The opening of Manchester Central on Saturday marks the last of the three Big Shiny New Libraries (the others being Birmingham and Liverpool) started in the dog days of the old government.  The reviews of the new Manchester library (and of the other two) have all been, as far as I can see, positive, with special mention going to the mixture of the very new and the old.  This is a combination that also worked very successfully in Liverpool but, in my opinion anyway, a lot less so in Birmingham where the Shakespeare room for some reason was shoehorned on to the roof. The big points emerging from Manchester are the increase in the stock on public view, the large number of computers, the archives on display and the beautiful refurbishment of the old sections, notably the central dome.  Although it cost £50 million, people seem to think it’s worth the money. I can’t wait to go.


Manchester Central Library

  • ‘Fantastic’ Central Library re-opens following four-year revamp – Manchester Evening News. Every schoolchild will be given a commemorative library card.  “The city’s study and living room”. Ready “for the next eighty years”.  20 Apple Macs. “New features include a media lounge stocked with computers and gaming consoles, a business library and the interactive Archives+ family and local history centre.”
  • Manchester Central Library reopens after £50m revamp – Guardian. “The biggest public lending library in Britain after Birmingham’s, it was opened in 1934 by King George V, who described it as a “splendid building” which offered “magnificent” opportunities for the city. But by the time the library closed in the summer of 2010, the domed roof of its once glorious reading room was riddled with asbestos and the warren-like layout of gloomy corridors and forbidding stairwells had become a no-go area for the younger generation of readers.” … “Targeting young readers is key: there’s even a “gaming area” with Xboxes and Playstations, as well as a children’s library modelled on The Secret Garden (written by local lass Frances Hodgson Burnett) in the 20,000 sq ft of new space carved out underneath the town hall extension.” … “The restored reading room is undoubtedly the jewel in the crown. Acoustic engineers have worked hard to reduce the echo that used to amplify sounds so much so that “if you shut a metal door nearby it sounded like a car bomb going off in here”

“In the old library, 70% of the building was not accessible to the public. We’ve reversed that so now 70% is open,” Neil MacInnes, head of libraries at Manchester city council.”

  • School Reporters preview Manchester’s £48m library – BBC. Two minute video including a lot of interior shots and an interview with Neil MacInnes and the council financial chief who says the “vast majority of the money” came from the council.
  • The verdict: What visitors think of Manchester Central Library’s £48m revamp as it reopens after four years – Manchester Evening News. 2000 came in within first three hours of opening. Universally popular.
  • What a transformation: Emily Heward on the new-look Manchester Central Library – Manchester Evening News. “I defy anyone to stand in the atrium of the newly-reopened Central Library and not be as awestruck as I was at the astonishing difference.” … “The first thing that strikes you when you walk in to the open-plan ground floor space of the reborn Central Library is how bright, airy and modern – even futuristic – it now feels.” … café … “Once crammed with book stacks, it’s now home to the new Archives+ section, a treasure trove of local and family history resources made more accessible than ever by the interactive displays and snug little film pods dotted around everywhere.” … “Libraries aren’t a frivolity – they’re an important community resource and I’m certain the thousands of people who visited yesterday would agree.”

National news

    • Carol: a day in the life of a branch library – 23 Librarians. A day in the life of a branch manager in Midlothian librarians. Includes rhymetime, computer users, fax and photocopier … and a workman through the ceiling.
    • Comment: Why has Grayling banned prisoners being sent books?Politics. “New rules introduced by the justice secretary ban anyone sending in books to prisoners. From now on, any man, woman or child in prison will not be able to receive a book from outside. This is part of an increasingly irrational punishment regime orchestrated by Chris Grayling that grabs headlines but restricts education or rehabilitation … the ban on receiving books is a blanket decision, so no matter how compliant and well behaved you are … Prison libraries are supplied and funded by local authorities and have often been surprisingly good, but so many libraries are now closing and cutting costs that inevitably the first service to feel the pinch is in prison.”


  • Free library card for primary school children across Wales – Welsh Government / Youtube.
  • Death of Multiculturalism? – Huffington Post. “The Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, followed suit towards the end of last year and ‘declared war’ on multicultralism in one of the most multicultural and diverse areas of Britain, in a bid to increase integration. The Mayor cut translation services by 72%, removed all foreign language newspapers from libraries and refused to fund single community events. All in a borough with a white population of only 17% and where almost 150 different languages are spoken. The effects of the policy are now hitting the community.”
  • Librarians tell Sieghart Panel:  it’s time for a new road map for libraries – CILIP. “CILIP’s view is that the lack of a clear definition of what is a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ service has led to local interpretation of what can be delivered. Agencies should work together to define some core entitlements that everyone should be able to access from their library service, both physically and virtually. Condemning the substitution of paid jobs with volunteers, CILIP also made clear its view about community libraries that are separated from local authority support have problems with ‘a lack of connectivity in terms of legal duties, breadth of services, professional expertise and quality that risks impacting on the public.’
  • Newsletter – Public and Mobile Libraries Group. Topics include “New eBook Titles Loaned in Libraries as a Result of Sieghart e-Lending Review”, bursaries to attend events, Directory of Rare Books and Special Collections, Public Libraries to Commemorate First World War with Digital War Memorial, Libraries Change Lives Awards.
  • Percentage who used library in last year, by Index of Multiple Deprivation – Shared Intelligence.  Taking Part survey results show that the poorest used libraries more but every other group used them less.
  • Public Libraries in UK “Lend Themselves to New Business Creation” – Financial Times / Library Journal. “The £50m refurbishment of the listed building includes a business centre offering free offices and advice to start-ups as well as the traditional children’s section, archive and lending library … Manchester is among six English cities to set up business and intellectual property centres helped by the British Library in London, which established one at its St Pancras base in 2006 … The British Library has helped more than 350,000 entrepreneurs with £5m worth of support. It has helped create 2,775 business and 3,345 jobs.”
  • Sieghart…or jumping through hoops – Leon’s Library Blog. “The fact that the review blithely refers to such [volunteer] libraries indicates that the panel implicitly accept them as a viable model of service provision. Again, this is a reflection of current government philosophy rather than a genuine invitation to discuss the principle of so called community libraries. Now, the report should be seen in a wider context including the fact that ACE has recently commissioned Locality to ‘…explore existing good practice and assess the further potential to enable enterprise amongst library service providers’ – for ‘library service providers’ read ‘community libraries”.
  • Sieghart submissions highlight library ‘lottery’ – BookSeller. “Campaigners and librarians’ representatives have told an independent review of the state of the public library service in England that the service is becoming a “postcode lottery”, and have condemned the substitution of paid librarians with volunteers.” … “Graham Lee, chairman of Ad Lib, an organisation which represents friends of libraries groups throughout Dorset, also submitted evidence to the panel. In a letter he wrote about Ad Lib’s experiences of the county’s eight volunteer-run libraries. Lee said that while the eight community-run libraries had done well, “enthusiastic amateurs are never an adequate replacement for professional library staff who have dedicated their lives to their craft”.

“The growth of community managed libraries risks a two tier service being developed. We believe there should be an honest discussion about what is happening with the use of volunteers in the delivery of library services and research into the impact on communities.”” Martyn Wade, Chair of CILIP Council.

Supporter message

  • New Editor for the Oxford DNB –Sir David Cannadine FBA has been appointed as the new Editor of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography! Sir David is Dodge Professor of History at Princeton University and a specialist in the political, social, and cultural history of modern Britain. He will combine the Editorship of the Oxford DNB with teaching at Princeton, and will also become a Visiting Professor in the Faculty of History at the University of Oxford. You can find out more here.


  • Inspiring libraries in the most unexpected places – Atlas Obscura. Includes a Jewish “Cemetery Library” in Austria. “biblioburro” library on a donkey, “Weapons of Mass Instruction” library in Argentina.
  • Lebanese ‘Libraries of Hope’ bring laughter to Syrian refugee children – Al-Shorfa (Lebanon / Syria). “Every week, we visit several shelters and camps scattered across different parts of Lebanon. We organise recreational activities for children from 3 to 10 years old such as plays, storytelling time and visits to amusement parks, and at the end of our visit, we give each child a package of four to five new books, which they can take back to their camp as their cultural consolation. “Libraries of Hope” are not libraries in the traditional sense, meaning shelves of books, but they offer the equivalent to a library. We called them “Libraries of Hope” because these children are living through very difficult conditions and have lost three years of their school life. Due to the negative outlook that surrounds them, they are looking for moments during which they can be children, and we provide them with a space for hope.”
  • Why empowering public libraries with technology is so important – EIFL / Youtube.  In Uganda and other African countries, libraries are making direct improvements to people’s livelihoods. Over 87% of Uganda’s 36 million people live in rural areas and are involved in farming, according to the World Bank. Without access to information about modern farming methods and equipment, many struggle to make a living. Public libraries in developing countries serve as critical – and often the only – information and ICT access points for people in their communities. There are over 100 public and community libraries spread across Uganda. However many of these known and trusted information service providers do not have electricity, computers or internet connections
  • Why There Should Be A Starbucks In Every Local Library – Forbes. “Lately, however, I use my Starbucks SBUX -0.36% card more than my library card. And I spend more time in the local Starbucks reading than in the local library. The reason? Starbucks offers a more pleasant and less restrictive environment than my library. At Starbucks I can use my laptop to browse over newspapers and journals, enjoy a cup of coffee under the sounds of new age music and use my mobile phone. I can chat with other patrons. I can download my favorite e-books. And judging from the popularity of Starbucks, I’ll probably have plenty of company.” … “Simply put, Starbucks and local libraries supplement each other nicely—they are both “third places” with different rules of conduct, catering to different community segments”

Quiz answer

The quiz question posed, just for fun, by Sue Charteris was “xx library finally closed when a ten- day occupation by local residents, library workers and councillors was broken up by xxx Council’s sheriff. The decision to keep it open had been lost by just two votes on the council. An attempt by the council to get the sit-in declared illegal failed when the High Court judge said the occupiers would obviously not damage the library as they were trying to defend it. As soon as the council evicted the protesters it crated up all the books and took them away, and suspended two of the library staff who had supported the occupation in their own time “ When, which council and which library?

The answer is … Westminster councll, 1984, Little Portland Street Library.  Well done to those who got this right [I had no idea – Ed.]


Bradford – E8558 Casual Customer Support Assistants – £6.90 per hour. “you will be working directly with library customers, registering new borrowers, assisting with the use of the computers, finding books and information in response to enquiries, dealing with cash, shelving and processing materials etc. Assisting and participating in storytime, rhymetime and activity sessions. Some previous experience of working with the public in a customer-orientated environment is essential as is experience of using a library and an enthusiasm for delivering an excellent service to customers of all ages.”

UK local news by authority

  • Bath and Northeast Somerset – Could Radstock library be the first in Britain to move into a supermarket? – Somerset Guardian. “Bath and North East Somerset Council is considering moving it from The Street to Radstock Co-operative Society’s town-centre superstore. Better public access, longer opening hours and the chance to reuse or sell the existing library building are some of the potential bonuses” … “Mr Dixon said the extra security of being within a supermarket might mean that staff could work alone, allowing longer opening hours than the current 20 a week.” [It’s not the first: Speke Library is in the same building as a supermarket and I am sure there will be others I don’t know about- Ed.]
  • Bath and Northeast Somerset – Somerset Guardian comment: Libraries in supermarkets… you couldn’t make it up – Somerset Guardian. “On the face of it, some readers may think relocating a library to a supermarket is  a mad idea. However, dig a little deeper and things such as better public access, longer opening hours and the chance to reuse or sell the existing library building are some of the potential bonuses.” … “What we are all coming to realise is that the days of a ‘stuffy’ silent library are as much a thing of the past as the public telephone.”
  • Birmingham – Spring Hill Library Victory – Birmingham Against the Cuts. “Councillors at the Ladywood District Committee announced they had dropped plans to close Spring Hill Library due to the strength of opposition shown by the local community.
    This is a stunning victory for campaigners who have been collecting names for their petition, organising public meetings, and lobbying councillors over the last two months. The petition against closure of Spring Hill obtained 2500 signatories, most collected next to the checkouts in Tesco.”
  • Hertfordshire – County Hall thumbs its way through libraries feedback after thousands have their say – Hemel Today. “More than 13,000 people completed questionnaires in the county-wide consultation, which ran for ten weeks to the end of 2013.” … “The results will be used as part of a process by Herts County Council to develop a new ten year strategy for the service and will help ensure libraries remain relevant and sustainable, responding to changes in technology, customer expectations and community needs – all in the face of a reducing budget.”.

“The key themes to emerge from the consultation included that libraries are seen as hubs of the community, borrowing books and talking books is the most used and valued service that is offered and libraries have a vital role to play in education, literacy and lifelong learning. There is broad support for libraries embracing new technologies, expanding e-books, developing online services and mobile access. Almost 60 per cent of respondents were in favour of sharing existing library buildings with other services, such as police or youth schemes. There is also support for increasing the use of volunteers to run libraries and extend open hours.”

  • Carillion / Hounslow – Library users in Hounslow owe £450,000 in unpaid fines – Get West London. “Across the borough, borrowers coughed up £55,414 in overdue charges last year, well down from the £87,209 they spent in 2010/11. Carillion, which runs library services on behalf of the council, was unable to say which books had been overdue for longest, saying titles were deleted from the system if they were not returned within two years. Just over a million books were borrowed from the borough’s libraries last year, 48,000 down from 2010/11. The stock of books and other items rose from 309,000 in 2012 to 316,000 last year.”
  • Lincolnshire – Full judicial review into Lincolnshire’s libraries’ plan – BBC. “A decision to change Lincolnshire’s library service is to be challenged at the High Court in a full judicial review. Lincolnshire County Council is planning to cut some library staff, hours and mobile library stops. It also wants volunteers to run up to 40 libraries. In its grounds for review, campaign group Save Lincolnshire Libraries claimed the decision was unlawful.”
  • Newcastle – Libraries open again with help of partners – Journal. “Fenham Library is one of 10 centres that were put at risk by budget cuts at Newcastle City Council, but it will re-open today thanks to a partnership scheme with Your Homes Newcastle” … “Plans have been drawn up to accommodate the needs of both organisations and while some of libraries’ floor space will reduce, it will leave sufficient space for libraries that will be staffed and remain connected to the Newcastle-wide service.”. see also Libraries are saved from the axe – Chronicle.

“We’re starting to get requests from other parts of the country to look at what we are doing in partnership libraries. Library closures are happening in almost every area in the country but we’re determined to find alternative arrangement so that as many of the libraries earmarked for closure remain open for the benefit of the community.” Nick Forbes, Newcastle Council leader.

  • Northern Ireland – Alliance man joins Board of Libraries NI – Newtown Abbey Today. “Welcoming the appointments, the Minister said: “Libraries play an extremely important and valuable role within society, and the skills and experience which the Board members bring will help ensure that libraries continue to enrich the lives of our communities and help tackle disadvantage.”
  • Sefton – Anger over plans to demolish former library – Champion. “Council have given notice of their intentions to demolish the former Churchtown Library. The former library on Mill Lane was closed by the council last year as part of borough cuts which also saw nearby Birkdale and Ainsdale Libraries closed down.” … ” “Sefton are spending £70,000 to demolish the library – ironically more than the
    cost it would take to keep it open on a community run basis”
  • Suffolk – Book borrowing declines but county’s libraries start a new chapter – EADT. ” new findings showed the number of books borrowed from libraries in the county has fallen by around 350,000 in each of the last two years. It dropped from 3,925,216 in 2010/11 to 3,236,652 in 2012/13. It means that around 10,800 books were loaned out every day in Suffolk three years ago, compared to 8,900 last year – some 1,900 fewer. Average daily visits also fell, from around 9,870 three years ago to 9,250 last year.” … “the number of people borrowing books slumped by 22% in the same two-year period, from 127,409 to 99,188.” … but … “while traditional library use is changing, the focus must be placed on the opportunities rather than “doom and gloom”. She said: “The modern library service is much more than the borrowing of physical books; it’s about older people meeting up together, families learning together, social networking, people using facilities to find employment and study.”
  • West Sussex – Letters – Mid Sussex Times. “a big Thank You to Haywards Heath Library.  You have made a difference to my life.”