Comment

  •  More than 2,000 library staff have lost their jobs in the last year
  •  Shorter opening hours have reduced public access to libraries by 3,000 hours a week”.  
  • 10% of all staff have lost their jobs in the last year, one-quarter of posts lost were at professional level  (A previous, even more dire statement,  by Annie Mauger (the chief executive) that one in five respondents had lost their job appears to refer just to CILIP members).  
  • Just 21 branches are reported as closed.  (This report includes only those roughly half of authorities that responded so the the number of branches closed – 21 in the report – is substantially less than media reports suggest). 
  • Bookfunds have been reduced by an average of 7.2%, but with wide variations.  One authority has, incredibly, cut its bookfund by 90%.
  • Cuts to overall libraries funding also widely varies – from .5% to a full 35.6% in one year. Assuming that this figure does not account for inflation, this means at least one authority out there has cut its libraries budget by two-fifths in twelve months.  
  • “Over two-thirds of local authorities are actively considering alternative ways to run libraries and deliver services, such as community managed libraries, trusts and partnership working.”
  • Dramatic differences between library authorities show an increasing “postcode lottery”of provision.
  • “Further and deeper cuts are likely during 2012 and into 2013.”
Faced with the reality of this on the ground, and the fact that the Minister for Libraries refuses to accept that there is even a problem, has led to calls for Mr Vaizey to resign
Other items of note in the news today include
It’s a strange and tough world out there and public libraries, which should be a haven, are finding themselves in danger of being beaten into destruction by its strong winds of change.  This is perhaps not the “Eye of the Storm” but rather “The Perfect Storm” (and the fact that I linked that to Wikipedia has been deliberately done to emphasise the point).  

News

  • 2012 Library RFID Survey – RFID: Changing Libraries for Good?  – RFID is the technology behind self-service in many public libraries, although it is used for other things behind.  This is an analysis of a survey of library users in the UK/USA/Australia.  Interesting survey notable for many things but the one that caught my eye was less than half of authorities think that RFID represents a good return on investment.
  • Beauty of the Local Library – Words and the World.   Elderly, unemployed, young, those on low incomes all depend on libraries.  “You may feel that keeping libraries open for the sake of ‘minority’ demographics like these is wrong- but add these demographics together and you’re suddenly faced with a huge number of people depending on this service. Besides, how much of a minority are these demographics in March 2012?”
“Called before the DCMS Select Committee this week, he (Ed Vaizey) flunked his big moment, failing to offer any coherent vision as to how to save libraries from death by a thousand cuts.”… “So what next? Vaizey needs to be consigned to the back benches and a more vigorous replacement brought in. Publishers need to resolve the e-book lending impasse. The Arts Council needs to lose its post-MLA library responsibilities, and a national supervisory body set up instead. Libraries are too important to be sidelined.” … “It is encouraging to see the Opposition finally engaging with the issue on a national level, but the unfortunate fact remains that Labour councils (in the shape of Brent and Lewisham) have been among the most enthusiastic cutters.” …“Their [the Liberal Democrats] parliamentary spokesman, Don Foster, has been notable by his absence.” Editorial – BookSeller (print edition).

  • Collection Society to Libraries: No story time for kids unless you pay to read aloud – TechDirt.   The Belgian Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers SABAM has demanded that a public library pay a fee (Around £220 p.a.) for reading books aloud at a storytime.  The storytime is run by volunteers – the Belgian library has no money to pay for it to be done by paid staff.  Article concludes that “the likely outcome will be that many libraries throughout Belgium will cancel these reading sessions for children. As a result, fewer young people will be introduced to the world of reading, fewer of them will grow up to be readers, and writers will have fewer fans and less money.”
“Overall satisfaction with the use of RFID in the library appears to remain reasonably high. With so many public libraries now seeking to introduce self-service to replace staff the remarks about the continuing need for staff involvement might give pause for thought. If there are no staff in some branches (a scenario being proposed by at least one authority) it seems likely that there may be some difficulties in store.” Comments – RFID for Librarians.  The many negative comments on RFID on this report also may cause concern for those who see it as a panacea.

  • How public libraries contribute towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals – Beyond Access.   Case studies of libraries in Guatemala, Zambia, Kenya and Botswana. 
  • How to cut council spending without closing libraries – Telegraph.  “There may be occasions when libraries have to be closed in any area, but too often, a library closure seems to be the first option on the savings list, not one of the last. But before the books go, councils should ensure that they have slashed bureaucracy.”.  The tri-borough jointly managed library service in London is described, with £1m savings, no front-line cuts and tripling of users’ access.  Council tax and parking services work placed into libraries.
  • How to improve literacy in a time of austerity – Independent.  Many comments, although not the article itself, mention that cutting libraries may not be the best way to improve literacy.
“I went into a museum the other day; 3 floors, central location in London and it had lots of bright lights, music playing , and things to keep me entertained. The only problem was the HMV Oxford Street hasn’t quite woken up to the fact that it is a museum.” I went into a museum the other day – President Phil’s Blog, CILIP.   Phil Bradley, president of the professional body for librarians, suggests that librarians should not be so wedded to “history” / printed books. “A phrase that I’ve found myself using a lot in the past few weeks is that we should not allow history to define the future.” [For myself, I would argue that the printed book has many years left and to abandon them would be to abandon the present needs of many users.  However, this is an excellent article – Ian.]

  • Looking back at Speak Up for Libraries – Diary of a Contrarian Librarian.  Ian Clarke of Voices for the Library summarises the day, including the terrifying prospect of giving a speech after such people as the general secretary of UNISON.
  • Management of the public library service – Good Library Blog. A brief posting, asking some questions asked about the current senior management of libraries, and it’s management.
  • Move to privatize libraries makes inroads in Florida – WMFE (USA).  Osceola Libraries are now run by LSSI who promise to save $2m per year. Council says that it retains control of buildings.  Others worry that jobs, pay and the independence of the public library are all under threat.
  • Our libraries need to study success – Independent (Boyd Tonkin).   “Library cuts lose votes, many of them Conservative: the Women’s Institute this week presented a 70,000-strong petition against closures. And Vaizey certainly needs some top-level expert advice if the best example of library innovation he can produce is a book-filled phone booth in Philadelphia. Don’t call us, Ed…”
“A slender and flexible agency devoted to excellence in library services would more than earn its keep – but, just now, its first task would have to be a draining rearguard battle against rampant deprofessionalisation. And in the end, I suspect, only crude and messy politics has much chance of restocking empty shelves and re-opening closed doors. In the past, the threat of hospital closures has won, and lost, by-elections. Might the same happen with libraries? That sounds fantastic. But, given a highly marginal seat, a knife-edge campaign and a lot of local noise, it could be more than a fairy-tale.”

  • Scale of library cut-backs revealedTelegraph.  Excellent summary of the CILIP report.
  • Vaizey resign, say library campaigners – BookSeller.  “Clarke said: “If he is incapable of giving the sector leadership, he should retire to the back benches and let a stronger minister take charge. We can’t afford to wait to see whether the minister can get his act together, but we must insist on real improvements now in every authority that match the best.” Coates added: “He has had lot of opportunities to take a stance, and now maybe it should be given to someone else.”

Changes

Local News

  • Brent – Council snubs Willesden Green Library petition despite 6,000 signatures – Brent & Kilburn Times.  Normally, if a petition contains 5,000 or more signatures it can be referred for debate by all councillors on the local authority. However, as the next meeting is not until May and the fact planning permission is already being sought, the Labour-run council says it cannot wait until then to consider the petition.”
“Last Saturday 5,712 people signed the petition in one day against the demolition of Willesden Green Library Centre, in High Road, Willesden.”

  • Isle of Man – Anger at Manx mobile library cuts – BBC.   Council decision to close “lifeline” mobile library has resulted in many protests.  Survey includes TV report.  “This place would be dead without the library”. 
  • Kent – Libraries to stay open – This is Kent.  “Cabinet member for communities Mike Hill said: “We absolutely recognise the importance of libraries as community centres. “We have no library programme of closures at all, we don’t think that’s the way forward. We will continue to provide library services but we will provide it in a different way.” … “Each of Kent’s 99 libraries will be looked at to see if there is a cheaper way of running them. That could mean moving small village libraries into other community buildings, such as village halls or parish council offices.”
  • Manchester – Much-missed Manchester Central Library on target to re-open in early 2014 – Mancunian Matters.   “It is to the credit of the citizens of Manchester and their council that Central Library is to get the attention it deserves while libraries in other parts of the UK are suffering under the current government.”
  • Monmouthshire – Gwent school books library opens a new chapter – South Wales Argus.  A new Schools Literacy and Resource Centre to serve Monmouthshire and Torfaen.
  • Stoke on Trent – Library visits slump in the city during merger talks – This is Staffordshire.  “figures revealed at a meeting of the adult services scrutiny committee yesterday show visits to the city’s libraries fell by almost 70,000 in a nine-month survey. A snapshot of total visitor figures show libraries were visited 587,316 times between April and December 2010. But this number fell to 519,639 between April and December last year.” …[The service closed two branches and one mobile library and reduced staffing in others during this time] …  “The city council also approved £100,000 cuts to the £2.9 million library budget from April, which will see remaining libraries close at “least busy” times. Opening on Saturdays will be restricted to between 10am and 2pm, with some half-day closures and no 7pm late openings.”
  • Surrey – Judicial Review starts on Monday – Surrey Libraries Action Movement (SLAM).  “And let us not forget that the claimed savings amount to just 1/10,000th of the Council’s Budget in any case (and yes, I have counted the zeros properly). That’s like a person on a salary of £25,000 needing to save the price of a cup of coffee from their annual spending.”
“The Judicial Review [Williams vs Surrey County Council] is taking place on 19th & 20th March in the High Court,Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London, WC2A 2LL. Court Number 19, 10:30 each day. You are able to enter and leave as you wish. Please come and hear what is going on, the more the merrier.We still need to raise funds towards the Community Contribution of £18,000. Please pass this message on to all your own contacts.
Information on the case:

The Counsels for the case are as follows:
For the claimant: Helen Mountfield QC – Matrix Chambers http://www.matrixlaw.co.uk/Members/26/Helen%20Mountfield.aspx supported by Rachel Logan – Matrix chambers http://www.matrixlaw.co.uk/Members/93/Rachel%20Logan.aspx

For SCC: Elisabeth Laing QC – 11 King’s Bench Walk Chambers http://www.11kbw.com/barristers/detail.php?bid=15 supported by Patrick Halliday – 11 King’s Bench Walk Chambers http://www.11kbw.com/barristers/detail.php?bid=48

We expect the case to last the best part of 2 days. We expect the Counsel for the Claimant to present for the whole of the first morning and for a good chunk of the afternoon, and we expect then Counsel for SCC to be on her feet for the remainder of the afternoon and on second morning. We expect the Judge to sum up and conclude on Tuesday afternoon.”

Donations 

You can pay by direct transfer as follows:Lloyds TSB / Account: SLAM / A/c No. 48371668 / Sort code:30-99-80

along with an email to: slamtreasurer12@gmail.com with your name, address, amount of donation so that we can return donations if we win!”