ESSENTIAL INFO

FACTS ABOUT LIBRARIES

Public Libraries News. Website, edited by a librarian in his spare time, good for regular updates on what’s happening. Search the menu at the top for fact files on core topics, from saving money to staffless libraries.

Libraries Deliver. Succinct, easy to read report puts together the key facts (2019) on libraries and: value for money; place-shaping & inclusive economic growth; education, informal learning & skills; health, wellbeing & social care; digital skills & getting online; enterprise & business support; poverty prevention, social mobility & social isolation.

Invaluable.

Public Libraries Comparative Profiles. How your library service compares with similar services for performance, spending etc. Easy-read annual charts going back to 2012.

Libraries Welcome Everyone: Six Stories of Diversity and Inclusion from Libraries in England. Lots of examples of what libraries can do for ‘minorities’ of all kinds. Really inspiring.

Libraries: An Essential Part of Local Recovery. ‘Toolkit’ showing how libraries can help local post-virus recovery: as a public space, & for the economy, education, social isolation, digital inclusion, culture & wellbeing.

Shining a Light. Masses of info (2017) on what people think of libraries in Ireland and the four UK nations, in digestible graphic form. Thought-provoking.

Library Facts and Reading Facts. Simple facts about the importance of libraries and reading. Needs updating in places.

THE MONEY

Local authorities have a statutory duty to provide and promote a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service (1964 Public Libraries & Museums Act). They have no such legal duty to provide museums, galleries, theatres, sports centres etc.

Basic council funds come from council tax, rates and central government (which does not specify how much of its grant is for libraries). They must compete at local level with all the council’s other services.

Decisions are made in the context of the ‘local plan’, neighbourhood planning and possible contributions from property developers. How to work it: Championing Archives and Libraries within Local Planning.

For 30 working days each year, the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 gives people the right to look in detail at how councils spend their money. Each council has a different deadline. The Peoples’ Audit.

WHO’S WHO

Many organisations – too many – have some responsibility for public libraries.

The MHCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government) ultimately holds the purse-strings. It is the central government department responsible for local government. Every year, it determines how much each local council will get in funds from central government.

But it does not determine how much of it is spent on libraries.

The DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) covers many areas. It sets central government’s policy on libraries. But it does not fund them. It is headed by the Secretary of State. In theory, the 1964 Act gives him/her power to get information from councils, and to intervene if the service is not ‘comprehensive and efficient’.

These powers are barely used. Below the Secretary of State, one minister is more directly responsible for libraries (among other things).

In practice, government thinking is embodied in the work of… … The Libraries Taskforce within the DCMS. Its blog includes: research; toolkits on how to implement various government-approved ideas (e.g. ‘alternative delivery models’, volunteer-run libraries, income generation); information about attempts to get the DCMS to enforce the1964 Act (unsuccessful); examples of good practice.

ACE (Arts Council England) is the national development quango (sorry – non-departmental public body) providing advice and grants to libraries of all types in England.

Libraries in Wales are devolved to a policy division of the Welsh Government – like DCMS and ACE rolled into one: English Welsh. It is far more active than DCMS, with (for instance) better publicity, a duty for library services to report annually on how they are meeting defined national quality standards.

There is also a separate website for library users, so they can find their library and get an idea what it offers: English Welsh.

Libraries Connected (formerly the Society of Chief Librarians) is now ACE’s official ‘Sector Support Organisation for libraries’. It’s doing much useful work (often in collaboration with CILIP and/or Carnegie UK – see below) and creating useful resources (though hard to find on labyrinthine website).

CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals) is the professional body for all types of librarians in the UK. Trains, campaigns. Again, website has useful material though hard to find – see under ABOUT in top menu, also its progressive stance here.

The Carnegie UK Trust carries on the work of mega-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie – including a lot of research and projects on libraries.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Libraries promotes their role in society and the economy, plus the wider information and knowledge sector.

UNISON is the trade union which organises most library staff. Does good research and campaigns.

UNITE also organises some library staff, and has a community section for people not in employment to give benefits and support campaigning.

EXPLORE MORE

There are many, many organisations doing work relevant to reading and libraries. Many have big, busy websites. Many let you subscribe to a regular newsletter. This is just a selection.

The Reading Agency runs dozens of projects in libraries to promote reading to all kinds of people – including reading groups, Quick Reads and the (children’s) Summer Reading Challenge.

It is a huge source of information, ideas, downloadable activities/ promotional material – and links to other campaigns and organisations.

The National Literacy Trust is a charity ‘dedicated to building a literate nation’, which includes promoting reading for pleasure. It does research, campaigns and projects – but little with libraries as such. Masses of information, plus fun activities for families and schools (which libraries could use).

BookTrust – see also BookTrust Wales – is the UK’s largest children’s reading charity. Work includes research, awards, Bookstart (free books for pre-schoolers) and the Children’s Laureate. The website has masses of information plus activities, tips, author interviews, book recommendations etc for kids of all ages.

The Social Exclusion Network works to make services more accessible in libraries, museums etc. Lots of news, basic information and examples of good practice. It publishes regular email lists specialising in: looked-after children; Travellers; older people; LGBT+; learning-disabled people; people with sight problems and refugees. To subscribe, email john@nadder.org.uk.

Public Lending Right administers payments to authors for loans of their books in libraries. The website includes fascinating information about what’s borrowed most. Look under UK Media Centre.

Libraries for Life for Londoners is the umbrella organisation for London groups. The website has useful information about London, and libraries in general.

Voices for the Library is an independent website set up by librarians to advocate for libraries. Sadly ceased work in 2017 but still has a lot of useful content.

Designing Libraries is ‘the centre for library design and innovation: a resource for planning and design, a database of library building projects and a marketplace for services’. Website includes lots of pictures of new libraries worldwide. Dream on!

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