Being the title of this blog is Public Libraries News, I tend not to cover school libraries but my heart is with them as well.  There are so many similarities between the two campaigns that I do sneak a story in here and there.  The recent survey that shows school libraries are in deep danger is an example.  The fact that the DCMS had the temerity to criticize the survey has angered Alan Gibbons – who has always equally championed both campaigns – who points out what weak ground they’re on.  Sadly, due to yet more cuts, the DCMS itself is even more of a shadow of its former self, with an estimated £34m cut.  Whether this will affect its funding of Arts Council England and thus it’s funding of grants for libraries, is as yet unclear.

I’ve been following the Friern Barnet Library saga since its start.  One of the lessons that comes from it, and the Brent crisis that mirrors it in many ways, is don’t mess with London libraries. Another lesson is that, although the Conservatives may say they like the Big Society, when they encounter examples of it that don’t agree with them, then they react like any other party.  Which is to say, not very well. Other protests against the cuts, this time in Newcastle, are still rumbling on, with the latest analysis showing that the need to close libraries is due to the council’s disastrous decision to pay for a new library by PFI just three years ago.  Paying money to the contractors is now soaking up over a third of its library budget.

Finally, there’s this from the House of Lords, which is notable for reminding us that official guidelines on volunteer-run libraries will shortly be produced.  It’s also interesting for seeing that DEFRA is being consulted.  As a colleague said – “DEFRA?“.  Presumably this is because the Government has noted that volunteer-run libraries are most common in rural areas.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark(Labour)

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment have they made of volunteer-run libraries.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether volunteer-run libraries are subject to the statutory public library requirements.

Viscount Younger of Leckie(Conservative)

Volunteer-run libraries are subject to statutory public library requirements if they form part of a library authority’s statutory service. This department has worked with Arts Council England and the Local Government Association, together with the Department for Communities and Local Government, Defra and the Cabinet Office, on the commissioning of guiding principles for local authorities in the engagement of volunteers in the library service. This report is due for publication in the new year.

Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 6 December 2012, c180W)

News

  • DCMS cut by £34m in Autumn Statement - Stage. “DCMS will lose £12 million in 2013/14 and £22 million in 2014/15. There has been no announcement yet as to whether this will mean any in-year cuts to Arts Council England’s settlement. There is also the threat of further cuts, as a Comprehensive Spending Review covering 2013 onwards has been announced for early next year.”
  • Flourishing of “big society” in Barnet raises major legal questions for councils - Guardian / Public Service Reform Hub. “The response to the library’s closure was vigorous local protest. Consultation exercises revealed widespread opposition to the decisions, petitions were circulated and signed, and there were demonstrations and readings by renowned authors in protest. Then, something happened which had never happened before: opponents of the decision took to direct action. ” … “The council’s legal teams realised the authority was at risk of “impliedly licensing” protestors to be on the premises by holding meetings with them so abruptly ended discussions. “

“What is particularly interesting is that the reaction to the closure of Friern Barnet Library is essentially communities secretary Eric Pickles’ ‘big society’ idea in action. Activists and local residents state that the library building is now in better condition than it was when left empty, and it continues to serve the community. The big society has not yet taken off under current local government arrangements simply because you cannot have effective joint working in a world that seeks to create divisions; between public and private, young and old, rich and poor, mobile and immobile. The response to the closure of Friern Barnet Library is yet another example of division: it is a symptom of a breakdown of trust between local government and the people it is supposed to serve. We need to work to rebuild the relationship between the public and the services people use.”

  • Future of libraries must be protected - Express.  “Tomorrow a national survey will show that library cuts have been worse than predicted. In the tax year 2010/2011, 146 libraries closed but last year that number jumped to more than 200 according to the UK Annual Libraries survey. Those that have not been closed completely have seen hours cut and staff laid off, meaning more and more volunteers having to fill the gap.” … “In place of paid-for expertise, library visitors now face the same dreaded selfservice checkout screens that depersonalise our supermarkets. The result? Fewer books are being borrowed.”

“In an age when the PlayStation rules over the pen, it is encouraging to read that children’s fiction is on the increase but if children have nowhere to borrow books, then they simply will not read them, especially in a recession when new books are seen as something of a luxury.It is not a bandwagon everyone is jumping on the back of, it is far more important than that. “

  • Librarian of the year on how we can make a difference for reluctant young readers - Sec Ed. “Due to the fact we are promoting reading for pleasure, the effect is that the young person wants to read. Because they want to read they do more of it. Because they are doing more of it they are increasing their fluency and so are improving.”
  • Nonprofit uses little libraries to unite community - Toledo Free Press.  “Little Free Library is an organization that helps create mini libraries where users can take and leave books at no cost — all without a library card. Co-founder Todd Bol started the project in Hudson, Wis., in 2009 to honor his deceased mother.” … “This time last year, we had about 100 of these libraries and this time a year later, we have 4,000, pushing 5,000.””
  • Public libraries in the recession: the librarian’s axiom - Emerald Insight. In recession, UK libraries used more for advice, jobseeking and training. “The paper provides stakeholders within the sector with valuable evidence of the impact of public libraries on vulnerable members of the community during a time of national crisis. It also suggests areas for improvement including strengthening links with relevant local organisations. “
  • Rwanda: 80 mobile libraries to be established countrywide - All Africa.  “At least 80 mobile libraries will be instituted to resolve the issue of lack of reading materials in various parts of the country by 2016, Said Yasin, head of Education Development Centre Inc (EDC) said, yesterday. EDC is an international non governmental organisation based in the US and currently working alongside Peace Corps”.  Slogan is “Let’s read! A person who doesn’t read is like a field left untilled.he theme “Let’s read! A person who doesn’t read is like a field left untilled.”
  • School libraries “under threat” due to funding cuts - Telegraph. “Figures suggest that half of school library services run by local authorities are being subjected to a major internal review and as many as a fifth could be shut altogether.Closure is likely to rob schools of new editions, teaching resources, literacy support for staff and help arranging events and author visits, it emerged, placing school libraries themselves under threat.The conclusions were made in a study by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.But the Department for Education criticised the study, saying it relied on a small-scale sample and failed to present the full picture.”

“Sir, Responding to a new study by the librarians’ body CILIP, the Department for Education has questioned warnings that school library services could be under threat from cuts. This is a strange position for the DfE to take given the number of SLS operations that have already closed.

The DfE is on very weak ground criticising this report. It says every school should have a well-stocked library and that every secondary school should have a librarian. So why has it refused repeatedly to make school libraries statutory? Why does it not set national standards for book provision? Why does it not organise a series of reading for pleasure conferences across the UK? Why, in short, is it long on bombast and short on deeds?

The DfE also attacks the methodology of the report? So does it have its own audited figures on the health of SLS operations? If not, is this the kind of unsubstantiated insult we should expect from a government department? The ability to read well and read widely is absolutely central to academic success. The record of the DfE in promoting reading is highly debatable.

Yours faithfully, Alan Gibbons” Letter sent to Telegraph.

“if 100% of your time is devoted to maintaining the status quo, when do you invent the future?”

Changes

Local News

“We’re just 550 signatures away from forcing Barnet council to debate scrapping plans to shut down the library! In one month, Barnet council are going back to court to try to get the local community evicted from the library. Their plan is to sell it off – but if we can get this petition up to 4000, we can force them to debate changing their plans before the court date. At the very least, that will slow them down – and we can use the extra time to pile more pressure on the council not to sell off the library. Can you help get the petition up to 4000 signatures by forwarding this email to your friends and family?” 38 Degrees, via email.

  • Bexley – Crayford buries time capsule to mark new library - Bexley Times.
  • Buckinghamshire – Library group is “optimistic” - Buckingham Today.  “Friends Of Winslow Library have submitted a plan for Winslow Library which would save Bucks County Council (BCC) £20,000 a year while expanding the services the library provides. ” … “The solution put forward by the Friends Of Winslow Library retains the services of one professional librarian for all of the hours the library is open, assisted by a team of volunteers”
  • Croydon – Council forced to report monthly on Laing library performance - Inside Croydon. “the library issue had been referred to Croydon Council’s scrutiny and strategic overview committee on Thursday by both the Labour opposition group and the governing Tories. The Conservative councillors, who only on Monday had all voted through the privatisation at the main council meeting, seemed to concede – as Inside Croydon has long highlighted – that the process had been far from open and transparent.”
  • Bid to halt Croydon libraries handover is defeated - This is Croydon Today. “Call-ins came from both the Conservative and Labour groups but Wednesday’s scrutiny committee agreed that both should simply be noted, putting negotiations back on track.” … “the contract could be terminated, if Laing breached its terms. Councillor Steve Hollands, chair of scrutiny, said after the meeting: “This is the only way we can keep the service together as it currently is.”
  • Islington – Library’s big grey “daleks” will exterminate vital jobs - Islington Tribune. ” AS some readers will know, the excellent N4 library has recently been closed for “refurbishment”. I visited it at the weekend after its reopening. The main change that has been made is the installation of some big grey “Daleks” in the entrance way. These machines are intended for the automated borrowing and return of books and CDs/films.”.  Self-service machines was least popular option on survey.

“We need our brilliant, knowledgeable library staff to be there providing help and information, and guidance to those who need help navigating the library catalogue. Librarianship is a skilled profession and is so much more than just date-stamping books in and out of the library. You cannot replace a librarian with a robot.”

  • Lincolnshire – Winthorpe welcomes community library - Skegness Standard.  “Literature lovers, councillors and teachers in the Winthorpe area have celebrated the opening of a new community library, filling the void left by the end of mobile services. Lincolnshire County Council has introduced 400 books to Seathorne Primary School thanks to the efforts of local councillors and teachers.” … “The new library currently only opens between 3.30pm and 4.30pm from Wednesday to Friday. But, if the service is well used and more volunteers recruited, it is hoped to open longer and stock more books.”
  • Middlesborough – Petition to keep Hemlington library open is signed by thousands - Gazette. “A petition in support of the library with 2,167 signatures has been handed over by youngsters Kane and Angel Miller to Middlesbrough councillor Charlie Rooney.” “MP Tom Blenkinsop, who has said the library should be protected, also joined those collecting signatures.”
  • Newcastle – PFI: Pervidious financial idiocy - Question Everything.  Due to PFI deal for new City Library and refurbished (now threatened) branch library, Newcastle, although only having “a library budget of 9.1 million, their monthly payments for 09-10 were £271,761.33 per MONTH! That is 3.2 million a year for two libraries out of eighteen” – over a third of their budget.

“By 2009 … it was clear to everyone apart from those in charge that PFI wasn’t the way forward, especially since it was pretty clear by then that the economy wasn’t going to be bouncing back any time soon, coupled with the fact that procurement in the public sector tends to be very poor. The private sector always come out winners in contract negotiations. If Newcastle City Council want to blame anyone for having to cut libraries I think they have to look at themselves mainly, going for the neo-liberal wonga option will haunt them for many years to come.”

  • Protestors stage sit in at Newcastle council meeting - Journal. “The city council meeting held last night at Newcastle Civic Centre was interrupted when around 60 people burst into the chamber at 5.30pm.” … “The protest, which was organised by the national campaign group Coalition of Resistance, began outside the City Library at 5pm.”

“It’s about community. Libraries are one of the few things around that bind people together,” he said. “It’s a service that’s used more by low-income families and it’s so important.”

  • Wolverhampton – Update - Save Wolverhampton Libraries. “What will happen at scrutiny is that the opposition members will ask relevant questions about the hubs proposals and these questions will be ignored. ” … “Those who are celebrating the creation of hubs are celebrating the fact that the signatures of over two thousand people in Ashmore Park have not been successful in saving a dedicated library building. The campaign to try and save Spring Vale Library also saw over 1000 signatures on petitions to save that service. Warstones Library too is looking very likely to disappear into a ‘hub’ despite the wishes of the local community that it remain where it is. Collingwood Library is the worst hit of all..”
  • Worcestershire – Key council meeting on Kidderminster Library gallery plan - Shuttle. “The change of use application, which would see the art facility relocated to the library’s first floor, making way for offices for county council staff, is on the agenda at next Tuesday’s planning and regulatory committee meeting at County Hall, Worcester. “