Ian Anstice

Public librarian since 1994, user of public libraries since my first memories ... and a keen advocate of public libraries and chronicler of the UK public libraries scene. Library manager since 1998, winner of Information Professional of the Year 2011 and Winsford Customer Service "Oscar" 2012 and 2014.

Homepage: http://www.publiclibrariesnews.com


Posts by Ian Anstice

Speaking Up For Libraries, each in their own way?

Editorial

The Speak Up For Libraries event on Saturday was notable for having actual politicians attending.  Helen Goodman MP, the shadow minister for public libraries was there as well as Justin Tomlinson MP, who was the Conservative chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on public libraries.  Helen gave me the impression of being a lady who has worked hard to get on top of her brief.  She is somewhat hamstrung by her party’s unfortunate agreement with the Conservatives about austerity and was therefore reduced to identifying pots of money that are underused and shifting resources around rather than promising more investment per se. Helen is, however, persuaded of the need for a national development agency (hurrah!) and even more significantly of the need for at least some standards.

Justin came across as a very nice amiable bloke who cares for libraries but is very much tied to the mantra not just of austerity but of localism as well.  Basically this means that libraries will have to make do with less and less money and with no national co-ordination (except in the realm of new technology).  When asked about standards, Justin could basically only agree to standards within each authority so he’d be happy (and you see him thinking about this) a “Swindon Standard” but nothing more.  That’s not a standard, Justin.  He also made clear, in the normal politician way that includes never actually saying it, that intervention by the secretary of state is never going to happen under any circumstances ever. He was keen on staff wearing uniforms (not an enthusiasm or a priority shared by much of the audience) and said several times that local library managers should be “empowered”.  The local library managers in the room would have been speculating at that point on how empowered they’d need to be to cope with halving of budgets.  One envisages drug dens. He also said that it was a “crying shame” that on average libraries spend only 7.5% on bookstock and that this should be increased.  The local library managers in the audience then mentally crossed off any freedoms they allowed themselves to imagine a minute earlier.

The Liberal Democrats failed to send a representative, possibly, as one wag suggested, because so few people support them now that they couldn’t find anyone free.  It’s also possible that their singularly lacklustre, almost invisible, record on public libraries has left them with nothing to actually say.  There was a lovely bloke from the Greens, Martin Francis from Brent, who said all of the right things and knew his stuff.  Such a shame that the Greens will only get at most 1% of the MPs. Well, unless they suddenly start talking about immigrants and get their picture taken holding pints of beer in pubs … which leads us on to the ghost at the feast.  It appears that UKIP were not invited to the conference which, while understandable in terms of a general abhorrence amongst conference-goers of their policies, is unfortunate as it shows bias.  Like it or not, they’re now a parliamentary party and will have a voice on libraries which, unfortunately, we still have no idea about because they were not there.

For me, the big theme from a very well attended, well-organised and surprisingly well-mannered conference was the need for Government intervention in the form of standards, a national body and a willingness to take councils to task. No-one there apart from the Conservative MP believed (and to a lesser extent, one suspects, the Labour MP) believed that a hands off “let a hundred flowers bloom” approach to local library services was the answer.  The task will be to persuade the politicians that it is, that they occasionally need to get their hands dirty to weed their garden, will the challenge of the next few months.

My full notes on the conference can be found at Speak Up For Libraries Conference, 22 November 2014 - Public Libraries News.

Changes

Ideas

News

  • Bishop confesses library love – Sunday Times. “Richard Holloway and Joanne Harris are among a number of high-profile names who have paid tribute to the influence on their lives of their local library for Book Week Scotland, which starts tomorrow. Book lovers are being encouraged to declare their true feelings for libraries through the Love Letters to Libraries campaign.” see also Readers urged to send love letter to local library – Scotsman.

“this Wednesday, constituents in Bromsgrove can take part in a mass conference call with their MP, Sajid Javid. This “teleforum” is a first for a British MP but was used to great effect by Boris Johnson during his mayoral campaigns. Constituents can sign up to “Tell Sajid” at vekeo.buzz/sajidjavid and leave a contact number, and they will be called at 7pm on Wednesday to ask questions.” Independent : Sajid Javid is Culture Secretary and therefore has responsibility for public libraries.

  • Lost libraries make UK international loser - Library Campaign (press release). “England’s destruction of its public libraries is making it the loser in the global race to build digital, knowledge-based economies.” … “A constant theme throughout the day was the crucial role of libraries in supporting a wide range of government priorities, including literacy, education, health, business support, combating social isolation and building cohesive communities.”

“Alan Gibbons summed up: ‘A library without a librarian is a room. Libraries are cheap. In total, they cost less than a billion pounds, when trillions is wasted on Trident, the banks and a failed austerity project that has given us almost permanent economic crisis since the 2008 crash. ‘Shutting them costs a fortune, not just in redundancies but in the damage to society.'”

  • Resources - Speak Up For Libraries. Includes six page “lobby pack” and links to resources on various UK public libraries issues.
  • Sieghart Review to recommend task force for libraries – BookSeller. “”The argument for saving [library] buildings has been won, but not for a [library] service able to deliver its promise,” she told the conference. “The case has not yet been made for libraries to be the delivery point for a number of key services. The time is now – if most local authorities are somehow managing to hang on to the building infrastructure, how are we going to make this work?”” … “The report will argue for a dedicated task force with all the key players to work together to deliver changes at a fast pace…and promote a consistent message that talks the service up”
  • Some thoughts written on the train to the Speak up for Libraries conference – Alan Gibbons. The notes for Alan’s closing speech. “The only real friends libraries have got are Friends groups, users, staff, communities, unions, authors and illustrators. We have to build the strongest coalition here in the real Big Society to fight the greatest ignorance and neglect….up there in the Small and Small Minded Society also known as the political ‘elite’ (another word that proves language can be misappropriated).”
  • Speak up about the hidden consequences of library cuts - Informed / Alan Wylie. Looks at the consequence of losses in library staff, not of buildings. “In my opinion outreach is crucial to the relevance, integrity and survival of public libraries without it we are in danger of losing touch with those in our communities that need our services most. It helps to ground us and to break down the ‘professional in an official building’ barrier, it also helps to loosen the ‘footfall & issues’ noose put around our necks by those only interested in quantitative data.”
  • Speak Up For Libraries - UStream.  Video of each of the sessions of the conference.

International

  • A new chapter: British architects unveil state-of-the-art Arctic library – Guardian (Norway). £110m new library built within Arctic Circle for town of 50,000 people. ““It was quite a leap in scale, for us and the town,” says David Howarth, director of DRDH architects, which won the project in a competition in 2009. “It was a stark contrast to be working on this in the UK, just as libraries were being closed by the dozen and procurement processes make it impossible for small practices to win work of this size.” … “20% of the town’s entire population turned up to the opening of the complex, aptly christened Stormen (Norwegian for storm). “
  • Are libraries sustainable in a world of free, networked, digital information? – El Profesional de la informacion (Spain/Global). Argues that libraries are doomed unless they make drastic changes.
  • Victorian Labor unveils $50m state library plan – 9 News (Australia). “Victoria’s state library will win funding to broadcast seminars to other libraries across the state under a $50 million Labor plan. The project, which will also expand floor space by 40 percent, will allow workshops to be broadcast via video conferencing links. The library’s onsite programs, focusing on literacy and numeracy, will also be expanded and offer more professional development programs for teachers.”

UK local news

  • Barnet – Miliband insists that his reaction to Thornberry tweet will not alienate Golders Green voters – Barnet and Whetstone Press. Ed Milliband says  “I think Barnet’s approach has been wrong I think its approach to privatisation, its approach to cuts and cutting services such as libraries is wrong.”
  • Barnet – Unison request for extension to public consultation on Libraries refused - Barnet Unison. “UNISON has learnt that printed documents will not now be in the Libraries until the 1st December and there have been ICT issues”
  • Cardiff – ‘It will be catastrophic': Libraries, youth services, community halls face losing support in Cardiff cuts - Wales Online. “Cathays, Roath, Rhydypennau, Rumney, Radyr, Rhiwbina and Whitchurch libraries could have their funding cut in changes that would end council support for such standalone facilities.”
  • Cornwall – Michael Morpurgo backs 10 year old’s library campaign – ITV. “We asked Michael Morpurgo why he’s worried about libraries in Cornwall – and in Devon where he lives. This was what he said:” lovely videos.
  • East Riding of Yorkshire – £1.2 million bid for new facility – Driffield Today. “£1.2 million scheme to refurbish, remodel and extend its customer facing facilities in Driffield. The scheme, which forms part of the council’s capital investment programme, will move the current Mill Street customer service centre and registration services into the existing library building to be integrated with other public facing services.”
  • Hertfordshire – Hitchin woman starts campaign to save Hertfordshire mobile library service – Comet. “Stories highlighting the importance of Hertfordshire’s mobile libraries are being sought for a campaign started by a Hitchin woman trying to save the service.” … “The council is looking at cutting the service – which costs £14 per person – and wants to find a cheaper and more effective way to manage the system. Grace said: “I think it is worth the money because it improves lives and you cannot put a price on that. If you want to nurture curiosity, inspire experiences, you need libraries.””
  • Leicestershire – Library staffing axe plans given go-ahead - Loughborough Echo. 22 full time places to go. “The council agreed that a package of support should be given to local communities wishing to take over responsibility for the running of the libraries.”
  • Leicestershire – Union collects petition opposing County Hall’s cost-cutting plans to offload village libraries to volunteers - Leicester Mercury. “Unison has collected more than 400 names on a petition opposing County Hall’s cost-cutting plans to offload village libraries to volunteers or parish councils.” …”Tory cabinet member for libraries councillor Richard Blunt said he believes villagers will rise to the challenge of running their libraries and that most of them will thrive under community management. Unison’s Leicestershire branch secretary Jackie Dean said: “I don’t share his optimism.”
  • Lincolnshire – Hoping library farce has a happy ending – Lincolnshire Echo. “Greenwich Leisure Ltd, which runs libraries in a couple of London boroughs, could end up running them here. Council officials are now recommending that county libraries boss Nick Worth should validate GLL’s bid to run the service. It’s just a shame that the council failed to take the social enterprise’s bid seriously in the first place.” see also Libraries could be put out to tender – Rutland and Stamford Mercury.
  • Monmouthshire – Concerns over library merger proposals – South Wales Argus. “The chairmen of Abergavenny and District Civic Society, Tony Konieczny and Chris Edmondson, of the Bryn y Cwm Community Forum, have written to Councillor Peter Fox to voice their concerns about the proposed merger of One Stop Shops and Libraries into community hubs. “
  • North Yorkshire – Plans opposed for volunteer-run library – Darlington and Stockton Times. ““Generally there’s a feeling it ought to stay within the provision of the county. We would like it left as it is but we appreciate the problem the council is facing with finances. “There certainly is the feeling on the ground to have it as a hybrid-type library like Ripon; where we support it with more volunteers but it’s not totally dependent on them, because that leaves it vulnerable.”
  • Oxfordshire – Libraries count down to independence day – Banbury Guardian. “Friends groups have been hard at work raising cash for Deddington Library, Hook Norton Library and Adderbury Library so they can pay library staff and train volunteers to replace staff whose hours have been cut.” … “It is hoping to recruit 200 subscribers who will each pay £2-£3 each month to secure the funding. Its next fundriaisng events is the family friendly Festive Frolics with Circus Berzercus at the Windmill Centre in Deddington on Saturday. Doors open at 3pm, show at 3.30pm.”
  • Peterborough – Peterborough community hubs undergo review of use – Peterborough Telegraph. “Also at the meeting it was disclosed no decision had yet been made on closures of libraries and reduction of library staff. Cllr Serluca said: “I’m looking at an option that will retain all libraries. All options are being looked at and will be presented to the cabinet.””
  • Sefton – Community group who want to start a library in Botanic Gardens speak at council meeting - Southport Visiter. “North Meols Library Association want to create a volunteer run library in the unused bowls pavillion with £100k from the community support fund ” … “Elaine said at the moment they have around 40 volunteers on their books ready to offer more than 70 hours of service, and more than 250 people on their mailing list. Their proposals contain a three-year plan, after which they say the library will be completely self-sufficient.”

“The loss of library has been massive to Churchtown because it is such a diverse community – it is not just them borrowing books, it is talking to people, getting out of the house, a sense of community. The area has lost three libraries over the years. Crossens went then Wennington Road and Churchtown has gone and it has left an enormous gap – it is the whole area of Southport that has lost the libraries”

  • Sheffield – Challenges and opportunities as library reopens for the community – Sheffield Telegraph. “The partnership between the former Save Walkley Library group and businessman Kane Yeardley of Forum Cafe Bars makes a lot of sense, said Chris Reece. “We’d like to use the building to bring a bit more life to South Road, and to create something slightly different. This will be a library service, but there will also be a cafe-bar here. The greatest advantage is that because the cafe-bar will probably be open seven days a week, it gives far more scope for increasing the library hours too.”” … “Much is still to be decided, Chris cautioned, but it’s clear that the Forum group is keen to make the library side of the operation work, and has said it would invest up to £400,000 on refurbishment and £40,000 a year on maintenance and employing a librarian.”
  • Staffordshire – Library decision to wait until FebUttoxeter News. “Staffordshire County Council, which manages libraries across the county, has said it will review all the information that is has collated before it moves on to the ‘next phase’.
  • Walsall – Walsall librariesWalsall Advertiser. “Councillor Khizar Hussain, portfolio holder for community, leisure and culture at Walsall Council said: “Difficult decisions and, ultimately, unpopular ones have to be made in the coming years if we are to achieve the level of savings needed. “With regards to libraries there is a proposal on the table for 2015/16 and 2016/17 but I would stress this is only a suggestion and could change in the light of consultation feedback.”

Westminster Hall debate on public libraries

Editorial

The first Westminster Hall debate for a few years (the last one being in January 2011) has taken place, with Labour and Conservatives attacking each other’s record on the subject.  There was some interesting debate about the poor record of the Conservatives from the Labour Party and some accusations of Labour closing more libraries from the Conservatives.  In reality, both parties are cutting spending on libraries: who it is doing it depends simply on who is in power and how much their budgets have been cut by the Coalition Government.  It’s always amusing to see Ed Vaizey claiming that the situation with libraries is rosy and this time he excelled himself by even managing to claim responsibility for the new Liverpool and Birmingham libraries, both of which owe their revamps to decisions made before 2010.  Ed asking “what can one do from the centre?” in one breath and then claiming to be a “pro-active campaigner”for libraries almost in the next was pushing it a tad though.

Changes

Ideas

  • Literacy hub - including all organisations interested in literacy in an area including libraries.

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Jacqueline Wilson surrenders

The pain in Spain falls mainly not as much as here on the library staff

Editorial

I don’t know about you but I had Spain down as a country going through at least as much public service pain as we were. So I was surprised to see when I was there last week to speak at their public libraries conference, that, although they are indeed suffering cuts, things are different there.  For one thing, it looks to me like library staff are being retained while bookfunds are being slashed. Compare that to the attitude shown here recently, for instance in this recent quote from Leicestershire:

We understand these people are valuable but buildings, books or people and can’t cut books or computers. We have to cut the person.” Cllr Richard Blunt, cabinet member for libraries.

Well, that’s pretty blunt and that attitude shocked the heck the out of the Spanish when I told them about it.  To them, although there are some volunteer libraries in smaller places, they see the librarian as integral to the system, not as something easily replaced by the users.  There are other differences too, not least of which being that the conference was paid for by the State and not the professional association, keeping the attendance fee down to a mere 30 Euros for three days.  Because of that, there were over 200 public librarians there and the whole conference was about public libraries. To put that into context, the nearest thing to that we have in this country is the Umbrella conference which cost £340 plus VAT last year when it was in Manchester, with very very few public librarians being able to afford a place. So that’s a whole bunch of professional networking, best practice and learning just plain missing from the UK.

There were also other differences.  For one thing, amazing to me, there was until this year no Public Lending Right … and, my goodness, they’re annoyed about it.  The problem, you see, is that local library services have to pay it there rather than the painless national system. Which is not going well when there’s low budgets anyway and the fees payable can be pretty small and very fiddly.  A few were trying to work out the best way to avoid paying … which leads me on to yet another difference, which is the Spanish have a general distrust of the private sector with the assumption being that if a private company is doing State work then, probably, some corruption is involved. Another big difference, which is also the case in France, is that there a legal minimum price limit on books which means that books are expensive which means (bear with me) that libraries are (my theory any way) in more demand.  Finally, Spain is still building new libraries, although the new one I went too – with no self-service, big counters and an OPAC which (honest) had “OPAC” written on it – suggested to me state of the art here twenty years ago.  Mind you, before the more pro-techy of us get cocky, the Australian librarian I went around with pointed out that her libraries have moved beyond self-service machines now and have a fully mobile library system now.  Of that, perhaps more next post.

Changes

Ideas

“Libraries are how people fall in love with books” Michael Morpurgo

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Pointless security sensors, Southampton cuts, Bromley cuts and Bolton cuts

Editorial

It’s a bumper edition today due to not having reported for one week. The reason for this was a most worthwhile few days spent attending (and speaking at) the biennial Spanish national libraries conference.  There’s enough for about four different posts from my time there but the first I have already published, as a separate page, on the subject that apparently a lot of people know about but few have mentioned: the pointlessness in many libraries of having security sensors.  Experts have already given some feedback via the comments section of the page and via Twitter so you can be assured that it’s not just one man’s opinion.  Basically, it looks like most librarians agree with my view that security gates cost far more money than they save but, if you live in a high crime area and have expensive stock then they can be viable (or more than viable) as long as you have trained and motivated staff.  If, however, your staff (and be honest with yourselves here) are not then you’re basically wasting your money.  Which no one should these days … and it’s a world wide phenomenon because I’m getting lots of Australian librarians agreeing with me: isn’t social media wonderful? For the full page see Library security gates: why you should save money by not using them.

Big news this edition are cuts in both Bromley and Southampton, where the standard response to cuts of bringing in the volunteers is being made.  Bromley is perhaps more interesting as it is looking at alternatives, including outsourcing, to its current close relationship with the neighbouring borough of Bexley.  Another B, Bolton, also makes the news due to more information about its cuts, with ten people’s jobs being lost (you know, I’d really appreciate some research on what happens to these people) and a look at becoming a non-profit trust on the cards. I hope Bolton has chatted to its neighbour Wigan as they are looking to get rid of their own trust. Finally, a mention must be made of the Leicestershire councillor who has made it clear that bricks and mortar are more important to him than mere employees.  Nice. This, I should point out, is directly opposite to the response to cuts that I discovered in Spain, but of that more in a post soon.

Changes

“In any library in the world, I am at home, unselfconscious, still and absorbed” Germaine Greer

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For your information, there's a whole A to Z free to use

Liverpool, East Renfrewshire and an A to Z

Editorial

Two significant events: the first is that the Mayor of Liverpool has declared that he can keep all his libraries open after all.  Budgets have been got from various places, there’ll be some co-locations, some opening hour cuts … but none will be closed. The Mayor points to the hard work of his council, the campaigners point to them not letting the council forget how important libraries are.  The answer, as always, probably lies somewhere in between. The second event is that, as if to put the damper on things, East Renfrewshire is going to go all English and force 6 of its 10 libraries to be volunteer or co-located or close.  Bet you wish you voted the other way in the referendum now, Scottish folks. And so the cycle starts all over again.

By the way, I’m in Spain the rest of this week, talking to Spanish librarians (and probably people on the plane – I do that, it’s annoying) about the situation there and here.  I expect to learn much and, if I’m very lucky, I will come back with different views (however slightly) than when I went. I’ll tell you about it on my return. Adios.

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An interview with Gary Green about the Library A to Z project More >

The music they’re making in Manchester will be heard around the country

Editorial

There’s been some major coverage of public libraries in the media over the last few days.  The Times and The Mail took up an article I wrote here a few days ago on the need for quiet study spaces in library, with the former publication devoting its third leader to it. The Mail evenwent so far as to say there was a “campaign” starting to restore hush to libraries, which I doubt. Just to make clear my position on this: I love loud and buzzing libraries and can do as loud a children’s story time as anyone but my article was also pointing out the unique selling point of libraries as quiet study spaces as well.  The challenge is to do both, not one or the other … and to let everyone know how fantastic and irreplaceable libraries are to boot.

As such, the Everything Everything residency at Manchester Central Library is already fantastically successful. Even the NME has covered it, for goodness sake, as has the Independent and the Guardian.  Moreover, Radio Six are devoting two whole weeks to the wonders of public libraries, including broadcasting from Manchester and the British Library. The whole thing promises to be a tremendous showcase for libraries and all involved should take a bow (just do it quietly if you’re in the domed reading room b).  Another showcase was the Jeremy Vine Show article on libraries on Friday.  Listen to that (especially the child … but well done to Ciara Eastell of the Society of Chief Libraries and Devon as well) to give you a boost all week.

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Now’s the time to do something for libraries: and there may never be a better opportunity

Editorial

At the recent Westminster Media Forum on “Prospects for books, publishing and libraries”, several important statements were made that may well have a bearing on the future of public libraries:

  • William Sieghart gave some pretty big hints at the contents of the Government commissioned report on public libraries that he was tasked to writing.  Crucially, reports from the event say that he made clear that he does not consider volunteer-run libraries a long-term viable option.,
  • Ed Vaizey has had the report for a month and has not published it as yet.  Suggestions made to me include the possibility that it says things he does not want people to hear (e.g. on volunteers), especially as he has recently stated he is “not minded” to intervene in Sheffield where it is precisely that model that is being proposed.
  • Lord Tope said “I have to say, from a political point of view, the answer lies with all of us. Don’t let Government forget it. We have a general election coming up, and members of parliament are remarkably willing to listen when they come around. Use that opportunity”

All of this ties, in my mind at least, with the need for as many individuals and groups as possible to write to Ed Vaizey to argue against his “not minded” decision there.  The more letters the better and it does not matter where you come from.  Let him know why you think libraries are important and let him know the strength of your feeling.  Don’t just take my word for it. The Broomhill Library Action Group have written a letter asking this which I publish in full below and they’ve even typed a draft letter for you in case you don’t want to do one from scratch.  While you’re writing it (and you will, won’t you?), you may also wish to consider asking Ed Vaizey why he has not published the Sieghart Report yet.  Strangely, he has not replied to me on this subject.

A cut and paste template is provided, into which people can just insert their own name and library, or can alter as they please – emails need to be sent by 20 NOVEMBER 2014 to: Ministerial Support Team enquiries@culture.gsi.gov.uk.

Dear Library Supporter

You may have seen media reports about the Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey, conducting an inquiry into Sheffield City Council’s plans for public libraries. He has just issued a letter stating that he is ‘minded not to’ intervene but before he makes a final decision he wants to know what you think. The Minister has a duty, under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, to superintend library provision and to intervene if a council is failing to provide a “comprehensive and efficient library service” for all who want to use it.

The campaign group, Broomhill Library Action Group, have always maintained that the council’s plans result in a service that does not meet these requirements. We presented many arguments, backed up with data, to support our claim. Nonetheless the Minister has chosen to disregard our evidence, and has sent a letter saying that he is “not currently minded” to intervene

In the past, nine other library campaign groups from around the country have tried to get the Minister to intervene. He has rejected all of these. In fact, we are only one of at least 10 library groups across the country for whom he has similarly failed to intervene. We believe that the Minister is not only wrong, but that ultimately we need to persuade him he is wrong.

The Minister has asked for further representations to be presented by 20 November 2014. We are therefore asking as many people as possible to write to the Minister, and to tell him to organise an inquiry to protect this valuable service. We need you to state your support for an ongoing ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service in Sheffield.

A cut and paste template is provided via this link, into which people can just insert their own name and library, or can alter as they please.  E-mails need to be sent to: Ministerial Support Team. Please send it on to all your friends to complete.

Thank you.

Broomhill Library Action Group

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Other library authorities were a bit Miffed

Briefing 4th November

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Ed Vaizey “not minded” to intervene in Sheffield

Editorial

To few people’s surprise, Ed Vaizey, the minister technically responsible for libraries, has said that he is “not minded” to intervene in the proposed cuts in Sheffield.  The council there has proposed to reduce council libraries to one central library and eleven “hub” libraries.  These “hubs” are to be open only 31 hours per wee which, for a city of over half a million people,  is not much.  It had been hoped by campaigners that Ed, normally a by-word for inaction, would wish to intervene in order to embarrass the Labour-run council and possibly also cock a snook at Nick Clegg, whose constituency is in the town.  However, it looks like this is not to be.  If one was of suspicious mind, one could even think that the surprise decision by Ed to look into Sheffield in the first place was simply to show that he was doing his superintendence of local library service, statutory under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, properly and therefore could not be taken to court himself.  I, for one, am sure that he does not consider such base motives … well, probably not consciously.  He probably has legal advisors for that sort of thing, anyway.

Key points and related articles on the decision are below.

  • Representations can still be made to Ed Vaizey on this issue until 5pm 20th November.
  • Ed argues that the availability of resources is “highly material” to what is acceptable as library provision. Therefore, the definition of what is “comprehensive and efficient” is effectively at least semi-elastic, depending on what finances the council chooses to put in.  Being the minister makes it clear that he believes it is up to the local council to decide on how best to divide up resources and provide services, this therefore effectively severely limits any possible application of the 1964 Act.
  • Ignores volunteer libraries because 11 “hub” libraries (open only 31 hours per week) and one central library is enough to provide a comprehensive and efficient service.  Considering that Sheffield has a population of 551,800, this therefore means that one library open 31 hours per week (plus one central library) per 46000 people is considered adequate.  Opening hours per 1000 population under this new dispensation would be, roughly by my quick calculations, 37 (number of aggregate openings hours in one year divided by 1000 population).  It’s interesting to note that this compares to 128 being the target in the Library Standards of 2001. Ed is therefore willing to approve opening hours 3.5 times lower than his predecessor set as a target just over ten years ago.
  • He considers that the consultations and needs assessment were undertaken properly and were genuine.

“The Secretary of State is of the view that a comprehensive service does not mean that every resident must live close to a library. He also notes that the Home Library service is being retained and expanded through a combination of paid SCC staff and volunteers to enable those who are unable to visit a library to access library materials.”

  • Assumes that low expenditure per 1000 population compared to other comparator authorities shows it is “efficient”.

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Judicial Re … phew.

Editorial

Judicial reviews are a key part of the library campaigner arsenal, even if they may be viewed with dread by senior council staff. To my view, the threat of a review keep, at a basic level, councils honest.  Sometimes, councils, especially in the safest of safe seats (although, admittedly, the rise of UKIP is throwing all this into doubt) can look like an elective dictatorship rather than a democracy.  In a world of hands off central government (well, apart form brutally cutting budgets and then saying “go play”), the judicial review can be the only real way that the public can intervene in council decisions.  It makes sure that councils abide by the letter (if not the spirit) of the law and it means that consultations, just occasionally, are consultations rather than merely a way of telling the public what is going to happen.  It also means that several library services have, to a greater or lesser extent, been saved from the most over dramatic of cuts.  It is therefore good news that the House of Lords has thrown out Grayling’s (he of the ban on books in prison) attempt to severely restrict judicial reviews.  Long live democracy, even if it occasionally has to be saved by peers.

A lot of changes today, including the announcement of cuts at Bristol, Denibighshire, Gateshead and Hartlepool. Suffolk, very much the flavour of the month (possibly the year) in UK library circles bucks the depression with an ACE grant and a new business centre.  Success breeds success and Suffolk is gaining from that.  The aim must be for all of the sector to do the same, with William Sieghart expected to publish his report over the next month or so (and expected to laud Suffolk to the rafters) we can hope to share some of the pixie dust.  In the meantime, read the “ode to libraries” by Wendy Maddour.

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