Comment

Interesting fact about Gloucestershire’s approach to library provision.  The council there was pushing through a cut of 43% of a library budget they had already cut 30% the year before. Little wonder that the council there can claim that library usage is declining… Boyd Tonkin from the Independent says it all:

“Pro-cuts councillors there claim that “People have more access to books and they are much cheaper to buy”. They then point to a dip in usage: between 10 and 20 per cent across branches. Yet the county’s library service suffered 30 per cent cuts last year, and the book budget a whopping 40 per cent. You find this process replicated across the land. Loans and visits sometimes drop – although not everywhere, and certainly not for children – but generally less than by the level of cuts imposed. And in those areas where local-authority investment holds up – from Hillingdon to Blackpool – so does popularity.”

433 libraries (344 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

  • ALA alarmed at seizure of Occupy Wall Street Libary, loss of irreplaceable material - American Libraries.  The dissolution of a library is unacceptable. Libraries serve as the cornerstone of our democracy and must be safeguarded. An informed public constitutes the very foundation of a democracy, and libraries ensure that everyone has free access to information.  The very existence of the People’s Library demonstrates that libraries are an organic part of all communities. Libraries serve the needs of community members and preserve the record of community history.  In the case of the People’s Library, this included irreplaceable records and material related to the occupation movement and the temporary community that it represented.”

  • Boyd Tonkin: A bookish battle won, but not a war - Independent.  “To close a library is a crime” Michael Morpurgo.  “Crucial to the judgment is the opinion that both councils failed to mount a “thorough information-gathering exercise” and then “properly analyse… the data”. Judge McKenna noted that the authorities had ignored their statutory duties to provide an equal service to all.”.  Hopes Glos/Somerset decision will act as a precedent for Brent appeal. “Loans and visits sometimes drop – although not everywhere, and certainly not for children – but generally less than by the level of cuts imposed. And in those areas where local-authority investment holds up – from Hillingdon to Blackpool – so does popularity.”. Jonathan Sumption QC of Supreme Court is trying to reduce power of judicial reviews and claims that ministerial overview is perfectly adequate [cue shocked gasps from anyone aware of record of Hunt/Vaizey - Ed.]

  • Looking and thinking ahead: libraries - Museums Insider.  “Despite this generally dispiriting news, there are some potential gaps in this emerging market that suppliers to the heritage sector should be aware of….” [Subscription only article]

Local News

  • Calderdale – Open letter to Calderdale Council - Friends of Todmorden Library.  Given Calderdale’s decision to axe its book buying budget for all libraries in the area, it’s shocking and puzzling to read of plans for a ‘state of the art’ library in Halifax. Under normal circumstances a new library would be an exciting prospect. However, given the cutbacks libraries such as ours in Todmorden, are facing, how can this project be justified?”.  “Why should a town like Todmorden, where the library is so much at the heart of our community, have to do without new books when money is being ploughed into an unnecessary new building?”
  • Gloucestershire – High Court Victory: the reaction: wow! - FoGL.  Scores of messages of congratulations shown from throughout the country.
  • Hampshire – Small victory over hours - Gazette.   “The original plans meant the library in the Gill Nethercott Centre was due to have its opening hours cut by 28.3 per cent – a much higher figure than the average 7.5 per cent proposed for libraries across the county.But five weeks into a three-month consultation, in which there has been a lot of opposition, county chiefs have decided to permit another hour of opening. It still means the opening hours will go down from 26.5 a week to 20 – a percentage cut of 24.5 per cent.”
  • Kent – Shake-up of Kent’s libraries planned by county council - Kent Online.    “Shops, surgeries and schools could all have a role to play in Kent’s library service under a far-reaching shake-up”.  Aim to withdraw funding from many libraries, increase self-service.  “Asked about the prospect of campaigners challenging any cuts under legislation that requires councils to provide a library service, she added: “The legislation is flexible enough but we will only really know if there is a challenge.””.  “We’ve got away with closing them before”.
  • Oxfordshire – The epic failure of epic epicness - Question Everything. “If Keith and his Conservative colleagues vote this proposal through it will represent everything Tories say they are against. The back office cost of running the library will be the same as the front line if not higher. If a chain of retailers had 42 shops that cost them 4.5 million to run. You can be sure the costs of management, HR, IT etc in head office wouldn’t cost 4.5 million. But this is the library service if the proposal goes through” … “If OCC keep making efficiencies like this we will have to all join the party and start referring to each other as comrade.”
  • Warwickshire – Cuts to library hourse could be eased with staff sharing scheme - Courier.   “Staff would be trained in skills of both library personnel and one stop shop staff, who provide face-to-face services dealing with issues including bus passes, planning, benefits and council tax.”
    • Public vote will decide Warwickshire libraries opening timesKenilworth Weekly News.  “Cllr Colin Hayfield, who is responsible for libraries, said: “We have taken the decision that our customers will decide the opening hours of the libraries. I’d therefore encourage as many people as possible to engage with this consultation, either via the web, or by popping in to your local library and completing a survey.”
  • Worcestershire – Council’s bid to end dispute over future of library - Worcester News.  Town Council could buy Pershore Library in order to keep it in town centre.  County had wanted to close building.