Comment

It appears that Kensal Rise Campaign has met, or will soon meet, their £70,000 target needed to have a convincing enough business case for the library owners, the Oxford college All Souls College.  It also appears that they have an ex Minister of the Arts no less, Mark Fisher, as Chair of Trustees.  The fact he’s a Labour politician will doubtless annoy the DCMS but it remains to see how Labour-run Brent Council, who have been so adamant in their opposition to keeping the library open, will react.  The coverage gained by Kensal Rise, with its celebrity and political support, should not cloud the fact that it is just one library of many in difficulties around England, but it’s place as a media darling and the sheer commitment and innovation of its supporters deserves respect, even if one is unsure about the role of volunteer-run libraries.

The most notable response to the “minded not to intervene” letter from Ed Vaizey about libraries, apart from an attitude best described as resigned disgust, is anger at the short amount of time given (two weeks) for replies to it.  Two weeks may seem a long time but bear in mind that the DCMS has kept the receivers of these letters waiting for up to eighteen months for a response and you can understand their anger.  Here are a sample of their replies so far:

“Thank you for this email , however i feel it is totally unacceptable to suddenly receive this response after all this time and to be told that all interested parties have only until 17th sept to reply, especially as the culture minister has the full knowledge  that the select committee is about to give its findings on this matter by the end of the month. I would appreciate that the date is therefore extended until after their release, as it stands there would seem to be some desperation as to dealing with this matter before the findings from the select committee is published, why would that be exactly …. I’m sure this will be denied by your department , but unless this date can be changed by the request of  those involved it will cause further suspicion and distrust of the culture minister.” Serene Brunke, Isle of Wight. (via email)

“It amazes me that Mr Vaizey has taken 18 months to reply to us, then he sends a virtually identical letter to the three  councils who have closed the largest % of their libraries and then gives us just 14 days to respond, not exactly fair!. The excuses used by Mr Vaizey for not holding a local enquiry are a travesty, he has blatantly ignored his responsibilities under the 1964 Act, and is, in the opinion of the Isle of Wight library campaigners, unfit to hold the office of state with which he was honoured.  We assume that this letter had been sent out deliberately just before the DCMS Select Committee publishes its report (I understand this is possibly due by the end of this month).” Dave Quigley (via email)

“Thank you for this notification. Of course, we shall be responding and in the short time suggested.  However, we have to say that in view of the huge amount of time the minister has taken to respond, a two week window of opportunity for users is discourteous to say the least as well as unrealistic. Naturally, now that you have a new Secretary of State, we should be grateful to be informed of that new e-mail address for the near future.” Patricia and Peter Richardson, Lewisham. (via email)

It’s also worth noting some interesting comments in the national press about the volunteer run libraries in those areas under review:

“Funnily enough, I volunteer at one of the Lewisham branches mentioned so I have some insight into this. While the volunteers, particularly the full-timers, are trying their best, it’s simply impossible to provide a proper service when you rely on a rolling procession of people who have never worked with books and who don’t know about basic library procedures. To make matters worse, the company running the library is cheap enough that they refuse to even fix the toilets, meaning the staff often have to go round the corner to a bar or coffee shop instead. And of course the supply of new books has been effectively stopped with staff unsure whether the books still there will be transferred to other Lewisham libraries or not (because giving council property to a private company would of course be completely unfeasible). If there are less people using the libraries, it’s because the service has deteriorated because of the government’s negligence, not because the customers (many of which are elderly, vulnerable or parents of small children, who live nearby and who can’t feasibly reach another of the borough’s libraries) don’t want a library service.” OttoMaddox (Guardian comment)

“Used to live on the IOW so thought I’d have a look at where the remaining council run libraries are based. They are in Cowes, Freshwater, Newport, Ryde, Sandown and Ventnor, so I can easily see why 82% of visits were to those 6, since 5 of them are on the east half of the island, where most people live. However if you are one of the unfortunate 18% who (presumably) live in West Wight, you now have either accept an inferior volunteer based service, probably with restricted and unreliable opening hours, or need to make a special trip to Newport or Freshwater, (once you get past Newport the roads are dodgy to say the least, so a trip to Freshwater may only be a few miles, but might be quite difficult, particularly if you don’t have a car). I think the phrase “price of everything, value of nothing” springs to mind. Yes it is cheaper to cut the library services, but the value of a proper service to those 18% may outweigh that.” Gafthehorse (Guardian comment)

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News

  • 3 common Twitter mistakes to avoid – Libraries Marketing Toolkit.  Another excellent short article from a website all libraries should be aware of.  This time – how to use and not use your @s and #s.
  • Bankrupt San Bernardino considers austerity measures – Los Angeles Times (USA).  “The budget reductions would probably lead to closing three out of four city libraries, as well as possible rotating closures at fire stations.”
  • Donaldson: library cuts “false economy” – BookSeller.  “Donaldson is about to embark on a six-week nationwide tour of British libraries, beginning at John O’Groats and finishing at Land’s End. She is also setting up a website called picturebookplays.co.uk, which launches on 10th September, as a resource for teachers.” … “Donaldson added: “I want to celebrate libraries. They are places in which you can develop your imagination, free yourself from circumstances . . . Often libraries will be the only place that there’s a space where children can read, with so many independent bookshops disappearing.””
  • EveryLibrary: A new PAC for libraries officially launches– Infodocket (USA).  “EveryLibrary is launching today as the first and only national political action committee (PAC) for libraries.  Focused exclusively on local library ballot initiatives and measures, EveryLibrary is dedicated to helping libraries win at election time.  The organization, found online at www.everylibrary.org, will fundraise nationally to support local library ballot committees and PACs, and provide them with technical support and consultancy on how to run – and win – at the ballot box.”
  • Library closures attract little sympathy from Ed Vaizey – Guardian.  Reports on the DCMS letters to Lewisham, Bolton and Isle of Wight saying the Minister is “not minded to intervene” despite major cuts to service provision.  Quotes PLN, Alan Gibbon and Desmond Clarke, all of whom are not overly approving.  Some very interesting comments shed light on the experience in Lewisham and the Isle of Wight:
  • Maria Miller becomes culture secretary – Guardian.  A potted bio on the new Secretary of State with responsibility for libraries.  “Don Foster, the Lib Dem spokesperson on culture, said he did not know Miller at all well, but had been told by other MPs that she was a good choice. “From what I’ve heard, she is somebody who will work well as a coalition partner, and has the ability to think outside the box.” However, he voiced concern about the level of responsibility being added on to the ministerial brief. “She will have to find a way of dealing with the dual responsibility for culture and equalities at a department that may not be big by Whitehall standards, but touches on issues that people care passionately about, from sport to libraries.”

Point and Counterpoint – Northbrook Public library (USA) via Finding Heroes.

  • Public library is a place for voters to get smarter – St Louis Post Despatch (USA).  “”The public library is one place that is culturally ingrained as a trusted source of free and open information access and exchange.” What could be more American than people taking matters into their own hands? Though it may seem anachronistic, I have a challenge to anyone who is listening. Take a few hours this fall to visit your local library. While there, familiarize yourself with the candidates and issues. Look beyond the headlines. Remember that the Internet can’t rectify our unfortunate proclivity to bias.”
  • Public will have to report crime at police stations and libraries – Telegraph.  Deputy Mayor of London says to parliamentary committee that “Currently the 19th century police counters are not always right. It’s tying up hundreds of officers that see very few members of the public and they’re not particularly good environments. Could we find other ways to colocate with other public services or in supermarkets, libraries, other places?” … “forces are facing spending cuts of 20 per cent and are struggling to make ends meet so they are having to look forward to innovative solutions.”

“When I left high school, I had all my plans to go to college, but I had no money. And I decided then, the best thing for me to do is not worry about getting money to go to college — I will educate myself. I walked down the street, I walked into a library, I would go to the library three days a week for ten years and I would educate myself. It’s all FREE, that’s the great thing about libraries! Most of you can afford to go to college, but if you wanna educate yourself completely, go to the library and educate yourself. When I was 28 years old, I graduated from Library.” Ray Bradbury‘s last interview on Brain Pickings (USA).

  • Red Quadrant – Stop the privatisation of public libraries.  A look at a consultancy firm and its record with public  libraries.
  • What did Jeremy Hunt achieve for the arts and culture? – Guardian.  The answer appears to be “not much”.
  • Who left a tree, then a coffin, in the library? – NPR (USA). Revisiting the mystery Scottish paper sculptor who left wonderful bookish works of art in several Scottish locations and whose identity was kept secret after a public vote.  The Americans love this story and are amazed that the public voted to keep it secret.  Worth a visit to this site for a look at one of the happier stories to come out of the libraries crisis.

Changes

Local News

  • Aberdeenshire – Motion in poetry: police investigating “disgraceful behaviour” at Stonehaven Library – Courier. “A police probe has been launched after someone defecated on a Mearns library floor twice inside a month.” … “The library on Evan Street is used extensively, including by toddler, playgroup and nursery groups.”
  • Probe into “defecating on floor among books” at Stonehaven Library – BBC.  “The incidents, at Stonehaven Library, in the Aberdeenshire town’s Evan Street, both happened within the past month. Aberdeenshire Council said one of the incidents, on a Saturday, forced the library to close.”
  • Barnet – Activists occupy closed Friern Barnet Library and issue demands to Barnet Council – Times series.  “A group of young activists has occupied the closed Friern Barnet Library and issued demands to Barnet Council. Four men in their twenties broke into the building in the early hours of this morning and today demanded that the authority let them open a community library there.” … “In a bizarre twist, the authority has entered into negotiations with the squatters, offering them an alternative location and a stock of books. A council officer has been down to meet the men and is this evening (Wednesday) showing them around the restored Friary House, in Friary Park.” … “Friary House was offered as a community library venue when Friern Barnet was closed down, but no group has taken up the proposal. “
  • Stop press: Friern Barnet Library occupied by squatters – Barnet Eye.  “[The activitists] stated that they are not associated with the save Friern Library campaign and are squatting in protest at the fact that it is a public building which has been empty for six months. TThye are a group of artists and students and plan to open a community library and arts space”
  • Squatters occupy Friern Barnet Library – Press series.  “The group told The Press they are part of a seven strong team which includes a librarian, students and artists who want to see the building in Friern Barnet Road brought back in to public use. “
  • Brent – Kensal Rise campaigners near fundraising target – BookSeller.  “The Friends of Kensal Rise Library need to raise only another £10,000 before Friday (7th September) to help secure their bid to turn the building into a community-run library. So far, the group has raised £59,909 out of a total of £70,000 that would see them able to back their proposals to lease the library from its owner, All Souls College, Oxford.”

“Some herald the efforts at Kensal Rise as a precedent that will solve other threatened libraries’ woes. But even in Brent there are 5 other public libraries in a similar dire position – with beleaguered residents looking around for funding. There are many many more branch libraries under threat throughout the country, many of which do not have users with the eloquence or means to mount a high profile challenge or have the clout to gain the national media’s attention. A fully-functioning, comprehensive & efficient *public library service* – freely available to all, irrespective of post code, is what is required under statute. This is the imperative and is what we must ALL marshall our efforts to fight for.” Shirley Burnham

  • Birmingham – Library staff “will be ready to move 2m books” – BBC.  “With one year to go until the new £188m Library of Birmingham opens, plans to move more than 3.5m items have been under way since 2009. About 1,100 crates of books, archives and photographic stills will be taken to the new library, next to the REP theatre, each day for three months, ahead of its official opening to the public on 3 September 2013.” … “The Central Library was built in 1973 and was once described by Prince Charles as looking like “a place where books are incinerated, not kept”. The facilities at the new 10-storey Library of Birmingham include, an outdoor amphitheatre, exhibition gallery space and new online areas increasing public access to the collections for the first time.”
  • Conwy – Have your say on Penrhyn Bay library – North Wales Pioneer.  Penrhyn needs volunteers to keep it from closure.  “Conwy County Borough Council is hosting a drop-in session to discuss working with residents and avoiding the site’s closure.” … “Conwy has committed to making the community library model work and will provide 3,000 books, four computers and 15 hours a week of staff time as a basis to develop additional services with partnership agencies.A group of volunteers will also be recruited to make sure the service remains a valued part of the community. The existing library has 14,640 visitors every year and the aim is to maintain, and increase, usage.
  • Croydon – Let’s promote MyVoice in Croydon – ElizCro.  Croydon publicity for excellent youth project in libraries is reported as poor to non-existent.  “The MyVoice Project is a positive project, aimed at engaging youth in libraries and should be promoted, even if no funding was being taken for running it but to take funding for a project but fail to advertise it, or to disempower the youth involved by taking decision making out of their hands is a travesty in my book. The library staff running this project are keen to make it a success, as are the youth involved.  Let’s get the proper promotion of this project that it deserves.”
  • Kirklees – Thousands sign petition against Kirklees Council cuts– Huddersfield Daily Examiner.  “Kirklees Council unveiled a proposal earlier this year to withdraw paid staff from centres at Slaithwaite, Golcar, Lepton, Honley, Denby Dale, Shepley and Kirkheaton. Officials hope that volunteers will take over the running of the rural libraries to save money. But more than 8,000 people have backed a petition against the plan in the last two months – more than 130 signatures a day.”. Campaigner Biddy Fisher says ““Senior managers are now talking about volunteer-assisted libraries rather than volunteer-run libraries,” she said. “But we’ve not won and the over-riding feeling is that we must keep the pressure on.”
  • Barry Gibson: Is Kirklees’ library talk all about nothing? – Huddersfield Daily Examiner.  “If I was a cynical man – which I am – I would suggest the council has made its consultation leaflet deliberately vague to discourage residents from taking part in the process. It’s a lot easier to cut a service when you have “proof” that people don’t even care enough about it to attend an open day.” … “I rather like having a library in the village and, if there have to be cuts, I’d rather like to have my say about what should get the knife and what should be spared. But why, dear Kirklees, should I bother going down to “Slaithwaite LIC” on October 10 for a “face to face” meeting to discuss the fact that everything’s fine?”