Comment

Labour-controlled Ealing is considering privatising/outsourcing its library services.  This piece of news is discussed in a committee paper and does not appear to have been publicised, although the council says it has been “soft market testing” options for months.  Possible companies/partners include LSSI, Laing, GLL and what appears to be a complete list of Trusts currently running libraries in England.  The fact that it is a Labour council considering this move adds fuel to the argument that there is only an illusion of difference between the coalition and the opposition on the matter, a point also brought home this week by Ed Milliband’s decision to keep the pay freeze/cut for public sector staff.

Moving off the whole privatisation and Milliband controversies, another very interesting aspect about the proposals is that Ealing appears almost certain that the tax privileges that go with Trusts will be soon be lost.  It says:

“Central government has responded to the consultation and are proposing to proceed with NNDR changes as originally suggested. Details of how baselines are to be established is not yet clear, but is highly likely that Ealing will have to fund any additional charitable relief awarded from 2013/4, and until baselines are reset which could be for a number of years (yet to be determined). As a result there may not be any savings for Ealing as a result of these services being provided by a charity.”

If so, this is really bad news for those councils currently pushing forward with Trusts as this possibly soon to be removed financial benefit is the key factor.  Suffolk has just this week appointed a new manager for its Trust and Durham announced a transfer earlier this month. Warrington, also, is unlikely to be a happy bunnyThe trade unions in Greenwich are already not overly delighted with transfer of its libraries to a Leisure Trust and this is not going to make them any more pro.   The reason this matters is the process of transferring a library service from a council to a Trust can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.  Money which is wasted if the main reason for the move – taking advantage of rates and VAT exemptions – is going to be removed.  And the reason that matters in these straitened times can be seen is such stories as the one quoted below:

“The library, literally, saved me. To cut a long story short, I was an alcoholic in the 1990s. I used to shelter in the local public library some days when it was raining, before my local opened. One rainy day, with no intentions of reading and being bored waiting, I browsed some of the titles. One on alcoholism stood out. Flicked through it, and found a case study that uncannily mapped my own family experience. I didn’t go to the pub that afternoon, reading the book cover to cover instead. It didn’t cure me of alcoholism. There is no cure really; not having a drink becomes a lifelong conscious choice. I still drank afterwards, but also became aware of the damage to my family and myself, and set about fixing this.If I hadn’t been in the library that day and browsed the books, I’d probably be in the pub now. More likely, I’d be dead.” Comment on “The privacy of the library patron, and mental illness” on WordShore

Quote the comment above whenever someone says libraries are a luxury and that it is selfish to keep them going as it would mean cuts to other social services.  I said “other” there because I mean it.  Public libraries are not highbrow nice-things-to-have-for-the-middle-classes.  They present a vital part of the community, helping thousands every day improve their life chances and, as this comment above shows, their chances of life.  I have, personally, over the library counter, had a person tell me that they would commit suicide (quietly, not making a fuss) if they did not have the escape that the library offered him.  They’re a place of refuge and a place of hope in many ways.  Libraries – outsourced or not – embody, perhaps, the real meaning of the word “Trust”.

415 libraries (326 buildings and 89 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below.  The librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries could be 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.

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News

  • Apple: iBooks 2 will “reinvent textbooks” - Guardian.  “There are social division issues here. Is it going to be possible to borrow these books from school libraries? Is the school going to be the organisation to provide these books to students? What about those who can’t afford to buy the books themselves?””
  • Bookseller Awards open for business - BookSeller.   Libraries included for the first time ever.  “The leading book trade awards have been expanded for 2012 with the addition of three new categories: to find the best library; the top academic, professional and educational publisher; and the overall National Bookseller of the Year.”
  • Bringing books to life: get involved in the conversation - Arts Council England.  Cheshire East issues the most books of any authority in England.  It has worked with authors and poets in its libraries and at the Crewe Lyceum Theatre.

Community Library ServiceExcellent video on the Hackney “Books on Wheels” Service that provided books, CDs, DVDs and talking books to the housebound.
  • Egyptian librarians found first unionAhramonline (Egypt).  200,000 librarians, archivists and information specialists form association.  “Despite the issues facing librarians, there is a rush on this vocation throughout Egyptian universities. During the 1970s and 1980s, a public post was guaranteed for library studies graduates. With the rush to work in the Gulf, the speciality came into high demand, given its basis in language. “We can only accept 100 students in some of these departments, and receive some 1000 applications, so we create certain requirements, such as knowledge of other languages, and sometimes even using interviews to filter students going in,” Kassem explained.”
  • Help This Week in LibrariesDP Green.   Show needs funding for 2012.  “This Week in Libraries (TWIL) is a vital professional development resource for library workers who want to learn, engage and get excited about our profession (i.e. everyone). TWIL brings educative and inspiring conversations with passionate presenters and guest professionals to our screens, whenever we choose to watch, for free! Innovation is always on the menu; served with passion, pride and collaboration.”
  • How Ed Miliband’s cuts policy is dividing Labour’s heartlands - Guardian. “While Liverpool city councillors are closing libraries and swimming pools, voters are asking who will fight the coalition?”.  Labour leader says he will cut in similar fashion to the coalition, Labour council is closing Woolton Library so locals who oppose this are left with no-one representing their point of view.  Liverpool cut “£91m last year and has to lose £50m this year. On Wednesday night it agreed £16m of those cuts – closing three libraries, including Woolton, a swimming pool, axing school uniform allowances and cutting funds to the children’s mental health team, among others.”
“In this submission we comment that authors are not only suppliers to libraries; they are also heavy users of the library services and many were inspired to become readers, and later writers, because of libraries. The planned library closures will have a devastating, long-lasting and irreparable effect on local communities as well as on the wider community and the nation and constitute a breach of the requirements of the Libraries & Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report. While it is not for the Society to dictate details of how library services are best provided, a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century must allow free access to a wide range of books in a safe, comfortable, convenient and accessible space. Libraries must be knowledgeably managed and curated by trained professional staff.” SoA Submission to the CMS Select Committee Inquiry into library closures - Society of Authors.  

Changes

Local News

  • Brent – Council claim library closure delays cost them £400,000 - London 24.   Due to costs of legal challenge, cuts will need to be made in other areas.  “Services including pest control, animal welfare, waste, parks and transport will be hit.”  Campaigners point out that closures were the most unimaginative way to cut costs and the one most damaging to local communities.  “The council could have made savings of £400,000 by diverting ward working monies and still have change. What has been done with money returned by Icelandic Banks?”
    • Estate agent sponsors boards in support of library campaign - Brent & Kilburn Times.   Save Libraries placards are being offered by estate agent, with £15 promised to campaign for every one erected. “If you are able to have a Daniels Estate Agent board outside your home contact Rachael Newberry by emailing rlnewberry1@gmail.com with your address and any specific instructions.”
  • Coventry – Punch-up breaks out in Earlsdon Library - Coventry Telegraph.   “It is believed the argument started between the two library users over the use of bad language while they looked at computers next to each other. Coventry City Council, which runs the library, has now banned the 58-year-old man from all its libraries for a year.”
  • Derbyshire – County Council plans £25m to budgetBBC.   “Adult care, libraries and youth services will have to find savings but the authority is proposing a freeze in council tax for 2012/13.”
  • Durham – Culture idea may save £1m - Peterlee Mail.   “One option is for the authority to place such venues in a not-for-profit charitable trust, or a Non-Profit Distributing Organisation (NPDO). The Cabinet is being asked “in principal” to consider agreeing to the change, which the authority says has significant financial advantages and could save more than £1m a year.”
  • East Sussex – Tories cut and spend in East Sussex - Argus.   “The council has also admitted it is looking at whether some libraries could close, with bookworms being warned to expect longer waits in libraries and fewer books bought in.”
  • Gloucestershire – Lawyers “seriously concerned” as Gloucestershire County Council approve library plan - FoGL.   ““Gloucestershire County Council, unlike Somerset County Council (who also had their library plans quashed at the hearing), are rushing this process to hit the new financial year deadline. This risks putting the cart before the horse for a second time. Despite telling the court that they had taken deprivation into account, it is gratifying to see that, now that it has, Hester’s Way and other libraries in deprived areas have been saved. But we are concerned that there are still serious flaws in the council’s approach” inc.  equalities/user information deficient, method of consultation unclear, role of communities unclear, future of mobiles unclear, equality impact assessment problems, council need to guarantee “community partnerships” in case they fail as they are relying on them.
“…we cannot stress enough how important it is that the people of Gloucestershire engage with the consultation process, and that community leaders and councillors make sure the people they represent are listened to. No one wants to end up back in court.”

  • Hampshire – Nearly £500,000 saved but 17 jobs are lost - This is Hampshire.   Opening hours cut from 1/4/12 as part of £446k cut this year.  “112 hours will be cut at an average of 5.8hours per facility and will result in a loss of 17 full-time jobs.”. 5500 responses received from consultation.
  • Hertfordshire – Slideshow: New chapter for Hertford Library - Mercury.  “It’s more or less got the same space as the old building except the other library was on three levels and this is on one, so it’s a lot more accessible to everybody, which was one of our aims.” Previous library at fourteen different floor levels. Includes wi-fi and babychange facilities. “The library was officially opened this morning (Thursday January 19) by MP Ed Vaisey [sic], the minister for culture, communications and creative industries.”
  • Merton – Council hint on Dons return to SW19 - This is Local London.   “The sites and policies development plan also suggested Colliers Wood Library could move up the road to the Colliers Wood community centre – which is earmarked for rebuilding as a mixture of community and residential space. It features plans to rebuild or improve libraries in West Barnes, Mitcham and Wimbledon – something that could be paid for by adding residential units to the library sites.”
  • Milton Keynes – StonyWords 8 programme of events - About My Area.   Many literary events happening, including several at the library saved from closure last year.
  • Monmouthshire – Chepstow library to re-open after £120,000 refurbishment - Free Press.  “The £120,000 refurbishment came after Monmouthshire Council secured the funding through the Welsh Government’s CyMAL (Museums Archives and Libraries Wales) organisation.”
  • North Tyneside – Council ends library axe bid - Chronicle.  “North Tyneside Council was proposing to shut two libraries, one in Monkseaton and the other on the Coast Road, in North Shields, as part of cost-cutting measures. But the plans sparked protests from residents and a petition was launched to save the branch. More than 4,400 people backed the campaign. Now Mayor Linda Arkley has withdrawn the proposal and confirmed the Monkseaton library in Woodleigh Road will stay open.”.
  • Nottinghamshire – “Staggering” facelift welcomed at Mansfield’s new £3.4m library - Chad.   “Library bosses say that in the facility’s first week alone 5,252 people passed through the doors and 7,643 books, DVDs or audiobooks were issued by staff.”
“The whole library has been reorganised and transformed – a far cry from the 1977 vintage interior and a massive improvement, too,” he said. “One thing that struck me about the library has nothing to do with the new surroundings: it is the friendly and welcoming staff. “They seem to enjoy working in the new environment.””

  • Somerset – New opening times for Burnham on Sea library announcedBurnham on Sea.com.   Hours reinstated after campaigners won legal case.
  • Suffolk – Libraries charity appoints new manager - BBC.   “The council said it would be able to reduce the amount it spends on libraries from nearly £9m in 2010-11 to £6.4m in 2012-13.”
  • Surrey – Judge grants injunction against library closures - Get Surrey.   Council cannot close libraries or pass them to volunteers pending court case deciding on legality of the cuts. SLAM campaigner says “We can concentrate on the case for now as all the libraries are safe and can’t be brought towards community run status. A date has yet to be set to the hearing but SLAM believe this injunction shows it will be “sooner rather than later”.”
    • Court halts Surrey library volunteers plan - BBC.   “”We were expecting a three-week wait while the judge considered the merits of the case before deciding whether to issue an injunction,” he said. “It didn’t take the judge very long to decide that our case was strong enough to merit a quick injunction. We are very pleased about that.”