So, the Telegraph decided to have the headline “Elderly care funding will force closure of librarieson its front page on Friday.   The headline comes from the Local Government Association (LGA) who say that “the crisis in funding elderly care could lead to the closure of libraries, parks and leisure centres”.   This claim is due to a “failure to reach agreement soon on how to pay for care for the rapidly ageing population could set a long-term solution back years, they warn.Such a delay could force councils to divert money from so-called “discretionary” services such as parks and libraries to “plug the gap””.  The claim is important because (a) it appeared on the front page of a national newspaper and (b) the LGA represents every authority on England.
Some thoughts on this. The LGA have not been good friends of libraries over the last year or so.  The quote that stands out for me is in its submission to the DCMS Select Committee Inquiry into Library Closures where it made the amazing statement that a a “closure of a library does not automatically mean a decrease in access to library services”.  That it is willing to use libraries in what may look to a bystander as a thinly veiled blackmail attempt is interesting and speaks volumes for the importance that politicians have learnt to put on libraries because of popular resistance to their closure.   
Of course, libraries are not a “discretionary” service.  The 1964 Act that makes them a statutory service and the Minister responsible for their oversight has been carefully and legalistically sidestepped by the current ministers, the now incredibly-vulnerable-looking Jeremy Hunt and the passive Ed Vaizey.  It’s interesting that the Telegraph later qualifies its statement by saying that “some libraries” are discretionary.  This is sadly far more accurate as the cuts in Brent, Isle of Wight, Buckinghamshire, Barnet, Doncaster etc show.  There have even been claims by some of the more extreme politicians that only one library per authority is needed as the “comprehensive and efficient” requirement could be fulfilled by the internet.  That around a fifth of the population don’t have access to the internet other than through their library has ironically passed such people by.
The true irony though is that libraries have an awful lot to do with elderly care.  Go into every library and you will see senior citizens reading the paper, chatting to each other, using the computers and taking out so many books that their bags bulge.  These are the people who come up to library staff and say they don’t know that they’d do without their library.  They are the people who need it the most to fill their time, their needs for social contact, the increasingly essential internet access and even, yes, to supplement their heating needs.  I sometimes shock people by telling them about a gentleman told me across the counter one day that he’d commit suicide if it wasn’t for the library.  Guess what?  He was elderly.  Just another sad statistic if the library closed, I guess. 
The subtext of the whole article is that councils, given the cuts, only provide services that they absolutely have to.  It says a lot about the lack of awareness of politician about both the law and about the benefits that libraries provide that libraries are not seen as being resolutely in this essential category.

See also: 

“Cap elderly care funding or close libraries” – Public Service.  “Elderly care funding needs to be capped or councils will have to close discretionary public services such as libraries, parks and leisure centres, the Local Government Association (LGA) has said.”

“The LGA should be ashamed of regurgitating this old chestnut to justify library closures. Please note, it is nothing new : Feb 2009 Swindon | “hard decisions have to be made between libraries and social care“. Needless to say, a way was found to keep the library in question open — with paid staff (which shows it is possible). The LGA should not, either implicity or explicitly, encourage councils to give residents the stark choice between ‘neglected elderly’ or ‘public libraries’. As an official line, it offers a lazy, cynical, easy way out. ” Shirley Burnham, via email.


  • Boris victory if the only thing that can save the Tories now – Daily Mail. DCMS may move further away from Culture and Libraries in the unlikely event it and Jeremy Hunt survive: “Friends of Hunt are  stressing that he still has things he wants to do at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. If he survives this scandal, he plans to turn it into a technology office promoting digital investment in Britain. If the Prime Minister does decide to reshuffle sooner rather than later, allies say he is particularly likely to promote Cities Minister Greg Clark and Housing Minister Grant Shapps. Disabilities Minister Maria Miller, left, is also tipped for a seat at the Cabinet table.”
“The Times has published a letter from Professor Lyndal Roper at Oxford, Professor Lenore Davidoff at Essex and 48 other signatories about the decision of the Metropolitan University to rid itself of the Women’s Library. “ One would hope that any government committed to preserving our culture and history would intervene and protect this essential resource before it is too late.”” Full text available from Save the Women’s Library.
  • Do we still need libraries?University of Liverpool. Debate on 16th May 5.30pm at the Florrie.  “Libraries have underpinned mass literacy, provided a sense of community, improved health and promoted wellbeing – all through reading. However, the needs of today’s society and the arrival of new technology throw their purpose and role in communities into question. This event will ask whether libraries are still an essential service to be supported by the state, what purpose they serve in today’s society and how they should deliver on this.”.  Speakers will include Cllr Keith Mitchell, current Oxfordshire leader who has strongly criticised library supporters as middle class and preferring cuts to social services instead.  Other speakers inlcude Sue Charteris (author of the influential Charteris Report on Wirral library cuts), Alan Davey (chief executive, Arts Council England) and Prof. John Rose (professor and author).
  • Face Book 7 x 7 – Photographs of Cruddas Park library users (Newcastle) showing the wide range of people and what they came in for.  Some lovely pictures.  Usage mainly splits into three categories: books, internet and job-hunting.
  • Harman uses Clegg’s backyard to launch all-out attack on Lib Dems – Independent.  “Yesterday Ms Harman told The Independent the Lib Dems were being “duplicitous” by opposing the cuts during their town hall campaign even though they were “complicit” in them by backing the Conservatives’ deficit-reduction strategy. Labour singled out Sarah Teather, the Schools minister, for opposing library closures in her Brent Central constituency.”
  • Help us improve our advocacy for school libraries – SLA.  “We are trying to get a more complete picture of the situation in school libraries in the UK now.  We have designed a very simple, short and quick survey to get a sense of the position school libraries are in currently.  Please take 5 minutes to fill it in. “
  • New librarians: this is your time – The Real Wikiman.  Slideshow with some great phrases e.g.  “Librarians are no longer the gatekeepers of information.  The gates are wide open.  Our job is to light the path for people once they’re through” … “There is no such thing as abstaining from library advocacy.  You are either doing it, or you’re doing it wrong”.
  • Not all roads lead to London when it comes to Culture – Guardian. “But, as Ed Vaizey reminded us at the launch, when you’re in the showing-off business, one Barenboim, Hirst or Walters is worth a thousand Inner Mongolians. “The 2012 Games provides a unique chance to showcase Britain to the world,” he confirmed. And, of course, if everyone’s looking at Julie Walters, there’s a very good chance they won’t notice Vaizey’s libraries (deceased).”
  • Warped views on social care – Morning Star.   Refers to LGA report claiming social care cuts will lead to library closures. 


Scottish Borders – Cuts in opening hours at Jedburgh and Selkirk  (down 8 hours per week),  Kelso (down 3 hours per week)

Local News

  • Barnet – Authors and actors sign petition to reopen Friern Barnet library – Times series.  Since the council closed the library on Thursday, April 5, 283 people have signed the online petition. These include David Nicholls, author of One Day, and actress Prunella Scales, who is best known for her role as Sybil in the British comedy Fawlty Towers.”.  “Miss Canning has also collected signatures from author Paolo Hewitt and actor Timothy West.”
  • Bolton – Election fight over axeing of librariesBolton News.  The decision to axe one third of the town’s libraries — including his own local branch — could be a major issue for Bolton Council leader Cllr Cliff Morris in the local elections. Voters go to the polls on Thursday and the Labour leader is defending his Halliwell seat, a position he has held for the last 20 years. A major thorn in his side during the long-running libraries saga, which eventually saw five branch libraries closed, was Ian McHugh, secretary of the Save Bolton Libraries campaign. Now, Mr McHugh, a Green Party candidate, will stand for election against Cllr Morris in Halliwell, where Oxford Grove Library closed in February. He said: “I have lived in Halliwell with my family for more than 20 years.”
  • Brent – Pickles to decide on fate of 1894 library – Keep Willesden Green.   “Eric Pickles passed it to his National Planning Casework Unit, who have discussed the matter of who has authority to give consent for the demolition of the 1894 Willesden Green Library building with Brent Council. The letter confirms that if the planning application for the new Cultural Centre includes demolition of the Willesden Green Library (which we now know that it will), and if the Council are minded to approve that application, Brent intend to refer the Conservation Area Consent application to the Secretary of State for his consideration under Section 74, Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act, 1990. “
  • Buckinghamshire – BBC star opens community library in Flackwell Heath – Bucks Free Press.  A village library was officially handed over to volunteers this afternoon, with about 200 people turning out mark its rebirth. Flackwell Heath’s library has been redecorated and refurbished over the last month in preparation for the handover, which was formally announced by Antiques Roadshow star Eric Knowles.” … “After the opening speeches the crowd crammed inside, where Patricia Greene, from BBC radio show The Archers, was reading for children.”.  Five ex-librarians are volunteering at the branch.

  • Haddenham and Wendover Libraries turn over new leaf – Mix 96.  “For Haddenham Library – the plans are to become a self managed community led library later this summer.  In Wendover, as one of the largest community libraries, Wendover will become a community partnership with a phased approach towards a self managed community library.”. Haddenham: “A paid member of staff from the County Council will be seconded to the library, and supported by local volunteers. In addition, Haddenham Community Library, who are set up as a charity will actively raise funds to support the library.”
  • Cornwall – Donation enables Penzance’s Morrab Library expansion – BBC.  £600k from benefactor.  Library founded in 1818 “and is run primarily by volunteers”.  “Mr Myner has donated the money which was from his sister, Patricia Eschen, who died in 2010.”  £27 per year membership fee.
  • Croydon – Spends £40k on library consultant – Save Croydon Libraries Campaign.  ” We need to ask ourselves why is Croydon Council so shy to share any details of their plans. The council only consulted on six libraries, ignored the “do nothing” option and admit it was mainly the users of only those libraries who responded. They have denied residents the breakdown on 412 responses they say informed their decision and are outsourcing the whole network without consulting users of the other libraries. There is also the plight of Upper Norwood Library @SaveUNlibrary and the announcement that New Addington Library will close and move to a yet unknown part of the cramped accommodation within the CALAT centre.”
  • Greenwich – Library workers in Greenwich strike over privatisation plans – ITV News.   100 on strike. “They claim the new company will pay them much less than the wages the currently earn as employees of Greenwich Council. They claim staff who work at GLL do not receive the London Living Wage of £8.30 an hour.” … “Unite recently petitioned library users in the borough, with 1,600 people signing postcards saying no to the transfer of library services.”
  • Oxfordshire – Library Wars Episode IV: A new hope – Question Everything.   Incoming leader of council, Cllr Hudspeth,  spoke out against libraries cuts.  “The idea behind it [the cuts] came from a meeting with David Cameron and Cllr Mitchell when Cameron intervened when the threat to the City libraries caused a lot of negative publicity involving celebrity authors. I don’t think the staff in the library service itself had very little to do with it nor the flawed and misquoted data used to support it. Sixteen of the twenty one cut libraries are in Tory divisions.”.  Current leader of council Keith Mitchell “is speaking at a “Do we need libraries” debate in Liverpool next month”.
  • Scottish Borders – “Undue haste” claim over £360,000 libraries and contact centres mergerSouthern Reporter.   “It has now emerged that on April 16, the council published the layouts for all the integrated sites, except Selkirk where a decision of whether the town library or High Street contact centre should host the service is pending.And the public has only until this coming Sunday – April 29 – to submit its view”.  Cuts in opening hours at Jedburgh and Selkirk  (down 8 hours per week),  Kelso (down 3 hours per week). 
  • Surrey – Interview on libraries plan – BBC Radio Surrey.  Recording of radio interview.  Council decided to drop opposition to judicial review:  SLAM say clear public did not want to run libraries.  Council says trying to keep all libraries open and judge ruled only on technical issue of equalities training of volunteers. Decision had to be made due to cut of funding.  However, Chief Executive got 40% pay rise over last two years. Claim that withdrawing funding from the ten smallest libraries would be most cost effective option.
  • Telford & Wrekin – Telford library hours to be cut in £330k savings drive – Shropshire Star.  “The borough’s nine libraries open for an average of just over 32 hours a week, which will now be reduced to an average of just over 27 hours a week. Telford & Wrekin Council’s cabinet met last night and approved the move and said its priority was to ensure no libraries closed.”