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.”