More volunteers than full-time librarians by the end of 2012

Please note that the full transcript of the Radio Four Today Programme interview with Tony Durcan on volunteer-run libraries is in the previous post “Not Brain Surgery”.

News

“If anything, equality legislation provides even more of a convenient catch-all for those eager to refuse to comply with either human need or common sense. A High Court judge has just refused to permit volunteers to contribute to the running of Surrey’s libraries, because the council hadn’t trained them sufficiently well in the rights of “vulnerable users”. Who constitutes a vulnerable user of a library? Someone who can’t read?” Disturbing case of Mrs Mulcahy and her environmentalist doctors - Telegraph.

“This judgement has significant implications for local authorities seeking to withdraw funding for a publicly accountable and professional library service and to instead pass the burden to unpaid volunteers as part of the so called ‘big society’. Community groups should not be forced into taking over services, as many will not have the capacity, or numbers to keep them going. This will lead to a postcode lottery, with some communities doing without libraries altogether if groups fail to rise to the challenge. “UNISON is clear that library services should be run as public services, staffed by librarians and library assistants, who are able to access support and training to enable them to deliver a quality service.”” Heather Wakefield, Head of Local Government for UNISON – UNISON welcomes “brilliant” library news
  • Do librarians work hard enough? - Inside Higher Ed (USA).  “…the real flaw in Coffman’s argument is his assumption that librarians had imperial goals. We have never tried to corner the market on information or drive any other organization out of business. We’re the opposite of empire builders. We’re trying to preserve access to common ground where ideas can be shared openly, not a trading pit for buyers and sellers. We’re not serving customers, we represent the will of the people so they can help themselves and be part of a community that learns.”
  • Felix Schurholz makes the case for free coworking - Shareable.   Libraries have been suggested as a good place for coworking – where business people can use the facilities (table space, wifi, coffee, printer etc – things libraries often have) for their business for free.
  • High Court rules against library cuts while campaigners claim volunteer-run service “unsustainable” -  International Business Times.  “The decision by Mr Justice Wilkie will bolster confidence in campaign groups across the country, which continue to fight cuts to their local service. [but] Judth Wardle, chair of Save Oxfordshire Libraries, told IBTimes UK that Surrey Libraries Action Movement’s legal victory would not signal a wave of legal challenges.”
“We are welcoming volunteers, but we can’t go hunting them. There just aren’t enough of them out there. It seems that the councils are going to be facing some serious questions about their next step. “They don’t just want there to be volunteers, but they are asking for them to be recruited and for action to be taken to ensure that they turn up. We are not happy with that. We will not turn volunteering into a compulsion, so we are just staying quiet.”

  • Jarvis attacks Vaizey on Surrey judgement - BookSeller. 
  • Judge rules against council plan to staff libraries with volunteers - Telegraph.  
  • Libraries: care in the community? - BookSeller. Excellent comprehensive article on volunteer run libraries, [all the more so for mentioning me – Ian]  Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire, perhaps the best-known of all community libraries, has just marked five years under the control of volunteers. The number of book loans processed by the branch has increased every year in that time. Several more libraries have become completely self-sustaining, meeting costs via philanthropy and enterprise without any local authority contributions. But others have either struggled to survive, or failed to get off the ground in the first place. Use of libraries has often fallen substantially after volunteers took them on, with changes of locations, hours and services putting people off visiting. And given the enormous demands placed on volunteers, it is hardly surprising that many have stalled.”
“If we assume that those trends have continued this year, libraries in 2012 will feature more volunteers than full-time librarians”

  • Libraries for learning for life - Envisioning the library of the future (Arts Council).  John Dolan writes the fifth Arts Council blog post, suggesting the need for government departments and agencies to work together in order to ensure libraries are there throughout life to support literacy and learning.The public library system is a huge resource: 4,000 outlets, networked, packed with resources and staffed by skilled, empathetic information and knowledge workers. How to maximise reach and impact? Storytelling every week? It should be every morning and afternoon. Outreach projects? Community engagement should be the norm.”
  • Radio Five Live on the Surrey Libraries decision (42:00 to 47) – “The judge hasn’t actually criticised our plans for libraries” says council.”.  Council is going to persevere and still use volunteers.  Campaigners says libraries will not be sustainable in the future unless run by the Council.  Those interviewed were happy to have volunteers to increase opening hours etc but think they need a paid member of staff, a council employee, to be present and responsible.  Surrey has twice tried to close these libraries and, if they try again, eveyone will go against the council.  Council volunteer plan “will not save any money”.
  • Repeat after me “I am the stereotype librarian and I am proud” - Shallowreader’s Blog.   “In my opinion, the only librarian stereotype is a person who is always able to help you locate the information you need and can usually be trusted to be objective. That is it.”
  • Surrey judgement should serve as a stark warning about community libraries - Voices for the Library.   “Whilst the Society of Chief Librarians appeared to be happy to endorse community libraries on the Today programme this morning, at Voices for the Library we argue that this is an unacceptable alternative to paid staff supported by professionals.   No community should be forced to accept a second class service on the premise that it is better than no service at all.  Community libraries are not a sustainable alternative and those that do see them as a solution need to be aware that it is not a long-term answer and will simply result in a slower, more painful death of the service in the community.”
  • Take heart, fellow library loves, the writing isn’t on the wall quite yet - Guardian.   Surrey legal judgement ” It boils down to an issue over equality, and Surrey is saying its proposals “could still go ahead”. But it’s nonetheless the first legal acknowledgment that trained library staff are, actually, rather special.”.  … “Second, let’s make ourselves happy by looking at some of the wonderful, inspiring libraries from around the world. Take a glance at the new Stuttgart library. Scroll down a bit on the link and just look at the many, many floors of books!”
“Let’s channel any positive feelings we’ve managed to engender towards campaigners in Friern Barnet, who have been fighting to save their library for some time and are awaiting a cabinet vote this evening to find out what the future of their much-loved branch will be. Fingers crossed for them.”

Changes

Braford - Wilsden Library reopens one day per week as volunteer-run.
Somerset – 10 staff expected to be lost due to introduction of self-service
West Sussex - Shoreham library closed for three weeks for installation of self-service
 
Local News

  • Bradford – Renewed lease of life of Wilsden library - Telegraph & Argus.  “About 100 people attended the ceremony yesterday, when Baroness Eaton cut the ribbon to declare the new library officially open.” … “Bradford Libraries service is still supporting Wilsden but is not funding it in any way or providing any staff, so we put out a request for volunteers this year, when the closure was confirmed and had a marvellous response.Wilsden library will be open on Tuesdays from 9.15am to 7pm.”
  • Gloucestershire – Lechlade library’s fate is sealed, say campaigners - Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard.  “Angry campaigners are gearing up for the final round of fights against library cuts that they fear are already a done deal. Gloucestershire County Council cabinet will review a new library strategy tomorrow (Thursday, April 5) and make their final decision on whether Lechlade library should be handed over to volunteers. But campaigners say the fate of the town’s facility has already been decided and believe it will become a community library despite opposition from residents.” …. “Stewart Bruce, chairman of Lechlade and district civic society, said the GCC library consultation process was a “sham” and that the cabinet meeting was just an opportunity to rubber stamp “fait accompli” plans. If the plan is rejected at cabinet, the town will be forced to run the library on volunteers or face closing completely.”
  • Isle of Man – Libraries saved by Pokerstars - Isle of Man Today.  “Online gaming company PokerStars has committed to fund the libraries for three years to safeguard all employees and maintain the current level of service and fee structure. It will not provide any sort of branding or presence in the libraries.”
  • Kirklees – Legal challenge could change Kirklees library controversy - Huddersfield Daily Examiner.   “Campaigners here say it remains unclear what will happen if insufficient people step forward to staff the libraries and claim the consultation has been poor. So it seems a legal door may now be ajar to stop the plans for Denby Dale, Shepley, Honley, Golcar, Slaithwaite, Lepton and Kirkheaton libraries. If someone here was to push that legal door in the courts perhaps things could start to take a very different turn.”
    • Campaigners buoyed by High Court rulling - Huddersfield Daily Examiner.   “Denby Dale-based libraries campaigner Biddy Fisher OBE said the High Court ruling created a “precedent” which Kirklees would ignore at its peril. “The Surrey case is very similar to Kirklees and it has created a precedent, which is the important thing,” she said. “It could open the door to a legal challenge in Kirklees and if there was any member of the community who wants to take this forward I would give them my absolute support.”
    • “Cynical side to the Kirklees library cuts plans” -  Huddersfield Daily Examiner.  “No answers were forthcoming to queries about the criteria for deciding which libraries would close unless residents agreed to run them voluntarily, yet the bizarre criteria in a document entitled Reshaping Library Services has existed for months.”
“the paper identifies areas of Kirklees where it claims (without any supporting evidence) there is considerable community activity and proposes these areas should have services withdrawn. The suggestion is presumably that we punish community-spirited regions by removing the council services for which they pay in the same way as everyone else.”

  • North Yorkshire – Library chiefs defiant on volunteers - Yorkshire Post.  Coun Chris Metcalfe, executive member for library services, said: “We have worked very closely with our communities all the way along. We are engaging closely with volunteer groups and putting up necessary support services to ensure that these people have got help and assistance as and when they require. It is not what Surrey Council is doing that was wrong, but the way it was doing it. We feel through the way we have worked so closely with local communities throughout this process, we are on the right side of the law.”
  • Surrey – Libraries campaigners keen to work with Council after High Court ruling - Eagle Radio.   NB many other Surrey related pieces are above in the “News” section.  ““All along we’ve said we are prepared to talk about different options. We’ve been around to the ten sites and consulted with people and there are lots of ideas people have that are very keen on the library service. They could save money and not diminish the library service.  If they (the council) want to introduce volunteers, we say that is fine. Let’s have an increased role for volunteers but working together with staff.”
  • Warwickshire – Henley Library volunteers prepare for takeover - Coventry Telegraph. The volunteers who will manage Henley-in-Arden library have been getting to grips with the library management system at training sessions in Stratford Library. They take over running of the library, which will move into new premises at the Old Schoolroom in Henley Methodist Church, next Tuesday – following in the footsteps of other fledgling ventures such as the one at Bulkington Library”
  • West Sussex – Shoreham library to close for three weeks - Shoreham Herald.  This is for self-service.  Article ends … “What do you think? Do you support the introduction of self-service machines as a cost-cutting measure or do you prefer the personal touch? Do you still use the library?”

“Not brain surgery”: Tony Durcan on BBC Radio Four

Another senior manager today gave, at best, lukewarm support for the universal need for paid and qualified library staff.  At the end of  an interview with the highly influential Today Programme this morning, Tony Durcan appeared to say that volunteers could replace paid staff as long as they had a “network of skilled people” to support them.  Mr Durcan is the boss of Newcastle City Council libraries, a former president of the Society of Chief Librarians and a current Councillor of CILIP, the professional body for librarians.   After saying library work was “not brain surgery” he did list a few of the vital jobs that library staff do but then said that volunteers would be equally able to do so as long as they had assistance. It did not appear from context, although this was never explicitly stated, that this assistance had to be in the same library. This will pain many, not least the campaigners in Surrey and Gloucestershire, who wish to keep libraries under council control.  It also appears to go in some way against the official CILIP policy that states:
“If community managed libraries are to be regarded as part of the statutory service they must have a core paid staff, be part of the professionally led public library service and operate within a service level agreement with that parent library service. Volunteers play a valuable role in enhancing the public library service but they are not a replacement for the skills and expertise of staff. All are entitled to a public library service of high quality.”

On the other hand, like almost all librarians, Mr Durcan will not be used to being interviewed by national media and it is easy to mean one thing and seem to say another. 

The full transcript of the interview is below…

BBC Radio Four, Today Programme, 4th April 2012, 7.53am

Sarah Montague (S) : A High Court judge has told Suffolk County Council that it would be unlawful for it to allow ten of its libraries to be run by volunteers because it hasn’t taken enough account of equality issues.  The council says that as it only lost the case on a technical challenge, it could still push ahead with the voluntary scheme by providing additional training.  So is that the way forward for all libraries? Well, Tony Durcan is head of libraries for Newcastle City Council and a former president of the Society of Chief Librarians, good morning to you.
Tony Durcan (T) : Good morning.
N: Now this ruling on equality issues, that is just a question of training the staff is it?
T: In this particular instance, yes.  I think whenever we make any proposals to services or budget reductions that impact on services, we have to carry out proper equality assessments to see how they affect people and what we can do to mitigate that.
N: OK, but can you give us an example of the kind of thing that that would cover?
T: An equalities issue?
N: Yes.
T: It could be that if you were reducing opening hours, would that disadvantage a particular section of the community?  So if your library was perhaps only open one evening a week and you reduced it by that evening, how do people who go out to work or children coming home from school use services? That’s just one example but it covers the whole range of service areas.
N: Now Surrey County Council have made it clear that they would want to basically get round this or at least find a way to tackle that problem because from the sounds of it these libraries are only going to stay open if they can find a way to make them work on a voluntary basis?
T: That appears to be the case with Surrey and there are examples across the country where other library authorities are also looking at a range of volunteer proposals to help, well, in some cases to protect the library service and and maintain it and in other cases to enhance it.
N: And do you see that as the way forward if there is a shortage of money and if there’s not enough to keep libraries going, is the answer to get in voluntary staff? 

T:  Well, it depends what it means by “just getting in voluntary staff”.  There is a huge spectrum, I believe.  One is where volunteers, which we have been doing for many years, we have about a hundred in my authority, come in to help do things that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.  Not to subsitute for opening hours or staff but to do extra things so, for example, we run a very successful summer reading scheme, part of a national scheme, and we have sixty teenage volunteers that work with children -
N: Sure but what’s wrong with substituting for the more typical council paid staff?
T:  I think it depends on the context in which you do it.  I think first of all it is down to each authority’s policies and the negotiation it has with the workforce … but I do believe, personally, that there needs to be an element of support for volunteers rather than volunteers just be asked to run a service without any support at all.
N: If it is a case, though, that a local council – and we’re hearing this from across the country – local councils don’t have the money.  A library will close and they go to the local community and say “we can keep it open if you do it” then surely that is part of the solution.
T: I think that can be part of the solution, yes, but I do believe that if the public were to continue to receive a good service, those volunteers then they will need help and support.  You know, library work is not brain surgery but it is a technical and professional job which we do need to be able to help people to find the books they want, the information they need, the people who come in and don’t know how to use a computer but need to send an email to someone … and I’m not saying that volunteers can’t do that.  They absolutely can, but they need the support of a network of skilled people to help them develop those skills.
N: Tony Durcan, thank you.

Ends 7.57am

Surrey Council gets SLAMmed

Another piece of library history was made today as Surrey’s plans for its libraries were declared unlawful in a judicial review.  Surrey County Council wanted to have volunteers run ten of its libraries.  SLAM (Surrey Libraries Action Movement) opposed the move on the grounds that paid staff would be better at dealing with vulnerable users (such as children, elderly people and disabled people) and that the Council had made insufficient account of this in its plans.  In his ruling, today, the judge agreed with SLAM that the council “failed to have due regard to equality issues” and so the move was unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.  This requires “authorities to give ‘rigorous regard’ to how removing paid staff would affect the accessibility of libraries to protected groups, including children and elderly or disabled people“. A full ruling on the issue will be made in May.  This is the second time that equalities legislation has been used to prevent cuts to libraries, the first being in the joint Gloucestershire and Somerset case

“In my judgment, the reliance by the Defendant on the same bland assertions that training would be required and monitored fell substantially short of enabling the cabinet members to give due regard to this obvious equality issue at the stage the process had reached in September.” Mr Justice Wilkie

“[this is] ..a sharp reminder to local authorities up and down the country that a need for budget cuts is not an excuse for cutting local services without careful consideration of how such cuts will impact upon vulnerable groups” Phil Shiner, Public Interest Lawyers.

“I am delighted with the result and I hope that it reminds senior county councillors that they should not forget that we employ them to provide efficient services and, as importantly, represent us the electorate. It is a great disappointment that the council has wasted thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money trying to ignore and ride roughshod over public criticism and outrage.” Nick Dorrington, one of the campaigners.

Surprisingly, the Council have said that this ruling did not suggest its scheme could not go ahead as it was only a “technical challenge”.    It also said it was “pleased” that the judge had not criticised its plans.  It is indeed true that the Judge will only hand down his full decision next month but the Council seems to be remarkably upbeat about breaking the law.  One suspects that the Council only had one press release and decided to go with it, regardless of outcome.  In a rose-tinted we’re-going-to-do-it-anyway-just-like-Gloucestershire-are-trying-to-do-regardless-of-what-the-judge-said, a spokesman made the statement that “The judgement simply said the cabinet should have had more information in front of it about the work the council had already done to develop equalities training for volunteers, when it made its decision in September.”.   The Council has even made it clear that it will continue with plans for its “community-partnered libraries” in the meantime.  In this school of thought. it may have to rewrite its equality impact assessment and not much else.
The other school of thought on the impact of the decision places far more importance to it. As long as the Judge continues calling the move “unlawful”, some say, the decision means that Surrey needs to start its whole decision making process again. At the most, the Independent suggests that the decision could halt the “national roll-out of Big Society libraries” which saw 35 being turned over to volunteers in the last year with many more being scheduled for the same treatment.  This bad news for the Big Society comes the day after it emerged that volunteer-run libraries may be breaking copyright law by not being part of the Public Lending Right.
The minister for libraries, Ed Vaizey has, unsurprisingly, not commented at all on the Surrey case: he after all did not mention libraries once even in a whole Guardian article on the arts today. His opposite number with Labour, Dan Jarvis, shows more dedication:

“Today is the fourth example [after Brent, Somerset and Gloucestershire] of the High Court doing Ed Vaizey’s job for him… The Tory vision of the ‘big society’ is an ideological cloak for diluting the basic premise that these services are a fundamental duty of a decent society, and should be treated as such.”

Other News

  • If  it isn’t broke don’t fix it, warn delegates - Morning Star.  “Schools Minister Nick Gibb may have been playing to the gallery at Tuesday’s ATL conference but the critics have not been kind. The member for Bognor Regis was a hapless figure at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers annual conference in Manchester on Tuesday, with delegates openly laughing as he ducked their questions. Delegates asked why, if the government was closing public libraries, was it not making school libraries mandatory? “I passionately believe that every school should have a school library,” Mr Gibb replied, admitting that his government did not have a policy at the moment.”
    Under the PLR legislation PLR only applies to public libraries administered by local library authorities as defined by the Public Libraries Act (1964). This, therefore, would exclude library branches no longer run by the local authority and taken over by voluntary groups. It’s a bit of a grey area in some parts of the country. For example, where a local authority is allowing volunteers to run branches but still under the umbrella of the local authority and using the local authority library computer system, then loans from that library would still count for PLR. But if an authority closes a branch and an independent voluntary group, for example, takes it over and runs it outside the local authority service then PLR would not apply.

    This raises the wider question about what should be done in cases like this about remuneration for authors whose books are being lent out. My understanding is that under the UK’s copyright legislation book lending is a copyright act and a licence may be needed – except where PLR applies. In the past all public library lending was covered by PLR. But if we are to see more branch libraries dropping out of the statutory service and being reconstituted as privately-run libraries the government may want to look again at the existing legislation.” Dr JG Parker, Registrar, Public Lending Right.

Changes

Leeds - Otley Library now merged with One Stop Shop. 
Wiltshire – Box and Ramsbury libraries will be open half a day longer each due to volunteers.   

Local News

  • Durham – “It’s your duty to run our library, not hand it to a Trust” - Teesdale Mercury.  “The Friends of Barnard Castle Library have raised concerns that Durham County Council’s plans would make it possible for the authority “unilaterally to cut its grant” to the service.” … “Concern was expressed at the meeting that the council was effectively negotiating terms for the transfer with itself and that the first trustees would inherit a done deal”
  • Kirklees – Library closure cost in Kirklees just does not add up - Huddersfield Daily Examiner.  “he Denby Dale library is a real hub of the community and through the organising skill and experience of the paid staff hosts a wide range of activities and facilities in addition to loaning books. Such services could not be provided by volunteers even with telephone support for the proposed ‘hub libraries.’ The only reason for such a drastic proposal we are told is to save money, but it is by no means clear how this saving is to be made.”  Closing seven libraries will result in the loss of two staff thus meaning a tiny cut in budget compared to the big impact to the local communities.
  • Leeds – Otley’s one stop shop moves into library - Wharfedale Observer.  “councillors have accused Leeds of not consulting enough with the local community and fear providing both library and one-stop facilities under one roof could lead to problems.”
    “While I would support the concentration of council services at one point I am concerned there will be a conflict between users for space. Otley is one of the busiest libraries in Leeds and, though we have been assured there will be no reduction in service, there will certainly be a reduction in space. There will also be confusion about which member of staff to talk to, and about the role of other services which use the library.”

  • Warwickshire – Community spirit praised as Studley’s new library opens - Redditch Standard.  “Tuesday’s launch follows months of hard work to relocate the service into the village hall after Warwickshire County Council announced last summer Studley Library would be axed as part of £2million of spending cuts. The new community library cost about £10,000 to set-up and has been supported by money from communications firm Talk Talk, Warwickshire County Council and Studley Parish Council which will also take on the day-to-day running costs.”
    • Labour Lord hits out over closure of Bedworth Heath Library - Coventry Telegraph.   “A Labour Peer has hit out over the closure of Bedworth Heath library. Lord Bassam of Brighton expressed shock when he was shown the boarded-up building as he paid a visit to the area at the invitation of borough councillor Danny Aldington and local party chairman Brian Hawkes.”
“As an alternative they stuck an A frame bookshelf in the entrance to a community centre and claimed it’s a library, even though there is no librarian or no other facilities. It’s a con.”

  • Wiltshire – Two Wiltshire libraries to open longer - Gazette & Herald.  “Since last September volunteers have been involved in running both libraries, helping customers to borrow books using the self-service technology and supporting them in accessing the public computers and finding new reading material.”

 

“Epic”

Comment
Surrey Libraries Action Movement (SLAM) report that the judgement from the judicial review is to be handed down in writing tomorrow, Tuesday.  An online gaming company called PokerStars has confirmed that it will fund two libraries in the Isle of Man.  The brave new world of private funding for libraries is advancing awfully quickly, although it appears in this case that the island-based company is being philanthropic or at least doing it for the good publicity.  Similarly, TalkTalk, are supporting a volunteer-run library in Warwickshire. Volunteer-run libraries may be breaking copyright law because their position with Public Lending Right is unclear. The Labour Party is using libraries in its local council electioneering, as is Boris Johnson.  
Finally, the Arts Council are receiving some aggravation for concentrating on the views of senior library managers rather than users or frontline library staff, as the quotes below make clear:
“TLC (The Library Campaign, the national umbrella body for library user groups) confidently looks forward to the invitation to its own panel discussion with Liz Forgan. After all, no ‘people’ business trying to improve would completely ignore its customers (or indeed its frontline staff). ACE cannot afford to be out of touch with by far the most active and inventive advocates for libraries – library users.
And it would be unwise, at a time when drastic cuts are being forced on library managers against widespread public protest, to ask only those managers what a library service should be. For instance, the feedback TLC gets from local people in Lewisham gives a very different picture of its new ‘lively and flexible’ volunteer-run libraries.
Without some kind of consensus, the future will be chaotic. It should not be so difficult.For instance, the panel’s discussion on buildings begins with the familiar mantra that ‘it’s the service, not the building’ – and then every point made underlines the importance of the small local library. 
The real worry is the fact that this leisurely blue-skies discussion is taking place during the worst emergency ever to threaten the public library service – both at local level and in its role as a national network giving equal access to resources nationwide.ACE needs urgently to get to grips with this reality before it starts trying to ‘get thinking “not for tomorrow” but for 5 or 10 years’ time’.
We look forward to helping with this as much as we can – and as soon as possible.”
Laura Swaffield, the Library Campaign, in an open letter to Arts Council England regarding the panel discussion on the future of public libraries organised by ACE last week.
“There is increasing concern that Arts Council England should listen to the voices of librarians and library users in undertaking their “conversation”. Is the current exercise rather like the NHS ignoring patients when consulting about hospital services? While Liz Forgan has met with a panel of senior local government officers, ACE officials seem to be avoiding groups representing library users, local library campaigners and library assistants.” Desmond Clarke

News

“I think it is a great shame. It’s very sad what’s happened to the libraries in Brent. I read that Brent had closed more libraries than anywhere else in the country. Closing them is something that is actually avoidable as there are boroughs that have actually opened libraries recently.” Boris Johnson offers his support to Brent library campaigners - Brent & Kilburn Times.  “Boris Johnson has offered his support to Brent’s library campaigners – describing the decision to axe half of the borough’s reading rooms as “a real shame”.”  Brent campaigners say “With the kind of breathtaking chutzpah that is almost expected of our politicians, Boris has decided that he does indeed support our libraries. A year too late, and after they have closed. I guess there is an election coming.”

  • Decline and fall of the Library EmpireInformation Today (USA).  “The past 30 years of library history is littered with projects and plans and sometimes just dreams of ways the library might play a more pivotal role in the digital revolution that continues to transform the information landscape around us. Some of those projects never really got off the ground.” … looks at library experience in web directories, library 2.0, virtual reference, intermediated searching [no, me neither – Ian.], public access computing, ebooks. All of these have either failed or are showing signs of failing.  Writer is very knowledgeable and, interestingly, is Vice President of private library company LSSI.
  • Ed Miliband speech to launch Labour’s local election campaign - Labour.  “In Newcastle, Labour councillors have kept libraries open, so families can afford to find a book to read to their children.”
  • Privatized libraries: not so bad for everyone - Library Journal (USA).  “Difficult to tell if it’s been privatized or not. Think about that one for a moment. For the people using the library, it usually just doesn’t matter. Oh, occasionally some patron who romanticizes libraries will wax poetic about the public in public libraries, but for the most part people don’t care. Being open to the public is what makes the libraries public, not where the library staff get their direct paycheck from.” … “Librarians oppose outsourcing library services because it’s bad for librarians.”
  • Public Lending Right “not given in volunteer run libraries” - BookSeller.  Public Lending Right registrar says volunteer-run libraries not covered by PLR agreement but it is a “grey area” and will need the government to look again at legislation.  “Nicola Solomon, general secretary of the Society of Authors, said: “If PLR isn’t being paid by a library then the library has to pay for that use of copyright in another way or it is infringing copyright. If we saw libraries that weren’t paying PLR, we’d want them to be paying something analogous as recompense to authors. We’d have to do think about how to do it and how to enforce it.”.

Sign of the times – Shelving designed for co-located libraries
“developed to meet the changing needs of libraries in service delivery and visitor expectations. [For] Self service, shared services, combined social learning spaces …”

  • Which law are we talking about? - Good Library Blog.  “If the argument is that the only effective and proper place for the scrutiny of the Minister is Parliament, and not the Courts, then somebody ought to alert the Culture Select Committee to their role in the 1964 Act- there ought to be proper regular reporting to Parliament and the Act does need to spell this out. What is happening at present is public deception – the people believe they have recourse to a law which is affirmed by Parliament, but in fact this law is not protecting them at all. This is not because the law is wrong, but because the courts and our legal system are, apparrently, refusing to uphold it.”
  • Woman battling to “protect” St Andrews may save thousands after court win - Scotsman.  Landmark legal decision means, potentially, that library campaigners may be protected from paying high costs if judicial reviews are lost.

Changes

Local News

  • Bedford – Local libraries to charge for use of computers - Bedfordshire News. “As of Monday morning, computers in libraries throughout Bedford Borough will cost £1.20 for every half hour they are used with the exception of the first half hour which will remain free of charge. There will be a 60p charge per 30 minutes for concessionary users including the elderly, under 16s and people on various types of benefit. Service user Mr Durant, of Elstow Road, Bedford said: “I think this is unreasonable and it demonstrates that the council tax freeze for this year is not what it seems as people are either being asked to pay more for things or pay for services which were previously free to compensate.””

- Preston Library Campaign.  
“Each vehicle is equipped with over 2,000 fiction and non-fiction books, a children’s section, offers public access to free online library services and the internet and talking books.  Its stock is regularly refilled and refreshed from the fleet’s base. Leon Bryant was one of the schoolchildren who attended when the vehicle did a trial run at the school.  Stamping out a book, he described the experience as ‘epic’.”

    • Angry residents force council u-turn on Binley Woods library sale - Coventry Telegraph.   “Residents in Binley Woods were left fuming after the local library site went up for sale – without them knowing. They say promises had been made by Warwickshire County Council officers that there would a full consultation and updates on what would happen to the library site after it closes at the end of this month.”
    • Studley Community Library received financial boost from TalkTalk - Rediitch Advertiser.   “Library has received a financial boost from TalkTalk, the home phone, broadband and mobile provider. The donation provided by TalkTalk will be used to help set up a community library in the Village Hall.”
    • Villagers fear final chapter as libray closure looms - Rugby and Lutterworth Observer.   “People have been discussing the effects the loss of their library will have on village life as they prepare for it to close permanently on Saturday (March 31). And some have decided to band together in opposition to Warwickshire County Council’s plans to sell the site to a private buyer.”
“Once this goes it will be lost as a building for public use forever. We don’t want a restaurant or more houses going up there – we want a building for the community. “We’re a smallish village with a lot of older people, but it feels like there will be little for them to do when the library closes. “Under recent cost cuts, the village has now lost its library, the youth club is on extremely short-term funding and the evening bus service has also been cut. Where will it end?”

Special Report: The Future of Public Libraries. What the senior managers think.

Arts Council England (ACE) held a panel discussion on the future of public libraries at Swiss Cottage Library in Camden on the 27th March 2012.  This was to launch the next step of the “Envisioning the library of the future” consultation.  For an idea on what the Arts Council, and the senior management of the public library world, think about libraries today and their role in the future, it is a vitally important resource and it is recorded here. For those who don’t want to spend an hour listening to it, or who fancy links and some analysis (always in square brackets), my summary of it is below.

The regular news report, updated on 31st March is below this post.

Panel
Dame Liz Forgan, Chair Arts Council
Brian Gambles – Asst Director of Culture, Birmingham City Council;
Ciara Eastell – Head of Libraries, Devon;
Janene Cox – Commissioner for Culture, Leisure & Tourism, Staffordshire;
Nicky Parker – Head of Transformation, Manchester and SCL President;
Antonio Rizzo – Head of Libraries & Information Services, Lewisham and Executive member of the Association London Chief Librarians
Mike Clarke, Head of Camden Libraries and Chair of ALCL.

What are the core services of libraries now and in ten year’s time?

  • To provide unbiased access to info.  
  • To promote community and civic engagement
  • Role in promoting health.  
  • Digital access.
  • Contribute to get people back into work/volunteering/increase skills/learning.  This is “absolutely core”.
“transformational, not transactional”.

  • No longer transactional [that is, not based on stamping out books – although this was not explained in the discussion] but moving to transformational [presumably, this means, improving people’s life chances].
  • Generate prosperity.
  • Force for social change. 
  • Libraries can be a space for businesses and entrepreneurs,  providing meeting space, patent clinics, inventor clinics.  
  • In the larger cities, libraries can in the future supply 3D printing and fab-labs 
  • Community spaces for all sorts of different things.
  • Libraries will increasingly work with communities, where “anything can happen”.  Libraries will be very different “two miles down the road”. Volunteers can deliver more so “every neighbourhood is different” and every library will be different.  We need to employ people who positively react to community and allow libraries to be places which  “people can recognise as their own space”.

What about the book?
You will have noticed by this point that the word “book” had not yet been uttered by anyone in the discussion.  However, this changed when it was confirmed that libraries still has a lot to do with the book.  It was confirmed that the book is “the given”.  “We’re not discarding the role of the book and the love of reading”.  Public libraries will need to engage more with e-books and encourage “live” literature such as author visits which are really important. [However, it seemed like all the participants, with the possible exception of Ciara Eastell of Devon, did not really have their heart in this one and saw the delivery of books as, well, tedious and somewhat old-fashioned.  This was summed up by one panel member who said “we’re going to get savvier than offering just books”.]

There are other people offering these things.  Why should a library offer them too?

  • Teachers teach children to read but libraries allow them to practice the skill “and the only way you get better is to practice it”.  Without libraries, if one has a bad experience at school, then one doesn’t become a good reader.  The Summer Reading Challenge and library books allow a second chance to those who failed to pick up literacy skills in school.  This second chance continues with adults.  Libraries allow self-direction for their users, where the public can control the pace of learning.
  • Another great reason for libraries doing these activities is that they, unlike every other cultural/council building, are part of the daily routine.  One can go in for reading, photocopying, coffee, rhymetime … no matter what age or background one is.  Other cultural institutions are more a “special event”.
  • Libraries provide a shop window for others.  This can be seen in their role encouraging people back into learning.  Other venues may feel quite scary and remote.  Libraries are local. 
The four core purposes of libraries are Learning, Literacy, Community Spaces, Information. 

Are there any limit to what libraries can do?
  • Libraries are provided by local authorities so need to have a responsibility to make life better for people.  Howeverm within this,  “the sky’s the limit” as long as framed by core needs.  “The ambition is to create surprises.”
  • There also needs to be an element of free at the point of provision.  This is very important, especially with the current inequality and recession.

All these purposes sound like libraries need big buildings, what about small ones?
  • Don’t concentrate on the building, concentrate on the service.  Be able to respond to the needs of the community.  Some services don’t need buildings at all, for instance, online and ebooks.
  • In Lewisham, small community libraries have become more lively and flexible enough to adapt to needs of local communities e.g. Eco Computers recycle IT. They donate computers to local residents, train residents and add broadband to people’s homes.  The council “could not sustain” these buildings and the local community [in fact, a local non-profit company].  Local communities are “exploding the concept” of what libraries should be and “making the building their building” [See New Cross People’s Library, and Blackheath] . 
  • The civic space of libraries can be “infinitely flexible” but needs to be local.  doorway.
  • In Staffordshire, they use libraries as “touchdown centres” (as in Derbyshire) where wifi means other workers (especially council) can use them.  This means financial savings as other council offices can be closed down. 
  • “loads of new libraries” are being built in all sizes.  There “is an attachment to buildings” but a “new offer” for users inside them, presented in a different way.  However, they still do four core things. 
“We forget at our peril that the judgement people will have will be on their local experience”.

  • Less and less libraries are built “on their own”. Co-location with other services [such as One Stop Shops, health, tourist information, police]. is the order of the day.  This makes buildings more efficient and gives a chance to  “re-engineer the service”.  With co-location, the library service is very different and usually better.
  • All libraries exist within a network.  A very small library can access the expertise of any other library in the country.  This has improved with the new technology.  

The Arts Council hopes to bring “creative arts” thinking into libraries.  Is this of use? Are culture offers like dance and music challenging to libraries?
  • In Staffordshire, money was reallocated money to a local arts grants scheme (up to £800) to put on local based arts.  This was linked very closely to libraries so if you want an illustrator or dance, then the library can be a venue.  This has generated enormous interest and library staff have been encouraging it. 
  • It will be a learning experience for libraries and “ticks all the boxes”.  We have to stop thinking about what particular services do, allowing locals to do it independently when it suits them.
  • ACE can look at things with wider lens.  Liz Forgan saw a core of libraries with “weird things happening around the edge”. 
  • “There are far more libraries than any other cultural institution.”.  Synergies with other types. 
  • Communities are getting older and libraries reduce social isolation.  They offer something people can trust.  For example, one panel member mentioned Tai Chi at one of their libraries.  A lot of those people who went to that would not dream to go into the sports centre next door.

What training does a librarian need?  There seems to be a huge range of skills expected. You’re all looking at your feet.
  • We’re no longer recruiting librarians, just people working in libraries.  We recruit youth workers, events managers, experts in partnership relations and in commercial opportunities.  These are core skills for running a library now, not “librarian” as such.  We’re looking to “broker relationship”
  • The key is to look at the person in front of you and engage the person, not just the straight answer to the question.  Pro-active and holistic, personalise the service. We’re going to allow people to do what they want.  “How can I help” is the key question. Core customer service skills. 
  • Staff need to broker relationships [sounds good, unclear as to what it means, no explanation was given].
  •  some traditional skills “no longer relevant”.  There are very few people needed in acquisitions, very few needed as cataloguers – new technologies do this.  “Once is fine” for classifying a book.
  • We need to realise the challenges new technologies bring and recruit staff accordingly.
  • Interact with community groups.  “partnership brokering” [Again, no explanation of buzzword give – I think this means talking to groups and trying to link them in the best way to other groups, resources.]
  • For those who aim to work in our sector, we need a new core body of knowledge needed than what was being taught a few years ago.  Having said that, some of those skills taught then have simply changed names – the “reference enquiry” of twenty years ago is simply the same as “excellent customer service” of today.  
“We will see in the next ten years a move towards a positive relationship with volunteers”

Managing volunteers, on a big scale, is very skilled.  Who’s going to teach librarians to do it?
  • You don’t need librarians to do that.  You hire in an expert to pass skills on.
  • The SCL had a debate on volunteers and decided that they “add a rich variety”.  Movement towards devolving services [that is, getting volunteers to replace paid staff] not involve [that is, having volunteers to complement paid staff].  “We still need librarian at the heart of it” [No explanation of what this means, considering librarians will not be trained as librarians any more.  Also, no idea of how many are needed.  Twenty? One? This is the same viewpoint shared by Ed Vaizey].
  • Volunteering and fundraising is not the full answer. 
  • Birmingham Central Library will have 160 paid staff with volunteers acting as guides, IT buddies and in conservation.  None will displace paid staff activities but we need to manage them properly. “If we can do that we add value to ourselves”.  They become our advocates.
  • [There seemed to be the most underlying, though very polite, disagreement between the panel members here, between those who wanted to replace staff with volunteers and those who wanted to use them to add to a paid service.]. 

Is there a war of the worlds between books and new technology?
  • No, it’s an opportunity.  The introduction of public access computers fifteen years ago was seen as a threat but “if we hadn’t have done it, libraries would be dead by now”.  Ebooks are now the same as computers then.  We can’t pretend it’s not going to happen.  We can see what is happening as there is not much reference publishing left e.g. Britannica.  – We provide resources to those who cannot afford it.
  • Mobile technology is another big challenge for libraries.  It is now less about boxes on desks, more about wifi and mobiles.  How can we use it to make libraries better?  “The future is mobile”.  Whole subcontinents are moving directly to mobile.
  • 3D printing will revolutionise our lives esp. Big City libraries.
  • Arts Council can push forward opportunities e.g. set aside half of bookfund to ebooks through ACE negotiating with publishers [This would have no effect.  Pretty much all the big publishers refuse to supply e-books to libraries.  A Public Lending Right for e-books in libraries would be a pre-requisite for it, which Labour has signed up to but the Coalition has not]. Bulk buying may revolutionise services.  E-reader costs £80, if we bought millions, it would be cheaper.  Library spending power is incredible but we need to harness it.  Britannica only stopped when public libraries stopped paper copies [this seems to sit uneasily with previous point about Britannica no longer printing the encyclopaedia due to the inexorable march of progress.].  No individuals were buying them.
  • There are perhaps five years aheard where large parts of the populaiton need to get online savvy.  They will come to the library.  We need to be cautious thinking everyone has an Ipad.  e,g, Race Online.  No point in superfast broadband if communities can’t use it.
Conclusion: the argument in the country tells you what passionate feelings have about their libraries.  Makes it important to discuss.  We need to get thinking for “not tomorrow” but for 5 or 10 years time.


[The elephant in the room, of course, which was mentioned only obliquely, was the massive cuts to budgets occurring to library services throughout the country.  The other big elephant in the room was only mentioned at the end – that there’s been major protest against the cuts and that people care for local libraries, with trained staff and books in.]

Special Report : Panel discussion on the future of libraries

Arts Council England (ACE) held a panel discussion on the future of public libraries at Swiss Cottage Library in Camden on the 27th March 2012.  This was to launch the next step of the “Envisioning the library of the future” consultation.  For an idea on what the Arts Council, and the elite of the public library world, think about libraries today and their role in the future, it is a vitally important resource and it is recorded here. For those who don’t want to spend an hour listening to it, or who fancy links and some analysis (always in square brackets), my summary of it is below.
Panel
Dame Liz Forgan, Chair Arts Council
Brian Gambles – Asst Director of Culture, Birmingham City Council;
Ciara Eastell – Head of Libraries, Devon;
Janene Cox – Commissioner for Culture, Leisure & Tourism, Staffordshire;
Nicky Parker – Head of Transformation, Manchester and SCL President;
Antonio Rizzo – Head of Libraries & Information Services, Lewisham and Executive member of the Association London Chief Librarians
Mike Clarke, Head of Camden Libraries and Chair of ALCL.

What are the core services of libraries now and in ten year’s time?

  • To provide unbiased access to info.  
  • To promote community and civic engagement
  • Role in promoting health.  
  • Digital access.
  • Contribute to get people back into work/volunteering/increase skills/learning.  This is “absolutely core”.
“transformational, not transactional”.

  • No longer transactional [that is, not based on stamping out books – although this was not explained in the discussion] but moving to transformational [presumably, this means, improving people’s life chances].
  • Generate prosperity.
  • Force for social change. 
  • Libraries can be a space for busineesea and entrepreneurs,  providing meeting space, patent clinics, inventor clinics.  
  • In the larger cities, libraries can in the future supply 3D printing and fab-labs 
  • Community spaces for all sorts of different things.
  • Libraries will increasingly work with communities, where “anything can happen”.  Libraries will be very different “two miles down the road”. Volunteers can deliver more so “every neighbourhood is different” and evert library will be different.  We need to employ people who positively react to community and allow libraries to be places which  “people can recognise as their own space”.
What about the book?
You will have noticed by this point that the word “book” had not yet been uttered by anyone in the discussion.  However, this changed when it was confirmed that libraries still has a lot to do with the book.  It was confirmed that the book is “the given”.  “We’re not discarding the role of the book and the love of reading”.  Public libraries will need to engage more with e-books and encourage “live” literature such as author visits which are really important. [However, it seemed like all the participants, with the possible exception of Ciara Eastell of Devon, did not really have their heart in this one and saw the delivery of books as, well, tedious and somewhat old-fashioned.  This was summed up by one panel member who said “we’re going to get savvier than offering just books”.]

There are other people offering these things.  Why should a library offer them too?

  • Teachers teach children to read but libraries allow them to practice the skill “and the only way you get better is to practice it”.  Without libraries, if one has a bad experience at school, then one doesn’t become a good reader.  The Summer Reading Challenge and library books allow a second chance to those who failed to pick up literacy skills in school.  This second chance continues with adults.  Libraries allow self-direction for their users, where the public can control the pace of learning.
  • Another great reason for libraries doing these activities is that they, unlike every other cultural/council building, are part of the daily routine.  One can go in for reading, photocopying, coffee, rhymetime … no matter what age or background one is.  Other cultural institutions are more a “special event”.
  • Libraries provide a shop window for others.  This can be seen in their role encouraging people back into learning.  Other venues may feel quite scary and remote.  Libraries are local. 
The four core purposes of libraries are Learning, Literacy, Community Spaces, Information. 

Are there any limit to what libraries can do?
  • Libraries are provided by local authorities so need to have a responsibility to make life better for people.  Howeverm within this,  “the sky’s the limit” as long as framed by core needs.  “The ambition is to create surprises.”
  • There also needs to be an element of free at the point of provision.  This is very important, especially with the current inequality and recession.
All these purposes sound like libraries need big buildings, what about small ones?
  • Don’t concentrate on the building, concentrate on the service.  Be able to respond to the needs of the community.  Some services don’t need buildings at all, for instance, online and ebooks.
  • In Lewisham, small community libraries have become more lively and flexible enough to adapt to needs of local communities e.g. Eco Computers recycle IT. They donate computers to local residents, train residents and add broadband to people’s homes.  The council “could not sustain” these buildings and the local community [in fact, a local non-profit company].  Local communities are “exploding the concept” of what libraries should be and “making the building their building” [See New Cross People’s Library, and Blackheath] . 
  • The civic space of libraries can be “infinitely flexible” but needs to be local.  doorway.
  • In Staffordshire, they use libraries as “touchdown centres” (as in Derbyshire) where wifi means other workers (especially council) can use them.  This means financial savings as other council offices can be closed down. 
  • “loads of new libraries” are being built in all sizes.  There “is an attachment to buildings” but a “new offer” for users inside them, presented in a different way.  However, they still do four core things. 
“We forget at our peril that the judgement people will have will be on their local experience”.

  • Less and less libraries are built “on their own”. Co-location with other services [such as One Stop Shops, health, tourist information, police]. is the order of the day.  This makes buildings more efficient and gives a chance to  “re-engineer the service”.  With co-location, the library service is very different and usually better.
  • All libraries exist within a network.  A very small library can access the expertise of any other library in the country.  This has improved with the new technology. 
The Arts Council hopes to bring “creative arts” thinking into libraries.  Is this of use? Are culture offers like dance and music challenging to libraries?
  • In Staffordshire, money was reallocated money to a local arts grants scheme (up to £800) to put on local based arts.  This was linked very closely to libraries so if you want an illustrator or dance, then the library can be a venue.  This has generated enormous interest and library staff have been encouraging it. 
  • It will be a learning experience for libraries and “ticks all the boxes”.  We have to stop thinking about what particular services do, allowing locals to do it independently when it suits them.
  • ACE can look at things with wider lens.  Liz Forgan saw a core of libraries with “weird things happening around the edge”. 
  • “There are far more libraries than any other cultural institution.”.  Synergies with other types. 
  • Communities are getting older and libraries reduce social isolation.  They offer something people can trust.  For example, one panel member mentioned Tai Chi at one of their libraries.  A lot of those people who went to that would not dream to go into the sports centre next door.
What training does a librarian need?  There seems to be a huge range of skills expected. You’re all looking at your feet.
  • We’re no longer recruiting librarians, just people working in libraries.  We recruit youth workers, events managers, experts in partnership relations and in commercial opportunities.  These are core skills for running a library now, not “librarian” as such.  We’re looking to “broker relationship”
  • The key is to look at the person in front of you and engage the person, not just the straight answer to the question.  Pro-active and holistic, personalise the service. We’re going to allow people to do what they want.  “How can I help” is the key question. Core customer service skills. 
  • Staff need to broker relationships [sounds good, unclear as to what it means, no explanation was given].
  •  some traditional skills “no longer relevant”.  There are very few people needed in acquisitions, very few needed as cataloguers – new technologies do this.  “Once is fine” for classifying a book.
  • We need to realise the challenges new technologies bring and recruit staff accordingly.
  • Interact with community groups.  “partnership brokering” [Again, no explanation of buzzword give – I think this means talking to groups and trying to link them in the best way to other groups, resources.]
  • For those who aim to work in our sector, we need a new core body of knowledge needed than what was being taught a few years ago.  Having said that, some of those skills taught then have simply changed names – the “reference enquiry” of twenty years ago is simply the same as “excellent customer service” of today.  
“We will see in the next ten years a move towards a positive relationship with volunteers”

Managing volunteers, on a big scale, is very skilled.  Who’s going to teach librarians to do it?
  • You don’t need librarians to do that.  You hire in an expert to pass skills on.
  • The SCL had a debate on volunteers and decided that they “add a rich variety”.  Movement towards devolving services [that is, getting volunteers to replace paid staff] not involve [that is, having volunteers to complement paid staff].  “We still need librarian at the heart of it” [No explanation of what this means, considering librarians will not be trained as librarians any more.  Also, no idea of how many are needed.  Twenty? One? This is the same viewpoint shared by Ed Vaizey].
  • Volunteering and fundraising is not the full answer. 
  • Birmingham Central Library will have 160 paid staff with volunteers acting as guides, IT buddies and in conservation.  None will displace paid staff activities but we need to manage them properly. “If we can do that we add value to ourselves”.  They become our advocates.
  • [There seemed to be the most underlying, though very polite, disagreement between the panel members here, between those who wanted to replace staff with volunteers and those who wanted to use them to add to a paid service.]. 
Is there a war of the worlds between books and new technology?
  • No, it’s an opportunity.  The introduction of public access computers fifteen years ago was seen as a threat but “if we hadn’t have done it, libraries would be dead by now”.  Ebooks are now the same as computers then.  We can’t pretend it’s not going to happen.  We can see what is happening as there is not much reference publishing left e.g. Britannica.  – We provide resources to those who cannot afford it.
  • Mobile technology is another big challenge for libraries.  It is now less about boxes on desks, more about wifi and mobiles.  How can we use it to make libraries better?  “The future is mobile”.  Whole subcontinents are moving directly to mobile.
  • 3D printing will revolutionise our lives esp. Big City libraries.
  • Arts Council can push forward opportunities e.g. set aside half of bookfund to ebooks through ACE negotiating with publishers [This would have no effect.  Pretty much all the big publishers refuse to supply e-books to libraries.  A Public Lending Right for e-books in libraries would be a pre-requisite for it, which Labour has signed up to but the Coalition has not]. Bulk buying may revolutionise services.  E-reader costs £80, if we bought millions, it would be cheaper.  Library spending power is incredible but we need to harness it.  Britannica only stopped when public libraries stopped paper copies [this seems to sit uneasily with previous point about Britannica no longer printing the encyclopaedia due to the inexorable march of progress.].  No individuals were buying them.
  • There are perhaps five years aheard where large parts of the populaiton need to get online savvy.  They will come to the library.  We need to be cautious thinking everyone has an Ipad.  e,g, Race Online.  No point in superfast broadband if communities can’t use it.
Conclusion: the argument in the country tells you what passionate feelings have about their libraries.  Makes it important to discuss.  We need to get thinking for “not tomorrow” but for 5 or 10 years time.
 

Duh

Comment

Another nail in the coffin for the incredible statement made by the Local Government Association (LGA) to MPs that the “closure of a library does not automatically mean a decrease in access to library services“.  Recent figures from Brent show a 20% drop in usage, 104,000 fewer visits and 129,449 fewer books issued since it decided, against gigantic massive opposition, to close six (even seven) of its twelve libraries.  The LGA made its statement in its submission to the Select Committee Inquiry into Library Closures.  Let us hope that the MPs on that committee notice the basic fact that, duh, closing libraries does equal less usage.  Withdrawing funds from libraries does mean less visits.  Reducing the bookstock does mean less borrowing of books.  Refusing to intervene in the library cuts, Ed Vaizey, does mean more libraries will get cut.  In fact, of course, it’s not a duh moment.  Regardless of how they may come across, Ed is no that much of a (hard of hearing) Homer Simpson.  In fact, he and the LGA know perfectly well the truth.  They just think that, given the need for massive cuts, public libraries are not important enough to save.  It is up to us, who realise that they are, to make sure that they don’t get away with it.

News


Print is not dying – as reported in the Guardian.
Although, to be fair, this film was produced by an
airline magazine company.

Changes

Local News

  • Barnet – A tale of two Barnet libraries - Broken Barnet. Saving library reject “after a year of campaigning by highly committed members of a local group, (see above) on various spurious grounds, including the inability to provide any further funding. The reasons given are irrelevant, in fact, because of course the intention has always been to close the library so as to free the building and grounds for sale and development.”.  Hampstead Garden, though, in Conservative ward gets “all necessary support until at least 2016, or as long as the volunteer suburbanistas do not get bored with playing librarians”.
  • Brent – Number of visits to Brent libraries plummet by thousands - Brent & Kilburn Times.  Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request reveal that in the five months after the libraries closed, there were nearly 104,000 fewer visits compared with the previous year. In the same period, 129,449 fewer books were issued.”.  Usage has gone down by 20%.

“These figures are really important because it leads to the question – is Brent Council legally providing a comprehensive and efficient library service?”

  • Calderdale – Cuts in library hours go ahead - Brighouse Echo.  “Following the results of the Libraries Review 2011 consultation, the savings will be achieved through the reduction of opening hours of 13 libraries, saving £45,000, reorganisation of the mobile library service to focus on people who are unable to travel to a library, and those in residential care, to achieve savings of £105,000.”
  • Central Bedfordshire – Library initiative planned for 15 years - Leighton Buzzard Observer.  “The challenge for the service is that it needs to deliver more than £550,000 of efficiency savings in running costs by 2014. This will be achieved by investing in technology and reducing back room costs. In the next two years £850,000 of capital investment will support the implementation of self service technology, developing the 24/7 online library, modernising buildings, and piloting library access points in rural communities.”
  • Gloucestershire – Seven Gloucestershire libraries expected to lose funding - BBC.  “The authority’s new library strategy is suggesting 31 council-run libraries, with seven run by local communities.” … “The council proposes to offer community-run libraries the chance to buy library buildings or take over leases on a peppercorn rent, and an annual grant of £10,000.”
    • Community groups offered help in library cuts plan - This is Gloucestershire.   “Councillor Mark Hawthorne (Con, Moreland), leader of the council, said: “We are beefing up our offer to the community so we can provide that extra help to those groups who are considering taking on a library, but want the additional help we can offer. During our consultations more than 82 per cent of people said they broadly supported our strategy, so that’s a good basis to take this forward.”
    • “More misleading information from county council”: Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries comment on library strategy consultation - FoGL.  There simply is not the support for the proposed cuts that Gloucestershire County claims there to be.  The draconian attack on our library service, which costs less than 1.4% of the council’s overall budget, but which gets 3 million visits a year, remains deeply unpopular and disproportionate. There are serious concerns raised in the consultation report that we are waiting for GCC to address.” … “We have passed all of the relevant paperwork on to Public Interest Lawyers who were successful in the judicial review case brought against Gloucestershire County Council.”
  • Isle of Man – New chapter for mobile and family libraries? - Isle of Man Today.  “Age Concern has confirmed to the Manx Independent that it put forward a proposal to run the mobile library and underwrite it for three years – but that another organisation has come up with a better offer.” … “The mobile library currently has 335 adult members with 244 paying an annual subscription of £15. A total of 91 have free subscriptions and of these 33 use the home library service. There are 114 junior members with 110 paying the child’s £2 subscription and four receiving free use of the library.”
  • Isle of Wight – Skeletons have a tendency to rattle - Alan Gibbons.   David Pugh, leader of the Isle of Wight and proponent of volunteer-run libraries was reported in the Mirror many years ago in a suspected vote rigging incident.
  • Islington – Petition launches to save historic archives as London Metropolitan University says it can no longer maintain Women’s Library and TUC collections - Islington Tribune.   “The priceless collections could be broken up and, unless a new sponsor can be found by the end of the year, both libraries will close to the public six days a week. A petition has attracted 2,500 signatures since the threat was revealed last week in the Tribune. Professor June Purvis, Emmeline Pankhurst’s biographer and editor of Women’s History Review, said: “We are all devastated about it and hoping that some university will take in the collections.”
  • Leicestershire – New library hours begin - Lutterworth Mail.   “The changes will affect libraries in Market Harborough, Lutterworth, Broughton Astley, Fleckney, Kibworth and Great Glen. Leicestershire County Council said that no redundancies across the county have been made as part of the changes.”
  • North Somerset – Self-service the way forward for North Somerset libraries - This is Somerset.   “Councillor Felicity Baker, North Somerset Council’s executive member with responsibility for libraries, said: “Firstly, we would like to thank everyone who responded to our consultation. We have listened to your comments and where possible have matched proposals more closely to them, especially on the opening hours. We face severe financial pressures but we are still able to maintain, and where possible, invest in library services.”
  • Shropshire – Innovation key to survival of libraries - Shropshire Star.   “The county’s libraries have escaped swingeing cuts in the latest review of services by Shropshire Council. But Councillor Keith Barrow has warned that if libraries do not move with the times, they may not come through any future cuts to council budgets unscathed.”.  2 mobiles have been stopped.
  • Thurrock – Calls to save library from closure - Yellow Advertiser.  “Wendy Herd, from Aveley and Uplands, fears for the future of Aveley Library after it was named on a list of properties that could be sold.” … “We’ve four OAP complexes within walking distance of Aveley Library so closing this facility will affect many elderly people particularly those who don’t have a computer at home and use the library to get online.  “It would be terrible if the council does decide to close the library.”
    • Leader promises libraries will not be sold off - Yellow Advertiser.   Council says rival councillor “…is obviously struggling to find a line for the Tory election campaign. He thinks if he says the council is selling off these libraries enough times people will believe him. Let me say now, and hopefully for the final time, this claim is absolutely not true!””
  • Warwickshire – Final chapter but Gail had a ball - This is Tamworth.  Successful small Dordon library that “bucked the trend” in usage is closed, passing on to volunteers.  Librarian looks back at her years there.

“I cannot begin to say how devastated I am that something that held such promise has had to end, but I also know that the community group has worked so hard in trying to keep the library open and so much credit must go to them.”

Gloucestershire consultation results

Gloucestershire County Council, who last year lost a court case when they tried to push through severe cuts to their public libraries, have released the results of their latest public consultationIt is clear from the questions asked, and from the resultant publicity, that the council appears to be trying to push through very similar cuts this year.  The Council argues that it shows the public are on their side in this, and so far the figures quoted do indeed appear to do so. Campaigners argue that the Council produced a slanted questionnaire and have chosen to highlight only the points very favourable to their own view of the need to cut over a quarter of the library budget. Councillors have given themselves just a week to read the consultation before what some observers suspect will be a rubberstamping of the cuts.  If they do so, library users in that area will have to consider whether they can afford to fight them once more in the Courts.  At their own expense.  While Ed Vaizey, the minister who should be taking action, does nothing.
  • Gloucestershire – Library consultation ends - BBC.  4000 respond.  Council claims 82% agree with sharing buildings.  “The concept of using volunteers in libraries was also well supported.” Support for somehow sharing mobiles with other services. 13% completely disagreed with plans.  Final decision is taken just next week.  “The new proposal includes plans to keep nine main libraries open six days a week, 12 local facilities open five days a week and others run as community ventures.”
  1. there is overwhelming support for retaining the mobile library service, a service that Gloucestershire County Council would have been scrapped almost a year ago if not for tireless campaigning.  FoGL expect them to now to be granted a reprieve. 
  2. the consultation report states that the cuts will have disproportionate impact on the elderly who are “twice as likely to expect negative impacts as a result of the implementation of the strategy”.  This is very important considering the reasons why the Council lost the court case last time.
  3. The statistics Gloucestershire County Council quotes, in an effort to justify the cuts, need to be considered with caution, as they do not provide the full picture. For example, the consultation report shows that there was particular opposition to the community library proposals in Minchinhampton Library, Lechlade Library and Brockworth, 3 of the areas that are set to have their county library service withdrawn and replaced with the volunteer run model.  
  4. Most interestingly, especially considering the opposite view expressed in the media reports ““Although some people accept that the library service has to change because of the reduction in GCC’s funding, the majority feel that the proposed cuts are too severe””
“As we have been saying all along, the consultation was fundamentally flawed …16,000 people signed a petition against these plans. 6 others were submitted by communities. Significantly higher numbers than took part in this flawed consultation. The buck stops at Vaizey. He and his chums have failed us. ” Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries

Action to consider

News

  • Guest Post #4: Creating curiosity for young and old alike, by Richard Veevers, Library Camp - Envisioning the library of the future.  “I’ve worked with scores of people in our library who’ve never used a computer. Whilst the majority are retired, we see an encouraging number of younger folk.” … “Some disappointed taxpayers have voiced their concerns at the suitability of the volume of noise generated by our Baby-Bounce, in the corner of the main lending library.” “Richard Veevers is a frontline librarian who helped set-up Library Camp.  Library Camp is an informal group of individuals passionate about public libraries who run free events to “debate, explore and learn” how libraries can develop and adapt.”
“It’s just not realistic to talk about a vision for the future that excludes ‘current issues’. The ‘current issue’ is that libraries are being closed all over the country and their real-estate sold off. Even those not being closed are having their book-stocks decimated, their opening hours cut, their knowledgeable staff fired, their quiet spaces for study eliminated, and their inefficient business practices allowed to continue unchallenged. These are decisions made by local authorities whose members neither understand nor use libraries. So I fear that in asking for a vision of the future for libraries, the Arts Council are inhabiting something of an ivory tower. Also, that awful word ‘conversation’ smacks to me of ‘faux democracy’. We don’t want a ‘conversation’ or another ‘report’ – we want some central leadership and we want it now before there is no library service left at all.”  Amanda Field, comment on Envisioning the Future.

“This weekend’s World Literacy Summit in Oxford states the hidden cost of functional illiteracy in the UK as $127 billion – the highest in Europe. We won’t solve our literacy problems until UK children feel inspired and motivated to read and we won’t achieve this by expecting schools to solve the problem single handed. We need a much more joined up way of working involving schools, families and – vitally – public library services. Public libraries have a critical role to play and a proven impact on literacy. For the poorest, most socially excluded, least confident or mobile members of our communities, their local public library is often their only source of access to reading. Libraries’ work to promote reading is transforming, and they now offer a lively, engaging service to help children love reading. This year’s Summer Reading Challenge in libraries is expected to involve 780,000 children, and is part of the Olympics’ 2012 festival.” Miranda McKearney, Director, The Reading Agency

Changes

Local News

  • Barnet – Library campaign forced outside for activity afternoon - Barnet and Whetstone Press.  “Campaigners fighting to save their library have criticised the council after being barred from using its children’s area for a public event.  Members of the Save Friern Barnet Library group were prevented from holding a series of activities, including story-telling, a puppet show and an historical talk, at the library in Friern Barnet Road on Saturday afternoon.  As a result all the events were held outside and campaigners complained that the speaker and puppeteer were rendered inaudible by traffic.” … “Barnet Council said the decision was a child protection issue – but group secretary Joanna Fryer said that it had held at least four similar events in the past.” [How forcing them to hold the event by a road is safer for children is not adequately explained by the council – Ian.]
  • Conwy – Volunteers need fund to run Penrhyn Bay Library - North Wales Weekly News.  A steering committee has been set up to pave the way for Penrhyn Bay library to be run by volunteers with help and support from Conwy County Council. But the maintenance and upkeep of the Llandudno Road premises will fall on the voluntary organisation, says chairman of the steering committee June Heathcote. Conwy Council will continue to provide 3,000 books, four computers and 15 hours of staff time each week.”
“One idea for generating funding to keep the library running is a system where individuals and businesses can help support it for a small annual fee.”

Greek tragedies, privatised libraries and judicial reviews

Comment on the blogs at the “Envisioning the library of the future” website or tweet your views with the hashtag #acelibraries if you wish your views to be included in this stage of the Arts Council England consultation on the future of public libraries.

The Surrey Library Action Movement report that the result of the judicial review seems very likely to be handed down next week.  They still need £6000 to pay for legal costs, refundable if the case is won.

News

  • Are privatised public libraries so bad? - Atlantic Cities (USA). Santa Clarita has received no complaints since it was privatised … “Hours have increased. The library is now open on Sundays. There are 77 new computers, a new book collection dedicated to homeschooling parents and more children’s programs. Santa Clarita is even installing a fancy laptop dispenser, where patrons can swipe their card to check out a laptop to use anywhere in the system. Visits are up; a new facility is in the works.” … “The city thought they could run their system for $5.1 million a year; LSSI gets $3.8 million. This savings means the city has been able to budget $4.8 million a year for libraries, with the extra $1 million going to buying new books and a new, LEED-certified building. The bulk of the lower costs, both for the city and LSSI, comes from cutting the benefits previously afforded to librarians.”. [An apparently well researched article that looks at both sides, although more slanted towards LSSI than is normal, make sure also to read the comments – Ian] 
  • Greek tragedy the fight for libraries - CILIP Update.  Repeated library consultations with little effect is compared to a curse of perpetual punishment.  “‘What we do not have is an indication of when the action is going to come. We’re having all these consultations and people are exhausted with them. I had one campaigner tell me that she just banged her head on the table when she heard that we were having another one.”  But this is ACE’s first go at a consultation so “It is only fair to give it a chance and see what plans it will come up with for the future. The best way to ensure the most positive outcome libraries, staff and users is to be part of the conversation.”  The ACE website is here.
  • Library reports - Good Library Blog.  Lists all the reports and consultations that have gone on over the last few years.  Notes that were 24 reports 1998-2008 and lists them.  Also notes and lists that there were 10 reports in two months in 2009.

Changes

Local News

  • Brent – Want to use a Brent library computer? Forget it - Preston Library Campaign. Article points out the absurdity of advertising that you can use a library computer on the website – presumably because if someone is using the website, they already have a computer. “Try it yourself on the Brent Council website. It’s part of a game I call: “I lost my library and nothing is replacing it.””
  • Calderdale – Less time to visit the area’s libraries - Todmorden News.   Cuts listed.  “The council says the priority is to keep the open hours convenient for people and the adjustments are based on a thorough analysis of customer needs and usage patterns at each library.”
  • Carmarthenshire – “We have to act now to save library” - This is South Wales.  Kidwelly: “It is urgent that the town council meets to consider the future of the library and take whatever action is needed to save this vital social and educational facility for the town,” Mr Huws said. “It is equally urgent that people write in, telephone, e-mail and call into the council offices to demand that the town council safeguards the home of the library.” 
  • Central Bedfordshire – Way forward for Central Bedfordshire Libraries - About My Area.   15 year plan announced, with cuts in staffing and increase in self-service.  “”We do realise however that libraries will need to become more efficient to meet savings targets and modernise to meet the future needs of residents.  We believe that this strategy sets out how we can successfully achieve this.”
  • Denbighshire – £300,000 grant could transform town library - Journal.  “Prestatyn Library, on Nant Hall Road, may be in line for a major revamp or even a relocation Denbighshire County Council welcomed news of the CyMAL funding package, which could help provide a new library.”. Library has been closed since November for “essential maintenance works”.
  • Doncaster – High hopes for future of community library - Epworth Bells.  Balloons and bunting heralded a new chapter for Warmsworth Library after Doncaster Council funding cuts left 14 libraries across the borough in danger of closure. Library volunteer and former Doncaster councillor Georgina Mullis has been a key player in fighting for the library to stay open under the Warmsworth Community Partnership.”
  • Inverclyde – Books on Prescription to help young people - Inverclyde Now.   “a partnership arrangement between Inverclyde Community Health and Care Partnership and Inverclyde Libraries. Any young person who is suffering from mild depression, stress, anxiety, phobias and eating disorders, will be offered a “book prescription” by their doctor, which enables them to collect a specially recommended title from their local library. An approved list of almost 40 titles has been chosen”
  • North Somerset – Council responds to library views - Mercury.   “following a two-month consultation which yielded 1,960 responses, the authority has balanced the books while increasing the proposed opening times to just one hour less than the current situation. This includes scrapping proposals for lunchtime closures in Worle. The budget savings will be made by cutting staff numbers, which has already begun by not filling vacant positions. It is hoped some staff may take voluntary redundancy or be deployed elsewhere.”
  • Suffolk – New library boss for Suffolk - Haverhill Echo.   “Speaking about the challenges ahead, Shona said: “The people I’m working with in the IPS and library service share a very strong and very clear aim – to do what’s best for the future of the service.”
“After the hollowing-out at the centre of the Suffolk library service in recent months and the current headlong charge over the cliff of the external Industrial & Provident Society, it is interesting to ask just how ‘professional’ the library service actually is. Taking it from the end of June 2012 (when the Suffolk library service is supposed to be handed over to the IPS), of the 496 Suffolk libraries staff members reported to be TUPEd over to the IPS, we count only seven professional librarians left in the whole workforce. This isn’t counting two branch managers who we think have library qualifications.” The Industrial and Provident Society: its role in Suffolk libraries, Part 2Rosehill Readers.

  • Surrey  – An update on the legal and financial situation - Surrey Libraries Action Movement.  “It now looks very much like the Judgment from the Judicial Review is going to be handed down next week. The result may be clear; it may be nuanced.  Whatever the result, the detail and justification of the Review is likely to be as important and instructive, not just for the Surrey campaign and Council but for the broader crisis in the national library service and other campaigners and Councils throughout the country. “.  £6000 is still needed by campaigners to pay legal costs, refundable if they win.
  • Trafford – Library staff plans given go-ahead after rethink - Manchester Evening News.  £85k less will be cut from budget – Five full-time library staff, rather than one each, will stay in post at Old Trafford and Hale after 2400 name petition.  Mobile library, though, will go, despite 900 name petition.  
  • Waltham Forest – Ex-librarian to challenge council cuts as GLA candidate - Guardian series.  “Nancy Taaffe worked at Wood Street Library in Wood Street, Walthamstow, until January last year when, she claims, the library was closed for two days a week and 24 staff lost their jobs.”.  2 libraries closed.  “The council says it has had to make difficult decisions following an unprecedented fall in government funding. It insists its shake-up of the library service will improve efficiency levels.”

Arts Council launches public consultation on libraries

Comment

Arts Council England (ACE), the quango with some responsibility for public libraries, has opened the next stage of its consultation into the future of public libraries.  This is likely to be influential in shaping the political debate and is thus not to be ignored. 
Having said that, long-standing lovers of libraries point out that we have been here before. Library campaigner Desmond Clarke is concerned that the consultation may just provide another “classic ministerial excuse for not acting” that Mr Vaizey himself called the previous government’s  Library Modernisation Review.  Mr Clarke further points out that “Some of us have seen and been involved in several “conversations” including Framework for the Future (2003),  Better Stock, Better Libraries (2006), Blueprint for Excellence (2007), Future Libraries (2010) as well as consultancy reports from PwC and PKF, and have submitted evidence to the two Select Committee Reports and the All Party Library Group. There have also been reports funded by Laser looking at the issues. Meanwhile, the public library service is allowed to decline in many communities while The DCMS, the SCL, the LGA, the MLA and now ACE continue with their “conversations”. When can we expect to see some political and professional leadership to ensure that an improving, comprehensive and efficient service is provided in all 151 authorities in England?”.
It’s also disheartening that the site is clearly not for those with local library issues but just for experts and those connected to the internet and in the know.  Rather surprisingly, the most important people in any debate – concerned members of the public – are pushed towards local councils, the Library Campaign and Voices for the Library websites where, it is suspected but not yet confirmed, they will be ignored by the consultation.  The ACE site is designed or commenting on the particular blog entries.  The main site says “we encourage people to respond to guest blog posts and contribute to the conversation via Twitter using the hashtag #ACElibraries.  Responses to the independent guest blogs will feed into our overall programme of research and debate, and help us to form a longer term vision for libraries”.  This means that ACE can direct the debate in precisely the directions that they want. They also seem especially interested in the small part of the population who use Twitter.  Which seems slightly non-socially inclusive but is in keeping with their greatly reduced budget, as is their use of free blogging software for their website. It’s also more inclusive than the first phase which asked 200 “sector experts to participate in a Delphi survey that asks respondents to consider a series of statements about how the country might look in 10 years time”.  A “Delphi” survey, incidentally, is a posh way of saying that one is asking a group of experts about the future and the answer is the average of the reply.
The next stage of the consultation are workshops held in different locations across England in mid May with the final stage testing “the public view of the purpose and value of public libraries” will be undertaken between June and late September 2012.  Therefore, we are in the early stages of a fairly thorough six month process and you don’t have long to comment on this stage.  Have a look, comment where and when you can, tweet your views with thier hashtag if you can, and try to shape the results the way you want them to.  Or Ed Vaizey will say that you had your chance and he will continue to do nothing, in exactly the same way as he criticised Labour for doing two years ago.

News

  • Beyond the BookShelf - University Business (p.12-13).  Suggests linking university and public libraries and emphasises the need for using technology.
  • Harriet Harman re-iterates Labour’s 2Mbps for all 2012 policy - Think Broadband.  “Broadband access for many will be made all the more difficult by cuts in libraries. According to the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, almost 600 libraries are threatened by this Government.”
     “In this country we all believe that healthcare should be free at the point of delivery. Literature, stories and poems are the same. It is not something just for rich, educated and privileged people, it is for all of us. It is our culture. Robert Louis Stevenson and Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl’s stories are for everyone, not just for everyone who can afford a book.” Michael Morpurgo in “Like the NHS, libraries are a vital free service for all” - London Evening Standard. 

    • Public and academic library closures in the US, UK and Eire, part VI - Examiner (USA).  Looks at the lack of coverage of National Libraries Day in Kent, Croydon etc. Also looks at the role of the LGA which “made the breathtakingly irrational statement, “Closure of a library does not automatically mean a decrease in access to library services; with the exploration of on line and community delivery models, it can mean accessing services in a different way”.

    Changes

    Local News

    • Barnet – Protests over impending Friern Barnet library closure - Times series.  parents and children protesting against the closure of a Barnet library held a small demonstration outside its entrance on Saturday. Members of the Save Friern Barnet Library group held placards opposing Barnet Council’s plans to shut down the service on April 5.”
    • Cheshire West and Chester – CWAC union members take further industrial action in contract dispute - Guardian series.   “Nearly 50 per cent of libraries in west Cheshire closed their doors as staff walked out on March 24, with those in Northwich, Barnton and Winsford affected.” … “The new contracts remove pay enhancements for staff working weekends, overtime and bank holidays, as well as reducing the rate for working nights.” … ““For library staff it will be at least a five per cent cut and for care staff it will be much more. This is on top of a three-year pay freeze.”


    Croydon – Project manager vacancyThis post is overseeing the privatisation
     of its library service.  The cost of privatisation is therefore at least £40k (plus
     perhaps another £10k in “on costs” like pensions) and, interestingly, is permanent.
    • Durham – Outrage at “scam and trick” library exercise - Teesdale Mercury.   “Once hours have been cut, the council plans to hand libraries, together with leisure centres and other council assets to a ‘Non Profit Distributing Organisation’ (NPDO). Robert Stenlake from the Friends of Barnard Castle Library, who chaired the meeting, said the council is not consulting on this move.“They are not asking our views but I don’t think that prevents us from giving them,””
    “One of the questions asks: “Do you think it would be better to reduce opening hours generally rather than close some libraries?” Town councillor John Watson compared this question to being asked: “When did you stop beating your wife?”

    • East Sussex - Support for BookStart family scheme - Eastbourne Herald.  “Libraries and children’s centres in East Sussex are promoting Bookstart 20, a nationwide campaign to promote book sharing, and will also help celebrate the 20th birthday of Bookstart, the reading scheme that gives free book packs to every baby in England, Wales and Northern Ireland”  … “A series of story and rhyme time events and Bookstart parties to celebrate 20 years of Bookstart will be held at venues across the county for parents, carers and children to enjoy.”
    • Kirklees – Council reviews library consultation plans - Huddersfield Daily Examiner.  Council may change the wording of parts of the consultation as “library supporters have expressed concern about the way the process has been carried out, accusing the council of trying to ‘hoodwink’ volunteers instead of providing the reasons and other options for the move.” 
    “This just feels like they are throwing the keys in the door while they drive off as fast as they can.”

    • Isle of Man – Funding hope for libraries - Manx Radio.  This morning in the House of Keys, Education Minister Peter Karran revealed they may yet be saved through other means of funding. That is rumoured to be coming from Island-based e-gaming firm Pokerstars.” [yes, Pokerstars – did things just get surreal? – Ian.].
    • Portsmouth – Libraries continue to prosper - About My Area. “We’re not closing libraries, we’re looking at ways to modernise them.”. Two branches may move/be upgraded.  “Portsmouth’s housing department will be funding the £90k re-fit of the Paulsgrove library site. “.  “Between 3-4% of residents use the library in its current location, and figures for the number of books taken out are well below what could be expected for the area. Residents raised issues with the current location in a 2006 consultation, citing concerns over the steep slope causing difficulties for wheelchairs, buggies and the elderly.”
    • Warwickshire – Bedworth’s “honesty library” proves successful - Coventry Telegraph.   Not really: only 60 people used the facility in five weeks, with only 150 books taken out.  “The library is based at Bedworth Heath Community Centre and has been saved from closure by local residents following a Warwickshire County Council cost-cutting exercise.”
    • Worcestershire – Library opening hours cut - Redditch Standard.   “”This is a type of small change that allows us to continue with a comprehensive library service across the county and although reducing opening hours in some of our libraries isn’t something we’ve done lightly, it’s clear that a slight reduction in service is better than complete and outright closures. We believe these measures will ensure we achieve our financial objectives in a way which inflicts the least disruption to our valued library users.” [Losing at least 28 full-time posts is not “a small change”.  It’s a large proportion of total staffing, probably a guesstimate would be a quarter – Ian.].