The Library Book, The Public and the Mighty Ducks

Editorial

I’m a sucker for books and films telling me how great libraries are. One of the best books I’ve read recently is The Library Book by Susan Orlean, due to a number of factors. The first is, of course, the fact that the author clearly loves libraries but also there is the ongoing whodunnit thread of who burnt the library as well as it being an introduction to the US library system both now and the past. For this reason also, I’m looking forward to watching The Public. Mind you, I’ve always liked Emilio Estevez, even in the Mighty Ducks. You can always tell it’s been quiet news week (Brexit? Local elections?) when I slip in a film or a book in the editorial. Don’t tell anyone …

Changes by authority

National news

  • 13 Nonfiction Books About Real, Live Librarians – BookRiot. “librarians are like ninjas: easy to overlook yet extremely effective. Any modern library worker will tell you that they don’t spend their days behind the desk reading. In fact, books are only a slice of what librarians do. (In my humble experience, actual library work involves a heck of a lot more spitballs.) That said, let us enjoy these 13 nonfiction books about librarians. As we do, let’s raise a glass to those who show the world how to operate the printer fifty times a day.”
  • Celebrating libraries in the digital world – Libraries Week. “Libraries Week is a celebration of the nation’s much-loved libraries. In 2019 we are celebrating the role of libraries in the digital world. Libraries Week 2019 will celebrate and explore how libraries are engaging communities through technology, building digital skills and confidence, encouraging digital participation and inclusion, supporting health, wellbeing and education and supporting local business and enterprise. Libraries Week 2019 will take place 7-12 October. Library staff and supporters can register now to take part and stay up to date as more details on this year’s campaign become available.”
  • CWA Brings Writers, Venues and Book Groups Together in National Crime Reading Month in May – Time To Read. “NCRM, which has run for a number of years, is a unique literary festival that is held throughout the UK in May to celebrate the crime genre, both fiction and non-fiction. The festival, which is organised by the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) and the Crime Readers’ Association (CRA), sees authors staging events including talks, recitals and ‘in conversation’ evenings in venues ranging from libraries to pubs, theatres  to town halls.”

Axiell Selflib
International news

  • Eire – Do your shelf a favour and get back into your local library – Irish Times. “With free access to books, mags, DVDs, web access, talks and courses – and no more fines for overdue items – Ireland’s libraries are hoping to double their membership to 1.5m”
  • Ghana – Reading Spots Ghana Provides Solar Powered Library To Ekawso – Modern Ghana. “Reading Spots Ghana, has provided the people of Ekawso with a solar-powered community library as part of its aim of providing educational resources for all schools and adults in the area. According to Mr. Ampoma Patrick, a representative from the Ghana Library Authority, less than two percent of children in primary two are able to read fluently in the Ghanaian and English languages.”

  • USA – Book BotMountain View. “Book Bot is a book pick-up device that will allow residents in a test area to return library books and other library materials to the Mountain View Public Library from their home once a week. Book Bot is one of several applications of Personal Delivery Devices developed as part of a project within Google’s Area 120 workshop for experimental ideas.  This project is part of the City of Mountain View’s pilot program to allow the use of Personal Delivery Devices …”
  • USA – Emilio Estevez Goes Public In His Library Love, Homelessness Concerns In New Movie – Forbes. “Libraries – long the world’s repositories of knowledge and books trying to find new roles in the Information Age – these days are having a bit of a moment. First there was The Library Book, the latest from New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean, whose The Orchid Thief became the unlikely film adaptation Adaptation. In The Library Book, Orlean looks at the 1986 arson of the Los Angeles Public Library’s Central Branch that burned half a million books and damaged another million. Along the way, Orlean examines  the fast-changing but still essential role of libraries in public life in a time when smartphones provide a bottomless well of information and entertainment. Earlier this year, Orlean was featured guest in the L.A. library foundation’s annual fundraiser.Now comes a new movie, The Public, about a different role that has been thrust upon many libraries, as a flash point in the nation’s homelessness problems. The film is debuting in 250 theaters across the country on Friday.”
  • USA – Paramount TV, Anonymous to Adapt Susan Orlean’s ‘The Library Book’ – Variety. ““Susan has created a captivating narrative that is part mystery, part magic, and part love letter to the dedicated stewards who fight to keep these beloved institutions alive,” said Nicole Clemens, president of Paramount TV. “Each day at the library, the human drama that unfolds among staff and patrons of every socio-economic level – funny, sad, inspiring, unexpected – speaks to the highs and lows of our country right now, and we’re excited to bring these stories to life on screen.””
  • USA – Project Outcome: Gather Better Data – Princh. “Outcome measurement is one way for library staff to collect data from patrons about the value of public programs and services. Because library staff do not always have in-depth experience in evaluation, they could find themselves unsure of how to write an outcome-focused assessment after collecting patron feedback. For example, staff know that a program like Storytime can help improve literacy of children, but the specific data to reinforce this knowledge is not always present.”

Local news by authority

  • Birmingham – Alice and the Library Tree – Storytelling and music combine in a new commission for Sutton Coldfield – Brumpic. “Combining storytelling and music and created by local children’s opera company B’Opera, this new work will explore the wonder of libraries and how they inspire curiosity.”
  • Carmarthenshire – Library users to benefit from new system – South Wales Guardian. “The council is the 17th of 22 library authorities in Wales to adopt the new SirsiDynix Symphony Library Management System. “
  • Cumbria – Best selling crime writers lift the lid on their work – Mail. Author visits.
  • Dorset – New signs for council buildings and libraries cost £8,800 – Dorset Echo. Dorset Council changes logo.
  • East Sussex – Update on Pevensey Bay Library – Eastbourne Herald. Volunteers may take over closed library. “campaign. Since the closures only two have reopened, run by the communities they serve. A spokesperson at Volunteers Network said, “Although there is local interest in taking over all of the libraries and reopening them, many have had legal or financial issues to be resolved, and organising community run libraries is not an easy task. “
  • Essex – County Hall: 50 groups interested in running libraries – Gazette News. “The plans show 19 libraries out if the 74 in Essex are earmarked to be run by community groups. County Hall has now confirmed more than 21,000 people responded to its consultation held earlier this year. There have also been 50 ‘expressions of interest’ by groups wanting to take over the running of libraries.”
  • Lewisham – Lewisham Library redevelopment study due next month – News Shopper. “Lewisham Council’s feasibility study into whether it can redevelop Lewisham library and build rented council homes or cut staff hours to fund a £450,000 shortfall is due on May 8. Proposals to cut staff hours in 2020 were put on hold while the council looked into whether rented council housing on-site could help pay for a new library.”
  • Rotherham – News: New chapter for Rotherham’s Central Library? – Roth Biz. “Rotherham Council is seeking views from residents and library users about the possibility of moving the Central Library back to a more central location in Rotherham town centre. Currently based within cultural space at the Council’s Riverside House, which opened in 2011, the central library holds the largest collection and range of lending materials in the borough. It was previously housed on Drummond Street alongside former council offices that were demolished to make way for the Tesco Extra.
    The Council has now said that it is considering moving the library back across town into a new community/cultural hub that could be located opposite Tesco in the Markets, which is due to be developed as part of the Town Centre Masterplan”
  • St Helens – Youngsters learning to write in libraries with children’s author – St Helens Reporter. “Mark Powers, known for the Spy Toys series, will pass on some of the tips of the author’s trade in the workshops called Show, Don’t Tell.”
  • Staffordshire – Libraries gear up for Staffordshire Day celebrations – Staffordshire Newsroom. “Author visits, quiz nights, local heroes competition, guided tours and arts and crafts activities are amongst the events already lined up for this year’s celebrations.”
  • Old Stafford library could be turned into flats – Express and Star. “an application has now been submitted to Stafford Borough Council to convert it into 10 apartments and a bar and restaurant. Eight of the apartments will be located on the first floor and the remaining two on the ground floor. “
  • Stirling – Stirling pensioner wants pro-Scottish independence paper reinstated in libraries – Daily Record.
  • Suffolk – New opening times for Brandon Library – East Anglian Daily Times. “The new opening times will see the library open for longer on Wednesday afternoons, but closing earlier on Friday evenings. The changes, approved by the libraries board and Suffolk County Council come following calls from customers and will come into effect from May 20. Suffolk Libraries confirmed however it will remain closed on Monday despite the longer opening hours and that future events are unaffected.”
  • Wrexham – Wrexham Library services help with Universal Credit – Leader. Online resources publicised. “It is the second time William Todd has clashed with Stirling Libraries over the availability of the ‘Scots Independent’. The last time was the late 1980s. The 70-year-old, from St Ninians, said that up until two and a half years ago he had been able to read a copy of the ‘Scots Independent’, first published over 90 years ago, alongside a variety of daily national newspapers at a number of Stirling district libraries. He recently wrote to Stirling Library HQ to ask why he can no longer access the monthly title which had been distributed to libraries for free.”

That London Library By Euston

Editorial

Interesting to see that the British Library, based almost entirely in one big city in the South East of England, is considering opening up a “British Library North” in Leeds. About time, as anyone can attest who has had to travel hundreds of mile to visit a place that apparently serves the whole nation but in fact is almost entirely based in London and charges the heck (or, in BL terms, “full cost recovery”) out of other libraries (don’t dare use the word “provincial”, you hear me?) to borrow something it got given for free. It’s been good to see the British Library start to wake up to its wider role in the last few years, with 13 business and intellectual property centres in libraries around the country and a group of 22 library services (out of more than 200) it works with on some projects, but there’s a lot more that it could do before I stop thinking of it in my mind as “That London Library By Euston”.

Great to see more fines being removed, with one authority going fine-free and two more removing children’s fines. Something more confusing was the debt that York Explore somehow ended up owing to the council but, that’s OK, because the council is paying them an extra amount of money to allow Explore to pay it back. I think. My head hurts.

Changes

Ideas

National news

  • British and Chinese library leaders to share knowledge in Chengdu – British Library. “Public library leaders from China and the UK are to meet at the Sichuan Provincial Library and share knowledge in a two-day forum in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, at the end of March: the first such gathering of its kind.” … “The initiative is funded by HM Treasury and also includes a programme of knowledge exchange between staff at the British Library and its counterparts in China.”
  • British Library planning Leeds branch with Boston Spa upgrade – Guardian. “The British Library has embarked upon “ambitious” plans to open a branch in Leeds as part of a drive to expand the organisation’s activities in the north of England. Board meeting minutes obtained by the Guardian reveal the library has been in discussions with Leeds city council about potential locations for a facility referred to as British Library North.”
  • British Pubs Can Operate as Post Offices and Libraries, Thanks to Government-Backed Program – Food and Wine. “Launched in 2001, Pub Is the Hub is a not-for-profit organization that works with pubs that are “thinking of broadening their services.” Since 2013, the group has received government funding for its efforts — over £500,000 in total — including an additional £188,000 (about $250,000) announced this week for 76 new projects in rural pubs across England. Though the exact beneficiaries were not disclosed, the U.K. government did provide the examples of the new projects which include Post Office facilities, grocery stores, libraries, and children’s play areas (which, as a parent who lives in England, I can adamantly say is greatest thing a pub can have).”
  • Engaging Libraries: Learning from Phase 1 – Carnegie UK Trust. “he aim of Engaging Libraries Phase was to enable public libraries to pilot public engagement activities on health and wellbeing. Engaging Libraries: Learning from Phase 1 provides an overview of the 14 Engaging Libraries projects across 16 public library services, identifies factors which facilitated the successful delivery of Engaging Libraries projects and factors which inhibited some projects, and uses case studies to illustrate reflections from the programme on working with partners, new skills, knowledge and approaches and the benefits of a network.”

“Taboo breaking: Engaging Libraries demonstrated that libraries can be a space for discussion and debate about subjects which can be taboo or difficult to talk about such as death, body image and mental health. As safe, trusted spaces public libraries were the ideal venue for engaging people on tricky or touchy subjects.

Experimentation and risk: Engaging Libraries revealed that public libraries embraced the opportunity and have the appetite to experiment and be creative with public engagement activities. Libraries also worked in diverse partnerships across different sectors and disciplines.

Safe space: Engaging Libraries showed that funding opportunities can be valuable in giving public libraries the space and permission to forge new partnerships as well as build on existing links, reaping benefits for the library, its community and partners.”

  • ‘I’m an Orkney librarian driving to a school when a wave engulfs my van’ – Guardian. ” There are occasions when our mobile library can’t go out; this has an impact on more isolated people who don’t have much human contact and really look forward to it. I always feel like I’m letting them down when this happens.”
  • Public Libraries 2018: Netloan Customer Survey Results – Lorensnbergs. ” The critical importance of libraries in supporting digital inclusion and skills development continues to grow: nearly half of public libraries saw increasing numbers of customers request this kind of help (this is the second year running that this size of increase in help needed has been reported). Only one library authority this year reported a decrease”

Axiell Selflib

International news

  • Canada – The library steps up in Thunder Bay – Star. “The Thunder Bay Public Library has emerged as an unlikely hero in a city in crisis. The city’s library system offers the community much more than rows of books, microfiches and the Dewey Decimal System. It has become a leader in a city whose racial struggles are openly displayed for the world to see. Libraries have long been community hubs, places of collective learning and knowledge sharing. And this has been especially true — and especially important — in Thunder Bay in recent years.”
  • Global – Parents, Babies & Libraries – Princh. A look at rhymetimes, baby sessions.
  • Indonesia – No quiet rules at Indonesia’s flyover library – Mail. “Several years ago, the flyover in suburb Ciputat, part of Jakarta’s greater metropolitan area, was strewn with rubbish and roamed by intimidating street thugs, Febrianti said. But armed with books and paint, local organisations set about transforming its down-and-out reputation. Artists painted murals on the walls, installed planter boxes and a futsal pitch, and a library with several dozen books was built on site.”
  • USA – 7 unexpected things that libraries offer besides books – Conversation. “The Westport Free Library in Westport, Connecticut – population of roughly 28,000 – has a Robot Open Lab where the public can learn how to program robots to respond to simple commands, catch and kick a small soccer ball and even dance.” … “the library loans health equipment such as blood pressure monitors. ” … “The Chapel Hill Public Library in North Carolina offers Chapel Hill Open Data in partnership with the town. ” … “or those who want to build and fix things, Chattanooga also has an extensive hand- and power-tool collection filled with hammers, wrench sets, drills and saws among many other tools. “
  • USA – With Vaccine Misinformation, Libraries Walk a Fine Line – Undark. “Earlier this month, Hoopla — an online service that allows public library cardholders across the U.S. and Canada to download or stream movies and television shows for free — quietly pulled the documentary “Vaxxed” from its collection. The film, which peddles a repeatedly debunked theory linking vaccines to autism and claims to expose a vaccine-related coverup within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, can still be found on DVD at libraries around the U.S. “

Local services by authority

  • Barnsley – New landmark library to open in July following delays in building schedule – Star. “The project, called Library @ the Lightbox, was due to open in the Autumn of last year but the project was slowed by the presence of Sough Dyke, which runs beneath part of the town centre, which caused construction problems with the foundations. It was hoped the facilities would have been open in the Spring, but the date has now been confirmed as Saturday July 13. The building replaces the temporary library, opened in Wellington Street, to replace the 1970s building in Shambles Street, demolished following public opposition to make way for the new college building.”
  • Bath and North East Somerset – Books and Maps  – Bath and North East Somerset Council. “Bath and North-East Somerset libraries will not be charging fines for the late return of books and maps borrowed from 2nd April 2019.  This includes large print books. *This is a trial to be reviewed and only applies to books borrowed in Bath and North East Somerset Council libraries.  It does not apply to items borrowed in libraries in neighbouring authorities. Overdue reminders will be issued after 7 and 21 days by email or text.  If postal overdue reminders are required a 50p charge will be applied to all categories of borrower.”
  • Birmingham – Birmingham Children’s Libraries – Designing Libraries. “BookSpace refitted the children’s libraries, independent of their associated adult libraries, adopting designs and layouts that were purposely created to be similar but respectful of each of their unique characteristics. With registered borrowers increasing by 24% amongst younger children and issue rates up 19% it’s a success story that other authorities could embrace. Each of the five children’s libraries had its own reasons for requiring a refurbishment. In the case of Kings Norton Library, it was a 100 year old Carnegie Library with the original oak shelving and a leaking roof! The brief to BookSpace was to get children, parents and carers excited about reading and books; to create a recognisably new space and to celebrate each of the libraries individual features.”

Libraries being advertised on back of bus in new Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council adverts.

  • Devon – Unlimited Value: leading practice in unlimited value creation – Libraries Unlimited, University of Exeter and others. “From 2016, a research partnership including Libraries Unlimited, the University of Exeter Business School, the Real Ideas Organisation (RIO) and Open Data Institute (ODI) Devon has been worked together to understand how libraries can learn to develop a better understanding of their ‘social value’ – the difference that libraries make to the people and communities they serve. The project, named Unlimited Value, received £200,000 funding from Arts Council England’s research programme”
    • Storybook Dads receives donation from libraries – Charity Today. “Storybook Dads, the Devon-based charity that works to support prisoners in maintaining relationships with their children through stories and reading, has received £1,000 from fellow charity Libraries Unlimited”
  • Dorset – Voices: We must continue to cherish our libraries, galleries and theatres – Dorset Echo. “Literature permits people to express their emotions and thoughts to be presented to society, and society can listen to it to understand a meaning which is crafted to their emotions. Another person will view it in a different light. The arts are unappreciated and disregarded like that song that people don’t want in their heads. Our libraries, galleries and theatres are honourable establishments, and they must continue to be cherished.”
  • Dundee – Redundancies and library budget hit as Leisure and Culture Dundee agrees £860,000 in savings – Courier. £860k cut. “Board members agreed at a meeting yesterday to introduce voluntary redundancies and early retirement schemes, as well as a 10% reduction in the resource budget for books and periodicals in libraries. Staffing levels will gradually reduce at the organisation as vacancies will be “closely examined” and may not be automatically filled once an employee leaves.”
    • Concerns over potential impact of Dundee library cuts – Courier. “The warning comes after Leisure and Culture Dundee (LACD), the arms-length organisation that runs the service, announced plans to decimate libraries’ budgets this week.  The organisation has to find £860,000 to balance its budget this year and aims to do this through a combination of cuts and price increases.The cuts include reducing the resource budget of libraries – the money available for new books and periodicals – and cutting staff numbers through voluntary redundancy and early retirement.”
  • Essex – Essex Council library petition stats have been ‘manipulated’ – Gazette Standard. “The figures, published ahead of a County Hall meeting today, reveal 58,245 signatures were made across 53 petitions. The data has been broken down into petitions representing individual libraries and those jointly submitted between libraries. Others listed, such as five petitions from SOLE (Save our Essex Libraries), represent libraries in general. Wivenhoe library is listed as having just 16 signatures on one petition, despite strong opposition voiced by residents. And Brightlingsea library is not listed at all.” … “Wivenhoe resident and campaigner Rosalind Scott said more than 1,200 signatures came from the town’s online petition and at least 200 more on paper. Brightlingsea’s petitions had more than 500 signatures.”

“As you will appreciate, the consultation has not long closed and it will be some time before the evidence from it is fully analysed and brought back to Cabinet. There is a lot of work to be done to consider all the responses, suggestions and additional evidence, carry out a more detailed equality impact assessment, review the needs assessment and the strategy and identify options for the best way forward. We expect the results and final strategy to be presented to Cabinet this summer for us to decide on the future direction for Essex Library Services. I can assure you that no decisions have yet been made on the strategy and will not be made before that meeting. The library service will continue to run as is until a new strategy is adopted and implemented.” Cllr Susan Barker, Cabinet Member for Customer and Corporate Services in letter received.

  • 8,000 signatures to save Hockley Library – Leigh Times Series. “MP Mark Francois added his name to a petition of over 8,000 signatures which have been put together by local campaigners in a determined attempt to save Hockley Library from being downgraded by Essex County Council. Although the petition relates to Hockley Library, many constituents in Rayleigh have also added their names in support and the MP did so as well when he met Bob Barrett, also recently christened “Hat Man”, because he has frequently been in village and town centres over the last couple of months, wearing a very high profile hat, to assist in attracting attention to persuade passers-by to sign the important petition.”
    • Dermot O’Leary says axing libraries in Essex ‘a tragic shame’ – Gazette Standard. ““It is difficult. I am not a county councillor, I have no idea how tight their budgets are, I am sure it is the same across the board but it would be a tragic shame to get rid of libraries because of the support to the community. “Communities have to use them for their work. They are utterly important parts of the community and what they can give young minds.”
    • Plan to set aside £109k to save two libraries is unanimously backed – Echo. Basildon Council will pay to help cuts. “Council bosses say they are prepared to to fork out more than £100,000 in a bid to save two libraries from closure. Essex County Council has put about two-thirds of libraries, including Vange and Fryerns libraries, at risk as part of plans to reform the service.”
  • Gloucestershire – Town library may be on the move amid concerns it could ‘close within the next 12 months’ – Gloucestershire Live. “Stonehouse library could be relocated as part of plans to keep the service running ‘for many years to come.’ Both Gloucestershire County Council and Stonehouse Town Council are proposing to move the library from Elm  Road into the Town Hall. An investment of nearly quarter-of-a-million pound would be needed to ensure the current building is kept up to date and fit for purpose.”
  • Hampshire – Libraries taken over for Girlguiding night – Gazette. “Kingsclere and Silchester Division were among the 3,500 Girlguiding members who attended the mass takeover at 36 libraries across Hampshire which involved sleeping over at the sites. Girls from all sections had the opportunity to take part in creative, challenging and fun activities based on their favourite children’s fictional characters such as Paddington, The Hungry Caterpillar and Mary Poppins.”
    • Civic chief officially opens refurbished town library – Romsey Advertiser. “There’s a new community room available to groups and organisations, and a larger children’s library, meaning we can accommodate more customers and encourage more young readers. “
  • Hertfordshire – St Albans Library reopens – St Albans Review. “As part of the facelift, the library now has an upgraded children’s area, new computers, a bookable meeting room, and ‘CreatorSpace’ offering access to virtual reality headsets, 3D printing and digital sewing machines”
  • Kent – Cuts to opening hours at Tonbridge libraries are reduced – Times Local News. “Kent County Council will go ahead with its plans to cut library hours – but has made changes to its initial proposals which benefit Hildenborough and, to a lesser extent, Tonbridge. Under the original plan, the town’s main library was slated to lose 18 hours a week – or a third of its opening time. It was designated as a second-tier library – ‘town’ rather than ‘town plus’ – but has been reclassified as Tier One. That means it will lose 13 hours, down from 55 hours a week to 42 rather than 37.”
    • Richard Styles: Why do we need libraries? – Isle of Thanet News. “Kent County Council consulted on the future of the library service in Kent recently, and in short order decided to go ahead as planned. It does beg the question as to why they bothered, as over 2,500 individuals and organisations took the trouble to respond, seemingly, to no purpose. It does democracy and the standing of local government no good, to set up a consultation, set all the questions in a closed fashion and then pointedly, ignore all alternative suggestions”
  • Manchester – Bringing libraries to life – Arts Professional. “In Manchester, the city council’s library strategy has become more outward-facing. While keeping books, reading and information at the core, there is an emphasis on other things, including increasing participation in activities.” … “Following the growth of the Library Live programme, a natural development was to expand the model across the city-wide network of libraries. Initially, we are piloting it at three branch libraries with a programme called ‘Creative Spaces’. However, as we approached this roll-out, our vision of the expansion and the programme of activity was challenged very quickly.”
  • North Ayrshire – Consultation on future role of libraries and community centres – Largs and Millport Weekly News.  “With Council budgets coming under sustained pressure, North Ayrshire Council wants to work alongside communities in shaping the future services. To help make that happen, a working group was set up last year to develop proposals for more effective ways of ensuring people continue to access community facilities in challenging economic circumstances.”
  • Northamptonshire – Danesholme library to stay where it is thanks to Corby Council’s help – Northants Telegraph. “Danesholme library was one of the libraries under threat of closure as part of Northamptonshire County Council’s plans to only keep 19 as a statutory provision and hand over the remaining 17 to community groups. The library had been facing a move across the road from its long-term home at the end of the shopping parade at Danesholme Square into the Danesholme Communicare Centre. But after discussions from the library group with the council, the authority voted yesterday (March 26) at the One Corby meeting at Corby Cube to grant a new five-year lease to the area’s community association at a minimal rent.”
  • Nottingham – Specialist designers to be appointed for new Nottingham Central Library – Business Link. ““When we committed to a new Central Library, we committed to a better library than the existing one and the best children’s library in the country. To achieve this, it’s important we recruit specialist designers so we create something we and our children can be proud of in a great new area of the city.”
  • Oxfordshire – Banbury Library users urged to speak up to improve their health and wellbeing – Banbury Guardian. “Staff in a dozen Oxfordshire’s libraries have been trained to help turn conversations with customers into constructive lifestyle support as part of a county council pilot project”
  • Powys – Town unites in protest over library plans – My Welshpool. “A crowd in the hundreds marched through Welshpool on Saturday to send a clear message to Powys County Council (PCC) that they oppose plans to downsize the town’s library. The Save Welshpool Library march attracted around 4-500 people of all ages at its peak through the town centre, with many attending their first protest march.”

“29/03/2019: Please excuse me for copying the Town Clerk’s comment on our Page verbatim but it deserves to be spread far and wide. Robert Andrew Robinson commented-“For information: Welshpool Town Council resolved on 27th March 2019 to ask their solicitors to serve notice on Powys County Council to seek implementation of the Charter between the two authorities. This is with regard to section 5.5 which states “5.5 Reduction or ceasing of services. Powys County Council will not cut any services in Welshpool without first giving Welshpool Town Council the opportunity to consider taking over such services”. The solicitors were instructed this morning (28/03) to take the process of serving notice forward. Town Clerk.” Thank you, Welshpool Town Council.” Save Welshpool Library Facebook.

  • Rochdale – Eyes down as call goes out for book bingo – Rochdale Online. “Book bingo will challenge library users to dip into popular titles and mark their special bingo cards, with the chance of scooping cash prizes. Timeless calls like ‘garden gate’, key of the door’ and ‘clickety click’ will be temporarily shelved and replaced with varieties like ‘re-read a book you love’, ‘made into a film’ and ‘includes magic’. Players can pick and mix any book from five of 25 categories and, after completing a line, can enter a free regional prize draw with a £200 first prize.”
  • South Gloucestershire – Two authors share first place at Concorde Book Award 2019 – South Gloucestershire Newsroom. “The Concorde Book Award is a long-running ‘young people’s Booker’ run by South Gloucestershire schools and public libraries in which groups of young people read a shortlist of novels. They are then encouraged to join a reading group, whether at school or in a local library, to read six books and talk about them with other group members, before voting on their favourite title.”
    • Hanham Library re-opens to welcome South Gloucestershire’s 5,000th Open Access user  – South Gloucestershire Newsroom. “Hanham library has become the latest in South Gloucestershire’s to offer residents the use of its facilities seven days-a-week, thanks to the installation of Open Access technology. The introduction of the system at Hanham Library also marked the fact that more than 5,000 people have now registered to use Open Access in South Gloucestershire’s libraries. Since Open Access was launched in South Gloucestershire in October 2017, registered users have visited our libraries more than 40,000 times. Feedback from users has been positive, with 88 per cent of users attending the introduction to Open Access sessions saying they feel they are helpful and the system is easy to use.”
  • St Helens – Cash prize on offer for St Helens bookworms – St Helens Reporter. “Readers in St Helens are being challenged to take part in a fun game of Book Bingo at their library, alongside thousands of people across the North West. Players can choose to read any book from suggested categories, such as “a book you have always wanted to read”, and when they complete a line, they will be entered into a free regional prize draw for a chance to win £200.”
  • South Tyneside – Whitburn village library all set to re-open – Sunderland Echo. “Whitburn Library is to re-open on Saturday after being closed to enable the charity to upgrade the computer network, re-decorate, train volunteers and install new toilet facilities. The library was under threat because of cuts by South Tyneside Council but has now been taken over by the charity Friends of Whitburn Library – set up by vet Rory Thomson.”
  • Suffolk – Children’s Month: April 2019 – Suffolk Libraries. “This April will be the first ever Suffolk Libraries Children’s Month – a brand new campaign to encourage more children and families to use their local library. Children’s Month will launch next week on International Children’s Book Day on 2 April and run throughout the month, starting with a launch event at Bungay LibraryTo help encourage greater use of libraries, Suffolk Libraries is also removing overdue charges for children’s books from 1 April.  “
  • Swindon – Community library in Swindon to offer extended hours – Swindon Advertiser. “Readers who use Liden library will soon be able to go and borrow books when there are no librarians on duty. It is the first library in Swindon run by community groups or parish councils to allow the sort of extended hours access that the central libraries run by Swindon Borough Council offer, using their library card.”
  • Warrington – LiveWire launches new social club for men to combat social inclusion – Warrington Worldwide. “Burtonwood Library staff decided to organise the group after hearing feedback that local men felt there was a lack of social events and opportunities for them in the area. If the group is successful then it could potentially be rolled out to other libraries in Warrington, as needed.  Drinks and biscuits were donated by Burtonwood Co-op, Old Hall Spar and Asda Westbrook, and the men who attended enjoyed chatting over a brew and a biscuit or slice of cake. Burtonwood PCSO Neil Brown also attended the first session, to offer support and discuss any community issues. There was also the option to enjoy a game or cards or dominos and there are plans for potential other activities with the club as it grows. “
  • Westminster – Help shape the future of libraries in WestminsterWestminster Council. “We want to hear from the community, users and staff to help create a plan of action, that will open up our libraries to deliver more for future generations.” Including Connected Libraries, independent report.
  • Worcestershire – Worcester library cuts: staff not even consulted – Socialist Party. “28 people came to Worcester Socialist Party’s second, very successful public meeting over the threats to library services. A rep for public sector union Unison in Worcestershire County Council explained that although there has been a ‘consultation’ over cuts to services, no consultation has been held with staff”
  • York – York Explore, which runs city libraries, to pay back £900,000 debts – Press. “The mutual’s annual report shows that it lost about £650,000 in the last financial year to March 2018 and is likely to lose money again in the current financial year, with net current liabilities of £876,853 at March 2018. However, the report says: “Forecasts for the year ended 31 March 2020, which is the first year of the new contract, show that as a result of increased income and identified cost savings the society will make a surplus. “It has been agreed that the final balance owed to City of York Council at 31 March 2019 will be repaid over a period of four years.”

151 becomes 150, social media and one more fine-free

Editorial

Although the last ten years have been pretty darn tumultuous ones for public libraries, one thing has been constant – the number of public library services in England being 151. That is going to change on 1 April, when Bournemouth and Poole formally unite (along with Christchurch) to become the 150th – or first, depending, on how one looks at it – library service. I understand that the publicity from the new council on its creation will feature libraries, which is great. Best of wishes to them.

It seems like barely a PLN post goes by without another library service announcing it is going fine-free and this one is not going to go against the trend: Bridgend’s libraries will become the first in Wales to take the step on 1 April. Not so wonderful is another Welsh trusts in Blaenau Gwent which, if I’m reading the news report correctly, spent money earmarked by the council for books on other things it needed instead. Hmm, not so impressive. Finally, a big thanks to Caitlin Murphy who has kindly answered a few questions on her role in social media for London Libraries below.

Changes by authority

An interview with Caitlin Murphy of @LDNLibraries

Caitlin Murphy knows her social media

How long have you been involved in social media / what’s your background?

Like most people, I initially started using social media for personal reasons to keep up with friends and family. In 2006, I was tasked with putting together a directory for a membership organisation I worked for, which was going to be a very tedious task. My boss still wanted the printed book, but he let me start a Facebook page, which turned out to be very successful, not only as a way for members to connect, but also for the organisation to promote itself and its events, and it is how they do their membership directory today. I’ve keenly followed the development of social media platforms since.

When did you take over the London Libraries @LDNlibraries twitter account and how come?

We didn’t so much take it over, bur start anew as we didn’t have the login details for the previous account – a good lesson there – this was in late 2016 to promote events around the first Worlds of Possibilities Festival that was to take place during Libraries Week. We organised the festival, wrote up the Arts Council grant application and did the publicity around the events. The @LDNLibraries Twitter account represents London’s public libraries across all the local authorities. We set up the Twitter account in October 2016, along with a Facebook page and Instagram account. We learned quickly that Twitter was the most popular platform for us to use, and have focussed on it the most. We think that while Facebook is good for events, and Instagram for sales or promotion, Twitter fits best with our brief, which is promoting public libraries in London.

Do you have a strategy with it? What do you cover? What don’t you cover?

Our first step was to consider the tone that we wanted to strike. Because its not an account for one library or one authority we needed a broad brush for this large canvas. We aim to be welcoming, approachable and a bit irreverent, and remind people that libraries adapt with the needs of their communities. Ultimately people go to the library because they want to, either for leisure or study or personal advancement and so library accounts need to reflect that welcoming atmosphere and spirit of possibility. We work to make the account reflect that balance of usefulness and pleasure.

In terms of strategy, we always use an image, we always tag 10 accounts – usually other London Libraries, but sometimes authors, publishers, news outlets, bloggers, or listings sites. Initially we put out posts that could be modified by other libraries to suit their audience, for example #NationalStoryTellingWeek or #Halloween to promote good practice. The widened scope of library Twitter has been hugely encouraging. More authorities are using Twitter as a platform and using it really well.

“we always use an image, we always tag 10 accounts”

We aim for 50 RTs as that should get us 5000 impressions or so. The vanity metrics aren’t important, but we do need to know whether our tweets are being received well or if we need to alter anything.

Any hints and tips you can give? Are including Twitter handles and hashtags a good idea?

Reaching more people in wider audiences would certainly help. If libraries were to promote their social media presence more in the libraries and on their websites and in the library I’m sure their followers would rise dramatically. Websites should indicate Twitter, Facebook and Instagram account handles (as below). And libraries should display their handles on the opening hours sign on the library doors, at the self check-outs and service desks.

” libraries should display their handles on the opening hours sign on the library doors, at the self check-outs and service desks”

A Twitter tag cascade would also help with retweets and cross promotion. We retweet as much as we can, but the volume is ever increasing. I would suggest that, when neighbouring authorities post something, they tag one another and retweet. Reaching out can only help libraries promote the amazing things that they are doing and the events they are hosting. In term of hashtags, be opportunistic!.Planning is good, but checking what’s trending on a certain day and tweeting about it has gotten us some of our most popular Tweet results and demonstrates that libraries feel the pulse of current events.

Some library services have to cope with limited freedom due to corporate social media policies. Any suggestions for what can be done for them?

Some authorities have one account for all of their libraries and some authorities have individual accounts for each library. Some accounts can’t be tagged in images, but can be mentioned in posts. I head some good advice at a conference once which was “Ask forgiveness not permission.” You can take it from there. Practically, there is nothing that stops an individual from promoting what they see in a library, be it a chess club or an author talk.

Orkney Libraries are the famous example of Twitter social media accounts. What do you think of them? Are there other good library accounts you’d suggest following?

Orkney is an inspiration as an account because you can really see the personality behind it. They obviously put a lot of thought into the tone that they want to strike. Its also remarkable because it’s not a place that anyone is going to casually find themselves at, but people are so interested in. They have really succeeded in making the ordinary really interesting and extraordinary with humour and intelligence. @ShetlandLibrary is also fantastic and the way that the two accounts have built a friendly rivalry is very entertaining. They also have a supportive rapport with @AnnCleeves based on her Shetland novels which is lovely to watch. Twitter has the reputation as being a venting ground, and those accounts have really demonstrated how to rise above that and have concentrated their efforts on promoting the wonderful things that happen in their libraries in a hugely entertaining way. Look up their Fortnite tweet. We’re still chuckling! @NYPL is very good – and they have linked accounts, cross-promoting their blogs and events such as @NYPLRecommends, @LIVEfromtheNYPL and @young_lions, which shows their incredible effort and coordination. Love them or hate them, @Waterstones does great book tweets, and good images of their book displays.

Any other questions you’d like me to ask but I haven’t?

I’ve mentioned Twitter a lot because that has been our greatest success, but I think that Instagram deserves consideration for libraries as it is growing so rapidly with audiences that may not use Twitter as actively. Instagram is image based and posting links is limited, but with some research it can reach out to a different audience. And it would be a fabulous tool for people who use the library to show their affection for books and learning.

“I think that Instagram deserves consideration for libraries as it is growing so rapidly with audiences that may not use Twitter as actively”

Caitlin Murphy is a communications consultant with expertise in internal communications and stakeholder engagement. Her career has taken her from Toronto to Moscow and now, London. She also really enjoys libraries.

News

  • Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole agree council tax – BBC. “The borough councils of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole are set to merge into a single unitary authority in April as part of a reorganisation of local government in Dorset.”
  • Concern for elderly as hundreds of computers are lost to Scotland’s libraries – Herald. “Resarch revealed by Open Knowledge International, which campaigns on data literacy, shows that Scotland had 4,264 computers in libraries in 2017-18, 281 fewer than in 2010/11. The decline in publicly accessible computers comes amid a greater push for government and other essential service providers, such as banks to digitise their services to cut costs. Age Scotland raised concerns about the loss as increasing numbers are being pushed onto the internet to get vital services.”
  • Essential reads: Sally Rooney, Lee Child, Jojo Moyes and Stephen Fry top list of top e-books in UK libraries – Evening Standard. “The list was compiled by Libby, an app for borrowing e-books and audiobooks from libraries.”
  • This is your last chance to sign the petition to protect our libraries – Big Issue. “At The Big Issue we never tire of banging on about the power of reading to improve lives,” says Big Issue editor Paul McNamee. “We have lobbied for better literacy across Britain. We have called for libraries to be kept open.
  • UK libraries dumped 11% of computers since 2010-11… everybody has one anyway, right? – Register. “Almost 4,000 computers have been cut from public libraries in England since 2010, with some 680 internet-connected machines lost in the past year. The figures, collated from Parliamentary information sources by UK Labour’s shadow digital and culture team and published by Huffington Post, show the extent of budget cuts on local services across the country.”
    • Digital exclusion will worsen as 4,000 public computers cut from libraries and jobcentres – FE News. “Research published from the House of Commons Library – commissioned by Labour’s shadow culture team –  shows that almost 4,000 public computers have been cut from libraries and jobcentres. Good Things Foundation knows from our work with our network across the country that having access to a computer and having digital skills can greatly improve a person’s life chances and quality of life.”
  • UK publishers urged to tackle library crisis – BookSeller. “Coates, a former Waterstones boss, argues the main problem with libraries is not a lack of funding but a shortage of books inside them. According to his analysis of figures last December, library spending on books fell 20% in year-on-year in the 12 months to the end of March 2018 ” … ““In America public libraries thrive and publishers support them. Publishers in the UK have lost interest in public library services because they now sell so little to them . What they are missing by this lack of concern is the longer term advantage that libraries offer of bringing readers into the market.” The campaigner has continually questioned why library services in the US and Australia appear to have held up while figures for the UK show a service in decline.”

Axiell Selflib
International news

  • Canada – This Library Takes an Indigenous Approach to Categorizing Books  – Yes Magazine. “The library aims to counter Western, colonial bias and better reflect the knowledge of Indigenous peoples. By offering an alternative to the widely used Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress classification systems, this library aims to take steps toward decolonizing the way information is sorted, cataloged, and shared.”
  • USA – Library fines hit Seattle’s lower-income neighborhoods hardest – Crosscut. “the proposed seven-year, $213.3 million property tax levy the mayor rolled out last week, Seattle Public Libraries would do away with late fees, following a trend of libraries across the country looking to make access to their materials and services more equitable. “We find that fines are barriers in ways that they really shouldn’t be, and they don’t need to be, and we can have a better system,”
  • USA: Library fines with Meg DePriest and Beth Crist – Princh. “Should library fines be abolished? Are they a vital source of revenue for libraries, or do they do more harm than good? Are they in line with the mission of libraries, or are they contradictory to it? You can find the answer to these and many other questions in episode two of the Princh Library Lounge! In this episode our host, Vicky Woolbarn, is joined by Beth Crist and Meg DePriest, two experts on the topic of library fines.”
  • USA – Oh it’s such a perfect library – Big Issue. “New York Public Library is issuing 6,000 new library cards emblazoned with Mick Rock’s iconic photograph of Reed as featured on the Transformer album sleeve, to celebrate the opening of the Lou Reed Archive.”

Local news by authority

  • Blaenau Gwent – Council gave trust £82k to spend on library stock but only £27k was used – South Wales Argus. “he county borough’s libraries are run by the Aneurin Leisure Trust, with money transferred from the council into a book fund to run services. Blaenau Gwent council allocated £82,000 to the book fund for 2017/18 but only £27,000 was spent by the Trust. Spending on resources for libraries in Blaenau Gwent is the lowest in Wales, according to the Museums, Archives and Libraries Division (MALD) of Welsh Government.”

“The meeting heard the council is working with the Trust to try to increase further the amount it spends on libraries. At a scrutiny meeting on Monday, Cllr Phil Edwards asked how many years libraries had been ‘robbed’ of funding which had been allocated for resources.”

  • Bridgend – Good news for book borrowers as Pyle Library reopens – Glamorgan Gem. “Pyle Library reopened this week and there was good news for all libraries in Bridgend county borough – fines on overdue books are to discontinued. Awen Cultural Trust, which runs the libraries, announced that it will be abolishing all late fines from April 1.” … “The registered charity, which runs 12 branches, a mobile library and a housebound service on behalf of Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC), will be the first in Wales to eliminate the fines, following in the footsteps of some libraries in England and the Republic of Ireland. “
  • Cheshire East – Conservatives launch Cheshire East manifesto for May’s election – Winsford and Middlewich Guardian. “Maintain the borough’s libraries and children’s centres”
  • East Dunbartonshire – Three East Dunbartonshire libraries ‘saved’ after new funding is found – Herald. “The fate of the libraries – around 40% of the local authority’s complement – were discussed on Thursday night as the local authority met to set its budget and how it fills what they say is an almost £8 million shortfall. In an 11th hour move, the Conservative/Liberal Democrat council administration has agreed £200,000 extra funds for its culture arm, the East Dunbartonshire Leisure Trust, which operates the library service to stave off any closure.”
  • Hertfordshire – St Albans Library reopens after major refurbishment – Hertfordshire County Council. “St Albans Library recently reopened its doors after a short closure, to show off all of its new and exciting features to the public. The library has had a complete facelift, with an improved children’s area, IT and study facilities, new low-level shelving to make the most of the views of the St Albans skyline, a bookable meeting room and a new CreatorSpace facility, which will be fully open to the public from Monday 25 March.”
  • Highlands – Bravery award for Fort William ‘gun’ incident librarianBBC. “A librarian has been recognised for her bravery in an incident where a man came into her building holding what looked like a handgun. Sandra MacLean, 63, who was working as a supervisor at the time, “calmly and discreetly” evacuated Fort William library of visitors and staff. After alerting police, she then went back into the building to make sure the man was still there. Ms MacLean left the library and locked it to make sure he could not escape. The man, who was 26, was jailed for 18 months in connection with the incident which happened on 25 May 25 2017. The gun was a replica.”
  • South Gloucestershire – Kingswood Library closes its doors but will reopen nearby soon – Bristol Live. “Kingswood Library has closed its doors while work is carried out to relocate it across the road. The library building, which was located at the end of Kingswood High Street, will be closed permanently from today (March 18). But the service will open to the public again on April 8, just across the road inside Kingswood Civic Centre.”
  • Suffolk – New chapter for The Coffee House duo at Bury St Edmunds Library – Bury Free Press. “Lucy Newell and Jessica Darnell, who run the business, moved into the library, in Sergeant’s Walk, at the beginning of the month after the lease at their Ixworth premises expired.”
  • Windsor and Maidenhead – Container library set to tour Royal Borough on the back of a lorry – Maidenhead Advertiser. “The container library was officially relaunched at an event outside Wraysbury Town Hall on Wednesday. The mobile library is attached to the back of a lorry and is set to journey across the Royal Borough. Its destinations will include Sunningdale, Wraysbury, Holyport, Shifford Crescent and Woodlands Park, and will contain hundreds of books, as well as eBooks, eAudiobooks, large print books and eMagazines. The self-service kiosk will also allow residents to make payments for council services like council tax or green bin subscriptions.”

It’s an honour

Editorial

Good to see computers being replaced in Lancashire this week but, overall, the Huddington Post estimates an impressive 4000 public computers have been lost since 2010. Perhaps if public libraries were more respected then not so many would have been killed. Libraries Connected have a plan about that, wanting to encourage more people to be nominate especially impressive public librarians for the Honours List. You can read about it below, and my thoughts on why you should in a separate post. Another MBE here or BEM there won’t make all the difference of course but it can’t hurt. What will make a difference is yourselves, working hard to make your library services as good as possible and spreading the news that libraries are worth more than any honour.

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If not now, when? Plus a fair bit of good news

Editorial

A fair amount of good news today. In a subject close to my heart – not least because I’ve seen children cry and people walk away from libraries over the issue – another library service, Blackpool,  has announced that it will get rid of all fines. That makes nine services in the UK so far and I understand that there’s a lot of interest out there from other ones as well. The debate about practicality of waiving fines seems to be over before it even started: the time has come for getting rid of fining your customers,  it’s just working out how to fund it.  In other news, Powys has backed down from £200k cuts thus continuing the tradition of Welsh and Scottish councils being more willing to change their minds on the issue than their English counterparts. Cambridge has scrapped new computer charges after noticing they were only making one tenth of the expected income, due to, well, the people who use them not having tons of money. And a Suffolk library is being refurbished and having its opening hours extended. It’s a joy to report on libraries today frankly. My thanks also to Liz Gardner for taking the time in this post to explain the idea and practice behind having video bedtime stories. It strikes me as a really good and duplicatable idea. Get on it, Public Libraries News readers.

Finally, it’s the couple of weeks of the national library petition. It’s got nearly 33,000 signatures already but could do with a ton more. Get on it, sign it and tell people you know how important it is. Because, of if not now, when?

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Night libraries

Editorial

A tweet that said “what if public libraries were open late every night and we could engage in public life there instead of having to choose between drinking at the bar and domestic isolation” has been liked, at time of press, 223 000 times. Now one suspects that this is mainly because Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex, with over 3 million followers, tweeted on it with a comment but still, that’s a lot of people agreeing with it, which suggests some pretty heft pent up demand.

So let’s look at the concept of “night libraries”. If a neutral observer looked at the opening hours of the typical public library, there’d be a few conclusions to be drawn. One is that they’re largely for people who do not work as they tend to have the bulk of opening hours during the daytime, only a few hours each week in the evening and, mostly, one would be lucky if they were open for more than half a day over the entire weekend. Another conclusion could be, if one were more cynical than I, that they were there to be suited to staff desires and availability – who wants to work late night after late night? – in some cases rather than that of the public. Yet another would be that, well, in many areas being open in the evening would not work anyway: there’s some fairly dead areas out there after dark and antisocial behaviour would spike, especially in places like public libraries that are quite rightly open to all. There’s also the comment, which I really like, by @Librareon, who said “Hey! I’d settle for being able to afford day time libraries” which gets to the heart of the problem: opening hours cost money and libraries aren’t really awash with that commodity at the mo.

But, effectively, it still means that the majority of libraries are only open at times that suit those who, for whatever reason, do not work. There is demand, especially in cities, for libraries to open for longer. I’ve seen this at Storyhouse, open pretty much to 10 or 11pm most evenings, including Sundays, and I’m sure Chester is not unique. The challenge, for those areas where it would work, if we want to widen their appeal, is to find ways of doing it. And that means the money. I’m not sure Open+ would appeal to the tweeter really, although I’d be interested to hear otherwise. With Chester, it was a combination with a theatre (and a decision very early on not to barrier the library when the staff there went home). That may be the solution in some lucky places. In others, there will be other ways. I hope to describe them here and, being I write these posts at night, perhaps one day in one of them.

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Going bye the board?

Editorial

The big talking point on library-land social media the last few days has been something on the face of it pretty boring: Hertfordshire are changing their byelaws to include volunteers. The change means volunteers have the right to use the byelaws and puts them more on a par with paid staff. Presumably, Herts are worried that, if an incident occurs, then volunteers, who are sole staffers of many of their branches, with more cuts on the cards, would otherwise not be able to do legally do anything about it other than call the police. Also it suggests a whole bunch of other library services who rely on the unpaid to keep their libraries open will need to do the same.

The DCMS needs to approve the change but there will be no problem there. Nor will there be with Libraries Connected who – despite its recent public awareness of the impact cuts – has been an enabler for replacing salaried personnel with the free alternative almost since the start of the phenomenon. Some hope CILIP may raise a warning. My view is that this is an inevitable acceptance or, depending on your view, a further sliding down of the slippery slope, of the consequences of accepting volunteers as replacements for staff that started at around the same time austerity kicked off. Some would put the date earlier. Inevitable or not, it’s hard to see what else needs to be done before there’s effectively no difference between the paid and unpaid in at least some UK public libraries. Well, apart from qualifications, training, average time commitment and salary that is.

The rest of the news is remarkably good. Camden is refreshing its IT. This is, fair enough, every service should do anyway but these days is not a given. The proposed closure of several Moray libraries has been cancelled and there’s even a couple of re-openings, two new libraries and a refurbishment. This is brilliant news. Great news also for York Explore which has won a further, and remarkably long, 15 year extension to its contract. It looks like they have had to accept a reasonable reduction in budget to do it, though, although the mutual (which does not have to answer freedom of information requests) and the council have been a bit vague about that.

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A blueprint for libraries … and watching Bridgend with interest

Editorial

There’s something big and national going on at the moment called the “Blueprint project” going on at the moment looking at how public libraries should position themselves in the future. It’s early days yet but it looks like those involved want regional development organisationss. Being involved in one of these at the moment, Time To Read North West, I can attest how useful this would be. Although I’ve discovered 32 such examples of UK public libraries working together, there is still very little co-operation in some areas and much resultant duplication of effort. So it’s good that that may be change. I’m less sure about other changes listed like to the “legislative framework, funding routes, quality standards and digital connectivity”, for a variety of reasons. Particularly concerning is the “funding routes” one, which from what I can piece together, is pushing for more franchising out of central government work and also commercial partnerships. The problem with both is, of course, the danger of losing unique selling points of the library – like neutrality – in favour of simple money. Chiefs will need to be very careful about that, which will be hard when money is being waved around, and the initial experience of working with Sopra Steria, did not bode well, although I understand things are better now.

Well, that’s big picture stuff, let’s get granular now …  it’s good to see the Wirral may be getting some investment and that a £150k cut in Brent has been cancelled. A move towards outsourcing, which looked very likely, in Swindon has been cancelled, possibly due to the leading politician in favour of it no longer being in charge or possibly due to other factors like a concern that a non-local concern may take it over. In the bad news side of the coin, there’s warnings of cuts in Aberdeenshire and Bridgend. The last has already outsourced its library service so it will be interesting to see if the Awen Leisure Trust, which runs it now, will take such cuts lying down or will publicly protest them. It’s been fascinating to see such open disagreements happen in one or two Trusts, which I see as a bid advantage of them, so I’ll be watching Bridgend with interest.

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Diversity and austerity

Editorial

I come from a fairly typical background in South Wales. My parents could not afford all the books I wanted and I had to catch the bus to the local library . Working hard at the local comprehensive I made my way to university in Exeter and then Sheffield and thus to libraries. I did not think at the time if my capability in doing this was in any way due to being male or white. But being I clearly remember racism and sexism being a big thing in 1970s and even the 80s I suspect it helped. So it’s good to see the need for diversity being recognised on the national level, not least because of the fact that, shockingly, 97% of the library profession is white compared to 88% of the population as a whole. And I remember in the 1990s when I started working that everyone thought, as a man, that I’d be on a fast track to promotion. Such thoughts may be less overt now but I suspect they’re still there.

I get accused sometimes of singing the praises rather too much of librarians and this is true. I love libraries and think there are few roles more rewarding to society and self than working towards the library ideal. But I’d be wilfully blind not to admit that there are problems in the profession. Last post, I touched upon the lack of apparent importance given to a core service, indeed the book is to many the core, by many in the sector. A rebalancing slightly away from gushing about makerspaces (which will only, when it comes down to it, ever be a side activity) and theatre shows (likewise) towards actually making our book offer look professional is long overdue. And this lack of diversity is something else that needs to be addressed.

The protests against the cuts in Essex continue to dominate the news. They clearly love their underfunded and under-appreciated (by the council) libraries there and it’s great to see. Whether the protests will actually achieve anything, other than possibly extract a few token concessions, is in question as English councils do not have a brilliant track record with actually listening during library consultations. It’s notable, in fact, that councils are far more likely change tack after reading the results of them in the other parts of the UK. Why this is may be open to question: possibly due to their being less True Believer Conservatives in power but presumably also to them questionably being (slightly) less affected by austerity. An example of this is Neath Port Talbot in this post who have cancelled four closures down to the public response. Good to see. And I hope the campaigners in Essex can take heart from it, and their councillors listen.

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Hello Library Sector, it’s me, Book

Editorial

Libraries Connected have done some work to their (previously very sparse) website and added links to some useful resources. There’s not much new there – and, my, it shows how few free resources there are for reading – but it’s good to see them there. Speaking of reading, LC (I can’t help but call it Elsie) have done some nice statistics summaries, which show that more than three quarters of library visitors are there for the books. I find the lack of serious projects or indeed discussion, or any kind of focus, on books one of the biggest black holes in libraries in the last decade. By rights, there should be initiative after initiative in boosting what is very much our core product. But no. apart from some sterling work by the Reading Agency, the focus of much of the sector has been on what are, ultimately, side projects like makerspaces and coding. These are great to be sure but there seriously needs to be some rebalancing going on.  Those books on the shelves are important and the lack of serious training or concentration on boosting their use is as dangerous as the repeated cuts to their funding over the years. Another curious stat gleaned from the LC tables is that, using the figure of 2,080 hours work per year per 1 FTE, a full eighteen times more work is done in libraries by paid staff than by volunteers. Yes, despite all the coverage, it’s the poor (down 5% in one year, salary freezes or pay increases below inflation for a decade) employees who are still doing the vast amount of the actual work.

The news that the National Literacy Trust is boasting about working with shoe shops to boost literacy is as puzzling as library services who are disregarding books and paid staff. NLT, please, dudes, hello. We’re Over Here. Work with us. Local authority-wise, there’s some good news in Buckinghamshire, Cornwall (who have, by the way, quietly passed a ton of their libraries to parish/town councils) and Milton Keynes. The £200k reduction in the previously announced big £1m Worcestershire cut is entirely offset by a £200k cut in Powys. Finally, the new post announced in CILIP has, to say the least, raised some eyebrows on social media after the deep job losses that occurred last year.

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