Dear Rishi Sunak

The Library Campaign is asking you to pay local councils what is owed them for vital lockdown services, such as public libraries.


As Chancellor, your first responsibility is to fund essential services – and ensure that provision is good value. 

According to public services union Unison, English councils have been short-changed by at least £10bn – despite government promises to cover their full costs. 

Yet hundreds of billions have gone to businesses, many of which failed to deliver. Privately-run test and trace alone has largely wasted £12bn. 

During England’s first lockdown, libraries improvised massive new online services to keep people entertained, informed and connected – as well as helping other council services with their people and information skills, to support vulnerable locals.

Yet the government contributed just £1,000 per library authority to buy extra e-books – a drop in the ocean. Nothing else. And the promise to supply laptops to schoolkids remains far short of fulfilment. 


Most library services rapidly created online versions of: daily story and rhyme sessions for small children, book groups, clubs and activities for older children, author events, quizzes and discussions, material for schools, help for benefits claimants – even festival events such as Pride.    For many people, these were a lifeline. 

National organisation Libraries Connected negotiated deals with publishers to waive their charges for extra online content, such as family history tracing.

Everything was done at almost zero extra cost.

All this on top of libraries’ normal provision of online books and audiobooks, newspapers, magazines, films, training courses, business and reference resources, academic papers and more.

Demand for these has doubled or trebled – and showed no sign of reducing even when buildings re-opened. 

This extra demand must somehow be funded, while services must also spend heavily on making safe their much-missed buildings and print books. 

Councils meanwhile were a main frontline lockdown service, providing food parcels, telephone support, volunteer teams, advice on Covid-19, information on local infection rates, guidance on confusing lockdown rules – and, increasingly, tracing of contacts missed by the government’s disastrous privately-run test and trace system.

Reports are now coming in of councils planning to make huge cuts to library services, or dump them on volunteers. Yet they have proved their worth as never before. And they are needed more than ever. 

Libraries will also be badly needed to aid eventual recovery.

Education, internet access (with help), social support, business support – local libraries are the key access point for all of these. 

Plus, of course, free books and DVDs to make fun and relaxation available to everyone…

Libraries have long been used to fill the gaps in many other public services. 

It is time they were funded to do it. They cannot go on making bricks without straw indefinitely. 

You are looking at The Library Campaign’s new website, launched on Thursday 19 November. We welcome comments and suggestions about the site and its content  – we cannot promise to act on all of them but will certainly read them. The new edition of our magazine is now on its way to members  – a pdf is available from the Magazine page.

Got something to say about public libraries? Join Libraries Connected
online session for library supporters and users on 21 August to explore
what quality means for a modern library service. Book FREE place here:
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/what-does-quality-mean-for-a-modern-library-service-tickets-116201887975

A virtual consultation event exploring what quality means for a modern
library service.

Got something to say about libraries?

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.

In this event we will be exploring the question ‘What does quality
mean for a modern library service?’.

The session will begin with some provocations from speakers outside of
the sector talking about what a quality library service means to them.

The virtual floor will then be open to everyone who would like to
contribute, or just listen in on what should be a great discussion.

If you would like to attend, please register and the joining details
will be sent to you in advance of Friday 21 August.

The session is open to everyone who supports or cares about libraries.

The British Library and The National Archives are partners on this
project and Shared Intelligence are leading on its delivery.

Last week saw the first signs of a possible trend we all dread…
1. Leeds City Council announced a financial hole “as severe as it
gets”. If there is no relief the council must “pare our spending right
back” – and close all its cultural institutions.
There is a legal duty to provide libraries, but the idea of an
online-only service is being floated.

2. Peterborough’s Vivacity leisure trust collapsed, dragging its
libraries down with the rest of its services. It has been handed back
to the cash-strapped council.
This adds to the strong body of evidence that shows government bright
ideas to make public services run like businesses don’t work.

The Library Campaign says these danger signs must lead to action.
NOW

The COVID-19 lockdown has proved yet again that public libraries are
flexible, quick to adapt – and very, very cheap to run.
Despite the closure of all buildings, service use has rocketed – often
by 600%. Library staff have devised countless new free services, on
top of their already massive online offer. All on a shoe-string
budget. Meanwhile, library users are making it clear they miss their
local physical branches.

Libraries are more needed than ever as the lockdown loosens and people
need trusted help in rebuilding their lives.

The Library Campaign says:
1. Government must protect libraries. It would cost only a tiny
fraction of the multi-billions it is spending on lockdown support.
The entire network for the whole UK costs just £750m a year. This buys
over 3,000 uniquely trusted, free drop-in centres – plus strong online
provision. The service covers everyone from toddlers to academics
seeking research papers.

2. The DCMS (Department for Culture, Media & Sport) must rule that
online-only services do not fulfil councils’ duty to provide a
“comprehensive and efficient service available to all”.

THE LIBRARY CAMPAIGN HAS SENT EVIDENCE TO THE DCMS SELECT COMMITTEE ON COVID-19.
A special concern is that the DCMS working group on libraries
re-opening gives almost no representation to local council libraries,
while being packed with representatives of volunteers and trusts.
These provide only a tiny proportion of library services and (as
Peterborough proves yet again) are not a proven model.
Ironically, librarians’ professional bodies* already have a re-opening
toolkit ready to use. It has been ready forth weeks, waiting for
government approval…
* led by Libraries Connected, which represents council library heads

THE EVIDENCE IN FULL

 

A company called DCA (Digital Content Associates), which exists to promote library usage, has issued a survey to ask about that is available in or through libraries during lockdown and what should happen afterwards They have kindly agreed to give £1 to the Campaign for each completed survey and if you do the survey you can enter a draw, the size for which is £100 worth of premium tea (or a £100 donation to the Campaign.)

The survey is aimed at librarians, so library users may not be able to answer all the questions, but you can encourage local library staff to do so.

Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE) has announced an online public meeting to be streamed live on Facebook as well as available on Zoom. It will be at 19:00 on Monday 8 June 2020. Apart from SOLE representatives, the meeting will be addressed by Nicci Gerrard, who is half of bestselling author Nicci French, and who spoke at SOLE’s first public event – a march and rally in Chelmsford in early 2019.
Libraries Connected has produced a toolkit for public libraries to  sue when considering reopening after the coronavirus lockdown. Their Chief Executive describes what they have done here. At the time of writing very few English authorities have published plans to re-open in any way, though this will very likely change soon.

Loved EMMA the movie? Here’s an idea – try reading the book!
CILIP has come up with a whole bunch of resources for you (or your reading group) to get the most fun out of the critically acclaimed film and the Jane Austen original – including background info, discussion points, where to go to visit the film’s locations, and an interview with the screenwriter (and award-winning novelist) Eleanor Catton.
The interview concludes with a quote from library-loving Catton: ‘It’s such a completely and utterly radical idea, and so out of kilter with the dominant ideologies of today – that you can go into a library and, at no cost to yourself, enlarge your life. 

There is little chance that Boris Johnson’s government will do anything for libraries. The Institute for Fiscal Studies commented that his manifesto contained very little altogether, and would look thin even as a one-year budget. IFS director Paul Johnson added: “The implication of the Conservative manifesto is that they believe most aspects of public policy are just fine as they are. Little in the way of changes to tax, spending, welfare or anything else.”
Conservative plans would leave public spending outside health by 2023-24 still 14% lower than in 2010-11. On local authorities specifically, the IFS found that the money allocated by the Conservatives would not be enough to meet rising costs and demands. Even if council tax rises by 4% a year (the maximum permitted) spending per person will be at least 20% lower than in 2009–10. Further cuts in services seem inevitable.
In the run-up to the election, Boris Johnson was quizzed by the BBC’s Andrew Marr on mass library closures since 2010. He claimed: “Some local authorities have been able to manage their finances so as to open libraries… I want to invest in libraries but we can only do that when we get the economy motoring.”
In response, CILIP chief executive Nick Poole said: “Firstly, local library services are not just the responsibility of local councils. The 1964 Public Libraries Act requires central government to oversee and improve public library services – a responsibility the previous Conservative government failed to implement.
“Secondly, while we are delighted that Mr Johnson’s local council has been able to invest in libraries, the fact that many cannot has less to do with sound financial management and more to do with the cuts of circa 30-40% handed down to them by the previous Conservative government.
“Finally, Mr Johnson appears to suggest that the country can only afford libraries when there has been an economic recovery. As we have commented time-and-again, this is a fundamentally misguided policy. By investing in libraries, you create opportunities for education and skills across the country, which in turn creates the conditions for future economic growth.”

* There is also little sign that the Conservatives have taken on board criticism of their campaign’s use of disinformation tactics – such as disguising their own Twitterfeed as an independent fact-checking site and using it to issue fake “information”. In an official complaint, CILIP said this crossed “a line which ought never to be crossed – raising the spectre of state-sponsored misinformation and the deliberate undermining of truth and accountability which should have no place in British politics.” Yet the party used exactly the same device on election night…

Library association CILIP recently reminded us what the profession is all about. And why it matters.
It sent a strongly-worded official complaint to the Tories after they disguised their own Twitterfeed as an independent fact-checking site – complete with fake Twitter validation tick – and then issued fake
“information” during the leaders’ debate on ITV.
The party’s reaction was that it didn’t matter. But it does. CILIP has run a “Facts matter” campaign since 2017. It’s never looked so topical.
The fake site broke the Conservatives’ code of conduct into smithereens. But, much worse, says CILIP, the party’s “actions in misrepresenting itself as a legitimate fact checking service cross a line which ought never to be crossed – raising the spectre of state-sponsored misinformation and the deliberate undermining of truth and
accountability which should have no place in British politics.”
…”We hope the investigation of this complaint will provide an opportunity for the Conservative party to reflect on the fact that evidence and accountability matter in public life, and that the actions you have taken seriously undermine this principle.”

Predictably, libraries don’t hit the headlines in any of the main English party manifestos. But the differences are interesting…

The best-informed statement is from Labour – including a promise to restore national standards, as campaigners have demanded since they were abolished in 2008. They promise £1 billion for libraries, galleries and museums, and specifically mention updated IT for public libraries.
MEANWHILE the Conservative party has been sharply criticised by librarians for one of its “fake news” wheezes. See separate story.

Labour Party Manifesto 2019
“We will ensure libraries are preserved for future generations and updated with Wi-Fi and computers. We will reintroduce library standards so that government can assess and guide councils in delivering the best possible service.”
“We will invest in the towns and communities neglected for too long, with a £1 billion Cultural Capital Fund to transform libraries, museums and galleries across the country.”

Conservative Party Manifesto 2019
Their offer has already been announced (in October). Spread over two sectors and five years, it does not add up to much. “£250 million to support local libraries and museums “

Green Party Manifesto 2019
One of two mentions sees libraries just as venues to lend tools. But the second at least shows the right attitude…
“Encourage a shift from models of ownership to usership, such as with car-sharing platforms and neighbourhood libraries for tools and equipment.”
“We will support councils to also use this funding to nurture arts and culture in their areas, keeping local museums, theatres, libraries and art galleries open and thriving.”

Liberal Democratic Party Manifesto 2019
The sole mention of libraries is slightly bizarre… “End period poverty by removing VAT on sanitary products and providing them for free in schools, hospitals, hostels, shelters, libraries, leisure centres, stadiums, GP surgeries, food banks, colleges and universities.”

CILIP have snagged Bobby Seagull (formerly of University Challenge) to front their National Libraries Week campaign and he has devised a manifesto of stuff that he thinks are necessary for libraries of different types to succeed and /or survive. You can find the manifesto on the Libraries Deliver website mentioned in more detail below.

The manifesto has been presented to Parliament (October 15), with a call for “long-term sustainable funding for libraries” –  alongside an important new report titled Public Libraries: The Case for Support. It does what it says on the tin, pulling together the evidence on public libraries’ vital role in:

• Place-shaping and inclusive economic growth
• Education, informal learning and skills
• Health, wellbeing and social care
• Digital skills and getting online
• Enterprise and business support
• Poverty prevention, social mobility and social isolation.

Just launched – a new resource for campaigners, formed by UK librarians’ association CILIP and a USA librarians’ resource called EveryLibrary. So – librarian-led, but potentially useful.
EveryLibrary contacted The Library Campaign well in advance of the launch. We gave campaigners’ point of view and discussed ideas. Their aim, they said, was “making sure that we are supporting your critical work as much as possible and that we are doing as much as we can to help you”.
The basic concept is to –
– make it much easier for people to move from caring about libraries to actually doing something concrete
– harness individual interest – plus the support gathered by local campaigns – into a national movement that can have an impact on the basic issues like under-funding and government indifference
– provide tools and promo material.
For the UK, EveryLibrary has branded itself as “Libraries Deliver”. That links it pretty firmly to the Libraries Deliver label used by the national libraries Taskforce. This, it’s fair to say, has so far failed to inspire the nation… but maybe that can change.
TLC will continue working with them. We think it’s well worth everyone signing up to see what happens next.
Go to https://www.librariesdeliver.uk

  • Your library? Shut down.
  • Youth club? Shut down.
  • Refuge? Shelter? Park? Closed.
  • Your high street? Shut down.
  • Nightclub? Shut down.
  • Music venue? What’s one of those?

These are the opening lyrics – and libraries are the recurring theme – in ‘Shop’, latest

song by Brighton ‘punk rock poet pop’ band Gulls. 

They call it ‘a clarion call to resist those who close libraries and open chainstores’.

And we like it! Listen/buy via https://www.gullsband.co.uk and at Spotify,
SoundcloudiTunes or YouTube.

And there is an article in the new issue of the Library Campaigner (now at the printers)  by singer Rhi Kavok (a teacher) about what libraries mean to her.

Arts Council England is developing a strategy for the next ten years. The Library Campaign has submitted our views as follows:

The Library Campaign, founded in 1984 and now a charity, is the sole national representative of library users, Friends groups and campaigners. We work with Unison and Campaign for the Book through the Speak Up For Libraries coalition.

Our own website (www.librarycampaign.com) serves a large number of members and non-members, eg by maintaining the only national list of library groups. We also publish the only national magazine on public libraries.

TLC believes strongly that the arts – across the full spectrum from literature to fine arts, the performance arts to digital media – are essential to wellbeing. In an age of austerity and increasing social division, they are more vital than ever.

We also believe that both enjoyment and active participation can be available to everyone regardless of age, income, disability or background.

Everyone should be able to find a life-enhancing arts medium that suits their needs and aspirations.
The keys are wide choice and easy, everyday access.

We are therefore very happy with the outcomes identified in the report ‘Shaping the next ten years’.
In particular, we fully support:
–  widening the focus beyond a narrow definition of ‘the arts’;
–  valuing diversity (in its widest sense) as a criterion for policy and funding;
–  making a strong case for culture’s benefits in social, health and economic terms;
–  investing in ‘the culture and creativity that are part of people’s everyday lives’;
–  working closely with communities and tackling the barriers to participation in people of every background;
– helping people to ‘find and access a wide range of cultural activities’.
–  better provision for children, young people and families.

We trust that ACE will now appreciate even more that public libraries are not just a peripheral addition to arts provision (possibly as extra venues), with added roles in business, economic and social health that sit uneasily with a purely ‘arts’ agenda.
On the contrary, they are key to ACE’s exciting new perception.
They are a massive resource, already at work in the areas identified, at local grassroots level, nationwide. Investment in the support they badly need will be a major contributor to ACE’s ten-year aspirations. Probably the largest single contributor.

We acknowledge – and welcome – the already increasing depth of ACE’s understanding of the role of public libraries.

Nicholas Serota made this clear in his blogpost on 9 October 2017 (ww.artscouncil.org.uk/blog/increasing-access-arts-and-culture-libraries): ‘The arts and cultural sector can perhaps learn from the way that libraries interact with their local communities.

‘Again and again, the public tells us that they see libraries as trusted spaces, that they are welcoming to everyone and offer a safe, creative environment where knowledge is respected – people don’t feel intimidated to enter them.
‘As a result, libraries can reach many different audiences…
‘I believe that our deeper relationship with libraries will increase the availability and quality of cultural activity in public libraries for communities around the country.’

Building on this, we would argue for a fundamental re-orientation of ACE’s attitude to public libraries.
Yes, they are a convenient and uniquely accessible venue for ACE-funded arts activities. But they are far more than this. They are the bedrock of the nation’s entire culture strategy. They underpin every other endeavour.

In particular:
1. They foster the basic tools required for access to, and appreciation of, the arts – literacy, emotional literacy, digital literacy, information literacy – as well as more subtle enablers such as self-esteem and self-confidence, health, social cohesion, a sense of belonging, a sense of place, acquisition of skills, the knowledge required for the exercise of citizenship, the feeling one can have influence in one’s locality, even the ability to make a decent living or launch a business or arts project.
2. Despite recent devastating cuts, they remain far more widely provided than any other cultural resource. Many local authorities have no municipal theatre, museum or art gallery. They all have libraries. In many areas libraries are, quite simply, the sole local cultural resource.

Local libraries therefore function as an irreplaceable ‘first step’ to every other aspect of the arts.

   It might be simply finding out what’s on locally (a major issue for many people). It might be taking part in an activity based on reading or crafts.

It might be borrowing play-sets or music for a local group. It might be being guided to access expensive online arts reference resources, or digitised arts and museum collections including the British Library’s.
The possibilities are endless. And access is free of charge, which is far less likely to be true of other culture facilities. This is of central importance.
Properly funded and staffed libraries, within a national network, enable simple one-step access from the smallest library to a wealth of resources, both digital and physical. No other neighbourhood facility can possibly provide all this.Children, students, people on low incomes, older people, people with poor English and many other disadvantaged groups can, at the very least, sample a wide choice of books to help them discover what interests them. They can read or study in peace, meet others and join in group activities if they wish to, and experience a civilised space that belongs to them and does not demand any payment from them. Libraries are the most accessible cultural venue for all population groups – BAME people in particular – and are seen by the public to be so. The popularity of libraries among families also enables the appreciation of a full cultural offer at a formative stage for young children. This is more important than ever, with the narrowing of the school curriculum.On this basic provision has been built – up to now – a rich layer of added activity that is ‘cultural’ in the very widest sense. Obviously libraries give free access to reading (and films). A wide choice of free material enables people to experiment, go beyond the mass market offer, find things they might not have expected to like, ideas that challenge.
This is underpinned by, for instance, pre-literacy sessions for small children and book clubs catering for all ages and abilities (from children and teens to people with mental health or other disabilities), and all kinds of reading (from poetry to manga, politics to sci-fi). Reading for pleasure has been proven time and again to confer major benefits in terms of educational attainment, empathy, mental health, etc. Talking about reading is a simple step into human connection and self-expression. It comes very high on the list of popular means for cultural participation. ACE has, up to now, dedicated far too little of its overall budget to literature, support for authors and events linked to literature. It is also widely perceived to have done too little to support libraries’ work in this area.  This needs to be urgently reconsidered.Reading-based activities are just the beginning. The ACE-funded report ‘Libraries welcome everyone’ spells out the enormous range of activities available in libraries nationwide. These arise quite naturally out of libraries’ basic remit to educate and entertain, and to be available to all. They are successful in attracting a diverse range of people and bringing them together. The report also notes that ‘so much of this work is seen to be “everyday” (ie, not something special) that it often passes unrecognised’. This is a point that needs emphasising.Also worth emphasising is the ‘first step’ culture opportunities these activities offer.  T S Eliot defined culture widely, and summarised it as ‘simply that which makes life worth living’. All library activities enable people to meet and communicate. ACE’s research shows a keen appetite in the sector, and among the public, to encourage diversity and inter-action between different cultural groups. Most also have an obvious creative element – drawing, writing,  movement, craft work, etc. These can be built on, by developing and publishing or exhibiting the results. ACE’s research shows clearly that many people see ‘art’ mainly as classical music, ballet and opera – things that are ‘not for them’. The kind of simple, very local, informal activities offered by libraries are a first step for many people intimidated by the idea of ‘art’ or the thought of going into premises such as theatres or museums. It has to be noted, of course, that many people currently see libraries as ‘not for them’. But libraries are in a far better position than any other venues to counter such prejudices: a national campaign can publicise attractions that can then be found at local level by anyone, anywhere. (This unique attribute has been badly damaged by the proliferation of volunteer libraries, which cannot be guaranteed to make any nationally consistent offer, but it has not been completely destroyed.)Above the ‘everyday’ level, many library services still manage to run author visits, local book prizes (usually working with schools), and entire literature festivals. The library also can – and does – serve as a meeting space and as a default venue for arts and crafts activities, art exhibitions (by professional artists and local clubs) and performances of all kinds (ditto). Facilities for video and music creation, 3D printing and digital arts are a growing area. A number of libraries have developed an outstanding role as venues for music performances. Festivals small and large – often multi-ethnic and multi-media – are run by library services or individual libraries, sometimes with professional performers, sometimes with considerable input from volunteers and from local cultural groups. Local-level activities do much to counter the current imbalance in provision between London and the regions. This is something ACE could nurture and build on. They also make it much easier to incorporate local people’s ideas and contributions into what is offered. This is very much wanted by the public.All these activities foster opportunities for people to do their own creative work and perform or show it, at the library or more widely. This could be as simple as reading aloud in a group, or placing something you have created in a library exhibition or craft fair. It could be writing or performing, depending on what the library offers. As well as providing personal fulfilment and self-confidence, these outlets also contribute to the diversity of the local arts scene and can stimulate insights among other participants.Libraries are thus established as the nation’s single key arts resource – simply by doing what we all know they do. This needs to be properly acknowledged. This is not a power grab for the library sector. It is a concept that can offer a great many opportunities to the cultural sector in general.We do not need to spell out the extent of the recent destruction within the public library service. Hundreds of libraries have closed, or been handed to volunteers to run as best they can. The national network function has been badly damaged. Where they survive, more and more libraries are having to cut back on any activity beyond an irreducible core. Importantly, the loss of expert staff has severely diminished libraries’ power to help people find the information they need, or to run or host arts activities of any kind.ACE therefore needs to address the current emergency in public libraries – their everyday funding and functioning. This has not, so far, been the case.We would argue that ACE needs to adjust its vision and see libraries as central, and essential, to its whole approach to the arts. To discount (and oversee further reduction in) public libraries’ considerable role in the arts is to deny access to millions of people who will have no alternative resource. It is also to deny many exciting outlets, development opportunities and new audiences to arts bodies.We recognise that libraries’ statutory status may make it a little awkward to find ways to fund basic functions.
Nevertheless, the current unprecedented situation means it is no longer possible to avoid grasping this nettle.We suggest:
1. A major national publicity campaign to make the public aware of what libraries offer. Hugely successful projects have been run by the National Literacy trust (twice) and by The Reading Agency (Love libraries) – only to be abandoned.2. A major national publicity campaign to make decision-makers – national and local – similarly aware how libraries contribute to their agendas, not just ‘arts’ as such but the whole range of ‘that which makes life worth living’. We know attempts are regularly made in this area, but a much stronger approach is needed.3. An acknowledged role for, and support for, library users and campaigners as ACE’s partners. These are a massive resource of knowledge and ideas, should have a central role in developing policy and are a voice for libraries at local and national level that ACE sorely needs to back up its work.4. An acknowledged role for, and support for, frontline library staff as ACE’s partners. As above.5. Full, articulate support for the value of trained library staff, and specialist posts in arts, music, children’s work etc.

6. Grants to support special collections in art, music, drama.

7. ACE-funded posts for arts development officers in public libraries. This is merely a stratagem to enable librarians to continue doing what they have always been able to do as part of their job, but needs must.

8. ACE-funded posts for schools arts liaison in libraries. As above. We note that the need is greater than ever, with schools increasingly dropping arts provision under pressure to concentrate on ‘good’ exam results, while reading for pleasure is badly undermined by an over-analytical approach to reading and comprehension.

9. ACE-funded posts for arts outreach in libraries. As above.

10. Training in arts awareness, management and development for library staff.

11. Better access to arts contacts, and information on possible funding, via ACE. Libraries already function to some extent as chains of venues for touring performances and exhibitions. ACE could do much to strengthen this, for the benefit of both.

12. Acknowledgement by ACE that many libraries are very much in touch with their local arts scene, and actively develop budding writers and performers. Their experience and ‘finds’ should be valued and used.

13.  A far larger proportion of ACE’s budget should be devoted to literature (currently a derisory 3.5%). In particular, far more funding for author visits, storytelling, books-related performances, poetry jams, local book prizes, literature festivals etc. Much of this would logically be channelled through libraries.

14. Far better use of existing knowledge and resources. In particular, MLA had a massive website with all kinds of information, from research results to reports of library projects – and evaluation of what worked, and why. This has been lost. We hope it is mothballed somewhere. It needs to be revived and made searchable.

15. Relevant further research. Top of the list is sensible evaluation of volunteer libraries. So far, research has concentrated on whether they are sustainable (Answer: we have no idea, they are all so different). Nothing has been done to find out how they match the functions of a properly staffed library – as libraries.

16.  Proper use of CIPFA data. This is well known to be flawed in many ways, but can still be analysed to find out where – and how – library services flourish. A student on a recent short placement at the Taskforce has gained better value from the data than we have ever seen before. This could be followed by a (well-funded) peer review system to pass on knowledge, and distribute it widely.

17.  Encouragement of easy methods to assess effectiveness of library-based activities across a wide spectrum of culture-and-wellbeing indicators, including development of the MLA Inspiring Learning for All evaluation framework. (We do, however, caution that asking questions of participants can add unwanted formality and intrusiveness in an environment that depends on being welcoming and informal.)

18. A checklist, possibly based on the Taskforce’s work in this area, to list what a full public library service should provide. This would be a useful tool for all services, and preserve awareness in volunteer libraries of what may be missing. Annotated with local information, it could serve the public as a guide to the full range of services they can access, especially if their starting point is a volunteer library. National standards would, obviously, be an even better tool.

19.  A coherent national development plan, slotting together the work of disparate organisations such as ACE, CILIP, LC, TRA,Taskforce – like the Framework for the Future once used by the DCMS. Too often the different agencies seem each to want to have their own ‘vision’, ‘ambition’ or ‘offer’, leading to confusion and duplication.

20. More funding for library work in general – and a clearly articulated message that cuts to library services are endangering the whole basis of a civilised society.

Libraries across the country are being closed, cut back and/or outsourced to volunteers as a result of government cuts to local authority budgets. Councils are unable to keep staffed library services open when faced with the competing demands of social care, child protection etc.
Local libraries are a vital resource for the promotion of reading, literature and culture. They are a necessity for the digitally excluded who need to go online to access benefits, health, education and employment resources.
While the commitment of volunteers is welcomed, volunteer-run library services are unsustainable long-term. The government must ringfence funding to ensure councils can fulfil their statutory duty to keep libraries services available to the general public.

You can sign the petition here. If it reaches 10,000 signatures, the government has to respond.

UNISON, UNITE and PCS unions have organised a national demonstration in  support of libraries and culture including museums and galleries. It is on Saturday 3 November assembling behind the British Library and marching to Parliament. More details here.

You won’t believe this – our near neighbour Ireland has come up with a bizarre idea for making public libraries better used.
Bizarre, that is, if you live in England. Unusual, anyway.
Ireland is NOT planning to “transform” the service, outsource it, make questionable deals with commercial “partners”, or dump it on to volunteers.
Nope. It simply plans to open most libraries seven days a week, 8am-10pm (partly by using “staffless” technology, but not reducing staffed hours at all – in fact they will recruit 100 more staff).
To nobody’s surprise, a pilot scheme offering longer hours in two libraries led to “increased visitor numbers of between 75 and 185 per cent over a 12-month period in 2016”.
Fines will be abolished. Forty libraries will be upgraded. More stock will be bought to attract older people. Efforts will be made to attract children, too.
The whole thing will cost just 5m euros. Ireland thus joins the long list of overseas nations that invest in
library services – and reap enormous benefits.
As our good friend Ian Anstice (www.publiclibrariesnews.com) comments:
“The scheme shows that Eire has the motivation and the infrastructure to impose such a plan. “Such is not the case in England… where the Brexit-obsessed government has done very little for libraries and is happy to neglect
them, doing the least it can to ameliorate the effect of its own austerity programme while applauding communities forced to replace paid staff with volunteers.
“In the vacuum this creates, the remaining national bodies with responsibility for libraries, Arts Council England and the newly re-minted Libraries Connected (SCL), are highly limited in what they can do with the 151 different English library services. It is up to individual councils as to what happens. “Compared to Eire, this looks like not so much a strategy as trying to make do the best one can do without one. Few can doubt which of the
two countries has more chance of success.”

Posts navigation