It looks like the Brent libraries appeal will be heard, this Thursday/Friday, before the result of the Gloucestershire/Somerset legal challenge.  Reports suggest that the Brent result, whatever it is, will have no bearing on the other challenge as the judge has already made his ruling.  Campaigners from the two counties, though, must now prolong their agony for another week.

Liverpool Council has announced it may be cutting £1m per year off  its libraries each year for three consecutive years.  Closures or giving of branches to volunteers are options to be explored, with meetings going on for months to come.  Liverpool has 22 branches, with its largest – Liverpool Central – currently closed at the moment for a flagship £50m refurbishment.  Such investment in a public library, started in 2010 for two years, seems increasingly like a distant dream.

The new chair of the literacy all-party parliamentary group is the Conservative MP, Gavin Barwell.   He represents Croydon, whose council is leading the way in privatising/outsourcing its library service.  He employs the councillor in charge (Sara Bashford) of this process as a parliamentary assistant.  Mr Barwell is thus also presumably supportive of the ongoing slanging match between her council and that of Lambeth that threatens the future of the otherwise superb Upper Norwood Library.  Not a good sign for him seeing libraries as important for literacy.

429 libraries (340 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.
Things you can do today


  • Importance of literacy – Gavin Barwell MP.  “Today I was elected Chairman of the new All Party Parliamentary Group on literacy.” … “We need to give all our children not just the skills to read but a love of reading – a point powerfully made by the children’s author Cressida Cowell at our launch today.”
  • Music libraries – Guardian (Letters).  “Students and schools also rely on the music facilities which libraries provide. Choir and orchestra members constitute a great army of lifelong-learners. That this should now be undermined by the closure and mothballing of music libraries is sad indeed. The UK has a fine tradition of amateur performance. One loan benefits not just the performers, but all in their audiences.”
  • Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 (Amendment) Bill 2010-11 – Parliament.  Private Member’s Bill sponsored by Alison McGovern MP (Wirral South) looks likely to have died.  “A Bill to amend the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 to broaden the scope of the general duty of library authorities so as to include a duty to provide related cultural facilities alongside the library service; and for connected purposes.” 

“I can’t think of a more egregious example of government-sponsored socialism than the public library. Unproductive citizens without two nickels to rub together are given access to millions of books they could never afford to buy on their own — all paid for with the tax dollars of productive citizens. Does the government pay for people to rent tuxedos for free, sail boats for free, or play golf for free? No, it does not. So why should it pay for people to read books and surf the Internet for free?” Libraries = Socialism, NBC Chicago. [This article appears to be a serious one and not a parody – Ed.]

  • Public libraries as public goods – Solo Librarian.  “The fight to save public libraries continues. In fact, it seems to be picking up pace; a very nice website exists, some pretty big name backers in celebrity, literary and academic circles, a brilliantly enthusiastic team of volunteers and activists, and some good coverage in the media” … “The main criterion which determines whether a good/service is to be provided on the public budget by a state agency or by free market dynamics are represented by externalities, i.e. the impact on the community as a whole, as well as the economic importance of the same.The greater the positive externalities, so the theory goes, the greater the likelihood that there is a market failure and, therefore, that the good/service is entrusted to the public sector.”.  The writer is an anarchist, denies the “public good” hypothesis and decides that libraries are too important to leave to governments. [The fact that this argument completely agrees with current government policy is highly educational – Ed.]
  • Saving libraries but not librarians (Blowback) – Los Angeles Times.  “But slashed budgets need not lead to libraries suffering. Libraries should innovate, just as the New York Public Library has. Facing multimillion-dollar budget cuts, the library does not flounder, it flourishes through innovation. Its digital strategy — including e-publications, crowdsourcing projects and a user-friendly online library catalog — has increased the number of its patrons.”.  Closure of bookshops mean libraries could become browse/cafe spaces… ” It’s understandable why librarians bemoan this; nobody wants to see their profession fade into obscurity. But libraries do not serve the egos of librarians; they serve the people. And in the information age, serving the people requires evolving and innovating.”
  • What makes a really good public library?Quora (USA).  Lots of interesting answers, mainly technophile.  Some amazing pictures of very nice American libraries. [A disturbing number of answers don’t mention books, though – Ed.]


Liverpool – Some may close, others may passed to volunteers.  £1m cut each year for next three years.
Suffolk No compulsory redundancies, reduction in management layers from four to two. 

Local News

  • Brent – Library campaigners march to protest against closure of Preston Library – Harrow Times.  “campaigners took to the streets on Saturday morning to demonstrate against potential closures. The campaigners marched from South Kenton to Kingsbury Road against the closure of Preston Library. Members of the public were joined on the hour-long march by Liberal Democrat and Conservatives party councillors along with Green Party candidate Shahrar Ali.”
  • Cumbra – Future of our libraries to be decided by group – North West Evening Mail.   Report says that group members were hostile to cuts until it was explained to them that “libraries are in long-term decline and that it was necessary to explore alternative methods of service delivery in order to sustain the library service, people began to engage with our proposals for change in a more constructive fashion.” … “council leader, Councillor Eddie Martin, was pushing the idea of devolving matters to local committees”.  See rebuttal to “long-term decline” claim here
  • Gloucestershire/Somerset – High Court ruling delayed by one week – FoGL.   Hearing provisionally changed to Wednesday 16th November.  “This means that the judgement on the appeal lodged by library users in Brent against the negative decision on their JR last month will now be announced first (likely Thursday 10th/Friday 11th). We have been informed that the outcome of this appeal will not impact upon Gloucestershire as the judge in the Gloucestershire/Somerset case has already made his ruling – we are just awaiting public announcement of it.”
  • Leeds – Recruits needed to save Leeds libraryYorkshire Evening Post.  “City council bosses announced plans in May to shut 15 libraries in a move designed to save £625,000 a year. Drighlington Library, however, was spared from the axe, with a view to it being taken over by members of the community. Now a steering group called The Friends of Drighlington Community has been launched to oversee the hoped-for takeover.”
  • Liverpool – Letters – Liverpool Echo.  Childwall Fiveways Library in new building but experience upset by loud children, with no separation.  “Why should I pay for broadband at home when we pay high taxes to pay for services such as libraries, the staff in which are brilliant and very helpful.”

“A further reduction in the opening hours of libraries as well as the transfer of a number of community libraries to community or voluntary sector organisations or possible closure. These proposals will take account of the results of the recent public consultation exercise”. Libraries given lowest priority in budget review. Liverpool – Budget savings options.

  • Northern Ireland – Northwest urged to oppose plans for reduction in library hours – Belfast Telegraph.   “Plans to slash public library opening hours in the north west by 20% have provoked widespread anger” … “We are really mad about it — rural libraries need more resources, not less,” he said. Our library here offers citizens advice, welfare rights for Polish people and it is great for cross-community groups. With all this the library is a lot more than people taking books out. How can they justify cutting hours based on book figures when half the people going there are going there for the other services it provides to the community?”

Last week I was invited to speak at Save Our Libraries event in Northamptonshire, organised by a coalition of groups and individuals currently battling against the county council’s plans for the service. Having come up against tough opposition when they announced a closure plan earlier in the year Northamptonshire County Council have since revised their proposals. Cue the predictable references to libraries becoming ‘libraries plus’ or ‘hubs’, cutting paid staff and increasing the number of volunteers drastically (a 300% increase no less). Oh and in case you hadn’t already guessed, as there is no extra money, people will be asked to make donations to keep the service running. The Council report states ‘we will package our services in order to make gifting more meaningful. For example, £50 will run a homework club for a month…..£500 will buy a year of rhymetimes for babies at your local library’. ” NorthamptonshireHannah Bailey, UNISON Libraries News Round-up (email) referring to this meeting.

  • Suffolk – “Co-op” proposal could save county’s libraries – Bury Free Press.   ““There are lots of management policies in local government that don’t equate to running a business. An IPS will run it as a business.”Officials stressed that community involvement will depend on the enthusiasm of the community.”.  Despite installing a new countywide organisation and introducing volunteer-run groups in each library, the council envisages reducing library management layers from four to two.