Comment

The Glos/Somerset court case is over-running slightly on the second day.  From the reports, it seems like there is a strong case to answer.  It’s hard to see, for example, how the consultation was taken seriously by the council if the decision to close libraries was taken before the consultation finished.  However, it is quite possible that the judgement on such an important case will be delayed, until at least after the Brent decision is decided.  We shall see.
Other standouts today – Walsall have decided not to close any libraries.  Being at one stage they were considering closing fully six out of sixteen, this is quite a turnaround, seemingly solely due to public protest.  The cuts are still going to go ahead though, just via the increasingly ubiquitous use of volunteers and self-service.  The same is true in Surrey, where the decision to force groups to run libraries or see them close is being rosily described by the council but condemned by the library groups themselves, as a video shows.  Ditto in Oxfordshire where no group asked agrees with the council proposal to offload the library on to them.  To finish off the volunteering theme, a picture from Little Chalfont Library shows a problem with “community” libraries, the question being how do they pay for the big stuff?  By asking for people to vote from them on a bank’s website is one way.  Welcome brave new world.
In more multimedia ways, please (I know you will) have a look at the Calendar Girls-inspired librarian calendar (for the underlying philosophy of course) and have a listen to the surprisingly pleasant experience of the “Welcome to Austerity” song below.

426 libraries (340 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

“Please write to John Whittingdale MP, Chair of the Parliamentary Select Committee for Culture Media and Sport , asking him to question DCMS Ministers about their lack of policy for public libraries and to draw their attention to the damage that is being done to the Service. His email address is:  john.whittingdale.mp@parliament.uk.  It would seem that, without a united effort by everyone affected, the efforts of individuals trying to save their community libraries are unlikely to be treated by Mr Whittingdale and his Committee as a matter of any importance at all..” (Email received)

  • Comment on Arts Council England “Culture, knowledge and understanding” report – Voices for the Library. Report (incorporating special report of 13th September) and analysis of the plans that the quango in charge of libraries has in stall.
    “Five thousand libraries were closed in Russia in the past seven years, as the number of Russians attending them has grown threefold in less than four years, the paper writes.” Trud (via Press Digest)

    “I think the publishing world needs to wake up to the fact that public libraries grow their next generation of readers, like Niki here, who will one day be buyers not borrowers. Without the ground work being done in libraries on a shoe string, even that now threatened with the chop, children will form other habits – some no doubt more harmful than reading!” Comment.

  • Evolving libraries say check us out now – Chicago Tribune (USA).  “Toga parties, martini meetups, stuffed-animal sleepovers and more are designed to keep book lenders relevant”
  • How would you spend $1 billion on library services?Finding Heroes (NZ).   Answers include family literacy, remote digital access, invest full amount and live off the interest (while centralising purchasing, processing and installing broadband), build something long-term, investments/partnerships, let the grassroots decide, social impact programmes, invest the money to make profit.
  • Libraries give us power: Medway library services – Medway Broadside.  “‘Libraries gave us power‘, the song goes. They still do. From public libraries’ roots in Victorian philanthropy, to their modern council-run guise, libraries have long empowered people by giving them free access to knowledge, experience and education. More than that, libraries are places that put people in touch with the past, the outside world and their community.”.  Interview with librarian Sarah Jenkin.
  • Library closures face High Court challengeLocalGov. “Speaking for the claimants Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries (FOGL) and Friends of Somerset Libraries (FOSL), Helen Mountfield QC said that under the act authorities are obliged to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ service. Citing equalities legislation, she also made the case that the councils had failed to establish the impact of the cuts or ‘fairly and properly’ take into account of views expressed during the consultation.”
  • Men of the Stacks: a 2012 CalendarMen of the Stacks.  Yes, it’s a Calendar Girls for librarians, although only a few are naked, respect to them.  ““We can’t just leave it to others to tell the people who we are; that’s why the stereotypes about librarians continue to flourish.  We have to be the ones to go out there and tell people who we are. It’s not enough to complain about inaccurate images of librarians; we must be able to present alternative, positive images in movies, books and, yes, blogs.”
  • Perceptions of public libraries in Africa: research and results = change – EIFL.   “Public libraries are uniquely positioned to change lives and build strong communities. In many parts of the world, where access to technology is extremely limited, libraries are often the sole source of access to computers and the internet….”. Looks at six African public libraries.
  • Successful meeting at the Appledore Book FestivalAlan Gibbons.  Alan and Tim Coates discuss libraries.  A lot have been saved but cuts still going on and level of library provision very uneven across the country.
“I guess the point is this: we should never have to justify our defence of books, libraries and reading for pleasure. We should insist that our politicians invest in the future by making the money available to promote literacy. And we should not simply accept that the printed word is dead. Every single person who helped to create computers, the Internet and other forms of digitization were educated with the help of real books. Without them, human beings wouldn’t have progressed as much as we have. They really are THAT important.” They really are THAT important.  MyVoice writer-in-residence, Bali Rai, on books and feeding the brain – MyVoice.  

  • Tyra Banks spends more time in New York Public Library than you do – The Cut (USA). “It took Tyra five years to complete her new book, Modelland, most of which she wrote in various New York Public Library locations. “I think I made, like, fourteen of those buildings my home. You have no idea how much time I’ve spent in the New York libraries!”

Changes

Surrey – Bagshot, Bramley, Byfleet, Ewell Court, Lingfield, New Haw, Stoneleigh, Tattenhams, Virginia Water, Warlingham will be run by volunteers, with the council pays non-staff costs.  If successful 2011/12 then nine more will be run by volunteers in 2012/13 – Ash, Caterham Hill, Frimley Green, Hersham, Horsley, Knaphill, Lightwater, Shepperton and West Byfleet. Volunteers would allow £200k cut in first year then 381k per year.
Walsall – None under threat, previously six –  £1.3m cut via self-service machines and volunteers. 

Local News

“What do you plan to use the CommunityForce award for? The Library Building was built in the 1960’s. It is badly in need of refurbishment with rotting woodwork and water damage. We have made some DIY repairs but the time has come to refurbish the interior and exterior.”

  • Cambridgeshire – Cuts of £3m to Cambridgeshire libraries “excessive” says councillor – BBC.  “David Harty, cabinet member for learning and libraries at the county council, said “a new model of service” would be considered instead.”  Cuts will be “reconsidered”. ” “It is proposed that no community will lose access to library services but changes may be made in the way they are currently delivered.”. Co-location may happen.
    • Community services open up at library – News and Crier.  ““They are at the heart of the community which helps manage it and the building is a truly public facility used by organisations to provide services and support for residents.” … “The district council will run its community service centre from the library, which also provides facilities for Ramsey Neighbourhoods Trust, giving access to local information and advice. There will also be access to services including Citizens Advice Bureau, Hunts MIND, Cambridgeshire child and adolescent substance use service, the crime reduction charity Nacro and the drink and drug charity Addaction.”
    • Nearly 10,000 call for libraries to keep staffCambridge News. “Petitions with nearly 10,000 signatures were presented to library chiefs yesterday by campaigners who said professionally-staffed branches must stay at the hearts of communities. Book lovers, who described the buildings as vital neighbourhood hubs which could not be replaced by online services, were told the service was “safe” by Cllr Nick Clarke, Cambridgeshire County Council’s leader.”.  Opposition says ““We can see the value in co-locating other services in libraries where that’s practicable but putting a few books into post offices, shops or petrol stations and calling it a library ‘service’ just won’t do.””
  • Coventry – Allesbury Park library visitor figures treble – Coventry Telegraph.   “since it became a permanent rather than mobile service…The £1million library is part of a £3.2million neighbourhood centre in Whitaker Road, which also includes a community room and medical centre.Library visitors have also increased in Caludon Castle Library, Earlsdon Library and Stoke Library.”  Councillor says ““Here in Coventry we have pledged not to reduce opening hours in our libraries and here the local community will be able to enjoy a new facility.”
  • Croydon / Wandsworth – Croydon agree to work with Wandsworth: outsourcing libraries – Sanderstead Library Campaign Group.   Links to relevant articles.  “Wandsworth and Croydon Labour groups have voiced a willingness to explore ways of reducing costs of running libraries and exploring different approaches but hold concerns that outsourcing may lead to a deterioration in the service on offer.”
  • Croydon / Lambeth – Lambeth councillors refuse to attend meeting over running of Croydon libraryGuardian series.   “The row concerns Croydon Council’s decison to appoint non local ward councillors onto the Upper Norwood Joint Library Committee.”.  Crystal Palace Community Assocation calls Croydon decision a farce – “It has accused the Council of installing cabinet members in a bid to push through controversial legislation.”.  More local councillors would have been opposition councillors not happy with the proposed privatisation of the service.
  • Gloucestershire – County Council “didn’t listen” to feedback: courtThis is Gloucestershire.   “Vulnerable people were not properly consulted over massive library cutbacks in Gloucestershire, a court heard today.  Council called “simply irrational”, didn’t properly consult elderly or disabled, council had decided to close libraries regardless of what consultation showed, as proved by final decision made before the consultation period ended.
    • Claims Council “failed” public with library cuts – This is Glos.   “Gloucestershire County Council wants to save £114m by 2014 to balance the books but Helen Mountfield QC, speaking for the anti-cuts movement at the start of a three-day hearing said the authority was “ignoring public opinion” and “failing to meet statutory obligations” to provide a proper library service.”… “She also said the library service provided by Shire Hall was no longer “comprehensive” because the cuts were so deep.”
    • High court hearing under way into proposed library cuts in Gloucestershire – Gazette.  
    • Day two of court hearingFoGL.   “Today again consisted wholly of Helen Mountfield QC presenting the cases against Gloucestershire County Council and Somerset County Council (whose case is being heard at the same time).”.  Main points include – insufficient criterion was used when deciding which libraries to close, equalities issues were only considered retrospectively to defend decisions already made, insufficient consultation (notably including no meetings at some of the threatened branches).  Thursday will be taken up with the Councils defending its decisions. 
  • Hertfordshire – Bushey library refurbishment unveiled by members of Herfordshire County CouncilWatford Observer.  “Extensions have increased the building’s capacity by almost 20 per cent and it now contains some 21,000 books, CDs and DVDs, as well as six new PCs. County council cuts meant libraries across Hertfordshire had their opening times slashed earlier this year, with Bushey being reduced by 20 hours a week.”
  • Oxfordshire – The Big Society isn’t about cuts, or is it?Question Everything.  Friends groups againt council’s current proposals.  Volunteers would actually cost more than the staff they are replacing in Year One.  Current volunteer proposals also against council’s own guidance.  Original council press release described proposal as “big society” but this removed.  
  • Suffolk – Have your say on the future of Suffolk Libraries: feedback – Suffolk County Council.
    “Stakeholders asked questions and commented on the proposals. They sought clarification on a wide range of issues such as financial information, savings required, timescales and business planning. Officers will incorporate the feed back in the preparation of the paper for Cabinet in November. It was agreed to publish copies of the presentations given at the workshop.” Includes a highly details list of the abilities that a volunteer needs and a somewhat overly glossy and positive report on responses to the consultation on the cuts.

  • Surrey – Plans for community libraries agreed – Surrey County Council.   “Volunteers will be able to take over the day to day running of 10 libraries* while the county council continues to provide everything else including the building, stock, computer equipment, as well as free Wi-Fi in all libraries.”…”At a meeting of the Cabinet on Tuesday, September 27, at County Hall in Kingston, members agreed that the 10 pilot community-run libraries operate for the financial year 2012-13 so their success can be assessed. Only then will the council consider extending the offer to nine more which are Ash, Caterham Hill, Frimley Green, Hersham, Horsley, Knaphill, Lightwater, Shepperton and West Byfleet.” 
    • Plans to overhaul Surrey libraries and cut costs agreed – BBC.  “The Conservative-run county council’s cabinet members agreed to devolve responsibilities at the libraries to help save up to £381,000 a year.” … Campaigner said that “The way that they conducted the meeting just characterises their whole approach throughout the libraries closures programme in that they just won’t listen.”
    • Volunteer victory for libraries in Surrey – I-volunteer. Volunteers “delighted” says pro-volunteering website.  “The Council are giving carte blanche to volunteers to run the libraries as they see fit. A spokesperson said, “You can run your community library, you can have a say on how long the Library is open, you can have small groups coming in or a coffee shop in there should you wish. Young people are telling us that they want somewhere to go and sit, to have their own area, well you can make that in a community run library.” Tweets from Surrey activists suggest there was no celebration in the streets as groups were forced to work for nothing or see their libraries close.
    • Tweets on subject after Surrey (Surrey_Matters) asked on Twitter for feedback on proposals – “If it means they stay open then its good thing. But Sy shd also find ways to increase visits so no need to consider closure.” .  “We think this is a very one-sided and false presentation of the issue! How about some balance, and some truth?” [SLAM].