The level of opposition to the proposed closures in Herefordshire have taken every by surprise, most especially the council.  Over 8,000 people had signed the petition against a 75% cut, including closing all but one library.  This was unprecedented, as was the packed attendance at the council meeting which discussed the cut, which was standing room only.  Faced with such resistance, the Council have changed their plans.  Instead of closing, they’re looking likely to go with volunteers (or some form of non-council organisation) running the five town libraries under threat but still close the four smaller ones.

What happens now is a test for the campaign and an indicator of how effective a tactic volunteer libraries are.  Those in favour will see them as a pragmatic response to council cuts that will unleash local energies.  Those against will see them as divide-and-rule tactic that gets the Council out of a hole while meaning they can blame the community if it fails.  Whichever way it goes, the tactic has generally reduced opposition to cuts before.  It splits those who are against cuts to libraries per se and those accept the prevailing political view that the best way to improve the economy is to cut spending in all its forms across the board. Blocking volunteer is one of the reasons why those areas who have simply been denied the volunteer option (notably in Brent) have experienced some of the strongest campaigning opposition. Allowing volunteers is the reason why some areas, notably Warwickshire and Buckinghamshire have been able to push through cuts to many of their libraries with little notable opposition.  On the other hand, areas like Gloucestershire have had the possibility of volunteers and still experienced strong campaigning.

Another factor is of course the prosperity of a given area.  Buckinghamshire is famous for being prosperous, other places less so.  Those areas with the most deprivation and thus, some would strongly argue, the greatest need for public libraries are precisely those least equipped to set up and maintain volunteer-run libraries in the long term.  Similarly, the richest areas are precisely those with the right pool of retired and professional staff to keep a building running, with the easier availability of gaining sponsorship an added bonus. There is even an argument that, faced with cuts, councils should cut services in the richest areas and keep them in the least well-heeled.  In practice, sadly, it seems to depend more on the relative party of the council and of the local council ward: councillors are far less likely to cut in their own backyard. We’ll see how it goes in Herefordshire.


“The library felt like home to me, more than home felt like home. Books are a treasure to me, they are life rafts, they are undiscovered worlds. And libraries are their homes.”

  • But what if I can’t find it on the internet? – Canberra Times (Australia). “because of cost-cutting policies and the mantra of ”digitisation at all cost”, we are in danger of decreasing rather than increasing our access to information over time. Nowhere is this trend more evident than in libraries. It is driven by an over-reliance on new technology, in turn propelled by the forces of managerialism and economic rationalism.” … “Since the public service removed library qualifications as mandatory for key positions in libraries, it has become increasingly common for non-professional (often IT) staff to be appointed as library managers. A major performance target (linked to their bonuses) is often cost reduction. The ensuing slashing of library budgets certainly cuts costs, but arbitrary and ill-informed decision making by non-professional and inexperienced managers leads to less effective services.”
  • Taking the library to our users on Towel Day – Half pint of library wisdom (New Zealand). Library staff produce video for Towel Day in hope to appeal to new and established users alike, sass their hoopy froodiness in the Youtube video.


  • Herefordshire – Council has amended decision to close all branches but Hereford due to public protest: Leominster, Ledbury, Bromyard, Ross-on-Wye and Kington will remain open but may be staffed by volunteers or outsourcing.  Belmont, Colwall, Weobley, Leitwardine will still be closed (info via email)

Local news

  • Lincolnshire – Make a Noise about libraries – Guardian series. ““We have thousands of items, including some of the latest titles, available for people with visual impairments. “For many blind and partially-sighted people, reading plays an essential role in their health and well-being.” More than 700 people already take advantage of libraries’ Listening Lincs service, but it is hoped many more of the 13,700 adults believed to have visual impairments in the county will sign up.”
  • North Yorkshire – Crosshills library talk marks James Bond birthday – Telegraph & Argus. “British crime writer David Mark will visit the library to discuss all things Bond. It is part of the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival and its annual “big read” which encourages as many people as possible to read one particular novel at the same time.”
  • Nottinghamshire – Samantha Mattos: Libraries are a modern marvel – This is Nottingham. “activities and one-off events such as the recent Gruffalo story and craft workshop we went to have all served to cement her appreciation for the place. Plus I’ve been able to snatch a bit of ‘me time’ by picking up cookery, craft and gardening books to enjoy once she has gone to bed. The best thing of all is the library is free, so if you find yourself low on funds and with nothing to do, give the nearest library a try.”