A shock today as an author said libraries have “had their day” and appeared to welcome closures.  The author in question is Terry Deary, the creator of the Horrible Histories books, speaking about proposed cuts in Sunderland.  Apart from being the only author to go on record as opposing libraries, it’s also odd as children’s borrowing – and he’s a children’s author – has been going up not down.  Digging further, it appears he has some form in this matter, though.  He has controversially come out in favour of child labour and he complained about libraries biting into his earnings in a Look North television interview.  This seems odd as his website boasts of his high lending rates in libraries, saying he is the seventh most popular children’s author.  Hmm, not amongst librarians and library supporters, though, not after today.

Other news includes Baroness Bakewell in the Lords questioning the Government about library closures.  The answers to her show the current brief on what to say about the cuts and are looked at below.  The “rationalisations” today include a £850k cut in Sunderland (a cut of one-fifth).  Balanced against this is the welcome news that the closure of up to seven libraries in Kirklees have been delayed for at least a year.

News

Baroness Bakewell: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to limit the ongoing closure of public libraries across the country.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, every authority in England is required by statute to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service. In 2011-12, authorities invested £820 million [Lord Gardiner appears to be mixing up “investment” with “expenditure”.  In fact, the official figures show a total cost of £1,012 million for that period, of which net current expenditure was £867m] in their libraries. The closure of a library does not necessarily signify a breach of an authority’s duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient service. Library services are adapting to changing needs. The Government have appointed a specialist libraries adviser [Yinnon Ezra, part-time] to work with local authorities and Arts Council England.

Baroness Bakewell: I thank the Minister for that Answer. Good news is always welcome, however meagre, but the bad news is coming in torrents. Three hundred and twenty-six libraries are under threat, have closed or have left council control since April last year [This appears to be a figure ultimately taken from Public Libraries News]. Newcastle is planning to close 10 out of 18 libraries and Liverpool 10 out of 19. Given the disproportionately heavy cuts to local authority funding in the north of England, when will the Secretary of State use her considerable reserve powers to stop this cultural catastrophe?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, I am very well aware that the noble Baroness is a formidable supporter of public library provision. Indeed, on Saturday I visited two libraries for National Libraries Day, in Eye in Suffolk and Diss in Norfolk, and I am very much aware of the points of view and their importance to communities. To come to the Question, clearly it is important that the local authorities reflect on the local need. That is precisely why there is a specialist libraries adviser, as I particularly mentioned, whose job it is to work with the local authorities where there is a question of libraries being at risk [He’s going to be very busy then]. Clearly, a number of rationalisations [the new name for closures perhaps] have gone on but I take the points that the noble Baroness has made very seriously indeed.

Libraries: closures (Hansard) The links and those words in orange in square brackets are mine.

Covered as Library closures are a ‘cultural catastrophe': peer (BBC), Bakewell condemns library closures ‘catastrophe’ – BookSeller and “Library closures are “catastrophic” in ITV Tyne Tees.

 

“Libraries have had their day. They are a Victorian idea and we are in an electronic age. They either have to change and adapt or they have to go. I know some people like them but fewer and fewer people are using them and these are straitened times. A lot of the gush about libraries is sentimentality.” He added: “The book is old technology and we have to move on, so good luck to the council.” Terry Deary

  • Terry Deary’s horrible library statement - Alan Gibbons. “When I was mounting a campaign against the SAT tests some years ago, I approached Terry for support. He replied that he was an anarchist and we shouldn’t abolish SATs, we should abolish schools! … Some of us who have devoted enormous amounts of time and effort to the library cause, who have marched and petitioned, lobbied and demonstrated, argued with councillors and Ministers feel utterly betrayed by Terry’s words. Does he really want to line up with the philistines? Terry’s pronouncement is not quirky or eccentric or ‘just Terry.’ In current circumstances it is downright irresponsible.”.

Changes

Local news

  • Barnet – The library that came back from the dead - Morning Star. “One of the most crushing and demoralising pieces of propaganda spread by governments trying to disarm any opposition is the notion that there is no alternative. Cuts and austerity are nasty medicine, but you’ve just got to grimace and swallow. Last week a unique and effective coalition of local residents, squatters, supporters of the Occupy movement and campaigners won a famous victory.”
  • Birmingham – The Library of Birmingham: engaging the community – Designing Libraries.  Looks at how the service consulted with users about what was required and how they kept them informed as work progressed.

I was at this Cambridgeshire Library on Saturday – when one of the protesters mentioned to a customer that they couldn’t use the library because of the opening hours she told him – “well you’re here now – so what’s the problem!” I suggested to the protesters that they come in and borrow some books – which would be really helpful – but only one or two actually did. The protest was unnecessary and counter productive – the library isn’t under threat – the staff are just as welcoming as ever, and it only upset local people. The library was busy all day with all age groups using the library, there was no sign of “lost heart” at all – this community really does love its library.Other Friends Groups in the county celebrated in their local libraries with coffee mornings and help with library events – this is the support we need. Cambridgeshire – Lynda Martin on lis-pub-libs responding to this article.

  • Coventry – Librarian up for top national award – Coventry Telegraph. “Joy Court, head of Coventry’s Schools’ Libraries Service, has been named in a shortlist of six for the prestigious Publishers’ Publicity Circle Bertrams Librarian of the Year Award. Joy joined the children’s library service in the city 17 years ago and has helped put Coventry on the literary map.”
  • Ealing – ‘Private companies could play role in running Ealing libraries’ – Ealing Gazette. “The council says it is not privatising the borough’s 15 libraries and the service will not be affected. It says the plans are for a private company to run them in a similar way that Greenwich Leisure Limited operate the borough’s leisure centres.”
  • Hull – Maureen Lipman backs call to save Anlaby Park library – BBC News Humberside. “The actress said: “They [libraries] become havens for young mums and for people sheltering and for people who want a little free time from the streets. “I was a huge library visitor and used to go there two or three times a week.” … “Campaigner Julie Reed said it was the second largest library in the city in terms of membership, with some 40,000 users. The actress said she used to regularly visit the Anlaby Park library. Ms Reed said: “Yes, it is a library but also it’s right in the middle of Anlaby Park and literally it offers so much, whether it’s the music group, half-term crafts for children.”
  • Kirklees – No library closures for next 12 months in Kirklees after review – Examiner. No closures 2013/14, although not ruled out next year.  Consultation showed that people wanted more services in branches.  8000 signed petition to keep branches open last year.
  • Ominous warning from Clr David Sheard - Examiner. “Clr David Sheard has warned somewhat ominously that when the time comes to make the big decisions “all council services will be on the table.” In short, the library proposals were probably only the start of many controversial money-saving plans that will be put forward, but for now the council is taking a step back to get feedback before working out a three-year budget plan.
  • Norfolk – Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library is the busiest in country – EDP. “The library, which is based in The Forum, welcomed more than 1.3 million people through its doors last year – more than any other library in the country. The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) 2011-12 survey found the library issued more than 1.1 million items last year – the highest number in the country.”
  • Sefton – Huge consultation response shows love for libraries as more than 12,000 join Southport library campaign - Visiter. “Petitions containing more than 12,000 supporters from Southport alone were handed to Sefton council in a bid to stop the closure of much-loved libraries. Their opinions – along with around 3,000 others who took part in the library consultation – will be discussed by the council’s cabinet.”
  • Sheffield – Be clear over axing libraries - Sheffield Star / Opinion. Due to the clear public desire for libraries, article asks councils to state how much money will be saved by closing them.

“while the politicians argue about figures and who is to blame, the rest of us wonder what is going on. Closing libraries was always going to be a difficult issue which needed transparency and understanding. At the moment, we are getting little of either so it’s no wonder the public feels let down.”

  • Sunderland – Libraries facing closure under £850,000 savings plan - Sunderland Echo. “A report by the executive director of health, housing and adult services recommends shutting down a number of the city’s 20 static libraries in a bid to make savings of £850,000 during 2013/14.”.
  • Warwickshire – Library book vending machine for Warwickshire – Designing Libraries. “D-Tech International Ltd has been selected by Warwickshire County Council to design, supply and install a library book vending machine to the George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton.”
  • County Council Announces Free Computer Use At Its Libraries – About My Area. “The measure does not mean that customers will be able to spend all day on the computers.  It means that they can book the first hour for free.  If other customers are not waiting to use the PC after this hour has finished, they can continue to use them.  Previously, the first half hour was free but charges were brought in after that time had elapsed.”
  • Wrexham – Petition set up in bid to save Wrexham libraries – Daily Post. “Caia Park Community council chairman Marc Jones has launched an online petition to save them. It has been backed by Cllr Arfon Jones and members of the public who said the libraries are a vital hub for their communities.”