Tag Archives: Libraries

Into the library vortex…

Library vortex, image and web link
Into the library vortex of knowledge and imagination…

We have, with our new Libraries news-feed page, given our readers the opportunity to keep up with latest news from across the UK.

We are rotating our topical feeds across University libraries, feminist collections and featuring, as we must, the go to public library resource, PLN.

Library image by Jaredd Craig…

Check our our Libraries page below and keep coming back to stay informed.

    See more: http://www.conversationseast.org/libraries/

In The Guardian you can find an encompassing article that sums up the decline of the local library. Picturing a library using population that has tumbled by 30% in a decade. See more

The study it regales us with is Taking Part (.pdf) from the DCMS. It found that…

The greatest fall in adult library usage was seen among 16 to 24-year-olds, according to the DCMS report. In 2005, figures showed that 51% of this age group used the library. In 2015, the figure fell to 25.2%.

Statista, the Statistics Portal, offers detailed annual library visits data, from 2002 to 2014.  Here the analysis shows that from a peak in 2005/, with a total of £42 million visits, by 2013/14 this figure had declined to just over 282 million visits.

It is never too late to fight back and get into good library habits. We like the 10 Reasons to use Your Library article, on the web journal Ten Penny Dreams. Elegantly laid out, the author, a North of England writer, gently chides us to remember why using a library is such a joy and a revelation. See more here

If you need it, visitcambridge.org in the East of England are offering public tours of the Parker Library, including parts of Corpus Christi College. Where you can ‘…sample its amazing collection which includes the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, principal source book for early English history, the sixth-century Gospels of Saint Augustine, the Bury Bible and the best manuscript of Chaucer’s Troilus…

Proof, if proof were needed, that librarians are keepers of our collective culture, and that libraries, as buildings, are the engines of our future dreams. Don’t lose it, use it!

    See more: http://www.conversationseast.org/libraries/

Enlightenment in the East of England

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Once Upon A Festival – Suffolk Libraries

We love libraries!

 

 

 

 

In 1851 J.W.Hudson, speaking at the opening of the Mechanic’ and Apprentices’ Library in Liverpool, opined that a visit to the library would, for the reader, lead to them ‘…receiving cultivation, not in reading the latest accounts of mis-demeanours and local calamities…but in imbibing instruction and high gratification from the perusal of select and valuable works whether they lead him with the traveller, across the pathless tracts of oceans, or cheer and console him, with moral sketches of human nature’.  (Source: Mid-Victorian Britain 1851-75, Geoffrey Best, Fontana Press, 1985, London, p.232)

Once Upn a Festival button, image and web link
See more about the Festival here…

Whilst the publicly accessible library, after nearly a century or more of rising literacy in our country would then clearly stir the intellectual interest of Everyman (and Everywoman and Everychild too – Ed.) the message is still clarion today, stimulating the autodidact to seize the high ground of undiscovered knowledge and learning.

The adult, or child reader, will today find a mesmerising range of interests available at their local library that carries the long echo from that opening event in mid-nineteenth century Liverpool. Experience is still to be garnered for the mind, in the face of closures, funding cuts and, perhaps, even a topical turn away from the intellect towards ‘accounts of mis-demeanours and local calamities‘.

Suffolk Libraries web button - image and web linkSuffolk Libraries, during June 2018, are teaming up with Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds to host five performances as part of the ‘Once Upon A Festival’ children’s arts festival.

The Suffolk Libraries festival programme looks like this:

Once Upon a Festival: Pied Piper

Sat 16 June – 1045 to 11.30
Bury St Edmunds Library

‘When the Pied Piper plays his flute the rats run, the greedy mayor rubs his hands and the children dance… Norwich Puppet Theatre’s humorous and irresistible one-person show combines a skillful mix of puppetry, foot-tapping music and storytelling and will have audiences young and old entranced’.

Once Upon a Festival: The Children in the Moon

Sat 16 June – 1430 to 15.15
Newmarket Library

‘The Children in the Moon is a wonderfully visual and original take on centuries old children’s verse, packed with puppetry and live music this is an ideal show for all the family. Tickets for this show are £1 per child’.

Once Upon a Festival: Graffiti Classics

Wed 20 June – 1530 to 1630
Newmarket Library

‘6 strings, 8 dancing feet and 4 voices with 1 aim: to make classical music wickedly funny and fantastically exhilarating for everyone, young and old. Graffiti Classics burst the elitist boundaries of the traditional string quartet with their hilarious all-singing, all-dancing musical comedy show’.

Use the Suffolk Library links to check out these gems of ‘library performance’ and kick-start the 7 to 13 year old auto-didact in your family today.


Context and Editor Notes:

Libraries and the Arts are deeply embedded in our culture and history. By the 1680’s, in England, libraries were growing more common, from the large installation in the affluent country house, to ‘the more modest bookshelf in the yeoman’s farm‘. Public libraries, as we might understand the term, were extremely rare outside Oxford and Cambridge.

In 1684, the Rector of St. Martin’s in the Fields, working with Christopher Wren, set out to build a library ‘for public use’. The Rector and Wren built a large house in the grounds of the churchyard, using the upper story as an accessible library and the downstairs as a ‘workroom for the poor’.

Thus beginning, arguably, the long tradition of the library as a multi-use space, feeding the individual mind, raising community social capital and road-mapping the way to the intellectual horizon.

Everything we might want today.

(Source: English Social History – Chaucer to Queen Victoria, G.M.Trevelyan, Penguin Books, London, 1978, p. 279)

Once Upon A Festival is now in its fourth year and aims to make performance art more accessible in theatres, schools and communities by taking the performances to children in their school or community. For more information visit www.onceuponafestival.co.uk   

Melissa Matthews, Suffolk Libraries Art Programme Co-ordinator, says: “We’re delighted to host these events. Once Upon A Festival delivers high quality dynamic performances from a variety of companies and libraries are a great place to host exciting events like this in the community. We want to deliver more events like this as part of our Arts programme to open up new and accessible arts experiences for children and young people.”

(Source: Suffolk Libraries Press Release, June 2018 – https://www.suffolklibraries.co.uk/news/once-upon-a-festival/ )

Love your library, whatever age it is – we do!

Enlightenment in the East of England

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Whither libraries?

Too old, too big…too little used?

Article update: 28.10.2017  – A really sound article on the utility of libraries by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett –  No one needs libraries any more? What rubbish  from The Guardian of Thursday, 26th October, 2017.

In it Cosslet takes to task the political pundit Andre Walker, for his omnipotent vision of the library service in the UK. Namely that no-one visits them anymore and they should all be closed down and the books given to schools.

Is there something Presidential in this decimation of the library service by Twitter?

Rhiannon goes on to thread her story with her use of the public library when young – developing intellectual curiosity, cultural awareness, knowledge of the world and taking up the rich opportunity public libraries offer to graze the landscape of the word, six books at a  time.

We recommend the article to our readers.


Original text: In the Spring of 2015 the Adam Smith Institute published an article entitled ‘The End of Local Authority Libraries‘. As the economic ice age of Osbornian austerity descended upon us, the Press was full of cultural turbulence about the closure and operational rigidity of our national literacy assets.

Although the general  Press attention has diminished, it is telling that the dilution of the library service has continued unabated, albeit with increasingly diminished media currency, as we have been further overwhelmed by matters of political moment in and about Europe, perhaps.

View, print or download the full report here…pdf

Central government, arguably, remains enthusiastic and espouses a positive vison for the library service. The recent report Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016-2021 from the Libraries Taskforce, is almost entirely upbeat about the half decade ahead. They offer a vision of a multiplicity of supported delivery systems for a local library in section 6.3 of the report.

The website Public Libraries News, in July, declared that now ‘there are at least five hundred libraries that are staffed, if not entirely run by volunteers’. On the one hand, this is a sign, we would argue, that there is profound suport for the local library at grassroots level. But it is also a sign, looking at the plethora of continual changes and negative reviews of library services across the country on the website, that there is no clear, effective and equally profound form of new governance emerging for libraries.

One that, at once taps into localism, yet satisfies the need for an eclectic and near universal access to knowledge and leisure, free at the point of delivery for those who need it most.

The trade union Unison are to hold a National SOS Day on the 19th of October, 2017. Save our Services is designed to show that ‘...libraries are a hub and a haven in our communities. They offer a place for people to work, relax, discover and think.They are a source of local knowledge and history and give everyone access to books, DVDs, music and more, for free or at a very low cost.

But libraries also do a lot more than lend books. Many hold events, anything from story time for children to yoga classes for adults. Library workers help people look for work, advise on using IT, organise talks by authors and so much more‘.

Source: https://www.unison.org.uk/blogs/2017/08/sos-day-17/

The debate, then, continues to have currency. The Adam Smith Institute argued, in its article by Eamonn Butler, that the free market was the solution to the ‘library deficit’ issue, as to be expected. That exemplars of library innovation, in the shape of American organisations such as Library Systems and Services, were to be the saviours of a moribund library market.

However, research shows that the accession of LSSI to the pinnacle of library stewardship has not been entirely successful in the USA. An earlier article in the New York Times shows how both library staff and users, even in the more affluent cities where LSSI has obtained contracts, have been happy to lead protests. Dissenting voices to the ending of  unionised services, diminution of book stocks and antagonism towards the ethics of ‘libraries for profit’.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/27/business/27libraries.html

The City Library, Birmingham

The Butler argument, from the Adam Smith Institute, saw the then new Birmingham City Library building as an example of ossification of service. The £188 million building began to operate on a ‘self-funded’ basis for events, for example, in the context of author events or arts activity. Both previously seen as draws to footfall for the library service. Indeed key activities in a wider cultural obligation for libraries, we would argue.

However, debate about the capital cost of a building in austere times is one thing, but the Institute author’s position somewhat fails to recognise that it is free market policies which have led to the very fiscal landscape that has so diminished the library service.

If a library is battered by exogenous fiscal policy upheaval, it is somewhat unfair to blame the librarian for lack of service, or diversity in activity, surely?

Is there hope for change? We think so.

We were pleased to see that there is widening acceptance by Councils that the community should have control of libraries as a community resource. At the beginning of August, for example, Derby City Council declared for the cessation of control of ten libraries, which will see ‘…the loss of at least 39 library assistants’ jobs and two library managers, of almost 100 staff who work for the authority. Community groups will get £17,500 a year each to fund their own managed libraries until 2022…’

Source: http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/news/derby-news/attempt-stop-biggest-ever-shake-265614

What is concerning, in this case, is the timetable and the level of grant in aid ceded to the community organisations in the City, to effectively manage the transfer and creation of a new community organisation to deliver the service.

More positively again, Bury Council this month have approved a new community asset transfer plan. ‘The new policy means applications from groups to buy community assets from the council will be considered against ‘key tests’ designed to ensure a deal which is best for the council and residents‘. The landscape of community opportunity grows!

Source: http://www.thisislancashire.co.uk/news/15439093.New_policy_hopes_to_make_it_easier_for_groups_to_take_ownership_of_council_buildings/

However, it is entirely possible, we would argue, to imagine the creation of community libraries as Social Enterprises, where the not for profit governance model delivers a mix of volunteer and employee led services, bolstered by an admixture of social business services to support and maintain the core library provision.

A community cafe, a learning centre, a gardening or horticultural project…the list could easily be imaginatively extended by a dynamic, active community. The whole focused upon the creation of ‘…a place for people to work, relax, discover and think‘, to remind us of the Unison observation.

If the trade union are having an SOS Day, why do we not start a new think-tank movement, LASER – Libraries as Social Enterprise Renewal.

Write to conversationsEAST if you are interested in social enterprise, passionate about libraries and learning and keen to develop governance-sound, community led, not for profit library buildings.

We’ll publish a web site, host a meeting and give the idea traction?


Additional narrative – 20.08.2017

Read more here…

We have just come across a recent article in Wired by Susan Crawford, where she argues for a resurgence in phiilanthropy to revitalise the library service.

In the text, in response to a recent tweet by Jeff Bezos asking for suggestions about a new shape for his giving, she argues for an Amazon/Bezos programme of giving to libraries.

Developing Jeff Bezos’s current long term view of his ‘social investments’ towards, arguably, a philanthropic delivery that would cater for the short and the long term. Mr. Bezos describes his search for a new intitiative ‘…to help people in the here and now’. Our new library programme, as described, would do that, but also cater for the long term too.

Namely a series of Amazon Memorial Libraries, or Bezos Community Cultural Centres, would benefit the communities they were placed in, but they would also create new readers and enhance human capital in the hinterland of their sites, as well as delivering a major philosophical boost to the image of Amazon as a socially beneficial company.

You can read Susan Crawford’s piece on the pages of Wired here.

We understand Jeff Bezos reads every email sent directly to him. We’ll write to Mr. Bezos and make a suggestion supporting a new philanthropic venture into the British library landscape, and explore the models that might be created.

We would argue that history has been kind to the Carnegie model of library establishment, why should not future generations look as kindly upon Jeff Bezos?

Watch this space for an update, even if we don’t get a reply!


Useful links to accompany this article:

Library over-watch!

http://www.publiclibrariesnews.com/

Use it or lose it! – The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/aug/16/library-use-in-england-fell-dramatically-over-last-decade-figures-show

City Library Birmingham: Image by Gareth Williams - Creative Commons

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