Author Archives: Bethan

Future of Libraries Services in the Big Society – Carl Clayton

Carl Clayton reports from the Future of Libraries Services in the Big Society conference, held 21/6/11.


A conference of this sort is clearly aimed at library leaders; i.e. not just heads of services and senior library managers but also at senior officers and members – those who make the long term policy decisions and control the purse strings. It is this latter group that have the greatest need to hear this sort of discussion – given the widely recognised low level of appreciation of the issues by many library leaders – and it was disappointing but not unusual to find that they were underrepresented in the audience. My own quick rough count of the attendees list shows c40 librarians, 11 senior directors and 4 councillors.

But of course you didn’t have to be there in person. I and apparently many others were watching the conference on-line courtesy of Policy Review TV. I would love to know how many heads of service set up viewing sessions for their Directors, Chief Executives and portfolio holders. They would have been able to share and event that, while not exactly earth shattering in terms of new ideas, provided much to consider and debate.

The first speaker was Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture with direct responsibility for libraries. The significance of Government Ministers at events like this is quite arcane. They will arrive, deliver a speech, and then leave, so there is seldom an opportunity for debate. Sometimes they will use the opportunity to deliver a major policy speech but, as in this case, it is usually more subtle. The fact that they have accepted the  invitation to appear – and have actually turned up – is often the most important aspect. In this case it suggests that the Government (or at least a part of it) does think that library services have a future. It is not much, but it is better than nothing.

Mr Vaizey’s speech went little further than this. He began by saying he was in a positive mood and praised the “fantastic work going on in libraries all over the country”. Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick at any rate. he then moved on to specific examples, the coming together of three London boroughs to form a unified library service;  the award to Hillingdon of the Bookseller’s Library Innovation of the Year award; Lancashire Libraries’ partnership with the University of Lancashire and examples of new builds and refurbishments. There was nothing in the way of carrots or sticks to encourage other authorities along the same path except for keeping Mr Vaizey in a positive mood.

The Minister then declared that “… the public library service is a huge asset to be exploited; not a burden to be gradually got rid of”. This reference to the Governments consultation on administrative burdens on local authorities suggested a commitment to maintaining the Public Libraries Act, particularly as he moved directly on to the issue of his intervention in library closures under the act. He stated that he would not shy away from doing so if there was a case for it but immediately mentioned two provisos. the first was that the current situation was still fluid. The second was that it was better to have a dialogue with local authorities and that officials from his department had met with officers and campaigners in 5 local authorities to discuss cuts. He added that he would not meet with people personally as this might compromise his position in making a final decision as required. His message to local authorities appeared to be that he was happy to give them plenty of time to discuss options and alternatives but although he was keeping his powder dry he was prepared to use the weapon of intervention if all else failed.

At this point the Twitter feed for the conference was filled with Tweets pointing out examples of library service cuts which appear to show a very strong case for immediate intervention. Inevitably many will see this claim to be holding fire “for the present” as covering up an intention not to shoot at all.

Mr Vaizey then moved on to the options and alternatives that he was inviting authorities to consider. Rationalisation (i.e. mergers) was one option. “Community supported” libraries was another. He did promise that continued council support to community libraries with a core service would be a key factor. He referred to the MLA document Community Managed Libraries and the work of Locality.

Finally the Minister referred to the transfer of responsibilities to Arts Council England and the benefits that this would bring. He promised another Future Library project and hinted at a “few more ideas that we need to explore”. Opportunities for libraries to access Arts funding were dangled before the audience and the desirability of WiFi enabled libraries was mentioned, without of course any indication of how this might be funded.

Overall it was a disappointing presentation, at least for anyone hoping against hope for a stronger lead on library cuts. His support for the role of volunteers in delivering library services was clear. The Minister did draw a line in the sand and warned councils not to cross it but their room for manoeuvre behind that line is large. His closing remarks that the situation provided “opportunities” for libraries shows that his scriptwriters had run out of any original ideas and were scrapping the bottom of the cliché barrel. However we must take what we can from this speech. Mr Vaizey could have sent his apologies and his phrase that “the public library service is a huge asset to be exploited; not a burden to be gradually got rid of” could well feature on the Voices for the Library website (although the cynics out there may well ask exactly how the “asset” of libraries will be exploited, and by whom!).




The Library: A World of Possibilities – Dianne de Las Casas

The Library: A World of Possibilities

By Dianne de Las Casas4-14-11 Dianne de Las Casas at TLA


In the United States, the American Library Association Conference is just starting. At the end of June, thousands of librarians will converge in New Orleans (my home town!) for a packed week of star keynotes (Jeff Kinney, Author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series), professional development sessions, and “The Stacks,” an exhibit hall filled with books, books, and more books. It’s the largest library conference in the U.S. and enthusiasm is high.


Ironically, both public libraries and school libraries in the U.S. face steep budget cuts with libraries being completely eliminated from the public and school sectors. These budgetary woes are affecting public and school libraries in the states of Texas, New Jersey, Florida, Ohio and many other states. Our neighbors across the pond are faring no better.


As a child, I lived and traveled all over the world as the daughter of a Navy jet engine mechanic. In my upper elementary years, I lived in Rota, Spain. There, the school library served as my connection to home and opened up a whole new world for me. I entered the wacky worlds of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Dorrie the Witch, and I discovered my favorite author of all time… Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). I became a voracious reader, which is still evident with one look at my nightstand and my office bookshelves.


The library inspired me with its collection of 398.2 (folk and fairy tales) and inspired me to become a writer. I worked as a volunteer storyteller for my local library and have written numerous books published by Libraries Unlimited. Even my latest children’s book is library-inspired: There’s a Dragon in the Library. My ten year old daughter just joined our local library’s summer reading program.


Libraries are magical places that inspire kids to read. They are community hubs, information centers, study halls, meeting places, story time theaters, craft centers, and most importantly, gigantic bookshelves! Show me a literate society and I’ll show you public access to libraries. Don’t close the doors to our world’s libraries. Save our libraries and open up a world of possibilities.


Dianne de Las Casas is an award-winning author and storyteller who tours internationally presenting programs, educator/librarian training, workshops, and artist residencies. Her performances, dubbed “revved-up storytelling” are full of energetic audience participation. She has written 18 books, which include books for children, and professional books for librarians and educators. Her latest children’s book is There’s a Dragon in the Library. Visit her website at, follow her on twitter @storyconnection, and fan her on Facebook




Community Knowledge Hub and Libraries

Thanks to team member Gary for this post, originally posted on his blog.


Whilst following “The Future of Library Services in the Big Society” conference via Twitter today (#libraries11) I came across a link to “Community Knowledge Hub“. This hub will

“support the exchange of ideas, knowledge and expertise between organisations with a common interest in realising the benefits of community enterprise.” To be launched in July 2011, “The first Community Knowledge Hub will focus on libraries, providing support to community organisations and local authorities exploring community management solutions as an alternative to closure” and “support the evolution of community managed library services.”

Of course I agree that library services should be saved, but I still believe that it is the responsibility of the local authority to provide public library services. Some reasons for this include:

  • Need for impartiality
  • Statutory duties
  • Economies of scale
  • Existing expertise
  • Social needs.

These are just a handful of reasons and many more can be found on the Voices For The Library site.

Even though many people see the library building and its books as “The library service” this isn’t true. A library service isn’t only defined by a building full of stock, it also depends upon the expertise of the people running the library service, whether they are staffing that building or running services that support front line staff.

With regard to the development of library services, most communities won’t be handed a library service, they will just be handed a building containing books and other stock. Depending on how much control local authorities give to the communities, the community may have to pay for other assets transferred eg. stock; and (if they want to maintain a library service of value) they will generally have to pay to be part of the existing computer network and/or consult with the local authority on running a library service.

It’s ironic that the handing over of library services to local communities is described as asset transfer. The word “asset” implies that the library service has a value. I totally agree with this idea… library services do have a value… In which case, why are local authorities deciding that some libraries are of such little value that they are happy to dump them in a way that implies they don’t care what happens? “Ah! But they are handing them over to local communities, so they are not dumping them,” I can hear people say. In which case, you may like to know that in most cases if local communities don’t volunteer to take over a library, the library will be forced to close. That sounds like ‘dumping them’ to me.

“Each network will provide specialist advice, guidance and resources to drive up the quality and transformative potential of public services that are transferred to then delivered by and for local communities.”

Handing over a service to any organisation (in this case, the community) that doesn’t contain the specialist skills, resources or knowledge to run that service just sounds crazy. It basically means building library services from scratch. Why? Why reinvent the wheel? Why get rid of all that specialist skill, resource and knowledge provided by those who had previously helped provide library services via the local authority and then rebuild it?

“We believe that library services play a vitally important role at the very heart of our communities, and that ‘doing nothing’ would come at a considerable cost. “

I agree, but doing something that fragments a library service, reduces the value of that library service and removes expert skills and knowledge that has been built up over years is also a step backwards, which would come with just as much of a “considerable cost” as “doing nothing”.


Measuring the value of public libraries

VftL are delighted to present a blog post from newest team member Christine.

Methods for measuring the value of public libraries: a literature review

In today’s climate of accountability, a better understanding of the value of public libraries is becoming essential to preserving and encouraging public and private investment (Imholz and Arns, 2007, p.12).

In the UK competition for public funding has always been fierce and the newly elected coalition government have made it clear that cuts in public spending over the next few years are inevitable.    Public libraries will be re-evaluated alongside services provided by health, education, defence, transport, broadcasting, culture and the arts sectors.  There is an urgent need to adopt methods that enable the sector to appropriately communicate its value to a variety of audiences.

The research project…

Last year the Library and Information Research Group awarded me their first Scan Award to produce a comprehensive review of existing quantitative and qualitative evaluation methodologies for demonstrating the value of public libraries in the UK.   The findings of my research have been published as an article in their Journal.  This article presents an overview of current methods for measuring performance, discusses quantitative and qualitative methods to determine economic and social value, identifies examples of successful studies; and introduces methods from the non-profit sector which could prove useful in the future.  Although not exhaustive, the research is extensive and introduces a range of methodologies from the UK, USA, Australia and Canada.  It also identifies potential methodologies currently used in the non-profit, environmental and commercial sector.


At the start of this review it became clear that a limited amount of public library valuation studies have been carried out in the UK in recent years.  Although several academic researchers had published journal articles and reports on the topic there has been little in the way of groundbreaking research since Bob Usherwood carried out his Social Impact Audits a decade ago.  While it is possible that some local authorities may be working in isolation to implement bespoke evaluation methodologies it has been difficult to uncover examples of best practice in the UK.  Therefore, it was necessary to expand the research into the broader areas of economics, sociology and psychology.  This enabled a more thorough understanding of the increase in evaluations, incentives, benchmarking, objective setting, accountability; and social and economic auditing.

Overall, the research has revealed that quantitative evaluations produce valuable statistical data and can effectively estimate the financial outputs of public libraries, thus enabling a greater understanding of economic value.  Yet their scope is limited as they fail to recognise service outcomes such as the impact that the public library has on the lives of individuals and communities.  Therefore, in order to gain a greater understanding of the social value of public libraries we must consider adopting qualitative evaluation methodologies.  However, it is unrealistic to expect to be able to measure social value with as much confidence as we do economic value because as a methodology it is still underdeveloped.  As Tuan (2008, p.7) points out, methods for evaluating economic value have been around for centuries, whereas methods for measuring social value have only been around for three or so decades.  Also, as there is no official ‘social auditing body’ that promotes uniformity in social value creation methodologies and no defined infrastructure for assessing social value, “measuring and/or estimating social value will continue to be practiced more like an isolated art form than widespread science(Tuan, 2008, p.7).  This is of relevance to the public library sector where our ability to produce social value is considered by some to be one of our greatest commodities.   Perhaps the greatest challenge with regards measuring the value of public libraries is that:

There is no litmus test for value because defining value in the context of libraries is complex, individual stakeholders are unique, performance measurement is essentially spatial, and operating in an environment that is neither causal nor predictive creates complications (Cram, 1999, p. 1).


Ideas for the future…
Although this review has revealed that there is no perfect methodology for measuring the value of public libraries, there are many possibilities.  Methodologies exist to evaluate the full range of services that public libraries deliver and we are seeing a number of emerging methodologies for assessing the impact of digital services and access to ICT.  The challenge for those tasked with evaluating outputs and outcomes, therefore, is to find the methodology that best fits their project and the objectives of their research.  Therefore, it is recommended that the public library sector work together to create a comprehensive methodology which encourages use of common measures, language and practices for collecting and analysing data.  Implementation of a standard methodology could enable the sector to communicate the true value of public libraries to the UK economy and society as a whole.

Access to Christine’s full article is available here.


Bryson, J., Usherwood, B. and Streatfield, D. (2002).  Social Impact Audit for the South West Museums Libraries and Archives Council.  Centre for the Public Library in the Information Society.  Department of Information Studies, The University of Sheffield. [SWMLAC Report].

Cram, J. (1999).  Six impossible things before breakfast”: a multidimensional approach to measuring the value of libraries. In: Proceedings of the 3rd Northumbria International Conference on Performance Measurement in Libraries and Information Services 1999, Newcastle upon Tyne 2000.

Imholz, S., & Arns, J. W. (2007). Worth Their Weight: An assessment of the evolving field of library valuation. Americans for Libraries Council.

Linley, R and Usherwood, B. (1998).  New Measures for the New Library: A Social Audit of Public Libraries.  Centre for the Public Library in the Information Society.  Department of Information Studies, The University of Sheffield.  [British Library Research and Innovation Centre Report 89].
Tuan, Melinda T. Measuring and/or Estimating Social Value Creation: Insights into Eight Integrated Cost Approaches, Final Paper 12.15.08. Publication. Seattle: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2008.


Christine’s full article is available here



Christine Rooney-Browne is an Arts and Humanities funded PhD student based at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland.  She passionately believes in the potential of public libraries to educate, challenge and inspire and is currently investigating the social value of public libraries. Her research interests encompass public library evaluation, social auditing, and the nature of public library services in the twenty-first century.  Christine also has extensive experience in marketing, having worked both in the public and private sector.



Save Surrey Libraries meeting

Former VftL team member Gary shares his experiences at a Save Surrey Libraries meeting.
Save Surrey Libraries meeting
A UNISON meeting was held 16/6/11 in Guildford, to discuss concerns about proposals for changes to Surrey Libraries. The proposals included the handing over of 11 libraries to volunteers and the removal of the mobile library service (more details can be found here). This was the second meeting that had taken place – the first also involved Alan Gibbons (national library campaigner) as a speaker. Alan’s passion for libraries had encouraged the holding of this second meeting.
There were about 15 people in attendance, with representatives from Unison, library users (including Friends of libraries groups) and library staff. The aim was to try to bring together the existing smaller library campaigns in Surrey (who were already concentrating on saving libraries in their own local area) in an attempt to create a larger unified campaign.
The meeting raised concerns about the validity of the consultation process and Surrey County Council’s plans in general for the library service. This included, for example:
  • How valid was the data used to make decisions about changes to the library service?
  • What exactly were Surrey County Council offering communities when they handed over libraries to them?
  • Campaigners felt they were given an ultimatum about their library ie. You volunteer to run it, or you lose it (something we have seen in other local authorities).
  • Those in attendance were aware of Chalfont St. Giles Library being cited as a successfully run volunteer library, but they were also aware that this success depended upon a management team of 10, 60+ volunteers and a steady high level of income through fundraising. The meeting agreed that this was not feasible everywhere.
  • Were bus routes considered when proposing the removal of the mobile library service?
  • Were the majority of the public in Surrey aware of the current proposals for changes to Surrey libraries? Did the suggestion of a community partnership make the public think libraries wouldn’t be closed?
  • There was a positive feeling from library users about the importance of maintaining paid library staff including librarians.
  • Are library staff able to campaign?
By the end of the meeting it was suggested that a positive way forward would be to:
  • Co-ordinate the campaigning efforts of existing groups in Surrey into a larger force.
  • Highlight the situation affecting  Surrey Libraries to the broader community – both locally and nationally.
  • Forge links with a number of local and national organisations as possible campaigning partners.
It was clear that those campaigners in attendance were passionate about saving their libraries and another meeting will be arranged soon to discuss the way forward.


Somewhere special – K M Lockwood

Somewhere special

In the morning

A young couple come in hesitantly. The proud new dad still finds the buggy awkward to manoeuvre and mum is oh-so-tired. Joe and Kulvinder want to do the best by their precious baby but they have little spare cash, what with taking time off work and childcare to think about.

They know encouraging a baby to love language is like breast feeding – one of the best starts in life. But who can they ask? Which books are suitable? Where can they find a fun introduction to learning?

In the afternoon

Elaine comes in as beautifully made up as she did when Roger was alive. She comes in to learn how to use a pc. Always a bright cookie, she would like to save money by paying her bills on-line. She comes in to get the large print books which let her escape to other worlds. She comes in to be with other people. It’s her little trip out.

Just after school

Ade runs in with his homework in his bag. He finds a spot and settles down to work. He is keen to learn but there is no space in his Mum’s tiny flat. He finds something he doesn’t understand. He gets up and asks a librarian and she helps him find reference books and useful websites.  He grasps the new concept. Tomorrow he will shine in class.

In the school holidays

Courtney sidles in and finds a quiet corner between the little children’s books and the Young Adult fiction. No one notices her there; she can read what she likes. She sits with her scuffed shoes that don’t fit tucked under her.

She has found somewhere safe from the girls who make fun of her thin, cheap clothes. She has found somewhere safe till Dad comes back from work. She has found somewhere safe to dream of better times.

They have all come to the right place: they have all come to the library.

K. M. Lockwood is a writer for children and young adults who lives by the sea in West Sussex.  Website is

“Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book.” – Matthew’s story

“Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book.”

So said Dwight D. Eisenhower, scourge of Nazis and the 34th President of the United States. I’m quoting him because libraries suddenly seem to have become expendable in the eyes of many local councils, not only in the UK but also America and who knows where else. It feels like a crime that we’re even in this situation, but here we are.

I’m biased, of course, because I’m a reader. One of my very few regrets about learning to drive a few years ago is that I miss out on all the spare reading time presented to me by long bus journies stuck in traffic (that and I’m getting old and so my eroded attention span means that achieving the Fifty Book Challenge this year is looking less likely than it should). Nevertheless, I’m a reader and shall be until I die, probably of blunt force trauma caused by a collapsing To Read Pile taller than me. A lot of that is down to my local library.

See, we used to go there on Fridays after school when I was a kid, working my way through the Thomas the Tank Engine collection, then Asterix and Tintin. The library is also responsible for me getting into Doctor Who; I didn’t watch the TV series so much as read the hardback Target novelisations, I pieced together the history of the show by reading the books out of order and without having any clear idea of how all the different characters fitted together. It helped that I take after my mom, as her side of the family contains most of the readers, and so I guess it’s ironic that my grandmother always had issues with the monsters and aliens in the sort of geeky shows I watched; it was her genes and Doctor Who books that made me a reader. The library just empowered that.

And so I remember avidly reading about all these characters, running to the library to get new stories. I remember one of Thomas’s friends getting stuck in a tunnel, and I think one of the smaller trains had to pull him out…

Asterix and Tintin, on the other hand… Obelix and Captain Haddock were my favourite characters, and Tintin may well have ignited my interest in science fiction with the Destination Moon / Explorers on the Moon duology and the Chariots of the Gods-inspired Flight 714.

And the first book I remember reading obsessively? The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. I remember getting through it in a matter of hours, which was a bit of a surprise to my family, who weren’t perhaps used to that sort of speed reading. Again, thank the library.

Libraries have a central place in human civilisation. The Library of Alexandria is almost legendary, although a significant part of that legend is due to the fact that people kept burning it down. Same goes for the House of Wisdom in Baghdad (destroyed by the Mongols in 1258) and the ‘Burning of Books and Burying of Scholars’ policy carried out by China’s Qin dynasty; throughout history, libraries have been considered dangerous by dangerous men. And while its probably unfair to compare that sort of thing to today’s allegedly civic-minded busybodies, the end result is the same – no libraries, reduced access to knowledge, no-one to point the way through a maze of data and information and facts.

Nowadays people don’t tend to be burning down libraries, at least not in Dudley, but they’re under threat. It’s easy to take them for granted, but in a world where we can access a mountain of information with next to no quality filter, librarians should rule. Somewhere along the line, that building full of books has seen the skillsets of the people who work there gain in currency.

An anonymous source once said that “Books are the carriers of civilisation. Without books, history is silent, literature is dumb, science is crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books the development of civilisation would have been impossible. They are the engines of change.” You can argue that it’s the information and artistry contained in those books that matters, moreso than the actual medium, but regardless, libraries, books, information are important – especially when we know what to do with it. When the Dark Ages engulfed Europe, Irish monks saved the literature and learning of Rome and carried it forward, and now public libraries modestly attempt to try something similar, albeit in a world where there’s almost too much information and not enough discernment. In that world, we neglect libraries at our peril.

Matthew Hyde

Communities, Cartoons and Cheese

Public libraries frequently host or put on a range of events and activities that are wide in scope, audience and purpose. These avenues of informal learning, recreation, and social life show the library’s important role as a hub within the community – of far greater impact on the life of the local area than traditional stereotypical views would suggest. Here are just a few current and recent events from libraries around the UK:

Greasby Library in Wirral will be hosting an event showcasing the history of Wirral’s Lidos (open-air swimming pools) on Monday 6th of June – presenting the history of the area for education, entertainment and discussion.

The Crowhurst Community Agriculture group will be at Ore Library in Hastings on Saturday 4th of June to share their expertise. Take advantage of their advice, experience, hints and tips – there will also be a Plant Swap, so bring along some plants/cuttings/seeds and join in!

The Carnegie Library in Ayr hosted a kids’ cartoon workshop on the 27th May, led by a prominent local artist and citizen (who was actually awarded ‘Citizen of the Year’ a few years ago!). This gave the children an opportunity to learn and practice new creative skills whilst also engaging with their local community.

Several of Gloucestershire’s libraries are promoting a series of childrens events (between the 31st of May and the 3rd of June) celebrating local sporting heroes. This will focus on some interesting characters including an ex-commando surfing legend, a Wimbledon champion and the fingerless navigator who sailed solo across the Atlantic in 1899. There will also be fun traditional local sports events, not the least of which will be the cheese rolling!

Barnstaple Library in Devon is starting a Work Club service aimed at helping people get back into work or looking for their first job. This will include help with CV writing, interview techniques, volunteering opportunities and assistance with online application forms, as well as computer access in order to search for vacancies and help improve basic IT skills.

That’s just a small number of the things going on in libraries. If you want to find out what’s going on in your local public library why not visit your local library website and look for the “What’s on?” or “Events” link on it for more details.
…and, if you’ve enjoyed an event at your local library, why not share your experiences with us, by emailing us with details at

‘Heart of the Village’: a poem

VftL are pleased to share this poem by Jane Bolderston, from the Friends of Benson Library (Oxfordshire).

The Heart of the Village



Benson library is situated in Castle Square

Perhaps you’ve been in, or driven by there?

It has been lending books for forty years

But now it’s the subject of our worst fears.


A decision was made to have funding withdrawn

A decision met by the villagers scorn

‘Please don’t close our library’ a unanimous cry

And here are some of the reasons why.


Our children have the gift of imagination

And reading a book holds their fascination

The library helps them to learn and grow

A safe, local place, they’re happy to go.


Mothers with buggies need minimal fuss

The last thing they want is to catch a bus

They can stroll through the village during the day

And stop at the library along the way.


For the elderly who like to read for pleasure

They can browse through the books at their leisure

Large prints, audios, so much more

They can all be found on just one floor.


And for those of us of ‘inbetween’ ages

Who may not have the time to leaf through pages

The library can offer something for you

CD’s, DVD’s and Internet access too.


The warm friendly staff put you at ease

They’re happy to help and aim to please

They know you by name and remember your face

Can you get that in any other place?


It’s not just a library, it’s the village heart

And surrounding areas are playing their part

From Benson, Ewelme, Roke, Berrick Salome

We are pleading with you to leave our library alone.


Read and Shout: part 2

Read part 1 here

And so the weekend arrived. What a weekend it was! It all started bizarrely and quite badly. Me, Hannah (from Owl and Mouse) and Caroline (AFDFS) nervously met Jens at Paddington and took him for a pint of real ale, to calm him from the flight. Sadly during said pint someone managed to sneak up and steal his iphone and wallet from the pocket of his coat. What a way to start your stay in London. He was so great about it, but also anxious because he’d lost most of his contacts, access to money, and he was playing a secret show that night up in Tottenham! We took him to the police station, where he joked about how we were the most cheerful promoters he’d ever dealt with – trying to distract him from his sadness by asking him for his top five bands, if he had a Smith’s tattoo what would the lyrics be, that kind of thing! We ended up getting in a taxi to Tottenham, which got hopelessly lost, but eventually got to a warehouse in the middle of nowhere. The gig was put on by some Swedish fans, who happened to live in an art studio. It was like something from another world, when we all went in barefoot to see the space. They’d made little huts for each of them to sleep in and a fairylight decked space for Jens to play. There started one of the best nights of my life. Jens treated 30 of us to an acoustic set, and even took requests (I was lucky enough to get Tram #7 to Heaven.) At one point he put his guitar down mid set to come and dance with us all. It was wonderful to say the least. The only downside was being in the middle of nowhere in North London at 3am, with the knowledge that you have to run an indiepop festival the next day.

Having woken up with a sore head, it was onto the venue to set everything up. There was a lot to sort out, but so many volunteers showed up to help. Their support was overwhelming and I couldn’t have done it without them. We had fellow musicians, members of the community, colleagues – everyone chipped in. I’d hired this guy called Jez from Atlantic Sound to do all the engineering etc and he took the burden of worrying about that away from me. Not only did he set everything up and manage the stage, but I hardly ever saw him away from the mixing desk all day – constantly twiddling buttons and checking the sound was alright. He was the first of my heroes that night. The first band the Sunbathers went on and people started showing up. Throughout the day it just got busier and busier and the atmosphere was great. We had your very own Paul from Scared to Dance Djing between bands, as well as the amazing Librarian’s Wanted (Silja, David and Roo) and the brilliant Matthew from Big Pink Cake. Silja had even made a huge plate of fresh waffles for everyone to share around! People wore our Save Libraries badges, our Read and Shout banner hung proud above the stage, and everyone seemed so supportive of the whole thing.

My only concern was that so many people sat down that we couldn’t squeeze enough people in. At one point I tired to bribe them with sherbet flying saucers to stand up, but this had minimal effect. In the end I had to get up on stage and demand it. Each and every band performed memorable sets. I stood there feeling like the luckiest guy in the world because all these bands had come together to play music in my library, have a good time, support the cause, and they also waved their fees. I can’t thank them enough. I won’t go into which bands I loved the most. I know it sounds corny, but each and every one of them were great and dead special. At one point, just before my band A Fine Day for Sailing went on I remember looking at all those indiepopsters, cardigan clad or not, crammed into our hall and being close to tears that it had actually happened.

By the time Jens played – this time a more upbeat set, full of charm and beauty – I was enjoying every second (perhaps helped by a fair quantity of G&T) and just felt so proud of everyone who came, played, volunteered and helped in any way. I couldn’t believe that we’d managed to pull it off. I spent much of the later part of the evening just wandering around and staring at it all in disbelief. What a truly magical experience. After the show we bundled Jens into a taxi (which would eventually get lost taking him to his hotel and require us to direct him via google maps for 45mins!) I felt awful that I wasn’t able to go on anywhere with him or the others (to How Does it Feel), but I could barely stand. Collapsed on one of the seats in the library I was asked if would I do another one. I could barely move, but my first thought was ‘hell yeah! Next year!’

That’s if we have anything left to save.

I hope what we did with Read and Shout was a start. I hope those 300 people go away and think about what they can do to support their local libraries. Even if just one of them writes to their local MP it will have been worth it. We made some money to put into the Save Libraries campaign, we made a noise, got some press, got people talking about it. It’s not everything, but it’s a start. Please go into your local library and join – we need the numbers. Sign your local petition. Write to your MP. Just…

Read and Shout!

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