Comment
Ed Vaizey, in an apparent attempt to fight the criticism of him by his opposite number, Dan Jarvis, went on BBC Radio Surrey today. The full text of his interview is below.  Ed spent most of the time explaining the limitations on his power.  He explained that he can only intervene after all the plans are fully formed.  This means, in effect, when they have been implemented.  Up until that point, Ed maintains that it is up to local people to question how the decisions have been made.  And fight them.  And pay for that fight in the Courts. Some would question Ed’s interpretation of his job but clearly he has some well paid lawyers who have come up with why he can continue to be happy doing nothing. It is worth noting that Mr Vaizey has so far not seriously intervened at all, despite the deepest cuts in history to UK public libraries.  Cuts which he has failed to do anything abut so far have included (a) half of a council’s branches have been closed and (b) opening hours being cut by a third.  The interview only goes to show that he is going continue to find reasons for not doing anything.
Interestingly, though, he disagrees with his fellow Conservatives in Surrey County Council.  The Council, as you will recall, are in denial about the whole thing, claiming that they were pleased with the result and don’t need to change anything.  Ed, at least, accepts that Surrey lost the review and therefore needs to change its plans. 
 BBC Radio Surrey interview with Ed Vaizey
Ed: “Well, it’s Dan Jarvis’s job to have a pop at me as the Opposition spokesman but I think he is being unfair.  I have a duty, or rather, county councils sorry Surrey County Council has a duty under the 1964 Libraries Act to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service.  That’s a very important point to make.  This is a statutory duty and that is a duty that we saved.  The last Labour Government tried to get rid of it [not strictly true, they were thinking about consulting on whether it needed changing – Ian] but we campaigned against that.  So it’s still policy to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service.  But of course “comprehensive and efficient” has a very wide meaning and I have always made it clear that it is up to local authorities to configure their library service how they think it is best for the local population and whenever a local authority like Surrey goes through a process of change, there will be a discussion and I fully support the right of campaigners to campaign to change the mind of their county council.  That’s what local democracy is about.”

Interviewer: “Let’s bring in Mike Allsop [from Surrey Libraries Action Movement] here.  Mike, you have Ed Vaizey on the line.  What would you like to say to him?”

Mike: “Well, I think the starting point Mr Vaizey is there has been no discussion.  The authority prsented a fait accompli to the local population in libraries that were already operating as community libraries.  They were the places that people went to and congregated in.  We’re now in a situation where suddenly for a financial consideration – which is really quite small when you look at it, not a big saving, could be covered elsewhere – is suddenly put in.  “We will run these libraries with volunteers” – no-one had this discussion beforehand and when we looked at the plans, they were really ill thought out.  There was no real consideration to the depth of training required and for so many volunteers.  Eighty volunteers in one library, two hours training for the lead volunteers who train them …”

Interviewer: “Ed Vaizey?”

Ed: “Well, as I say, my power is to review whether the local authority is providing a comprehensive and efficient library service.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that there has to be a certain number of library buildings.  I just have to be sure that people have access to a good library service in their local area and that is what I have said I will do and I will review every proposal from every council that is changing library services and make a decision about whether or not call a public inquiry.”

“I don’t want to get too pedantic because I know that your listeners aren’t interested in sort of me dancing on a head of a pin but there are two separate strands, if you like.  The ability to review the way the council makes the decision and that is what has happened in one or two cases.  That is what has happened in Surrey, it’s what’s happened in Somerset and Gloucestershire.  That is different from my ability to review whether a council is still providing a comprehensive and efficient library service.    They are two different things.

If the local population or local campaigners think that their county council has made the decision in the wrong way they are entitled to judicially review it, which is what SLAM have done with Surrey County Council and they won that judicial review and the County has to look at the way it has made its decision again – but that’s not a power that I have.  I only have the power … and I can’t say whether I am happy with Surrey’s plans because I have to wait until I have seen the final shape of them before I make a decision about whether or not it is appropriate to have an inquiry about if they’re still providing a comprehensive library service.” Surrey Breakfast with Nick Wallis – BBC Radio Surrey.   2:39 to 2:47

News

  • Are volunteers the way to save our libraries? – Socialist Worker.  “Before the present crisis broke there were 7,000 volunteers, but they supplemented librarians. They did not replace them.”
  • Call to all our lovely friends in publishing and libraries from Urban Librarians Unite – Desk Set (USA). “Once again the mayor’s proposed city budget slashes libraries and once again Urban Librarians Unite and Save NYC Libraries are ramping up to push right back. You know us, we are the people who have the 24 Hour Read In, the Zombie Librarian March over Brooklyn Bridge, we hugged the 42nd Street Library, those librarians. Well we have big big big things afoot this year and your legions of leftovers can be part of it. Those tired old books despairing under dust in the corners can have new life as part of a dynamic library advocacy campaign.”
  • New York Public Library’s plan to take books off shelves worries scholars – Guardian.    3 million books to be be moved to two different storage facilities to allow for modernisation.  “To help pay for project, which has been estimated at more than $300m, the city will contribute $100m. The rest will come from closing two of the city’s 87 branches: the very busy, but increasingly decrepit, mid-Manhattan lending library and the Science, Industry and Business Library. Those collections will be housed in the new central branch space.”
  • Women’s Library campaign gathers steam with 5,000-strong petition – Guardian.  “Steam is building behind a campaign to save the Women’s Library, a London institution founded in 1926 and home to the oldest and most extensive collection of women’s history in Europe. The library, part of London Metropolitan University, is threatened with drastically reduced opening hours unless a new home, owner or sponsor can be found by December.”
    • Save the Women’s Library at London Metropolitan UniversityCare 2 Petition.   Aim was to get 1,000 names: currently at 4969 and counting.  “this Library is one of the most magificent specialist libraries in the world, having started life as the Fawcett Library in a poky, cramped, dark basement at Old Castle Street. With money from the Lottery it has become something that previously women – and men – could only have dreamed of. Women have visited from all over not just Britain, but the world.”
    • Vindication of the Rights of the Women’s LibrarySave the Women’s Library.  London Met UNISON site.  “Have you been to our events and exhibitions? Have you used the collections to aide your research or created something after seeing something cool? Have you ever visited with a school group or hired the building? Send your testimonials to: savetwl86@gmail.com”.
    • Campaign to save the Women’s Library – Museums Association.  
  • “We need to unlock the potential of young Londoners” says Siobhan Benita as she launches education and youth manifesto – Kensington and Chelsea Today.   Independent candidate for London Mayor includes “Protect and improve London libraries  – bid for the Mayor to have strategic control  of  all London libraries” in manifesto.


Changes

Brent – Kensal Rise and Cricklewood library buildings handed back to All Soul’s College Oxford.   

Local News

  • Barnet – Petition to: Re-open Friern Barnet Library – Barnet London Borough.   Friern Barnet Library in its present place and shape is an integral part of community life in the surrounding area. We want a cheerful Local library. This is a chance for Barnet Council to show they ARE listening to local residents and reverse the bad feeling caused by the closure of this lovely library.”
    • Book lovers to launch a People’s Library in in Friern Barnet – Times series.  “The short notice didn’t really give anyone the opportunity to do things like bring their books back or pay their respects. It was all very sudden. “It’s the community coming together. The building may have gone but there’s still a need for people to read books, borrow books and this is our way of trying to carry it on.”
“We’d just like to say that the fight is NOT OVER. Roger Tichborne, owner of the Barnet Eye blog is setting up The People’s Library outside the now closed FBL this Sat, 14th April from 11am-1pm.” See The Barnet Eye to open a People’s Library at Friern Barnet next Saturday 14th AprilBarnet Eye.  “The concept is simple. Local residents are invited down to bring any books they have read and no longer require. The Barnet Eye will bring our collection, which were donated when we ran the original “Save Barnets Libraries” Campaign in September 2010. The local community is invited down to bring books and borrow books.”

  • Brent – Council hands back Kensal Rise and Cricklewood Library to All Soul’s College in Oxford – Brent & Kilburn Times.  The buildings were given to the council by Oxford University’s All Souls College in 1854 and campaigners claimed they had no objections to the community taking over the buildings. However, it was confirmed today (Wednesday), the two sites in Bathurst Gardens, Kensal Rise, and Olive Road, Cricklewood, have been returned to All Soul’s College. Kensal Rise Library in Bathurst Gardens has been handed back to All Soul’s College in Oxford. Furious campaigners claim that they would now have to pay to use the building at commercial rates or lease it out.”
    • Libraries land reverts to All Souls – BookSeller.   “The land to house Kensal Rise Library and Cricklewood Library was given to Brent council under the Literary and Scientific Institutions Act in 1854 with the purpose of providing libraries to residents. “With the closure of the two libraries as part of the Council’s libraries transformation programme, the purpose for use has ceased and consequently All Souls College has asserted its legal right and requested that the land is returned,” Brent council said in a statement.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – World Book Night celebrations in the borough’s libraries – Talking West Cheshire.   “Mayor of Ellesmere Port, Councillor Angela Claydon, will be joining library staff giving away books at the entrance to the Asda store at 4.30pm. Tarporley High School and Sixth Form College, together with the Council library, will be gifting books and everyone who comes along between 6pm and 8pm will be encouraged to bring a book and swop with others. Admission is £1. At Neston Library between 6pm and 9pm you can pick up a free book and solve the murder mystery during entertainment for all the family….”
  • Surrey – Paid library staff in Surrey should stay: campaigners – BBC.  “The open letter said there were serious questions about the effect of removing paid staff which had not been considered, but must now be considered thoroughly and put to the cabinet. Campaigners said the current plan was to offer volunteers two hours [sic] of training, which would cover use of library self-service points, customer registration, making book requests, identifying good quality books, understanding stock display and location and being aware of legal requirements relating to customer service.”
    • CC loses judicial review in its libraries: what does it mean?  – Consultation Institute.  “Mr Justice Wilkie has made some very interesting observations that will be important for those who organise consultations as well as those whose job is to meet Equalities legislation. And like many of the recent cases, it will prove just as relevant to NHS Managers, Police & Crime Commissioners (when we elect them) and all other public bodies; this kind of case is not really about Libraries, but about the way that decisions are taken to change public services”.  Council erred in law due to ignoring the consultation and deciding to do things regardless.  This was therefor poor practice and showed the consultation was merely a “tick box exercise”
    • Minister for Culture may launch enquiry into SCC’s library plans – Surrey Libraries Action Movement (SLAM).   Ed Vaizey, minister for Libraries, gets involved in a BBC Radio Surrey interview with SLAM chair.SLAM point out that this means Mr Vaizey goes against Surrey Council in several ways:  he accepts SLAM won the review, that Surrey need to review their plans and that he expects Council plans to change.  Surrey Council have publicly stated that they won the case (despite the judge saying their actions were unlawful) and that they do not need to change anything.
    • Community Partnered LibrariesSLAM.  Excellent letter to Surrey Council outlining SLAM’s position and the problems it has with the stance of the Council.  “”Dismissing the High Court judgment and announcing an intent to carry on regardless is an insult to the legal process and leads Surrey taxpayers down a precarious path. The County Council must now get serious, start taking responsibility for its actions and put in place a detailed plan to show how it is going to make good its substantial shortcomings. The letter informs the Council that the only way to mitigate the impacts of removing paid staff is to consult users of the service over what benefits paid staff bring. Only then can the Council understand what the impacts of removing staff would be and how they may be able to bridge the gaps with training or by other means.”