Friern Barnet Library has closed, after a long campaign and a 3000 signature petition. Its supporters did not go quietly.  A sit-in attracted a fair bit of attention.  Claims by Barnet Council that money from its sale will go into a new library have been met with scepticism.  The main reason for the closure is, of course, to cut costs, with it “saving” the Council around £100,000, presumably on top of the money it will make for selling the building.
Which sounds like a lot of money until one considers a Guardian article that points out that Amazon paid no UK corporation tax on its sales of £7bn.  The £100m in tax it thus avoided is one thousand times the figure needed to save Friern Barnet.  Oh, and Amazon is avoiding paying VAT on ebooks in this country.  Let’s guess that’s another £100m (Yes, lots of guesses but stick with me: Book market 2010 equalled £3.3bn, guess ebooks are one third of that now, guess Amazon has half of the market therefore £500m at 20% is £100m).  Now that makes another £100m which is very sizable indeed.  So sizable, in fact, that a couple of sites have pointed out that Amazon may be at least partially responsible for the crisis in libraries
Now add on the fact that Amazon is hardly seen as a beneficial player to the books industry and it starts getting suggested that people who care for libraries should start reconsidering purchasing Amazon products.   Also, it looks like current ministers who blame the previous government for the current crisis should start thinking about cutting down on tax avoidance instead.  After all, the cost of illiteracy to the UK has been calculated at£81bn a year.  Now that’s a seriously big number.


  • Amazon: £7bn sales, no UK corporation tax – Guardian.  “The SEC filings, highlighted by Bookseller magazine, show that in the past three years, Amazon has generated sales of more than £7.6bn in the UK without attracting any corporation tax on the profits from those sales.” … £100m in tax would have been paid in the UK if it was based here, not Luxembourg … “Being based in Luxembourg means it can charge VAT on ebook sales at the local rate of 3% rather than the 20% VAT imposed on British-based ebook retailers.”
    • Amazon’s a “dangerous” force, says Ottakar’s founder – Guardian.  “Critics argue that Amazon, which sells dog food and nappies alongside the latest Booker winner, does not have the same duty of care to the retail markets it operates in as other sellers, for whom the trade is their bread and butter. “With great market power comes great market responsibility and I don’t get the feeling that the leaders of businesses like Amazon really understand that aspect,” said Heneage. “If you want a long-term successful market in which to operate you need to invest in it and I don’t think you would undermine the competition to the same extent.” 
    • Amazon closes UK libraries – Mindful Money.   “Google, which dominates the search market and the lucrative advertising that comes from it, is also accused of setting up a complex corporate structure to cut its effective tax rate.” … “Despite over £7bn in sales Amazon paid minimal corporation tax. This could have added £100m to public coffers, and halted the raft of library closures and public service cutbacks.”
    • Is it time to boycott Amazon? – Infoism.  “Every time a purchase is made at Amazon, potential tax revenues are leaving the country.  At a time of austerity and public spending cuts, can this really be justifiable?  After all, purchasing the same goods from another retailer based in the UK would ensure that money remains in the economy and result in an increase in tax revenues.  With that in mind, can we really argue the case against public sector cuts whilst also purchasing goods from a company that effectively leads to reduced revenue for the government and therefore reduce spending capability?” …. ” It seems fairly clear that Amazon sees public libraries as an obstruction to its plans.  It wants complete dominance of the book market and there seems little doubt its ultimate goal is to supersede the library service with its own lending model.  A lending model that can encourage ‘patrons’ to purchase more items from the retailer, creating effectively a captive market through the Kindle.”

“UK cost of illiteracy is $127 billion each year, the highest in Europe. Shout it to the rooftops. Hey Minister, leave those libraries alone.” Alan Gibbons.  Source of data is here.

  • As one library closes, others fight on – Guardian.   Kirklees (“There are real objections to this scheme in principle but an over-riding feeling of disbelief at the way the council has not consulted with the communities involved before asking individuals to come forward to volunteer”), Gloucestershire (“cynical excercise”), Upper Norwood (“a tussle between two councils is putting at risk a 111-year-old library that has been held up as a model of financial transparency”). 
  • Community-run libraries are part of the degradation of the service – Guardian (Comment is free).   “This is the crux of this issue – libraries are increasingly being run as community centres, not centres of education and learning for the community – and this change of purpose has made it possible for councils to put forward volunteer staffing of libraries as a credible option. With the educational purpose of libraries increasingly marginalised, they are seen as a luxury – an added extra – rather than a necessity, and in fact our library service doesn’t just need to be defended from cuts, but needs to be actively improved. The de-skilling of library staff is one key issue here. The fact is that many local authority library staff receive no library-specific training at all, and have no librarianship qualification. In 1980 33% of library service staff had an appropriate professional qualification – in 2008 it was just 21.4%.” 107 comments, many critical of public libraries.
  • Library holding zombie survival workshops for teens – Bridgeport News (USA). “Special activities planned at the main Burroughs & Saden library will include Zombie Introduction: Do’s & Don’ts, featuring a showing of Night of the Living Dead, Thursday, April 12, 6 p.m.; Zombie Gaming Xbox: Plants vs. Zombies, where participants can read the Center for Disease Control’s graphic novel and play the game, Thursday, April 19, 6 p.m.; Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness Kit Making, presented by Scott T. Appleby, CEM Emergency Management for Bridgeport, Thursday, April 26, 6 p.m.; and a zombie book discussion of “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War” by Max Brooks, Thursday, May 3, 6 p.m.” 
  • Phone box libraries stripped of all books This is Somerset.  Two phone boxes have had all books stolen.  “”I expect that the books have ended up at car boot sales, or something like that. They were all marked, so we will be keeping an eye out for them.” Mr Ford said that the libraries would be restocked and appealed to residents to keep a watchful eye on the phone boxes to ensure they did not get raided again.”
  • Speak Up for Libraries Early Day Motion – Hobbit Hole.  Response by government minister Mark Prisk MP shows coalition’s side of the argument over library cuts. “While I do understand that some local authorities want to modernise services and make them more efficient, it is this Government’s belief that widespread library closures are by no means necessary or welcome. Indeed, many local authorities have managed to avoid closing a single library despite reductions in their budgets. Furthermore, while Labour is predictably trying to present any library closure as a ‘coalition cut’, the tight spending that local authorities are facing is a direct result of the last Government losing control of the nation’s finances.”

“This year’s theme for the Challenge is Story Lab which features four characters Lex, Rani, Will and Evie. Along with Aesop, the ginger labcat, they will help Professor Cortex collect and share stories to fireup young imaginations. An interactive Story Lab website will launch in June, enabling children to talk about their favourite books and reading experiences with top authors and illustrators. Story Lab also promotes libraries as a place of wonder for children, where librarians offer them invaluable advice.” News on the Summer Reader Challenge 2012, The Reading Agency. 


Local News

  • Barnet – Emotions running high as Friern Barnet Library closed – Times series.   “Supporters of Save Friern Barnet Library group and members of the public were reading books in the library and refused to leave when it closed at lunch time.” … “The group was banned from using the toilet at one point and had to make do with a bucket shielded behind a screen.Barnet Council has also turned off the water and electricity. After protesters gathered cash, pizzas and bottles of water were posted through a library window.”

“It is simply incredible that Barnet Council cannot see beyond the short-term financial gain of selling our library to the long-term harm this will bring to our community. In Friern Barnet, 1 in 4 children live in poverty and around 50% of local families have English as a second language – six schools are within a short walk of the library and will no longer be able to take pupils on regular library visits. The elderly and disabled, the jobless and computer-less members of the community will now have nowhere to go. Friern Barnet Library has been our community centre and our last remaining public space.”

    • Campaigners’ pleas fail to stop Friern Barnet library closure – Times series.  Grumbles and cries of “shame” followed Barnet Council’s decision to close Friern Barnet Library last night. In a last ditch attempt supporters of Save Friern Barnet Library Campaign tried desperately to tell the Cabinet how much their library means to everyone in the neighbourhood.”
    • Cultural demolition: Why Barnet has got it’s priorities wrong – Mr Reasonable. “…all to save a £100,000. Some people may say that is a lot of money and yes it is. However, in the first two months of 2012 Barnet Council paid over £500,000 to one set of consultants to advise them on the high risk One Barnet outsourcing project.” … “Thousands of people have opposed the closure of this library. The community have come up with a real alternative for the library as a Community Hub. Barnet should be proud to have such a responsive and constructive community but sadly all they care about is money. Friern Barnet library will be sold and a capital sum generated. Will the landmark library at the Arts Deport ever get built? who knows, but one thing for sure is that as of 4pm today the residents of Friern Barnet will have been cheated out of their local library and that is a disgrace.”
    • North London library occupied to stop closure – Socialist Worker.   “The Tory-run local council rushed to close the library’s doors today after its cabinet last night voted to shut it down.” … ““We’re a group of local residents—school students, local mums, a retired chap, unemployed people, a local teacher, an interpreter, an artist and others”

“They promised they would open a new library after the recently closed another, but it never happened,” she said. “This time they promised the same and we didn’t believe them. We’re protesting at the contempt the council has for local people.”

  • Friern Barnet library sit-in ends – Barnet Today.   “A sit-in at the now closed Friern Barnet Library came to an end shortly before 6pm today.  Demonstrators began their protest over Barnet Council’s cabinet decision to close the library in Friern Barnet Road before 1pm. Some 16 members of the public, including two children, were involved in the protest.” … “During the afternoon protestors put up banners inside and outside the library, which were met by hooting horns outside the library. Several councillors who supported the campaign also gathered outside, including Kate Salinger who spoke out at the business overview and scrutiny committee meeting against her Conservative party colleagues’ which granted the much-loved library a four day reprieve.” … “’Robert Rams, cabinet member for customer access, told The Press: ’We need to market it as soon as possible so we can get the funds to open it at the artsdepot. Financially we can’t keep it open as we will be jeopardising the other improvements we want to make.’’ This is the first I’ve heard of this: sell Friern Barnet to get the money to open its replacement.”

“the people occupying the library have been prevented from using the toilets. There are children in there weeing in a bucket.”

    • Residents in sit-in protest over Friern Barnet Library closure – BBC.   “”It is simply incredible that Barnet Council cannot see beyond the short-term financial gain of selling our library to the long-term harm this will bring to our community.” A council spokesman said: “We can understand why people who live close to the building may be disappointed to see this building close, but genuinely we think the new library will give a much better service to residents.”
  • Brent – Library campaigners hit out at court ban on volunteers – London Evening Standard.  Campaigners in Brent today criticised a High Court decision stopping a council’s libraries being transferred to volunteers.They said the legality of library closures is not clear and called on the Government to step in. …The Brent campaigners want to run six libraries after they were shut by the council. Brent SOS Libraries said the disparity of decisions coming out of the courts was “shocking”.” 
  • Bury – No plans for any “imminent” job cuts at libraries – Bury Times.   Libraries to be reviewed 2012/13. ““Members know that the library service is to be reviewed during 2012-13 and all staff will be fully involved at each stage of the process, which should be allowed to be conducted without it being used as a political football.  
  • Darlington – Library campaign group changes name – Northern Echo. “The Friends of Cockerton Library committee, formed after it successful lobbied Darlington Borough Council to keep the facility open on a part time basis, has been renamed Darlington Friends of the Libraries.” … ““Many support roles have been identified, for example, assisting with groups who meet in the libraries, cataloguing books, IT help for library users. We are working towards setting up a register of people interested in volunteering. However it must be stressed that volunteers will not be replacing permanent library staff.””
  • Gloucestershire – Library cuts of £1.8m agreed by council – BBC.   “Protesters have been ejected from a meeting called to agree £1.8m of cuts to the library service in Gloucestershire. The campaigners were escorted from the council chamber to a cry of “shame on you” as the new proposals were agreed by the county council.” … “A previous council decision to cut £2.6m and stop funding 10 libraries was reversed after it was judged unlawful by the High Court. Campaigners with the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries group have said they are considering further legal action.”
    • Fight to save council-run library in Lechlade is lost – Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard.   2012 cuts seen as a rewrite of the 2011 ones by campaigners.  Option of alternative funding by town council to save Lechlade Library rejected by county council. “”I’m amazed that GCC could reject, out of hand, a request endorsed by two town councils that achieves the targeted savings. “The consultation has clearly demonstrated a strong demand to retain a county library in Lechlade – why spend £60,000 on the process if they are simply going to ignore the results?” The town will now be forced to rally volunteers to run the library or face closing the service completely.”

“Once again I say to Mr White, Mr Vaizey and Mr Hunt. So much for your “campaigners must engage with local politicians” comments. Library users have been ignored, even when alternative viable plans were mooted. They were not even given the consideration. Still we await a response to our letters from Vaizey 3 libraries that met the published criteria to remain in council provision have been excluded for spurious reasons. The cuts impact the elderly, particularly women, twice as much as they do others. This is not the end of our fight” Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries.

  • Hammersmith & Fulham / Tri-Borough – Hammersmith Library set for revampSW Londoner.“This goes against the trend which has seen libraries closed down in a bid to save money across other London boroughs. The library will benefit from the scheme to save 21 libraries in the tri-borough area of Hammersmith & Fulham, Westminster and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The renovation follows the council’s success with Shepherds Bush Library in Westfield and its ‘More than a Library!’ approach.”
  • Liverpool – Stop library closures and culture cuts – PCS.   “Under the pressure of Tory / Lib Dem government cuts, Liverpool City Council is closing 3 libraries  with big cuts to opening hours and 76 full-time equivalent jobs due to go & National Museums Liverpool is planning to cut 1 out of 4 jobs in their venues. This will not only affect employees but also schools children and local communities. In 2008, Liverpool was Capital of Culture but 4 years later, it looks like the Culture of Capital. Come and discuss those issues at our public meeting.”
  • Oxfordshire – Volunteers still to run libraries – Oxford Mail.   “Oxfordshire County Council said its use of volunteers to run libraries will not be affected by a ruling which halted Surrey County Council’s plans.” … Oxfordshire “council had “clearly set out” the process. Volunteers are to help run 21 of the county’s libraries.”