Fight for the user

The key thing about public libraries is that they are for the user and the user can be anyone.  These are a few examples that library workers all around the country will find familiar: 
  • A small child looking for Thomas the Tank Engine.  
  • The Year Six girl looking for the Hunger Games.  
  • A student looking for study space because there is no quiet at home.  
  • The transgender individual who is, for this is the world we live in, hunted down outside of the library and fears to live alone, who uses us for a safe haven.
  • A businessman looking to use a fax.  
  • The dancing group practising their moves in the room upstairs.
  • An unemployed man in his 50s learning how to do his CV.
  • The chap just coming in for a book.  Multiply him by a hundred.
  • The senior citizen who has no-one at home and relies on the library for people contact.
  • A supermarket worker, in her lunch break, photocopying a receipt
  • The first-time artist hesitantly asking to display their work
  • A gentleman researching their family history both on microfilm and online
  • The mum chatting with another mum while their children are bopping along at dancetime
  • A middle-aged woman who has an addiction to books and cannot meet it any other way
  • The group of teenagers who sit for thirty minutes on the sofa 
  • An older man with a history of mental health problems who has joined the reading group and now says hello to library staff, for the first time in years.
  • A chap using the toilets
  • The student finishing their dissertation in the reference library
  • A stamp collector using the Stanley Gibbons catalogues for the twentieth time
  • The basic skills groups coming in, with their tutor, to read the newspapers
  • Another group of people, normally men, who sit separately to read the papers, as they do every day, perhaps sometimes agreeing, sometimes arguing with each other on the issues of the day, sometimes just sitting, quietly enjoying the experience.
  • A group of people coming to play scrabble and chess
  • The quiet lad who reads through the Science Fiction section
  • The loud teenager with a hoodie, abusive in a group, who looks less scary when he is alone waiting for his friends, with clearly nowhere else to go.
  • A chap in tweed with a desire for more Westerns than Asda dream of selling
  • The tough-looking man who is looking for the CITB health and safety questions he needs to get a job.
  • A man with a problem with his car but no money to fix it looking for the Haynes manual which will save him a vital few pounds.
  • The man and a woman from Poland coming in to book their flight tickets home
  • A Christian researching commentaries or an atheist wanting to read Richard Dawkins.
  • A woman waiting for her friend in the foyer
  • The school group coming in to change their books
  • A group of children, perhaps ten years of age, drawing pictures in the children’s library for thirty minutes then asking, politely, if they can be displayed on the noticeboard.
  • Another child, with nothing to do and possibly no-one at home, asking for “jobs” to do.
  • A lady with a bag of books she wants to donate.  She joins after giving over the books, taking out as many as she has given.
  • The aunt who does not know how to use email but knows that we can help.
  • A tourist, or lorry driver or businessman or you, asking for directions.
  • The High School tutors using the study space as a place to sit with students who, for whatever reason, need to be educated outside of school.
  • The local councillor using the space to talk to his constituents
  • A chap asking for the bus timetables
  • The teaching assistant wanting a list of childcare books for her qualification
  • The lady from Africa with poor English asking for help with a visa.
  • A teenager using facebook because this is a vital part of young life that his lack of internet access at home would have excluded him from.
  • Another teenager who needs to use a computer for their homework.
  • The well-dressed couple coming in, for the first time in years, because their printer has broken.
  • A local history group researching records only available at the library.
All of these are not unusual.  All of these are almost daily occurrences.  Public libraries are there for all of these people. It is the role of libraries to be there for them.  By providing a brilliant service these users will continue to appreciate library staff.  If we annoyed any of them once, they would not be back.  By fighting to be as open and as helpful and as neutral as possible librarians fight for these users and, when the times comes, when times are hard as they are now, something wonderful happens.  The user fights as well.
  • Access, schmacess: libraries in the age of information ubiquity –  Eli Neuburger from Ann Arbor District Library speaks at an Australian conference in February 2012.  Superb talk about what the internet means for public libraries and suggestions for the future including “share stuff” and “fight for the user”.   Includes successful events including lego competitions, gamification, getting volunteers as players on computers playing for points.  “There’s a bright future for librarianship, just not on the desk”. 
  • British Library explores a thousand years of UK landscape – Daily Star.   “… new British Library exhibition on how landscape permeates some of the best British writing, and how writers have responded to space and place. The 150 works chosen to represent more than 1,000 years of British literature in “Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands” also throw up some unlikely comparisons. Where else would you see the original manuscript for “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” together with the six-centuries-older “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” the earliest surviving manuscript of the medieval romance poem?”
  • Dying tradition – Business World (India).  “2012 marks the centenary of the library movement in India. Today there aren’t enough libraries in the country; there is a great need to invest in them, both financially and emotionally” … “There is no doubt that internet activity has eaten into the library movement and there is plenty of funding required to maintain a library, especially with high standards. Maybe CSR initiatives or public-private partnerships could be encouraged some more to establish more such social places. In fact, William Kamkwamba, who’s been working on creating libraries across Africa, realised that libraries can act as engines of economic growth.”
  • How libraries can buy DRM free ebooks – Deborah Fitchett (USA).   If every library donates a small amount then some books can be available to them free forever via 
  • Portage library to offer telescope for patrons to check outPeter Scott’s Library Blog.  “When the stars come out, patrons of the Portage District Library will be able to see them more clearly. The library is the first in the state to offer a telescope that library card holders can check out thanks to a donation by the Kalamazoo Astronomical Society.”
“What springs to mind when you read these names: Bolton, Suffolk, Oxfordshire with Kent, Cornwall, Lewisham, Croydon and Greenwich? Library closures, I hear you cry. Screwing up the future of Upper Norwood library, I hear you wail. Handing over perfectly good libraries to an array of trusts and other providers, I hear you snort. Well yes, all of those, but there is something else. Yes, you’ve got it, they are all participants in the ironically entitled Future Libraries Programme. Laugh, I almost did!” Alan Gibbons.


Aberdeenshire – Rated “excellent” by Scottish Library and Information Council.   

Local News

  • Aberdeenshire – Top marks for local libraries – Donside Piper.  Aberdeenshire Council Libraries are celebrating after being given the stamp of approval by the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC). The council service was officially deemed excellent by the independent advisory body, following a visit by representatives of SLIC to assess the quality of library provision to local communities.”
  • Brent – Leader of Brent Council insists he was unaware of Kensal Rise Library events despite claims councillors knewBrent and Kilburn Times.   “, Cllr James Powney (Labour), lead member for environment and neighbourhoods, said he was told about three or four weeks ago that officers would move in this week to remove the Victorian reading room’s books. He said: “Yes I knew in advance, as indeed everyone.”
“We welcome the pledge made by the new Leader of Brent Council, Muhammed Butt, to host an urgent summit with All Souls College and community campaigners who are looking to take over the running of the Kensal Rise Library building . We urge All Souls College, (an Oxford college that has an endowment of over £230 million) to support this” Kensal Rise Library online petition.

  • Half of regular library users have stopped borrowing books – BNCTV.   “A report to be considered by councillors on Monday, 21st May, reveals that 5,500 people, who used to be active borrowers, have stopped using Brent libraries since the closure of Barham Park, Cricklewood, Kensal Rise, Neasden, Preston and Tokyngton libraries last October.” … “Monthly releases of library visitor numbers have shown that the overall number of library visits has fallen by about a fifth compared to the same period before the six libraries were closed. The need for a local library service is demonstrated by the popular Barham Volunteer Library, which is attracting dozens of people every Saturday despite being open only three hours a week and without the support of professional library staff.”
“Remember all the bland, posturing nonsense by book butchering councils that by closing libraries, sacking staff, reducing opening hours and cutting the book fund they would somehow make libraries leaner, fitter, ‘sexier’ and so much more twenty first century, yah? Well, here is the evidence. Mirroring similar catastrophic falls in borrowing in Lewisham after closures, the Brent public, robbed of their local libraries, have simply stopped using the service. This was as inevitable as the self-serving delusional claptrap spouted by council apparatchiks droning about world class services while those established over a century are cut to shreds.” Alan Gibbons.

  • Greenwich – Union claims victory in library row – This is Local London.   “Unite now claims that negotiations following the strikes have led to library workers not being put on GLL contracts, keeping the same terms as previously. Regional officer for the union Onay Kasab said: “I am proud of the fact that these workers were prepared to stand up and fight in defence of pay and conditions. “It is only because they have made clear that they will strike, that these assurances have been won.”
  • Hertfordshire – Tapes for blind service switch will triple titles – Hemel Today.   “A service providing audio books for blind and visually impaired people is being handed over to a charity by Herts County Council in a move which will triple the number of titles on offer. It was agreed by cabinet on Monday that County Hall’s Cassettes for Blind People service will be taken up by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB).”
  • Richmond – Replacement of the Library Management System – London Borough of Richmond on Thames.   Richmond look set to move away from the DS Open Galaxy system and the London Libraries Consortium, moving instead to the Civica Spydus system and the SELMS consortium.

Surrey – No gruffalos, but children have a right good read – Get Surrey.  “o mark London 2012’s UK Inspire Day, Surrey County Council organised The Big Read for Small Children event at the Forestry Commission’s Alice Holt Forest in Farnham, to encourage parents to read with their children.”

  • Wandsworth – Friends of York Gardens Library and Community Centre – Lloyds Banking.  This funding provides a hugely welcome shot in the arm for a much-loved children’s library in a struggling part of north Battersea. How we’ll use the money: we would aim to identify, recruit and train additional volunteers for homework club. This is a 2-hour weekly session for children aged 7-14, run after school finishes. It aims to help children who may not receive parental assistance with homework and school progress (for example, because English is not their parents’ first language).”
York Gardens Library and Community Centre (YGLCC) has been shortlisted by Lloyds Banking Group Community Fund to potentially win £5,000 to support the projects that we run for local young people. The money would be used to help ensure that we can continue to run activities like our much valued homework club for 7-14 year olds. You can vote to support YGLCC by clicking on the link below, and following the instructions or by texting VOTESW5 to 61119.”

Three big stories


There have been three big stories in the news over the last week.  By far the biggest in terms of media coverage has been the latest stage in the Kensal Rise Library emergency.  The power of the local community to mobilise against the attempted emptying of the building and a partical success in delaying it continues to show that councils close libraries against the wishes of the local community at their peril.  There has been coverage in the Telegraph, Guardian and the Independent with even the Toronto Star picking up the story.
The other media story has been the other ongoing London crisis of the Upper Norwood Joint Library.  Croydon’s Cllr Bashford has got to be seriously regretting her “book token” comment of a while ago and, possibly, her career choice after what appears to have been angry meeting of 200 library users who squarely blame her council for the problems, despite her best efforts to pass the buck onto Lambeth.
Finally, a story that has not hit the papers but has had great resonance in the library profession is the revelation earlier this week that CILIP does not have a policy clearly against substitution of paid workers by volunteers.  Johanna Bo Anderson, quoted below, gives a “campaigner” view on the matter which will resonate with many.


  • Co-operative councils ask residents to design the public services they need – Guardian.  “We have now launched the Lambeth Youth Co-operative, are consulting on co-operative libraries and community hubs and will extend this approach across the council’s portfolio of services.”
  • Crux of the matter: examining the “why” of our daily practice – National Library of New Zealand.  A look at public libraries using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  “Does my library restrict, or enhance, conversations? Through conversations we make connections. We learn. We develop understandings and we share our wisdom. For library spaces, this requires a layout that accommodates both noise and quiet.  We need to deliver services that accomodate different types of learning. We need to encourage group activities as well as individual spaces.”
  • Volunteer libraries – Ian Clark. “A selection of comments on the revelations around CILIP’s “Policy on the Use of Volunteers in Public Libraries: A Review” document.”
  • CILIP and “job substitution”: library staff and service users are left standing alone – Johanna Bo Anderson’s Blog.   “Opposition to volunteer run libraries and opposition to “job substitution” are not one and the same. The fact is that they no longer have a clear stance. Their policy now really does not mean much to me. In my view, it is a woolly keep-every-one-happy-and-possibly-confused policy. It is entirely open to interpretation which is consequently to the detriment of the profession.”
“Personally I am totally against “job substitution”. If you need a volunteer to do a job then the post is not redundant, if it is not redundant, do not sack someone then get someone to do it for nothing….only to then spend money training a volunteer when you have placed a trained member of staff on the dole queue. I disagree with the conclusion made by Public Libraries News.  It is not “understandable” for CILIP to be anything other than opposed to ”job substitution”.  For a professional body to take a weak position regarding the replacement of its members by untrained volunteers is totally unacceptable.”

“I am not a member of CILIP. It concerns me greatly that none of the CILIP members I have spoken to knew about this discussion or the change in policy and were only alerted to it by my rantings. We are currently experiencing the biggest upheaval of the library service the profession has ever seen, an upheaval which will change the nature of CILIP and its current/potential membership, yet only a very few people seem aware of this. Librarians and library staff need a strong voice now more than they ever have. Currently it feels like no one at all is on our side apart from service users, even at the highest levels. If it still has not quite sunk in yet then I strongly suggest you read this.”

  • Future of library servicesCLOA (Conference).  “This 7th National Conference will bring together senior-level library and information management professionals from local authorities and the wider cultural sector in order to discuss emerging policy issues and share best practice from across the country. ” Ed Vaizey to speak.  “Hear from the Government on their vision for the future of library services”
  • Libraries for all – Key Note Blog.  SoA’s letter urges Gibb to support children’s literacy by making school libraries a statuary requirement in both primary and secondary schools. Wait, what? The news that it wasn’t legal requirement to have a library in schools was a complete shock to me. My experience has largely been in the primary system and all the schools that I have been lucky enough to spend time with have had a library – or at least a space dedicated to reading.”
“Forget stricter discipline, longer working hours, or lengthy phonics tests. What children need are books, a place to read them, and a spark of inspiration. Universal access to great libraries must be the first stepping stone along this path.”

  • No Futures library programme – Stop the Privatization of Public Libraries.   Lists those authorities which were part of the Future Libraries Programme.  “Make of it what you will, all i’ll say is that without exception every authority that participated in the programme has cut their library service, this includes library closures, cuts to opening hours, jobs and stock funds, volunteer run libraries and privatisation.”


Local News

… nothing more will happen in terms of the transfer of deeds for now. He wants to meet with us (just us, initially – tripartite meeting later) next week and no clearing of the library will happen before then, he says. As regards the books, he says he needs to allow them to be taken and redistributed, and the council also needs the computers. I argued the point on books and we can argue further next week. But significantly he agreed that the council would not remove shelves, tables or chairs. And he will make sure they don’t remove the large murals painted for the library, which is great. So the property transfer is on hold and we have a chance to take stock. And for once there’s the prospect of face-to-face discussions on a way forward. Obviously we need to be careful that Mo (as he is known) is not buying us off with bland assurances only to sell us down the river later. But so far so good.Brent – Kensal Rise Library Campaign (via email).
    • Library campaigners compile damning report – Harrow Observer.  “Campaigners fighting to save a treasured library centre compiled a detailed report of what they claim are Brent Council’s ‘failings’ with regard to a public consultation, and sent it to each member of the authority.”  Willesden Green report is called “Broken Promises” … “The council has hit back at the document saying it ‘considers much of it to be highly inaccurate and misleading’. But when The Observer asked the it to state which parts of the document are incorrect, it declined to do so.”
    • How our fight for Kensal Rise library has drawn the community together – Guardian (Comment is Free).  “By the time the alarm went up, there were about a dozen people inside, packing up all of the books and two giant trucks double parked on the narrow street outside. It should all have proceeded smoothly: just a day of heavy lifting. But something happened: as neighbours hurried off to work, they sent back heartbroken texts and emails reporting what was happening. Within minutes, local residents had started massing on the doorstep. By 9am, there were about 30 of us….”
      “This is where we take our babies to look for their first books, where our children can study in safety, where we use the computers to draft our CVs and look for jobs, where our grandparents go to get their large-print books and bump into their neighbours. We are willing to invest thousands of volunteer hours per year, fund-raise tirelessly, plan, dream and scheme to keep it going. All we need is a fair chance.”

    • Campaigners force delay in removing Kensal Rise library books – Telegraph.  “Labour leader Butt, 45, talking to the Telegraph this morning, said: “I will talk to the library campaigners and arrange a meeting with them.The removal men will not be going back to Kensal Road Library today and I will be having talks with council officers and other parties on the council about the situation. Then we will have fresh dialogue with the campaigners. I have spoken before to campaigners and understand that taking the books away means that it will no longer technically be a library. “But the library has been shut for six months and the council agreed with the owners, All Souls, that the stock – all the books and computers – would be transferred to other users rather than going to waste. At least this way, library users elsewhere in the borough can benefit. But the books do need to be removed and that will happen. But you must remember that my hands are tied by central legislation and the cut backs that have been enforced on us””
    • Fight to save historic library grips London communityToronto Star.  “The books belong to the council and were to be redistributed among the borough’s remaining six libraries, which are easily accessible by public transit, are open long hours and have more services, John said. Kensal Rise was originally established to help educate working-class people, she said, but has been taken over by “mostly middle-class people who want (the library) preserved for them.” Libraries, she said, must adapt to the times. “Libraries that work best are the ones that are in busy places,” she said, not small branches on residential streets. Kensal Rise only has 45,000 visits per year, she added.”
    • Residents battle to preserve library gifted to community by Mark TwainIndependent.  “A group of protesters became a figurehead for the host of anti-library closure campaigns across the country…”“These are the children who will not be able to use the library,” said 40-year-old Jodi Gramigni, indicating towards her two-year-old son Marcello. “This community had a place to go, regardless of their background or culture and they (the council) are stripping it away from us out of spite.”.  Article says stripping of library ended due to police concerns over disruption.
    • New leader of Brent Council rules out reopening any of the closed library branches – Brent and Kilburn Times. “ “If you are asking me if I am going to open Kensal Rise Library or Preston Library, then the answer is no. “We can’t go back on a decision. They have been taken by the Executive. The Executive has not changed much and the position cannot change.””
    • Library protesters mount 24-hour guard – London Evening Standard.  “Campaigners fighting the closure of Kensal Rise library have begun guarding it around the clock to prevent Brent council removing books and equipment. Mothers and pensioners are among those working in shifts as security guards to stop council contractors from trying to strip the library, which was closed last year because of budget cuts.”
“Author Alan Bennett is understood to be in talks with All Souls College, Oxford, which owns the building, to try to keep the books at Kensal Rise.”

    • Kensal Rise campaigners gain another day – Guardian.  This was the only story on Page 3 of the Guardian yesterday.  “Eighteen months after Brent council announced plans to shut six libraries in the borough, including Kensal Rise, and three months after the supreme court decided that no further appeal would be heard against the council’s decision, many campaigners were struggling to come to terms with the notion that the last books were on the verge of leaving the premises, rendering the imposing Victorian building, quite unequivocally, an ex-library.”
I can’t make sense of it or understand why Brent are acting in such a bloody-minded way,” he said.”It shows a hatred of the big community and the big society. It’s a completely irrational situation where everyone is a loser and it’s very sad. It’s a victory for ignorance.””

    • Tim Lott: Brent Council models itself on “Goodfellas” – Independent.   “It’s the Goodfellas theory of politics – that local councils are more like mob bosses than rational actors. They hate losing face. Dey run dis turf, not punk civilians. Everything can go to hell so their mob logic is sustained.”
  • Croydon/Lambeth – Packed public meeting hears pleas to save Upper Norwood Library – This is Croydon Today.  Primary school children joined a passionate public meeting and delivered a simple message to Croydon Council: “Don’t close Upper Norwood Library.” More than 200 library users – both young and old – packed into the Salvation Army Hall, in Westow Street, to make their strong feelings clear.” … “To a rapturous applause one resident questioned how it was “beyond the wit of elected politicians” to get together and continue running the service. Ms Bashford said: “I do listen and that’s why I come and do these meetings. I don’t have to do them, I choose to do them. We’re not questioning the work that’s done in the library, we know it’s good. “What we are doing is trying to find an alternative way, because the joint agreement is not in place, to look at provision of library services in Upper Norwood.””
    • Bashford “bashed” at library consultation – Crystal Palace Local.   “What we want as a community is for you to work together with Lambeth to continue to provide a library service. “If it’s so  difficult to have that conversation would you let us facilitate a discussion with Lambeth? “It’s a shame you took the decision before you consulted.” Long report looking at all of the issues.
    • Illegal behaviour suggested at volatile Upper Norwood Library meeting – Croydon Guardian.   Campaigner said ““The 112-year-old Upper Norwood Joint Library has survived two world wars, the great depression the three day working week and numerous recessions but now faces its greatest threat from Croydon Council flouting its legal agreement.””.  Another campaigner tells Ms Bashford “You treated us with contempt. I don’t expect elected members of Croydon Council to behaviour in such a way that made me fell less than worthless.””.  Worries that consultation is skewed.  Lambeth has agreed to continue funding its share of the library but Croydon refusing.
  • Dudley – Library due for £200k revamp – Express & Star.   “Over the coming months, the library will be decorated and reorganised to make it easier for people to find books, CDs and other items available to borrow. Most of the existing shelving and carpet, which has been in place for more than 40 years, will be replaced in areas used by visitors. Bosses have warned that there will be some disruption to services while the work is carried out. The total cost of the improvement work will be £208,000, and the plans have been drawn up following feedback from library users.” … “A Health Exchange service will also be set up at the library in partnership with NHS Health Exchange trainers, to offer advice to visitors on health issues.”
  • Leeds – Trio of Leeds libraries saved from closure threat –  Yorkshire Evening Post.  “Leeds City Council’s executive board has approved initial plans for community asset transfers of Shadwell, Rawdon and Drighlington libraries.”
  • Sefton – Council begins its review into the future of Southport’s libraries – Crosby Herald.   “A 12-week consultation is under way with residents, and library users being asked to complete a questionnaire online or in writing”
  • Surrey – Library plans “like Monty Python’s dead parrot” – Get Surrey.   “Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition at the county council, Councillor Hazel Watson, said: “Since the original announcement of the community-partnered libraries proposals – for the county’s libraries to be run by volunteers – we have seen Molesey library withdrawn from the plan, part-time paid staff allocated to libraries and the threat of ongoing staff training costs, all meaning that the plan can no longer be saving the county council money. “In other words, the often-stated reason that the county council is pushing ahead with the plans to save them from closure no longer adds up.“The only reason the plans are still being pursued is dogma, and the plans, like the famous Monty Python sketch, are a dead parrot nailed to the perch to give an impression of still being alive.””

New leader aborts attempt to clear Kensal Rise after protest

Brent Council, infamous for its high-handed library closures, has a new Leader in Muhammed Butt tonight.  One of his first actions was stopping, after being made aware of the protest outside it, the attempted clearance of Kensal Rise Library. This had started early this morning (two reports say 7.30am, one 8.30am) on the old leader, Ann John’s, last day of office.  The Council deny that this was a move to prevent Mr Butt from reversing her decision to close libraries.  The timing was apparently a coincidence.  The fact that a crowd of 50 people gathered to stop the unannounced clearance, even linking arms, shows all too well how important libraries are to their community and the wisdom of such a u-turn.  It is too early to see if the change in person at the top represents a change in the Council’s embarrassing (not least for the newly energetic and encouraging stance of the national Labour Party) attitude to libraries but it is at least a hopeful sign.  That it is no more than a sign is shown by the attitude of the new leader in Oxfordshire who has gone on record as saying that the move to partly staff half of the libraries in that county with volunteers will continue on his watch.


“CILIP must, surely, have foreseen that removing the policy in 2010 would open the floodgates. With one’s enemy a short distance from the gates it was wrong to have deliberately left them ajar — making it well nigh impossible to close them against the forces pressing up upon their feebly-constructed barricades in 2012. The introduction of a two-tier, postcode lottery library service is now well under way. This would seem to have been materially assisted by CILIP and the SCL going down the route of, at best, pragmatism and, at worst, compromise and appeasement. Frontline and junior management jobs have been acknowledged as expendable, whilst those fortunate enough to have secure positions in senior posts will reign over a service that has been mutilated beyond recognition. The production of a “discussion document” of this nature implies that the de-professionalisation of the service is not anathema to CILIP, nor to the SCL, and that their defence of the library service cannot be described admirable or robust. Why is a non-member commenting in this manner ? Because the service people rely on is in crisis.” Shirley Burnham.

I totally agree with Shirley. CILIP and the SCL should have come out with a strong message that they would under no circumstances support the replacement of paid staff with volunteers and the replacement of a comprehensive and efficient statutory service with a network of fragmented ‘community libraries'” Alan Wylie.

  • Selling the family silver (or a day at an Arts Council libraries consultation workshop) – Stop the privatization of public libraries.  Campaigner dismayed at the makeup of the audience for the workshop and for the pro-volunteering and pro-divesting viewpoint of some of the delegates … causing him to walk out.  “My group had Julie Hall, Service Development Manager, Information and Heritage, Lewisham, Darren Taylor, he of the Eco Computer Systems Lewisham community libraries fame, a Camden Campaigner, a Volunteer Coordinator and someone else to do with volunteering! The discussion got rather heated when the Camden campaigner started to taunt the Lewisham contingent and when I said to the Volunteer Coordinator “how do you think that I feel having built up 20+ years of knowledge and skills only to be told that a volunteer can do my job”, she said “that’s what I thought when I took up the challenge, am I supposed to do all this” When I brought up the issues of data protection, customer service, stock selection, etc I was told that “all these things can be easily learnt or overcome”!”
  • Society of Authors urges Gibb to make school libraries statutory – BookSeller.   “The Society of Authors has written to schools minister Nick Gibb urging him to support children’s literacy by making primary and secondary school libraries a statutory requirement. SoA general secretary Nicola Solomon told Gibb that over the past decade school libraries and library services had been “undervalued and neglected” and that the absence of school libraries and trained librarians was “deplorable”. Citing “proven links” between reading and attainment, Solomon said: “It is our belief that this needs to change and that all primary and secondary schools should be required by law to have a library, and dedicated librarians should be compulsory in secondary school and all but the smallest primary schools.”

Local News

  • Brent – What did for Ann John? – Wembley Matters.  “As the dust settles on the Brent Council leadership changes it is worth reflecting on the reasons behind the ousting of Ann John and what it means for the future. The libraries issue, both the closures and the redevelopment of the Willesden Green Centre, has been the most contentious aspect of Council policy. The presentation as ‘transformation’ rather than closure; the labelling of opponents as self-interested, unrepresentative and middle class; the ignoring of petitions; the suggestion that cheap books were readily available at Tesco; all riled local citizens and the energetic and resourceful campaigners kept the issue in the local press and crucially on the national media agenda. Nationally, Brent Labour’s library policy became an embarrassment for the Labour leadership …”.  However, her successor may be little different.
    • Wembley Matters: What did for Ann John? – Preston Library Campaign. 
    • Lobby the Brent Executive: 6.15pm Brent Town Hall – Preston Library Campaign.  “This Monday – 21 May – Brent’s Executive will consider a ‘Progress Report’ on the implementation of the Libraries Transformation Project (library closures to you and me). This remarkable report (which you can read on Brent’s website) barely mentions the huge drop in visits to Brent’s libraries since last October. It barely mentions the huge drop in books issued by Brent’s libraries. It does claim that 46% of the users of the closed libraries have moved to other libraries, but doesn’t reach the obvious conclusion – namely that the other 54%, many thousands of people, have been deprived of their library service.”
    • New Brent leader is urged to reverse library closuresLondon Evening Standard.  “Mr Butt, who ousted the former leader by two votes at the local Labour Party’s annual meeting, refused to be drawn on his plans for the remaining libraries. But he said: “I’ve lived in Brent all my life and with all the cuts from central government I thought having a fresh approach would help us to deliver services we should be delivering for all of Brent.””
    • Protest success as council stops library clearance – Harrow Observer.   “A peaceful protest outside a local library successfully halted the council’s plan to strip the building of its treasured books. More than 50 people gathered outside Kensal Rise Library today after council workers turned up with security staff to empty the building of its stock.”
    • Council deny claims Kensal Rise library was stripped of its boks today to prevent it from being reopened – Brent and Kilburn Times.   “Claims that attempts to strip an axed library branch of it books was carried out today to stop the new council leader from reversing the decision has been denied.”
    • MP “disappointment” at clearing of library stock – Harrow Observer.   “Sarah Teather, MP for Brent Central, has issued a statement this afternoon as a crowd of more than 50 people carry out a peaceful protest outside the library. She said: “This is another sad day for Brents libraries. Campaigners have tried to work with officials to keep Kensal Rise library open, but have been ignored at every turn. “They (Labour leaders) must stop removing books immediately and talk to campaigners and local residents before its too late.Councillor Butt has to get a grip of this matter if he wants to show that he can make a difference as leader of the council.””
    • Kensal Rise campaigners barricade doors – BookSeller.  “Around 50 campaigners have gathered outside the Brent library and prevented eight council workers accompanied by Brent’s head of libraries Sue Mackenzie, from taking the boxes of books, according to a report in the Guardian.
    • Protesters barricade doors of Kensal Rise library in bid to stop the council clearing shelves of books – Independent.   “Council officers moved in at around 8:30 this morning to begin the job of clearing Kensal Rise Library…And old sign posted in the window reads “the library will remain closed in the morning for a staff meeting and will reopen at 2pm. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
    • New leader of Brent Council unaware that Kensal Rise library would be stripped of its contents today – Brent & Kilburn Times.   “The new leader of the council has admitted that he had no idea Kensal Rise library was going to be stripped of its contents this morning (Wednesday). Cllr Muhammed Butt, who will step into the role formally this evening, told the Times he is trying to find out ‘exactly what is going on’ following today’s developments.”
    • Crowd gathers outside library as workers remove books – Harrow Observer.   “The crowd gathered outside Kensal Rise Library this morning, and are still watching the team of council staff strip the closed library. The staff are being supported by security guards. Campaigners are standing arm-in-arm outside the building in an attempt to stop the process and express their discontent at the latest move.”
    • Campaigners block council’s efforts to remove books from Kensal Rise Library – Guardian.  “One campaigner, local resident Richard Cross, described the council’s behaviour as “needlessly destructive”. The 44-year-old lawyer added: “It’s the action of an attitude of vendetta by the outgoing regime at Brent council. They cannot justify this by claiming lack of funds because we have said we’ll run it as a voluntary library and open it up for the community at no cost to the taxpayer.”

 “Council workers arrived at Kensal Rise Library this morning to clear the books, marking the end of local people’s efforts to save it from the cuts. Campaigners are furious. Jodie Gramigni, a local resident, explains what has happened.”.  This done on the last day of Ann John’s control of the Council.” Kensal library a ransacking ahead of Butt’s inauguration – Preston Library Campaign. 

  • Croydon – “Book Token” takes one in the Eye on library closures – Inside Croydon.   “The Philistines running our council have sounded the death knell for more than a century of learning and reading at Upper Norwood Joint Library with this brief paragraph in their Annual General Meeting papers which has just been posted on the Croydon Council website: 4.2.10 Upper Norwood Joint Library (article 11 schedule1) The Agreement with Lambeth Council establishing this joint committee has been terminated and so there is no longer a requirement to appoint to this joint committee. This is all despite the overwhelming and widespread public opposition to the library’s closure, with a campaign meeting even planned for tonight. And it is all in spite of Councillor Sara Bashford and Gavin Barwell MP‘s solemn public promises that no Croydon libraries will be closed.“.  Includes full text of Library News article in the Private Eye on the decision.
  • Hampshire – Consultation starts on plan to move Winchester library into discovery centre – Romsey Advertiser.   “People are being asked for their views on moving Stanmore library in Winchester to a community centre. As previously reported, the county council is planning to close the library in Wavell Way to save £35,000 a year.” … “The branch in the middle of a council estate would be the first of the council’s 53 libraries to close under budget cuts aimed at saving £450,000. North Baddesley library is also threatened with closure while other libraries across the county had opening hours reduced.”
  • Hertfordshire – Talking books service replaced – Review.  “Politicians have given the go-ahead to a proposal to replace a free service providing visually-impaired residents with talking books with a subscription to a charity library. At a meeting of Hertfordshire County Council’s cabinet on Monday, members voted unanimously to scrap Cassettes for Blind People (CfBP) in favour of a similar service operated by the Royal National Institute for the Blind.”
  • Lincolnshire – Library proposals are a “tragedy” – Skegness Standard.   “Skegness authors William Hussey and Margaret Dickinson have both condemned Lincolnshire County Council’s money saving suggestion threatening up to 260 jobs, which they fear represent a backward step for society with far reaching adverse consequences that will be hard to reverse.”
“Libraries have always been a great resource for people to gain access to knowledge, entertainment and education and it would be a tragedy if that was diminished in any way. With the best will in the world volunteers are not going to be able to offer the same service trained librarians can offer,” she said. As regular library users for research purposes, both authors have praised the expert assistance they receive from librarians in Skegness and would hate to see any of those employees lose their jobs to be replaced with an inferior service.”

  • Northumberland – New library helps double the number of visitors – Berwick Advertiser.  Wooler’s new library, which is blazing a trail in council and community partnership, will be officially opened on May 17 at its new home in Padgepool Place. Since the library was moved to a new extension in the Cheviot Centre in November, the number of book loans has risen 20 per cent, visitor numbers have increased by 100 per cent and membership is up 65 per cent compared to the same period last year. Library opening hours have tripled – instead of opening just two days a week it now opens six days in winter and seven days in summer.”
  • Oxfordshire – New county leader: libraries – Oxford Times.   “There will be no u-turn on plans to staff Oxfordshire’s libraries with volunteers, Mr Hudspeth warned. Almost half of the council’s libraries will be partly staffed with volunteers, but earlier this month County Hall was unable to say how many volunteers had so far come forward. Mr Hudspeth said: “If you look at a lot of things that go on in libraries there are already a lot of volunteers running services, including young children’s reading clubs, silver surfers clubs and community projects. It is not as if nothing is happening in libraries at the moment. “But I cannot see all libraries being manned by volunteers – that is not in the plans – and the underlying thing is that we are not closing any libraries in Oxfordshire.””

CILIP policy on volunteers not explicitly against direct substitution of staff

A document intended to inform discussion at a CILIP Council meeting in March 2012 has come to light.  Within it, the reasons for and against having an official policy against the direct substitution of paid staff by volunteers is discussed.  It has come as a surprise to the CILIP members I know that the body does not have a policy against substitution. Their response to the news was not a happy one.

The old Library Association used to have a policy that was explicitly against substitution.  However, this was removed by CILIP in 2010 at the time it was increasingly aware of the growing number of volunteer-run libraries.  The current policy was confirmed at the meeting and states:

“CILIP acknowledges the contribution that volunteers make to libraries, enriching the services they provide and helping to sustain their viability. In order to optimise the value of that contribution it should form part of a professionally managed public library service that has at its core sufficient paid staff to ensure the direction, development and quality of the service provided. Volunteers are not ‘free’ and need proper management, training and development. In many cases a volunteers’ co-ordinator should be appointed to ensure appropriate management and recognition of the value of volunteers.”
Mark Taylor, the Director of External Relations for CILIP has emailed me today to further explain whether it objects or not to substituting paid staff for volunteers.  His answer is “CILIP does object. CILIP does not believe that the unique skills and knowledge of professional library staff can or should be replaced by volunteers. For the public to receive quality services, public libraries should have professional staff at their core and volunteers should enrich public library services. However local authorities are managing the impact of significant budget reductions and having to make savings across all services, including public library services.”  He also goes on to say that:
“Following the Ed Vaizey’s evidence session [at the DCMS Inquiry into Library Closures] he committed to meeting with Annie Mauger to discuss the role of professional staff, a meeting in which Annie took a lead role. In the meeting Annie was very clear to the Chief Librarian, Arts Councils and the Minister that CILIP was not supporting volunteer run libraries.”
It is also worthwhile to note that it’s submission to the Inquiry stated that libraries must “be a professionally delivered service: by using the skills, experience and networks of professional library staff to shape services to the needs of local communities, engage them effectively in service development, and ensure safe and impartial access to services. Librarians are trained in these skills and work to a unique professional code of practice and ethical values. They bring expertise in reading and learning, acting as guides to the mass of data and online information that is increasingly used for decision making in daily life. Volunteers should not be a replacement for this knowledge and skill but can supplement and enrich a professionally led service””
CILIP does not plan to provide training courses for volunteers.  However,  volunteers can join CILIP as the website states that  “Anyone with an interest in information, knowledge or libraries can join.”.
The message I get from all of this is that CILIP is trying to do a balancing act.  It is aware that many authorities (I count 43) have volunteer-run libraries and it can hardly excommunicate all of them.  It is also aware that these cuts are due to the worst council cuts since the Great Depression and it has accepted, for good or ill, that cuts have to be made .  On the other hand, it hardly wants to encourage thse cuts or the direct replacement of its members by unpaid staff.  The body has been active in advocating for libraries, notably far more so in the last year or so than before.  This is not a balancing act that will please every paid librarian or supporter of public libraries but it is at least an understandable one.
Less understandable is the act put on by the minister technically for libraries Ed Vaizey.  Ed will be visiting Deptford library in Lewisham at 9.30 am to 10.30 on Thursday 24th May.  Deptford Library, is in the Deptford Lounge, a recently opened joint-use building that includes a cafe, leisure centre and games rooms, and looks (from the website at least) rather good.  However, the 21.6% cut in the council budget for libraries last year seems rather less worthy of celebration.  Having decided on these cuts, the borough withdrew council control from five of its twelve libraries last year.  Three (Crofton Park, Grove Park and Sydenham) were passed to the social enterprise Eco Computers.  Blackheath was passed, at a £230,000 expense to the taxpayer, to a charity called Age Exchange.  The last library, New Cross, has been taken over by volunteers.  Together, these branches, while far better than being closed, saw a 73% decrease in issues over one year.  There are plans for as many people as possible concerned about these cuts to be present to inform Mr Vaizey, in a perfectly legal and well-behaved way, of their displeasure at his inaction over these cuts. Be there if you can.

  • Are libraries still relevant? – TVNZ (New Zealand).  More young people using libraries, exponential increase in ebooks in Auckland.  Wellington physical usage slightly down but virtual visits are up.  Christchurch has three temporary libraries since the earthquake and more virtual presence and mobile libraries, 600 magazines in collection.
  • Hive to open in July – Designing Libraries.  First ever UK joint public and academic library opens in July in Worcester. Great picture.
  • Library services: library buildings – Envisioning the Library of the Future (Arts Council England).  In the site’s ninth posting, Kate Millin of Black Country Libraries looks at the future of library buildings in 2022.  She foresees: (1) a single online portal for information, (2) libraries will be colocated with other services/meeting rooms/staff (or holograms of them) with (3) professional staff who can neutrally answer and support users.
  • Mark Steel: Starve the Greeks and they’ll feel better – Independent.  “Up until now the argument has been that there’s no alternative. We have to slash public spending and wages because there’s so much debt that otherwise there’ll be chaos, absolute chaos. The joy of this method is it saves having to make a case for your actions, so it ought to be used more often…. So to stop the debt engulfing us we have to do things like shut down libraries. Because a glance at our economy tells you the biggest area of expenditure is libraries, the bill for rubber stamps alone coming to twice as much as the defence budget. It was excessive lending that led to the credit crisis, and what’s the only place that exists solely to lend – libraries. Lend lend lend they go, the filthy heaps of financial ruin that they are, one Catherine Cookson paperback after another floating out of the door with not a thought for the impact on the balance of payments deficit.”
  • Pay us for library ebook loans, say authors – Guardian.  “There is no difference between ebooks and print books” says Lindsey Davis of the Society of Authors but authors are not paid for ebook loans.  “Authors are paid 6.05p every time their physical books are borrowed from the UK’s public libraries, up to a maximum of £6,600, under the government-funded Public Lending Right scheme. But ebooks and audiobooks, a growing sector for library users, are not currently included in the scheme, even though the Digital Economy Act of 2010 paved the way for this to be done.” … “The issue of ebook lending from libraries is proving to be a thorny one for the books industry. Many publishers have yet to sign up to the practice, believing that libraries should “concentrate on delivering physical books to those least able to afford them, rather than offering ebooks to users who can afford ereaders”.”
  • Steven Bell: Future of librarians interview – Request detailed information (USA).  Respected academic and high-tech librarian looks at libraries: bit technical for the non keyed-in librarian but interesting if you are already have a grasp of the main issues. 
Local news
  • Brighton and Hove – Brighton’s Jubilee Library plans wifi to boost conference business – Argus.  “Brighton and Hove City Council has begun work to install wi-fi in the Jubilee library. This is part of an extensive project which will provide a blueprint for the city’s other libraries and potentially a wide range of users and locations. This will ensure that the best possible value is gained from any investment. The capital cost of the project to roll out the service at Jubilee Library is expected to be less than £10,000 and will have minimal running costs.”
  • Carmarthenshire – Communities pull together to keep their libraries going – This is South Wales. “Pontyates Library service has put out an SOS for volunteers to help keep its doors open. And elsewhere an army of public spirited book lovers are helping to man the libraries we love, with volunteers at Dafen, Tumble and at other branches.” … “The move to get volunteers in to stamp books is a controversial one, since it can come in tandem with redundancies for regular staff.” … “”We need around six people to come forward to make the running of it viable, but any more than that and we can look at increasing the services and hours we can open the facility.”.  Several libraries now run by volunteers.  “investment has gone into Llanelli Library, which is looking fresh-faced after a recent overhaul. “Carmarthen Library has had investment over the last few years to improve facilities; libraries such as Llandeilo, Llangennech, Burry Port, Cross Hands and St Clears have either been refurbished or moved to new locations by the library service working in partnership with community groups.””
  • Croydon – Upper Norwood Library public meeting to be held – Croydon Guardian.  “Croydon Council has drawn up four potential options for the future of Upper Norwood’s beloved library.Questionnaires regarding the four options can be filled in online or in hard copy from Croydon branch libraries. The deadline for the Council to receive these is May 20.”
  • Dorset – Balancing the books: Echo investigation reveals shocking library figures – Dorset Echo.  “The cost of replacing unreturned library books is more than the amount needed to run an axed library for two years. It would take £95,896.04 to replace overdue library books which have been loaned out from Dorset Libraries in the same amount of time. But in 2009/10 and 2010/11 Portland Underhill library running costs were £23,033.10 and £25,808.27 respectively.”.  1579 books are currently outstanding due for return in December.
  • North Yorkshire – Volunteers booked up to run axed library – Yorkshire Post.   Ayton Library reopened today as volunteer-run and renames as Derwent Valley Bridge. 
  • Stoke on Trent – Martin Tideswell: Libraries are much more than big buildings full of old books – This is Staffordshire.  “They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone and, in the case of public libraries, I believe we have reached a tipping point. After years of under-funding and successive regimes of councillors taking the view that a little trimming of this non-essential service won’t hurt, libraries in the city are barely able to function.  Opening hours have been slashed, staff numbers dramatically reduced and – perhaps worst of all – there seems no cohesive plan for the future of the ones that are still open.”
“… libraries are, and should be, far more than just big buildings full of old books. They are creative focal points and meeting places in neighbourhoods that have lost community centres, post offices and pubs. Libraries are places where friendships are made, skills are acquired and learning is, quite genuinely, a fun experience. Rich or poor, bereft of inspiration or aspiration, you can wander in and use or borrow books, music or films that will entertain you. You can meet people and take away ideas for life. This is a luxury we should never take for granted in the age of subscriptions and pay-per view entertainment. It is time we stopped butchering our libraries and put together a strategy to expand and develop the services they offer to make them even more relevant to diverse communities who, perhaps, have never needed them more.”

Libraries address a lack


My Twitter feed suggests that Edinburgh Libraries has won the inaugural Library of the Year Award at the BookSeller Industry Awards.  Well done to them. Interestingly, two out of the five finalists were from Scotland, with the other three being from England.   That’s a very good proportion considering the relative sizes of the two countries and it’s another indicator of the funding and importance given to public libraries north of the border and the lack of it to the south.
It’s also noteworthy that another council leader has apparently had to step down at least partially due to controversy over public libraries.  The latest one is Ann John of Brent, a council whose name is now synonymous with library closures and where over half of the service points are now no more despite massive political protest.


  • Funding to secure National Library of Scotland – Deadline. “Funding to ensure the National Library of Scotland (NLS) remains a national and international asset has been announced by the Culture Secretary. The exterior of the NLS’s Causewayside building in Edinburgh is to be replaced, with support of over £2 million from the Scottish Government.”
  • Library jobs go in £700k budget cuts – This is Staffordshire.   “Funding for public libraries across the region has plunged by £735,000 in three years and at least 20 fully-qualified librarian posts have been lost. New figures reveal the scale of cutbacks to the libraries in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire and Cheshire East as councils target the library service in budget savings.”
  • Magic of public libraries – Yahoo voices (USA).   “And those librarians! Those kind, smiling, knowledgeable, attentive, and friendly librarians. Those innocent librarians, telling me to have a nice day while I’m carefully slipping a variety of gratis merchandise in my bag. They give me great customer service and I smile back at them, but I am no customer. I’m an embezzler. I took these things from you, librarians! Don’t you know I didn’t even pay for this little plastic card, even this was free! I’m not supporting you at all!”
“The public library service needs improving…. what libraries need are more books.  One of the expressions they [Carnegie] use is that the library building should be separated from the library service.  That’s rubbish.  The library building is the library service. If you say things like that, it opens the door for politicians to shut library buildings.  If they shut library buildings you have no chance.  They are so important for children, for older people and then for all the stages in between.  We have to fight a bit for libraries.” Open Book21:40 to 27.53- BBC Radio Four.   “Tim Coates talks about his new website which aims to increase the capacity of libraries to provide e-books for their customers, in the week that the Carnegie Trust UK produced a report urging libraries to adapt to a changing world.”

  • Public sector equality duty … another successful challenge to service re-provisioning –  Lexology.  “The English High Court as ruled that Surrey County Council breached its public sector equality duty by agreeing to introduce a plan to replace professional librarians with local volunteers, as part of its plans to replace existing library services with services to be delivered via community partnership models.”
  • Respond to PLR consultation – Alan Gibbons.   “As you will know, the latest government attack on literacy is its attempt to abolish the Public Lending Right Organisation. PLR, the return on the number of times your books are borrowed from public libraries, are part of an author’s income. For the vast majority who are not best sellers it is a vital part of their income. I would appeal to you all to respond to the government’s consultation exercise. I enclose the PLR letter and Campaign for the Book supporter and author Steve Barlow’s response as an example of a reply. I would urge all authors to respond, making their own individual points.” …
  • Temples of the lost art – Herald Scotland.  Threatening libraries “is primarily an English, Welsh and Northern Irish problem. Extra Scottish Government investment means our library service has been ring-fenced from closures. That said, some services have moved from council control to the purview of community trusts and staff numbers while opening hours have been squeezed. Purchasing budgets are also af-fected. As Falkirk librarian and Unison branch secretary Gray Allan has said: “If you can’t afford a key book for your studies and the library can’t afford to buy it either, how are you to achieve your full potential?”
“… with the very idea of the library under threat, libraries are every day proving that they are plugged into their communities. They reflect local people’s interests and give the community the space to play out those interests. (And at no cost, remember. How many buildings allow you to spend the day there without buying something?) If we get wrapped up in the idea of them being providers of books we are limiting what they can do. Also, the danger is that if we get hung up on book provision we leave libraries open to the spurious argument that when everything is increasingly available online then book-filled libraries don’t matter so much…”

“Libraries address a lack. They are a presence that fills in absences. Poverty can be about a financial absence. It can also be about a lack of access. Libraries are there for you to borrow the latest James Patterson book if you want to. But increasingly they are a space to address digital poverty, too. According to Government statistics from last year, 33% of UK households do not have internet access.”

  • Viewpoint: do we still need libraries? – University of Liverpool.  “Sue Charteris, who led the Wirral Libraries Inquiry in 2009, and current Chair of The Reader Organisation, will take part in the University’s Policy Provocations series to discuss her views on the role libraries can play in the future.  Sue argues that although the core purpose of libraries – giving universal access to a world of learning and ideas through books and reading – has not changed since the its inception in 1850, it is now time to rethink the service they provide.”
  • Writers won’t lose out if libraries lend ebooks – Observer.  The theory goes that if people can borrow ebooks for nothing, they will have no reason to buy them. The same argument was used against libraries until it turned out that library users spent more on books than anyone else.” … “Librarians, publishers and authors share an interest in getting people reading. They need to work together to sort out e-lending, and their first priority should be to find an alternative to OverDrive, which is incompatible with Kindle.”


Local  News

  • Brent – Cllr Ann John is no longer leader of Brent Council – Save Barham Library.  “Cllr Ann John is no longer leader of Brent Council! No details about why but it has been suggested that campaigning in Brent, particularly around the issue of closing libraries might have had something to do with it”
    • Shock cost of repairs to Kilburn Library – Brent Liberal Democrats (press release).  “In November 2010 Brent Council told Liberal Democrat Group Leader Paul Lorber that the cost of repairs and maintenance to Kilburn Library over the next 20 years was £117,360 – less than any other library except Preston (£93,000) or Barham Park (£90,000). After the Council recently announced a 4-month closure of Kilburn Library for repairs and refurbishment Councillor Lorber asked for an up date. This time the embarassed Labour Council had to admit that the cost would be £650,000 – a fivefold increase. The Liberal Democrats are demanding to know why the Council did not make this figure public in 2010 when the future of Brent’s libraries was under discussion – especially as Labour Councillors claimed it was shortage of money which made them decide to close six popular local libraries.”
  • Buckinghamshire – Future of Great Missenden Library secured by florist shop – BBC.  “Under the proposals, the county council will retain responsibility for a level of council staffing, at present two posts, while the community will supply volunteers. The business proposals also included putting a post office and a cafe into the library. Local florist, The Flower Room, was identified as the most suitable option by the council as offering “the most sustainable option for the future”.
  • Hertfordshire – New talking book service to triple titles available – Hertfordshire County Council (press release).  “Cabinet today (14 May) agreed to transfer Hertfordshire County Council’s Cassettes for Blind People service to the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB). The 378 existing users of the Cassettes for Blind People service will have their RNIB subscription paid for by the council and will have access to over 19,000 titles, compared to the 6,500 currently on offer.”
  • Northumberland – Glendale Gateway trust shortlisted for national award – Berwick Advertiser.   “Glendale Gateway Trust raised funding to extend its community centre and worked in partnership with Northumberland County Council so it could offer library and tourism services from the Cheviot Centre. By using council and trust staff time efficiently they have been able to triple the library’s opening hours to seven days a week. As a result, the number of book loans has risen by 20 per cent, visitor numbers have increased by 100 per cent and membership is up 65 per cent compared to the same period last year.”


Shadow of privatization in Spain, plus “stereotypical, old-fashioned looking, ladies”


  • Arts Council Chief Executive comments on need for skilled library staff – Voices for the Library.   “During his presentation he commented that libraries need skilled, knowledgeable staff and shouldn’t be replaced by volunteers. It’s very reassuring that he made this comment publicly in a room full of senior public library service managers. It would be interesting to know how many people in that seminar were nodding in agreement with Mr Davey. How many of those senior managers were nodding whilst the public library services they are leading are proposing to introduce volunteer run libraries as a replacement for skilled and knowledgeable staff?”
“The Society of Chief Librarians are in the ideal position to stand up as a single organisation against the deprofessionalisation and downgrading of the UK’s public library service through reliance on a voluntary workforce. At the same seminar Ed Vaizey stated that he will be maintaining close communications with the S.C.L. They have the opportunity to make use of the power they have as public library service leaders and champions and can set the agenda, rather than having it set for them.”

  • Daunt: Library e-lending “disruptive” to High Street – BookSeller.  Waterstones chief says successful library ebook lending would destroy commercial ebooks.
  • DCMS consults over transfer of PLR to British Library – BookSeller. “”The Registrar has successfully kept operating costs below the cap set by Ministers in the first year of the Spending Review period and officials are working with the Registrar to reduce administrative spend in order to minimise further reductions in the rate per loan paid to authors. However, we believe that transferring the PLR functions into a larger body presents further opportunities for efficiencies that would otherwise not be achievable and consequently offers the most realistic means of protecting the rate per loan.”.  Society of Authors says this is not needed and a case of If It Ain’t Broke, Fix It Anyway To Tick A Box.
  • Do we still need libraries? – Financial.   Sue Charteris will speak at the University of Liverpool, saying main aim is to promote service to non-users.  “This will be achieved through a combination of forward-thinking new partnerships with community members and organisations providing services to those communities.”.  Should also include “IT facilitates open 24/7 and a quality information and innovation hub that provides expert advice on books, as well as information on starting your own business, health and wellbeing, and what services are available locally.  It should also be a welcoming and beautiful space to learn, read, create, and engage.”.  See comments.
  • How can we ensure the future of libraries? – New Marketing Trends.   (1) Put staff who love helping the public facing the public. “Stereotypical, old-fashioned-looking, ladies, I-hate-this-job part-timers, and ill-trained student workers should not be “the face of the library” to everyone who enters.” (2) Effective promotion (3) Ensure librarianship courses are relevant to the reality of libraries (4) “engage the community, become trusted, find out what they need, and deliver it” (5) “Stop being reactive and start being proactive. Look toward the future, get good data, plan for it, get ahead of the curve”
  • If people don’t know what you’re doing, they don’t know what you’re doing wrong – Question Everything.  DCMS are apparently deliberately delaying answers to freedom of information requests and are seeking any possible way not to reply.  “The exemption they have used to delay further is section 36 of the act which is “Prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs.” which did make me laugh because Ed Lazy hasn’t conducted any public affairs in regards to libraries, his head has been firmly in the sand since he took office.”  Other bodies that could hope Government to account (SCL, CILIP and LGA are quoted) are failing in their task.
  • Introducing the library marketing toolkit website – Wikiman.  “The site is essentially designed to give you lots of practical advice on how to market your library – be that public, academic, special or archive. There are tools and resources, lots of useful links, new case studies which will be added to on an ongoing basis, and there’s info about the Library Marketing Toolkit book and its contributors.”
“SIR – Ed Vaizey, the Minister for Culture, claims far fewer libraries have closed as a result of his reminders to local authorities about their statutory duties (Letters, April 30). Given that the minister has not offered any guidance on what these duties are, it is doubtful his correspondence will have swayed many councils. Credit for the libraries that have been saved goes to the many local campaign groups. Libraries are the responsibility of local authorities, but there is much that government could do to work with councils to find savings to spare frontline services, and to help them better understand and exploit the value of libraries. Ministers cannot stop all closures in a time of retrenchment, but they can do more than write letters: they can be champions for the service and try to minimise the damage. Dan Jarvis MP (Lab) Shadow Minister for Culture London SW1″ Keeping libraries open – Telegraph (letters).  

  • Looking beyond the books – Rachel Poulton.  Some beautiful pictures of library users.  “Libraries are changing, as one of the few remaining municipal buildings available for the public to visit for free I want to show how libraries are being used. Looking Beyond the Books is an ongoing photography project documenting the activities libraries are providing for  local communities beyond lending out books. The project is a celebration of this vital resource at a time of dramatic cuts and closures across the country.”
Madrid librarians protesting against privatisation and cuts
Dear colleagues, I am writing to you in the name of some librarians from Madrid. We work in the Madrid City Libraries System, which includes 28 public libraries, one newspaper library (The most important Spanish language newspaper library in the world), one music library, one history library (founded in the Nineteenth Century) and the City Archives. We are threatened by the shadow of privatization from the new mayor, Ana Botella, who is in charge of Madrid City Council. We have stopped the privatization of two new libraries but we are suffering attacks from everywhere. This is not just librarians, but the rest of the public services (museums… etc) where our salaries and our terms and conditions are being reduced. I am sending you this, just in case you can support us or we can do something for you as well, to let everybody know that this is happening in a lot of places in Europe. Every Friday we stand up in our library’s main door, wearing black and letting people know what is going on. On the 24th of May, we will walk around the main streets of Madrid wearing black and carrying banners. I send you a photo just in case you want to published. Thanks a lot, you have our support and we would love to have yours as well.”  Guadalupe Uceta, Madrid (via email)

  • Role of libraries in closing the digital divide for older people – Voices for the Library.  Libraries are well-suited to run/host computer courses; they are generally open multiple days a week, they already have computers and internet access and they have trained staff.  But with library closures and opening hours cut, there is a real and profound skills gap that might not be addressed” … “When people bemoan about the prevalence and relevance of computers in libraries, they forget that providing both computer skills and computer and internet access for library users is part of (to me) the general ethos of libraries: reading and learning for everyone. “
  • Simi council to weight letting county run library for another year – Ventura County Star.  “The city said the law makes it more difficult for cities to leave a county library system and run an independent library by contracting with a private company such as Library Systems & Services, which runs the Camarillo and Moorpark libraries. The law requires cities to show cost savings before deciding to privatize and bans any resulting loss of jobs or benefits for existing library staff. In leaving the county system over the objections of many residents, Simi officials said that while they were satisfied with the county’s management, they wanted to maintain local control of the library.”
  • Votes needed to save the Women’s Library – Preston Library Campaign.   “The most extensive collection of women’s history in the UK is under threat. Author, comedian and broadcaster Sandi Toksvig has spoken out about the threatened Women’s Library in east London, which is facing severe cuts.Just a few thousand signatures needed – sign the petition NOW


Local news

  • Barnet – Council leader Cornelius rejects claims Tories “out of touch” – Times series.  Labour councillor had said ” “The Conservatives running Barnet council are hopelessly out of touch with local people who have made their views clear on the unpopular One Barnet programme, on parking, on private hire of parks, on Library closures, and many other issues.”
    • Council calls on volunteers to lend a hand at libraries – Times series.  “The post would involve helping staff to deliver story and rhyme sessions for under fives, IT sessions and an after school homework club for children aged eight and over. The council is also looking at how the volunteer programme can support additional children’s activities at the interim library at the Arstdepot in Tally Ho Corner, North Finchley.”
“What a dilemma! Though i would like to contribute from my vast IT expertise to the community, I know that this will be used by our toririst council to further cut down our public services. While closing libraries, children day centres, youth centres, making librarians redundant, and much more, they are asking our help to support it???” (Comment on article above)

  • Brent – Begone you pesky petitioners: Brent downgrades petitioner power –  Wembley Matters.  “…there can be little doubt that the Labour Council has been irritated by the petitions organised by the Hindu community over festival funding, library campaigners over the closure of half of Brent’s libraries and Keep Willesden Green over the Willesden Green Library Regeneration proposals. The latter was particularly controversial when Democratic Services  refused to hold a Full Council meeting on the issue.”
    • Campaigner to run 60km for Friends of Barham Park – Harrow Times.   “Paul Lorber, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Brent, will complete a 60km run over the course of four days from June 1 to commemorate Barham Park Library, which closed last year. He said he didn’t want the milestone anniversary, which would have been on May 31 and coincides with the Queen’s Jubilee, to be forgotten.”
    • Chief Exec earns more than the Prime Minister  – Preston Library Campaign.  
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Strikes to disrupt council services this weekend – Northwich Guardian.   “Nine libraries and two centres providing short breaks for disabled children will be closed. No staff will be on duty at the council’s managed parks and countryside sites The authority has made arrangements to ensure provision is not disrupted in the small number of other services affected by industrial action.”
    • Council workers walk out in Chester – ITV News.   “The unions said they’re not happy at having to work weekends and Bank Holidays for no extra pay and equivalent of a £2000 pay cut for some. Maria Moss from Unison said:”Using agency workers and others who were not familiar with clients needs, and paying non-striking staff double-pay has really rubbed salt in the wound for Unison members who are already very angry.””

Croydon – Upper Norwood Library Campaign – Some very good images and cartoons.
  • Gloucestershire – Mystery charity to run libraries if commnities fail – FoGL.  An “established charity” is “waiting in the wings” … “This discussion has happened behind closed doors as none of us know anything about this. This raises several concerns. Who is the charity? What expertise do they have? what knowledge do they have of running a library service? what is the charities agenda?”. It is an improvement on the “if they fail, they fail” atttitude of last year but still causes many worries.
    • Library package backed by county councillors – Wilts and Glos Standard.  Support for Lechlade Library, about to be passed to volunteers, described as “a very generous package”.  “The facility will be leased on a peppercorn rent and will continue to benefit from the county council’s library network and books. Additional computers are to be installed and the building will have a £20,000 revamp to improve existing damp conditions. In addition GCC has pledged a £10,000 revenue grant and a council library staff member for three hours a week.”
  • Hertfordshire – Popular talking books service to be scrapped – Times series.   [Ian’s note – Following on the previous link to this article, Hertfordshire Council have been in touch with me to point out that Chris Hayward, cabinet member for Libraries has said ““Changes in the technology for producing audio books and the increasing difficulty in obtaining suitable cassette players have prompted us to review our current library services for blind and visually impaired people in Hertfordshire. In order to ensure that they continue to enjoy access to audio books in a convenient format we have decided to transfer all existing customers to the service provided by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB). The RNIB-run service will offer a much wider choice of reading material in modern formats and will also provide the audio players. Those who are used to cassettes will be helped by specialist RNIB volunteers to use the new technology. Hertfordshire County Council will be covering the cost for existing users of subscription to the RNIB service and any savings made will be used to increase the number of people able to access the new service.”]
  • Inverclyde – New chapter for Central LibraryGreenock Telegraph.   “As part of Inverclyde Council’s ‘asset management plan'”, Greenock Central Library moving to temporary home at the Business Store before moving to its new permanent home at Wallace Place.  See this article for background.
  • Kingston Council refuses to deny Surbiton library sell-off – Guardian series.  “Deputy leader Liz Green, who spoke in favour of the move at a Kingston Council assets strategy meeting last week, played down the rumours, saying there were “no immediate plans” to sell the Ewell Road site. She did, however, fail to rule out the move, admitting the site, along with others in the borough, was “under review” and that there was a “possibility” it would be sold.”
  • Leeds – Campaign group set for control of Leeds swimming baths – Yorkshire Evening Post.  “The authority’s executive board is also being recommended to agree three libraries threatened with closure – Shadwell, Rawdon and Drighlington – can be run by the community. But Cow Close library in Farnley is proposed for closure as no community group came forward with a business plan to take it over.”
  • Middlesbrough – Central Library celebrates it’s centenary and video – Gazette Live.   “Schoolchildren, staff and members of the public took part in The Big Hug around the Carnegie library building as part of its 100th birthday celebrations. The event was an exact re-enactment of the celebrations that took place when the library opened its doors in May 1912.” Superb video and pictures.
  • Nottinghamshire – £5.3m library work to boost book loans – This is Nottingham.   “Work to revamp West Bridgford’s library could lead to book loans increasing by a third, according to the man behind the renovation. The library has been closed since November for extensive improvements and is due to reopen in spring 2013.”
  • Somerset – Burnham on Sea library to launch self-service technology this yearBurnham on   Six Somerset libraries to go self-service this year. 
  • Stoke on Trent – Don’t make libraries a footnote in history – This is Staffordshire.   “Now you may think I’m being melodramatic in comparing book burning with local library closures. But I really am concerned by the insidious nationwide cutbacks in local free libraries.”
“Rather than treating them merely as book repositories, and using their closure and cuts as soft options to save money, the council ought instead to be investing in innovations to extend hours for wider public use. Councillors have to realise that these cuts are going to jeopardise community recovery and hinder regeneration programmes affecting many already disadvantaged areas of Stoke-on-Trent.”

  • Surrey – SCC latest consultation attempt in tatters – Surrey Libraries Action Movement.   Council consultation is disappointing as it appears the Council has already made up its mind, it is therefore just a tick-box exercise. Consultation is only for five weeks, with many fo the documents being sent to the wrong address or person.  There is insufficient time between the end of the consultation period and the council meeting to produce a “coherent report” for it. “Not content with the hash it made of its first attempt at passing its CPL plans, it seems, if anything, to be doing an even worse job on its second attempt.”
“It’s all about change. Positive change at the heart of our library service means a positive career change for you. We’re undergoing a period of exciting transformation to meet our vision of a 21st Century Library service and as such, we’re seeking a motivated, innovative individual to keep our services moving forward.” Library Sectors Manager job advert – Surrey County Council.  

  • Warrington – It’s all happening for the young ones – Friends of Grappenhall Library.  Superb website from a library that is now volunteer run and open 14 hours per week and possesses 5000 books. 
  • Warwickshire – It’s a new chapter for village library – Evesham Journal.  Author Anne Fine helped relaunch Bidford Library as volunteer-run.  “The library now has about 50 volunteers and is open on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday mornings. Volunteer co-ordinator Pat Atkins said: “I got involved because we fought hard to get the library. When I heard it was going to close I was devastated and wanted to get involved. We want it to be more than a library, hopefully it will become a community centre and be used for activities even when the library is not open.”

Special report: The library returns

In what is clearly intended as a tonic for all the bad news about libraries, BBC Radio Four has broadcast  a programme called “the  library returnsThe thirty minute programme concentrates on the positive aspects of change in the public libraries world, pointing out that there have been lots of new libraries being built.The show starts with a brief mention of National Libraries Day with a musical background of the “Don’t Close Our Libraries” song and a short snatch of Julia Donaldson speaking at a library.  The narrator reports that “Libraries are being cut, not just here but in Europe and North America but at the same time libraries are being reinvented” and other libraries are being built.  This is shown in several brief interviews, the summary of which is reported below:

  • Tony Durcan, Newcastle City Librarian, points out that there will be at least 40 new libraries or major refurbishments in 2012 and smaller ones are being rebuilt too.  A local authority might close three libraries “that might have had their day” and open a new one.  Nineteenth Century buildings are sometimes forbidding and only for those who worship at the temple of knowledge: modern libraries are transparent so you can see people like you inside and thus be more tempted to come in.
  • Nigel Tonks and Alastair Guthrie, Arup consulting engineers: responsible for building major new libraries worldwide, say that there have been a “renaissance in library buildings”. The purpose of library is “moving from a hush environment to a buzz environment”, becoming a “community living room”.
“moving from a hush environment to a buzz environment”
  • The new Seattle Library replaced an unattractive 1950s building, heavily used by the homeless but not many others.  The new “crystalline ziggurat”, attracts two million visitors per year.  Its central space is called the “living room” with a “direct connection to the city”, offering views to the water and to the mountains.  “You want to have a building that the city is proud of” says the interviewee.  People have been coming in specially who had never been in the library before, even making the building busy over the traditionally quiet time of Christmas.  Major authors visiting Seattle now want to do talks there (old library successful programme was 20 people, now its 150).  There is a removable floor and changeable lighting to allow for flexible spaces.  The Library offers not just books but council services, tax offices and housing services.
  • Holland is a trendsetter for public libraries, with even Schiphol airport having a library.  The gem, though, is Dok Library which is “providing a model for what the library of a future might be”.  It’s manager says that just providing books “will see the demise of libraries”, going on to say that the most important resource that libraries have are the people”. A very impressive 80% of the town uses the library. For instance, business people use library for wifi and meetings space, even asking to use the library address on their business cards.  There is even a piano (with headphones in) that is always used. There’s a media laboratory so that people can ask questions like how to use Flickr, tablets, etc and be answered, just like an Apple “Genius Bar”.  Complaints come from people who don’t want their kids playing computer games in the library but games are being tailored by the Library to be educational.  All this change is necessary as “we used to think that libraries don’t have competitors” but there are a lot of options now.

   “The books don’t protest when the library closes, it’s the people that protest”.

  • Branding is needed.  Libraries need a branding identity, with corporate fonts, colours, even uniforms.  Libraries do have some inherent advantages over the internet as “it’s bloody hard to browse ebooks”.  All electronic media is geared to telling you what you like, whereas libraries are the opposite of this.
  • The show then moves on to the new Canada Water Library.  An exit from the tube comes out into the library building.  The building is an inverted pyramid, with a grand theatrical circular stair. The architecture recognises the need to compromise between grandeur and not making the building off-putting to people.  In Newcastle, there were two final designs for big new library, decided to go with the one that appealed to younger people the most. “The public library service becomes the quality town square with a roof on top”.
“You go to discover worlds that aren’t in Rotherhithe”
  • Moving on to Germany, the new library in Stuttgart boasts 5,500 new library card holders in the first 100 days after it opened Autumn 2011.  The town wanted an institution that brought life to the new “Quarter” that appealed to everyone so thought of a library.  “Now there is life in this area because so many people go to the library”. New libraries are connected with new technology and media in people’s minds so building a new library is a strong political statement and attracts new business and raises house values.
  • Finally, the show goes to Birmingham.  It’s glass facade and grandeur mean its a “people’s palace” for the city and its £188m construction is “unashamedly about adding to Birmingham’s credentials as a world class city”.  The library expects to receive about 4 million people per year, making it by far the busiest in Europe and a “mother ship” to all the citys’ branch libraries, being a catalyst for regenerating the 40 smaller libraries in the town.  Birmingham’s political leadership very much committed to keeping public libraries open.  The appeal of the library is intended to be all encompassing: local studies archives are in the same building as modern media/arts/technology links with the citys’ universities.  The new central library has escalators, a huge central space, very bright open spaces and an outside auditorium with events spilling out into the town centre. The decoration on its outside looks like a lot of interconnected bracelets, producing unique pattern of shadows in the library.

“I remember 20 years ago, people said that we won’t need libraries any more … but this building is for everybody … it’s public money so give it back to the population.”

For me, “The Library Returns” served two useful purposes.  First, it showed that there are good things happening in public libraries.  It can be awfully depressing reading all the bad news stories.  Secondly, it shows that despite all the doomsayers, there is plenty of life in the public library world yet.  The programme though does not link the two together.  Allow me.  All of the new libraries being built and all of the good things happening are happening despite the current harsh conditions.  Canada Water and Birmingham have been built because they started before the current cuts.  They would stand no chance now.  The programme shows that investing in libraries gives not only them but their communities and indeed whole cities a new chance of life.  Clearly, Canada and Germany and Holland see a strong economic as well as cultural benefit to investing in their libraries.  Under the current government, and most especially under the current ministers, such a chance, such an economic boost, is being denied to those unlucky enough to have not got beyond the starting blocks in 2010.

NB Today’s summary of public library news is delayed until the next post.

“What’s wrong with Ed Vaizey?”

What’s wrong with Ed Vaizey? – An awfully big blog adventure.  [So good I had to
put it at the top of the post – Ian]


“Public library staff and volunteers in the UK have helped more than 2.5 million people to go online in the past 18 months. Most of these people were completely new internet users, and some were tentative users who lacked confidence in their skills.In September 2010 the Society of Chief Librarians pledged to get 500,000 people online by the end of 2012 as part of the Government’s RaceOnline 2012, led by UK Digital Champion Martha Lane Fox. SCL President Nicky Parker said: “We have exceeded our target by five times and it is still early in 2012. This is thanks to the thousands of dedicated library staff and volunteers who are digital champions and through whom this achievement has been possible.”Nearly 30% of households in the UK do not have access to the internet at home and for many people the local library is an essential link for access to online resources. Access to the internet is provided free of charge in more than 90% of libraries in the UK.Martha Lane Fox, UK’s digital champion, said: “Libraries are crucial to the success of Go ON UK’s objectives. The thousands of digital champions in libraries and millions of new internet users are to be commended.”” Society of Chief Librarians press release.

  • Future of Library ServicesNeil Stewart Associates.  Your chance to listen to Ed Vaizey and others discuss Government and council public libraries policyfor just £168 to £600 depending on your circumstances.  Alternatively, a video of the event will be available for £99. The themes of the day represent some interesting descriptions of the current deep cuts (“innovative restructures”).
  • Mark Steel: What do we want? More of the same! – Independent.   “Now that parties supporting cuts are losing elections across Europe, I wonder if the Labour Party will consider a policy of opposing cuts. At the moment, they sort of oppose them, so if the Government announces 200 libraries are closing next Wednesday morning, Labour says: “This is typical of this callous administration. They ought to wait until the afternoon.” Their slogan seems to be “We agree there have to be cuts but they’re doing it too fast …”
  • Winners of the Ultimate Christian Library Book 2012 announcedSpeaking Volumes.  “The Adult category winner was ‘Faith Under Fire’ by Canon Andrew White with the Children’s title going to ‘The Lion Classic Bible’ written by Andrea Skevington, illustrated by Sophy Williams. Both Andrew and Andrea were delighted at winning the award and with their £1,000 prize money. The books were clear winners in their category and attracted a large number of public votes. ‘Faith Under Fire’ documents the incredible stress of being a leader of a Christian community in war ravaged Baghdad. Yet despite deep heartache there is much joy and peace that only God can give. ‘The Lion Classic Bible’ unfolds the story of the Bible for young readers and shows God’s enduring Love for his people.”


Local News
  • Brent – Politician takes on marathon challenge in aid of axed Barham library crusade – Brent and Kilburn Times.  Cllr Paul Lorber, leader of the Brent Liberal Democrats, will be running 60km over seven days to raise funds for the axed building, in Harrow Road. The challenge, which he will be undertaking alongside former Lib-Dem councillor Peter Corcoran, will begin on May 30 and culminate in Barham Park on June 5 where residents will be honouring the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which ties in with the 60th anniversary of the buildings opening. Barham Library was shut down last year alongside five other reading rooms in the borough and campaigners have fought tirelessly since to try to have it re-opened.”
  • Croydon – Shy to consult in libraries – ElizCro.  “Croydon, the council that professes efficiency embedded in its DNA, has been caught out again for the shambolic handling of another library consultation. The council not only omitted to advertise the consultation on Upper Norwood Joint Library, it actively promoted it on the council website as not yet open for consultation. “. Council finally mentions consultation “less than a fortnight before the consultation ends and over a bank holiday weekend when the furthest thing from people’s minds in checking the council website.”
  • Devon – Newton Abbot library prepares to move into revamped Passmore Edwards Centre – Newton Abbot People.   “The landmark building is currently undergoing an extensive multimillion pound redevelopment to turn it into a new multi-service facility that will house a modern 21st century library, adult and community learning facility, and services that are supporting people with learning disabilities, as well as an IT suite, WIFI technology, café and meeting rooms available for local groups to use.”
“Newton Abbot residents will be delighted to see the Library, the most prestigious building in the town, re-open on the 25th June and I would encourage people to attend to special preview on the afternoon of the 23rd June to see for themselves the work that has been done to restore the building to secure its future for another 100 years, along with the new facilities that are on offer.”

  • Gloucestershire – Decision to reduce library service in Gloucestershire will not be overturned – Gazette.  Gloucestershire County Council’s overview scrutiny management committee has confirmed that it will not accept attempts by Liberal Democrat councillors to overturn the authority’s decision to proceed with cuts to the library service.”
  • Greenwich – Libraries: workers show fighting back can win – Socialist.  “The most likely attack would have been an attempt to drop council library workers’ pay and conditions to the level of staff employed at GLL. But, in response to the campaign, GLL has now offered to come to an agreement that will confirm they will not do this. In GLL’s original bid to win the contract they said they would “harmonise” pay and conditions. So an agreement to stop this would be a tremendous victory for Unite members.”
  • Harrow – Library users asked what improvements should be made – Harrow Observer.   “Harrow Council’s consultation for modernising its 11 libraries, which runs until May 31, seeks views on all aspects of the service including the appearance and facilities, in-house events and activities. Councillor David Perry (Labour), portfolio holder for community and cultural services, said: “We know Harrow residents love their libraries and the services they provide. It is important that they continue to contribute to building the service for the future.””.  Four roadshows.
  • Hertfordshire – Popular talking books service could be scrapped – Times series.   “Hertfordshire County Council local and libraries cabinet panel will meet this afternoon to discuss whether to scrap its Cassettes for Blind People service over concerns about format and cost.The service currently has 378 regular users in the county and is described in council documents as “running at capacity” but costs the council £51,000 per year to operate. The use of cassettes for the service also has “no viable future” due to advances in technology and the declining availability of cassette players.”
  • Kirklees – “Just how will our libraries be run?” – Hudderfield Daily Examiner (letters).  The writer poses a series of questions about how volunteer-run libraries will work in the council.  Points still apparently unclear include who owns building, responsibility for maintenance, who buys books, what computer system will be used, health and safety, CRBs … 
  • Lancashire – Library prices up to plug gap – Lancashire Evening Post.  “A review of library services recommended a series of price inceases, including raising the cost of hiring orchestral sets from £5 to £20 and play set hire from £2 to £10 per set.  Charges for overdue items has increased from 11p to 15p and a £1 charge has been introduced for the loan of language sets. But the age at which people will have to pay overdue fines and charges has been increased from 16 to 18 and the cost of children’s DVDs has been halved from £2.” … “Coun Calvert said he is also hoping to extend library opening hours after a successful recent trial using volunteers. He said: “In Pendle volunteers came forward and if we can make sure they are responsible for manning it at certain times and using the self service, as well as borrowing more books at a time, we think we can extend the opening times.””
  • Staffordshire – Road-sweeping volunteers next? – This is Staffordshire (letters).  “I’m concerned by the trend towards unpaid staff in public libraries. There was a time when councillors were unpaid and didn’t even get expenses. Now, well remunerated, they dictate that libraries are to close unless manned by unpaid volunteers. What next? Voluntary staff for refuse collection, road repairs and street cleaning?”
“Reporter: Are you or the council persuadable that this plan for volunteer-run libraries should not go ahead?
Councillor: Our minds are always open but nothing has come back and told me this isn’t a workable and a really brilliant idea. We are not going to stop wanting to deliver community partnership.
Reporter: Can you envisage being persuaded by further consultation?
Councillor: Probably not.”

Manifesto for public libraries: vision wanted

“Voices for the Library are trying to put together a ‘manifesto’ for public libraries, a vision for what a 21st century public library service should look like. We want library users, library workers, campaigners etc to feed in their comments as to what they think public libraries should be delivering. Comments can be added to the website, tweeted using #libfesto or entered on our dedicated Facebook Group.  For more information, please see here:” Ian Clark, Voices for the Library.


  • Are eBooks a byway on the virtual highway?Envisioning the Library of the Future (Arts Council England).  Guest blog #8 by Barbara Scott.  “Most library services now view virtual services on a par with traditional services.  I believe virtual services will become the norm as demand increases and demand for digital media will eventually outstrip that for printed media. ” … “A world where people lived in electronic connectivity but physical isolation seems too Kafkaesque and I cannot bring myself to say library buildings will no longer be needed.  But I do think they will be radically different, and there will be a need for community spaces as has been alluded to in previous posts on this blog. What may not be needed are huge amounts of shelving space.  Libraries will not only have a reader development function but possibly a skills development one too.”
“In my view ebooks is an issue that touches the very heart of the value of public libraries. My point is that public libraries now operate in a very competitive environment with low cost organisations operating with a global reach. How do libraries compete? What value do they add? We are already seeing modern digital manifestations, from the like of Amazon, of the old commercial circulating library. It reminds me that as a small child the building in my High Street with the word ‘Library’ on it was in fact a general store and *commercial* circulating library. The public library put it out of business in the end. I sense the wheel turning….and a growing sense of loss.” Ken Chad commenting on article above.

  • Are public libraries under-appreciated and under-used? – Alan in Belfast.  Review of Carnegie Trust’s report into public libraries (see yesterday’s posting).  “Over Easter, every available space – including the floor – seemed to be occupied by groups of teenagers revising for GCSE, AS and A-level exams. By lunchtime, the newspapers beside the soft seats were well thumbed and battered. Youngsters were storming around the children’s section. The upstairs cafe always seems to have a steady trade – no one seems to mind the risk of sticky fingers on the newly borrowed books! – and all that activity is before you take in the Lift the Lid open piano sessions every third Saturday. Yet the library could be a lot busier, and reaching out to a great proportion of the local community.”
  • Expect more: demanding better libraries for today’s complex world – Virtual Dave.  New book soon to be published on the subject of libraries, for the non-specialist.  “In Expect More, David Lankes, winner of the 2012 ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Award for the Best Book in Library Literature, walks you through what to expect out of your library. Lankes argues that, to thrive, communities need libraries that go beyond bricks and mortar, and beyond books and literature. We need to expect more out of our libraries. They should be places of learning and advocates for our communities in terms of privacy, intellectual property, and economic development. Expect More is a rallying call to communities to raise the bar, and their expectations, for great libraries.”
“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the cost is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.” -Walter Cronkite 

  • Unique women’s library is facing closure from cuts – Socialist Worker.  “There is no other collection like this in the world. You can find records of women war workers alongside original feminist magazines and political leaflets from the 1970s. There are papers and archives from Mary Wollstonecraft, Sylvia Pankhurst and Sheila Rowbotham. And 90 percent of the collection has been donated by supporters in the movement.The joy of the library is that so much of the collection is on open shelves.”
    • Women’s library is amazing: it should stay free for all – Socialist Worker.  “In the US, documents on the contemporary women’s movement are kept in several great universities. In contrast the Women’s Library is a single place with a national document collection that can form the basis for future histories and research to be written.”
“It’s a problem when intellectual resources get locked into academia. Even digital access to academic papers and journals online can be too expensive for ordinary people to be able to use them. Now the TUC library’s future is also in jeopardy. This is not because we are a poor society—we are not. It’s a matter of priorities. The Women’s Library came out of the Fawcett Library, which survived the Great Depression of the 1930s.Today it’s vital that we hang on to the right to use all libraries for free.”

  • What’s your vision for libraries? – Voices for the Library.   “Voices for the Library needs your help.  We want to create a manifesto for public libraries, a clear vision for what we believe a 21st Century library service should look like and how it should be delivered.  We have been fighting library closures across the country for a long time. When we formed Voices For The Library our intention was to highlight the positive aspects of public libraries, but our energy has been focused on fighting the immediate threat to them. Consequently we haven’t had time to build a picture of what libraries should be.  It is time to express a clear vision, so that when politicians and the media ask the question we can clearly articulate what a library service should deliver.”


Local News

  • Brent – Barham Park pop-up library goes from “strength to strength” – Harrow Times. “Campaigner Francis Henry, who lives in Compton Avenue, volunteers every week along with his seven-year-old daughter, Gabriella. He said: “The benefits of a library for young people are especially obvious. We have had around 50 members sign up and they keep coming back. Everyone in the community loves it.“We do lots of games and competitions and try to make it as interactive as possible. Surely this shows the importance of needing a library in the area?” The group is also hopeful that Brent Council will allow them to run a library in the former premises in Barham Park, which is currently empty, but this has so far been refused.”
    • Bloggers send Barnet Council a list of demands – Times series.   “They make ten requests; that Brian Coleman is dismissed from the council’s cabinet, that Friern Barnet Library is reopened, that parking charges are reconsidered, that freelance consultants used by the council are paid 25 per cent less and that the council’s top earners receive a 20 per cent pay cut.”
  • Croydon – Future of library provision in Upper Norwood and the surrounding areas – Croydon.   Council has launched consultation on its controversial plans to end its joint funding of Upper Norwood Joint Library.  However, survey apparently ends on 20th May. “Croydon has a network of 12 of its own branch libraries and the Central Library. It currently jointly funds, with the London Borough of Lambeth, the UNJL just across the borough boundary in Lambeth. Funding the UNJL costs Croydon taxpayers £189,000 per year, plus the administrative costs associated with providing the payroll, pension and other employment related services, audit and accounting services. The UNJL is the only library in the UK that is jointly owned by two authorities.  Until recently, the arrangements for the UNJL with Lambeth were operated under a joint committee agreement.”
  • Durham – 6,000 respond to Durham County Council’s consultation over library cuts – Northern Echo.    “Facing cuts of nearly £190m by 2017, Labour-led Durham County Council launched a three-month consultation on cutting opening times to 36 hours a week at 11 town centre libraries and 20 hours a week at 27 community branches. Mobile library services would also be cut back, in a bid to save about £1.5m a year.” … Council says “We will now begin the task of carefully examining all the feedback before a decision is made by cabinet in July. Many people will be aware that the proposals are designed to ensure that all our libraries remain open, despite very large reductions in Government grants.”
    • Protest over library cuts in Consett and Durham – Chronicle Live.   “Durham County Council is proposing cutting opening hours at 11 town centre libraries and 27 community libraries. Mobile library services would also be reduced, in an effort to save £1.5m overall. But protesters against the plan to slash opening hours at Consett library from 50 hours per week to 36 intend to hand in a petition containing 5,000 signatures to County Hall, Durham. A similar petition at Newton Hall, Durham City, has already gained 1,000 signatures while one from Belmont has already been handed into county council headquarters containing 2,000 signatures.”
  • Gloucestershire – Legal bid to prevent library cuts fail – Stroud News & Journal.   Campaigners “battling against cuts to the library service have blasted Gloucestershire County Council after the authority dismissed a legal action challenging their plans. Last month, the Liberal Democrat group on Gloucestershire County Council launched a legal challenge – called a ‘call-in’ – in a bid to stop the council’s planned library cuts.However, a spokesman from GCC said the council’s overview scrutiny management committee had decided not to review the plans.”
  • Kingston – Surbiton Library under threat – Surbiton People.   Council may sell Surbiton building with a replacement in town centre “However, the replacement building would only be rented, wouldn’t have a hall, might not have staff (self-service) and could only carry a small selection of books.”
  • Oxfordshire – Council stays silent over library plans – Oxford Times.  “Library campaigners have told the Oxford Mail they have yet to be contacted by Oxfordshire County Council since the authority unveiled its plans to staff 21 of its libraries with the help of volunteers. The county was unable to answer how many volunteers had come forward since it announced its plan on December 12, while the new post of community libraries co-ordinator – which will carry a pay packet of up to £37,000 – remains unfilled. It said the plans were only meant to have started being phased in a month ago and it was too early to deliver any significant news.”
“Meanwhile the estimated average cost of training each volunteer in first aid and fire safety is £19.75, with all other training being given by the council’s own staff.”

  • Sandwell – Libraries enjoy record number of visits – Sandwell Council.   “During the past year volunteers and work experience placements gave over 7,000 hours of their free-time to support Sandwell Libraries. “This year saw the opening of two new libraries at Oldbury and Blackheath that have been welcomed by the local communities, seeing their visitor figures soar,” added Mr Clark. A major refurbishment has recently been completed at Smethwick Library and an improvement programme is currently underway at Central Library in West Bromwich .”

A new chapter: Enter the Carnegie Trust

The report

The Carnegie UK Trust have produced a report on  public libraries called A New Chapter: public library services in the 21st Century.    The Trust explains its reasons and research thus:
“The Trust, with its long history of support for the public library system has not been actively involved in this area since 1950, but the level of concern about the future of public libraries has prompted us to revisit this area. The Trust commissioned research throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland which shows that people still love their libraries – but the Trust argues that public libraries can’t stand still in a changing world: the public library service is at a crossroads and change is needed to respond to reduced levels of public spending, the challenges and opportunities of the digital age, and changes in people’s lifestyles and patterns of behaviour.”

It is partly based on an IPSOS Mori poll of 1000 people in each of Eire, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales. This is the first time that people in all five areas have been separately surveyed on their attitudes in this area. It is thus reassuring that two-thirds of those asked, throughout the nations, said libraries were either very important or essential to their community.  It’s also reassuring that roughly half the respondents said they used the service in the last year with even non-users agreeing on the importance of libraries.

Things that jumped out for me were:

  • “The places which currently demonstrate the strongest commitment to public libraries, with new openings and renovations, appear to be those where the role of libraries has been very closely
    identified with the other key objectives of local authorities.”
  • A need for greater leadership in each nation.  This could mean, amongst other things, co-ordinated promotion of library services, something has been very obvious by its absence for years.
  • Each nation is approaching things differently and they should “learn from eachother”.  Thus, Wales, lucky Wales, has library standards; Northern Ireland has a single library authority; Eire suffered major cuts; Scotland has apparently suffered the least while England is enduring cuts and has come up with several different answers (private, Trust, volunteers, etc) as to how to keep a service open with radically less money.
  • More research and consultation will be produced by the Carnegie UK Trust. This will be the fourth this year, after this one, one from Arts Council England and one from the Labour Party.  Seasoned library campaigners will be groaning in pain at this point but, at least, it keeps libraries in the news.

The full report goes into this in more detail.  It is an interesting document, not least because it tries to be as uncritical of the current situation as possible.  Words like “crisis” are not used.  Ed Vaizey can breathe a sigh of relief as he is not mentioned, let alone criticised.  The reports even have good thing to say about the otherwise derided and insignificant Future Libraries Programme.  

For those campaigners who may see the Carnegie Trust as a natural ally, be prepared to be disapponted.  The phrase “community hub” – often code for a community centre with a few books in it – is often used.  The final paragraphs conclude with the line that the public needs to have “greater involvement in and acceptance by local communities of decisions about the redesign of public services, including public library services”.  Many would say that they would love greater involvement but are often rebuffed by authorities who have already made up their mind.  The Trust also appears to suggest by the words …
“In carrying out this work, the Trust will not be constrained by a historic model of the library service, or by the historic legacy of buildings created with support from Andrew Carnegie or the Trust. Library services will not be considered on their own, but as part of a local authority’s response to the needs and priorities of particular communities.”
… that users need to realise that library services are not necessarily best served by library buildings. The experience of the last two years shows that this is not a popular point of view amongst library users. 

Further reviews and comments on the report

  • Call Kaye – BBC Radio Scotland (3.49 to 9:52 plus other pieces throught programme).  Liz MacDonald, author of report, interviewed, says Trust coming from “library loving” perspective.  Says Trust can do nothing about Carnegie libraries which are under threat.  Some library services are “a little bit stagnating” but others are good.  Danger that services will die by a thousand cuts so there is a need for a strategy.  “We do have this fantastic network of libraries across the country, they are really important community spaces … there’s huge potential there.”.  Assistant Director of Scottish Libraries Council says libraries are having technologies being introduced and that Scottish libraries are increasing in visits (up 2.5% last year). 
  • Carnegie UK Trust warns libraries “must adapt” – BBC.  Chief executive Martyn Evans said: “It’s clear that people in Scotland still love their libraries, but library services need to develop innovative ways of attracting visitors and providing a new range of relevant services, along with a re-think about how the buildings are used as community hubs. “Libraries need to be able to demonstrate the impact they have on a wide range of social indicators such as health and wellbeing, employment, and digital inclusion.””
  • Libraries are “essential” to communities, according to majority of Scots – STV.  “The trust said a number of councils have shown examples of “good practice”, including Orkney’s use of social media, South Ayrshire’s e-publishing initiative and the City of Edinburgh Council’s smartphone app, which shows library locations, events, bus links and other information.”
  • Libraries may adapt or die, says report – Herald Scotland.   “Crime writer Ian Rankin also backed the calls, saying it was crucial that Scottish libraries move forward. The Rebus author said: “Technology and changes in the way we live are impacting hugely on what communities want and need from libraries. “It’s crucial the services they provide adapt and evolve so they remain as treasured in the future as they are now, providing a free yet invaluable service that underpins education, creativity and lifelong learning. “It’s heartening to see this work by the trust give us a sound starting point for a critically-important debate about the role of libraries.”
“Annie Mauger, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, said: “As public library services face a series of challenges and opportunities, a fresh vision for public libraries in the 21st century is urgently needed. “We welcome the contribution the Carnegie UK Trust can make to developing this vision as well as promoting forward thinking, and supporting creative and innovative practice in public library services.”

“… there’s a real danger of momentum being lost as cuts bite. We need a national vision for improvement, working alongside and informing local authorities’ responsibilities, to keep up this momentum, and we  need to look at new approaches to funding it. Wales offers a useful template.  In the meantime, we’re relieved and excited that models of collective working are holding up – 98% of library services are gearing up for our massive Summer Reading Challenge, which is expected to involve 780,000 children, and is part of the Olympics 2012 festival. It’s time governments took libraries’ reading for pleasure role much more seriously.  We agree there are massive opportunities for libraries to contribute to the health agenda, and are helping libraries innovate to develop new services …” Miranda MacKearney, The Reading Agency (press release).

  • Survey: Northern Ireland has lowest library use in UK – BBC.   “Research from the Carnegie UK Trust found that 40% of people in NI had used a library in the last year. Scotland had the highest level of usage at 61%, while the levels in England and Wales were 50% and 45% respectively.”
  • Three in four Scots believe their local library is essential – Scotsman.   One comment says “Far from being a ‘dead tree depository’, public libraries serve as community centres, and if you have ever been in a library during Children’s Hour and watched the awe spread across the face of a new reader as heshe holds their loaned book in their hands, you wouldn’t call the library a ‘dead tree depository’, but the gateway to a lifelong journey of wonder. My local has recently had to shorten opening hours due to council budget cuts. Worse is the news that some councils are refusing to permit volunteers to help keep libraries open! Libraries are the lifeblood in a community in countless, unheralded ways; when one closes the community begins to erode.”


  • Conservatives defend cuts to Archives Canada –  “Responding to criticism that budget cuts are undermining the ability of Library and Archives Canada to preserve Canada’s documentary heritage, a spokesman for Heritage Minister James Moore said Thursday that efforts to digitize the collection will give Canadian taxpayers greater access while saving them money.”
  • How we became a school that reads – Guardian.  “Supporting reading is not about getting through a 400 page novel, it is about opening up the opportunities for young people to experience as many different types of texts and different types of content as possible to develop their reading, comprehension and critical reasoning skills but also to simply to broaden their horizons.”
  • PLR mustn’t stand for Pointless Lousy Reform – Times (behind paywall).  Sir Michael Holroyd says “”not the only attack on our library culture”.
  • Read this book – Sharon Boyd.    “I have just finished reading The Library Book and it is brilliant. I’m not normally quite this determined about something, but if education and social equality are important to you too, you have to read this and you’ll see why I’m so set on encouraging everyone to do so and to defend their libraries.”
  • Reading Agency and The Publishers Association launch Digital Skills Sharing Programme – Reading Agency. “The project will run until January 2013 and aims to provide library services with new digital skills and the confidence to innovate. The overarching aim is to help librarians develop and enhance digital skills, enabling the library sector to amplify its work with existing audiences and develop new audiences in diverse ways, appropriate to a C21st library service. The project is funded by Arts Council England, as part of its Library Development Initiative”

Local news

  • Brent – Our youngest volunteer – Friends of Barham Library.  You are never too young or old to help at the Barham Volunteer Library. 7 year old Gabriella for example has helped by reading stories to other children. We need people to display Posters about our Library in their windows or simply spending an hour at our Library helping with reading, colouring in, the quiz or anything else.”
  • Hampshire – Success story of electronic books – This is Hampshire.    “More than 5,000 e-books and e-audios are checked-out every month, making the county council the busiest online library service in the country.” … “But the number of printed books borrowed fell by 0.3 per cent in 2011-12 and by 37 per cent compared with nine years ago. About 6.4 million books were issued by Hampshire’s libraries in 2011-12 compared with 10.2 million in 2002-3.” … “There were more than 6.3 million visits in 2011-12 up five per cent on the previous year.”