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The “Open Public Services” white paper launched today by David Cameron allows and strongly encourages the outsourcing of services – specifically including libraries – to private companies, workers co-operatives, charities and to, indeed, pretty much anyone else who fancies taking them over.  It includes the opportunity for parish/town/borough councils to challenge the library-providing council for control of the libraries in their own “hyper-local” area.  Services will be specifically “allowed to fail”.  This is unfortunate timing considering what has happened to Southern Cross care homes today but is perhaps merely accepting, almost codifying,  the reality of already closing services.  
The Government considers the advantages of allowing anyone to run libraries and other services as more than outweighing any associated problems like bankruptcy, foreign take-over, inexperience, incompetence or excessive profit-taking.  In order to help people make up their minds in this entirely changed local scene, the consumer organisation Which? will be encouraged to survey the scene, leaving the way open to a “Which? Library, November 2012″ edition. 
There appears to be the strong belief that Public is Bad, Private and Volunteer is Good within all this thinking.  There are signs that is proving a difficult sell in reality to get this message across in places like Croydon who are already considering privatising their libraries.  Private companies, though, are entirely on-message and will doubtless be queuing up for a chance to make a profit from any or all services, even in the case of  libraries where it is arguable whether they are the most obvious cherry on the tree. Whether the public will get used to the idea and cease to do anything but occasionally mutter, as in the case of most already privatised services, or will see it as a step too far is yet to be seen.  An answer may have to wait for the “Which? Government” edition of 2015, otherwise known as a General Election.  Assuming, that is, such a thing has not been privatised by then.
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 

  • Cameron to launch public service reform plansPublic Finance. White Paper Open Public Services will encourage parish/town/borough councils, community groups, private companies to take over libraries and other services.  “…the government has been warned that it must ‘hold its nerve’ as unions have already criticised the plans, which will allow companies, charities and community groups to bid to run everything from local health services to schools, libraries and parks“, “UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis added that the plans would lead to ‘poorer quality, high cost services at the mercy of the open market and risky competition’. He added: ‘The collapse today of home care [operators], Southern Cross, should act as a grim warning about what can happen when the private sector takes over public services.’”
  • Challenge to library closures allowedGulf Times.  The efforts of Gloucestershire library campaigners are reported in the Middle East.  “Desmond Clarke, former director of Faber and Faber publishers, said the ruling was “fantastic news” which would “embarrass” Libraries Minister, Ed Vaizey, who has become a hate figure for campaigners.”
  • Three in five of the poorest 11-year olds lack basic literacyIndependent.  “Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Education Endowment Fund (EEF), which is being officially launched tomorrow and carried out the study, said: “The research is a stark reminder of the inequalities facing poor pupils in this country.”.  The current situation with libraries is not mentioned in the article.
Jeremy Hunt asked about libraries by Mar Dixon of the #savelibraries campaign.  The audio is unclear but appears to say “I know, we see your tweets. Don’t worry.  You know, there’s a process but it’s a locally driven decision.   Local authorities have their budgets, they have their budgetary responsibility and we ["they?"] are very serious about their budgetary responsibilities for libraries.”

  • Ways with words: Penelope Lively kindles publishing row with “e-books for bloodless nerds” view – Telegraph. “The author lamented the fact that books no longer occupy a central place in children’s lives, as they did when she was young.”. Naomi Alderman likes ebooks, pointing out they can be of any length, independent of bookbinding needs. Google Books policy manager says “I like the feel of books, I like to decorate my shelves with books. So I don’t think that eBooks are a death knell for regular books. I think we’ll just have a variety of new products.”. Comments (online and so some inherent bias) are overwhelmingly in favout of e-books.

    Local News

     Royal Courts of Justice
    Brent – High Court dates set to July 19th-20th: all welcome to attend - Save Kensal Rise Library.  Case may last two and a half days. 
    “We’d much rather that the fight to save our libraries did not end up in court,’ says Tim Lee, acting chairman of Ad Lib, ‘but we’ll seek the protection of the law if we have to. 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. Its leaders keep telling us how important it is to save money, so why take the risk of a legal challenge when there’s no need to do so?’ Dorset – Ad Lib library campaigner group considers legal action (press release)

    • Dorset – Libraries campaign group “considers legal action” - BBC. “Mike Chaney from Adlib, who is a volunteer at the at-risk Puddletown library, said: “The 1964 Libraries and Museum Act says that councils must provide a ‘comprehensive’ library service, so it all hinges on what ‘comprehensive’ means.”Can you close libraries and keep a ‘comprehensive’ service?” 
    • Durham – Savage cuts ahead but Durham County Council hoards £80.6mWear Valley Mercury.  “Cllr Eddie Murphy, who is leading a campaign to save Glenholme Leisure Centre in Crook, agreed, adding: “It is important to maintain reserves but I do not think the council should be closing leisure centres and libraries.”
    • Milton Keynes – Library review group has its first meetingMK News.  “The group is made up of writers, readers and researchers, students and learners and users of libraries representing communities across Milton Keynes.  They will be participating in a series of three workshops in June and July which will form an important part of the review of library services in the borough which is currently taking place.”
    • Waltham Forest – Leytonstone: 1000 sign petition to save libraryGuardian series.  “Harrow Green Library in Leytonstone is a vital community resource for people in an area blighted by crime, over-crowded housing, poverty and poor health, according to campaigners…. At this stage, with all the known needs in the two adjacent wards of Cathall and Cann Hall, and the promise of more difficult times to come, it is absolutely criminal to remove any positive social and educational force. ”
    • Warwickshire – WCC Special Libraries Overview Scrutiny Committee Part 1: Sign of the TimesWhat’s in Kenilworth.  Meeting held 9.30am Monday means low public turnout. Electronic recording denied to reporter.  Also Part 2: 34 parallel projects - Councillors say no option but to close libraries, some volunteer-groups given extra four weeks after latest deadling of August 19th,  staff cuts confirmed, inaccuracy in maps and statistics. Councillors not sure if Glos legal case will affect Warwickshire.