The decision by Kent to, reportedly, transfer ten libraries to volunteers would be noteworthy normally but it especially important to note that it is being directly linked in the news article to the decision by the Secretary of State not to intervene in three of the largest library closures of the last two years. Another item of note is the CLOA document which sees the current cuts as an opportunity to close libraries and to try out different models in order to be more effective.  CLOA is an organisation of senior council staff with a Leisure/Libraries interest. A lot of what it says (less library authorities, colocation) is now in the general efficiencies lexicon but some of the other suggestions (more outsourcing, closing small libraries) are perhaps less welcome to those campaigning to save the network as it is.


  • British libraries threatened by debt crisis – Alaska Dispatch (USA).  “One possible consolation from the so-far unsuccessful battle to save the Kensal Rise library is that the story could someday provide material for a good book. Midnight raids, celebrities and historical figures would make for a surefire page-turner — one that’s still a cliffhanger. It would also reflect how Britain’s economic woes are destroying institutions their supporters say are key to sustaining the country’s rich artistic legacy.”
  • Campaign for the Book newsletter – Alan Gibbons.  New DCMS Secretary of State using the “same old refrain” as the old one and appears as set in non-intervention as before, while libraries are being “hollowed out” or closed.  Councils getting cleverer and passing on to volunteers to avoid being blamed. School libraries equally important: lobby of parliament on 29th October.

“Higson, 54, a star of The Fast Show before becoming a successful author, also stressed the importance of school libraries in improving child literacy, saying: “If you go into a school that has a brilliant librarian, you really notice the difference. Books become central to the school. Losing the libraries is bad enough. What we mustn’t lose is the librarians. They are the people who do so much work in this country promoting reading.” Charlie Higson; why would kids read books if their parents never do? – Telegraph.

  • CLOA and the public library service: crisis or opportunity? – CLOA (Chief Cultural and Leisure Officers Association). “Countrywide there are too many libraries, many of which are too small, providing for too few people at greater cost. This hardly amounts to a definition of an efficient and effective service.”  Options to be considered include outsourcing to allow economies of scale, Leisure Trusts, fewer library authorities (“If Birmingham can run a Library Service that serves over 1 million people, and Leeds a service that covers 770,000 people, why does it take 33 library authorities in London to provide for 7.6 million people?”), shared services, co-location, volunteers.  Hollowing (cutting services in order to keep service points) out will not work and will make matters worse.
  • Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson urges Maria Miller to protect libraries – Guardian.  “”When I met with Ed Vaizey in February and asked him why he had not intervened his reply was, ‘Because my advisers didn’t advise me to.’ Could you, in your new post, please give him some guidance from above?” she asked Miller.”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,” Donaldson said. “Of course volunteers have a role to play, and of course it is preferable to have a volunteer-run library than no library, but what I object to is the tendency to dress this trend up as ‘vibrant 21st-century thinking’, instead of being honest enough to admit that it is a reluctant response to cuts.”
  • One card network – Reading Women (Australia).  “You would expect that the rise of the library network would be good news for public libraries and their readers.  Unfortunately, the system in the UK is anything but healthy: check this website for distressing details of rampant under-funding and closures.”
  • Read to children, urges Minister Nick Hurd as library scheme is launched – London Evening Standard.  ” The Government is supporting the Evening Standard’s Get London Reading campaign, and today Mr Hurd launched a “youth innovation network” of librarians. Under the scheme, thousands of 11 to 25 year-olds will be offered the chance to become library volunteers.”
  • Should libraries be protected? – Silver Surfer Today.  Reviews Julia Donaldson’s letters and asks readers for views.
  • TenthirteenKulturHuset (Sweden) via Finding Heroes.  “Imagine a library for all five senses. Where thought is power. Where fantasy is law. Where you can cook up a music video, animate a potato gratin, film your homework, or even knit a computer game. A place where it is sometimes brave to be a coward. That library now exists! The Tenthirteen Library has an enormous range of books for kids aged 10 to 13. Here you will find computers, a recording studio, sewing machines, a kitchen and people who have time to talk, chill, cook. Morning activities are reserved for schools, afternoons are open for all kids aged 10 to 13.”
  • Young library volunteers encouraged by Reading Agency scheme – BookSeller.  “The Reading Agency and the government have together launched a new initiative working with local authority library services across the UK to create a “Youth Innovation Network” of librarians, which aims to generate thousands of volunteering opportunities in public libraries for 11-25 year olds. The initiative will be delivered in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL), and the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL). It is funded by a £127,000 grant from the Cabinet Office’s Social Action Fund.” … “The volunteering opportunities are likely to include designing new library services, organising author events, reading with children, and using library space and computers to tell stories about their community via social media.”

“This sounds good, BUT, is it a thin line between employing staff, qualified librarians, trainee librarians or even starting a library skills apprentice scheme.  Does  the scheme  perhaps risk or re-enforce the view that volunteers can easily do the job of librarians? And is it not true that librarians, not volunteers, can help young people to get paid work?  The Games Makers at the Olympics and Para Olympics did a wonderful job, But it was a special occasion for a limited time. Perhaps Cilip and SCL working in partnership could examine an Apprentice scheme for young people, in libraries (paid)!” Frances Hendrix on LIS-PUB-LIBS.


Local News

  • Barnet – Friern Barnet Library reopens as negotiations between Barnet Council and squatters continue– Times series.  “Friern Barnet Library was reopened to an “ecstatic” public on Saturday by a group of squatters looking to reclaim the facility for the community. Barnet Council closed the Friern Barnet Road library in April but last week a team of activists broke in and began demanding the building be reopened. On Saturday, more than 400 books were placed back on the library shelves as up to 50 people visited between 11am and 3pm. The buildings inhabitants say they plan to open for at least three days a week.” … “I’m amazed at the level of co-operation shown by the council. It is a ground breaking situation to have the council sitting down in discussions with us. “People were asking them why they haven’t spoken to them like this before. One powerful piece of action has triggered this. The building should and will be open. We’re pleased with the discussions so far and we’ll see where it goes.”
  • Kent – Libraries to be “taken over by community groups” in money-saving drive – Kent Online.  “The council is in discussions over transferring responsibility for running some of its libraries to volunteers in a move it believes will benefit library users and others. Although the authority has reaffirmed that it does not have any plans to shut libraries, it plans to reduce spending on the service by £500,000 next year – with the budget for its 97 libraries going down to £13.2m.”

“Many other councils are already handing over libraries to volunteers, but the idea has not proved universally popular and some campaigners have taken legal action. However, in a recent development that will encourage KCC to pursue its plans, the government has declined to intervene to stop similar proposals going through in three other authorities.”

  • Kirklees – Well worth attending – Huddersfield Daily Examiner (letters).  Councillor says “Officers are now looking at all libraries in order to work out the best working practice for them that will not only save the required money but keep all libraries open. To do this they need as much information on each individual library and what the users of that library would like to see.”
  • Sheffield – Libraries; What do you want to protect the most? – Now Then.  Sheffield consultation due to funding cuts asks: “‘What do you want to protect the most?’ These are the options: The range of services and materials, Library opening hours, The number of local libraries, Library staff, The Council running library services (rather than social enterprises, charitable trusts or community groups running them)”
  • Worcestershire – Woodrow Library approved – Redditch Standard.  “The district’s One Stop Shop is expected to be based out of the Woodrow Centre building from some time next year after undergoing an extensive refurbishment. Worcestershire County Council, which leases the building from Redditch Borough Council, is funding the revamp which as well as allowing residents to still access council services locally will also develop the library into more of a community hub.