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

Another normal week in 2023: death threats, censorship, cuts and investment

Editorial

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Censoring libraries is hitting stronger all the time – this week we have (1) death threats against US and Irish libraries (2) Devon apparently (the papers reporting it are the Telegraph and Express so it’s not certain) restricting access to Enid Blyton (3) the Mail stoking outrage at a LGBT books in a British school library and a Michigan prosecutor considering an up-to-four-year jail term for a librarian for stocking a book he doesn’t agree with. It’s all pretty sickening.

In other news, some New Zealand politician has come up with the brilliant idea of having volunteer libraries, Scotland is celebrating having a majority of fines-free libraries while at the same time fighting closures in Aberdeen, Cardiff still cutting jobs but by stealth, Hackney’s staff cuts completely accidently wiping out union stewards, Stockport getting a nice new co-located library, Stoke selling off libraries (including one that promptly caught on fire) and a potentially dodgy consultation In Worcestershire. Another normal week in 2023.

National news

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  • Death threats and hate mail: America’s drag queen culture wars hit hard in Europe – Euronews. “While those claiming drag shows endanger kids often compare these performances to cabaret and burlesque, drag shows do not inherently involve explicit nudity, and they don’t contain explicit sexual references in the case of storytime events where children are in the audience. On the other hand, storytime events like Drag Queen Story Hour focus on inclusiveness, education, and representation of marginalised groups. But this truth is often lost in the rhetoric circulating among conservative circles …”
  • Enid Blyton books hidden ‘under the counter’ as libraries fret about offensive language – Telegraph. Behind paywall. see also Enid Blyton novels being hidden in libraries in bizarre new woke driver – Express. “Uncensored original versions of some of Blyton’s 700-plus collection have been removed from Devon library shelves and stored in back rooms to prevent the public “stumbling upon” language that is “outdated”. Although listed on the online library catalogue, readers can only get their hands on earlier editions of the texts if they specifically ask librarians for them. At this point they will be verbally given a trigger warning about the language contained within. “
  • Forum 2023 – National Acquisitions Group. May 25, 10am to 4pm. “Tickets now on sale, subsidised to £40 for NAG Members.” see also Public Libraries Project of the Year Grant “5,000 is on offer for one NAG Member public library.  Very simple application process, open to all sorts of projects, why not give it a try?”
  • Public libraries: the local levelling up machines – MJ. Diana Edmonds: behind paywall. “libraries are now playing a crucial role in supporting communities during the cost of living crisis and should be seen as a vital tool within the levelling up agenda.”

Changes by local authority

International news

Local news by authority

  • East Sussex – Poet Laureate Simon Armitage to visit Eastbourne library – Sussex Express. “The E to G Libraries Tour, which runs from March 17 to March 23, is the latest leg of Simon’s ten-year adventure celebrating UK libraries. Using the alphabet as a compass, his journey celebrates the library as one of the great and necessary institutions. Poet Laureate Simon Armitage said: “I want to celebrate the physical space of libraries and take my work back into places that have given me so much.””
  • Hackney – Protest as Hackney Unison chair amongst those handed compulsory redundancies in libraries shake-up – Hackney Citizen. “Council staff staged a protest outside Hackney Town Hall after several library staff, including Hackney Unison Branch Chair Brian Debus, were handed compulsory redundancy notices.” … “Hackney Unison said it was “registering our disgust that three library workers including Hackney Unison Branch Chair Brian Debus are due to be made compulsorily redundant. This despite there being more than enough posts available in the restructured library service.”” … “The council consulted 99 library staff over the changes which see some roles at higher bands and managers caring for several libraries instead of a manager for each. The move is aimed at saving £250,000 from the budget.”
  • Manchester – Central Library anniversary – Manclibraries Blog. “It’s hard to believe that on Friday 22 March we celebrate the fifth anniversary of the rebirth of Central Library after a closure of 4 years to deliver the £48m transformation programme. The library is one of the most loved and iconic places in the city and the success of the transformation is seen by the numbers of people who use the library. “

Neutrality and Challenges

Editorial

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Like many, I have been caught up in the debate about the neutrality of the BBC. Like public libraries that august institution has a duty to neutrality and, like us, comes under pressure from time to time to be less than evenly balanced. And if the BBC sometimes finds this difficult then it’s potentially even harder for something like libraries, which are after all part of a service led by councillors, who are almost all of one political party or another. Ultimately, there’s little that can be done in such instances other than to quote stock policies, national or local, and hope. Unless there’s a well-known television commentator who notices of course.

There’s the usual mixture of good and bad news stories, and continuing rumours of deep cuts coming in some councils, but a story that can always be relied on is the news about the Summer Reading Challenge. This is the biggest promotion that most public library services ever do and has tremendous traction with the public, many of whom remember doing it themselves either as children or as parents. And, of course, the theme this year is sports and games, which ties in well with the Women’s World Cup coming up soon. Hang on, that means we may have tweets from footballers …

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Changes by local authority

Ideas

National news

  • Author Joanne Harris calls for more investment in libraries and the arts – Chester Standard. “Ms Harris, author of Chocolat, spoke out after receiving an OBE for services to literature from the Prince of Wales at a Windsor Castle investiture on Tuesday. After the ceremony, she praised William and the Queen Consort for championing causes that promote literacy in the UK, but called on the Government to do more.”
  • LibraryOn Grants programme application guidance – LibraryOn.
  • A love letter to local libraries – The Know. “while visits have increased by 68%, spending on UK libraries has fallen by 17%. This waning investment comes at a time when libraries are more crucial to our communities than ever before. There are very few places left where people can go to access information, meet others and keep warm – without needing to spend anything.”
  • Majority of English councils plan more cuts at same time as maximum tax rises – Guardian. “At least 12 councils are on the edge of “effective bankruptcy”, the survey warns, as they struggle to meet their official obligation to balance their budget while trying to maintain legal minimum levels of core service provision, from adult social care to roads repair, libraries and homelessness.”
  • Nooks take centre stage as libraries level up for the hybrid future – Specification Online. “We’ve really seen take-up of Nooks in libraries lift off, with 25 Nook installations in UK libraries and five new installations in the past month alone.”
  • Open meeting on Sanderson inquiry into public libraries and Campaign AGM – Library Campaign / Eventbrite. “An open discussion on Baroness Sanderson’s inquiry into public libraries will be followed by the Library Campaign AGM” including guest speaker Isobel Hunter (Chief Executive, Libraries Connected)
    with LC’s analysis of the current library landscape. Saturday 25 March, 2 to 4pm. Unison HQ, London. Teams online option available if book online and say you’re planning to use Teams.
  • The Reading Agency partners with Youth Sport Trust for Summer Reading Challenge 2023 – BookSeller. “The Reading Agency has revealed that this year’s Summer Reading Challenge will be “Ready, Set, Read!” The annual challenge encourages children to engage with books during the summer reading “dip”. According to the agency, it reached 723,184 children and families across the UK in 2022, with 608,015 children taking part through their local library service. This year, the agency – in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust – has the dual aim to keep children’s minds and bodies active over the summer break.”
  • Should Public Libraries Double Down on Print Book Collections? – Publishers Weekly / Tim Coates. “The declines are serious and suggest that the library’s reputation as a vital community resource is in peril. How serious? I fear these trends could lead to the disintegration of U.S. public libraries within a generation if allowed to continue. And without strategic changes visible to the public, I believe they will continue. Take the U.K. as a cautionary tale … I believe that if just 6% of the money currently in the staff and management budget was spent instead on books, we would begin to reverse the decline in library usage.”. See this page for more figures from Tim.

International news

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeen – Save our Cornhill Library – Change.org. “This petition asks Aberdeen City Council to reverse their decision to close Cornhill Library. Please share this petition widely as we try to save this vital community resource.”
  • Letter to Aberdeen Council – Sean McNamara / CILIPS. “Aberdeen City already has one of the lowest numbers of branches per population (1.62 per 20,000) and well below the average of 2.04 per 20,000. These changes could leave Aberdeen as having the lowest number of library branches per population in Scotland”
  • Worcestershire – Worcestershire Libraries Cost of Living fairs help over 800 residents – Worcestershire Council. “The events were a huge success, with 835 additional people visiting the libraries during the fairs, equating to a 32% increase in visitors compared to the average number of visitors in January and February. The events were attended by regular library customers and those new to libraries, demonstrating the wide appeal and importance of the information and advice available.”
  • York – Dringhouses library soon to reopen after being closed because of cold – Yahoo News. “bosses decided to temporarily close the library in the middle of last month because average temperatures inside were only 10 degrees. Health and Safety Executive guidance states that the minimum temperature for working indoors in a library-type environment should be at least 16°C.”

Cipfa, cuts and woohoos

Editorial

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I’m always a bit bemused by the release of the annual CIPFA figures. For one thing, they tend to be released late (this one about 11 months afterwards). They’ve also lost their comprehensiveness – only 43% of library services responded this time. And then of course they’re impossible to get at, unless you’re a library service or very rich. Finally, there’s the analysis of them. The current one appears not to overly notice the big increase in usage was because libraries were open after Covid again or that income was a bit down because, well, the public wasn’t coming in. But, and it pains me to say it, they’re the best we have. Until library services get it together and produce something themselves or the government starts making reporting compulsory then we have to use the imperfect statistics. We just need to be aware of how bad they area and not rely on them or, actually, use them much.

I’m sorry to see the main cuts reported this week being in Scotland. That nation has had a notable better time of it than England in the previous decade. However, it’s great to see the threat of closure lifted from the Wirral and also that York has gone fines-free (and has even removed reservations charges). Woohoo. A final woohoo goes to the creativity of library services: I’ve been doing this newsletter for way over a decade and I’m still spotting new ideas coming out of the sector. I can’t wait to see more. Hopefully about how to get good statistics …

Changes by local authority

Ideas noted

  • My First Library Card –  specially designed for 0-5, part of My Firsts promotion to inspire young children to visit, join and regularly use their local library (Hertfordshire)
  • Photographic Voter ID help – (Cheshire East)
  • Stimkits – Lendable resources for children with autism (North Yorkshire)
  • Teddy Bear Trail – fundraising for libraries (Jesmond volunteer library)

National news

“Today is world book day. The First Minister is well known as a self-identified avid reader so, as she leaves office, how does she feel about being responsible for closing more public libraries than any of her predecessors?” Stephen Kerr Conservative

“I am proud of the support that the Scottish Government gives to libraries. Many libraries in my constituency and across the country had to close during the pandemic, but I have watched them reopen and become vital parts of local communities. I will continue to support libraries, and I will continue to support everything associated with the wonderful world of books. Perhaps I even look forward to having a bit more time to read books in future.” Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

They Work For You

International news

  • Canada – Toronto libraries are fighting for ‘intellectual freedom’ with new collection of exclusively banned books – CP24. “The collection features 50 adult, teen and children’s books that have been banned, challenged or censored across North America. “
  • USA – As LGBTQ book challenges rise, some Louisiana librarians are scared to go to work – PBS. “Scrutiny of libraries, books, teaching materials and curriculum has become a central issue for conservative politicians around the nation. In Florida, the education department has launched a statewide effort to review reading materials provided to children in schools, following a law that went into effect last summer that can impose harsh penalties on any educators who provide books deemed inappropriate. Librarians in Missouri were forced to remove books from shelves under threat of criminal charges last fall. Virginia established a tip line encouraging parents to report teaching materials about critical race theory, but it quietly shut down the effort last year.”
    • Call to Action for Digital Content – Good E Reader. “a March of Action for libraries. In response to the growing concern about fair access to digital rights, including ebooks, audio books and other digital resources, the coalition is hosting a series of virtual Congressional briefings in March 2023 regarding the future of digital rights for libraries.”
    • From letters to airplane tickets; this librarian has collected over 400 items in books left by visitors – First Post. “Starting from grocery lists, postcards, polaroid photographs, airplane tickets, notes, recipes, concert tickets, and even love letters, Sharon has seen it all and has now turned it into her passion. The woman who works at the Oakland Public Library in California also runs an independent page on the library’s website where all the forgotten mementoes are uploaded for public viewing.”

Local news by authority

Leeds
Northern Ireland
  • Measuring our impact: Independent research into our social value – Suffolk Libraries. “Our latest impact report Suffolk Libraries, An impact analysis of services of Suffolk Libraries January 2023 by independent consultants Moore Kingston Smith estimates that every £1 spent on Suffolk Libraries’ services creates £6 in ‘social value’. This is based on a comprehensive study of the wide range of services and activities Suffolk Libraries provide and further discussion with people who benefit from them. The report also found Suffolk’s libraries generated £41m worth of social value and saves NHS services in Suffolk a whopping £542K per year.”
  • Swindon – Swindon library visitors drop post Covid as e-loans soar – Swindon Advertiser. “In the year ending in March 2020 there were more than half a million personal visits to the five libraries, which lent 532,000 items and there were 16,758 e-loans, of things like digital audio books, e-books and e-magazines. This far in 2022-23, which still has more than a month to run, personal visits have numbered 188,000. That’s well under half the pre-pandemic total, with 224,000 items being borrowed. In the meantime e-loans have multiplied six-fold to 93,471 this year.”
  • West Dunbartonshire Libraries face closure or moving location under West Dunbartonshire Council budget proposals – Glasgow Live. “Dalmuir Library could be moved within Dalmuir community centre under proposals to plug West Dunbartonshire Council’s £21.6 million budget gap. Balloch, Duntocher, Parkhall and Faifley libraries also face being co-located or closed.”
  • Wirral – Wirral Council: Plan to close nine libraries scrapped – BBC. “The local authority, which faces a £32m budget gap, also u-turned on plans to cut back on playgroups, the maintenance of parks, and street cleaning.” … “Greens leader Pat Cleary said: “Promoting an excessively pessimistic budget gap has inevitably led to heightened and unnecessary stress for staff and residents.”
    • York – Residents invited to have their say on Acomb Explore – York Explore. Consultation on new library.
    • York libraries to scrap all fines for overdue books – Yahoo News. “Even library books that have been gathering dust at the back of a shelf at home for years – and which you’ve occasionally felt guilty about not returning – will no longer incur a fine when you bring them back.” … “As well as removing late charges, the library service will also scrap the 25p fee for reserving books. ‘These changes are all part of work to improve the experience for library customers which will also include the launch of an app to make borrowing even easier, and brand-new self-issue machines being installed in all York’s libraries during March,’ Explore says.”
    • Date set for library re-opening – Dringhouses and Woodthorpe Ward. “The library closed on 13th February in response to concerns about the low temperature in the building, caused by a combination of winter weather and ineffective heating. A new boiler is being installed along with new convector heaters and new radiators. It has been confirmed that Listed Building Consent is not needed for these internal improvement works.”

Written out

Editorial

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The recent controversy over the rewriting of Roald Dahl’s books to make them more politically correct, which may or may not have been just a publicity stunt, has got me thinking even more about where we should stand on censorship. And it is censorship, pure and simple. Look at the definition of the word if you’re not sure.

My views on this have changed and hardened recently. The thing is I like being politically correct and, as any reader will gather from my editorials, my views are left of centre. But I think we need to be firm on some things. If one starts changing words then it means that written words can be changed. The moral high ground is lost and it’s harder to work out what was actually said or meant. Freedom of speech is taken away from the dead. And, maybe, if we refuse to recognise this as a line in the sand, then there are others lines we may not notice until it is too late.

My first degree was in History, fascinating subject (let me know if you want a chat on Later Roman military formations) but part of the challenge is working out what actually happened. Far from being the preservers of ancient knowledge like many of us were taught in school, the Early Christians destroyed by some estimates over 95% of pagan writing and a surprising amount of what is left is just extracts in Christian texts of the time, often included solely in order to rebut them. That was a historic catastrophe, in at least two different ways. What I am saying is that the writings of authors need to be kept the same in order to accurately judge them. If they fall out of favour of the times then let them. Of course, as librarians our influence is highly limited (profit wins every time) but at the very least we should not welcome such changes. Or we will be judged in the future for it. That is, unless librarians are written out of history when it is politically correct to do so.

Changes by local authority

National news

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  • I hate library phone boxes. By Katrina Robinson – The Oldie. “I’m a librarian – so people think I should love it when people put any old books in any old crate and label it ‘Library’. They think I’m blaspheming against mighty Thoth, the Egyptian god of reading, when I tell them how I feel. I feel the way any worth-her-salt GP would feel if she spotted a rusty first-aid box by the side of the road, with ‘Hospital’ emblazoned all over it – while real hospitals were closing or becoming semi-open ‘community hospitals’ staffed by unqualified volunteers.”

Although there have been library closures, an extensive network of libraries remains across England delivering services including digital to local residents. There has been no assessment made of the impact of library closures on trends in the level of digital exclusion. There are over 2,900 libraries across England, and while there have been closures, they continue to be a well used service, providing a trusted network of accessible locations with trained staff and volunteers, free wifi and public PCs, and assisted digital access to a wide range of digital services.

Based on a dataset of information on public libraries in England, published by Arts Council England, we estimated that around 230 static libraries have been permanently closed in the period 1 April 2010 to 31 December 2021 and have not been relocated or replaced.”

Paul Scully, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of Science Innovation and Technology
  • Improving the online presence of public libraries with a new grants programme – British Library / Living Knowledge. “The first stage of the LibraryOn digital grants programme will kick off on 1 March 2023. From this date we’ll be inviting library services in England to submit an Expression of Interest form outlining their initial ideas for a funded project.”
  • Julia Donaldson ends James Patterson’s reign as UK libraries’ most borrowed author – Guardian. “Patterson had been the most borrowed author for 14 years in the Public Lending Right (PLR) data” … “All of the Top 10 most borrowed titles for the period were fiction, with crime and thriller titles dominating. Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club and its sequel The Man Who Died Twice were in at numbers one and two on the chart, and held the same positions on the most borrowed audiobooks chart.”
  • Libraries Improvement Fund (LIF) Round 3 – Arts Council England. £10.5m. “This fund will enable library services across England to invest in a range of projects to upgrade buildings and technology so they are better placed to respond to the changing ways people are using them.”
  • The old book shop going to auction with hundreds of books inside – Wales Online. Nothing to do with public libraries but oh my gosh the books …
  • Radio 2 Book Club Library Staff Opportunity – BBC Radio 2. “We’re looking for librarians to join the Radio 2 Book Club panel, to help choose the books that will feature on the show.”
  • Shortlist announced for Libraries Connected Awards 2023 – Libraries Connected. “The Awards have six categories which reflect the Universal Library Offers (ULOs) and Promises – the core services and programmes that modern library services provide.”
  • A sociological exploration of the library – Glasgow Guardian. “Cicero once said: “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” While students may have to replace a garden with a daily walk through Kelvingrove Park, our own private libraries are flourishing. Perhaps at the expense of the public good that public libraries provide.”

International news

  • Czech Republic – Sustainability in Czech Libraries – CILIP. Webinar, March 22 Wednesday 5pm. ” established SDGs in Czech librarianship and empowered dozens of libraries to become pioneers of sustainable development topics in their communities.”
  • South Korea – Exploring the Innovative Community Libraries of Korea – Publishers Weekly. “there is no future for libraries—instead, there are many diverse futures, futures diverse as the communities libraries are designed to serve. And in these futures, librarians shape their libraries around these unique communities, diverse in demographics, needs, capabilities, and locations.” … “Fair warning, these libraries really cannot be replicated. What makes them work is that they are all hand made for their unique communities. “
  • USA – Confronting white nationalism in libraries: a toolkit – Western States Center. “This toolkit is designed to help readers counter multiple forms of organized bigotry. This includes organizing that draws on anti-Blackness, anti-Indigenous bigotry, anti-immigrant bigotry, anti-Muslim bigotry, antisemitism, misogyny, and anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry.”

Local news by authority

The only thing that stays the same

Editorial

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Things change and libraries change. I was training a new member of the team this week and went through everything that had changed since I started in public libraries in the same area (not the same council – that’s one of the changes) back in the 1990s. It included library moves, opening hour changes (usually for the better, thankfully), story-times, the Summer Reading Challenge, self-service machines, people’s network computers, cafes, rhyme-times, baby bounce, reading groups, printing and a little thing called the internet. That last has revolutionised everything else, including what books we stock and how to display them, not least changing staffing needs. None of this is bad, and much of it is good, but the key is … imagine if we hadn’t changed? What a dinosaur library service we’d have been, and there’d have been complaints. And rightly. The latest thing I’m enjoying is the powerful combination of online event booking combined with posts linking to them in local facebook groups. Wow. What an impact that has had, including attracting people into the library who would never have thought about visiting before. And this makes think – not changing these days would be the biggest change of all. Change is not even really a choice any more. Lack of change would be very difficult and lead to, ironically, a great change in how we are seen. That’s not to say all change is good. Not change is not bad either. And that’s good, because the only thing that stays the same in this world is that things change.

That was going to be my whole editorial this week but I need to add something else. When I was starting out in the public library blogging hobby back in 2010, there were a few people that really helped me. One of those was Shirley Burnham, a library campaigner from Swindon with wonderfully pro-library and unbending views. She made me look positively lukewarm on libraries by comparison. So it’s with great sadness that I see she passed away at the start of the year. I will miss her and I can’t see that changing for a while.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Celebrating 125 years of CILIP Chartership – CILIP. “In celebration of the 125th anniversary of our Royal Charter, we are launching The CILIP 125 List, to recognise and honour a new generation of librarians, information and knowledge management professionals who drive positive change, making a difference and having an impact across all sectors.”
  • CILIPS Annual Conference 2023 – CILIPS. “The largest conference in Scotland for library and information professionals, CILIPS23 will bring together colleagues from across the country and beyond to share knowledge, network and engage in professional development. Hosted by CILIPS President Richard Aird and taking place on 5th and 6th June 2023 at the Dundee Apex Hotel, our Annual Conference will feature inspiring keynote speeches, impactful parallel sessions, a range of networking opportunities and much more.”
  • Getting started with open data – Libraries Data Blog. “Last week I was asked how a public library service could get started with publishing open data, and where to look to make it good. There aren’t many library services publishing data (yet!), and it can be a daunting task for a service to get started. For libraries, it’s still leading in innovation rather than jumping on a bandwagon. Firstly …”
  • Libraries Activity Data – Libraries Connected. 23 February, 1pm, webinar. “We are analysing libraries’ activity data on a monthly basis and benchmarking this against broader data from High Streets and other areas. Join us for a discussion on what the data shows, what it means and provide your own insight from the library services to make our analysis a much richer picture.”
  • The Story Detective Will Tour to Libraries Across the UK in 2023 – Broadway World. “An immersive promenade dance performance, The Story Detectives takes children and their families on an imaginative journey through the library to discover different kinds of books, from a detective book to an adventure book, a dictionary to a fairy tale, led by two characters Playful and Particular.”

International news

  • AustraliaPublic Libraries and the public good: How Australian public libraries are a core to local government presence – Medium. “hile the three Rs are essential to the operation of society, the provision of public library services can be seen as critical for local governments in providing a human face to council services and one of the only few spaces where the notion of community is fostered and thrived.”
  • Canada – How the North Bay Public Library is spicing things up – TVO. ” the North Bay Public Library also offers patrons the chance to participate in a special kind of club: anyone with a library card can pick up a free Spice of the Month kit containing a spice portion (like ginger in December, cumin in January, and paprika in February) and a simple recipe — four-ingredient cardamom muffins or ginger-molasses cookies, for example — so they can try the spice at home. NBPL makes around 30 to 40 kits to hand out to library-goers on a first-come, first-serve basis. “
  • Finland – Eventful year in the Iisalmi City Library – NAPLE Sister Libraries. “the project wants to turn the library space into an active forum of public debate and other activities connected to promoting democracy. “
  • USA – Publishers Want to End How Libraries Lend Books Online – Medium. ” “publishers will continue to sue libraries over digital practices that were long considered fair uses in the physical world — even if they are done on a nonprofit basis with no measurable economic harm.””

Local news by authority

  • Birmingham – Libraries ‘won’t face funding cuts’ but may be moved in Birmingham says council leader – Birmingham Mail. “The report said the expected budget gap for the period 2023/24 would be £80 million, rising to as much as £146.5 million in 2026/27. The council is expected to try and save £48 million this year.” … “Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham city council, denied libraries will be cut. Instead, he argued the services will be “reconfigured”.”
  • Brighton and Hove – ‘How can cutting Hove Library opening hours be allowed?’ – Yahoo News / Letters. “Now comes news that the shutting of Hove Library on a Saturday is under consideration. How can this be allowed? Provision of libraries is of course a statuary obligation and to close the doors on a Saturday could be described as discrimination.”
  • Bury – Bury readers can now borrow books across Greater Manchester – Bury Times. “The borough has joined the shared Greater Manchester Library Management System, giving people in Bury the choice to borrow 4m books and other items.”
  • Cardiff – Mass read-in protest against Council’s decision to library cuts – Inter Cardiff. “The council is planning to staff the library with unpaid volunteers and change the library opening times but this is a huge problem during the cost of living crisis, according to Adam Johannes, a representative for Cardiff People’s Assembly.” … “There are currently no libraries that are threatened to close but the campaigners fear that often services are cut and run down and then it leads to less people using them, which then is used as an argument in the future to shut them down. Adam says, “The basis of a true democracy is the library.””
  • Derby – Future looking brighter for Derby libraries as £415,000 is budgeted to keep them open – Derby Telegraph. “Derby’s 10 community-managed libraries are set to remain open – potentially for the next 12 months – while expressions of interest from community groups, charities and other organisations are processed. Initially, the city council cabinet was set to approve a plan which would see them operate with certainty until the end of July but a late addendum has now indicated they will remain open longer at a cost to the council of £415,000.”
  • East Riding – Business Start-Up Day at Bridlington Central Library on 22 February – East Riding Council. “The free event is run by East Riding Libraries with the BIPC Humber Partnership. BIPC centres offer free access to millions of pounds’ worth of business and intellectual property information and provide business events, workshops, one-to-one expertise and the space to research, develop and grow in a trusted and accepting space.”
  • Temporary closure of Goole Library – East Riding Council. “The works involve the redevelopment of the existing library, in order to accommodate Goole Customer Service Centre and Opportunity Goole, part of the Goole Town Deal. The new site will have an improved layout, the addition of two private customer interview rooms and the creation of a Contact Centre facility to answer telephone calls to the council’s main telephone line.”
  • East Sussex – Amnesty held for overdue library books in East Sussex – BBC. “The seven-week amnesty runs from 13 February to 31 March, when all fines will be waived by the library service for any books returned.”
  • Fife – Therapets added to Fife library to help young children read with confidence – Fife Today. “Cuddling in with a Therapet such as Jilli can boost the ability of those who get a little tongue-tied or struggle when asked to read out loud.”
  • Capel Library celebrates its seventh year of Community Cinema – Suffolk Libraries. “The Community Cinema has been organised by the Friends of Capel Library since 2016 and regularly hosts new and popular films in the library each month. The audience are invited to vote for which film they would like to see next at each event.”
    • Lakenheath Library to change opening hours this week – Suffolk Libraries. “The changes will benefit local people by providing longer opening hours on busier days to meet local demand. The library will close earlier on Friday evenings when the library has been quieter and will be open for the same number of hours overall.”
    • Pre-loved clothing sale and fashion show at Chantry Library – Suffolk Libraries. “The event aims to celebrate International Women’s Day and promote sustainable clothing whilst also raising funds for Suffolk Libraries. Chantry Library is also looking for any stallholders interested in hosting a stall to sell pre-loved clothes, new jewellery or cosmetics.”
  • West Northamptonshire – Start Up Day 2023 at Northampton Central Library – West Northamptonshire Council. ” a day of free workshops, motivational talks, networking and mentoring to give you the know-how to turn your business dream into a reality, whilst navigating a post-pandemic world.” Business and IP Centre.
  • Wirral – Plans to close nine libraries, play groups and iconic leisure centre thrown out – Liverpool Echo. “Plans to close nine libraries, playgroups and a leisure centre have been thrown out by councillors after a tense Wirral Council meeting.” … “The proposals will now be debated by all councillors on February 27 and looks likely to pass with support from the Liberal Democrats and the Greens who voted to move the budget forward with Labour.”
  • York – Dringhouses Library – York Explore. “Dringhouses Library will be closed from Monday 13 February until the end of the month. Average temperatures inside the library of only 10 degrees during the cold weather mean it is uncomfortable for staff and volunteers working in the building. We know how important this library is to our local community. We will keep the situation under constant review and aim to have the library back open as soon as it is safe to do so.”

£500 million to a library in the South East of England

Editorial

Two bits of news catch my eye today. The first is the, wow, £500 million going to the British Library in London. That’s more than half what goes into the entire national public library service each year. On the one hand, it’s great to see such a massive investment in libraries and, it’s of course not government money that would otherwise have gone to public libraries. That is, the sector has lost nothing from it and may well gain in some ways. On the other hand, that’s because almost government funding almost never goes to public libraries instead. If I was being hyper-cynical I’d point out that the 100,000 new square foot represents ten square feet for each of the 10,000 public library staff lost over the last decade. But I am of course a massive optimist. Yay. And even though it’s a very handy short walk away from Euston, the three hour journey and £150 return cost (if I’m lucky) will tend to put me off visiting to admire it. So I don’t think it’s going to help Levelling Up North. But, on the whole, well done and best wishes to the British Library. They have been more aware of public libraries recently, what with business centres and webinars and the work on (launch any time now, honest) LibraryOn, the Single Digital Presence. And, after all, library sector beggars can’t be choosers.

The other bit of news is the censoring of a nursery rhyme, Five Little Monkeys, in Scottish Book Bug sessions. It appears to have some “historical racist intent”. I’ve not heard it for years and now I know why I guess. But it brings me on to a thought I’ve been having for a while. And that is, weirdly, the explosion of information on the internet has led to an increase in demands for restricting freedom from all sides and all reasons. We see this most notably in the Land Of The Free, where there are ongoing bans and challenges to pretty much any book your average Christian Extremist or Far Righter does not disagree with. And, on the other side, there are “Woke” challenges to a whole bunch of other stuff. This is going on while in what used to be the Soviet Bloc, Russia is busy getting rid of any Ukrainian books and Ukraine is busy dumping Russian books. Don’t get me wrong, I know which side I’m on in both cases (and it ain’t with the Proud Boys and Vladimir Putin) but in a world where one can be called a groomer for not thinking a drag queen is an automatic paedophile (I think that sums up the argument) it’s great to see Ireland resisting attempts to remove books. Freedom comes with a cost and it’s unfortunately the public library sector that is starting to pay.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • 3 Essential Components Of The Library – Princh. Staff, events/programmes, IT.
  • Alan Hopkinson IFLA Conference Award 2023 – IFLA. “This Award enables a CILIP member in their early career (full criteria below) to experience the IFLA Congress.  The Award covers the whole cost of the IFLA conference fee and £100 towards travel and accommodation.”
  • The British Library doesn’t need £500m – but local libraries do – Guardian / Letters. “Since 2010 almost 800 local libraries have been closed across the UK, with the loss of 10,000 staff, and many surviving libraries are at best part-time. Against this backdrop, it is staggering to read that an investment of £500m has been proposed for the British Library (Green light given for huge British Library extension, 3 February). Communities all over the country are being deprived of free access to not only books and information, but also the internet …” see also British Library extension given green light by Camden Council – Built Environment Networking. 100,000 extra square foot.
  • Community Managed Libraries Map – Community Managed Libraries National Peer Network. Google Map of volunteer libraries. [Not entirely accurate – Ed.]
  • Funding fears: Libraries should be staffed like any other council service – Yahoo News. ” Professor Peter Reid says free access to books remains fundamentally important in a civilised society. The professor of librarianship at Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University added that while it might be a time of crisis for local government finances, libraries can and do evolve.”
  • GLL-operated libraries battle digital exclusion with free SIM card scheme – GLL (press release). “More than 60 libraries operated by charitable social enterprise GLL, have this week launched a scheme to provide nearly 16,000 free SIM cards to residents on low incomes and those who are struggling with the cost of living. Libraries located in London’s Bromley, Greenwich and Wandsworth, along with those in Dudley and Lincolnshire will be distributing the cards, building on GLL’s existing Warm Spaces initiative – set up to support those struggling to afford sharp rises in utility bills. The ability to offer free SIM cards is the result of a successful application to the Good Things Foundation and courtesy of mobile phone network operators 3, 02 and Vodafone.”
  • Libraries vital for new and growing businesses, briefing reveals – Libraries Connected. “Our new briefing, ‘Supporting Business and Enterprise’, shows that public libraries are central to realising this ambition. Through Business & IP Centres and other localised services, the library network has become one of the country’s most effective and accessible sources of support for new and growing businesses. As the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee recently put it, libraries act as “engines for entrepreneurship, economic growth and job creation””
  • Make Music Day 2023 – Libraries Meet Up – EventBrite. Tuesday 14 March, 4pm, online. “Make Music Day is an annual set of free music events taking place in venues and public spaces – from town squares to libraries, bandstands to school halls and arts centres. It takes place on the longest day of the year – on 21 June.”
  • Nursery rhymes banned in Scottish library events over ‘historical racism’ fears – Telegraph. “Popular “Bookbug” sessions are held for young children across Scotland with the support of the Scottish Book Trust, the Holyrood-backed charity which has told libraries and nurseries hosting these events that certain songs should no longer be sung. Despite having lyrics unrelated to race, Five Little Monkeys has been banned because it has “historical racist intent”.”
  • Public Libraries 2022: Netloan Customer Survey Results – Lorensbergs. “Average footfall has reached nearly 70% of pre-Covid levels, up from around 50% at end of 2021″
  • Public Libraries Project of the Year Grant – National Acquisitions Group. “£5,000 available for a project from a NAG Member library.”
  • Tricky decisions as Scotland’s councils face budget shortfalls – BBC. “Individual local authorities have shortfalls ranging from around £7m in the Scottish Borders to £120m at Glasgow City Council, according to research by the BBC.”

International news

Local news by authority

“The Minister talks about the terrible circumstances in Ukraine and the events of the last year, but he must recognise that the scale of the cuts since 2010 have been devastating for our local authorities, which have had to consider closing libraries, swimming pools, leisure centres and so forth. Can he confirm that it is in fact more of a long-term problem and that we need greater investment in our public services?”

Margaret Greenwood MP Labour, Wirral West
  • Worcestershire – Threat to city’s libraries as ‘lifeline’ funding set to be pulled – Yahoo News. “The future of some of the city’s libraries could be thrown into doubt as part of a plan to cut ‘lifeline’ funding. Worcester City Council pledged to supply £157,000 to Worcestershire County Council every year as part of a deal to keep services running at Warndon and St John’s libraries in 2019. But now city council bosses are discussing pulling the plug on the agreement and leaving the county to fund the service.”
  • York – Dringhouses library faces temporary closure for heating repairs – Press. “Due to issues with the heating system at Dringhouses Library, York Explore Libraries & Archives has notified councillors of plans to temporarily close the library from Monday February 13 until the end of the month. Ward councillors have raised concerns about the impact of the temporary closure on the local community and have asked for an urgent meeting with Explore to discuss possible temporary solutions which would ensure that staff, volunteers and residents can safely access vital services.”

The joy of work

Editorial

There is a joy to working in public libraries. I get a real up when I see a child jumping up and down in excitement because they’d found a book I remember ordering a month ago. Or when someone takes a book or two off a display that I put together. Or, the best of all, when someone thanks you or walks away obviously happy after I have answered their questions. Another satisfying thing is weeding a section of shelves because so much of my work is now on the computer, it’s great when an obvious physical difference is made. Planning and organising an event that gets sold out is pretty good too. Or planning for 13 months (yes, more than one year) for the Summer Reading Challenge and making sure lessons are learnt and there’s every chance it’ll be better for everyone than the year before. There is a real value to this which helps make up for other things which is just as well – in the words of Phil Bradley, no-one comes into this job for the money and the power.

National news

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, if she will make an assessment of the potential impact of the closing of the Libraries Taskforce in March 2020 on strategic planning for libraries.

Barbara Keeley Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

In September 2022, the Government appointed Baroness Sanderson of Welton as chairman of a new advisory panel to help develop a new strategy to make sure that public libraries are providing the best possible service for their communities. More detail can be found here. To date she has had numerous meetings with organisations with an interest in public libraries work, and has led two roundtable sessions …

Stuart Andrew Under Secretary DCMS
  • Library projects to receive share of £200k Scottish Government funding – Yahoo News. Public Library Improvement Fund (PLIF) : “including an additional support needs training programme in Aberdeen and the creation of ‘Live Well Health’ information hubs across Glasgow. Other initiatives awarded grants aim to combat social isolation, bridge the digital divide, help close the attainment gap and mitigate the impact of the cost-of-living crisis.”

Based on this dataset, DCMS estimates that around 230 libraries have permanently closed in the period 1 April 2010 to 31 December 2021 and not been relocated or replaced.

Stuart Andrew, Under Secretary DCMS

Changes by local authority

International news

  • Netherlands – Innovations in Libraries: Impressions of a Study Trip to the Netherlands – ZBW Mediatalk. ” In the Netherlands, for example, it is taken for granted that they offer consultation hours for advice on e-government. The self-image as a Third Place is also already omnipresent there. Public libraries are perceived as the living rooms of cities and are used accordingly.” … ” Everyone can get involved on a voluntary basis. Events are often organised at request of visitors. This way, the librarians know that there is a real need for a topic and what their target groups are interested in.”

Local news by authority

  • Redbridge – Step into a story at Redbridge Libraries for National Storytelling Week – Redbridge Council. “Redbridge is also a founding member of the Libraries Consortium spanning 23 councils across London, Luton, Essex and Surrey, enabling Redbridge residents to take advantage of a further 8 million books and other items, and access to services and facilities from over 380 libraries across London and the south east.”
  • Suffolk – Book now for our big Online Book Festival – Suffolk Libraries. “The festival features online interviews with a number of top authors including Elly Griffiths, Jill Mansell, Sarah Pearse and more. The festival takes place between 6 and 12 March with a different author interviewed every day.”
  • Suffolk Libraries welcomes John Grose as first Paws-itivity sponsor – Suffolk Libraries. Motor dealer signs up.  “Suffolk Libraries biggest ever fundraising campaign which will see colourful dog sculptures in all of the county’s libraries this summer. The ‘Library Labradors’ will all feature designs individually created by local artists.”
  • Wirral – Cheers at council meeting as Wirral golf course is offered a lifeline – Standard. “Councillors also agreed to allow Pensby and Prenton libraries to be transferred into community hands while Higher Bebington, Wallasey Village, and Irby libraries moved to final negotiations of community transfer before coming back to committee.” … “Recommendations for Hoylake Library to be sold off or rented out as well as Higher Bebington library and Woodchurch Library now being used for educational purposes have been recommended to Policy and Resources”

No words

Editorial

Well, after writing Public Libraries News since 2010, I sometimes think I have seen it all. And then I see Midlothian’s propose to replace all front-line staff with self-service machines and volunteers. That’s pretty gobsmacking in itself, honestly, but then it goes on to say that the council is planning to remove its printed books budget and rely on e-books instead. Anyone who knows the cost of e-books to libraries would be a bit surprised about how this could be presented as a saving but one suspects the council may not have entirely thought things through. The whole thing makes very little sense but then Midlothian has some history here, with an attempt to 2017 to get rid of all but one of those pesky hearts of the community and literacy cluttering Scotland that save people and show a way to a better life. That was silly enough but not buying printed books? What do I think of that? Well, like a Midlothian library in a few years, I have no words.

Changes by local authority

National news

“I had no money growing up. My dad was a labourer and my mum did everything to make ends meet. Men worked hard. Women worked miracles. But education was free. As was the local library. I knew books were my passport to a better life. #SupportLibraries

Ricky Gervaise
  • Do we need a Wales Libraries Act? – IWA. “While everyone must recognise that the UK government policy of systematically underfunding both devolved and local government to shrink the local state is at the core of our crumbling local services, surely a Labour administration in Wales should go the extra mile in defence of public libraries that could soon become an endangered species?”
  • In praise of “slow librarianship” – Nick Poole. “‘faster’ doesn’t necessarily equate to ‘better’ when it comes to helping people find real answers to real questions.”
  • Kerry Hudson: Libraries were a lifesaver for me – Herald Scotland. ” I don’t mean, ‘lifesaver’ as in, ‘Thank goodness I can order that new crime novel or use the wifi or shelter from the rain’. I mean without them I wouldn’t be writing in these pages. I wouldn’t be alive at all.”

“The news that Midlothian Council intends to implement cuts to the service that they say will create a total saving of £750,000 pounds over three years is bewildering to me. I’m no politician but you have to wonder whether the economy of saving £250,000 annually weighs up If you consider that the risk is not just losing a library but unofficial, and occasionally official, mother and baby support groups, outreach centres for elderly people, literacy, IT and benefits coaching hubs and, during this cost of living crisis, warm banks too.”

Kerry Hudson
  • Libraries and homelessness – Libraries Connected. Wednesday 1 March, 11am, webinar. “Discover some of the innovative work being done within libraries to ensure they meet the needs and expectations of people experiencing homelessness. London Libraries members will reflect on their pioneering homelessness training programme, while representatives of the Reading Agency and Homeless Link will discuss their own work in this area. “
  • Libraries Connected Innovation Network Gathering 2023 – Libraries Connected. Thursday 2 March, 10am to 4pm, Birmingham.
  • MozFest bursary applications now open for library staff – Libraries Connected. Six bursaries. “The Mozilla Festival, affectionately known as MozFest, is hosted by the Mozilla Foundation, it is a celebration for, by, and about people who love the internet, showcasing world-changing ideas and technology through exhibitions, talks and interactive sessions.”

International news

Local news by authority

  • Barnsley – Libraries – They’re Not Just For Books – Camerados. “Since opening, our Public Living Room has been busy, and staff have commented that they have seen many an intense game of connect four taking place in the space. Our communities have come together and filled in postcards, sat and chatted over a drink they brought in from the café next door. Someone has even left a copy of The Happy News newspaper for others to read to spread some positivity.”
  • Bolton – Free wellbeing workshops for body and mind on offer – Yahoo News. “The 90 minute “interactive and engaging” workshops will include discussions around the differences between physical health and mental health and wellbeing”
  • Bradford – Discounted baby photo shoots at Bradford library – Telegraph and Argus. “As part of a push to get more children reading, babies can be signed up to join libraries at Registry Offices at Bradford and Keighley. Bradford City Library has now joined forces with award-winning photographer Tim Simpson who will run Photo Booth sessions once a month. Tickets, at a discounted cost of £5, can be booked online via Ticket Source and will include a 30-minute photo booth slot and an 8 x 6” colour photograph of the baby. “
  • Bristol – Bristol Central Library could relocate in the future, council member says – BBC. “Plans to move Bristol’s Central Library on College Green were raised in mayor Marvin Rees’s draft budget in November but scrapped following an outcry. But council cabinet member Ellie King has refused to rule out moving the library, saying the Grade I-listed building was not fit for purpose. She said libraries should be seen as “a service, not a building”.
  • Cheshire East – “Shocking” CEC Labour plan to close libraries on Saturdays – Nantwich News / Letter. “Labour-run Cheshire East are proposing to shut libraries on a Saturday and reduce opening hours on other days.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester Council tax for 2023 could go up to the maximum – Cheshire Live. “. Libraries and social care are also among a wide range of council services due to come under the spotlight”
City of London

“I raise the plight of the Peacehaven and Telscombe conurbation, which has more than 23,000 people, with no further education provision, high levels of free school meals and pupil premium, and, despite improvements, below average rates of literacy and numeracy. Despite that, the county council wishes to downgrade the library from 900 square metres to 300 square metres and to reduce its opening times. Will the Minister join me in calling for libraries of an appropriate size in large towns? Will the Department publish statutory guidelines on the square meterage and opening times expected per population for large towns?”

East Sussex – Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour/Co-operative, Brighton, Kemptown

As the hon. Gentleman says, public libraries are run by local authorities, so it is up to each local authority to identify the needs of local residents. DCMS has previously received representations about the relocation of Peacehaven library and we have engaged with the local authority to understand the plans and their implications. The Secretary of State has a statutory power to intervene by way of a local inquiry if she considers that a local authority is not providing a comprehensive and efficient library service. That is taken seriously, so if a complaint is received, the Department will challenge the council and evidence will be carefully considered before it is decided whether a local inquiry is needed.

Paul Scully The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Midlothian

Asymmetric Warfare

Editorial

I’m currently finishing off an article for a French library journal on the experience of English public libraries after lockdown. It’s surprisingly upbeat so hardly my usual style. But I do think that the sector has done far better than one could reasonably expect after being closed or semi-closed for basically two years. Being me of course, and the public library sector, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. There are signs, such as in Cardiff, that bad times may be here again shortly but, on the other hand, public opposition still seems very effective, as we can see in Bristol, Essex and Nottingham. So, who will win this year? Central government cuts or hyperlocal campaigning? That’s not as clear cut an answer as it seems. In this asymmetric warfare, experience suggests its often the guerrilla that has the advantage. Viva la Libraryistas.

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Change by local authority

National news

  • £135m levelling-up funding goes to seven libraries but concern remains about long-term investment – Bookseller. “Successful bids include a combined library, music and arts venue in Harlow, a state-of-the-art leisure centre, library and cultural space in Farnborough, a creative workspace and redesign at Hackney Central Library, and a new modern library in Reading. More than £135m has been awarded to projects involving libraries. ” but concerns that long-term cuts in spending and budget worries in 2023 may negate gains.
“of all the self-defeating things we have done as a nation in recent years, closing the libraries that could help these children has been the worst.”

“Libraries have been levelling up for over 170 years so it seems natural that they should feature prominently on this list of successful projects.”

Isobel Hunter, Libraries Connected.
Up to three staff per library can nominate at Dagger in the Library nominations – The Crime Writers’ Association (thecwa.co.uk)
  • Osman, Haig and Rowling books among most popular digital titles borrowed from libraries via OverDrive – BookSeller. “According to OverDrive – which provides schools and libraries with access to e-books, audiobooks, digital newspapers and magazines – Osman e-books were the most popular last year, with The Man Who Died Twice and The Thursday Murder Club (both from Viking) coming in at first and second place. “
  • Scotland’s New £30,000 SLIC Fund Backs ‘Pioneering Library Projects’ – Publishing Perspectives. ” a broad base of strategic support from the BBC and BBC Scotland and the British Library to Carnegie UK and the Scottish Book Trust. The council was formed in 1991 and is not, in fact, a government organization. Instead, it’s an independent advisory body to the Scottish government. with membership both in the public sector and in educational institutions.”
  • Seminar and Forum – National Acquisitions Group. “Our call for papers is now open for both and closes on 3rd February 2023.  You do not need to be a NAG Member to present and all speakers receive a full free place and UK travel expenses.”
  • Video Marketing for Libraries: How to Create, Promote and Evaluate – CILIP. Friday 24 February, 10am to 1pm, Zoom. “Video is an increasingly essential tool to market library services and engage users, both on traditional platforms like YouTube and Vimeo, and on social media across Instagram, TikTok and Twitter. This hands-on workshop aims to familiarise delegates with several styles of video and give you a chance to try out a variety of useful tools.”

International news

Local news by authority

Devon
Essex
Hackney
Lewisham
  • Nottingham – Three local libraries saved from closure – Nottingham Council. “The council’s Executive Board today (January 17) voted in favour of keeping all existing libraries open, but with some shortened opening times across the library network, and Aspley Library modified to create a stock distribution and outreach hub while retaining it as a publicly accessible library. Earlier plans involved among other things the closure of Basford, Radford/Lenton and Aspley libraries, with Aspley’s being turned into a distribution hub for the library service. However, some savings have already been achieved through a staffing restructure in the libraries service, meaning only £79,000 of savings were needed from the original £233,000. This, along with strong public feedback against the closure proposals and emerging factors such as their important role of libraries during the cost-of-living crisis and as warm hubs, has allowed the council to look again at how to achieve the necessary changes and savings.”
  • Pembrokeshire – Mobile library to visit Narberth while library remains shut – Western Telegraph. Maintenance needed. “Narberth Town Council, which leases the library building from Pembrokeshire County Council, hopes that the work will start shortly.”
  • Redcar and Cleveland – Councillors unhappy about proposed temporary library move – Yahoo News. “Redcar and Cleveland Council is proposing to move Redcar library from its current base in Kirkleatham Street to the Tuned In! building about half a mile away in Majuba Road near the seafront. A new facility is due to be created in Redcar High Street as part of the £25m Town Deal plans, but won’t be in place until 2025 at the earliest.”
  • Sheffield – Have your say on library opening times – Sheffield Council. “We have an opportunity to extend the opening hours of the Council run community hub libraries from 31 to 34 hours per week and in order to do this we need to standardise the opening times.  Therefore we are consulting with library users and non users to identify the impact of the proposed change to the opening days and times.”
    • No one is allowed to walk within 3 metres of Sheffield library – Examiner Live. “a temporary exclusion zone was put in place around the building in Arundel Gate, Surrey Street and Tudor Square. This three-metre zone will include footpath closures along the whole length of the building in Surrey Street. Protective canopies have also been put in place along the Graves Building’s entrances and exits so the public and members of staff can be safe when using the building.”
  • Sheffield Central Library forced to close this morning – Star. Power cut.
Nottinghamshire
  • Shropshire – Shropshire libraries hosting friendly banking advice sessions – Shropshire Council. HSBC “hosting expert advice sessions to help people protect themselves from fraud, manage their money and learn about digital banking options.”
    • Libraries add another chapter to innovative prison project – Shropshire Council. “Three volunteer ‘human library books’ went to the prison to be ‘read’ by six selected prisoner representatives in a bid to open up frank conversations. Their subjects were health, sexuality, grief, and abuse.”
    • Ludlow library is hub for adult learning reading initiative – Ludlow Advertiser. “Books in the new Adult Reading Scheme Collection are graded, and the levels range from very basic to short novels and non-fiction, books for those with very limited literacy or who speak very little English, and titles for people with moderate literacy or dyslexia.”
  • Solihull – Library book amnesty – please bring your books back – Solihull Council. “Throughout January and February, Solihull libraries are holding an amnesty with anonymous drop-off points available at all libraries in the borough. This means customers won’t need to speak to a librarian, they can just  drop their overdue books into the library boxes. Returned items will then be logged back onto the system and replaced on the shelves for other library users to enjoy.”
  • South Gloucestershire – South Gloucestershire libraries named in top five in the UK for children’s reading challenge – South Gloucestershire Council. “Six thousand children aged between four and 11 took part in the 2022 challenge in South Gloucestershire, reading 100,000 books. This means almost 20 percent of all Primary age school children in the district took part.”
  • Southwark – C20 makes listing bid for Peckham Library – Twentieth Century Society. “Following concerns regarding an application for intrusive new rooftop plant equipment, C20 has submitted a listing application for the celebrated Peckham Library in Southwark, South London, recommending it be considered for Grade II* status. Designed by Alsop and Störmer, the library opened in 2000 and won the Stirling Prize for Architecture in the same year. It is widely considered one of the most important works of the late Will Alsop, who passed away in 2018, and a landmark millennial project.”
  • Staffordshire – Free creative workshops in selected Stafford libraries – Staffordshire Council. “The workshops will help people to explore what they love about where they live, taking inspiration from local heritage collections.  Workshops will also help boost people’s wellbeing through creative & social activity. “
  • Suffolk – Long Melford Library closed until further notice – Suffolk Libraries. “We were advised by the Royal British Legion over the weekend that they intend to close their building in Long Melford with immediate effect. We have not been given a reason for the closure.”
    • Ipswich Library to host menopause focus group – Suffolk Libraries. “The new programme is being launched after Suffolk Libraries received £170k of funding from the Department of Health and Social Care’s Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Health and Wellbeing Fund. The funding will enable Suffolk Libraries to launch a new project to provide support and advice for women who are experiencing the menopause and perimenopause.”
    • Join us for the Orwell Challenge and help raise funds for Suffolk Libraries – Suffolk Libraries. Request for Orwell Challenge walkers to raise money for library service.
    • Suffolk Libraries launch Paw-some Art Sculpture fundraising event – Suffolk Libraries. “PAWS-itivity will involve 45 dog sculptures featuring designs individually created by local artists in each of Suffolk’s libraries over the Summer of 2023.” … “The event aims to raise money to support Suffolk Libraries work at the heart of the community. It will also raise awareness of Suffolk Libraries as an independent charity”
Nottiinghamshire refurbishment

An encouraging year, in the end

Editorial

So this is the time of year when I traditionally look back on the last twelves months and see if I can spot any themes. Ones that stand out to me this year are:

  • Public libraries have bounced back quite a lot this year from Covid, with normal service being resumed in almost all and, crucially, many people coming back to use them. Statistics are far between and contested but it looks like fewer numbers than in 2019 but perhaps in line with other physical retail and the continued decline in usage we’ve seen for over a decade. But thankfully, people are using libraries once more. Phew.
  • Warm Libraries. Public libraries and councils moved fast after Martin Lewis tweeted about the need for “warm banks” as well as “food banks” this winter. Scores of library services registered as welcoming spaces for those who needed heating, with many offering hot drinks and coffee on top of the more traditional library and council services. This will hopefully strengthen the sector in the eyes of budget-holders next year. Libraries, which are neutral, free and more importantly in thousands of local communities, are the ideal thing for stuff like this. So far as I can tell, actual take-up of libraries as refuges was limited but it shows the speed the services can pivot and their utility.
  • Intolerance comes to the UK. Fresh off the well-funded push towards censorship in the USA against anything that doesn’t tie in with conservative beliefs – mainly LGBT and especially anything Trans – we saw a series of vocal and sometimes violent protests against Drag Queen Story Time and, less in the news, more attempts by the public to ban certain titles. These protest letters were often copy and pasted from US or US-influenced webpages. While instances of successful actual censorship were small but not non-existent in the UK, the many protests at the story-times may well have an impact in 2023. We’ll see.
  • Budget cuts were strongly threatened last year but in the end, with some notable local exceptions, did not make a huge impact on services. There are similar worries, possibly with more reason, in 2023.
  • Libraries of Things made an increasing impact, in a couple of incarnations. Tool (and other things0 libraries started in a few branches and, perhaps more interestingly, other things such as coats were starting to be donated and given out as well. The trend towards giving other items, such as feminine hygiene products, increased as did the providing of some novel services, such as sunshine-lights.
  • After what feels like an age, at least the name of the Single Digital Presence – “LibraryOn” – was announced. The job in producing it is being done very thoroughly (just the naming took a significant time) so one hopes it’s going to be worth it when it comes.
  • The continued government distractions meant another one (or was it two or three? Don’t know) ministers in charge of libraries coming and going. They don’t do much anyway – saying nice things but giving very little else. More funding for the sector is evident from Arts Council England, though. The recruitment of an ex Mail journalist as a chair of a new libraries working group made shivers tun down my spine but it’s too early to tell if she’ll go full bold-exclamation-mark when it comes to more serious work. Certainly, though, don’t expect much government funding or hands-on intervention. But do expect increasingly encouragement of volunteers, charities, and anything else that may replace actual proper funding of the sector.

Anyway, wishing you all the best in 2023! Public libraries are stronger now than I had any right to expect when I started these editorials way back in 2010 and this is down to the wonderfulness of them as a concept (and that’s pretty darn brilliant) but also the people who work and fight for them. Thank you. Now on to the next twelve months.

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