Comment

Some excellent publicity already for public libraries in the Guardian, the Mirror and by the BBC.  I understand that there will be many BBC local radio news items on the event tomorrow and on BBC Breakfast.  A letter in the Guardian is signed at the top by the General Secretary of Unison and by the Chair of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes.  The other names on the list are no slouches either.  Superb.  Whether it will have any impact on Mr Vaizey who is giving evidence ot the Select Committee on Library Closures in the morning is another matter.  We’ll see. 

I will be attending the lobby and hope to produce a report for this website.  I also hope to see many of you there.  If you do come along, look out for the bald man wearing spectacles hugging a black laptop and say hello.

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

  • Efficiency call for VaizeyBookSeller.  When asked what he would like to hear Vaizey say, Coates said: “What he should do is think constructively about how to improve the library service. It is not about cutting money from the budget, it is about improving things with the money that is available. It is shockingly shameful that these people coming to demonstrate tomorrow, who believe that a society and children should have libraries and access to books, are forced to come from miles [away] to make this point to parliament.”
Coates, who is due to appear on BBC Breakfast television tomorrow to speak about the library spend figures, told The Bookseller: “This has been the trend year-on-year over the last ten years. Money has been spent on the wrong things and it is senior management in local council who should be held responsible. They need to roll up their sleeves and get themselves immersed in the job of budgeting better.””

“The problem is at national level now. Libraries are a local thing but it’s such a mess now that this is a national emergency, which is why we’re bringing in the MPs,” said Laura Swaffield, chair of the Library Campaign. “The main reason for the rally is Ed Vaizey’s appalling reluctance to do anything at all, no matter how much damage is being done to public libraries. That is the reason the select committee is looking into library closures.”

  • Philip Pullman: We’re failing our children – Mirror.  “The most common ­tribute to the public library is when ­somebody says: “It opened up the world for me when I was a child.” I want that sort of experience for every child. The sort of reading that really takes place here – the sort that really makes a reader out of us – is reading for pleasure, which government after ­government has paid lip service to while working to prevent it.”
  • Pick your monopoly: Apple or Amazon – Washington Post.   Increasing dominance of online bookselling means that soon a monopoly of bookselling will emerge.  Or a duopoly. Implicatons examined.
  • Public library budgets – Good Library Blog. “Actually last year the public library budget in England went down by three percent. It may go down by more in the next set of figures, but somehow, I doubt if it will really be nuked in the way we have all come to expect. Local councils simply can’t do things like that to themselves – they don’t know how to.” … “The book funds have been allowed to decline from 12% of spend to 6.5% – which is dreadful and explains why people are reading less in libraries. And the charges on the library service that pay for council overhead costs (not library overhead costs) have gone up from 8% to 14% – and that is truly truly shocking.”
  • Save the library: save the librarian – Fromthemindofinapj.   “Often, libraries are the first to go.  They are seen as an easy target, all-too-often it is claimed they are rarely used, or as was said in my local area, are ‘white middle-class privileges’, or worst of all, libraries are held up as an either/or choice – either you have youth services or libraries, old people’s centres or libraries, community centres or libraries.  All of these were lies in my area; it is a poor borough, a multi-ethnic community and the libraries were not only already the community centres, they were the only place the poorer (who also tended because of racism/disablism to be the non-white and non-able-bodied members of the community) could get internet access for job searches, community information and for the children, the only place they could do their homework.”.  [Excellent post and not just because it links to this website – Ed.]
  • Support for Libraries – Guardian.   Short letter signed at top by UNISON and WI and then by a lot of authors and campaigners.  Impressive.
  • Ten things I didn’t learn in library school – Letters to a young librarian.  Some very real issues – such as vandalism, mental health and violence – that people don’t normally associate with libraries.  [As a public librarian, I recognise all points listed – Ed].
  • Tri borough scheme boosts savings target – UKauthorityIT.   “The flagship London shared services programme, involving Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea councils, has scaled up its savings target to £40 million a year across the three boroughs by 2015/16, up from a previous forecast of £33m a year.  A new tri-borough progress report was tabled on 7 March during a meeting between the three councils’ leaders and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.”.  Shared services approach includes merging management of libraries “At a time when other councils are looking to close libraries, we have kept all our libraries open.”

Changes

Local News

  • Dorset – Libraries to be run by volunteers – BBC.  In July 2011, the Conservative-led county council voted to withdraw funding from nine libraries to save £800,000 a year by 2012. Under the new plans the council would provide £5,500 a year for staffing, books and IT services, with other costs covered by the volunteers. Mr Chaney, who is also chairman of the Friends of Puddletown Library, said volunteers at his local library would be paying about £3,500 a year for rent, lighting, heating and insurance.” [NB. Volunteers are taking over as no other options are open. It’s been a long hard fight in Dorset – Ed.]
  • Isle of Man – More than 1000 visit Family Library for open day and protest – Isle of Man Today.  Many politicians also visit.  “Angela Moffatt, negotiations officer for the union Prospect said the libraries now had many new members. She said: ‘The libraries have been starved of promotion over the years and it’s ironic this is how they get it.”
  • Kent – Go online to browse through report on library services – This is Kent.  “The report, carried out by Kent County Council, has been prepared for each library in Kent. It shows the services offered, the number of people borrowing books and annual running costs, as well as information about the communities each serves.”  The remarks are used: “We try to promote Ramsgate library, we have quiz nights and a reading garden but I think it would be a good idea to have more social events at the local libraries. It would also be useful to have more volunteers to help out. We used to have a users’ association where people would come in for an hour or so just to help out with unpacking books etc.”
    • Top of the borrowers – This is Kent.  Tunbridge Wells is the most popular library in Kent, its usage and that of others looked at, including possible reasons.
  • Kirklees – LettersHuddersfield Daily Examiner.   Shepley Library user angry that council wants to force people to volunteer to keep library open or it will close.  Another letter is angry that closures appear to be directed at rural communities.  Three letters in all.
  • Scottish Borders – Late library opening is council’s carrot – Advertiser.  “The late opening in Selkirk of the library until 7pm on Tuesday and, for the first time, access to other council services on a Saturday are two innovations which Scottish Borders Council hopes will receive the blessing of townsfolk, writes Andrew Keddie. Selkirk is one six Borders towns in which the libraries and contact centres are being integrated in a bid to save the cash-strapped council £130,000 a year in employee and property costs.”.  Public are sceptical. 
  • Shropshire – Save Oswestry Library – ipetitions.  “Hello, I am Antonia Higgins, I am 15 years old and I live in Oswestry. A new topic has been brought to my attention and I fear the place I adore the most in Oswestry is going to be ruined.  Shropshire Council is working with other public and voluntary sector organisations in Oswestry to create a ‘one-stop shop’, located in Oswestry Library.”
“I strongly oppose the idea that the entrance to my Library could now be over-crowded every day with people using the ‘Council office’. As everybody is aware Libraries are a place of sanctuary and quiet, but with now more than 57 cases last year of verbal abuse reported against council officers at Shropshire council reception desks, the peace and quiet will disappear. Do we really want this in an environment where children & adults come to learn and take advantage of this fantastic facility?”

  • South Tyneside – Councillor backs cuts: even if it will cost him his seat – Jarrow and Hebburn Gazette.  The Cleadon Park representative believes the savings should be ploughed back into the borough’s under-pressure library service. As part of savings, it is proposed to cut the library budget by £242,000 in 2012/13, partly through a reduction in opening hours. Coun Elsom said: “We should be expanding our library service, not reducing it. “If we went to the public and asked if they wanted fewer councillors or library cuts, I’m sure they’d support a reduction in elected members.”
  • Southampton – Union to promote libraries campaign in Southampton – Southern Daily Echo.  “Public sector union Unison will be promoting its Speak up for Libraries campaign in Millbrook, Southampton, tomorrow as part of national campaigning activity. An information stall will be set up near the Tesco superstore in Tebourba Way. Free bookmarks will be handed out to the public. The Conservative-led council has replaced some librarians with volunteers and self-checking technology to cut the wage bill but kept libraries open in the city.”