Librarians answer questions.  We’re trained to do so and we pride ourselves on giving the correct answers.  There’s a whole interview technique of asking open questions (e.g. “What do you want?”) then closed questions (“Is this what you want?”) and then a final check up question (“Is there anything else we can help you with?”) just to make sure.  We make sure that the answer is an accurate one and try to avoid vagueness or untrustworthy information, even if it inconveniences us to do so. Politicians obviously think in a different way.  Their world is that of the elusive, the not-quite accurate and the self-aggrandising.  Take for example this exchange in parliament about libraries:

Dan Jarvis(Barnsley Central, Labour) To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport whether the Arts Council superintends the library service; how contraventions of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 are identified to her; and whether this affects her ability to exercise her statutory duties of oversight of the service.”

Edward Vaizey(Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Culture, Communications and Creative Industries), Business, Innovation and Skills; Wantage, Conservative) holding answer 19 December 2012. Under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1954 it is the duty of the Secretary of State to superintend and promote the public library service. The Arts Council England (ACE) contributes to this function by acting as a development agency for libraries, a role they have been administering since October 2011. ACE work closely with, and use their investment to support, local authorities to understand a range of approaches to deliver a modern efficient library service which meet the needs of their local communities. The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 requires all library authorities to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service based on local need within available resources. Where a breach to this statutory duty is considered to have taken place a complaint is made to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friend Maria Miller, and this does not affect her ability to exercise her statutory duty of superintendence.”

They Work For You, 4 Dec 2012

Seems quite straighforward, right?  An answer is given.  I thought it was fairly clear and accurate.  But look deeper, as respected library campaigner, Shirley Burnham did.  Here’s what she found:

  • Ed uses the phrase “within available resources” which is not a form of words used in the 1964 Act. Indeed, I do not recall any wording in the Act that says this as, if it did, it would negate the whole point of the law in the first place as the Council would be freely able to allocate it any resources it chose, regardless of the need for a comprehensive and efficient service.
  • The answer does not explain how failures under the Act are identified to her.

So, Ed misleads on the first part of the answer and completely fails to answer the second part.  The law says that councils need to provide an effective library service, regardless of any cuts.  This is inconvenient and so it is ignored.  The law says that it is up to the Secretary of State to intervene if this is not happening.  Fat chance of that.  By the way, who makes the complaint in the first place?  It is clear that is not ACE, who have no superintending function.  With regard to who has the power to superintend, a very useful comment from “Revisit History” on the blog on 13th November should be noted:

“It is clear that the secretary of state has a duty to superintend the public library service. Not Re:source, the MLA, not the Arts Council of Great Britain, not the letter writing public. All of these things can only be sources of information which the Secretary of State can use. But he doesn’t have to approach third parties, he can do it himself. The Act empowers the Secretary of State to compel local authorities to provide him with whatever information he so requires to fulfil his duty.””

So, it’s up the Government … but they’re as likely to intervene as they are to give a straight answer to the question.  They’re not librarians, you see.


  • Can e-books and libraries co-exist? – Mashable. A look at the recent US Pew Internet study which provides some hopeful signs for libraries.  All information presented in very easy to read infographic form.
  • Cuts to Southampton libraries, Rotherham closures averted – BookSeller. Reviews the cuts previously announced.  “campaigners are already battling against the plans. Kevin Lancashire, Friends of Cobbett Road Library chairman, said: “This is closure by stealth. The impact will be devastating because people do not just use the library for books. There are 23 community groups meeting here which will not be able to continue with what is proposed.””
  • Futurebook Digital Census 2013 report now out – FutureBook.  “Nearly two-thirds think digital sales will be worth more than 10% of their total revenue by the end of next year—and by the end of the decade, around half of publishers think they will be earning more from digital than from print.

There is great uncertainty about the lending of e-books through libraries, with those in favour of free loans and charges split two to one. Publishers are decidedly divided on the issue too, with one in five not currently allowing e-lending and slightly more imposing restrictions on borrowing.


Local News

“Friern Barnet Library was formally added to Barnet Council’s Schedule of Buildings of Local Architectural or Historic Interest as of yesterday (3/12/12)! This is fantastic news which means that it will be harder for the Council to sell off to potential property developers, as the value of land will drop.” Barnet – via Twitter

Brent – New sign for Barham Volunteer Library

  • Buckinghamshire – Village’s first ever library volunteer brings in new dawn for community facility – Bucks Herald. “Olive Bradburn was the very first volunteer in Wendover’s original library in the 1960s and the 97 year old did the honours of cutting the ribbon at the opening ceremony on Saturday.” 90 volunteers plus 2 paid staff.
  • What are eMagazines? – Buckinghamshire libraries. “unlimited access to full digital copies of magazines online using a web browser or offline using the Zinio Reader software. “
  • Dorset – Wool Library volunteers “raring to go” – BBC. “David Smith, of the Friends of Wool Library, said the community had supported the group “all the way” as they trained to run the facility. The friends are due to take over the running of the library on 15 January … About 40 people have given up their time to help keep the library open for the village of about 4,000 people … customers at the village pub, the Black Bear, recently raised £500 for the library. He said: “Quite a lot don’t use the library but believe the library should stay and they’ve been with us all the way.”

“Volunteer Judith Beeby said: “We want to make sure there is a library here in Wool because it’s sort of a community centre as much as library – people come here and you meet your friends. “I was very upset to think it would go and that’s one of the reasons I volunteered – you’ve got to keep it here.”


North Tyneside – Ease EXTRA Library Premier card for £6.20 per year.

“Stripped bare, Libraries represent the nationalisation of  books and information and considering the antipathy towards nationalisation it’s amazing they’ve lasted so long. In all my time in Libraries I felt like people were apologising for still existing, particularly in discussions with managers andcouncillors. I always categorically refused to apologise.”

  • Wolverhampton – Cabinet agrees to revised community hubs proposals – Wolverhampton Council. “While councils in many parts of the country are closing library services because of the financial pressures they are facing, Wolverhampton will retain all 16 of its library services if the new proposals are agreed by Cabinet.  Six services will continue to be provided as they are at present, five libraries will become the location for new community hubs while the other five will be relocated to new premises, all but one within a new community hub. The proposed changes are as follows:”
  • Worcestershire – Appeal for volunteers for Catshill library service – Bromsgrove Advertiser.  “plans are now progressing to recruit volunteers to support a library in the Community Room at Catshill Middle School … plans are now progressing to recruit volunteers to support a library in the Community Room at Catshill Middle School. “