The Secretary of State showed that she was continuing with the “libraries are thriving” party line, first seen in a speech by Ed Vaizey, when she was asked a question on Mumsnet.  That she appeared to not answer the question is also worthy of note.

Q: “Frontline and back-office public library staff are being shed by the many 100’s. The majority are women. How can you justify this “chat” when your Department is neglecting public libraries and is complicit in the loss of these women’s livelihoods? Thank you.” letsmakewaves

A: “I am clear that libraries are hugely important to communities, and especially to parents. Libraries are thriving – 3/4 of children visit one regularly – and lots of libraries are finding new and innovative ways of attracting families. My own library in Basingstoke is offering a wide range of services to do just that. And while we are on the subject, let me be clear that claims that 100s of libraries have closed is just not true. And remember, SureStart centres are also a fantastic place for parents to find books for their children. ” Maria Miller on Mumsnet.

This rose-tinted view of libraries is belied by comments from pretty much everyone (notably – just from today’s post – from Newcastle, from National Union of Teachers and from the Society of Authors)

For what a thriving public library service really looks like, it appears that one has to look at our trade competitors like South Korea – which opened 180 new libraries last year – and our biggest competitor of all, China, which constructed over 600,000 village libraries over the last couple of year.  Obviously, they think big over there.  Us?  We’re more small-minded.


  • 16 top library stories you may ave missed – OEDB.  Including “six biggest library annoyances and how to fix them” and others.
  • £2.9m boost for Welsh museums and libraries – News Wales.  “Heritage Minister Huw Lewis is inviting applications for a share of £1m capital funding through the Community Learning Libraries grant programme to transform public libraries across Wales. Since the scheme was established in 2007, 84 libraries have received grants to create a modern and attractive environment with flexible space for community a and improved ICT. Visitor figures collected by the libraries show that the programme has been successful in attracting more people, particularly young children, to visit their local library.” … “The library modernisation projects help to regenerate communities and provide a welcome boost for the economy by creating much needed employment and training opportunities, with much of the construction work being carried out by local companies which in turn use the local supply chain.”
  • Bibliography: impact and outcome of libraries – Long list of publications on the financial benefit of libraries from page 35.
  • China spends big to build libraries for all villages – China Daily.  “country announced in late September that it had completed the project by the end of August, and a total investment of 18 billion yuan has resulted in the construction of 600,449 rural libraries. Each library owns at least 1,500 books, 30 different newspapers and 100 audiovisual products that meet the needs of people living in rural areas.”
  • Edinburgh’s mysterious paper sculptures revealed – Scotsman.  “An anonymous artist has covertly delivered ten paper sculptures to Scottish cultural institutions since March 2011. Now a touring exhibition of this work is returning to where it all unfolded – Edinburgh. Two people at the heart of this mystery, Robyn Marsack and Abby Cunnane, recall the amazing story.” Long article on one of the best things to come out of the current libraries crisis.
  • FBI agents raided Detroit Public Library over allegations of contract fraud – Detroit Free Press.  Police suspect library employee of feathering his own nest. Also, in a time of layoffs, someone has been buying $1000 waste bins.  Oh dear.
  • Library campaigners face new hurdles – BookSeller.  Proposed loss of judicial reviews announced by David Cameron will cause problems for campaigners.  “Lauren Smith of Voices for the Library said: “It’s absolutely devastating. They are making it very difficult even to respond to their plans, but there are so many decisions that have been put on hold because campaigners have been able to use these methods. One of the best defences of libraries is showing how library closures have a big detriment on disabled people, elderly people and other vulnerable groups, and if equality assessments go, we will lose that defence.””
  • Philistines : neo-liberal Tories forces cuts an closures in Tyneside – New Statesman.  Zadie Smith and others have pointed out that it is only the State who can run libraries but they’re good for all.  However, costs are all that are seen, not value. No arguments are working to save them “Because who, today, believes strongly enough that the people of Jesmond want, need and deserve a library? And more importantly, who believes it strongly enough to agree to pay for it, when the state no longer will?”
  • Poor reading skills are the most serious weakness in our education centre – Independent.  Government’s obsession with synthetic phonics is missing the point. “every child should be led to books – and books and books – and given quiet time and space in which to work through them. That means school and public libraries. It also means giving reading real status in schools.”
  • Qatar formally launches project to build new national libraryLibrary Journal. “The project of building a brand-new Qatar National Library (QNL), within the Qatar Foundation, which is expected to house about 1.2mn books, was launched yesterday by HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser. Designed by the world-famous architect Rem Koolhaas, the new QNL will officially open in late 2014, and it is being envisaged to become one of the most iconic landmarks in Qatar and within the region.”
  • Solomon warns on PLR – BookSeller.  “The Society of Authors has approved the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s plans to raise the PLR rate, but urged that volunteer libraries and e-books should all be covered by the payment.” … “Solomon said she was “sad to note” the decrease in book loans, which she saw as “caused, no doubt, by the cuts in library services and the exclusion of some volunteer-run libraries from the scheme. It is our view that such libraries should be included in the PLR scheme . . . We also urge the Government to protect the library service which is under serious threat because of local council-cost cutting.””
  • Universal library schemes to be trialled for young people – Sec Ed. “Culture minister Ed Vaizey said: “One of the greatest gifts we can bestow on our children is a love of books and reading. Joining a library at a young age is a fantastic route into a world of literature, entertainment and exploration and I very much look forward to seeing the results of these innovative library card pilots.” However, while welcoming the importance being placed on reading from an early age by the government, Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, pointed out that the project could be undermined because of library closures due to the austerity agenda. She added: “I hope after this announcement, the government will work with local authorities to ensure that communities do not lose such a vital resource as the local library.””
  • We must protect and reinvent out local libraries – Guardian.  Jeanette Winterson recalls her childhood libraries and the moves onto current austerity, criticising Newcastle libraries boss Tony Durcan for putting “essential” services before libraries.  Argues that libraries have a vital social and educational purpose.  “. Libraries were not community centres with books in the way.” The world may become books for the rich and ebooks for everyone else: “Is it downloads for everyone else? I want books to be visible. Hold a book in your hands and it is more than its content. Books as objects matter.” … “For kids in particular, ebooks aren’t the answer. Put six picture books of front of a child and she’ll soon find her own way. “

“As our Government tells us that this wrecked economy can’t afford to pay a living wage to the poorest people in society, what can we offer them? They can take their kids to the park, perhaps. They might be able to go swimming or play sport at their leisure centre, find a football pitch. Yes, these things are important. But it is just as important that there should be a library as the centre of a web of cultural services, for kids with nowhere to go, kids who don’t have books or a room of their own, for stressed-out parents, for students needing a place to study and find more than Google can offer, for older people who want a safe place outside of the house, for community groups and reading groups, for lectures, for discussions, and of course for computers and IT.”


Local news

  • Barnet – “It isn’t over yet” says Barnet Unison – Unison.  “after the council announced a deal to outsource jobs and services to Capita. Around 520 Barnet council staff have been told today that private company Capita is to be their new employer.” Libraries not listed.
  • Library volunteers in Barnet clock up 3,000 hours – Times series.  “Volunteer librarians in Barnet were thanked for their services at a celebration with the borough’s mayor yesterday. A total of 136 people put themselves forward for the Barnet Borough Council scheme since it began in November last year. The volunteers, aged from 14 to an impressive 85, have clocked up 3,526 hours of work filling book shelves, assisting with children’s reading groups and providing ICT support.”
  • “It would be cheaper to give everyone a kindle than save all libraries” – Barnet and Whetstone Press.  Will Self “didn’t quite stick to the script” when invited to speak at Friern Barnet Library by campaigners.  “We live in interesting times and it is something to think about before you get sentimental about print and paper. You can’t hold back the future.”  Mr Self did admit there was still a place for books, but added: “Am I going to pull whatever is left of my hair out in defence of libraries? No.”

We recognise that Bolton Libraries are doing their best with the limited resources they are allowed, and pleased to see the increased usage of Central Library and IT based services. However, this cannot disguise the alarming drop off in visits and books loaned in such a short space of time. We still feel it was short sighted to close Astley Bridge, Castle Hill, Heaton, Highfield and Oxford Grove branch libraries. The Council’s own evidence now shows that other support on offer is not meeting the needs of local people. Only 5 new people across the borough have joined the Library Link home delivery scheme. In some of the areas of the borough with the highest levels of poverty, lowest computer ownership and lowest literacy rates, the usage of the new Neighbourhood Collections has been dismal – book borrowing at Tonge is just 3% of what it was at Castle Hill, whilst at the Orchards (Highfield) the figure is 4%, but with only one new person enrolling to use the unstaffed service there.People of all ages need books, but they also need a face to face access point for council services, and help in accessing those public services (like the new Universal Benefit) which the government increasingly says must happen by internet. Where does this leave the 7.63 million people in the UK who do not use the internet, predominantly older and poorer people who find travel difficult?  Branch libraries still meet these important needs. A national decline in usage has been accelerated in Bolton in just those areas that need their libraries most. This is why we have taken legal advice and are submitting our 30 page dossier to the Secretary of State calling for a local inquiry into this worrying situation.” Bolton – Ian McHugh, Save Bolton Libraries Campaign via email.

  • Calderdale – Library protest continues in Halifax today – Halifax Courier.  “About 80 people gathered today to protest once again at the council’s plans to demolish Halifax Central Library and Archives. Members of the Don’t Bulldoze Our Library campaign said the economic arguments for a new building beside the Piece Hall rather restoring the 30-year-old library at Northgate didn’t stand up scrutiny.”
  • Cambridgeshire New multimedia library project aimed at teenagers due to start next month – Wisbech Standard. “Click! Wisbech Captured will explore the past, document the present and encourage young people to create a new archive which will culminate in an online exhibition. The project is part of a season of cultural events taking place in Fenland’s libraries entitled ‘Arts Alive in Libraries’.”
  • Croydon – Secrets and libraries: Croydon adds to shabby reputation – Inside Croydon.  Decision taken by Croydon looked at, with possible reasons given.
  • Libraries set to be handed over to private firm – BookSeller.  “A council spokesman told the paper: “What we can continue to assure residents is that no branches will be lost, and the new contract also guarantees that the council will retain the freehold of all the library buildings currently in its ownership. Existing levels of service will not only be maintained, but, where possible, book stocks will be increased, facilities upgraded and opportunities will be sought to provide a wider range of public services from local libraries.”.  Croydon are also encourgaing volunteers.

“Tony Newman, leader of the opposition group at Croydon Council said that if Labour took power in the town hall they would reverse the decision: “The Labour council of 2014 will reverse this appalling privatisation programme and invest in libraries right across Croydon. Croydon Tories have no mandate to do this. The Tories have not listened to the public on this. Instead they are shamefully taking decisions in secret. No one asked that our cherished library service should be privatised, quite the contrary in fact.”

  • Croydon/Lambeth – Library aid – Wandsworth Guardian.  “A sensational music line up is going to rock the Upper Norwood Joint Library in a spectacular Thanksgiving Day benefit gig for the library. The Love Birds, The Indestructible Mr Herb Phelps, Franck Alba, Marcina Arnold, The Children, Sarah Gamble, Ben Godfrey, Sir Barry and Mr Jala will all be performing.”
  • Dorset – Community run libraries will save Council thousands – View Online.  “Cllr Hilary Cox, cabinet member for community services, said:  “I am very pleased that by working together in partnership and through careful listening and constructive negotiation, we are now looking to finalise dates for local communities to take over the responsibility for running seven libraries with support from Dorset County Council.”
  • Dudley – Borrow a book and have a free health check – Dudley News. “The confidential NHS checks are available to people aged between 40 and 74, who haven’t had a recent health check and are registered with a Dudley GP and haven’t already been diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke or kidney disorder. “
  • Hertfordshire – Flagship library poised to reopen – Hertfordshire Council.  “Hertfordshire’s flagship library at Campus West in Welwyn Garden City will re-open its doors to the public on Monday 17 December after a major programme of improvements. The library which originally opened in the 1970s …” will have lift, baby change, refurb, wifi, etc .. and increased opening hours.
  • Inverclyde – TV star Richard opens library – Greenock Telegraph.  “Richard Wilson has officially opened a newly refurbished £300,00 library in Greenock. The One Foot in the Grave and Merlin star was back in his home town to cut the ribbon at the South West Library at Barrs Cottage – a place he visited regularly as a youngster.” … “”Down south libraries have been closed all over the place so it’s wonderful to see a refurbished building like this.”

“It’s one thing to open a book but another to open a library” said Richard Wilson (via email from Inverclyde Council)

  • Newcastle – Crime, licensing and library hot topics at at ward meeting – JesmondLocal.  “esmond Community Leisure had organised to partner with Jesmond Library to run events like book readings and IT training days but now they could be in doubt. There will be a meeting between JCL and council representatives on the future of the library in the next few days. Residents at the ward meeting said that they feel like they haven’t been consulted and would want a public meeting about any closures, especially regarding the library.”
  • Library lines – Writer in the North.  Nostalgia for library when growing up but “Above all, though, what I remember as a child reader is being lost in whatever world I’d brought back with me between the covers of my library book. Worlds I could never have visited without that library portal to enter whenever I chose (opening hours allowing.” then long list of quotes on libraries.
  • Writer’s call to save Newcastle libraries – Chronicle. Northern Children’s Book Festival could be cancelled.
  • Arts cuts : the north-east cannot afford to lose out again – Guardian.  “As part of measures to save £90m over three years, Newcastle City Council has set a budget consultation that proposes 100% cuts to the arts, 50% cuts to museums and a cut to libraries that would close all but two public libraries in the city. There’s something profound about 100%. Everything, the whole, the sum total. It’s the symbolism of that number which stops us in our tracks.”  ACE Northeast director gives her view.  She’s not impressed.
  • Author David Almond criticises proposed library cutsChronicle.  “David Almond, who penned the award-winning novel Skellig, which has been adapted to film and an opera, says his local library was a place for him to live his dreams.” …”“The library was hugely liberating, it was egalitarian and democratic. I hated going to school, but I loved going to the library.“We want kids to become themselves, to look forward to abundant and pleasant lives. Without that library I wouldn’t have become a writer.”

“As a child the library was somewhere I could go on my own, but as a nine-year-old kid I wouldn’t have gone all the way to Gateshead Library,” he said.“Kids really need books, they love to read. The great librarians in little libraries and in schools are keeping literary culture alive. If we accept the myth that children are not interested in books, it will die.”

  • Rotherham – Public review saves Rotherham library from closure– BBC. “Rotherham Council said that just one library would close and seven others would see a reduction in their opening hours. The council’s original proposal would have seen two libraries shutting in an attempt to save £500,000 a year. The Kimberworth Park library will close by April next year.”

“We have listened to what people have told us and used those views along with our own assessments to create a service which will meet customers’ needs now and in the future. “These are always difficult decisions but by making these changes we feel we have ensured we can keep to our commitment to have a library within two miles of everyone and bring library services into the heart of communities.”

  • Somerset – Library closure plan legal defeat cost Somerset County Council £200,000 -Yeovil Express. “The council had proposed reducing hours at some of its libraries and relying on communities to run others to be run by communities, as well as cutting back its mobile library service. However, following a legal challenge by pro-library campaigners, the council has revealed it had to pay the £130,000 costs of their opponents in court as well as its own £72,000 legal bill.” but council says “”Since that ruling, several councils in England have done this same thing very successfully. It is now becoming widely accepted that communities can play a direct role in running libraries”
  • Bridgwater Library to close for Christmas refit – Bridgwater Mercury.  Self-service machines and refurb.
  • Surrey – Cobham’s library to be rebuilt in community hub Get Surrey.  “knocked down and replaced with a larger community hub after councillors agreed to grant permission for the plans this week. The proposal to rebuild the library and a community centre along with 13 houses in Cedar Road has divided the Cobham community in recent months.” … no parking is offered as [[Incredibly – um, don’t people need to carry big bags full of heavy books? – Ian] “new libraries were modern buildings and had little or no car parking on site.”