Lib Dems and Green manifesto mentions: big cuts in Enfield and Trafford

Editorial

A big thank you to Post Lib for allowing me to publish their article which includes statements from the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Greens on public libraries.  Since my last post, UKIP and the Lib Dems have published their manifestos.  UKIP barely mention libraries (apart from noting that they’re run by local councils) but the Lib Dems have more to say:

“Complete broadband rollout to every home, and create an innovation fund to help keep local GPs, post offices and local libraries open … Develop the Community Budgets model for use in rural areas to combine services, encouraging the breaking down of barriers between different services. This will help rural services like GP surgeries, pharmacies, post offices and libraries open by enabling them to cooperate, share costs and co-locate in shared facilties … Support local libraries and ensure any libraries under threat of closure are offered first for transfer to the local community” Liberal Democrat Manifesto

To my embarrassment, I had not noticed that the Greens decided to publish their manifesto as a non-searchable image file rather than as a PDF like the other parties.  I therefore missed their statements on libraries (because they did not show up using CTRL-F).  Their full statements are below:

“We need to improve the way the UK is governed, passing power back to the people, back to where they live and work. Local councils have been starved of the funds they need to do their job. That is why requests for social care go unheeded, libraries are shut and public parks neglected …” under Localisation

“Increase government arts funding by £500 million a year to restore the cuts made since 2010 and reinstate proper levels of funding for local authorities, helping to keep local museums, theatres, libraries and art galleries open.” under Media,Sports and the Arts

“We were treated to post-election surprises such as increased VAT and huge cuts to essential public services such as benefits, libraries, children’s centres and mental health support. By contrast, the Green Party produced a worked-out financial plan in its 2010 manifesto.” Chapter 16 Green Party Manifesto

Away from the election, Enfield (Labour) has announced major cuts to libraries while Trafford (Conservative) have confirmed closure of two with significant cuts to others.

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National

  • Exciting operating models – Leon’s Library Blog. Tweet by Paul Blantern (chief of the English Libraries Task Force) spotted: “Paul Blantern really great conference in Nottingham today looking at many of the exciting operating models that now exist libraries in England” … “Among the many exciting operating models I presume are Lincolnshire, which is hell-bent on handing over 68% of libraries to volunteers despite a judicial review and the threat of a second. Sheffield, which has given over 46% of its libraries to volunteers, Coventry, which is suggesting reducing its libraries from 17 to 5, a decrease of 70%, and Staffordshire, which is proposing 50% of it libraries are run by community groups. To name but a few”
  • General Election 2015 – Vote Libraries – Voices for the Library. “We all know how badly our libraries have been hit over the past five years, the extent to which cuts from central government have hurt our public library service. This election is vital on so many levels and, of course, it provides an opportunity to hold our elected politicians to account for their actions over the course of the last parliament.”.  Includes links to library manifesto and posters to promote conversation about libraries with canvassers.
  • General Election 2015 and Public Libraries: statements from Conservatives, Greens, Labour and Lib Dems on libraries – Public Libraries News / Post-Lib. Full statements from Ed Vaizey, his shadow Chris Bryant, the Greens and Lib Dems on public libraries plus all mentions of libraries in the relevant manifestos. See also Labour slams coalition’s ‘legacy of boarded-up libraries’ - BookSeller.

International

  • How public libraries can help 120 million illiterate young people – EIFL (EU). “According to UNESCO, illiteracy among youth stands at an estimated 122 million, and there are 67.4 million children out of school. These young people face futures of poverty and exclusion in a world in which success depends on literacy. For many generations, in addition to book lending, public libraries have been offering free services that promote and develop literacy. These services include the more traditional  ones that most of us know about and have experienced – like storytime for toddlers; book clubs and reading days; family literacy sessions; reading classes for adults; special courses for people with dyslexia and other forms of reading disability, and providing a safe space for children to practice their literacy skills away from the pressures of the school environment …”
  • Jeffco Public Library Lego clubs growing in popularity among kids – Denver Post (USA). “Begun in mid-2013 at the Conifer Library, the Lego days have been growing in popularity in recent months, and now most of Jefferson County’s libraries are participating. Amy Beebe, library supervisor at the Edgewater Library, said the program started there in December. The library received its toy sets via donations, mostly from two men in their 20s giving up their Legos. The program started on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, but Beebe said it was confusing and kids were showing up on off weeks hoping to play, so she made it a weekly occurrence. It’s been a hit so far, averaging about 25 kids per week.”
  • New State of America’s Libraries Report finds shift in role of U.S. libraries – ALA (USA). ” According to The State of America’s Libraries Report released today by the American Library Association (ALA), academic, public and school libraries are experiencing a shift in how they are perceived by their communities and society. No longer just places for books, libraries of all types are viewed as anchors, centers for academic life and research and cherished spaces.”
  • Telling Stories with Games at Your Library – OCLC (USA). “Storytelling games are a natural fit for a library. A library, itself, is a collection of stories. They are in the books, the movies, the media. They inhabit the meeting rooms, the social spaces, the computers. People meet, create and imbue a library with stories. So let us talk about storytelling games. In a storytelling game, one of the main mechanisms is for the players to creatively craft (sometimes) disparate narrative elements into a cohesive story. Perhaps symbols on a die roll need to be interpreted to make sense. Maybe cards are played that need to be linked together with a similar narrative arc. Maybe you do this to score points or race to the finish. Maybe you just want to watch the show and story unfold. Or maybe you just like to watch the world burn …”
  • The world’s best public library to be awarded prize – Kulturstyrelsen (Denmark / Global). “Applications are once again open for the prize for world’s best public library.  And, in 2015, the Danish Agency for Culture will again have the honour of handing out the “Public Library of the Year Award” – this year, with a new sponsor: the IT firm Systematic, which is donating $US 5,000. The prize is given to a library somewhere in the world that has been newly constructed or designed for a building that has not previously been used as a library and which meets the criteria for the Model Programme for Public Libraries.”

Local news by authority

“Pens and books are the weapons that defeat terrorism,” said Malala Yousafzai in her opening speech for the huge £188m Library of Birmingham in 2013.  So it’s a worry that it will now only open for six hours at weekends thanks to cost-cutting, putting the impressive landmark building at the heart of a political row. There will be no more Sunday opening and weekday hours are also being cut.  It’s all a long way from 2013, when the library was hailed as proof that the future for public libraries was “not all doom and gloom”. Library chiefs on Birmingham city council claim their predecessors massively underestimated the running costs.  Of course, one way the library could have saved money would have been to avoid spending £1.2m, plus a £190,000 annual support fee, to Capita’s ghastly Service Birmingham just for its website” Birmingham – Private Eye - Issue No. 1390 (p.29)

  • Denbighshire – 18 – Kara Orford, Denbighshire Libraries - 23 Librarians. “The inspiring stuff? The things that still make me happy every morning to get out of bed and drive to work? Children’s stock purchasing for the county is one area of my responsibility, as is the programming of community reading groups in the libraries that I manage. We have several reading groups, a Chatterbooks group and a Carnegie Medal focussed reading group that I run at the nearby high school. If ever I am having a bad day, an hour spent with any of those groups will soon turn my mood around and remind me why I love my job. I schedule and lead class visits to the library on a regular basis (a real boost to issues and membership that I spend a lot of my time pursuing) I am also often found visiting school assemblies or classes to promote our service and try to instil that all important love of reading for pleasure.”

“After a decade of loving my work, it is hard coming to terms with the fact that progression is less and less likely as each year passes. Posts are deleted and jobs just aren’t advertised anymore. This can be frustrating when I see friends from university working in the private sector who are on the up and up. One thing’s for sure, nobody is a librarian because they want to be rich. We do it because we love it and we believe fervently in what we do. If I can’t work in libraries forever, I know one thing for certain, I won’t regret a second of the time I have spent in them” Kara Orford

  • Durham – Block self-harm websites on council PCs – report – Advertiser. “The study also suggests computers in council-run buildings such as libraries should block access to social chat websites focused on self-harm.”
  • Enfield – Mobile libraries might face axe in round of funding cuts – North London Today. “In the draft library development strategy, officers have summarised findings from the consultation that took place between November last year and February 2015. Now councillors will have to decide where the axe should fall. One of the options detailed in the report involves “bringing to an end the mobile library service and explore providing an expanded, volunteer-led home delivery service for the homebound” … four libraries would remain as “flagship” seven-days-per-week open libraries but “The remaining, smaller libraries would be removed from local authority control and given “community library” status and would be run by groups or volunteers, rather than the council. Officers say that results from the consultation process showed “general support” for “community libraries” and add that they [the officers] should be given the go-ahead to start talks with volunteers and organisations who could take over the majority of smaller libraries.”
  • Flintshire – Petitions’ bid to save libraries in Flintshire - News North Wales. “Petitions carrying more than 1,000 signatures have been handed into Flintshire Council in a bid to safeguard libraries in Hawarden and Mancot. And following a closed public consultation event on Tuesday night in Hawarden fresh fears have been raised for the future of Flintshire’s famous Record Office. Flintshire Council maintains its stance that the libraries in Hawarden and Mancot, as well as Queensferry, will not be closed but moved to a ‘library hub’ at Deeside Leisure Centre. The move will cost £130,000.”

“I am writing as co-Chair of Friends of Meltham Library group.  No decision has been made as to the future of Meltham Library as yet.  We are waiting for publication of the consultation report as consultation has only just ‘closed’. We will not accept a volunteer led Library Service as we do not believe this will meet either Kirklees obligations or the needs of the users of Meltham Library.  We know there are going to be cuts but are fighting for a ‘volunteer supported’ model in Meltham so that we can retain the support of Kirklees Library service and the professionals that work within it.” Kirklees – Friends of Meltham Library Group

Campaigner and former head teacher Julie Harrison has issued a statement on the latest activities by the Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaign group: ‘Our position is that we are exploring the possibility of launching further legal action. However we are exploring not only action against the Council but also against the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport who seem blind to the effect of cuts by councils crippled by central government cuts. DCMS’s decision to accept the complaint by Maurice Nauta but then be minded not to set up an enquiry is a disgrace. We are submitting further evidence and considering our options.” Lincolnshire – Save Lincolnshire Libraries

  • Nottingham – Library and housing office in Broxtowe to close ahead of £5m joint service centre redevelopment - Nottingham Post. “A joint service centre is due to open in spring 2017, featuring a new library, improved IT equipment, information desk for council and housing services, meeting rooms and an outdoor area. Stepney Court, a 28-home independent living complex behind Aspley housing office that was built in the 1970s, will also be redeveloped into a similar scheme with 31 upgraded modern flats above the centre. Ahead of demolition work, Strelley Road Library will close on Saturday <18/4> at 1pm and the Nottingham City Homes (NCH) housing office will close on Friday, April 24.” … “A reduced afternoon library service will be available from Monday to Wednesday at nearby Broxtowe Children’s Centre, while there will be a drop-box at the Co-op for returning books. Library groups will be held at the Sheila Russell Centre, in St Martin’s Road, while computer access and after school clubs will be available at the Broxtowe Education, Skills and Training (BEST) in Denton Green.”
  • Suffolk – Readers unable to judge a book by its cover with library’s new ‘blind’ book project – Ipswich Star. “Rosehill Library in Ipswich launched the project shortly before Easter, with 15 books wrapped in plain white packaging with only the first line of the story and the genre of book for readers to see. Sarah Watt, 23, a branch assistant at the library came up with the project, and has been thrilled with its progress so far. She said: “People are really enjoying it. Some are not sure about it at first but people would like to take the plunge, and because it’s a library book you can just return it if you don’t like it.”
  • Trafford – Changes to Trafford Library Service – Trafford Council. “Following two periods of public consultation and Trafford Council Executive decision on 25 March 2015 a number of changes will be taking place within Trafford Libraries. Here is an overview of the changes with current target dates; this page will be updated regularly.”: Bowfell will close 27 April, Davyhulme will close 3 May, Woodsend fewer staff but Open+ may maintain hours, Lostock will transfer to college (school library with public access), Coppice will be transferred to BlueSCI mental health and wellbeing group, Timperley will reduce in size and be part of GP surgery, Hale will be sold to private developer who will need to maintain library for two years.

 

Party Manifestos: Tories mention libraries in 2 or 3 sentences, Labour and Greens not at all

Editorial

There are no mentions of public libraries in either the Green or Labour Party Manifestos.  The Conservatives give two or three sentences:

“We will continue to support local libraries. We will help public libraries to support local communities by providing free wi-fi. And we will assist them in embracing the digital age by working with them to ensure remote access to e-books, without charge and with appropriate compensation for authors that enhances the Public Lending Right scheme.” Conservative Party Manifesto

Those who read PLN (and thank you for doing so) will know that this short paragraph hides a multitude of sins but the fact that Labour and (rather shockingly) the Greens don’t mention the sector once is rather shocking, especially given the unprecedented media coverage given to libraries over the last electoral term.

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The bottomless well: the lack of Library Standards in England

Editorial

The absence of standards for libraries in England is an increasingly glaring one but whenever I ask chief librarians or other very senior staff about it, the answer is that standards simply mean a dive to the bottom, not to the top.  The idea goes that in times of cuts, councils would look at the minimum level of service required and cut their funding accordingly.  The problem with using this argument is of course that councils will do that anyway, minimum standards or no. What we’re seeing at the moment is many councils (with Lincolnshire being the most obvious recently) looking at seeing what they can get away with, seeing that they can get away with a lot (at best, one library per 45,000 people at the last non-intervention by Vaizey) and going with it or perhaps pushing it a bit more. Where there are standards in other countries (like Scotland and Wales)  then at least there is a minimum.  We don’t even have that in England.  How far can you fall when the well is bottomless?

A guide to the defunct English Library Standards can be found by clicking this link

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Subsidy loss + Read On Get On

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Don’t look at the man behind the curtain

Editorial

Two more libraries – presumably because of the financial new year – have been passed on to Trusts but the main news is that the politics is heating up.  People are noticing there’s a general election coming up. The Labour Mayor of Liverpool, who has been busy cutting libraries, claims that you ain’t seen nothing if the Conservatives get into Number 10 – he says there won’t be a library left by the end of the term if they do. Leon, on the other hand, in his blog, points out that it doesn’t seem to matter if it’s the Tories or Labour when it comes to libraries: the only real hope lies with the “small” parties.

There’s also an excellent piece on the grim reality behind volunteer libraries by Dawn Finch and a no less superb piece by Pedronicus pointing out that there’s a disconnect between all the shiny talk about 3D printers and the cuts actually taking place.  Someone pointed out to me while discussing this that in one consultation they were asked about 3D printers while the council was looking to cut several hundred thousand pounds: it was like being asked what type of Ferrari you wanted while not being able to afford the Mini any more.  Or being distracted by the big shiny lights while the man behind the curtain pulls the levers and steals your library.

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Erratum

My calculations about the number of libraries per head in Lincolnshire that Ed Vaizey has agreed is acceptable was in error due to not taking into account that North Lincolnshire, as well as Northeast Lincolnshire, are unitary councils.  They therefore have libraries and so their population needs taking into account.

North Lincolnshire Council has got 167,500 population so that makes a total for Lincolnshire County Council alone of 682500.  682500 divided by 15 branches equals a still eye-watering 45500 people per branch.  England has a population of 53 million, that divided by 45500 equals 1100.  There’s 2900 libraries in England so that still makes 1800 libraries that Ed Vaizey would accept are not needed under this revised figure.  It is also worth noting that Lincoln, which has a population of 94600 would only have one branch under the council’s proposals.

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2000 fewer libraries? Ed Vaizey again decides not to intervene

Editorial

Mr Vaizey has again decided not to intervene in a library service that is severely reducing it’s number of branches and budget. In his letter saying he is “minded not to intervene” in Lincoolnshire, he makes it clear that 15 static libraries, online provision and a housebound book delivery service meet the statutory requirement for provision.  It accepts that the other 30 branches can be closed or passed to volunteers but, crucially, does not include them in making its final judgement – they are therefore effectively entirely optional and the council can do with them as it pleases, electorate willing.  The county council of Lincolnshire accounts for around 850,000 people so that raises the bar to 56,000 people per branch library being an acceptable figure.  So those who think that one should have a library in anything smaller than a middle to large town should consider writing to the minister before 24th April.

It’s worth bearing in mind, by the way, that that ratio would mean the secretary of state would be happy with less than one thousand libraries in all of England: 2000 – or two-thirds – fewer than now. One of the reasons for this acceptance appears to be that housebound library services are a “replacement” for those who cannot get into a local library, which is a scary thing where someone delivering the books to an incapacitated person in their own home can be used as an excuse to close down a vital service.

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Stewart Parsons, Libraries Cool Meister

Getting it Loud

Editorial

We’re often, it seems to me, behind other countries at the moment in terms of initiatives and programmes in libraries but there’s one thing which I have been aware of for years in the UK which is way and above what I have seen elsewhere.  This is the Get It Loud in Libraries phenomenon that brings some pretty darn good music to local libraries.  I finally caught up with one of the prime movers of this, Stewart Parsons, a couple of weeks ago and we got to talking.  While chatting – it was at a libraries conference – the manager of Skelmersdale Library came up to us and told Stewart that the gig he had put on in her library the week before was the best thing that had happened in her career.  Now that shows what a great impact this programme can have, and it’s not a one-off because I see stellar feedback from Get It Loud all the time on Twitter. So, of course, I asked Stewart to write a piece for PLN and I am very pleased that he agreed.  Please find it below and, um … rock on.

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“Amplifying Libraries – Loud In Libraries Style” by Stewart Parsons of Get It Loud in Libraries

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Shropshire 22 out of 28 to be community-run + ACE research.

Editorial

So today we have the news that Shropshire appears to be going the way of Leicestershire, Staffordshire and so many others and forcing most of its libraries to be run by “community groups”.  On the same day, we have Arts Council England bring out a definitive report showing that both users and non-users of libraries would be willing to pay more on their council tax in order to maintain their services.  Indeed, they’d be willing to pay almost twice as much, and the same report shows that health and wellbeing benefits of libraries alone repay most of the costs. Well done to ACE for conducting the research which will hopefully help reduce the number of such bad news stories from library authorities in the future.

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A noble librarian faced with adversity triumphs

Editorial

Ferguson Library in the USA recently stayed open during pretty bad times.  More than that, it became a classroom for children whose schools were closed and a place of safety and regeneration in a community desperately in need of healing.  It’s manager, Scott Bonner, is understated when asked what he achieved but was very clearly the right person at the right time.  Have a listen to the podcast interview here and the Guardian article here for the full-on wonderfulness of it all.  So I’m really delighted about the winner of the best named prize in the library world, the Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity. Ferguson is an example of the importance of public libraries in communities, of their vital nature if the community itself has problems and of the danger in ignoring them to save a pound or two.

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No problems with neutrality with this one? MacMillan in Glasgow

Why buy happiness when the library shares it?

Editorial

There’s been a lot of talk recently about two cases of non-council organisations taking over areas of libraries. The first, which has been rumbling around for a while, is in Bristol where two floors of the Central Library are being taken over by a Free School.  The concerns there are over loss of storage/office space for the library, a suspicion that the Free School has been given too good a deal and some doubt over the ideological motivations of the relevant councillors in the move.  The second is the taking up of considerable space in Cambridge Central Library by a private company for business offices.  This has similar themes – with extra concern over the commercialisation of the library and the speed with which the decision was made.  As well as these two, there are also mutterings about BT and Barclays providing WiFi and assistance in some branches nationally.  All of this ties in with the theme over exactly how public and neutral public libraries area.  In the end, of course, they are only as public and as neutral as the local council wishes them to be.  There’s no national rules in play.  If a council wants to set up the MacDonald’s Central Library with Tesco taking over two floors and the DVD collection sponsored by Netflix then there is nothing to stop them. It is purely the public reaction – and that of officers, too, however internal and quietly they do it – that will stop them.

The key here is  if such services are complementary or damaging to the core public library service.  This is a judgement that we see a lot with council One Stop Shops and other services in libraries and it’s part of the, I guess, risk assessment that each library needs to go through.  Something which I have no doubt is positive is another example I picked up at the Edge Conference.  This is the partnership that won the social category award – with MacMillan Cancer Support with Glasgow Libraries where the charity takes advantage of the neutral, welcoming and local space of the libraries and the library service takes advantage of the usage and – frankly – money that the other organisation brings.  Because the library service is being paid for by this, and is not losing overly much (apart from some space of course) so it looks to me like a true a win-win. Which is the essence of successful partnerships.

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