The lack of advocacy or leadership for libraries by librarians, on a regional or national level (with the exception of, in the case of advocacy,  Voices for the Library, in which I must declare an interest being I am a member of its team) is one of the most striking facets of the current crisis. The following is reprinted here, with permission, from the highly experienced John Dolan.  It first appeared on the LIS-PUB-LIBS librarian discussion site and is part of a longer thread on national reference resources.
While we are rightly preoccupied with the threats of library closures we are missing the bigger threat posed by current policy; localism without coordination denies people the huge opportunity that comes from national collaboration. National leadership does not deny local choice. Rather it offers the choice of resources that no localism could possibly afford to deliver. This is basic economics, not ideology. Compare health, schools, universities, forests, police etc etc
It is a shortcoming currently that almost all external advocacy for public libraries has come from the literature/fiction community, notwithstanding the WI! Library leaders and DCMS must earn support among colleagues in education, lifelong learning, citizenship and community action, the voluntary sector and the wider arts and cultural communities to raise awareness of the library as a place of learning and discovery that does not come only from borrowing fiction.

John Dolan made these comments purely as an individual.  It is not meant to represent the views of any organisation that he is currently involved with on either an official or unofficial basis

419 libraries (337 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 told: end diversity quiz – Press Association.   “Communities Secretary Eric Pickles will issue new guidelines for local authorities removing the requirement for them to undertake “intrusive lifestyle and diversity” surveys.” … “That includes revelations last month that libraries in Islington, north London, were asking people registering to borrow books if they had cancer, HIV, or diabetes and whether they were transgender.” [This shows that the Government can move amazingly quickly when it wants to, the almost complete lack of reaction to the cuts in libraries by them is thus even more worrying – Ed.)
    • Councils told to drop personal questionnaires – BBC.   “The Department for Communities and Local Government said that its one-page statutory guidance replaces “the 56 pages of John Prescott’s so-called ‘Best Value’ guidance”.
  • Death of books has been greatly exaggeratedGuardian. Printed book sales have gone up in the last decade and it’s still early to tell what effect e-books will have.  Online sales have boosted booksales but  “Let’s not be naive. Any retail channel that ends up being dominated by one player will end up squeezing its producers; just ask a farmer. But Amazon is, right now, giving people what they want: competitive pricing, rapid delivery, massive choice, good customer service. And it’s selling books. A lot of books.”
  • Will community ownership be at home in the new world of localism? – Joseph Rowntree Foundation.   Similar Scottish legislation to the Localism Bill has seen only nine purchases in six years.”In England and Wales, too, the scale of community asset ownership is small and is likely to remain so in the near future, especially as many organisations seek to consolidate what they have before risking new investments. But the Localism Bill’s best service could be to send out an important and powerful signal about our future – a future where our stake in society is no longer limited to what we can own as individuals, what we buy from corporations or what we expect the state to do on our behalf.”


Local news

  • Brent  – DCMS still in libraries dialogue with Brent Council – Wembley Matters.   Standard pro-forma letter reply to website, largely seen before.  Unique words are “DCMS officials have met with officers from Brent Council and are in the process of considering all the relevant evidence and all the issues. The Department will continue to maintain dialogue with the local authority. Once all the relevant issues have been considered, the Secretary of State will decide whether or not to intervene, or whether further actions on the part of Brent Council are required.”
  • Central Bedfordshire – No plans for library closures – Biggleswade Today.  Fears by campaigners that volunteers will be used instead.  Council says “We are currently working to develop proposals to improve the quality and range of services that the library can provide, and the public will have the opportunity to comment on these options later in the autumn.””
  • Devon – Protest campaign launched against Colyton library cuts – Midweek Herald.   Library reduced to 10 hours per week.  Campaigner “disappointed” by cuts and worried the one member of staff would be overwhelmed by customers in reduced opening hours.  Suggests that council should use the 40 volunteers already signed up and “willing to do any type of work” – council considering use of volunteers in 2012.
  • Manchester – Important changes to Manchester Library Services. What’s happening? – Manchester City Council. Complete list of cuts, with supporting papers.
  • Newham – Save our language papersGoPetition.  “We believe LBN’s argument is not supported by mainstream thought or research that recognises the beneficial and complex role mother-tongue/second-language skills play in learning English as a foreign language. Neither does it address the broader value of preserving and respecting other cultures within a diverse and evolving borough.”
  • Norfolk – Lynn’s Heritage Open Day allows a new look at historic town library – Lynn News.  Potted history of library since its opening by Andrew Carnegie himself in 1905.
  • Northamptonshire – Public phase of library consultation begins – About My Area.  “”This review sets out a plan where instead of closing libraries or reducing opening hours, we diversify the way libraries are funded.  We intend to review how we are doing in Summer 2013 as a mid-point but if progress is not on track we will have to consider closures once again.”
    • My Library, My Community survey – Northamptonshire Council.   “We cannot afford to continue to fund the service completely ourselves. That is where you come in.” … “We intend to increase people who contribute time to the service from 400 to 1600 over the next four years” … “People have said they don’t mind paying for the service. How much would you be willing to give?”  [This would be illegal under the 1964 Act – Ed.]
  • Northern Ireland  – Disappointment as Belfast Central Library refused £20m – BBC.   Exterior already upgraded but expected interior improvement cancelled due to budget cuts. 
  • Swindon – Library celebrates 40th birthdaySwindon Advertiser.  ““We are hoping to get a self-service machine installed and longer opening hours which is good news. Unlike other councils which are closing libraries we are bucking the trend.””