Comment

“In relation to investigating complaints made about the Borough of Brent’s decision to close libraries within its area, officials here are in the process of assessing all relevant information on this matter and a decision by the Secretary of State is anticipated in September.” Email from DCMS legal advisers to Brent campaign solicitor, 18th August

“This is a very important development and one which you all need to grapple with straightaway. The Secretary of State has special powers to direct a public inquiry into the planned closures – just like the Wirral Inquiry – and he can even prevent them from happening while that inquiry happens, or at all.” Brent campaign solicitor to campaigners, same day.

Much to the annoyance of many local library users, the council in Brent is trying to close six out of its twelve libraries.  A judge is currently considering if these closures are legal and will report in a month or two.  Almost as significantly, the emails quoted above suggest that the Secretary of State may intervene.  In the case of the Wirral, the result of an inquiry was dramatic – no libraries closed and the council is now firmly pro-library.  We can hope that the same will happen in Brent.  It will come as no surprise to regular readers of this website, though, that most experienced observers expect the minister to somehow find an excuse not to intervene.  Letting local councils carry the can for the closures suits the purposes of this Government too well.

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

  • Budget cuts force week-long closure of Seattle Public Libraries – q13fox.com (USA).  “”Without the closure, it would have been difficult to generate the magnitude of savings necessary without cutting more operating hours or further reducing the book budget,” interim chief executive officer Lin Schnell said. “We understand how much people depend and rely on our services, but these are very difficult economic times.”
  • Frankly, we’ll sue the libraryVineyard Gazetter (USA).  “A private consultant hired by the Edgartown Library Foundation is threatening legal action for copyright infringement over a phrase used to promote an annual community fund-raiser for the town public library.”.  Consultant claims using lines “Frankly, we love our library” and “We love our library” are copyrighted terms that can only be used with her permission. 
“I don’t know anything about making a budget, but I do know that they are always up on the chopping block but libraries are the best deal in town! When I was a kid they were one of the first places I ever had a sense of autonomy, because I would go to the library to do work for school and be in charge of myself there. They’re filled with sex and scandal and crime and Pippy Longstocking. What’s not to love?” Paula Poundstone tries to save Houston’s public libraries one word at a time – Culture Map Houston (USA).

  • Privatize libraries in their interest – Pasadena Star-News (USA).  At a time when the California Legislature has slashed critical programs and services in an effort to balance its own budget and is considering the need to increase some taxes, the $28 per year special library tax that Santa Clarita residents had been paying for library operations was eliminated, due to the fiscally responsible actions of the locally elected Santa Clarita City Council. In this era of diminishing funding for local government services and over extended budgets, contracting for library services is one way to improve libraries, while reducing the tax burden on our residents.”
  • Reading revolution – 14 marvellous libraries – Web Urbanist.  Includes a library whose entire exterior is an LCD display.  Whitechapel Idea Store is the sole British example – “A traditional library is combined with space for classes inside a diaphanous blue and green glass volume in Adjaye Associates’ Idea Store Whitechapel. The flagship building of a program that aims to push libraries into the 21st century, including the latest digital technology, Idea Store includes a five-story atrium.”
  • WI to support libraries campaign – BookSeller.  “The WI’s membership are being asked to each borrow a book from their local library on the day “in recognition of the continued importance of the WI’s early vision to widen educational opportunities”.

Changes

Local News

  • Barnet – W2LW “Walk to the Library Week” – Save Friern Barnet Library.  “The library was packed full of children busy playing games, learning and having fun. It felt like the whole of Friern Barnet’s community had turned up in support of the walk to the library week.” … “W2LW showed how a community could build a future. We feel it gave generations a sense of hope and purpose and above all else, a sense of fun.”
  • Bolton -Six things you could do to help save the libraries – Save Bolton Libraries (Facebook).  Includes the two events below plus helping out on town centre campaign stall, join local campaign, contact councillor/MP, fill in consultation form,
    • Future event – Save Bolton’s Libraries” – Thursday 8th September 7pm, Central Library Lecture Theatre – best selling local author Ruth Hamilton, award winning children’s author and campaigner Alan Gibbons and popular local playwright Les Smith (‘And Did Those Feet’ at the Octagon) are all speaking, with messages of support from other writers. We will have posters to display shortly.”
    • Future event – “What Future for Bolton’s Libraries?Thursday 15th September 7pm, Central Library Lecture Theatre – Bolton News deputy editor Lynn Ashwell chairs a debate between politicians, trade unionists and campaigners – Cllr Cliff Morris, leader of the council (Labour), Cllr John Walsh leader of the Conservative Group, Cllr David Wilkinson or Cllr Carole Swarbrick (Liberal Democrats), Alan Johnson (Green Party), Ian McHugh (SBLC) and a Unison speaker.” 
  • Croydon – Chance to have your say on Croydon libraries … – Sanderstead Library Campaign Group.  “With a decision imminent many Croydon residents are still unaware of the market-testing undertaken on Croydon libraries, with a view to progressing outsourcing them all to a private company, other local authorities or other interested groups. Campaigners regularly meet with people who are not only unaware but laugh at such a prospect in disbelief. Unfortunately it is not a joke.” “…it would appear to be a admission by Croydon Council that they are unable to effectively manage their network of thirteen libraries.”
  • Oxfordshire – Vilagers voice their anger at library closure threat – Henley Standard.   Goring Library will have staffing reduced by two-thirds, to be made up by volunteers.  Friends group says “While we applauded the original decision of the council to keep Goring library open, our response to the consultation decision to cut funding and the supporting evidence was more of a slow hand clap.”  Council expects volunteers to pay for own CRB checks.  Criteria used to select cut libraries accused of being flawed and biased.
  • Scottish Borders Concerns new library service could spoil Melrose gem Border Telegraph. Libraries will have reduced hours as well as merging one-stop shops with libraries.  Fears over confidentiality (and waste of library buildings) expressed. 
  • Surrey – Latest SLAM plans Surrey Libraries Action Movement.  Including Facebook, Twitter, local petition, the WI, UNISON, contacting MPs and councillors.
  • Warwickshire – Communities in bids to save librariesWarwick Courier.  “Business cases have been put forward for local communities to run all 16 of the libraries set to close under Warwickshire County Council’s drive to cut costs. Some 100 library staff were set to lose their jobs in the shake-up.” 
  • Wiltshire – Volunteers in Wiltshire train to run local libraries – BBC.   300 volunteers in final week of training.  They will start working in libraries (which have lost 17 staff in 2011 and 26 more in Dec 2010, including 9 out of 13 branch managers) in the next four weeks in order to avoid 10 branch and 5 mobile closures.  “So if the library’s going to close and volunteers can save it, that’s the way forward. Quite simple really.”.