Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021  |  Reading time:  13 mins  | Read online

Libraries

Each week we focus on a different global topic, highlighting innovative content and insights from LGIU and our members around the world.  

Libraries have long been considered an essential frontline public service and a key part of local government responsibilities, offering the public access to information and a connection to the local community. From Covid-19 lockdowns to funding cuts, public libraries have been under threat in many places. However, libraries are adapting, innovating and demonstrating their value in delivering wider local objectives.

Who inspired us this week? This week we loved hearing about innovations such as Boston's spice library and libraries loaning air quality testing equipment – but we know your local libraries are doing cool things too, and we'd love to hear about them. If you've got a story you'd like to share, get in touch!

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This week's featured content

Spotlight on innovative approaches to libraries in Europe

By Ivan Minguez Guillem

The challenges brought about by Covid-19 have shown that libraries can play a vital role in helping local communities build back better post-pandemic. As education facilities closed in the early months of lockdown, the LGA in the UK reported an ‘up to 600% increase’ in the use of libraries’ e-books and downloads. Around 120,000 people became library members in the first three weeks of the pandemic, according to Libraries Connected.

The core purpose of libraries is to provide information, and that is always going to be sought after. In a digital world, libraries that offer up-to-date digital services have the potential to reach audiences that far surpass the number of people living in a municipality. A wide audience reach can also increase the chances of external investment and development opportunities.

Those calling for increased investment in libraries often focus on their importance as a ‘third place’ in local communities. The term ‘third place’ was coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg and relates to a public space distinguished from the two primary social environments: the home and workplace. In a post-Covid-19 world, where the lines between our first and second place are increasingly blurred, a well-supported library that can offer space to work, relax or socialise is becoming increasingly more sought after.

Finland is one of the leading countries for library services, boasting one of the highest numbers of library visits and library items borrowed per capita in the world. Helsinki’s Director of Culture once said, “libraries are the second highest-rated public service in the city, after drinking water”...

So, how are European local authorities engaging citizens in libraries?

LGIU Global Local Highlights

 

The evolving role of libraries in communities

This briefing will look at why it is essential for local governments to aid the transition to digitalised platforms, and how this can be done through infrastructure and operational activity changes. It also looks at the trends in library service delivery. 
Read our content here.

The role of public libraries as vehicles for social inclusion: lessons from Canada

Libraries provide the perfect environment for social inclusive policies to be tested and implemented. Given the important role played by libraries and Canada’s rich multicultural heritage, this briefing will assess the role of public libraries in this integration effort. 
Read our content here.

Public libraries as generators of community value and economic activity in South Australia

Local governments fund the vast bulk of public library operations across Australia. This briefing looks at public libraries as generators of not only significant community value but economic activity in their local economies, through library operating expenditure and spending of library users. 
Read our content here.

Innovation & Inspiration

Curated case studies and news from around the globe

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Australia: first dedicated children's library attracting visitors

After the library for children under 12 opened in June as part of a $250 million redevelopment of Ipswitch CBD, it has attracted over 22,000 people in its first month alone. Ipswich City Council Mayor, Teresa Harding, said, "Ipswich is Queensland’s fastest growing city, with that growth being driven by young families, so it makes sense to provide a space for families to socially connect". The library itself has 35,000 items and includes innovative technology and digital experiences as well as an external garden area and specially designed sculptural elements. 

Architecture & Design / (LGIU Australia Daily News, October 2021)

England: Calderdale library provides hands-on air quality education

Working with the University of Manchester, Sowerby Bridge is engaging the public in awareness over air quality and health by allowing residents to borrow air quality monitoring equipment from the library to take home and test indoor and outdoor quality, sharing findings back to a university project to aggregate town data. This initiative is being combined with public speaker events and education at the library, alongside a parallel project with a local primary school.

Carnegie UK trust

South Korea: Public libraries to feature cutting-edge innovation by 2023

To attract more visitors and provide a more personalised, useful service, libraries in Korea are making innovative changes. Online ‘digital libraries’ will be offered to those who cannot travel or visit during opening hours, while AI will be used to recommend relevant information or services to citizens based on their life stage and needs, whether that be children’s entertainment and education, employment opportunities and careers advice, or inclusive services for older or less technologically capable adults. 

Korea.net

Australia: Library fines abolished by the City of Melbourne

The City of Melbourne has removed library fines, following the temporary suspension of late return charges from March 2020 due to pandemic impacts. The decision aims to encourage more people to use library services and sign up for membership, particularly people who are young, socially and economically disadvantaged or experiencing homelessness. Replacement charges will still be in place for lost or damaged library material, although the best way to support people in vulnerable situations regarding this will be considered. The impact of the removal of fines will be tracked over the next two years and assessed in a report for councillors in August 2023.

City of Melbourne; City of Melbourne / (LGIU Australia Daily News, May 2021)

Libraries and the wider policy agenda

Research, analysis and examples of policy in practice from leading institutes and places like yours

Libraries aren’t just about borrowing books; they can be a key delivery partner for other policy goals. We had a look back at some of the recent policy areas we’ve covered for Global Local and how public libraries can be the hub for improvement.

Misinformation (see the Recap): The Aspen Institute has published its 80-page report from the Commission on Information Disorder. Calling for trust and transformation and changes to regulatory frameworks, it also calls for greater investment in local institutions – such as schools, libraries and local media sources as well as support for local elections officials. Treorchy Library in Wales is slipping in a misinformation leaflet to click and collect bags and will follow up with a video project. 

Financial inclusion (see the Recap): Financial literacy is key to financial inclusion. Public and school libraries in the US are being encouraged to apply for financial inclusion kits for their services or branches and a digital version is being developed.  In India, two academics looked at how public libraries could be used to support digital financial inclusion of the very poor, and the positive benefits for individuals and library systems in India and beyond. 

Climate change adaptation (see the Recap): libraries are now being seen as important centres for support when things go wrong. Libraries in the US have been used as heating and cooling centres during extreme weather events as well as an important partner in service and information distribution following hurricanes. See more about how libraries can prepare for this role. 

Child-friendly cities (see the Recap):  Ottawa libraries are lending equipment that can help kids, families and adults enjoy the outdoors. The whole of Dublin gets in on the act with the Citywide Read – but the initiative, which aims to get children reading for pleasure, is lead by the city’s library service in partnership with others. This year’s read is Animal Crackers and there’s still time to join the family activities in person and online: 

Food security (see the Recap): Public libraries are playing a vital role in supporting food security in many communities. From supporting farmers markets to culinary learning. Shareable.net has an article as well as a fascinating roundtable via audio and video about how libraries are nourishing bodies, souls and minds. Boston Public libraries, for example, is creating a spice library with a local food bank, so that food can be delicious as well as nutritious. 

Interested in more LGIU Global Local content?

LGIU Global Local podcast: Talking rubbish and carbon confusion

We talk about waste reduction in Melbourne and the role of local government in cutting through carbon confusion everywhere. Plus some wombling and Dirty Santa. 
Listen to the podcast here.

Overview of recent reports and case studies on mental health, housing and support

This briefing examines the findings of recent reports and presents two UK case studies on mental health and housing strategies. 
Read the blog here.

Thanks for reading!

Next week, we’ll be releasing the final edition of our monthly COP26-focused newsletter – this time reflecting on the outcomes of COP26 and what they mean for local government. Content will include a new briefing, the recording of our international panel discussion, and the release of a brand new report on the economic opportunities of climate change for municipalities. The following week, we'll be exploring rural cultural and creative industries. 

If you would like to share your story, you can fill in this simple form or drop me a line at ingrid.koehler@lgiu.org. Please forward this free newsletter to a colleague or share it on social media to help us reach even more people who value local government globally. We tweet from @GlobalLocalLGIU.

Want more content? Visit our website to access our Global Local briefings, blogs, podcast and more.

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