It’s not often that public libraries make the front page of a national newspaper but it happened today (Tuesday 31st July – Revealed: the full cost of the cull of public libraries – Independent).  It quotes the Public Libraries News figures for libraries closed and under threat.

CILIP, DCMS and Dan Jarvis are quoted and it’s interesting to see their different viewpoints:

“It has been a tough year for public library services and staff. It has however been a ‘mixed bag’ across the country. While Birmingham gears up to launching the largest public library in Europe, we are seeing a reduction in opening hours, book stock spending and staff in many library services. Local communities, families and individuals are more than ever facing a postcode lottery when it comes to the quality of library services they can expect to receive.” CILIP.”

 “The Government cannot stop all libraries from closing, nor should that be their aim. But they could be leading a concerted effort to minimise the damage and encourage measures to cuts costs without affecting front-line services. Instead we are seeing half measures and a vacuum of leadership or ambition.” Dan Jarvis MP

“The Government has been monitoring local developments on public libraries over the last year and estimates that around 60 static libraries have closed. It is also true that many local authorities have opened new libraries. The Society of Chief Librarians has noted that 40 new or refurbished public libraries will open in 2012.” DCMS
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Library supporters from Suffolk have been in touch to say that the fourteen libraries that were listed as “under threat” are, thankfully, no longer in danger of closing.  I have therefore changed the total and the listing.  The situation is somewhat confused in Suffolk by not only an Industrial and Provident Society taking overall control of libraries from 1st August.  In addition, several libraries have formed volunteer-run Friends groups which will take over at least some responsibility for their running.  See this press release from Suffolk Libraries.  The savings mentioned are certainly impressive, although it is early days yet.




  • Brent – Lib Dem leader Paul Lorber “shocked and saddened” at defection – Harrow Times.  “Councillor James Allie, who represents Alperton, announced his switch to Labour in an open letter released this morning, in which he listed a series of damning criticisms of both Lib Dem MPs in Westminster and his former colleagues in Brent. He singled out Cllr Lorber’s campaign to keep open six libraries in the borough after they were selected for closure by Brent Council, calling his “posturing” on the issue “an insult to the library campaigners and the people of Brent”.”
  • Cornwall – Councillors approve part-privatisation plan BBC.   “Services including libraries, payroll and benefit payments could be run by outside companies in contracts worth up to £300m a year and affecting up to 1,000 council staff. The go-ahead has been given by senior members of the Conservative-Independent led council for invitations to tender.” … “Councillor Steve Double, the cabinet member for shared services, said there had been enough detail for an informed decision, but that the authority understood that outsourcing meant there were “certainly risks”. But he added that the move could “protect highly-valued services, such as libraries and one-shop shops, from the impact of future budget cuts”.
  • Gloucestershire – No furthe action to be taken over library closures in Gloucestershire – This is Gloucestershire.   “Today the campaign group the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries(FoGL) has announced no further legal action will be taken over Gloucestershire County Council’s decision to hand seven over to communities to run. Here is its statement in full …”
“seven public libraries are still closing, including in deprived areas and in areas where library usage is high. We have strong doubts as to whether the equalities impacts of these library closures and service reductions have been adequately considered and addressed. These plans are now being implemented and there remains a real danger that some of our county’s most vulnerable residents will lose out on access to this important and cost effective public service, which pre-cuts, cost GCC just 1% of its annual budget.”
    • Update: Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries media statement – Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries.  “In November 2010 Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) announced plans to close eleven public libraries, to reduce opening times to three hours per week at seven, and to axe the entire mobile library service. As a direct result of Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries’ (FoGL) campaign and the determination of local residents to fight for their service, four public libraries in the most deprived areas of Gloucestershire and two mobile libraries remain open. The 7 libraries with opening hours to be reduced to 3 per week now have a minimum of 12 hours. This follows a November 2011 ruling by the High Court, initiated by FoGL, that GCC had acted unlawfully in neglecting its equalities obligations. The Judge stated that GCC was guilty of ‘bad government’ and a ‘substantial breach of the law’, and quashed the plans entirely, forcing the council to go back to the drawing board.”
  • Hampshire – Council deal will move Gosport’s post office into library – News.  Customers of Gosport’s post office have long complained of the state of the High Street building. Now the Post Office and Hampshire County Council are finalising a deal which will see the office move into the nearby Discovery Centre, subject to a public consultation.” … “I welcome the move and it would be good for customers and staff. ‘But we have to remember it is a library and that shouldn’t be forgotten. Books are importan”
  • Harrow – The response from Harrow Councillor David Perry and my response – Stop the privatisation of public libraries. “Officers will bring back a report on the outcome of our tender process later in 2012. Councillors will then make a decision based on what we think is right for Harrow. Can I also point out that in Harrow this year we will be investing in our Libraries and updating aging computers and networks along with installing Wi-Fi for the service users (free of charge). So I feel that the Labour Administration in Harrow is committed not only to improving our Library Service, but also taking potential steps to protect this valuable service.”
  • Suffolk – New chapter for Suffolk’s LibrariesSurrey Libraries.  “From Wednesday 1 August, all of Suffolk’s 44 libraries and the mobile, school and prison services will come under the direct control of the IPS – a first in the country – which will work in partnership with local library groups to support and expand the service. It will also take responsibility for employing all paid library staff – who will also make the transition with the service. Unlike others parts of the UK which have had to close libraries, reduce opening hours or move from paid staff to volunteers to reduce costs, the Suffolk solution means all libraries have been saved and paid staff are not being replaced with volunteers.”
    • New Suffolk library owners – Diss Express. “The handover of Suffolk County Council’s 44 libraries – including Eye, Stradbroke and Debenham – to the IPS could reduce the amount the council spends on libraries from nearly £9million in 2010-11 to £6.4million in 2012-13.”
“Resident’s Association and Liberal Democrat members of the Communities Select Committee demanded the call-in due to the decision being irrational and unreasonable, and due to evident public outrage over the decision. The decision, they say: does not have adequate justification, does not abide by the High Court Order of 1st May, having not taken fully into consideration the High Court judgment of April 3rd 2012, andhas not been scrutinised by council or by any committee since the library plans were ruled unlawful by the high court, since the announcement that the plans would save no money and since the “shambolic” equalities consultation.Mike Alsop, SLAM Chair, said: “The library plans remove paid staff but save no money, despite cost-saving being the justification of the plans all along. Local residents and potential library volunteers have been angered that they have been hoodwinked by the council. Library after library has come out and asked for changes to the policy so that they can make it work but they have all been ignored. It is right, therefore, that the library decision has been called in.” Surrey Libraries Action Movement press release.
  • Surrey – Libraries decision “called in” for scrutiny – Get Surrey.  “Plans to replace professional staff with volunteers at 10 libraries face further delays after the divisive decision to green light the scheme was called in for scrutiny. Surrey County Council’s cabinet opted to proceed with its proposals last Tuesday (July 24). But unhappy Residents’ Association and Liberal Democrat members of the authority’s communities select committee have decided they want to dissect the move and seek a different way forward.”
    • Plans for volunteer-led libraries in Surrey delayed –  Surrey Comet.  “Controversial plans for 10 Surrey libraries to be run by volunteers face fresh delays – one week after they were approved by councillors for a second time.” … “Opposition councillors said there was no adequate justification for the decision, with Lib Dem and Residents’ Association councillors also arguing there had been no council scrutiny of the plans since they were ruled unlawful by the High Court in May, or since the council’s admission that they would not save money.”
  • Wakefield – Library services to change – ITV News.   “A decision will be made today over the future of library services in Wakefield. A report is being delivered to the Council’s Cabinet meeting following a review, which included a public consultation.”
“We’re recommending these changes as a direct result of what residents have told us. We haven’t changed the way we provide library services for over 30 years, so we have to modernise.Visits to libraries have dropped by 43% in the last decade, while the number of people reserving books online or turning to e-books are both rising dramatically.This review gives us the opportunity to provide a 21st century service, investing in the 14 hub libraries and supporting community groups to run and fund satellite library services themselves. We’ve already had a lot of interest from community groups, and I would encourage them to put together bids in time for the deadline.”