Ed Vaizey has responded to three of the most branch-cutting authorities to say that he is not currently minded to intervene in any of them.  In other words, he sees the loss of 5 out of 15 branches in Bolton, 5 out of 12 in Lewisham and 5 out of 11 in the Isle of Wight as acceptable.

A lose of a third to nearly a half of total service points would normally be seen as quite major but the letter shows that this it is not sufficient to merit intervention.  The main reason put forward for this is that the five branches lost in each case were the smallest ones and so represent only small amounts of active borrowers, being 13% in Bolton and 18% in the Isle of Wight, with the real number being smaller due to some users visiting larger branches as well. Mr Vaizey does not tell us the percentage of active users affected in Lewisham but indirectly notes that 17% of visits and 23% of book issues were in the closed branches in 2009/10.

The Isle of Wight/Lewisham letter also says that it accepts that, unlike in Bolton, the Council there has transferred branches to volunteers but says that even if they had closed it would not have affected the final decision. Councils do not need to consider keeping libraries open with volunteers as part of its proposals, although it is clear from the letters that Mr Vaizey would prefer it if they did. The failure of the withdrawn libraries in Lewisham to sustain usage figures is not explained, although there is a suggestion, apparently quite serious, that this may be due to them now having cafes and better reading areas. DCMS has also taken into account continued outreach services and that public consultations were conducted.  The Isle of Wight letter notes with approval that the (massive public) discontent with the original proposals led to changes in the final plan.

There’s also a lot of other stuff in there as one would expect from a legal document but the key point to summarise is a cut of service provision for up to 18% active users is fine. A loss of a fifth of book issues due to closures is also acceptable. The number of branches is immaterial. This is of course a minimum limit.  Ed Vaizey has not intervened in library authority and so no maximum figure can be calculated.  From these letters, one may be entitled to wonder if there is one.

The DCMS notes that “Further representations from any interested parties has been sought for a period up to 17 September 2012.”

News

  • For vote - Screwy Decimal (USA).  The importance of public libraries in democracy is described.
  • Jelly at the Library - National Library of Wales. “The event will be ideal for start-ups and small to medium-sized enterprises and businesses. We provide the chairs, desks, wi-fi, tea, coffee, lunch and you get to meet other interesting people to talk to and bounce ideas off!”  Including assistance from patents office.
  • Lest we get too excited: the “Tri-borough” circus- Good Library Blog.  “Westminster has 12 libraries and a gross budget of £10.5m. Kensington and Chelsea have 6 libraries and a budget of £6.6m (honestly!) and Hammersmith and Fulham have 7 libraries and a budget of £5.1m. That makes a total of £22.2m to run 25 libraries… an average of about £900k per library.. about 3 times the national average If you don’t know, out of these three only Kensington and Chelsea has a rather dismal – but large- central library worth the name. The rest of the libraries are extremely average for England – the normal mixture of dirt, booklessness and light bulbs not working “.  Councils “recharge” a large proportion from each library service thus reducing investment even more and each service has small (£300k, £200k) bookfunds.
  • Running libraries the Anythink way - Voices for the Library. A look at the award-winning US Colorado library system: they don’t charge fines, don’t have dewey and call their staff “guides” and other such words.  Staff stand up a lot with low staffing levels, library qualifications not essential even at management level.

One public library system in Colorado has completely rethought how it does business. The Rangeview Library System in Thornton, Colorado, has branded itself “Anythink“, as in, “I think I’m going to head over to the Anythink in Bennett, play guitar hero for a bit, grab a book of one of the bookstore-like categorized shelves, and record my oral history story with the mixed media artist so she can use it in the public history project.”

Sir Terry Pratchett: The Science of Discworld – Youtube.  One hour of Terry Pratchett and friends.  It’s only tangentially related to public libraries but it’s Terry Pratchett so it’s included here because I can.

  • Zadie Smith is right: lives needn’t have limits in a country as rich as ours - Guardian.  “Lives needn’t have limits in a country as rich as ours: libraries, playing fields and swimming pools cost peanuts in the grander scheme. The coalition thinks it has the problem of paying for the social good sorted: businesses can run them to make profits, which replace taxes. Its vision for individual lives is starker still: it’s more about seeing who can survive on their wits alone.” 145 comments and counting.

Local News

  • Brent – MP Denis McShane “delighted” that the Save Kensal Rise Library Campaign is “forging ahead” - Via Alan Gibbons.Campaigners are “confident that they have a strong and sustainable plan for the future of the library, which includes a unique partnership with Bilbary, the online e-book service run by Tim Coates, former CEO of Waterstones. They also have support from Darren Taylor, who runs four community libraries in Lewisham , and plan to join his Ecosystems computer recycling scheme. The Friends are strengthening their bid to All Souls by asking for pledges towards the first year’s running costs of £70,000. By around midday on Monday 3rd September they had raised £46,324, with another £23,676 needed by Friday 7th September.”

“The MP and former Minister Denis MacShane, who was wrongly led to believe last week that the campaign had come to an end, said, “I am delighted that the campaign is forging ahead. I regret that I got the wrong end of some stick last week when I was led to believe the closure was done and dusted. I repeat my appeal to the Fellows of All Souls to conjure up the spirits of their illustrious predecessors who helped found the Library. Books make us into full human beings and all the social media and screens in the world will never replace the thrill of turning a page to find out what’s next.”

  • Croydon – Wandsworth sets up private company to run Croydon libraries - Inside Croydon.  “One phrase in the document stands out: “The current budget for the library service is in excess of £5 million but the affordability figure for the Wandsworth contract is £4.9 million so it is anticipated that the tender process will result in a reduction in costs to the council.” Croydon’s library budget is £7.5 million, with a goal of £2.5 million in “cost savings” post-privatisation.” … “Could there possibly be another agenda at work here? Given that one of the remaining two bidders is a subsidiary of developer John Laing, Croydon’s multi-million-pound “partner” in the £450million urban regeneration vehicle – or “civic property speculation” as we prefer to call it – it presents a real possibility that some of the libraries will be greedily looked upon a valuable land bank for whoever is ultimately chosen as the library “operator”.
  • Devon – Get involved in Devon’s Book for Summer – Reading Groups.  “A limited number of free copies have been distributed via Devon County Council’s Libraries in Kingsbridge and Ivybridge, including to local reading groups and through giveway displays. A few of these copies have also been put in the community as a local Book Crossing. Stickers inside the free books have encourage readers to pass the book on to friends, family or simply leave on a park bench or bus when they have finished, allowing as many people to take part as possible. Members of Devon libraries can also borrow or reserve copies from any of Devon County Council’s libraries.”
  • Moray – Gruffalo author set for visit to Moray - STV.  “Over 140 school pupils from throughout Moray will perform songs and plays based on their favourite children’s stories for the author of ‘The Gruffalo’.”
  • Oxford – Social housing plan approval rests on library grant condition - Oxford Mail.  “a final decision should be deferred so officers can agree a request from Oxford County Council to provide Old Marston Library with £1,801 [sic]. The money would go towards library infrastructure and book stock. The application is due to be heard by the city council’s east area planning committee at a meeting on Thursday at 6pm. “
  • Somerset – Burnham on Sea library to close for a month during major refurb – Burnham on Sea.com.  Self service is being introduced into library after its successful installation at Taunton.
  • Wolverhampton – Some Wolverhampton libraries facing loss of books - Express and Star.  “More than 10,000 people have signed petitions against the plans, which will see up to nine libraries and seven community centres closed or merged to create “community hubs”. But there was a pledge today that the total number of books on offer across the city would be the same – despite stocks at individual libraries being reviewed.” … “Currently Finchfield Library, which is earmarked for closure, has almost 20,000 books and campaigners fear that they will lose out if it is moved to Bradmore or if community services move into the library and take up space.”