The news that the result of the judicial review will be known this Thursday will have campaigners and councils anticipating a landmark case due to it being the first legal judgement ever delivered on the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act. There will be a natural temptation on the part of all to see the result as a precedent for all library court cases.  A feeling, perhaps, that the decision on the first will mean the same decision will be made on all the rest.  This is not necessarily the case.  The situation in Brent is very different to that in Gloucestershire and in Somerset, or Doncaster, or Dorset, or anywhere else.  Each council needs to prove that they have met the terms of the 1964 Act and other legislation (notably on Equalities) in relation to it’s own geography, existing library provision, consultation and procedures.  It is not a case of win one, win all (or lose one, lose all).  Each one should and must be judged on its own merits, or there is no point in the process at all.
Due its importance and use of the English language, the USA is always the other country that is most accessible to us in terms of news. Today, there are two stories from there that have some bearing on UK libraries.  The first is that California has passed legislation to make outsourcing/privatisation of its libraries more difficult.  Being that outsourcing normally costs more than keeping the service in-house, this can largely be seen as a good thing.  The other story is a scarier one.  There are politicians in the USA, on a scale and depth unheard of here, who despise libraries and want to see them closed.  On the assumption that what happens there today comes here tomorrow, we need to be aware of the arguments and be willing to fight back.  The attack by John Redwood MP on a public library (and the views of some the comments below his article) may not be such an isolated act in the future but rather a harbinger of Tea Party attitudes to public libraries on these shores.
Other stories today are instructive.  The changing of leader in Surrey seems to have been largely to do with his being associated with a plan to close many of its libraries.  The leader of the council in Oxford, who is particularly outspoken in favour of library cuts should be especially beware of this, especially as research shows his argument that it is either cuts to libraries or cuts to social care is extremely weak indeed. Proposed library closures in Bolton are being met with extremely professional and impressive resistance.  Alas, and it is a sad one to end on but it seems to be overarching theme of the times, there are the moves in Northamptonshire, Southwark, Hertfordshire and Surrey to force the local community to volunteer to work in libraries.  There used to be a time when “The Year of the Volunteer” was an unalloyed positive message for everyone.  Now such a notion is increasingly linked to political agendas, suspicion and fears of blackmail. 
434 libraries (347 buildings and 87 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.
  • CakeWordshore.   Report on LibraryCamp last Saturday.  Interesting report on the “Unconference” including importance of having CILIP and Voices for the Library there.
  • Good news for California libraries and their patrons – Can it happen here?  (USA).  “…Brown has signed a bill to make it far more difficult for cash strapped counties and cities to hand their libraries over to for-profit companies. Along with public schools, libraries are one of our leveling institutions, a place everyone can go to seek information or entertainment, to use a computer, or even, if you are well behaved, to get out of the rain.”
  • Peter Collins: Local Libraries are on top of my “most sexy” list – Wales Online.  “Libraries have played a crucial role in the social and cultural life of South Wales, particularly in the early and middle parts of the 20th Century, when they opened up whole new worlds to working-class people whose lives would otherwise have been bleak indeed.”
  • Public libraries have outlived their usefulness – Examiner (USA).  [Editor’s Note: An article, incredibly extreme by UK standards but of familiar type in the USA.  The view is that everyone has enough money to spend on books and that all parents can afford childcare costs or are never working when children are out of school].  Libraries are  “a babysitting service for parents who can’t be bothered with parenting. It isn’t as if they don’t have learning resources at home.” … “We don’t really need them anymore. We keep them around because we are nostalgic or because we want a babysitter, but we don’t need them for their books. For books we have Barnes and Noble, and Barnes and Noble has coffee.”
    • Rage to defund libraries goes off the deep end – Annoyed Librarian (USA).  “In New Hampshire, a Republican state representative is trying to reduce funding for the state’s popular interlibrary loan program because the service works too well. He claims to be a frequent user of ILL. According to the article, “What irks him, he said yesterday, is that he gets his requested books within a day or two.””.  It would be cost less tax if the service was slower.  The service is not paid for by the State he represents … “When you have a state politician salivating to cut a popular public service funded by money his state doesn’t even provide and which would still have to be used for library-related services somewhere in the state, you know you’ve gone through the looking glass.”
  • Strong leadership is key as London boroughs share services Guardian.  Lessons from the combining of services in Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith & Fulham and Westminster.  “Underpinning this project has had to be real savings. The final reports put the figure at £33.4m. Some savings are already being made. Having one director for children’s services, one libraries director and one director for adult social care replaces nine roles with three, saving around £740,000 in salaries alone.”
Local News
  • Bolton – Trust’s big fear over libraries – Bolton News.  The Civic Trust has written to the Chief Executive, and to all council leaders, a five page letter laying out detailed arguments and backed by planning and economic analysis, in many respects superior to Bolton Council’s own. The trust was right about the impact of Middlebrook on the town centre and also the impact of the Market Hall closure. We fear the council is now to be complicit in helping to cripple some of our neighbourhoods. We urge the council to think carefully.”
    • Final decision on libraries axe may go to vote – Bolton News.   “Five libraries — Astley Bridge, Oxford Grove, Heaton, Highfield and Castle Hill — are earmarked for closure next year, with the council’s Labour executive due to rubber stamp the plans tomorrow in what promises to be a heated meeting at Festival Hall. But the decision could still be “called in” for scrutiny by opposition councillors — something The Bolton News understands is likely — and the final vote could then go to full council where all parties will get their say.”
    • Letter from Bolton and District Civic Trust to Bolton Council.  A tour de force letter, showing how an objection should be made.  “The Civic Trust is deeply concerned at the potential impact of the Council’s proposal to close five libraries and believes it is essential that the Council should carefully reconsider its preferred decision and approach. Above the doorway of the former Halliwell library, on Hatfield Road, it states simply: ‘Let there be light’.”  See also this Covering Letter.
  •  Brent – libraries verdict on Thursday – BookSeller.  The judge, Mr Justice Ouseley, will deliver his verdict in the High Court on Thursday morning. The ruling will be the first judicial review judgement on council library closures to be delivered and will be watched keenly for its wider implications across the country. A judicial review ruling into Somerset and Gloucestershire’s library closures is also expected in the next few weeks. Brent library campaigners say they have now met their £30,000 target to meet their legal bills for the review, after a busy programme of fundraising events supported by authors including Alan Bennett and Jacqueline Wilson.”
    • High Court to rule on library closures on ThursdayBrent and Kilburn Times.  “If the judge votes in favour of keeping the libraries open it will be a landmark case and could set a precedent for similar cases across the country.”.  Judgement expected at 10am.  Also reported (same article) as High Court to rule on library closures in Brent on ThursdayLondon 24. 
    • Verdict to be announced on ThursdayPreston Library Campaign.  “The DCMS has met with Brent Council, but has yet to speak with campaigners or reveal the outcome of this meeting. Whatever the outcome, we want the Council to reconsider its approach and work with Brent residents to provide a comprehensive local library service.” … “Brent SOS Libraries is also seeking a separate public enquiry by the DCMS under the Museums and Libraries Act 1964. The council’s proposals will leave the borough with just 6 libraries, 3 of which require major upgrade/rebuilding. This does not constitute a “comprehensive” library service.”
  • Cheshire East – Sandbach One Stop Shop is on the move – Crewe Chronicle.  Customer service desk moved from council offices into library.  Building closed for one week for refurbishment.  ““The council’s policy to put more customer service points in libraries aims to make better use of staffing and property resources, while also providing customers with an enhanced service. Westfields currently has about 300 customers a week. Sandbach Library has 500 users a day.” … “The move will benefit customers and hopefully encourage more people to use their local library by bringing these complementary resources under one convenient roof.”
    • Homework help on offer at Middlewich Library – Middlewich Chronicle.   “Students researching an essay or project or are looking for books or resources to aid their studies will benefit during Help With Homework Week from October 17 to 21.”
  • Hampshire – Fleet Library escapes but at what cost?Fleet People.   “While Fleet has been identified as one of 11 key libraries in the county, and will be left as it is, it will however be expected to take up the slack and fill the gaps left by other local libraries where the service has been cut.” … “The belt-tightening plans are so widespread that almost every other library in the county would be closed at least one day weekly to try and make the service more affordable.”.  Consultation until Dec 28th.
  • Hertfordshire – Activism, or how Hertfordshire is moving towards the “community library” – Information Overload.  “I thought we’d got off with simple opening hours cuts in Hertfordshire, but no. Those cuts were bad enough, in fact they were extremely drastic – we lost no less than a third of our public library access as a result. So drastic, in fact, that I realised when no-one else seemed to be speaking out about them, that it was down to me.” … “Time to throw open the doors. Let’s see if people will come in.”. Two-hour stops and increase in Home Library Service.
  • North Yorkshire – Unveils “Supermobile” library timetableHarrogate News.  “From October 24, North Yorkshire County Council’s supermobile will call at twenty two locations on a rolling fortnightly timetable. Unlike the conventional mobile libraries, which were withdrawn last month, the supermobile offers a superior service, carrying around 3,000 items of stock – including books, DVDs, videos, and audio books – and offering internet access via satellite.”
  • Northamptonshire – Shared services could cut budgets for NorthamptonshireBBC.   “It’s a choice of cutting back office bureaucracy or front line services. But there are plenty of people in Northamptonshire who would like to see bus services back to what they were, school crossings restored and libraries better financed rather than more cuts,”  says Lib Dem opposition councillor.  Council is looking to share services with Cambridgeshire etc.
    • Cuts could mean many years of pain – Evening Telegraph.   “Despite already cutting hundreds of jobs, switching off half the county’s street lights and all its speed cameras, slashing bus subsidies and calling up an army of volunteers to run libraries to help save £69m this year, the county council yesterday announced it needs to save a further £100m by 2016.”
    • Plan for volunteer army to keep all libraries openEvening Telegraph. “Northamptonshire County Council members are today set to debate a strategy which could see the number of library volunteers nearly quadruple from 457 to 1,600 in just four years.”…”Latest figures published by the council show that the county’s libraries receive more than three million visits a year, with each visit costing £1.67.”

Oxfordshire – What would you cut? – Question Everything.
When leader of council Keith Mitchell says cut libraries or social care, he may be
slightly overstating his case.
 What would you Cut? 3 – Oxfordshire Council videos events at a cost of nearly
£200 per view.

“This report shows a great way forward for the borough and unlike other authorities up and down the country, we are continuing to invest in our libraries. The phenomenal response we had from our library users during the consultation period showed just how dear libraries are to the hearts of our residents, and closing any would have been hugely regrettable.”

  • Suffolk – Village library is safe, says councillor – Suffolk Free Press.  Great Cornard:The future of the library is secure,” he said. “It will be managed by a structural organisation directly from the county council.”
  • Surrey – Leader to be endorsed and unveil new cabinetBBC.   Library cut plans were a key part in the downfall of previous leader. “Unison spokesman Chris Leary said thousands of residents were unhappy about cuts the council was making, particularly over changes to the library service which will see nine sites losing paid staff. The full council meeting on Tuesday will hear a motion from Residents Association Councillor Eber Kington, which states plans for community libraries have failed to gain support, and there is support for the use of volunteers but within a fully professional library service. The motion calls on the cabinet to abandon plans for community libraries and adopt a library policy retaining professional staff in all 52 libraries with additional voluntary support across all sites.
    • Changing of the guard at Surrey County Council – Eagle Radio.   “Meanwhile, David Hodge will be sworn in as leader this morning. One of the first requests he’ll face is a motion to abandon plans to close 19 libraries unless volunteers run them.”
    • Leader to be endorsed and unveil new cabinet – BBC.   “Unison spokesman Chris Leary said thousands of residents were unhappy about cuts the council was making, particularly over changes to the library service which will see nine sites losing paid staff.”

“Result of vote: 41-21 against the motion. Tories voted on block against libraries. Still hope though. Call in will be held next week.”  Surrey_SLAM (Twitter) Council votes against proposal to abandon plans to force 19 libraries to become volunteer-run.