Councils have, over the last couple of years, got a lot cleverer at keeping branches open while cutting costs.  The different ways they’re doing this can be seen in the articles below. A few libraries (one in Kent and one in Worcestershire) will be transferred from county council control to that of the parish, with volunteers to some extent taking on the workload.  In another alternative to straight closure, a library building in Kirklees looks likely to be sold off, with the books and staff being co-located in the town hall. Meanwhile, a Somerset Library will move a children’s centre and extend its hours with self-service machines and volunteers. Finally, in a welcome reversal of trend, Hampshire have announced a refurbishment and, with the help of self-service machines, an extension of opening hours at Hythe despite an expected 20% cut in budget over four years.

There’s many other approaches being tried too, although one that notably hasn’t as far as I am aware is that argued for by Tim Coates – he of ex-Waterstones and now Bilbary fame – who has renewed his call for the standardisation of book processing and for a radical reduction in back-room costs.  Desmond Clarke agrees, pointing out that mergers of library services saves money but recent history has seen a fragmentation instead.  The strangeness of this division can be seen in Hull where a library is being closed partly because 12% of its users come from another authority and so don’t seem to count.  They’re just the wrong kind of users. An ending to this kind of divisive thinking would indeed be an acorn of hope.


“A library that clerks these huge warehouses of stuff with that musty smell where you were always just a ‘Shhhh’ away from getting in trouble?” Hill started. “Absolutely that library is dead. It’s gone. It’s over.” Chattanooga Public Library director introduces new strategy – Times Free Press (USA).

  • Creative…and Busy – Society of Chief Librarians.  Blog post by chief of SCL, Janene Cox. Meeting with minister and several other influential people/organisations on public libraries: “strategic advocacy is required for “future proofing” the public library service. This means we have to evidence to national and local policy makers what we are doing in public libraries and the difference that we are making to our communities. We agreed that we needed to consider how we could attract additional funding into libraries and agreed that as a group we would scope some ideas / project outlines which we could then discuss with Carnegie and Wolfson with the potential to draw in additional funding.”
  • I Bribed a Librarian to Pick Out Books – Book Riot (USA). “True story: I bribed a librarian (after a brief conversation about my general reading interests) to constantly stick new/interesting things in my hold queue. Best. Thing. Ever. It’s like Netflix for the library, now!”
  • My library story Tumblr.  Some lovely pictures of a library in the USA – wooden shelves look so much better.
  • New Library Service: Digitize This Book – Duke University Libraries (USA). “a new digitization-on-demand service that lets you have out-of-copyright books scanned and delivered to you digitally for free.” but only if held in paper form by the University and published before 1923.
  • Personal History of Libraries – Whatever / John Scalzi. A lovely description of how the author John Scalzi sees libraries and how they have helped him.
  • Public Libraries: Stealing Authors’ Paychecks? – Metafilter (USA).  Loads of comments and discussion on Terry Deary.  Not many agree with him, or like him.
  • Save New York City Libraries From Bloomberg Developer Destruction – Sign On (USA).  Petition against cuts in funding for New York City Libraries and, mainly, the suggested demolition of some buildings. “We are in a period of steadily increasing use of libraries by all sectors of New York’s population, attendance is up 40% and circulations are up 59%, while the amount required to properly fund libraries is a pittance compared to other city expenditures.”
  • Stop the privatisation of regulatory services – Avaaz. “We are concerned that Barnet Council is about to hand over its Regulatory Services (in particular the Environmental Health and Trading Standards services) to a private company.”.  Article also includes libraries.
  • Wasting money in the public library service – Good Library Blog / Tim Coates. “If all public libraries would accept standard classifications and use onix feeds; and if all public libraries would use identical ‘processing’ of books – rather than operating 200 different processing ‘specifications’ then there would actually be need for library suppliers or bibliographers.”

“Librarians have been taught to believe that they can specify processes and systems to suit themselves without ever realising the immense cost of what they ask for . One only has to visit the processing line at Askews to watch how every single book has to be processed differently to the one before it and differently to the one after it – to realise how totally ludicrous the supply chain for public libraries is” Tim Coates

“This is one of the ways highlighted by studies commissioned by the DCMS and MLA to improve efficiency and reduce back-office costs but there has been very little movement. BIC, which includes CILIP amongst its shareholders,  have reported that they have made slow progress in getting library authorities to comply with national standards for e-business despite DCMS investment in projects such as E4libraries. Progress in merging authorities such as the Greater Manchester Area proposal have largely ground to a halt despite the success of the Tri-Borough development. There is a concern that ACE have little understanding of such issues which may explain why the focus on delivering savings has been lost – and the studies by PKF and PwC wasted.” Desmond Clarke (via email).

  • Wonderfulness of  public libraries – Sense of place. A Liverpool lover of libraries stresses how important they still are. “there are curious children. I see them in Allerton Library. Reading and being read to. Gazing in sparkly-eyed wonder at the shelf after shelf of more books than they could ever fit in their houses. These are their books. In the common ownership of us all, to be accessed and read, as of right, from the cradle to the grave, because it’s part of how we’ve decided to run the country. And the internet doesn’t change that. Ebooks and Kindles and iPads don’t change that. They just add to the ways we can take books home.”


Local news

  • Brighton and Hove – Mobile library to be scrapped – BBC.
  • Hampshire – New chapter in life of library – Southern Daily Echo. Hythe: “The 14-year-old building has reopened following a £166,000 facelift that includes a community room and self-service machines, enabling customers to borrow and return books without the aid of staff. The library is also open for an extra seven hours a week after an earlier decision to reduce opening hours was reversed.”
  • Hertfordshire – Book now for Litfest ’13 – Hertfordshire Council. “Litfest ’13 will feature appearances and talks by authors including crime writers Leigh Russell and Howard Linskey, as well as Gulf War hero John Nichol who talks
    about his book on the RAF attack on Nuremberg in March 1944. Other events include a talk by the husband and daughter of ‘Call the midwife’ author Jennifer Worth, and an illustrated talk on Jane Austen’s London by Louise Allen”
  • Hull – Community could take over Hull’s Anlaby Park library – This is Hull and East Riding. 1000 signature petition, £330k refurbishment needed.
  • Defending plans to close branch – This is Hull and East Riding. “The library has the fifth-highest daily transaction rate of 13 branches across the city. It also boasts fifth-highest annual footfall figure. But Councillor Terry Geraghty claimed 12 per cent of users at the library lived in the neighbouring East Riding.”
  • Kent – Sherwood Library proposals – Kent Council. “We’re proposing that Sherwood Library could be entirely managed and run by TN2 staff and volunteers from summer 2013”
  • Kirklees – Library protest backed by 7,000 – Batley and Birstall News. “A total of more than 7,300 signatures have been collected on a petition opposing any plans to move the library service into Batley Town Hall and sell off the iconic building and public clock – and more are still coming in”

“501% increase in reservations, 184% increase in DVD loans, 53% increase in users borrowing 3+ item, 31% increase in overall issues, 11% increase in new members” Libraries West report on their National Libraries Day success (via email – figures compared to previous Saturday).  The increases was partially due to the following offers:  borrow at least 3 physical items for entry into a Free Prize Draw with the chance of winning a Kobo eReader and a range of new and recent release DVD titles; free reservations (max of 3 per person) from our catalogue of 2 million items, when placed at a library via staff; Half price hire on all DVDs.  See also their rather excellent newsletter.