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.”