Comment

News from around the world today shows that people love libraries and continue to use them.  In California, there’s more users but they’re cutting budgets.  In Canada, the inhabitants of Toronto are making it very clear what they think about proposals to close libraries and about, especially, privatisation of libraries.  The people are saying one thing and the budget-holders another.  To look at the picture of Swillington Library (Leeds) below is to see what is wrong summarised in one library.  Reading the anonymous comments about it shows the strength of feeling such neglect stirs.  Looking at the size of the petitions (normally in the thousands) signed to protest a library closure is another way of assessing this feeling.  The same of it is that public libraries represent a comparatively small amount of money compared to other services.  Nationally, it sounds a lot – £1 Billion – but that is nothing compared to other national provision.  To put it into perspective, the Ministry of Defence has currently mislaid (yes, lost) £6 billion pounds of material.  To put it another, the £6.5m bonus for Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond is the same amount of money as running 144 local libraries for a year.
396 libraries (320 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

  • As demand for libraries grow, services shrink – Sacramento Bee (USA).  Chart shows, indeed, how demand is increasing but services shrinking in California.
  • Booktrust awards suspended – Alan Gibbons.  “Booktrust have announced via their website that two high-profile awards, The Booktrust Early Years Award and The Booktrust Teenage Prize, will be suspended this year due to a lack of funds.”
  • Digital Ink Drop – “Out of the tsunami of closures and crises facing UK libraries, a new company, Digital Ink Drop, is providing a lifeline designed to generate fervour for reading and writing amongst children and young people….The financial crisis in UK libraries has led to the creation of two new subscription based Stories from the Web sites, for families and schools, managed by Digital Ink Drop (www.digitalinkdrop.org), a not for profit company.”
“Libraries and librarians provide gateways to learning for all members of our communities; access to information, narratives and self empowerment regardless of their personal circumstances, income and background. I congratulate Kent County Council and salute all such innovative projects. In difficult times such as these, the role of library and information professionals can’t be overestimated.”  (Alan Gibbons announces award). 

  • Kent wins Libraries Change Lives award – BookSeller.  “More than 1,000 adults with learning disabilities have taken part in library activities in Kent since April 2010, including being employed as paid librarians and choosing collections of books and DVDs, plus taking up volunteering and work experience opportunities.”  [Kent is losing 83 full time equivalent library staff in 2011/2, to be replaced be machines and volunteers]  Story also as Kent celebrates library accolade – Guardian. “The project works, Taylor says, because of a “unique partnership” between statutory organisations, charities, volunteers and carers, but especially because of the direct input of the adults that the services are aimed at. Whatever the future holds for libraries, she says the commitment to Making a Difference won’t waver. “This is now core to what we do.”
  • Library rescue bid goes to High Court – London Evening Standard.  Brief decription of Brent campaign.
  • Measuring the value of public libraries – Voices for the Library.   Useful links on putting a price on measuring the economic and social value of libraries.
  • Media loves libraries: let’s make the most of it Thoughts of a Wannabe Librarian.  Ian Clark from “Voices for the Library” details how interested the press/TV are in libraries and how one can place a story, including on primetime national television news.
  • Poll shows three-quarters of Toronto residents oppose closing library branches as a way of cutting costs and equally oppose library privatisationCNW (Canada).   64% “strongly disagree” that their local library should be closed.  71% against library privatision cf. 55% for other council services. “The poll also shows that Torontonians feel branch closures are a political issue. More than half say if they knew their local councilor supported closing library branches, it would affect their vote in the next municipal election “a great deal” (55%)”. 1.25m Torontonians have a library card (2.7m pop)…. Union leader says “Just walk right in, Mr. Mayor and bring along your million-dollar consultants if you like. Talk to the people you meet there and ask them where the gravy is”

Changes

  • Bromley – St Pauls Cray and Mottingham libraries would be reduced from 43 hours per week to just 14 while Chislehurst and West Wickham would be slashed from 44 hours to 20.”  Campaign group:  Bromley Cuts Concern.  Considering moving libraries to a Trust.
  • Hackney – Campaign Group – Save Hackney Library Service
  • NottinghamshireMistakenly included Wilford Library (closed Sep 2010) as under Nottinghamshire. It was actually closed by Nottingham Council.  This figure was pre April 2011 and so does not affect the headling figure of closures.
  • Swindon – Confirmed that West Swindon Library and North Swindon Library will each be open 10 hours more per week,  Highworth plus 8 hours per week.  Increase made possible “by centralising the enquiry service and changing staff timetables”.  Volunteers may be used to increase opening hours in smaller branches.

Local News

  • Bromley – Library merger nears fruition – Bromley Times.   One hundred in public gallery as decision confirmed.  “Paul Rooney, from Bromley Cuts Concern lobby group, said: “The 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.”  See also Bexley – Important decisions for Bexley’s library service – “”This is our opportunity to streamline our services so they are as efficient and effective as possible, offering a first class service to library users. The new improved service will provide a modern way forward for both boroughs.”
  • Bolton – Library campaigners want decision delayBolton News.  Council due to announce closures on 28th July.  Ian McHugh of Save Bolton’s Libraries says ““We feel any decision made by the council would be premature, irrespective of its merits, if made without the Department of Culture having an opportunity to consider the proposals, and before hearing the decisions of the courts in the Brent and Gloucestershire cases.” 
  • Dorset – Two options for the future of libraries – Bridport News.  Decision on July 21st and  Lyme Regis: library is savedView Online.  Councillor says Lyme Library is safe [NB. this already announced], now deciding between closing ten and none, down from the original twenty.  “Colonel Brierley said that it was the fifth time that he had been involved in trying to save libraries from closure in Dorset and it was time such uncertainty stopped…We need a clear period going forward and to stop mucking  about with the libraries.”.  Also Ad Lib vow to take legal action over Dorset library cuts – Dorset Echo.  ““As avoiding court action would be so easy, we hope we won’t see Dorset County Council wasting taxpayers’ money on such an unnecessary fight.”

Hackney – Mass lobby of Hackney Council, 20 July 2011 6-7pm – Save Hackney Library Service. “Despite the Mayor and Council pledges to protect libraries from huge budget cuts, management is proposing to cut library staff and services that will lead to the slow death of Hackney’s library service.”.  25% staff cut, 66% less events, cuts in pay/conditions, more volunteers, less opening hours, loss of reference librarians/services/resources.  Smaller libraries like Homerton and Stamford Hill feared by staff to be at risk in 2012.  2000 name petition.

  • Isle of Wight – Campaigners challenge Isle of Wight council over spending Alan Gibbons.  East Cowes Town Council has £500,000 it has to spend on new building – council will use this money to incorporate library into town council HQ (plus providing public toilets).  Isle of Wight Council has persuaded East Cowes to take over library provision, in apparent contravention of the Local Government Act 2000.
  • Leeds – Swillington Library “Tell me this is not systematic, deliberate neglect” – Voices for the Library.  “there’s a shiny new Tesco Express four times the size across the road. I’d force new Tesco branches to pay for new libraries in areas with inadequate provision to get planning permission. A CSR requirement. They paid money to the local playgroup in the old church next door when they opened two years ago, but not the greater community resource facing the store.”
    “Surrey County Council will be known as the County which does not consult, could not get its sums right and was not even willing to stop – even when it knew it was wrong.”  (Motion to Council, 19th July 2011).

  • Surrey – Proposed motion to halt changes to Surrey Library Service – Information Twist.  Open letter sent to council points out “wrong and inconsistent figures, incorrect rankings of some libraries, incorrect proximity measurements (ie distance between libraries), illogical comparisons, lack of consideration of specific issues relevant to particular libraries, and calculation errors”.  Due to errors, campaigners request postponement of decision to close eleven libraries. 
  • Swindon – Libraries open for longerSwindon Advertiser.   Council bucks national trend by changing staffing hours and “centralising” enquiry service.  
  • Warwickshire – Cuts in library opening hours will lead to drop in visitors, say officials – Leamington Courier.   Independent councillor says “Everybody is prepared to accept you have to cut costs and you can’t guarantee opening hours now are strictly necessary, but to go for 15 hours is such a drastic reduction the people who are using it won’t be able to go.”… “Ayub Khan, head of libraries strategy, admitted cutting hours would reduce demand and said plans to work between councils needed to be agreed to balance savings with outcomes for customers.”
  • Wokingham – More signatures and signing sessions – Save our Libraries.   People “queuing up” to sign petition against privatisation.  Site also points out council does not seem to understand definition of “privatisation” arguing that they are not privatising service while at the same time looking to tender out service to a private company.
  • Wokingham – Saving the libraries – Cllr Prue 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!”