Comment

It’s been a day to remember for those who want to save libraries. Campaigners in Brent have today received legal permission to have a judicial review in the High Court in just a couple of weeks’ time.  This, if the funding for the case is found by the campaigners, will be the first into court and will set the vital precedent. Also today, a court in Birmingham has agreed that there can be a judicial review on the Gloucestershire closures in September.  As well as these two, and also today, campaigners in the Isle of Wight have been told they will receive funding to go to court and there apply for a judicial review.
However, Mr Ed Vaizey, sometimes known as Evaizey, the responsible minister, appears to be using the local legal challenges as an excuse not to be responsible.  In a letter to Gloucestershire campaigners, the DCMS said “When Ed Vaizey described the current situation as ‘fluid’ in his recent speech he was referring to the fact that s [sic] authorities are completing consultations, changing their plans in light of  consultation responses or, like Gloucestershire County Council, subject to Judicial Review proceedings. Until these are concluded the situation in many authorities is unsettled.”.  Campaigners, understandably angry that their legal action originally caused by the minister’s inaction is being used for further inaction, may be forgiven if they start thinking that there will be no ministerial intervention until the libraries in question are either (a) demolished or (b) airlifted to South Korea to help with their library building programme
395 libraries (319 buildings and 76 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK (for the complete list by area see the page “Tally by local authority”). 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

  • Anti-multiculturalism gone mad or a rational policy shift?Voices for the Library.  John Dolan reviews the Newham mayor’s decision to remove foreign-language newspapers from libraries to encourage learning of English.  Multiculturalism in Newham may be here, going or gone. Even so delivering to local black and minority ethnic communities a replica of their written and spoken culture need no longer be a public library priority; here the library draws people to a mainstream economic purpose in a library that’s a policy vehicle and political resource.
  • Historic library may close as subsidy slashedIndependent.  “The Paul Hamlyn public library at the British Museum, which has a unique collection of museum guidebooks dating from 1762, along with collections on archaeology, history and art, could close as the institution seeks to cut costs”
  • Library campaigners win right to judicial review over closures – BookSeller.  “Libraries campaigner Desmond Clarke said the decisions to allow the judicial reviews were “remarkable”. He said: “It is wonderful achievement for the campaigners who have fought bureaucracy, they have got the judges to grant a judicial review and now we hope there will be reviews in the cases of Isle of Wight and Somerset too.”.  Gloucestershire council leader says “We have said from the outset that it is right to focus our resources on the most vulnerable, and that means difficult decisions about making savings in other areas.”
  • Report of the Inquiry into overcoming the barriers to literacyInformation Twist.   Looks at library-related areas of the report – of which there are many, all strongly in favour of public and school libraries.  “The active encouragement of reading for pleasure should be a core part of every child’s curriculum entitlement because extensive reading and exposure to a wide range of texts make a huge contribution to students’ educational achievement. This is why libraries are so important to the development of a reading culture – both those in schools and those in the community.”.  Full report here.
  • UNISON vows to defend libraries and library workersVoices for the Library.  “…we will be looking to step up the UNISON Love Your Libraries campaign, particularly in terms of support for branches in resisting cuts and closures and an increased media presence highlighting workforce issues and the impact on community access to services. UNISON is committed to continuing to work with a wide range of groups, including Voices for the Library, as part of this.”

Changes

Cornwall – Considering sharing funding of libraries with “health organisations and the private sector”, although council denies this would be privatisation. 
Suffolk Options for control of libraries are (a) in-house council business unit, (b) external company “owned by the council” or (c) “an independent company which is contracted by the council”. 

Local News

  • Barnet – Campaigners organise walk to Friern Barnet library weekTimes series.  “Campaigners are inviting children to walk to a library after school, in a desperate bid to show Barnet Council it is at the heart of the community. The council is considering plans to move Friern Barnet Library into the artsdepot, nearly two miles away”
  • Bolton – Campaigners “disappointed” at charity fundraiser with library closure debateBolton News.  Leader of council calls debate forced by 7500-name petition “premature” and is heckled from public gallery. “Speaking after the meeting, [campaigner] Mr McHugh said it was disappointing that no real debate had taken place.He said: “It’s important to raise the issues at a time when no final decisions have been made. I’m very disappointed that the councillors didn’t use the opportunity to show that they understand the depth of public feeling on the issue.”
  • Brent – Date set for High Court action against library closuresWillesden & Brent Times. “The case will be heard at the High Court over two-and-a-half-days starting on July 19. If the campaigners win, it will be a landmark case and could set a precedent on library closures across the country. The council decided to shut Preston, Barham Park, Tokyngton, Neasden, Cricklewood and Kensal Rise libraries earlier this year to save £1million.”. [Bindmans LLP press release (seen separately by Public Libraries news says “Either party, if they lose, can seek permission to appeal on a point of law, or because of the importance of the case. Applications for permission go to the judge who heard the case first and then, if they are refused, to the Court of Appeal.”]

  • Brent – Philip Pullman joins fight to save Brent libraries threatened with closure Alan Gibbons.  “Authors Zadie Smith and Alan Bennett have already given fund-raising events for the campaign. Now Philip Pullman, one of the UK’s most celebrated and controversial writers, will be speaking to an even bigger audience in Kensal Rise on 20 July.”  Event is part of fundraising needed for landmark legal case.
  • Cornwall – Council service sharing plan “may create 375 jobs”BBC.   “The aim would be to jointly pay for some services with health organisations and the private sector. Council leader Alec Robertson said any suggestion they were selling off services was untrue.Those being considered include free school meals and libraries.”
  • Dorset – Crunch time looms for the future of Dorset’s librariesDorset Echo.   “A final decision on the future of the service will be made at a meeting of Dorset County Council on July 21, with members asked to consider withdrawing funding from nine of its network of 34 libraries.”
  • Gloucestershire – Judicial review for Gloucestershire library service – BBC.   Council cannot close libraries until review has taken place, probably by the end of September.  
  • Isle of Wight – Legal aid funding granted to campaign to save Wight’s libraries – Friends of Isle of Wight Libraries (press release).  Case will be funded on grounds that cuts breach the “comprehensive and efficient” requirement of the 1964 Act and also that an equalities impact assessment was not done (see quote below also).  Leigh Day solicitors say “We have advised our client that she has a good case and expect the Court to grant permission for a full judicial review.”.  Also in New attempt to half Island library closuresIWCP.
“We have also discovered that the IWC is trying to get Equality Impact Assessments done for the five areas who’s libraries are under threat. As part of this there will be forms available in the five libraries for the users to fill in- we need as many people as possible who actually use the libraries at Bembridge, Brighstone, East Cowes, Niton and Shanklin to go in, ask for the forms and fill them in- they are expecting a low response- please show them that Islanders really care about ALL of our 11 libraries and give them a huge response.” Isle of Wight – Friends press release.