Category Archives: news

Speak Up For Libraries Conference – 14th Nov 2015

The fifth national conference for public library users, workers and campaigners – organised by a network of campaigners and national organisations: Campaign for the Book (Alan Gibbons), CILIP,  The Library Campaign, Unison and Voices for the Library.

Deep and damaging cuts have already been made, But there are signs that people are starting to realise what public service cuts really mean. The political scene is getting a shake-up. Campaigners are as determined as ever. And finally, there’s a national agency tasked with getting action for libraries. Here’s campaigners’ chance to meet the people in charge of it – and lots of other key people!

The key session is the first-ever national campaigners’ dialogue with the top people in the
Libraries Taskforce – Paul Blantern, Chair, and Kathy Settle, Chief Executive.

The Taskforce is the new agency charged with bringing real improvement – and funds – into
libraries. By November, it will have published its first report. So it’s time to tell Paul and
Kathy what campaigners think – and want them to do.

Also talking to a national meeting of campaigners for the first time – Nick Poole, new
broom Chief Executive of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals).

PLUS: Alan Gibbons, outspoken author, education consultant and Campaign for the Book.

PLUS: John Dougherty, author, library advocate, poet and writer of songs (including the classic ‘What’s wrong with Ed Vaizey?’) – complete with guitar.

Places are limited – advance booking is essential. Places allocated on a strictly first come, first served basis, on receipt of payment. Cost: £20 EARLY BIRD (unchanged since last year) including tea & coffee breaks and a pretty good sandwich lunch. £25 AFTER 9 OCTOBER.

Full details & online booking form:

FOLLOW Speak Up For Libraries:

The Library Campaign is hosting a get-together, straight after the
conference ends, for those who want to network further.

As always, the day is planned so that you can meet, network and share your ideas, before moving into a face-to-face dialogue with some of the people best-placed to get action for libraries.

Speak Up For Libraries

IFLA launches Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development

Today we welcome the launch of the Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development, which was announced at the IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) World Library and Information Congress in Lyon. The declaration was drafted by IFLA along with its strategic partners and “calls upon United Nations Member States to make an international commitment through the post-2015 development agenda to ensure that everyone has access to, and is able to understand, use and share the information that is necessary to promote sustainable development and democratic societies.” The declaration emphasises the importance of access to information in empowering people throughout the world. IFLA are encouraging organisations and institutions who share the vision of the declaration to sign it to show their support, alongside the 134 information and library focused organisations from around the world that have already signed. The intention is to use it for advocacy purposes to influence the United Nations development policy framework to be launched at the end of 2015.

The full declaration can be read here.

Is privatisation the next step for libraries in Kent?

Ramsgate library in Kent (image c/o ijclark on Flickr).

Recently, a number of articles have appeared suggesting that Kent Library Service might be privatised:

Libraries and residential care homes could be among the first key frontline services to be privatised or run by other organisations in a wide-ranging County Hall shake-up.

The two are listed as among the first wave of services Kent County Council intends to subject to what it calls a “market review” under a three-year plan which will get under way next month.

The so-called market review of a dozen services represents the first step in the authority’s move to re-shape itself as a commissioning council – meaning it will focus on contracting out more services to the private and voluntary sector.”

These proposals are nothing new. Kent County Council (KCC) had previously developed secret plans to close up to 40 libraries across the county, and a July 2013 document called ‘Facing the challenge: delivering better outcomes’, endorsed mainly by the ruling Conservative Group on the Council, hinted at the future direction for KCC libraries.

The main thrust of the document is the move from KCC being an authority that delivers public services, to one that commissions or outsources them to private contractors or community organisations, as the document summarises here:

  • Moving to become a commissioning authority – with a greater focus on outcomes and less focus on the process or vehicle used to deliver services.
  • Opening up services to market engagement and review– starting with those services and functions where markets are mature and can help identify new ways of working. 

The document specifically has this to say about libraries:

Future Libraries Programme: The current future library service programme has explored local community solutions to redesign services across each of our 99 libraries to share delivery and assets with our partners, particular parish councils and the voluntary, community & social enterprise sector. The programme will now focus on market engagement and service review activity to actively pursue options for new delivery models, including industrial and provident societies and community benefit societies which have been successfully adopted in other local authorities as a way to sustain frontline community services.

KCC have made it clear in the document that although they intend to do some or most of the scoping work in-house, they haven’t ruled out bringing in outside consultants to assist with preparing the ‘market reviews’ which will obviously add to the cost of the process. They have also set a very tight timeframe for the process and are looking at putting the new models in place by April 2014. This has set alarm bells ringing with some sitting on the Council who do not believe that this is enough time and which could, consequently, lead to mistakes being made in drawing up contracts and choosing providers. Many councillors are also deeply opposed to the proposals, seeing them as nothing more than a ‘slash and burn’ exercise (see 1hr 19mins 45s in for the debate).

Similar proposals are also coming out of Sheffield City Council, where JLIS (currently running Hounslow, Croydon, Ealing and Harrow Libraries) have been mentioned. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if councils up and down the land were now looking at comparable models of divestment. Kent aren’t the first, and they certainly won’t be the last.

No confidence in Ed Vaizey

CILIP’s AGM tomorrow at the Library of Birmingham will be more interesting than most AGMs. Though much ink has been spilt over a proposed name change to ILPUK, which is not a matter we in Voices for the Library take an official view on, (though you could do worse than to read Ian Anstice’s post on the matter) there is a much more important question before the meeting, a motion of no confidence in Ed Vaizey.

Proposed by Jo Richardson, and seconded by Tom Roper, both members of Voices for the Library, it reads as follows: “In view of his failures to enforce the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, this Annual General Meeting of CILIP has no confidence in Ed Vaizey, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, and instructs Council to work with all other interested parties to protect library, information and knowledge services.”

There are detailed arguments for the motion on the No Confidence in Ed Vaizey blog. We’d urge support; it will show that CILIP is outward-looking, and wants to work with campaigners in practical ways on the ground. The debate will take place at roughly the same time as Save Lincolnshire Libraries‘ #BigLibraryMarch. The best support CILIP can give them is to pass the motion.

Speak Up For Libraries Conference, 23rd November 2013

Public libraries are facing an uncertain future. While austerity continues and the cuts bite deeper library services are needed more than ever. High quality libraries fight illiteracy, support learners and are essential services in communities across the country.

Speak Up For Libraries is a coalition of organisations working to protect library services and staff, now and in the future. We are holding a conference to support those that care about their libraries – including library users, campaigners and staff – to understand more about the challenges facing libraries, what can be done and to set a national agenda. The conference takes place 10am – 4.30pm on Saturday 23 November 2013 in central London.

At the conference you will…

  • Hear what experts think what the future for public libraries looks like.
  • Hear from senior figures in libraries about what their organisations are planning for the coming years.
  • Meet Speak Up For Libraries organisations and talk to others about what they offer and their plans.
  • Have the chance to ask speakers your questions.
  • Discuss what local campaigns need.
  • Set an agenda for campaigners and organisations to pursue.

Speak Up For Libraries organisations include the Campaign for the Book, CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals, the Library Campaign, UNISON and Voices for the Library.

To register please visit 

Society of Chief Librarians announce universal library offers

Yesterday the Society of Chief Librarians (S.C.L) announced the launch of four universal offers for public libraries , which will be “rolled out nationally across all public libraries in England and Wales.” These universal offers focus on reading, health, digital access and information – areas the SCL have indicated library users regard as key to public library service provision. Alongside these offers the S.C.L. announced a range of initiatives that libraries will also be encouraged to participate in.

The announcement pulled together strands of work that the SCL have been working on previously with partners including Arts Council England and The Reading Agency.

The Society of Chief Librarians intention to “reaffirm the relevance of public libraries to Britain” via these offers is welcome and we hope that this is just the beginning of a continuing co-ordinated programme of support and development for libraries. Janene Cox (President of S.C.L.) commented, “’At present public libraries are facing huge challenges – there are reduced budgets within local authorities, new and developing operating models and changing customer expectations and as a result SCL have worked with our partners to devise a new and creative strategy for library services which is focused around 4 universal service offers. These offers focus upon the service areas that our customers tell us are important and they enable libraries to continue to develop these service areas.”

We would hope that these offers are extended to cover all aspects of public library services that users across the nation value and not focus solely on the four offers named above to the detriment of wider library service provision. Users benefit from libraries in such a variety of ways that other areas with less of a high profile should not be ignored.

Although the universal offers are intended to be implemented by all public library services in England and Wales, they are not compulsory. The S.C.L. have indicated that 98% of local authorities have already signed up to these offers being delivered in their local area, which is very encouraging, but it is not universal. At the same time not all of these library services have signed up to all four offers. Only 80% out of the 98% have signed up to the information offer and less than half have signed up to the full digital offer. So, how many of our public libraries will actually be delivering all four offers and initiatives, and what is the reasoning behind those authorities who do not intend to do so? How will those that aren’t intending to be involved at the outset be encouraged to do so in future? If they are not willing, what will the implications be and will there be any sanctions against those library services who do not participate with initiatives that are intended as a step towards a national library service?

With regard to delivery, will it be feasible to effectively support these initiatives in libraries with current levels of staffing cuts? Alongside this, the increasing removal of specialist information and reference staff will undermine any attempt to provide a universally high quality enquiry service in libraries.

We also wonder how the universal offer will be implemented effectively now that so many libraries have been removed from direct local authority control – those that have been outsourced, privatised, or are volunteer led? Will this reinforce the divide in library provision that is emerging between libraries in different communities, based upon who is leading on the provision of that service?

Furthermore, we hope that the focus of these universal offers and initiatives, alongside the SCL report on “The new super-users of Britain’s public libraries” will be useful in highlighting the continued importance of public libraries to those who do not currently appreciate their relevance.

Finally, we are also keen to know if standards will be set out for measuring libraries achievements against these universal aims, and also how the aims of the S.C.L. offers and initiatives sit with current statutory duties and laws laid out in the Public Libraries and Museums Act and other acts of parliament linked to public libraries?

Even though we have these questions and concerns, we still believe it is a step in the right direction by the Society of Chief Librarians and their partners and hope that it is something that will be developed and built on in the future as part of an appropriately funded and managed library service.

Marching for a future that works

Members of Voices for the Library, along with supporters of the Speak Up for Libraries alliance, library campaigners and supporters, will be joining the TUC demonstration in London on Saturday, A Future That Works. Library campaigners will also be represented at the Glasgow and Belfast marches.

Why are we marching?

  • public libraries have a key part to play in getting people back to work and building a modern economy with jobs for all
  • libraries are under attack;  so are schools, hospitals, housing, transport, industry…everything that makes us a civilised nation

Library supporters will be meeting under the Speak Up for Libraries banner at 11 am on the Embankment opposite Middle Temple Lane. Map here. It’s going to be a big march; if you can’t find us, make sure you have some library-themed placards. A good turn-out this Saturday will be a boost to the Speak Up for Libraries conference three weeks later, on 10 November. Registration is still open.


Running libraries the Anythink way

Anythink Libraries banner photo by Davidking / Flickr

Anythink Libraries (c) Davidking / Flickr

If you believe what you read then a miraculous transformation has taken place in Rangeview’s Libraries since gaining independence in 2004 from Adams County Public Library and becoming Anythink in 2009.

According to a recent Guardian article;

“Anythink Libraries in Denver, Colorado, have quadrupled circulation and visitor numbers in seven years by connecting with users and raising its own levy”

And from an ALA article comes the bold statement:

“it looks like Rangeview, led by director Pam Sandlian Smith and a forward-thinking board, has the library equivalent of the Midas touch.”

In 2010 Anythink were invited to talk at the PLA Conference, were awarded a National Medal for Museum and Library Service and Pam Sandlian Smith was named the Colorado Association of Libraries (CAL) Librarian of the Year.

They have also managed to build or renovate 7 new libraries and according to a recent article in the ALA Magazine this has caused an “economic ripple effect” on the surrounding communities.

So what is the Anythink model?

Well they don’t charge fines, don’t use Dewey, they don’t use traditional titles for staff preferring instead to call them a ‘wrangler’, ‘concierge’ or ‘guide’ and in 2009 re-branded their libraries as the Anythink concept and logo. As you can already tell it’s not exactly a conventional set up for a public library service, they even have their own staff manifesto which tells employees that they are “part wizard part genius part explorer”. In their brochure they also state “ideas should have no boundaries” and that the libraries are “a building with no walls”. Anythink claim too have taken their inspiration from the Idea Store concept in the UK and from the Apple Store.

“They’re discernibly libraries but with some tweaks. Most important, there’s no reference desk but a “front perch” and “back perch” (and sometimes another), stand-up stations where librarians (er, Guides) and Concierges offer quick assistance. The buildings—the product of a stutter-step process that began eight years ago—are organized for flexibility, not for books.” In the Country of Anythink – LJ – 15.10.10

So it’s all wonderful in Anythink land. Well maybe not! According to an article published in LJ in 2010 the use of self-service kiosks means that there are no desks so staff are expected to roam or as we know it ‘floor walk’ for a considerable part of the day prompting this comment on the LJ website:

“Posted by Carol Kunzler on November 17, 2010 01:41:07AM

I would be especially interested as to how, as they age (not easy to opt out of that one), staff “hold up”, physically, since they seem to be expected to be on their feet almost continuously(60 hours per week? Really?!). Are there any “disabled” or physically challenged staff, or does one have to just “fade away” as their bodies age and they can no longer accomplish the task they were hired for (is that when they can “opt” for a “lesser” title, and pay?)? Or will segways (segues?) be issued to improve mobility? Perhaps the library’s “leaders” got their heads stuck in the “cloud” too long—wake up and drift down to earth and the very real looming problems (challenges!) that lie ahead. (Does that make them “Didn’tthinklongandhardenough”-ers?) “

The whole model operates on a very tight budget with great emphasis put on self-service and ‘lean’ staffing, which according to the LJ article, mentioned above, can cause confusion and a lack of focus:

“such a proactive service has its trade-offs, since there may be no one discernibly in charge. LJ observed some kids scampering around the main part of the Wright Farms flagship library, unchecked, and one neighboring librarian, visiting as a patron, says other customers invariably ask her for help finding books.” LJ 2010

A comment from their Human Resources Director Susan Dobbs also paints a picture of tight budgets and short staffing:

“Human Resources director Dobbs likens Anythink “very much to a start-up,” with a lean staff working long hours, fueled by passion.” LJ 2010


“With a significant chunk of its budget devoted to building expenditures, Rangeview keeps personnel expenditures costs to about 60 percent. The staff is relatively thin, but front-line staff did get raises this year, thanks in part to careful fiscal management, such as discounts on benefits and from vendors.” LJ 2010

When the Anythink model was launched all existing staff had to re-apply for the newly re-branded jobs, 95% got jobs and one of the 5% who didn’t left due to her shock at seeing that the reference desk had gone.

An other contentious issue could be that Anythink don’t require a Branch Manager to hold a library qualification or to have a public library background:

“A library degree isn’t required to run a branch. In Brighton, one of the region’s fastest-growing communities, Todd Cordrey serves as Anythink Manager/Experience Expert. A former real estate broker and president of the local school board, he’s finishing his master’s in public administration.” LJ 2010

So to summarise Anythink’s model has delivered increases in issues and usage and has excited and delighted many but at the same time their use of retail concepts and ‘lean’ staffing could give some cause for concern.

Mia Breitkopf sums up the concept“One public library system in Colorado has completely rethought how it does business. The Rangeview Library System in Thornton, Colorado, has branded itself “Anythink“, as in, “I think I’m going to head over to the Anythink in Bennett, play guitar hero for a bit, grab a book of one of the bookstore-like categorized shelves, and record my oral history story with the mixed media artist so she can use it in the public history project.”

Public Lending Right and volunteer libraries

Following on from recent articles in The Bookseller and CILIP Update regarding the possible exclusion of volunteer run libraries from the Public Lending Right, we were asked by a local campaigner if this meant that authors could refuse to allow books to be loaned by such libraries? We contacted UK PLR registrar, Jim Parker, for clarification. Here is his response:

The first thing to say is that volunteer-run public libraries are not automatically excluded from PLR. Where a volunteer-run library continues to operate under the local authority public library service then PLR continues to apply. PLR would only not apply were a library branch to be closed by the local authority and reopened under new management by a voluntary or other group entirely independent of the local authority. So, for example, in North Yorkshire several branch libraries are now run by volunteers but remain part of the county library service and it continues to be possible for PLR to collect book loans data from them.   

I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to your second question…. My understanding is that in situations where PLR does not apply, under UK copyright law unless a library is a ‘prescribed’ library it would need a licence from the author to lend a book out. But the situation may also depend on the wording of an author’s contract with his/her publisher over what the publisher is entitled to do by way of selling the author’s books.

As Mr Parker indicates, the situation is not clear cut. Some volunteer run libraries fall within the statutory provision of a local authority and others outside of it. This will determine whether they are part of the public lending right scheme or not.

Evidence sessions for Parliamentary Inquiry into library closures

The second evidence session for The Culture, Media and Sport Committee Inquiry into library closures will take place on Tuesday 21 February (Committee Room 15, Palace of Westminster).

The Committee will hear evidence from representatives of Arts Council England, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), Isle of Wight Council, Leicestershire Library Services and the Local Government Association.

Further details of the session can be found here.

The session will be screened on the internet via

The first session saw Abby Barker (Voices for The Library),  Sue Charteris (author of the report on Wirral library closures), Andrew Coburn (The Library Campaign) and Miranda McKearney (The Reading Agency) give evidence.

Below are some of the comments and points raised during that session (paraphrased).

  • Miranda McKearney: The passionate work of campaigners over the past 18 months has started to shift the debate about what libraries mean to us all.
  • Abby Barker: A lot of people making these cuts don’t understand what a library is, or what it does, or what librarians can offer.
  • Andrew Coburn: In local areas libraries offer a social place to build communities, based around services they provide.
  • Abby Barker: Local libraries are important. Not all people can get to the central library branch. There is room for both large ‘destination’ libraries and small libraries to provide services. They complement each other.
  •  Abby Barker: The cuts are focused on books & buildings. Librarians aren’t just there to stamp books. Librarians are there to enhance your experience of the library.
  • Andrew Coburn: A lot of what library staff do is about direction, mediation & assistance. The fewer library staff there are in the system the more difficult it is to get an answer from anywhere in that system.
  •  Miranda McKearney: Even though ‘you clearly have access to the things you need to live your life. Lots of people don’t’. (Response to MP about why libraries are needed)
  • Abby Barker: If comprehensive & efficient could be more clearly defined, local authorities may be able to make better decisions.
  • Abby Barker: Library consultations are being run from the top down and local authorities are not listening to or taking into account users needs.
  • Andrew Coburn: What’s the point of the Secretary of State having powers of intervention if they aren’t used? He needs to “grasp the nettle.”
  • Andrew Coburn: How will volunteer run libraries affect the statutory duties?
  • Abby Barker: Volunteers can add value to a library service, but they shouldn’t be seen as a replacement service.
  • Miranda McKearney: Partnership working on a national level with librarians is difficult because there aren’t enough of them.
  • Miranda McKearney: There are some things you can only do nationally to improve library services – we need a national strategy!
  • Sue Charteris: Local authorities need to look at equalities assessment of local needs.
  • Sue Charteris: Isn’t keen on having more regulations, but feels local authorities need guidance from Secretary of State & Arts Council England.
  • Sue Charteris: Library services need proper communications teams to sell their benefits.
  • Sue Charteris: There has to be a prominent role for librarians in providing public library services. They are key.
  • Sue Charteris: Volunteers are well-placed to do certain things in libraries, but a sound policy on volunteering by local authorities is key.
  • Sue Charteris: The Secretary of State role needs to be more pro-active nationally.
  • Sue Charteris: Current public library legislation needs to be looked at, because it is “cumbersome” and out-of-date.
  • Sue Charteris: Believes that some kind of peer review would be useful to ensure library services are heading in the right direction.