Reports are coming in that Somerset will keep open all the libraries, including mobile libraries, that it had intended to close before it lost the court case.  It is notable that the Council has said that it will not reduce the cuts that need to be made.   This is going to be challenging for its library service – £1.35m over four years is a lot – but at least it will be done with due regard to local communities and, let’s not forget, the law. 
More figures from Lewisham shed more light on the success or otherwise of it’s libraries withdrawn from council control.  Even it’s own council report accepts that the move has had “a negative impact on performance”.  The figures show that while visitors are recovering after a plummet at the time of changeover, the borrowing of books is bumping along the bottom at around a loss of two-thirds.  This despite the council giving one organisation £230,000 for the running of one branch.  It looks awfully like that these places (three of whom are now run by Eco Computer Systems, one by Age UK and the last by what appears to be a very brave and motivated bunch of volunteers blackmailed into it) are becoming more community/recycling centres than libraries.  There may be other (hardly less worrying) reasons for this – such as insufficiently trained volunteers and one library apparently only currently open in a basement while refurbishment goes on – but, however one plays it, it is hardly a glowing testimonial for the Big Society.

[First sentence changed slightly due to comment]

412 libraries (323 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 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.


  • Hey girl, I like the library too – Tumblr (USA).  Pictures of Ryan Gosling saying pro-library chat-up lines inc.  “Hey girl, sorry to bother you, but can you tell me classification number for love at first sight?”, “Hey girl, I’ve never had an overdue fine, you know that, don’t you girl?”,  “Hey girl, I forgot my library card, if I gave you my phone number, could you look me up?”.
  • Illuminating libraries – Linda Cracknell.  “My latest radio play ‘The Lamp’ goes out on BBC Radio Four on 14th December, and has special status as ‘Play Of The Week’ which means that it will also be available as a podcast from Friday 16th for seven days. It was recorded on location at Perthshire’s charming Library of Innerpeffray at the beginning of November…”
  • Kenya camel libraryBBC.   Eight amazing pictures of camels, indeed, carrying library books, with commentary.  “The Camel Mobile Library was set up by the government-owned Kenya National Library Service to improve literacy rates in the north-east. Ships of the desert are the best way to travel in the Garissa area, some 400km from the capital, Nairobi.”
  • Two-thirds “fail new primary phonics reading check” – BBC.  “The test-run of a new primary school reading check suggests two-thirds of pupils are likely to fail it when it is introduced in England next year. Government statistics show just 32% of the six-year-olds in 300 schools who took the test last summer passed it.”
  • Why do people rally to save libraries but not museums –  Open Objects. Fascinating piece with lots of answers inc (1) libraries are seen as more under threat, (2) reading is personal and interactive, museums are passive and instructive (3) people regularly visit libraries, (4) higher staff/public interaction, (5) “libraries have takeaway”, (6) libraries are more used than museums, (7) libraries are part of a person’s identity, libraries are “ours”, (8) impact of library closing has far deeper impact on a community than a museum closing, (9) library free gathering places for all.
  • Why library closures are a catastropheTimes (Caitlin Moran), behind paywall.  “A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life-raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination. On a cold, rainy island, they are the only sheltered public spaces where you are not a consumer, but a citizen instead. A human with a brain and a heart and a desire to be uplifted, rather than a customer with a credit card and an inchoate “need” for “stuff”.”

Changes – 

Devon – Opening of replacement St Thomas Library (Exeter) delayed until at least Feb 2012 as original building to be used as shops. Totnes Library to be relocated to larger building.
Hertfordshire – Petition to save School Library Service
Redbridge Libraries part of Vision Trust since May 2011 £16,000 from Council (not Trust) for safety  improvements at Wanstead and Woodford Green.
Somerset –  11 branches and 4 mobiles are now safe from closure, following court case.  £1.35m cut in libraries over four years is still, however, in force.
Telford & Wrekin Dawley library to keep its opening hours due to £3200 p.a. contribution for two years from parish council

Local News

  • Brent – Council library fight sum doubles in three months – Harrow Observer.  The authority’s legal costs have rocketed from £70,532 in September to more than £150,000, after it took on the Brent SOS library campaign group all the way to the Court of Appeal. The figures have been uncovered by Sagar Shah, 31, who is setting up his own watch dog organisation called Brent Watch.”
  • Conwy – Council plea for views over future of library service – North Wales Weekly News.  Cllr Geoff Shepherd, town councillor in Llanfairfechan has been behind a 600 name petition to save his local library. Town councillors in the quarry village are confident they have identified a suitable derelict building to move the library into. Ms Jackson said feedback from meetings with councils and community groups would be forwarded to Conwy council cabinet meeting on Tuesday December 13. Representatives from Conwy council agreed to a battle plan over the future of libraries last week. Plans may see libraries in smaller communities moved in to schools or community buildings run by volunteers. They will be open for 15 hours a week and will be given £20,000 towards equipment.
  • Darlington – Call for public input as Cockerton Library faces closure – Northern Echo.  “Eight councillors from three different wards are asking for public input into what could be the final chapter of a village library. A public meeting will be held for the 10,000 users of Cockerton library to give their views about the potential closure of the facility because of council cuts.” 
  • Devon – Anger over lack of new library – This is Exeter.  St Thomas library delayed as site sold off for shops.  “Planning permission was originally granted for a redevelopment of the site, which resulted in the demolition of the old St Thomas library, on the condition that a new library was provided. But Devon County Council and the developers failed to reach agreement over rent charges, and the deal fell through. As reported in the Echo, the county council is looking for a site to build a new, permanent library.”
    • Totnes residents asked for their library ideas – This is South Devon.   “A public consultation is being launched next week to get views from residents in Totnes about what they would like to see in their new library. Last month Devon County Council announced plans to relocate the library to The Mansion in the town because the current library building is too small and unsuitable for the 21st century service the Council wants to provide.” … “”The Mansion will provide one of the most calm and beautiful locations to site a library, with the top floor giving views to complement the added value of books.”
  • Gloucestershire – Meeting to discuss ruling on libraries – This is Glos.   “Library campaigners have called a public meeting to discuss the High Court judgement about the county’s service earlier this month.Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries (FOGL) plan to discuss the ruling that stopped Shire Hall’s cuts plan in its tracks.”
  • Hertfordshire – Future of Herts School Libraries Service  – Hertfordshire County Council Petition. “We think it is too important and too valuable to close and we are concerned about the lack of notice and consultation on this decision. We ask councillors not to ratify it in December but to please take time to explore alternative funding sources and to see if there is a way to keep providing it.” 
  • Kent – Local reviews for libraries – This is Kent.   “It could result in the closure of existing buildings as libraries are forced to share spaces with other agencies such as parish councils. The county council is also exploring the option of handing libraries over to communities to be run by volunteers.”
  • Lewisham – Healthier Communities Select CommitteeLewisham Council.   “Overall, Libraries’ performance has been disappointing over the past seven months. This is due in part to the extent, and timing of the changes to the Service. Issues and visits have been adversely affected by the Service-wide staff restructuring which took place simultaneously with the implementation of new technologies and working practises. However, there are signs that performance is beginning to improve and the staff team are fully committed to ensuring that it continues to do so.”  … “It should be noted that Blackheath reopened last August in temporary accommodation while their new centre is being developed. The work is scheduled for completion in October 2012, when full community library provision will resume.”  Charts (below) appear to show that while visitors are recovering, issues are being wiped out – is this the problem with computer system, improperly trained volunteers or a fundamental change from a library into something more similar to a community centre?

“This report updates Members on the progress of the Community Library
Services and details the major service changes that have been
implemented during 2011/12. The programme of change has had a
negative impact on performance, but the Service remains confident that
the next year will see a significant improvement in Service delivery once
the transformation of the Service is fully embedded.”
“These community libraries hardly seem like libraries at all” Lewisham campaigner (in email).
  • Redbridge – Cash boost for library upgrade – Guardian series.  “More than £5,000 will be spent at Wanstead Library and Woodford Green Library improving safety and infrastructure. The money is part of a £130,000 council grant for improvements to open spaces, libraries and recreational facilities across the borough. In total, Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure will spend around £84,000 on parks, around £30,000 on sports and recreation and over £16,000 on libraries.”
  • Somerset – Library cuts reversed in Somerset – BookSeller.   “Somerset County Council has confirmed it is reversing its library cuts programme following the High Court judgement at judicial review in November that it had breached equalities legislation. According to a press report on local news site Yeovil People, the council has confirmed that plans to cut funding for 11 Somerset libraries have now been halted, while opening hours in 23 libraries, reduced by 20% in recent months, will be reinstated. The mobile library service, reduced from six vehicles to two, is also being reinstated. A council spokesman said: “We accept the [High Court] judgement and are working on reinstating services.” However he added: “The council still needs to consider the future funding of the library service in light of the current financial climate and the fact that all other services are being reviewed over the next 18 months, remembering that we were aiming to save £1.35m over three years.”. Quote Yeovil People article offline at time of checking but including words “The council this week confirmed its plans to cut funding for 11 Somerset libraries have been halted and opening hours in 23 libraries – which had been reduced by 20 per cent in recent months – will be reinstated.  The council is also reinstating its mobile library service – which had been reduced from six vehicles to just two.”
  • Telford & Wrekin – Council will pay £3,000 to keep Dawley library hours – Shropshire Star.   Dawley Parish Council to pay to keep library at 21 hours per week, rather than proposed cut to 16 hours.