Editorial

Derbyshire have announced major cuts, with up to 20 out of 45 libraries, plus two mobiles passed to community groups. The councillor announcing the news managed to keep a straight face on video as he described this as “good news” for Derbyshire, which is impressive. He’ll doubtless go far. There’s also a smattering of other news in the UK, including co-locations and refurbishments. Notably, Cornwall continues its quest to pass a major part of its library service down a tier to town/pass councils. This is apparently working out fairly well, with no apparent problems with worries over double taxation.

There is a also a strike going on in Bromley where library workers are striking for more than the 2% pay increase (really just another in a line of pay cuts to local government stretching back to 2010 as inflation is estimated at around 2.5 to 3%) that is being accepted nationally. The strike is being described by Unite as being against the greed of GLL, which runs Bromley Libraries, although 2% is the standard national rise for councils, and GLL according to its press release agreeing to raise everyone to the London Living Wage level in the library service for the first time.

In other news, we have several interesting articles springing from the NUT conference about the importance of libraries, including the lovely description of them as “a pair of armbands” for many in the UK, helping keep them afloat. Finally, we have more information on what is happening with the Taskforce, with a lot of their staff being transferred to ACE and the DCMS this year. Although there is funding two more years for the Taskforce to go, it looks like it is already winding down, with other bodies taking over staff and workload, with the final details being hammered out over the next year.

Changes by authority

National news

“Ms Bhambri-Lyte called libraries “a pair of armbands” for many people in the UK “who are quite literally drowning”.

  • Reflections on 3 years leading the Libraries Taskforce – Libraries Taskforce. Kathy Settle blogs after her leaving the Taskforce. “My first reflection would be that public libraries are needed as much now as when they were first established over 150 years ago. Whilst the fundamental purpose of libraries may not have changed – being places of learning, leisure, enlightenment and betterment, open to all – the activities that they provide, and the individual and community outcomes that they support, have certainly evolved over time, reflecting the changing needs of their users.” … “Ensuring libraries have a sustainable future at a time of austerity has been a key focus of the Taskforce, and has probably been one of its most controversial areas of work. “
  • UK bookstores form Independent Bookshops Alliance – Books and Publishing. “Bird also linked the alliance with a larger campaign to promote libraries and literacy. ‘We must protect and proactively help these centres of social good. We must try and get communities to adopt them, for local authorities to see them as a plus in their boroughs and cities, for publishers to see them as equals. And we must link this fight to the battles to save our libraries and also to enhance schools’ campaigns to make more of our children literate,’ said Bird”

An online bookclub from Axiell
International news

  • Canada – Library cuts will happen ‘in a heartbeat,’ Doug Ford says – Globe and Mail. “Mr. Ford figures there are five or six library branches within a two-mile area near his ward, which includes what he described as a little-used location in an industrial area.”
  • Canada – They pushed, they protested, they won: NL public libraries saved – CUPE. “Minister Kirby announce that all the province’s libraries will remain open, and suggest that new libraries may be coming. Since government’s announcement in 2016, CUPE has been fighting to ensure that the libraries remain open, providing necessary library services to the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador.”
  • Global – 1 year of writing about libraries (and 10 things we learned about librarians) – Princh. Princh have consistently (well, apart from when they asked me) published interesting posts from library experts around the world. Worth a read, and a subscribe.
  • USA – Public Libraries: The Great Tech Equalizer – Princh. Ida A Joiner. “The role of public libraries is to give our patrons the tools and resources in order to enable them to live their best lives whether it’s through providing resources on gardening, social services, drones 101 workshops, or even food when they are hungry.” … “The Mandel Public Library offers several classes and seminars on drones. They partnered with Palm Beach Drones in West Palm Beach Florida to promote robotic education and the safe use of UAS (unmanned aircraft systems). “

Local news by authority

“GLL, the charitable social enterprise operator of Bromley Council’s Libraries has moved to reassure striking library workers in Bromley that their pay offer is not only very fair but matches the 2% increase agreed by Bromley Council and guarantees to pay the London Living Wage in Bromley for all library staff for the first time. All Bromley libraries all fully operational until the strike ends. Unlike a private company, GLL’s not-for-profit staff-owned mutual has no shareholders to pay and can prioritise customers through providing accessible library services and affordable leisure centres throughout the UK. Staff also benefit from a range of benefits such as discounted leisure membership, excellent training and development and opportunities to work across GLL’s library and leisure sectors which employ over 15,000 people.

Since taking on the operation of Bromley Council’s Libraries in November 2017, the number of items issued and library visitors have grown – the figures rising in line with the library service’s profile following investments in library events, promotions and marketing … “Ultimately the success of the service relies on engaged staff welcoming more people through the library doors and currently, levels of staff satisfaction and engagement across GLL’s library staff are at a record high. I am delighted that all GLL Library staff have now been offered a guaranteed 2% headline pay rise and that the lowest paid staff will all move onto the London Living Wage for the first time.” GLL moves to reassure library workers on pay – GLL (press release)

  • Bromley – Choc’-A-Block! Hundreds take part in local library’s Easter Egg Hunt – GLL (press release). “Chislehurst Library recently welcomed 500 Bromley residents to take part in its Easter Egg Hunt. Visitors braved the adverse weather conditions to take their maps and follow the clues to find Easter treats hidden around the local area. With prizes including stickers and sweets also up for grabs, children and parents enjoyed an afternoon of fun, challenges and treasure”
  • Bromley – West Wickham leisure centre and library up for redevelopment – News Shopper. “Plans have surfaced for a “major” £35M housing and leisure centre project in West Wickham. Bromley Council has earmarked West Wickham Leisure Centre and library for major redevelopment. The current facilities are “outdated” and would cost more than £1M to bring up to standard. Now the council is considering building a new gym, complete with a 25-metre pool, along with a new library. The current library would be turned into flats, and there also are plans for flats at the site of the modernised leisure centre.”
  • Cornwall – Feasibility study to look at the future of the library service in Launceston – Holsworthy Post. “Town Council has agreed to Cornwall Council funding and carrying out a feasibility study looking at the future of the library service in the town, and where it could be located. It could be the first step to the town council eventually taking on the running of the library service from the local authority.”
  • Cornwall – Libraries join forces with piskies – Cornish Times. New library card design drawn by Chris Riddell. “Cornwall Council joined forces with the piskies to launch a new library card and encourage more to join the 34,000 children who are already members of their local library. The new library card for children, featuring a design of a Cornish piskey,  replaces the existing frog card. It will be on show and available for new joiners at local libraries across Cornwall”
  • Derbyshire – Move to hand 20 Derbyshire libraries over to community ‘would be devastating’ – Derby Telegraph. £1.6m cut “plans to pass 20 libraries over to community groups have been slammed by Derbyshire County Council’s Labour leader as “devastating”. 45 branches in total. “Staff would still be paid by the council but management of the premises would be by the community. The council would still have a say on opening hours and staffing levels – but officials say these would have to be “reviewed” to save money” … “The county’s two remaining mobile library vans would also be passed over to community groups, saving £200,000.” see also Petition launched over plans to make cuts at 20 Derbyshire libraries – Derby Telegraph. “During the protests, a petition was launched, which has so far attracted more than 200 signatures. The petition is expected to be available online within the coming days.”
  • East Sussex – Library death of a thousand cuts – Eastbourne Herald / Letters. “HSBC left and now East Sussex County Council are walking away by closing the library. The library was left empty for more than a year following flooding, now shortly after expensive repairs it is being closed. Once somewhere has been flooded insurers will not cover it, so the council have an unsellable white elephant.” see also Residents urged to raise money for closing library – Eastbourne Herald.
  • Essex – A new space for children and families in Chelmsford Library – Libraries Taskforce. “We chose soft colours that are calming for children, wipe clean flooring, dimmable lighting and a number of autism-friendly features. There are cubby holes where children can curl up among the shelving, a performance area with staging, a wonderful sensory wall and a chill out corner. Light tubes throughout the library provide a sense of calm. It has a remodelled meeting room for 1-21- and small group meetings. It has a sink and an accessible toilet. It has a beautiful sensory wall and with cubby holes where children can curl up to enjoy the lights. Around the pillars are panels containing inspiring reading quotes designed by artist Jacqueline Seifert and inspired by workshop she held with children in the library before Christmas.”
  • Fife – Grant enables feasibility study of Jubilee Hall – Fife Today. “the possible renovation of a local hall. The Burnturk and Kettlehill Community Trust received the funding from the Big Lottery Fund. It will be using the funding to look into renovating Jubilee Hall – a community owned facility in need of renovations to the main stone building and wooden extension. Colinsburgh Galloway Library Trust also received £10,000 towards running the library.”
  • Lambeth – Lambeth Labour election manifesto pledges to complete the task of building 1,000 new council houses Brixton Buzz. Council claims all ten libraries kept open. “This is a contested point that comes down to what you define as a library. Under the management of the Labour group the Carnegie Library was closed for almost two years, re-opening ahead of the elections.”
  • Lambeth – Reinstate Our Library Service demo at Carnegie, Tues 3rd April – Brixton Buzz.The council spin continues as they congratulate themselves for re-opening the library and securing its future. Defend the 10, Lambeth Unison and the Friends of Carnegie Library have persevered in exposing the truth about the financial disaster of the gym deal and the giving away of a public library building to an unaccountable council-promoted Trust.”
  • Merton – Merton Arts Space > My Library Libraries Taskforce. “We were delighted to receive £143,000 from Arts Council England as part of the Taskforce’s Libraries Opportunities for Everyone (LOFE) fund. “1. Develop a new cultural offer for young people, in particular to focus on those living in the east of the borough, 2. Use the development of a new Arts Space at Mitcham Library as the catalyst for developing the new cultural offer, 3. Devise a program to work with our high schools to develop the library offer to young people and link them into the newly designed cultural offer” … “Most importantly the project has showcased how important libraries are to the development of young people and that they can be an important part of their daily lives.”
  • North East Lincolnshire – Redundancies made as library hours are slashed across North East LincolnshireGrimsby Telegraph. “Three people have lost their jobs as a result of changes to the library opening times across the borough. There will also be a reduction of a further 14 posts due to the changes, with some positions merging into one and plans to fill vacant ones being halted. As previously reported the operating hours of our local libraries have been reduced in an effort to make efficiency savings.”
  • North Yorkshire – ‘Disgusting': Thirsk poet’s shock at council snub for criticising policy Northern Echo. “Poet Kate Fox of Sowerby, near Thirsk, North Yorkshire, had been due to host Hambleton District Council’s Community Awards at The Forum in Northallerton last week but despite being booked since November, she was told her services were no longer required. She was told of the decision via email from the council’s chief executive Justin Ives that the reason behind pulling her from presenting the awards was due to her past criticism of the council’s policy on community libraries.”
  • Northern Ireland – Why did half the books in this library mysteriously have the page number 7 underlined – Belfast Telegraph. A new article about the age-old tradition of readers marking library books to show they’ve read them.
  • Powys – Town’s library will move to school next month – Ledbury Reporter. “Hay-on-Wye’s library will move into the town’s new primary school next month. At a well attended meeting, Hay-on-Wye Library supporters (HOWLS) once again expressed their sadness that the library would be moving from its current location. Powys County Council had also planned to cut the library opening hours by 50 percent – meaning the library would only be open for 12 hours per week.”
  • Richmond – Whitton library re-opens – Richmond and Twickenham Times. “The refurbishment included work on the roof, replacement of the ceiling, new lighting and a fully accessible entrance. New shelving was put in, as well as displays units, a study area, and an activities space. The children’s area has been given a makeover, including a new story wall with a woodland theme.”
  • Somerset – Dozens vow to fight for future of Ilminster LibraryChard and Ilminster News. “The town’s library is facing closure unless volunteers can be found to step in and help with the day-to-day running of the service.”
  • Somerset – Headteachers calls on people to complete library questionnaire – Mercury. “The library, along with another one in Highbridge, is at risk of closing after the Government announced it would be cutting budgets to local authorities, leading to Somerset County Council launching a consultation on the libraries’ futures.”

“As Somerset County Council continues its consultation on the future of the Library Service in Somerset, what was intended to be a short piece of work with a happy ending has turned into a much longer story. Balanced somewhere between fact and fiction, the consultation is becoming ever more complicated. The Cabinet at Somerset County Council has finally understood the reality and so the opportunity for residents to have their views heard has been extended to the middle of June. Where the intention was that the County Council could take away some Library buildings and instead offer the mobile Library as a regular visitor, it’s now realised that there is currently only the one mobile Library in Somerset and that is already well committed to smaller villages. With new specialist vehicles costing considerable amounts of money, the future doesn’t look too bright if the consultation ends with a significant number of towns and villages expecting mobile services.

The Parish and Town Councils are struggling with the timescale too. Their precepting is done for the financial year 2018/19 and the Council Tax bills, with the inevitable rises, are already in residents’ home. Many Councils will change their Chair in May too, so new leadership will be in place before any precepting can be done later this year to support local Libraries from April 2019 onwards. And then there are the communities where the Library is not threatened with change or closure. No impact study has been completed for these places and now residents are asking how their own Library space can be expected to cater for double the number of residents (minus those crowding around the one mobile library in a car park or place as yet unspecified). What impact would this overcrowding of limited resources have on people of all ages, on families with small children who have to pay bus fares. How might families and adults cycle safely to the remaining Libraries without taking undue risks on roads that are often overcrowded with increasing freight traffic, including the greater numbers of HGVs taking a large part of the Mendip Hills to West Somerset, in the shape of aggregates for building Hinkley C?

And then, if communities believe they can put a partnership approach together, how much time are Friends organisations and local Councillors being given to set up charities or community interest companies in order to channel donations and volunteer hours to their nearest Library, if it survives? They need time to look at the detail of community library approaches elsewhere in the country, to consider the business rates on Library buildings, to work on Service Level Agreements with the professionals of the Library Service, and to think about such things as VAT, not usually the territory of the Library volunteer. What was a gentle short story is now looking more like “War and Peace”. If the County Council don’t get this right, we’ll see more “War” than “Peace” in the Library consultation, and the words Judicial Review will be seen in the news again.” Somerset – A Much Longer Story – Somerset Liberal Democratic Group (press release)

  • Surrey – Bestselling author gives Q&A at Stoneleigh Library – Epsom Guardian. “Ben Aaronovitch, who wrote the highly-acclaimed ‘Rivers of London’ series, gave the inspiring talk on March 28. As a keen supporter of libraries, Ben delighted the audience at the library in The Broadway with energetic tales of what life is like as a successful author.”
  • Surrey – Future of performing arts library under threat – The Stage. “The future of Surrey Performing Arts Library is currently being considered by Surrey County Council, which needs to make savings of more than £100 million. The council said it wants to be able to continue offering a performing arts service to the community, but it needs to make the library “cost neutral”, saving it at least £180,000. A range of options is currently being considered by the local authority in relation to the library, including relocating its collections – split into music and drama – to other libraries in the county”
  • York – Grand plans for York’s libraries – The Press. “According to the results, people in the city think having well-trained staff running the libraries is by far the most important thing when it comes to planning the service’s future.” … “Council staff now have to draw up a draft “assessment of need” for libraries in York, and will report back to councillors in the next couple of months.”