The line-up for the Future of Library Services conference has been announced. This is the one that Ed Vaizey speaks at and can be seen as an indicator of the way the wind is blowing. Much can be learnt even from the names of the speakers that are attending.  First off, what strikes one is that almost all are from Conservative councils, with the one exception being a Liberal Democrat. There is therefore, one suspects, not going to be a diverse group of views. Secondly, the councils listed are top-heavy with those who are implementing, or have already implemented, the use of the unpaid (volunteers/community groups) directly replacing library staff.  One  council involved is moving towards privatising its service while another is looking at transferring control to a non-profit organisation.  All, of course, are facing severe cuts in budget.  Now for the detail:
The future of library services will, therefore, largely be presented as a mixture of privatisation, closure and volunteers due to historically large budget reductions.  It is unlikely that dissenting voices will be heard.  It is also unlikely that facts which show the consequences of forcing branches out of council control will be seen, such as this chart:

Lewisham – What happens when branches are taken out of council control. These figures are for items loaned from five now non-council libraries over the last twelve months.   They have halved and have stayed roughly the same since.  The worst performing of these is Blackheath, which had been given to Age Exchange with a sweetener of  £200,000, but has seen its usage fall from nearly 4000 per month last year to 354 in March. 


  • Disgruntled library patron ready for court – Journal Sentinel (USA). “The library makes no apology for going in search of AWOL books. Last year, 111 of its customers wound up in court for that. “The goal is not to be harassing people,” city attorney Eberhardy said. “The goal is to recover the materials or the money for the materials.”
  • Future of library servicesNeil Stewart Associates. “Chief Librarians and Councillors have a tough job ahead in ensuring that the delivery of library services is innovative and forward thinking. Local communities are well rehearsed in the benefits of library services, including improved literacy, inclusion and job search but services remain underused. This 7th national conference will bring together senior-level library and information management professionals from local authorities and the wider cultural sector in order to discuss emerging policy issues and share best practice from across the country.”
  • Keep on borrowing: libraries refuse to die – Independent.  Looks at the pop-up library at Friern Barnet, whose end by the council was “brutal and swift”.  ” In scenes reminiscent of the Occupy movement, they have set up their own library”. Localism Act enabling councils to close branches but popular resistance is meaning numbers closed is a lot less than initially feared.  
  • NYPL embraces the future of libraries today – Huffington Post (USA).  President of the New York Public Library describes and explains the planned changes to the library.
  • Outdoor libraries set up after branch closings – Livingston (USA).  “Students from a Detroit school and the University of Michigan are setting up six outdoor libraries in the city following recent library branch closings.”

“It broke my heart to hear about the library closings, which are such a vital part of every community,” Manos said. “Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved visiting the library. I always regarded it as a sacred space and I think it would be a shame to deny any children the opportunity to read.”

  • Snoopers shut my library – Independent (Boyd Tonkin).  “Barnet Council, Tory-run and dismissive of a Labour-majority ward, behaved with stubborn arrogance. It has done next to nothing to back its claim that a new library within a local arts centre would replace the branch: a mere “temporary facility” is promised. Protestors feel “deceived, manipulated and mistreated”. 
  • Students: how do you behave in the library? – Guardian.   “A classmate once sat down next to me, produced several tupperware containers filled with hot food from his backpack, cracked open a can of energy drink and began to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey on his laptop.”
  • Timbuktu librarians protect manuscripts from rebelsReuters (Mali).   “…the gun-toting fighters did not enter the rooms and underground vaults where the priceless texts were stored at the library’s new South African-funded building.  “The new building was defended by the public … they stood in front of the gates,” Jeppie said, repeating accounts given to him.”
  • Why libraries matter more than ever – Local 10 (USA).   “I believe questioning the need for libraries and the professionals who staff them is like questioning the need for the air that we breathe. We need air to survive, just as we need libraries not just to survive but to thrive in an era filled with economic uncertainty, technological illiteracy and information overload. Technology continues to shape commerce, education and social interactions, in our global world. Libraries, which provide equitable access for all, play a key role in leveling the playing field in our communities.”


Local news

  • Barnet – Pop-up library protest over Friern Barnet closure – BBC.  campaigners claim the consultation was “deeply flawed” and 3,000 local residents opposed it. Also, the construction of the new building has not yet started.”
  • Bath and Northeast Somerset – Libraries do battle – This is Bath. “B&NES Council had originally proposed axing the mobile library entirely, but the plan was halted following a campaign by residents, parish councils and opposition Tories. Conservatives are now calling on the Liberal Democrat cabinet, which met to discuss the issue last night, not to rush into any final decision until a consultation has taken place on specific proposals for a revised timetable.”
  • Brent – Latest update from the campaign – Save Kensal Rise Library.   All Souls College would be happy to pass on building to campaigners but Council has refused this.  Campaigners have met with DCMS (who took notes and promised nothing) to provide information.  Pop Up library doing well.  
    • DCMS finally meets with campaigners … after almost a year – Preston Library Campaign.   Including the written submission.
    • All Souls College, Oxford support plan to save Kensal Rise Library – Save Kensal Rise Library.  Letter from college clearly shows they support campaigners but “We have received the impression that the Council is not keen that the proposal is taken forward”.
    • Mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone vows to help reopen Cricklewood Library – Brent and Kilburn Times.   “Mr Livingstone has told the Times that he will work with All Souls College, who own the building in Olive Road, to find a solution that will see the doors opened up as a library again. The Labour candidate, who lives around the corner from the axed branch in Ivy Road, had previously kept tight-lipped about the saga [Brent is Labour controlled], but finally spoke out during a visit to Willesden this morning (Friday).”
    • Friends of Barham Library to open “pop up” reading room in Wembley – Times series.   “Cllr Lorber, leader of Brent Liberal Democrats, said: “We are delighted that we have been able to show the council that we are able to still run a community service, for the people.“We have asked on many  occasions to return to the old library building but our requests were denied. “It is fantastic that we can now offer a local service for the people who had it taken away from them.”The resource centre was opened on May 31, 1952, and would be celebrating its Diamond Jubilee this year.”
    • Flood of books pour into Cricklewood “pop-up” library after thieves strike – Brent & Kilburn Times.   “Campaigners at Cricklewood Library, in Olive Road, were stunned as a case of books was thought to be stolen. Furious campaigners, shocked at the apparent theft, put up a sign outside the library reading ‘shame on whoever stole the books’. However, the incident threw up some unlikely cheer when the box was returned days later, with the message ‘we are sorry we took the box of books, we are donating some more of our own’ written across it.”
  • Hammersmith & Fulham – Residents’ satisfaction rises – SW Londoner.  Over 32% declared themselves ‘very satisfied’ with the local library service – more than any other public service in the borough. “Most people are very happy with libraries in the borough,” said Richard Grant, Customer Service Team Leader for Hammersmith and Fulham libraries. “The council has done a very good job in preserving and promoting library facilities.”
  • North Somerset – Library jobs pledge as £347,000 savings sought – This is Bristol.  “Almost 2,000 people responded to a consultation document drawn up by the authority. As part of the changes, due to come into effect in September, self-service terminals will be installed at a number of libraries by the summer and volunteers recruited to help support the service.”
  • Northern Ireland – Doors close at Moy Library for final time – Tyrone Times. “Members of the public, along with politicians and school children, had campaigned strongly to keep the library open, with the principal of St John’s PS in the village describing the final decision as “short sightedness”. However, on Saturday, March 31, the library closed permanently, with Libraries NI announcing arrangements for alternative provision in the area.”
  • Richmond – Bucks national trend by extending library opening hours – SW Londoner.   “an all-in-one survey revealed libraries were highly valued by the vast majority of Richmond residents. From the 18th April, Whitton, East Sheen, Teddington and Twickenham libraries will open on Mondays, and Castelnau Library will operate for an additional 20 hours per week. Despite national closures Richmond has kept every library open, thanks largely to a process of restructuring and re-designation of resources.” … ” “Richmond libraries saw a very high usage from children and the elderly, but hopes increased opening hours will attract more 30-50-year-olds.””
  • Surrey – Libraries limbo continues as High Court battle rages on – This is Surrey Today.   Volunteers who want to run Tattenhams Library are unhappy that they are being forced to wait until legal action ends before they take over from paid staff.  “This library can be so much more. We will have coffee mornings, reading groups, a knitting group. People have all sorts of ideas of what we can do.”