Archive for December, 2011

Scrooge starves the shelves

423 libraries (333 buildings and 90 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 are 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

  • Library book is 123 years overdue with £4509 fine - Mirror.   One has to laugh at these articles, especially the bit with the notional “fine” that no authority would dream of charging and in a world where almost all authorities have maximum fines anyway.
  • LSSI gets its first contract in FloridaLibrary Journal.   “Under the terms of the five-year agreement, the county will pay LSSI just over $24 million; LSSI will collect $4.7 million the first year, and that amount will rise slightly over each of the following four years. The county will also spend from $580,000 to $670,000 annually on library costs not covered by the LSSI payments.”.  $6m cut in funding expected over five years due to deal. “According to the agreement, operation hours will “initially” remain unchanged. LSSI will offer positions—at the current base salary—to all current 76 library employees who must reapply for their positions, and compensation levels will remain unchanged for at least six months.”
  • Scrooge starves the shelvesIndependent (Boyd Tonkin).   “Against stiff competiton, this year’s prize for the most purely Scrooge-like behaviour among cost-cutting library authorities goes by acclamation to Redbridge council in east London. Via the Vision agency, a “charitable leisure trust” which now manages the borough’s libraries, the council made 15 library staff redundant on the Tuesday before Christmas.”
  • Six things that must happen to reverse this headlong rush to an illiterate British generation – An Awfully Big Blog Adventure.  The six things are (a) occupy libraries to protest, (b) stop closing libraries, (c) books should be cheaper, (d) ebooks should be much cheaper, (e) reading must be made cool, (f) be involved in advocacy work.

Changes

Nottinghamshire - Mansfield Library: new building officially opened on Tuesday 3.1.12 after £3.4m refurbishment inc. wi-fi, local studies expansion etc.
Stoke on Trent - Promised Blurton Library cancelled due to cuts

Local News

Police side with council as it empties the library. Brent takes advantage of the holiday shutdown to pre-empt any intervention from the Supreme Court, where an appeal was lodged two weeks ago. Campaigners expect the council to rush through the sale of the library in the coming months, depriving the area of its last local service.”

  • East Sussex – Staff celebrate 10th anniversary of library - Eastbourne Herald.  “Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd donated £100 to the celebrations to show how much he valued their efforts. He said, “It’s great to see that this community project is still going strong and providing a much needed service to the people of Old Town for almost 10 years.””
  • Hertfordshire – North Herts library group bids to prove service worth - Comet.  “The We Heart Libraries group, which was founded this year, has a number of activities lined up for the first ever National Libraries Day … users to sign up to one of several pledges, such as borrowing a book a month, signing their children up for library cards of visiting a new branch.”.  Group unhappy with closure of school library service and renting out of libraries to voluntary groups in times when branches were previously open.
“We need to make sure that they’re not taken for granted so that, when the council needs to find cuts, it doesn’t turn to them first. For this reason, we are really hoping that as many people as possible will help us shout about them and make National Libraries Day a success in North Herts and Stevenage.”

Police hold back protesters while library cleared

Comment
“Please encourage individuals, as well as campaign groups, to write to the Select Committee before 12th January describing the impact that library closures have on residents and communities.  The committee needs to hear from library users and not just the voices of council chiefs and DCMS bureaucrats. It is often the personal experiences of individual library users, young or old, which resonates most with members of the Committee. The Committee also needs to hear the experiences of campaign groups in dealing with their Council, the DCMS and the MLA in trying to get their voices heard and their concerns addressed.” Desmond Clarke, veteran library campaigner.
Details on how to write to the Select Committee are available on this webpage.  See also this previous post for some of my thoughts on the subject.  If you’re reading Public Libraries News then you care about libraries and want the best for them – and this may be the most significant thing you can do to help safeguard them in 2012. 
423 libraries (333 buildings and 90 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 are 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

  • Library vs. the mobile - Christopher Fowler’s Blog.   “Louise Robinson, the new president of the Girls’ Schools Association, says that smartphones and tablets are about to take over from reading books, partly because children will be able to access information more easily in their spare time.” … “a danger that anything on the printed page will be regarded with the horror the young have of the old or old-fashioned. There’s nothing as conservative as a young mind, and books could easily end up relegated to Oxfam shops and old folks’ homes.”

Changes

Local News

  • Bolton – Council leader warns further cuts may comeBolton News.  Reading between the lines, it looks like the Council may be considering further cuts to a library service that is already closing five out of fifteen branches. 
  • Brent – Campaigners held back by police as Preston Library is clearedHarrow Observer.  Protesters who have fought tooth and nail in a bid to save 50 per cent of Brent’s libraries are being held back by police today as council workers begin clearing books. Around ten members of the Brent SOS campaign group are gathered outside Preston Library and have no choice but to stand and watch as staff begin emptying the building.”.  Seven police on scene.  Campaigners say library should be kept as is due to moves being made to appeal to Supreme Court.  Also in Willesden and Wembley Observer.
“We are trying to obstruct the way but the police are moving us. I feel that Brent Council is showing contempt to the legal process and the community who have shown how much they need their local library by doing this.”

    • Police protect Council as it seizes library stock - GreenFeed.   “The following was posted by Jessica Thompson of the Willesden and Wembley Observer at 11am this morning. When I visited the library this afternoon there was no one outside and the gate in the hoardings was closed.”
    • Preston Library cleared - BookSeller.   “Library campaigners on watch outside Brent’s Preston Library cried “Shame on you” as books and computers were cleared from the building by council workers today (29th December), with police in attendance. Vans arrived at 9.30am to begin clearing the library of its contents. Local campaigners had been on intermittent vigil outside the library building over the Christmas holiday, with a Christmas tree on display decorated with children’s book characters.”
  • Camden – Surviving library cuts: volunteer’s bids accepted, but now the hard part!Camden New Journal.  “Town Hall has confirmed bids have been accepted to run three libraries – Chalk Farm, Belsize and Heath – which the council can no longer afford to operate. The groups involved now have until April to finalise their plans. But to make ends meet, branches are looking at innovative ways to raise funds – prompting fears that the core library services of book-borrowing and providing a place to read and work will fall by the wayside.” … ” the council will gift the branches around £250,000 worth of books, chairs and desks. Including transitional support, the cost in total of the handover is estimated at around £300,000″
  • Central Bedfordshire – Have your say on future of libraries - Comet.   “… three weeks left to have their say on the future of libraries in Central Bedfordshire through a public consultation.”.. ““The aim of the Future of Libraries consultation is to help improve the services which libraries currently offer, making them modern and even more accessible to the community.”
  • Gloucestershire – Painswick group plans to run a community library - BBC.   Painswick Library closed in 2009, room in Town Hall may be used for library if funding won from council.  Organiser says “My wife and I do extensive amounts of reading and also we are involved in a number of activities where it has become quite apparent that having a library in the community is of very great importance to older people and particularly to families with children.” The chairman of Painswick Parish Council, Terry Parker, said there had been quite a lot of reaction to the closure of the previous library and as to why the listed building had not been better maintained.”
  • Scottish Borders – Libraries merger approvedBerwickshire News.   ““This is not primarily a cost-cutting exercise. However, by bringing libraries and contact centre services together we can secure savings and retain the full range of services delivered from library and contact centres to ensure that both stay locally available. The Library and Information Service restructure will modernise the service and result in the development and improvement of both the quality and range of services offered to the public.”
  • Somerset – Garfield’s big effort to save the libraries - This is Somerset.   “… without a doubt, the biggest – and most successful – campaign this year was the one to save Shepton Mallet library.” …  Cllr Kennedy was one of the campaigners behind a pro-libraries video including Julian Fellows and Michael Eavis: “The film We Love Libraries became, on Love our Libraries Day throughout the UK, the most shared video in YouTube’s non-profit video category section.” … “So for all his work helping save the libraries the campaigner of the year award must go to Councillor Garfield Kennedy.”

No commitment to do anything

Comment

 
A North Yorkshire MP asks Ed Vaizey, minister for libraries: “… will the Minister intervene to assist with at least a part-time library presence from North Yorkshire county council to enable it to put a business plan in place in the interim?”. Mr Vaizey responded: “I would always encourage any local authority to work with the community on the provision of community libraries and to provide support of a professional librarian [sic] behind the library service.”” 
This is typical Ed Vaizey in that it looks good but contains no commitment to do anything.  It is worryingly new, though, that Ed has toned down his previous stated support for paid staff to a position where he appears to be wanting just one somewhere in the organisation.  Even then, he is limiting himself to a vague desire to “encourage”.
No surprises there.  Library supporters have looked for help from the Ministry throughout 2011 only to be completely rebuffed, sent form letters (sometimes even with the incorrect wording left over from the previous reply) or been met by note-taking officials but ultimately with no action forthcoming.   It seems unlikely that Mr Vaizey and his boss Mr Hunt will change their tune in 2012 without being forced to.  They are, after all, part of the Government who believes in a hands-off policy to local government of the like that worked so well in the City of London.  It also allows them to shift the blame of the effects of the historically high level of centrally imposed cuts onto local councils.  
The only thing that will change their minds is if the Select Committee on Library Closures comes down with sufficient force against them, although even there, the Committee is only advisory or is ignored.  The Courts may also somehow force them to intervene.  However, of course, this is the nub of the problem.  The Courts have said that it is up to the Secretary of State to intervene but the ministers do nothing … and library services continue to be savagely cut.   
Something must change in 2012 or it will be more of the same (closing down the library) business as usual.

415 libraries (323 buildings and 92 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 are 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

  • Big Society“You and Yours” BBC Radio Four.  An hour examining the push towards volunteering in local services, which has had great implications for public libraries.  Lewisham libraries are mentioned (5.50 for a couple of minutes). Professional trained library staff are being removed there, being “dumbed down” and staffed by volunteers.  People are not going into profession as they don’t see a future in it, retired staff are volunteering and thus removing the need for staff.  Agreed that an open volunteer library is better than no library at all.  £400m from dormant bank accounts to be used to fund Big Society bank.  A good strong and relatively neutral look at the subject, including aspects from all sorts of areas.
  • Careers service and literacy hit by schools funding cuts - Guardian.   Does not mention school libraries, strangely, but does include details of other cuts.
  • In praise of public libraries, and librarians - What’s Next: Top Trends.  “Whether or not we will want libraries in the future I cannot say, but I can categorically state we will need them, because libraries aren’t just about the books they contain. Moreover, it is a big mistake, in my view, to confuse the future of books or publishing with the future of public libraries. They are not the same thing.”
“There is a considerable amount of discussion at the moment about obesity. The idea that we should watch what we eat or we will end up prematurely dead. But where is the debate about the quality of what and where we read or write? Surely what we put inside our heads – where we create or consume information – is just as important as what we put inside our mouths.”

  • Ministers under fire for campaigning against the cuts - Telegraph.  “Sarah Teather has been applying pressure to save several local libraries in Brent, writing to the Culture, Media and Sport Secretary to ask him to “intervene and instigate an inquiry into the closures”. Her spokesman said it was “perfectly within her rights to criticise the council for making a decision to restructure to libraries which she feels will provide a significantly poorer service to local residents.” Meanwhile, Jeremy Browne has also campaigned to keep local libraries open and launched an attack on cuts to recycling services in his Taunton constituency. On his website, he criticises said “the long term consequences of the Conservative Council’s cut in funding.” He defended his stance by saying Britain has to tackle its economic problems but he still wants to see “money spent efficiently on valued local services in Taunton Deane and elsewhere.””
  • Publishers versus libraries: an e-book tug of war - New York Times (USA).  Library ebook lending is “…a source of great worry for publishers. In their eyes, borrowing an e-book from a library has been too easy. Worried that people will click to borrow an e-book from a library rather than click to buy it, almost all major publishers in the United States now block libraries’ access to the e-book form of either all of their titles or their most recently published ones.”

Changes

Brighton and Hove – £150k budget cut 2011/12, mobile library to close.  
Gloucestershire - Moreton Library to reopen in April 2012 incorporating volunteer services/registration/police/self-service.
Milton Keynes – Consultation ongoing.
North Yorkshire – Hunmanby library to close due to failure to gain enough volunteers/retain funding: library services likely to be moved into community centre or be served by a mobile library.
Oxfordshire - Police offices now in Deddington Library.
Slough – Britwell Library to move into new upgraded building,  Central Library to move into new “flagship” building, Chalvey and Colnbrook to have new libraries based in children’s centres, new library planned for Wrexham Lea.  22% increase in opening hours 2008 to 2010.  Service run by Essex on behalf of Slough.
Warwickshire – Bulkington Library to be run by volunteers “in weeks” (28.12.11). 
Worcestershire - Co-location increasing: Stourport Library to be moved into Civic Centre after three months consultation, Bewdley Library may move into town’s museum, Kidderminster Library may have other services using its space.

Local News 

  • Bolton – Fight to save libraries is taken to topThis is Lancashire.  “Save Bolton Libraries Campaign has submitted a weighty dossier of evidence to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt urging him to intervene in the town’s library closure row.” Council says ““We have been in constant contact with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport throughout our review and kept them up to date with our progress.””
  • Bradford – Addingham Library volunteers want to hear your ideas - Ilkley Gazette.  “Villagers quickly got together to form a charitable association to manage and staff the library for the benefit of the community, still making use of some library services provided by the district authority. The day-to-day running of the library has proved a success so far, and the association feels it is time to look at how services and facilities could move forward.”
  • Brent – Council blew £15,000 on awards ceremony which honoured library closure team - Preston Library Campaign.  “The night cost taxpayers around £50 for every person who attended, the council said. The Libraries Transformation Team, which was behind the project which closed half of the borough’s libraries, was named Team of the Year.”…”The council’s chief executive, Gareth Daniel, said: “The awards provide a fantastic boost to staff morale in what are very challenging times for everyone working in local government.”
  • Brighton and Hove – Fines not paid at Sussex libraries - Argus. In this month’s budget announcement, the Green party proposed saving £150,000 over the next year by reducing library opening hours and scrapping the mobile library.”
  • Derbyshire – How libraries help bring race hate to book - Buxton Advertiser.   “Libraries in Derbyshire are offering the charity Stop Hate UK telephone and computer services to victims of hate crime by providing an alternative place where a victim, or someone concerned about a victim, can report hate crime incidents without having to speak directly with police. The service is victim led and library staff can help discuss the options with those wanting to report a hate crime, and can support them in which option they take.”
““Victims may find it easier and more comfortable reporting hate incidents at their local library, which can offer a supportive and confidential environment. This means that the police can take action and help stop offenders from getting away with crimes which may previously have not been reported.””

“… unprecedented uproar across Oxfordshire.”

    • New crime section opens at Deddington Library - Banbury Guardian.   Policing team has moved into library, with its former office closed. ” “Having the police within the library is a fantastic step forward for the community. In the past, going into the police station could be quite daunting but the library is a much more inviting place to go and puts them in a much more prominent position.” A community engagement service point (CESP), manned by volunteers, will be set up inside the library itself.”
  • Slough – Opening, not closing, local libraries - Slough Labour.   Britwell Library will move into new refurbished building (more self-service, meeting space). Central Library will move into new “flagship” building (more meeting space, adult learning, theatre, cafe).  Chalvey (to be in community hub with children’s centre), Colnbrook (to be in children’s centre) and Wrexham Lea may have new libraries. 
“Libraries have featured heavily in Labour manifesto’s in 2008 and 2010, resulting in a 22% increase in opening hours across the town’s libraries. As part of the partnership between Slough Borough Council and Essex County Council the service will undergo continuing investment and improvement to deliver the service that residents have told us they would like.”

Expensive to run?

414 libraries (323 buildings and 91 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 are 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

  • Actor boosts library campaign - BBC.  Actor Simon Callow has donated almost 1,000 of his own books – including hundreds of specialist performing arts titles – to London’s Westminster Reference Library.He told the BBC he intends to highlight the importance of libraries in the community in the context of many facing closure.”.  Westminster Libraries boss says all will stay open.
  • Are UK public libraries expensive to run? - Wordshore.   One of the best analyses of how expensive public libraries actually are for the country, now updated for 2012.
  • Great Britons 2011 - Independent on Sunday.  One of the fifty are the Brent library campaigners.  “Residents fighting the closure of six libraries in the London borough of Brent represented the outrage felt by much of the nation’s readers and researchers about cutbacks by staging a round-the-clock protest outside Kensal Rise Library, which was opened by American writer Mark Twain 111 years ago. The campaigners were the first in the country to seek a judicial review into library closures.”
  • Independent voices of 2011: The most influential non-celebrity users of Twitter - Independent.  Voices for the Library is given an honourable mention, with over 2800 followers with a high trust rating.
    • Thank you to all of our supportersVoices for the Library.  “When we first started up in August last year we never imagined that we would have such an impact.  We are all volunteers who spare whatever time we can to keep the campaign going by highlighting both the cuts to libraries across the UK as well as the value of libraries and librarians.” 
  • Prologue to the Living Library - Open Writing.   “Last summer, writer and researcher Nilam Ashra-McGrath (www.nilamashramcgrath.co.uk) completed a writing-residency at Huddersfield Library, UK, and is now writing a non-fiction book about her experiences. The book will be out in 2012, and you can read the prologue here”.  Excellent article lists and describes what libraries offer and why they are different to other outlets.
“If you were asked to name an institution that expects nothing from you, but gives you the most in return, you would have to name your local public library. No other public service institution is subject to such praise and abuse in equal measure, and no other institution is currently in such jeopardy.”

  • Shelf life in hard times: The book folk who wrote glorious chapters in 2012 - Independent.   Brent, Gloucestershire and Somerset campaigners are one of the six examples.  “Lords Justice Pill, Richards and Davis this week shamefully upheld the High Court decision, which they felt had been made only after a “most careful and thorough review of all the points advanced” which contrasts with the victory in Glos/Somerset.  “As this newspaper noted, Brent’s plans are “vandalism on a worse scale than the riots”. But the official vandals in Brent and elsewhere will not, however, be hunted down and sent to jail.”

Changes

Calderdale - £65,000 cut in bookfund
Gloucestershire - Friends of Matson Library.  
Hull – New co-located library expected in Newland Road expected after closure of one on Beverley Road
Redbridge - 13 staff, including senior and long-serving, made redundant five days before Christmas 2011.  “Vision expects a “noticeably reduced” library service from April, although all 13 borough libraries and the mobile library will stay open.”
Surrey - Hersham Library not be included in volunteer takeover pilot.
Waltham ForestPlans to relocate Wood Street Library and sell off land for housing put on display without publicity just for Christmas period until 3rd January 2012.   

Local News

  • Brent – Library campaigners keep their spirits up by holding festive carol concerts - London 24.   “Sadly, the only Christmas present that is being bestowed on this diverse community from Brent Council is parking ticket machines which will be effective from the New Year.” … “At Cricklewood Library, opera singers entertained the community outside a new-pop-up library set up to replace the old reading room in Olive Road.”
  • Calderdale – Freedom of Information request - What Do They Know.   Details on book fund.
  • Camden – Groups get keys to run three libraries - Camden New Journal.  “The Winch commun­ity centre will be handed the keys to Belsize, in Antrim Grove; Chalk Farm in Sharpleshall Street will be run by a co-operative made up of the Friends of Chalk Farm Library and the Primrose Hill Commun­ity Association; while the Heath Library in Keats Grove will be run by the  newly formed Phoenix Group, made up of the Heath and Hampstead Society, The South End Green Association and then Friends of Heath Library.”.  Council says “We were determined to minimise disruption to the library service and make the best of a bad situation. The impressive bids we’ve received have shown how residents are willing to step up and help run their well-loved libraries.””
  • Doncaster – Freedom of Information request - What Do They Know.   Arts Council England report that they have no records on Doncaster but does not mention any records inherited from MLA.
  • Gloucestershire – FoGL and GCC in conversation at last - Friends of Matson Library.   “Friends of Gloucesteshire LIbraries (John, Johanna, and Demelza) met with Jo Grills and Duncan Jordan who are the civil servants overseeing the new ‘meeting the challenge’ (if it’s still called that) of reshaping library service. Demelza writes that “they seemed to take many of our comments on board and took copious notes”. I have to say that Antonia Noble also took copious notes last time around so the proof, as ever, will be in the pudding. ” … “It is also worth knowing that on Saturday Richard Graham MP approached one of the board members of Together in Matson (TIM) to ask if the board were ‘disappointed’ in not having the community-run library in the Redwell Centre. He would like to be able to tell people that but no statement has come from the board of TIM.”
    • Friends of Gloucestershire’s Libraries’ first birthday: the story so far - FoGL.   Summary of an amazing campaigning year for FoGL, from it’s beginnings in Cheltenham Library to a 10,000 petition to legal action/victory.  “I would like to use this ‘birthday’ to say a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has joined with us, campaigned with and supported us on the journey so far. We hope you stick around for the next stage of the fight and new Friends of our libraries are always welcome too - our libraries are too important to lose!
    • Have your say on county council spending - This is Gloucestershire.  We’re not planning dramatic cuts. Most of the pain will have come last year. There will be reductions to certain budgets, but nothing like with the libraries and youth service last year.”.  Comments describe questionnaire as biased with loaded questions and suspect the council will ignore any inconvenient results anyway.
  • Hull – Novel idea to get an Avenue library - This is Hull and East Riding.  “”The council has the former Newland School in the street, but a shop front would be far more accessible to the public.”
  • Northern Ireland – Decision on library hours cuts deferred - Belfast Telegraph.   7000 questionnaires and 500 other correspondance has been received.  Decision to be made in January 2012.  
“We have been overwhelmed by the level of response and it is clear our customers value both the role that libraries play in local communities and the importance of ensuring that opening hours are such that people can access the wide range of services available when they need them most.”

  • Redbridge – 15 Redbridge library staff to lose their jobs - Ilford Recorder.   “The employees, including senior community librarians, were informed of the outcome of a redundancy procedure on Tuesday, just five days before Christmas.”.  Vision Trust decide to sack library staff than other services, having taken over responsibility for libraries earlier this year.  Some staff have worked for service for 20 years or more.  “The Recorder understands Vision expects a “noticeably reduced” library service from April, although all 13 borough libraries and the mobile library will stay open.”
  • Surrey – Community partnership reprieve for Hersham Library - Elmbridge Today.   “At the time, they also agreed to consider nine other libraries – including Hersham’s – for inclusion within the community partnership scheme once the pilot has been in existence for a full year from April 1, 2012 and an evaluation of its success has taken place. At a cabinet meeting held on Tuesday (December 20), however, the second phase of the project was shelved.”
  • Waltham Forest – New housing and library “relocation” proposed – Guardian series.    Wood Street Library‘s premises could be sold off, with the library moved to somewhere else unspecified.   Plans have been put on display, without publicity, at start of Christmas period about the development and will be taken down on January 3rd: “…critics have questioned the timing of the plans going on display, while others fear further cuts to the library service”
  • Wiltshire – Libraries in Wiltshire kept open by volunteers - BBC.   “Wiltshire Council planned to close 10 of the county’s smallest libraries to save money, but enough volunteers came forward to keep them all open.”.  300 volunteers being used.
  • Worcestershire – Libraries and learning in Worcestershire praised by Ofsted - Worcestershire County Council.   “The Libraries and Learning team which provides courses for adult learners throughout Worcestershire has been praised for both the high quality of courses available and for providing value for money in a report released by Ofsted this week”

True libraries

414 libraries (323 buildings and 91 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 are 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.

See also “Special Report: A vision for a 21st Century Library?” post below.

News

  • Corporate profile: LSSI - Canadian Union of Public Employees. The most comprehensive report yet noted on the private libraries company LSSI.    Although an obviously biased source, the document provides much useful information and confirms the accusations of many that LSSI reduces staff costs.  Interesting piece on its political donations too.
  • Happy ending predicted - Courier.   “Goole and Brigg MP Andrew Percy proved the future of libraries was no laughing matter when he joined comedian and best selling author Tony Hawks and Libraries minister Ed Vaizey at the launch of the new Libraries Group in the Houses of Parliament. The Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) was launched in the House of Commons with Andrew as the group’s Vice Chairman.”

    “Most contact for assessing an initial inquiry is currently face-to-face. I have not followed why, if someone accesses, say, a CAB, law centre or public library, the initial face-to-face inquiry that has already taken place cannot then be referred for another face-to-face discussion.” Lord Shipley in House of Lords debate on the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill via They Work For You.

    • Library campaigners hunt the Secretary of StateSpectator.  The battle in Brent is symbolic because it is the most prominent in the country — defeat for Brent is a defeat for library campaigners in general. The Brent team has renewed its calls for the secretary of state, Jeremy Hunt, to intervene under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act: an indication that it might not pursue further costly legal action, although leave to appeal to the Supreme Court may yet be sought.” … “…there is little point in having statutory duties if they are not applied.”
    “The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is thought to be wary of intervention for fear of contradicting the government’s decentralisation agenda.  The government insists that it does not need to use its statutory powers because local cuts are an exclusive competence of councils under the 2011 Localism Act. It says that there are alternatives to library closures; and it has branded those councils that are substantially reducing services as ‘politically motivated’. ”

    • Love Libraries badges - Love Libraries.  Get your groovy buttons and magnets saying “love libraries” for some serious campaigning action in 2012.  
    • National Libraries Day official website – The site has now been launched, including a map of events, ideas, logos, links [great to see Voices for the Libraries at number one and Public Libraries News at number two - thanks NLD team! - Ed.], social media options, quotes and testimonials from supporters, a forum, news.
    • New shadow libraries minister condemns closures - BookSeller.  “Recently appointed shadow libraries minister Dan Jarvis has condemned “mindless closures” of libraries and said that now more than ever is the time to harness the opportunities libraries offer and use them as “ladders of social mobility and personal development”.  Jarvis’ words come as an open letter criticising culture minister Ed Vaizey’s inaction over closures, signed by many prominent authors, was delivered to the minister by the Friends of Gloucester Libraries campaign group.”
    • North Yorkshire/Doncaster/Leeds/Wakefield – Yorkshire Library volunteers prepare New Year takeover - Look North BBC (Video).  “Hundreds of volunteers are preparing to take over libraries across Yorkshire in the New Year as councils continue to make tens of millions of pounds of cuts. Some libraries have already closed, while dozens of others will only survive if local residents come forward to run them. Unpaid volunteers and charity groups in places like Denby Dale and Rawdon in West Yorkshire and Bawtry in South Yorkshire are now being trained to take charge.”
    • Open Letter attracts 456 signatures - Alan Gibbons.   “The letter expresses library users’ shared dissatisfaction with Mr Vaizey’s execution of his duties to superintend public library services, in the face of closures and service reductions of an unprecedented scale nationwide”. Very impressive list of signers.
    • Things to cut before closing libraries -  A whole humorous website on the issue.  So far, Big Society “experiments”, professional portraits of councillors, councillor expenses and County Halls.  You know the situation is bad when there’s a website on this…
    • Unhappy feet - BookSeller.  Examines the depressed usage figures for Lewisham’s withdrawn libraries.  “I would be the first to say that the quality of a library service should not be assessed solely on the number of books issued. But a decrease of this magnitude indicates that community management of public libraries simply does not work. It may be too early to judge the success of this experiment, but it looks like the good people of Lewisham have voted—with their feet.” … ” public libraries must stay democratically accountable, publicly funded and free at the point of need.”
    “I agree with the comments made by Patricia Richardson. I am a Lewisham resident and have visited three of the “community” lbraries. Like has in no sense been replaces by like either regarding stock or quality of advice. I do not regard such facilities as true libraries. I was shocked to see the statistics.”

    Changes

    Caerphilly - Blackwood library opens again after £215k upgrade.  
    Gloucestershire - Redundancy payments for staff in 2011 cost £1 million.
    Surrey - Campaigners considering legal action.   
    Worcestershire – Woodrow Library to merge with One Stop Shop, Redditch Library to have other services moving in, possibility of closing then renting out one floor, self-service

    Local News

    • Brent – R (Bailey) v. Brent: law against the cuts (and politics) - Head of Legal.  The council argued that the closures were not intrinsically liable to affect Asian people more than anyone else, and I suspect this may be the answer, or something like it, though none of the judges seems to have agreed. In any event, though, the real complaint about the closures has nothing whatever to do with race discrimination – which is what lends this case a distinctly straw-clutching unreality.” … “We have to accept, in a democracy, that politicians will make decisions we don’t like. If we can’t, and instead turn increasingly to tactical legalism in effect as a replacement for politics, we’ll deserve a less political, more centralised and less democratic society.”
    • Brighton and Hove – Mental health services to move to libraries? - Argus.  “Providing activities, group meetings and other support in different locations around Brighton and Hove is being considered as part of a consultation on the future of community mental health in the city.”
    • Caerphilly – Blackwood Library reopens after £215k revamp - Campaign.  “The library underwent an impressive refurbishment and now has a completely redesigned interior with new furniture, shelving, lighting, decoration and improved provision for disabled library users. The facelift was funded through a £94,000 grant from the Welsh Government via CyMAL – the body responsible for museums, archives and libraries in Wales.” 
    • Camden – Progress for the future community use of library buildings - Camden Council.   Details of the “winners” of bids for withdrawn libraries: “Officers will work with the three organisations to further develop their proposals and in particular ensure that they are able to put in place a strong sustainable financial proposal by the end of January 2012.  Providing the necessary work has been completed, the Council will then be able to finalise arrangements for the future use of the buildings.”
    • Gloucestershire – Redundant Gloucestershire librarians back on payroll - BBC.  Libdem opposition councillor says This is a fine example of the shambles in the way the council has handled the matter. The whole review looks like it has been worked out on the back of a fag packet” … Council says “These workers were recruited to expand the numbers on the casual relief register specifically to cover these opening hours under the terms of the injunction issued on 7 July 2011, whilst waiting for the full judicial review hearing”.
    • Hertfordshire – Petition to save school libraries launchedRoyston Crow.   ““This has all happened at very short notice, it was kept pretty quiet. The agenda item was added late, so we’ve tried to do what we can.””
      • Closure confirmed for Hertfordshire School Library Service - BookSeller.   “”The library service offers expert advice and support to schools on a traded basis, and it is expected to cover its costs,” he said. “In recent years, fewer and fewer schools have been buying into the service – only a third of secondary schools and 43% of primary schools now choose to buy in, with others finding alternative provision. This means that, despite restructuring in 2010, the service is running at a deficit and is no longer viable.”
    • Kent – So who has stepped forward and offered to run library services in Kent? - INFOism.  Council appears to be unsure if parish councils have expressed interest in running libraries or not.  No formal submissions of interest have been received.
    “Meanwhile, it is certainly worth showing a bit of love and appreciation to your local library staff over the festive season.  Morale is at an all-time low with many library workers across the county fearing for their jobs with cuts and closures just around the corner.  Not helped, of course, by those at the top failing to consider the impact their decisions will have on those who are serving on the ‘frontline’.  Times are hard for library workers across the county, it would mean a lot to them to know that the public are on their side.” 

    • Surrey – Campaigners take legal steps over libraries - Get Surrey.  Representatives of the Surrey Libraries Action Movement (SLAM) claimed the authority’s plans for 10 sites to become volunteer-run or face being shut fell short of its obligations to provide the county’s residents with library facilities. SLAM said it was reluctant to take legal action but had already gathered “a mountain of evidence” and conducted talks with lawyers.”
      • Slam legal action - SLAM.   “We need someone to come forward that qualifies for legal aid and that would be willing to be involved in the legal action. The level of involvement in preparation for the case is discretionary: we are more than prepared to do all the work necessary and we will fully protect the person, but if the person wants to be more involved then we are certainly happy to work in any way that the person is comfortable with. Legal aid criteria basically comes down to how much capital a person holds (the limit is currently £8,000).”
      • Nine Surrey libraries to be saved: ten still face uncertain future - Eagle Radio.  
    • Worcestershire – Library review will see staff and opening hours cutRedditch Standard.   “Between 28 and 30 full-time jobs will be lost across Worcestershire under the plan, which will also see Redditch Borough Council’s One Stop Shop merge with Woodrow Library to cut costs. It is also planned to bring other council and non-council run services into Redditch Library while other options such as closing a floor of the Market Place building to rent out and shutting the library for at least one day a week are also being looked at. In future it is likely both libraries will open for periods when they are not manned by staff but residents will still be able to use the self-service machines.”.  Charges will also go up.
    “We believe this two pronged approach can actually protect both libraries, so we are not weakening both to save both, I actually think you strengthen both by working with others, so I actually see it as a positive not a negative. There’s no proposal on the table to close the main Redditch Library and no proposal on the table to close Woodrow Library so the main outcome of all this is we can still offer a library service to both communities”

    Special Report: A vision for a 21st Century Library?

    What?

    An article called “A Vision for a 21st Century Library” has been published on the New Labour pressure group website Progress

    Why is it important?  
    The article is written by Dan Jarvis MP, the new shadow minister for libraries, and represents the first clear guide to current Labour thinking on libraries.  It also announces that he will be writing a report of the same name after researching the issue more.  It emphasises that Labour is against “shortsighted” policies of cuts and closures and, above all, is doing something in comparison to the inaction of the current Government.
    What does it say?
    • Libraries will change, with the emphasis being on access to information and the internet.
    • They’re a unique public space, with special importance for encouraging the young to read and as a neutral ground which encourages a strong sense of community ownership.
    • Challenges include – spending cuts (“You can’t ignore the need for cuts”), internet access, ebooks. “the idea of going to a library and trawling the shelves for something to borrow seems to some an outdated practise”
    • Desired aims are to enhance social mobility and personal development.
    • New libraries like Canada Water (Southwark) and  Idea Stores (Tower Hamlet) seen as examples of best practise.
    • A report called “A Vision for a 21st Century Library” has been commissioned.
    • Co-location seen as a good idea, merging a library with a museum or advice bureau etc to share costs.  Similarly, libraries should be more used by government services.
    • Closures are too often seen as an easy way out.  “When they shut their doors they will be lost forever. Long after the deficit has been paid off and the rhetoric has been forgotten, communities will still be feeling the effects of these shortsighted policies.”
    • Volunteers are fine as complementary to staff but not to replace them.  “Volunteers are important and welcome additions, but I have yet to meet a group who would not rather be supporting a service adequately funded by the state.”
    • The Government is not doing enough/anything to stop preventable library closures. 
    • Dan Jarvis is visiting libraries over the next few months and welcomes input “from anyone who cares about libraries”.
    Cons
    • An acceptance that large-scale cuts need to be made.  The budget cuts to be implemented by local government, and that the shadow minister does not seem here to oppose, will mean a 27% cut over four years (plus large cuts due to inflation).  These are seriously going to damage any service, especially one as dependent on buildings, constant replenishment of stock and long opening hours as a public library.  To pretend that new ways of thinking could get around the most devastating peacetime cuts in history is simply that – a pretence.
    • Co-location is seen as a good idea.  They are admittedly, sometimes an unblemished success, when the co-locating service is complementary to the library and, to be fair, the article lists many that are.  However, this is not what is often happening currently in practise.  In reality, libraries are often being crammed in with other less complementary services which affect the long-term viability of the service.  As Worcestershire shows today, with a One Stop Shop merged with a library simply to cut costs, all is not rosy wtih co-location. 
    • A liking for big libraries.  Canada Water is a new showpiece flagship library that does its job well but is not the same as a small community library which are always the ones currently under threat.
    • The internet and ebooks have reduced the need for libraries.  It is unquestionable that the internet has greatly reduced the number of enquiries in libraries.  However, libraries have found a new major customer base in providing internet access, often for free, for the fifth of the population who do not have it.  Also, if one can afford an e-reader and ebooks then one would normally have bought one’s books anyway.  Libraries are not, and never have been, in that market.  Libraries are for those who cannot afford (or who do not wish to buy) an e-reader or the instant gratification of all the new e-book they want when they want them.  Again, to be fair, the shadow minister does acknowledge this later on.
    Pros
    • That it has been written at all.  Labour has done very little so far to take advantage of the tremendous ill-feeling that library cuts and closures have caused  and that has severely affected the party loyalties of many library users.  It is unfortunate for the party that some of the leading library closers are Labour authorities – notably Brent – and thus the chance to create clear blue (red?) water between it and the coalition parties had been largely (to possibly overextend the metaphor) muddied over the last year.
    • Putting the boot into the current Ministers.  Ed Vaizey and Jeremy Hunt are now widely reviled by library users for their inaction.  Anything that draws attention to this and embarrasses them further, possibly even into action, is a good thing.
    • The importance of libraries is recognised.  The article is spot on about the importance of libraries to children, the less wealthy, adult learners and to communities.
    • Volunteers.  It is completely correct about this issue.  Volunteers are fantastic as an addition to existing library staff but often feared as disastrous as a long-term widespread replacement to it.  The Government, and many councils, appear to be deliberately blackmailing local communities to work in libraries so that paid and skilled staff can be made redundant.
    • That it is being researched.  It sounds like the Dan Jarvis is going to do his homework and actually see things for himself, not just spout off a good line and cross his fingers. 
    Verdict
    A good and promising start.  Campaigners should be heartened by this and the increased pressure on the Government that it represents.  They should also make sure to invite the shadow minister to hear their thoughts, concerns and to above all invite him to visit their local, smaller, libraries to show why small is sometimes beautiful and that co-location and the switch to ebooks will not cure all ills.   At the same time, the record of Ed Vaizey, who said and did all the right things while in opposition but has so far done negligibly littler while in office, remains the spectre at this New Labour feast.  However, library supporters will be largely happy and positive about what they have seen so far from this as yet little-known shadow minister for libraries … and that is no bad thing.  We need all the good news we can get.

    See also

    New shadow libraries minister condemns library closures - BookSeller.   Article by Dan Jarvis MP contrasted very favourably with inaction of libraries minister Ed Vaizey.

    Special Report: Brent Appeal lost

    Comment
    A sad day and a bitter disappointment to the library campaigners of Brent.  Below are the key points, quotes and media coverage so far.  Please note that the points made are all covered with published evidence.  However, I have not had legal training and so any analysis produced below should be weighed carefully against the evidence.
    Brent – Results and initial feedback
    • Brent appeal lost on all counts, with unanimous decision by all three judges:
      • Section 149 of Equality Act 2010 was “carefully considered” by Brent Council.
      • The council kept its duty towards the Equality legislation “properly in mind from an early stage”.
      • Duties under Section 7 of Public Libraries and Museums Act were not broken.
      • The consultation process was lawful.
      • Council decisions were “rational” and “made with great care”

      “1. Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is obliged to investigate any failures to provide an efficient and comprehensive service. He said he has been waiting for the verdict. He has it now and it is time to act. Write to him here.  We have lost 218 hours of library service across Brent. In return the Council has “improved its service” by a mere 23 hours. It takes 5 weeks to get a delivery of books if you cannot get to one of their remaining, inaccessible libraries.
      2. A cross-party Select Committee is also investigating the nationwide closures. We will be submitting evidence next month.
      3. Not one Labour councillor publicly opposed against the closures. Not one voted against.  It is up to every voter in Brent to complain to their councillor, MP and London Assembly member, Navin Shah. It is unacceptable and undemocratic to ignore such huge opposition.  Call, email and write to them here.”
      Press release from Bindmans, the law firm fighting the case on behalf of the campaigners:

      Campaigners seeking to halt the closure plans for half of Brent’s public libraries suffered a setback today when the Court of Appeal rejected their appeal against refusal of their judicial review claim. The campaigners are considering pursuing an appeal to the Supreme Court. It would be the first opportunity for the highest UK court to consider both the equality duties at the heart of their case and the legality of large-scale public library closures.

      The campaigners’ solicitor, John Halford, of Bindmans LLP said today:
      “Today’s Court of Appeal ruling is very difficult to reconcile with what Parliament intended when it enacted the equality duty that obliges Brent, and all other local authorities, to properly grapple with the impact withdrawal of local services of this kind has on communities. The Court of Appeal appears to accept that there is a risk of indirect discrimination against significant numbers of people in Brent resulting from its plans to impose devastating cuts on local library services, but it has excused the Council from properly taking that risk into account before it deciding to make those cuts. Our position is that this is simply wrong in principle. If the Supreme Court is willing to hear this case, we anticipate the outcome being very different.”
      Margaret Bailey of SOS Brent Libraries, who is also one of the appellants, said:
      “Our legal team presented compelling evidence of damage to communities from Brent Council’s library closures, so we are disappointed that the appeal judges have not found in our favour. Closing half of our libraries has had a devastating effect on the most vulnerable members of our community, among them children and families, the elderly, the disabled and those unemployed or on low incomes. Brent has always had the means to keep these libraries open, it just lacks the will. The overwhelming strength of public feeling over the last year shows that communities need, want and will support local libraries. Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt has so far held back pending the outcome of this test case. The thousands of letters and petitions he has received demonstrate that Brent is neglecting its duties under the Libraries and Museums Act, and he must now call hold a public inquiry into the actions of this council. Brent SOS Libraries campaign will also present evidence to the select committee that clearly demonstrates Brent’s failures.”

      The Lib Dem leader on the council, Cllr Paul Lorber has also issues a press release:

      We will continue the campaign to save Brent’s libraries. If elected as the council’s administration in the 2014 council elections the Liberal Democrats will do all we can to undo Labour’s disastrous and destructive library policy – including by reopening libraries. In the meantime we must continue to put pressure on the Labour councillors who voted for the closures. No other area has suffered the loss of such a large proportion of its libraries. There is also an obligation on Conservative Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt. He should take seriously his legal duty to superintend the library service and order an Inquiry.”
      • Statement by Brent SOS Libraries CampaignSave Kensal Rise Library. 
      • Brent library campaigners lose appeal - BookSeller.  “In a judgment given in court this afternoon (19th December), Lord Justices Pill, Richards and Davis upheld the decision made in October by Mr Justice Ouseley at judicial review in favour of Brent council, rejecting the claims made by residents that the council had fallen foul of the Equality Act and been unfair to community groups who put forward proposals to save the libraries, which include those at Kensal Rise and Preston Park.”

      “Brent Council leader Ann John said: “We are pleased that today the court of appeal found unanimously in the council’s favour, upholding the decision of Mr Justice Ouseley that the council acted lawfully. We will now be able to begin implementing the improvement plan that will deliver a better library service for the people of Brent.”

      “Solicitor John Halford, of the campaign’s solicitors Bindmans LLP, said: “Today’s Court of Appeal ruling is very difficult to reconcile with what Parliament had intended when it enacted the equality duty that obliges Brent and all other local authorities to properly grapple with the impact that a withdrawal of local services of this kind has on communities. “There are still other options to be pursued. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport have looked at over 2,000 complaints from people in Brent about the decimation of the library services.”
      “The six libraries identified for closure are in unsuitable locations and badly in need of expensive and unaffordable repairs.  The closures will help fund improvements to the remaining library service and contribute towards £104 million of savings the council needs to make.”

      “I consider that an air of unreality has descended over this particular line of attack. Councils cannot be expected to speculate on or to investigate or to explore such matters ad infinitum”. Lord Justice Davies

      Assaulting libraries

      414 libraries (323 buildings and 91 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 are 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

      • 2011 in perspective – Walk You Home.  “A comment that’s sometimes thrown my way when I talk about fighting library cuts and closures is that perhaps I need to get a sense of perspective. It’s only a few books, what am I getting so het up about? Shouldn’t I take my incandescence and direct it at something  worthier, bigger, more ‘important’? In our crazy, messed up world, what’s the point of someone like me spending so much time and energy on library advocacy and activism?…”
      • Assaulting libraries - Counterpunch (USA).   If libraries are bastions of intellectual freedom where repositories of knowledge can be trotted out to dispel darkness, closing them implies the converse.  The intellectually hungry are to be starved in the Britain of David Cameron, and writers and readers are getting alarmed. Those who would normally not have access to those sources will be kept in perfect ignorance.  But the trends are, sadly, global, and the library is under assault as the regimes of banksters and technocrats take hold of the public purse.”
      • Fighting the big uncaring society - Express.  Trafford “plans have provoked a storm of protest from voluntary groups who vow to boycott attempts to replace staff with unpaid helpers. “A campaign is being launched in Trafford for all community groups to refuse to participate in the scheme if it results in job cuts. A council spokeswoman said it was too soon to say how many librarians would be made redundant.”
      • Gift of Reading in 2011 - National Literacy Trust.   “In this new report we explore children’s reading in 2011 with findings from our first annual survey of literacy in the UK. It examines children’s ownership of books, access to reading materials, frequency of reading and attitudes to reading. We also consider how these factors could all affect children and young people’s reading abilities.”
      • Gus O’Donnell and the UK civil service - Good Library Blog.   Perkins the cat does not like the civil service.  “Followers of the campaign to rescue public libraries from the menacing hands of all those administrate and run them might observe the level of competence and standard of behaviour of civil servants in Whitehall and public officers in local councils across the country. Almost without exception, over a decade and more, almost every act that has been observed has been self serving, incompetent, idiotic, Kafkaesque in its malicious treatment of the public, and shameful.”
      • High Court to rule on campaigners appeal against library closures - London 24.  “Library campaigners will find out this afternoon if their appeal against a High Court ruling that paved the way for six branch closures is successful. Crusaders have been battling to save the branches in Barham Park, Cricklewood, Kensal Rise, Neasden, Preston and Tokyngton since the council announced they faced the chop in a £1m cost-cutting measure.”
      • Inspiration - We Heart Libraries.  Here we link to some of the most eloquent examples of people explaining why libraries matter to them and why they are so absolutely fundamental to our communities and wider society. Read, listen, and get inspired!…”
      • Library love: things you love about your local libraries - Huffington Post (USA).   Slideshow of positive comments about public libraries from Twitter.  “I never met a library I didn’t like”.
      • Thanks from a public librarian to anyone who said no to library cuts - Information Twist.  ” I realised that as a public librarian I hadn’t said thank you for a long time for the support people are giving public libraries during this tough time. I know some people are putting so much effort in that it’s basically like having a second job! So… thank you to everyone and anyone, wherever you are, who has said “No” to public library cuts over the past year or so. It’s the nicest Christmas present you could have given me. You really don’t know how much I appreciate it.”
      • What happened next? The big stories of 2011 - Independent.   Colin Dexter chooses library closures as one of the big stories over the last year.  “Libraries became the unexpected social flashpoint of 2011 when the Government cut funding to local authorities and councils responded by proposing library closures.”


      “I think the Government has been surprised by the scale of the response; their actions were taken on the assumption that people would just sit back and let the consultations pave the way for closure. Instead, you saw the people gather and revolt and take their case to the courts instead. “I would rather turn off every light on the motorway than close our libraries. What we have seen this year will invariably lead to further cultural deprivation.”

      Changes

      Warwickshire
      - Southam could have new co-located library.  

      Local News

      • Bradford – Council owed £174,000 in library fines - Telegraph and Argus.  Councillor Dave Green, the Council’s executive member responsible for culture, said: “Having had library fines, as I am sure most of the population have, the money is retrieved when people bring their overdue books back. That is the easiest way. “After a period of time when books have not been returned we write to people to say they have the books and they owe us money.””
      • Brent – Send a Christmas card! - Save Kensal Rise Library.  You can now send the campaign Christmas e-card to your friends.”
      • Cambridgeshire – 13 libraries saved in Cambridgeshire - ConservativeHome.   “This should be a beacon to Conservative authorities across the country – libraries have to take their share of cuts in hard times, but the original proposition was disproportionate, as are library cuts across the country, notably in Labour authorities, which generally consider literacy to be an elitist concept, and are not sympathetic to it. Libraries are essential to civilised life, both for the growing number of children who do not have their own books, and for adults who need their services for study and to help look for work.”.  Comments following article make clear that the Conservatives are as guilty as anyone else in cutting libraries.
      • Gloucestershire – Final ruling papers received: “bad government” and “substantive breach of equality legislation” - FoGL.   “The judge found for library users, awarded them costs and quashed all decisions.” … “the judge acknowledges that the case was brought in the wider public interest and judgement was applied and relief given to the whole of Gloucestershire. Also, please note, where the three points of the challenge are discussed, it is the judges opinion that they were so inextricably linked that he felt it was necessarily to quash ALL the plans.” Full decision here.  
      • Kent – Religious leaders’ concern at library Scientology stock - This is Kent.   “Seventeen of the 72 books, written by founder and science fiction author L Ron Hubbard, in the section at the Avebury Avenue library are devoted to the controversial religion.” [NB. public libraries receive boxes of new Scientology books from time to time.  It is tempting to put them on the shelves, although almost all libraries do not, for obvious reasons - Ed.]
      • Liverpool – Take the budget challengeLiverpool Council.   Consultation on how the council will cut £50m including on libraries.
      • Northumberland – Library opens new chapter - Northumberland Gazette.  Social care/health desk at Amble Library opens.  “NHS staff will provide advice and guidance, and information will be available at the information point on support groups, activities available which people can become involved in, entitlements such as attendance allowance and how social services and other organisations are able to provide support.”
      • Oxfordshire – Library campaigners “ignored” over cuts - Henley Standard.  “Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet agreed to withdraw half of the staff funding from 16 of its 43 libraries, including those in Sonning Common, Woodcote, Goring, Benson and Watlington, following public consultation. The outcome is better than the two-thirds cut in funding that was previously proposed but the libraries’ Friends groups claim it is unfair on those in rural areas.”
        • Some council cuts “political” - Oxford Times.   Conservative MP says some councils are closing libraries just to make a political point.  [Oxfordshire, on the other hand, is simply blackmailing people to volunteer in them in order to keep them open and to prove the wonders of the Big Society.  No political points being made there at all then.  Ed.]
      • Scottish Borders – “Lip service” claim over library cuts - Southern Reporter.  “If councillors vote today for the merger of contact centres and public libraries, with a cut in the opening hours of the latter in four towns, they must be prepared to face the wrath of voters at the May elections. That was the warning this week from Tim Clancey, the member of Innerleithen community council who organised a petition of 1,000 signatures, a third of the town’s population, against the changes.”
        • Councillors defend decision to back Selkirk library merger - Advertiser.   ““If you look at what is happening in other places, especially England where many public libraries are being closed to save money, SBC and myself are desperately trying to find ways to maintain and extend library services and we must look at how to improve usage further. That has to be achieved by using the best staff in the best roles.”
      • Suffolk – Big society sees community groups soar - Mix 96.   “A surge in community spirit has seen the number of projects run by friends and neighbours treble in the past three years as the Prime Minister pushes his Big Society plan to shift power away from central government. Shops, youth hostels, parks and pubs have all been taken on by local groups. “
      • Trafford – Press coverage round-up - HOOT.  “All in all, we got just about all the coverage we could have hoped for and then some. It’s probably safe to say we have launched with a bang – but the real campaign starts here.”
      • Warwickshire – Southam could have library, care home, museum and council services all under one roof - Courier.   “Plans are being drawn up to rebuild the library and the empty Victor Hodges House care home, with a ‘one stop shop’ for council services and possibly a home for the town’s historic Cardall collection.”

      Wrecking Crew of the Year

      Comment

      The result of the Brent appeal against the halving of it’s borough’s libraries will be announced on Monday.  Meanwhile, Brent Council has made clear what it thinks of the campaigners by awarding the people behind closing the libraries with the “team of the year” award.  A library campaigner said:
      “We will certainly remember the Libraries Transformation Team as the team of the year but not the for the right reasons. Maybe the award should have gone to the library staff and other council staff who have lost their jobs.”

      The decisions of the team have not only resulted in increased unemployment and the greatest public protest in Brent for a century or more, for they have failed also on their own terms of saving money: 
      “The “bill for defending the closures increased from £70,500 in September to £150,000. Another £258,000 has been spent on sacking staff and redundancy payments.” London Evening Standard, 13.12.11

      That name of the team, “Transformation”, kind of sticks in the craw as well.  It’s a wonderfully positive way of describing something that would more accurately be described as “cutting”.  Or “destruction”. 
      Or “boarding up”.
      As a final pat on the back for a job well done to the Libraries Disappearance Team, the council said “the awards are given to recognise colleagues who have worked hard in difficult circumstances or gone over and above what would normally be expected”.  My goodness me, with successes like this, it makes me wonder about 2012….  Ed Vaizey, don’t look too smug but it looks like it’s in the bag for 2012.
      414 libraries (323 buildings and 91 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 are 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.

      If you haven’t already done so, please add your name to this open letter to Ed Vaizey

      News

      • 15 key insights from 2011 from 15 key thinkers and writers - Forbes (USA).  “The most exciting intellectual moment of 2011 for me was learning that People’s Libraries were at the heart of the various Occupy movement camps. The idea that knowledge and culture should be freely-available and widely-shared amongst those who want access to them is incredibly appealing. The spontaneous creation of these libraries against a backdrop of public library closures is a sign of hope. The destruction of nearly 3,000 books in the Zuccotti Park raid only reinforced the power of this idea”
      “Today, at the age of 91, Ray Bradbury is alarmed by the service, staff, and budget cuts being thrust at library directors across the country, and the world, for that matter. In the last several years, he has written letters to municipal leaders, he has even gone to libraries to protest service cuts and branch closings. Bradbury has always gotten it. Libraries are the greatest educational institutions in the world. And they always have been. Libraries have always been at the center of the greatest civilizations throughout history from Ancient Egypt to Ancient Greece to the present.” For the Love of Libraries: Listen to the Echoes (USA).

      • Hip, loud and sociable? A new wave of “library labs” - Impatient Optimists.  “Libraries still provide the kind of services that people have been using for decades: they offer comfortable spaces to learn, help people research important issues, and they loan books and music. But libraries are also high-tech hubs where a third of Americans—including millions of teens—go regularly to goonline, ask for guidance about how to use technology, and take classes that help them prepare for success in today’s digital world.”
      • Library says no guns - Wisconsin Dell Events (USA).   “”I’m quite comfortable with saying no weapons and posting that sign the insurance company said about we can’t guarantee that nobody’s going to kill you,” he said.”. “Member Gisela Hamm said if someone comes to the library with a gun they should politely be asked to leave. Borck said if someone came to the library with a gun, the library would probably summon police whether or not they had a sign. Hamm said she thought the rules for getting a concealed carry permit made it so easy to carry a weapon that any “idiot” could get one. 

      Changes

      Ealing - Perivale £400k upgrade (saved from closure this year), Hanwell will have £900k essential improvements.  50 volunteers assist.
      Surrey - Group:  Tattenhams Community Library.  
      Worcestershire – 30 staff to lose jobs, £1.8m cut, opening hours reduced, charges increase, more self-service (90% target), less bookfund, more co-locationMobile library review

      Local News

      • Bath and Northeast Somerset – Midsomer Norton residents have say in local librariesMidsomer Norton People.  “The consultation will ask for views on proposals including saving £159,000 by withdrawing the mobile library service in Bath and North East Somerset and moving resources into increasing the opening hours of the Council’s part-time libraries across the district and extending the Home Library Service. “
      • Bolton – First library in council cuts to close its doors - Bolton News.  Highfield Library in Farnworth, will shut on Friday, January 13, with the neighbourhood collection opening the following Monday.” … Computer in children’s centre will allow issuing of books from small stock there, others can be ordered.
      • Brent – Libraries decision expectedHarrow Observer.   Result of the appeal against the decision to uphold the closures of half of the borough’s library expected at 2pm on Monday.  “A Brent SOS spokesman said: “Dinah Rose QC argued on behalf of library users and Brent SOS Libraries Campaign that in deciding to close six libraries, the council had failed to prevent discrimination against groups such as Asians, young children and local school children, by neglecting to assess the impact on such groups.”
        • Appeal verdict expected Monday 2pm at the High Court, the Strand - Preston Library Campaign.  “Using the very same data that the council executive used to decide to close the libraries, Dinah Rose showed that 28% of Brent’s population is Asian and that 46% of active library users were Asian, so it was obvious that the closure of the libraries would disproportionately affect Asian residents. She also showed that the highest concentrations of Asian populations in the borough were concentrated around three libraries – Preston, Barham and Tokyngton – all of which were closed. She had evidence to show that since closure, the library that users of these three libraries were expected to use instead – Ealing Road – was overcrowded.”
        • Library closure team honoured at Brent council awards ceremony - Times series.  “rent Council’s end-of-year achievement awards has caused outcry after the team behind the project which resulted in half of the borough’s libraries closing was named Team of the Year.” 
        • Guardian, Society Daily - Library campaigners in north-west London, who are planning to sing carols tonight. They’ll be gathering at the green on Preston Road, Wembley, at 5pm before walking to Preston Road. They are highlighting Brent council’s decision to close six of its 12 libraries, a decision the Brent SOS Libraries group is challenging in the high court, and they’ve even written their own words to the carol We Three Kings, which begins:
      We need our libraries – local they are,
      Now we’ll have to travel afar
      Traffic, parking
      Drive us barking.
      Paying to park the car.” 

      • Ealing – Perivale library to get a £400,000 facelift - Ealing Gazette.  “Perivale library is to get an over-due £400,000 refurbishment five months after it was saved from closure.Councillor Ranjit Dheer, cabinet member for community services, told a full council meeting on Tuesday how the 1930s building, in Horsenden Lane South, would get the cash injection in the new year. Hanwell library is also due to receive £900,000 to make essential improvements to the dated buildings.” … “Funding will come from the recovered £2million invested in an Icelandic bank, thought lost during the financial crisis.  Mr Dheer said more than 50 volunteers had stepped up to help run the libraries at a reduced cost, while all 40 Labour councillors will volunteer at a large reading event in March.”
      • Gloucestershire – Public meeting on future of Gloucestershire library service: report from an attendee - FoGL.   Summary of meeting including questions for council unanswered as it refused to attend.
        • Library campaigners ready for next chapter - Cotswold Journal.  “The group has come up with a template on how it thinks the county council should undertake its new library review – which will start in the new year.”
      • Hertfordshire – Children’s author Michael Morpurgo makes plea to save schools library services - Times Series.  “Morpurgo, a former Children’s Laureate who was born in St. Albans, wrote to Hertfordshire council hoping the letter will be read out at a meeting on Monday, before the decision is ratified. He wrote: “Every year I come to Hertfordshire to talk to your children about writing, to try to inspire them to find their own writing voice, and to encourage them to read.”
      • Scottish Borders – Chapter closes as local library protest fails - Peeblesshire News.   “Innerleithern campaigners have hit out after councillors forged ahead with plans to merge libraries and contact centres.”… “Campaigners opposed to the move raised a petition which drew over 1000 signatures. But the Peeblesshire protest was largely ignored.” … “”The report estimates that the proposals will cost £360,000 to carry out, and their estimate that the savings made will recoup this cost within three years are based on assumptions such as finding buyers for vacated council property …It is likely that the cost will take far more than three years to recoup. There is no saving in the short or even the medium term.” 
      • Surrey – County Council U turn on library emails - Eagle Radio.   Emails from library campaigners to councillors will not longer ber automatically blocked.  “A Surrey County Council spokesman said: “We have to be strong enough to recognise when we have got something wrong and in this case we have. We value people’s views and Mr Alsop’s emails will now arrive straight into inboxes, instead of councillors having the option of opening them. People’s opinions are always considered when a decision is made and this was the case with the recent decision to change the libraries policy, which was heavily informed by the opinions of library users.”
        • Libraries appeal for volunteers ahead of library shake up – This is Local London.   “Three libraries desperate to stay open are appealing for volunteers as Surrey County Council continues its plans to replace full time staff with volunteers. Ewell Court, Stoneleigh and Tattenhams are three of 10 Surrey libraries which will be handed over to volunteers next year.”
      • Worcestershire – Library staff to lose jobs in council cut backs - Worcester News.  “While Droitwich Library has already been transformed to accommodate other services such as Age Concern and Jobcentre Plus plans are underway to deliver a community-led library with the parish council, police and other partners in Broadway and move Bewdley’s facility in the museum/ Guildhall complex as part of a wider regeneration scheme including the creation of a new medical centre.”
      “At a meeting of cabinet yesterday county councillor Liz Tucker, who represents Pershore, said there was “real shock and anger” in the town when it looked like the library was moving but town councillor Chris Parsons said the 11 months of discussion and negotiation had been worth the effort. “It’s been a difficult time but this is a wonderful example of how a little town council like Pershore’s can work with the might of the county council to hopefully achieve success,” he said.”

        • Staff could go in Worcestershire council libraries plan - BBC.   “About 30 staff could be laid off next year and opening hours reduced under proposals to cut a council’s libraries budget by £1.8m. Charges for late books will rise, with less spent on new books, under plans by Worcestershire County Council.”
        • Talks to determine Catshill’s future - Bromsgrove Standard.   “Council chiefs will now begin discussions with the parish council and Catshill Middle School on a proposal that could see a refurbished library and services collection relocated to the middle school.”

      What Ed Said, and didn’t say, in the Commons.

      Comment

      House of Commons – Oral answers to questions: Libraries - Hansard.  Ed Vaizey, Minister-technically-in-favour-of-Libraries was asked questions by several MPs today (Thursday).  The following are his key statements (in bold) with my analysis thereafter:

      (a) Library cuts are due to local authority decisionsThe DCMS has met seven of these to “discuss their proposals”. But then they have done absolutely nothing.  At least six local authorities (Gloucestershire, the Isle of Wight, Somerset, Brent, Lewisham, Doncaster) cut services to a similar level as the Wirral case Ed got so hot under the collar about when in opposition.
      (b) Trafford has opened a new library in Urmston.  Librarians are “incredibly important”.  Ed does not mention the five at all – two are to be entirely converted to self-service (unstaffed), two are to be run by volunteers and one mobile library to close.  One of these libraries, Old Trafford, had a major refurbishment last year. Ed has not given any guidelines on what level of professional staffing is necessary and is in favour of “community”  branches in, for example in Oxfordshire where many will be 50% staffed by volunteers.  Northamptonshire today is making volunteers working in libraries to replace paid staff a part of its policy.  North Yorkshire is also following this line, as are many others.  It is easy to say things like librarians are “incredibly important”, it takes more effort to actually protect them.
      (c) “local authorities have challenging decisions to make, and my approach is to give them the space and time to make those difficult proposals. Local authorities are going about their provision differently but all have a strong commitment to their library service, and the Government are also strongly committed through maintaining the statutory duty. Giving infinite space and time is inaction, not an approach.  The Government is keeping the statutory duty on the record books but, by completely refusing to enforce it, has effectively made it useless.  Ed waited while campaigners in Glos/Somerset won their case, those in Brent lost (and have appealed), and the Isle of Wight failed to challenge cuts in the courts due to inability to secure funding.  Therefore, Ed’s policy is to wait for the public to raise the money or not for the legal challenges themselves and to ignore the problem either way.
      (d) “co-locating a library service, whether with a children’s centre or other services, is very important.” It can save money while delivering mutual benefits, it’s true … but it has many down sides if rushed into or if both sides are squeezed into the same space as one of them had before…
      “In practice, however, this model is not achievable everywhere. There are not many existing buildings with the space to include a full library service, and cost is always going to be a major issue when it comes to building new ones. Most children’s centres and village halls, for example, even if the expertise of trained library staff is made available, are much too small to accommodate a large enough stock of books or to be able to run an efficient library service alongside their normal business.”  Vivien Hampshire, library outreach worker for a children’s centre.”
      (e) “it is also worth focusing on the fact that more than 40 libraries are opening or being refurbished across the country“.  40 out of 4612 that is.  Please compare with the c.400 under threat of closure or removal from council funding.  Also, several, including Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester Centrals are being refurbished/built due to investment in place before 2010.  The figure also presumably includes controversial decisions such as Brent where a big new library will be built at the expense of closing six branches. Of course, Ed reduced the grant from £13m to £3m for upgradubg libraries when he abolished the MLA earlier this year, thus reducing by three quarters what was available in upgrading/support money from central government.
      (f) “Unlike the previous Government, we are not putting that statutory duty under review.” The previous Goverment never put the statutory duty under review.  It was mentioned as a possibility in a discussion paper.

      414 libraries (323 buildings and 91 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 are 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.

      If you haven’t already done so, please add your name to this open letter to Ed Vaizey

      News

      • Library closures: writers attack Ed Vaizey in open letter - Guardian.  “Joanna Trollope, Yann Martel, Patrick Ness and Kate Mosse were among the 200-plus signatories to a blistering open letter to culture minister Ed Vaizey urging him to take action to prevent libraries from closing up and down the country. Penned by library campaigners in Gloucestershire, who saw a judge rule last month that their council’s plan to close 10 libraries was unlawful and should be quashed, the letter lambasts Vaizey for his “deafening” silence in the face of library cuts and closures, and calls on him to act.”.  DCMS has promised that Ed Vaizey will respond but their bland everything-is-OK reply at the end of article shows why so many people are angry at the start of the article.
      “Use of statutory powers, including intervention, will be exercised on a case by case basis only when all other avenues of dialogue have been exhausted.” DCMS [on the basis of the minister's inaction this year, campaigners suspect "all other avenues" may include waiting until the heat death of the universe - Ed.]

      • Time reveals Person of the Year: The Protester – BBC.   While library supporters are not actually listed in this article, I think one can assume the article includes them in spirit.
      • Why I’m against library privatization - Social Action Web (USA).   The main goal of a corporation is to increase shareholder wealth, not to delight library patrons.” … “The pattern also includes slashing benefits for library workers, blurring lines between trained professionals and volunteers, and hiding behind the corporate veil when there are any hard community questions.” … “in LSSI’s contract, that there is a demerit system for being late and a demerit for not telling on a co-worker who is late.”
      • Why the Big Society plays havoc with Britain’s borrowers - Independent.   “Local authorities have a legal duty to provide public libraries, not for the benefit of poets but for the sake of people who have no other adequate access to learning. Some councils seem to believe this duty is an option.” (mentions Glos, Somerset, Brent, Lewisham).  “Today, there will be a small step towards slowing this impending cultural catastrophe when MPs gather to form an All-Party Parliamentary Libraries Group, chaired by the Tory MP Justin Tomlinson, who oversaw Swindon’s libraries for four years as a local councillor. Mr Tomlinson is not looking to embroil the group in political controversy. He says he wants it to be “positive and constructive” in dispersing information about how councils can run modernised libraries more efficiently.”
      • Windsore, Ontario, Library ends late fees, moves into art gallery - Library Journal (USA).  “”We are trying to project a modern, inclusive, welcoming and relevant image to our customers,” Windsor Public Library Board Chair Al Maghnieh said in a library press release. “Fines have a negative connotation which serves to limit access and in my mind are punitive. We don’t want to alienate our customers; we want them using our facilities. Fines perpetuate the old-fashioned, stereotypical view of public libraries and serve to address 21st-century problems with 19th-century solutions,” he said.”. 

      Changes 

      Caerphilly – Aberbargoed library may close, transferred to new library in Bargoed. 
      Nottinghamshire - Some hours regained in libraries whos opening had been cut in half earlier in 2011.  Bookfund cut.

      Local News

      “The mercury on the hand-drawn marker is currently standing at an impressive £300,000 after just a month of fundraising – but the Primrose Hill Community Association leading the bid are aiming for £1.2 million in pledges. The campaign must be one of the country’s glitziest with stars such as Joan Bakewell, Sadie Frost and Jon Snow all backing the campaign. Author India Knight told the New Journal last week she would be pledging her time and money to the new library. “

      • Doncaster – Update and open letter to Ed Vaizey - Save Doncaster Libraries.  We (and thousands around the country) believe he is neglecting his responsibility to superintend the UK’s library service. “.  Analyses poor situation in Doncaster libraries and inadequate response.
      • Gloucestershire – Public library meeting raises concern - This is Glos.   “A public meeting was held in Gloucester last night to discuss the future of the public library service in the county. Library users came from many different communities across Gloucestershire. In a packed meeting hall at the GAVCA offices on Eastgate Street, the front row was reserved for invited senior members of the County Council administration. Several speakers expressed their disappointment that Gloucestershire County Council administration and officers responsible for library services had declined an invitation to the meeting.”
        • Library campaigner’s letter to minister backed by hundreds - This is Glos.  FoGL responded to article by adding “The point of the letter that this article refers to is that the county council, in light of the lack of supervision by DCMS, were taken to the High Court and their plans were deemed unlawful…..any exhaustion of dialogue happened some time ago when the plans were confirmed as final (not “proposed plans” as you suggest) and the DCMS allowed GCC to carry on down the unlawful path. They were due to implement the unlawful plans in JULY and were only stopped due to an injunction. This comment really does make the DCMS look very foolish. DCMS were “monitoring” and had “met with” GCC officers to discuss unlawful plans and did nothing.   Also mentioned in Booktrade.info.
        • Library proposals in Gloucestershire to be reconsidered after High Court ruling - Gazette.  “So far the authority has revealed no details of the new proposals but the council has said the plans must be sustainable and affordable. The county council’s cabinet will be meeting on January 20 to discuss the plans, and if agreed, a public consultation will then be launched.”
      • Hertfordshire – Petition set up against school library cuts - Comet.   ““It’s a vital service, especially for primary schools and smaller secondary schools,” said Hitchin-based Andy Darley, who heads the group. “School librarians tend to be working on their own, they don’t tend to have a network.” … “The Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals (CILIP) and the National Literacy Trust (NLT) also condemned the likely closure of the Herts service this week, and said it could eventually impact the whole country.”  See also Alan Gibbons
      • North Yorkshire – Grave fears over council’s “unworkable” plans - Yorkshire Post.  “it has now emerged that Hunmanby library – one of eight branches earmarked for closure next year unless volunteers take over the running of it – currently does not have a viable scheme.”
      • Northamptonshire – Local deal proposed for people of NorthamptonshireAbout My Area.   “”In return though we are asking people across the county to get further engaged in the services we know they value so much. To help us bring costs down for example we need volunteers to help at libraries and to help at country parks.”
      • Nottinghamshire – Moves to keep 15 libraries open for an extra 70 hours - This is Nottingham.   “…just months after they were cut by up to half. Notts County Council has announced plans to keep the libraries open for an extra 70 hours a week from April next year after finding extra cash in its budget.” … “Mr Cottee said management restructuring and changes in the way the service is run had led to savings of £110,000, which the council would use to pay for the increased opening hours.”
      • Western Isles -  Council to make £3.1 million cuts and savings - Hebrides News.  “Cuts are also being explored in grants to voluntary groups, economic development, sport, libraries and public toilets.”