Of numbers and new libraries

Edit, 03/12– for those of you who do not know, Tim (Coates) was the consultant on the Hillingdon library restructuring. /Edit

As I said over at the GLG blog, it is encouraging to see the increase in book loans at the first of the revamped Hillingdon libraries.

As I have said in a follow up comment, we now need to know what people make of the new physical environment- this, as much as the (apparently still to be delivered) new books, will determine if the initial increase is sustained. There has been a mixed reception to the design. Having only seen photos I can’t say as it looks that impressive, but perhaps close up it is.

As a library manager, I would also want to know who is borrowing these books. Have new readers been added? And what books are being borrowed?

Longer term there is the issue, highlighted by opposition councillors, of the changes in staffing structure and the potential impact on service. We shall have to see on that.

One amusing point is the ‘sweet talking’ by Cllr Higgins of Apple. Yeah, top negotiating skills there- persuading a big company to take free publicity in return for a few computers. And why Apple? If you want to stick it to the IntelSoft Man, why not go with local PC suppliers and Linux? And if it’s all about money- which I suspect it is- why not just go with Windows? The involvement of Starbucks and Apple just makes me wonder about some of the financial aspects that have been so prominent- is this how savings are made? Edit As I have said in the comments, it is not a problem to make savings via the involvement of outside firmsMuch less am I implying any impropriety. Rather this is of a piece with my concern that public libraries reflect their communities and support local enterprise where possible. /Edit

Welcome to the Public-Private Library. My objections are not to efficiencies, or saving via alternative funding streams. Rather I would hope for local firms to be approached before big names- part of my broader concern that public libraries reflect their locale. Although, having a Starbucks (or Costa, or Caffe Nero…) these days is probably quite reflective of many areas.


5 Responses to Of numbers and new libraries

  1. Tim says:

    You are a turnip, Peter. Why don’t you call Henry Higgins and ask him why he did these things? You want to imply evil where there is none- why do you do that?

    He thought a library with Starbucks (or Costa- or anyone professional) would be better than one without. It was a good idea – and it was his and he went and asked them if they would help. And Starbucks said yes. That is being enterprising.

    Same with Apple computers. He noticed that there are people who like Apple computers for a number of reasons, but that libraries don’t have them. So he went and asked Apple if they were interested and would help him and they said yes. What’s wrong with that?

    Same with publishers- as a brave outsider to the publishing fraternity he went and asked them if they would help and some of them said yes.

    He’s trying to give the public what they want- can’t you understand that? And if the usage is double what it was, then perhaps people like it and find it more useful than before. Can’t you understand that either?

    And ok, some people working in the service find all these things very difficult. So fine– but the service isn’t run for their benefit, it is run for the wider public benefit– and this is an issue, but not a reason to stop.

    He is trying to give the public the best service he can think of for the money they have paid. He sees that as being what a politician should do. So why do you have to snigger and impute motives of financial malpractice? Stop doing it.

    Go and look at the library. It still doesn’t have all the books it should- but that will take ages to put right, because the withdrawal of books from libraries has been so overwpowering. It’s just a place to go- go and see. But do stop whingeing.

  2. Pete says:

    Ah welcome back Tim. I accept some of what you say.

    However, there is no “imputation of financial malpractice”, rather a question as to the savings and how they come about. Initially these were all put down to supply chain improvements- a welcome thing- and the movement of money from other library projects. And it is not malpractice to get sponsorship, indeed, or to be enterprising. I am just chary of the involvement of so many corporate partners. When I say it’s about the money, I mean no more than that; that money for the project is needed and this sponsortship is one way of doing it.

    My issue with Starbucks- or Costa, Caffe Nero etc- is that they are large corporations and being enterprising can (and I think should) involve looking locally.

    Apple computers are not *that* popular nor in common use outside certain areas; Apple hardware in other areas maybe. It could turn out to be something of a blind alley, that is my only concern.

    More broadly than that, ‘imputing evil where there is none.’ Why do I do it?simply put, I don’t, and I think people can see that. I am asking questions, nor more and no less than you do. As a politician I am sure Cllr Higgins would appeciate debate and accountability. I don’t doubt his desire to do a good job.

    If I were merely whingeing Tim, there would be no positive comments here at all. More books loaned is good. More people in is good. People in Rusilip report favourably on the initial impact. Let’s hope it can be sustained.

    Oh and “sniggering” Tim? Looking at the GLG blog lately I’d say Perkins has received a lot more genuinely sniggering posts than mine above. I am wryly amused by Cllr Higgins’ publicity is all; as I am with most councillors, of whatever stripe. Getting Apple in is good for Apple; long term I wonder if it will also be good for Hillingdon. If it is, well I am humble enough to accept my fears were ungrounded.

  3. Miriam Palfrey says:

    Have to agree with you about the Apple thing Pete. Apple computers are difficult to repair or upgrade so I’m not sure about their use as a sustainable public resource.

  4. Pete says:


    The whole Apple thing is a problem. Public libraries aren’t there to help Apple achieve market share. The main reason people don’t have Apples is that they are too expensive and still something of a niche; I can’t see that this will change because there are some Apples in a library.

    My broader concern is with the source of partners, not partnership per se. I think being enterprising in looking for support is a positive thing, especially in these straitened times, and this is what Cllr Higgins has done.

    But I think local councillors need to start looking locally- local coffee shops, local PC providers etc- before they turn to the big companies. This is nothing to do with worries over corruption or the misuse of money- such things do happen but I don’t believe that is the case here- but more to do with my belief that public libraries should reflect and support their locales.

  5. Increasing Costs. Between 1963 and 1991, costs of books and serials increased 218 percent and 307 percent, respectively, while budgets increased only 33 to 35 percent. The situation worsens for public libraries, which spent only about 15 percent of their budgets on books and content of any sort nationwide, and in some states, such as California, that figure slumped down below 12 percent. It will be difficult for us to remain a viable source of books and information to those we serve if we can hardly afford to buy anything.

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