My complete notes on the conference, running to 12 pages, are on this link.  They include:
  • a rough transcription of the speech by Philip Pullman (at the end)
  • briefings  on the Brent, Gloucestershire and Doncaster campaigns by the campaigners themselves
  • UNISON briefing on the reduction in expenditure and tax decisions (more useful than it sounds)
  • Discussion of relevance of the Wirral report and the problems behind the 1964 Libraries Act (such as the wording “comprehensive and efficient).
  • General failure on the part of the DCMS and ministers to take any effective action despite legal requirement for them to do so.
  • Full notes on privatisation workshop
  • Summaries of other workshops – looking at the council paperwork and figures; using social media; legal challenges; working with the media; composing arguments and organising events.
  • Final questions and points from the floor.

These notes have been written as the speeches are being said and so there may be some errors but I know there is a lot of interest with this so decided to publish them as soon as possible.  The Library Campaign will soon be publishing its notes and Philip Pullman will shortly be making the full text of his speech available.  A video of his speech has also been made and will be available soon.
The main thing that will stick with me from this well-attended (a full room with around 100 in it) day is how all of the people involved love libraries and want the best for them.  However, councils and the government seem to bent either through action or inaction on damaging libraries.  It is hoped that the campaigners meeting today will work more closely together to co-ordinate their action and work on information sharing. 
Well done to the Library Campaign for putting the event on, my colleagues in Voices for the Library for doing a lot of the workshops and, above all, the local campaigners for making the day. 
Ed Vaizey made his own comment on how he values libraries today … “Delighted to celebrate Cholsey community library’s first anniversary this week end. Books, kids reading clubs, costs 4k year to run.”  (@edvaizey Twitter).  This is exactly the sort of everything-is-alright and who-needs-paid-library-workers-anyway comment that infuriated so many at the conference. And, yes, he did spell “weekend” as two separate words.

Compare and contrast his comment with his statement on Cholsey from 2010:  “A community-led service like this will not work everywhere and we don’t see it as a substitute for county council-run library services”  It is expected that 16 libraries in Oxfordshire will be run by volunteers in three years’ time under current plans.  This county hold the constituencies of David Cameron and Ed Vaizey.

Things you can do 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.

News

  • Children’s authors join campaigners in fight to save libraries – Guardian.  In a week which has seen residents in Brent holding 24-hour vigils to prevent their local libraries from being boarded up by the council, about 80 campaigners from around the country will meet to share tactics and information on Saturday about how best to keep the UK’s libraries open.”.  This is just the “phoney war” says Laure Swarfield of the Library Campaign, next year will be worse. Long article examining national libraries situation too as well as the conference.
“One of the things which bothers me most of all is the effect on children if libraries are closed. There was a study recently, which I will quote in my speech, showing British children read for enjoyment far less than children in Kazakhstan or Albania. Another study, quite different and separate, demonstrated that children in the UK were far less happy than any other country. I think these two are probably connected. We must be careful what we do to our children. We must look after them better than we are doing, and that includes preserving libraries.” Philip Pullman.

“Another reason for holding the conference now “is that it has become finally clear that the government is being utterly useless,” she added. “It won’t use its legal powers to intervene, even in the most extreme circumstances.”  Laura Swaffield, Library Campaign.

“Local authorities need to decide for themselves what ‘comprehensive and efficient’ means in their specific local circumstances. We continue to monitor and assess proposals being made about changes to library services across England and we take very seriously compliance by local authorities with their statutory duty,” he said. “If a local authority is unable to demonstrate to DCMS that they will continue to discharge their statutory duties the secretary of state may intervene but this kind of action will be a measure of last resort.” DCMS spokesman [inadvertently confirming truth of Laura’s comment above – Ed.]

  • Plan B : a national plan to save the public library service – Good Library Blog.  Bookfund/staff/space should be protected.  Many systems should be standardised to save money – “The national services should be the catalogue, the access to electronic reference and ebooks, the supply contracts with publishers and a general resource of information. There should be just one national library management system”.  Only 1 to 4 library managers per council should not be front-line. “Profession” should mean all library workers and all should be trained to a high standard.  This is the only real option apart from trying to get a deaf government to hear or staffing every library with volunteers.

     

Changes

 

Rutland – £100k cut over 2 years, volunteers being used to make up staff losses. Opening hours cut at Oakham, Uppingham and Ryall. Ketton hours expanded due to parish council support. Council interested in community groups running libraries.  

 

Local News 

 Brent – Preston vigil continues – Preston Library Campaign.  This is their Wall of Shame where locals can say what they think of the council decision to close their libraries. The Council had sent workment to paint it over earlier this week claiming there was “pornography” was on it.  Workmen found none.
  • Lancashire – Start a new chapter at local libraries – Lancashire Evening Post. Opportunities to volunteer in all sectors (not apparently at the library itself)  to be shown at drop-in sessions in libraries.
  • Rutland – Volunteers needed to help libraries in Rutland survive – Rutland and Stamford Mercury.  Cuts £200k over 2 years.  Volunteers used to replace some paid staff to maintain service.  30 people already used to work alongside paid staff.  Council says ““The most successful libraries and museums around the country are run in partnership with the local community and we need to develop that further in Rutland.” [which ones again? – Ed.].  “Volunteers receive training, including customer service training, are supervised by a paid member of staff and are treated as a member of the team.”
    • Appeal for volunteers after cuts – This is Lancashire. “”The council is extremely keen to hear from community groups and individuals who are interested in getting involved in the running of libraries and Rutland County Museum.””

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