Good News Day

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

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


Local News

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

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

Surrey Council admit “defeat”, censorship, volunteers…


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


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


Local News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Local News

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

Libraries are obsolete …?


  • Beyond the bullet points: libraries are obsolete – Virtual Dave (USA).  Some excellent points against public libraries and, of course, excellent points in rebuttal in favour of them.  “Libraries as band aids may be obsolete, but that is not why we need libraries. We need libraries so we can fix our education system, so we can fix our economy, so we can fix our democracies yes. But we need libraries even more to discover new knowledge not found in any textbook. We need libraries to create whole new opportunities for innovation. We need libraries to give our communities a voice and power in the working of government. Libraries will never be obsolete so long as our communities dream, and strive, and work to ensure a world of insurmountable opportunities.”
  • Blagger’s guide to … World Book Night – Independent on Sunday.  Some publishers were initially a little sceptical: giving away books when the industry is struggling may seem like lunacy. But last year’s inaugural event was such a hit that most now agree it’s worth putting up with the £8m cost, if it spreads a bit of love. Of course, it’s brilliant PR and, who knows, some new readers may become bookaholics and big spenders”. [Interesting to note that public libraries “give” books away all the time and therefore presumably also help the publishing industry.]
  • British Library: going beyond books – Guardian.  Libraries as wealth creators: “We want to hear from the designers, illustrators and other creative professionals who have used the library: what have you found useful and (truthfully) what you didn’t. The British Library has always been a hub of knowledge, now it also wants to be a hub of inspiration. Come and get inspired.”
  • From Horrible Histories to Babar the Elephant: the “offensive” children’s books withdrawn by libraries – Telegraph. Summarises the challenges to books made in public libraries last year.  While clearly going for a “political correctness gone crazy” angle, the list actually shows that not many were successful.  See point by Bob Usherwood below on why this situation may soon get worse.  See also the points made by Alan Gibbons.
  • HuffPost meets Dan Jarvis, an MP obsessed with libraries – Huffington Post.   Shadow minister for libraries is about to produce “a major report on the future of libraries, a document which he promises will be a “non-partisan, non-knockabout vision for a 21st Century library.” … “They’re really important public spaces… but like everything they have got to move with the times. We’re now living in an information age, the way people are accessing information is different from five or ten years ago, and it will be different in another five or ten years from now.” His pre-occupation seems to be that as we increasingly move from print to digital publishing, the case for a physical public space becomes precarious.”.  Mr Jarvis believes the DCMS is about to be disbanded.
“I’m not even convinced that [the Tory culture minister] Ed Vaizey believes he’s been a champion for libraries. The minister for libraries should be out there making the case for why it’s important for local authorities to protect libraries. He hasn’t done that.”

  • Incredibly unique bookmobiles around the world – Flavorwire (USA).  Illustrated selection of some of the best and most unusual mobile libraries in the world, including the “Weapon of Mass Instruction”.
  • Let’s begin to do something positive about the public library service – Good Library Blog. Tim Coates argues that we need “one system, one website, one communications network, one set of operating standards for every process – and 3,500 buildings . The 150 systems and websites and sets of specifications we have now need to be closed down.”.  See comments for reasons for and against this idea.
  • Letter: Bob Usherwood – Independent on Sunday.  “Localism inevitably leads to a postcode lottery, which means there will be unequal access to high-quality library and information services. There is also the real danger of tyranny by a local majority whereby a policy – stock selection, say – may be based on local prejudice rather than professional judgement. In America, challenges to books in libraries are commonplace, and challenged titles include Brave New World and Catcher in the Rye. Such events are rare in the UK, partly because of local and central control. We face the prospect of a public library service based on geographical chance and localism, and a population whose life chances will be diminished by reduced services and several hundred library closures.”
    Q. Do you have a Kindle? I do, but funnily enough it’s very difficult to get any books on it you actually want. The first thing I thought I’d put on it was Froude’s Life of Carlyle, which is one of my favourite biographies, but it’s quite impossible. Then you try to download the Pléiade Proust rather than some crap Proust and you can’t. Then I downloaded the complete works of Yeats, and the poems give out halfway through. So I think it’s of very limited use. It’s fine for aeroplanes and trains but it won’t replace the dear old book.” AN Wilson in the Guardian

  • Save the Libraries event: Boston Public LibraryHellnotes (USA).  The funding of American libraries should be a matter of national security,” Karin writes. “Keeping libraries open, giving access to all children to all books is vital to our nation’s sovereignty. For nearly 85 percent of kids living in rural areas, the only place where they have access to technology or books outside the schoolroom is in a public library. For many urban kids, the only safe haven they have to study or do homework is the public library.”
  • Some notes on tweeting for libraries – Shelf Check (USA).  Twitter and other social media was chosen by Arts Council England as a key point of their consultation.  This guide is a useful “do’s and don’ts” guide but quite American in that it assumes that the library authority is not hamstrung by a council policy forbidding such interaction.
  • Think like a Start-Up: a White Paper – Ubiquitous Librarian (USA).   An article written for academic libraries but relevant also for public libraries.  It suggests that libraries should consider what their core purpose is and use their unique selling points to change so they can still do that in the changing world.  There’s a fair bit of business-speak and nonsense [“aim for epiphanies”] in the pdf but the idea is sound and needs examining.
  • What are top five things we can all do to ensure the integrity and future of the profession? – CILIP on LinkedIn.  Ideas include promotion, getting rid of the worst performing staff, retail/marketing training, being proactive, “stop kidding ourselves that it’s everyone else’s fault and take responsibility”.
  • World Book Night – “Library & Bookstore Search.  We’re pleased to have thousands of wonderful bookstores and libraries participating in World Book Night 2012. To find your nearest library or bookshop simply enter your address below and click ‘Search Now’.”


Local News

  • Bolton – MP calls for moves to save library service – Bolton News. “Mr Crausby [MP] has signed an Early Day Motion in Parliament which welcomes the formation of Speak Up For Libraries and calls on the Government to undertake a thorough assessment of the state of the public library service and develop a national vision for its future.” 
Too late for the people of Highfield who saw their new library shut down even though it was well used.The old library building at Marsh Lane lies empty.Surely the answer would have been to sell the Marsh Lane building as it’s standing there doing nothing and pump the proceeds into the Highfield Road building.Sadly the Council just closed Highfield library without justification and now people are asked to use Farnworth library which is almost 2 miles away and £4.20p return on the bus.Madness!”

  • Dorset – Wool library campaigners closer to taking over facility – Dorset Echo.   “The Friends of Wool Library has already put forward a business plan for the future running of the facility and are in discussions with the council with a view to taking over the library in September. The Friends group, which now has 100 members and a roster of volunteers in place, has received a further boost to their plans with a generous donation from a local firm. The Bovington Employees Support Team (BEST) at Babcock International has donated £200 [sic] to help the Friends meet the running costs when they take over the facility.”
  • Gloucestershire – Library rescue plan progressing in Mitcheldean – This is Gloucestershire.  “More than 30 hours of staffing per week are likely to be stripped away from the library under Gloucestershire County Council’s savings plans but villagers are determined to keep it running at full strength. The Mitcheldean Library Action Group has now set up the new GL17 Community Hub to take on responsibility for the centre and is determined services will not be hit.”.  Councillor Hawthorne claims that cutting 30 hours of staffing is providing an opportunity to “expand library facilities”.
  • Newcastle – Week in the life of Cruddas Park Library – Newcastle Libraries Online.   “Local photographer Keith Pattison spent a week at Cruddas Park Library taking photographs of the customers who visited.  They either held up the book they borrowed of wrote down the reason for their trip to the library. His innovative project highlights the many different ways people use their library and looks at the role libraries play in the local community. The images have been compiled in his new book, ‘face BOOK – A Week in the Life of a Branch Library’, which will be launched alongside Keith’s exhibition on Tuesday 24 April at 10:30am at Cruddas Park Shopping Centre. You can also take a look at the images online on Keith’s website.”.  Some nice images.
  • Telford & Wrekin – Library service changes to go before cabinet – Shropshire Live.  “The council says savings of around 20 per cent could be achieved without the need to close any of the 9 libraries across the borough if the plans are approved. The proposal states that the savings could be gained through the reduction of opening hours along with the exploration of researching new opportunities to co-locate library services with other partner services in order to save building related costs.” … “The proposals would mean that no library in Telford and Wrekin would have to close and by presenting a proposal which has been informed by public opinion, the suggestion to change library opening hours should suit our service users.””

More DCMS fallout … and Brent charges campaigners.


  • An open letter about eBooks and Douglas County Libraries – Douglas County Libraries (USA). “In a free market, companies are free to set their prices. But we are free to seek a better deal – and we’ve found one. Instead of passively accepting what amounts to a 33% reduction in the purchasing power of the library, we’ll be extending our network of electronic publishers to include those who are more responsive to our needs and budgets.We have now identified some 12 groups of publishers, comprising over 800 individual companies.” 
  • Mayor candidate supports Upper Norwood Library – Croydon Guardian.  The reason I am so supportive of what you are doing here is I don’t think they should be shutting down a single library.”The reason libraries are being shut is they are not run efficiently. You have proved you can keep libraries open by running them more efficiently.”
  • Ministry of Fun or Ministry of Fumble: do we really need the DCMS? – Our Kingdom.  Analysis and history of the DCMS.   “There also seems to be a strange mis-match between the Department’s responsibilities (broadcasting, libraries, museums, sport and tourism) and its stated strategic priorities: children and young people, communities, delivery, economy and the Olympic Games and their legacy.” … “More importantly, the DCMS lacks clout.  A tiny department is poorly placed to attract high-flying civil servants.  It is no secret that clients of the DCMS, and top mandarins in the larger departments of state, regard the quality of staff there as low. “
    • Culture, Media and Sport “should close” – Public Service.  IEA does not like the DCMS but PCS union does.
    • Harman fears of DCMS abolition – BookSeller.  “Independent Mayor of London candidate Siobhan Benita visited an under threat library and vowed, if elected, to protect every library in the capital. Mrs Benita, who hails from New Malden and is the only Independent candidate running in the Mayoral Election, was at Upper Norwood Library on Thursday April 19 to lend public support to the campaign to prevent its closure.”
    • Should we abolish the DCMS? – Institute of Economic Affairs. Panel discussion, back in February, of a rightwing think-tank may have set the ball rolling.
“Many of us have been dismayed, though probably not surprised by the failure of the DCMS, in the form of Minister for Ignoring Library Users Ed Vaizey, to intervene when councils have slashed services. That does not mean we would see the abolition of the DCMS as a step forward. A new department with a consciously business ethic, favouring philanthropy over public service, administered by the same Mr Vaizey, might easily be substantially worse, especially if the main reason for the change is to make even deeper cuts. For a very long time library campaigners have argued that there should be some kind of Libraries Development Board, promoting the specific interests of libraries. The track record of the DCMS is poor, but we should be very wary of wholesale closure. The interests of libraries could be even more poorly served.”  Alan Gibbons


Local News

  • Barnet – Dear Stephen Fry – Save Friern Barnet Library Group.   “One of the reasons the closure is a problem, is that they aren’t closing it, they are permanently moving it to a library a considerable distance away which we could only reach by car; or should I say the locals could only reach by car. Countless people visit the gem of our “town” every week to enjoy and embrace the fiction and non- fiction that literally flies within the walls that is its sanctuary, that the council is trying to crush. There is so much more I’d like to tell you but you must be busy, but just remember, that not only the adults fight, but the children do too. I’m only 11 but just like my classmates, we love books, and will do anything to keep our local library, our gem, here and local.”
  • Brent – Anger at Brent Council plans to charge campaigners handing out leaflets – Brent and Kilburn Times.   “Brent Council has been accused of trying to gag campaigners and restrict free speech after it announced plans to ban leafleting around the borough. Instead, anyone who wants to hand out free literature would have to apply for a licence at a cost of £175. The new restrictions would not apply to charities, religious organisations or political parties. But community groups campaigning on local issues would have to apply for a licence.”
    • Outrage as Brent Council plan to charge citizens for free speech – Wembley Matters. ” I wrote in my blog breaking news of the plans that the definition of ‘political purposes’ would be open to interpretation LINK. Campaigns around cuts and libraries etc are ‘political’ but not representing a political party. It now appears that Brent’s interpretation is that exempt activities are those of political parties campaigning at election time.”. 
  • Camden – Country “should follow” Hampstead’s lead as community take over library – Ham & High.    “Lord Hoffman has lived across the road from the library for 32 years and often pops across to borrow a reference book. He said: “If it cannot work in Hampstead, it really isn’t going to work anywhere. It should be an example for community action.””

DCMS may be abolished, worse may come


The London Evening Standard reports that the DCMS may be abolished after the Olympic Games.  There are some in the library campaigning world who see this as a good thing.  One has commented “Why wait for the Olympics?”.  On the face of it, there is much to be said for this view.  The DCMS has hardly set the world alight with its pro-library work.  The experience of many campaigns is that councils do what they want to their libraries and the DCMS may, or may not, talk to them about then may, or may not, talk to library campaigns.  What happens then is that nothing happens or, at best, a letter is sent explaining why nothing has happened.  About the only active thing that the DCMS has done is the Future Libraries programme.  This looked at several ways that public libraries could save money.  Some of its initiatives were interesting.  Most have hardly set the world on fire. Some, may actually be harmful in the long-term.
I should at this point say that I am not criticising the DCMS civil servants themselves.  They have no option over this.  They need to follow the directives of their masters and this means the ideology of the government of the day. Do the work or lose your job, basically.  
No, the problem is with their masters and, oh my, there may be worse to come on that score.  Ladies and gentleman, there are suggestions that the replacement department, possibly called the Department for Business, Creation and Innovation,  could be led by ….. Ed Vaizey.  Oh. My. Goodness.  The minister-technically-for-libraries, known by campaigners as Evaizive or Lazy Vaizey could get promoted.  The man who has done nothing, and made sure nothing is done, over the biggest crisis in public libraries in history, may be rewarded. More ominously, it could also potentially mean £1.6 bn being taken from the Arts and Culture.  It could potentially mean big trouble for the National Museum of Science and Industry, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Tate, the British Museum and – top on at least one hit list – the British Library.  After all, abolition of the department, the Institute of Economic Affairs points out, could cut 2% off corporation tax.
No, the abolition of the DCMS may be the very opposite of a good thing. 


  • Building collections: 300 years of the old libraryNAPLE blog.  “This year Trinity College Library Dublin will mark the tercentenary of the laying of the foundation stone of the Old Library, one of the great libraries of the Western world. The balance and symmetry of the architecture have made the building an icon for the organisation of human thought and expression. Its collections span over a millennium of recorded thought.”
  • Closing down DCMS could save £1.6bn – Institute of Economic Affairs.  
  • Don’t let the philistines destroy London’s arts, David – London Evening Standard.  Arts Council funding cut by 30%.  “And now I fear that Cameron is about to deal yet another blow to the arts by abolishing the DCMS altogether. There are well-sourced rumours in Westminster and the arts world that after the Olympics, the Government will announce that the DCMS is no longer needed.”
  • Internet: don’t need it, can’t afford it – Infoism.  Reasons for people not having the internet are explored: half don’t think its relevant, a third say they can’t afford it. a tenth say lack of skills.
  • Nesta report encourages “creative decommissioning” – Civil Society.  “The report uses eight worldwide case studies to demonstrate how imaginative decommissioning can result in affirmative action. One such case is from the London borough of Tower Hamlets, where underused libraries are being closed and  ‘Idea Stores’ opened in their place. Branded as “a reinvention of what a modern library could be”, these combine the traditional book-lending service with adult learning, after-school activities for children, local information, a café, health services and other cultural activities – all in one location. Despite a reduction in the number of libraries, the replacement Idea Stores are being used more intensely, with a rise in visits from circa 500,000 to two million a year since their introduction.”


Local News

  • Barnet – Interim library to open next weekBarnet Today.  “…announced following a public backlash over the closure of Friern Barnet Library is set to open next week. The interim library, which opens on Tuesday April 24, will be based at artsdepot in Tally Ho Corner, where the council plans to merge North Finchley and Friern Barnet libraries.” … “A council spokesman said the stop-gap library, which will be open for three hours a day, four days a week, will offer around 10,000 items, as well as newspapers, magazines and a study space. Activities for children and young people are also in the pipeline”
  • Camden – First membership cards issued at the new Keats Community Library – Camden New Journal.  “The renamed Hampstead library – housed in a wing of the home of Romantic poet John Keats – was saved by a committee made up of Hampstead-based civic groups and library users. Nearly 370 people – organised into half-day shifts – have volunteered to help run the library. Library director Steven Bobasch said: “We’ve opted to use an electronic system to memorise data, and then stamp books the old fashioned way to keep things simple.” … “It aims to raise at least £250,000 to set up a foundation, and will need to find £80,000 a year to stay open six days a week.” 50 people joined in one morning, aim is 1000.
  • Durham – Campaigners present petition to protect Belmont Library – Northern Echo.  “Yesterday, campaigners from Belmont, Durham City, presented a petition of more than 2,000 signatures to County Hall – making their case outside the building as Labour councillors arrived for a cabinet meeting.  The We Love Belmont Library campaign is fighting a proposal to reduce its opening hours from 43 hours a week to 20.”
  • Gloucestershire – Volunteers stock library shelves – This is Gloucestershire.  “Volunteer librarians are busy cataloguing books in readiness for the launch of the county’s first community library in Painswick. Campaign helpers are adding dust jackets and date labels before stacking bookshelves in the refurbished upper room of the Town Hall, from where the library will operate.”
  • Lancashire – Backs libraries – About My Area.   “The campaign features local library users on eye-catching billboards, phone boxes, and buses, as well as radio adverts. The campaign also features a competition to win a Kobo e-reader , aimed at generating feedback through an on-line survey. The face of the East Lancashire campaign is 17-year old Abida Tasneem, who is a volunteer at Haslingden Library.”
“The campaign builds on a pilot run in West Lancashire in the autumn, which saw the number of new members increase by 35%. In Skelmersdale, where much of the advertising was placed, new members role by a huge 92%. This pilot campaign has now been shortlisted for two national marketing awards.”

“Now here is a challenge to Culture Minister Ed Vaizey. Why not get active and launch a national campaign of advocacy encouraging all councils to follow Lancashire’s example? I am sure Lancashire has its financial pressures and I know there have been some service reductions, but elected representatives do not have to preside over a declining service. Even in these difficult times it is possible to bring the public flocking into our libraries. If we don’t the tendency to decline will be a self fulfilling prophecy.” Alan Gibbons.

  • Northamptonshire – Libraries advertising screens plan advertisedBBC.  Critic says “LSD [sic]screens are very cheap now and can be bought for next to nothing, so why they have authorised £165,000 to be spent on them? “It wasn’t long ago the libraries were facing closure – now it seems the money is being invested in the wrong area.” … but council says “”It will be used to keep library visitors informed with what’s happening at their local library and the wide range of services available, whether it’s a job club, free internet access on a Friday or a Rhymetime session, for example.”

Gloucestershire cuts “called in”.


  • Consortia Conference 2012 – Event taking place on 3rd May in Bath.  Looks at one of the ways that authorities are trying to save money without closing libraries.
  • Libraries workshops: Envisioning the library of the future – Arts Council England.   Your chance to give your views.  ” series of workshops will take place across the country in May this year as part of Envisioning the library of the future, our programme of research and debate. The workshops will allow people to take part in a discussion that will begin to envisage what the library of the future could and should look like. At each event we will present the research into societal trends that is currently taking place as a set of possible scenarios and explore the implications of these scenarios for the delivery of library services in the future. The events will also involve open space discussions about how library services could develop. Delegates will be asked to contribute their views and take an active part in the conversation.”

Local News

  • Gloucestershire – Decision to clear councillors of wrongdoing a “whitewash” says library campaigner – Stroud News & Journal.Cllr Noble, who was at that time tasked with shaping GCC’s library strategy, said: “Wards found to be in the top ten per cent of the country’s multiple deprivation indices were assessed as one of the criterion for evaluating how future library services could be provided. “Mr Holland, a former assistant head of libraries for Gloucestershire said the statement was misleading.”The implication was that information about the needs of the poorest areas in the county was used to inform the library review. In fact, it was not,” he said.”
  • Liberal Democrats “Call-in” GCC’s library strategy – FoGL. “Cllr Hawthorne protests that the call-in is “pure party politics” (just as he did last time!). We would argue that this is deeply hypocritical as he and his colleagues in the cabinet have themselves been so blinkered by party politics that they have repeatedly failed to listen to the wishes of the electorate and have stubbornly continued to bulldoze through these overwhelmingly unpopular and inequitable cuts. This is not about party politics but about the authority’s duty to provide a statutory and important service to the electorate. No one wants to end up back in court.”.  Includes full text of Lib Dem call-in document. 
  • New challenge on library cuts – This is Gloucestershire.   “Plans to cut funding to seven  Gloucestershire libraries have been put on hold after Liberal Democrat councillors challenged the move. sThe party’s group at Shire Hall has invoked the county council’s ‘call-in’ procedure.” … “It will halt the authority’s latest libraries strategy from coming into force until its Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee has reviewed it, possibly at its meeting on May 29.”
“The cabinet has learnt nothing from this and proceeded with some changes to the original plan, but with the fundamental flaws remaining intact. “There appears to be a blatant favouritism with Tories increasing opening times at libraries in their Cotswold heartland, but cutting hours in other parts of the county.”

  • Liverpool – Letters – Liverpool Echo.  I’m afraid we just cannot afford the expense of the mayoral election and the expense of keeping the libraries open as well….I am now 73 years old and joined Lodge Lane library when I was in junior school. Years later I used Kensington library, but now have been a member of Old Swan library for the past 40 years. I’ll have to admit I never ever thought I’d live to see the day when our local libraries would start closing down.”
  • Northamptonshire – Libraries to open on Sundays – BBC.  ” “We want to make sure that libraries thrive and everyone has the chance to use them. By opening on Sundays we are giving people even more opportunity to visit, especially those who are at work at other times.” I am now 73 years old and joined Lodge Lane library when I was in junior school. Years later I used Kensington library, but now have been a member of Old Swan library for the past 40 years. I’ll have to admit I never ever thought I’d live to see the day when our local libraries would start closing down.
    • Plans to spend £165,000 on signs for Northamptonshire libraries criticised – Northampton Chronicle.  “Northamptonshire County Council has revealed plans to spend the six-figure sum on signs at the county’s 35 libraries. The council said they will be used to “keep readers informed of what is going on at the libraries” … ““We are looking for a company to supply, install and maintain electronic signs in 35 libraries for the next five years.“This is part of our work to make libraries fit for the future and will be used to keep library visitors informed with what’s happening at their local library and the wide range of services available, whether it’s a job club, free internet access on a Friday or a Rhymetime session, for example.” … comments include a request that money is spent stopping one library’s leaking roof, or  another library’s inadequate heating system.
  • North Yorkshire – New deal secures Kirkbymoorside library’s hours – Gazette & Herald.   “…as part of a partnership arrangement between the town council, North Yorkshire County Council and Ryedale District Council. The councils have agreed to pool staff from June 1 so that current library opening hours will be sustained, despite savings that have to be made.”

Burning books and arguing against libraries: two great tactics?


  • Age, disability and the digital divide – Infoism.  “It is, of course, the higher earners who presume that everyone has the internet, based purely on the fact that all their peers have.  Perhaps if they looked beyond their circle they will see that many of those lower down the pay scale not only do not have internet at home, but also have never even accessed the internet.”
  • Book burning party – Book Burning Party (USA).  An upbeat guide to the controversial campaigning tactic to keep the library open in Troy, Michigan.  Controversial because it made people angry and children actually break down weeping.  On the other hand, it got people talking and apparently tripled the vote.
  • Library of the year nominations – BookSeller. Nominations are: Edinburgh City Libraries/City of Edinburgh Libraries and Information Services, Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library/Norfolk County Library Service, Orkney Library & Archive/Orkney Library & Archive, Stockton Central/Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, Wotton Fields Library, Northampton/Tribal Group PLC.  None of these were deemed worthy of appearing at the Future of Library Services conference.
  • Why I’m going to Harvard to argue that libraries are obsolete and why you should help me do it – Virtual Dave (USA).   Another interesting American post, using debating as means to sharpen up campaigning arguments.

Local News

  • Barnet – People’s protest – Save Friern Barnet Library Group.  “The Save FBL Group remains angry and disbelieving of the actions of Barnet Council. We have now learned that between July 2011 and February 29th 2012 (the day of the Scrutiny Meeting) no meetings at all took place between Barnet Council and artsdepot to discuss a landmark library. We have also learned that Barnet Council, who insisted that the Save FBL Group proposal must cost a maximum of £10,000 per year, will be giving the Hampstead Garden Suburb Volunteer Library £25,500 this year alone. This once again demonstrates the continuing contempt shown to our community.”
  • Calderdale – Reduced library opening hours criticised – Todmorden News.  “At last week’s town meeting, Todmorden town councillor Frank McManus moved a motion calling on Calderdale Council to restore the recent cuts. Fellow town councillors agreed that the reduced opening times were regrettable.”
  • Croydon/Lambeth – Upper Norwood Library latestvia Alan Gibbons.  A list of the great amount going on to help save one of the best libraries in London.
  • Gloucestershire – Councillor Noble is let off misconduct charge: again – FoGL.   “County Councillor Noble led a review of libraries, which, in my view, misled councillors and the public, and was declared illegal in court and cost the people of Gloucestershire hundreds of thousands of pounds. The council is apparently happy to sit on its hands rather than admit it was a huge error-strewn blunder. I call this decision a whitewash.”
“GCC LOST a judicial review as they failed to consider, and mitigate, the impact on the vulnerable, yet still they fail to take any blame or any responsibility for their failings. GCC had “no comment” because their conduct and processes are impossible to defend. They know that no one will hold them to account though isn’t that right Mr Vaizey and Mr Hunt, LGO and DCMS?”

  • Councillor cleared of misconduct in libraries review – This is Gloucestershire.   “Councillor Antonia Noble, former cabinet member for library services, led a scheme to axe 10 county libraries which was quashed in November when a High Court judicial review found the authority did not consult vulnerable users. Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries (FOGL) member John Holland launched a formal complaint in June last year, claiming councillor Noble had misled people by implying the impact of planned closures in the county’s most deprived areas had been taken into account. At a council standards committee meeting last week, members found she had not intended to mislead anyone and that her words had been open to “misinterpretation”.”
  • Oxfordshire – Distant Thunder – Tim Griggs (press release).  Tim Griggs will be “speaking at Oxford City Library at 1.00 PM on World Book Day, Monday 23 April. He will be talking about the parallels between today’s world and the late Victorian era evoked by his novel. ‘Both were dominated by empires still huge but teetering on the edge of collapse,’ he says, ‘both were paranoid about external threats, particularly those with religious links. Both were riven by internal dissent.”
  • Worcestershire – Have your say on Kidderminster Library plans – Shuttle. “Plans could see the art space and Steinway grand piano moved to the library’s first and ground floors to make way for offices housing 90 desks and 139 staff from adult and social care and children’s services.”

Cuts in Stoke and Worcestershire, QR codes in Bournemouth

  • Favourite stories about libraries and librarians – Reading Rockets.  “Meet Tomás who is introduced to the world of books by the local librarian during harvest season, ‘that book woman’ who delivers stories by horseback to children in the Appalachian hills, and a lion who one day decides to walk right into the library. These books will remind you of the many reasons why our libraries — in all their forms — are such special places.”
  • Libraries lobby, by Amber and Poppy Ash – MyVoice.  Two teenagers report on the Speak Up for Libraries day, including talking to an MP or two.  Excellent summary of the day.  “The one thing that all of the people attending had in common was that they valued their local libraries, libraries in general and the benefits they can bring for those who can’t afford books and those who just love to read or need access to information and learning.”

Local News
  • Barnet – Hundreds of book lovers show support for pop-up library in Friern Barnet – Times series.  “Crowds gathered to show their support for the People’s Library where they could chose from an array of 1,000 donated books and enjoy a selection of tea and cake.” Picture shows large crowd.  “Mr Tichborne has pledged to keep the People’s Library running if the council allows him to pay £500 peppercorn rent to hold it at Friern Barnet Library.”
  • Bournemouth – Quick response codes to appear across Bournemouth – Daily Echo.   “Quick response codes will soon be popping up at libraries and museums across Bournemouth enabling smartphone users to get more information at the touch of a button. Bournemouth’s library services is one of only 13 successful bids to the arts council, securing £10,000 of funding to launch the technology at points of interest around the town.”
  • Brent – Campaigners open pop up library as a temporary replacement to Barham Park Library – Harrow Times.  “We were all devastated when the library was closed and we feel that the council have turned their backs on us about the situation. The younger generation are the losers in all this, because reading is so important to their education. In the meantime, we hope that this temporary library will help keep community spirit alive, because it’s such a shame to have lost such an integral part of our community after 60 years.”
  • Northamptonshire – Community library in Northampton is alive and well after survival – Northampton Chronicle.  “A community library [NB. this is “community” in the original local and counci-run sense of the term]  once under threat of closure, proved it is still thriving at a celebration day for the young and old. The now safe Abington Library, on Lindsay Avenue, is one of 34 Northamptonshire County Council libraries to open on Sundays from this weekend between 1pm and 4pm, while the Central Library in Northampton will open from 11am to 4pm.”
  • Stoke on Trent – City library opening hours to be cut in bid to save council £100k – This is Staffordshire.  30 hours per week cut (from Bentilee, Longton, Meir, Tunstall, Stoke, Trentham and Hanley libraries) with £100k taken from budget and five job losses.  “East Bentilee Residents’ Association chairman Alan Joinson, aged 64, of Chelmsford Drive, Bentilee, said: “It’s going to make it harder for people to get to the library for books, especially if they are working. Every time I walk past the library there are always people in there and it seems well used. I don’t think they should be making cuts to things like libraries, which are a source of information and education.”
  • Surrey – Trust “frustrated” over High Court ruling as library saga rolls on – This is Sussex.  “Lingfield Library trustee John Cole has written to Surrey County Council asking to have the trust transferred to the trustees. They want to stop the council including Lingfield in its plans because they would rather run it themselves, keeping the two staff members employed.”
  • Worcestershire – Council staff could move into Kidderminster Library gallery space – Shuttle.  “Kidderminster Library’s gallery and piano could make way for Worcestershire County Council offices and staff despite being funded by a National Lottery art grant. The council is consulting until Tuesday, May 1, on a change of use to the building’s second floor, which would see 90 desks and 139 staff from adult and social care and children’s services moving in.” … ““We either make libraries like Kidderminster pay their fair share or close smaller libraries like Bewdley, which I am not going to do” says cabinet member.”.  Some very negative comments question wisdom of moving a loud grand piano more into the library and the apparent failure to uphold the terms of the grant.

The future has already been written: the Future of Library Services Conference

The line-up for the Future of Library Services conference has been announced. This is the one that Ed Vaizey speaks at and can be seen as an indicator of the way the wind is blowing. Much can be learnt even from the names of the speakers that are attending.  First off, what strikes one is that almost all are from Conservative councils, with the one exception being a Liberal Democrat. There is therefore, one suspects, not going to be a diverse group of views. Secondly, the councils listed are top-heavy with those who are implementing, or have already implemented, the use of the unpaid (volunteers/community groups) directly replacing library staff.  One  council involved is moving towards privatising its service while another is looking at transferring control to a non-profit organisation.  All, of course, are facing severe cuts in budget.  Now for the detail:
The future of library services will, therefore, largely be presented as a mixture of privatisation, closure and volunteers due to historically large budget reductions.  It is unlikely that dissenting voices will be heard.  It is also unlikely that facts which show the consequences of forcing branches out of council control will be seen, such as this chart:
Lewisham – What happens when branches are taken out of council control. These figures are for items loaned from five now non-council libraries over the last twelve months.   They have halved and have stayed roughly the same since.  The worst performing of these is Blackheath, which had been given to Age Exchange with a sweetener of  £200,000, but has seen its usage fall from nearly 4000 per month last year to 354 in March. 


  • Disgruntled library patron ready for court – Journal Sentinel (USA). “The library makes no apology for going in search of AWOL books. Last year, 111 of its customers wound up in court for that. “The goal is not to be harassing people,” city attorney Eberhardy said. “The goal is to recover the materials or the money for the materials.”
  • Future of library servicesNeil Stewart Associates. “Chief Librarians and Councillors have a tough job ahead in ensuring that the delivery of library services is innovative and forward thinking. Local communities are well rehearsed in the benefits of library services, including improved literacy, inclusion and job search but services remain underused. This 7th national conference will bring together senior-level library and information management professionals from local authorities and the wider cultural sector in order to discuss emerging policy issues and share best practice from across the country.”
  • Keep on borrowing: libraries refuse to die – Independent.  Looks at the pop-up library at Friern Barnet, whose end by the council was “brutal and swift”.  ” In scenes reminiscent of the Occupy movement, they have set up their own library”. Localism Act enabling councils to close branches but popular resistance is meaning numbers closed is a lot less than initially feared.  
  • NYPL embraces the future of libraries today – Huffington Post (USA).  President of the New York Public Library describes and explains the planned changes to the library.
  • Outdoor libraries set up after branch closings – Livingston (USA).  “Students from a Detroit school and the University of Michigan are setting up six outdoor libraries in the city following recent library branch closings.”
“It broke my heart to hear about the library closings, which are such a vital part of every community,” Manos said. “Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved visiting the library. I always regarded it as a sacred space and I think it would be a shame to deny any children the opportunity to read.”

  • Snoopers shut my library – Independent (Boyd Tonkin).  “Barnet Council, Tory-run and dismissive of a Labour-majority ward, behaved with stubborn arrogance. It has done next to nothing to back its claim that a new library within a local arts centre would replace the branch: a mere “temporary facility” is promised. Protestors feel “deceived, manipulated and mistreated”. 
  • Students: how do you behave in the library? – Guardian.   “A classmate once sat down next to me, produced several tupperware containers filled with hot food from his backpack, cracked open a can of energy drink and began to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey on his laptop.”
  • Timbuktu librarians protect manuscripts from rebelsReuters (Mali).   “…the gun-toting fighters did not enter the rooms and underground vaults where the priceless texts were stored at the library’s new South African-funded building.  “The new building was defended by the public … they stood in front of the gates,” Jeppie said, repeating accounts given to him.”
  • Why libraries matter more than ever – Local 10 (USA).   “I believe questioning the need for libraries and the professionals who staff them is like questioning the need for the air that we breathe. We need air to survive, just as we need libraries not just to survive but to thrive in an era filled with economic uncertainty, technological illiteracy and information overload. Technology continues to shape commerce, education and social interactions, in our global world. Libraries, which provide equitable access for all, play a key role in leveling the playing field in our communities.”


Local news

  • Barnet – Pop-up library protest over Friern Barnet closure – BBC.  campaigners claim the consultation was “deeply flawed” and 3,000 local residents opposed it. Also, the construction of the new building has not yet started.”
  • Bath and Northeast Somerset – Libraries do battle – This is Bath. “B&NES Council had originally proposed axing the mobile library entirely, but the plan was halted following a campaign by residents, parish councils and opposition Tories. Conservatives are now calling on the Liberal Democrat cabinet, which met to discuss the issue last night, not to rush into any final decision until a consultation has taken place on specific proposals for a revised timetable.”
  • Brent – Latest update from the campaign – Save Kensal Rise Library.   All Souls College would be happy to pass on building to campaigners but Council has refused this.  Campaigners have met with DCMS (who took notes and promised nothing) to provide information.  Pop Up library doing well.  
    • DCMS finally meets with campaigners … after almost a year – Preston Library Campaign.   Including the written submission.
    • All Souls College, Oxford support plan to save Kensal Rise Library – Save Kensal Rise Library.  Letter from college clearly shows they support campaigners but “We have received the impression that the Council is not keen that the proposal is taken forward”.
    • Mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone vows to help reopen Cricklewood Library – Brent and Kilburn Times.   “Mr Livingstone has told the Times that he will work with All Souls College, who own the building in Olive Road, to find a solution that will see the doors opened up as a library again. The Labour candidate, who lives around the corner from the axed branch in Ivy Road, had previously kept tight-lipped about the saga [Brent is Labour controlled], but finally spoke out during a visit to Willesden this morning (Friday).”
    • Friends of Barham Library to open “pop up” reading room in Wembley – Times series.   “Cllr Lorber, leader of Brent Liberal Democrats, said: “We are delighted that we have been able to show the council that we are able to still run a community service, for the people.“We have asked on many  occasions to return to the old library building but our requests were denied. “It is fantastic that we can now offer a local service for the people who had it taken away from them.”The resource centre was opened on May 31, 1952, and would be celebrating its Diamond Jubilee this year.”
    • Flood of books pour into Cricklewood “pop-up” library after thieves strike – Brent & Kilburn Times.   “Campaigners at Cricklewood Library, in Olive Road, were stunned as a case of books was thought to be stolen. Furious campaigners, shocked at the apparent theft, put up a sign outside the library reading ‘shame on whoever stole the books’. However, the incident threw up some unlikely cheer when the box was returned days later, with the message ‘we are sorry we took the box of books, we are donating some more of our own’ written across it.”
  • Hammersmith & Fulham – Residents’ satisfaction rises – SW Londoner.  Over 32% declared themselves ‘very satisfied’ with the local library service – more than any other public service in the borough. “Most people are very happy with libraries in the borough,” said Richard Grant, Customer Service Team Leader for Hammersmith and Fulham libraries. “The council has done a very good job in preserving and promoting library facilities.”
  • North Somerset – Library jobs pledge as £347,000 savings sought – This is Bristol.  “Almost 2,000 people responded to a consultation document drawn up by the authority. As part of the changes, due to come into effect in September, self-service terminals will be installed at a number of libraries by the summer and volunteers recruited to help support the service.”
  • Northern Ireland – Doors close at Moy Library for final time – Tyrone Times. “Members of the public, along with politicians and school children, had campaigned strongly to keep the library open, with the principal of St John’s PS in the village describing the final decision as “short sightedness”. However, on Saturday, March 31, the library closed permanently, with Libraries NI announcing arrangements for alternative provision in the area.”
  • Richmond – Bucks national trend by extending library opening hours – SW Londoner.   “an all-in-one survey revealed libraries were highly valued by the vast majority of Richmond residents. From the 18th April, Whitton, East Sheen, Teddington and Twickenham libraries will open on Mondays, and Castelnau Library will operate for an additional 20 hours per week. Despite national closures Richmond has kept every library open, thanks largely to a process of restructuring and re-designation of resources.” … ” “Richmond libraries saw a very high usage from children and the elderly, but hopes increased opening hours will attract more 30-50-year-olds.””
  • Surrey – Libraries limbo continues as High Court battle rages on – This is Surrey Today.   Volunteers who want to run Tattenhams Library are unhappy that they are being forced to wait until legal action ends before they take over from paid staff.  “This library can be so much more. We will have coffee mornings, reading groups, a knitting group. People have all sorts of ideas of what we can do.”