Comment

The headline comes from Annie Mauger, chief of CILIP, who said that 700 out of the 3500 people working as public librarians in the UK may have lost their jobs this year.  It was made in giving evidence to the DCMS Select Committee on Public Libraries this morning. A summary of the other main points raised in the hearing will appear as a special posting shortly.

The DCMS have made it clear that they are not going to intervene over the closures in Brent.  This will surprise no-one who has followed the department’s, and the relevant ministers, approaches to the cuts in libraries over the last year.  Let’s make this clear.  In bold and in italics.  Anyone who is following libary cuts at least privately believes that there is no way the DCMS will intervene in any case on any terms.  It would go directly against the perceived localism agenda and the need to force through the biggest cuts in local government in peacetime history.  There are aspects of the response to cuts, notably the use of volunteers and non-profit organisations in the running of libraries, that ties in so beautifully with the Big Society that it almost seems designed for it.  The only way that the Government will intervene is if they are legally forced to by a judge deciding that the Secretary of State is in breach of his statutory duties.   Even then, it is likely that the Government will simply change the law, as they are doing with the recent case of a court deciding that saying prayers in council meetings is illegal.  It is up to the campaigners and the organisations involved to see if the effort to force the DCMS to intervenese is therefore worth it.

399 libraries (309 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/ 

News

  • APPG for education calls for school library support – EdExec.  “in its inquiry report, the APPG raised concerns over the Government’s lack of support for school libraries and the impact this had on child literacy. In response, the DfE stated that it recognised the positive contribution to literacy standards of good libraries ” … “However, DfE stopped short of promising future funding by adding that it preferred schools to make their own choices about book resourcing and library provision.”
  • Join us at the consortia conference 2012 in Bath on Thursday 3rd May – Consortia Conference 2012.   “The consortia conference 2012 offers the opportunity to listen to speakers from two of the biggest UK public library consortia (LibrariesWest and London Libraries Consortium), to find out more about shared services in action and to participate in workshops and panel discussions.”
  • Ministers don’t understand libraries – Huffington Post UK.  Annie Mauger, CILIP chief, said at the Inquiry that politicians often don’t understand what libraries do.  She also singled out Jeremy Hunt for failing to intervene to stop closures.  Arts Council England chief complained of the lack of breathing space libraries had to cope with the cuts and other changes.
  • Select Committee hears of librarian job loss toll – BookSeller. “Research by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) has indicated that as many as 700 of 3,500 professionally qualified librarians have lost their jobs in the current financial year, chief executive Annie Mauger told the culture select committee at its second oral evidence session, given this morning (21st February).”

Local News

  • Barnet – Campaigners “devastated” over Friern Barnet library closure – Times Series.  Campaigners are “devastated” after plans to close Friern Barnet library were given the go ahead last night.” … “SFBL had gained the support of more than 3,000 people who were fighting to keep the library open. The group argued the Arstdepot is too far away, and the closure would affect the most vulnerable people in the area as well as detriment hundreds of children’s literacy levels. But speaking in favour of the library strategy at last night’s Cabinet meeting, Councillor Robert Rams, cabinet member for customer access and partnerships said: “We will see libraries that will open longer, more money will be spent on books, new libraries will be built and every child at school will be signed on to the libraries service.””
  • Barnet Council agrees to close Friern Barnet and North Finchley libraries – Times series.  A new library will be set up at Artsdepot in North Finchley, although Councillor Robert Rams, cabinet member for customer access and partnerships was unable to say exactly what services would be on offer by April 1. Hampstead Garden Suburb library will remain open after councillors agreed to enter negotiations with Hampstead Garden Suburb Residents’ Association on housing a “community library” in the existing building.”
  • Brent – Legal bid to halt library closures ruled “academic” – London Evening Standard.  Jeremy Hunt “dismissed their claim that he was obliged to intervene on libraries under threat as “academic”
“It seems they accept Brent’s reasoning at face value. It seems to me a very dismissive response. They gloss over what is a lot of chaos on the ground. They seem to have accepted whatever it is Brent has said to them about the library service being comprehensive and sufficient.” Brent campaigner.

“I don’t see how they can go further now in legal terms”, adding: “We’re actually going to have a better library service from our six libraries than we had for the 12, in that sense campaigners have been very misguided.” Brent councillor James Powney

    • Secretary of State hints he might not step in to save axed libraries – Brent and Kilburn Times.  “…a statement on the Department for Culture, Media and Sports’ website has revealed that Mr Hunt is ‘not minded to intervene by way of a local inquiry into Brent Council’s library plans.”
    • Minister refuses to investigate library closures – Harrow Observer.  “Brent SOS (Save our Six) has announced today that Jeremy Hunt has refused to look into the council’s closure of six treasured libraries, despite receiving more than 10,000 submissions from the public.”  Brent campaigner shave 14 days to reply. 
  • Ealing – New Ealing libraries strategy “is rehashed muddle” – Save Ealing Libraries Campaign.  “We’d been told [at the Ealing Council Cabinet meeting] on January 24 that a new libraries strategy would be launched in February. As there was no evidence of this on the council’s website I phoned Committee Services and learned it’s not a new document at all, but a tidying up of last July’s Draft Ealing Library Strategy 2011-2014″.  The good practice of Hillingdon nextdoor is highlighted by the article.
  • Gloucestershire – Shoppers in Cheltenham uninterested in future of libraries – This is Gloucestershire.   “Council staff at the shopping centre approached people to fill in the library questionnaire. The previous plan failed due to lack of consultation with all users. In a bid to combat this, a Polish translator was available at the Cheltenham roadshow, as well as literature in other languages such as Japanese. There is also an “easy read” paper questionnaire for people who prefer a simpler version and the council has drafted extra guidance to help people fill in some of the questions.” [Japanese? Really? – Ed.]
  • Isle of Wight – Council leader defends library closures – IWCP.   “As part of his early evidence, Cllr Pugh told the committee the community could hold councillors to account over the changes to library service at the ballot box at the next election. He also urged the secretary of state to continue his ‘light touch’ approach to local authority library services.”
  • Leicester – 250 sign petition against closure of library – This is Leicestershire.   Protest against closing St. Matthew’s Library and moving some of its books into nearby leisure centre with a self-service machine.  ” “A lot of school children use the library to study and the availability of school books is crucial given how expensive they are to buy.”
  • Suffolk – “Virtual” council gives way to people power – Guardian.  “Some residents are prepared to accept that things cannot stay as they are, given the financial constraints the council is facing. Former libraries campaigner Colin Owens is one of them. He has just joined the board of a new industrial and provident society (IPS), a social enterprise created by the council to run its libraries. It will enable all 44 libraries to stay open, instead of the council’s original plan of closing two-thirds. The theory is that the IPS will have lower overheads and its charitable status will enable it to make tax savings and apply for grant funding.”
“The Wickham Market partnership began by asking local people what they wanted from their library. The answer was longer opening hours, a coffee machine, soft seating, more groups and more use by children. It looks as though people are going to get all of that. Some 20 volunteers will help staff to extend opening times from 22 to 38.5 hours a week, while on Mondays the library will be handed over to the local school.”