Hereford Library Users' Group

09/07/2010

Manchester libraries buck the national trend

 

Manchester Central Library

Despite recent reports indicating that visits to libraries are down; a recent press release by Manchester City Council  indicates that visits to the city’s libraries have increased by 17% from 2.8 million to 3.1 million a year. Book issues, computer sessions, online reservations and searches on the library web pages are all up from 2009. There has also been a 42% increase in the number of young people visiting library homework clubs and the issue of children’s books is up by 11%. Large numbers of members also make use of the library twitter and facebook pages and the new Overdrive service is up and running. This enables library members to download books to their computers, e-readers and other devices without having to set foot outside their own homes.

Manchester libraries have always been ahead of the game – back in the 1960’s, the huge central library in St. Peter’s Square had an extensive  commercial library well-used by local businesses; a music library greatly appreciated by the students from the Royal Northern College of Music; and a splendid reference library. Down in the basement was the Library theatre which used to put on very good productions and an excellent coffee bar. Even the state-of-the-art (for the 1960’s) district library newly opened at Hulme had  a separate lending, children’s and reference library (on three floors) and a coffee bar.

So keep up the good work Manchester! For further information go to:

http://www.manchester.gov.uk/news/article/5641/manchester_libraries_buck_thenational_trend

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09/05/2010

Hereford Libraries under the national spotlight!

Hard work by Herefordshire’s library staff, in tandem with Shropshire’s, has resulted in the partners being selected for government’s The Library Futures Programme. Competition for this opportunity was fierce, over 100 local authorities setting out their proposals, and our team is one of only ten in the whole country to go forward with the first phase. The project has received national publicity, ensuring that Herefordshire & Shropshire library services have equal exposure and are in the same league as Oxfordshire with Kent or Cornwall with Devon, Plymouth and Torbay.

 The Programme aims to ensure that libraries play a central role in their communities during the current difficult times, being designed around the needs of the public. Cost savings are to be sought, and digital opportunities maximised.  The MLA and LGA Group will assist with support and advice.

“A strong library service, based around the needs of local people, can play a key role in our ambitions to build the Big Society by providing safe and inclusive spaces for people to read, learn and access a range of community services’, says culture Minister Ed Vaisey.

 HLUG applauds the successful bid but, despite recent television features, we know that libraries aren’t just about borrowing books. Hereford Library is also the county HQ, and should act as a key information hub as well as being the focus for reference and local studies with ample research and study areas. We should also keep in mind that some of the ideas in Ed Vaizey’s report could amount to “back door privatization” – way for central government to wriggle out of its obligation under the 1964 Libraries and Museums Act, if the local authority fails to provide basic library services. Public libraries are never more needed than in times of economic hardship.

HLUG very much favours some proposal from other regions. Lincolnshire plans to work with neighbouring Lincs, Rutland, Cambs, and with local communities to develop library services beyond their traditional role and across a large geographical area. This will include access to other public services, key information hubs and the provision of democratic community space. The aim is to reposition libraries as a core service of local government, making them relevant and responsive. Oxfordshire and Kent wish to retain the features which are valuable to customers such as good stock, access to information, community spaces and knowledgeable staff. Examples given are extensive online services such as ebooks, e-loans and social networking.

Northumberland & Durham aim to make use of shared arrangements relating to IT and professional support, enabling their libraries to offer access to a range of council and other services. Local communities will use libraries to learn, make transactions, find the best sources of information and develop information handling skills, as well as accessing employment opportunities.

We cannot avoid some disappointment however. HLUG is well aware that many regions already have large, modern, well equipped libraries which have already transformed their communities, whilst Hereford still battles with its 1874 building and all the consequent laborious working and inefficiencies that entails, as well as ongoing annoyance to users caused by inadequate separation of functions and lack of space.

HLUG welcomes the national focus on Herefordshire libraries and confidently expects that, in time, we shall see our own library service featured on national media as an example worth following.

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