If a library buys less books then people take out less books.  If a library does not have enough money to properly maintain itself, people don’t come in. That appears to be what is happening this year, according to the 2011 CIPFA Public Library Statistics.  Some things are striking.  Very few libraries have been closed  but the figures show that the service has been “hollowed out” in other ways.  Almost one in twenty staff have gone for a start, replaced in part one suspects by the large increase in volunteers.  A ray of hope is that children’s usage has actually gone up despite cuts in funding.  This is probably due to the wonderful Summer Reading Challenge and BookStart initiatives, showing the importance of promoting library services. We don’t know, also, what impact Ebooks have had as those figures have not been gathered long enough to be released.  That sector will doubtless show big increases in future years, although it is highly doubtful whether it has in a significant way replaced the decline in the borrowing of printed books this year.
It’s sobering to think that these figures don’t show the full impact of the first year of the cuts.  They show the first half of the year when councils were still coming to grips with what to do.  There is a lot more pain to come.  A lot more downward arrows.  Ed Vaizey and Jeremy Hunt are presumably hoping that those arrows will not end up pointing at them.
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

  • Campaign for the Book newsletter - Alan Gibbons.  Discusses Brent “Where libraries have been temporarily reprieved, we can expect local authorities to return to the matter and hand them over to volunteers. If there isn’t the community support (which may well be the case in deprived areas) councils will try to close them next year.”.  Surveys other issues such as Glos/Somerset court case and the failure of the DCMS to intervene.  Advocates further campaigning – “..pickets, protests, Read ins, demonstrations, even occupations. Trade unions may well have to consider coordinated industrial action..”
“Children’s fiction was the bright spot with a modest growth in overall book stock and lending. Overall visits were down from 322.1 million to 314.5 million. What is amazing is that, in a climate where there is a relentless attack on libraries, the institution has not suffered worse.”

  • CILIP Gothic - Wordshore (USA).  Describes challenges for CILIP and for public libraries generally. Useful to read for background on the difficulties facing the librarians’ professional body.
#CILIP president @Philbradley due to be interviewed about ebook lending on #BBC radio 4 you and yours this Fri. Approx 12.30, give or take  (Twitter)

  • Culture Secretary under pressure over library closures - Xmedia.  Summarises legal actions and other protests.
  • Describing and measuring the value of public libraries: The growth of the Internet and the evolution of library value – First Monday. “n the current economic climate, public libraries find themselves in the position of defending and justifying their funding and continued existence to their stakeholders….” Detailed academic report.
  • Hard choices: do libraries really destroy books? - NPR (USA).  Examines issues around disposal of older/less desirable books in libraries.
  • How one library system was transformed on a tight budgetGuardian (Public leaders network).  “Anythink Libraries in Denver, Colarado, have quadrupled circulation and visitor numbers in seven years by connecting with users and raising its own levy”.  Previously poor and low-funded – floor space now tripled.  “Two key models of inspiration for this reinvention are London’s Idea Stores and the Apple store. All Anythink’s new libraries are designed for comfort, intuitive browsing and self-service. This allows staff to focus on hospitality, gracious service and creating connections with people, information and programmes.”  Increased ebook/digital provision. 110 full-time equivalent staff over seven branches.
  • Library is everywhereInfo Today.  Key themes from Internet Librarian International 2011 Conference.
  • Orchestras and bands join the fight for Yorkshire’s amazing music and drama library - Guardian (Northerners Blog). “The Yorkshire Libraries and Information council is meeting on Thursday, 3 November, under intense pressure to reconsider its plan to close or disperse the biggest lending collection of music scores and play scripts in the UK.”
  • Privatizing public libraries is a bad idea - Outlook (USA).   “One of the most attractive components of public libraries is the notion that everyone, from any social and economic strata, has equal and unrestricted access to books, periodicals, movies and online resources.”.  In response to libertarian thinktank proposal to charge users for libraries.
  • Rise in library volunteers as staff numbers fall - Public Finance.   “The institute’s annual library use survey shows that the total number of volunteers in UK public libraries rose by 22.3% to 21,462 people between 2009/10 and 2010/11. Over the same period, the number of full-time equivalent library staff dropped by 4.3% to 23,681.” … “ CIPFA said:Norwich’s achievement proves that modern libraries are still popular community institutions, offering services and support beyond book lending. The increase in volunteers also shows how libraries continue to be seen as much valued hubs for their communities.’”
    • Rise in the number of pre-school children taking part in library activities - Nursery World.  “According to the Children’s Public Library Users Survey, which is based on data from 1,203 libraries across 63 local authorities, more than one third of children visited a library for an under-fives’ event between April 2010 and March 2011, an increase from 28  per cent in 2007/08.” … “‘These statistics provide some fascinating findings, particularly the differences between libraries in deprived areas where children are more likely to be older and visit on their own, compared to more affluent areas where children visiting libraries are generally younger and more likely to be read to by their parents. It is also interesting to note the trend suggesting an increase from 2007 in library activities beyond borrowing books.’”
  • Further falls in library use as book stock still suffers - BookSeller.  Summarises changes in CIPFA figures.
    • Library volunteering on the riseI-Volunteer.   “Library visitor numbers have also increased with at least five libararies – including Birmingham, newcastle and Croydon – receiving more than a million visitors each. The most popular library in the country was in Norwich which received almost one and a half million visitors.”
  • UK’s biggest music and drama lending library faces closure in Wakefield - Guardian.   “Expert librarians whose skill has been treasured for decades by choirs, dramatic societies and researchers face the loss of a centralised system in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, which makes loans from an unrivalled lending collection of 500,000 music scores and 90,000 playscripts. “It is extraordinary what they can produce. I’ve had someone on the phone today who had tried all over the place for an obscure piece of music by Parry and they came up with the goods,” said Robin Osterley, chief executive of Making Music, the national federation of music societies. “The rule among choirs all over the country is try your local library first, then Wakefield. It will be devastating if that ceases to be the case.”

Changes

West Sussex – £650,000 cut over three years: via self-service, less staff, volunteers in smaller branches, £200k cut in bookfund, more donated books, stopping staffed visits to elderly peoples’ homes.

Local News

  • Brent – Appeal for Brent Libraries to be heard next week in High CourtHarrow Times.  Concerning disputed closure of six libraries.  “Two weeks ago, Lord Justice Elias said the process to hear the case in the Court of Appeal should be fast-tracked and the case will now be at the Court of Appeal on November 10 and 11.”
    • Walk to save Preston LibraryPreston Library Campaign.  “Show Jeremy Hunt why Brent’s 21st Century library service is miles out!! We’re going to walk to our nearest library this Saturday 5 November. Join us and show the politicians just how close Kingsbury library really is. Everyone welcome – dress as your favourite book or character!”
  • Croydon – Library is one of UK’s most popular - Croydon Guardian.   “Croydon’s central library is the UK’s third most popular library. New figures show that Croydon had 1,168,160 visitors in 2010-11, up from 1,036,872 in 2009-10.” 
  • Doncaster – Two Doncaster libraries given temporary reprieve - BookSeller.   Comment: “Things have come to a pretty pass when a measly extra week is described as a “reprieve”. United with the city’s campaigners and library users, we hold our collective breath to see what Doncaster does next.”
  • Dudley – Outrage at bid to shift library - Dudley News.  “Dudley Council wants to shift the [Netherton] library, currently based at Netherton Arts Centre, to the nearby Savoy Centre – a business centre run by Black Country Housing and Dudley Council. Netherton Arts Centre may close.

“If a library closes in the Forest of Dean does @edvaizey make a sound?” Gloucestershire (Twitter)

  • Liverpool – Central Library redevelopment reaches halfway stageLiverpool Echo.  ““The library is one of the most celebrated public libraries in the UK and its regeneration will not only restore the building’s beautiful historic elements but will also create a 21st century facility for all library users.” Many pictures.
  • Wandsworth – Library reopens after facelift - Wandsworth Council.  York Gardens Library saved from closure by protests and volunteers is reopened – with no mention of the protests or volunteers in the Wandsworth press release. “The changes, which were drawn up following extensive public consultation, mean that the library now boasts additional community spaces. Two extra rooms are now available for hire by local groups and organisations, brining [sic] the total number of rooms for hire to five.” [One of the most shocking whitewashes of a press release I have seen - Ed.]
  • West Sussex – Burgess Hill library could get self-serviceMid-Sussex Times.   ““Originally we were working with just the smaller libraries to find alternative ways of delivering the service, but now it is clear the savings should be found from across the whole libraries network,” … “We are looking to reduce paid staff in smaller libraries, and work with communities to find volunteers to offer support. For customers this is more realistic than expecting libraries to be run wholly by volunteers, which communities told us they didn’t like. We are still looking at the details of how things will work, but we have avoided any change to the opening hours.”