Comment

So the legal judgement in the Glos/Somerset case will be delayed for a month or two.  How frustrating.  Not as frustrating however, as the Council’s arguments, which include:
  • The volunteer-run libraries are non-statutory so it does not matter if they fail.
  • That the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act should not be enforced, due to the internet.
  • Everyone can use a bus.
Needless to say that if these arguments are sufficient to sway a judge then we must kiss goodbye to any effective statutory protection for libraries.

On any normal day, this would be the biggest story, bar none.  However, not today.  A greater danger has surfaced, more long-term perhaps, and less obvious but more serious all the same and one brought on by public librarians themselves.  Nottinghamshire libraries have decided to charge for Ebooks, the first authority in the country to do so.  There goes the principle of books free at the point of use, in one fell stroke.  It was perhaps inevitable being the DCMS decided that it was not illegal to charge for ebook lending eighteen months ago.  Someone in these straitened times would have done it but it will forever be the shame of Nottinghamshire that they were first.  Why is this so important? I’ll keep the point simple. Public libraries are not public libraries if they charge for books.  They’re bookshops.  Cheap bookshops to be sure but bookshops nonetheless.  If Ebooks do come to dominate the market (and the verdict, like in the above court case, may be much delayed) then this move will spell the effective end of public libraries in the UK.
Moving aside from the incredible danger inherent in this move, an article on the new Kindle ebooks points out that they will be plastered in advertising.  So, today we have learnt that we are potentially moving from a world of free library books to one which we need to both pay for the “library” ebook and then be bombarded with ads on every page. I’m still angry with the defending counsel in the court case today though.
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

  • Amazon’s Kindle price punkingMike Cane’s xBlog.  Cheapest kindles come with compulsory advertising, it costs $30 more to buy one without ads.  “If Amazon is giving you a $30 break like that, how much more are they making over that $30? You’re no longer a reader. You’re a product they’re selling to others!”
  • Are libraries being saved? – Infoism – “What has effectively happened is that council’s have ‘offered’ libraries to the local community to run. This is not a sustainable (let alone effective) solution. As has recently been reported, the number of people volunteering has declined in the past year.”.  Worries that volunteer-run libraries are not sustainable or comparable to council-run branches. “Yes, they may be saved from closure for now, but saved in a way that will only postpone the inevitable. The battle is far from over, it has only just begun.”
  • Campaigners halt NHS service transfer to social enterprise – Civil Society.   Glos NHS Trust may face legal action to stop it transferring staff to a community interest company.  Campaigners protest that no competitive tendering had taken place.
  • Key library service judicial reviews under way – Voices for the Library. “Even though there are differences in the challenges raised, the common ground is that claimants and campaigners all want to ensure that legal duties to provide a library service aren’t ignored; and that they want their local council’s to listen to the opinions of local residents and communities… The people they represent… The users of the library services they are destroying.”
    • Library cutbacks law suit commences in High Court – This is Somerset.  “Injunctions obtained by Public Interest Lawyers, a company specialising in matters of constitutional significance affecting large numbers of people, have prevented the councils from going ahead with their plans. The injunctions say the councils have breached their legal obligations by failing to adhere to the statutory requirements of the Libraries and Museums Act, not consulting residents properly and not taking their views into consideration.”  … “”Whatever the ‘Big Society’ is, it should not be a fig leaf for excessive and ill-conceived cuts or the surrendering of cherished public services.”
    • Day three of court hearingFoGL.   The defence “argued that the library network which will remain in place was adequate to comply with the 1964 Act, and as the proposed community libraries did not form part of this statutory provision it didn’t really matter if they failed”, questioned if the Act was still relevant and that everyone can use a bus. Judgement delayed for a month or two. 
  • Let the battle of ideas commence – Independent.   “Voters who notice the closure of libraries or Sure Start centres recognise the benefits of an active state and see no equivalent institution’s appearing in Cameron’s Big Society.”
  • Thousands of seven-year-olds struggle with homework – Guardian.   “The new statistics reveal that after three years of schooling many children can read only the easiest words, such as “cat” or “dog”, and do the very simplest sums.”.  Poorer kids get poorer results.
  • Visitors soar as borough invests £4m in libraries – London Evening Standard.  Hillingdon sees 50% increase in visitors, including a doubling of members at one upgraded branch.  Councillor says “”Almost on a daily basis there are reports of library closures but we’re showing there is another way. Hillingdon has taken radical and innovative steps to keep costs down while increasing what’s on offer. These figures demonstrate just how important people think our libraries are.”.  A cafe in one library has made £30,000 profit which then goes back to the service. Southwark Council described stunning new £14m library at Canada Water, due to open in November. 

Changes

Hampshire£492 k cut (on top of £2.5m already cut since 2009) – Proposed 7.5% cut to opening hours.  2 libraries – Stanmore and North Baddesley – under threat.  Council has put £48m into its reserves.
North Yorkshire – All 8 under threat will be run by volunteers, with books and training supplied by council.   Cuts in paid staff in all libraries, cuts in opening hours unless volunteers step in.  Small town libraries will see cuts in hours of up to 30%
Nottinghamshire – £1 charge for each e-book

Local News

  • Bolton – Airport windfall gives council £725k to spend – Bolton News.  “Bolton Council has received a £1 million windfall from Manchester Airport — £725,000 more than it was expecting.”.  Council says too early to confirm what it will use money for but “local Tory chief John Walsh said the money could be used to save the town’s five underthreat libraries.”.  It would cost £400k to keep open the five threatened libraries.
  • Calderdale – Come clean over the library, urges Linda – Halifax Courier.  MP Linda Riordan says ““Calderdale Council must be clearer – it owes it to the 16,000-plus people who signed a petition two years ago calling for the buildings to stay put.” Fears that Primark want to bulldoze Halifax library site.
    • Get rid of “non-jobs” to keep our librariesHalifax Courier.    “In the context of the Council’s entire budget £150,000 is a relatively small amount and, where there is a will, a way could be found to make short term savings and protect the libraries budget until this review of future provision has been undertaken. The Taxpayers Alliance revealed this week that the Council employs a Regional Reputation Manager within a Marketing & Communications Team that will cost £216,800 next year. Perhaps removing non-jobs like this would be an easy way to start.”
  • Cambridgeshire – Emerging library vision agreed – Cambridgeshire Council.  “Members agreed that plans for a Charitable Trust should no longer go forward due to recent changes in Government guidance in how councils could now benefit from national Non Domestic Rates.”.  Reliance instead on sharing buildings (post office, doctors, etc) with other services and using volunteers.  “Borrowing ideas from the commercial sector the council will also look at different sized libraries to suit community needs.”
  • Essex – Library idea has a certain ring to it – Saffron Walden Weekly News.  Yet another library in a phonebox article.
  • Fife – Library and museum to get refurb, 86 years on – Fife Today.  Kirkcaldy Library.  New cafe.
  • Hampshire – Library cuts “devastating” say UNISON Alan Gibbons.  “Hampshire UNISON have slammed County Council proposals to make further cuts to Hampshire’s Libraries as a public consultation on reduced opening hours and possible closures begins this week. It is proposed that opening hours across the county are cut by a massive 7.5%. Around a third of Hampshire’s 53 libraries are likely to see a full morning or afternoon closure imposed if the cuts go ahead. Stanmore and North Baddesley libraries have been slated for closure unless volunteers come forward to maintain services.”
  • North Yorkshire – To keep all its librariesNorthern Echo.   “All eight libraries which were set to be shelved in North Yorkshire following Government cutbacks are likely to be kept open by volunteers. North Yorkshire County Council said it has received proposals and business plans from community groups, including a number of promising ideas from residents in Great Ayton and Masham.” 
    • Community libraries may not now close – Harrogate 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.”.  Andrew Jones MP says “Community libraries are not just about books but offer a wide range of other services such as after school clubs and mother and toddler groups which would be a great loss to local people. It is important that, alongside book lending, these other services are preserved wherever possible and I will be pressing the County Council to ensure that these are included in any package that comes forward.”
    • Public support lends libraries a lifeline – Yorkshire Post. “Every library in North Yorkshire is set to be spared the axe following a huge groundswell of public support.” 
  • Oxfordshire – Opponents remain unconvinced over libraries shake-up – This is Oxfordshire.   “The author [Philip Pullman] whose impassioned plea to save libraries sparked the public outcry in Oxfordshire has warned that volunteers cannot replace professionals.”.  Said volunteer-run libraries are “a sort of solution”.  … ““You cannot go on relying on volunteers to do professional work. There seems to be a rather disparaging view of librarians that all they do is tidy the shelves and stamp the books. It is far more than that, it requires pretty stringent professional training.”.  Watlington campaigners say branch would need 70 volunteers to stay open.
  • Nottinghamshire – Notts libraries to charge for e-book loans – BookSeller.   £1 per book loan via PayPal.  SCL defends move.  “It is 18 months since the Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced that it would not be illegal for libraries to charge for e-books under the current law. At the time Martin Palmer, principal officer for libraries, at Essex, warned it contradicted the ethos of public libraries to charge for books. He said: “It’s basically reading and we don’t charge for reading. I don’t see why e-books should be any different to print books.”
  • Portsmouth – Reference book cash to be cut in Portsmouth library shake-up – News.   Reference bookfund cut from £50k to £30k.  Saved money will go on fiction books.  “It says the move is being made partly because of a change in the way people search for information – often by using the internet.” but “But what about people who don’t have the internet at home, so aren’t familiar with it to use it at libraries?”.  Cuts in large print, talking books, DVDs and magazines too – with money being moved over to adult and children’s fiction.
  • Surrey – Molesey library community partnership plans scrapped – Elmbridge Today.  “Surrey County Council’s decision-making cabinet has agreed to scrap plans for volunteers to take over the day-to-day running of Molesey library, in The Forum.” … Lib Dem opposition councillor said support for Big Society libraries was almost invisible, “The plans are being pushed through to save face in front of massive public opposition,”
    • Join the protests!Save our services in Surrey.   “Members of the Surrey Library Action Movement, who have brought together library users and campaigners, trade unionists and students to save Surrey’s libraries from being turned into “volunteer-run” services, were lobbying the Cabinet to urge them to reconsider their proposals and start a meaningful consultation with the community over the future of Surrey’s library service.”… “On October 1st, library activists across the county will be staging actions at local libraries, and converging on Woking Library at 2pm for a rally.”
    • “This is not volunteering, it’s blackmail!” – i-volunteer.   “Lee Godfrey, SLAM’s Press Ofifcer told us “If a Council threatens to close your library unless a lot of people “volunteer”, then people are being forced to give their time for free, being told they must “volunteer” with a gun to their heads. This is not volunteering, it is blackmail: taking advantage of people’s desire to nurture and protect their local community, and not wanting to lose one of the key hubs of their communities.” … “”Volunteers come and go, due to life circumstances, and it is not possible to guarantee that volunteers will always be able to fully cover library opening and all of the jobs necessary to keep a library fully functioning. Over time, the service will diminish to such a degree that these libraries will eventually be closed. And this will be one more nail in the coffin of so many villages and local communities.”
“I am in full support of Surrey Libraries Action Movement and their Love Your Libraries Campaign. Libraries need trained librarians just as schools need trained teachers and hospitals need trained doctors. Volunteers may have a role to play, but to staff a library exclusively with volunteers is not the way forward.” Surrey – Children’s author [Julia Donaldson] adds voice to Surrey library rowGet Surrey.  

  • Waltham Forest – Library closures decision “must be postponed” – Guardian series.   “Cabinet is due to rubberstamp a shake-up of the library service on October 11, which would see facilities in south Chingford and Harrow Green in Leytonstone shut down to save £1 million.”.  4000 petition to save Harrow Green.  “A scrutiny panel recently reported that cabinet was given insufficient information on visitor numbers and alternative proposals when it agreed to the closures.”