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.