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.”