Photograph of the Day – Waiting on the Decant team

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  • Now the library powers that be could quite easily test their theories and strategies concerning superlibraries and a reduced network by asking lenders to loan the maximum number of books from Ballymacarrett and return them to their nearest library following the closure of Ballymacarett.

    If the library supremos are right then this would save the cost of the decant and demonstrate the widespread popular support for their proposals.

  • Sorry to drag a complete stranger into this but fellow commenter Brian O’Neill remarked in another thread:

    “What about a series of posts which ask for positive ideas on how to improve things in NI? Or is our default state that change is bad and we should be suspicious of any ideas anyone ever suggests?”

    I volunteer to start the ball rolling.

    The big question is: How can we improve the public library service?

    Big picture:

    “The Northern Ireland Library Service has undergone a review and changes are to be made to the way the Library Service will operate, including the revision of library opening hours, improved mobile library timetables and staff restructuring.” LibrariesNI.

    In short they will be creating super libraries and closing down some smaller branch libraries. We will still have a library service but we will have to travel. Oh and demand is falling.

    Northern Ireland Library Service spend £31m a year as follows 51% on staff costs, rates and rent 10%, maintenance 3%, equipment 2%, stock 11%, PFI 12%, corporate costs 7%, Other 4%. Source:

    Smaller picture:

    Scenario: A large village stroke small town with two primary schools but no secondary schools. The population is about 5000 people of whom 25% are under 16 years of age and 15 % over 60 years of age; broken down the population is 50/50 in terms of gender and perceived religion. 5% are unemployed. There are half a dozen housing schemes one of which is NIHE and he socioeconomic profile of the area is above average for NI. In all there are about half a dozen churches most of which have a parish hall of some description. Workwise it is part commuter part local with an an industrial estate which brings in workers from other areas, and there are a couple of pubs, a couple of supermarkets, and an array of shops, butcher, baker etc. There is a bus service but most people have cars , and the nearest large town is ten miles away. It has no council led leisure facilities.

    Even bigger question : Does this place need a library?

    If you think it does

    You have a blank sheet in terns of location, construction, layout, and design.
    You have a blank sheet in terms of staffing the library , professionals, paid non professional , volunteers, passing dwarfs, whatever,
    You have a blank sheet for the funding model based on any reasonable criteria
    You have a blank sheet in terms of stock or services
    You have a blank sheet in terms of anything from vision and values right down to the colour of the door.

    Let’s hear what you have to say. I’ll return in a couple of days and summarise the ideas (if any). And I genuinely think there is a fifty fifty chance that this will be completely or substantially ignored.

  • joeCanuck

    I’m not qualified to design libraries but the town you describe does need/deserve a library. Is the implication that towns of that size will lose their library if they have one?

  • Cynic

    Why not provide a remote service by post for all of NI from one location. Dramatic reduction in costs for everyone. Better service for remote communities.

    Alternatively offer a free e library on-line


    1 local jobs would go and Councillors wont want that
    2 it needs lateral thinking so intellectually they aren’t up to it

  • aquifer

    Put the library in the bus station.

    What else uses a counter and an IT system amd handles small amounts of money? Integrate it with an expess parcels delivery and collection service.

    Operate a delivery collection service for Ebay purchases by people who are at work or college during the day, and use the cashless Paypal system to pay for the service to avoid the risks of carrying lots of cash.

  • Thanks for the suggestions good people about how to improve the library service in NI? I received responses from two people Cynic and Aquifer to which I’ve added my own response. Already I can see lots of problems but I’ve set these to one side and just simplified the solutions and assumptions as follows.

    Location Home libraries

    Delivery Free Door to door delivery and return service from one location. Access online.

    Staffing 1 Stock purchasers 2 Dispatchers 3 Administration

    Funding model Block grant, free for citizens

    Location On line library

    Delivery On line access or download to PC or wireless reader

    Staffing 1 Stock purchasers 2 Administration

    Funding model Block grant, free for citizens

    Location Bus (railway) stations libraries

    Delivery Door to bus (railway) station from one location. Choose online.

    Staffing 1 Stock purchasers 2 Dispatchers 3 Administration 4 Local organisers

    Funding model Presumably Block Grant but pay at point of access (order) using pay pal to have some cost revovery.

    Location Home libraries

    Delivery Door to door delivery service from one location. Choose online.

    Staffing 1 Stock purchasers 2 Dispatchers 3 Administration

    Funding model Presumably Block Grant but pay at point of access (order) using pay pal to cover some costs.

    Location Home libraries and the use of existing public space eg church halls schools i.e. where individuals can pool and donate to a local library

    Delivery Door to door delivery service from one location to home or public space. Choose online.

    Staffing 1 Stock purchasers 2 Dispatchers 3 Administration 4 local organisers.

    Funding model Block Grant. £10 worth of vouchers per household to be spent online.

    To my mind each of these is potentially a runner even allowing for some difficult problems to overcome but let’s step back a bit and first ask ourselves what is a library. I started at the top and looked at the website of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. I could not find a definition of a library so here’s my own.

    A library is a collection of information which can be shared. Therefore I suppose a library can be anything from say a shelf full of manuals in a garage workshop to the British Museum library. I suppose the big distinction is the one between public and private. I and any other citizen can borrow books free at the point of access from public libraries and in theory if I’ve got access to one public library I’ve also got access to all libraries. Private libraries however range from shelves in a study to say the Linen Hall, and usership or membership is restricted or by subscription and hence private.

    This indicates to me that a public library can be anywhere as long as we’ve got access and modern technology can give us 24/7 access and delivery. What are we waiting for?

    But is a library more than just the sum of its information? Answers please.

    PS A third respondent joecanuck asked if the implication was that towns similar to that described in the post would lose their library. I think the answer is yes.

  • jenjen

    Do we need libraries? Well, on DCAL site the results from the Continuous Household Survey suggest not – a bit under70% of their respondents simply were not interested in public libraries -and why should be be? For £32 million mre people should be interested -or feel that this is a big waste of money. Public ibraries come from a period when books were the only information source – but now we are far better equipped. Basicall libraries give free fiction to a small number of reader – and looking at the computers being used in Belfast Central Library, give free porn to the perverts!