Network Steering Committee about what each role within the Committee will involve as well as about the work we have been involved with to date. If you are interested in joining this meeting please email info.bame@cilip.org.uk.

Mobeena Khan

International news

Local news by authority

“So many library users loved the surprise element of discovering what books had been chosen for them but just as importantly it also allows us to stay in touch with customers who are limiting their contacts and don’t want to browse the shelves just yet.”

June Souter, libraries service development manager

A normal news week, sort of


Windsor and Maidenhead, the” tax avoidance capital” and one of the wealthiest parts of the UK, is considering cutting library opening hours by a quarter in order to save money. Elsewhere, Kingston has also announced a consultation but it is avoids mentioning if this is simply cover to cut funding or not. A new library has opened in Waltham Forest and another in the Vale of Glamorgan has closed for extensive refurbishment. Meanwhile, the troubled Library of Birmingham has been earmarked £3m of the £10m it needs just for maintenance. That place sucks in money. So – good news – this almost sounds like a normal news week pre-Covid.

A librarianship MA student is researching the use and purpose of volunteers at Oldham Libraries for her dissertation and is looking for information professionals to share their thoughts on the topic. The study will involve information professionals completing a survey about their experience and knowledge of volunteers. If you find the project of interest and would like to participate in this survey, please contact the researcher, Nicola Semple. Her email address is nicola.semple@stu.mmu.ac.uk

Changes by authority


I’ve been a fan of Whichbook for years and so was delighted to see that this one-of-a-kind book recommendation site has been radically improved. Rachel Van Riel, the Director of Opening the Book, the creators of Whichbook, very kindly agreed to answer my questions about it …

What is Whichbook?

A new way to choose a book where the reader is in control. Searching books sites and catalogues usually means keying in an author name or book title. But if you know the name already, your search is likely to turn up books you already know about. No surprises there. Whichbook starts instead from the reading experience you are looking for. Are you in the mood for something funny and optimistic or beautiful and a bit sad? Mix the mood sliders to match what you want and see what comes up. You can choose the race, age, gender and sexuality of the main character or spin the globe and pick the country your book is set in.

What is it like now?

This site is in a completely different league from the old one. The old one had the central idea but it was dated in design, you needed to be keen to use it. People still were keen – we averaged 35,000 a month – but this new one is so juicy and tempting – I defy anyone not to get sucked in to look at just one more possibility – and then another ….

So what’s actually new?

It’s dynamic and not linear. When you change the mood sliders, the book covers instantly rearrange to match, it’s magic. When you choose a main character, you can pick Asian and see a big choice, then choose gay, the book covers change instantly to show that. It’s a celebration of the richness of book cover design and a visual feast. Everything is intuitive – instead of a drop-down menu of countries to choose from, you can spin a globe and land anywhere and see which books are set there. And it is designed to work on tablets and phones as much as PCs and Macs. That’s been a huge job with such a complexity of interaction. But we knew that more than half of users access by mobile phone so it’s essential.

Is it free?

Yes, it’s completely free. For the first time, we have added a donate button as the site has had no public funding since 2003. We have looked at using ads too but they do spoil the design so we’d rather not.

How are the book choices made?

We concentrate on books which may fly below the radar – first-time authors, quirky titles and knock-out covers. Any user can suggest a book. We don’t include the big bestsellers as they don’t need any help to be found. Another great new feature, though, is that you can pick a current bestseller you enjoyed and see a selection of whichbook titles you might like to try next. That could be very useful for libraries with a big waiting list for bestseller reservations.

What’s the library connection?

Click on any book cover to get the book details and you can then Borrow or Buy. Borrow brings up a choice of UK library services with a link that goes straight to author/title level so you can see which branches hold it. The other big connection with libraries is that whichbook readers mostly work in libraries. We have just started a training programme with 10 new readers in Leeds Libraries.

National news

  • Libraries need change from the top – BookSeller. Tim Coates says “Public libraries have been losing the plot for years.” … “and if those currently in charge can’t see or do that, they should be replaced—and very quickly, this autumn. “
  • Together We Read – Digital bookclub. “During this two-week program, there will be no waitlists and no holds for the selected ebook. Download Libby to borrow the free ebook from your library using your phone or tablet. “

International news

  • China –  Concrete wormhole library – Designing Libraries. “The wormholes, of varying size and intervals, provide surprise and let in natural light. As well as provision for around 10,000 [censored – Ed.] books, the library has bicycle parking facilities, bathrooms and showers.”
  • Global – Libraries In Movement – Princh. A look at mobile libraries worldwide including those using donkeys and boats.
  • India – Pandemic is the perfect time to build community libraries, here’s why – Times of India. ” news of small community libraries being opened up in different places in Balochistan caught international bestselling author Paulo Coelho’s attention. The idea is to convert unused buildings or places previously misused for drug consumption into small community libraries in towns and villages so that people and young readers get a glimpse of the outside world through stories and books”
  • USA/Ireland/ – What’s it like to be a library cat during the pandemic – I Love Libraries. “Library staff know him to be extremely self-sufficient, but during the pandemic people have still been sure to drop by his hut to check in and share snacks.”

Local news by authority