Libraries: “vital role” in Wales says review

Members of the panel with the deputy minister

Members of the panel presenting the deputy minister with their review. From left: Prof. Hywel Roberts, library adviser; Clare Creaser, Loughborough University and Chair of the Expert Panel; Peter Gomer, Welsh Local Government Association representative; Ken Skates AM, Deputy Minister for Culture and Sport; Steve Davies, Cardiff University.

“Public libraries will continue to play a vital role in the ongoing delivery of local and national priorities such as social inclusion, lifelong learning, literacy, digital inclusion, health and wellbeing and community cohesion.” (Paragraph 198) 

An independent expert panel, appointed by the previous minister responsible for libraries in Wales, has just published its review of Welsh public libraries today (Wed 22nd October 2014). The report is available online in English and Welsh and the Welsh Government press release is available on its website (includes quotes from the deputy minister). The press release says: “Speaking at the WLGA Library Seminar, organised in partnership with the Welsh Government, the Deputy Minister said the current management model for public libraries across Wales was not sustainable.”

The report lists 11 recommendations, and it has also taken into account the recommendations and findings from the National Assembly for Wales’ CELG committee report on public libraries which was published in late July 2014 (paragraphs 33-37). This is relevant to other libraries as CELG committee recommendation 1 is for an annual report, and the panel’s recommendation is for this to be a cross-library report (not just public libraries) as the Welsh library strategy is cross-sector.

The expert review’s report covers the current provision of public libraries in Wales and Welsh Government library policy, changes (proposed and actual) from 2014 onwards to local authority library services, and a chapter on future models of service delivery. There are lots of nuggets in the report and it considers a wide range of issues including hot topics of volunteers, the library workforce, income generation, community libraries, and legislation.

The foreword notes that whilst there is “broad agreement on provision, set out in the Fifth Framework of Welsh Public Library Standards” there remains the question of “how can this best be delivered to maintain the quality and relevance of the service for the people of Wales?” And, to achieve this by focusing on the “benefits for the user”, the statutory nature of the service, and, the current and future economic climate.

In the executive summary, paragraph five says “The review reaffirmed the importance of the public library service and that it will continue to make a positive impact to the life of individuals and their communities in the future. Libraries will play a vital role in the ongoing delivery of local and national priorities such as social inclusion, lifelong learning, literacy, digital inclusion, health and wellbeing and community cohesion.”

One of the key messages I read in the report is one of partnership, collaboration and joint working. Here in Wales we’ve always got on well together and hopefully the future for Welsh public libraries will see this continuing for the benefit of library users.

The recommendations for the deputy minister for libraries in Wales are a mix of immediate and longer term proposals. The executive summary notes that they will be subject to further discussion and will be the basis of the next library strategy for Wales post 2016. So, whatever your views on the recommendations, let CyMAL know (through me or other means).

The 11 recommendations are divided into three main areas and are copied in full below:

“Managing Change
I. The Welsh Government, Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) and local authorities should work with stakeholders to continue to develop good practice guidance which will assist local authorities and their public library services to consult on services. This should include training and promoting the effective use of the wealth of online resources available, including the National Principles of Public Engagement, Practitioners’ Manual for Public Engagement; Evaluation toolkit.

II. The Welsh Government, Welsh Local Government Association and local authorities should work with stakeholders to continue to develop good practice to assist local authorities to undertake Equality Impact Assessments. This will include training and promoting the use of the forthcoming Equality Impact Assessments Practice Hub being developed by the WLGA and NHS Centre for Equality and Human Rights among public library services.

III. Proposed changes to public library services should only be progressed following the production of costed options which should be appraised according to:
a) the identification of appropriate timescales;
b) the completion of required impact assessments;
c) the opportunities for collaborative working with neighbouring authorities or other delivery partners.
This recommendation should be applied with immediate effect.

IV. CyMAL should take immediate steps to collect evidence and assess the impact of proposed changes to library service provision on the communities affected within the context of statutory requirements in Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC, Neath Port Talbot CBC and Blaenau Gwent CBC to inform future decisions by other local authorities. CyMAL should publish a report after an initial 3 month period of research and a full report after 12 months.

Strategic Improvements
V. Every public library service should develop an evidence and outcomes based strategy to begin in 2015-16, outlining how the library service contributes to local, regional and national priorities, which is published on the library service’s website. This document should be used as a strategic planning tool and regularly revised and updated in accordance with existing corporate practice. The library service strategy should be supported by a delivery plan outlining how the strategy will be implemented, including a Results Based Accountability scorecard assessment. An example of best practice is Caerphilly CBC’s five year development plan which is based on their 10 year strategy.

VI. CyMAL should work with staff, employers, SCL Wales, CILIP Cymru and trade unions to develop a comprehensive five-year workforce development plan to start in 2015-16 for public libraries to meet future staffing needs. It is the Panel’s view that volunteers should be provided with tailored training as a discrete group to meet their specific needs.

VII. Local authorities should recognise and respond to the need for more urgent and greater emphasis on collaborative schemes in their future strategies for public library provision, especially between and among local authority departments, across local authority boundaries, and with other public sector libraries. The Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism should take into account, in deciding what constitutes a “comprehensive and efficient” service, the local authority’s record and commitment
in collaborative service delivery.

VIII. Community managed libraries (as outlined in para. 83) should not be considered as part of statutory library provision at the present time, subject to the findings of the research proposed in recommendation IV and IX. Data relating to libraries which are not part of statutory provision should not be included in returns under the Welsh Public Library Standards Framework.

IX. CyMAL should work with stakeholders to develop guidelines and appropriate documentation for partnership agreements setting out the minimum requirements which would enable a community supported library to be considered as part of an authority’s statutory provision. Relevant legal advice should be sourced as part of this process. The criteria for a community supported library to be included as part of the statutory provision should be developed by CyMAL by January 2015 for implementation from April 2015.

Future Models of Service Delivery
X. The Welsh Government should work with the WLGA and local authorities to progress the following strategic actions:
a) promote greater collaboration on a more extensive scale between authorities as an immediate priority;
b) develop public library services in-line with any future model for local government in Wales, as an ongoing commitment;
c) develop a regional or national consortium approach to the delivery of public library services in the medium-term (3-5 years), to be facilitated by a suitably funded organisation supported by the Welsh Government;
d) create a nationally co-ordinated library create a nationally co-ordinated library service for Wales as the ultimate goal.

XI. The Welsh Government should undertake the necessary legislative process which would make the Welsh Public Library Standards statutory guidance in relation to the duties imposed by the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. The Welsh Government should also consider introducing new legislation to reflect the changing requirements for the public library to deliver services collaboratively in digital environments.”

Posted in Challenges, CyMAL, Governance, Libraries, Libraries Inspire, Public libraries, Publications, Research, Strategies, Wales, Welsh Public Library Standards | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Why I #LoveLibraries and #CaruLlyfrgelloedd

LoveLibrariesAquaIn Wales the #LoveLibraries (or in Welsh #CaruLlyfrgelloedd) campaign has just started (mid Oct 2014). This, mostly social media, campaign is seeking to promote fantastic library services, activities and staff, and also to increase membership by getting existing members to encourage someone else to join.

By using the hashtags, bilingual Twibbon and joining the Thunderclap (yep, the latter two were new to me too, shame on me!) recently, it made me think about why I love libraries. Here’s some of my reasons, in no particular order:

  • access to more books than I could possibly read, ever
  • all types of fiction to suit all tastes
  • friendly, neutral, non-invasive, welcoming spaces, with no hidden agenda
  • lovely helpful, friendly staff
  • free
  • always trying new things
  • socially equalising
  • community information – the place to go to find something out
  • the opportunties – through all that they do.

As I’ve aged (gracefully?), libraries have always been there in my life. As a child and teenager I read voraciously and needed our weekly trip to the library 10 miles away to get enough books to last the week. As a student I’ve used many libraries and found them excellent places to work, although also a source of distraction by people watching! The two times I’ve moved cities/towns in the last 20 years finding the public library was high up on the list of things to do: not only to get my fix of books, but also to find out about what’s going on in the area though local papers, noticeboards etc. These days I have a good natter with some of the staff when I pop in, and have even been known to sometimes visit libraries when on holiday elsewhere. (I hope I’m not alone in doing that, please tell me someone else does it.)

Orange background with text 'caru Llyfrgelloedd'Anyway, if you’re in Wales, or even if you’re not, you can find out more about the #LoveLibraries campaign on the Welsh Libraries website #LoveLibraries page where there’s a database of events taking place during the campaign, and if you’re a member of staff in a library in Wales you can access the briefing document and branded marketing materials from within the staff toolkit. Contact the team in Wrexham (or me) if you have any questions. And check out their Facebook pages in Welsh and English!


Posted in Academic libraries, Events, Health libraries, Libraries Inspire, Marketing, Media, Public libraries, School libraries, Social media & social networking, Wales | 6 Comments

WHELF survey of library access schemes


A good review of access schemes in universities in Wales, which includes reference to public library schemes as well.

Originally posted on WHELF:

WHELF recently carried out a survey to audit library reciprocal access schemes in Wales. The survey was run as part of Strategic Aim 1 of the WHELF Action Plan: Student Experience to assess whether WHELF was meeting its objective to develop partnership access schemes in order to further the student experience and to ascertain what areas need further development in this area. A 10 question survey via SurveyMonkey was distributed and responses were received from eight institutions: Aberystwyth University, Bangor University, Cardiff University, Cardiff Metropolitan University, National Library of Wales, Swansea University, University of South Wales and UWTSD.

The survey results revealed that the most widely used access scheme in Wales is Sconul Access with regional schemes such as Libraries Together and Linc y Gogledd also very popular. Walk in Access Wales, a recent WHELF project that allows the general public to access electronic resources at participating institutions was also…

View original 302 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New scheme for innovative public library ideas

The Carnegie UK Trust are about (from 1st Sept 2014) to open applications to a new scheme of theirs: the Carnegie Library Lab. This is a three year programme of £200,000 “aimed at fostering leadership and innovation in the public library service.”

“Successful applicants will have the opportunity to take part in an online learning programme and apply for £5,000-£15,000 to develop and implement an innovative idea in their library.” They will help secure mentors to aid in implementing the ideas, help with professional and personal development of the successful applicants and facilitate networking events to build up a cohort of leaders and innovators.

The programme will “create partnerships with up to 15 public libraries to support innovative practice and show that book lending is only one of many services that libraries can deliver.”

Interested? Application forms will be available on the Carnegie UK Trust website from 1 September 2014, but there is already information about what they are looking for on their website. Applications close on 30th Sept so it’s best to get your thinking caps on now. You can also pre-register your interest on their website so that you are alerted when the papers are released.


Posted in Grants, Libraries, Public libraries, UK, Workforce development | Tagged | Leave a comment

TV soaps, libraries and public debate – guest post

Street sign saying Coronation StreetCan soap operas tell us anything meaningful about ourselves and the way we live? Do they document our times? I imagine they aim to, although many of us will dismiss them as fluff. Nevertheless even a casual viewer would note, over the years, their engagement with a range of issues from drug addiction and terminal illness to religious fanaticism. In EastEnders, Dot Cotton’s journey from prejudice to understanding, via her friendships with Colin and especially Mark Fowler is an obvious example. It told us something about how attitudes were changing in the post-HIV world of the 1980s and 90s, and maybe (for some people) helped to change them. I’m not a media critic so I don’t dare go further than that; but I am a librarian, and (ssh) a watcher of soaps, so I have been very interested in the latest story development on Coronation Street.

(Ed: this is a guest post from Dr Anoush Simon, lecturer in the Department of Information Studies at Aberystwyth University. I’m afraid to say I haven’t watched Corrie myself.)

The geography of Weatherfield has been extended. It transpires that they have a local library. I admit I’ve only been watching Coronation Street since my student days in Manchester, but I don’t think the library has been mentioned very much before, or if so, only obliquely. No matter – the council want to close it down and it’s time for a campaign! This is facilitated by the recent arrival of a new character, tough-talking librarian Yasmeen Nazir. She quickly puts paid to Roy Cropper’s well-meaning petition, arguing that the council will only respond to direct action – in this case, a sit-in at the library on the day it closes. I won’t digress here on the glory of the interactions between Roy, Yasmeen, Emily, Mary and young Craig as they struggle to get comfortable on the wooden seats and worry about the overnight security of Mary’s motor home (Corrie fans will already know this), but the upshot is that emails to a local councillor and the threat of a social media campaign secures the library a stay of execution. The celebrations are short-lived however as our heroes soon hear that the library is on fire, no doubt an act of revenge against their campaigning.

1960 television

Image CC by James Vaughan on Flickr. TV from 1960. Coronation St started in the same year.

The admittedly unlikely torching of the public library following Roy and Yasmeen’s victory (they earned the right to appeal the closure) means that I’ve been deprived of a courtroom-style drama involving people quoting from the 1964 Act. But it was clearly a device to get us to the story’s mother-lode, which is that the café Roy’s Rolls is to double up as a community library! This is fantastic on many levels. It’s a testament to the much-missed character Hayley Cropper and her campaigning spirit. It’s a reflection of what is actually happening in many communities right now. And it gives an opportunity for one of the best characters that any soap has ever created, to meditate on the joy of reading, the value of free access to information, the power that comes from knowledge and (fingers crossed), CILIP’s Statement on Intellectual Freedom, Access to Information and Censorship… Okay, maybe not that last bit. But Roy has, I think, met his intellectual match in Yasmeen, whose cries of “[I am] an experienced, fully qualified Librarian” and “it was a vocation!” must have warmed the heart of at least a few qualified, graduate, chartered, passionate and committed librarians. I’m looking forward to more banter as the community library/café/Salon develops. Maintaining a voluntary library is a huge and legally-complex challenge, and if any characters can carry off an extended discussion on copyright and the PLR, it’s these two.

As a lecturer, one of the subjects I am interested in is the idea of information ‘poverty’ and the digital divide: the impact on individuals, communities and indeed countries of not having easy access to high quality information (and ideally, a support structure to help us in our information-seeking). These days, this inevitably includes access to the Internet and the burgeoning range of information sources available there. A case in point is government information. This is increasingly available primarily online, and the UK Government’s Digital Strategy aspires to ‘digital by default’ i.e. everyone who needs to apply for welfare benefits or other types of support, does so online. This is fine if you have fast and easy access to the Internet and already use it all the time; it’s very easy to think that everyone has this.  But research from Citizen’s Advice Scotland indicates that their clients, the very people who may need to access these benefits, are also those most likely to have restricted or low levels of Internet access, experience and confidence – certainly lower than the general population. And as our fictional librarian in Coronation Street points out, “families with no money are being punished!”

The UK Government has identified libraries as one source of support for those who are having trouble navigating the job seeking and benefits application form jungle; how realistic this is in the context of the cuts and closures highlighted on the Public Libraries News website, remains to be seen – although we know that libraries are already doing good work in this regard (and have been for many years). There are many such examples in Wales, where I’m based, where libraries are engaged with Communities 2.0 and other partners to offer digital days, ICT training, information and digital skills training, literacy skills and many other types of support.

My main point is this: the huge problems facing our public libraries (and indeed the local authorities who have to make these difficult decisions), the potential threat to, or actual closure of, small community libraries, and the devastating impact on communities or individuals that may result, is actually being talked about in a prime-time TV soap – still one of the most watched programmes on UK television. I’m pretty sure this hasn’t happened before (but will be happy to stand corrected).

It brings the issue into popular focus, and helps to underline the value of libraries to communities for a whole range of reasons. In the course of 4 or 5 episodes we’ve had reference to the library as a safe space, a community space, a place to do homework, provider of books and information for the socially excluded, a bridge for the digital divide, a repository of social history, and memories of a lifetime of use. I do know it’s just a story, and it’s not going to change the world – but it’s there, it’s being acknowledged (and being so, acknowledges all those who are fighting for libraries), and it gives me heart.

(If you missed the episodes, or have never watched Corrie, you can catch up online on ITVplayer, for 30 days. The best episodes are the 30th July and 1st Aug – but there’s mention of it for the week before that too.)

Posted in Challenges, Communication, England, Libraries, Media, UK, Wales | Tagged , | 9 Comments

50 years of the Public Libraries Act 1964

[Guest post by Hywel James, Gwynedd, and he kindly wrote it it in Welsh too]

Birthday cakeThe chief librarians in Wales celebrated recently. What did they have to celebrate, you may ask, in the middle of planning drastic cuts in spending and closing some libraries? Well, on a break from a busy agenda with items discussing the development and improvement of services, we took the opportunity to share cake and remember fifty years since the passing of the Public Libraries Act 1964. This Act established the modern statutory library service, which it is the duty of each local authority to provide, and that gives everyone in Wales the opportunity to enjoy and benefit from its use.

As a child of the sixties I remember especially a new public library building which came in the wake of this important Act: the new concrete and glass Holyhead library. I was there at the opening, with the Secretary of State of Wales at the time, Cledwyn Hughes, opening the library in his hometown and mine. Here my life was opened to the treasures of literature of a high standard – the pleasure of following the story of Tolkien’s Hobbit and excitement of reading T. Llew Jones novels – and getting valuable help with my homework whilst at school and college – my debt to that library is great.

As it was in the period of a Labour government that this first golden age of public libraries took place, it was necessary to remind myself that the 1964 Act was the product of a Conservative government. After years of debate mainly during the years of Harold Macmillan’s leadership, the Act was passed. It is no coincidence I suspect that Macmillan himself was an enthusiastic reader – his favourite author was Jane Austen by the way – and of course he was the heir to a company of Scottish descent that became one of the world’s major publishers. It is strange to think in the present climate that we owe a debt to the Tory party for the Act to establish the ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library services!

People and cake

Picture: Anita Thomas (Pembrokeshire) and Steve Hardman (Swansea) both born in 1964 with Ann Jones (Monmouthshire) Chair SCL Wales, and Hywel James (Gwynedd) – who bought the cake !

While visiting the new libraries at Prestatyn and Caerphilly recently I was struck by the same excitement I felt as a child in Holyhead, to see new multi-purpose libraries attracting a host of new users. The lean period is ahead of us but we have survived bleak decades. Our strength as a public service is that review after review, case study after case study and our everyday experience shows the great value of libraries to people’s lives. This solid evidence will ensure future Welsh public libraries continue to serve, with free access for all, for the next fifty years.

[Ed: You may also be interested in reading four other responses to the significant date on the Voices for the Library website, by Prof Charles Oppenheim, David McMenemy, Bob Usherwood, and Dr Steve Davies.)

Posted in Governance, Libraries, Public libraries, Wales | 3 Comments

Fancy being a student again?

Girl writing in a diary

Image CC from Pic Jumbo

Are you working in a Welsh library service and looking to improve your qualifications? You may be eligible for a workforce development bursary to help you improve your skills. Bursaries are available for vocational qualifications (Level 2, the old ‘NVQ’) up to Level 7 (Masters) and include the Foundation Degree and its conversion to a BSc and the PDA in ICTL (Professional Development Award in ICT in Libraries). Or you may be thinking about a leadership qualification.

More information about the workforce bursaries is available on the CyMAL grant webpage – read the workforce development document. Information about course providers is in the document, but in Wales we are very fortunate to have three excellent institutions offering a range of appropriate qualifications: Coleg Llandrillo (under Grwp Llandrillo Menai), Glyndwr University, and Aberystwyth University. (Other course providers in the UK may also be appropriate.) Most courses will start in September, so get looking and planning!

You may wish to look at the Professional Knowledge and Skills Base of CILIP, which maps the essential skills for library and information  professionals.

These bursaries are part of the workforce strand of the Libraries Inspire strategy, the Welsh Government’s strategy for libraries 2012-16. The funding allocated to this each year is finite, so once it’s gone it’s gone.

If you have any queries get in touch the workforce adviser Velma Hather – contact details are in the document.

CyMAL also runs a cross-sector (i.e. museums, archives and libraries) free training programme. Upcoming courses and dates are listed on the training pages of the CyMAL website. Some of these may be of interest to library staff in Wales.


Posted in Careers, CILIP, CyMAL, Grants, Libraries, Libraries Inspire, Wales, Workforce development | Leave a comment