“… since the Secretary of State has the duty of superintendence of the performance by authorities of their s7 duties with the advice of advisory councils, and in s10 a default power, with scope for a full factual inquiry by an independent person, as happened in response to complaints about the library service in the Wirral, this court ought to intervene only in a clear case: a complete failure by a library authority to assess need, or an irrational approach to its assessment. The Claimants have in reality accepted just such an approach in relation to the question of whether the LTP breaches s7 on its merits, which they are content to leave to the Secretary of State. I accept that submission: I would put it on the basis that if the Claimants can show that something has gone seriously or obviously wrong in law in the information gathering or analysis process, they should have their remedy in this court. Otherwise, it should be left to the Secretary of State.” para.94,  Judgment Approved by the court for handing down (subject to editorial corrections) Bailey & Others v LB Brent.

So the judge in the Brent case says that it should be left up to the Secretary of State.  The important point here is that the judicial review (to borrow phrasing from a fellow campaigner in an email to me today) is “to investigate issues of legality in administration, not conduct detailed enquiries into facts.”.  That  job is up to the Secretary of State.  Unfortunately, this is the same person who has consistently done nothing for libraries in the last year and, indeed, does not appear to even have commented yet on the Brent result.
In fact it all looks like the Government, all of the Government, either do not think libraries are worth any effort (although they’re the third most important local service according to users) or just hope it will go away.  Even Sarah Teather MP has not said anything about the matter.  Who she?  Well she is (a) a Lib Dem, who are all supposed to be distancing themselves from unpopular Conservative policies, (b) the Minister for Children (120 of which picketed Kensal Rise this morning to protect their local library), (c) has advocated direct action to prevent library closures before and (d) is MP for Brent East.  Presumably she has been Talked To and is preferring Being Good to standing up for her constituents and perhaps having a chance of being re-elected next time around.

[Edited 20/10/11 My apologies to Sarah Teather.  She had expressed her disapproval of the closures at on the day. I had missed this at the time]

There is something we all can do though – Everyone needs to pressure their local MPs to write to John Whittingdale, as Chairman of the Culture Media and Sport Committee to ensure that the issue of DCMS intervention is brought up at the Autumn evidence session.  Someone in Parliament needs to start advocating on libraries behalf and your letter or email could be the spur that gets them to act.
436 libraries (347 buildings and 89 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.


“Librarians are here to help their communities, and an attack on a library is an attack on a community. It may not seem like it, and clearly to a lot of councillors it doesn’t, but that’s exactly what it is. Because it’s saying that the benefit that people get from their libraries/librarians in terms of learning to read, in getting a job, in finding social services to protect them in some way, in giving people the opportunity to learn or indeed just enjoying a good book – none of that matters. And when they say that none of that matters what they’re actually saying is ‘that community doesn’t matter’ and ‘that person isn’t important’.”  A library is not … Phil Bradley’s Weblog.

  • Before closing libraries, cut the Evian orders and biscuits at meetings – Mail.   “…right up there, third in the list of important local services for taxpayers, is the provision of libraries.” Article praises the views of Tim Coates who “approaches the debate from a more nuanced perspective than some of his fellow campaigners, who sometimes give the impression that every penny spent on our libraries is as efficiently spent as the money we spend on our own personal libraries at home.” … “Local council bosses will only have the moral authority to close libraries when they can demonstrate that they have cut everything that affects their own personal lifestyles back to the bare minimum.”. Article also questions why libraries have popular DVDs in them [Answer – to make a profit which can be spent on the rest of the library service – Ed.]
  • Libraries key to kids’ futures – Sun.  Julia Donaldson, children’s laureate says “Children’s use of libraries has increased every year for the past six years … Without this resource I’m convinced that we will have far fewer avid child readers and consequently lose a large percentage of our future adult readers”.  Libraries allow children to experiment with books for free – bookshops don’t allow this as there is a cost, even if you have one nearby…. “even the best teachers are likely to offer you a much smaller choice and less expertise than a librarian can”.
  • Radical council changes must convince public, says NLGNPublic Finance. “The think-tank examined libraries, transport and waste services to see if apparently disparate services facing common problems ‘might also benefit from some common solutions’… councils have chosen to protect spending on social services. They are also not amenable to the usual reform prescriptions of personalisation and competition.” .. ‘The library itself would become a centre that promotes learning and reading,’ the report says.”

As citizen demands change and cuts start to bite, NLGN’s research shows that, while the average cost of borrowing a book is around £3.50 … NLGN argues that the best way to democratise book access in future will be to make a radical shift to e-readers, online ordering and book vending machines in public places. This would make it much easier for the public to access books while freeing up library space for use by families and communities. Libraries would still hold the most popular titles and children’s books and act as a crucial community hub.” Transforming Universal Services: Transport, libraries and environmental services beyond 2015 – New Local Government Network. Public opinion and “highly motivated activists” are getting in the way.”

  • Report proposes $17 million in cuts for librariesGlobe and Mail (Canada).  Less than a month after Toronto city council spared library branches from the chopping block, more than $17-million in cuts are on the table, including reduced Sunday openings, fewer weekday hours, less spending on collections and the elimination 100 full-time jobs.”
  • WH Smith launches “Kindle Killer”Guardian.  “ts chief executive, Kate Swann, has struck a deal with Canadian firm Kobo to sell its eponymous e-readers, costing from £89.99, and a library of 2.2m books from next week. The retailer will receive a share of the profits on all the Kobo ebooks bought in the UK.”


Warwickshire – Baddesley Ensor, Bedworth Heath, Binley Woods, Kingsbury and Studley to close. 11 others under threat unless volunteers step in.

Local News

  • Bolton – High Court blow to libraries campaignBolton News.  “It is thought a similar challenge to Bolton Council would cost campaigners £30,000.” … “Ian McHugh from Save Bolton Libraries (SBL) said: “The cost of a judicial review is a big issue for us and we would need someone to come forward with funds.The other option we are looking at is to ask the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, to hold a local inquiry.”.  96% of Boltonians surveyed opposed library closures.
  • Brent – Library closures: Protesters vow to appeal ruling – BBC.  “It’s quite a surprise – it just seems very sudden and quite shocking that it’s going to be boarded up,” said the mum to Annie, 11, and Ewan, seven. “”There are cuts in all areas but this is very visible and concrete. It symbolises all the cuts that are taking place.”We just don’t know what’s going to go disappear from our lives. It makes you feel very unstable.”

    • Families form human shields to stop libraries being shut down – London Evening Standard.   “People are very angry, very disappointed, but at the same time there’s a sense of buoyancy about it because we will appeal,” she said.”They came to start measuring the windows for boards but there were around 150 people here and they went away. We’re a bit surprised that Brent moved so quickly, we thought the QC said Brent wouldn’t do anything until Tuesday. It’s very quick.”
    • Judge rejects celebrity-led campaign to save libraries despite protests that services are being “decimated”Daily Mail.   “It cannot be right to decimate the library service of an inner London borough whose children are desperate to read and study but whose parents cannot afford books nor the transport costs of regular access to distant libraries.” … Labour culture spokesman says “Ed Vaizey claims to be a champion for libraries but he should stand up for the services they provide for children, families and the elderly. ‘Instead he has just sat back and let Eric Pickles have his way. The closure of these libraries lies firmly at the Government’s door.”
    • Kensal Rise library guarded by passionate residents – Harrow Observer.  “Residents started the peaceful protest at around 5pm, and soon found there was plenty of support from passers-by.”
    • Protesters resist library closure – Guardian.  “I’ve been writing about library closures for a while now, but seeing this last-ditch attempt to protect a much-loved institution really brought home to me the fact that this is really happening: our libraries really are being shut down.” … “The land on which the library stands is actually owned by All Souls College, Oxford, a gift to the borough of Brent on condition that it remains a library. Today, to prevent the covenant lapsing, users have established a makeshift library of their own, operating from the steps outside.”

“I can hear the popping of champagne corks all over the country as philistine local authorities welcome this news with joy; it will encourage them to be even more destructive of the social good, even more careless of their responsibilities, even more stupid.” Philip Pullman, Stand-off at Kensal Rise Library continues – BookSeller.

“The logic seems to be: 12 = a comprehensive service, but 6 also = a comprehensive service. Funny that”

    • View from Campaign for the Book – Alan Gibbons.   “The council has leapt into action to board up the branches showing an eagerness it has never shown to serve its people. Contrast the years of neglect libraries have suffered with the glee with which these elected representatives order their death. Mr Justice Ouseley has followed the instincts of his social stratum and sided with a slash and burn government and its absurd Future Libraries Programme.” … “Communities may have to resort to direct action to resist these appalling cuts.”

An air of calm pervaded outside Kensal Rise Library this afternoon, following the dramas of the early morning. Contractors arrived at 6am to board up the building after a court yesterday decided that Labour controlled Brent Council could close six libraries as part of its austerity agenda. They discovered two people standing guard outside the front door, who immediately stood-to and stopped the contractors from carrying out their task. The same scene was repeated at 8am, when a posse of locals descended to defy council workers. They were bolstered by a phalanx of 140 or so primary school children from the nearby Princess Frederica CofE school, dragooned into action by their parents. The burly contractors slunk off with their chip-board and haven’t been seen since.” Thoroughly English affairSpectator.  “60 local people have volunteered to protect the building 24 hours a day until such time as the council relents. Those same people have also pledged to help run the library in future.”

  • Dorset – Further vote on Dorset libraries’ future – BBC.   “Ms Dover raised the motion using a standing order, by getting the signatures from 10 county councillors supporting her. Their support means she can ask for a minute to be rescinded from decision that was made in July and replace it with option D, which would see all 34 libraries preserved, but with a reduction in opening hours and a cut in the budgets for books.”.  21 councillors had voted to close 20 branches with 20 councillors against.
    • Lifeline thrown to Dorset’s libraries – Dorset Echo.   “She added that she would be asking council leader Angus Campbell for the vote at the meeting to be a free vote and a recorded vote. Chairman of the Ad Lib (Association of the Friends of Dorset Libraries) campaign group Graham Lee welcomed the news.”
  • Hertfordshire – Fear for libraries as plans to rent out to organisations aired – Comet.  Council wants to let groups use libraries for free out of hours in return for letting the public take out books at those times.  This follows a cut in opening hours of one-third earlier this year.  We Heart Libraries campaign fears that this will make reinstatement of the hours harder to achieve.  ““Voluntary groups should be using the libraries as much as possible, but they are not the right people to be running the libraries. That is the council’s job.”

Many comments from public library users in this 14 minute documentary