Comment
It’s like buses.  All the library news is coming at once.  The first day of the Gloucestershire/Somerset court case has gone well, with the campaigners being able to put their case forward.  On Wednesday, it is the turn of the defence.  The judge has indicated he may give a verdict as early as Thursday.  This is in contrast to the case in Brent, where the arguments were heard before the Summer Holidays but the judgement was delayed.  News from there today is that the judgement will be announced next week.  These results will be the most important news for public libraries not just this week, or month, or year but for decades.  Good luck and best wishes to all of the campaigners concerned.
The there’s all the other news.  The shadow minister of Culture barely mentions libraries in his speech, continuing the poor record of Labour in opposition on the subject.  A library in Camden, abandoned by its local authority, is wanting to raise £1 million to safeguard its future … hmmmm, this Big Society business is sounding more expensive than advertised.  Surrey is suggesting that provident societies run its libraries, the first time that this has been put seriously put forward by any English authority as far as I am aware.  The National Literacy Trust has produced a report on reading that shows that 9 out of 10 children have used a library, with high levels of use amongst all ethnic groups (white and middle class, my date stamped foot). Finally, in Sandwell, library workers are “working to rule” due to pay cuts and replacement by volunteers.  Interesting times.

432 libraries (346 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

“The Committee will be holding an evidence session with the [DCMS] in the autumn and the matter of libraries will most likely be on the agenda, although there are no immediate plans to conduct an inquiry.” House of Commons Culture Media and Sport Committee, (reply to an email seen by PLN).

  • Public must occupy “at risk” sites – Press Association. “The public should occupy libraries and hospitals if they are closed because of the Government’s spending cuts, a union leader has suggested. Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB, said he agreed with taking non-violent action in response to the “vicious” austerity measures which were hitting communities across the country.”
““I would welcome this call from an important voice in the trade union movement. It has taken generations to establish the public library service. It is not impossible that it could be destroyed in the term of a single government. Thus far, library users and staff have bent over backwards to be reasonable and try to convince Ministers and other elected officials of the error of their ways by patient argument. Our efforts have been treated largely with contempt. On behalf of the Campaign for the Book I would like to state that we have considered this kind of peaceful, constructive direct action. We are ruling nothing out. It depends upon the willingness of local communities to embark on such measures.” (Alan Gibbons on GMB statement above).

  • Reads and Read-Nots - National Literacy Trust.  “New National Literacy Trust research* of 18,141 children reveals a polarised nation of young readers with 1 in 6 reporting that they don’t read a single book in a month, while 1 in 10 say they read more than 10 books in a month.”
    • 2 in 10 young people said that they had never received a book as a present, while 1 in 10
      has never been to a bookshop or a library.
    • A greater proportion of those who agree with the statements that they have never been
      given a book as a present, that they have never been to a bookshop or library read below
      the expected level for their age compared with those who disagree with those
      statements.
    • 7.4% have never been to a library [on the other hand, that is a whopping 92.6% who have]
    • “I have never been to a library” – agree  7.4%(white) 16.3% (mixed) 6.5% (Asian)  6.6% (Black) – [Shows libraries are used by over 80% of children of all races]
  • We respond to CLG consultation on Draft National Planning Policy Framework – Arts Council England.  Response is largely critical of the proposed new planning rules. “We do not believe that the framework correctly identifies the needs and requirements of local places and local plans.” – uses Derby libraries as an example.  ““The town centre policies will enable communities to encourage retail, business and leisure development in the right locations and protect the vitality and viability of town centres – No.” – uses The Cube in Corby as an example. 
  • “We should celebrate cultural excellence”Public Service.   Shadow Culture Secretary Ivan Lewis at the Labour Party conference.  Speech mentions libraries but just once – “Conference, in just over a year Jeremy Hunt, has gone from rising star to the long list of wannabe former potential Prime Ministers. This Tory-led Government have decimated our world-leading school sports system, launched a concerted attack on public investment in the arts, threatened many libraries and are marginalising creativity in our education system. At a time when jobs and growth should be a top priority their VAT increase is bad for tourism, and delayed broadband roll out, bad for business.”
“Are you interested in what is happening to public libraries ?  Alas, your reference to them here was as brief as a thong.  We, the public, should be most grateful for your representation and assistance as we struggle on alone.” Shirley Burnham in email to Ivan Lewis.

 Changes

Local News

Brent – “#brentsos campaign expects judicial review verdict next week.” PrestonLib on Twitter
  • Cambridgeshire – Library service backs down over “barbarous” fees planCambridge News. “Notices went up in Cambridgeshire libraries saying the service intended to bring in charges of 50p per book, with plans to extend this to children from October 15. But the head of the service, Christine May, has now revealed that the idea has been scrapped. The move follows an outburst by a senior Cambridge University academic, who described the proposed fees as “unspeakable”.”
  • Camden – Campaigners launch £1m Chalk Farm Library plea - London Evening Standard.   Campaigners say “the sum will protect the library long-term. Camden council is axing the £138,000 a year it gives in March, after a services review.” … “Playwright Alan Bennett, a local resident and a fierce critic of the closures, said: “There is a lot of good feeling but it’s not directed. But I would say it was a good first meeting.” The council has backed the plan and offered transitional funding to help the takeover.”.  Campaigner says ” “A community enterprise is the only way we are going to retain that community space.”
  • Durham – Henry Witham’s Hall faces up to a new era – Teesdale Mercury.  “The future of Barnard Castle’s library looks more secure after plans for significant investment were announced. Durham County Council is expected to turn part of the library building, off Hall Street, into a base for council staff and services.The move forms part of the forthcoming revamp of The Witham Hall. Chris Clark, chairman of the Witham Trustees, said it would mean the library building would be extended. “The council is planning to provide a lot more council facilities from there and it also means that there will be an enhanced library for the town,” said Mr Clark.”
  • Gloucestershire and Somerset – Battle to save Gloucestershire libraries hits the High Court - This is Gloucestershire.    “In a dramatic opening day at the High Court in Birmingham this morning, a legal team fighting on behalf of pro-library campaigners in the county urged the cuts to be scrapped.” … “”The duty to provide library services is owed to all those who live in the area and unless they succeed in this challenge, many libraries face closure. This is a challenge brought in the public interest not a narrow private challenge.” …”All of the libraries earmarked for closure must remain open until the conclusion of the hearing, which is expected on Thusday. Judge Justice McKenna is expected to make his ruling then.”.  Interesting comments.
  • Court Hearing beginsFoGL.  Summarises media reports so far.   “Helen Mountfield QC particularly focussed on explaining equality duties, the meaning of the public libraries act and the duty to consult. Tomorrow she will be presenting the case against Gloucestershire County Council in relation to the context she gave today. Following this GCC will be delivering their points of defence. It was very interesting to observe  and very refreshing to at last be able to properly examine and scrutinise the county councils plans in an unbiased arena. Day two of the hearing will commence tomorrow morning at 10:30 am.”
  • Libraries across the county including Lechlade, Tetbury, and Bourton-on-the-Water face closureWilts and Glos Standard.  “Last November GCC announced plans to cut library services by 43 per cent as part of its bid to save £108million over the next four years.” … ““We believe that the courts will agree with us that a ‘comprehensive library service’ must mean access to a library with the full range of services including broadband access as well as books for the whole community,””
“If, say, you have to walk three miles to a library it’s particularly disadvantageous to pre-school children, it’s particularly disadvantageous to disabled people,” she told the high court sitting in Birmingham. She argued that the authorities had failed in their duty to guard against indirect discrimination. They had also failed, she said, to carry out a thorough consultation with local communities.”  Helen Mountfield QC

    • Library closure councils ‘neglecting the vulnerable’ – Guardian.  “The case is being watched closely as it could be the first time a judgment is handed down in a legal challenge to library closures under the coalition.” … “The councils have appealed for volunteers to come forward to run certain libraries, an idea FoGL has condemned as “unfair and misguided”. It predicts that a further seven libraries will close in Gloucestershire for want of partners to help co-fund the services. In both counties, many remaining libraries will have reduced stock, staff and opening hours.” … “”We weren’t ever listened to so it’s good that the politics is out of it now and it’s being scrutinised according to the law,” said Johanna Anderson, founder of Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries (FoGL) and one of a dozen campaigners who had travelled to Birmingham for the hearing.”
    • Library closures challenge begins in High Court - BBC.   “Somerset County Council wants to withdraw funding for 11 libraries while Gloucestershire County Council wants to close 10 in a bid to save money.”…”Solicitor Danny Kerry said the case was “very significant” and “could set a precedent that counties all round the UK will pay attention to. The reason the spotlight is on Gloucestershire and Somerset is because they have cut deeper than virtually all other councils,” he said. “They’ve cut faster, and they’ve started off from a much worse position.”
  • Lewisham – Pseudo libraries in 21st Century Lewisham –  Pat and Peter Richardson.  Examination of the state of play in the five “withdrawn” libraries with concerns over opening hours, bookstock, viability. £59k self-service machines installed when few books, volunteers cannot take money for reservations.   Reference library also under threat “Can it be true that a most senior Library Manager actually went into the Reference library and in front of staff produced his mobile phone and said that was the future for information?” … “As we leave Grove Park two volunteer staff stand outside puffing away on quick fags.”
  • North Yorkshire – Save Great Ayton Library –  “Despite best efforts Great Ayton Library’s future is still not secure. Review the presentation to summarize ‘events’ so far and then complete & return the Opinion Survey.
“Our library plays a vital part in the development of each and every child who uses it’s fantastic children’s section in the village, I visit the library each week on a Tuesday with my two sons who both immerse themselves in the joy of picture books, of which we have an excellent collection.  The children’s library inspires our children to enjoy, join in and learn and alongside the personal touches the staff bring to the experience makes this priceless.  Please help save our library for this and future generations”  Comment on Great Ayton Library website.

  • Nottingham – Many crafts, many cultures in Nottingham City libraries - Nottingham Council. “”These free events give citizens of all ages the chance to try something new in our libraries and explore a variety of art and crafts forms through our ever popular Positive Images programme. ”  
  • St Helens – Library set for hi-tech transformation – St Helens Star.   “Thatto Heath library will shut from noon on Saturday (October 1) and is unlikely to reopen until next year, says St Helens Council. Extensive work will see the installation of a wi-fi network, 29 PCs (including 12 Apple Macs), special children’s laptops and three plasma screens” plus more books and adult learning room.
  • Sandwell - Blackheath and Oldbury’s new libraries proving popular with bookworms – Halesowen News.  “Record numbers of people visited the two purpose built new libraries over the summer with book borrowing and computer usage increasing.”.  Joining figures up 400 and 1000%.  ““Our aim is to safeguard and improve our library service at a time of Government cuts and these two libraries show the benefits of sharing facilities, wherever that is possible and appropriate to the needs of local communities.”.  However, “Last month library assistants, furious about reorganisation of staff pay grading, announced they would work to rule and stop advising people on how to complete job application forms, stop giving advice on reading materials, stop giving advice to groups of users and reading groups, stop outreach work at schools and organising events and stop providing guidance to people on how to use computer software The council is currently holding a public consultation about changes to the libraries in Sandwell and a report outlining proposals is expected to go to the cabinet shortly.”
  • Suffolk – Libraries update – James Hargrave’s Blog.   “The Council shared some of their thinking and plans that will be in the final November cabinet paper and as expected the independent social enterprise model looks to the favored option. But somewhat unexpectedly an “industrial provident society” where each local library is a Member and has a vote to elect the Board is proposed model. This looks interesting and very like the Umbrella Trust model I have been working on for the Academies.” … “I think what we are all realizing is that true localism takes time and is far from easy. But we are taking the first steps.”
  • Surrey – Library campaigner vow to fight on - Get Surrey.   “Libraries in Surrey will have to be run by volunteers or face the prospect of closure. Members of Surrey County Council’s cabinet ratified their controversial plans to create community-run libraries in 10 locations on Tuesday (September 27), at a lively meeting at County Hall.” … “The decision by the cabinet today is an absolute disgrace. They have totally ignored the wishes of Surrey residents. They are clearly intent on closing smaller libraries all of which are much valued by their communities.”
  • Wandsworth – Concern raised over library service plan in Wandsworth - Guardian series.  “”Although the Labour Group is happy to support an exploration of new ways to cut costs from our library system, it’s vital that any outsourcing does not lead to an erosion of services, or any further reductions to library opening hours or supplies of books.” She said any change must “protect the low-cost access to computers and the internet, as well as maintain up to date stocks of books for both children and adults. It’s also crucial that we continue to preserve spaces for people to work, read and study”.  Suggested plans discussions should be opened with other boroughs, not just Croydon.