Category Archives: Uncategorized

Community Tubs

8db82330006691b95ced0a718d83f9cbDespite Middlesbrough Council’s rush to rebrand libraries as community hubs Midshire Council has gone one better and teamed-up with a well-known DIY brand, BBQ Base, to launch the community library shed programme. As part of the scheme each library member will get a 10% discount card to use in-store.

Until now little light has been shone on the hitherto unknown issue of shed mountains. A bearded spokesperson for BBQ Base said that people often changed sheds each year due to new seasonal colours being available and more attractive tongue and groove models. “There’s plenty of life left in these poor sheds but people seem to want a different hue each year so the old one’s are abandoned and left out in the rain.”

Councillor Maureen Claim-More, Lead Member for Libraries, said the idea had occurred to her when visiting one of Tower Hamlets Idea Stores. “I was reading an article in Shed Monthly, on my tablet of course, about the problem and the idea just popped into my head. Now that wouldn’t have happened in a traditional library.”

The Save Libraries Right Now Campaign declared that this move would only continue the trend towards a two-tier library service. SLRN said its concern was that users in the most deprived areas would be offloaded with cheap overlapping rough sawn timber models, with more affluent areas being awarded the attractive shiplap cladding option.  Councillor Claim-More poo-pooed the objection and said it was spurious scare mongering but stated that volunteers would be needed to paint them. “After all we wouldn’t want them to fall out of fashion”.

She added that males were a falling library demographic but that men loved sheds so the programme would make libraries more attractive to men and drive up visitor numbers. The programme is also adopting the Open+ approach by removing the shed doors to provide access on demand 24/7.

She also confirmed that this is just the first phase of the programme, which if successful will herald the introduction of READING1community library tubs, with hot tubs being installed in the sheds, or summer houses for her own constituents.

Cilip warned that this might have an unfortunate detrimental effect on stock budgets as services struggled to replace water damaged stock. However, the SCL broadly welcomed the move saying “we agree with whatever the LGA say and regard this new and innovative project as part of the universal health offer.”

The Minister for Community Hubs & Amateurs, stated that despite being completely useless he welcomed the programme and would view any council that delivered library sheds and tubs as fulfilling their duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient service. He stated ” I have absolutely no idea what the 1964 Act entails but this seems perfectly fine to me.”

The Chair of the Taskforce tasked with following government policy on libraries noted the only thing that would improve the programme was it being delivered by a mutual or trust. The Arts Council meanwhile promised to fund Locality to produce a report which stated that what users really wanted was clean people to help them when they visited a library shed.

The ‘Amateurisation’ of Public Libraries

The 2015 CILIP AGM takes place on Thursday 24 September at CILIP Headquarters and unlike previous years is a fairly low key affair estimated to take just over two hours. As usual I would urge all those members who cannot attend to at least use their proxy votes.

The two areas that have grabbed my attention are the proposal by Andy Richardson and Anna Brynolf (below) and the, as usual, ever increasing subscription rates. The unnecessary increase in subs is something I argued against last year but it seems that Cilip is determined to treat members as milch cows despite the job losses and limit on public sector pay. This is a matter I will return to in a future post.

Well done to Andy and Anna for submitting the following proposal and saying what many within the profession think. The phrase ‘amateurisation of the Public Library services’ sums up the current situation succinctly and encapsulates in a single word the reductions, hollowing out, deprofessionalisation, and handing over to volunteers. Amateurisation indeed!

The wording of the proposal is:

“That CILIP actively oppose those public authorities and senior library staff over the “amateurisation” of the Public Library service by offering library buildings and contents to be run by the local community with little or no funding for professional or paid library staff. This is resulting in public libraries being run by volunteer staff and taking away work currently done by paid professional and library assistant staff. All current public library service points manned by paid local authority library staff should be the current base-line – and where such actions are suggested by the local authority and senior library staff, CILIP should support the opposition to such proposals and say so publicly.”


Vol stats

The loss of staff and increase in volunteers is starkly illustrated in this graph from the Guardian.

Recently Cilip has raised its profile around advocating for libraries and Nick Poole has done a round of radio and TV interviews talking about library closures. However, I still think Cilip’s approach is too softly-softly so will be supporting the proposal and urging Cilip to be more adversarial in its opposition to the removal of paid staff.

This proposal transitions interestingly into the announcement that Jan Parry, President of Cilip, has been appointed to lead a task-force charged with working out how Liverpool’s libraries will be funded from 2017 onwards. From one perspective this is a positive move to involve those who actually know about libraries, from another it could be seen as glossing over the relinquishing of 5 libraries to volunteers and the loss of paid staff.

So this is a precarious position for Cilip. Any move to find a solution which involves volunteer libraries will be met with outrage from members and campaigners alike and will run contrary to the above proposal if passed.

Cilip has released a statement in support of the work Jan has been asked to do. Unfortunately, it is couched in terms that immediately gives rise for concern and suspicion in that it is similar to the vague terminology and management-speak that seeks to disguise reductions to service and removal of staff.

Cilip needs to clarify in plain English whether or not this will mean supporting, even indirectly, volunteer run libraries. It would be reassuring if Cilip were to offer a base-line affirmation, along the lines of the SLIC recommendation, that volunteer run libraries without paid professional staff are not the preferred option.

There is a basic financial imperative for Cilip in all of this. It is paid staff, not volunteers, that pay subscriptions and without employment they are unable to do so. So less employment for members means less members for Cilip. Simple really!


Interesting comment from librariesmatter:

Just a thought …..if CILIP had wider membership then perhaps it wouldn’t need to raise subscription rates and it wouldn’t be seen so much as a narrow professional body merely protecting its members interests.

For example the American Library Association provides personal membership to Library Friends, Trustees and Associates. CILIP for some reason doesn’t embrace such people.




Where does it go from here?

Well, despite the best of intentions to write more widely about politics I have actually found, after numerous aborted attempts, that the only area I really enjoy blogging about is libraries. So with that in mind Leon’s Library Blog is once again up and running.

I still firmly believe that the fight for public services is the fight the libraries. The genuine despondency felt by many staff struggling to deliver public services is summed up in a heart-felt letter by Corinna Edwards-Colledge, a Brighton and Hove Council Officer. In it she accuses David Cameron of deliberate contempt for council workers, outlines the devastating cuts to public services, and the negative impact on local communities.

Libraries are part and parcel of the struggle to deliver meaningful services to some of the most vulnerable members of our communities: from the housebound, to the job seeker who cannot afford internet access, and the families who are unable to buy books to effect the many positive benefits that reading for pleasure brings.

In fact the ‘reading for pleasure’ element of libraries has been poorly regarded and often disparaged by politicians. However, a recent report, The Impact of Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment, by the Reading Agency demonstrates the real, tangible benefits of reading for pleasure. As such, the loaning of books, in all formats, should remain a mainstay of library provision. An excellent blog by Dawn Finch outlines the main aspects of the report and why reading for pleasure is so important.

We are faced with 5 more years of ideologically driven austerity, the dismantling of public services, and the almost certain continuing reduction and fragmentation of public libraries. So the fight continues and I have decided to return to my musings mainly on the political and campaigning aspects of the ever changing library landscape (and yes, you can accuse me of doing a ‘Farage’ like u-turn!).

I cling to the hope that despite the changes to come we can continue to articulate a vision for public libraries, that while perhaps being a long way from the reality of current provision, nevertheless should be the ideal we aspire to, and which we will one day hopefully achieve.


As an addendum to my previous post I came across the following letter – via the Speak Up for Libraries Facebook page – from the Coventry National Union of Teachers. For me it encapsulates not only the importance of library services but also what Nick Clegg should be trying to prevent in order to eliminate illliteracy by 2025. If he is genuine about such a goal then the Liberal Democrats need a strong and clear message concerning public libraries, which should include not closing or handing them over to volunteers. Unfortunately, the Deputy Prime Minister has taken the usual coalition approach of washing his hands clean while laying all the blame on local authorities.

Plans to reduce number of public libraries and other cuts to services – Coventry Telegraph Letters for January 23 2015

“As a representative of the National Union of Teachers in Coventry, representing over 1,800 teachers, we are extremely concerned with the city council’s intention to reduce dramatically the number of public libraries in Coventry. We believe that libraries are uniquely placed to help foster engagement in reading. They offer free access to learning and a ‘safe’ space for children and young people to study and access resources.

They can help students to develop their confidence and motivation, seeing themselves as readers outside school and, therefore, read more widely and independently. They will offer a far wider range of reading materials than the school can offer, inspiring students to extend their reading tastes. Librarians are key to this service. The fact that councillors are even suggesting that we can run libraries on a ‘charity shop’ model with volunteers is an insult to our library service.

Councillor Kershaw rightfully points to them being a ‘golden thread running throughout our lives’ (Telegraph, Jan 16). These cuts, supported by both political parties, will turn that 24 carat gold to fool’s gold if they succeed with this plan.

Libraries are a treasure of information and imagination and we must all join together to fight to keep all our libraries as well as oppose all cuts. Let’s unite to defend the services that matter to us and not be divided by the canker of austerity.”

Jane Nellist
Joint secretary and national executive member,
Coventry NUT

Better than indifference!

The debate over Cilip’s governance seems to have generated a fair bit of discussion, point and counter-point, and unfortunately the occasional personal attack and name calling. On a positive note most of this is healthy and democratic and highlights how strongly members feel about the future direction of Cilip. Best that members disagree and generate discussion rather than no one shows any interest at all.

Tom Roper’s blog has several (so far) posts about the governance review and I would urge people to read the comments section with counter-arguments being made by Martyn Wade, Barbara Band, and Phil Bradley among others, as well as comments in support of Tom’s own viewpoint.

Barbara Band has written a spirited defence of the review on her blog. It’s a genuine, heartfelt post with lots to agree with, although, again, it’s worth reading the comments section as not everyone is in favour.

There are many comments on JISCMail, although I do feel some of the comments aimed at Frances Hendrix have been rather harsh and seem little more than personal attacks. Perhaps we all need to remember that professional courtesy goes a long way and that it is the idea that should be attacked, not the individual.

There are comments on the LinkedIn Cilip group section and I am sure that I have missed lots on Twitter about the issue.

The details about the CILIP Big Day and AGM 2014 is online, with a rather interesting programme outlined. And it would be good if this issue meant a big turnout of members on the day. In fact perhaps Cilip needs to consider a contentious issue each year to encourage a large turn out!

It looks like this debate has a long way to go yet, with more to be written and said before it comes down to the vote. To me this is a good thing, as it shows an interest and regard by members for what their professional body is doing. After all, surely the worst feedback is indifference.