Comment
Oxfordshire have slightly backed down from their proposals for a “volunteers with everything” approach to library provision.  However, despite cheery headlines, nearly half (21 out of 43) of their branches will still have paid staff cut by up to 50%.  There are also some doubts as to whether the council has done its homework about costing for it.
Someone who is hoping to employ a lot more paid staff is Tim Coates, library consultant ex of Waterstones, who has announced the launch of a new ebook provider, Bilbary, in the next few weeks which is hoping for public library as well as publisher support.  All the while, time is getting seriously short for people to respond to the DCMS Select Committee on Library Closures – Christmas is going to be here any minute – and so it is encouraging to see CILIP are stirring (or at least stirring others) to action.
422 libraries (330 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

  • Boyd Tonkin: Flagships and hulks – Independent.   Collaboration between booksellers and libraries is starting, promoting the good news about libraries and the new ones opening.  Concerns that such collaboration may be insufficient if more closures mean a confrontation with politicians. Also, danger that big ego-boosting new libraries will have money spent on them while the others are left to rot.
“Beware, especially, every bid to wield those 40 openings as proof that protesters have cried wolf over cuts. In many authorities, the campaigns turn specifically on plans to replace or downgrade local branches in favour of shiny town-centre monuments to municipal pride, located miles from users’ homes.”

“A long-time library campaigner, Coates said Bilbary would aid public libraries. “Trade publishers don’t want to lend at present. There has been huge sales growth in e-books this year and nobody wants to damage that. In time, we think there will be lending, and here is a space where they can experiment. The public library service doesn’t have to create its own e-digital library by buying speculatively, they can use this as a service. Publishers will be paid for every loan. It could solve the problem, [currently causing a stalemate on e-lending], and then the library service would have an e-book solution. “

  • Tim Coates to launch international e-bookstore, Bilbary – Publishers Weekly. Coates is certainly aware of e-bookstore powerhouses Amazon and BN.com, but he believes the e-book market, particularly outside of America, is only in its infancy with room for new players. He is also positioning Bilbary to be publisher, customer, and library friendly. Publishers can set their own prices and change them whenever they want.”.  Aiming to supply as many formats as possible, taking 20% commission (publishers 80%). 
  • Help CILIP respond to select committee inquiry into public library closures (in England) – CILIP. “In our response CILIP will be taking the opportunity to set out the value of the public library service and the knowledge and skills of the library staff that are vital in designing and delivering a service that meets the needs of its communities – the service is so much more than just the buildings! The ideas and examples provided by members will help inform and enrich the CILIP evidence to the Inquiry. We appreciate the very tight timetable (set by the Select Committee) but nevertheless would welcome greatly the contribution of CILIP members. It would be helpful if this included comments specifically addressing the issues raised by the Inquiry. You have until 23 December 2011 to feed your views into CILIP’s response which has to be with the Select Committee by 12 January 2012.”
  • How libraries are about more than books – Huffington Post (USA).   “When visitors walk into the Minneapolis building, the first collection they see is about 300 computers, each of which is in use about 90 percent of the time. Nationwide, the number of physical books borrowed from libraries is slowly declining, although books remain a core reason why people visit their libraries. The staff in Minneapolis estimates that computer access is the primary reason that most patrons, especially low-income and unemployed people, visit.”.  [See the very polarised comments at end of article for a worrying view of all that is wrong about the current political and social situation in the USA.  Homelessness and the evil of paying taxes seem key issues – Ed.]
“Edwin S. Clay III, the director of libraries since 1982, said that libraries have “never been more relevant,” but that they are increasingly filling the voids left by other public institutions. “We’re becoming lots of folks’ offices, especially as they look for work,” Clay said. “We’re not the school system, but we’re focusing on childhood literacy. We’re teaching people how to use computers. We’re stepping up and saying, ‘How can we help?'”

  • Library phantom returnsNPR (USA).  Superb artist celebrating books, writing and libraries in Scotland has a big fan in America.   Central Station has the most complete collection of pictures of the wonderful anonymous artists’ work who has now finished dotting sculptures made of books around Edinburgh.
  • Michael Moore: end wars, fund libraries – Books for Walls (USA).   Celebrity supports libraries and inspires further campaigning. 

Changes

Oxfordshire 2/12/11: All libraries to be at least half-staffed by paid workers, previously proposals said 16 would be one-third staffed, with the rest being provided by volunteers.  22 will be fully staffed, 16 half-staffed, 5 two-thirds staffed.  Decision to be maded on 12/12/11.  

Local News

  • Barnet – Deadline looms for library plan – Barnet Today.  “The [Save Friern Barnet] group will be contributing financial plans and details of the campaign’s formal constitution, their governance arrangements and bank accounts, alongside additional documentation.  The council’s cabinet previously approved a strategy to close the library, merge it with North Finchley Library and reopen in the artsdepot at Tally Ho Corner.  However, following a campaign by residents, a three-month reprieve was granted to provide time for consideration of alternative solutions.”
  • Bracknell Forest – Fun booked for Bracknell libraries – Get Bracknell.   List of Christmas events.
  • Edinburgh – Library cuts “a mistake” says Labour – Scotsman.  Councillor Ricky Henderson, finance spokesman for the Labour group on the city council, said it was “very sad” to see the city’s 26 libraries bear the brunt of budget cuts.”.  Wide service offered by libraries will be reduced by cuts in hours. 
  • Gloucestershire – Report of first council meeting since library plans ruled unlawful – FoGL.  Glos Council still apparently believes it did everything lawful, regardless of court judgement ruling against them, with the Leader saying that the judge had given a “subjective” view and repeating that the defeat (with the council being ordered to pay full costs) was a “small technicality”.  Council also appears to believe that mobile libraries are not libraries. “All in all, the GCC response was depressing and most unpromising. The County Council and especially Cllr Hawthorne gave no indication they are going to put things right in our libraries. I came away with a strong impression that the County Council may well be about to waste a lot more of our time and money before they restore our library service.”
    • Dear Library Santa – FoGL.   Stonehouse Library campaigners invite Santa along to gain public support against cuts. ““We got around 200 signed in 4 hours in Stonehouse on Saturday afternoon. The idea proved popular and the letter could be changed to suit other localities.”
    • Council to work with top equalities body – Gloucestershire Council.Both Gloucestershire and Somerset Councils will be working with the Commission to ensure that their revised plans for libraries comply with new equality legislation, which was updated this year. Discussions have already taken place between both council chief executives and the EHRC’s chief executive to confirm their involvement. The move follows a judge’s ruling which overturned the councils’ decisions on changes to library services on equality grounds.”
“Gloucestershire is reviewing its position with regards to libraries and a new consultation and equalities assessment will be carried out in the near future. In the mean time [sic] the authority will continue working with community groups who are keen to take over library services themselves.”

  • Oxfordshire – Hope on horizon for Chinnor Library? – Thame Gazette.  Chinnor may be staffed two-third by paid and one-third by volunteer. ““Unfortunately we in Oxfordshire, like all areas of the country, are faced with having to make significant financial cutbacks across almost all areas of the services that we provide. It is impossible to exempt the Library Service from this, however we have proposed a plan that would see all our libraries remain operational.””
    • Library volunteers cutOxford Mail.   Council reduces proportion of volunteers to paid staff in new proposals although 21 out of 43 will still have paid staff cut by up to one-half.
    • Missing costs from proposals – Question Everything.  Analysis of new proposals suggests that the council has not been working out costs of volunteers or self-service machines and so the cuts may end up costing more money than leaving the service alone. 
  • Wakefield – Petition handed over against Wakefield library closures – BBC.  200-name petition against withdrawal from 12 out of 25 libraries.  “The council said that, since 1992, visitor numbers at its library had fallen by 43% compared to 15% nationally.” [and choose to cut them further rather than investigate reasons for a fall three times worse than expected – Ed.]