Finish The Story Emily Culshaw 9 with Paul Bayley - Crewe Library 13 Nov 2012

As the world goes darker, there is more grey

Gateshead Libraries have announced that they will be closing, or passing to the unpaid, 5 out of 17 of their libraries.  It’s neighbour, Newcastle, has of course just announced 10 out of 18 of its libraries will probably be going te same way.  So, 15 out of 35 in the greatest conurbation in the Northeast are to leave council control, or close, in the near future.

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Newcastle kicks off

David Fay, City Libraries’ Manager at Newcastle has been in touch with me to say:

“The position in Newcastle is bad but not quite as bad as you seem to think. The proposal is to keep a network of 8 libraries (including the City Library). This still means closing 10 libraries including High Heaton but it does mean that 96% of the population of Newcastle will be within 1.5 miles of a council run service. This core network will be staffed by trained library staff. Any libraries that are threatened with closure that are run in the future by local communities would sit outside of our core network and would be clearly branded as such. Also the article by Tony Durcan asking whether libraries were needed in an age of austerity did, I think, firmly argue that they were needed.”

Newcastle down

What are potentially the worst cuts so far to a library service have been announced in Newcastle. Every library in that authority – 17 of them – apart from Newcastle City Library appears to be under threat due to cuts to the library service of £7m.  This is especially galling as Central Library has recently cost £24m to be refurbished, with the now endangered but presumably still shiny High Heaton costing a further £1m.  Even more distressing for those who are now faced with giving up their labour for free in order to keep their library open, is that this was paid for in a £40.2m PFI programme.

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Oversight “never the role” of Arts Council England

A key plank of the CMS Report is in doubt due to the reduction in dedicated library staff in Arts Council England and what appears to be a misunderstanding about its role.  In an official response to Public Libraries News from the Arts Council, it is stated that the number of specialists will be reduced from the current nine to just five for the whole of England.  This is due to the cuts in funding already noted by this blog a few days ago.

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Bumped by Anne Widdecombe: Reactions to the Select Committee Report


For such a non-entity of a report, the Select Committee report on library closures raised a respectable amount of coverage.  It cannot be because of the report itself – see my post yesterday for why I think this – but because of the importance the public places on libraries.  It’s interesting to see the different viewpoints that people and organisations had on the report.  It’s fair to say that mine was amongst the most negative.  Other people, having expected less, were disappointed less and recognised some positives.

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“Damp squib”: The Inquiry into Library Closures releases its report.


The Select Committee into Library Closures made public its report today.  Has the wait since the inquiry ended in February been worth the wait?  No, not really.  To sum up its entirety in one sentence: people are told to work harder, share good practice and not to close libraries wholesale without a decent plan.  That’s it.  Oh, you want more?  Oh, OK then:

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E-Lending: A modest proposal

There’s four, not just one, tough nuts to crack, with free e-lending. The four are the Treasury (who will have to pay for it, one way or another, in a time of dramatic cuts in public spending), the Publishers (who are paranoid about losing sales) and  Libraries (who don’t have any money and who fear being made redundant, often literally, by the new technology). The fourth problem, easily forgotten, are the public themselves who need to be able to use the service.

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ACE, in a hole?

Some more information and views on Arts Council England today. It has already been news this week that Arts Council England is reducing its staffing by 21%, more than one-fifth, due to a cut in Government funding.  A whopping 117.5 full-time equivalent staff, from an old total of 559.5, will go. The details of the restructure are public but they are annoyingly vague about how it will affect libraries, beyond saying that the sector will be just one of 13 national disciplines.  That’s just 1 in 13, less than 8% of the whole.  Which makes libraries seem pretty insignificant.

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Inquiry into Library Closures to be published on Tuesday

Big news today is that the much-delayed publication of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee Inquiry into Library Closures will at last occur on Tuesday.  Since the Inquiry finished sitting, there has been a change of Culture Secretary and one of the most high-profile MPs on the Committee, Louise Mensch, has decided to leave parliament.  Presumably, therefor, the only reason the Committee felt the need to publish the results now is that, if they wait any longer, none of the relevant people would still be involved.  We will see if its conclusions have been worth waiting for (and the general atmosphere is, shall we say, pessimistic on this one) next week.

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One in five in ACE to go.

Arts Council England have announced that one in five of their staff will be made redundant.  I know that few library campaigners will shed a tear over this.  However, for me, I will for two reasons.  One is that they’re human beings too, trying their best under difficult circumstances.  The other is that this is going to greatly reduce the number of people looking after libraries, on top of the already great reductions caused in the recent move from the defunct MLA to ACE only a few months ago.  One can therefore take as one will the protestations from ACE that their service will not be worse, just different.

My thanks to Gary Archer, who sent me links to a couple of interesting articles to sending and receiving texts in libraries (like this).  So, it’s possible.  The reason it is not done so much is answered by another commenter, Alan Wylie, who points out that the money is barely there for the basic IT service, let alone option extras.  How Libraries are going to cope with the big increase in usage caused by the Government’s Digital by Default strategy next year is anyone’s guess.  Good news, though, from Harrow, who promise to fix/replace all their many broken library computers by April next year.

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