Comment

Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaizey both receive some criticism.  Mr Hunt for failing to do anything about his public duty to intervene in Brent and Mr Vaizey for not doing anything for museums.  It’s not surprising Jeremy hasn’t done anything yet for several reasons.  Doing nothing is the hallmark of the Government on libraries.  After all, why should they?  The councils are doing all the dirty work and getting all the flak.  Forcing volunteers to run libraries is, if anything, gaining them “Big Society” points with Mr Cameron.  Less cynically, the minister is also doubtless waiting for the result of the Brent judicial review.  Or it may be, it just may be, that Mr Hunt doesn’t care about libraries, doesn’t understand their relevance and importance and is ignoring his statutory duties because he wants to do other things. After all, he hadn’t borrowed a book for a decade. The complaint about Ed Vaizey claiming cuts won’t affect frontline museum services is not surprising.  Although he does actually like like libraries, in the few times he has talked about them since he has been in power, Evaizive has said much the same thing than he has said about museums.  Indeed, it is perhaps reassuring that he is both being consistent and not showing any particular malevolence towards the book.  Nice to see that when it comes to museums at least, we all appear to be in this together.
Arts Council England have formally taken over responsibility for libraries today.  They do this with £3m instead of the £13m that the MLA enjoyed.  By the way, the E-petition to save libraries has gone over 10,000. It is now the 18th most popular petition on the government website.  It should be higher.  
Finally, a personal highlight to share with you that shows the importance of libraries.  I did a class visit with some Year One children this lunchtime.  Great fun, reading “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” and “Shark in the Park”.  One little girl showed me a book she liked and then came up to me and said “thank you very much”.  Not all that important perhaps in the scheme of things but a parent came up to me afterwards and said it was the first words she had spoken in class. 
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

“What sort of madness is giving priority to weekly bin collections over the numerous essential services that local councils are being forced by the government to cut (£250m fund may see return of weekly bin rounds, 30 September)? Surely people who have complained about losing their weekly collection would rather have the local library open, care services retained etc. Finding £250m for this purpose, as opposed to Sure Start, education maintenance allowance etc, is unbelievable.” Bin MadnessGuardian (Letters).

  • “Book Show” returns to Sky Arts - Entertainment Focus.  In a change to the format of previous series, all of the guests will engage in exciting and lively debate inspired by a current literary topic. Some of the first topics to be discussed include libraries with Janet Street-Porter …”
  • Coming soon: Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group - CILIP.  “The Libraries APPG is being established to provide MPs and Lords with information and opportunities for debate about the role that libraries play in society and their future, with Justin Tomlinson MP as its Chair.”.  Launch will be on 14th December. 
  • Council tax freeze is LGPS member’s lollyPublic Finance.  Argues that money found for council tax freeze was found directly from cuts to public workers’ pensions.  “So guess what? It’s the poor and the lowest paid public sector workers who will pay. Not just through the increase, but through the whacking great hole in council budgets which the freeze will create as a consequence of the gearing mechanism. More cuts and higher thresholds for social care, more cuts to youth services, more cuts to pay and conditions,fewer libraries and more redundancies.”
  • Hunt’s silence on Brent continues – BookSeller.   DCMS officials had expected secretary of state Jeremy Hunt to make a decision on whether or not to order an inquiry into Brent’s closures before the end of September.  The duty to intervene under the 1964 Libraries Act appears to be considered as more of a unwanted quiet whisper in the mind of the senior minister, which he sees it as suitable and easy to ignore.
  • Museums and Libraries formally transfer to Arts Council England - ACE.  We have inherited an additional budget of around £46 million a year for our new responsibilities. £43 million of this is set aside for the regional museum programme,”.  “Though this change was born of necessity, we are inspired by the opportunity it presents – for the arts, museums and libraries, and their audiences and users. Arts organisations, museums and libraries now have an unprecedented opportunity to create a new cultural landscape with cultural institutions playing an even greater role in our national life, and a richer cultural experience offered to people across the country.'”
  • Money may be lacking but a library refuses to go quietly – New York Times (USA).  “If you were to assemble a city from scratch, you would need a few things to make this place of yours more than just a functioning municipality; to make it a community. So, along with a City Hall and a few schools, you would have a building where an elephant king named Babar rules, where it is a sin to kill a mockingbird and where everyone from Homer to Snooki has a story to tell.That is, you would need a library…”
  • Museums chief advises Ed Vaizey to “get out more”Independent.   In a speech that will resonate with library workers, the head of the Museums Association will tell the Minister to stop treating museum specialists as “children”.  Similarly, a following line “To suggest that cuts of anything from 15 to 30 per cent can be borne without debilitating cuts in our public services is naive at best and disingenuous at worst… Let’s not pretend that our front-line services will carry on as before.” could have been spoken about libraries. 
  • Number of libraries decline in Ukraine due to lack of readers - Kyiv Post (Ukraine).   Ukraine used to have one library for each community of over 500 meaning 18,000 public libraries.  Depopulation in smaller communities mean number is closing.  30% population uses libraries. Only 5% have more than one public access computer.
  • Telegraph: it’s boom time for children’s books - Alan Gibbons (comment). 20% of independent bookshops have closed meaning very limited range in town centres, library closures especially bad for children, ditto school libraries, important teenage prize suspended.

Local news

  • Bradford – Chance to have a say on Burley library planWharfedale Observer.   Residents see promise of better library as a bribe for an unwanted Tesco.  “Residents wanting to speak up on plans to house a Co-op convenience store in a village library building are being urged to write to Bradford Council as well as parish councillors.”
  • Brent – Best selling author slams Brent Council’s decision to close six libraries  – Willesden and Brent Times.  Jacqueline Wilson: ““It is obvious that lots of children use them. When I was a child, generally all my books were borrowed from libraries. It’s dreadful that libraries are under threat and their staff too.” … ““Most authors’ books are not available in supermarkets. Cash strapped families with keen readers may not have enough money to keep buying books. They haven’t thought this through.”
  • Dorset – Christchurch Library work to start as soon as Kelly’s Kitchen closes - Bournemouth Echo.   Library to be expanded (with addition of adult learning centre) when restaurant closes March 2012.  Council says ““Libraries are vibrant community buildings, providing leisure and learning opportunities for people of all ages. The funding to do this necessary work is in place.”
  • Hampshire – Urgent plea for volunteers to save libraryRomsey Advertiser.   “The library, in Wills Avenue, is one of two in Hampshire that could be shut down in September, 2012, under proposed cuts to the service. Hampshire County Council plans would also see Stanmore library, in Winchester close, unless volunteers can be found to run it.” … ““There are two schools in the area and it’s really important that these children continue to have access to a local library, otherwise they could end up falling behind in their education. That is a genuine concern of mine.”
  • Northern Ireland – £160,000 library items not returned – Independent.ie.  “Almost £160,000 worth of library books and other items of stock have not been returned, it has been revealed.”…”The missing material was noticed after library staff carried out the first physical counts for several years.”… 40,700 items missing.  
  • Oxfordshire – Final plea to save libraries from cuts - Henley Standard.   “Sonning Common library should not be facing funding cuts and instead be treated as a “special case”, say parish councillors.”.  Parish against volunteers, wanting cuts to be spread equally around county’s libraries. Primary school closely linked to school and currently pays £8000 p.a. for library for heating etc.  It would hurt school to close it. Also ““A town without a library would be unusual and a cause for concern.””
  • Public consultation on library cuts finishesHenley Standard.  “A total of 3,500 responses have been received by the county council during its four-month public consultation process.”.  Accusations of anti-rural bias. Goring Library campaigner says “I know we are staying open but the question is for how long,” he said. “By the current proposals the county will pay for nine opening hours. Our library issues 50,500 books a year. By that reckoning, the Friends will have to find the time to issue 34,000 books each year. That is a tremendous commitment.”
  • St Helens – Library to close until next year - St Helens Reporter.   Thatto Heath – “New technology being installed at the library includes a wi-fi network, 29 PCs, including 12 Apple Macs, as well as special children’s laptops and three plasma screens. The total refurbishment will also feature new lighting, dedicated children’s and teens areas and a multi-functional community room for adult learning courses.”
  • Surrey – Elmbridge libraries volunteer plans get the go ahead – Elmbridge Guardian.  Council has decided on volunteers running some libraries as a bid to keep all open.  “Roy Green, chairman of Hersham Village Society, said the town deserved a proper library, and not one run by volunteers, after fighting hard for the past 20 years to keep it open.”
  • Warwickshire – Library and Information Service: latest news - Warwickshire Council.  Report on cuts/volunteers to go to Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 10th October.  For commitee to comment on and support so it will move on to next stages – Agenda here.