Hard information on the impact of turning a council-run library into a volunteer-run one is hard to come by.  There’s not many examples over two years old, for a start. It was therefore interesting to read this post about a comparatively long running volunteer library in Swindon backed up by some hard figures.   The article – called “We will economise on the beaches” – is worth a read but, if you don’t have the time for that, then the difference in usage figures for Walcot (volunteer-run since 2009) and for its parent authority is probably informative enough:


Walcot Library – Guess which year it became volunteer-run


All Swindon Libraries – Doing somewhat better

It is worth pointing out a few things here: (1) Walcot would have closed without volunteers and so even the tiny usage at the moment is higher than the alternative; (2) that the general Swindon figure is boosted by a revamped Central Library, (3) that there are highly successful volunteer libraries out there (step forward Buckinghamshire) and finally (4) this is by no means meant to be an attack on the volunteers themselves.  However, these charts should serve as a further warning that unpaid branches are not a panacea or as a viable working model in all areas and situations.  It does, indeed, seem that (in the words of the DCMS Select Inquiry into Library Closures) there is a danger that some such branches may wither on the vine.


  • In praise of the Mundane – Stop the Privatisation of Public Libraries. “Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that staff should spend all their time doing these tasks, it’s very important for staff development and morale/motivation that staff are given a wide spectrum of responsibilities and roles and I’m not saying that we should not embrace new technology, of course we should, although with a caveat that it is relevant and needed, all I am saying is that we all, too varying degrees, learn our ‘trade’ through attention to detail, being methodical and performing essential ‘mundane tasks”

“How is this being funded? If there’s apparently not enough taxpayer money to keep all the public libraries open, with their many social and economic benefits, then it is unreasonable to expect the taxpayer to pay for this event.” John Kirriemuir comment on Margaret Thatcher funeral set for next week – BBC.

  • Libraries – We Own It.  “In the US, Library Systems & Services (LSSI) has started taking over libraries. Critics say that LSSI doesn’t save communities any money, but it does undermine conditions for qualified librarians and increase the use of volunteers … ” Briefly summarises issue from anti-privatisation point of view and gives links.
  • Libraries without librarians don’t make sense, forum told – CBC (Canada). “The Newfoundland and Labrador government’s decision to save money by laying off five of the 14 professional librarians in the provincial library system was a target of criticism …”

“The analogy I would use would be if you took a hospital and [then] you laid off all the doctors, and then you said to the remaining staff, ‘We’re just going to divide that work up amongst you guys. Oh, we’re going to fire some of you as well, and, oh, the public is not going to be affected,”

  • Library ebooks must self-destruct if scribes want dosh – Register. “Shovel UK taxpayer cash this way please, say publishers”
  • National Digital Public Library Is Launched – New York Review of Books (USA). “The Digital Public Library of America, to be launched on April 18, is 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.”.  See also What is the DPLA? – Library Journal.
  • Reading Agency launches library exploration game – BookSeller. “Libraries across the country are taking part in a high-tech treasure based on Simon Mayo’s children’s books. A new campaign supported by The Reading Agency and Random House will get young people with smartphones to hunt for QR codes through participating libraries, echoing the explorations of teenage science-lover Itchingham Lofte, the hero of Mayo’s books Itch and sequel Itch Rocks.” …. “Around 30 libraries will take part in the scheme”

“One aspect of the changes to welfare is the way that the government is making it harder for people to claim benefits. The introduction of universal credit is being combined with the requirement for all benefit claims to be made online. Many people who claim benefits do not use the internet. At the same time, access to the internet is being cut as councils are forced to close libraries. This double-whammy is a part of the long list of ways in which those in most need of help are being forced to pay for the mistakes made by some of the wealthiest. Many people will simply not be able to claim.” Bill Esterson MP, Lab, Sefton Central in Guardian Letters.

  • Scott Turow decries ‘slow death’ of the American author – Guardian. “Novelist and Authors Guild president fulminates against depletion of writers’ incomes by publilshers, libraries and copyright changes” … “Libraries even come in for a share of the blame, over the lending of ebooks, while the news in February that an Amazon patent to sell secondhand ebooks had been approved is “even more nightmarish”, according to Turow. “Why would anyone ever buy a new book again?” he asks. “Consumers might save a dollar or two, but the big winner, as usual, would be Amazon.
  • Six libraries poised and ready to save the nation’s digital memory – ITV. “Six major libraries are poised to capture and record the digital universe, including the entire web domain in the UK, under new regulations which come into play from today. The British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, the Bodleian Libraries, Cambridge University Library and Trinity College Library Dublin will collect, preserve and provide access to the nation’s output that appears in digital form; including blogs, e-books and other non-print items.”
  • UK Government Considering Paying Authors A Fee When Their Ebooks Are Checked Out From A Library – Unbergizmo. Publishers “suggest that ebooks should “deteriorate”, basically forcing books to be repurchased the same way physical books can be worn out and break apart over time. It is an interesting notion but what do you guys think? Should publishers move on from that mindset and start treating ebooks as an entirely new type of intellectual property?”

“I believe that libraries give dignity to anyone who walks through their doors. You can walk in without anyone having already decided who you are. Any librarian will help you find whatever you want, provided it exists and we have it. You can read whatever you choose, ask whatever questions you want, and learn about whatever interests you. And you can do all of this anonymously and for free” World’s Strongest’ Blogs About Importance of Public Libraries – Ledger (USA).


Local News

  • Bath and Northeast Somerset – Pub aims to open community library for its customers – This is Somerset.  “Local residents are being invited to a community library open event, hosted by Bath and North East Somerset Council and partners, at The Stoke Inn on Wednesday from 10am until 2pm. The event will give residents a chance to indicate their preferences about future projects and sessions taking place at the pub.”

“Councillor David Dixon (Lib Dem, Oldfield), cabinet member for neighbourhoods, said: “Bath and North East Somerset Council is working with partners to develop community libraries in local venues where there is space both to provide book stock and to offer activities that will enhance and support a community library. Together we plan to run themed social events for the over 50s, such as story writing, sharing memories, local and family history and computer surgeries.”

  • Brent – Olympic Team GB member joins library campaigners at fundraising quiz in Wembley – Brent and Kilburn Times. “Mr [Ray] Tucker, who has been picked for Team GB in the World Duathlon Championships which is taking place in Canada this August, recalled visiting the Kensal Rise Library (which was also closed) as a child. He said: “It was like a place of worship and was regarded as the best library reading room in Britain. “It was opened by Marl Twain and I remember tourists used to come from around the world to visit it. What a shame that such a short-sighted council would want to close such an historical institution.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – End of an era as village library closes in Saughall – Chester Chronicle. “60 years of library services at the Vernon Institute in Saughall ended last month when Mary Abram, Pat Leighton and Sheila Jones were given warm thanks for their many years of voluntary service to the library.”.  Mobile library service will visit instead.
  • Croydon – Redundancies and four-day opening at Upper Norwood library – Inside Croydon. “UNJL will not be open on Mondays or Fridays, and Saturday openings will be severely restricted. Several library staff face losing their jobs.”.  Local councillor says “It’s only because of the strength of feeling in the community and a strong local campaign that the library can remain open at all”
  • Dorset – Councillors support handover of library to local community – Dorset Echo. “Portland’s Underhill Library has since closed its doors but those at Puddletown, Chickerell, Wool, Burton Bradstock, Charmouth, Colehill and Stalbridge have been handed over to the community and will be run by volunteers with support from the council. Now the county council’s cabinet has backed a proposal by the Friends of Corfe Castle Library to take on their facility, with the handover expected to take from three to six months.”
  • Hertfordshire – Learn about Harpenden’s new library location – Review. “After the move, the library will be in a central location and be more accessible to users. It will be on one level, offering greater flexibility and better use of space, and will have a fully accessible toilet for visitors. The library has something for everyone so come and see us soon.”
  • Lambeth – Debate: Is the ‘co-op council’ really co-operating with cuts? – Red Pepper. “Despite suffering a 45 per cent cut in our central government grant between 2010 and 2016 we have not shut a single library – in fact we have opened a new one in Clapham that has won several awards and seen a 300 per cent increase in users. We have also saved the Upper Norwood library after Tory Croydon (which we shared financial responsibility with) pulled the plug – we are now handing the library to the community to run as a co-op. Similarly we have just opened a new leisure centre in Clapham with two more in Streatham and Norwood to open in the next 18 months to be run by a co-operative.”  See also trade unionst response.
  • Liverpool – My Day Off: Vikki Wynne does her bit to promote Woolton’s community library – Liverpool Daily Post.  An interview with a volunteer a library volunteer.  “For now, our short-term aim is to raise money for some IT equipment for use within the library and the community and to continue to raise awareness of our existence in the local community. The list of benefits of reading, particularly with your child, is endless.”
  • Manchester – Mass withdrawal protest as Burnage library lives on borrowed time – Manchester Evening News. “Protesters took out hundreds of books in protest at a Manchester library being closed down. Shelves were emptied at the Burnage Library Big Borrow after more than 50 people took part in the protest.”.  400 borrowed, from A to B – campaigners will help staff put them back later this week.
  • Newport – Double think on libraries – South Wales Argus. ““The closure of the library will enable us to continue to offer an excellent service,” George Orwell’s 1984 is alive and well at Newport City Council The closure will be detrimental to the independence of many elderly and disabled people, who would sooner visit the local library under their own steam rather than arrange bus, taxi or mini-bus journeys to the town centre.”
  • North Tyneside – Library to be built in Wallsend retail centre – Designing Libraries. “North Tyneside Council has given the go-ahead for the redevelopment of the vacant Co-op building on the site to create a 50,000 square foot library and community centre with three new retail units on the ground floor.”
  • Sefton – Atkinson Centre library opens in Southport – Designing Libraries. “A ‘much needed’ new library has opened in the Atkinson Centre, a regional cultural centre for the arts in Southport, replacing the temporary library and providing residents with a wider range of stocks and services.” inc. self-service, out-of-hours return, expanded children’s library, co-location with art gallery and tourist information centre.
  • Somerset – Fresh chapter in life of town’s revamped library – This is Somerset. “Several hundred people attended the re-opening of Frome Library following its revamp. Somerset County Council had partially closed the building for a month for the installation of self-service kiosks and new lighting.”
  • Swindon – Girly night at library to mark author’s visit – Swindon Advertiser. “Teen author Luisa Plaja will be visiting on April 17 to talk about her new novel The Diary of a Mall Girl … The treats in store at the Central Library, in Regent Circus, include a clothes swap/pamper party from 5.30pm, where girls of all ages can swap clothes or jewellery and sample nail art, beauty treatments and advice, shopping, nibbles, quizzes and other freebies.”
  • Warwickshire – Library closes as work on the new one begins – Courier. Southam Library to move to new building … “the development will provide extra care housing, a new library and a Warwickshire Direct base comprising county council, district council, police and other public agencies’ services, on the combined site of Victor Hodges House and the existing library”.