12% of all libraries to be “community supported” in the “near future” – Arts Council England

The BookSeller has reported on the stakeholder meeting (covered here in the last but one post) and it makes some  subtly different changes, like the date of when 12% of libraries are likely to be “community supported” and what it actually means.  Otherwise, there’s an interesting conference in Edinburgh next year (the Edge) and the news that “free news” online may be on its way out will further support the argument for libraries.

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200 libraries lost in 2011


The CIPFA stats have already been widely discussed but a few new things still jump out to me.  The first is that usage is declining very much in line with library budgets.  It’s no secret that you get what you pay for.  The UK has decided that it wants a library service that costs 5.1% less (hang on, is that measured for inflation? If not, that’s a 7.6% cut in one year) than last year.  It therefore gets a library service that is 5.1% less attractive than last year.

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“We’re as frustrated as you are”: The Society of Chief Librarians “Stakeholder Forum” with library campaigners.


The following is a record of the meeting between the SCL and campaigners on Monday 10th December at Westminster City Hall, 4pm to 6pm..  It is largely written by myself but the SCL has given approval to it and made some amendments. The other campaigners have not themselves given approval for it and so it is not “fully agreed” in terms of formal minutes.  I have put in large quotation marks what I think are interesting points made but I need to point out these emphases are mine alone, as are the links.

The official SCL description of the meeting is here.

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Correction: Newcastle

David Fay from Newcastle Libraries has been in touch to provide a correction to an article I linked to and commented on yesterday that suggested that their PFI deal was soaking up nearly a third of their budget.  The correction reads:

The net annual cost to Newcastle City Council of the City Library and High Heaton Library is £155,579.25 as we receive credits of £3,200.149 from DCMS in the form of an annual grant which is payable during the length of the project.

CIPFA returns show that the City Library is once again the most visited library in the North East and the fourth most visited in the country”

David Fay, City Libraries’ Manager

Protests say don’t mess with libraries – be they in London, Newcastle or in schools.

Being the title of this blog is Public Libraries News, I tend not to cover school libraries but my heart is with them as well.  There are so many similarities between the two campaigns that I do sneak a story in here and there.  The recent survey that shows school libraries are in deep danger is an example.  The fact that the DCMS had the temerity to criticize the survey has angered Alan Gibbons – who has always equally championed both campaigns – who points out what weak ground they’re on.  Sadly, due to yet more cuts, the DCMS itself is even more of a shadow of its former self, with an estimated £34m cut.  Whether this will affect its funding of Arts Council England and thus it’s funding of grants for libraries, is as yet unclear.

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E-Lending debated on Radio Four: complete transcript


BBC Radio Four covered e-book lending last night (27:51 to 32:08).  It included contributions from the President of CILIP, the Publisher’s Association and the Society of Authors, as well as the new Birmingham Central Library.  It covers the debate in a basic easy-to-understand wayand I recommend it to you.  The transcript is below.

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Librarians answer questions with facts, politicians answer questions with …

Librarians answer questions.  We’re trained to do so and we pride ourselves on giving the correct answers.  There’s a whole interview technique of asking open questions (e.g. “What do you want?”) then closed questions (“Is this what you want?”) and then a final check up question (“Is there anything else we can help you with?”) just to make sure.  We make sure that the answer is an accurate one and try to avoid vagueness or untrustworthy information, even if it inconveniences us to do so. Politicians obviously think in a different way.  Their world is that of the elusive, the not-quite accurate and the self-aggrandising.  Take for example this exchange in parliament about libraries:

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Which library service? 5% of English libraries now volunteer-run.

If one gets asked about the state of the public library service in the UK, one should really answer “which one?”.  For a start, a national study in an Arts Council England report (due out in January) estimates more than 170 are volunteer run.  My own figures, at more than 168, are almost identical.  That’s 5% of all the libraries in England, with a third of the total being accounted for just in the last two years. Of course, those volunteer-run libraries are to some extent the lucky ones as a whole pile have closed. Then, to confuse matters, there’s the big whopping new increasingly-looking-like-white-elephant central libraries that have been built, or are still being built, around the country.  Biriminham, Liverpool, Manchester.  The shiny one in Newcastle is especially embarrassing at the moment as its PFI inflated cost means a whole pile of smaller branches are likely to close.  The same is probable in the other cities mentioned too.  We also have a pile of new, smaller, libraries being built or at least refurbished.  These are as often actually combined customer-contact centre/libraries than libraries alone.

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Grabbing a pizza the action: Booktrust, Right to Bid, free poster and, well, pizza

 Good news that the Government has maintained funding of Booktust, albeit minus inflation,.  This allows bookgifting to continue, which is important as many homes, as librarians sadly know, are “Argos households” where the only visible book is the Argos catalogue. A new scheme, aimed at the most in need two-year-olds (a critical age for getting used to the joy of a book) will also be introduce and is also heartily welcome, although there is no extra funding for it.  Another Government initiative is starting to appear as well: the first registering of a library as an “asset of community value”, as far a I am aware anyway, will shortly take place.  This is hoped to at worst postpone the conversion of Kensal Rise Library into flats and at best completely restore it as a library.  Expect a lot more of these registrations around the country.  [Edited 9pm] A fear I often hear is that campaigners will be the unwitting stalking horses of others with the “right to challenge”, especially private companies, who can then bid for the “asset” themselves.  Doubtless, we’ll shortly be in a position to see if this happens in practice. In the meantime, we’ll see what happens in Kensal Rise with the “right to bid” [End of edit].

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No to getting axe for your tax: Sefton and Wolverhampton protests

The size of the protests in Sefton against library closures there is quite impressive – thousands have raised their voices.  Clearly, the people there are not happy about having local services axed while being still having to pay their tax. These protests can have an impact as those in Wolverhampton have found with some, but by no means all, of their libraries saved from closure. It’s interesting to see that rare beast, the entirely-self-service library being an option that looks likely to become reality for one of these branches. Moving away from campaigning, it’s great to note that, for a trial period, public libraries will be able to lend CDs from the day of their release rather than (as before) waiting for three months.

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