419 libraries (328 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?

News

  • 6 myths about why we don’t need libraries any more - Private Eye. [Not available on internet but Alan Gibbons' copy of text is linked].  Myths are (1) people don’t go to libraries (40% of adults do, 80% of children), (2) Everything is online (libraries provide subscription stuff for free and a lot of material that will probably never be digitised), (3) books are cheap (only supermarket bestsellers are and even these are too expensive for those on limited incomes), (4) libraries are not about buildings (yes they are, at least to some extent: for study space, meeting place, free space), (5) fewer libraries mean better services (not for those who need libraries the most and are limited to local amenities e.g. those on pensions, benefits or who are schoolchildren), (6) everyone is online (a lot aren’t, including 3m children and many older people).
  • 2012 Library RFID User Survey - RFID for Librarians.  RFID is the technology often used in public libraries for self-service machines, although it has other uses too.
  • Help! How much help should libraries be? - Undaimonia.   The question comes down to: how do libraries best help people? Is it by addressing their short-term need for information or is it by addressing their long-term need for information literacy? And who gets to make this decision: the librarians; the students; the university management? And since ‘helping’ is part of a library’s raison d’être, the question of what level of help to provide leads to the question of what a library’s purpose is. Bob Usherwood wrote a great post for Voices for the Library about the purpose of public libraries and their corresponding level of help. Do we need to ask the same existential questions for academic libraries?”

Joy of Books – This must have taken forever to do and is quite magical.

  • National Libraries Day is February 4th - Information Review. “Library users and supporters are being encouraged to organise a celebratory event, to contribute to the forums by tweeting with the #nld12 hashtag and by visiting their local library in the week up to and including February 4.”
  • New year, new cut - Information World Review.  This is an article recommending everyone have a look at a certain blog called Public Libraries News which “remains as essential as ever” due to the CMS Select Committee Inquiry into Library closures.  [Sounds like a great website :-) - ed.]
  • On borrowed time? A Libraries News Special - Private Eye.  [Not available online but Alan Gibbons' copy of text is linked] A full page in the magazine on library cuts including:
    • Bexley volunteer-run library charging membership, “In 2012, more and more areas will be offered a choice of this kind of library…. or nothing at all.”, “since March 2011 proposals to close, merge or give away libraries to volunteer groups have rocketed”.
    • Doncaster 14 branches closed/forced onto volunteers “But that’s all right because last week the authority    announced it has now “improved and modernised” its service with the launch of a new   “digital library” with ebooks to download at home. So, good news at least for library users who can afford fast internet and e-reading  devices?  Er, the digital library contains a grand total of 456 titles and, thanks to Amazon’s restrictive rights management, doesn’t currently work with Kindles.”, 
    • Kirklees is cutting branches, 
    • Buckinghamshire’s “success” volunteer-run libraries admit their model would not work in less prosperous areas. 
    • Privatisation/outsourcing efforts so far “underwhelming”: LSSI has none while Lewisham’s outsourcing appears unsucessful so far. 
    • Suffolk following Glasgow’s trust model, despite problems.  
    • Coaltion government failing to do anything, with action being left to communities needing to organise their own legal challenges.
    • Bradford Library reduced to lower floors due to unsafe stairs and other needed building work that would cost £4m.  Councils is “spending more than £24m on a brand-new paved  park next to the town hall, consisting largely of a mirror pool with over 100 fountains,  which will claim the useful distinction of being, er, the largest “man-made urban water feature” in the UK.”.
    • Kent and Essex have hired US debt collection agency. “Both authorities have refused to say how much they are paying out to Unique  Management Services to collect the funds, citing commercial confidentiality, but local charities have suggested that the more usual book amnesty might get the missing stock back without scaring vulnerable library users with debt collection letters.”


Changes

Local News

  • Bexley – Bexley and Bromley library merger takes shape - Bexley Times.  “The merger was not supposed to happen until April but was brought forward after Bexley had its mobile library service axed in July when 24 workers lost their jobs.”.  “Bromley council leader Stephen Carr, said: “Shared services give us the opportunity to make necessary savings during this unprecedented time of financial constraints, while continuing to provide efficient services to residents. We are utilising skills and knowledge from services in Bromley and Bexley to benefit both authorities. We look forward to working more closely with our neighbours in Bexley.”
  • Calderdale – Library opening hours will be slashed - Halifax Courier.  Community services spokeswoman Coun Pauline Nash (Lib-Dem, Skircoat) told Calderdale Council Cabinet that reducing opening hours was the only way to avoid library closures. “There are times when every library is very very quiet and by changing the opening hours, we are trying to spread the load,” she said. In a survey in 2010, users said they wanted longer opening hours.” [I wonder how many of the public said to cut opening hours in order to pay for new computers for systems analysis?  Ed.]
  • Gloucestershire – Library Service’s book fund: where has all the money gone? - FoGL.  “Since the early 1990s, Gloucestershire’s spending on library services in general, and the stock fund in particular,  has been one of the lowest of any shire county nationally (measured by spend per head of population). The annual spend on stock was usually between £950,000 and £1.1 million per year in Gloucestershire.  This may seem a lot but between 43 libraries is actually quite a low spend.”.  Stock fund (books/CDs/other materials) has reduced from £1.193m in 2007/8 to £351k in 2010/11.  Due to court decision, council is spending more in 2012 to make up for last year’s cut.
  • Hackney – To see new library opening this monthNet Lettings.  “Spread over three floors and covering 2,964 sq m, the new site features adult, teenager and children’s sections, with each area colour-coded for ease of getting around, while a quick picks area is also available for those in a hurry.”
  • Milton Keynes – New Woburn Sands Library to be opened by author Josephine Cox – MK News.   “The new library is the result of a new Partnership Agreement between Milton Keynes Council and Woburn Sands Town Council. The library is more accessible than the current premises in Hardwick Road and is located in a prominent site on Woburn Sands High Street.”.  “The refurbishment of the new premises is being paid for by local housing developments through Section 106 funding to provide community facilities.”
  • North Somerset – Library opening hours cut – Mercury.   Newly opened (nine months ago) Portishead Library to have its hours cut.  “Councillor Felicity Baker, executive member for libraries, said the need for cost-cutting was a ‘blessing in disguise’ and allowed the council to examine its library practices closely and encourage them to work together more effectively. She said: “I actually believe all the communities around North Somerset will have a better service.”
    • Council proposes library changes - BBC.   “Christina Cook, from Unison in Bristol, said: “Once again the council’s cuts are having the greatest impact on the community and the service the community loves. “It’s brilliant to hear that no libraries are closing but the impact of this whole proposal is on significant changes to staff hours and how the libraries will be manned.”
  • Rotherham – MP praises novel way to start reading - Star.   “John Healey, Labour MP for Wentworth and Dearne, gave his backing during a visit where he saw just how popular the project is. And he pledged to mention the scheme during a Parliamentary debate he has organised on Government policy on early reading programmes. Mr Healey said the Imagination Library – which sees children under five receive a new book every month – should be extended nationally. He said: “Schemes like this help children’s imagination to grow and set them on a path towards a lifetime of loving books. Children whose parents read with them from a young age are more likely to succeed in later life.””
  • Surrey – County Council responds to legal threat over library plans - Eagle Radio.  Legal came came too late and is misjudged”.  Council also says it is too late to appeal on decision first made in March 2011 and that forcing volunteers to take over libraries or see them close is not the same as officially closing them.  
    • Council says libraries group “too late” with legal threatGet Surrey.   “A Surrey County Council spokesman said: “We believe that SLAM has left it too late to start proceedings in the High Court. The decisions they want to challenge were made in March and September 2011, beyond the three-month limit required to launch a judicial review. “The mobile library service ended on 30 September 2011 and plans for community partnership libraries are well advanced, with the first one expected to be up and running on Saturday 4 February.”
  • Thurrock – A new vision for borough’s libraries - Thurrock Gazette.  “The results of a Thurrock libraries survey in September and October showed that of the 745 people who took part, 344 wanted different opening times at their closest library.Other changes suggested included more refreshment facilities and the roll out of Wi-Fi as well as more activities for children and toddlers.”