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.”