York has decided to go ahead with looking into handing over the running of its libraries to a “community benefit society”.  The city is the latest of a series to consider such a move, following on from Suffolk and – in the form of Trusts – a large number of councils including, notably, a lot of Scottish ones. The pros and cons of running a library service in this way have been made public by York in this document.  There are other reasons as well and, in a very timely fashion, a consultant in this area looks into it in the Guardian today,  It’s a subject that can raise a lot of fear and suspicion, as the reaction of Unison makes clear.


  • 2012 book sales decline but not at the extent anticipated – Nielsen BookScan. “Sales of physical books in the Nielsen BookScan UK TCM continue to decline in 2012, with value sales down 4.6% year-on-year, and volume sales down 3.4%.  However, this decline is less severe than that seen in 2011, when value sales declined 6.3% and volumes were down 7.2% on the previous year.  Ann Betts, Nielsen Book’s Commercial Director, commented: “in the context of a stagnant economy, challenging retail conditions and the growing adoption of e-books the 2012 figures show an underlying resilience in the market, and a continuing public appetite for the written word.”

“Around 150 people descended on the Central Library on 29 September for our first ever eDay event. We wanted to encourage people to look at libraries in new ways and enable Gateshead residents to experience technology they might not have come across before. We couldn’t have held such an event without the help of Makerspace (www.makerspace.org.uk), a community-owned group of makers, creatives, programmers, scientists and engineers based in Newcastle whose 3Dprinters proved major draw. One visitor said “I’ve read about it and seen things on the television, but to actually see one here in Gateshead was amazing”.” 3D Printers in Gateshead Libraries – Comment left on PLN page 3D Printers and Maker Spaces by Jacqui Thompson of Gateshead Libraries.Guardian.

  • Concern over loss of Arts Council England libraries post – Voices for the Library. “At a time when library services are facing serious cuts it is inappropriate to remove this dedicated libraries post – this is a time to provide libraries with more support and expand the role of A.C.E. to focus on aspects of libraries beyond their arts remit, not reduce it.”
  • Debating whether outsourcing is good or bad is beside the point – Guardian. “focusing on questions of “should we” or “shouldn’t we” risks masking the core reason for the decision in the first place, which is delivering the right services for a local community in the best way.” … “many local authorities we work with are, rightly, looking at a much wider range or combination of delivery options. Some are turning to local SMEs (small and medium enterprises) to help run services, and others are “local sourcing” – commissioning charities or community groups. This year, Dorset county council hands over the running of eight libraries to local residents. Other authorities are partnering with like-minded councils elsewhere in the UK.”

“The only certain thing for local authorities is that the future will bring more challenges and more cuts. I believe there is room for new models that combine the advantages of outsourcing, such as access to skills and economies of scale, with the advantages of in-house delivery, such as the flexibility to change priorities and local employment opportunities.”

  • Giving up on Amazon books – Find My Library. “There’s a certain view that both bookshops and libraries are in danger now that more and more people are buying books from places like Amazon (and sometimes just downloading them to their Kindles and other e-book readers). The e-book problem can’t really be helped, some people will like them but plenty of others (like myself) won’t be able to get on with them at all.” … “But on the other problem, that of ordering online, there seems to be a common idea that it’s somehow easier to buy books from Amazon and have them delivered to your door. It’s not.”

Libraries in Jammu and Kashmir – The Echo IUST (Pakistan)


  • Public libraries then and now – Huffington Post (USA). “As we begin 2013, more and more of these national monuments will either become obsolete or evolve into different types of institutions. Lately, there has been some discussion about what to do with all of these buildings erected for the primary purpose of dispensing books.” … “My hope is that libraries will continue to serve as places for public gatherings, such as for literary endeavors, workshops, author talks and a place for local artists to display their art. There is no doubt that libraries are evolving into more complex learning institutions, rather than simply being a place to access periodicals and books.”
  • Rosemary Clarke MBE 1954-2013 – Book Trust. “Rosemary joined Booktrust in 1998 and was appointed as Head of Bookstart in 2001. A true powerhouse, Rosemary was instrumental in taking Bookstart from a highly-effective local books for babies project and turning it into the first national bookgifting programme anywhere in the world. It was a fitting tribute when she received the MBE for services to education in 2011. We know that her loss will be felt keenly not only amongst her family and friends, but also amongst the thousands of people up and down the country”
  • What does a library look like in 2013? Live chat – Guardian / Culture professionals network. “Join us from noon on Friday 11 January to talk about what the next 12 months hold for libraries, and how the way they serve and work with their communities might change”.  Says that libraries have had cuts and that many hold views but “as always we want to know what you think. It’s those questions above we’ll be asking in this week’s live chat, focusing on how libraries (from big city institutions to smaller volunteer-led services) might change in the ways they serve and work with their communities.”.  CILIP President Phil Bradley and Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries campaigner Johanna Anderson.  Some very interesting comments, including a claim that Voices for the Library is “Marxist”.


Local News

  • Barnet – A betrayal of trust: Barent Tories, Robert Rams, and the library that will not die – Broken Barnet. “Barnet Council, in apparent defiance of the judgement given at last month’s court hearing regarding the future of Friern Barnet Library, has announced that it will hand over control of the building to a third party, that is to say a charity, ‘commUNITY Barnet’, an umbrella organisation of voluntary services in the borough. ”  Writer is concerned the move does not tie in well with the legal decision and other communications with the squatters.
  • Cambridgeshire – Great night of music to raise library cash – Cambridge News. “Supporters of a cash-hit Cambridge library are planning to boost its funds – by staging a rock concert. Arbury Court library has suffered staff cuts and a reduction in opening hours as part of changes in the library service run by Cambridgeshire County Council.”

“Along with other libraries in the county, Arbury Court library has seen its service affected by budget cuts in recent months – with reductions in opening hours and staff numbers, and an unclear future for the much-loved story-time sessions that are currently run for 2 to 5-year-olds.”

  • Croydon – Engagement on budget options – Croydon Council. “We want to continue to prioritise what you have told us is most important to you. This is why since 2006 we have invested over £53m into those areas you told us are important to you such as parks, libraries, schools, improving street lights, repairing roads and recycling.”
  • Gloucestershire – Author gives big thumbs up to community library – This is Gloucestershire. “The volunteer-run library is the eighth to open in Gloucestershire, said Minchinhampton Community Library Trust chairman Chris Stone. It is the last one to be saved by its supporters after the county council’s austerity spending cuts axed local libraries. Mr Stone said the county was still supporting the library with its books system.”
  • Newcastle – Northern writers join protests against library cuts in Newcastle – Guardian / Northerner. “Lee Hall and Ann Cleeves will be speaking at a demonstration against council arts cuts tonight, before joining other authors in highlighting individual libraries under threat.”.  Michael Chaplin says of libraries “Thanks to them I discovered the wonders of too many books to list: from Gavin Maxwell’s Ring of Bright Water to Robert Graves’ I, Claudius. The librarians, I discovered, had the key not just to a lovely building, but also to the much bigger space of a child’s imagination.”
  • Full report: Protests over proposals to close libraries – ITV / Tyne Tees. Two minute video, pointing out one library to be closed is five miles away from nearest other one and would cost £6 in bus fare.  David Almond is interviewed.

“The library really changed my life. I learnt how to love books.  I remember the feeling of pulling books from the shelf when I was a boy.  I remember going into the library when I was eleven or twelve and looking a the shelf and thinking “one day I’ll come into here and my book will be on the shelf” so libraries to me were hugely inspirational as they have been for so many people and that needs to continue.  Children needs these libraries to continue.” David Almond

  • Sheffield – Councillors reassure community following rumour of library closure – Postcode Gazette. “In a message posted on their Facebook page, councillors Ben Curran and Neale Gibson said: “We wanted to set the record straight to let you know that no decision has been taken on the future of Walkley library, Upperthorpe library, or any other library in the city for that matter.”
  • York – Move to hand York libraries to social enterprise – BookSeller. “Libraries in York could be run by community or social enterprise, after the city’s council agreed at a cabinet meeting last night (8th January) to explore the idea. The decision follows a six-week consultation last year. The new structure could see the city’s 13 libraries handed into the control of a community benefit society, a social enterprise with charitable status. While it would be primarily funded through the council with an annual fixed grant, it would also be able to receive other sources of funding.”
  • Council to explore library changes – Press. “Last night the cabinet agreed the idea should be explored further, and a business plan for the scheme, which will be the first of its kind in the UK if it goes ahead, should be set up. Andrea Dudding, from UNISON, spoke to the cabinet ahead of the meeting, telling members staff felt “fearful and powerless” in the process, and that the public “must be asked the direct quesion of who they want to run their library service”. Council leader James Alexander said: “I think it’s the best outcome. Residents showed us they want us to explore different delivery methods to keep costs down and services running despite Government cuts.””
  • Unison opposes plans to transfer York libraries to trust – BBC. “Andrea Dudding, general convenor for Unison in York, said it was not clear what type of grants the service might be able to access. “We are opposed to social enterprises in public services in principal. “Libraries are a statutory service and have to be comprehensive and efficient and outsourcing means the council has no control,” she said. She added: “Staff are very upset and angry and haven’t been consulted about it.”
  • Windsor and Maidenhead – Dedworth library set to open by end of the month – Royal Borough Observer. “A new £625,000 library is set to open by the end of the month. Dedworth library, in Smiths Lane, Windsor, is due to officially open on Monday, January 28, serving both the children of Dedworth First and Middle School, both also in Smiths Lane, as well as the wider community.”

“The new Dedworth Library will be a fantastic facility, not only for the schoolchildren to enjoy and enhance their learning, but for the community as a whole.” Other activities on offer for children will include rhyme time and story time sessions. For adults, there will be learning courses, a knit ‘n’ natter group and a community room for hire with kitchen facilities. A programme of author visits and reading activities will be launched in February.”