The Community Libraries report has stirred up a lot of interest, with a historically high number of people accessing Public Libraries News for yesterday’s post. What is perhaps significant, though, is the dog that isn’t barking – so far there is no national media interest or a response from CILIP.  We’ll see if this changes.

A Doncaster resident has won the permission to appeal the decision by the Mayor to cut library services.  This one sticks in the mind as the majority of councillors voted against the cuts but the Mayor over-ruled them and cut them anyway.  The court decision, when it occurs, will thus – as well as hopefully winning funding back for libraries – decide on the power of mayors compared to the full council.

There have been a lot of changes in councils today with Anglesey, Denbighshire, Kent, Leicester, Newport, Southampton and Tower Hamlets all having amendments on the list. While the changes make clear that Wales is not exempt from cuts, the clear difference is that the Welsh Government – in the form of Cymal – has issued what amounts as a warning to Anglesey.  Such a direct action would simply never happen in 2013 England.

Responses to the Community Libraries report

Sue Charteris (a contributor to the report and also, of course, the person behind the Charteris Report on the Wirral of 2009) exchanged a tweet or two with me and suggested that I needed to mention it’s findings on Public Lending Right.  This has caused some worries in the past but the report is unequivocal on the matter:

“Any books which are loaned to members of the public by a library authority are covered by the Public Lending Right (PLR), a national scheme run by the Public Lending Right Registrar to financially compensate authors for the lending of their books in this way. This includes books which are being lent by community libraries but only if that library forms part of the statutory library service. Libraries not included in the local authorities statutory service are not eligible for inclusion in the PLR scheme”

So, it is the view of the report that any volunteer-run library which the Council sees as statutory are included in PLR.  The 5% of those which are not statutory are, however, not.  Click here for further DCMS guidance on the matter.

Other reactions to the report include this by the minister with some responsibility for libraries:

“The library service is changing to fit in with the different ways in which we experience the written word and our changing expectations for public services. So this report provides a very welcome analysis of the different ways in which local communities are playing an active role in their local library services. This research helps show how practical experience and best practice can be shared to the advantage of all.” Ed Vaizey on Community Libraries report

Translated, one suspects this means that the internet and e-books are cutting down on usage and so we don’t need so many paid staff any more.  As for “changing expectations of public services”, this is most likely a nod to co-location and joined-up services.

  • Arts Council report on community libraries – Voices for the Library.  Does not accept that unpaid staff are a viable long-term alternative to paid staff and fears the report will be seen as a green light to authorities to convert more branches to being volunteer-run.  The group worries that volunteer libraries will lead to a multi-tier level of service and that volunteers are staffing libraries largely to protect from closure rather than a belief that the natural home for the buildings is not with the local council.
  • Community libraries could soon make up 13 per cent of total, says report – Third Sector.  Summarises report, points out “the movement remains in its infancy, so the long-term effectiveness of community management is not clear.”
  • Controversy over ACE report on community libraries – BookSeller.  Summarise the report and the reactions of the Library Campaign and Voices for the Library.
  • Power to the people – Question Everything.  Looks at Locality, the organisation behind the report – “the staff listing on their site has 46 members of staff and only one volunteer” and suspects strong links with Conservatives.  Councils not cutting properly: “In effect they keep the bloated expensive back office, sack the low paid front line staff and the people provide the service to themselves. Specifically on libraries I am not aware of any community or local group that would prefer to run the service themselves.”

“Any senior librarians involved in this report and the push for volunteers to replace low paid library assistants and managers have miscalculated, it might just be volunteers in the community libraries today, give it time the localism agenda will be used to make us do your job too.”


  • Award winning library services: unafraid of the future Information Today.  “The transformation of the media market and the emergence of e-books have sent ripples around library and information services across the globe.  It is urgent, and crucial for our future, that we find answers to these emerging challenges. With this in mind Edinburgh’s Library and Information Service is delivering ‘Next Generation Library and Information Services’, a new model for libraries across the city, based on a strategic approach which borrows from the retail sector.”
  • Checking out – BookSeller / Desmond Clarke. Solution to funding shortage should be a reduction in the number of library authorities. “There is now real evidence that the merging of library authorities can deliver significant savings without affecting frontline services. The triborough service for Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, and Hammersmith and Fulham has already delivered £1.2m in annual savings. Reducing the number of authorities in England by a third would deliver annual savings of at least £50m. But the most obvious area to seek savings is from the corporate service charges imposed on library authorities by councils, which can equate to about 15% of a library authority’s income.”.  Leadership needed.

“… he makes no proposal as to how these new super authorities would be structured or run, or accountable to the local communities which they are supposed to serve. In London, there is the possibility of simply transferring powers and responsibilities under the 1964 Act to the Greater London Authority, but that option doesn’t exist elsewhere.In present circumstances a reduction in the number of Library Authorities, anywhere apart from London, is likely to result in a techno-bureaucratic fudge which will remove the last vestiges of democratic control and simply pave the way for privitisation of the service.” Martyn Everett on lis-pub-libs on Desmond’s article.


“I am suggesting that there should be a move to reduce the 151 authorities in England, possibly by a third, and closer to the number that existed before the last local government reorganisation. I am also arguing that we need to question the level of corporate service charges which have escalated by 70% as a proportion of total service revenue in a decade. I think we should be seeking to learn from the Tri-borough experience and from that of the recently merged service in Northern Ireland. Other authorities are known to be considering similar moves.

Whatever our personal views, we have to face the fact that local government is facing cuts of about 30% in funding and some chief officers are saying that worse is to come in 2015 and beyond. If we are to retain a viable and professionally supported public library service in England, we must be willing to consider all the options including merging authorities, sharing services across boundaries, standardising processes and optimising the use of technology (I understand that the SCL is now talking to BIC about encouraging authorities to meet national standards for RFID and e business). We must also question the high level of corporate charges.

I do not accept that merging authorities will be a “techno-bureaucratic fudge” or will it remove democratic control if proper governance is put in place. What we need is imaginative and skilled leadership who have the determination to deliver a comprehensive and efficient service that meets the diverse needs of their communities. Rather than rejecting proposals, we should look to how they could be made to work. And we  need the DCMS, ACE and the SCL to engage.” Desmond Clarke in response to Martyn’s response to him.

  • Circumstance and opportunity collide to make libraries relevant again – Upstart (USA).  “There are a number of examples of libraries who are catering to small businesses, writes Bradley Collins for the American Libraries Magazine. The Free Library of Philadelphia provided almost $4 million of direct support to local businesses in 2010; a Carson City, Nevada library set up a Business Resource Information Center; and the Kansas City Public Library has an entire section on its website solely devoted to entrepreneurship.”
  • Hundreds of lost William Blake etchings discovered at a Manchester library – Independent. “After two years work the students, overseen by Blake expert and Manchester university art historian Colin Trodd, found about 350 engraved plates designed by Blake in the collection.”
  • Much loved library back in business – Star (New Zealand). “The historic Woolston Community Library, knocked out by the earthquakes, has a new home. It reopens today in a room at the scout den on the corner of St Johns St and Glenroy St. “It’s only a small room but we feel we should open and get going, and people in the Woolston area say they do miss us,” said a library volunteer, June Tomlin.”
  • Patrons decide purchases in modern libraries – U-News (USA). “The last ebook you checked out of the library might have been purchased just for you. Giving patrons the power to choose the books the library buys is one of the ways libraries in Nova Scotia and beyond are saving money and moving into the future. It’s called “patron-driven acquisition” and it’s starting to turn the old system on its head.” … “the ebook market created an alternative to the old system – sometimes called the “just-in-case” model – to a new patron-driven system some refer to as the “just-in-time” model.”
  • Pew Internet releases new report on library services (plus commentary) – Library Journal (USA). “Unsurprisingly, the largest numbers of Americans looked to libraries for well-established services: About 80 percent of respondents say that borrowing books, reference requests, free access to computers and the internet, close coordination with local schools, and free literacy programs for young children are all very important. But when it comes to newer and less familiar core services, these solid majorities disappear: interest in everything from “ask a librarian” services to apps to technology petting zoos to internal navigation apps to lending kiosks to Amazon-style recommendation engines all hover at about the same level of support, with about a third of respondents strongly interested, and another third somewhat so.”  See Library services in the digital age – Pew Internet.
  • Voices for the Library: communicating impact – Information Today / Iain Clark.  Commonly held view that one does not need qualifications to effectively do library work.  Much of what librarians do is intangible or, to policy-makers, irrelevant. Profession has failed to persuade others of its value.  Voices will start new project called @voiceslibrary which “intends to shed a spotlight on what happens in libraries across a range of sectors.  Every day in the lead up to National Libraries Day, we will be handing the keys of the account over to a librarian or para-professional to share what it is they do on a daily basis.”
  • What role do university librarians play in access to research? – Guardian / Higher Education Network.  “Librarians have numerous roles to play in the growing digital environment, with the move towards open access prompting a profound change in the way university libraries manage their scholarly communications – not least in how they use online repositories for publishing and opening up access to research.” … “What, in your view, are the responsibilities of the university library and librarian when it comes to university research access? How can librarians continue to add value through research repositories? And what support and collaboration do they need from their own institutions and the wider higher education sector? Join our panel of experts to discuss these and related questions on Friday 25 January 12-2pm GMT.”


Local News

  • Anglesey – Libraries face “spiral of decline” warn Welsh Government body – Daily Post. “Cuts by the cash-strapped island authority could see 20% slashed from the £1m library service budget – reducing book funds, staff and threatening the future of some libraries. Now the Welsh Government’s library advice body CyMAL has warned the council of the consequences of further reductions to an already over-stretched service. They said cuts could result in a ‘spiral of decline’ that would entail costly recovery plans or other radical scenarios.”
  • Brent – Wembley mothers back Barham Park Library campaigners – Brent and Kilburn Times.  “A bid by library crusaders in Wembley to return to their former library in Barham Park is being backed by a group of local mothers and their children. The mothers are often turned way by Children Centres in both Chaplin Road and Barham Park Wembley because they are full. With nowhere else to turn, they went to campaign group Friends of Barham Library who have been providing them with free space for their activities.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Come and celebrate at Neston Library on National Libraries Day – About My Area.  “Tell us why you love your library or let us persuade you why you should. There will be a special story and craft session for children at 11am and 2 for 1 rental on DVDs. Join us for coffee and cakes or take advantage of our special offer to place up to 5 FREE Reservations on the day! Now’s the time to put your name down for the new bestseller. Find out what events we have planned for the year, peruse our recently enhanced local history section or sign up to our fabulous new free e-audiobook service. Come along and join us- it’s friendly, fun and free!”
  • Cornwall – Council’s privatisation compromise – Guardian.  “The plans would have moved 778 council jobs into the private sector, from libraries, local offices, benefit processing, procurement, ICT, document management, telehealth and telecare, as well as 154 similar jobs from the county’s three NHS trusts.”
  • Doncaster – Legal challenge to Doncaster Mayor’s decision to reduce library funding wins permission to appeal – Public Interest Lawyers press release. “In a hearing in London today, the Court of Appeal granted Doncaster resident Carol Buck the right to appeal a High Court judgment of August 2012 in a case seeking to prevent the Mayor of Doncaster from going ahead with swingeing cuts to library services in the area. The decision means that a full appeal hearing will now take place in the Court of Appeal before June this year.”  Points to consider include: (A) The powers of a democratically elected Council to propose reasonable binding amendments to the Council’s annual financial strategy and (B) Whether the budget constitutes a Council ‘strategy’ which the Mayor is required to follow.

“I am very pleased that we have been given permission to appeal by the Court of Appeal. I am only sad that the Mayor has ignored local protests and failed to resource the libraries in the way the Council intended.” Carol Buck

  • Kent – County Council consultation on Sandgate Library – Shepway Liberal Democrats.  “Kent County Council are consulting on a proposal to transfer the management and running of Sandgate Library to Sandgate parish Council from this summer. Sandgate Parish Council have been working with Kent County Council on the proposals, which would give the Parish Council more flexibility on the services that can be offered from the Library, and allow for a greater use of volunteers to support Library users.”
  • Leicester – Council’s library service for elderly set to be axed – This is Leicestershire.  “A minibus service which ferries older people from their homes to libraries is set to end later this year. Leicester City Council said it could no longer afford to run the £62,000-a-year service.” … “the alternative being developed was to recruit more volunteers to deliver books to older people in their homes.”

“The authority had intended to scrap the service last April, when it had 274 users, but put off the move for a year to try to find a voluntary or community group to run it. However, officials said their efforts have been unsuccessful and the bus would cease its daily routes at the end of March.”

  • Liverpool – Central Library’s £50m refurbishmentBBC. Library has “started the painstaking task of moving rare books and documents into its new home after a £50m refurbishment. Archivists will spend the next three months c transporting four million books, prints and paintings”
  • Newport – Petition launched to stop Newport library closures – South Wales Argus.  “Petition supporter, father of one and Maindee library user Ben Loughton, 30, said cuts were hitting the “average citizen in the teeth”, and expressed concerns about any closure’s effect on children’s education.”
  • Somerset – Council announce budget plans – Heart. “Some of the ideas being considered are A freeze on council tax for a fourth year in a row, a major £4.8 million extra investment in caring for vulnerable people, extra funding for roads, and more books for Somerset’s libraries.”
  • Southampton – City Council to plough £100,000 in to library services after huge cuts – Southern Daily Echo.  “Many libraries across the city had been threatened with a reduction in services under draconian cuts but Clllr Simon Letts said that for most of them that would not be the case after an extra £100,000 was promised. Under the initial plans, proposed cutting opening times in some branches by more than 50 per cent – losing 120 hours and a total of 18 jobs as a result. With a books budget slashed by £50,000 and some mobile library services stopped, the swinging cuts would free up £303,000 for the council. But now it looks like a third of that will be going back in – the exact details will be confirmed at a meeting or Labour bosses tonight.”  See also Ray of hope for librariesBitterne Park.Info.  Funding due to one-off Whitehall funding.
  • Tower Hamlets – Mayor: the day I have make cuts, it’ll break me – Guardian.  “The council has just outlined its three-year financial plan. Rahman has pledged not to close libraries, children’s centres or leisure centres and will keep home care free for people with “critical” and “substantial” needs”