Comment

So, not satisfied with closing half of its libraries and just to make clear to everyone that Mr Vaizey will not intervene in any circumstances, Brent goes and effectively closes yet another library for a year or two while it builds a smaller one.  Predictable uproar has ensued, with over five thousand people signing a petition.  By doing this, Brent Council have added new impetus to the campaign there, with another bunch of people becoming campaigners. It has also given campaigners another stick to beat the minister technically-for libraries over the head with.  Ed will of course explain it all away and continue to do nothing.  However, Brent makes it very hard for him to do so in any convincing way.  It also makes it harder still for anyone who supports his aggressively non-interventionist stance to be anything but unconvincing themselves. 
Just as another thought, that phrase “Save Our Libraries” seems to be occurring slightly too much to be put down to a few paranoid glass-completely-empty pessimist types.  Over the last two years, libraries have gone from being a much-loved but untalked about part of English culture to being roughly on a par with the Siberian Tiger.  If that doesn’t worry Mr Vaizey then let’s hope it worries the Select Committee. Or the extinction of the real local public library is, like the unfortunate big cat, a possibility… and the loss of the local library is going to directly affect a sight more British voters than the loss of Simba.
397 libraries (309 buildings and 88 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.

News

  • An interview with Jeanette Winterson - American Libraries (USA).  “I’m sorry that we’re now going through a very bad phase with libraries. The thought has been that (a) libraries shouldn’t have any books, and (b) they should be about the lowest common denominator.” … “.  Jeanette is not happy with what has replaced books in British libraries: “Lots of computer terminals, which is good; you need that. They’ve just stripped out the things they don’t think people will want, so literature isn’t big. There’s lots of chick lit. There’s lots of pulp fiction. There’s lots of airport fiction—all of that kind of thing that doesn’t really belong in a library. I’m very snobbish about libraries in that sense. If we’re going to have all that stuff, stick it over in a corner somewhere. Can’t we let the library be what it is, which is a place of excellence, and a place where you can find things you wouldn’t otherwise find?”
  • Campaign for a happy ending - Scout London.  “Spare a thought for the humble public library….”
  • E-Vaiz-ive - Alan Gibbons.  “These points were typed with the laptop on my knee in Central Hall, Westminster before the rally and lobby of parliament” … “He even dares rattle the sabre of intervention! This is an unbelievable performance. Mensch asks about professional librarians. He couldn’t conceive of a service being run without a professional librarian! How many have been sacked, Ed?” Interesting comment: “Another case which illustrates that UK Parliamentary Select Committees should have the services of a competent lawyer with experience in cross-examination as US Congressional Committees do.”
  • Half term report on Ed Vaizey -Alan Gibbons.   Copy of the very entertaining but entirely accurate speech by Alan Gibbons at the Speak Up for Libraries event. 
  • Is the internet a threat to libraries, reading and writing culture -News Day (Zimbabwe).  “For a progressive librarian or any advocate of reading culture, it is mundane to think of a library as a physical collection of books in this day and age.”
  • Movers and Shakers 2012 - Library Journal (USA).  The most impressive and promising public librarians almost entirely from the USA, although there are some international examples.  Sadly, none from the UK this year (there were two in 2011) but the list is a most impressive one.  As an aside, there appear to be some pretty cool dudes in American public libraries.
  • Music and drama on the move - Halifax Courier. Subject to legal agreements, the drama collection will transfer to Leeds Central Library and the music will be housed in Kirklees Library HQ on Red Doles Lane, in Huddersfield.”
  • Mutually beneficial arrangement? - Stop the privatisation of UK Public Libraries.  A look into the relationship between LSSI and Sue Hill Recruitment.
  • Public rallies in support of a fair countract for librarians - Marketwire (Canada).  “Librarians and members of the public rallied today in support of Toronto Public Library services, and against the library board’s threat to those services through provocative demands, days before a bargaining deadline.”
“If I had been turned loose in a massive book warehouse with the same degree of customer service now so invisible in megastores like Home Depot it would have been a vastly diminished experience,” he said. “Librarians to me were never cashiers or salespeople. They were mentors and fellow fans of literature with whom one experienced a feeling of community.” Robert Priest.

  • Save our libraries, they’re balm for the soul - Herald Scotland.  Of late, however, assaults on the well-being of the public library have been frequent and vicious. Always an easy target in times of financial constraint, libraries have watched in dismay as professional librarians have been made redundant, branches have closed or had their hours curtailed, and book budgets have been slashed. The effects of all of this are not easy to measure. But what those, including Julia Donaldson, the Glasgow-based Children’s Laureate and author of The Gruffalo, who have been campaigning against such cuts are clear about, is that it’s the less affluent who suffer from them the most.”
  • Speak Up for Libraries - Skilled paid library workers not unpaid volunteers.  A delegate at the day gives their view of the proceedings and the important points.  “The day got me thinking a lot. It suddenly dawned blindingly on me that I had been forced to leave my last library assistant job in a public library not just because of abusive, prejudice, and downright lazy management staff; but also in part because the restructuring to the service delivery/style”
“‘Libraries were to the mind what the National Health Service was to the body.”

  • Speaking up for librariesMorning Star.  “Culture Minister Ed Vaizey did not announce a review of the government’s demolition job on public libraries because he thinks it a good idea.”  
  • Top authors join protest rally to lobby No 10 on library cutbacks - London Evening Standard.   “In a snapshot survey of Unison’s London library workers and activists, three quarters said budgets had been cut, more than a third said opening times had been reduced and more than a quarter reported mobile library, outreach and home library services had been slashed.  It also exposed concerns about staffing levels, with 90 per cent reporting voluntary redundancies and 54 per cent compulsory lay-offs. Half said libraries in their area had closed.”
  • Vaizey dithers over library concessions - Morning Star. “During a day of protest against nation-wide library closures the minister suddenly announced a review of the impact of policy changes since the Con-Dem government came to power. Mr Vaizey blurted out the minor concession as Speak up for Libraries protesters held a major Westminster rally and he faced a grilling from MPs on the culture, media and sport committee.”
  • Vaizey offers CILIP an olive branch -  Peter’s Gazette via Alan Gibbons.  “Mr Vaizey said: “I would be delighted to sit down with Annie Mauger [of CILIP] and discuss the research she has undertaken . . . and to work with the Arts Council and local authorities where there might be concerns about the reduction of staff, but I do think people should meet half way. I do not think we should see this as an either/or—we have a library service either completely supported by librarians or completely supported by volunteers” 
  • Want better reading scores? Hire a full-time librarian – Care2 (USA).  ““There is a positive and statistically significant relationship between advanced reading levels and endorsed librarian staffing trends,” according to the report.”
  • Why our libraries are worth saving - International Business Times.   “the cuts give authorities the freedom to make easy savings while appearing to be filling their statutory obligation. They watch local libraries die on the vine, with the onus of responsibility shunted to the community. There is a reason the library debate has caused such vehemence. It is one of the few public services within which every user has their own personal attachment. No offence to the binmen, but you don’t get that with waste management services.”
“Government critics are keen to paint library protesters as characters akin to Steinbeck’s Lennie Small, hugging their libraries too tight to their chest, but that is a far better notion than relaxing their grip and realising too late that it has slipped through their fingers.”

Changes

North Lincolnshire - Proposals inc. 4.5 hours less per week for Scunthorpe Central Library, 5.5 hours less at Ashby Library, 3.5 hours longer at Barton
Suffolk – Government grant given for £250k for Industrial and Provident Society for new computer management system, split with council.
Yorkshire Libraries and Information Service - Music and Drama Library to be split up, with drama moving to Leeds Central Library and drama to Kirklees Libraries HQ.  

Local News

  • Bolton – Axed libraries to close next month – Bolton News.  “The last of Bolton’s five axed libraries will close next month. Astley Bridge Library will close on April 5, Bolton Council said last night. A neighbourhood collection point, which will replace the library, will open the following week in Oldhams Children’s Centre, in Forfar Street.”
  • Brent – Willesden Green library campaigners surround building - Harrow Observer.   Dozens of local people surrounded the centre on Saturday, on the second day of a two-day exhibition to display the plans for a new cultural centre to the public. On Monday, a petition to save the library from demolition was handed in at the Brent Council officers with more than 5,000 signatures.”.  Replacement library in plans is apparently smaller.  “The ‘Keep Willesden Green’ campaign has now joined the Brent SOS (Save our Six) Libraries group.” … “The campaign development comes as All Souls College in Oxford, has reportedly given the community permission to run a volunteer-led service at the closed library building in Kensal Rise.”
    • Minister should order meeting with Brent library campaigners - Brent Council Liberal Democrats.   “According to Mr Vaizey the key difference between the councils [Wirral and Brent] is that Brent Council carried out an “extensive and significant review of libraries”. Brent campaigners claim that the review is flawed and failed to directly engage with users most affected by the cuts.”.  DCMS met with the council but not with campaigners.  Also, the council has failed to explore the volunteer option, unlike Ed’s stated preference.
    • Willesden Green library campaigners join Brent SOS - Harrow Observer.   The Victorian Society is also unhappy.  [Are Brent Council normally this prone to bad publicity? - Ed.]
    • Willesden Green demonstration attracts thousands - Preston Library Campaign.   “Preston library campaign with our friends across Brent worked hard to inform Willesden residents about the threat to their library. Willesden is the biggest and most expensive library in Brent, the “success story” that leader Ann John falsely compared to our own beloved Preston library. She kept telling us how great Willesden was, why that would stay open and ours would close instead. And all the while, plans were afoot to close and demolish it. Which means there will soon be only 5 small libraries left in Brent, and some badly need to be rebuilt.”
    • Almost 6,000 people join the fight to save Willesden Green Library - Brent and Kilburn Times.  “Nearly 6,000 people have signed petitions to save Willesden Green Library Centre from demolition. In a remarkable demonstration of community action, hundreds of people rallied outside the library in High Road, Willesden, on Saturday, to stop Brent Council from knocking down.”
  • Cornwall – Panic rooms “will ruin town’s library” – This is Cornwall.   “Fitting CCTV, alarm buttons and panic rooms in Bodmin Library, the town’s new One Stop Shop, has been dismissed as “health and safety gone mad” which will ruin the library.” … “A number of libraries are undergoing similar work to accommodate One Stop Shop staff, who offer help with council services including housing, benefits, council tax, business rates, refuse and recycling.”
  • Darlington – New Friends group forms to secure library future - Northern Echo.  Cockerton Library: “After its success the original group decided to retire and was replaced by a group of seven local people at a public meeting last night, where they pledged to work with the council, schools and community groups to ensure that the library remains a well-used facility.”
“Lynne Litchfield, libraries manager at Darlington Borough Council, attended the meeting and confirmed that employment law would make it illegal to allow volunteers to take over the duties of librarians who have been made redundant.”

  • Dorset – Charmouth Library to be handed over to Friends in September - View Online.  “The Cabinet noted that it would be impossible for the Friends of Charmouth Library to take over the running of the building unless the roof and heating system were put in good order before the official handover in September, which it was agreed to do. However, further requests for set-up grants were turned down, meaning the community of Charmouth will have to raise funds themselves to refurbish the damp-stained interior of the library, buy new furniture needed to create an internet cafe and finance all the costs involved while the library is established.”
  • Gloucestershire – Protesters who lobbied government over library cuts received praise in GloucestershireFoGL. “Chairman of the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries (FOGL) Johanna Anderson said it was clear going back to Victorian methods of funding libraries through philanthropy was not going to work. “There has been a general deterioration of libraries for a long time and the last government got rid of the library standards where authorities had to meet certain criteria,” she said.”
    • Fairford residents could decide fate of Lechlade Library - Wilts & Glos Standard.   “in a last push to secure a partnership library service with GCC, Lechlade campaigners have asked Fairford to hand over the nine additional library hours that they were awarded from the county council last year.”
  • North Lincolnshire – Reduced library opening considered for Scunthorpe and Ashby but boost for Barton - This is Scunthorpe.  
  • Oxfordshire – Libraries aren’t in crisis, says Vaizey - Oxford Mail.  “The Wantage MP spoke out as campaigners celebrated the 40th anniversary of a library in his constituency. Grove Library marked the milestone after surviving the threat of Oxfordshire County Councils cuts in 1998 and again in November 2010.  The library is one of five in Oxfordshire – along with Chinnor, Faringdon, Wheatley and Woodstock – that will now see volunteers making up a third of the staff after the council scaled back planned budget cuts.”
  • Suffolk – County’s Libraries to get a computer update from government - EADT.   “library service is to get a major software update as it is being transferred to a new not-for-profit operation. The county’s libraries have linked up with the Cambridgeshire service to get a £250,000 government grant to introduce the software which should improve the service it offers customers.”.  Not clear what the money is for but it appears to be for financial management.
  • Surrey – SLAM lobbies Surrey MPs in Parliament - Eagle Radio.  “Pressure group SLAM – that’s the Surrey Libraries Action Movement – are in Westminster today for a rally and lobby.  They’ll be joining up with protesters from all over the country, including a new alliance called “Speak Up For Libraries”.  They’re warning that budget cuts and underfunding will mean libraries across Britain are facing a “bleak future”