Tests of normality

Editorial

Quarantining of books takes a lot of staff-time so, with things stutteringly returning to normal, it is one of those things that library services will have to address. Due to the efforts of Libraries Connected, they have now been given the opportunity, should they feel safe enough to take it, of getting rid of quarantining altogether. It’s not going to be a clear-cut decision anywhere. though, as the guidance now says “books can be wiped down” rather than “should”, and that Indian variant is worrying. But it’s another vital step towards getting services truly back up to the way they were before. This, along with starting events and groups again, are litmus tests for normality.

The fines-free movement had a couple of steps forward this week. Gwynedd became the 23rd service in the UK to completely fines-free and a CILIP survey showed a majority of respondents in favour of getting rid of penalising borrowers for returning items late. Interestingly, the reasons put in favour of retention by respondents are either already questionable (e.g. people won’t return books if there are no fines – which has been shown not in fact to be the case) or sadly very true indeed (e.g. fines represent a vital sort of income, regardless of any other reason for them). Going fines-free was a big trend pre-Covid and it is another test for library services now to see whether it won’t just be “normal” that we return to, but also an improvement as well.

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Changes by local authority

National news

  • Changing Lives Seminar Series – CILIP. 21 July. “, a programme of virtual events celebrating innovation and thought leadership in the library, knowledge and information sector” … “We are looking for 4 to 5 speakers to each give a lightning talk at the seminar around the theme of Pride.”
  • Community engagement solutions for public libraries – Ken Chad Consulting. “Community engagement solutions for public libraries. Ken Chad and Sarah Bartlett. Local Government Library Technology (LGLibTech) Briefing Paper No.1. May 2021. This briefing paper highlights the challenges public libraries face in reshaping their community profile. It outlines how emerging community engagement solutions may help target existing and potential users in repositioning public libraries.”. Registration needed.
  • In praise of mobile libraries – Library data blog. “There may be alternative services like drop off points, book containers, home delivery, but they’re not actual libraries.” but “Many effectively have no online presence. Sometimes a PDF timetable, sometimes a phone number or email address to contact, but never comprehensive online information about them” … “I know there are plenty of services that think mobile libraries are expensive, inefficient, and smelly liabilities. That hardly have any users, and breakdown all the time. And when they need replacing (which they do) they haven’t got the money to do it because a replacement library isn’t part of their budget. But they’re great and they should be invested in”
  • Libraries and High Streets – DCMS Libraries. “We also know that libraries are part of the vital social fabric which brings communities together and we wondered about how libraries and high streets aligned. Regular readers will know our data travails, but we were really pleased to enable a piece of work by Dave Rowe, from Libraries Hacked which explores this very topic. Using newly released data from the Ordnance Survey and ONS, Dave has been able to look at the relationship between libraries and high streets with some fascinating results. ” … ” over half of high street destinations in England have a library and 65% of English public libraries are either on or close to high streets. “
  • Library Campaign Zooms in on a publicity campaign for libraries Monday 24 May 2021 19:30 -21:00 – Library Campaign. Anyone can attend meeting, not just members. “We’ll focus on following up the ideas that came up in April for a campaign to publicise libraries. The meeting will include a chance to discuss with Nick Poole, the Chief Executive of CILIP (the librarians’ professional body) what they are doing to advocate for libraries, and their plans for this year’s National Libraries Week”
  • Service recovery toolkit – May 2021 – Libraries Connected. “Some of the key changes are: Quarantine of books is no longer needed; Libraries may run group events and activities; Home Library Service can now enter people’s houses; Advice on handling cash as well as card payments”

“PHE do not consider there to be a need to isolate returned Library books for 72 hours. This is in line with the advice that shops do not need to isolate returned goods. Books can be wiped down if possible with a proprietary cleaning solution which is effective against COVID-19 (PHE cleaning guidance), especially if they have a protective plastic cover.”

Service recovery toolkit
  • Should libraries fine users for late return of books and other items? – CILIP. “The majority of those polled disagree with the concept of fining borrowers. There are some compelling arguments from other voters. There is no black and white answer to this question, the resulting discussion points are nuanced and multifarious. While most participants acknowledged some of the principles of having a fines system, ultimately the dominant opinion was that free access to libraries should be the norm.”. Just over 50% against fines, just over 30% in favour.
  • What Labour must do to get ourselves in a position to win: a four-step plan – Labour List, Alison McGovern. “The Conservatives in office have shut nearly 800 libraries since 2010. All those towns, villages, places around the country that used to have a small building where kids could do their homework and older people could relax and explore the world of books with a librarian to help. Gone. I think it is criminal.” … ” Children and young people today don’t need the libraries of the 1980s, to state the obvious. They need librarians who can help them with the world of both books and social media, and a world of research and creativity that would have seemed crazy to ten-year-old me in 1991.” … “. As my friends at Get It Loud In Libraries demonstrate, young people need places not just of books but where they can explore the kind of culture that libraries would have sniffed at even in my halcyon days.”
  • Working Internationally for Libraries – CILIP. “The project is funded by Arts Council England and will run in partnership with the British Library, British Council, and Libraries Connected. In its first phase, the project will focus on English public libraries to develop a programme of activities including grants & travel bursaries, an international conference, and a showcase of successful international projects.”. Webinar 2 June.

International news

  • Australia – Learning From Our Statistics – Public Libraries Online. ” An oft-neglected area of study in librarianship, statistical fundamentals are approached here in a simple rules format with examples. The purpose is to help librarians gather and use statistical information in new and better ways. “
  • Lebanon – Rebuilding Beirut’s libraries – CILIP. 15 September webinar. “after the August 4 2020 blast, libraries in Lebanon decided to brush off the dust, remove the rubble and glass, and tend to their injured staff and users. Librarians started looking into best plans for a return to service and the Lebanese Library Association joined them on the journey.”

Local news by authority

Summer library challenge

Editorial

Things feel slightly less certain this week than last, what with the Indian variant causing headlines, but public libraries are continuing the slow task of reopening. This is happening at different paces in different places – this is the UK public library service after all – but some problems are becoming obvious. The first, mentioned in the BookSeller, is that quarantining books is a bit of a problem now and will get to be a bigger and bigger problem as more people come in. And then of course there is the issue of physical regular groups and events. Some services are already tipping their toes into this water but if the Summer Holidays are as busy as normal (and it’s even possible, just about, that they may be busier – after all, foreign holidays are going to take a dip) then it’s going to be, at the least, a bit of a shock for the quarantining shelves just two months away. The rush to open on the High Street outside of library doors is also a concern for those library chiefs not wanting to look overly cautious. So, this summer is already presenting all sort of challenges, and not just the one that normally ends with certificates and medals.

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National news

  • CILIP NW Libraries Day and AGM 2021 – CILIP. 28 May 10am to 4pm. “This free event is open to all, both CILIP members and non-members. This event will showcase the creative ways that libraries in the North West have adapted during the last extraordinary 12 months.”
  • Cynhadledd CILIP Cymru Wales Conference 2021 – CILIP. 20-21 May. “oin us as we embark on our very first virtual conference to recognise and celebrate information professionals in Wales. This last year has been a strange one for everyone. We want to help demonstrate confidence as a sector, commitment to diversity, and impact and influence across communities, Wales and beyond. Our 2021 conference is packed with an exciting list of speakers to help inspire you to make a bigger impact. Thanks to the Welsh Government, CILIP Cymru Wales is delighted to offer bursaries to public librarians to join us at CILIP Cymru Wales Conference 2021.”
  • Freckle Report 2021: Digital or Diverse? The future of public libraries – Tim Coates. “The Freckle report 2021 includes survey results from the studies ‘Where did you get your book’ of April 2019 and April 2021. These show the picture of reading both before and late on in the period of the Covid 19 pandemic”. Covers USA, Australia and UK, £63.
  • I’ve been to the library – A Sense of Place. “I’ve been to the library, that’s my big news for today and it’s more than enough to be getting on with. I’ve been to the library.”
  • Library Campaign Zooms in on a publicity campaign for libraries Monday 24 May 2021 19:30 -21:00 – Library Campaign. “We’ll focus on following up the ideas that came up in April for a campaign to publicise libraries. The meeting will include a chance to discuss with Nick Poole, the Chief Executive of CILIP (the librarians’ professional body) what they are doing to advocate for libraries, and their plans for this year’s National Libraries Week”
  • Many libraries now open but 72-hour quarantine rule causing ‘huge pressure’ – BookSeller. “Library authorities say more than 90% of their facilities have reopened since lockdown eased, with nearly half offering browsing, though many have suffered “huge pressure” from a 72-hour book quarantine rule.” … “93% of libraries are offering PC access and have browsing at some or all sites while 45% have opened for browsing at all their buildings.”

“Libraries have operated this quarantine for a year now, and it is slowing down the rate at which materials can be lent as well as placing huge pressure on available space. Libraries Connected and DCMS have both been working with government contacts and PHE to explore whether this guidance can be revised or relaxed while maintaining the safety of library users.”

Nick Poole, CILIP
  • Shelf Love: Several Fascinating Facts About Libraries – BBC Radio Four. “To mark the documentary Late Returns, in which writer Nicholas Royle returns three library books – three decades after he borrowed them, we’ve collated some interesting facts using our own version of the Dewey Decimal System…”
  • Townscapes: The Value of Social Infrastructure – Bennett Institute for Public Policy. Mentions public libraries seventy nine times.
  • Universal Library Offers Project Manager – Libraries Connected. “The postholder will work with the Universal Offer Leads, supporting them to implement the plans, and will also oversee the creation of the annual plan. The postholder will also ensure engagement between Libraries Connected and the public library sector on the delivery of the plans.”. 14 hours per week.

International news

  • EU – 2021 NAPLE Forum annual meeting – NAPLE Sister Libraries. 20 May, 12 noon to 2. “Please join us for the NAPLE Forum 2021 where we will be discussing the impact of public libraries as we emerge from the pandemic period, and looking over the horizon to see what’s next for the public library sector in the next 12 months.”
  • Ireland – Firm sues over computer system contract for public libraries – Irish Times. “An unsuccessful tenderer for a multimillion-euro computer system for the country’s public libraries has sued over the awarding of the contract. Innovative Interfaces Incorporated, which was unsuccessful in tendering for part of the contract, has also obtained an automatic suspension of the awarding of part of the contract pending the outcome of its legal proceedings which were entered into the Commercial Court on Monday.”
  • USA – Why librarians are natural born detectives – Crime Reads. “Whether you’re looking for information about an uncle’s will or a homemade poison, the reference desk is the place to go.”

Local news by authority

Scottish independence and public libraries

Editorial

The local elections have shown a couple of things. The first is that the Conservatives are likely to win the next election, leading to the possibility of another decade of policies likely to minimise funding for local government, and thus library spending. The other is, as pointed out in coverage of Glasgow last week, how different things are Scotland. Libraries up there are in a different environment – although it may not feel like it in Glasgow – and may look forward, if independence happens, to funding on another level to that south of the border. However, if Scotland does go its own way then that’s a whole bunch of anti-Conservative MPs disappearing from the English parliament … and then heaven knows when the governing party will change down here.

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National news

  • F**k I Think I’m Dying: Claire Eastham on Learning to Live with Panic – Reading Agency. Tuesday 11 May, 7pm. Mental Health Awareness week free event.
  • International Booker Prize – Reading Agency. “Free digital packs are available to download from The Reading Agency Shop to promote the International Booker Prize and the Women’s Prize for Fiction in your library. The packs contain promotion guides with ready-to-use social media schedules and copy, as well as assets and links to reading group guides”
  • Morrisons is giving away 50,000 FREE books to families – how to get one – The Sun. “The book is called “Cedric the Seed” and it will be distributed nationwide to local community groups and schools.” … “Morrisons has also launched a book donation and exchange station called the little library where children, teenagers and parents can take home any of the books available for free.”
  • Opportunity for refugees and asylum seekers to contribute to research on UK public library services – Hazel Hall. “Do you know or work with adult refugees and/or asylum seekers who have lived in the UK for 5 years or fewer? If so, please could you let them know about this opportunity to contribute to an on-going research project within the Centre for Social Informatics by completing a short online questionnaire”
  • Public Library Resilience: Innovations from the COVID Crisis – III. Thursday 20 May, 6am (3pm AEST), free webinar. “The health crisis has brought challenges and opportunities for public libraries. Even while buildings have been closed, libraries worked with determination and innovation to bring their services to users in new ways, reaching 3 out of 10 people (Carnegie UK Trust research). Innovative Interfaces has brought together two well-known thought leaders to discuss lessons from the past year, and opportunities for public libraries, in what promises to be a stimulating debate full of insights and ideas.”. [Including myself very early in the morning, and Roger Henshaw; Public Library Australia – Ed.]
  • The role of fines in the libraries of today – CILIP. Survey. “Abolishing library fines is something we have seen more public libraries adopt both here in the UK and abroad but it is something that some cash strapped public libraries are not so keen to follow. Public Libraries News have done a round up of some of the key pros and cons and recent initiatives but we want to hear your opinion on the matter.”
  • S4 Ep11 Arts Council England – Leading with James Ashton. Interview with Darren Henley. Says of libraries that ““love, cherish and continue to reinvent them”

International news

  • Australia – Leading Public Libraries for the new normal – Jane Cowell. “Library Managers across the world have been leading their service through a crisis.For my library service, with various branches in a number of different locations, staff with varying levels of technical skills, and a situation that was changing fast — sometimes multiple times a day — there were some key leadership priorities that enabled our library service to remain viable.”
  • Global – The most popular comics checked out from libraries worldwide – for kids and adults – Games Radar. “In the past 12 months, comics books and graphic novels were checked out over 15 million times from public libraries.”
  • New Zealand – Reimagining a new Nelson library as an ideas factory – Stuff. “What has dominated news coverage and clamour are two reasons some people object to a new library: The price. The location. We have been focused on problems, not opportunities.” … “clever thinking about what a library could be would make it a hub of our 10 innovative economies, and the centrepoint of a knowledge industry ecosystem for the community, and our overall economy. It would foster other supporting elements of an innovation economy to grow up around it.”
  • USA – Report Urges Library Leaders to Address Decline in Public Library Usage Stats – Publishers Weekly. “In a report published this week, veteran London-based bookseller, library advocate, and former Waterstones managing director Tim Coates warns that U.S. public library usage statistics show a steep decline—and he suggests that library leaders must do more to address the trend.”

Local news by authority

Glasgow, local politics, and a book exchange.

Editorial

Glasgow continues to dominate this blog’s local authority news, with a truly impressive amount of text from multiple sources about the leisure trust’s decision not to reopen a few of its branches. It is being used to attack not just local politicians but also Nicola Sturgeon herself, who until now has been a bit of a shining beacon of public library support. As mentioned last week, the coverage is notably more intense than a similar story would have been south of the border, ironically showing the national differences some of the politicians attacking her may not have wish to be highlighted. After all, I don’t remember Boris Johnson facing direct criticism for what happens in Croydon or Lambeth, for example. Having said that, it’s clearly a big thing in Bristol, though, as the local mayor made the point of given libraries prominent coverage in a paid-for news article.

In perhaps lighter news, a community book exchange has received major attention due to a bigot (or a comedian) protesting about some of the stock in it and there’s also a story from the USA about a chap with an extreme addiction to Summer Reading Challenge goodies. Hmm, I do like a good fridge magnet myself. Have a good week everyone.

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Changes by library service

National news

  • British Library Single Digital Presence Update – CILIP. 12 May, 12:30 online. £25+VAT for non-members. “Staff members from the British Library will give a presentation on the Arts Council England and Carnegie UK Trust funded ‘Single Digital Presence’ project. The project began in 2018 to explore digital transformations in public libraries and what a national online presence for the sector could look like. We have recently reached the end of the project’s research and development phase. As well as explaining its drivers, methods and findings, we will also outline the next steps for development and answer questions from attendees.”
  • Coming back greener – BookSeller. Nick Poole of CILIP. “Libraries are unique multi-functional spaces, offering comfort and respite while supporting a wide range of uses. We would like to explore how these spaces can co-exist more sustainably with their local ecosystems, communities and economies, using sustainable materials and local skills”
  • Intellitec – “Three former senior managers from Bibliotheca, Simon Peacock, Jim Hopwood and Phillip Sykes have now formed Intellitec. With over 50+ years’ experience in the Library Sector, Intellitec has been formed to offer advisory services to libraries. Intellitec would welcome enquires from any library service with a strategy to change or evolve or simply bring new ideas to their users.”
  • Julia Donaldson: ‘I worry some children will be unable to sing’ – Guardian. “While the reopening of libraries will be welcomed across the generations, their closure was a pressing matter well before Covid: in Donaldson’s role as children’s laureate from 2011 to 2013, she campaigned passionately against library cuts, writing articles, meeting ministers and (with Malcolm) embarking on a six-week tour of UK libraries. Her newest book in the Acorn Wood series, Cat’s Cookbook, is set in a library; Cat is looking for a recipe book, but is side-tracked by the many literary tangents on offer until she finds what she is looking for under the direction of Frog, the helpful librarian.”
  • The Library Campaign Zoom 24 April 2021 – Library Campaign. “The Library Campaign’s first online meeting discussed what the Campaign could /should be doing to promote and protect public libraries. Speakers include Laura Swaffield (Chair of the Campaign), Elizabeth Ash (Save Croydon Libraries) and Liz Miles (SOLE – Save Our Libraries Essex.)”

International news

  • Australia – Public libraries about ‘more than just books’, say South Australians fearing funding cuts – ABC News. ” negotiations were underway for a new agreement and, if it went ahead as currently proposed, it would mean “less books on shelves” and “probably less content online”. The SA Government would not be drawn on the topic, but simply said it allocated “significant funding to libraries each year”.”
  • Canada – Park Passes have arrived at WPL – Waterloo Public Library. “Each kit comes with a park pass, binoculars and nature guidebooks all packed in a cross-body pouch so you can take everything with you on your outdoor adventures. Kits are loaned out for 7-days. “
  • Finland – JKMM Architects extends 1980s library to create “public living room” for Kirkkonummi – De Zeen. “The studio doubled the size of the previous library and wrapped it entirely in a copper facade to create a counterpoint to the town’s medieval stone church.” – Church and library are described as the “heart and brain” of the town.
  • France – Building Knowledge: New French Libraries Designed for Cultural Exchange – Arch Daily. “France has built many new libraries across the country, buildings that embrace new technology, media, and collection formats. Combining mixed programs and civic amenities, contemporary libraries are rapidly evolving to meet modern demands and anticipate future trends. Libraries are one means by which architects and designers can make space for learning and foster cultural exchange, creating room for education and new ideas. The following work takes a closer look at libraries across France, building upon iconic examples like the National Library of France to ground new ideas on how shared values are discovered, reimagined and expressed.”
  • Global What do you want to share with the library field?  – Next Library. “Next Library Festival 2021 will be a free online event. It will run 24 hours on June 3 starting at 8 am (UTC+2) following the sun around the planet to the next morning 8 am (UTC+2). There will be keynotes, inspiration talks, participatory sessions, ignites, online happenings, The Next Room (drop-in-talkshows), singing, announcement of the winner of the Joy of Reading Award, surprises and much more. “
  • Pakistan – Roshan the camel brings books to Pakistan’s homeschooled children – Al Jazeera. “Raheema Jalal, a high-school principal who founded the Camel Library project with her sister, a federal minister, says she started the library last August because she wanted children around her remote hometown to continue learning despite schools being closed.”
  • USA – Aaron Yang: Voracious Reader Or Giant Pain To Librarians? – NPR. “There are more than 9,000 public libraries in the U.S., and Aaron Yang has been trying to win summer reading prizes from as many as he can. Not all librarians are happy about it.” … “By his count, he’s now contacted around a thousand libraries and acquired untold numbers of pencils, stickers and awards.”. Aaron is 20. “Thanks to one of his librarian fans, you can now buy a T-shirt online that reads, We Are All Aaron Yang.”

Local news by authority

Glasgow shows key differences, Cipfa fractionally improves

Editorial

The campaign against the cuts to Glasgow libraries are notable for a few reasons. First thing to note that, by English standards, they’re not actually all that bad – just a few closed, moved or made volunteer. That sort of thing would raise a few placards south of the border but not the big coverage that it is getting in Scotland’s second city. Cuts to public services are taken more seriously up there evidently, even though the Conservative protests about them should be taken with the pained ironic wince it deserves. Finally, it’s worth pointing out that the cuts are not caused by the council but rather because the libraries are run by the local leisure trust, whose financial model has been temporarily wrecked by covid. If the service was run by the council then, presumably, the cuts would not have even happened. But, then, North Ayrshire is also going through cuts so maybe not.

The other thing to note this week, possibly with more pain than irony, are the Cipfa DCMS funded reports on how local library services are doing compared to each-other. Despite Cipfa being the sector by-word for slowness, disinterest and price-gouging, one has to admit that these comparator reports have improved slightly. Initially produced in 2012, back then one could only compare services with a small number of other library services – almost as if Cipfa was keen not to share data that it could otherwise charge through the nose for – but at least now one can see how each service is doing in comparison to every other library service in the country. It’s still out of date of course, and only four-fifths of councils bother contributing, but it is better than it was. We just need to wait now for the 150 councils to work together (and, even, gosh, share their data for free) and bypass Cipfa altogether but, until that happy day, this is probably the best that this supposed sector of information sectors is going to get.

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Changes by local authority

National news

  • DCMS funded Report 2020 – Cipfa. “Download the report comparing each English library authority that returned data (121 of the 150 councils in England have been published: report updated March 2021) with their family group, as defined by the CIPFA Nearest Neighbours Model.”
  • Libraries on the high street – Libraries Hacked. “With the OS high streets, and ‘good enough’ data on libraries I looked at how many libraries are directly on a high street: about 25%.” … “With the OS high streets, and ‘good enough’ data on libraries I looked at how many libraries are directly on a high street: about 25%.”
  • Library Campaign Zoom meeting 14 April 2021 Update – Library Campaign. “Among the points to emerge were: · All Friends groups are valuable, whether they are fighting cuts or supporting a service that isn’t in crisis. · Many groups produce useful material that could be shared. · The government (DCMS) has a legal duty to ensure good services … but doesn’t. · National library bodies seldom do things that library users see as high priority – such as… ·  Demonstrate that libraries are great value for money · Run a publicity campaign for public libraries, perhaps centred on social media.”
  • Pandemic shows how ‘digital by default’ government services exclude those who need them most – Business Reporter. “And with libraries closed many are more cut off than ever before. Indeed, people rely on libraries for online access – a place to search for jobs, answer emails, access educational resources and stay in touch with the outside world.”
  • Senior Lecturer to host online workshop in collaboration with BBC Arts and the British Library – FE News. “A Senior Lecturer at Leeds Trinity University has been invited to deliver an online games workshop and participate in a panel discussion as part of an event organised by Leeds Libraries in collaboration with BBC Arts and the British Library.”
  • Webinar for those planning events outside – Libraries Connected. 18 May, 1.30pm.
  • Working Internationally Conference 2021 – CILIP. 25 June. “The 2021 Working Internationally Conference explores ways of connecting with library services from across the world to inspire and inform your library service back home. A unique programme of panel sessions, presentations, and hands-on workshops draws on speakers from a diverse range of regions – UK, Europe, Canada, Africa, and the Middle East – to share best practices, spotlight new ideas, and showcase successful examples of international working projects. “

International news

Local news by authority

The normal patchwork response

Editorial

Libraries have reopened in England in the patchwork nature that one has come to expect from our wonderfully diverse network, with some still offering only click and collect, some bookable browsing for varying periods and some with no restrictions on browsing at all. The reports I have heard are of the expected pile of returned books and busy-ness on the first day followed by a calming-down reasonably quickly. Books are still being quarantined and the social distancing measures so familiar after the last lockdown are back again. So it’s all got a feeling of deja vu about it, really. What is different this time is the hope that, with vaccines, we have seen the last lockdown. I am sure we all really hope that is the case.

Now a possible glimpse at the future. I have been talking to some Australian librarians who have, of course, been reopen for months because they live on a huge remote island with a government who realised the blindingly obvious importance of closing borders. They report that, even with their relatively mild brush with the virus, visitor numbers are still down. This ties in with what I am hearing and feeling myself – that Covid means that, even when what passes for normality returns here, there will be a sustained reduction in visitor numbers to buildings for quite a while, as the cautious stay away. And not just the cautious. There will be others who have discovered digital alternatives and it is those that libraries will still have to cater to, with a probable permanent increase in online use of library services, although at a lower level than the peak we saw last year.

Finally, I notice that this newsletter has now passed the 2000 subscriber network. Thank you to you all for making that possible.

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Local news by authority

National news

“Now libraries must again follow the lead of retail, building their brand in a virtual space, engaging through social media and other online channels with an ever-wider community to encourage take-up of all the services the library has to offer, from leisure reading to study and research.”

Sarah Godowski, Director of architects Bisset Adams
  • Save libraries to end education inequality, top author urges PM – Express. ” Cressida Cowell is demanding an end to “library poverty” where some primary schools have great provision while others have none at all.”
  • Social media project / Internship – DCA. DCA are “funding a social media project and are looking to collaborate with a UK library and information science student or postgraduate with an interest and aptitude for social media as a tool for promoting library usage and specific offerings from the library. Our budget is £250 per month, for 5hrs per week at £12.50 per hour for an initial six month period. There is the potential for the project to become a longer-term appointment for the right candidate.”
  • Universal Library Offer virtual seminar – Libraries Connected. Tuesday 15 June. “The day will focus on our four Universal Library Offer themes and aims to inspire you by offering practical ideas that can easily be put into practice. The event is aimed at mid-level library managers and development staff working in libraries, but anyone is welcome to attend.”. £20 – £100.

International news

  • USA – Libraries and Pandemics: Past and Present – JStor. “In 1918, library books were seen as fomites (or objects likely to harbor infectious microbes); today we know that paper and books are not reliable conductors of viral agents, for the most part.” … ” The 1918 flu pandemic was the first in which libraries were central to disseminating public health information” … “The 1918 influenza pandemic had a profound impact on how librarians do their work, giving them a chance to reevaluate what was working and what wasn’t in old models.”
  • Sharp rise in parents seeking to ban anti-racist books in US schools – Guardian. “Jason Reynolds’ Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, a history of racism for children and teens, was the year’s second most challenged title. In their complaints, parents claimed that Stamped contained “selective storytelling incidents” and “does not encompass racism against all people””. “The Hate U Give” was challenged because it was “thought to promote an anti-police message””

Local news by authority

  • Nottingham – ‘Quite a big name’ – positive response as Sainsbury’s confirms plan to open in Sherwood – Nottinghamshire Live. “The food giant has pledged to open a convenience store planned as part of the redevelopment of the Sherwood Library site”… ” It will be nice just to have the library back as a community hub that people can use.” … “Owned by Nottingham City Council, the buildings at the existing library site in Spondon Street are in a poor state – and the authority has deemed that the library no longer meets the “standards expected” by users. Working with contractor Hockley Developments, the council’s redevelopment plans have been put forward – planning documents revealing that a “blue-chip retail operator” was be announced in due course to operate from a ground floor unit.”
  • Surrey – Surrey County Council joins The Libraries Consortium – Library Technology. “Members will be able to use their library card at any of the 380 member branches, crossing boundaries into London boroughs, and reaching as far as Essex and Luton. Shared catalogues will offer choice from more than 8 million items of stock, which can be delivered to any Surrey Library in days”
  • Swindon – Swindon library click and collect and Steam shop return when lockdown eases – Swindon Advertiser. “The click, call and collect service which allows customers to reserve books online or by telephone has only been available at Central Library during the current lockdown. From Monday, the service will also be available at Highworth, North Swindon, Park and West Swindon libraries.”
  • Warrington – Plans for £100,000 improvements at Penketh Library moving forward – Warrington Worldwide. “Warrington Borough Council and LiveWire are progressing with refurbishment works at Penketh Library following consultation with the local community and The Friends of Penketh Library on what improvements should be made.
    The council will shortly be going out to tender to identify a contractor to carry out the works, which will breathe new life into the library and create a more vibrant, flexible space for the whole community to enjoy.”
  • Wiltshire – ‘We feel so grateful to be open again…’ – This is Wiltshire. “One customer told library staff: “I’m so, so grateful you have reopened, I missed the library so much.””
  • Worcestershire – Libraries are open to public – Worcester Observer. Browsing and PCs available. “Only storytime sessions for pre-school children will be re-introduced at a later date, April 22.”

“Normality” in 2021?

Editorial

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

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National news

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

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

Simon Armitage

International news

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

Editorial

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

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

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

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

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Third time lucky?

Editorial

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

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Changes by local authority

National news

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

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

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

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

Carol Dinenage, Minister of State, DCMS.

An invisible swan event

Editorial

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

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

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Changes by local authority

National news

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

International news

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

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