JAWS DROPPED recently when the BBC innocently announced a wonderful new scheme – to provide schoolkids with just ONE free e-book per week (the same book for everyone).
Yet any child (or adult) can contact their public library and get any number of free e-books – plus audio-books, e-comics, a massive choice of reference works, worldwide newspapers and magazines, and usually a lot more.
Three-quarters of services ran huge extra online programmes during the last lockdown, with anything from rhymetimes for toddlers to coding clubs and kids’ reading groups. And no doubt are doing so again.
THE BBC DIDN’T KNOW
The BBC just didn’t know. Lottie Begg (Public Library Apparel) tracked down – of all things – the BBC’s “Family & Education News”. They were grateful to find out…
That’s Library Campaign gripe no 1. Why on earth is our “national” library service so useless at publicising the most basic facts about what libraries do? If a BBC specialist department doesn’t know, how is Joe Public to find out?
There’s always grand talk about “advocacy”. There’s a government department, and a national Libraries Taskforce, and the Arts Council, and a number of national library bodies… but they have never put their heads together and mounted a single, sustained publicity campaign.
We see the result in steadily falling use of library services by people who would love them – and endless library cuts and closures.
THERE’S NO WEBSITE
This leads us to Library Campaign gripe no 2. There is no single, attractive, user-friendly, national libraries website to find out what libraries offer.
Wales can do it – and in two languages! https://libraries.wales and https://llyfrgelloedd.cymru
For years, England has laboured mightily to produce the same kind of thing – grandly called the “single digital portal”.
The project has now landed with the British Library, last heard from last August. Plus, confusingly, news of one of the government’s go-to companies, DXW, apparently now doing much the same thing. Projects have come and gone. Nick Poole of CILIP can name “at least three, going back 22 years to the People’s Network Discover Service”.
Partial attempts are more numerous than that. TLC can’t untangle it all in one news story.
Nick Poole explains: “Each [project] foundered on the fragmented nature of the public library sector, and an unwillingness to take a single common action. That hasn’t changed.”
Well, it should.
LOCKDOWN – WHAT A WASTE!
Thousands of people – somehow – found their way to local online services during the first lockdown. Usage rocketed, despite mostly poor local publicity. If only there had been an easy way for people to get the info…
Ian Anstice (www.publiclibrariesnews.com) says: “There is a widespread acceptance that we do not need another report or more research. We just need a website with stuff on it.
“The fact that we have had nothing during the lockdown… should and does cause great anger.
“Let’s get this done before other services, other agencies, take other things off us that should so obviously be within our sphere.”