What are potentially the worst cuts so far to a library service have been announced in Newcastle. Every library in that authority – 17 of them – apart from Newcastle City Library appears to be under threat due to cuts to the library service of £7m.  This is especially galling as Central Library has recently cost £24m to be refurbished, with the now endangered but presumably still shiny High Heaton costing a further £1m.  Even more distressing for those who are now faced with giving up their labour for free in order to keep their library open, is that this was paid for in a £40.2m PFI programme.

Oops, that £40m would have come in handy about now.  It also raises the strong possibility that some areas will be paying out to a private company for the cost of the central library that is too far away for them to reach (and for a library that has been closed) with money that could have kept their local library open.

That’s bad enough but it gets worse. For the chief officer in charge of libraries has publicly questioned whether libraries are affordable in a time of austerity.  This is also hardly likely to win friends and influence people who use those libraries.  Especially when the answer to that question has to be that libraries are at their most important in times of austerity.


Newcastle Council evidently don’t know about this

However, hindsight is a wonderful thing.  Don’t make the mistake that this is all because the library managers there were somehow especially at fault, although they’re hardly going to win campaigner popularity awards.  They doubtless would argue, with some reason, that they did what made sense at the time.  However, those times have now turned sour.

The speech by Alan Gibbons at the Speak Up for Libraries conference is especially apposite in this regard as he points out that it’s the austerity measures that are causing all these cuts.  Without austerity, none of this would be happening. Every man, woman and child in Newcastle is losing £158 per year in council services due to the cuts, which it is claimed appear to be weighted against areas like Newcastle.    Accepting that Austerity is the only way – and to blame council officers for doing what is inevitable given that – is to mistake one’s real enemies.  Those enemies don’t, generally, work in the Northeast.

Speak Up for Libraries

The Speak Up for Libraries yesterday was a great example of people working together for a worthy cause.  I came away reassured that those on all sides of library campaigning – volunteers, trade unionists, authors, and more – could combine together.  Here are some views from the conference:

“The Speak Up for Libraries conference* in London at the weekend was a sell-out. Librarians and campaigners came from all over England to study the current situation – and plan to how fight against it. “These people mean business. And they are angry,” said Laura Swaffield, chair of The Library Campaign (the national body for library user groups). “We feel let down by the official bodies that are supposed to govern libraries – and protect them if needed. The government department responsible is (DCMS – Department for Culture, Media & Sport) is useless … Frankly, it is library users that so far have made all the running in trying to save services. Cultural and professional bodies have done little, and done it quietly, behind closed doors. The situation is beyond critical now. Campaigners will be upping their game. And we will work with any organisation that cares about literacy and libraries.” Mounting anger at library campaigner conference, Speak Up for Libraries press release.


  • ACE will not warn on libraries – BookSeller.  Arts Council do not accept they have a superintending function on libraries but are “confident in our ability to fulfil our role in supporting public library development”. Although the dedicated libraries director role is to go as part of the restructure, with ACE’s eight directors instead now intended to have both a specific expertise but also a wider portfolio across the arts, Morgan said: “We will have a robust recruitment process, to ensure that we recruit someone who has a comprehensive knowledge of the libraries sector, as well as a wider cultural overview.”

“The Bookseller editorial says “According to the report (by the CMS Select Committee) the libraries minister does not consider his role “redundant”, even though he does not act: he said the mere fear that he will call local authorities to account makes many think again. Ed Vaizey is a ref with a whistle but one never minded to draw breath and blow – as the committee concluded, this nonsensical scenario ‘satisfies no one'” Bookseller editorial, behind paywall. [“The boy who does not cry wolf”? Even when they’re there? – Ian.].

  • Boulder libraries to allow permit holders to carry guns – Denver Post (USA).  The gulf between UK and US libraries gets that bit wider.
  • Can RFID save libraries? – RFID: Changing libraries for good? / Mick Fortune.  “The downside of this focus on self-service was a lack of innovation in other aspects of service provision. Only in the last few years have we begun to see RFID based solutions being deployed to manage other tasks – like receiving new stock, carrying out inventory checks and checking for misfiled items. That’s slowly beginning to change as new suppliers see the potential to develop applications for a single market – rather than for each individually – and librarians begin to realise they, at last, have a choice to make.”.  RFID can show use of stock within the library itself.
  • Creative inertia – Question Everything.  DCMS is trying to shuffle off its library responsibility onto Arts Council England which has not remit for it.  DCMS is also doing the absolute minimum it can supervising libraries and is refusing and/or delaying to release whatever correspondence it does have.
  • Cutting libraries during a recession is like cutting hospitals during a plague – Left Futures.  “The Barnet Tories told us that we would have a first class twenty-first century library service. I don’t think so. We were promised a landmark library in North Finchley: no sign. Local councillors and residents were unequivocally told over and over again that Friern Barnet library would only close when there was alternative provision. What have we got? Zilch. Nothing.”

“Libraries may well be the mind and soul of their communities, but librarians are the mind and soul of the library. “

  • End: Eight libraries a month are closing due to Coalition cuts – Mirror. “The five largest reductions were made in Essex, Kent, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire.”
  • Final chapter for libraries – Financial Times.  Debate about libraries tend to get tied in with books but technology is changing this. Write belongs to private London Library which, he says, is turning more social and also as a quiet place.  Subscription at London Library doubled a few years ago.  Changing into a conference / exhibition space.  These changes may point a way forward for libraries.
  • Growing role of social enterprise in local government – Guardian.  “Councils contracting out services to private or third-sector providers is nothing new, but the current scale and scope certainly is. Social Enterprise UK says that 15% of all social enterprises started up in the past two years and almost 40% work primarily with the public sector. Social care, transport, leisure services, housing, grounds maintenance, catering – if you can think of a service, chances are there is a social enterprise somewhere in the UK now doing it.” e.g. Suffolk library service. Also includes GLL: “having taken on Greenwich’s libraries earlier this year. It’s something that Mark Sesnan, GLL’s chief executive, admits he’d never considered even two years ago. “Organisations like GLL are seeking to expand into new service areas, and… local authorities are looking at different ways to provide services to protect them while reducing overheads and sharing costs.””

“For a long time now, we have been focused on highlighting cuts and closures across the country.  We did not envisage, when we started out, that this would be the case.  We wanted to highlight both the importance of libraries and the value of trained, professional librarians.  So, we’re finally going to do something to redress the balance. Next week, we are going to run a series of posts exploring the work librarians do across all sectors.  We believe that these posts will help to underline what it is that librarians do and demonstrate why they are important and valuable, even in the age of the internet.  We are going to share posts from librarians in a range of unique and fascinating roles.  They will demonstrate the impact that librarians have on education, healthcare and global development.  Above all, they demonstrate that the role of the professional librarian is as important and vital as ever.” It’s time to celebrate librarians – Voices for the Library.

  • Libraries gear up for erotic fiction – BookSeller.  “An erotic publisher will be encouraging library users to embrace raunchy reads with a month-long celebration of erotic titles. More than 30 library services across the UK are taking part in Between the Sheets, with Xcite Books helping them to host erotic reading reading nights and helping guide readers to a range of suitable material.”

“For many though Fifty Shades is the only book they’ve ever read; for others it’s the first book they’ve read in years and that’s because erotic fiction is entertaining, exciting and easy to read. Anything that gets people reading has got to be a good thing so for that reason alone it’s good to see libraries like Swansea Central Library celebrating this genre and showing readers there’s more erotic fiction to read than just Fifty Shades of Grey.”

  • Libraries “threatened by cuts” – Press
  • Libraries “threatened by cuts” – Belfast Telegraph.  DCMS says “”We will not hesitate to intervene where a council breaches it statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service.” [words fail me – Ian.]
  • Library reopens in school: Carterton College in Oxford – Heart of the School. “the Head who made the original closure decision had left the school.  We now have a different Head who believes in the value of libraries, books and reading.  With the support of the governors, he decided we needed to restore the library.  I was really excited about this project and I moved out of my role in the English Department in order to run it.  But I’m not a trained librarian and have been very grateful for advice from local school library staff, the SLA and others. “”
  • Millions in UK “lack basic online skills” – BBC.  “Some 16 million people in the UK lack basic online skills, a survey suggests. The report, conducted by consultancy firm Booz & Company, defines basic skills as using a search engine, sending and receiving emails, completing online applications and accessing information online. Go ON UK, a charity chaired by the UK digital champion Martha Lane Fox, commissioned the report.”
  • Prison library simply the best – Argus.  “Staff at Lewes Prison have been told that they have won the first ever Prison Library of the Year Award. They were praised for helping inmates to learn to read and for using books to steer offenders away from crime. The prison will now receive books and audio books to help stock its shelves, while staff and orderlies alike will receive certificates. The award is run by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals’ Prison Libraries Group.”
  • Read the 30 most titillating books of all time as libraries get in on the Fifty Shades effect with month-long erotic literature festival Mail.  “Stellar Libraries’ Amanda Halls says ‘Libraries are responding to changing social trends in reading quicker than ever, but they also have a responsibility to spark new types of conversations and debate.” … “Andrew Bond, Senior Librarian at Luton Culture added ‘There is a growing demand for erotic fiction titles, and it’s vital that libraries respond to this.'”
  • Room of her own: the battle for the Women’s Library – Telegraph.  A long and detailed look at the unique resource which attacted 12,000 signatures on a petition to keep it open.
  • Txtr beagle e-reader review – Guardian.  “An e-reader available next year is small, light and costs just £8 – we look at how a prototype measures up against the Kindle” … “The txtr beagle can be offered at such a low price because its cost will be subsidised by mobile carriers. The beagle itself won’t be sold individually; you’ll only be able to get one is by purchasing it when you sign up for a mobile phone contract on specific carriers. “
  • Why our public libraries are under threat as never before – London Evening Standard. “Unison accused the Government of “sleepwalking into a library crisis” which will deprive future generations of the book-lending and other services provided. The union said that in the year to April, 100 libraries in England closed or were being run by volunteers or as a social enterprise.” … “Local authority library budgets in England have been cut by £122 million in the past two years, according to research by Unison.”  Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison says “There is a real chance that the library service we hand over to the next generation will be a shadow of its former self.”. A Culture Department spokesman said: “We don’t recognise this characterisation at all. The library service continues to thrive with almost 40% of all adults and three-quarters of children visiting libraries regularly.”
  • Win a school visit from Jacqueline Wilson: run a Chatterbooks reading club – Reading Agency.  “Simply tell us why your school runs a Chatterbooks reading club, or why it is planning to start one, and you could win a visit from top children’s writer Jacqueline Wilson, author of such bestselling books as The Story of Tracy Beaker, Hetty Feather and Lily Alone. Jacqueline will give a talk, answer children’s questions, and sign books. Full details of how to enter, plus an entry form, can be found at: http://readinggroups.org/jacquelinewilson
  • Youtube versus Vimeo: which is best for library marketing? – Library Marketing Toolkit.  Pros and cons of each.


  • Newcastle – £7m (40%) cut from libraries budget over three years. 17 out of 18 libraries under threat of closure or passing onto volunteers., including High Heaton (recently upgraded at cost of £1m).  Those branches with customer service centres safest.

Local News

  • Barnet – Council defends library policy – Barnet and Whetstone Press. ” “Our strategy focuses on enhancing our service and improving the literacy of young people in the borough, as well as promoting reading and learning opportunities for adults.”

Brent – Save Kensal Rise campaigners at All Souls College, Oxford “A great day in Oxford with incredible support for our Library as well as shock & sadness that All Souls would value profit over books. Disgraceful.”

  • Kensal Rise Library sale branded “scandalous” by campaigners – BBC.  “A spokesman for the college said it was in talks with a property developer to continue library services and had offered grants and deals over rent. Margaret Bailey, of Save Kensal Rise Library, said: “It’s within their power as a charity to gift it to us.” She added: “This is a windfall for the college, as they’re making a million quid out of our library. “They were getting nothing from that building for over 100 years and now the college and the developer both stand to make a lot of money over the interests and wellbeing of this community.
  • Calderdale – Doubts cast over Halifax library survey – Halifax Courier.  The “organisation opposed to the construction of a new library in Halifax has complained to the Local Government Ombudsman about the council’s latest consultation exercise. The coordinator of the Don’t Bulldoze Our Library Campaign, Anne Kirker, said: “If ever anybody wondered what prompted Mark Twain to coin the phrase Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics, look no further than the results just published of the independent consultation carried out by Ipsos MORI into the future of Halifax Town Centre.”
  • Croydon – Labour will cancel library privatisation contract, Godfrey says – Inside Croydon. “Whichever organisation is recommended for a public-funded eight-year contract to run the Croydon’s public libraries – an announcement is expected soon – will also have to consider the possibility that they will have the deal cancelled after barely a year.” … ““Labour is committed to our library service not being run in the private sector. New, fully qualified librarians earn £23,500 a year. Making savings off the backs of cutting staff terms and conditions is not acceptable at this level,”
  • Gloucestershire – New community-run library in Berkeley is open to the public – Gazette.  “The new venture, entitled Berkeley Books, reopened as a volunteer-run venture on Tuesday, November 6. It is one of seven libraries that ceased to be run by Gloucestershire County Council’s Library Service as part of the council’s new library strategy. Around 40 volunteers came forward to help with the refurbishment and running of the library over the past week, and have been busy repainting interior walls, putting new labels in the books and reorganising the library’s stock. “
  • Islington – Libraries are “vital for the future of all children” say MP Corbyn as he meets young readers taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge – Islington Tribune.  “MP Jeremy Corbyn met children at Mildmay Library who had completed the national reading initiative, the Summer Reading Challenge, last week.”
  • Newcastle – Battle to fight council plans and save Newcastle libraries – Chronicle.  £7m cut from libraries budget. “With job losses and closures now certain, families across the city have said they will fight the moves.” … Opposition councillor says “This is a step-change in Labour’s policy from previous years. And the reality here is that they are privatising the service, be it through the community or the third sector or wherever. You can have all the volunteers you want, but this is the council getting rid of its stake here.”

“We are authors, many of whom have attended the Northern Children’s Book Festival and other events in the region over many years. We have enjoyed the tremendous warmth and hospitality of young book lovers in the North East and the librarians and teachers who introduce them to the joy of reading. We are therefore appalled to hear that council leaders are planning draconian cuts to the city’s libraries. The UK is 25th in the PISA international reading rankings. This is no time to cut libraries. It is the young and the elderly who disproportionately depend on branch libraries. The cost in educational underachievement would far outweigh any savings made by cuts. It is not the role of a Labour council to act as a conduit for the coalition government’s ‘austerity’ cuts which disproportionately hit the poorest and most vulnerable. We call on Newcastle’s councillors to reconsider this wrong and immoral course. Yours faithfully,” Alan Gibbons and 30 other authors

  • Majority of Newcastle libraries to be axed as cuts bit – Journal.  “The vast majority of Newcastle’s 18 libraries will either be closed down or handed over to community groups” … “Only the newly-rebuilt city centre library is said to be safe from the axe. Branch libraries at Blakelaw, Cruddas Park, Denton Burn, Dinnington, Fawdon, Fenham, High Heaton, Jesmond, Moorside, Newbiggin Hall and Walker could all be under threat.” … “Council bosses will confirm final numbers next week, but are expected to say that those libraries not already part of a customer service centre or shared with another council facility will be axed. Even those locations will come under closer scrutiny to see if community groups can take over.”

“the council had to ask were libraries and leisure affordable in an age of austerity? He told The Journal that over the next three years most of the council’s current library provision would go, either through closure or as a result of the service being taken over by other groups. He said: “We are in this position because frankly we cannot go on as we were before. We face significant spending cuts and that will have a substantial impact on our budget.”  Tony Durcan, Library Services Director

  • WakefieldJarvis Cocker opens new Wakefield Library – BBC.  “uring the opening, author and broadcaster Cocker talked about his own experience of libraries and what they meant to him. Wakefield Council leader Peter Box said he was delighted Cocker was officially opening the facility. The library has more than 60,000 books, 70 computers, a children’s section, free wi-fi for library members, quiet and reading areas, and a reference and local studies libraries.”
  • Wandsworth – Wandsworth ditch Croydon to #savelibraries– Save Croydon Libraries Campaign.  “The story goes that Wandsworth councillors have been advised by council officers to award the management contract for the borough’s library and heritage service to charitable social enterprise Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL).They claim that the recommendation “follows a competitive tender process involving three organisations – from which GLL was deemed to offer the best value for money for local tax payers.” but Croydon and Wandsworth seem likely to choose different providers, despite single procurement process between them.
  • Greenwich Leisure Ltd expected to manage libraries – Surrey Comet.  “Wandsworth councillors have been recommended to select Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) to take control of all 11 of the libraries and the Wandsworth heritage service, which runs out of Battersea library. It comes after Wandsworth and Croydon councils joined forces to put their library services out to tender, which will save the council £500,000 a year. GLL, John Laing Integrated Services Ltd and an in-house Wandsworth Council bid were short-listed, with GLL deemed to offer the best value. Croydon Council will hold a separate meeting to decide which of the three bids will win their contract.”
  • Councillors to discuss plan to safeguard libraries – Stop the privatisation of public libraries.  “An innovative plan to enhance and safeguard the borough’s library service by appointing a new management organisation to run it will be considered by councillors next week.Councillors in Wandsworth have been advised by council officers to award the management contract for the borough’s library and heritage service to charitable social enterprise Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL).”  Copy of full press release.
  • Wiltshire – Reading challenge a success – This is Wiltshire.  “Children in Wiltshire read more than 35,000 books this summer as part of a challenge set by county libraries. This year was the 11th time Wiltshire Council took part in the national scheme, which encourages children to keep reading during the summer holidays. More than 8,000 children got involved with the project, with more than half of them reading at least six books during the school break.”
  • Wolverhampton – Library closure plan is overturned – Express and Star.  “Council chiefs scrapped plans to close Penn Library, which was a major victory for the two mothers who spearheaded the campaign to keep the facility open. Anita Zammit and Maria Bradburn could not have been happier after their campaign emerged victorious.” … “Less pleased were members of the Wolverhampton Citizens Action Group whose 3,300-signature petition calling for the entire community hub project to be scrapped will merely be “noted” and “recorded” in the analysis of public consultation over the scheme that will be finalised next month.”