Campaigners have taken offence at the words of Ed Vaizey in the parliamentary debate yesterday when he said he would not launch an inquiry into library cuts in an authority “willy-nilly”.  The BookSeller (Vaizey: inquiries can’t be called willy-nilly) describes his comments thus:

“Culture secretary Ed Vaizey has said that inquiries into library closures cannot be called “willy-nilly”. Speaking at a parliamentary debate held last night (12th September) to discuss Gloucestershire libraries, Vaizey expressed his favour for library volunteers and pointed out the rarity of inquiries from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport into library closures. He said: “When one reads debates about the future of library services and calls for inquiries, one assumes that an inquiry is called every minute. In fact, the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 has been on the statute book for almost half a century, and in that time only one inquiry has ever been called.” He added: “One cannot simply call an inquiry willy-nilly.”

The following comments explain the anger of campaigners:

“how long do they need? The court’s judgement was 10 months ago; the “new” plans were released in January, and the service has been progressively hollowed out from the inside for years. Campaigners have been asking for ministerial intervention for well over a year and a half. ” John Dougherty comment on BookSeller article

“There were multiple errors in what was said by Vaizey’s henchmen in last night’s debate and indeed by Vaizey. Which is of huge concern to us. They either do not know what is happening in their own county or they are politicking instead of representing their constituents. Both Graham MP and Robertson MP have refused to meet with us for two years to discuss libraries or attend public meetings. This would probably explain their lack of knowledge regarding what is happening. It sounded like they had not even been briefed by Gloucestershire County Council or bothered to find out what was happening. In fact they seemed to be refering to the original proposals.

For a start the “community” library in Brockworth they were championing as a thriving success has not even opened as a community library yet. The Hesters Way library and Matson library that they were also were boasting about remain under county control thanks to us and would have been closed by their party if we had not intervened. As Martin Horwood said, these libraries in the most deprived areas of the county.

Richard Graham MP invited Vaizey to come and look at all the wonderful community run libraries. He would have little to look at as there is just Painswick which was closed down as a public library a few years ago and has been reopened for a few months. Glowing evaluations of an experiment at this stage is disingenuous and premature. Unfortunatly it is a very important service that is being widly experimented on.

It was flippantly stated during the debate

“when Painswick library in Gloucestershire was closed several years ago I heard no calls for an inquiry then”. This is willful ignorance. One library closure, whilst a serious loss for a community, cannot be compared to a massive 40% cut in a large county’s library budget, a cut which was designed to take services away from the most disadvantaged.

Vaizey says

“one assumes that an inquiry is called every minute” This is a moronic statement when we all know the only one that has been called was the Wirral.

Vaizey proudly boasted about how he wrote to all authorities 2 years ago pointing them to the Wirral case. He thinks this was evidence of him doing his job. Since then several authorities, including Gloucestershire, have behaved even more recklessly then the Wirral in their cuts plans yet Vaizey ignores this. All he is doing in saying this is highlighting his incompetence and neglect further.

He is suggesting that people are calling for inquiries on a whim but the fact is that Gloucestershire County Council was ruled to be guilty of bad government and a substantive breach of the law. To belittle our concerns like this is just further evidence that he has no intention of holding county councils who are failing in their duties to account and is unfit for office.”  Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries (via email).

“Ed Vaizey has a good line in reacting to genuine criticism with the most patronisingly bland replies. Surely he knows that the reason there are more calls for intervention from the DCMS is because the public library service is facing a far more grave crisis than ever before. Is his telescope so firmly fixed to his blind eye that he can’t see the impact of closures, hand overs to volunteers, book stock cuts, staff sackings and opening hour reductions? There is no iron rule that there can only be a limited number of interventions. If the crisis merits it then the DCMS should be calling in a number of closure and divestment programmes. Even the ludicrous term ‘willy nilly’ sounds like a calculated insult to the campaigners in Gloucestershire, Somerset, Brent, Lewisham, Surrey, Bolton and the Isle of Wight who have drawn up coherent, well-researched and valid responses to councils’ actions. What’s more, his superficial remarks on volunteers sidestep the issue. Volunteers have and will play a supportive role in the library service. A line has to be drawn however. Volunteers should not replace full time, professional staff. No library should be run without at least one trained librarian. It is high time Mr Vaizey addressed the real issues rather than tilting at imaginary windmills and gleefully knocking down straw men.”  Alan Gibbons


  • Austrian city builds public library with nothing but QR codes, NFC and stickers – Engadget.  “Strangely, the Austrian city of Klagenfurt doesn’t have a public library, even though it hosts the Festival of German-Language Literature. However, an initiative dubbed Project Ingeborg is turning the municipality into a book repository of sorts with 70 QR code and NFC chip-equipped stickers. Plastered throughout town, they direct users to web pages where they can download public domain works, largely from Project Gutenberg.”
  • Julia Donaldson on books about libraries – Telegraph.  5 children’s books based on libraries, published as part of the publicity for her national tour.
  • MNFLI 2025 Scenarios – Minnesota Library Futures Initiative via Finding Heroes.  “The 20 scenarios to the left describe potential aspects of the library environment of 2025. These scenarios were created through the process of scenario planning and are the result of research and discussions completed by the MNLFI group from October 2010 to the present. They are not intended to be an exhaustive listing of possible futures, nor is there any certainty that any of these scenarios will come to pass.”
  • New powers of eviction don’t scare off squatters reopening shut library – Independent. “community-minded squatters have taken over a closed library in order to lend books to the public. The group has reopened Friern Barnet library five months after it was closed down as part of Barnet council’s cost-cutting moves. The group says they are acting “community librarians”. One of the squatters, Dan, 31, said: “Libraries are cultural h ubs, there are lots of reasons why people need them. People need to read books — even in the age of the internet, libraries are really crucial.””
  • Why public libraries are still relevant: a rant– Desk Set (USA).  “Sure, the world of public librarianship is rapidly changing. It’s not all sunshine and lollipops, saving the world one preschool story hour at a time. To put it bluntly: sometimes being an urban public librarian kinda sucks!  Brooklyn Public Library (as with NYPL and QL) enacted a hiring freeze four years ago and it looks as though that won’t change anytime soon (I know recent grads, I really want to hire you too!).  Our hours of service have increased while our staffing has drastically decreased, an environment ripe for burnout. My colleagues and I keep rolling with the punches.  We’ve survived a few rounds of budget cuts and layoff threats, but we keep trudging through, providing the best possible services to the people in our communities who need us. The blows keep coming but we aren’t going down without a fight!”
  • Working on borrowed time?– Times Higher Education. “”We have to admit that the best discovery systems aren’t library ones,” adds someone else. “Working towards OA puts us out of one of our main jobs, but the purpose of the library isn’t to secure the job of the librarians.” … “Facing up to the complex demands of “a changing education and information environment”, the report suggests, requires “the ability to be creative and even radical”. But several participants in the round-table event doubt whether this would come easy to librarians, a group who, they claim, often “chose their profession because they wanted a quiet life and because they liked being with books rather than people”.  Interesting comment:

“The 2011 Demos report on digital fluency found that “[young people] are unable to find the information they are looking for, or trust the first thing they see. This makes them vulnerable to the pitfalls of ignorance, falsehoods, cons and scams” ( Helping people develop a judicious and independent approach to information in any format, on any platform, is what librarians are all about. We’re not gatekeepers, guides, or ‘the experts’ – we’re teachers, and we’re here to enable learning at every level, because information is a fundamental part of learning at every level.”


Local News

  • Aberdeen – Library doors face closure – Press and Journal. “Public libraries in Aberdeen are facing closure as part of a cost-cutting shake-up of lending services across the city. As many as eight of 17 buildings could shut, but council leaders have stressed that borrowers and local residents will be consulted before any decisions are made. Renowned north-east author Sheena Blackhall said last night it would be a “backward step” for the authority to reduce access to reading materials in the city.”
  • Brent – Council spends £35,000 clearing books from libraries – Harrow Observer.  “The learning resources have been distributed across the six surviving libraries in the borough, after being stored at the Willesden Green Library Centre in High Road. Computers which were taken from the libraries have been reallocated to the central IT department.”
  • Bid to save Brent library takes giant leap forward– Harrow Observer. “Laura Collignon from the campaign, which celebrated on Friday last week, said: “We were not surprised that we got so many donations. “They have been coming in from all over the world and as far away as Australia. “We hope this will work as a community library, but the sad thing is that this is not a model which will work everywhere. People who need the libraries most in deprived areas don’t have the time to campaign like we have done.” … “The campaigners put in a detailed bid consisting of three phases and eventually hope to use all three floors and convert the attic into working space. All Souls College will now consider the application but have given no indication about when a decision will be made.”
  • Cornwall – Petition against part-privatisation of Cornish services– BBC.  “Councillors voted 46 to 29 to postpone the move during a debate last week, but cabinet members said they would press ahead. The petition, started by independent councillor Andrew Wallis, said the proposals move should to be halted “until such time the majority of the elected members of Cornwall Council have voted to support the proposals”. Councillor Wallis said it was created because of the cabinet’s “arrogance of ignoring the will of the elected majority of Cornwall Council”.”
  • Cumbria – Is the final chapter of libraries being written? – In Cumbria.  “The Cumbria Libraries Interactive Catalogue (CLIC) also offers library-users the chance to request books online from across the county or newly-released titles: Like Amazon, but without the cost. And if, like me, you find a book you fancy which isn’t on CLIC, a friendly librarian will look to see if she or he can order the book in for you specially (as long as it isn’t something really freaky or dates from 1948).”

“We all know what happens to societies when they start to limit people’s ability to access free information. It is no exaggeration that I therefore view the potential loss of libraries as a step closer to Hell.”

  • Gloucestershire – Library closures: doors open for public inquiry – This is Gloucestershire.  “The Commons debate into Gloucestershire libraries had been brought by Lib Dem MP for Cheltenham Martin Horwood, who was critical of the “opaque process” surrounding the cuts. A previous decision by the Tory-led county council to slash £2.6 million and stop funding 10 libraries, including Hesters Way in Mr Horwood’s constituency, had to be reversed after it was judged unlawful by the High Court last year.” … “Mr Vaizey told Mr Horwood in almost half a century since the current legislation was introduced, only one inquiry had been called into a library service. “I hope that he will understand, therefore, that one cannot simply call an inquiry willy-nilly.””
  • Isle of Wight – Ed Vaizey extends “have your say” deadline over libraries – Ventnor Blog.  ““in the interests of fairness and generosity an extension of time to submit representations will be allowed until 5 o’clock on 31st October 2012.”