Please note that the full transcript of the Radio Four Today Programme interview with Tony Durcan on volunteer-run libraries is in the previous post “Not Brain Surgery”.


“If anything, equality legislation provides even more of a convenient catch-all for those eager to refuse to comply with either human need or common sense. A High Court judge has just refused to permit volunteers to contribute to the running of Surrey’s libraries, because the council hadn’t trained them sufficiently well in the rights of “vulnerable users”. Who constitutes a vulnerable user of a library? Someone who can’t read?” Disturbing case of Mrs Mulcahy and her environmentalist doctors – Telegraph.

“This judgement has significant implications for local authorities seeking to withdraw funding for a publicly accountable and professional library service and to instead pass the burden to unpaid volunteers as part of the so called ‘big society’. Community groups should not be forced into taking over services, as many will not have the capacity, or numbers to keep them going. This will lead to a postcode lottery, with some communities doing without libraries altogether if groups fail to rise to the challenge. “UNISON is clear that library services should be run as public services, staffed by librarians and library assistants, who are able to access support and training to enable them to deliver a quality service.”” Heather Wakefield, Head of Local Government for UNISON – UNISON welcomes “brilliant” library news
  • Do librarians work hard enough? – Inside Higher Ed (USA).  “…the real flaw in Coffman’s argument is his assumption that librarians had imperial goals. We have never tried to corner the market on information or drive any other organization out of business. We’re the opposite of empire builders. We’re trying to preserve access to common ground where ideas can be shared openly, not a trading pit for buyers and sellers. We’re not serving customers, we represent the will of the people so they can help themselves and be part of a community that learns.”
  • Felix Schurholz makes the case for free coworking – Shareable.   Libraries have been suggested as a good place for coworking – where business people can use the facilities (table space, wifi, coffee, printer etc – things libraries often have) for their business for free.
  • High Court rules against library cuts while campaigners claim volunteer-run service “unsustainable” –  International Business Times.  “The decision by Mr Justice Wilkie will bolster confidence in campaign groups across the country, which continue to fight cuts to their local service. [but] Judth Wardle, chair of Save Oxfordshire Libraries, told IBTimes UK that Surrey Libraries Action Movement’s legal victory would not signal a wave of legal challenges.”

“We are welcoming volunteers, but we can’t go hunting them. There just aren’t enough of them out there. It seems that the councils are going to be facing some serious questions about their next step. “They don’t just want there to be volunteers, but they are asking for them to be recruited and for action to be taken to ensure that they turn up. We are not happy with that. We will not turn volunteering into a compulsion, so we are just staying quiet.”

  • Jarvis attacks Vaizey on Surrey judgement – BookSeller. 
  • Judge rules against council plan to staff libraries with volunteers – Telegraph.  
  • Libraries: care in the community? – BookSeller. Excellent comprehensive article on volunteer run libraries, [all the more so for mentioning me – Ian]  Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire, perhaps the best-known of all community libraries, has just marked five years under the control of volunteers. The number of book loans processed by the branch has increased every year in that time. Several more libraries have become completely self-sustaining, meeting costs via philanthropy and enterprise without any local authority contributions. But others have either struggled to survive, or failed to get off the ground in the first place. Use of libraries has often fallen substantially after volunteers took them on, with changes of locations, hours and services putting people off visiting. And given the enormous demands placed on volunteers, it is hardly surprising that many have stalled.”

“If we assume that those trends have continued this year, libraries in 2012 will feature more volunteers than full-time librarians”

  • Libraries for learning for life – Envisioning the library of the future (Arts Council).  John Dolan writes the fifth Arts Council blog post, suggesting the need for government departments and agencies to work together in order to ensure libraries are there throughout life to support literacy and learning.The public library system is a huge resource: 4,000 outlets, networked, packed with resources and staffed by skilled, empathetic information and knowledge workers. How to maximise reach and impact? Storytelling every week? It should be every morning and afternoon. Outreach projects? Community engagement should be the norm.”
  • Radio Five Live on the Surrey Libraries decision (42:00 to 47) – “The judge hasn’t actually criticised our plans for libraries” says council.”.  Council is going to persevere and still use volunteers.  Campaigners says libraries will not be sustainable in the future unless run by the Council.  Those interviewed were happy to have volunteers to increase opening hours etc but think they need a paid member of staff, a council employee, to be present and responsible.  Surrey has twice tried to close these libraries and, if they try again, eveyone will go against the council.  Council volunteer plan “will not save any money”.
  • Repeat after me “I am the stereotype librarian and I am proud” – Shallowreader’s Blog.   “In my opinion, the only librarian stereotype is a person who is always able to help you locate the information you need and can usually be trusted to be objective. That is it.”
  • Surrey judgement should serve as a stark warning about community libraries – Voices for the Library.   “Whilst the Society of Chief Librarians appeared to be happy to endorse community libraries on the Today programme this morning, at Voices for the Library we argue that this is an unacceptable alternative to paid staff supported by professionals.   No community should be forced to accept a second class service on the premise that it is better than no service at all.  Community libraries are not a sustainable alternative and those that do see them as a solution need to be aware that it is not a long-term answer and will simply result in a slower, more painful death of the service in the community.”
  • Take heart, fellow library loves, the writing isn’t on the wall quite yet – Guardian.   Surrey legal judgement ” It boils down to an issue over equality, and Surrey is saying its proposals “could still go ahead”. But it’s nonetheless the first legal acknowledgment that trained library staff are, actually, rather special.”.  … “Second, let’s make ourselves happy by looking at some of the wonderful, inspiring libraries from around the world. Take a glance at the new Stuttgart library. Scroll down a bit on the link and just look at the many, many floors of books!”

“Let’s channel any positive feelings we’ve managed to engender towards campaigners in Friern Barnet, who have been fighting to save their library for some time and are awaiting a cabinet vote this evening to find out what the future of their much-loved branch will be. Fingers crossed for them.”


Braford Wilsden Library reopens one day per week as volunteer-run.
Somerset – 10 staff expected to be lost due to introduction of self-service
West Sussex Shoreham library closed for three weeks for installation of self-service
Local News

  • Bradford – Renewed lease of life of Wilsden library – Telegraph & Argus.  “About 100 people attended the ceremony yesterday, when Baroness Eaton cut the ribbon to declare the new library officially open.” … “Bradford Libraries service is still supporting Wilsden but is not funding it in any way or providing any staff, so we put out a request for volunteers this year, when the closure was confirmed and had a marvellous response.Wilsden library will be open on Tuesdays from 9.15am to 7pm.”
  • Gloucestershire – Lechlade library’s fate is sealed, say campaigners – Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard.  “Angry campaigners are gearing up for the final round of fights against library cuts that they fear are already a done deal. Gloucestershire County Council cabinet will review a new library strategy tomorrow (Thursday, April 5) and make their final decision on whether Lechlade library should be handed over to volunteers. But campaigners say the fate of the town’s facility has already been decided and believe it will become a community library despite opposition from residents.” …. “Stewart Bruce, chairman of Lechlade and district civic society, said the GCC library consultation process was a “sham” and that the cabinet meeting was just an opportunity to rubber stamp “fait accompli” plans. If the plan is rejected at cabinet, the town will be forced to run the library on volunteers or face closing completely.”
  • Isle of Man – Libraries saved by Pokerstars – Isle of Man Today.  “Online gaming company PokerStars has committed to fund the libraries for three years to safeguard all employees and maintain the current level of service and fee structure. It will not provide any sort of branding or presence in the libraries.”
  • Kirklees – Legal challenge could change Kirklees library controversy – Huddersfield Daily Examiner.   “Campaigners here say it remains unclear what will happen if insufficient people step forward to staff the libraries and claim the consultation has been poor. So it seems a legal door may now be ajar to stop the plans for Denby Dale, Shepley, Honley, Golcar, Slaithwaite, Lepton and Kirkheaton libraries. If someone here was to push that legal door in the courts perhaps things could start to take a very different turn.”
    • Campaigners buoyed by High Court rulling – Huddersfield Daily Examiner.   “Denby Dale-based libraries campaigner Biddy Fisher OBE said the High Court ruling created a “precedent” which Kirklees would ignore at its peril. “The Surrey case is very similar to Kirklees and it has created a precedent, which is the important thing,” she said. “It could open the door to a legal challenge in Kirklees and if there was any member of the community who wants to take this forward I would give them my absolute support.”
    • “Cynical side to the Kirklees library cuts plans” –  Huddersfield Daily Examiner.  “No answers were forthcoming to queries about the criteria for deciding which libraries would close unless residents agreed to run them voluntarily, yet the bizarre criteria in a document entitled Reshaping Library Services has existed for months.”

“the paper identifies areas of Kirklees where it claims (without any supporting evidence) there is considerable community activity and proposes these areas should have services withdrawn. The suggestion is presumably that we punish community-spirited regions by removing the council services for which they pay in the same way as everyone else.”

  • North Yorkshire – Library chiefs defiant on volunteers – Yorkshire Post.  Coun Chris Metcalfe, executive member for library services, said: “We have worked very closely with our communities all the way along. We are engaging closely with volunteer groups and putting up necessary support services to ensure that these people have got help and assistance as and when they require. It is not what Surrey Council is doing that was wrong, but the way it was doing it. We feel through the way we have worked so closely with local communities throughout this process, we are on the right side of the law.”
  • Surrey – Libraries campaigners keen to work with Council after High Court ruling – Eagle Radio.   NB many other Surrey related pieces are above in the “News” section.  ““All along we’ve said we are prepared to talk about different options. We’ve been around to the ten sites and consulted with people and there are lots of ideas people have that are very keen on the library service. They could save money and not diminish the library service.  If they (the council) want to introduce volunteers, we say that is fine. Let’s have an increased role for volunteers but working together with staff.”
  • Warwickshire – Henley Library volunteers prepare for takeover – Coventry Telegraph. The volunteers who will manage Henley-in-Arden library have been getting to grips with the library management system at training sessions in Stratford Library. They take over running of the library, which will move into new premises at the Old Schoolroom in Henley Methodist Church, next Tuesday – following in the footsteps of other fledgling ventures such as the one at Bulkington Library”
  • West Sussex – Shoreham library to close for three weeks – Shoreham Herald.  This is for self-service.  Article ends … “What do you think? Do you support the introduction of self-service machines as a cost-cutting measure or do you prefer the personal touch? Do you still use the library?”