It’s not all that often that library users get asked what they think about anything, so TLC is happy to pass on this message from Stratchclyde University…

Downloading the new normal – public library focus groups:

We are conducting a series of focus groups to explore how the CoVID lockdown has affected public library usage and the consequences of the forced library closures on the lives of public library users in the UK.

This will help provide evidence to support the development of library services in the UK.

For this initial set of focus groups, we seek the involvement of adults, over the age of 18, who are regular users of a UK public library, who used digital library services during lockdown, and who can take part in a focus group using Zoom. Later focus groups will be face-face and seek the involvement of those who could not use digital library services and do not have access to Zoom. The focus groups will take place at the end of June and start of July 2021, will last no more than 90 minutes, and all participants will receive a £25 voucher for their participation.

If you would like to volunteer, please follow this link for further information and to sign up. This link will be valid until 28th June 2021.

Sign-up: Downloading the New Normal Focus Groups

For any questions about this study please contact Dr Elaine Robinson.

Our first Zoom meeting on 14 April was a success. People attended from all over the country. The feedback we’ve had chimes in with our own thoughts – people value the chance to see others and share ideas. Some good stuff came out of it – and many suggestions.

Among the points to emerge were:

·    All Friends groups are valuable, whether they are fighting cuts or supporting a service that isn’t in crisis.

·    Many groups produce useful material that could be shared.

·    The government (DCMS) has a legal duty to ensure good services … but doesn’t.

·    National library bodies seldom do things that library users see as high priority – such as… ·      Demonstrate that libraries are great value for money ·      Run a publicity campaign for public libraries, perhaps centred on social media.

If you want to see what you missed – or refresh your memory – watch the recording of the meeting.

And we will hold another Zoom meeting soon.

CILIP has issued a sharp call to the government to get its information act together.  It also has strong words about government attitudes to education, and to public libraries.

CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library &Information Professionals) concedes that Covid-19 has ‘no easy answers’.

But, it adds, ‘we believe that an effective public policy response must be driven first and foremost by the informed and non-partisan use of the best available evidence.

It wants government ‘and all political stakeholders to commit to the open and transparent use of data to drive key decisions, and to publish the basis of those decisions in a way that is independently-verifiable.

The latest lockdown rules, it fears, ‘are driven more by politics and public opinion than evidence or strategy… ‘The circumstances demand a collective effort on the part of the public, public authorities and the media to avoid spreading disinformation about the virus.

‘We urge the government to work with CILIP to bring forward a public programme of support for health, digital and information literacy, so that individual citizens can be empowered to make informed choices about their own welfare and the safety of those around them.

This ‘could deliver very significant benefits by enabling the public to make better and more effective use of health services’.

Face-to-face education has positive benefits ‘where this can be achieved safely’.  But it may be ‘inconsistent’ with limiting infections.

‘We would welcome clarification as to why, if the risk is considered too severe for staff in retail and other establishments, it is considered appropriate to retain staff in educational establishments, particularly when so much effort has gone into creating digital alternatives.’

CILIP welcomes lockdown rules that permit English public libraries to maintain key services – if it’s done safely.  This recognises libraries as ‘essential services’, especially for online access.

‘We believe it is vital that this recognition translates into real political buy-in and investment in the years ahead.

‘Libraries [could] have done even more had they not been systematically under-funded during the past 10 years.’

Perennial favourite The Secret Garden airs on Friday (23 October 2020) in cinemas and on Sky Cinema, starring Colin Firth and Julie Walters.

It is also, of course, a great read.

Interestingly, it started as a magazine serial.  And the book (1911) was first marketed as an adult title.  Now its enduring popularity owes much to its cross-generation appeal.

The story is perfect for these unhappy times.  Two (justly) grumpy kids find magic and a new friend in a hidden garden they find on a remote country estate deep in the Yorkshire moors…

You can download a full-colour guide that serves as a souvenir programme – and includes a quiz, ideas to spark discussions and craft projects.  All provided by librarians via Libraries Connected.