Comment – Charging for the Internet in libraries

Barking and Dagenham Libraries have decided to charge for use of their public access computers, £12 annually for residents, £25 non-residents.  An extra charge of £1 is made is more than two hours are used per day.  People under 20 and over 60 still keep free access.  The resultant librarian discussion (featuring both the CILIP President and the last CILIP Vice-President) came down strongly against the move.  The main reasons against charging mentioned were:

  • Prevention of use of computers by those on low incomes. That is, the people who need it most.
  • Undermines the spirit in which the People’s Network was set up.
  • Many library resources have moved from print to online.  They were free in print form but now there is a digital charge for them.
  • Deters people from using the library.
  • Government is planning to put everything online via its “digital by default” agenda.  This will deny the poorest access to vital services, which is especially galling as some Government department’s advise non-computer owners to “use the library” to do online returns.
  • “Go On UK” and other initiatives promote online use for all.  Ed Vaizey and others have positively commented on the success of libraries in getting the resistant online.  Charging is going to make this harder.
For my part, I would say that I would agree with all of these.  However, I am also aware that charging for internet use has been common practice in many authorities (including my own) for years. A colleague on Twitter has pointed out that Warwickshire charge £2 after thirty minutes, more for non-members.   Indeed, I remember going on holiday to the other side of the country three years ago and being charged, as a non-member, a reasonable sum for checking my email.
It’s also worth noting that the People’s Network funding was always going to be a poisoned chalice for libraries, although one that it was impossible to decline.  The Government paid for the computers but insisted that the local authorities pay for their upkeep and use.  This was fine in years of comparative plenty and when the machines were new.  It is a lot less fine now.  It also seems unlikely that the current Government would choose to invest more money in the project, Ed’s fine words about libraries and online access notwithstanding.  So, each library authority is addressing the issue in its own way and so another postcode lottery results.
See also:

Libraries charging for internet access is wrong – Phil Bradley’s Weblog. 


Save Bolton Libraries Campaign have asked other library campaigners to complain to Mr Jeremy Hunt about the failure to intervene over cuts to library services. It is hoped that those groups which have outstanding requests for intervention will write indicating an intention to make similar complaints (through MPs) if their own requests are not dealt with by, say, the end of this month. “Dealt with” means by the issue of ‘minded to’ intervene/not intervene letters. This sentence links to a sample complaint letterbut others can of course write their own. Bolton also asks for the date mentioned in the letter to be late July/early August if possible. For more information please contact Geof Dron at

Change in net number of libraries in UK 1991-2012

The righthand column is the number Ed Vaizey accepts closed 2011/12 (60) in blue and the number of libraries Public Libraries News has counted (122).  However, it could be said that this is not a fair comparison on the earlier figures as it is not counterbalanced by a number of library openings.  Far more instructive would be differences in budget year on year.  Figures from chart taken from Hansard 2nd July

“The announcements made by Ed Vaizey are lip service to the communities and libraries which he is failing across England. Since April 2011 153 libraries have either been closed or handed over to unfunded volunteers, and more than 240 are currently under threat. Whilst the additional fund for the Arts Council is to be welcomed, this will do very little to compensate for the 28% cut in funding which local authorities are facing. “Ed Vaizey has hoped to pull the wool over our eyes but in reality has not addressed the single most important issue – a lack of strategic leadership and direction from the Government. “The people who cherish libraries in their communities will not be fooled”” Response to Vaizey’s announcement at the Future Libraries Conference: Jarvis – Labour Party.

  • 6 ways you (yes you) can market your information service – Library Marketing Toolkit. Guide to new professionals, mainly concerning Web 2.0. See also the wonderful Prezi slideshow presentation.
  • Michael Morpurgo: We failing too many boys in the enjoyment of reading – Guardian.  Suggests an action plan including “.  The library in any school should have a dedicated librarian or teacher/librarian, be well resourced, and welcoming, the heart of every school.  Access to books and the encouragement of the habit of reading: these two things are the first and most necessary steps in education and librarians, teachers and parents all over the country know it. It is our children’s right and it is also our best hope and their best hope for the future.” and “Regular visits from storytellers, theatre groups, poets, writers of fiction and non-fiction, and librarians from the local library.”
  • This abandoned Walmart has been reclaimed as a public library – Grist (USA).   “The McAllen Public Library in McAllen, Texas, is the size of 2.5 football fields — the largest single-story library in the United States. But in its former life, its size wasn’t all that unusual. That’s because the McAllen library used to be a Walmart.”.  Impressive pictures. “The best part: Library registration jumped 23 percent after the new building opened. Sure, some of those people probably wandered in looking for a gun and 200 diapers, and just took a while to figure out what was going on. But a lot of them just wanted to make use of a beautiful new public space.”


Local News 

  • Brent – Will pen power work again for MacShane? – London Evening Standard.   “Emboldened by the success of the campaign to save Gaby’s Deli in Charing Cross Road, Labour MP Denis MacShane has a new cause, the Kensal Rise Library. MacShane wrote some blistering letters about Gaby’s to its landlord, the Marquess of Salisbury, saying it was the only place he could buy a decent salt beef sandwich.Now he has chosen a similar tactic by writing to Sir John Vickers, currently in the news as chairman of the Independent Commission on Banking. Sir John is also Warden of All Souls College, Oxford, which gifted the building to the north London community 100 years ago when it was opened by the great American writer Mark Twain.”
  • Doncaster – Judicial review on cards in Doncaster libraries row – BookSeller.  “Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers, the legal firm representing the Doncaster resident who is applying for judicial review, said: “The mayor’s refusal to implement the decision of a two-thirds majority of all Doncaster’s councillors is not only disastrous for the future of Doncaster’s libraries, it raises a fundamental question about the elected mayor system.” Granting permission for the application, His Honour Judge Gosnell said the claim was “clearly arguable”.”
  • Norfolk – Unveiling of North Walsham Library mural, created by ex-Paston College students – Norwich Evening News.   “The mural, created using oils, acrylic paints, pencil, marker pens and collage, includes a mobile library van, people playing computer games, and choosing DVDs and books. The artists included members of their families, and library staff in the picture, as well as themselves looking a computer in the background.”
  • Torbay – Council introduces reduced library opening hours – BBC. “Some of the libraries affected will close at 13:00 on as many as three days a week.The council said the changes were made after a consultation with library customers. The authority added it had to meet a 10% reduction in its 2012/13 funding and the new opening hours had been arranged to cause as little inconvenience as possible.”
  • Wandsworth – Fundraising and events – Save York Gardens.   “We have been very lucky to have been shortlisted by the Lloyds Banking Group Community Fund, as potential winners of a £5,000 donation towards events for young people. The winners will be chosen by public vote and we need your help to gain as many votes as possible.”
  • Worcestershire – Hive opens to the publicWorcester News.  ““WE are a believer in books in this library,” announces Anne Hannaford, the University of Worcester’s director of information and learning services and one of the driving forces behind the city’s new golden structure. Mrs Hannaford is leading us around The Hive, the new riverside home of Worcester’s library and history centre, which after almost 10 years of planning opens to the public today. This, you might think, is a pretty obvious thing to say for a woman who has just overseen the creation of a £60 million super library, but it’s soon apparent that an enormous amount of time and energy has been put into the design of this building to allow as many people as possible to discover and enjoy books.”  … “The Hive is Europe’s first fully integrated and jointly run university and local authority library.”