The following summary of current matters of concern by library campaigner Desmond Clarke deserves wider publication than just email.  I particularly like the line about the “”quiet diplomacy” promoted by the SCL is perceived to be almost silent”…

“I spoke yesterday with the Clerk to the Inquiry who said that she hopes that the Committee’s Report on library closures would be published before the end of this month but the Committee had yet to agree its final report.

There does seem to be an increasingly held view that the professional bodies need to do so much more to promote the value of libraries and especially, the need for trained librarians. “The quiet diplomacy” promoted by the SCL is perceived to be almost silent and many librarians and campaigners are expressing their frustration that messages are not getting through to local politicians. Coffee and biscuits with a junior minister achieves little as many of us have learnt. A particular criticism of Ed Vaizey is that he has never made a powerful and well argued speech in support of libraries.

However, authors and the Society of Authors, led by the highly effective Nicola Solomon, are perceived to be making a strong case both for libraries and for PLR being extended to Ebooks, and the new Culture Secretary has offered to meet with the Children’s Laureate.

In the meantime, campaign groups are preparing well argued responses to ministers’ letters stating that they are not minded to intervene by setting up local inquiries. We also expect a couple of requests for maladministration investigations by the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

The Library Campaign has raised the issue that ACE are seeking on line responses to their library survey from the public when many of those who rely upon libraries do not have a computer at home. This is seen as another example that officials are out of touch with what really happens in community libraries.

We wait to hear whether Kensal Rise campaigners will be allowed by All Souls College to re-open the library after a most successful fund raising campaign. We also still wait to see whether the DCMS will set up a working group on Ebooks as requested by Dan Jarvis MP, the shadow minister, and by Justin Tomlinson MP, chair of the All Party Library Group.

Other issues such as the escalating corporate service charges imposed on library authorities by councils seems to have fallen in the “too difficult” tray at the DCMS and ACE. It is of interest to note that the Culture Secretary who set up the Wirral Inquiry also set up the Hillsborough Independent Inquiry. He presumably did not need his officials to tell him what he should do.” Desmond Clarke via email.  Republished with permission.


“Wikipedia may be deficient in its recognition of distinguished women scientists (report, 15 September), but all five whose brief profiles you print have comprehensive entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. There are also entries in Who Was Who for four of them. Both these reference works are accessible online at no charge via library membership. While Wikipedia meets a need, it is no substitute for professionally written and edited sources.” Due reference: letter in Independent.

“Book fund and public transport is seen as adequate in Brent in justifing library closures. It is not in Glos.  The book budget is woeful and rural areas are being cut off from services due to lack of transport and axing of mobile libraries. I suspect that suddenly this will not be an issue with regards to library closures in Glos and will be overlooked with other excuses being given for lack of intervention ” Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries via email.

  • Publishing’s digital switchover – BBC.  “The latest figures from the Publishers Association make surprisingly positive reading for anyone in the book trade. For some years, readers of specialist, technical and academic titles have been going digital – now the general reader is embracing e-books. Spending on digital fiction books rose from £23m in the first six months of 2011 to £64m in the same period this year. In total, digital sales now account for more than £1 in every £8 we spend on books. But what will cause the publishing industry to raise a glass of dry sherry is that the figure for physical book sales is down just 0.4% – and overall physical and digital sales are up 6%. It seems that the move to digital is not eroding the overall value of publishing as it has in the music industry where, as the saying goes, analogue dollars are being replaced by digital cents.”


Local News

  • Aberdeen – MSP Mark MacDonald: Aberdonians value their local libraries– STV. “When I was a member of the council administration we consulted on library closures, we took the decision that closing libraries was not the way to proceed and thus did not do so. At the time, in 2010, that we took the decision to go no further, Labour’s Willie Young had this to say: “We welcome the move not to close any libraries as knowledge is key to any city’s success. “Why on earth a political party running a council would bring forward proposals then drop them is beyond a joke.” This quote appears to put the administration in something of a bind. If they press ahead with the plans to close libraries, they will have shown themselves to be entirely hypocritical. If they drop the proposals, they will by their own definition be beyond a joke.”

  • Brent – LibraryLab“The Library Lab is currently hosting a series of workshops aimed at collecting ideas and suggestions for the new Willesden Green Cultural Centre from Brent residents. If you have an idea you’d like to share with us, please pop down to chat with one of our Hosts or leave a post card on our Ideas Wall or a comment in our Feedback Book.”
  • Buckinghamshire – Community library plans approved – Bucks Free Press.  “Community groups will be able to run three libraries in Bucks from Friday after plans were officially approved by the county council. Proposals to allow volunteers and community groups to run libraries in Great Missenden, Stokenchurch and Iver Heath have been given the green light by Buckinghamshire County Council.”
  • Glasgow – Libraries to offer cancer support services – BBC.  “Macmillan Cancer Support and Glasgow Life are working together to ensure every cancer patient in the city can get help within their local community. Trained volunteers will be available in 25 libraries across the city offering emotional and practical guidance. The charity hopes the scheme will be a model for the rest of Scotland.”
  • Lincolnshire – New community library service to launch in Ingoldmells – This is Lincolnshire.  “Ingoldmells Parish Council has been working with Lincolnshire County Council to bring about a new community library which will officially open on Monday.” … “”With mobile library services eventually being phased out, Lincolnshire County Council approached us last year with the idea of setting up a volunteer-run library in the community. We have 300 books in stock and there will be a turnover of 80 of these book every three months. We will be monitoring which books are the most popular and which are not being taken out very often so we will cater for need.”
  • Suffolk – Libraries are at “breaking point” claim – EADT.  “One worker, who has worked at sites across the county for the last decade, said some libraries in Ipswich have already been forced to remain closed on Sundays due to a lack of cover. “There has been no recruitment for two years. People leave and they are not replaced. I understand that they are going to start recruiting again but at the moment there is simply not enough relief staff to cover the holes.”.  On the other hand, new manager of Industrial and Provident Society that took over libraries a couple of months ago says ““The recruitment freeze was something put in place under Suffolk County Council. We are outside that now. We have already brought someone in to look at all of the vacancies and to do analysis to improve staffing levels.” Ms Wheeler, who said 40 relief staff have already been re-employed, said those working at libraries should be reassured that the agency had “acted immediately.”
  • York – Book cafe at Rowntree Park: Read ’em and eat– York Press.  “Rowntree Park is one of the city’s gems – a lovingly looked-after space complete with duck pond, tennis courts, bowling and putting greens, adventure playgrounds as well as a skateboard park. There’s even a performance arena. And now it has a very pleasant café-cum-library. The brainchild of the library service, visitors can borrow, return or order books from the café, which is on the South Bank side of the park (at the foot of Richardson Street, off Bishopthorpe Road). There is a wide range of daily newspapers and topical magazines available too, as well as free wi-fi.”

“We are committed to not closing any libraries,” says Fiona as we meet over a cappuccino at the new reading café. “We need to be more income generating, more enterprising, more business minded and creative.” This new approach began a few years ago when, under Fiona’s helm, Acomb library, followed by York central library, were revamped and rebranded as “Explore centres”, with bright new, spacious interiors and café space.”