Francis Bennion, who drafted the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, has written to the Times expressly stating that the current cuts are likely to be unlawful under its terms.  His view is important as it shows that the spirit, as well as the word, of the Act is against the current closures and other reductions in service.  It will be interesting to see what impact his intervention has in the debate as several legal challenges which are largely based on perceived contraventions of the Act.

415 libraries (333 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.  


  • Councils as “place shapers”: the future of local government? – Guardian.  Warwickshire, currently looking to give away or close  16 out of  its 34 descibed as a “place-shaping trailblazer”.  Drop-off point for books in local supermarket, shared buildings with local councils, children’s centres, village hall and Revenue and Customs.
  • Literacy drive under threat, laureate warnsIndependent (Eire).  Eerily reminiscent of British experience. 
  • Public Libraries Act ignored, says man who wrote it – BookSeller.   “Former parliamentary counsel Francis Bennion drafted the bill that became the 1964 act, the cornerstone of the present public library service. In a letter to the Times today (16th August)”. “The civil servant spent 14 years in the Westminster Parliamentary Counsel Office drafting acts of parliament, as well as drafting the constitutions by which Pakistan and Ghana became republics.”.

“Under this provision a severe reduction now in the public library facilities which were being provided by a particular library authority two or three years ago is likely to be unlawful. This is because there is a presumption that the earlier provision did not exceed what was required under the Act … The Act does not contain any provision for reduction of the duties because of a need for “cuts”” Francis Bennion Letter, reproduced here with his permission, plus additional paragraph – Voices for the Library.  The full text and vital missing paragraph from the Times letter written by the drafter of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act article.

  • Will Kindles kill libraries? – Boston Phoenix.  “This week, OverDrive itself will host its own conference to help libraries deal with a massive onslaught of patrons clamoring to check out books on their Kindles. Can embattled public institutions handle such a drastic change? Does Kindle come to kill the American library, or to save it?” An excellent look at the issues involved. 


Local news

  • Bolton – New plans to shut libraries come under fire – Bolton News.  Second consultation too biased, says campaigners.  ” “We were amazed at how many people were prepared to fill in these council forms, despite their jargon and biased questions. It feels like being given the choice between being hung, shot or poisoned. People just want the council to find a way to keep these libraries open.” 
  • Borders – Council reveal plans to shelve librarians in BordersBorder Telegraph.   “”If they are going to do it in one town they need to do it in every town otherwise we want a reduction in our community tax….”I fear that the library service is going to be depleted to such an extent that it won’t be retained in smaller towns like Selkirk.” 
  • Brent – High court decision on future of libraries to be reached in OctoberHarrow Times. 
  • Cambridgeshire – New vision for Cambridgeshire libraries – Haverhill Echo.  “Ideas in also include libraries sharing facilities with small businesses such as the Post Office, and with Linton Library operating out of the Cathodeon Centre with other facilities the proposals would stand it in good stead.”.  Linton library may not be open in evenings. 
  • Durham – Clayport library to cease Sunday opening – Northern Echo.    “At a time when we have to make significant savings as a result of the Government grant reductions it is simply not sustainable or sensible for Sunday opening to continue,”.
  • Hammersmith & Fulham – Bush Theatre workers unearth old Shepherd’s Bush Library time capsule – Chronicle series.  Includes cutting that says ““Mr Edwards offered to build the library if the ratepayers would undertake to permanently maintain it under the provisions of the Libraries Act. The constituency was canvassed, and a public vote taken, which resulted in a majority of 2,440 in favour of the library.”
  • Isle of Wight – New hope for Bembridge libraryVentnor Blog.  Isle of Wight Rural Community Council may take over lease from council to allow for volunteer-run library. “This proposal deals with a number of issues at a stroke, including insurances and employment legislation issues covered by TUPE, which up until now has been a major sticking point. But we are not out of the woods yet, as we have to pay for all utility services, maintenance and running costs which add up to around £12,000 a year.”
  • Lancashire – Councillor slams plans to move Earby Library – Citizen.  Old building 10 minutes walk from centre of town..  “That building (Coronation Hall) is packed full of books. To close the library and replace it with a few shelves in a new location is despicable,”
  • Oxfordshire – Funding cuts leave rural libraries at a disadvantage – Henley Standard.   “The county council’s premise right at the start is to prioritise five areas — where people live, work, shop and study and public transport. By those criteria these have to be urban areas. Once that was set then there was a bias against rural areas … This is not a plan for the future, it’s not even a proper plan. They have looked for the simplest way to solve their problem but it’s not managing it for the future.” 
  • Suffolk – Town council steps in to run library – Suffolk Free Press.  “Sudbury Library is among 14 others across the county which will be part of a new pilot scheme designed to save them from closure.”
  • Walthamstow – More than 1000 sign libraries petitionThis is Local London. “A day of action in protest at the proposed loss of Harrow Green Library and South Chingford library was organised by unions and anti-cuts groups in Walthamstow town Square on Saturday.”
  • Wigan – Calls for council to run the trust – Wigan Today.  “An opposition councillor is demanding the town hall once again run its recreation services – from parks and football pitches to libraries and crematoria – because of the money allegedly lost at last year’s Haigh Fest pop concerts.” – claims event lost £250,000 but the Trust refuses to reveal true loss as it is “private”.
  • Wokingham – Visitors to village library increase by 14 percent in a year – Henley Standard.   “The increase, the latest in a succession of annual rises, comes as Wokingham Borough Council plans to privatise its library service.” … “It is thought that a company could provide legal, human resources and IT services 20 per cent cheaper than the borough can. The bids are now closed and although a definite decision has not been made, all the preparation has been done and privatisation looks like the way they are going.”