Archive for October, 2011

Suffolk enters the unknown

Comment

Suffolk Council, in a bid to keep libraries from closure, is transferring them all to an Industrial and Provident Society (IPS).  This is the first time something like this has happened in the UK.  There is  no other library system in the country run by a stand-alone organisation, let alone one being run by an IPS.  This is experimental outsourcing on a grand scale.  So, why do it?  Basically, tax avoidance.  By turning the library service into a charity, Suffolk can avoid paying 80% of its business rates.  As if this is not enough, the council points out that it will remove Libraries from annoying council bureaucracy and remove layers of management.  All in all, councillor believe the move will save 27.6% of expenditure.  Without closing a single library.
Well, that’s the press release.  Ed Vaizey will doubtless stop reading here. Now, for the rest of us, let’s enter the darker world of reality.  With thanks to the campaign group, Rosehill Readers, and others, here’s some of the worries:
  • That tax loophole could be closed at any momentCambridgeshire were toying with a similar idea but backed out due to fears that a law change could wipe out the financial benefits, at any time.
  • Which is really bad news as just setting up the IPS is going to cost, at the council’s own estimate. £625,000.  More than three-fifths of a million pounds is a big load of money to be spending at the moment, especially if it is on consultants.
  • It’s hard to see how this is going to reduce bureaucracy.  The IPS is going to need a stand-alone boss, headquarters, legal, admin department, IT department, buildings people, personnel … unless of course they buy back into Suffolk Council (in which case…).
  • 20 out of 160 full-time equivalent staff will be lost.  Thankfully, it seems, by natural wastage.  However, 1 in 8 is too high a percentage to be done by natural wastage alone.  Presumably, that’s a lot of voluntary redundancy and early retirement.  Those things actually cost money.  This means the council will be paying staff to stop working for them. Or they’re going to sack them.
  • Then we get on to the mind-boggling bit.  You see, it does not just stop at one arms-length organisation.  Oh no. Each library is going to have its own volunteer-run group helping to run it which will be expected to eventually take over the branch and become a partner in the umbrella IPS.  That’s 44 different branches.  44 different leaders, different ways of doing things.  That’s a lot of extra bureaucracy.  That’s a nightmare of competing bureaucracies.  Add on the IPS and the Council on to that and it’s 46.
  • On top of this, these 44 different groups will be expected to raise 5% of the funding themselves.  Yep, they’re helping to run the service – presumably for free – and then they’re going to be expected to pay the council for the privilege.  The Councils justifies this by saying that “some” of the groups raise 5% per year now through fund-raising.  Not all.  Some.  That’s £100,000 every year. 
There’s other worries too.  Things like the Council losing accountability for its branches.  Things like what contract (and for what term) the Council will give to the IPM.  Things like how the IPM is going to pay for maintenance on its buildings. Things like more than twenty staff working in libraries losing their jobs and not being replaced.  Things like a Conservative run council setting up a socialist-based “Industrial and Provident Society” with an apparently straight face.  But I’m not going to worry about those.  No, the prospect of 46 (44 plus the IPM and the Council) somehow making things work for over a quarter less money per year is enough to worry about for now. 
The very best of luck, by the way, to York Gardens Library in Wandsworth which is officially opening tomorrow as a volunteer-run Big Society library.  It’s in a tough area, close to the scenes of some of the worst of the London riots this Summer, and would otherwise have been closed down by its council if it was not for volunteers.  Readers of Public Libraries News will know that there are a lot of concerns about volunteers running libraries and thus giving their councils a “get out of jail free” card.  However, I cannot help but wish the Friends of York Gardens Library well and hope that they will avoid being used as poster boys by every English council that wants to close libraries in disadvantaged areas.  We can but hope.  After all, there’d be no library otherwise … and that’s a terrible thing to wish on any community. 
428 libraries (339 buildings and 89 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.
Things you can do today


News

 Andy McNab
  • Andy McNab in special mission to celebrate reading success - Reading Agency (Press Release). Bestselling novelist and former SAS operative Andy NcNab thrilled workers at McVitie’s Manchester yesterday (31 October 2011) when he visited them to sign copies of his new book Dead Centre, and celebrate their Learn 4 U Centre’s success in winning the prize draw for workplaces participating in the Six Book Challenge.” … “18,000 young people and adults across the UK registered for the Six Book Challenge this year through libraries, colleges, adult education, prisons and workplaces with potentially life-changing results. Impact research into the Six Book Challenge has found that 94% of respondents felt a sense of achievement, 88% said they gained from the experience and 60% reported an improvement in their skills.”
  • Are we going to give up looking for good staff and and go for 24/7 staffless libraries? - This Week in Libraries.   Chris Batt PhD tackles questions of “What are the opportunities that excist in all the dramatic change that is happening for libraries? Can we claim the library is important simply because it is there?”
  • eHustings - CILIP.   Candidates for elected positions in library professional association questioned by members
“Reading is about more than what’s on the page.  Holding a book prompts my mind to enrich itself”, Alternative literature, XKCD.   (with thanks to Simon Barron)
  • Just another liberal whinger - Walk You Home.  Updated.  Only around one half of children have a desk at home.
  • Notes from WalesDeborah Fitchett (New Zealand).   Summarises speech by Andrew Green, National Libary of Wales to LIANZA conference.  “Libraries are public goods. Noone should be prevented by lack of means from taking advantage of GLAM [galleries, libraries, archives, museums] institutions.”
  • Occupy libraries: Guerilla librarianship for the people – Occupy Wall Street Library (USA). Aims to: “to meet the information needs of a hard to reach group, to surprise and entertain,to enhance people’s enjoyment of an event, to educate and inform as conveniently as possible, to offer a common space for education and intellectual engagement outside of traditional spaces like universities and public libraries” 
“Most of all guerrilla librarianship is an act of resistance . . .” Occupy Wall Street Library
  • Who left a tree, then a coffin in the library? - NPR (USA).   The identity of the artist who has left exquisitely crafted paper scenes in libraries and museums in Scotland to celebrate Ian Rankin, libraries and literacy has been (sort of) revealed.  However, people prefer not to know who …

Changes

Local News

  • Brent – Date given for Brent libraries appeal - BookSeller.  10th and 11th November are the dates. “The Brent SOS Libraries campaign, run by local residents keen to keep the libraries open, said it was preparing to be asked for a further “community contribution” towards costs by  the Legal Services Commission, which administers legal aid. Residents have already raised in excess of £30,000 to fund the cost of a legal challenge to the closures.”
  • Croydon – Council “holding libraries hostage” - This is Croydon Today.  “Councillor Sara Bashford, cabinet member for customer services, culture and sport, said: “We have a responsibility to our residents to spend their money prudently and within the letter of the law, and with Lambeth boycotting its management role, this is impossible.” … “Croydon’s Labour leader, Councillor Tony Newman, said: “Councillor Fisher is holding a gun to the head of the UNJL (Upper Norwood Joint Library) and holding every library in Croydon hostage. He seems to be prepared to see the UNJL’s future threatened and is hell bent on selling off all of Croydon’s libraries.”
  • Hull – Western Library gets “long overdue” facelift - BBC.   “Much of the funding for the work is being provided by the James Reckitt Library Trust and the Townscape Heritage Initiative.”… “Hull Councillor Terry Geraghty said the library was “much loved” and the “long overdue” facelift would provide extra meeting rooms for public use.”
  • Oxfordshire – “Vital” library facing staff cuts celebrates 20 years – Henley Standard.   ““People often don’t realise what they’ve got until they are threatened with losing it but that’s never been the case with Woodcote library. It has always been so well used and appreciated, which is why there was such a reaction when people heard about the cuts. The efforts that have been put in by the support groups and the parish council and residents together show how important people feel the issue is.”
  • Sefton – Unlimited internet access will no longer be free at the library as part of £20.5m Sefton Council savings - Formby Times.   “The report before councillors told of the risks of denying free internet access at libraries, given that 30 percent of households do not have access. The council intends to introduce a tiered system of charging 50p per half hour after an initial free 30 minutes. Concessions could apply to the unemployed and elderly. Just 34 of 153 local authorities currently charge for the service, with five in the North West.”
  • Suffolk – Council reveals how it will keep every library open - EADT.   “The proposals would see Suffolk County Council create an Industrial and Provident Society (IPS), an organisation working with, but independent from, the county council to support the county’s library network. The IPS would hold charitable status, be able to benefit from an 80% reduction in property rates and apply for external funding.”.  Creating a separate organisation with whole new management structure will “free the library service from unnecessary council bureaucracy”
    • Jobs to go as libraries face shake-up - EADT.   “Moves to save all Suffolk’s libraries by transferring them into a new independent body have been given a cautious welcome by one of the county’s keenest campaigners… he felt it was ironic that the Conservative-controlled county council was using a form of organisation that stemmed from the co-operative movement.” … “Suffolk would be the first county in Britain to transfer its libraries to such a body”
“If it means all the libraries have a secure future then that would be something to be welcomed. I’m not sure it has a great advantage over the current arrangement, but if the service is safeguarded then that’s got to be good.”  James Hargrave, Campaigner

“Eventually, every library will have a community group involved and having a direct say in its day to day running. Supported by the IPS, community groups will be able to opt for a level of responsibility they feel able to take on. Seven pilot projects are currently being developed and will, from April 2012, be the first of these arrangements in action. Organisations running local libraries would become members of the IPS and elect its board.” Suffolk Council press release.

“Arts Council England is grateful to Suffolk’s library service for their positive and innovative approach and for working in partnership with us on the Future Libraries Programme.” Nicky Morgan (previously of the MLA), Arts Council England

  • Surrey – Max Clifford backs New Haw library volunteersGet Surrey.   ““There’s an awful lot of people suffering because of cutbacks generally around the country, and a lot of people can justify complaining about that. But in New Haw, people are doing something about it and that speaks volumes. Libraries are an incredibly important part of every community, and everybody from children to the elderly all benefit so much from them.”
“While we remain disappointed that Wandsworth Borough Council singled out this library, initially for closure and now to be its ‘Big Society pilot’, we are pleased at the way the community has come together and that today the library remains open,” said Sonia Francis­Mills, Chair of the Friends of York Gardens Library. “We continue to face significant challenges in recruiting enough volunteers to keep the library going, raising revenues and – most importantly – increasing community engagement so that York Gardens can continue to be a place that offers local people a safe place to read and to learn.” Wandsworth – Wandsworth’s Big Society Library reopens: local people step in to keep library in deprived ward open - Friends of York Gardens Library (press release).  

The real customers of libraries.

Comment

I have always been taught that excellent customer service is the key to a good library (or, indeed, retail) service.  Libraries need to give the customers what they want, when they want and in the way they want it.  That the best libraries excel at serving the public by providing books, ebooks, information, internet access, meeting rooms, all of thes things in the same space, often for free.  The best libraries should also, we’re told, bend over backwards to help enquiries on any issue from all people of all backgrounds, even trying to guess what the future will hold and changing their service accordingly.  By doing this, library staff believe that they are providing excellent customer service and thus ensuring the future of their public library.
They are wrong.
You see, it has become increasingly clear that the true customer of the public library is not, counter-intuitive as it may seem, the public.  They have an impact, yes.  One cannot completely ignore them or it will annoy the real customers of the library, that is, the people who really matter.  Who are these people?  It’s the councillors, stupid.  One can be as brilliant as anything with the customers, provide great cappuccino and glossy new books, have a wonderful Facebook page, 90% plus high satisfaction ratings (common with libraries that) and have high and rising usage.  Doesn’t matter.  What matters is if the councillors are on board, if the councillors believe what the libraries are doing is relevant to the aims of the councillors.
Failure to persuade the councillors of their importance to them makes it completely irrelevant what else a library does.  Sure, the public will eventually let the council know they’re unhappy and this might have an impact on what the councillors think of the library service. However, library users definitely don’t want to rock the boat overly, especially these days, when they are just plain glad to have them open. No, the most important thing for any library (and thus also anyone who cares about their library) is making the councillors realise libraries are relevant to the council’s goals – whatever those goals are.  Well done to Hillingdon and Hull for that.  If libraries ignore this basic rule, the councillors will ignore the library … and close them down.  See Croydon and Doncaster for the truth of this. 
428 libraries (339 buildings and 89 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.
Things you can do today

News

  • All hail the public libraryNewsarama (USA).  Greg Pak: “In honor of the public libraries that provided me with constant, free access to knowledge, literature, and inspiration, here are a few musings about the stories that compelled me as kid…. 
Good to meet 12 apprentices at local McDonalds yesterday” Ed Vaizey, minister (technically) for public libraries, tweet of the day.  Apprentices get from £2.60 per hour for two years.  

  • Higgins addresses the 2011 Annual Conference of the Northern Ireland Theatre AssociationMichael D Higgins (Eire).  The new President of Ireland speaks on libraries, amongst other things.  “”Another striking statistic is that 40 per cent of those using PCs in public libraries were non-nationals and 44 per cent were unemployed.”
  • Internet (Governance)They Work For You.   “It follows that the exploitation of online delivery options by the Government needs to be costed in a way that ensures the availability of services to those who do not go online, which might involve paying for facilitation, perhaps at local libraries or in post offices. However, if it is not built into the Government’s model, it will bring online delivery into disrepute and widen the digital divide into a chasm, ultimately creating a problem that will involve even more expense to solve than building in the solution at the design stage.” Alun Michael MP at a Westminster Hall debate.
“I started to cry. Readers looked up reproachfully, and the librarian reprimanded me, because in those days you weren’t even allowed to sneeze in a library, let alone weep. So I took the book outside and read it all the way through, sitting on the steps in the usual northern gale. The unfamiliar and beautiful play made things bearable that day… ” Jeanette Winterson: all about my mother - Guardian.  As part of a longer piece, describes how important he local library library was to her while she was growing up – the public library helped her to survive.

  • Public Libraries in the UKDeborah Fitchett (New Zealand) summarises keynote talk given by Martin Molloy at LIANZA conference on the national libraries picture in the UK including budget cuts, technological change, protests and need to emphasise importance of service to councils and politicians. In partial note form but makes interesting reading.  Mr Molloy is chief of libraries for Derbyshire.  “Enviable usage figures and exception satisfaction levels. But confusion and lack of competence of politicians re purpose and value of libraries. Public library community also confused, lack of confidence, clarity, vision – librarians ill-equipped to defend services. “Toxic mix of short-term fixes and so-called radical solutions.”

Changes

Doncaster – Cantley Library may be moved to Sycamore School as part of community centre.  Questions over if any of the 12 branches council says will be volunteer run will find necessary volunteers.

Local News

  • Doncaster - Overview & Scrutiny (Round Two), Mystery Volunteers and the Silent Death of our Library ServiceSave Doncaster Libraries.  Labour have called in plans for scrutiny on Nov 10th due to worries over Equalities Impact Assessment.  Sprotborough Library Action Group does not wish to run library regardless of what council says, similarly in Bessacar.  “We are not convinced that any groups have expressed an interest in running libraries – this is not because libraries are not wanted or needed – the outcome of consultations has already shown that people think libraries are important – but because, as we have repeatedly stated, Doncaster communities are in no position to run libraries.”
  • Oxfordshire – Save the back office at all costs - Question Everything.   “The library service is being cut by 25% and of that 25%  almost all the cuts are to the front line 86.22%.” … “Keith [leader of Council] will keep spouting the social care v libraries nonsense to wind the voters of Oxfordshire up and muddy the waters. He should get the back office sorted before a single front line service gets cut. By the time voters get a chance to have their say on his competence in 2013 he will be long gone as his division will have disappeared.”
  • Westminster – Miserable Rich and the Real Tuesday WeldSongkick.   “It’s time to stock up on garlic and deck the halls with boughs of cobwebs as Arctic Circle presents a special co-headline show with The Real Tuesday Weld and The Miserable Rich this Halloween within the spooky confines of the Westminster Reference Library.”

Statutory or Non-Statutory, that is the question

Comment

So, Jeremy Hunt’s suggestion that Lewisham, Somerset, Gloucestershire and anyone other council that wants to cut down on costs can give branches to volunteers and still meet it’s statutory responsibilities has led me to wonder as to what actually is statutory.  It is not clear from the Brent case and no other legal case, to my knowledge, has so far settled the issue.  My thoughts are in the bullet points below.  Campaigners up and down the country (and, it seems, the Secretary of State) need clearer guidelines.  Can anyone provide them? For, if Jeremy is correct, library authorities effectively become unprotected by law.
  • the service must be free at point of use (in terms of both membership fee and loans).
  • there must be a service level agreement with the local council.
  • the council must fund at least a significant part of the service, although staffing might be voluntary to some extent.  Such funding may be in kind (providing the building, books, lighting, computers etc).
  • the council maintains ultimate responsibility for the library and is thus legally liable for insurance purposes as well as under the terms of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act.  This may include sub-contracting the service to a community group (in the same way that the service in Hounslow is still statutory although run by a private company).
  • Library premises are “any premises which are occupied by a library authority and are premises where library facilities are made available by the authority
“CILIP’s position is clear”, she states, “If community managed libraries are to be regarded as part of the statutory service they must have a core paid staff, be part of the professionally led public library service and operate within a service level agreement with that parent library service. Volunteers play a valuable role in enhancing the public library service but they are not a replacement for the skills and expertise of staff. All are entitled to a public library service of high quality”.   Annie Mauger, Chief Executive, CILIP (librarian professional body).

Addition:  buckslibraryuser in comments below (thank you) says “A library authority is surely required to pay for the whole cost of providing the statutory library service (not just part of it). This applies however the service is delivered”.  One would have thought so, too.  However, the MLA report “Community Managed Libraries” says Buckinghamshire is “Anticipating transferring 14 of its mid-sized libraries (the
largest operates at an annual turnover of £115k) to community management and reducing funding across
all 14 by 50%. All will remain statutory” (p.10).  This means that at least one (albeit recently defunct) influential body thinks that the 1964 Act still applies if (a) the branch is managed by volunteers and (b) it’s funding is halved.  Similary, it says Cambridgeshire will “community partner” another 13 “which will remain statutory”.  So, it is not black and white…. and politicians like Mr Hunt love grey areas.  They can hide and shade into them so well.

428 libraries (339 buildings and 89 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.
 

Things you can do today

News

  • Drama library could be closedWakefield Express.  Service covering all Yorkshire to be scrapped.  A music and drama library service used by amateur performing groups could be closed down. The Yorkshire Libraries and Information Council (YLI) plans to shut down the service, which provides subsidised scripts, vocal scores and orchestral music, at Balne Lane Library.”
    • Campaign to stop closure of YLI Music and Drama Service - Making Music.   “We cannot allow this vital resource to be lost. We do not believe that splitting the collection and distributing it across the 12 Local authorities is a workable solution. We want the collection to be preserved as a complete library and in public ownership. Without it our communities will suffer. It’s in all our interests to campaign to keep the service running. We need you support this campaign and let the decision makers know how much it means to you and your community!”
  • Hunt offers little hope of intervening over library closures - Guardian.  Concerning questions of DCMS committee.  “Hunt seemed to back plans which would see volunteers run some libraries rather than the council. He said they “monitoring” things very closely and said the Isle of Wight, Lewisham, Gloucestershire and Somerset were all trying to find “community led” alternatives for the threatened libraries. Brent had taken a different approach, he said, but were extending opening hours in the ones they are keeping open.”
    • Jeremy Hunt quizzed on libraries - CILIP.   Annie Mauger: “In the Open Public Services White Paper I note that for national public services the Government proposes to focus on core entitlements, setting floor standards enforced by independent regulators or published data and ensuring fair access to services. Yes please that is what we want for public libraries too and the powers already exist to achieve it – Secretary of State please use them”. Similarly Annie expressed concern that community-managed libraries run by volunteers might be regarded as meeting the requirements of the Act.”
  • Library map - Children’s Laureate.   “Julia Donaldson will making visits to public libraries all over the UK a special priority throughout her time as Children’s Laureate.” Map produced showing the libraries she is visiting.
  • Read all about it: Britain’s shameful literacy crisis - Guardian.   “Labour has said sorry for a number of mistakes it made during its time in opposition. It would do well to apologise for its inadequate and blustering denials of the depth of Britain’s literacy crisis as well, and start coming up with some plans that would decisively address this baleful problem. I’d certainly be glad to mark my cross against that.”
  • Real life “slumdog millionaire” to spend money on library –  Channel Four News (India). “Mr Kumar told the show host that he would use the money to pay for a civil service course and exams. He told reporters immediately after winning, that he plans to open a library in his home town of Motihari in Bihar, and will help his family by buying a house for his wife and giving his four brothers money to set up small businesses.”
  • Why the Occupy Wall Street movement has a library - Library Journal (USA).   “…the appearance of Little Free Libraries and the libraries springing up at Occupy sites reassures me. In our day to day work, we may feel that the people we serve just want us to provide them with the stuff they personally want, whatever the cost. We may feel trapped between intellectual property owners and greedy consumers who aren’t interested in our problems. We may be nearly ready to give up the fight for intellectual freedom that nobody seems to care about but us. But these spontaneous libraries say otherwise. People want to share. It’s a democratic impulse. It’s one we need to preserve and encourage.”

Changes

Scottish Borders – Consultation on reducing Innerleithen Library hours extended. 
Yorkshire Libraries and Information - Music and Drama Service may close . Campaign group – Making Music

Local News

  • Barnet – Campaigners hand Barnet Council proposals to keep library open - Times series.  “Last Friday seven campaigners met with council officials to demonstrate not only how Friern Barnet Library (FBL) could be used more effectively but also the huge support it has from community groups including the Royal British Legion and Age UK Barnet. Their proposals suggest FBL offers volunteer-led projects alongside council-run services such as IT training and support, health clinics as well as inter-school reading groups and story-time clubs for nursery children.” … “What councillor Rams has actually done is threaten to close the heart of a community unless they “make it worth his while” to keep it open. It’s not my ideal picture of how Barnet council should treat residents!” (comment).
  • Brent – Who will win this battle over books? - Telegraph. “The windows of a Victorian building in Kensal Rise are covered with handmade signs: “Bail out the library, not the bankers”; “Oi, Labour, leave our books alone”; and, above the bolted doors, “Let us run our library”.” … Council says ““In urban areas, on high streets and where other things are going on. Willesden Green Library [20 minutes’ walk away] gets 500,000 visitors each year. Kensal Rise gets 50,000.” … “The books are often old and creased, the selection eccentric, the carpet scuffed. You can see the logic of concentrating resources on larger libraries with longer opening hours and more stock. But why not have both?”
    • Thousands lobby culture secretary over closures - Guardian.   “Brent residents have handed a petition signed by thousands to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, demanding that secretary of state Jeremy Hunt intervene to reverse the closure of six of the London borough’s libraries.”  12,000 names.  … “”With thousands of children roaming the streets during half term, there has been a total absence of alternatives. It is clear that the so-called improved library service is neither comprehensive nor efficient,” say the residents”
  • Croydon / Lambeth - Council spat puts library in dangerThis is Surrey Today.   “Croydon’s Labour leader, Councillor Tony Newman, said: “Councillor Fisher is holding a gun to the head of the UNJL (Upper Norwood Joint Library) and holding every library in Croydon hostage.  “He seems to be prepared to see the UNJL’s future threatened and is hell bent on selling off all of Croydon’s libraries.”
  • Hillingdon – 5 years of the Hillingdon Library project - Good Library Blog.   “We had learned that – contrary to almost all of the advice received from elsewhere- what really mattered to the public are the stock of reading material; the design of the buildings to make them attractive, interesting, convivial and useful; the opening hours and the ability of the staff to be helpful, friendly and knowledgeable. It was clear that if those were done properly an awful lot of people would use the service, more than were using the rather desolate library buildkings that existed at the time” … “The councillors have realised that a good library service is actually a vote winner- it has become one of the most talked about achievements of Hillingdon council”.  Improvements do not need to expensive and efficiencies could mean no need for library closures.
  • Isle of Wight – New self service kiosks go live - Isle of Wight Chronicle.  “Initially the new machines will be installed in the two busiest Island libraries – Ryde and the Lord Louis Library in Newport. Once the service is satisfied that the new approach is working as expected the equipment will then be extended to Cowes, Freshwater, Sandown and Ventnor in the 2012/2013 financial year.”.  “No further redundancies”.
  • Islington – Union’s fears as Islington Council approves library cuts - Islington Tribune.   Union welcomes decision to keep libraries run by council, not by trust, but worried about self-service machines. “The plan outlined this evening is not something we’re doing enthusiastically,” he [Councillor] said. “We will keep all 10 libraries open. If things get better we’ll still have library buildings. All libraries will be open on Saturdays, not a single resident will live more than a mile from an open library. Jane is right, going to a library is not an anonymous transaction like buying a packet of spaghetti from a supermarket. The self-service machines – ­people won’t feel anonymised.”
  • Northamptonshire – Curious case of the 34, 000 overdue library books - Evening Telegraph.  “Cabinet member for customer services Cllr Heather Smith said: “Library fines are a fair amount of our income, so we’d encourage people to return their books. “But our key focus is to try to make sure children are reading from a young age. If a parent borrows a book and doesn’t bring it back, at least the child is hopefully reading it. Is that fair? Probably not. “We don’t tend to spend an enormous amount of time chasing overdue books unless someone has requested one and I don’t feel it’s justified as we get new stock constantly. I’m hopeful the figures will improve with new systems, such as email prompts we’re bringing in.”
  • Northern Ireland – A reprieve, but Carnloigh library could still be shelved - Larne Times.   “campaigners have won a welcome victory by gaining a reprieve for the village library, but Libraries NI have warned that the branch will close a year from now unless there is “substantive progress” on necessary building improvements and “realistic” usage targets.”
  • Rutland – Sheila wants you to get involved to save Rutland libraries - Rutland and Stamford Mercury.  Volunteers who delivers books to housebound speaks.  … “Currently there are 30 volunteers in the libraries working alongside paid staff.”
  • Scottish Borders – Extra reading time at Innerleithen  – Peebleshire News.  “Another chapter has been added in the fight to stop a reduction in Innerleithen Library hours. In the face of considerable local opposition to any cuts, council bosses have now agreed to extend the consultation period.” …1000 name petition.  “A grassroots campaign was immediately set in motion aimed at staving off any reduction in hours whilst also seeking to ensure that current librarian Elaine Hogarth remains in post.”
  • Surrey – Dorking Library to leave Pippbrook site - Get Surrey.   “some in Dorking will be saying a fond farewell to the old library in the Gothic Renaissance mansion.  Some prefer it to the proposed multi-media facility in St Martins Walk, which is set to open on Monday January 23, Surrey County Council (SCC) has said. Plans for the move were announced in May last year and met with fierce opposition from campaigners.”

We’re cutting back on books

For the full text of Jeremy Hunt’s answers to the DCMS committee, please see here.  

428 libraries (339 buildings and 89 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.

Things you can do today


News

  • Challenges facing Britain’s libraries - Sustainable Gov.  Good survey of the current problems facing libraries.  “The pressure on local authorities to slash their spending has perhaps never been greater, so some sympathy must be afforded to Brent Council. The backlash against their efforts, however, is a striking demonstration of how greatly Britain’s libraries are cherished by the public, and represents a dignified victory for the protestors. But with the matter still yet to be resolved, critics of the council’s decision are forlornly finding that Oscar Wilde’s adage about “knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing” may well be ringing true.”
  • Golau Golau exhibtion - Test Space, Leeds, 10th to 13th November.  “For ‘Public Interest’, Golau Glau recorded the sound of public libraries under threat of closure, many of which have since closed and therefore are extinct audio environments. The project has encompassed libraries in Leeds, North Yorkshire and Camden, to cover a spread of different library types. Many of the libraries were in deprived and socially isolated places, however some were in  affluent areas. One thing remained constant – no library was silent, and every library was unique.”.  Includes talk by Lauren Smith.  
  • Got the Booker? Sorry, we’re cutting back on books - London Evening Standard.   “Our figures show that the worst affected London borough is Hounslow where book budgets have been cut by 96 per cent for an entire year in a bid to keep all its 11 libraries open. This means libraries in the area have only £20,772 to share on new books which equates to a budget of about 200 books per library.”
“You can forget about all that stuff that’s interesting, that’s relevant and important. It makes the library completely useless. It’s like having a Marks & Spencer with no food in it. It’s exactly the wrong way to save money and shows idiotic management. It’s not a saving at all, it’s destruction.”  Tim Coates.

  • Grassroots advocacy: putting yourself out there - American Libraries (USA). “If you are trying to get petition signatures, then go where the foot traffic is, even if that is not near your library. If you are trying to bring the press out, then make sure there is some kind of hook to draw them. Are you trying to rally your supporters in the community? If so, don’t plan an event at 10 a.m. on a workday. Think about what you want in the end, then create the event to fit those goals.”. Superb article on how librarians can energise support which is highly relevant here for library campaigners.
  • “I personally have a great emotional attachment to books” - Library Campaign.  On Jeremy Hunt’s answers to the DCMS committee.  “Hunt’s performance was disappointing, but that was expected; and protestations by politicians about how much they love books are always to be treated with suspicion. What was worse was the lack of interest from the committee members. It demonstrates an anti-library consensus among the political class, whatever party label they may espouse. No wonder people are cynical about MPs.”
  • Management changes at National Library of ScotlandSTV. “The minister also announced £500,000 funding for local libraries. The money will be given to councils as grants to help improve library services across Scotland.”
 
[The lack of such simple publicity tools for UK libraries is embarrassing – Ed.]
  • Privatization showdown moves to Osceola County, Florida - American Libraries (USA).   “After several months of rumors about the future of the Osceola Library System that serves Osceola County, Florida, a series of public hearings that began October 25 are seeking to explain why county officials are considering the outsourcing of library services to Germantown, Maryland–based privatization firm Library Systems and Services, Inc., and how LSSI plans to deliver the services sought. Officials seem to have an uphill battle on their hands to sway their constituents, however: The prospect of privatization has already pitted library supporters and the Florida Library Association against the county commission.”
  • Serco Museum by Peter Davies@MarDixon.   Looks at outsourcing/privatisation of museums, with occasional reference to libraries.
  • Tale of church and stateSpectator.  Following on from Philip Pullman’s “War against Stupid” speech, article looks at the (limited) help the church has given to library campaigns – “This soft support of letters and gentle encouragement is the church’s work these days; vicars, rightly or wrongly, no longer lead their flocks in anything but prayer. Parish priests in Brent and Bolton have avoided direct involvement in the local campaigns, despite the fact that many share the concerns about the effects of closures on the educational opportunities of the poor, the wellbeing of the elderly and the cohesion of a community itself.”
  • Threat to Yorkshire music libraryYorkshire Evening Post.  “The Yorkshire Libraries and Information Council (YLI) has drawn up proposals to close the music and drama collection “as it currently exists”. Based at Balne Lane Library in Wakefield, the service is supported by 12 local authorities in Yorkshire, including Leeds, and provides subsidised loans of play scripts, vocal scores and orchestral sets.” … ““In typical local government fashion, this decision has been communicated to the library’s current borrowers with extremely short notice leaving them only two weeks to send in their comments.””

Local News

  • Brent – Campaigners start their own pop-up library - London Evening Standard.    “”The council say people can buy books from Asda, use the internet at home, and get everything on Kindles but many people around here can’t afford those things. It’s nothing short of a betrayal.” … “Donated books are stacked outside the 12ft-high boarding which was erected around Preston Library in Wembley hours after Brent council got the go-ahead to close it.”
    • Thousands of Brent library signatures ready for Jeremy Hunt - Harrow Observer.   “12,000 names, and hundreds of letters from Brent residents are being handed over at 10am on Thursday (October 27), demanding that Mr Hunt intervenes to reverse the closure of 50 per cent of the borough’s libraries. “
    • Special Delivery for Jeremy HuntPreston Library Campaign.  “At 10 am, we will be presenting Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt with 12,000 petition signatures and hundreds of letters (400 by kids alone) demanding he fulfil his responsibility to.investigate whether Brent’s new library service is “comprehensive and efficient” (as it should be under Museums.and Libraries Act 1964).  He met the council in June, but has he heard our side? Nope. The sheer volume of complaints to him should persuade him to do so.”
  • Surrey – Volunteers could be brought in to operate librariesThis is Sussex.   “In money-saving plans put forward by Surrey County Council, libraries across the county would be run as Community Partnership Libraries. This means the facilities, including Lingfield Library, would be run by volunteers, and visitors would use self-service points.” … “But members of the Guest House Advisory Committee have attempted to make a deal with the council to retain the library’s staff.”

Volunteer-run libraries are statutory, says Jeremy Hunt?

DCMS Accounts 2009-10 and the Responsibilities of the Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt (Parliament TV – 12:01 to 12:06

The main points here are

  • Closures are OK if
    • It is the service (not necessarily the building) is protected by, for example,  extending hours in surviving libraries.
    • The Secretary of State sees buildings run by volunteers as an acceptable alternative to council-run service. 
    • Proper process is observed.

By far the most important point here is that Mr Hunt seems to be suggesting that the council is still following it’s statutory responsibility if it withdraws funding to certain branches and is successful in getting local people to run them instead. 

Addition (prompted by comment by Anonymous below): Please note that this view by Mr Hunt is not shared by many others, including in most cases the council’s themselves.  If this represents anything other than an attempt to evade the question by Mr Hunt – that is, if it represents evolving Government thinking – then it is very worrying indeed.

Full text (transcribed from transmission – official transcription not yet done) below

Q. We receive letters about many issues which your brief covers, as you will appreciate.  One of the ones that has generated the most concern at the moment is what is happening to local authorities in terms of library services (JH nods).  You have a responsibility … there is the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act which requires local authorities to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service which is something presumably that you judge as to whether or not that is happening.  Can you tell us what do you think is a comprehensive and efficient library service?

Jeremy Hunt. Well, um, the um [looks up to the right] the original definition of comprehensive and efficient came in I believe in something called the Roberts Review of 1959 which preceded the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act.  That was set up basically to say that comprehensive in that report was really about having a good selection of books at a time when books were more expensive and efficient was actually about reducing the number of library authorities um to reduce um administrative costs um.  We take our responsibilities under this Act very very seriously um we um Our basic position is modernisation yes vandalism no um and we have had extensive discussions and engagement with Brent, Lewisham, Somerset, Gloucestershire and the Isle of Wight about their programmes um and it’s probably not appropriate for me to comment in detail on the individual cases because a number of them are going through judicial review proceedings – I think we are going to hear about Somerset and Gloucestershire at the end of this month and I think we are going to hear from the Court of Appeal about Brent next month um The only thing I would say is that you know there are 151 library authorities and um you know around 140 of them are managing to modernise and deal with very difficult cuts in public expenditure without having to have large library closure programmes but by the same merit um what we are here to protect under the ’64 Act I am absolutely clear is not library buildings but library services and I think it is very important that we don’t stand in the way of sensible modernisation but we make sure that um the local authorities really are doing everything they can through their library plans um to see that they are able to maintain good library services. 

Q. Um Your website says the closure of one or even a small number of library branches does not necessarily breach the 1964 Act [JH nods] and that suggests that the closure of quite a large number almost certainly is.  I mean without wishing you to go into details of authorities, you’re aware that a number are making really quite substantial cuts in their library provision.  Do you that some without naming names are likely or will potentially breach the Act?

A.  Well, we are monitoring actually really very closely the whole time um but actually um they’re … you know … if I look at the five authorities that we’ve spoken to … The Isle of Wight looks like it has found um a way for the communities to continue running the five libraries that it has withdrawn funding from.  Lewisham, also, is in the process of finding a community-led alternative um and um Somerset and Gloucestershire are trying to do that um Brent has taken a different approach but they’re extending library opening at the weekends um to seven days in the six libraries that they are keeping open um I think it’s not actually about the number of buildings that are being closed.  It’s about the availability of the service um and it’s about -going through a proper process and thus satisfying ourselves that local authorities are taking a responsibility for their statutory responsibilities to provide a good library service but this is something that we’re monitoring very closely the whole time.

Q. And do you … For the time being at least do you still see the provision of a wide range of actual hard physical things called books a being important?  I mean there will come a point when you move as you mention – Ipad revolutionising so many aspects of life where it might become much easier to digitally distribute?

JH.  Well, I personally have a great emotion attachment to books.  I’m sure that all of us do because you know you’re brought up reading books um you  think they’re wonderful but um we … I think we have to um accept as the world changes our commitment must be to reading and to people exploring and enjoying literature in a broad sense and we probably will have um increasingly less commitment to an individual way of reading um but I think libraries and library services have a very important part to play in the new digital world as well so I don’t think that’s a reason for not having good libary services.

Pontius Pilate knew the trick

Comment

Basically, the old way was pay to keep the library open or close it.  Now there is a third way, which is blackmail the local community to do it for free.  It is a wonderfully attractive option for councils who are faced with drastic budget reductions and it may well seem better than just closing it, especially if the ideology of the council is pro-Big Society in the first place.  It is also better, in the immediate sense, for the community in that at least it still has a library.

In the long-term and nationally, though, this third option is a nightmare.  Before I go further, I should make clear that I mean no insult to the volunteers involved – they love their libraries, they’re being forced by their love to work intensely hard for it.  They deserve, frankly, medals.  They’re not doing this for the sheer joy of it.  They’re doing it to save their library.  Very interestingly, when I asked 40 library campaigners the question “would you want to run your library instead of the council if the council was happy to continue running it themselves?” none said that they would.  Frankly, some seemed confused by the question.  These are not people filled with a we-hate-council-run-services zeal.  Quite the opposite.  They love them so much they’re willing to put their lives into it. 

However, long-term I stick by the statement.  Why? It instantly devalues libraries to an “anyone can do it” shelves-with-books on model. It also destroys any semblance of worth to the library profession – if volunteers can do it well, doesn’t that make all librarians basically benefit scroungers, con-people who are being paid for doing a fun hobby?  Does anyone actually believe that this is the case?  If so, would you mind standing still while I repeatedly datestamp your head?
Most importantly, this third way shields the council from fully facing up to the consequence of closing a library.  After all, they haven’t.  So, they can do it again next year.  And again.  If a library fails, it’s not their fault.  They have a get out of jail free card.  If the whole national library service dies in the meantime, it’s not the council’s fault

Pontius Pilate knew this trick too

428 libraries (339 buildings and 89 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.

Things you can do today

News

  • California must value librarians, libraries can’t run themselvesLos Angeles Times.  California paid for my master’s degree in library and information science. While I am grateful to have had the grant and the opportunity to go back to school, I wish now that I had instead trained to be an electrician, a plumber or an auto mechanic. California does not value librarians.”

  • Libraries need designers - Tara Robertson.  “Librarians often complain that people do not respect our professional skills, yet we often believe that we can do our own design work, even though we are not designers. This is as stupid and offensive as people saying we don’t need libraries because we’ve got Google. Google is a tool and not a replacement for a librarian. Adobe’s Creative Suite and a suitcase full of fonts do not make you a designer, it just means that you have some tools.”
  • Library Campaign Conference – from local to national - Information Overload.  Summary of the conference from a librarian / campaigner. 
  • March on the DCMS! Open public meeting - Library Campaign.  “One of the chief actions to come out of last Saturday’s conference was that we should organise, in February, a national demonstration for public libraries in London, route to include Downing Street and/or the DCMS. One suggestion is that at DCMS, or in Trafalgar Square, we might have a read-in. This is not in opposition to 4 February, 2012, which is National Libraries Day. It could take place later in the month, so that the local activities on 4 February are an opportunity to build for the march.”.  
  • National Library Campaign Conference - Walk You Home.   “I think it helped to put campaigners in touch with information and resources they can benefit from. It’s hard to get the message out to everyone about what we do in Voices for the Library, the resources we have on the site that might be of use, and the network of people with experience of library campaigning that we can put in touch with each other, so the event and subsequent publicity has helped. At the same time, it can be hard to be obvious about our limits to manage expectations – we’re all volunteers working full time jobs, and Voices isn’t a funded organisation. We can’t save libraries all on our own and we need a national network – which is why the day was organised in the first place!”.  Two action points are (1) organise national wiki for campaign groups and (2) arrange a national protest event.
  • Providing a serviceBookSeller.   Looks at volunteering in libraries – they provide an excellent service, sometimes the only service, but at what cost?  “I think where people feel short-changed is the idea that libraries can be run exactly as before, but instead of paying people (after all library staff are known for their profligate ways) we will get unpaid volunteers to do it for nothing. Why should the government take advantage like this? And can the service provided really be as good? As a commenter on The Bookseller site recently asked: “Would you be happy to be treated by volunteer doctors and have your children taught by volunteer teachers?”. On the other hand, most people would rather have some sort of library service than nothing at all.”
“We are extremely concerned that the Government is currently consulting on whether existing statutory protection for public libraries should be retained.

We believe that libraries provide a valuable service for local communities, access to books for those who cannot afford them, the provision of business information and opportunities for self-directed learning, education and literacy. Not to mention somewhere quiet for homework, or access to the internet. Many libraries give children their first introduction to the world of books and learning.

The Labour Party is running a campaign with a petition to save our libraries which can be found here: http://www.campaignengineroom.org.uk/save-our-libraries.”

Changes

Bolton – The five libraries slated for closure have now been made open for groups to take over, business plans need to be with council by 5th December
Central Bedfordshire – Consultation until 18th January 2012

Local News

  • Bolton – Councils throw libraries a lifeline - This is Lancashire. “Volunteer groups are being given the chance to run one of the five closing libraries in the town. Finance chiefs at Bolton Council are inviting people to submit business plans for each of the libraries.Application forms go online today and groups have until December 2 to draft their initial proposals.”.  However, groups will need to pay rent and pay for all costs, including in one case £57,000 in repairs.
  • Central Bedfordshire – Don’t keep your voice down - About My Area.  “Residents across Central Bedfordshire are being encouraged to get involved in shaping the future of libraries, following the successful Big Library debate over the summer. The council received over 2000 responses from local residents and stakeholders, and is using all the feedback collected to inform the future direction of local services.”
  • Dorset – Hope for threatened libraries in West Dorset – Bridport News. “Dorset County Council agreed to have a second vote on the future of the service … Coun Dover has used council procedures that allow the vote to be retaken after she submitted an application signed by ten fellow councillors, all members of her party.”  
  • Hertfordshire – Out-of-hours library plans a step closer for Hertfordshire - Watford Observer.   More on plan to allow charities to use library out of hours as long as they help if someone wants to take out a book. ““We hope this innovative and exciting initiative will make libraries more like community hubs than simply learning resources. This will benefit our communities and help build stronger links with voluntary groups in Hertfordshire.”
  • Northern Ireland – Local politicians condemn library closure - Mid-Ulster Mail.  “During the so-called consultation process and other subsequent meetings with Libraries NI representatives it was increasingly obvious from their attitude that they were intent on closing as many libraries as possible in order to save money and resources.”
  • Waltham Forest – Leytonstone: library closure petition voted down - Guardian series.   “Harrow Green Library in Leytonstone will close within weeks despite a full council debate on a petition against the move” … 5000 name petition.  “The petition was voted down by the council’s Labour majority, who agreed to press ahead with the closure, with the Conservatives abstaining and the Liberal Democrats voting in support.”
  • Wandsworth – Join us on 1st November when we reopen - Save York Gardens.  York Gardens Library and Community Centre will be hosting a reopening event on Tuesday 1st November from 6pm to 8pm. The Mayor of Wandsworth will be joining us to formally reopen the library, which was due to close over the summer. Fortunately, the community campaign to save the library means that the doors of the library will once again be open to readers and the community rooms will be available to hire at new reduced rates.”

News

Jeremy Hunt to receive library petition - BookSeller.  Secretary of state Jeremy Hunt will be presented with a petition of more than 12,000 signatures tomorrow (27th October), demanding he intervenes to reverse the closure of six libraries in Brent, north London.” …the minister is still silent on all things library related.
March on the DCMS! Open public meeting - Library Campaign.  “One of the chief actions to come out of last Saturday’s conference was that we should organise, in February, a national demonstration for public libraries in London, route to include Downing Street and/or the DCMS. One suggestion is that at DCMS, or in Trafalgar Square, we might have a read-in. This is not in opposition to 4 February, 2012, which is National Libraries Day. It could take place later in the month, so that the local activities on 4 February are an opportunity to build for the march.”.  Planning meeting open to all.
Providing a serviceBookSeller.   Looks at volunteering in libraries – they provide an excellent service, sometimes the only service, but at what cost?  “I think where people feel short-changed is the idea that libraries can be run exactly as before, but instead of paying people (after all library staff are known for their profligate ways) we will get unpaid volunteers to do it for nothing. Why should the government take advantage like this? And can the service provided really be as good? As a commenter on The Bookseller site recently asked: “Would you be happy to be treated by volunteer doctors and have your children taught by volunteer teachers?”. On the other hand, most people would rather have some sort of library service than nothing at all.”

“We are extremely concerned that the Government is currently consulting on whether existing statutory protection for public libraries should be retained.

We believe that libraries provide a valuable service for local communities, access to books for those who cannot afford them, the provision of business information and opportunities for self-directed learning, education and literacy. Not to mention somewhere quiet for homework, or access to the internet. Many libraries give children their first introduction to the world of books and learning.

The Labour Party is running a campaign with a petition to save our libraries which can be found here: http://www.campaignengineroom.org.uk/save-our-libraries.”

Local News

Wandsworth – Join us on 1st November when we reopen - Save York Gardens.  York Gardens Library and Community Centre will be hosting a reopening event on Tuesday 1st November from 6pm to 8pm. The Mayor of Wandsworth will be joining us to formally reopen the library, which was due to close over the summer. Fortunately, the community campaign to save the library means that the doors of the library will once again be open to readers and the community rooms will be available to hire at new reduced rates.”

Volunteers wanted

Comment

In Northamptonshire, one of the jobs being advertised is “Job Seeker Session Leader”.  It’s a post for a volunteer.  17 jobs are being cut by Northamptonshire Libraries by the way, to be replaced by volunteers.  In Gloucestershire, on the other hand, the same councillor currently fighting a legal case over its dramatic cuts to the library service, is praising them for getting people online.  One hopes this signals the start of a dramatic turnaround by the council.  One kind of doubts it though.  
False Economy is now using the Public Libraries News map database to add library cut details to its site.  Soberingly, it has increased its listings of national cuts of all services by a full 10%.  
Finally, oh what joy it must be to be Ed Vaizey, the Minister technically-for Libraries, being able to see only the positives in the world.  It has been a delight to see his innocent optimistic tweets over the last year about how wonderful the library service is and how, of course, the cuts are absolutely no problem at all and, even if they were, they’re nothing to do with him.  Or anyone else he knows.  It’s good to see he has continued taking the happy pills today (because one fears for his health when he accidentally forgets one day and sees the reality of the situation) …
“Fantastic visit to Birmingham today. Investing £120m in new central library and modernising library service.” @edvaizey.

428 libraries (339 buildings and 89 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.

Things you can do today

News

  • Book to the future - BookSeller (John Pateman).  Analysis of the Future Libraries Programme, mixing criticism with sympathy, due to the great demands made from it (and the size of the cuts expected).  “The Future Libraries report has been dismissed by many commentators as being both simplistic and limited, but I have a more sympathetic view. I know how difficult it is to try to square the demands of politicians, service users, local communities and staff. It is very hard—if not impossible—to please all of these stakeholders and build a library service that is fit for purpose, affordable and sustainable.”
  • Debates in libraries fight - Socialist Worker.  The largest workshop of the day looked at the use of volunteers in public libraries. Although there was unanimous agreement that libraries should be run with paid staff, many campaigns felt they would reluctantly resort to volunteering to keep their library open. But many argued that this would mean affluent areas getting a service while deprived areas couldn’t.  As one Unison rep said, “Volunteer-run libraries are the silent death of public libraries.” The whole logic of cuts needs to be challenged.” …“Volunteer-run libraries are the silent death of public libraries.”
  • Frontline: A library assistant on the effects of government policy on a public library – Civil Service Live Network. “Library customers grumble about having less space, until we point out that it has helped to keep the library open. I think that if you see the library as a place where you get information, there is no problem with mixing the two and it brings new people into the library. However, library staff fear that in the next round of cuts managers may try to merge the library and council workforces, to the detriment of the library service.” … “Unfortunately, team morale has been severely affected by fear of what’s to come and by the money-saving measures and initiatives that have already been put in place. We are aware that these cuts will go on for years, but we don’t know how they’ll affect budgets so we don’t have any real confidence in the future or in our jobs.”
“For those existing on a weekly jobseeker’s allowance of £90, it is one of the items that they have to forgo. It is vital, therefore, that our public libraries are open and available to such people so that they can have access through the public library system.” Baroness Sharp of Guildford on Education Bill

  • In defence of librariesGeeks shall inherit the Earth.  libraries suddenly seem to have become expendable in the eyes of many local councils, not only in the UK but also America and who knows where else. It feels like a crime that we’re even in this situation, but here we are.” … “It’s easy to take them for granted, but in a world where we can access a mountain of information with next to no quality filter, librarians should rule. Somewhere along the line, that building full of books has seen the skillsets of the people who work there gain in currency.”
  • In praise of the big librarySintoblog.   In responding to a remark in the Philip Pullman speech that “It would be far more sensible to close the big libraries and open even more small ones”, points out that larger size means more facilities (which are needed but perhaps not possible in a small one) and books.  “Of course, what we want is both and I genuinely believe that the benefit to a community of such a library system far exceeds the cost. However, we all know that many library managers are being faced with the reality of having to deliver a quality library services with inadequate funding. I believe that as professionals we do need to come up with a realistic way of maintaining a service in the face of unreasonable cuts and that keeping a large number of small libraries open is not of itself better than a smaller number of bigger libraries. First develop the service, then deliver it as appropriate.”
  • Libraries Fortnight - Library Wales.org.  Over 100 events on the database… “During Libraries Fortnight, events for all ages and interests are taking place across Wales. Events include family fun days, storytelling and animation workshops, open mike night, circus skills, author events, quizzes and competitions, rapping, craft events, zumba and street dance classes. Many of the events will be filmed and footage will be available for you to watch online.”
  • Save the Libraries - MySpace page, @weneedlibraries (Twitter).   “Many British libraries are now facing closure because of council cutbacks,this will rob the people who need the libraries the most ,not everyone can afford to buy computers or buy books,and if the proposed closures go through many wont even be able to afford to travel to the nearest libraries…”

Houses of Parlimament,  Thursday 27th October 2011


10.15am Culture, Media and Sport Committee
Subject: DCMS Accounts 2009-10 and Responsibilities of the Secretary of State
Witness(es): The Rt. Hon. Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State, Department for
Culture, Media and Sport and Jonathan Stephens, Permanent Secretary,
Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Location: Committee Room 8, Palace of Westminster


Changes

Devon –   Extension for Newton Abbot Library

Local News

  • Croydon / Lambeth – Labour livid over Tory termination of Upper Norwood library agreement - This is Local London.  ““Despite 20,000 people signing petitions and marching against Coun Fisher’s plans and in a move that has even horrified other Tory councillors, Coun Fisher seems to be prepared to see UNJL future threatened and is hell bent on selling off all of Croydon’s libraries.” … ““Councillor Fisher is holding a gun to the head of UNJL and holding every library in Croydon hostage.”
  • Devon – Newton Abbot New Community LibraryDevon County Council.   New library being built, interesing competitions including one for the name.  “the building is to be officially named ‘The Passmore Edwards Centre’, in honour of the Victorian philanthropist who gave it to the town at the turn of the 20th century.” … “The extension allows the library to expand to cater for the growing population of the town and surrounding areas. Refurbishment also means that the local support service for adults with learning disabilities will be based in the building, without loss of library space, an addition that John Passmore Edwards would surely have supported.”
  • Gloucestershire – County Council and the digital divide - FoGL.   “Recent research has shown that four in ten people in the Gloucestershire and Bristol region do not have access to the internet.” … irony is “Cllr Antonia Noble, Cabinet member for libraries, said: “The internet is a great way of getting information. It’s also good fun and makes staying in touch with friends and family really easy.”The county council already supports getting people online through weekly First Click courses in libraries. And around the county, library staff help around 170 people get online every day.”.  The council is withdrawing support for ten libraries and drastically cutting funding to others.
  • Hertfordshire – Borehamwood library could be used out-of-hours by voluntary groupsBorehamwood and Elstree Times.  The idea comes three months after drastic cuts were made to the opening hours of libraries, including an almost 40 per cent cut in the time Borehamwood Library is open to the public.” … “it would be a step towards making libraries into community hubs.” [This last phrase can mean either what it says or, more increasingly, “entirely volunteer-run” – Ed.]
  • Northamptonshire – Volunteering in LibrariesNorthamptonshire Council.  “There are many interesting opportunities for volunteers within the Library service. Details of our current opportunities are listed below.” … jobs include, somewhat ironically, “Job Seeker Session Leader”.
  • Warwickshire – Warwick estate boosted by the return of a mobile library serviceCourier.  “At the moment there is a case for it. A lot of people living in what is known as a deprived area do want to read a lot of books and I thought it would be a good idea for them to come and have a browse. “It’s something for the betterment of the community.” … described as during the time of a library “cull”.

The War Against Stupid

428 libraries (339 buildings and 89 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.

Things you can do today


News

Defending my library - Curator.  “Every time we move, and are confronted with the effort and expense of moving so much paper, my wife asks the quite fair question, “Do you really want to keep all these books?” Since I am a keeper of books both professionally as well as personally, I consider this to be a serious and profound question….”

“I salute everyone who’s come here today, everyone who’s protesting and demonstrating to save this library or that one, everyone who’s devising a way of preserving one of the greatest and the best gifts any society has ever given its seekers after truth, its children, its old people, everyone who is looking for help better to enjoy life or better to endure it: there’s nothing more valuable in the war against stupidity than the public library. These are hard times, but you are each guarding a beacon, and based on what I’ve heard today, I have every confidence that you won’t let that beacon go out.” Full text of Philip Pullman’s speech - Voices for the Library.  Text also published as “Consider the context” by the BookSeller.

  • Philip Pullman declares war against “stupidity” of library closures - Guardian.  “Philip Pullman has lambasted Brent council for its comment that closing half of its libraries would help it fulfil “exciting plans to improve libraries”, describing the statement as a “masterpiece” which “ought to be quoted in every anthology of political bullshit from here to eternity” … nationally, “”the war we’re fighting is not against this party or that one, this flag or another flag, our parents or our MP or anyone else in particular: it’s against stupidity. And stupidity is not to be underestimated.” … “Beware of anyone who tries to make books harder to get at. And that is exactly what these closures are going to do – oh, not intentionally, except in a few cases; very few people are stupid intentionally; but that will be the effect. Books will be harder to get at. Stupidity will gain a little ground.”
    • Pullman calls library fight “war against stupidity” - BookSeller.  “Volunteer-run libraries were a key issues of the day, with a show of hands revealing not a single delegate actively in favour of them compared to a local authority run service. Instead campaigners, including Laura Collignon of the Save Kensal Rise Library campaign, talked of it as a “backs against the wall” alternative to outright closures. Applause greeted a speaker from the floor who termed volunteer-run libraries “the slow death of the library service”.
  • Specious argument that does the library user a disservice - Shirley Burnham, Friends of Old Town Library.  “‘Google’ is not a library :  Faced with tens of thousands of soundbites, the surfer, be he child or adult, must make wholly intuitive decisions about the bias and accuracy of the data retrieved.  He is forced to trade conjecture for confirmed facts and soundbites for the rigorous research, scholarship and attribution found in physical books.    Without recourse to books in libraries — because technophiles are removing these — getting to the truth will become harder and harder.  “

Local News

  • Brent – Teather calls for “grown up conversation” on libraries - Harrow Observer.Ms Teather, who is also Children and Families minister, said: “Everyone I talk to in Brent wants the libraries to stay open and I hope that the Labour Council can take this opportunity to reflect on their actions, see sense and start talking to local people.”
    • Closed libraries sorely missed over half-term - Harrow Observer.  “”Preston Library users continue to have a presence outside the library day and night, to prevent the destruction of the library. “In the meantime children in our community are suffering in particular in half-term week, as there have been no alternatives provided. So we can’t even borrow books to keep our children occupied.”
  • Buckinghamshire – Johnny Ball opens first of volunteer run librariesBucks Free Press.  Farnham Common Library has become the first community partnership to open since Buckinghamshire County Council slashed nearly £700,000 from the budget for the learning services.” … jointly opened with Leader of the council.  “Plans include expanding the book selection, improving opening hours and putting on events and activities to bring the community together.”
  • Croydon – Sanderstead Library has celebrated its 75th anniversaryCroydon Guardian.   “The library was under threat of closure at the start of the year, as Croydon Council looked to slash its budget, but following a campaign to keep it, the service was saved.”
  • East Sussex – Friends of Seaford Library hold AGM - Sussex Express.   “The Friends stressed they were only consulted about what new features should be added to the library, such as an improved children’s area and cafe.”
  • Edinburgh – Library trail invites budding sleuths to solve mystery - STV Edinburgh.   “Now fans can be in the chance with winning Young Sherlock books, key rings and DVDs as well as an iPod Touch as part of a competition marking the new release. Entrants are encouraged to visit their local library to get hold of a special code from its ‘gatekeeper’ (or librarian) for the [Young Sherlock website]( where they can see if they’ve won.”
  • Kensington and Chelsea – Bloomsbury Season at Kensington Library - BookSeller.   “The events are part of the partnership scheme Bloomsbury is running with Kensington and Chelsea library service on the instigation of chief executive Nigel Newton, with a sustained series of activities designed to bring people into their libraries. An event is also being held this week (27th October) with author Richard van Emden.”
  • Suffolk – County Council leader on outsourcing services - BBC News.   “EasyCouncil” idea did not work as would need to do it too quickly, failing to win public support.  Choice is between making things more efficient oneself or paying someone else to do it.  CBI etc advising but clearly have a vested interest in boosting outsourcing.  “If nothing else, Suffolk has asked the big question … just how much faith should councils really place on outsourcing?”
  • Surrey – Stoneleigh library appeals for volunteers as take over precautions begin – Your Local Guardian.   ““If every volunteer does three hours every two weeks then we need 80 people.”
  • Warwickshire – Local library to close despite valiant fight - This is Tamworth.  “Despite tremendous efforts by local residents to save it, Kingsbury Library is to close on March 31 next year. … Dordon Library will be run by ‘The Friends of Dordon Library’, with the current building being shared with a local dance school. Baddesley Library will be sold and the service relocated to the village hall to be managed by Baddesley Ensor Parish Council.”

Pay increases for some

Comment

Cambridgeshire councillors (all of the Conservative ones plus one Independent and one Lib Dem.  The other 18 Lib Dems voted against) have voted themselves a 25% increase in payments while at the same time cutting front-line services.  Being their total remuneration is around £1m, put one way, this increase represents about one-eighth ot the projected £2m cut for libraries in that county.  Put another, their pay  increase is the same as the cost of twelve small libraries according to their statement that “the local community will be required to provide or pay for the new supervisory staff and contribute towards the building running costs at a suggested figure of £20,000 per library for the 13 smaller libraries in the county.”.  Local communities may be wondering why they are being asked to effectively subsidise the pay increases of the councillors who have decided on cutting their library service.  One wonders if they will ask for the money to be kept for their libraries in the first place.
It seems that Croydon’s brinkmanship threatens the future of Upper Norwood Library (which is generally seen as excellent).  Two MPs, including Tessa Jowell, have spoken against it this weekend.  Going back in time a year, one can see this problem has a bit of a history.  So much so that the TV programme Mock The Week covered it. One wonders how they would cover it today.

428 libraries (339 buildings and 89 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.

Things you can do today

News

    • The % of adults who have volunteered at local libraries has grown 60% in 3 years. This is evidence that, for the 392,000 who volunteered in the last year at least, Libraries are still very much a crucial part of society.
    • Library usage among the best well off in society is in sharp decline. There are plenty of technological reasons for this not least the arriving of the electronic tablets and the great strides in digital archiving. However, these technological benefits have not reached the poor in the same way. Also, of course, people avail of a library for lots of societal reasons (poetry reading, book fairs, debates etc.). And so for both of those reasons, library usage among the worse off in society has held quite steady in recent years and actually marginally increased.
    • Library Usage has been declining in the south of England. This may well be linked to higher economic status or equally the cost of petrol commuting in less urbanised parts of the South East for example. But this has not been the case in the North East. Library usage in the North East of England has held fairly steady in recent years and indeed marginally increased. More than 40% of the North East/West of England still use their library services. In fact, more than 100 million books were borrowed last year. In this parliament alone half a billion books are set to be borrowed. Evidence suggest that the poorer areas of England still benefit enormously from their Library services. Evidence also suggests that people are still willing to give their time free of charge to maintain the library network.

Changes

Warwickshire – Harbury and Kineton libraries will not be council-run from March 2012.  Harbury volunteers will receive £8k grant in order to seed library/cafe.  Kineton will be taken over by parish council for 8 hours per week.

Local News

  • Angus – Library laughter and smiles - Forfar Dispatch.  “Where’s Wally Day” attracts 60 children.
  • Cambridgeshire – Petition: Stopping the 25% rise in councillor’s allowances - Cambridgeshire County Council.  Council wants at least £2m cut in libraries budget.  …. massive increases in councillor pay ((e.g. from £22k to £28k basic for council Leader) “in the current context of pay freezes, redundancies and cuts to frontline services including those affecting the least well off and most vulnerable, this is not appropriate”.  Councillor remuneration is now nearly £1m per year.
  • Croydon / Lambeth – Re-run AGM farce as Croydon refuses to honour joint agreement Upper Norwood Library Campaign.  “The current administration in Croydon have a history of misrepresenting the Joint Library’s value for money, as a means of justifying low levels of funding and the scrapping of the library’s popular independent status. Independent studies have shown that the Joint Library service is proportionately around 50% cheaper than the Croydon library service.” … “Croydon Council leader, Cllr Mike Fisher, knows that by meeting the terms of the Joint Library agreement he would be obliged to nominate two opposition members to the Committee. This would remove his ability to force through the sort of damaging measures that are being inflicted on Croydon’s own libraries, such as significant staff redundancies, reduced opening, privatisation or closure.”
“Tessa Jowell. MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, and in whose constituency the library sits, said: “This is devestating news for the Upper Norwood Library. “Like the local community I am shocked and angered by their plan to rip the heart out of the area by closing this much loved library that has been jointly funded for over 100 years. “I cannot understand the reasons that Croydon have given and I do hope that they will see sense and think again” she added. “