The Independent has singled out Ed Vaizey as the worst performing minister in the present government.  The Times says he is in a “spot”.  He appears to be dodging the media. Library campaigners, frustrated at his complete inaction, are almost all of the opinion that he is a waste of space.  At a time when public libraries are facing the greatest challenge in their history, with libraries being closed, given away, their hours cut, their staff made redundant and their stock reduced, Ed compares intervention to starting a nuclear war.  He is content to see local people paying for legal action while his department spends nothing.  Indeed, it appears that someone in government, is even blocking legal aid to campaigns and his department are refusing even to say their position on legal action ever. This is especially galling being he was such a crusader while in opposition.  Now, when it is his job, he simply does not want to know and appears to be doing the ministerial equivalent of putting both fingers in his ears.  His comments on Twitter (@edvaizey) are interesting, if not downright surreal.  Here is his tweet for Saturday:

“Reading is origin of “taking the biscuit”. Huntley & Palmer gave free biscuits to 1st class passengers. Closed 1976. Tins in Reading museum”

Yes, while the whole sector is collapsing around him, Ed is quite literally, taking the biscuit.  There is a saying, “cometh the hour, cometh the man“. We need someone to take firm action at a time like this.  What we appear to have is a muppet.
397 libraries (319 buildings and 78 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.
  • Beach fatties strain the limits of liberalism: as does the sight of our libraries minister exposing his feebleness in public Independent (DJ Taylor).  Ed Vaizey is the only minister whose performance has been “unremittingly feeble”.  “The Bookseller recently described this Government as an “anti-books regime”. It is worse than that. It is anti-cultural.”. 
  • Biteback – Sunday Times (behind paywall). “Richard Brooks, Editor of the SUNDAY TIMES Culture Section in his Biteback column ( Behind the pay wall) writes about Ed Vaizey being “in a spot”. “He has no direct say over cuts made by local authorities, which run libraries, but has the power to intervene if damage is being done. How and when do you define damage?” (courtesy of Desmond Clarke).
  • Between the coversIndependent.  “All power to the Women’s Institute and its Love Your Libraries campaign, which is encouraging members to join their local libraries, lobby councillors and sign a petition. (David Cameron promised to hold a debate on any petition with more than 100,000 signatures; the WI has about 205,000 members.) We look forward to the film version, in which Helen Mirren leans across a naked Celia Imrie and says: “Lawrence, we’re going to need considerably bigger John Bunyans.” 
  • Debate about cuts is obscuring the real problem about public libraries Good Libraries Blog.  Tim Coates blames the management of libraries – need more books, more opening hours, less managers, better book supply… “the real problems of the library service we are defending it for what it ought to be like and not what it is like”. 
  • Great purge of our librariesQuadrant (Australia).   Removing books from academic libraries due to digitisation means world vulnerable to cyber-attack, censorship and the loss of vital works.  Compares the currrent situation to the burning of books during Henry VIII’s time.
  • Libraries – the new frontline in cuts row – Channel Four News.  Glos legal hearing this week seen as national test case.  Lechlade group and mobile library user interviewed.  Cllr Hawthorne says local communities want to take over libraries, campaigners say it was purely an ultimatum – run them yourselves or council will close them. Public Interest Lawyers say council is in “clear breach” of its duties “…you cannot have central and local government able to act outside the law”.  Also Channel Four news article Libraries latest battleground in legal fight against cuts.
  • Library is booming after first year – Leader (Australia). Extended Tasmanian library now has cafe, more seating, more computers, more meeting rooms, “imaginarium” and “digital pod”, usage up more than a third on one year ago.
Herefordshire – 2 mobile libraries (all) to end before Autumn.
West Sussex – Reference sections removed from some libraries.
Worcestershire – Libraries may run by private company, Trust or workers’ co-operative.  Increased charges, less stock, less opening hours.
Local News
  • Dorset  – Campaigners urge Dorset County Council to save library jobsDorset Echo.  Campaign for save 10 libraries would mean 6 jobs lost rather than 24. “The campaign group is now calling on the public service union Unison to back its fight as they say the matter has now become a jobs issue.Acting chairman Tim Lee said: “It looks obvious to us that the union representing library staff should want to back our campaign.”
  • Ealing – Decisions on the libraries, and on the taxicard schemeEaling Today.  “Ranjit Dheer (Lab) presented the report as portfolio holder. Ranjit said, “we bow to the wishes of the Borough’s residents and keep the libraries open” but that we need to look at how to deliver this in the longer term in the context of the cuts. He floated the possibility of setting up a charitable trust and pointed out that the fact that the nearly 1,000 potential volunteers that have come forward “fits in well with the Big Society agenda”… then went to say he had “never read a book in his life”.  
  • Gloucestershire – Cllr Hawthorne continues to spin: whilst this time Newnham Library Group  sets the record straightFoGL.  Newnham and Lechlade groups have taken issue with the Glos leader’s statement that they want to take over the libraries.  Rather, they are only considering it as a last resort.  
  • Herefordshire – Council scraps mobile library serviceBBC.   All mobile libraries to be stopped by the Autumn. 
  • Isle of the Wight – What news of the Island?Alan Gibbons.  Legal Aid has been repeatedly delayed to library campaigners apparently due to Government interference.  Independence of the LSC (who provide the funds) questioned.  Decision on if Isle of Wight legal challenge will received Legal Aid “imminent”. 
  • Milton Keynes – Summer Reading Challenge 2011 Milton Keynes Libraries.  Council asks for volunteers to support Circus Stars. 
  • West Sussex – Chief’s pay-off – West Sussex County Times.  £400,000 given to leaving boss. He received the money even though he was “sacked”.  “I think councils in general are looking in the wrong areas to make cuts and want to look more closely at overpaid salaries, before they even think about closing libraries and other services, especially for the needy in their area.” 
  • West Sussex – Shock at library as reference books go County Times.  60-book reference section removed from Billingshurst Library without consultation or notice.  Council said books were old and users could access information on computers.  Complainer said “Reference books have to be considered the most important element of a library. Remove them and what is the point of the library?” 
  • Worcestershire – Concern that volunteers could run librariesWorcester News.  Councillors worried that replacing staff with volunteers may be a legal problem and that they would need substantial training and support.  Libraries possibly run as a co-operative or other Trust.