Trafford Council have pushed the frontiers for the Big Society still further today by u-turning on their promise not to replace paid library staff at two libraries with volunteers.  This is not especially noteworthy in itself – a lot of councils are doing similar and blaming the dire needs of the moment – but the thing that really sticks in the mind with this one is that Trafford are (a) breaking their official policy that states that replacing paid staff with volunteers is “.. an exploitation of the volunteer and a deprival of someone’s livelihood.” and (b) using the example of volunteer lifeboatmen as an argument for why it is OK to do so.  Even leaving aside the point that that particular service was never actually a council/government service in the first place and so they’re not comparable in any way, one has to worry about this.  When the act of giving up one’s spare time in order to save people’s lives can become a party political act, something new and dangerous has entered the picture.
407 libraries (318 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 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…?


  • Better read than dead: Dan Jarvis MP on the battle to save our libraries – Guardian.   Shadow Libraries Minister writes great article … “It may not be Vaizey’s job to micro-manage every library in the country – but it is his job to be their champion. And that is what he is failing to do.” … “by law it is he – not hard-pressed, ad-hoc campaigns that tend to be in the more affluent parts of the country – who has ultimate responsibility for libraries.” … “The current wave of closures should be a call to arms – not because libraries should be exempt from bearing their share of budget cuts (as long as it is a fair share), but because what is happening ignores their enormous value. If this government really believes in the promise of libraries, they must act now.”
  • Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee Annoucement – Alan Gibbons.  Select Committee on Library Closures announces dates and who is being interviewed.

Hardeep Singh Kohli at the launch of the Library Book at Pimlico Library, “An all-star lineup of top writers in support of the Reading Agency’s library programmes. Includes original pieces by Julian Barnes, Stephen Fry, Tom Holland, Kate Mosse. Published for National Libraries Day on 4 February”Photo by Fen Oswin
  • Library inquiry to hear oral evidence – BookSeller.  “The Culture, Media and Sport select committee inquiry into library closures will begin hearing oral evidence next week. The evidence session is expected to commence on Tuesday 7th February and will be open to the public. Librarian campaign group Voices for the Library and Paul Lorber, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Brent, are among those who have been asked to give oral evidence. Written evidence has already been submitted by the Publishers Association, the Booksellers Association and the Society of Authors.”
  • Vecinos Bibliotecarios – Biblogtecarios (Spain).  The Mayor of Madrid has suggested that some of the staffing of two new libraries be volunteer, arguing that it is common practice in the USA.  Some research shows that it is not common practice there, although of course the idea is catching on in the UK due to the current crisis/political philosophy.  [Article is in Spanish but copying and pasting into Google Translate produces a readable account in English – Ed.].

Local News

  • Brent – Library cuts campaigners hold packed public meeting – Harrow Observer.  100-plus meeting told that it is likely to be next week when the Supreme Court decides whether than can appeal the council’s decision to close halve their libraries.
    • Tracy Beaker TV writer to help mark National Libraries Day – BNC TV.  “Local author and TV script writer Elly Brewer will take part in National Libraries Day at Barham Lounge on Saturday 4th February. Elly is lead writer on the popular Children’s BBC TV series, Tracy Beaker Returns, and author of comic science-fiction adventure Jerry and the Jannans. She will join other residents and library supporters at Barham Lounge around 11:30am on Saturday 4th February to support National Library Day and take part in book readings for young people and activities.”
  • Camden – New chapter begins as two Hampstead libraries saved – Ham & High.  “The Keats Community Library group is poised to take over Heath Library, while youth organisation The Winchester Project will take up the reigns at Belsize Library, when Camden Council pulls out in April. But despite receiving donation pledges from author Alan Bennett and journalist Joan Bakewell, Primrose Hill residents are waiting to hear if their bid for £50,000 transitional funding to keep Chalk Farm Library running will be successful.”
    • First community run and managed libraries given the go-ahead – Camden Council.  £50k each given to Keats and Winch groups, “What is particularly innovative about this new arrangement is that these community facilities will be fully independent and self governed but supported with substantial initial funding from the Council to get them off the ground. There will also be some ongoing support and advice from Camden Council and they will be able them to gain benefits like buying cheaper and loaning books whilst bearing no ongoing cost to the local taxpayer.”
  • Central Bedfordshire – Thousands have their say on libraries – About My Area.   2200 answered consultation.  “”We want to make it clear that the council will not be closing any libraries. The Future of Libraries aimed to help improve the services which our local libraries offer, modernising them, making them even more accessible to the local community and encouraging more people to regularly use them.”
  • Croydon – National Libraries Day looms – Save Croydon Libraries Campaign.  Lots happening in the UK but nothing in Croydon, with one event organised by supporters cancelled due to rules imposed on them.  Report lists some other events in the UK and suggests ways that libraries can be supported even if the council itself appears to be not keen.
    • Council plans to close New Addington – East London Times.  “Local residents are upset with the council’s plan as the CALAT premises proposed for the library’s relocation are to be shared with the adult education and job centre.” … “A number of Croydon community groups are planning to stage a protest against the council’s decision to close New Addington Library on February 4, which is National Library Day.”

“My grandchildren will never see such a wonderful learning place once the library is shifted to CALAT, which is a fifty minute commute from my home.”

  • Edinburgh – New £5.7m Drumbrae Library Hub welcomes hundreds on its opening day – STV.  “There has been a huge community backing for it and local councillors in the area have thrown their weight behind it. When I walked in this morning I felt like being at a party – there was a band playing, kids running around and a library packed with people. You could feel a real community vibe and a sense of accomplishment.”
  • Kent – Shhh, don’t mention National Libraries Day.  And Gove stumbles over FOI – Kent Online.   Ironically, the low key approach adopted by KCC has only served to draw attention to its lack of activity – which was surely not intended.”
  • Lancashire – £5.5m regeneration aim to lure more readers into Lancashire’s libraries – Citizen.  “A successful pilot in West Lancashire last year saw a 35 per cent increase in new members. The campaign comes as the council is midway through a £5.5 million regeneration programme to refurbish its 74-strong network of library branches.”.  Comments from public below article show the need to promote library is more pressing than ever.  One comment suggests major staffing cuts but this is unconfirmed.
  • Surrey – High Court injunction halts Surrey County Council volunteer plan – This is Surrey Today. “Surrey County Council has 14 days to serve its evidence, and the court will then take up to seven days to decide whether or not to hold the review, said Mr Alsop. The review, if successful, could overturn the county council’s plan to have libraries run by volunteers. Mr Alsop appealed to the council to agree to a proposed compromise, in which each library would retain one paid member of staff and its computer links with the county’s central system.”  

“Hearing to decide matter whether the injunction should be overturned is tomorrow [Thursday].” Surrey campaigners tweet.

  • Trafford – Breaking vow on volunteers is justified, says Trafford town hall chief – Manchester Evening News. “A town hall has defended its decision to break a formal promise not to replace staff with volunteers. Trafford council plans to use only unpaid members of the public in two of its libraries instead of paid workers. It says otherwise libraries will have to shut.”.  Voluntary sector leaders disagree and it breaks a code of practice signed between Council and voluntary groups.  

“… an exploitation of the volunteer and a deprival of someone’s livelihood.” Trafford Counci’s own policy explaining why it should not replace paid staff with volunteers.

A town hall has defended its decision to break a formal promise not to replace staff with volunteers. Trafford council plans to use only unpaid members of the public in two of its libraries instead of paid workers. It says otherwise libraries will have to shut.

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