Focus on GLL (Greenwich Leisure Limited)

Who?  Well, it could be a big name in the library world soon, as it is in the running for taking over the running of the libraries of at least three different councils.  
As its name suggests, GLL is strongest in running leisure centres, currently running over one hundred of them in London and Southeast England.  It is now, though, making serious moves into the public library field. As a statement of intent, it has appointed the well-known Diana Edmonds MBE, ex Haringey libraries chief and establisher previously of Instant Library Ltd, as the head of its new Libraries Division.  GLL is tipped to be close to gaining a 15 year contract to run Greenwich libraries and has expressed an interest in running the library services in Croydon and Wandsworth.  
GLL is a social enterprise, not a private company or council-run, and is registered as a charity.  This means that, “Any financial surpluses we generate are reinvested to provide long-term benefits for our customers, employees and the communities where we operate.”. It is “guided by a board of trustees, which is appointed on an annual basis at the general meeting. The board has representation from a number of stakeholders including customers, council, and the workforce.”. It also has green credentials and was the subject of a positive case study by the MLA.   
However, the move to give contracts to GLL has caused some fear amongst trade unionists – Concerns raised include its attitude to trade union membership and the “secrecy” under which the decisions are being made.  Certainly, a 15 year contract (the same length as Laing has in Hounslow) seems to be a surprisingly long one.  Questions were also asked about its non-library contract in Barnet which appears to have led to more costs for the council and a decision by the council to try to terminate its contract with GLL. 
More information on trusts and other not-for-profit organisations for libraries can be found on this page.
423 libraries (333 buildings and 90 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.


  • A radical transformation? Not without political leadership – Guardian (New Local Government Network).  Simon Parker suggests decline in library use is due to lack of leadership, not budget and 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.”.   … “At the moment, the public sees the debate over libraries as being entirely about what stays open and what closes. The real debate is about how to create a library system that meets the needs of citizens in the 21st century. The solutions we are designing for waste, including the introduction of “producer pays” technology, requires political leadership to explain to communities this new approach is better for all.”

“Many thousands in rural areas are losing access to mobile and village libraries.  Many others visit village libraries to use the Internet which they do not have at home.  Thousands of older people, of whom there will be more every day,  rely on their local libraries and will not be attracted to a distant ‘hub’, vending machines in train stations and online access.  Young parents and carers likewise depend on the intimacy of the smaller local library to give their children a start in life.  The disabled and disadvantaged will also be overlooked in this zeal to impose an ill-defined Big Society’ on the populace. These points are vital to the  “debate”.  Mr Parker ignores them –  and that is distressing.” Alan Gibbons respondes to Simon Parker (above).

  • Campaign shouts about school libraries – BookSeller.   “A campaign to promote school libraries and school library services aims to make them statutory. The campaign, Shout About, is backed by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), the Association of Senior Children’s and ­Educational Librarians (ASCEL) and the School Library ­Association. The initiative aims to use lobbying and PR to halt the closure of school libraries and to prevent more qualified school librarians from losing their jobs. Shout About will also campaign for school libraries to be inspected by Ofsted.”.  Includes comprehensive comment about state of school libraries in Australia.

“Annie Mauger, chief executive of CILIP, said: “I have had positive discussions with schools minister Nick Gibb who is looking for answers on how to promote a culture of reading in schools. We believe that taking away pupils’ libraries and librarians is not the best way to do it.”

  • Library users opt to pay higher taxes than lose services – Inside Toronto (Canada).  When Irene Atkinson, the Toronto District School Board trustee for Parkdale-High Park suggested raising taxes during a public consultation meeting about potential library cuts, the entire room erupted into applause. Runnymede library patrons say they are willing to pay more in taxes to keep their branch and others across the city from losing valuable services and hours.”
  • Library victory and interviewsBBC Politics Show (40:43 – 48.15) .  Shows celebration at Watchet and links with Gloucestershire as well. “I expect a fundamental change” in library cuts due to this says campaigners’ lawyer.  Glos Leader says he’s not going to “throw away” the £2m cut in libraries.  Leader of Somerset Council, Ken Maddock – “it’s a very long and complicated judgement” – said complying with 1964 Act.  Leader accepts that they fell short on equalities legislation. Cllr Maddock is straightaway lifting threat to 11 libraries and says he does not have “leave to appeal” so will not be revisiting it.  Will still need to save £1.2m libraries via efficiencies (e.g. self-service machines).  
  • Measuring our value – British Library.  A useful report for (1) showing the value of a national library and (2) as a very good indicator of how to demonstrate the value of a library, that could be used by others to persuade councillors etc not to cut them quite so readily.  The BL estimates it creates 4.4 times more wealth than it consumes.
  • This book is 119 years overdue – Slate.  “The wondrous database that reveals what Americans checked out of the library a century ago” … “The website’s deliberately open architecture has made it easy for data hounds, scholarly and otherwise, to jump in. Douglas Galbi, for example recently analyzed the median date of publication of the database’s 20 most popular books: 1878. Hence, he pointed out, these books were probably between 13 and 24 years old when read, far older than the average book checked out nowadays.”


Local News

  • Cumbria – Victory as libraries in Allerdale saved from closure – News & Star.  Council confirms that it has no plans to close any libraries due to popular outcry.  However, declines in usage will be addressed by increase use of volunteers and linking with other facilities, for instance possibly a cafe run by a learning-difficulties charity.  Previous suggestions to close libraries and replace “replacing smaller libraries with borrowing points in shops and community centres … sparked an outcry in Moorclose and Seaton, which were mooted as areas where that might happen.” [NB. there has been no clear announcement that volunteers will not entirely replace library staff – as had previously been mooted) and so these libraries still count as “threatened”.
  • Hertfordshire – National Libraries Day – We Heart Libraries.   “Here are a few ideas we’re working on for February 4. If you’re organising an National Libraries Day elsewhere in the UK, feel free to use them yourself – and to let us know about your good ideas as well! If you’re local, and would like to get involved, please do get in touch…..” .. library pledges, read-ins, gifts for staff, book trails.
  • Northumberland – Borrowers have a say on libraries – Morpeth Herald.  1400 responses to library review result in suggestions for improvements
  • Nottinghamshire – County Council cuts library book budget – BBC.  36% bookfund cut in two years.  “It said the savings had helped prevent the closure of some of Nottinghamshire’s 60 libraries.”