Take a short break on Saturday afternoon, 15 June, to swap notes with other library supporters and chat to a best-selling author – in London, or online. It’s TLC’s mini-conference and AGM. It’s free, and open to non-members.

The venue is Victoria library, 160 Buckingham Palace Road, SW1W 9TR. It’s close to Victoria Coach Station and a short walk from Victoria station and tube (or take a 170, 185, 211 or C10 bus). Or, of course, just put your feet up at home… 

Tea, coffee and biscuits will be served from 1.30pm. The meeting starts at 2pm.

We’re delighted to have as our guest Louise Candlish, best-selling writer of psychological thrillers – now shortlisted for this year’s Dagger in the Library award from the Crime Writers’ Association (pic above.) We already know her as a supporter of libraries, who will have insightful answers to your questions.

We’ll then move on to discussing your concerns, and what The Library Campaign is up to, with a short AGM, finishing at 3.30pm. (We have vacancies for trustees. If you want to know more, contact us at thelibrarycampaign@gmail.com).

Please register here – if you plan to attend online you must do so to receive the link.

We have covered in the past the appalling damage being done to Ukraine’s libraries. It appears to be a deliberate ploy to destroy not just human lives, but the country’s very identity. 

More than 600 public libraries and 2,000 school libraries have been damaged or destroyed by Russian troops. 

Ukraine librarians have asked Libraries Connected (our library chiefs’ organisation) to help them fund a mobile library to reach communities that have nothing.

LC hopes to raise £10,000 to buy a used vehicle and drive it to Ukraine. Money very well spent, we think. But not yet fully raised!

The appeals runs for eight weeks until 5 June 2024

Donations can be made at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/mobile-library-to-ukraine

As more and more local councils slash vital services, librarians’ association CILIP continues to speak up. As it should.

Last week it was quick to point out the truth behind the government’s hasty provision of “exceptional financial support” for 19 chosen councils. What that means is permission to make a fire sale of public assets – just to keep going day to day. 

“This framework creates a material risk,” CILIP said, “that councils will sell off parts of their property portfolio, including libraries, to address the funding shortfall caused by the withdrawal of central government grants.” Irresponsible or what?

“We know from our experience supporting library services across the UK, this is a one-way trip – once a library building is sold off, it permanently impairs the life chances and property values of local residents. It’s a one-way deal and very much like using the credit card to pay the mortgage.” 

Now it is calling directly on the libraries minister, Lord Parkinson (picture), to intervene. He has legal power to do so, as we all know. The latest Budget actually makes things worse for local councils – including libraries.

Once again, CILIP unpicks the fancy government phrases. Its “public sector productivity plan”  just means yet more pressure to conjure up “savings” – ie, cut services even more. This is not “a budget for long-term growth”. Such a budget would, instead, be about “real reinvestment into local services, including libraries”.

What the budget offers, says CILIP, is pure short-termism and “a material threat to the nation’s life-changing libraries…

“We stand ready to work with the minister to protect and build on the UK’s world-class library network, but we can only do so if those libraries still exist.” 

We can all support CILIP’s call on social media with a #DearChancellor tag.

We continue to be inundated with dreadful stories about library plans. The sheer size of Birmingham shows up the insanity of cuts (essential social services! 25 libraries! almost all cultural provision! fire
sale of assets!) so clearly that even the Telegraph has noticed. It is urging central government to “act, and fast… [or] it will be remembered as the one that abandoned English cultural life”. And much
more…
We document all the stories.
Now the librarians’ association CILIP is starting to do the same. If you send us news of your own service (to thelibrarycampaign@gmail.com), please also go through the rather fiddly process of adding it to CILIP’s national map at https://cilip.org.uk/page/libraries-at-risk. If you want to be contacted, put in your email address.
CILIP has also published some brief but sensible advice on campaigning. You have to register to see it at
https://www.cilip.org.uk/page/know-your-rights. Right at the bottom is an offer of direct help from CILIP – “our capacity is limited, but we will help whenever we can”. As, to be fair, it has sometimes done in the past. This help might include letters to council, DCMS, MPs etc or, “in extremis”, local media. Only if your library staff includes a CILIP member. But well worth a try.
All this is coming rather late in the game, it has to be said. But it is good to see CILIP moving in the right direction. Meanwhile, you can find much more comprehensive advice and info straight off from us at
http://www.librarycampaign.com, or one-to-one via email.

We were alerted to the fact that The Library Campaign reached the ripe old age of 40 on Sunday 4 February. The conference which led to the founding of the campaign was held in Sheffield on Saturday 4 February 1984 and Terry Hanstock, one of the organisers of that conference, wrote to Public Libraries News to highlight the anniversary. Those of us who were around then and are still active in the Campaign thought the conference was on 4 March but would trust the people who actually did the work.

Terry mentions in his email to PLN that Paul Foot made a donation to the organisers, which helped start the Campaign. Our recollection is that what he said on the day was along the lines of ‘I don’t think we should all turn up to a conference and go away thinking it was very interesting and a good day out – something should come from it so I am donating my Public Lending Right payment to help with that.’ It was the first year that authors received PLR payments.

Photo by Robert Anderson on Unsplash

The Library Campaign is seldom super-excited by government reviews of libraries. More money would solve a lot of their problems. However, it’s better that they appear somewhere on the national agenda than not.
Here’s step 1: the new report on libraries (England only though), written by Conservative peer Baroness (Liz) Sanderson. The Library Campaign was closely involved, alongside other national bodies. She accepted many things we said, but alas rejected others, including the need for a national advertising campaign. The report has already been endorsed by government and will form the basis of a national “strategy” this year.
In this political climate, Liz knew better than to ask for proper funding. But her report certainly pinpoints plenty of underlying issues worth getting on with. It’s not too painfully long – 49 pages.
She concludes, to nobody’s surprise, that the core problem is not enough awareness of what libraries do – among central government, local councils, the public and even the library sector itself.

RECOMMENDATIONS
1. The establishment of a national data hub to better evidence the role libraries play in our society
2. A national branding campaign to raise awareness of our libraries
3. The closer involvement of the British Library
4. An expanded library membership
5. A stronger volunteer network
6. The creation of a Libraries Minister and a more joined- up approach within government
7. The establishment of a Libraries Laureate
8. A change to the timing of Libraries Week to better involve politicians nationally and locally

Link to report & government response here and what The Library Campaign said to Sanderson here.

— 

Love the libraries, love the buildings! Meet conservation architect Dr Oriel Prizeman from Cardiff University’s ‘Shelf-Life’ project on revitalising these stunning buildings.
She will talk about their past, present and future:
   •    Andrew Carnegie, the man and the ethos behind his bequests.
   •    The history of the creation of the libraries, leading on to recent history.
   •    The role the libraries have played in Britain over more than 100 years.
   •    Relations between Carnegie libraries.
   •    Architectural and heritage considerations.
   •    A look towards the future.
Tea, cake and a warm welcome from the Friends at Carnegie library, 188 Herne Hill Rd, London SE24 0DG.
Information and directions: http://friendsofcarnegielibrary.org.uk

PUBLIC LIBRARIES NEWS IS BACK!

Welcome back, PLN! If you are not a fan of this unique website, now is the time to become one – there’s a permanent link from our own website.
It’s ridiculous – but true – that there is no official source of regularly updated news on public libraries. All that we have is provided by volunteers. There’s The Library Campaign’s new monthly newsletter (available to all).
And, for many years now, there’s been a whole website updated weekly in his spare time by Cheshire librarian Ian Anstice. It now adds up to a considerable resource.
In April it came to a stop, for the worst of reasons. Ian had a heart attack. Now it’s back.
We are delighted to see Ian back in health.
By the way, he is looking for some volunteer help – nothing much – to get back up to date.

Public libraries need lots of things. A new government strategy may not be the first that comes to mind. But the hope is that it will keep public libraries on the map, and offer some useful ideas – and action.

We’ve now reached a staging post. Baroness (Liz) Sanderson has completed her task of compiling information. This has now gone to the DCMS (Department for Culture, Media & Sport). The DCMS will now write the strategy, expected next year.

TLC has been very much part of the process so far. We have met Liz Sanderson (read about it in our magazine, issue no 104, page 7) and attended a meeting of relevant organisations.

We have also contributed our own evidence. Here it is.

Libraries Connected East has conducted extensive research that happily reveals that England’s public libraries generate a value of £3.4 billion a year and we at The Library Campaign think that far more people should know about this. On their website Libraries Connected say that:

“Through extensive library visits, user interviews, and statistical analysis, the authors estimated that a branch library typically provides £1 million in value annually. They then extrapolated the findings to all of England’s 3,000 libraries, giving a national total of £3.4 billion. Using Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA) spending data for the year 2021/22, this represents a return on investment of at least six times cost.”

We hope this report is taken seriously by local authorities. Spending on libraries has fallen by 17% in the last year, while in-person visits are rapidly returning to pre-Covid levels. More and more councils are scrapping late return fees, as was reported a few months ago here in The Guardian.

The full report from Libraries Connected can be viewed as a PDF here.

(The picture is of the Millennium Library in Norwich)

Grove Park Library is one that has been run by a social enterprise organisation for some years after Lewisham Council in South London decided they couldn’t or wouldn’t afford it. That organisation has pulled out at very short notice and the Council is now trying to find an alternative provider (it looks as though they won’t or don’t want to run it directly.) There is a Change petition with over 800 signatures, which you can find here: https://www.change.org/p/save-grove-park-library

And late off the mark we have a Lewisham one too: https://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?id=2088

There is also an Instagram account with links and updates
https://instagram.com/savegroveparklibrary?igshid=NTc4MTIwNjQ2YQ==

If you have some thinking time over the weekend, the library world would like to know two things.
First, what do you think of the very first beta version of the national libraries website? It aims to tell everyone what libraries offer, and how to find your local branch. Find it here: https://libraryon.org
Comment here: hello@libraryon.org, with subject ‘LibraryOn feedback’ And do please copy in TLC! We have our views. We’d like yours: thelibrarycampaign@gmail.com

Second, (Baroness) Liz Sanderson continues her fact-finding mission, to feed into the coming government strategy for public libraries. There’s some cynicism out there about what it might achieve.
Especially as there’s a big elephant in the room – more funding is not on the agenda. However, it’s also fair to say that libraries have long had other faults (and strengths) that had little to do with money. Library users, we are sure, have knowledge and experience that should be taken on board.
Read the latest report here: https://dcmslibraries.blog.gov.uk/2023/03/30/libraries-strategy-update
Comment here: libraries-strategy@dcms.gov.uk.
Again, do please copy in TLC! We have our views – and we’ll be feeding them direct to Liz. We’d like to add yours: thelibrarycampaign@gmail.com

As Tolstoy didn’t quite say: ‘All happy libraries are alike; each unhappy library is unhappy in its own way.’ So, when TLC compiles evidence for a consultation, we make sure we understand the local situation in full. Thus it was in Redditch, where an outstanding local library could be demolished to create a rather empty piazza.
But some factors are always consistent from case to case. It’s always obvious that libraries are hugely popular. It’s always useful to channel this via a well informed Friends group. Friends do detailed research. They publicise things that are not always well publicised. They speak up, when council staff and members are constrained in what they can say. And they can be fully independent, when others try to make the affair a party political spat…
Both public and Friends groups always come up with original, creative alternative ideas. What a shame these never get a chance to emerge until unpopular plans are well advanced.

We’re having an OPEN MEETING for everyone interested in public libraries, whether or not they are Library Campaign members, at UNISON CENTRE, 130 EUSTON ROAD, LONDON, NW1 2AY.
GUEST SPEAKER: Isobel Hunter (Chief Executive, Libraries Connected) with LC’s analysis of the current library landscape, to start our discussions – including on the Sanderson inquiry into public libraries
in England, which foreshadows a new government Public Library Strategy.
Plus anything else you want to talk about! The venue is close to the train and tube stations at Euston and King’s Cross. We hope to see as many people as possible face-to-face (over tea,
coffee and biscuits) but… YOU CAN ATTEND ONLINE
The meeting will be available via Microsoft Teams. You do not need to download Teams to attend online but you must register on Eventbrite and say that you want to do so. A link will be sent closer to the time
of the meeting.
AFTER THAT for Library Campaign members only – OUR AGM. We’ll be brief, but we’ll cover our recent activities, the accounts, elections of officers and other trustees.
WANT TO GET INVOLVED?
We are looking for new members of our advisory panel (called trustees because we are a charity). We want your ideas, your experiences and your news, to keep us fully in touch and responsive to your needs. It doesn’t mean a lot of work. To find out more, contact us: thelibrarycampaign@gmail.com
BOOK for the day via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/annual-general-meeting-sanderson-inquiry-into-public-libraries-tickets-551496971287

One of our gripes is that there are wonderful national “weeks” or “days” where Friends could lay on some exciting events – but details of available resources come out rather late for making plans.

So hooray for British Science Week. It’s 10-19 March in 2023. And the goodies are available now. The only problem is that there is so much to choose from!

There are four activity packs: for early years, primary school age, secondary school age and community use. They have general tips for organising events, discussion suggestions plus ideas for mini-projects, with plenty of graphics to download.

These include a darts game to explore immunotherapy treatments for cancer, how to get DNA from a strawberry, how to research air pollution, an experiment based on planting two pairs of pants, making
a nature mandala… As serious or as wacky as you like! The ideas can be used all year round, of course, but March could be a good time to start.

The project to give England’s libraries a much-needed “digital presence” is gradually making progress. It now has a name – LibraryOn. We hope 2023 will show visible results. And you can get in on the ground floor – if you have photos of your library. The team (at the British Library) wants to stockpile some
“high-quality images to use on the platform that demonstrate what the modern public library does and their impact. For example:

• places where people can work, study and learn
• groups offering support, learning and companionship
• friendly interactions between staff and customers
• storytimes that children and carers enjoy together.”

“If you have pictures that fit the bill, please send them to us, including relevant information such as the name of the library and the setting. If they’re large files, you might want to send them in a zipped folder, use a file-sharing tool like WeTransfer or send us a link to an online photo album.”

“Please ensure you’ve secured all relevant permissions before submitting them, and include photo credits.” Send to: hello@libraryon.org, with the subject line “Library photos”

Late, but not too late? We apologise for being slow to realise that Friends groups can nominate their library services for a prestigious national award! But time is short…
The Libraries Connected Awards were launched last year. Nominations from staff and insiders only. This year, we found the list included “anyone working in or with public libraries, including volunteers and
library partners”. We thought: “Logically, that includes Friends groups.” So we checked. And we were right.
So – if you can get something together by 31 December, please do. The awards are grouped under six categories, to match the six “offers”that libraries make:
• Culture and Creativity
• Health and Wellbeing
• Information and Digital
• Reading
• Children Promise
• Visual and Print Impaired People’s Promise
The website gives loads of advice, including FAQs and even sample entries!

It’s seldom easy to get the mainstream press to cover library stories. The Guardian is better than most. And it has started off December with – we hope – a message that can’t be brushed aside.

A Guardian leader on Saturday 3 December spelled out the seriousness of the current situation. It refers to the mass closures during “austerity” up to 2019. It links this to the loss of a quarter of their funding. This point is often overlooked in clever-dick analyses that see any decline as proof of libraries’ “irrelevance”.

Then it brings us sharply up to date: “It has taken the catastrophic cost of living crisis of the last few months to reassert the claim of the 3,000 surviving outlets to be the beating heart of their communities: places where people can go not only to find books, information and internet access, but also to play, meet up and keep warm.”  

Arts Council England, it notes, is getting the point. Improved funding for selected leading services is “a step change”. But that is still peanuts, rising from £1.5m to just £4.1m.

And it’s not the point. The Guardian quotes the recent select committee’s call for proper basic government funding for all libraries, as we reported last month. And it adds: “Responsibility for core costs remains with local authorities, and this is where the real anxieties lie, as councils struggle to balance the books in the face of yet more cuts… 

“It is vital that the government steps up. The cost of not doing so is unimaginable.”

A longer, darker, story appeared on Sunday 4 December in the Observer, the Guardian’s sister paper. It’s about Ukraine. Our Library Campaigner magazine got there first, with a feature on Ukraine’s heroic librarians in our last issue (page 15). Kate Thompson focused mainly on their humanitarian work – sheltering, comforting and equipping local people.

But the Observer looks at even deeper issues. Russia, right from the start, has deliberately bombed and ransacked archives, state records and cultural collections. Including records of its own activities, now and in the past. The aim is simple – to destroy Ukraine’s national memory, and its national identity.

Everyone should read this account of Ukraine’s impressive fightback. The people know what is at stake. Do we in the UK realise just how much libraries matter? Does the government? 

In our spring magazine we reported on a rather mysterious nationwide project. The one thing we knew was that libraries would be involved. It had begun as Theresa May’s idea to celebrate the UK’s creative
wonders in the post-Brexit world to come. It never did shake off its label as “The Festival of Brexit”, though it was never called that. At the last minute it acquired the mystifying name “Unboxed”. It didn’t help. The verdict now is that it was a poor way to spend £120m.
Participation didn’t quite reach its… ahem… “stretch target” of 66 million worldwide. 2.8 million is the latest official figure. Published comment has ranged from unconvinced to downright scathing.
But wait! The big success was the libraries! Fifteen services staged the high tech Unboxed mix of virtual reality experiences and outdoor guided trails telling local stories. The Reading Agency reports “exceptionally high footfall, with many authorities experiencing visitor numbers not seen prior to the Covid pandemic.”
“Of the high percentage of new visitors, 67% said they thought they were now more likely to visit the library as a result of experiencing StoryTrails.”
Protect partner Professor James Bennett says: “StoryTrails has provided thousands with their first taste of immersive storytelling: and they loved it! 91% rated our 3D local map experience 4* or 5*.
Most libraries reported a two- or three-fold increase in footfall, reconnecting visitors to their local library spaces which are such crucial centres of storytelling in our communities.”
Proof yet again that libraries are a uniquely trusted venue for new experiences. And that library staff are well able to learn new skills and adapt to almost anything…

Sighs of relief all round this week when the government announced – it is not changing the libraries minister! It’s still Lord Parkinson. [Apologies to those who caught up with Liz Truss’s short-lived appointment / allocation of the library brief to someone else.]

Over the years, libraries ministers have changed almost as rapidly as Prime Ministers in the past few weeks. Each time, DCMS civil servants and library bodies have patiently taken them on visits, talked to them and taught them what libraries do. They usually need it.

So it’s good not to have to start all over again. Libraries Connected trustee Ayub Khan told an LC webinar: “He’s been pragmatic and thoughtful, shown a genuine interest. I’m really, really pleased.”

Meanwhile, a well-timed boost to libraries – tying them very firmly in to the levelling up agenda (what’s left of it) – from the Parliamentary select committee for culture*. 

It endorses libraries as “an important part of a community’s infrastructure for people who are digitally excluded or who live in deprived neighbourhoods” – but also for quality of life, flourishing local high streets and as “engines for entrepreneurship, economic growth and job creation”. 

And it actually asks for proper funding. (Grim footnote: “Evidence to our inquiry posited that, for every £1 spent on library services in 2009–10, 58p was spent in 2017–18: an even sharper decline than spending on culture and heritage in the round.”)

Here again, no change is good news. Michael Gove is back in the saddle as secretary of state for levelling up. Whatever one might think of him in general, it’s good not to have to start all over again with a new boy. And the starter work he supervised was mostly well thought of. The one agreed flaw – lack of proper, stable funding… 


https://committees.parliament.uk/work/1744/reimagining-where-we-live-cultural-placemaking-and-the-levelling-up-agenda/publications

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