The influential LGA have released details of a session at their annual conference this week. The session concerns how councils are changing library services in response to budget cuts.  It should be read in conjunction with this press release by the LGAabout a new report.Please find below a description of the LGA libraries session, I have included a list of the speakers.  All three come from councils which are boosting volunteers in their libraries and reducing paid staff.  On the plus side, one can at least be thankful that there is not a speaker from Brent.

W14: Beyond books and buildings: should councils close their libraries to save money? – LGA annual conference and exhibition 2012.  “Libraries are among the most valued services councils provide.  The library landscape is also changing radically in light of budget cuts, the Localism Act and the Big Society.  From sharing back office functions, to locating libraries in shops and empowering communities to play a bigger role, councils are finding innovative ways to give people access to quality library services.  Councils are looking beyond books and buildings, opening up libraries for a new generation of users, forging new partnerships and putting them at the heart of the community. So, are there alternatives to cutting library services? How can libraries achieve modernisation and digitalisation as well as value for money? Delegates will hear the latest cutting edge thinking from LGA and local government and have a chance to have their say.”.

Speakers will be:

However, there are some very interesting signs that this will not entirely be an entirely Government-pleasing whitewash that pretneds that the public will not notice changes.  The workshop session and the media release for the new report both mention library closures.  Of particular interest is this quote from Cllr Flick Rea:

“It’s vital government recognises that this record of innovation does not mean it can keep cutting funding and expect councils to work miracles, perpetually doing more with less. There’s a critical mass and we’re already stretched to the limit. Further cuts on top of those we’re already managing could well result in library closures across much of the country.”


  • Changing face of library service takes shape – LGA.  “Libraries are merging with GP surgeries, housing police front desks, providing shop space for local entrepreneurs and laying on music gigs and speed dating, a new report into the changing face of library services has revealed. Research published by the Local Government Association shows councils across the country have been finding innovative ways to keep providing library services while managing the 28 per cent budget cut announced in 2010.  What were only ideas a couple of years ago are now reality with many libraries having transformed into cultural hubs and centres to access a range of council services, as well as remaining places to borrow and read books.”.  The report accepts some closures but concentrates on the most positive examples:
    • Lambeth.  Interactive Library Challenge shows the public how difficult it is to decide on what library services to keep with a limited budget.
    • Northamptonshire.  Libraries now contain “Enterprise Hubs which offer business start-up advice and mentoring, job clubs, business IT advice, and CV and finance workshops.”
    • Hammersmith and Fulham. Shepherds Bush Library.  Recruitment/training “WorkZone“.
    • Kent.  “Making the Difference” service to support adults with learning difficulties.
    • Rutland.  Co-located GP surgery at Kelton Library.
    • Croydon.  “Healthy Living Hub” at Central Library, joint project with NHS.
    • Warwickshire.  Council one stop shops.  Some libraries have police desks.
    • Cardiff.  Events run at almost no cost due to partnerships with private and education sectors.
    • Lewisham.  Three libraries run by Eco Computers.  “Lewisham Council owns the buildings and is responsible for stock, while ECS leases the buildings and staffs them with a part-time manager and volunteers.”
    • York.  Central turned into “Explore Library Learning Centre” in partnership with private-sector Aviva.
    • Staffordshire.  Ebook lending.
    • Sutton.  “BookShare” scheme allows private swapping of books through website.
    • Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea – Integrated three services to reduce management and support costs.
    • Worcestershire.  “Hive” combined public and academic library.
  • Libraries: hubs for collaborative consumption? – Social Business.  “As I dipped in and out of Twitter today there was plenty of talk of library closures in the UK.  It’s anticipated that lots will close as local councils struggle desperately to make ends meet. I don’t want to discuss the politics of that just now, but I do want to reflect on the rise of collaborative consumption and the apparent fall of the public library.  If some are saved and run by volunteers, will they continue to deliver the same service ?  Or might they re-imagine their service as a local hub for collaborative consumption?  Maybe I could borrow a guide book to Paris, alongside a power drill?  A power drill that someone else in my community has offered up for sharing – at a fee – shared between them and the library? It might be mission drift, or it might just make libraries relevant to more people.”
  • Library shuffles its collection – Wired (USA).  “This week the South Huntington Public Library on Long Island, New York, became one of the first public libraries in the country to loan out iPod shuffles. For the past three weeks, the library ran a pilot program using the portable MP3 devices to store audio books downloaded from the Apple iTunes Music Store. They started with six shuffles, and now are up to a total of 10. Each device holds a single audio book.”


Local News

  • Birmingham – Unbound Live at Birmingham library – The Reading Agency.  Four Unbound authors – Robert Llewellyn, Adrian Teal, Stevyn Colgan and George Chopping – will go head-to-head pitching to raise funding for their book ideas, in a cross between an election hustings and a literary Dragons’ Den. Listen to the pitches, the extracts, the carefully framed arguments, the wit, the passion, the pleading and then you – the potential reader – can decide which books you’d like to see published and pledge for them on the night.”
  • Brent – Navin Shah opposes Brent Labour’s library demolition – Wembley Matters.   Mr Shah,  Labour London Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow, formally objects to destruction of Willesden Green Library.  In an application for conservation area consent for the building he says it “…is a social and cultural tool and knocking it down would destroy the historical and architectural contribution it makes to the Borough of Brent and its special significance to the character of the area. This is a much loved building making positive contribution to the surrounding areas which is recognised by its local listing by Brent council and local people love it, as do I. So why destroy local heritage?”
    • Willesden Green redevelopment in trouble? – Wembley Matters.”With the on-line comments on Galliford Try’s application to demolish the Willesden Green Library Centre and Willesden Bookshop along with the Victorian Library,  showing over-whelming opposition from local residents, LINKit appears that the developer has launched a last-ditch attempt to find the ‘silent majority’ councillors have claimed are in favour of the scheme.”

“Friends of Barham Library have a stall at the French Market Wembley High Rd This Thurs-Friday 28/29th June all day. We need help can you spare a few hours to help run our stall. Also I’d any library book shop want space at Willesden on the Sat/Sun it can be arranged. Barham Library (Twitter) 

  • Croydon/Wandsworth – Contenders for Croydon libraries cut to three – Croydon Guardian.   “The original shortlist including LSSI, Civica, Essex County Council, Greenwich Leisure Trust and John Laing has been reduced to just three after both Civica, which manages libraries in Singapore as well as providing support services in Australia, and LSSI dropped out.”
  • Doncaster – Mayor faces legal action on budget – MSN News.   “The mayor of Doncaster, Peter Davies, proposed a budget which would result in the closure of two libraries and see 12 more being run by community volunteers. Two thirds of councillors voted in favour of an amendment to allocate funding to the libraries but Mr Davies refused to change his budget.” … “A judge has granted permission to an unnamed resident to bring an application for judicial review challenging the mayor.” [NB image of empty shelves used in all reports is, weirdly,  from Stony Stratford by Milton Keynes a year ago – Ian].

“Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, who represent the resident, said: “The mayor’s refusal to implement the decision of a two-thirds majority of all of Doncaster’s councillors is not only disastrous for the future of Doncaster’s libraries, it raises a fundamental question about the elected mayor system. “The claim will provide an important answer about the balance of power between an elected mayor and all of an authority’s elected councillors.” Simon Wiles, Doncaster Council’s director of finance and corporate services, said: “We are very confident that the mayor has acted properly and in accordance with the clear legal advice he has received, and that the decisions taken will be successfully defended.” The case will be heard at Leeds Combined Court Centre on 24 July.”

  • Gloucestershire – Young citizen reports: Jilly Cooper Q & A – This is Gloucestershire.  “Q: Why do you think is so important to keep Gloucestershire’s libraries open? A: It is the most important thing in all the world to keep Gloucestershire libraries open. There is a wonderful quote by a poet called Sir Sacheverall Sitwell which goes: “The birds sing on the trees for rich and poor.” Our libraries provide comfort, inspiration, excitement and knowledge for rich and poor too.”
  • East Dunbartonshire No decision yet on library hub plans – Herald series.  “Council chiefs were remaining tight-lipped this week over proposals to create community hubs in Milngavie and Bearsden. East Dunbartonshire Council has unveiled plans to build the ‘one-stop-shops’ across the district over the next few years, providing local access to council services.” … “However, the move has sparked outrage, with library users claiming they had not been consulted and fears the community hub will reduce library space. More than 1,400 people signed a petition.”
  • Lewisham – New recycling service launched at Lewisham libraries – News Shopper.  “Eco Computer Systems and WISER Recycling launched the service to make it easier for residents to recycle their unwanted phones, household appliances, games consoles, power tools and IT equipment.”  Recycling at Croften Park Community Library, Sydenham Community Library, Gove Park Community Library and Pepys Resource Centre” … “Eco Computer Systems runs the libraries on behalf of the community.”