Doncaster campaigners take the next step

Doncaster campaigners have confirmed that they will be taking legal action against their Council.  Surrey campaigners have already started along this road following in the footsteps of Somerset, Gloucestershire, Brent and the Isle of Wight. 
400 libraries (310 buildings and 90 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.


National: Lobby your MP to help public libraries, 13th March. Website: http://www.speakupforlibraries.org/ 

News

Arts Council England opens consultation on the libraries of the future – Arts Council England.  “Envisioning the library of the future will begin with an assessment of trends in society which may affect the delivery of library services in the future. Following on from this, we will undertake a programme of consultation with library experts. In mid March 2012, an online consultation will open to all, with a series of short articles prompting public thoughts and opinions on the future of public library services, providing a deep understanding of the public value of libraries.”

  • “Give Mayor control of all London public libraries” – London Evening Standard.   “Tim Coates, who was the chain’s [Waterstones] managing director and now campaigns on libraries, said a single service with a centralised management function should replace the separate services in the 33 London boroughs. The duplication of administration costs £80million a year out of the £200million spent on the capital’s 380 libraries, he claimed.”

Justin Tomlinson (North Swindon, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport how many libraries were (a) closed and (b) opened in each local authority area in each of the last five years.

Edward Vaizey (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Culture, Communications and Creative Industries), Business, Innovation and Skills; Wantage, Conservative)

Data about the library sector are published annually by the Chartered institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and are available for the last five years. The Department supplements them by monitoring proposals about changes to library services across England through information gathered via correspondence, media coverage and from relevant bodies such as Arts Council England. It is difficult to get an accurate picture, as many local authorities are still developing and consulting on proposals and consequently the overall picture is always changing. While a definitive number is open to interpretation, we understand, from information we have gathered to date, that fewer than 50 static libraries ceased to be funded by their local authority between April and September 2011. Of these, responsibility for around a dozen libraries has been transferred away from the local authority and they remain open. Initial assessments also suggest around 40 libraries are being refurbished or are being opened—for example, large scale library building and improvement is happening in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Blackpool, and significant new builds have opened, for example in Southwark and Hertford.” (Hansard – via They Work For You 20/2/12). 

Changes

North Somerset Backwell Library to close from April. 

Local News

“Disappointed campaigners say they have been “robbed” of their community library after plans to relocate its services were given the go ahead on Monday. More than 3,000 people signed up to the Save Friern Barnet Library (SFBL) campaign, but despite their desperate attempts to save the much-used public space, Barnet Council’s Cabinet ruled in favour of its closure on March 31.”

  • Brent – Libraries fight latest – Harrow Observer.   “Kensal Rise, Barham Park, Tokyington, Preston Road, Cricklewood and Neasden are now just shells after Brent Council emptied them of books and equipment.”.  DCMS “minded” not to intervene, campaigners still fighting.  ““We are submitting yet more evidence to his department in the coming week and are taking advice from our legal team on the options available to us.””
  • Brighton and Hove – An open letter to Brighton Green councillors – Bear by Sea. “My worry is this; once the principle of a small cut here, a small cut there is established what next? Will a change in opening hours this year progress on to a full closure next year?”
  • Carmarthenshire – Library plan’s cash setback – This is South Wales. “”Ammanford library scheme not going ahead now due to unsuccessful Cymal bid,” said the report.”
  • Conwy – Public meeting called to continue fight to keep Penrhyn Bay library open – Weekly News.  “People have vowed to fight to the end to try to keep Penrhyn Bay library open. And after a meeting with Conwy County Council officers, have decided to set up a steering group to formulate a plan for residents to run it.”
    • Volunteers needed to help run library – North Wales Pioneer.  “Despite the Penrhyn Library Users Group (PLUG) being dissolved, former members believe that the library can be saved if enough interest is shown. A meeting will be held at St David’s Church Hall in Penrhyn Bay, at 7pm on Thursday March 8, where organisers will ask the public what they want from their library and how much time they could put into it.”
  • Croydon – Milly, aged six, tells Croydon Council off – Crystal Palace Local.  “Six-year-old Milly Maker has written her own letter to Croydon council telling them what she thinks of their plans to stop funding the Upper Norwood joint library from April 1st. We reproduce it in full:…”
  • Doncaster – Legal action planned against Doncaster library cuts – BBC.   “Lynne Coppendale, of campaign group Save Doncaster Libraries, said taking this action was a “great sadness”. She added the mayor and cabinet had been inflexible “from day one.” Meanwhile the council said 200 people had already volunteered to help the library service and it appealed for more people to come forward.”
    • Volunteer appeal for community libraries – Yorkshire Post.   “Doncaster Council unveiled plans last year to off-load 12 of the borough’s libraries to be run by volunteers, and the scheme is set to begin in the next four weeks. Yesterday, the authority said “really good progress” had been made with around 200 volunteers coming forward, but appealed for more people to cover the required hours.”
    • Save Doncaster Libraries and judicial review – Save Doncaster Libraries.  “SDL has never said the public library service was perfect, we acknowledged improvements and changes were necessary.  However we dispute this meant wholesale closure of Denaby and Carcroft and vehemently decry the change to Community Libraries of 12 others, whereby communities were forced to volunteer or lose them (closure by stealth).”
“Any donation, no matter how small, can be managed by contacting SDL treasurer John Sheppard, email address johnshep50@talktalk.net; telephone 07951382703, or by contacting the blog author (see contact link above) for discussion of your preferred method. Please note that if donating by cheque it should be made out to ‘Save Our Libraries’.”

  • Durham – Public meeting on cuts to library – Teesdale Mercury.   “The Friends of Barnard Castle Library organisation is rallying residents to voice their opinions  on Durham County Council’s controversial proposals. The council’s cabinet last week agreed to seek feedback on plans to reduce opening hours at Barnard Castle Library to 36 hours a week.”.  Mobile libraries also to be cut.
  • Gloucestershire – Mr Hunt, action is overdueFoGL.  Library book budget is amongst lowest in country and will be cut even further to less than 79p per resident.  The Secretary of State should take his duties seriously and intervene.
  • Greenwich – Organise against the cuts in Greenwich – Socialist Party.   “Over 1,300 members of the public have signed the Unite survey cards opposing the transfer. Nearly 500 have signed petitions. Now, following a council decision to press ahead with the transfer despite the huge opposition, Unite members in libraries are preparing for strike action and a real victory is possible.”
  • Kent – So what were Kent’s secret plans for libraries? – Infoism.   Lists the 45 libraries that were originally aimed for offloading by the council.  “With this number of libraries under threat, Kent could see the largest assault on public libraries in the country.  And all this in an authority that is headed up by the Secretary of the Society of Chief Librarians
  • Lambeth – Cooperative libraries consultation – Lambeth Council.   “Our ‘pop-up’ library idea is that we could have library services in different locations such as community centres or even cafes – this is about finding and creating a service that meets your needs. If we can get this right then these places can become the centre of our communities.”
  • Leeds – Friends group in battle to save Leeds community centre – Yorkshire Evening Post.   “The Friends of Rawdon Library led a determined campaign to stop Leeds City Council from closing the venue and replacing it with a mobile service last year. Now the team of volunteers have to demonstrate to the authority that the community hub is worth saving for future generations.” … “council bosses have agreed to look at the possibility of Rawdon staying open and being put in the hands of the community under a system known as Community Asset Transfer.”
  • North Somerset – The end for library – This is Somerset.   “Backwell’s scaled-down library service is to close from April – with villagers being left to rely on a fortnightly mobile service.” … “A number of books were transferred to the library along with a computer which the public can use to check books in and out. But the authority is now planning to withdraw the £600 it costs to run the service. It has asked Backwell Parish Council to step in but it refused after learning that the computer had been used for only 92 minutes during the last month.”
  • Sheffield – Save Sheffield Libraries campaign meeting – Library Workers for a Brighter Future.   “Come and talk about what we can do to protect libraries in Sheffield, at the Quaker Meeting House, Wednesday 29th Feb, 6.30pm onwards. (Donations for room hire very welcome!).  Just because there are no libraries closing doesn’t mean that there aren’t problems – the cuts are affecting the service, and there are more to come.”
  • Warwickshire – Warwick Library to reopen on Monday – Coventry Telegraph.  “The town has been without a library for last few weeks as it moved from its former home in Barrack Street to its new base in Shire Hall. The move is part of a refurbishment of the council’s headquarters and comes as cuts were made to libraries across the county, with several closing.”
  • Westminster – Two locations in the running for new Marylebone library site – Ham & High.   Existing library to be sold off next year … “ut the council is now committed to building a new library either as part of a larger mixed-use development alongside housing at Luxborough Street or on a vacant car park site at Moxon Street.”
  • Wokingham – Libraries in SpotlightBracknell News.   The “executive committee is due to approve plans to move to the tendering stage of the process after more than 20 companies submitted bids in June last year to take control.” … “It is hoped that the partnership will save the council £170,000 each year, but the plans led to uproar from residents who feared library closures, job losses and cuts in services. It also brought the first debate in the history of the council triggered by a public petition, which contained 1,500 signatures.”
    • Council defends bid to privatise libraries – Get Wokingham.   “The council agreed to investigate privatising its libraries in May 2010, with the expectation of appointing a partner in March this year, however the project has been delayed and is now expected to be operational by October.” … “Although the council is putting conditions in place, such as engagement with library users when making decisions, there is no specific condition to keep all libraries open.”.  All the comments after the article are negative.

One in five public librarians have gone, this year.

Comment

The headline comes from Annie Mauger, chief of CILIP, who said that 700 out of the 3500 people working as public librarians in the UK may have lost their jobs this year.  It was made in giving evidence to the DCMS Select Committee on Public Libraries this morning. A summary of the other main points raised in the hearing will appear as a special posting shortly.

The DCMS have made it clear that they are not going to intervene over the closures in Brent.  This will surprise no-one who has followed the department’s, and the relevant ministers, approaches to the cuts in libraries over the last year.  Let’s make this clear.  In bold and in italics.  Anyone who is following libary cuts at least privately believes that there is no way the DCMS will intervene in any case on any terms.  It would go directly against the perceived localism agenda and the need to force through the biggest cuts in local government in peacetime history.  There are aspects of the response to cuts, notably the use of volunteers and non-profit organisations in the running of libraries, that ties in so beautifully with the Big Society that it almost seems designed for it.  The only way that the Government will intervene is if they are legally forced to by a judge deciding that the Secretary of State is in breach of his statutory duties.   Even then, it is likely that the Government will simply change the law, as they are doing with the recent case of a court deciding that saying prayers in council meetings is illegal.  It is up to the campaigners and the organisations involved to see if the effort to force the DCMS to intervenese is therefore worth it.

399 libraries (309 buildings and 90 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.  
National: Lobby your MP to help public libraries, 13th March. Website: http://www.speakupforlibraries.org/ 

News

  • APPG for education calls for school library support – EdExec.  “in its inquiry report, the APPG raised concerns over the Government’s lack of support for school libraries and the impact this had on child literacy. In response, the DfE stated that it recognised the positive contribution to literacy standards of good libraries ” … “However, DfE stopped short of promising future funding by adding that it preferred schools to make their own choices about book resourcing and library provision.”
  • Join us at the consortia conference 2012 in Bath on Thursday 3rd May – Consortia Conference 2012.   “The consortia conference 2012 offers the opportunity to listen to speakers from two of the biggest UK public library consortia (LibrariesWest and London Libraries Consortium), to find out more about shared services in action and to participate in workshops and panel discussions.”
  • Ministers don’t understand libraries – Huffington Post UK.  Annie Mauger, CILIP chief, said at the Inquiry that politicians often don’t understand what libraries do.  She also singled out Jeremy Hunt for failing to intervene to stop closures.  Arts Council England chief complained of the lack of breathing space libraries had to cope with the cuts and other changes.
  • Select Committee hears of librarian job loss toll – BookSeller. “Research by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) has indicated that as many as 700 of 3,500 professionally qualified librarians have lost their jobs in the current financial year, chief executive Annie Mauger told the culture select committee at its second oral evidence session, given this morning (21st February).”

Local News

  • Barnet – Campaigners “devastated” over Friern Barnet library closure – Times Series.  Campaigners are “devastated” after plans to close Friern Barnet library were given the go ahead last night.” … “SFBL had gained the support of more than 3,000 people who were fighting to keep the library open. The group argued the Arstdepot is too far away, and the closure would affect the most vulnerable people in the area as well as detriment hundreds of children’s literacy levels. But speaking in favour of the library strategy at last night’s Cabinet meeting, Councillor Robert Rams, cabinet member for customer access and partnerships said: “We will see libraries that will open longer, more money will be spent on books, new libraries will be built and every child at school will be signed on to the libraries service.””
  • Barnet Council agrees to close Friern Barnet and North Finchley libraries – Times series.  A new library will be set up at Artsdepot in North Finchley, although Councillor Robert Rams, cabinet member for customer access and partnerships was unable to say exactly what services would be on offer by April 1. Hampstead Garden Suburb library will remain open after councillors agreed to enter negotiations with Hampstead Garden Suburb Residents’ Association on housing a “community library” in the existing building.”
  • Brent – Legal bid to halt library closures ruled “academic” – London Evening Standard.  Jeremy Hunt “dismissed their claim that he was obliged to intervene on libraries under threat as “academic”
“It seems they accept Brent’s reasoning at face value. It seems to me a very dismissive response. They gloss over what is a lot of chaos on the ground. They seem to have accepted whatever it is Brent has said to them about the library service being comprehensive and sufficient.” Brent campaigner.

“I don’t see how they can go further now in legal terms”, adding: “We’re actually going to have a better library service from our six libraries than we had for the 12, in that sense campaigners have been very misguided.” Brent councillor James Powney

    • Secretary of State hints he might not step in to save axed libraries – Brent and Kilburn Times.  “…a statement on the Department for Culture, Media and Sports’ website has revealed that Mr Hunt is ‘not minded to intervene by way of a local inquiry into Brent Council’s library plans.”
    • Minister refuses to investigate library closures – Harrow Observer.  “Brent SOS (Save our Six) has announced today that Jeremy Hunt has refused to look into the council’s closure of six treasured libraries, despite receiving more than 10,000 submissions from the public.”  Brent campaigner shave 14 days to reply. 
  • Ealing – New Ealing libraries strategy “is rehashed muddle” – Save Ealing Libraries Campaign.  “We’d been told [at the Ealing Council Cabinet meeting] on January 24 that a new libraries strategy would be launched in February. As there was no evidence of this on the council’s website I phoned Committee Services and learned it’s not a new document at all, but a tidying up of last July’s Draft Ealing Library Strategy 2011-2014″.  The good practice of Hillingdon nextdoor is highlighted by the article.
  • Gloucestershire – Shoppers in Cheltenham uninterested in future of libraries – This is Gloucestershire.   “Council staff at the shopping centre approached people to fill in the library questionnaire. The previous plan failed due to lack of consultation with all users. In a bid to combat this, a Polish translator was available at the Cheltenham roadshow, as well as literature in other languages such as Japanese. There is also an “easy read” paper questionnaire for people who prefer a simpler version and the council has drafted extra guidance to help people fill in some of the questions.” [Japanese? Really? – Ed.]
  • Isle of Wight – Council leader defends library closures – IWCP.   “As part of his early evidence, Cllr Pugh told the committee the community could hold councillors to account over the changes to library service at the ballot box at the next election. He also urged the secretary of state to continue his ‘light touch’ approach to local authority library services.”
  • Leicester – 250 sign petition against closure of library – This is Leicestershire.   Protest against closing St. Matthew’s Library and moving some of its books into nearby leisure centre with a self-service machine.  ” “A lot of school children use the library to study and the availability of school books is crucial given how expensive they are to buy.”
  • Suffolk – “Virtual” council gives way to people power – Guardian.  “Some residents are prepared to accept that things cannot stay as they are, given the financial constraints the council is facing. Former libraries campaigner Colin Owens is one of them. He has just joined the board of a new industrial and provident society (IPS), a social enterprise created by the council to run its libraries. It will enable all 44 libraries to stay open, instead of the council’s original plan of closing two-thirds. The theory is that the IPS will have lower overheads and its charitable status will enable it to make tax savings and apply for grant funding.”
“The Wickham Market partnership began by asking local people what they wanted from their library. The answer was longer opening hours, a coffee machine, soft seating, more groups and more use by children. It looks as though people are going to get all of that. Some 20 volunteers will help staff to extend opening times from 22 to 38.5 hours a week, while on Mondays the library will be handed over to the local school.”

Brent’s cunning plan



Comment
Brent Visitor Figures since the six libraries closed.
Part of the reasons that the DCMS is using in order to avoid intervening in the Brent Council’s closing of half of its libraries is that the Council had confirmed that “the figures they hold for library visit numbers for December 2011 and January 2012 show substantial increases in visits to the six remaining libraries – as compared with figures for the same months for the previous year.”.    While this may be true of each individual branch, it is clear that there has been a major detrimental effect to the service as a whole. Probably, this has something to do with overall opening hours have decreased from 544 hours per week to 349 hours a week. 
“The Secretary of State is relying on flawed evidence to justify his reluctance to get involved. Brent Council appears to be trying to pull the wool over his eyes by claiming that library usage in Brent has increased. Tragically the facts show otherwise. Since Labour closed half of our local libraries far fewer local residents are visiting, studying and enjoying their local library service.”  Cllr Paul Lorber, Liberal Democrat Leader, Brent.

More details on this can be found in this letter to Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State.

Staying in Brent, the Council, in a very novel – some would say counterintuitive – approach to improve culture, has decided to terminate the contract for Willesden Bookshop in order to make way for a new “Willesden Green Cultural Centre”.  The bookshop somewhat ironically specialises in children’s and multicultural books.  One thousand people have already protested about the decision.  There’s going to be a meeting partially about the closure in the Library tomorrow.  This points to another problem with the lans as the building work will also involve closing Willesden Green Library for 18 months and its “Cultural Centre” replacement does not appear to have meeting rooms.  The council have refused to allow one of its local recently closed libraries to be a substitute during that time. 
This could be of course a very cunning Labour plan.  Brent may have been cutting its libraries despite massive popular pressure and demand in order to show that the Conservatives will not intervene in any circumstances and thus cause a national decrease in popularity for them.  When this approach initially failed to embarrass the Secretary of State into action, Brent ramped up the pressure by awarding a prize to the team that closed the libraries.  When even this failed to cause any intervention, the cunning Brent strategists may have thought it a wheeze if it were to effectively close another one while as an added bonus destroying a book shop as collateral damage in the process.  How could the Coalition stand by now?  Surely, such cunning strategy will cost the Cameron the next election?
Well, I know it’s far-fetched it’s the only possibility for the Council’s actions I can think of that makes any kind of sense.

399 libraries (309 buildings and 90 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day. 

National: Lobby your MP to help public libraries, 13th March. Website: http://www.speakupforlibraries.org/ 

News

  • 500 libraries shut down or managed by unqualified staff – Tribune (Pakistan).  “An Education Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that out of the 445 public colleges in the province 200 have libraries run by non-qualified staff. Out of more than 400 government higher secondary schools across the province, 336 do not have librarians appointed.” [The Punjab is blazing the way for the UK it seems – Ed.]
  • Evidence sessions for Parliamentary Inquiry into library closures – Voices for the Library.   Summary of the points made during first inquiry session.
  • Iain Banks campaigns against “barbaric” cuts to libraries – Scotsman.   “Best-selling author Iain Banks is launching a campaign to stop Scotland’s libraries from cutting their opening hours. Banks, who is spearheading the protest alongside fellow sci-fi authors Ken MacLeod and Charles Stross, has described the moves to slash opening times by up to 20 per cent as a barbaric act.” … “The libraries campaign will be launched next month in Edinburgh, where the council has cut staff and plans to restrict access to save money.”.
The reason so many in the book world reacted lukewarmly to Nick Gibb’s words about reading is the record of the Government (“Top marks to our Schools minister”, 12 February). The coalition turned down our request to make school libraries statutory, a status prison libraries have. It cut the very successful book-gifting schemes run by Booktrust, and would have cut them even more had we not howled with outrage. It is, as D J Taylor notes, inflicting shocking damage to our libraries. Secretary of State Michael Gove praised a New York reading scheme while failing to mention our own highly successful Summer Reading Challenge co-ordinated by the Reading Agency. We authors love words, but without action to nurture the reading environments in which they nestle, germinate and grow, their power to educate, inform and inspire is reduced.” Alan Gibbons in letter to Independent.

  • “Self-interested authors want to save libraries”Philip Ardagh.   “I could go on, but you get the picture. We complain about the not-in-my-backyard culture and I’m just as bad. I’m one of those ‘yes-in-my-backyard’ people. Yes, I want libraries to remain in our communities, for the selfish reasons already outlined and the million-and-one other reasons other people may selfishly have. There’s a rally and lobbying of parliament on 13th March, in London (and you can find out more about it here http://www.speakupforlibraries.org/). I’ll be there of course, along with people from all walks of life, no doubt including other self-interested authors, and the most self-interested of all: those disgraceful librarians.”
  • UK Supreme Court rejects appeal over Brent library closures – World Socialist Web Site.   “In place of the existing comprehensive coverage of local libraries, the major political parties and the media are promoting the construction of one centralised “super library”. As hundreds of libraries are threatened with closure in London and across the country, three new London “super libraries” are reportedly “bucking that trend”, with more to follow.”
“Libraries, like other social services, cannot be defended on a piecemeal, council by council basis. Councils will look to incorporate opposition groups that take this approach and use them as advisers or pawns in their cuts agenda.”

  • Vaizey to give evidence in library inquiry – BookSeller.  “Culture minister Ed Vaizey will be interviewed by the culture, media and sport select committee on 13th March as part of the inquiry into library closures. Vaizey is the only witness called to give oral evidence at the session that day. The evidence session will coincide with the lobby of parliament by librarians and authors set to take place on the same day.”

 Changes

Isle of Man – 2 to close: Family and Mobile Libraries.  School Library Service as well. Facebook GroupPetition.
Wiltshire – Review of mobile library service (but no cuts to total numbers, staff or hours).  
Wolverhampton £900k renovation of Central Library enters final stage.
Worcestershire – Upton Library under threat.

Local News

  • Barnet – Library closure plans go before Cabinet tonightTimes series.  “Barnet Council Cabinet members will discuss proposals to close Friern Barnet and North Finchley libraries tonight.”.  Friern Barnet has 3000 supporters, Hampstead Garden Suburb Library also to be discussed.
  • Brent – Terminates Willesden Bookshop lease – BookSeller.  “Willesden Bookshop is searching for new premises after Brent council plans to develop the Willesden Green Library Centre, where it is based, into a “brand-new multi-million pound cultural centre” led to the termination of its tenancy.”
    • Speaking at doomed Willesden Green Library – Another Green World.   “I am speaking at Willesden Green Library tomorrow, I am sad though that library is to be demolished, this seems to be the reality in Britain today, a symbol of a wider assault on culture.” … This meeting is in the tradition of stimulating public meetings at Willesden Green Library which will be demolished under regeneration plans. The rather sketchy proposals for the replacement Willesden Cultural Centre do not appear to include plans for public meeting rooms”
  • Bradford – Council budget plans changed “to protect vulnerable” – Telegraph & Argus.  “…proposals to reduce library opening hours and cut the book fund by £350,000.”
  • Buckinghamshire – Great Missenden to decide library’s future – Prestwood and Great Missenden.  A new model will see a business move into the premises to create extra revenue for staffing – a cafe and the Post Office have so far put forward proposals. It is one of 14 which BCC earmarked in 2010 to become volunteer-run in order to save £688,000.” … “After a campaign by the community to keep permanent staff, a working group was set up last December to come up with a solution.”
  • Isle of Man – Prospect hits back at library cuts – Manx.net.    “Prospect members, were amongst members of staff at the Department who were informed on Thursday 16 February that their services were being shut.  Staff in the library services broke down in tears at the news that services, which provide a vital link to the elderly, housebound, disabled and least privileged in Manx society, would go forever.”  
    • Prospect Union on library closures – Manx TV.  4 minutes interview showing how important libraries are and what an impact the closures will make.
    • Proposed libraries closures “sad but inevitable” – Manx Radio.   “Mr Karran says both are nice-to-have but non-essential and, to avoid damaging cuts in schools, had to go.” … “Mr Karran says things we’ve taken for granted have become luxuries we just can’t afford any more:”
  • Lambeth – What does Lambeth’s “cooperative libraries” plan mean for Waterloo? -London SE1. Waterloo Library could have 40% budget cut.  “This Wednesday the council will host a public meeting at Waterloo Action Centre to enable local residents to comment on plans for the future of the library service. Open for just 31.5 hours a week, Waterloo Library received 40,156 visits last year and 24,552 books were issued.”
  • North Somerset – Village library service set to be closed – This is Bristol.   “BACKWELL’s scaled down library service is to close from April – with villagers being left to rely on a fortnightly mobile service. The village’s main library at Station Road was closed last year as part of North Somerset Council cost cutting measures. Following objections by residents and local councillors an agreement was reached with Parkwood Leisure to base the library in the village leisure centre. A number of books were transferred to the library along with a computer which the public can use to check in and check out books. As part of North Somerset Council’s cost savings, the authority is now planning to withdraw the £600 it costs to run the service.”
  • Portsmouth – WeLL what’s your story?About My Area.   WeLL means “We Love Literacy”.  “Two wonderful things happened this week – the logo for my residency was finished and most of the events for the first half of this year have been organised.  Half of these events are school based and the other half are a mixture of  outreach work with support groups and public drop in relaxing WeLL conversations.”
  • Surrey – Stephen Fry invited to discuss Surrey library plans – BBC.  Council says “”Perhaps when we’ve had a conversation, at the end of it, I would hope that Stephen would realise why we are doing this and what our objectives are. Perhaps he would like to come and meet some of the volunteers who are going to do this and then perhaps he might be in a position where he can then make a judgement from a constructive point of view.”.  Mr Fry tweeted his support for those against the cuts a couple of days ago.
  • Wiltshire – Review of mobile library service – Salisbury Journal.   “The council has said there will not be a reduction in the number of mobile libraries, the number of mobile staff or the time mobiles spend in communities.”
  • Wolverhampton – Central library renovation final stage – BBC.  “The work, which will start on Monday, is expected to take 16 weeks and will be in two phases meaning customers will still be able to use the main entrance to the building at all times. The year-long restoration of the library has included the installation of a new lift and the rewiring of the entire building. The interior has also been redecorated.”
  • Worcestershire – Everything will be done to avoid closing library – Malvern Gazette.   “Both Upton Town Council and Malvern Hills District Council have established working groups to monitor the situation, with the town council issuing a “use it or lose it” warning to residents in a bid to secure its future.”

Brave New World

396 libraries (307 buildings and 89 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day. 

This post brings Public Libraries News back up to date with all of the known media mentions of public libraries this week.  It includes some news from both before and after yesterdays posting “Bit by Bit“.  All of the other pages have now also up to date. There were no postings from Monday to Thursday due to myself and the family going on holiday. Ian A.

Actions

National: Lobby your MP to help public libraries, 13th March. Website: http://www.speakupforlibraries.org/ 

 

Surrey: Any donations to the legal action against cuts in Surrey will be gratefully received.

News

  • £230,000 grants for library projects – DCMS.   Grants “designed to test new approaches to library service delivery, looking at ways libraries can work together with arts and other cultural organisations.”
  • Arts Council and Local Government Association announce successful Libraries Development Initiative projects – ACE.   Lists organisations which have gained funding.
  • Brave New World? – BookSeller.   “So the coalition government has given the green light to local councils—which are struggling to balance their books in the face of the biggest public sector cuts in peacetime history—to hive off their public library services into the voluntary and community sectors. Many have already dipped their toes into these choppy waters. Buckinghamshire and Cambridgeshire were early adopters of this governance model, but others have followed in their footsteps—including Lewisham and Swindon, where usage and book loans have gone down dramatically since libraries were staffed by volunteers.”.  John Pateman criticises the increasing moves to replace skilled library staff with enthusiastic but often unsustainable and untrained volunteers.
  • Celebrating libraries and the people who love them –  “However you use your library, I want to hear from you! Celebrating libraries through the lovely people who use them. Please get in touch and let me know how, when and why you use your project.”
  • DJ Taylor: Top marks to our Schools Minister – Independent.   “Following the advice of the former children’s laureate Michael Rosen, he declared his intention to issue all children of primary school age with a library card and a map….. And how was Mr Gibb’s speech received? There were, of course, countless jokes about the library map being vital as there were so few libraries left.”
  • Illiteracy levels a tragedy, PM says – Perth Now (Australia).  Government “contributed $1.3 million to the campaign, which is also supported by Australian libraries, state governments and the private sector. It will involve children’s competitions, peer-to-peer book reviews, adult book clubs and workplace literacy programs, as well as a challenge on August 25 for Australians to read for one hour.”

Changes

Local News

  • Croydon – Upper Norwood Library campaigners hold day of protest – This is Croydon today.  strong feelings among library users who, on Saturday, took to the streets to express their anger. The group included actress Freya Copeland, who donned a burglar’s stripey jumper and swag bag to make her feelings clear over the council’s decision. Protest organiser Lou Garratt demanded a face-to-face meeting with council leader Mike Fisher, to give campaigners a chance to have their say. She said: “Councilor Fisher should come here and tell the children of the area why their library is closing.”
  • Gloucestershire – Library users not silent – This is Gloucestershire.  400 have so far responded to consultation.
  • Isle of Wight – Government committee explains why IW library campaigners not called to give evidence – Ventnor Blog.  Leader of Wight council will speak, defending his cuts and much criticised consultation process.  Committeee says “You will no doubt have noticed that this week the Committee heard evidence from three library campaigners who put across their views about closures, many of which echoed your comments below. The library campaigners were chosen from national campaign groups, as the Committee decided this would be fairer than trying to select specific witnesses from the many campaign groups across the country.”
  • Leicester – Charitable trust approach could save libraries – This is Leicestershire.   Letter suggests a trust could stop library closures. “Any library is an important community facility, much supported by local people and which should operate as a central meeting place with a cafe, information centre and internet access, plus, of course, a facility for lending books. The building could be leased to a local community group or charity which could fund-raise in the area and assemble volunteers to help with the various activities.”
  • Leicestershire – Pledge to share 20 books with your children – This is Leicestershire. It is estimated that in the 20 years of Bookstart, 30 million free books have been gifted. In Leicester last year 13,428 Bookstart packs/books were gifted through our partnership and 2,000 families borrowed early years books via the community book loan scheme.”
  • Middlesbrough – Libraries and community centres face demolition – Gazette.   “Grove Hill Library and the Grove Hill Youth and Community Centre will be demolished and the sites linked into the Grove Hill regeneration project.” … “Thorntree Library and Thorntree Youth Centre will be demolished with the sites being brought forward for development.”. 
  • Stoke on Trent – Council plans to combine libraries and services under one roof – This is Staffordshire.  Libraries likely to be merged with children’s centres.  “”We’ve been assured that any services put in with children’s centres will be appropriate. We would love something like a library. “I’m happy with the ideas at the moment, but we’ll see how it goes.”
  • Suffolk – Eight join board set up to run county libraries – Bury Free Press.   Backgrounds of members are of the new board are libraries (2), charities/volunteering (2), IT (1) and, surprisingly, finance (3).  
  • Surrey – Stephen Fry lends support to library campaign – Guardian series.  Campaign group says that the celebrity tweet has caused a big increase in interest: “”Our twitter has been inundated and our website has had thousands of hits in one morning. I’m surprised the website is coping to be honest.”

Viz on Libraries

The following has been kindly typed in and sent to me.  It’s from a recent copy of Viz.  It’s supposed to funny but it also has a disturbing basis in fact.  By, at best, showing benign neglect, this Government is moving down a path which will lead to the end of the superb system of public libraries that this country was once so proud of.  I would, by the way, like now to completely dissociate myself from the Third Reich overtones of the piece.
There’s also, more obviously, something else at play here.  This is the belief that printed books now have no place in the modern world and thus closing libraries is OK and that passing on the supply of books to what amounts to a technological and commercial monopoly is fine.  It is ignored that this would limit access to those who have the access to internet (that’s one-fifth of the country excluded) and can easily afford to buy anything they need.  People with money enough for books, admittedly quite large but it would be a fool to say that it is ever going to be all the population.  Indeed, the current proportion of the population with sufficient funds appears to be getting smaller, not larger … and, of course, children are always those most in need of books but with the least resources to purchase them.
It’s also interesting seeing in the following that the librarians are described as supporting the process.  There’s an element of truth in this.  I know of many professionals who think the future will be entirely digital and that we are in some sort of almost embarrassing transitional time.  We’re not of course.  It’s not a case of books vs. ebooks.  It’s a case of a new complementary medium coming into the market.  Television did not kill radio.  Paperbacks did not kill hardbacks.  There will always be a place for books in our society.  Unless, that is, our politicians and professionals sleepwalk into such a nightmare world by thinking that there isn’t.
Anyway, read and enjoy… 
Printed works set to go up in smoke in libraries re-think
BRITISH LIBRARIES are set to burn ALL their books after a government think-tank deemed them “old-fashioned”, “out-moded” and “behind the times”. Giant pyres will soon become a common sight in every town centre as stocks of obsolete volumes built up over hundreds of years are put to the torch.
“The rise of the internets has left the printed word looking hopelessly antiquated in the modern world,” said Universities minister David Willetts. “Look around any first class railway carriage and everyone’s got a google, a mobile telephone or a youtube. If you got a book out and started reading it, you’d be pointed at and laughed off the train,” he added.
Jane Plainspinster, spokesperson for the Association of British Librarians told us: “Of course it’s sad to see all our old books going up in smoke, but most people who come into the library these days are here to use our internets, emails and websites.”
blogs
“The shelf space freed up by the destruction of books will be used for the storage of CD-roms, floppy discs and blogs,” she whispered.
“Shhhh,” she added, before removing her glasses, seductively biting the arm and shaking down her lustrous tresses of hair in slow motion.
LIBRARY PICTURE: A picture of an old-fashioned library, yesteryear.
Thousands of books are being piled up outside the British Library on London’s Euston Road, and Prime Minister David Cameron will be setting fire to them, using the Domesday Book as kindling. He told reporters: “All this stuff is available on the email these days. If I want to read a Shakespeare first folio, Dr Johnson’s Dictionary or the complete works of Jane Austen, I can just look them up on Twitter.”
mugins
“Paper books are for fuddy duddies. They’re just a dusty relic of the past, like Betamax video cassettes, wooly mammoths or Sinclair C5s,” he said.
The Euston Road pyre is already over 60 feet high, but only contains a small proportion of the British Library’s vast book collection. “Ninety percent of the stock is still in the building, so once we’ve got this lot ahad we’re going to need lots of volunteers to get in there and fetch books out to keep the flames fed,” said Mr Cameron.
“It’s going to be a real party atmosphere,” he added.
stabins
And Mr Cameron had this warning for any book-lovers with plans to disrupt his planned “Büchfeuernacht”: “Don’t stand in the way of progress or you will pay the price.”
“Anyone who attempts to spoil the fun will suffer very serious consequences, which will involve being taken away and dealt with,” he added.
(from Viz, Issue 212)

Bit by bit

Comment
The following is a comment from a BookSeller article.  It shows the insidious nature of the current cuts in library services, the threat to the jobs of librarians and the terrible dilemma that faces those who are trying to help: 
“A library builds up a group of volunteers and the permanent library staff really want and need this help. They keep asking for it as they feel that without volunteers the library could be closed earlier as the service would be poor. The volunteers aren’t specifically to replace trained staff – in fact it started with the porters and more volunteers were needed to help set up events and clear chairs away.
But bit by bit the build up of voluntary helpers is used to keep the service going smoothly. At a certain point the librarians are interviewed for their jobs, and lose them, which has now happened. By the time the local newspapers are building up a campaign to stop a library closure, this has all happened. You could end up saving a library which you already need to run as a team of volunteers. The damage is done earlier and librarians have already lost their jobs.
This happens even if the librarians do a wonderful job in an excellent library, while building up events and services that are vital to the local community. The events I’ve been holding there provide a London venue to support publishers all over the UK who want a reading for their books launches followed by open mic which helps the audience get a foot in the door of publishing by submitting to an anthology. 
None of this seems to change anything. Volunteers are gradually built up, librarians lose their jobs, and the libraries we save at the point of closure will have been dismantled already as far as I can see. Funding is one of the few things that can help, and I also believe libraries could be more financially viable. I don’t see why they can’t charge a small fee for lending out ebooks, in the same way they lend out audiobooks. Ebooks are taxed not as books, but as electronic services, so it should be possible to charge for them, and this could be a large market. Just a small charge could help build an ebook lending service that’s really needed and would help fund the libraries. Competition is needed for Amazon and the libraries provide a network that could really help with that.” Adele Ward commenting on ACE library choices attract campaigner criticism – BookSeller. 
Speak Up For Libraries – Lobby your MP to help public libraries. Website: http://www.speakupforlibraries.org/ 
398 libraries (309 buildings and 89 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News
  • £230,000 grant announced amid library closure threats – Public Service.  “…to help fund 13 new library projects across the United Kingdom to allow libraries to test new approaches to “service deliveries”. It is expected that the grant will be used to demonstrate ways in which libraries can work together with other arts and cultural organisations to help reach out to broader audiences and become better value for money.” See also:
    • ACE library choices attract campaigner criticism – BookSeller.   “Clarke said that overall the choices were “bizarre” and “so sad”, in the light of the widespread cutbacks and closures facing the library service. He said: “The Arts Council and the Local Government Association haven’t faced up to the issues everyone is talking about within the public library service. Libraries desperately need leadership and they have just been shoehorned into the Arts Council’s priorities, where they do not fit.” … “Kirklees Council has threatened seven libraries with closure unless they are taken over by volunteers. Meanwhile, the Arts Council offer funding for a cinema in one of the libraries.”.  However, another commenter points out that it is not the job of ACE to fund libraries, but rather to help initiatives and new strategies.  Some very interesting comments from a lady helping her local library which shows the problems there are with volunteering and poor funding.
  • Bilbary seeks to heal the digital rift between publishers and libraries – Good E-Reader.   “Founder Tim Coates, the former CEO of Waterstone’s, Sherratt & Hughes, and WHSmith and a long-time advocate for public libraries, developed Bilbary with the intention of bridging the current divide between public libraries who wish to lend ebooks to their patrons and the publishers who have to guard the interests of their companies and their authors.” See also:
“I have spent the last ten years working in the public library system, trying to save them because they are at the brink of destruction and closure. It’s a shame, but not entirely unpredictable. They are very different than bookstores because they provide enormous low cost access to reading. Two-thirds of reading is books that come from public libraries, while one-third of reading material comes from bookstores. Therefore, libraries are not just a player in the game, they are the player. People who don’t see that are not conscious of how important libraries are. There’s a gulf between the libraries and publishers and it’s coming from 150 years of tradition.”
  • BookStart celebrates 20th anniversary with sharing scheme – BookSeller.  A pledge postcard will be available in libraries and children’s centres in England, Northern Ireland and Wales from this week, with members of the public encouraged to share books through reading to children, whether family members or through a local school or library. Booktrust will also be celebrating with a “birthday bash” during National Bookstart Week in June, with libraries, children’s centres and schools encouraged to take part.”
  • Calling the Mayor of London – Good Library Blog.  Lack of leadership from anyone else means the Mayor is the last hope. 33 different library services with their own structures should be more unified to avoid wasteful duplication in management, bureaucracy etc.  Only 5% of £200m budget is spent on books.
  • CILIP CEO to give evidence at Culture, Media and Sport Inquiry – CILIP.   ““I am extremely pleased to be giving evidence on behalf of CILIP at the inquiry … This is an opportunity to expand on our evidence and let MPs from all parties know how damaging cuts to public library services in England could be. I will be talking about the importance of a professionally run service and calling on Westminster government to provide the national leadership that an effective, locally delivered service needs.”
  • LSSI answers library campaigners’ questions – Stop the privatisation of UK public libraries.   Campaigner responds to points made by LSSI.
““It was hard to understand their concerns,” Pezzanite said. “They were coming from a very emotional place.LSSI executive Pezzanite doesn’t understand “emotional” library women – SCVTalk (USA).  See also comments below article.
“Electronics are here to stay, but someday the digital revolution in publishing may well be seen as just another phase in the natural evolution of a vital and resilient industry.”  Why book publishing can save the digital age – Bloomberg (USA).  “Although there was much grumbling along the way, the industry gradually accepted that the new products and distributors, including libraries, were not evil incarnate. To the contrary, they were something of a boon in that they generated interest in reading among people who didn’t frequent bookstores.”

Changes

Local News

  • Barnet – Last ditch plea to save library – Barnet Today.  “… the proposal’s by the Save Friern Barnet Library group are set to be rejected because it would still require £124,000 from the council’s budget and would mean the authority would lose up to £37,000 in potential rental income. It is recommended the library will be closed on March 31.”
    • Council officers recommend Friern Barnet Library closure – Times series.   “If Barnet Council cabinet members agree to the plans on Monday, Friern Barnet and North Finchley libraries would close, and a new one would be set up at Artsdepot in North Finchley. But Martin Russo, a member of Save Friern Barnet Library (SFBL), said: “We don’t see this as a transfer – we see it as a closure.The idea of transferring services sounds exciting but some people, like children, won’t be able to commute to the Artsdepot.”
  • Bath and North East Somerset – Mobile library service is saved as villagers bring council to book – This is Somerset.  860 name petition saves service. “Villagers of all ages in Timsbury turned out in force at the mobile library’s recent visit to take part in a hug-in organised by the Women’s Institute.”
  • Brent – Magazine gets it wrong again – Preston Library Campaign.   “The loss-making Brent Magazine this month proclaims Ealing Road Library to be the top venue for the events on March 1. Yet on the previous page we have just been told it will be closed for improvements between 27 Feb and 26 March.”
    • Anger over Willesden Green library plans – Harrow Observer.   “Chaos broke out at a council meeting this week as it was agreed Brent’s closed libraries would not be used during the redevelopment of Willesden Green Library Centre.” … “There was also anger that Willesden Green Bookshop is being turfed out of its premises at the centre and will not be given space in the new cultural hub.”
    • Visually impaired Brent resident makes a splash for local libraries – Save Kensal Rise Library.  ““This is a cause very close to Marcos’s heart. Marcos began volunteering his time at the library as soon as he heard about the closures. Marcos is very keen to do the sponsored swim to raise money. We are all very proud of him. Go Marcos!”
  • Caerphilly – Library in Aberbargoed to close next month – Campaign. “Aberbargoed Library will be closing its doors on Friday March 9. The library services have been relocated to the new and exciting Hanbury Chapel Library in nearby Bargoed.”
  • Calderdale – Halifax library consultation will be re-run in JuneHalifax Courier.  The entire consultation process which started in December is being scrapped and the detailed views of more than 2,500 people consigned to the dustbin. In a humiliating climbdown, the council’s Lib-Lab coalition had decided to begin the whole process again in June – a month after the council elections. But it might not take place at all if there is a change of political power at the town hall.”
  • Camden – Third community run and managed library approved – Camden Council.   “The Council approved transitional funding and grants from the Camden People’s Fund of over £100,000 for each group to deliver libraries and community projects through a radical new approach. This will mean that for the first time in the UK, these facilities will be run by residents offering their time and managed by Primrose Hill Community Association (Chalk Farm library); The Winch (Belsize library); and Keats Community Library (Heath library in Hampstead).”
“We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the response from the community and have worked extremely hard with Camden Council to come to an agreement. We still need more offers of help and donations to ensure that we can deliver this bold ambition but hope that with this agreement in place these will continue to be forthcoming. To date 350 people have pledged to donate £521,000 and over 150 people have volunteered to give their time to help in the library building which is fantastic.”

“KCC has just confirmed it is reviewing these and among the options being considered is whether to put them out to tender and allow the private sector to run them. At the smaller end of the scale, watch out for reduced opening hours. Either way, anyone who thinks that Kent will be able to preserve its network of libraries as they are now is probably being unrealistic.”
  • Kirklees – Leader hits back at Tories’ quite “ridiculous” criticism – Yorkshire Post.  The Labour administration is committed to keeping libraries open against the backdrop of budget cuts. We would like people to help us with that and to find innovative ways of providing an effective long-term service. The number of library users has fallen quite significantly across Kirklees, but community-run libraries have been successful elsewhere and this is an idea that is very much worth exploring.””
  • Leeds – Supporters urged to back Rawdon library campaign – Wharfedale Observer.   “Rawdon Library was earmarked for closure by Leeds City Council, but was given a reprieve to assess its viability. Since then, volunteers from the Friends of Rawdon Library have received training to keep it open on Thursdays and now they are hoping to rally more support from library users to “ensure a viable and exciting future”.”
  • Northamptonshire – The Chron looks at what the future holds for Northamptonshire’s librariesNorthamptonshire Chronicle. “Currently about 450 volunteers contribute their time to local libraries and, by March next year, it is hoped this figure will have almost doubled. Grace said: “Since 2008 we have been looking for people to be more involved in the service. We now have 26 Friends groups and also there are individuals who have become a ‘Friend.’” … “By 2014, Grace said, libraries in Daventry and Towcester would have moved to newly-built premises which they will share with other facilities. In Daventry’s case, the building also looks set to house the council’s registrar service.”
  • Portsmouth – Budget speech by Portsmouth City Council leader – About My Area.   ” I cannot speak more highly of the great success of the new Southsea Library. This has encouraged many more people in the library and help give support for the shopping in Southsea. “I am happy to be able to announce that the council intends to make additional investments in libraries in the north of the city. In Paulsgrove the intention is to move the library (subject to survey) to a shop location on Allaway Avenue so that more people use the library. In Drayton we aim to open a library this year. This is something for which local people have campaigned for 30 years and we will deliver it. This will have to have volunteers to help run it and again will have a shop front location. Finally, in Cosham, we will be looking for a location to move the library onto the High Street.”
  • Suffolk – New libraries board recruits teenager – BBC.   18-year old has been volunteering for five years in local library. 20 jobs to go (from 180), large budget cut, board of Industrial and Provident Society (IPS) will be nominate to begin with but be elected by its own members by late 2013.
    • New board members for libraries IPS – Diss Express.   “Eight new board members – three more than originally planned – join the three founding members after being nominated by the local library groups they are members of.”
 
  • Surrey – New friends group set up to support Molesey Library – Elmbridge Today.  “”The friends group will help to promote the library in the community by fundraising and organising events, and just to get the word out that Molesey Library is here.”.  Origins were in initial proposals to pass library over to volunteers last year.
    • Is SLAM opposed to volunteers? – Surrey Libraries Action Movement.  “The truth is that SLAM has always been pro-volunteers. Indeed, most SLAM supporters are library volunteers, but they want to support SCC by volunteering alongside paid staff, not in place of, and certainly do not want to take legal responsibility for the running of their libraries, an unusual demand to make of an unpaid volunteer.”
“He appealed to his 3,915,262 followers to donate money to SLAM to aid them in their legal fight. Fry’s tweet read: “Do help @surrey_SLAM fight the good fight for libraries and librarians. Give the price of a book: a fine cause.”” Stephen Fry tweets his libraries support Get Surrey. 

LSSI make a good argument so let’s have one

Comment

There is an excellent paper by LSSI available on why it should be considered as a provider of UK public library services available on the website of Alan Gibbons.  Readers of his website will know that he is generally against privatisation and it is greatly to his credit that he has allowed the American private-equity-firm-controlled company to put its case forward.  Readers of Public Libraries News will also know that I also am generally not in favour of passing services, and much needed cash, to private companies for the profit for their shareholders.  An article I wrote that was published in CILIP Update magazine summarises my knowledge and understanding of the subject so far.
However, the response by LSSI contains many valid points and they need to be addressed.  There are benefits entailed with the economies of scale that their running several services would allow.  To counter this argument of course, one should point out that many councils – notably the tri-borough – are already doing this without any money going to private concerns.  There are also some cases cited by LSSI, which I have no doubt are genuine, of poor quality customer service, although they themselves report that Sefton and Bournemouth libraries are excellent in this regard and thus automatically concede the point that one does not need a private company to sort such things out.  Other points such as the company’s “long” experience – they have been up and  running since 1981 – are easily dealt with by pointing out that UK public libraries have sometimes been running since 1850, with most having their origins over one hundred years ago.  The point about local managers being hamstrung by bureaucracy (although the worst case stated here, of a manager not being able to paint a front door for months, is hardly a convincing enough call for overturning the entire current system) is sadly true in some councils, especially the more cash-strapped ones. 
The difference, perhaps, between me and the author of the LSSI report, Stuart St V Fitzgerald, is that he has lost faith in council-run library services while I have not.  For you will notice that none of my counter-arguments are from a moral or ethical position, although it is worth noting that LSSI concede such arguements are genuine. I don’t include them here because they can seem airy-fairy and special pleading to newcomers to the subject.  No, the counter-arguments put forward here are simply on economic grounds.  For, simply put, there is no magic privatisation bullet that will sort things out that a well-run council library service does not have access to as well. Rather, Stuart’s excellent piece should be seen as a call to arms for council library services to ensure that they get their own act together.  For, if they do, private companies simply cannot compete.  After all, companies need to feed outside (not necessarily foreign; I have no special beef with private companies being American, British or from anywhere else) shareholders a significant percentage of the money that should by all rights be spent improving libraries.  Such profit would be seen if it happened by a council-run service as pure waste, or worse. It would be deeply ironic if councils chose, for a belief in its efficiency, to give the money to an organisation that due to its very nature could never hope to beat that of a well-run council service.  
Readers of Public Libraries News will also know that it can be a deeply depressing thing to browse  sometimes.  Such times as these do not breed jollity.  There is though, even in the darkest of times, some hope to be had.  For there is now an opportunity for all those poor examples that LSSI cite to be done away with.  Libraries, and councils, now have all the incentive in the world to be as efficient and customer driven as they can.  They should be, and to their credit often are, exploring ways to work at a lower cost.  Councils should also be thinking about the long-term and thus be wary of the quick cheap ways so often documented below like blackmailing local people into running services for them, cutting staff, reducing investment (“sweating the assets” it is called) or opening hours.  Such things may appear to be the answer to short-term financial and political necessities but doom libraries to medium or long-term decline.  Other ways should be found that keep libraries open and thriving.  This is not going to be easy. But giving a noticeable percentage of the money to Islington Capital Partners is hardly going to help either.
399 libraries (309 buildings and 90 mobiles) are currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK.  The librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

  Lobbying Parliament on 13th March,http://www.speakupforlibraries.org/
   Attend if you can, invite your MP or send message of support.

News

  • LSSI response to Alan Gibbons and Alan Wylie’s challenges – LSSI.  A full and well-thought out response from US private company LSSI answering questions from two well-known library campaigners.  The statement about economies of scale is a good one, the point about local managers being hamstrung by bureaucracy rings true and the criticisms about the poor quality service in some libraries is valid.  [However, there is nothing stopping councils doing anything that is suggested here while at the same time avoiding handing c.10% in pure profit to an American private equity company.  This paper should rather be seen as a rally call to any poor council library service to get its act together. Ed.]. 
  • Move to privatise Simi Valley Library blocked by Ventura County CourtSEIU721 (USA).   Union takes council to court over outsourcing/privatising library service to LSSI and delays takeover. “”We are pleased that the judge heard our case and has blocked Simi Valley from contracting out their library services to a private contractor. We look forward to the next hearing on April 9 which will determine the legality of the actions taken by Simi Valley in establishing a new library system”
  • One flew over the library – Jettison Cocoon (USA).   “Two years ago, before working on the bookmobile, I worked in a mental health facility. You know it as a library. Our “patients” had a variety of symptoms and problems, but rather than turn to therapists or psychiatrists they came to the library and self-medicated with books, magazines and the internet.”  Excellent piece on an often  invisible but vital service public libraries provide.

 Porn in public librariesYoung Turks (USA).  ACLU argues for porn on libraries.

  • Sense of scaleLibrary Data.   Chart shows that publishers’ revenues dwarf public libraries expenditure so companies, with the absence of any legal rules on the subject, can pretty much do what they like with their ebooks in public libraries policy.
  • Ten ideas for public libraries in college towns – 658.8 Practical marketing for public libraries (USA).  Check to see if your public library is doing all of these if it has a nearby university.

Changes

Doncaster Legal action being considered against closures.  New group: Sprotborough Community Library.

Local News

“Ken regards libraries as a valuable resource for the whole community and is opposed to their whole sale closure. Ken supports the campaign to keep libraries open in Brent and wishes the campaign every success. If he is elected Mayor in May he will add his voice and use his office to help prevent library closures.” Brent – Ken Livingstone backs campaign to save Brent’s libraries – Save Kensal Rise Library.

  • Sex pistols artist, Tim Dowling and Police Dog Hogan, One Man and His Beard raise thousands for the campaign – Save Kensal Rise Library.   Guardian columnist Tim Dowling and his Country & Western band Police Dog Hogan rocked the joint. They were supported by One Man And His Beard who has just recorded a single ‘We need libraries’, which can be downloaded from the iTunes store. Meanwhile, limited edition signed Jamie Reid posters featuring the library were on sale at £30 each. There are still some left! Contact Rachael Newberry.”
  • Brighton and Hove – Book grumbles – Argus.  “Mr Trimingham asserts that technology is supplanting books. However, public surveys have continually shown readers want more book stock. The book fund is increasing.”.
  • Doncaster – Latest news from the SDL HQ – Save Doncaster Libraries.  “Perhaps the most important news is that we are considering and consulting regarding legal action.  The Council, led by the Mayor and his Cabinet, have proven so inept and unable to consult regarding changes in a proper, fit and statutorily required manner that it seems we may have a very good case for a judicial review.”
    • Sprotborough library group to hold public meeting – Sprotborough Community Library.   “Volunteers will be sought to run the library on a day to day basis and training will be provided by DMBC for these people to help make the take-over smooth for the volunteer group.  If you are interested and have a few hours to spare each week then join this group and  get out of the house to meet and help people,  and find a new interest.”

  • Gloucestershire – Share library view – This is Gloucestershire.  “Gloucestershire County Council is undertaking a six-week consultation to get people’s views on proposals to reduce opening hours of some libraries and to close others.”
    • Library consultation – West Country Tonight (ITV).   Two minute video on consultation. “People are once again being asked to comment on the future of Gloucestershire’s library services. The council has gone back to the drawing board after a judicial review ruled against plans to shut ten libraries. Its new revised proposals are now on display, but campaigners say they still go too far.”
I went to a “public information” meeting last night at West Greenwich library about the proposal to transfer Greenwich Libraries to Greenwich Leisure Ltd. It was surprising there were around 25 people there as it was hardly advertised at all -a couple of lines in the Council paper and a notice in the library a few days before. I believe there have been 2 other meetings plus 2 “friends” meetings but no information to library users generally. Apparently as there will be “no material change” to the service, public consultation is not required. Everyone was very suspicious and angry, so if it is going to be so good for the future of the libraries, the PR has been a disaster! No doubt the transfer will be rubber-stamped at Cabinet on Tuesday.” Greenwich – Via email.

  • Kirklees Council’s cabinet “discriminating” against non-Labour areas say leading Conservative – Huddersfield Daily Examiner.  “It is proposed that seven libraries are to become community-run and those in Denby Dale, Honley, Lepton, Slaithwaite and Shepley all happen to be in wards with no Labour councillors whatsoever.” … “This means 57% of the 14 Lib Dem councillors on Kirklees are due to lose a staffed library; 33% of the 21 Conservatives and 11% of the 27 Labour councillors.”
  • North Yorkshire – Craven residents urged to volunteer at local librariesTelegraph & Argus. Young people in particular can benefit from the opportunity to add volunteering to their CV. For people who feel lonely or isolated, volunteering is also a great way to build their confidence and make new friends. Anyone interested in library volunteering should contact …” [The only ones not suffering under the current cuts seem to be those who can put the best possible gloss on them.  Ed.]
  • Warwickshire – Community managed libraries in Warwickshire – Warwickshire Council. 11 more libraries forced out of council control by April 1st, to follow Kineton (managed by volunteers) and Bedworth Heath (turned into an unsupervised book swapping store or “honesty library”).   Kingsbury and Binley libraries likely to close.
    • Sutton Coldfield librarian works as  naked butlerSunday Mercury.   “Russell Davies enjoys helping bookworms to get the most out of the services offered at Hartshill Library, in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. And when he finishes his shift, the 28-year-old from Sutton Coldfield, has fun stripping off for hen parties.”. Warwickshire points the way towards future careers for its library staff.

Speak up for libraries

Great website for the lobbying of Parliament on 13th March
Attend if you can, invite your MP, send message of support.
“A great opportunity to spell out the value of public libraries to decision-makers and power-brokers. It’s a positive event and a chance to talk directly to your and other MPs. Really important that library users can go as well as library workers – its about important services; vital too that library ‘supporters’ – who may not be users today but they know their value to their families and the community (I don’t need a hospital or a school but I want them there – and pay for them). have a look at the website; there’ll be lots to see and do!” John 

399 libraries (309 buildings and 90 mobiles) are currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK.  The librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

  • Closing libraries?  Now that’s crazy – Independent (Boyd Tonkin).  “The most discordant enemy within has been the councils’ own umbrella body, the Local Government Association. In a fit of Orwellian Newspeak, the LGA blithely maintains that “closure of a library does not automatically mean a decrease in access to library services”. Yes, and (if you remember Nineteen Eighty-Four), war is peace; freedom is slavery; and ignorance is strength.”.  Visits local library as part of National Libraries Day march of 200 people at Friern Barnet Library.
  • Dan Cox Library for the Unfinished Concept of Thingly Time A project by Andy Holden.Including: The Language of the Flowers and the Stars. An exhibition within the Library with works by Ed Atkins, Ruth Beale, Steven Claydon, David Raymond Conroy, Michael Dean, Daniel Eatock, Grubby Mitts, Philip Jeck, Neal Jones, Mark Leckey, Georgina Leeson, Claes Oldenburg, Johnny Parry, Francesco Pedraglio, Heather Phillipson, Philip Root and Kurt Vonnegut. – Cubit Art Gallery.  
  • Digital library fallout continues – BookSeller.  Publishers are increasingly blocking library e-book provision due to fear of cutting sales [ahem, it never hurt your printed booksales – ed.] “If libraries seize the opportunity to loan ebooks and appeal to a wider and larger audience they could undermine today’s revenue streams. If they don’t seize the digital opportunity and remain wedded in the physical world they could spiral into obsolescence.”.  See also Penguin ends E-book library lending and relationship with Overdrive – PaidContent.org. 
“Just received the Conservatives’ Culture and Media newsletter and there is no mention of the Culture, Media and Support Select Committee on libraries. Some mistake surely.” Alan Gibbons

  • Welsh Heritage Minister gives his support for National Libraries Day – CILIP.  “Huw Lewis AM, Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage, has been presented with hundreds of ‘Love your Library’ postcards from Welsh Women’s Institutes. The postcards began with “I Love Libraries because….” and have been filled in by WI members across Wales, sharing their messages about why libraries are important to them.”

Changes

Local News

  • Brent – “Transforms” Town Hall Library into a rubbish dump – Wembley Matters.  Stock from closed library piles up in town hall library as insufficient staff to sort it.  Also, fears that community side of library will be lost when it moves to town hall.  Event days at nearby stadium will also mean entrance area too packed for effective use of library.
  • Brighton and Hove – Shake up for Brighton and Hove library staff – Argus.    “A document seen by The Argus shows budget proposals by Brighton and Hove City Council could lead to 17 post reductions as well as a change to the way the library service operates. Meanwhile the council would create new positions including library equal access officer and library income generation manager.”.  800 people sign petition against axing of mobile service. “The council estimates 17.84 posts will be lost with 10.7 of those eliminated by not filling vacancies.”

  • Darlington – Council announces plans to save Cockerton Library – Northern Echo.   “…the service now looks to have won a reprieve following an announcement from council leader Bill Dixon that the authority’s cabinet will be asked to consider keeping the library open, with reduced hours, for at least 12 months.”.  3000 name petition led to meeting between supporters, council and local MP.  
‘After our meeting with Bill Dixon, local councillors and our MP, as a group we would like to re-emphasise our thanks for a constructive and positive meeting. However the discussions about the library continue as a final decision will be made until the 1st March. The friends group will hand in a petition of 3000 signatures to Town Hall at 10am on the 14th February. The friends would welcome your support on Tuesday and also at the Council Cabinet Meeting on the 22nd February at Central Hall where they have been allowed 5 minutes to present their case. The meeting is open to the public. Thank you to everyone who has suppported the campaign’. Friends of Cockerton Library Committee

“1) the 5 volunteer run libraries are being funded by the parish councils through what I understand is an illegal rise in the Parish Council precept on the Council Tax (in the case of East Cowes a 21% rise in the current year).
2)  During and after the so called “consultation” many of the campaigners tried to get Cllr Pugh to meet us and to try and sort out a mutually agreeable way forward- the replies were varied, one lady emailed him on, I understand 7 occasions, and never had a reply, I was told “we know what we’re doing and I will not discuss it”.  The result was that  there was NO meeting of any kind between councillors and campaigners.
3) There never was a genuine impact assessment done- it was all done in County Hall after the volunteer steering groups refused to do it for them.” Isle of Wight – Email from campaigner.
  • Kent – Villagers hug their library as part of WI initiative – This is Kent.  Residents in Kemsing and Otford turned out this week to wrap their arms round their local services – literally.”.  Amazing photograph of loads of people hugging the library. 
  • Somerset – Book lovers show support for Watchet Library – This is the West Country.  People turned out in force to donate more than 500 books to Watchet Library as part of a National Library Day event on Saturday. The place was buzzing as library-users old and new joined the librarian, members of Watchet Library Friends and several local authors who donated signed copies of their books in support of the facility.”
  • Southwark – New opening hours for four Southwark libraries – Southwark Council.  Brandon, East Street, Grove Vale and Nunhead libraries will have hours cut from April.  £400k cut library budget 2012/14,  “More than 5,000 people responded to Southwark’s consultation with residents indicating that they would rather see reduced hours at some of the borough’s libraries rather than have library closures as has happened in other boroughs.” [5,000? Yes.  Five thousand. This sort of public reaction is normal for libraries – Ed.].  14% increase in visits for council libraries in 2010.
  • Surrey – Reprieve for Surrey libraries as volunteer plan goes to High Court – Guardian series.  “Following the review full time professional staff could still be returned to Byfleet. Speaking after the decision SLAM said: “We are very pleased with yesterday’s outcome and were heartened by the Judge’s comments that SLAM has shown a considerable commitment and dedication to the library service, and has shown significant resilience in coping with the hard work and stress necessary to bring to the Court’s attention this “potential abuse of power” by Surrey County Council.”
  • Warwickshire – Community library is on track – Redditch Standard.   Studley Village Hall will have library inside it when council closes current library on 23rd March.  “The project has also received an unexpected boost from communications company Talk Talk which has donated £1,000 to help with set-up costs.” … “In future the library will be funded by Studley Village Hall Committee and Studley Parish Council with some support from the county council. It is hoped the new library will be open on April 3. More than 30 volunteers have come forward to help staff the new library with training due to begin shortly.”

For each local authority to decide

399 libraries (309 buildings and 90 mobiles) are currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK.  The librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

Bookstock increases in Japanese public librares 1967-2005
From Public Libraries in Japan by Haruki Nagata
  • House of Lords Debate: LibrariesThey Work For You: 7th February. Baroness Rawlings gets asked several questions on libraries.  Emphasis on localism (Councils can do what they want): ” Every local authority in England is required to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service, as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Sheldon, and it is for each local authority to determine at the local level how much it spends on libraries and manages and delivers its services.”
“Sir, I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your obliging letter and to assure you that I take great pleasure in accepting the invitation of the committee of the Manchester Free Library.  My engagements are very numerous but the occasion is too important and the example too noble to admit of hesitation.  Very faithfully yours, Charles Dickens.” Revealed: Charles Dicken’s support for Manchester’s first free library in letter to Lord MayorManchester Evening News. 

‘Sir, I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your obliging letter and to assure you that I take great pleasure in accepting the invitation of the committee of the Manchester Free Library. My engagements are very numerous but the occasion is too important and the example too noble to admit of hesitation. Very faithfully yours, Charles Dickens’.

Read more at: http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/news/s/1481237_revealed-charles-dickens-support-for-manchesters-first-free-library-in-letter-to-lord-mayor

‘Sir, I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your obliging letter and to assure you that I take great pleasure in accepting the invitation of the committee of the Manchester Free Library. My engagements are very numerous but the occasion is too important and the example too noble to admit of hesitation. Very faithfully yours, Charles Dickens’.

Read more at: http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/news/s/1481237_revealed-charles-dickens-support-for-manchesters-first-free-library-in-letter-to-lord-mayor

‘Sir, I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your obliging letter and to assure you that I take great pleasure in accepting the invitation of the committee of the Manchester Free Library. My engagements are very numerous but the occasion is too important and the example too noble to admit of hesitation. Very faithfully yours, Charles Dickens’.

Read more at: http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/news/s/1481237_revealed-charles-dickens-support-for-manchesters-first-free-library-in-letter-to-lord-mayor

‘Sir, I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your obliging letter and to assure you that I take great pleasure in accepting the invitation of the committee of the Manchester Free Library. My engagements are very numerous but the occasion is too important and the example too noble to admit of hesitation. Very faithfully yours, Charles Dickens’.

Read more at: http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/news/s/1481237_revealed-charles-dickens-support-for-manchesters-first-free-library-in-letter-to-lord-mayor

“If promoting the reading of bestselling thrillers is what public libraries are about, then they don’t have much reason to exist. A long time ago librarians thought that reading popular tripe would help cultivate the people’s taste for better books, but they gave that up when they realized that reading popular tripe cultivates a taste for reading more popular tripe.” Why should libraries focus on popular books?Library Journal (USA). [This article by Annoyed Librarian pretty much goes against everything I believe to be true but it is, like a lot of the stuff on PLN included for completeness and to make people aware of the issues – Ed.]

Local News

  • Camden – Chalk Farm Library deal agreed – Camden New Journal.  There had been a delay in confirming a joint  bid for the Chalk Farm branch in Sharpleshall Road lodged by the Friends of Chalk Farm Library and the Primrose Hill Community Association.  The bid had asked for a 20-year lease. Camden will now give the library group the building for six years, rent free, with an option for a further six.”
  • Durham – Council planning £26m of cutbacks – Northern Echo.   “…councillors also ordered a 12-week consultation on cutting opening hours to 36 a week at 11 town centre libraries and 20 a week at 27 community branches. Mobile library services would also be reduced to save £1.5m overall. About 250 library staff could be affected. Only Clayport, in Durham, will escape the cuts, having had its hours reduced last year.”
  • Kent – Bear club children get early start on reading This is Kent.  The free service means children can join and receive a library passport. Each time they visit the library they get a stamp and once they have collected six they receive a certificate. Teacher Tanya Foy said: “Children as young as four months have joined the library. Reading is one of the key activities a parent or carer can do with their child to improve their achievements later on in life.”
  • Kirklees – Councillors kick off party spat over library transfer proposals – Yorkshire Post.  “The council is seeking to reduce its budget and wants community groups to take over several smaller libraries. The transfer will mean job losses and possible changes in opening hours at libraries in Denby Dale, Golcar, Honley, Lepton, Kirkheaton, Shepley and Slaithwaite.”.  Conservatives accuse governing Labour party of choosing to cut libraries in Conservative areas: “Five of the seven wards affected by the library changes have no Labour Party representation.”
“The answer I got back was ‘the criteria used was verbal discussions between senior managers and Cabinet members. In other words there is no audit trail and, therefore, no evidence for the general public as to whether the correct libraries have been selected for this venture.”

  • Norfolk – Crime thrillers are the most borrowed fiction in books in Norfolk’s libraries – Norwich Evening News.    “Romance used to be the most popular genre, but now people seem to be escaping into a grittier world.”
  • Sefton – Cremation fees hiked, lifeguards reduced and mobile library axed in the latest round of cuts by Sefton Council – Crosby Herald.  “Two posts are to go from the local history / information service, saving £37,000. The service, based at Crosby Library, responds to 12,500 local history queries every year. Axing Sefton’s mobile library will save £42,000. The council argued that the service has declined by 31% in usage between 2006/07 and 2010/11 from 7,149 issues per year to 4,946.”
  • Southwark – Inside the library of the future in Canada Water – Wharf.   “Coinciding with National Libraries Day on Saturday, we went along to see how the grand building has been faring since its opening late last year. Designed by architect Piers Gough and built to replace the old Rotherhithe library in Albion Road, the light airy space overhanging Canada Water basin has been pitched as a blueprint for libraries of the future.”
  • Surrey – Investment in new library sees visitor numbers double – Surrey News.   “Visitors to Dorking library more than doubled when it re-opened in plush new premises. A new chapter in the library’s life began with a bumper first week that saw 4,806 people through the door. This compares to 1,791 visitors during the final week at the library’s old location in Pippbrook House – an increase of 168%. More than 250 new members signed up during the opening week, which is more than the number of people who joined throughout the whole of January 2011.”.  £30,000 new stock and wifi.
    • County Council’s plans to be reviewed – This is Surrey Today.  “A SLAM spokesman said: “This moment has been a long time coming. Surrey County Council has not consulted with library users, has not assessed the impacts of community-partnered libraries on the affected communities, and has avoided scrutiny of its plans at every turn.”.  The council disagrees.

Inquiry Day Two announced – who is in it, what it means

Comment

The next Culture, Media And Sport Inquiry session will be on Tuesday 21st February. The list of people who are being interviewed is useful for giving clues as to how the committee is thinking. At 10.30am, it’s reassuringly good to see Annie Mauger of CILIP on board and Alan Davey, Chief Exec of Arts Council England, the body which has taken over the library quango duties of the MLA, pretty much had to be included. It gets far more interesting, though, at 11.30am. The people being talked to then are:

David Pugh, Leader, Isle of Wight Council: This council tried to close 9 out of 11 libraries last year, the biggest cuts of any authority in the UK. After the inevitable outcry, the proposals were changed so that five branches had to be be run by volunteers instead. An attempt by campaigners to take the case to court had to be cancelled due to failure to secure legal funding. Watch out for Mr Pugh saying how wonderful the volunteer model in local communities and what a great saving it is. He may also, if he is brave, defend the council’s initial decision and hope that the council’s impact assessment is not mentioned. In fact, the Isle of Wight is a great example of last year at its worst: the council seems to have decided on cuts without sufficient consultation or assessment, only u-turned after massive public protest and then blackmailed local communities into working for free or facing closure of their library, in a parody of the Big Society ideal. The failure of the DCMS to show much interest beyond one meeting, let alone intervene, even when the Council was proposing an almost complete annihilation of the service and then the subsequent demonstration that the Courts were only available to the wealthy in such cases pretty much completes the set. How much of this comes out, though, is another matter and, certainly, Cllr Pugh is going to be as good as gloss on it as possible.

Elizabeth Campbell, Councillor, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council: The reason for this one will be the “tri-borough” collaboration between Kensington and Chelsea Council, Hammersmith and Fulham Council and Westminster Council. This is seen as the Great Hope in cutting library budgets while at the same time maintaining services in that savings can be made in the behind-the-scenes stuff (Human Resources, Legal, computer systems, purchasing, processing etc) with relatively little damage to the front of house. However, it is seriously early days for this collaboration – it was agreed on only in June last year – and so it may be hard to tell what its effects are. In addition, all three councils are Conservative-run which must smoothe things over somewhat. Still, it will be interesting to see what is said and how differences are settled as collaboration between services is very much one of the stronger possibilities for defending libraries at present.

Nigel Thomas, Service Delivery Manager, Leicestershire County Council: This is the most perplexing one. Leicestershire is losing a full 40% of its library budget over four years, which has got to be, shall we say, a tough one to defend. It seems to be achieving the cut in fairly depressingly familiar ways: cutting 384 hours per week off its total opening hours for example and increasing the use of volunteers. Then one looks at its submission to the Inquiry. There’s mention of co-locating other services (including, amazingly, day-care services) into libraries. It looks like inter-council collaboration is also happening and there is an interesting parish council partnership in Quorn. Then there are other ways like philanthropy (Bill Gates must be getting lots of begging letters recently), setting up Friends groups to raise money, self-service … In fact, it seems to be reading through a compendium of all the many ways to save money without closing libraries, and this is probably why it has been chosen.

This session should be as interesting to library campaigners as the last one, possibly more so as it will give an insight into the minds of those people who have been making the headline-making decisions. As such it should be essential viewing. Then there’s also the suspense element: will Louise Mensch throw in as many hard and searching questions as she did on Tuesday? Will Steve Rotheram be as pro-library? Will Cllr Pugh be publicly humiliated or treated with kid gloves? In addition, there are also the bones of a third morning here that can be discerned from the gaps in the testimony from the first and second.  For this, and I must stress I have no inside information here, it seems probable to expect to see a morning with interviews from a spokesman from the LGA, from a private library company and a volunteer community group in the first three-person session and (who knows?) Ed Vaizey in the solo spot after tea and biscuits. 

399 libraries (309 buildings and 90 mobiles) are currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK.  The librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

  • Amazon, up in flames – New York Times.  The suspicion that Amazon are aiming for a monopoly on bookselling is increasing and even super-librarian Nancy Pearl is caught up in it.
Dan Jarvis: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport with which local authorities his Department has had discussions on the scale of library closures carried out or planned since May 2010. [93901]

Mr Vaizey:
In 2011-12, departmental officials met with council officers from the metropolitan borough of Bolton, the London borough of Brent, the metropolitan borough of Doncaster, Gloucestershire county council, the London borough of Lewisham, Isle of Wight, and Somerset county council. The purpose of these meetings was to discuss the respective council’s library proposals in light of the Secretary of State’s duties under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. Hansard, 6th February.
  • February is Public Library Month on Libraries Thriving – Credo Reference Blog (USA).  “In response to the work of Voices for the Library, a UK campaign aimed at spreading the value of public libraries, Libraries Thriving, a collaborative space and community for e-resource innovation, has decided to drum up some attention for public libraries in their community as well. For that purpose, they have established February as Public Library Month on Libraries Thriving!”
  • Five compete to run Croydon and Wandsworth libraries – Guardian series.   ““Closure is not an option for us. Our central library is the third busiest in the country, and last year we consulted widely on the future of all of our branches. We got the message loud and clear that these are important community facilities that must be kept open as a matter of priority.”.  Library campaigners, however, are not altogether happy at giving money away in the form of profit to companies at a time of great shortage.
  • Reading a book “adds a year to children’s education” – Telegraph.  “Nick Gibb, the School Minister, said that reading books for just half an hour a day could be worth up to 12 months’ extra schooling by the age of 15. Today, the Department for Education will unveil plans for a national reading competition for children in the last three years of primary education and the first year of secondary school.”  As some of the comments suggest, without school libraries and public libraries, only the rich kids stand a chance of winning this competition. See also Alan Gibbons on This time, some sense from Mr Gibb.  “The single most effective transmission belt for reading for pleasure in schools is a well-stocked library staffed by a well-trained library. So why the dogmatic rejection of any demands for statutory school libraries? The last time I wrote to Secretary of State Mr Gove the rejection was issued with unseemly haste.” 
  • Uncorrected transcript of oral evidence to be published as HC1815-i – Parliament.  Full text of Tuesday’s inquiry into library closures.

Changes

Aberdeenshire – Eight branches taken off threatened list.  A report from early 2011 suggested eight were endangered.  However, the council confirmed via email today hat none are under threat this year.

Local News


“This flexible approach has not only ensured the successful establishment of five community libraries but has complemented the local enthusiasm and efforts to secure the long-term future of these valued facilities.”

  • Milton Keynes – Dozens watch Josephine Cox open new library – Milton Keynes Citizen.  “The new library is the result of a new Partnership Agreement between Milton Keynes Council and Woburn Sands Town Council. The library is more accessible than the current library premises in Hardwick Road and is located in a prominent site on Woburn Sands High Street.”
  • North Yorkshire – Library is open for longer in shake-up – Yorkshire Post.  “Coun Chris Metcalfe, North Yorkshire’s executive member for the library and information service, said: “Our library service has been one of the most outstanding in the country, and the necessity of making savings has provided the incentive for us to step back and come up with innovative plans to maintain a vibrant service into the future. “Our communities have risen to the challenge of finding solutions to keep our libraries open in a way that is sustainable so that they can grow and develop to meet future needs.””.  £1.7m cut.  Volunteers will take over many libraries.
  • Surrey – Library volunteers “thwarted at every turn” – Get Surrey.   “Plans to re-open Byfleet Library under the stewardship of the Friends of Byfleet Library group had to be postponed after the Surrey Libraries Action Movement (SLAM) successfully applied for a temporary injunction, preventing Surrey County Council from rolling out its proposals.” … ““We think we can turn it into a really good community centre with a library and we know people would like to see it open more hours so, in actual fact, where we diverge from SLAM now is that we believe we will offer a bigger service.”