Comment

The 42 library closures so far this year is less than perhaps many were expecting.  It is true that the year (the council year starts in April) is still young but, still, that’s not many in this year of unprecedented peacetime cuts in council funding.  It is a true tribute to all of those who have been working so hard up and down the country to fight library closures.  
However, that very word “closures” is perhaps the nub of a new problem.  Forcing local library users to take over their library (effectively blackmailing them into providing their labour for free what their taxes previously paid someone else to do) does not count as a closure.  Indeed it counts as a triumph.  For instance, in Wiltshire, taking on 300 new volunteers in Wiltshire (replacing 40 or so paid staff) is called “maintaining our libraries“.  Similar sleights of hand are being undertaken nationwide, notably in Suffolk and in Oxfordshire.  An example of this is seen in Doncaster today where the mayor, Peter Davies, is refusing even to use the word “closure” about libraries, apparently due to MLA (Museums, Libraries and Archives Council) advice.  This, despite, making clear that 14 would close if volunteers do not take them over.  This whole thing is really greying, really  confusing, the true picture of what is going on.  It allows the big cuts to be made, real reductions in a key service to be made, without the backlash and protest and, in so doing, lines up more libraries in more authorities for further cuts down the line.

418 libraries (336 buildings and 82 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

  • Case for libraries’ use of social media: a how-to – Voices for the Library.  Based on survey in Wales. Higher Education libraries keen on social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogging etc) and use it to promote and improve their service.  Public librarians, though, are often not allowed by the council’s IT policy to use social media at work or to use it to promote their services.  Article includes tailorable template for librarians to use to request access.  
  • Hunt to make decision on Brent inquiry “next month” – BookSeller.  Following on from report on Public Libraries News yesterday.  “Hunt has received 66 complaints from the public about Brent’s library closures, it was claimed during the judicial review hearing. The secretary of state has a duty under the 1964 Public Libraries Act to superintend the service and can launch an inquiry into any local authority’s provision if concerned that they are failing to fulfil their obligations to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” service.”
  • UK to get national library catalogue – Guardian [cached – original link not working at time of checking].   “The two organisations said the catalogue will contain bibliographic data from 80% of the UK’s public libraries and enable web users to search 9m bibliographic records and 50m books and other stock items.” … includes material from “149 local authorities with a current full subscription to UnityUK”

Changes

Local News

  • Bolton – Library funding row – This is Lancashire.  Labour councillor calls Conservative councillor suggestion that money is taken from area forum budgets to pay for libraries as “bare-faced cheek”.
“there’s no cuts to essential services – as far as the library’s concerned, you’ve been fed the usual nonsense from the protesters, we’re trying to keep all the libraries open, er but er again not er without the cost that’s been there before. We’re trying to use money wisely and to keep services going.” Mayor Peter Davies, Doncaster.  Council will close 14 libraries if volunteers don’t take them over. 

  • Doncaster – Not the C-Word! Library closures “nonsense” – Save Doncaster Libraries.  “In February this year, the Museums Libraries and Archives Council told Doncaster Council that they shouldn’t use the word ‘closure’ when talking about the cuts in funding and, well…closing libraries. Instead, the council has tried very hard to avoid the word ‘closure’, and has instead commented on the libraries that will ‘remain’ when the council no longer funds the 14 libraries it has picked (essentially out of a hat) to cease funding.”
  • Halton – Library plan for former Runcorn Indoor Market – Runcorn and Widnes World.  Work on the £550,000 scheme will start in October, with completion scheduled for March 2012. The building will then be home both to Halton Library Services and Halton Direct Link, providing public access to the library’s lending and reference collections, computer facilities and a one-stop-shop for council services including payments, service requests and general enquiries.”
  • Islington – “Intrusive” questions for Islington library card criticised” – Islington Gazette.  Tax Payers Alliance criticise joining form which asks about sexuality, disabilities and even cancer/AIDs.  Council responds that form optional and is used so that they can know their customers.
  • Lancashire – Longridge Library to reopen following £200,000 refurbishment – Click Lancashire.   “People will hardly recognise the library! As well as new windows and a new roof, there’s a completely fresh layout with new flooring and modern comfortable furniture”.  Other improvements include vending machine, baby change, Wi-fi, room hire, self-service.
  • Redbridge – Blind man must pay for audio library books – This is Local London. RNIB say “”What Redbridge and many other councils across the country are doing is discriminating against blind and partially sighted people.”… Council say “As Talking Books is not a statutory service and technology has made access to audio books much easier since the introduction of the service some thirty years ago, the decision was made to no longer fund it.”
  • Suffolk – Legal chief took own life after intense pressure over council cuts – Guardian.  “The now abandoned proposals, which included axing all school-crossing patrols and shutting libraries, had proved massively unpopular with staff and public alike.”.  He had told the chief executive, Andrea Hill (who has since left the council and was the subject of much local and national criticism) that some of the cuts proposed were illegal….”In particular, he felt a consultation on libraries was conducted on the basis the council would retain 15 when it had been decided only eight would remain open.”