A key plank of the CMS Report is in doubt due to the reduction in dedicated library staff in Arts Council England and what appears to be a misunderstanding about its role.  In an official response to Public Libraries News from the Arts Council, it is stated that the number of specialists will be reduced from the current nine to just five for the whole of England.  This is due to the cuts in funding already noted by this blog a few days ago.

The recommendation from the Report that these specialists could inform the DCMS of problem areas is denied by the Arts Council which says “this was never in the role” of the posts and that “it is not the Arts Council’s role to report back to the DCMS on whether a library services meets the statutory requirements of the 1964 Act.”.

This is the Arts Council saying it is politely refusing, under its current remit, the Committee’s suggestion that it should be the Government’s watchdog. This is quite right. That responsibility clearly lies with the Minister and his department.  If Ed Vaizey wishes to abdicate his responsibilities in this field then he should make clear it has done so.  If he wants to pass on its duties to ACE then it should gain agreement from ACE for it.  As importantly, he should also sufficiently fund it.  Five staff for the whole country is just not going to do.

More worryingly, being the MLA had a supervisory function and it is now official the ACE does not, it is clear that no-one has had this role for a while at one of the most crucial times for libraries in history. The ministers in charge should learn that leadership in this field is urgently needed and does not come from delegating to overworked and underfunded organisations who’s job it never was in the first place.

“The reduction of staff numbers is unavoidable in the context of the reductions in our administrative costs, but we have retained expertise for libraries both in areas and nationally.  In the new organisation structure, we will be moving from nine Library Relationship Managers currently based in each of our regional offices, to one Library Relationship Manager for each of the five new areas. We will also have a national director with libraries specialism, who will lead on national strategy for libraries, working closely with the Library Relationship Managers.

The CMS Report recommends that the role of Relationship Managers can be extended to feed information to DCMS on potential problem areas. This was never in the role of the Relationship Manager. The role of Relationship Managers is to collate knowledge and information on arts and cultural activity in the region, and note and develop innovation and areas of interest. The reason for this is because it is not the Arts Council’s role to report back to the DCMS on whether a library services meets the statutory requirements of the 1964 Act.”  Arts Council England via email.

Another development concerns Trusts.  County Durham have decided to look once more at outsourcing libraries to a Trust as it saves money, even though a Government review is likely to halve the amount any day now.

Reactions to the Select Committee

  • Community run libraries could “wither on the vine” say MPs – This is Gloucestershire.  “ibraries threaten to “wither on the vine” unless they continue to receive council support, an influential group of MPs has warned. Members of the Commons Culture Select Committee said this would be seen as “closures by stealth”. Under scaled back cuts drawn up by Gloucestershire County Council in the wake of a High Court ruling, the authority will continue to run 31 libraries but seven will lose funding and be run by local communities.”
  • Last page for libraries? – Telegraph.  “Over the last three years a pitched battle has been fought between English councils keen on streamlining their library service – basically closing small ones to support shiny large ones – and anti-cuts campaigners such as Alan Bennett, who with uncharacteristic overstatement compared library closures to “child abuse” … “In 1980 there were 650 million books taken out; that number has now halved. ” … “The people who run our services don’t seem to think that if fewer people are going to libraries it might be time to make them better. Obsessed by the supply-and-demand model, for councils footfall is the bottom line. The Big Society model of local people taking control is promising – this has already happened at the Keats Library in Hampstead and at Primrose Hill – but has yet to be proved in less well-heeled neighbourhoods.” … “We have to use them. When asked, 90 per cent of people say that want a proper library service but to give real ammunition to campaigners they need to turn up.”

“The coalition’s cuts are robbing local communities and generations of children of the vital services that a vibrant local library can bring. In the current economic environment – where hard pressed families are struggling to make ends meet – the services that a library provides are more important than ever before. “This report, quite rightly, identifies the value of libraries beyond just book-borrowing, pointing out their role within communities in terms of literacy and providing a broader range of often unrecognised services.  “But our local library service is facing a grim future of cuts and closures with local people paying the price for bad decisions made by councils. Some councils are even leaving themselves open to costly legal challenges, which would be a scandalous waste of public money. “UNISON is deeply concerned that Arts Council England, also facing cuts, will not be able to effectively advocate on behalf of libraries. The government has to step in before it is too late.”  Dave Prentis, General Secretary, Unison

  • Libraries plan could go national – This is Plymouth.  “Plymouth’s co-operation with Cornwall, Devon and Torbay, centred on making “back-office” savings, was highlighted by members of the Commons Culture Select Committee. And while evidence submitted to the committee revealed the project was not without its problems in the face of financial difficulties and budget cuts, including not achieving its original savings target, it was maintained the “Future Libraries Programme” did realise efficiencies and help shore up the service.”
  • Missed opportunity – BookSeller / Desmond Clarke.  Select Committee report fails to give guidance or name names of those who have failed.  No evidence of leadership or of a move towards a libraries development agency.  The report will do nothing to deter councils from closing libraries and by allowing a two year until a DCMS report fails to give any sense of urgency.

“The millions of people who rely on libraries deserved a much stronger report which reflected their real concerns and needs. Most importantly, public libraries need leadership, rather than endless reports and studies which merely serve to kick the matter, once again, into the long grass.”

  • Praise for Westcountry libraries working together to save money – This is Cornwall.  “Cross-border collaboration on libraries in Devon and Cornwall could provide a future template for the cash-strapped service nationwide, say MPs.”
  • Statement – Arts Council England.  Pleases that Committee recognises the work of the Arts Council an the research it is undertaking.  “Through this research and working with partners, we will develop a long-term vision and framework for public libraries in England, which will support many of the CMS Committee’s recommendations. We will be publishing the research recommendations from Envisioning the library of the future in January 2013 on the Arts Council website. We also welcome the CMS Committee’s recommendation that we work with partners including CILIP, DCMS and the LGA. Since assuming responsibility for libraries in October 2011 from the MLA, we believe we have built excellent relationships with key library stakeholders and look forward to working increasingly closer with them in the future.”
  • What is the public library service worth? – Good Library Blog / Tim Coates.  “I believe deeply in the importance of public libraries. But I don’t think they are worth the money we pay for them. ” … “the truth is the public library service in England costs almost the same as the entire trade publishing industry costs – about £900m per annum . It is a huge amount.The library service in London alone costs £200m per annum and that is a lot of money.”  Only 5% is spent on books … “over 300 million books each year are borrowed from UK libraries – and that is a great deal more than the number of books read from book shops. So there is a massive need and demand– but not at any price. “

Other News

Andy McNab at Six Book Challenge event in Liverpol – he’s the one hiding his face.

“Bestselling novelist and former SAS soldier Andy NcNab thrilled workers at Merseytravel in Liverpool today (5 November 2012) when he visited them to sign copies of his latest book Red Notice, and celebrate their workplace learning success in winning the UK prize draw for workplaces participating in the Six Book Challenge.” (Press release from The Reading Agency).

  • Public service – Golden Twits.  3 of the 8 entrants are libraries.  My advice?  Vote Orkney.  They like kittens.  Oh, and they have 7316 followers.  That’s more than a third of the population of the Orkneys, although many are doubtless national and even worldwide.
  • Speak Up for Libraries conference this week – False Economy.  “After the success of the a parliamentary lobby day in March, there’s a tremendous groundswell of support for our local libraries. Through this conference, organisers hope to inspire even more people to Speak Up For Libraries to safeguard them for generations to come.”
  • Ten reasons why I love my library – Guardian.  Pupil says why he loves his school library.


Local News

  • Brent – Barham Library campaigners in appeal to community – Brent and Kilburn Times. “A community library in Wembley striving to raise £25,000 to occupy their former home have urged local business and residents to help them on their way. Members of the Friends of Barham Library (FOBL) have already raised £2,500 towards their target,” … “Our small but loyal army of volunteers has made our volunteer library a success already. We have repaired and brought back into use an empty shop in Wembley High Road and provide a valuable library and 2nd hand bookshop service to local people. The Library has established itself as an important feature in the High Road just a few hundred meters from Wembley National Stadium. We have shown that a bunch of volunteers can do this with limited resources but great deal of will power.”
  • Kensal Rise Library campaigners write an open letter to All Souls College – Brent and Kilburn Times.  “Angry campaigners, who were told that a Victorian building they wished to run a community library from would be turned into flats by their millionaire Oxford College owners, have written an open letter urging them to reconsider and will be taking their fight to the streets. “
  • Croydon/Wandsworth – Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) win Croydon/Wandsworth contract – Stop the privatisation of public libraries.  “I’ve just been informed that  Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) have won the Croydon/Wandsworth Libraries contract, the other 2 shortlisted bidders where John Laing Integrated Services (JLIS) and most importantly the inhouse Wandsworth bid from South London Library & Cultural Services (SLLCS), the preferred choice of the unions and current staff. The contract is worth £8.76m (?) and is initially for 8yrs with a possible further 8yr extension. GLL already manage Greenwich Libraries on a 15yr contract which they where awarded earlier this year despite much protest from the UNITE union, campaigners and library users.”
  • Library cards and flip flops: Croydon hands £8.5m deal to GLL – Inside Croydon.  “For many of Greenwich Leisure’s staff, flip flops are mandatory daily work wear: flip flop also being the perfect word for the ever-changing position of Croydon Council as they have sought to justify the running down, closing down and privatisation of the borough’s public libraries.” … “There has been no official confirmation of the appointment from Croydon or Wandsworth following a bidding process that has run for most of this year and cost Croydon Council Tax-payers more than £100,000.” … ““Not-for-profit” simply means that once they have paid off all their costs, anything left over can then be reinvested. But that leaves massive scope for “managing” the costs before unveiling any surplus. In the past year, for instance, some of GLL’s “costs” included paying for trackside advertising boards at a series of televised athletics meetings.”
  • Dorset – Lyme Regis: Is the library still under threat? – View Online.  Fears that library, under threat last year but now “safe” could be under threat again in 2014.  Council says “““The county council is in informal discussions with LRDT about the feasibility of co-locating the library and LymeNet in Lyme Regis, to provide an enhanced and co-ordinated service for the benefit of the local community. “
  • Durham – Leisure centres and libraries in County Durham could be “outsourced” – Northern Echo.  “plans to outsource taxpayer-owned theatres, museums, libraries and leisure centres are being resurrected, although with much lower savings than originally hoped. Durham County Council chiefs had calculated placing dozens of leisure and culture assets into a not-for-profit charitable trust would save at least £1m a year in business rates and VAT, as well as opening up new funding opportunities. “

“Council chiefs believe the Government review will halve the amount of money the trust plan would save in business rates, from £888,000 to £444,000. However, with other benefits, they believe the change could nevertheless deliver annual savings of around £866,000.”

  • Gloucestershire – GCC mobile library service shambles: what is going on? – Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries.  “Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries received a rather worrying email about a partially sighted elderly gentleman who was in tears because the mobile library has been stopped to his village.  The email came from his concerned neighbour and friend. We are told that the only notice given of the halted service was a notice on the library bus on its last visit to the village. The people who did not visit the bus that day would have missed the notice. When the people who did see the notice asked the librarian what was happening to the service in the future, and what alternatives there would be available, the librarian said she did not know.”.  A notice had been put up but “says current mobile customers have been contacted. One lady here who has been regular user for 45 years has not been contacted neither have I, a user for a mere 40 years“.

“We fear that in the drive to get the “community libraries” up and running mobile library users have been overlooked. Are Gloucestershire’s few remaining librarians so busy training volunteers for “community run libraries” that the rest of the service is being abandoned?”

  • Northamptonshire – Moving Wootton Fields Library in Northampton will cost more than £300, 000 – Northampton Chronicle.  “More than £300,000 will be spent by the county council this year to cancel a PFI contract which covered the cost of running a library in Northampton until 2030. In 2005, a 25-year PFI deal was signed to combine the public library for Wootton with the school library at Caroline Chisholm School. Together the libraries are jointly known as Wootton Fields Library.”
  • Sefton – Public urged to have their say in libraries consultation – Champion.  “Cabinet members previously agreed to launch further consultation on proposals which would see only six main libraries remain in place to serve the borough, in the main towns including Bootle, Crosby, Formby, Maghull and Southport as well as a ‘co-located’ library in the new Netherton Activity Centre leisure facility. No final decision to close any libraries has been made at this stage, so residents are being strongly erged to have their say on the draft proposals and a range of mitigating measures as well as potential new ways of delivering the service.”