Fire sales, trusts and irony

Editorial

Central Government is allowing councils to sell assets directly in order to maintain services. Normally, it would only be able to do this for new initiatives. While of course the Government has doubtless far more nobler ideals for this than simply keeping spending and thus taxes down before the General Election, CILIP has warned it could result in a fire sale of buildings, including libraries, which could have costly consequences further down the line.

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One similar attempt to save money, by passing the services to another organisation to manage, have been reversed in a couple of cases just this week. Two library services which were transferred to leisure trusts have returned to their parent council, in at least one case permanently. Warrington has reportedly spent £5m in the full return of Livewire back in to the council and Merthyr Tydfil have brought back Wellbeing Merthyr in-house. In that latter case, they’re looking for a new organisation to take it over. One hopes they settle the strike over pay there first.

All of this, sometimes counterproductive, scrabbling for finance is part of why Irish libraries have started holding their nose while looking at their larger neighbour. John Dolan, who managed Birmingham Libraries back before the Coalition Government, can’t help but see the irony of this. He has emailed with the following, on which I will end this post:

“You may know that one of my earliest and biggest projects as a freelance libraries consultant was indeed in Ireland. In 2012 as a consequence of the 2008 financial crisis, the government abolished the Library Council of Ireland. They retained five staff and took them into the Local Government Management Agency. Some are still in the team.

They contacted me initially to help with a “review” of the state of libraries – somewhat threatening. They then realised there was more mileage in creating a forward development/action plan. I worked with them for almost two years. They were an amazing group to work with, not to mention all the County Librarians and the many staff and user groups all over the country who were engaged in a massive programme of consultation and ideas sharing. We turned the thinking round. The result was a five year Government-backed plan with a ministerial launch. I’m grateful to be credited in the acknowledgments.

The point is that they have kept the momentum and the strategy and are now on the third such plan which supports a nationwide, consistent, coherent, centrally directed, locally delivered library service. This, as you know, is something we’ve never managed in England in spite of several reviews, plans and so on. “

John Dolan

Changes by local authority

National news

  • The 12th Century Library Thief Who Anticipated Today’s Hackers – Time. “Richard the Lionheart (Richard I) was the king of England at the end of the 12th century. He was also a famous library thief.”. French King made mistake of bringing his government archive to war: “When Phillip lost the battle, Richard absconded with the French archive and transported the French crown’s documents to the Tower of London.” … “From then on, the archive stayed put in Paris”

“The British Library ransomware attack invites us to remember that our most beloved textual collections are not, and never have been, above the fray of politics, power structures, and capitalism.”

Time
  • CILIP sounds alarm over ‘fire sale’ of library buildings – Bookseller. “The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), has sounded the alarm over a potential “fire sale” of library buildings following the government announcement of “exceptional financial support” to 19 councils, including Birmingham, Bradford and Nottingham. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has announced that 19 councils in England will benefit from an “Exceptional Financial Support (EFS)” framework for the fiscal year 2024-25, totalling around £1.5bn. CILIP said: “Rather than representing new investment or capital support, the framework allows the councils involved to use capital receipts from the sale of assets or borrowing to cover their day-to-day costs up to this amount.”
  • Gen Z may love reading, but that won’t save the UK’s struggling libraries – City AM. “any of the things that make libraries so valued have to be sacrificed: opening hours are reduced, the professional expertise of librarians is replaced with volunteers and, perhaps most devastating for our Gen Z aesthetes, beautiful buildings must be sold. In Norfolk, for example, recent news over the relocation of the King’s Lynn central library from its Gothic-style red-brick home to a former Argos in the city centre – where surely no self-respecting Gen Z intellectual would be caught dead – has caused public outcry”
  • Nationwide bedtime routines enhanced as CBeebies Bedtime Stories digital library is created – BBC. “CBeebies Bedtime Stories has launched a new partnership with BookTrust to deliver unique reading corners in libraries across the UK. The partnership launches today with Strictly Come Dancing Star Carlos Gu swapping the glittering Tower Ballroom for the cosy confines of Blackpool Central Library, to perform a live reading in an event hosted by CBeebies House favourites … Across the UK, the partnership will introduce more CBeebies Bedtime Stories legacy reading corners and BookTrust Storytime engagement at libraries in Leeds, Hartlepool, Sandwell, Leicester, Brent and Somerset.”

“I very much hope that people will take up offers at public libraries. An Age Concern report looked at digital availability for the over-70s and found that people who went to the library were far more able to get online. I thank Lloyds Bank, which is bringing its online training to Barnstaple library; anyone who would like to join should contact my office.” Digital Exclusion debate, Westminster Hall, Parliament

Selaine Saxby Conservative, North Devon
  • Public Libraries 2023: Netloan Customer Survey Results – Lorensbergs. “Almost 80% are seeing increases in support needs for employment related queries, benefit applications, other government services, or basic digital skills” … “Nearly 40% of libraries are seeing increased in-person activity driven by factors beyond general post-Covid recovery” … “Average PC session time offered to adult library users is 120 minutes. ” … “95% of libraries felt printing was essential or very important for meeting users’ needs;”

“only a quarter felt councils are regularly thinking ‘Libraries First’ for digital access and skills development. Yet nearly 80% report helping customers sent to them by numerous departments for this purpose”

Public Libraries 2023: Netloan Customer Survey Results
  • Why public libraries are essential – Scottish Booktrust. “Scottish Book Trust programmes come to life when they are delivered by enthusiastic, skilled people across Scotland and many of those people work in libraries. Read on to find out about just some of the ways that Scottish Book Trust team has the privilege of supporting public libraries across Scotland. “

International news

  • Canada – CBC Report: “1 Million Books and 4 Months Later, Toronto’s Library Recovers From a Cyberattack” – Library Journal. “In the case of the Toronto Public Library, victims include the employees themselves. Cybercriminals not only encrypted library files, but stole employee data, including social insurance numbers, home addresses and copies of government-issued identification documents that they’d provided to their employer. The library is still investigating the full extent of the data breach, including whether any customer, donor or volunteer information was taken.”
  • China – Rural libraries open exciting chapter for children – China Daily. “a new place to spend their winter vacation — a library in a karst cave built by a local charity group. Located in Banwan village and blending in with the surrounding landscape, the library became a must-visit place for tourists ”
    • Snohetta opens the Beijing City Library, containing the world’s largest climatized reading space – Arch Daily. Sixteen images. “At its center, a 16-meter-tall forum welcomes visitors and serves as the main circulation artery within the building. Surrounded by curved stepped terraces, the forum mirrors the landscape of the nearby Tonghui River. The terraces serve as an informal zone for relaxing, talking, or reading while staying connected to the larger space. Smaller semi-private reading areas are embedded into the ‘hills.’”
  • France – Atelier WOA creates long timber-framed library in France – De Zeen. “Large wooden beams frame the interiors of L’échappée, a multimedia library in France designed by local practice Atelier WOA as an alternative to “institutional and cold” public buildings. Occupying a long narrow site in Herblay sur Seine, L’échappée – meaning “escapade” in English – faces a road to the north with a stone and glass facade and opens up to a field to the south with a large wooden colonnade.”. Design ” aligns with the French government sustainability law to ensure all new public buildings are built from at least 50 per cent timber or other natural materials.”
  • India – How Noida’s Public libraries are providing a haven for competitive exam aspirants – Hindustan Times. “As a new, swanky public library opened in Noida earlier this month, the staffers expected some fiction-loving bibliomaniacs to be one of the first visitors at the place. However, a group of five adolescents looking to refer to books about quantitative aptitude and calculus walked in and made themselves comfortable.”
  • Libraries (Yes, Libraries) Are Leading the Crusade for New Music Discovery – Spin. “In an age where small clubs have dwindled and our digitized culture keeps us plugged in and inside, it’s near impossible to discover new, local, independent musicians. But libraries–one of the last bastions of community connectivity–are taking on this culturally essential task, creating opportunities for independent musicians, and introducing us to the next “big” thing.”
  • Meet the Boston Public Library’s chef in residence – Axios Boston. “The Boston Public Library launched a chef-in-residence program to help locals learn how to make nutritious, simple meals without straying from their cultural traditions. Why it matters: Glorya Fernandez, the chef-in-residence, isn’t an award-winning chef from an elite culinary school, but a master in making cooking accessible for Bostonians. Driving the news: Fernandez started her one-year residency this month in the BPL’s Nutrition Lab.”
    • The Week in Libraries: March 1, 2024 – Publishers Weekly. Censorship – “this legislator introduced a bill to stop ALA from giving money to local libraries to buy books because he doesn’t like the books”” – ” “Will [libraries] become arms of the state, only communicating those messages that a political actor believes is appropriate?” ; legal moves to make eBooks cheaper and more available; popular librarian quits after online bullying.
    • Why David Byrne believes libraries are vital for thriving arts – Far Out. “While discussions often revolve around the preservation of music venues, cinemas, and other artistic spaces, Byrne emphasises the crucial role that libraries play in fostering creativity, knowledge, and community engagement. Libraries serve as hubs for learning, exploration, and cultural exchange, making them essential assets that deserve support and protection.”

Local news by authority

Croydon: “Councillor Andy Stranack explaining to children why he is proposing to close their library”
  • East Dunbartonshire – Libraries to host climate themed events throughout March as part of “Shelf Life” initiative – East Dunbartonshire Council. “Funded by the Scottish Library & Information Council (SLIC) which secured climate engagement funding from the Scottish Government, the Shelf Life initiative aims to raise aware of issues such as recycling, sustainability and climate change. Events will include workshops that support upcycling, repair and traditional skills, and author and artist events featuring climate-themed texts to generate engaging conversation. “
  • East Riding – Bridlington and ER Libraries to launch Little Readers scheme for pre-school children – Bridlington Echo. “From Friday, 1 March,  parents can collect a free passport and bookmark for pre-school children and meet the gorgeous new character Hoot, the owl who loves to read. Parents will be able to use their passport to collect a special Hoot stamp each time they visit the library and get a super certificate for every five stamps; there are ten different designs to collect.”
  • Hampshire – Young Reporter: Libraries face potential budget cuts by Saba Ghandi – Hampshire Chronicle. “From March 31, 2024, the council is planning to reduce physical stock by 22 per cent and digital stock by 67 per cent.” … “As the decrease in physical stock will mainly be targeted at replacing hardback covers with paperback covers, the rapid decrease in digital stock might be something to worry about. Since the pandemic, the rate of digital library usage has more than doubled according to the council. “
  • Hillingdon – Labour ‘still committed to halting Uxbridge Library move’ – Hillingdon and Uxbridge Times. “The move, from the High Street, was endorsed on Thursday (22) at the budget meeting when spending plans and council tax level were announced by the ruling Conservative group. Labour had been supporting a petition to oppose the library’s relocation. Conservatives say the opposition group had failed to identify an additional £400,000 running cost for the present building.”
  • Lancashire – Crowdfund appeal for Lancaster children’s library – Lancaster Guardian. “On the crowdfunding page it says: “We aim to create a more attractive and friendly space which will attract more young children to use the wide range of resources and support on offer. “We need to purchase materials, revise and finalise draft sketches and create and hang the completed artwork.” If the bid is successful the County Council will matchfund the library’s contribution. If you would like to help crowdfund this project (minimum pledge is £2) visit https://www.spacehive.com/renovatelancasterchildrenslibrary” £642 pledged in 3 weeks of £1586 asked for.
  • Lewisham – Grove Park Library users ‘very pleased’ with new space after months of closure – Yahoo. “The library was shut last summer after the previous leaseholder issued notice to end the lease period. Following the closure, which lasted for several months, the library reopened at the beginning of 2024, managed day to day by Lewisham Council’s new community partner S&B Childcare. The library is also celebrating its 70th anniversary since first opening in 1953.”
  • Merthyr Tydfil – Library and leisure centre staff to strike over ‘decade-old’ failure to honour pay rise – Morning Star. “Union members at Merthyr Leisure Trust say they have long been owed a pay uplift of about £1 an hour, in line with local government staff. The ballot result comes after the council announced plans on its Facebook page to offload the leisure trust to a private provider without any consultation on Tuesday evening.”
    • Leisure and cultural services in Merthyr Tydfil set to return to council control – Merthry Tydfil Herald. ” the council said it has agreed to work with Wellbeing Merthyr (formerly Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Trust) on a managed end of the existing contract for the county borough’s leisure and cultural services by March 31, 2024, which will see facilities return to the council. The statement said due to the end of the current arrangement with Wellbeing Merthyr and the council being proactive in the need to safeguard leisure services, in January it said it had no choice but to find an alternative provider to manage the newly-refurbished Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Centre for an interim period.”
  • North Tyneside – Pupils to be taught in library while school shut – BBC. “North Tyneside Council has closed Wideopen Library to accommodate two classes from Hazlewood Community Primary School.” … “The council’s mobile library will be visiting the Wideopen site every Tuesday and Thursday during normal opening times.” [“Wideopen Library is closed”??? – Ed.]
  • North Yorkshire – Families invited to join local libraries in celebrating British Science Week – Richmondshire Today. “Space-themed quizzes, treasure hunts and a date with the popular code-a-pillar are among the events”
  • Nottingham – Call for ‘no-strings’ support for ‘bankrupt’ Nottingham City Council – BBC. Group visits Downing Street asking for money to save the council. Cuts ot services, including libraries, blamed on central government funding cuts.
  • Wollaton LIbrary to re-open after refurbishment as students lend a hand – Nottingham Council. “Wollaton Library will reopen to the public on Monday (4 March) following its closure for essential maintenance work. During this time, Nottingham City Council’s library service worked with Nottingham College lecturers and students to repaint the building and replace the shelving, repurposing some previously used at the old Central Library.”
  • Perth and Kinross – ‘Save Birnam library’ campaigners stage protest against council cuts – Courier. “Around 100 people staged a protest outside Birnam library as Perth and Kinross councillors prepare to set next year’s budget” … “Councillors set aside £173,000 last year to keep the libraries in Alyth, Auchterarder, Birnam, Comrie, North Inch (Perth) and Pitlochry open. However, they also allocated £150,000 for a council-wide review of its leisure and cultural assets. And the outcome of that study included a shake-up of library provision.”
  • Richmond – Charitable cost of living events in Richmond – SW Londoner. “The events, which in the past have been attended by up to 40-50 people, include clothes swapping, or ‘swishing,’ handicraft sessions such as quilting and flower printing, yoga, as well as finance and mindfulness workshops. They are being held in libraries across Richmond, Twickenham and Teddington to not only encourage the use of libraries but a sense of community and education with hot drinks and snacks provided.”
  • Somerset – Somerton Library celebrates five years of being volunteer-led – BBC. “In a statement, Somerset Council said: “We work closely with a range of community library partners to deliver 13 of our 32 statutory libraries in their communities, most of which have paid and trained staff working alongside dedicated local volunteers. “They enable additional opening hours, activities and events, as well as helping to raise funding for their local library.”

Different stories: UK, Ireland and the USA

Editorial

CILIP have produced a “Public Libraries At Risk” monitor due to the number of cuts happening, or likely to happen, to British libraries in the current local government funding crisis. I remember doing the same thing back more than a decade ago. Back then, CILIP were remarkably quiet over library cuts, due to a belief that it was more productive to work behind the scenes. Clearly, the time since 2010 has changed viewpoints. I wonder if 2024 will change governments.

There’s probably no shortage of places to map. This week, Kirklees stands out. It had already changed a lot of its libraries to volunteer-run to save money, but with council funding support. Now, with more cuts planned, the council is looking at withdrawing that money as well. The other place getting a lot of coverage is York where the council had already changed its to libraries to a trust model to save money. Now, with more cuts planned, the council is looking to withdraw £300k per year from it. Hmm, bit of deja vu there and suggestive that ongoing cuts, unless they are stopped, will necessarily have no end regardless of short term solutions. But, interestingly, one of the major reasons Kirklees and York are getting so much publicity is because of the semi-independence they were granted in the last round of cuts. York Explore has a vested interest in standing up for its funding, as do the Kirklees volunteer groups. And both are allowed to do so. If they were purely council run, it would be a different story.

A very different story too in Ireland, where our neighbours are running a national pro-libraries campaign and looking across the water with horror, and possibly some schadenfreude, at that is happening in the UK. They have a “superb” library service there, no cuts, no fines even. And just so the British don’t feel terrible, I should mention things can be worse. In the USA, there are continuing moves to criminalise librarians personally for their book choices. At least York Explore and Kirklees volunteers are unlikely to go to prison …

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Celebrate The Very Hungry Caterpillar this Spring – Reading Agency. Chance to win some free books.
  • Libraries as a Gateway to Forging Your Own Path: Jane Austen, Murder Mysteries, and Me – Publishers Weekly. “Austen’s surviving letters are full of references to circulating libraries (commercial enterprises where books were circulated among members, as opposed to private libraries where they remain in situ) and book societies (groups of individuals who would club together to purchase reading materials and then share them among themselves). It is sobering to think that without access to libraries, the life of our greatest ever novelist might have taken a different path.”
  • Library Cyber Defences Are Falling Down – Dark Reading. “The massive ransomware attack on the British Library last October should be ringing alarm bells for knowledge repositories around the world.” … “The reliance on technology for online activities, digital exhibitions, and interactive experiences using wireless networks has democratized access to knowledge and opened new avenues for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities.”
  • New law is required to protect public libraries from future cuts – Glasgow Times. One in five Scottish libraries have closed since 2010. “The actual number of library closures is likely to be higher because the recent trend is to describe the closure of a purpose-built public library as a “co-relocation”.” … “n terms of section 163(2) of the 1973 Local Government (Scotland) Act, a local authority has a mandatory duty “to secure the provision of adequate library facilities for all persons resident in their area”. Such facilities must be free under the 1887 Public Libraries Consolidation (Scotland) Act. The concept of “adequate library facilities” isn’t legally defined, so councils have a wide discretion to decide what library provision is required locally. I believe the time has come to introduce more modern legislation to make it harder to close public libraries.”
  • Public Libraries at Risk Monitor – CILIP. “The Libraries at Risk Monitor provides a resource for the sector and beyond to keep track of proposed budget changes in local authorities that will impact libraries across the UK and Northern Ireland. Scroll over a county on the interactive map to see where libraries are at risk of funding cuts that will reduce services and service provision, and where CILIP has been in touch with the local authority about the threat of closure.”
  • Tracking Information Literacy Undercurrents in Public Libraries – Infolit. “these three projects all highlight issues of intangibility within information literacy as a discipline, which become particularly visible when the issues they address come up against the very pragmatic and rigorously hands-on nature of public libraries. “

International news

  • Germany / South Korea / USA – Staircases to Stories: Exploring the Vertical Designs of Modern Libraries – Princh. “Some of the best libraries in the world feature modern designs where thousands upon thousands of books are displayed on towering shelves or multiple floors for the public to enjoy. These contemporary libraries with vertical designs are truly worth a visit, so drop by any of these places and be amazed by these sanctuaries for book lovers.”
  • Ireland – Public libraries are a vital resource – Irish Times / Letters. “As news comes from across the water that Birmingham City Council is planning to close down 25 of its 36 libraries, it is worth celebrating at least one thing that Irish society is certainly getting right. Our public library system is superb: new and refurbished libraries regularly open (such as, shortly, the Mayfair Library in the centre of Kilkenny) and the free online ordering system is a marvel.”
Los Angeles – Did you know you can check out a musical instrument at many public libraries? From laptops, to e-books, museum passes and more– the library is so much more than books these days. Good Day LA’s Brooke Thomas spent a day at LA Central Library for a refresher on what you can borrow for free.
  • Shall we criminalize libraries? – Free Thought Blogs. “Those nefarious librarians are probably plotting to commit evil acts like stocking children’s books that present sexuality in an informative and non-threatening way, and maybe they’ll even bring in people wearing women’s clothing to entertain kids and encourage reading. It’s all part of their wicked plan.”
    • West Virginia House passes bill allowing prosecution of librarians – News and Sentinel. Supporters say “What this bill does do is stop obscene and pornographic material, sexually explicit materials from being available to children in public taxpayer-funded spaces.” but opponents point out there is no definition of “obscene”.

Local news by authority

  • Argyll and Bute – Community library offers amnesty – Lochside Press. “Housed upstairs in Cove Burgh Hall, the library was previously run by Argyll and Bute Council until it was axed during cuts in 2010 – despite an earlier promise to keep it open when another group of volunteers took over the hall itself. The library in Rosneath has never reopened after Covid-19 lockdowns, meaning the nearest taxpayer-funded library is 18 miles away in Helensburgh.”
  • Birmingham – The battle to save Birmingham’s libraries as campaigners say ‘it’s really sad’ – Birmingham Mail. ““There are so many needs in our community, and the library helps us meet those needs. We’ve already got a bare-bones system, and these cuts will decimate them – it’s really sad.””
  • Bournemouth Christchurch Poole – BCP Council launches public consultation over future of Christchurch’s library service – Advertiser and Times. “A report presented to Cabinet members at their latest meeting said “alternative models of delivery” needed to be explored.”
  • Bradford – Visitors from world’s first Carnegie library visit Keighley Library – Telegraph and Argus. “Librarians from the world’s first Carnegie Library, in Dunfermline – birthplace of industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie – visited Keighley Library in its 120th anniversary year. Keighley Library was England’s first Carnegie Library.”
    • Children’s mini library to be sited in Keighley Co-op store – Keighley News. “The free, children’s library is being sited in the retailer’s outlet at Broomhill Avenue. Youngsters will be able to choose from a bookcase full of different titles, and leave books for others. Keighley Town Council is staging the initiative, in collaboration with the Co-op and author Christina Gabbitas – founder of Children’s Literature Festivals, which aims to give children and families from less privileged areas free access to books.”
  • Brighton and Hove – Hollingbury Library: A Beacon of Hope Amid Budgetary Shadows – BNN. “Hollingbury has not only survived but thrived, weaving itself into the fabric of the community through innovative services and unwavering commitment. From hosting school visits to pioneering a toy checkout service, this library demonstrates the enduring power of such spaces to foster education, connection, and hope.”
    • Share your thoughts on libraries’ recent campaign – Brighton and Hove Council. “Our libraries invite everyone to share their thoughts and impressions of the recent Everyone’s Library campaign which aimed to inspire a new generation of library users across the city. Anyone regardless of whether they saw the campaign or hold a library membership can participate in an online Community Connect feedback form to share their thoughts.”
  • Cambridgeshire – March library offering free coats to help community in winter – Yahoo. “March Library, along with Bar Hill library, is offering free coats to help out members of the community who are struggling during this winter. Both libraries, owned by Cambridgeshire County Council, have a rail of winter coats that visitors can take without any questions being asked. The winter coat rail was set in January, after a successful Christmas jumper rail in December.”
  • East Riding – East Riding Libraries to launch Little Readers scheme for preschool children – East Riding Council. “Parents can collect a free passport and bookmark for pre-school children and meet the gorgeous new character Hoot, the owl who loves to read. Parents will be able to use their passport to collect a special Hoot stamp each time they visit the library and get a super certificate for every five stamps; there are ten different designs to collect.”
  • East Sussex – Amnesty for missing library books in East Sussex begins – Isle of Wight Radio. “Our previous amnesty led to the return of hundreds of books, including one due back in 1975, and we hope that we have the same success this year. Every year thousands of books fail to make it back to us, meaning others miss out.  We would be grateful if people could take this opportunity to check their bookshelves and bedside tables and return any library books they find, without facing a fine.
  • Essex – Fulfilling our promises for Everyone’s Essex – Essex Council. “We have also continued investing in the services you told us you value. Unlike many places in the UK, no Essex libraries have been closed by this administration.”
  • Halton – Halton Lea Library just one of 20 to 1,200 free books – Runcorn and Widnes World. “Halton Lea Library will also receive further funding to host a follow-up event in between April – July, to encourage children to continue visiting the library and discover a love of reading” … ” “We are extremely privileged to be selected as one of the 20 libraries to receive funding to host a fun-filled event for our local children. We’re hopeful that this event will be a catalyst for long-term engagement and that we see a number of the school children return to our library with a new-found love of books and reading.”
  • Hampshire – Eastleigh Library set to close temporarily: this is why – Yahoo News. “The building has been judged to not be fit for purpose after years of not being upgraded. Hampshire County Council will close Eastleigh Library to make urgent refurbishments that will include the children’s area being redecorated and upgraded, changes to the workroom, and an adjustment to the layout of the adult library.”
  • Islington – Getting rid of printed newspapers in library is ‘ageist and discriminatory’ – Islington Tribune. “Maggie Roberts, a retired journalist, says she has been using Archway Library in Highgate Hill for 30 years, but was appalled after cuts to the service were brought in by “stealth” under the guise of Covid. “They got rid of newspapers during the pandemic, due to hygiene reasons, but when every­thing opened up again, they just never brought the newspapers back,” the 73-year-old said. She has since been told it was a decision taken after the library service made a £30,000 cut.”
  • Kirklees – Save our library services: ‘Disappointment’ as ‘wonderful’ library used by Sir Patrick Stewart faces services shake-up under new Kirklees Council proposals – Dewsbury Reporter. “Councillors and volunteers have expressed their “disappointment” at Kirklees Council’s proposals to move Mirfield Library under the management of a community group.” … “The library, on Huddersfield Road, is one of eight within Kirklees which would be handed over to volunteers to run in plans which, the council say, could save nearly £2 million over a two-year period but put 47 jobs at risk. While libraries at Dewsbury, Batley, Cleckheaton, Birstall and Ravensthorpe will become some of Kirklees’ 10 ‘Integrated Hubs’, Mirfield’s, which is open six days a week and for a total of 35 and a half hours, would lose council staff, as well as building contribution from Kirklees.”
    • Councillors challenge Cabinet as “Sword of Damocles” hangs over eight community libraries – Huddersfield Hub. “A councillor has demanded an assurance that libraries won’t close if Kirklees Council fails to persuade voluntary groups to take them on.” … councillor says ““The ‘Friends of’ groups I’ve spoken to feel they are a victim of their own success,” he said. “What assurance do we have that this council will not close any library should community management not be possible?””
    • Kirklees Council criticised on community-run libraries plan – BBC. “The Conservative spokesperson said the proposed job cuts would “make little difference to the council’s finances, but have a huge negative impact on the community libraries.” … “We will keep a close eye on the outcomes of the feasibility process and make sure our community libraries don’t suffer an unnecessary blow after all they have done for our community,” they added.”
    • Library and customer service functions to integrate for residents in Kirklees – Kirklees Council. “Today (20 Feb) councillors approved plans that would integrate customer service functions with libraries offering a more holistic service for residents. It means people will still be able to access customer service support at a place near them i.e. their local library, rather than travelling to one of the Customer Service Centres.”
  • Lancashire – Preston chosen as pilot area for £250,000 community play library project – Blog Preston. “A network of community play libraries is to be set up across the North after education charity SHINE awarded £249,000 to fund a major new project for early years children.” Pop-in play libraries “which will operate alongside its existing schools programme and within the local communities.”. This looks to be separate to the public library service.
  • Leeds – Leeds chosen to be part of £250,000 project to expand free community play libraries across city – Yorkshire Evening Post. Education charity Shine “has awarded £249,000 to fund a major new project for early years children. The scheme, which will be run by early development experts Boromi, will see free play resources being made available in 250 settings around the North.”
  • Norfolk – Harleston Library celebrates 60 years of loaning page-turners – Diss Express. “The Swan Lane library officially opened on December 11, 1963, but organisers decided to tie in their milestone with ‘Library Lovers Month’ which runs for the whole of February.”
  • North Northamptonshire – Vegetation causing damage to Kettering Library to be removed – North Northamptonshire Council. “Currently, Ivy and Virginia Creeper cover a large portion of the Library and Art Gallery with vegetation growing, at places, through the building’s windows and roof causing damage and impacting the overall building. Now, North Northamptonshire Council will start works to fully remove all the vegetation and clean up the exterior of the building, which will prevent further damage and reduce maintenance costs in the long term, whilst allowing for the historical architecture of the building to be visible.”
  • Somerset – Somerset Libraries lauded as national examples of excellence – Yahoo. “Baroness Sanderson conducted the glowing review, which looked at English Public Libraries. The report applauded six distinct features from Somerset, including their community libraries, health programmes, digital innovation, and thermal camera loans. Somerset also had the most individual contributors with 11 in total.”
  • South Lanarkshire – Protestors to gather outside council headquarters in Hamilton to stop library and hall closures – Planet Radio. “Protestors are going to be outside South Lanarkshire Council’s headquarters in Hamilton this afternoon over proposals to close 37 libraries, halls and community facilities. Hillhouse, Blantyre, Bothwell and Forth libraries are being included in a “review of leisure and culture provision” as well as the Tileworks Park pitches in Stonehouse.”
  • Suffolk – Tell us what you love about your library – Suffolk Libraries. “A comprehensive survey of library customers’ views hasn’t been carried out for a few years and Suffolk Libraries is keen to find out what people think of their local branch, including its facilities and activities and the books and other items on offer.  The survey also includes an opportunity to comment on the comprehensive range of online services including the free elibrary and research sites. Perhaps most importantly it will help Suffolk Libraries to further understand how libraries can make a positive impact on customers’ lives and wellbeing.”
  • Swindon – Latest update on work to reopen library five months after flooding – Yahoo News. “The Link Centre in West Swindon was hit by flooding in September last year, and while the affected ice rink, pool and other gym facilities are now up and running, the West Swindon Library is not. Now, around five months after the local facility was forced to close, the Swindon Libraries and Information Service have provided an update to say it was the worst-hit area in the Link Centre and there is still no known timeline for its reopening.”
  • Windsor and Maidenhead – Library Service hosting ‘Costume Swap’ for World Book Day – Windsor and Maidenhead Council. “The Royal Borough Library Service are holding a ‘Costume Swap’ in preparation for World Book Day. They are inviting everyone to donate clean, gently used children’s costumes to Maidenhead, Windsor, Cookham and Dedworth Libraries. Residents can donate costumes with no obligation to exchange. Everyone is welcome to attend and find their ‘new to you’ costume, even if they don’t have a costume to swap. The initiative has been organised in partnership with the sustainability team.”
  • Wokingham – New library in listed building to open in spring – BBC. “The venue in the Old Polehampton Boys school in Twyford, Berkshire, will offer reading and study space as well as a specially designed children’s area and spaces for activities and events.”
  • Worcestershire – Worcester residents embrace new extended hours library scheme – Worcester News. 65 people have signed up for unstaffed hours access at one library. Scheme open to those 15 and over.
  • York – York Lib Dems to stage a ‘support our libraries’ rally – York Press. Council will vote on cuts to libraries this week. “York’s opposition Liberal Democrats have proposed an ‘alternative budget’ in which they insist those cuts to library services are not necessary.”

A promise that government makes to its citizens

Editorial

Some huge budgetary reductions have been announced or elaborated upon this week, with consultations either in progress or about to be. It looks like Nottingham, fresh from opening a new central library, now has no money to pay for many of the others, meaning that up to 12 out of its 15 can no longer be afforded. Two Welsh councils have announced cuts: Conwy a 25% reduction in opening hours and Ceredigion a halving of its fleet of four mobiles, ending its service to schools and co-locating library services into other council buildings. Greenwich, with its library service operated by GLL/Better, said that it may reduce its funding there by £1.5m. Whether GLL will go the same way as York Explore and contest this cut remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the huge previously announced reduction to Birmingham libraries, with up to 25 libraries threatened, is facing protests as are Hillingdon Council, who are more normally known for upgrading its libraries, for proposing to greatly reduce the size of Uxbridge Library. Libraries that are already volunteer run are also proving not be immune, with Derby is looking at moving theirs to a trust model and Kirklees being accused of betraying its volunteers by removing funding from libraries already run by them.

On the plus front, Hackney is putting some serious investment in to its libraries, with Stoke Newington at last (it’s been proposed since at least 2017) closed for refurbishment and repairs. It’s also good news for libraries on the coast. I love the location of Brighton and Hove’s lido library, now reopened, and Portsmouth has reopened it’s North End Library, both after repairs refurbishment. It also looks to be a return to the good times in Guernsey, although presumably it’s always pretty good on that blessed island. Libraries are also being used in novel (excuse the pun) ways, with musical instruments being lent out in Glasgow and ukeleles in Tameside. Service expansion wise, there’s green bin help being provided in Gloucestershire (although this appears to be more of a desperation measure), blood pressure monitors in Ruislip, measle vaccinations in Lambeth and hearing aid batteries being given out in Moray.

Changes by library authority

National news

“The public library is a promise that a government makes to its citizens that they not only have a right to participate in society, but to gain the skills that make that participation possible”

Nick Poole reported by Tracie D Hall
  • DCMS to conduct full-scale review into Arts Council England – BookSeller. “In 2022 Jacob Rees-Mogg, then minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency, launched a review programme to decide the future of public bodies such as ACE. ACE has been earmarked for review in the 2023/24 financial year as part of this review programme.  “
  • King’s Honours and Points of Light Awards – Libraries Connected. “The King’s Honours and Points of Light Awards celebrate amazing people and can generate a positive buzz about public libraries. Nominating library staff and volunteers for a national award is a great way to show someone who has really made a difference through their work in libraries that their efforts have been recognised and appreciated. At this webinar, colleagues from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) outlined the different awards available, talk through the process of making a nomination, and shared their top tips.”
  • Lorraine host Ranvir Singh slammed for laughing at people who go to libraries – Metro. “When Jay mentioned that he would go to the library to work on his book, Ranvir scoffed, laughed and said: ‘The library! ‘You’re such an old school soul. Who goes to the library anymore?’ Well it turns out plenty of people do — and they were not forgiving.”
  • The number of drivers caught exceeding 20mph limit in first month of new education scheme – Wales Online. “Currently, the guidance is that the speed drivers will be stopped at is 26mph, 2mph more than the usual speed the limit will be enforced at. They are spoken to in a nearby public facility, such as a fire station, police station, or library, in a session that lasts around 10 minutes.”
  • Ten poems about libraries – Candlestick Press. “Libraries are treasured places. We may remember visiting a local library in childhood to explore an early delight in reading. Or perhaps we have come to value them in later life, as a calm sanctuary where we can daydream among beloved books.” … “The poems are selected and introduced by poet Lorraine Mariner who has worked at the National Poetry Library in London for many years.”

International news

Local news by authority

  • Barnsley – Barnsley Book Festival celebrates successful launch – Yorkshire Evening Post. “Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist Mama G hosted two completely packed story time sessions.” … “Barnsley Book Festival is supported using public funding by Arts Council England as part of Barnsley Libraries’ National Portfolio Organisation activity.”
  • Birmingham – Save Birmingham Libraries – Change. “Birmingham City Council has unveiled plans to close twenty-five neighbourhoood libraries and consolidate services into a handful of what they bill as ‘Community Living Rooms’. Closing these essential services will affect the most vulnerable in our communities and is certain to affect the education and life chances of young people in some of our city’s most socially deprived areas. As journalist Caitlin Moran wrote in response to the last wave of library closures: “a library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life raft and a festival”.” 3495 signatures at time of checking.
    • Birmingham City Council eyes up plans to close libraries to cut costs – Planet Radio. “Plans have been floated at the feasibility of closing 25 of the city’s 36 libraries, which could help bring £300 million into the budget over the next three years. According to proposals, a total of 11 libraries would be left open to the public – with one library remaining open per constituency.”
    • Campaigners plead with councillors to rethink plans to close twenty-five Birmingham libraries – ITV. “In an interview with ITV News Central, school librarian Caroline Chilton spoke about Kings Heath library: “It’s massively important. When our students reach us at 11, the majority of children who come in are avid readers, say Kings Heath library was somewhere they grew up coming to.” When asked about the impact of a potential closure, Ms Chilton added: “Just devastated for the community, for all of us.””
  • Bradford – Interactive mystery show for children coming to Bradford libraries this Easter – Yahoo News. “Leeds Opera Festival has announced the tour of its new immersive experience, The Book of Eternity. The story is written by leading children’s mystery author Clare Povey.” … tour of “20 libraries across Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield and Kirklees.”
  • Brighton and Hove – Saltdean Library welcomes customers back to historic Lido building – Brighton and Hove Council. “The brand new library space benefits from a full restoration complete with comfortable furniture and a new layout, creating a bright and modern community hub everyone can enjoy.”
Brighton and Hove
  • Ceredigion – Councillors question plans to cut library services and close buildings – Cambrian News. “Councillors have questioned plans to scrap a school library service, halve the amount of mobile library vans, and move town libraries into shared buildings as Ceredigion County Council continues to try and find savings in its budget. Members of the Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee heard that the council wants to slash the libraries budget by £187,000 in a bid to balance the books.”
  • Conwy – Conwy Council proposes slashing library opening hours – Rhyl Journal. ” could slash library opening hours by 25 per cent in a bid to save more money – following a proposed public consultation due to be rubber-stamped by cabinet next week.” … “The move would see a restructure with staff redundancies, but the reduced hours would mean Conwy clawing back £157,126 annually. But a council report has revealed that, if the cuts were made, no savings would be made until 2025/26 because of the cost of making redundancies and paying off staff.”
  • Cornwall – Bodmin’s historic library reopens after £760k makeover – BBC. “A community interest company (CIC) has reopened an historic Bodmin Building. The Old Library has been closed for six months whilst a £760,000 renovation took place. IntoBodmin said it transformed the structure into a community and arts space that includes a cafe, co-working and events spaces and room hire for groups and local businesses.” [So, basically a modern library but without all those books – Ed.]
  • Croydon – Croydon Council denies library closures are to do with paying off debt – East London Lines. “four out of 13 public libraries in Croydon are set to be closed within the next few months, but the council has denied that the reason for the closures has to do with paying off their £1.6bn debt. In a webinar held last week, Kristian Aspinall, Director of Culture and Community Safety said the libraries’ closure is “for the ability to spend more on people and services, and less on buildings” as opposed to a way of decreasing the debt.”
  • DerbyNew plan to keep Derby’s libraries open gets the green light – Derby Telegraph. “Derby’s Labour council leaders say their new “trust” plan will help ensure a better and more sustainable future for ten city libraries and save them from closure. Councillors have approved plans for all of the city’s 10 community-led libraries to be run by a single trust in the near future. The separate organisation, yet to be appointed, could either run the community libraries itself or establish another organisation to do so.”
  • Glasgow – Glasgow’s Mitchell Library lets kids borrow instruments Glasgow Times. “The library has teamed up with Music Broth, Scotland’s first musical instrument library, as part of the We Make Music Instrument Libraries project, Glasgow Life confirmed. The project is supported and workshops fully funded by the Creative Scotland Youth Music Initiative and the Music Education Partnership Group (MEPG), aiming to increase access to musical instruments into libraries across Scotland.”
  • Gloucestershire – People struggling to renew green bin collections told ‘council doesn’t have enough staff – go to the library or get kids to sort it’ – Gloucestershire Live. Council has insufficient trained staff to answer phoneline. At cabinet meeting: “There are lots of people who do not know how to use IT and one woman was asked to go to the library”
    • Stroud Library has a temporary new home – Punchline Gloucester. “A pop up library has opened in Five Valleys Shopping Centre following the sudden closure of Stroud Library. The town’s library closed with immediate effect following the discovery of RAAC (Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete) in the building.”
  • Greenwich – Dirtier streets and library cuts: Greenwich Council reveals plans to save £33.7m – Greenwich Wire. ” The council is in negotiations with Greenwich Leisure Limited, its contactor, and thinks it could save £1.05 million next year by closing sites (“co-locating services”) and cutting services. More details could emerge after April.”
  • Guernsey – Guernsey’s Guille-Alles Library celebrates surge in visitors – ITV. “The library’s annual report recorded a significant increase in footfall, which is higher than pre-pandemic levels of 2019. There were around 162,000 visits to Guille-Alles last year – a 6.5% increase from 2022.”
  • Hackney – Stoke Newington Library closing for refurbishment as part of £4.4m investment plan – Hackney Council. “Stoke Newington Library is set to temporarily close its doors to the public for a renovation project which includes repairs made to the roof and fabric of the community facility. The Council’s £4.4 million investment into the borough’s libraries is at the heart of Hackney’s new library strategy which aims to modernise the borough’s libraries and ensure they are flexible, innovative and inclusive spaces that cater to the needs of residents. Stoke Newington Library will close from Sunday 31 March for up to two years to accommodate the major capital works that are needed to repair the roof and fabric of the Grade 2 listed building which was built in 1892 and houses Stoke Newington’s World War One Memorial. “
  • Highlands – Your views: Libraries in the Highlands and council’s £863k overspend on former employees – Inverness Courier. Letter from SLIC: “It’s no secret that Scotland’s libraries, along with the rest of our world-class culture sector, are currently embroiled in a perfect storm: budget pressures, reduced income generation, and rising costs have created a potent force for our services to contend with. That’s why we’ve written to councillors across the Highlands, ahead of final decisions being taken on 2024/25 public spending, to not only remind them of the vast benefits a thriving public library service can provide, but to highlight those who stand to lose the most if our services are cut even further – communities across the Highlands.”
  • Hillingdon – Uxbridge Library protests planned as council decides on move that would cut move it to single floor – My London News. “The proposal will see the current library, which is spread over a purpose-built multi-storey building, moved onto a single floor. While the council has said that this will mean a ‘step-free experience’ allowing for better access, some residents have raised concerns that there could be a loss of space and therefore fewer books and services on offer.”
    • Hillingdon Council forced to leave chamber as public gallery erupts over Uxbridge Library decision – MyLondon. “The councillors present at the meeting, including leader Ian Edwards, seemed all too aware of the anger of those sitting in the audience. At one stage during Cllr Lavery’s speech, he mentioned that users of the library had been contacted by email about the move, which was met with indignation by many in the crowd. Indignation turned to fury when the decision was handed down – the library would move to the Civic Centre. The crowd interrupted into a cacophony of heckling. Chants of ‘shame on you’ could be heard rippling through the audience and as the leader attempted to bring order to proceedings, the fury only grew. The berated panel were forced to leave the chamber until order had been restored.”
    • Libraries, including Ruislip, launch free blood pressure monitor loan scheme – Harrow Online.
  • Kirklees – Councillor accuses Kirklees Council of “betraying” volunteers who helped save community libraries – Huddersfield Hub. Volunteers libraries will have their funding removed. They “all have strong ‘Friends of’ groups and teams of volunteers and the council says the move would save £912,000 in 2025-26 if community groups can be found to take them on. In previous years when the Library Service came under pressure to cut staff, dozens of volunteers signed up to help fill the void. There are now 400 volunteers working in libraries across Kirklees. While the community libraries would be independently-run, they would still have access to the council’s stock of books and have “some management support.””
  • Lambeth – Get protection from Measles with Lambeth Libraries – Love Lambeth. “Community catch-up clinics in Lambeth Libraries this half-term”
  • Lancashire – Children to vote for their top reads as part of exciting award – Lancashire Council. “The Brilliant Book Award 2024 has been launched, marking its fifth year of nurturing love of reading by celebrating recently published stories for children aged six to seven years.”
  • Leicester – Leicester libraries launch new app – Leicester Council. “The free ‘Leicester Libraries;’ app will make it easy and convenient for library members to check their accounts, renew and reserve books, or search an extensive catalogue of e-books, newspapers, magazines and audiobooks that all available to read online for free.” … “The new app has been developed with funding from LibraryOn, following a successful bid by Leicester City Council’s libraries service.”
  • Merton – Cost of living events continue in Merton – Merton Council. “To date, over 2,500 Merton residents have attended twelve cost of living events in our borough: six were held in 2022 and a further six in 2023. At events, residents are invited to come and meet community organisations and council teams in our libraries and Merton Civic Centre for in-person, one-to-one support”
  • Moray – NHS hearing aid battery pick-up point available in some Moray libraries – Moray Council. ” free service, offering up to two packs of size 13 and size 312 batteries for collection, is run by Moray Council in collaboration with NHS Grampian”
  • North Northamptonshire – New Library: Oundle Library – Naple Sister Libraries. 141 public libraries in Europe now participating in the programme.
  • North Somerset – Successful sale of the old Nailsea Library – North Somerset Council. “Sale of the building follows the library’s successful move to a nearby site on Colliers Walk, previously occupied by HSBC. The move means the library is now in a more accessible and energy efficient multi-functional space, which has already proven popular with the community. This replaces the old building, which could no longer meet the needs of local people or access legislation and would have cost around £1m for the council to bring to standard. “
  • NottinghamNottingham library closures now expected amid council’s financial crisis – Nottingham Post. “The closure of some of Nottingham’s libraries is now expected as the city council continues to battle a financial crisis. The council’s leader says people are “not living in the real world” if they think enough savings will be made without closing facilities.” … “The review of the libraries is not yet defined, but if we think that we’re going to get more than a million pounds out of our libraries without closing some of them, then we’re not living in the real world. So that’s another thing that could be taken away”
  • Nottingham City Council reportedly consulting on keeping just three libraries open – Nottingham Post. “Nottingham City Council is reportedly planning to consult on keeping just three of its libraries open amid a multi-million pound hole in its budget. The leader of the authority has previously acknowledged that closing libraries will be inevitable to generate the savings required. One campaigner now claims that, at a monthly meeting with union representatives on Thursday (February 15), Councillor David Mellen said there would be a twelve-week consultation on whether to close 12 branch libraries. Of the 15 libraries operated by Nottingham City Council, it is claimed that the consultation could seek views on the closure of all of them apart from the new Central Library, the upcoming Sherwood Library and the Aspley Library. The meeting was attended by representatives from UNISON, GMB and Unite.”
  • Portsmouth – Author adds the Sparkes to library reopening – Portsmouth Council. “Schoolchildren and award-winning author Ali Sparkes helped officially reopen a newly refurbished North End Library.” … “he main library floor has been re-carpeted, the wooden bookshelves re-stained, and new computer chairs added. The children’s library has been brightened up with new book boxes and there is new seating and tables for adults. A self-contained office ‘pod’ is also coming soon for meetings and calls, funded by Arts Council England’s Library Improvements Fund.”
  • Tameside – Strum on Down to the Ukulele Loan Scheme Launch – Tameside Council. “hanks to a generous donation from the North West Ukulele Project, you can now borrow one of the instruments for free. Just like a book, you can have it one  for three weeks, and renew or return it to any Tameside library.”
  • Warwickshire – Warwickshire Libraries’ Great Winter Get Together – Warwickshire Council. “There is a packed timetable with different activities and events taking place at libraries across the county every day. From author talks to advice sessions, craft activities to IT information and support. Along with activities for children and families, with jigsaws and games for all ages.”
  • West Northamptonshire – Rare Roman bracelet and Iron Age axe head now on display to the public – Northampton Chronicle. “a new temporary exhibition which is touring around four libraries.”
  • York – ‘Please don’t cut the funding for our libraries’ – Yahoo News. ” write in response to City of York Council’s proposal to cut £300,000 in each of the next two years from its funding contract with Explore library services (The Press online, January 17). Like many others I completely rely on my local branch library for internet access and printing documents. Because I use library services nearly every day, I joined the local library volunteers as a ‘thank you’. Library volunteers save library services £240k each year. We give up our valuable time freely because it is such an important service and invaluable to the local community.”
    • ‘Charge students council tax to save York libraries?’ – York Press / Letters. “Places without libraries die, they become soulless – what I do not understand is that the council is saying there is no money and yet we are a city with lots of student flats and the owners of those flats do not pay council taxes (they say that students are exempt) however the students still get full use of all facilities offered by the council.”
    • Firm that runs libraries in city warns against cuts of £600,000 – Yorkshire Post.
    • ‘Leave our libraries alone!’ – York library users speak out against cuts – Yahoo News. “If councillors do cut funding, she says, they will be ‘truly diminishing people’s lives’.” … ““It’s just such a happy place to be. And it’s always really busy, with things for different people. It’s a lifeline.””
    • York library service fears cuts could make them ‘financially unviable’ – Press. “The letter, sent to every city councillor in York and signed by Explore York chief executive Jenny Layfield on behalf of her board of directors, urged the authority to ‘exclude reductions in library services from your budget proposals’. The letter said the library service had already been hard hit by inflation and price hikes.” Staff have had pay rises lower than inflation. “But the letter has provoked a stinging response from the council’s Labour executive, which has accused Explore of showing ‘disregard for precarious council funding’.”
Warwickshire “There is a myth that all librarians wear cardigans, this is not true. Some wear jumpers”

Affording it

Editorial

The “Future Libraries” report just produced is worth reading, especially for those who do not feel that budget cuts are not enough to worry about. From what I’m hearing and reading, though, about the sheer number of councils about to go bankrupt, well, that is by far the major threat at the moment. But that’s not the case everywhere. In the USA funding has gone up by 15% since 2010 while it’s reduced by, wow, 49% in England in the same period. That doesn’t mean public libraries there are having a golden time. Far from it, because censorship is the clear and present danger in the Land of the Free. This week saw a genuine video (I double-checked) of a Republican politician flamethrowing books she took from a public library. Yes, actually and literally flamethrowing them. At least, in the UK, one only has to worry about burning balance sheets.

It can be possible to see the changes in UK public libraries are seen by some as a good thing. And many indeed are. I miss the crowds of the 1990s but not the lack of story-times and reading groups. The Local Government Chronicle has a report that goes further, saying “It wouldn’t be remiss to say libraries are more community centres these days, and in the breadth of services they offer they can help improve the wider health and economic outlook for an area.”. Some changes are just sad, though. Norfolk are reinstating library fines and, from the context of the article, it’s not because there’s disagreement about the pros of getting rid of fines. Rather, it’s simply been done because of the need for money.

The changes in public libraries due to budget and council requirements is seen by some as move is too expensive. Having a library shared with a bank or just a few shelves in the council headquarters is not going to win the support of many such campaigners. The fear is that, by trying to add on so many other offers to that of the basic public library one, the sector will lose its sense of identity and no longer be seen as welcoming and friendly. Proponents of change point out, albeit between the lines, that it’s necessary if one wants a library at all.

Anyway, enough of depression. if you fancy a change of scenery, I’d advise a trip to Poland, as it has a genuinely good news story. The New Horizons Library just built there has deservedly won several awards and it’s easy to see why. To be honest, I want to move in. If I can afford the flight.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Cutting library funding comes at a high social cost – Herald. “At a time when every penny matters, libraries are proving to be crucial financial assets for individuals and families navigating the complexities of the cost of living crisis. From closing the attainment gap, to combating social isolation and bridging the digital divide, libraries connect and empower communities.”
  • Future Libraries – CILIP. “Part one is the horizon-scanning report, Come Rain or Shine: Preparing public libraries for the future in an age of uncertainty, which envisions the challenges and demands that public libraries will face from now until 2040. Come Rain or Shine provides an in-depth analysis of future scenarios that can impact public libraries to help library staff and leaders to become more agile in their strategies and activities. Like the weather, the future is unpredictable. Should we be warning about storms ahead or are we hoping for blue skies in public libraries? CILIP commissioned the report with funding from Arts Council England and in consultation with public library professionals from across the country.
  • Libraries are clearest example of successful local government transformation – Local Government Chronicle. “a library in 2024 is a lot different to a library in 2010 where book borrowing was the main focus. If you go to your local library now, you could take part in baby and toddler classes. Or drop in to a business start-up support service. If neither of them are applicable, you could use your library visit to go to your leisure centre too which is located within the building for efficiency of scale. It wouldn’t be remiss to say libraries are more community centres these days, and in the breadth of services they offer they can help improve the wider health and economic outlook for an area.” … “Councils know the social and economic value of libraries and cultural services but can’t spend what they don’t have”
  • Meet The Superhero Librarians Fighting For Their Queer Communities – Huffington Post. “Should I be worried as a librarian in the U.K.? We exist in a significantly different political climate than the U.S., and our far-right groups aren’t as large or visible. But fear, ignorance and anti-queerness exist, of course. This 2023 article in The Guardian cited research finding that a third of U.K. librarians had been asked by members of the public to censor or remove books. Librarians are an extremely valuable part of the fight against LGBTQ+ oppression, and if these attacks continue, then we’re all screwed. “
  • ‘Reading is so sexy’: gen Z turns to physical books and libraries – Guardian. “This week the 22-year-old model Kaia Gerber launched her own book club, Library Science. ” … “Gerber isn’t alone. Last year in the UK 669m physical books were sold, the highest overall level ever recorded. Research from Nielsen BookData highlights that it is print books that gen Z favour, accounting for 80% of purchases from November 2021 to 2022. Libraries are also reporting an uptick in gen Z users who favour their quiet over noisy coffee shops. In the UK in-person visits are up 71%.”
  • Thanks to a shadowy hacker group, the British Library is still on its knees. Is there any way to stop them? – Guardian. ” The very conditions that have allowed them to conduct their trade across the open plains of cyberspace are those they now aim to abuse, by shutting down the possibility for communication and knowledge-sharing, stealing and encrypting information, forcing users to buy back or lose their data, and bringing vital institutions such as libraries – which protect and share all of this knowledge for anyone to access – to their knees.”
How public libraries can work with 64 Million Artists

YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and beyond: video marketing for libraries and cultural organisations’ – CILIP. 15 March, online.

International news

  • Bangladesh – Libraries will solidify our foundation as a smart nation – Daily Star. “Libraries are beacons of ethical and sustainable development, nurturing economic and digital growth, as well as moral and ethical values. As we witness the continuous threat of isolation driven by technological and economic forces, libraries emerge as vital public spaces that connect communities and bridge the gap between knowledge and power.”
  • Canada – These books were challenged at Ottawa’s libraries last year – CBC Lite. “According to a report to the library’s board, there were seven “requests for reconsideration” during 2023. Six sought to pull books or DVDs from library shelves, while one asked to reclassify a graphic novel from the teen to the adult collection. Complaints covered everything from alleged racism or promotion of hatred to reports of inaccurate information or objectionable content.” … “According to the report, the library retained all of the materials in their existing collection areas. That includes the graphic novel, which remained in the teen section.”
  • Germany – German libraries up defences against far-right attack – Yahoo News. “Defaced and destroyed, books  torn up and political messages scrawled across their pages: the evidence of an alleged far-right vandalism spree at a city library in Berlin covers an entire table.” … “By targeting libraries, “the extremist right is trying to change the boundaries of what can be said”
  • Ireland – Clare libraries want you to Get Lost… in a Good Book – Clare Council. “Libraries throughout Clare are taking part in Ireland Reads, a campaign to get the whole country reading this month in the lead-up to a national day of reading on Saturday, 24th February.” … “Irish libraries have teamed up with publishers, booksellers, authors and others for the campaign, which is part of the government’s Right to Read programme and aims to celebrate reading and all the benefits it can have for wellbeing and enjoyment.”
  • Lithuania – Gamification – the key to attractive cultural activities and adult education in libraries – Naple Sister Libraries. “All the knowledge gained was applied by library specialists on the last day presenting new ideas for gamified education and projects, which they plan to implement upon returning to their library. The project is funded by the Erasmus+ program funds.”
  • Newcastle – Reading Ahead Challenge – Newcastle Council. “Anyone can take part in Reading Ahead. All you need to do is join the library and read 6 books (or other items) over the course of four months. Library staff in your local branch will provide you with a challenge diary for you to complete in your own time and will help you to choose reading material you’ll love. Reading Ahead participants are invited to library events, including our World Book Night celebration and Late Shows evening, and will attend a special celebration event for challenge completers.”
  • Palestine – Israeli Damage to Archives, Libraries, and Museums in Gaza, October 2023–January 2024 – Librarians With Palestine. List of libraries and museums damaged or destroyed. ” In this report, we offer a partial list of archives, libraries, and museums in Gaza that have been destroyed, damaged, or looted by Israeli armed forces since October 7, 2023. This report is necessarily incomplete. It is very difficult to determine the status of archives, libraries, and museums in Gaza during the ongoing Israeli bombardment. “
  • Poland – Biblioteka Nowy Horyzont Press Kit – Google Docs. Award-winning “New Horizons Library”. “focusing on creating three different spaces for three different personality types of users. Ensuring that each reader finds a space that suits his or her needs and character. ” … “We call the third room the room for extroverts. Its layout already allows the organization of activities in large groups, and modular furniture designed to size allows you to arrange the space according to your needs.”
Poland – New Horizons Library looks like no other library
  • USA = Maine library sparks outcry after stocking book titled ‘Irreversible Damage’ about ‘the transgender craze seducing our daughters’, with one local warning it could cause a suicide – Daily Mail.
    • Closing the book on libraries – Carolina Journal. “It’s no secret that libraries — public, academic, special, and school — have taken a sharp left turn in recent years. As more and more young people have graduated with degrees in library science, the profession has taken on a far more radical, activist turn than ever before.” … ” the radical left now controls most library organizations” … “librarians in the rank and file were quick to oblige, filling library shelves with age-inappropriate materials and leftwing propaganda. ” … the article says the reader should contact “the Association for Library Professionals (ALP), for more information, see here. A fledging association that will launch its website later this month, ALP seeks to return libraries to neutrality while stressing that libraries purchase age-appropriate materials. “
    • Library Advocacy and Funding Conference 2024 – EveryLibrary. July 24-26. “outreach, donor research, grants, legislation, coalition building, digital tactics, and marketing. And we’ll be expanding our track focused on navigating the book banning movement currently sweeping the United States.”
    • Libraries and Loneliness – Library Journal. “I’ve been worried about library visits for a while now, but my concerns have largely focused on the effect fewer visits will have on the future of libraries. What I learned is that I had it backwards. Yes, there’s a danger to libraries when fewer people use them; but the bigger threat in decreased library use is to the community itself.”
Burning library books is now seen as a votewinner. See Missouri GOP secretary of state candidate burns LGBTQ books in online video | The Hill
  • Pixelating Libraries: Bridging Books and Bytes – Public Libraries Online. “In the midst of book bans and budget cuts, I turned to art to navigate the challenges within our field. This artistic exploration delves into the unexpected but profound connection between video games and libraries. The union of video games and libraries may seem unconventional, but it has deep roots. Public libraries, once the gateway to computer experiences, evolved with the digital age. Today, as children immerse themselves in games like Roblox, it prompts contemplation on the evolving dynamics and its impact on library service”
    • This week in libraries – Publishers Weekly. ALA has five new core values “access, equity, intellectual freedom and privacy, the public good, and sustainability.” Increasing censorship, helped by social media algorithms.
    • Wake County libraries could expand to keep up with growth – WRAL. Caroline area has increasing population so libraries are looking at funding to renovate and replace libraries and add new ones.

Local news by authority

  • Bracknell Forest – Bracknell library closure claims are ‘simply not true’ – Bracknell News. “Bracknell Forest Council has plans to merge its libraries and customer services departments as part of a cost-saving drive. The plans could see volunteers take over the home library service, which delivers books to housebound people, but they don’t include closing libraries. Yet rumours that closures were in the works apparently spread among library customers and staff during December and January. Now the councillor in charge of libraries has said the claims are ‘simply not true.’” … “four management jobs would be ‘deleted’ as part of the merger. But he said there would be no reduction in opening hours or front-line staff serving library user”
  • Brighton and Hove – Proposal to freeze library fees – Brighton and Hove Council. “Like all council services, the city’s libraries have had to find savings and additional income as part of the proposals to close a £30 million budget gap for the next financial year. However, as part of the drive to minimise the impact of the cuts on frontline services that many people rely on, the proposal is to keep fees and charges across library services at the current rates, rather than introduce the 3.5% inflationary increase agreed across other council fees and charges.”
  • Buckinghamshire – Library theatre show promotes the benefits of gardening for mental health – Buckinghamshire Council. “The theatre tour is being jointly funded by Buckinghamshire Council’s Healthy Libraries programme and the national Rekindle programme. Rekindle is led by Creative Arts England and funded by Arts Council England and is designed to empower libraries to strengthen ties with local arts and make it more accessible to local communities”
  • Cardiff – Library campaigners slam council cuts proposals – Nation Cymru. “Proposals include slashing library opening times, closing some libraries on Saturday’s, more unpaid volunteers to discharge roles previously done by paid trained staff and ending provision of physical copies of newspapers and magazines. Adam Johannes from Cardiff People’s Assembly said: “If Cardiff Council’s proposals of almost half-a-million pounds worth of library cuts go through, our city library service will be devastated.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Planned cuts to some library opening hours – BBC. “a 6% reduction in opening hours spread across the area’s 22 sites, but all libraries would remain open.” … “A public consultation on the proposals runs until the start of April.”
  • Derby – Library plan set to deliver a service fit for the future – Derby Council. “Councillors will be asked to approve plans for the city’s 10 non-statutory libraries to be run by a Trust. The separate organisation could either run the community libraries itself or establish a new Trust to do so.” … “If plans are approved, the Council will launch a formal process to identify viable proposals from Trusts or organisations who want to run services. The Council could provide a grant and support packages to be negotiated as part of the formal process to find a Trust. “
  • Southend – Vital’ libraries across Southend will stay open after threat of closure – Yahoo News. “Two libraries could have closed and the opening hours of others slashed as part of proposals to tackle the council’s £10.7million financial black hole. In newly-published budget papers, all mention of reviewing the future of libraries has been removed – much to the delight of campaigning residents and councillors”
  • South Lanarkshire Hundreds sign petitions against closure of South Lanarkshire community facilities – Daily Record. ” South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture (SLLC) launched a public consultation on the closure of 37 halls, libraries and outdoor facilities.” inc. Hillhouse, Blantyre, Bothwell and Forth libraries.
  • Stirling – Dunblane Library closure fears prompts crunch meeting call – Daily Record. ““The squeezed budgets on councils all over the UK are very concerning at present but it’s about priorities and saving our libraries need to be at the heart of any budget decision process.”
  • Wandsworth – London’s ‘best libraries’ could be open for longer despite many closing down – My London News. “It comes after 154 residents signed a petition from Wandsworth Conservatives demanding the council increase the opening hours at Northcote Library in Battersea from four days a week to at least six days a week. The new library opened in April last year to replace the previous 1960s building opposite. The scheme was approved under the council’s old Conservative administration, before Labour took over in May 2022.”. Council is looking at “”how the current hours are performing, what residents need and what changes might be both beneficial and affordable”.”
  • Westmorland and Furness – Update on library services in Ulverston and Roose – Westmorland and Furness Council. “As the library is a statutory function, we’re required to consult on any changes, including any relocation of the library, so the local community will have the opportunity to comment on proposals once they are fully developed and public views will be taken into account as part of the process. We have also already been in contact with the Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport to inform them of the situation and they have indicated they are comfortable with our approach. Once the options assessment is completed we will be in a position to engage with stakeholders, partners, elected members and our community, so we are committed to keeping you informed when we have clear information about the options.”

£232 million (£329m with inflation) cut to UK public libraries since 2010

Editorial

And of course that cut, which is between one-quarter and three-eighths of total public library expenditure depending on if you count inflation, is not uniform. Some places, often the wealthiest, have been cut less and some others, often not the wealthiest, have been cut more.

Anyway, happy birthday to the Library Campaign which started 40 years ago to the date I am writing this. Thank you to Terry for letting me know. I had no idea. And, wow, 250 delegates.

“On 4 February 1984 250 delegates attended The Cuts Conference, organised by Sheffield City Libraries and held in the city’s Town Hall.  Professor John Stewart (Founder and Director of the Institute of  Local Government Studies, University of Birmingham) and Paul Foot (radical investigative journalist) were keynote speakers. Dissatisfaction with the Library Association’s cautious approach to opposing cuts in library expenditure resulted in the Conference voting to establish an independent and more political campaigning group. £200 was raised on the day with Paul Foot offering to donate the royalties of his latest book to the cause. Thus was The Library Campaign born. “

Terry Hanstock

And also thanks to Chris Hamilton, an ex Chief Librarian, who has also emailed in (the comments box on the website looks to be not working) thoughts of his own below:

“My minor niggle is the impression the public and many heads of service have that central government funds (or doesn’t fund) public libraries. Many many years ago when I was a new HoS I learned with some incredulity that ‘our’ bit of the central grant wasn’t discrete but bundled in with the bit for highways maintenance – and so we were effectively doomed from the get-go.

It’s just so important – IMHO – that everyone understands how public libraries are funded and focuses any campaigning on those who have the power (if not the cash) to make a difference. Realistically, I can’t see any prospect at all of local government or central government doing anything other than squeezing libraries ever harder. With social care and schools absolutely on their knees, it’s very hard to argue convincingly for libraries.

What would help is making libraries as efficient as possible and ensuring that everyone knows what they do, wherever they are – having one good clear universal offer. The demise of the library standards should have been fought tooth and nail, and just gave cash-strapped local authorities the green light to start hacking. I remember a Chief Exec saying just after that that he understood libraries were a statutory service “but not very statutory”.   

Along with my group of ex-Chiefs, I wonder why the heck the management of public libraries isn’t centralised under one body, applying one set of standards – instead of all the replication and duplication of structures, systems and procurement. There really is a whacking great saving to be made and an opportunity for good ideas and best practice to be shared rather than wheels being reinvented by successive managements up and down the country.

If we always do what we’ve always done … we’ll just sink without trace.

I get really depressed by the constant merry-go-round of new initiatives here and cutbacks there, with inexperience and politics over-riding realism and strategy. I love libraries. They aren’t complicated. They’re in danger of sinking under the weight of reviews while the crew debates how to arrange the shelves. It would be so good if CILIP and all the other players really thought outside the box and got their act together before it’s too late.

Chris Hamilton

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Call for Speakers – Beyond the Horizon – CILIP North-East Conference – Monday 20th May 2024 (afternoon) – CILIP NE. “You could be involved with a new project, a different way of doing something, or just feel you’re already doing something great and think others would benefit from knowing about it. This is your opportunity to share something you’re excited about with other professionals, so you could talk about completed projects as well as work in progress.”
  • Can ‘super libraries’ survive spending cuts? – BBC. Varied services at Woolwich Central Library, council budget cuts mean libraries seen as easy target, “expenditure on libraries has fallen by a quarter (£232.5m) since 2010.” [Plus inflation of 47% in same era = £329m hence actually 3/8ths – Ed]. “”Books and reading are always going to be central to what libraries do,” he says, but he adds there’s a growing recognition that “libraries are a great way of delivering different things”.” but budget cuts mean this is getting harder to do.
  • CCN: council spending on libraries and culture reduces by nearly £500m – Room 151. “The research has found that in 2010/11 English councils budgeted to spend almost £1.6bn on library services, culture, heritage and tourism. However, authorities’ latest accounts show that £1.1bn was spent on these services in 2023/24, a £470m decrease from 14 years ago.”
  • Celebrate books, reading, and libraries with Bedford Borough Libraries during Love Libraries Month – Bedford Council. “The month will feature author events for fiction lovers and family-friendly events for those with young children. Special Storytime sessions at Bedford Central and Kempston libraries, for under-fives, promise an engaging experience with stories, rhymes, themed activities, library hunts, and free sticker books. The beloved Bookstart Bear will also be making an appearance at some of these sessions.”
  • Digital exclusion in the UK: Communications and Digital Committee report – House of Lords Library. “The committee found that the shift towards digital by default public services had not been accompanied by adequate support for those who struggled with digital access. It argued that libraries and communities had taken on additional responsibilities but had not been given sufficient resources or training.” … ” The government should build on existing examples [of digital inclusion hubs] in the UK, focusing on libraries and other local amenities.”
  • Governance and History: The Direction of Public Libraries in the UK since the Second World War – Public Library Governance. “Without a clear and persuasive strategic direction, the future of the public library as the great public sphere institution it has proved itself to be in the past is in great jeopardy. The approaches to public library gov­ernance and the role of the public library in the UK are tracked and the various perspectives from government, practitioners and users presented. There is a lack of clarity and consensus regarding a desired role of the public library in the twen­ty-first century.”
  • How a decade of austerity has squeezed council budgets in England – Guardian. “An exclusive Guardian analysis of 13 years of council data has detailed how local spending patterns have changed under austerity budgets. Between 2010-11 and 2022-23, net spending per person on cultural services was cut by 43% in real terms, on roads and transport spending by 40%, on housing by 35% and on planning and development by a third – with more cuts pencilled in for this year.”
  • Innovation Gathering 2024 – Libraries Connected. Wednesday 6 March, 10am to 4pm, Birmingham. “The event is aimed at library staff in development and middle management roles but is open to anyone working in public libraries. We particularly welcome attendance from anyone who hasn’t attended a Libraries Connected event before and people from ethnic minority backgrounds, who have historically been under-represented at our events.”

“replace selected chairs in the Upper Camera with heritage-style chairs in keeping with the neoclassical style of the location, whilst significantly improving the comfort of our readers”.

Meanwhile in Oxford University, they’re going with nice new posh chairs
  • Part of the Job: Patron-Perpetrated Sexual Harassment in UK Public Libraries – Public Library Quarterly. “Patron-perpetrated sexual harassment (PPSH) toward librarians is an under-researched area of sexual harassment studies and library studies. This study is the first on PPSH toward librarians in the United Kingdom and focuses on public librarians. 143 UK public librarians were surveyed about their experiences of PPSH over the past five years. Respondents had experienced 14 of the 16 sexual harassment behaviors in the survey, and 81.8% of respondents experienced at least one form of PPSH. Respondents’ age, gender, and ethnicity were also considered in relation to their experiences of PPSH. This study provides
    recommendations for the profession and future researchers”
  • Tory council cuts see care homes, creches and libraries disappear from Britain – Mirror.
  • The UK is dismantling its legacy of municipal splendour – Financial Times. “The UK government is now considering loosening the rules for allowing councils to sell off assets. This is bad news for everything from libraries to swimming pools, town halls to toilets. Since 2010, council assets have been sold off in attempt to fill a £15bn hole in central government funding. More than 800 public libraries, 1,000 swimming pools, over 200 playing fields, half of all magistrates courts and 1,000 public toilets have been closed. ”
  • World Book Day charity sparks outrage after suggesting libraries don’t encourage children to read – Manchester Evening News. “comments from the charity have caused anger after it suggested that libraries aren’t a key factor in encouraging kids to read. Listing the ‘building elements’ which support a child to read for pleasure, it asked ‘which six are correct?’ and next to ‘going to the library’, it put a red cross.” … “following last week’s criticism, it has now been changed, with World Book Day describing it as ‘an unfortunate mistake’.”

International news

  • Australia / Finland / Singapore – Playing in the “Third Place”: How Games and Play Are Transforming Public Libraries – Sage Journals. “Drawing on observation of library spaces and interviews with library staff in Australia, Finland, and Singapore (n = 27), we examine the myriad ways games and play are transforming the library: from its architectural design and furnishings to its daily rhythms, atmosphere, and acoustics.”
  • China – Feature: China’s libraries go smarter to stock more books, engage more readers – China News. “Book lovers are attracted not only to the library’s architectural design which resembles a reading space under giant ginkgo trees, but also its abundant collection of books and smart services. With a total construction area of about 75,000 square meters, Beijing Library houses over 8 million books. The towering stacks on the library’s basement floor contribute to the massive book collection capacity, which is part of the largest single entity of automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) for books in China” Public libraries seeing increase in investment.
  • New Zealand – How public libraries are aiding community engagement – RNZ.
  • USA – Public libraries in the Richmond area are being reimagined – Axios. $18m upgrade “ At 25,000 square feet, the new branch is around two-thirds larger than the old Midlo Library. ” Includes “A digital media center; Outdoor reading garden, complete with an outdoor classroom for storytime; Outdoor musical sculptures for kids; Improved seating for lounging and reading; And meeting spaces, plus a large community meeting room.”
    • Alabama pulls out of American Library Association – WSFA. “The states public library service voted to end its membership with the ALA because some members say the discourse became a distraction.” … ” Opponents contend it promotes Marxism, discriminates against faith-based organizations, and supports keeping sexual content in libraries.”. Governor wants to “restrict funds for libraries that don’t adopt policies to require more parental supervision in libraries.”
    • A Practical Guide to Privacy in Libraries – ALA. Book. “Written in a highly practical manner, this book is essential reading for library and information professionals who need to understand and support privacy in the library setting and a useful reference for students and researchers in the field who need to understand this topic in practice. “
    • Do the Research: Conspiracy Theorists and Public Libraries – Georgia Library Quarterly. “Information literacy instruction is already a traditional offering at libraries and is of imminent importance at this moment as mainstream media shares disinformation to boost ratings and compete with fringe media. Protecting patrons from information disorder, whether in the form of programming or infographics that strengthen patrons’ analytical skills, is a noble cause for libraries who are primed for the task”
    • This Week in Libraries – Publishers Weekly. Alabama censorship fight: “libraries cannot stand in place of parents on deciding what content is suitable for minors.”, censorship moves in Georgia calling the ALA “Marxist”, similar in Tennessee. USA survey discovers “75% of parents do not believe in the necessity of diverse books”
    • Trauma, Book Bans, and Libraries: A Resource Guide for Library Workers, Library Supporters, and Beyond – Book Riot. “Finding a positive to emerge out of several years of book banning feels like grasping at sand. We have watched the First and Fourteenth Amendment Rights of people be squashed, sat by as some of the most underpaid and overworked public servants in the country be called inaccurate and dangerous names, and experienced a rise in christofascism and stochastic terrorism across public schools and libraries. None of these are good, and none of these point to a healthy or thriving democracy.”

Local news by authority

At least let Libraries keep the money we already have

Editorial

I remember the first Save Libraries Day, back in 2011. It was a huge grass-roots explosion of events and protests back in the days when cuts to libraries was a shocking surprise. That day was soon co-opted by public library services to promote the sector and, I notice, in the recent review it was suggested that the date be moved to be more public-relations friendly. So, another year, and another austerity. This week’s post includes serious cut announcements by Birmingham and Croydon. So it’s not a surprise that campaigners are getting antsy again and Alan Wylie, who was there in the beginning (and the original instigator Alan Gibbons), are calling for national protest again. Question is, will this country, which has now had over a decade of getting used to libraries being cut, go for it?

The solution to the sector’s major problem, but not the only one (the others being major technological and societal change, accelerated by a global pandemic), has been neatly and humorously summarised by the I as “Give us some ****ing money.”” This simply won’t happen under the current Government. The Sanderson Report didn’t even try to list it as a suggestion. Indeed, what the sector is looking at now is more cuts, made worse by inflation (and the decision to spend any spare money on tax cuts rather than maintaining services). So “Let us keep at the least the money you haven’t taken away previously” may be more accurate. Less amusing, though.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • The best of times, the worst of times for public libraries – CILIP. Isobel Hunter: ” if you wind back 20 years where you had chief librarians. Now you look at our members and you don’t always have the word library in their job titles.” … “It feels like the best of times because there’s amazing innovation happening in public libraries, and the worst of times because the financial environment for local authorities is really hard” … “One of the options presented to councils 10 years ago was outsourcing their libraries. Asked if this was being discussed again she said: “Not at the moment. But spinning out is always on the table when councils are pressed by immediate and long-term funding pressures.”
  • Ex-pat left life savings to two Scots libraries – BBC. “Letitia McKell bequeathed more than £350,000 to libraries in Motherwell and East Kilbride when she died in 2001”
  • Jo Cornish to be Interim CEO of CILIP – CILIP. “Jo, a Chartered Fellow of CILIP, with a background in public libraries, has accumulated eight years of experience at CILIP, gaining extensive knowledge of membership needs, priorities, and the organisation’s offerings.”

“”Baby Bushka, the 8-woman strong Kate Bush experience of your dreams is headed to the UK + Ireland on Tour this Autumn! They are looking to add some intimate literary acoustic concerts featuring their re-writes of Kate Bush songs using famous poems, like this version of Hound of Love with Francis Thompson’s Hound of Heaven. Or this T.S. Eliot mashup “Running Up That Street with Prufrock” Please contact them at ilovebabybushka@gmail.com if you’re interested in booking them. “

Email received.
  • A method for library data storytelling – Library data blog.
  • NAG’s 14th Collection Development Seminar and Public Library Forum – National Acquisitions Group. “NAG’s 14th edition of the highly successful Collection Development seminar takes place at the Friends House, 173-177 Euston Rd, London NW1 2BJ, on Thursday 16th May 2024 alongside our separate Public Library Forum. For this edition, the topic is “Rise of the Machines.” NAG invites papers from those that can share knowledge, best practice, experiences and reflections around the impact of technology.
  • On the matter of the British Library cyber incident – Ciaran’s Crispy Cogitations. The hackers are Russian so unlikely ever to be punished; BL not considered that important a target to protect but it’s impact and vulnerability make such targets tempting; recovery was very slow.
  • Sanderson Report shows that libraries are part of something bigger – CILIP. “Nine minutes of BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting house was dedicated to the plight of libraries and the huge range of services they provide, recognising that libraries were taken for granted and misunderstood.”
  • Witherick leaves Libraries Connected for ASCEL – BookSeller. “Witherick is an experienced charity executive and chartered librarian and will join ASCEL at the end of March 2024. Formerly regional development manager at Libraries Connected, and head of library service and customer experience at Libraries Unlimited, she has a background in leadership and delivering development projects and programmes. “
  • You can’t put a price on the joy of libraries – I / Opinion. Lucy Mangan translates Isobel Hunter’s response to the Independent Review on public libraries as ” I think what is actually being said here is something along the lines of – “Branding campaign? Libraries laureate? National data hub showing the effects of libraries on communities? I’ll tell you what shows the effects of libraries on communities – libraries! Give us some ****ing money for libraries instead of laureates and posters and we’ll show you some ****ing effects!” Or, to put it more succinctly still – “Give us some ****ing money.””

International news

Part of me thinks we’re rediscovering libraries not as something new, but for what they’ve always been: a shared space of comfort.”

Arlo Platt Zolov,s a 15-year-old who lives in Brooklyn 

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeen – Five libraries to offer extended opening hours – Aberdeen Council. “The changes reflect demand on provision where nearby libraries have closed, as well as information gathered from library consultations and library developments in Torry Library within the new Greyhope School and Community Hub.”
Staff shortages continue in Bristol to be severe enough to close multiple libraries at a time
  • East Riding – East Riding Libraries offer a wide range of free activities this February half term for children and families East Riding Council. “Sessions include the popular Lego Art, using specially designed Lego Art kits to make amazing pictures out of bricks. ”
    • Gruffalo puppet events to be held in East Yorkshire – BBC. “The events, which feature puppetry, are part of celebrations to mark the book’s 25th anniversary. The sessions, being held at libraries and community hubs, are free but booking is essential”
  • Edinburgh – Future Libraries engagement begins today – Edinburgh Council. “With the old Muirhouse library having been demolished in 2021, the new community hub at Macmillan Square is being developed in partnership with North Edinburgh Arts and will incorporate a creative arts space, our Early Years facility, employability support, six flats for social rent, and of course a thriving community library.” … ” With technological advances, changing public expectations and increasing budget pressures, we now need to consider what the future should look like for our library service and how it can best meet the needs of our city’s residents.”
  • Gloucestershire – 10-year-old girl raises hundreds for struggling library – Wilts and Gloucrestershire Standard. “story last week on the Fairford & Lechlade page of the Wilts & Glos Standard about Lechlade Community Library needing financial help has prompted ten year old Ella Bacon to start fundraising to help the library reach its target for the refurbishment work needed.”
  • Haringey – Haringey library cuts to pay for council to run leisure centres – Ham and High. “They provide a place for education, for technology and for community. It therefore came as a shock to find out that our Labour-run council has, as part of its budget, pencilled in a cut of over 30% to libraries over the next two years, shortening hours and leaving some buildings unmanned. Next year will see cuts of £700,000, which will lead to reduced hours across branch libraries at Alexandra Park, Coombes Croft, Highgate, Muswell Hill, St Ann’s, Stroud Green and Harringay.”
Suffolk
  • York – York: Row over proposed £600,000 cuts to library services – BBC. “Councillor Jo Coles, executive member for health, said services across the council had experienced cuts since 2010, with Explore “the one exception to this rule”. “We feel it is only fair that each service takes a share of responsibility for budget reductions,” she said.”
    • More than 2,000 sign ‘Save York’s libraries from cuts’ petition – Press. “Lib Dem councillor for Haxby and Wigginton Andrew Hollyer said: “York residents have not been consulted on Labour’s heartless budget. “Perhaps this is why over 2,000 residents have come out in support of our petition. “We have four more weeks to save York’s libraries and I would encourage all residents to sign our petition to reverse this heartless cut.””

Libraries get a good review

Editorial

The Independent Review of English Public Libraries is a surprisingly good piece of work. I was kind of expecting suggestions of more volunteers and opening up more cafes in order to fund libraries and the depressingly common other uninformed rubbish. But, you know, I find it hard to criticise any of the recommendations. Even the one on volunteers makes sense considering where we are now. A decade ago of course I’d be spitting acid but there are so many unpaid workers now, it would seem churlish not to wish for them to be better supported. The massive unspoken recommendation, which I am sure everyone had in their minds but, well, with this government is impossible, is to actually properly fund the sector. Or, at least not to cut it further. But, for that, we will have to wait for another government, and another review.

There’s the now depressingly frequent round of council library cuts announced in the last week, with Kent’s potentially huge 33-library cut leading the pack. Fascinatingly, for those of us who have followed the establishment of library trusts, there is the rarely seen case in York of a library service refusing to accept a cut. That would be impossible in a normal council-run service but York Explore is pointing out it has a contract and such a cut would require agreement from themselves. Makes you fancy having a trust in your area too doesn’t it?

Mind you, it’s great to see yet more refurbishments finally coming to fruition. Bolton looks rather snazzy and one hopes Saltdean will do so as well. So much for the physical. Over on the digital side of things, I hope I am not along in finding it amusing amusing that the LibraryOn team have decided to run a day on digital ideas in libraries physically in London, the most expensive city for most of the country to get to, for £20 each, and for only four people per organisation, rather than, ooh I don’t know, digitally when there would be no such limits. Perhaps they are afraid of being hacked.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • Dagger in the Library nominations – Crime Writers’ Association. “The Dagger in the Library is awarded to a UK crime writer every year. This year the names of nominated authors have been supplied by libraries and borrowers nationwide. All you need to do from 5 January 2024 is vote for which writer you think should win the Dagger in the Library. Each library in Britain or the Republic of Ireland has three votes and any person working there can vote – staff or volunteer.”
  • The Guardian view on the future of libraries: an old question of human dignity in a new form – Guardian. “A cyber-attack on the British Library has shown how vulnerable digital archives are. It has reinforced the value of physical books and librarians” … “online access is vulnerable to everything from wars and hostile regimes to power outages. So, too, are buildings filled with books, and people to track them down. To keep their millennia-old place as bastions of civilisation, both grand scholarly institutions and humble community libraries must be financially supported to continue offering both.”
  • The impact of Scotland’s libraries – Scottish Book Trust. “Scottish Book Trust is undertaking independent research into the value and impact of public and school libraries in Scotland in partnership with the National Library of Scotland (NLS), the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC), and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS)”
  • Independent Review to guide libraries strategy in 2024 – DCMS. Review will “inform new government strategy on libraries” and annual cross-government round-table meetings to address library challenges. Recommendations:
  1. The establishment of a national data hub to better evidence the role libraries play in our society
  2. A national branding campaign to raise awareness of our libraries
  3. The closer involvement of the British Library
  4. An expanded library membership
  5. A stronger volunteer network 
  6. The creation of a Libraries Minister and a more joined-up approach within government 
  7. The establishment of a Libraries Laureate
  8. A change to the timing of Libraries Week to better involve politicians nationally

“The Library Campaign is seldom super-excited by government reviews of libraries. More money would solve a lot of their problems. However, it’s better that they appear somewhere on the national agenda
than not. (England only, though). In this political climate, Liz Sanderson knew better than to ask for proper funding. But her report certainly pinpoints plenty of underlying issues worth getting on with. She notes that some have come up in previous reviews. She’s right to point this out. Her summary, to nobody’s surprise, is that the core problem is not enough awareness of what libraries do – among central government, local councils, the public and even the library sector itself. Plenty to do, then.  But it won’t be cost-free.”

Library Campaign
  • ‘The Libraries Gave Us Power’: the birth of the public library in Wales – Nation Cymru. “In 1861, Cardiff’s first free library available to the general public, opened in a room above the entrance to the Royal Arcade (pictured) on St Mary’s Street.  It would be paid for by voluntary subscriptions, It was an immediate hit, wildly popular and oversubscribed, so much so, that it soon had to move across the road to bigger premises”
  • Library under attack – Khrono. Long translatable article from Norwegian site for higher education covers the British Library hack and public library funding cuts in the UK.
  • Majority of bids to save libraries, pubs and village halls rejected by Tory scheme – Mirror. “Seven out of 10 requests to save libraries, pubs and village halls have been rejected by a flagship Tory scheme. Under the Community Ownership Fund, locals can bid for Government cash to protect much-loved assets from being lost or taken over”
  • Michael Morpurgo backs call to ensure poorer children have access to books – Guardian. “Library closures by local authorities were particularly likely to affect disadvantaged families, according to Morpurgo, by closing off a vital source of access to books. “We should never, ever, in this country close down a library again,” he said. “I live in the middle of Devon, where the nearest library is a long way away, we’re talking about a 35-minute drive if you have a car and a lot of people haven’t. There’s no local bookshop, even if you had the money. The library is the last lifeline to reading.””
  • Press play: a playground of digital ideas – LibraryOn. Friday 1 March, 10am – 4pm, British Library, London. £20 plus booking fee. For “People who work in libraries such as digital leads, managers, and Heads of Service who oversee or deliver digital programmes. ”
  • Public Libraries Boost – GLL Awarded Gold Standard By Investors in People GLL. “Achieving Gold puts GLL in the top 15% of IiP accredited organisations. ” … “As part of the assessment for Gold standard, all GLL staff were surveyed this autumn and 200 staff completed face to face interviews. “
  • Seeing libraries differently with the RNIB – CILIPS.
  • UK Libraries Achieve Record-Breaking Circulation of Digital Media in 2023 – Overdrive (press release). “Readers throughout the UK borrowed 16.5 million ebooks, audiobooks and digital magazines from public libraries using OverDrive and Libby, a 21 percent increase year over year, outpacing the OverDrive global network’s growth of 19 percent.” … “Since 2021, UK public libraries have seen a 34 percent increase in ebook and audiobook checkouts.”

International news

  • Canada – ‘More is more’: Librarians propose provincewide digital library – Orillia Matters. “Librarians are done keeping quiet. Speaking to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs for pre-budget consultations in Hamilton this week, stakeholders across Ontario called for a digital public library — envisioned as a provincewide online resource for job training, language upskilling, tutoring and homework help, and health information. To make it a reality, librarians asked for $15 million [£8.7m] in the upcoming Tory budget, expected to be released before the end of March. They made a similar request last year.”
  • New Zealand – Page-turning fun at libraries this summer – Sun Live. “The programme has three challenges – one for mini readers aged 0-4, one for readers aged 5-10 and one for tween/teen readers aged 11-18.” … “Ages 0-10 will get a certificate, a special prize book to keep, and an invitation to a family party event. Ages 11-18 will get a $20 Whitcoulls [Kind of like WH Smith – Ed.] voucher. And everyone who comes in to tell TCC library staff about their book for the first time gets a swimming pool pass.”
    • How public libraries are aiding community engagement – RNZ. “Hindi was the seventh most borrowed non-English language title at Wellington City Library in 2023 and the third most borrowed Asian language after Mandarin and Japanese. The library also offers books in Tamil, Punjabi, Gujarati, Sinhalese, Arabic and Korean. Miller says Wellington’s new central library, Te Matapihi, will have a dedicated section for World Languages.”
USA – Library flooded by burst water pipe. Hundreds come on first day reopened.

Local news by authority

  • Bolton – Bolton Library prepares to open to public next week – Bolton News. “The library has been closed since September 2022 for a £3.7 million refurbishment. Images previously released by Bolton Council show the spectacular effect the works have had on the floors, before shelves, books and library equipment have been reinstalled. The £3.7m works have been taking place over this year and much of last and are intended to form a key part of the town centre’s cultural offering.”
  • Bolton Library reopens after multi-million-pound refurbishment – Bolton News. “£4 million refurbishment made possible by a bid to the Towns Fund.” … “There is a cafe, a ‘Build a Business’ section, a children’s section in three areas for children of different ages, a mezzanine for use by different groups and much, much more.”
  • Bournemouth Christchurch Poole – Library still has no reopening date nearly two months after closing – Yahoo. “As reported, BCP Council said it is in discussions with the landlord of the building to get it back open, but an exact opening date is still unknown.”
  • Bradford – Bingley Library needs security due to anti-social behaviour – Telegraph and Argus. “And this security at Bingley Library is costing taxpayers around £700 a week, a new report has revealed.”
    • Question over self service kiosks at Bradford’s libraries – Telegraph and Argus. Conservative councillor worries that ” “People go to libraries not just to get books, but to speak to people. They want to interact with people.”. Libraries manager says ““Some people just want to pick up a book and be in and out. For other people who want more interaction there will still be staff there to talk to.””

“Trefnydd, can I call for a statement from the relevant Minister on Welsh Government support for public library services? I’ve been very concerned at the moment that Denbighshire County Council are proposing to cut library opening hours. They initially proposed a cut of 50 per cent. They’re now proposing a cut of 40 per cent, after there was a huge public outcry in response to the initial consultation. Now, we know that libraries are about much more than books these days. They’re places of lifelong learning and education, lots of people go there to enjoy the IT facilities as well, which they might not have at home, and, of course, they also promote local language and culture. So, this is a really important issue for my constituents. I appreciate that local authorities have difficult choices to make given the pressures on their budgets, but other local authorities are not proposing to cut their library services in half by asking them to close their doors for 50 per cent of the time. So, I think it is about time that the Welsh Government had some minimum standards required of our libraries in terms of opening hours, and I would appreciate it if a Minister could bring forward a statement on that.”

Denbighshire – Darren Millar MS (Conservative) in Senedd.
  • Devon – Easy booking system for conference space at Exeter Central Library – Exeter Council. “An easy online booking system for over 100 quality meeting and conference spaces in libraries around Devon has been launched by Libraries Unlimited. The charity, which runs libraries across the area, has developed a new platform which gives video tours and shows photos and floorplans of its popular bookable spaces.” … “The new booking system is grant funded through the Library On programme, managed by the British Library and supported by Arts Council England using public funds.”
Shropshire

We may have had enough

Editorial

Well, looking at the “changes by local authority” list, there’s not much of a problem guessing which part of the cut/recovery pendulum libraries are on nationally at the moment. Being this is, as I have mentioned before in editorials, a very familiar thing to see since 2010 when I started this website, one would probably have to agree with the outgoing CILIP chief executive Nick Poole who says in a must-read article that public libraries are “under sustained assault”. Nick then goes on to make clear he believes encouraging library volunteers to make up for budget cuts are “a fraud that has been perpetrated on the tax-paying public”. One feels he may have had enough, as indeed have many concerned about library services.

The British Library cyber attack continues to make news, with the change this week that there are both defences of the management of that august institution and some slight criticisms, with some questions being asked about the leadership and strategy of the institution, which has kept front-line staff “in the dark” about the process.

Abroad, there’s an interesting article on book theft in Australia and data suggesting that the move to e-books and e-audiobooks is continuing, not stalling, after the boost received from lockdowns. And, of course, there’s the continuing madness from the USA about censorship – now including apparently banning dictionaries in schools because kids may look up the meaning of particular words – and, thankfully, an increasing backlash.

Changes by local authority

National news

  • British Library cyber attack explained: What you need to know – Computer Weekly. “The data leaked by Rhysida includes almost 500,000 files, many of them stolen from the British Library’s customer relationship management (CRM) database. These files are understood to include the personal information of readers and visitors, including their names and email addresses, and in some cases postal addresses and telephone numbers. Fortunately, it does not appear to include any financial data.” … ” Even if a staff member did make a mistake, they deserve support and understanding, not blame – anybody can fall victim to a cyber attack at any time.”
  • Can reading really improve your life? – BBC Radio 4. “Research suggests that reading for pleasure is a key indicator in a child’s future outcome. But how can we foster that love of reading? Author Julia Donaldson investigates.” The importance of libraries included.
  • The Experimental Library: A Guide to Taking Risks, Failing Forward, and Creating Change – Facet Publishing. Book, “This guide shows how to draw from new approaches and technologies to harness experimentation as a tool for testing ideas and responding to change. It borrows ideas and inspiration from the startup sector to teach you how to take a human-centered and design thinking-based perspective on problem solving.”
  • Green BIC Brunch, Jan 2024: Focus on Libraries – Book Industry Communication Ltd. Thursday 25 January, 12-13.30, online. “Join us in January 2024 when we’ll be hearing from key library sector stakeholders about their sustainability initiatives, goals, and challenges and what it means to be green. We’ll also be sharing an update on all of BIC’s work in this space – with the latest updates on our current projects that form part of our ongoing Green Supply Chain Plan.”
  • Libraries, critical thinking and the war on truth – what lies ahead in 2024 – CILIP / Nick Poole. “Let us be under no illusions – the principle of universal access to a free, quality library service supported by professional library staff is under sustained assault in the UK. As Local Authorities begin to push back on central Government cuts by challenging the legal definition of ‘minimum service requirements’, we will likely see further challenges to the idea of libraries as a universal entitlement in the months ahead. As a profession, our responsibility is not to ‘see both sides’ of the debate about volunteerism and cuts to library services. We have a duty to call it what it is – a fraud that has been perpetrated on the tax-paying public…”
  • Library data storytelling – Library Data Blog. “This is a invitation to public library organisations to get involved in a new project. The idea: create a set of data stories using public library data, add a beautiful data visualisation for each one, and publish in physical and digital form.”
  • Restoring our services – an update – Knowledge Master Blog / British Library. Catalogue will return on 15 January but in “read only” form. “what happened to us in October has implications for the whole collections sector, and in the months ahead we will begin to share the lessons we’ve learned from this experience with our partners and peer institutions.”
  • “Totally and utterly bereft”: the devastating repercussions of the British Library Cyber Attack – Standard. ” On a visit this week, staff computers were still completely turned off throughout the building. Morale seemed low: one worker said he had to change his passport and bank details, like most of his colleagues — and said the place was “technologically paralysed”. Inside the reading rooms, a visitor could be overheard getting irritated with a librarian about not being able to access the archives. They wearily replied he should take it up with bosses, who had kept workers in the dark.”

International news

Global/India – “Have public libraries become obsolete? – Firstpost. “Almost a fifth of UK libraries have closed over the past decade. In the last two decades, America’s library visits have seen a 31% slump. In the last five years, 60 libraries have closed in South Africa. This is a trend across the world. That’s because public libraries are underfunded. Many face catastrophic budget cuts. They are no longer sacred to knowledge thanks to digitisation. Nostalgia is not enough to save libraries. So how can they be rescued? Palki Sharma tells you.”
  • Global – OverDrive: Record Number of Libraries Hit One Million Digital Lends in 2023 – Publishers Weekly. “OverDrive reps reported this week that a record 152 library systems and consortia across seven countries—including 41 states and seven Canadian provinces—surpassed the one million digital lends benchmark in 2023, which includes e-books, digital audiobooks, and digital magazines. The numbers represent a significant jump from the 129 library systems that hit the milestone in 2022.”
  • Australia – ‘The incentive to steal isn’t there’: the lost cause of tracking library theft – Guardian. “Few, if any, libraries truly know how many books are actually stolen. Lost library books are a small part of the natural attrition of library collections – normal wear and tear is expected and some are fatally damaged. But while we’ve all lost a library book in our time, Morley estimates fewer than 1% of loaned books across NSW public libraries go missing.”. Many do not charge fines, some problems from those stealing books as a form of censoring them, but “why steal something that is free?” … ““The big change,” Hakim says, “is a lot of use of study space, working areas and people using the library for social services.””
  • Europe – Libraries for the future: Europe’s new wave of ‘meeting places for the mind’ – Guardian. Ghent’s city library: ” “This is more than a library, though books are its core. It’s also a place to learn, connect, develop, collaborate. Or just to be. A meeting place for our minds. De Krook is not alone. All also built in the past seven or eight years, Helsinki’s Oodi central library, Dokk1 in Denmark’s Aarhus, and Deichman Bjørvika in Oslo share much the same vision of the library: in effect a living room for the 21st-century city.”

Local news by authority

  • Aberdeenshire – Explore Aberdeenshire’s countryside and coast from the comfort of a warm library – Grampian Online. “Live Life Aberdeenshire Libraries is collaborating with Aberdeenshire Council’s Ranger service to deliver a series of free talks …”
  • Argyll and Bute – Still no decision on Rosneath’s library – Lochside Press. “A final decision has still not been made on the future of Rosneath’s library, almost four years after it last opened. Libraries across Scotland were closed when Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were first imposed in March 2020. Every other library operated by LiveArgyll, a charitable trust set up by Argyll and Bute Council in 2017, has since reopened. But the library in Rosneath has remained closed”
  • Birmingham – Cuts put Birmingham’s libraries at risk – Birmingham Against The Cuts. Cuts expected. Council consultation open to criticism. Previous cuts should be taken into account.
  • Blaenau Gwent – Trinity Chapel to transform into library and community hub – South Wales Argus. “Trinity Chapel, Abertillery, to house a new modern library, together with a new community space. … Abertillery Library, run by the Aneurin Leisure Trust, will relocate from its existing location in Castle Street to the more accessible Town Centre location once the works are completed.”
  • Bournemouth Christchurch Poole – Boscombe library forced to close after ‘substantial leak’ – Daily Echo. “closed since November 29 after leaks followed by a period of heavy rain has led to flooding inside. Residents have been unable to access the library since, due to damaged carpets and the computers being switched off. BCP Council has said conversations with the landlord of the building are ongoing to get it back open, but an exact opening date is yet to be known. “
  • Bracknell Forest – Budget consultation – Bracknell Forest Council. “I support the council’s proposed reorganisation of its library and customer service teams and closure of the home library service, to enable more services, including blue badges and bus passes, to be provided in local facilities, with a saving of £200,000 over the next two years. Please note, this proposal does not include any reduction in the number of libraries, their opening hours or the activities they provide for the community.”
  • Bradford – Local libraries support district-wide rhyme challenge – Rombalds Radio. “The annual Rhyme Challenge sees parents and children aged six and under learning five rhymes together with the reward of a certificate for taking part.”
    • Have your say on the Council’s Proposed Financial Plan and Budget proposals for 2024-25 – Bradford Council. £900K cut. “Strategic Review of Libraries (£0 in 2024-25 rising to £175,000 by 2025-26). The Council is undertaking a strategic review of its libraries to identify how overall operating costs can be reduced. This review will focus on the overall costs of the library services which are mainly contained within the council run libraries and specifically review facility operating costs, usage data, property and asset stock-condition and the potential for alternative operating models to be adopted”
  • Brighton and Hove – Share what our libraries mean for you in an exciting installation – Brighton and Hove Council. “You will have the opportunity to contribute to a collective wall digitally with a tablet, where you can select a sticker and type in a message which will then appear on a screen. Or you can also share your thoughts via a traditional sticky note on the wall. The installation is a part of our Community Connect project, which aims to attract new audiences to join our library community and remind everyone of the abundance of services provided by our libraries, which go far beyond books.”
  • Bristol – Council leaders urged to scrap recruitment freeze that has forced Bristol library closures – Bristol World. “All 26 local branches across the city have shut their doors to residents at least once since the local authority ordered a ban on casual employees” … “There have been 287 full or part-day closures in total, with the worst hit being Filwood which has closed 22 times”
    • Libraries in Bristol closed for fifth of planned opening hours last month after staff freeze – Bristol Post. “Libraries in Bristol were closed for a fifth of the time they were planned to be open last month after a recruitment freeze. Councillors urged the mayor to reopen libraries as temporary closures are becoming much more common since a ban on casual staff came into effect. Labour says lifting the ban on casual staff would cost £300,000 and mean cuts elsewhere to Bristol City Council services. Meanwhile opposition councillors warned the library service could be damaged in the long term, similar to the planning department’s staffing struggles.
  • Caerphilly – Newly refurbished Rhymney Library Hub opens its doors – Caerphilly Council. “The new improvements include refurnished and modernisation of both floors of the library, as well as an innovative education, reading and support hub for residents, council staff and partner organisations.
    Many of the new features and design which the community can now use, were taken from a Community Voice Survey carried out with local residents.”
  • Cheshire East – Cheshire East Council Budget Consultation for 2024 to 2025 – Cheshire East Council – “Proposal EC4: Fund libraries a different way: Seek alternative funding to maintain either current or a reduced level of service delivery, including partnership working with Town and Parish Councils to secure contributions towards safeguarding service provision in their local area. As part of this continue to push forward with new income generation initiatives within the wider library estate, utilising the building assets to offer new third-party services to the public. Potential savings for 2024/25 = £0.37 million.” see also Tip closures among council’s budget plans – BBC.
  • Reading – Library will be moved in Reading in £8.6m investment – Reading Chronicle. “The main library in Reading is set to be moved to a new site in the town centre as a  £8.6 million project has been given the go-ahead. Reading Central Library has been located in King’s Road for nearly 40 years since it was opened back in 1985. Now the library’s collection and its facilities are set to be moved to the council offices in Bridge Street as part of a £8.6 million project. But before the move can take place, the project required consent from the council’s planning applications committee.”
  • Somerset – Agenda Reports Pack – Somerset Council. Proposals include £25k staff cut (no more relief budget), closing Performing Arts Library, ending mobile library service, 10% reduction in opening hours, closure of libraries (minimum £50k to maximum £380k).
  • Staffordshire – Cost of living campaign gives helping hand to thousands of Staffordshire residents – Staffordshire Council. “These include county council and community managed libraries, providing warm welcoming spaces to residents and saving families an estimated £60,000 since 2020 with pre-loved school uniform markets. “
  • St Helens – Closing date confirmed for four St Helens libraries axed by council – St Helens Star. Garswood, Rainhill, Rainford and Parr to close on 26 January. “The decision to axe four libraries and also not to reopen Peter Street and Billinge libraries, which have already been closed for some time due to the expiry of a building lease and structural issues respectively, was strongly opposed by many in the communities affected, who expressed anger and sadness at what they branded a “disastrous decision”” … “The council says “positive talks” continue with groups interested in a community-managed approach in a number of the areas affected by closures.”
  • Swindon – Swindon libraries have a long way to go to recover from Covid – Swindon Advertiser. “In 2018-2019 there were 521,923 visits to the five libraries with 587,155 books borrowed. That dropped very slightly the year after, where the very end of the financial year saw a complete lockdown. The last full year, 2022-23, saw 240,906 visits and 275,704 items loaned, hugely higher than both 2020-21 and 2021-22, but still less than half the figures pre-pandemic.”

The wrong kind of hackathon

Editorial

The hack into the British Library is important. For such an important institution, and one that is when all is said and done, all about storing data, to be so vulnerable to attack, says a lot about the lack of proper cyber protection in British public organisations. And this does not just cause embarrassment to the institution and worries to staff (I am still a bit unsure as to why photos of staff passports were on the system). Due to the apparent interconnected nature of the system, the catalogue is still down so researchers’ work is blocked and authors will have Public Lending Right payments delayed. In addition, the hack looks also to have severely damaged the financial reserves of the British Library and so potentially causes a hazard long-term.

Zooming out from the British Library, hacking is a very global, professional and profitable concern and it’s not only such comparatively big names as the British Library that get affected. Just in the past couple of months, a local council or two, plus at least one Canadian library service, have been as well. Heck, I have even seen this very website being the subject of hacks. And of course it’s a lucky one of us that has not personally been the subject of a phishing scam. However, this is not just a threat but an opportunity for public libraries. This sector can have a role in making life better. Cyber security and information literacy are closely connected and public libraries can help the public understand and mitigate the risks. I hope that we do so.

But this is going to be challenging as the library service is so atomised and under financial pressure that a large-scale sufficiently-funded national plan for doing so appears unlikely. Have a look at the excellent Twitter (I still refuse to call it X, please can Elon Musk please go away?) thread from Nick Poole below on the subject and also how the delay in the Single Digital Presence is affecting things. But bear in mind that the scheme is actually on track now and so this complaint may hopefully be a historical one shortly. It’s been a long time coming but we should get it soon. After all, what else can cause a delay? Wait. Oh no. What do you mean it’s a British Library project?

Changes by local authority

National news

  • British Library to burn through reserves to recover from cyber attack – Financial Times. “the British Library will drain about 40 per cent of its reserves to recover from a cyber attack that has crippled one of the UK’s critical research bodies and rendered most of its services inaccessible.” £6 to £7 million will be spent. Catalogue still down. Some “users criticised the library for taking more than a month to notify them of the cyber attack.” see also Richard Osman among authors missing royalties amid ongoing cyber-attack on British Library – Guardian. ” PLR payments will not be paid as expected while the British Library, which manages the service, fights to restore its crippled systems.”
  • Charity launches support scheme for at-risk libraries in wake of budget cuts – Guardian. “Around 650 libraries will receive resources from Libraries Connected programme, as almost one in five council leaders fear bankruptcy this year or next” … scheme “offers a confidential peer support network, resource library, tailored training and communications support”… ““We are deeply concerned by the growing number of councils issuing statutory section 114 notices, and the effect this is already having on library services,” said Libraries Connected chief executive Isobel Hunter.”
Thought-provoking thread from Nick Poole

“Ultimately, the council funding crisis cannot be solved without a fair, long-term financial settlement for local government,” said Hunter. “Until then, we are ready to work with local authorities to deliver the best possible library service within the financial constraints they face.”

Isobel Hunter, Libraries Connected

International news

  • Ireland – A new world of happiness opens at Boyle Library – Roscommon Herald. “A new interactive light projector to provide inclusive, sensory stimulation has been launched at Boyle Library. Provided in Boyle thanks to Dormant Accounts funding from the Department of Rural and Community Development, the projector is designed by Social-Ability and manufactured in the UK.”
  • New Zealand – LIANZA 2023 Conference Opening Video – LIANZA. “shows the amazing range of people who use libraries and their enthusiasm reveals the value of access and support they get from libraries.”
  • Nigeria – Access and Use of Public Libraries by Disabled Persons In Nigeria – Quest Journals. “that library building were not design to take care of people with special needs, coupled with the poor state of public library services in general. The need for public libraries to embrace the use of ICTs was recommended.”
  • Palestine – Here’s how you can help resurrect Gaza’s libraries. – Lit Hub. “it becomes almost impossible to imagine Gaza as a place where life, let alone culture, can once again flourish, but it’s important to remember that it can, and it will. One of the people committed to that resurrection is Mosab Abu Toha, the Palestinian poet, New Yorker contributor, and founder of the first English language library in Gaza. (Abu Toha, as you may recall, was kidnapped by Israeli forces on November 19th while trying to enter Egypt at the Rafah checkpoint. After being beaten, interrogated, and stripped of his possessions, Abu Toha was released two days later”
USA
  • USA – The Week in Libraries: January 5, 2024 – Publishers Weekly. “I Love My Librarian” award winners, a library has been closed for four months due to arguments over a drag story hour, in-fighting in the Indiana public library system, librarian awarded $250k for being sacked over refusing to censor books.
    • Freckle Project Surveys and Reports – EveryLibrary. “Since April 2019, the Freckle Project has been asking a key question of American readers: “Where did you get that book”. Through a series of public-facing surveys, project lead Tim Coates has been able to track the habits of reading – and the evolution of format changes – before, during, and after the COVID pandemic. Public libraries are deeply impacted by changes in reading habits, format preferences, and choices about where and how people acquire their next book, ebook, or audiobook.”
    • OverDrive Reports Another Record Year for Digital Library Circulation – Publishers Weekly. “OverDrive said that 2023 was another record-breaking year for digital library circulation, with a 19% increase in library checkouts of digital media over 2022. In all, library users worldwide borrowed some 662 million e-books, digital audiobooks, and digital magazines, OverDrive reps announced in a release this week. In addition, 152 library systems reported more than a million digital checkouts in 2023, up from 129 last year.”

Local news by authority

  • Bournemouth Christchurch Poole – Library to close tomorrow for essential maintenance work – Bournemouth Echo. “Canford Cliffs Library, on Western Road, is due to shut temporarily.” … “Hours are set to be slashed by an average of 10 hours a week, at each library, from April, as part of cost-cutting plans. Expected to save £440,200, the council is expected to announce further budget cuts to save £12.6 million”
  • Cardiff – Cardiff: Bins could be removed from residential streets – BBC. “It is not just bins in the firing line – libraries across the city could have more restricted opening times and use more volunteers to save money. One of several tabled options proposes closing eight hubs and libraries for one extra day each week, saving £308,000. These include Central Library Hub, Whitchurch Hub, Penylan Library, Rhiwbina Hub, Rhydypennau Hub, Canton Library, Cathays Heritage Library and Radyr Hub. Another option is for all hubs and libraries, apart from Penylan Library, to change their opening hours to 09:00-17:00 and stay open throughout lunchtime to save £120,000. To allow for late accessibility, Central Library Hub would stay open until 18:00 for one evening a week.”
We’re going on a f**t hunt …

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

Editorial

Dark times look to be here again with major cuts proposed or confirmed over the last fortnight in Denbighshire, Haringey, Nottingham and Swindon. In addition, there are dark rumblings in several other council services. This is starting to remind of the start of Public Libraries News back in 2010 when there was cut after cut announced. However, the big difference here is that the party in government turned out to have more than a decade to run at that point while now, the same party/government (give or take some frenetic changing in personnel) is unlikely, according to most observers, to last the next year. The opposition are likely to look more kindly on public services but are currently being very moderate in their proposals.

Another reminder of when I started the website is the continuing arguments over the Single Digital Presence, at least now with an actual name rather than a vague description of LibraryOn. The creation of this website has been going at a glacial pace, and has transformed into, well, not quite sure yet but certainly not a “single digital presence” but will hopefully appear some time soon. Hopefully before the next election, anyway.

There’s also a third reminder of the past, that being the hopelessness of CIPFA, who have produced their latest report, which you’re not allowed to see unless you spend hundreds of pounds or have a friend/job in one of the participating library services, and a press release that ignores inflation and the continuing impact of lockdown. Two-fifths of library services did not even bother to participate in it and the press release does not even include the number of public libraries in the UK, presumably because CIPFA does not actually know. The fact that the public library services suffer from such a lack of accurate available data is, and has been since I started, deeply embarrassing. Again, one hopes the national service can get its act together an produce something better than this but there are few confident of that, again at least this side of a change of government.

Finally, here’s a few more libraries named after people (thank you to PLN reader Kieran):

– Lewis Carroll Library in Islington
– Claude Ramsey Library in Thamesmead, Greenwich (renamed to Thamesmere)
– CLR James library in Dalston, Hackney
– Robert Jeyes library in Barking and Dagenham
– Keith Axon Centre in Redbridge
– John Jackson Library in Bush Hill Park, Enfield

Changes by library authority

National news

A thread with potentially terrible outcomes for public libraries, listing deep cuts expected in the following councils: Havering, Bradford, Hampshire, West Berkshire, Newham, Somerset, Southampton, Durham, Cheshire East, Central Bedfordshire,
  • As British Library faces fallout of cyber attack—what can arts bodies do to combat ransomware threats? – The Art Newspaper. Personal information stolen in successful hack by criminal group, causing the British Library problems months afterwards: “from early in the new year a phased return of certain key services will begin, starting with the most crucial component—the main catalogue—a reference-only version of which will be back online from 15 January, further facilitating the manual ordering which is available in the Reading Rooms. Other interim services will include increased on-site access to manuscripts and special collections”
  • Libraries Connected Awards: Watch video of our 2023 winners – Libraries Connected. “Werrington Community Library, the Business and IP Centre at Oxfordshire Libraries and the team from Kent Prison Libraries.”
  • Library spending up 3%, CIPFA data shows, but still lags behind rising demand for services – BookSeller. “The survey also shows that the income libraries received rose by 3% over the last financial year, from £916 per 1,000 people in 2021/22 to £939 per 1,000 people in 2022/23. CIPFA said this is a “welcome relief to the financial pressure on libraries as high inflation continues to increase their running costs”.” [This is of course nonsense – ONS shows inflation was around 8.6% so this “up” in spending actually shows a sizeable decease – Ed.]. Issues compare figures from 2021/2 to 2022/3 rather than the far more useful pre-lockdown figure. Two-fifths of library services did not reply. Full report from CIPFA not available unless a few hundred pounds is given to them. No estimate of number of libraries available.
  • Millions wasted on attempt to create nationwide UK library website, campaigners claim – Guardian. “Tim Coates among those to criticise government, Arts Council and British Library bid to create a ‘single digital presence’ for libraries” … “The “Single Digital Presence” (SDP) – renamed LibraryOn – was meant to bring together public libraries in one website to enable the public to access collections across the country. The problem has been that there are 150 library authorities in England alone, each with their own technology and management systems.” … Coates says “We’re now 10 years later and – after several reviews and studies and about £6m”

International news

  • Asia – Literature In All Its Glory: Spotlighting Asia’s Most Beautiful Libraries – Travel and Leisure. “, we trace the most beautiful libraries in Asia, which not only draw from the region’s yesteryears but also cultivate a culture steeped in literature, community spirit, and the preservation of old-world charm.”
  • Australia – Libraries in regional towns are building community on a shoestring budget – Guardian. “Despite a record increase in public library funding by the NSW government, most operate on the cost of a few new books per resident a year” … “The NSW government is set to deliver $40.89m in funding for public libraries in 2023-24, up from $24.53m in 2018-19, with another $6m distributed in grants for infrastructure and service upgrades.” … “ervices such as Rainbow Storytime – a Pride event that involves drag queens reading stories to children – have been delivered against the backdrop of campaigns against inclusive programming”
    • Eastern suburbs council warns library users of potential data breach – Sydney Morning Herald. “a cyberattack on an external software system that is used by the library to manage room bookings, issue fines and grant computer access and printing.”
    • I leave our library with a greater burden – and that’s my reward – WA Today. “A State Library Victoria report in 2018 revealed that “every dollar invested in public libraries generates $4.30 of benefits to the local community”. If I could observe the benefits of libraries even before conducting research, it is clear evidence of their positive impact. Libraries improve community connection. They reduce waste as resources are passed around. They are cost-effective.”
  • New Zealand – There is such thing as a society – Newsroom. “Local public services here in Aotearoa under the last Labour government may have been somewhat sheltered from the worst of the cuts occurring globally under widespread austerity measures during the 2010s. Any of that cushioning is likely to disappear under the new Government.”. Cuts to UK libraries since 2010 particularly noted.
  • Russia – ‘No, that’s fascism’: the librarian who defied Russia’s purge of LGBTQ+ books – Guardian. “When Vladimir Kosarevsky was ordered to destroy books referring to same-sex relationships, he raised the alarm instead – then went to Spain to rebuild his life” … ” “I had been discriminated against many times. Now I had to be the one who censors things? And destroys books? No, that’s fascism.””
  • USA – Meet the 2024 I Love My Librarian Award Honorees – American Libraries. Public librarians honoured for work with refugees, expansion of services, social media. genealogy.
    • How a Bay Area librarian became an Instagram star – San Francisco Chronicle. “n the video watched nearly 740,000 times on Instagram, Threets described his conversation with a child who walked up to the desk holding out two $20 bills. The child’s grandparent was outside in the car, too worried about overdue books to come inside. Assured by Threets no fines were due, the child ran outside and returned with a grandparent.”
    • Laws banning semi-automatic weapons and library censorship to take effect in Illinois – Independent. “Libraries that indiscriminately ban books will not be eligible for state funds. They must adopt the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights stating “materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.””
    • Ten Stories That Shaped 2023 – LIS News. Censorship, AI.

Local news by authority

North Yorkshire – BEM for recently retired General Manager Chrys Mellor
  • Nottingham – 2024/25 Budget savings proposals – Nottingham Council. “Undertake an assessment of the Library Service provision whilst maintaining a comprehensive and efficient service offer appropriate to the needs of our citizens. Will require a further public consultation regarding a review of the Council’s Library Needs Assessment and ‘the Next Chapter’ Libraries Strategy” Proposed £1.5m cut with 31 FTE posts lost.
    • Council launches tender process for £960,000 book supply contract for Nottingham libraries – West Bridgford Wire. “The move is aimed at securing a book supply contract for the city’s library service from 2024 to 2030. Savings of over £750,000 per year could come from the new arrangement.” … “The contract, valued at £960,000 and impacting all city wards, is part of Nottingham’s participation in the East Midlands and Mid Anglia (EMMA) libraries stock consortium. This consortium, comprising eight other library authorities, enables members to combine their spending power to secure significant discounts on book stock, thereby maximising library budgets and ensuring the best value for the Council.”
  • Oxfordshire – Wallingford partners working to tackle ASB outside library – Herald Series. “The manager informed the council that the ASB incidents included the depositing of drug paraphernalia. The anti-social behaviour reportedly left at least one member of the library staff ‘intimidated,’ who was employed to work at the facility in the evenings.”
  • Rotherham – Rotherham market and library image released – BBC. “An artist’s impression has been released showing what Rotherham’s new market and library complex will look like. Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council said the “modern” build will give visitors “a sense of space and scale”. The complex is a key part of the authority’s town centre regeneration “masterplan”. The library, markets, food hall, gallery, and event spaces will be built on a single site off Drummond Street.”
  • Sheffield – Warning over huge costs to save Sheffield’s historic Central Library building – Star. “Strategy and Resource Policy committee members accepted a number of proposals, including the allocation of £420k for surveying costs, to ensure the future of the grade II-listed art deco Graves Building on Surrey Street.” … “We know that this project will cost from £25m to what could be £60-100m depending on the options pursued.”
  • Shropshire – New Year Honours 2024 recognises Oswestry librarian – Border Counties Advertizer. BEM: “Richard Charles Fowler, aged 70, is a founder member and trustee of the Community Managed Libraries National Peer Network (CMLNPN), a body that advocates for community-led libraries in England and Wales.” … “Harbury Village Library (HVL) is now a nationally recognised example of a community hub. They provide a focal point for their local communities and many, like HVL, are now nationally registered Warm Welcome Spaces.”
  • Southend – Southend MP Anna Firth urged to help protect libraries – Echo News. “Southend Council’s Conservative administration revealed proposals to close two of the city’s six libraries to help tackle its £14 million financial black hole. While no “firm decisions” have been made, the proposals could see the city’s other four libraries “downgraded” with reduced opening hours. Last week the Conservative MP was pictured at Leigh Library, helping to promote the Reading Agency’s winter reading challenge.”
  • Swindon – Swindon council has ‘no plans’ for library closures amid cuts – Swindon Advertiser. “There are no plans to close any of Swindon’s five core libraries, despite needing to make cuts of £660,000 from the service’s budget.” … “”We are looking to make sure we can keep them open by changing the way we run them.””
  • Wakefield – Wakefield Council receives grant to help combat loneliness across the area – Wakefield Council. DCMS/ACE funding £88k: “The Know Your Neighbourhood project is designed to widen participation in volunteering and tackle loneliness in 27 areas across England.”
  • Warwickshire – Everyone is welcome at Warwickshire’s libraries – Warwickshire Council. “From coffee mornings to tea and talk sessions; family history to crafternoon teas the events are free to attend and include warm refreshments.”
    • County’s £370k plan to put mobile sensory library on Warwickshire’s roads – Stratford Herald. Bid to Arts Council England “a very compelling case”.
    • Head to a Warwickshire library for some murder mystery – Stratford Herald. “Whoever’s commissioned will be expected to develop a script, recruit actors, run rehearsals and make sure the performances go smoothly. Warwickshire Libraries advertisement suggests performances won’t be limited to the county’s libraries but may also take place in ‘other literary locations’ across Warwickshire.” … ““As part of Warwickshire Libraries’ new National Portfolio Organisation status, granted by Arts Council England, we will be focussing on community driven projects that enhance access to culture, art and literature for free “
  • Westmorland and Furness – Ulverston library petition presented to House of Commons – The Mail. “The Conservative MP for Barrow and Furness Simon Fell, presented the petition calling for the government to ensure Ulverston has a full library service as soon as possible. Ulverston’s library building on King’s Road has been closed since September following the discovery of issues with the building’s electrics during routine statutory checks.” 600 signatures
West Sussex – This is one of a series of short videos on various aspects of public library provision in West Sussex, that can be found here. “They have gone down really well in our community and we have been invited to show them at food banks, they have been used by our children’s department colleagues in the county council to share with Ofsted and among the comments from library staff was ‘thank you for making me rethink what I do every week and feel so much more positive about what we offer”