Comment
 

There’s more than one way to skin a cat, or say the saying goes.  Suffolk is trying a new one.  It will be become the first authority in the country to have its libraries run by an Industrial and Provident Society, when it hands over its branches on 1st August. When faced with 27% cuts, with the fear of more, and no clear previous examples of how to go about it, it is unsurprising that radical solutions are being sought. Perhaps, though, they’re not so radical as all that: Trusts have been running libraries for years and communities taking over libraries is hardly novel either.  The reasons for trying these changes are obvious and varied – localism, efficiency and of course unpaid labour with the clear major reason being the cuts in budget.  The new library structures are there to try to maintain the service and to avoid closures but the danger is, of course, that they are being used a delaying tactic only. Maybe, in such times, it is the best that some authorities can hope for.

Nor are these the only ways being tried in the feline de-furring contest that is 2012. In fact, there are hundreds of different responses, all with their own advantages and pitfalls but all down to trying to do the same with less: co-location may seem to make economic sense but it causes justified fears of reduced professionalism, reducing book and hours carries obvious danger and so on.  Where such changes may have legal implications, there are bigger problems because of the revolutionary manner and speed of these changes. The relatively glacial institution that most affects libraries, the DCMS (by which I mean the politicians, not the workers who have troubles of their own)  has not kept the statute books up to the same speed as to what is happening on the ground.

So many different ways to save money and not close money but the reason for them is all the same.  Bad news avoidance. Politicians, because of the massive response over the last two years, are fully aware what impact on their votes closing a branch has.  So, they’re trying to find new ways to skin a cat, with the hope that the cat (read the library) somehow survives the process.  We can only hope that library services are made of sterner stuff than the typical household pet.  Or Ed Vaizey et al – excuse the gruesomeness of the metaphor – will find that it can be a very messy process, with little chance of the subject surviving it.

Actions

“The next conference called by the Speak Up for Libraries coalition will be held on Saturday, 10th November at the offices of librarians’ body, CILIP. If you are involved in the fight to save UK libraries, please put this date in your diary.” Alan Gibbons

News

  • Author Denise Mina predicts fiction revolution - BBC.  “With more people reading on electronic devices, accepted publishing norms – such as an average book length of 350 pages – were being broken down, she said. “Why is that a story? Why isn’t a story 18 pages or 150 pages, which isn’t a novella and it isn’t a novel?The upheaval in publishing is bigger than that experienced by the music industry over the last decade because people still listen to three-minute pop songs,”.  Less middle class authors and less cliff-hangers predicted.
  • Book lovers make mini public libraries out of tree - Grist (USA). In Berlin.  “The project adopts the idea of putting up a bookcase in a public space, in which people could release their used books to be picked up by others. This way of free dissemination, called ‘bookcrossing’, is by now a worldwide movement organised in a central database (www.bookcrossing.com). Registration of books enables following their travels through the world and communication about the books.” … “None of our bookcrossing sites look like libraries for fairies, though, and someone should probably get on that.”
  • Creating co-operative libraries - Fabian Society.   Article by Lambeth councillor on their approach to libraries.  “In a move that will hand local communities more control over their local libraries we will give each of our 10 libraries an individual budget so that community and library-user representatives can decide how it should be spent in running their local service. Some library buildings will be transferred to new trusts, with the council as a partner, while others will move to new buildings.” … “Our plans for developing co-operative libraries are the result of the largest consultation programme that Lambeth Council has ever undertaken.”  Offers some guidelines for a proper consultation: (1) properly planned and resourced, (2) value expertise of user groups, (3) adapt and listen to feedback, (4) keep proposals simple. Aiming for all libraries to be open in evenings.
  • DCMS to move into Treasury to help make 50% admin savings - Stage.  The government department most library campaigners love to hate is having cuts of its own. “Reducing staff numbers means that, once the Olympics are over, we can move to smaller and less expensive accommodation.”

“Reading in prison can indeed be a route to rehabilitation. We run an annual six-book challenge taken up by around 100 prisons and young offender institutions. Targeted at the 60% of offenders with low literacy, the scheme is also used by more confident readers and staff. Governors say it improves literacy and self-esteem; prisoners talk of changed attitudes to reading and to life itself. But none of this could happen without a resource often overlooked in debate about prison reform – the prison library. With a new round of procurement for prison library services under way, there is a chance to recognise their essential contribution to a positive experience for prisoners and staff. Genevieve Clarke, The Reading Agencyin Recidivism, reading and rehabilitation - Guardian.

  • “Man’s best listener” therapy dogs in libraries - Dog Days.  “A dozen children curled up with good books — and even better pooches — for Paws to Read, a program in which children hone their reading skills by practicing them on dogs at Medway Public Library on Wednesday night. “(The dogs) aren’t judging. That’s the biggest thing. If the kids make a mistake, it isn’t a big deal,” said Pat Gipps of Holliston, owner of Caring Paws Certified Therapy Dogs. “It’s fun, and dogs are just the best listeners, and they’re the best for the soul. They like to be talked to, and they like to please people.””
  • Michigan Court of Appeals to consider legal challenge to Lansing library weapons ban - Michigan Radio.   “The Capital Area District Library has a very simple policy:  “All weapons are banned from Library premises by the fullest extent permitted by law” A group called Michigan Open Carry has tried challenging the Lansing library policy. First, by openly carrying firearms in the district’s main library branch. Then by going to court.”
  • Save our libraries - Labour List.   Shadow libraries minister Dan Jarvis accepts libraries should not be kept out of “nostalgia” and that they should keep take “their fair share of the cuts”.  Libraries are important for literacy and for online access.  “It is no coincidence that library use and equality are closely correlated around the world”

 “For the Tories, the community role of libraries seems to be mainly a chance to make savings and shuffle off responsibility onto volunteers. Instead they should be champions for the value of libraries: making libraries stronger, more connected, better at reaching out to those who don’t use them and more relevant to their needs. The idea that libraries are irrelevant is nonsense; the idea they could have a greater impact is certainly not.”

Changes

Local News

1.     Maidstone District Libraries and CKS staff:
Full Time Equivalent staff  posts at 31/3/2011 -  71.68
2.     Maidstone District Libraries and CKS staff:
Full Time Equivalent staff  posts at 31/3/2012  -  52.74″
  •  Lancashire – £1m Accrington library revamp could be under way by next year -Lancashire Telegraph.    “Bosses at County Hall said the building was in urgent need of repair and the importance of the building had led it to become their top priority for library refurbishment.The building is considered one of Accrington’s architectural gems and as a Carnegie library, is an important part of UK history.”

“Hyndburn Council leader Miles Parkinson said: “This is fantastic news for Accrington. At a time when most authorities are making cuts and closing libraries we are fortunate enough to have the county preserve one of our most important buildings.”

“Rather than putting their specialist skills to use, the skills that allow librarians to recommend a book, run a childrens’ story session, or pull up a census record from the archives, the Council wants them to spend time processing council tax bills, or answering questions about bin collections.”

  • Milton Keynes – Council to transfer assets to communities - Milton Keynes Citizen.  The programme is about giving the community more control over the facilities they use on a daily basis, such as leisure centres, libraries and Milton Keynes’s open space.Five engagement and information meetings will be held….” … “This will be the first phase of the Community Asset Transfer Programme, following on from a pilot that was held earlier this year to transfer Green Park Community Centre, Stony Stratford Library, Simpson Village Hall, the Frank Moran Centre, and Downs Barn Pavilion & Sports Ground.”
  • Northern Ireland – Titanic fun at local libraries - Lurgan Mail.  “Over 110 free and fun Titanic events have been planned in Northern Ireland libraries and children are invited to come along to enjoy these…”
  • Portsmouth – National first as city bids to boost children’s literacy - News.   “With the support of schools across the city, the council will hand out 23,000 library cards to children aged between five and 16 years old. It comes after results from a National Literacy Trust review showed that three in 10 children do not have books at home.”
  • Suffolk – New chapter for librariesEDP.   “As a new chapter begins next Wednesday, with all of Suffolk’s 44 libraries transferring to an industrial and provident society (IPS), a celebratory event was held in Bungay yesterday to mark the occasion.” … “All libraries and the mobile, school and prison library services will come under the direct control of the IPS – a first in the country – from next week, and they will work in partnership with local library groups to support and expand the service. Shona Bendix, Suffolk’s Libraries IPS chairman, said: “Suffolk’s Libraries IPS has a very strong and very clear aim – to do what’s best for the future of the service.”
  • Surrey – No debate, no listening, no democracy: SCC chooses hostility over reason - Surrey Libraries Action Movement.   Debate at council (raised by councillor) denied.  No response to letter from campaigners.
  • Wakefield – Plans to axe dozen libraries criticised - Yorkshire Evening Post. “Karl Grubb, chairman of Supporters of Outwood Library, said his group is seeking an alternative building as Outwood Library is currently housed in a portable building. He added: “Libraries are a soft target. We need a purpose built new building and we have not got the funds to do that. “But we haven’t given up he fight and we are still trying to find an alternative building for the library.””
  • Westminster – Last rites for Marylebone Town Hall as council votes to lease building to London Business School - West End Extra. “It means the library – which gets more than 300,000 visitors a year – has to be moved to another site. Councillors voted to move it to Luxborough Street.” … “The cost of building a new library in Luxborough Street would be £12.6m, compared to £16-19million in an alternative venue in Moxon Street. Council libraries chief Cllr Lee Rowley said: “On balance, we feel Luxborough Street is the best option, based on the fact it offers residents better value for money and a much quicker timeframe for the delivery of a new permanent library. “This site is also more accessible, as it is closer to bus routes and stations and provides easier access for older people and people with disabilities.”

The campaign to save branch libraries from closure in Wolverhampton is now getting into gear. Our Council’s proposals are vague and their consultation is flawed. A meeting at the Council on Tuesday was disrupted by angry residents frustrated at the Council’s lack of informed response to our concerns. Petitions have been carried out at the following libraries: Finchfield, Low Hill, Ashmore Park, Penn, Warstones, Collingwood and East Park. Another petition is set to get off the ground at Whitmore Reans library next week. The Penn Library petition has gained over 2500 signatures which triggers a full Council debate.A Council officer is quoted as saying that his definition of a library is 3000 books and ‘member of staff’ NB Not necessarily a ‘librarian’. The Council have plans to close well used libraries and ‘co-locate’ them in places not as accessible and of a significantly reduced floor space. There are many other causes for concern in the Council’s proposals.There are now over 7000 signatures on the various petitions from across our city. Numerous letters of opposition have been sent to the Council. The individual campaigns in each area are now in touch with each other and are determined not to accept a reduction in our much loved branch library service.” Email from Pru Coleman, Hands off Finchfield Library, Wolverhampton.