News

Bookmark Your Library report says libraries 'forgotten'

A newly launched library website supported by Arts Council England and the Society of Chief Librarians has reported that 60% of people are not visiting their local libraries.

But the report has been criticised by library campaigner Desmond Clarke, who said it was "strange for the organisations behind this website to launch it with such negative results".

Bookmark Your Library, launched yesterday (19th March), is backed by ACE and SCL; the Reading Agency; library service sharing organisation The Combined Regions; and WorldCat.org from international library co-operative OCLC; and is said to be designed to help people access their libraries and learn more about them.

However the site has launched with a research study (into 2,000 people) that found 60%  are not visiting their local libraries and nearly half said libraries were not needed as much as they were a decade ago thanks to new technology. The study found that one in five people would feel very disappointed if their local library shut down, and only one in 10 said it would be a loss to their local community.

The biggest driving force behind people visiting a library was children, with 14% of people who responded saying they last visited the library to encourage their child to read, and 8% going to help their child with a school project. The average time a respondent last visited their library was 17 months ago.

Elisabeth Robson from Bookmark Your Library, said: "Local libraries used to be the cornerstone of many British towns and cities, but despite libraries across the country offering a diverse range of services, these appear to be unknown to a large proportion of the country. The problem lies with a lack of general knowledge on the services that they offer and how precious a resource they really are. With Bookmark Your Library, our goal is to help promote the services of libraries around the country ­ as they provide support to everyone."

She added: "Our libraries are a national institution, free to use, and they are not just about books, there's lots more available in terms of services such as e-books, free access to computers and the internet for example. People tend to use libraries when they are young, when they have kids and when they get older. People shouldn't forget they are there in the intervening years. Our message is simple; use them or lose them forever."

But campaigner Desmond Clarke questioned the survey, saying: "I would like to know more about how this research was carried out and what kind of sample they used. The findings seem to go against other similar surveys and what we know from other countries where library use is going up. It is strange for the organisations behind this website to launch it with such negative results—news like this is what gives councils green lights to cut their services or hand them over to volunteers."

The website has services for finding libraries, seeing what events are happening, and checking which books are in stock.

From The Bookseller: Arts Council England has asked us to make clear that while ACE is a partner in backing the Bookmark Your Library project and and website, the body has not managed or funded the project. The headline of this article has been changed to reflect that.
 

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In 1991 Gerald Ratner joked that some of his goods were total cr*p. As soon as the media got hold of his gaffe, his credibility vanished. It was not long before his chain of shops disappeared from high streets.

Have ACE and SCL 'done a Ratner'? Looks like it.

I agree with Desmond Clarke and with Shirley Burnham. These are very odd figures when you consider the huge fuss communities across the country are making about closures and cut backs to local library services, let alone other reports.

The motives for releasing such a negative statement for the launch of this site are questionable.

This is an own goal on a spectacular scale.

Unless The Bookseller has set out to pervert the message in the crudest possible way (which I very much doubt)....

The story is (or should be) that public libraries do loads of great things but many people don't know about them - but now, yippee! there's a great new website that gets you loads of stuff including a 24/7 personal info service...

So they shove to one side the mound of existing data on how popular libraries are, and spend Lord knows how much on tracking down some new data that are far more negative - and then headline THAT in their publicity.

What are they thinking of?

Statement from The Reading Agency

The Reading Agency is not in any way associated with the research ‘are our public libraries being forgotten?’ published today on the Bookmark website.

We have supported work on the site, and the promotion of reading through it.

We are glad that The Bookseller has picked up on the goal of Bookmark Your Library. By launching the service yesterday, our objective was to help promote the services of libraries around the country. Our libraries really are national institutions. Bookmark Your Library has been developed to help libraries with increased visibility.

We are disappointed that The Bookseller chose to focus on a negative aspect of our survey – something that represents only part of the story we were trying to convey. We have had a positive reaction to the initiative so far. Bookmark Your Library is here to do its utmost to promote the value of libraries.

The danger at the moment is that as libraries make a transition into a Web 2 era the roots and foundation stones of the public library service of the past and that will continue to be the foundation stones of the public library service of the future will be forgotten. By all means posit that the public library service is no longer needed, but not without pointing out that the libraries are in a period of great change at the moment -- however with the possibility of a road ahead that could promise a future library service for the children of today that their parents could only dream of.

I don't know what ACE & SCL are playing it - it's a valid point, but shouldn't be more than a provocation and challenge at this point -- untimely to say the least.

I think it would help more if a new website from ACE & SCL were to reinforce the foundations during a time of change with carefully considered visions for the future and while rebuilding the future.

To reason that community libraries should be closed from a survey of 2000 people given the committees and years of report writing and research that paved the way for the public library service of today...

Thanks for clarifying The Reading Agency's position. I have to say this confirms what I know of The Reading Agency, who are clearly so very pro library and pro reading. I'm lucky enough to have had two daughters directly benefiting from the fabulous work TRA do to promote libraries.

It is a great shame that the launch is linked with negative messages and credit to The Bookseller for highlighting this so it can be challenged.

That is great to know Elisabeth (Bookmark You Library) that the goal is to promote libraries but I think The Bookseller were right to highlight this issue.

The report does come across as very negative and, I have to say, unrepresentative of the views I hear as a local and national library campaigner.

People do not march, petition, protest, fight for, speak up, occupy or seek judicial review for things they do not believe in or care about deeply and libraries are clearly a priority, even for those who don't currently use libraries, for the value they bring to communities as a whole.

Elizabeth Robinson is wrong to criticise The Bookseller for focusing on the negative aspects of her survey, Her press release is headed "Are our libraries being forgotten. Use them or lose them say online library service." Furthermore the ITN Tyne Tees report is also headed "Are our libraries being forgotten". As ElizCro says it was a great shame that the Bookmark team should have linked their launch to negative messages.

@Elizabeth Robinson and Margaret Mckearney

Well, fair enough. However, as far as I can see, every single name mentioned appears to be funded straight from central government. So it seems to me that there is a collective responsibility.

Want to promote libraries...? Yet you're directly associated with a piece of dirt-digging so called research.

Needs a little more from you, and the Reading Agency, than a comment-reply here.

Never thought I'd actually agree with Mr Clarke..., but he's spot-on here, imo.

AP

As a survey it does put a spotlight on terrain that is usually not highlighted...

I'm not convinced that in 1850 or even 1964 a similar survey would not have resulted in the same findings - the point being that the design of the library service in 1964 was intended to be a blueprint for the library service of the future that the nation would need to maintain an educated and intelligent population - it was in fact the vision of the Act that where libraries were not valued they would not close but endeavour to build their usage (and also I would suggest that as and when popular media became more readily available they would take on an increasing role in supporting further and higher education students in a community). Now having said that Brent's issues have almost recovered (with footfall close behind) - never-the-less the service is now less efficient for many people to make use of and there has been no assessment of the possible impact in respect of the original design and purpose of the service; there has been no formal research into the actual changes to people's library usage habits (as a library assistant I cannot but help feel for the ordinary public using the library every day!); there is also a danger that Brent's experience will be used to justify large scale closures else where - when there are by no means any guarantees that another city would experience the same. The process seems essentially to be somewhat a shambles acted out in haste with little concern for many individuals or indeed what was one of the greatest library services in the World.)

I would also point out that and while this analogy does break down after a point (as all do), a library shares some characteristics with a hospital in that often people do not use a library until it is actually needed - at which point it is often found to be of great value (value that should also increase in the future as the public libraries bring themselves into a Web 2 and even Web 3 era). People also value libraries recognising that those in our society who achieve above average often will cite the role of the public libraries in achieving their success - asking how happy people are with the library service would be a better measure of their value in this instance.

Has this research then not been incorrectly valued and placed in context by ACE and the SCL?

I would finally ask if closing libraries undermining the Standards set down in the 1964 Act (and let's please not have any further uninformed arguments about what comprehensive and efficient etc. means) is not a basic undermining of the principles of the Act (a matter for the Parliamentary Ombudsman at this point then if the DCMS fail to act?).

Any realignment of the Standards set down in the Act need to be properly reasoned from the basis of the Act itself and it is this reasoning against the backdrop of the role and purpose that the library service was intended to fulfil that is needed rather than research ACE & SCL have highlighted and posited as a basis for change.

Does Ed Vaizey still exist? Does he do a job?

Or does he just sit back and get his paid-for people to act for him...
or rather does he just do all the ministerial jollies like visiting my old university, Strathclyde, to deliver those awful blathers....

While all the people who care about libraries squabble and fight among themselves. Small government, or divide and rule..?

Or just useless.

To ground a few things.

The context. People believe a local community library adds some happiness to their lives, and also could be of value in contributing to their material wealth in the future --- it is not without good reason that a local library is a selling point for a property (adding value to that property). Libraries traditionally are about books(1), wider literature that is also judged of value(2), and literacy skills. In recent decades the 'wider literature' that people are finding of value has increased somewhat considerably to include resources to be found on the Internet; the information resources of the Web 1.0 era, the grey literature of the Web 2 era that we are currently experiencing(3). Etc.

Closing community libraries (where at least the need for the library remains) makes it less efficient for people to use a library's resources - parents with small children having to use public transport, unemployed and students having to spend much needed cash on travel costs, the problems created for the elderly, disabled, etc. (As it takes more time, effort, etc. to use the library, it becomes increasingly used only for the more important things hence less frequently.)

Is it time yet to close the local community libraries given the Internet. Publishers have currently not as yet given libraries a full remit to lend their e-books (nor has the government as yet passed legislation to facilitate this). Libraries need to continue to put the books that authors are writing on the shelves that readers are browsing. Traditional community libraries are also still needed because communities are not yet fully information literate, particularly in terms of using electronic resources to find books. Until everyone does in fact have reliable access to the Internet and e-book reading devices - young and old alike - and the necessary information literacy skills, then there is still a need for the local library. I think, if the above is pointed out, most ordinary folk would agree that it is not time yet to close the local community library down for good(4).

Will 'Bookmark Your Library' meet the needs of library users - some, it will help, however what is needed is for our public libraries to continue making available the books that authors are writing on the shelves that people are browsing, but also to apply themselves likewise to the increasing amounts of literature of value on the Internet through information literacy, both in terms of media (though most are computer literate nowadays, it is soft-media skills that are increasingly necessary), but also 'domain specific'(5).

Further reading:
SCL, Book to the future, http://www.goscl.com/book-to-the-future/
Lane Wilkinson, Reorganizing literacy, http://senseandreference.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/reorganizing-literacy/
Stephen Abram, What do Teacher Librarians Teach?, http://stephenslighthouse.com/2013/03/21/what-do-teacher-librarians-teach/
Myself, end two paragraphs of this comment on the subject of increasing library use, http://www.publiclibrariesnews.com/2013/01/library-cuts-a-betrayal-of-tr...
(and all of the recently published volumes on the subject that I cannot afford to read on account of being largely unemployed since April just gone ;)

--------

(1) primarily, while recognising the role of the library in serving authors and the literary ecosystem of our culture, ultimately the wealth of the nation
(2) journals, diaries, emphemera, etc.; published books on the whole are assumed to be of value in the first instance
(3) a Web 3 era is actually not far ahead - and it will be librarians that bring us into this age (librarians applying themselves to the information abundance that is the Internet - a similar response in many ways to the 'literary overload' experienced by Western culture following the invention of the printing press)
(4) if at all ever at that (if this country doesn't have brains to trade I'm not sure what else it is going to feed itself with in the future, the social value of the community libraries not only towards the ends of the libraries but wider social needs, etc.)
(5) government information, genealogy resources, etc. - but also the tools and techniques that have replaced the traditional library card index, extended also to include resources for locating information on the Internet

Can I suggest the following as a law of C21 library modernisation - that a community library cannot be replaced by a website until everyone - from very young to old - as well as a reliable Internet connection and e-book reader, has the necessary information literacy skills to be able to use a computer to a) replace the 'bookshelf experience', and b) the traditional card index type catalogue.

Even then I think I caught Rachel van Riel suggesting the future should be both e-book and traditional - reminding that our values at the end of the day are actually for both media forms.

Ensuring that electronic versions are available though is where the economic benefits are to be found from the resulting richer cultural ecosystem (this premise I think it is fair to say Google acted on - decisively and without hesitation - but there may be other ways towards the same end).

Could the government legislating to ensure a publisher supplying an e-book at a cost reflecting no more than the media costs is provided by publishers with every paper volume purchased (an e-book alone being more expensive on account of including the common/shared costs of the book?).

In 1991 Gerald Ratner joked that some of his goods were total cr*p. As soon as the media got hold of his gaffe, his credibility vanished. It was not long before his chain of shops disappeared from high streets.

Have ACE and SCL 'done a Ratner'? Looks like it.

I agree with Desmond Clarke and with Shirley Burnham. These are very odd figures when you consider the huge fuss communities across the country are making about closures and cut backs to local library services, let alone other reports.

The motives for releasing such a negative statement for the launch of this site are questionable.

This is an own goal on a spectacular scale.

Unless The Bookseller has set out to pervert the message in the crudest possible way (which I very much doubt)....

The story is (or should be) that public libraries do loads of great things but many people don't know about them - but now, yippee! there's a great new website that gets you loads of stuff including a 24/7 personal info service...

So they shove to one side the mound of existing data on how popular libraries are, and spend Lord knows how much on tracking down some new data that are far more negative - and then headline THAT in their publicity.

What are they thinking of?

Statement from The Reading Agency

The Reading Agency is not in any way associated with the research ‘are our public libraries being forgotten?’ published today on the Bookmark website.

We have supported work on the site, and the promotion of reading through it.

Thanks for clarifying The Reading Agency's position. I have to say this confirms what I know of The Reading Agency, who are clearly so very pro library and pro reading. I'm lucky enough to have had two daughters directly benefiting from the fabulous work TRA do to promote libraries.

It is a great shame that the launch is linked with negative messages and credit to The Bookseller for highlighting this so it can be challenged.

We are glad that The Bookseller has picked up on the goal of Bookmark Your Library. By launching the service yesterday, our objective was to help promote the services of libraries around the country. Our libraries really are national institutions. Bookmark Your Library has been developed to help libraries with increased visibility.

We are disappointed that The Bookseller chose to focus on a negative aspect of our survey – something that represents only part of the story we were trying to convey. We have had a positive reaction to the initiative so far. Bookmark Your Library is here to do its utmost to promote the value of libraries.

That is great to know Elisabeth (Bookmark You Library) that the goal is to promote libraries but I think The Bookseller were right to highlight this issue.

The report does come across as very negative and, I have to say, unrepresentative of the views I hear as a local and national library campaigner.

People do not march, petition, protest, fight for, speak up, occupy or seek judicial review for things they do not believe in or care about deeply and libraries are clearly a priority, even for those who don't currently use libraries, for the value they bring to communities as a whole.

@Elizabeth Robinson and Margaret Mckearney

Well, fair enough. However, as far as I can see, every single name mentioned appears to be funded straight from central government. So it seems to me that there is a collective responsibility.

Want to promote libraries...? Yet you're directly associated with a piece of dirt-digging so called research.

Needs a little more from you, and the Reading Agency, than a comment-reply here.

Never thought I'd actually agree with Mr Clarke..., but he's spot-on here, imo.

AP

The danger at the moment is that as libraries make a transition into a Web 2 era the roots and foundation stones of the public library service of the past and that will continue to be the foundation stones of the public library service of the future will be forgotten. By all means posit that the public library service is no longer needed, but not without pointing out that the libraries are in a period of great change at the moment -- however with the possibility of a road ahead that could promise a future library service for the children of today that their parents could only dream of.

I don't know what ACE & SCL are playing it - it's a valid point, but shouldn't be more than a provocation and challenge at this point -- untimely to say the least.

I think it would help more if a new website from ACE & SCL were to reinforce the foundations during a time of change with carefully considered visions for the future and while rebuilding the future.

To reason that community libraries should be closed from a survey of 2000 people given the committees and years of report writing and research that paved the way for the public library service of today...

Elizabeth Robinson is wrong to criticise The Bookseller for focusing on the negative aspects of her survey, Her press release is headed "Are our libraries being forgotten. Use them or lose them say online library service." Furthermore the ITN Tyne Tees report is also headed "Are our libraries being forgotten". As ElizCro says it was a great shame that the Bookmark team should have linked their launch to negative messages.

As a survey it does put a spotlight on terrain that is usually not highlighted...

I'm not convinced that in 1850 or even 1964 a similar survey would not have resulted in the same findings - the point being that the design of the library service in 1964 was intended to be a blueprint for the library service of the future that the nation would need to maintain an educated and intelligent population - it was in fact the vision of the Act that where libraries were not valued they would not close but endeavour to build their usage (and also I would suggest that as and when popular media became more readily available they would take on an increasing role in supporting further and higher education students in a community). Now having said that Brent's issues have almost recovered (with footfall close behind) - never-the-less the service is now less efficient for many people to make use of and there has been no assessment of the possible impact in respect of the original design and purpose of the service; there has been no formal research into the actual changes to people's library usage habits (as a library assistant I cannot but help feel for the ordinary public using the library every day!); there is also a danger that Brent's experience will be used to justify large scale closures else where - when there are by no means any guarantees that another city would experience the same. The process seems essentially to be somewhat a shambles acted out in haste with little concern for many individuals or indeed what was one of the greatest library services in the World.)

I would also point out that and while this analogy does break down after a point (as all do), a library shares some characteristics with a hospital in that often people do not use a library until it is actually needed - at which point it is often found to be of great value (value that should also increase in the future as the public libraries bring themselves into a Web 2 and even Web 3 era). People also value libraries recognising that those in our society who achieve above average often will cite the role of the public libraries in achieving their success - asking how happy people are with the library service would be a better measure of their value in this instance.

Has this research then not been incorrectly valued and placed in context by ACE and the SCL?

I would finally ask if closing libraries undermining the Standards set down in the 1964 Act (and let's please not have any further uninformed arguments about what comprehensive and efficient etc. means) is not a basic undermining of the principles of the Act (a matter for the Parliamentary Ombudsman at this point then if the DCMS fail to act?).

Any realignment of the Standards set down in the Act need to be properly reasoned from the basis of the Act itself and it is this reasoning against the backdrop of the role and purpose that the library service was intended to fulfil that is needed rather than research ACE & SCL have highlighted and posited as a basis for change.

Does Ed Vaizey still exist? Does he do a job?

Or does he just sit back and get his paid-for people to act for him...
or rather does he just do all the ministerial jollies like visiting my old university, Strathclyde, to deliver those awful blathers....

While all the people who care about libraries squabble and fight among themselves. Small government, or divide and rule..?

Or just useless.

To ground a few things.

The context. People believe a local community library adds some happiness to their lives, and also could be of value in contributing to their material wealth in the future --- it is not without good reason that a local library is a selling point for a property (adding value to that property). Libraries traditionally are about books(1), wider literature that is also judged of value(2), and literacy skills. In recent decades the 'wider literature' that people are finding of value has increased somewhat considerably to include resources to be found on the Internet; the information resources of the Web 1.0 era, the grey literature of the Web 2 era that we are currently experiencing(3). Etc.

Closing community libraries (where at least the need for the library remains) makes it less efficient for people to use a library's resources - parents with small children having to use public transport, unemployed and students having to spend much needed cash on travel costs, the problems created for the elderly, disabled, etc. (As it takes more time, effort, etc. to use the library, it becomes increasingly used only for the more important things hence less frequently.)

Is it time yet to close the local community libraries given the Internet. Publishers have currently not as yet given libraries a full remit to lend their e-books (nor has the government as yet passed legislation to facilitate this). Libraries need to continue to put the books that authors are writing on the shelves that readers are browsing. Traditional community libraries are also still needed because communities are not yet fully information literate, particularly in terms of using electronic resources to find books. Until everyone does in fact have reliable access to the Internet and e-book reading devices - young and old alike - and the necessary information literacy skills, then there is still a need for the local library. I think, if the above is pointed out, most ordinary folk would agree that it is not time yet to close the local community library down for good(4).

Will 'Bookmark Your Library' meet the needs of library users - some, it will help, however what is needed is for our public libraries to continue making available the books that authors are writing on the shelves that people are browsing, but also to apply themselves likewise to the increasing amounts of literature of value on the Internet through information literacy, both in terms of media (though most are computer literate nowadays, it is soft-media skills that are increasingly necessary), but also 'domain specific'(5).

Further reading:
SCL, Book to the future, http://www.goscl.com/book-to-the-future/
Lane Wilkinson, Reorganizing literacy, http://senseandreference.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/reorganizing-literacy/
Stephen Abram, What do Teacher Librarians Teach?, http://stephenslighthouse.com/2013/03/21/what-do-teacher-librarians-teach/
Myself, end two paragraphs of this comment on the subject of increasing library use, http://www.publiclibrariesnews.com/2013/01/library-cuts-a-betrayal-of-tr...
(and all of the recently published volumes on the subject that I cannot afford to read on account of being largely unemployed since April just gone ;)

--------

(1) primarily, while recognising the role of the library in serving authors and the literary ecosystem of our culture, ultimately the wealth of the nation
(2) journals, diaries, emphemera, etc.; published books on the whole are assumed to be of value in the first instance
(3) a Web 3 era is actually not far ahead - and it will be librarians that bring us into this age (librarians applying themselves to the information abundance that is the Internet - a similar response in many ways to the 'literary overload' experienced by Western culture following the invention of the printing press)
(4) if at all ever at that (if this country doesn't have brains to trade I'm not sure what else it is going to feed itself with in the future, the social value of the community libraries not only towards the ends of the libraries but wider social needs, etc.)
(5) government information, genealogy resources, etc. - but also the tools and techniques that have replaced the traditional library card index, extended also to include resources for locating information on the Internet

Can I suggest the following as a law of C21 library modernisation - that a community library cannot be replaced by a website until everyone - from very young to old - as well as a reliable Internet connection and e-book reader, has the necessary information literacy skills to be able to use a computer to a) replace the 'bookshelf experience', and b) the traditional card index type catalogue.

Even then I think I caught Rachel van Riel suggesting the future should be both e-book and traditional - reminding that our values at the end of the day are actually for both media forms.

Ensuring that electronic versions are available though is where the economic benefits are to be found from the resulting richer cultural ecosystem (this premise I think it is fair to say Google acted on - decisively and without hesitation - but there may be other ways towards the same end).

Could the government legislating to ensure a publisher supplying an e-book at a cost reflecting no more than the media costs is provided by publishers with every paper volume purchased (an e-book alone being more expensive on account of including the common/shared costs of the book?).