Comment

A crucial decision will be made in court tomorrow (Thursday).  The judge will decide on whether to give permission to proceed with the legal challenge against Gloucestershire Council on the cuts in its library service.  Being it will doubtless be used as a precedent by lawmakers, it will have national ramifications. It’s tragic that it is not the DCMS, whose job after all it is, behind the action.  It has effectively “divested” (an older-fashioned term could be “shirked”) its responsibilities to library supporters in Gloucestershire. 
Another government body, the Legal Services Commission, also seems keen to avoid supporting these challenges, even though its own repeals review board said that it should.  It’s almost as if the Government is somehow not fully behind supporting a vital frontline service.  Heresy, I know.
What this lack of support means was brutally brought home to Warwickshire library staff today, who were told that up to 120 of them could lose their jobs.  This will have a devastating impact on the service, volunteers or not.  It is doubtless especially galling that a new Big Society property website, PlaceStation, is already advertising one of the libraries, Shipston-on-Stour, on its front page, although the decision to close it has not formally been made yet.

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

  • Analysis of public library trendsCULC (Canada).  Usage and number of transactions up (especially due to introduction of digital/internet) more than making up for increase in costs.
  • Digital era needs human guides: Why your school should keep, not cut, the librarianSpotlight (USA).  “Libraries, Ms. Everhart said, are “the one place that every kid in the school can go to to learn the types of skills that will be expected of them when it’s time to work with an iPad in class.”
  • Future of Culture, Tourism and SportNeil Stewart Associates.  Conference to be held in London, 22nd September 2011.  £240 cheapest seat.  Looking at how to run services in time of cuts including to spin off services to trusts, Big Society, etc.
  • Gloucestershire campaigners await judicial review hearingBookSeller.  “A court hearing to decide whether permission will be given for a judicial review to proceed against Gloucestershire library cuts is to take place in Birmingham tomorrow (Thursday 7th July). If allowed to proceed, the judicial review claim will be the first such action in the battle against library closures.”
  • Goodbye to bricks and mortarEconomist.   The end of the physical bookshop is near, much to the detriment of the local community.  Article ponders possible future models for bookshops “Perhaps bookstores could become tax-subsidised places where people can browse and linger, but only borrow the books for limited periods of time—what the hell, let’s call them libraries … At any rate, the market is squeezing out a meaningful public space. It will be interesting to see what fills the void these bookstores leave behind.”
  • In California, all state funding for public libraries remain in jeopardyLibrary Journal (USA).  State funding halved, all funding to be withdrawn if state revenue target not met.  Move is likely to mean ending of one-library-card-for-all system.
“Legal aid is only available to people who pass the financial eligibility criteria. In general, taxpayers would not expect legal aid to fund a case which benefits a wider community, including people who are not eligible for legal aid, without the possibility of a financial contribution from that community.” Andrew Montgomery, press officer from LSC, justifies overturning LSC’s own appeals body and demanding campaigners pay legal costs.

  • Legal aid body “ignores appeals review” over library costs - BookSeller.  Legal Services Commission ignores ruling of its own appeal panel and declares Somerset and Isle of Wight campaigners must pay costs of around £10,000.
  • Library cuts: UK closures ahead US, and more to come for both - Huffington Post.  “Anti-cut and anti-library closure protests are popping up on both sides of the Atlantic and spreading to the Pacific. The protests are having no effect. Libraries are being shut, and those left open are operating on slim budgets after deep cuts”.  At time of writing, 97.73% of voters on HuffPost poll chose “Save them for our kids and the community”, 2.27% said “I haven’t used them since I was a kid”.
Libraries are an example of this. In some parts of the country they are very controversial at the moment because they are being closed down on quite a large scale, while in other places they are not. So long as the existing funding for a library may be transferred to districts, there is no reason at all why districts cannot take libraries over. Indeed, the municipal boroughs before 1974 were the library authorities, and many of the fairly new libraries that now exist were built by the boroughs and not by the county council. If the county council is seriously looking at reorganising its library service, one of the ways in which it could perhaps increase the efficiency of libraries and local involvement in them is by transferring at least some of them to the districts. I am not saying that that is an ideal solution everywhere, but it is something that ought to be challengeable. There are a number of things like that.” Lord Greaves in Lords debate on Localism Bill, 5th July.

  • No time for transparency or public inputSave Santa Clarita Libraries (USA).  Gives timeline for the decision by Santa Clarita to withdraw from Los Angeles system and to entrust library system to LSSI was decided behind closed doors, initally with two councillors meeting private company without knowledge of others.  At final hearing, LSSI flew seven people from other side of the continent to testify in their favour.
  • PlaceStation - Asset Transfer Unit.  Website listing public buildings either under threat and in need of “Big Society” support or that someone feels is under-utilised and wants to use for another purpose.  Site highlights still-open Shipston-on- Stour Library (Warwickshire) marked as “under threat of closure” on front page.
  • Sound of libraries suffocatingSanta Maria Times (USA).  Seven times more people use libraries in the USA than visit sporting events.  Public libraries vital in time of recession but that very recession is meaning they’re being closed down.

Changes

Devon – £860k cut. Opening hours to be cut esp. Combe Martin, Moretonhampstead, Chulmleigh, Lynton and Salcombe - see here for complete list.  Job losses.
Norfolk – £1.2m cut.  10% cut in opening hours, mobile library visits reduced to every 4 weeks from current 3, self-service machines replace staff.  
Warwickshire – 50 full-time and up to 70 other library jobs to be lost.  Library closures decision deferred until October.

Local News

“Tonight we are being allowed to make a 5 minute statement to the full council (below) about the threat of closure facing 9 of our 15 branch libraries. There will then be just 15 minutes debate – given 15,000 Bolton people signed petitions against library closure, that makes one minute per thousand signatures. The outcome of the Libraries Review, including any specific branch closure proposals, will be agreed at the Bolton Council Executive on 25 July.  The intention is then to allow only two months for consultation, including all of August when schools are closed and many people on holiday.  We will of course campaign around any threatened library closure, and press for a full council debate at the next full council meeting on 31 August. Our libraries are too important to lose.” Ian McHugh, Secretary, Save Bolton Libraries (press release)
  • Bolton – Campaign to save Bolton’s threatened librariesGuardian.   Expected decision by cabinet to close libraries will then go out to a further public consultation.  Campaigners say strength of public feeling  and evidence suggest none should close.   See also Council to debate the future of librariesBolton News. “It will be the first time a debate has been forced since new legislation came into being last June, which obliges councils to hold public debates whenever they receive a petition of more than 4,000 signatures.”.  
  • Brent – Cricklewood opera singer hosts garden party in support of library campaignWillesden and Brent Times.  “On Sunday (3), around 100 people enjoyed tea and cake throughout the afternoon which raised £700 for the cause. Among her guests was British food critic, writer and television presenter Giles Coren.”
  • Devon – Libraries face opening hours cutsBBC.  Job losses and opening hour cuts likely, to be decided next week after consultation with 8000 responses. 
  • Dorset – Well-known faces join library campaignBridport News.   Reporting support of Conservative peer Lord Fellowes and Oliver Letwin MP.
  • Dorset – West Dorset Lib Dem hits out at “broken pledges”Dorset Echo.  Cllr Karl Wallace leaves Lib Dems and becomes an Independent “At the moment I feel that the Lib Dems are small Conservatives and nobody is sticking up for the vulnerable people.” He added: “I will continue to work hard for Bridport and challenge the cuts.“I will fight to keep the libraries and school crossing patrols.”
  • Gloucestershire – Admission from Cllr Noble: school library provision did NOT inform public library cuts - FoGL. Cllr Antonia Noble, who had previously said that those without public libraries could use school libraries, admits “School and public libraries fulfil different, but complimentary functions”.
  • Isle of Wight – Library campaigners welcome delay in handoverIsle of Wight Radio.  Campaigners say “Despite our criticisms, our over-riding aim is to retain the existing library. To that end we continue to talk with the council to secure a mutually-satisfactorily resolution.” 
  • Leeds – Tories call for end to union postsYorkshire Post.  “Both nationally and here in Leeds we are facing huge financial challenges to ensure that frontline services can continue to be delivered, yet the Labour controlled administration in Leeds continues to pay out these huge sums of money while closing libraries, leisure centres and looking at proposals that could see residential care homes closed as well – their priorities are all wrong, frontline services have to come first.”
  • Norfolk – Library opening cuts plan moves a step closerEDP 24.   Council agrees in principle to cut after 8000 responses to consultation.  Cuts in mobile library visits to 4 weeks from current 3.  Self-service replacing staff.  “I agree we are doing a better job than some councils have done, but this financial crisis isn’t going to last forever, could I ask when times are easier that we don’t accept these cuts as permanent,” Mr Nobbs said.
  • Suffolk – Thursday 14th July: Save Suffolk Libraries need you – Rosehill Readers.   “Come and join us On Thursday 14th July at 12 noon at Endeavour House, Russell Road, Ipswich come and join library campaigners and supporters from all over the county. Bring food & drink plus a library book or two for a picnic, library book swap, read-in, ‘Save Suffolk Libraries’ t-shirts, banners, press, TV, who knows? Let the Councillors know that you value your libraries!”
  • Warwickshire – Breaking News: Library staff to lose jobs - What’s In Kenilworth.  Massive job losses, staff can take redundancy or cut hours.  Lack of communication between managers and staff beforehand. Also reported as Warwickshire libraries could lose 100 staffKenilworth Weekly News. Councillor says   “At the end of the day these are extremely difficult times and no councillor, no matter what their political persuasion, wants to make cuts to valued services. But we have to change the way we deliver our services. That is unavoidable to achieve the necessary savings”. Also Warwickshire libraries could face 120 job cutsBBC.  There is  a “possibility of local communities taking over the libraries that are to close. The deadline for interested groups has now been extended until October.”
  • Wirral – Get ready for Wirral libraries of the futureWirral Globe.  “Clearly the reasoning behind the radio-controlled tag is that the libraries will eventually end up delivering a fully-automated service, with no staff at all except those who maintain the machinery.”