Comment – Public Lending Right

It is clear that the legal position of non-council run libraries when it comes to their right to lend out books has not been worked out. The Public Lending Right office are strongly suggesting that non-statutory libraries are breaking the law. The Society of Authors are threatening legal action:
“If volunteer-run libraries are not covered under the PLR scheme then lending by them is unlawful unless authorised by the author and authors would be entitled to sue such libraries for copyright infringement. Obviously it would be preferable to ensure that there is a statutory solution and if we are to see more branch libraries dropping out of the statutory service and being reconstituted as privately-run libraries the government may need to look again at the existing legislationPublic Lending Right letter to Louise Mensch MP – Society of Authors.
Once again, though, the Government – in the form of the apparently increasingly endangered DCMS – seems set to do nothing. As with the case of councils closing libraries, Ed Vaizey so far appears to be very happy in practice to allow others to have to do his work for him:

“I suspect that the “legality” of community libraries run by volunteer groups or charities may soon blow up … It seems that what the Registrar of Public Lending Right and the Society of Authors are saying does seem to conflict with the advice that Gloucestershire County Council are claiming to have received. It is no excuse for GCC to claim that other councils are doing the same thing. If councils are allowing unlicensed libraries to operate then that is a very serious issue. Furthermore the DCMS, ACE and the SCL can not ignore what is going on.” Desmond Clarke.

In the meantime, campaigners in Gloucestershire are spitting feathers at the apparent illegality of what is going on to the institutions they love:

 “GCC give further “assurances” that the PLR issues have been resolved and that the same model is being run in other authorities. However, this “assurance” is contradicted by the PLR registrar who tells the reporter.  “If it’s not part of the statutory service, it would seem as if PLR would not apply, although I will need to look into this situation as it’s the first arrangement like this that I have heard of. “It’s a new situation and not as clear cut as some of the other volunteer libraries”Which would suggest that GCC have not sought clarification or guidance on the issue and it is far from resolved” Irresponsible GCC issues unsubstantiated and misleading “assurances” to community libraries – Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries.

“… The way I see it is that GCC saw these libraries fit to close. They said to communities “if you want them you can run them yourselves but they will not be part of the statutory provision”. They are essentially closures of public libraries that have been taken over by private organizations. Now GCC is suggesting that the DCMS, a publicly funded body, are going to pay the PLR fees of these same libraries that GCC saw fit to discard. Can they have it both ways? This is still to be answered…..” Johanna Anderson on LIS-PUB-LIBs.


You and Yours, BBC Radio Four 12 noon 12th July transcript of item on Manchester Central Library.

Presenter: “Some people struggle with the idea of throwing books away so the country’s oldest municipal library has sparked controversy by getting rid of more than a third of it’s reference books.  Manchester’s Central Library is disposing of around 200,000 books as part of a major refurbishment.  Academics and writers including the poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy havd called it a massive destruction.  In an open letter to the library’s boss, they have demanded it stopped.  Well, Andrew Biswell is one of them.  He’s a lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University and a director of the Anthony Burgess Foundation.  Andrew Biswell [AB], thanks for coming into the studio. What is your problem? What are you worried about?
AB – Well I’m worried that the biggest free reference library in the North of England is being taken part.  In total there are about 500,000 volumes of non-fiction which  they have been collecting very carefully, putting together since 1852.  A whole load of quite specialist libraries including a technical library, an arts and theatre collection, a gardening collection, Victorian fashion books, language and literature, social sciences and anything published after 1851 is being considered for disposal.  And to me, as someone whose background is in libraries, who is a writer and researcher, I am terrified by this, it’s appalling.
Presenter – Well, we asked Manchester City Council which runs the library to discuss this and they declined but they did invite us to visit the Central Library and see the book sifting for ourselves and our reporter Geoff Bird met the head of libraries Neil McInness [NM].
*sound of construction work*
NM – We are standing in Shakespeare Hall, the original entrance to the library since 1934.  Over the years we had added much clutter so when you walked in you were greeted by barriers and some dreadful black matting.  What we want to do is take it back to the open and clean space there was in “34 as Vincent Harris originally planned.  What we have really done is increased access to the building.  Previously, only 30% of the building was accessible for customers.  I’m reversing that ratio.
GB – There’s an awful lot of work going on across town as well.  We’re heading now to a warehouse in Ardwick in East Manchester.
NM – Basically it’s a cataloguing project, what we’re doing is using this once in a lifetime opportunity to review and assess the collections that we have amassed over the years.  We’re using the opportunity to create an online catalogue record as well which will improve access to the collection and security tag the material so that it’s all ready for coming back.
*sound of construction work*
GB – The element of the refurbishment that is causing the controversy is being conducted a far cry away from the grandeur of city centre buildings like the Central Library, out in East Manchester, in Ardwick where 1800 pallets worth of books are being sifted and sorted by library staff … Right, so we’re now over a big open plan office.  How many books are being sifted as a part of this process?
NM – Roughly looking at, you know, touching around 500,000 of the books.
GB – I’ve read a figure of an estimated 200,000 that are likely to disappear from your collection as a result of this so two-fifths of that half a million figure.  How will you identify those 200,000?
NM – There’s a set of criteria that has been drawn up.  What I should say is that 200,000 figure is out of a total figure of a million, you know, because there are other reference material which we won’t be bringing here.
GB.  Still, a fifth is a big chunk of the collection to be getting rid of.  What are the criteria by which you will choose to get rid of the books?
NM.  So, we’re looking at duplicates, we’re looking at where we have paperback and hardback copies.  We’re looking at runs of textbooks where have each of the 25 editions of a textbook that has been published where we will keep the first, the tenth and the latest.
GB.  And who’s doing the sorting?
NM.  We have a dedicated team of five Central Library staff who amongst them – they’re going to blush at this – have amassed 130 years of Central Library experience and they’re managed by a cataloguing rare bool manager.
GB.  Why are you doing this?
NM. We’re spending £60 million on a new library.  I want the best of books on display.
GB.  Where wil the books go to that you choose not to keep?
NM. We’re working with a local book company who look to find an alternative home for the material but a lot of the material – and I have brought out some examples here – it’s unlikely to think that there is an alternative home that could be found for that.
GB.  “Labour relations in Norway”
NM. “Hungarian economic yearbook” from 1939.  There’s also some books which have been badly damaged over the years.
GB.  There’s another one here: “The republic” by Charles A Beard.  Why’s that one going?
NM. It’s never been accessed.  It was purchased in 1946 and never seen the light of day.
GB. Some of these books will find a new home, some will be pulped.
NM.  Most of this material will be found in the British Library or in one of the other deposit libraries across the country.
GB. There’s a lot of passion around this subject.  The idea of losing such a big chunk of your collection – 200,000 copies out of a million – how much sympathy do you have with those people who are crying foul?
NM. I completely understand that this is a very emotive subject.  What I want to ensure is that we have on the open shelves of Central library are the best of the collection.  A lot of these treasures have been hidden because they have been buried amongst inappropiate material.
GB.  Do you have a record of what’s gone? Can the public check out what has been dismissed?
NM. Libraries don’t generally keep a record of what has been withdrawn and we haven’t kept a list of what has gone.  The time and the resource and the cost that that would have incurred as a result of that.
GB. And what of the accusation that has been raised that there is a lack of transparency over this by not knowing what has been lost from the city’s book collection.  That surely helps fuel that charge doesn’t it?
NM.  I think you have to put trust in the library staff.  That is what they’re employed to do and that’s what they have been doing in Manchester for the last 150 years.  We have been extremely transparent in relation to this process.  This first appeared in the media in 2010 and over the past five or six weeks I think we have been extremely up front and honest in relation to the activity that has taken place.
GB.  I was looking through the policy on how you choose the books.  One that was top of the list of criteria was this: the contents of the material is no longer relevant to or supportive of the library’s collection or its stock policy.  That’s open to a lot of interpretation.  This is a very subjective judgement to make.
NM.  I mean what we are looking at is that the stock is relevant,  The staff are extremely experienced, extremely competent and they have worked in the Central library for a large number of years.
GB.  There has been a claim that the decison to get rid of 200,00 books is something to do with a miscalculation on the amount of shelf space in the new library?  What do you say to that?
NM. The new library will accommodate roughly 3.7 additional kilometres of shelving.  As you have seen today when we have been in the library, we are completely transforming major areas of the library and as I say there is an additional 3.7 kilometres of shelving and there will be some new collections coming in as well.
Presenter: Neil McInness talking to Geoff Bird.  Well, Andrew Biswell is stil with us and also listening to that is John Dolan from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.  Andrew Biswell, that was a very open exploration of what is going on.  What do you feel about it?
AB: Well, I am afraid that they are trivialising the issue to some extent by pulling out books that have never been accessed.  There are a whole load of other books – I was talking to a historical novelist, Jane Rogers, who has done a lot of work researching her novels with this very collection and she said that some of the books she was pulling out from the reserve stock had never been touched at all, and so much the better.  It’s what a really big public municipal library is for is to preserve that kind of information.  I mean, it’s very easy for Neil McInness to say that people can go to the British Library but if you want to get there in time to get a seat the cost of a train ticket from Manchester is £296 a day return, I think beyond the pockets of most researchers, scholars, students, retired people, anyone else who might want to work with this excellent collection of books.  Anything published after 1851.
John Dolan: [Response summarised] was involved in Birmingham’s refurbishment.  Two points – stock editing goes on all the time and it is a matter of judgement.  No library stands still, it would be very boring if it was.  200,000 books were published last year in this country and librarians have to bring in new.
AB: [Response summarised]Everyone accepts stock has to change.  If we were talking 5 or 10% then that would be fine. We’re looking at 40 to 50% collection of books being disposed of without any consultation. 


We are planning a Twitter campaign for Saturday’s launch day of Story Lab in England and Wales.  We’ve asked lots of authors and well-wishers to join with messages to support libraries and the summer reading challenge. The tweet we’re asking them to put out or re-tweet is: Support libraries. #summerreadingchallenge starts today – join your kids up for free reading fun do feel free to use this Tweet.” The Reading Agency on LIS-PUB-LIBS
  • We started out in librariesReading Agency.  International bestselling author, Karin Slaughter, grew up in a small Georgia town and has been writing short stories and novels since she was a child. She is the author of the Grant County and Atlanta novels and the novella Martin Misunderstood. We were lucky enough to catch up with Karin earlier this year to ask her about her writing and the role libraries have played in her life.” 17 minute interview.


Local News

  • Brent – Full page – Brent and Kilburn Times.  The council’s decision to close libraries is continuing to haunt Brent with five separate articles (not yet online) on one page in the local newspaper on the debacles at Willesden Green and Kensal Rise.
  • Croydon/Lambeth Survey links looting, literacy and libraries – Upper Norwood Library Campaign,  “A survey of more than 400 South London residents has revealed that a majority of respondents believe there is a link between low levels of literacy and last summer’s riots.Residents from the five boroughs covering the Crystal Palace area of the capital were surveyed by the Upper Norwood Library Campaign in June 2012. The findings showed that 51% of respondents believe there is a link between low levels of literacy and last summer’s riots.”
  • Durham – Cuts are likened to Thatcher’s policies – Northern Echo.  “He was speaking at County Hall, Durham, as his cabinet, facing cuts of nearly £190m, agreed to reduce opening times to 36 hours a week at 11 town centre libraries and 20 hours a week at 27 community branches. Mobile library services will also be reduced in a bid to save nearly £1.5m.”
  • Gloucestershire – Assurances given over library lending service in Berkeley – Gazette.   “Jo Hand, library services manager at the council, said: “We carefully considered the implications of the Public Lending Right when we developed our proposals for community libraries and we are satisfied that our plans are not in breach of this. “Community libraries, whilst not part of the core statutory service, are still part of the Gloucestershire library family.” [That’s a new one – Ian.]
  • Kirklees – How much does it cost to visit your local Kirklees library? You may be surprised – full table here – Huddersfield Daily Examiner.  “New figures unveiled by the Examiner show that Shepley Library costs the taxpayer less per visitor than many centres which are not facing the prospect of staff cuts.” … “Clr Kath Pinnock, who leads the opposition Lib Dems on Kirklees, said: “The figures demonstrate what we’ve been saying – just because a library is small doesn’t mean it’s not value for money.”
  • Lambeth – Public meeting brings a positive focus to libraries – Lambeth Save Our Libraries.   “The clear result of the consultation, however, is that people want to preserve all of Lambeth’s libraries, and they want professional librarians to run them. This does not mean they don’t want to be involved in libraries or volunteer in them, but they do not want to manage them or try to poorly cobble together an inferior service as a last ditch effort to save something so important to our community. It is a service that should be provided and paid for by the council from our taxes.”

“Management reports making clear that 10 staff positions will be lost to help pay for the new self-service check out machines, but that has been nowhere stated in this report or public discussion. Originally, the machines were to have been brought in to free up librarian time to work with community and focus on additional programming. A beautiful dream now lost.”

“At least we are still better off than the village libraries of Cambridgeshire. They have cut staff so severely there is only one person working in the library at any given time, so in the interest of safety each library now has a strong room where the librarian can escape to in case of any trouble, bolting the door and calling the police.”

“what to do with West Norwood library, putatively closed since its roof was stolen. The council neglect to say that the beautiful copper roof was in fact stolen over a period of ten days, and while it was reported to them they hired no security and took no action. They have spent £780,000 on repairs and could have reopened the library long ago. It turns out that most of the money was spent not on urgent structural repairs, but upon building a separate entrance to Nettlefold Hall, which contains a cinema.”

  • Sheffield – Central Library’s bronze handrails stolen – BBC.   “The rails were ripped from their casings at the Central Library on Surrey Street in Sheffield, the council said. The two handrails have elaborate curved ends and are thought to be originals from the 1930s building. The thefts happened over the weekend and are linked to the rise in scrap metal crime, the council said.”
  • Southend – Branch libraries in cost cutter’s sights – Southend Standard.   “Bosses at Southend Council want to conduct a review of the town’s six suburban branches, with the aim of squeezing even more cash from the already stripped-back system.”
  • Worcestershire – Library keys handed to town council – Evesham Observer.  “The council is set to spend about half a million pounds revamping the run down Church Street building after it agreed to take it off cash-strapped Worcestershire County Council’s hands last December. It is not yet known what changes and refurbishment will take place at the library but the funding will come from the town council’s own budget, a loan and from external grants.”