1 : 1.6 : The economic benefit of libraries


Arts Council England have produced an interesting report on the economic benefits of the Arts. One of the case studies includes libraries in Bolton.  It says on page 22: 
The results of the study suggested a cost:benefit ratio of 1:1.6 – in other words, for every £10 Bolton spent, £16 of value was generated. In absolute terms, this meant that the service was valued at £10.4m, but cost £6.5m. Of the £10.4m of value, £7.4m was generated from users, and £3m from non-users. One particularly interesting finding was that the poorest parts of the community valued the service the most.

So, libraries make money for the local community and they make the most money in the communities that need it the most.  Tell a councillor near you.


  • Act fast, girls, before you’re shut away – Save the Women’s Library.   The Times (behind paywall) has written an article on the treasures of the threatened library.  Petition available (over 9,000 signatures so far).
  • Consortia Conference 2012The following sessions were from this conference, held in Bath on 3rd May.  There are more listed on the website:
    •  Value of consortium membership – Pros and cons of Libraries West consortium.  Consortia are seen as a way of pooling services to cut costs.  Libraries West includes enquiry centre, book processing and library management system.  Stock from six member authorities can be returned anywhere.  
    • Competitive tendering – Andrew Green of Wandsworth Council.  Looks at joint decision by Croydon and Wandsworth to outsource their library services to private company or Trust.  
    • Partners in changing times – Antonio Rizzo of Lewisham Council.  Looks at how Lewisham has outsourced several libraries to community organisations.  TUPE and PLR “do not apply”
  • Ebook sales up 54% – BBC.  Digital content now accounts for 8% of the total value of book sales in 2011 – it made up 5% in 2010. However, total book sales fell by 2%, with the market worth £3.2bn. Physical book sales dropped 5% to £3bn, according to the PA Statistical Yearbook.”
  • Formula for success – Libraries for Innovation.  Massive digital literacy project in Lithuanian public libraries had impressive results. 
  • Measuring the economic benefits of arts and culture – Arts Council England.  “The Arts Council is keen to help increase the understanding of research on the economic benefits of the arts, museums and libraries. Understanding the economic contribution of the organisations we fund is both an important advocacy tool and is crucial to our goal of making the arts more sustainable.” Bolton Libraries found cost to benefit ratio of 1:1.6 with the highest benefit being in the poorest neighbourhoods.
  • Miliband: Labour are “winning back trust” – ITN News.  “We’ll have Labour councils which will be showing, in action, how Labour can make people’s lives better even when there’s less money around. Councillors have a tough job but they are determined to show responsibility and show that when it comes to libraries, children’s centres, local services, Labour can make a difference.”
  • Public libraries vs. MacDonalds – Comic Book Moms (USA).  There are more public libraries in the US than there are MacDonalds and they are better for you.  
  • Re-election of Boris and what this could mean for London Libraries – Stop the privatization of public libraries.  January 2011 announcement of trust for London libraries which faded away. December 2011 announced scheme for library volunteers. “The London Libraries Change Programme (LLCP) was run along the lines of a masonic lodge, secret and only for the privileged few namely members of the ALCL, Chief Leisure Officers and the now defunct MLA. No one outside this circle was privy to the reports and findings and no one really knows what impact the programme has had.” … “With Boris’s emphasis on volunteers and private finance, the ALCL seemingly supporting his position and the push towards privatisation I don’t envisage there being much of a comprehensive and efficient, publicly funded or accountable library service left in London come the next Mayoral elections in 2016.”
  • Save library campaign to feature on BBC’s The One Show – Barnet and Whetstone Press.   “Members of the Save Friern Barnet Library (SFBL) group have been interviewed about their struggle for a feature on library closures by the BBC1 magazine programme.” [That is, Friday]. “An interim library service at artsdepot has also opened following the public backlash.  Film crews from The One Show attended last Saturday’s event and are due to complete filming this evening.”


Shhhh (a song about libraries) – Sky Rocket Jack.
“Having fun is not hard if you have library card”.
  • Solomon takes author concerns to Vaizey direct – BookSeller.  The general secretary of the Society of Authors has called for a one-on-one meeting with culture secretary Ed Vaizey to directly address the needs of authors in relation to e-book lending, Public Lending Right (PLR) and privacy, as a new era of volunteer-run libraries presses forward. Nicola Solomon is seeking assurances that the retail price of e-books will not be undervalued by e-book lending, that the threat of piracy of digital books is addressed and that PLR continues even in volunteer-run libraries.”
  • Speak up for libraries: the national libraries lobby in photos – We Heart Libraries.   “The event started with a rally at the Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, that featured speeches from authors including Kate Mosse, Philip Ardagh and Alan Gibbons as well as campaigning organisations including Voices for the Library, The Library Campaign, the Women’s Institute, CILIP (the professional body for libraries and library staff) and public sector trade union UNISON. It also attracted campaign groups from around the country and a speech from Shadow Culture Minister Dan Jarvis MP. His government opposite number Ed Vaizey had declined an invitation after giving evidence to a Parliamentary inquiry into library closures this morning.”
  • Women’s archive is as relevant today as the struggle it records – Guardian.   Several letters in favour of the Women’s Library stressing how useful and important an archive it is.  “When one considers the number of well-endowed military museums (two in the city of Winchester) stuffed full of the celebration of slaughter and toys for the boys, the contrast to the threat to the one national archive recording the struggles of women over four centuries is all the more distressing. Then there is the Trade Union Congress library. It is fitting that these two records of the fight for basic rights and greater equality are housed in the same place and no surprise that it is under the Cameron administration that they come under threat. Could not the British Library take these two nationally important collections under its wing?”


Local News

  • Derby – Limiting the choice of newspapers on offer at libraries “a political decision” – This is Derbyshire.  Labour has said keeping the Daily Telegraph while ditching papers like the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror – which have been critical of the Government – appeared to be a political decision. Helen Clark, chairman of the Erewash Labour Local Government Committee, said the Daily Telegraph was “a traditional Tory paper”.”
  • Derbyshire – New chapter at town’s library – Buxton Advertiser.  Whaley Bridge Library has been officially reopened after improvement works were carried out. Derbyshire County Council (DCC) installed new shelving so books are more accessible, a new counter, a new carpet and also re-decorated throughout.”
  • East Dunbartonshire – Definitely no plans to close libraries, insists council –  Kirkintilloch Herald.  ““There are categorically no council proposals to close any libraries. “In fact, our plans to develop community hubs in our town centres are designed to protect valuable front line services like libraries.” Local libraries are run by East Dunbartonshire Leisure and Culture Trust on behalf of the council.”

 Greenwich – “7pm until late at the Woolwich Grand Theatre (next to Town Hall, Woolwich).  Tickets £6 each.  Food and music.  “Come and support striking library workers”. Tickets available from the UNITE 2050 Office Polytechnic Street Woolwich, in person, call 02089215092 or e mail shackwood at yahoo dot co dot uk” (via email)
  • Greenwich – Library workers statement – Alan Gibbons.    Council will pay GLL £3.3m per year to run libraries, chief exec of GLL earns £175k p.a.  Worry over transferred library workers losing pay and other terms and conditions. 
  • Harrow – What do you want out of Harrow’s libraries – Harrow Times.  “The council kicked off its library consultation last Monday, and over the next month people have the chance to give feedback on anything from computer improvements to opening hours.”
  • Kirklees – Denby Dale library campaigners continue fight against volunteer plan – Huddersfield Daily Examiner.   “Library protesters used World Book Night to launch a petition against council cut-backs. Kirklees Council wants Denby Dale Library to be run by volunteers from March 2013.”
    • Doubts now growing over library plans – Huddersfield Daily Examiner.   Local campaigners note the Surrey legal result.  “Surrey County Council must now revert the libraries to the way they were prior to September 2011, including a return of all paid staff, a return of the library management system and the return of all staff counters. All 10 libraries are once again part of the Core Managed Library Network We consider that Kirklees Council’s proposed model of replacing paid staff with volunteers is also discriminatory and unsustainable.”
  • Wolverhampton – Hands off Finchfield Library – Finchfield Estate Community Hub.   “Wolverhampton City Council are currently consulting on how library users want services delivered in the future. You may have read in the press about the ‘Community Hubs’ that the Council will be creating across Wolverhampton. This may involve services such as libraries being re-located from their present position and being merged with other community buildings.  In early February FECH were told by the Council that two consultation meetings regarding library services had already been held (Low Hill and Ashmore Park) and that a number of further meetings would be held across the city to inform and gather public opinion before a report was presented to the Cabinet in June. These further consultation meetings have now been postponed; we are told that the meetings will restart in May and June. F.E.C.H. working with local residents decided that a public petition was the best way to canvass opinion on this issue and pass it to the Council”

Milton Keynes Central volunteer shelvers, 2 mobiles go in Cheshire East …

  • Ebook lending and libraries – Society of Authors.  Letter to Ed Vaizey: “libraries are an essential resource and should receive sufficient funding to update, maintain and augment stock and ensure that an exciting and comprehensive range of books are available for reference and loan. We believe that books, whether physical or digital, must be at the core of any library. We believe that access to ebooks within the library and the ability to borrow them from the library will be increasingly important. However we remain strongly of the view that remote lending of ebooks is not at present an essential or primary role of an efficient library service and that plans to allow remote e-lending must be carefully thought through and managed”.  Problems inc. undermining book prices, piracy, lending limits, PLR must be implemented for e-books.”
“We also wish to remind you that section 43 of the Digital Economy Act 2010 extends PLR to audiobooks and ebooks “lent out” from library premises for a limited time and that these payments have never been implemented. This is patently unjust and we urge that this provision be brought into force and that extra funds be made available to cover PLR payments for such lending. We note also that there is an argument that PLR should not be paid where libraries are being run by volunteers. This would again be unfair and we should be grateful if you would confirm that PLR will continue to be paid, whoever runs the library.”

  • Fight privatisation: save our libraries – Socialist.  GLL threatened legal action against the strike. Strike action on 30 April and 1 May had to be postponed. But this is only temporary. A new notice will be issued and strike action will begin again. This is a campaign that Unite is determined to see through.” … “GLL have made clear that following the transfer, there will be a “harmonisation” process, in reality to bring library staff down to GLL levels. GLL negotiators have confirmed that new library staff will be employed on poorer pay and conditions.”
  • Maternity leave, libraries and mobility scooter – Vanessa Feltz on BBC London Radio (1.29 to 1.33).  [I have not listened to this myself as the player constantly crashed on my machine.  However, I understand Vanessa was very supportive, with the subject being Upper Norwood Joint Library – Ian.]
  • Murdoch and News Corporation scandal wasn’t about Conservative Party sleaze: but it is now – Telegraph.  “Here are the News International crowd: Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Peter Mandelson, David Miliband, David Blunkett, John Reid, Tessa Jowell, Michael Gove, George Osborne, William Hague. David Cameron, John Whittingdale and Jeremy Hunt (as well as Mr Hunt’s brainless sidekick, Ed Vaizey) should also be added to this list.”


Local News

  • Buckinghamshire – Time or cash needed to save libraries – Buckinghamshire Advertiser.  Gerrards Cross Library is next in line to become community led, but the people in charge of the change have said more volunteers are needed.” … “85,000 people used the library in 2010. In future, it is proposed that there will be only two permanent members of staff, funded by BCC, as well as the volunteers.” … “The library will cost the town £8,000 a year to run, which will be made up from donations. Gerrards Cross Community Library working party has already raised £23,000, £19,000 of which came from Tesco, as part of the £100,000 donated to the community after opening in 2010.” … “BCC has also given a £30,000 grant to be used over five years to keep the library open.”
  • Cheshire East – Budget cuts hit “lifeline” mobile library service – This is Staffordshire.   2 out of 3 mobiles to close.  “Conservative councillor Brian Silvester, below, who represents the Willaston and Rope ward, near Crewe, said: “The mobile library is an important service and it needs to be retained with the maximum coverage possible.”Labour councillor Sam Corcoran, who represents Sandbach Heath and East, said: “Cutting the mobile libraries from three to one would save £95,000 a year. The Conservatives claim the cuts to services are necessary because of lack of money, but they can find £80,000 for a temporary chief executive for three months.”” … “Consultation on the cuts is taking place until Wednesday, May 23. Residents can respond at www.cheshireeast.gov.uk.”
  • Cornwall – New chapter begins as library opens in cafe – This is Cornwall.   “On Friday the ribbon was cut on the new community library based inside the Rest and Play Café in Roche.” … “The community library is a collaboration between Cornwall Council and the café, which was opened inside a former church hall in December last year.” … “The café will also be holding Story Sack sessions on Monday, May 14, 21 and 28, which give youngsters the chance to use their favourite stories and get creative. Villagers will continue to receive visits from the fortnightly mobile library and will also be able to view and reserve books from the library catalogue and have them delivered to the café.”
  • Croydon – Trouble in Greenwich with GLL – Save Croydon Libraries.   GLL is a contender for taking over services in Croydon.  The strike in Greenwich against it is noted. “The article claims that the council refused to accept a potential compromise whereby staff would be seconded over to GLL, rather than transferred, which would give staff staying as council employees a better safeguard against attacks on pay and conditions. Unite assert that this dispute has highlighted the limited protection offered by TUPE. The legislation only gives protection at the point of transfer. “
  • Dorset – Portland: mobile replaces Underhill service – View Online.  The island’s Underhill Library closed at the end of April and the mobile library service began visiting the area on Monday, April 30th. ” … “With the library service needing to reduce its annual budget by £800,000, county council members last year agreed to retain 25 libraries and offer up the remaining nine to be managed and maintained by local communities. Portland Underhill was the county council library which issued the lowest number of books and other items.  Talks with community representatives failed to spark any interest in taking over the running of the building from Dorset County Council. “
  • Gloucestershire – Library challenge dismissed – Wilts and Glos Standard.   ““The committee did not accept the call-in and found no grounds to overturn the decision taken,” she said. “Therefore the decision stands and will be implemented.”
Kent – new History and Library Centre “The new centre is purpose built to protect and give people access to more of our archive material, and to provide a 21st century library in the heart of Kent. It houses around 14 kilometres of historic material relating to Kent dating back to 699 AD and is the place to come for anyone interested in local history. There is a community history area, archive search room, digital studio and a large space for displays and events.”

  • Milton Keynes – Volunteering with MK libraries – Milton Keynes Council.   “We are initially looking for volunteers to shelve returned library stock at Milton Keynes Central Library. Here’s how you can get involved: “You will shelve library stock and assist in the tidying of our stock. You should have an interest in library work and ideally be able to give a commitment of at least two hours each week. The duties of a Volunteer Library Shelver will involve standing, pushing trolleys and reaching up to high shelves and therefore a good standard of fitness, mobility and stamina is required.You are required to have good skills in English and numeracy.Applicants will be asked to undertake a shelving test.”
  • Staffordshire – Call for thousands to be spent extending library – Express & Star.   “Local politicians are keen to see Great Wyrley Library at Quinton Court Shopping Centre expanded into an empty adjacent unit. South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson and county councillors Kath Perry and Mike Lawrence have called for major improvements to be made at the library, in Wardles Lane. Mr Williamson believes a cash injection would be a great boost for the library and wider community.”. Community cafe, in particular, needed.
  • Surrey – Judge quashes Surrey Council library move – BookSeller.  “Surrey County Council’s decision to remove paid staff from 10 of its libraries has been quashed. Mr Justice Wilkie made a Court Order yesterday (2nd May) to quash the decision, which would have meant the libraries would have to be kept open by volunteers. The order brings to a close an application for judicial review brought by Surrey residents Lucy Williams and Nicholas Dorrington, alleging that the council had failed to discharge its public sector equality duties under the Equality Act 2010.”

High Court hands down order on Surrey libraries

“SIR – I am pleased to see Ed Vaizey, the Culture Minister, reminding local authorities that the library service is statutory (Letters, April 29). I don’t think, however, that his letter to councils deterred them from making closures. That has more to do with the work of campaigners. Legal victories in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Surrey were won despite silence from Mr Vaizey’s department. Alan Gibbons Liverpool” Telegraph (Letters).

Do it in the Library – Jonny and the Baptists.”We hear they’re going to tear down all the libraries.  Don’t want kids reading so I’m told.  Where will the old folks go when its cold? Where will the young go when they’re old?”.  Hilarious song, not for the easily offended.

  • High Court quashes volunteer-run library decision – Surrey Libraries Action Movement.  “This latest Order is a crushing blow to Surrey County Council which has until now tried to claim that it lost the Court case on a technicality and that it could continue with its plans. But now the issue has been put beyond doubt – the Judge has ordered that SCC is in full and substantive breach of the law and cannot implement the decision to proceed with volunteer-run libraries taken in September 2011. The Council must now revert the libraries to the way they were prior to September 2011, including a return of all paid staff, a return of the Library Management System and the return of staff counters. All ten libraries are once again part of the Core Managed Library Network.”
“We wait to hear from SCC after this latest Court Order, but any attempt to continue with the policy would be an affront to decency and the law. The Council has spent a fortune on these library plans for no benefit – it’s now to time to cut its losses and not waste any more taxpayers’ money on the folly.”

    • Judge quashes Surrey County Council’s decision to proceed with volunteer libraries – Public Interest Lawyers.   “Paid staff were able to develop knowledge, both of the library service and its users, which community volunteers spending a few hours in the library could not be expected to provide. In advising the Cabinet on 27 September 2011, Council Officers had simply made short reference to the need for training of volunteers, without any analysis of what training might be needed and whether it would even be possible for training to mitigate the impact of removing paid staff.”
    • Yes, come to the library! Browse and borrow, and help make sure it’ll still be here tomorrow – UK Human Rights Blog.  Reviews the Brent defeat, where racial discrimination claim was seen as “fanciful” and it was decided that it was up the Council to decide on cuts, especially given the scale of the budgetary reductions demanded.  Surrey victory also examined, with article generally siding with the council that the decision was a “technicality” but suggests a “chink of light” for campaigners.  “That there is widespread unease with library closures is beyond doubt, and the unpopularity of such decisions has even been deployed by council leaders highlighting the crisis in elderly care funding. Can the growing opposition to library closures be seen as part of an austerity backlash? “
    • Judge revokes libraries decision – Surrey News (Surrey County Council).   “Last month, the council and the claimants in the case agreed that instead of going back to court, the council’s original decision taken last September should be revoked. Today’s court order formalises that agreement. With this in mind, the council announced last week it would bring the libraries plans back to a Cabinet meeting on 19 June, when it would consider all the work that has been done to develop a comprehensive training package for volunteers. The council is about to start a consultation to ask users of the 10 libraries what equalities training they think should be provided for volunteers at community partnered libraries.”
“So, three authorities have now been ruled to be unlawful in their volunteer run library plans. So much for Mr Vaizy’s “reminders” he is so proud of! Somehow we don’t think they are working!  With such a huge and untested shift in the provision of public services, local authorities should never have been left to stumble so recklessly onto wrong side of the law. DCMS when are you going to do your job? ” Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries. 

  • Local elections: 11 reasons why they matter – BBC.   “Local authorities also run library services – often at the forefront of local campaigns against spending cuts – and are responsible for about 50% of social housing across England and Wales, the rest being run by housing associations.”
  • PA AGM debates free journal access – BookSeller.    “Journal publishers are considering permitting free walk-in access to their content via public libraries, delegates at the Publishers Association a.g.m. heard today”
  • These are your kids on books” poster goes viral – GalleyCat (USA).   “The Denver, Colorado nonprofit literacy group Burning Through Pages has gone viral with a gorgeous black and white poster encouraging parents to share books with their kids. The poster (embedded above) has earned more than 3,500 Facebook likes, 2,500 online shares and hundreds of comments.”
  • Time to vote for libraries – Voices for the Library.   “Thursday May 3rd sees local elections once more taking place across the UK.  Once more, this is a chance to hold to account those politicians who have been behind moves to close libraries or forcing communities into running them themselves. ”  Chance to vote out library cutters in Brent, Doncaster, Camden, Barnet, Croydon, Sutton and others.


Local news

  • Calderdale – Time to stop cuts to “essential” library – Todmorden News.  In April the library’s opening times were reduced, much to the dismay of members of Todmorden Town Council, who feel that libraries play a vital role in difficult economic times. At last week’s amenities committee meeting, members decided to write to Calderdale Council highlighting the cultural and educational value of libraries, plus the fact that many people now use the library for job-seeking purposes.”
  • Croydon – Stops LibDem Paddick from using a public library – Inside Croydon.  “Brian was asked to leave because Croydon Council told the staff that he wasn’t allowed in the library. We assume that’s because they don’t want it publicised that they have withdrawn the funding from what Brian considers to be a ‘jewel in the local community’s crown’.”” [To be fair to the Council, candidates are not allowed to use libraries or other council buildings during “purdah”, the crucial time just before elections – Ian.]
  • East Dunbartonshire – Radical changes at Kirkintilloch library mean “exciting times”  insists council chief – Kirkintilloch Herald.  “The £½million project will see a new state-of-the-art William Patrick Library and a new community hub, or ‘first-stop-shop’, open on the ground floor of the existing library on Monday, August 27.” Library to reduce in size by 10% although “will feel larger”. 
  • Gloucestershire – Local elections: Grange ward showdown – This is Gloucestershire.   “”We recently did a survey of residents, and they had concerns about the library and whether it was safe. They don’t want it to move from Windsor Drive where it is at the moment.”
  • Kirklees – Library campaigners join forces against Kirklees Council cuts – Huddersfield Daily Examiner.  “Officials plan to remove paid staff from seven village centres and replace them with volunteers. Kirklees Save Our Services (KSOS) is organising opposition to the plan, which would affect libraries in Slaithwaite, Golcar, Lepton, Honley, Denby Dale, Shepley and Kirkheaton. The group has called a public meeting on May 17 ahead of a planned protest at Huddersfield Town Hall.” … “Kirklees has a £12m underspend even after having made substantial cuts and savings. This cut is completely unnecessary.”
  • Warwickshire – Author Anne Fine to open Bidford-on-Avon community library – BBC.  “Volunteers took over the library after Warwickshire County Council approved cuts to the service last year.  Bidford Parish Council chairman Mike Gerrard said that the first month had been a “great success”.”
  • Westminster – Music Library honoured – Westminster Chronicle. Westminster Music Library has scooped the prestigious International Association of Music Libraries Award for Excellence 2012. The award recognises the outstanding work of the library in putting on events, providing a variety of music and reaching out to the community. It was chosen by an independent panel, chaired by Professor Jan Smaczny of Queen’s University, Belfast. The library, in Buckingham Palace Road, offers books, periodicals and scores for loan or for reference, and also puts on regular music events.”
  • Wigan – Probe over dumped library books – Wigan Today.   “Wigan leisure chiefs have ordered a probe after a library binned some of its books. Staff were seen throwing up to 100 volumes – mostly hardbacks – into a skip. The council says that the books were no longer fit for library use, and were dispatched to the tip. But Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust (WLCT) says the routine is to try to sell or donate surplus stock, and that sending books to the dump is not company policy.” … “The councillor who raised the alarm over the skipped books blames the incident on the controversial decision to close Atherton library, and “cram” its contents into a resource centre in Hamilton Street.” … “Save Atherton Library Group were appalled when it heard that the library staff had been told to throw the books into the skip, “irrespective of age or condition.””

A “Black hole” in the nation’s memory


I was very pleased, and slightly awed, to receive an email today which said:

 “The British Library would like to archive your website in the UK Web Archive. The UK Web Archive was established in 2004 to capture and archive websites from the UK domain, responding to the challenge of a ‘digital black hole’ in the nation’s memory. It contains specially selected websites that represent different aspects of online life in the UK. We work closely with leading UK institutions to collect and permanently preserve the UK web, and our archive can be seen at http://www.webarchive.org.uk/. “

There is a certain symmetry in the fact the British Library have asked if they could archive Public Libraries News for posterity.  It sums up one of the key important features of libraries: to maintain the nation’s history that, if left to private enterprise, would otherwise be destroyed at some point in the future.  The fact that such an institution has to store away even blogs shows that libraries continue to serve more than one useful purpose in today’s society.   This is also shown by an article in the Guardian today that points out that only 1% of Victorian periodicals have been digitised.  Libraries are wonderful places, not just for now – but also for the future.


  • Are co-operative councils the future of local politics? – Guardian (Professional).  Whether empowering public sector workers, charities, service users or voluntary groups, such as those now running Lewisham’s libraries, the co-operative model has the potential to improve service focus, generate customer satisfaction, create a sustainable delivery model and even produce efficiency savings. That no two councils are following an identical path is a sign of strength, evidence that the drivers are bottom up and not top down.”

Hyperlinked libraries –  Michael Stevens – What trends and technologies are impacting public library service? What does the evolution of library physical and virtual space look like? This presentation explores the hyperlinked library model through a lens of participatory service, transparency and emerging technologies.”

  • Library adventures in Latvia – Wikiman.   “The Latvian libraries system is pretty amazing; they’ve done some great things in the past 5 years. I learned a lot – it was great to talk to people who’d surmounted some of the problems we have in the UK and the US, and have different issues. It was eye-opening: normally when I talk to librarians we all seem to be going through exactly the same stuff! But this was a little different … They have 874 public libraries. For a population of around 2 million! I think that works out at around 7 times as many libraries per member of the population than we have in the UK.”
  • Library of utopia – Technology Review.   “Google’s ambitious book-scanning program is foundering in the courts. Now a Harvard-led group is launching its own sweeping effort to put our literary heritage online. Will the Ivy League succeed where Silicon Valley failed?”
  • Room of one’s own: why the Women’s Library should not be made history – Guardian.   “It is ironic that at the very moment when there is an embryonic renaissance of feminism, the archives of the women’s liberation movement are at risk of losing their final destination, if London Metropolitan University unloads its responsibility for the Women’s Library. It is a damned shame that the current custodian sees it not as a national treasure, but as a burden; not as a resource to be enriched, but as an administrative problem.” … “less than 1% of 19th century journals are digitised” 
    • Cutback threat to London’s Women’s Library – BookSeller.    “A petition calling on education secretary Michael Gove to prevent severe cutbacks to the Women’s Library at London Metropolitan University has attracted over 7,500 signatures.” … “Campaigners have called the library “one of the most magnificent specialist libraries in the world” and “a national asset” attracting visits from women not just all over Britain, but internationally. “Whatever the university’s problems—which we hope will be resolved—under no circumstances should the Women’s Library suffer in any way,” say the petitioners.”


Local News

  • Buckinghamshire – How long are we going to let volunteers run the show for us? – Bucks Free Press. “Not everyone in Flackwell Heath is delighted by the new Flackwell Heath community library. No amount of flag waving or spin alters the fact that BCC closed our professionally-run library at the end of March, and the prospects that it will ever again reopen as a proper library service are remote indeed. However hard they try, volunteers (mostly retired people) doing perhaps half a day per fortnight are never going to achieve the competence and continuity provided by trained, professional staff. Standards and service will inevitably suffer greatly as a result.”” … “The volunteers exist because Bucks is an affluent county with plenty of pensioners who can afford to help society. But we all know about the state of the economy and the fact that Wycombe in particular has been facing up to a dire jobs crisis.” … “sometimes, I think Governments and councils appreciate them – and take them for granted – a bit too much. And one day soon, this is all going to come back to haunt us.”
    • Long Crendon library gets ready for community launch Bucks County Council.  “The library’s facilities include new chairs, new mobile shelving and a disabled toilet with baby changing facilities. In addition, Friends of Long Crendon Library plan to improve the library’s opening hours to reflect local need, offer a toy library and extend the range of activities to include film nights and educational classes. They will also work in partnership with Surestart to provide a range of activities for parents and carers.”
    • Green light for Haddenham and Wendover community libraries – Bucks county Council.   “As one of the largest community libraries, Wendover will become a community partnership with a phased approach towards a self managed community library.”
  • Gloucestershire – A serious case of deja vu: libraries call-in rejected – Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries.   “We are disappointed but not surprised about the call-in decision. The last time the administration were attempting to push through almost identical, and deeply unpopular cuts, we witnessed a similar farcical “scrutiny committee” in which members voted according to party politics, rather than what was best for the electorate. With a committee that was largely made of up Conservative members we were under no illusion that the outcome would be any different.”
  • Greenwich – Striking library workers win support in Greenwich – Socialist Worker.   “More than 25 strikers and supporters joined the picket line at Woolwich library on Friday of last week. Solidarity delegations from other groups of workers at the council, Greenwich Community College and Greenwich and Bexley Trades Council joined strikers. Supporters handed over around £400 for the strike fund.”
  • Hertfordshire – Cassettes for Blind People service to be handed over to RNIB – We Heart Libraries.   “Cassettes for Blind People (CfBP), an in-house postal service which currently supplies talking books on cassette to 378 people at a cost of around £50,000 per year, is set to be wound up and its budget used to fund subscriptions to a RNIB service under a three-year agreement. This would ensure that users had access to a much more up-to-date service including a wider range of formats and a specially-designed player. However, it will only be funded in future for those people who meet stricter sight criteria than are currently applied, and who are on low incomes.”

Ed takes the credit, campaigners say “um .. what??”

Campaigners all over the country spluttered with shock today at reading Ed Vaizey’s bald-faced assertion that he saved libraries from closures.  In a letter to the Telegraph, the Minister Previously Nowhere To Be Seen Doing Anything About Libraries, says:
“We have been active in reminding local authorities of this statutory duty, which is why far fewer libraries have closed than would otherwise have done so. We have also made it clear that the duty to provide a public library service will remain, and we will look seriously at any authority that considers libraries an easy target to close.”.
Any even vaguely neutral observer will know that Mr Vaizey has spent the last year looking the other way while library budgets have been cut and branches closed throughout the country.  He has hidden behind campaigners who did his work for him both by protesting against closures and in fighting costly judicial reviews.  What Ed has done is write a couple of letters so he can say he has done something so he can, presumably, hope to avoid being taken to court himself for failing to uphold the 1964 Act.  It is not because of him that anything has been done.  Many will feel that for him to claim that the work of thousands of campaigners nationwide was unnecessary because he wrote a line or two is deeply insulting:
“Um….what?? The nerve! The reason “less libraries have closed” is because of tireless work of campaigners like us ,who have been ignored by Vaizey, have done. How dare he!  If not for us 11 libraries would have closed – solely for cost reasons  – in illegal plans…meanwhile Vaizey still ignores us! Another month passes and still he has not answered our open letter. He has time to reply to this but not us!” Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries.

“I am pleased to see Ed reminding local authorities that the library service is statutory. I don’t really think however that it is his letter to councils that has deterred them from making more closures. That has a lot more to do with the sterling work of campaigners up and down the country. After all, the legal victories in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Surrey happened against a backdrop of deafening silence from Mr Vaizey’s department.” Alan Gibbons.

SIR – Your report (April 27) of a letter from council leaders suggests that local authorities might close libraries to save money because they are a “local discretionary service”, although the LGA letter does not mention libraries at all. Public libraries are not a discretionary service, but are statutory under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. Local authorities are entitled to organise library services in accordance with local needs, taking available resources into account, but no authority should close a library solely to save costs. We have been active in reminding local authorities of this statutory duty, which is why far fewer libraries have closed than would otherwise have done so. We have also made it clear that the duty to provide a public library service will remain, and we will look seriously at any authority that considers libraries an easy target to close. Ed Vaizey MP (Con) Minister for Culture. London SW1″ Government needs to set out plans for the funding of care services – Telegraph (letters). See comment above.

  • Tory councils cut libraries more – Labour.  “8 out of top 10 councils for library cuts are Conservative run. Conservative Councils cut twice as much as Labour councils .  Labour is today publishing figures which demonstrate the cost of a local council being run by the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats, with library services being cut at twice the rate in Tory authorities than Labour ones. The average cut in a Labour council is around £400,000 but for Tory Councils it is double that – well over £800,000. Stephen Twigg [Shadow Education Secretary] will visit Upper Norwood Library on Monday 30 April to discuss the impact of Government cuts with staff and library users.”
“Libraries are an incredibly important part of our cultural fabric. As well as giving young people the gift of reading, they also give adults the opportunity to access advice, look for employment and get on the internet. “With one in three children without a book at home, it is worrying that the Government is overseeing a postcode lottery in library services.”


Local News

  • Croydon – Library consultation, Croydon-styleElizCro.  Article lists a long poor record of library cuts, with the council is failing once more with its consultation over Upper Norwood.
  • Doncaster – Volunteers will help library open longer – Doncaster Free Press.  “So far 26 people have volunteered their time to help with the running of Warmsworth Library for 17 hours a week, as residents felt it was vital the community had somewhere to meet, get books, or even have a quiet place to do work.”
  • Gloucestershire – County library call-in rejected – This is Glurcestershire.  “Councillors have today rejected a call to prevent funding being withdrawn from seven Gloucestershire libraries. The Liberal Democrat motion to force the Conservative administration to reconsider its plans was turned down at Shire Hall. Members of the overview and scrutiny management committee voted against the opposition call-in.The Lib Dems had said the strategy was not in order because the county council had failed to take nine matters into account when making the decision. The county council will now be able to proceed with plans to hand seven libraries to the community and reduce hours in others.”
    • Lib Dems in challenge on library cuts – Wilts and Glos Standard.   “Lib Democrat group leader Cllr Jeremy Hilton said: “The whole process for the strategic review of the library network has been shambolic from start to finish. In a letter to the council’s chief executive Pete Bungard, the group highlighted several “fundamental flaws” in the strategy, including access for vulnerable groups.” … “Lechlade’s library working group is not taking any chances and has already started the process of registering a charity, the Friends of Lechlade Library, to run the library should the cuts go ahead.”
  • Greenwich – Strike closed “11 out of 13 libraries” in Greenwich – News Shopper.    “Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “Our members have led the way in exposing GLL. “They are not worker led – they are a private company swallowing up public services.” A protest march is planned for May 5, leaving Eltham library at noon and heading to Woolwich library. A spokesman for Greenwich Council said all the libraries were back open today.”
    • Library workers strike in Greenwich – BookSeller.   “Close to 100 Greenwich library workers are on strike over plans to privatise the borough’s library services.”.  GLL say jobs are safe and they will not close any libraries [although it is notable that the council appear to have closed one – Ferrier – last week, just prior to the takeover – Ian.].
  • Lancashire – Row over Lancashire library service budget cuts – Lancashire Telegraph.  “Since 2009/10, the County Council has cut £5.1million from the library budget – down from £22.2million to an estimate of £17.1million this year.” … ” Council says While we do face tough economic times, none of the county’s 74 libraries have closed, and all front line services continue to be staffed appropriately.”
  • Leicester –  Changes made to library city plans – This is Leicestershire.  “Planned self-service libraries will now have staff – after hundreds of people told the city council they were concerned about the proposed changes. Earlier this year, Leicester City Council announced it wanted to axe librarians at Aylestone, St Matthew’s and Fosse libraries – moving books from two into nearby community buildings. Almost 800 people gave their views to the council as part of a consultation on the plans, with many saying that losing knowledgeable staff was their main concern. While the council still plans to axe most staff and install self checkout machines, it has promised to alter its proposals – ensuring a librarian will be present at all three sites for at least as many hours as the current library is open.”.
  • Surrey – Lingfield community group calls for formal meeting with Surrey over library – This is Surrey Today.  “The Guest House Enabling Committee, made up of community members, wants to take over the library’s trust status – but says the county council appears unwilling to let go because of the financial benefits. But the council insisted this week it has tried to arrange a meeting. Committee chairman Rita Russell told the Mirror: “We need some definitive answers in print from the council so we can take over the trust and work with the council on how to run the library.” The library in the Guest House, Vicarage Road, was left in trust by Arthur Hayward in 1954 to the county council, to be used as a library. The committee says it can run the library without the council because the site can raise money through rent from accommodation, so is self-financing.”.  Council is currently charging 20% admin fee for any maintenance work the trust will do on building.
    • Library plans back on the table at Surrey County Council – Guardian series.  ““Allowing communities to run libraries enables us to do this and it is still the council’s policy. “Although the council had done a lot of work to develop equalities training, the High Court ruled there should have been more detail in the cabinet’s papers about it at the meeting last September, so we are going to take the decision again, with all the information we need about volunteer training.”

Give me the money or the library gets it


So, the Telegraph decided to have the headline “Elderly care funding will force closure of librarieson its front page on Friday.   The headline comes from the Local Government Association (LGA) who say that “the crisis in funding elderly care could lead to the closure of libraries, parks and leisure centres”.   This claim is due to a “failure to reach agreement soon on how to pay for care for the rapidly ageing population could set a long-term solution back years, they warn.Such a delay could force councils to divert money from so-called “discretionary” services such as parks and libraries to “plug the gap””.  The claim is important because (a) it appeared on the front page of a national newspaper and (b) the LGA represents every authority on England.
Some thoughts on this. The LGA have not been good friends of libraries over the last year or so.  The quote that stands out for me is in its submission to the DCMS Select Committee Inquiry into Library Closures where it made the amazing statement that a a “closure of a library does not automatically mean a decrease in access to library services”.  That it is willing to use libraries in what may look to a bystander as a thinly veiled blackmail attempt is interesting and speaks volumes for the importance that politicians have learnt to put on libraries because of popular resistance to their closure.   
Of course, libraries are not a “discretionary” service.  The 1964 Act that makes them a statutory service and the Minister responsible for their oversight has been carefully and legalistically sidestepped by the current ministers, the now incredibly-vulnerable-looking Jeremy Hunt and the passive Ed Vaizey.  It’s interesting that the Telegraph later qualifies its statement by saying that “some libraries” are discretionary.  This is sadly far more accurate as the cuts in Brent, Isle of Wight, Buckinghamshire, Barnet, Doncaster etc show.  There have even been claims by some of the more extreme politicians that only one library per authority is needed as the “comprehensive and efficient” requirement could be fulfilled by the internet.  That around a fifth of the population don’t have access to the internet other than through their library has ironically passed such people by.
The true irony though is that libraries have an awful lot to do with elderly care.  Go into every library and you will see senior citizens reading the paper, chatting to each other, using the computers and taking out so many books that their bags bulge.  These are the people who come up to library staff and say they don’t know that they’d do without their library.  They are the people who need it the most to fill their time, their needs for social contact, the increasingly essential internet access and even, yes, to supplement their heating needs.  I sometimes shock people by telling them about a gentleman told me across the counter one day that he’d commit suicide if it wasn’t for the library.  Guess what?  He was elderly.  Just another sad statistic if the library closed, I guess. 
The subtext of the whole article is that councils, given the cuts, only provide services that they absolutely have to.  It says a lot about the lack of awareness of politician about both the law and about the benefits that libraries provide that libraries are not seen as being resolutely in this essential category.

See also: 

“Cap elderly care funding or close libraries” – Public Service.  “Elderly care funding needs to be capped or councils will have to close discretionary public services such as libraries, parks and leisure centres, the Local Government Association (LGA) has said.”

“The LGA should be ashamed of regurgitating this old chestnut to justify library closures. Please note, it is nothing new : Feb 2009 Swindon | “hard decisions have to be made between libraries and social care“. Needless to say, a way was found to keep the library in question open — with paid staff (which shows it is possible). The LGA should not, either implicity or explicitly, encourage councils to give residents the stark choice between ‘neglected elderly’ or ‘public libraries’. As an official line, it offers a lazy, cynical, easy way out. ” Shirley Burnham, via email.


  • Boris victory if the only thing that can save the Tories now – Daily Mail. DCMS may move further away from Culture and Libraries in the unlikely event it and Jeremy Hunt survive: “Friends of Hunt are  stressing that he still has things he wants to do at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. If he survives this scandal, he plans to turn it into a technology office promoting digital investment in Britain. If the Prime Minister does decide to reshuffle sooner rather than later, allies say he is particularly likely to promote Cities Minister Greg Clark and Housing Minister Grant Shapps. Disabilities Minister Maria Miller, left, is also tipped for a seat at the Cabinet table.”
“The Times has published a letter from Professor Lyndal Roper at Oxford, Professor Lenore Davidoff at Essex and 48 other signatories about the decision of the Metropolitan University to rid itself of the Women’s Library. “ One would hope that any government committed to preserving our culture and history would intervene and protect this essential resource before it is too late.”” Full text available from Save the Women’s Library.
  • Do we still need libraries?University of Liverpool. Debate on 16th May 5.30pm at the Florrie.  “Libraries have underpinned mass literacy, provided a sense of community, improved health and promoted wellbeing – all through reading. However, the needs of today’s society and the arrival of new technology throw their purpose and role in communities into question. This event will ask whether libraries are still an essential service to be supported by the state, what purpose they serve in today’s society and how they should deliver on this.”.  Speakers will include Cllr Keith Mitchell, current Oxfordshire leader who has strongly criticised library supporters as middle class and preferring cuts to social services instead.  Other speakers inlcude Sue Charteris (author of the influential Charteris Report on Wirral library cuts), Alan Davey (chief executive, Arts Council England) and Prof. John Rose (professor and author).
  • Face Book 7 x 7 – Photographs of Cruddas Park library users (Newcastle) showing the wide range of people and what they came in for.  Some lovely pictures.  Usage mainly splits into three categories: books, internet and job-hunting.
  • Harman uses Clegg’s backyard to launch all-out attack on Lib Dems – Independent.  “Yesterday Ms Harman told The Independent the Lib Dems were being “duplicitous” by opposing the cuts during their town hall campaign even though they were “complicit” in them by backing the Conservatives’ deficit-reduction strategy. Labour singled out Sarah Teather, the Schools minister, for opposing library closures in her Brent Central constituency.”
  • Help us improve our advocacy for school libraries – SLA.  “We are trying to get a more complete picture of the situation in school libraries in the UK now.  We have designed a very simple, short and quick survey to get a sense of the position school libraries are in currently.  Please take 5 minutes to fill it in. “
  • New librarians: this is your time – The Real Wikiman.  Slideshow with some great phrases e.g.  “Librarians are no longer the gatekeepers of information.  The gates are wide open.  Our job is to light the path for people once they’re through” … “There is no such thing as abstaining from library advocacy.  You are either doing it, or you’re doing it wrong”.
  • Not all roads lead to London when it comes to Culture – Guardian. “But, as Ed Vaizey reminded us at the launch, when you’re in the showing-off business, one Barenboim, Hirst or Walters is worth a thousand Inner Mongolians. “The 2012 Games provides a unique chance to showcase Britain to the world,” he confirmed. And, of course, if everyone’s looking at Julie Walters, there’s a very good chance they won’t notice Vaizey’s libraries (deceased).”
  • Warped views on social care – Morning Star.   Refers to LGA report claiming social care cuts will lead to library closures. 


Scottish Borders – Cuts in opening hours at Jedburgh and Selkirk  (down 8 hours per week),  Kelso (down 3 hours per week)

Local News

  • Barnet – Authors and actors sign petition to reopen Friern Barnet library – Times series.  Since the council closed the library on Thursday, April 5, 283 people have signed the online petition. These include David Nicholls, author of One Day, and actress Prunella Scales, who is best known for her role as Sybil in the British comedy Fawlty Towers.”.  “Miss Canning has also collected signatures from author Paolo Hewitt and actor Timothy West.”
  • Bolton – Election fight over axeing of librariesBolton News.  The decision to axe one third of the town’s libraries — including his own local branch — could be a major issue for Bolton Council leader Cllr Cliff Morris in the local elections. Voters go to the polls on Thursday and the Labour leader is defending his Halliwell seat, a position he has held for the last 20 years. A major thorn in his side during the long-running libraries saga, which eventually saw five branch libraries closed, was Ian McHugh, secretary of the Save Bolton Libraries campaign. Now, Mr McHugh, a Green Party candidate, will stand for election against Cllr Morris in Halliwell, where Oxford Grove Library closed in February. He said: “I have lived in Halliwell with my family for more than 20 years.”
  • Brent – Pickles to decide on fate of 1894 library – Keep Willesden Green.   “Eric Pickles passed it to his National Planning Casework Unit, who have discussed the matter of who has authority to give consent for the demolition of the 1894 Willesden Green Library building with Brent Council. The letter confirms that if the planning application for the new Cultural Centre includes demolition of the Willesden Green Library (which we now know that it will), and if the Council are minded to approve that application, Brent intend to refer the Conservation Area Consent application to the Secretary of State for his consideration under Section 74, Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act, 1990. “
  • Buckinghamshire – BBC star opens community library in Flackwell Heath – Bucks Free Press.  A village library was officially handed over to volunteers this afternoon, with about 200 people turning out mark its rebirth. Flackwell Heath’s library has been redecorated and refurbished over the last month in preparation for the handover, which was formally announced by Antiques Roadshow star Eric Knowles.” … “After the opening speeches the crowd crammed inside, where Patricia Greene, from BBC radio show The Archers, was reading for children.”.  Five ex-librarians are volunteering at the branch.

  • Haddenham and Wendover Libraries turn over new leaf – Mix 96.  “For Haddenham Library – the plans are to become a self managed community led library later this summer.  In Wendover, as one of the largest community libraries, Wendover will become a community partnership with a phased approach towards a self managed community library.”. Haddenham: “A paid member of staff from the County Council will be seconded to the library, and supported by local volunteers. In addition, Haddenham Community Library, who are set up as a charity will actively raise funds to support the library.”
  • Cornwall – Donation enables Penzance’s Morrab Library expansion – BBC.  £600k from benefactor.  Library founded in 1818 “and is run primarily by volunteers”.  “Mr Myner has donated the money which was from his sister, Patricia Eschen, who died in 2010.”  £27 per year membership fee.
  • Croydon – Spends £40k on library consultant – Save Croydon Libraries Campaign.  ” We need to ask ourselves why is Croydon Council so shy to share any details of their plans. The council only consulted on six libraries, ignored the “do nothing” option and admit it was mainly the users of only those libraries who responded. They have denied residents the breakdown on 412 responses they say informed their decision and are outsourcing the whole network without consulting users of the other libraries. There is also the plight of Upper Norwood Library @SaveUNlibrary and the announcement that New Addington Library will close and move to a yet unknown part of the cramped accommodation within the CALAT centre.”
  • Greenwich – Library workers in Greenwich strike over privatisation plans – ITV News.   100 on strike. “They claim the new company will pay them much less than the wages the currently earn as employees of Greenwich Council. They claim staff who work at GLL do not receive the London Living Wage of £8.30 an hour.” … “Unite recently petitioned library users in the borough, with 1,600 people signing postcards saying no to the transfer of library services.”
  • Oxfordshire – Library Wars Episode IV: A new hope – Question Everything.   Incoming leader of council, Cllr Hudspeth,  spoke out against libraries cuts.  “The idea behind it [the cuts] came from a meeting with David Cameron and Cllr Mitchell when Cameron intervened when the threat to the City libraries caused a lot of negative publicity involving celebrity authors. I don’t think the staff in the library service itself had very little to do with it nor the flawed and misquoted data used to support it. Sixteen of the twenty one cut libraries are in Tory divisions.”.  Current leader of council Keith Mitchell “is speaking at a “Do we need libraries” debate in Liverpool next month”.
  • Scottish Borders – “Undue haste” claim over £360,000 libraries and contact centres mergerSouthern Reporter.   “It has now emerged that on April 16, the council published the layouts for all the integrated sites, except Selkirk where a decision of whether the town library or High Street contact centre should host the service is pending.And the public has only until this coming Sunday – April 29 – to submit its view”.  Cuts in opening hours at Jedburgh and Selkirk  (down 8 hours per week),  Kelso (down 3 hours per week). 
  • Surrey – Interview on libraries plan – BBC Radio Surrey.  Recording of radio interview.  Council decided to drop opposition to judicial review:  SLAM say clear public did not want to run libraries.  Council says trying to keep all libraries open and judge ruled only on technical issue of equalities training of volunteers. Decision had to be made due to cut of funding.  However, Chief Executive got 40% pay rise over last two years. Claim that withdrawing funding from the ten smallest libraries would be most cost effective option.
  • Telford & Wrekin – Telford library hours to be cut in £330k savings drive – Shropshire Star.  “The borough’s nine libraries open for an average of just over 32 hours a week, which will now be reduced to an average of just over 27 hours a week. Telford & Wrekin Council’s cabinet met last night and approved the move and said its priority was to ensure no libraries closed.”

Bad News Day: Strike in Greenwich, cuts in Torbay


Several days of strike action have been announced in Greenwich by the union Unite against the takeover of the council’s public libraries by the leisure trust GLL.  Arguments on either side:

Pro Trust arguments
  • Transfer was completed after a consultation.
  • GLL is a non-profit staff co-operative
  • Terms and conditions are protected by TUPE.
  • Libraries will be open longer, with catering and creches.
  • See other pro trust arguments from the trusts webpage.

Anti Trust arguments

  • Consultation was short and misleading, with some sessions being held after the decision was made.
  • Four-fifths of GLL staff are employed on a casual basis.  Although two members of staff sit on the Trust board, this is hardly a majority.  The chief executive of GLL is earning a very high salary. This is questionable when all profits should go back to the service.
  • TUPE protection only covers staff at the point of transfer.  New, lesser, terms and conditions can then be given to the same staff after transfer.
  • One library, Ferrier, has already closed its doors this week.
  • See other anti trust arguments from the trusts webpage.


  • Bit rotEconomist.  Digital data is often lost due to changing formats.  A solution would be, despite what publishers may say, the storage of information by librarians.

This Week in Libraries – Ben Hammersley (UK Prime Minister’s Ambassador to TechCity) on the future of librariesSome great quotes in here.  For instance, Ben says that libraries are an indicator of the cultural health of a city.  So, high-earning can-live-anywhere people would prefer to live in a city with good public libraries than one with none.

Image courtesy of Theresa McCracken
  • Villagers’ petition wins high speed internet for 4500 people – NAPLE (Serbia).  “What amazed us was that the villagers brought their petition to the village library, and asked the librarians to contact the public library in town’ said Ms Suzana Tanasijević, a librarian at Public Library Radislav Nikčević in Jagodina. ‘It means that the villagers now see the public library as an initiator of change in the community.’”


Local News

  • Barnet – Temporary library opens at artdepot – Barnet and Whetstone Press.  In an effort to appease members of the Save Friern Barnet Library group, cabinet member for customer access, Robert Rams announced an agreement to use one of Barnet College’s rooms for the temporary book loan service  A council spokesman said the stop-gap library, which will be open for three hours a day, four days a week, will offer around 10,000 items, as well as newspapers, magazines and a study space. Activities for children and young people are also in the pipeline, he said.”
  • Camden – Volunteers get Chalk Farm LibraryCamden New Journal.   “Due to a 25 per cent cut in the Town Hall’s budget for libraries, Chalk Farm has joined the Belsize and Heath libraries in becoming independently run. The group who have taken on the new Chalk Farm Library in Sharpeshall Street have been given a 20-year lease on the building with a six-year no-rent deal. They have also been handed a £119,000 pot by Camden Council to help with management costs.”
  • Ealing – Three libraries to benefit but temporary closures have been criticised – Ealing Today.  Money recovered from the failed Icelandic bank, Glitnir will be used to refurbish Hanwell and Perivale Libraries and relocate Southall Library.”.  Conservative councillor says “‘It was only thanks to a massive campaign last year by Conservative Councillors and residents, who presented petitions, signed by over 8,000 residents, that made Labour decide to backtrack on closing our libraries.”
  • Greenwich – Libraries takeover: GLL boss speaks out – 853.   “Members of the Unite union are protesting about the way Greenwich Council has decided to transfer the service to Greenwich Leisure Limited from next week.” Council had made it clear a year ago that transfer was an option.  Comments suggest that TUPE protections will soon be lost and that the consultation was secretive and misleading.  One consultation was held in March 2012, after the decision to transfer had taken place.
“We want to see facilities open at weekends, in the evenings, on bank holidays and when more people can access them. We also think that libraries, like leisure centres, should have good catering, creche and good transport links as well as extensive access to new technology, plenty of study space and a good relevant book stock. We are very much looking forward to taking over the service and giving the Borough a library service which is second to none in the Capital. Of course, the staff in Greenwich libraries will be apprehensive about any changes, this is natural. They need not worry really though, because GLL is a staff owned cooperative and ultimately they (the library staff) will be responsible for their own part of the service. I cannot answer for the trades union view, although it seems to me that striking because yor employer has changed – even though your employment rights and terms and conditions are guaranteed by law – is not really going to get us anywhere.” Mark Sesnan, GLL managing director.

“GLL likes to give the impression that it is a model employer. But what sort of model employer employs four fifths of its total staff of 5000 on a casual basis? We have spoken with GLL casual staff who tell us how it is impossible to plan lives when you may go 3 or 4 weeks without being offered work. The company recently implemented a pay review whereby new staff in roles such as Life Guards will earn less than coleagues carrying out an identical role. So you do exactly the same job, to the same standard but earn thousands of pounds a year less. This is not how a model employer operates.” Onay Kasab, UNITE branch secretary.

    • Libraries staff to strike over GLL takeover – 853.   UNITE staff to strike for five days.
    • Library staff to hold four day strike – News Shopper.   “The union claims proper consultation was not carried out, that jobs could be put at risk by the move, and any new staff will be employed on worse pay and conditions. Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “The council has lost no time in claiming the good times are coming to the borough as a result of the Olympics. But here is the real story.”
  • Surrey – Libraries should be run by professionals, not by volunteers – Eagle Radio.   “Earlier this month, Mr Justice Wilkie upheld a technical challenge over a decision to create 10 community-run libraries staffed by volunteers, although he did not criticise the policy itself. The council has now decided to bring the proposal back to a Cabinet meeting on 19th June, when it will consider all the work that has been done to develop a comprehensive training package for volunteers. A further consultation about equalities training for volunteers at community libraries will take place before then.”
  • Torbay – Friends fighting to save libraries’ jobs and hours – This is South Devon.   “a reduction of about 30 hours was anticipated across the four libraries in the Bay and said that as a result staff had been asked to voluntarily reduce their own working hours to match that up.”
  • Warwickshire – Opening of Bidford Library – Coventry Telegraph.   “Bidford Library has been running as a community enterprise since the end of March in the wake of massive cuts to Warwickshire County Council’s libraries budget. Chairman Mike Gerrard said: “The first month of operation has been a great success, which bodes well for the future, provided that the enthusiasm of the volunteers and the response from the public can be sustained.” Author Anne Fine will officially open the library, in Bramley Way, at 4pm on Wednesday.”
  • Worcestershire – Kidderminster Library gallery users “not given enough time” to comment – Shuttle.   “Library users say they have not been given enough time to comment on plans to move the gallery and piano. A consultation event is under way at the library to highlight proposals which could see 90 desks and 139 staff from Worcestershire County Council’s adult and social care and children’s services move into the top-floor space. The gallery and piano would be moved to the ground floor and first floor respectively.”

Good News Day

While Conservatives and Labour councils their budgets without regard for the most vulnerable, Liberal Democrat-controlled councils know how to protect essential services. Encouraging and enabling reading is vital to the development of children and adults alike. If we don’t give our children the opportunity to practice and perfect their reading skills at a young age, they will struggle to catch up later in life. Libraries are a life-line for local communities, especially for those who are less well off, and give people the opportunity to relax, learn new information and skills or to use the internet if they don’t have it at home. Cutting services like Labour and Tory councils are doing will do long-term damage. Liberal Democrats are doing the right thing thanks to our financial competency in the councils we run. That is also the reason why not only have Liberal Democrat councils kept libraries open, but councils in England have also frozen council tax and are most likely to be giving the lowest-paid council workers a pay rise.” Tim Farron, President of the Liberal Democrats [This is the first national announcement by the Lib Dems on libraries I can remember – Ian.]

  • Made in a library: a free online innovation symposium – OCLC/Library Journal (USA).  A chance to learn about “Maker Spaces” in public libraries.
  • Romania opens national library in communist-era building – Yahoo News (Romania / New Zealand).  “This was a tremendous financial, and not only, effort,” Culture Minister Hunor Kelemen said. “In the 21st century, the state cannot afford not to finance cultural projects,” he added. The impressive construction covering more than 160,000 square feet currently shelters some 750,000 works, 40 percent of which can be consulted.On the long term, more than 12 million books will be stored in the library.”
  • Save Tracy Public Library – Save Tracy Public Library (USA).  Website set up to fight the takeover of a Californian library by private company LSSI.
  • Ten changes to expect from the Library of the Future – Online Universities (USA).  Changes are more technology, sensory storytimes, better English as a foreign language provision, automation, more community spaces, social media, digital media labs, cyber cafes, crowdsourcing, “more active librarians”.


Local News

  • Barnet – Controversial Tory Brian Coleman under investigation by Barnet Council over verbal abuse allegations – Times series.  “The latest allegations stem from a recorded meeting of the council’s cabinet resources committee on April 4, at which members of the public tabled 56 questions about the closure of the Friern Barnet Library. Mr Merchant, 51, took his seat in front of the committee before explaining why he felt the council was wrong to close the library. He finished by telling Councillor Robert Rams, in charge of the borough’s libraries, that he was “fired”.” ..  Cllr Coleman was “busy on his phone while I made my point, which is demonstrative of the fact the council doesn’t listen, and then he looked up, called me a tw*t [NB. not the word “twit”, the other one] and told me to clear off.””
  • Central Bedfordshire – New chapter for Leighton’s library – Leighton Buzzard Observer. “Leighton’s library, first opened in 1979, and the report states it requires some refurbishment, particularly in the lobby area and stairwell. Through additional capital funding and implementation of self-service technology so customers can serve themselves, the Library Service Strategy aims to improve the library’s space usage and layout.” [NB.  £850k investment already reported and included in previous tally]. 
  • Brent – Labour gives away buildings worth £1.5m for nothingBNC TV.   ““The loss of these two buildings is massive blow to the people of Kensal Rise and Cricklewood and a massive financial loss to the Council. I wonder if the Labour Councillors would have given up so easily on buildings worth more than £1.5 million if it was their own money at stake? said Liberal Democrat council group leader Paul Lorber. Liberal Democrats in Brent claim that this is yet another example of Labour’s waste. The council is still paying the £55,000 per year rent due on Neasden Library and the costs of rates and security at other empty library buildings in Brent.”
  • Ealing – Libraries to remain open after £2.2m investment – Net Lettings.  No closures.  £2.2m investment including £900k for Hanwell, £400k for Perivale, £900k for Southall Library to be relocated into Dominion Arts Centre. 
  • Kirklees – Must do a U-turn on its libraries plan – Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Letters).   “Kirkless Council is proposing to replace paid library staff with volunteers in seven libraries. In all these areas there are now campaigns to preserve proper libraries. Libraries offer a vital and essential service to communities – and even more so at a time of rising unemployment and cuts in access to education and training.”
“Lancashire County Council is midway through a £6.5m programme to regenerate its 74-strong network of library branches. It’s aim is not only to keep libraries open but to ensure that they will provide modern, flexible facilities, fit for the 21st century. They are campaigning to change the way people think about libraries, letting them know about a brilliant range of facilities from borrowing the latest best-selling books and DVDs to accessing the internet for free and attending exciting events from children’s activities to live music. This new approach was piloted by West Lancashire Council where eye-catching advertising on billboards and on phone boxes, on buses and on local radio raised the overall numbers of library users by 35%. In Skelmersdale, where much of the advertising was placed, numbers increased by a massive 95%.”

  • Nottinghamshire – Townsend and Trollope praise Notts librariesBookSeller.  “Nottingham has announced it will not close any of its 60 libraries and is to pump £20m into capital programmes and “smaller scale refurbishments” up to 2020. The council said it is refurbishing libraries for residents in Worksop and West Bridgford, with both Sue Townsend and Joanna Trollope already giving their approval to a new-look £3.4m library in Mansfield.”
  • Surrey – Announces review of its volunteer-led library plans – Surrey Comet.  “The matter was due to go back to the High Court in May as part of the judicial review, but the council feels it is not in the best interests of library users or taxpayers to return to court. It will re-consider the proposal in a cabinet meeting on June 19 when it will assess the work that has been done to develop a comprehensive training package for volunteers. In the weeks leading up to the meeting, the council will carry out further consultation about equalities training for volunteers at community libraries.”

Surrey Council admit “defeat”, censorship, volunteers…


Surrey have admitted defeat, long after it as obvious to everyone else, in the judicial review of their plans to pass on several libraries to volunteers.  They will pay campaigner costs but now will provide a “comprehensive training package for the volunteers”.   This will focus especially on “equality issues”.  This was where the judge decided that the Council was most at fault.  However, it is clear that the Council is planning to continue its policy of transferring the libraries just with some tweaks to fit in with the judgement.  The campaigners remain vigilant….
“We think Surrey County Council has at last come to the right conclusion. The Judge declared SCC’s library plans to be “unlawful”. Despite SCC’s absurd initial reaction that it was “pleased” with the judgment the Council has now accepted that it can not just press ahead with its volunteer-run library plans and must now go back to the drawing board.
SCC is still intent on the policy, though, and will be attempting to retake the decision on June 19th. We expect to see evidence at that meeting that an assessment of  the impact of withdrawing paid staff has been conducted, to then see if that impact can be mitigated by volunteer training. If, as we suspect, training of a continual rota of volunteers to mitigate the loss of paid staff is not enough, we would expect the Council to abandon its plans.”  Lee Godfrey, SLAM.


  • Banned books and freedom of information – Infoism.  Telegraph article on public libraries “censorship” shows weakness/bias of freedom of information requests.  “books are not being banned in libraries.  There is no effort at censorship on the part of either librarians or library authorities.  There is care and there is consideration about how to address these concerns (as you would expect), led by professionally trained staff who are fully aware of their duties as professionals.” … “Stories such as these create the impression of state-employed do-gooders who will happily censor works that they deem offensive or not befitting of library users (regardless of whether this goes against professional ethics).  This is highly damaging not only to the perception of libraries amongst the public, but also the perception of the profession.”
  • Funding a Library Development Agency – Good Library Blog.   “The public library service needs a decent PR agency to look after it – and then the good it does would clearly be shown to outweigh the old fashioned nonsenses with which it is often labelled Councils should collectively employ a PR agency and manage it through a development group” … “The development agency could also host one libraries website, run one libraries catalogue, obtain decent procurement contracts fromn publishers, create one set of standard processes, manage one library management system etc etc … and save a lot of money – but it is councils and councilllors that need to call for it, set its agenda and make it work properly, and not MP’s and quangoes in government”
  • Guest Post #7 Library unchained, by Chris Meade –  Envisioning the Library of the Future (Arts Council England).  “As writers, we don’t need publishers and we don’t need libraries like we used to.” …”Too much of the discussion around libraries feels like a get together of Wurlitzer fans, nostalgic for a lost cause, not champions of the best means of access to knowledge in the 21st Century.” …”we’re Unlibrarians, with a massive collection of information online that we try to navigate our way through, aided by search engines, colleagues and friends, learning on our own terms, mapping our own development.”.  However, “Now more than ever our communities vitally need a local breathing space” … “Nobody used to come to libraries for the reassuring smell of books – they wanted knowledge and grew fond of the whiff of inspiration and empowerment which they imparted.”
  • Sacking a Palace of Culture -New York Times (USA).  New York Public Library to “spend $300 million to transform the main building, long devoted to reference, into what sounds like a palace of presentism.” … “the renovation will create up to 20,000 square feet more public space than is now available in the three Midtown buildings combined. I wonder, though, if by public he doesn’t really mean popular.”
“Confirmed authors at the Ultimate Christian Library Book Award include Canon Andrew White. Andrew’s book ‘Faith Under Fire’ is one of five books in the adult category shortlist. Andrew is flying in from the USA en route to the Middle East and will be interviewed along with Canon David Winter, guest presenter, during the award ceremony. Other guests include Nick Page, ‘The Wrong Messiah’ and Susie Howe ‘Resistance Fighter’ both contenders for the Adult Category prize plus Andrea Skevington ‘The Lion Classic Bible’, Andrew Guyatt ‘The Oncoming Storm’ and Hannah MacFarlane who wrote ‘Babylon’ representing the Children’s category. ‘We’re delighted that so many authors will be present – each book is a worthy contender for the two prizes of £1,000 but it’s the public who’s decided and they’ve certainly voted enthusiastically!’ remarked Paula Renouf, director of Speaking Volumes who are the organisers of the award.Everyone is welcome to the ceremony at 12 noon in the Parkview Suite at Sandown Racecourse during CRE. Plus, the first 100 guests will receive a free ‘literary’ goody bag” – Canon Andrew White confirms attendance at Ultimate Christian Library Book Awards – Speaking Volumes press release.


Local News

“The transfer of Kensal Rise Library and Cricklewood Library to All Souls College has deprived the local community of facilities valued at £1.5m by Brent Council officers. According to the report presented to the Executive on 15 November 2010 (section 4.2) Kensal Rise Library has a building market value of £772,034 and Cricklewood Library has a value of £724,765.The buildings were erected on land provided by All Souls College Oxford using funds contributed by Willesden Urban District Council taxpayers, a donation from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and public donations. The terms of the land transfer meant that local people could use the land to provide libraries for ever for the benefit of local people.” Brent – Liberal Democrat group press release

  • Brent – Councillor behind Willesden Green Library demolition sees “no architectural significance” of Victorian building – Brent & Kilburn Times.  The remarks were made at a packed Town Hall meeting on Monday night when a petition signed by 3,500 people was handed into Brent Council against the plans to knock down the library in High Road, Willesden Green.Cllr George Crane, lead member for regeneration and major projects, said: “My response was a genuine one. I saw no architectural significance on the Victorian building”.  Campaigner says “this means losing a much-loved Victorian building, a treasured independent bookshop and an open, communal space. There will be almost no parking, no kids’ playground and no library for 18 months, just when you’ve closed six libraries.”
“To get to the short-term benefit of the new cultural centre, we have to sacrifice the soul of the High Street.”

    • Protesters urge council to shelve library proposals – London Evening Standard.  “Protesters handed over a 3,600-name petition at a meeting last night, calling on Brent council to listen to residents over the planned development of the Willesden Green Library Centre.”
  • Buckinghamshire – Flackwell Heath’s “Big Society” library won’t be the same, says villager – Bucks Free Press.   “”The chairman and vice-chairman of the unelected, self-appointed committee in your picture are both Tory councillors. Using this tawdry project they are desperate to try to cover up the damage that they and their friends have done.” He said the £33 billion being spent on the high speed rail project could have been spent on libraries instead.Dave Johncock, chairman of The Friends of Flackwell Heath Library, said: “Many of us would agree with Mr Wiles that it would have been much better for all concerned had Bucks County Council not been forced to consider the possibility of closing the Flackwell Heath library in the first place.” However, massive government cuts require the move.
  • Dorset – Mobile will replace Portland Underhill facility – Dorset Echo.  “The island’s Underhill Library closes at the end of April and the mobile library service will visit the area every Monday, starting April 30.” … “Talks with community representatives failed to spark any interest in taking over the running of the building, which is leased by the council and will revert back to its landlord following the closure.”
  • Enfield – Chase train travellers given book incentive to sign up to libraries – Enfield Independent. “Customers of My Coffee Stop, at Enfield Chase Station, were offered a copy of the Charles Dickens classic A Tale of Two Cities yesterday as part of World Book Night, set up to give away a million free books.”
  • Hampshire – Library e-book downloads up 67% at Hampshire’s librariesBBC.   “The county council’s was one of the country’s busiest online library services in 2011/12, with about 5,000 [roughly what a branch library should be doing in a day or two – Ian.] downloads every month. But the number of traditional books borrowed from Hampshire libraries fell by 37% compared with nine years ago.”
  • Kirklees – Save Denby Dale Library – Kirklees Council.  Epetition.   “Due to funding cuts, several libraries in the Kirklees area – including the library in Denby Dale – are threatened with losing their paid staff. Libraries are too important to rely upon voluntary staff: they engage the whole of their local society; forming a hub of community life, and enabling lifelong learning. If the services of qualified staff are lost, it is likely that the professional skills, knowledge, and expertise necessary to this role will also be lost, and the resulting library service will be sadly diminished, and may eventually cease.”
  • Medway – Council set to swing axe and cut 70 jobs – Kent News.  As part of changes, the council will continue its programme to create a community hub in each of Medway’s town centres. This will see customer contact point and library staff becoming a joint team providing services under one roof. This will allow people to go into Medway’s five town centre libraries to order services, and seek advice across more council work areas than they have been able to do before. They will also be able to pay many bills.”
  • Nottingham – New chapter for library services in St Ann’s – My Nottingham News.  New joint building replaces the old St Ann’s Library … “a number of services under one roof, including the library, GP and health services and housing services.”.  Library includes work club, conversation class, readers group and knitting group.  
  • Suffolk – Bungay Library celebrates dawning of new era – EDP.   “Bungay Library has become of the first libraries in Suffolk to be run by the Industrial and Provident Society (IPS), which was set up by the county council to oversee all of the county’s library services.”. Bungay was under threat.  ” “We agreed last year to become a pilot under the new structure and have spent the last several months preparing a business plan, and identifying the most appropriate form of legal entity to adopt for the new Bungay community library.” The library has been charged with saving £2,000, as part of a county-wide £100,000 reduction, and Mrs Knights said they intend to conduct fundraising to help meet this target.”
  • Surrey – Council admits court defeat but “war” goes on – Get Surrey.  “the local authority said that, having “carefully considered” the judgment handed down by Mr Justice Wilkie, it was “not in the best interest of library-goers or taxpayers to return to court”. The council’s lawyers will now work on a legal agreement with solicitors acting for the claimants who brought the judicial review action on behalf of the Surrey Libraries Action Movement (SLAM). It is thought this will include provisos that any decisions taken in the future by the council will have to comply with Mr Justice Wilkie’s judgment and that all of the claimant’s legal costs be paid by the authority.”
    • Council to take libraries decision again – Surrey News.  “In the weeks leading up to that meeting, the council will carry out a further consultation about equalities training for volunteers at community libraries.”

Ed Vaizey: Cuts to library services? You’re imagining it.

Ed Vaizey has chosen to write (in Celebrating World Book Night and supporting Public LibrariesDCMS) a blast against those who dare to say that all may not be perfectly fine in public libraries.  This may play well with the five, perhaps eight, members of the public who would agree with him. More dangerously, though, he has written a very similar but expanded letter to MPs saying the same thing We therefore should take a look at what hes saying and the truth behind his words:
Ed Vaizey approvingly notes “In the UK, 20,000 volunteers will give away a million books”.  This early mention of volunteers is deliberate.  It ties in very well with the Big Society philosophy.  Not so well with the need for a skilled long-term workforce. While paying lip service to the need for paid librarians, Ed has repeatedly failed to do everything possible (anything possible) to cease their demise.  The Telegraph – not generally known for its left-leaning tendencies – reported on 2000 paid library staff being made redundant last year.  Ed is also presiding over the biggest shift from paid staff to volunteers in libraries since the end of World War Two.  While volunteers may be the solution to many problems, increasingly relying on them to run a national library service has cons as well as pros.

“I am also responsible for supervising library services in England.” Ed Vaizey, it is generally agreed, has notably failed to supervise library services since he took office.  Despite the deepest cuts to library services in peacetime history, he has failed to order a single inquiry into cuts.  This despite reductions in service including: the closure of othewise taking out of council control more than half the total number of libraries (Brent and Doncaster), nearly half of libraries (Isle of Wight) or a third of opening hours (Hertfordshire).  In four authorities (Somerset, Gloucestershire, Surrey and Brent) Ed has sat back and done nothing while library users have had to challenge the decision and pay for it from their own pockets.  Worse, in the Isle of Wight and Lewisham, he sat back while campaigners tried to fight deep cuts and did nothing when they failed to raise the money.  He even on 11th April put up a strong defence of his inaction

“Libraries are provided by 151 local authorities”.   Ed can claim credit for providing a small amount of money to encourage these councils to work better together.  This is helpful but, as with so much, Ed could have done so much more. 

“…and it is worth remembering that they have always been funded by local authorities, never by central government.”.  Classic “it’s nothing to do with me” Vaizey.  While it is true that the funding is from local authorities, Ed has done nothing to, in any way, defend the budgets of library services from the worst damage.  In some authorities, 50% of the budget is being cut. For a service that does so much to encourage literacy, equality, learning and creativity, this is shocking.  It’s like leaving a baby outside for the wolves because it’s not technically your baby.   Also, it doesn’t quite make sense: he admits in the previous sentences that he has responsibility for supervising them and then appears to distance himself from their funding.  Presumably, he feels that somehow their funding or lack of it is nothing to do with their performance.  A curious proposition, at best.

In addition, such central funding as there was for libraries has been dramatically cut.  Funding for libraries has dropped from £13m under the MLA to just £3m for the Arts Council.  The latter organisation is left to boast about a £250,000 initiative.  For the whole country.  That’s £71.42 for each branch in the country. 

“Many people claim libraries are under threat.” Somewhat of an understatement this.  Perhaps he means, “everyone else apart from me and those directly paid to do otherwise”.    The nation is aware libraries are under threat.  There has even been  – and we can assume Ed Vaizey knows about this being he had to give evidence at it – a parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry into Library Closures.  Presumably he is including the MPs in this committee, over half from his own party, as scaremongers.

“In fact there are as many libraries today as there were thirty years ago.”.  Yes, there is.  Just about. Of course, the libraries thirty years ago had longer opening hours, decent book stock, trained – even paid – staff, non-leaking roofs.  This is the danger of “hollowing out” of a service: the buildings can remain but there is nothing in them. The oak tree still stands but it is empty inside and awaiting collapse.  

“Although some have closed recently” 117 were taken out of council control last year, 23 already this year.  Of these, 54 libraries and 49 mobiles libraries have just plain closed.  33 have been forced onto volunteers to run: the alternative was closure.

“many have also opened”.  Almost all of these have been to replace libraries no longer suitable for purpose.  Of course, due to the time taken for building libraries, the money for these openings was largely committed under the previous Government.  Some big central libraries – such as Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester – won’t open for another year or two, although work started in 2009 or before.  Ed Vaizey will doubtless claim credit for them too.  Also, notice the semantics here – he uses the word “some” for closures and “many” for openings, suggesting that there are more openings than closures.  Clever but perhaps slightly deceptive.

“talk of 600 libraries closing is very well wide of the mark”. Well, yes it would be, if ever someone actually said it.  The figure is from an estimate from CILIP of libraries under threat made last year.  Not closed. We know from media reports that 377 have either closed or are under threat at this moment in time.  These are the cases where the media are already involved.  Speaking personally, though, I am actually surprised that the figure from reports is not currently 600.  Of course, this could have something to do with the massive public protest when libraries do close and the legal actions that the public have paid for to stop them doing so.  Certainly, it has nothing to do with Ed Vaizey.
“In fact, we have taken action to support libraries. We have given responsibility to support them to the Arts Council, which gives libraries and cultural organisations the chance to work together.”  With £3m rather than the £13m that the MLA had for the same purpose.  Also, libraries and culture are not the world’s safest mix at the moment, considering the Government is massively cutting its spending on the Arts and, through the withdrawal of tax incentives, cutting private spending on them as well.

“We have funded two development programmes to share best practice between library authorities.”  Really, providing two chances for senior staff to send information with eachother is the best you can do?
“ACE is undertaking extensive consultation on what library services will look like in the future so we can anticipate their needs.” In a time of national crisis, another consultation is all we need.  Especially as none of the other ones resulted in anything.  It is well known that the best excuse for doing nothing is to launch a consultation or an enquiry.  It’s also, due to reasons covered earlier, not the best funded consultation. For example, the public consultation uses a barely changed free blogging format.  It also seems to be heavily biased, if the blog posts are anything to go by, to big airy subjects with only a tenuous basis for the reality on the ground.
“And we are working on specific programmes to give libraries further support”.  Presumably, support including guidelines training for volunteers and how to get by on book donations.  Expect big-sounding initiatives with no real funding behind them.  Words like “challenge” and “transformation” will undoubtedly be used.

“There are dozens of national programmes like World Book Night which support reading“.  Like, for instance, BookStart which had its funding halved in the first year that the current Government took office and would have lost it all without massive protest.

“And with a network of almost 3,500 libraries in England alone, many places where reading can be supported and encouraged.” But not, one fears, for much longer.
“The Brent campaigners could take Mr Vaizey to the empty buildings. The Gloucestershire campaigners could detail their long battle to protect the service in their county. The Friern Barnet campaigners could detail their struggle to keep a beloved library open. In Liverpool we could take Ed on a tour of three lost branches. Of course some new libraries have opened, but that is only part of the story. What we need to hear from the Minister is how the experience of the best library services is generalised so that the worst are brought up to that standard. Furthermore, the narrative is not simply about physical buildings that have closed or may close. It is also about the slashed opening hours, the redundant librarians, the reduced book stock.”  Alan Gibbons.  See also a summary of the situation provided by Desmond Clarke.


  • “Coarse language” and violence  top list of UK parents’ complaints about books – Guardian.  Reports on yesterdays Telegraph article on challenges to book titles in UK libraries, apparently gained via Freedom of Information requests.  Voices for the Library says “No professional librarian would withdraw a book due to a complaint unless it was under exceptional circumstances. Books may get temporarily withdrawn whilst policies are consulted, but it is exceptionally rare for permanent withdrawal. In the case of most books, they will be returned to the shelves in reasonable time” … “Clark expressed the concern that the growing tendency of councils to hand libraries over to volunteers would make the issue worse. “Community libraries will make withdrawal of books (or censorship) more common as the staff, unlike librarians, are not bound by professional ethics”. 
“So that’s 150 complaints about children’s books between 98 boroughs over 5 years. My maths gives out here but it doesn’t sound as if anyone is exactly overwhelmed with Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells-type missives” Comment on LIS-PUB-LIBS.

  • IA greatest hits: the Apple way for libraries (a manifesto?) – Information Activist Librarian.  Interesting points of view pointing out a possible future for libraries.
  • Library members can now borrow books from any library throughout Ireland – Information Daily.  Citizens of Eire and the Northern Ireland can now use their library card to borrow books from anywhere on the island.“Libraries are at the heart of local communities. They deliver an important public service. It’s a positive step that book borrowing services are available across Ireland. Library members, north and south will be able to use their nearest or most convenient library, or a library where they go on holiday. There is a lot to be gained from an all-Ireland approach which will improve the delivery of key public services.”
  • Three unwritten rules I think you should know about using yout library (it wasn’t like this in my day)Nilam Ashra-McGrath.  Unwritten rules are (a) appear quiet while not actually being quiet (e.g. typing, texting, etc) “Libraries are still sanctuaries, but now they come with a cloud of white noise”, (b) bring something (food, drink, bag, phone), (c) romance goes on.  “The aim of these rules isn’t to mystify, they’re just there to help you make sense of a diminishing world. Don’t let the changes happening to your library put you off using them, just make use of your library while you can.”.  [Not sure if I agree with the first and last rules: “my” library is loud, ideally with a happy buzz, except in the reference section and there is nothing more important than books, not even romance].

Local News

  • Brent – Art work responds to Brent library closures – Harrow Observer.  “Local artist, Mali, created the work in reaction to Brent Council’s unpopular decision to close half of the borough’s libraries, despite fierce opposition from library users. Mali has wrapped up books in hessian to ‘represent the impossibility of access to culture that the closing down of libraries represents’. The work will be on show at The BAR Gallery, Willesden Green, from May 8 to June 1 and admission is free. A spokesman for the gallery said: “The books are there for you to read, but you can’t open them and they become useless and unwanted.”
    • Temporary reading room in Wembley opened by Friends of Barham Library – Brent & Kilburn Times.  Library “closed down last year by Brent Council alongside Cricklewood, Kensal Rise, Neasden, Preston and Tokyngton libraries in a move which will save the local authority £1m. The new facility, which will be open on weekends only initially, will offer a variety of activities including free talks and “read-ins” while residents are also encouraged to bring books their own books to add to the growing collection.”
  • Kent – Library and history centre opens in Maidstone – BBC.  “Archives that stretch about 14km (9 miles) have been housed in a new library centre opened in Kent. The Kent History and Library Centre in James Whatman Way, Maidstone, has been built to protect and display the historic documents.”
  • Oxfordshire – Oxford submits bid to become World Book Capital – BBC.  “The designation is given to cities to promote reading and literature. Oxford is aiming to become the first English-speaking location to hold the title. If successful, a programme of events would be staged, including conferences, festivals, plays and writing competitions. Bid director Kathelene Weiss said the events planned would “promote a love of reading” in the city.”
  • Somerset – County Council library survey under way – BBC.   “Last November a judicial review ruled a decision to withdraw funding to 11 libraries in the county was “unlawful”. Councillor Christine Lawrence said: “Our aim is always to deliver the best possible service within the resources we have.” The Conservative-led authority cancelled its plans to cut £1.35m from its library budget as a result of last year’s ruling.”
  • Telford & Wrekin – Library hours could be cut to save cash – Shropshire Star.   “The borough’s nine libraries are currently open for an average of just over 32 hours a week, which could be reduced to an average of just over 27 hours a week.”