Comment
 
The list of “withdrawn” libraries since April 1st last year has now gone over 100.  Of these, 38 buildings and 46 mobiles have just plain closed, while most of the balance have become volunteer-run.  It is expected from media sources that there will be many more volunteer-run branches over the next two months.  Three times more than these one hundred have been announced in the media as under threat, with doubtless more having plans drawn against them by councils up and down the country.
 
People in the Isle of Wight were apparently watching open-mouthed while the Leader of their Council talked to the Select Committee on library closures.  It seems that here is not much that he said that is not disputed in some way or anotherHe came under some very direct questioning, some would say grilling, by MPs at the Committee over apparent differences between his statements and the perceptions of those on the ground.  Indeed, it was an object lesson on how people can have completely opposite views on the facts.  Cllr David Pugh thinks he volunteers a lot in his local library; some local people think he doesn’t.  He thinks people are enthusiastic about volunteering; library campaigners say they were blackmailed into it.  Cllr Pugh thinks library staff were happy to train volunteers; while others think they were about as enthusiastic about it as turkeys are about Christmas.  It must be very strange in the Isle of Wight with such basic arguments about the facts.  What they need of course are properly funded libraries with professionally trained staff who are expert and neutral in their provision and give such answers.  It’s a shame that this is exactly appears to be disappearing there.
 
400 libraries (310 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 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.


National: Lobby your MP to help public libraries, 13th March. Website: http://www.speakupforlibraries.org/ 

Doncaster – Appeal for funds for legal case against the closure of twelve libraries.  Anyone who wants to donate can contact SDL treasurer John Sheppard. Email johnshep50@talktalk.net or call 07951 382 703. 

News

  • Library Book, edited by Rebecca Gray: ReviewGuardian. “A refrain runs through this essay collection, published to support the Reading Agency‘s library programmes: libraries made me what I am. Val McDermid, growing up in Kirkcaldy, made a “home from home” of her local library. Stephen Fry first read Oscar Wilde thanks to the mobile library near his home in rural Norfolk. For many contributors, personal recollection mutates into anger at the current government’s library-closing tendencies”
  • LSSI’s written evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee – Stop the privatisation of UK public libraries.  “Reading this you could mistakenly believe that LSSI is a philanthropic organisation only interested in the literacy levels and well being of poor little children and not a library company bankrolled by a private equity firm seeking to turn a profit.” 
  • Shhh! The iLibrary sneaks up on Kindle with 30p eBook rentals  – Sunday Times (behind paywall).  ”The Bilbary site, which features a virtual library where visitors enter through saloon bar-style doors to browse the on-screen shelves, will launch in America next month, with a British and European launch to follow.”
  • Woman stole 2,000 library books to sell on the internet - Los Angeles Times (USA).   “In exchange for pleading guilty to one count of felony burglary, Nater is set to receive probation when sentenced April 25. She has agreed to pay $7,600 in restitution, stay away from public libraries, and not use any internet accounts such as ebay, Craigslist, or Amazon, according to prosecutors.” … “The investigation began when Carlsbad librarians noticed that shelves were being depleted of books over several months.”

Local News

  • Bolton – Residents face fortnight with no library facilties - Bolton News. “A library will shut two weeks before its corresponding neighbourhood collection opens breaking Bolton Council’s promise that replacements would be in place before any facilities closed. The announcement about Heaton Library came yesterday on the same day another library, Oxford Grove, closed its doors for the final time.”
  • Doncaster – Booking up ideas to help save library - South Yorkshire Times.  “Leading the group is Stuart Bolton, he said the band of volunteers were determined not to let the site – which caters for 500 people a week – disappear. He said: “We formed a new group called Stainforth  For All when we heard that the council was going to close the library.”
  • East Sussex – Rural and mobile libraries in East Sussex - Sussex Express.   “Rural and mobile libraries are coming under the microscope as East Sussex County Council asks users for their views during a three-month review. The council wants to make sure that it is giving residents the best service at the best price – and in the right place at the right time. The review will run from Monday February 27 until Monday May 21 and people can complete a survey in paper copy or online at www.eastsussex.gov.uk/haveyoursay”
  • Gloucestershire – Library consultation event in Matson - This is Gloucestershire.  “The council had planned to hand 10 libraries over to the community but a High Court legal challenge forced a rethink. As a result Matson has received a reprieve and will be staffed by the council for between 12 and 21 hours a week.”
  • Thousands share library views with two weeks to go - Stroud News and Journal. “With two weeks left to go on the new library strategy consultation, Gloucestershire County Council has spoken to 2,400 people from many different areas and backgrounds, and is urging more people to have their say. “ 
  • Isle of Wight – Friends write to Committee over inquiry into library closures – Ventnor Blog.  Complaint regarding statements by David Pugh, leader of the Council that (a) volunteers reluctantly did so as a last resource rather than enthusiastically like Mr Pugh said, (b) that Mr Pugh has done very little volunteering unlike the impression given by him, (c) library staff were very unhappy to train volunteers, not happy like Mr Pugh said.  From this article, one wonders if there is anything that Mr Pugh said to the Committee that is not disputed.  Double taxation also caused by local councils having to support libraries that Wight no longer has decided to.  Volunteer-run libraries have a questionable future, dubious finances and poor to non-existent long-term planning.  Loss of Act, suggested by Mr Pugh, would mean some areas having a very poor service and the likelihood of the closure of all but two Wight libraries.
  • Sheffield – Novel idea to take used books to city libraries - Sheffield Telegraph.  “All libraries in the city now accept donated books and CDs that can either be added to the libraries’ collection or sold in a ‘give and take’ section for 50p. Frecheville, Firth Park and the Central Library will be the first libraries to offer readers the chance to buy the donated books and the council intends to roll out scheme across the city in the next few months.”
  • Suffolk – In 1851, Suffollk libraries and education lagged behind, they still do - Suffolk Wordblog. “Suffolk county council was ranked close to the bottom of the table for library spending by English counties in 2010 (latest available figures)  and GCSE results ranked the county as 121st out of 152 education authorities according to a report this year.” … “Glyde was worried not only by the lack of educational books available in Suffolk libraries but by the paucity of good fiction. He would have been shocked by the pile of discounted chick lit I saw being unpacked to fill the shelves of one Suffolk library recently.”
“A love of books was with me from the very start,” he said. “Libraries to me were magical places and they continue to be so. When I walk through the door of this place there is that feeling of excitement, all these books around you. The internet won’t do that for you, it’s the books themselves and this place creates that. It is superb, a great example to the rest of Surrey and to the rest of the country of what can be done.” Surrey – Dorking’s new library “should be an example to rest of England” says BBC newsreader - This is Surrey.   “Ian Caldwell, who led the Leave Our Library Alone campaign, said: “The council were determined to push it through before they even listened to what we had to say. I am just pleased we have still got a library.”