Category Archives: Libraries

National library organisation sounds alarm over ‘fire sale’ of library buildings

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), a national charity which exists to raise standards in library provision has sounded the alarm over a potential ‘fire sale’ of library buildings following the Government announcement of ‘exceptional financial support’ to 19 Councils[1].

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has announced that 19 councils in England will benefit from an ‘Exceptional Financial Support (EFS)’ framework for the fiscal year 2024-25, totalling around £1.5 billion.

Rather than representing new investment or capital support, the framework allows the Councils involved to use capital receipts from the sale of assets or borrowing to cover their day-to-day costs up to this amount. Additionally, there is further support for capitalisation requests from previous years amounting to £976 million.

Commenting on the announcement, CILIP interim CEO Jo Cornish said,

This ‘exceptional financial support’ announced by Government is in reality nothing of the sort. Instead, central Government is suggesting that cash-strapped Councils should do the equivalent of using their savings (long-term investment budgets) and selling property to cover day-to-day running costs.

This framework creates a material risk that Councils will sell off parts of their property portfolio, including libraries, to address the funding shortfall caused by the withdrawal of central Government grants. We know from our experience supporting library services across the UK, this is a one-way trip – once a library building is sold off, it permanently impairs the life chances and property values of local residents. It’s a one-way deal and very much like using the credit card to pay the mortgage.

We urgently call on central Government to work with Councils to provide long-term sustainable investment to protect local services and halt their decline, including statutory public library provision.

In response to increasing concerns over proposals to reduce or close library services, CILIP has launched the ‘Libraries at Risk Monitor’ – a regularly-updated map of proposed changes to libraries across the UK with an indication of where CILIP and their partner organisation, CILIP in Scotland are intervening to seek better outcomes for local taxpayers (www.cilip.org.uk/libraries-at-risk).


[1] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/exceptional-financial-support-for-local-authorities-for-2024-25

Another Sign of Libraries under Threat: Chuck Tingle & the Texas Library Association

It is a widely-shared belief that Public Libraries are one of the greatest things that society has come up with. For well over a century they have grown and evolved as places that are safe for all segments of society to use and see themselves reflected in the collections and made to feel welcome.

I am a believer in the potential of Public Libraries and a lifer in the service (30 years as student volunteer and library professional this year). However I do not believe that they are an eternally safe and secure space. Over the decades I have seen libraries under threat from those who should be supporting and defending them. I have seen branches crumble and fall, shedding staff like trees dropping leaves in the fall.

A more insidious threat often comes from above and within, the latest sign of this danger popped up in my social media feed last night, with Chuck Tingle announcing that his invitation to speak at the Texas Library Association had been rescinded.

Chuck wrote a post about it on his Patreon that you can read here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/texas-library-to-96183885

As I have been writing this. the TLA have released a (to my mind very unimpressive) statement:

As much as many Public Library workers attempt to live up to the publicly stated ethos and values of the profession, Libraries have always been controlled by local government, through the boards that oversee the rules and regulations that govern how libraries are managed and run, and, if right wing individuals gain control of these boards they can negatively affect the services that libraries offer.

You can read previous articles I have written about this subject here:

It can’t be up to Library Workers alone to make sure that Libraries live up to their potential of being safe and open to all.

On December 7th a Librarian died in Gaza. 

Doaa al-Masri and her family were killed in an Israeli airstrike on December 7th 2023. 

Doaa receives a group of schoolgirls at the Edward Said Library in Gaza

Why have I focused on Doaa you may ask. Well, we shared a profession and belief in public service, and it is hard to get one’s head around the scale of the tragedy and loss of life that has been unfolding in the Middle East; from the 1,139 Israeli lives lost in the Hamas attacks on October 7th to the sheer brutality of their response across Gaza.

To paraphrase a statement allegedly made by Stalin: 20,000 deaths is a statistic, one death is a tragedy. 

It is not easier to acknowledge a single death that 20,000 but it is less numbing. Each of the thousands of lives lost to this violence will have a ripple effect on thousands more, but their faces blur and get lost in the scale of this tragedy and they become numbers, rather than individuals.

In their tribute to her memory, the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) captured in part her spirit and dedication to her community: 

…Doaa Al-Masri was killed with her family on Thursday night. Doaa was the librarian at the Edward Said Public Library in Gaza. She was a kind and energetic young woman who organized many activities for children and youth at the library including reading groups, classes, and field trips for schools. 

Doaa was also a volunteer in many other projects. During each Israeli attack on Gaza, she joined her colleagues at MECA partner Youth Vision Society in procuring, packing, and delivering emergency aid to children and families. Just last week, in the midst of intense Israeli attacks, she joined two other  volunteers to provide warm clothes to children in northern Gaza. 

We mourn the loss of Doaa, a loss for MECA, for the many children whose lives she touched, and for Palestine. We will miss her smile and her radiant energy. Doaa is one of tens of thousands of people killed in Gaza over the last 64 days. Each one is a terrible loss to those who knew and loved them. 

Let’s be honest, when one thinks of Gaza and the West Bank, Libraries are not the first thing that pop into your mind. No matter who they are or where they live people enjoy reading and need to find information – and those are two of the core functions of public libraries. 

The Gaza Municipal Library and the Rashad al-Shawa Cultural Center that was the home of the Diana Tamari Sabbagh Library  that contained more than 100.000 books and was founded by Haseeb Sabbagh in the memory of his wife Diana Tamari, have both been razed by Israeli forces. There is currently no news on the current condition of the Edward Said Public Library in North Gaza. 

The remains of the Gaza Municipal Library

The Gaza Municipality has alleged that the destruction of libraries by Israeli forces during the conflict has been a deliberate act and has called on the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to intervene and protect cultural centers and condemn the occupation’s targeting of these humanitarian facilities protected under international humanitarian law.

Public Libraries form one of the cornerstones of a society that nurtures and cares for the people that comprise its individual parts. Apart from educating and entertaining their users, libraries function as repositories of history and cultural knowledge. To destroy a society first you wipe out the commonalities that bind them together, their shared history, their art, anything that ties them together and the fastest way to do that is to start with destroying their libraries and those that care for them.

When Libraries in Sarajevo were bombed people stood up and protested, when al Qaeda attacked the library in Timbuktu there was eventually a book celebrating those who stood up to save priceless, ancient manuscripts, when Russia invaded Ukraine there was a massive outpouring of support for Ukrainian Libraries and Library workers. In Gaza there is proof of libraries being destroyed and one confirmed report of a Librarian (& her family) being killed in an aerial attack and nothing – where is the outrage?

Understand me when I write that I unequivocally condemn Hamas for their bloodthirsty action on October 7th, but the heavy-handed response by the Israeli War Cabinet and the IDF is just as reprehensible!

Articles 6, 7 & 8 of The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court specifically outlaw Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity & War Crimes.

Article 33 of the fourth Geneva Convention specifically outlaws collective penalties, pillage & reprisals:

No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

Pillage is prohibited.

Reprisals against protected persons* and their property are prohibited.

* The term “protected person” means any person entitled to protection under one or more of the Geneva Conventions, including civilians not taking an active part in hostilities, military personnel placed out of combat by sickness, wounds, or detention, and military medical or religious personnel.

Do the actions of Hamas and the IDF rise to these levels of criminal wrong-doing? I think they do, but untrained as I am in international jurisprudence I may be wrong; I do however know that the murder unarmed civilians is wrong, no matter who does it!

Links:

Founding the First English-Language Library in Gaza by Mosab Abu Toha

Libraries in Gaza: Between Despair and Hope by Mosab Abu Toha

Articles by Mosab Abu Toha

How girls built a library in the Gaza Strip by Mohammed Abu Sulaiman, with Chris Niles

Gaza’s main public library has been destroyed by Israeli bombing. by Dan Sheehan

Gazans mourn loss of their libraries: Cultural beacons and communal spaces by Mohamad El Chamaa

Middle East Children’s Alliance

Youth Vision Association

Youth Vision Association: Edward Said Public Library

Edward Said Public Libraries in Gaza

Librarians and Archivists with Palestine

Book-banners in Mississippi have removed kids access to ebooks

Mississippi Statute 39-3-25 has made it impossible for young readers under the age of 18 to have access to Libby, an eBook platform offered by Overdrive or Hoopla another popular streaming service offered by libraries without permission from parents or guardians.

BookRiot has a comprehensive article about this ban available here.

The Foundations of the US Public Library Service are Cracking

The Missouri Legislature has voted to defund public libraries, I guess the Show Me State does not like people saying “Show me books with gay, trans and minority characters!” to Librarians. Apparently, Texas is trying to go down a similar route and Florida is an even hotter mess these days. A Michigan Library was also defunded and faces potential closure, even after thousands of dollars in donations were raised.

Moms for Liberty has also been incredibly active, as freedom of choice in reading material is not covered under their version of Liberty, they are now targeting a school in the district that my library serves, the librarian there resigned earlier this year and are active across the US.

Library boards are threatening closure when their attempts to remove books are declared unconstitutional rather than put them back on the shelves. Yesterday I saw a tweet from author Maggie Tokuda-Hall about being approached to license her book Love in the Library for their AANHPI narratives collection which would usually be a cause for celebration, except that they wanted to remove a word before the deal could go ahead.

Maggie has written about it on her blog – it is equal parts heart-breaking and infuriating, you can read it here: https://www.prettyokmaggie.com/blog/2023/4/11/scholastic-and-a-faustian-bargain
Scholastic is one of the big dogs in the publishing world, they run book fairs in schools, in the UK they are the official book supplier for the Yoto Carnegie Book Awards, they are everywhere and usually do good work; so, I find it hard to believe that this move is a one-off, how many authors and illustrators have already decided to swallow a bitter pill to accept what appears to be a fantastic deal?

As the clamor to ban books in schools and libraries (and also alarmingly now in bookstores) has started growing louder how many publishers have begun moving behind the scenes to head off criticism instead of supporting their authors and illustrators and the readers who deserve access to books?

Diverse voices in the publishing world (& in libraries) are an incredibly small percentage, of the workforce and also what tis available in print. Hearing about this brazen move by Scholastic I fear that the numbers may become even smaller if publishers are moving to placate the outsize voices of those that are complaining or taking offence at diverse offerings in libraries. Library workers not purchasing works to avoid complaints is a creeping problem in libraries but if publishers are pre-emptively censoring works that they have or wish to make available then the whole edifice made up of publishers, bookstores and libraries becomes unsafe and unwelcoming for everyone.

As a public service Public Libraries are non-partisan and open to all (or they should be), but this new hostile environment being created by a minority of people that use libraries risks skewing the services and materials that libraries offer.

The Bookstart Bear and Tala the Storyteller

Who is The Bookstart Bear?

Matt temporarily an avatar of the Bookstart Bear

30 years ago The Bookstart Bear was introduced as the national mascot for the BookTrust’s Bookstart programme as part of their resources to encourage families to read and share stories with their children as early as possible.

As a result of brand refresh in 2020, BookTrust began phasing out the Bookstart Bear character and introduced a range of new characters to ensure their resources would continue to appeal to families today and in the future.

Many local authorities and libraries have continued to use the Bookstart Bear character in their own activities and we are happy for them to do so for as long as they find it a helpful tool to engage with their local families.

Other libraries and local authorities have started creating their own characters to engage with families and young readers.

This brings us to Tala the Storyteller.

Who is Tala?

Tala the Storyteller

Tala the Storyteller is a friendly alien who likes to go on journeys, seeking out stories and rhymes to share with children.

Tala was created by local artists Emma Phillips and Eva Povey using funds from an Arts Council National Lottery Project Grant for Hertfordshire County Council. They worked with families through interactive workshops to find out what appeals to young children and used these ideas in their design.

Tala is an alien child and as such is neither male or female (allowing children of any gender to identify with them).

Who is Maya Forstater?

Maya Forstater is a British business and international development researcher who is the claimant in Maya Forstater v Centre for Global Development.

On September 29th Maya Forstater tweeted:

The accusation that Tala was a trans bear set off a global firestorm on social media. Hitchin Library tried to answer the questions posed by Maya’s tweet

Even the official twitter account for the Hertfordshire County Council tried to intervene and calm things

but to no avail.

Over the next few days Maya doubled down and hammering at Hitchin Library and Tala the Storyteller, trying to foment an gender critical uprising against a reading mascot that was created with input from young people from the community it served.

Tala the Storyteller seems to be becoming the most recognized reading mascot around the world. With news organizations from Hitchin News Hub & Pink News to conservative outlets the New York Post, the Daily Mail and more covering the story.

Defenders of Herts Libraries and Tala include

Maureen Johnson

Billy Bragg

Danny Pearson

Joanne Harris

and a whole raft of believers in equality and equity of representation and access.

This attack on Tala the Storyteller is just another front in the culture war against libraries being welcoming and inclusive that has opened up.

Way back in 2010 I was honoured to serve as an avatar of the Bookstart Bear. Over the last 30 years, many of my colleagues have done the same, some female, some male (like me) and others whose genders I did not know. Did this make the Bookstart Bear genderfluid or trans? Who cares? If the question had been asked even a few years ago it would have been ridiculed as people making a fuss over Tala have been ridiculed and called out today.

When Gender Critters Attack

Once the dust of this overhyped non-controversy has settled and exclusionary gender critters have moved on to another target Hertfordshire Libraries will still be running family library events with Tala and BookTrust will still be offering support and resources to those who need them most. You can find out about some if these below.

Earlier this year BookTrust developed a new pilot, Bookstart Toddler and Bookstart Pre-schooler which are packs and resources specifically aimed at disadvantaged children and families and will be delivered through targeted approaches by a range of nurseries and children’s centres to ensure we reach children most in need. Last year they launched a new pilot library initiative BookTrust Storytime. Aimed at families with children aged 0-5, especially those who are disadvantaged, BookTrust Storytime is designed to support families to share stories together and make visiting the library a regular part of family life.

The Canary in the Coalmine

Back before modern technology rendered such practices obsolete, miners used to take canaries down into coal mines with them. The reason they took them down was not so the miners could enjoy the singing of the birds while they worked, there was a darker reason…

Being considerably smaller and lighter than the average miner meant that the canary would be affected faster by the toxic gasses that built up in mine shafts. When the canary stopped singing and fell off its perch in the cage this would usually give miners enough warning to get out before they too, were overcome.

Libraries both Public & School are the canaries in the coalmine of society. Whenever the poisonous ideas of fascist thought bubble up, it is in libraries and schools that we see the early warning signs of what is to come. One of these signs is an uptick in challenges to books by and about people in certain communities usually (but not limited to) People of Color, LGBTQ+ and other minority groups.

Challenges to books in school & public libraries are nothing new, these have been going on for decades. The American Library Association runs annual lists of the most challenged books in US Libraries.

What is happening now goes beyond such standard challenges. I believe that Texas currently leads the nation in the sheer industrial scale of attempted and actual book bans. Matt Krause a Texas lawmaker compiled a list of over 800 books that he feels could make (white) readers feel uncomfortable. The majority of these books focus on sexuality, racism and US history.

To date the largest splash has been made by the banning of the teaching of the Pulitzer-Prize winning graphic novel Maus, created by Art Spiegelman the son of two Holocaust survivors, it details the experiences of his parents before and during WW2. According to the McMinn County School Board, who voted 7-0 to deny teachers the opportunity of teaching the book due to a single panel of nudity and some bad language that (allegedly) made them feel uncomfortable. This has made the 40-year-old graphic novel a cause célèbre in the current discourse around book banning and also the number one selling item on Amazon. While many commentators have celebrated the Streisand Effect that has made this book more well-known than ever before, the fact that students are being denied the opportunity to critically engage with the text while studying the Holocaust is nothing to be happy about.

Other books that have had banning attempts made against them across the US include Maia Kobabe’s memoir Gender Queer, This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson, Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison, Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez – all for celebrating LGBTQ+ & queer themes, making them in the eyes of the adults that wish to control what young people read, unsuitable in some way for a teen audience.

It is not just books about the Holocaust or explorations of young people’s sexuality that are targeted; Stamped by Ibram X. Kendi & Jason Reynolds, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and New Kid by Jerry Craft and other similar texts have all faced accusations of containing critical race theory, being anti-police or just books that upset white readers.

The right-wing coopting of school boards has allowed many boards to blatantly ignore or rewrite policies and procedures that were established to deal with challenges, and instead just pull books from their shelves; in some cases, this has been done to prevent complaints and accusations of criminality or worse. Often the censorship is preemptive, with school library workers just not purchasing materials they know will garner complaints, this is not a criticism, I know from first-hand experience how terrifying accusations of carrying pornography or being a criminal just for having certain books on your library shelves can be; but the effect is just as insidious – it is also harder to identify or push back against, or to even identify such practices when they occur.

It is not only school boards that are at risk of right-wing takeover, more recently it is being recognized that Library Boards are becoming enticing targets of conservative ideologues. The recent take-over of the Niles-Maine District Library Is a damning example of how destructive the influence of a board hostile the very nature of a public library can be!

In Mississippi, the mayor of Ridgeland, Gene McGee is withholding $110,000 of funding from the Madison County Library System, demanded that the system initiate a purge of LGBTQ+ books before his office releases the money. The mayor is alleged to have said that the library can serve whoever they wanted, but that he only serves the great Lord above. Which, if accurate seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding on his part of what the role of civil servants in society actually entails.

On a related note, the Furry subculture, having heard about Mayor McGee’s homophobia, has stepped up and has spent the past week rallying around the Madison County Library successfully helping raise funds for the Library .

Library workers in the Campbell County Public Library of Wyoming have faced legal charges for having books on sexuality, gender identity and LGBTQ+ issues in their teen section although the sheriff’s office declined to investigate them and the Library Board backed the Library and did not direct them to remove the items facing the challenge.

There are thousands of these reactionary fires burning across the US and it is easy to become dispirited as the task of pushing back against and extinguishing them may seem too vast to accomplish.

An effective way to fight against this is to research your local school and library boards to discover where they stand, if their actions align with your views then stand behind and support them when it comes time for local elections. If however they have started down the slippery slope of blatant and unconstitutional bans you can organize friends, family and neighbors and stand for school & library boards and local elections or find someone who is already running and support them! If you are unable to stand for local elections then where possible attend board meetings and make your support for uncensored access to reading materials known to the boards and where possible encourage others to do the same.

If you believe in the public library service and schools then it is important to make your voice heard, because if you don’t – who will?

Coda: I had finished working on this when I saw the news that Greg Locke a Pastor in Tennessee had held a book burning just outside Nashville. Included in the burning event were copies of Harry Potter and Twilight books. It brought to mind the words of the German poet Heinrich Heine: “Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.”

Related links:

How to Fight Book Bans and Censorship: https://bookriot.com/how-to-fight-book-bans-and-challenges/

How to Support Libraries in times of Increased Censorship: https://bookriot.com/support-libraries-against-censorship/

What’s It Like to Be the Target of A Book Banning Effort? School Librarian Martha Hickson Tells Her Story. https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=from-the-breaking-point-to-fighting-anew-school-librarian-martha-hickson-shares-her-story-of-battling-book-banning-censorship

Banned: Books on race and sexuality are disappearing from Texas schools in record numbers https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/texas-books-race-sexuality-schools-rcna13886

‘We’re Preparing For a Long Battle.’ Librarians Grapple With Conservatives’ Latest Efforts to Ban Books https://time.com/6117685/book-bans-school-libraries/

Save Niles Library https://www.nilescoalition.org/savenileslibrary/

Schools are banning my book. But queer kids need queer stories. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/10/29/schools-are-banning-my-book-queer-kids-need-queer-stories/

LGBTQ Books Are Being Banned. Their Authors Are Fighting Back. https://www.thedailybeast.com/lgbtq-books-are-being-banned-their-authors-are-fighting-back

Book bans in schools are catching fire. Black authors say uproar isn’t about students. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/book-bans-schools-are-catching-fire-black-authors-say-uproar-isnt-stud-rcna10228

NCAC Coalition Statement on the Attack on Books in Schools https://ncac.org/news/attack-on-books

The push to ban books in Texas schools spreads to public libraries https://www.wfaa.com/article/news/education/texas-schools-public-libraries/285-fdacc918-48a2-4c94-8ef7-8ae5f8d344b1

Kansas district orders 29 books removed from circulation https://www.kshb.com/news/local-news/kansas-district-orders-29-books-removed-from-circulation

How a Small School District Became a Focal Point in the Battle Over Texas Book Censorship https://www.snopes.com/news/2022/02/01/texas-school-district-book-bans/ GOP Legislators Target Librarians for Prosecution, Fines Under new Bill https://iowastartingline.com/2022/02/04/gop-legislators-target-librarians-for-prosecution-fines-under-new-bill/

Library Books for Palestine

“مطلوب” or “Wanted” is an initiative of the Librarians and Archivists with Palestine (LAP), in partnership with the Tamer Institute.

When you donate the cost of a book and its shipping, they coordinate delivery of the book to the requesting library. Please note that book titles will be purchased as prioritized by the participating libraries.

Palestinian libraries, in addition to limited funding, face unique barriers to access caused by Israeli policies. With this campaign, we hope to raise awareness about these access issues and the context in which Palestinian libraries operate, while at the same time offering material support for the libraries’ collections.

You might notice that the cost of some books on this site is significantly higher than the list price for the title. This is because Palestinian libraries in the West Bank and Gaza cannot simply order a book and expect it to arrive quickly and reliably. Israel’s “enemy state” designation prevents literature from being sent directly to Palestinian libraries and booksellers if it has originated in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, and sometimes other countries. This is a particular problem with Lebanon, a major hub of Arabic-language publishing. As a result, Palestinian libraries often contain more books originally written in English, Swedish, and other languages, than in Arabic.

To find out more information about this initiative or to purchase a book for a Palestinian Library please visit:

https://matloub.librarianswithpalestine.org/

Visit Librarians and Archivists with Palestine to find out about past projects they have run as well as current initiatives (like Matloub) that may be of interest.

Sisyphus had it Easy: the Soul-destroying thing about being a Public Library Campaigner

The soul-destroying thing about being a Public Library campaigner is that you have to fight the same battle every few years and usually on multiple fronts against a multitude foes.

Each time you get a new Libraries Minister in the UK you have to fight to get them to abide by the terms of the Public Libraries Act. Full details here basically the Libraries Minister (and the DCMS) is responsible for making sure that local governments are fulfilling their obligations by providing a full, statutory Public Library service, and if they are not the Minister has a duty to intervene (a duty they always seem eager to avoid)

Each time after local government elections if you get a new local council (and even if you still have the one you had before) there is a constant battle to get them to not try and hand off libraries to volunteer organizations, mutuals (a public service mutual (PSM is “an organisation which was in the public sector, continues to deliver public services, and has a significant degree of employee control.”) or other social enterprises.

Each time you come up against non-statutory groups (see above) claiming they are running a public library and doing it better than the professionals (librarians who needs them) we have to fight to educate local communities about their statutory rights, they are so often being denied a fully-funded library service that they have already paid for through taxes.

Each time local groups stuff a phone box/decorated boxes and so on with books and call them community libraries. The danger with these is that people get upset when library campaigners are seen to criticize ‘nice’ things and people trying to ‘help’ their communities.

The latest “scandal” about adult books being left in a Hampshire Telephone Box Library show that when it comes to Public Libraries staff are a necessity!

Each time a local council tries to run age restricted staffless Libraries, this not only puts patrons at risk but library users under a a certain age would be unable to access the service!

Every year there are fewer and fewer campaigners, we lose so many due to retirement, libraries being closed, burnout and there are an ever increasing amount of confrontations that pop up with tiresome regularity.

Sisyphus had it easy! He had one boulder and a hill! We have boulders of different shapes & weights and often there are people pushing them down as we struggle to push them up.

But the thing about Public Library campaigners is that we believe in what we are doing and will keep fighting to preserve public libraries for as long as we are able!

Donations and Books in Libraries

There has been a big go-round on library twitter over the past little while about a tweet about book donations and patrons getting upset at the thought of library workers selling or recycling donated items rather than putting them in to the library collection.

I know that as library workers we are usually inured to the thought that books have a finite lifespan before they are moved on to being sold or sent off to be pulped, but I think a majority of the library-going public are not as hardened to these realities as we are. It is so easy to write our library users off as being precious or over-sensitive about the fate of beloved books that they wish to donate to us, they have loved the stories and wish to share them with others.

The belief that books are precious and need to be looked after is one that is instilled in people from a very young age – usually beginning at library story-times, I can remember my librarian who showed us how to look after books, not tear pages, turn the page from the top right-hand corner and be respectful of library books, as others need the chance to read them too. This is passed down from adult to child in families that have been brought up using libraries and often they may have had the same librarian showing them how to be look after books.

These kinds of interactions are often the most that a lot of people have with library staff, they grow up believing that library workers love books and want library users to look after them and treat them gently (and we do want that – we know how many times books have to be loaned to recoup their expense). When they come up against the harsh reality that often we are unable to use donations except as fund-raising items for book sales they can get upset because their idealized image of library workers seldom matches up with the harsh reality of what we do.

We do not need to be harsh when confronted with library donations, most times people’s hearts are in the right place when they bring in things that they think we can use, it may be that they have heard that library budgets are constantly under thread and donating books is the only thing that they can do (if it helps them clear space in their homes then it is a double bonus).

It is so easy to poke fun of people on social media, especially those whom we can be judgey about (like people who get upset when they find out that their donations are not wanted) at the moment most people support libraries and library workers but if they see more and more of us act like entitled a-holes online that may change.

We work in libraries to serve our users and educate them, and that includes education on how libraries work and how we maintain our loan materials and everything else!

No, physical books are not eternal items of wonder and magic, but to most people (myself included) some can be, and we would do well to remember that.