Comment

While, for good or ill, wishing to sort out the UK’s long-term financial problems an article in Management Today quotes critics suggesting that by drastically cutting the national debt, the current government may be causing long-term problems by cutting too fast and too deep.  The thing is with cutting libraries, though, is that the problems are not just long-term; they can be short-term (e.g. senior citizens with their lifeline cut),  medium-term (e.g. some libraries forced to become volunteer-run may fail) and long-term (e.g. literacy level amongst those who cannot afford books plummets).  In addition to this, closing libraries, cutting bookfunds and paid staff actually saves relatively little money. 
Something has stuck in my mind recently which shows what I mean.  A recent report suggests the Ministry of Defence has mislaid £6.8 billion of assetsClosing five libraries in Bolton represents a “saving” of 17,000th of this figure. Now, of course, readers will quite rightly think to themselves out that the MoD is central government, Bolton is local government … but it’s all one big budget in the end if, that is, central government has the will to not only to cut but to cut sensibly.

405 libraries (325 buildings and 80 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

  • Council conduct Good Library Blog.  “I also observe that Cambridgeshire County Council appear to have been conducting reviews of their public libraries continuously since 1066. Every year they indulge in reviews which mean closing a few more libraries. This is the council that boasted about turning old red phone boxes into libraries, to try and get a line in the local paper.”
  • Legal battle over libraries hots upBookSeller and Libraries: the legal battle – BookSeller.  Summarises legal challenges and situation to date.  Points raised in Brent review are likely to be of broader interest – debate over importance of physical buildings, if budget cuts can be taken into consideration, importance (and required extent) of consultation, whether it is only the secretary of state who can decide if service is comprehensive and efficient, importance of Wirral Report.
  • No longer just for bookwormsJournal Gazette (USA).   “Instead of being rendered obsolete, libraries that have kept up with the times are seen as valuable resources, according to local library officials”, “Libraries are a mall for the mind,” Krull said. “We are not in the book business. We are in the learning business.”
  • Outsourcing the local library can lead to a loud backlash – Stateline.   Lists of problems that may afflict a decision to allow private companies to run libraries, including mainly the negative public reaction.
  • Student Annika Tabovaradan makes tearful pleaStar (Canada) (video).  “Annika Tabovaradan addresses Toronto City Council members at 2 a.m. and makes a tearful plea to keep area libraries open. She already has to wait 30 minutes for computer time.”   
“I am also taking stock of where we are up to in the battle to preserve and ultimately improve the public library service. At the moment it is reeling from the impact of closures, job cuts, possible outsourcing, downright privatisation, book fund reductions, reduced hours and many other challenges. Campaigners have been forced to resort to the law. There is an inevitable lull in the pace of events over the summer. I am discussing the state of play with a number of people ready for the next round of a fight which is likely to run and run.” Summertime when the living is easy – Alan Gibbons. 

  • Town Hall: Troy Library onlineCMN TV (USA).  Televised debate on the proposed closure of Troy Library, home to the Isaac Asimove letter and the “Book Burning Party” fake campaign.  Public vote on Tuesday 2nd August.
  • Whitehall’s scrimping pays off with £3.75bn saving – Management Today.  But critics (the Labour party, mainly) have pointed out that in its quest to cut costs as quickly as possible, the Government might not have fully thought through some of its savings. Shutting local libraries, for example, might have a costlier impact further down the line.”
  • World Book night giveaway goes globalGuardian. “The US signs up as World Book Night’s first international partner, with one million free books due to be handed out on each side of the Atlantic in April 2012″ 

Changes

Aberdeenshire – New Westhill Library
Leeds – Friends group:  Friends of Rawdon Library (email: junelongley@hotmail.com.)
Portsmouth – New library at Southsea to replace Elm Grove 
Wakefield – Campaign group:  Supporters of Outwood Library (SOUL)

Local News

  • Aberdeenshire – Westhill LibraryAberdeenshire Council.  New library opens.
  • Bolton – Protesters condemn closure plan as cultural vandalismBolton News. Campaigner says “Our Labour councillors should be standing up to the Government more than they are doing. We will continue to oppose all library closures and reductions in service at a time when a rational approach to libraries would be to increase expenditure to meet the needs of the rising number of unemployed and to facilitate many of the proposed government initiatives to increase literacy and IT usage.” Conservative councillor tweets ““They have already made their minds up, be straight with the public.”
  • Bradford – Charity status could help save Addingham Library – Ilkley Gazette.  Charity to take over library with volunteers running it.  Council will give as much time as they needed.  Cash would not be handled.
  • Cambridgeshire – Library trust plan called closed book Cambridge News.   Fears rate changes will mean Trust tax-avoidance scheme no longer an option so more libraries will be closed.
  • Cornwall – Asset TransferCornwall Council.   “The Council recognises and supports the contribution that the voluntary and community sector brings to the vitality and well being of communities across Cornwall.  Where a community group has a business plan for delivering activities and services from a council owned asset, the Council will consider a request to transfer that asset. “
  • Croydon – Libraries stay open as market testing starts – Croydon Conservatives.   “Once this market testing phase is complete the council’s cabinet will decide whether or not to put out an official tender inviting competitive bids from other local authorities, trusts, social enterprises or private companies. If successful the move could achieve the goal of keeping all of the borough’s branch libraries open.”
    • UK Uncut comes to Croydon to protest against tax dodgersInside Croydon.  “The organisers are asking anyone thinking about attending the protest to “bring a small book, in case we decide to remind a tax-dodger how many libraries his unpaid taxes could keep open”
    • Croydon calling, mayday, mayday – UK Uncut. “They have already destroyed our Arts Centre. Now, they want to close down our youth centres, privatise our libraries, devastate the UK Borders Agency and slash teaching jobs at Croydon College”
  • Cumbria – Council boss pledges he will listen to kids over Cumbrian library closure – News & Star. “The pupils and teachers from Distington’s community school marched in Whitehaven last month to demonstrate against the threat.  They chanted and marched with Save Our Library placards to Copeland council’s offices, where they presented a 1,000-name petition to mayor John Jackson. They also sang a protest song that they had written.”
  • Dorset – Colehill library faces closure after Dorset County Council voteWimborne People.  “Now after a long campaign it looks like Colehill Library will be lost unless the local community takes on the running of the facility. Councillors suggested those libraries losing funding would still receive support from the council if they remained open, but without the financial support they need their closure looks increasingly likely.”
  • Isle of Wight – Update from the friends of the Isle of Wight library ServiceVentnor Blog.   Judge thought campaigners had valid point about equality impact assessment. “We were also saddened by the fact that before we had even got back to the Island, Cllr Abrahams was gloating, making statements that he was “delighted with the outcome” showing no thoughts for those loyal and dedicated library staff who, in some cases had given many years of service to the profession, whom he had forced to take totally unnecessary redundancy. Cllr Abrahams along with his other Tory friends in County Hall should hang their heads in shame.”
    • Library legal challenge blocked –  BBC.  5 out of 11 libraries to lose council control. 
    • Survey is one for the books – IWCP.   “If you have not already done so, I implore you to examine this questionnaire. Not because your feedback is in the least important to the council but because you should see exactly what sort of mindset lies behind those who have charge of our libraries.”
  • Kent – For our eyes only: the library report KCC doesn’t want anyone to seeKent Online blogs.  “A rare revolt by Conservative backbenchers recently put paid to plans to close or end KCC fundingfor between 40 and 50 libraries. Members of the Conservative group were reported to be aghast at the idea. One confided that it would have proved catastrophic for the ruling administration and that the presentation in which the plans were outlined was like watching a car crash in slow motion.”. Kent Council, however, refuses to allow publication of report that caused the revolt.
  • Leeds – “Use it or lose it” warning over Rawdon Library –  Friends of Rawdon Library urge use of library as it may close in 2012 otherwise.  Council asking volunteers to help – “They are asking volunteers to lend their support to the library for a number of hours on a regular basis. Tasks include designing a newsletter and organising children’s activities, including story times. Experienced computer users will be needed to support new users, and people keen on local history and family history are being asked to share their knowledge and enthusiasm.”
  • Norfolk – Watchdog calls for more than a hundred Norwich buildings to be protected from demolition – Norwich Evening News.   “Schools, shops, pubs, houses, churches, libraries, factories, bridges and even County Hall, the headquarters of Norfolk County Council, are among the sites in Norwich which have been put forward for safeguarding.”
  • Portsmouth – Library opened at former Southsea Woolworths praisedBBC.   Kate Mosse opens branch which includes cafe. “Author Alan Bennett said: “I rejoice that it is an opening and not a closing down. Hurray for the readers – whatever they’re reading. Hurray for the librarians who watch over them.”.
    • New Southsea Public Library – Good Library Blog.   Tim Coates applauds the new Southsea Library and improvements at Portsmouth Central Library.
  • Wakefield – Fight begins to make library soul survivorYorkshire Evening Post.  Supporters of Outwood Library.  “Group spokesman Karl Grubb told the YEP: “Our library is a focus for our community – the full spectrum use the library not only for books but for access to the internet, we have mums and toddlers’ groups and a well-attended readers’ group. We recognise the building is not in its prime but it fulfils a vast range of purposes for the local community. Hopefully we can keep it open until the financial situation improves and the local authority can upgrade facilities.”
  • Waltham Forest – “Day of action” against library cuts – Guardian series.  “Campaigners are planning a ‘day of action’ to protest against council plans to close two libraries. It comes as Unison prepares to hold an informal strike ballot among library staff over the proposals, which it claims will lead to the loss of 18 jobs.”
  • Wiltshire – Libraries saved by more than 300 volunteersBBC.  All libraries to remain open but now with volunteers as 40 full-time-equivalent paid (figure from previous articles – see tally) staff cut over the last year.  “John Thomson, from the council, said: “I think we’ll end up with better small libraries as I believe some volunteers hope to keep them open longer.”
    • Library service review frequently asked questions – Wiltshire Council.   “What if there are not enough volunteers for a particular library? If enough volunteers do not come forward to open any one of the ten smallest libraries for more than three hours a week then we will talk to the community concerned about other options for service delivery, such as a mobile library service. However, we have already a high level of interest from volunteers and we will continue to work with GROW Voluntary Service, area boards and town and parish councils so as many people as possible have the opportunity to volunteer.”
  • Wokingham – Libraries takover moves a step closer – Get Wokingham.   Shortlisted companies to talk to council in August the decision made by committee.  No apparent consultation with the public. “Having spoken to more people than I can count on the doorsteps, leading up to the Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe by-election (which, given the appalling turnout, the council cannot possibly hope to interpret as an endorsement of their privatisation plans), I can say for sure that the majority of people are adamantly opposed to this move.”