A short while ago I did an article for CILIP Update magazine on the privatising libraries of public libraries.  It’s only been available to members of that professional body up until now but I figure it may be of use to those worried (or excited) about the taking over of public libraries by private companies.  So, click here and have a read.  There’s also another page on privatising libraries on the link to the right. If you want to correct anything or have a thought to add, let me know.  The whole point of Public Libraries News is to make as much information on the subject of what is happening to public libraries freely accessible to everyone so get in touch.  After all, knowledge is power, and public libraries right now need all the power they can get.

427 libraries (334 buildings and 93 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 are 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 London secret shared – Stephen Fry.   “I know that municipal libraries are feeling the pinch horribly. Feeling the punch might be more accurate, right in the solar plexus, and of course many of us are anxious to believe that public libraries have a real future in the internet age. The London Library may seem like an elitist enclave, but actually it is just another example of what great cities can achieve over time and can keep alive with care and continuity. Its existence isn’t a threat and never has been, to public libraries, or to the great British Library in St. Pancras. It costs no more than many gyms, and what gyms can do for your body, this magical place can do for your mind.”
  • Call for contibutionsVoices for the Library.  If you have evidence that would be useful for the Select Committee on Library closures and don’t want to send it in yourself, contribute it to the effort from Voices. 
  • Could do better: Latest overview of adult literacy in the UK – National Literacy Trust.   “The fundamental challenge posed by the report is how are we to support the literacy of the 5.1 million adults (15%) who still read below the level the National Curriculum expects of 11 year olds? These seem to have been only slightly impacted by the push of the past decade.”
  • CWA to launch readers’ intiative – BookSeller.  Crime Writers’ Association: “Crime Writing Month further underlines the point. Running it over a month will allow members to take part in more events than ever, getting out to meet their readers and support their local libraries. The CWA has long been concerned about the threat to libraries and Crime Writing Month will allow us to champion them as they face cutbacks. The month should be a really exciting event.””
  • Give the gift of reading this Christmas – National Literacy Trust.   “Sadly one in three children in the UK does not have books of their own. The National Literacy Trust is working with children in disadvantaged areas, inspiring them to develop a love of reading and giving them the chance to own a book. By helping these children to develop vital literacy skills we are increasing their chances of being happy and successful in adult life.”
  • Mayor of London launches Team London “love libraries” scheme – eGov Monitor.   “The Mayor of London Boris Johnson today announced that he wants to recruit 2,000 ‘Library Champions’ under a new Team London programme designed to help local communities get even more out of their local library through new services and activities. £100,000 is being invested to develop the Team London ‘Love Libraries’ scheme, which will see people recruited over the next six months to help provide a range of library based activities in at least ten boroughs. This includes supporting Londoners of all ages with reading and literacy, helping to set up reading groups and people to get online, including for help with job searches, skills and education.” 

“‘Public libraries offer a fantastic range of books to inspire and open minds, just as great Victorian philanthropists like Carnegie envisaged. Today they also can help with a host of other invaluable activities and services, such as reading support, free internet access and even help with job searching. Our Team London Love Libraries volunteers will help these great institutions share their valuable knowledge and information, building on the excellent work they already do and, I hope, strengthening their place at the heart of our communities.'” Boris Johnson.

  • No change to Libraries Act: Minister – Toronto Sun (Canada). “Ontario’s minister of culture has closed the book on any suggestion of changing the Public Libraries Act to allow the City of Toronto to charge fees. “We’re not going to entertain this possibility,” Michael Chan said Tuesday.”.  NB. this is for charging for DVDs, something perfectly legal for libraries to do in UK. 
  • World Book night aims for international expansion – BookSeller.  “The Canongate m.d.’s ambition for major expansion of the event’s international reach was declared at a Downing Street reception last night (6th December), alongside the news that half of the one million books to be given away in the UK in 2012 (April 23rd) will be distributed directly to prisons, hospitals and disadvantaged communities.”


Local News

  • Birmingham – Community libraries to escape closure but hours will be cut – Birmingham Post. No libraries to close.  23 libraries only to be open for four days per week. ““For years nothing was spent on community libraries. But this council administration is investing. “We are mending leaky roofs in buildings where buckets used to be placed to stop water ruining the books.”
  • Bolton – Blueprints in bid to save library – Bolton News.  “Residents were invited to submit blueprints detailing how they would keep open one of the five libraries, including Astley Bridge, Oxford Grove, Heaton, Highfield and Castle Hill, that are faced with closure.”.  Astley Bridge library was the only one to generate sufficient interest. 
  • Cambridgeshire – Library friends groups recognised at special event – Focus on Bar Hill.  On 9 December  a Friends Recognition event will be held to celebrate the hard work of the 20 current Friends Groups and welcome the 10 new groups that have been formed this  year. Attendees will share some of their successes and advice.”
  • Conwy – Fresh hope for area’s libraries – North Wales Pioneer.  Proposals for cuts include volunteer-run branches and others merged.
  • Croydon/Lambeth – Upper Norwood Library under threat as Croydon councillors plan to end their share of funding – East London Times.   ““In all my years as a Croydon councillor I have never experienced such appalling behaviour as that displayed in recent months by the present administration concerning the Upper Norwood library.” The debate has already generated huge public opposition, with one citizen being asked to leave the council meeting when he protested by  refusing to stand for the mayor. Others were holding placards saying ‘save our library’ and ‘ask what the people from Croydon think’.”
  • Derbyshire – Another step towards new £2.4m libraryAshbroune News Telegraph.   “Should the proposed new building, in Compton, be given the go-ahead, it will replace the former health centre and enable Derbyshire County Council’s library bosses to stock more books, DVDs and computers as well as contain a better children’s library and space for community activities.”
  • Gloucestershire – Review of library services: let’s help them get it right – FoGL.   “As part of ongoing efforts to ensure GCC do a better job this time round of formulating plans for our library service, former Assistant Head of the Gloucestershire library service and FoGL member John Holland has prepared a guidance document for a review of the service.”.  Eminently sensible proposals for how the council should do a review are then listed, with reference to the 2009 Wirral report and guidance by Ed Vaizey.
    • Big fat fibs and the big fat fibbers that tell them – An awfully big blog adventure.   “Councillor Hawthorne may not have been deliberately lying; but he certainly wasn’t telling the truth. And there’s no evidence that he’s retracted his assertions – in fact, all the public statements I’ve seen from the council suggest to me that they see the High Court judgement as a minor inconvenience, a “small technical point” to be worked around.  So the question I’ve been asking is: is this man really fit to be in charge of our public services?”

“And besides, as we all know, “fib” is just an acronym for “Forgotten the Importance of Books”.”

  • Hertfordshire – Schools library service to close in March 2012 – We Heart Libraries.  “The possible closure of the service is due to be discussed at the Hertfordshire Local and Libraries Panel meeting at County Hall tomorrow. Get more information here. A report to the meeting explains how the SLS must cover its costs by trading its services to schools – but fewer schools are currently buying in, with cost seen as a major factor behind this.” 
    • Hertford’s new library to open in New Year – Mercury.   The official opening ceremony is scheduled to take place a week later on Thursday January 19 and due to be attended by MP Ed Vaizey, the Conservative minister for culture, communications and creative industries.”.  “The new library will have a better layout, children’s area, wider selection of stock, more public computers, toilets, baby changing facilities and space to offer for events and activities”
  • Lewisham – Ex Libraries – BlackHeath Bugle.   Looking at drastic decline in usage figures for libraries given away by council.  Labour councillor defends decision in comments then gets rounded upon by others for giving away £230,000 of public money to a charity (Age UK).
    • “Catastrophic” drop in Lewisham library lending – Brockley Central.  Reports on BookSeller article.  Comments defend move away from council control.  Later commenter says volunteers not trained in how to join people and so had to go to a council library instead to join.  Withdrawn library volunteer then did not know how to tell if a reserved book had come in. 

“”On the Lewisham stats, I think part of the issue is very poor usage/updating of the library system by undertrained volunteers etc. I borrowed two books from the New Cross ‘community’ library and after a few days they hadn’t appeared on my online library account. On returning one book to the central library I asked about this – the assistant rolled their eyes and explained they’d had a lot of problems at New Cross (I didn’t ask about the other outsourced libraries). They’re supposed to regularly sync their issues with the system but over three weeks later the other book still isn’t on my record. If I wanted I could keep it. Apparently I also need to keep an eye on my account as they might sync the issue after I return the book… I’m not arguing that usage hasn’t dropped, but that lack of training/experience does mean the stats are likely to be far below reality. In the near future I think lost item stats for the affected libraries will make interesting reading.

  • Trafford – Council to cut further 100 jobs – BBC.   “The Tory-run council hopes volunteers can be used in libraries and parks to help make some of the savings and protect frontline staffing.”… “when it came to running the libraries with volunteers they would receive full support and training.”
  • Welwyn Hatfield – Decision day for Hatfield library services – Times 24.   “Services at the Central Resources Library, in New Barnfield, are set to be relocated as part of the council and Veolia Environmental Services’ plans to build a 380,000 tonne waste-burning facility on the land. The move would see collections at the facility split between two locations in WGC, with the Central Reference collection heading to WGC Library at Campus West, which is currently being refurbished in anticipation of the move.