“Getting rid of a member of your team”: a ten year old’s view on library cuts

Editorial

I get tired of writing about libraries occasionally so it’s great that I sometimes get sent people’s thoughts that I can publish.  The one below is a rather wonderful letter (I’ve transcribed it, keeping in the original spelling and grammar) from a ten year old girl to her pro-library grandfather.  It’s a bit of a gem.  Enjoy.

“Dear Grandad

Below, I have written a letter attempting to to persuade the government and county council to keep librarys going. xxx

Critics of libarys have had the idea to demolish the treasure trove of books, causing hundreds of people to be sad or / and angry. This would destroy some hapiness for all the community – Mothers, Fathers, babies, children and senior citizens. For these reasons, it has come to the attention of many people why libarys should be kept alive.

Many critics would argue that children no longer need books or enjoy them and are much more intrested in gadgets. However, without books, children’s literacy levels would shoot down. So therefore books help childrens spelling and vocabulary. In addition to this, children discover lots of new facts and information from books, and it is impossible to argue with the fact that they cannot learn of the information they need from their own books at home. If a child was collecting a series of books, they can find a new one that have not brought yet in the library for free.

Although some people against the idea may say no-one goes in the library any more so there is no point in it, it is a well known fact that it is commonly used as a meeting point. It is a safe point and is useful for preparing children in year 5 and 6 for there next school, as they will be used to walking with friends and by themselves. Furthermore, older children can arrange to meet their friends by it, as everyone knows where the library is, because it is a safe environment to be in.

Even though critics argue that it lies unused by teenagers who are uninterested by books, that is untrue. It is obvious that librarys have computers that teenagers can use for homework if they do have one at home. Moreover, teenagers would enjoy watching the range of films that the library holds. Because of this, it is clear that teenagers do enjoy libarys.

In conclusion, the points about keeping libraries open are more powerful and compelling then the points against. Therefore why do we have to close out wonderful librarys, when they do not cost much and are part of our community? Can you imagine having to get rid of a member of your team? Therefore it is obvious that we must keep our libarys open!

I also recommend reading the article on the “Real Purpose of Libraries” by the wonderful Scott Bonner below.  It’ll set you up for the week.

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Lib Dems and Green manifesto mentions: big cuts in Enfield and Trafford

Editorial

A big thank you to Post Lib for allowing me to publish their article which includes statements from the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Greens on public libraries.  Since my last post, UKIP and the Lib Dems have published their manifestos.  UKIP barely mention libraries (apart from noting that they’re run by local councils) but the Lib Dems have more to say:

“Complete broadband rollout to every home, and create an innovation fund to help keep local GPs, post offices and local libraries open … Develop the Community Budgets model for use in rural areas to combine services, encouraging the breaking down of barriers between different services. This will help rural services like GP surgeries, pharmacies, post offices and libraries open by enabling them to cooperate, share costs and co-locate in shared facilties … Support local libraries and ensure any libraries under threat of closure are offered first for transfer to the local community” Liberal Democrat Manifesto

To my embarrassment, I had not noticed that the Greens decided to publish their manifesto as a non-searchable image file rather than as a PDF like the other parties.  I therefore missed their statements on libraries (because they did not show up using CTRL-F).  Their full statements are below:

“We need to improve the way the UK is governed, passing power back to the people, back to where they live and work. Local councils have been starved of the funds they need to do their job. That is why requests for social care go unheeded, libraries are shut and public parks neglected …” under Localisation

“Increase government arts funding by £500 million a year to restore the cuts made since 2010 and reinstate proper levels of funding for local authorities, helping to keep local museums, theatres, libraries and art galleries open.” under Media,Sports and the Arts

“We were treated to post-election surprises such as increased VAT and huge cuts to essential public services such as benefits, libraries, children’s centres and mental health support. By contrast, the Green Party produced a worked-out financial plan in its 2010 manifesto.” Chapter 16 Green Party Manifesto

Away from the election, Enfield (Labour) has announced major cuts to libraries while Trafford (Conservative) have confirmed closure of two with significant cuts to others.

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Party Manifestos: Tories mention libraries in 2 or 3 sentences, Labour and Greens not at all

Editorial

There are no mentions of public libraries in either the Green or Labour Party Manifestos.  The Conservatives give two or three sentences:

“We will continue to support local libraries. We will help public libraries to support local communities by providing free wi-fi. And we will assist them in embracing the digital age by working with them to ensure remote access to e-books, without charge and with appropriate compensation for authors that enhances the Public Lending Right scheme.” Conservative Party Manifesto

Those who read PLN (and thank you for doing so) will know that this short paragraph hides a multitude of sins but the fact that Labour and (rather shockingly) the Greens don’t mention the sector once is rather shocking, especially given the unprecedented media coverage given to libraries over the last electoral term.

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The bottomless well: the lack of Library Standards in England

Editorial

The absence of standards for libraries in England is an increasingly glaring one but whenever I ask chief librarians or other very senior staff about it, the answer is that standards simply mean a dive to the bottom, not to the top.  The idea goes that in times of cuts, councils would look at the minimum level of service required and cut their funding accordingly.  The problem with using this argument is of course that councils will do that anyway, minimum standards or no. What we’re seeing at the moment is many councils (with Lincolnshire being the most obvious recently) looking at seeing what they can get away with, seeing that they can get away with a lot (at best, one library per 45,000 people at the last non-intervention by Vaizey) and going with it or perhaps pushing it a bit more. Where there are standards in other countries (like Scotland and Wales)  then at least there is a minimum.  We don’t even have that in England.  How far can you fall when the well is bottomless?

A guide to the defunct English Library Standards can be found by clicking this link

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Subsidy loss + Read On Get On

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Don’t look at the man behind the curtain

Editorial

Two more libraries – presumably because of the financial new year – have been passed on to Trusts but the main news is that the politics is heating up.  People are noticing there’s a general election coming up. The Labour Mayor of Liverpool, who has been busy cutting libraries, claims that you ain’t seen nothing if the Conservatives get into Number 10 – he says there won’t be a library left by the end of the term if they do. Leon, on the other hand, in his blog, points out that it doesn’t seem to matter if it’s the Tories or Labour when it comes to libraries: the only real hope lies with the “small” parties.

There’s also an excellent piece on the grim reality behind volunteer libraries by Dawn Finch and a no less superb piece by Pedronicus pointing out that there’s a disconnect between all the shiny talk about 3D printers and the cuts actually taking place.  Someone pointed out to me while discussing this that in one consultation they were asked about 3D printers while the council was looking to cut several hundred thousand pounds: it was like being asked what type of Ferrari you wanted while not being able to afford the Mini any more.  Or being distracted by the big shiny lights while the man behind the curtain pulls the levers and steals your library.

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Erratum

My calculations about the number of libraries per head in Lincolnshire that Ed Vaizey has agreed is acceptable was in error due to not taking into account that North Lincolnshire, as well as Northeast Lincolnshire, are unitary councils.  They therefore have libraries and so their population needs taking into account.

North Lincolnshire Council has got 167,500 population so that makes a total for Lincolnshire County Council alone of 682500.  682500 divided by 15 branches equals a still eye-watering 45500 people per branch.  England has a population of 53 million, that divided by 45500 equals 1100.  There’s 2900 libraries in England so that still makes 1800 libraries that Ed Vaizey would accept are not needed under this revised figure.  It is also worth noting that Lincoln, which has a population of 94600 would only have one branch under the council’s proposals.

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2000 fewer libraries? Ed Vaizey again decides not to intervene

Editorial

Mr Vaizey has again decided not to intervene in a library service that is severely reducing it’s number of branches and budget. In his letter saying he is “minded not to intervene” in Lincoolnshire, he makes it clear that 15 static libraries, online provision and a housebound book delivery service meet the statutory requirement for provision.  It accepts that the other 30 branches can be closed or passed to volunteers but, crucially, does not include them in making its final judgement – they are therefore effectively entirely optional and the council can do with them as it pleases, electorate willing.  The county council of Lincolnshire accounts for around 850,000 people so that raises the bar to 56,000 people per branch library being an acceptable figure.  So those who think that one should have a library in anything smaller than a middle to large town should consider writing to the minister before 24th April.

It’s worth bearing in mind, by the way, that that ratio would mean the secretary of state would be happy with less than one thousand libraries in all of England: 2000 – or two-thirds – fewer than now. One of the reasons for this acceptance appears to be that housebound library services are a “replacement” for those who cannot get into a local library, which is a scary thing where someone delivering the books to an incapacitated person in their own home can be used as an excuse to close down a vital service.

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Stewart Parsons, Libraries Cool Meister

Getting it Loud

Editorial

We’re often, it seems to me, behind other countries at the moment in terms of initiatives and programmes in libraries but there’s one thing which I have been aware of for years in the UK which is way and above what I have seen elsewhere.  This is the Get It Loud in Libraries phenomenon that brings some pretty darn good music to local libraries.  I finally caught up with one of the prime movers of this, Stewart Parsons, a couple of weeks ago and we got to talking.  While chatting – it was at a libraries conference – the manager of Skelmersdale Library came up to us and told Stewart that the gig he had put on in her library the week before was the best thing that had happened in her career.  Now that shows what a great impact this programme can have, and it’s not a one-off because I see stellar feedback from Get It Loud all the time on Twitter. So, of course, I asked Stewart to write a piece for PLN and I am very pleased that he agreed.  Please find it below and, um … rock on.

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“Amplifying Libraries – Loud In Libraries Style” by Stewart Parsons of Get It Loud in Libraries

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Shropshire 22 out of 28 to be community-run + ACE research.

Editorial

So today we have the news that Shropshire appears to be going the way of Leicestershire, Staffordshire and so many others and forcing most of its libraries to be run by “community groups”.  On the same day, we have Arts Council England bring out a definitive report showing that both users and non-users of libraries would be willing to pay more on their council tax in order to maintain their services.  Indeed, they’d be willing to pay almost twice as much, and the same report shows that health and wellbeing benefits of libraries alone repay most of the costs. Well done to ACE for conducting the research which will hopefully help reduce the number of such bad news stories from library authorities in the future.

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A noble librarian faced with adversity triumphs

Editorial

Ferguson Library in the USA recently stayed open during pretty bad times.  More than that, it became a classroom for children whose schools were closed and a place of safety and regeneration in a community desperately in need of healing.  It’s manager, Scott Bonner, is understated when asked what he achieved but was very clearly the right person at the right time.  Have a listen to the podcast interview here and the Guardian article here for the full-on wonderfulness of it all.  So I’m really delighted about the winner of the best named prize in the library world, the Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity. Ferguson is an example of the importance of public libraries in communities, of their vital nature if the community itself has problems and of the danger in ignoring them to save a pound or two.

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