I’ve been in touch with the Cabinet Office regarding their support for the move to mutual status for York Libraries.  It was reported yesterday the Government was offering a share of £10 million to assist authorities in making such a transfer, with £100k being given to the northern city.  I was wondering if other authorities had been in touch and if they were aware that Suffolk had already got a similar model up and running (York was described as the “first”).  This is the response:

“Suffolk doesn’t have a mutual model. Although there are similarities between the two, York will have a high degree of employee control, which is the key difference. We are in contact with a number of local authorities that are considering this model.”

The fact that the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, Frances Maude, went to York (picture below) to publicise the money shows hows serious the Government is in this.  That the National Audit Office thinks that councils are having difficulty coping with the cuts and that libraries are in the forefront of suffering from them is probably a key reason why York is serious too.


Minister for Cabinet Office, Frances Maude (left) with Fiona Williams (York Libraries chief) and James Alexander (Council leader) at a cafe, probably Rowntree Park Reading Cafe photo courtesy of Cabinet Office.

Opposition councillors, including both coalition parties, are less sure, with both expressing reservations.  However, the force behind this suggests that this comment I saw on Twitter may prove to be accurate, for good or ill:


In other news, Thursday 31st January sees a major press conference presented by the SCL (Society of Chief Librarians), Arts Council England, the British Library and the Government announcing national initiatives.  If I get home from work early enough tomorrow (I may not – I’m working in branch until 7pm), I hope to get a report out in time for Friday.


  • Amazon “to put advertising” on Kindles – BookSeller. “personalised advertisements will appear on its websites and Kindle devices along with other linked websites as the company steps up competition with rivals such as Google, Facebook and AOL. The adverts will be based on data collected from the details of 188m of its customers’ shopping habits, which may spark a backlash against possible privacy breaches, the newspaper said.”
  • Council budgets: watchdog warns of front-line cuts – BBC. National Audit Office says “”Many have rationed services, such as adult social care and libraries,” she said. “I am alarmed to hear that 12% are now at risk of being unable to balance their books in the future, according to local auditors, with potentially disastrous consequences.””
  • In renderings for a library landmark, stacks of questions – New York Times (USA). “, rooms now unused in the 42nd Street building would be thrown open to writers and children. And so the research library would be joined under one roof with a circulating one. The motivation is money, and there’s no denying that the library needs it.”

“The public thirst for neighborhood branches has become unquenchable. Financial honchos who cough up big bucks to carve their names on 42nd Street for the sake of posterity might recall that Andrew Carnegie made himself immortal by supporting — and building — the small local branches that now more than ever are anchors of their neighborhoods all across the city. They’re the ones that really need the money.”

  • It’s the small things that count – Library Lover (New Zealand). “One of our staff members saw that the line for the APNK internet computers was getting rather crowded with a lot of school children. She ( sneakily) took them over to our comfy sitting area and got them started with a game of Guess Who. Problem solved! She could have growled or given them the ‘librarian glare’ but instead they became happily engaged in a board game. “
  • Libraries, e-lending and the future of public access to digital content – IFLA / Civic Agenda.  Looks at main points about e-lending in a “thinkpiece”.


Local news

  • Barnsley – Library to celebrate making of hit movie – Star. “Now, to mark the opening of a new library in Hoyland, where many of the scenes were filmed, library staff are hoping to track down people involved. Jill Craven of Barnsley Libraries, said the original idea had been a ‘mass giveaway’ of the novel, but the response to a revival of interest in the book and film had been huge and led to Made in Hoyland, a series of events which will celebrate the area’s role in bringing the story to life. She said: “We wanted to celebrate the opening of the library, because it used to be in a portable building and now has a purpose-built space.”
  • Cambridgeshire – Library visitor totals drop after budget cuts – Cambridge News. “An investigation by the News has found that fewer people are using libraries as savage cuts bring hard times to the institutions. Even the state-of-the-art Cambridge Central Library in the Grand Arcade has seen visitor numbers fall by 20,000 in a year from 873,175 in 2010/11 to 853,000 in 2011/12. And from April to September last year just 378,000 people passed through its doors. The cash put into the library by Cambridgeshire County Council has fallen from £819,000 in 2010/11 to a projected sum of £759,000 in 2012/13.”

“Arbury Court library has seen numbers of visitors fall dramatically from 42,000 to 30,000 and its money has been halved from £52,000 to £22,000 for this financial year.”

“I hope that I did not give the impression that the creation of community libraries had a negative impact on the remaining council run libraries in a borough. I do not have any evidence for such a conclusion …  The timing of the fast reduction in the performance of Camden’s large libraries actually suggests that the cause was not directly associated with the subsequent creation of the new libraries or government funding cuts. Rather, it was indicative of a sharp change in the council’s attitude towards public libraries in general. It did not want to be bothered any more with something that it considered to be of little value. When the council puts up the “not welcome” sign, the public tends to make a rude gesture and moves on.

Whilst the headline Camden story is the poor performnce of its large libraries, a more hopeful aspect of the development is the fairly resilient performance of the small libraries. These have been under attack for over a decade and have learnt to live in a situation of continuously diminishing resources. The starvation diet of the small libraries allowed the well-resourced large libraries to draw in users who would normally prefer to use their local library. Once the excessive pampering stopped, these more mobile users went elsewhere or simply stopped using libraries completely.” Camden – Response to Mea Culpa post in Public Libraies News from Alan Templeton, C-PLUG (via email).

  • East Lothian – Focus on libraries in East Lothian – East Lothian News.  For National Libraries Day: “The major focus for the celebrations will be at the new library in the George Johnstone Centre, Tranent. Visitors can choose their books to the sound of music provided by pupils from Ross High on the Friday morning. On Saturday there will be Bookbug session with a guest appearance by Bookbug itself. Local community groups will also be on hand to talk about their work and there will be information about how to get involved in  book groups and refreshments will be served.”
  • Leicestershire – New library and museum designs – Lutterworth Mail. “At present, the building is being redeveloped into a learning and heritage hub which will house the refurbished library, museum, and Harborough District Council offices, as well as shops and businesses. The project is being funded through a loan from the Market Harborough and the Bowden’s Charity, as well as financial support from Harborough District Council and Leicestershire County Council.”
  • Newcastle – Culture clash as threat of 100% cut in arts funding divides Newcastle – Guardian.  “Jarvis’s [Dan Jarvis MP, shadow minister for libraries] stance has infuriated many: Hall wrote to him afterwards: “If as the shadow culture minister you cannot robustly and publicly defend the right of working-class and disadvantaged people to have access to libraries and culture I do not understand what you are doing holding that brief.””

“Librarian Becky Gardner told me: “A lot of our readers can’t afford the bus fare to the city library.” Her colleague, Kay Connelly, said: “People spend all day here – we’ve got the heating on, and we make people tea and coffee. It’s somewhere people can belong, and you can feel safe.” She added: “You’ll lose the younger generation, too: and then they’ll wonder why literacy rates are going down. Once we’re taken away, we won’t reopen. Once we’re gone, we’re gone.””

  • Scottish Borders – New chapter opens in library provision – Southern Reporter. “Integrated library and council contact centres have opened in Coldstream and Duns – the first in a major project being carried out by Scottish Borders Council.”
  • Tower Hamlets – Public invited to sneak peek of new Watney Market Idea Store – Advertiser. “Due to open formally in May, the branch of Tower Hamlets Council’s library and learning service in Commercial Road will replace the existing library in Watney Market.” … “Council chiefs hope the branch will replicate the successes of the Idea Store in Whitechapel Road, which they say attracts 700,000 visitors per year. Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman said: “Libraries play an important role in the community, bringing people together by providing a range of excellent services including advice, training, classes and workshops all under one roof.”.
  • Wirral – National honour for Wirral’s children librarian Wirral Globe. “Sue Roe, Wirral Council’s children’s services librarian, has been awarded a Certificate of Honorary Life Membership by the Youth Libraries group of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).”.  Councillor in charge of libraries said “”Sue has worked tirelessly with children and young people in our libraries, helping to inspire a love of reading and stories in them and organising many events, including bringing famous writers like Julia Donaldson to Wirral.”
  • York – Leaders in library pledge – Press. £250k saving per year looked for by change to mutual.  Unison “opposes social enterprises running public services, although the council has promised full staff involvement.”.  Councillor in charge of libraries says ““As the service is currently structured, it is not viable long-term so we have to look at alternative forms of delivery.”.  “Head of library services Fiona Williams said professional librarians and archivists would lead the service, but “innovation and change” was needed.”  Opposition not happy – Conservatives say “step too far”, LibDems say ““Labour need to actually ask residents who they want to run the service and explore all options before taking this step”.