The CIPFA stats have already been widely discussed but a few new things still jump out to me.  The first is that usage is declining very much in line with library budgets.  It’s no secret that you get what you pay for.  The UK has decided that it wants a library service that costs 5.1% less (hang on, is that measured for inflation? If not, that’s a 7.6% cut in one year) than last year.  It therefore gets a library service that is 5.1% less attractive than last year.

It’s also interesting that the Public Libraries News figures are shown to be underestimating the number of closures by a full third.  This is, I suspect, due to two factors.  The first is that councils naturally want to limit publicity for cuts and PLN depends on media reports for its information.  The second is that it’s hard to count the number of mobile libraries that have closed down as newspaper reports tend to concentrate on number of cut stops rather than the number of withdrawn vehicles.

What this means is that the PLN figures can be seen as an absolute minimum running total.  The next time you see a politician (hi Ed) casting doubts on “campaigner” figures as doom-mongering, remember the CIPFA figures and don’t be fooled.  It is not the campaigners who are exaggerating the negatives.  Rather, it is the Government (and often councils) exaggerating the positives.

CIPFA statistics

  • 201 library “service points” (inc. mobiles) closed. This represents roughly 5% of all libraries.
  • Libraries budgets down 5.1%.
  • Book and newspapers fund down 5.5%
  • Staff numbers reduced by 8%.
  • Visits down 2.4%
  • Adult fiction down 5.4%, non-fiction down 7.3%
  • Children’s fiction up 0.3%, non-fiction down 3.4%.
  • Audio-visual down 10.3%, music down 22.5%.
  • Expenditure expected to drop by 4.8% in 2012, meaning total UK expenditure on libraries will drop below £1 billion for first time in seven years.
  • Volunteers up by 8.9%
  • Libraries closing and usage declining – Infoism.  Points out Ed Vaizey’s claims that libraries are thriving looks fairly unbelievable in the light of the figures, with his estimate of closures being less than one-third of the real figure.  “usage has dropped 6.7% over five years but the number of libraries has dropped by 7.5% in just the last two years”.  Also questions the SCL report on “super-users” of libraries, especially as it does not include borrowers of fiction. ” there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.  And when conclusions are made public before the data is widely available, they should be treated with the utmost caution”

“As a result of so many closures, the best that could be hoped for is that issues and visits remain stable (which, with closures, would effectively be an increase).  Of course, this situation simply leads to a desperate cycle of decline.  Libraries are closed which leads to a decline in usage which leads to a perception that fewer libraries are required which then leads to more library closures…and so the cycle continues”

Other news

  • ACE further cuts to funding – BookSeller. “Davey said: “The government’s intention seems to have been that Whitehall departments absorb any cuts themselves from efficiencies but since the DCMS has already given itself a 50% administration cut – which was also applied to the Arts Council and other NDPBs [non-departmental public bodies] – the department’s latest cuts have been passed straight on to the bodies it funds.””
  • Arts organisations and museums face further funding cuts of £11.6m – Guardian.  “Arts organisations, museums and libraries in England need to brace themselves for further public funding cuts of £11.6m after the government wrote to Arts Council England outlining how last week’s Autumn Statement will effect it.”  1% cut in 2013, 2% in 2014.

“Although there will be no further cuts to English local authorities in 2013/14 (unlike central government), local government funding will fall by an extra 2% (£445m) in 2014-15. The highly regarded Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) predict a further 3% cut in 2015-16 and warn that local government could “face cumulative real terms cuts of 16% in the three years to 2017-18, or cuts of nearly a third since 2010” … Austerity will be the name of the game for many years to come. CILIP’s survey of public library authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, covering the financial year 2011-12,  revealed that over 2,000 staff posts had been removed and 3,000 opening hours a week cut from public library services. The latest survey results, published earlier this month, reinforce the trend of reductions in opening hours, staffing and revenue expenditure during the financial year 2012-13. Cuts have already bitten deeply into public library services.  This forecast of yet further pain is deeply concerning.” Autumn Statement: what it means for the library and information world: public libraries – CILIP

  • Book to the future – Society of Chief Librarians. “Career builders, health detectives, little learners, friend finders, and research sleuths are the new ‘super-users’ of Britain’s public libraries. The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) have today unveiled the new ‘super-users’ of Britain’s public libraries. After an analysis of internal library data spanning the last ten years, the SCL have identified and profiled the five main users of libraries.” [but not including the reader of fiction is a rather glaring omission – Ian.].  Full report is here.

I think that this research really demonstrates the vital role that the library service plays within local communities today. It evidences how that role has changed and developed from something which was quite passive into a service which is now dynamic and interactive.  “Communities are engaging with our services in lots of different ways and for lots of different reasons but what is very clear is that the service which they receive is hugely valued and the experience quite unique.” Janene Cox, President of the SCL

If anyone doubts the value of libraries to local communities, they should read this report. It is very interesting to take such a close look at some of the different ways that people use their libraries. Hopefully library authorities will use this knowledge to help them to provide a wide range of valuable services.” Ed Vaizey MP, Culture Minister

  • Freedom = public libraries – Penigma.  Writer not happy about privatisation of public libraries.
  • PhilisTyne – Writers for Libraries / Mark Brophy.  Poem against library cuts, especially in Newcastle.
  • Rare collection under threat as Delhi library faces closureTelegraph. Hardayal Library in Delhi: “The collection is potentially worth millions, with 8,000 rare books out of a stock of 170,000. ” … “many of the most valuable are deteriorating fast, along with their value, in part because of poor preservation methods.”
  • School libraries and youth library services: a dual threat – Teen Librarian. “School Libraries are not statutory in the UK and Prison Libraries are; I have heard friends and colleagues making jokes that soon young readers would have to break the law before there would be someone available to help them choose a book.” … “With organisations such as Voices for the Library and the Mass Lobby for School Librarians already standing against the destruction of out libraries perhaps it is time to start forming teen political pressure groups.”
  • What libraries meant to me when I was eight years old – Voices for the Library.  Heartwarming story of library user’s childhood.  “Those six little bits of cardboard gave me access to all sorts of conversations I just wouldn’t have had without them. They led to me studying academic subjects I wouldn’t have pursued otherwise (Latin and Classical Civilisation), kept me curious and enthusiastic and taught me that having eclectic tastes does not have to mean bad or trivial. They taught me to take an active role in my own, ongoing, education.”


Local News

“We received today, Tuesday 11th December the decision of Brent Council on our application to list Kensal Rise Library as a community asset. ” Brent – Save Kensal Rise Library via email.

  • Calderdale – Halifax Central library to be demolished – Halifax Courier. “Councillors have finally confirmed that Halifax Central Library and Archives will be demolished and the site cleared for retail development. A new building costing more than £9 million will be put up on the Square Church site beside the Piece Hall by the end of 2015.”
  • Dudley – Halesowen housing office on the move – Halesowen News. “relocating the office to the library’s fifth floor from Wednesday January 9. The library will also house a Citizens Advice bureau with the council billing it as a new one stop shop.” … ““Customers have found it very useful to have a number of services under one roof.”
  • Pembrokeshire – Library and archives on the move – Designing Libraries.  “In a series of moves, the current offices and library will be relocated to temporary accommodation and local council storage facilities to enable Pembrokeshire County Council to radically refurbish the existing building.”