The Enterprising Community Libraries event took place today (5th March) in London.  It’s aim was to look at the ways volunteers are taking over threatened libraries and how this can be developed in the future.  Senior figures such as the libraries minister Ed Vaizey, Direct of Libraries for Arts Council England Nicky Morgan and Miranda McKearney of the Reading Agency were in the room.  Certainly, from photos taken, it looks busy:

Ed Vaizey spoke at the event, encouraging councils to assist with volunteers taking over libraries that would otherwise close due to the cuts:

The above tweet is from a campaigner in Brent who has much cause to be bitter about councils closing libraries and not offering them to volunteers first.

Positive stuff was also talked about the future role of libraries.  One gains the impression that this was very much a “glass half full” kind of meeting:

Many opportunities were discussed for library buildings, up to and including cinemas:

And it looks like a lot of information was shared, for example about the recent Arts Council England research into volunteer-run libraries, exploring “enterprise and innovation within the context of managing” them, funding opportunities and a chance to network. As should be the case with all libraries discussion, a good book or two was also mentioned.

However, of course, others took an altogether less positive view of the meeting.  Those, for instance, who oppose the cuts and those who think that paid trained library staff still have a role to play:

It depends on one’s point of view, optimism level and ideology as to how one sees all of this.  For Ed Vaizey, the reasoning is clear – cuts have to be made, volunteers can limit the impact of the cuts therefore volunteers are good. For campaigners faced with empty library buildings they’d be willing to keep open and hard-faced councils denying them access, this sort of event also offers hope.  For those fighting to keep their libraries in council hands – which is basically everyone up to the moment they are closed – there are more doubts.  The worry is that councils will point to volunteer-run branches as the solution and blame the community, not themselves or the cuts, if not enough volunteers step up to the mark.  For paid library staff in smaller branches, well, there’s not much good news for them … but the hard-nosed (and it’s not just Terry Deary – see the person who commented on this recent post for an example) will not shed many tears.  For those who believe that a paid and skilled library staff is what makes a public library then the whole thing is anathema.  For those who think libraries are not rocket science and, literally, anyone can do it then it represents a way out.  Better to try than to fail without trying the argument goes.  To others, it is better for the experiment to fail early than fail later and take more libraries with it when it all hits the fan.

What today shows, though, is that the Establishment, the movers and shakers, are moving inexorably towards making the most of volunteer run libraries,  For good or ill.


  • A fragmented reading experience: locally and anecdotally speaking – Lorcan Dempsey’s Weblog. An early adopter of e-books (and, incidentally, a leading light in OCLC) states some reasons why he prefers them to printed books and some other problems for libraries.
  • Again, again! That is the best way to learn to read – Independent. “Pushy parents who spend a small fortune lavishing books on their young children in the hope of giving them a head start before primary school may be wasting their time and money, according to experts. In reality, as every child knows, the business of helping pre-school children learn their first words is surprisingly simple – repetition and familiarity.”
  • Author provides the world’s librarians insight on how to develop a “brain gain” – Morning Post (Mexico). “Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) co-founder Louis Zacharilla is in Mexico City to help draft a future Trend Report to serve as a guidebook for the world’s libraries and the services they need to provide the public. There are an estimated 315,000 public libraries in the world and Zacharilla joins an elite group of global experts to provide the libraries with a vision of the next five years. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) brought the experts together to map out the major emerging trends”

“The key services from libraries now include computer training, electronic job search skills, how to access online databases, how to deal with e-government and in 62.1 per cent of communities libraries are the only source of free public access to computers.”

  • Crossroads: the monthly newslette from Webjunction – OCLC / Webjunction (USA). Looks at (1) Pew research into attitudes to libraries in US, (2) international libraries funded by Bill and Melinda Gates, (3)  Delaware uses “Geek the Library” to improve image, (4) a guide to making small libraries successful and quite a few other things.
  • Developing Community-Led Public Libraries – Ashgate publishing.  “This important book examines the potential for a new community led service model in public libraries. Using theoretical approaches to working with socially excluded community members, with a direct application of those approaches in Canadian public libraries, the authors offer a powerful and persuasive case for adopting the community led approach in libraries worldwide. The book showcases good practice and outlines the challenges to community development work. With public libraries facing budget cuts, this book offers an alternative way forward based on a community led approach to developing needs based library services.”
  • Is the BBC ditching books coverage? – Guardian. “What The Review Show’s relegation symbolises is a dual current BBC unease: about books – or, more accurately, all cultural forms except art and music – and about criticism on TV”.  However, adaptations of books are increasing staples of BBC coverage.
  • Library books to go high-tech in Halifax – Herald News (Canada). “The $1.2-million tagging system could also automate part of book returns, since the tags can be scanned through the covers as they move along a conveyor belt, said the chief executive officer for the regional library system.” … “With (radio frequency), you can take a little hand-held device and walk along the shelves and it’ll spot everything that’s in the wrong place,”.  However, libraries budget down by 3.8% this year.

Local news

  • Bradford – Libraries use consultation – Telegraph and Argus. “A consultation about how residents in Bradford use library services was launched yesterday. Bradford Council wants people to give their views to help it make decisions about improvements. For more information about the consultation, which runs until Saturday, March 16 …”
  • Newcastle – Council paying £155,000 a year to private developer for Central Library until 2034 – Jesmond Local. “The FoI request submitted by JesmondLocal reveals that Newcastle City Council paid £3,355,728.25 to the City Library’s developer in 2011-12, of which £3,200,149 was paid for by a grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. This made the net cost of the City Library building for the Council that year £155,579.25. This agreement with the developers of the building will last until March 2034.”
  • Oxfordshire – Libraries on slippery slope – Witney Gazette / Letters.  Against the policy to replace a proportion of paid staff in smaller libraries. “The process is based on unrealistic expectation for dozens of reliable volunteers to materialise. Who will train these people? What will it cost? Will there be a paid manager to co-ordinate them all? Who will keep the service going when volunteers fail to turn up? Professional staff are being treated cavalierly and unfairly – all in the name of saving money. How much will it actually save?”
  • Staffordshire – Getting things right with libraries – Burton Mail. “The national Public Library Survey questioned more than 4,870 customers from across the county and 94 per cent rated their local library’s service as either good or very good.”