Quite a few items of note today.  Public libraries were a topic of debate in the House of Commons with Ed Vaizey defending their transfer to Arts Council England because they’re about culture.  I thought they were about literacy, information, community and education as well but, oh well, never mind.  Mr Vaizey makes a second appearance today in an announcement that he’ll be speaking at a press conference – along with the Society of Chief Librarians, the British Library and the Reading agency – “unveiling the exciting new initiatives that all public libraries across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, are rolling out throughout 2013.”.  Should be fun.  I’ve just been sent a video of one of the exciting things that happened last year, a 3D Printer / Tech Fair, that took place in Gateshead and is worth a watch.

The protest meeting in Newcastle was well attended (between 250 and 300 packed in) with some forceful speeches including a call for direct action. The campaign there is also still causing some brilliant articles that clearly show the continued need for libraries.  A city that is facing it’s own share of library cuts, Liverpool, is also about to reopen a somewhat amazingly refurbished Central Library, of which there is a video here, and hopes to double its visitors each year to an impressive one million.

Libraries in parliament

If she will take steps to encourage use of public libraries and to discourage local authorities from closing or reducing the usage of such libraries.[136076]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr Edward Vaizey): We are doing a lot to support libraries. We have given Arts Council England responsibility for libraries and it has set up a £6 million fund to support culture in libraries. We have just appointed a specialist adviser. We have regular communications with councils. We have announced our e-learning review. Only at the end of last year we published our comparative reports on library performance.

Bob Blackman: Libraries provide a centre for deprived children to be able to study when there are no facilities at home. I highlight a case where Brent council closed six of its libraries last year. Since then, library visitor numbers have fallen by 130,000. The council attempted to save nearly £1 million by closing the branch libraries, but it has had to mothball them, which has cost it £500,000. Equally, £120,000 has been spent on legal fees. At the same time, it is negotiating—


Mr Vaizey: Briefly, libraries are run and paid for by local authorities. I hear what my hon. Friend says. Perhaps it is best to point to good examples of Tory councils, such as Hammersmith and Fulham and Hillingdon, which have kept their libraries open and are reducing or freezing their council tax at the same time.

Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab): I wonder whether the Minister has had time to reflect on passing the responsibilities for library development to the Arts Council and whether he now regrets not using the money instead to create a perfectly formed, small library development agency.

Mr Vaizey: In times of economic austerity one has to be careful with public funds, but in any event I think it is long overdue for the Arts Council to have responsibility for libraries, in order to join up responsibility for local libraries with local culture.

John Pugh (Southport) (LD): In my constituency, Sefton is proposing to close all the branch libraries, radically reducing access. Does the Minister think that that is the only or best way to deal with the budgetary squeeze and will he look into that particular case?

Mr Vaizey: We always keep an eye on proposals by local authorities to reorganise their library services and we will certainly keep an eye on those proposals.”

House of Commons debates Thursday 10th January 2013



  • Let’s talk librariesBookSeller. Mari Hannah looks at the reason people still need libraries in Newcastle.  “Library users are unilaterally appalled at the threat of closure which will effect all age groups and, it has to be said, some of the most disadvantaged in our society who rely on the library service to take them to places they may never physically go. One lady had been visiting the library for over fifty years since it opened in 1961. She was devastated by the proposals. It was clear to me that for her, life will never be quite the same and she felt powerless to do anything about it. I heard also of a 90 year old who visits the library every single day of the week. This lady’s response to potential closures? ‘It’ll kill me!’”.  Looks at the wide range of users from children to senior citizens.

“And what will happen to those trained, wonderful members of staff called librarians? They’re not just someone who stamps books and sends a fine out if they aren’t returned by their due date. They are specialist staff with an intimate knowledge of literature and local history—all of which will be lost if libraries close down. And what of those who don’t have the means or mobility to reach the libraries that survive this cull? Accessibility is a real issue for a lot of people I talked to, particularly those struggling on the minimum wage.”

  • Library cuts will make Newcastle “cultural wasteland” – BookSeller. “Rachel Kirk, a library assistant, listed the range of services libraries provide in Newcastle, and said: “The coalition government is systematically destroying our public services. The cuts are unnecessary.” A petition on the coalition’s website against the cuts has gained more than 3,300 signatures of support, while another meeting to help coordinate opposition is planned for 17th January at Newcastle Central Library at 5.30pm.”
  • Save Newcastle Libraries campaign group steps up pressure over cuts – Journal. “Playwright Lee Hall called for “direct action” against the proposed closure of 10 Newcastle libraries by suggesting campaigners stage a sleep-in. Speaking at a public meeting last night, organised by campaign group Save Newcastle Libraries, the North East writer said the only way to ensure the issue isn’t “swept under the carpet” by Newcastle City Council was to grab its attention.”.  Comments suggest that the Council leader is deliberately cutting libraries in order to raise his own profile.

“We get a group of people led by pensioners who use the local library to occupy the building. We’d make them lovely beds, arrange nice grub and every night writers and actors and musicians will come and read them a story, sing them a song. I think that would be quite good fun in itself and it would be instantly national news but crucially it would stay in the news. We need something that isn’t going to be brushed aside. Something which sticks in their throat until they have to rethink this ridiculously unfair budget.”

“This is not about stuff for posh people, this is about ordinary libraries, a legacy for our kids. They can come, before they go to school, get some books out before going to school or the school can walk them around to the library” Lee Hall

“It’s the one place I think where a single woman can feel perfectly safe.  It’s not just the books, it’s the people who work in them and it’s skilled professionals who know how to work with adults and with  children”  Anne Cleeves

“There’s no such thing as an easy cut … it’s important that people make their views clear on a national stage, to central government” Newcastle Council.

“It’s moving, it’s upsetting, I went to Oxford University largely because I was able to do my in a library” Interviewee A

“I’m a photography student so using books in the library is a big part of my course” Interviewee B

“It’d be nice going into a local library rather than going into the centre of town all the time” Interviewee C


New library services for the 21st century to be announced at press conference

An alliance of partners including the Society of Chief Librarians, the Reading Agency, and the Arts Council will, at a press conference on 31st January, be unveiling the exciting new initiatives that all public libraries across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, are rolling out throughout 2013.

Speakers will include:

  • Janene Cox, President of the Society of Chief Librarians
  • Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications & Creative Industries
  • Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library
  • Miranda McKearney OBE, Director of The Reading Agency

Date: Thursday 31st January

  • Don’t destroy Willesden Green town square, pleads author Zadie Smith – London Evening Standard.  “A council that closed half its libraries wants to demolish another to make way for new homes, then rebuild it on a cherished public square … Author Zadie Smith, who grew up in the borough, attacked the scheme as “cultural vandalism” and said the square is one of the few public places where locals can meet for free.”

I love the libraryBucky.

  • Mission creep and mission criticality – Library Journal (USA). Looks at Hugh Rundle’s article arguing against 3D printers in libraries … “He writes as if braced for outrage over something most libraries aren’t doing and probably won’t do any time soon, but which is a bit of a darling for cutting-edge librarians.”
  • Revamped Liverpool Central Library expects to attract one million visitors in its first year – Liverpool Daily Post.  This is double its pre-closure figures. “The William Brown Street complex will open on May 17, comprising a new building behind the original, Victorian façade, as well as three Grade II*-listed reading rooms and a former lecture theatre.” … “The four-storey new building also features a rooftop terrace with views across the city; public access iPads and an increased number of computers; a gaming pod, in which young people can listen to music and play Xbox games; a conservation studio for repairs to the city’s treasures; as well as improved escalators, lifts, toilets and meeting rooms.”  Three minute video shows grandeur of new building.  Article is at top of Liverpool Daily Post webpage.

“Joyce Little, Liverpool City Council’s head of libraries, said: “We want it to be a visitor destination in its own right and take advantage of tourism.”

  • Taipei City plans to expand library service on buses – Taipei Times (Taiwan). “The program provides books on 62 city buses on routes 1, 32 and 205, and allows passengers to borrow books for free, without the need to apply for a library card. People can return the books on the bus or at any of the city’s public library branches.” … “The city government also plans to place public bookshelves in MRT stations, on MRT trains or at venues around public transportation sites, and to allow passengers to borrow books at various locations besides the traditional libraries, he said.” … library “attributed the success of the service to the people who donated books”


Local News

  • Barnet – Community Barnet “will not run” Friern Barnet Library following squatters’ eviction – Times series. “Libraries portfolio holder Councillor Robert Rams had said the voluntary sector support group would be handed a licence to run the building until official bids were made. But the charity’s interim CEO Denise Murphy told the Times Series that no such agreements were made. She said: “We were somewhat surprised. We had been asked if we would support the groups that want to run the library services in Barnet and we said yes. “We didn’t talk about a licence at all. We’re an infrastructure group, we don’t run services.”
  • Croydon – Council’s “secret” consultation over plans to erase our history – Inside Croydon. “When Croydon joined forces with Wandsworth to seek tenders to run the boroughs’ public library services, Conservative-run Wandsworth was savvy enough to include the management of the archives in its requirement. Croydon didn’t bother.”
  • Dorset – Dorchester: volunteers are facing an uphill struggle – View Online. ““Not only have we amateur part-timers got to convince the people who come to borrow books or to seek information that we’re as on the ball as the professionals we are replacing,” says retired Anglican priest Roy Bennett, who has already been on duty with his wife Diana.“On top of that job we have the massive task of balancing the books. “It’s not just a matter of turning up and helping people to choose their books.“We are confident we can make a success of the cultural side of the business. But today the Friends of Puddletown Library will have become the owners of this business  and with ownership comes the job of making sure we can pay the rent, keep the place warm and dry with the lights on.”
  • Edinburgh – Leith Library Public library blog that has been read by 3,500 people run by a reader in residence / Scottish Book Trust.  Most popular blog post in 2012 was “Pooch of the Month” which features a very beautiful dog in antlers.
  • Flintshire – Residents urged to have say on library and information services – Flintshire Chronicle. ““This consultation is taking place to determine the strategy for Flintshire’s libraries for the next three years. I would encourage everyone to use this opportunity to have their say.”

Gateshead – E-day3D printers, Raspberry Pi’s and loads of other tech on show.  Run in conjunction with Makerspace, based in Newcastle. Visitors impressed by the tech and impressed by the Library for putting it on.  “Libraries used to be about books but they need to move with the technology” says one guest.  Gateshead are also organising a Gaming Workshop and are planning E-day 2 for September.

  • Kent – Library to host help and advice days – This is Kent. “There are plans to launch a new council customer services and Citizens Advice Bureau in Borough Green Library this year. Talks are under way between Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council (TMBC) and Kent County Council (KCC) Libraries, for a surgery to run all day on Wednesdays, when the library is normally closed.”
  • Rotherham – Top author is coming to Rotherham – Guardian series. “Internationally renowned author Stephen May will be visiting Rotherham’s Library at the Riverside this month to discuss his latest award-nominated novel. The author will be making his first trip to Rotherham’s new library space on 17th January at 6.30pm to talk about his new book Life! Death! Prizes! which has recently been shortlisted for the prestigious Costa Book Award. Tickets for the event are available from the library priced at £2 for library members or £2.50 for non-members, which includes a cup of tea or coffee”
  • Scottish Borders – Libraries temporary closure – Southern Reporter. “This is part of a wider project to integrate libraries and contact centre facilities in six towns, as agreed by Scottish Borders Council in December 2011.”
  • Sefton – Councillor urges Crosby library users to have their say on Carnegie closure – Crosby Herald. “With only days of the consultation process left, campaigners urged people to make their views clear to the council, which is looking to close libraries to plug a £43.7m budget black hole.” … “As well as the Carnegie, libraries in Aintree, Southport, Orrell and Litherland would also close, should the plans be given the green light.”
  • Stockton – Residents consulted over library services in Stockton – Darlington and Stockton Times. “We know that the Borough’s Library Service is well-liked and well-used – with more than a million visitors last year but the first consultation showed us some libraries are more well used and more efficient than others”