Volunteers as sticking plaster

Comment

Volunteers are increasingly being seen as the answer to cuts in library budgets by councils.  Just today, during the Summer Holidays, (a) Blackburn has announced at least one and possibly three libraries will be run by volunteers as it looks to cut 25% of its budget, (b) Buckinghamshire has another volunteer-run library, replete with new logo, (c) a library in Suffolk is going the same way and (d) I notice Wakefield have it on the cards too, warmly applauded by an organisation praised by Government to make it all easier.  The same is happening up and down the country, to the acclaim of councillors and other politicians looking for an answer to the greatest cuts in the peacetime history of council services.

It all replaces the black and white of library closures with a fuzzy-logic greyness.  It’s hard to complain about a service staying open, albeit with less resources than before, in times of crisis.  Some volunteer-run branches such as in Ivinghoe will even retain some (much reduced) paid staff.  However, the volunteers themselves are clear that they would prefer a council-run service and are only taking over because there is no other option.  I describe volunteers as a “sticking plaster” in the title for a reason.  If someone is seriously cut, a sticking plaster is not the solution. It’s better than nothing.  After all, closing the library can perhaps be seen as killing the patient in this context.  However, volunteers like plasters will only work in the best circumstances such as in prosperous areas, not in every case. Councils are going for elastoplast when they need to go for long-term solutions (the bandage of greater efficiency perhaps). Polticians should be looking to avoid the injury in the first place.
418 libraries (336 buildings and 82 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

  • Are books dead and can authors survive? - Guardian. Shortened version of Ewan Morrison’s “of a publishing industry in terminal decline”.
  • Children’s centres and libraries join forces for mutual benefit and survivalNursery World.   Looks at Future Libraries Programme report.  “One of the pilots within the programme being delivered by Northumberland and Durham County Councils is using e-book readers in Sure Start children’s centres to evaluate how beneficial they might be for children.”  Looks at case studies in Bury St Edmunds and one in Hayes Library (Hillingdon).
  • What are libraries for?Co-operatives UK. Looks at FLP report.  “But do these things rely on traditional library spaces, vast local book collections and armies of librarians and clerks to make them happen? In fact, many of these functions risk being undermined by off putting, outdated buildings, intimidating search systems and over-busy staff.”

Changes

Local News

  • Barnet – Adult college dashes council hopes that it will provide home for Hampstead Garden Suburb library - London 24.   College says it was never possible, Council had said they had had “very positive conversations” with college about it.  “Deborah Warland, leader of the Save Our Suburb Library campaign, said that the botched deal did not trouble them as the group was still looking to keep the 60-year-old library open in its current location in Market Place.” … Group has 30 volunteers able to help, council says group would need to pay for everything except for rent, which the Council is “locked into” paying for next five years.
  • Blackburn with Darwen - Group sought to run Blackburn’s Roman Road Library – Lancashire Telegraph.   “One of the solutions is seen as the creation of a series of “gateway” libraries — with friends’ groups paid by the council to assume the management of some of the borough’s smaller facilities.” Roman Road library to be run by volunteers, saving £36k per year.
  • Bolton – Call for local meetings in bid to save libraries - This is Lancashire.  “Councillors have already organised a meeting this Thursday to discuss options for Astley Bridge Library.  Now the Save Bolton Libraries Campaign is calling on Bolton Council and local councillors to organise similar meetings in the other four areas where libraries are at risk of closure.”… Council says ““If people still want to organise local meetings then that is fine and I will attend, but these meetings cannot be part of the public consultation.”
 Buckinghamshire – Read on: for we have saved our village library - Hemel Today.  “The Friends of Ivinghoe Library was formed in March after the announcement last year. The group drew up a business plan, which council bosses have now accepted. Secretary Emma Huxley said: “There was a really strong reaction from the community. Ivinghoe doesn’t lie down and take things easily. We’re really hoping to make the change over before Christmas.”
  • Lambeth – Thunder in the libraries - IT-Director.  “The libraries in Lambeth have recently been the venue for an experiment to fix both these problems. The initiative is being driven forward by a local resident, Christina Burnett of Wide Eye Pictures, who is passionate about the benefits of computing to VIPs. Like every modern library Lambeth has several computers in each library. The only extra hardware required was headphones.”
  • Suffolk – We’ll do all we can to save library - Suffolk Free Press.   “Councillors in Sudbury are meeting at the end of this month to discuss the formulation of a business case for the running of the library on Market Hill and this will then be considered by the county council in October.”
“If someone else takes over the library will the same librarians still work there? I think the library is a precious resource to the community. The staff should be our friends, & chat to us about fab stuff, from what I’m doing on my birthday to my favourite episode of Doctor Who. Not much to ask for! Maybe a few more computers & extra computer time, but that may stretch the budget to snapping point!”  Comment on Suffolk article

Too hard, too fast

Comment
An analysis from a Local Government officer today points out that:
Ideally, a 40% cut in the libraries service (if necessary) and the development of new models would be done over a 3-5 year period with maximum engagement and involvement of local groups and service users.

Leaving aside the possibility of a 40% cut in libraries ever being in any way necessary, one can tell from the report that is from someone who is deeply sympathetic to the problems within local councils (in this case Gloucestershire) but still has to criticise what is happening.  Library users are lucky at the moment if they are getting a 3-5 month fully open engagenment/involvement to decide what has happening.  This, at a time, when yesterday we learnt that three-quarters of children use libraries and today we learnt that one in six has not read a book in a month, directly leading to lower attainment.  
Councils up and down the country are having to make decisions too fast, too hard and with far too much long-term impact.
415 libraries (333 buildings and 82 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

“That, however, was before New Labour went to work on it and decided that books were old hat and that what mattered were computer terminals. Books were not only old-fashioned and complicated to manage but smacked of elitism. So the book sections were downsized and the vacated space filled up with computers. This policy overlooked the fact that all over the developing world, internet cafés are as common as grocery stores. Lending libraries, on the other hand, especially ones with English books in them, are as rare as unicorns.” Peter Popham: A sad case of the wrong address – Independent.   

  • Reads and the Read-Nots – National Literacy Trust.  New National Literacy Trust research of 18,141 children reveals a polarised nation of young readers with 1 in 6 reporting that they don’t read a single book in a month, while 1 in 10 say they read more than 10 books in a month. This divide between the “reads” and the “read-nots” is concerning because the research shows reading frequency has a direct link to attainment, as 8 in 10 children who read over 10 books a month are above average readers compared to just 3 in 10 of those who rarely read.”
  • Slaughter writes digital-only story to benefit libraries – BookSeller.  “Slaughter said: “Librarians have always stood up for writers and readers in every kind of community across this country. The demand for their programs and services is increasing while their budgets are decreasing. It’s time that we stood up for them.”

   

Changes

Local News

  • Croydon – Referendum: the future of Croydon libraries - Croydonlibraries.org.  “Croydon’s Conservative Council have rejected community calls backed by Labour Councillors, to hold an Independent Library review for Croydon to see how our local Libraries can remain locally owned and accountable to local people, instead they have decided to ‘market test’ Croydon’s Library service ahead of a possible privatisation. We want to know what the people of Croydon think so please take a minute and vote in our referendum.”
  • Devon – French trip inspired Sparkwell’s  new community library – BBC.  “Sparkwell library will be staffed by volunteers and run from the village’s old school building. It is the fourth community library to open in south Devon and will be supported by the county council.”
    • New Sparkwell LibraryITV WestCountry Tonight. “A village in South Devon was devastated when it lost its local school. Now its residents have got together and opened their own library using part of the old school buildings.”
  • Durham – Sunday closure for Durham Clayport Library - BBC.   “Maria Plews, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for leisure, libraries and lifelong learning, said: “The average number of people using Clayport Library each Sunday has fallen by more than 70% during the last three years. At a time when we have to make significant savings as a result of the Government grant reductions it is simply not sustainable or sensible for Sunday opening to continue.”
  • Edinburgh – Hundreds gather in Sighthill to try to smash world record - STV.   “218 children and adults gathered at Sighthill Library in Gate 55 hoping to smash the current record of 290 readers, set in 2010 in Vienna, Austria.  Under the watchful eye of Guinness World Record adjudicator Claire Burgess, each read one sentence from award-winning Scottish author Theresa Breslin’s book Prisoner in Alcatraz.”… UK record reached … “It was amazing to see all the age range of participants. It was great to see the buggies arriving, then grannies and then young people. A good one for the libraries.”
“In the whole it demonstrates the difficulty local authorities are having in making these cuts so quickly. Ideally, a 40% cut in the libraries service (if necessary) and the development of new models would be done over a 3-5 year period with maximum engagement and involvement of local groups and service users. Proposals would be phased in and models tested. Money would be available during this time to ensure some form of continuity. None of this has happened and it seems the model has been decided by officers and then presented to the public.” Gloucestershire – Libraries, raised tempers and Gloucestershire County Council  - We Love Local Government. 

  • Oxfordshire – Villagers invited to discuss future of library - Henley Standard.   “This means volunteers would be needed to maintain the current opening hours but the libraries would be given free use of their buildings, access to the council’s book stock and computer network and professional support from librarians.  So far, the council has received more than 1,000 responses to the consultation, which began at the beginning of June after being delayed four times.”
    • Community libraries “can work”Henley Standard.   “David Silvester said that Buckinghamshire County Council saved 20 per cent of the costs of its library service by handing over 14 of its 23 libraries to communities to run. Oxfordshire County Council is proposing to withdraw two-thirds of staff funding from 16 libraries, including those in Sonning Common, Benson, Woodcote, Watlington and Goring.”
  • Suffolk – Town pushing ahead with library pilot bid – EADT.   “All I can say at the moment is that we did meet with council officers on Thursday and the process for discussing the start-up of the Aldeburgh pilot next April has begun but there’s lots more detailed discussion to be had.”
  • Wigan – Plan for libraries go ahead - Wigan Today.   “The council and its partners in Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust, who manage the library service, need to find £1.1m in savings from the library budget following government cuts…” Cuts to library service pushed through council “..Despite 40 or so people protesting at the meeting, councillors said they thought the plans were the right thing to do.”

DCMS report shows libraries are relatively classless and usage is steady

Comment

This cultural and sporting life: the taking part 2010/11 adult and child report by the DCMS has some interesting things to say about library usage.  The main point being that library usage has remained steady since 2008/9 for children and for adults.  Three-quarters of children and two-fifths of adult have used the public library over the last year, with females more likely (44% to 34%) to be users.  Adults with disabilities have similar usage rates.  Although usage is signicantly lower (down from 48.2% to 39.7%) than it was in in 2005/6 this has stabilised for the last two years.  There is less of a difference in use of libraries between rich and poor areas than in any other cultural sector.  Usage in both rural and urban areas is roughly the same.  Of those who were dissatisfied with the service (bearing in mind this is just 3.6% of the total), a full 54% were unhappy with the choice and physical condition of the resources available, with less than 1% of the total expressing dissatisfaction with library staff.
The report suggests that libraries are not “just for the middle class” and, although not sadly being as vigorously used as six years before, are not in terminal decline.  This is especially obvious amongst that most essential of age groups – children learning to read and to love reading.
415 libraries (333 buildings and 82 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.


News

  • A few reasons to be grateful for James PattersonTelegraph.  As the barely-audible debate over the closure of public libraries continues to be choked by apathy, the big noise in publishing this morning is the news that crime writer James Patterson has been named easily the world’s best paid author by Forbes Magazine….But best of all, it’s compulsive and plentiful. The more greedy readers there are, the bigger the queue at the library.”
  • Anti-cuts groups say no to private sectorGuardian (Letters).  Open letter expressing concern about the Opening Public Services white paper, signed amongst others by Voices for the Library, Alan Gibbons and several other library campaign groups. “in reality, it will be the private sector that benefits from opening up this huge market. If the plans go ahead, companies will be able to make a profit from services previously run by the state and local authorities, while taxpayers subsidise them.” 
  • Breaking down the barriers within the profession#uklibchat.  Librarians in all sectors need to be aware of eachother and provide mutual support.
  • Check out relationships with public libraries - Reporter (USA).  Article versus self-service and e-books.  “These ladies always seemed so pleased to have me come into their library. They greeted me by name and, as time went by, they noticed what I liked to read and always had the newest book in that genre set aside just for me.”
  • Drafting the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964Voices for the Library.  Guest post by Francis Bennion.   “literal compliance” to the Act is not enough and what is implied by it is also necessary to be considered. “Thus for example it is implied by the 1964 Act that library authorities will fulfil their duties properly, will provide suitable buildings that can accurately be called libraries, and will employ sufficient trained, experienced, paid staff, not relying unduly on volunteers.”.  Describes the Future Libraries report as “primarily a charter, stuffed with jargon, for reducing costs. Yet any library authority which in 2012 and subsequently spends substantially less on its library service than it did in 2009 would be acting unlawfully.” 
  • Grim reading in library dispute Star (Canada). “Atwood imagined in more than one of her novels the kind of dystopian city Toronto would become should its libraries be cut, shuttered or privatized…The situation in Toronto is eerily similar to the U.K.’s now year-round debate about library closures, replete with literary luminaries rallying to the cause.”
  • Guest view: don’t privatize our libraries - Pasadena Star-News (USA).   “…the so-called “savings” represent taxpayer dollars siphoned out of the community and delivered instead to a far-away corporate headquarters….We know library money is tight now, and that’s all the more reason to make sure it’s spent wisely.”
  • Let’s make a list: using FourSquare in libraries - Go Librarians.  Another way to promote libraries.
  • Libraries are “beating hearts of communities” says Scottish writer – STV.   “Theresa Breslin praised the role libraries play in fostering creative writing and nourishing the community”…”She has taken her campaign to the Scottish Parliament, fearing a badly co-ordinated network of services will have a detrimental effect. She said: “Whatever government is in should look survey the nation and try to co-ordinate it.”
“I truly believe they are the new cathedrals. Libraries are changing, but what doesn’t change is that sense of sanctuary,” says Mr. Thom. “It’s a social space, but it’s also a psychological place where there’s a kind of relaxed tension. You’re working with other people who are also working, so you are kind of inspired by them. There’s no other civic space like it.” Library is not just a book warehouse any more - Globe and Mail (Canada).  

  • Making room for readersMillions (USA).  An American library (in a large branch – the smaller library tried first by the writer had been closed) insists on child being able to write their name before given child a library card. “In an era of reduced library budgets and hours, closing bookstores, declining sales, and lost readers, discouraging anyone, of any age, from picking up a book they’re interested in seems like the last thing we should be doing.” 
  • Shameless quangocrats who jump from one state-funded gravy train to another – Mail.   “All too predictably, several of the MLA’s top quangocrats made the smooth passage to the Arts Council, among them Hedley Swain, who is currently on £72,000 as director of programme delivery, and Nicola Morgan, who is programme manager of sector improvement at the MLA but from October will be director of libraries at the Arts Council.” [It is perhaps worth pointing out that appointments were made by competitive application/interview].
  • Will Young: “I wasn’t happy, I was rude to people, I was a baby” - Telegraph.  “From post offices to libraries – the desire to make everything more streamlined and mechanical takes away any human interaction. And then you wonder why young people are growing up with no sense of where they belong. Or any sense of social cohesion or mutual responsibility. It’s all about yourself.”

Changes

Local News

  • Angus – Councillor against library transfer  – Arbroath Herald.  move by Angus Council to transfer ownership of Arbroath Library building from the Common Good Fund to the local authority’s general fund.”
  • Bolton – Tories fight to save library set for closure – Bolton News.  ““The point of the meeting next week is to allow us to put together a comprehensive Astley Bridge response to the consultation. This is not about us as three ward councillors, this is about Astley Bridge as a whole.” 
  • Brent – Urgent: Write to Jeremy Hunt now to save our libraries - Save Kensal Rise Library.  It is extremely important that we keep up the pressure to save the library from closure. Although the outcome of the judicial review has been deferred to early October there is something that we can all be doing”
  • Buckinghamshire – Concerns at viability of Chalfont St Peters Library plans - Bucks Free Press. “”While we welcome the Council’s decision to include Chalfont St Peter in Phase One of the implementation of the County/Community Library model, we are still waiting for Buckinghamshire County Council to provide all the information we need to enable our Committee to determine the feasibility and long term viability of a Community Library in Chalfont St Peter. ” 
  • Cambridgeshire – Emerging library vision revealed as part of review - Cambridgeshire County Council.  “Ideas such as shared services across Councils, use of volunteers, staff restructuring and self service will continue to go forward. The Council will also look at whether other council services and even local business or community facilities such as Post Offices could share buildings making them real community hubs.” 
  • Doncaster – Libraries reading scheme “hypocritical” - BBC.   “We find it quite ironic that during the summer reading challenge the libraries are promoting the brilliant challenge but then next year there’s going to be half the number of libraries and fewer books for kids to read, fewer services and kids are not going to have the access to that reading challenge.” says Lauren Smith.
    • Hypocrisy claim over reading challengeYorkshire Post.  ““It is not my policy to close any library in Doncaster. I am faced with the challenge to make tough decisions as a result of £80m of Government spending cuts.”
    • Lauren Smith interviewed about Doncaster libraries - BBC Radio Sheffield (23:00 – 29:30) .  Interviews people using at Wheatley Library, due for closure.  Summer reading challenge “irony” as half will be closed, with the same councillors pushing children to read also voting for them to close.  “The library service really hasn’t promoted itself”.  Children’s librarian made redundant and libraries have ceased promoting it summer reading challenge via school assemblies.
  • East Lothian – “Waiting game” over East Lothian council services - East Lothian News.  “East Lothian Council is currently canvassing the public on the proposal which could see a whole range of community wellbeing activities move to enjoyleisure. Poised for transfer are: cultural services such as libraries, museums and arts service…”
  • Isle of Wight – New offer of help to library campaigners - IWCP.   Rural Community Council may take responsibility for Bembridge Library finances when the Council divests control.  ” “The long-term success of this project will depend on the hard work and commitment of volunteers. We know how important it is to maintain services in rural areas and hope our involvement will help to establish a community-run library in Bembridge” says RCC.
  • Lancashire – Plan to move library into New Road Community Centre criticised by councillors - Craven Herald & Pioneer.  “That building (Coronation Hall) is packed full of books. To close the library and replace it with a few shelves in a new location is despicable,” he said.“It’s a massive con on the people of Earby and West Craven. For goodness sake, don’t allow it to happen.”
  • Monmouthshire – Chepstow library to have £120,000 facelift - Free Press.  “The refurbished library will deliver a new reading garden, an improved area for young people and a new space for family and local history research. Technological improvements will include self-service machines, Wi-Fi and laptops for use in the library.”  Funded by CyMAL and council.
  • North Yorkshire – Council issues library reminder - Yorkshire Post.  ““The council is looking for local communities too develop local solutions on how they are going to carry on that service. What we are encouraging people to do is think outside the library service and look to see how they can use it as a community base. We are asking them to take on the running of that, or if they want us to carry on running to find funds to make that happen. I welcome the community groups developing the proposals and we have still got time to work through them.”… “Campaigning at a high level is still going on but we are saying to people you can assume this won’t be successful in retaining the library as it is now.” 
  • Oxfordshire – Library has not seen “Where’s Wally” book in yearsOxford Times.   “The cash-strapped authority is owed £17,210.85 on items not returned and £29,677.77 on returned items.”
  • Westminster – Anger over library closureWestminster Chronicle.  St James Library to be closed despite public objections.  “It’s outrageous that the council is spending over a £1million a year on eleven campaigners and expensive consultants, as this amount could keep the library open for the next three years.”.  Library to close 23rd August.

Extreme

Comment

Campaigners for libraries are often attacked for being too extreme, living in a fantasy land and not wanting any library to close, ever.  This is an exaggeration in much the same way as calling library-closing councillors Tory fascists with a hidden agenda to give everything to the rich.  
All campaigners I am aware of are all too well aware of the financial realities and are willing to compromise to some extent.  Most would agree, under pressure, that there can be at least some cuts to their library service in the same way as there are to all other services.  All would agree that if a library is not being used, it should be closed, although there will be concerns raised about why it is not being used.  Many will go so far as to suggest that the cuts should be spread equally throughout all libraries rather than just the one or two, or eleven, smallest.  Some will even go so far as to volunteer to help run libraries themselves, although this of course can be used as ammunition by councils to “divest” more.  Some will come under fire from other campaigners for doing so.  It’s a difficult world out there at the moment and “library campaigner” represents a broad sprectrum of views, rightwing and leftwing, the WI and UNISON, militant student and conservative senior citizen.
However, campaigners would all say that these cuts should be properly planned, properly consulted on, properly carried out and with a proper eye on the future.  There’s a lot of things meant by “properly”. It means not hurried.  It means give people the chance and time to protest.  If the library is not well-used then the lack of protest will tell its own story in the same way that hundreds-of-names petition would the other way.  It means not with an already decided agenda.  It means that all options need to be considered, not just those the council see as in line with their political views.  It means that there should be a long-term plan for the future – it’s often said that a library closed is a library closed forever.  This is often said because it is true.  “Properly” also means with full respect for the law.  The 1964 Act, the equalities legislation and all the other laws that keep society going are not to be simply ignored because they are not convenient at a given time.  Laws do not have a “convenience” clause attached.  Closing libraries because they are seen as unprotected by law, not in a particular councillor’s ward or because the roof is leaking is not “proper”.  By “properly” read “fair”.  I hope that you agree with me that this does not sound so very extreme.
415 libraries (333 buildings and 82 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

  
News

  • Closing libraries (and other heresies) - We Love Local Government.  … I would still disagree with the judicial review. The cuts being made by local authorities are next to impossible and if every small group is able to go to high court to challenge the change it will be impossible to do anything at all. I don’t therefore disagree with any of the individual judgments as such; just the principle of it.”.  Comments are very interesting including this one about library campaigners “… you come across as a load of uncompromising ultras living in a fantasy land who don’t make any basis for a discussion with councils or government and who are far, far too comfortable with abuse of public servants just doing their jobs when you can’t get your own way.”
“This economic lunacy is so wrapped up in the swaddling clothes of sanctimony that it’s almost impossible to see that inside there’s not some famished waif, but a wolf. Defending today’s libraries because of what they once did for young would-be writers with rickets, scurvy and scabies is intellectually rather like arguing for air-raid shelters, gasmasks and cod liver oil, or wet nurses, the Poor Law and alms houses. Yes, by all means, let children borrow books for free. But that’s no argument for the Exchequer supporting public-lending libraries that largely indulge the literary tastes of mean-minded grown-ups. How long did it take for the Chinese peasant to discover that he didn’t have to burn down his house every time he wanted roast pork? How long before we realise that it’s not necessary to give free libraries TO ALL in order just to lend books without charge to children?” Kevin Myers: State support only lends madness to libraries - Independent (Eire). 

  • Neil Gaiman on libraries, Dr Who, fanatical fans and his dreams - Guardian. “”As a kid I would get my parents to drop me off at my local library on their way to work during the summer holidays and I would walk home at night. For several years I read the children’s library until I finished the children’s library. Then I moved into the adult library and slowly worked my way through them. With the kids’ library I did it alphabetically but I discovered I couldn’t do that with the adult one because there were too many big boring books to read, so I did it by interesting covers.”

Changes

Local News

  • Blackburn with Darwen“Friends” group launch transport scheme for Darwen readersLancashire Telegraph.  “The group is concerned about people struggling to access services since the mobile library was cut as the borough council looks to save £33million.” Community minibus takes readers to library instead.  ““Every Wednesday, FODL will have a range of volunteers on hand to show people what facilities are available, and to provide tea and coffee.”
  • Bolton – Consultation for libraries “is not biased”Bolton News.   Council says “It is set out very clearly and in the next edition of The Scene, there will be a full breakdown of the options and the consultation.”.  Campaigner says ““We were amazed at how many people were prepared to fill in these council forms, despite their jargon and biased questions.”
  • Cambridgeshire – Smiles all round as Ramsey library opensHunts Post 24.   “The rest of the site, developed by land-owners Luminus social housing association into public toilets, apartments and a community information centre, is due to officially open tomorrow (August 18).”
  • Doncaster – Summer Reading Challenge - Save Doncaster Libraries.   “if the council really wanted to get children (and adults) reading, it wouldn’t be closing over half its libraries, making the library service inaccessible to thousands of children, who will no longer be able to walk to their local branch.”
  • Hammersmith & Fulham – Archives CentreCity of London.  Reading room closed – London Metropolitan Archives offering a limited alternative until “options for the delivery of the service are assessed and discussed”
  • Harrow – Last chance to comment on council services as part of Lets Talk consultation – Harrow Times.   “The council want the public’s views on parks, libraries, arts and sports facilities as part of the Let’s Talk consultation, which closes next Friday.”
  • Southend-on-Sea – Town’s new library gets a green light and a new name - Sustainable Gov.   “The new building, which is being jointly funded by the Council, the University of Essex and South Essex College, is to be called The Forum.”
  • Stoke on Trent – Council tax arrears “same as budget cuts”BBC.  “In February, the council approved plans to cut 710 jobs and reduce funding for swimming pools, libraries and care homes.”
  • Warwickshire – Bidford villages vote to save their library - Tewlesbury Admag.  “More than 70 people attended the public meeting last Thursday where they agreed to back a proposal to take Bidford Library on as a ‘community venture. More than 50 villagers have put their names forward to volunteer as librarians, computer technicians and cleaners.”… “The library will cost about £9,000 per year and be funded by late return fines, DVD rentals and a £5,000 donation from the parish council for the first year.”
  • Wigan – Atherton to lose out in libraries’ rejig?Leigh Journal.   Library “users in Tyldesley, Golborne and Hindley are anticipating a reprieve for threatened branches. But changes in a report expected to be rubber-stamped by Wigan Council’s Cabinet this afternoon were less welcome in Atherton.” 
  • Wiltshire – Fines are a “reading tax” on children - Salisbury Journal.  Council reintroduces late charges for children to raise money and reduce book losses.   Critics say  “All the evidence is that children who read a lot do better in school and are more successful in life.” and that charges will reduce use.

Writer of the Public Libraries Act says cuts likely to be unlawful

Comment
Francis Bennion, who drafted the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, has written to the Times expressly stating that the current cuts are likely to be unlawful under its terms.  His view is important as it shows that the spirit, as well as the word, of the Act is against the current closures and other reductions in service.  It will be interesting to see what impact his intervention has in the debate as several legal challenges which are largely based on perceived contraventions of the Act.

415 libraries (333 buildings and 82 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.  

News

  • Councils as “place shapers”: the future of local government? - Guardian.  Warwickshire, currently looking to give away or close  16 out of  its 34 descibed as a “place-shaping trailblazer”.  Drop-off point for books in local supermarket, shared buildings with local councils, children’s centres, village hall and Revenue and Customs.
  • Literacy drive under threat, laureate warnsIndependent (Eire).  Eerily reminiscent of British experience. 
  • Public Libraries Act ignored, says man who wrote it - BookSeller.   “Former parliamentary counsel Francis Bennion drafted the bill that became the 1964 act, the cornerstone of the present public library service. In a letter to the Times today (16th August)”. “The civil servant spent 14 years in the Westminster Parliamentary Counsel Office drafting acts of parliament, as well as drafting the constitutions by which Pakistan and Ghana became republics.”.
“Under this provision a severe reduction now in the public library facilities which were being provided by a particular library authority two or three years ago is likely to be unlawful. This is because there is a presumption that the earlier provision did not exceed what was required under the Act … The Act does not contain any provision for reduction of the duties because of a need for “cuts”” Francis Bennion Letter, reproduced here with his permission, plus additional paragraph - Voices for the Library.  The full text and vital missing paragraph from the Times letter written by the drafter of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act article.

  • Will Kindles kill libraries? - Boston Phoenix.  “This week, OverDrive itself will host its own conference to help libraries deal with a massive onslaught of patrons clamoring to check out books on their Kindles. Can embattled public institutions handle such a drastic change? Does Kindle come to kill the American library, or to save it?” An excellent look at the issues involved. 


Changes


Local news

  • Bolton – New plans to shut libraries come under fire – Bolton News.  Second consultation too biased, says campaigners.  ” “We were amazed at how many people were prepared to fill in these council forms, despite their jargon and biased questions. It feels like being given the choice between being hung, shot or poisoned. People just want the council to find a way to keep these libraries open.” 
  • Borders – Council reveal plans to shelve librarians in BordersBorder Telegraph.   “”If they are going to do it in one town they need to do it in every town otherwise we want a reduction in our community tax….”I fear that the library service is going to be depleted to such an extent that it won’t be retained in smaller towns like Selkirk.” 
  • Brent – High court decision on future of libraries to be reached in OctoberHarrow Times. 
  • Cambridgeshire – New vision for Cambridgeshire libraries - Haverhill Echo.  “Ideas in also include libraries sharing facilities with small businesses such as the Post Office, and with Linton Library operating out of the Cathodeon Centre with other facilities the proposals would stand it in good stead.”.  Linton library may not be open in evenings. 
  • Durham – Clayport library to cease Sunday opening - Northern Echo.    “At a time when we have to make significant savings as a result of the Government grant reductions it is simply not sustainable or sensible for Sunday opening to continue,”.
  • Hammersmith & Fulham – Bush Theatre workers unearth old Shepherd’s Bush Library time capsule – Chronicle series.  Includes cutting that says ““Mr Edwards offered to build the library if the ratepayers would undertake to permanently maintain it under the provisions of the Libraries Act. The constituency was canvassed, and a public vote taken, which resulted in a majority of 2,440 in favour of the library.”
  • Isle of Wight – New hope for Bembridge libraryVentnor Blog.  Isle of Wight Rural Community Council may take over lease from council to allow for volunteer-run library. “This proposal deals with a number of issues at a stroke, including insurances and employment legislation issues covered by TUPE, which up until now has been a major sticking point. But we are not out of the woods yet, as we have to pay for all utility services, maintenance and running costs which add up to around £12,000 a year.”
  • Lancashire – Councillor slams plans to move Earby Library – Citizen.  Old building 10 minutes walk from centre of town..  “That building (Coronation Hall) is packed full of books. To close the library and replace it with a few shelves in a new location is despicable,”
  • Oxfordshire – Funding cuts leave rural libraries at a disadvantage – Henley Standard.   “The county council’s premise right at the start is to prioritise five areas — where people live, work, shop and study and public transport. By those criteria these have to be urban areas. Once that was set then there was a bias against rural areas … This is not a plan for the future, it’s not even a proper plan. They have looked for the simplest way to solve their problem but it’s not managing it for the future.” 
  • Suffolk – Town council steps in to run library - Suffolk Free Press.  “Sudbury Library is among 14 others across the county which will be part of a new pilot scheme designed to save them from closure.”
  • Walthamstow – More than 1000 sign libraries petitionThis is Local London. “A day of action in protest at the proposed loss of Harrow Green Library and South Chingford library was organised by unions and anti-cuts groups in Walthamstow town Square on Saturday.”
  • Wigan – Calls for council to run the trust – Wigan Today.  “An opposition councillor is demanding the town hall once again run its recreation services – from parks and football pitches to libraries and crematoria – because of the money allegedly lost at last year’s Haigh Fest pop concerts.” – claims event lost £250,000 but the Trust refuses to reveal true loss as it is “private”.
  • Wokingham – Visitors to village library increase by 14 percent in a year - Henley Standard.   “The increase, the latest in a succession of annual rises, comes as Wokingham Borough Council plans to privatise its library service.” … “It is thought that a company could provide legal, human resources and IT services 20 per cent cheaper than the borough can. The bids are now closed and although a definite decision has not been made, all the preparation has been done and privatisation looks like the way they are going.”

Wasting £14 Billion

Comment

Boyd Tonkin in the Independent has written a wonderfully pro-library article arguing that libraries perform such a community role throughout the country that if they did not already exist, somebody would have to invent them now to help deal with a society riven with division.  Boyd also argues that this  network is now being lost due to the Cuts. By a coincidence, Caitlin Moran in the Times says somthing similar…
“Unless the Government has developed an exit strategy for the cuts, and has insisted that councils not sell closed properties, by the time we get back to “normal” again, our Victorian and postwar and Sixties red-brick boxy libraries will be coffee shops, Lidls and pubs. No new libraries will be built to replace them. These libraries will be lost forever.”

Of course, there is no magic “exit strategy”. 20 to 50% cuts are simply not sustainable, no matter how many smaller libraries are forced into the hands of “volunteers” desperate to save a vital resource that the Council has decided is expendable and the Government has decided it need not defend. Boyd also goes on to say it would cost “uncountable billions to build”.  One wonders at this. It is probably countable if someone tries. Certainly the MLA could do so but it is not in the interests of its masters to encourage such thinking.  
In the spirit of Big Society thinking, though, let’s give it a go now using no resources, guesswork and unpaid time. If one assumes a conservative £3 million on average per library (even the smallest and hence most numerous libraries cost a million or two if new but a centrepiece library can cost a fortune. Birmingham Central alone will cost £200 million) and counts all 4600 libraries in the UK and them multiplies the two figures together it comes to £13,800,000,000.  Let’s round it up to a (literally) headline figure of £14 billion.  That’s fourteen billion pounds being given away, run down, prone to understaffing, underappreciated and certainly not publicised, sneered at and called redundant.  Some may call it ironic that this is fourteen billion pounds being wasted by a government and councils desperate to cut down on waste.  Those in the know, who love and treasure libraries and see the impact on people’s lives that a sufficiently resourced library can have, though, would not call it ironic.
We call it tragic.
415 libraries (333 buildings and 82 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.  

News

“At the very least, all library closures must now cease. Especially in inner-urban areas, buildings recently shut should reopen. Professional staff must provide the backbone of their service, although volunteers can and should play their part. All those turf-war squabbles about priorities – new books vs new technology, pure reading vs community outreach – should end. And central and local government could stop passing the buck.”  (Boyd Tonkin)

  • Children’s laureate attacks Future Libraries report - BookSeller. Report a mere “cost-cutting exercise”.  “Above all, I resent the underlying assumption that libraries should be underfunded by local government and should have to seek alternative ways to survive in the 21st century.”.
  • Erna WintersThis Week in Libraries.  A franchise group for libraries, Library of 100 talents, change management, innovation and wedding dresses. These are some of the topics on episode 49 of This Week in Libraries: your weekly dose of library innovation.”
  • Libraries can fill void as book retailers close - Times Report (USA).   Local bookshop closes, public libraries keen to help and also to move into the E-book market.
  • Libraries should embrace digital revolution says report - Guardian.  Summary of recent LGA report.  “”The best libraries are at the heart of councils’ approaches to everything from lifelong learning to wellbeing, job seeking, volunteering, education and encouraging more people to get online.”
  • Library closures – a view from Caitlin MoranNosy Crow.  Article republished, originally in Times magazine as Why library closures are a catastophe (behind paywall).  Some amazingly good turns of phrase. “The shelves were supposed to be loaded with books – but they were, of course, really doors … Everything I am is based on this ugly building on its lonely lawn – lit up during winter darkness, open in the slashing rain – which allowed a girl so poor she didn’t even own a purse to come in twice a day an experience actual magic … A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life-raft and a festival .. a library is where the wealthy’s taxes pay for you to become a little more extraordinary instead … Libraries that stayed open during the Blitz will be closed by budgets. A trillion small doors closing.”
  • Not one more library must close - Independent.  “At their best they embody an ideal of voluntary personal development and civic solidarity that few other sites could ever hope to match.”.  LGA have issued a “bland, dispiriting report”
  • Stop the privatisation of California’s public librariesCredo Action (USA).  

Changes

Local News

Campaigners from the Save Bolton Library Campaign reported no lack of interest in talking about libraries in the town centre last Saturday – in fact they were rushed off their feet. In just two hours 22 people offered to help with local campaigns, and no less than 110 people completed the four page official council consultation forms, with fifty more taking them away to complete. Campaign Chair Tom Hanley commented: “we were amazed at how many people were prepared to do fill these council forms in, despite their jargon and biased questions. It feels like being given the choice between being hung, shot or poisoned. People just want the council to find a way to keep these libraries open.” 240 people also signed the national ‘Love Your Libraries’ petition from the Womens Institute. Save Bolton Libraries Campaign press release.

  • Dorset – Battle continues for Chickerell Library - Dorset Echo.  Councillor says “Chickerell is to grow faster than many other Dorset communities and it will have many young children, deprived persons and elderly who would have great difficulty or significant costs in accessing the Weymouth Library.” If volunteers run it, library would only cost £8,000 per year.

  • Gloucestershire – Volunteers keen to help library carry on waitingThis is Glos.  “EAGER volunteers who came forward to run Prestbury’s library will have to wait until next month to find out if their services are needed.”.
    • In the interest of balance … the people and their libraries - FoGL.   Prestbury will not be closed and therefore is not subject to the injunction.  Many delighted library service is still there in places where branch or mobile would have otherwise closed except for the injunction.  Local press highly biased in favour of council.
  • Halton – Runcorn market to become library - Place North West.   “The £550,000 scheme will start on site in October, with completion scheduled for March 2012. The 6,400 sq ft building will be home both to Halton Library Services and Halton Direct Link, providing public access to the library’s lending and reference collections, computer facilities and council services including payments, service requests and general enquiries.”
  • Lewisham – £24k price tag to reopen New Cross library - BookSeller.   Cost is in rent for building, to be called “New Cross People’s Library”.  “It is my opinion that we can provide something that is different [from the previous library], in some ways inferior (although in other ways much better). We would all prefer a proper library with properly trained and paid librarians, but the council took that away from us, leaving us to try and build back up to that position sometime in the future, and you have to start somewhere.”
  • North Yorkshire – Libraries are owed thousands in fines - BBC.   £180,000 in last seven years. “The county council said it would cost it significantly more than it is owed to collect the outstanding amounts.”.  Council collects £120k per year.
  • Selkirkshire – Library switch confirmed amid fears over service quality - Southern Reporter.  “…had been assured there would be more, not less, space for library services in the municipal buildings and said councillors were due to be briefed next week on when the switch would occur.”  Customer contact centres losing usage so their staff would be kept busy in libraries.  ““If these plans are enacted, and I’ve no doubt they are a fait accompli, then patently the level of service offered to the people of Hawick and Galashiels, where facilities won’t be merged, will be of a higher quality than in Selkirk and the other targeted towns.”

“Discipline and Fear”

415 libraries (333 buildings and 82 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day. 

News

  • Book sniffer and Chris Mould take a trip to the LibraryBook Sniffer.  Library campaigning through the medium of dogs and dog-related books.  Seriously.
  • Digital libraries vision “bland and unchallenging”UKauthorITy.  …Liz McGettigan, libraries and information services manager at Edinburgh City council, said that while this vision “partly acknowledges the social and information role of libraries which is now as key as the book lending elements,” on the whole “it is a very bland document and not remotely innovative or challenging enough … There is no acknowledgement of a sense of place and local history, no attempt to portray a real vision of a library of the future.“.
  • Government blamed after “bored” teenager resorts to picking up a book - NewsThump. “I’ve said all along that unless the government spends millions on youth centres equipped with computer games and pool tables, then a whole generation could be lost to the libraries.”
  • L’Angleterre met la hache dans les bibliothèques ["England puts the axe into its libraries"] – Le Devoir.  Article (in French) says that major cuts that caused the riots also affect libraries and questions the potential success of the recent LGA report.  Cuts in libraries are not helping, especially as many are already operating with minimal resources.
  • Library lottery plan holds communities to ransom - UNISON.   “The plans will create a postcode lottery, with some communities doing without libraries altogether if groups fail to rise to the challenge. If contracts with charities also fail, private companies are ready to come in and clean up.”… “”More than 30,000 children are leaving primary school with a reading age of seven or below – libraries are key to improving literacy, especially in deprived areas.”
  • Public sector workers need “discipline and fear” says Oliver LetwinGuardian.  Government coalition chief thinks excellence will be achieved by scaring staff into it.  “Letwin was speaking at the launch of a liberal thinktank’s report at the London headquarters of KPMG, one of the biggest recipients of government cash, which won the first contract for NHS commissioning following the decision to scrap primary care trusts and further open the health service to private companies.”
  • Riots updated: Sennett, Rykwert, Till, De Botton, Tavernor and more on why Britain is burningArchitect’s Journal.  “Spaces for young people and public facilities in general (nurseries, libraries, green open spaces…) are definitely not a focus in the schemes we have been reviewing over the last few years.”
  • Successfully spreading the online campaigning messageVoices for the Library.   Group highlighted as leaders in online campaigning – “You can help us achieve this by continuing to highlight the dreadful cuts that are happening to public libraries in this country – share campaigning links via Facebook and Twitter; share images via Flickr, Photobucket and Youtube; or simply just talk to someone face-to-face about it. It all really does help to spread the word.”
  • Three Rs: Reading, wRiting and Rioting - Walk You Home.  “… I’m certainly not suggesting that if you chuck a few library buildings into places where people are looting and burning, that suddenly you’ve solved all of society’s problems, but I do think that libraries and librarians have a role to play as part of a much bigger picture.”.  Libraries improve literacy, literacy improves life chances…and several other pertinent points. 

Changes

Hampshire - Introducing children’s fines (5p per book per day up to 40p max). 
Powys – Below average assessment, inc. bookstock.
West Sussex – Angmering Library possibly to be run with volunteers and extra payments by parish council. 

Local news

  • Barnet – Council claimes library report “along same lines” as its policyTimes series.  Councillor says ““I am delighted that the MLA is running along the same lines and recognizes that the proposals we are making show how we can improve the service at a time of austerity.” [Barnet wishes to close 2 and sell off the buildings of a further 4, moving libraries into shared or cheaper buildings].
  • Birmingham – What a valuable community resourceVoices for the Library.  The situation in Sutton Coldfield and in other libraries in the authority.
  • Brent – Warned not to close libraries “by stealth”BookSeller.  “I am concerned that Labour [who dominate the council] may try to pre-empt the judge’s decision by reducing opening hours and failing to re-stock or fully staff the threatened libraries. This is not acceptable,” he warned. “It is still not too late for Labour councillors to abandon their half-baked plan to shut half of Brent’s libraries.” says Lib Dem group leader.
  • Calderdale – These are our assets, not the councillorsHalifax Courier.  “So the council has been urged to sell off more of its assets. I have news, our worthy councillors do not own these assets, they are managing them on behalf of the public of Calderdale. These assets:- museums, swimming pools, libraries, car parks, etc, should be made best use of for the benefit of the public.”
  • Conwy – Colwym Bay bookshop to open doors as a library - North Wales Weekly News.   Swanlake Bookshop in Hawarden to offer free loan of books in return for membership fee.  “She also criticised the government’s “negative approach in supporting local libraries. I also want to motivate young people to engage their mind in a meaningful activity as part of a preventative measure against harmful thoughts and activities, such as the current riots in the country.”
  • Croydon – Residents comment disregarded and many denied a say on librariesSanderstead Library Campaign Group.   Council refuses to give full results of consultation, disregarded question which allowed answer “do nothing”, cross-part commission on libraries refused, many residents still not aware of “market testing” (preliminary move to privatisation) of libraries, no update to campaigners or residents groups.
  • Hampshire – County Councils’ library service to find children over late booksThis is Hampshire.  “Book borrowers face a raft of new and increased charges from next month in an attempt to rake in an extra £30,000.”  Lib Dem opposition councillor says ““Charging late fees for children is a reading tax. This all covers up the more amazing fact that the county has lost 30,000 books in recent years. The council should concentrate on tracking down these rather than discouraging children reading.” 
  • Hertfordshire – Ex-library worker hits out at County Hall’s “appalling” job cuts strategy - Mercury.  Staff made redundant after months of uncertainty, left feeling like “hey were something undesirable on the bottom of someone’s shoe.” and sick that council chief calls refraining increasing her £203,000 salary this year “real leadership”.  Lower-ranking staff cut more deeply than senior.  
  • Powys – Library spending “not high enough” says report - County Times.  ““It is evident that the authority recognises its areas of weakness,” said the Welsh Public Library Standards assessment for 2010-11, “but financial constraints are increasingly becoming a factor in forward planning.”
  • Surrey – On borrowed time - Surrey Downs (page 41).  Reduction in libraries (some of them well-used) will have disproportionate effect on those without transport and will also affect childrens’ literacy.  Swish marketing campaign – similar to cinemas in the 1980s – could reverse decline.
  • Waltham Forest – Chingford: community library proposedGuardian series.   500 petition to save South Chingford.  Branch may move into nearby (also soon to be closed) Waltham Forest Direct shop, to be run by volunteers.  Council calls it “library of the future”, would need up to 200 (sic) volunteers to work.
  • West Sussex – Vote: Should Angmering save library from closure - Littlehampton Gazette.  Survey shows people willing to pay more in parish council tax in order to pay for library. “Discussions are likely to involve the parish ploughing money into keeping the library open, and even the possibility of the building, which also houses a children and family centre, being sold to the parish council, which would move its offices there and develop a village “hub”.”

Volunteers running libraries is a barbaric notion, says Edinburgh library chief

415 libraries (333 buildings and 82 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day. 

News

  • CILIP: libraries report “does not meet needs”BookSeller.  CILIP chief executive Annie Mauger said the report was not a “robust” enough piece of work from which to draw proper conclusions for the service. She said: “A Tory government made libraries statutory, now here we are with a Tory government supporting a programme that is not giving anything that will meet people’s needs. I feel quite strongly that it is such a limited document in scope and doesn’t change the underlying issue that libraries are being hit more than any other service.”  
“The notion that they can be run by volunteers in an Oxfam style is barbaric. Libraries don’t just lend books! Libraries are conduits and developers of information and bring information and communication skills to practitioners and residents at local and authority level. Libraries are learning centres and offer free access to many services as well as IT. Library buildings are a focus of action and interaction. They are gathering places that reflect a sense of belonging or even ownership among users. They offer welcoming, neutral spaces that provide opportunities for personal, cultural and community development. This helps us to see that the unique offer of libraries is not a single attribute, but the combination of many and this constitutes a powerful engine for community cohesion.” Edinburgh’s street corner universities: libraries don’t just lend books - Public Service. Chief librarian of Edinburgh Libraries speaks out.

 
“People have made an extremely strong link between librarians, libraries and books. This is only natural, but it really sells short the full value of libraries and the full scope of librarian work. Libraries offer so much more than moldy old books. There’s also music, movies, tv shows, video games, and electronic databases that span a whole galaxy of scholarly and practical information unavailable to any level of googling. Additionally, libraries offer free internet access that is utterly vital in many poor and rural communities. As government services migrate online, good citizenship almost requires an internet connection. Libraries also provide a free space for local groups and communities and have been at the forefront of job search training and computer instruction. Coordinating all of this are the humble librarians. We are not mere cart pushers, let me assure you. This job requires a Masters degree for a reason.” What people don’t get about working in a library. See comments too.

Changes

Local News

  • Brent – Libraries ruling put back to October - BookSeller.  Judge had originally said ruling to be announced in August.   
    • Ruling postponed till October - Preston Library Campaign.  £20,000 out of £30,000 needed to pay for legal challenge has now been raised.   
    • High Court ruling on Brent libraries delayed until OctoberLondon24.  “Most campaigners would say this has been a valuable lesson in local democracy, or the lack of it. It is astonishing that a Labour council, which represents a party that historically has always supported the provision of free local libraries, should so blatantly disregard the wishes of communities, communities who for the most have put that council in power.”
“This is an important test case and it is clear that the Court is giving it a commensurate degree of thought and attention. Brent has, so far, refrained from taking any significant steps to implement the closure decision under challenge and we understand it will continue to hold back from doing so over the Summer period out of respect for the Court process. Were existing services undermined or imperilled while the case is ongoing, we would, of course, need to take action to protect them such as seeking an injunction. We trust that will not be necessary.” John Halford from the Brent Campaign (Press release).

“I am full of admiration for the excellent work undertaken by the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries. I think it is very short sighted to close libraries, especially because that is where a lot of children gain and develop a love of books and reading and can extend their repertoire. Sometimes governments and local authorities forget that children are the adults of the future. I am in total support of the court case against Gloucestershire County Council. If left to proceed unchallenged, the Council would clearly be failing in its duties to provide an efficient and comprehensive library service.” Gloucestershire – Julia Donaldson, Children’s Laureate and author of The Gruffalo, meets with Friends of Gloucestershire LibrariesFoGL.  

  • Isle of Man – What a novel idea: library goes digital with ebook loans – Isle of Man Today.  Borough Council has paid for 600 downloadable titles at Henry Bloom Library.  “The service is free for residents of Douglas, Braddan, Santon and Lonan, and available to all other island residents for an annual fee.”
  • North Yorkshire – Credit union collection points set up at libraries - Craven Herald & Pioneer.  Skipton and Cross HillsLibraries have points.  ““It is brilliant news that the credit union’s services will be available at the library. This is yet another valuable service being offered to residents and reinforces the important services and facilities the library offers the community.” 
  • Somerset – Tories claim they’ll bounce back after by-election defeat – This is the Westcountry.  Conservatives lose seat with c.30% less votes than previously.  Lib Dems win.  Lib Dem MP says ““I believe this result is a wake-up call to the Conservatives on the county council, who have been implementing some very damaging policies such as closing waste centres and libraries, and axing rural bus routes.”
  • Suffolk – Three communities unite to save their libraries - EADT.   Eye, Stradbroke and Debenham campaigners will form working group to work out how to keep libraries running. ““We had been working together in a shared campaign and we said we could cooperate to share staff and maybe a management structure.”
  • Waltham Forest – Film and stage star backs campaign against library closure - This is Local London.   Sir Derek Jacobi supports Harrow Green Library.  “It is with great pleasure that I lend you my whole-hearted support in your campaign to keep Harrow Green Library open. I owe a [great] deal to the Leytonstone library in my early years without which grounding I doubt I would have enjoyed the career that later occurred. Fight the council to the bitter end.”.  Day of action planned for Saturday 13th. 
  • Wigan – Mobile service scrappedWigan Today.  “Under the proposal there will be three kinds of service – Libraries Central for main town centre; Libraries Local in smaller town centres and a slimmed-down version, Libraries Express.”

Managing decline?

419 libraries (339 buildings and 80 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day. 

News

“Why did they illustrate this turgid and depessing document with pictures of libraries? I guess taking photos of a few books in the corner of a health centre might actually give the game away!” (Comment on Voices for the Library Facebook group on MLA report).

  • Campaigners critical over Government library blueprintBookSeller.  “…librarian group Voices for the Library have strongly criticised the report’s recommendations, saying they will do “serious damage to our public library network, and be counterproductive to efforts to modernise libraries and meet the needs of the UK public”. Libraries campaigner Desmond Clarke said it was “absolutely disgraceful” the report was “coming up with excuses to replace paid librarians with volunteers”, and that overall the report was “remarkably unimaginative.”
  • Life in Books: Janice GallowayGuardian. “she records libraries as the sole bright spot of her university career: “I hid in the library more often than not, reading the starts of books to find which ones spoke back, developing a trust in the friendship of the well-ordered word I’ve never lost.”

  • Opinion: Public interest needs protection in deals to privatise libraries - Mercury News (USA).  Privatising Santa Clarita libraries has cost taxpayer $12 million so far.  Other examples include lower opening hours, less qualified staff.  “Elsewhere in the nation, the Linden, N.J., library terminated its contract with LSSI after determining the town could offer the same level of services for $300,000 less. Fargo, N.D., also terminated LSSI’s contract after the company repeatedly requested budget increases and failed to pay bills on time.” .
  • Potent mix of cuts, unemployment could fuel more UK riotsReuters.  “Britain has embarked on an unprecedented level of spending cuts in an effort to drive down its budget deficit, with local councils slashing a host of services from elderly care to libraries.”
  • Tintin and the value of libraries - JS Online (USA).  “Libraries, like every other entity in the media and publishing worlds, are moving resources to the digital realm, and that’s how it must be. But never underestimate the value of a child being able to sit in a room and browse freely through as many books as she wants and take a few home to read anywhere. That will always be valuable, and I hope that libraries will always be able to provide that.”
 Shirley Burnham on chief librarians
…chief librarians are, indeed, advising councils that small community libraries should be closed, divested or otherwise wrecked. This is NOT a new thing, by the way. And they are still doing it ! Now, that’s not the whole profession, but it’s those at the top of it. Do hard-working library assistants and librarians agree with it ? No, they most likely don’t, but are gagged. I wish that even one individual in the SCL (The Society of Chief Librarians) who disapproves would speak up, that CILIP (The librarians’ professional body) would publicly condemn it,” a comment on The Good Library Blog.

Notably, ours in Swindon in 2009 published a report recommending closure of 9 small libraries.   Dorset campaigners are now facing the exact same thing, as are many others.  I was on a ‘panel’ at an SCL conference once  –  never seen such a bunch of po-faced people.  As friendly as vinegar !  They loved Vaizey, though with his Future Libraries [expletive deleted]. That lot, speak out ?  Before hell freezes over ?  I think not.   But at least one of them ought to  –  and without delay.” in personal email, published with permission.

 
  • Women’s Institute “disappointed” by library reportBookSeller.  ““The minister discusses balancing the changing needs of communities with budget pressures, yet beneath the promising rhetoric on innovation and creativity, this report paints a picture of a service under threat. Replacing trained staff with volunteers is a false economy,” Bond warned. “Volunteers have an important role to play but they are not a replacement for a professional service and we would welcome more detail on the evidence to support the claim that ‘local people want to play a more active role in running libraries’,” she said.


Local News

  • Bolton – Argument to close libraries is flawed say campaignersBolton News.  ““Several of the objective criteria which the council said last February it would be using to make the decision, such as GCSE qualifications of local residents, were left out of the table altogether. Others, including the number of libraries within a 20 minute journey time, were given double weighting without any reasoned justification. “It leaves the council open to the accusation that the figures were rigged to obtain a preordained result.”
  • Oxfordshire – 1000 people respond to library cuts in two monthsHenley Standard.  Campaigners push for public to respond to consultation, using chance to put comments in (not just ticking boxes). ““Sonning Common library has not been saved. Although the council has promised to keep the library open, it is proposing to cut our professional staff hours from 25 a week to eight and substitute professional staff with volunteers.” Councillor says “we have got the core service saved and that is the main thing”.
  • Tameside – Carrbrook library founder says it is “community heart”BBC.   3500 books offered in cabin after council withdrew service in 2007.  Volunteers run it, books are donated.
  • Wakefield – Hope for library as fight continuesWakefield Express.  ““We’re now looking at sustaining a library service in the area rather than saving it. We talked about getting new organisations interested in using it as a base, like charities who might want to base outreach workers there for example. It has to have more than one use if it is to survive and if we can get some money behind us from some bigger organisations, we might even be able to build a much-needed new library eventually.”

Future Libraries: Volunteers working in a shop corner

Comment 

A very important document, the “Future libraries report: Change, options, and how to get thereby the Local Government Group/MLA was published on Friday.  It gets off to a good start with a statement that “The best libraries are at the heart of the council’s approach to everything from lifelong learning to wellbeing, job seeking, volunteering, education and encouraging more people to get online.”, although it is a tad bit of shame that the word “book” is not used at any point on the first page (indeed not until page 22).

Things then get seriously more worrying when one reads (and/or translates) the recommendations, changed into easier to understand wording below:

  • Close down libraries and move them in with otherr services such as jobcentres or move those services into libraries (“co-locating libraries”) and/or closing them and putting some books into shops, health/leisure centres, police stations (“non-traditional outlets”).
  • Using non-council staff to run libraries (“Trusts, and charitable companies, other councils or through the private sector”)
  • Sharing services with other councils
  • Replacing paid staff with volunteers (“Empowering local communities”)
It would serve no purpose to summarise the rest of the report (some of it is fairly tedious) so I will merely list the bits that are of interest to a non-senior library specialist.  
The report’s most interesting, for me, section is about merging library services with savings of up to 25% mentioned, although an example of an authority which has achieved this is not given (Slough has apparently, though saved 15% in its merger with Essex).  Other authorities that are merging services are described (a complete list is here).
Given the high level of interest in the subject, the report has remarkably little to say on private companies taking over libraries.  It says “A private sector provider now operates in Hounslow and other new providers are entering the market opening choices and comparators for financial and service performance.”.  That’s it.  The report does not mention the 8 libraries that were initially selected for closure this year in Hounslow or the £300,000 cut from its bookfund.

On the subject of volunteers, the report lurches into uncertain factual grounds, saying that in “some areas local people want to play a more active role in running libraries, and councils are working through the implications of this for their statutory duty under the Public Libraries & Museum Act 1964 to provide a comprehensive and efficient service..  This is highly questionable as it should be noted that there is not a single case of this happening without the Council having made clear that the library would close otherwise. 

Strong political leadership is seen as essential, due to the “high level of public interest” in any changes to libraries.  The phrase could of course be put more accurately as “high level of public opposition”. Other important things to bear are in mind is the  importance of clearly stating what is required and what will be given/expected to people taken over the service. This is seemingly quite basic advice and it’s scary councils are apparently needing guidance on this, although a report from North Yorkshire today confirms that they do.  Interestingly (given the many current legal challenges) the need for strong legal advice is stated. There are whole sections (such as “positioning libraries”, “internal capacity to support change” and “Analysis of need”) which can be summarised as Make Sure You Know What You’re Actually Doing and That You Can Actually Do It.  Again, this is worrying that councils need to be told this.
Given the poor general council record on consultation the section on “user and community engagement” rings a lot of bells.  The line in the report (p.27) that “the earlier the engagement and the better the communication, the better the outcomes overall” should perhaps be in large bold font.  Worryingly for library staff everywhere, the otherwise almost pathologically (my money is on the author having been on a “think positive” training course) upbeat report admits that it is “hard times” for paid staff.  With reports like this being published and lauded by government, it is indeed.

Other items in the media  on the Report…

 “One of the worrying statements in the report is this: Change will only happen if political leadership and professional expertise are harnessed in the same direction. Hence this publication is aimed at those leaders who will drive the change. ” It is being directed at the very people who have presided over the engineered decline of public libraries over the last couple of decades and who now embrace the mass closures stimulated by government policy. It is vital that ordinary people make sure that debate and discussion includes library supporters instead of technocrats, policians and bean-counters” [Comment on Voices for the Library facebook page]

  • How can libraries survive? – BBC. 90 seconds from the BBC TV news on the report and its implications.
  • Librarians will rely on volunteers to surviveGuardian.   “More and more books will be distributed from shops, churches and village halls, predict local government and library bodies”.  “Culture minister Ed Vaizey said the report shone a spotlight on innovation and creative partnerships. “It will be a hugely useful resource, inspiring local authorities to emulate the best ideas to provide a first rate library service.”
  • Now books can be borrowed at stores - Express.  “Supermarkets are being invited to offer any spare room to public libraries in an attempt to save money and attract more borrowers.”
  • Plan to create libraries of the futureBBC. Summarises the report and comment son the BBC Radio 4 Today programme from the LGA that “The death of the book isn’t going to happen,” he said. “But equally if you go into a library now you find rows and rows of young people or older people using the internet and studying and that isn’t something I think we would’ve envisaged 30 years ago and certainly not 60 years ago.”.  Libraries, he continues, should take their “fair share” of cuts.  The BBC editor has picked largley positive comments about co-locating libraries (such as in doctor’s surgery) for the highlights in the comment section.
  • Shirley BurnhamRadio Five Live (1:50:19) – Library campaigner Shirley Burnham puts up spirited defence for librarians and library buildings.  One library in Swindon was turned over to volunteers but will be returned back to being run by paid staff as it had problems recruiting volunteers.  “Excellent professional staff, with knowledge and experience” highlighted “.. not trying to sell you frozen peas, God or a recycled computer, it was a community public space, completely neutral “.
    “Can I share one little thing? If you stick a skipping rope in a corner, you don’t call it a leisure centre.  If you stick a cracked ming vase on the mantelpiece, you don’t call it a museum. Right? If you stick a bunch of books in the corner of a shop, a church or a phonebox, that is not a library… just compare what is being foisted on you with what you have.” Shirley Burnham

“Unfortunately, at a time when real leadership and vision is required to outline a truly 21st century library service, the government is found lacking in imagination, short-sighted in its approach and blinkered by ideology.  These proposals do not outline a positive future for libraries and will only further their decline.  We strongly urge the government to tear up these proposals and truly listen to the needs and demands of local communities across the country.  Furthermore, we recommend that library users express their concerns regarding these proposals by emailing the Arts Council, the department that now has responsibility for libraries, at museums.libraries@artscouncil.org.uk.” Voices for the Library

  • Statement on the future libraries report - Voices for the Library. “Voices for the Library believes that the set of proposals outlined will lead to serious damage to our public library network, and be counterproductive to efforts to modernise libraries and meet the needs of the UK public.” Volunteers should not be used to replace paid staff, libraries should be in library buildings. Privatising the process will mean short-term cuts in order to make profit and loss of paid staff. Putting libraries in shops will end their neutrality.

News

  • For the record - Guardian.  “Core local authority funding across England is to be cut by 27% over four years, forcing many councils to cut all non-statutory provision such as libraries and youth services, which provide crucial services for working mothers.” [libraries are of course statutory]

  • No more xenophobiaGood Library Blog.  Controversial as ever, Tim Coates comes out firmly in favour of privatisation, arguing that comments against it are xenophobic due to LSSI being an American company.  “When they are given the chance LSSI tries to cut needless overhead and direct the resources granted to the library service in the direction of providing a better managed and better quality service. Because they are a private commercial company, with owners and investors in place of government grants, they need to operate at a profit; otherwise they would close.”.  [NB. Tim has pointed out that the piece is intended to point out xenophobia rather than as a pro-privatisation piece.  This correction added 8th August 2012].
  • Public libraries and me - Thebradfordlibrarian. Librarian describes what she gets out (often literally) of the library.   
  • Save our libraries: Reserve this book today - Playing by the book.  “Last week we were on holiday in a county where 9 libraries have had their funding withdrawn. If volunteers can’t be found (putting aside the whole issue of whether volunteers running libraries is a good thing) the libraries, more than a quarter of all the libraries in the county in question, will shut their doors for a final time within a year. The message this sends out to me is “We, the powers that be, don’t care about imagination, exploration, understanding. We don’t care about community.”.  Otto the Book Bear is a book about the “magic of libraries”.  
  • Won’t someone think of the librarians?Dale & Co.   “Alix Mortimer mounts a passionate defence of librarians and the work they do to help people in their communities.” – ” But what shops and churches are presumably not going to start providing is librarians. And librarians are what make libraries worth defending, because their expertise in sifting information is put at the disposal of anyone who comes in off the street with a problem. Anyone.”…..”Until the advent of AI, the library worker remains the most sophisticated search engine on earth. Providing that capacity, for free, to allcomers, is one of the best and most characteristically liberal uses of state funding I can think of.” 

Changes

Local News

 
  • Gloucestershire – First birthday: the story so far - FoGL.   Summary of the last year of library cuts and campaigning in the county including formation, a 15 000 name signature petition, council intransigence, formal complaints, legal action and the first ever legal injunction against library closures.  “This has never been about party politics (FoGL supporters are drawn from a range of political affiliations, and walks of life), yet we have been at best ignored by the GCC administration, and at worst insulted and dismissed as ‘professional troublemakers’, ‘militants’ and ‘the usual suspects’ (whatever that means)”.
  • North Yorkshire – Supporters need business expertise - Craven Herald & Pioneer.   Gargrave Library campaigners unimpressed by council dashing their hopes over council support.  Library group needs professional expertise in order to produce three year business plan but this has been so far been unforthcoming.