Public library budget for the UK falls roughly one-tenth in one year. Ouch.

Editorial

Total net expenditure on public libraries went down from £842k in 2015/16 to £771k in 2016/17, a decline of over 8% in just one year. Add in inflation and it’s more like 10% (or it would be if salaries weren’t semi-frozen). That would be awful enough if that was a one-off but it isn’t: there’s been real cuts to expenditure every single year since 2009/10 and there’s inflation in that period too (of 17%) to account for. So, that’s mega isn’t it? Brutal in fact. No surprise then that usage is falling. The surprise is that it’s not falling faster, After all, visits are down a mere 3% when the cut to funding was three times more.

So that’s one horror story. The other is, of course, how the figures themselves  are collected. Given by councils, CIPFA then collates them when the financial year finishes in April, presumably then does something else for a bit (because it’s now December), sends out a summary press release as a sales pitch and then charges an eye-watering charge for anyone wanting the full package. But, hang on, these are our statistics. Which we’re stopped from using unless we’re rich and don’t mind waiting, let’s think, more than seven whole months to see. And this is for the library profession, which should be fairly good on information. I’m glad to say that things are changing though. All of the organisations (well, apart from, presumably CIPFA but I don’t know) involved (SCL, Taskforce, CILIP etc) are keen on improving on the current mess. I hope they succeed. Then we’ll be able to tell for free and in real-time how fast budgets are declining. Hang on, that doesn’t sound fun. But at least it’s not downright embarrassing, unlike the current situation.

Changes

Cipfa figures

  • £66m spending drop on public libraries in a year – Government Business.
  • Council cut £66 million from libraries – Morning Star. “Shadow arts minister Kevin Brennan branded it a “hammer blow,” and a direct result of government cuts to local authority budgets. He said: “Libraries are vital community hubs and they are crucial to social mobility. This government continues to put them at risk with fewer books and fewer paid staff while library closures continue.” see also £66m spending drop on public libraries in a year – Government Business and Council spending on libraries cut by £66m last year – Public Finance and Report shows 105 UK libraries closed last year – Books and Publishing.
  • Figures show children worst hit by library cuts – Guardian. “The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy’s annual survey of Great Britain’s libraries paints familiar picture: for the seventh year running, the number of branches and paid staff declined. There are now 3,745 branches remaining in England, Scotland and Wales, down by 105 since 2016, while the number of paid staff has declined by 5% compared with a year ago. These falls come alongside a drop of £66m in total spend on council-run libraries, with visits down by 3% year on year, and by 14% over the last five years. The decline, according to the CIPFA figures, is almost across the board: book issues fell by 6.3% in the last year, and by 25.1% in the last five years. Book stock held is also down by 2.6%.” … “According to analysis by Coates, the former Waterstones managing director turned libraries advocate, loans of children’s books in England have dropped by 22% in the last five years, due to “the burden of the collapsing libraries falling on children in big cities”. Across Birmingham, for instance, the decline in children’s book loans increased to 32%. In Newcastle, it is 35%, and in Sheffield 56%.”

“Labour shadow culture secretary Kevin Brennan said the party was calling on the government to publish the complete data from its Libraries Taskforce report, released in December 2016, “so that Parliament and the public can see the full picture of the damage being done to libraries by ongoing Tory austerity”.”

  • Latest CIPFA figures reveal ‘catastrophic’ scale of library closures – BookSeller. “The subject of volunteers in the library sector has been a contentious one. A recent interview by Dawn Finch, children’s author and CILIP past-president, drew attention to the impact of placing volunteers in charge of running community services. In the interview, a volunteer describes working 40-hour weeks for free while drawing on her diminishing life savings to survive, putting her marriage under strain and having the threat of the museum’s closure hanging constantly over her head.”
  • Spending on public libraries falls by £66m in a year – Cipfa. “According to CIPFA’s annual library survey, the squeeze on council funding continues to take its toll on libraries, as spending, paid staff and branches declined again last year (2016/17), for the 7th year running.”

“But, it isn’t all doom and gloom, as libraries are continuing to modernise while volunteer numbers have increased, proving that libraries remain an important community asset. But, to really ensure that libraries are able to thrive, local authorities need adequate and sustainable levels of funding.” Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive of CIPFA.

  • What CIPFA did last summer – Libraries Hacked. “This aggregated data is owned by CIPFA, at the point it is released in December. The returns each authority complete are publicly-owned, but are rarely made available. Subscription fees to CIPFA are unaffordable even for some library services. A single report can normally be purchased for around £450, though publishing research from this data would need to be approved by CIPFA. Having public data held and controlled by a private organisation will only lead to services giving up on any coordinated data work. There are at least two steps at which the public pay for this. The data collection itself, hundreds of library services dedicating many hours each year to complete the stats. And the subscriptions that local authorities pay to view the data. ” … “There are established portals that local government should be be publishing to, and are designed to hold data on public services. See data.gov.uk or even LG Inform Plus, which provides data aggregation services. From there it would be possible for anyone, including CIPFA, to extract and aggregate the data as necessary”

An online bookclub from Axiell
National news

  • Calls for government to release vital data about taxpayer-funded libraries – Digital By Default. “Kevin Brennan said, “This Government’s continuing delay publishing open data on public libraries is a disservice to taxpayers. It is also a shameful missed opportunity to support the library sector to develop essential services that develop literacy and skills in communities across the country. I’m calling on Government to end the delays and obfuscation.””
  • Chief Executive recruitment – Society of Chief Librarians. “With an impressive track record of developing policy, sharing best practice, and acting as the voice of the public library sector both nationally and internationally, the organisation has now recognised that it needs to appoint a small executive team to fulfil its expanding role in delivering effective innovation to the sector. The award of £500,000 pa (2018 – 2022) in the recent round of NPO funding provides the opportunity to recruit a dynamic, entrepreneurial Chief Executive to work closely with SCL board and members to make the step change envisaged.” Salary up to £65k p.a.
  • Guest post: Chris Plant on his experience of the Legal and Governance Workshop – Community Libraries Network. “So far in Staffordshire we have transferred 18 Libraries through to community management. We are currently progressing the 5 remaining library transfers. We are also working in partnership with all the community organisations to ensure all 23 Community Managed Libraries are sustainable as we move forward into our third year of Library Service transformation. I registered on the Legal and Governance session with Anthony Collins Solicitors after reading about the session on the Community Managed Libraries Network Blog …”
  • Making the sandwich: ideas for improving author events in public libraries – Time To Read. A free guide using multiple examples from UK librarians on their experiences of putting together successful author events.
  • We’re going on a book hunt – Big Issue special deliveries are despatched – Big Issue. “The Big Book Giveaway is a simple idea: to put books into the hands of people who need them, but for various reasons can’t get them. With public libraries facing closure, school libraries unable to fill their shelves, and reading opportunities being cut across the country, we wanted to share the books that are sent to our office each week to ensure people who want and need them can have them.”

International

Local news by authority

  • Bournemouth / Poole Visits to towns’ libraries “remain buoyant” despite closures across Britain – Daily Echo. “Bournemouth and Poole’s library services merged earlier this year in a bid to save both councils £566,000 by 2019/20. The move has prevented library closures, with no reductions to library opening hours for the joint service.” … ““Library loans and visitors remain buoyant with 1.6 million visits in person to Bournemouth and Poole libraries annually, 626 thousand virtual visits to the libraries’ web pages and online resources, and 1.5 million items loaned from Bournemouth and Poole libraries. Book and audio visual stock collections are an important service with a total of 485 thousand items for library users to browse and borrow.”
  • Cheshire East – Volunteers step forward in bid to save library – Alderley Edge. “Councillor Craig Browne has had several meetings with officers from Cheshire East Council and Cllr Liz Wardlaw, Interim Deputy Leader and responsible for Health, and has managed to obtained a breakdown of the costs that the library is currently occurring which includes £48,000 per year for staffing and £24,000 for running costs – £7,500 of which is business rates, £5409 for emergency building repair and £4823 for the cleaning contract. Speaking at the Parish Council meeting on Monday, 11th December, Councillor Browne said “A number of residents have contacted me with a view to joining a group of volunteers to help run the library going forward and one of the things Cheshire East have said is that if a community group comes forward with a proposal to help staff the library going forward then that might be something that they would look at favourably …”
  • Darlington – Just a fraction of £4.4m funding pot could save Darlington’s Crown Street Library, say campaigners – Northern Echo. “Last week, Darlington Borough Council announced that “prudent financial planning and cost savings” had led to the authority building up the significant sum. A public consultation into how the money should be spent will be held in the near future, with the council expected to suggest areas of priority for the funds. Those fighting to save the Crown Street Library say that the facility could be saved for at least five years with just a fraction of the sum available.”
  • East Sussex – Council’s £720k overspend on library as others to close – BBC. “A council which plans to save £653,000 by closing more than a quarter of its libraries had overspent by £720,000 on refurbishing one library building. East Sussex County Council said it had “no choice” but to close seven libraries and its mobile library service following government cuts. It has now admitted overspending on renovating the Grade II listed building in Hastings. The council will make a decision on the library closures in March. The Conservative council’s leader, Keith Glazier, said the front of the building in Hastings had been found to be unsafe and needed to be rebuilt. “It was only discovered after work had been started,” Mr Glazier said”
  • Edinburgh – Edinburgh libraries to operate without staff in pilot study – Edinburgh News. “Four libraries will be selected to take part in the pilot from May next year. Two community centres will also be included in the study, with swipe-card access allowing groups to use the facilities and let themselves in and out. Edinburgh would be the first council in Scotland to adopt the “Open Libraries” model although they have been introduced elsewhere in the UK and in Ireland after being pioneered in Scandinavia.”
  • Edinburgh – Leader comment: New chapter for libraries – Scotsman. “yes, we can certainly see the benefits of allowing entry to unmanned libraries, out of hours. For those working antisocial hours or with restricted mobility, this move could make a huge difference. But we think we may be excused for raising the issue of whether this plan by Edinburgh council might open up the possibility of further cuts to staff hours. If the pilot scheme is a success, those with responsibility for the bottom line may ask whether libraries need any staff at all? “
  • Edinburgh – Libraries without staff get checked out in Edinburgh pilot study – Times (semi paywall). “Cards will be used to enter libraries in Edinburgh and existing self-service kiosks will be used to check books in and out. Closed-circuit television cameras, emergency telephones, loudspeakers and alarms will ensure security when no staff are there.”
  • Hampshire – 10 Years of Winchester Discovery Centre: a Celebration – Libraries Taskforce. “The final weekend of November saw the celebration of Winchester Discovery Centre’s 10th anniversary. A weekend bursting with activity and an opportunity to reflect on the 10 years since Winchester Library was refurbished and reopened to huge success.” … “On Tuesday 27 November 2007, Winchester Discovery Centre opened its doors for the first time. Five million visitors, three million book loans and thousands of events, workshops and exhibitions later, the Centre is a library reinvented and so much more besides.”
  •  Islington – Islington reference library is safe – Islington Tribune. “To be clear, I would like to reassure readers we have no plans to close, reduce or get rid of our reference library in Central Library, or any of the reference sections in our other libraries. As the information provided in the reference library has increasingly moved online, including subscription-only services, the physical stock has reduced accordingly – but we have ensured that access to this information remains free for all library users. In fact, we hope to improve Central Library – and access to our online reference material – by increasing the amount of study space on offer, which is in high demand”
  • Lambeth – Upper Norwood Library Hub proving a success – Love Lambeth. “In summer 2016, the Upper Norwood Library Trust took over management of the building from Lambeth Council (although the library service is still joint funded by both Lambeth and Croydon Councils). It was an innovative move and one that has proved successful, with visitor numbers and book lending both increased. Cllr Sonia Winifred, Lambeth Cabinet Member for Equalities & Culture, and a former librarian herself, said: “With Lambeth’s funding from central government cut by around 56% from 2010, every area of council work has seen budget cuts. Our library budget was no different and we had to find imaginative solutions. An Asset Transfer of the building saves the council spending money on running costs and the library is supported by the fantastic Trust staff alongside a full time Lambeth librarian.”
  • Lancashire – Bolton-le-Sands library reopens to villagers’ delight – Citizen. “The doors closed in September 2016 as part of major budget cuts by Lancashire County Council. But following months of lobbying by the village’s community library hub group, a new chapter opened for the Main Street building on Monday. The launch event attracted a crowd of 70 people including children from Bolton-le-Sands CE Primary School, said Vince Hart, leader of the community group. “Using the library as a foundation, we would like to use the space as a host venue for local groups to hold meetings and run activities for the benefit of the village, its residents and visitors,” said Mr Hart.”
  • Lancashire – Fulwood library officially re-opens 14 months after closure – Lancashire Post. “There to perform the official opening was one youngster whose belief the Garstang Road library would open again never wavered – 12 year old Oliver Porter. He was invited to join Lancashire County Council leader Coun Geoff Driver to co-open the venue watched by a crowd of around 100 people.Oliver and his mother Jane had fought a dedicated campaign against the library closure, collecting nearly 4,000 signatures for a protest petition. When the Conservatives took power at county hall in May they vowed to reopen all of the libraries which were closed by the previous administration”
  • Northamptonshire – Northamptonshire County Council proposed cuts threaten future of Higham Ferrers Library – Higham Ferrers Town Council. “By the 13 January 2018 a group has to express an informal Expression of Interest in managing the library. Due to the time constraints being imposed, which the Town Council consider unreasonable, and the size of the library, the only group that could possibly do this is the Town Council. The Town Council would have to purchase or lease the building and be responsible for building costs and any staffing costs. To buy the building is possibly in excess of £300,000. A market valuation is expected to be available on 22 December. Under a 2 year service level agreement the County Council would fund books and the IT provision.”
  • Sheffield – ‘I’m keen we get it right': Sheffield museums boss says library and gallery building could become ‘vital and vibrant cultural destination’ – Star. “”What I think is meant by it is a space for people that is democratic, accessible for everyone to enjoy, but has some of those components in it.”From our perspective what we can see is a building that is the jewel in the crown of Tudor Square. With the right vision and imagination, and of course support and funding, we could transform that into a fabulous cultural centre.”
  • Walsall – Walsall library needs books not another café – Express and Star. “In these days, when libraries are being closed all over the district, our council decides to spend over £4m refurbishing the Central Library. What a waste of resources when there is nothing wrong with the present facility, at least nothing that a few new books wouldn’t put right. Then, to compound the error, the fools in charge decide that in the new library Walsall needs yet another café.”
  • Warrington – Council chiefs ‘pull rabbit out of hat’ by committing to keep libraries open – Warrington Guardian. “The executive board approved recommendations to keep all the existing sites open at its Town Hall meeting on Monday. However, the recommendations set out in Cllr Tony Higgins’ libraries modernisation report were replaced by new recommendations from deputy council leader Cllr Russ Bowden. Members approved the ‘simplified’ proposals to commit to maintain the existing libraries provision and keep all sites open, subject to robust business cases that ‘deliver the outcomes’ of the new libraries partnership group.” … “They also agreed to back the vision for libraries and provide up to £1 million in the council’s capital programme to support a planned programme of repairs, maintenance and investment, as well as to provide a one-off £150,000 investment into the book fund in 2018, bringing the total book fund budget to £300,000 for 2018-19. A new libraries partnership group will oversee the development of a new partnership strategy for libraries and establish a set of ‘performance measures'”
  • West Dunbartonshire – Proposed New Library Opening Hours – West Dunbartonshire Council. “The proposed new opening hours have been designed to meet our resident demand as well as  minimise disruption to user groups. The result is a balance of library opening hours across the authority for our local communities.  In total 248.5 hours of library time will be available to residents in West Dunbartonshire, and all branches will remain open. In addition the savings will help to fund a £421,000 investment in our libraries for a range of things such as renovating our children’s areas and improving the appearance of our branches.”

“Libraries Unlimited” indeed – Devon expands

Editorial

Devon are the first of the library-only mutual to expand beyond its borders by taking over Torbay.  It’s a natural fit – Torbay is small and next-door – but signals the mutual need not just stay in their boundaries. GLL may have competition in sucking up library services, especially with the Government/Taskforce so openly backing the library mutual model. Meanwhile in Sheffield, the bizarre scheme to sell the central library to the Chinese as a luxury hotel in a £1 billion development has hit the buffers of reality: there may a £20m scheme for the library instead, although there is support for simply refurbishing the existing building. Good to see a new library – delightfully named “Cat and Mouse” opening in Islington and also that Gateshead, faced with charging the unemployed for seeking work online, ending computer charges. On the downside, another school library service – that of Derbyshire – is under threat.

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Good news and Christmas

Editorial

Good to see library news connecting with the general goodwill of the season. A news article from Warrington reports that no libraries may close (a big turnaround from the original proposals), although of course the devil may be in the detail, as yet unseen. Also – and I love this – West Dunbartonshire are putting out to consultation (rather than just voting through) deep cuts in their library opening hours due to a well-timed letter from CILIPS. Well done Scottish CILIP people. And it may be Christmas for Derby libraries every day as the council catches on, finally, that Section 106 money from new housing can be used for library projects. But the big applause must go to the library team at Plymouth who are keeping their library open on Christmas Day. It can be the loneliest day for so many so this is a really warm-hearted move. Well done those who volunteered to work that day. I hope it goes well, and the mince pies are delicious.

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Christmas for GLL, London library property boom and Japanese success

Editorial

Some interesting news stories today. GLL have officially taken over another library service, meaning they’re now running, by my count, five. In a further sign, if any were needed, that London is an increasingly foreign city compared to the rest of the country, another library there gets a new building as part of a property deal that would not have been so possible anywhere without its insanely high property prices. And then we have Christmas creeping up on us, with a story in the Guardian of how dedicated librarians are even at Christmas. This article also mentions the large number of volunteers being used, which ties in with an advert also today for a paid PhD on volunteers, describing them as “crucial” for the library service. No mention of volunteers, though, from Japan, where a new combined bookshop/library/restaurant model is apparently going great guns.

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Trustees and updates

Editorial

Congratulations to those voted in as Trustees for CILIP, especially public libraries blogger Leon Bolton whose blogging career I have watched with great interest. There’s a few ongoing fights in various library services, including an interesting suggestion from Warrington’s auditors about the need to consider other bidders for library services. The deep cuts to Northamptonshire libraries are again in the news too (and I’d like to point out they only had 36 branches to begin with, not the bigger number I have accidentally given them in previous posts), as are the final dates for some of Bury libraries to close. The long-running legal fight in Darlington will continue, with the judge saying there’s just enough evidence to move the review on to the next level.

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When a £50k cut comes as relief: Suffolk 2018/21. £950k cut in Bradford.

Editorial

It comes to something when a cut of £50k is something to be treated with relief but that’s the case in Suffolk Libraries, which appears to have negotiated a four-year agreement that will make pretty much every other library service in the country weak with envy. Well done to them. Bradford are not so lucky with a deep cut of £950k just announced, on top of the deep cuts which that city has had to endure a year or two ago. That cuts are the order of the day, and a £50k on can be seen as little short of miraculous, pretty much underlines the view of a roundtable discussion at the Palace of Westminster this week. But I wish it was not so. And it’s Christmas-time so, if you can, try to think positive thoughts and perhaps tune into #uklibchat soon to discuss all that is great and good in libraries. And, despite, austerity, that’s still quite a lot.

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Bristol delays cuts due to government funds, and a CILIP-led school library protest letter

Editorial

Two key news stories for me this post. The first is from Bristol, which has temporarily a deep cut to its libraries while it looks in to the possibilities of mutual and co-locations. This is coming about from government money designed to encourage mutual and it’s unusual for such a delay in libraries due to Government funding, although the strong push towards such trusts has been notable for years. I suspect the depth of the cuts and the level of protest had something to do with it.

The other is a CILIP-led protest letter, signed by authors and others, against cuts to school libraries. It started with a tweet and snowballed into a major (well, for libraries, anyway) news story. I got some serious deja vu from it as you may recall a similar mass protest letter against public library closures a few years ago. The difference now is that CILIP was key to the action, while back in the old days of 2011, it hadn’t quite got the hang of protest or realised how deep and prolonged the cuts will be. That has all changed now and the organisation is earning its subscription fee to both public and school libraries.

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Libraries are here to share info, not hide it: the joy of Open Data

Editorial

I was at the rather marvellous “Voyage of the Data Treader” unconference yesterday. There were quite a few big learning points for me during the day. The first was that “open data” if done properly can help reputation (not damage it, as many fear), save money (fewer Freedom of Information requests) and can lead to unexpected things. This last shouldn’t have surprised me because – you see that map on the righthand side of the website? – that was done by Libraries Hacked using PLN blog entries. I had no idea it was possible before he did it as I just don’t code. What made it “open data” is that I had taken the decision years ago to publish with a creative commons license meaning anyone could use it. I hadn’t realised that it was “open data” at the time (and it was 2010 so very few probably did) but I’m glad I made that decision. Newcastle is too, by the way – apparently, it’s adherence to publishing its data saves it £250k on FOI requests.

Another thought. Public libraries suffer a lot from not having their enough about them public. The Libraries Taskforce lacks the power to force authorities to make them public and there’s no chance the current government would give them that power. So “open data” in libraries has to be voluntary. To do this, there will need to be awareness of both the carrot (save money, look good to your public) and the stick (“what is your council hiding?”, how come it’s not one of the “open” ones?). We’ll see if that works. But the mood yesterday was clearly that things were moving towards more “open” sharing of information. And that can only be a good thing. After all, I’m sure none of us joined the library sector to hide information.

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Library chuggers coming soon? Suffolk Libraries decides the best person to run it is not a librarian

Editorial

Library trusts in England haven’t been around for long, with the oldest being just two or three years old. As such, their chiefs are the library managers who took them out of council control. So the first changing of the guard, caused by the retirement of the Suffolk boss Alison Wheeler, was an interesting one to watch, and not least because of the 17-page vacancy pack. No, it was one to watch to see who would get it and where they would come from. And now we know. It’s someone from a charity and with apparently no library experience. That gives a clear indicator as to the direction of travel Suffolk has already gone on: the skills needed are now those of an independent fundraiser and not of a public librarian. It’s a truism that the higher up an organisation one goes then the less specialist skills you need and that’s the case in libraries as well as elsewhere, and Suffolk is not the first library service to have a non-librarian running it by any means. But it gives a view into the future, and the present, that would perhaps have surprised those in the library sector ten years ago and shows the financial and political pressures that such services are expected to have to face.

Interestingly Hertfordshire have just announced that they’re thinking of going down to the libraries trust route because it is “supported by national government” and it’s certainly true the Taskforce is heavily pushing the model. As funding is reduced in authority after authority, on a cycle of every two to four years, the siren call of the Trust is going to get louder. But it means that library services will become more akin to charities than statutory council run services, with all that implies. The first library chugger may not be far away.

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A quiet few days: Cumbria, Anglesey and a fracking fund

Editorial

A reasonably quiet couple of days with a few libraries threatened in Cumbria and more detail on what is likely to happen in Anglesey. There’s a somewhat hard to believe report that fracking will result in £1 billion of community grants for groups, but it specifically mentions libraries so here’s hoping. There’s also a couple of things about health and wellbeing from the LGA and Task Force.

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