The full scale of the proposed cuts to Herefordshire Libraries are becoming clearer, with the petition against the closures of all but one of them coming up time and time again with testimonies of how important the local branches still are.  There is also some anger at the LGA forgetting that libraries are statutory in their desire to stress how many will close if there continue to be cuts to council budgets.

Set against such cuts, it’s going to be tough for the new Arts Council England (half-time) libraries director, Brian Ashley, to accentuate the positive but it is clear that this is what he plans to do.  I know what he means, to a point: there are indeed many great things happening in libraries, every day, and this needs to be emphasised, No-one, after all, wants to be associated with a declining service, employees and users alike. However, balancing the news of the biggest cuts to library services in history with good news is going to be a challenge for Brian and he will need all the help he can get.  As such, I’ll start him off with this song below (sent to me very kindly today) which lists many good things about libraries while at the same time not failing to mention the bad.  Sing it to the tune of “These are a few of my favourite things” by the way:

Ode to Libraries

1.     Stories and pictures and books on all topics
Novels and poetry, romances and classics
Large books for reference and biographies
These are a few of our favourite things.

2.     CDs of music and drama to borrow
PCs to use for your homework tomorrow
Papers to browse and the best magazines
These are a few of our favourite things.

Chorus:  But when the cuts come and the axe falls
And the libraries close
We’ll simply remember our favourite things
And then we shall be – so sad.

3.     Story time sessions for children and babies
Writing groups, book clubs for folk of all ages
Local history and poetry readings
These are a few of our favourite things.

Chorus:  But when the cuts come and the axe falls
And the libraries close
We’ll simply remember our favourite things
And then we shall be – angry!

Lyrics by Cathy Bream & Making Waves choir. Original by Rodgers & Hammerstein, from The Sound of Music. Version 2  May 2013


  • ACE’s Ashley: libraries ‘good at adapting’ – BookSeller. “Arts Council England’s new director for libraries has said he would like to “change the debate” on public libraries and see more made of the popularity of the service.”.  With regard to cuts, he days “The role of ACE is really around the development, advocacy, and where we can, investment in the service as a whole, so we do not look to take a stance on individual cases”.  See comments.

“I understand people will be anxious about the context we are currently working in, but at the same time it is important to look to the future and the positive developments libraries are making.” Brian Ashley

“In this case, the enemy or reality, as you wish, is closures at branch level.  Perhaps ACE’s plan is based on central libraries.  I hope not, but, if it is, branches will need a better advocate.  Will Yinnon Ezra assume this role?” Geof Dron (via email).

  • BMC’s lost public libraries fight for survival – Times of India.  Another report highlighting the decline of India’s libraries.
  • DPLA Welcomes 360,000 Unique Visitors and 1.5 Million API Calls Since It Launched on April 18th – Infodocket (USA). Digital Public Library a success.  “The response to the site has been overwhelmingly positive”.
  • Eastell to be next SCL president – BookSeller.  Ciara Eastell of Devon Libraries (shortlisted for Library of the Year Awards 2013) will take over from June 2014 for two years.
  • If it were a statutory instrument, it would have to go before the House – Question Everything. Unhappy that the LGA highlights that public libraries will be cut and especially unhappy that they feel that libraries are not statutory. “It is clearly a ploy on their part to use libraries as a battering ram to try and secure a better funding deal during the next spending review.”.  The LGA itself is not statutory and nearly £28m last year. “…how many libraries could be saved by nearly 28 million pounds?”.
  • Letter to LGA chairman. Libraries are statutory – Alan Gibbons. Notes that it is not just the LGA that make the mistake and calls upon Sir Merrill Cockell to recognise the legal status of libraries.  “Could the LGA please publicly reiterate that public libraries are a statutory service and require the commensurate protection?”
  • LGA and ‘non-statutory’ Public Libraries – Stop the privatisation of public libraries. LGA said in 2010 said libraries were not statutory as well.  These statements get spread by others so that people believe that libraries are not protected by law.
  • Most Social Media Friendly State Libraries for 2013 – Library Science List (USA).  Shows most active social media libraries in the USA [The surprising thing for me is how few facebook likes some of these have – my own branch library has more than some of the State libraries on this list and it has only been going since November – Ed.].
  • Never reveal your library PIN – Find My Library. Putting your PIN number on your library card means anyone finding your card can completely steal your identity and know what you’re reading.
  • On Men, Elevator Speeches, and Market Segments – Illinois Libraries Matter (USA).  Thinking about what libraries offer men in theirs 20s and 30s and the importance of preparing sales pitches.
  • Save our public libraries – Care2 Petition site. “Britain’s public library system is once more under threat as a result of central and local governent cuts. Our libraries are one of the “jewels in the crown” of this country, allowing people who cannot afford to buy books access to them. We are able to see books that are out of print. We are able to see rare and valuable books. They are vital for both leisure and scholarship. Yet they are being closed down. Please stop this, and re-open our public libraries and give them a massive boost.”.  5000 signatures already on this new petition: comments are useful to read.
  • Vending machines latest library offering from Northland – Trib Live (USA). “Offering off-site kiosks is part of a growing trend of libraries trying harder to reach more people in their communities” … “libraries’ other outreach efforts include virtual branches that allow online users to check out books, place holds, pay fines, download electronic books and book meeting rooms from their home computers” … “Another offering is the cybermobile, which is a mobile library branch, perhaps on a bus, that offers wireless Internet access, computer training and/or digital downloads, she said. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh operates a pop-up library in an Allentown storefront.”


Local news

  • Herefordshire – Leominster Library is set for closure – Youtube.  “It makes me feel very sad” 18 second interview with young lad who uses the library.  “My son Jonathan is very sad to hear that his library might close – he used to love going to bounce and rhyme and storytime. He wrote to Bill Wiggin MP this morning to ask him to help save the libraries.” (Petition site)

“I am a senior citizen without independent transport, living In Leominster. I use the local library regularly borrowing 4-5 books on each visit. I also belong to a book club for seniors and we obtain our books from Leominster library. Many of my neighbours have books delivered as they are unavble to get out. Om every visit I see that the computers are all being well used by both young and old. Pensioners use the library to read the newspapers as the rising cost of a daily newspaper and delivery is proibitive.The library also regularly houses exhibitions of local interest giving a showcase that would otherwise be unavailable. Thursday mornings see the mother and toddler group and local junior schools bring the children in to encourage their literacy skills. It would be a serious loss to the town in so many ways and to me personally, as reading is one of my main hobbies and I cannot afford to buy books all the time.”  Comment on Save Herefordshire Libraries petition.

  • Herefordshire – They Are Our Libraries – Facebook campaign group.
  • Isles of Scilly – Scilly’s New Library Gets First Public Viewing – Scilly Today. “The old library held around 5,000 titles and that’s set to increase by a further 1,000 says Kirsty. There will also be a study area with work desks. The opening of the library has been delayed by IT problems. They’re moving to a computerised booking system with electronic library cards. It’s operated by Cornwall Council and Kirsty says it’s taking longer to add Scilly to the system than planned.”
  • Manchester – ‘We will continue the fight!’ Manchester campaigners vow to save six libraries in line for imminent closure – Mancunian Matters. More than half those consulted agreed to close libraries. “Clare Wall, co-founder of the Northenden Library Action Group (NLAG), says the struggle to save the facilities will carry on for the good of the community, even though 568[out of 1080]  supported cuts.” … “Replacement facilities would see community libraries and small book collections spring up across Manchester as £80million of funding cuts over the next two years take hold. ” … “A refurbished Central Library is expected to reopen in spring 2014 and mean that 99.9% of Manchester residents would be within two miles of such facilities.”
  • Manchester – Contemporary Doomsday Book is out! – Save Burnage Library.  Analysis of statistics by Council shows strong bias against smaller libraries and pays lip service to Charteris Report while in fact not using it. For instance, total number of users used rather than percentage of population using libraries.  Long useful analysis. “I am inclined to believe others who say we’ll be subsidising the more affluent areas of the city. I have never ever come across a document from an allegedly professional organisation which has produced a statistical model to fit the conclusion they want. If ever there was one, it is this. I am absolutely disgusted with it!”
  • Northamptonshire – Historic Kettering Library reopening – BBC. £265k refurbishment inc. restoring original 1904 parquet flooring. Friends group raised £15k, Council £250k.  Re-enactment of original opening ceremony will occur.
  • Staffordshire – Libraries offer online practice citizenship tests – Burton Mail.  Council “has just added GoCitizen.co.uk to its growing list of free internet services available in its 42 libraries across the county”
  • Suffolk – Concerns over future of libraries after demand for £130,000 – Ipswich Spy. “At a meeting on April 22nd, Suffolk Libraries IPS told community groups that the budget shortfall would be passed on to them, with specific figures for each library. Mr Jones writes that the “IPS invited all libraries to join its ”club” but unveiled an individual contribution from each library to ensure services are mainained. “The average contribution is £3000 p.a. However there was no explanation at how figures have been arrived at, so as an example Westbourne Library must find £3,250 and County Library Ipswich £9,750. “What is also concerning is that only a third of Suffolk libraries have a friends group (13 out of 44 libraries) so it is unclear how they will find their contribution.”.  Libraries IPS says “We realise the fundraising responsibility may be challenging for some groups and that every library has its own individual circumstances but Suffolk Libraries will do all it can to help to support libraries in building links with the community and raising money over the coming months.”

“to raise £3,000 p.a. through public contributions/fundraising is a full time job. Quite simply, third party funders and the public will not contribute to our cause, or become paying members if they know it is to plug a gap in local government spending.”

  • Swindon – Library user is upset over 50p socket fee – Swindon Advertiser.  Council has introduced 50p charge to customers for them to plug in their computers etc.  Introduction of wifi has meant increased usage.  There also appears to be fear of crime linked to people staying in the library to charge their devices.  Regular library user highly unimpressed.  It cost £336 to cover 60 sockets, with staff having to manually unlock them each time.