The Westminster Libraries staff letter has resulted in a swift response from the chief and a fair bit of approving comment from campaigners (and, possibly necessarily muted) from existing library staff.

Pole dancing at a Midlothian library, presumably because of its salaciousness, has made a big splash in the national media today.  The “pole dancing” is in fact a fitness session to be held on National Libraries Day.  Campaigners are less concerned about the pole dancing and more worried about the table-tennis-with-books-not-bats that are also being planned.  To me, it sounds great and shows how thinking differently can really capture the media’s interest.  The three articles (Telegraph, Guardian and Independent) are linked below.

In other news, there has been some criticism of the new Suffolk IPS by a councillor who questions the new reality where councillors are not involved in library decisions. There is also a story about charging for computers. Darlington Council raises £6500 per year for charging for internet use after the first half hour. However, the amount is dropping from a peak of £8000 a few years ago and such a policy goes against that seen in one or two other councils which are getting rid of charging for the internet in the first hour due to the Government’s Digital by Default policy potentially discriminating against those without internet access.

Westminster staff letter

I gave prominent space to the letter from Westminster libraries staff about cuts a couple of days ago so I will give equal space to the response from the Westminster libraries chief:

The claim that Westminster City Council is planning the wholesale decimation of its library service is straight off our fiction shelves.  I can state now that there will be no library closures and no cuts to opening hours and no reason to think that the excellent range of services described will be reduced.

Like all local authorities the Council is faced with tough financial challenges, and that includes the library service. But our innovative partnership with Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham has allowed us to make significant savings and so protect front line library services. We are also about to invest £12 million in a new library for Marylebone.

The Council knows how much local people value libraries and is committed to a first class service.

David Ruse

Tri-borough Director of Libraries and Archives, London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster City Council

Westminster – Library staff claims are swiftly refuted – via Library Campaign.

  • In praise of Westminster libraries staffThird Sector. “As I’ve watched the campaign against library cuts grow, I’ve been inspired by the passion of those involved. Community sit-ins in Barnet, high profile celebrity engagement online and varied use of social media. But yesterday, on a public libraries forum, a member of Westminster Libraries staff shared this open letter, written and published by colleagues addressed to their local councillors. It is thought provoking and powerful and I hope staff working for charities in a similar position might be inspired by what they say.”
  • Westminster library staff tackle bosses on cuts – BookSeller. “Their letter comes in the same week as the leader of another London borough, Islington, said that its library service could be lost altogether.”

Pole Dancing

  • Library under fire after offering free pole-dancing lessons to encourage users – Telegraph.  “While guests swing on poles, local singers will perform and there will be sessions on novel writing. Books will be used as bats in games of “booky table tennis” sessions held through-out the day. Council bosses at Midlothian Council in Scotland hailed the unusual event as the first as its kind, calling it a “fun and interesting” way of encouraging people to use libraries in the area.”

“while pole-dancing was a novel approach to whipping up interest in local services, using books as table tennis bats was “just a step too far”. “We all agree in particular that the more that people use our libraries the better but I think using books as tennis bats is just a step too far,” she said.” Laura Swaffield, Library Campaign, quoted in Telegraph.

  • Library turns to pole dancing to entice new readers – Guardian. “Midlothian council believes it is the first local authority in Scotland to hold such an event … Bob Constable, Midlothian council’s cabinet member for public services and leisure, said: “Love Your Library Day is a marvellous opportunity for us all to celebrate the hugely important role libraries play in the heart of our local community.”
  • Plans to encourage people to visit library by offering pole fitness session among books – Scotsman. “stuffy image is about to be shattered”.  Pole dance instructor “Nikki, an office manager for building refurbishment company Capital Scotland Ltd in Edinburgh, said: “The library is a fantastic place – there’s not many places now where kids can go that is free and get books and use the computer. Anything we can do to support that can only be a good thing.””


  • Bin itIndependent / Letters. “As a person living in a rural area that has now had its mobile library and regular (infrequent) bus service axed, I would be horrified to learn that my local council was using limited resources to restore weekly bin collections, as suggested by Eric Pickles.”
  • Continuing relevance of the library as a third place for users and non-users of IT: the case of Canada Bay – Australian Library Journal. “Libraries hold a strong position within their local communities especially amongst their regular patrons. They are physical places to visit, providing interaction with others in the community and resources for learning or creating, this tangibility gives them an advantage over purely online environments … The challenge for libraries is to effectively merge and leverage the position of people, place and technology interactions to provide meaning for community, relevance for technology and meaning in peoples’ lives. They are safe and trusted environments for a wide range of community members … By providing local places, local information and local community they have the potential to be catalysts for local knowledge and technology growth within a digital society. The medium for knowledge collection has evolved, but the role of libraries as repositories of community knowledge (Church 2009) is still as relevant as 6000 years ago.”
  • Modern book club (meets in a bar) – Letters to a Young Librarian.  How to start a reading group in a pub.
  • Take the Library to the people – The “M” Word. Public libraries in an: airport, train station, subway, market, on a beach, a bus, by camel, by donkey, by bicycle.
  • Tim Coates offers o national ebook catalog: he calls for a “disruptive review of public library supply chainsTim Coates (press release). In a summary of a speech meant to be delivered at ALA midwinter, Tim says:
  1. “I predict that ‘agency’ contracts will cease to work – largely because Amazon won’t accept them, and that will make the profitability problems harder, not easier.”
  2. “Most books will not be electronic for a long time – and libraries have a habit of looking too far into the future – which can neglect their patrons of the present”
  3. offer the Bilbary platform -free to use- to all public libraries.
  4. supply chains to public libraries are far too costly and are outdated.
  5. The most important policy issue is to keep restating to values of public libraries to each generation.
  • Top four things library supporters can do to make a difference – Library Journal (USA). “if you work in a library, sell to a library, support a library, or have ever walked into a library, your life has been impacted by policymakers who often have no idea who you are or what you do for the community. Perhaps more important, they will continue to have no idea unless you tell them.”
  • What should a library look like in 2013? Open – Guardian / Culture Professionals Network. Summary of the panel’s responses from the very useful live chat covered here. “Just a note to say this live chat was one of the Culture Network’s most read + commented-on since we launched live chats a year ago.”


Local News

“Leader of Bromley Council Councillor Stephen Carr said at the time of the merger: “Shared services give us the opportunity to make necessary savings during this unprecedented time of financial constraints, while continuing to provide efficient services to residents. “We are utilising skills and knowledge from services in Bromley and Bexley to benefit both authorities.””

“We need to take action to send a clear message that people are outraged at the idea that public libraries will be closing. People see libraries as part of their culture, it’s a way for people to get involved in their community and it’s often lower income families that need them most. The occupation will hopefully generate publicity. It’s quite surprising how many people aren’t aware of these planned closures.”

  • Axe council jobs to save Newcastle’s libraries, leaders told – Chronicle, “Liberal Democrat opposition councillors have urged Labour leaders to slash spending on elections, councillor allowances and political jobs in order to save frontline services.” … “the former council leader David Faulkner has said the time has come to reduce the number of councillors to save money. A cut of 18 councillors would save £170,000 annually in councillors’ allowances – meaning savings elsewhere, such as preventing some branch library closures.”
  • Newport – Maindee and Stow Libraries – Newport Council. “Newport City Council is facing challenging financial constraints and has to consider future provision of all its services. As part of the necessary budget savings, it has reluctantly been proposed to close two of the city’s 12 libraries. Maindee and Stow Hill libraries have been selected because of their close proximity to other sites, particularly Central Library in the city centre which has the widest offer of library and information services in Newport.”
  • Sefton – Chance to have say in Southport library debate is over as consultation closes – Southport Visiter. “Any decision over closures will not be made until Sefton council’s crucial budget meeting on February 28, though news of the consultation is likely to be revealed before then. Larkfield Primary is the latest school to speak out in defence of our libraries as they added their voice to the calls to protect Churchtown’s this week.” … “As well as amassing more than 3,000 signatures against the proposed closure of the library, Birkdale Library Action Group submitted an alternative cost-saving plan”
  • Suffolk – Woodbridge Library needs Friends – Caroline’s Woodbridge Page.  “Because Woodbridge Library is  run by the IPS , decision-making occurs without any local involvement . A notable example is the matter of the moving in of Suffolk Coastal District services to the Woodbridge Library premises without consultation or consideration of local wishes or requirements.  All moneys earned by the Library go back to the IPS, rather than being spent at the discretion of  us locals.  In the case of the Tourist Information point, neither Woodbridge Library or the residents of Woodbridge were even consulted as to the amount of rent SCDC should be paying(!).  Indeed the whole issue appears to have been discussed between officers without any input from or reference to elected local councillors or the Library itself.” … “A Friends group would help Woodbridge to ensure it gets best value from and for its Library space”
  • Glemsford library chosen as first for management group – Suffolk Free Press. “The Friends of Glemsford Library group has been celebrating after it was chosen as the first in the county to join the Suffolk Libraries IPS management group.Harriet North, chairman of Friends of Glemsford Library, said: “This was quite an accolade for our village library and community group. We have been supported throughout by the IPS and parish council to achieve our membership.”The group will now begin fundraising for the library, with a winter workshop – where children can make snowman-themed crafts, to be held on Sunday between 11.30am and 1.30pm.”
  • Surrey – Children’s library loans rocket – Surrey News / Council. “Children are flocking to Surrey County Council’s libraries with loans to youngsters up by 60,000 last year. The increase saw children’s borrowing figures rise to 1,844,361 issues in 2011/12, compared with 1,781,456 the previous year – an increase of 4 per cent. The boost follows an investment in more than 44,000 new titles for children and teenagers and the introduction of technology such as e-books and a library app.” … “More young visitors are expected to walk through the doors next month to take part in Big Storytime, an event arranged as part of National Libraries Day 2013 (February 9).”