Comment

Campaigners for libraries are often attacked for being too extreme, living in a fantasy land and not wanting any library to close, ever.  This is an exaggeration in much the same way as calling library-closing councillors Tory fascists with a hidden agenda to give everything to the rich.  
All campaigners I am aware of are all too well aware of the financial realities and are willing to compromise to some extent.  Most would agree, under pressure, that there can be at least some cuts to their library service in the same way as there are to all other services.  All would agree that if a library is not being used, it should be closed, although there will be concerns raised about why it is not being used.  Many will go so far as to suggest that the cuts should be spread equally throughout all libraries rather than just the one or two, or eleven, smallest.  Some will even go so far as to volunteer to help run libraries themselves, although this of course can be used as ammunition by councils to “divest” more.  Some will come under fire from other campaigners for doing so.  It’s a difficult world out there at the moment and “library campaigner” represents a broad sprectrum of views, rightwing and leftwing, the WI and UNISON, militant student and conservative senior citizen.
However, campaigners would all say that these cuts should be properly planned, properly consulted on, properly carried out and with a proper eye on the future.  There’s a lot of things meant by “properly”. It means not hurried.  It means give people the chance and time to protest.  If the library is not well-used then the lack of protest will tell its own story in the same way that hundreds-of-names petition would the other way.  It means not with an already decided agenda.  It means that all options need to be considered, not just those the council see as in line with their political views.  It means that there should be a long-term plan for the future – it’s often said that a library closed is a library closed forever.  This is often said because it is true.  “Properly” also means with full respect for the law.  The 1964 Act, the equalities legislation and all the other laws that keep society going are not to be simply ignored because they are not convenient at a given time.  Laws do not have a “convenience” clause attached.  Closing libraries because they are seen as unprotected by law, not in a particular councillor’s ward or because the roof is leaking is not “proper”.  By “properly” read “fair”.  I hope that you agree with me that this does not sound so very extreme.
415 libraries (333 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

  • Closing libraries (and other heresies) – We Love Local Government.  … I would still disagree with the judicial review. The cuts being made by local authorities are next to impossible and if every small group is able to go to high court to challenge the change it will be impossible to do anything at all. I don’t therefore disagree with any of the individual judgments as such; just the principle of it.”.  Comments are very interesting including this one about library campaigners “… you come across as a load of uncompromising ultras living in a fantasy land who don’t make any basis for a discussion with councils or government and who are far, far too comfortable with abuse of public servants just doing their jobs when you can’t get your own way.”
“This economic lunacy is so wrapped up in the swaddling clothes of sanctimony that it’s almost impossible to see that inside there’s not some famished waif, but a wolf. Defending today’s libraries because of what they once did for young would-be writers with rickets, scurvy and scabies is intellectually rather like arguing for air-raid shelters, gasmasks and cod liver oil, or wet nurses, the Poor Law and alms houses. Yes, by all means, let children borrow books for free. But that’s no argument for the Exchequer supporting public-lending libraries that largely indulge the literary tastes of mean-minded grown-ups. How long did it take for the Chinese peasant to discover that he didn’t have to burn down his house every time he wanted roast pork? How long before we realise that it’s not necessary to give free libraries TO ALL in order just to lend books without charge to children?” Kevin Myers: State support only lends madness to libraries – Independent (Eire). 

  • Neil Gaiman on libraries, Dr Who, fanatical fans and his dreams – Guardian. “”As a kid I would get my parents to drop me off at my local library on their way to work during the summer holidays and I would walk home at night. For several years I read the children’s library until I finished the children’s library. Then I moved into the adult library and slowly worked my way through them. With the kids’ library I did it alphabetically but I discovered I couldn’t do that with the adult one because there were too many big boring books to read, so I did it by interesting covers.”

Changes

Local News

  • Blackburn with Darwen“Friends” group launch transport scheme for Darwen readersLancashire Telegraph.  “The group is concerned about people struggling to access services since the mobile library was cut as the borough council looks to save £33million.” Community minibus takes readers to library instead.  ““Every Wednesday, FODL will have a range of volunteers on hand to show people what facilities are available, and to provide tea and coffee.”
  • Bolton – Consultation for libraries “is not biased”Bolton News.   Council says “It is set out very clearly and in the next edition of The Scene, there will be a full breakdown of the options and the consultation.”.  Campaigner says ““We were amazed at how many people were prepared to fill in these council forms, despite their jargon and biased questions.”
  • Cambridgeshire – Smiles all round as Ramsey library opensHunts Post 24.   “The rest of the site, developed by land-owners Luminus social housing association into public toilets, apartments and a community information centre, is due to officially open tomorrow (August 18).”
  • Doncaster – Summer Reading Challenge – Save Doncaster Libraries.   “if the council really wanted to get children (and adults) reading, it wouldn’t be closing over half its libraries, making the library service inaccessible to thousands of children, who will no longer be able to walk to their local branch.”
  • Hammersmith & Fulham – Archives CentreCity of London.  Reading room closed – London Metropolitan Archives offering a limited alternative until “options for the delivery of the service are assessed and discussed”
  • Harrow – Last chance to comment on council services as part of Lets Talk consultation – Harrow Times.   “The council want the public’s views on parks, libraries, arts and sports facilities as part of the Let’s Talk consultation, which closes next Friday.”
  • Southend-on-Sea – Town’s new library gets a green light and a new name – Sustainable Gov.   “The new building, which is being jointly funded by the Council, the University of Essex and South Essex College, is to be called The Forum.”
  • Stoke on Trent – Council tax arrears “same as budget cuts”BBC.  “In February, the council approved plans to cut 710 jobs and reduce funding for swimming pools, libraries and care homes.”
  • Warwickshire – Bidford villages vote to save their library – Tewlesbury Admag.  “More than 70 people attended the public meeting last Thursday where they agreed to back a proposal to take Bidford Library on as a ‘community venture. More than 50 villagers have put their names forward to volunteer as librarians, computer technicians and cleaners.”… “The library will cost about £9,000 per year and be funded by late return fines, DVD rentals and a £5,000 donation from the parish council for the first year.”
  • Wigan – Atherton to lose out in libraries’ rejig?Leigh Journal.   Library “users in Tyldesley, Golborne and Hindley are anticipating a reprieve for threatened branches. But changes in a report expected to be rubber-stamped by Wigan Council’s Cabinet this afternoon were less welcome in Atherton.” 
  • Wiltshire – Fines are a “reading tax” on children – Salisbury Journal.  Council reintroduces late charges for children to raise money and reduce book losses.   Critics say  “All the evidence is that children who read a lot do better in school and are more successful in life.” and that charges will reduce use.