Affording it

Editorial

The “Future Libraries” report just produced is worth reading, especially for those who do not feel that budget cuts are not enough to worry about. From what I’m hearing and reading, though, about the sheer number of councils about to go bankrupt, well, that is by far the major threat at the moment. But that’s not the case everywhere. In the USA funding has gone up by 15% since 2010 while it’s reduced by, wow, 49% in England in the same period. That doesn’t mean public libraries there are having a golden time. Far from it, because censorship is the clear and present danger in the Land of the Free. This week saw a genuine video (I double-checked) of a Republican politician flamethrowing books she took from a public library. Yes, actually and literally flamethrowing them. At least, in the UK, one only has to worry about burning balance sheets.

It can be possible to see the changes in UK public libraries are seen by some as a good thing. And many indeed are. I miss the crowds of the 1990s but not the lack of story-times and reading groups. The Local Government Chronicle has a report that goes further, saying “It wouldn’t be remiss to say libraries are more community centres these days, and in the breadth of services they offer they can help improve the wider health and economic outlook for an area.”. Some changes are just sad, though. Norfolk are reinstating library fines and, from the context of the article, it’s not because there’s disagreement about the pros of getting rid of fines. Rather, it’s simply been done because of the need for money.

The changes in public libraries due to budget and council requirements is seen by some as move is too expensive. Having a library shared with a bank or just a few shelves in the council headquarters is not going to win the support of many such campaigners. The fear is that, by trying to add on so many other offers to that of the basic public library one, the sector will lose its sense of identity and no longer be seen as welcoming and friendly. Proponents of change point out, albeit between the lines, that it’s necessary if one wants a library at all.

Anyway, enough of depression. if you fancy a change of scenery, I’d advise a trip to Poland, as it has a genuinely good news story. The New Horizons Library just built there has deservedly won several awards and it’s easy to see why. To be honest, I want to move in. If I can afford the flight.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Cutting library funding comes at a high social cost – Herald. “At a time when every penny matters, libraries are proving to be crucial financial assets for individuals and families navigating the complexities of the cost of living crisis. From closing the attainment gap, to combating social isolation and bridging the digital divide, libraries connect and empower communities.”
  • Future Libraries – CILIP. “Part one is the horizon-scanning report, Come Rain or Shine: Preparing public libraries for the future in an age of uncertainty, which envisions the challenges and demands that public libraries will face from now until 2040. Come Rain or Shine provides an in-depth analysis of future scenarios that can impact public libraries to help library staff and leaders to become more agile in their strategies and activities. Like the weather, the future is unpredictable. Should we be warning about storms ahead or are we hoping for blue skies in public libraries? CILIP commissioned the report with funding from Arts Council England and in consultation with public library professionals from across the country.
  • Libraries are clearest example of successful local government transformation – Local Government Chronicle. “a library in 2024 is a lot different to a library in 2010 where book borrowing was the main focus. If you go to your local library now, you could take part in baby and toddler classes. Or drop in to a business start-up support service. If neither of them are applicable, you could use your library visit to go to your leisure centre too which is located within the building for efficiency of scale. It wouldn’t be remiss to say libraries are more community centres these days, and in the breadth of services they offer they can help improve the wider health and economic outlook for an area.” … “Councils know the social and economic value of libraries and cultural services but can’t spend what they don’t have”
  • Meet The Superhero Librarians Fighting For Their Queer Communities – Huffington Post. “Should I be worried as a librarian in the U.K.? We exist in a significantly different political climate than the U.S., and our far-right groups aren’t as large or visible. But fear, ignorance and anti-queerness exist, of course. This 2023 article in The Guardian cited research finding that a third of U.K. librarians had been asked by members of the public to censor or remove books. Librarians are an extremely valuable part of the fight against LGBTQ+ oppression, and if these attacks continue, then we’re all screwed. “
  • ‘Reading is so sexy’: gen Z turns to physical books and libraries – Guardian. “This week the 22-year-old model Kaia Gerber launched her own book club, Library Science. ” … “Gerber isn’t alone. Last year in the UK 669m physical books were sold, the highest overall level ever recorded. Research from Nielsen BookData highlights that it is print books that gen Z favour, accounting for 80% of purchases from November 2021 to 2022. Libraries are also reporting an uptick in gen Z users who favour their quiet over noisy coffee shops. In the UK in-person visits are up 71%.”
  • Thanks to a shadowy hacker group, the British Library is still on its knees. Is there any way to stop them? – Guardian. ” The very conditions that have allowed them to conduct their trade across the open plains of cyberspace are those they now aim to abuse, by shutting down the possibility for communication and knowledge-sharing, stealing and encrypting information, forcing users to buy back or lose their data, and bringing vital institutions such as libraries – which protect and share all of this knowledge for anyone to access – to their knees.”
How public libraries can work with 64 Million Artists

YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and beyond: video marketing for libraries and cultural organisations’ – CILIP. 15 March, online.

International news

  • Bangladesh – Libraries will solidify our foundation as a smart nation – Daily Star. “Libraries are beacons of ethical and sustainable development, nurturing economic and digital growth, as well as moral and ethical values. As we witness the continuous threat of isolation driven by technological and economic forces, libraries emerge as vital public spaces that connect communities and bridge the gap between knowledge and power.”
  • Canada – These books were challenged at Ottawa’s libraries last year – CBC Lite. “According to a report to the library’s board, there were seven “requests for reconsideration” during 2023. Six sought to pull books or DVDs from library shelves, while one asked to reclassify a graphic novel from the teen to the adult collection. Complaints covered everything from alleged racism or promotion of hatred to reports of inaccurate information or objectionable content.” … “According to the report, the library retained all of the materials in their existing collection areas. That includes the graphic novel, which remained in the teen section.”
  • Germany – German libraries up defences against far-right attack – Yahoo News. “Defaced and destroyed, books  torn up and political messages scrawled across their pages: the evidence of an alleged far-right vandalism spree at a city library in Berlin covers an entire table.” … “By targeting libraries, “the extremist right is trying to change the boundaries of what can be said”
  • Ireland – Clare libraries want you to Get Lost… in a Good Book – Clare Council. “Libraries throughout Clare are taking part in Ireland Reads, a campaign to get the whole country reading this month in the lead-up to a national day of reading on Saturday, 24th February.” … “Irish libraries have teamed up with publishers, booksellers, authors and others for the campaign, which is part of the government’s Right to Read programme and aims to celebrate reading and all the benefits it can have for wellbeing and enjoyment.”
  • Lithuania – Gamification – the key to attractive cultural activities and adult education in libraries – Naple Sister Libraries. “All the knowledge gained was applied by library specialists on the last day presenting new ideas for gamified education and projects, which they plan to implement upon returning to their library. The project is funded by the Erasmus+ program funds.”
  • Newcastle – Reading Ahead Challenge – Newcastle Council. “Anyone can take part in Reading Ahead. All you need to do is join the library and read 6 books (or other items) over the course of four months. Library staff in your local branch will provide you with a challenge diary for you to complete in your own time and will help you to choose reading material you’ll love. Reading Ahead participants are invited to library events, including our World Book Night celebration and Late Shows evening, and will attend a special celebration event for challenge completers.”
  • Palestine – Israeli Damage to Archives, Libraries, and Museums in Gaza, October 2023–January 2024 – Librarians With Palestine. List of libraries and museums damaged or destroyed. ” In this report, we offer a partial list of archives, libraries, and museums in Gaza that have been destroyed, damaged, or looted by Israeli armed forces since October 7, 2023. This report is necessarily incomplete. It is very difficult to determine the status of archives, libraries, and museums in Gaza during the ongoing Israeli bombardment. “
  • Poland – Biblioteka Nowy Horyzont Press Kit – Google Docs. Award-winning “New Horizons Library”. “focusing on creating three different spaces for three different personality types of users. Ensuring that each reader finds a space that suits his or her needs and character. ” … “We call the third room the room for extroverts. Its layout already allows the organization of activities in large groups, and modular furniture designed to size allows you to arrange the space according to your needs.”
Poland – New Horizons Library looks like no other library
  • USA = Maine library sparks outcry after stocking book titled ‘Irreversible Damage’ about ‘the transgender craze seducing our daughters’, with one local warning it could cause a suicide – Daily Mail.
    • Closing the book on libraries – Carolina Journal. “It’s no secret that libraries — public, academic, special, and school — have taken a sharp left turn in recent years. As more and more young people have graduated with degrees in library science, the profession has taken on a far more radical, activist turn than ever before.” … ” the radical left now controls most library organizations” … “librarians in the rank and file were quick to oblige, filling library shelves with age-inappropriate materials and leftwing propaganda. ” … the article says the reader should contact “the Association for Library Professionals (ALP), for more information, see here. A fledging association that will launch its website later this month, ALP seeks to return libraries to neutrality while stressing that libraries purchase age-appropriate materials. “
    • Library Advocacy and Funding Conference 2024 – EveryLibrary. July 24-26. “outreach, donor research, grants, legislation, coalition building, digital tactics, and marketing. And we’ll be expanding our track focused on navigating the book banning movement currently sweeping the United States.”
    • Libraries and Loneliness – Library Journal. “I’ve been worried about library visits for a while now, but my concerns have largely focused on the effect fewer visits will have on the future of libraries. What I learned is that I had it backwards. Yes, there’s a danger to libraries when fewer people use them; but the bigger threat in decreased library use is to the community itself.”
Burning library books is now seen as a votewinner. See Missouri GOP secretary of state candidate burns LGBTQ books in online video | The Hill
  • Pixelating Libraries: Bridging Books and Bytes – Public Libraries Online. “In the midst of book bans and budget cuts, I turned to art to navigate the challenges within our field. This artistic exploration delves into the unexpected but profound connection between video games and libraries. The union of video games and libraries may seem unconventional, but it has deep roots. Public libraries, once the gateway to computer experiences, evolved with the digital age. Today, as children immerse themselves in games like Roblox, it prompts contemplation on the evolving dynamics and its impact on library service”
    • This week in libraries – Publishers Weekly. ALA has five new core values “access, equity, intellectual freedom and privacy, the public good, and sustainability.” Increasing censorship, helped by social media algorithms.
    • Wake County libraries could expand to keep up with growth – WRAL. Caroline area has increasing population so libraries are looking at funding to renovate and replace libraries and add new ones.

Local news by authority

  • Bracknell Forest – Bracknell library closure claims are ‘simply not true’ – Bracknell News. “Bracknell Forest Council has plans to merge its libraries and customer services departments as part of a cost-saving drive. The plans could see volunteers take over the home library service, which delivers books to housebound people, but they don’t include closing libraries. Yet rumours that closures were in the works apparently spread among library customers and staff during December and January. Now the councillor in charge of libraries has said the claims are ‘simply not true.’” … “four management jobs would be ‘deleted’ as part of the merger. But he said there would be no reduction in opening hours or front-line staff serving library user”
  • Brighton and Hove – Proposal to freeze library fees – Brighton and Hove Council. “Like all council services, the city’s libraries have had to find savings and additional income as part of the proposals to close a £30 million budget gap for the next financial year. However, as part of the drive to minimise the impact of the cuts on frontline services that many people rely on, the proposal is to keep fees and charges across library services at the current rates, rather than introduce the 3.5% inflationary increase agreed across other council fees and charges.”
  • Buckinghamshire – Library theatre show promotes the benefits of gardening for mental health – Buckinghamshire Council. “The theatre tour is being jointly funded by Buckinghamshire Council’s Healthy Libraries programme and the national Rekindle programme. Rekindle is led by Creative Arts England and funded by Arts Council England and is designed to empower libraries to strengthen ties with local arts and make it more accessible to local communities”
  • Cardiff – Library campaigners slam council cuts proposals – Nation Cymru. “Proposals include slashing library opening times, closing some libraries on Saturday’s, more unpaid volunteers to discharge roles previously done by paid trained staff and ending provision of physical copies of newspapers and magazines. Adam Johannes from Cardiff People’s Assembly said: “If Cardiff Council’s proposals of almost half-a-million pounds worth of library cuts go through, our city library service will be devastated.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Planned cuts to some library opening hours – BBC. “a 6% reduction in opening hours spread across the area’s 22 sites, but all libraries would remain open.” … “A public consultation on the proposals runs until the start of April.”
  • Derby – Library plan set to deliver a service fit for the future – Derby Council. “Councillors will be asked to approve plans for the city’s 10 non-statutory libraries to be run by a Trust. The separate organisation could either run the community libraries itself or establish a new Trust to do so.” … “If plans are approved, the Council will launch a formal process to identify viable proposals from Trusts or organisations who want to run services. The Council could provide a grant and support packages to be negotiated as part of the formal process to find a Trust. “
  • Southend – Vital’ libraries across Southend will stay open after threat of closure – Yahoo News. “Two libraries could have closed and the opening hours of others slashed as part of proposals to tackle the council’s £10.7million financial black hole. In newly-published budget papers, all mention of reviewing the future of libraries has been removed – much to the delight of campaigning residents and councillors”
  • South Lanarkshire Hundreds sign petitions against closure of South Lanarkshire community facilities – Daily Record. ” South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture (SLLC) launched a public consultation on the closure of 37 halls, libraries and outdoor facilities.” inc. Hillhouse, Blantyre, Bothwell and Forth libraries.
  • Stirling – Dunblane Library closure fears prompts crunch meeting call – Daily Record. ““The squeezed budgets on councils all over the UK are very concerning at present but it’s about priorities and saving our libraries need to be at the heart of any budget decision process.”
  • Wandsworth – London’s ‘best libraries’ could be open for longer despite many closing down – My London News. “It comes after 154 residents signed a petition from Wandsworth Conservatives demanding the council increase the opening hours at Northcote Library in Battersea from four days a week to at least six days a week. The new library opened in April last year to replace the previous 1960s building opposite. The scheme was approved under the council’s old Conservative administration, before Labour took over in May 2022.”. Council is looking at “”how the current hours are performing, what residents need and what changes might be both beneficial and affordable”.”
  • Westmorland and Furness – Update on library services in Ulverston and Roose – Westmorland and Furness Council. “As the library is a statutory function, we’re required to consult on any changes, including any relocation of the library, so the local community will have the opportunity to comment on proposals once they are fully developed and public views will be taken into account as part of the process. We have also already been in contact with the Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport to inform them of the situation and they have indicated they are comfortable with our approach. Once the options assessment is completed we will be in a position to engage with stakeholders, partners, elected members and our community, so we are committed to keeping you informed when we have clear information about the options.”

£232 million (£329m with inflation) cut to UK public libraries since 2010

Editorial

And of course that cut, which is between one-quarter and three-eighths of total public library expenditure depending on if you count inflation, is not uniform. Some places, often the wealthiest, have been cut less and some others, often not the wealthiest, have been cut more.

Anyway, happy birthday to the Library Campaign which started 40 years ago to the date I am writing this. Thank you to Terry for letting me know. I had no idea. And, wow, 250 delegates.

“On 4 February 1984 250 delegates attended The Cuts Conference, organised by Sheffield City Libraries and held in the city’s Town Hall.  Professor John Stewart (Founder and Director of the Institute of  Local Government Studies, University of Birmingham) and Paul Foot (radical investigative journalist) were keynote speakers. Dissatisfaction with the Library Association’s cautious approach to opposing cuts in library expenditure resulted in the Conference voting to establish an independent and more political campaigning group. £200 was raised on the day with Paul Foot offering to donate the royalties of his latest book to the cause. Thus was The Library Campaign born. “

Terry Hanstock

And also thanks to Chris Hamilton, an ex Chief Librarian, who has also emailed in (the comments box on the website looks to be not working) thoughts of his own below:

“My minor niggle is the impression the public and many heads of service have that central government funds (or doesn’t fund) public libraries. Many many years ago when I was a new HoS I learned with some incredulity that ‘our’ bit of the central grant wasn’t discrete but bundled in with the bit for highways maintenance – and so we were effectively doomed from the get-go.

It’s just so important – IMHO – that everyone understands how public libraries are funded and focuses any campaigning on those who have the power (if not the cash) to make a difference. Realistically, I can’t see any prospect at all of local government or central government doing anything other than squeezing libraries ever harder. With social care and schools absolutely on their knees, it’s very hard to argue convincingly for libraries.

What would help is making libraries as efficient as possible and ensuring that everyone knows what they do, wherever they are – having one good clear universal offer. The demise of the library standards should have been fought tooth and nail, and just gave cash-strapped local authorities the green light to start hacking. I remember a Chief Exec saying just after that that he understood libraries were a statutory service “but not very statutory”.   

Along with my group of ex-Chiefs, I wonder why the heck the management of public libraries isn’t centralised under one body, applying one set of standards – instead of all the replication and duplication of structures, systems and procurement. There really is a whacking great saving to be made and an opportunity for good ideas and best practice to be shared rather than wheels being reinvented by successive managements up and down the country.

If we always do what we’ve always done … we’ll just sink without trace.

I get really depressed by the constant merry-go-round of new initiatives here and cutbacks there, with inexperience and politics over-riding realism and strategy. I love libraries. They aren’t complicated. They’re in danger of sinking under the weight of reviews while the crew debates how to arrange the shelves. It would be so good if CILIP and all the other players really thought outside the box and got their act together before it’s too late.

Chris Hamilton

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Call for Speakers – Beyond the Horizon – CILIP North-East Conference – Monday 20th May 2024 (afternoon) – CILIP NE. “You could be involved with a new project, a different way of doing something, or just feel you’re already doing something great and think others would benefit from knowing about it. This is your opportunity to share something you’re excited about with other professionals, so you could talk about completed projects as well as work in progress.”
  • Can ‘super libraries’ survive spending cuts? – BBC. Varied services at Woolwich Central Library, council budget cuts mean libraries seen as easy target, “expenditure on libraries has fallen by a quarter (£232.5m) since 2010.” [Plus inflation of 47% in same era = £329m hence actually 3/8ths – Ed]. “”Books and reading are always going to be central to what libraries do,” he says, but he adds there’s a growing recognition that “libraries are a great way of delivering different things”.” but budget cuts mean this is getting harder to do.
  • CCN: council spending on libraries and culture reduces by nearly £500m – Room 151. “The research has found that in 2010/11 English councils budgeted to spend almost £1.6bn on library services, culture, heritage and tourism. However, authorities’ latest accounts show that £1.1bn was spent on these services in 2023/24, a £470m decrease from 14 years ago.”
  • Celebrate books, reading, and libraries with Bedford Borough Libraries during Love Libraries Month – Bedford Council. “The month will feature author events for fiction lovers and family-friendly events for those with young children. Special Storytime sessions at Bedford Central and Kempston libraries, for under-fives, promise an engaging experience with stories, rhymes, themed activities, library hunts, and free sticker books. The beloved Bookstart Bear will also be making an appearance at some of these sessions.”
  • Digital exclusion in the UK: Communications and Digital Committee report – House of Lords Library. “The committee found that the shift towards digital by default public services had not been accompanied by adequate support for those who struggled with digital access. It argued that libraries and communities had taken on additional responsibilities but had not been given sufficient resources or training.” … ” The government should build on existing examples [of digital inclusion hubs] in the UK, focusing on libraries and other local amenities.”
  • Governance and History: The Direction of Public Libraries in the UK since the Second World War – Public Library Governance. “Without a clear and persuasive strategic direction, the future of the public library as the great public sphere institution it has proved itself to be in the past is in great jeopardy. The approaches to public library gov­ernance and the role of the public library in the UK are tracked and the various perspectives from government, practitioners and users presented. There is a lack of clarity and consensus regarding a desired role of the public library in the twen­ty-first century.”
  • How a decade of austerity has squeezed council budgets in England – Guardian. “An exclusive Guardian analysis of 13 years of council data has detailed how local spending patterns have changed under austerity budgets. Between 2010-11 and 2022-23, net spending per person on cultural services was cut by 43% in real terms, on roads and transport spending by 40%, on housing by 35% and on planning and development by a third – with more cuts pencilled in for this year.”
  • Innovation Gathering 2024 – Libraries Connected. Wednesday 6 March, 10am to 4pm, Birmingham. “The event is aimed at library staff in development and middle management roles but is open to anyone working in public libraries. We particularly welcome attendance from anyone who hasn’t attended a Libraries Connected event before and people from ethnic minority backgrounds, who have historically been under-represented at our events.”

“replace selected chairs in the Upper Camera with heritage-style chairs in keeping with the neoclassical style of the location, whilst significantly improving the comfort of our readers”.

Meanwhile in Oxford University, they’re going with nice new posh chairs
  • Part of the Job: Patron-Perpetrated Sexual Harassment in UK Public Libraries – Public Library Quarterly. “Patron-perpetrated sexual harassment (PPSH) toward librarians is an under-researched area of sexual harassment studies and library studies. This study is the first on PPSH toward librarians in the United Kingdom and focuses on public librarians. 143 UK public librarians were surveyed about their experiences of PPSH over the past five years. Respondents had experienced 14 of the 16 sexual harassment behaviors in the survey, and 81.8% of respondents experienced at least one form of PPSH. Respondents’ age, gender, and ethnicity were also considered in relation to their experiences of PPSH. This study provides
    recommendations for the profession and future researchers”
  • Tory council cuts see care homes, creches and libraries disappear from Britain – Mirror.
  • The UK is dismantling its legacy of municipal splendour – Financial Times. “The UK government is now considering loosening the rules for allowing councils to sell off assets. This is bad news for everything from libraries to swimming pools, town halls to toilets. Since 2010, council assets have been sold off in attempt to fill a £15bn hole in central government funding. More than 800 public libraries, 1,000 swimming pools, over 200 playing fields, half of all magistrates courts and 1,000 public toilets have been closed. ”
  • World Book Day charity sparks outrage after suggesting libraries don’t encourage children to read – Manchester Evening News. “comments from the charity have caused anger after it suggested that libraries aren’t a key factor in encouraging kids to read. Listing the ‘building elements’ which support a child to read for pleasure, it asked ‘which six are correct?’ and next to ‘going to the library’, it put a red cross.” … “following last week’s criticism, it has now been changed, with World Book Day describing it as ‘an unfortunate mistake’.”

International news

  • Australia / Finland / Singapore – Playing in the “Third Place”: How Games and Play Are Transforming Public Libraries – Sage Journals. “Drawing on observation of library spaces and interviews with library staff in Australia, Finland, and Singapore (n = 27), we examine the myriad ways games and play are transforming the library: from its architectural design and furnishings to its daily rhythms, atmosphere, and acoustics.”
  • China – Feature: China’s libraries go smarter to stock more books, engage more readers – China News. “Book lovers are attracted not only to the library’s architectural design which resembles a reading space under giant ginkgo trees, but also its abundant collection of books and smart services. With a total construction area of about 75,000 square meters, Beijing Library houses over 8 million books. The towering stacks on the library’s basement floor contribute to the massive book collection capacity, which is part of the largest single entity of automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) for books in China” Public libraries seeing increase in investment.
  • New Zealand – How public libraries are aiding community engagement – RNZ.
  • USA – Public libraries in the Richmond area are being reimagined – Axios. $18m upgrade “ At 25,000 square feet, the new branch is around two-thirds larger than the old Midlo Library. ” Includes “A digital media center; Outdoor reading garden, complete with an outdoor classroom for storytime; Outdoor musical sculptures for kids; Improved seating for lounging and reading; And meeting spaces, plus a large community meeting room.”
    • Alabama pulls out of American Library Association – WSFA. “The states public library service voted to end its membership with the ALA because some members say the discourse became a distraction.” … ” Opponents contend it promotes Marxism, discriminates against faith-based organizations, and supports keeping sexual content in libraries.”. Governor wants to “restrict funds for libraries that don’t adopt policies to require more parental supervision in libraries.”
    • A Practical Guide to Privacy in Libraries – ALA. Book. “Written in a highly practical manner, this book is essential reading for library and information professionals who need to understand and support privacy in the library setting and a useful reference for students and researchers in the field who need to understand this topic in practice. “
    • Do the Research: Conspiracy Theorists and Public Libraries – Georgia Library Quarterly. “Information literacy instruction is already a traditional offering at libraries and is of imminent importance at this moment as mainstream media shares disinformation to boost ratings and compete with fringe media. Protecting patrons from information disorder, whether in the form of programming or infographics that strengthen patrons’ analytical skills, is a noble cause for libraries who are primed for the task”
    • This Week in Libraries – Publishers Weekly. Alabama censorship fight: “libraries cannot stand in place of parents on deciding what content is suitable for minors.”, censorship moves in Georgia calling the ALA “Marxist”, similar in Tennessee. USA survey discovers “75% of parents do not believe in the necessity of diverse books”
    • Trauma, Book Bans, and Libraries: A Resource Guide for Library Workers, Library Supporters, and Beyond – Book Riot. “Finding a positive to emerge out of several years of book banning feels like grasping at sand. We have watched the First and Fourteenth Amendment Rights of people be squashed, sat by as some of the most underpaid and overworked public servants in the country be called inaccurate and dangerous names, and experienced a rise in christofascism and stochastic terrorism across public schools and libraries. None of these are good, and none of these point to a healthy or thriving democracy.”

Local news by authority

At least let Libraries keep the money we already have

Editorial

I remember the first Save Libraries Day, back in 2011. It was a huge grass-roots explosion of events and protests back in the days when cuts to libraries was a shocking surprise. That day was soon co-opted by public library services to promote the sector and, I notice, in the recent review it was suggested that the date be moved to be more public-relations friendly. So, another year, and another austerity. This week’s post includes serious cut announcements by Birmingham and Croydon. So it’s not a surprise that campaigners are getting antsy again and Alan Wylie, who was there in the beginning (and the original instigator Alan Gibbons), are calling for national protest again. Question is, will this country, which has now had over a decade of getting used to libraries being cut, go for it?

The solution to the sector’s major problem, but not the only one (the others being major technological and societal change, accelerated by a global pandemic), has been neatly and humorously summarised by the I as “Give us some ****ing money.”” This simply won’t happen under the current Government. The Sanderson Report didn’t even try to list it as a suggestion. Indeed, what the sector is looking at now is more cuts, made worse by inflation (and the decision to spend any spare money on tax cuts rather than maintaining services). So “Let us keep at the least the money you haven’t taken away previously” may be more accurate. Less amusing, though.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • The best of times, the worst of times for public libraries – CILIP. Isobel Hunter: ” if you wind back 20 years where you had chief librarians. Now you look at our members and you don’t always have the word library in their job titles.” … “It feels like the best of times because there’s amazing innovation happening in public libraries, and the worst of times because the financial environment for local authorities is really hard” … “One of the options presented to councils 10 years ago was outsourcing their libraries. Asked if this was being discussed again she said: “Not at the moment. But spinning out is always on the table when councils are pressed by immediate and long-term funding pressures.”
  • Ex-pat left life savings to two Scots libraries – BBC. “Letitia McKell bequeathed more than £350,000 to libraries in Motherwell and East Kilbride when she died in 2001”
  • Jo Cornish to be Interim CEO of CILIP – CILIP. “Jo, a Chartered Fellow of CILIP, with a background in public libraries, has accumulated eight years of experience at CILIP, gaining extensive knowledge of membership needs, priorities, and the organisation’s offerings.”

“”Baby Bushka, the 8-woman strong Kate Bush experience of your dreams is headed to the UK + Ireland on Tour this Autumn! They are looking to add some intimate literary acoustic concerts featuring their re-writes of Kate Bush songs using famous poems, like this version of Hound of Love with Francis Thompson’s Hound of Heaven. Or this T.S. Eliot mashup “Running Up That Street with Prufrock” Please contact them at ilovebabybushka@gmail.com if you’re interested in booking them. “

Email received.
  • A method for library data storytelling – Library data blog.
  • NAG’s 14th Collection Development Seminar and Public Library Forum – National Acquisitions Group. “NAG’s 14th edition of the highly successful Collection Development seminar takes place at the Friends House, 173-177 Euston Rd, London NW1 2BJ, on Thursday 16th May 2024 alongside our separate Public Library Forum. For this edition, the topic is “Rise of the Machines.” NAG invites papers from those that can share knowledge, best practice, experiences and reflections around the impact of technology.
  • On the matter of the British Library cyber incident – Ciaran’s Crispy Cogitations. The hackers are Russian so unlikely ever to be punished; BL not considered that important a target to protect but it’s impact and vulnerability make such targets tempting; recovery was very slow.
  • Sanderson Report shows that libraries are part of something bigger – CILIP. “Nine minutes of BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting house was dedicated to the plight of libraries and the huge range of services they provide, recognising that libraries were taken for granted and misunderstood.”
  • Witherick leaves Libraries Connected for ASCEL – BookSeller. “Witherick is an experienced charity executive and chartered librarian and will join ASCEL at the end of March 2024. Formerly regional development manager at Libraries Connected, and head of library service and customer experience at Libraries Unlimited, she has a background in leadership and delivering development projects and programmes. “
  • You can’t put a price on the joy of libraries – I / Opinion. Lucy Mangan translates Isobel Hunter’s response to the Independent Review on public libraries as ” I think what is actually being said here is something along the lines of – “Branding campaign? Libraries laureate? National data hub showing the effects of libraries on communities? I’ll tell you what shows the effects of libraries on communities – libraries! Give us some ****ing money for libraries instead of laureates and posters and we’ll show you some ****ing effects!” Or, to put it more succinctly still – “Give us some ****ing money.””

International news

Part of me thinks we’re rediscovering libraries not as something new, but for what they’ve always been: a shared space of comfort.”

Arlo Platt Zolov,s a 15-year-old who lives in Brooklyn 

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeen – Five libraries to offer extended opening hours – Aberdeen Council. “The changes reflect demand on provision where nearby libraries have closed, as well as information gathered from library consultations and library developments in Torry Library within the new Greyhope School and Community Hub.”
Staff shortages continue in Bristol to be severe enough to close multiple libraries at a time
  • East Riding – East Riding Libraries offer a wide range of free activities this February half term for children and families East Riding Council. “Sessions include the popular Lego Art, using specially designed Lego Art kits to make amazing pictures out of bricks. ”
    • Gruffalo puppet events to be held in East Yorkshire – BBC. “The events, which feature puppetry, are part of celebrations to mark the book’s 25th anniversary. The sessions, being held at libraries and community hubs, are free but booking is essential”
  • Edinburgh – Future Libraries engagement begins today – Edinburgh Council. “With the old Muirhouse library having been demolished in 2021, the new community hub at Macmillan Square is being developed in partnership with North Edinburgh Arts and will incorporate a creative arts space, our Early Years facility, employability support, six flats for social rent, and of course a thriving community library.” … ” With technological advances, changing public expectations and increasing budget pressures, we now need to consider what the future should look like for our library service and how it can best meet the needs of our city’s residents.”
  • Gloucestershire – 10-year-old girl raises hundreds for struggling library – Wilts and Gloucrestershire Standard. “story last week on the Fairford & Lechlade page of the Wilts & Glos Standard about Lechlade Community Library needing financial help has prompted ten year old Ella Bacon to start fundraising to help the library reach its target for the refurbishment work needed.”
  • Haringey – Haringey library cuts to pay for council to run leisure centres – Ham and High. “They provide a place for education, for technology and for community. It therefore came as a shock to find out that our Labour-run council has, as part of its budget, pencilled in a cut of over 30% to libraries over the next two years, shortening hours and leaving some buildings unmanned. Next year will see cuts of £700,000, which will lead to reduced hours across branch libraries at Alexandra Park, Coombes Croft, Highgate, Muswell Hill, St Ann’s, Stroud Green and Harringay.”
Suffolk
  • York – York: Row over proposed £600,000 cuts to library services – BBC. “Councillor Jo Coles, executive member for health, said services across the council had experienced cuts since 2010, with Explore “the one exception to this rule”. “We feel it is only fair that each service takes a share of responsibility for budget reductions,” she said.”
    • More than 2,000 sign ‘Save York’s libraries from cuts’ petition – Press. “Lib Dem councillor for Haxby and Wigginton Andrew Hollyer said: “York residents have not been consulted on Labour’s heartless budget. “Perhaps this is why over 2,000 residents have come out in support of our petition. “We have four more weeks to save York’s libraries and I would encourage all residents to sign our petition to reverse this heartless cut.””

Libraries get a good review

Editorial

The Independent Review of English Public Libraries is a surprisingly good piece of work. I was kind of expecting suggestions of more volunteers and opening up more cafes in order to fund libraries and the depressingly common other uninformed rubbish. But, you know, I find it hard to criticise any of the recommendations. Even the one on volunteers makes sense considering where we are now. A decade ago of course I’d be spitting acid but there are so many unpaid workers now, it would seem churlish not to wish for them to be better supported. The massive unspoken recommendation, which I am sure everyone had in their minds but, well, with this government is impossible, is to actually properly fund the sector. Or, at least not to cut it further. But, for that, we will have to wait for another government, and another review.

There’s the now depressingly frequent round of council library cuts announced in the last week, with Kent’s potentially huge 33-library cut leading the pack. Fascinatingly, for those of us who have followed the establishment of library trusts, there is the rarely seen case in York of a library service refusing to accept a cut. That would be impossible in a normal council-run service but York Explore is pointing out it has a contract and such a cut would require agreement from themselves. Makes you fancy having a trust in your area too doesn’t it?

Mind you, it’s great to see yet more refurbishments finally coming to fruition. Bolton looks rather snazzy and one hopes Saltdean will do so as well. So much for the physical. Over on the digital side of things, I hope I am not along in finding it amusing amusing that the LibraryOn team have decided to run a day on digital ideas in libraries physically in London, the most expensive city for most of the country to get to, for £20 each, and for only four people per organisation, rather than, ooh I don’t know, digitally when there would be no such limits. Perhaps they are afraid of being hacked.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Dagger in the Library nominations – Crime Writers’ Association. “The Dagger in the Library is awarded to a UK crime writer every year. This year the names of nominated authors have been supplied by libraries and borrowers nationwide. All you need to do from 5 January 2024 is vote for which writer you think should win the Dagger in the Library. Each library in Britain or the Republic of Ireland has three votes and any person working there can vote – staff or volunteer.”
  • The Guardian view on the future of libraries: an old question of human dignity in a new form – Guardian. “A cyber-attack on the British Library has shown how vulnerable digital archives are. It has reinforced the value of physical books and librarians” … “online access is vulnerable to everything from wars and hostile regimes to power outages. So, too, are buildings filled with books, and people to track them down. To keep their millennia-old place as bastions of civilisation, both grand scholarly institutions and humble community libraries must be financially supported to continue offering both.”
  • The impact of Scotland’s libraries – Scottish Book Trust. “Scottish Book Trust is undertaking independent research into the value and impact of public and school libraries in Scotland in partnership with the National Library of Scotland (NLS), the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC), and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS)”
  • Independent Review to guide libraries strategy in 2024 – DCMS. Review will “inform new government strategy on libraries” and annual cross-government round-table meetings to address library challenges. Recommendations:
  1. The establishment of a national data hub to better evidence the role libraries play in our society
  2. A national branding campaign to raise awareness of our libraries
  3. The closer involvement of the British Library
  4. An expanded library membership
  5. A stronger volunteer network 
  6. The creation of a Libraries Minister and a more joined-up approach within government 
  7. The establishment of a Libraries Laureate
  8. A change to the timing of Libraries Week to better involve politicians nationally

“The Library Campaign is seldom super-excited by government reviews of libraries. More money would solve a lot of their problems. However, it’s better that they appear somewhere on the national agenda
than not. (England only, though). In this political climate, Liz Sanderson knew better than to ask for proper funding. But her report certainly pinpoints plenty of underlying issues worth getting on with. She notes that some have come up in previous reviews. She’s right to point this out. Her summary, to nobody’s surprise, is that the core problem is not enough awareness of what libraries do – among central government, local councils, the public and even the library sector itself. Plenty to do, then.  But it won’t be cost-free.”

Library Campaign
  • ‘The Libraries Gave Us Power’: the birth of the public library in Wales – Nation Cymru. “In 1861, Cardiff’s first free library available to the general public, opened in a room above the entrance to the Royal Arcade (pictured) on St Mary’s Street.  It would be paid for by voluntary subscriptions, It was an immediate hit, wildly popular and oversubscribed, so much so, that it soon had to move across the road to bigger premises”
  • Library under attack – Khrono. Long translatable article from Norwegian site for higher education covers the British Library hack and public library funding cuts in the UK.
  • Majority of bids to save libraries, pubs and village halls rejected by Tory scheme – Mirror. “Seven out of 10 requests to save libraries, pubs and village halls have been rejected by a flagship Tory scheme. Under the Community Ownership Fund, locals can bid for Government cash to protect much-loved assets from being lost or taken over”
  • Michael Morpurgo backs call to ensure poorer children have access to books – Guardian. “Library closures by local authorities were particularly likely to affect disadvantaged families, according to Morpurgo, by closing off a vital source of access to books. “We should never, ever, in this country close down a library again,” he said. “I live in the middle of Devon, where the nearest library is a long way away, we’re talking about a 35-minute drive if you have a car and a lot of people haven’t. There’s no local bookshop, even if you had the money. The library is the last lifeline to reading.””
  • Press play: a playground of digital ideas – LibraryOn. Friday 1 March, 10am – 4pm, British Library, London. £20 plus booking fee. For “People who work in libraries such as digital leads, managers, and Heads of Service who oversee or deliver digital programmes. ”
  • Public Libraries Boost – GLL Awarded Gold Standard By Investors in People GLL. “Achieving Gold puts GLL in the top 15% of IiP accredited organisations. ” … “As part of the assessment for Gold standard, all GLL staff were surveyed this autumn and 200 staff completed face to face interviews. “
  • Seeing libraries differently with the RNIB – CILIPS.
  • UK Libraries Achieve Record-Breaking Circulation of Digital Media in 2023 – Overdrive (press release). “Readers throughout the UK borrowed 16.5 million ebooks, audiobooks and digital magazines from public libraries using OverDrive and Libby, a 21 percent increase year over year, outpacing the OverDrive global network’s growth of 19 percent.” … “Since 2021, UK public libraries have seen a 34 percent increase in ebook and audiobook checkouts.”

International news

  • Canada – ‘More is more’: Librarians propose provincewide digital library – Orillia Matters. “Librarians are done keeping quiet. Speaking to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs for pre-budget consultations in Hamilton this week, stakeholders across Ontario called for a digital public library — envisioned as a provincewide online resource for job training, language upskilling, tutoring and homework help, and health information. To make it a reality, librarians asked for $15 million [£8.7m] in the upcoming Tory budget, expected to be released before the end of March. They made a similar request last year.”
  • New Zealand – Page-turning fun at libraries this summer – Sun Live. “The programme has three challenges – one for mini readers aged 0-4, one for readers aged 5-10 and one for tween/teen readers aged 11-18.” … “Ages 0-10 will get a certificate, a special prize book to keep, and an invitation to a family party event. Ages 11-18 will get a $20 Whitcoulls [Kind of like WH Smith – Ed.] voucher. And everyone who comes in to tell TCC library staff about their book for the first time gets a swimming pool pass.”
    • How public libraries are aiding community engagement – RNZ. “Hindi was the seventh most borrowed non-English language title at Wellington City Library in 2023 and the third most borrowed Asian language after Mandarin and Japanese. The library also offers books in Tamil, Punjabi, Gujarati, Sinhalese, Arabic and Korean. Miller says Wellington’s new central library, Te Matapihi, will have a dedicated section for World Languages.”
USA – Library flooded by burst water pipe. Hundreds come on first day reopened.

Local news by authority

  • Bolton – Bolton Library prepares to open to public next week – Bolton News. “The library has been closed since September 2022 for a £3.7 million refurbishment. Images previously released by Bolton Council show the spectacular effect the works have had on the floors, before shelves, books and library equipment have been reinstalled. The £3.7m works have been taking place over this year and much of last and are intended to form a key part of the town centre’s cultural offering.”
  • Bolton Library reopens after multi-million-pound refurbishment – Bolton News. “£4 million refurbishment made possible by a bid to the Towns Fund.” … “There is a cafe, a ‘Build a Business’ section, a children’s section in three areas for children of different ages, a mezzanine for use by different groups and much, much more.”
  • Bournemouth Christchurch Poole – Library still has no reopening date nearly two months after closing – Yahoo. “As reported, BCP Council said it is in discussions with the landlord of the building to get it back open, but an exact opening date is still unknown.”
  • Bradford – Bingley Library needs security due to anti-social behaviour – Telegraph and Argus. “And this security at Bingley Library is costing taxpayers around £700 a week, a new report has revealed.”
    • Question over self service kiosks at Bradford’s libraries – Telegraph and Argus. Conservative councillor worries that ” “People go to libraries not just to get books, but to speak to people. They want to interact with people.”. Libraries manager says ““Some people just want to pick up a book and be in and out. For other people who want more interaction there will still be staff there to talk to.””

“Trefnydd, can I call for a statement from the relevant Minister on Welsh Government support for public library services? I’ve been very concerned at the moment that Denbighshire County Council are proposing to cut library opening hours. They initially proposed a cut of 50 per cent. They’re now proposing a cut of 40 per cent, after there was a huge public outcry in response to the initial consultation. Now, we know that libraries are about much more than books these days. They’re places of lifelong learning and education, lots of people go there to enjoy the IT facilities as well, which they might not have at home, and, of course, they also promote local language and culture. So, this is a really important issue for my constituents. I appreciate that local authorities have difficult choices to make given the pressures on their budgets, but other local authorities are not proposing to cut their library services in half by asking them to close their doors for 50 per cent of the time. So, I think it is about time that the Welsh Government had some minimum standards required of our libraries in terms of opening hours, and I would appreciate it if a Minister could bring forward a statement on that.”

Denbighshire – Darren Millar MS (Conservative) in Senedd.
  • Devon – Easy booking system for conference space at Exeter Central Library – Exeter Council. “An easy online booking system for over 100 quality meeting and conference spaces in libraries around Devon has been launched by Libraries Unlimited. The charity, which runs libraries across the area, has developed a new platform which gives video tours and shows photos and floorplans of its popular bookable spaces.” … “The new booking system is grant funded through the Library On programme, managed by the British Library and supported by Arts Council England using public funds.”
Shropshire

We may have had enough

Editorial

Well, looking at the “changes by local authority” list, there’s not much of a problem guessing which part of the cut/recovery pendulum libraries are on nationally at the moment. Being this is, as I have mentioned before in editorials, a very familiar thing to see since 2010 when I started this website, one would probably have to agree with the outgoing CILIP chief executive Nick Poole who says in a must-read article that public libraries are “under sustained assault”. Nick then goes on to make clear he believes encouraging library volunteers to make up for budget cuts are “a fraud that has been perpetrated on the tax-paying public”. One feels he may have had enough, as indeed have many concerned about library services.

The British Library cyber attack continues to make news, with the change this week that there are both defences of the management of that august institution and some slight criticisms, with some questions being asked about the leadership and strategy of the institution, which has kept front-line staff “in the dark” about the process.

Abroad, there’s an interesting article on book theft in Australia and data suggesting that the move to e-books and e-audiobooks is continuing, not stalling, after the boost received from lockdowns. And, of course, there’s the continuing madness from the USA about censorship – now including apparently banning dictionaries in schools because kids may look up the meaning of particular words – and, thankfully, an increasing backlash.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • British Library cyber attack explained: What you need to know – Computer Weekly. “The data leaked by Rhysida includes almost 500,000 files, many of them stolen from the British Library’s customer relationship management (CRM) database. These files are understood to include the personal information of readers and visitors, including their names and email addresses, and in some cases postal addresses and telephone numbers. Fortunately, it does not appear to include any financial data.” … ” Even if a staff member did make a mistake, they deserve support and understanding, not blame – anybody can fall victim to a cyber attack at any time.”
  • Can reading really improve your life? – BBC Radio 4. “Research suggests that reading for pleasure is a key indicator in a child’s future outcome. But how can we foster that love of reading? Author Julia Donaldson investigates.” The importance of libraries included.
  • The Experimental Library: A Guide to Taking Risks, Failing Forward, and Creating Change – Facet Publishing. Book, “This guide shows how to draw from new approaches and technologies to harness experimentation as a tool for testing ideas and responding to change. It borrows ideas and inspiration from the startup sector to teach you how to take a human-centered and design thinking-based perspective on problem solving.”
  • Green BIC Brunch, Jan 2024: Focus on Libraries – Book Industry Communication Ltd. Thursday 25 January, 12-13.30, online. “Join us in January 2024 when we’ll be hearing from key library sector stakeholders about their sustainability initiatives, goals, and challenges and what it means to be green. We’ll also be sharing an update on all of BIC’s work in this space – with the latest updates on our current projects that form part of our ongoing Green Supply Chain Plan.”
  • Libraries, critical thinking and the war on truth – what lies ahead in 2024 – CILIP / Nick Poole. “Let us be under no illusions – the principle of universal access to a free, quality library service supported by professional library staff is under sustained assault in the UK. As Local Authorities begin to push back on central Government cuts by challenging the legal definition of ‘minimum service requirements’, we will likely see further challenges to the idea of libraries as a universal entitlement in the months ahead. As a profession, our responsibility is not to ‘see both sides’ of the debate about volunteerism and cuts to library services. We have a duty to call it what it is – a fraud that has been perpetrated on the tax-paying public…”
  • Library data storytelling – Library Data Blog. “This is a invitation to public library organisations to get involved in a new project. The idea: create a set of data stories using public library data, add a beautiful data visualisation for each one, and publish in physical and digital form.”
  • Restoring our services – an update – Knowledge Master Blog / British Library. Catalogue will return on 15 January but in “read only” form. “what happened to us in October has implications for the whole collections sector, and in the months ahead we will begin to share the lessons we’ve learned from this experience with our partners and peer institutions.”
  • “Totally and utterly bereft”: the devastating repercussions of the British Library Cyber Attack – Standard. ” On a visit this week, staff computers were still completely turned off throughout the building. Morale seemed low: one worker said he had to change his passport and bank details, like most of his colleagues — and said the place was “technologically paralysed”. Inside the reading rooms, a visitor could be overheard getting irritated with a librarian about not being able to access the archives. They wearily replied he should take it up with bosses, who had kept workers in the dark.”

International news

Global/India – “Have public libraries become obsolete? – Firstpost. “Almost a fifth of UK libraries have closed over the past decade. In the last two decades, America’s library visits have seen a 31% slump. In the last five years, 60 libraries have closed in South Africa. This is a trend across the world. That’s because public libraries are underfunded. Many face catastrophic budget cuts. They are no longer sacred to knowledge thanks to digitisation. Nostalgia is not enough to save libraries. So how can they be rescued? Palki Sharma tells you.”
  • Global – OverDrive: Record Number of Libraries Hit One Million Digital Lends in 2023 – Publishers Weekly. “OverDrive reps reported this week that a record 152 library systems and consortia across seven countries—including 41 states and seven Canadian provinces—surpassed the one million digital lends benchmark in 2023, which includes e-books, digital audiobooks, and digital magazines. The numbers represent a significant jump from the 129 library systems that hit the milestone in 2022.”
  • Australia – ‘The incentive to steal isn’t there’: the lost cause of tracking library theft – Guardian. “Few, if any, libraries truly know how many books are actually stolen. Lost library books are a small part of the natural attrition of library collections – normal wear and tear is expected and some are fatally damaged. But while we’ve all lost a library book in our time, Morley estimates fewer than 1% of loaned books across NSW public libraries go missing.”. Many do not charge fines, some problems from those stealing books as a form of censoring them, but “why steal something that is free?” … ““The big change,” Hakim says, “is a lot of use of study space, working areas and people using the library for social services.””
  • Europe – Libraries for the future: Europe’s new wave of ‘meeting places for the mind’ – Guardian. Ghent’s city library: ” “This is more than a library, though books are its core. It’s also a place to learn, connect, develop, collaborate. Or just to be. A meeting place for our minds. De Krook is not alone. All also built in the past seven or eight years, Helsinki’s Oodi central library, Dokk1 in Denmark’s Aarhus, and Deichman Bjørvika in Oslo share much the same vision of the library: in effect a living room for the 21st-century city.”

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeenshire – Explore Aberdeenshire’s countryside and coast from the comfort of a warm library – Grampian Online. “Live Life Aberdeenshire Libraries is collaborating with Aberdeenshire Council’s Ranger service to deliver a series of free talks …”
  • Argyll and Bute – Still no decision on Rosneath’s library – Lochside Press. “A final decision has still not been made on the future of Rosneath’s library, almost four years after it last opened. Libraries across Scotland were closed when Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were first imposed in March 2020. Every other library operated by LiveArgyll, a charitable trust set up by Argyll and Bute Council in 2017, has since reopened. But the library in Rosneath has remained closed”
  • Birmingham – Cuts put Birmingham’s libraries at risk – Birmingham Against The Cuts. Cuts expected. Council consultation open to criticism. Previous cuts should be taken into account.
  • Blaenau Gwent – Trinity Chapel to transform into library and community hub – South Wales Argus. “Trinity Chapel, Abertillery, to house a new modern library, together with a new community space. … Abertillery Library, run by the Aneurin Leisure Trust, will relocate from its existing location in Castle Street to the more accessible Town Centre location once the works are completed.”
  • Bournemouth Christchurch Poole – Boscombe library forced to close after ‘substantial leak’ – Daily Echo. “closed since November 29 after leaks followed by a period of heavy rain has led to flooding inside. Residents have been unable to access the library since, due to damaged carpets and the computers being switched off. BCP Council has said conversations with the landlord of the building are ongoing to get it back open, but an exact opening date is yet to be known. “
  • Bracknell Forest – Budget consultation – Bracknell Forest Council. “I support the council’s proposed reorganisation of its library and customer service teams and closure of the home library service, to enable more services, including blue badges and bus passes, to be provided in local facilities, with a saving of £200,000 over the next two years. Please note, this proposal does not include any reduction in the number of libraries, their opening hours or the activities they provide for the community.”
  • Bradford – Local libraries support district-wide rhyme challenge – Rombalds Radio. “The annual Rhyme Challenge sees parents and children aged six and under learning five rhymes together with the reward of a certificate for taking part.”
    • Have your say on the Council’s Proposed Financial Plan and Budget proposals for 2024-25 – Bradford Council. £900K cut. “Strategic Review of Libraries (£0 in 2024-25 rising to £175,000 by 2025-26). The Council is undertaking a strategic review of its libraries to identify how overall operating costs can be reduced. This review will focus on the overall costs of the library services which are mainly contained within the council run libraries and specifically review facility operating costs, usage data, property and asset stock-condition and the potential for alternative operating models to be adopted”
  • Brighton and Hove – Share what our libraries mean for you in an exciting installation – Brighton and Hove Council. “You will have the opportunity to contribute to a collective wall digitally with a tablet, where you can select a sticker and type in a message which will then appear on a screen. Or you can also share your thoughts via a traditional sticky note on the wall. The installation is a part of our Community Connect project, which aims to attract new audiences to join our library community and remind everyone of the abundance of services provided by our libraries, which go far beyond books.”
  • Bristol – Council leaders urged to scrap recruitment freeze that has forced Bristol library closures – Bristol World. “All 26 local branches across the city have shut their doors to residents at least once since the local authority ordered a ban on casual employees” … “There have been 287 full or part-day closures in total, with the worst hit being Filwood which has closed 22 times”
    • Libraries in Bristol closed for fifth of planned opening hours last month after staff freeze – Bristol Post. “Libraries in Bristol were closed for a fifth of the time they were planned to be open last month after a recruitment freeze. Councillors urged the mayor to reopen libraries as temporary closures are becoming much more common since a ban on casual staff came into effect. Labour says lifting the ban on casual staff would cost £300,000 and mean cuts elsewhere to Bristol City Council services. Meanwhile opposition councillors warned the library service could be damaged in the long term, similar to the planning department’s staffing struggles.
  • Caerphilly – Newly refurbished Rhymney Library Hub opens its doors – Caerphilly Council. “The new improvements include refurnished and modernisation of both floors of the library, as well as an innovative education, reading and support hub for residents, council staff and partner organisations.
    Many of the new features and design which the community can now use, were taken from a Community Voice Survey carried out with local residents.”
  • Cheshire East – Cheshire East Council Budget Consultation for 2024 to 2025 – Cheshire East Council – “Proposal EC4: Fund libraries a different way: Seek alternative funding to maintain either current or a reduced level of service delivery, including partnership working with Town and Parish Councils to secure contributions towards safeguarding service provision in their local area. As part of this continue to push forward with new income generation initiatives within the wider library estate, utilising the building assets to offer new third-party services to the public. Potential savings for 2024/25 = £0.37 million.” see also Tip closures among council’s budget plans – BBC.
  • Reading – Library will be moved in Reading in £8.6m investment – Reading Chronicle. “The main library in Reading is set to be moved to a new site in the town centre as a  £8.6 million project has been given the go-ahead. Reading Central Library has been located in King’s Road for nearly 40 years since it was opened back in 1985. Now the library’s collection and its facilities are set to be moved to the council offices in Bridge Street as part of a £8.6 million project. But before the move can take place, the project required consent from the council’s planning applications committee.”
  • Somerset – Agenda Reports Pack – Somerset Council. Proposals include £25k staff cut (no more relief budget), closing Performing Arts Library, ending mobile library service, 10% reduction in opening hours, closure of libraries (minimum £50k to maximum £380k).
  • Staffordshire – Cost of living campaign gives helping hand to thousands of Staffordshire residents – Staffordshire Council. “These include county council and community managed libraries, providing warm welcoming spaces to residents and saving families an estimated £60,000 since 2020 with pre-loved school uniform markets. “
  • St Helens – Closing date confirmed for four St Helens libraries axed by council – St Helens Star. Garswood, Rainhill, Rainford and Parr to close on 26 January. “The decision to axe four libraries and also not to reopen Peter Street and Billinge libraries, which have already been closed for some time due to the expiry of a building lease and structural issues respectively, was strongly opposed by many in the communities affected, who expressed anger and sadness at what they branded a “disastrous decision”” … “The council says “positive talks” continue with groups interested in a community-managed approach in a number of the areas affected by closures.”
  • Swindon – Swindon libraries have a long way to go to recover from Covid – Swindon Advertiser. “In 2018-2019 there were 521,923 visits to the five libraries with 587,155 books borrowed. That dropped very slightly the year after, where the very end of the financial year saw a complete lockdown. The last full year, 2022-23, saw 240,906 visits and 275,704 items loaned, hugely higher than both 2020-21 and 2021-22, but still less than half the figures pre-pandemic.”

The wrong kind of hackathon

Editorial

The hack into the British Library is important. For such an important institution, and one that is when all is said and done, all about storing data, to be so vulnerable to attack, says a lot about the lack of proper cyber protection in British public organisations. And this does not just cause embarrassment to the institution and worries to staff (I am still a bit unsure as to why photos of staff passports were on the system). Due to the apparent interconnected nature of the system, the catalogue is still down so researchers’ work is blocked and authors will have Public Lending Right payments delayed. In addition, the hack looks also to have severely damaged the financial reserves of the British Library and so potentially causes a hazard long-term.

Zooming out from the British Library, hacking is a very global, professional and profitable concern and it’s not only such comparatively big names as the British Library that get affected. Just in the past couple of months, a local council or two, plus at least one Canadian library service, have been as well. Heck, I have even seen this very website being the subject of hacks. And of course it’s a lucky one of us that has not personally been the subject of a phishing scam. However, this is not just a threat but an opportunity for public libraries. This sector can have a role in making life better. Cyber security and information literacy are closely connected and public libraries can help the public understand and mitigate the risks. I hope that we do so.

But this is going to be challenging as the library service is so atomised and under financial pressure that a large-scale sufficiently-funded national plan for doing so appears unlikely. Have a look at the excellent Twitter (I still refuse to call it X, please can Elon Musk please go away?) thread from Nick Poole below on the subject and also how the delay in the Single Digital Presence is affecting things. But bear in mind that the scheme is actually on track now and so this complaint may hopefully be a historical one shortly. It’s been a long time coming but we should get it soon. After all, what else can cause a delay? Wait. Oh no. What do you mean it’s a British Library project?

Changes by local authority

National news

  • British Library to burn through reserves to recover from cyber attack – Financial Times. “the British Library will drain about 40 per cent of its reserves to recover from a cyber attack that has crippled one of the UK’s critical research bodies and rendered most of its services inaccessible.” £6 to £7 million will be spent. Catalogue still down. Some “users criticised the library for taking more than a month to notify them of the cyber attack.” see also Richard Osman among authors missing royalties amid ongoing cyber-attack on British Library – Guardian. ” PLR payments will not be paid as expected while the British Library, which manages the service, fights to restore its crippled systems.”
  • Charity launches support scheme for at-risk libraries in wake of budget cuts – Guardian. “Around 650 libraries will receive resources from Libraries Connected programme, as almost one in five council leaders fear bankruptcy this year or next” … scheme “offers a confidential peer support network, resource library, tailored training and communications support”… ““We are deeply concerned by the growing number of councils issuing statutory section 114 notices, and the effect this is already having on library services,” said Libraries Connected chief executive Isobel Hunter.”
Thought-provoking thread from Nick Poole

“Ultimately, the council funding crisis cannot be solved without a fair, long-term financial settlement for local government,” said Hunter. “Until then, we are ready to work with local authorities to deliver the best possible library service within the financial constraints they face.”

Isobel Hunter, Libraries Connected

International news

  • Ireland – A new world of happiness opens at Boyle Library – Roscommon Herald. “A new interactive light projector to provide inclusive, sensory stimulation has been launched at Boyle Library. Provided in Boyle thanks to Dormant Accounts funding from the Department of Rural and Community Development, the projector is designed by Social-Ability and manufactured in the UK.”
  • New Zealand – LIANZA 2023 Conference Opening Video – LIANZA. “shows the amazing range of people who use libraries and their enthusiasm reveals the value of access and support they get from libraries.”
  • Nigeria – Access and Use of Public Libraries by Disabled Persons In Nigeria – Quest Journals. “that library building were not design to take care of people with special needs, coupled with the poor state of public library services in general. The need for public libraries to embrace the use of ICTs was recommended.”
  • Palestine – Here’s how you can help resurrect Gaza’s libraries. – Lit Hub. “it becomes almost impossible to imagine Gaza as a place where life, let alone culture, can once again flourish, but it’s important to remember that it can, and it will. One of the people committed to that resurrection is Mosab Abu Toha, the Palestinian poet, New Yorker contributor, and founder of the first English language library in Gaza. (Abu Toha, as you may recall, was kidnapped by Israeli forces on November 19th while trying to enter Egypt at the Rafah checkpoint. After being beaten, interrogated, and stripped of his possessions, Abu Toha was released two days later”
USA
  • USA – The Week in Libraries: January 5, 2024 – Publishers Weekly. “I Love My Librarian” award winners, a library has been closed for four months due to arguments over a drag story hour, in-fighting in the Indiana public library system, librarian awarded $250k for being sacked over refusing to censor books.
    • Freckle Project Surveys and Reports – EveryLibrary. “Since April 2019, the Freckle Project has been asking a key question of American readers: “Where did you get that book”. Through a series of public-facing surveys, project lead Tim Coates has been able to track the habits of reading – and the evolution of format changes – before, during, and after the COVID pandemic. Public libraries are deeply impacted by changes in reading habits, format preferences, and choices about where and how people acquire their next book, ebook, or audiobook.”
    • OverDrive Reports Another Record Year for Digital Library Circulation – Publishers Weekly. “OverDrive said that 2023 was another record-breaking year for digital library circulation, with a 19% increase in library checkouts of digital media over 2022. In all, library users worldwide borrowed some 662 million e-books, digital audiobooks, and digital magazines, OverDrive reps announced in a release this week. In addition, 152 library systems reported more than a million digital checkouts in 2023, up from 129 last year.”

Local news by authority

  • Bournemouth Christchurch Poole – Library to close tomorrow for essential maintenance work – Bournemouth Echo. “Canford Cliffs Library, on Western Road, is due to shut temporarily.” … “Hours are set to be slashed by an average of 10 hours a week, at each library, from April, as part of cost-cutting plans. Expected to save £440,200, the council is expected to announce further budget cuts to save £12.6 million”
  • Cardiff – Cardiff: Bins could be removed from residential streets – BBC. “It is not just bins in the firing line – libraries across the city could have more restricted opening times and use more volunteers to save money. One of several tabled options proposes closing eight hubs and libraries for one extra day each week, saving £308,000. These include Central Library Hub, Whitchurch Hub, Penylan Library, Rhiwbina Hub, Rhydypennau Hub, Canton Library, Cathays Heritage Library and Radyr Hub. Another option is for all hubs and libraries, apart from Penylan Library, to change their opening hours to 09:00-17:00 and stay open throughout lunchtime to save £120,000. To allow for late accessibility, Central Library Hub would stay open until 18:00 for one evening a week.”
We’re going on a f**t hunt …

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

Editorial

Dark times look to be here again with major cuts proposed or confirmed over the last fortnight in Denbighshire, Haringey, Nottingham and Swindon. In addition, there are dark rumblings in several other council services. This is starting to remind of the start of Public Libraries News back in 2010 when there was cut after cut announced. However, the big difference here is that the party in government turned out to have more than a decade to run at that point while now, the same party/government (give or take some frenetic changing in personnel) is unlikely, according to most observers, to last the next year. The opposition are likely to look more kindly on public services but are currently being very moderate in their proposals.

Another reminder of when I started the website is the continuing arguments over the Single Digital Presence, at least now with an actual name rather than a vague description of LibraryOn. The creation of this website has been going at a glacial pace, and has transformed into, well, not quite sure yet but certainly not a “single digital presence” but will hopefully appear some time soon. Hopefully before the next election, anyway.

There’s also a third reminder of the past, that being the hopelessness of CIPFA, who have produced their latest report, which you’re not allowed to see unless you spend hundreds of pounds or have a friend/job in one of the participating library services, and a press release that ignores inflation and the continuing impact of lockdown. Two-fifths of library services did not even bother to participate in it and the press release does not even include the number of public libraries in the UK, presumably because CIPFA does not actually know. The fact that the public library services suffer from such a lack of accurate available data is, and has been since I started, deeply embarrassing. Again, one hopes the national service can get its act together an produce something better than this but there are few confident of that, again at least this side of a change of government.

Finally, here’s a few more libraries named after people (thank you to PLN reader Kieran):

– Lewis Carroll Library in Islington
– Claude Ramsey Library in Thamesmead, Greenwich (renamed to Thamesmere)
– CLR James library in Dalston, Hackney
– Robert Jeyes library in Barking and Dagenham
– Keith Axon Centre in Redbridge
– John Jackson Library in Bush Hill Park, Enfield

Changes by library authority

National news

A thread with potentially terrible outcomes for public libraries, listing deep cuts expected in the following councils: Havering, Bradford, Hampshire, West Berkshire, Newham, Somerset, Southampton, Durham, Cheshire East, Central Bedfordshire,
  • As British Library faces fallout of cyber attack—what can arts bodies do to combat ransomware threats? – The Art Newspaper. Personal information stolen in successful hack by criminal group, causing the British Library problems months afterwards: “from early in the new year a phased return of certain key services will begin, starting with the most crucial component—the main catalogue—a reference-only version of which will be back online from 15 January, further facilitating the manual ordering which is available in the Reading Rooms. Other interim services will include increased on-site access to manuscripts and special collections”
  • Libraries Connected Awards: Watch video of our 2023 winners – Libraries Connected. “Werrington Community Library, the Business and IP Centre at Oxfordshire Libraries and the team from Kent Prison Libraries.”
  • Library spending up 3%, CIPFA data shows, but still lags behind rising demand for services – BookSeller. “The survey also shows that the income libraries received rose by 3% over the last financial year, from £916 per 1,000 people in 2021/22 to £939 per 1,000 people in 2022/23. CIPFA said this is a “welcome relief to the financial pressure on libraries as high inflation continues to increase their running costs”.” [This is of course nonsense – ONS shows inflation was around 8.6% so this “up” in spending actually shows a sizeable decease – Ed.]. Issues compare figures from 2021/2 to 2022/3 rather than the far more useful pre-lockdown figure. Two-fifths of library services did not reply. Full report from CIPFA not available unless a few hundred pounds is given to them. No estimate of number of libraries available.
  • Millions wasted on attempt to create nationwide UK library website, campaigners claim – Guardian. “Tim Coates among those to criticise government, Arts Council and British Library bid to create a ‘single digital presence’ for libraries” … “The “Single Digital Presence” (SDP) – renamed LibraryOn – was meant to bring together public libraries in one website to enable the public to access collections across the country. The problem has been that there are 150 library authorities in England alone, each with their own technology and management systems.” … Coates says “We’re now 10 years later and – after several reviews and studies and about £6m”

International news

  • Asia – Literature In All Its Glory: Spotlighting Asia’s Most Beautiful Libraries – Travel and Leisure. “, we trace the most beautiful libraries in Asia, which not only draw from the region’s yesteryears but also cultivate a culture steeped in literature, community spirit, and the preservation of old-world charm.”
  • Australia – Libraries in regional towns are building community on a shoestring budget – Guardian. “Despite a record increase in public library funding by the NSW government, most operate on the cost of a few new books per resident a year” … “The NSW government is set to deliver $40.89m in funding for public libraries in 2023-24, up from $24.53m in 2018-19, with another $6m distributed in grants for infrastructure and service upgrades.” … “ervices such as Rainbow Storytime – a Pride event that involves drag queens reading stories to children – have been delivered against the backdrop of campaigns against inclusive programming”
    • Eastern suburbs council warns library users of potential data breach – Sydney Morning Herald. “a cyberattack on an external software system that is used by the library to manage room bookings, issue fines and grant computer access and printing.”
    • I leave our library with a greater burden – and that’s my reward – WA Today. “A State Library Victoria report in 2018 revealed that “every dollar invested in public libraries generates $4.30 of benefits to the local community”. If I could observe the benefits of libraries even before conducting research, it is clear evidence of their positive impact. Libraries improve community connection. They reduce waste as resources are passed around. They are cost-effective.”
  • New Zealand – There is such thing as a society – Newsroom. “Local public services here in Aotearoa under the last Labour government may have been somewhat sheltered from the worst of the cuts occurring globally under widespread austerity measures during the 2010s. Any of that cushioning is likely to disappear under the new Government.”. Cuts to UK libraries since 2010 particularly noted.
  • Russia – ‘No, that’s fascism’: the librarian who defied Russia’s purge of LGBTQ+ books – Guardian. “When Vladimir Kosarevsky was ordered to destroy books referring to same-sex relationships, he raised the alarm instead – then went to Spain to rebuild his life” … ” “I had been discriminated against many times. Now I had to be the one who censors things? And destroys books? No, that’s fascism.””
  • USA – Meet the 2024 I Love My Librarian Award Honorees – American Libraries. Public librarians honoured for work with refugees, expansion of services, social media. genealogy.
    • How a Bay Area librarian became an Instagram star – San Francisco Chronicle. “n the video watched nearly 740,000 times on Instagram, Threets described his conversation with a child who walked up to the desk holding out two $20 bills. The child’s grandparent was outside in the car, too worried about overdue books to come inside. Assured by Threets no fines were due, the child ran outside and returned with a grandparent.”
    • Laws banning semi-automatic weapons and library censorship to take effect in Illinois – Independent. “Libraries that indiscriminately ban books will not be eligible for state funds. They must adopt the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights stating “materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.””
    • Ten Stories That Shaped 2023 – LIS News. Censorship, AI.

Local news by authority

North Yorkshire – BEM for recently retired General Manager Chrys Mellor
  • Nottingham – 2024/25 Budget savings proposals – Nottingham Council. “Undertake an assessment of the Library Service provision whilst maintaining a comprehensive and efficient service offer appropriate to the needs of our citizens. Will require a further public consultation regarding a review of the Council’s Library Needs Assessment and ‘the Next Chapter’ Libraries Strategy” Proposed £1.5m cut with 31 FTE posts lost.
    • Council launches tender process for £960,000 book supply contract for Nottingham libraries – West Bridgford Wire. “The move is aimed at securing a book supply contract for the city’s library service from 2024 to 2030. Savings of over £750,000 per year could come from the new arrangement.” … “The contract, valued at £960,000 and impacting all city wards, is part of Nottingham’s participation in the East Midlands and Mid Anglia (EMMA) libraries stock consortium. This consortium, comprising eight other library authorities, enables members to combine their spending power to secure significant discounts on book stock, thereby maximising library budgets and ensuring the best value for the Council.”
  • Oxfordshire – Wallingford partners working to tackle ASB outside library – Herald Series. “The manager informed the council that the ASB incidents included the depositing of drug paraphernalia. The anti-social behaviour reportedly left at least one member of the library staff ‘intimidated,’ who was employed to work at the facility in the evenings.”
  • Rotherham – Rotherham market and library image released – BBC. “An artist’s impression has been released showing what Rotherham’s new market and library complex will look like. Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council said the “modern” build will give visitors “a sense of space and scale”. The complex is a key part of the authority’s town centre regeneration “masterplan”. The library, markets, food hall, gallery, and event spaces will be built on a single site off Drummond Street.”
  • Sheffield – Warning over huge costs to save Sheffield’s historic Central Library building – Star. “Strategy and Resource Policy committee members accepted a number of proposals, including the allocation of £420k for surveying costs, to ensure the future of the grade II-listed art deco Graves Building on Surrey Street.” … “We know that this project will cost from £25m to what could be £60-100m depending on the options pursued.”
  • Shropshire – New Year Honours 2024 recognises Oswestry librarian – Border Counties Advertizer. BEM: “Richard Charles Fowler, aged 70, is a founder member and trustee of the Community Managed Libraries National Peer Network (CMLNPN), a body that advocates for community-led libraries in England and Wales.” … “Harbury Village Library (HVL) is now a nationally recognised example of a community hub. They provide a focal point for their local communities and many, like HVL, are now nationally registered Warm Welcome Spaces.”
  • Southend – Southend MP Anna Firth urged to help protect libraries – Echo News. “Southend Council’s Conservative administration revealed proposals to close two of the city’s six libraries to help tackle its £14 million financial black hole. While no “firm decisions” have been made, the proposals could see the city’s other four libraries “downgraded” with reduced opening hours. Last week the Conservative MP was pictured at Leigh Library, helping to promote the Reading Agency’s winter reading challenge.”
  • Swindon – Swindon council has ‘no plans’ for library closures amid cuts – Swindon Advertiser. “There are no plans to close any of Swindon’s five core libraries, despite needing to make cuts of £660,000 from the service’s budget.” … “”We are looking to make sure we can keep them open by changing the way we run them.””
  • Wakefield – Wakefield Council receives grant to help combat loneliness across the area – Wakefield Council. DCMS/ACE funding £88k: “The Know Your Neighbourhood project is designed to widen participation in volunteering and tackle loneliness in 27 areas across England.”
  • Warwickshire – Everyone is welcome at Warwickshire’s libraries – Warwickshire Council. “From coffee mornings to tea and talk sessions; family history to crafternoon teas the events are free to attend and include warm refreshments.”
    • County’s £370k plan to put mobile sensory library on Warwickshire’s roads – Stratford Herald. Bid to Arts Council England “a very compelling case”.
    • Head to a Warwickshire library for some murder mystery – Stratford Herald. “Whoever’s commissioned will be expected to develop a script, recruit actors, run rehearsals and make sure the performances go smoothly. Warwickshire Libraries advertisement suggests performances won’t be limited to the county’s libraries but may also take place in ‘other literary locations’ across Warwickshire.” … ““As part of Warwickshire Libraries’ new National Portfolio Organisation status, granted by Arts Council England, we will be focussing on community driven projects that enhance access to culture, art and literature for free “
  • Westmorland and Furness – Ulverston library petition presented to House of Commons – The Mail. “The Conservative MP for Barrow and Furness Simon Fell, presented the petition calling for the government to ensure Ulverston has a full library service as soon as possible. Ulverston’s library building on King’s Road has been closed since September following the discovery of issues with the building’s electrics during routine statutory checks.” 600 signatures
West Sussex – This is one of a series of short videos on various aspects of public library provision in West Sussex, that can be found here. “They have gone down really well in our community and we have been invited to show them at food banks, they have been used by our children’s department colleagues in the county council to share with Ofsted and among the comments from library staff was ‘thank you for making me rethink what I do every week and feel so much more positive about what we offer”

Storyteller, library names, a strike and a book thief

Editorial

It’s great to see mention of the combined Sidcup library and cinema, “Storyteller”, in Bexley. Some co-locations of libraries with other services don’t work – you can normally tell which by the prominence of the library or otherwise when you enter the building – but combining a library with a cinema or, as in the case of the similarly named Storyhouse, with a theatre, strikes me as a natural combination. Seemingly also naturally combined at the moment are announcements of cuts and refurbishments all in one week. Ah, the joy of an atomised public library service. Much of the bad news is down to further cuts in funding for local government. It is to be hoped that the extra funding announced this week will help. Or doing this website is going to get pretty depressing in 2024.

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In other news, thanks to a reader of the previous post who sent me a list of libraries named after men. Of course, the biggest number of all – Carnegie – is almost so big as to be invisible (like water to a fish) but apart from him we have:

  • Haringey – Marcus Garvey Library, named after a Jamaican political activist (his life story is fascinating) who moved to London.
  • Hull –  Fred Moore Library, named (I think?) after a councillor.
  • Lambeth – Minet Library. The Minet Library was built by William Minet and opened in 1890. Minet was a descendant of French Huguenots who immigrated to London in the 1700s, and 1889 he also gave 14½ acres of land to the London County Council to create Myatt’s Fields Park.
    • Durning Library, Kennington, also in Lambeth. Durning Library is a public lending library in Kennington, London. The Durning Library was built in 1889, designed by Sidney R. J. Smith the architect of Tate Britain, in the Gothic Revival style. It was a gift to the people of Kennington from Jemina Durning Smith.
    • Brixton Tate Library, yet another in Lambeth. The Brixton Library (also known as the Brixton Tate Library) is a public library in the London Borough of Lambeth in Brixton, South West London. It was built in the 1890s by the sugar magnate Sir Henry Tate and is a Grade II listed building. Also Tate South Lambeth Library so that is no less than four libraries named after a man in one service.
  • There are also several Passmore Edwards Libraries, including one in Shepherd’s Bush and in Newton Abbot. Built and funded by John Passmore Edwards, a philanthropist that paid for no less than 24 libraries.
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Changes by local authority

National news

  • Britain faces a literacy crisis that could make us fatter, less employable and depressed – Standard. “One fifth of public libraries in Britain, moreover, have closed in the past ten years”
  • How to lose a library – Public Books. “On October 31, 2023, the British Library suffered a massive cyberattack. As of publication, the Library remains physically open, but its digital infrastructure is almost completely disabled.”
  • Making more of libraries – BookSeller. “the success of partnerships with retailers can be easily tracked through book sales; collaborations with libraries may offer a more subtle and longer-term halo effect. But the public library network, with up to 4,000 libraries in every part of the UK, cannot be matched for its scale, reach and influence on our reading habits. As the forums demonstrated there is a real opportunity to build the relationship between libraries and publishers and an enthusiasm to see how mutually beneficial partnerships can be established. By working together to help readers explore new or unfamiliar authors and genres, libraries and publishers can foster a more diverse literary landscape – something that will benefit everyone who writes, sells, lends, or reads books.”
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  • The Reading Agency announces Quick Reads will be gifted for World Book Night 2024 – Reading Agency. “36,000 copies of the 2024 Quick Reads will be gifted through libraries to reach emerging and lapsed readers in settings such as hospitals, prisons, care homes and shelters in the community”
  • Volunteers step in to take on cut council services – BBC. “Councils are not legally obliged to run leisure centres or libraries [untrue – Ed.] which means that without the help of volunteers, the library in Wilsden, Bradford, would have likely closed.”. Bradford, “which is close to declaring bankruptcy” says “”We have a lower budget for libraries than many other places so are grateful to these and other great volunteers who run the 15 community-managed libraries across the district.”” 
  • Where should libraries go now Twitter *HAS* become a wasteland? – Ned Potter. For public libraries: “For all Facebook’s problems (across all demographics except 55+ people are leaving FB, but so many 55+ are on there it is still the biggest social network – and daily use is consistently falling whilst leaping ever upwards on Instagram and TikTok) it remains a really useful tool for Public Libraries. It can act almost as a branch online, and Cape May County Library in the US and Hampshire Library Service in the UK are good examples of places doing that well. However, I think Instagram is the coming platform for this sector”

International news

Local news by authority

Liverpool
Nottinghamshire
West Dunbartonshire

Public libraries named after women: there’s not many

Editorial

Writing Public Libraries News can be, well, slightly depressing at times but this week is a pleasure for a couple of reasons. The first is I would like to celebrate with you the opening a new library. And not just a new library but the first public library to be named, it is believed, after any non-white woman in the history of UK public libraries. So step forward, Southwark Libraries, long a leading light in public library provision and the new Una Marson Library, named after the Jamaican activist who wrote poems and plays and was the first black woman to be employed by the BBC during World War Two.

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This got me thinking about how many public libraries are named after women at all in the UK. Discounting those which are based in community centres or other buildings named after women but where the library itself is not named after one itself then I can find only two examples, one each in England and Scotland, so far. So, another step forward, this time to Durning Library in Lambeth, named after its funder Jemima Durning, and the Jennie Lee Library, in Lochgelly (Fife) named after one of the leading figures in the founding of the Open University. Pretty cool. Does anyone have any more? Or is it just three for the UK? Hmm, come to think of it, I wonder how many are named after men …?

In other news, it’s been a week of announcements of libraries opening/closing due to refurbishments, which makes me smile a bit. Plus also there’s some bad news about RAAC and a few other things but it’s nearly Christmas so let’s focus on the positives. And work out how we can get a library named after Miriam Margoyles. The opening of that one should bring a smile. And, knowing Miriam, a bit of swearing too.

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Changes by authority

National news

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“This webinar explains how libraries and archives can engage with the local planning process and plan-making officials in order to secure funding through Section 106 legal agreements (S106) and/or the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), collectively known as developer contributions.”
  • Giving children books is good – but saving libraries for them is even better – Guardian / Letters. “That so many children today do not own a book is disturbing, but it’s just as bad, or worse, that their access to libraries is shrinking. A number of local libraries have been closed under pretty much every local authority, and book budgets are terribly constrained. This denies children the access to the enormous range of books that libraries have been able to offer in the past. Ownership of a few books is really no substitute for this.”
  • Know Your Neighbourhood Knowledge Sharing Event – Libraries Connected. Tuesday 30 January 10am to Noon, Teams. Focus on how public libraries can deal with loneliness [amongst their users, that is, not their staff]
  • Libraries Connected Awards 2024 – Libraries Connected. “We are looking for individuals or teams working in public libraries in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and The Crown Dependencies who have had a positive impact on the library service, library users or the local community. This could by introducing an innovative new idea or by going the extra to mile to provide an outstanding service.”
  • Scottish public libraries: we must protect them – Herald. “While undertaking a research project about post-pandemic reading in Scotland – published in our Reading in Scotland report – the Scottish Book Trust found many people who rely on, and love, their local library. The study found 75% of people surveyed used the library to get print books for themselves before the pandemic restrictions, and 94% of those with children used the library to get print books for them.”

International news

“Gen Z and millennials are visiting public libraries more than any other generation, a new American Library Association survey found. ALA president Emily Drabinski joins CBS News to explain what’s driving the trend.”
  • USA – Why banning or burning books is the start of something terrifying – Sydney Morning Herald. “All but four states in the US have introduced pro-censorship laws. “We are now outpacing even the McCarthy era in terms of censorship,” she says. “This should be a global concern because we are seeing other nations who are copy-catting the clamping down on freedom of speech.””
    • An Interview with Seattle’s Chief Librarian, Tom Fay – Urbanist. “The library can’t put its head in the sand. I don’t hide things that we do. Like when we look at having issues in our restrooms from smoking various drugs, we’ve had to put in sensors.”. Focuses on security and attracting new immigrants. ” every time I go into the library, I’m looking for what are they doing to activate the space to really engage people of all ages, right? Because I think that is the biggest challenge. “
    • How a Des Moines 11-year-old with autism found confidence to speak with library books – Des Moines Register. “Anna’s experience at the library also has evolved into something more for Anna when she started reading to groups of children that visit the library.” … “Going to the library has helped Anna “come out of her shell,” according to her mother. “I think she loves seeing other children smile,” 
    • Jay-Z Is Auctioning Custom Library Cards to Benefit the Brooklyn Public Library – Artnet. “The legendary rapper Jay-Z is auctioning off a signed black leather Pinel et Pinel briefcase filled with custom metal library cards, each showcasing an example of his album artwork from across the decades. The sale is hosted by Christie’s New York and Roc Nation, an entertainment company founded and run by Jay-Z. The estimate is only being provided on request, and all proceeds will go toward the Brooklyn Public Library.”
    • The Week in Libraries: December 8, 2023 – Publishers Weekly. Montana removes requirement for librarianship qualification for senior librarians; 75% of Oregon library staff feel unsafe due to crime; Wisconsin aims to allow librarians to be prosecuted if they allow certain books to be seen by minors;

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeen – Crunch decision for Aberdeen libraries looms – Morning Star. “councillors will have the chance to reverse a decision to axe libraries in some of the city’s most deprived areas this week. At its budget meeting in March, the SNP-led council backed the closure of Cornhill, Cults, Ferryhill, Kaimhill, Northfield and Woodside libraries as well as Bucksburn Swimming Pool, but campaigners against the decision fought on.”
    • A million pound mistake? Costs revealed as council could reopen Bucksburn Swimming Pool – Press and Journal. “Campaigners fighting to save the pool and Cornhill, Cults, Ferryhill, Kaimhill, Northfield and Woodside libraries launched a judicial review of the decision.” due to equality concerns for elderly and disabled. Original council impact assessments inadequate. “Councillors will be given the choice to reinstate the swimming pool, and the six libraries as a separate job lot.”.. “The combined cost of recommissioning the partially emptied buildings [libraries] comes to £128,000. Then the annual running of the six buildings would total £346,000.”. £320k also needed in repairs for closed libraries.
  • Blaenau Gwent – Why a Gwent library has been closed since last week – Yahoo News. “Blaina Library, one of six libraries in Blaenau Gwent run by the Aneurin Leisure Trust, has been closed since just before 6pm on Wednesday, November 29. According to a statement posted on the Trust’s official X, formerly Twitter, account, the closure is due to the need for some “urgent maintenance work” to be carried out.”
  • Caerphilly – Library given “tentative” reopening after months of delays – Caerphilly Observer. “The library, which has undergone a £400,000 refurbishment was originally set to open in the summer of 2023 but has been plagued by ongoing problems. “. Vandalism, redesign and lift problems have delayed opening, now pencilled in for January.
  • Camden – The Library of Things – Camden’s festive friend – Camden Council. “There are many items that residents can borrow to help out this festive season including a party kit, sound systems and a pop-up bed to host friends and family.”
City of London
GLL/Better are having Warm Spaces in four library services: Bromley, Dudley, Greenwich and Wandsworth: “leading wholesale food service company Brakes, has agreed to donate free tea, coffee and biscuits to all fourteen locations”. The other GLL service, Lincolnshire, is offering a more limited service.
  • Guernsey – Library marks fifth anniversary of child section – BBC. “In the first year after the revamp, library visits rose by 8% to more than 160,000, and children’s book loans also rose, with 2023 figures on course to exceed those from 2019, staff said.” .. children “always so excited about the staircases, the secret passageways and the reading nooks “
  • Hampshire – Hampshire Libraries to help tackle loneliness at Christmas – Eastleigh News. Lists events, regular activities and library services.
  • Herefordshire – This is why plans for Hereford’s new library are wrong – Hereford Times / Letters. Council plans to move Hereford Library into Shire Hall. “I feel this decision has been made with the primary driver being to find an economic use for the building, rather than what is in the best interest of the library service.” … “a serious error of judgement has been made to not take up the opportunity of a city-centre location in Maylord Orchards. This would offer for greater opportunities to engage with customers”
  • Highlands – High Life Libraries bid to develop ‘Sense for Communities’ project accepted – Strathspey and Badenoch Herald. “High Life Highland have announced that a bid for funding to develop a sensory project to improve the wellbeing of “hard-to-reach” groups has been approved, after they applied to the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC).”
    • £6000 for High Life Highland library sensory project – Northern Times. “d £6000 from the national Public Library Improvement Fund (PLIF) to develop its Making Sense for Communities’ project. It aims to engage with and improve the health and wellbeing of hard-to-reach groups including those with autism, dementia, physical impairment, and those who are socially isolated.”. Includes sensory projector.
  • Hull – Hull Council plan after ‘warm zone’ boiler breakdowns – BBC. “Two council-run “warm zones” in Hull are not living up to their name after their central heating broke. Western Library and Greenwood Avenue Library are now using portable heaters to keep the temperatures inside up.”
  • Isle of Man – Henry Bloom Noble Library praised by UK charity for its ‘impactful services’ – Isle of Man Today. “The CEO and president of ‘Libraries Connected’ said the library buildings should reflect local needs and this is evident on the island.”
  • Manchester – Manchester’s Libraries Are Becoming ‘Warm Welcome Spaces’ With Free Hot Drinks And Wi-Fi This Winter – Secret Manchester. “The scheme spans free hot drinks, free Wi-Fi, free data SIM cards, newspapers, information and advice and extra signposting to support services in the city.”
  • Middlesbrough – Historic Central Library in Middlesbrough closes doors for refurbishment – Gazette Live. “The ground floor of the library will be transformed into a captivating space incorporating a family-focused library and separate adult lending space, to host events and activities promoting a lifelong love of literacy and creativity.”
  • North Somerset – New scheme provides safe spaces for women and girls across North Somerset – North Somerset Council. “Purple chairs are being installed in libraries across North Somerset to provide a clear beacon of safety for women and girls. The ‘Purple Chair Scheme’ provides a safe space for women and girls to access information about health and wellbeing, as well as support and resources available to them in whatever circumstances they find themselves in. This may be when someone is experiencing domestic or racial abuse, or addiction issues.”
  • Nottingham – We Explore the New Central Library – Leftlion. “it was Dolly Parton who opened the new Nottingham Central Library. She had teleported in via a specially-recorded broadcast to give her blessing to the new building alongside councillors and the city’s most bookish literary bods. Reading, reading, reading, reading, Dolly said, more or less. Please take the books out just because you can.” … ” As well as displays of local artists and a well-buffed espresso machine, there’s a walk-around exhibition detailing Broadmarsh’s history, a sensory room in which you can disguise yourself within a pod of whales (and about time too), free Wi-Fi with 55 computers on which to type and surf (the net, not with whales), and we think we’re forgetting something – oh yes, nearly 200,000 books”
  • Rotherham – Swinton Library moved to civic hall after survey shows RAAC in roof – BBC. “A library earmarked for demolition has been moved to a nearby civic hall after a survey revealed issues with its roof. Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) was discovered in the roof of Swinton community library near Rotherham, the council said. The authority said it temporarily closed the building last week as a “precautionary measure”, in line with other local authorities. The library building was already earmarked for demolition. “A newly-refurbished library is planned to be opened early next year at the former customer service centre building [nearby] as part of a major redevelopment of Swinton town centre,” the council said.”
  • Shropshire – New shelving for two Shropshire libraries – Shropshire Council. “The Friends of Church Stretton” have provided shelving for that library while ACE have provided new shelving for Bridgnorth Library. “The Arts Council England funding will also be providing new shelving for libraries in Shrewsbury, Ludlow, Oswestry and Whitchurch. Dates for these installations will be confirmed soon.”
    • New Ready Reads service launched for Whitchurch Library users – Shropshire Council. “A new Ready Reads service has been launched for people affected by the temporary closure of Whitchurch Library. Library staff will take requests for books when they are at the town’s market on Fridays, and readers will be able to collect their choices from Whitchurch Heritage Centre”
  • Southwark – Library named after BBC’s first black radio producer opens to public – London News Online “A brand new library has opened to the public, named after the feminist, activist and writer Una Marson. The Una Marson Library in Thurlow Street, Southwark, opened today as part of the council’s redevelopment of the Aylesbury area. The new library will offer book and DVD loans, newspapers, public access PCs, printing and copying facilities, meeting rooms, study spaces, free Wi-Fi and a full programme of events that will run throughout the year. “
Staffordshire

A Stirling effort at a Thesis and Antithesis? Nott.

Editorial

I was always taught in school to present the thesis (one theory), the antithesis (the argument against that theory) and then the synthesis (the conclusion after weighing all the evidence). Never done it with public libraries before but lets give it a go.

The thesis would be that libraries are recovering well from spending cuts, with their building stock being renewed. Evidence just this week would be: Shipley Library having a new enterprise hub; Brierly Library opening in Dudley after a £670k refurbishment;a very impressive new Central Library opening in Nottingham; Scottish Government funding to support new projects in libraries; Bolton Central Library about to reopen after a major refurbishment; another new central library opening in Paisley, and Beccles Library in Suffolk reopening after refurbishment. That’s pretty impressive.

But wait, the antithesis is that libraries are still suffering from cuts. Evidence for this is also pretty strong.: Nottingham City Council – the same one that has just opened its lovely new central library – has filed for what it insists is not bankruptcy; Stirling, like Nottingham, also is also in financial trouble and they have announced their plan includes potentially closing all but one library, severely testing the Scottish law about needing to provide an adequate service. Even it’s lesser second, and far more likely, option is to close half of its libraries. In South Gloucestershire, there’s a proposal to cut nearly one-fifth of all staffing hours and, in Leeds, plans to refurbish Crossgates Library collapse after funding could not be found. Cheshire East is reducing its opening hours and Croydon is privately considering potentially closing four libraries. Meanwhile, the state of Kettering Library’s building is so bad in North Northamptonshire that its needing to move to temporary new accommodation. Finally, there’s a campaign starting in Southend against proposed library cuts there.

Hmm, so it’s a rollercoaster ride for libraries this week. What the heck is going on? How can we make a synthesis out of this? Well, I think we can. What has been happening is that there’s been a few years of recovery (or, at least, not austerity) roughly since David Cameron stopped being Prime Minister. So new building projects and refurbishments could afford to be restarted and are coming to fruition now. However, austerity has recently restarted not just because of real cuts but also due to high inflation. This has meant many councils are now facing serious financial problems. The best example of this is Nottingham, which has just opened its new Central Library years after it was started just in time for the new cuts to (officially not) bankrupt it. Many may remember a similar thing happening in early 2010s with the opening of the mega new Library of Birmingham that almost instantly had to cut its hours. So, it’s explainable. New building projects take a while to happen but budget cuts, well, they come instantly. Hence the good and bad news happening together.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • British Library hack: Customer data offered for sale on dark web – BBC. “The British Library says it has evidence that user data was hacked in a cyber attack and offered for sale on the dark web. The library warned users who use the same password elsewhere to change it.”
  • Digital Skills Training: Challenges and Approaches for Libraries – Lorensbergs. ” 11 library authorities got together with Lorensbergs to share challenges and solutions for maintaining staff’s digital skills. When resourcing is low and training demands are high, keeping all staff up to speed is a tough nut to crack. ” A look at training options and strategies.
  • ‘It’s an ongoing challenge’: Will the culture wars come for Britain’s books? – Independent. “When you consider the current landscape of censorship, it is hard not to speculate (as Wilson has) that what’s happening in the US might be prescient for the UK.” … ““he steep rise in book bans in the USA may well embolden people who would like to see such books removed from UK shelves” … “There is no UK equivalent whereby national data about book censorship requests is made available” but “if we were to release a list of books that had been challenged, that would, for some people, become a list of books that ‘should’ be challenged” but “we should be careful not to overstate the problem”
  • Revealing our ethics and values – CILIP. “As budgets continue to be cut, so the need for effective advocacy increases – if libraries and information services are fighting for a share of a dwindling pot, then the advocacy on behalf of those services becomes ever more valuable. So how can we ensure that our advocacy is effective and why should we be thinking about the ethical values when we are talking about services?”
  • Supporting new public libraries projects – Scottish Government. “A group of eight innovative new library projects designed to enrich communities across Scotland will be brought to life through a share of £106,868 support received through the Public Library Improvement Fund (PLIF). These projects include the introduction of a comprehensive library outreach offer in East Lothian, a digital project focusing on celebrating Dundee’s Maritime Pasts and Future, and High Life Highland’s sensory project, which aims to engage with those with autism and dementia among many others.”

International news

Local news by authority

  • Bolton – Bolton Library sets date for reopening after refurbishment project – Bolton News. “The £4.43m renovation project and refurbishment has seen the building stripped back to reveal many of the original features and now includes an expanded children’s area, improved social spaces, updated digital facilities and a new café, which will be unveiled at the grand opening.”
  • Bournemouth Christchurch Poole – Writing Groups in Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch and Dorset – Bournemouth Writing Festival. From January and ongoing, Writers’ Havens will be held in libraries as part of the Bournemouth Writing Festival activities. They will be inclusive and supportive groups for writers of all interests.
  • Bradford – The Shipley Library Enterprise Hub officially opens – Telegraph and Argus. “It was created in the former exhibition space at the library, using £80,000 of money from the Government-funded Shipley Towns Fund. The new facility will offer resources and advice to local businesses and start-ups, and the space will also be used for events, meetings and co-working.”
  • Bromley – New initiative in memory of Wendy Cooling launches at Orpington Library – GLL/Better (press release). “Last weekend, schoolkids and families came together at Orpington Library for the launch of ‘Wendy’s House’, a nationwide project set-up in the memory of Bookstart Founder Wendy Cooling.”
  • Cheshire East – Reduced library opening hours come into force – BBC. “Libraries in Alsager, Macclesfield, Sandbach and Poynton will all be closed for an extra 10 hours a week.”
    • Cheshire East could use libraries as community hubs, councillor says – Guardian series. Independent councillor suggests copying Hartlepool’s example: ” “As a result of converting that library space into community hubs, they were able to use those facilities as a front door to a whole range of council services including adults, children’s services, and also introduce refreshment facilities, again, an income generating source for the council within those buildings.”
  • Croydon – Consultants’ year-long study looks to close four public libraries – Inside Croydon. “Croydon’s Conservative-run council has a secret plan to close at least four of the borough’s public libraries, Inside Croydon has discovered.” … “The latest plan is understood to be part of the crisis-hit council’s “asset disposal strategy”, which would seek to sell the public buildings to pay down some of Croydon’s £1.6billion debt.”

“… since the first covid lockdown in 2020, only one of Croydon’s libraries has been operating anything like “normal” opening hours. Central Library, next to the Town Hall, is open five days a week. Of the others, six libraries are open just three days each week, while five are only open for two days a week. The reduced opening hours are a cost-cutting measure that is a direct result of the council going bankrupt three years ago.”

  • Dudley – Library set for grand reopening after refurbishment – Express and Star. “Brierley Hill Library’s internal works, new décor and flooring has been organised by Dudley Council and was funded through the UK Government’s Future High Streets Fund, with £670,000 spent on the refurbishment. Residents can now enjoy improved ground floor access, a children’s library and new meeting rooms for community use such as school classes, group sessions and family activities when it reopens on Monday.”
  • Highland – High Life Highland libraries kick-start traditional Icelandic storytelling sessions – Northern Times. Cultural exchange.
  • North Northamptonshire – Temporary Kettering library to open while leaking roof fixed – BBC. “The library service will move into the new Cornerstone extension building while a £7m repair project takes place. Problems with the 1904 library building have delayed the opening of North Northamptonshire Council’s flagship Cornerstone project, which is designed to link the library and adjacent art gallery with a new community building. The decaying roof of the old building has allowed water to flow into the new one and rainfall in October left the council with no choice but to close the library”

“Called in this afternoon and can report that it was worth the wait. Bookstock has survived its sojourn in storage plus plenty of new stock. Building very spacious with picture windows letting in lots of natural light. Workstations and comfy seating on each floor plus cafe near the entrance. Everything in pristine condition at the moment. Hopefully it won’t be too badly impacted by the next bout of austerity…”

Email received
  • Stirling – Stirling Council Budget Saving Proposals – Stirling Council. Various suggestions for cutting libraries, with the lesser one being “If chosen this option could save almost £400,000 in operating costs each year. Some communities, if their library closed, could receive mobile library visits instead. Other areas may have to travel to their nearest library” and the more severe one being to close every library but one (!).
    • Fury as libraries written off by council bosses ‘letting children down’ with plans for mass closures – Daily Mail. “the proposals have sparked outrage among literacy campaigners who say it will impact on low-income households who cannot afford to buy books. Scottish Book Trust chief executive Marc Lambert said Stirling Council would be ‘letting down a lot of people’.”. Local Conservative says “these damaging closures are the sad but inevitable consequence of the SNP Government’s brutal and sustained underfunding of Scotland’s councils.” and CILIP says “Any council that values its communities also values its libraries and these cuts will cause significant long-term damage if taken”
  • Stirling Council could close all but one library to save costs – Herald.
  • Suffolk – Beccles Library moves back home – Suffolk Libraries. “The library has been operating from a temporary location in the town’s old HSBC building since September to enable substantial building work to be carried out. Despite the challenges of the recent storms, the work is successfully nearing completion and the library building is due to reopen on Friday 8 December. The improvement work has involved replacing the entire roof and all external windows and doors in the main public library area.”
  • ThurrockThurrock libraries launch winter colouring-in competition – Your Thurrock. “All winners will get a box of Cadbury Heroes chocolates.”
  • Warwickshire – Warwickshire library books go green – Stratford Observer. “Warwickshire Home Library Service has unveiled its first electric-powered vehicle to deliver books door-to-door. The new electric vehicle is a modern Peugeot e-Expert van. It will be used by the Home Library Service team, which consists of fourteen volunteer drivers, to deliver library books to all corners of the county. The van has a range of over 150 miles on one charge …”
  • West Dunbartonshire – Plan to ban Israeli books in Scotland – Jewish Chronicle. If the council uses it’s boycott policy then some books may be withdrawn. “No books have so far been removed from any of the authority’s libraries as councillors say censorship is “not in the spirit” of their boycott, but it is understood that officials are prepared to rule on a book-by-book basis.”
  • York – York’s libraries launch Christmas ‘Joy Bringers’ appeal – Press. “Money raised through Explore York’s Joy Bringers campaign will be used to fund holiday activities for children as well as to keep the city’s 15 libraries warm and welcoming through the winter.”