Nail in the coffin for Library Trusts, Privatised Hounslow no more immune than anyone else

Comment

Some interesting news for those concerned with outsourcing.  The first is this from Cambridgeshire Council, which seems to put a nail in the coffin of taking libraries out of direct council control and setting them up in separate Trusts:
“The likely Government decision to allow local authorities to retain elements of business rates creates a major challenge for the viability of the Trust option. The Trust was expected to save more than £500k in business rates, which was essential to its business case. If local authorities, as anticipated, are allowed to retain some elements of business rates, then although the Trust itself would save money, the Council would not as there would be a reduction in the level of business rates the Council receives. As it will require significant investment to establish a Trust, it is therefore proposed that Cabinet agrees not to pursue further the development of a Trust.” Cambridgeshire Council

The second news is from Hounslow, the only British authority with a library service run by a private company.  For those who see private companies as a saviour for those libraries, that would otherwise face closures, the evidence is now in that it ain’t necessarily so.  After only being stopped from closing eight branches (out of only eleven) by a massive public outcry, Hounslow are now going for the whole range of other options that are so familiar in other, more traditionally run libraries – cut in bookfund, reduction in opening hours, reduction in staffing, use of volunteers and the spectre of library closures just postponed for now.  Privatisation does not appear, in this case, to lead to immunity.  Perhaps, in this dire new age, few things do.

431 libraries (345 buildings and 86 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News 

  • Amazon lifts edge of curtain on Kindle library lendingLibrary Journal (USA).  “According to the Amazon posting, a library patron visits the website of a U.S. library that offers digital services from OverDrive; the patron then checks out a Kindle book (library card required); then clicks on “Get for Kindle.” The patron is then directed to Amazon.com to redeem the public library loan. They may be required to login to their Amazon.com account — or create a new account — if they are not already logged in.”.  Hmmm.
  • Children “betrayed” by plan to revamp Stratford library - London Evening News.  “Newham council is to close Stratford Library for six months on October 1 as part of a £2.2 million refurbishment that will move the children’s area to a smaller space. The council service centre is to move into the same building. Campaigners say the library will be less safe for children as it will no longer be self-contained.” … “”It’s the best thing Stratford has going for it for children. In a borough like Newham, one of the youngest and most deprived in the country, we need to be investing in our young people. This is a betrayal of a whole generation.”
  • Defining “library” - Publisher’s Weekly.   Somewhat unusual article with, for instance, calling library economics “wildly irrational”.  “The value of libraries should not be measured in economic terms alone, but economic considerations must not be disregarded through an embrace of principles orphaned from their social context. What kinds of libraries are desirable, and what they mean for communities, for privacy, and for law: we must decide these all again. Fundamentally, the library must redefine its virtue for publishers and authors, and for citizens and politicians, in the midst of a world economy with significantly dampened public investment.”
  • Ford backs down on library closures - Star (Canada).   After a massive and well-organised backlash to suggestions that Toronto has too many libraries, the mayor who suggested library cuts “told a meeting of his executive committee that he would not support closing libraries or reducing street-cleaning and snow-clearing standards to balance the budget.” … “Ford said he wasn’t actually softening his position on libraries because he never wanted to close them in the first place. His brother, Councillor Doug Ford, had suggested he personally would close a branch “in a heartbeat.” The mayor had declined to endorse or reject the suggestion.” 
  • From gods to humans: the values of librariesUndaimonia.   “In fact, it can be argued that libraries took over some of the traditional functions of religion. We frequently hear libraries referred to as ‘temples’ – temples of learning or temples to the written word….”

  • How to donate an ebook to the library – Mobile Read.  “First I located a book I wanted to check out via http://search.overdrive.com . The search result told me that it was available in other libraries, but not in my local library. On the bottom of the search page, there’s “Contact us” link. I wrote Overdrive an email that I would like to donate this particular ebook to my local library….”
  • New Maslow and libraries - Stephen’s Lighthouse.   “From the basic stuff where libraries are the source of hope and shelter for the homeless or cooling/warming centres in the summer and winter to those needs we serve for development, learning and community, WE ROCK!”
  • Public and school libraries in decline: when we need them
  • Public Libraries: A new type of town square - ICMA (USA).  “While their core mission remains information, literacy, and public education, today’s libraries act as a new type of town square, a place where people of all ages and backgrounds seek help, connect with others, and get access to the information and services they need. ” 
  • Public Libraries Improve Access for Blind and Partially Sighted People - SCL (press release).  “Already, 176 out of 210 library authorities have pledged. “We call on every library in the UK to sign up,” said President of SCL, Nicky Parker. “We are determined to break down the barriers that prevent blind and partially sighted people from using the public library like everyone else.”. 
  • Pullman to speak at Library Campaign conference - BookSeller.   “Author Philip Pullman will speak at an October day conference for library user groups, hosted by The Library Campaign in association with Voices for the Library.”
“The UK public library service is run under the statutory requirements of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act. They are quite clear it is the duty of local authorities to provide the service for the benefit of all its residents. It is not allowed to diminish the service. Neither the local authority nor the central government is allowed to over see a diminution. Consequently there should be accountability and representative democracy as we pay our taxes and the service is provided. This is no longer the case in England. We recently asked a question about the numbers of volunteers now used in running community libraries through a Social Enterprise company and a charity. The local authority refused to answer and referred us to those organisations – neither of which is elected or accountable to the electorate. How can this be right or lawful?” P. Richardson comment at Voices for the Library.

Changes

Local news

  • Bolton – Fate of libraries on the agendaBolton News.  “future of Bolton’s libraries will be sealed on October 12 at a special meeting of Bolton Council’s full executive.” Campaigner says “thousands of people have said how much libraries mean to them. We can do no more and we hope a strong case has been made, and hope we have been listened to.”
  • Brent – Council’s “million pound spending spree” while libraries face closure – Harrow Observer.  This is yet more evidence of shocking waste and incompetence by Brent Council. The latest data shows more than £1.2 million was spent on consultants in March. This is much more than the £1 million over two years the council claims it is trying to save by closing six libraries.”.  Council replies “”Around £300,000 is for what is generally termed consultancy. As always, with the One Council Programme we employ consultants with specialisms only to help us save money.”
  • Bristol – Mobile library faces final chapter - Bristol 247.   ““We are firmly committed to having an outreach library service. This is why we are proposing to expand the popular At Home Service to far more customers who find themselves housebound, or for some reason cannot access their local library,” he said.  At the same time we do need to look at the future of the mobile library service, which is currently not representative in terms of the areas it serves.”
  • Cambridgeshire – 21st Century Library Service - Cambridgeshire Council.  
  • Flintshire – Bagillt library faxes axe over lack of local support - Leader.  “The community council delivered questionnaires around the village asking people for their thoughts on the takeover, which would see residents each pay about £8 extra a year in local rates to cover the cost . But a low level of returns of the forms means the library could close after all.”  Council said library would close without support, 160 out of 3000 forms returned. ““We thought more people would support us because the library is one of the last things in the village. We’ve had comments saying people don’t mind going to the libraries in Flint and Holywell instead.” 
  • Hounslow – Council plot to slash book spendingChronicle series.  “The review was carried out after council proposals to close up to eight of its 11 libraries, which are run by John Laing, provoked a furious backlash.”
    • Draft library strategy - Hounslow Council.  “We are unique in that the operation of staffing, service delivery, building maintenance and refurbishment is contracted to John Laing Integrated Services (JLIS) under a 15 year contract. This partnership has already achieved £1.25 million in savings over the
      past three years of operation.”
  • Northern Ireland – Situation in Northern Ireland - Voices for the Library. “To be fair the situation in Northern Ireland isn’t as bad as what is happening in the rest of the UK, but it is my opinion that closure  and cutbacks in the Library should be resisted and opposed regardless of the numbers being quoted.”.  Northern Ireland Assembly admits that library usage is increasing.  However, 34 branches not seen as viable, 10 of whom may close.
    • Gilford library not yet safeLurgan Mail.    ““Gilford Library is one of 10 libraries across Northern Ireland deemed potentially unsustainable as a result of stage two of the Strategic Review of libraries, undertaken by Libraries NI. Stage two libraries’ have been included in the Opening Hour Review proposals as no decision has been made at this point regarding the future of these libraries, however the Board of Libraries NI hopes to a make a decision at their October meeting.”

Library campaign conference announced

“On 22 October 2011 the Library Campaign in association with Voices for the Library will be hosting a conference for library user groups. It will be a chance for users to compare notes, find out more about the issues confronting them and produce some proposals for future action both locally and nationally. Philip Pullman has agreed to speak and there will also be contributions from some of the campaigns that are making news.

There will be also be lots of opportunity to network and to discuss the issues in small groups.
Some of the proposed discussion topics include
  • working with volunteers
  • outsourcing, privatisation, trusts etc
  • legal challenges
  • using the press
  • using social media (Facebook. Twitter etc.)
The conference will be on Saturday 22 October at the University of London Union on Malet Street, London , WC1. Travel details here. There will be a registration fee of £15 which will cover the whole day including lunch. The Library Campaign will pay reasonable travel expenses for representatives of local groups who need assistance with fares.”   Andrewtlc.blogspot.com
Speakers include Peter Challis from UNISON and campaigners from Brent, Doncaster and Gloucestershire.

Please sign the national petition in support of public libraries.

431 libraries (345 buildings and 86 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

“Indeed. Here’s the problem: when it’s an actual private company doing work for profit, there’s an incentive to keep costs down. When it’s an actual government worker with democratic oversight, there’s an incentive to keep costs down. But when you contract out to a private contractor and take both competition and government oversight mostly out of the picture, you’ve created a government-sanctioned monopoly – a private company basically does the work of the state but with an eye toward making profit, not through competition but through a parasitic relationship with the state. This is bad for taxpayers, obviously, but it gives politicians an opening to say they “shrunk government” and often line their own pockets. This is called cronyism in many circles, and with good reason.” Do private contractors save the government money? - Forbes (USA).  But a lot of faux privatization schemes are not short term – public libraries turning their operations over to private for-profit companies just to name an example.”

  • Library meetings protested by Tea PartyCincinnati.com (USA).  About eight people showed up at the Campbell County Public Library’s meeting at Plum Creek Christian Church to discuss the new planned South Branch – most [5?] wore yellow stickers stating “No new library.”
  • Moorpark City Library holds card sign-up event, Star Wars style - Ventura County Star (USA).  “Just like the library, Star Wars Day has something for everyone,” said Moorpark City Librarian Heather Cousin about the event.  The day featured a costume contest, crafts including Wookie cookie decorating, even a Chewbacca pet look-alike contest.”
  • Privatisation of public library services - Voices for the Library (Alan Wylie).   “In the UK there is evidence that the majority of opinion is “anti”.  Reasonable people of all economic backgrounds and political colour do not welcome the piecemeal destruction of their valued public library service.”.  Reasons against privatisation include: first loyalty is to shareholders, not the public; private companies can go bankrupt; commercialisation of a neutral space; deprofessionalisation of the workforce.
    “A pioneering project which has switched thousands of struggling pupils on to reading is being axed in primary schools. Research shows that the Reading Recovery Project, which involves daily one-to-one half-hour reading sessions with pupils, has had a major impact in boosting reading standards. After 12 to 20 weeks in the scheme, five- to six-year-olds saw their reading ability increase by up to 20 months – an improvement which was sustained when they were tested a year later. But schools are being forced to axe the project – or at least reduce the number of pupils to whom they offer it – because of a squeeze on school budgets, according to the National Association of Head Teachers” Reading scheme axed in cuts to school spending – Peter Scott’s library blog.

  • What are the toughest questions tossed at reference librarians? – Christian Science Monitor (USA). “And then I got to wondering. Never mind Dewey and his decimals. What are the most difficult questions that reference librarians have ever had to answer? I decided to ask them. Here’s what librarians from across North America had to say via email: …” 
  • When did books become decorations?Calgary Herald (Canada).  “”Mine’s on the other one,” she said, pointing to the kid zonked out on the other computer. I shook my head and explained how I’ve been trying to impart that libraries are for discovering good books. She just looked at me and shrugged. “Different generation,” she said.” 

Local News

  • Angus – Arbroath Guildry dean says library proposal would represent ‘immoral quarrying of common good funds’ - Courier.  “”Just because Angus is now governed by a single unitary council doesn’t mean to say the district’s individual towns are no longer entitled to their own heritage.”
  • Bolton  Number’s not up for plate on mayor’s limo - Bolton News.   “COUNCIL chiefs have ruled out selling the Mayor of Bolton’s private WH1 number plate to help save the town’s libraries.” … “current laws prevented the council from spending the money on public services and it would only be able to invest profits in another asset.”… ““Half-a-million pounds was mentioned at the meeting, but there is no number plate selling for anything close to that.” [GS1 sold for £258,775]
  • Brent – Wilson to hold Brent libraries benefitBookSeller.   Former children’s laureate Jacqueline Wilson is the latest high-profile author to take part in a fundraising benefit in aid of Brent’s six threatened libraries…. The Brent campaign has now raised close to £25,000, including a £1,000 donation from The Library Campaign and £3,000 raised by Kensal Rise campaigners selling memorabilia on eBay. Pub quizzes, dances and “tin-rattling outside Sainsbury’s” have also contributed to the total, which campaigners say brings them close to their fundraising target.”
  • Buckinghamshire – Volunteers praised for library action - Chalfonts.   Chalfont St Peter saved from closure by Friends of Chalfont St Peter Library.  “Residents in the village came together to keep the library opened and its future has now been all but secured to the delight of residents.”
  • Gloucestershire – County council cuts: 838 jobs and counting - This is Glos.   “The cuts, which bosses want to realise by 2014 under its ‘Meeting the Challenge’ project in order to balance the books, have resulted in the vast majority of jobs not being filled as staff leave. It has also led to scores of libraries and community centres being handed over to the public to run to save cash, as well as vastly reduced spending across all departments.”
  • Newcastle – Let’s talk libraries - Newcastle Council.   “Join in the conversation to have your say about Newcastle Libraries’ priorities, how we spend our money and the future of our library service. Help us take your views and those of the wider community into account by participating in our public consultation event on Saturday 29 October from 10:30am – 12:30pm.”
  • Northern Ireland – Further library provision slashes revealed - 4NI.   Cregagh library to be reduced from 40 to 30 hours.  “Cllr Michael Long stated: “We intend to challenge this proposal, which is a further significant blow to library services in the Borough. Our experience in Braniel, Gilnahirk and Belvoir is that in all three cases significant reductions in hours, far from stabilising the situation, in the end led to the closure of those libraries.”
    “Without professional staff like Mrs Dunstan, I can’t see how the library could ever be as good as it is now. I want our library to stay as it is…. It’s great just as it is now, so please can we keep it that way.” 

  • Oxfordshire – Children’s public plea to save “vital” library staff – Henley Standard.   Sonning Common –  “Isabel Mulligan, 11, and Oliver Matthews, 10, addressed Oxfordshire County Council officials at a public meeting in the village hall on Monday.  More than 100 residents, library staff and teachers at the village primary school attended the meeting”. 
    • Plea from former headteacher - Henley Standard.   Sonning Common – ““I make this appeal that you consider this as a specific and special case,” he said. “When the library was taken into the school, the school went into partnership with the authority, The school still pays for heating, lighting, caretaking and the upkeep and that is a real partnership. You as the authority would have lost quite a lot of money.”
  • Staffordshire – Libraries thrive as e-book use increases - Express & Star.   “County Councillor Pat Corfield, cabinet member for culture, said that presently more than 40 per cent of e-titles are downloaded outside library opening hours.”
  • Surrey – Ebook borrowing booming for Surrey librariesSurrey Comet.   “More than 4,700 people have checked out 18,450 e-books and 11,500 e-audio books since they became available from the county council’s online library last summer.”…”“We’re determined to embrace new technology to make it easier and quicker for people to access county council services while providing better value for money.”
  • Warwickshire – Communities set to run their own libraries - This is Tamworth.   Dordon, Kingsbury, Baddesley and Water Orton have put in bids to run libraries withdrawn from by the council.  “The business cases will now come under the scrutiny of everyone from library and property, to finance and legal experts, to ensure they are realistic and allow the community every chance possible to make their library a successful operation.”

Poor people don’t deserve to read

Please sign the national petition in support of public libraries.

431 libraries (345 buildings and 86 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

“Libraries are losing funding by the day. Schools are having their budgets slashed. Poor kids are getting poorer, and if we don’t make those books available to them now, they won’t know to want them tomorrow. We cannot forget the digital divide. And we can’t—we just can’t—be so excited over something new and shiny that we walk away and knowingly leave people on the other side. We can’t.” Across the digital divide - Seanan Mcguire.  “Print is dead, traditional publishing is dead, all smart authors should be bailing to the brave new electronic frontier,” what I hear, however unintentionally, is “Poor people don’t deserve to read.”
  • Anger at town halls after they write off debt of £135 million - London Evening Standard.   The article does not mention libraries but many of the names are familiar, notably Brent “which had £17.3 million uncollected, including £9.7 million of council tax.” and Croydon “which wrote off nearly £8.5 million that year”.  However “Brent said its £17.3 million write-off was so high because it was a 17-year accumulation and the council had never before written off debt.”.
“My first instinct on closing them was that this was terrible. It’s stopping people learning who can’t afford to buy books. Then I thought, ‘Aren’t libraries alienating, quite smelly places, filled with strange people who I don’t want to hang around with?’ Just to check, I went to a local library and found it’s all clean, smart and lovely, but it’s still not what I want it to be. There weren’t many books. And in a romantic way, I don’t want libraries to be computer clubs.  I want to see people sitting and reading Aeschylus. My point is, when the people march to defend libraries, most of them won’t know what they’re defending.” “I’m offended … it seems I’m not hack-worthy” - Belfast Telegraph.  Frank Skinner, comedian, on libraries.  Alan Gibbons’ comments on this are also worth reading.

Local news

  • Brent – Introducing Brent Reading Circle - Preston Library Campaign.  “Otherwise known as a Book Club – it’s a chance for reading enthusiasts to get together and discuss that thing Brent Council says is “obsolete” – books!”
    • Wed 28th September: Jacqueline Wilson event to save Brent’s libraries - Save Kensal Rise Library.  “We are delighted to announce that Jacqueline Wilson, the hugely popular and much-loved author and former Children’s Laureate, will be coming to Kensal Green to support the campaign to save Brent’s six libraries which are under threat of closure.”
    • August library campaign update - Save Kensal Rise Library.   “The Brent SOS Libraries campaign (which is backing the legal aid claimants in the judicial review) has gone a long way to raising the money we need to cover potential legal costs. The latest total we have is just short of £22,000 – well on the way to the £30,000 we need, but still needing one final push. So if you’re feeling bad about not having donated a fiver towards saving libraries in the borough, now’s your chance…”
  • Croydon – Confusion Central - That Woman’s Blog.   Those without computers denied access to consultation details, “Labour Councillors were told an in-house bid would not be acceptable, yet Mr Gavin Barwell MP has given assurances it would be welcomed.”, “Croydon Council seem intent to forge ahead with their plans to outsource their whole library network in collaboration with Wandsworth Council. The decision whether or not to proceed will be taken at Monday’s Croydon Cabinet meeting.”
  • Scottish Borders – Meeting rejects High Street library move plan - Selkirk Weekend Advertiser.   ““There is much concern that the work of qualified librarians is being devalued, while a major fly in the ointment is that SBC does not accept that the library in Ettrick Terrace is part of Selkirk’s common good.”.  Council wishes to use customer contact staff to staff libraries and vice versa in order to save money.

A million pounds per year: the cost of outsourcing libraries in Croydon

Comment
 
There is a very interesting analysis of the Croydon proposals to outsource its libraries published today by a local Labour councillor, Timothy Godfrey.  This chap is in opposition to the ruling party in the council and can thus be said to be biased, but it looks like he has spent a lot of time analysing the situation in his latest article. It identifies that over 44% of the budget for libraries is behind the scenes expenditure, with most of that coming from large corporate contracts such as IT and facilities management (that’s “looking after the buildings” to you and me).  It includes £220,000 for library-related calls to the council call centre (what? libraries don’t have phones in Croydon?).  All this is far greater than in some neighbouring authorities.  The conclusion is then drawn:
“If the Council can not manage to bring forward a scheme that builds positively on the public anger at the plans and the clear public commitment to our libraries, then it is not worthy of running any public service in Croydon. It has in effect already declared that it has failed and is on the path of privatising all Council services.”

The councillor then states a shocking fact that I have not come across before and, if true, sheds a different light on the debate to that normally seen:

The for profit sector creams off a minimum of 5% of contract value and a usual 10-15% of contract value to cover operational profit as well as bid costs and ongoing contractual negotiations. That is profit that should be used to improve public services and maximise front line delivery.

Private companies hold no magic powers when it comes to efficiency.  Anything they can do, the local council can do, first-hand and with the support of their residents and without losing up to a fifth of the amount to shareholders in the process.  A fifth?  Look at those figures quoted again.  It says the price of outsourcing is 15 to 20% – that, in the case of Croydon (basing the figure on the £7,430,406 mentioned in the posting), is between £1.1 million to £1.7 million that could have gone on libraires going rather to an outside contractor.  That money, especially today, means the difference between keeping a library open or closed, adequately staffed or not.  To give that money away, if the figures are correct, could be argued as being the grossest waste.  Add to this that “Corporately the Council has lost control of its own expenditure from outsourcing too much of its everyday operation into long term contracts” and the picture gets even worse. To present it, as Croydon does (and if, as said before, these figures are correct) as an efficient way to save money is … well, I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Please sign the national petition in support of public libraries.

431 libraries (345 buildings and 86 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

  • 9 ways libraries can help you live frugallySuddenly Frugal (USA).  “Everyone knows that you can borrow regular books from the library, but here are 9 ways that free library services can help families save hundreds of dollars per year…”
  • Beyond the book: Libraries in the 21st CenturyWestport Now (USA).  “I would challenge all of you to put the book aside and think of the library as a place of continuous learning, a safe place where the only price of admission is curiosity,” … “in an age of information technology, libraries have to transform into educational and social centers where individuals can be put in touch with experts in fields they are researching, attend lectures, retrain for jobs, learn interviewing techniques, think and dream.”
  • “Cycle for literacy” Bike ride to save Detroit Libraries - CBS Detroit.  “Event organizer Brandi Anderson said the ride is an act of solidarity of communities preventing the demise of it’s utilized DPL branches for the purpose of learning and as public resource centers.”

 
(The council said there was too much “gravy” or waste in Toronto libraries)
Part of the campaign for Toronto Public Libraries (Canada) 

  • Future of UK Tourism - Inside Government (Conference).  One session is from the British Library covering – The role of the British Library in promoting cultural tourism in London, maximising opportunities for cultural tourism in 2012, developing the visitor experience, providing a modern service that reflects people’s changing expectations, modernisation and embracing new technology – digitisation of all collections, improving the contribution of libraries to digital access, employment and skills, business and economic development.
  • Lifetime Libraries - LGA.  The libraries section of the Local Government Association, “It is no surprise, therefore, that local people are fighting to save their libraries from closure in areas where the council is having to take difficult decisions. But the reality is that councils are facing a funding shortfall of around £6.5bn for the next financial year, and are having to balance this with their statutory duty to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service.”
  • Pages from history: the best of the Bodleian  – Telegraph.   “‘We don’t want the Bodleian to be a book museum,’ says Dr Thomas, whose transatlantic enthusiasm cuts through the arcane layers of her duties. ‘It’s not just about white gloves and hushed voices. It’s about access and interpretation and the excitement of discovery and a sense of community.’ This is not a sentence I ever expected to write, but by heaven it must be fun to be a librarian.”
  • Total victory, now it’s time for public floggings - Good Library Blog (Tim Coates).  “A year ago we were faced with the prospect of 600-1000 public libraries being closed across the UK. There has been a mighty campaign to stop this — and the campaign has been totally victorious. In comparison to what might have been, almost no libraries have closed.” … grass-roots local protests (along with figures such as Alan Gibbons) have led to a far smaller number of branches closing, yet, than expected.  National organisations such as the MLA, DCMS and DCLG, even Parliament, have been surprised by the public opposition and  “…deserve to be locked in a dungeon and have unkind words printed about them every day until their mothers notice.”.

Changes

Local News

  • Angus – Arbroath library campaigners get off to good start – Courier.  Arbroath member Bob Spink has led the library campaign and at a full meeting of the council in Forfar on Thursday evening he won overwhelming support for a motion that places emphasis on gathering evidence as to why it should not remain on the common good.”.  Describes plan by Angus council to move it to general council ownership as “corporate theft”. 
 

Robin Ince, Helen Arney, Robyn Hitchcock - Save Kensal Rise Library. 

  • Calderdale – Library users urged to “fill in survey”- Todmorden News.  Friends group highlights importance of completing questionnaire and to answer questions in a way that does not encourage removal of opening hours or closures of mobile libraries.  “Friends of Todmorden Library, whose patron is nationally known author Cate Haste and which hosts its first festival at the end of this month, was set up to encourage as many people as possible to explore and use the services on offer and fight any prospects of cuts.”
  • Croydon – Cllr Mansell speaks out: no support for local bidSanderstead Library Campaign Group. Reports on letter to No support for in-house bid – Croydon Today from Cllr Mansell, Labour spokeswoman for libraries.  Croydon council refuses to provide support for their own staff to put in a bid to run the soon to be outsourced service.  Council has also failed to listen to the public or to consider putting in reasonable resources themselves to keep libraries open.  Very very interesting things said about privatisation (see above) and about trusts.
    • Protecting and developing Croydon libraries - Timothy Godfrey.  Long and detailed article on how to keep Croydon libraries open, with sufficient staff on the front-line while abolishing massive (45%) behind-the-scenes corporate costs such as ICT.
  • East Lothian – Villagers condemn cut in library hours in OrmistonEast Lothian News.   “Chairman James Blane said the proposal was pushed through in the middle of the holiday period, without any consultation with the community council.”
  • North Lincolnshire – Town library on the move to the Angel - Market Rasen Mail.  “Brigg Library will be re-housed in the Angel Suite by next March and North Lincolnshire Councillor Rob Waltham is convinced the new arrangement will offer far better facilities for the town … “North Lincolnshire has allocated £300,000 to the project. The library will go on the ground floor and the heritage centre on the first floor. We also hope the project will liven up the courtyard area in the building.””
  • Scottish Borders – Council brought to book - Peeblesshire News.  Anger as Innerleithen Library will have reduction in hours.  “”Locals are very angry about these proposed changes. This is purely to save money and has nothing to do with serving the community. The plan is for contact centre staff to be trained as librarians and vice versa, rather than two decent services we’ll end up with just one average service.”

Total victory

Back to 1919

“In 1919, WI member Mary Close wrote: “The first and greatest dfficulty in running a successful library is to get the right person as librarian. Too often, alas, one has to put up with someone whose only qualification is that they have the time to give to the work.”  WI

The WI has come out firmly against volunteers running libraries in their latest press release.  Strangely, this move will almost certainly be supported by many of the volunteers themselves.  I am not aware of a single one that would not prefer the council to run the library instead of them and many are only now volunteering after unsuccessfully fighting to keep their local branch open with paid workers.  The following comment from Shirley Burnham on the BookSeller article about volunteers sums it up beautifully:
“An article from Surrey dated today, bearing the headline “Progress On The First Wave of ‘Community’ Libraries” goes on to contradict that positive spin, quoting representatives of two local libraries, the first of whom says “We would rather not be in this position, but we are and we are going to make the best of it”; and the second who states “We are wholly against the policy. We don’t want to go down the volunteer route; that is a recipe for disaster as far as we are concerned”. http://www.thisissurreytoday.co.uk/Progress-wave-community-libraries/sto…

Dozens and dozens of similar reports abound : Dorset campaigners are “heartbroken”, cries of despair emanate from Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Isle of Wight, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Yorkshire, London boroughs : the list is too long to itemise. Many fine public librarians and library assistants have lost their jobs or are obliged to train volunteers whilst awaiting their brown envelopes; demoralised likewise, but enjoying little useful support from their professional bodies.

In the background, plumply, sit Ed Vaizey, Culture Minister and Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State — “watching carefully,” the kiss of death being applied to the public library service for which they have statutory responsibility. Busy with other matters perhaps or, I suspect, standing over the photocopier, printing up “Do Not Resuscitate” orders — to be affixed libraries throughout the land.

One can only hope that the WI will give them a good shaking and bring them to their senses, before it is too late.”

Incidentally, the WI has produced an excellent campaign pack which is worth a look.

Please sign the national petition in support of public libraries.

431 libraries (345 buildings and 86 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

  • Copyright confusion dogs European digitisation push - BBC.  About 43% of the sample were orphan works suggesting a large part of Europe’s media may never go online.” suggesting that there will always be a need for physical libraries holding them.
“Hope all supporting WI libraries action day by taking a book out of local library today. Sadly mine now shut on fridays -case in point!”  (GloriaDePieroMP, Twitter).

“There will never be enough words to write about libraries and my very personal encounters with their books. Beyond the family influence, the happy accidental encounters, and various events from my life; libraries are and will always be the main constant in my professional and human achievements (because I don’t see how one could develop in the absence of the other)….Hymn to the Libraries - Inside HigherEd. 

  • WI slams government over volunteer-run libraries - BookSeller.   “Speaking as the WI began its latest library action, asking each of its members to borrow a book from their library today (16th September), chair Ruth Bond said it was “simply not good enough” to assume that volunteers will step in to continue providing services previously supplied by professionals.”

Changes

Local News

  • Angus – Family want library to stay as a town assetArbroath Herald.  “The family of the man who gifted the public library to the people of Arbroath have spoken out against any transfer of ownership of the building.”
  • Bolton – Politicians are grilled over cuts to libraries - Bolton News.   Videos of all the speakers.  “More than 100 people packed into the lecture theatre in Le Mans Crescent directly underneath the 139,763 books in Bolton Central Library. The meeting, chaired by The Bolton News’ deputy editor Lynn Ashwell, was organised by the Save Bolton Libraries Campaign.”.  Council does not want to makes cuts but sees no choice as to massive budget cuts.  High profile of library campaign noted – it’s apparently impossible not be aware of it in Bolton, with it being “in the Bolton News every day”.
    • Bolton – Speech at DebateSave Bolton Libraries. “Libraries are not some relic of the steam age, but serve a whole range of functions in modern society, as a venue for friendship, learning, childcare, healthy living, business support, job search, IT access and much more.” …”We feel there is still some scope for savings through shared services with other Greater Manchester authorities, postponing Sunday opening of Central Library, and looking at cutting councillors’ allowances and expenses as the Labour Council in Bury is now doing.” … “We reject the three options on offer – there is a fourth option – recognise the strength of public opinion and leave the libraries budget alone!”
  • Bristol – Mobile library is under threat - This is Bristol.   “In the year to the end of March there were 113,525 books issued, compared to 117,145 the year before – down three per cent. The number of people using the service has dropped more dramatically, from 9,206 to 7,596 – a fall of 17 per cent – in the same period. At 12 years old the mobile library van is also near the end of its life. A replacement would cost around £100,000 but the council has not allocated funding for this.”
  • Buckinghamshire – Meeting on future of Ivinghoe Library – Leighton Buzzard Observer.  “But the Friends say that help and support are now essential to make the library a success. For more information there is a meeting from 7.30 pm on Wednesday, September 21 at Ivinghoe town hall.”
  • North Somerset – Town library to be saved by listed building status?Mercury.   “The historic building housing Weston Library could soon be protected indefinitely, after 
heritage watchdogs assessed it as a candidate for listing…. Fears were expressed that the eye-catching building could be demolished after North Somerset Council withdraws the library service and moves it to a new base at Weston Town Hall.”
  • North Yorkshire – Residents in Gargrave and Embsay await decision on libraries - Craven Herald and Pioneer.   “…in Embsay, supporters are looking at asking villagers how much they would be willing to contribute to keep the library open.”…”Gargrave supporters, who are pressing on after appealing to the community for business help earlier this year, are hopeful their plan will be accepted.”
  • Northern Ireland – Angry over proposal to reduce library opening hours - Antrim Times.  
  • Oxfordshire – Volunteering at libraryOxford Mail.  “I am very unhappy about the volunteer proposals with regard to the Wychwoods library. I believe it to be unworkable and would lead to the closure of the library. At my age (90), I would be unable to get to any other library in the vicinity.”
  • Surrey – Progress on the first wave of “community libraries” - This is Surrey Today.  Tattenhams forming a volunteer group against their will, Lingfield “”We are wholly against the policy. We don’t want to go down the volunteer route; that is a recipe for disaster as far as we are concerned.”, Warlingham “A friends’ group has been established and they are leafleting the area to gather more volunteers. Ideas being mooted include charging people to use the library.”
  • Wandsworth – Becoming the “Big Society” library - Save York Gardens.   “When it reopens the ibrary will begin to officially operate as the ‘Big Society’ library. The Friends of York Gardens Library, a community group formed after the library was saved from closure, will take over a lot of the decision making and become accountable for the library making sufficient income to allow it to remain open with reduced funding.”

Join the library profession: get more than half your student debt written off.

The BBC Student finance calculator above at last provided some good news for those fancying a career in librarianship.  Choose “librarian and related professions” from the options and, assuming one goes for a £9000 loan each year, you will get more than half your debt written off after a mere thirty years.  This is not (and I know this will come as a surprise to few of you) due to some enlightened government policy to encourage literacy and free access to information. Nope, it’s simply because you’re never going to earn enough in the profession to pay it off.  The machinery of the calculator is not clear but one likes to think that it has factored in mass cuts in public services and a move towards paying anyone in public libraries not just low wages but nothing at all, let alone not enough to pay back a loan.  Much of the media is very keen on pointing out the high pay of those in the public sector but always seem to concentrate on Chief Executives and not on the pay of the front-line staff that are being cut… but the BBC student finance calculator doesn’t lie.

(With thanks to @melissaterras) 

Please sign the national petition in support of public libraries.

430 libraries (345 buildings and 85 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

“We’re nearly 96! Help protect local library services and celebrate the WI’s birthday by signing our petition” WI Institute Tweet.

Changes

Local News

  • Angus – Council plan library grab - Scotsman.  “Bob Spink, an independent councillor for Arbroath, will challenge Angus Council’s plans to take over the ownership of the library, gifted to the town by a former Provost, as part a major review of the Common Good Funds in the area.”
“Barnet’s gung-ho approach to shoving its libraries into other people’s buildings, whether they want them or not, must also call into question plans approved in July to close North Finchley and Friern Barnet libraries.  They justified the move with plans to open a new library in Artsdepot, an arts centre and theatre atop the local bus station.  While Barnet claims Artsdepot (which gets only a small amount of funding from the council) is “positive about the extra footfall it will create”, when the centre was being built in 2002, a £100,000 consultancy report discussing whether to add a library concluded it would be too expensive.”  Barnet: Library News - Private Eye (via Alan Gibbons). 

  • Bolton – Question Time-style debate on libraries - Bolton News.   “At 7pm, a Question Time-style debate will be held at Bolton Central Library lecture theatre as politicians and campaigners come head to head to discuss the town’s underthreat libraries.”
  • Croydon - Outsourcing: a real threat to Croydon’s librariesThat Woman’s Blog.  6 libraries were in consultation process yet all 13 will be privatised, consultation flawed and parts of it ignored by council, staff drastically reduced this year in order to make deal more appetising for tendering companies, council has failed to listen to users despite promises.
    “The decision to ‘market-test’ all 13 libraries was taken on the basis of the ideas of just 412 replies, recorded as “Explore links with commercial businesses i.e. outsourcing, sponsorship, advertising, cafe, retail”. No breakdown was recorded as evidenced by the refusal of the FOI request so those who offered ideas of efficiencies such as seeking sponsorship or adding a cafe have effectively had their suggestion counted as a vote for outsourcing.” Croydon – That Woman’s Blog

    East Sussex – Seaford: new library plan unveiled – Eastbourne Herald. “The planning application, submitted by East Sussex County Council, includes a new library, day care centre and supported living flats for adults with learning difficulties. The plans include demolishing the existing library for the new build at Warwick House in Sutton Park Road and a temporary library at the Elm Court site in Blatchington Road. If the £6 million scheme goes ahead it will see facilities relocated from Homefield Place, a county adult social care facility.”
    Edinburgh – New library scheme goes by the book – Edinburgh Evening News. “A NEW library and community centre being built in Drumbrae is on schedule to be completed in November.”
    Newham – Save Stratford children’s library - GoPetition. “The children’s library at Stratford Library is a vital community resource and an important and necessary investment in the children and young people of our community, where children from babies to teens gather to read, explore, and learn. Current plans will drastically reduce the size of this space after a six-month closure from 1st October 2011. The community was not consulted in the plans for our library.”

  • Norfolk – Youngsters celebrate completing reading challenge at Norwich Library - Norwich Evening News.  More than 10,000 youngsters across the county took part in this year’s challenge, which included circus workshops and events held in Norfolk libraries to encourage children to sign up and enthuse them about reading.”
  • Northern Ireland – Library hours cut to limit history resource access - Belfast Telegraph.  “Libraries NI are now proposing to reduce the opening hours of a number of libraries across Down District but particularly Downpatrick Library, which presently houses the core Co Down historical collection in the Heritage Gallery…”
  • Oxfordshire – Volunteers’ concern over Sonning Common library - Get Reading.   “Campaigners have urged town hall bosses to change proposals to keep Sonning Common Library open amid fears they will not be able to find enough volunteers to run the service…. More than 100 protesters packed into Sonning Common Village Hall in Wood Lane on Monday evening to discuss the plans, which they described as “deeply flawed”…”“If a volunteer model is confirmed to be the only way forward then this too should be one which deploys volunteers in all libraries on a proportional basis and irrespective of location.””
  • Staffordshire – County Council claims it’s set to save millions of pounds in taxpayer’s money - Birmingham Mail.   ““We’re taking out hierarchies and ensuring that those who lead the new teams take on more responsibility and accountability. And it’s working.” … ““While other councils are cutting libraries and bus services, Staffordshire is working with local communities and is responding to local priorities, innovating to meet real needs and reshaping services to respond to financial pressures.”

Arguments against libraries, arguments for libraries

Comment

“The only surprise is that public libraries have survived for so long. Books are cheap, information is widely available on the internet. Libraries offer poor service- bad opening hours, poor quality buildings – their only selling point is that they are free! Yes – they offer community space, IT and are valued by users; but most of the population are not users. If we have to chose between healthcare and libraries I know which I would choose!” (Anonymous comment on yesterday’s post)

This argument neatly sums up many of the arguments against libraries.  So neatly in fact, that before I explain the counter-arguments, one should assure everyone that it was not a plant.  A warning though –  this is quite a long riposte so feel free to scroll down for the actual news.
(1) “Books are cheap”.  Cheap is relative.  A ten-year old child who reads five books a week (I see this frequently) could not do so in all but the richest homes without libraries.  The same for a senior citizen who reads ten books a week because they are alone and cannot afford to do anything else.  The same for mum who gets six picture books out for their toddler.  “Cheap” is “cheap” only when there is enough money spare. 
(2) “Information is widely available on the internet”.  One has to both be able to afford the internet and be able to use it.  23% of the population would not have access without libraries, likely the same one-fifth that needs the information the most.  Also, while we’re on the subject, here’s ten reasons why the internet does not replace libraries.
(3) “Libraries offer poor service”.  Some of them do, and the staff need retraining or even replacement if all else fails.  Some banks offer poor service too, as do some hospitals.  If staff are well-trained and paid enough to attract good people then they should offer excellent service.  If they don’t, the management need to sort it out and there should be systems in place to ensure that they do so.  However, it is precisely this training and the pay that is being attacked at the moment. 
(4) “Bad opening hours”.  We do indeed need to increase opening hours in many branches, good point.  Opening hours are being cut due to lack of funding, not being expanded.  Opening hours should be extended, not cut.  Where branches have long opening hours, they are well used.  Branches with tiny opening hours (15 hours a week, 10 hours a week) are effectively being closed one hour at a time.  This needs to be reversed.
(5) “Poor quality buildings”.  There are many poor quality buildings.  The answer is to improve them, not close them.  If a well-used road is in poor condition, one does not permanently close the road.
(6) “Yes – they offer community space, IT and are valued by users”.  That’s actually quite a lot reasons not to close them, thank you.  Just on community space, though, …

 “The government and the council forget that people live in places like Walney. When they close the post offices, the clubs and the libraries, then the local people lose meeting places.” (Sally Whittaker, 97 years old, Cumbria).

(6) “Their only selling point is they are free!”.  They are indeed free.  The sentence seems to suggest that everything should be based on the ability to pay.  This is does not currently reflect thinking in other parts the system such as healthcare or education (or defence?).  It is indeed a unique selling point of public libraries that they exist to educate, inform and serve those without the ability to pay.  Other selling points include  professional assistance, community spaces, neutrality, help in job-hunting, training, boosting literacy and life-long prospects.

“Anti-poverty campaigner Sam Roddick, who founded Coco de Mer, said: “Cutting the libraries is cutting the poor from the little they have. It will damn our country into the kind of poverty you see in third world countries.” (London Evening Standard, 12th April 2011)

(7) “Most of the population are not users”.  40% of the population use libraries.  So, not a majority, true.  But two-fifths using an institution that the commenter clearly thinks has no use?  Seems strange. Two-fifths, voluntarily and without any national promotion for as long as most people can remember? Not bad for something that has been ignored by those in power for years. 
(8) ” If we have to chose between healthcare and libraries I know which I would choose!”.  Four things here:
  • Libraries are not for everyone at every point of their lives.  Neither are state schools.  Neither is the M1 motorway.  Neither is a general hospital.  If one can afford all the books and IT access one needs then don’t come in.  You’re a busy person with enough money, good for you.  But, like schools, like the M1 and like the general hospital, libraries are there if any of that changes.  This idea is called a safety net and it’s what a Western society is based on.  Still. 
  • Don’t compare Libraries with healthcare as if they are on the same scale..  Libraries cost £1 billion per year,  the NHS receives more than £100 billion.  In fact, the sad truth is that cutting expenditure on libraries achieves very little for councils – they’re only 1% of their budget – at maximum impact to the public.
  • Savings can be found across the board – notably with the banks, PFI and in the military (which has   lost equipment worth six times the national budget for libraries). 
  • Who said libraries weren’t also healthcare anyway?  I have had one gentleman tell me, over the counter, that he would quietly commit suicide if the library closed.  Libraries provide an support for many of the most vulnerable in society (the housebound, the lonely) and, remember, we are lucky if we are not vulnerable at some point in our lives.  The shelves are often scoured for books on health conditions, or dieting, or on keeping fit.  Libraries even work closely with the NHS on such things as “Books on Prescription” and with such groups as MIND with mental health reading groups.

The point here is that there are a lot of uninformed opinions about public libraries.  This is not surprising given the lack of national leadership over the decades and the lack of any national marketing or significant debate (up until this year at least) in the media.  Those who care about libraries thus need to inform opinion and provide the information.  Or those people who see there being no point in libraries are going to win, because they’re the ones who are holding the purse strings and, often, are in government or in a council near you.

Please sign the national petition in support of public libraries.

430 libraries (345 buildings and 85 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

  • Advocacy - CILIP.  Case studies of how to raise the profile of libraries. 
  • Beware the new normal - Will Unwound.  “They want their service cuts to be invisible. That’s why full time professional librarians are being laid off. No reason why you can’t run the reference desk with one person rather than 3. Or you can just replace 3 full time professionals with 3 part time clerks. A warm body is a warm body? Why do you need a Masters degree to work in a library in the hard wired 21st century? Who knows you might even get lucky. The laid off professional librarians may be so desperate that they will hire back on in one of the part time clerical positions.”
  • Disappearing ink - The Economist.  More quickly than almost anyone predicted, e-books are emerging as a serious alternative to the paper kind. Amazon, comfortably the biggest e-book retailer, has lowered the price of its Kindle e-readers to the point where people do not fear to take them to the beach. In America, the most advanced market, about one-fifth of the largest publishers’ sales are of e-books. Newly released blockbusters may sell as many digital copies as paper ones. The proportion is growing quickly, not least because many bookshops are closing.”
  • Future of the Library - Seth Godin’s Blog.  Argues that the need for library buildings as depositories for books has gone but suggests there should still be libraries and librarians … “The next library is a place, still. A place where people come together to do co-working and coordinate and invent projects worth working on together. Aided by a librarian who understands the Mesh, a librarian who can bring domain knowledge and people knowledge and access to information to bear.”  … “We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don’t need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime.”
  • Lending books, Amazon styleAgnostic, Maybe.   “I wonder if libraries are looking better and better to publishers with each passing eBook market development. They might not get the best deal compared to companies like Apple, Sony, or Amazon, but we’ll still respect you in the morning.”
  • Public libraries are doomed  - Annoyed Librarian (USA).   “Amazon may drive libraries out of business the way it did a lot of bookstores, and the only ones likely to be disappointed are the librarians. Everyone else will be too busy reading whatever book they want, watching whatever movie or TV show they want, and listening to any music they want, all for about $30/month.”
  • Stephen Abram at Manuscripta - This Week in Libraries.   “…the opening of the bookseason in NL organized by CPNB. A conversation about the Library as an Economic Lever, emotional needs and The invisible hand.”
  • Throwing the book at school libraries - Los Angeles Times (USA).   “The school district is dumping 227 of its 430 elementary school library aides and cutting the hours of another 193 aides in half. Welcome back to school, kids.”
  • “Why do libraries matter?”BBC Radio Leeds.   Lauren Smith defends libraries.  Half a millions pounds for Wakefield libraries is too much, says interviewer – to the audible shock of Lauren who explains precisely why it is not.  Reporter then worries that no-one in long call-in is phoning up against libraries, wondering if it is a “silent majority”.

  
Local News

  • Bromley – Council threatens eight-year old boy with debt collector over late book - News Shopper.  Addressed to Jamie, the letter asked him to return or renew the book, before adding: “If you believe that you no longer have these items, please contact the library immediately, as you may be referred to a Debt Collection service.”  Bromley does not charge late fees.
  • Buckinghamshire – Take time to show you love your library - Buckingham Today.   “The WI wants to encourage people to visit their local library, sometime between 1pm and 7pm to borrow a book or two.”
  • Cambridgeshire – Budget consultation - Cambridgeshire Council.  “We are running an online survey to find out your views about our priorities and spending over the next five years. Please submit your views by the 7th October 2011 when the consultation will close.”
  • North Yorkshire – Families to join in fun at library Baby Days - Scarborough Evening News.   “Our libraries provide a wonderful resource for families with a wealth of information and expert advice on hand. In addition our libraries are best placed at the heart of their communities to introduce babies and toddlers to books and reading and language activities from the earliest age, providing them with the best start in life on their learning journey.”
  • Suffolk – We are listening: budget challenge - Suffolk Council.   “Like many councils, Suffolk County Council is facing a difficult financial challenge. A reduction in the amount of money we receive from Government, along with increased inflation and demand for our services, means that we have to find considerable savings. Last year, we made savings of £43 million, but over the next two years we need to save a further £50 million.” One of the ways of consulting is by visiting one of the council’s 44 libraries.
  • Surrey – Councillors discuss changes to Surrey library services - BBC.  “Under the plans, the council would continue to provide buildings, stock, IT equipment and other services but communities would take over the day-to-day running of 19 libraries.”
    • County drops plans for Molesey Library to be volunteer-run - Surrey Herald.   Council recommended to keep branch as part of the “‘Surrey County Council managed network’. Friends group says  “While the future now seems more assured Molesey Library Steering Group will remain in place and continue working until we see the outcome of the cabinet vote on the September 27.  “The strong support that we have received from volunteers, now more than 100, shows the importance of the library to Molesey.”
    • Save Surrey Libraries! - Socialist Party.    “All the threatened libraries have the lowest number of borrowers as they service mainly small, rural communities. But these are not just buildings with rows of books – they are social hubs, community and youth centres, parents and children’s centres. If they were to close there would be nothing similar in most of these villages.”

Wandsworth and Croydon confirm tendering out of libraries

Please sign the national petition in support of public libraries.

430 libraries (345 buildings and 85 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day. 

News

  • Future of Libraries - Telegraph.   Article looks especially at national libraries and other special libraries that have unique content, seeking to put such resources online, often at a charge.
  • Love Your LibrariesUNISON (Facebook).  New Facebook page to publicise what the main trade union for public library workers is doing for libraries and to link up with local campaigners.
  • Public Libraries: ClosuresHouse of Lords (Hansard).   Baroness Rawlings agrees libraries are important.  Suggestions for keeping libraries open include volunteers and using Church buildings (“We have in Hereford diocese an excellent example, of a library in a church tower. A lift, loos and other facilities are provided”). “Big Society” seen as very important role for libraries and a very important role to keep same libraries open.
  • Rethinking libraries? 3rd Axiell Symposium 2011Axiell.  “The Axiell Symposium is a two-day international conference…We are all familiar with improvements in efficiency and savings. Reorganisation is also a well-known term that has characterised our libraries for the past decade. But what is the next step?”
  • Social networking and British libraries - Wikipedia.  Survey of use of social networking websites by libraries, including by campaigners.
  • What will Amazon’s “Netflix for Books” do for libraries? - Publishers Weekly (USA).  “Libraries have shared much of publishing’s uncertainty as physical books continue their slide.” …”In addition to embracing digital books, libraries are trying everything under the sun in order to save themselves.” … “But can local branches, many already running dry, survive if Amazon gives Prime, which is becoming more and more of a deal at $79 as it decorates its price tag with feature after feature, and its users the capability to access any book a library could provide, without having to leave one’s home?”.  Will the word library in 2021 bring up an “image of a person, never leaving his or her house, pressing a series of buttons on a high-res Amazon tablet screen to check out a lent book, scanning the lines using the device’s backlight instead of the low ceiling lights of a library?”
“To lose bookstores hurts. But the idea of the library itself being supplanted by e-commerce is downright dystopian. Blockbuster was just a video store, Tower Records just a music store. But a public library is something ineffable and sacrosanct, a cornerstone of democracy. Libraries were the first pillars of the DIY movement, long before the age of Make and Etsy–they offered a do-it-yourself education, free of charge. No one is actually accusing Amazon of killing the library, the way Netflix pretty much killed Blockbuster. But as the e-book revolution continues to erode the physicality of books, we should ensure that it doesn’t erode, too, the physical milieus books traditionally lived in, and the crucial and uplifting services those spaces provided–lending, outreach, and the occasional talk by the likes of Amitav Ghosh, all free of charge.” Will Amazon’s “Digital Library” kill the physical one? Let’s hope not – Technology Review.   

  • Self-service libraries can leave you long overdue - Telegraph.   New self-service machines in Gravesend cause queues and confusion, including giving back more in change than was paid in to pay a charge. In all, returning those books and paying the fine took 10 minutes. When I was a boy, in the days of cardboard library tickets, the same transaction would have involved the following steps: 1. Enter library. 2. Hand books and coins to human librarian. 3. Exit library.”

Changes

Local News

““I can’t believe how incredibly short-sighted this is, especially when now, more than ever before, it is imperative that we encourage creativity in as many ways as we possibly can, especially for children and young people.” Bolton – Funny man Dave [Spikey] backs the “save libraries” campaignBolton News.  “Spikey, who now lives in Chorley, spent his formative years devouring books in libraries in Heaton and Halliwell. Now, as both libraries face the axe, the funnyman is calling on Bolton Council to have a rethink and has branded the proposals “short-sighted”.”

“The information obtained from the market sounding exercise has provided a very clear indication that a competitive ‘market’ exists for the provision of library services in both Wandsworth and Croydon. It is therefore recommended that the Council market tests the management of its library and heritage service and that, subject to approval by this Council and Croydon Council, library services for both Councils are procured jointly.”

  • Wandsworth – see also Croydon, above.