For such a non-entity of a report, the Select Committee report on library closures raised a respectable amount of coverage.  It cannot be because of the report itself – see my post yesterday for why I think this – but because of the importance the public places on libraries.  It’s interesting to see the different viewpoints that people and organisations had on the report.  It’s fair to say that mine was amongst the most negative.  Other people, having expected less, were disappointed less and recognised some positives.

The Society of Chief Librarians has produced a very positive statement that is clearly intended as an advertisement for its own position (it’s “ideally positioned” apparently).  However, there is some confusion as to exactly what it means when it says it “currently works with partners to develop and support national policy and strategy“.  One of the whole points of the Select Committee report is that there is no real national policy and strategy.  Perhaps the SCL should publicise this policy if it has access to it.  It’s response is downright pessimistic, though, compared to that of the Local Government Association which seems to see the current situation as a golden age of books left in telephone boxes.  The Reading Agency response is also positive but does say it is a “great pity” that the DCMS report is expected in 2014 not next year.

It’s a shame that the Committee is so against having standards for public libraries.  Desmond Clarke points out that Wales had a 8.3% increase in usage over the last reported period while England’s usage dropped.  Wales has standards and has had notably more support from it’s government than its counterpart in England.  Indeed, Wales is a good scientific control that demonstrates the poverty of England’s approach to libraries.  Of course, this may all come back to bite Wales – it’s not clear if their funding is going to continue – but, at the moment, there’s just no contest between which is the more successful experiment.

Finally, on a rare personal note, I now have a claim to fame: I was due to speak on Radio Five Live just after 6pm on the report but, due to Nadine Dorries being suspended from the Conservatives, I was bumped by Anne Widdecombe.  Hmmm,  I may have to get an “I was bumped by Anne Widdecombe” T-shirt printed.

Select Committee Inquiry

  • Authorities risk falling short on libraries brief – Local Government Chronicle.  Available only to subscribers.
  • CILIP response to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee Report on Library Closures – CILIP.  Key things CILIP want to urge is (a) Acknowledge that it is not simply building closures that affect the public library service. (b) Recognise the need for librarians and trained staff to plan and deliver services. (c) Create a national strategy for libraries that values their contribution to literacy, learning and employability (d) Ensure that local authorities are sufficiently aware of and understand their statutory duty  (e) ecognise that time is a key factor.

“Whilst the Culture, Media and Sport Committee report has some really important points, it lacks a sense of urgency.  Change is so rapid that we may not recognise the public library service as we know it in a few years time.  We would like to see the suggested research and reports, especially from the Secretary of State, brought forward to ensure that decisions that are happening clearly demonstrate consideration of the future needs of communities, families and learners.  As the report says, short term and ill informed decisions could be hugely destructive to a public library service in the long term.” Annie Mauger, CILIP.

  • CMS Select Committee report: libraries need more support – BookSeller. Summarises report and includes comments from Voices for the Library, Library Campaign, Dan Jarvis and the LGA. “John Whittingdale MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “It is obvious from widespread recent campaigns and evidence to this inquiry how strongly attached many people feel to public libraries, which are a vital and much-loved service. However, library services are about much more than buildings, and the most important issue is finding creative ways to preserve – and, if possible, enhance – library service. Reductions in opening hours and the loss of professional staff may damage the service more than the closure of particular buildings, even though of course premises are key to accessible, comprehensive provision.  Although the current crisis may appear to bode ill for the future of public libraries, it also presents an opportunity for a thorough reassessment of their role and of the way they are organised. “
  • Council plans for libraries risk failure to comply with legal obligations, says committee – Parliament.
  • Councils “failing in duty to give vital libraries a lifeline” – This is Somerset.  Newspaper interested as Somerset was one of those authorities taken to court over closures.
  • Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries respond to CMS parliamentary report on library cuts – Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries.  Welcomes report and that Gloucestershire is one of those authorities that the report mentions may be breaking its statutory duties. ““The Committee’s report provides us with little comfort regarding the future of our libraries. It repeatedly raises concerns about the wholesale handover of libraries to communities without adequate support from the authority, which is exactly what we are seeing happen in Gloucestershire”
  • Library e-books services hampered by co-operation “breakdown” –  “According to the report into library closures, several witnesses argued “it would be impossible for libraries to engage with e-books except on a national basis: publishers were not very interested in the concept of lending e-books as licensing difficulties could not be adequately addressed at a local level and significant demand for a lending service from readers was yet to emerge.”
  • Library closures may be unlawful, MPs warn – BBC.  “A report by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee said some local authorities had made insufficient plans as they struggled with smaller budgets. It added that councils were unaware of the requirements on them under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. The committee urged better government guidance to avoid costly reviews.”  Quotes press release from Voices for the Library.
  • Library closures may be unlawful, says Commons select committee – Guardian. “The inquiry into library closures is the first since 2005, when the service was found to be “in distress”. This time, John Whittingdale MP, chair of the committee, said that while the “current crisis may appear to bode ill for the future of public libraries, it also presents an opportunity for a thorough reassessment of their role and of the way they are organised”.  Quotes CILIP, Dan Jarvis and Library Campaign.

““It is pleasing the committee has not taken a narrow, bricks and mortar view of library services. A library in the 21st Century can be a whole range of things, from a small e-book borrowing point in a shop to part of a large cultural hub.” She added: “As this report shows, across the country there’s been a fantastic amount of creativity and ambition to modernise libraries in ways which engage young people, don’t alienate existing users and make the most of diminished budgets. In the last few years we have seen huge strides in that direction with libraries opening up in village halls, pubs, shops, churches, phone boxes, day care centres and tourist information centres, as well as linking with health, social care, benefits and job search providers.”” Local Government Association

  • Not by the book: library closures “against the law” say MPs – Mirror.  “Library closures being pushed through by town halls facing massive cuts in their budgets could be illegal, MPs have warned.”
  • SCL responds to Select Committee report on library closures – Society of Chief Librarians.  “welcomes the report as a valuable contribution to the current debate surrounding public libraries. The report makes some key points and we welcome the acknowledgement that libraries are used for a wider range of activities that benefit local communities- especially in the areas of health and education and that as a sector we have been imaginative and creative in sharing both buildings and resources. Throughout the report there is an argument for libraries to plan nationally and act locally- SCL is ideally positioned and currently works with partners to develop and support national policy and strategy and works with and support Local Authorities to interpret and deliver this locally’.
  • Suffolk: County in spotlight as library changes noted in by parliament – EADT.  “The committee took evidence from the Industrial and Provident Society (IPS) set up to run Suffolk’s libraries – which has resulted in none being closed. It said: “We will be very interested to follow the development of the IPS model for library provision in Suffolk. Again, it relies heavily on the goodwill of volunteers, but it has the advantage to the local population that the county council retains overall responsibility for the service.” Suffolk library campaigner Abby Barker gave evidence to the committee on behalf of “Voices for the Library.” She told the committee: “There have been consultations that were basically, ‘If you do not step forward and run your libraries, they will close.’”
  • Support community libraries or they will be viewed as “closure by stealth” says Inquiry – On the Wight.  “It’s not clear whether the Isle of Wight’s situation with five out of 11 libraries being transferred to the community would constitute a ‘wholesale’ transfer and we won’t find out until the Minister’s report on the cumulative effect of the cuts is released in late 2014. However, this statement in the summary could be of importance, “In the Minister’s view, the wholesale transfer of library branches to volunteer groups is unlikely to meet the statutory criterion of providing a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service; but volunteer-run libraries can be valuable additions to the service;” Where does five out of eleven libraries going to community groups put the Isle of Wight council? Does it fall within ‘unlikely to meet the statutory criterion of providing a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service’ condition?”
  • Warning over library cuts – Independent.  Tiny article.
  • Who is in charge? – Good Library Blog.  “Local government is responsible for public libraries and doesn’t want anyone to tell it what to do. Central Government has no expertise and no money and doesn’t want to either tell local councils what to do, or have any responsbility for what they do do.” … “The 2006 report was more specific and urgent in its recommendations, but the DCMS took no notice of those. Doubtless it will take no notice of this report either. There is no reason why it should- there is nothing in it that suggests what they should do or how they should do it. It is a pathetic report which fails to analyse the issues or be articulate about any guiding principles or solutions”


  • Libraries in danger: a different angle – Voices for the Library.  “Chair of the Historic Libraries Forum, Katie Flanagan, provided us with the following guest post regarding the management of historic book collections in libraries.” … “Selling off rare or historical books can be a short-sighted measure, particularly (as we have seen lately) if the proceeds are put towards acquiring new technology that will itself be out-of-date in a few years. Moreover, books that were given to the library as a bequest often came with conditions attached: for example, that the collection be maintained complete and in perpetuity for the use of the people of the town. Conditions such as these still hold, even centuries later.”

““At a certain point you have to decide how far you want to nail your own coffin shut,” said Michael Tucker, owner of the Books Inc. chain here. “Amazon wants to completely control the entire book trade. You’re crazy if you want to play that game with them.” Booksellers resisting Amazon’s disruption – New York Times.

  • Localist’s lament: DIY services wide social gap between communities Guardian.  “Blackheath’s community library is an example of the ‘big society’ in action, but what about the areas which lack social capital?” … “Blackheath village library had new life breathed into it with support from the charity Age Exchange. A team of 34 volunteers has kept an interim service running six days a week for more than a year. They manage a stock of 6,000 books, a selection of newspapers and magazines, a cafe selling homemade cakes and old fashioned sweets, and a computer hub with Wi-Fi access. The library is now housed in the Bakehouse Theatre, owned by Age Exchange.” … “A total of £500,000 was contributed by a number of city financiers, £200,000 from Lewisham council and £30,000 from the Blackheath Assembly “

“The downside of this wonderful civic action is biblical in proportion and explanation: the renewed government emphasis on volunteerism carries real dangers that “for he that hath, to him shall be given; and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath”. In other words for every place like Blackheath there are as many others that lack the social capital, the local movers and shakers, the volunteers with deep pockets and the spare time to dedicate to voluntary work.”


Local news

  • Bath and North East Somerset – Budget 2013: weekly bin collections retained, street cleaning protected – This is Bath.  “Our library branches are important to local people. Therefore, all eight libraries will remain open with the support of our emerging Community Library Programme that will be developed to encourage more local people to play a part in running their library. We already have 25 people expressing an interest in running the new £170,000 Paulton Library Community Hub. This Programme will also develop a series of pilots to test opportunities to provide small, community based services where libraries are not currently available, like villages. These may provide pick-up and drop-off services for books and other library services. To enable us to provide the library service that local people tell us they want, we propose adjusting the frequency and length of stopovers of the Mobile Library Service in the communities that it currently serves.”
  • County Durham – Sedgefield residents support campaign to extend library opening hours – Northern Echo.  Volunteers to help run libraries.  “Sedgefield is one of 39 towns and community libraries in County Durham that will see a reduction in opening hours next year. The move, which is due to significant Government funding cuts, will save Durham County Council £1.5m.”
  • Cumbria – Barrow library opening times set to change amid complaints – In Cumbria.  “recommendations have been made for Barrow Library to open on a Thursday afternoon. The library only opens until noon on a Thursday.” … “There are no material financial implications for the library service as staff will work flexibly to cover the extended opening hours within existing hours of work.”
  • Inverclyde – Library users create history site – Greenock Telegraph.  “A new website on the people and heritage of Inverclyde has been created by users of the Watt Library in Greenock. Members of the Union Street facility formed a heritage group and have now successfully launched their own internet research tool. The site covers a broad range of events and people from Inverclyde’s history to the present, including content on wartime, local people and industry.”
  • Lincolnshire – Two new community libraries launches in Lincolnshire – This is Lincolnshire.  “Ingoldmells library was officially opened with a launch event last Monday and at the start of the autumn term, Winthorpe residents will be able to take home a book from Seathorne Primary School.” … “The service will help fill the void left in Winthorpe from the stopping of its mobile library service due to a lack of support by local residents.”
  • Sefton – Mersey MP Bill Esterson’s call to protect library funding – Liverpool Echo.  “”Sefton Council has had its budget slashed by the Tory-Lib Dem Government, so services are going to suffer. I have asked the government minister responsible, Eric Pickles to provide ring-fenced funding to local authorities for library services.”
  • Decision to consult over library closures surivives scrutiny probe – Southport Visiter.  “politicians voted to proceed with the original decision at an overview and scrutiny meeting on Thursday. A heated meeting at Bootle Town Hall saw councillors debate the next step in a process which could see libraries closed in Ainsdale, Birkdale and Churchtown. Sefton council’s cabinet’s decision to consult over the closure of libraries last month was ‘called in’ for scrutiny by several councillors who felt “the cabinet did not weigh the relative merits of each option.””
  • Walsall – Village centre due to be handed over the council next week – Common people.  £4m combined health centre and library to open on 13th November.
  • Wokingham – Emmbrook school librarian leads march to Westminster – Bracknell News.  “”I’ve never done anything like it in my life.  “The march was absolutely amazing. We had t-shirts given to us by Micro Librarian Systems so we were all wearing those and they looked impressive.  “We all had our placards as well and it was a really great atmosphere.”