Welcome to our newsletter round up of November’s UK libraries news!
Welcome back, PLN! If you are not a fan of this unique website, now is the time to become one – there’s a link from the PLN logo below or from the home page of 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 monthly newsletter – available to all and now over a year old.
And, for many years, 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.

The new Wandsworth Town Library is now open, with 40,000 books and a separate children’s library. To lower its carbon footprint it is double-glazed and makes use of recent heat pump technologies.  The council website quotes Judi Gasser, Cabinet Member for Environment: ‘This… is a bigger and better fully modernised library with a much larger children’s section than was possible at the existing town centre library. This investment comes at a time when many councils in London and elsewhere are closing libraries to save money. This is absolutely not the case in Wandsworth.’ In North Yorkshire, the refurbished Scarborough library opened in May, but had an official celebration opening day this month. It has received £450,000 for refurbishment, new books, plug points, new computers and an exhibition space. The council is very positive about its Friends group.   The new Reading Library is more of a mixed bag. The council received £8m in ‘levelling up’ funding for its brand new library – but it will have fewer books.  The BBC points out: ‘At a meeting with the council’s Older People’s Working Group, [a council speaker] admitted the reduction in books was “a controversial topic” but books and other library services have gone digital. Some books currently held at the Central Library in Abbey Square would be relocated to other libraries, including Southcote, Whitley and Tilehurst. A member of the group said: “Surely if you are building a new library you expect to have more books, not less.” ’
Friends groups are active at all the three sites.
Nottingham, which has been without its central library since the beginning of the pandemic back in March 2020, has finally got a date for the opening of its new site at Broadmarsh – November 28th 2023.  The proposed opening date of the end of 2023 was included as a district Labour party manifesto pledges, and the building project has cost £10.5 million. More than £24,000 has been spent on storing books and equipment whilst the new building was under development.   The new site features striped bookshelves which serves as a nod to Nottingham born fashion designer Paul Smith, known for his striped suit designs. The space will also serve the public with its inclusion of areas designated for community use as well as conference rooms and an interactive cinema room aimed at children who will be able to interact with the information presented in an immersive space where it will appear as if the visitors are underwater accompanied by a pod of whales.   We look forward to hearing news from Nottingham about the services that this library will be providing and we hope that the funding remains in place.

Six libraries in the borough of St Helens are due to close. A Conservative councillor decried the decision as a “retrograde step” Startlingly, local residents had been advised to take a bus that only runs every two hours to visit a temporary library –  something which would clearly have an especially negative impact upon the elderly.
David Baines, Leader of the Council, said: “Budget cuts, they are the context that haunts all our decision making, and every local government body in England and the wider UK….Like we have for 13 years we’ll do the best we can to protect the most vulnerable and as many frontline services as possible”

Southend library is also under the threat of having two of the cities libraries closed as part of wider public funding cuts. James Vessey-Miller, branch co-ordinator of the South East Essex Green Party, responsible for a petition against the closures, said:  “I’m frustrated and saddened that because of the mismanagement of the civic purses we have now have situation whereby vital public services are under threat again. It wasn’t that long ago that Southend residents defended our library services against these kind of austerity cuts. Now we have a Conservative administration and here we are again with our services at threat.”
These events and proposed closures are part of a growing trend and we encourage people to use resources such as our website for the formation of Friends Groups to fight these type of cuts. 

We highlighted increasing violence towards library staff in our magazine two years ago. The state of society hasn’t exactly got better since then. And, after all, Friends organising an event in a library might need to wise up too.Hence some new guidance on ‘safer libraries’ from Libraries Connected. The point, we’d all agree, is for libraries to welcome everyone – but also to make sure everyone feels safe.Especially useful is the advice in Appendix D on how to calm people down. Good work by Kent library service. 
Library users have also long warned that unstaffed ‘Open Access’ libraries, or staffing by volunteers and ‘partners’, can create dangers. Not before time comes guidance from Libraries Connected on this topic as well.It stresses that ‘most people behave as they should’. But it also makes clear that open access needs a lot of work. This includes revamping layout and signage, providing emergency phones and/or CCTV, plus training for staff – and users (which you have to keep renewing for ever, presumably). Case histories from Libraries NI, Leicestershire and Sutton add a few tips (keep the toilet open!). But the problem of safe access for unaccompanied children and teens remains.
AI (artificial intelligence) is big news – for good or ill. So well done librarians’ association CILIP for its timely ‘Libraries Rewired’ event. We sent TLC trustee Barney Allan. And he was impressed. A full report will follow in our next magazine. Meanwhile, here’s his take on the ethics session, led by outgoing (alas) CEO Nick Poole: ‘The need for information literacy just got cubed, and huge ethical questions around data privacy, academic integrity, fake news and more are set to hit librarian in-trays soon. ‘The event underscored the need for libraries to adapt to change and understand the challenges. Collaboration, both within the library community and with external partners, will be key to navigating the digital transformation journey successfully. ‘Libraries and their users constantly weigh the benefits of convenience against privacy. But the consensus seems to be that the future may not be as awful or indeed as amazing as it is sometimes painted.’ 
A bit more money for libraries is always welcome, and so is recognition of how vital they are to any decent society. So it’s nice that Libraries Connected (LC) is the chosen partner (among three) to administer the ‘culture’ bit of a ‘tackling loneliness’ one-off project from the DCMS. But… the three share just £5m from this £29m pot, and it must go to 27 ‘designated’ areas. LC’s suggestions include ‘employing a volunteer co-ordinator, providing additional pre-school activities, offering games for older people or extending opening hours to provide social activities’. That’s very much Friends’ territory, so it’s worth checking if your service qualifies – and making your own suggestions locally. The fund will run until March.
Nick Poole, The Chief Executive of CILIP (the Librarians’ professional association) is leaving to take up a similar role at UKIE (UK Interactive Entertainment – no, us neither. It is the trade association for UK video games) After eight years at the helm of CILIP he has done quite a lot to restore the organisation’s place in the library world. He has been involved in several initiatives to advocate for libraries and to raise the profile of the organisation and, more important, libraries with decision makers. He has had to cope with a diminishing number of members and activists which resulted in CILIP leaving the building it inhabited for a long time, and taking lodgings at the British Library. However our understanding is that the organisation will be financially stronger. The challenge for Nick’s successor will be to  build on that…

Thanks so much – all of us at The Library Campaign – please get in touch any time with questions or feedback and don’t forget to follow us across our social media below
Copyright (C) *2023* *The Library Campaign*. * Registered Charity No: 1102634 * All rights reserved.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email