Slow recovery continues

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

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

Changes by local authority

National news

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

International news

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

Local news by authority

Public library issues to be reduced by half in 2020?

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


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

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

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

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

National news

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

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

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

Chris Clarke
Friends of Jesmond Library

International news

Local news by authority

Quantity has a quality all its own

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


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

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

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

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

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

Changes by local authority

National news

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

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

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

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

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

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

International news

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

Local news by authority

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

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

Matthew Smith, Sheffield – by email.

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

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


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

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

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

National news

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

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

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

International news

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

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

Local news by authority

Reopening libraries going well so far

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


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

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

National news

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

International news

Local news by authority

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

National news

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

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

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

International news

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

Local news by authority

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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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


Shame on you, Leeds.


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


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

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

National news

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

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

Isobel Hunter, CEO, Libraries Connected

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

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

International news

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

Local news by authority

Bad news comes in threes: Vivacity, Leeds and Bertrams

For a guide on when public libraries in the UK are reopening, and the current situation, see this page.

For a guide on how libraries around the world are coping with the crisis, and the various health and safety precautions that are being used, see this page.


Well, the consequences of shutting down libraries for a few months started to be shown this last week. The leisure trust Vivacity, which has been running libraries in Peterborough since 2013 and has interests in Cambridgeshire libraries too, handed back control to the council due to running out of money because lockdown meant it had no income. This is the third trust involved in libraries to have failed in six years and leaves question-marks over some of the other organisation of this model, especially common in Scotland, who must be facing similar problems.

Announced pretty much at the same time was a terrifying story from Leeds, where the council has announced it may close every library because of extra costs incurred this year. It justifies this – on the face of it a clear breaking of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act – by claiming “a skeleton, online-lending resource” would do. Nonsense, but, as the CILIP CEO has pointed out, the Act has been a dead letter for years. How Leeds, though, will square this with the Equalities Act is anyone’s guess though. The suspicion is that this is just a way of pressuring the government and preparing the people of Leeds for deep cuts that don’t quite reach the library-geddon threatened last week.

Finally, we have the sad news that library supplier Bertrams has gone bankrupt. This is a tragedy for the hundreds of those who have lost their jobs but also represents a further tightening of the screw on the library stock supplier market, which has few enough competitors as it is.

The worry with all this is that these stories may just be the first as councils and companies up and down the country start look at their balance sheets and see Covid-related red lines. And there’s us just concentrating on infections.

"Discover the library in your pocket" RB Digital Advert


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

National news

  • Bertram Books collapses with 450 jobs at risk – BBC. “Joint administrators Turpin Barker Armstrong said the majority of staff would be made redundant with “immediate effect”. Kip Bertram, who started the company with his mother Elsie before selling it in 1999, said its collapse was “very sad for the staff, the city of Norwich and the customers”. He disputed the claims of the administrators over the reasons for the collapse, saying: “It’s nothing to do with e-Books or Covid-19 – people still like to hold and smell books.” U.K. Wholesaler Bertram Group Is Up for Sale – Publishers Weekly. Worries reported in early May. Subsidiaries are Dawson Books and Education Umbrella.
  • Libraries Connected Statement on Black Lives Matter – Libraries Connected. “We condemn racism and discrimination in all its forms. Public libraries were founded 150 years ago on principles of social justice and equality … Libraries Connected believes in a society where that racism and discrimination are replaced by equality and justice for all. We will work with libraries and partners to ensure that we use every resource at our disposal to make this happen.”

The Carnegie UK Trust is looking into how public libraries across the UK have helped and supported people and communities across the UK during lockdown. We want to use this information to help raise the profile of libraries’ contributions during Covid-19 and to advocate for public libraries’ role in supporting individuals and communities in the rebuilding process following on from lockdown. We  also want to find out and share information and learning across the sector about challenges and what didn’t work. The Trust is keen to hear the views of all library staff, including frontline staff, managers and heads of service. We would be grateful if you could circulate the following survey widely:  If you and your colleagues have 10 minutes, the Trust would love to hear your views. The deadline for responses is Friday 3 July.

Carnegie UK Trust, via email
  • Libraries of the future – Living Libraries. Ten minute audio on what the future may hold.
  • Puppy Demand, Bike Thefts and Library Openings – BBC Radio 4 You and Yours. “The book shops are open again on our high streets but what about our libraries? There’s no date set for opening in any of the nations with only Wales offering a click and collect service for borrowers.”.

“if the Secretary of State agreed today to ensure that, as part of this, he will develop a national plan for education, where local authorities are funded to make a summer holiday local offer to children and young people; where schools are provided with additional resources, such as an enhanced pupil premium to help disadvantaged children; and where public buildings such as libraries and sports centres are used to expand the space available to schools to ensure safe social distancing.” They Work For You.

Rebecca Long-Bailey MP
Covi-19 Offer from Princh - free wireless printing.

International news

Local news by authority

“While councils have a legal duty to provide library services, it is widely thought this could be pared back to a skeleton, online-lending resource without breaking that obligation.”

The scariest quote ever published on Public Libraries News
“Our buildings are closed but our service certainly isn’t” – Ayub Khan

Preparations and the public

  • For a guide on when public libraries in the UK are reopening, and the current situation, see this page.
  • For a guide on how libraries around the world are coping with the crisis, and the various health and safety precautions that are being used, see this page.


Up and down the country, staff are preparing for reopening to some extent or another. Risk assessments are being done, plastic shields are going up, markings on the floor are going down and there’s a bunch of training and (if not done already) consultation going on.

But, you know, there’s only so much that can be done to prepare. A lot of it is down to the public and how they will behave. And in this, signs are horribly mixed, with many behaving wonderfully but some others seeming even to take offence at the PPE being worn to protect them. As almost all of us at some time or other have been frontline workers, if not now, this difference in public attitudes will not be a surprise to us but the stakes are higher now than ever before. It may be worth factoring in zero tolerance and how to successfully remove people from libraries (without touching – that’s going to be challenging), into those risk assessments.

Anyway, a real test will come this week, when “non-essential” shops are reopened. Will there be spitting in Primark? Kerfuffles in John Lewis? We will see and make adjustments to our plans accordingly but, in the end, how fast and far we reopen will be down to things like the behaviour of the public and (not unconnected) infection rates. We can just make sure we are as prepared as possible …

… and watch out for curveballs like suggestions libraries can be taken over by schools to be used as classrooms.

"The home of multi access content " - RB Digital advert

National news

“We now need a proper plan for education along the lines being developed by the Scottish Government. It should cover all possible scenarios and focus on blended learning, with greatly increased support for disadvantaged children. Is the Secretary of State planning, as Scotland has done, to use public buildings, such as libraries and council offices, to relieve pressure on classroom space?”

Carol Monaghan, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Armed Forces and Veterans), House of Commons 9 June.
  • Restart of library service proves popular in Torfaen – South Wales Argus. “More than 70 people have used a new “request and collect” service from Cwmbran Library within days of it being set up. Torfaen council launched the service on Thursday, June 4, with 73 residents requesting 340 books by Monday afternoon.” … “Books will be placed in a 72-hour quarantine prior to distribution, in line with Public Health Wales guidance.” … “Newport City Council said it is finalising plans for a phased re-opening of the library service.” … “Caerphilly council is also set to start re-opening services through a phased approach.” … “Monmouthshire council would also look at a click and collect or delivery service in the future.” … “Aneurin Leisure Trust, which runs libraries in Blaenau Gwent, has previously said it is developing plans to re-open libraries in the county borough.”
  • Statement on the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, USA – CILIP. “Library, information and knowledge professionals have a key role to play in dismantling racism. The CILIP BAME Network calls on professionals to pro-actively deliver collections, services, space and teaching with the objective of creating an anti-racist society. We ask everyone to personally reflect and take action.”
  • When will libraries reopen amid easing lockdown measures? – Metro. “Under new lockdown rules, retail spaces in libraries in England can reopen form 15 June along with other non-essential retail stores provided they ensure the branches are safe for customers.” … “As for being able to borrow books from a library, at the time of writing, fully opening libraries in England is part of the third phase in the Government’s plan for easing lockdown.”
Advert for DCA "We are DCA and we work to increase the visibility of libraries"

International news

Local news by authority

Covi-19 Offer from Princh - free wireless printing.

Visions for the future: recovery guidelines, SRC, renewal taskforce and Black Lives Matter

  • For a guide on when public libraries in the UK are reopening, and the current situation, see this page.
  • For a guide on how libraries around the world are coping with the crisis, and the various health and safety precautions that are being used, see this page.


A lot of news this week to cover. The Libraries Connected guidelines for reopening libraries is expected to be formally released tomorrow, Monday (8 June), with copies already with chief librarians. I’ve seen a draft but will refrain from comment – other than to say it’s comprehensive and I approve of the great majority of it – until it is formally released.

The Summer Reading Challenge for 2020 is for obvious reasons almost entirely online and, for less obvious reasons (at least to me) launched at the far earlier than normal date of 5 June. That self-imposed deadline must have been punishing but the Reading Agency have done a grand job of getting celebrities involved and getting the website ready, although there were some glitches with the site on Friday (hopefully brought on by overuse?) and some sad comments from children asking how they can get their library books.

The make-up of the DCMS “cultural renewal taskforce” working group for libraries has been announced. It includes 3 representatives for library trusts compared to just one (and that rotating) for council-run libraries, 1 for volunteer libraries, 2 social change charities (including 1 – CIVIC – I had trouble even finding on Google but who are apparently involved with Cambridgeshire and Peterborough – yes the latter being run by another trust), CILIP, Libraries Connected and the LGA. Balancing out the preponderance of charities there are two union representatives. One would also normally expect Locality to be included on such things but, don’t worry, there’s a two for one deal there as the Libraries United boss is also a trustee of theirs. He’s clearly a busy man too as the Devon and Torbay charity is advertising for a Head of Library Service & Customer Experience to do, you know, all the actual library stuff for him, that requires. you know, library experience. A vision for the future there perhaps. Good to see it requires being a qualified chartered librarian or equivalent, though.

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention Black Lives Matter. There’s not a representative proportion of ethnic minorities in library services, with 97% of library workers (all sectors) being white compared to 88% in the UK as a whole. We can look with derision at the racism in the US but those figures suggest something is going on here too. Question why and try to even things up a bit. Please.

"Discover the library in your pocket" RB Digital Advert

Silly Squad

  • Jacqueline Wilson asks children to join Silly Squad this summer – Guardian. “Wilson, the former children’s laureate, is calling on children to sign up online for the Summer Reading Challenge, which launches on Friday. Encouraging children aged four to 11 to read during the long break, this year the focus is on funny books, and getting children to read whatever makes them happy.”
  • Silly Squad – Reading Agency. “Get rewards, play games and earn badges as you discover awesome books to read this summer”

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

National news

  • Black Lives Matter – Arts Council England. “it is clear that despite our best intentions, we have so far failed to create the systemic, structural changes needed for our sector to be truly diverse, inclusive and welcoming to people from all backgrounds. There is still a long way to go to ensure that the creative industries reflect the way England looks today.”
  • Bobby Seagull pens love letter to libraries and their vital post-Covid role – Big Issue. “the teacher, author and presenter has penned an impassioned essay for The Big Issue on the pivotal role they have played in his own life — and their huge importance in our post-Covid world” Call for evidence – DCMS. “The Committee invites written evidence on the impact of Covid-19 on any sectors under the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s remit …” Open until 19 June.
  • Councils to offer click and collect service at local libraries – Monmouthshire Beacon. “During the next few weeks, Click and Collect services will be delivered by library services across Wales.”
  • Cultural Renewal Taskforce and supporting Working Groups – Membership of libraries group includes 2 library trusts, 1 council library service (on rotation), 1 representing volunteer libraries, 2 social change charities, 2 unions, Libraries Connected, ACE, CILIP, CLOA – again representing trusts, this time leisure ones, and the LGA.
  • Heads of Service/Senior Management Consultation – British Library. “n this survey, we want to gain a deeper understanding of the current digital services you offer, what you value about them and what you would like to improve. We also want to test your appetite for a few interventions we think would provide real values to our users if delivered through a ‘single digital presence’; a digital platform that served all of the United Kingdom’s public libraries.”

“As well as making the library easier to use, we think the ‘single digital presence’ should be an interesting place to visit in its own right, capturing the vibrancy and vitality of the public library. Building this requires great content. From features on books and reading, to articles celebrating the public library as a physical space, this online platform would amplify the library’s role in UK book culture, while advertising and celebrating public libraries in a central, accessible space.”

Single Digital Presence consultation
Covid-19 offer from Princh. With our mobile printing solution, library visitors will be able to easily print and pay from their own devices. Links to Princh offer webpage.

International news

  • Australia – Strong Girls Clubs and Libraries – Jane Cowell. “The first meeting was advertised on Facebook, the Library Website, the Library What’s On booklet, and through the local High School newsletter. The unexpected surprise for our library coordinator was that the group who came to the first meeting were mostly non-binary girls.”… “It is very important to let the girls run the Club.”
  • FinlandBook lovers return to Finland’s libraries – Yahoo News. “From 1 June bars, restaurants, sports facilities and cultural sites are allowed to reopen in the Nordic nation which has so far registered 320 deaths”
  • Global – Webinar Series Title: Libraries Reopening: A Perspective of Best Practices from Around the World in the Time of COVID-19 – IRRT Webinars. Experience of reopening from Sweden (public) , Germany (academic) and Hong Kong (academic) shared in webinars this week.
  • Ireland – New ‘Call and Collect’ service at Dublin City Libraries – Dublin Libraries. “Dublin City Libraries are planning a ‘Call and collect’ collection service as part of the phased re-opening of libraries from 8th June. The first phase will be piloted in 6 branches from 8th June as follows: Cabra, Coolock and Raheny on the north side, and Dolphin’s Barn, Rathmines and Walkinstown on the south side.”
  • New Zealand – Reopening Libraries in New Zealand: Slow and Steady Wins The Race – Justin the Librarian. “In no particular order, here are the things that were done during the next two days to get the space ready …”
  • Norway – Oslo’s new library opens June 18 – Designing Libraries. “Covering six floors, Deichman Bjørvika offers experiences, technology and knowledge in all forms: literature, music, instruments, film, comics, workshops, sound rooms, children’s activities, stages, classrooms, study areas, and much, much more.”. Due to Covid, open but limited to 1000 people (!) and no events.
  • USA – Tulsa City-County Library to reopen for express service – Black Wall Street Times. From June 22: “Express service includes curbside or in-library holds pickup along with browsing, copying, printing and faxing. Computer usage will also be available with a 30-minute time limit. Library buildings will observe limited occupancy at all locations during this time to support social distancing guidelines by local and state officials””
    • A Statement from LJ on the 2020 Library of the Year – Library Journal. “When we announced The Seattle Public Library (SPL) as the 2020 Gale/LJ Library of the Year yesterday, many librarians protested our celebrating a library that had allowed the Women’s Liberation Front, an anti-trans group, to rent a meeting room for an event in February. …” and Sign on to the open letter to revoke the Library of the Year 2020 award – Signatories include multiple past winners of the Mover and Shaker Award who are asking to return their honour unless the decision is overturned.
    • New York City libraries unveil their plans to reopen – Time Out. “That’s an 864% increase in digital library card sign-ups, and about a 200% boost in new users across all of its e-reading platforms, the NYPL says.” … “Libraries across the city are planning to start offering limited services as early as July and will slowly reinstitute services over time. A full reopening will be largely contingent on health and safety recommendations, according to library officials. One thing is for sure—they’ll be taking it slowly, ensuring the safety of their visitors and staff, they said.””

Local news by authority

  • Caerphilly Library services to be reopened in phased approach – Caerphilly Observer. “The first stage of reopening library services will see the reintroduction of the LibraryLink community outreach service. However, library buildings themselves appear unlikely to reopen any time soon.”
  • Cardiff How the new Cardiff library click and collect service will work – Wales 247. “In Cardiff, phase 1 of the recovery will allow customers to pre-order titles either via libraries online catalogue or by calling a new library phone line where they will be offered a selection of five books based on their interests and preferred genres.” … “Quarantining and cleaning measures for returned books will be in place before they are reused reduce the chances of spreading COVID-19.”
  • Denbighshire – Boost to digital resources at Denbighshire libraries – Free Press. ““We have introduced new offers such as Ancestry Library … and now able to offer Press Reader to our members.”
  • Devon – Head of Library Service & Customer Experience – Libraries Unlimited. £45-55k. “you will be leading the day-to-day service across our library buildings, mobiles and online. In addition, you will be positioning the charity to be at the forefront of service excellence both with the services we offer and the customer experience we provide.”
  • Essex – When will Essex County Council libraries reopen? – Epping Forest Guardian. “A spokesperson for the campaign group said: “Essex County Council must not use the lockdown as an excuse to not reopen the threatened libraries. When it is safe to do so libraries must reopen in their pre-lockdown library buildings with pre-lockdown staffing levels.” … “From Monday, July 6 sixteen sites will re-open; Basildon*, Billericay, Braintree, Brentwood, Chelmsford, Clacton, Colchester, Dunmow, Epping, Harlow, Harwich, Maldon, Rayleigh, Rochford, South Benfleet and Witham.” … “Customers will be able to return and borrow books, as well as have some limited time to browse the shelves. The number of customers allowed in a library at any one time will need to be reduced to help people stay safe.””
  • Falkirk – Huge rise in demand for e-books in Falkirk libraries – Falkirk Herald. “E-book borrowing from Falkirk libraries has soared by 73 per cent, while March also saw a 222% increase in new users”
  • Fife – Fife library services go online and tap into huge audience in lockdown – Fife Today. “LibrarYAY Facebook group developed by the Libraries Young People team.” … “Some of the sessions have had over 800 views locally – and internationally – and that just gave us such a boost we decided to see what else would translate as an online offering.”