CILIP have come out against the ACE report on volunteer-run branches saying that volunteers cannot run a comparable service and that the document “wrongly implies” that they can without producing the necessary evidence. While forcing people to volunteer in libraries or lose their benefits is not covered in the report, it has been alleged that this is what is happening in Lewisham where the libraries taken over by Eco Computers are taking part in the workfare scheme.  Suffolk is covered in the report but the limitations in how it can maintain services may be shown in the news that is has stopped three out of six mobile libraries, on the grounds that this  was the Council’s decision and they are just the “providers”.   Brighton and Hove is also not mentioned, with one of the reasons being that it failed to find volunteers to run its mobile library and so – after a long battle and a 1500 name petition – is closing it.

Definitely not mentioned is that this lost library would have had the money for more than two more years if it was given what the same Arts Council England is gifting its outgoing Executive Director.  In an eye-brow raising move, she is being paid as if she is going on sabbatical when in reality she is going straight into a highly paid job. Why this interesting use of public funds is noteworthy is that it indirectly hurts an institution whose importance is beautifully summed up today by Matt Haig in his article for National Libraries Day where he says “”I see a library as a place of quiet wonder, in a world designed to frazzle us. For me, a library is a book in building form”.  Less poetic but more to the point is Desmond Clarke who describes them to me in an email as  “arrogant, out of touch and very stupid”.  The Library Campaign are similarly unimpressed:

“Before Christmas Arts Council England announced that it will not have a single staff member working full time on libraries. This week ACE publishes a report – hailing public libraries run by volunteers as the way forward – universally shot down in flames by angry librarians AND library users… Now it emerges that it can apparently spare £200k for a staff member who isn’t there… A bit odd, isn’t it?” The Library Campaign


  • Bilbary’s Tim Coates’ panel notes call for ebook lending reform – Good E Reader.  “In a very bold move, Coates essentially offered the Bilbary platform free to all public libraries in the US, if the interest and support were there.” … “His most striking comments pertained to the roles that both publishers and libraries are desperately trying to adhere to, without realizing that both of them need to take a look at their respective roles in society and adapt to a changing marketplace for readers.”
  • Chartered Institute warns of dangerous “headlong rush” to create more community managed libraries – CILIP.  ““Without skilled staff a library is a shadow of its former self. It will not properly serve the community as it should. Staff play a vital role supporting people who use the library” said President Phil Bradley.  Report “wrongly implies” that volunteer-run branches can be of similar quality to paid ones. Points out that report “mentions a charter by Volunteering England and the TUC, which states that that volunteers should complement and not displace paid staff” but then encourages exactly the opposite. NFWI Institute report shows negatives that are glossed over in this.  Danger of postcode lottery.  Results of research are not fully shown and need to be made public domain.

“It is galling that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have standards or national assessment frameworks for public libraries, whereas no such thing exists in England anymore,” commented Phil Bradley, “The public has little or no redress about poor service and local authorities have been given a green light to do what they like, often to the detriment of local communities. We really do need to appreciate the public library service as the great national asset it is, helping England become a more literate, knowledgeable, skilled, and prosperous society. Yet the Government has welcomed this report, and also generally commends the fact that there are no national public library standards to provide a benchmark of provision and a threshold of acceptable service.” Phil Bradley

  • Death of the library? – Infoism. Attacks ACE report and is not impressed with term “volunteer libraries”.  Uses research from Masters to describe danger of multiple levels of library provision, especially in terms of online access. “Given the difference between these two libraries, I am deeply troubled about what the future will bring.  Not only is there a risk of a two tier library service (ie professionally run and ‘voluntarily run’ libraries) but there is a very serious risk of a three tier library service.”.  Report means that some communities “will not have libraries anymore, they will have book lending services”

“What the government and ACE are effectively saying is that volunteers can do the job of a professionally trained librarian without having an adverse affect on the delivery of the service.  That we know this is not the case is irrelevant.  It is what the policy-makers believe and we do not have their ear.” Ian Clark

  • Disneyfication of public libraries – Stop the privatisation of public libraries.  Recent changes gives pause for thought that librarianship is now seen as “mickey mouse job”.  Renaming libraries “Idea Stores” etc means people come in and ask “is this a library?”.  Need for income and reducing costs means commercialisation of what should be a neutral welcoming space.

Suspect giving his testimony

A suspect speaks in a library murder mysteryAnne Cleeves provided easy packs for libraries to do a murder mystery, in collaboration with The Reading Agency.

  • Libraries keep us human – Booktrust.  “A library is an increasingly unique space in our modern world. Whether it is in a school, a university, or a town centre it offers an important retreat, an oasis of sorts. And an access to literature and knowledge for people who can’t afford to buy every book they want to read. But a library is not just important because there are books there (though what could be a better reason to visit a place than because it is full of books?) No.  A library is important for what it represents to a community.  It is one of the very few places left – online or offline – where we can go and feel that no-one is trying to sell us something.”

“I see a library as a place of quiet wonder, in a world designed to frazzle us. For me, a library is a book in building form … We need these places just as much as they need us.  Would we choose a world without them?” Matt Haig


Local News

  • Brighton and Hove – Long campaign to save Brighton and Hove mobile library is lost – Argus. “A mobile library is to be scrapped and replaced with a door-to-door service despite a long-running campaigning to save it. Politicians have been debating the future of the Brighton and Hove City Council-owned community facility for more than a year. The Green-administration claims the current vehicle is outdated and has proposed to replace it to make savings as it looks to battle Government cuts.”
  • Croydon – Wake up New Addo – Save Croydon Libraries Campaign.  Lees books at new New Addington library than the old one. “hugely reduced in comparison with stock held even a year ago. Books were boxed up and sold off, leaving row after row of bare or near bare shelving.  In some branches shelving and book stands were even removed to try to mask how depleted the stock had become.”
  • Doncaster – Hope in library closure battle – Star.  “The challenge came after the full council voted for an amendment to fund paid staff in some of the affected libraries to the tune of £400,000 in November 2011 – but Mr Davies resolved to stand by his decision. The mayor said the moves on library funding were prompted by the need for drastic budget cuts, which left little room for manoeuvre.”
  • Harrow – Residents are capital’s third highest book borrowers – Harrow Times. “Results from the most recent Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy survey show that Harrow has the third highest level of book borrowing. In the past year almost 6,000 books were borrowed per 1,000 people.”
  • Lambeth – “Friends” row: leisure supremo under attack – South London Press. Councillor who wanted volunteers to be supporters of their own party criticised. “The Friends of Streatham Library (FoSL) group has written to council leader Cllr Lib Peck to emphasise the non-partisan nature of the groups. The letter stated: “As with most other community groups, there may be individual members connected to particular parties, as well as those with no involvement with any party. “FoSL itself is not aligned to any political party.””
  • Lewisham – Library volunteers on workfare scheme – BookSeller.  “Some volunteers working in a Lewisham Library are there under the “workfare” scheme which will cancel their benefit payments unless they undertake the work.”  These are in branches taken over by Eco Computers.  Owner says “These placement are young people who have no or little experience, and this is not just work experience, it is also training… if they don’t want to be at Eco and gain experience and qualifications then we don’t force them to be with us.”

“So, sack trained staff then get people to do their job for nothing or for benefits paid out by the state. Paid for by the same state that cuts authority spending so that people are told “we can’t afford to pay you to do your job so off you go”. These experienced staff then watch on from the dole queue as their jobs are done by the erm “unemployed”.” Jo

“Scottish Television, BBC Five Live and the Daily Mail all want to come to the event at Mayfield Library. How much would it cost to buy this level of publicity?” Midlothian Philip Wark via lis-pub-libs See also cartoon in The Scotsman

“You have inspired me to talk to our adult ed to see if they can provide a tutor for some pole dancing in York!” Fiona Williams, Head of Libraries and Archives, York

“Playwright Lee Hall has lobbied Ed Miliband for his involvement in the cuts saga, questioning how it fits in with the Labour leader’s national position. Mr Hall told The Journal: “I am very interested to see what his visit brings. “Forbes’s position on libraries is directly contrary to the published Labour statements and Newcastle Council’s position on the arts seems to be totally at odds with every Labour council and the public position of Ed Miliband and Harriet Harman.” Mr Jarvis has given Mr Forbes strong support, saying the position forced on to the council was deeply worrying.”

  • MPs try to find way to mitigate art cuts – Journal. Three local MPs “stepped in to help find “a way through for arts venues and libraries” after warning of lasting damage to Newcastle’s cultural reputation.” … “Shadow culture minister Dan Jarvis will meet with under-threat arts groups after accepting an invitation from Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes.”
  • Stoke on Trent – Hanley library staff call in union after council refuses to pay for snow day – This is Staffordshire.  Staff told they could leave five hours early due to snow but “the employees say they were later informed by Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s HR department that they would not be paid for the hours they missed. Instead they will be forced to take it out of their holiday allowance or flexi-time.”
  • Suffolk – Bury St Edmunds: older residents are affected by loss of mobile library service – EADT.  “Suffolk Libraries Industrial and Provident Society (IPS) took over control of Suffolk’s libraries from Suffolk County Council last August but the service is still funded by the county council. Alison Wheeler, general manager of Suffolk Libraries IPS, said the county council had made the decision in November 2011 adding the fleet had dropped from six vehicles to three.” …  user says “I understand about funding and everything, but I think it’s the social aspect for these people who are very isolated, especially in the winter time when they don’t go out. They cannot afford a lot, but they know once a month there’s somewhere they can go to.”.  Suffolk IPS says Council had decided to cut service.