Sinto Lecture 09 Libraries & Recession
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Sinto Lecture 09 Libraries & Recession



This was presented at the SINTO Lecture in Sheffield on Thursday 15th October 2009. The theme for the lecture was "Libraries vs Recession". ...

This was presented at the SINTO Lecture in Sheffield on Thursday 15th October 2009. The theme for the lecture was "Libraries vs Recession".

This is a slightly modified version of the presentation I gave at the Society of Chief Librarians Conference in June 2009.



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Sinto Lecture 09 Libraries & Recession Sinto Lecture 09 Libraries & Recession Presentation Transcript

  • RISING TO THE CHALLENGE: A LOOK AT THE ROLE OF PUBLIC LIBRARIES IN TIMES OF RECESSION Christine Rooney-Browne PhD Researcher, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow SINTO Seminar October 2009
  • To discuss...
    • The modern day public library
    • Current climate
    • Demonstrating value
    • Contribution to economic and social regeneration
    • Communicating the message
    • Public Libraries:
  • ‘ Back in the day...’ The Public Libraries Act 1850 *(Images courtesy of *
  • A space and place... (Scrogham, 2006). “… a place of books and reading , of research , of librarians , of free thought , and of balance – balance between education and recreation , between print and electronic , between quiet and noise , and between parental concern and civil liberties ” *
  • Modern day public libraries...
  • The Times They are a-Changin’*...
  • Current climate...
  • First Recession of the 21 st Century... (Based on Getz, 1989, p.4).
  • Relationship between library use and business cycles... * (James, 1986; Luyt, 2007);** (Lynch, 2002); ***(Poole, 1880; Berelson, 1949; James, 1983; Bob, 1985; James, 1986; Getz, 1989, p.4-5; Finch and Warner, 1998, p.5; Lynch 2002; Seavey, 2003, p.378; ALA, 2007; ALA, 2008a; Goulding, 2009).
    • Great Depression of the 1930s*
    • Economic crises in late 1990s, early 2000s**
    • Statistical and anecdotal evidence supports link between public library usage and economic crises***
  • Front page news...
  • Recession sanctuaries? “ ...non-discriminating spaces for people to be ” * *(Greenhalgh, 1995)
    • Unemployment, pay freezes, accumulated debt, less disposable income
    • Borrowing over buying
    • Welcoming spaces
    • Knowledgeable staff
    • Free resources
  • Responding to evolving needs... *(Rettig, 2009)). . “ During tough economic times, people turn to libraries for their incredible array of free resources, from computers to books, DVDs and CDs, for help with a job hunt or health information. The average annual cost to the taxpayer for access to this wide range of resources is about $31 , the cost of one hardcover book. In good times or bad, libraries are a great value !”* BBC, 2009 CNN, 2009, 2009
  • Shining in times of crisis...
  • Early statistical evidence... Westminster Libraries Over the three month period to January 2009’: visits increased by 10.5%, new members by 18.3%and borrowing figures for personal finance books by 11.8% business and management books by 6.3% and basic skills books by 35.4%‘ Birmingham Libraries Towards end of 2008, membership increased by 4,500 to 175,000 ** Cumbria Libraries YOY 39% increase in new members over the period ‘September – December 2008’ *** Newcastle Libraries an increase of 10,000 new members in 2008 (a rise of 33%) and 4,000 children became members for the first time (an increase of 14%****) Glasgow Libraries 12% rise in usage and 26% increase in ‘non-fiction’ borrowing***** Dublin Libraries 30% YOY increase borrowing and 15% rise in visitors ****** Map Source: *(Page, 2009). **(Keogh, 2009) ***(BBC, 2009b). ****(Loraine, 2009). *****(Braiden, 2009), ******(Murphy, 2009)
  • Anecdotal evidence... *(Carlton, 2009 **(NPR, 2008). Wall Street Journal focussed on one recently unemployed user who spent his time in the library listening to hip-hop DVDs whilst using the computer . When probed as to why he was spending time in the library the user stated that it was an opportunity for him to get out of the house * One family in Indiana had to sell all of their electronic equipment, cancel cable and internet subscriptions because technology had become a luxury that they could no longer afford . The library had become their sole access point for information, news and online entertainment. ** At Roxbury Public Library in New Jersey librarians have taken on the role of unofficial job counsellors and social workers in order to meet the emerging needs of visitors*
  • Value in times of recession...
  • Public spending...the reality! *(Getz, 1989, pp. 4-5). ** (Moore, 2004 quoted in Goulding, 2009, p. 4) ***(Page, 2009c) ****(Bakewell, 2009). . “ the strength, diversity and growth of our library community is a consequence of the affluence of our economy... libraries – along with the rest of society – have to ride the waves of macroeconomic activity ”*
  • Demonstrating value...
  • Prove it...
  • Measure £ value...
  • E.g. Return on investment...
  • Measuring less obvious contributions...
  • Measuring social value... *Greer and Hale, 1982; Whipple and Nyce, 2007; **Blake et al.,1976; Usherwood & Linley, 1998; (Bryson et al., 2002); ***Brophy, 2007; ****UK Online Centres, 2007 *****REDF, 2008
  • E.g. Transforming communities... New Orleans Chicago
    • ...exploit revenue streams
    Be part of the solution 1
  • E.g Sponsorship...
  • E.g Affiliations...
  • *(Gazette, 2008). Space for sale...
  • A step too far...? “ civic society’s unique space for free communication and critical reflection in contrast to the market’s commercialisation of experiences” ** *Staffordshire County Council, England; **(Skot-Hansen, 2002).
    • ...contribute to cost savings
    Be part of the solution 2
  • Users expect the (virtual) world...? * * (Maness, 2006); Darien Public Library, 2009).
  • E.g. Embrace Web 2.0 & social media...
    • ...partnership working
    Be part of the solution 3
  • E.g. Positioned at the heart of... Public Libraries
  • LAAs? We can help with that... Based on original Communities and Local Government: 198 Indicator Set, 2007
  • Healthy communities? We can help with that...
  • Investment in local businesses? We can help with that...
  • Conclusion...
  • Conclusion...
  • OPEN UP THE DEBATE E-MAIL: [email_address] BLOG: Twitter: crooneybrowne Facebook: