Archive for July, 2011

Eight keys to a real public library consultation

Special Post (Revised to include legal requirements and other suggestions)

Every council has to have a public consultation before implementing major changes to its public library service.  However, there appears to be major differences in how to do it and the objective quality of such consultations is often so low that they cause anger or even legal challenges.   Below, then, are thoughts on what makes a real consultation.  Some of it represents an ideal world and would result in bitter laughter in some library offices facing the reality of urgent cuts but such officers need to be aware that getting things wrong could lead to an expensive judicial review.  Most of it, though (including fundamentals like not voting on the decision until after the consultation period has ended), represents the basics that, unfortunately, many councils up and down the country are getting wrong.  Please email if there is anything else that should go on the list or anything on the list you strongly disagree with… like much else in Public Libraries News, this information has been posted so that it is easily publicly available and so it should be as accurate as possible.
1 – Make it Real. Don’t enter a consultation being unwilling to change your initial proposals.  This is for two reasons.  One, this is going to be noticed and result in legal action (cited in Brent and Glos cases) if the process was obviously insincere.  Two, people will feel lied to and feel angry and they’re going to complain.  In droves.  However, it should also be noted that objectors are also allowed to see sudden changes to the proposals made during the consultation as evidence that there was lack of a proper assessment to begin with, as was the case in the Wirral.  So, the best answer here is for councils to do their homework before launching the consultation in the first place. 
2 – Make it Available. Ensure consultation documents are fully available.  This means a dull set of documents need to be actually in libraries. A “full set” should include the officer’s report, the councils’ policy on consultations (if any), the consultants’ report (if any) and any other documentary evidence (such as community profiles, library usage statistics) that went into the making of the report. Importantly, the equality assessment impact should also be present. The criteria used for making the decision should be clearly stated. Provision should be made for all of these documents to be updated as more information is gathered and decisions changed during the consultation process.  A purely electronic consultation is inherently biased – it’s disenfranchising those (especially a lot of library users) who do no have access or feel comfortable with computers.  However, it should also of course also be fully available online as well – think belt and braces.
3 – Make it Known.  Ensure the consultation is publicised.  Some consultations have been so buried in websites one needs to know the url in order to get to it.  In som councils, staff have not been allowed to tell users that there is a consultation going on and can only hand out a form (hidden behind the counter) if directly asked.  Council should (a) put it in the newspaper and “hyperlocal” websites/facebook/Twitter (all this can act as a positive for the council if one is serious about consultation. It can also be a really good advert for how up to date and listening the council is), (b) have consultation posters and leaflets on public display in the library and other community centres (such as doctors’ waiting rooms), (c) link to the consultation on libraries website, (d) notice of consultation to stakeholders (a comprehensive list would take too long but suggestions include Friends groups, local schools, age and disibility charities, tots groups, local university/colleges, the WI, netmums, CILIP and UNISON (or other relevant unions).   Of course, the council should check with their Legal Services department too.  Making it known to these groups will also show that you are being inclusive, which is vital under the 1964 Act.
4 – Make it long enough.  Ensure a long consultation period.  If the consultation falls over the Summer holidays or Christmas, add extra time to the consultation to compensate. 12 weeks is the normal statutory peiod.
5 – Meet the public.  Arrange meetings in each local area where cuts/closures are planned.  Holding meetings just in the biggest libraries (that are not being closed) is very poor practice but has happened.  Ideally, councils should hold meetings as close to the threatened library as possible (its unlikely a small library itself would be able to fit the numbers though – expect hundreds to attend).  Meeting should be arranged when both workers and senior citizens can attend but it should be borne in mind these groups may have different demands (senior citizens – mornings, workers – evenings, both – weekends).  Talk the matter through with keyholders and other special interest groups.
6 – Keep it unbiased.  Asking a crooked question gets a crooked answer.  For full bonus points, council should show the document to UNISON (and other relevant unions) and CILIP first for their thoughts and be prepared to make questions more neutral.  There have been some very very biased questions such as “To avoid closing the library, how would you be willing to volunteer?” (not an actual example but they can really be this biased).  Give “no change” as an option but with all the caveats you wish around it.  Not giving “no change” (which is what all your users actually want) will cause bad feeling.
7 – Have time to analyse and publicise the results. Allow considerable time between the end of the consultation (and carrying out the equality impact assessment) and the decision.  Library consultations are going to get thousands of responses.  Arranging the end of the consultation period to be after the date the decision has been made (this has happened) is clearly bad practice.  Make the summary of the feedback as unbiased as possible (people get really annoyed when 15000 people say no change and the council emphasises the few hundred willing to volunteer) and as public as possible.  Freedom of Information requests will force the date to be public anyway.
8.  Avoid public relations speak and glossy photos of happy children like the plague if the real message is “we’re closing half the libraries”.  People notice.  Using words like “challenge”, “exciting opportunity for change” and “transformation” only work if one is not cutting the budget by 25% and have original plans for dealing with this other than cutting the front-line service by a third.  Again from a real-life example, saying “we’re delighted by the support shown for libraries” and then going ahead with getting rid of a significant proportion of them will be spotted. Explain jargon like OPACs, RFID, or even “Lower Super Output Areas”.

Basic stuff this but councils up and down the country are continually getting the basics wrong and so are being forced to go through so may time-consuming and money-consuming judicial reviews.

NB This is the legal stuff….

  • * Consultation must be carried out fairly and, although extent and method will depend on circumstances, it should generally follow the formulation set out in R-v- Brent LBC ex p. Gunning (1985) 84 LGR 168: (1) it must be conducted when the proposals are at a formative stage; (2) the decision-maker must give sufficient reasons for its proposals to permit of intelligent consideration and response*; (3) adequate time** must be given for consideration and response, and (4) the product of consultation must be conscientiously taken into account before making the relevant decision***.
    • * “[A consulting authority’s] obligation is to let those who have a potential interest in the subject matter know in clear terms what the proposal is and exactly why it is under positive consideration, telling them enough (which may be a good deal) to enable them to make an intelligent response.” – R –v- N Devon HA ex p. Coughlan (2000) 3 All ER 850 (Lord Woolf).
    • * “[*Consultees should] know not just what the proposal is in whatever detail is necessary, but also the factors likely to be of substantial importance to the decision or the basis upon which the decision is likely to be taken.” – Devon CC –v- SoSfCLG (2010) EWHC 1456 (Admin).
    • **Time to be allowed depends in each case on own facts, but if there is a local compact in force, a 12-week period will be required unless there is a good reason to depart from this.
    • ***The consultation responses should be before the decision-makers in good time for them realistically to be able to consider them properly. Where reports to members contain only a summary of the responses, this may well not be adequate, because summaries may not always reflect the nuances of particular responses or may fail to reflect the particular emphasis of each response; decision-makers should have access to all the material, albeit with a guide to pertinent matters for ease of reference. [NB: this should be linked with the requirement, spelled out in R (W,M, G & H) –v- Birmingham City Council (2011) EWHC 1147 (Admin) (the care homescase) that, where a decision may affect substantial numbers of vulnerable persons, the statutory duties as to promoting equality will mean that decision-makers will need rigorous and accurate advice from officers and, of course, this requirementwill have to be reflected in the consultation process.]
    • The manner in which the Equality Impact Assessment is to be/has been carried out should be rigorously analysed to ensure compliance with statutory duties (e.g. s.149 of the Equality Act 2010) and the amplification of those duties by the courts (e.g. the ‘Brown Principles’, as to which see R (Brown) –v- SoSfW&P [2008] EWHC 3158).
    • In cases involving a substantial reorganisation, the authority must give proper consideration to adopting the enhanced consultation process referred to in s.3A of the Local Government Act 1999, which entails involvement of the affected community and its representatives and, if this is not thought to be necessary, reasons should be provided. 

With thanks to suggestions from Lauren Smith and NMac.

Bad News in Bolton

Comment
Continuing what is definitely a Bad News Week, Bolton have confirmed they wish to go ahead with closing five libraries.  There is an interesting article in the Local Government Chronicle that may give some councils pause for thought in the national head-long rush against free access to books, suggesting that divesting/dumping libraries onto volunteers may create a long term risk to their reputation.
405 libraries (325 buildings and 80 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day. 
News
  • Local libraries – community risk or reward?Local Government Chronicle. Councils are under pressure to close libraries, one of the best ways to do this is to pass them to volunteers – but the council will suffer a long-term risk to its reputation if this is not managed well or the volunteers run into trouble.
  • Once upon a time in librarylandThere she goes (Australia, blog) -  Summarises situation campaiging to save libraries in Victoria.
  • Santa Clarita Library opens its doors to LSSI as Toronto gears up for an outsourcing fightLibrary Journal (USA).   “The number of professional librarians at Santa Clarita has been reduced from 14 to nine. Overall, LSSI has budgeted for 59 positions, or about 48-50 FTEs for the three branches, compared to the 99 positions that the county had budgeted for in FY10, or about 60 FTEs… The library workforce is no longer represented by a union… Ebook availability is more constrained under the new system…when asked to disclose salaries, for example, the company declined to release any information… 
Changes

Bolton – 5 - Heaton, Astley Bridge, Highfield, Oxford Grove, Castle Hill.  Bromley Cross hours reduced to 26.5 hpw, Blackrod to 24.5.  13 out of 100 FTE staff to go. 

Local News

  • Bolton – Five libraries under threat have been revealedBolton News.  “This option, which council leader Cllr Cliff Morris has said is the fairest and the one which will ensure the authority meets its obligations under the Public Libraries Act 1964, will see neighbourhood collection points set up in areas where libraries are to close, the remaining 10 libraries offer a “tiered” service with various opening hours to meet user demand.”… “The facilities in Bromley Cross and Blackrod libraries would see their hours reduced to 24 per week, from 26.5 and 24.5 respectively.”… “A 12-week open consultation period has resulted in 3,284 individual responses that have directly informed how the savings could be made.”
  • Stoke on Trent – Residents want to set up town council to resurrect Fenton LibraryThis is Staffordshire.  “Campaigners hoping to reopen Fenton Library believe setting up a local authority in the town will help secure funding to resurrect the venue.” 100 residents met to discuss revival. … “”My four-year-old, Saxon, cried when they closed the library and before I came to the meeting he said to me ‘ask the men to open it again’.”
  • Surrey – Protesters hope for 11th-hour reprieve for librariesSurrey Herald.  “more than 100 protesters descended on County Hall in Kingston on Tuesday to show their support for the 11 Surrey libraries at risk of closure.”.  One library, Virginia Water, has decided to run library with volunteers rather than fight the cuts.
  • Torfaen – Pontypool library reopens after £300,000 revamp – Free Press.  Made possibly by Welsh Assembly grant.
  • Wakefield – Libraries’ future is still uncertainExpress series.  “Paul Franklin, headteacher at Upton Primary School, said he was disgusted at the decision. He said: “I am shocked and appalled. The library has always been an inextricable link between the school – it is a huge resource to us. Reading forms the basis of all learning and it will be detrimental to children’s education if that facility is taken away. It will catastrophic for the school as well as the local community.”

Bad news for Dorset and Barnet

Comment

Well, not a good news week for libraries so far.  Yesterday we had the news that the Isle of Wight campaign has had their application for a judicial review quashed (partly due to delays with legal aid – for more on this see the statement about the LSC from Dave Quigley below).  Today, we have the news that Dorset Council has confirmed it will close nine libraries, or force volunteers to run them if they don’t want to see them closed, despite intense efforts from the Ad Lib campaign.  Similarly, despite one of the most spirited campaigns anyone has seen, Barnet Council have moved one step closer to closing Friern Barnet and two other libraries. Not many campaigners will be feeling lucky after this.  Hold off buying a lottery ticket until next week, folks.
Dave Quigley from the Isle of Wight campaign has given me permission to publish his email below about his experiences with the Legal Services Commission….
“Originally they granted a legal aid certificate and proceedings were started, letter before claim was served on the council. There was discussion between the claimants Solicitors, Leigh Day & Co regarding the level of the expected community contribution, which we always knew would be required.  24 hours before papers were due to be served on the council the claimants legal aid was suspended, had that been 24 hours later the application for a judicial review would have been served in April.  We had already launched an appeal for funds and were getting quite a good response when the legal aid cerificate was caanecelled, which caused donations to cease. Despite the LSC knowing that the 3 month period was already half way through and despite repeated requests from Leigh Day and from the complainant, the LSC took 9 weeks before they eventually set up an appeal hearing.   Again, despite repeated requests for the decision of the appeal panel we were told nothing for a further 13 days. When we were eventually told that we could go ahead we were still not told the actual decision of the appeal panel- a decision that the LSC received within 48 hours of the hearing. After Leigh Day again asked for the actual decision they were told that it had been sent several days previous- followed several days later by an apology, that because of an “oversight” it hadn’t actually been sent after all.”

In the interests of balance and to avoid being sued by the experts, it should be pointed out that the Legal Services Commission has said the following in an article with the BookSeller:

“The LSC does not accept that delays on our part caused this claim to fail. The claimants’ solicitors have been on notice since the 6th of April that a significant community contribution would be required for the case to proceed. Both the applicant and the Isle of Wight community campaign group would have been aware of this.”

Ed Vaizey Tweet of the Day – “Pinewood began shooting its first British film this month A Fantastic Fear of Everything with Simon Pegg”.

409 libraries (329 buildings and 80 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day. 

 
News

“Even J.K.Rowling admitted that she was unable to present a kind librarian in Harry Potter because otherwise all the mysteries would have been solved in a couple of days… and so we thought to ourselves: there are plenty of kick ass librarians in fiction! .” 10 Action Librarians - Mary Sue (website).  

“…in many towns, libraries are the only places “where both grownups and children are welcome to sit and read in peace.” I would go further and argue that they’re among the last truly public spaces left to us. Where else can we congregate without an admissions ticket, or money enough to afford something on the premises? Parks, maybe, but those aren’t frequented year-round, or readily accessible in poorer communities.Save a library, save democracyBig Think (USA website)

  • Library CampConference notification or, more accurately, an unconference notification.  “A place for anyone interested in modernising and transforming libraries of all kinds…”
  • Margaret Atwood’s ebattle against library privatization - Nichole McGill (Blog) (Canada).  Summary of the ongoing battle against privatisation of Toronto’s libraries, including the mayors’ brother not knowing who (world’s most famous Canadian author ever) Margaret Atwood is. Petition against privatisation now has over 26,000 names.  Councillor says to author “get elected or pipe down”.  Twitter explodes.
  • Why we need libraries more than everAtlantic (USA).  Arguments against charging for libraries.  “In short, the small amount of additional revenue results in a much less effective use of  the public support. With a fixed investment in a service that benefits those who use it and their community the more they use it, you want them to use it as much as possible.”… “Sure, the library is an old fashioned concept. So is democracy. So is equal opportunity.”  

Changes

Bromley -  St Pauls Cray and Mottingham libraries may be cut from 43 hours per week to 14, while Chislehurst and West Wickham may go from 44 hours to 20.
Coventry – New library opened at Allesley Park. 
Manchester - Confirmed (via email) that 4 mobile libraries will close, therefore total up by two.

Local News

  • Barnet – Protesters to continue battle to save libraryTimes series. Cabinet members approved plans to move Friern Barnet Library into the artsdepot, nearly two miles away in North Finchley last night.” despite 3000-name petition – campaigners have until 31st October to work out volunteer plan instead.  
    • Barnet’s libraries one step closer to closureTimes series.  “After agreeing to planned closures of Friern Barnet, Hampstead Garden Suburb and North Finchley libraries, Cabinet members threw a lifeline to campaigners desperate to save their “community hubs”… user says  ““I don’t think you realise Friern Barnet is our special community place.” 
    • Library closures approved but campaigners given lifeline – Times series.   “Therefore, campaigners who have already held protests and signed petitions, now have a chance to come up with their own ideas of how to better run their libraries and ultimately, save them.” 
  • Brent – Library campaigners await court ‘s verdictHarrow Observer.   “The three day judicial review, which began on Tuesday last week (July 19), was fronted by three claimants, including Margaret Bailey, manager of Kensal Green Under Fives Community Nursery in Mortimer Road, Kensal Green, and co-chairwoman of the Save Kensal Rise Library campaign group. She said: “We presented a very strong case and our legal team did a tremendous job. It’s difficult to know how the decision is going to go.”
  • Bromley – Jobs set to Bromley and Bexley library staff merge – Bromley Times.   “St Pauls Cray and Mottingham libraries would be cut from 43 hours per week to 14, while Chislehurst and West Wickham would go from 44 hours to 20.”
  • Cambridgeshire – 7000 sign Save Cambridgeshire Libraries petition - Cambridge First.  “Leader of the Labour group at Shire Hall, Cllr Tariq Sadiq, said: “We are hoping the petition will change the cabinet’s mind about the future of its libraries. We want to show the strength of feeling about libraries among the community.” 
  • Coventry – Bucks the trendPeters Gazette.   New library opened at Allesley Park. “The building, which opened just in time for the school holidays on 21st July, replaces a mobile library which offered a mainly ‘static service’. (i.e. it didn’t get out much…)”
  • Devon – Budleigh library hours cutExmouth Journal. “Steve Dace, chief officer of Age Concern, said: “Some councils have said keeping libraries open would put services for vulnerable and elderly people at risk. However the mass closure and attempt to reduce the opening hours of public libraries is hitting older people.”
  • Dorset – Community to run Charmouth library? - View Online.   ““There is still a lot going on behind the scenes where Ad Lib (the Association of Dorset Libraries) continues to act as a unit and will be exploring the possibility of a judicial review and, at the same time, negotiating for a better community offer with the council.”…“Any takeover by the community does not have to happen until September 2012, so we have time to ask residents what they want in a new-look library, to raise funds and to see if we can find enough enthusiastic volunteers to keep it open.”
    • Beaminster library is saved - View Online.   ““I think now the library service can go from strength to strength. The volunteers at the library have some very good ideas for the future. I don’t think the DCC will want to re-visit these libraries and I certainly won’t want to do that.”
    • Burton Bradstock library volunteers will soldier on after appalling decision – View Online.   ““Burton Bradstock is a slightly unique case and to be honest and it won’t make a great deal of difference to us. We beat them down so they now have to provide books and terminals and we just have to takeover the building and the running costs which was something we had planned to do anyway to keep the building and to stop it from being sold off.”
    • Charmouth campaigners’ positive outlook after library is axed - Bridport News. “Though it’s difficult at the moment, we have to try to look at this positively. In the next few weeks, in co-operation with the parish council, we shall be asking Charmouth residents for their wish lists. We must look at this decision as our chance to make the library into a real social hub for the village in a way that has not been possible in the past. Unless we can do this and unless there is sufficient support, the library will close forever.”  
  • Isle of Wight – Campaigners may appeal libraries decision - Isle of Wight Radio.  “We’re looking at the possibility of an appeal against the court’s decision but funding is going to be difficult. At the same time we’re looking to put forward a formal complaint against the LSC and seeking that they fund the appeal as a redress, in our view, against the omissions over the original case.”
  • Suffolk – Clare and Kedington libraries are saved but the fight for services goes onHaverhill Echo.  1000-name petition saved Clare in council vote on Tuesday.  ““Our next fight is to keep our qualified librarians.“It has been proven time and time again you can only run a service with volunteers if they are given training and are committed.“We need professional librarians. We accept that we won’t need them there all the time, probably only half the time,” said Beryl.” New structure for library service to be decided in November.
  • Surrey – Library protest judged a success - Get Surrey.   “Between 80 and 100 representatives from the threatened libraries as well as Unison and Women’s Institute representatives, turned up to express their concern about the plans before a cabinet meeting.”…”“We are getting messages from the county council and officers that libraries are very pleased to be involved in running with volunteers. It’s clear that it’s not true. People see it as a fall back position”.
  • Wakefield – Councillors agree to withdrawn from running librariesYorkshire Post.  “Yesterday’s decision means the council’s plans for a new-style service will go out to a third stage of the public consultation, to collect views on what the service should be like and to build on the interest the authority says is already being shown by organisations themselves in running library services.”


Court rejects Isle of Wight judical review request

Comment

The High Court decision to reject a judicial review in the Isle of Wight is a worrying one, principally because it may give councils, almost literally, a “get out of jail free” card.  Judge Pearl said that it needed to be borne in mind that the council was facing “difficult circumstances”.  This, to the layman’s ears, is an extraordinarily broad statement that could mean any council could break the law and, as long as it could show it was under some stress at the time (“The Chancellor Forced Me To Do It” perhaps) then it would not be punished for doing so.  
Almost as worryingly, the delays caused by the Legal Services Commissions (although one needs to say that the LSC refutes this) over whether it would fund the prosecution has been used in favour of the defendant.  So, one law for the rich then…. another law for the library campaigner.  Finally, it is worrying because English law is not based on what is fair but on what is precedent – and this case may set a precedent.  Worrying if one lives in any authority facing serious cuts in it s budget and if one relies on the LSC and/or does not have large amounts of money readily to hand to instantly pay for solicitors.  That is, worrying for all of us.
407 libraries (329 buildings and 78 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

  • Hate to say it, but I agree with George OsborneLondon Evening Standard.  Chancellor is using “the markets” as an excuse for ideologically driven cuts.  “none of these economy-boosting calls can be heeded for fear of missing Osborne’s austerity targets. And as for those calling for fewer closures of libraries and Sure Start centres – well, they know where the door is.”
  • Library marketing and promotion#uklibchat. The results of a brainstorming session amongst interested parties on Twitter.  Excellent ideas for the professional and for the campaigner too.
“The factor deciding who councillors will listen to is not the quality of the advice, but the offer of money. For this reason the Arts Council has been very successful in persuading local councils to support initiatives—ranging from the Cultural Olympiad to increasing the number of people actively engaged in the arts.” John Pateman, BookSeller.

  • Money talks - BookSeller. John Pateman notes that, unlike the Arts Council (see above quote) the DCMS advice on libraries was ignored by councils due to it (a) employing rather than specialist librarians and (b) councils feel it lacks teeth.  CILIP advice ignored as seen as self-interested. MLA ignored because it “looked and sounded like something produced by a committee, with no clear remit or focus”.
  • New York City Libraries: Providing education and titillationConcerned Women for America.  Another amazingly over-the-top article from the USA, including the lines “In New York City Public Libraries, policies are evidently put in place for the perverts.”.
  • Philip Pullman pulls no punches in his defence of UK libraries - Melville House Publishing (USA).  “UK libraries have something working in their favor: a passionate group of writers vociferously defending the public’s right to libraries. Perhaps one of the fiercest advocates is His Dark Materials trilogy author”
  • Save Troy Library: The sisters interview TPL Director Cathy RussBooks for Walls (USA).  Nice interview with the library manager and interesting ideas about how to campaign, although not all transferrable to the UK. 

Changes

Local News

  • Bolton – Fury at libraries decision secrecyThis is Lancashire.  “Normally, reports to be considered in the public part of the meeting are published seven days before it is held. But council bosses have decided not to make them available until the day of the meeting, claiming they want to tell library staff first.”
  • East Sussex – Call for a library tobe set up in ASDAEastbourne Herald.   “Sam Sweiry says there are nearly 10,000 people living in Sovereign Harbour and it desperately needs a ‘cultural centre’ where residents and tourists can access information and IT facilities.” 
“As one of the Councillors for one of the wards (Enfield Lock) Mr de Bois represents I wish to reassure Enfield residents, and members of the wider public, that no decision has been taken to close any library in the areas Mr de Bois suggests. DigitialDemocracy members et al should understand what Mr de Bois does not tell his constituents, and members of the wider public is that Enfield Council, which is currently run by Labour, has received £8 million pounds more in cuts compared to wealthier boroughs such as Richmond-upon-Thames and Kingston. Mr de Bois may lay claim to standing up for people of Enfield North -or should I say being an Enfield MP in Westminster and not a Westminster MP in Enfield. Well, now is the time for Mr de Bois to stand up and be counted and oppose the what his government is doing to Enfield. If any cuts to have to be made it will be down to the unfair allocation of funds to Enfield Council by the government, and if all three libraries survive it will not be down to Mr de Bois, it will be done to the ingenuity of Labour Councillors and Council officers fighting a hidden agenda by Mr de Bois and his government to ru systemactically weaken public services to make the case easier for corporations to move in to take control not just of libraries but all public services.” Enfield – Cllr Ozzie Uzoanya, post in Digital Democracy.

  • Hackney – Union wins council rethink over hackney libraries cuts - Hackney Citizen.  Decision “followed a protest on the steps of the Town Hall at which staff waved placards condemning staff cuts and what they called the “slow death” of the libraries service.”.  Pledge to increase opening hours.
    • Anti-cuts campaigners force town hall rethink on Hackney libraries job lossesHackney Gazette.   “The council has been consulting on money-saving plans, including reducing the number of library jobs by a quarter, from 104 to 76, and changes to opening times. But more than two and a half thousand people signed petitions or wrote letters in protest and Unison, the public sector trade union, took their complaints to the town hall.”
  • Isle of Wight – High Court libraries hearing: judicial review rejected - Ventnor Blog.  Rejected due to (a) delays caused by Legal Services Commission, (b) the Council was facing “difficult circumstances”, (c) Council had gone into process with an “open mind”, and (d) Equalities legislation was given due regard. “The defendant (IWC) has applied for costs of the acknowledgement of service and cost of attendance today. One of the library campaigners, Dave Quigley, said after the decision, “We are holding the Legal Services Commission responsible for this due to their delays.”.
  • Lambeth – Doctor’s at the library?South London Press.  “Suggestions from Lambeth’s libraries commission include putting old books in police station waiting rooms, raising late return fines and running doctors’ surgeries from public libraries.”.  Suggestions also include room hire increases, higher DVD charges, coffee shops.
  • Leeds – Library fines put £1m in city council coffersYorkshire Evening Post.  “Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act also state that in 2010-11 the council charged more than £345,000 in library fines.”
  • Manchester – Mobile libraries to be shut down as part of £3m cuts in Manchester - Manchester Evening News.  “Councillors also want to replace two community libraries with ‘book exchanges’ run entirely by local volunteers.”
  • Oxfordshire – Library cut plans “are based on biased data” - Henley Standard.   “More than 310 residents attended a public meeting on Monday to discuss the proposed changes to the facility in High Street. Under plans announced by Oxfordshire County Council, two-thirds of staff funding could be withdrawn so volunteers would be needed to maintain the current opening hours.”  Statistics used by council were taken while in temporary building during £700,000 improvement of permanent library. 
  • Sandwell – Furious librarians send Sandwell Council a red letter over industrial actionHalesowen News.   Sandwell wants to replace library staff with volunteers.  “UNISON has announced from August 1 the normally mild-mannered librarians will be working to rule and refusing to carry out anything but the most basic of their duties. The ballot, which 87 per cent of members took part in, resulted in a massive 97.5 per cent voted for action after learning of Sandwell Council’s cost cutting plan.”.  Comment apparently from chief librarian suggests that strike is, rather, about a regrading dispute.
  • Solihull and Warwickshire – Success for library partnership - Birmingham Mail.  “The partnership has saved an estimated £100,000 for the two councils, with a new route and timetable, concentrating resources on areas where demand is highest, removing underused stops and avoiding duplication of mobile stops.” 
  • Somerset – Library earns injunction reprieve - Mercury. “Although Burnham and Highbridge Town Council stepped forward earlier this year with a deal to save the [Highbridge]  library at a cost of £4,000, fresh concerns were raised over whether there were enough volunteers to run it.”
  • Surrey – Library users set for protestGet Surrey.   “John Bond, of the Byfleet Library Action Group, said: “We agree with volunteers going into Byfleet Library but we also need professional staff. “A representative from every village is going out in force and there will be a coach going up from Byfleet and New Haw.”
    • “Biggest demo” over Surrey library cuts - BBC.   “The demonstration by library campaigners and the public sector union Unison is due to take place outside a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.”  Each branch is aiming to send at least ten people, the WI are also involved.  Council wants to force local communities to run 11 libraries or see them close.
    • Leader’s views on librariesSurrey Council.  Dr Povey likes volunteers replacing paid staff.  

Debate on volunteer run libraries

408 libraries (332 buildings and 76 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

  • Concerns over Brent campaigners volunteer run librariesVoices for the Library.  Part of the legal case put over by Brent campaigners is that they should have been allowed volunteers/private companies/other groups to run threatened libraries.  This may have a detrimental effect on other library campaigns who are arguing against non-council run libraries being an acceptable legal option.  Article also points out the pro-librarian stance of some Brent celebrity supporters.  Comments to article are very relevant and show the problems/dilemmas that supporters of libraries have on deciding what is best to do when campaigning to save their libraries.
  • What she said: Customer and I on library closures - Dpgreen.net (Australia).  Article wondering what writer can do about cuts in libraries and how to get information on the situation nationally and globally.

Changes

Hampshire -  Fines for late books for children reinstated (Six week loan period – 5p per book per day, up to maximum of 40p per book in order to save £20k). £15 annual charge for CD membership introduced.
Wakefield – £520k cut.  Wakefield Library under threat but only opened in 2007.  Campaign group – Save Outwood Library.
Local News
  • Brent – Philip Pullman “Brent council should be ashamed of itself for closing six libraries”Willesden and Brent Times.  ““It is a great cultural monument and any council seeking to shut that library down, because of its history, should be ashamed of themselves. “They should be made to stand in penance. They don’t know what they have got, what they have responsibility for. They have missed the point.”.  See also High Court verdict on Brent library closures reserved until next monthLondon24.  “The verdict is expected to be announced on August 12.”
  • Dorset – Future unclear for Dorset’s heartbroken library campaigners - Daily Echo. “Dorset County Councillor Janet Dover, who was heavily involved in the fight for Colehill Library, said: “We’re all very upset and quite devastated. Funding for the community-run service stops in April so we will be working together to see if there is anyway forward to keep it open. It’s just so tragic. Two months ago the staff at the library won an award for customer service and we have a high lending rate.”.  See also Letter from Mike Chaney, Spokesman for Ad Lib - “There was a choice that would have achieved all the necessary economies and saved the libraries. But by 21 votes to 20 our craven councillors chose believe the scare stories they were being fed. They voted for closure because of a warning that there may be more cuts to come. Not that there will be: just that there might be.”
  • Hampshire – Children face library fines - Andover Advertiser.  “Children in Andover will soon have to pay overdue fines at the library again following a controversial decision by Hampshire County Council.”
  • Somerset – High Court grants injunction in Somerset libraries caseAlan Gibbons.  Injunction prevents (until judicial review on 17 September) the council from (a) closing libraries, (b) transferring or agreeing to transfer any library or library asset and (c) giving notice of termination for any library.  “Somerset County Council have been determined to push these cuts through with complete disregard for the library users themselves, who are near unanimous in their opposition to them. The injunction prevents the Council from irreversibly dismantling the library service before the High Court hearing in September.” says solicitor Tessa Gregory.  See also Library campaigners welcome court ruling on closures - Burnham on Sea.com.  Councillor thinks other alternatives and cost-saving should be explored as well as relying on positive court verdict.
  • Wakefield – Libraries under threat of closure - Wakefield Express.  One library was only opened in 2007, money for groups who take over threatened libraries.   
  • Waltham Forest – Campaigners hit the streets to “save” library service - Guardian series. 500 names collected in one morning for petition, although the main purpose of the morning appears to have been to identify potential volunteers. Conservative opposition councillors in the area are trying to drum up support for their idea of opening a community-run library staffed by volunteers.”

“Two-pronged attack”

408 libraries (332 buildings and 76 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News 

  • Bestselling children’s author opens school bus library - Streatham Guardian. “Mr Morpurgo has since penned a story inspired by the library bus, which will be made into a short animation for the London 2012 Olympics. The bus has also been shortlisted for a design award by the School Libraries Association. The winner will be announced in October.” 
  • Margaret Atwood fights library closures, crashes petition serverToronto News.   “Literary icon Margaret Atwood has joined the fight against a consultant’s proposed cuts to Toronto’s library system, marshalling her 225,200 Twitter followers and crashing a server hosting a petition. At 4:15 p.m. Thursday, Atwood retweeted this from @sonalogy: “Toronto’s libraries are under threat of privatization. Tell city council to keep them public now.”.  The author has retweeted message several times.
  • Summer Reading Challenge news – Alan Gibbons.  “In a huge combined effort to encourage every child to enjoy reading, the public library network today launched The Summer Reading Challenge with an event at the House of Commons. Speakers included Nick Gibb, Minister for Schools, and author Michael Rosen. Ruth Mackenzie, Director of the Cultural Olympiad announced that the Challenge will be part of the London 2012 Festival.  Guests gathered to show their support for libraries’ contribution to literacy included some of the nation’s best loved authors along with MPs, councillors, publishing industry figures, librarians and library campaigners.”
  • Wright Stuff Extra with Gabby LoganChannel Five. 26:00 to 32:00  “Today we speak to Phillipa Jackson, who is campaigning to keep Chalk Farm library (Camden) open, as well as Isabella, a 12-year-old user who visits the library regularly. Kirsty then takes to the streets to see what the general public think about libraries, and whether the possible closure would affect them.”… “It’s our community, it’s an essential service..”.  Lauren Smith talks to Gabby Logan.  Gabby says “Lots of us are outraged that libraries are closing” and advocates increasing use. 

Changes

Norfolk – New reduced opening hours announced for each library.  
Sandwell – Volunteers will be used to replace paid staff, working in core hours.  Consultation begins.  “The document does not spell out how many volunteers would be taken on or how many jobs would be shed.”.

 
Local News

  • Barnet – Schoolgirl to tell Barnet Council to save Friern Barnet Library - Times series.   “How does taking away our library increase reading, literacy and learning opportunities for children in Friern Barnet? Why do the children of Friern Barnet not matter?”
  • Brent – Libraries latest: day 3 in Court 2I spy in Queen’s Park.  “The Brent Six are Innocent” was best slogan.  “Seven secret criteria” had been used to assess business plans for alternatives.  Magistrate appeared “not to be in sympathy” with equalities impact legislation argument.  “The Judge indicated that it was very unlikely that he would be able to give his full judgment until October”.  See also  Brent judicial review, day threeBookSeller.  Judgment may be given in August.  Defence says alternative plans for libraries “unrealistic”.  Also Brent library campaigners hopeful over closures ruling - BBC “We’ve done all we can. We’re hopeful.”.  Please also see Concerns over Brent campaigners volunteer librariesVoices for the Library.  The Brent legal challenge appears, at least partly, to be advocating the taking over of libraries by volunteers which seems to go against statements by Philip Pullman and Alan Bennett.  ” The outcome of this judicial review could have serious implications for other campaigners who are not campaigning for volunteer run libraries, including those whose judicial reviews (such as Gloucestershire and Somerset) are due to be heard.”

“Though the verdict won’t come for a few weeks, we have achieved something worth celebrating. We took the council to court, with some of the best lawyers in the country and achieved national attention for our worthy cause”
  • Bromley – Bromlet and Bexley to share library servicesNews Shopper.   “The council also said compulsory redundancies might not be necessary as staff had taken voluntary redundancy.”
  • Coventry – Mobile library replaced with new building - BBC.   “”Here in Coventry we have pledged not to reduce opening hours in our libraries and here the local community will be able to enjoy a brand new facility which replaces the mobile service local residents have had to use for years.”
  • Doncaster – Cllr Kevin Rodgers warns mayor about judicial reviewSave Doncaster Libraries.   ““We don’t want to see the council being taken to court, because financially like all councils around the country, we don’t have great vast amounts of resources and we can’t really afford to be fighting a court case when we could just sensibly review the decision.”.  See also Put plan to close libraries on hold - Star. 
  • Dorset – Library decision: Dorset supporters vow to continue fightingDorset Echo.  Branches may be taken on by volunteers. Legal action also a possibility.  See also Outrage as nine of Dorset’s libraries shut by a single vote – Daily Echo.  ““We are led to the conclusion that the underlying reason for this relentless drive to get shot of libraries is because the managers in Dorset believe that only big is beautiful.
  • “They just don’t like small libraries yet, as you have seen this morning, the people that use them do.”…  Councillor said ““I’m not going to vote for closing the libraries, I’m going to vote for keeping the libraries open, all be it in a different way.” Interesting (and numerous) comments.
  • Isle of Wight – Library injunction dropped by judicial review continues - Ventnor Blog.   Injunction dropped as council has given undertaking not to make “irrevocable” actions until review takes place – “the assurance was given to a High Court Judge, so it would, as I understand it be contempt of court should the assurance be broken”.  Staff have been made redundant but the thought is that they, or others, can be taken back on. 
  • Lambeth – Library strike called off for now - Guardian series.   “Unison said strike action has been suspended because of “concessions from management” which should avoid compulsory redundancies within the service. It said, however, that strike action would be reinstated if a final agreement could not be reached.”
  • Lewisham – Council services to be farmed out?South London Press.  “council has already handed over control of four libraries to charities and not-for-profit groups. Social care, more libraries, business advice services, property management, leisure and parks could be next.”
  • Norfolk – New library opening hours announced after consultation – Evening News 24. New reduced opening hours announced.
  • North Yorkshire – Villagers form “two pronged attack” to save libraryAdvertiser.  “More than 100 residents of Great Ayton attended a public meeting on Wednesday night in the Parochial Hall, called by the Save Great Ayton Library Group (SGALG).” Split amongst residents between those wishing to oppose withdrawal of council funding and those wishing to run the library as volunteers.  Both camps agreed to encourage completion of survey.
  • North Yorkshire – Call for extended libraries deadline rejected – Yorkshire Post.  Deadline to extend closures to help volunteers run them fails but ““The county council has set up a team of experts to help our communities to keep their libraries going,” he said. We are being extremely proactive. We are not setting communities up to fail but helping them get to where they want to be.”
  • Sandwell – Libraries cost-cutting plan goes out to consultationHalesowen News.  Massive cuts to libraries is now under consultation.  “The Library Innovation and Evaluation Plan states that voluntary staff would be used to deliver core services for the first time”
  • Somerset – Injunction granted to postpone Somerset library cutsThis is the West Country.   “Watchet campaigner John Irven said: “I am amazed and want to thank all the people of Somerset who have stepped forward to meet this initial demand. We have received pledges from more than 100 individuals together with many Somerset Library Friends Groups as well as support from our near neighbours in Dorset.”.  See also Library campaigners joining forces to fight council chiefs.  “Somerset’s legal challengers were told they would have to raise the amount of legal bond they put up, payable if they lose the case, from £5,000 to £11,000, and that their injunction did not apply to the mobile library service, with which the county council can now continue its plans.”
  • Surrey – Threatened Surrey libraries’ opening hours face changes - BBC.  “The county council has begun talks with communities in 11 areas where it wants to devolve day-to-day management of libraries it says are less well used.”  Suggestions from groups include parcel-collection services.

Legal actions a gogo

Comment

The court proceedings from Brent have now finished with the judge announcing the verdict shortly.  The fundraiser by Philip Pullman was highly successful, as were the court proceedings in Somerset which mean library closures there cannot go ahead until at least September.  Less successful was the campaign in Dorset which almost succeeded in persuading the council to keep funding all its libraries – in the event, the council decided by 21 votes to 20 to go ahead with threatening nine.  It’s unlikely that such a determined bunch as Ad Lib will leave it there.
It’s interesting to see the impact that the legal action over Brent libraries has had already.  Campaigners in Wigan have announced they are considering legal action and the possibility has also been raised in Warwickshire for the first time.  Interestingly, though, it was left up to the defence in the Brent case to point out the Elephant in the Room – that it should be the Government doing all of this. 
408 libraries (332 buildings and 76 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

  • About library closures – Harkaway.  I understand the tension – fund libraries or fund other council services – but the impetus seems to be, everywhere, to close the libraries rather than allowing people to take up the slack. Maybe this is an entrenched objection to David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’; maybe it’s simply a kind of weird bureaucratic need to move forward and cut loose the dead wood. I have no idea. But what I do think is that it’s wrong. If people are looking for creative ways to fund libraries while we endure the bite of the financial crisis, let them do it. Let it happen.”
  • Baffled at a bookcase: Alan Bennett returns to the libraryLondon Review of Books.  Alan Bennett describes the libraries he has used in his life in a lengthy article.  “The business of closing libraries isn’t a straightforward political fight. The local authorities shelter behind the demands of central government which in its turn pretends that local councils have a choice. It’s shaming that, regardless of the party’s proud tradition of popular education, Labour municipalities are not making more of a stand. For the Tories privatising the libraries has been on the agenda for far longer than they would currently like to admit.”
  • UNISON repsonse to Lewisham campaigners - Alan Gibbons.   ” I would like to reaffirm UNISON’s position on libraries – we believe they are an invaluable resource for communities which should be publicly provided, properly funded and staffed, and freely available to all. Like you and many others, UNISON has real concerns about the risks of handing over of libraries to social enterprises and private companies, the impact this has on service quality, staffing and ultimately, the local community. This is the time for us to stand together, to defend all that we value and hold dear and target our attacks on those that are making the cuts.”
  • Visibility, value and volunteers - CILIP.   Controversial post by policy officer Jill Howard appearing to suggest that the professional body for librarians believes that volunteer-run libraries should be allowed as statutory as long as the service itself is “professionally led”.  Comments include phrases “shameful”, “utterly dismayed”, “I feel so let down”, “utterly demoralised”.
  • Would privatizing Toronto’s libraries really save money?Toronto News.  Thorough analysis of the pros and cons of giving public libraries contract to LSSI.  “Lower salaries, paraprofessionals instead of librarians with master’s degrees, reduced benefits and a heavy reliance on volunteers for work and for fundraising is the consensus in a series of community reports.” 10,000 names on petition against privatisation so far.

Change


Local News

  • Bradford – Addingham and Wilsden villagers step up in bid for librariesTelegraph & Argus. During public meetings held in Wilsden and Addingham, campaigners rallied round to take over the running of the under-threat facilities. In Wilsden, campaigners now have until the end of September to finalise arrangements before the village hall is hired out to another group.” 
  • Brent – Libraries judicial review day two - BookSeller. Defending lawyer says Council decided on closing libraries after a full and proper consultation and decisionmaking process.  Also…”Any question about whether the library service provided by Brent council was “comprehensive and efficient” as the Act requires was in fact a question for the secretary of state and the complaint should be made to him rather than to the court, Laing said. “In order to establish a breach of duty a wide-ranging inquiry is needed, one which the secretary of state is better equipped to conduct and call,” she told the court.”

  • Brent – Philip Pullman speaks out to save Brent’s libraries at packed-out event - Save Kensal Rise Library.   “Thank you to all our friends and supporters who attended this evening’s fundraiser. It was a brilliant evening. Great to hear about what made Phillip write and to have him acknowledge the importance of libraries. Also to have him read from his books and he does a great bear’s voice. I loved his encouragement to to make reading an enjoyable experience for children, starting with nursery rhymes. Telling or reading stories, what could be more simple? His celebration of the joy of both was very moving.”
  • Camden – Scrutiny committee greenlights decision for Camden libraries futureCamden Council. Agreed withdrawal of paid staff from Belsize, Chalk Farm and Heath and other cuts.  ““These decisions have been extremely difficult and we are keen to work with organisations to develop creative proposals and protect the library service in the face of central government cuts.”
  • Coventry – £1m library opens in AllesleyCoventry Telegraph.   “Coun Lynnette Kelly, Coventry City Council’s cabinet member for education and libraries, said: “With the current economic climate councils across the country are having to either close libraries or reduce their opening hours.Here in Coventry we have pledged not to reduce opening hours in our libraries and here the local community will be able to enjoy a new facility.”
  • Croydon – Listening and responding, Croydon styleThat Woman’s Blog. Critique of councils’ claims ot be bearing in mind the views of the public.  “By refusing to provide a breakdown of the 412 responses claimed to have informed the decision of residents wishes, it is very unclear how many well intentioned responses of adding a cafe or other money generating venture, suggestions of sponsorship, advertising and so forth have been put in the ‘you told us what we wanted to hear’ pot of outsourcing to other organisations. What does seem clear is that the council are not listening but ploughing ahead with their own agenda again. “.  See also But why That Woman? - Shirley Life, p.45 for more background.
  • Devon – Library hours cut as council saves cashThis is Devon.  “A county council spokesman said the precise opening hours of each library would be subject to a staff consultation.”
  • Dorset – Bad news from DorsetAlan Gibbons.   “After a tense debate at County Hall, Dorchester, Dorset’s councillors voted by just one vote to cut off the funding for nine of their smaller and more isolated libraries. The vote was 21 for dumping the libraries to 20 for keeping them.”.  See also Nine libraries in Dorset have funding withdrawn - BBC.   Author Santa Montefiore backs Dorset libraries campaign - Dorset Echo.  “She wrote: “It’s appalling that such a large number of libraries are under threat of closure, not only because it will rob locals of their access to books, but that it will also rob the community of a tranquil place to study, read and attend events that bring people together in an increasingly isolating world. Times are hard, I think it’s a human right that people should be given the means to escape the dreariness by reading the wonderful books available in libraries.”.  Also - Decision day on future of village library - Salisbury Journal.   “More than 2,000 people have signed a petition urging councillors to remove the library, in Station Road, from the list of ten community libraries which could be shut next year.”
  • Lambeth – Unions to strike tomorrow over cuts to library services in LambethLocal Guardian. “Union workers will go on strike at Lambeth’s libraries tomorrow over cuts to the service despite the council’s insistence it is considering “radical new models” to save money. Members of Lambeth Unison will form a picket line outside Brixton Library from 8am to protest against the cuts.” Strike is off - Tweets from #SaveLamthLibs / Save Lambeth Libraries say “management have agreed to no compulsory redundancies”  and “We could not have run without Unison, we urge all library staff facing redundanices and cuts to join”.
  • North Yorkshire – Great Ayton library may be run by volunteers - Gazette Lives.   Campaigners “have urged people to come up with a new plan to save their library – or lose it. At a meeting last night, Great Ayton residents were told they needed their own solution if they wanted to save the service in the town. They were warned they may need to pay and run the library themselves.”
  • Norfolk – Library opening hours to be cutNorwich Evening News.   ““This hasn’t been an easy time for staff or the people who love their local library, and I’m afraid the outcomes won’t please everyone but we have worked hard to make this process fair.”
  • Sandwell – Plan to replace Sandwell librarians with volunteersHalesowen News.   Council to cut staff but “the running of the libraries cannot be handed “wholesale” to volunteers and that they will have to be trained, managed and supported if the move is to be successful.”
  • Somerset – Good news from SomersetAlan Gibbons.   “A judge is has postponed library closures in Somerset by upholding an interim injunction put forward by campaigners. The next stage of the legal battle is on September 27th.” See also Injunction granted to postpone library cuts in SomersetCampaigner John Irven from Watchet said: “We’re really pleased. We’ve worked very, very hard and we’ve had tremendous support from all the different library groups around Somerset and various other people.”
  • Somerset – Union’s protest urges Somerset County Council to resume talksThis is Somerset.  Staff working to rule over “slashed redundancy packages”.  Unison has “asked for reassurances that volunteers being called in to help at some libraries would not be doing work properly carried out by professional library staff.”
  • Wakefield – Half of Wakefield libraries at risk - Yorkshire Evening Post.  ““We have already spent a lot of time talking to people about libraries and what they want and it is clear that the service we currently provide is not what people want. We know that people are not satisfied with the quality of some library buildings, or with the quality and range of the books. And since 1992 more than four out of every 10 library users have stopped going into libraries.” 
  • Warwickshire – Should someone in Warwickshire launch a legal challenge to save 16 libraries? - What’s in Kenilworth.   “Let me make it very clear, I am taking nothing away from the dedicated and hard work that every Community Group is putting in to save their local library. My point is simply that they should not have to.”
  • Wigan – Action group set up Atherton fightThis is Lancashire.  “Campaigners are preparing to get a court injunction to prevent the closure of Atherton Library… Already 4,000 people have signed a petition to keep the library open and the group has handed-out free T shirts bearing the legend Save Atherton Library and Our Community which were gifted to the group by an anonymous benefactor.”

Brent, Day 2


Comment

The news is again dominated by the court case in Brent.  It’s interesting to note that one of the main thrusts of the campaigners’ argument appears to have been that the council should have allowed local groups to take them over rather than close them outright.  So, it’s not Campaigners Against the Cuts, rather it’s the Big Society against Labour. This goes to show how unpolitical the various campaigns against library closures are – it’s the only protest I’m aware of where the WI, UNISON, retired army officers, Conservative MPs, the Socialist Worker, Lib Dem MPs, the Telegraph, Labour MPs and the Guardian can all take the same side.  Let us hope this has some effect.

Another thing that stands out for me is the defence’s claim that closing half of Brent’s libraries was not cost-driven but rather an attempt to improve the library service.  This is a line of argument that one tends not to hear much (although Cumbria have used it too) and, quite possibly (although it is not reported) at least allowed for some laughter in the courtroom.

Interesting fact of the day – Roy Clare, ex head of the MLA, received a salary of £125-£130,000 in his last year of office was also paid a bonus of between £15-£20,000 in 2009/10 but missed out on one in 2010/11 (MLA Report, p.25).

409 libraries (333 buildings and 76 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.


News

“I think the government is getting very wobbly about the whole question of library closures. They had imagined that voters would agree with them that libraries were just luxuries for freeloaders, but the protests around the country have taken them aback. When Alan Bennett came to lend his support to Kensal Rise library [in May], he likened closing libraries to child abuse and was much mocked for the remark. But I understand what he means. And I believe many teachers, parents and children will understand him, too.”  Philip Pullman: “Why we must stand up to the book barbarians”Telegraph.    Kensal Rise Library has “emerging status as the cause célèbre of a national campaign to force the Government into yet another U-turn, this time over library closures.”

  • History must live - Independent.  “No area of public services is safe from cuts, but a suspicion persists that “softer” targets are bearing the brunt disproportionately. The assault on public libraries is an example of the Government targeting a service which, while outwardly non-essential, in fact has the potential to be at the heart of any Big Society.” 
  • My Voice Roadshows - via Alan Gibbons.  “The MyVoice roadshows will take place over one week (23 – 30 July 2011), comprising five day-long events with workshops, exhibitions and performances focused around reading and writing.” in Dorset, St Helens, Westminster, Norfol and Sunderland.
“American outsourcing firm LSSI’s ambitions to snap up 15 percent of UK libraries continue apace, as the firm tries to call first dibs on the library service in two London boroughs. Croydon and Wandsworth chief execs Jon Rouse and Paul Martin jointly held what was described as a “30-minute chat” with Library Systems Services Inc (LSSI).  The councils kept very quiet about this — Croydon’s council leader told his local press he didn’t know the meeting was taking place.  But LSSI bosses couldn’t help name-dropping places they’d held meetings in an interview with the Sunday Express in June, prompting an outcry from Croydon library campaigners – who had previously been told that there were schools and voluntary groups clamouring to take on local libraries. Just weeks later the two councils announced a joint market testing exercise to investigate whether a “third party organisation” could offer savings and improvements for the library service.”  Private Eye, Library News, Issue No.1203 (Not available online)


Changes

Local News

  • Barnet – Reader offers £2500 gift in bid to save Hampstead Garden Suburb Library - London 24.  Half of residents has signed petition – number of petitions has automatically forced council to hold a scrutiny committee.  Campaigner says £2500 offer is generous but not the answer – ‘‘We have offered to save £25,000 a year by finding volunteers to work in the library and I think that that is enough.”
  • Bristol – Self-service machines at librariesHerald series.   Self-service installed at Bristol Central and Henleaze Library.  £650k installation.  “”Our investment in new technology will free up our excellent library staff to help readers and visitors with their enquiries and research requests.”
  • Bromley – Councillors to decide on sharing library services with BexleyNews Shopper.  ““These two proposals, the shared back office and the trust option, if that proves possible, offer Bromley the opportunity to protect frontline services while making savings.” Opposition says ” “The Bexley merger will mean unaccountable Bexley staff and councillors having a say in how our local services are run. “It will also mean drastic and unsustainable cuts to essential frontline staff with the consequent loss in service,expertise and local knowledge. “Bromley staff , paid for by us will be spending time on tasks in the Bexley area.” 
  • Cambridgeshire – 7000 sign Save Cambridgeshire Libraries petitionCambridge First.  “Cllr David Harty, cabinet 
member for learning, who received the petition, said: “Quite a lot of people have 
taken the trouble to sign the petition and we will definitely take note of that when making any decisions.”
  • Dorset – County to vote on future of libraries – View Online.   “Campaigners are urging councillors to “vote with their hearts” when the future of Dorset’s libraries are decided tomorrow (Thursday) by county councillors. Dorset County Council will consider four possible money saving solutions at the meeting but they all will either see core libraries, including Bridport, cut their services to save fringe libraries, or see rural libraries handed over to the community to run or being lost entirely.”  Campaigners delighted that it will be a “free vote”.  See also D-Day for nine of Dorset’s libraries - Daily Echo.  ““We have regard for the Dorset Library Service, we just don’t want to see it broken up. Bournemouth and Poole haven’t lost their libraries, so why Dorset?” and Last attempt at protest for Dorset library campaigners – Dorset Echo.  “quite a number of the administration at County Hall have told us that they are unhappy with the idea of closing libraries and this [a free vote] gives them a chance to break ranks.”
  • Gloucestershire – Communications between DCMS and GCCWhatDoTheyKnow.  “Having considered the public interest, the Department’s decision is therefore to withhold the information.” If the DCMS had put one-tenth of the effort that they put into avoiding sharing information into the more difficult business of helping libraries, one feels that a lot less libraries would be under threat this year.
  • Isle of Wight – Library service feedback form: have you completed one yet? - Ventnor Blog.   “To help fully assess the implications of the closures of the five libraries or the loss of hours in the remaining four, comments are needed to be given to the Isle of Wight council about the likely impact on you and your family.”
  • Kent – Library fines for hundreds of thousands of Kent readersKent Online.   “Around one in 10 of the 7.7 million items issued in 2009/10 were brought back late.  Forgetful bookworms netted Kent County Council (KCC) more than £225,000, with a further £100,000 worth of fines still outstanding.”
  • Suffolk – Chapter 1 of Suffolk library saga ends as Cabinet adopts “vision” for librariesJames Hargrave’s Blog.   “Expressions of interest to be published now, workshop in September, discussions about pilots of locally devolved libraries (and Stradbroke, Eye and Debenham together were mentioned more than once as a potential pilot) final decisions on structure and the results of the mobile library consultation in November and a final Council meeting in December. Any new structure and pilots look likely to begin in April 2012.”
  • Worcestershire – Councillor backs shared buildingsWorcester News.   “All the county’s councils are having their say on a 10-year plan aimed at saving money by having services such as libraries or benefits offices in the same places as other public sector bodies.”

Say a prayer for Brent campaigners

Comment

What is happening in the Brent judicial review will affect all of us.  It is, quite literally, unprecedented.  Although the details are different to other forthcoming reviews, it will doubtless be used as an example by barristers either way.  As such, the campaigners there deserve all our support.  If you can, attend.  If you can’t, then say a prayer or a thought for them.  It is all of our futures, whether we feel we have anything to do with libraries or not, on the line.
Not least of all, those who care in Wakefield must be feeling a chill.  The council there has announced it could be withdrawing funding from half its libraries.  There’s another judicial review waiting in the wings right there. In other news, the Arts Council has given £70,000 for the taking of photographs of the old and new Birmingham Library as “creative responses” to them.  This could easily have covered the cost of two legal challenges.  

Ed Vaizey Library Minister Tweet of the Day – “Today is 100th anniversary of Liver building, world’s first skyscraper”. 
407 libraries (331 buildings and 76 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

“[Culture minister] Ed Vaizey and [culture secretary] Jeremy Hunt are pretending it’s not them closing libraries, it’s local authorities. That’s just passing the buck, that’s silly. If you bring in an austerity budget, don’t pretend it doesn’t have consequences.” Michael Rosen

  • Bit of reflectionWalk You Home.  Lauren Smith, member of Voices for the Library, announces her intention to stand for vice-presidency of CILIP. “With the benefit of being a sprightly young thing, I’ve been able to devote a lot of energy to the cause. I’d love more newcomers to the profession to consider what they can do in a way that fits with their lifestyles, skills and personalities, find out how they can get involved and play an active role in protecting and developing library and information services. I’ve been involved at a level that I certainly didn’t expect to be able to be a part of at so early a stage in my career. I hope this sends the message that it’s possible, valuable and of a significant degree of impact to get out there and do something, anything, to advocate for and promote the profession and the services we provide.”
  • Librarians need to persuade politicians across EuropeResearch Information.   “Over the past 15 years, libraries have grown rather than diminished in importance, he said. Two decades ago, they were considered out of date with, for example, Nicholas Negroponte creator of the famous MIT Media Lab, predicting that libraries would fall out of use. In fact, according to Leitner, the trend has gone in the opposite direction: ‘now, 15 years later, libraries are more important than ever. They have changed more than Negroponte could have imagined.’”
  • Obsolete telephone booths recycled as libraries - Treehugger. 
  • Summer Reading scheme “critical” for children’s literacyBookSeller.  “The Reading Agency director Miranda McKearney has called for the annual Summer Reading Challenge, which launches its 2011 run today (18th July), to be on every head teacher’s school improvement plan.”  Only 40% of England’s children enjoy reading according to 2009 study.  “Author Michael Rosen, a patron of the Summer Reading Challenge, said he wanted to see library cards issued to every child going to school. He said: “What sensible objection can there be? I see the lovely circus theme [of this year's Summer Reading Challenge] up in the library and I know half the kids in my local school won’t know it’s for them because they don’t have a ticket.” 
  • Thor loves his library@YourLibrary (USA).  “Here is the moment as a library user where I think, “Hey, couldn’t you go to the library to send that email?” But of course I don’t expect that to happen.  It’s a summer blockbuster.  Do libraries go with summer blockbusters? Well, yes, as it turns out.  They do!”.  New blockbuster film “Thor” has character use his local public library for email and to take out a book.  

Changes

  • Durham – Minus one under threat – Barnards Castle Library safe , possibly some cuts in opening hours.
  • North Yorkshire – Campaign group Save Great Ayton Library.
  • Oxfordshire – Campaign group – Friends of Watlington Library
  • Wakefield – Plus ten under threat – 12 out of 25 threatenedThose not on list of “safe” libraries, though, are actually 13 – Ackworth, Altofts, Balne Lane, Crofton, Drury Lane, Havercroft, Kettlethorpe, Kinsley, Middlestown, Outwood, South Kirkby, Upton, Walton.  Voluntary redundancies for staff. 

Local News

“Friern Barnet won’t be the same any more”
  • Camden – Cut opening hours and all the libraries will be savedLondon 24.  “Belsize Park and Hampstead campaigners are calling on Camden council to abandon plans to shut three libraries and instead reduce all Camden library opening hours by 45 per cent.”
  • Camden – Cuts in my ‘hood: how will Camden suffer?London Evening Standard.  List of cuts in Camden, starting with Libraries.  “Bennett is doubtless right that libraries are a good thing but in truth they can be expensive and inefficient. There was much anguish in the local papers when it was announced that the mobile library van was to be abolished, though the cost of the service, it turns out, works out at £24.53 per customer visit and only four of the people who use it are registered disabled. It would be cheaper to give the regular users vouchers to order their books on Amazon.”
  • Cornwall – One Stop Shops to move into libraries - This is the West Country.   “Council cabinet support member, Steve Double, said: “We recognise that libraries play a very important role at the heart of their communities. By bringing libraries and one stop shops together where possible we can ensure that we keep our libraries open in Cornwall at the same time as providing our customers with a more efficient and effective way of using the various services we offer”.  Council also talking to CAB, Disability Cornwall, Volunteer Cornwall, Carrick Housing alongside police and credit unions.
  • Croydon – Cllr Maggie Mansell speaks out on Croydon librariesSanderstead Library Campaign.   “Our concerns are that the overheads are high including an IT system, renegotiated by the Tories; there is no service specification, no business model, no option appraisal; there are efficiency savings to be made but we want Croydon to have the benefit, not another council or a private company.”
  • Durham – Charity steps in to help libraryTeesdale Mercury.  Barnards Castle Library under threat ” But The Friends of Barnard Castle Library has been created to raise funds so the library can offer activities and events. The Friends will also be able to represent library users and provide feedback on library services.”
  • Isle of Wight – Library judicial review leave hearing given date - Ventnor Blog.  Request for judicial review will be heard on 26th July.  “VentnorBlog asked the IW council six days ago how much they had budgeted to fight the action. They still haven’t replied.”.  There is also a funding appeal for the legal challenge.
  • Lewisham – Time for a heated debate?Alan Gibbons.  Lewisham Library Campaigners not impressed by “waffle” of “Love Your Libraries” Unison document. Campaigners feel Unison has not supported campaign and that communities should be suffering equally. “We thought we were all in this together, so we should all have taken a hit. Not just certain communities.”
  • North Yorkshire – Deadline appeal over libraries decisionGazette & Herald.   8 libraries have only a short time to work out how to run their service with volunteers.  Lib Dems want another six months for communities to plan.
  • North Yorkshire – Meeting to save under threat Great Ayton Library - Gazette.  Great Ayton will need to be run by volunteers or it will close. 
  • Oxfordshire – “Libraries must change to survive” – Henley Standard.  “Cllr Ducker, who represents Goring, said libraries should offer more services and recruit volunteers from the community to staff them…“There will still be a centre where you can go and hire [sic] a book but it will be run by volunteers. I think they will have to introduce coffee shops. A library will have to be a bit more commercial.”
  • Oxfordshire – Public meeting on threat to libraryHenley Standard.  Watlington Library meeting – council is cutting two-thirds of funding and will need volunteers, building was refurbished at cost of £700,000 in 2010. “The library’s Friends group said visits to the new-look facility have risen by more than 70 per cent and the number of issues has increased by more than 50 per cent.”
  • Surrey – Campaigners set to protest against library plansElmbridge Today. “But library workers users and friends will lobby a meeting of the county council’s decision-making cabinet on July 26 with the message that communities need council libraries. The lobby has been organised jointly between the Friends of Surrey Libraries and Surrey County Unison.”
  • Wakefield – Plans to cut cash to 12 libraries - BBC.  “Councillors will consider ending financial support for the sites and instead allow community and volunteer groups to take over the running.”.  “The report states: “(Libraries are) only being used at the highest levels by 8% of the people who live in the area and in some areas as few as 1% of the local population,” it said.”. 

Calm before the storm

Comment

There’s a lot of preparation going on for the legal challenge to Brent Councils library cuts.  This will be the first of many challenges and, as the first, is likely to be used as a precedent in the others, although there are differences between each case.  I know that there is going to be a lot of media interest in the case and in the cuts to libraries generally.  Let us hope it serves to spur those in the DCMS, the MLA and the Arts Council to start taking action themselves, although what Kate Mosse calls their “catastrophic failure of leadership” so far hardly inspires hope. The first sound of thunder is the article in the Independent today. We will see who gets hit by lightning in the days to come. 
397 libraries (321 buildings and 76 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

Change

Suffolk30% off libraries budget over three years.
WorcestershireInstallation of self-service in 5 more branches.

Local News

 We don’t want flats, we don’t want development we want our green pastures
kept green for our music next to our cherished communal hub, Friern Barnet library”
  • Barnet – New facts raise doubts over cost case for closing HGS libraryHampstead Garden Suburb.  Barnet Council include disproportionately high central costs (41%) into estimate for running of library.  Council wishes to move library to Institute building – only way this would save costs using same accounting rules is if this was rent-free, which is unlikely. 
  • Barnet – Save Friern Barnet Library party todayTimes series.   2000-name petition.  “Today residents are encouraged to visit the library from 2-4pm and show their support for the Save Friern Barnet Library campaign.There will be free refreshments, music and a competition for the best ‘save our library’ banner.”
  • Bradford – Addingham library given more time to find volunteersIlkley Gazette.   Volunteers given until end of August to work out how to run libraries.  This is second postponement, initial deadline was June.  “It is hoped Bradford Council can continue to provide computer access and book loan services. The building itself is owned by Addingham Parish Council.”
  • Brent – Fight to save six Brent libraries enters a new chapterTimes series.   ““We would rather not have gone down this road, but the council has shown such ­disregard and disdain for what communities have said they want that we had no ­option but to pursue our ­campaign through legal means. We all hope that the outcome is a fair and positive one for communities, not only for Brent but throughout England.”
  • Brent – “Let’s all go down the Strand and bring your banner…” Library closures hearing next week - Wembley Matters.   “Brent SOS Library campaigners and Brent Fightback supporters will be assembling outside the Court on Tuesday and Wednesday at 9am (the hearing is expected to start at 10.30am) and again at 4.15pm with banners and placards. Please try and get along and bring your own placards.  There should be seating in the court for between 60 and 80 people and the presence of those affected can be positive in terms of curtailing the more outrageous claims that the defendants could make in their absence.”
  • Cambridgeshire – Epetition - Save Cambridgeshire Libraries.   “We the undersigned call upon Cambridgeshire County Council to reject proposals to close libraries or to replace the existing professional service with a reduced service run by volunteers. ” 2285 signatures. 
  • Croydon – Media coverage of Croydon’s librariesSanderstead Library Campaign.  Media coverage of campaigners but Croydon strangely silent about privatisation.  “All 13 libraries are subject of this ‘market testing’ exercise and Croydon claim that they are working with Wandsworth in order to do this. If you spot any announcement of this in any Croydon library or anywhere else please let us know so we can link to it.”
  • Croydon – Setting the record straight - Sanderstead Library Campaign.  “Part of the concern of library campaigners and residents has been the vital need to maintain a level of qualified and highly experienced staff.  There has also been a genuine outpouring of concern for the staff themselves. The level of stress staff have been subjected to has been immense and cracks have already started to show in this respect. Library users watch staff struggle to cope with the reduced staffing levels already in place, which has resulted in longer queues, difficulty coping with the workload shared between so few, incorrectly processed loans and the such like. It is distressing to watch committed library staff suffer under such conditions with the threat of further job losses still looming.”
  • Essex – Tiptree’s police library trail “fails”Daily Gazette.   “Weekly sessions were moved from the police station to the library as part a cost-cutting scheme which closed the police station and moved officers to share the nearby fire station. The force has now announced the library will no longer be used, after villagers complained the venue was unsuitable. Instead, a mobile police station will park at the Tesco supermarket, in Church Road, every Thursday.
  • Gloucestershire – Delay caused by judicial review is fault of GCCRuscombe Green.  “I would encourage those who are ‘excited’ about running their own library to spare a thought for these people, as well as the dedicated, wonderful library staff who have trained for years and have a wealth of experience and who are being made to join the dole queue after being told that anyone can do their job, for nothing.”
  • Kent – Concerns raised about new powers for parish councilsYour Canterbury.   “However, the plans have raised concerns that many parish councils may be ill-equipped to cope with new powers without the same expertise available to district, borough and county councils.”
  • Leeds – Public meeting called in bid to save Shadwell LibraryWetherby News.  Shadwell Library is due to close in May 2012 if no volunteers.  Meeting next week.  “If two men and a dog turn up, that will be the end of it” says parish councillor.  ““We would like to turn the building into a community facility which incorporates a library. It could also be used as a cafe, a music venue and a place to meet.”
  • Leeds – Appeal for support in Rawdon library battleWharfedale Observer.  Library is threatened with closure in 2012. “The Friends of Rawdon Library are holding an urgent public meeting at 11am in Trinity Church Hall, Rawdon on Saturday, July 16 to give residents the latest news and discuss how the community can help keep the library open.” 600-name petition presented.
“Suffolk County Council has softened its stance somewhat but, as in other areas of the country, some rowing back on the most extreme proposals has yet to lead to a sensible strategic plan for the future. Some good people are involved in trying to sort out the future of the county’s libraries, but they are still saddled with the legacy of Suffolk’s obsession with half-baked ideas like divestment. Ideology weighs like a nightmare on the minds of some of the elected decision makers.” Alan Gibbons

  • Suffolk – Library battle goes onEADT.  Campaigner says “There was a lack of clarity about exactly what they are proposing. I think they are thinking on the hoof, they don’t know themselves.”.  Council says some in the community wants to run their own libraries.
  • Suffolk – Village’s libraries saved from the axeHaverhill Echo.  A new organisation will run libraries, type to be selected in September, with volunteer-run/parish councils running smaller libraries in aim to cut 30% off budget in 3 years.  ““We feel the proposals being put forward strike the right balance between protecting much loved council services whilst finding necessary and unavoidable financial savings.”
  • WorcestershireLibrary services go high-techMalvern Gazette.  ” “Library services are changing and by embracing new and modern technologies we are aiming to make using your local library as easy and convenient as possible.””