The Welsh Government has once again highlighted its difference to England with an impressive list of investments in public libraries.  It has announced funding of over £1.5m for libraries.  This is a quarter of the amount Arts Council England has to play with for a population of less than one-seventeenth.  Furthermore, it appears to be for a year, as opposed to the two years of the ACE funding, meaning an investment nearly nine times more substantial per capita than that of England.  Wales has long since held on to public library standards, meaning that its councils are taken to task if they cut libraries, unlike across the border.  All is not well in the principality as campaigners in Newport will attest but this announcement will emphasise the importance of different approaches.  Wales is taking a hands-on role, with supervision and substantial investment. England, under the decidely non-interventionist Ed Vaizey, is far more laissez-faire.  It would be a rare library supporter who would say that the larger nation comes out better in such a comparison.

Welsh Libraries investment

“Our museums, archives and libraries provide free or low cost access to a wealth of resources and activities that can make a real difference in improving people’s lives, especially families on low incomes.  These grants will create modern, dynamic cultural and educational hubs in our communities for all to enjoy.  We are committed to ensuring that our culture and heritage enrich the lives of individuals and communities across Wales and this investment reflects that commitment.” The Welsh Minister for Culture and Sport, John Griffiths

  • Financing includes £987,000 in capital inc the following amounts “to modernise public libraries” (£80k Cwmbran,  £120k Canton, £218k Morriston, £200k Bridgend, £300k Haverfordwest)  and £667,725 in revenue. inc:
  1. £230,000 has been awarded to Wrexham Library Service to co-ordinate all-Wales campaigns and activities aimed at attracting more people to benefit from their local museums, archives and library services.
  2. £250,000 to National Library of Wales to lead on providing online resources for Welsh libraries.
  3. £49,209 to Society of Chief Librarians Wales to promote improved library provision.
  4. £34,609 To support the work of the North Wales libraries partnership programme, including staff training and interlibrary loans scheme.
  5. £11,154 to support wifi in Flintshire
  6. £150k to create all-Wales audience development plan for museums, archives and libraries
  7. £19,417 to support South West and Mid Wales libraries partnership.
  8. £17,956 to Conwy to “develop alternative models of library service delivery”
  9. Other projects inc Caerphilly film club, digital inclusion in Vale of Glamorgan

“Over 14 million people visit public libraries in Wales every year and almost £1 million of capital funding will be allocated to modernise 6 public libraries – Canton, Cwmbran, Morriston, Bridgend, Newtown and Haverfordwest. This will bring the number of libraries modernised as part of the Welsh Government’s Community Learning Libraries Programme to 89.

Over £1 million of revenue funding will also go towards improving facilities and services to attract more people to benefit from their local museums, archives and library services by encouraging greater community engagement and supporting a number of projects to digitise material to make them available online.” Welsh Government press release


  • National Digital Public Library Is Launched – New York Review of Books (USA). “a project to make the holdings of America’s research libraries, archives, and museums available to all Americans—and eventually to everyone in the world—online and free of charge. How is that possible? In order to answer that question,”
  • Stakeholders blame students’ performance on absence of public libraries – Vanguard (Nigeria). “stakeholders in the education and non-profit social service sectors lamented the deplorable state of library services in the country, reiterating that the generation which produced the likes of Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka had functional and accessible public libraries.”
  • Tiny library payment office authors fought to save – BBC. “”We get lots of nice letters from people saying, ‘Ah, thanks Jim, that was brilliant, I used it to pay the gas bill’,” Mr Parker said.” … “The next problem, Mr Parker says, is public library closures and the move towards community-run libraries. The legislation requires data to be collected from councils and voluntary groups do not qualify. Having already started fighting for libraries to remain open, authors might now find who runs them is just as significant if they want their money.”
  • Voluntary workers disillusioned by the Big Society – Information Daily. “half of volunteer workers hold a negative view of the Big Society, despite the fact that volunteerism forms a cornerstone of the Coalition policy.” … “One 82-year-old volunteer wrote: ‘The council has to make cuts. So the Chief Executive talks in terms of closing the libraries, removing school crossing patrols etc. No amount of voluntary effort will address such issues. It is a form of political blackmail.””

Local News

  • Camden – Community libraries in Primrose Hill, Belsize Park and Hampstead hail success of first year – Ham and High. “all three have re-opened and managed to recruit large teams of volunteers and raise some of the cash that will keep them going once an initial tranche of transition funding, totalling £342,000, runs out. But key figures behind both Keats Community Library and Primrose Hill Community Library warned there are still plenty of challenges ahead – and reiterated the belief that other libraries should not be expected to follow their example.”
  • Essex – Put post offices in our libraries – Echo. Councillor “called for post offices to be created at Basildon and Laindon libraries if the two [post office] branches cannot be saved.” .. “She said the library at the Basildon Centre in St Martin’s Square and at New Century Road in Laindon both had the room to accommodate post office counters if the worst happens.”
  • Lancashire – Town’s old library building turns over a new leaf – LEP. “The building has stood empty for a number of years since it was closed by Lancashire County Council, but the shelves are now once again bursting with donated books. Generous donations have been received from BAE Warton and dozens of members of the community.”
  • Milton Keynes – Kingston residents can say how they want new library to look – MK News. “Developers are building the shell of the new library to the specification that was agreed with the Milton Keynes Council. The details of the interior, which the council will be delivering, are still being developed, and throughout the spring and summer the council will be engaging with the public to ask them how they want their library to look.”
  • Sefton – Library opens to the approval of members – Southport Visiter. “The new Atkinson Centre Library opened its doors for the first time on Tuesday morning to a crowd of avid readers. The impressive new revamp includes over 50,000 books, new self-service machines and a stunning children’s reading area.” … ““This has been four years in the making, we had some late nights but we got there in the end and now our library has the wow factor.””
  • Sheffield – Opinion: What future for libraries? – Star. “if more people used the library service then perhaps they would not be the easy prey for savings that the politicians on both sides of the divide make them. Today, our reading habits have been transformed by the availability of cheap books. We simply don’t need libraries like we used to. Yes they play an important part in binding our communities together. What really needs to happen is a grown-up debate about what can replace those under threat to ensure there is still a focal point for those communities.”
  • Sheffield – Heated debate on future of Sheffield libraries – Star. ““It’s the Government’s fault.” Labour councillors ‘noted’ the swell of concerns but said they had no alternative but to save £1.6 million from the £6.8m library budget as part of £50m cuts in the coming year.”.  Lib Dem accused of hypocrasy as they had suggested similar cuts when they were in power.
  • Southend – Two-pronged campaign launched to save Leigh library – Echo. “The town council has set up a campaign group to pitch its case to Southend Council, while a residents’ group “Save Leigh Library” has been formed.”
  • Waltham Forest – South Chingford Community Library to start offering benefit and tax credit advice through Age UK – This is Local London.
  • West Sussex – Libraries set to provide free wi-fi – County Times. “The new service will supplement rather than replace the existing paid-for internet access, which will still be available in all 36 West Sussex libraries.” The decision to instal wi-fi is part of a long-term plan to modernise the service, which saw new self-service book machines installed last year.”