Comment

Continuing with the complete inaction that most library campaigners would define as Mr Vaizey’s chief  characteristic, Ed has confirmed in parliament that the Government will not be reintroducing standards for public libraries.  Standards were introduced in 2001 but removed in 2009 and replaced by the now defunct MLA’s voluntary benchmarks.  Public library authorities have not needed to be measured against any standard since then, much to their detriment.  Wales have, in contrast, continued with standards that have been notably successful in embarrassing councils who fail to sufficiently fund their service.  
Expect Ed to make much of the funding that ACE are putting into libraries while at the Committee meeting.  Be sure he won’t mention though how insignificant they are compared to the funds that the MLA had at their disposal.  They went from £13m for the MLA to £3m for ACE.

Cllr David Pugh of the Isle of Wight, and whose evidence to the CMS Committee on his role in closing libraries has attracted some criticism and raised eyebrows, is to be interviewed between 12.00 & 1.00pm on Tuesday 6th March on Vectis Radio regarding library issues.  It should be an interesting for campaigners who, unfortunately, can’t phone in to question Ed Vaizey on his inaction but can phone Vectis Radio about Mr Pugh’s role from 11 to 12. Ed Vaizey is to be interviewed by the CMS Select Committee on Tuesday 13th March (an early copy of this posting said 6th March, apologies for the error).

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
“Q : Justin Tomlinson (North Swindon, Conservative)To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what his strategy is for the future of the (a) library service and (b) standards and framework to support local delivery of library services.

A : Edward Vaizey (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Culture, Communications and Creative Industries), Business, Innovation and Skills; Wantage, Conservative) Arts Council England (ACE) has been given responsibility to advocate for and champion libraries’ roles and the public value they provide. ACE will capture and disseminate good practice in making efficiencies and meeting the needs of communities. Where appropriate, libraries will be eligible for ACE strategic investment funding. ACE will be leading a debate and research in 2012-13 on how libraries can respond to changing community needs and wider changes in society. ACE’s role on library development is one of providing advice and support. ACE has also launched the Libraries Development Initiative which has made grants totalling £230,000 to 13 library projects to help them explore ACE’s vision of arts and culture working together. ACE will shortly be writing to local authorities to make them aware of different ACE funding streams which can now be accessed by libraries. We do not propose to reintroduce the ‘public library service standards’. The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 gave local government greater flexibility in priority setting and greater discretion over how to meet them—the public library service standards were just 10 of over 1,000 indicators which authorities were no longer required to report performance against.” Hansard, 1st March.”

  • Libraries “invisible” to digital policymakers - UKauthorITy. Annie Mauger of CILIP: As well as helping many millions of UK adults who cannot read with basic literacy skills, librarians have a broad technical role helping people with both digital literacy – helping people use computers and get online – and information literacy – “helping people to understand that not everything they read on Google is true,” Mauger said librarians are well trained in these areas, and work not just in public lending libraries but in universities and schools where teaching people how to evaluate information they find online is increasingly vital, she said. However, in many cases a school librarian is treated as inferior to teachers, despite being just as highly qualified.”
  • Little Free Libraries are taking root on lawns -  USA Today.  ” hundreds of similar Little Free Libraries are popping up on lawns across the country. They’re tiny — no bigger than a dollhouse. Some look like miniature homes or barns. Others just look like a box on a post.”
  • Necessary evil?  Random House triples prices of library e-books – Techcrunch (USA).  “Random House, the world’s largest publisher of the kinds of books you and I read, has made some adjustments to the way it sells e-books to libraries. Notably, they have tripled the price of many titles. Librarians across the country are expressing their discontent.”
  • Top ten public libraries of the new age - Huffingon Post. My Top 10 selection of more recent public libraries here showcases some ideas. For starters, just like most public buildings, the library needs to become as a new hub for social life among the local community. Programatically, this has been reflected in the fact that many have become much less formal, much less guarded and much more inviting. Libraries all around are moving towards a model that encourages readers to stay and linger, instead of their original function as spaces for collecting and lending out books. Reflecting the general trend for libraries to facilitate reading as well as other functions, they are combined with halls and meeting rooms that promote social exchange between users, much like community centers.”  None of the ten are from the UK.
  • Uncorrected transcript of oral evidence - House of Commons.    Full text of second hearing of 21st February including sessions by Annie Mauger (CILIP), Alan Davey (Arts Council England), David Pugh (Leader, Isle of Wight Council), Nigel Thomas (Leicestershire Libraries) and Elizabeth Campbell (Local Government Association).

Changes
 
Peterborough - Volunteers used to extend opening hours as pilot project for three months.
Stockton - £2.5m new library at Billingham, combined with customer contact centre and possibly NHS.
Worcestershire – Upton library safe for c. three years, previously threatened. 

Local News

  • Birmingham – European librarians visit £189m Library of Birmingham development - Birmingham Post.  “People and politicians are saying: do we need a public library? Everything is digital, everybody has e-books. I don’t agree. I think it is very important to get a balance between the physical library and the digital library.”
  • Brent – Final chance to complain to DCMS - Preston Library Campaign.  “The Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) are legally obliged to investigate or tell us why not, and if they have thousands of complaints, it is much harder for them to ignore us.”
  • Camden – Lib Dems pledge help to libraries in bid to distance themselves from Labour cuts - Ham & High.  “Liberal Democrats have pledged to halt planned cuts to library opening hours and plough extra cash into supporting volunteers to run the much-loved reading rooms, as they laid out alternative budget plans for Camden Council.” … “The Lib Dems praised residents who had stepped up to help run the libraries and pledged an extra £350,000 for Camden’s reading rooms at a full council meeting at the Town Hall on Monday (February 27).”
  • Darlington – Campaign groups thank council for budget u-turns - Advertiser.  “Darlington Borough Council made a number of u-turns on budget proposals due to the strength of public feeling during the budget process. Among the services saved for the town were lollipop patrols outside schools and Cockerton Library, which will now operate with reduced hours.”
  • Edinburgh – Future of library services: letter to Scotland on Sunday - Edinburgh Council.   “It’s ironic that a campaign against library cuts in Scotland is choosing to launch in Edinburgh in a library that will shortly see an increase in its opening hours and in a city where we are building new libraries and refurbishing existing ones.”  Also in newspaper.
  • Gloucestershire – Council attacked over libraries review cash incentives - This is Gloucestershire.   “The Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries (FOGL) launched a scathing attack on the authority after it found out it had been offering £40 supermarket vouchers to attendees at workshops over cuts to its library service.” … Up to £2800 could have been given away.
  • Isle of Wight – Campaigner resigns after libraries row - IWCP.   “Mr Fagan told the County Press he had stepped down from the council committee because he disagreed with Cllr Pugh’s evidence. Mr Fagan said: “The consultation was completely flawed. The questionnaire they put out was so biased.” Cllr Pugh hit back saying a High Court judgement over the closures had backed the council’s position proper consultation had taken place.”
  • Kirklees – Community consultation for Golcar Library - Mailout.  “All expressions of interest will then be considered and more detailed discussions with interested parties will follow.  The proposal is that Kirklees Council will provide guidance to interested community groups and individuals, including training, a regular supply of books, maintenance of public access computers and additional support to ensure the continuation of a high quality library service.”
    • Deadline for libraries - Hudderfield Daily Examiner.   “D-Day for the future of our libraries is looming ever nearer. Now people in Golcar have just six weeks to register an interest in helping to run it.”
  • Nottinghamshire – Mansfield Library sees rise in use since £3.4m revamp - BBC.   “1,381 people had joined since it reopened in January, compared to 497 new members in the same period in 2010. The refit included a new children’s area, more computers, a dedicated space for research and a larger local history section.” … “In 2011 the council reduced the opening hours of some of its smaller libraries and cut its budget for new library books by 36% in two years.”
  • Peterborough – Opening hours pilot to start at library - Evening Telegraph.   “A three-month pilot where a city library’s opening hours will be extended will start on March 19. Vivacity is running the pilot at Bretton Library, in Rightwell, Bretton which will see opening hours on Mondays extended to 6pm from the usual time of 4pm with the use of volunteers working alongside a staff member. If it is a success, it will look to extend the library’s hours on a permanent basis and consider rolling out the changes to other libraries in Peterborough.”
  • Somerset – Council to bring back 160 outsourced staff - BBC.   “Somerset County Council is to bring back 160 staff who were outsourced to the private firm, SouthWest One. The company, which employs 650 ex-council staff, was set up in 2007 and carries out administrative and back office tasks for the local authority. The decision was taken after a council review into the firm’s performance concluded it was failing to perform.”
  • Stockton - £2.5m library approved for Billingham - BBC. “Stockton Council has allocated cash for the £2.5m project in Billingham. It said it would be modelled on similar centres in Thornaby and Stockton, which had led to a rise in the number of users. It plans to develop the complex on the former Billingham Art Gallery and council offices site and is looking at either refurbishment or a new building.” Buidling to be combined with customer service centre.”
  • Surrey – Sneak preview of Woking library revamp - Surrey News.  “Surrey County Council is giving Woking library in Gloucester Walk a complete overhaul to make it the most modern and user friendly branch in the county.” … “New features will include an improved children’s library, a new area for teenagers, free wi-fi, new seats, shelves, carpets, lighting and stock. Around 16,000 new books will replace old ones, ensuring a wide variety of fantastic new reads for visitors.”.  127 square metre increase, new cafe.
  • Trafford – Formal response to Trafford council’s consultation - Hands Off Old Trafford Library.   “Today, Friday 2nd March, HOOTLibrary submitted a formal response to the Council’s consultation. You can read the full report here. You can still make your own submissions to the consultation before Monday 5th. Feel free to refer to anything in this document. Indeed we’d actively encourage it!”
  • Wandsworth – Spring at York Gardens LibrarySave York Gardens.   “The librarians and the Friends group have all been busy developing the plans for how we will continue to keep the library running and make sure it is providing really useful services for the local community. In December, the library and community centre’s first Christmas Fayre raised more than £400 which will go towards keeping the library open and continuing to run activities for local people.”
  • Worcestershire – Library will not close: just yet - Malvern Gazette.”However Upton Town councillor Simon Speers told fellow members on Tuesday: “There are no plans to close the library. We do not have that in writing but I have been assured verbally that is the case for a three to five year window.” He added he did have concerns over what he described as “salami slicing” – cutting the service bit-by-bit ahead of a move for closure further down the line.”