A checklist for councils on digital inclusion has been launched by the Government. It’s up for consultation until the end of the month so consider commenting on it, not least because it does not mention public libraries.

In other news, I was saddened to see that the newly refurbished, no doubt wondrous and full of panache, Manchester Central Library will not be open on Sundays.  This is unlike its spiritual brothers, the new Liverpool and Birmingham central libraries, and seems such a waste being the refurbishment alone cost £48 million.  Cuts sometimes rarely make best use of resources I guess.

Sue Charteris, elsewhere on Public Libraries News, gives us her observations on Japanese public libraries.  Did you know 10% of them are run by private companies?  I didn’t.  Also, in “they do things differently abroad” category, there is news of 135,000 free e-books for lending in Norway and 5,000 in the Netherlands.  These are both central projects and show how far behind the UK is falling in this field: I hope the current e-lending studies in this country report back soon (and to be fair I have been assured that they will) and then something may actually, at long last, get done.

Finally, great news from Westminster that they have the go ahead for a £12 million new library in Marylebone with nearly twice as much space as the original library plus with all the mod cons. The reason they can afford it, of course, is that they’re selling some of the space for accommodation, which I understand can be slightly expensive in Central London. No-one said postcode lotteries were fair.



  • Checklist for digital inclusion: if we do these things, we’re doing digital inclusion – Gov.uk. “As with most of our work at the Government Digital Service, we release things early for review and comment. The digital inclusion team, set up last year, would like to share and get your feedback on an alpha version of a checklist for digital inclusion. We first mentioned a set of principles (we’re now calling it a checklist) when we published action 15 of the Government Digital Strategy. Over the last three months, this checklist has been developed in collaboration with partners from across government, private, voluntary and public sectors. The intention is for the checklist to act as a guide for any organisation involved in helping people go online. In other words, if you do these things, you’re doing digital inclusion. Alongside each of the six checklist items, we have included an illustrative example of what works and a potential action that could be included in the upcoming digital inclusion strategy.” [There’s no mention of libraries: make sure you include it in your submission? – Ed.]
  • Poem: Anticut, or, the Disunion of Leadership – Blue Glass Boy. “Following last year’s vote of no confidence in the Hon. Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries – which puts him directly in charge of the fate of UK’s library sector – by CILIP, the librarians’ professional body there has been a (shall we say) breakdown in communications between the Minister and CILIP. More on this here (courtesy of Phil Bradley) and here (courtesy of Leon Bolton). Rather than attempting to build bridges, open lines of communication and restore a working relationship with a professional body that has been cruelly bruised and battered by the continuing cuts, and cuts, and cuts of recent years, Vaizey has simply decided to raise the drawbridge and not share his toys any more (courtesy of Tom Roper)O tempora, o mores. In what is developing into something of theme, an old poem of G.K.C.’s that gently chided a rather grandiose Tory from a former era (1913, to be precise) floated into my mind, and suggested itself as pertinent, with a little updating…”

“Are they clinging to their books, Ed Vaizey?
Are they shooting you dark looks, Mr Vaizey?
Does their reading reading reading
Really threaten your great cause?
Are the budgets you are bleeding
Really worth the awful loss?
If the children yet unborn
Develop reading skills so lazy,
Will you bother then to mourn?
Will you, Vaizey? …”

  • ‘Prime services of civilisation in an increasingly barbaric age’: Richard’s story – Voices for the Library. “Much of the research for Dead Men, my debut novel to be published in 2012, would have been impossible without the support of the professionals running Stradbroke Library, We all have the right to educate ourselves. The government has a statutory obligation to allow us to educate ourselves through the provision of a public libraries service. To devise a strategy which forces local councils to close library services is an abdication of responsibility and common sense, and a malicious attack on our rights as individuals, fuelled, to no small extent I surmise, by high-Tory squirism and the desire to suppress the development and free speech of individuals critical of the status quo.”
  • Save the Children takes literacy campaign to House of Lords – BookSeller. “Gove said: “Nothing is more important than ensuring every child can read. Reading gives every child the opportunity to become the author of their own life story, the shaper of their own future. We must all work together to support Save the Children’s mission.”


  • A glimpse of Tokyo library life, by Sue Charteris – Public Libraries News (Japan).  “So much of my time in Japan was spent glimpsing the unfamiliar and the day was no exception, but what a delight. We started by visiting the Urayasu Central Library in Chiba Prefecture, a commuter suburb that South Londoners would recognize as familiar. What was less familiar was the scene that greeted us when we arrived at the library shortly before opening time. On one side of the glass doors was a queue of local residents, on the other a row of staff in long white aprons ready to meet and greet their customers.”
  • Books go online for free in Norway – Telegraph. “More than 135,000 books still in copyright are going online for free in Norway after an innovative scheme by the National Library ensured that publishers and authors are paid for the project. The copyright-protected books (including translations of foreign books) have to be published before 2000 and the digitising has to be done with the consent of the copyright holders.”

“The good news is that so far sales in bookshops do not appear to have been affected by the project. Instead, Bokhylla often gives a second life to works that are still under copyright but sold out at bookshops”

  • Chicago Public Library Named Nation’s Best Urban Public Library System In New Study – Huffington Post (USA).  “A new study from a German university has ranked the world’s top urban public library systems, rendering some surprising results.” … “The library systems in the 31 cities the study qualified as “informational world cities” were ranked based on a range of factors including their digital resources, their kid-friendliness and physical factors including the attractiveness and architectural significance of their spaces.” [The study was not really meant to be used this way but it shows how keen the media are for this sort of story. Publicisers of public libraries please take note – Ed.]
  • More libraries switch to KOHA catalogue system – Joinup (Norway, Italy).  “By choosing KOHA, we will have an integrated library system that can be tailored to our needs, without limitations on the number of concurrent users/licenses, as well as a system where we truly own all the data ourselves. A system which can quickly be adapted, based on end-user needs or the work practices of employees, as well as a system we can use for developing new services.””
  • National Ebook Library Lending Program Goes Live at Public Libraries in the Netherlands – Infodocket (Netherlands). “As you’ll soon read what makes this service really different is that it has no restrictions on the number of people who can borrow a book simultaneously. In other words, one copy-one use has been tossed out the window. You’ll also read that beginning in the Spring newer titles will be available (opt-in) for library users to borrow for a fee (in addition to their library subscription).”
  • Yowls and howls all part of modern library – New Zealand Herald. “But then I stop and have a think. People are at the library. Young people are at the library. With all of life’s other distractions, they are here. In a place of learning. Feeling welcome. And comfortable. It may be a bit loud but it’s busy and isn’t that a good thing? Maybe I’m the one who needs to change and adapt. Maybe I need to lighten up.”

Local UK news by authority

  • Birmingham – Warning list – Library services at risk in Birmingham – Birmingham Libraries Campaigns. “We are keeping a record of the proposed cuts to Library services in Birmingham as the budget cuts for 2014-15 are considered and agreed. The District Committee’s are responsible for community library services in their area and are currently meeting to set their District budgets.”
  • Ceredigion – Closure-threatened libraries could be run by volunteers – Cambrian news. ““The meeting decided to ask council officers to consider the option of the librarian travelling to Tregaron three times a week instead of using a large mobile van. “We believe this would not only keep the library open but be cheaper than using a large mobile library travelling to and from Tregaron three times a week. “We also suggested that volunteers could man the library for the rest of the week.””
  • Denbighshire – New £1m library opens in Prestatyn after redevelopment – BBC. “A new library is opening in Prestatyn following a £1m redevelopment of a council building. The library will also function as a community centre for health and social care bodies, with counselling rooms, computers and help desks available. The building was previously offices, and the council said converting it was half the cost of a new build.”

“Having lost the fight to save 14 public libraries from the axe last year, campaigners in Doncaster may have to start battling all over again. Twelve libraries were handed to volunteers and two closed for good, despite a court challenge (Eye 1334).  The council’s new medium-term financial strategy plans to shave £3m off the culture, sport and leisure budget.  “We may have to consider closure of some facilities.  The council could encourage community management of libraries in more areas,” it says. Former elected mayor (and Rotten Boroughs regular) Peter Davies insisted on having no council staff to support volunteers in the community-managed libraries, noting:  “If you put some paid people into libraries run by volunteers the likely scenario is the volunteers will say, ‘To hell with this, they are getting paid and I am not doing it for nothing, I am not sticking around.’.

Local paper Doncaster Today reports that Conisbrough Library, which has three paid staff, is rumoured to be most likely next for the chop.  The council said no specific decision had been made, but insisted that volunteers “in Warmsworth for instance are doing a wonderful job”.   Other branches, such as Scawthorpe, are pleading for fresh volunteers to work the counter and use the computer.”  Doncaster – Library News – Private Eye, 22nd January (p.28) Issue No 1358

  • Herefordshire – Celebrate national libraries day in Herefordshire next month – Hereford Times. “A number of events will be taking place in the county to mark National Libraries Day on February 8. At Hereford Library there will be a chance to meet best-selling writer Phil Rickman who will be signing and selling copies of his latest Merrily Watkins book – The Magus of Hay – in the Woolhope Room from 11am to 1pm.”
  • Manchester – Central Library to reopen on March 22 after £48m restoration – Manchester Evening News. “The Grade II-listed building has undergone a £48m renovation – restoring original features and installing 21st Century technology. It has been closed since 2010 while the works takes place. Manchester Council revealed the opening date on its official Twitter feed this morning, saying: “The transformed Manchester Central Library re-opens two months today, on Saturday 22 March. Spread the word #McrCentralLibrary #reborn”.”
  • Manchester – 22 March 2014: Central Library Re-opens – Manchester Confidential. “The only question is why is the Library not open like Manchester Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry and the National Football Museum, seven days. Sunday would be a biggy. Both the refurbished libraries of Liverpool and Birmingham are open seven days. We’ve asked the question and we’re waiting for the answer. And here’s the cute bit. To celebrate Manchester Libraries are calling on children and young people from 4–18 to get creative for a commemorative postcard competition with the theme ‘Central Library, past, present and future’.”
  • Middlesbrough – Budget proposals and recommendations 2014/15 – Council. “Merge the operation and management of the 5 community hubs, libraries as well as other community facilities, with a new model of promoting self-service  technology, which will save £474,000.”
  • Redbridge – Council planners told to “do better” over plans for library and gym complex – Guardian series. “Woodford Green Library is not in a good state and we are not generating as much income from Sir James Hawkey Hall as we should be,” he said. But the plans were heavily criticised by councillors and residents, who pointed out the cost of hiring the hall was higher than charges for similar facilities in neighbouring boroughs.” … “Plans and drawings of the proposal are available this week to view at South Woodford Library and Woodford Green Library and a comments box will be available on both sites until January 31.”
  • Swindon – Library views call – Swindon Advertiser. “This revised strategy will build on the current strategy, which has seen about 200 volunteers and six friends’ groups working with libraries across the borough – looking at financial challenges and the role libraries play in local communities. Members of the public are asked to tell the council what libraries mean to them and how the library service should be delivered in future.”
  • Swindon – Letters to the editor – Swindon Advertiser / Letters. “In regard to libraries, the council has launched a separate consultation which includes proposals to reduce paid staff and convert all the smaller libraries to a “community model”. This consultation is open until April 5, but the decision on how much money to remove from the libraries budget will actually be made early in February. Strange timing. Why is the public not being allowed to comment on all the rest of the council’s spending? Every time they decide to transfer council-run buildings or services to the private sector they commission a firm of consultants to tell them how best to do it. Why is spending less on consultancy never considered?”
New Marylebone Library confirmed

New Marylebone Library confirmed

  • Westminster – New £12m library given green light – Council (press release). ” brand new £12m library is set to be built in central London after council bosses gave the scheme the green light at a planning committee last night (Tues, 21). Westminster City Council’s Marylebone library will move from its temporary home on Beaumont Street into the brand new purpose built library building on Luxborough Street, when the scheme is completed next year. The new £12m library, which comes at a time when many councils across London are slashing their library services, will be significantly bigger than the previous library – an increase in useable area of up to 75 per cent – and will have a community café overlooking the park, an exhibition area, meeting rooms for hire and a state-of-the-art computer study area. It will also have a large feature-staircase that will connect the ground and lower floor levels, drawing natural light downwards, and will provide residents with more books and more space for studying, events and activities.” … “The Luxborough Street plans approved last night also include plans for nine flats, to be built on the three floors above the library. This residential element will help to offset the cost of building the library, providing value for money for Westminster’s taxpayers. Westminster expects that the new library will accept in the region of 500,000 visitors every year, making it one of the best-used local authority libraries in London.”

“This is excellent news for Marylebone residents who in just over one year’s time will benefit from a brand new, top of the range library offering state of the art facilities, the like of which aren’t available in the rest of central London. “Coming at a time when many councils across the capital have been closing their libraries, this £12m investment is particularly significant, and underlines Westminster’s commitment to its library service for its residents. “The new Marylebone library will be a fantastic new facility and will offer the local community more books, more computers and up to 75 per cent more usable library space. I’m delighted the plans have been approved.” Cllr Steve Summers, Westminster Council’s Cabinet Member for the Community