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.].

    The second most sacred space

    News
    • Canadian authors rally to support striking librariansMarketwire.  “We’re supporting the library workers who help library users find the books and information they need, whether they are doing online research or writing a resume,” said Susan Swan, author of The Wives of Bath, and former Canadian Writers’ Union chair. “The Internet is a wonderful resource but it can’t replace the people who help others use it.” … “Toronto library employees have been on strike since March 18 in support of a new contract. The Toronto Public Library Board has demanded concessions from the 2,300 workers, including elimination of a key employment security clause which would open the door to library closures and further service cuts.”
    • Late? No, fine - Boston (USA).   “…the librarian waved him off, explaining that Gleason had stopped charging for overdue materials five months ago. Like many library patrons, Walsh was surprised. Aren’t overdue fines as integral to the fabric of the public library system as, say, Dewey decimal numbers or signs asking for quiet? But Carlisle is not alone in its decision to stop charging for late returns. Over the past few years, Massachusetts libraries have been increasingly hopping aboard the fine-free bandwagon, including institutions in Dover, Littleton, and Westford.” .. ““At the rate we were collecting fines, the management cost was greater than the revenue.”.  Money went to general council budget, not to library. People, especially children, put off by fines.  “After all, where else are you penalized for reading?”.  “here has been essentially no discernible difference in the amount of time that people keep materials since the library began its no-fines policy.” Pro-fines librarians says “they teach people accountability and responsibility.”
    • Let yapping dogs lieInformation Overlord.   Reviews the article by Tim Coates on his blog.  Points out several major inconsistencies with the facts in the posting (comments were reasonable not “yapping dog”, comments were not made by public librarians etc). While agreeing that “I would have to agree that there was always a feeling of Us and Them in relation to those at the coal face and those ‘professionals’ in county hall. We never felt we got the suppport we deserved from them when it was needed – especially if there was a complaint” but “But, by the same time, pretending that most of these people just sit on their arse all day doing bugger all is also I think a simplistic mistake.”
      “As you will know if you have been following our campaign. I am an academic librarian and we have had a lot of support from a very knowledgeable retired public librarian. But we are two of many, As the letter, says, our campaign was supported by 16,000 signature petition (gathered in just 3 weeks in the face of extreme winter weather). Our campaign has been strong because we have library users from all different backgrounds working tirelessly to save our libraries ( as DCMS will know from the hundreds of letters they received, and ignored, from library users in Gloucestershire). Librarian or library user, we have all taken the same stance as expressed in my letter (just look at the evidence from Gloucestershire sent to the CMS Select Committee for more!). I find it a bit odd that I am attacked for defending a library service just because I am a librarian. We are damned if we do, damned if we don’t!  I personally would like to see more librarians, alongside library users, fighting for the service. ” Johanna Anderson, Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries.

    • Letter to campaigner - Alan Gibbons.   Response to Eoin Garland from government regarding unfair reliance on volunteers, fragmented approach to libraries, poor record of government on libraries. 
    • Libraries are not just buildings full of books - Unison “In Focus” magazine, p.13-14.  Article on the Speak Up for Libraries event, including quotes from several public librarians and Alan Gibbons.  A full response, no the normal form letter, but with no new real information.
    Nicky Ginney on Libraries.  See also this recent

    Changes

    Calderdale 1 mobile to close on 1st April, large number of opening hour reductions.

    Local News

    • Calderdale – Library opening hours cut to save £150,000 - Halifax Courier.   Cuts in hours at “Brighouse, Elland, Hebden Bridge, King Cross, Sowerby Bridge and Todmorden libraries will open for 37 hours a week; Rastrick Library for 30 hours; Beechwood Road, Hipperholme, Northowram and Skircoat libraries for 25 hours; and small changes will be made at Mixenden and Shelf libraries.”.  Mobile library will end, to be replaced by a “Home Library Service” for the housebound.
    • Isle of Man – Library loss can’t be understimated - Isle of Man.com.  “A Laxey woman dismayed at the planned loss of the mobile library says those who benefit most are least able to campaign against closure.”
    • North Somerset – It’s time take a stand for quality - This is Bristol.  New books which expand the mind seem rarely to be bought; the latest popular fiction is. I feel the Library Service has lost its soul and seeking justification for its existence, veers towards pop-marketing in imitation of the big bookshop chains, the fast food of the printed word.”. Also, letter is against just the free market providing books.
    • Portsmouth – Plans for Drayton library approved after 50 years - News.   “Following the launch last year of a popular library in Palmerston Road, Southsea, the city council is pushing ahead with plans to repeat its success in Drayton. Officers have identified the area as the only one in the city without a public library within a mile of residents’ homes and said calls for one began more than 50 years ago.” … “Both major political parties have taken credit for the idea”.
    • Suffolk – The Industrial and Provident Society: its role in Suffolk libaries, part 1 – Rosehill Readers.   “Organisational change on such a drastic scale will always damage or destroy efficiencies as well as inefficiencies; good ways of working as well as bad. Worse still, a new experimental structure like the IPS – particularly introduced in such a rush – is bound to create its own bureacracy.” … “Sucking nearly a third of the budget out of libraries will have drastic effects on the service regardless of how it is provided. The already diminished Bookfund will be first, staff will be next (and more painful). Anyone who tells you that you can hollow out the management and support staff of a previously lean, efficient library network and reduce funding by about a third and come out with an improved service is deluded.”
      • Where now for the IPS - James Hargrave’s Blog.   ” If it tries to create a complicated system of local devolution without first taking hold of the services and running and knowing them for itself I think it will fail. As ever the key to success is pragmatism.”

    Not so ACE

    The chief of Arts Council England (ACE), the quango with some responsibility for libraries, has been told that she will not have her contract extended from January next year.  There’s a fair bit of controversy over Jeremy Hunt’s decision to do this.  Liz Forgan has been seen as doing a good job leading the organisation at this most difficult of times.  The suspicion is that her leftwing views, which have never apparently interfered with her work, was the real reason. More worryingly for libraries, perhaps, is the stated reason: Mr Hunt has specifically said that the new leader needs to aim for more private sector funding.  Privatisation and libraries are not the most clear-cut or uncontroversial of bedfellows and a pro-private anti-public new boss of ACE is unlikely to do the service any favours. 
    It’s a shame also as the Arts Council has been showing signs of making positive steps recently, most notably in starting on doing a decent job of surveying the sector.  In another way, though, the organisation is incredibly weak and nowhere more so than in funding: the Welsh Government, despite being seventeen times smaller than its English neighbour, is providing more than four times the funding (over £1m) for eight branches in Wales than ACE (£230k) is providing for the whole of England.  Some though may fear that getting the necessary bread from MacDonalds (or Amazon?) may though be worse than the current famine.

    News

    • £2.2 million boost for Wales’ museums and libraries - News Wales.   The funding will also help modernise eight public libraries in Wales. Over £1 million will be allocated to provide modern library facilities in Caerphilly, Baglan, Pontycymer, Bettws, Chirk, Mold, Prestatyn and Aberaeron.” …”A key aspect of the library modernisation programme is to create a cultural hub in the community with flexible space for activities. Activities will include storytimes for children, free access to computers and Wi-Fi connectivity for mobile devices alongside the ever popular books in an attractive environment.”
    • I’ll give money to save libraries, ex-Waterstones boss pledges - Independent.  “Someone needs to show leadership. Libraries in the UK need management. The situation is dreadful and getting worse.”.  Money could go to “A series of campaign groups have sprung up to support them and come up with alternative ways of running individual sites. These include sites in Brent and Lewisham, both in London, Gloucestershire, Somerset and the Isle of Wight.”
      • Coates blasts UK library service as Bilbary launches in US - BookSeller.  E-books site will share profits with US library services but not with UK libraries as they are “not organised at all” as there are over 150 different authorities.  Instead, some profits will go to local campaign groups. 
        • Comment from Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries [by Jo, who is an academic librarian] points out that they are not campaigning to control their libraries but, rather, for the Council to keep running them themselves.We argue that breaking it up by cutting “individual sites” off so they are run outside of this network, by volunteers, is counter-productive, unsustainable, inequitable and a massive leap backwards”.  
        • Comment from Shirley Burnham [non-librarian, campaigner involved for several years, starting with Swindon] says “The point I made yesterday was that private money is not the answer to a national problem and that DCMS must be urged by all to protect the public library service. Whether the firm pledging money were Bilbary, Boots or Brake Brothers, I’d have written in a similar vein.”
      • Library campaign police - Good Library Blog.    Tim Coates describes comments in BookSeller articles as “yapping dog” and says the “professional library staff” campaigners can’t stand a word he says, specifically those in senior management.  “the ‘professional’ library staff, actually work in Town Halls and County council offices, and certainly remote from the library floor and counter. If we need to save money (and we do) it is from among the ranks of these people that the savings should be made. If we lost 20% or 50% of the ‘professional’ staff from public libraries, it would be no loss at all” [In the interests of declaring perceived bias, which I am trying, possibly too hard, to avoid,  I am a member of a public library campaigning group – Voices for the Library – which, although un-named, may be one of those being attacked by Tim in this article.  I am also a professional librarian but work at branch level and am at the most junior level of management – Ian.]
        • Is this the kind of help public libraries need? - Infoism.  Notes that Tim was not always an advocate of e-books.  Agrees that Mr Vaizey and the Society for Chief Librarians has a questionable record on library campaiging. Concerns that (a) US libraries would appear to subsidising UK ones under Tim’s model, (b) councils should run libraries not volunteers (who lack expertise) and funding such groups will only encourage more libraries to be threatened in future.  “Whilst local authorities, national government and the SCL have arguably failed public libraries over the past few years, I am not entirely convinced that these proposals provide the best alternative.  At a time when library campaigners need to unite to fight library cuts and closures, we certainly do not need to provide local authorities with any more encouragement to wash their hands of local libraries and force them upon their local communities.”
    • Libraries can prosper: if they can change - Independent.  There are, of course, some libraries that are unfit for purpose. But those that use digital technologies as an aide, rather than treat them as a threat, more than hold true to their core purpose. And those that have made the leap are seeing visitor numbers rise, not fall. Britain’s libraries do not need closing but they may need changing. We can only hope that Mr Coates’ support can help many of them to do so.”
    • Library crisis “like Beeching cuts to railways” - London Evening Standard.  “The Standard has set up a Save Our Libraries campaign. In the Commons, Mr Jarvis said the minister had “no vision, no strategy”. Mr Vaizey urged him to speak out over Labour-run Brent closing parts of its library service.”
    • New chair of Arts Council to be appointed - DCMS.   “DCMS will launch a search for a new chair of Arts Council England following a decision by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt not to reappoint the current chair Dame Liz Forgan” … ““The next chair of the Arts Council will have to steer the organisation and the sector through another challenging period, in particular in increasing the amount of private giving to the arts and encourage the sector to make the most of technological changes.””
      • Anger as Arts Council chief is forced to quit by ministers - Independent.   “Dame Liz never hid her left -wing views, which led to one arts industry expert to say: “This is a political move. She is a well-known left-winger. Perhaps the Government wants someone more in tune with its own views,” before adding: “This could well backfire.”
    “This is seen by many to be a political decision as Forgan is perceived to be left of centre, was appointed by Labour and is the chair of the Scott Trust, which owns the Guardian and the Observer! Hunt wants to appoint someone with experience of private funding as he sees this as a future priority for ACE. A worrying sign of things to come?” The chair of ACE told to step down, a political decision? - Stop the privatization of UK public libraries.  

    “Libraries are different from schools, because you don’t have to go. Children can go there to read and it’s just for pure pleasure. This has all been a gradually declining mess. The library is not just about books. It is a place where people can go. Having that sort of space is very, very important in many parts of Britain, they provide social functions. These services are being torn from people who need it most.”

    • University cash crisis hits historic women’s libraryIslington Tribune.   “The world-famous Wom­en’s Library – formerly the Fawcett Library – will shut six days a week, be privately run or move out of its historic home at the end of this year, the Tribune can reveal. The board of governors at Holloway-based London Metropolitan University,  trustees of the archive, are seeking a “new home, custodian or sponsor” for the library’s treasured collections.”

    Changes

    Local news

     
    Brent – Big drop in visits and usage since closure of six branch libraries.
    First column is March 2011, second is February 2012.
    “These are shocking and saddening statistics – and exactly what was predicted by everyone in the Brent Save Our Libraries campaign. The only positive point is that Brent has not disposed of any of the old libraries.” Brent Liberal Democrat Leader Paul Lorber

    • Cheshire West and Chester – Union action to close Northwich libraries - Guardian series. “Librarians will walk out in protest against changes to their contract terms and conditions.”. 
      • Libraries staff strike: libraries to close on Saturday 24th and Saturday 31st March 2012 - West Cheshire Unison. “UNISON and other Council trade unions believe members have no choice but to take industrial action, given the Council’s refusal to negotiate. From April the Council is stopping paying enhancements for staff working weekends, overtime and all bank holidays, except Christmas. They are also reducing the rate for working nights. Staff contracted to use their own cars for work face reductions in car allowances of around £1500 per year.”
    • Croydon – Half-baked news of Croydon Libraries bidders and campaigners concerns - Save Croydon Libraries Campaign.   “No one debates that the local press must have great difficulty verifying the real situation as Cllr Sara Bashford and Croydon Council are almost silent on the matter, pushing through the privatisation of all thirteen libraries, knowingly having only consulted with the users of less than half the libraries in the network.”.  Concerned over private companies making profit from libraries, lack and poor quality of National Libraries Day events.
      • Shortlist of companies bidding to run Croydon libraries revealed - Guardian series.  Lists names of companies and briefly describes them.  LSSI quotes as saying “No longer will libraries simply sit and wait for their customers to arrive. They will be more proactive, more outgoing and offer the range of educational, leisure and cultural services that their communities demand.”.
    • Derbyshire – Libraries to re-open after improvement - Ripley and Heanor News.   ““I hope people will come and see what is new, particularly those who have not been in a library for a while. They might be surprised. All 45 of Derbyshire County Council’s libraries have computers with access to the internet and books can be reserved from anywhere in the county.””
    • Dorset – Charmouth: library roof to be refurbished before hand-over - Bridport News.   “Hazel Robinson, chairman of Friends of Charmouth Library, said: “In the case of Charmouth, it would have been impossible for the Friends to have taken on the library unless the roof and heating system were put into good order before the September handover. The good news was that this was agreed. “The bad news was that requests for set-up grants were turned down.”
      • Work begins on the refurbishment of Christchurch Library - Dorset Newsroom.   “Work has started on the £2 million extension and refurbishment of Christchurch Library. It is set to bring vastly improved facilities, more books, and the creation of a new adult learning centre.” … “The project will increase the public library space by 60%.  The current floor area is 481 square metres and is serving a population of over 40,000.  This is little more than a third of the recommended floor area for the population.”
    • Leicester – New chapter in hypocrisy - This is Leicestershire.   “How insensitive and hypocritical of the city council to be actively promoting the increased use of libraries at exactly the same time as it is closing some of them down!”
    • Neath Port Talbot – Extra cash will boost security of collections - This is South Wales.   “Heritage Minister at the Welsh Government, Huw Lewis, said: “Our libraries and museums enrich people’s education and knowledge so it is essential that as many people as possible can access and enjoy their collections.” … “Baglan Public Library will receive £114,460 capital funding to help deliver modernised facilities. The money will be used for its modernisation programme to create a cultural hub and activities for children. Free access to computers and Wi-Fi connectivity for mobile devices will also be available. The funding has been awarded under the latest round of grants through CyMAL, the Welsh Government’s Museums, Archives and Libraries Wales division.”
    • Northamptonshire – Andrew Carnegie-funded Kettering Library “needs £1m” to be restored - BBC.   “The council said it “simply cannot afford” to fund the work by itself, but has contributed £250,000 for the floor’s restoration and to enable the “grand entrance” on Sheep Street to be re-opened. An appeal by the Friends will pay for the library to get new plasterwork and redecoration, as well as work on the Collyweston slate roof.”
    • Surrey – Library funding fight heard at High Court -  This is Surrey Today.  Summary of the main arguments used.

    News

    Library campaign police - Good Libray Blog.   Tim Coates calls the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries

    Bar staff to replace library assistants

    News

    • Ghana needs e-library facilitiesVibe Ghana.  “Mr Monu, who made the appeal in an interview with the Ghana News Agency, said the benefits of e-libraries are enormous. He said it is about time Ghana gets e-library facilities, to allow the public libraries to acquire latest editions of reference books and magazines.”.  The end comment suggests different priorities … “He said the greatest challenge of his outfit is the lack of fence wall, which has opened the premises to the nefarious activities of hooligans, while stray animals also disturb clients who patronise the library.”
    • Jarvis asks Vaizey “Are you a champion for libraries?” - Dan Jarvis MP.   “Shadow Culture Minister, Dan Jarvis today questioned Ed Vaizey at the dispatch box. Jarvis challenged his counterpart on the issue of libraries by asking the Minister, “With no Vision, no strategy, no urgency – from a Minister who is fast becoming the Dr Beeching of libraries, does he believe he has a responsibility to act as a “champion” for libraries across Government, and if he does – how would he assess his performance to date?”” … “During the exchange in the Chamber, Vaizey avoided the question and instead referred to his stance on the Wirral, in which the then Labour Government intervened to order an inquiry into the closures.”
    • Library closures and the public sector equality duty - Elisabeth Laing QC.  “Elisabeth Laing QC gave this paper at the 11KBW Cuts, Closures and the Public Sector Equality Duty – developments, particularly as applied to library closures seminar on 21st March 2012″.  Examines recent public library legal cases.  Points out possibility of challenging closures under new Localism Act legislation.  See also The Public Sector Equality Duty by Joanne Clement.
    • Professional development advice for academic librarians - Guardian.  Long article with relevance for public libraries as well. 
    • Speak Up for LibrariesWe Heart Libraries.  Summary of the day, along with some great pictures.
    • Speak Up for LibrariesEarly Day Motions.  45 MPs have signed up (33 Labour, 4 Lib Dem, 4  DUP, 2 SDLP, 1 UUP … and 1 Conservative).  “That this House recognises that public libraries are important community spaces and a vital public resource; acknowledges that many are under threat due to wide-scale budget cuts; is concerned about the impact of closures on social inclusion, social mobility and society more generally; welcomes the formation of Speak Up for Libraries, a coalition of national organisations and library campaigners that is leading a delegation of supporters from around the country to Parliament on 13 March 2012 in order to highlight the vital role that library services, run by professionally trained and qualified staff, play in the community and for individuals; and therefore calls on the Government to undertake a thorough assessment of the state of the public library service and develop a national vision for the service.”

    Changes

    Local News

     

    • Cambridgeshire – Job Details: Community Library Assistant - Cambridgeshire Council.  Our vision is to maintain a high quality public library service, as well as developing our role as Community Hubs, working in partnership with a range of other organizations and community groups.”
    • Camden – Campaign group on brink of Keats Library survival deal - Camden New Journal.   “After months of discussions and worries that a deal might fall through, The Phoenix group has reached an “agreement in principle” to take over the running of the library in the wake of Camden Council’s decision to stop managing it.”
    • Cumbria – Penrith Library closing for switch to self-service - News & Star.  “The county council, which operates library facilities across the county, said there would be no change to staffing levels when it goes self service. “The changes are based on the success of Carlisle library, which became self service in June 2011,” a spokesperson said. He said the self-service facility would allow staff to concentrate on helping customers find books and use computers, plus deal with general inquiries.”
    • South Gloucestershire -Read all about it, libraries are tops - This is Bristol.   “South Gloucestershire’s library service has been voted one of the best in England by those who use it. A survey of more than 4,000 people revealed that 96 per cent rated it positively, with particular praise for staff helpfulness and the range of books on offer.”
    • Leicester – Cultural deficit - This is Leicestershire.   “This, in the week following the decision of our Lord Mayor and council to close down other well-used libraries in the city, with their good selection of books, computer use, ever helpful staff, coffee mornings, book readings and other functions. Apparently a cupboard full of books and one part-time member of staff is considered adequate replacement.”
    • Lincolnshire – Villagers threaten to boycott new library at Saxilby over staffing - This is Lincolnshire.   “But villagers have vowed not to use the facility. They argue the new site will no longer have the personal touch because all three of the current library’s staff have been asked to work elsewhere. Instead, the new library will be managed by bar staff already employed at the community centre. There will also be self-service machines. Campaigners also say the use of a bar, local sports clubs and fitness classes at the centre will lead to noise and “rowdy behaviour”.
    “Currently, volunteers work two hours on a Wednesday morning at the library. At the new site, they are being asked to work 14 hours between them each week. Volunteer Jane Kent now says she is considering quitting. She said: “We were told at a meeting in September that we were not becoming volunteers to replace other people’s actual jobs. That’s the condition on which many of us agreed to do it.” Saxilby resident Elaine Parry said: “As far as I know the new facility is going to be a third of the size of the current one – what good is that?”

    • North Lincolnshire – Library opening hours cut after plans are rubber-stamped - This is Scunthorpe.   “Proposals for North Lincolnshire Central Library in Scunthorpe to lose four-and-a-half hours a week and Ashby Library to open for five-and-a-half hours less every week were first put forward in October.” … “After a consultation period, the decision has now been taken to go ahead with the cuts, which will save North Lincolnshire Council £16,000 per year. But a rethink on plans to open Barton Library for longer on an unstaffed basis means it will now open for an additional three-and-a-half hours each week instead of six hours, as originally suggested.”
    • Wirral – Hoylake: then and now - BBC Things To Do.  “Local historian Jim O’Neil will be talking about his new history book, “Hoylake Then and Now” which compares old and new photographs and provides a fascinating insight into the town’s past.” at Hoylake Library.

    “Equivalent Service”

    Comment

    In the Surrey judicial review, the council’s defence included the claim that volunteers give “equivalent service” to paid library workers. It was pointed out by the council’s barrister that the affected employees were not professional librarians.  She went on that some of the volunteers thought it was “offensive” that campaigners would think that they could not do the work.  It is unclear when the judge in the case will give his verdict, which the campaigners think is “difficult to call“.
    There is a new chairman for the Industrial and Provident Society taking over the running of public libraries in Suffolk.  This seems to good news, as  the previous chairman, Clive Fox, did not seem to particularly impress those concerned with public libraries.  The new chair, according to reports, is made of better stuff.  We shall see.  Whatever the case, and I would not like to say if Mr Fox was pushed or went of his own accord, this has to been as a shaky start for the experimental governance of a county’s library service.  An authority’s public library service deserves better.

    News

    • Enhance your library through play - Librarygame.   “Librarygame™ adds elements that make games engaging and delightful, directly into the library experience. As well as giving library users a fresh and useful social discovery interface, librarygame provides librarians with useful at a glance statistics on how their library is being utilised.”
    • Navigating your library through the “perfect storm” - Ken Chad Consulting.   Interesting presentation on strategy and what libraries need to think abut in getting one.
    • PM urges states to set up public libraries - Deccan Herald (India).  “I see a great hunger for knowledge in our country. We need to provide our people, particularly our youth, access to quality books. I take this opportunity to urge every state government and every municipality and panchayat to pay special attention to the setting up and maintenance of public libraries, including community, locality and village libraries”
    “It is with this objective in mind that we recently commissioned a National Mission for Libraries, anchored in our Ministry of Culture. The Mission will focus on improvement of the public library system of the country particularly concentrating on the states where library development is lagging behind,” [Shame this quote is from India].

    • Pomona rejects outsourcing of library management - Contra Costa Times (USA). After listening to residents speak in support of the Pomona Public Library and its employees Monday evening, City Council members rejected a proposal to pursue the outsourcing of library management services.”

    • Time’s up, Mr Vaizey - BookSeller.   “For months it has become increasingly obvious that Ed Vaizey is out of depth as the minister responsible for libraries—a suspicion that has now become a certainty. Called before the DCMS Select Committee last week, he flunked his big moment…young, inexperienced and, although a good communicator, he has nothing to say. No vision, no plan, no urgency … “.  Lib Dem spokesman Don Foster “notable by his absence”.  “The failure of the political class has been matched only by the energy of the local campaigners who have kept the issue alive.”
    “As for Ed Vaizey one can but hope that when DC shuffles the Cabinet, something he hasn’t done yet, that he’ll get his comeuppance. Rarely says anything and what he does say is rubbish.” Mr G Metliss, Richelieu, France.  In email.  [Mr Vaizey’s record is now international].

    • Two years in: the real cost of the cuts - Socialist Worker.  The coalition government will have been in office for 680 days on budget day. An average of 625 public sector jobs have been lost on every one of those days, according to figures from the Unison trade union.” … “minister Ed Vaizey, speaking to a parliamentary committee on library closures last week, said the problem is that “the library issue is stuck in a binary debate about closures… we should be thinking creatively”. He then went on to talk about an example of such “innovative” thinking—a phone box in the US that local people had put some books in.”

    Changes

    Suffolk - Sudbury Library merged with tourist information centre.  

    Local News

    “Speaking at the meeting, Unite branch secretary Onay Kasab told the cabinet that if they agreed the transfer, union members would strike, making sure they caused “maximum disruption”. He added: “This won’t be some token protest, one day letting off steam, we intend to take action we think will be necessary to get you to change your minds.”

    • Leicester – Ssh! City library could become a concert venue - This is Leicestershire.  The Central Lending Library, in Bishop Street, has applied for an entertainment licence to stage small, intimate gigs at lunchtimes and in the evenings. Adrian Wills, the city council’s head of libraries, hopes the upstairs floor of the building will become an alternative, alcohol-free venue to the nearby busy pubs, clubs and bars.”
    • Plymouth – Labour candidate’s leaflet sparks row over libraries - This is Plymouth.   “Mr Smith said the council should look at alternatives like moving libraries into supermarkets. He pledged that his party would not close any libraries if it got into power this May.”
    • Suffolk – New chair for county’s library board - EADT.   “Ms Bendix takes the reins from Clive Fox who, as the IPS’ inaugural chairman, took the organisation from the drawing board to the board room – putting in place some of the critical building blocks needed to establish the new organisation as a solid base for Suffolk’s library services.”
    “I met Shona [Bendix]  when she and other Board members visited Stradbroke library recently and I think that she will make a good Chair of the IPS and I look forward to working with her as part of the Stradbroke Group.” James Hargrave’s Blog

      • Centre is on the move - Suffolk Free Press.  The [tourist information] centre, formerly in Gaol Lane, will now be based on the ground floor of the library on Market Hill as part of a plan by Sudbury Town Council for the former corn exchange building to become a “community hub”.”
    • Surrey – Library volunteers “would give equivalent service” - Get Surrey.   “… the authority’s lawyers hit back on Tuesday (March 20), arguing there would not be any equality issues because volunteers would be fully trained to provide an “equivalent service” to the current situation.” … “She pointed out that members of staff currently working in the council’s libraries were not professional librarians, but managers and assistants, and that volunteers would be capable of providing the same service to customers.” … “After hearing two days of argument, Mr Justice Wilkie reserved giving his judgement on the case until an unspecified later date.”
      • High Court reserves Surrey libraries decision - BBC.   “Slam spokesman Lee Godfrey said the judicial review would hold the plans up to scrutiny that the council “lacked throughout”. Councillor Helyn Clack, cabinet member for community services, defended the scheme and said the plan for 10 libraries to be run by volunteers was in order to keep Surrey’s 52 libraries in operation. She also said volunteers had been looking forward to launching their own community-run libraries.”
      • Campaigners in court fighting library plans - Guardian series.   “SLAM campaigners tweeting at the end of the hearing said it was “difficult to call” what the decision would be. Surrey County Council has confirmed it will be releasing a statement shortly.”

    The end of Booked Up

    Comment
    Booked Up, the national scheme that ensured every eleven year old was given a book, has ended, to be replaced by a scheme which will require participating schools to pay £2.50 per pupil.   I was involved in promoting Booked Up to my local community for the last few years.  I can confirm that it encouraged a lot of children to read, just as they were entering that difficult secondary school phase … and every child got a book, regardless of the institution’s ability to pay.  Now that the perfectly good replacement scheme requires a payment, which is hardly surprising in these cash-strapped times, another avenue for equality of opportunity has gone.   It follows on from the attempted complete withdrawal of funding for BookStart funding slightly more than a year ago, which was abandoned after major protests.  If this decision stands – and it is likely that it will – more “Argos catalogue families” (where the only book in the house is the Argos catalogue) will be the result. Another step will be taken towards a world where books are only for those children whose families can afford them. 
    Some more information from the Surrey judicial review has been released.  The major campaigner argument against moving ten libraries out of council control is that the council duties under Equalities Act were not properly undertaken.  This is similar to the argument that was successful in the Gloucestershire/Somerset judicial review.   The council response appears to have boiled down to “a volunteer-run library is better than a closed library”.  It is unclear at the current time  as to when the court’s decision will be announced.

    News

    • Booked Up withdrawn - Teen Librarian.  “Booked Up gave every 11-year-old in England the chance to choose a free book during their first term at secondary school. The aim of the programme was to support and encourage reading for pleasure and independent choice. Year 7 students chose their free book from a list of specially selected titles.” 3.25m books distributed over five years.  No more.  Replacement programmes require schools to pay £2.50 per child. 
    “For everyone though, from Year 6 students to teachers and librarians who were involved in running it the closure of Booked Up is a minor tragedy, one of the many that exist in the current time of cutting expenditure and shuttering non-essential services.”

    “One of the best schemes for encouraging reading has effectively finished. So sad” … “Most school librarians would therefore pay about £500 for books to give away and not for all to enjoy. What are your thoughts?”  Heart of the School on Twitter.

    “In 2010 Booked Up reached over 650,000 children in over 5,000 secondary schools. 73.5% of Coordinators reported that they see evidence of students wanting to read more for pleasure as a result of Booked Up. 56% of students are visiting bookshops more often since Booked Up” Orchard Books blog.

    • Designing libraries gets its own makeover - Designing Libraries.  “With its many examples of inspiring and functional library buildings, Designing Libraries has long been an important and well-used source of information for anyone planning a new library or a library refurbishment. Its database forms a current and permanent record of design development and innovation for both public and academic libraries.”
    “I think it’s difficult to be optimistic about the future of the public library service when so many senior members of the profession have taken on portfolios in local authorities that require them to manage “leisure services”, “transformation” or whatever. They no longer see their primary role as developing a library service, rather local services in general – and looking around for a way to deliver these services more cheaply the library seems rather an obvious location. Sadly for libraries they have also been investing heavily in the technologies that make them even more attractive to fill that role.” Mick Fortune on conversation about “IT in the Library” LIS-PUB-LIBS.  The thread has opened up some empassioned thoughts about the lack of strategic leadership in the profession. Interestingly though, it’s a debate where no-one is arguing that there is strategic leadership. This is a damning indictment of the current, and recent state, of affairs

    • Libraries under pressure - Voice of Russia.   “Britain is reducing the number of public libraries under the pretext of lack of patronage by readers. Protest meetings have been held in London. The situation in Russia is also of serious concern because not all the libraries can compete with the Internet for the dissemination of information. “.  Only 20% of Russian libraries have internet access. … “For a long period of time, the libraries were not bothered by competition, the rural libraries were not given fresh supplies for years  and there are even those which received the latest publications only at the start of the 1990s.” … “In Britain the public organizations encouraging literacy are well funded” [!].
      “People who think libraries are going away simply because books are going digital are missing the true tectonic shifts taking place in the world of information. Libraries are not about books. In fact, they were never about books….Libraries are here to stay because they have a survival instinct. They have created a mutually dependent relationship with the communities they serve, and most importantly, they know how to adapt to the changing world around them. I am always impressed with the creative things being done in libraries. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” There are a lot of beautiful dreams taking place that will help form tomorrow’s libraries.” ” Future libraries and the 17 forms of information replacing books - Futurist Speaker.

    “The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities.” R. David Lankes, The Atlas of New Librarianship

    Local News

    • Bath and North East Somerset – Celebrating volunteering in Council’s libraries - This is Bath.  Library volunteers have been celebrated by Bath & North East Somerset Council with an afternoon of tea, cakes and a visit from bestselling author Lesley Pearse. The annual Volunteers Celebration pays tribute to the huge amount of work that volunteers carry out for the Council’s libraries across Bath and North East Somerset. Almost 100 volunteers now carry out regular tasks as part of the initiative.”
    Don’t forget that tomorrow (Wednesday 21 March) there will be a Library Consultation Meeting in the Old Library building on Knights Hill from 7-9pm. The next one is Thursday 29 March 10am-12pm.” Upper Norwood Joint Library Campaign.

    • Croydon/Wandsworth – And the shortlisted bidders for the Croydon/Wandsworth library contract are … - Stop the privatisation of UK public libraries.   “Have just heard that LSSI are one of the shortlisted bidders for the Croydon/Wandsworth library contract, along with Civica, Essex CC, Greenwich Leisure Trust and John Laing.”. 
    • Gloucestershire – Campaigners demand response from Vaizey - Alan Gibbons.   “Whilst another campaign group are this week forced into having to superintend their own library service via the courts because of Mr Vaizey and Mr Hunt’s inaction, we are STILL waiting, three months later, for a response to our letters.”
    • Isle of Man – Reprieve for Isle of Man’s family and mobile libraries - Isle of Man Today.   “there have been protests and petitions – one with more than 2,000 signatures – against the closure of the libraries. Mr Bell said: ‘I quite understand the concerns being expressed about the changes being proposed for the libraries. We recognise that and a working party has been set up to try to identify ways to maintain services but delivering them in a different way.”
    • Isle of Wight – Cllr Pugh’s library evidence “misleading” - Ventnor Blog.   “I, without reservation, confirm that this is not a personal or political attack on the Leader of the Isle of Wight Council or the Council’s Decision; it is to ensure that the Evidence Committee of the DCMS has access to clear and concise facts when considering the Library Closure Programme, particularly when reviewing the Isle of Wight.” 
    • Kirklees – Denby Dale library campaigners slam Kirklee’s lack of ideas for volunteer plan - Huddersfield Daily Examiner.  “Bev Millington from Friends of Denby Dale Library (FODDL), said: “We’re frustrated as we don’t know what the framework is and what they’re trying to achieve by what date? People are unsure about what’s going to happen after the six week consultation process.” FODDL founder, Biddy Fisher, said she thought the whole library service should be reviewed instead of focusing on cutting funding to seven village libraries.”
    “I find it rather insulting to be consulted about something when I know Kirklees Cabinet have sat down behind closed doors and decided what they want. “Why have all the volunteers in one place and all the professional librarians in another?”

    • Surrey – Volunteer libraries battle reaches High Court - Get Surrey.  “On Monday, lawyers for Ms Williams claimed the council had failed in its duty under the Equalities Act to look at how its plans might affect certain “protected groups”, including disabled and elderly people or ethnic groups who do not have English as a first language. Barrister Helen Mountfield QC said these residents relied on their local libraries for “much more than books and internet access”, adding: “Such groups might use libraries for particular purposes, or have a particular need for them. “They may require different kind of service methods or consideration of different particular concerns in relation to layout, stock, encouragement to participate, activities and events, or a myriad of other aspects.” Ms Mountfield added that library staff did not have “merely an administrative role” and were involved in a wide range of activities.  She said there had been a lack of “focus” in the council’s consultation, because it had asked for opinions on library closures – not the replacement of staff with volunteers.”
      • Judicial review:  a review - Surrey Libraries Action Movement.  Main argument from campaigners is that the Equalities Act 2010 is not being followed: “The Claimant’s case in short is that, whereas SCC may have carried out an Equalities assessment of closing libraries, it did not carry out a similar assessment, or any mitigation exercise, based on setting up Community Partnered Libraries. Also, that concerns and adverse feedback about the libraries policy from Disability Empowerment Boards were not brought to the attention of decision makers. And that the answer of, “training will be given to volunteers”, is not enough to show “due regard” …”.  Council’s argument is that running a library with volunteers is better than closing it.
    • Trafford – Breaking news - Hands off Old Trafford Library.   “Option 4 – Maintain 2 Customer Service Advisers in Hale and 3 in Old Trafford.  Plus employ a part time Customer Service Specialist on a fixed term contract to establish the volunteer programme and provide a budget for volunteer expenses of £6,000. This would result in a budget pressure of £67,500 for the retained frontline staffing, £12,000 for the Specialist and £6,000 for volunteer expenses – a total of £85,500″ Even as it stands, this would be a major victory for the community. While we don’t want to see any cuts or redundancies, reducing the paid staff from 5.75 (FTE) to 3, to be supported by volunteers, is a vastly more credible, sustainable and acceptable  plan than the original proposals.”

    Painting go faster stripes on the Titanic

    Comment

    News from the Surrey campaign is that the decision on the judicial review there looks likely to be delayed until after Tuesday. This follows the pattern of other library reviews, which have sometimes taken weeks or months. The first day of the review was mainly taken up by the barrister for the campaigners. The second day will be mainly the turn of the barriester for the council.
    The other news that sticks out today, over the now normal cuts news (bad news in Bradford, good news-ish in Isle of Man, neutral in Croydon), is two mutually incompatible articles on ebooks.  One is arguing that libraries need to be all for itThe other is that, basically, it’s too early, too expensive and there’s other things to be worried about.  I love the title of the latter piece and so have stolen it for the blog title today.

    News

    • Jabba the Hutt running the triathlon - James Christie (Via Alan Gibbons).  “Ed Vaizey is obviously hoping the whole problem will solve itself via the noble efforts of well-meaning volunteers, closures, burgeoning self-service, more closures and gradual erosion. I think his actual intention is literally to do nothing. He’s as fit for the job as Jabba the Hutt would be to run the Triathlon.”
    • Paperback fighters - Morning Star (Alan Gibbons).   “In the Vaizey “vision” – if we can grace so much back-of-an-envelope thinking with so grand a term – volunteers, who have always supplemented library staff, will no longer be an additional support but often a wholesale replacement.” … “while the activists are winning the public debate in favour of sustaining and improving the public library service, they are finding their efforts frustrated by cuts and the intransigence and abdication of responsibility of minister Vaizey and Secretary of State Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt.”
    “Ten per cent of full-time staff have been lost in a single year. In a very real sense, the entire notion of a professional librarian with a range of important skills is being called into question.”

    Changes

    Local News

    I have just been informed that Bradford School Library Service is to close in August. Another cut that will have negative repercussions.” Bradford SLA - Alan Gibbons.

    • Croydon – Four options for future of popular library - Croydon Guardian.  Options include continuing to fund the library at the existing level, reducing funding to the library, withdrawing funding, with money then used in improve other library services in the area and finally withdrawing funding and using the savings to protect other council services.”
    • Dorset – County Council questioned on mobile library decision - Dorset Echo.   “A councillor has slammed a decision to send a mobile library to a village with its own library as ‘bureaucracy gone mad’.Dorset county councillor Ron Coatsworth wants answers as to why the mobile library goes to Burton Bradstock when it has a community-led library of its own.”.  Council response is interesting: ““It is perhaps worth noting that some other councils which sought to remove or reduce their mobile library services have been subject to successful judicial review. A decision to withdraw the service will therefore be made when local people have had the opportunity to experience the community-managed service and a mobile library service.”.  [Therefore, service will be withdrawn if volunteers are a success – Ian.]
    • Gloucestershire – Cabinet Meeting 5 April 2012 - FoGL.   “…the agenda item for libraries is:“to take a decision as to the future Library Strategy for Gloucestershire, taking into account inter alia the feedback from the consultation on the draft Strategy and having due regard to the statutory equality needs” The meeting will be open to the public so if you are able to attend, contact Shire Hall about ticket arrangements (Tel: 01452 425000)”
    • Isle of Man – Working group to assess library options - Isle of Man.com.   “Now a Council of Ministers working party has been formed to examine options to keep the libraries open. That could be with support from local commissioners, with ratepayers footing part of the bill.”
    • Isle of Wight – Friends of the IW Library Service statement - via Alan Gibbons.   “Tomorrow 20th Mar 2012, the Ian Mac phone in program on Vectis Radio, the Isle of Wight on-line radio station from 12.00 to 13.00 will feature Keith Fagan, he will be answering questions on the reasons why he felt he could no longer remain a member of the Ethical Standards Committee, a long time and much respected independent member (2005 – 2012). After watching the live coverage of Cllr Pugh giving his evidence to the DCMS Select Committee, Keith felt that he had been placed in a totally untenable position as he knew that Cllr Pugh’ submissions could, at best, be considered misleading and by remaining silent he would be seen to condone Councillor Pugh’s evidence.”.  Statement asks for people to phone into radio programme and notes that several members of the Select Committee may be listening. Details to contact are: Vectis Radio (online Internet radio station) Tuesday 20th March,  12noon to 1pm, the Ian Mac programme http://vectisradio.co.uk/ Phone 01983 527444 or 01983 898548.
    • Kent – Developer must give £500k for new primary school in Sherwood - This is Kent. “More than £13,600 would be used to pay for additional library stock, extended hours and more staff at Tunbridge Wells library” 
    • Oxfordshire – Painting go faster stripes on the titanic - Question Everything.   “OCC (Oxfordshire County Council) have introduced e-books with a initial spend of £43,560 and a annual cost of £35,598 while cutting 25% out of the library budget partially by withdrawing up to 50% of staff funding rural libraries (and one city). They are also spending £150,074 (estimate) putting wifi in every one of the libraries.70 people have written and asked for e-books, anecdotally they say lots of people have asked verbally too. 70 out of 680,000.” … “They would saved lots of money if they had put the ebooks/audio books/wifi on the back burner for a few years until things settle down and all the major parties can get their heads together and agree on proper standards, it can them be available to all rather than to select devices. This isn’t the public sector way though, evidence of effectiveness, demand or need mean nothing. Its new and shiny therefore we must have it now.”
    • Suffolk – Libraries: what a week! - Rosehill Readers.   Events include Aldeburgh manager resigning over libraries policy, collapse of Ipswich Library Co-op and Speak Up for Libraries.
    • Surrey – Libraries row goes to High Court - Eagle Radio.  “Chairman of SLAM: “I’m sorry it has gone to Judicial Review, I’m sorry it has gone to court. There would have been occasions previously, where there could have been negotiations between us. Not just us, but all the people concerned to come out with a more effective solution.I think it is a great pity it has gone this far, but we felt we had no choice.”
    • Warwickshire – New library times for Wolston and Rugby - Coventry Telegraph.   “Nearly 1,000 people responded to a questionnaire asking for preferences for opening hours at Wolston and Rugby libraries. Wolston will now be open Monday to Wednesday 2.30-5pm and Thursday to Saturday from 10.30am-1pm. It will be closed on Sunday. Rugby will be open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9am-5pm, Tuesday from 10am-7pm, Saturday from 9am-6pm and Sunday from 12-4pm.”

    Unquiet in the Library

    Good luck to the Surrey campaigners tomorrow in the High Court

    News

    • 2011: A snapshot of our members in England – Locality.  An organisation that is involved in assisting volunteers in libraries (and othe buildings) to take over properties withdrawn from by the local council.
    available as an online brochure.
    • Rescue imminent for city library’s battered books - Press (New Zealand).  300,000 books let in the Christchurch library since the Feb 2011 earthquake are about to be used again.
    • Strike deadline for library workers passes - Toronto CTV (Canada).  “… the library has cut 107 full-time jobs and only 22 per cent of part-time workers — most of them women — get benefits. Librarians have been working without a contract since Jan. 1, as part of greater labour negotiations with other indoor workers in Toronto.”
    • Support for Margaret Hodge - Good Library Blog.   “Having watched the administration of councils, quangoes, government charities, government departments and senior and middle ranking civil servants for a decade in this pursuit of one simple public service, that of public libraries, my conclusion for a long time has been the same has she is drawing now. Our civil service is a terrible mess. People are not trained, not open, not accountable, not transparent, devious, deceitful – and much public service verges on the corrupt.”

    Changes

    Local News

    • Blackburn with Darwen – Library users face reduced hours - Lancashire Telegraph.    “users in Blackburn and Darwen have been left facing a triple whammy as part of the council’s £6million cuts programme.” … “Last August it was confirmed that Roman Road Library would be run by community volunteers and if this proves successful then similar provisions could be phased in at the Mill Hill and Livesey branches.”
    • Calderdale – Deal for new library hours - Brighouse Echo. ““The proposed cut in hours at Rastrick took no account of its use, or its popularity. “Rastrick Library is a well-used facility and would be badly affected by these, whereas other libraries could have their hours altered more in line with their usage and/or staffing levels.” 
    • Dudley – Council scoops top award for innovative library project - Stourbridge News.   “The library team received the award for its innovative approach to the shared delivery of services at Brierley Hill Library, which combines a housing office and Citizen’s Advice Bureau. The team was also voted runner-up in the virtual category for the online one-stop shop Dudley community information directory.”
    • Durham – Concerns over library cuts plan - Northern Echo.   “Concerned residents and councillors met on Saturday to show their support for Belmont Library. Durham County Council is proposing cutting opening times to 36 hours per week at 11 town centre libraries and 20 hours per week at 27 community libraries to save a total of £1.5m.”
    “Residents of Belmont and district, prize their library and have therefore instigated a petition against the proposed reduction in opening hours. The sustained strong response is clearly demonstrating how much it is valued by the community.”

    • Kirklees – Fresh Horizons creates cinema in local library - Locality.   “The funding will enable Fresh Horizons to install a cinema in the Chestnut Centre, teach film-making, and take films out to people in isolated rural areas. During the day the Chestnut Centre is a library and café, but once the library closes in the evening, the centre will transform into a cinema showing films chosen by the community.”
    • Merton – Library service named top in UK - Guardian series.   “Merton’s library service has been named the most efficient in the UK. The council was recognised at the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) awards for making savings of 40 per cent to their library service over the last five years while continuing to work with volunteer and partner organisations, extend opening times and introduce self-service technology.”
    “Our army of over 450 volunteers is the biggest of its kind in any London borough, contributing over 17,600 hours of their valuable time since last April to helping provide this fantastic service. This award is largely attributable to the hard work of our library staff who have embraced change and provide excellent customer care.”

    • Sheffield – Library deals booked with developers - Sheffield Telegraph.   “In all three instances, the council says commercial negotiations are “at an early stage”, and there is a warning that changes in the property market could affect the viability of the proposals. The libraries need “significant investment”, and a report to the council’s cabinet on Wednesday says the buildings can be expected to deteriorate further without funding for repairs, with the threat of potential closure.”
      • Unquiet in the library - Lovebytes.   “Sheffield Central Library provides the venue and inspiration for a spree of artistic interventions, impromptu performances and creative workshops”.  Some impressive events going on.

    “Eye of the Storm” – 3000 hours, 10% of all staff, up to two-fifths of funding lost in one year

    Comment

    •  More than 2,000 library staff have lost their jobs in the last year
    •  Shorter opening hours have reduced public access to libraries by 3,000 hours a week”.  
    • 10% of all staff have lost their jobs in the last year, one-quarter of posts lost were at professional level  (A previous, even more dire statement,  by Annie Mauger (the chief executive) that one in five respondents had lost their job appears to refer just to CILIP members).  
    • Just 21 branches are reported as closed.  (This report includes only those roughly half of authorities that responded so the the number of branches closed – 21 in the report – is substantially less than media reports suggest). 
    • Bookfunds have been reduced by an average of 7.2%, but with wide variations.  One authority has, incredibly, cut its bookfund by 90%.
    • Cuts to overall libraries funding also widely varies – from .5% to a full 35.6% in one year. Assuming that this figure does not account for inflation, this means at least one authority out there has cut its libraries budget by two-fifths in twelve months.  
    • “Over two-thirds of local authorities are actively considering alternative ways to run libraries and deliver services, such as community managed libraries, trusts and partnership working.”
    • Dramatic differences between library authorities show an increasing “postcode lottery”of provision.
    • “Further and deeper cuts are likely during 2012 and into 2013.”
    Faced with the reality of this on the ground, and the fact that the Minister for Libraries refuses to accept that there is even a problem, has led to calls for Mr Vaizey to resign
    Other items of note in the news today include
    It’s a strange and tough world out there and public libraries, which should be a haven, are finding themselves in danger of being beaten into destruction by its strong winds of change.  This is perhaps not the “Eye of the Storm” but rather “The Perfect Storm” (and the fact that I linked that to Wikipedia has been deliberately done to emphasise the point).  

    News

    • 2012 Library RFID Survey - RFID: Changing Libraries for Good?  – RFID is the technology behind self-service in many public libraries, although it is used for other things behind.  This is an analysis of a survey of library users in the UK/USA/Australia.  Interesting survey notable for many things but the one that caught my eye was less than half of authorities think that RFID represents a good return on investment.
    • Beauty of the Local Library - Words and the World.   Elderly, unemployed, young, those on low incomes all depend on libraries.  “You may feel that keeping libraries open for the sake of ‘minority’ demographics like these is wrong- but add these demographics together and you’re suddenly faced with a huge number of people depending on this service. Besides, how much of a minority are these demographics in March 2012?”
    “Called before the DCMS Select Committee this week, he (Ed Vaizey) flunked his big moment, failing to offer any coherent vision as to how to save libraries from death by a thousand cuts.”… “So what next? Vaizey needs to be consigned to the back benches and a more vigorous replacement brought in. Publishers need to resolve the e-book lending impasse. The Arts Council needs to lose its post-MLA library responsibilities, and a national supervisory body set up instead. Libraries are too important to be sidelined.” … “It is encouraging to see the Opposition finally engaging with the issue on a national level, but the unfortunate fact remains that Labour councils (in the shape of Brent and Lewisham) have been among the most enthusiastic cutters.” …“Their [the Liberal Democrats] parliamentary spokesman, Don Foster, has been notable by his absence.” Editorial – BookSeller (print edition).

    • Collection Society to Libraries: No story time for kids unless you pay to read aloud – TechDirt.   The Belgian Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers SABAM has demanded that a public library pay a fee (Around £220 p.a.) for reading books aloud at a storytime.  The storytime is run by volunteers – the Belgian library has no money to pay for it to be done by paid staff.  Article concludes that “the likely outcome will be that many libraries throughout Belgium will cancel these reading sessions for children. As a result, fewer young people will be introduced to the world of reading, fewer of them will grow up to be readers, and writers will have fewer fans and less money.”
    “Overall satisfaction with the use of RFID in the library appears to remain reasonably high. With so many public libraries now seeking to introduce self-service to replace staff the remarks about the continuing need for staff involvement might give pause for thought. If there are no staff in some branches (a scenario being proposed by at least one authority) it seems likely that there may be some difficulties in store.” Comments – RFID for Librarians.  The many negative comments on RFID on this report also may cause concern for those who see it as a panacea.

    “I went into a museum the other day; 3 floors, central location in London and it had lots of bright lights, music playing , and things to keep me entertained. The only problem was the HMV Oxford Street hasn’t quite woken up to the fact that it is a museum.” I went into a museum the other day - President Phil’s Blog, CILIP.   Phil Bradley, president of the professional body for librarians, suggests that librarians should not be so wedded to “history” / printed books. “A phrase that I’ve found myself using a lot in the past few weeks is that we should not allow history to define the future.” [For myself, I would argue that the printed book has many years left and to abandon them would be to abandon the present needs of many users.  However, this is an excellent article – Ian.]

    • Looking back at Speak Up for Libraries - Diary of a Contrarian Librarian.  Ian Clarke of Voices for the Library summarises the day, including the terrifying prospect of giving a speech after such people as the general secretary of UNISON.
    • Management of the public library service - Good Library Blog. A brief posting, asking some questions asked about the current senior management of libraries, and it’s management.
    • Move to privatize libraries makes inroads in Florida - WMFE (USA).  Osceola Libraries are now run by LSSI who promise to save $2m per year. Council says that it retains control of buildings.  Others worry that jobs, pay and the independence of the public library are all under threat.
    • Our libraries need to study success - Independent (Boyd Tonkin).   “Library cuts lose votes, many of them Conservative: the Women’s Institute this week presented a 70,000-strong petition against closures. And Vaizey certainly needs some top-level expert advice if the best example of library innovation he can produce is a book-filled phone booth in Philadelphia. Don’t call us, Ed…”
    “A slender and flexible agency devoted to excellence in library services would more than earn its keep – but, just now, its first task would have to be a draining rearguard battle against rampant deprofessionalisation. And in the end, I suspect, only crude and messy politics has much chance of restocking empty shelves and re-opening closed doors. In the past, the threat of hospital closures has won, and lost, by-elections. Might the same happen with libraries? That sounds fantastic. But, given a highly marginal seat, a knife-edge campaign and a lot of local noise, it could be more than a fairy-tale.”

    • Scale of library cut-backs revealedTelegraph.  Excellent summary of the CILIP report.
    • Vaizey resign, say library campaigners - BookSeller.  “Clarke said: “If he is incapable of giving the sector leadership, he should retire to the back benches and let a stronger minister take charge. We can’t afford to wait to see whether the minister can get his act together, but we must insist on real improvements now in every authority that match the best.” Coates added: “He has had lot of opportunities to take a stance, and now maybe it should be given to someone else.”

    Changes

    Local News

    • Brent – Council snubs Willesden Green Library petition despite 6,000 signatures - Brent & Kilburn Times.  Normally, if a petition contains 5,000 or more signatures it can be referred for debate by all councillors on the local authority. However, as the next meeting is not until May and the fact planning permission is already being sought, the Labour-run council says it cannot wait until then to consider the petition.”
    “Last Saturday 5,712 people signed the petition in one day against the demolition of Willesden Green Library Centre, in High Road, Willesden.”

    • Isle of Man – Anger at Manx mobile library cuts - BBC.   Council decision to close “lifeline” mobile library has resulted in many protests.  Survey includes TV report.  “This place would be dead without the library”. 
    • Kent – Libraries to stay open - This is Kent.  “Cabinet member for communities Mike Hill said: “We absolutely recognise the importance of libraries as community centres. “We have no library programme of closures at all, we don’t think that’s the way forward. We will continue to provide library services but we will provide it in a different way.” … “Each of Kent’s 99 libraries will be looked at to see if there is a cheaper way of running them. That could mean moving small village libraries into other community buildings, such as village halls or parish council offices.”
    • Manchester – Much-missed Manchester Central Library on target to re-open in early 2014 - Mancunian Matters.   “It is to the credit of the citizens of Manchester and their council that Central Library is to get the attention it deserves while libraries in other parts of the UK are suffering under the current government.”
    • Monmouthshire – Gwent school books library opens a new chapter - South Wales Argus.  A new Schools Literacy and Resource Centre to serve Monmouthshire and Torfaen.
    • Stoke on Trent – Library visits slump in the city during merger talks - This is Staffordshire.  “figures revealed at a meeting of the adult services scrutiny committee yesterday show visits to the city’s libraries fell by almost 70,000 in a nine-month survey. A snapshot of total visitor figures show libraries were visited 587,316 times between April and December 2010. But this number fell to 519,639 between April and December last year.” …[The service closed two branches and one mobile library and reduced staffing in others during this time] …  “The city council also approved £100,000 cuts to the £2.9 million library budget from April, which will see remaining libraries close at “least busy” times. Opening on Saturdays will be restricted to between 10am and 2pm, with some half-day closures and no 7pm late openings.”
    • Surrey – Judicial Review starts on Monday - Surrey Libraries Action Movement (SLAM).  “And let us not forget that the claimed savings amount to just 1/10,000th of the Council’s Budget in any case (and yes, I have counted the zeros properly). That’s like a person on a salary of £25,000 needing to save the price of a cup of coffee from their annual spending.”
    “The Judicial Review [Williams vs Surrey County Council] is taking place on 19th & 20th March in the High Court,Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London, WC2A 2LL. Court Number 19, 10:30 each day. You are able to enter and leave as you wish. Please come and hear what is going on, the more the merrier.We still need to raise funds towards the Community Contribution of £18,000. Please pass this message on to all your own contacts.
    Information on the case:

    The Counsels for the case are as follows:
    For the claimant: Helen Mountfield QC – Matrix Chambers http://www.matrixlaw.co.uk/Members/26/Helen%20Mountfield.aspx supported by Rachel Logan – Matrix chambers http://www.matrixlaw.co.uk/Members/93/Rachel%20Logan.aspx

    For SCC: Elisabeth Laing QC – 11 King’s Bench Walk Chambers http://www.11kbw.com/barristers/detail.php?bid=15 supported by Patrick Halliday – 11 King’s Bench Walk Chambers http://www.11kbw.com/barristers/detail.php?bid=48

    We expect the case to last the best part of 2 days. We expect the Counsel for the Claimant to present for the whole of the first morning and for a good chunk of the afternoon, and we expect then Counsel for SCC to be on her feet for the remainder of the afternoon and on second morning. We expect the Judge to sum up and conclude on Tuesday afternoon.”

    Donations 

    You can pay by direct transfer as follows:Lloyds TSB / Account: SLAM / A/c No. 48371668 / Sort code:30-99-80

    along with an email to: slamtreasurer12@gmail.com with your name, address, amount of donation so that we can return donations if we win!”