And then there was one


Recovery continues, although the latest Libraries Connected figures showing a far slower return to libraries than to shops. This is, however, honestly to be expected as still only a small fraction of branches are fully open, with most only offering partial services and many still closed, although Sandwell is now the only library service not to have any form of physical service at all.

In other news – now there is other news – it’s been reassuring to see the huge fight put up in Glasgow over possible closures, resulting in the assurance this week that all branches are safe. Like most book readers, I do like a happy ending and the Scottish have apparently managed to get one there.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Boris Johnson and the revenge of the school librarian – TES. “Lining the shelf just behind Mr Johnson’s head were titles with rather unflattering associations for any political leader, including “The Twits”, “The Subtle Knife”, “The Resistance”, and “Betrayed”. And sticking out like a sore thumb was “Fahrenheit 451”, a dystopian novel about a society where books are banned.
  • Burning the books by Richard Ovenden – BBC Radio 4. 14 minutes, first episode of five. “Richard Ovenden, director of the Bodleian Library, explains how attacks on libraries and archives have been a feature of history since ancient times, but have increased in frequency and intensity during the modern era. Libraries are far more than stores of literature, through preserving the legal documents such as Magna Carta and records of citizenship they also support the rule of law and the rights of citizens.”
  • Lesley Pearse launches Libraries Connected #LibrariesFromHomeLIVE virtual event series – Libraries Connected. “Hosted via Zoom, Facebook Live and Live Webinar the series will kick-off with Bristol Libraries on the 10th September and conclude with a special Friday Fizz! Event with Manchester Libraries on the 25th September.”
  • Libraries: helping local communities find work – Arts Council England. “As the country tries to recover economically from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, libraries are extremely well-placed to help people looking for work and support their communities.” … “Data provided by Norfolk Library Service, Somerset Library Service and Wandsworth Library Service to Libraries Connected for the weeks immediately following lockdown indicate that …”

Libraries have always supported their local communities by offering resources and facilities throughout people’s lives – from toddler rhyme times to supporting the elderly, the isolated and the vulnerable. However, as the economy begins to recover from Covid-19, libraries are extremely well-placed to help those people who are looking for work. I know that up and down the country, library staff will be doing everything they can to support those in their community who need to get back to work or change career path.

Sue Williamson, Director, Libraries, Arts Council England
  • Reading Challenge aims to support pupils returning to school – Grampian Online. “he challenge is available to all primary and secondary schools as well as community groups and libraries in Scotland, and aims to build positive reading cultures and improve literacy for young people. Now in its fifth year, the programme is run by national charity Scottish Book Trust and over a third of all schools in Scotland took part in the challenge last year. The First Minister’s Reading Challenge aims to support teachers and pupils returning to school after lockdown with additional resources and funding.”
  • Troubled Capita to Sell Another Software Business – CBR. “Capita’s Education Software Solutions business also includes “Reading Cloud”, a library and resource management system that is used by some 15,000 schools, and AGILIT-e: management software for universities that is used by 30 higher education institutions in the UK and Ireland, according to Capita.”
  • Webinar: Phased Reopening of Libraries :Warwickshire Libraries and IF_DO Architects  – Bibliotheca. Tuesday 1 September 2pm.
  • We’re back! How public libraries have been reopening their doors – Libraries Connected. “We have just a snapshot of around 1 in 3 public libraries at the moment, but we’ll be collecting this data over the coming months to build up a more detailed picture of how library services are recovering. ” … “In the first week of opening, libraries saw 8% of their usual visitor numbers, and over the 6 weeks to mid- august this rose to 15%. However, this comparison is based on footfall numbers last year when all library sites were open, so with the 15% figure is more likely to be between 20 and 40% of usual footfall for those sites that are open. “
  • What Does Quality Mean for a Modern Library Service? – Libraries Connected. Recording of video chat, virtual consultation.

International news

  • To-Go Library Services – ALSC Blog. “…  as the months wear on, we’ve come to realize that patrons (much like their hard-working librarians) are pretty burnt out on technology. So last month when we reopened to the public, the Youth Services Team rolled out a few fresh ideas for engaging with our community.”

Local news by authority

And then there were two


Generally, libraries are continuing to reopen and usage is slowly, so slowly, beginning to rise. It looks like that usage drops after the inevitable spike of opening and then slowly recovers. The question for all library services is when that recovery will reach pre-lockdown levels. And if it will reach pre-lockdown levels. After all, there’s a lot of people out there, who out of previous habit used libraries but will now have had four or five months now to explore digital alternatives. It will also take a time, how long no-one knows, for our more cautious users to decide things are safe enough to come back. And that will in turn depend on if there’s a second spike or not, and when this nightmare fully ends.

More specifically, only two library services in England are currently not offering any physical service (inc. click and collect) at all. One of these, Barking and Dagenham, have been extra careful since the beginning and announced a long while ago they’d reopen on 1 September. The other, Sandwell has just a note saying “closed until further notice” on their webpage. Elsewhere, Glasgow Life – the trust that runs libraries – is having a budgetary problem brought on by lockdown and has announced some libraries may not reopen, much to the chagrin of the public and the local paper. Even Nicola Sturgeon is stepping in there.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • 1000 Tiny Fun Palaces – Fun Palaces. 3 and 4 October. “While Fun Palaces usually have anything from 20 to 2000 participants, in response to Covid-19, we are encouraging extra-small, hyper-local Fun Palaces this October.”
  • Beyond digital literacy: STEM learning ideas from library professionals in the UK and Ireland – CILIP.
  • The complicated business of keeping books clean of COVID-19 – Jisc News. Academic library perspective.
  • Digital events in public libraries: learning from our lockdown experiences – Libraries Connected. 10 September. “Colleagues from three public library services will be sharing their experiences of developing creative digital activity for their communities during lockdown. They will be describing how they planned the programme, the impact their activities have had and will reflect on skills used/needed and other lessons learned.”
  • Libraries: A place to learn to love culture – DCMS Blog. “Library services are opening again with enthusiasm. Reopening libraries with social distancing measures in place is going smoothly, with libraries placing a strong emphasis on safety of both staff and users.  As more measures are relaxed, libraries will begin to move back to running events.  “
  • Libraries Week – CILIP. “In 2020, Libraries Week will take place between the 5th and 10th October, celebrating the nation’s much-loved libraries and their vital role in the UK’s book culture. We will be encouraging libraries in all sectors to celebrate books and reading, showcase their reading offer and the contribution they make towards building a Nation of Readers.”
  • Shop – Reading Agency. Special emailed appeal – “We’d really appreciate if you can include a call-out for adult librarians to be added to our weekly newsletter – they can email zoe.sadler@readingagency.org.uk“. Also, the Agency are “encouraging the libraries to order packs to use them wherever they can – putting posters in windows, bookmarks on desks, instead of the creative displays they usually make. We also have digital packs available with social media assets and downloadable activities”
  • Survey – DCMS. 10-20 minute survey. “This survey has been commissioned by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to better understand the needs of its stakeholders. Your answer will remain anonymous and will be used to inform DCMS’ preparedness efforts.”
  • With coronavirus lockdowns many libraries (and librarians) have been more fabulous than ever – Guardian. A “First Dog on the Moon” cartoon to make ever public librarian proud.

International news

Local news by authority

Hertfordshire – Minnie’s Library Episode. A lovely personal way of updating users of what”d going on. We hope your house gets tidied soon, Minnie.
  • Hampshire – Have your say over Aldershot, Fleet, Farnborough and Yateley library hours – In Your Area. “Hampshire County Council wants to cut opening times at 40 libraries to help save £1.76 million”
  • Islington – Phased reopening of Islington libraries announced – Islington Gazette. “Archway Library, Central Library, Finsbury Library, N4 Library, West Library and the Local History Centre will be open Monday to Friday from 11am to 4pm and Saturday 11am to 5pm.”
  • Kent – More libraries and archives search room to reopen – Kent County Council. “A further 12 Kent Libraries will reopen over the course of week beginning 24 August. These will be the first libraries to also offer a socially-distanced book browsing service for customers so they can select books from the shelves.”
  • Lambeth – Lambeth Heritage Festival – Lambeth Council. “With over 40 different events, there will be something happening on just about every day of the month. The big difference is that this year everything will be online. You can chose from virtual walks, archive film screenings, online talks, podcasts, virtual reality films, banner making and drawing workshops, discussion groups, virtual building tours and author interviews – hopefully there should be something for almost every taste.”
  • Lancashire – Lancashire County Council is reopening more of its libraries this week – here is the full list of all that are now open – Lancaster Guardian. “In Lancashire 26 libraries have now reopened their doors, with 14 opening in the last week, including, Heysham, Longridge and Ribbleton”
  • Liverpool – Zip Wire decision to be challenged in court – Engage Liverpool. “The Victorian Society announced in a press release this afternoon (19.08.20) that they have started legal proceedings against Liverpool City Council’s decision to grant planning approval to create a zip wire visitor attraction through the historic core of the St George’s Quarter (also known as the Culture Quarter in the UNESCO World Heritage Site documentation) involving a huge new construction on the roof of the Grade II* Listed Central Library.”
  • Manchester – Inside the new normal at Manchester Central Library – Manchester Evening News. “A maximum of 250 visitors will be allowed into the library at any time, with hand sanitiser stations available on all four floors.”. Face masks and test and trace in place. “floor cafe will be opened, with slimmed down seating for social distancing and a reduced menu.”. … “Space inside the library’s fantastic Wolfson Reading Room – with its huge dome roof and wonderful echo – has been reduced from 300 to 60, but it is open.” Reduced opening hours.
  • Norfolk – Two more Norfolk Libraries set to re-open – Watton and Swaffham Times. “Swaffham Library and St Williams Way Library in Thorpe St Andrew are set to reopen on Tuesday, August 25 with safety measures in place.”
  • Northern Ireland – All local libraries set to reopen next week – Derry Journal. “Several libraries across Derry and the wider north west will reopen for the first time in five months next week, it has been confirmed.”
  • Nottingham – Next chapter for Nottingham’s Central Library – My Nottingham News. “While the progression for the new Central Library continues at pace as part of the new Broadmarsh Car Park, Bus Station and retail development, a decision has been made to not re-open the Nottingham Central Library at its current location on Angel Row, since its closure on Friday 20 March following the COVID-19 lockdown. “
  • Nottinghamshire – Retford Library set to reopen after extensive refurbishment – Lincolnshire Live. “The county council say the refurbishment has made the library more visible and accessible to the local community with easier to navigate shelving, which will also be able to be moved to create larger spaces for performances and cultural activities.”
  • Peterborough – Three Peterborough libraries to open next week – Peterborough Telegraph.
  • Sheffield – List and reopen Tinsley Carnegie library, Sheffield – Change.org. “We the undersigned petition Sheffield City Council to list the handsome Tinsley Carnegie library building, and to apply for funding to reactivate it for its originally intended purpose, to provide a much needed free library for the area of Tinsley.”
  • Shetland – Community / Librarian with ‘huge sense of fun’ nominated for national award – Shetland News. “Catherine Jeromson is up for the 2020 library and information professional of the year award from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland.” … “Her nomination highlights her improvements to the mobile library, and services for the visually impaired. Her work with the library’s Twitter account – which has received widespread attention, partly due to some light-hearted banter with Orkney Library – is also noted.”
  • Staffordshire – Staffordshire’s mobile library service prepares to return – Express and Star. “Staffordshire County Council has announced the return of the mobile service as part of the library service’s phased reopening, with two vehicles travelling to smaller communities around the county. The mobile service will be limited initially to no more than two communities per day per vehicle, and borrowers will not enter the vehicle but deposit their books with staff and collect new loans arranged in advance.”
  • Warwickshire – Southam Library latest to reopen – Leamington Observer. ““Our other library buildings remain closed just for the time being – although we have ten other library locations offering the ‘Click and Collect’ service – but there will be further announcements about the opening of more libraries around the county very soon.””
  • West Sussex – Libraries are back open in Crawley – Crawley News 24. “All 36 libraries are now open for people to browse the shelves, but the number of visitors allowed in the buildings at any one time will be limited to allow for social distancing.”
  • Wiltshire – Westbury Library will reopen next month – White Horse News. Click and collect plus bookable PCs. ” Libraries were given the go-ahead by the government to open in July. However, instead, Wiltshire Council chose to run the public consultation about how libraries could be opened safely, in a move that was criticised by the local community”
  • Worcestershire – Worcester Festival: What’s on for today? – Worcester News. “Worcestershire Libraries are part of the Living Knowledge Network and they have opened up their Network to Library users providing exclusive access to cultural events, include literary and cultural debates; author talks and panel discussions on key cultural developments.”
  • Wrexham – Wrexham Library Service: creating green spaces inside and out – The Leader. “Sprucing up our green spaces both indoors and outdoors is right on trend, and there are plenty of titles on design, planting, DIY projects, indoor plants, as well as vegetable and herb patches to offer inspiration and guidance.”

“In a word, online”


At time of writing, it has been 144 days since the official start of lockdown and things are continuing to open up. Holidays are being taken, relatives visited and shopping done. However, many places abroad are seeing the much-feared second wave and the curve for the UK itself is looking worryingly upward-turning. In public libraries, more services are being added and librarians continue to emerge blinking (and, one cannot help but notice, often very tanned) into the new world, with as far as I can tell only 3 out of 150 English services (Barking and Dagenham, Bedford and Sandwell) still not offering some sort of physical service.

Speaking personally, the high point of my week was hosting a very successful session from John Kirk, who did a brilliant online Twits show for 40 or so enthralled (and highly participating) children. Interestingly, that’s more kids than I’d normally expect for a physical show. We got talking afterwards (see the interview below for the result) and discussed what will be happening to libraries medium term. And basically what we agreed was that it is going to be online. It looks like Covid may well come back, or at least not go away, and that the risks it induces mean that physical events will be difficult for the foreseeable future. This, combined with more people getting used to teleconferencing, shows the need for us to do more of that. And, as time goes by, the quality will need to continue to improve.

The good news is that digital should be very cheap and it is just the skills and the will that libraries need to develop. For example, it’s far less costly for a library service anywhere in the country to hire a storyteller like John for Zoom than it would be to pay his travelling expenses. And if 2 or 3 library services clubbed together, it’d be frankly ridiculously cheaper. So the opportunity is there. Libraries just need to grab it, as they have done before, and not let the digital slip but, rather, continue to improve.

An interview with John Kirk, professional storyteller

What do you enjoy most about storytimes in public libraries? 

I have been working in public libraries since 2012.  To date, I have worked with 80 library authorities in England, Scotland and Wales and a few school’s library services.  I love working in public libraries.  For me, it’s all about getting out there, meeting new people, seeing new places and sharing the fun of stories with family audiences.  I suppose these are also the things I have missed the most during the lock down.  Nobody treats me and my work with more respect than the library staff I have worked with and it’s a real privilege to be a small part (in some cases a fixture) in some family’s summers. 

Nobody treats me and my work with more respect than the library staff I have worked with

What do you least enjoy? 

My life has changed hugely over the time I have been telling stories in libraries.  As the years have passed I do more and more travelling.  It’s very satisfying to work with library audiences across the UK but the nights away from my three year old daughter can be tough at times.  I also find it quite hard to have built relationships with librarians, to hear about cuts and restructures and then to invoice people I consider friends – there are some libraries whom I would pay to work with I enjoy visiting them so much, honestly I would! 

Is there something that a library service did that really impressed you?) 

Librarians are an incredible breed of people.  I don’t think they always get the credit they deserve for what they do in their communities.  They are also risk takers and I owe what has been a fabulous period of my life to people like Sean Edwards, Geoff James, Lesley Davies, and Hilary Marshall to name just a few of the wonderful people who have been so very supportive of my work. 

For me there are a couple of authorities who offer a really varied programme of activities and then promote them really well to their audiences (not to embarrass them but Brent and Redbridge). 

For me the biggest challenge that libraries face is telling the world how great the stuff they do is; that libraries are about more than books.  For me there are a couple of authorities who offer a really varied programme of activities and then promote them really well to their audiences (not to embarrass them but Brent and Redbridge).  Most libraries now push events on social media but nothing beats proactive staff talking to their service users about what they are doing and posters, big, colourful posters. 

Looking at the changes wrought by the current crisis, where do you see storytelling in the next year or so? 

In a word; online.  In the week before lock down I was touring Yorkshire Libraries.  On the Monday we managed to persuade a group into a library in Wakefield, on the Tuesday Rotherham Libraries ran me round to the local schools but by that evening remaining dates in Sheffield, Barnsley and York were indefinitely postponed.  In the following weeks I had to cancel my plans and bookings for summer 2020 and put an entirely new plan in place.  This summer I have run sessions using Youtube, Facebook Live, Zoom and Google Meets literally all over the country (in one day I worked with Stoke on Trent, Bristol and Swindon and North Tyneside without going beyond my front door!). 

I’d love to think that on a given date at a given time I could do an event and simultaneously broadcast to every library in a given authority.  Yes, it’d probably be a technical headache but imagine the sense of community when the different audiences could see each other joining in with a story?  Then there are all kinds of opportunities to work with other library services.  One of my favourite moments of the summer was when I told “The Gingerbread Man” and staff from Croydon, St Helens, Hertfordshire, Thurrock, Swansea, Kingston and Tameside Libraries were there because they had promoted the event in their authorities.  To be a part of the discussions afterwards was very special. 

Two children at home interacting with John Kirk onTV
John Kirk, and children, in action

Yes, this isn’t how I saw my summer and I am gutted not to be telling Mr Gum in libraries as planned but actually the crisis creates an opportunity for storytellers like me to work with more libraries in far flung places at much more affordable prices (I don’t have to charge travel expenses to walk from the kitchen to the spare bedroom).  I can see libraries reopening but I can’t see face to face events taking place for a while yet.  That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to do live events.  It’s a lot easier for a public audience to socially distance if the front portion of the room isn’t taken up with my kit. 

Is there anything libraries can do to adapt to the new world better? 

I think that libraries have to embrace the new normal and the technology.  If you don’t have an active social media channel where you control the content and are engaging with service users everyday this should be a priority – Greenwich Libraries Baby Rhyme Time sessions on Facebook are brilliant example of how social media can work harder for library services.  I know that there has been resistance to Zoom from some councils because of security concerns.  I will always preference video conferencing over video sharing platforms because in a shared space, albeit a virtual one, you can interact with the audience.  In my retelling of Roald Dahl’s “The Twits” I encourage the adult in charge to spray sticky glue (water) over my audience.  I have also developed a scavenger hunt storyline for families with children 3+.  These elements of my sessions have been very popular and came about because I have tried to push the limitations of the technology and make my storytelling a 4D experience. 

How did you get into storytelling? 

Twenty years ago I trained as an actor.  When I decided to stop I struggled with an office job and it was suggested that I should write my own show.  When a school described me as a storyteller the title stuck.  I am still a high energy performer with a fairly theatrical style but these days I do a lot more traditional storytelling.  I have been very lucky with the authors I have worked with; people like Jeremy Strong, Terry Deary and Tom Palmer were brilliant to work with but the key moments were when Haringey Libraries recommended me to tell Michael Morpurgo’s “Private Peaceful” as part of City Read 2014 and when I got the rights to tell Roald Dahl’s “The Twits” in 2016; in two years I went from working in a small area of north London to travelling to libraries, schools and festivals around the country and to date have worked as far afield as Germany and the UAE.  I love what I do.  I wouldn’t have changed the last twelve years for anything but it’s not been without challenges and whatever the world looks like for me after the current crisis you can be sure it’ll include storytelling. 

How do you adapt storytelling to Zoom? 

It hasn’t been easy but I try to make everything I do fit the camera.  I am very conscious of framing when I tell a story to the camera.  I also like to play with my proximity to the camera (I’ll come right up to it and I’ll talk directly to members of the audience).  I’ve already mentioned some of the ideas I have played with to make my sessions more interactive but I also encourage the children to pull faces and I do a lot of role play and movement within stories.  I am also conscious of the adult watching and encourage them to take photos, leave comments and like and share videos.  It’s all about getting them to come back to the library’s website and enagage with the next activity so that when services return, libraries hit the ground running. 

How do kids take to it? 

I do tell a lot of different stories but by far the most popular are by Roald Dahl.  I use wigs, instruments and props to find fresh and dynamic ways to tell my stories which hold the children’s attention but The Twits and The Enormous Crocodile endure as masterpieces and I reckon a child would be hooked by Dahl’s words if they were watching whilst wearing a swimsuit in an igloo.  Seriously though, the feedback has been beyond my wildest expectations and I’m just so happy to have been a part of my seventh Summer Reading Challenge. 

Have you been surprised by anything online / had an amusing moment etc? 

A couple of weeks ago I completely forgot I was supposed to be running a session and had to do all my preparation in literally ten minutes – I can laugh about it now but at the time I was frantic.  I was interrupted by a lawnmower whilst running a session for Thurrock and one of my neighbours went to check on another of my neighbours after hearing a lot of shouting – it was me, I had the windows open!  They’re all quite used to it now and some say they know all the words! 

John Kirk is originally from Chorley in Lancashire but is now based in East Sussex.  He’s trained as an actor, been involved in several theatrical productions, as well as doing other jobs. John works regularly work in early year centres, primary schools, libraries and museums and has been involved in several major events including the Cultural Olympiad (2012), Great War commemorations (2014-2018) and #Shakespeare400 (2016)His website is here.

National news

  • 1000 Tiny Fun Palaces – Libraries Connected. Watch recording of webinar from Stella Duffy “This year, Fun Palaces weekend on 3 and 4 October will be different – sometimes smaller, always safer, but as ever remarkable. We hosted this webinar on 4 August led by Fun Palaces’ amazing and inspirational Director Stella Duffy to talk through the new possibilities for extra-small, hyper-local Fun Palaces in libraries.”
  • ‘George Eliot’ among 25 female writers being republished using their real names – CNN. “The 25 novels are being offered as e-books, which are free to download via the prize’s sponsor, Baileys. Physical box sets of the republished titles will also be donated to libraries across the UK.”
  • Library Open Data: an update – DCMS Libraries. ” How can we engage services and library staff to understand how important this data could be? How do we make sure that staff have the skills and confidence to take on a data role? We hope that some of the examples on the schema site will go some way to highlighting what can be done if data is published in an open and standard format.”
  • Local advocacy – Libraries: An essential part of local recovery – Libraries Connected. “In our new local advocacy resource, we’ve identified five key areas where libraries can play a central role in meeting the needs of individuals and communities who may be struggling to overcome the effects of the Covid-19 crisis.”
  • Supporting public libraries through a national digital presence – British Library. Looking at the minimum viable product (that is, the least that can be done for it to be worthwhile) and what more could be achieved, plus progress before and future plans.
  • What does quality mean for a modern library service? – Libraries Connected. 21 August 2pm webinar. “The session will begin with some provocations from speakers outside of the sector talking about what a quality library service means to them. The virtual floor will then be open to everyone who would like to contribute, or just listen in on what should be a great discussion.”
  • When will libraries open in Scotland and have they reopened in the rest of the UK? – Metro.

International news

  • Colombia – Pandemic pen pals: How Colombian libraries lift spirits – Christian Science Monitor. ““the kids kept coming to the library,” she says, and family programming continued. “It’s the protective space of the community, a space of liberation from the problems of the neighborhood. Here, libraries have played a really important role in constructing peace, but even more than that, creating community.””

“The written word allows us to understand other humans, and whether we’re reading a novel, a story, or a letter, it helps us understand we’re not alone,”

  • EU – Will European public libraries be set back tens of years from 2021? – Biblioteket tar saka. As well as the likelihood of budget cuts “it will not be easy to run, or to re-invent, a library in a generalised two-meter society where events are forbidden, 75 % of chairs are removed, services to customers have to comply with social distancing rules and library’s outreach is restricted in many ways.”
  • Ireland – Libraries remove vital trans teen book after disgraceful far-right letter writing campaign linking LGBT+ lives to paedophilia – Pink News. “Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin consists of six interviews with trans teenagers about their lives and was published in 2014. Since then, the book has been assailed by anti-trans activists who have called for it to be banned. Cork City Libraries opted to remove Beyond Magenta from its shelves and have it re-processed for “adult/YA lending” – which requires adult consent – after they received a letter from a far-right activist.”
  • Lebanon – Help rebuild Beirut’s libraries – Libraries Deliver. “Among the tremendous human tragedy and loss of life caused by the explosion in Beirut on the 4th August came the heartbreaking news that three of the main municipal public libraries in the city had been destroyed”
  • Pakistan – Charting the Role of Pakistani libraries in a Post-COVID19 World – Global Village Space. “Crisis like these can be redefining moments and with close collaboration, technology, and digital transformation, public libraries in Pakistan can break free of their old mold and have an overhaul, which is long-due. It is a pity that very few public libraries have any online services and have remained closed, but that could change with collaboration between volunteers, NGOs and the government.”
  • USA – Envisioning the New Model Library: Navigating through the pandemic and beyond – Hanging Together. “Our broad questions include:
    • Will the current environment of physical distancing and precautions persist in the post-pandemic era? • If so, will most of our services and programs continue to be offered in an online environment? • How will we – or can we? should we? – create experiences similar to the physical spaces in our libraries in our virtual library spaces?””

Local news by authority

Slow recovery continues

Another week of recovery and things gradually returning to normal. Only 6 out of 150 English public library services do not offer either a browsing or click and collect service at the moment, with services also reopening elsewhere in the British Isles. At least two mainland library services are also operating mobile libraries.

In the libraries that are open , and from the library library services I am in contact with, the picture appears to be that of a slow increase in usage week on week (apart from the initial rush) as people become more confident in coming out into public spaces. It’s all dependent on there being no “second wave” of course so cross fingers. And wear a mask, it’s the law.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Library Open Data: an update – Gov.uk. The big question is what happens next and how do we integrate use of the schemas into everyday business as usual for library services?”
    • Library Open Data. “These pages describe a core dataset for public library open data. Having standard data will enable local services to share data analysis, and build open applications from that data.”
  • Our Survey Says…E-learnings from Lockdown – LinkedIn.”First rule of e-content in libraries: Usage always disappoints. ” … “only 9% said they had ‘total control’ over this aspect of their library offer.” … “80% who said that they have no strategy for promoting their library sources to non-users” …” most libraries make little effort to reach non-users and that their e-resources are underused.”
  • Quiz: Which librarian from pop culture are you? – Book Riot. “f you are a lover of books and reading, there is a good chance you were obsessed with a fictional librarian at some point. Perhaps you still are! Whether it’s Marian, Giles, or Twilight Sparkle, there are several iconic librarians in pop-culture that inspire admiration.”
  • Urgent investment needed to boost mental health recovery – LGA. “Libraries, leisure, housing, money advice and other essential council-run services, alongside statutory mental health services and public health, all play a crucial part in supporting people’s mental wellbeing.”
  • What does quality mean for a modern library service? – Libraries Connected. “Libraries Connected are working with Arts Council England and CILIP to develop an accreditation framework for public libraries. An important part of this work is to engage as many people who care about libraries as possible.” 21 August 2pm.
  • What Re-opening looks like in some CMLs and a call for Volunteers – Community Managed Libraries Network.

International news

  • Australia – Snapshot of Australia’s public library services – Public Libraries Connect. ” in 2018-19, there were more than 273,000 public library programs country wide attracting over 7.4 million attendances, an increase of approximately 23,000 programs and 400,000 attendees from the previous year.” … “Other key highlights include total expenditure on public libraries has increased from $1.14 billion in 2015-16 to over $1.32 billion in 2018-19, and access to public library services provided through 1,683 service points – an increase of 13 service points from the previous year.”
  • USA – Blackstone’s $4.7B acquisition of Ancestry raises privacy questions – Med City News. ” privacy experts said more consumer protections are needed, when the world’s largest real estate owner — which has an ownership stake in Change Healthcare, Hilton, and several other large brands — is buying a genetics company.”

Local news by authority

Public library issues to be reduced by half in 2020?

For a guide to how each library service in the UK is approaching reopening, see this webpage.


Physical public libraries are slowly coming back to life, with only 11 out of 150 English library services not physically open in some way. Many library services are offering at least a few open to freely borrow from as well. Meanwhile, click and collect has become the norm in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, with opening up more hopefully coming soon. So reopening is continuing apace. Also in the good news category, many in libraries will also be breathing a sigh of relief, no pun intended, that it will soon be mandatory for masks to be worn in libraries.

However, with no regular or one-off events and with only a fraction of all libraries being open and a minority of them being more than than click and collect, it’s no surprise that library usage will take a dive this year. RIBA points out that the 3 months of closure along will likely have cost 50 million of an expected c. 226 million visits annually. Adding in that library service overall will still be very limited in August – the busiest month of the year for the sector – and that people may well be slow in coming back, it is possible to envisage anything up to a halving of physical visits, and of issues of physical items, to libraries this year.

I’m of course careful to say “physical” as 2020 is proving a Wonder Year for the digital offer of libraries, especially in online joining and loan of ebooks, as well as a flowering of social media. However, being this was starting from quite a low base in many library services, it seems to me at least that this is unlikely to seriously affect the overall figure to a significant degree.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather have libraries slow to open and be safe than fast to open and not be. Libraries should never kill people, after all. But the cost of being such a responsible sector is a real one. The fear is that some of the people visiting us may find other ways of getting what they need and may not come back. How many that will be is perhaps, along with possible deep cuts to council budgets, the most serious question facing libraries today.

National news

  • Coping with Covid: How library design will need to change – RIBA Journal. “Flexible spaces that allow for social distance, quarantined books and fewer touch points will need to maintain the sense of welcome and community” … “According to Libraries Connected, the national umbrella body for public libraries, there were more than 226 million library visits last year, suggesting that over 50 million visits were lost in the three months of closure.”

“How libraries can return to being the all-welcoming places they were before the pandemic is one of the biggest concerns for senior librarians. They are used to bringing people together, so actively keeping people apart goes against their natural instincts. It will require sterilising the space but not the experience.”

“I’m pretty sure that library stats will be in decline, but I wanted to draw to your attention the fact that CIPFA does not collect any statistics for community managed libraries which are not part of the “statutory network”, as defined by the relevant local authority. So all books borrowed through our library, for example, are deliberately omitted from all “official” statistics. We do collect the information, but no-one seems interested in collecting it”

Chris Clarke
Friends of Jesmond Library

International news

Local news by authority

Quantity has a quality all its own

For the list of how libraries in the UK are reopening, see this page.


Every now and again, a debate flares up about public library usage statistics. It has on one side those concerned about the (UK) decline in book issues and visits to public libraries over the last decade or so and on the other those who query the worth of such statistics and point instead to the wonderful impact and personal stories libraries can achieve, plus also that digital usage has gone up.

As ever, I tend to suspect both extremes. While libraries can indeed not just be described by black-and-white data (especially the dodgy stuff that CIPFA prints), it seems to me that if we have fewer people using us then we have lesser impact, heartwarming personal stories or no. I also suspect that physical visits have a stronger impact than their digital counterparts, although admittedly this is just a gut feeling on my part. On the other hand, simply counting the number of books issued, without regard to what impact they have, seems limiting at best.

But I do find myself drawn to the quote “Quantity has a Quality all it’s own” and not just because it allows me to have three “qu” words in a sentence. There needs to be a substantial number of people using libraries in order to justify them and the fewer they are, the more worrying it is. And in the UK, usage has fallen and continues to fall – for whatever reason (my favourite suspect is budget cuts) – faster than in similar countries such as Canada, the USA, Australia or New Zealand.

And this decline cannot be helped by the extended closures that many libraries are still experiencing, although less than a tenth of English public library services have yet to announce their plans for reopening while a few are already on their second and even third wave of recovery. News from branches continues to be generally good, with some complaints starting to be recorded about some libraries not yet being open. Worries about people not wearing masks – not mandated in libraries unlike in shops – appear to be minor at the moment.

So that’s good. Perhaps we can start breathing again, soon anyway. Although, sadly it seems not in Hampshire.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Coronavirus: New guidance on face masks and coverings released for England – BBC. “rules on face coverings were in place for shops and public transport but not for some other enclosed spaces such as libraries, register offices and civic centres.”
  • DCA Survey Results – Digital Content Associates. “DCA surveyed over 85 librarians and library-related staff or managers during July 2020 to give voice to their experiences and learning during the explosion of digital usage during the Covid-19 lockdown. “

“72% of respondents either agree or strongly agree that their e-resources are being underused

Nearly 80% of respondents have no strategy for reaching non-users

Nearly 40% of respondents thought users had little or no awareness of their digital offering 

95% of respondents said their library doesn’t use any kind of search engine optimisation or marketing to promote their library”

Alicia Pocock, Digital Content Associates
  • The Jason Farradane Award 2020 – CILIP. “It will be awarded to an individual or a team in recognition of exemplary and innovative practice. This may take the form of a specific project, a piece of research or the development of a service or resource, for example.”
  • Public Library Apparel: a quick interview with Lottie Begg – Public Libraries News. “I had an email out of the blue from Lottie Begg, who is starting a Kickstarter to start “Public Library Apparel”, producing public library related clothing and raise funds for the sector. Intrigued, I got in touch to ask a few questions …”
  • Remembering Josephine Cox: British Author Whose Books Sold Over 20 Million Copies – She The People. “Cox has also been one of the most borrowed authors from the UK’s libraries” and campaigned against closures.
  • Sports centres face uncertain future as Government vows to tackle obesity – Yahoo News. “Mark Sesnan, managing director of Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), the UK’s largest operator of non-profit public leisure facilities, estimated it would take three to four years to recover from the crisis. GLL, which runs more than 250 sport and leisure facilities and libraries across the UK, had no help covering its non-staff costs during lockdown. He told the PA news agency: “We’ve used our reserves to pay for that, but they’re running out and running out fast.”

International news

  • Canada – Overdue: Throwing the book at libraries – Globe and Mail. ” libraries operate largely with public funding, which has been disrupted far less than commercial revenues their competitors rely upon. As a result, libraries are likely to gain still more market share at the expense of booksellers in the months and years ahead.” … “The dirty secret of public libraries is that their stock-in-trade is neither education nor edification. It’s entertainment. ” … “A commercial publishing industry is unsustainable if four out of every five readers are reading at no charge.”
  • China / Hong Kong – National security law: Hong Kong’s librarians must stand firm to protect intellectual freedom – South China Morning Post. “When asked for his reaction to his books such as I Am Not A Hero (2013) having come under review for being potentially subversive, democracy activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung reportedly said: “This is like the live-action version of Library War, fully staged!” … “No one is saying it is going to be easy to stand on principle. Yet bearing in mind those basic principles, hopefully ingrained in each and every librarian, will be the only way that libraries, and their keepers, can survive these latest assaults on our integrity.”
  • EU – Emerging international voices: the Goeth-Institut programme with IFLA – Goethe. Need to be under 35. “The Goethe-Institut is looking for young library advocates to share best-practice examples of libraries worldwide engaging with their digital communities. Apply to participate and become a part of an international network”
  • Lithuania – Kamishibai theater and book at Panevėžys City Public Library (Lithuania) – NAPLE Sister Libraries. “Kamishibai stories can be made individually, in pairs (one illustrator, one writer), in small groups or as a class project. “

Local news by authority

“It is very evident that a massive change of direction is needed in terms of priorities for investment at both local and national level across the UK in light of what is happening to businesses and the economy post lockdown. Sheffield makes an interesting case study in this respect. The main investment priorities for the Council in Sheffield seem to be to create more retail and office space in the city centre, and in the suburbs. This is despite there being high profile examples of businesses downsizing and not requiring office space anymore in the city centre. The council is also pressing ahead with a highly controversial scheme to shoehorn catering outlets and office space into Walkley Carnegie library, despite local opposition from businesses and the fact that existing catering outlets in the area are struggling and even closing in light of the downturn in trade due to the lockdown.

In light of the economic downturn due to lockdown, a much better strategy for Sheffield and the UK would be to invest in professionally staffed library services and expanded market spaces for independent traders to allow people educational opportunities in order to live greener lifestyles and get better jobs, and to allow independent traders to fill the gap left by the absence of big brands which may be closing down or downsizing. Professionally staffed library services have a big role to play in rebuilding our economy post-coronavirus given the huge positive benefit they have to local economies and the role they play in teaching people to live cleaner greener lifestyles and raise educational attainment.””

Matthew Smith, Sheffield – by email.

Covid-safer: At least five-sixths of library services will have a physical service operating by the end of July

If you’re trying to find how your local library service is reopening, please see the list here.


After digitally checking all of the services in the UK over the last week, it is possible to say that at least five-sixths of all English library services will have some sort of physical service to the public by the end of July, with more library openings being announced each day. Some library services are starting their second round of service extension after “successfully” trialling a few libraries since the start of July.

I put “successfully” in quotes because it’s really hard to tell if a library is passing on infection or not. We may never know if any public library has, even with track and trace in operation. Indeed, being that this may mean that a library has been a epicentre of an infection, perhaps its better if we never formally know. This isn’t just me being nit-picky: a new report on public libraries pointedly says “covid-safer”, not “covid-safe” and this is not an accident. Taking this into account though, valuable lessons are being learnt which will help make later library openings easier.

So what about the sixth that aren’t opening in July? Well, with some it is frustratingly hard to tell. Even in 2020, there are services with terrible communications, poor websites and opaque social media out there. Others are being cautious for good reason, notably Leicester and Milton Keynes, which have both had local outbreaks.

National news

  • 2020 Silly Squad summer reading challenge launched today – Western Telegraph. “I’m really pleased the Welsh Government can support libraries with this year’s challenge. The scheme has become an annual event for many children, who look forward to taking part every year”
  • Can gardens, libraries and museums improve wellbeing through social prescribing? – CEBM. “The research identified three key concepts that underpin the potential of garden, library and museum activities for improving health.”
  • Covid 19 Safer Spaces: Helping public libraries to reopen safely – If_Do / Libraries Connected. “The Covid-19 Safer Spaces project is developing a series of free-to-access and easy-to-use design guides, to support people who work in those places to understand how adapt them to enable their safe reopening and operation. The first guide to be published, Covid-19 Safer Libraries, is available to download below, with others coming soon.”
  • Libraries could be leaders once again – BookSeller. Tim Coates: No clear way to be covid-safe yet “those who open aren’t being brave; they are being stupid and placing other people at risk”; reputation with public has declined; 3000 English libraries in “mostly quite big” buildings; libraries have lost local connection and interest in books; “There is no reason why libraries could not get the reputation back. Like many things, if the public believe that is what you do well, it doesn’t take long to revive their faith. Eighty percent of library use is about books and nearly all of that is for printed work.”
  • Libraries in Lockdown – Activisit Group / Youtube. “Over the last few months, Activist have been finding out how public library services have been responding to the coronavirus epidemic and the interesting new roles their teams have been taking on.  They’re celebrating the surprising (and often heroic) work that library staff are doing, especially where they have taken on new roles that have allowed them to demonstrate the extraordinary range of skills and knowledge that Council library staff have.  They’ve just uploaded the final episode in the 6-part series of short YouTube videos capturing these conversations”
  • National Lottery Project Grants – What’s new? – Arts Council England. Funding available for libraries, amongst others. “The portal is reopening for applications from 22 July, with a budget of £59.8 million available until April 2021.  “

“As part of this process, public libraries can now apply for a wide range of activities that support, enhance and enrich libraries’ work, and develop the role of libraries as cultural providers in their communities, ie: relating to the four Universal Offers (Reading, Health and Wellbeing, Digital and Information, and Culture and Creativity).”

Arts Council England
  • Navigating Change and Uncertainty – British Library / Living Knowledge Network. Webinar Thursday 23 July 11 am. “This webinar will explore strategies for maintaining personal and professional resilience. Back by popular demand, Creative Consultant, Lawrence Becko will lead the session, which will include plenty of opportunity for interaction and reflection.”
  • Re-opening libraries – An international and UK perspective – Libraries Connected. Webinar 20 July. Including presentation from If_Do.

International news

“The library is arranged vertically, with a cinema and 200-seat auditorium in the basement, and a cafe, restaurant and newspapers and magazines on the ground floor … The first floor contains fiction and children’s books, while the second and third floor contains more books and several enclosed areas that include recording studios, a mini cinema and gaming rooms.”

  • USA – Summersville Public Library issues statement following incident – WVVA. Man deliberately coughs around library after being asked to wear mask. “This is not the first incident of aggression our staff has endured since we opened the library on Monday.” Due to the safety of the staff and members of the community, the library has resumed operating with curbside service only.””
    • America’s libraries are essential now — and this beautifully renovated one in Washington gives us hope – Washington Post. “If you want to understand the abject failure of America, look to its libraries. All across the country, it is libraries that have become a haven for the homeless when it is too hot or too cold to live outdoors. They offer free Internet service for families who can’t afford the vital connection, and they’re an essential educational resource for parents who can’t pay for preschool. In some cities, libraries have evolved into social service hubs, for the mentally ill, the jobless and the victims of domestic abuse. Libraries do all of these things because our society has failed to meet the basic needs of its people.”
    • How Libraries Are Stepping Up as a Front Line of Resilience – Governing.

Local news by authority

Reopening libraries going well so far

Here to see when your library is reopening in the UK? Click this link.


As more and more public libraries reopen, the feedback is that the public are returning in manageable numbers, understand the need for the anti-covid measures in place and are grateful to see the service starting slowly to come back to normal. England is a bit further ahead in opening up more than “click and collect” (or a hundred variations thereof) in 20 or so services.

The other thing happening is the Summer Reading Challenge being promoted more in several library services due to the start of the school holidays. Early indications from the Reading Agency is that its online offer is proving very popular but it would need to go some to beat the normal promotion, which is by far the most successful campaign libraries conduct each year.

National news

  • 1000 Tiny Fun Places Library Webinar with Stella Duffy 4th August 2020 3pm-4pm – Fun Palaces. “This year Fun Palaces weekend on 3rd and 4th October 2020 will be different – sometimes smaller, always safer, but as ever remarkable. To help libraries prepare Libraries Connected will be hosting a webinar on 4th August 2020 3pm-4pm led by Fun Palaces’ amazing and inspirational co-director Stella Duffy. “
  • ACE and British Library to feature in Reading Together Day – BookSeller. 16 July “Co-ordinated by the Reading Agency, the day will showcase a day of events across social media, delivering a programme of activities for families and young adults. The events are designed to support families with changes in education, home learning and wellbeing, caused by the pandemic. ”
  • CILIP warns librarians over contact tracing – BookSeller. “CILIP was responding to calls from the government for public libraries to assist in collecting personal information about their users to help track people who get coronavirus and their contacts. However, the organisation said it was concerned about the lack of appropriate planning and preparation for the implementation of the measures and says key criteria need to be met before libraries take part.”
  • Conversation: Using technology to safely reopen and strategically pivot during COVID-19 – Bibliotheca. “Join us for a new weekly conversation series. Learn how technology can help ensure library users and staff continually feel safe as the pandemic shifts. From holds pickup lockers and real-time occupancy monitoring to touchless self-service and mobile checkout, learn how our connected ecosystem of solutions deliver strategic long-term value for your library.” Webinars.
  • Coronavirus: How libraries provided a lifeline in lockdown – BBC. Suffolk: “BBC News went to Ipswich Library to hear how people have been finding solace in more than just the pages of a favourite book.” … “Strict hygiene and social distancing rules mean customers cannot walk in and browse but librarians can do it for them. Jemima Smith, protected by a face mask and gloves, is surrounded by books being placed in bundles ready for collection.” … “Soon after lockdown, staff were given online training from Suffolk Mind to ensure they looked after their mental health, and began checking in over the phone with the most vulnerable.”
“A brief history of libraries, a reading from the Dragon in the Library by Louie Stowell and how to make your own box file! Enjoy – Konnie Huq”
  • Free public library membership – National Acquisitions Group. ” NAG is pleased to announce that membership for public libraries in the UK will be free from 1st July 2020 – 30th June 2021.  We are also working on expanding the “Learn” resources we offer for public libraries within the Members area of the website by commissioning new content.”
  • Libraries: An essential part of local recovery – Libraries Connected. “Library services are far more than their buildings. During lockdown, libraries expanded their digital and remote offer to continue to provide services to their communities. They’ve seen a 600% increase in digital membership as well as fourfold increase in the number of ebooks borrowed. These activities support children learning at home, reduce isolation and include exciting new events created in partnership with local artists and arts organisations. While libraries have rapidly adapted to this new normal, we know that our communities need our buildings and the range of services that we provide in them … “
  • National Poetry Day announces new book trade promotion for 2020 – National Poetry Day. “A bumper crop of citizen poet-performers will be the stars of this year’s National Poetry Day, after four months of lockdown prompted the public to seek out and share poems on an unprecedented scale.”
  • New Chair appointed to support a new public library strategy for Scotland – SLIC. “Jeanette Castle, University Librarian at the University of the West of Scotland (UWS), has been appointed Chair of the newly established Public Library Strategy Advisory Group. The group has been formed by the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) to support the vision and implementation of a new public library strategy for Scotland from 2021, building on the work of Ambition and Opportunity: A Strategy for Public Libraries in Scotland 2015-2020.”
  • Public libraries have been vital in times of crisis – from conflict to Covid-19 – Apollo. A look at the history of public libraries in the UK in dark times before. “The coronavirus pandemic may prove to be a challenge that dwarfs the many episodes of anxiety and crisis through which the public library has lived in the past. In a post-Covid world, however, the public library’s resilience will stand it in good stead, especially if its potential to support policies for regeneration, levelling up and the promotion of well-being is meaningfully acknowledged through adequate resourcing.”
  • A virtual exploration of public libraries now and in the future – Living Library. “This virtual space is a response to the disruption – caused by Covid-19 – of Seadog Theatre’s plans to create an interactive physical art installation that would tour public libraries in Spring 2020. Instead, the theatre makers and live artists involved worked with web developer, Matt Stevens, and emerging computer game platform Sinespace, to create a virtual take on a physical exhibition.”
  • Welcome back libraries – Time To Read. A look at how public libraries are reopening in the North West. “During lockdown, library teams across the North West have been dedicated to keeping in touch with residents as much as possible and putting out loads of virtual content including story reading, crafts and advice on using digital technology. It’s good to be back. See you soon!”
  • When are libraries open? When libraries in England are confirmed to reopen as eases lockdown rules ease – Yorkshire Evening Post.

International news

Local news by authority

For the first time since 23 March, public library buildings are open for business

Looking for the latest information on libraries reopening in the UK? Click here.


For the first time since March 23rd there are public libraries open again in England. It’s been a surreal few months and there was a lot of worry about getting the buildings open again properly but first indications from around the country is that things went smoothly.

More and more library services are announcing their plans (see this page) with the majority going for (variously named versions of) click and collect. A few councils (Milton Keynes, Newcastle and Wokingham), though, have warned that they will not be open for considerably longer for various reasons.

Libraries have, at last minute notice, been advised to take contact details of those who need them for track and trace. There were some complaints and surprise expressed at the time and further mentions, notably from CILIP, about whether libraries should actually do it.

This video, produced by Nottinghamshire Inspire is a 30 second animation on basic measures I think all libraries are doing. They have graciously allowed all other services to use it.

Finally, I’m sorry to see China wasting no time in censoring public libraries in Hong Kong. We hear a lot about the heroism of librarians on social media etc but, when it comes down to it, library workers aren’t saints and should not be martyrs. People, including us of course, need to try to make sure that society doesn’t get that way in the first place.

National news

  • England’s libraries begin to reopen but grave fears remain over long-term futures – Guardian. “experts are warning that local authority shortfalls could be the “canary in the coalmine” for a fresh wave of cuts to libraries across the country.” … “According to Libraries Connected, 34 library authorities in England are planning to open on either 4 or 6 July.” … “Across the whole of the UK, libraries in Scotland are set to reopen from 15 July, and in Northern Ireland from 20 July. In Wales, some libraries are already offering a click and collect service, but there are no plans to open before the next review of lockdown measures on 13 July.”

Reopening Libraries: stories from Denmark part II, 15th July, 11am: With Christian Lauersen Director of libraries and citizens services, Roskilde Municipality, Denmark: sign up here. Christian believes that libraries are crucial institution in every community, public as academic to create and open, more diverse, inclusive and equal world and that the key to lift this is skilled library workers – the most important asset of any library. Christian is co-founder of Library Planet – the crowdsourced travel guide to libraries of the world – and the first library bossa nova song in the world. He is based in Copenhagen and loves socks and Lego. Recording Available:  Part 1 of the “stories from Denmark” series: Reopening Public Libraries; stories from Denmark, with Marie Oestergaard Library Director of Aarhus Public Libraries. Resilience for Library Professionals 23rd July, 11am sign up here. Ss libraries embark on the process of reopening, library staff will face inevitable challenges navigating the “new unknown”. This webinar will explore strategies for maintaining personal and professional resilience. Back by popular demand, Creative Consultant, Lawrence Becko will lead the session, which will include plenty of opportunity for interaction and reflection. This is a chance to take a step back and consider how to approach the ever-changing landscape that lies ahead with a resilient mind set. “

Free Webinars from the Living Knowledge Network [Not the Loving Knowledge Network which I called it last week, oh dear – Ed.]
  • Maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace – Gov.uk. “Trace and trace” information for public libraries, released less than 2 days before first library reopened.
  • New guide to help libraries to reopen – Libraries Connected. “Today Libraries Connected publishes its toolkit to help libraries to reopen in July and to reintroduce their services gradually, in line with the latest public health advice. Placing the safety and health of staff, volunteers and users at the forefront, the toolkit was developed in partnership with heads of library services and their teams. The set of resources will support their planning for service recovery as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.”
The DCMS did not tweet about libraries also opening on the same day.
  • UK libraries are set to reopen – but not as we know them – Guardian. Archibald Corbett volunteer library in London described, open from 4 July, with “space marshall”. Leeds, who recently threatened to close all their libraries, also interviewed.
  • Your libraries are open – London Review of Books. Mainly academic libraries but says “Many public library staff have had to be redeployed to other services by local authorities struggling to cope after years of austerity-driven cuts, highlighting other problems in the gaps exposed by the pandemic. In November 2018, the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights pointed out that ‘public libraries are on the frontline of helping the digitally excluded and digitally illiterate who wish to claim their right to Universal Credit.’ Who has been providing that support during lockdown? As public libraries slowly reopen to walk-in users, some hope for those who depend on them is returning.”

International news

  • China / Hong Kong Democracy books disappear from Hong Kong libraries Yahoo News. “Books written by prominent Hong Kong democracy activists have started to disappear from the city’s libraries, online records show, days after Beijing imposed a draconian national security law on the finance hub.” … “The city’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which runs libraries, said books had been removed while it is determined whether they violate the national security law.”
  • USA – Millions of Americans Depend on Libraries for Internet. Now They’re Closed – Markup. “Kids sit scattered in the library’s parking lot with phones or video game devices, catching some of the Wi-Fi outside that’s now left on 24/7.  And Hahn spends his days trying to help some older patrons get online by shouting instructions to them through the library’s windows. “

Local news by authority

Fewer than one-fifth of English services announce reopening plans so far … and Leeds bow to the mob over drag queens

If you want news on what your public library service is planning for reopening, please click here.


As of writing this, and after a couple of months of warning, fewer than one-fifth (only 28 out of 150) English library services have announced their reopening plans from Saturday, 4 July. Almost all of the plans so far are different in some way to all of the others, repeating the lack of unified service that is so familiar to users of English services. I use specifically English in this context because Wales have all gone for click and collect, Northern Ireland are reopening with click and collect in mid July, as are probably Scotland. More than two-thirds of English service are going with some form of click and collect but, my goodness, they can’t even agree on a common name for it. For more info, see here.

In other news, Leeds are in the headlines for two weeks running (after threatening to close all its libraries last time) by bowing down to social media pressure and cancelling an online drag queen story-time. Below are comments that I have noticed on Twitter against their decision in the hope that the council, after having proved themselves cowards with one group, will bend down to pressure again and re-instate it. How about it Leeds?

Leeds City Council bowing to the mob. A dangerous precedent and an ugly example of ongoing prejudice during #Pride month. How would any #LGBTQ person ever have had an open role in public life if institutions caved to bigots as easily as this?”


“I love my city but as a gay librarian living in Leeds I feel quite ashamed of my city right now. Also, this just shows how we are still living with the effects of the 80s because parents still think that children can be taught to be gay. F*** everyone who complained about this”


“This is a total misunderstanding of what drag is. I’m so sad when drag events with kids are cancelled, they are a beautiful thing and should be fostered. And who gets to decide what the right type of woman is? Let children learn from all types of humans … The performer is amazing as well, it’s a real loss to Leeds Library not to have them there.”


Bad decision, saw this through Gloucestershire libraries and really enjoyed it. Will Leeds be cancelling the panto because of the way it portrays women? Think not.


Shame on you, Leeds.


“We would love children to hear stories from all the city’s cultures, just not that one,” has a very 1980s feel about it.


Finally, in a first for Public Libraries News, I’ve talked to DCA, the creators of the survey on using e-resources during lockdown (and also advertisers on this blog), and have agreed to sponsor the donation to the Library Campaign, and – yes – the tea. So please fill in the survey below, thank you.

Advert for DCA "We are DCA and we work to increase the visibility of libraries"

National news

  • A business library during coronavirus and beyond: City Business Library – Public Libraries News. The experience of Wendy Foster during lockdown and how a business librarian has changed the way services have been delivered. ““The most dangerous assumption for businesses is that sufficient market intelligence will be available through a quick Google search

“Libraries have been planning for weeks for this moment – by working on our recovery toolkit and taking part in a series of webinars we hosted with staff, partners and users on reopening. Our central concern is keeping staff and users safe, so the library environment will look and feel different initially. Libraries will have a phased reopening that begins with things like order and collect and delivering books to local homes and a cautious reintroduction of browsing and IT services with a focus on moving in and out the library quickly and minimising face to face contact.”

Isobel Hunter, CEO, Libraries Connected

“Government needs to grasp the nettle. Libraries are not funded sufficiently to make up the deficit in all the other public services…..The government has (rightly) spent many billions on supporting individual workers and businesses. A tiny fraction of this sum would safeguard public libraries. Their loss would be a social and educational catastrophe.”

Library Campaign
  • Reopening Public Libraries; stories from Denmark, with Marie Oestergaard Library Director of Aarhus Public Libraries – Loving Knowledge Network. Wednesday 1 July 11am. “There is much we can learn from our international colleagues as plans take shape for re-opening public libraries across the UK. Join Marie Oestergaard to glean insights as well as advice from her experiences as Director as Public Libraries in Aarhus, Denmak. Marie will share practical and strategic challenges experienced, as well as some of the long term strategic choices this new reality for library business might call for.”
  • Slough high street one of ‘unhealthiest’ in the UK – Get Reading. “Also taken into consideration were the opportunities for socialising (the index was done pre-lockdown) and for promoting mental well-being, for example, libraries and green spaces.” … “Rotherham is the second lowest due to lack of leisure centres and libraries and the fact that it has a higher than average number of vape shops and pawn brokers too.”
New survey for UK librarians on e-resources during lockdown, with respondents earning a donation to the Library Campaign and a chance to win £100 of premium tea

International news

  • Global – Homelessness and Public Libraries – Princh. “Public libraries are places for everyone, regardless their background, and this is the main reason why they are visited every day by many homeless people who are looking to have access to reliable information resources, technology or just a safe place to spend their day and escape from their everyday reality”
  • USA – People are microwaving library books and masks to kill COVID-19 — and that’s bad – Detroit Free Press. [Good holy grief – ed]
  • Coronavirus Tests the Limits of America’s Public Libraries – Bloomberg. “as states begin to reopen, libraries are figuring out how to safely serve their communities again, amid the threat of an ongoing pandemic in which person-to-person transmission is riskiest in indoor spaces where people linger for a long time. Some smaller libraries have started allowing the public back inside their buildings in a limited capacity, which worries Bignoli”. A look at the range of library responses.
  • OverDrive to acquire RBmedia library business – BookSeller. “The deal sees OverDrive acquire all the assets of the library business, including the RBdigital platform in the UK, US and Australia. Terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed. Audiobook producer RBMedia has a catalogue of more than 45,000 titles through brands that include W F Howes in the UK. The deal will make those audiobooks available to OverDrive’s platform. It will also explore adding RBdigital services such as digital magazines but there will be no change to RBmedia’s publishing businesses.”
  • Research Shows Virus Undetectable on Five Highly Circulated Library Materials After Three Days – IMLS. “Materials tested in phase one included the cover of hardcover books (buckram cloth), the cover of softback books, plain paper pages inside a closed book, mylar protective book cover jackets, and plastic DVD cases. Battelle tests found the virus undetectable after one day on the covers of hardback and softback books as well as the DVD case. The virus was undetectable on the paper inside of a book and mylar book jackets after three days.”

Local news by authority