Comment

So now we know.  The Government had the money to save libraries all along.  £250m would have sorted out all of the problems detailed in this blog.  The whole national public library service costs around a billion.  However, faced with the problem of declining literacy and lack of international competitiveness, Eric Pickles has decided to give the money to weekly bin collections instead, something that it is known we can live without (I have not had one for four years) and will only make worse the problem or recycling.  That should please the conference.  This is conclusive proof that when it comes to the disaster facing libraries, Government claims that its hands are tied and that there is no money is quite literally … rubbish. 

There’s a “Eric Pickles! Save our libraries, not our bins!” webpage at Digital Democracy by the way.

In other news, North East Lincolnshire makes the interesting step of deciding to transfer leisure and libraries into a Trust by 2013.  Interesting for two reasons – (1) its leisure centres had previously been on a (presumably failed) private sector contract (another one in the eye for those who think privatising public services is an unquestionably good thing) and (2) the council appears not to have noticed that the main selling point of Trusts – savings on tax – will probably not be there by 2013

428 libraries (342 buildings and 86 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

  • £250m weekly bin collections fund is what people want, says Pickles – Guardian. “Unveiling the move ahead of the Tory party conference in Manchester, Pickles said: “Weekly rubbish collections are the most visible of all frontline services, and I believe every household in England has a basic right to have their rubbish collected every week.” … “It’s a basic right for every English man and woman to be able to put the remnants of their chicken tikka masala in their bin without having to wait a fortnight for it to be collected.” 
  • Delay in ruling over library closures – BookSeller. “No indication was given by Mr Justice McKenna of when judgement would be given, but the usual time frame in judicial review cases ranges between three weeks and three months.”. Injunction against Glos and Somerset closures will continue until judgement made. Brent review likely to be the first to have result known, some time in October. 
  • Librarians checked out in “Men of the Stacks” calendar – Guardian. “Group of male library workers bids to remake dowdy image of their profession with glamorous catalogue”.. “There is an entire population of professional librarians out there who disagree with the way the library profession is perceived in contemporary media outlets and in the historical consciousness of the American mind. Different people and different associations will use different means to try to change those perceptions. This is ours.” 
  • Librarians fear over digital stalemate – BookSeller. “Librarians have warned that the year-long stalemate with the major publishers over the terms of e-book lending could damage the already beleaguered service. “. Only 20% of publishers (Penguin good, HarperCollins bad) allowing their ebooks to be loaned. Fears Amazon will take over book-lending market. Comments interesting, including the point that multitudes of free pirated copies exist online and publishers are spiting themselves by not helping libraries.
“Stephen Edwards, head of procurement for Hampshire libraries, said: “It is only a personal view, but I do fear for the future of the library service if we do not have a good digital offer.”

  • Library highlights censorship with “banned books” season Wales Online. Annie Mauger, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, said: “Access to books should not be restricted on any grounds except that of the law. If publicly available material has not incurred legal penalties then it should not be excluded on moral, political, religious, racial or gender grounds, to satisfy the demands of sectional interest.”
  • Library Wall Paraxis.  52 pieces on public libraries, including the piece by Alan Gibbons below.
  • Ministers worried by lack of progress in 3 Rs – Independent.  “Results of national curriculum assessments in reading, writing, speaking and listening and mathematics showed little change this year – the fifth year in succession they have almost stagnated.” [Solution?  Less libraries, more tests.]
“Let’s say this loud and clear to cloth-eared Ministers. Reading matters. It’s books, story-tellers, poets and illustrators, liberated teachers and well-resourced librarians that will make the difference but you want to get rid of them don’t you, you myopic fools?” Alan Gibbons.

  • Responsibilities transfer – MLA.  Last day of existence for MLA today.  All library responsibilities now moved to ACE. 
  • Why do libraries matter? – Alan Gibbons.   Excellent defence of libraries, describing an ideological agenda where cuts are a “badge of honour” and paid staff are seen as an affront to the “Big Society”.  The poor UK literacy rate is compared with South Korea and Finland who have the highest literacy rates and both heavily invest into public libraries.  Computers and games make children consumers, not creators. Supporters of libraries need to be active in defending them or they will be lost.  

Changes

Northeast Lincs Libraries and Leisure Centres to be run by a single trust in 2013 after private-company contract to run leisure centres expires.
Surrey – £300k cut (previously cited as £1m).  All 5 mobiles to go on 28.10.11

Local News

  • Cardiff – Public support social roleWales Online.  Cathays: suggestions for future services include young people’s reading group, language classes. Tots group already present.
    • City libraries to become “citizen hubs” – Wales Online.  St Mellons, Llanrumney and Loudon will host council contact centres, police/health/charity surgeries in three month trial. “The libraries consultation showed 80% of respondents thought services and other information should be available in hubs, and 74% favoured incorporating library services with other public services such as police, health or charities.”  But opponent says ““Is the library the right place for people to go when they are threatened with eviction, when they are not paying their rent, when they are in dispute with the council, when they are not paying their council tax?”
  • Hampshire – Councillor Alan Dowden starts campaign to save North Baddesley library from closure Daily Echo.  Will be closed unless volunteers step forward.  ““We simply have to save this service, particularly for the older people and youngsters in the area. Parents in the current economic climate can’t always afford to go out and buy books, so this is a valuable and vital service.”.  Interesting comments.  
  • Isle of Wight – A new chapter at the library –  IWCP.  Niton: “The tiny ex-telephone exchange is about to become the Island’s first community library after the IW Council cuts the purse strings and stops running it directly.”.  Renamed Edward Edwardes Library [very aptly after library pioneer buried nearby] expected be to volunteer-run from mid October.   “Once the balloons have come down, the aim is no-one will really notice anything different.” with all services, other than paid staff, staying as before.  Council trained volunteers, preparation took longer than hoped.  Volunteers worried over staff losing their job, taking over library had only ever been “plan B”.  Cost of branch is expected to be £2500 with “An auction, jumble sales and a posh frocks gala dinner are just some of the suggestions and supporters can make financial pledges towards the upkeep of the library.”
“The experienced library staff make the whole thing look effortless, issuing books, recommending good reads, answering children’s questions, tracing books held in other branches and finding just the book a customer wants with only the flimsiest bits of information. We volunteers can only hope to eventually emulate the expertise of the experienced staff and hope library customers bear with us while we get into our stride.”

  • Leeds – Page turns as Leeds library given a bright future – Yorkshire Evening Post.   Whinmoor: combination public library and children’s centre.  “The library will act as a base for a range of activities and events for parents, children and carers, story times for young children and computer sessions for people who want to improve their skills or write CVs.”
  • North Yorkshire – “Strong chance” that libraries will stay openScarborough Evening News.  ““It would be wrong to give any guarantees at this stage, but the proposals and business plans we have received from community groups are all extremely promising, and we will do all we can to assist to turn them into reality.”.  All libraries likely to stay open as volunteers replace paid staff.  If not, branches will close in April 2012.
  • Northeast Lincolnshire – Trust to take over management of libraries and leisure centresThis is Grimsby.  Trust to take over leisure centres which had previously been locked into a private company contract.  “”Because it will be a not-for-profit organisation, there are massive financial savings to be had. The trust would also be able to apply for grant funding to improve buildings and facilities, which the council cannot.”
  • Oxfordshire – Volunteer-run library plan “impractical” – BBC. Campaigners say it is not possible to find number of volunteers needed and that cuts should be made elsewhere, perhaps in middle management.  Council will make final decision in December. 
    • For Keith and Dave – Question Everything.  Close analysis of expenses and numbers needed show over 1000 volunteers needed for plan to work.  Incredibly, cost of having volunteers is £107k more than cost of not due to training, CRB, travelling expenses etc. “Even if these projections are 50% wrong, to proceed with this is madness…. this proposal as it stands is so ill-conceived and the consultation so badly managed I doubt OCC would be up to managing a thousand volunteers without hiring dozens more staff in the corporate core. Even the logistics of providing training for all these volunteers would create such a bureaucracy that it makes me think this whole scheme was dreamt up by Sir Humphrey himself.” 
  • Surrey – Volunteer-led library scheme approved by Surrey councillors – Guardian series.  “Surrey County Council has approved plans to staff 10 libraries across Surrey with volunteers rather than trained staff, despite vocal opposition”.  Opposition decries two-tier all or nothing approach, arguing instead for limited number of volunteers in all sizes of library.