Somerset Council have entirely taken back their decision to close libraries and mobiles after a successful legal challenge brought against them by their users.  This should be a great victory for everyone and, certainly, the campaigners involved should be proud and deserve their celebration.  However, there are clear indications that the council thinks they can simply close them down again by this time making sure that they go through all the legal stuff properly that they messed up the first time around.  If this happens and their legal interpretation proves to be correct – Gloucestershire Council appear to be thinking along the same lines – then this makes it all, in the words of one councillor, meaningless.  I truly hope that this is not the case.
For what it is worth, I think this shows the importance of the Secretary of State in all of this.  The councils think that they can get away with it if he is, through action or more likely inaction, effectively on their side.  Their lawyers must be calculating that if Jeremy Hunt or Ed Vaizey didn’t lift a finger last time then they’re not going to this time.  The CMS Committee on Library Closures must be aware, or be made aware, of this elephant in the room when it comes to the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act.  There’s no point in statutory protection if the person whose statutory duty it is to enforce it simply will not do so and cannot be forced to do so.

There is a Sherlock Holmes case which hinged on a dog not barking.  Well, the Secretary of State is not making any noise at the moment and that is why many smaller public libraries appear to be in danger of being murdered. 

424 libraries (333 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.

Can you help?

    • Book the singer of the “We Need Libraries” songs to promote the cause at a place near you.
    • Freedom of information requests to the MLA – If you are wanting to know what information the MLA (the former quango with some responsibility for public libraries), put in FOI requests as soon as possible.  The MLA still has a skeleton staff but this will be wound up shortly and it will be harder to gain the information when it is. Requests to MLA for information about what they know on library closures should be put in early, to allow for time to complain to the ICO before May.  Groups may want to seek informaiton (a) in the form of notes, minutes, memoranda or correspondence relating to any discussions or meetings after [date] with [the relevant authority] concerning reorganisation of the library service and any reports to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport relating thereto, and (b) otherwise as thought appropriate on the facts of the individual case.
    • National Libraries Day, 4th February 2012 – Organise an event or publicise an existing one on the excellent NLD website.


  • Find a libraryCulture Grid.  Type in your location, it tells you where your nearest library is.  Simples.
  • Libraries are essential, trade tells MPBookSeller.  BookSeller’s Association says volunteer-run libraries are “unsustainable”.  “Libraries are valued by publishers as a means of developing new audiences and encouraging general enjoyment of reading, thereby complementing the role of the high street. At a time when bookshops are under pressure, this kind of support is crucial.”  Society of Authors says many authors dependent on libraries.
  • McDonald’s: UK’s biggest children’s book seller – Telegraph.  Happy Meal will, as a one-off, come with a book (Mudpuddle Farm) instead of a plastic toy.  “Literacy campaigners said it did not matter if McDonald’s decision was prompted by a desire to improve its image. Eight out of ten all families with young children visit the fast-food company at least once over the course of the year, so there was a strong chance they would end up with a book.”
  • National Libraries DaySchool Library Association.  “The School Library Association is proud to be a partner in this important event and will be announcing various resources over the next few weeks that may be of use to you in your library.”.  Includes poster and ideas. 
  • Selfridges to open in-story library – Guardian.  Stores sets up 15,000 book pop-up library as part of its Words Words Words event. At a time when many libraries are under threat, the department store has opened a pop-up branch for the next seven weeks. “Although the temporary nature of the library means visitors will be unable to take the books away, they can use the 3,500 sq ft space as a reading room and as a bookstore. They can also listen to audio books at listening posts, and read works on iPads.”
  • Things to cut before closing libraries – Leave Our Libraries Alone.  A list of suggestions, often with a highly humorous twist, about, well, things to cut before closing libraries.


Swindon – eBooks introduced. Stock fund will probably be cut by 15%, spending on magazines and newspapers halved
Warrington Board members vacancies advertised for Warrington Cultural Charitable Trust, including libraries.
West Berkshire Newbury Library hours to be cut three hours per week to cut £15p.a. from budget.  

Local News

  • Dorset – Libraries seek volunteers – BBC.   Nine branches could close if enough volunteers are not found.  Portland Underhill especially likely to close.  “Tracey Long, head of Dorset Library Service, said if communities were not “ready or willing” to take on the responsibility of running the libraries the council may look to close them” [referred to as “blackmail” in BookSeller article above].  Also, there are worries about the long-term viability of volunteers once the enthusiasm wears off.
  • Somerset – Library victory “could prove meaningless” – This is Somerset.   “County councillor Derek Yeomans told Langport town councillors last week that the authority would continue to review all its services and that new consultations on the future of the county’s libraries were likely.” … “Mr Yeomans suggested that the county council would merely do the consultations again, ensuring complete compliancy with equality laws, before reaching the same conclusions. He said: “The libraries will go back to as they were before with the old opening times. “What we will then have to do is have more consultations and address the equalities issues we were pulled up on.”
  • Swindon – Library to introduce eBook scheme – This is Wiltshire.   “Swindon Council’s library service has recently signed a deal with American firm Overdrive to provide eBooks and downloadable audiobooks from next month.”.  Comment is interesting: “That is great news. Since getting a Kindle I haven’t been to the Library and feel bad about not supporting them anymore. So I can still do it now :D”
    • Consultation due to end on council’s planned budget cuts – Swindon Advertiser.   “There would be savings from libraries by bringing down the stock fund by 15 per cent, in line with similar councils, and reducing the range of newspapers and magazines by 50 per cent.” … ““There’s usually one or two areas in the budget that might initiate campaigns but we’ve had absolutely nothing like that this year.”
  • Warrington – Board Members advertised for Cultural TrustWarrington Council. “As board members you will act as non executive directors of the organisations. Meeting monthly initially and four times a year when established with a similar number of pre-briefing sessions. You will champion effective delivery of neighbourhood leisure, wellbeing lifestyle and library services via the community interest company and cultural services via the trust. “
  • West Berkshire – Changes to Newbury Library opening hours – Newbury Today.  Library will be no longer open 5 to 7 for two evenings a week but will be open one hour longer on Saturdays.  ““It doesn’t make sense to spend public money on keeping such a large venue open for so few people at the end of Mondays and Tuesdays, but makes perfect sense to extend Saturdays when there is likely to be a demand.
    “The net result will be a reduction in opening times of three hours a week which will also save £15,000 a year to help the council balance its budget, while at the same time meeting public need.”