Editorial 

A few articles on national trends today.  We have the most recent Taking Part survey from the DCMS that shows that the proportion of the population using public libraries is continuing to fall (although not as fast as they have done in some years since 2005/6).    Other articles may give reasons for this decline.  The Express interviews Annie Mauger of CILIP who squarely places the blame on the cuts to library budgets.  An unrelated Neilsen survey sees a decline in child’s reading as partly due to the rise of social networking and a lot to do with the rise of tablet PCs and apps. The real answer seems to be, of course, a bit of both, with the continuing and accelerating decline in funding to libraries working in tandem with the rise of competitive technologies like the internet, e-books and apps.  There is also the point where cuts in funding mean that libraries, even if they wanted to, cannot keep up with digital change.  Simply because they cannot often afford it. Between a rock and a hard place, in other words.

Changes

News

  • Big Society and English public libraries: where are we now? – Anne Goulding / Emerald. /Anne Goulding (Victoria University of Wellington) “The paper analyses the impact of the Big Society on public libraries in England. It evaluates the conceptualisation of public libraries as agents in the Big Society agenda and explores the practical implications of this positioning.”

Findings – The paper advances the view that although public libraries encapsulate many Big Society values, including community empowerment and social action, many local councils are seizing on Big Society rhetoric as an expedient method for driving through cutbacks and closures, rather than as a way of making a true shift of power from governors to the governed.”

“Only three activities increased in percentage terms between 2012 and 2013: playing “game apps” (the term used by Nielsen Book), visiting YouTube and text messaging. Reading? That was down nearly eight percentage points”

  • Death of the library? Shock fall in users as government cuts bite – Express. “Figures from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport show only 36 per cent of Britons had visited a library in the 12 months leading to June this year, a decrease of 12 per cent on the number in 2005/6. The biggest drop has come in the 16 to 24-year-old age group, with only 31 per cent visiting a library – down 20 per cent on seven years earlier”

“When there are less libraries, less librarians and less money to spend on stock you can’t be surprised if usage drops” Annie Mauger, CILIP

  • Gadgets trump reading, Bookseller Conference hears – BookSeller. “Despite the rise in the numbers of children who do not read regularly, the proportion of children reading digitally has risen among some age groups. Between 25%–33% of children overall have read books digitally, while a significant proportion of 14 to 17-year-olds report that they only read books in digital form.”
  • “Half of Library’s Books Unused in Last Year” at San Diego Public Library – Library Journal (USA). “The entire library community needs to do a better job across the country and world for that matter in explaining and demonstrating the library and librarian’s role as a keeper of the written, recorded regardless of format. Lack of use doesn’t automatically mean it’s not worth keeping and a digital version doesn’t mean always getting rid of the print version.”
  • He needs a good CILIP round the ear: library body has no confidence in Ed Vaizey – Education umbrella. “Tom Roper, one of the CILIP members who proposed the vote, said of Vaizey, “There has never been a minister who has presided over so many closures yet done so little.” The motion was passed by 669 votes to 200, with 103 abstentions. At the time of writing there is no mention of the vote on Mr. Vaizey’s website and his office has not responded to our questions.” .
  • Taking Part 2013/14 quarter 1 statistical release – Gov.uk. “In the year ending June 2013, 36.2% of adults reported using a library service, a significant decrease from 48.2% in 2005/6 and 38.8% in 2011/12″.  See page 25 – usage has declined but at less steep a pace than 2005/8.
  • The next rural library – Pew Internet (USA). “Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, speaks about the Project’s latest research about the way people use libraries and the role they play in their communities. He describes some of the ways that rural libraries are unique and will also cover the most recent findings about how people use mobile connections and social media to get and share information.”

Local News

  • Brent – Library campaigners secure second bookshop space – Harrow Observer. “Friends of Barham Library received their keys to their new Volunteer Library premises at Sudbury Town Underground Station in Station Approach, Sudbury, from Transport for London’s Per Andersson.”
  • Brent – Library supporters demand answers to Barham Park buildings mystery – Brent Council Liberal Democrats. “Labour councillors sparked controversy in February 2013 when they blocked Friends of Barham Library’s bid for space in the library building. Instead they opted for a bid from ACAVA (Association for Cultural Advancement Through Visual Art) which offered a much smaller rent than council officers estimated was required and has no links to the local community. As part of the deal ACAVA was due to bear the costs of any planning application required. However the council has instead submitted a planning application to itself at a cost of to taxpayers of over £2,300, plus the officer time spent drawing up the application. Whereas the bid from Friends of Barham Library did not need any planning permission, ACAVA’s plan for artists’ studios involves a loss of community space and requires permission for a change to offices / light industrial use.”
  • Brent – North London Borough refuses redevelopment plans for ACV listed library – Out-Law. “The listing of Kensal Rise Library as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) was held to be a “material consideration” by Brent Council in its decision to refuse planning permission for redevelopment proposals for the building” … legal view on the decision. .

“Leaving key matters open to variable local interpretation, guidance merely states that an ACV listing ‘may’ be a material consideration in the determination of planning applications, without indicating how much weight should ordinarily be given to it.  Following this decision, many local authorities are likely to assume that an ACV listing ‘will’ always be a material consideration and may feel entitled to place significant weight on that listing when refusing otherwise acceptable planning applications,” Bate added.”

  • Hampshire – Civic chiefs to lease space in libraries – Hampshire Chronicle. “Plans include leasing rooms on a daily rate or longer-term commercial lease to businesses and individuals. Library chiefs argue many reference books can now be read on-line via subscription sites in libraries so less space is needed for books. In addition, the council is now offering free Wi-Fi for visitors with their own laptops. According to a report presented to a council report, £150,000 was generated from hiring out rooms to community groups in 2012-13. The plan is to increase this figure.”
  • Lincolnshire – Deadline nears on council library consultation – Bourne Local. “The council’s executive member for libraries Nick Worth (Con) said: “We’ve had some valuable feedback to date. Around 3,500 responses have been sent in, as well as a number of letters and e-mails. “So far around 30 communities have been in touch about taking on their local library, which suggests there is an appetite for getting more involved in running the service.”” [One may be forgiven for perceiving that the only “valuable feedback” the council sees is that which includes people volunteering.  This may become a problem if a legal challenge is made. – Ed.]
  • Lincolnshire – How big is the iceberg, if the “tip” is 100 pages of A4? – Save Lincolnshire Libraries. “Campaigners behind the Save Lincolnshire Libraries march this Saturday were amazed to hear County Councillor Nick Worth on BBC Radio Lincolnshire (Monday September 23) describe the turnout – some 400 people – as “disappointing” … “In what is now the final days of the consultation on the future of Lincolnshire Libraries, campaigners say they wish to stay focused on the heart of the issue: the voices of the people of Lincolnshire. Fortunately, the campaign does have almost 900 of these voices on record, but up until now they have not been very easy to find. The group has now published these comments in full on their blog, in a document that (if printed) would cover 100 A4 pages. The web address for this is: http://savelincslibraries.org.uk/nine-hundred-comments/

“The council’s questionnaire does not ask if people want ‘no change’ to their library service. It does not ask for ‘blue sky thinking’ on libraries either, something Michael Morpurgo and Melvyn Bragg want to see in Lincolnshire. “

    • Lincolnshire – Voices unite to fight Lincolnshire’s library closures – Horncastle News.  “Jane Dale, a teacher from Horncastle, said: “There is so much in the press about poor literacy skills and Mr Gove blames teachers. “All the research suggests literacy skills are built through reading widely and without libraries people will be denied what many consider to be a basic human right, access to books and thereby an education.””

  • Moray – Library protestors begin legal challenge – Scotsman.  “the “Save our Libraries Moray”, formed last week to contest the closure decision, today announced that they have already taken legal advice about seeking a judicial review in the Court of Session to challenge Moray Council’s independent and Conservative administration’s decision to close all seven libraries at Rothes, Dufftown, Portknockie, Findochty, Cullen, Burghead, Hopeman plus one of the council’s two mobile units.”
  • Neath Port Talbot – Library service to change in Neath Port Talbot – This is South Wales. “nine libraries across the county are facing closure — Cwmllynfell, Gwaun-cae-Gurwen, Seven Sisters, Ystalyfera, Blaengwynfi, Briton Ferry, Taibach, Cymmer and Resolven Library … If closed, they will make a total saving of £238,143.”

“At a meeting held at the library, town council leader Barry Cosker, said: “The head of partnership and community development, Russell Ward, is the man who put the Cyberzone here. I think we should write to him for a meeting to discuss this with him. “In July they were singing our praises with the computer suite. “Now months later they are going to shut it down.”

  • Sheffield – Councillors failed to stand up for locals – Star. “Libraries are an invaluable part of our community and provide much more than just books. They provide games and jigsaws for pensioners and young families, computers and internet access for schoolchildren and for people looking for work and also meeting spaces for community groups. Councillors Roy Munn and Clive Skelton have clearly failed to stand up for local people against their Labour pals.”
  • Sunderland – ‘Hands Off Our Libraries': Sunderland Campaigners March To Prevent Closures – Sky.  “Angry campaigners have marched from The Murray Library in Sunderland to the Civic Centre to express their fury over library closures in the city. It is in response to Sunderland City Council plans to close nine of the libraries they say are frequented less often in a bid to save £850,000.”

  • Sunderland – Angry protest as Sunderland library cuts rammed through – Sunderland Echo. “campaign group Hands off Sunderland Libraries was angered by the fact the controversial decision did not go to a vote at last night’s full council meeting, which they had hoped to influence with a planned protest. About 30 campaigners still turned up last night to make their feelings known before the council meeting at the Civic Centre. Council leader Paul Watson spoke to the group to explain the council’s decision. But chairman Gary Duncan feels let down by the process. He said: “I don’t think a few people at the cabinet should be voting on the future of nine libraries, which are used by thousands of people.”.  Includes video.
  • Sunderland – Campaign against library closures in Sunderland – ITV / Tyne Tees. Several pictures.
  • Surrey – How much does Surrey County Council’s library policy cost? – Youtube.  Strategy of setting up volunteer-run libraries is costing as much or more in the first three years as fully staffing libraries in the first place.  Volunteers running six libraries.