Archive for January, 2012

If you tolerate this

428 libraries (337 buildings and 91 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.

Can you help?

Everyone – Submit evidence/views to Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on Library Closures before Thursday 12th January.
Surrey – Campaigners are looking for someone who qualifies for legal aid (owns less than £8000) in order to challenge council over library cuts.  Must be a Surrey resident.

News

  • Campaign for the Book Newsletter – Alan Gibbons.   Looks at the legal actions Glos/Somerset/Brent, closures, Liverpool cuts and National Libraries Day.
  • “If you tolerate this …”: Nicky Wire on library closures – Guardian (Music).  “Libraries were my band’s lifeline, writes Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers. We must fight for them.” … “One of the most amazing things about public libraries remains their utter classlessness. You don’t have to have gone to Eton to make the most out of a library. They aren’t inhabited by the kind of people currently damning them.”

“It’s hard not to feel utterly despondent at the current plight of public libraries. Along with the NHS and the BBC, our libraries are some of the few truly remarkable British institutions left. So often absolutely ordinary in appearance, a good library should offer escape routes down the most extraordinary avenues, pathways into different worlds from the one you’ve left outside. Ridding our villages, towns and cities of libraries, which are essential in shaping a nation’s consciousness, seems like a direct attack on the soul of the country.”

  • Islwyn MP joins campaign to save libraries – South Wales Argus.  MP Chris Evans has joined other politicians in campaigning for Britain’s libraries to be preserved. They helped launch the All Party Parliamentary Group on Libraries (APPGL), which will seek to ensure that continued public sector cuts don’t devastate the provision.”
  • Library – Rainy Day Mum.  One of my goals for 2012 is that we make a regular visit to the library. This time last year our local library was under threat of closure – the county were going to close all but 3 or 4 of the libraries – we supported the “Save the library” campaign and attended the Book Start groups for Babies and Toddlers (J was between the two groups at the time), but funding was cut to let the libraries stay open and the toddler group was gone and for some reason we stopped going. Towards the end of the year we started again when I realised that we needed to add books to our collection, so we have decided to make it our goal each week to go and visit the library.”
  • Point of View: Why didn’t Harry Potter just use Google? – BBC.  Potter was written justg before the invention of Google. Internet has changed it all: “There is all too little danger of the knowledge currently accumulating in floods – multiply-owned, stored and captured – being lost. Rather, if we are going to make sense for posterity of today’s information-saturated present, one of the things we will have to learn to do is decide how to prune the evidence, and ultimately, what to forget.”
  • Universities collected £50m in library fines, figures show – Guardian.   “With fines as little as 10p for each day a book is overdue, it shows that students are returning thousands of books late each year. But many are never returned – more than 300,000 university library books remain unaccounted for.”

Changes 

Calderdale – 1 mobile to end, cuts in opening hours in “Brighouse, Elland, Hebden Bridge, King Cross, Sowerby Bridge and Todmorden from 45 to 37 hours a week.”.
Warrington 6/1/12 Grappenhall Library taken over by volunteers eight months after it was closed: group: Friends of Grappenhall Library. 

Local News

  • Bradford – Extended building would accommodate convenience store – Ilkley Gazette. Plan for Co-op store to open, with library.  “There has been a big response to the proposal from the community, including both letters of support for the development and a petition against the plans. The Co-op already has a store in a former newsagents premises on Station Road, Burley, but wants to move to bigger premises. There has been a big response to the proposal from the community, including both letters of support for the development and a petition against the plans. The Co-op already has a store in a former newsagents premises on Station Road, Burley, but wants to move to bigger premises.”
  • Brent – Update January 2012 – Save Kensal Rise Library.   “We may not be given leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in which case we will explore other options, and we have other options. We believe this community needs a library and that is the end we are pursuing.” … public meeting soon, “pop-up” library continuing, business plan for running library created.  Artist Jamie Reid has done poster for campaign, to be launched at start of February.
  • Brighton and Hove – An unsavoury morsel – Christopher Hawtree.   Conservative MP called Cllr Hawtree (a well-known library campaigner) the Dr Beeching of library services.  Cllr replies “I have urged a continuing, central place for public libraries despite the fact that Mr Weatherley’s own Government is imposing cuts of up to a third on Council budgets over the next few years.” … “What is proposed is to use the mobile library as a temporary one while the adjacent branch library in Woodingdean is rebuilt. For fifty years Woodingdean has had a temporary one but the new one will be twice the size. Pretty bloody good in these times.”.  Priority will be on bookfund.
  • Calderdale – “Drop new library and rescue all the others” – Halifax Courier.   “A total of 2,235 people responded to the latest council survey on opening hours and they were equally divided over whether there should be cuts to the six biggest branches.”

“What is the point of spending millions on a new library and archives in Halifax when other library services are being slashed?” said Coun Stout (Ind, Brighouse). “Of course there are some serious decisions to take about cutting costs but it is no good protecting Halifax to the exclusion of everywhere else,” he said.”

  • Dudley – Library to close while asbestos is removed – Stourbridge News.   ““Although it is unfortunate the library has to close for one week, it is necessary to ensure the asbestos can be removed safely. The housing office located on the ground floor of the library will, however, remain open as normal while the work is carried out.”
  • Hampshire – Cuts in services loom again – Gazette. A further 8% cut to all services, following a previous 8% cut last year.  Cuts of “£4.7m in libraries, museums and country parks.” … “Library opening hours have also been cut. The council is aiming to make the savings it needs to in two years instead of four as a result of the Government squeeze on spending.” [presumably to have extra boasting points while cutting services prematurely by two years? – Ed.]
  • Hertfordshire – County Council axe school library service – Advertiser 24.  “A plea to save the schools’ library service has been snubbed after the county council agreed to axe the resource aimed at boosting literacy among all children and young people throughout Herts.”.  Service cancelled because it was not making a profit. 
  • Liverpool – Letter from Council Leader – Liverpool Echo. “It is by being imaginative that we have brought forward proposals which will retain 85% of our libraries despite a cut in the budget of a quarter.” … “Cllr Kemp suggests placing libraries in schools. We have done this at West Derby and would have liked to do it with more schools as part of wave six of Building Schools for the Future, but unfortunately his government axed the scheme.”
  • Middlesbrough – Thousands sign petitions over Middlesbrough council cuts – BBC.   17000 signed peition against cuts.  “The planned closure of youth centres and libraries has also prompted about 800 letters to the borough council.”
  • Nottinghamshire – Kipper the Dog set for library opening – This is Nottingham.   “Improvements include a computer area with free wi-fi, dedicated children’s, local studies and professional gallery areas, a Discovery Room for courses and training, a new theatre space and thousands of books for all ages.”
  • Suffolk – Can you help with the future of Suffolk libraries? – Haverhill Echo.   “Community groups are being asked to nominate members to join an organisation being set up to run Suffolk’s libraries.”.. “Mr Fox said: “I’ve taken on this challenge because I believe it is the way forward for public services. To reflect local priorities, communities themselves must be fully engaged and sufficiently empowered to ensure the service delivers what they want. They must take responsibility for shaping their own destiny and making sure the services they receive are right for their communities and not just based on a single, ‘one size fits all’ solution.”
    • Board members sought for library enterprise – Bury Free Press.   “Letters went out this week to the county’s 44 libraries plus local groups who had expressed an interest in running them inviting nominations for the four other interim board positions, by January 22.”.  Will be in partnership with council.  “The IPS will be registered and appoint its interim board this month then, between February and May will apply for admission to the Local Government Pension Scheme and consult on and transfer employment responsibilities from the county.”
  • Warrington – Grappenhall villagers win campaign to take ownership of former council library – Warrington Guardian.   “A group of campaigners in Grappenhall have been handed the keys to the village library – nine months after it closed. The Friends of Grappenhall Library, a group of volunteers, won the right to take ownership of the building after the council closed it as part of budget cuts.” … “We already have a good mix of 3,500 books to fill the library from fiction to non-fiction and adult to children’s.” 
  • Worcestershire – New year timetable for Worcestershire mobile libraries  – Shuttle.   “Rural communities are being urged to make the most of Worcestershire County Council’s mobile library service, with a new year timetable available.”

Horror Section

Comment

Some further information (from the ever helpful LibraryWeb) about the cuts in Liverpool.  He has commented that there were around 50 staff lost last year so, along with the 76 losses announced yesterday, that means almost a full one half will be lost (126 of 260) will be lost since 2010.  That is one large cut  and it is hard, on the face of it, to see how the libraries can remain as “comprehensive and efficient” as they were two years ago.  Of course, given the current Secretary of State, legally it does not matter that the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act is in danger of being contravened – he’s not going to do anything about it.  However, it shows that the headline figure below of library closures is just a small part of the story.  Indeed, that “story” is beginning to resemble that often found in the Horror section, and not the ones with the impossibly handsome male/beautiful female vampires on the cover either.

428 libraries (337 buildings and 91 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.

Can you help?

Everyone – Submit evidence/views to Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on Library Closures before Thursday 12th January.
London – Attend a rally at Willesden Library, Brent on Saturday 7th January. 
Surrey – Campaigners are looking for someone who qualifies for legal aid (owns less than £8000) in order to challenge council over library cuts.  Must be a Surrey resident.

News

  • Are libraries a priority in a downturn? – BBC.   “Across the UK one in 10 libraries has been under threat of closure, more than 400 in all. Yet, London appears to have escaped relatively unscathed with just three councils definitely closing libraries, in Brent, Lewisham and Waltham Forest – 13 in total.”.   Hillingdon and Wandsworth (“”We’ve had expressions of interest from over 30 organisations around the world who run libraries in different ways so we’re exploring that as a way of enhancing the service and do it more cheaply.”) examined, as is Brent and York Gardens (Campaigner says”We did our own research to work out how residents used the library. We asked over 1,000 people and many used it for social and educational reasons but not to borrow books.”). News item likely also to be on BBC London programme this evening (Friday). 
  • Chicago Public Library lays off 176 employees, closes 75 branches on Mondays – Library Journal.  $6.7m cut to budget means cuts.  Council blames trade union for making situation worse.

“Vintage, an imprint of The Random House Group, and independent charity The Reading Agency are to work together in partnership to launch Stop What You’re Doing and Read This! – a passionate, funny, revelatory and inspiring book about the transformative power of reading – and The Reading Agency’s Mood-boosting Books campaign. The partnership kicks off with a public launch event at Canada Water Library on Monday 23 January at 7pm with authors Mark Haddon and Michael Rosen joining Miranda McKearney, Director of The Reading Agency and Debbie Hicks from The Reading Agency to discuss the paramount importance of reading to our quality of life.” (Press Release. see also Southwark events).

  • Libraries fuck yeah – Diary of a contrarian librarian.  Poem about benefits of libraries.  Readers need hardly be warned that there’s a lot of swearing in it.

    “I have loved the library ever since I was six years old and that school librarian placed my first library book in my hands. I have learned much there, and have had many great adventures. This is why I have chosen to be a librarian. I want to be able to help other people learn to love the library as I have. It is a magical place where anything is possible – even surviving a zombie apocalypse.” My Library Love AffairMynx Writes.

Changes

Lancashire – Brierfield Library £500k upgrade inc. more meeting rooms and Arts project.
 
Local News

  • Brent – Sat 7th Jan: Willesden Library Rally – Save Kensal Rise Library.   “There will be a rally outside Willesden library this Saturday from 11-1pm in order to raise awareness amongst the community of Willesden about their loss of facilities and building. Brent council are considering alternative locations for this Library whilst they close it for upgrades. The council are not considering Cricklewood Library or Kensal Rise library as alternative locations, despite the fact they are both currently available and are perfectly suited to being libraries. Apparently Cricklewood and Kensal Rise libraries are “too far away”.”
  • Croydon – Irresponsible Lambeth, apparently – Save Croydon Libraries Campaign.   “So when Cllr Arram speaks of acting in “such an irresponsible and damaging way” perhaps he should take a look at his own Council’s track record and actions. Croydon’s refusal to meet and the only options given to Lambeth which absolve Croydon of any responsibility for this library, used by its residents, seems far from responsible or constructive.”
  • Gloucestershire – Hopes for a win/win for Matson Library – Friends of Matson Library.  Details of meeting between campaigners and council (inc. new libraries chief) in preparation for new council plans for libraries after their legal defeat.  “Jo Grills, who has only recently taken up her new post will be visiting Matson next week to see Matson Library for herself and to meet other community groups ahead of the formal consultation in February. Rough Timetable Proposed Plan for Gloucestershire Libraries c. 13th January Countnty Council vote on proposals 20th January Six Week Consultation c. 1st February.”
    • FoGL members meet with GCCFoGL.   Council officers have met with FoGL twice.  “They explained to us the process behind the new library review which is taking place at the moment, and which is based on a needs analysis, demographic information on the various library catchment areas, and information obtained during the previous consultation process. The council is also in discussion with the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.”
  • Lancashire  – Pendle Library set for £500k facelift – Lancashire Telegraph.   Brierfield Library will be closed for 3 months for refurbishment inc meeting rooms and space for “In Situ” Arts project.  Lancashire Libraries have a £5m regeneration programme. 

“Unlike many other councils, we are not closing any of our libraries. In fact, we are continuing to invest in the service wherever we can. This will help to ensure that our libraries not only remain open but provide modern, flexible resources, fit for the 21st century. When Brierfield reopens in a few months’ time, local people will see an up-to-date, welcoming and accessible lib-rary the entire community can enjoy.”

  • Norfolk – Drunks, racial abuse and food fights: a year in the life of Norwich’s Millenium Library – EDP.  Staff at the city’s Millennium Library have had to deal with a racially-abusive man, teenagers throwing food and a girl punching another girl in the face. A security assistant also had his shins kicked in an unprovoked attack at closing time, according to the library’s staff logbook. A customer was banned for a month after he became abusive and threw a pencil when asked to stop drinking water in the heritage section. And a drunk woman started being “overly familiar” with staff, and another report describes how “unnecessarily loud moaning” could be heard from a man using a computer.” [An interesting insight into the darker side of library work: there’s a lot worse out there though – the cleaning up of human faeces, for example, is not unknown – Ed.].
  • North Yorkshire – Selby and Sherburn library hours cuts – Selby Times.    “Selby is earmarked to see its hours sliced from 52 to 40, losing Sunday opening completely, and Sherburn will see opening times reduced to 30 hours from the current 39. Barlby Library is pencilled in for closure, although the village’s parish council is currently preparing a business plan with a view to taking the service over and using the building as a combined library and community centre.”
  • Northern Ireland – Curtailing library hours unthinkableNews Letter.   “To restrict access to such information is unthinkable. At a time when we are seeking to ‘grow our economy’ in the ‘info’ sector, to restrict availability in the rural ‘remainder’ is nothing less than discriminatory.”
  • Somerset – Libraries to stay open, says High Court – This is Somerset.   “Library services in Somerset which were under threat from public spending cuts will be officially restored by Somerset County Council next week. But their future will still be the subject of an 18-month review of all council services to begin in April”.

Liverpool

Comment

The big news today is about Liverpool.  It’s losing three library buildings and a mobile library and more than a third of its library staff.  Opening hours are facing big cuts in many branches.  The news makes the leader page in both the Liverpool Echo and the Liverpool Daily Post.  Amazingly for a city famous for its left-leaning politics, the Echo suggests that given cuts of such magnitude, perhaps volunteers running libraries isn’t such a bad idea after all.  The Council has said that it would consider passing the closing branches (whose stock will be relocated into other council buildings) to community groups.  This news, and an annoucement from Torbay about cuts, adds five more onto the headline tally of libraries under threat.
Many thanks, incidentally, to you all for the emails about yesterday’s posting about donation boxes in libraries.  It turns out that, while Lincolnshire may be the first council-run libraries to have them, Luton’s libraries (part of the Luton Culture Trust) have had such boxes since 2008. 
Northamptonshire council’s libraries have no less than ten different donation packages for members of the public to support their service, ranging from £3 for providing a one-hour jobhunting session to no less than £450 for providing a term of weekly homework club sessions.  Northamptonshire have also placed four donation boxes in their branches in 2011 which have generated £150 “without any publicity”.  Their review document says:

“We know it is illegal under the Act to directly charge for book borrowing and is likely to continue to be so. However, there is significant opportunity to encourage donations, charge for added value services and attract more significant income from organisational donors.”

It is significant that councils feel the need to do this.  It is also interesting that Trust’s have been the ones taking the lead.  It cannot bode well for a comprehensive and efficient library service that councils are finding it necessary to ask its users for more money than that already provided by Council Tax.  On the other hand, at least Northamptonshire appear to be using the money largely for value-added services.  The challenge for librarians, and councils, is to ensure that this is done with the needs of the service in mind rather than that of the Finance Department.  Times are so hard, though, that all options need to be considered and seen to be considered.  Even, it seems, in Liverpool.

428 libraries (337 buildings and 91 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

  • Challenging government cuts: library closures – Law Think.  “Challenging the substance of a cuts decision is difficult for two reasons. Firstly, one has to establish that in making the decision the local authority was either irrational or acting outside of the statutory provision which requires them to provide services. However, almost all such statutory provisions are broad, allowing discretion to the authority.” … “Secondly, challenging the substance of a cuts decision is difficult because the decision on spending is for the local authority and not the court. In the Brent case, Mrs Bailey “accepted that in these times of economic difficulties, economies have to be made and decisions are primarily for democratically elected local authorities”. The court only can ensure the decision was taken by a legal means.”

“With the cuts affecting public services all over the country, this is certainly far from the last decision on the issue. Many of the issues that arise in these cases are similar. However, as long as a local authority follows the correct procedure in making a cuts decision and keeps good records of how that decision was made, then can probably fend off any legal challenges to their decision.”

  • Demise of the Public Library – International Herald Tribune.   Writer felt proud of British public libraries when visiting Pakistan where they do not have any and often buy cheap pirated books instead.  “I had no idea then of the crisis facing British libraries. Over the last year or two, you’d have had to be living under several rocks not to notice.” Concentrates on the closures in Brent, highlighting the need for libraries to be local and free, continuing to provide free printed books and internet access to those who would otherwise not be able to access them.
  • Retro Library – Annoyed Librarian (USA).  “As the new book world order comes to pass, libraries can make themselves more attractive by obsessing less about the popular. Let’s face it,  the blather about libraries being the cornerstone of democracy and all that is a little hard to take when one of the biggest challenges is making bestselling novels available to library patrons. If the bestsellers aren’t freely available, democracy – such as it is –  will survive, or at least the absence of free bestsellers won’t be the cause of its demise.”  See also If libraries didn’t exist, would publishers be trying to kill book lending? (Tech Dirt).  “A familiar pattern emerges. Small, innovative publishers who are ready to adapt, reap the benefits by meeting the growing demand for ebooks at local libraries – and doubtless picking up knock-on sales as a result. Meanwhile, big, sclerotic publishers resist trying out new business models, preferring to make the use of digital formats for lending as “inconvenient” as possible – in the forlorn hope that readers will just give up and buy something. We all know how that story ends.”
  • Thoughts on library membership charges – Information Twist.   “Apart from  Central Government funding cuts, another reason local councils are having to save money is because Council Taxes were capped. This ensured local residents didn’t have to stick their hands in their pockets any deeper to pay for local services. Membership schemes like this mean that residents are still going to have that money taken out of their pockets anyway… If you have more money you’ll receive more library services. This is at odds with the ethos behind public libraries, which provides services for free because it’s recognised that some people can’t afford or don’t have access to these services/resources via any other means”
  • Times: Lawyer of the Week Daniel Carey acted for campaigners in case on cuts to library provision – Public Interest Lawyers.  “What were the main challenges in this case and the possible implications? Both councils paid lip service only to their equalities duties but the challenge was to ensure that an effective remedy was granted for this. Injunctions stopped the library closures from taking effect, allowing the judges to later quash the decisions outright. He said that it was important for the rule of law to do so.The case has implications for every local authority in the UK, which must now reappraise their planned cuts to library provision. Since the judgment, the Commons Culture Select committee is investigating the issue nationally.”
  • Windsor Public Library eliminates overdue fines in 2012 – CBC News (USA).   “”You don’t want to penalize people for reading. Sometimes you’re really into a novel and it takes you a little longer to get through it. As it happens, you return a book two or three days late. It’s not a big deal. We can get over that,” Maghnieh said. “It’s a way of really rewarding our patrons for using the library.”
  • Writer Maggie Gee vows to carry on libraries fight – London Evening Standard.  Regarding Brent. “The 63-year-old, who was the first female chair of the Royal Society of Literature and was short-listed for the 2003 Orange Prize for her seventh novel, The White Family, was awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours list.” … “Dr Gee said: “Libraries matter because they are the seedbed of literature. They are where people read our books, it’s where children find out they can read.”

Changes

Herefordshire – 20 communities have “expressed an interest” in running their own library.  Garway has new library in its village hall run by residents.
Liverpool 3 libraries (Edge Hill, Woolton, Great Homer Street) and mobile library service to close (or be taken over by community groups). 76 of 210 jobs (more than one-third of the total, including 27 managers and other senior staff) to go.  Opening hours reduced (inc. 12 libraries to be only open four days per week).  Closed libraries will have stock moved into other council services
Torbay – £170k cut (10% off £1.7m budget): possible loss of six posts, opening hour reductions, loss of one library, extra charges, encouraging book donations(Somewhat limited option) library consultation here. Group: Friends of Brixham Library, Friends of Paignton Library.   

Local News

  • Brent – Is a Rotten Borough 2011 – Preston Library Campaign.   Brent’s “Library Transformation Team” has won a Private Eye Rotten Borough Award for its work pushing the closure of half of the council’s libraries in the teeth of fierce local opposition. There’s a nice picture of the team, with its (presumed) leader, appropiately enough, holding a Kindle at the front, with some remarkably depressed looking team members behind.
  • Essex – Library fines to be chased by debt collection agency – BBC.   Called a “gentle nudge”.  “”To even be approached and warned this company might contact you, you would need to have at least four items out of the library for several weeks beyond their due date. You would have had two warnings as well to remind you to bring them back.” … “Unique Management Services (UMS) said it had recovered about $250m (£156m) in unpaid fines and lost items for libraries in North America, Australia, New Zealand and the UK since 1996.”
    • Will debt collection firm be worth taxpayer’s money? – This Is Total Essex.  “Where local authorities are facing significant cuts in funding from central government, any efforts to increase income should be welcomed. However, such initiatives need to be implemented properly, otherwise the promise of additional income will come to nothing. In this instance, only time will tell whether the money the council forks out on UMS will prove to be well spent.”
  • Herefordshire – Garway village library to host new library – BBC.  “It is being opened as part of Herefordshire Council’s Future Libraries project, being run in conjunction with Shropshire Council.”… “”Some 20 communities in the county have already expressed an interest in running their own library and we are working with them to see how the library service can support their plans by providing regular stocks of books and simple systems for them to track where any borrowed books are.”
  • Liverpool – Libraries in Liverpool to shut and jobs to go in restructure – BBC.   Cuts announced, will soon be formally agreed in council.  Cuts include library closures and opening hours cuts.
    • Time to turn the page on library cuts – Liverpool Daily Post (Leading Article).   “Whatever happens, we must hope this is an end to the cutbacks in this particular sector of the city’s activities. The service will take a huge hit, if these proposals are introduced – and so will the loyal clientele from all sections of the community who have patronised the city’s libraries for so many years.”
    • Three Liverpool libraries closed, 76 jobs lost and opening hours cut at 17 more as council makes £2.2m savings cuts – Liverpool Echo.  “The council said the libraries earmarked for closure require £3m investment it does not have to bring them up to standards required by the Disability Discrimination Act. It will hand the builings over to community groups to operate them on a voluntary basis if it can find groups willing to run them.”… “More than 4,000 people returned questionnaires and 71% of respondents preferred reducing opening hours to keep more libraries open.Only 19% supported libraries being run by a charitable trust, community group or social business.”
    • Libraries are vital to city – Liverpool Echo (Leader).   “But money does need to be saved and nettles grasped, which is perhaps why the idea of community organisations potentially becoming involved could be relevant. To many this might sound, perhaps uncomfortably, like the Big Society – but, in these tough times, if all else fails when it comes to saving libraries then perhaps the Big Society isn’t such a bad idea after all.”
    • Cuts to hit Liverpool library service – BookSeller.  “Libraries campaigner Desmond Clarke said he was in “no doubt” a campaign group would rise up in Liverpool to fight the closures as they had done in other areas across the country threatened with library caulaties, such as Somerset, Gloucestershire, Brent and the Isle of Wight. Clarke said: “The agenda is not being set by professionals or the government but by library protestors. The public is saying ‘we are not happy about libraries being closed’ and that is putting it in the spotlight.”

“There is much that can be done other than simply taking the axe to library services. For example, Westminster Council expects to reduce its operating costs by £1.1 million by merging its library service with those of two neighbouring authorities. We don’t need to have 151 separately managed authorities in England, a 50% increase in the number of authorities that existed just fifteen years ago! We can make better use of technology and improve further operational efficiency. And if we need to develop volunteer supported libraries, we must develop a workable model which ensures that the service is sustainable and can be supported by librarians. This is the time for imaginative solutions and making the optimum use of available resources to the benefit of those who rely upon public libraries. Fortunately, there are some councils that are doing just that.”

  • Somerset – Councillors say Somerset Library cuts should halt – BookSeller.  “Councillors have told Somerset County Council if it does not halt cuts to its library service it could be held in “contempt of court”.”
    • Library services to be reinstated – Yeovil Express.   “users in Somerset are celebrating after council officers recommended that all services which had faced the axe should be reinstated.” … pleased that the council will forget closures rathen than just try again.  ““Our library is a vital community facility. The idea that busy parents would be willing to drive or get the bus into Taunton to visit the library is unrealistic.””
    • Reprieve on the cards for Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge Libraries – Burnham on Sea.com.  
  • South Ayrshire – Libraries leap into future – Ayrshire Post.   “South Ayrshire’s library team are now working on launching their very own app for smartphones in the early months of 2012.” … ““Times may have changed but people still want their libraries. And it’s not just about reading – you can go in and access computers and get any information you want from all around the world. Our libraries should always be a democracy and that’s the motto we work by.””
  • Suffolk – Your library: pain ahead? – Caroline’s Woodbridge page (Liberal Democrats).   Worries about the funding for libraries (only guaranteed for two years), reliance on volunteers.  The Council also seems to suffer from problems in keeping an open debate going.  “It was only opposition councillors who stood up and asked searching questions .  In reply, Cllr Terry directed extremely aggressive and insulting remarks at them.  Sadly, I have heard similarly rude and insulting remarks regularly at Suffolk County Council meetings -not only from Cllr Terry, but other Portfolio Holders too. Why doesn’t the Chairman intervene and stop such objectionable behaviour? “”
  • Torbay – Friends step up in fight to save library in face of funding cuts – This is South Devon.   “The local authority has told the library service across the Bay to make 10 per cent cuts to its £1.7million budget which would mean slashing about £170,000. The cut could lead to the loss of up to six library jobs, reduced opening days and some fear even the loss of one of the Bay’s four libraries. Opponents say the cuts could lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy of closures.”
  • Wandsworth – Opens the competition to save London’s libraries – Guardian Local Government Network.   “In Wandsworth our big idea is to look at competitively tendering our library and heritage service. We believe a new and competitive market of library service providers has emerged with the potential to improve delivery and reduce costs. If another organisation can do a better job, we will open the door.” … “If an external bid is successful then both councils will remain in control of their libraries. As with all outsourced services the contract specification will tightly define every aspect of delivery including opening hours, free access to books and free IT provision. All of the new ideas and improvements developed during the process will be written into the contract and closely monitored against clear performance targets.” … negative comments, highlighting danger of giving long-term contracts.
  • Westminster – One Stop services move into communities – Westminster Chronicle.  “New One Stop Express services are available at 19 locations, including all of the borough’s libraries, and give free access to the council’s website, allowing card payments, for example for council tax and parking permits, and providing more information about what is happening in the borough.”

Rent a mob

Comment

Some very interesting happenings at the start of the New Year:

  • Suffolk have been appointing the first board members for it’s new Industrial and Provident Society that will be taking over the running of libraries shortly.  They will all be chosen by the Council and so may thus be counted upon to agree with its views.  Certainly this seems to be the case with at least two of the members already appointed. The new Chair, for instance, is someone who has reportedly called library campaigners “rent a mob“.  The irony here is that, from another perspective, it appears that the Board itself may be in danger of fitting that same description.  There is no democracy in its makeup and certainly no voting in of its members.  Not the best of omens but we shall see what develops.  For other thoughts, see the previous post “Suffolk Enters the Unknown“. 
  • Surrey is facing the first steps of legal action against the converting of ten of its branches to being run by volunteers.  The campaigners behind the action, SLAM, are asking for funding.
  • Bexley is either starting a great new funding initiative or opening the thin end of the wedge to charging for library services.  Bexley Village Library will be run by a charity, with free basic membership but a £24 charge if one wants more loans or wants to avoid late charges.
  • Lincolnshire is installing donation boxes in its larger libraries.  This is the first I have been aware of this practice in the UK.

With developments like these, the reputedly Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times” springs to mind.

423 libraries (333 buildings and 90 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

Best Campaigning Blog: Voices for the Library. For no other reason than being simply the best cause that I have ever had the pleasure of championing. Without my library I wouldn’t be here, writing this blog. I might not even be around at all. Love your libraries folks. Save them and cherish them.” Blog Awards, Stupidgirl

  • Biddy Fisher: Libraries need you as they adapt to a new age – Yorkshire Post.  Libraries can help people in time of austerity – free access to books/family history/internet.  Excellent article by recently honoured senior librarian including campaigning and use of volunteers.
  • Callow: My love of books is all down to a kind, cockney ladyLondon Evening Standard.  Simon Callow on donating books to library: “Callow said books play an “invaluable” role in society and that he was “deeply concerned” about cuts to library services and shocking levels of illiteracy.”
  • Cuts in education continue form libraries to outdoor centres – Guardian (Letters).   Letter from Alan Gibbons on the cuts to school libraries, 
  • Denby Dale biker Biddy Fisher honoured for library work with OBE – Huddersfield Daily Examiner.   “Biddy a former president of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, has now been honoured for her services to libraries with an OBE from the Queen.”
  • Despair about public libraries in EnglandGood Library Blog.   “I can’t see anything more that can be done, The library service in England will collapse, slowly and painfully. Some people will be able to have ready access to an abundance of literature that they do not know about, as I did; and many people won’t. We won’t be a happier or better society- we won’t. And I hate to leave behind a problem unsolved – especially when I have found the solution – and yet failed to persuade people to listen to it. There are other things to do now.”
  • High Court ruling paves way for closing 600 libraries – World Socialist Web Site.  Reports Brent legal decision.  “The decision shows how Labour councils nationally are operating as de facto coalition partners with the government in enforcing austerity measures to meet the interests of the banks and super-rich. The role of the local government trade unions is to dissipate opposition and prevent a united offensive by council employees and working people against the cuts.”
  • Imperial age of libraries – Guardian.   CNN report police have raided 5 year old’s home in USA to get back overdue books.  Article remembers the days when librarians instilled fear. 
  • Pelham to hold library head’s job while he’s in jail – Eagle-Tribune (USA).  “The library director is heading to jail for six months, but his job will be waiting for him when he gets out. Robert Rice Jr., 46, was sentenced yesterday to six months behind bars for stealing more than $200,000 when he was the director of Revere Public Library.”.  Director jailed on eighteen counts having bought items using public funds then selling them for private gain.  This whole article should have exclamation marks after pretty much every sentence. The chair of trustees says “”His position will be held until he gets back,” Garboski said. “The decision is up to him when he wants to come back.”.  Only, one hopes, in America.

“Among the things Rice bought, allegedly for the library, were a 3-foot replica of a submachine gun, diving gear, a Leica camera, a Rolex watch, Red Sox baseballs, swords and armor. He is believed to have conducted more than 1,500 online auctions.”

Changes

Bexley Bexley Village Library will be run by charity “Greener Bexley” from Spring, with membership charge for “extra benefits”, library will be independent of council (who will supply one secondment and bookstock), saving £40k p.a..  Cafe in library, with free wifi (but charges for using computers), extra 9 opening hours. 
Calderdale – Central Library to be sold off to developers with new replacement library to be sited by Piece Hall with minimal public consultation.
Essex – US debt recovery agency to be used for people with library fines/late items
Lincolnshire Collection boxes for donations to be put in all libraries
Somerset – £600k self-service to cut staffing.  
Surrey – Legal action has started against the council’s plan to run ten branches with volunteers by SLAM.
Waltham Forest Libraries being merged with benefits/council tax/advice service, library jobs lost.  

Local News

“Libraries matter so much because they have books that everyone can read. “I came from a background that was not very literate so I want my work to be available for everyone. “Kensal Rise library matters to his community because it’s the heart of the community and everyone has worked so hard to keep it open. This is a community I love to live in and write about because it’s a community full of hope. “It’s not about little houses it’s about the things we share. Kensal Rise is on the rise.”” Dr Maggie Gee MBE

“All Soul’s College have rejected the view of Brent Council that the reverter has been triggered and have refused the transfer of the library sites at Cricklewood and Kensal Rise  back to them.Save Cricklewood Library has written to the Bursar of All Soul’s on this point thanking them.” Save Cricklewood Library newsletter.  [The College owns the two libraries but Brent Council could use the two buildings only if they were used for library services].

“Detractors of the public library service seem to assume that it’s all about issuing cheap thrillers and romances on a Saturday morning, overlooking the wealth of study support offered, particularly for minority interests. Public libraries provide a comprehensive and efficient service, despite decades of low investment for some. There is nothing you could do ‘on the cheap’ that could replace them,” read one comment.”

  • Hampshire – Fareham Library closes for refurbishment – BBC.   £130k for self-service, information point, £13k new stock, carpets, windows.
  • Lancashire – Library loans down by sixthLancashire Evening Post.   Quote is for Preston Library over three years. 
  • Lincolnshire – Stamford Library’s book fundraising scheme to expandRutland and Stamdford Mercury.  “Lincolnshire County Council installed a collection box in the foyer of the library in April, which we featured on our front page, to help pay for more books. It was part of a pilot to see if library users would be willing to support the library financially. So far, the box has been so successful it has raised £850, which has been used to buy more books.”
  • Northumberland – Libraries action plan working says report – Journal.   More books, online/phone reservations, improved computers, co-location with tourist information.  
  • Oxfordshire – Library protesters’ anger at council decisionGet Reading.   Sonning Common library campaigners not impressed by proposed imposition of volunteers into library.  Suggest council decision placing the branch in the band for volunteers was made on “misleading and inaccurate” information.  Decision to put branch in bottom tier depended on a very low estimate of population.
  • Scottish Borders – Library hours cut, despite user surge – Southern Reporter.  “Amid warnings that it could become an issue at next May’s local government elections, Scottish Borders Council has unanimously agreed to merge library and contact centre services in six towns. The move, which will cut library opening hours in Selkirk, Jedburgh, Coldstream and Duns and maintain the status quo in Innerleithen and Kelso, will save the council about £190,000 a year and bring in capital receipts from the potential sale of surplus buildings worth a further £259,000.” … “What councillors were not told, however, was that the total number of active members of the 12 static and six mobile libraries in the region has risen markedly over the last five years. A Freedom of Information response reveals that the number of active members, which stood at 16,741 in 2007-08, had increased to 21,709 in 2010-11.”
  • Somerset – Library cuts “should not go ahead” – Mercury.   Councillor report recommends libraries ot be kept open after court decision judging closures illegal.  Suggest £600k investment in self-service in order to cut back on staff. 
  • Suffolk – New library group’s board set up – EDP.  Chairman and some new board members of the Industrial and Provident Society that will run the 44 branches have been appointed.  The Chair is part of the group taking over control of Aldeburgh Library.  Members include ex Groundwork director,  a CILIP trustee [who has previously said “Some libraries will close in the future and “I am not personally averse to some libraries closing”.  I have closed fifteen myself.  We do have to change and deliver things differently. It’s going to be a tough decade.”], chief exec of Suffolk Association of Local Councils. 
    • Council invites community nominations for interim libraries board – Ipswich Spy.   Four vacancies still be filled.  ““The IPS is a pioneering model for delivering modern library services. It will be owned by its members and was chosen to give Suffolk people more say in the running of their local library and the county-wide service.”
    • Libraries interim board announced – BBC.
    • Interim board to run Suffolk Libraries announced James Hargrave’s Blog.  “I think Clive Fox will have an uphill struggle to get credibility amongst local library groups. When Suffolk County Council’s scrutiny committee met I personally heard him describe library campaigners as “rent a mob”. It looks likely that he will now be sat next to at least some of these people in Board Meetings….” … “Shona Bendix comes from SALC who are supposed to support local town and parish councils but during the library campaign SALC seemed to side more with the County Council than the town and parish authorities they were supposed to be supporting.”.  Blog points out none of the members will be elected – they will simply be appointed by the Council. 
    • New chapter for county’s libraries – EADT. 
  • Surrey – Campaigner begin legal battle over Surrey library cutsBookSeller.  “Public Interest Lawyers sent a pre-action protocol letter on 30th December to SCC c.e.o. David McNulty for the purposes of a judicial review. A statement posted on the SLAM campaigners’ website said: “We are challenging SCC’s decision-making process and their lack of scrutiny, both of which we believe to be inadequate and unlawful. We have taken this action with great reluctance, having exhausted all other means of trying to hold SCC to account over their library plans.”
    • SLAM initiates legal action against SCCSLAM.  “We have taken this action with great reluctance, having exhausted all other means of trying to hold SCC to account  over their library  plans. We have also become exasperated at SCC’s avoidance of any discussion or consultation with Surrey residents on the library plans, and also the Council’s increasing hostility towards legitimate protest (blocking SLAM’s emails, and witholding information in relation to Freedom of Information requests, to name just two examples).”  Appeal for funds for legal action also made.  
Surrey_SLAM SaveSurreyLibraries on Twitter: “Dear @edvaizey. Please, please intervene and put libraries on a firm footing before 2012 turns into one long legal battle to save them.”