A report in the Sunday Times suggests that Ed Vaizey is asking for Big Lottery Fund money for withdrawn libraries.  While it is nice that the Minister Invisibly In Charge Of Libraries is showing an interest, it shows his weakness, and the direness of the current situation, that he is begging for money. 
Mind you, withdrawn branches need all the help they can get.  Have a look at the figures in the table below from Lewisham to see how libraries that were council-run last year are now doing when withdrawn from council control.  The words “Community Library” in this table, incidentally, does not mean a local public library but rather that it is no longer being run by the council:

The outsourced branches on average experienced a decline of 73% in book issues over one year.  Of course, this figure is skewed – there’s been upheaval in those libraries recently taken over by different organisations (a computer recycling company, an elderly people’s charity and, in New Cross, a bona fide library user’s co-operative) which has doubtless depressed things a little.  As has whatever “initial difficulties with data collection” means.  However, a loss of three-quarters seems excessive.  Something else is going on here rather than problems due to change of management.  Nor do the problems in Lewisham stop there. In those not outsourced (leaving out the non-comparable Torridon Road and Wavelengths figures) the decline was still an amazingly poor 18%.  The warning below the figures suggests that there have been staff cuts and the installation of self-service machines but, still 18%?  Perhaps they’re not buying new books this year as well. For national comparison, the CIPFA figures for 2010/11 showed a decline of only 2.3%.
Another point from these figures is that the previous users of the withdrawn libraries do not appear to be using the other branches.  This suggests that public library provision is effectively being lost to those in the neighbourhoods where the council has decided to retreat from managing branches, raising concerns for the whole model, at least in the form practised in Lewisham.
All of this is useful information for all of those thinking of writing to the Select Committee (details below).  Other useful information can be found by writing Freedom of Information requests to the MLA (still existing in caretaker form until next year), local authorities and ACE but get in quick – that 12th January deadline is looking awful close, especially with Christmas in less than three weeks.
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.


  • BitebackSunday Times.   Richard Brooks: “In the new year, the culture media and sports committee (yes, the one looking into phone hacking) turns its attention to libraries. I am sure they will summon either Jeremy Hunt or Ed Vaizey as witnesses – they have for too long sat silently on their hands. Yet I recall Vaizey, as shadow arts minister in 2009, publicly condemning the closure of libraries in the Wirral. What now, Ed, about Brent, Somerset et al?” … “Vaizey has been chatting to the Big Lottery Fund about community funding for libraries. Hang on – lottery bodies are supposed to stick to the “additionality rule”, giving cash only to organisations that do not receive any from government. No wonder the Big Lottery has questioned Ed about his eager hands on handouts.”.
  • Commission to work with two local councils on spending decisions around library closures – Equalities and Human Rights Commission.   “I’m pleased to be working with both Somerset and Gloucestershire County Councils to help them comply with equality legislation. Policies based on a sound knowledge of how decisions may impact on vulnerable groups will help ensure these service users don’t lose out as budgets are tightened, as well saving time and money for the councils themselves as they avoid costly and time-consuming legal challenges.”
  • Future of libraries – Da Vinci Institute (USA).   Long article, the most relevant bits being at the end where the writer suggests that libraries will more from a centre of information towards being a centre of culture.
  • Upheaval at the New York Public Library – The Nation (USA).  Even one of the greatest public libraries in the world is facing problems, with the closure of reading rooms, loss of staff, despite an increase in usage. 

Local News 

  • Bolton – Community archive plan to save library building – Bolton News. “The proposal, which will include a community archive, will not retain the library service and relies on council bosses to keep funding the building for the next three years.”
  • Doncaster – Library – Epworth Bells.    Denaby library confirmed as closing.  “Outside the library, pensioner Margaret Bond, 76, told the Times: “It’s disgusting – It’s not just us adults who are losing a valuable amenity, it’s the children. When you go there on an evening it’s full of them doing homework. Some parents can’t afford a computer at home. They are on about education and they close Denaby Library. How can they educate themselves?” … “It is one of 14 libraries to be axed under plans by the authority to save £784,000 from its budget. While other services are expected to become community-led services, Denaby is to have mobile and outreach provision only.”
  • Gloucestershire – Public meeting: libraries going forward – FoGL.  “At the request of library users and community groups across the county we have organised an open public meeting to discuss ways forward for our libraries and the implications of the judicial review ruling. To encourage fair representation it will be held in a neutral environment with a neutral chair. We feel that bridges need to be built and an open dialogue facilitated….”
  • Oxfordshire – Results of consultation – Friends of Benson Library.   Volunteers will be needed to run library but they have not been costed.  Also, RAF Benson will lose a valuable service and local businesses fear loss of trade. 
    • More paid staff to stay at libraries – Oxford Mail.  “Neil Clark campaigned to save Botley Library – one of the 22 core libraries which will retain its staff. He said: “These are trained librarians. It’s not the sort of work that can easily be taken on by volunteers. We welcome this very much.” But Julia Drown, a campaigner for Old Marston Library, labelled the compromise as just ‘crumbs’.” 
    • Libraries could be save by new proposal – Banbury Guardian.   “Nearly 5,000 people responded to the four month public consultation into the future of Oxfordshire’s libraries which came to a close last week. The public outrage stirred by the possibility of library closures in the region has caused Oxfordshire County Council to rethink their original plan to dramatically cut funding and staff remaining libraries with volunteers.” (stub)
  • Southwark – Canada Water Library: a review – Observer.   “OMG! It’s a library! An absolutely new one, with books in it, too! Aren’t such things supposed to be dinosaurs, driven to extinction by the cuts of George Osborne and the inventions of the late Steve Jobs? Not in the London Borough of Southwark, apparently, where they have decided to keep all 12 of their existing libraries, as well as build this new one. And not, according to its architect, Piers Gough, for whom “books haven’t gone away. Libraries still hold these magic realms of invention, realms of ideas. They’re places where you’re not told what to think; they’re also places where you can stay and stop and spend as long as you like.”