Cuts in Stoke and Worcestershire, QR codes in Bournemouth

  • Favourite stories about libraries and librarians - Reading Rockets.  “Meet Tomás who is introduced to the world of books by the local librarian during harvest season, ‘that book woman’ who delivers stories by horseback to children in the Appalachian hills, and a lion who one day decides to walk right into the library. These books will remind you of the many reasons why our libraries — in all their forms — are such special places.”
  • Libraries lobby, by Amber and Poppy Ash - MyVoice.  Two teenagers report on the Speak Up for Libraries day, including talking to an MP or two.  Excellent summary of the day.  “The one thing that all of the people attending had in common was that they valued their local libraries, libraries in general and the benefits they can bring for those who can’t afford books and those who just love to read or need access to information and learning.”

Local News
  • Barnet – Hundreds of book lovers show support for pop-up library in Friern Barnet - Times series.  “Crowds gathered to show their support for the People’s Library where they could chose from an array of 1,000 donated books and enjoy a selection of tea and cake.” Picture shows large crowd.  “Mr Tichborne has pledged to keep the People’s Library running if the council allows him to pay £500 peppercorn rent to hold it at Friern Barnet Library.”
  • Bournemouth – Quick response codes to appear across Bournemouth - Daily Echo.   “Quick response codes will soon be popping up at libraries and museums across Bournemouth enabling smartphone users to get more information at the touch of a button. Bournemouth’s library services is one of only 13 successful bids to the arts council, securing £10,000 of funding to launch the technology at points of interest around the town.”
  • Brent – Campaigners open pop up library as a temporary replacement to Barham Park Library - Harrow Times.  “We were all devastated when the library was closed and we feel that the council have turned their backs on us about the situation. The younger generation are the losers in all this, because reading is so important to their education. In the meantime, we hope that this temporary library will help keep community spirit alive, because it’s such a shame to have lost such an integral part of our community after 60 years.”
  • Northamptonshire – Community library in Northampton is alive and well after survival - Northampton Chronicle.  “A community library [NB. this is “community” in the original local and counci-run sense of the term]  once under threat of closure, proved it is still thriving at a celebration day for the young and old. The now safe Abington Library, on Lindsay Avenue, is one of 34 Northamptonshire County Council libraries to open on Sundays from this weekend between 1pm and 4pm, while the Central Library in Northampton will open from 11am to 4pm.”
  • Stoke on Trent – City library opening hours to be cut in bid to save council £100k - This is Staffordshire.  30 hours per week cut (from Bentilee, Longton, Meir, Tunstall, Stoke, Trentham and Hanley libraries) with £100k taken from budget and five job losses.  “East Bentilee Residents’ Association chairman Alan Joinson, aged 64, of Chelmsford Drive, Bentilee, said: “It’s going to make it harder for people to get to the library for books, especially if they are working. Every time I walk past the library there are always people in there and it seems well used. I don’t think they should be making cuts to things like libraries, which are a source of information and education.”
  • Surrey – Trust “frustrated” over High Court ruling as library saga rolls on - This is Sussex.  “Lingfield Library trustee John Cole has written to Surrey County Council asking to have the trust transferred to the trustees. They want to stop the council including Lingfield in its plans because they would rather run it themselves, keeping the two staff members employed.”
  • Worcestershire – Council staff could move into Kidderminster Library gallery space - Shuttle.  “Kidderminster Library’s gallery and piano could make way for Worcestershire County Council offices and staff despite being funded by a National Lottery art grant. The council is consulting until Tuesday, May 1, on a change of use to the building’s second floor, which would see 90 desks and 139 staff from adult and social care and children’s services moving in.” … ““We either make libraries like Kidderminster pay their fair share or close smaller libraries like Bewdley, which I am not going to do” says cabinet member.”.  Some very negative comments question wisdom of moving a loud grand piano more into the library and the apparent failure to uphold the terms of the grant.

The future has already been written: the Future of Library Services Conference

The line-up for the Future of Library Services conference has been announced. This is the one that Ed Vaizey speaks at and can be seen as an indicator of the way the wind is blowing. Much can be learnt even from the names of the speakers that are attending.  First off, what strikes one is that almost all are from Conservative councils, with the one exception being a Liberal Democrat. There is therefore, one suspects, not going to be a diverse group of views. Secondly, the councils listed are top-heavy with those who are implementing, or have already implemented, the use of the unpaid (volunteers/community groups) directly replacing library staff.  One  council involved is moving towards privatising its service while another is looking at transferring control to a non-profit organisation.  All, of course, are facing severe cuts in budget.  Now for the detail:
The future of library services will, therefore, largely be presented as a mixture of privatisation, closure and volunteers due to historically large budget reductions.  It is unlikely that dissenting voices will be heard.  It is also unlikely that facts which show the consequences of forcing branches out of council control will be seen, such as this chart:
Lewisham – What happens when branches are taken out of council control. These figures are for items loaned from five now non-council libraries over the last twelve months.   They have halved and have stayed roughly the same since.  The worst performing of these is Blackheath, which had been given to Age Exchange with a sweetener of  £200,000, but has seen its usage fall from nearly 4000 per month last year to 354 in March. 


  • Disgruntled library patron ready for court - Journal Sentinel (USA). “The library makes no apology for going in search of AWOL books. Last year, 111 of its customers wound up in court for that. “The goal is not to be harassing people,” city attorney Eberhardy said. “The goal is to recover the materials or the money for the materials.”
  • Future of library servicesNeil Stewart Associates. “Chief Librarians and Councillors have a tough job ahead in ensuring that the delivery of library services is innovative and forward thinking. Local communities are well rehearsed in the benefits of library services, including improved literacy, inclusion and job search but services remain underused. This 7th national conference will bring together senior-level library and information management professionals from local authorities and the wider cultural sector in order to discuss emerging policy issues and share best practice from across the country.”
  • Keep on borrowing: libraries refuse to die - Independent.  Looks at the pop-up library at Friern Barnet, whose end by the council was “brutal and swift”.  ” In scenes reminiscent of the Occupy movement, they have set up their own library”. Localism Act enabling councils to close branches but popular resistance is meaning numbers closed is a lot less than initially feared.  
  • NYPL embraces the future of libraries today - Huffington Post (USA).  President of the New York Public Library describes and explains the planned changes to the library.
  • Outdoor libraries set up after branch closings - Livingston (USA).  “Students from a Detroit school and the University of Michigan are setting up six outdoor libraries in the city following recent library branch closings.”
“It broke my heart to hear about the library closings, which are such a vital part of every community,” Manos said. “Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved visiting the library. I always regarded it as a sacred space and I think it would be a shame to deny any children the opportunity to read.”

  • Snoopers shut my library - Independent (Boyd Tonkin).  “Barnet Council, Tory-run and dismissive of a Labour-majority ward, behaved with stubborn arrogance. It has done next to nothing to back its claim that a new library within a local arts centre would replace the branch: a mere “temporary facility” is promised. Protestors feel “deceived, manipulated and mistreated”. 
  • Students: how do you behave in the library? - Guardian.   “A classmate once sat down next to me, produced several tupperware containers filled with hot food from his backpack, cracked open a can of energy drink and began to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey on his laptop.”
  • Timbuktu librarians protect manuscripts from rebelsReuters (Mali).   “…the gun-toting fighters did not enter the rooms and underground vaults where the priceless texts were stored at the library’s new South African-funded building.  “The new building was defended by the public … they stood in front of the gates,” Jeppie said, repeating accounts given to him.”
  • Why libraries matter more than ever - Local 10 (USA).   “I believe questioning the need for libraries and the professionals who staff them is like questioning the need for the air that we breathe. We need air to survive, just as we need libraries not just to survive but to thrive in an era filled with economic uncertainty, technological illiteracy and information overload. Technology continues to shape commerce, education and social interactions, in our global world. Libraries, which provide equitable access for all, play a key role in leveling the playing field in our communities.”


Local news

  • Barnet – Pop-up library protest over Friern Barnet closure - BBC.  campaigners claim the consultation was “deeply flawed” and 3,000 local residents opposed it. Also, the construction of the new building has not yet started.”
  • Bath and Northeast Somerset – Libraries do battle - This is Bath. “B&NES Council had originally proposed axing the mobile library entirely, but the plan was halted following a campaign by residents, parish councils and opposition Tories. Conservatives are now calling on the Liberal Democrat cabinet, which met to discuss the issue last night, not to rush into any final decision until a consultation has taken place on specific proposals for a revised timetable.”
  • Brent – Latest update from the campaign - Save Kensal Rise Library.   All Souls College would be happy to pass on building to campaigners but Council has refused this.  Campaigners have met with DCMS (who took notes and promised nothing) to provide information.  Pop Up library doing well.  
    • DCMS finally meets with campaigners … after almost a year - Preston Library Campaign.   Including the written submission.
    • All Souls College, Oxford support plan to save Kensal Rise Library - Save Kensal Rise Library.  Letter from college clearly shows they support campaigners but “We have received the impression that the Council is not keen that the proposal is taken forward”.
    • Mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone vows to help reopen Cricklewood Library - Brent and Kilburn Times.   “Mr Livingstone has told the Times that he will work with All Souls College, who own the building in Olive Road, to find a solution that will see the doors opened up as a library again. The Labour candidate, who lives around the corner from the axed branch in Ivy Road, had previously kept tight-lipped about the saga [Brent is Labour controlled], but finally spoke out during a visit to Willesden this morning (Friday).”
    • Friends of Barham Library to open “pop up” reading room in Wembley - Times series.   “Cllr Lorber, leader of Brent Liberal Democrats, said: “We are delighted that we have been able to show the council that we are able to still run a community service, for the people.“We have asked on many  occasions to return to the old library building but our requests were denied. “It is fantastic that we can now offer a local service for the people who had it taken away from them.”The resource centre was opened on May 31, 1952, and would be celebrating its Diamond Jubilee this year.”
    • Flood of books pour into Cricklewood “pop-up” library after thieves strike - Brent & Kilburn Times.   “Campaigners at Cricklewood Library, in Olive Road, were stunned as a case of books was thought to be stolen. Furious campaigners, shocked at the apparent theft, put up a sign outside the library reading ‘shame on whoever stole the books’. However, the incident threw up some unlikely cheer when the box was returned days later, with the message ‘we are sorry we took the box of books, we are donating some more of our own’ written across it.”
  • Hammersmith & Fulham – Residents’ satisfaction rises - SW Londoner.  Over 32% declared themselves ‘very satisfied’ with the local library service – more than any other public service in the borough. “Most people are very happy with libraries in the borough,” said Richard Grant, Customer Service Team Leader for Hammersmith and Fulham libraries. “The council has done a very good job in preserving and promoting library facilities.”
  • North Somerset – Library jobs pledge as £347,000 savings sought - This is Bristol.  “Almost 2,000 people responded to a consultation document drawn up by the authority. As part of the changes, due to come into effect in September, self-service terminals will be installed at a number of libraries by the summer and volunteers recruited to help support the service.”
  • Northern Ireland – Doors close at Moy Library for final time - Tyrone Times. “Members of the public, along with politicians and school children, had campaigned strongly to keep the library open, with the principal of St John’s PS in the village describing the final decision as “short sightedness”. However, on Saturday, March 31, the library closed permanently, with Libraries NI announcing arrangements for alternative provision in the area.”
  • Richmond – Bucks national trend by extending library opening hours - SW Londoner.   “an all-in-one survey revealed libraries were highly valued by the vast majority of Richmond residents. From the 18th April, Whitton, East Sheen, Teddington and Twickenham libraries will open on Mondays, and Castelnau Library will operate for an additional 20 hours per week. Despite national closures Richmond has kept every library open, thanks largely to a process of restructuring and re-designation of resources.” … ” “Richmond libraries saw a very high usage from children and the elderly, but hopes increased opening hours will attract more 30-50-year-olds.””
  • Surrey – Libraries limbo continues as High Court battle rages on - This is Surrey Today.   Volunteers who want to run Tattenhams Library are unhappy that they are being forced to wait until legal action ends before they take over from paid staff.  “This library can be so much more. We will have coffee mornings, reading groups, a knitting group. People have all sorts of ideas of what we can do.”

One Library Authority for London – Pros and Cons

I’ve seen several times in the media recently a suggestion that the merging of library authorities in London would help save them from the cuts.  Here below are my thoughts on the matter, listed as ever as pros and cons. Let me know if you think of anything else that should be included or what you think.  Normal news reports are below.
  • Economies of scale. These would be considerable as an unified service would replace 29 separate management structures (there are currently 32 authorities: however 5 have already merged with eachother to some extent) with just one. Purchasing, distribution and transport of books would all be unified.  There could conceivably be one single library website, headquarters, chief librarian, etc.  An example of what can be achieved is Bexley and Bromley who hope to save £350,000 by merging staffing.  Advocates could argue that multiplying that for all of London means a possible saving of over £5m.
  • On top of this, Boris has suggests a united authority would become a Trust, allowing millions to be saved in tax.
  • The poor record of some London library authorities, e.g. Brent or Barnet, shows keeping things local is not always the best option for libraries.
  • A capital wide library service would instantly become a strong voice for libraries in London unlike the current picture.
  • Capital wide marketing and promotion of services.
  • A pro library mayor would be able to spread best practice examples (such as the often quoted Hillingdon) through all boroughs.
  • This would rationalise provision of branches.  Of course, this means, some branches could close but it would make it more likely that there would be a fair spread of libraries rather than the current postcode lottery.
  • One membership card needed for all branches.
  • Being able to order to and from all branches.
  • Mayors don’t have the best of records with libraries.  See the example of Doncaster.  Such a mayor, or an indifferent one, could do great damage to libraries over the length of their term.
  • Loss of local specialist staff.  Economies of scale could lead to the loss of many staff with local knowledge.  While we’re at this game, it is worth bearing in mind that economies of scale often means job losses.  Bromley and Bexley aim to lose 70 jobs in their merger.  Multiply that by fifteen for all of London means over a thousand jobs could go.  That’s a lot of unemployment.
  • Localism.  This highly influential (amongst all major parties) doctrine means a hands-off approach to local authorities in the belief that those in local areas know best how to serve their communities.  Making things thirty times more remote by central diktat goes directly against this.
  • Trusts come with their own problems.
  • Some libraries could close in any rationalisation of services.  This would go against the whole reason for unifying libraries in the first place.
  • Loss of local identity.  This may or may not happen depending on the policies of the Greater London Library Authority.
  • The London Libraries Consortium already exists, with 15 out of 32 London boroughs sharing procurement (e.g. book purchasing) costs and best practice.
  • Rebranding all libraries costs money.  New logos and signs cost thousands.
  • Library authority computer systems often cannot talk to eachother meaning the unification could be theoretical rather than practical.  Different types of self-service machine is the most recent example of this.
  • It’s going to really annoy Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith & Fulham and Westminster who have recently combined their library services into a “Tri-borough” system.  Presumably they’d have to start all over again.
  • Similarly, some library authorities are, or will be soon, opted out of direct council control, with presumably expensive contracts to sign out of – e.g. Hounslow.  Soon, Greenwich, Croydon and Wandsworth will also be opted out.

Additions (16/4/12) to Cons

  • Unifying all councils in London would require a change to the law and thus would take a reasonable amount of time to enact.
  • In addition to the London Libraries Consortium, there is the Civica-run SELMS library management system. 
  • London Library Change programme has increased co-operation and efficiency.
  • Lack of clear public support or demand for the change.


  • Awards for libraries that improve economic wellbeing - NAPLE (EU).  EIFL (Electronic Information for Libraries) has launched its first Public Library Innovation Programme (EIFL-PLIP) Innovation Award call – for libraries offering services that use information and communication technology (ICT) to improve economic wellbeing of the community.”.  $1500 prize plus publicity.
  • Guest post #6: Social media is becoming vital to real-world relationships - Envisioning the Library of the future Arts Council England (Mandeep Hothi).  Public libraries need to embrace facebook, twitter and the rest of the web. See also Social Media RevolutionCILIP executive briefing event.
  • Information that we want to be free - Guardian.  Letters on the need for free access to academic journals.  One letter points out “This situation will not improve due to funding cuts to public libraries. So much for the widening of the UK research base and making use of skills and knowledge built up over many years.”
  • Librarians role vital, says former National Head - Education Review (Australia).  “Books last for 300 years but the obsolescence of some digital devices reinforces the need for experts to manage various storage techniques.” Interesting article.  “the role of the librarian is still relevant in the 21st century. “They’re mediators, they help people, they point out directions. Librarians are still critically important, and while the physical space might be less so, there’s always a need for someone to show the way, to tell people, to let them think in different ways.”
    Given the new enthusiasm for shared resources it is difficult to understand why so many local authorities have failed to take a fairly simple step to make this possible. Those using RFID technology to provide self-service will find it increasingly difficult to find ways to deliver the ‘joined up’ service envisioned in this article as a result of their failure to mimic their European colleagues by adopting a common standard for identifying stock. The result is that while countries like Denmark already have the facility to lend and borrow across authority boundaries their UK counterparts cannot do the same if they have purchased their solutions from different suppliers.” RFID consultant Mick Fortune comments on Guardian article

  • Outsourcing: public and private sectors still have much to learn - Guardian.  Only a minority of outsourced services are measured to see if they have been of net benefit.  “just as much as any perceived skills gap, ineffectual management of outsourcing could also be due to over-prescriptive contracts that are no longer fit for purpose.”  Comments below article suggest that giving money to shareholders is not the most efficient use of taxpayer money.
  • Vaizey: Avoiding icebergs is not the captain’s job - Campaign for the Book (Alan Gibbons).   “They are unable to superintend the service. They are unable to use their powers under the 1964 Act to protect a comprehensive and efficient service. They are unable to intervene until the ‘process of change’ has run its course. They are unable to come to a judgement how many libraries there should be in a certain area. They are unable to come to a decision over the rights and wrongs of the Surrey case. That is the court’s job. This is essentially what Vaizey told Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson, John Holland, Gary Green and I at our meeting on February 1st. If you think I am being unfair to the Minister read the interview published below. Read Mr Vaizey’s unedited words and come to your own conclusion. In my opinion it is evasion, prevarication and abdication. Time and again, in Brent, Somerset, Gloucestershire and now Surrey campaigners have had to try to seek justice through the courts because the Minister refuses to play the role assigned to him in law.”
  • Why librarians don’t matter - The Busy Librarian (USA).   Infographic claims Wikipedia wipes the floor with libraries.  “According to this infographic, you don’t matter. You are replaceable. You are overpriced.You are irrelevant in a world embracing Wikipedia. You are obsolete.”.  Comments below argument refute the view of the image.


  • Barnet - Due to several reported worries over the proposed library at the ArtsDepot, I am not counting this as a replacement library as yet.  Tally of threatened libraries therefore goes up by one.
  • North Lanarkshire - Opening hours were increased in 2010.  However, book borrowing  “has more than halved in the last two years from 91,342 to 45,582″
  • Northamptonshire - 34 libraries will open from 1pm to 4pm every Sunday and the Central Library in Northampton open from 11am to 4pm.  Cuts in hours elsewhere in week to compensate, although overall number of hours increases by eight.

Local News

  • Barnet – “Library strategy tearing the heart our of our communities” - Barnet Today.  A Barnet librarian has criticised the council’s library strategy, arguing that it is “taking the heart” out of communities and damaging services by putting pressure on already stretched staff.  The librarian, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Press that residents and library staff felt betrayed by the decision to close Friern Barnet Library, and to cut 16 full-time staff throughout the borough over the next three years.”
“The employee said the council had misled residents over its controversial library strategy, which was agreed by cabinet last year and pledged to merge North Finchley and Friern Barnet and refurbish others.  The common understanding of a merger is to have two libraries and you put them as one,” said the librarian. “But they have got nothing ready; artsdepot is absolutely not a good replacement.”

  • Brent – All Souls College regrets Brent Council’s decision to hand back Kensal Rise and Cricklewood Libraries - Brent & Kilburn Times.   ““However, as we are a charity our main focus now has to be on what will benefit All Souls College and we will be undertaking discussions in the future to determine the best route to take for the future.” The spokesman also confirmed that should library campaigners want to occupy the buildings they would have to either pay commercial rents or lease the building, subsequently taking on repair and maintenance rates.”.  Campaigner says of council that “They strung us along for months during the court case by saying they would discuss plans after the conclusion and then just threw it out.”.

“What is happening is nothing short of perverse”, says Margaret Bailey, a director and trustee of the Friends of Kensal Rise Library. “It is extraordinary that it is Brent, and not All Souls, that has been the driving force in asserting that the reverter has been triggered.” “The Friends are well aware of the reverter issue and so have sought, since Brent first announced plans to close the library, to preserve the building for the benefit of the community by offering to take on the running of the service ourselves. Rather than supporting us, Brent has consistently undermined our efforts, contrary to its most fundamental duty to the residents of this community. Today’s announcement is just the latest act of sabotage by a Council apparently intent on depriving its residents of a cherished landmark and community resource.” … “The Friends also dispute whether the reverter has, in fact, been triggered, given the continuous operation of a pop-up library service [pictured above] on the property ever since the library’s closure by Brent in October, and the existence of a viable proposal for long-term library operations on the site. They intend to seek legal advice.” Friends of Kensal Rise press release

    • Campaigners urge council to shelve library plans - Harrow Observer.   “The Keep Willesden Green group has asked Brent Council to stop the process which will see Willesden Green Library Centre demolished and rebuilt into a library and cultural hub.” … “The group has pleaded with the authority to Stop, Listen and Reflect because it claims it has not properly listened to local people, thousands of whom are against the loss of the treasured building, part of which dates back to 1894.”  Only 15 out of 220 people consulted were in favour of the plans.
  • Croydon – “Don’t close Upper Norwood Library, I really like it” pleads Errol, five and three quarters - This is Croydon Today.  Errol writes letter to council “He urged them not to close the Westow Hill facility because he liked it – even drawing a picture of himself running into the library with a big smile. And his efforts led to around 30 of his classmates at Rockmount Primary School, in Chevening Road, Upper Norwood, penning letters as well.”
  • Liverpool – Library protest letters - Alan Gibbons.  Joint letter from trade unions against three closures.  Another letter also makes interesting reading: “Residents of Speke, Childwall and Walton now have no access to a library at the weekend at all. Worse, people in most areas, including Old Swan, Toxteth, Dovecot and Breck Road, find their libraries open only four days a week. And Woolton, Edge Hill and Gt Homer Street now have no libraries at all! Libraries are a sign of a civil society, where people of all ages can meet, talk, read and discover. The pathetic sight of a locked and boarded up library, on a weekday, Saturday or Sunday in any Liverpool district, shames our council and impoverishes our communities.”
  • North Lanarkshire – Council bosses: Wishaw and Craigneuk libraries won’t close - Wishaw Press.   “… the total number of books withdrawn from all libraries across North Lanarkshire has more than halved in the last two years from 91,342 to 45,582″ … “The reduction in numbers of people borrowing books is a national trend and, while it’s disappointing, it’s important to remember that people are still using libraries and in large numbers, it’s just that they are using them in different ways; for example, film rentals, sessions for younger readers and dedicated areas for teenagers within our libraries. In addition, we have a huge online resource facility for people to use.”
  • Northamptonshire – Northants Libraries to open on Sundays - About My Area.   “The new opening hours will see 34 Northamptonshire County Council libraries open from 1pm to 4pm every Sunday and the Central Library in Northampton open from 11am to 4pm.” … “To allow Sunday opening, there will be a change in opening hours on other days, including some closures on a Monday or Tuesday. The new opening hours will begin from 16th April” … “I’m pleased to say we’ve actually increased total library opening hours by nine more every week.” … “A consultation about the changing opening hours was held earlier this year.  66.5% of people consulted said they could use the service on a Sunday.”

Dancing on the head of a pin

Ed Vaizey, in an apparent attempt to fight the criticism of him by his opposite number, Dan Jarvis, went on BBC Radio Surrey today. The full text of his interview is below.  Ed spent most of the time explaining the limitations on his power.  He explained that he can only intervene after all the plans are fully formed.  This means, in effect, when they have been implemented.  Up until that point, Ed maintains that it is up to local people to question how the decisions have been made.  And fight them.  And pay for that fight in the Courts. Some would question Ed’s interpretation of his job but clearly he has some well paid lawyers who have come up with why he can continue to be happy doing nothing. It is worth noting that Mr Vaizey has so far not seriously intervened at all, despite the deepest cuts in history to UK public libraries.  Cuts which he has failed to do anything abut so far have included (a) half of a council’s branches have been closed and (b) opening hours being cut by a third.  The interview only goes to show that he is going continue to find reasons for not doing anything.
Interestingly, though, he disagrees with his fellow Conservatives in Surrey County Council.  The Council, as you will recall, are in denial about the whole thing, claiming that they were pleased with the result and don’t need to change anything.  Ed, at least, accepts that Surrey lost the review and therefore needs to change its plans. 
 BBC Radio Surrey interview with Ed Vaizey
Ed: “Well, it’s Dan Jarvis’s job to have a pop at me as the Opposition spokesman but I think he is being unfair.  I have a duty, or rather, county councils sorry Surrey County Council has a duty under the 1964 Libraries Act to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service.  That’s a very important point to make.  This is a statutory duty and that is a duty that we saved.  The last Labour Government tried to get rid of it [not strictly true, they were thinking about consulting on whether it needed changing – Ian] but we campaigned against that.  So it’s still policy to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service.  But of course “comprehensive and efficient” has a very wide meaning and I have always made it clear that it is up to local authorities to configure their library service how they think it is best for the local population and whenever a local authority like Surrey goes through a process of change, there will be a discussion and I fully support the right of campaigners to campaign to change the mind of their county council.  That’s what local democracy is about.”

Interviewer: “Let’s bring in Mike Allsop [from Surrey Libraries Action Movement] here.  Mike, you have Ed Vaizey on the line.  What would you like to say to him?”

Mike: “Well, I think the starting point Mr Vaizey is there has been no discussion.  The authority prsented a fait accompli to the local population in libraries that were already operating as community libraries.  They were the places that people went to and congregated in.  We’re now in a situation where suddenly for a financial consideration – which is really quite small when you look at it, not a big saving, could be covered elsewhere – is suddenly put in.  “We will run these libraries with volunteers” – no-one had this discussion beforehand and when we looked at the plans, they were really ill thought out.  There was no real consideration to the depth of training required and for so many volunteers.  Eighty volunteers in one library, two hours training for the lead volunteers who train them …”

Interviewer: “Ed Vaizey?”

Ed: “Well, as I say, my power is to review whether the local authority is providing a comprehensive and efficient library service.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that there has to be a certain number of library buildings.  I just have to be sure that people have access to a good library service in their local area and that is what I have said I will do and I will review every proposal from every council that is changing library services and make a decision about whether or not call a public inquiry.”

“I don’t want to get too pedantic because I know that your listeners aren’t interested in sort of me dancing on a head of a pin but there are two separate strands, if you like.  The ability to review the way the council makes the decision and that is what has happened in one or two cases.  That is what has happened in Surrey, it’s what’s happened in Somerset and Gloucestershire.  That is different from my ability to review whether a council is still providing a comprehensive and efficient library service.    They are two different things.

If the local population or local campaigners think that their county council has made the decision in the wrong way they are entitled to judicially review it, which is what SLAM have done with Surrey County Council and they won that judicial review and the County has to look at the way it has made its decision again – but that’s not a power that I have.  I only have the power … and I can’t say whether I am happy with Surrey’s plans because I have to wait until I have seen the final shape of them before I make a decision about whether or not it is appropriate to have an inquiry about if they’re still providing a comprehensive library service.” Surrey Breakfast with Nick Wallis - BBC Radio Surrey.   2:39 to 2:47


  • Are volunteers the way to save our libraries? - Socialist Worker.  “Before the present crisis broke there were 7,000 volunteers, but they supplemented librarians. They did not replace them.”
  • Call to all our lovely friends in publishing and libraries from Urban Librarians Unite - Desk Set (USA). “Once again the mayor’s proposed city budget slashes libraries and once again Urban Librarians Unite and Save NYC Libraries are ramping up to push right back. You know us, we are the people who have the 24 Hour Read In, the Zombie Librarian March over Brooklyn Bridge, we hugged the 42nd Street Library, those librarians. Well we have big big big things afoot this year and your legions of leftovers can be part of it. Those tired old books despairing under dust in the corners can have new life as part of a dynamic library advocacy campaign.”
  • New York Public Library’s plan to take books off shelves worries scholars - Guardian.    3 million books to be be moved to two different storage facilities to allow for modernisation.  “To help pay for project, which has been estimated at more than $300m, the city will contribute $100m. The rest will come from closing two of the city’s 87 branches: the very busy, but increasingly decrepit, mid-Manhattan lending library and the Science, Industry and Business Library. Those collections will be housed in the new central branch space.”
  • Women’s Library campaign gathers steam with 5,000-strong petition - Guardian.  “Steam is building behind a campaign to save the Women’s Library, a London institution founded in 1926 and home to the oldest and most extensive collection of women’s history in Europe. The library, part of London Metropolitan University, is threatened with drastically reduced opening hours unless a new home, owner or sponsor can be found by December.”
    • Save the Women’s Library at London Metropolitan UniversityCare 2 Petition.   Aim was to get 1,000 names: currently at 4969 and counting.  “this Library is one of the most magificent specialist libraries in the world, having started life as the Fawcett Library in a poky, cramped, dark basement at Old Castle Street. With money from the Lottery it has become something that previously women – and men – could only have dreamed of. Women have visited from all over not just Britain, but the world.”
    • Vindication of the Rights of the Women’s LibrarySave the Women’s Library.  London Met UNISON site.  “Have you been to our events and exhibitions? Have you used the collections to aide your research or created something after seeing something cool? Have you ever visited with a school group or hired the building? Send your testimonials to:”.
    • Campaign to save the Women’s Library – Museums Association.  
  • “We need to unlock the potential of young Londoners” says Siobhan Benita as she launches education and youth manifesto - Kensington and Chelsea Today.   Independent candidate for London Mayor includes “Protect and improve London libraries  – bid for the Mayor to have strategic control  of  all London libraries” in manifesto.


Brent – Kensal Rise and Cricklewood library buildings handed back to All Soul’s College Oxford.   

Local News

  • Barnet – Petition to: Re-open Friern Barnet Library - Barnet London Borough.   Friern Barnet Library in its present place and shape is an integral part of community life in the surrounding area. We want a cheerful Local library. This is a chance for Barnet Council to show they ARE listening to local residents and reverse the bad feeling caused by the closure of this lovely library.”
    • Book lovers to launch a People’s Library in in Friern Barnet - Times series.  “The short notice didn’t really give anyone the opportunity to do things like bring their books back or pay their respects. It was all very sudden. “It’s the community coming together. The building may have gone but there’s still a need for people to read books, borrow books and this is our way of trying to carry it on.”
“We’d just like to say that the fight is NOT OVER. Roger Tichborne, owner of the Barnet Eye blog is setting up The People’s Library outside the now closed FBL this Sat, 14th April from 11am-1pm.” See The Barnet Eye to open a People’s Library at Friern Barnet next Saturday 14th AprilBarnet Eye.  “The concept is simple. Local residents are invited down to bring any books they have read and no longer require. The Barnet Eye will bring our collection, which were donated when we ran the original “Save Barnets Libraries” Campaign in September 2010. The local community is invited down to bring books and borrow books.”

  • Brent – Council hands back Kensal Rise and Cricklewood Library to All Soul’s College in Oxford - Brent & Kilburn Times.  The buildings were given to the council by Oxford University’s All Souls College in 1854 and campaigners claimed they had no objections to the community taking over the buildings. However, it was confirmed today (Wednesday), the two sites in Bathurst Gardens, Kensal Rise, and Olive Road, Cricklewood, have been returned to All Soul’s College. Kensal Rise Library in Bathurst Gardens has been handed back to All Soul’s College in Oxford. Furious campaigners claim that they would now have to pay to use the building at commercial rates or lease it out.”
    • Libraries land reverts to All Souls - BookSeller.   “The land to house Kensal Rise Library and Cricklewood Library was given to Brent council under the Literary and Scientific Institutions Act in 1854 with the purpose of providing libraries to residents. “With the closure of the two libraries as part of the Council’s libraries transformation programme, the purpose for use has ceased and consequently All Souls College has asserted its legal right and requested that the land is returned,” Brent council said in a statement.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – World Book Night celebrations in the borough’s libraries - Talking West Cheshire.   “Mayor of Ellesmere Port, Councillor Angela Claydon, will be joining library staff giving away books at the entrance to the Asda store at 4.30pm. Tarporley High School and Sixth Form College, together with the Council library, will be gifting books and everyone who comes along between 6pm and 8pm will be encouraged to bring a book and swop with others. Admission is £1. At Neston Library between 6pm and 9pm you can pick up a free book and solve the murder mystery during entertainment for all the family….”
  • Surrey – Paid library staff in Surrey should stay: campaigners - BBC.  “The open letter said there were serious questions about the effect of removing paid staff which had not been considered, but must now be considered thoroughly and put to the cabinet. Campaigners said the current plan was to offer volunteers two hours [sic] of training, which would cover use of library self-service points, customer registration, making book requests, identifying good quality books, understanding stock display and location and being aware of legal requirements relating to customer service.”
    • CC loses judicial review in its libraries: what does it mean?  - Consultation Institute.  “Mr Justice Wilkie has made some very interesting observations that will be important for those who organise consultations as well as those whose job is to meet Equalities legislation. And like many of the recent cases, it will prove just as relevant to NHS Managers, Police & Crime Commissioners (when we elect them) and all other public bodies; this kind of case is not really about Libraries, but about the way that decisions are taken to change public services”.  Council erred in law due to ignoring the consultation and deciding to do things regardless.  This was therefor poor practice and showed the consultation was merely a “tick box exercise”
    • Minister for Culture may launch enquiry into SCC’s library plans - Surrey Libraries Action Movement (SLAM).   Ed Vaizey, minister for Libraries, gets involved in a BBC Radio Surrey interview with SLAM chair.SLAM point out that this means Mr Vaizey goes against Surrey Council in several ways:  he accepts SLAM won the review, that Surrey need to review their plans and that he expects Council plans to change.  Surrey Council have publicly stated that they won the case (despite the judge saying their actions were unlawful) and that they do not need to change anything.
    • Community Partnered LibrariesSLAM.  Excellent letter to Surrey Council outlining SLAM’s position and the problems it has with the stance of the Council.  “”Dismissing the High Court judgment and announcing an intent to carry on regardless is an insult to the legal process and leads Surrey taxpayers down a precarious path. The County Council must now get serious, start taking responsibility for its actions and put in place a detailed plan to show how it is going to make good its substantial shortcomings. The letter informs the Council that the only way to mitigate the impacts of removing paid staff is to consult users of the service over what benefits paid staff bring. Only then can the Council understand what the impacts of removing staff would be and how they may be able to bridge the gaps with training or by other means.”

Sheer awesomeness


“The welcoming smile of my librarian
The anticipation in my heart
All those books—another world—just waiting
At my fingertips.”  from My first memory (of librarians) Nikki Giovanni

  • Cheapskates love libraries (it’s mutual) - Boing Boing (Cory Doctorow).  “Libraries aren’t just the mark of a civilized society — assembling, curating and disseminating knowledge to all comers! — they’re also a cheapskate’s best friend. Anyone who’s interested in saving money probably already knows about the free Internet access, daily newspapers, DVD and audiobook borrowing, and book lending (duh). But local libraries go beyond that — many host community meetings, book readings for kids, author signings, and workshops, as well as providing free or low-cost meeting spaces…”
  • Ebooks spur reading among Americans, survey shows - CNN (USA).  “E-book users tend to read more often than people who read only print material, Pew found. In particular, they read more books. A typical e-book user read 24 books in the past year, compared with the 15 books reported by typical non-e-book users. Also, a third of people who read e-content say they now spend more time reading than they did before e-books. This is especially true for people who own tablets and e-book readers.”
  • Judge weighs arguments in Simi Valley library case -  VC Star (USA).  “The union argues the city must follow a law about privatizing library services that took effect Jan. 1. Written by Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, the law requires cities to demonstrate that hiring a private company to manage public libraries would save money and not result in layoffs.”
Quotes about librariesPinterest
  • Redesigning libraries for today’s climate and tomorrow’s needs - Guardian (“Efficiency and Risk Hub”).  Article on library consortia (partnerships between authorities) “Typically a pilot authority trials the project before it is refined and rolled out to the whole network of libraries. Staff across the library service benefit from working with colleagues and in situations they would not otherwise encounter, and libraries benefit from sharing knowledge with colleagues across council boundaries. An expert member of staff can be called on to offer training to others across the whole group. Library visitors, meanwhile, benefit from faster, better services and the innovation driven by the group.
  • Travelling Librarian Award to the United States - CILIP.  “The Travelling Librarian Award is an opportunity to do a study tour in the United States for two weeks.The English-Speaking Union (ESU) and CILIP invite applications for the Travelling Librarian Award, from UK library and information professionals who are personal members of CILIP.”  Award is for £3000.

Local News

“I implied no such thing. We have had volunteers working alongside paid and trained staff in Gloucestershire Libraries for many years. Contrary to the title you gave my letter, I believe volunteers have much to offer the library service and  enhance it in many ways. However, I do not believe volunteers should be made to fund and run libraries themselves, reliant on philanthropy alone, or that libraries should be being discarded willy-nilly from the national libraries network.” Johanna Anderson from Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries on a letter printed in the Independent entitled “No volunteers at our library”.

  • Gloucestershire – Protesters blast “destructive” cuts to county’s libraries - Stroud News & Journal.  “With a few exceptions, GCC has duplicated the same proposals for individual libraries as the original review which was declared unlawful. We believe that GCC has been running down its library service for a number of years, and these further destructive cuts simply continue this trend.” 
  • Somerset – Library users given chance to shape services - Weston Mercury.  “Somerset County Council will carry out a public library users survey across all the county’s static and mobile libraries for a week from April 23. The nationally recognised survey asks users what they think of the service and their satisfaction with different aspects.”
    • Library users rate service in Bridgwater - Bridgwater Mercury.   “The Public Library Users Survey, PLUS, will be carried out in all the county’s libraries, static and mobile, during the week beginning Monday, April 23. The nationally recognised survey asks what library users think of the service, how satisfied they are with its different aspects, and some questions about the users themselves.”

How innovative is your library?


  • Action continues as people fight for libraries - False Economy.  Summary of the Speak Up for Libraries day and library lobbying activities.
    “The print edition of The Bookseller has a News Report by Benedicte Page reporting that the SCL is to have meetings with individual publishers over e-book lending, with licensing business models amongst proposals for discussion. Leasing e-books for a set time period, or a limited number of loans – the proposal favoured by Harper Collins a year ago, and at the time widely criticised – are among the options being put forward. Mark Taylor, chair of the SCL digital group is quoted as saying … that in the absence of Public Lending Right payments for e-books, a proposal for alternative remuneration for authors was “in the mix”. In the report Nicola Solomon, general secretary of the Society of Authors, questioned whether e-lending was a core service for libraries. “My personal view is that libraries are important as community spaces, and (that they) are maybe undermining their own value if they are e-book lending instead of physical lending.”  Desmonde Clarke (by email)

  • Canadian libraries: a tale of two authorities - Word With Jam.  Looks at two different Canadian library authorities: an expanding one in a prosperous suburb and the cuts-hit Toronto system.  “After ten days, the union concluded a deal with the Library Board that involved some compromise on both sides. But Toronto’s libraries reopened on 30th March with their workers in a better position than those in unions who had to deal directly with the City Council. Toronto still loves its libraries, even if the ‘Twin Fordmayors’ still don’t get it. ” 
  • Ebook prices should be halved - Telegraph.  Tim Coates: “Bilbary would also partner with libraries, allowing customers to buy books with the money going to their local library. The site has been working with library services in the US but Mr Coates said it was much harder to do the same thing in Britain. “It isn’t funding that’s the problem with the English public library system,” he said, “they’re so badly run.”

  • Is Dan the Man? - Spectator.  Profile of Dan Jarvis, shadow minister for libraries.  “This should give Ed Vaizey, his Tory oppo, the vapours. Dan’s not a natural for the arts. He’s a physical, practical chap full of army jargon about realities on the ground. But since he became shadow arts minister, I’m afraid he’s been knocking Vaizey for six. ‘I had a go at him again yesterday,’ says Dan with a grin. ‘He says that the library closures are local government’s fault. I say, that’s not good enough! He should show some leadership and champion libraries. Get out there! I asked him if he was a champion for libraries and he had to ignore the question because he couldn’t possibly say he was. No one could, except his close family. Ed was articulate in opposition, but in power he just doesn’t bother. Despite all his good ideas about libraries, Dan’s heart is really in defence…”

 Think like a startup: A white paper to inspire library entrepeneurialismReference Notes (USA).  This image demonstrates how far UK public libraries lag behind US ones – the vast majority of British libraries would be in “late majority” or “laggards” on this curve.  Few will have any idea what “visualization services” even means while 3D printing is the stuff of science fiction.  Survival is more the order of the day.
  • Michael Morpurgo: Hay Library Lecture - Telegraph.  “Michael Morpurgo, something of an international treasure now that his work has been taken up by Steven Spielberg, will be doing two intriguing events at Hay this year. The first is the inaugural Hay Library Lecture, entry to which is (ingeniously) by library card. The author of War Horse and Kaspar: Prince of Cats will make a passionate case for the importance of public libraries.”
  • Mobile library cuts to hit elderly and rural dwellers - Telegraph.  “Nearly a third of local authorities have reduced or cancelled their mobile library service in the last year, according to statistics obtained by The Daily Telegraph.”.  Uses CILIP survey data.  “28 per cent of the 174 library authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have reduced the number of mobile library vehicles that they operate over the last year.”
“In 2010, before the budget cuts, there were 430 mobile libraries in Britain. As 28 per cent of councils have since reduced services, it is estimated that around 120 of these vehicles may have decommissioned or put on reduced routes in the last year.”

  • Over 3000 village libraries closed for want of fundsLIS LINKS (India)- “Though the state government’s move to revive and strengthen the district libraries is a welcome step, many other libraries located at sub-divisional towns, blocks and villages also require government attention. More than 3,000 village libraries have been closed for want of funds during the past two decades. The condition of most of the village libraries is quite appalling. They lack basic reading materials, infrastructure and professionally qualified librarians. Most of them do not have money to purchase even daily newspapers. New books and periodicals are a distant dream.”
  • Sisterships - Naple Sister Libraries (EU).  A twinning programme for public libraries from different European countries.  The UK is, sadly, not participating in the programme.

Local News

Barnet – Save Friern Barnet Library video.  “A small collection
 and tribute to all of those that played a part in trying
 to keep our library open. Sadly, our efforts were not heard
 and our Cabinet decided to vote through the closure.”

  • Brent – Barham Pop Up Library (via email) “Friends of Barham Library are starting their Pop Up Library on Saturday 21 April between 10:30am & 2:30p.m. in the old Nursery Building at Barham School enrance from Danethorpe Road (off Norton Road) Wembley. Please come and support us and bring family, friends and neighbours. We plan to be open every Saturday until at least end of July. Volunteers and Help welcome – email: to offer help, donate more books, CDs, Dvd’s.”
  • Camden – Primrose Hill Community Library -   “We are a group of volunteers who came together to save our much loved local library when it lost all public funding in 2011. We have been inspired by the strength and spirit of the community backing our efforts –  thanks to 179 residents volunteering their time and 454 financial pledges totalling £574,515 we are set to take over the building from Camden Council on a 20 year lease.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Fighting pay cuts in Chester - Liverpool.  “I have just returned from the picket line outside Chester library where staff are fighting cuts in their pay and conditions. Tory controlled Chester council has decided to remove national pay enhancements the staff receive for working weekends, bank holidays and overtime. They are also cutting the rate for working nights.”
  • Doncaster – Opening: Children turn out for Eva - Star.   “Balby Community Library celebrated its official opening with a visit from civic mayor by Eva Hughes, who cut a ribbon to declare it open. She was joined by 50 pupils from three of Balby’s primary schools who attended the event. Members of the board which is managing the new venture congratulated the volunteers who attended the opening for their enthusiasm and dedication towards offering the Library service in a new way. It is one of 12 libraries which are becoming community-led.”
  • Kirklees – Cash for librariesHuddersfield Examiner (Letters).  “Donation boxes should be placed in all Kirklees libraries. Users of these should be encouraged to make a small donation, say 20p or 50p for each book borrowed or service used. At the end of the financial year it would show the level of support for those libraries under threat by the amount of donations they received.”
  • Liverpool – A sense of mourning, a need to organise - Alan Gibbons. “Three of Liverpool’s libraries have closed for good. The libraries, in Woolton, Great Homer Street and Lodge Lane, have been shut because the Labour council says it can no longer afford to operate them. Take just one of the libraries, Woolton. It was built in 1926, the year of the General Strike. It survived the Great Depression, the Thatcher recession and the downturn of the nineties and now it has closed leaving a hole in the community.” 
  • Northumberland – New chapter for mobile library routes - Morpeth Herald.  “The new service aims to provide regular fortnightly stops across the county as previously some areas were served by a weekly rota, while others had a three-week rota, and there will be longer stops in central locations. Now vans will stay in areas for 20, 40 or 60 minutes. In addition, the Monday service has been scrapped due to interruptions from Bank Holidays and a new Saturday route has been introduced in some areas to make it more accessible for people who work through the week.”
  • Nottingham – New home for library will be in “the hub of the community” - This is Nottingham.   “St Ann’s library closed this week and will move into the new St Ann’s Valley Centre….St Ann’s Valley Centre is the city’s fourth joint services centre and will be the hub of the community offering access to services including local GPs, housing, council and community services.”
  • Warwickshire  Villager re-open Dunchurch Library - Coventry Telegraph.   “Villagers have re-opened Dunchurch Library which closed due to budget cuts. Dunchurch Library was one of 16 libraries which had their funding withdrawn by Warwickshire County Council. It closed on March 23, but the parish council took over the management and the building re-opened on Tuesday, April 3.”
    • Delight as Studley community library goes live - Redditch Advertiser.   “The library closed on March 23 with a community group then taking over its management and launching a new service at the village hall. It will be part of the community hub at the village hall which also features a stage, cinema facilities, a café and a meeting room.”

Good Friday – Ebooks, equality, volunteers


  • Bilbary eBookstore now live - Digital Reader.  “When Bilbary was first announced last December, it was pitched as a rental service. That didn’t come to past, unfortunately, because publishers simply didn’t warm to the idea (except for the ones who have signed with Afictionado or launched Skoobe). They much preferred to sell ebooks, not rent them.This means Bilbary is really not much more than just another ebookstore.” … “Publishing is behaving like a legacy industry that is content to rest on its laurels. They’re making money with what they know works, so they see no reason to try something new.But that might change if print revenues keep dropping or if ebook revenues level off.”
“The trade publishers just weren’t interested in the idea of renting ebooks, and that’s because ebook sales are too good at the moment. They’re making a nice profit with a system they understand, so they see no reason to  potentially undermine it by introducing rentals to the market. According to Tim, ebook rentals might happen next year or the year after.”

  • Developing young audiences for the arts - Arts Marketing Association.  “There are loads of great examples of youth arts projects. Get it Loud in Libraries is run by Lancashire County Council and works with young volunteers to deliver live music events in libraries and offer amazing opportunities to young people.”
  • Equality comes off the shelf - Independent (Boyd Tonkin).  … once more, the successful challenge has not depended on the often-invoked Public Libraries and Museums Act of 1964. In the Surrey case, it was again the 2010 Equality Act – with its stipulation that public services should be equally accessible for all – that clinched the protestors’ legal argument. This swansong of the Labour government only completed its parliamentary progress in April 2010. It has since turned into rough music for Coalition ears.”
  • Future role for librariesLibrary Careers Centre.   “what is the remaining USP of libraries? What feature do they have, that the internet cannot offer? What benefits does this bring? One obvious one that springs to mind is – a physical space. A place to congregate. A place for direct person to person knowledge transfer, collaboration and sharing. I think libraries need to consider what activities, related to information and knowledge transfer, can only take place in a physical space.”
  • Privatised libraries, not an April Fool’s joke - Pulse (USA).   “Libraries are the most benevolent of all institutions, and every time I go into a public library, one thought recurs through my brain “Public libraries have to be the worst business model of all time, which is exactly the point. They are the one institution that no sane person could argue for privatizing.” … “On the whole, LSSI libraries are a mixed bag, just like an all-public system. I only bring up, such incidents only serve to prove that there is nothing inherent in the efficiency of private management vs. public management.” … “by its own admission through its business model, it doesn’t actually save city/county governments any money. LSSI takes the money it’s been budgeted, and then makes its cuts at will, and does whatever it wants with any money left over.” … ” do you really think a for-profit company would let kids just read off their fines when the bottom line is at stake? My point exactly.”
  • You and Yours - Radio Four, 21m to 29m.  Bilbary “aims to offer all the ebooks in the world”, including rentals as well as purchase.  Library campaigner Tim Coates is the founder.  Be able to “rent parts of books, not the whole thing” especially useful for students – rent individual chapters.  Prices should be cheaper than printed books.   Bookseller interviewee says that site especially sells backlist titles, not today’s bestsellers and that Bilbary will be a handy competitor to Amazon which  funnels people in one direction.

Local News

  • Barnet – Occupy: the residents of Friern Barnet take back their libraryBroken Barnet.  “The official closing time was 4pm, but an earlier shutting time had been arranged. In the end, the protestors stayed until six o’clock, until they felt their point had been made, and then left, to applause from the supporters waiting outside.” … “rather disgusted by the state of the loo, to which they had only been allowed access after protest by Councillor Salinger. Before that, due to the intransigence of staff acting on orders from on high, they had been obliged to make use of a One Barnet wastebin.” … “The library has been officially valued at the bargain, knock down price of around £400,000 – the price of a modest house in the area. In fact, like Church Farmhouse Museum and Barnet Museum, the official valuation is a nonsense, disguising the true value of the property and its grounds, and the development potential. Mrs Angry understands that the true value of these sites would take it beyond the limit whereby any proposed development would need scrutiny from a higher authority.”
“The battle for Friern Barnet library may have been lost, but the war against the petty tyranny of the Tory administration here in Broken Barnet goes on, and the strength of opposition has been galvanised by today’s events. Mrs Angry predicts a long, hot summer of discontent here in our troubled borough”

  • Buckinghamshire – £15k funding saves library - Slough & South Bucks Observer.  “Iver Heath Village Library was earmarked for closure as part of Bucks County Council’s (BCC) budget savings.But, after a business plan was put forward by secondary school teacher Alison Ward and residents, BCC offered the committee a £15,000 grant, over five years, to keep the library open. Committee spokeswoman Mrs Ward said: “There was a chance that the library was going to close. There’s a big meeting and we want people to come in and volunteer.”.  Library aims to open as run by unpaid from September.
  • Gloucestershire – Tempers flare as library cuts finalised in Gloucestershire - This is Gloucestershire.  “Bosses at the council have already said they are confident all seven libraries will be saved from closure, with plans to hand them over to volunteers well advanced.”  … “tempers flared as library services were effectively slashed across Gloucestershire – with one protester ejected from a council meeting.”Shame on you” was the cry as security told one resident to leave a Shire Hall cabinet meeting yesterday”
  • Isle of Wight – Keith Fagan interview - Vectis Radio.  Independent member of the ethical standards committee explains why he resigned his post over the leader of the council’s (David Pugh) remarks to the DCMS select committee on library closure.  Says the remarks made to the select committee was “misleading”, “I disagreed with a number of the facts being put forward”.  Keith chaired Bembridge Library User Group (BLUG) – group felt it was being “set up to fail” by council.    Lead officers saying one thing, councils another.  “A successful library, like Bembridge, deserved to stay open”.  David Pugh claimed “comprehensive survey” – but it wasn’t – only 5% of library users were sampled so “it was not comprehensive in anyone’s terms”.  County ignored 9000 petition.  Council asked groups to do equality impact assessment for them.  “The [council] lead officer said, if you don’t help me, I’ll have to make it up with the information I have” in front of a committee and a ward councillor.  Pugh said to DCMS that he had to impose 28% cut direct from central government – but this was actually only only half the truth.  Council has decided to cut the other half itself.  Bembridge costs £12k per year.  Council did not “test the market” for other services to share the building – Council had the time to “test” but decided not to.  Council decided it wanted to close the libraries at the start of the process and to force volunteers to take it over: not other options considered … long article that makes clear that Mr Fagan is a principled gentleman and should be listened to.
  • Kirklees - Council must learn from library court case - Huddersfield Daily Examiner.  “This situation highlights how much the paid, experienced and knowledgeable staff are the heart and lungs of the library service. Councillors, please do not insult the present library staff and system by suggesting volunteers could provide a better service. It must be crystal clear that Tom, Dick or Harry do not have either the commitment or the tools for the job.”
  • Warwickshire – Sad farewell ends library’s final chapter - This is Tamworth.  “Supporters of Kingsbury Library bid staff a fond farewell this week when the centre closed its doors for the final time.”


Amazon – its part in Friern Barnet’s downfall


Friern Barnet Library has closed, after a long campaign and a 3000 signature petition. Its supporters did not go quietly.  A sit-in attracted a fair bit of attention.  Claims by Barnet Council that money from its sale will go into a new library have been met with scepticism.  The main reason for the closure is, of course, to cut costs, with it “saving” the Council around £100,000, presumably on top of the money it will make for selling the building.
Which sounds like a lot of money until one considers a Guardian article that points out that Amazon paid no UK corporation tax on its sales of £7bn.  The £100m in tax it thus avoided is one thousand times the figure needed to save Friern Barnet.  Oh, and Amazon is avoiding paying VAT on ebooks in this country.  Let’s guess that’s another £100m (Yes, lots of guesses but stick with me: Book market 2010 equalled £3.3bn, guess ebooks are one third of that now, guess Amazon has half of the market therefore £500m at 20% is £100m).  Now that makes another £100m which is very sizable indeed.  So sizable, in fact, that a couple of sites have pointed out that Amazon may be at least partially responsible for the crisis in libraries
Now add on the fact that Amazon is hardly seen as a beneficial player to the books industry and it starts getting suggested that people who care for libraries should start reconsidering purchasing Amazon products.   Also, it looks like current ministers who blame the previous government for the current crisis should start thinking about cutting down on tax avoidance instead.  After all, the cost of illiteracy to the UK has been calculated at£81bn a year.  Now that’s a seriously big number.


  • Amazon: £7bn sales, no UK corporation tax - Guardian.  “The SEC filings, highlighted by Bookseller magazine, show that in the past three years, Amazon has generated sales of more than £7.6bn in the UK without attracting any corporation tax on the profits from those sales.” … £100m in tax would have been paid in the UK if it was based here, not Luxembourg … “Being based in Luxembourg means it can charge VAT on ebook sales at the local rate of 3% rather than the 20% VAT imposed on British-based ebook retailers.”
    • Amazon’s a “dangerous” force, says Ottakar’s founder - Guardian.  “Critics argue that Amazon, which sells dog food and nappies alongside the latest Booker winner, does not have the same duty of care to the retail markets it operates in as other sellers, for whom the trade is their bread and butter. “With great market power comes great market responsibility and I don’t get the feeling that the leaders of businesses like Amazon really understand that aspect,” said Heneage. “If you want a long-term successful market in which to operate you need to invest in it and I don’t think you would undermine the competition to the same extent.” 
    • Amazon closes UK libraries - Mindful Money.   “Google, which dominates the search market and the lucrative advertising that comes from it, is also accused of setting up a complex corporate structure to cut its effective tax rate.” … “Despite over £7bn in sales Amazon paid minimal corporation tax. This could have added £100m to public coffers, and halted the raft of library closures and public service cutbacks.”
    • Is it time to boycott Amazon? - Infoism.  “Every time a purchase is made at Amazon, potential tax revenues are leaving the country.  At a time of austerity and public spending cuts, can this really be justifiable?  After all, purchasing the same goods from another retailer based in the UK would ensure that money remains in the economy and result in an increase in tax revenues.  With that in mind, can we really argue the case against public sector cuts whilst also purchasing goods from a company that effectively leads to reduced revenue for the government and therefore reduce spending capability?” …. ” It seems fairly clear that Amazon sees public libraries as an obstruction to its plans.  It wants complete dominance of the book market and there seems little doubt its ultimate goal is to supersede the library service with its own lending model.  A lending model that can encourage ‘patrons’ to purchase more items from the retailer, creating effectively a captive market through the Kindle.”
“UK cost of illiteracy is $127 billion each year, the highest in Europe. Shout it to the rooftops. Hey Minister, leave those libraries alone.” Alan Gibbons.  Source of data is here.

  • As one library closes, others fight on - Guardian.   Kirklees (“There are real objections to this scheme in principle but an over-riding feeling of disbelief at the way the council has not consulted with the communities involved before asking individuals to come forward to volunteer”), Gloucestershire (“cynical excercise”), Upper Norwood (“a tussle between two councils is putting at risk a 111-year-old library that has been held up as a model of financial transparency”). 
  • Community-run libraries are part of the degradation of the service - Guardian (Comment is free).   “This is the crux of this issue – libraries are increasingly being run as community centres, not centres of education and learning for the community – and this change of purpose has made it possible for councils to put forward volunteer staffing of libraries as a credible option. With the educational purpose of libraries increasingly marginalised, they are seen as a luxury – an added extra – rather than a necessity, and in fact our library service doesn’t just need to be defended from cuts, but needs to be actively improved. The de-skilling of library staff is one key issue here. The fact is that many local authority library staff receive no library-specific training at all, and have no librarianship qualification. In 1980 33% of library service staff had an appropriate professional qualification – in 2008 it was just 21.4%.” 107 comments, many critical of public libraries.
  • Library holding zombie survival workshops for teens - Bridgeport News (USA). “Special activities planned at the main Burroughs & Saden library will include Zombie Introduction: Do’s & Don’ts, featuring a showing of Night of the Living Dead, Thursday, April 12, 6 p.m.; Zombie Gaming Xbox: Plants vs. Zombies, where participants can read the Center for Disease Control’s graphic novel and play the game, Thursday, April 19, 6 p.m.; Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness Kit Making, presented by Scott T. Appleby, CEM Emergency Management for Bridgeport, Thursday, April 26, 6 p.m.; and a zombie book discussion of “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War” by Max Brooks, Thursday, May 3, 6 p.m.” 
  • Phone box libraries stripped of all books - This is Somerset.  Two phone boxes have had all books stolen.  “”I expect that the books have ended up at car boot sales, or something like that. They were all marked, so we will be keeping an eye out for them.” Mr Ford said that the libraries would be restocked and appealed to residents to keep a watchful eye on the phone boxes to ensure they did not get raided again.”
  • Speak Up for Libraries Early Day Motion - Hobbit Hole.  Response by government minister Mark Prisk MP shows coalition’s side of the argument over library cuts. “While I do understand that some local authorities want to modernise services and make them more efficient, it is this Government’s belief that widespread library closures are by no means necessary or welcome. Indeed, many local authorities have managed to avoid closing a single library despite reductions in their budgets. Furthermore, while Labour is predictably trying to present any library closure as a ‘coalition cut’, the tight spending that local authorities are facing is a direct result of the last Government losing control of the nation’s finances.”
“This year’s theme for the Challenge is Story Lab which features four characters Lex, Rani, Will and Evie. Along with Aesop, the ginger labcat, they will help Professor Cortex collect and share stories to fireup young imaginations. An interactive Story Lab website will launch in June, enabling children to talk about their favourite books and reading experiences with top authors and illustrators. Story Lab also promotes libraries as a place of wonder for children, where librarians offer them invaluable advice.” News on the Summer Reader Challenge 2012, The Reading Agency. 


Local News

  • Barnet – Emotions running high as Friern Barnet Library closed - Times series.   “Supporters of Save Friern Barnet Library group and members of the public were reading books in the library and refused to leave when it closed at lunch time.” … “The group was banned from using the toilet at one point and had to make do with a bucket shielded behind a screen.Barnet Council has also turned off the water and electricity. After protesters gathered cash, pizzas and bottles of water were posted through a library window.”
“It is simply incredible that Barnet Council cannot see beyond the short-term financial gain of selling our library to the long-term harm this will bring to our community. In Friern Barnet, 1 in 4 children live in poverty and around 50% of local families have English as a second language – six schools are within a short walk of the library and will no longer be able to take pupils on regular library visits. The elderly and disabled, the jobless and computer-less members of the community will now have nowhere to go. Friern Barnet Library has been our community centre and our last remaining public space.”

    • Campaigners’ pleas fail to stop Friern Barnet library closure - Times series.  Grumbles and cries of “shame” followed Barnet Council’s decision to close Friern Barnet Library last night. In a last ditch attempt supporters of Save Friern Barnet Library Campaign tried desperately to tell the Cabinet how much their library means to everyone in the neighbourhood.”
    • Cultural demolition: Why Barnet has got it’s priorities wrong - Mr Reasonable. “…all to save a £100,000. Some people may say that is a lot of money and yes it is. However, in the first two months of 2012 Barnet Council paid over £500,000 to one set of consultants to advise them on the high risk One Barnet outsourcing project.” … “Thousands of people have opposed the closure of this library. The community have come up with a real alternative for the library as a Community Hub. Barnet should be proud to have such a responsive and constructive community but sadly all they care about is money. Friern Barnet library will be sold and a capital sum generated. Will the landmark library at the Arts Deport ever get built? who knows, but one thing for sure is that as of 4pm today the residents of Friern Barnet will have been cheated out of their local library and that is a disgrace.”
    • North London library occupied to stop closure - Socialist Worker.   “The Tory-run local council rushed to close the library’s doors today after its cabinet last night voted to shut it down.” … ““We’re a group of local residents—school students, local mums, a retired chap, unemployed people, a local teacher, an interpreter, an artist and others”
“They promised they would open a new library after the recently closed another, but it never happened,” she said. “This time they promised the same and we didn’t believe them. We’re protesting at the contempt the council has for local people.”

  • Friern Barnet library sit-in ends - Barnet Today.   “A sit-in at the now closed Friern Barnet Library came to an end shortly before 6pm today.  Demonstrators began their protest over Barnet Council’s cabinet decision to close the library in Friern Barnet Road before 1pm. Some 16 members of the public, including two children, were involved in the protest.” … “During the afternoon protestors put up banners inside and outside the library, which were met by hooting horns outside the library. Several councillors who supported the campaign also gathered outside, including Kate Salinger who spoke out at the business overview and scrutiny committee meeting against her Conservative party colleagues’ which granted the much-loved library a four day reprieve.” … “’Robert Rams, cabinet member for customer access, told The Press: ’We need to market it as soon as possible so we can get the funds to open it at the artsdepot. Financially we can’t keep it open as we will be jeopardising the other improvements we want to make.’’ This is the first I’ve heard of this: sell Friern Barnet to get the money to open its replacement.”
“the people occupying the library have been prevented from using the toilets. There are children in there weeing in a bucket.”

    • Residents in sit-in protest over Friern Barnet Library closure - BBC.   “”It is simply incredible that Barnet Council cannot see beyond the short-term financial gain of selling our library to the long-term harm this will bring to our community.” A council spokesman said: “We can understand why people who live close to the building may be disappointed to see this building close, but genuinely we think the new library will give a much better service to residents.”
  • Brent – Library campaigners hit out at court ban on volunteers - London Evening Standard.  Campaigners in Brent today criticised a High Court decision stopping a council’s libraries being transferred to volunteers.They said the legality of library closures is not clear and called on the Government to step in. …The Brent campaigners want to run six libraries after they were shut by the council. Brent SOS Libraries said the disparity of decisions coming out of the courts was “shocking”.” 
  • Bury – No plans for any “imminent” job cuts at libraries - Bury Times.   Libraries to be reviewed 2012/13. ““Members know that the library service is to be reviewed during 2012-13 and all staff will be fully involved at each stage of the process, which should be allowed to be conducted without it being used as a political football.  
  • Darlington – Library campaign group changes name – Northern Echo. “The Friends of Cockerton Library committee, formed after it successful lobbied Darlington Borough Council to keep the facility open on a part time basis, has been renamed Darlington Friends of the Libraries.” … ““Many support roles have been identified, for example, assisting with groups who meet in the libraries, cataloguing books, IT help for library users. We are working towards setting up a register of people interested in volunteering. However it must be stressed that volunteers will not be replacing permanent library staff.””
  • Gloucestershire – Library cuts of £1.8m agreed by council - BBC.   “Protesters have been ejected from a meeting called to agree £1.8m of cuts to the library service in Gloucestershire. The campaigners were escorted from the council chamber to a cry of “shame on you” as the new proposals were agreed by the county council.” … “A previous council decision to cut £2.6m and stop funding 10 libraries was reversed after it was judged unlawful by the High Court. Campaigners with the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries group have said they are considering further legal action.”
    • Fight to save council-run library in Lechlade is lost - Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard.   2012 cuts seen as a rewrite of the 2011 ones by campaigners.  Option of alternative funding by town council to save Lechlade Library rejected by county council. “”I’m amazed that GCC could reject, out of hand, a request endorsed by two town councils that achieves the targeted savings. “The consultation has clearly demonstrated a strong demand to retain a county library in Lechlade – why spend £60,000 on the process if they are simply going to ignore the results?” The town will now be forced to rally volunteers to run the library or face closing the service completely.”
“Once again I say to Mr White, Mr Vaizey and Mr Hunt. So much for your “campaigners must engage with local politicians” comments. Library users have been ignored, even when alternative viable plans were mooted. They were not even given the consideration. Still we await a response to our letters from Vaizey 3 libraries that met the published criteria to remain in council provision have been excluded for spurious reasons. The cuts impact the elderly, particularly women, twice as much as they do others. This is not the end of our fight” Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries.

  • Hammersmith & Fulham / Tri-Borough – Hammersmith Library set for revampSW Londoner.“This goes against the trend which has seen libraries closed down in a bid to save money across other London boroughs. The library will benefit from the scheme to save 21 libraries in the tri-borough area of Hammersmith & Fulham, Westminster and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The renovation follows the council’s success with Shepherds Bush Library in Westfield and its ‘More than a Library!’ approach.”
  • Liverpool – Stop library closures and culture cuts - PCS.   “Under the pressure of Tory / Lib Dem government cuts, Liverpool City Council is closing 3 libraries  with big cuts to opening hours and 76 full-time equivalent jobs due to go & National Museums Liverpool is planning to cut 1 out of 4 jobs in their venues. This will not only affect employees but also schools children and local communities. In 2008, Liverpool was Capital of Culture but 4 years later, it looks like the Culture of Capital. Come and discuss those issues at our public meeting.”
  • Oxfordshire – Volunteers still to run libraries - Oxford Mail.   “Oxfordshire County Council said its use of volunteers to run libraries will not be affected by a ruling which halted Surrey County Council’s plans.” … Oxfordshire “council had “clearly set out” the process. Volunteers are to help run 21 of the county’s libraries.”

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The full transcript of the interview is below…

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

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

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

Ends 7.57am