Comment 

National Libraries Day is starting to make a significant impact in the media stories I am reading.  Many authorities, and campaign groups, are planning something for the day and I know that there is national media interest.  One authority that won’t be so happy about the coverage so far is Kent which, it seems, has ordered its branches not to do something on the day.  The official reason is that there are so many other events going on.  This may well be the case.  However, the more cynical amongst us may wonder if the council is deliberately downplaying the role of libraries due to ongoing plans to make a further £2m cut to its budget on top of £2.3m already made.  I have as yet no thoughts on why the manager of the service, who is a prominent member of the Society of Chief Librarians which is supporting National Libraries Day, has told staff not to be involved in it.  Answers on a postcard please.  Equally bewilderingly, it seems that a very high proportion of other authorities with senior SCL members as their managers are also not doing anything on the day. The events map shows gaping holes in their areas.
This is hopefully an anomaly that will shortly be filled – perhaps they’re all so busy with planning great things to promote libraries that they have forgotten to add dots to the map as yet.  However, if it is a sign that their heart is not really in the game then it is deeply worrying.  Worrying that such prominent library managers do not want to promote their service.  Worrying also because the Society of Chief Librarians is one of the bodies that Ed Vaizey has named this week as giving him advice on library closures.  It makes complete sense that the SCL is doing this of course.  It is just that there is now a nagging doubt in some peoples’ minds about what advice they are actually giving.
Well done on the other hand to CILIP and the Schools Library Association, for standing up for the Hertfordshire Schools Library Service.  The decision by the council to cut the service entirely on the grounds that it is not entirely recovering its costs was always questionable.  If this is the new ground rule for all educational establishments in Hertfordshire then it’s presumably private school or nothing for children there any day now.  First picked up by the excellent We Heart Libraries group, the closure has not been allowed to go quietly, including some BBC coverage.  I notice, however, that the Society of Chief Librarians has not been involved.  Hmmm.

407 libraries (318 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. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries 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

  • Innovating the library wayHarvard Business Review (USA).   The great physical presence of libraries is, far from being to its detriment, a really useful resource and one which the best libraries are taking advantage of.  ” The library looked like dumpy, public architecture but it was in fact a house of many mansions, a place of possibility, a portal. Space travel, time travel, identity travel, you name it, the library could do take you there. But other media can make the same promise.”
  • PLG London: The Canadian Library Association’s failure to advocate for librarians and libraries – Subject/Object (Canada).   A North American experience with some interesting similarities – and differences – with the UK.
  • Publishers and public libraries – Good Library Blog.  E-books are a big issue in the USA, especially how not all publishers are allowing libraries to lend them out.  A big part of the problem is that libraries have not been talking to publishers.  Also, councillors should be involved in the process.
  • Ten library predictions for 2012-14Wordshore.   Worst of public library cuts will happen in 2013, with just 2400 libraries left open, paper will still be the majority “book” medium, Voices for the Library would be the main frontline advocacy group … “libraries staffed by volunteers will have opened in many counties and towns. Many of these will also have closed, as early optimism / naivety of volunteers gives way to the hard realisation of fundraising, staffing, and dealing with innumerable logistical and public problems.”
  • Three boroughs look at sharing library, leisure costs – Ealing Times.   Ealing, Harrow and Brent may work together to save money.
Dan Jarvis: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport who in his Department is responsible for identifying and advising him on potential problems with the provision of library services by local authorities, including whether a library authority may be in breach of its statutory duties under the Libraries Act 1964. [91892]
Mr Vaizey: Public library services provided across England are monitored by this Department’s officials who engage directly with library authorities. They also monitor correspondence sent to the Department, monitor websites and press articles, and engage in meaningful discussion with organisations that have current information about public library service provision. These include Arts Council England, the Society of Chief Librarians and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.  House of Commons.

“Jarvis then asked whether the Department for Culture, Media and Sport had set any criteria for intervention in a local library authority, and “whether it is his policy to intervene in local authorities where a substantial programme of library closures is undertaken without (a) an adequate assessment of local needs and (b) a strategic libraries plan.

Vaizey replied: “I endorse the analysis and approach adopted by the inquiry held in 2009 into the proposed closure of libraries by Wirral metropolitan borough council. When authorities consider reorganising library services it is important that they have assessed the local needs of their communities and have prepared a strategic plan for their library services. Library authorities must provide a service which best meets local needs within available resources. Where there is evidence that this may not be happening, dialogue will commence with the local authority concerned. Use of statutory powers, including those regarding intervention, will be exercised on a case by case basis only when all other avenues have been exhausted.” Jarvis presses Vaizey on library closures – BookSeller. Comments below article make it clear that no-one believes Mr Vaizey will intervene in any case and that he has, indeed, failed to intervene when all other avenues have been exhausted – for example, in the Isle of Wight, Brent, Surrey, Gloucestershire and Somerset.

  • Who is advising Ed Vaizey?Voices For The Library.   “In light of the current state of affairs regarding ongoing library cuts and closures throughout England we would be very interested to know: What engagement are DCMS officials having with local authorities? What advice are Ed Vaizey and the DCMS being given by these named organisations?What are the DCMS and Ed Vaizey doing with that advice? At the moment it seems that any advice being given is either being ignored or is advice that continues to help the dismantling of UK public library services.”
“Quiz time again… What do the following public library services have in common?
Bolton, Warwickshire, Kent, Brighton and Hove, RB Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham, RB Windsor and Maidenhead.
A. All have SCL committee members. None have events planned on NLD map.” mickfortune on Twitter.

Changes

Local News

“First to close, earlier this month, was Highfield Library, in High- field Road, Farnworth. It has been replaced by an 850-book self service collection point.Heaton area forum heard just 88 books were taken out in Highfield’s first week of operation, four times fewer than the average taken from the library.”

  • Bristol – More Bristol libraries offering council services – BlottR.   Five libraries to have self-service and council service information points.  ““The co-location of Robinson House and Fishponds Library has proved popular with local people. The ground floor has been refurbished and a brand new customer facility with Customer Service Points and a library with self-service have been designed with the customer in mind. The opening days have been busy and exciting. We are now planning a formal launch of both services in early March.””
  • Calderdale – National libraries day protest chance – Halifax Courier.   16,000 name petition already created.  “Saturday February 4 is National Libraries Day and we plan to organise a gathering of supporters outside the Calderdale Central Library to demonstrate our support for libraries generally, but also to try to convince our leaders that we do not want to see our Library bulldozed to make way for more retail development. The event will start from around 10.30am and we will be joined by Linda Riordan MP at 11.00am.”
    • Is there veidence people are reading fewer books? – Halifax Courier.   “Is there real evidence that demand is falling? There has been a freeze on requests for books not currently on the library catalogue and borrowers have been unable to make requests (leading to falling demands) so figures will be inaccurate if they are taken, say, from the past 12 months.”
  • Croydon – Councils make positive progress on Upper Norwood Library – This is Croydon Today.  “Croydon and Lambeth Councils have met to talk about the future of Upper Norwood Library. About 200 people packed a public meeting at the Salvation Army hall in Westow Street in November, calling for the two councils to get together and speak to each other.”. Croydon is pulling out of its agreement with Lambeth.
  • Dorset – Portland Underhill Library to shut due to lack of volunteers – BBC.   Council will close library due to cuts.  Eight other libraries likely to have volunteers running them this year.
    • Campaigners lose Underhill Library fight – Dorset Echo.   ““When you think of how many people stood out there in support of the library, it’s quite clear that people want to keep it. When elderly people and young mums have to get transport up the hill to Easton to the library, it means it’s no longer a free service.””
  • Essex – Libraries celebrate National Libraries Day – Essex Council.   “In the week up to National Libraries Day, Essex Libraries will be premiering their latest video about the benefits of membership on their You Tube Channel at www.youtube.com/Essexlibraries.”
  • Hertfordshire – County Council urged to rethink plans to close School Library Service – Borehamwood Times.  “The Charted Institute of Library & Information Professionals (CILIP) and the School Library Association (SLA) are calling for Hertfordshire County Council to review its decision to close the service on March 31.”
    • County Council asked for School Library Service reprieve – BBC.   “Annie Mauger, chief executive of CILIP, said: “I am incredibly concerned about the impact that the closure will have on children’s education and attainment. “The decision to close the service has been taken at short notice and I can see no evidence that the council has considered alternatives, such as restructuring.” Director of the SLA Tricia Adams added: “With so much national attention focused on improving literacy standards and the importance of reading to support educational achievement this should not be the time to close a service that helps schools address these issues.”
    • “Rethink schools library service closure” – CILIP and Schools Library Association joint press release.  “Tricia Adams, Director of the SLA added, “With so much national attention focused on improving literacy standards and the importance of reading to support educational achievement this should not be the time to close a service that helps schools address these issues.”
  • Kent – Libraries – Bev Humphrey.  “My local library is in Greenhithe, it’s in a small building that is set back from the road and is extremely easy to miss. Once you do realise that it exists a warm welcome greets you when you go in. The staff are friendly and helpful and I always enjoy chatting to them. The stock however wouldn’t encourage anyone to pop in – to be honest I often struggle to find anything vaguely current to read and the books are looking tired and uncared for. Their funding in the last few years must have been nearly non existent and the books are sadly out of date. There are always people there when I visit but then as the library is only open for 2 afternoons and 1 morning a week I suppose they are making the most of it.”
The fact that there is no mention of a day that has been organised to celebrate the contribution libraries make on the Kent Libraries web page is an utter disgrace – and seems to be a cynical political decision. Kent County Council you should be very ashamed! “

“The Council could have encouraged the excellent staff in each of its libraries to decide how best they can join in with National Libraries Day. Instead, I have heard that bosses in KCC’s Libraries Department have actually told staff that they must not get involved! Well, whose libraries are they anyway? Ours! Let’s show how much we value libraries and how important they are to strong communities and a good society. Please join in on Saturday 4th February at Whitstable Library or the local library near you.” Richard Stainton, in letter Whitstable Gazette, quoted by Alan Gibbons and Infoism.  

  • Newport – Libraries could get £120,000 – South Wales Argus.   “Government’s advisory body for museums, archives and libraries, CyMAL, for grants of up to £120,000 per scheme, to carry out refurbishments to Bettws and Ringland libraries and relocate Caerleon library”. 
  • Redbridge – Council leader not ruling out cut to library hours – Ilford Recorder.   “he council leader has refused to rule out cutting library opening hours, hinting that volunteers could be brought in to make up a shortfall of staff following the latest round of budget cuts.” … “Fifteen librarians were made redundant days before Christmas as part of a bid to save £510,000 from the libraries budget.” 
  • Somerset – Library u-turn proves costly for council budget – View Online.  Reports on costs incurred by council in unsuccessfully defending its library cuts in the courts.
  • Suffolk – Library campaigners fear that the battle for libraries has only just begun – Rosehill Readers.   “By the 2nd May 2011 the SCC spin doctors were obviously working overtime with ‘Libraries saved’ and ‘end of New Strategic Direction’. Neither of these headlines, no matter how often repeated turn out to be true. So why did the press coverage change so dramatically around April 2011?” … “We don’t recall anyone complaining about heavy bureaucracy in the public library service before now – it was more like a shoestring operation which delivered an excellent service to the public with great value for money due to the dedication of the staff – but the spinners were at it again and ‘cutting bureaucracy’ now regularly appears as an aim of all these changes.”.  New plans will only increase bureaucracy. 
  • Sunderland – Storytime fun can help boost literacy – Sunderland Echo.  Professional storyteller will be active in libraries this week.  “Coun John Kelly, Sunderland City Council portfolio holder for safer city and culture, said: “Both National Storytelling Month and National Libraries Day are fantastic ways to highlight the important role which libraries play. “Both initiatives are fantastic ways to encourage children and young people to be creative and to enjoy the art of storytelling.” Coun Kelly added: “Sunderland’s libraries offer a number of services which are easily accessible, and staff are always on hand to support people.”
  • Telford & Wrekin – Changes to library hours – Shropshire Live.  ““Given the scale of savings we face we have no choice but to find ways of making savings in our library service and I am pleased that we are in a position where, unlike many other councils across the country, none of our libraries are closing.”