Dan Jarvis, the Shadow Minister for Libraries, used figures from Public Libraries News today to challenge his supine opposite number Ed Vaizey.  The Libraries Minister has been notably inactive in his defence over the last two years, being willing to allow authorities to effectively cut their budgets as they wish.

Let’s see what Dan says and where he got the evidence:

  • “157 libraries reported shut down or handed over to unpaid volunteers since April 2011″.  See this page for the full breakdown.
  • “225 more libraries currently under threat”.  See this page for the full breakdown, along with all of the other changes reported by authority.
  • “And this is just the start, with many more cuts likely in the next few years as the Government’s cuts which go too far too fast to local authority budgets continue.”.  We are in the second year of the deepest peacetime cuts in civil expenditure in UK history.  The Local Government Association reports that the confirmed 28% cut over three years may be followed by a further 20%. That’s over half the budget of services and this Government has made clear by its actions that libraries will get no special protection.
  • “How can the Government act to minimise the damage to libraries if they refuse to accept it is happening?””.  As recently as 29th June, Ed Vaizey described libraries as “thriving“.  There are of course good news stories (there’s a few today) but these are happening despite the Government’s policies, not because of them.  Have a look at Sefton, also reported today, which has had £851k of library cuts in the last two years and lost its mobile library last month with fears of more closures to come.  Or school libraries, which appear to be ever more chronically under-funded.
The awful thing of course is that closures, or threatened closures, are not even half of the story. Reductions in opening hours, paid staff or bookfund is happening in far more places than closures and, of course, causes far less media coverage and outcry.  It is no less dangerous for the future of the service as a whole.
It is worth noting that Public Libraries News does not support any political party.  Each party in local government has proved that it is willing to close public libraries.  Look at the awful record in Brent.  However, Ed Vaizey is in a position to do something.  To show authorities that he is taking his statutory powers over libraries seriously.  After two years, it is clear that his statutory powers will likely remain unused.  Don’t take my word for it, or Labour’s. The information collected here is based strictly on news reports and on fact rather than supposition.  I would gladly praise the Coalition to the skies if it showed a willingness to properly protect one of the most vital services in the country.  That the numbers so clearly show that closures are happening at a rate that embarrasses the government is not bias, it is merely reporting the facts.
“The minister seems to be driven more by justifying the inaction of his department than by a concern to minimise the damage to libraries. I ask the minister – is his department keeping tabs on how many libraries have been closed? Where are they getting their figures? Have they established how many are currently threatened with closure by councils? And does he agree that libraries are not in fact doing just fine, but in many communities face extremely serious challenges?. The Government cannot stop all libraries from closing, nor should that be their aim. But they could be leading a concerted effort to minimize the damage and encourage measures to cuts costs without affecting front-line services. Instead we are seeing half measures and a vacuum of leadership or ambition. Our libraries deserve better.”” Jarvis challenges Vaizey over library closures – Labour.
  • One in ten libraries already closed or at risk says Labour – Daily Telegraph.   ““I hope the [predictions of 20 per cent to close] will turn out to be too pessimistic, but the current figure for libraries either closed, transferred or under threat since April 2011 already amounts to more than half that figure,” he said. The Labour MP accused Ed Vaizey, the culture minister responsible for libraries, of “turning a blind eye to the iceberg looming ahead”.“Ed Vaizey’s reaction to the pressure libraries are under could be summed up as ‘Crisis? What crisis?” he said.

Actions

Help to save Friern Barnet Library.  “We are still fighting for our library to be re-opened and tomorrow the Scrutiny committee meets to discuss our petition. So far we have collected 2,569 signatures and we are continuing to get to 7,000 – this will trigger a debate at the next Council meeting..  Anyone (you don’t need to be a resident of Barnet) can sign the online petition.

Other News

  • Digital Public Library of America earns an influential ally – Neowin (USA) via Finding Heroes.Harvard’s Digital Public Library of America project just got some serious help from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Now, that probably doesn’t mean much to non-Americans (or even most Americans), but trust us, it’s a big deal. So, what exactly is the National Public Library of America? Conceptually, it’s a bit like Google Books, Project Gutenberg, or the Internet Archive, but on an even larger scale. The idea is that it will actually encompass and aggregate all of those resources, along with its own. Basically, it wants to be a public library for the modern world, a universal and freely accessible repository for all the knowledge in the world. Exactly how all of that will actually work is still open to interpretation.”
  • Envisioning sister libraries – Burnaby Now (USA).  Man donates 40,000 books to a public library in China, now that censorship means such titles are accepted.
  • Guest post #16: The future of libraries: a time for new heroes – Envisioning the library of the future.  Director of Search for Bing/Microsoft UK “the four key challenges we face should be familiar:  Preserving our knowledge heritage, Curating the wisdom of others, Helping others exploit the potential of access to unlimited knowledge, Providing equality of access. If only we knew of a profession/ community/movement (dare I say religion?) that had dedicated the last couple of millennia to focusing on these issues to ensure the furtherance of knowledge and literacy across society?… It is time for a new breed of superheroes. Librarians of the world – your time has finally come…”
  • Local solutions for future local library services Local Government Association.  Comprehensive report from the LGA on alternative methods of funding libraries and co-operative working.  Perhaps suffering a little from optimistic rose-tinted spectacles, it is still worth a read.
  • Monday library closures: what’s a parent to do? Here are some ideas – Oregon Live (USA).  “Now that Multnomah County libraries are no longer open on Mondays, what can parents do on Mondays with their kids that won’t cost a bundle? Here are some ideas for the rest of the summer and beyond.”  See also “What is a book bloc?” – Informant (USA).
Tickets for October’s LibraryCamp are now available over at EventBrite. https://www.eventbrite.com/event/3931870330. LibraryCamp is a free unconference (think Barcamp or Wordcamp). It takes place on Saturday 13 October at the Signing Tree Conference Centre in Birmingham. Email librarycamp@yahoo.com for more information.” Post on lis-pub-libs.
  • School libraries facing budget squeeze, says SLA survey BookSeller.  “School libraries are being forced to scrape by on ever-decreasing budgets, according to a new survey by the School Library Association.Literacy charity Booktrust has advised that secondary schools should be spending £14 per pupil on books. However the survey found that nine out of 10 secondary schools are spending less on books per pupil than the recommended sum, with the average spend being just £4.28 per pupil per year.”
  • Six Book Challenge exceeds targets for 2012 Alan Gibbons.  “The Reading Agency is delighted to announce that a record 23,500 less confident adult readers registered for its 2012 Six Book Challenge programme. That’s 1,000 more readers than anticipated, with figures set to rise further as public libraries, colleges, workplaces, prisons and other settings around the UK conclude and evaluate their Challenge activity for this year.”
“Genevieve Clarke, Six Book Challenge programme manager for The Reading Agency says: “It’s fabulous that the Challenge has increased in scale by another 30% this year but there’s a long way to go. It’s such a simple scheme and yet its impact is enormous. Everyone should be doing it! So please get in touch with us if you’d like to support the Challenge in any way.””

Local News

  • Cornwall – Lib Dems call for full debate on Cornwall Council’s privatisation plans – This is the West Country.  A party spokesman said: “On Monday the Council’s ten-member Cabinet will decide whether to invite bids for the outsourcing of a number of key services, including Libraries, contact centres and IT provision.”
  • East Riding of Yorkshire – Goole library reopens – Courier. “The changes include the installation of self-service facilities and the relocation of the local studies collection from the first floor to the ground floor, in order to provide better access.”
  • Nottinghamshire – Mobile library to cater for young readers – This is Nottingham.  “”Due to space constrictions, we cannot run the Summer Reading Challenge at West Bridgford Library this year. Instead, we will be encouraging children to use other libraries or attend sessions that we are running from a mobile library.”. Last year, 646 children who took part in the challenge – in which children aged four to 11 are asked to read six books over the summer holidays – were from West Bridgford.”
  • Sefton – Thousands have their say over the future of Sefton’s libraries – Formby Times.   “Aiming to cut £20m from their budget for 2012/13 Sefton Council invited ideas on what library users value from the borough’s services in May. The 12-week consultation period closes this week – and around 5,500 have responded with their views. Last year the council achieved £579,000 of savings from changes to the library service. This year a further £272,000 is set to be saved after more cost-cutting measures – including last month’s closure of the mobile library – come into effect.”
““Make no mistake our libraries’ existence as we know them are under real threat.  Local authorities have certain obligations, the most important being for the public to access their library and it is important assessment is made on the impact to each of our communities to any perceived closure or amalgamation. “Services to children and older persons and vulnerable people must be taken into account.””
  • Southend on Sea – Polish and Roma communities advice sessionsSouthend on Sea Borough Council.  “A library-based information and advice scheme for members of Southend’s Polish and Roma communities continues to provide a vital service by helping 319 people with 519 enquiries in 2011.”
  • Staffordshire – Council powers on to cut costs – This is Staffordshire.  “hirteen libraries, including those in Newcastle, Kidsgrove, Clayton, Werrington, Silverdale, Biddulph and Rising Brook, are benefiting from the PV panels fitted by Staffordshire County Council. The scheme is expected to cut £11,618 from the authority’s electricity bills for the first year, with a further £26,000 to be gained from the Government’s Feed in Tariffs.”
“We are particularly concerned about the future of library and face to face services. Cornwall’s Conservative leadership, which considered closing all but nine libraries just over a year ago, now wants a private company to run them as some sort of ‘loss leader’. We cannot see anything but a bleak future under this privatisation proposal for a service we should be proud of.”