“One thing about eBooks that most people haven’t thought much is that eBooks are the very first thing that we’re all able to have as much as we want other than air. Think about that for a moment and you realize we are in the right job.”

I had not noticed the passing of Michael Hart on September 6th this year.  Many will not have heard his name before but everyone should.  He was the inventor of the E-book, although this to me is not his greatest achievement.  It is not easy being first but I can’t help but think that someone else would have got the idea pretty immediately if he had not beaten them to it. What I know and respect him for most is Project Gutenberg, which aimed to produce, for free, online copies of as many out-of-copyright books as possible.  The number is 36,000 at the moment, about as many as a good sized branch library holds, available wherver there is an internet connaction.  As a librarian, I see him as kindred spirit.  Public libraries exist to allow free access to books and information.  So did Michael Hart.
432 libraries (346 buildings and 86 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.


“Too many have inadequate book stocks, too few staff working with the public, too few activities, too shoddy an environment, too little outreach work in schools and communities. This isn’t the fault of the library staff the public meet. It is the outcome of years of poor leadership, characterised by a parliamentary committee recently as ‘woeful. In a recent post Unison national officer Hannah Bailey wrote very powerfully about a visit to Winsford library in Cheshire, demonstrating what a library should be like.  Here’s the rub, if we are to have the libraries of tomorrow, we can’t allow the libraries of today to close. If we are to change the nature of librarianship to meet the needs of the future we can’t allow the librarians of today to be sacked.”The libraries we’ve got and the libraries we need – Alan Gibbons.

“As writers such as Anne Sebba and Deborah Moggach descend on Marlborough for the Wiltshire town’s literary festival, what of the ongoing battle to save the local libraries? This time last year, Wiltshire Council announced a freeze on buying any new books except the “top 10 bestsellers”. Since then, half the council’s librarians have been axed and replaced with machines. The thinking was that machines don’t need paying or pensions or, indeed, uniforms. Librarians don’t actually need uniforms either, though that wasn’t the council’s view when it splurged £40,000 on uniforms months before they wielded the axe. A mole tells me that the first library uniform has now been spotted in a Marlborough charity shop.” Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary – Independent on Sunday. 

  • Michael HartThe Economist.  The inventor of E-books and the creator of Project Gutenberg died on September 6th.  Michael believed in books being free, putting all he could on the internet, gaining thousands of helpers on the way.  The extension of copyright to 100 years (it was 30 when he started in the 1980s) limited his work, believing to the end that “All good things should be abundant, and they should be free.”


 Local News

  • Cambridgeshire – Savour our libraries lobby of the County Council Cabinet meetingSave our libraries (Facebook).  A joint Save our Libraries / Cambridgeshire Against the Cuts lobby of the Cambridgeshire County Council cabinet meeting to hand in the petition to save cambridgeshires libraries which at the last count had over 7,000 signatures on it”
  • Cumbria – Libraries launch free audio book download service – BBC.    “Users will have access to more than 600 books, with new titles added every month to the service that can accessed day and night. Downloads will be automatically deleted after three weeks which also ends the risk of incurring fines.”
  • Enfield – Consultation on Enfield libraries to close – Enfield Independent.   “The issue caused a furore earlier this year after it was revealed finance chief Councillor Andrew Stafford had suggested to residents that “two or three” libraries could be shut. The council has since said no decisions have been made, and no proposals have been put forward for consultation.”
  • Gloucestershire  Details of this week’s court case – FoGL.   Details of how to get to the judicial review of the cuts to Gloucestershire libraries in Birmingham on Tuesday.
  • Scottish Borders – Innerleithen and Selkirk take aim as library merger D-Day approaches – Southern Reporter.  “Controversial plans to merge libraries with Scottish Borders Council contact centres in seven towns and, at the same time, reduce their opening hours, will be determined by councillors next month.” Protests as unfair to those communities affected, but staffing queried “In some branch libraries, professionally qualified librarians can spend up to 40 per cent of their time carrying out transactional front desk tasks – which are also very competently undertaken by staff on lower grades – rather than on service development and improvement.”.  Contact centres drastically reduced in usage.  £30k initial saving followed by £59k p.a.