Congratulations must go to Jim Brooks who has received an MBE for his work in establishing a volunteer-run library at Little Chalfont after Buckinghamshire Council decided to close it a few years ago.  This comes barely a week after the same library won a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.  It’s interesting timing (and this is not meant to be detrimental to the efforts of Jim and his team), though, that these awards are being given now that public libraries are under threat as never before and councils around the country are actively encouraging volunteers (“unpaid employees”) to run them. 

It is also interesting to compare this situation to the Minister for Libraries’, Ed Vaizey, comments on national radio in January that …

 “We [Conservatives] have never said – and it’s a gross misrepresentation of what we have said – that somehow volunteers should replace professional librarians. No-one is suggesting that volunteers should take over the role of professional librarians…. Nobody is saying that there’s a strategy to replace  professional librarians with volunteers.”

417 libraries (344 buildings and 73 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK (for the complete list by area see the page “Tally by local authority”). Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.


7 habits of highly effective library websites – Lesley Thomson.  Sites need to have a purpose, be integrated, designed for the user, access anything in three clicks, use pictures, if there is a complaint it is the computer and not the user that is broken, great content, accessible to all, easily searchable and findable, constantly redesigned, mobile phone access is half as good. “I looked at a large number of UK library websites and, with few exceptions, the usability and UX of these was pretty dire”

“Well done to the Evening Standard, in London, and the National Literacy Trust for their extraordinary and brilliant campaigns about literacy in the capital. I have never seen anything like it – and it has worked. I have been in two council meetings in the last two weeks in which councillors have talked – even with some passion and feeling- about the importance of books, reading, libraries and so on. A year ago I thought I would never hear the like” Tim Coates, Good Library Blog

I really love public libraries but … – Karen Blakeman’s Blog. Caversham (Reading) library user dislikes computer errors with loan dates and online renewal, useless ID number on library card.  “Perhaps Reading Libraries is an exception but if libraries seriously want to encourage more users then they need to improve ease of use, especially when it comes to their web based services.”
Killer pets – Library Tribe.  Excellent photo of library user in ongoing series by Warrington photographer.
Outgoing children’s laureate Anthony Browne wants youngsters to keep hold of their creativity – Your Canterbury.  “Just 85 councils out of more than 150 with responsibility for schools run their own dedicated service, providing fresh stocks of books to schools alongside a range of other resources. Mr Browne said: “It’s a terrible shame. We should be encouraging libraries to become more interesting, provide more resources and be more exciting places to be – not the other way around.”

“We desperately need libraries, but we don’t need them as they were in the past 20 years. I think library budgets should go up immensely, but not if we do things as we do them now. School libraries are one of the first documented points of academic success. There’s just so much data and evidence that talks about test scores going up when you have a school librarian, not just a library. They’re educators, they’re teachers, and they’re not stuck in this straitjacketed curriculum. They let kids explore what they want to know. Imagine if the entire community is allowed to be that agile — if they can make decisions based on better information.” Preserve our dreams, Dallas Observer (USA). Challenging but pro-library piece by one of the most prominent librarian thinkers.

TEDx LibrariansTO – Conference on librarians as “thought leaders” (USA)
Veria Public Library, GreeceWinner of Access to Learning Award 2010, Greece Bill and Medinda Gates Foundation 
Wha’s like us – Scotland on Sunday (leading article).  Julia Donaldson received MBE as well as becoming children’s laureate. “For those concerned about our children’s literary future, Donaldson is the ideal champion. Not least because, as every Scottish child knows, there really is such a thing as a gruffalo.”

Change to services

West Sussex – 1 (out of 3) mobile libraries closed meaning £65k cut out of £1m cut expected of libraries by 2014.   

Local News

Barnet – Last chance to state your views on libraries plan – Barnet Today.   Major opposition to plan to close Friern Barnet Library.  Council says “Our strategy foresees a service delivered in places that people go to rather than requiring them to travel to come to the local library.”
Croydon – Message clear at Labour’s open meetingThis is Croydon today. Labour asks for cross-party commission to look at options, Tim Coates suggests cutting overheads from 45% to 10% would solve problem.
Croydon – Privatisation of all Croydon libraries? Act nowSanderstead Library Campaign Group.  Privatisation was not part of the now ended consultation process on closing libraries in Croydon and there has been no support for this proposal voiced.
Croydon – Wards among worst in London for children’s literacy – Inside Croydon.  Literacy advisors reduced, “Significantly, there is no library service to speak of in the area. A library visit for parents with their under-11s, or for any of the classes at the schools, would require a drive by car or bus to Caterham on the Hill or Purley. And if Kenley residents were to take their children to Sanderstead Library, they would discover that there is now a children’s librarian on duty on only one Saturday every month”.  Councillor in charge of libraries for Croydon, Sara Bashford, has said that it would be better to give everyone book tokens rather than keep libraries open.
Cumbria – Self-service machines for Carlisle library – BBC.   First refurbishment of Carlisle Library in 25 years to include self-service and re-arrangement.  “The changes will allow more library staff to get out from behind the counter and really provide a service which involves interacting with library customers.”
Cumbria – Views sought on Cumbria library shake-up – BBC.  “”There are no preconceptions to this debate and we may end up with more library access points in Cumbria than we have now – or we may end up with fewer”, although 20 branches are still under threat.
Gloucestershire – FoGL fundraising campaign and legal challenge – FoGL.   Council may be in breach of Public Libraries and Museums Act, Libraries Act and failed to consult properly. Up to £15,000 needed for case as government has cut Legal Aid’s budget.
Northamptonshire – Review of library service begins – BBC.   “The aim is to make libraries more self-supporting and reduce council costs.”
Northumberland – Coffee, cakes and Catherine Cookson – Morpeth Herald.  Two-year old report starting to be acted on – cafes may be installed. Councillors suggesting increasing income by charging for libraries, charging coffee companies to use buildings, cutting management. “This is not about deciding which libraries are unsustainable and will be axed, it is about making sure there will be a library service in all our communities and that it is sustainable.”
Suffolk – Libraries: air your views on future – Haverhill Echo. “This is an important opportunity to look at how the council is moving forward with the libraries review – and give interested parties an opportunity to air their views in public 
West Sussex – £65k cuts lead to loss of West Sussex mobile libraryBognor Regis Observer.  Survey showed 30% used a static library as well, some alternative provision found for the 70% who did not.  Also reported in Mobile library cut balance council books – Crawley Observer. “I’m more than a little concerned. There are many elderly residents in Worth. The library service will stop at Pound Hill Parade and that’s a bit of a long slog.”