Gateshead Libraries have announced that they will be closing, or passing to the unpaid, 5 out of 17 of their libraries.  It’s neighbour, Newcastle, has of course just announced 10 out of 18 of its libraries will probably be going te same way.  So, 15 out of 35 in the greatest conurbation in the Northeast are to leave council control, or close, in the near future.

The fact that it is strong Labour councils (Newcastle is such a stronghold that it does not even have a single Conservative councillor) are happily contemplating volunteers shows how both main parties have, though they’d hate to admit it, similar policies in many of their areas.  It is also shows that one can’t take one council of a particular political colour – the obvious one being Brent – and extrapolate from that what other councils will decide.

The same is also true of those who support libraries.  For the reason why, think of a room in bright sunlight.  In that room, everything is either white in the sunlight or black in the shade.  Well, we are not living in bright times.  It is less clear what is wrong and what is right. Things are darker now.  That same room with less sunlight has less black and white and a lot more grey.  That is the room those who love libraries live in now, with less of those certainties of yesteryear.  This came home forcefully to me when I presented my talk on volunteers at the Speak Up For Libraries conference. There were volunteers there and paid library staff.  There were even library staff paid for by volunteer-run libraries, side by side with anti-cuts campaigners and trade unionists.  All supported libraries.  All live in darker times.

The presentation is now available to look at here.  It takes a neutral, some would say grey view,, looking at the pros and cons, and the rare blacks and the whites, of the current debate.


  • “Book Mountain” lets Netherlands readers explore pyramid of paper – BBC.  3 minute video “A new public library in the Netherlands called Book Mountain has been winning plaudits from architects for its striking design. A mountain of 50,000 books covered by a glass shell, the building just outside Rotterdam is shaped like a pyramid. Anna Holligan went along to visit what its architects think could be the world’s biggest bookcase.”
  • Emerging story of Californian Public Libraries – California State Library (USA).  Excellent guide to why libraries are needed now and in the future, with some very good quotes and even a bit of history.

Finishing the story in style – “The Reading Agency is delighted to announce that the overall winner of the Finish The Story (Share The Glory!) competition is nine year old Emily Culshaw from Crewe.  Emily finished the story Red Man Green Man, started by Julia Donaldson. She received her prize, a laptop, earlier today (13 November), at a special ceremony at Crewe Library. Her prize will be presented by Paul Bayley, Cheshire East Council’s Customer Services and Libraries Manager. … “Last year 780,000 children took part through libraries across the UK.  United Kingdom Literary Association (UKLA) research on the impact of the Summer Reading Challenge found that as well as stemming the ‘summer holiday dip’ in children’s reading achievements, teachers interviewed noted the social benefits of involvement with the Challenge, and praised the materials and website resources. ” (press release)

  • Five reasons why I love my library – Guardian.  “Site member TheBookThief shares the top five reasons why she loves her library – and why you should get down to yours”.  1 Books 2 Atmosphere 3 Fact that it’s there 4 Free books 5 The people.
  • How to photograph your library – Designing Libraries.  4 pages of guidelines on how to do the photos: use angles, zoom in, go for iconic.
  • What do librarians do? Day two: NHS Librarian – Voices for the Library. “I work as an Assistant Librarian in an NHS library. My job is to ensure health professionals have access to the best available information so that patients receive evidence-based treatments and care. Health libraries are essential to this provision and without them health professionals would have another burden on their shoulders; how to find the best information fast?”


Local news

  • Barnet – Legal challenge to One Barnet launched today – Barnet Eye.  “A disabled woman living in the London Borough of Barnet has initiated legal action against the Borough, seeking a judicial review of the program on the grounds that the process hasn’t given due regard to the needs of disabled people living in the Borough. “
  • Dorset – Bright future ahead for Corfe Castle library, say volunteers – Bournemouth Echo.  “Friends of Corfe Castle Community Library committee spokesman Angelika Seik said: “We had a very encouraging meeting with Dorset County Council and the Dorset Library Service. We have come to the conclusion that with our mutual determination and a positive attitude, we could have Corfe Castle Community Library up and running during 2013.
  • Gateshead – Libraries now under threat – Journal.   “Budget consultations carried out by Gateshead Council in 2011 suggested that only 35% of respondents were in favour of reducing the number of libraries, but 62% were in favour of involving the community in running and delivering library services. Coun Linda Green, cabinet member for culture, said: “Residents will be aware of the difficult budget decisions which are currently facing the council.”
  • Gloucestershire – Rural residents could be left isolated by change to mobile library – This is Gloucestershire. “women said they felt “left in the dark” by Gloucestershire County Council as not all details about the changes had been revealed. But GCC said it had contacted thousands of users to alert them to changes in the months leading up to the withdrawal of the mobile libraries. They said residents were aware a modified service would be resumed from mid-December.”
  • Newcastle – “Pre-emptive” strike over Newcastle library closures – BBC.  “Philip Pullman, Malorie Blackman, and children’s laureate Julia Donaldson are the signatories to an open letter protesting against planned closures.” Alan Gibbons says “”We’ve discovered through experience that you have to respond quickly even when full announcements haven’t been made.” The campaign involved authors because “no-one can bully us or tell us what to think. “Our lifestyle also means we’re available at odd times.””

“The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has warned the council against punishing library users for their local spending decisions. A spokesman said that “public library services are not one-size-fits-all” and urged the council to consider options other than closure.”

  • Children’s Laureate backs Chronicle campaign – Journal.  “Our campaign has also received backing from Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books in Newcastle’s Ouseburn Valley. Chief executive Kate Edwards said: “It is ironic, in a week that Seven Stories celebrates gaining National status, that news of the implications of the government-imposed cut of £90m to Newcastle City Council’s budget was also made public. “Seven Stories was founded in Newcastle and has been made possible by the cultural investment of the past 10 years in Newcastle and Gateshead.”

“Time and again I meet writers and readers whose gateway into a world of experience beyond their everyday life was their local library, theatre, gallery or museum. Together these places play a vital part in contributing to the education and wellbeing of the people who live here.”

  • Wakefield – Wakefield One: Aspiring and inspiring – Designing Libraries.  “Wakefield Library and Museum is situated in the new civic office building, Wakefield One. The building also houses over 1,000 Council staff, a customer access point and a retail cafe. The library and museum brings together services that were formerly spread across three buildings in the city centre, creating a cultural centre point for residents and visitors. The library boasts a book stock of 60,000 items, 65 PCs, the latest technology including self-issue, free wifi, meeting spaces and with a range of shelving, seating and furniture provided by Fg Library Products …”
  • Wirral – Libraries are vital – Liverpool Echo / Letters.  “I was surprised that libraries were described as “optional services”. My understanding is that there is still a legal requirement for local authorities to provide a comprehensive library service. I note that almost 7,000 people took part in the consultation, which is a significant number, but to put this in perspective it would amount to some three or 4% of the Wirral electorate