Maria Miller, the minister ultimately responsible for libraries, has made clear that the only thing that matters in the Arts is money.  Leaving aside the temptation to suggest that she knows “the price of everything and the value of nothing”, this may have some strong implications for libraries, although it is clear that this is the way that the wind has been blowing for quite some while.  Stressing the economic value or libraries – rather than any touchy-feely stuff – is clearly the way to go.  There are many such arguments that will aid this case and another has appeared with a new report showing that illiteracy costs the UK $127 billion per year.


  • Changing Face of Public Libraries (Infographic) – Government Technology (USA). US libraries are “changing because they have to” with more computers and more links to schools.  See also Designing a 21st Century Roadmap for Public Libraries – Lybrarian (USA) which has many useful things to say and think about for the future of public libraries.
  • CultureHive – Website from the Arts Marketing Association to help Arts groups – such as libraries? – market their wares.
  • Curious tale of the stolen books – BBC. Library worker at Lambeth Palace admits in letter received after his death to major thefts, including some very expensive and rare books.
  • Ebook anxieties increase as publishing revolution rolls on – Guardian. Amazon’s plans to allow resale of “used” ebooks, amongst other things, leads to worries from everyone but itself.
  • Fire at National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth – BBC.  Section of roof destroyed.  “Flames and smoke were seen coming from the roof at the rear and up to 300 staff and 100 visitors were evacuated from the building. More than 30 firefighters attended, and it was confirmed by 18:30 BST on Friday that the blaze was out, just under four hours after it was reported.”.  No one injured and it is not thought any books were damaged. Unclear how fire started.
  • Importance of libraries and librarians – Voices for the Library. “Someone who is a guide, someone who rather than knowing everything about everything, can tell you where everything is … if a librarian is doing his/her job right, you will go in asking for A but you will come out with A squared

“In a community that may not have much in the way of resources a library is often the source of solace for people – a place to read the paper, a place to gather and foster relationships and even a place to hide and immerse yourself in the adventures of others (I know that I did the latter when I was a teenager).  So much as the librarian is the guide, the library is the gateway.”

  • Keeping out of trouble – Ofsted. Big thing to keep teenagers out of trouble is to have cheap things for them to do.  Report does not mention libraries [but it should – Ed.]
  • Librarians fight to keep publishers from taking over e-book revolution – Star-Telegram (USA). “Some librarians aren’t willing to let publishers control the revolution. They are looking to compete by forming their own publishing arms to capitalize on new content streams that have blossomed alongside the e-book tsunami.”.  Libraries are a nationwide distribution system, with more branches than McDonalds, that could publish e-books.
  • Libraries and e-lending- it feels like we’re making progress – BookSeller / Futurebook.  A third of UK public libraries don’t offer ebooks due to “the poor range of stock available, the volatility of the technology and the market, and the setup costs.”.  85% of top-borrowed paper books simply not available in libraries. Hopeful signs with recent Sieghart Review that things are improving,

“The Society of Chief Librarians is working with the Reading Agency and publishers to build on a  “digital marketing” project, the concept that libraries and their websites and catalogues can be used as shop windows, with publisher’s materials such as graphics and reviews adding value to public library stock … public library services are passionate about reading,  we’re anxious to help to develop the ebook market in the UK, and we have a very, very big customer base.”.

– 22% of the UK’s population is estimated to be functionally illiterate, meaning they may have difficulty with basic tasks such as applying for a job, writing a letter to their MP or reading their child’s school report.
– Illiteracy estimated to cost UK economy approximately $127 billion a year (£81 billion)
– This is the highest in Europe, ahead of Germany $61.70bn or France $44.28bn
– Of the $127 billion annual cost to the UK, $36.8bn goes on welfare, unemployment and social programmes. An additional $91.6bn is lost through lower personal incomes and business earnings.

  • Reputation of public libraries – Good Library Blog.  Libraries have a great reputation but don’t use it well and even want to change what they offer, despite the public not necessarily wanting it. “The great wonder of public libraries in the UK is why they don’t understand what people respect them for and why they don’t promote those things – because they are very obvious and worthwhile. Perhaps that is the starting point – before we talk about changing them and adapting them and ‘envisioning them’ for the future. Just find out what people want public libraries to be good at now. Don’t ask librarians – ask ordinary people who would use the service.”
  • Society of Chief Librarians minutes – SCL.  Various high-level minutes showing what planning is in place for public libraries nationally, including (1) Minutes from the SCL Executive (2) Digital Update (3) Universal Reading Offer update(4) Information Offer update.
  • Testing times: Fighting culture’s corner in an age of austerity – Maria Miller, secretary of state with ultimate responsibility for libraries, makes clear that she measures Culture by the amount of money it costs or makes in the short-term rather than any intrinsic value.
  • See also Arts Council England responds to the Secretary of State’s speech on arts and cultural funding which says “”As the Secretary of State says, we do need to make the economic case. And while doing so, we won’t forget that it is not all about money.”.
  • See also Value for money? The arts have nothing to fear – Independent. “It makes money; it develops projects; it creates high earners, as well as employing large numbers of dedicated people who work for almost nothing” … “The emphasis of her speech was on government spending on culture as seed money, and investment. When spending on culture results in income, then all well and good, and “government spending unlocks further funding”, in her words. The implication was that where it can’t be shown that government money results in profits, the tiny arts budget may very well be directed elsewhere.”
  • See also Maria Miller: a mind already made up? – Guardian / Culture Professionals Network. “Maria Miller, in her first speech on the arts in seven months as culture secretary, has warned the UK arts community that we cannot avoid the impact of the cuts. Rather than moan about it, she suggests, the culture sector needs to get on and make the case for its economic value.”

“What is alarming and new about Miller’s speech is all the other benefits of the arts it appears to sideline. Sure, there were some vague gestures towards those other things but the central message of the speech was clear: the only value of the arts worth talking about is economic.”

  • Unison research into Public Library Cuts – Stop the privatisation of public libraries. Reports from the Unison meeting on Thursday which shared the results of a national survey of library union members with stewards and campaigners.  The survey results will be officially launched in June.
  • World Book Night 2013: half a million free books to be handed out – Telegraph. “The evening will also be marked by hundreds of literary events across Britain at libraries, village halls, pubs and local book clubs. Four star-studded events are also taking place in London, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Cambridge. The volunteers will each give out twenty copies of their favourite book to people in their community who don’t read regularly. An independent editorial committee of librarians, booksellers, writers and broadcasters has drawn up a list of twenty titles, from which the volunteers have chosen their book to give away.”



Local news

“The basis of a private company is to make the most money from a good or service for their shareholders. The basis of a public library is not to charge for its core goods (book loans) and services (public space, librarian support).”

  • Blackburn with Darwen – Library bridge in Blackburn removed in £2m library revamp – Lancashire Telegraph. “The work is described as the first step in restoring Blackburn Central Library’s facade to its “original 1920s appearance to enable it to become a landmark for the town centre”. A £2million budget was authorised by the borough council last year to replace the crumbling frontage because of fears a chunk of masonry could come off and injure a passer-by.”
  • Lincolnshire – Alford Library open longer due to group – Skegness Standard. “It was previously announced that hours were due to be cut after a lack of funding but Hazel Bogg and a group of book lovers decided to rally together to volunteer their time in order to save it.” … 14 volunteers received basic training, Sutton On Sea and Woodhall Spa also using volunteers.
  • Luton – Council told: ‘Libraries are the gateway to education’ – Luton Today.  “Drastic cost-cutting proposals to scale back Luton’s libraries have seen 2,000 people put pen to paper to voice their views. Cuts to the library service, which costs £2.7 million a year to run, could see the loss of the mobile library service and the closure of either Leagrave or Marsh Farm library.”

“Libraries are very important institutions – they are a gateway to educating people. Do you want to save money to the cost of the community at large?”

  • South Tyneside – Library opening hours’ shake-up backed – Shields Gazette. “it was decided to open the Central Library from noon to 4pm – instead of 9am to 4pm. But the hours change did not go down well with everyone.And members of the council’s Riverside Community Area Forum received a public petition calling on the morning opening hours to be re-instated.A questionnaire was launched to assess public views.Out of 340 replies, afternoon hours proved the most popular among 130 respondents, with 73 votes for 11am until 3pm.”
  • Southend on Sea – Petition is a real page turner – Yellow Advertiser. “In the proposals two hub libraries will be set up at each end of the town and central Library will be relocated to the Forum Library when it opens. The three libraries will be the only ones that will be operated by paid council staff.  The west hub will be a development of either Leigh Library or Kent Elms Library. The one not chosen as the hub will be solely run by a group of volunteers.”

“We are not damning Leigh in any way but we feel that there would be the people there to volunteer and near Kent Elms I don’t think that would be possible.”

  • Staffordshire – Budding motorists can now test the theory at their library – Burton Mail.  Libraries have “installed the Theory Test Pro service, allowing learners to get some knowledge of the questions in preparation for what they are likely to face when taking on their theory test for real.”
  • Warrington – Grand Re-Opening April 2013 – Grappenhall Community Library.  Lots of pictures of the official reopening of the library under volunteer control, open 14 hours per week.
  • Worcestershire – Catshill library launches – Bromsgrove Standard. The “library enjoyed its official opening with the help of pupils from its new home at Catshill Middle School. The new service now based in the school grounds on Meadow Road launched last Tuesday (April 16) and is run day-to-day by volunteers alongside a team from Worcestershire County Council.