Print still matters

The delightfully named SCOOP (Standing Committee on Official Publications) has been in touch about a project that aims to retain vital legal records. The Print Still Matters project has the ambition of listing all the holdings of printed Official Publications  within UK Libraries.  This is so that access to these valuable records can be maintained, that one does not have to go to London to get them and that there is some knowledge of how rare particular titles are.

This comes at a critical time as libraries and other stores are faced with cutting costs and moving towards online resources.  In this, there is a danger that some vital printed documents are discarded.  Cut to the quick by this threat to our heritage, I asked a few questions of Peter Chapman, the project co-ordinator, who kindly enlightened me as to what is involved:

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Yinnon Ezra, Jeanette Winterson and the end of the Equality Impact Assessment


In a press release today, the DCMS has announced its new library advisor:

“Yinnon Ezra MBE, a former Director of Culture, Communities and Rural Affairs at Hampshire County Council, has been appointed to a the part-time role at DCMS as an expert advisor on the public library service, working closely with Arts Council England (ACE) and local authorities. Yinnon will work directly with library authorities who are identified as being ‘at risk’ of falling short of their statutory duty as a result of revisions to their library services.  He will also advise ministers on their duty to superintend library services.”

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Make it one to remember: National Libraries Day, Saturday 9th February 2013

It’s good news that the date of National Libraries Day has finally been formally confirmed.  It gives libraries, and supporters, just enough time to get something prepared. Everyone in libraries should have no problem getting behind the Day.  CILIP and others have gone out of their way to ensure that the Day is not about campaigning and fighting cuts but rather about celebrating these wonderful institutions in our midst.  Campaigners and library users will find no problem in getting on board.  Nor will library staff. Those authorities who are cutting libraries in one way or another  (which is the great majority of them) should not feel threatened by a day promoting their services as, after all, no council has gone on record to say they dislike libraries, it’s just that the money is tight.  Also, as was vividly shown last year, those authorities who do decide not to support the Day (as Kent found out) are likely not to come out of the affair smelling of roses.  For good or ill – definitely to the good in my book – NLD is here to stay and all should get with the programme and make it a tremendous success.  We need a day to celebrate more than ever.  Well, this is the day.  Let’s make it one to remember.

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Croydon and Wandsworth on the brink …

A correction to my post yesterday which said that the sole body with superintendence over public libraries – the Library Advisory Council for England – had not been legally abolished. It turns out it was done all above board.  However, the fact that there’s no-one actually doing it at the moment, and that Ed Vaizey appeared to think until recently that there was is the key point … and that, sadly, still stands.

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No-one is superintending libraries – and here’s the evidence and the reasons why.

There’s been a spirited exchange of comments on a post on this blog about who actually is supervising the UK public library service.  The comments were left by myself, the library campaigner Shirley Burnham and an anonymous but obviously very well-informed person using the tag “Revisit History”.  The conversation starts with a statement by “Revisit History”that the claim that the MLA had a superintendent function “is a myth”.  I then point out the quote from the libraries minister, Ed Vaizey, in parliament which says:

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Finish The Story Emily Culshaw 9 with Paul Bayley - Crewe Library 13 Nov 2012

As the world goes darker, there is more grey

Gateshead Libraries have announced that they will be closing, or passing to the unpaid, 5 out of 17 of their libraries.  It’s neighbour, Newcastle, has of course just announced 10 out of 18 of its libraries will probably be going te same way.  So, 15 out of 35 in the greatest conurbation in the Northeast are to leave council control, or close, in the near future.

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Newcastle kicks off

David Fay, City Libraries’ Manager at Newcastle has been in touch with me to say:

“The position in Newcastle is bad but not quite as bad as you seem to think. The proposal is to keep a network of 8 libraries (including the City Library). This still means closing 10 libraries including High Heaton but it does mean that 96% of the population of Newcastle will be within 1.5 miles of a council run service. This core network will be staffed by trained library staff. Any libraries that are threatened with closure that are run in the future by local communities would sit outside of our core network and would be clearly branded as such. Also the article by Tony Durcan asking whether libraries were needed in an age of austerity did, I think, firmly argue that they were needed.”

Newcastle down

What are potentially the worst cuts so far to a library service have been announced in Newcastle. Every library in that authority – 17 of them – apart from Newcastle City Library appears to be under threat due to cuts to the library service of £7m.  This is especially galling as Central Library has recently cost £24m to be refurbished, with the now endangered but presumably still shiny High Heaton costing a further £1m.  Even more distressing for those who are now faced with giving up their labour for free in order to keep their library open, is that this was paid for in a £40.2m PFI programme.

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Oversight “never the role” of Arts Council England

A key plank of the CMS Report is in doubt due to the reduction in dedicated library staff in Arts Council England and what appears to be a misunderstanding about its role.  In an official response to Public Libraries News from the Arts Council, it is stated that the number of specialists will be reduced from the current nine to just five for the whole of England.  This is due to the cuts in funding already noted by this blog a few days ago.

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Bumped by Anne Widdecombe: Reactions to the Select Committee Report


For such a non-entity of a report, the Select Committee report on library closures raised a respectable amount of coverage.  It cannot be because of the report itself – see my post yesterday for why I think this – but because of the importance the public places on libraries.  It’s interesting to see the different viewpoints that people and organisations had on the report.  It’s fair to say that mine was amongst the most negative.  Other people, having expected less, were disappointed less and recognised some positives.

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