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

New Milton Keynes Library under construction in Kingston retail park

The deepest cut in UK public library history? Kirklees goes (almost) all out


Kirklees is the latest authority to announce the large scale cuts to library services of a scale far greater than the current libraries minister, Ed Vaizey, thundered in disgust about when he was in opposition. Indeed, in terms of numbers of branches under threat as a proportion of total branches, this is the deepest proposed cut so far announced, almost certainly in peacetime UK history.  Granted, the Isle of Wight, back in 2011, suggested closing all but two of its libraries but it only had 11 to begin with, while Kirklees appears to have over 20. The proposed budget cut is over 50%:  truly gigantic, but my sources tell me, even this may not be the lowest announced over the next couple of years. Kirklees frames its proposals around the now-familiar offer to the community – that is, volunteer or your library will close – and, interestingly, they mention the  earlier takeover of one of their libraries, Denby Dale, by a community group (which includes an ex President of CILIP as one of their number).  However, my guess is that they’ve been keen on cutting libraries there for years – my first reference is in the first year of the Coalition - and so such cuts would have happened anyway.  It’s austerity that is the killer here, not volunteers.

Other news this week can be seen as the same story as Kirklees but with different local flavours.  Hull are deeply cutting opening hours by almost a third, with a few volunteers and a move to a Trust thrown in.  This is especially sad to me as I remember a phone call with their councillor that was then responsible for libraries a few years ago who told me how great libraries were and how he’d never cut them. Time have changed.  Sheffield, further along the line in its cut cycle than Kirklees, has announced all libraries will stay open, but with at least ten being run by the unpaid with limited council support.

Right, to balance out this depressingness, let’s get two positive stories in.  The first is the Welsh public libraries report which looks very useful and promotes the essentialness of the service in local communities.  Secondly, Birmingham have been given a substantial amount of money from the Wolfson Foundation for promoting their libraries to young people.  iPads, ebook readers, projectors and 3D printers are mentioned … I hope they will also do music and Minecraft as well.

Moving away from the public sector but in a move that has already been seized upon by at Forbes - who should know better – as suggesting that public libraries can be cut still further, Amazon have announced a lending scheme for some of its books.  Initial looks at it I have seen suggest there’s a few, a very few, famous titles in there and hundreds of thousands of titles few would want to read. Crucially, Amazon’s new off does not appear to offer a community atmosphere in a local building, someone who knows you, neutral expertise, study space, personal computers, printed books, a photocopier, newspapers, storytime, reading groups, display space or coffee.

Finally, you may have noticed that this is the first Public Libraries News post for a week. This was due to illness. The next one is also due in a week but this is for a happier reason: I’m off on holiday.  In the meantime, and despite everything, keep being awesome my friends.

Do you have any comment or news?  Then please send to ianlibrarian@live.co.uk.  Thank you. Positive news stories and library ideas warmly welcomed.



  • Arts and culture valued by vast majority of local authorities – Arts Professional. “While support for arts and culture is generally high, a “wide variation in support by area” is identified, and “all too often” support is reliant on “a particular member having an interest”. Most see arts and culture as being important to their residents, but not essential. Libraries were seen as the most important, while galleries and “fostering artistic talent” are thought to be the least important.”
  • Better than indifference – Leon’s Library Blog. “The debate over Cilip’s governance seems to have generated a fair bit of discussion, point and counter-point, and unfortunately the occasional personal attack and name calling. On a positive note most of this is healthy and democratic and highlights how strongly members feel about the future direction of Cilip. Best that members disagree and generate discussion rather than no one shows any interest at all.” [See this thread from LIS-PUB-LIBS for most of the posts, this from Tom Roper's Weblog, and this from Barbara Band - Ed.]
  • Councils cut services, not salaries: Two thirds have ignored Government’s pleas for pay restraint and reduced spending on libraries or retirement homes instead – Daily Mail. “Labour-controlled Stoke-on-Trent City Council, meanwhile, approved a £5,000 salary increase for chief executive John van de Laarschot on the day it agreed to slash £21million from services. The official who dressed as Superman to abseil down a building for charity, saw his pay increased to £195,516 – part of an overall package including perks and pension worth £232,000. Dave Conway, leader of Stoke’s opposition City Independent group, said: ‘We’ve lost swimming pools, libraries and old people’s homes. I don’t know how the council can justify paying one man all this money at the same time.’
  • Councils urged to share arts and culture services – Local Gov. “According to think tank the New Local Government Network (NLGN), town halls should now look to share services such as libraries and theatres as funding cuts are handed down to local cultural sites.”
  • Grassroots library campaign research - “The purpose of this survey is to investigate the impact of community grassroots campaigns on public library closures in the UK, by asking a series of questions of community activists who are/were involved in a library grassroots campaign. Due to the rapid nature of the cuts and closures currently being imposed on public libraries, there has been a distinct lack of research carried out in this area. It is hoped that the information pooled in this study will aid and motivate future activists in their efforts, whilst providing a benchmark for future research.”
  • Income Generation for Public Libraries: a Practical Guide for Library Service Commissioners and Providers in England – Locality. “Locality has worked with Arts Council England over a six month period to explore existing good practice and assess the potential to further enable income generation to support and enhance as well as to improve the overall resilience and sustainability of library services.”

“The aim of the project was to support library service commissioners and providers to intensify or widen their area of operations in an enterprising way – without losing or compromising their ethos and core objectives. This guidance note builds upon our extensive work to support community-led libraries, as well as earlier research about ‘Enabling Enterprise in Libraries’, which identified a range of opportunities as well as challenges perceived to be limiting income generation in a public library context.”

  • Liz – community outreach - 23 Librarians. A look at the work of a community librarian. ” I enjoy the variety of the job. I am offering the service to a wide range of target groups, selecting and ordering books and materials and I’m constantly looking at ways the various services can be improved upon. I would say the biggest challenge comes from that very variety.
  • Tony Benn’s five questions for the powerful and the CILIP Governance Review - Tom Roper’s Weblog. “‘If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system’, he said. These questions are worth considering vis-à-vis the CILIP Governance Review proposals. “
  • Volunteer Recognition Award Scheme – Summary - LIS-PUB-LIBS.  Lists what awards volunteers are given in several library authorities, especially for home book delivery (“books on wheels”).

Public Libraries in Wales report

  • Fancy running your library? AMs warn community-run libraries are likely to be a reality as cuts bite - Wales Online. “Responsibility for managing libraries in Wales is likely to increasingly fall on communities as English-style cuts to council budgets bite, an Assembly committee has warned.” … “But it warns that community-managed facilities cannot be the “solution” to local authority budget squeezes, saying “delivery of library services in Wales should be led by professionals who bring the necessary knowledge and expertise to the role.”
  • Libraries ‘crucial’ for local life, AM inquiry finds – BBC. “It found visitor numbers have grown by 11% over 10 years, but several face closure as councils try to save money. Library-goers said they promoted well-being, and provided internet access and a lifeline in many areas. The inquiry found: There were 13.25 million visits Visits to Welsh libraries in 2002-03, This had risen to 14.72 million in 2011-12, This compared to a 5% fall in England over the same period”
  • Libraries ‘much more than books’ for communities – ITV. “found libraries contribute to many areas of life including health, wellbeing and dealing with social exclusion. It’s calling on the government and local authorities to protect services despite public spending cuts.”
  • Public libraries in Wales - National Assembly for Wales. Asks for annual report, improved statistics, a definition of “comprehensive and efficient”, accreditation scheme, collaboration/colocation, support for volunteer libraries, identify further funding opportunities, raise revenue (apart from “core”), better promotion via other services, additional funding.
  • Welsh libraries: “unique … contribution to … community life - Alyson’s Welsh Libraries Blog. ““Libraries are unique in their contribution to so many areas of community life, including education, health and wellbeing, tackling poverty and social exclusion.” (para 144)” … “The Minister will respond to the report, and his expert review panel will be considering this report in the preparation of their report into public libraries in Wales.”
  • Why I think we need to speak out against media assaults on public libraries – Infoism. “Every now and then, a piece arguing for the closure of public libraries emerges that causes consternation and outrage. In some respects, this is what the author intends. Whip up a frenzy, get your name out there, ego stroked, job done, who really cares about libraries? This frenzy, however, results in a kind of split in the library world. There are those who, for example, argue that a counter-attack on such a piece is a sign of a lack of confidence, a sign of weakness. By arguing against such assaults we are overly defensive and we would be better not engaging with these kinds of attack. I, unsurprisingly, disagree.”.  Argues that anti-library articles are part of a systematic attack on public services.

Summer Reading Challenge and volunteers

“We undertook the summer reading challenge as a priority last summer, even before formal reopening to the public, and again hope to have a successful SRC for 2014 (100 packs purchased) … No engagement = no Library. Maintaining support for the long haul is going to be the big issue for all community libraries. Apathy is the enemy. We had no choice, and ended up buying the building outright, the lease terms were too onerous. The freedom is wonderful, the responsibility daunting, the journey and new friends made priceless.”” David Booton, Co Chair Denton West End Community Library, Tameside. (via email).

“Our SRC experience as a volunteer library – Chalfont St Giles Community Library – is I think more positive than your piece implies. Firstly, in contrast to your introductory remarks, the Community Library is open 70% longer than the previous county library and the children’s book section is certainly better stocked than before. Both our trustees and volunteers are keen that we do everything we can to support children’s reading in the village. We work closely with the local schools and the Bucks County Library Service.  Half our lending is to children. We run Story Time every week and children’s events in the library during the school holidays.

Secondly, in relation to the SRC, the County Library Service provides us with adequate SRC materials, and this year the Bucks County Library Service held an SRC briefing meeting for all the community libraries.  We do the local SRC promotion work. The SRC is publicised around the village and an SRC related email goes out to all the local school parents. In the last couple of years around 90 children have undertaken the challenge each year with us and there has been a good completion rate, about 50%.  We have had some problems in the past with a lack of SRC stickers / medals etc. which we overcame one way or another. The important part of the Reading Challenge, I think, is to discuss with the children the books they have read and encourage them to try different authorsOverall I think the SRC works well in our village. It is a successful partnership between the TRA, the County Library Service and the Community Library.” Elaine Hoare – Volunteer, Chalfont St Giles Community Library (Buckinghamshire) via email

Supporter’s News

  • Lancashire Libraries Conference: Joining the Dots: Inspire, Innovate and Inform; a two day conference - 14th to 15th October in Lancaster.  This will include keynotes by Wayne Hemingway MBE and Paul McGee (SUMO Guy).   Click this link for full details, where you will also find the programme and a choice of workshops covering topics such as motivation, management, marketing and the arts in libraries.  The event will be held at the prestigious Lancaster House Hotel. Please circulate to your colleagues and appropriate contacts, and if you need any further information please email JoiningtheDots@Lancashire.gov.uk.


  • Ad Lib - Showing graphic design and publicity for public libraries, mainly US and Canada.
  • Books out, 3D printers in for reinvented US libraries - New Scientist (USA). “instead of quietly perusing stacks of books, many of the patrons are crowded around a suite of 3D printers. One machine is midway through a pink mobile phone case; another is finishing up a toy sword. This is Fayetteville’s maker lab – and it may very well be the future of libraries.”
  • The future of public libraries and Costco “treasure hunts” – KelleyTJansson (USA). “Pressed for space, funds, and the public’s support, libraries will need to re-invent themselves now that Kindle Unlimited threatens their middle-class turf.  As Costco proves everyday, there is still a huge demand for the thrill of discovery, and my hope is that libraries can pivot their operations to fulfill a similar need as related to entertainment and knowledge.”
  • How The Public Library Turned Me Into A Reader – Huffington Post (USA). “Rarely am I sufficiently grateful for the gifts that the library bestowed on me as a kid, or properly aware of how different my childhood would have been without such a stately, well-stocked public library 10 minutes from home.”
  • Libraries Are Not a “Netflix” for Books - BookRiot (USA). “Libraries — at least public libraries in the U.S. and Canada — are not private companies. Their goals are not on profit and not built upon those who can afford to pay for the services. Rather, public libraries are one of the few institutions where any and all citizens, regardless of their income or abilities to pay, may receive equitable access and service. It doesn’t matter whether you park a Ferrari or a used car in the library parking lot or you walk or take public transit to the library. When you walk in that door, you are treated equally and you are able to do and access the same things as everyone else (minor restrictions apply based on individual libraries, but those are special cases and not the norm).”
  • Libraries Play Vital Role in Community Technology Access, Survey Finds – Education Week (USA). “The Digital Inclusion Survey collected data from over 3,000 public libraries across the nation to find widespread technology improvements, including “nearly ubiquitious public Wi-Fi, growing mobile resources and a leap in e-book access.” Additionally, the study finds that nearly 100 percent of America’s public libraries offer workforce development training programs, online job resources, and technology skills training.”
  • Occupational hazards: Mairead Owens, County Librarian – Independent (Eire). “The best part of the job? Realising that we make a real difference in people’s daily lives by meeting their information needs but also by encouraging them to read. I guess the only downside of the job is that I don’t get to encounter the public so much anymore. Being in the company of a writer as he or she talks about their work in a very personal way is mind-blowing.”
  • Public Libraries Lead the Way to Digital Inclusion - ALA (USA). “The results of the Digital Inclusion Survey show that public libraries lead the way in providing a wide range of technologies and digital content. Millions of people use these resources to enhance their digital literacy skills, and support education, employment, civic engagement, and health purposes. In doing so, public libraries are essential to building digitally inclusive communities.”

UK local news by authority

  • Birmingham – Birmingham district libraries given £250k charity cash to attract more youngsters - Birmingham Mail. “Five Birmingham libraries are to share a £250,000 windfall to boost child literacy – including investment in iPads, ebook readers, projectors and 3D printers. Birmingham City Council secured the cash from independent charity the Wolfson Foundation and will use it to attract more youngsters in libraries. The investment is to go into Balsall Heath, Druids Heath, Kings Norton, Kingstanding and Small Heath libraries and work on the new facilities begins in the autumn.”
  • Cornwall – Hundreds sign boy’s Falmouth Library campaign – BBC. “A 10-year-old boy has launched an online petition to try and get his library’s opening hours extended after they were slashed by the council. Leon Remphry, from Falmouth, Cornwall, has garnered more than 2,500 signatures in favour of his ‘Write to Read‘ campaign. He said he wants Cornwall Council to reverse its decision to cut the town library’s opening hours.” see also School Boy Campaigns To Save Libraries - Heart. “As a keen reader, he wants to get Cornwall Council to hold a debate and revise the opening hours of libraries here. Reduced opening hours were agreed by the Council as part of budget cuts. To force the Council to hold a debate, Leon needs to get 5,000 signatures, so he’s even been out on the streets of Falmouth collecting signatures, where he’s managed to get about 500″
  • Derbyshire – Have you say on mobile libraries – Ripley and Heanor News. “Residents still have three weeks to give their views on the future of Derbyshire County Council’s mobile library service in a consultation to help the authority deal with budget cuts.”
  • Devon – Save Budleigh Library - see also Lights, camera, action for library! - Exmouth Journal. “Budleigh musician Jane Parker has teamed up with professional filmmakers and hundreds of residents, to write a song and shoot a video they hope will prove to bosses at County Hall the strength of feeling in the town.” … “When asked why the school got involved with the project, deputy headteacher David Perkins said: “You read a lot about libraries being closed because the perception is they’re used by the elderly, not the younger generations, and we wanted to get across in the strongest terms that this is not accurate, and the families in our community use it in a number of ways.”
  • Dorset – The spin behind the council’s message on libraries exposed - Library Campaign. “I saw the  Dorset Echo’s  puff for our new library (into which, I regret to tell you, I have yet to set my foot). It is a matter of some bitterness hereabouts as it was bought at the cost of nine little rural branch libraries, eight of which have had to survive only with volunteers: the other was lost. We fear there will be more such ‘pistols-to-the-head’ deals in the months to come.”

It is a matter for some soul-searching among the volunteers, whose hard work encourages councillors to visit the ‘privilege’ of community status on yet more villages…so that they can save yet more money to spend on other things: vanity projects like new buildings.

  • Gloucestershire – Bigger, brighter library heading for Bourton – Cotswold Journal. “The library is moving the short distance from its current premises at the youth centre building, to a new community hub which is being created at the former Moore Cottage Hospital. New equipment including a self-service machine will be available and the newly re-decorated building will provide a much bigger space for library users to get lost in a good book and utilise a wider range of services on offer.” … ” Bourton Parish Council is taking over the running of the site which was bought by Gloucestershire County Council last March and will also include a new parish council office, police hub, a community cafe and activity area.”
  • Hull – Holderness Road library faces closure under Hull City Council cuts - Hull Daily Mail. £320k cut in budget may include library in Holderness Road. “Subject to a public consultation expected to take place later this year, the proposals are due to be implemented in 2015-16 and will happen just months before Hull takes centre stage as the UK City of Culture 2017.”
  • Kent – Kent County Council admits to job advert blunder after libraries vacancy is pulled – News Shopper. “Kent County Council has admitted it made a “mistake” by posting a job advert about transforming its libraries into a trust model – before publicly consulting on the change or having councillors agree to it. The full-time contract job was advertised as “project manager for transformation delivery libraries” with a paycheck of between £500 and £600 a day.” … “The current head of libraries, registration and archives at Kent County Council (KCC) Cath Anley is leaving this year but the trust model has not been confirmed by the council and there is reportedly not even a business plan.”
  • Kirklees – All but two Kirklees libraries could face axe under huge council cuts plan - Huddersfield Daily Examiner. “Jane Brady, assistant director for customer exchequer services, said: “There is no decision, theses are options only and we hope people will come forward with ideas of how we redefine our library services.” Looks at each library in turn, with majority having their future listed as “uncertain”. see also Update: All but two Kirklees libraries at risk of closure – Mirfield Reporter. “The most drastic option would involve closing all libraries in Kirklees except for Huddersfield and Dewsbury in a 56 per cent slash to services. A second option would include ‘town hub libraries’ remaining open but with reduced services if more investment was granted. The first option would mean the loss of 100 full time members of staff from the service and the second would result in 60 job losses.” and see also Kirklees proposes ‘nuclear’ library closures – BookSeller. “Kirklees Council leader David Sheared called the first proposal a “nuclear option”. He said in a statement quoted by the Huddersfield Daily Examiner: “I believe it’s an extremely brave group that goes for the first option, but we’ll have to consider everything next March. To give option two a chance over the nuclear option will mean we have to find savings elsewhere. There are no magic beans, we’ll have to look at all the costs” and Communities rally round to save Kirklees libraries from closure - Huddersfield Daily Examiner. “Conservative leader Clr Robert Light said: “Nobody has come to us with serious ideas of how we, the council, can do it differently, it’s all about how others can do it for us differently. “I think we need to explore the idea of hubs, bringing council services together with libraries instead of sleepwalking into a situation where we end up with one in Dewsbury and the other in Huddersfield.””

“I am concerned about our librarians and library staff, I want to know what will happen to them, what support they will be able to give communities and what is to come of their jobs.”

  • Leicestershire – Air your views on communities strategy - Loughborough Echo. “The council has launched a consultation until September 1 on proposals aligning more closely how it can work with the public at a time of major change to services. Proposals for how the council and public can work together at a time of major change to services are available at www.leics.gov.uk/communities_strategy”
  • Leicestershire – Book lovers hoping for people power win - Hinckley Times. “A petition has been handed into the county council calling on it to withdraw the threatened changes to Barwell’s library in the wake of budgetary reserves of £106 million. Hundreds of people signed the petition set up by Liberal Democrat councillors who believe the plan will mean local people lose the service while the authority stashes cash in the bank.”
  • Leicestershire – Council appears to have lost the plot - Leicester Mercury / Letters. Lists several large recent council expenditures and then says “Has Leicestershire County Council taken complete leave of its senses? Most of the above are occurring when we are being told through their consultations that libraries must close due to lack of funding.”
  • Leicestershire – Library petition is handed in - Loughborough Echo. “A petition with 1,709 names has been handed to the county council in order to save Mountsorrel and Rothley village libraries from potential closure. Leicestershire County Council is set to make a decision on the future of village libraries as part of plans to save £800,000 per year from its £5.6m libraries budget.”
  • Lincolnshire – Concert raises hundreds for Deepings Library fund - Stamford Mercury. 170 attended, raised £1600. “Bourne band Pennyless played at the Deepings School on Friday last week. The gig was organised by the Friends of Deepings Library, to raise funds for their campaign to keep the library in High Street, Market Deeping, open.”
  • Lincolnshire – Council leaders bid to save libraries offer – Spalding Today. “Talks between leaders of Lincolnshire County Council and non-profit organisation Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), which tabled an offer to run almost 30 of the county’s libraries, opened on Monday after campaigners mounted a successful legal challenge to the council’s library reforms.”
  • Lincolnshire – Decision to cut libraries quashed by High Court - Eversheds.  Council “has expressed  concern that the Greenwich proposal could mean that the Council might have to run a procurement process to determine which organisation library services would be outsourced, and this would not preclude a commercial organisation being selected.  This presumably was not an intended consequence of the consultation process.” … “It is worth highlighting, that if the Council correct the flaws of its earlier consultation process and demonstrates that it has taken the Greenwich proposal into account, it would be entitled to make the same decision as before.  However, in light of public opposition, the Council may consider that an alternative proposal may be more successful.”
  • Lincolnshire – Lincolnshire County Council deny trying to manipulate media response from community hub groups following library ruling in High Court - Lincolnshire Echo.  “The Council acted quickly to defuse suggestions that it was trying to act as a mouthpiece for all the groups that had entered into an agreement with them to run volunteer community hubs. Deepings Library sent out a warning earlier today urging all community hub groups not to commit themselves on the subject. A member of the Deepings Library wrote: “We at Deeping want to caution any groups who have had a business plan accepted. “When the LCC sent out the statement about the judicial review result, it asked if we still wanted to pursue our bid and if we would be willing for the Council to let the press know our views. “This is blatantly an attempt to get us all to say ‘yes’ so that LCC can claim that we are all very disappointed that the process has been halted and that we really want to go on with the volunteer library option.”
New Milton Keynes Library under construction in Kingston retail park

New Milton Keynes Library under construction in Kingston retail park

  • Milton Keynes – Kingston Library - Demco Interiors (press release). “The new library is part of an expansion of the Kingston area which is located between two M1 junctions and is set to become a vibrant area of housing, shops and restaurants.  The area will give residents the chance to shop, eat and visit the library all in one location.  The design and furnishings specification was developed after a series of consultation workshops with existing and target audiences across a range of demographics. Demco is working with the library team to develop a modern, light and welcoming open plan interior which reflects the high design credentials of the big retail brands located nearby.” … “A fun feature in the children’s area is Demco’s popular tiered amphitheatre style seating for storytelling time with a scribble wall for post its, scribbles and artwork.  Traditional fixed desktop PC’s have been replaced by funky, ipad bounce pads.”
  • Powys – Hay-on-Wye under attack – Ledbury Reporter. “the town council has issued a public warning that funding for libraries and playing fields could soon follow the public toilet budget down the pan.” … “These are candidates for transfer to the town council, or they might disappear forever, and all this in a town which is lacking in many modern amenities already.” see also Hay-on-Wye police station to move – Ledbury Reporter. “police force could soon be operating out of library, after the announcement from Dyfed Powys Police that it is looking to relo”cate the station.”
  • Powys – Two popular libraries at risk of closure – Cambrian News. “A consultation has begun into a raft of proposals ranging from the closure of up to 11 of the county’s libraries to an across-the-board opening hour reduction of 20 per cent.”
  • Sheffield – Libraries booking in as community ‘hubs’ - Sheffield Telegraph. “Following council approval of business plans, volunteers are finalising arrangements for the takeover of branches that were at risk of closure. Each of the libraries will be open for at least 15 hours a week, but groups will set their own times based on volunteer capacity and demand. There is also the potential for community activities to be introduced alongside the libraries and for ventures such as cafes.”
  • Sheffield – Library volunteers hailed Sheffield ‘saviours’ – Star. “Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg paid tribute to the hundreds of ‘saviours’ who had come forward. He said: “We have to say a big thank you to the amazing community groups that prepared these plans. Countless volunteers have put in an incredible effort to ensure libraries stay open. “Many people will still have concerns about the long-term future of our libraries. I’m continuing to push the council to support them.”
  • Sheffield – Threatened Sheffield libraries to remain open – BBC. “All 15 Sheffield libraries threatened with closure will remain open after the city council agreed to let community groups run them. The branch libraries were due to shut as part plans to cut £50m from the council’s budget over the next year, following a reduction in the authority’s government grant. The council will continue to directly run the central library and 11 branches” … “Ten “associate” libraries will be staffed and maintained by volunteers with the council providing up to £262,000 support per year for up to three years.”
  • Shropshire – Lively Libraries Project – Birmingham Royal Ballet. “The Department for Learning has teamed up with South Shropshire Libraries and Arts Alive to be a part of Lively Libraries, a programme of participatory arts activities and events taking over several libraries across Shropshire between May and August 2014. Click here to find out more.
  • Staffordshire - Anger as Staffordshire County Council plans to cut library opening times - Stoke Sentinel. “Leek author Neil Collingwood believes this will make it more difficult for working people to visit their library. The 56-year-old, of West Street, said: “I don’t agree with a lot of the things they’re doing with Leek library. Anything that makes it harder for working people to go to the library has to be a negative. “You might say that they can go on a Saturday, but if you want to use the microfilm machine to research local history, those facilities will be under even more pressure.”
  • Staffordshire – Burton and Barton under Needwood communities to be given chance to have their say on future of libraries - Burton Mail. “Face-to-face sessions will be held at libraries in both Burton and Barton under Needwood over the next two months. Under changes announced by Staffordshire County Council, Burton’s library, off High Street, will become a ‘centre of excellence’ and will be largely unaffected. However, concerns have been raised about the future of Barton’s library which is set to be run entirely by volunteers.”
  • Staffordshire – Staffordshire library’s hours under threat despite review – Express and Star. “County councillor Sue Woodward, who represents Burntwood, has expressed concerns that she has been sent a document that outlines a reduction in hours at the town’s library just days after bosses launched a 12-week consultation” … ““I am very concerned that this consultation is not as transparent and open as it is being made out to be. It appears that in some areas that decisions have already been made.”
  • Torbay – Libraries in Torbay have access to thousands of journals - Torquay Herald Express. “Around 1.5million research journal articles from over 8,000 journals are now available to browse on computers in all Torbay libraries, as part of the Access of Research initiative.”
  • Worcestershire – Green light given for new library move - Kidderminster Shuttle. “Plans to relocate Bewdley Library into the town’s new medical centre have been given the go-ahead by Worcestershire County Council’s cabinet. The changes, which will see the library move from its current home in Load Street to the new development on the Dog Lane car park, will enable the local authority to save money by reducing staff and building costs.”
  • Worcestershire – Hagley Parish Council steps in to save library – Stourbridge News. “An agreement has been reached whereby the county council will continue to provide a library service through the support of volunteers while the parish council takes over the responsibility for the building and the premises management costs involved. ” … “”We had a public meeting about the library and over 150 people turned up. That’s ow much it means to people. Proposals to turn the building into a community hub were given a resounding yes. “
  • York – York’s new mutuals celebrated - Press. “Explore Libraries and Archives, and Be Independent, were among the new mutual societies which now deliver local services across England. A reception was held at 10 Downing Street on Wednesday to celebrate the fact that 100 of these societies are now up and running. Explore received a £100,000 grant from the Cabinet Office to help develop its organisation and took on council library staff and responsibility for the service in May this year.”

What’s the effect of volunteer libraries on the Summer Reading Challenge?


I was curious about the practical effects of volunteer libraries on the Summer Reading Challenge (SRC), which is the biggest part of the promotional year for most public libraries.  So, I checked with the Reading Agency and then with Little Chalfont Community Library, which is perhaps one of the most established and certainly one of the most famous of them.

Anne Sarrag, Director of the SRC, was kind enough to speak to me about the experience with volunteer libraries.  She reports that the Challenge is well-established, with the budget for it often being ring fenced by authorities.  A common model is that the parent library service will still buy materials and provide training for the volunteer library staff.  Of course, the volunteers may not be able to open the library as much as before or have as much quite new stock but it gives back up to the paid libraries and access to those who cannot get to them.  So, at least, I gained the impression from talking to her, that they’re  better than a closed library.

Indeed, sometimes the volunteer library may wish to purchase more promotional materials than the parent authority can due to cuts in budget.  Volunteers have in some cases raised funding to buy more than council.  However, the TRA preference is for all branches in an authority to offer the same provision.  At the other extreme, there are some volunteer libraries who have been cut adrift by the parent authority and are not supported by them.  In this case, the non-statutory branch have occasionally asked for free materials to which the TRA has to, with regret, decline. I gather that the TRA have to tread a fine line here: they cannot help those campaigning against the closure of their library – even by tweeting – because this would cross the path into politics.  In addition, the agency also has commercial sponsors, with the programme being supported by Tesco in Scotland, which may be scared off by any sign of a loss of absolute neutrality.

Keeping the same standard SRC offer means that volunteer branches are not allowed to charge users for joining the scheme and must talk to the children’s manager in that authority in order to co-ordinate the offer to the public.  Otherwise, there’s be a danger of competition between paid and volunteer branches in schools.  The SRC also ensure that any such volunteer staff visiting schools are CRB checked, which is something that not all paid library staff visiting schools are.

Overall, there appears to have been no reduction in SRC take-up due to volunteer libraries or library closures.  Indeed, there was a healthy increase in SRC membership last year.  This may be due to all sorts of reasons, including an overall improving trend masking a local decline, the efforts of volunteers being successful or children moving to libraries that are still open, or a combination of all three.

Now for an idea of how this translates to a particular volunteer library:

“Buckinghamshire only give us a small selection of promotional materials which is not enough to make any presence felt in the library and restricts our ability to get involved fully. I think it presents quite a negative image for community libraries left out of a national scheme if visitors come in expecting us to be part of it. Three local schools promote the scheme for us so we buy more packs, medals and information leaflets to meet potential demand. It may seem expensive but I have to buy in set pack quantities from the official printers. We have shared costs with Chalfont St Giles in the past split packs but now we’re both enrolling more children it doesn’t work the same.

Over the past two years we have grown our participation from about 12 to 89 children and last year 23 of those completed the course & earned their medals. I think it definitely helps to keep our borrowing figures up in the summer months; families who take part are always very positive about it. I’d like to increase our activities in the library around the challenge with fun days like the circus one a few years ago and … we may be able to do a bit more this year. One limiting factor for the volunteer libraries is the demographic of the volunteer staff, many of whom find the children’s section confusing and lack confidence promoting the scheme to visitors unless asked about it. I need to increase the volunteer training to overcome some of the resistance I’ve felt in the past.” Ruth Penn, Little Chalfont Community Library.

“I would say that it goes well with us because Ruth puts in a great deal of time and effort, liaising with BCC and the SRC organisers, and in publicizing it with local schools. So you get back what you put in” Rohan Dale, Little Chalfont Community Library

Now, Little Chalfont is a very well established volunteer library which can be expected to be a “best case” scenario for the genre.  Doubtless, there are other libraries of the same ilk who are not doing half as well but the impression I get from my tiny amount of research on this subject (which is more, mind you, than anything done anywhere else – public libraries are not exactly good at this sort  thing) is that, overall, we’re not seeing the widespread destruction on the ground which may be feared, which is something that all of us who have seen the positive effects of the SRC on children can be fully grateful for.
Does this ring true to you? Have you any other experiences of volunteer libraries running the Summer Reading Challenge that you are willing to share? If so, please send this and/or any other news to ianlibrarian@live.co.uk.


In the previous post of 17th July, I said that the Gloucestershire judicial review merely meant that the council redid the necessary parts and then acted as it would have done previously.  It has been pointed out to me that this is not the case and that three static libraries remained opened due to the decision.  My thanks to @FOGLibraries for the correction.


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Lincolnshire Council loses judicial review on two grounds: all the chief points, links and analysis


So the judge has agreed that Lincolnshire Council failed to do things properly on two out of the four grounds that they were challenged on. Here’s the key stuff reported in the media:

  • The consultation was fundamentally flawed, with a key thing being that the decision had already effectively being made. However, as campaigners in Gloucestershire discovered a year or two ago, there appears to be nothing stopping council simply consulting again, this time properly, and then doing the same thing, although in that case significant changes had to be made by the county which, saved three static libraries.
  • Lincolnshire failed to properly consider the alternative proposals made by GLL to run the service.
  • The judge did not reprove the Council with regard to the 1964 Act or over Equalities legislation.
  • Judge says that council “would have difficulty putting in an appeal” suggesting he was not overly impressed by their arguments on the two lost grounds.

For Lincolnshire, therefore, how things move depends on how seriously the council wants to cut the library budget and pass branches to volunteers.  Every indication so far is that they are very set on this and so this may be just a temporary reprieve.  However, it is in no way a waste of time or money for campaigners – for one thing, it means the Council will have to do things correctly, which is something that everyone (including the Council itself, if it thought about this properly) should want.  For another, every month gained is another month closer to the looming General Election.  Do the councillors there really want to close libraries months before a vote? And anything could happen after that election.

Councils should take from this, at the very least, the need to genuinely consult their public before making the decisions.  This is, however, very difficult for some councils who are used to doing things their own way and are in the habit of seeing consultations as, at worse, a tick box exercise or a necessary annoyance.  In their defence of course, it doesn’t help, of course, that councils are under great pressure, often with lack of time and resources to do anything else.  In library circles as well, “consultations” are also often used as a thinly veiled recruitment campaign (or blackmail exercise, depending on how badly it is done) for volunteers to run the buildings the council has already effectively decided it can no longer afford to run.  This, the judge appears to have agreed with today, is an unlawful way to go about things.  Put simply, consult before you decide otherwise you’re not consulting lawfully and you may have to waste money by backing down or doing it all over again.

The other decision here is that the alternative proposal to run the service by GLL was not properly considered.  This will be viewed with decidedly mixed feelings by some who doubt the good intentions of the social enterprise.  Leaving the merits of that case aside, the decision means that councils should beware not considering other proposals for their services other than the one they have their hearts set on.  But hang on, for those councils who seriously want to do the best thing for their libraries, this is what should be happening anyway.  For those councils who do not do things properly – and it’s pretty clear that the Judge thinks Lincolnshire Council comes under this heading – then let this be a warning.

In plain language to any chief librarians reading this (hi there), the judge said make sure your council does its research and consultations properly and that it’s able to show it has.  If enough someones don’t agree then there’s a strong possibility of a legal challenge and then a whole pile of unnecessary pain awaits.

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Tom Roper fallout, the Duchess of Cambridge and Doctor Who

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Speaking volumes and CILIP troubles


A really nice piece of pro-public libraries material (“advocacy” as it is often called) has been published today by Carnegie UK Trust. Called “Speaking Volumes”, it “sets out the range of ways in which public libraries can affect the wellbeing of individuals and communities, and how libraries are relevant to four main policy areas: social, economic, cultural and education policy.”. Coming as both a leaflet and as a poster,  I especially like all the nice friendly illustrations too. It’s free to download and print. If anyone would like any further information or a hardcopy of the leaflet please contact Carnegie UK Trust directly at info@carnegieuk.org.  [Please note I did some consultancy work for Carnegie on this and so please treat this square brackets thing as a declaration of interest.  It's still good though - Ed.]

If only everything was such happy reading. I was sorry to learn today that Tom Roper, recently identified by the BookSeller as a Rising Star (and the only librarian to be so honoured) and a colleague of mine in Voices for the Library, has resigned from CILIP Council.  This has been over what he sees to be a move away from democracy in the proposed new governance structure, where the CILIP President will not be directly elected by the membership but rather by the Council, themselves becoming one third unelected. This governance thing could be shaping up as almost as big a fiasco for the body as the defeat over rebranding in 2013.  Whether it will do anything to reverse the decline in membership (now at a historic low of just 13,342) is another matter.


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Malorie and Sarah

The high point of the year: Summer Reading Challenge 2013


The Summer Reading Challenge is, each year, without a doubt, the best thing that happens to British public libraries. During the weeks it runs, hundreds of children come to my libraries asking to join, getting excited about the stickers and proud at the medals.  The parents come along of course as well.  The branches are a hive of activity.  Last year, over 500 (five hundred) children joined the Creepy House challenge from a town of only 30,000 people. That’s a take-up rate way beyond anything else that libraries do and way up on the year before.  Unfortunately, I could not attend the official launch this year but Laura Swaffield and Elizabeth Ash of the Library Campaign did and I indebted to them for the following write up (Laura) and photos (Elizabeth):

Malorie and Sarah

Malorie Blackman, Sarah McIntyre … and Medusa

“The 16th – yes, really! – annual Summer Reading Challenge (SRC) is now officially launched.  Congratulations to The Reading Agency (TRA) for this brilliant scheme that last year kept a record 810,000 kids enjoying books through the summer holiday (and ta to Arts Council England for chipping in with some of the funding).

It’s significant that the British Library provided a posh venue for the launch event plus an enthusiastic speech by BL boss Roly Keating, who clearly gets how important public libraries are. As he’s a member of the Sieghart inquiry panel, that has to be a good sign… I hope. “This is the kind of initiative we love,” said Roly, describing SRC as “a summer nationwide festival”. “It’s great, he said, “to have an occasion to celebrate the whole [public library] system… whatever we [ the BL] do, we want to have the on-the-ground impact that SRC has…” and more of the same.

Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman also took the chance to talk up “how vital public libraries are to our children, and to the whole process of reading for pleasure”. She quoted various kids and parents. One kid had “never liked reading, but I’ll definitely do more reading now”. A parent talked of her child’s new-found “confidence, fluency and, most of all, enthusiasm – reading for pleasure, not because the school said so”.

As local libraries crash and burn by the score, what are the chances of retaining a “whole system” of libraries? As more and more are dumped on to reluctant “volunteers” to do the best they can, what are via delivery on a national scale?

Sue Wilkinson, TRA’s chief executive, outlined some of this year’s goodies – developed via feedback from previous SRCs. Book recommendations, from participants and celebrity writers. Stickers and certificates are the classic and now proven SRC motivators. Some stickers Ed.] There’s also stuff for kids with visual impairments, thanks to collaboration with RNIB as well as quizzes, clues, quests, mazes and more. “Digital magic” by Solus, with (inevitably) an app, and all kinds of audio-visual content including messages from mythical creatures. Plus there’s loads of publicity material that (sadly) shows up the inadequacy of the usual public library “advocacy” stuff (what there is of it).

Above all, the promotion benefits from great illustrations. “The artwork is critical to SRC’s success,” said Sue. No worries here, with funny, colourful, imaginative images by the award-winning Sarah McIntyre. Sarah turned up in a suitably colourful outfit, including a writhing green Medusa hat. Sarah is already a favourite at The Library Campaign for her clever poster “A librarian is a powerful search engine with a heart“, which is still downloadable for free. Meanwhile, all is revealed at SRC’s website: www.mythical-maze.org.uk … and of course down your local library.”

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You know you’ve got problems when …


North East Lincolnshire continue the run of authorities who are announcing that more than half their existing library provision is in danger of being closed or passed to volunteers. Cuts, of varying amounts, have also been announced in Poole, Torbay and Powys.  Meanwhile, things don’t look good for Lincolnshire Council who appear to have had an unpleasant second and final day in the judicial review.  When one of your main arguments is the strength of feeling against your own consultation, you know you’ve got problems. Mind you, if Lincolnshire win after what appears to be a chronically inept consultation and decision-making process, then we’ve all got problems.


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Library strike: when not working in a library is the best that one can do


Many libraries will be closed tomorrow. That’s unfortunately hardly not a rare statement these days but this time it will not be by the Government and not by councils but by the library workers themselves in industrial action over a 1% pay offer.  As someone who will be on strike myself I need to say that such strikers do not take this action lightly.  I love libraries and all they stand for.  Every day in work and, heaven knows, every night I do Public Libraries News, it is made obvious to me how much people depend on libraries.  But any library (unless they are one of the increasing number passed to the unpaid) need well-paid staff in order to function and I have, like my colleagues, received a 20% cut in pay in inflation-adjustedl terms when compared to four years ago. That’s, I’ll say it again, 20%.  In fact, it’s more than that because I used to be paid time and a half for the Saturdays that I worked and I don’t any more.  I’m going to be brutally honest at this point therefore: it’s coming to the stage where I find it hard to pay the mortgage.  I love libraries but not enough to lose my house over them.  I care deeply about the job and above all I care deeply about the people I serve but I will need to go for a job outside the sector if these pay cuts (hidden as pay freezes or “increases” below inflation) continue.  Indeed, being that such cuts are not unknown in the private sector as well, then I may even need to leave the country.

And that’s just me … and I’m a manager, albeit a very junior one.  Now what about those other library and council workers? Well, two-thirds of council workers are paid below the Government’s own poverty threshold.  Two thirds. One third are paid even below the living wage. If I think it’s bad, with what my parents would call my lower middle class life, then heaven knows what some of my colleagues are going through.

Alright, so that’s tough isn’t it?  There’s no money, right? Well, no. Local authority reserves have risen from £2.9 billion to £19 billion during this time of “austerity”. Even the government deficit doesn’t demand it when looked at historically. Moreover, over half the cost of a decent rise would be recouped by the Government in terms of increased tax revenue and decreased benefits.  Now this strike may do no good. The Government and the majority of the media care not a jot for council workers and they’re unlikely to care more after tomorrow.  But David Cameron and the Mail and the rest have been at war with providing decent council services since before 2010.  The money is there, what we’re looking at is an ideological campaign against council provision and for lower taxes, and higher private profits at any price. We’re getting to a point where we can’t take much more and still offer a good service. So we need to do something … and this is the only thing left for us to do.

Thanks for reading this.  I hope that this will be the last strike I am in.  I hate striking.  I want to keep libraries open, not closed.  But sometimes a library worker has got to do what a library worker has got to do.  Including not working in a library.


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Lincolnshire Judicial Review Day 1, school libraries parliamentary group report , Staffordshire



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Public Library change in use

Less are taking part … but why?


Well, this is depressing but perhaps not unexpected. Figures released on Friday from the DCMS Taking Part survey show a 23.2% decline in visits between 2005 and 2013.  This tallies well with CIPFA statistics which showed a 28.3 % reduction in borrowing  from 2005 to 2013.  So, why the decline?  Well, the obvious one is decline in budget and, interestingly, other figures show that the public libraries budget did indeed go down almost identically by 29% in the same period if one takes into account inflation.  However, a look at the individual years show not such a strong correlation, with visits and membership going down even in periods when budget went up.  Certainly, the declining trend in visits seems to have halted at the time of an increase in budget but the decline in membership looks like it didn’t.   There is also an issue with taking inflation into account as some argue that inflation does not affect libraries budget so much.  For example, staffing is a large proportion of the total budget but pay freezes mean this has barely risen since 2010. However, this is so much sophistry to me: budget is doubtless to my mind a big factor in the decline but we have to say that it is not the only one.

So what other reasons could there be?  Well, the obvious one is technological change.  The adoption of ebooks and an increasing amount of people with online access has doubtless hurt visits and membership, especially as the spread and depth of  e-lending has been distinctly mixed in England … and I say England because this trend is not apparent in some other countries.  After all, the US has seen budget cuts as well but their overall library is actually going up.  So, either there is a big difference between the two countries’ library services (and there certainly is: the US doesn’t have as high household online use or even job centres for a start … but is that enough?) or there’s something going specially wrong in England.

It would, at this point, also be great to compare trends in the EU.  It would be especially useful to look at usage in comparatively well-funded France and Germany with numbers in badly-hit Portugal and Greece.  This would be doubly beneficial as Portugal at least has gone for keeping staff and cutting book buying while in the UK we’ve gone all out in both.  That comparison will have to wait until another day (Public Libraries News is a part-time hobby, after all, not a full-time occupation) but it needs doing.  Because otherwise we’re simply guessing at what is going on and that is a truly terrible situation, with councils keen to cut funding on one side, commentators like Tim Coates (see below) blaming library leaders on the other side and those same library leaders working under high pressure in a research-free haze caught in the middle.

Public Library change in use


Comparison budget and use

Tim Stats

Combined statistics courtesy of Tim Coates


“When you look at the table – as I hope you will -  you will see clearly, I hope, why Desmond [Clarke] and Shirley [Burnham] and Alan Gibbons and others are so angry about the operation of the public library service. From idiotic so-called ‘ library professionals’ to overpaid civil servants and public officials, to highly rewarded operators of charities and do -gooding consultancies – we have an army of idiots who are responsible for public libraries. It might be a surprise to look at such appalling figures, if we didn’t know that – at exactly the beginning of the period they record (2005) Gerald Kaufmann and the Culture Select Committee had not looked at the same figures for the previous ten years and observed the same story of miserable incompetence in every quarter.   His sensible recommendations were raucously ignored in every quarter – and now we see the results. To put alongside that the simple information that this decline has occurred only in the UK -   it is not mirrored in European or Asian or American countries – is to ward off the pile of excuses to which we will be exposed.  Nobody should fund a service which is so incompetently managed.  The public library service pays more in salaries and fees, than the entire UK publishing industry – it is not a trivial endeavour in any way ….    Tim Coates via email


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