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. “