David Fay, City Libraries’ Manager at Newcastle has been in touch with me to say:

“The position in Newcastle is bad but not quite as bad as you seem to think. The proposal is to keep a network of 8 libraries (including the City Library). This still means closing 10 libraries including High Heaton but it does mean that 96% of the population of Newcastle will be within 1.5 miles of a council run service. This core network will be staffed by trained library staff. Any libraries that are threatened with closure that are run in the future by local communities would sit outside of our core network and would be clearly branded as such. Also the article by Tony Durcan asking whether libraries were needed in an age of austerity did, I think, firmly argue that they were needed.”
High Heaton is mentioned because it has recently had £1m of PFI money spent on it.  1.5 miles is not the worst for urban areas.  I have seen many yardsticks used, with 2 miles being popular, but there is no real yardstick or standard.  They all got abolished.  Even such distances, though, campaigners argued at the Speak Up for Libraries conference on Saturday, strongly inconvenience those groups (the young and the elderly) who are both the strongest users of libraries and the least able to access transport.


Reaction to the news today has been strong, notably from authors.  Of special note, is a beautiful quote from David Almond:
“A library is one of humankind’s greatest inventions and is at the heart of our culture. “The library liberates and educates us as individuals, allows us to look beyond the boundaries of our own locality, gives us a sense of our place in the wider world.”
There will be a Save Newcastle Libraries Emergency Meeting on Tuesday, 20th November at St John’s Church Hall, 30 Grainger Street, Newcastle. NE1 5JG, with Alan Gibbons speaking.


More Newcastle coverage

  • Authors protest at “appalling” cuts of Newcastle libraries – BookSeller.  “Authors Philip Pullman, childrens laureate Julia Donaldson, Malorie Blackman and Meg Rosoff are among those protesting about the news that the bulk of Newcastle’s 18 libraries are to be closed or handed to community groups.”

“In almost every case that a council has built a ‘Flagship’ library (‘Idea Store’, ‘Discovery Centre’ etc), there has been a total failure to appraise the effect on the operating budget of the rest of the library service in the years to come. Naturally the running cost of these buildings is far higher than what was there before and therefore, without stringent efficiencies and unless the budget for the whole service is to rise disproportionately, it will be hard to find the ‘revenue’ budget for the smaller libraries. Instead of being a considered part of the overall library service these expensive developments came to appear as if they were grand publicity exercises for the council involved. Birmingham’s expenditure of £200m is the worst case – but Newcastle at £40m was always going to be a serious problem; (and one thinks of Brighton and several other similar nightmares ) – that was obvious from the day it was announced.” Tim Coates

  • Toon Barmy – Question Everything.  Suggests that having only one library in Newcastle would effectively negate the existence of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act. “The SCL, Arts Council, CILIP and every other organisation that has anything at all to do with libraries needs to publicly come out in the strongest possible terms against this. The SCL especially, if it wants the influence and get the column inches it measures its own success by needs to get its proverbial head out of the backside of the minister, the invisible fence sitting they are currently doing achieves nothing.”
  • Top authors back our Save Our Libraries campaign – Chronicle. Many authors including David Almond, Anne Fine and Ann Cleeves all join campaign to keep Newcastle libraries open.

“I definitely support this campaign. “A library is one of humankind’s greatest inventions and is at the heart of our culture. “The library liberates and educates us as individuals, allows us to look beyond the boundaries of our own locality, gives us a sense of our place in the wider world. “Children in particular need libraries and the services they offer. The simple fact is that they need free access to books. “When I was a boy, I used the ordinary and wonderful little library just down the street from where I lived. Without it, I wouldn’t have encountered many of the books, writers or ideas which were crucial to my growth.” David Almond

“Over the years, libraries have changed. Most are far brighter and more welcoming. They give more space to computers. Many have coffee bars. Librarians now run reading groups and offer story times. “But there’s one constant. They are free and, up till now, pretty well everyone had access to one somehow.” Anne Fine

Speak Up for Libraries
  • Campaigners debate at Speak Up for Libraries – BookSeller.  “CILIP president Phil Bradley kicked off the day by describing the vital roles libraries had played in the USA during recent Hurricane Sandy, acting as safe havens for their local communities. He added: “Just because we’re not facing a hurricane, that doesn’t mean we’re not facing similar devastation.” … “Library supporters have debated the idea of launching a nationally orchestrated legal case against Ed Vaizey and the DCMS for his failure to intervene in local authorities’ library closure plans.”

Library services face extinction – Your NewsUKTV at the Speak Up For Libraries conference.


  • Closure of Newcastle Libraries sparks author protest – Society of Authors.  “News that the majority of Newcastles libraries are to be closed or moved over to community groups has sparked much objection from authors across the country. The exact number of libraries to be closed will be confirmed later this week.”
  • Councils slash spending on new library books – Northern Echo.  “Research by The Northern Echo using freedom of information powers reveals local authorities in the region have cut spending on library books by 34 per cent in five years.In 2011/12, councils in the North-East and North Yorkshire spent £3.7m on new and replacement books – down £2m on 2007/08 when authorities spent £5.7m.”
  • Ebook lending and libraries – Society of Authors.  “Remote lending of ebooks is not an essential or primary role of an efficient library service and that any plans to allow remote e-lending must be carefully thought through and managed. Remote elending could be at the expense of other essential library functions with a disproportionate impact on the poor, the young, the elderly and the disadvantaged.”
  • Emptying the book shelves has killed off the library service – Good Library Blog / Tim Coates.  Libraries depend for 75% of their custom on books so cutting bookfund was always going to reduce use.  “Until we start once more to realise how important printed books on library shelves are we can forget the idea of campaigning to save the library service.
  • Future of UK libraries “drastic” says Unison secretary Dave Prentis – Huffington Post (UK).
  • On the brinkBookSeller / Editorial.  CMS Select Committee report “merely chronicles a crime already foretold without daring to catch the perpetrator” … “The government is not committed to assessing the cuts now until 2014, one year before the end of its run. It doesn’t take a genius to see how that will go. To call this a sleight of hand is to insult magicians.” … “Some have said that the problem with Cameron’s Tories is that they simply do not know what it is to be without. Sadly, the coalition’s library legacy will ensure that many do not enjoy a similar luxury.”
  • Outsource to EasyCouncil? Not in our name, says Barnet Guardian.  “Why 10-year contracts? To make it worth the companies’ while, said Cornelius. What would happen if either of the successful bidders hit the buffers? No need to worry: they had been “checked” for all such eventualities. Shouldn’t the public have been consulted before such a drastic change? 2010’s election was effectively a consultation, he said, ” … “The de facto HQ of the revolt is Friern Barnet public library, squatted since September and turned into a “people’s library”, in opposition to the council’s plan to close it, and sell the land to a property developer. And the local upsurge includes many people beyond the usual suspects – not least, irate ex-Tory voters, who cannot quite believe their council is doing something so mind-boggling.”
  • What do librarians do? Day one: specialist research librarian – Voices for the Library.  List of what this particular post requires is quite long and ends “maintaining physical archive collections, giving tours for visitors, managing our Twitter account and monitoring other social media, assisting with book selection and acquisition, working on funding bids and cross-institute projects, sitting on my trade union branch committee, climbing up ladders in the basement to retrieve obscure UN publications”
Local News
  • Brent – Kensal Rise Library campaigners take their fight to the streets of Oxford – Brent & Kilburn Times.  “An army of library campaigners descended on Oxford this weekend to protest at proposed plans to convert their former home into flats. “
  • Buckinghamshire – New chapter for village’s library – Leighton Buzzard Observer.  “A celebration of the start of Wing’s very own Community Library took place this weekend with famous authors turning up to join in on the launch.On Saturday, children and adults were invited to dress up as their favourite storybook character and visit the library’s launch on Leighton Road, joined by popular children’s author Julia Jarman, who hosted a morning children’s hour and thriller writer S J Bolton hosted a session in the afternoon.”
  • Croydon – Library sensation: “Croydon tried to close UNJL a year ago: Stopped by Lambeth legal action” – News from Crystal Palace.  “Speaking outside UNJL after a visit on Monday morning Mr Reed, who is Labour candidate in the forthcoming Croydon North by-election being held on November 29th, told News From Crystal Palace: “They tried to close it down a year ago and we served legal notices to stop them because they were in breach of the contract. “We stopped that – now they have tried to cut £100,000 of the funding.”
“What they did then was was hold a consultation asking for peoples views. “People said they wanted this library protected and kept open and the Conservatives decided to slash the funding anyway – in direct contravention of 100 years of history.”
  • Gloucestershire – Next step for Hadwen surgery plans – This is Gloucestershire.  “cash from the sale of land earmarked for the extension plans at Hadwen medical practice will be pumped into libraries in Matson and Hucclecote. City planners have lifted a legal caveat blocking development of the land for anything other than a library and police station. Following a review of library services the county council, which owns the land, no longer has a requirement for a facility there.”
  • Sefton – Pupils and staff at Marshside Pre-school join campaign against the potential closure of Churchtown library – Formby Times.  “Children at Marshside Pre-school have made their views on the threat to the Churchtown Library clear while parents and staff signed a petition.The library is one of three in the Southport area which could be closed in budget cuts by Sefton Council.Sentiment is high at the pre-school with teachers aware of the importance of the library. Pre-school manager Chris Alsop said: “A wealth of research shows the huge significance of children reading independently and for enjoyment.”
  • Somerset – Talks on youth servicesand libraries in Somerset – This is Somerset. “”We’ll be exploring how we can jointly support working with young people, promote the newly launched Community Warden scheme, where a handyperson can undertake minor but important works such as gully clearing and cleaning and painting signs, and discussing libraries – for example, whether we can we share use of libraries with other organisations or make them more of a community hub.””
  • Southend – Library closures could be against law – Southend Standard.  “The Commons culture, media and sport select committee declared councils across the country were tip-toeing on edge of legality as they tried to slash costs.Southend Council announced it would hold a “review” of the town’s six suburban branches, with the aim of squeezing even more cash from the already stripped-back system, in July.”
  • Sutton – New scheme turns Carshalton Library into medical centre – Guardian series.  “A new scheme is turning a library into a medical centre for four days.The Circle Library, in Green Wrythe Lane, Carshalton, will be transformed to offer visitors help, advice and health checks.” … “It is the first of three themed events taking place in the library, which is aiming to reach out to people by offering other services.”
  • Wakefield – Library closure is the end of an era – Wakefield Express / Letters.  “Kettlethorpe Library is now shut and will be sorely missed.I have been going for about 17 years and all the staff have been so helpful and friendly, in particular Jean.They have made all feel welcome and the library has been a sociable place to go to unlike a lot of peoples misconception of libraries as being dreary and dull!”
  • Wokingham – Staff welcome decision not to privatise libraries – Henley Standard.  “Wargrave librarian Ros Fernley said: “I am pleased to have the cloud of uncertainty removed from our heads. The whole process has taken a very long time, which makes it stressful for staff. “I think I would prefer to be employed by the council. There still may need to be changes in order to save money but I think the expression ‘rather the devil you know’ probably fits here.”