Pride of place today has to go to the wonderful article by Ann Cleeves on why Cruddas Library in Newcastle has to be saved. It resonates with me and, I am sure, it will with you as well.  The campaigners in Newcastle are doing a notably impressive job in protesting against the cuts, proving that one does not have to be in London to have the eye of the media.  With further cuts planned in others places far to the north of the metropolis (such as Sheffield and Gateshead, also both in the news today), it’s shaping up to be another high-profile year for public library cuts.  With that in mind, it’s interesting to see that the Guardian (Culture Professionals) are choosing the topic of community libraries as their first online chat of the year, this Friday 12 noon to 2pm.


  • 2020 Vision: An agenda for transformation – Legatum Institute. Essays by the 2020 Group of Conservative MPs. “From reading support for families in deprived areas, to action to enable hard pushed libraries to continue to operate, the potential to deliver valuable services plainly exists.” … “How much easier would it have been to reduce the Book Trust’s £13 million grant had successful corporate partnerships been arranged so that publishers provided all the books free of charge. This would mean that every pound that the government did provide could be used to allow an army of volunteer readers to breathe life into unused community libraries, and to supplement local authorities’ reduced summer activity programmes with reading camps.
  • As use of libraries grows, Government support has eroded –  New York Times (USA). “In Columbus, Ohio, the libraries are open an average of 29 more hours a week. San Francisco’s receive up to three times as much per capita from the local government. Meanwhile, New York’s three public library systems — workhorses all — are trying to do more with less: the city’s contribution to their operating budgets has declined by more than 7 percent, adjusted for inflation, over the past decade, even as circulation and program attendance have increased.”
  • Digitised to distraction – American Libraries (USA). “Not only do many people not have their own computers, they wouldn’t know how to turn one on if they did. As a result, librarians like to say that the public library is the bridge over the digital divide. It’s where those who are technologically disenfranchised can develop their digital literacy. And that’s crucial: In today’s world, digital illiteracy is as defeating as basic illiteracy was in the days when color television was the next big thing. But why don’t we ever talk about the literacy needs of folks who are digital “haves,” especially the children?”
  • Happy New Year – CILIP / Phil Bradley. Partially covers debate on Public Libraries News on the role of 3D printers in libraries … “there is a point within any job or profession when it’s the responsibility of that professional to decide how to do their job, in what way and using what tools. Otherwise, what’s the point of employing a professional in the first place, if they are going to be micromanaged to that extent. Now of course there is a proviso on this – the professional has to work within the confines that they are given.”

“We have a moral code and ethical compass that we use in order to do our job. That’s one of the things that puts us apart from library volunteers for example. I believe that it goes deeper than that however, because if we believe in what we do and how we do it, surely we also believe that there are going to be times when it can be done better, faster, cheaper, more effectively etc than how we’re currently working. As such, it’s something that we need to tell people – primarily our employers, but also our colleagues and members, so that we can consider different, new and better ways of working.”

The report says public libraries in New York are most popular with seniors, foreign-born New Yorkers, at-risk teens and freelance workers and that they serve visitors in four key areas:

  • Helping adults upgrade work skills and find jobs.
  • Assisting immigrants with assimilation.
  • Fostering reading skills in young people.
  • Providing technology access for those without a computer or Internet connection at home — an estimated 36 percent of New York City’s population does not have broadband.”
  • Why parents should read for pleasure – Steve Willshaw. “The National Literacy Trust and the Reading Association do their best to keep reading in the public eye, but against a backdrop of library closures and in the face of massive publicity for non-text based entertainment, this feels like too little.”
  • Will Gutenberg laugh last? – Rough Type.  E-book reading growth has slowed down to 34% from the previous triple-figure growth of previous years.  Only a third of Americans have read one e-book or more.  Some other facts that show that the printed book may not be quite as dead as the Dodo as yet. Indeed, from this, it looks more like a, um. Mallard.


Local News

  • Barnet – Council announcement leaves Friern Barnet Library squatters on the shelf – Times series. “Barnet Council has invited a third party to take over Friern Barnet Library, ending any chance of direct negotiations with the current occupiers. The local authority announced this afternoon it will hand a licence to CommUNITY Barnet, a charity supporting voluntary organisations in the borough, which will run the building in the interim. The charity will take charge of the library until February and has been asked to co-ordinate community groups looking to take over the building in the long term.”.  Council says ““The squatters have made it very clear who they are and we will go ahead with the eviction at the end of January if they don’t leave themselves.”
  • Brent – Book donations to the Friends of Barham Library passes the 6,000 mark – Brent and Kilburn Times. “The bulging stock in the reading room in High Road, Wembley, continues to increase after residents rallied around and collected more stock.”
  • Dorset – Community run Dorset Library – ITV. “Puddletown Library has become the first in Dorset to transfer to community ownership. The library will be staffed by a team of 28 unpaid volunteers. The County Council cut funding from seven libraries to save more than seven hundred thousand pounds a year. Former journalist Kate Adie performed the opening ceremony yesterday. And we’ll bring you more on that story in the west country tonight at six. Six more will follow in the coming months,”
  • Gateshead – Volunteers could man five Gateshead libraries – Chronicle. “Alison Stancliffe, chair of the Friends of Ryton Library, one of those under consideration, said people want libraries in their community. But she said running an entire service would be a big task for volunteers. The Friends fought to save their library when it first faced the axe, and now work in partnership with the council to promote it and run community activities at the site.” See also Five Gateshead libraries to be volunteer-run – BookSeller.
  • Newcastle – Cleeves “furious” at Newcastle library plans – BookSeller. “The reading and writing agency has asked five writers from the North East, including crime writer Cleeves and children’s author David Almond, to produce works celebrating the importance of libraries in their community in the light of the council’s plans to close over half of its 18 libraries. Fiona Evans, Mari Hannah and Michael Chaplin are the other writers commissioned, with each visiting one of the libraries earmarked for closure, and describing the experiences of the staff and users there. The pieces will be posted on”
  • Cruddas Park Library – Let’s Talk Libraries. “I was angry about the closure of Newcastle’s libraries before I spent time at Cruddas Park; now I’m furious”.  Library in area of high vandalism and family stress. “But step inside and you’re in a different world. This is a place of civilisation and courtesy, where customer service isn’t a glib phrase dreamt up by marketeers. It’s spacious and airy and the books are displayed with a skill that would put classy high street stores to shame. Christine and Maureen greet regulars by name and strangers get a smile of welcome. Tea and coffee is on offer at 50p a cup and that’s important. In Cruddas Park, every penny counts.” … “Some traditional library users get sniffy about computers, but they probably have a PC at home and a laptop for travelling. For many Cruddas Park residents, the library provides their only access to a computer.”

“When I’m about to leave, Christine’s busy with a customer. She hurries up to explain that she’s been reading a letter to a person who can’t read. ‘What will he do when we close?’ What will all these people do when this library closes?” Ann Cleeves

“Ann Cleeves@AnnCleeves Speaking at the #savenewcastlelibraries rally tomorrow. Never spoken at a rally before but want to tell the Cruddas Park readers’ stories.”Retweeted by Val McDermid

  • Sheffield – Libraries face axe over budget cuts – Star.  City “set to lose some of its 27 community libraries as part of swingeing budget cuts– unless community groups can be found to help run them”.  Decision on which to go will depend on “how close they are to alternative branches, rather than levels of usage”.  Opposition says ““The council needs to come out and say which libraries it is planning to close. The consultation finished in October and it has still not confirmed precise details.”
  • Care needed over libraries – Star / Editorial. “The right to read is absolute and if you cannot afford to buy the material, it should be available to you to lend. But the advent of the internet has made access to reading material much less clear cut. The classics are free to read online so the need to go to the library has become less. And if people stop using the library, they cannot really complain when the building is closed.” … decisions should be made “with absolute transparency and if there is the prospect of the community stepping in to save a library, they should be given every encouragement.”