And then there were seven – Brent make a bad situation worse


So, not satisfied with closing half of its libraries and just to make clear to everyone that Mr Vaizey will not intervene in any circumstances, Brent goes and effectively closes yet another library for a year or two while it builds a smaller one.  Predictable uproar has ensued, with over five thousand people signing a petition.  By doing this, Brent Council have added new impetus to the campaign there, with another bunch of people becoming campaigners. It has also given campaigners another stick to beat the minister technically-for libraries over the head with.  Ed will of course explain it all away and continue to do nothing.  However, Brent makes it very hard for him to do so in any convincing way.  It also makes it harder still for anyone who supports his aggressively non-interventionist stance to be anything but unconvincing themselves. 
Just as another thought, that phrase “Save Our Libraries” seems to be occurring slightly too much to be put down to a few paranoid glass-completely-empty pessimist types.  Over the last two years, libraries have gone from being a much-loved but untalked about part of English culture to being roughly on a par with the Siberian Tiger.  If that doesn’t worry Mr Vaizey then let’s hope it worries the Select Committee. Or the extinction of the real local public library is, like the unfortunate big cat, a possibility… and the loss of the local library is going to directly affect a sight more British voters than the loss of Simba.
397 libraries (309 buildings and 88 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.


  • An interview with Jeanette Winterson - American Libraries (USA).  “I’m sorry that we’re now going through a very bad phase with libraries. The thought has been that (a) libraries shouldn’t have any books, and (b) they should be about the lowest common denominator.” … “.  Jeanette is not happy with what has replaced books in British libraries: “Lots of computer terminals, which is good; you need that. They’ve just stripped out the things they don’t think people will want, so literature isn’t big. There’s lots of chick lit. There’s lots of pulp fiction. There’s lots of airport fiction—all of that kind of thing that doesn’t really belong in a library. I’m very snobbish about libraries in that sense. If we’re going to have all that stuff, stick it over in a corner somewhere. Can’t we let the library be what it is, which is a place of excellence, and a place where you can find things you wouldn’t otherwise find?”
  • Campaign for a happy ending - Scout London.  “Spare a thought for the humble public library….”
  • E-Vaiz-ive - Alan Gibbons.  “These points were typed with the laptop on my knee in Central Hall, Westminster before the rally and lobby of parliament” … “He even dares rattle the sabre of intervention! This is an unbelievable performance. Mensch asks about professional librarians. He couldn’t conceive of a service being run without a professional librarian! How many have been sacked, Ed?” Interesting comment: “Another case which illustrates that UK Parliamentary Select Committees should have the services of a competent lawyer with experience in cross-examination as US Congressional Committees do.”
  • Half term report on Ed Vaizey -Alan Gibbons.   Copy of the very entertaining but entirely accurate speech by Alan Gibbons at the Speak Up for Libraries event. 
  • Is the internet a threat to libraries, reading and writing culture -News Day (Zimbabwe).  “For a progressive librarian or any advocate of reading culture, it is mundane to think of a library as a physical collection of books in this day and age.”
  • Movers and Shakers 2012 - Library Journal (USA).  The most impressive and promising public librarians almost entirely from the USA, although there are some international examples.  Sadly, none from the UK this year (there were two in 2011) but the list is a most impressive one.  As an aside, there appear to be some pretty cool dudes in American public libraries.
  • Music and drama on the move - Halifax Courier. Subject to legal agreements, the drama collection will transfer to Leeds Central Library and the music will be housed in Kirklees Library HQ on Red Doles Lane, in Huddersfield.”
  • Mutually beneficial arrangement? - Stop the privatisation of UK Public Libraries.  A look into the relationship between LSSI and Sue Hill Recruitment.
  • Public rallies in support of a fair countract for librarians - Marketwire (Canada).  “Librarians and members of the public rallied today in support of Toronto Public Library services, and against the library board’s threat to those services through provocative demands, days before a bargaining deadline.”
“If I had been turned loose in a massive book warehouse with the same degree of customer service now so invisible in megastores like Home Depot it would have been a vastly diminished experience,” he said. “Librarians to me were never cashiers or salespeople. They were mentors and fellow fans of literature with whom one experienced a feeling of community.” Robert Priest.

  • Save our libraries, they’re balm for the soul - Herald Scotland.  Of late, however, assaults on the well-being of the public library have been frequent and vicious. Always an easy target in times of financial constraint, libraries have watched in dismay as professional librarians have been made redundant, branches have closed or had their hours curtailed, and book budgets have been slashed. The effects of all of this are not easy to measure. But what those, including Julia Donaldson, the Glasgow-based Children’s Laureate and author of The Gruffalo, who have been campaigning against such cuts are clear about, is that it’s the less affluent who suffer from them the most.”
  • Speak Up for Libraries - Skilled paid library workers not unpaid volunteers.  A delegate at the day gives their view of the proceedings and the important points.  “The day got me thinking a lot. It suddenly dawned blindingly on me that I had been forced to leave my last library assistant job in a public library not just because of abusive, prejudice, and downright lazy management staff; but also in part because the restructuring to the service delivery/style”
“‘Libraries were to the mind what the National Health Service was to the body.”

  • Speaking up for librariesMorning Star.  “Culture Minister Ed Vaizey did not announce a review of the government’s demolition job on public libraries because he thinks it a good idea.”  
  • Top authors join protest rally to lobby No 10 on library cutbacks - London Evening Standard.   “In a snapshot survey of Unison’s London library workers and activists, three quarters said budgets had been cut, more than a third said opening times had been reduced and more than a quarter reported mobile library, outreach and home library services had been slashed.  It also exposed concerns about staffing levels, with 90 per cent reporting voluntary redundancies and 54 per cent compulsory lay-offs. Half said libraries in their area had closed.”
  • Vaizey dithers over library concessions - Morning Star. “During a day of protest against nation-wide library closures the minister suddenly announced a review of the impact of policy changes since the Con-Dem government came to power. Mr Vaizey blurted out the minor concession as Speak up for Libraries protesters held a major Westminster rally and he faced a grilling from MPs on the culture, media and sport committee.”
  • Vaizey offers CILIP an olive branch -  Peter’s Gazette via Alan Gibbons.  “Mr Vaizey said: “I would be delighted to sit down with Annie Mauger [of CILIP] and discuss the research she has undertaken . . . and to work with the Arts Council and local authorities where there might be concerns about the reduction of staff, but I do think people should meet half way. I do not think we should see this as an either/or—we have a library service either completely supported by librarians or completely supported by volunteers” 
  • Want better reading scores? Hire a full-time librarian – Care2 (USA).  ““There is a positive and statistically significant relationship between advanced reading levels and endorsed librarian staffing trends,” according to the report.”
  • Why our libraries are worth saving - International Business Times.   “the cuts give authorities the freedom to make easy savings while appearing to be filling their statutory obligation. They watch local libraries die on the vine, with the onus of responsibility shunted to the community. There is a reason the library debate has caused such vehemence. It is one of the few public services within which every user has their own personal attachment. No offence to the binmen, but you don’t get that with waste management services.”
“Government critics are keen to paint library protesters as characters akin to Steinbeck’s Lennie Small, hugging their libraries too tight to their chest, but that is a far better notion than relaxing their grip and realising too late that it has slipped through their fingers.”


North Lincolnshire - Proposals inc. 4.5 hours less per week for Scunthorpe Central Library, 5.5 hours less at Ashby Library, 3.5 hours longer at Barton
Suffolk – Government grant given for £250k for Industrial and Provident Society for new computer management system, split with council.
Yorkshire Libraries and Information Service - Music and Drama Library to be split up, with drama moving to Leeds Central Library and drama to Kirklees Libraries HQ.  

Local News

  • Bolton – Axed libraries to close next month – Bolton News.  “The last of Bolton’s five axed libraries will close next month. Astley Bridge Library will close on April 5, Bolton Council said last night. A neighbourhood collection point, which will replace the library, will open the following week in Oldhams Children’s Centre, in Forfar Street.”
  • Brent – Willesden Green library campaigners surround building - Harrow Observer.   Dozens of local people surrounded the centre on Saturday, on the second day of a two-day exhibition to display the plans for a new cultural centre to the public. On Monday, a petition to save the library from demolition was handed in at the Brent Council officers with more than 5,000 signatures.”.  Replacement library in plans is apparently smaller.  “The ‘Keep Willesden Green’ campaign has now joined the Brent SOS (Save our Six) Libraries group.” … “The campaign development comes as All Souls College in Oxford, has reportedly given the community permission to run a volunteer-led service at the closed library building in Kensal Rise.”
    • Minister should order meeting with Brent library campaigners - Brent Council Liberal Democrats.   “According to Mr Vaizey the key difference between the councils [Wirral and Brent] is that Brent Council carried out an “extensive and significant review of libraries”. Brent campaigners claim that the review is flawed and failed to directly engage with users most affected by the cuts.”.  DCMS met with the council but not with campaigners.  Also, the council has failed to explore the volunteer option, unlike Ed’s stated preference.
    • Willesden Green library campaigners join Brent SOS - Harrow Observer.   The Victorian Society is also unhappy.  [Are Brent Council normally this prone to bad publicity? – Ed.]
    • Willesden Green demonstration attracts thousands - Preston Library Campaign.   “Preston library campaign with our friends across Brent worked hard to inform Willesden residents about the threat to their library. Willesden is the biggest and most expensive library in Brent, the “success story” that leader Ann John falsely compared to our own beloved Preston library. She kept telling us how great Willesden was, why that would stay open and ours would close instead. And all the while, plans were afoot to close and demolish it. Which means there will soon be only 5 small libraries left in Brent, and some badly need to be rebuilt.”
    • Almost 6,000 people join the fight to save Willesden Green Library - Brent and Kilburn Times.  “Nearly 6,000 people have signed petitions to save Willesden Green Library Centre from demolition. In a remarkable demonstration of community action, hundreds of people rallied outside the library in High Road, Willesden, on Saturday, to stop Brent Council from knocking down.”
  • Cornwall – Panic rooms “will ruin town’s library” – This is Cornwall.   “Fitting CCTV, alarm buttons and panic rooms in Bodmin Library, the town’s new One Stop Shop, has been dismissed as “health and safety gone mad” which will ruin the library.” … “A number of libraries are undergoing similar work to accommodate One Stop Shop staff, who offer help with council services including housing, benefits, council tax, business rates, refuse and recycling.”
  • Darlington – New Friends group forms to secure library future - Northern Echo.  Cockerton Library: “After its success the original group decided to retire and was replaced by a group of seven local people at a public meeting last night, where they pledged to work with the council, schools and community groups to ensure that the library remains a well-used facility.”
“Lynne Litchfield, libraries manager at Darlington Borough Council, attended the meeting and confirmed that employment law would make it illegal to allow volunteers to take over the duties of librarians who have been made redundant.”

  • Dorset – Charmouth Library to be handed over to Friends in September - View Online.  “The Cabinet noted that it would be impossible for the Friends of Charmouth Library to take over the running of the building unless the roof and heating system were put in good order before the official handover in September, which it was agreed to do. However, further requests for set-up grants were turned down, meaning the community of Charmouth will have to raise funds themselves to refurbish the damp-stained interior of the library, buy new furniture needed to create an internet cafe and finance all the costs involved while the library is established.”
  • Gloucestershire – Protesters who lobbied government over library cuts received praise in GloucestershireFoGL. “Chairman of the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries (FOGL) Johanna Anderson said it was clear going back to Victorian methods of funding libraries through philanthropy was not going to work. “There has been a general deterioration of libraries for a long time and the last government got rid of the library standards where authorities had to meet certain criteria,” she said.”
    • Fairford residents could decide fate of Lechlade Library - Wilts & Glos Standard.   “in a last push to secure a partnership library service with GCC, Lechlade campaigners have asked Fairford to hand over the nine additional library hours that they were awarded from the county council last year.”
  • North Lincolnshire – Reduced library opening considered for Scunthorpe and Ashby but boost for Barton - This is Scunthorpe.  
  • Oxfordshire – Libraries aren’t in crisis, says Vaizey - Oxford Mail.  “The Wantage MP spoke out as campaigners celebrated the 40th anniversary of a library in his constituency. Grove Library marked the milestone after surviving the threat of Oxfordshire County Councils cuts in 1998 and again in November 2010.  The library is one of five in Oxfordshire – along with Chinnor, Faringdon, Wheatley and Woodstock – that will now see volunteers making up a third of the staff after the council scaled back planned budget cuts.”
  • Suffolk – County’s Libraries to get a computer update from government - EADT.   “library service is to get a major software update as it is being transferred to a new not-for-profit operation. The county’s libraries have linked up with the Cambridgeshire service to get a £250,000 government grant to introduce the software which should improve the service it offers customers.”.  Not clear what the money is for but it appears to be for financial management.
  • Surrey – SLAM lobbies Surrey MPs in Parliament - Eagle Radio.  “Pressure group SLAM – that’s the Surrey Libraries Action Movement – are in Westminster today for a rally and lobby.  They’ll be joining up with protesters from all over the country, including a new alliance called “Speak Up For Libraries”.  They’re warning that budget cuts and underfunding will mean libraries across Britain are facing a “bleak future”

Two sides of the coin


On the one side, we had the ever optimistic Minister for Libraries, although Ed Vaizey did look initially a bit defensive at the Select Committee Inquiry into Library Closures. With a bunch of library protesters (wearing proment Save Our Libraries t-shirts) sat behind him plus the boss of the library professional body CILIP sat behind him, this was perhaps not a big surprise. He boldly went on with answering the committee but dealt with questions that he did not like by answering questions that he made up that he preferred.  Ed did, however, eventually, answer the question asked how many libraries he has directly saved by saying, at the end of a long speech, “none”.  He sees this as no bad thing, though.  You see, for Ed, this is all a wonderful exciting opportunity for libraries rather than a crisis.  He even suggested that the cuts represent “huge opportunities” for librarians to employ volunteers and went on to extoll the dubious example of phone box containing library books in Philadelphia.  
To the amazement of those sat watching him close by at the Speak Up for Libraries event, he suggested that there was no difference between his campaigning position outside of government and his inertia within in.  The solicitors have told him, you see, that if he met campaigners or cutting councils personally that that might prejudice him.  He also seemed to say that the Charteris Report on libraries basically allowed councils to close whatever they liked as long as they followed a certain procedure beforehand.  When pressed, though he did announce that he will produce a report in 2014 analysing whether the current changes/cuts are good or bad for the library service.  The report will doubtless say that the changes are for the good but it is one of the few actions (apart from his proud boast that he has written three letters) he has promised in the last two years.  In a fit of action that doubtless left him dizzy, Ed also promised to meet CILIP to talk about the impact that cuts to librarian staffing levels (down by a fifth just in one year) are having on libraries.  Being he appears to think that such cuts represent as “huge opportunities”, it is unlikely that this will not be a meeting of minds.
The Committee will now weigh up the evidence and produce a report which Ed says that he will read with interest, if not any actual action.
The other side of the coin was the Speak Up for Libraries event held a few hundred feet away from Ed in the wonderful Central Methodist Hall.  Even before the event started it had already scored a triumph in getting the message into the national media.  However, it was more than that.  Between 200 and 300 people from around the country attended to speak to eachother, hear the speeches and, ore importantly, to lobby politicians.  Several MPs made a special trip to the event with over a hundred campaigners returning the favour by going to Parliament after the event.  What was clear from it is that, despite Mr Vaizey’s rose-tinted spectacles, there are serious cuts happening to libraries and he is fooling himself and failing to fool others if he thinks otherwise.  It was great to see that Dan Jarvis, the energetic new Shadow minister for libraries, appears to get it about the seriousness of what is happening.  He was dead on the money comparing what is happening to libraries and cuts to the days of Dr Beeching and cutting local railway stations.  However, to compare Mr Vaizey to Dr Beeching is to suggest that Ed is actually doing something, albeit something destructive.  He is not. Rather, he is finding a multitude of reasons to do practically nothing – and that, in this current terrible climate for public libraries, is far more damaging than anything that was done to the railways.
397 libraries (309 buildings and 88 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.


  • 20 great ways libraries are using Pinterest - Online Colleges.  A puff piece for Pinterest but interesting despite that.  “Librarian Dawn Krause uses her Pinterest account for a wide range of purposes, but an especially cool one is collecting crafts, books, and materials that appeal to teens. She’s got loads of resources on young adult favorites like The Hunger Games, a practice other libraries looking to boost teen readership could emulate.”
  • Battle over library closures intensifies - Telegraph.   “Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has agreed to demands to produce a report by 2014 assessing the impact of changes in the library service for “good or bad”.” [He knows that it will decide, whatever the evidence, that it is good – Ed.]
  • Campaigners welcome Vaizey’s reach-out to CILIP - BookSeller.  “Library campaigners have welcomed MP Ed Vaizey’s offer to speak with the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) about library staffing levels but others have condemned the culture minster for offering “too little, too late”.”
  • Jarvis calls Vaizey “Dr Beeching” of libraries - BookSeller.  Mr Jarvis spoke for ten minutes on public libraries at the Speak Up for Libraries event, slamming Mr Vaizey for his inaction and suggesting what appears to be realistic actions for the Government to take.  The full text of the speech by Dan Jarvis is here.
  • Justin Tomlinson MP: How to revamp our libraries - ConservativeHome.  Stresses that libraries are in decline but stresses their importance, saying councils must not “sleepwalk” into closing them.  “Significantly, libraries must address the fact that they are only spending 7.5% of their budget on book stock. We would not see a commercial bookshop spending such a small part of its budget on books. Local library managers, who understand their own individual communities, should be given the opportunity to spend money on books to get people back in.”. In an echo of Mr Vaizey, Mr Tomlinson stresses the opportunity that volunteers provide.
“We need to have a modern and more flexible library service in order for it to survive at a time of tightened budgets, competing interests and technological developments. This must be led by the needs of the community through looking at choice, opening times, environment, and innovation. Improving the library service as a whole by reviewing spending according to these local needs will ensure that they remain relevant and utilised for future generations.”  Justin Tomlinson MP

“Why will I be speaking at the rally in support of libraries? Because I want children from homes where there are few if any books to have the chance to discover the world of reading. I want those children who find homelife too distracting, unnerving or (sometimes) downright dangerous to have somewhere to do their homework where they feel happier or safer.” Philip Ardagh about the Speak Up for Libraries event. Library campaigners to lobby Parliament - Telegraph.

  • Libraries face a “bleak future” - Press Association.  Ruth Bond, chairman of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, said: “As champions of libraries for the last 96 years, WI members are dismayed to see the Government stand by while our library service crumbles. “With libraries and library staff under threat from a fatal combination of closures and service cutbacks, our leaders seem to be watching in silence while the library service is gradually eroded. Action to safeguard the future of the library service is long overdue.”
  • Libraries face “ongoing struggle” from budget cuts - BBC.   Tim Coates (“e-book entrepeneur”) on the Breakdast Show.  “More than 100 libraries are either being run by volunteers or have closed down completely, according to a study by Unison. Library campaigner, Tim Coates, told BBC Breakfast that protecting libraries from closure is an “ongoing struggle”. He suggested that savings could be made from simplifying administration of the public library service. “The budget cuts shouldn’t be cutting the basic community library service on the front line,” he said.”
  • Libraries get political - Spectator.   “The political battle over library closures has intensified. Earlier this morning, shadow culture secretary Dan Jarvis chastised libraries minister Ed Vaizey for being the ‘Dr Beeching of libraries’. Jarvis said that Vaizey should not be so ‘short-sighted’ as to permit 600 libraries to shut in England. He urged the government to intervene to save these ‘vital assets’, adding that not to do so would make a ‘mockery of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act’.”

“The appearance of union provocateurs may please the government, but a petition of 70,000 signatures gained by the Women’s Institute will spark unease among Conservatives who are conscious that they have not connected with female voters” Spectator.

“It’s a generation since Dr Richard Beeching published a report which led to the closure of a third of the UK rail network, in what was subsequently seen as an act of monumental short-sightedness. Today, the threat faced by our libraries may not yet be on quite the same scale—though with around 600 of them currently under threat, and hidden cutbacks in hours, staff and books undermining them from within, it is real enough.” Dan Jarvis MP.

“Vaizey rejected the accusation that this said ‘the government is happy if the courts are happy.’ He explained that his officials had met with council representatives and library campaigners from 7 local authorities, and added that their advice is forthcoming. He has persistently refused to be drawn on whether the government will intervene, but the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is clear that further public inquiries will only be called in the event of a ‘very good reason’.”

“Sir, Public libraries are being squeezed hard not just by disproportionate cuts to the service in many authorities but also by the escalating corporate charges imposed by councils on their libraries. According to data published by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, charges for councils’ corporate services have increased over the past decade from 8.6 % to 14.6 % of library services funding, a 70% increase. Are we surprised that authors, librarians and library users will descend upon Parliament to protest today? Desmond Clarke” Library protest (letter) – Times. (behind paywall) 

  • Library crisis: Ed Vaizey says staff cuts an “opportunity” - International Business Times.   Video of Ed Vaizey at the Select Committee.  “Cuts to professional library staff across the country should be seen as an opportunity rather than a failure of the service, the culture minister claimed.  Ed Vaizey was giving evidence to the culture, media and sport committee as part of its inquiry into library closures on the day authors and anti-cuts protesters rallied outside parliament.”
“You have to be realistic and use the resources you have as effectively as possible.There are huge opportunities it’s important to reflect upon. “The depressing thing is that the library issue is stuck in a binary debate about closures and a crisis in the library service and we should be thinking creatively and even open more libraries in community library areas.” [Ed Vaizey continues to see the glass half full rather than three-quarters empty – Ed.]

  • Library protesters to rally in LondonIndependent.   Brief item.  “Libraries across the UK have been plunged into crisis due to public sector cuts, campaigners will warn the Government today. Protesters will rally in London ahead of a select committee hearing on library closures. More than 100 libraries have closed or been forced to run on volunteers.”
  • Speech on behalf of Voices for the Library at the Speak Up for Libraries rally - Infoism.   “And what has the government done? Across the board they have held up their hands and blamed the councils. With the introduction of academy status for many schools, they have held up their hands and blamed the schools. And yet we’re told that every child should read 50 books a year. Where will they get these books?”
  • Top authors join protest rally at no 10 on library cutbacksLondon Evening Standard.   “In a snapshot survey of Unison’s London library workers and activists, three quarters said budgets had been cut, more than a third said opening times had been reduced and more than a quarter reported mobile library, outreach and home library services had been slashed. It also exposed concerns about staffing levels, with 90 per cent reporting voluntary redundancies and 54 per cent compulsory lay-offs. Half said libraries in their area had closed.”
  • Why we need to lobby to Save Our Libraries - Huffington Post.   Tim Coates describes the need.  Looking at the political history of public libraries.  “Public officials simply do not understand why libraries are important – and that is because they are all of an age and an income which, for some reason, makes them believe that libraries are a thing of the ancient past. Politicians and the political class have really let people down over libraries – it is frankly shocking that ordinary, intelligent, articulate, kind people are having to protest to Parliament over an item which costs next to nothing in the national budget. But they are right to do so, and it is a mighty frustration that has brought them out on the streets.”.  Politicians also underestimate the potential power of libraries and, through inaction, are letting them fade.

Local News

  • Calderdale – Cuts to opening hours of library are reduced - Halifax Courier.  “Rastrick councillors said the reductions were unfair compared with proposals for other libraries. Ann McAllister (Con, Rastrick) said: “The proposed cut in hours at Rastrick took no account of its use, or its popularity. “Rastrick councillors have consulted with users and staff and made strong representations in defence of the library. As a result, we’ve secured a change of heart.””
Mr Vaizey, We were astonished to see you sit in front of the CMS inquiry today and claim to “have respect for library campaigners”. Ignoring our letters (see below) is not only disrespectful but is also incredibly rude. Please treat us with the respect you claim to have and answer our letters. It has now almost been three months. Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries” A letter sent by FoGL in January and signed by hundreds of people, including prominent celebrities, has still not had any reaction from the DCMS or Mr Vaizey.

  • Isle of Man – Mobile library is lifelineIsle of Man Today.  “An essential lifeline will be lost unless Education Minister Peter Karran MHK reverses his decision to close the Mobile Library. That’s according to the customers reporter Jackie Turley spoke to when she stepped on board the service as it visited homes and Westlands elderly persons’ housing scheme, in Peel.”
  • North Yorkshire – Successful library campaign a “massive positive” - Gazette & Herald.    “Campaigners say the success of battle to keep their North Yorkshire village library open in the face of funding cuts is a “massive positive”.” … Barlby Library saved as it will be co-located with police and even pension advice.
  • Suffolk – Trust turns libraries into HIV hubs - Newmarket Journal.  Unfortunate headline perhaps.  “During the week from March 20 to 23 information stalls will tour libraries in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft where trained staff will be on hand to provide free information and advice.”

It’s not an Open or Shut Case

Ed Vaizey

Defensive posture, looks uncomfortable

Staffordshire is not cutting libraries.  They’re “entitled” to do this.  Spectrum of cuts from none to a lot – many have been “reconfiguring” their libraries for a number of years.
Are they an easy target?  (resilient use though) – They’re not in crisis, usage has stabilised.  Down to charities including The Reading Agency. All are doing it [but one has dropped out that he is not aware of – due to not having enough money].  Sat with CIPFA and will sit down with ACE to use statistics to keep libraries open e.g. spending too much on admin.  Did not answer question.
Chief Executives being paid more? It comes down to local accountability.  Electorate should ask council why they have decided to pay more to councillors and closed libraries.  “They should justify the salaries they are paying”.
You were a fervent advocate of intervention in 2009, what’s changed?  My job was in opposition.  I did not believe libraries were in crisis then.  Closure of libraries are acceptable inc. Wirral and one in Swindon.  Ed visited Swindon and the Wirral.  “I took the view that Wirral justified a public inquiry”.  Found against the Wirral because they did not do a library review, just a buildings review – you need to engage with how library services are using the service.  Charteris Review gave clear guidance.  Ed has written to each English authority to remind them of the Review and will assess deicsions based on the Review.  1964 Act makes libraries statutory – authorities still need to provide a comprehensive and efficient service.  “My officials have sat down with seven local authorities that have been high profile” and discussed the process and impact.  Officials then advise Ed.  No-one wants the statutory power to be removed.
Wirral was proposing nearly half the libraries, Brent has closed half of its … what’s the key difference? Brent had undertaken a review thinking about demographics.  The two court judgements in Brent shows that they have.  Tower Hamlets has closed half of its libraries and has renamed them Ideas Stores but Whitechapel is the third most visited.  The Idea Stores are extremely popular.  Sometimes you have to make tough decisions.  “We will have to evaluate submissions” made on the case.
What is a needs assessment? Some people in need won’t be filling in council survey forms.  Have you met the Campaigners there?  I haven’t the campaigners, my officials have met the council.  My advice as a Minister was that it would prejudice my decision if I met Councils and Campaigners.  Clear indication from Ed is that he will not be intervening.
Is it that if the Courts are OK with the decision, you are OK with it too?  Isn’t it your decision?  I’m not saying that. We have to analyse in the department to see if it is comprehensive and efficient.
If you’re a champion of libraries, how many library closures have you stopped? I believe I am a champion as I have engaged with library authorities eg. tri-borough merger of libraries.  Future Libraries Programme has made a difference.  The Arts Council will make a difference.  DCMS will call in changes for councils and I have written to authorities on three occasions.  I can’t claim one library saved.
Comprehensive and Efficient – how integral are professionally paid staff? Librarians are the core of any local authority but they don’t need to be in the frontline all the time.  There’s always been a debate – e.g. 1962 Bourdillon Report talked about the opportunities to use non-professional staff.  Highly trained librarians are quite rightly an expensive resource.  They’re the core.
The number of librarians has declined.  Does that worry you?  We have to be realistic and use librarians as effectively as possible.  Debate is stuck in binary debate about closures.  Librarians can train up volunteers and open more libraries.  If libraries are about the books then we should think creatively.  Ed likes libraries in a phone box.  Inside a book it shows one where the nearest library is.  Councils should be offering the services of librarians to create more volunteer-run branches.
9% is spent  on books.  A big cost is professional staff. What impact do you think the decline of librarians will have? Has the DCMS done any work on this? We have to be realistic and “delighted” to work with CILIP to see how significant decline in librarians is.  Volunteers in libraries is not a disaster and our societies would not survive without them.  It’s not an either/or.  Hillingdon’s focus is on customer service and engaging with library users. 
Volunteers are not a threat to professional librarians and provide a “great opportunity”for librarians.  Libraries taken over by volunteers can be open longer, have better stock and run by locals. “A balance has to be struck”. 
To what extent are volunteers a means to replace paid staff with free staff?  Where a council examines its service and there’s an opportunity for volunteers to save a library that would otherwise be closed, that opportunity should be saved.  Community Libraries do not replace a council-run service.  DCMS does not see volunteer-run libraries as statutory. 
Are there any plans to monitor this?  This will now happen.
Suffolk planned closures but, after consultation, libraries won’t close but there will be a contracting out of libraries to a volunteer-run organisation. Is that a good idea?  Authorities can look at a range of options.  Hounslow is privately run.  Who the council decides to run the library service is up to the council.  It’s “exciting”. 
Comprehensive and Efficient – Should there be any definitions?  I’d be interested to see the Select Committee’s views on this.  “Comprehensive” means range and spend of stock. 


1964 Act is very clear – needs to be free?  Any possibility of charges?  None.  We’re not going to.  Happy for charges to be made on other items. 
Why do you think that you and Mr Hunt are better than Mr Pickles? Mr Pickles is more scary.  Librarians can fall into quite a few departments – e.g. Education, DCLG, DMS – we should all have an impact on libraries policy. 
Will volunteer run libraries wither on the vine? I will commit to looking at how such libraries are doing by 2014.

Does ACE have the resources?  MLA had already been cut in half when we took over. ACE has enough resources.  ACE is spending more than the MLA [nonsense] on libraries.  “I have very strong confidence” that they will be a great resource for councils and libraries. 
London boroughs altogether? Recommend Desmond Clarke’s mailing list “An example fo the Big Society in action”.  We need to look athe CIPFA statistics.  Boris did “mutter” about a London library service.  We’ll see how the London boroughs and electorate react.

Speak Up for Libraries, because Mr Vaizey most likely won’t


Some excellent publicity already for public libraries in the Guardian, the Mirror and by the BBC.  I understand that there will be many BBC local radio news items on the event tomorrow and on BBC Breakfast.  A letter in the Guardian is signed at the top by the General Secretary of Unison and by the Chair of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes.  The other names on the list are no slouches either.  Superb.  Whether it will have any impact on Mr Vaizey who is giving evidence ot the Select Committee on Library Closures in the morning is another matter.  We’ll see. 

I will be attending the lobby and hope to produce a report for this website.  I also hope to see many of you there.  If you do come along, look out for the bald man wearing spectacles hugging a black laptop and say hello.

National: Lobby your MP to help public libraries, 13th March. Website:  Download flyer here.
397 libraries (309 buildings and 88 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.


  • Efficiency call for VaizeyBookSeller.  When asked what he would like to hear Vaizey say, Coates said: “What he should do is think constructively about how to improve the library service. It is not about cutting money from the budget, it is about improving things with the money that is available. It is shockingly shameful that these people coming to demonstrate tomorrow, who believe that a society and children should have libraries and access to books, are forced to come from miles [away] to make this point to parliament.”
Coates, who is due to appear on BBC Breakfast television tomorrow to speak about the library spend figures, told The Bookseller: “This has been the trend year-on-year over the last ten years. Money has been spent on the wrong things and it is senior management in local council who should be held responsible. They need to roll up their sleeves and get themselves immersed in the job of budgeting better.””

“The problem is at national level now. Libraries are a local thing but it’s such a mess now that this is a national emergency, which is why we’re bringing in the MPs,” said Laura Swaffield, chair of the Library Campaign. “The main reason for the rally is Ed Vaizey’s appalling reluctance to do anything at all, no matter how much damage is being done to public libraries. That is the reason the select committee is looking into library closures.”

  • Philip Pullman: We’re failing our children - Mirror.  “The most common ­tribute to the public library is when ­somebody says: “It opened up the world for me when I was a child.” I want that sort of experience for every child. The sort of reading that really takes place here – the sort that really makes a reader out of us – is reading for pleasure, which government after ­government has paid lip service to while working to prevent it.”
  • Pick your monopoly: Apple or Amazon – Washington Post.   Increasing dominance of online bookselling means that soon a monopoly of bookselling will emerge.  Or a duopoly. Implicatons examined.
  • Public library budgets - Good Library Blog. “Actually last year the public library budget in England went down by three percent. It may go down by more in the next set of figures, but somehow, I doubt if it will really be nuked in the way we have all come to expect. Local councils simply can’t do things like that to themselves – they don’t know how to.” … “The book funds have been allowed to decline from 12% of spend to 6.5% – which is dreadful and explains why people are reading less in libraries. And the charges on the library service that pay for council overhead costs (not library overhead costs) have gone up from 8% to 14% – and that is truly truly shocking.”
  • Save the library: save the librarian - Fromthemindofinapj.   “Often, libraries are the first to go.  They are seen as an easy target, all-too-often it is claimed they are rarely used, or as was said in my local area, are ‘white middle-class privileges’, or worst of all, libraries are held up as an either/or choice – either you have youth services or libraries, old people’s centres or libraries, community centres or libraries.  All of these were lies in my area; it is a poor borough, a multi-ethnic community and the libraries were not only already the community centres, they were the only place the poorer (who also tended because of racism/disablism to be the non-white and non-able-bodied members of the community) could get internet access for job searches, community information and for the children, the only place they could do their homework.”.  [Excellent post and not just because it links to this website – Ed.]
  • Support for Libraries - Guardian.   Short letter signed at top by UNISON and WI and then by a lot of authors and campaigners.  Impressive.
  • Ten things I didn’t learn in library school - Letters to a young librarian.  Some very real issues – such as vandalism, mental health and violence – that people don’t normally associate with libraries.  [As a public librarian, I recognise all points listed – Ed].
  • Tri borough scheme boosts savings target - UKauthorityIT.   “The flagship London shared services programme, involving Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea councils, has scaled up its savings target to £40 million a year across the three boroughs by 2015/16, up from a previous forecast of £33m a year.  A new tri-borough progress report was tabled on 7 March during a meeting between the three councils’ leaders and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.”.  Shared services approach includes merging management of libraries “At a time when other councils are looking to close libraries, we have kept all our libraries open.”


Local News

  • Dorset – Libraries to be run by volunteers - BBC.  In July 2011, the Conservative-led county council voted to withdraw funding from nine libraries to save £800,000 a year by 2012. Under the new plans the council would provide £5,500 a year for staffing, books and IT services, with other costs covered by the volunteers. Mr Chaney, who is also chairman of the Friends of Puddletown Library, said volunteers at his local library would be paying about £3,500 a year for rent, lighting, heating and insurance.” [NB. Volunteers are taking over as no other options are open. It’s been a long hard fight in Dorset – Ed.]
  • Isle of Man – More than 1000 visit Family Library for open day and protest - Isle of Man Today.  Many politicians also visit.  “Angela Moffatt, negotiations officer for the union Prospect said the libraries now had many new members. She said: ‘The libraries have been starved of promotion over the years and it’s ironic this is how they get it.”
  • Kent – Go online to browse through report on library services - This is Kent.  “The report, carried out by Kent County Council, has been prepared for each library in Kent. It shows the services offered, the number of people borrowing books and annual running costs, as well as information about the communities each serves.”  The remarks are used: “We try to promote Ramsgate library, we have quiz nights and a reading garden but I think it would be a good idea to have more social events at the local libraries. It would also be useful to have more volunteers to help out. We used to have a users’ association where people would come in for an hour or so just to help out with unpacking books etc.”
    • Top of the borrowers - This is Kent.  Tunbridge Wells is the most popular library in Kent, its usage and that of others looked at, including possible reasons.
  • Kirklees – LettersHuddersfield Daily Examiner.   Shepley Library user angry that council wants to force people to volunteer to keep library open or it will close.  Another letter is angry that closures appear to be directed at rural communities.  Three letters in all.
  • Scottish Borders – Late library opening is council’s carrot - Advertiser.  “The late opening in Selkirk of the library until 7pm on Tuesday and, for the first time, access to other council services on a Saturday are two innovations which Scottish Borders Council hopes will receive the blessing of townsfolk, writes Andrew Keddie. Selkirk is one six Borders towns in which the libraries and contact centres are being integrated in a bid to save the cash-strapped council £130,000 a year in employee and property costs.”.  Public are sceptical. 
  • Shropshire – Save Oswestry Library - ipetitions.  “Hello, I am Antonia Higgins, I am 15 years old and I live in Oswestry. A new topic has been brought to my attention and I fear the place I adore the most in Oswestry is going to be ruined.  Shropshire Council is working with other public and voluntary sector organisations in Oswestry to create a ‘one-stop shop’, located in Oswestry Library.”
“I strongly oppose the idea that the entrance to my Library could now be over-crowded every day with people using the ‘Council office’. As everybody is aware Libraries are a place of sanctuary and quiet, but with now more than 57 cases last year of verbal abuse reported against council officers at Shropshire council reception desks, the peace and quiet will disappear. Do we really want this in an environment where children & adults come to learn and take advantage of this fantastic facility?”

  • South Tyneside – Councillor backs cuts: even if it will cost him his seat - Jarrow and Hebburn Gazette.  The Cleadon Park representative believes the savings should be ploughed back into the borough’s under-pressure library service. As part of savings, it is proposed to cut the library budget by £242,000 in 2012/13, partly through a reduction in opening hours. Coun Elsom said: “We should be expanding our library service, not reducing it. “If we went to the public and asked if they wanted fewer councillors or library cuts, I’m sure they’d support a reduction in elected members.”
  • Southampton – Union to promote libraries campaign in Southampton - Southern Daily Echo.  “Public sector union Unison will be promoting its Speak up for Libraries campaign in Millbrook, Southampton, tomorrow as part of national campaigning activity. An information stall will be set up near the Tesco superstore in Tebourba Way. Free bookmarks will be handed out to the public. The Conservative-led council has replaced some librarians with volunteers and self-checking technology to cut the wage bill but kept libraries open in the city.”

How diminished we will be

397 libraries (309 buildings and 88 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

National: Lobby your MP to help public libraries, 13th March. Website:  Download flyer here.


  • Another library is possibleLibrary Journal (USA).  A couple of advertisements in the most recent issue of Library Journal jumped out at me. One was an ad for library furniture with the tagline: “Want to look more like a bookstore?” Uh, do you mean like that big empty hole where Borders used to be?”
  • Language of leadership - Sue Hill Recruitment.   “A number of wry smiles were raised at the question of whether restructuring and severance programmes were being conducted on a truly strategic and sustainable basis, or simply on the basis of headcounts and political expediency.”  One librarian commented on the “on schadenfreude of finding their own redundancy resulting in no less than 5 new staff being taken on in another hemisphere”
  • Outsourcing public librariesKojo Nnamdi Show (USA).  “Cash-strapped communities across the country have outsourced services ranging from trash pickup to tech support. But in a trend that’s sparking debate around the country, more and more cities and towns are hiring outside contractors to run their public libraries. Some see the move as a savvy way to save money, while others worry about the implications allowing a private company to take control of the neighborhood library. We explore both sides of the issue.”.  Cutting public library funding was the second most popular choice in states last year.  LSSI declined to appear on the programme.


Aberdeenshire - Inverurie Library extended, library app for smartphones.
Blaenau Gwent – £15k cut as two mobiles to be replaced with smaller vehicles, increasing visits to homes and “community venues”
Cambridgeshire – Staffing increased at larger libraries to replace “reserve” system of having staff throughout county on call. 
Middlesbrough - Mobile library will end on March 31st, £50k cut.  £20k of this to move to housebound service. 
Wandsworth – Friends groups to start as pilot at Tooting and then be rolled out: to provide funds (inc. for maintenance), publicity, volunteers, other assistance.

Local News

  • Aberdeenshire – Library gets bigger and better - Inverurie Herald.  “Inverurie Library launched a new range of initiatives last week, designed to mix the best of new technology and the area’s rich history. The extended library was officially opened by Aberdeenshire Provost, Bill Howatson.” … “The expansion of the library means it will also encapsulate the Carnegie Museum, and will continue to exhibit items in dedicated display cases. A ‘pop-up’ museum service is currently being trialled across Garioch, which sees small collections of museum artefacts circulated between libraries to complement the static museum service.”
  • Bath and Northeast Somerset – Tories didn’t always support mobile libraries - This is Bath.   “the Lib Dem group had – readily – accepted the Conservative amendment to retain the mobile library service at least for another year and whilst the present consultation exercise is still ongoing.
  • Blaenau Gwent – Libraries set for changeSouth Wales Argus.  “There are currently two mobile libraries serving the county – one which directly caters for 196 housebound and visually impaired customers, and one which serves communities more than two miles away from a library building and visits 36 stops a week. Under the new plan, agreed by the education and leisure scrutiny committee last week, the council will have two smaller vehicles that can cater for more home delivery customers and help to set up and maintain frequently changing collections in local centres.”
  • Brent – Council “pays £70,000 a year” for library closed to cut costs - London Evening Standard.  “Neasden library, one of six to be axed by Labour-run Brent, was closed four months ago. However, Liberal Democrats on the council claim it is locked into leasing the building until at least 2022, for £55,000 a year, as it recently renewed the lease. Business rates and maintenance charges take the annual cost of the building to more than £70,000, they said.”  Library had recently undergone a £300,000 refurbishment too. [Good grief – Ed.]
  • Cambridgeshire – Staffing at Huntingdonshire libraries goes up while opening hours go down - Hunts Post 24.   “Cambridgeshire County Council libraries employ 41 full and part-time staff. But from April 1 new opening hours and staffing structures will see 11 more staff as the council replaces a system reliant on reserve staff to fill gaps when employees are sick or on leave.”
  • Devon – Sidmouth: New library technology gets a mixed response - View Online.   “The new and modern self issue machines were initially criticised for their lack of human touch, which many local library users are used to. With the introduction of the hi-tech machines, another major change in the library was the removal of the main help counter reinforcing the initial concerns. However, a week in and staff at Sidmouth Library are settling in with the changes thanks to the help of extra relief staff from Exmouth, and the new technology is growing on library users.” … “Staff have been reduced across East Devon libraries in a bid to save money and prevent library closures and cuts to funding for books and other resources.”
  • East Sussex – Readers urged to complete survey on libraries’ future - This is Sussex.    “The county council has launched a three-month review to look at how it provides rural and mobile services in villages such as Forest Row and Hartfield.”
“We have been on the streets collecting petition signatures as we are doing this on paper as well as online. Nine out of 10 people just sign straight away – even when they think cuts are needed, they don’t think that nurseries and libraries are the places to start.” Isle of Man – Protest against library and nursery closures - Isle of Man Today.   1900 signatures so far.

  • Kirklees – LettersHuddersfield Examiner.  “We’re told we now have five weeks to save Golcar Library. Volunteer now, Kirklees says, or we will close it down. This is an ultimatum, not a consultation. How quickly we can get rid of a proud public library service that has existed for 163 years! How diminished we will be!” … “It doesn’t have to be this way – there could be a real debate on what we want from our libraries in the 21st century, how to prepare for the digital future and libraries investing in e-books.”.  Two other letters also angrily dispute the wisdom of forcing volunteers to run libraries.
“Will he stop the closure of libraries? 18 libraries remain open but another three require £3million in repairs. We are talking to partners and community organisations to find ways to keep library services present in these areas. It’s been really tough to find the cash to keep these services going following another £50million cut in our budget from the government.” Liverpool – Anderson answers - Liverpool Echo.  

  • Middlesbrough – Nunthorpe gran is so sad to lose library link - Gazette.  “The service cost the council £50,000, however £20,000 will be reinvested in the housebound service. Of the £30,000 net saving, as part of the £13.8m budget reduction for 2012/13, £21,000 is for staffing and £9,000 is transport costs. Mrs Yolland’s daughter Linda, 62, a retired teacher, added: “For the community it’s a big loss but a big thank you for everything they have done over the years – it has been brilliant.”
  • Monmouthshire – New-look Chepstow library re-opened - Free Press.   “Chepstow Library was officially reopened last week after a £120,000 refurbishment … The refurbished library offers customers improved internet access, with free wifi and laptops available for use within the library.”

Some campaigner posters are more professional from corporate library ones.
    • SLAM’s tour de Surrey - SLAM.  Excellent review of the volunteering situation in Surrey, pointing out that each library and community is different, none were properly consulted, none thought that volunteers were a better choice than council run, none thought that being without a paid member of staff was an improvement, 60-100 volunteers needed per branch, self-service machines unreliable, reserving via “buddy libraries” unsatisfactory.
  • Wandsworth – Residents help shape future of libraries - Wandsworth Council.   “Friends of Libraries groups could be rolled out to libraries across the borough to create more community involvement in the service. Wandsworth Council has agreed that a Friends of Tooting Library pilot group be established as a model for the creation of similar groups across Wandsworth.” See Save Croydon Libraries Campaign for a response to this article. 
  • West Sussex – Council spends £100,000 on “how to wash your hands” video - Telegraph.   Well, £100k on that and 91 other films that have had 100,000 viewings in total but still….  “The figure has angered residents who have seen big cuts in other services, like day care for the elderly, bus routes and library opening hours.”
  • Worcestershire – Full circle for library as hall plan mooted –  Malvern Gazette.  “Speaking at a meeting of Upton Town Council, Councillor Simon Speers said he had “floated” the possibility of incorporating the library and TIC, and even other services such as the police station, into Memorial Hall.”

Suffolk branch manager quits over plans


Things are not starting well for the experiment that is the Suffolk Libraries Industrial and Provident Society (IPS).  Readers will recall that Suffolk have decided to pass all of their libraries to this social enterprise initially run by an unelected board.  The manager of Aldeburgh Library has resigned at the policies of this board, the chair of which is heavily involved in his branch.  The policies in question include gaining more than half of the income of the library from self-generated income such as increasing charges and fines.  The chair of the IPS, Clive Fox, appears to have tried to present this resignation as a retirement.  This is not the first worrying thing done by Mr Fox. He had, according to previous reports, called library campaigners “rent a mob”. Hmm Suffolk Libraries IPS? That acronym of SLIPS seems strangely accurate.
399 libraries (309 buildings and 90 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.


  • Commuters face peak rush hour rail fare rises - Telegraph.   “Other changes could see libraries, post offices and supermarkets selling train tickets as hundreds of ticket offices are closed. According to Department for Transport officials this could see ticket selling machines being installed at outlets across the country, where staff would also be given special training in servicing rail passengers.”
  • Out of the toy cupboard - New Statesman.   Article by Michael Rosen: “children’s authors are rarely asked for their opinion on how to get children reading. Why not? We know far more than politicians.” …”One moment they’ve tried to control the selection, the next the pedagogy about it, the next its removal – whether by replacing it with barking at letters (phonics), an explosion of worksheets and tests based on excerpts (not whole books) or by closing libraries. This has gone on even as minister after minister has unconvincingly blethered on about this or that great author they once read or wished they had.”
  • Ultimate library: online archive aims to collect a physical copy of every book in existence - Mail. “Mr Kahle is worried that as volumes are increasingly digitised their paper versions are being thrown out, raising the prospect that one day the originals will be unavailable. And if the digital copies are somehow corrupted, the knowledge those books hold could be lost forever.” … “Every week, 20,000 new volumes arrive to be archived, many of them donated by libraries and universities who no longer have space to store material that is, in any case, often easily found online.” … “Mr Kahle’s archive stores books in specially adapted 40ft shipping containers. Each holds around 40,000 books in a carefully controlled environment to stop them from spoiling.”

Local News

  • Barnet – Union which defeated outsourcing tells its story - Barnet Today.  “At Barnet Unison’s annual general meeting last Thursday John Stevenson, president of the Edinburgh branch, told members how they successfully lobbied councillors to reject the proposals, breaking a coalition council in the process.”Barnet Unison secretary John Burgess told The Press the meeting proved it was never too late for councillors to change their minds. “The danger here is it’s so ideological,” he said. “There seems to be no room or scope to even listen.””
  • Brent – Fresh hope for campaign to save Kensal Rise Library - Brent & Kilburn Times.   “The Oxford University college which donated a library to the community closed by Brent Council has said it would be happy to let residents run it. Kensal Rise Library, in Bathurst Gardens, was a gift by All Souls College, and was opened by American author Mark Twain, 111 years ago. However, Brent Council closed the Victorian reading room in October last year. But this week a spokesman from the college wrote to the Friends of Kensal Rise Library and said: “All Souls College has contacted the council via its solicitor to inform them that the college would be happy to consider the library being kept open as proposed in the business plan prepared by the Friends of Kensal Rise Library.’ The ball is now in Brent Council’s court.”
  • Brighton and Hove – New Woodingdean library plans up for discussion - Argus.   “Brighton and Hove City Council and the NHS plan to create a modern facility at the centre of the community on the site of the current 1950s library in Warren Road. It will also include a new GP surgery for Dr Sagar and Partners, which will be relocated from The Ridgway in Woodingdean. If approved, the plans will expand the library space to 269sq m, almost double the current size, with extra facilities such as a computer suite.”
  • Camden – Alan Bennett says proposal to put Rio statue on Primrose Hill is a “foolish idea” - Camden New Journal.   “The diarist and playwright was speaking at “An Evening with Alan Bennett” – a £10 benefit for the Primrose Hill library campaign, which sold out [400 tickets] in just 10 days.”
“So far, £543,000 has been pledged for the library by 403 people, and 156 have said they will give up their time to run the newly refurbished library. Two weeks ago it was announced that the group would be given a 20-year lease from the council with the first six guaranteed rent-free.”

  • City of London pressed to sign Heath Library deal - Camden New Journal. “The City of London has been told to “get on with it” and sign a deal with a voluntary group fighting to keep Heath Library open. A letter sent by Camden Council leisure chief Labour councillor Tulip Siddiq has asked the City to back the plans, adding that the Town Hall is willing to hand over a cash pot worth £124,000 to make the scheme viable.”
“The City, the richest local authority in the UK with trust funds and assets worth billions, is reportedly delaying signing a deal as it is unsure whether it will maximise income from the site. It has a duty to use the buildings it manages there to promote the poet’s [Keats] works.” 

  • Doncaster – Mayor vetoes extra money for the borough’s libraries - South Yorkshire Times.  
  • Dorset – Calls to help Dorset libraries at risk of closure rejected - Dorset Echo.  Members of the council’s cabinet approved the latest proposals to allow them to move forward with the handover of control but turned down a specific request for additional resources to start up the new community libraries. But they promised to leave libraries in a ‘reasonable condition’ when they hand them back over to the community.” … “The Salvation Army has played down suggestions at the meeting that it could offer an unlikely lifeline to Portland Underhill libary.”
    • Council says no to extra help for community libraries - Daily Echo.   “Mr Davies said: “We will not be spending the money on these Labour Party plans when we already have a system that works with volunteer-run services.” However, Mr Davies added that if ward councillors in Carcroft and Denaby came to him with a good case and enough volunteers he would consider re-opening libraries in those areas.” … “The amendments received 43 votes in favour, six against and three abstentions.” [But the mayor’s veto meant that they were not carried].
  • Kent – Comprehensive library survey to indicate future of the serviceNews Shopper.   “Discussions about the service in each district and how else it could be delivered will begin in the next few months, Kent County Council said, with proposals made as early as June in some areas.Individual profiles for each library have been drawn up, including the number of borrowers and the running costs, and can be viewed at”
  • Lincolnshire – Chance to help town’s library - Market Rasen mail.  “The library is now one of several across Lincolnshire that has a donation box for residents to make financial contributions to its book fund. Lincolnshire County Council’s head of libraries and heritage Jonathan Platt said: “We already buy hundreds of new titles each year for our library network. These donation boxes allow people to make a voluntary contribution to their library, which will enable each of the participating sites to buy more books for their customers.””
  • Nottinghamshire – Mansfield Library visitor numbers double after £3.4m refurbishment -  Chad. “As we celebrate World Book Day, the attendance at our libraries and the success of Mansfield Library since January reaffirms our commitment to the library service and demonstrates how the community values its libraries. We are especially pleased with the figures at Mansfield Library and hope people are enjoying the new facilities.”
“Iain Rousham who left Aldeburgh library at the end of February says that Clive Fox, chairman of the new countywide library organisation and the Aldeburgh library Steering Group, initially wrote in the Group’s press release that Rousham was retiring.  Iain asked for this to be changed so it reflected more accurately that he had resigned. Rousham has  made it clear that he disagreed with the plans put forward by the Steering Group and its refusal to consult further with Aldeburgh people after the county council promised all libraries would stay open.” Suffolk – Library manager resigns over policy of chairman of new Suffolk libraries organisation - Suffolk Wordblog.  

    • Aldeburgh Library Manager quits due to disagreements with Clive Fox, Suffolk IPS Chair - James Hargrave’s Blog.   “This is embarrassing to both Suffolk County Council and the IPS and it appears Fox attempted to present Rousham’s departure as a “retirement” when it clearly was not.” … “To my mind the appointment of Fox as Chairman is looking more and more like a mistake and it will be interesting to see if he survives this early embarrassing incident.” 
  • South Tyneside – Friends aim to overcome library service cuts - Shields Gazette.  “Help is needed to stage fundraising efforts to support book readings, workshops, craft sessions and other community events. Council bosses have pledged that despite spending restrictions, no borough library is to close, but there are plans to reduce opening hours.”
  • Surrey – Permission transcript - High Court of Justice.   The full decision made by the judge to disallow the council’s objections and to allow the judicial review.

“To hell with this” : Doncaster Mayor won’t fund libraries as he thinks it would deter volunteers


The Mayor of Doncaster, Peter Davies, has said that his council will no longer continue to provide paid staff in fourteen libraries directly because he wants volunteers to do it instead.  He said “”If you put some paid people into libraries run by volunteers the likely scenario is the volunteers will say, ‘to hell with this, they are getting paid I am doing it for nothing, I am not sticking around”. What makes this even more tragic is that the money is available to provide staffing but Cllr Davies said that providing it would send the “wrong message” to communities if he provided it and he even overruled the majority will of Doncasters’ councillors to stick to his guns.  This is the most stark example yet of the politicisation of volunteering.  Ironically, the mayor is sending far more of a wrong message by his statement.  He is openly stating that volunteering will directly lead to people losing their jobs.  What makes the situation even worse is that local people are not exactly falling over themselves to work for nothing to do something that used to paid for by their council tax anyway.  Two branches, in the most deprived wards in Doncaster, have already closed.  They could not attract enough volunteers.  Many of the twelve others that the mayor is keen to offload onto the community are struggling to get sufficient interest.
This is hardly the rosy image that those in favour of the Big Society would seek to convey.  Of course, what the outspoken mayor is saying publicly is what many councillors around the country are thinking privately.  By doing so, they are changing the goodwill and love for a public service into a destructive force. Volunteering should be an unalloyed good for a community and, if done properly, can be of tremendous positive impact in a library.  What is happening in Doncaster and elsewhere in this country is a destructive perversion of that ideal.

It’s not going well in North Yorkshire either. This from the Private Eye (Issue no.1309 9-22 March Library News p.28):

“When North Yorkshire shelved its plans to close many of its 42 libraries last year (Eye 1279), the county council fended off a vociferous Save Our Libraries campaign by announcing it had high hopes that all the threatened branch libraries would be “saved” by local communities.

By the end of this January, library chiefs were reduced to rather frantic begging for volunteers via local press, saying that working for nothing in the library could offer young people “work experience” while also providing opportunities for anyone feeling “lonely or isolated”.

In Hunmanby, near Scarborough, the whole plan was scuppered when, despite having 25 people prepared to give up time to man the library desk, no willing volunteer coordinator could be recruited and no viable scheme had been put forward in time.  So now, instead of a library open four days a week and offering children’s activity clubs as well as books and community internet access, the village will just get a fortnightly visit from the county’s mobile library.”

399 libraries (309 buildings and 90 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.


  • Culture, Media and Sport Committee announces final evidence session on library – “Tuesday 13 March 2012. “Following the Comprehensive Spending Review, a number of local authorities announced plans to close one or more libraries in their areas, sparking campaigns and protests. The Committee is investigating what powers and obligations the Government has regarding these closures. For its final evidence session on library closures the Committee will take evidence from: At 10.30 am: Ed Vaizey MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries), Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
  • How to get ahead in … library services - Guardian.  “Local library staff are being trained to show customers how to access potentially life-changing advice and information online in a pilot scheme which could create a new national library service. Sixty libraries have been recruited to eight pilot projects looking at how libraries can direct library users to quality internet advice and information about finding a job, changing career or keeping healthy.”
“Although cuts are hitting library services Taylor says staff training and development budgets for digital skills are surviving. “In my authority we still have the same budget for digital training we had two years ago. We are using the skills of colleagues who are more advanced in the field, but we still put people on external courses because we felt it represents value for money.”

made for Save Our Libraries Day, 2011.  A year old but still great to watch.

  • Returns sorter removes tedious library jobHutt News (New Zealand).  “Books, CDs, DVDs and magazines put through the library’s returns slot will have their RFID (radio frequency identification) tags ‘read” by the automated sorter, which will update the library database to show the item has been returned. The machine will be pre-programmed to sort the books into five category bins using conveyor belts.” … “At Brisbane central library there is a large glass wall and people just stand there watching the sorter.”
  • Shared service benefits at conference - Public Service.   “Personnel from local government and public libraries across the UK are expected to gain the knowledge needed to set up their own consortium – or to implement shared services or shared working on a smaller scale – when they attend a consortia conference organised by two of the largest public library consortia, the London Libraries Consortium and LibrariesWest.”

Local News

  • Bath and Northeast Somerset - Recycle an ex-library book into a work of art and win a prize - This is Somerset.  “”The idea is for members to pick up one of the old books from their local library and ‘recycle’ it as a piece of art. We’ve have already had some members of staff attempt some quick pieces of their own to inspire people.”
  • Devon – Campaigners to carry on Sidmouth Health Centre fight - Sidmouth Herald.  “The Herald reported last week how county council bosses said £600,000 allocated to Sidmouth Library – seen as the catalyst for the regeneration of both amenities in Blackmore Drive – will be spent across Devon.
  • Doncaster – Volunteers could save the day for Denaby Library - South Yorkshire Times.   “At the meeting a Labour motion that 14 of the 26 libraries the council closed receive £382,000 to keep them open was passed. The decision included re-opening Denaby and Carcroft libraries. Many of the other sites have been taken over by volunteers. But yesterday Mr Davies said he would veto the spending. Under the borough’s governance procedures the mayor has the final decision on almost all policies.” … “Mr Davies said he had provided £110,000 additional funding to help libraries but Labour’s plan could send the “wrong message” leading to communities not supporting libraries.”
    • Mayor defends decision to veto £380,000 libraries investment - Yorkshire Post.  ““As I understand it, I cannot spend the money on anything else, but I am not prepared to spend it on the libraries as suggested because my policy is already successful. So the money will be placed on one side. The Labour party spent years neglecting libraries in this borough and my policy was to close two and hand 12 over to the community to save money. We plan to go to town on the other 12 and make them much more welcoming and brighter, not the run down, dowdy places they were under previous Labour administrations.”
“Mr Davies said under the elected mayoral system he had the right to spend or not spend the money as he wished and would overrule the council for the first time in three years. He said: “If you put some paid people into libraries run by volunteers the likely scenario is the volunteers will say, ‘to hell with this, they are getting paid I am doing it for nothing, I am not sticking around’.”Ms Holland said: “I am appalled by the news that the mayor will ignore this vote and refuses to wake up to the fact that Doncaster people want to see community libraries supported and closed libraries reopened.”” Mayor of Doncaster refuses to open libraries - BBC.   English Democrat Mayor overrules (Labour) majority of councillors and continues with plans to withdraw staff from 14 libraries. 

  • Durham – Inspire, include, inform: library consultation - Durham Council.   “Our proposals are: to keep open all our library buildings, but reduce the opening hours funded by the council, to revise our criteria for the communities that are served by our mobile library service, to co-locate libraries wherever possible with other services and to invest to improve their appearance and facilities, to drive down our support and management costs, to move our library services into a not-for-profit Trust.”
  • East Sussex – Give your view on libraries - Bexhill on Sea Observer.   “East Sussex County Council’s (ESCC) library and information service is looking at how it provides rural and mobile library services across the County and says it wants to ensure it is giving the best service at the best price – and in the right place at the right time. Once the survey has closed the results will be compiled and reports drawn up for councillors and senior managers. Any proposals for change will be opened to full public consultation before any decisions are made.”
  • Hertfordshire – Waltham Cross LibraryHertfordshire Council.   Self-service on Mondays and Thursdays due to other non-library staff using library.  The council cut overall opening hours in its libraries by one third last year.
“We are extremely concerned about unstaffed opening – a small, short-term access gain risks future staff cuts and volunteer-run branches. We do not believe that library services should be reduced to the book stock, a photocopier and a few self-service machines. We do not believe that Hertfordshire’s library users are getting a fair deal from this arrangement.” We Heart Libraries on Twitter.

  • Surrey – I won’t rule out standing for the leadership: that from sacked Surrey Councillor Denise Saliagopoulos – Eagle Radio.  “However, Standards Committee member Eber Kington said: “Any matter referred to the Standards Committee has to be taken seriously. “If two people have been asked to step down while that is going on, they must be issues which are probably more than just normal, ordinary concerns.” Mr Kington adds that this could be an opportunity for the council to reverse its plans to get volunteers to run some libraries: “He (David Hodge) is a very pragmatic politician. “He also listens when he realises things have gone wrong. “He will look for opportunities to make changes and I think the library one, where he could be looking at costs against the council, would be a good one to start changing.”
  • Trafford – Report attacks Old Trafford library plans - Messenger.   “a spokesman for the Hands Off Old Trafford Library (HOOT) Campaign said: “One of our biggest concerns has been that the council doesn’t seem to have done any kind of feasibility study before publishing these proposals. It fell to the community to do the hard work of analysing the plans and we discovered that the council’s sums simply don’t add up.”

500 books is a library

399 libraries (309 buildings and 90 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

National: Lobby your MP to help public libraries, 13th March. Website:  Download flyer here.


  • Beautiful bookshelves, in pictures - Guardian.  These are hardly for public libraries but they are, indeed, beautiful bookshelves.
  • Children’s reading group network launches in Wales - Reading Agency (press release).  The Reading Agency is delighted to announce the launch of its new Welsh Clonclyfrau/Chatterbooks network of children’s reading groups on 7 March 2012.Chatterbooks is a reading group programme for children aged four to twelve; its patron is top children’s author Dame Jacqueline Wilson. Chatterbooks groups run in libraries and schools, supporting children’s literacy development by encouraging them to have a really good time reading and talking about books.”
  • Deprofessionalization and the library blogosphere - Library Juice (USA).   “Library administrators and funding institutions have an interest in the deprofessionalization of librarianship in two ways – economic efficiency and control. Library support staff, who are being trained up to take on most responsibilities now handled by professional librarians, cost libraries less in wages.”. [Interesting piece.  Volunteers, of course, cost even less … but on the other hand, control is harder than with paid staff – Ed.]
  • Full-time school librarians linked to higher student reading scores - School Library Journal.   “According to new research from Library Research Services, which reviewed standardized test scores from Colorado schools in 2005 and 2011, reading scores statistically increased when schools retained or gained a school librarian. “There is a positive and statistically significant relationship between advanced reading levels and endorsed librarian staffing trends,” reads the report, published last month.”
“That this House recognises that public libraries are important community spaces and a vital public resource; acknowledges that many are under threat due to wide-scale budget cuts; is concerned about the impact of closures on social inclusion, social mobility and society more generally; welcomes the formation of Speak Up for Libraries, a coalition of national organisations and library campaigners that is leading a delegation of supporters from around the country to Parliament on 13 March 2012 in order to highlight the vital role that library services, run by professionally trained and qualified staff, play in the community and for individuals; and therefore calls on the Government to undertake a thorough assessment of the state of the public library service and develop a national vision for the service.”  Speak up for libraries” Early Day Motion - House of Commons. Session: 2010-12 Date tabled: 05.03.2012 Primary sponsor:  Anderson, David Sponsors: Durkan, Mark, Hancock, Mike, Hepburn, Stephen, Lavery, Ian, Meale, Alan

  • Structuring and managing a volunteering programme - Creating Capacity.  A course advertised to library managers on online discussion site lis-pub-libs [which has caused some negative comments along the lines of “turkeys voting for Christmas” – Ed.]


Blackburn with Darwen - Barlow Institute has 500 books, open only on Saturdays, to replace withdrawn mobile library.
Bolton - Castle Hill Library closed, Heaton Library will be closed on Friday.  Replaced by books in local centres with self-service machines.
Brighton – Wifi to be installed at Jubilee Library.
Dorset – Volunteer groups have presented business plans to take over seven branches that would otherwise close, two other libraries without sufficient volunteers (Portland Underhill and Corfe Castle) likely to close.
Hertfordshire – Radlett library open self-service only Monday morning termtimes as Children’s Centre staff use library for sessions.

Local News

  • Birmingham – Four-day week plan for most of Birmingham’s community librariesBirmingham Mail.  “23 local libraries will now be open for 26 hours a week, spread over four days.” … “In another move they rubber-stamped plans to sell a series of Sutton Coldfield car parks to pay for £2.5 million of repair work to the Town Centre library which has been closed since 2010 due to asbestos.”
  • Blackburn with Darwen – Official opening for village library – Bolton News.  The library is open every Saturday from 10am to 1pm, and storytime sessions for youngsters are already proving to be a hit. There is also a cafe selling hot and cold drinks as well as snacks. The library stocks around 500 books. Volunteers hope the numbers joining will continue to grow, and there is a possibility that the library’s opening hours could be extended if there is the demand.”
  • Bolton – Third “self-service” point replaces library - Bolton News.   Castle Hill Library closed, to be “replaced” by a “collection point” at Tonge UCAN Centre.  “The new-style service enables people to borrow books via a self-service machine and computers will offer internet access.”
  • Brighton – Wifi plan for Jubilee Library in Brighton - Argus.  Brighton and Hove City Council said it hopes to boost conference business at Jubilee Library through the provision of Wi-Fi connections.A council spokeswoman said that if the pilot project proved successful Wi-Fi would be rolled out across all libraries in the city and could also be installed in other council-run locations with modifications.”
  • Doncaster – Mayor refuses to save Denaby and Carcroft Libraries - Save Doncaster Libraries.  The news on BBC Radio Sheffield this morning has revealed that Mayor Davies has refused the proposed amendment to his budget which would fund the re-opening of Denaby and Carcroft libraries, and would also fund a paid member of staff in both those libraries and the remaining 12 being thrown to vounteers to run.”
  • Dorset – Residents threatened by cuts ask to take over libraries - Dorset Echo.    “Seven communities set to lose core funding for their Libraries have submitted business plans to take on the facilities themselves. In July last year Dorset County Council agreed to withdraw funding to nine of the county’s libraries in a bid to save £800,000.” … ““Business cases could be approved on the basis that the county council will provide the agreed package of support without any additional resource support. This brings the risk that some local communities may feel that without any additional resource support from the county council, their plans to take on the responsibility for the building and for the provision of a non-core library service cannot progress.””
  • Durham – Twin campaigns to stop Durham library cuts - Durham Times.  “Newton Hall and Belmont libraries, both on the outskirts of Durham, face having their weekly opening hours slashed from 43 to 20 under Durham County Council cutbacks.” … “Amanda Hopgood and Mamie Simmons, who represent Newton Hall, and Mark Wilkes, of neighbouring Framwellgate Moor, are launching an online petition against the cuts and sending out 3,000 leaflets asking residents to back their campaign.”
  • Hertfordshire – Self-service pilot scheme extends opening hours at Radlett Library - Hertfordshire Council.   Radlett Library is open on termtime Monday mornings because Children’s Centre staff use the building and so the building can be unlocked and the public can use the self-service machines.  The council reduced overall opening hours by a third last year.
  • Kent – How well do you know your local library? - Kent Council.   “Over the next few months, discussions will begin with groups in each district to talk about their local libraries and explore new ways to deliver library services. These groups will include councillors from local and county councils, and community representatives. The aim is to help these discussions by providing as much background information as possible so the groups can make informed recommendations on how their libraries could be run in the future.”.  Looking at co-location and, in some branches, voluntees running the building.
  • Surrey – Councillors forced to stand down from cabinet posts - BBC.  It’s unclear why this has happened or indeed if there is any libraries link.  It is included here as the council is facing a legal challenge over its cuts to libraries.

Rewriting the book

399 libraries (309 buildings and 90 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

National: Lobby your MP to help public libraries, 13th March. Website: 
A video which may have a lot of lessons, although some of them painful
(and some may not be relevant), for libraries facing cuts in the UK.  
Ways around a crisis included job cuts, wifi, wifi,
 iphone app, email newsletter, web2.0, loaned ebooks, volunteer-run
summer classes for kids, local business partnerships
  • Join library cult - Library Cult (USA).  “Hypathia, Casanova, Mao Zedong, David Hume, John Dee, Benjamin Franklin, Giacomo Casanova, J. Edgar Hoover. Why were these people librarians? Did it have something to do with their rise to power, their worldly success?”. 
  • Public Library Standards - Good Library Blog.   Suggestions for library standards that would improve libraries are “1. Every library should have more books available than it did this time last year 2. Every library should be open longer hours than it was last year 3. Every library should be clean, with its windows washed and its light fittings working 4. Every public computer in a library should work properly 5. Every library should provide some private space for quiet study.” 
  • Rewriting the book: public libraries for a new age - Information Today.   [A piece which is unfortunately very heavy on jargon and so immediately biases me against it, for which I apologise in advance.  When translated, it appears to say, amongst other things, that public libraries will move away from the lending of books towards helping people with computers and council queries – Ed.]. 

Your help needed

Doncaster And Surrey- Help fund the legal challenges. 

Local News

  • Croydon – Upper Norwood Library - Croydon Council.  A suspiciously downbeat description of Upper Norwood Library by Croydon Council which is seeking to withdraw its funding for it.  The “consulation” link simply reloads the same page. “Upper Norwood Joint Library is jointly owned by Croydon and Lambeth Councils, situated within the borough of Lambeth. Up until recently it had been funded and managed by a joint committee of councillors from Lambeth and Croydon. The library still has its own membership procedures and circulation system and doesn’t accept Croydon or Lambeth library membership cards or accept/renew returned books or other items from Croydon or Lambeth libraries. See details below to contact the library for full details of joining/membership procedures and more information about all if its services.”.
    • Pay fines for sake of library’s future - This is Croydon Today.  “users owe the borough’s 13 libraries almost £100,000 in penalties, with more than £45,000 owed to Central Library alone. But a council spokesman this week insisted no libraries were under threat of closure. A total of 38,766 items are currently overdue with £96,307.93 owed across all libraries. The figures also show the longest overdue item is DVD Some Like It Hot which has been due back for nearly six years.”
  • Doncaster – We need your money.  And further information regarding DMBC’s true efforts - Save Doncaster Libraries.   “Edenthorpe are also realistic in their estimation regarding number of volunteers needed.  As they state Bawtry have over 70, this is close to sufficient it seems, Edenthorpe has thus far a generous estimate of one quarter of this, another threatened branch (Wheatley) has had merely 5 people come forward.  No doubt the Mayor will see this as proof of a community not wanting its library, in fact it is proof of what we at SDL have been saying all along – the majority of communities within Doncaster do not have the infrastructure to enable a library staffed by volunteers.”
  • Edinburgh – Libraries under threat, say campaigners - Ekklesia.   “Edinburgh East Save Our Services says: “Though it has been pretty much unreported in the media, there have been big cutbacks in staffing over the last few months and now there is a ‘consultation’ over opening hours – which does not appear to be all that it seems.”The consultation leaflets talk about providing ‘a library service that meets the needs of its customers’. However, says Ms Menzies, “when you look closely at the suggested new opening hours and compare them with the previous ones, they typically represent a 20% cut.”
  • Gloucestershire – Library budget cuts are double the amount admitted by GCC: letter to the press - FoGL.   “According to its own figures, Gloucestershire County Council is currently planning cuts to its Library Service of £1.8 million representing 25.7% of its budget, although £1 million of those savings were made last year (2011-12) mainly through the redundancy of qualified librarians. The council calls these savings “meeting the challenge”. This is bad enough. What the council won’t admit is that, prior to this £1.8 million cut, it has already taken a further similar amount  (£1,737,902) in cuts from the library service in the previous 3 years (2008-10). I have obtained these figures from CIPFA, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, whose responsibility it is to compile figures on local government spending. This makes the total library cuts over £3.5 million.”
  • Isle of Man – Alan Bennett backs Isle of Man library campaign - BBC.   Campaigner says “”If we lose the libraries we are potentially going to end up with less Alan Bennetts in the future. Our libraries provide a vital link to the elderly, housebound, disabled and least privileged in Manx society, they need books and they need free books.”
“An interview I did for Camden New Journal … says all I want to say about libraries – and which applies equally to the Isle of Man as to NW1. All good wishes and with every support, Alan Bennett.” Support for saving libraries campaign - Isle of Man Today.  

  • Kent – Bereaved families in Kent suffer registrar delays - BBC.  Moving the registration of deaths into libraries has caused long delays and some distress.  “In January, Kent County Council (KCC) switched from registering deaths at register offices to local libraries, causing long waits for appointments.”.  January is the busiest month for Registrars and not all of the staff had been trained.
  • Oxfordshire – Libraries joining Ebook revolution - Oxford Times.  “Although Oxfordshire County Council’s decision has been welcomed by some, others have raised concerns libraries could suffer as a result. An array of 1,558 fiction and non-fiction titles are on offer and can be downloaded for free by library users. Oxford author Philip Pullman last night gave the scheme a cautious welcome. The His Dark Materials author said: “If it means more books are available to more people then I think that’s a good thing.” But voicing his fears about the impact of eBooks on publishing, he added: “It’s something that authors, publishers and agents are very worried about at the moment.“The whole question is very, very tangled.””
  • Surrey – Fundraising campaign to block Surrey libraries plan - BBC.   “The campaign has so far raised £5,000 and SLAM has appealed to the local community to help reach the £18,000 target within the remaining two weeks. It will be setting up stalls in towns including Weybridge, Woking, Guilford and Epsom, on 10 March. The Conservative-run council agreed in September to devolve responsibilities to groups of volunteers at 10 libraries – Bagshot, Bramley, Byfleet, Ewell Court, Lingfield, New Haw, Stoneleigh, Tattenhams, Virginia Water and Warlingham.”
  • Wokingham – Four bidders chosen as “privatisation” of libraries draws near - Henley Standard.   ““If we decide that none of the tenderers provides enough of our specification it will be a question of who has offered the nearest match to that specification.  We will look at how believable the tender is as it is not an impossibility for someone to try to do it as a loss leader. Our officers are quite good at spotting that. Cllr Baker said in the best case scenario the successful bidder would take over the service from the end of October.”

English libraries have no standards


Continuing with the complete inaction that most library campaigners would define as Mr Vaizey’s chief  characteristic, Ed has confirmed in parliament that the Government will not be reintroducing standards for public libraries.  Standards were introduced in 2001 but removed in 2009 and replaced by the now defunct MLA’s voluntary benchmarks.  Public library authorities have not needed to be measured against any standard since then, much to their detriment.  Wales have, in contrast, continued with standards that have been notably successful in embarrassing councils who fail to sufficiently fund their service.  
Expect Ed to make much of the funding that ACE are putting into libraries while at the Committee meeting.  Be sure he won’t mention though how insignificant they are compared to the funds that the MLA had at their disposal.  They went from £13m for the MLA to £3m for ACE.

Cllr David Pugh of the Isle of Wight, and whose evidence to the CMS Committee on his role in closing libraries has attracted some criticism and raised eyebrows, is to be interviewed between 12.00 & 1.00pm on Tuesday 6th March on Vectis Radio regarding library issues.  It should be an interesting for campaigners who, unfortunately, can’t phone in to question Ed Vaizey on his inaction but can phone Vectis Radio about Mr Pugh’s role from 11 to 12. Ed Vaizey is to be interviewed by the CMS Select Committee on Tuesday 13th March (an early copy of this posting said 6th March, apologies for the error).

399 libraries (309 buildings and 90 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

National: Lobby your MP to help public libraries, 13th March. Website: 

“Q : Justin Tomlinson (North Swindon, Conservative)To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what his strategy is for the future of the (a) library service and (b) standards and framework to support local delivery of library services.

A : Edward Vaizey (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Culture, Communications and Creative Industries), Business, Innovation and Skills; Wantage, Conservative) Arts Council England (ACE) has been given responsibility to advocate for and champion libraries’ roles and the public value they provide. ACE will capture and disseminate good practice in making efficiencies and meeting the needs of communities. Where appropriate, libraries will be eligible for ACE strategic investment funding. ACE will be leading a debate and research in 2012-13 on how libraries can respond to changing community needs and wider changes in society. ACE’s role on library development is one of providing advice and support. ACE has also launched the Libraries Development Initiative which has made grants totalling £230,000 to 13 library projects to help them explore ACE’s vision of arts and culture working together. ACE will shortly be writing to local authorities to make them aware of different ACE funding streams which can now be accessed by libraries. We do not propose to reintroduce the ‘public library service standards’. The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 gave local government greater flexibility in priority setting and greater discretion over how to meet them—the public library service standards were just 10 of over 1,000 indicators which authorities were no longer required to report performance against.” Hansard, 1st March.”

  • Libraries “invisible” to digital policymakers - UKauthorITy. Annie Mauger of CILIP: As well as helping many millions of UK adults who cannot read with basic literacy skills, librarians have a broad technical role helping people with both digital literacy – helping people use computers and get online – and information literacy – “helping people to understand that not everything they read on Google is true,” Mauger said librarians are well trained in these areas, and work not just in public lending libraries but in universities and schools where teaching people how to evaluate information they find online is increasingly vital, she said. However, in many cases a school librarian is treated as inferior to teachers, despite being just as highly qualified.”
  • Little Free Libraries are taking root on lawns -  USA Today.  ” hundreds of similar Little Free Libraries are popping up on lawns across the country. They’re tiny — no bigger than a dollhouse. Some look like miniature homes or barns. Others just look like a box on a post.”
  • Necessary evil?  Random House triples prices of library e-books – Techcrunch (USA).  “Random House, the world’s largest publisher of the kinds of books you and I read, has made some adjustments to the way it sells e-books to libraries. Notably, they have tripled the price of many titles. Librarians across the country are expressing their discontent.”
  • Top ten public libraries of the new age - Huffingon Post. My Top 10 selection of more recent public libraries here showcases some ideas. For starters, just like most public buildings, the library needs to become as a new hub for social life among the local community. Programatically, this has been reflected in the fact that many have become much less formal, much less guarded and much more inviting. Libraries all around are moving towards a model that encourages readers to stay and linger, instead of their original function as spaces for collecting and lending out books. Reflecting the general trend for libraries to facilitate reading as well as other functions, they are combined with halls and meeting rooms that promote social exchange between users, much like community centers.”  None of the ten are from the UK.
  • Uncorrected transcript of oral evidence - House of Commons.    Full text of second hearing of 21st February including sessions by Annie Mauger (CILIP), Alan Davey (Arts Council England), David Pugh (Leader, Isle of Wight Council), Nigel Thomas (Leicestershire Libraries) and Elizabeth Campbell (Local Government Association).

Peterborough - Volunteers used to extend opening hours as pilot project for three months.
Stockton - £2.5m new library at Billingham, combined with customer contact centre and possibly NHS.
Worcestershire – Upton library safe for c. three years, previously threatened. 

Local News

  • Birmingham – European librarians visit £189m Library of Birmingham development - Birmingham Post.  “People and politicians are saying: do we need a public library? Everything is digital, everybody has e-books. I don’t agree. I think it is very important to get a balance between the physical library and the digital library.”
  • Brent – Final chance to complain to DCMS - Preston Library Campaign.  “The Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) are legally obliged to investigate or tell us why not, and if they have thousands of complaints, it is much harder for them to ignore us.”
  • Camden – Lib Dems pledge help to libraries in bid to distance themselves from Labour cuts - Ham & High.  “Liberal Democrats have pledged to halt planned cuts to library opening hours and plough extra cash into supporting volunteers to run the much-loved reading rooms, as they laid out alternative budget plans for Camden Council.” … “The Lib Dems praised residents who had stepped up to help run the libraries and pledged an extra £350,000 for Camden’s reading rooms at a full council meeting at the Town Hall on Monday (February 27).”
  • Darlington – Campaign groups thank council for budget u-turns - Advertiser.  “Darlington Borough Council made a number of u-turns on budget proposals due to the strength of public feeling during the budget process. Among the services saved for the town were lollipop patrols outside schools and Cockerton Library, which will now operate with reduced hours.”
  • Edinburgh – Future of library services: letter to Scotland on Sunday - Edinburgh Council.   “It’s ironic that a campaign against library cuts in Scotland is choosing to launch in Edinburgh in a library that will shortly see an increase in its opening hours and in a city where we are building new libraries and refurbishing existing ones.”  Also in newspaper.
  • Gloucestershire – Council attacked over libraries review cash incentives - This is Gloucestershire.   “The Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries (FOGL) launched a scathing attack on the authority after it found out it had been offering £40 supermarket vouchers to attendees at workshops over cuts to its library service.” … Up to £2800 could have been given away.
  • Isle of Wight – Campaigner resigns after libraries row - IWCP.   “Mr Fagan told the County Press he had stepped down from the council committee because he disagreed with Cllr Pugh’s evidence. Mr Fagan said: “The consultation was completely flawed. The questionnaire they put out was so biased.” Cllr Pugh hit back saying a High Court judgement over the closures had backed the council’s position proper consultation had taken place.”
  • Kirklees – Community consultation for Golcar Library - Mailout.  “All expressions of interest will then be considered and more detailed discussions with interested parties will follow.  The proposal is that Kirklees Council will provide guidance to interested community groups and individuals, including training, a regular supply of books, maintenance of public access computers and additional support to ensure the continuation of a high quality library service.”
    • Deadline for libraries - Hudderfield Daily Examiner.   “D-Day for the future of our libraries is looming ever nearer. Now people in Golcar have just six weeks to register an interest in helping to run it.”
  • Nottinghamshire – Mansfield Library sees rise in use since £3.4m revamp - BBC.   “1,381 people had joined since it reopened in January, compared to 497 new members in the same period in 2010. The refit included a new children’s area, more computers, a dedicated space for research and a larger local history section.” … “In 2011 the council reduced the opening hours of some of its smaller libraries and cut its budget for new library books by 36% in two years.”
  • Peterborough – Opening hours pilot to start at library - Evening Telegraph.   “A three-month pilot where a city library’s opening hours will be extended will start on March 19. Vivacity is running the pilot at Bretton Library, in Rightwell, Bretton which will see opening hours on Mondays extended to 6pm from the usual time of 4pm with the use of volunteers working alongside a staff member. If it is a success, it will look to extend the library’s hours on a permanent basis and consider rolling out the changes to other libraries in Peterborough.”
  • Somerset – Council to bring back 160 outsourced staff - BBC.   “Somerset County Council is to bring back 160 staff who were outsourced to the private firm, SouthWest One. The company, which employs 650 ex-council staff, was set up in 2007 and carries out administrative and back office tasks for the local authority. The decision was taken after a council review into the firm’s performance concluded it was failing to perform.”
  • Stockton - £2.5m library approved for Billingham - BBC. “Stockton Council has allocated cash for the £2.5m project in Billingham. It said it would be modelled on similar centres in Thornaby and Stockton, which had led to a rise in the number of users. It plans to develop the complex on the former Billingham Art Gallery and council offices site and is looking at either refurbishment or a new building.” Buidling to be combined with customer service centre.”
  • Surrey – Sneak preview of Woking library revamp - Surrey News.  “Surrey County Council is giving Woking library in Gloucester Walk a complete overhaul to make it the most modern and user friendly branch in the county.” … “New features will include an improved children’s library, a new area for teenagers, free wi-fi, new seats, shelves, carpets, lighting and stock. Around 16,000 new books will replace old ones, ensuring a wide variety of fantastic new reads for visitors.”.  127 square metre increase, new cafe.
  • Trafford – Formal response to Trafford council’s consultation - Hands Off Old Trafford Library.   “Today, Friday 2nd March, HOOTLibrary submitted a formal response to the Council’s consultation. You can read the full report here. You can still make your own submissions to the consultation before Monday 5th. Feel free to refer to anything in this document. Indeed we’d actively encourage it!”
  • Wandsworth – Spring at York Gardens LibrarySave York Gardens.   “The librarians and the Friends group have all been busy developing the plans for how we will continue to keep the library running and make sure it is providing really useful services for the local community. In December, the library and community centre’s first Christmas Fayre raised more than £400 which will go towards keeping the library open and continuing to run activities for local people.”
  • Worcestershire – Library will not close: just yet - Malvern Gazette.”However Upton Town councillor Simon Speers told fellow members on Tuesday: “There are no plans to close the library. We do not have that in writing but I have been assured verbally that is the case for a three to five year window.” He added he did have concerns over what he described as “salami slicing” – cutting the service bit-by-bit ahead of a move for closure further down the line.”