Comment

To no-one’s great surprise, Gloucestershire County Council’s new proposals for its libraries are strongly reminiscent of the ones that they were forced to give up on after the recent successful legal challenge.  Their website is full of references to regard for equalities (the area where it lost in court) but comes down to similar decisions: seven libraries and five mobiles under threat compared to ten and six last year.  Good news for the three that have been saved of course but a real kick in the teeth for those communities facing the end of their branches for the second time.  Tellingly, the cuts include £800k on top of the £1m cut that already took place last year.  That would result in the halving of the library budget over two years.  News from campaigners suggest that much of last year’s cuts were librarians (described as “back office” by the Council, “front line” by the Friends).  
It is hard to see how a halving of the budget over two years (and Gloucestershire was hardly well funded three years ago) can be fairly described as a “new vision” but this is what the council is labelling it.  Mind you, the name chosen for its “pay for it yourselves as we’re closing them” libraries is, wait for it, “Community Offer Libraries” so perhaps they have different meanings to words there.  Or… or… surely, they can’t be putting a misleadingly positive gloss on a terrible situation on purpose?
Surrey Council leave their Glos friends in the dust when it comes to the use of semantics though.  They appear to be arguing that because the campaign group made such loud noises about the lack of consultation that this protest counts as consultation.  This is getting almost surreal.

Meanwhile, over in Northern Ireland, there appears to be that rare thing – a Culture Minister that actually cares about libraries.  She has found funding to halve the cuts in opening hours projected.  The cuts are still bad but they’re £2.5m better (which equates to 600 open hours) per week better than before. 

411 libraries (323 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.

Actions you can take

News

  • And a pox on your dog! A brief history of book curses - Daily Reporter (USA).  “I came across information about early efforts to prevent loss of library materials to insects and theft. I have to confess, they gave me a chuckle and I thought that perhaps some of our dear readers would enjoy the information, also….”
  • As demand for e-books soars, libraries struggle to stock their virtual shelves - Washington Post.   “Kindles, Nooks and iPads can do many amazing things, but they can’t bump you ahead in line at the Reston Regional Library. In fact, if you want to borrow a book, it may be quicker to put down your sleek new device and head into the stacks.”.  Ebook demans is greater than many libraries can satisfy, especially as they need to balance their paper book stock as well.  Publishers are not entirely happy with free library e-book lending either.
  • CILIP Libraries Change Lives Award - CILIP.   “The Award highlights and rewards good practice in any innovative library and information projects which: Change lives, Bring people together, Involve user communities, Demonstrate innovation and creativity, Develop staff and services.”.  [Perhaps the Brent Pop-Up Library should be entered? - Ed.].
  • Daily Mirror launches We Love Reading campaign - Daily Mirror.   Carol Ann Duffy reminisces about the great impact libraries had to her childhood.  Article in favour of giving books to under fives as one in three don’t own a book.
  • Why not make the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee really special? - Things to cut before closing libraries. Rather than give the Queen a £60m yacht for the anniversary, why not give her a nice little present and use the rest of the money on saving libraries?

Changes

  • Gloucestershire - Seven libraries under threat (“Community Offer Libraries”) plus 5 mobiles under threat.  “Main libraries – nine libraries open six days a week, Local libraries – twelve libraries open five days a week – with options for flexibility to suit local need, Partnership Libraries - ten libraries run by the county in partnership with communities.  Offering between twelve and twenty-one hours of county library service. Building on the principle of sharing buildings with other groups to create a one stop shop for public services with the library remaining in county control. Community Offer Libraries (Berkeley, Brockworth, Bream, Minchinhampton, Lechlade, Mitcheldean and Newnham.) – seven libraries available to the community under an enhanced Big Community Offer”. Mobile libraries : 5 to go as Homelink and Share a Book specialist mobile library services to be axed and service provided by alternative means plus 3 traditional mobiles to go. “The council is considering the provision of a mobile public service vehicle which could provide a mobile library service alongside access to other services.”.  £800k cut on top of £1m cut in 2011.
  • Northern Ireland – Projected cut in opening hours reduced from 1200 less hours to 600 less due to extra £2.5m found by Culture Minister. 

Local News

  • Bexley – Library taken over by charity to charge fees - London Evening Standard.  Bexley Library, which is run by the borough council, is to be handed over to a community group which is set to charge users £24 a year. Although non-paying users will still be able to borrow books, paying members will be able to take out more and keep them for an unlimited time.”.  Opinion divided between being thankful to have a library at all to being outraged that double taxation is in force.
  • Brent – Pub Quiz tonightPreston Library Campaign.   “Come along and show your support for a hard fought campaign. It’s not over yet!”
  • Croydon – Asking a question at a Croydon Council meeting - Save Croydon Libraries Campaign. “Might you be raising a question on libraries?”
    • Closure of New Addington Library not far off, says Cllr Sara Bashford - This is Croydon Today.    “We will be moving the library into the Calat, that is the plan at the moment. To shut the current building which is quite old and getting to the end of its useful life. There is some work being done in the Calat at the moment and there are plans to have adult education, job centre advice and the library in there so it all fits in nicely together.”
  • Gloucestershire – County Council sets out its new vision for libraries in the county - Glos CC. “The council has drafted a fresh strategy that aims to make the most of our limited resources, new technology and volunteers to create a service that really works for Gloucestershire’s people” … “On Friday (20th January), the council’s cabinet will be asked agree to start a six-week consultation on 30th January for people to tell us what they think of the proposals.” 
    • New library plans: Friends of Gloucestershire’s Libraries responseFoGL.  “Whilst we are delighted that, thanks to the dedication and determination of library users across the county, we have saved the libraries in the 3 poorest areas of Gloucestershire (Hester’s Way, Matson and Tuffley), we are extremely disappointed that Gloucestershire County Council is still pushing for a two tier system and that 7 communities are still having a metaphorical gun held to their heads and will no longer be funded. The County Council will now have to justify very clearly to these communities the reasons why they still intend to take their county library service away from them.” … 
“We would like to point out that the county council’s cabinet report and press release which both claim that this is a 25.7% cut in the library service’s budget since 2010-11 completely neglects to add that a similar percentage was also cut in 2010-11.”
We object strongly to the statement in the council’s press release that the £1 million saving from the service last year was “back office reductions.”In fact it was almost entirely made up of front line qualified librarians being made redundant and now, apparently, being replaced by volunteers.”
  • Liverpool – Campaign launched to save Woolton Library from the axe - Liverpool Echo.   “Now a Save Woolton Library Campaign group has been set up to fight the proposal. It is led by retired city librarian Ron Travis, who organised a petition securing more than 5,000 signatures last year when it first emerged the library was under threat.”.  Liverpool is closing library being it cannot afford to do repair work to it but, on the other hand, welcomes volunteers if they can afford to take it over.
  • Manchester – Councillor Amesbury’s open letter on City history - Manchester Confidential.  “Moving forward, as Manchester unashamedly does, our multi million pound transformation of the much loved Central Library will tell the historical story of Manchester louder and prouder than ever before.”
  • Northern Ireland – Libraries may escape cut in opening hours - BBC.   “Cutbacks in library opening hours may be avoided, following intervention by the culture, arts and leisure minister. Caral ni Chuilin said she had found almost £2.5m to protect library provision and help avoid shorter opening hours.”.  Cuts halved from 1200 hours to 600 hours.  “There had been widespread opposition to the cutbacks and more than 7,000 submissions were made to the consultation on opening hours.”
  • Suffolk – Development in library plans - Diss Express.   Eye Town Council may take over long lease on town centre building and then give space to Suffolk IPS Libraries organisation at peppercorn rent.  Stradbroke council frustrated as council has not given them sufficient information for them to put in a bid to help run its threatened library.
  • Surrey – SCC to face judicial review over library plans - SLAM.   Council’s defence lies on SLAM being too late to protest – article suggests that this is wrong.  Another council argument is that the publicity given to the cuts by SLAM counts as consultation: “Considering that a good proportion of our protests and questions were over SCC’s lack of consultation, SCC’s defence seems to be that SLAM’s complaints about lack of consultation counts as a legal substitute for proper consultation: “Considering that a good proportion of our protests and questions were over SCC’s lack of consultation, SCC’s defence seems to be that SLAM’s complaints about lack of consultation counts as a legal substitute for proper consultation.” … “We have made a start and have already raised about £2,500 (give or take a few pounds) but if there is anything you can do to help (suggestions for how we might raise this money or if you know anybody that might be able to help) then please, please let us know.”
    • SLAM to start legal proceedings against SCCEagle Radio.  “”We only need to look at our neighbours in Lewisham, to see that they introduced Community Partnered Libraries (or volunteer run libraries) last year and since their introduction – all of those libraries have decreased in issues.”
  • Swindon – Libraries introduce e-book scheme - Public Service.  “”I am delighted we will soon be able to add eBooks and downloadable audio books to our already excellent library service.”