The Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson, at the start of her UK tour to highlight the subject of public libraries, has written an open letter to the new Secretary of State.  It’s a great letter and sums up what is so important about libraries and how terrible the last couple of years have been. It also points out the inadequacies of the Government response to what has been the deepest peacetime cuts in history to the budget and provision of public libraries.  There was a great deal of coverage in the Independent, the London Evening Standard, the BBC and the Scotsman.  Again, though, the Government response has been inadequate.  The new Secretary of State, Maria Miller, was quoted on the BBC Radio 4 News as saying, in effect, public libraries were nothing to do with her.  She needs to learn the error of this statement quickly and then she needs to do something about it.  Or it’s going to be more of the awful same as we have had before.

Julia Donaldson letter

  • An open letter from the Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson to the new Secretary of State for Culture – Independent.  Excellent and timely letter warning of the dangers of the current reductions to the public library service.  “Mr Vaizey also told me that he “did not accept” that there was any problem in the library service. This may be because he is happy with the idea (now a reality in some areas) of libraries being run entirely by volunteers. I am shocked that he could consider this anything more than a short-term measure. This summer, while visiting France, I had an engagement in a village library whose users were thrilled because at last they were getting a professional librarian. Yet we are going in the opposite direction. “
  • BBC Radio Four News, 8.05am – (Five minutes into recording). Maria Miller, new DCMS Secretary of State responds to Julia Donaldson saying “Mrs Miller stressed that public libraries had always been funded by local authorities not central government.”
  • Donaldson appeal over library cuts – London Evening Standard.  “She will embark on a tour on Monday taking in 35 libraries across England, Wales and Scotland over six weeks to publicise her campaign. In an open later to Ms Miller, who replaced Jeremy Hunt in the recent reshuffle, Ms Donaldson said: “I’m also hoping that the tour will draw attention to the erosion of the library service which is happening in so many local authorities, and to the current government’s utter refusal to intervene or to provide any leadership.”
  • Gruffalo writer warns of nation of illiterates – Independent.  “In an open letter to Maria Miller, the newly appointed Culture Secretary, Ms Donaldson, asks the Government to act swiftly to save Britain’s libraries, suggesting that Downing Street should use part of the education budget for a rescue plan. The letter challenges the Culture Secretary to show “leadership” on behalf of young readers, and calls for the ring-fencing of spending on children’s libraries.” … “Ms Donaldson slammed the coalition for its handling of library closures, which she said amounted to nothing more than “hypocrisy” and “spin”. ” 43 comments.

“Today, many towns have no bookshops. If they also have no library, where are children to find books? Is it a surprise that we are always reading horrifying statistics about the number of homes without books? If children don’t discover what books they like, they are unlikely to become life-long readers, and we are therefore heading for a less literate society. Illiteracy leads to lower skills, greater social problems, higher crime rates, and a country less able to prosper in the global jobs market. Cutting libraries is a false economy. They are the best literacy resource that we have.”

“And next Wednesday, Martin Horwood, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cheltenham, is due to speak in a parliamentary debate about the Government’s failure to intervene in the fate of libraries in Gloucestershire, seven of which are earmarked for closure, despite a successful legal challenge to the closure decision in the High Court. “This is a flagrant breach of the duties to superintend and calls into question the whole system, of why the law even exists in the first place,” he said last night. The Commons Culture Select Committee is due to report in October on its findings into library closures.”

  • Interview: Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo – Scotsman.  Long article, almost all to do with public libraries.  “I don’t want libraries to disappear,” she says when we meet in the Milngavie Bookshop, not far from her home in Bearsden. “Libraries are where children discover what books they like. If they can’t discover what books they like, then often reading’s just going to seem like a chore, and we’re not going to have readers in the next generation.” .. “In Scotland, where there is a historic culture of public and political support for lending libraries (the first in the world opened in Edinburgh in 1726) the problem has so far been nowhere near as acute. Statistics show that library attendance is in fact rising, driven by the attractions of digital texts and online access. Donaldson, though, is sniffy about the ability of e-books to help children discover new literary pleasures. “If you have a Kindle,” she has said, “you don’t suddenly spot Treasure Island.”

 “Her meeting with the culture minister Ed Vaizey was not a positive experience. She took him to task for spinning the replacement of professional librarians with volunteers as vibrant 21st century thinking. “The only thing he promised me was that he would stop using the words ‘vibrant’ and ‘21st century’.”

  • Laureate issues library challenge to Culture Secretary– BBC.  “A DCMS spokesman said: “The Secretary of State is very happy to meet Julia Donaldson to discuss library provision in the UK. “However, libraries have always been funded and run by local authorities. They have never been funded by central government, and it is right therefore that local authorities should have the flexibility to decide how best to provide a library service to their local community. “We have always been clear that we will not hesitate to use our powers under the 1964 Libraries Act to intervene where there is a clear breach of the statutory duty by a local authority to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service.” [Pull the other one – it has bells on.  Ian].

“Hats off to Julia Donaldson.  Like many of her previous Children’s Laureates, Julia brings to the table the authority of a long and distinguished career writing for and inspiring youngsters. I accompanied Julia and other library campaigners to meet Culture Minister Ed Vaizey last year. It is the norm for people to go cap in hand to the Minister and affect a kind of grovelling and anaemic respect which often has nothing to do with that politician’s record. In contrast, while being polite, Julia was both firm in her views and combative in her approach … ” Alan Gibbons.


  • 100 candles for county libraries – KCET (USA).  “The cubicles with electric typewriters (ten cents for an hour) are gone. More of what a library is has migrated to the Web. Shelves of out-of-date reference books are empty. DVDs take up some of the vacant space. There are still lots of kids. I hope they read all the books the library has about snakes or Egyptians or Native Americans or presidents or . . . Well, it doesn’t really matter as long as they fall into some fascination that brings them back to the library again and again. I wish sometimes that I could join them.”
  • Government widening the digital divide: five things they can do to narrow it – Infoism.  Government is aiming for many crucial services to be available mainly only online.  “upcoming introduction of the universal credit which will require application for benefits online.” … ” It is clear that such policies will simply exacerbate and deepen the extent of the digital divide. ” … “Public libraries could, if adequately supported, provide a bridge for those who are currently digitally excluded. As a result of the People’s Network, the vast majority (if not all) libraries provide access to the internet.  In many cases, public libraries provide access for free, although some authorities are removing free access and charging the public for the right to connect to the internet.  Furthermore, library staff are experienced in providing assistance for those that experience difficulties accessing the internet.  Indeed, many have had basic ICT training to enable them to provide such support.  However, government policy is seriously undermining the level of support public libraries can provide for the digitally excluded both in terms of closures and hollowing out of the service.”
  • Philosophy of bold promotion in Arkansas -Information Today via Finding Heroes. Big roadside banner says “Spoiler Alert: Dumbledore dies on page 596”. 
  • Revolt of the Rich – American Conservative (USA).  “The objective of the predatory super-rich and their political handmaidens is to discredit and destroy the traditional nation state and auction its resources to themselves. Those super-rich, in turn, aim to create a “tollbooth” economy, whereby more and more of our highways, bridges, libraries, parks, and beaches are possessed by private oligarchs who will extract a toll from the rest of us. Was this the vision of the Founders”


Local News

  • Brent – Wembley mother joins fight to reopen Barham Library – Brent and Kilburn Times. “A mother from Wembley has collected more than 100 signatures from residents calling for their local library to be re-opened. Waheeda Bibi, who lives in Chaplin Road, has been busy collecting signatures from local residents affected by the closure of Barham Library. The mother of three currently runs a mother and toddler group at the community run pop-up library in Wembley High Road.”

“We remember it buzzing with activity. The library was especially popular with children and with some of the area’s older residents who appreciated the parkland setting. Most of them have not been able to switch to Brent’s few remaining libraries given the inconvenient and time-consuming journeys required.”

  • Hertfordshire – Fake Hatfield Library twitter account prankster fails to amuse Hertfordshire County Council – Times series.  “Since their first tweet on July 19, the imposter has posted a series of foul-mouthed rants, outrageous claims and bizarre words of advice to their 35 followers. Among those suitable to print are the suggestions that rapper Ice T, comedian Ricky Gervais and the late Michael Jackson are all members of the library in Queensway and have overdue books.”
  • Lancashire – Longer running hours planned for East Lancashire’s libraries – Lancashire Telegraph.  “Ectra opening hours – and earlier starts – are set to be unveiled at 24 county libraries in East Lancashire and Chorley, it has been revealed. Several principal libraries such as Accrington, Burnley Central, Chorley, Clitheroe, Colne, Nelson, Padiham and Rawtenstall will be throwing open their doors at 9am. The same locations will open for an additional three hours per week.”

Myth 6  the biggest one of all ‘We are not closing libraries’. Try telling this to communities when their library has closed and a smaller dumbed down version has opened up at a location they cannot access.  A good example of the Council ‘not closing libraries’ is Tettenhall Wood Library—once a loved and popular facility serving its local community. Where is it now? It hasn’t ‘closed’, instead it has been turned into 5 bookcases up a corner of a room in a community centre. Under the Community Hubs proposals libraries WILL close and their replacements will not deliver the same service either regards floor space, book stock or librarians.” – Wolverhampton – Save Wolverhampton Libraries.