“Keep hitting these four messages:

Libraries change lives. How? Through our passionate advocacy for literacy and lifelong learning.
Libraries build community. How? By providing public space and encouraging citizen engagement.
Libraries mean business. How? By helping people find jobs, and helping entrepreneurs create them.
Libraries are a smart investment. How? We are a cooperative purchasing agreement that has a great return on the investment.” Colorado Public Library Advocacy Initiative (USA).

It is hard for me to say this but public libraries in the UK have had it easy.  Not because the job is easy but rather because they have not had to really promote themselves to survive. The situation is different in the USA where libraries have to continue, year in year out, to prove themselves to the public and to their councillors.  Public votes on expenditure (“millages”) mean a poorly promoted library is a poorly funded library.  Unconvinced people can quite happily vote to reduce the percentage of tax paid to the library. There seems to be an almost Darwinian process going on, with US libraries having some seriously impressive publicity in order to survive in order to produce more publicity for next time.  In the good times, where money is easy to come by, the UK model is far less wasteful – how much time and worry must go on all of these perpetual fights for expenditure, even for the best of libraries?  Now in the bad times, though, what an advantage American librarians have over their British colleagues.  
British librarians are not so used to advocacy.   There’s no professional campaigning going on to promote British public libraries (Voices for the Library is a voluntary effort for all of its wonderfulness) worthy of the name. None. I don’t mean from national bodies, although assuredly the old MLA, the malevolently neglectful DCMS or even the limited-in-what-it-can-do-for-the best-of-reasons CILIP do not qualify (although a quick nod to the Summer Reading Challenge does need to be included as counter-evidence).  No, what I mean are the public library authorities themselves.  There’s some good practice out there, but it’s small and often either painfully low budget or too local or both.  In this, the hour of need, it is authors and users who are doing the campaigning.  Librarians are not doing it because we never have and we’re assuredly never going to get the money from our councils to start now.  
There seems also to be a legal difference.  It seems accepted that library workers in the USA can fight for their existence, not so in the UK where staff need to toe the council line when there are cuts in opening hours or bookfund.  However, it goes deeper than a legal defence. Many  not even sure about how to promote librarians within their own organisations, because we (yes, I’m a librarian, and I’m proud of it, do you hear me?)  have not really needed to until now.  There were no inspections.   There has been no need to vigorously and rigorously defend libraries and, as such, the skills of saying “libraries are essential for this council because of x, and y and z…” have never needed to be developed and trained and cherished and, and, and … and, well, my, are libraries paying for it now. 
Perhaps, Librarians have shushed themselves for too long.

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.

“Access to knowledge is the superb, the supreme act of truly great civilizations. Of all the institutions that purport to do this, free libraries stand virtually alone in accomplishing this.” Toni Morrison

  • Anger over cuts prompts new procurement approach – Supply Management. About the decision to outsource libraries in Croydon and Wandsworth. ““We in Wandsworth, have saved hundreds of millions over the past 30 years by outsourcing services,” said a spokesman for Wandsworth council. “We are already sharing the management of our press offices with the [London Borough of] Hammersmith and Fulham, which has halved the management cost. We would hope to place adverts for a tender to manage libraries in six months time.”

“Like most writers of my generation, I grew up with the weekly exchange of library books, and took their pleasures and treasures for granted. The cost of our free public library system is small, its value immense. To diminish and dismantle it would be a kind of national self-mutilation, as stupid as it would be wicked.” Julian Barnes

  • Barnes: dismantling libraries is “self-mutilation” – BookSeller.  “The author’s comments came as the Man Booker prize announced it would be hosting an event to show its support for the library service. Three of the authors shortlisted for this year’s award – Carol Birch, Stephen Kelman and A D Miller – will speak to an audience of librarians and library reading groups from across the UK at an event to be held at the British Library on 11th October… Ion Trewin, the prize’s literary director, said: “The support we are giving here at a time when libraries across much of the nation are being closed or under threat demonstrates how important Man Booker believes them to be.”
  • Get carded: Libraries educate, entertain and create community – Plum Oakmont Patch (USA). “Public libraries are community centers and the centers of their communities. They are gathering places where residents convene for conversations, organizational meetings and program participation.”Evidence for education (“think of it as an extension of the school”) and entertainment as well.

“And so I hope you still bring that much happiness to other children and adults in the world today. I hope you are still changing lives the way you changed mine. Because not everyone can afford to buy their own crack through, and most people appreciate using you to borrow their crack. You provide an invaluable service to our entire country.” Gratitude Sunday 9/24/11 = Libraries – 5 Flat Tires (Niki Mathias).   Humorous posting but deeply insightful. 

  • Long live books: bringers of life and entitlement – Office of the Chief Rabbi.  Also printed in the Times (behind paywall) on Saturday 23rd September. “When Jews think of life, I said, they think of a book. For us, to read is to live….So I was struck by Caitlin Moran’s powerful plea in August for local libraries to be spared in the programme of government cuts….A great book is a life-enlarging journey of the mind. That is an idea we must never lose. Libraries are an essential element of a good society. They democratise knowledge, giving us all equal access to the heritage of humankind. There are many kinds of poverty we should try to eliminate, but I wonder whether intellectual impoverishment may not be the deepest and most debilitating of all.”
  • More than books: Libraries strengthen communities in uncertain times – Shareable (USA).  “Have you heard? There’s a new hot-spot in town. It’s a museum, digital hub, community resource center, art space and provider of free and open access to information. It’s the picture of shareability and it’s right through the doors of a library. While library systems rework their methods of information delivery for an increasingly electronic world, libraries themselves have become go-to places for work, study, community, computers, education, pleasure reading, and quiet.”.  Another great article in the “libraries aren’t dieing, they’re evolving” series.
  • Osceola lays off 16; libraries take biggest hit – Around Osceola (USA).   7 library staff (inc. 5 branch managers) redundant.  “Ed Kilroy, former library system director, said he believes cutting all branch managers is a precursor to the county outsourcing the library operations to Maryland-based Library Systems & Services LLC, referred to as LSSI.” … “According to a letter to the county manager from LSSI Executive Chairman Frank A. Pezzanite, the company could save the county $1.87 million the first year of the contract: $1.2 million in personnel costs, $508,532 in operating expenses and $147,810 in capital outlay for books and other materials.”.  Letter says staff would have health insurance but no pension plan.
  • New numbers on library outsourcing not so rosy – AFSCME (USA).  “The annual projected savings Osceola County government could realize by outsourcing management of the Osceola Library System to a private company has been cut by more than two-thirds, according to information provided at the Library Advisory Board meeting Wednesday.”  $4m saving over five years expected.
  • Region’s elderly facing “perfect storm” – Yorkshire Post. “A hard-hitting report by Age UK North Yorkshire and Harrogate CVS, compiled over the summer, highlights the impact on older people of cuts to a wealth of vital services including public transport, social support, home care, meal deliveries and libraries.” … ““It is clear the loss of direct personal contact will have a negative impact on vulnerable people.””
  • Valiant villagers defy cynicism and legal hurdles as they get ready to improve vital local services – Yorkshire Post.  “Nowhere is this more apparent than in the libraries sector, where the unprecedented programme of closures is being mitigated by a valiant volunteer-led fightback….Negotiations are now under way in North Yorkshire, Leeds and Doncaster to save a number of libraries from closure with the help of community groups. But it is Bradford where such proposals are now most advanced, with Addingham, Denholme and Wrose libraries all poised to stay open – staffed entirely by local volunteers.”
  • Who invented public libraries? – Yahoo! Answers.  The variability and inaccuracy of some of the replies, along with the “information dump” approach of some others, shows the need that Yahoo! Answers, at least, has not replaced the need for librarians.

 Local News

  • Brent – What’s happening in Brent?Alan Gibbons.  “An evening with Esther Rantzen, St Gabriel’s Church, Walm Lane .Wednesday 5 October 7pm. Please help this week We need to be promoting this Save Cricklewood Library event this week.”.  Brent Council has spent £70,000 on fighting the legal case on library closures so far. 
  • Croydon – Savings “will justify” £250k cost of Croydon’s libraries hand over – Croydon Today.  Cost of choosing a company is £250k, either with or without a joint winner (with Wandsworth).  Part of contract would mean no closures and monitoring (but not moratorium on cuts to) bookfund.  Decision not until October 2012.
  • Isle of Wight – Campaigners question IOW council’s “community libraries”  – BookSeller.  “campaigners have branded plans to hand the libraries over to volunteers “a cut by any other name”…. ” it “seems to be the most vulnerable people who are suffering”, and pointed to the irony of handing Niton library over to volunteers, when it was just “a stone’s throw” from the burial place of Edward Edwards, a 19th-century pioneer of the public library service”
  • Orkney – Library gets book back after 40 years – Scotsman.   “Library assistant Stewart Bain said: “It came from someone who was selling up their farm and was having a clear-out. We don’t operate a fine system – which is just as well.”
  • Surrey – Calls for public inquiry at Surrey County Council – Eagle Radio.  “Campaign group the Surrey Libraries Action Movement says last week’s events at County Hall show the council’s in disarray. The leader resigned after sacking two key figures, now one of those key figures looks set to take over the leadership. SLAM wants an inquiry into what happened and a halt to plans which could see 19 libraries close.”

“Expressions of interested are welcomed for the purchase of a mobile library which will be available for release from November 2011.Price: Open to offers. Viewing of vehicle can be arranged by appointment only.” Wigan – Mobile Library for sale, posting on LIS-PUB-LIBS [Mobile service scrapped refers].