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Friday, 18 April 2014

Stop and Search In Brent

A few days ago I was sent some figures on stop and search in Brent.  They show a disproportionate number of black people are being stopped.


 These figures cover from February 2013 to February 2014.  The proportions are similar for arrests following a stop and search.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Universal Credit and Public Libraries

There is an interesting report here about the possible impact of Universal Credit on Public Libraries and IT facilities.  I posted on IT use in Brent libraries before, but I focused on technological changes. It is useful to be reminded of the other pressures on IT use.

The Lorenbergs paper essentially argues that libraries will see increasing usage of IT facilities in libraries as a result of benefit changes, which seems plausible.  In Brent, the welfare advisers  seen in the BBC Panorama programme are located immediately by Wembley Library.  I am told that they are seeing increasing demand for the self service IT facilities even now, and that they expect the same in the Willesden Green Library Centre when it opens.  It may well be that some of the library PCs come to be used as overspill.

This raises a number of interesting issues.  One of which is whether there is any legal duty for libraries to provide IT.   I think there is, but that opinion is based on my own exegesis of paragraph 116 of the Ouseley  judgement.  The conventional wisdom is that there is no legal duty to provide IT in libraries.  If that vis accepted, then doing away with IT facilities may well be part of the hollowing out that I have argued is the only plausible alternative to building closures.

Of course, this can be done more inconspicuously than literally removing the PCs.  Not upgrading the software or the broadband connection might achieve the same result more insidiously.  Similarly refusing to invest in new technologies such as ipads will slowly erode IT provision without attracting much public controversy.  I suspect these options may be taken up by authorities as budgets tighten still further.

I suspect that Iain Duncan Smith's department has embarked on its Universal Credit programme without giving such things much thought.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

CPZ Permits and Car Clubs

Speaking to a Kensal Green resident recently, I was delighted to learn that she had taken advantage of the option to give up the CPZ permit that we introduced when we converted CPZs to emission based bands.  When the ability to give up CPZ permits was suggested, I was quite skeptical as to whether anyone would take it.  She is now using a car club membership, although she said that even there her usage was limited.  Shifting people away from cars is crucial to improving London's air quality.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Brent Home Library Services Up

During the debate about Brent's Library Transformation, one of the major concerns many people had was access for disabled people, although these feelings are not universal.  In all the Labour Party debates I take part in about how to respond to the Lib Dem/Tory cuts, it was generally agreed that protecting the most vulnerable is a key priority.

Of course, this doesn't get you much credit politically.  None of the housebound users of this service will be marching to the Town Hall in protest, because they are not capable of marching anywhere.  It is also true that the cost per user is probably higher than for library users in general.  However, I think that a civilised society distributes resources according to need rather than according to whoever can shout the loudest.

It is also worth mentioning that providing services to the disabled involves more than just the Home Library service.  It includes making sure all our libraries are properly disabled accessible, that at least some of the PCs have disability software and that there is a reasonable range of titles that people can access.  The improvement of the online offer is also important.

However, for people who are so severely disabled that they are housebound, the home library service is a vital link.  It also is an example of Brent using volunteers (which people complain we are against) as it involves volunteers driving round and bringing the books to people who cannot travel to the library themselves.  You can get an idea of the scope of the service via this link (including a short video).

That shows an increase of 401% since we decided to go ahead with the transformation in 2011.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Libraries and Bookselling

I see that e-lending trials have led to more book purchases.  Perhaps this strengthens the case for libraries as showrooms for publishers?

False Hopes of Local Democracy

I notice that Brent Liberal Democrats are making specious promises around democracy and accountability.  I find these unconvincing, because Brent Liberal Democrats have a long history of failing to attend meetings, allowing councillors to carry on living outside the Borough, and failing to participate fully in meetings even when they are there.  The current Liberal Democrat leader was Council Leader for four years, and made no significant changes, why should we believe he will change now?

Sunday, 13 April 2014

More than a Quarter of Brent Library Loans are Outside Libraries

I have remarked before that many of the book loans made from Brent libraries are not from actual buildings at all.  The pie chart below illustrates the point using 2013/14 data.


Non building loans account for more than a quarter of a million loans by Brent library service.  The actual break down of those loans is the second chart (below). 


It is noticeable that ebooks still only account for a small proportion of the total number of loans (about 1.1% of all Brent book loans), so the ebook revolution has a long time to wait.  The fact that such a high proportion of book loans happen outside the actual buildings strengthens my argument that library authorities should concentrate on services rather than buildings.


Again, the comment below seems to come from a mindset of entrenched hostility.  Certainly, one can point to a link between online renewals and loans from physical libraries.  My point is that if you ignore the non-building loans, you are ignoring a major element of book loans in Brent.

Remember the main alternative option for Brent Libraries (supported by many "library campaigners" at the time) was simply to cut opening hours, which is an option generally known as "hollowing out". I don't think, had we gone for that option, we would now see our numbers going up.