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

Busy taking notes, here’s Baroness Sanderson on a fact-finding tour. She is, you’ll remember, chair of a panel working on “a new public libraries strategy”, as we reported on this website on 5 September.
https://librarycampaign.com/surprise-a-new-library-strategy
We gather that the library sector was keen to get this set up before any big changes took place in the political world. How right they were!
“As someone from outside the sector,” she says, “I have a lot to learn and a lot of people to meet but my first priority was to visit frontline library staff and volunteers – to see for myself the work that they do and to understand the challenges they face.”
Her first tour included Wimbledon, Woodford, Yeovil, Taunton, Sutton and Deepings volunteer-run library in Lincs.
“Readiness to adapt, while working with the local community to address their specific needs, has been central to every library branch I’ve visited,” she reports, “whatever their size, location or management
structure…
“They should be recognised as one of the most valuable community assets we have… I feel privileged to work with the sector to help develop ideas as to how we may protect them into the future and widen
the understanding of what they do – across government departments and more widely through society.”
Hear hear to that! For her full report, go to: https://dcmslibraries.blog.gov.uk/2022/10/13/stamford-to-sutton-and-beyond-visiting-library-branches-across-england

A cultural festival to go with the Rugby League tournament? Why not?
The ever-ingenious Libraries Connected is partnering with the confusingly-named Rugby League World Cup 2021 to deliver arts events as part of the festival.
More than 593 libraries in 34 authorities in the north of England are involved. Events will  run for the duration of the tournament and beyond.
They include art, designing and decorating rugby balls, creative writing, dancing (“Bollywood meets Haka”), panels with rugby experts, plays, poetry and information packs on RLWC events.
RLWC2021 says: “Libraries act as a real hub for local communities, so they offer the perfect setting for bringing together sport and the arts, sparking imagination and inspiring curiosity.”

This Thursday, October 13, 4-5pm at Bethnal Green Library – all welcome. Make a (small) mark in history! The library service will be taking a photo of library lovers at the entrance, to recreate the picture taken on its opening 100 years ago. The new photo will be hung in the library. Refreshments served.
Followed by the official launch of Kate’s book about the library’s wartime underground service, with Siddy Holloway, presenter of Secrets of the Underground.

Register at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/kate-thompson-the-little-wartime-library-tickets-379555610047

It’s back – the annual celebration of all that libraries offer, run by librarians’ association CILIP. This time (3-9 October) the theme is lifelong learning. And that, says CILIP’s enterprising Scottish branch,
means anything “from knit n natter to mindful meditation and much more”.
Follow @librariesweek on Twitter. Or head to CILIP’s website to register for updates on what’s on, some bright ideas and a heap of advice on planning and publicity. This is a resource worth consulting
whether you are taking part in Libraries Week or not: http://librariesweek.org.uk
CILIP is also holding a FREE national online chat (Tuesday 4 October, 6.30-7.45pm) with author Kate Thompson. The theme is only too topical: “the power of public libraries to support a community through the worst of times”. The reference is, of course, to her book about the World War II underground library in London’s East End. We featured this in our magazine no 102:
https://librarycampaign.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/LC102_amended.pdf
Today, libraries are busy planning to be “warm banks” and all-round welfare centres, but let’s hope not bomb shelters.
Register here: https://cilip.org.uk/events/EventDetails.aspx?id=1678054&group=

The Library Campaign is very sad to report the death of Guy Daines. Most recently the Policy officer for CILIP, Guy was briefly the Campaign Secretary (before we were a charity) and had always been extremely helpful to us ever since.
He started his library career in the London Borough of Camden where he was also an active NALGO steward (NALGO became part of UNISON.) In that capacity we think he was one of those who attended the conference in Sheffield which founded the Campaign.
Later he joined the staff of the Library Association (now CILIP) initially as one of the team who advised on employment issues though as the LA / CILIP is not a trade union, this also involved liaison with the relevant unions.
After a while Guy took on a more all-embracing policy advice role. He became Policy Officer dealing with professional ethics and equalities, as well as governance and many other issues. 
As part of this role Guy represented CILIP to the Library Campaign and was involved in the set up of Speak Up For Libraries (SUFL) the coalition of organisations and individuals who  organised conferences, parliamentary lobbies and other activities in the 20-teens. 
Guy was always well  connected  -if he did not know the answer to some library question he probably knew who did. He could brief on current policy issues more or less at the drop of a hat.
Outside work Guy was sociable – always up for a drink after official business finished and keen on cricket, but also involved with his church. Indeed, when he retired, one of his ambitions was to study ecclesiastical Latin.
After his retirement we did not see much of Guy but he remained a member of the Campaign and we will miss his common sense and friendship. We understand that’s death came after a ‘short illness’. He will be much missed.

Well! There is to be ‘a new public libraries strategy due in 2023… to make sure [they] are providing the best possible service for their communities’.
Whatever that means, it will be based on work by a new ‘advisory panel’ led by one Baroness Sanderson. Her job will be to act as an ‘independent chair’ and ‘provide a fresh, challenging and impartial
perspective on libraries to help formulate innovative new policy ideas’.
It’s not yet known who will be on this panel. TLC has been quick to urge that it should include library users.
In a hastily-sent email to the Baroness, we said: ‘We believe that library users and supporters have a lot to contribute to any review of the service at national level, as well as whatever contribution they may make locally.
‘Their perspective will be different from most, if not all, of the library bodies and others who have in the past been part of this sort of panel / review.’
Baroness Sanderson is billed as ‘an experienced former journalist [for the Mail on Sunday] and government adviser [to TheresaMay] who joined the government benches in the House of Lords in 2019’.
Meanwhile, we must go by what she has so far said: ‘I’m thrilled to be taking up this new role.
‘Libraries play such an important part in our lives, be that instilling a love of reading in childhood or encouraging economic, social and mental wellbeing throughout adulthood and into old age.
‘Too often undervalued, they are one of the most critical forms of social infrastructure we have and I look forward to working alongside the experts, and listening to a wide range of voices, so that we may
help develop ideas as to how we may promote and protect our libraries into the future.’
The government claims there has only been one previous national strategy, in 2016. TLC would say there have been quite a few, under different names. If you want to check up on the 2016 version, it’s all
there in the back issues of our magazine: issue no 93, pp 8-9.
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/baroness-sanderson-to-help-develop-new-public-libraries-strategy

Does your library’s name or location in the UK (village, town or city, but not street) begin with the letters E, F, G or Welsh Ff or Ng? If so, you can ask the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, to visit you on his next library tour: March 20-25, 2023.
Simon plans to give free readings in libraries for one week each spring, ‘from the flagship libraries of the big cities to smaller or mobile libraries serving rural areas… from A to Z, wherever the invitations take me’.
His ten-year journey will involve local communities, poets, high school students and/or writers’ groups in activities around the visit and in the audience. Each visit will also be live-streamed for an online audience.
Simon adds: ‘I also want to find a way of including alphabet letters from other languages spoken in these islands such as Welsh, Urdu or Chinese, and to involve communities where English might not be the
first language.’ Ideas welcome.
He launched his tour in 2021 in Ashby-de-la-Zouch (A to Z in one go, as librarians suggested!), with C-D in 2022.
Details: https://www.simonarmitage.com/the-laureates-library-tour Deadline 19 August.

Of all the book prizes, the Booker remains the most prestigious media magnet. If you fancy a taste of this high life – and belong to a book group – read on…
The Reading Agency (TRA) is offering six reading groups the chance to review one of the six shortlisted titles. Two members get an expenses-paid trip to attend the shortlist announcement party. Two
more (chosen by the judges) will attend the final award party.
In between, each group will read one of the six shortlist books. They will be expected to share their views with the Booker Prize’s and The Reading Agency’s community of readers via social media and two
dedicated websites. They may be interviewed about their experience and photographed or filmed.
TRA will be looking for ‘the most interesting, passionate and wide-ranging set of readers possible, as well as those who will shout the loudest about this year’s shortlist on social media, to help
encourage even more people to pick up those books.’
Details: https://readinggroups.org/news/the-booker-prize-book-club-challenge

You only have until 12 August to apply.

The 2002 Booker judges (L to R): Helen Castor, broadcaster, author and
historian; Alain Mabanckou, author; Neil MacGregor (chair), best known
as director of the National Gallery and the British Museum; M. John
Harrison, author; Shahidha Bari, broadcaster, author and university
professor.

On the ball as always, libraries have a load of resources to help the nation celebrate the lionesses’ football triumph.
Libraries Connected has been working with The Football Association and UEFA to produce a bumper downloadable resource pack with something for all ages.
It includes activities inspired by football fan objects such as rosettes, fanzines and banners. Plus, of course, a reading list – books that feature trailblazing sports people. Other activities tie in
with the themes of Refugee Week/City of Sanctuary, inspiring women, and football itself. Ideas cover all ages and abilities including some linked to Rhyme Time, or Knit and Natter.
Artist Deborah Goatley-Birch developed the pack with a charity for adults with learning disabilities, autism and other health conditions.
Truly something for everyone.

https://www.thefa.com/competitions/uefa-womens-euro-2022/weuro2022-library-resources


Libraries were acknowledged to be essential venues for this nationwide “festival” of arts and tech. That’s good. What it means in practice is yet to be seen. The idea is to tell local stories via a variety of media – with a legacy of useful training for library staff to draw on in future. Check here to see if there’s a venue near you…

After the beer and the bunting, there’s still a jubilee feast for book-lovers. The Reading Agency (TRA) has compiled a book list for each of the seven decades since 1952.
Each has a theme, with some emphasis on the Commonwealth (the Games start soon). Plus a list of much more general questions to discuss in relation to any book you (or your group) might choose to read.
Get it all here: https://readinggroups.org/big-jubilee-read
AND THERE’S MORE!
Starting on 14 June (7pm), TRA and Libraries Connected are hosting a series of author events, again with a Commonwealth theme. Of course, you can join in online.
Find out more and sign for more updates here:
https://readinggroups.org/news/watch-the-big-jubilee-read

Cost of living crisis? The government is coming up with increasingly exotic solutions – from right to buy to… er bringing back imperial measures.
So it’s just the right time to point out that what really helps people is commonsense, low-cost, well-established support systems such as – public libraries!
The library chiefs’ organisation, Libraries Connected, is not just relying on universal common sense. It has evidence. Its new report finds that already 44% of library leaders are seeing increased demand for services such as information on personal finance and budgeting, help reducing household bills and practical support accessing food and clothing.
Over a third (38%) have already introduced new services specifically to help people cope with the crisis. And over 80% expect to see more people using their libraries to keep warm next winter.
Download this very useful document.

National Crime Reading Month is off to a galloping start, with events all over the country at book festivals, bookshops and – of course – libraries.
And there’s three more weeks to go, with more in the pipeline… Check regularly at www.crimereading.com
This weekend – 10 to 12 June – there’s Alibis in the Archive:
something special at the beautiful Gladstone’s Library in North Wales.
And you can sit back and see the whole thing on Zoom.
Find out more at
https://www.gladstoneslibrary.org/events/events-courses-list/alibis-in-the-archive-2022

Libraries are (of course) rallying round to help any Ukrainians who have managed to jump through all the Home office hoops and reach this country. And their hosts.
Libraries are (of course) the obvious first point of call for anyone who ever needs information, help and a friendly welcome.
So, well done Libraries Connected for producing a leaflet in Ukrainian that explains what public libraries offer. It’s fun to look at. There’s an English version as an essential back-up for most of us.
You can download both, free, to distribute at will, from
https://www.librariesconnected.org.uk/news/libraries-supporting-new-arrivals

Come to think of it, plenty of people – not just “new arrivals”- don’t know about everything that libraries offer them. That includes regular library users.
A simple leaflet like this should be part of the stock-in-trade of every single library. For mass distribution…

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