Powney33

Concentrate on services, not buildings: Councillor Powney on Brent’s Library Transformation Project

This is an unusual post for Public Libraries News.  For months, almost two years, this website has been reporting on the closure of libraries in Brent and the campaign to stop them.  Arguably, the reports have largely been from the campaigners’ point of view rather than that of the authority.  Councillor Powney, one of the chief movers behind the decision to close the libraries, has been in touch in order to redress the balance and to give his, and the council’s, side to what has been the most emotive and high profile closures in, possibly, the history of UK public libraries.  This post belongs to him. I expect to publish a response to it from campaigners tomorrow.

More >

Julia Donaldson writes open letter on libraries

The Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson, at the start of her UK tour to highlight the subject of public libraries, has written an open letter to the new Secretary of State.  It’s a great letter and sums up what is so important about libraries and how terrible the last couple of years have been. It also points out the inadequacies of the Government response to what has been the deepest peacetime cuts in history to the budget and provision of public libraries.  There was a great deal of coverage in the Independent, the London Evening Standard, the BBC and the Scotsman.  Again, though, the Government response has been inadequate.  The new Secretary of State, Maria Miller, was quoted on the BBC Radio 4 News as saying, in effect, public libraries were nothing to do with her.  She needs to learn the error of this statement quickly and then she needs to do something about it.  Or it’s going to be more of the awful same as we have had before.

More >

International Literacy Day

September 8th is designated as International Literacy Day by UNESCO. Many national papers covered the story that children are reading less, although few made with the link with libraries.  However, there’s a couple of good stories from Canada and Australia where the link was made.

The DCMS has written to campaigners in Lewisham and Bolton to extend the date for them to reply to Ed Vaizey’s “not minded to intervene” letter to 5 o’clock on 31st October.  I’ve seen copies of the letters but the DCMS website has not yet been updated as of the date of this posting.  So, you now have enough time to tell Ed why not intervening in widespread library closures in those boroughs is going against his statutory duty.

More >

Hi Ed

Comment

Save Kensal Rise have now raised more than five thousand pounds more than their fundraising target of £70,000.  This does not mean their library is safe but it means they have a fighting chance.  Which is more than can be said for democracy in Cornwall, as the majority of Cornwall Council councillors have vote against privatising its services, including libraries, only to have their vote ignored by the Cabinet who are pressing ahead anyway.

In a move which raise a wry smile in the UK, it appears that people who work in Nigerian libraries but are not qualified face the danger of prosecution.  It is unlikely that the Government will follow this example. Speaking of this Government, Public Libraries News has been honoured by a mention in Parliament.  A mention, incidentally, that shows the Under Secretary of State with responsibility for libraries is aware of the existence of this website.  Bearing in mind what I occasionally say about him, I can only hope he is not a vindictive or violent man.

More >

You take 18 months, we get 2 weeks?

Comment

It appears that Kensal Rise Campaign has met, or will soon meet, their £70,000 target needed to have a convincing enough business case for the library owners, the Oxford college All Souls College.  It also appears that they have an ex Minister of the Arts no less, Mark Fisher, as Chair of Trustees.  The fact he’s a Labour politician will doubtless annoy the DCMS but it remains to see how Labour-run Brent Council, who have been so adamant in their opposition to keeping the library open, will react.  The coverage gained by Kensal Rise, with its celebrity and political support, should not cloud the fact that it is just one library of many in difficulties around England, but it’s place as a media darling and the sheer commitment and innovation of its supporters deserves respect, even if one is unsure about the role of volunteer-run libraries.

More >

Goodbye Jeremy, we’re having Maria

Comment

In a “ruthless Cameron reshuffle to the right“,  Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State with ultimate responsibility for Libraries has now moved on to the Department of Health.  He said and did almost the absolute minimum on the subject of libraries over a period of unprecedented cuts, closures, hollowing out and deprofessionalisation.

More >

Loss of libraries to 18% of users is fine: Ed Vaizey on Bolton, Isle of Wight & Lewisham

Ed Vaizey has responded to three of the most branch-cutting authorities to say that he is not currently minded to intervene in any of them.  In other words, he sees the loss of 5 out of 15 branches in Bolton, 5 out of 12 in Lewisham and 5 out of 11 in the Isle of Wight as acceptable.

A lose of a third to nearly a half of total service points would normally be seen as quite major but the letter shows that this it is not sufficient to merit intervention.  The main reason put forward for this is that the five branches lost in each case were the smallest ones and so represent only small amounts of active borrowers, being 13% in Bolton and 18% in the Isle of Wight, with the real number being smaller due to some users visiting larger branches as well. Mr Vaizey does not tell us the percentage of active users affected in Lewisham but indirectly notes that 17% of visits and 23% of book issues were in the closed branches in 2009/10.

More >

Demonisation of volunteers: cause and effect?

 

Two interesting articles that at first sight have little to do with eachother have come to my attention.  The first is an interesting powerpoint presentation by the Society of Chief Librarians.  Within it, the SCL states that it “leads the professional debate” on the future of public libraries and that it is doing “quiet diplomacy” with politicians. The powerpoint also states the (hard to argue with) basic standards that the SCL believes that all library services should deliver:

More >

A beating heart that should not be allowed to stop

News

  • Libraries are the beating heart – Teen Librarian Toolbox (USA). A truly beautiful piece of writing that everyone involved in deciding on the future of libraries, especially the politicians, should read:

… “For 19 years I had the distinct honor of living in Ohio communities with thriving libraries that beat loudly as the heart of their communities.  And now I live in a community without one (I commute 45 minutes to work).  There is no magic in the air here, just commerce and industry and asphalt.  There is no smell of leather and paper.  Dreams and magic don’t waft in the air.  Children don’t sing and shake eggs as their parents sit together and participate in community.  Everywhere you turn it seems we are running out of money; but what happens when we stop our beating heart from beating?  What happens to our communities when we shut the doors on the past and put out the flames of the future?  What happens when we get rid of our librarians who teach our children to sing and dance and shake an egg and love a good story?  What happens when we forget to think and dream, to ask and to answer questions?”

More >

“I owe my whole life to books from libraries” Zadie Smith Radio 5 Interview

 

The following is a transcription of a three minute interview between Zadie Smith and Richard Bacon on Radio Five todayA year ago she wrote in defence of libraries and her passion has not dimmed.

Zadie Smith: When we were children, you’d never imagine that you’d get into a Right/Left argument about the purpose and use of a library.  It seems extraordinary to me.

More >