The horror of the Newcastle cuts continues to make the main news splash, with Alan Gibbons and friends showing the power of authors in library campaigning.  The media love celebrities because well-known people sell papers.  I even notice this on Public Libraries News when I put the name of someone famous as the blog title.: one of the most popular posts ever was one on Stephen Fry and another “big seller” was on Zadie Smith.  If you want to harness this power, I’ve done a list of celebrities who have gone on record as supporting libraries here which all are free to use.  Of course, another reason why authors make good coverage is that they’re so good at using words.  Read Philip Pullman on libraries sometime or quotes from the Newcastle protests meeting to see what I mean.

Another thing about Newcastle is the strong message from the council that the cuts are down to unfair and gigantic cuts in their budget from central government.  It’s a message that Liverpool and other major urban councils have been trying to push for some time and has some basis in fact.  It is, by and large (although there are exceptions) not councils which have unilaterally decided to cut their budgets so deeply.  The fault, it is generally agreed, lies somehow with central government, with either this one or with the last depending on which party one supports.  It is so so sad that in this three way blame war between those in power that it is those using council services that suffer.  That a phrase like “art and culture no longer affordable” has some basis in fact in what is still one of the most wealthy countries in the world is an indictment that should bring embarrassment to us all, regardless of party allegiance.

Other items of note include more details about the increasingly acrimonious outsourcing process in Croydon and Wandsworth.  As reported before, Croydon appear to have decided to have gone with Laing while Wandsworth are recommending GLL.  That they’re going with different providers after undergoing the same tendering process is strange enough, that – it comes out today – Croydon gave GLL their worst rating while Wandsworth give it their best – is, well, distinctly odd.  Opposition councillors in Croydon also think so and are thinking judicial review.

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Last week, CILIP got some stick from commenters on Public Libraries News for not doing enough about the absence of a body to superintend libraries.  They have been in touch to say that they have repeatedly pointed out the need for such a body to Government.  Details are:

1. In our CILIP Statement on the Public Library Service in England, issued on 7 February 2011 (Save our Libraries Day) entitled ‘Public libraries being failed by a lack of leadership from Westminster’ we say: “The winding down of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) and the abolition of the Advisory Council on Libraries (ACL) means that DCMS Ministers may not receive the expert advice about public library services that is so badly needed.”  Our statement includes a set of actions for the Secretary of State including:  “A: Collect and publish information on proposed service reductions and their potential impact…E: Ensure that the Arts Council (England) is able to properly scutinise the library plans of local authorities and advise the Minister where there are problems that need addressing.”:  Here’s the link to the statement: and  accompanying press release:

2. From the submission to the PASC Select Committee Inquiry into the Government’s Proposals for the Big Society (March 2011):  “22.        The Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 requires the Secretary of State to superintend and promote the public library network in England. This role needs expanding. However the abolition of the Museums, Libraries & Archives Council (MLA), the reduction in the resources for this work and the unclear remit that the Arts Council (England) will have as a successor to MLA are cause for concern.”

3. From Response of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals to the Open Public Services White Paper (September 2011)  Paragraph 22: We understand that with the demise of the MLA the regulatory function will be returning in-house to DCMS. We expect the Secretary of State to take a robust and firm stand in ensuring the future health and sustainability of the public library service in England. We will be more than happy to assist him in this task.

4. CILIP also looked at this area in our recent submission to the Culture, Media & Sport Inquiry into Library Closures and call for a framework within which Local Authority duties can be assessed: 5.3 CILIP believes that it is now vital that the Secretary of State has a new framework within which the performance of public library authorities in meeting their obligations under the 1964 Act can be assessed: It should be accompanied by a renewed vision for the public library service in England and leadership in helping the public library network address the many challenges ahead.  At the moment the Charteris Report is guiding the requirement for a needs assessment and information gathering process but without a clear framework developed and articulated in government, as recommended in Section 3.  This would give substance to the Secretary of State’s responsibility to “superintend” and “promote the improvement of” public library services provided by English local authorities.  The Arts Council with its new public library responsibilities should be charged with developing this.”  Link to the response

Newcastle

  • Almond speaks out as Newcastle library closures announced - BookSeller.  “Newcastle City Council has announced plans to close 10 of its 18 libraries as it looks to make savings of £90m over the next three years.”
  • Author attacks Newcastle library closures - Chronicle.  “More than 100 people packed St John’s Church Hall in Grainger Street for the event yesterday.He said: “An attack on libraries is an attack on our culture. If they were to go away, they would never be replaced.
  • Budget proposals 2016 – Newcastle Council.  “The council is facing significant financial difficulties. We need to cut our budget by £90m by 2016, which is around a third of our total budget. While some of this is caused by cuts to government grants, the rest is a result of rising cost pressures. Inevitably, making savings of this size will have an impact on the services we offer, and residents, businesses and community organisations are encouraged to have their say on these important issues facing the city.”
  • Councils will “go bust” Newcastle City Council leader warns - BBC.  “”Our predictions show that by 2018 the council won’t have the money that it needs to even to provide the statutory responsibility that we have,” Mr Forbes said. “I think, unless something changes fundamentally at a national level, we’ll see councils around the country going bust.” Mr Faulkner said the council had, in some cases, made the wrong choices.” … Unison asks “”Do you save admin workers or do you save children’s social workers? Do you save a library or do you save a day centre?”

“If people want to save their libraries then they have to commit to saving their libraries.”

  • Library closure plans outrage writers - Guardian.  “You must not go through with this. Your job is to protect and provide for local people. You must find other ways to resist and protest. The irony that Amazon evades the very taxes which could support core services like libraries would appear to presage an age when culture and learning are a privatised pursuit of the few. We must not let that happen,”

” a Labour council should not be acting as a conduit for the cuts made by a millionaire’s cabinet”

  • Newcastle – Budget: Arts and culture no longer affordable - ITV. “Arts and culture will be hugely affected as the Laing and Discovery museums will lose a third of their budget and smaller art galleries like the Side gallery may face complete closure. It has also been announced that up to ten libraries will close, although the council is keen to stress that there will still be a library within a mile and a half for most people. Up to six pools, including Newcastle’s City Pool, may close down over the months to come.”

News

  • Academic librarians get graphic - Library Journal (USA).  Graphic novel “legends of the ninja librarians” leads to 80% of students learning how to use boolean search strings.  Wow.

“Culture, education and the arts, citizens’ participation, equality and freedom for all, democracy and the rule of law, balanced regional development, environmental protection and social justice are the necessary foundations on which to build a sustainable Europe and to recover from the current crisis. They are investments in our common future and must be protected from financial cuts.”  We Are More: Act for Culture in Europe (EU).

Libraries inspire novelists (USA).

  • Missing the point: the Prime Minister and judicial reviewKingsley Napley.  “The Prime Minister is missing the point – it is a myth that judicial review is stopping the government from proceeding with policies to help boost the economy. Although there has been significant growth in the number of judicial review cases brought, the increase has been in cases about immigration and asylum – it’s nothing to do with stopping the Government from taking steps to assist business. In non-immigration and asylum cases, the number of cases has actually gone down since 2006.”
  • RFID, self service and the future of library services: a guest post by Mick Fortune - Stop the privatisation of public libraries.  “There is no doubt in my mind however that the most popular use of RFID remains the introduction of self-service facilities (lending and returning stock) and that this is often done in order to reduce staff numbers.Which is a pity. On several counts …” – public libraries are more likely to use self-service to cut staff while academic libraries use it more to extend opening hours.  Not so popular in US but here very common due to “a combination of economic and peer pressures”  UK libraries have bought a lot of proprietary technology meaning its going to be expensive to share/work together.  Also, being used for other things: “Did the public really vote for the book fund to be spent on devices to make council tax payments faster?

And here’s how RFID can be used… it’s in Dutch but the text on webpage says “How often does it happen that you would like to know (or directly) what others think of the book, CD or DVD that you just find out the bookcase have picked? Or are you curious to interviews with writers or videos of that artist? That need now provides the Social Media Caster! Besides content like movies, photos, reviews are also platforms like Facebook and Twitter searched. And: You can use this data to make its own again immediately share on social media platforms.”  The video is pretty self-explanatory.

  • Yarr! Library wi-fi pirates can’t be touched by the Queen’s men! - Register.  “Identifying your nearest public library will soon be dead easy: just look for the skull-and-crossbones flag draped over the entrance, or follow the greasy-haired blokes in trench coats. Communications watchdog Ofcom confirmed on Tuesday that libraries, universities and public Wi-Fi network providers will be exempt from anti-piracy measures in the Digital Economy Act. Yarr! Raise anchor and prepare yer selves for some hearty plundering of the torrents.” … “It simply doesn’t make sense to download pirate material at home when you can do it with impunity elsewhere – all at someone else’s expense. There’s plenty of room to accommodate the new arrivals: it’s not as if many libraries have very many books or people in them these days”

Changes

Local News

“It is quite worrying what the council is doing – it’s  ignoring the process. It is its way of saying ‘We’re very confident we’re going to win the court case and as soon as it is won, we’re going to board up the library and sell if off’.”

  • Croydon – £30m libraries privatisation could be sent for judicial review - Inside Croydon.  “The opposition Labour group on Croydon Council is considering seeking a judicial review of the decision to hand a £30-million, eight-year library contract to John Laing Integrated Services.”  Laing was “third, and worst” in terms of cost and performance but linked to council as building new headquarters.
  • Private company set to be named preferred bidder to run Croydon’s libraries - Croydon Guardian.  “Secret papers seen by the Croydon Guardian recommend the private company ahead of rival bids from South London Libraries and Cultural Services and Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), with the latter’s bid coming in for severe criticism.” … “Last week Wandsworth councillors voted for GLL to run its services, but in the report to Croydon council the charitable social enterprise received a mark of ‘weak’ or ‘very weak’ in 12 of the 19 available criteria.” … “The report states John Laing offers the most economically advantageous tender to the council. ”  Wandsworth defends GLL saying “The winning bid for the Wandsworth contract came from a highly successful charitable social enterprise with a wealth of experience in running public services. “

“By running the library service at arms length from the council there will also be far more possibilities for making links with commercial businesses. The library network will also continue to look for more opportunities to involve members of the community and create links with the voluntary sector through friends groups, fundraising events and social and learning activities.””

  • Durham – January date for Durham County Council library cuts - Northern Echo.  “Facing cuts of nearly £190m, Durham County Council’s cabinet voted in July to reduce opening times to 36 hours a week at 11 town centre libraries and 20 hours a week at 27 community libraries. More recently, officials have been asking borrowers how hours at their local library should be cut. Now council chiefs have announced that those changes will come into force on Wednesday, January 2.”
  • Gloucestershire – Community libraries blossoming in Gloucestershire - This is Gloucestershire.  “Rather than “wither on the vine” it seems community run libraries in Gloucestershire are blossoming instead. Five county libraries are being run by teams of volunteers, with two more, Newnham and Minchinhampton, following in January.”
  • Scilly – Library users group make first tour of new building - Scilly Today.  “The larger footprint of the library, split over two floors, means they’ll be increasing the books stocked by around 500, from the current 5,000 titles. And Kirsty is keen to see the library act as a venue for community events, such as children’s story-telling sessions, homework clubs and book readings. She says there’ll be a seating area, with desks and sofas, as well as tea and coffee facilities and two internet-connected computers.”