Volunteers are increasingly being seen as the answer to cuts in library budgets by councils.  Just today, during the Summer Holidays, (a) Blackburn has announced at least one and possibly three libraries will be run by volunteers as it looks to cut 25% of its budget, (b) Buckinghamshire has another volunteer-run library, replete with new logo, (c) a library in Suffolk is going the same way and (d) I notice Wakefield have it on the cards too, warmly applauded by an organisation praised by Government to make it all easier.  The same is happening up and down the country, to the acclaim of councillors and other politicians looking for an answer to the greatest cuts in the peacetime history of council services.

It all replaces the black and white of library closures with a fuzzy-logic greyness.  It’s hard to complain about a service staying open, albeit with less resources than before, in times of crisis.  Some volunteer-run branches such as in Ivinghoe will even retain some (much reduced) paid staff.  However, the volunteers themselves are clear that they would prefer a council-run service and are only taking over because there is no other option.  I describe volunteers as a “sticking plaster” in the title for a reason.  If someone is seriously cut, a sticking plaster is not the solution. It’s better than nothing.  After all, closing the library can perhaps be seen as killing the patient in this context.  However, volunteers like plasters will only work in the best circumstances such as in prosperous areas, not in every case. Councils are going for elastoplast when they need to go for long-term solutions (the bandage of greater efficiency perhaps). Polticians should be looking to avoid the injury in the first place.
418 libraries (336 buildings and 82 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. 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.


  • Are books dead and can authors survive? – Guardian. Shortened version of Ewan Morrison’s “of a publishing industry in terminal decline”.
  • Children’s centres and libraries join forces for mutual benefit and survivalNursery World.   Looks at Future Libraries Programme report.  “One of the pilots within the programme being delivered by Northumberland and Durham County Councils is using e-book readers in Sure Start children’s centres to evaluate how beneficial they might be for children.”  Looks at case studies in Bury St Edmunds and one in Hayes Library (Hillingdon).
  • What are libraries for?Co-operatives UK. Looks at FLP report.  “But do these things rely on traditional library spaces, vast local book collections and armies of librarians and clerks to make them happen? In fact, many of these functions risk being undermined by off putting, outdated buildings, intimidating search systems and over-busy staff.”


Local News

  • Barnet – Adult college dashes council hopes that it will provide home for Hampstead Garden Suburb library – London 24.   College says it was never possible, Council had said they had had “very positive conversations” with college about it.  “Deborah Warland, leader of the Save Our Suburb Library campaign, said that the botched deal did not trouble them as the group was still looking to keep the 60-year-old library open in its current location in Market Place.” … Group has 30 volunteers able to help, council says group would need to pay for everything except for rent, which the Council is “locked into” paying for next five years.
  • Blackburn with Darwen Group sought to run Blackburn’s Roman Road Library – Lancashire Telegraph.   “One of the solutions is seen as the creation of a series of “gateway” libraries — with friends’ groups paid by the council to assume the management of some of the borough’s smaller facilities.” Roman Road library to be run by volunteers, saving £36k per year.
  • Bolton – Call for local meetings in bid to save libraries – This is Lancashire.  “Councillors have already organised a meeting this Thursday to discuss options for Astley Bridge Library.  Now the Save Bolton Libraries Campaign is calling on Bolton Council and local councillors to organise similar meetings in the other four areas where libraries are at risk of closure.”… Council says ““If people still want to organise local meetings then that is fine and I will attend, but these meetings cannot be part of the public consultation.”
 Buckinghamshire – Read on: for we have saved our village library – Hemel Today.  “The Friends of Ivinghoe Library was formed in March after the announcement last year. The group drew up a business plan, which council bosses have now accepted. Secretary Emma Huxley said: “There was a really strong reaction from the community. Ivinghoe doesn’t lie down and take things easily. We’re really hoping to make the change over before Christmas.”
  • Lambeth – Thunder in the libraries – IT-Director.  “The libraries in Lambeth have recently been the venue for an experiment to fix both these problems. The initiative is being driven forward by a local resident, Christina Burnett of Wide Eye Pictures, who is passionate about the benefits of computing to VIPs. Like every modern library Lambeth has several computers in each library. The only extra hardware required was headphones.”
  • Suffolk – We’ll do all we can to save library – Suffolk Free Press.   “Councillors in Sudbury are meeting at the end of this month to discuss the formulation of a business case for the running of the library on Market Hill and this will then be considered by the county council in October.”
“If someone else takes over the library will the same librarians still work there? I think the library is a precious resource to the community. The staff should be our friends, & chat to us about fab stuff, from what I’m doing on my birthday to my favourite episode of Doctor Who. Not much to ask for! Maybe a few more computers & extra computer time, but that may stretch the budget to snapping point!”  Comment on Suffolk article