“I am horrified to hear that 14 libraries are set to close in Doncaster, five of which are in my constituency of Doncaster North. I along with residents of Doncaster value greatly the Library Service, and I am very angry at the scale of the proposed closures. I believe that to close libraries is a false economy and a very cheap option to save money. It is most unfortunate that libraries always seem to be at the forefront of any cuts in local expenditure.

I believe that libraries are, and should be, an essential part of our lives, and are vital to our communities and can be a central focus point for an area. A library can help enrich people’s lives, and so many other services can also come from a library.” (Ed Miliband)

This old quote (4th February) reused by the Save Kensal Rise Library campaign, is not going to make life easy for those Labour-controlled authorities like that in Brent, who are pressing ahead with up to six library closures, or indeed in Lewisham, who recently gave four libraries away (three to a social enterprise called Eco Computers, the fourth to a charity called Age Exchange) and closed the other at the end of May. 

Ed Vaizey’s (the minister for Libraries) Tweet of the Day – “History of Government Art Collection launched tonight at No.11. Created by Treasury in 1898 to save decorating costs”. 

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 

  • Bookends ScenariosState Library New South Wales (Australia) Fascinating informed look into the long-term (2030) scenarios for public libraries, some of which tinge into science-fiction but thought-provoking.
  • Chief Executive who led “virtual-council” total outsourcing plan leaves council - Guardian.  Goodbye to Andrea Hill, who gets £220k pay-off (the minimum under the law) for being the most notorious council leader in the country, antics including personal PR shoots, luxury hotel stays, private therapy sessions, trips to the USA at a council contractor’s expense.  Allegations of harassment and bullying are still ongoing.  “Suffolk residents forced an end to the council’s mass-outsourcing programme after they protested furiously over plans to cut school crossing patrols, libraries and recycling facilities.”
  • Hunt outlines £55m fund to help build endowmentsGuardian.  Arts groups can apply for government matching of private donations.  Jeremy Hunt appears to include libraries in this – he says private benefactors have “Giving us the British Museum, the Royal Societies, and some of our finest libraries – those great engines of the Enlightenment.” 
  • Who’s in the queue?IMLS (USA).  Analysis of who uses computers in public libraries showing they “fill a wide variety of information needs, a clear indication that public libraries provide much more than basic technology access”.

Changes

Redcar and Cleveland – Late charges for children 25p per day.  
Somerset – Of six libraries threatened with closure this year, 3 (Bishops Lydeard, Bruton and Porlock) will be run by volunteers from October, 2 (Watchet and Highbridge) are likely to be run by volunteers while 1 (Sunningdale in Yeovil) is likely to close.

Local News

  • Bolton – No decision made on future of librariesThis is Lancashire.  “Thousands of people have been campaigning to save their libraries.”.  Council is considering the future of nine branches but insists closures not already a fait accompli.
  • Brent – Ed Miliband slams Labour-run Brent Council: “closing libraries is a false economy” - Save Kensal Rise Library.  Quote is music to ears of opponents of Labour council which wants to close libraries.  “Now residents are urging Mr Miliband to clamp down on Councillor Ann John, who plans to close down Kensal Rise Library which is situated in an area with one of the highest child illiteracy rates in the capital.”
  • Buckinghamshire – Community asset transferBuckinghamshire Council.  Council makes it easier to sell off libraries “As Buckinghamshire County Council looks increasingly to community-led service solutions, access to suitably located and affordable accommodation will often be critical to the viability
    of any project. Recent examples would be youth centres or community libraries. Corporate
    Plan priorities undertake that the Council will provide practical support to encourage and
    support community solutions.”.  Asset Transfer Unit tweets “nice one”.
  • Cambridgeshire – Library will close for a week to install system - Evening Telegraph.   “Cambridgeshire county councillor David Harty, cabinet member for learning, said: “Self-service has been highly successful in the libraries where we have already introduced it. The equipment is easy to use and staff will be on hand to help people using it. We apologise for any inconvenience while the work is being carried out.”
  • Croydon – Tall tales and strange silences on librariesThat Woman’s Blog.   Croydon’s website and PR silent on privatisation despite acknowledgements that it is being sought.
  • Doncaster – Message from Ed MilibandSave Doncaster Libraries.  Campaigners secure quote that will make life very difficult for Labour councillors in Brent and Lewisham who wish to close libraries. (4th February)
  • Dorset – (A) Oliver Letwin MP on Dorset closures “I think we also have to recognise that there are limits on what volunteers can be expected to do and there are limits, also, on the ability of village communities to raise their own funding.” (B) Julian Fellowes speaks out on Dorset  closures – “There seems to have grown up an idea that the destruction of the libraries is somehow demanded by the Prime Minister and that it is an act of loyalty to him and his policies to lay them waste. In fact, and I speak from first hand information, this is the opposite of the truth.” (C) Dorset campaigners welcome Fellowes, Letwin statements – “We are enormously encouraged by the support of two such high profile Conservative politicians,’ says Tim Lee, acting chairman of Ad Lib (the Association of Friends of Dorset Libraries, of which Julian Fellowes is patron), ‘especially as it was Conservative councillors who voted down a call to preserve all the libraries last month.” – all via Alan Gibbons.
“Libraries are unique environments and need to be. For many of us growing up, the local library was our internet. So excuse us if we don’t seem grateful that the county’s main libraries are staying open. Not only should they be staying open, but all the energy that is going into “remodelling” the service should be going into what more they can be as libraries and not, to use that grating phrase, one-stop shops.” Herefordshire – Don’t make this our libraries’ final chapterVoices for the Library, reprinted from Hereford Times. 

  • Hertfordshire – Library opening hours reduced from todayWelwyn Hatfield Times. 
  • The new timetable includes all-day closures once a week for libraries in Hatfield, Knebworth, Brookmans Park, Welwyn and Woodhall, as well as Oakmere library in Potters Bar.
  • County councillor Chris Hayward, executive member for libraries, said the closures had been staggered to ensure that residents would still have access to library services, even when their local branch was shut.
  • Oxfordshire – Campaigners bid to stop two-thirds cut in staff at libraryHenley Standard.  Friends of Benson Library formed to help staff/run threatened library but “We don’t think we should be asking perhaps an elderly volunteer to be on their own in a library,” he said. “We are looking for value-plus on this, not keeping the status quo.”
  • Redcar and Cleveland – Teesside libraries charging highest kids’ fines in the NortheastGazette Live.  Most expensive of all 12 Teesside councils, 6 of which do not charge at all.  “The council has defended the charge as “reasonable” and a Gazette poll this weekend found 60.7% of respondents backed fines for youngsters.” but local author says “I go to a lot of schools where the kids have next to no money. The first thing they ask me is whether the book will be in the local library. Libraries are hugely important and literacy among children is a really big issue.”
  • Somerset – Three Somerset libraries set to stay openBBC.  “Volunteers have stepped in to pay for and run libraries in Bishops Lydeard, Bruton and Porlock.” Sunningdale likely to close, Watchet and Highbridge may be run by volunteers.
  • Suffolk – Recomendations to Suffolk County Council CabinetSave Suffolk Libraries Campaign Network.  Extremely professional report stating the desires of the umbrella group of library users -  (a) Against divestment, (b) savings should be made in back-office, (c) consultation currently inadequate, (d) SWOT analysis should be done, (e) 3 to 5 year plan based on both current model and Trust model, (f) equalities investment assessment (EIA) should be made public, (g) full EIA for each branch considered for closure, (h) make fully public all criteria for considering divestment. 
  • Wokingham – Response to John HalsallMad man with a blog.  Conservatives accuse Labour/LibDem councillors of scaremongering about privatising libraries.  Opposition councillors point to Express article saying LSSI’s first contract is likely to be with Wokingham.
  • Wokingham – Saving the librariesPrue Bray. “So the Conservatives are torn between trying to pretend it isn’t happening, and trying to dismiss the opposition.  Clearly, by the strength of their reaction, nervousness has set in  The more signatures we get, the more likely they are to back down.  So if you haven’t signed to save the libraries, DO IT NOW! http://tinyurl.com/WBCLibraries”