Liverpool, fresh from closing three libraries last year, has announced that another ten out of its surviving nineteen are under threat. PFI for the newly refurbished Central Library is going to cost the Council £2m per year for the next thirty years and the closures will cover around half of it.  So, a great library for those who can get to the Centre, not so much for local communities.  Such a PFI deal made a lot of sense when the sun was shining but now looks a little suspect now the clouds of austerity have blotted out the light.  This is a very similar situation to that in Newcastle where similar cuts are proposed against a backdrop of a big cut in Central Government subsidy and a shiny new PFI’d central library.  Those working in and depending on branches in Birmingham and Manchester – both big cities with shiny new central library projects – cannot be optimistic about the future.

The other main news today is the passing to the community of Friern Barnet Library following months of a highly-publicised protest squatting.  The success of this “direct action” may or may not encourage similar exercises in other libraries.  We shall wait and see.


  • Council threatens to close ten libraries – BookSeller.  “Liverpool City Council could shut ten of its 19 libraries in an attempt to save £938,000 from their budget. The Liverpool Daily Post reports that the Labour-run council is considering plans that would see the Central Library open seven days a week alongside two community libraries in the north and south of the city. There would then be around six smaller libraries open for shorter periods. The council is committed to running the Central Library at a cost of almost £2m a year under a PFI deal signed in 2009. It is due to reopen in May following a refurbishment programme.”

“I completely understand that some people will be extremely unhappy at what is being proposed. They have every right to be angry, because I am as well. The simple fact is that we get 80% of our funding from the government, and the savage cut in our grant means we are the hardest hit city in the country.”

“This is just the latest deeply worrying story about major closure programmes. Liverpool is reopening Central Library in May after a major refurbishment. It is an investment all of us in the city welcome. Indeed, I have been invited to the reopening ceremony. It is vital however that our citizens do not just have a good central library, but also a comprehensive branch network in the communities outside the city centre. “We all understand that it is the government’s flawed and failing ‘austerity’ programme that has put local councils in a difficult position, and that the DCMS Ministers, Mrs Miller and Mr Vaizey bear the main responsibility for their failure to support the public library service adequately, but I would appeal to Liverpool City Council not to become a placid conduit implementing the coalition government’s drastic cuts. Communities need their libraries. Reading is the hallmark of a civilised society.” Alan Gibbons

  • Don’t kill off our culture – Liverpool Echo. “Five years ago, Liverpool was basking in the glory of its year as European Capital of Culture. Today? We’re facing up to the news that the city council is planning to axe around 10 Liverpool libraries.” … “what message does shutting down so many libraries send out? Why is ammunition being given to our critics?”


  • Macmillan to launch two-year ebook library lending pilot – Paid Content. “The pilot is limited to 1,200 older titles from the Minotaur Books mystery and crime fiction imprint (part of Macmillan’s St. Martins division). Libraries will be able to lend out the ebooks for two years or 52 times, whichever comes first, before having to buy a new copy.”
  • Meet the unlikely group that saved Timbuktu’s manuscripts – Global Post (Mali). “The saving of Timbuktu’s priceless manuscripts owes everything to the bravery of an unlikely group — librarians”.  Used to having marauders so “so the owners of Timbuktu’s manuscripts did what they have always done — they hid them.”
  • Senator Jeff Brandes announces Public Libraries Innovation Plan – Saint Peters Blog (USA). ““Technology is changing rapidly, and the libraries of Florida are incredible assets we must continue to invest in,” said Brandes. “Libraries hold tremendous possibilities for innovation, and I believe that our libraries will engage users in ways that we are just beginning to imagine.”  This bill creates a Library Innovation Task Force that, working with professionals in the field, will put together a 10-year plan to advance Florida’s Public libraries.  It also lays a framework for a “Library Innovation Grant” to be spent on the expansion of services and technology available throughout the state.”
  • Twitter Takeover : Wednesday : Andrew O Brien : Library Service Manager – Voices for the Library. “I currently work in our flagship new library in Clapham. Lambeth, which is the fifth most deprived borough in London, currently provides a public library service from nine libraries throughout the borough and serves a population of over 300,000 residents and a large number of people from neighbouring boroughs and all over London and the South-East. The library service also provides an Early Years service, home visits for elderly and disabled residents and a prison library at Brixton.”
  • Whose library is it anyway? – New Statesman. “After being closed by the Conservative council and then run by Occupy London, Friern Barnet Library is now in the hands of residents. But does this development represent a Pyrrhic victory over the cuts?” … “Public library closures are arguably the hallmark of the Coalition’s austerity programme” … “The previous public library, however, had limited hours and as its story shows was vulnerable to the Council’s machinations. The new service is to a large extent much better and has brought the community together.” … “Is this a victory for Tory cuts and the big society?”


  • Liverpool Ten libraries (out of 19) under threat.  £2m per year to be paid for new Central Library under PFI. Central Library and two others to be open seven days a week. The other six surviving libraries will have reduced hours. Closures (possibly inc. volunteers) will save £1m per year.

Local News

  • Aberdeen – Why a library? – Aberdeen News / Letters.  “I was surprised to see plans for a new library. Many cities in the nation are holding off on new libraries because there are so many changes in the media world.”
  • Barnet – Friern Barnet Library handed over to community – BBC. “Maureen Ivans, chairwoman of the Save Friern Barnet Library Group, said 7,000 people had signed the petition to reopen the library. She said: “It’s a huge victory for common sense. “I haven’t come across one person who said this library wasn’t necessary. “It’s taken a two-year struggle to get them [the council] to change their mind.””
  • Library campaigners save Friern Barnet branch for community – Guardian. “The council has given library trustees a licence to be in the library legally for the next month after the squatters move out. It is then set to award them a two-year lease to run the library, as well as a grant of £25,000 and what Cornelius described as “other practical help”.”
  • Brent – February update: perfidious Oxford? – Save Kensal Rise Library.  “All Souls College argued in its representations to the council, when they were informed that the building had been nominated as an asset of community value, that such a listing would jeopardise the sale of the building to its chosen developer, Platinum Revolver. Would jeopardise the building of six flats and a small space for a library.Now they are trying to say they are exempt from the Community Right to Bid because they have entered into a ‘binding agreement’  (on 26th November 2012) and have subsequently exchanged contracts (on Feb 1st).If they were exempt because of their ‘binding agreement’ (which was actually an ‘option agreement’ with the buyer having the right to exercise an option to purchase the Kensal Rise library) why did they bother at all to engage with the process of representation?”

City of London – Artizan Street Library and Community Centre – Five minute tour of the new library.  My contact says “anything with City of London branding ends up getting quite heavily utilised by virtue of who they are and that (very nearly) anything they run is done so in an efficient, service-oriented manner.  Having said that, the new library is still even better than their normally high standard.  I wonder if it will become a case study for best practice.”

  • Dorset – Burton Bradstock’s library turns new leaf as friends take over – Dorset Echo. “The library has become one of the latest in rural Dorset to be run by the community, using the books, facilities and resources of the county library service, but staffed by local people.”
  • Gloucestershire – County Council unveil new mobile library in Saul – Gazette. “Gloucestershire County Council officially opened its newly refurbished mobile library at St James Church, in Saul, on Monday, January 28. Now, in addition to borrowing books, customers can use a computer to access the internet and obtain information from a range of public sector partner organisations.” … “However spokesman for Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries Johanna Anderson said this was disingenuous of the council leader. He was determined to slash public libraries by 43 per cent and axe all of the mobile libraries,” she said.”

“We are still waiting to hear how/if volunteer-run “libraries” that have been cast out of the statutory provision and therefore the public library network, such as those in Gloucestershire, will be able to sign up to these “offers”. We assume they will not be able to as they are no longer public libraries. Gloucestershire County Council decided these communities did not need a public library.”  Johanna Anderson on lis-pub-libs

  • Suffolk – Borrowers rack up £115k in library fines – Ipswich Star. “Figures released following a Freedom of Information request show that Suffolk’s library service is owed £115,247.72 from users who have not paid their debts since 2008/09.” … “However the number of books being brought back late has more than halved in recent years, with £41,033.37 owed in fines in 2008/09 compared to £19,318.25 in 2009/10 and £13,862.73 the following financial year. A Suffolk County Council spokesman said; “Library users have been able to sign up to receive a warning by text or email a few days before their loans become overdue, which significantly helps people to keep on top of renewal dates.”