Comment

Gloucestershire and Somerset campaigners get their turn in the spotlight next Wednesday, 9th November, when the High Court announces the result of their legal challenge to the library cuts in their areas. This is the day before Brent’s which will be heard at the Court of Appeal.  Needless to say, it’s going to be a nerve-wracking few days for some of the most committed library campaigners the country has ever produced (there’s never been such a need before, has there?) and my heart goes out to them.  Such legal challenges take an awful lot of work and a terrible amount of fundraising.  One really hopes all the cases succeed, first for the campaigners themselves but secondly and most importantly of course for the communities themselves.
A preparatory meeting has been announced for planning a big march for libraries in London in February.  There are many groups who could be involved in this -few causes can have such a diverse group of supporters, from all corners of background and political belief – so one would hope for an affair to remember.  The media, I am sure, would love the image of a loud shout out for such a supposedly quiet and frail instituion.  If all goes well, I’ll be the bald chap brandishing twin datestamps trying to keep up with the hordes marching on Number Ten or the DCMS offices.  As someone said a few days ago, you know things are bad when the librarians are protesting. 

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

  • Campaigners plan London libraries march – BookSeller. “Planning for a London rally in support of libraries will get underway this month, after the idea of holding a day of national action gained favour with campaigners at the Library Campaign conference last month. The demonstration, aimed to put pressure on the government to intervene over library closures, could include a read-in at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. A march on Downing Street was another option mooted at the conference. The event is likely to take place in February, close to National Library Day, which has already been confirmed for 4th February. The Library Campaign will hold an initial planning meeting on 19th November with other involved parties, including Voices for the Library, which co-organised last month’s conference.”.  Includes quotes by Mar Dixon.
“Everyone in education, media and culture should support the call for a national demonstration in support of our libraries. Against an unremitting background of assaults on public and school libraries and School Library Services this can be a rallying point to expose the neglect the service has suffered from many years and a spur to resistance to retrograde and unjustified cuts.  In a decade the UK has fallen from seventh to twenty fifth in the international reading rankings (PISA). The thought that our government could preside over the demise of 600 libraries when we are already in something of a crisis is crazy. South Korea is top of those tables and it is building 180 new libraries. We should be expanding not contracting our library provision.” Alan Gibbons on the London Libraries March.

  • Elderly people isolated by technological change - Telegraph.  WRVS: “A charity report found that older people have trouble getting information about public services, such as details of libraries and public transport, because so much of it is kept online.” …”The closure of community centres, libraries and Post Offices was also causing “anxiety and worry”.”
  • Saving libraries but not librarians - Los Angeles Times (USA).  Google and internet has mabe librarians defunct in all but specialist roles.  Libraries should innovate in other fields but lose their overqualified and overpaid library staff.
  • Talks under way to save UK’s biggest music and drama lending library - Guardian.  2400 communications (inc. 200 on paper) received in support of the library.  Moves under way to look at how to save the service. Decision to close delayed for around a month while alternatives are sought.
  • Uncharted territory - Oisin McGann (Eire).   “On the 10th of October, Phil Hogan, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, announced that the Library Council (An Chomhairle Leabharlanna) was being dissolved. Bad as this news was for the council, it was a far worse omen for the future of the nation’s libraries. Particularly given the burnt-earth policy that is causing libraries to close all over the UK.”.  Excellent article, two quotes from which are below…
“It would be a mistake to label any public library as a mere lender of books, or even one that has expanded to music, films, games and other products. It is more than a drop-in centre for people looking for information on education and training, local services, or for free use of a computer. A library, for me, first and foremost, is one of the few branches of the public service that not only supports everyday life, but enriches it.”

“Think about that for a minute: a publicly-funded, well-resourced place, complete with expert advisors, where a person has room and time to sit and think. A place where you can better yourself, but at your own pace. A place to sit and work out ideas; where someone might study for college, or plan a project, or start a business.”

  • WeHo librarian fired: over interview?WeHo News (USA).  West Hollywood library assistant (otherwise known as Standup Librarian) sacked after being interviewed despite having asked permission first.
  • Whatever happened to the Big Society?Regen and Renewal.  “Big Society” political agenda well and truly trashed by delegates at Manchester Locality Convention.  Civil Servant says public sector cuts are not that big (!) and most voluntary groups don’t need money anyway (!!).  Uproar ensues. Good intentions of government undermined by scope and speed of cuts, fear that volunteers will naturally be more available in more prosperous areas.
“The Big Society is simply a bid to replace paid labour with unpaid labour because the government has decided it can’t afford, because of its deficit reduction programme, to pay public servants to deliver crucial services. I warn you, things will get worse for society – because of this government’s choice.” Anne Coote, head of social policy, New Economics Foundation.

  • You and Yours - Radio Four.  “Why online retailer Amazon has decided to expand its business into publishing..and can US online film specialist Netflix compete with well-established streaming services when it enters the UK market next year?” Includes contribution from Phil Bradley about libraries/ebooks.

Changes
Local News
  • Brent – Lies, damn lies and library transformationPreston Library Campaign.The information about the 1.5 mile distance that residents would need to travel to a library was provided by the Library Service. An assumption was wrongly made that this meant one of the council’s remaining libraries rather than a library in the vicinity.I’m sorry for the error and have pointed it out to the communications team so that the mistake is not repeated.”.
  • Calderdale – “We’d want more details of libary” Halifax Courier.  Worry that proposed new library would not be as suitable or in as good a location as existing building that developers want to knock down.
  • Croydon / Lambeth – Little sign of progress in library stalemate - This is Croydon Today.  New ways of saving Upper Norwood Library from closure are likely to be presented to Lambeth councillors by their Croydon counterparts.”.  Meanwhile, Croydon and Lambeth councillors trade insults while future of one of the successful and efficient libraries in the country lies in balance.
    • Lambeth accuses Croydon of acting “unlawfully” over joint library deal – Streatham Guardian.  “in a four page letter to Croydon Council, Lambeth leader Councillor Steve Reed accused Croydon Conservative leader Mike Fisher of “incompetence” and “deception”.He said: “Lambeth has pointed out a catalogue of incompetence, deception and errors in the way Croydon have made this decision that, in our opinion, makes it unlawful.”
  • Doncaster – Not so Neet - Save Doncaster Libraries.   Nearly one quarter of Doncaster 19-24 year olds are not in education, employment or training.  Thereford, “A co-ordinated strategy is crucial and must include areas of the council and external bodies who support education, employment and training. They must work in partnership to alleviate the social problems associated with high Neet levels. Libraries must play a central role; they help people employment, access education as children and adults, and make a significant contribution to careers information, advice and guidance for employability – Doncaster council simply cannot afford to ignore this any longer.”
    • Eleventh Hour - Save Doncaster Libraries.   Scan of Doncaster Free Press article on temporary delay in closure of Carcroft and Denaby libraries.
  • Hartlepool - Library set to close - Peterlee Mail.  “Unprecedented cuts in Government grant is resulting in some very tough decisions for the council and regrettably we will not be in a position to fund West View Library beyond December 2011″.  Building to be given to community (non-library) group.
  • Highland – Second-hand book vans to save on mobile library funds - BBC.   “Agreements on four library vehicles leased by Highland Council will end at the end of this financial year. Officers have suggested replacing two of the vehicles with second-hand ones which would be bought for a total cost of £177,000 and last for 10 years.”
  • Huddersfield – Library most popular in Yorkshire - Huddersfield Daily Examiner.   “…those who use the library in Huddersfield know well that it bats above its weight in terms of service. The staff are helpful and ever creative in thinking of new ways in which to use the building and to get the most out of its resources. The doors have opened to all manner of groups, the library pursues partnerships successfully with many other agencies, puts on a well-attended programme of events and reaches out to other organisations in the town.” … “”Surveys like this one from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy show that the figures can add up and that our libraries are well-loved, well-used and meeting changing needs. Long may it continue”
  • Merton – Petition against popular closure of Donald Hope Library - Peitionbuzz.com.  “We, the under-signed, are petitioning Merton Council against the possible closure of Donald Hope Library in Colliers Wood for the following reasons…” 
  • Northamptonshire – Author’s support for Northamptonshire’s libraries - Northamptonshire Chronicle.  Anne Fine – “In front of an audience of 70 people, Mrs Fine talked about how libraries in Northampton had inspired her to become a writer.”… “If one message came out of the meeting it was that libraries were not simply buildings. Instead they served as interactive environments (between users and staff) that nurtured a respect for learning and personal development, and therefore constituted a social good that should be adequately funded and supported by local authorities and not face the threat of cuts.”
  • Northern Ireland – Cut to library hours must be reconsidered - Belfast Telegraph.  “Surely, given that Whitehead library only re-opened last October after an expenditure of around £300,000, it should be granted protected status? It is now an attractive, well-stocked library, with helpful friendly staff, and it is the cultural focal point of the town. At a time when children are reading less, good libraries are essential. For the sake of the children, Libraries NI must reconsider their plans to downgrade this library so drastically.”
“Sonia Francis-Mills, the Chair of the Friends of York Gardens Library, thanked those who had been involved in setting up the new structure for running the library which means that it is still open, when otherwise it would have closed earlier in the year. But she also noted the continued disappointment that it was this particular library, of the 11 neighbourhood libraries across Wandsworth, that had been marked out for treatment in this way and that there are still major challenges ahead in ensuring that the library can remain open, especially recruiting volunteers, raising awareness and generating enough income to cover the shortfall left by cuts to the council’s budget.” Wandsworth – York Gardens Library reopenedSave York Gardens.  

  • West Sussex – Cuts planned at home library service for the elderly – Argus.   “A fresh round of cuts will “devastate” a library service, according to opposition councillors.” … “Liberal Democrat councillor Bob Smytherman said: “Cutting the mobile service to residential care homes is an appalling idea. “We should be extending the mobile service, not cutting it.”.  Volunteers may deliver books instead.  
  • Worcestershire – Meeting on Pershore Library plans will keep residents in the picture - Evesham Journal.   “people have been invited to attend a meeting to keep up the fight for the library to stay in the town centre.The meeting, organised jointly by the county council and the town council, takes place at the Town Hall on Wednesday, November 23, from 7pm.”