It is a sad truth that, most days, writing this blog is a fairly depressing experience.  However, occasionally, just occasionally, good news outweighs the bad.  Today appears to be one of those days. Caerphilly is proclaiming a very impressive list of library upgradings and openingsHackney is about to open a new library twice the size of the old one it replaces and promises to be one of the biggest in the country.  Nottinghamshire has committed to keep all its libraries open and is reopening Mansfield Library after a £3.4m investment.  It seems more likely, too, that Somerset will be keeping all its libraries open.
Sadly, behind this good news there’s a year of bad, of course.  In 2011, Hackney cut its library staff by a quarter last year and cut down events from 500 to 200, mainly to be run by volunteers.  Last year, also, Nottinghamshire almost halved opening hours in many branches, losing 80 jobs and a third of its bookfund.  Somerset – well, most readers of this blog will know why Somerset is being nice to its libraries.  Because campaigners went to the Law Courts and won a case to force them to.   There’s a lot of effort behind that good news and the money still needs to be saved there: libraries may not close but the money still apparently needs to be saved.  Which is not going to be easy.
Caerphilly is the joker in the pack.  That seems to be genuinely all good news.  Strange that.  Until one realises, Caerphilly is, of course, not in England.  It’s in Wales.  They have library standards there.  Actual standards that library services are measured against and made to feel bad about if they do not do well.  In England, councils who brutally cut their libraries have no such worries.  They appear to be able to do as they will. 

426 libraries (335 buildings and 91 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.

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  • British Library hires lobbyist Susan Adams to strengthen voice in Parliament – PR Week.  As head of advocacy Susan Adams will promote the British Library’s issues, activity and policies to external stakeholder groups, including government and Parliament.” … “‘The library contributes a great deal to the social, economic, cultural and educational life of our country, and I’m looking forward to communicating this wide-ranging impact to policy makers.”
  • Dan Jarvis: a very unlikely arts minister – Guardian.  Shadow libraries minister recently served with Special Forces in Afghanistan and had just received a MBE for his military record.  “Jarvis is a confusing proposition as shadow culture minister. On the one hand, there is his self-confessed unfamiliarity with the subject. But that is offset by what is clearly a burning sense of duty, wrought from years in the army, to do a job well. The danger is that as soon as he has assimilated enough to be an effective shadow to Ed Vaizey, he will be reshuffled. Needless to say, he counters this, saying that he hopes he and his boss, shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman, will be doing their current jobs in government in three and a half years’ time.”
  • Glad tidings of mood-boosting reading – Guardian.   “As the yearly dump of diet and health titles hit bookshops, here’s another reason to love libraries: branches across the country are promoting “mood-boosting” books through January, with titles ranging from Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie to Tove Jansson’s wonderful A Winter Book. The promotion, says organiser The Reading Agency, follows research that shows reading improves mental wellbeing and reduces stress by over two-thirds.”
  • Priceless? A blog on the very idea of measuring cultural value – DCMS Blog.   “The aim of this interactive blog is to consult widely with the cultural sector on issues and concerns surrounding ‘measuring cultural value’, especially the public value of the arts, heritage, libraries and museums.” … “DCMS has a finite budget, and not everything can be funded, so how should DMCS go about deciding what to support with public money? Is the economic case the bottom line?”


Local News

  • Caerphilly – Residents urged urged to visit their libraries – South Wales Argus.  A new library has opened at the former Palace cinema, Risca, Blackwood library has undergone a £200,000 transformation, while a new facility is set to open in Abercarn and the restored Newbridge Memo will incorporate a library. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Libraries was set up last week, seeking to ensure that public sector cuts don’t devastate the provisions around the UK. But, in Caerphilly county, the future of libraries looks bright.”
  • Croydon – Everything’s rosy in Wandsworth – Save Croydon Libraries Campaign.   Regarding Wandsworth deputy leader’s  very pro-privatisation piece in Guardian: no residents suggested privatisation, financial advantage is highest priority in securing deal (not maintaining or improving service).  “Given Croydon’s current situation, now at breaking point, over the running of Upper Norwood Joint Library (UNJL), only a fool would try to negotiate another joint council deal. Yet, despite being incapable of working with Lambeth on UNJL, Croydon was silently setting up this deal with Wandsworth and forge ahead with their plans.”  Analysis of cuts to Croydon and Wandsworth so far does not appear to show future is quite as promising as the headling.
  • Gloucestershire – Public meeting for Matson Library’s future – Friends of Matson Library.  “The meeting is not only for Matson residents but for anyone who cares about the future of Matson library. The Council will be publishing their draft proposals on or before the date of the meeting before they go to the council cabinet on 20th January then public consultation on 1st February (ish). It is vital that we let them know our views before it goes to the cabinet.”
  • Hackney – New super library set to open its doors – London Evening Standard.    “A new state-of-the-art public library is to open in Hackney, the first to be built in the borough for more than 20 years. Dalston CLR James, set to open its doors on January 23, is twice the size of CLR James library which it is replacing – making it one of the country’s largest.”

“We want this brand new library to be a community hub, somewhere that all residents can make use of whether it’s for books, study space, the free use of computers or to hold community meetings and events.” The building will stock more than 32,000 items – including 9,500 children’s books and 17,000 for adults, as well as more than 1,600 free CDs and DVDs. It also has 20 dedicated study spaces, 57 computers and free wi-fi.”

  • Liverpool – Future is ragged trousered schoolkids, says Larry Nield – Liverpool Confidential.  The “Big question is whether the people of Woolton Village will take over running of their doomed village library – I guess they will, and with so many academics and bookworms living in the south Liverpool “brain valley”, the library could end up as the best stocked in the city. “
  • Nottinghamshire – Mansfield Library opens after £3.4m investment – BBC.  “Mansfield Library has reopened after £3.4m of investment from Nottinghamshire County Council. The refurbishment to the facility on West Gate included essential repairs to the building which has made it the biggest library in Nottinghamshire.”

“Councillor John Cottee, cabinet member for culture and community, said: “They are the hearts of our communities.You only need to look at the different ages of people using the library in Mansfield and see the different things we have on offer.”

  • Somerset – South Petherton Library saved from the axe – This is the West Country.   “A council spokesman said: “The decision to be taken on January 11 would confirm our actions to restore library services in response to the Judicial Review judgement. It would also approve the council’s approach to deciding the future funding of the library service – that elected members should consider taking a fresh decision following a service review scheduled to start in April.””