Stephen Fry: “I suppose if there is a campaign that I am really behind it is that of saving the libraries”

“Almost everything I am I owe to libraries.  When I was a child there was no great libraries around, certainly nothing like this [gestures to the shelves of the Bodleian Library in background] but we did have this thing called the mobile library van that would come once a fortnight I think and I would wait for it like a child waiting for an ice cream van and I would get on and I would get my supply of books and they would last me two weeks and then when I was older I could get to Norwich, the local big city.  I would spend hours and hours and hours there.  It’s like the will o’ the wisp: one book lights another book which lights another one and another one.  I suppose libraries still for me have this extraordinary charge.  When I get  in one I feel this buzz.  It’s almost sexual .  There is something about the fact that behind all these bound copies there are voices, there are people murmuring, seducing you, dragging you into their world.  These are wonderful magical places and I suppose that if I have a campaign that I am really behind it is that of saving our libraries.  Because everyone surely has the right to access the voices of the past.”  Stephen Fry, Planet Word (39.20 to 46:00)

Comment

Stephen Fry said the above highly encouraging words in a segment on BBC2.  Starting “almost everything I am I owe to libraries”, he mentioned that his love affair started with a mobile library that used to go near his house.  When big enough, he went to Norwich Library -  “I would spend hours and hours there” and even said “Libraries still for me have this enormous charge … it’s almost sexual”. 
However, there was a dark cloud on the horizon. He continued “”But these days the library has another challenge: how to stay relevant in the digital age … “.  Discussing the matter at the British Library, he asked them if they moving away from storing “atomic matter” and they confirmed that to some extent they were, especially as some publishers were now printing journals only in electronic form.
After being asked the question “will the printed form become as moribund as the clay cuneiform tablet?”, Robert Darnton of Harvard University Library said printed books were “very much alive”.  He pointed out that more printed books were being published this year than at any other time … but also more electronic books.  However, Robert thinks that ebooks will not do away with printed books.  “One medium does not displace the other” he continued, saying that radio did not kill newspaper, television did not kill radio and the internet did not kill tv.  

The famously technophile Stephen said after this that…

“…I like to have a foot in both camps: the shiny new digital world of technology and the traditional path to knowledge which is embodied by the library.  I do hope that libraries survive.  They are more than just buildings in the same way that books are more than just print and paper.  As the poet, philosopher and political theorist John Milton said “books are not absolutely dead things.  They do contain a potency of life.  He who destroys a book kills reason itself.”  Perhaps that’s why, as we all know, one of the first acts of a tyrant is to destroy a library, to burn books.  They want to control literature.  The elitists want to hoard the power and the knowledge that is contained in books.”

This is music to the ears of library campaigners as Stephen Fry is one of the most popular people in the UK today.  If Stephen Fry and his 3,223,254 Twitter followers and other fans get behind libraries, it would be a huge boost.  One thing that the campaign in Brent and in other places has shown is the importance of celebrities to the media and to public interest.

The full text of the Stephen Fry segment on public libraries is available here.

In other news (see what I mean about the power of celebrity? This important infomration gets relegated to the end), Camden campaigners have announced that they will apply for a judicial review.

Things you can do today:
436 libraries (347 buildings and 89 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

  • British Library attacked for Amazon link – BookSeller. The institution has link to Amazon on book entries.  “Waterstone’s m.d. James Daunt criticised the development, saying: “It’s disappointing to say the least that a very British institution is driving readers away from local libraries and high street bookshops. In an environment where high street booksellers and libraries face huge pressures, it is a shame that the British Library choose to give their endorsement to one aggressively commercial organisation.” 

“Getting rid of librarians because everything is online = getting rid of accountants because everyone has a calculator on desk.” Anne Barker. 

  • Should I go the fuck to the library? - Gothefucktothelibrary.com.  “Q: I don’t know what to do. Now that Borders™ has closed all its stores, I can’t sit around their store and read! How am I going to keep current on the latest teen vampire novels? A: Discerning readers like yourself might be prompted to GO THE FUCK TO THE LIBRARY.” etc.

Local News


  • Brent – The day the vandals moved in – Preston Library Campaign. “…and we vowed to avenge our library. We must stop the council from removing books and furniture from OUR library.” Several heart-rending pictures of a now boarded up library, including the one above.
    • Library campaigners plan to hold daily vigils - BBC.   “About 70 people, including local residents and activists, gathered outside the library at about 16:00 BST on Sunday for their first vigil, a spokeswoman for the campaign group said.”
    • Library campaigners promise vigils - Londonist.  “Campaigners from Brent Save Our Six Libraries are planning daily vigils outside Kensal Rise Library to stop Brent Council boarding it up”.
    • Message from Nairobi to library campaigners in North West London - Alan Gibbons.  “The conduct of your local representatives, especially the eagerness with which they tried to start boarding up the threatened branch libraries was scandalous. Would that they showed the same energy in establishing a thriving reading culture in the borough. I suspect that the local council’s failings shrink into insignificance before the gross abdication shown by the Culture Ministers Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaizey. After some hesitation one of their predecessors Andy Burnham ordered an inquiry into Wirral council. They should do the same in Brent yet they fiddle while Rome burns.”
    • Revealed: Brent Council executive salaries - Save Kensal Rise Library. Chief Exec earns £194k, nine other executives earn more than £1 million between them. 32 others may be on around £100k each.
    • Human shields prevent closure of public libraries - Gulf Times (Qatar).  Quotes London Evening Standard article on Brent.  ["Human shields"? Hmmm - Ed.]
  • Camden – High Court to review decision on volunteer-run libraries - Camden New Journal.   “The Camden Public Library User Group (C-Plug) has instructed King’s Cross solicitors Bindmans to lodge an application for a judicial review, which means Camden may have to defend the way it worked out its strategy in a courtroom. C-Plug argues the council’s consultation process was flawed because questions given to library users about how budget cuts should fall were leading and loaded.”.  ““We have asked them to compromise and we also showed them how to make the £1.6million savings without putting any libraries at risk.”
  • Redcar & Cleveland – Hunt is on for mystery Saltburn novelty knitterGazette.   In a move eerily reminiscent of the Scottish origami artist, a knitter tied a scarf full of literary references outside Saltburn library.
  • Halton Lea – Library hosts 10th paranormal week - Runcorn and Widnes World. “A FREE Paranormal Week takes off every evening at 7pm in Runcorn’s Halton Lea Library from Monday, October 24. Now in its 10th year, this festival is full of unusual and fascinating events.
  • Suffolk – Pilot library plan in turmoil – Diss Express.   Stradbroke Library groups questioning whether to continue as Council makes things “needlessly difficult” over transfer or building (which needs repair and new heating system).
  • Walsall – Reading groups for book lovers - Bloxwich Telegraph.   “Groups tend to meet fortnightly or monthly and are held at various libraries across the borough. Clubs range from book reading groups to a poetry group and telephone book clubs for the blind and partially sighted and home library users.”

Get involved, visit your library

Things you can do today:
436 libraries (347 buildings and 89 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

  • 6 reasons we’re in another “Book-burning” ageCracked.com (USA).  Many libraries inc. British Library are withdrawing large numbers of books, when Borders went bankrupt they pulped the books rather than giving them away. Some books being thrown away are from 1700s and valuable.  It’s cheaper to dump books than give them away.  Destroying books is done secretly (but discussed on librarian sites such as this one with comments such as “I sure hope the patrons don’t find out”) to avoid public protest.  Weeding is done due to need to create space. University libraries need funds to pay for (ever more expensive) subscriptions so cannot spend money to expand storage.  Ebooks give an excuse to close libraries so even more will be dumped soon.
  • As libraries close, is that the end of the stories?Telegraph.  Article points out Kensal Rise was built by philanthropy and public donation, not taxation.  Suspects Labour-run Brent Council is making political capital from closures while Conservative-run Hillingdon Council has successful libraries and no cuts. Oxfordshire, Isle of Wight and Doncaster are making big cuts but allowing volunteers to run threatened libraries, concentrating on lending books other than the other things like “help on immigration” that council-run libraries do.  Interesting comments.
 
  • Letters to the editorIndependent.   Ex-Brent teacher is disgusted by the library closures.  ” I am devastated, disgusted and disillusioned by such thoughtless disregard for the love of the written word. My own rural library is currently under threat. So both for nine-year-olds and those almost 70 years old, the Philistines are at the gate.”
  • Public bookshelves spread across Germany - Associated Press.  “Take a book, leave a book. In the birthplace of the printing press, public bookshelves are popping up across the nation on street corners, city squares and suburban supermarkets.” … “The public book shelves, which are usually financed by donations and cared for by local volunteer groups, have popped up independently of each other in many cities across Germany including Berlin, Hannover and Bonn, and also in suburbs and villages.”.  Only problem has been ensuring propaganda (such as flooding of shelves with religious books) is kept to minimum.
  • Shout about: get involvedCILIP.  Campaign resources being developed to protect school libraries.
  • So what are the Culture Ministers for precisely? - Alan Gibbons.  “The judge in the Brent case, Mr Justice Ouseley, has stated clearly that it is up to the Ministers at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to rule on the library closures in this north London borough and, by extension, elsewhere.
    So why the deafening silence? Even in political terms you might expect Tory ministers to make an example of Labour councillors even if Tory councillors elsewhere are behaving in much the same way.” … “the ministers abdicate all responsibility for superintending the public library service.
    Shame on them.”
  • To all the ones that went before - Everything stops for tea.  “As a proud Librarian, after the events of the last few days, I’m veering between wanting to pack it all in and wanting to chain myself to Kensal Rise with the rest of the protesters. I’ve seen my three year degree and eleven subsequent years of experience dismissed with a soundbite. I’ve watched children stand in front of a Library founded by Mark Twain to stop it being boarded up”. Thanks library campaigners for efforts then encourages action by all.  “Get angry!! Anyone out there reading this, consider this a call to arms. Go to your Library! Take your children and your granddad!”…”Sometimes saying thank you is not enough. Sometimes we have to stand shoulder to shoulder. See you at the Library.”

Changes

Islington£650k (10%) cut, council denies there will be largescale redundancies, sold libraries or big bookfund cut.
Wandsworth – York Gardens Library reopening as the Big Society Library on 1st November.
Wokingham – Campaign group: Save Our Libraries. 

Local News

  • Barnet – Day of celebration for Friern Barnet Library - Barnet Today.  Members of the Save Friern Barnet campaign are offering residents to take a “leaf” out of their books and support the library in Friern Barnet Road which is expected to close, alongside orth Finchley library, and merged into a landmark arts and cultural library at artsdepot.”
  • Birmingham – Handsworth Against The Cuts: Library cuts, petition, next meetingBirmingham Against the Cuts.   “Staff shortages” cause early closures and lunch-time closures at Handsworth Library, presumably due to the recent “massive round of voluntary redundancies” there.  “We want to show support for our library service and ask the council to ensure that a full service can be maintained for local residents by stopping and reversing the cuts.”. Petition launched on 15th October.
  • Brent – Latest campaign updateSave Kensal Rise Library.   “As you may know our legal team are in the process of lodging an application to  appeal the decision handed down by Justice Ousley on Thursday. We should know the result of this application by next week (possibly Tuesday). We would like to maintain a presence outside the library until then, not only to prevent Brent boarding up the library but also because our presence is sending out a powerful message.‬”

  • Croydon – Fight for libraries continues: Croydon and UNJL - Sanderstead Library Campaign Group. Regarding Upper Norword Joint Library – “Two letters appeared in last week’s Croydon Advertiser. Councillor Wayne Lawlor’s letter makes the case that the appointment of Conservative Councillors is a betrayal of the wishes of local people, residents who elected Labour councillors as their representatives. This is followed by a letter from Mike Warwick, Crystal Palace Community Association (CPCA), that sets out clear concerns regarding the stance taken by Croydon’s Conservative-led Council and the possible motives behind this.”. £129,000 p.a. Conservative councillor insists on sitting on committee although he is not from a local ward, defying 2006 agreement. Articles conjecture that Croydon are deliberately trying to destroy the governance of the library in order to withdraw funding from it and/or privatise it.
  • Islington – Council denies planning huge cuts to its library serviceIslington Gazette.  “Cuts are inevitable as we have to make £100million in savings, but while we are cutting an average of 30 per cent across the council, the library service will only be cut by 10 per cent.”.  However, opening hours will be cut by (roughly) one day per week per library.
  • Wandsworth – Preparing to reopen as the Big Society LibrarySave York Gardens.  “We’ve just confirmed the reopening date for York Gardens Library and Community Centre as the 1st November. There’ll be a small event that evening to mark it’s reopening and any supporters of the library will be welcome to come along. Most importantly, from then on we hope that many people in the community will continue to support us by coming in to borrow books, use the community rooms, join in activities and sign up as volunteers.”

We just don’t know what’s going to disappear from our lives”

Comment 
“… since the Secretary of State has the duty of superintendence of the performance by authorities of their s7 duties with the advice of advisory councils, and in s10 a default power, with scope for a full factual inquiry by an independent person, as happened in response to complaints about the library service in the Wirral, this court ought to intervene only in a clear case: a complete failure by a library authority to assess need, or an irrational approach to its assessment. The Claimants have in reality accepted just such an approach in relation to the question of whether the LTP breaches s7 on its merits, which they are content to leave to the Secretary of State. I accept that submission: I would put it on the basis that if the Claimants can show that something has gone seriously or obviously wrong in law in the information gathering or analysis process, they should have their remedy in this court. Otherwise, it should be left to the Secretary of State.” para.94,  Judgment Approved by the court for handing down (subject to editorial corrections) Bailey & Others v LB Brent.

So the judge in the Brent case says that it should be left up to the Secretary of State.  The important point here is that the judicial review (to borrow phrasing from a fellow campaigner in an email to me today) is “to investigate issues of legality in administration, not conduct detailed enquiries into facts.”.  That  job is up to the Secretary of State.  Unfortunately, this is the same person who has consistently done nothing for libraries in the last year and, indeed, does not appear to even have commented yet on the Brent result.
In fact it all looks like the Government, all of the Government, either do not think libraries are worth any effort (although they’re the third most important local service according to users) or just hope it will go away.  Even Sarah Teather MP has not said anything about the matter.  Who she?  Well she is (a) a Lib Dem, who are all supposed to be distancing themselves from unpopular Conservative policies, (b) the Minister for Children (120 of which picketed Kensal Rise this morning to protect their local library), (c) has advocated direct action to prevent library closures before and (d) is MP for Brent East.  Presumably she has been Talked To and is preferring Being Good to standing up for her constituents and perhaps having a chance of being re-elected next time around.

[Edited 20/10/11 My apologies to Sarah Teather.  She had expressed her disapproval of the closures at http://brentcouncillibdems.com/2011/10/14/brent-mp-sarah-teather-backs-local-library-campaigners/ on the day. I had missed this at the time]

There is something we all can do though – Everyone needs to pressure their local MPs to write to John Whittingdale, as Chairman of the Culture Media and Sport Committee to ensure that the issue of DCMS intervention is brought up at the Autumn evidence session.  Someone in Parliament needs to start advocating on libraries behalf and your letter or email could be the spur that gets them to act.
436 libraries (347 buildings and 89 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

“Librarians are here to help their communities, and an attack on a library is an attack on a community. It may not seem like it, and clearly to a lot of councillors it doesn’t, but that’s exactly what it is. Because it’s saying that the benefit that people get from their libraries/librarians in terms of learning to read, in getting a job, in finding social services to protect them in some way, in giving people the opportunity to learn or indeed just enjoying a good book – none of that matters. And when they say that none of that matters what they’re actually saying is ‘that community doesn’t matter’ and ‘that person isn’t important’.”  A library is not … Phil Bradley’s Weblog.

  • Before closing libraries, cut the Evian orders and biscuits at meetings - Mail.   “…right up there, third in the list of important local services for taxpayers, is the provision of libraries.” Article praises the views of Tim Coates who “approaches the debate from a more nuanced perspective than some of his fellow campaigners, who sometimes give the impression that every penny spent on our libraries is as efficiently spent as the money we spend on our own personal libraries at home.” … “Local council bosses will only have the moral authority to close libraries when they can demonstrate that they have cut everything that affects their own personal lifestyles back to the bare minimum.”. Article also questions why libraries have popular DVDs in them [Answer - to make a profit which can be spent on the rest of the library service - Ed.]
  • Libraries key to kids’ futures - Sun.  Julia Donaldson, children’s laureate says “Children’s use of libraries has increased every year for the past six years … Without this resource I’m convinced that we will have far fewer avid child readers and consequently lose a large percentage of our future adult readers”.  Libraries allow children to experiment with books for free – bookshops don’t allow this as there is a cost, even if you have one nearby…. “even the best teachers are likely to offer you a much smaller choice and less expertise than a librarian can”.
  • Radical council changes must convince public, says NLGNPublic Finance. “The think-tank examined libraries, transport and waste services to see if apparently disparate services facing common problems ‘might also benefit from some common solutions’… councils have chosen to protect spending on social services. They are also not amenable to the usual reform prescriptions of personalisation and competition.” .. ‘The library itself would become a centre that promotes learning and reading,’ the report says.”
As citizen demands change and cuts start to bite, NLGN’s research shows that, while the average cost of borrowing a book is around £3.50 … NLGN argues that the best way to democratise book access in future will be to make a radical shift to e-readers, online ordering and book vending machines in public places. This would make it much easier for the public to access books while freeing up library space for use by families and communities. Libraries would still hold the most popular titles and children’s books and act as a crucial community hub.” Transforming Universal Services: Transport, libraries and environmental services beyond 2015 – New Local Government Network. Public opinion and “highly motivated activists” are getting in the way.”

  • Report proposes $17 million in cuts for librariesGlobe and Mail (Canada).  Less than a month after Toronto city council spared library branches from the chopping block, more than $17-million in cuts are on the table, including reduced Sunday openings, fewer weekday hours, less spending on collections and the elimination 100 full-time jobs.”
  • WH Smith launches “Kindle Killer”Guardian.  “ts chief executive, Kate Swann, has struck a deal with Canadian firm Kobo to sell its eponymous e-readers, costing from £89.99, and a library of 2.2m books from next week. The retailer will receive a share of the profits on all the Kobo ebooks bought in the UK.”

Changes

Warwickshire – Baddesley Ensor, Bedworth Heath, Binley Woods, Kingsbury and Studley to close. 11 others under threat unless volunteers step in.


Local News

  • Bolton – High Court blow to libraries campaignBolton News.  “It is thought a similar challenge to Bolton Council would cost campaigners £30,000.” … “Ian McHugh from Save Bolton Libraries (SBL) said: “The cost of a judicial review is a big issue for us and we would need someone to come forward with funds.The other option we are looking at is to ask the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, to hold a local inquiry.”.  96% of Boltonians surveyed opposed library closures.
  • Brent – Library closures: Protesters vow to appeal ruling - BBC.  “It’s quite a surprise – it just seems very sudden and quite shocking that it’s going to be boarded up,” said the mum to Annie, 11, and Ewan, seven. “”There are cuts in all areas but this is very visible and concrete. It symbolises all the cuts that are taking place.”We just don’t know what’s going to go disappear from our lives. It makes you feel very unstable.”

    • Families form human shields to stop libraries being shut down – London Evening Standard.   “People are very angry, very disappointed, but at the same time there’s a sense of buoyancy about it because we will appeal,” she said.”They came to start measuring the windows for boards but there were around 150 people here and they went away. We’re a bit surprised that Brent moved so quickly, we thought the QC said Brent wouldn’t do anything until Tuesday. It’s very quick.”
    • Judge rejects celebrity-led campaign to save libraries despite protests that services are being “decimated”Daily Mail.   “It cannot be right to decimate the library service of an inner London borough whose children are desperate to read and study but whose parents cannot afford books nor the transport costs of regular access to distant libraries.” … Labour culture spokesman says “Ed Vaizey claims to be a champion for libraries but he should stand up for the services they provide for children, families and the elderly. ‘Instead he has just sat back and let Eric Pickles have his way. The closure of these libraries lies firmly at the Government’s door.”
    • Kensal Rise library guarded by passionate residents - Harrow Observer.  “Residents started the peaceful protest at around 5pm, and soon found there was plenty of support from passers-by.”
    • Protesters resist library closure - Guardian.  “I’ve been writing about library closures for a while now, but seeing this last-ditch attempt to protect a much-loved institution really brought home to me the fact that this is really happening: our libraries really are being shut down.” … “The land on which the library stands is actually owned by All Souls College, Oxford, a gift to the borough of Brent on condition that it remains a library. Today, to prevent the covenant lapsing, users have established a makeshift library of their own, operating from the steps outside.”
“I can hear the popping of champagne corks all over the country as philistine local authorities welcome this news with joy; it will encourage them to be even more destructive of the social good, even more careless of their responsibilities, even more stupid.” Philip Pullman, Stand-off at Kensal Rise Library continues - BookSeller.

“The logic seems to be: 12 = a comprehensive service, but 6 also = a comprehensive service. Funny that”

    • View from Campaign for the Book - Alan Gibbons.   “The council has leapt into action to board up the branches showing an eagerness it has never shown to serve its people. Contrast the years of neglect libraries have suffered with the glee with which these elected representatives order their death. Mr Justice Ouseley has followed the instincts of his social stratum and sided with a slash and burn government and its absurd Future Libraries Programme.” … “Communities may have to resort to direct action to resist these appalling cuts.”
An air of calm pervaded outside Kensal Rise Library this afternoon, following the dramas of the early morning. Contractors arrived at 6am to board up the building after a court yesterday decided that Labour controlled Brent Council could close six libraries as part of its austerity agenda. They discovered two people standing guard outside the front door, who immediately stood-to and stopped the contractors from carrying out their task. The same scene was repeated at 8am, when a posse of locals descended to defy council workers. They were bolstered by a phalanx of 140 or so primary school children from the nearby Princess Frederica CofE school, dragooned into action by their parents. The burly contractors slunk off with their chip-board and haven’t been seen since.” Thoroughly English affairSpectator.  “60 local people have volunteered to protect the building 24 hours a day until such time as the council relents. Those same people have also pledged to help run the library in future.”

  • Dorset – Further vote on Dorset libraries’ future - BBC.   “Ms Dover raised the motion using a standing order, by getting the signatures from 10 county councillors supporting her. Their support means she can ask for a minute to be rescinded from decision that was made in July and replace it with option D, which would see all 34 libraries preserved, but with a reduction in opening hours and a cut in the budgets for books.”.  21 councillors had voted to close 20 branches with 20 councillors against.
    • Lifeline thrown to Dorset’s libraries - Dorset Echo.   “She added that she would be asking council leader Angus Campbell for the vote at the meeting to be a free vote and a recorded vote. Chairman of the Ad Lib (Association of the Friends of Dorset Libraries) campaign group Graham Lee welcomed the news.”
  • Hertfordshire – Fear for libraries as plans to rent out to organisations aired - Comet.  Council wants to let groups use libraries for free out of hours in return for letting the public take out books at those times.  This follows a cut in opening hours of one-third earlier this year.  We Heart Libraries campaign fears that this will make reinstatement of the hours harder to achieve.  ““Voluntary groups should be using the libraries as much as possible, but they are not the right people to be running the libraries. That is the council’s job.”

Many comments from public library users in this 14 minute documentary

Brent High Court Challenge lost

Comment

Brent have already closed the libraries affected by the Court decision, at 11.15 this morning.  They could hardly wait. Events have moved to other branches, books are being left unreturned.  The indecent haste, which denies children event the chance to use the libraries over the forthcoming half term, is almost as unpleasant as the Mail today blaming the cuts on “Loony Lefties”.  Let us be clear, the decision is nothing of the kind.  Councils of all political stripe are closing libraries.  Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Somerset are all Conservative led councils. The picture in each and every cutting authority is that the opposition councillors in each authority attacks it, regardless of party.  The Conservative controlled DCMS is a study in inaction, as is the Labour opposition.  Libraries are being left out to dry by everyone but the public, who are demonstrating their love for books in their droves.  The only difference today is that it is a Judge that is putting the boot in, not an elected official.
This is a dark day for the campaigners there who have worked so hard to raise money for the action and for putting the case together.  It is also a depressing one for those who think that the decision in one council case will naturally mean that all other challenges will be lost.  However, this is not the case, each one should be heard on its own merits.  For the people of Brent, it is now up to the people that should have been involved all along – Jeremy Hunt, Ed Vaizey and the DCMS – to step in and do their job.  Otherwise, one wonders why they even pretend to represent the interests of library users when they apparently just sit back and allow half of the library provision in a borough to close without lifting a finger to demur.
“Speaking for the campaigners, resident Margaret Bailey expressed her disappointment and her determination to appeal. “We believe that there are important points of principle at stake that an appeal court will decide differently. Our campaign will redouble its efforts to expose the senselessness of Brent Council’s decision to close half of its libraries,” she said. “Although this seems an unequal struggle between Brent Council, with its extensive resources, and the people of Brent, who have waged the largest campaign ever seen in the 45-year history of the borough, we will be redoubling our efforts to prevent six libraries being closed for ever.”

The solicitor, John Halford of Bindmans LLP said: “Today’s judgement means that half of Brent’s libraries remain under threat and has very troubling implications for library closure decisions nationally. That is why Ms Bailey, Ms Desoysa and Mr Lester will be pursing an appeal and the local campaign will renew its efforts to expose the senselessness of Brent’s decision. It cannot be right to decimate the library service of an inner London borough whose children are desperate to read and study but whose parents cannot afford books nor the transport costs of regular access to distant libraries. Nor is Brent right to say the threatened libraries are unnecessary to meet local needs. The passion and commitment of the community campaign to keep them open shows that is nonsense.”

Brent News
“Public libraries are in danger of going the way of the public phone box, Blockbuster stores and fax machines. But while no one really kicked up a fuss when phone boxes and Blockbuster started receding into irrelevance (except perhaps in the case of the former, when youths were caught short), libraries are a much more emotive kettle of fish.”

  • Books left unreturned following sudden closure of six libraries in BrentBrent and Kilburn Times.  “Brent Council closed six libraries in the borough today without giving people time to return borrowed books and DVDs. Dozens of people have been visiting the libraries this afternoon to drop off their borrowed items but are being told to take them elsewhere.” … “There is even a security guard on the door. How much of taxpayers’ money is going on paying this security guard when the library itself has closed? It is outrageous.”
“Councillor Paul Lorber, leader of Brent Liberal Democrat group, said: “It is a disgrace to close the libraries without even allowing borrowers to bring their books back.“ It’s simply vindictive to deny young children their half-term fun – especially as it is children who will be affected most by the library closures.“There is no good reason why the libraries shouldn’t stay open over half-term and until we know whether there will be an appeal.”

  • Brent campaigners vow to fight on - BookSeller.Campaigner Samantha Warrington said Mr Justice Ouseley’s judgement in favour of Brent council was “very disappointing” and vowed to take the case to the court of appeal. “We believe there are important points of law and principle. The judge didn’t think this case had national significance but we think it does.” … Analysis of judge’s decision.
  • Brent libraries closure battle lost - Independent.  “Labour culture spokesman Dan Jarvis said: “Libraries are an important part of local communities, helping to provide vital services to people of all age groups. This Tory-led Government has forced councils across the country to make cuts to these important services. Today’s judgment has shown that Labour-led Brent Council are making the best of a very bad situation.”
  • Brent libraries shut doors for last time after court decision - London Evening Standard.  Judge ” said that while he agreed the case was of concern to people in Brent, that it was not of “national interest” as campaigners had argued. He added: “There are a number of people in Brent who are understandably concerned about libraries but I’m not sure about national interest,” he added. “This judgement may or may not be of assistance to other judgements in the future.”
  • Brent library campaigners lose court bid against closures - BBC. “A Brent Council spokeswoman said “all the six libraries which the executive decided to close in April are now closed, and are being made secure” after protesters reported that libraries were being “boarded” and “locked-up”….”council lawyers said the decision was “rational, made with great care and was based on a full appreciation of the obligation to act within the law” and the judge ruled in the authority’s favour.”
  • Brent library closures battle lostIndependent. “Campaigners are preparing to go to the Court of Appeal after losing their High Court challenge against library cuts.”.  Council says “]
  • High Court bid to halt library closures fails - Guardian. “The decision is bad news for library campaigners across the country, who are battling the closures of hundreds of libraries around the UK. Campaigners in Somerset and Gloucestershire, awaiting the results of another judicial review, will be particularly disappointed.” … “”Although this seems an unequal struggle between Brent Council, with its extensive resources, and the people of Brent, who have waged the largest campaign ever seen in the 45-year history of the borough, we will be redoubling our efforts to prevent six libraries being closed for ever.”
  • Kensal Rise library: opened by Mark Twain, closed by depressing legalese - Guardian.  “The judgment delivered at the narrow, cold high court showed only the huge gap between the arcana of the judicial, bureaucratic mindset and the facts as seen by ordinary people” … “The stories that help us understand each other, the non-fiction that gives us the tools to survive in the world, the picture books that help toddlers make sense of themselves – are they to be only for rich people now? Brent’s Labour council should hang their heads in shame.”
  • Leader of opposition group on Brent Council, Councillor Paul Lorber, says campaigners will “not give up” against library closuresHarrow Times.  “It’s been a fantastic campaign by hundreds and thousands of people and the campaign continues. We are determined to save our libraries in Brent irrespective of what the Labour administration is doing. With an appeal now pending it is essential that the council maintains the current library services until the appeal process is completed.”
  • Library campaigners refused permission to appeal against High Court ruling - Brent and Kilburn Times.   “Campaigners battling to save six libraries in Brent from closure have been refused permission to appeal after they lost a High Court case this morning (Thursday).” …”However, campaigners are now set to appeal against the judge’s decision to refuse them permission to appeal.” [I love that sentence - Ed.]
  • Loony left is back in Labour’s Brent council - Mail.   “Just as left-wing councils refused to collect the poll tax in 1990 to destroy Margaret Thatcher. They are now determined to wreck local services such as the libraries, which are treasured by the middle classes, in the hope the Coalition will get the blame.”
“Conservative councils throughout the country are emulating Brent’s example as quickly as they can.  There is no political party in the country that stands up for literacy, libraries and community life.  You are all tarred with the same brush, unfortunately.   The floating voter can only float.  He has no harbour in which to rest if he wants to see his public library survive. So instead making a political point, why not do something useful and write to the Secretary of State and Culture Minister, requesting that they undertake their statutory duties and intervene to bring justice for the people of Brent ?  That would be nice.” Response to “Loony Left” mail piece by Shirley Burnham.

  • Margaret Bailey and others v. London Borough of Brent Council – High Court of Justice.   Judge dismisses all points of claim – council was serious in consultation, it had been well publicised and there was equalities problem.
  • Outcome of Brent judicial reviewVoices for the Library.  The victory for Brent council sends out a very worrying message for library campaigners everywhere.  Council leaders across the country may look to this ruling to justify library closures and will see this ruling as the legal backing they require to go ahead with planned library closures.  They would be wrong to do so. Mr Justice Ouseley remarked during this morning’s proceedings that he did not believe the ruling in Brent had wide significance across the country, but instead reflected a judgement purely on how Brent council had approached its local situation. Councils should not, therefore, see this outcome as an excuse to cut their own services in a similar way.”
  • Residents can expect just 3 functioning libraries in the 21st Century - Preston Library Campaign. “As Brent Council slashes library services in half, telling people to “buy books in Tesco” and “get on a bus”, little do residents realise that of the 6 remaining libraries, only 3 are ‘fit for purpose’. Kilburn “needs major upgrade”, Willesden Green is set to be knocked down and rebuilt and funding is being sought for Kingsbury to be rebuilt/enlarged. That leaves just 3 usable libraries in Brent Council’s vision of a “21st century library service”.” … “The new £ 3 million mega-library our cash-strapped council found money for. How convenient. At least for the council. It’s too far for children, the elderly and disabled (who most use the existing library) , there’s no parking and rising public trasport fares make this ‘free’ service, not so free.”
  • Six fought-over Brent libraries will remain shut for evermore - Harrow Observer.   “Former Tory Brent councillor Jack Sayers, of Halford Road near Cricklewood Library, said: “There were two police officers outside Cricklewood Library today as there has been some talk of a protest and I have heard that the library is going to be boarded up this evening. It is absolutely scandalous what they are trying to do, everybody is against what they are doing, it is just unbelievable that they are trying to close these libraries.”
  • UNISON response - UNISON.   Union “has warned councils that the verdict of a judicial review into Brent libraries, heard at the High Court today, should not be taken as a ‘green light’ to close services. Instead, the UK’s largest union said it should serve as a warning to authorities that community groups must be consulted on change.”… ““Community groups are being held to ransom by Government plans, to force them to take over their libraries, or lose them. This will create a postcode lottery, with some communities going without libraries altogether, if groups fail to rise to the challenge. The Government must act to stop local authorities rushing through changes to services with no consultation. UNISON will continue to fight to protect library services from savage cuts, as community campaigns continue across the country. An investment in libraries is an investment in the future generation.”
  • We will continue the fight to save much-needed libraries - Preston Library Campaign.  “Today we got our verdict on Round 1 of Brent residents v the Labour Council. “…”We are not just a bunch of NIMBYs trying to save a defunct service, this is the biggest campaign Brent has seen in half a century – 10,000 + signatures, 82% opposition to the closure plan, including almost every school in the borough. We use our libraries, we value them, and we need them. Brent Council can easily afford to keep them open, and their loss means a decimated, two-tier library service that will fail residents.”.  Includes official press release.
  • Workmen prepare to board up Kensal Rise Library - BookSeller.   “The library was closed this morning, with a notice on display saying it would be closed until 2pm to allow for a staff briefing. But when demonstrators returned from today’s High Court verdict, a further notice stated the library would be closed “until further notice.” Workmen have measured the building’s doors and windows and are preparing to board it up.”
“We will be studying this judgment carefully for its national implications. However there can be little doubt of the immense disappointment thousands of users in Brent and elsewhere will feel. Once again this has shown how much libraries mean to local people and once again both national and local politicians need to understand the depths of this feeling. Libraries should be seen as part of way out of the recession and not as an easy service to cut” Annie Mauger, CILIP.

Other News

  • It’s bonfire of the quangoes as Hogan slashes agencies - Herald [Eire].  “Mr Hogan hopes the dissolution of An Chomhairle Leabharlanna (The Library Council) — a move he has just announced — will lead to savings in operating costs of €1m a year.” … “Mr Hogan acknowledged the cuts were a “direct response to the current economic crisis” and a “necessary means of contributing to the reduction of overall public sector costs through enhanced efficiency”. An Chomhairle Leabharlanna was established by the Public Libraries Act of 1947 and it provides advice and assistance to libraries, while also advising the Minister on policy issues.”
  • Library Cuts: the battle of the bookshelves - BBC.   Includes Brent, Waltham Forest, Oxfordshire, “It is hoped that volunteers will step in to staff scores of branches in Cambridgeshire, Camden and Cumbria. But the notion of replacing professional librarians has proved contentious. In Doncaster, where the council agreed on Wednesday to close two libraries and hand 12 branches to volunteers, Mayor Peter Davies was asked on BBC Radio whether volunteers would need training and support.”.  Lists librarian skills. … “Buckinghamshire is a relatively prosperous county with a sufficient pool of people with the time and skills to operate the local library. Trying to follow the same model in a busy town library in a deprived area would I think be unlikely to succeed.” … Hillingdon used as success story.
  • Why the time might be up for libraries - Telegraph.   “There are plans to use the money saved to open a new £3 million super library at the civic centre near Wembley Stadium. As a Brent resident who lives five miles from Wembley, this new super library will not do much good for me, though doubtless there will be a lovely opening ceremony.” … “There is no point keeping a library open if it no longer serves its function: a quiet place, with no worthy distractions, comfortable seats and hundreds of good books to lose yourself in.” … Suggests All Souls College (the landlord of one of the libraries) steps in and runs a traditional library service instead.

Local News

  • Bolton – Two hours and a lot of words - This is Lancashire.  “There was political posturing, plenty of name-calling, a bit of metaphorical finger pointing, but nothing in the way of real debate. The Lib Dems, two in number and both up for re-election next year, sought to distance themselves from the Tories” 
    • Shouts of shame at libraries meetingBolton News.   Includes video. “The decision will now go to a scrutiny committee on Monday and then, most likely, to a full council vote next Wednesday.But yesterday’s decision was essentially the final nail in the coffin for five branch libraries.” 
    • Library campaign statementSave Bolton Libraries (via Alan Gibbons).   ““Although hardly unexpected, this is a deeply disappointing decision, which we feel has ignored local opinion, and been poorly thought through. We do not believe these savings were necessary and they will make life worse for many vulnerable people in our community, especially families with children and people who can’t get around as easily.”
  • Conwy – Library campaigner Chris Draper outraged that £3,700 of public money is spent on Blackberry’s and phone calls by library bosses – North Wales Weekly News. “Five library managers have been issued with Blackberrys by Conwy County Council.”.  One of the phones was stolen and £2500 of calls were made.  … ““They are issued because the managers are ‘on call’ on a rota basis every Saturday morning and need to be contactable in an emergency. A Blackberry allows them to work from different locations, access e-mails and link to the corporate intranet and internet at times when libraries are open but other council offices are closed.”.  Seven branches could close but staffing costs could go up.
  • Doncaster – Council backs controversial Doncaster library plan - South Yorkshire Times.  “Mr Davies announced the decision at a packed cabinet meeting in the Mansion House yesterday where dozens of campaigners from the Save Doncaster Libraries turned up. The mayor was slammed for not allowing protestors to speak at the meeting with several campaigners being asked to leave amidst shouts of “shame on you” and “this is not democracy”.  Mayor says ““The money is just not around and there are certain people who have no concept of public finance and have no interest in putting forward alternative ideas to deal with this.”
    • Libraries handed over to volunteersYorkshire Post.   “A spokesman for the Save Doncaster Libraries campaign group said Doncaster Council had “failed the people of Doncaster in their shambolic approach to changes to the library service.” They added: “The Mayor has flatly refused to listen to solutions offered by the Labour group and has failed to investigate alternative methods of keeping libraries open. Instead, he has jumped at the massively problematic volunteer method.”
  • Dorset – Charmouth: Residents warned to fund, staff and use or lose library - Bridport News.  ““The ad hoc Friends of Charmouth Library Committee hopes to make the building of far more use in the future but needs to be sure that this is what residents want. We also need to elect a new Friends Committee, recruit more Friends and volunteers and know that there will be sufficient income to sustain running costs of around £4,500 a year.”.  Nine threatened libraries not statutory so council can withdraw funding at any time.
“Our campaign is run by Mums and Retirees – and we’ve said spread the cuts across the libraries, not no to cuts” Oxfordshire – Save Sonning Common Library (Twitter).  The leader of Oxfordshire claimed campaigners were militant lefties who wanted to shunt cuts to social care instead.

  • Somerset – Bishops Lydeard volunteers frustrated by library takeover delays - BBC. “But unlike the campaigners in Brent, who were fighting to keep the libraries under council control, the Bishops Lydeard volunteers have already accepted a similar proposal by Somerset County Council will go ahead. As a result, they have put together plans to run the library themselves but have been frustrated by legal challenges from groups trying to stop the move in other areas.” … “Bishops Lydeard library has occupied a 30 sq m room in an old building in the middle of the village for more than 40 years. When it was decided the library would be run as a community library, from 1 October, more than 130 volunteers signed up to help run it.” [That's 4.3 volunteers per square meter - Ed.]

Good luck for Thursday, Brent.

Comment

The results of the judicial review into cuts to Brent libraries will be announaced at 10 a.m. in the High Court (Strand) London tomorrow, Thursday 13th.  Good luck to the campaigners.  No matter what the result, the amount of time, effort and money put into this campaign definitely that people love libraries and value/use them now as much as ever. 

436 libraries (347 buildings and 89 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

  • Congratulations Lauren - Voices for the Library.  On Lauren Smith soon to become vice-president of CILIP.  “We are all sad that Lauren will be leaving Voices For The Library to undertake this new role, but we wish her well and hope that her enthusiasm will strengthen the work CILIP is doing and will inspire others to get involved and make a difference too.”
  • Council leaders sceptical of “Big Society” - Public Finance. “Almost two-thirds of councils do not think that local communities will be able to take over the running of public services” … “councils might be too risk-averse to allow community groups to take on services, the survey finds. Almost all of those surveyed – 99% – said that they did not have a risk strategy that would allow for greater community involvement in services.”
  • Council’s plan to save 23 libraries - London Evening Standard.   ” LoveFilm or Blockbuster could be involved in handling the DVD borrowing service. Council bosses in Wandsworth and Croydon are looking at merging and handing management of the libraries to the private sector or voluntary organisations. Under the scheme, council staff would also be permitted to apply to run libraries.”.  “Every option will be carefully compared in terms of cost and quality but only solutions that ensure the future provision of our entire branch network will make it past the first hurdle.”.  Also mentions Brent decision on Thursday.
  • Kindle public library ebooks: when are they coming to Canada, UK?Vancouver Sun.  Amazon says there is no planned date and indeed no plans at all. “No “we’re working on it”. No “we value our Canadian Kindle users and hope to announce something soon”. Just a simple no comment — which, to my mind, suggests library lending isn’t in the cards for non-U.S. Kindle users anytime soon.”
  • Mysterious paper sculptures at Edinburgh libraries - Txikito Planet.  If you’ve not seen them yet, have a look.  Amazing artwork with a pro library message.
  • What price do you put on libraries?Everything stops for tea. “I am a Librarian. I am a professional. You wouldn’t expect a volunteer to teach your child or give you medical treatment”… “Chris Smith, once our Culture Secretary stated that “Libraries are our street corner universities” Sorry Lads, it looks like they might all be closed for business.”

Changes

Bexley – 1 mobile now ceased (Source: posting on LIS-PUB-LIBS).
Vale of Glamorgan – 1 mobile ceased June 2011.  2nd and last mobile to cease end of Dec.  (Source: email from council).
Wakefield - Libraries may move to being run by a Trust. 
Warrington – Libraries may move to being run by a Trust, £500k to be found through this or cuts.

Local News

  • Bolton – Anger as a third of Bolton’s public libraries are closed to save £400,000 – BBC.  “Council bosses said the closures were necessary to offset central government cuts to local authority budgets. Bolton council must save £64m over the next two years. Chief executive Sean Harris said: “It is not possible for the library service to be exempt in making cuts during this period.” … Campaigner says “The majority of the people who completed the council’s survey voted against the plans. This is an insult to people.”
“Although hardly unexpected, this is a deeply disappointing decision, which we feel has ignored local opinion, and been poorly thought through. We do not believe these savings were necessary and they will make life worse for many vulnerable people in our community, especially families with children and people who can’t get around as easily.” Bolton – Ian McHugh, Save Bolton Libraries.

  • Bracknell Forest – Library’s brush-up boosts borrower numbers - Bracknell Forest Council.  Record numbers of visitors and issues, especially by children.  “Simon Hart, branch supervisor, said: “The customers have all been really positive about the refurbishment, with lots of comments about how much brighter the library is now the brown bricks have been painted and how good it looks. There’s lots of encouraging comments about how we’ve managed to fit more shelves in while making the library look less cluttered. The new layout is really popular, especially the rug in the children’s library.”
  • Buckinghamshire – Little Chalfont Community Library bidding for NatWest money “Little Chalfont Community Library has entered a competition run by NatWest Bank to win £6000. The money will be spent on much-needed repairs and refurbishment of the community library building. The library is run by unpaid volunteers and financed by donations and grants therefore winning £6000 would be of tremendous help to us.” … “Currently the Library is in 3rd place (out of 55 projects). Voting is very close so your vote will make a difference in keeping us in the top 3.”
  • Cambridgeshire – Plea to help bid to save Yaxley library - Evening Telegraph.   ““We were told about the predicted future of Cambridgeshire Libraries and the knock-on effect it would have on Yaxley Library, so a friends group was established. It was clear from the meeting in May that there was popular local support for the continuation or improvement to existing library services, rather than their degradation.”
  • Doncaster  -Davies, you’re a disgraceSave Doncaster Libraries.   “The Mayor has flatly refused to listen to solutions offered by the Labour group and has failed to investigate alternative methods of keeping libraries open. Instead, he has jumped at the massively problematic volunteer method.” … “The council has proven itself incapable of effective consultation and unable to meet the needs of its citizens. Mayor Davies has demonstrated total ignorance ever since the library cuts proposals began.”
    • Libraries funding cut agreed - BBC.   “Two libraries at Carcroft and Denaby will close on 1 November and volunteers are being sought to run 12 others as the council seeks to make savings” … “Jill Johnson, a former head of library services in the town, said: “I think that in the long term these different kind of libraries will fail.” …”Mayor Peter Davies said: “I would argue that the libraries have not been working very well in the past.” … “Our policy now of making these 12 super-libraries more attractive and more pleasing for people to visit may well restore people’s faith in libraries and, who knows, libraries in Doncaster may enjoy a renaissance.”
  • Herefordshire – Mobile library service is replaced - Worcester News.   “More than 60 years of library history came to an end on Friday, September 30, when the Herefordshire mobile library service made its final visits. The service has now been replaced by an increased home delivery and nursing home provision, which will continue to provide a service to those people in rural areas based upon their needs.”
  • Islington – Library service consultationIslington Council.  Majority against trust status and closing libraries.  Most popular options are reducing hours and sharing services with other councils, volunteering, increasing charges/fines.  Self service “a realistic option” but not favoured by those consulted.  Cuts proposed are: Extend Self Serve £250k, Reduction of opening hours (twinning) £200k, Back office reductions/VR £140k, Stock fund £30k, Shared home library service £30k.  If council decides on a Trust – “A financial appraisal carried out has shown that the saving made by forming a trust would be £110k in the first year, £160k for future years.”.
  • North Yorkshire – Public praised for help to save libraries - Gazette & Herald.   “Council officials have now said there is a ‘strong possiblity’ no libraries will be forced to close despite the loss of nearly £70 million. However, moves are still being made to replace Malton and Norton libraries with one facility.”… “Following the feedback from the consultation to ‘share the pain’, all of our libraries will see a reduction in opening hours, some of as much as 30 per cent, unless suitable numbers of volunteers can be found to assist”
    • New schedule planned for mobile library - Gazette & Herald.   ““We know the withdrawal of the mobile libraries created concerns for people who valued their service and live in the more remote parts of the county. What we are trying to do is offer a much improved replacement.”
  • Southwark – Libraries “here to stay” - Net-Lettings.   “Bookworms living in flats to rent in Southwark may be excited to hear that all of Sutton’s libraries are to remain open, despite deep cuts in government funding. A report published by the local council – following a five-month review into the subject – concluded that none of the 12 existing facilities need to close.”
  • Surrey – Bid to stop staff cuts defeated - BBC.  “Surrey County Council’s proposals to have the libraries run by volunteers have proved controversial, with protests held against the cuts. At Tuesday’s full council meeting, a motion from the Residents Association Group to scrap the plans was defeated.”
  • Wakefield – Council may link up with firms to deliver services to the public - Yorkshire Post.  “Working with community organisations to deliver some services together or to transfer the running of some to these organisations, such as markets and libraries.” … ““We are the biggest provider of public services in the district and will continue to be responsible for those services, even if some of them are provided in a different way in the future.”
  • Warrington – New body to run leisure and cultural services in town? - This is Cheshire. “The executive board is set to vote on whether to create two not-for-profit organisations to take over the running of council leisure centres including the new Orford Park Neighbourhood Sports Hub, libraries and cultural services like the Pyramid and Parr Hall as well as Warrington Museum.”.  May  be successful in “attracting external funding from companies keen to help the community.”
  • Waltham Forest – Libraries to close - Guardian series.   “The proposals to shut the Harrow Green branch in Leytonstone and South Chingford in Hall Lane were rubber stamped by the council’s cabinet at a meeting tonight. Campaigners pleaded with the authority to consider alternatives but the Labour leadership claimed it was the only way to save money following cuts in its funding from the Conservative and Liberal Democrat government.” … “Protester Vi Gostling, who has been a Labour member for 62 years, said she was “in despair” at her party colleagues’ decision.” ..”Fellow campaigner 29-year-old Hayley Bowden, of Orange Grove, Leytonstone, was in tears. Ms Bowden has been visiting the library her entire life and regularly takes her eight-year-old daughter Amber. She is disabled and fears her restricted mobility means she will not be able to visit other branches instead.”
  • Warwickshire – Library charges fail to rake in target - Stratford Observer.  “A report set to go before Warwickshire County Council’s cabinet this week showed the charges of up to £5 an hour, introduced back in July 2009, raised just over £40,000 as usage plummeted.” … failed to raise even a quarter of target.  “users simply used the free first half an hour before logging off” but ” half an hour just isn’t enough to do most things – applying for a job for example.”.  Removal of charges is being considered.

Brent result on Thursday and lessons from the USA

Comment
The news that the result of the judicial review will be known this Thursday will have campaigners and councils anticipating a landmark case due to it being the first legal judgement ever delivered on the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act. There will be a natural temptation on the part of all to see the result as a precedent for all library court cases.  A feeling, perhaps, that the decision on the first will mean the same decision will be made on all the rest.  This is not necessarily the case.  The situation in Brent is very different to that in Gloucestershire and in Somerset, or Doncaster, or Dorset, or anywhere else.  Each council needs to prove that they have met the terms of the 1964 Act and other legislation (notably on Equalities) in relation to it’s own geography, existing library provision, consultation and procedures.  It is not a case of win one, win all (or lose one, lose all).  Each one should and must be judged on its own merits, or there is no point in the process at all.
Due its importance and use of the English language, the USA is always the other country that is most accessible to us in terms of news. Today, there are two stories from there that have some bearing on UK libraries.  The first is that California has passed legislation to make outsourcing/privatisation of its libraries more difficult.  Being that outsourcing normally costs more than keeping the service in-house, this can largely be seen as a good thing.  The other story is a scarier one.  There are politicians in the USA, on a scale and depth unheard of here, who despise libraries and want to see them closed.  On the assumption that what happens there today comes here tomorrow, we need to be aware of the arguments and be willing to fight back.  The attack by John Redwood MP on a public library (and the views of some the comments below his article) may not be such an isolated act in the future but rather a harbinger of Tea Party attitudes to public libraries on these shores.
Other stories today are instructive.  The changing of leader in Surrey seems to have been largely to do with his being associated with a plan to close many of its libraries.  The leader of the council in Oxford, who is particularly outspoken in favour of library cuts should be especially beware of this, especially as research shows his argument that it is either cuts to libraries or cuts to social care is extremely weak indeed. Proposed library closures in Bolton are being met with extremely professional and impressive resistance.  Alas, and it is a sad one to end on but it seems to be overarching theme of the times, there are the moves in Northamptonshire, Southwark, Hertfordshire and Surrey to force the local community to volunteer to work in libraries.  There used to be a time when “The Year of the Volunteer” was an unalloyed positive message for everyone.  Now such a notion is increasingly linked to political agendas, suspicion and fears of blackmail. 
434 libraries (347 buildings and 87 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.
News
  • CakeWordshore.   Report on LibraryCamp last Saturday.  Interesting report on the “Unconference” including importance of having CILIP and Voices for the Library there.
  • Good news for California libraries and their patrons - Can it happen here?  (USA).  “…Brown has signed a bill to make it far more difficult for cash strapped counties and cities to hand their libraries over to for-profit companies. Along with public schools, libraries are one of our leveling institutions, a place everyone can go to seek information or entertainment, to use a computer, or even, if you are well behaved, to get out of the rain.”
  • Peter Collins: Local Libraries are on top of my “most sexy” list - Wales Online.  “Libraries have played a crucial role in the social and cultural life of South Wales, particularly in the early and middle parts of the 20th Century, when they opened up whole new worlds to working-class people whose lives would otherwise have been bleak indeed.”
  • Public libraries have outlived their usefulness - Examiner (USA).  [Editor's Note: An article, incredibly extreme by UK standards but of familiar type in the USA.  The view is that everyone has enough money to spend on books and that all parents can afford childcare costs or are never working when children are out of school].  Libraries are  “a babysitting service for parents who can’t be bothered with parenting. It isn’t as if they don’t have learning resources at home.” … “We don’t really need them anymore. We keep them around because we are nostalgic or because we want a babysitter, but we don’t need them for their books. For books we have Barnes and Noble, and Barnes and Noble has coffee.”
    • Rage to defund libraries goes off the deep end - Annoyed Librarian (USA).  “In New Hampshire, a Republican state representative is trying to reduce funding for the state’s popular interlibrary loan program because the service works too well. He claims to be a frequent user of ILL. According to the article, “What irks him, he said yesterday, is that he gets his requested books within a day or two.””.  It would be cost less tax if the service was slower.  The service is not paid for by the State he represents … “When you have a state politician salivating to cut a popular public service funded by money his state doesn’t even provide and which would still have to be used for library-related services somewhere in the state, you know you’ve gone through the looking glass.”
  • Strong leadership is key as London boroughs share services - Guardian.  Lessons from the combining of services in Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith & Fulham and Westminster.  “Underpinning this project has had to be real savings. The final reports put the figure at £33.4m. Some savings are already being made. Having one director for children’s services, one libraries director and one director for adult social care replaces nine roles with three, saving around £740,000 in salaries alone.”
Changes
Local News
  • Bolton – Trust’s big fear over libraries - Bolton News.  The Civic Trust has written to the Chief Executive, and to all council leaders, a five page letter laying out detailed arguments and backed by planning and economic analysis, in many respects superior to Bolton Council’s own. The trust was right about the impact of Middlebrook on the town centre and also the impact of the Market Hall closure. We fear the council is now to be complicit in helping to cripple some of our neighbourhoods. We urge the council to think carefully.”
    • Final decision on libraries axe may go to vote - Bolton News.   “Five libraries — Astley Bridge, Oxford Grove, Heaton, Highfield and Castle Hill — are earmarked for closure next year, with the council’s Labour executive due to rubber stamp the plans tomorrow in what promises to be a heated meeting at Festival Hall. But the decision could still be “called in” for scrutiny by opposition councillors — something The Bolton News understands is likely — and the final vote could then go to full council where all parties will get their say.”
    • Letter from Bolton and District Civic Trust to Bolton Council.  A tour de force letter, showing how an objection should be made.  “The Civic Trust is deeply concerned at the potential impact of the Council’s proposal to close five libraries and believes it is essential that the Council should carefully reconsider its preferred decision and approach. Above the doorway of the former Halliwell library, on Hatfield Road, it states simply: ‘Let there be light’.”  See also this Covering Letter.
  •  Brent – libraries verdict on Thursday - BookSeller.  The judge, Mr Justice Ouseley, will deliver his verdict in the High Court on Thursday morning. The ruling will be the first judicial review judgement on council library closures to be delivered and will be watched keenly for its wider implications across the country. A judicial review ruling into Somerset and Gloucestershire’s library closures is also expected in the next few weeks. Brent library campaigners say they have now met their £30,000 target to meet their legal bills for the review, after a busy programme of fundraising events supported by authors including Alan Bennett and Jacqueline Wilson.”
    • High Court to rule on library closures on ThursdayBrent and Kilburn Times.  “If the judge votes in favour of keeping the libraries open it will be a landmark case and could set a precedent for similar cases across the country.”.  Judgement expected at 10am.  Also reported (same article) as High Court to rule on library closures in Brent on ThursdayLondon 24. 
    • Verdict to be announced on ThursdayPreston Library Campaign.  “The DCMS has met with Brent Council, but has yet to speak with campaigners or reveal the outcome of this meeting. Whatever the outcome, we want the Council to reconsider its approach and work with Brent residents to provide a comprehensive local library service.” … “Brent SOS Libraries is also seeking a separate public enquiry by the DCMS under the Museums and Libraries Act 1964. The council’s proposals will leave the borough with just 6 libraries, 3 of which require major upgrade/rebuilding. This does not constitute a “comprehensive” library service.”
  • Cheshire East – Sandbach One Stop Shop is on the move - Crewe Chronicle.  Customer service desk moved from council offices into library.  Building closed for one week for refurbishment.  ““The council’s policy to put more customer service points in libraries aims to make better use of staffing and property resources, while also providing customers with an enhanced service. Westfields currently has about 300 customers a week. Sandbach Library has 500 users a day.” … “The move will benefit customers and hopefully encourage more people to use their local library by bringing these complementary resources under one convenient roof.”
    • Homework help on offer at Middlewich Library - Middlewich Chronicle.   “Students researching an essay or project or are looking for books or resources to aid their studies will benefit during Help With Homework Week from October 17 to 21.”
  • Hampshire – Fleet Library escapes but at what cost?Fleet People.   “While Fleet has been identified as one of 11 key libraries in the county, and will be left as it is, it will however be expected to take up the slack and fill the gaps left by other local libraries where the service has been cut.” … “The belt-tightening plans are so widespread that almost every other library in the county would be closed at least one day weekly to try and make the service more affordable.”.  Consultation until Dec 28th.
  • Hertfordshire – Activism, or how Hertfordshire is moving towards the “community library” – Information Overload.  “I thought we’d got off with simple opening hours cuts in Hertfordshire, but no. Those cuts were bad enough, in fact they were extremely drastic – we lost no less than a third of our public library access as a result. So drastic, in fact, that I realised when no-one else seemed to be speaking out about them, that it was down to me.” … “Time to throw open the doors. Let’s see if people will come in.”. Two-hour stops and increase in Home Library Service.
  • North Yorkshire – Unveils “Supermobile” library timetableHarrogate News.  “From October 24, North Yorkshire County Council’s supermobile will call at twenty two locations on a rolling fortnightly timetable. Unlike the conventional mobile libraries, which were withdrawn last month, the supermobile offers a superior service, carrying around 3,000 items of stock – including books, DVDs, videos, and audio books – and offering internet access via satellite.”
  • Northamptonshire – Shared services could cut budgets for NorthamptonshireBBC.   “It’s a choice of cutting back office bureaucracy or front line services. But there are plenty of people in Northamptonshire who would like to see bus services back to what they were, school crossings restored and libraries better financed rather than more cuts,”  says Lib Dem opposition councillor.  Council is looking to share services with Cambridgeshire etc.
    • Cuts could mean many years of pain - Evening Telegraph.   “Despite already cutting hundreds of jobs, switching off half the county’s street lights and all its speed cameras, slashing bus subsidies and calling up an army of volunteers to run libraries to help save £69m this year, the county council yesterday announced it needs to save a further £100m by 2016.”
    • Plan for volunteer army to keep all libraries openEvening Telegraph. “Northamptonshire County Council members are today set to debate a strategy which could see the number of library volunteers nearly quadruple from 457 to 1,600 in just four years.”…”Latest figures published by the council show that the county’s libraries receive more than three million visits a year, with each visit costing £1.67.”
 

When leader of council Keith Mitchell says cut libraries or social care, he may be
slightly overstating his case.
 What would you Cut? 3 - Oxfordshire Council videos events at a cost of nearly
£200 per view.
“This report shows a great way forward for the borough and unlike other authorities up and down the country, we are continuing to invest in our libraries. The phenomenal response we had from our library users during the consultation period showed just how dear libraries are to the hearts of our residents, and closing any would have been hugely regrettable.”

  • Suffolk – Village library is safe, says councillor - Suffolk Free Press.  Great Cornard:The future of the library is secure,” he said. “It will be managed by a structural organisation directly from the county council.”
  • Surrey – Leader to be endorsed and unveil new cabinetBBC.   Library cut plans were a key part in the downfall of previous leader. “Unison spokesman Chris Leary said thousands of residents were unhappy about cuts the council was making, particularly over changes to the library service which will see nine sites losing paid staff. The full council meeting on Tuesday will hear a motion from Residents Association Councillor Eber Kington, which states plans for community libraries have failed to gain support, and there is support for the use of volunteers but within a fully professional library service. The motion calls on the cabinet to abandon plans for community libraries and adopt a library policy retaining professional staff in all 52 libraries with additional voluntary support across all sites.
    • Changing of the guard at Surrey County Council – Eagle Radio.   “Meanwhile, David Hodge will be sworn in as leader this morning. One of the first requests he’ll face is a motion to abandon plans to close 19 libraries unless volunteers run them.”
    • Leader to be endorsed and unveil new cabinet - BBC.   “Unison spokesman Chris Leary said thousands of residents were unhappy about cuts the council was making, particularly over changes to the library service which will see nine sites losing paid staff.”
“Result of vote: 41-21 against the motion. Tories voted on block against libraries. Still hope though. Call in will be held next week.”  Surrey_SLAM (Twitter) Council votes against proposal to abandon plans to force 19 libraries to become volunteer-run.

Brian Blessed. Enough Said.

Cutting libraries is the “Act of philistines … atavistic nonsense… the nemesis of our country”
“More education is done in libraries than in any other place”
Moving away from the awed wonder that is necessary when watching Brian Blessed, a report from Swindon shows the terrible reality that can occur when a council pass a library branch to volunteers without proper training, plan, investment …. all those things that cost money in fact.
434 libraries (347 buildings and 87 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

“Closing libraries because *you* don’t use them is like blocking in a speeding ambulance because it’s not *your* gran in it.” #bethanar tweet

  • Convincing politicians that libraries improve literacy - Johanna Bo Anderson’s Blog. “there are the statistics, the evidence out there, but what there is not is someone with clout to deliver that message.”
  • Libraries not leafletsDaily Mail.  Janet Street-Porter bemoans the cuts in her local North Yorkshire library.  “Asking for free labour to deliver services we already pay for is the thin end of the wedge. Will we soon be asked to deliver meals on wheels, clean schools and run museums?”. Solutions suggested by her include less council publicity leaflets/newsletters and less pay for councillors.
  • Volunteering: Would you?Johanna Bo Anderson’s Blog.  Dilemma: Volunteering will mean paid people lose their jobs vs. if one does not volunteer, the library would close.  Interesting comments 

Changes

Herefordshire – £2m for joint library/wedding venue/council offices in Ledbury. 
Lancashire – £5m refurbishment for libraries. 

Local News

  • Herefordshire - Library and wedding plan for Ledbury Master’s House - BBC.  £2m for joint library/wedding venue/council services centre.  “Roger Phillips, Herefordshire Council’s cabinet member for enterprise and culture, said: “At a time when many local authorities are having to close libraries due to government spending cuts, we remain fully committed to providing this service which is much valued by the local community.”
  • Hertfordshire – Library campaign group appeals for residents to join fight – Royston Crow. “Anyone interested in joining the group should visit its website at www.weheartlibraries.org.uk and sign up. The website includes the latest news from the campaign, and also groups that members can join including a parents’ group, a reading group and a writers’ circle. “
  • Lancashire – £5m to revamp Lancashire County Council librariesLancashire Telegraph.  “We know that libraries are important to people’s quality of life and are at the heart of local communities, which is why we are investing around £5.5million in refurbishing them.”
  • Suffolk – Mobile library serviceAlasdair Ross.  “Mobile libraries are a lifeline to those who can’t easily make it to a public library, hopefully the Council will carry out this consultation with more grace and intelligence than the full library consultation.”
  • Swindon – Letter from Sherry Waldon - Swindon Advertiser.  Walcot Library since begun volunteer-run: “It has no real library staff, is now shut on Saturdays and is no longer available for the local schools to use, because there’s no room available since the charity shop moved in. It is now, in fact, a charity shop with some stacks of books as a sort of afterthought. Comparison of library usage between the years 2008/9 and 2009/10 shows the figures for Walcot have gone down dramatically.”.  Lack of training and investment may spread to other branches.

Warning: Volunteering figures may go down as well as up

Comment

Listed below (in the grand tradition of Public Libraries News) are the reasons I have seen quoted as affecting the number of people who are available for volunteering in a community library, largely put together by reasons suggested in the comments section of a Yorkshire Post article.  There are already fears that there are not enough volunteers around to do the necessary. Given the propensity of the current Government for promoting the Big Society, it is ironic that many of the reasons against volunteering are directly due to its policies.  Some of these reasons, such as increasing retirement ages and reducing pensions, may only really affect volunteering rates in the long-term.  This is still a serious issue for now, however, as it puts even more into question the long-term viability of volunteer-run libraries. It is tragic too that many of the reasons mean that it is the poorest and most disadvantaged areas that will suffer the most.  That is, the move to Big Society libraries is likely to be least successful in precisley those neighbourhoods that most need them.  The cynical might further suggest that, being these areas are also the least likely to vote Conservative, this may not be the pure unfortunate chance it may at first appear.

Why there may not be enough library volunteers

- Retirement age is moving up to 67.  This is only ever likely to increase in the future.  
- Pensions are reducing, meaning it is more necessary for people to continue some form of paid work when they officially retire.  This will depress volunteering rates.
- Pay cuts (that is, below inflation) and the public sector pay freeze mean people are working longer for the same. 
- If the Council fails to adequately fund the divested branch (in terms of recruitment, training, buildings etc).
- People don’t want to put others out of work by replacing them for free.
- Volunteering is being made by the “Big Society” message into a political statement.  Someone critical of this Government is now less likely to prove them right by donating time to uphold the Conservative’s values.  This would naturally be more prominent in Labour (and thus less advantaged) areas than in others.
- People may resent volunteering being made less of a choice than previously.  There is a strong undertone of blackmail to some of the Big Society library plans.
- People may deliberately avoid volunteering as it amounts to double taxation.  That is, the Council is still taxing them for a service that has now been withdrawn and informally taxing them for their labour.
- In more disadvantaged areas, volunteering is not so attractive.  There is more likely to be problems with petty crime or anti-social behaviout, there is less of a tradition of volunteering and there is less attraction to something perceived as a “white-collar” professional job as this is not the background of many living locally.

Factors encouraging volunteers

- More people in local government are being forced into early retirement but may still have a commitment to public service that can be utilised for volunteering.  Of course, these people are still being paid by the Council as early retirement costs money.
- If the Council adequately funds the divested branch (in terms of recruitment, training, buildings etc) and volunteering in it is thus more attractive.  
- More people are out of work generally.  Volunteering looks better on a CV than not volunteering.  This pool of free labour will dry up when and if the job market improves.
- Those who believe in the “Big Society” message may wish to make a statement by volunteering.  This would naturally be more prominent in Conservative (and thus more advantaged) areas than in others.
- In more advantaged areas, volunteering is attractive.  There is less likely to be problems with petty crime, there is more of a tradition of volunteering and there is more attraction to something perceived as a “white-collar” professional job as this is the background of many living locally.
- There may be a counterbalance to this as there is a higher than average amount of commuters in many rural areas.  Commuters, due to the high demand on their time of travelling to work, are some of the least likely to volunteer.
All of the above is about the number of volunteers available and willing to work in volunteer-run libraries.  For more on the pros and cons of volunteer-run libraries see this page.

434 libraries (347 buildings and 87 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

Changes

Hampshire – 20.5 FTE library worker posts cut.   

Local News

  • Bolton – Travel time to libraries called into question – Bolton News.  “The veracity of Bolton Council’s review of the town’s library service has been called into question by the Bolton and District Civic Trust. The Trust believes the council has got its figures wrong in calculating the time it will take residents to travel to their nearest library.”
  • Doncaster - Campaigners want library plan shelved - Epworth Bells.  Summary of cuts in Doncaster, council and campaigner positions.
  • Gloucestershire – Nick Clegg backs the Echo’s Beat the Burglar campaign - This is Glos.  “When asked about other issues affecting the area, Mr Clegg also urged Gloucestershire County Council to take inspiration from elsewhere when considering cuts to libraries and youth centres. “They need to ask why other councils haven’t done that and maybe they can learn a lesson from other councils that have managed it,” he said.”
  • Hampshire – Libraries’ opening hours set to be cut - Petersfield Post.   “Libraries across East Hampshire look set to be the latest public service to fall victim to cost cutting measures. Under new proposals tabled by Hampshire County Council, public libraries in Alton, Bordon, Grayshott, Liphook and Horndean will each have their opening hours cut.”
“As a county councillor I am absolutely appalled at the cuts. We have already had substantial cuts to the book funds over the last five years and we have lost most of our professional library staff.  Now we are cutting the opening hours. I think it is going in exactly the wrong direction – my heart goes out to the library staff that work so hard in Bordon.”

  • Hertfordshire – Launch StatementWe Heart Libraries.  We are pleased to announce the launch of We Heart Libraries – a people-driven campaign for everyone in North Herts and Stevenage who loves their libraries and wants to show it. We aim to celebrate everything that our public libraries bring to our communities and do for our citizens, as well as standing up for them in times of trouble.” … “We Heart Libraries co-founder Andy Darley said: “I grew up in Hitchin and the library was like a second home to me. As a child it was a place of magic and wonder, and it really matters to me that people all across our area – whatever their ages – should have the same opportunities I had.”
  • North Yorkshire – Exclusive: rural life at “tipping point” as cuts slash services - Yorkshire Post.    “The study, by consultancy firm Rural Innovation, concludes that there is “no longer scope to continually pare down key public services” in the face of spending cuts and that the Big Society must be given an opportunity to take control.”.  Rural areas are suffering hardest from the cuts as “it is harder to deliver to dispersed populations and when you are pushing to meet delivery targets, the edges suffer quickest”
  • Oxfordshire – Pullman’s spat with council over library cuts: the sequel - The Independent.   “Mr Mitchell said of Pullman and his fellow campaigners yesterday: “They are luvvies. If they ever needed social care they would be able to afford it [privately].”
    • Increased efficiency, the OCC way – Question Everything.  Examines council salaries, pointing out the high pay of Keith Mitchell and others, including an increase in the number of highly paid executives.  ” A increased headcount and a increase salary spend on the over 50k staff isn’t “savage cuts” or efficiencies in the back office, it is quite the opposite.”.  £3m was spent on consultants in the last year.  “Looking at all this I see why Keith resorts to childish insults and nonsense binary arguments that have no basis in reality, he cannot argue on facts because he doesn’t have any. He has failed to make OCC more efficient or to save the front line as he is instructed to by his own parties position. He has poisoned debate in Oxfordshire to cover for his own failings and I think he should be cut.”
  • Scottish Borders – Call to St Ronanites to note their protest on library cuts - Southern Reporter.   “controversial plans by Scottish Borders Council to merge libraries with council contact centres in seven towns and, at the same time, reduce their opening hours.” … “Mrs Clancy says they and many other residents are unhappy the matter seems to be being treated as a low key issue by SBC whilst at the same time the local authority has brought forward the closure of the consultation date for the library proposals from the October 27 to the 14th of this month.” … ““While the contact service staff who would also deliver the library service would be given training, it cannot be matched with the many years of experience, dedication and goodwill that Elaine has shown to the library users of Innerleithen.””. 

Telegraph calls Oxon Tory Leaders libraries viewpoint “astonishing”

434 libraries (347 buildings and 87 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.
 

News

  • Joe Orton and our relationship with librariesChannel Four News.   Five minute video clip on Orton’s defacing of library books in the early 1960s, which led to Joe receiving six months (!) in prison.  “In 1962 libraries were considered important hubs of the community and so an attack on their collection of books was seen as an attack on society.  This is interesting to consider in the light of the threat of closure currently facing several libraries around the country.”.  Including clip of New Cross library protest. … “For now, the Essex Road library in Islington isn’t under threat.  And the upcoming exhibition will draw attention to its unique place in literary history.  But perhaps it might also serve another purpose and make us all reflect once more on just how important libraries are – and should be considered by all of us, councils and governments included. If it succeeds on that front, I’m sure Joe Orton would approve of the irony.”
  • Love your library - Library Council (Eire).  A short and simple video on usage of Irish libraries, encouraging people to visit.  There has not been to my knowledge any English library authority or body making a promotional video of similar nature this year.  
  • Philip Pullman’s library campaign blamed for social service cuts - Telegraph.  Keith Mitchell (leader of Oxfordshire) comments criticised.  Campaigner says issue is not “party political” and that there is scope for saving money within the library service.  Article calls Mitchell’s claim “astonishing” and that “Mr Mitchell failed to acknowledge that among those vocally opposed to the library service cuts was Barry Norton, David Cameron’s election agent and leader of West Oxfordshire District Council.” Comments after article are very largely critical of Mr Mitchell who appears to have shot himself in the foot and perhaps needs to relax with a good library book to recover. Alan Gibbons’ comments add that Mr Mitchell is wrong due to (a) other cuts could be made and (b) the money is there (as shown by £1.7bn found for weekly bin collections and council tax freeze).
    • Phony War - Question Everything.  Includes picture of Keith Mitchell in full Freemasons outfit. “What I think Keith is doing here is actually quite cunning. The people protesting against the current library proposals are largely voters in Tory villages where all of the library cuts are happening under this proposal. His plan I believe then is: A. Muddy the argument and make it about something else B. Wind the lefties up so his own side closes ranks against them and votes through the proposal, regardless of any evidence that it won’t work.”
  • Public libraries petition: please sign, we need 100,000 signatures - MumsNet.  Interesting comments showing a wide range of views. 
  • Who will be the last one standing?LaRue’s Views (USA).  “Back in 2008, I was interviewed by a reporter. With a knowing air, he asked me if libraries were going to survive the Internet. On Feb. 27, 2009, after 150 years of operation, his newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News, printed its final edition. Now when reporters ask me that question I answer, “You bet we’ll survive. Will you?”

Changes

Hampshire - 42 libraries will have hours cut by one day per week,  the 11 other branches (the largest) will be open at least 50 hours per week .  Volunteers may be used to increase these hours or take over those branches under threat of closure.
Islington – Some may close. Ruled out turning into a trust.  £30k less bookfund, no CDs, increased fines/charges, may co-locate libraries with colleges/community centres, opening hours reduced to three days per week.
Middlesbrough – 4 branches and 1 mobile under threat – Grove Hill, Easterside, Marton and Thorntree. £50k bookfund cut, close the mobile £50k, 1.5 less managers (£36k).
Northern Ireland – 30 FTE jobs to go, £10.3m cut over four years.   

Local News

  • Barnet – Save our libraries - Our Barnet.  Front page article and photo from Save Friern Barnet Library campaign. Details council decisions and campaign to save libraries in Barnet and next steps. 
  • Blackburn with Darwen - New library service in North Turton to beat cuts - Lancashire Telegraph.  Mobile library withdrawn so, instead, “a stock of 250 titles will be housed in a community building and volunteers will help monitor the loaning out of the books. Every six weeks, 50 titles will be exchanged.” 
  • Bolton – Community trust could run library - Bolton News.   “Residents said the loss of the library would be a big blow for the community, with others asking if they could withhold their council tax if the facility shut. They backed running the library as a social enterprise, which could attract grants, sponsorship and commercial backing.”
    • “Quality not quantity” at core of 200-page report - Bolton News.   “The review states that the council’s statutory responsibility is to provide a library service for bolton, not necessarily a branch library service.” … “The council’s main message in the report is “quality not quantity”. Most residents in Bolton, the review states, will still live within two miles of a library.”.  Final decision to be made next Wednesday, with protest rally planned for outside.
  • Doncaster – Volunteer your time to save our libraries - Save Doncaster Libraries.  “If you’ve got any time to spare on the morning of Wednesday 12th October, please join us outside the Mansion House in Doncaster before the Cabinet meeting, where we’ll be protesting the Mayor’s proposals to force communities to run their own libraries, which we believe is unfair, unrealistic and unsustainable. There are many alternatives which the Mayor has refused to listen to because they do not fit in with his political views and the desire he’s had all along – to massively reduce the library service – purely because he doesn’t see the point of it.”
    • Mayor of Doncaster answering questions - BBC Radio Sheffield (2:11:00 on).   Includes facts like mayor has never used a library but libraries are “vital in schools”.  People should stop “belly-aching” about the cuts and suggest where else they should fall.
  • Gloucestershire – Children’s laureate to read to school children at Stroud Library - Stroud News and Journal.   Julia Donaldson: “”I’ve always been a big fan of libraries. They are where children discover their taste in books and become lifelong readers. I am planning to visit as many as I can during my two years as children’s laureate, to draw attention to all the exciting things that can and do go on in them. My hope is that these visits will result in children who are not already members signing up with their local library.” 
  • Hampshire – Centre could be made “key” hub - Gazette.  Smaller libraries may close one more day per week, while 11 largest remain unaffected.  Councillor in charge of libraries says “We have to make the service sustainable, so clear business sense has to prevail to give everyone reasonable access at least cost, especially when you consider we have one instance where the figures show every visit to one of our libraries costs the taxpayer £15 a time.””  Volunteers may help out or even take over under threat libraries.
  • Hertfordshire – Local and Libraries Cabinet panel - Hertfordshire Council.  Papers on the proposal for extending opening hours by allowing volunteer groups and charities to use libraries out of hours.
    • European lobbying pays off - We Heart Libraries.   “One of the East of England MEPs that we contacted has come back with a positive response. Andrew Duff, the Cambridge-based Liberal Democrat representative, is now more engaged with the issues facing libraries across Europe and says he may be open to supporting action on the subject in future.”
    • Library opening hours added to council’s scrutiny work programme - We Heart Libraries.   “The Overview and Scrutiny Committee has considered the idea and agreed to put library opening hours and mobile services on its work programme for the end of next year – by which time it feels the new system will have been in place long enough for some useful evidence to be gathered. This is in line with its usual rules on the length of time after which decisions become appropriate for scrutiny.”
  • Islington – Libraries: the battle begins – Islington Tribune.   “Staff say that at meetings there have been “ominous noises” about how “a library can be set up anywhere” and that space inside existing libraries could be rented, or buildings even sold.” … “One librarian, who asked to be identified as “Adrian Mole” but whose identity is known to the Tribune, said that staff morale was rock-bottom and that the council had expressed its “terror” about public reaction to the plans…. these cuts are the equivalent of losing two libraries …”.  Alan Gibbons “believes that local authorities have room to manoeuvre. Newcastle and Hull have managed to avoid library closures and to protect services,” he said.“The cuts in Islington look unnecessary. The first place they should be looking is to cut management services. Hitting frontline services is pretty lazy thinking.”
  • Lambeth – Minet Library and Lambeth Archives - Facebook group includes some very interesting looking events. 
  • Middlesbrough – Children’s services may suffer under budget cut plans - Northern Echo.  “Libraries may shut in Grove Hill, Easterside, Marton and Thorntree as well as eight Sure Start Children’s Centres.” 
  • Northern Ireland – Over 30 library posts face axe in cuts plan - Belfast Telegraph.  “The libraries authority, Libraries NI, told members that as part of its cost-cutting exercise to save £10.3m over the next four years, library staffing hours could be cut by 1,200 hours per week.“This equates to 33 full-time posts. However, as many library workers are part-time, the impact will be even greater and will greatly affect the predominantly female workforce,” a statement added afterwards.”
  • Oxfordshire -  Future of Benson Library: a new chapterFriends of Benson Library.  An extremely professional report defending the library.  Executive Summary has also been produced.
  • West Sussex – Meeting tonight on library cuts - County Times.  Steyning library will face 15% cut in budget.  Parish council meeting to look at ways of supporting library and to voice the concerns of the community.

Fears for Tiers

 
Comment
 
Cambridgeshire has announced a “supermarket style” tiering of its libraries into Library Extras and others.  A standard big library is now renamed an “Extra”.  Everthing else is no longer “Extra” as it is being degraded to a greater or lesser extent.  Presumably, in the next round of cuts, there will be less “Extras” and the few that remain will be renamed something even more superlative (like “Mega”?) and everything else drops down a tier.  Tiering – in the incarnation of giving away some of the least wanted libraries to other organisations – has already happened in Lewisham, from which there is a highly critical letter today that, if half of it is true, bodes ill for the whole concept.
429 libraries (343 buildings and 86 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

  • East Village bookshop owner busts library thief - New York Post (USA).  “There’s no other situation where I would do this. I was so angry that he was stealing from the library,” Davis said. “The library is just a very important piece of our community.”
  • Libraries judicial review: no result for “two weeks to two months” – This is the West Country.  “The three-day hearing at the High Court in Birmingham ended with the judge reserving his decision for between two weeks and two months.”.  Campaigners’ lawyers says “Although no-one can second guess what a judge will decide, they were optimistic of a good result, with the judge having stated that he will carefully consider and weigh up all the arguments in this complex case.”.  Council refuses to give comment. 

 

 
  • School with no library for people of the bookJewish Chronicle.  King David High School in Liverpool to open but “one sentence made me choke on my breakfast and – assuming my family were to move to Liverpool – vow that no child of mine would ever attend King David. “In another advance on tradition,” it read, “there is no school library.”" … “But how is getting rid of a school library progress? What can replace a well-stocked library, where children are encouraged to read fiction and non-fiction? Where else can they browse books in a variety of subjects – including those they do not study – read expert opinions and have a break from the fact-cramming, box-ticking, keyword-spewing curriculum imposed by politicians?”
“Private schools, in contrast, value their libraries and arrange regular author visits. The lack of a library increasingly denotes social inequality. Parents should not be dazzled by technology. A good librarian in a well-used library is just as important.”

  • Smith to be vice-chair of CILIP - BookSeller.  Smith, a learning and teaching support officer at the University of Leeds, will serve for one year from 1st January 2012. Smith has gained a high media profile for her work with Voices for the Library and the Save Doncaster Libraries campaign.”
  • Social care cuts: it’s all Philip Pullman’s fault – Guardian.   In response to Keith Mitchell’s attempt to blame the campaign to save libraries in Oxfordshire on leftwing activists and posh authors.  “This attempted outsourcing of blame is disingenuous, not least because some of the most powerful lobbying against the library cuts came not from Oxford lefties but from Mitchell’s own political comrades and supporters.” … “Mitchell’s outburst is really a diversion to cover his own failure of judgement and leadership.” … “many of Mitchell’s own party members lost confidence in his handling of the cuts – indeed, Mitchell barely survived an attempted coup in May.”  … “”Big society” was meant to emerge to fill the gaps caused by cuts, and it was assumed that the Tory shires would be enthusiastic participants. Ironically, in Oxfordshire it appears that it is opposition to cuts, not the prospect of running one’s own library, that has galvanised the long dormant community spirit so prized by Cameron.”
  • What do public librarians and library staff do? - Walk You Home.  In response to the Mayor of Doncaster’s comments about library work being easy,  Lauren Smith and friends lists what it is library staff actually do.

Local News

  • Blackpool – Central library reopens after £3m revamp – BBC.  “The renovation of the Grade II-listed building on Queen Street includes a new extension with three rooms for community groups to use and a cafe.”  £2m from Big Lottery Fund, £1m from council.
  • Bolton – Campaigners vow to carry on fight to save libraries - Bolton News.  “Campaigners have vowed not to give up their fight to save five libraries from the axe. The Save Bolton Libraries Campaign reacted angrily to the council’s final proposals, published online yesterday.”.  Rally next Wednesday when Council will rubber-stamp closures. … “They say they have listened but they have disregarded hundreds of people’s views and thousands who signed petitions.”
  • Cambridgeshire – Supermarket-style library services given green light - Hunts Post 24.  “Members of Cambridgeshire County Council’s cabinet have approved a move to replace the current library service with a “21st century” model, that would see libraries being ranked as supermarkets.” “Extra” = standard library services for three largest branches, “Access”/”Compact” = lesser facilities, including volunteers, for other less fortunate places.
  • Camden - Primrose Hill Community Association (PHCA) submit proposals to take over Chalk Farm library, but still need £1.2 million – Camden New Journal.  “A partnership between the Heath and Hampstead Society and the Friends of Heath Library could take over the threatened Keats Grove branch, while the Friends of Belsize Library are hoping the Winchester Project Community Centre will submit an expression of interest to manage the Belsize branch. In the case of Chalk Farm, the PHCA say their bid will hinge on getting funding to guarantee the library’s future for 20 years and will follow a mini-consultation among users on what they want from the building.”
  • Conwy – Fresh call for guidance on library closures - North Wales Weekly.  Local AM says to Senedd “‘The closure of Kinmel Bay and Cerrigydrudion libraries would be a real blow for residents. They are important facilities for the community. There is a need for guidance from the minister in this area. Kinmel Bay and Cerrigydrudion have been defined as deprived areas in terms of educational attainment and income levels.”
  • Doncaster – To hand 12 libraries to volunteers - BookSeller.    Report on plan, inc Mayor’s explanation and Lauren Smith’s response.
    • Moves to cut library funding criticised - Yorkshire Post.   “Controversial plans which will see a council cut its funding for more than half of the libraries in a Yorkshire town have been unveiled and met with a barrage of criticism from campaigners.”
  • Enfield – Town library up for SCALA architecture award - Enfield Independent.   “he building – which now includes a two-storey extension and a renewable energy ground source heating system – also won a London Planning Award from Mayor Boris Johnson in January.” … ““This is a very attractive building and the new work has attracted lots of visitors. It is great to see it being used by so many people from the local community.””
  • Lewisham – Letter to Vaizey - via Alan Gibbons.  Letter from Peter and Patricia Richardson on the failure of the DCMS to intervene, drawing the attention of Ed Vaizey to the experience of non-council run libraries in the borough: (1) council accepts that Eco Computers (took over 3 libraries) may fail and could lead to a “reputational” loss to the council which would be hard to avoid. (2) Downgrading of library service may be against the 1964 Act.  (3) “large scale” removal of stock.  If a cafe is added, this remove yet more stock.  (4) Reservations take up to 5 weeks to be satisfied. (5) Blackheath Library only has 1000 visits per month now compared to 7 ot 8000 before. (6) marginally more opening hours is of no benefit with greatly reduced stock. (7) None of the libraries is open as much as promised due to failure to recruit volunteers.  (8) It is not clear how the Data Protection Act affects the work of volunteers. (9) all lost buildings need considerable work.  “The new temporary site for Blackheath is only accessed by crossing a sloping, badly surfaced terrain.  No official building would be allowed to permit the public access in this way.”.  However, a comment by a user of one of these libraries, says he is still “receiving a good service”.
  • Middlesbrough – Closures on the cards as Middlesbrough mayor unveils cuts proposals - Northern Echo.   “Several libraries, children’s centres and youth centres are earmarked for closure during 2012-13, as is Clairville Stadium and Tennis World, which would be put up for sale.”.  Services protecting the elderly and vulnerable will receive less cuts than rest.  Mayor says ““This is a climate of creativity, if you have ideas and they are a bit off the wall, let us have them.””
  • Swansea – Horrid Henry grips thousands in Swansea’s Summer Reading Challenge - Wales Online.  “A record 2,184 youngsters took part in Swansea council’s Summer Reading Challenge and the most borrowed books were about the adventures of Horrid Henry.” … ““Feedback from staff is that some children start reading more often after the challenge and many persuade their friends to join the library and sign up for the challenge too.”