8th November 2010
PUBLIC LIBRARIES MATTER
When Bloomsbury first launched its Public Library Online initiative in the Summer of 2009 its primary purpose was to reach new readers for our books and to support the digital ambitions of a number of library authorities. We were aware of the growing financial constraints and thus from the beginning pitched our pricing as low as possible and tried to keep the overhead cost to the library to an absolute minimum.
Little did we know then the extent of the cuts that would be proposed to Government funding in general and to local authorities in particular. We are facing the potential destruction of the public library service through ‘salami slicing’, through local closures, through service reduction, and through the loss of hugely professional and committed librarians.
There are many individuals and organisations debating how to minimise the damage. So far these debates have resulted in more heat than light but at least we seem to have jettisoned the idea that the solution lies in hiring expensive firms of consultants to tell us what needs to be done. People seem to be turning their attention to the better management of libraries, the importance of service levels, the importance of good core stocks of books, the opportunities for streamlining systems to eliminate waste – in short, back to common sense solutions.
We believe that Public Library Online can be one part of the solution. We offer librarians the opportunity to enhance their book offerings at very low cost; to participate in the digital revolution without challenging authors’ rights; to offer their members a 24/7 service in their homes or in their work-places as well as in the library itself; to support reading groups by offering simultaneous access to a title; to support education in the community through learning shelves; and to work together in the selection of future shelves and areas for development.
This is only the beginning for Public Library Online. We are building our offering through working with many new publishers, both British and international. We are paying special attention to educational, genealogical and minority language and culture issues. We are improving our technology continuously. We are extending our reach to other countries, other languages and other models to suit different public library systems overseas.
We are available to roughly 15% of the UK population already. Our aim is to reach everyone. Given the economic climate and in order to help your budget process, for those of you who confirm your subscriptions within the 2010 calendar year, we guarantee not to raise the price of any subscribed shelves for three years irrespective of inflation.
We believe that this unique initiative can help our vital public libraries remain relevant and weather the storm. This newsletter will keep you up to speed with our developments. Do please stay in touch. We are here for you.