Some news from Holland surprised me today: a private company is taking over four branches for half of the current cost.  It is not known what the service level agreement is but that kind of puts the current deals in the UK in perspective.  By the way, there is no statutory provision for libraries in Holland so there have been some very heavy cuts of up to 100% (yes, 100%) in some authorities.  However, I understand, that although 80% of library services are facing cuts 2010-14, most are facing a maximum 10% cut.  So, the overall situation is four times better (yes, libraries in the UK are facing up to a 40% cut) than in the UK but individual authorities have more carte blanche to make their public libraries a lot worse, or even non-existent, than here.

Mind you, just before we think “it could be worse”, it was pointed out to me today that the standard maximum distance to a city library has being going up quickly over the last couple of years:

  • Library standards to 2008 – 95% within 1 mile; 100% within 2 miles
  • Welsh standards (and Bolton Council 2011) – 95% within 1.5 miles
  • Manchester (2013) – “most within 2 miles”

The brings home the fact, of course, that there really is nothing really “standard” any more, at least in England.  With no clear, let alone enforceable, guidelines in the UK and a government (and an opposition too) that is highly unlikely to intervene, each authority effectively has carte blanche to push the boundaries as far as they like.  Expect the first proud boast of “most perople are still within 3 miles” at any time.


  • At A Pakistani Mobile Library, Kids Can Check Out Books, And Hope – NPR (USA). “In Pakistan, rarely a day goes by without news of a bombing or an attack by militants. Many young Pakistanis have grown up in the grip of religious extremism, and there’s little sign that that is likely to change in the near future. But the founder of the Bright Star bookmobile is trying to reverse that trend, starting at the most basic level.”
  • Bookmark Your Library – National website to promote libraries about to be launched.   Site set up by Arts Council England, Society of Chief Librarians, Reading Agency, OCLC and Collections Trust.  Looks nice including a library locator (not linked to webpages yet), books, reading groups, etc.

EDGE Award 2013 - digital skills sharing project win

  • Edge awards – Accepting their EDGE 2013 award are: Emma House, Publishers Association director of publisher relations and Sandeep Mahal, who leads The Reading Agency’s Reading Partners consortium. They are shown with Susan Mooney, head of service, community safety, City of Edinburgh Council and Bill Thompson, head of partnership development for BBC Archive Development who presented the award. Photo by Lloyd Smith Photography. The award was for Digital Skills.
  • Embracing the Long Game – Public Libraries Online (USA). “We can play this long game just as well as any other innovator out there. Even for an enormous, well-funded organization like TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), it takes a serious time investment to build an audience. Libraries across the country already have hundreds, if not thousands, of users who are all too willing to give us feedback as we bring new information products and services into the community. “
  • Four North Holland libraries in commercial hands – NRC.NL boeken (Netherlands, translated from Dutch to English via Google Translate).  Karmac agree to take over four branches and be paid half as much as they would cost the council. Karmac has previous experience in library training and running mobile libraries.

  • Library of tomorrow – Arhus (Denmark) / Vimeo
  • Powerful Impact of Public Libraries Using Information and Communication Technology – Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “In Kyrgyzstan, public libraries are reaching thousands of people with a dynamic ‘No to TB!’ campaign. In Kazakhstan, a public library computer training and employment information service helped young job-seekers find work, and now the library is managing a major United Nations grant that will bring free internet access to 17 villages. In Latvia, a tiny village library demonstrated the effectiveness of using webinars to reach farmers, and now the Ministry of Agriculture is webcasting its annual regional agricultural conferences. In Armenia, doctors and patients are communicating through their library’s interactive health website. These are just some of the exciting outcomes of 13 innovative public library services in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, reported in short impact studies newly released by Electronic Information for Library’s – Public Library Innovation Programme (EIFL-PLIP).”
  • Two libraries a week being closed by Tory cuts – Mirror. Mirror looks at figures culled from Labour, Unison, Cipfa and, I think, Public Libraries News.  Dave Prentis, Unison boss says ““Deep Tory cuts will leave communities devastated for years to come. The full impact of losing hundreds of libraries, and the dangerous hollowing out of those remaining, will be felt by future generations.”

“Councils know people treasure their libraries and have been working extremely hard to preserve services in the face of 33% funding cuts.  It’s testament to this commitment and innovation and councils’ reluctance to make closures that only a small percentage of our 4,500 libraries have closed over the past couple of years.  However, were Government to inflict yet more cuts, some councils would not be able to continue shielding libraries from cuts, which may mean more closures.” Flick Rea, Local Government Association.


Local News

  • Brent – Six Book Challenge 2013 – Youtube.  “This is the story of how one Brent resident, Nicola Moses, changed her life through taking on the six book challenge last year.”
  • Brent – What’s on in Brent Libraries March 2013 – Brent Council.  The monthly Brent newsletter including two author visits, a business workshop, recycling, a library card design competition. six book challenge (with an e-reader as a prize), dance sessions etc.

“if we had tried to make savings via the “hollowing out” route, we probably would not be able to do a lot of this.” Cllr James Powney, Brent Council, via email.

  • Brent – March Update – Save Kensal Rise Library.  The campaigners are now in their third year. All Souls College are claiming Community Right to Bid does not apply to them due to timing but “The Community Listing stays on the building so if it is sold on, the community will then have the right to bid for it.”.  Campaigners also hope that change of use of building to flats is not accepted by the Planning department.  Other items include a fundraising quiz and a reminder to buy books via in order to raise money for the campaign.
  • Dorset – Downton Abbey creator heaps praise on Puddletown library volunteers – Dorset Echo. “The Friends group took over the running of their village library earlier this year following the withdrawal of core funding from Dorset County Council. Lord Fellowes is a keen supporter of public libraries and was happy to support the volunteers in their efforts to maintain the village library.”

“In the best of all possible worlds Dorset’s network of public libraries would be maintained by the county council. But with local government finance under such severe pressure it seems this is no longer possible for the very smallest of libraries.”

  • Haringey – Cutting Haringey’s mobile library service an ‘absolute crime’ – Broadway Ham and High. “Susan Chinn, of the Highgate Library Action Group, said: “I am hoping it is not the beginning of bigger cuts, but alarm bells are definitely ringing. We have seen this before. and we do not like it at all. “Haringey has not yet done anything to destroy the service we have, while most other boroughs have been basically at it for some time. We were hoping they were going to see sense and keep the good work up.”
  • Manchester – Thousands sign up in fight to save library from the axe – Manchester Evening News. 4000 name petition for Burnage Library. ““If this library closes, our nearest one will be in Didsbury, because the Levenshulme one is closing too. That would mean taking two buses each way to get into Didsbury, which is not possible for some elderly people or those with young children. Our library is the centre of the community and if it goes we’ll have nothing left.”