International comparisons are dangerous but I have often been impressed by the provision in US libraries.  Now I know how.  There are 9,000 of them and they are funded with around $10bn.  We have 4265 libraries (at the last official count) and fund them with, at current exchange rates, around $1.5bn.  So a UK library has, on average, 3.87 times less funding than the average US one.  That’s a massive difference and suggests something more than simply that their individual libraries may be bigger.  Another difference is that the US population is 5 times bigger than ours with 6.6 times the funding.  On average then, their public library system is 1.3 times better funded by head of population.  Of course, they have nearly half of the number of libraries per head as well: 1 library per 14686 in the UK, 1 library per 34877 in the US.  This last difference is presumably because of the far wider geographical spread over there. So, on average we have over twice as many libraries per head but they’re each funded nearly 4 times worse than the average US one. Remember that if ever you wonder why US libraries are doing better than British ones at the moment.  If anyone else wants to do comparative figure for other countries, by the way, this website looks good for getting the number of people per library, although the all-important budget per country appears more elusive.

Moving away from the global picture, Essex have opened their first new library in 25 years but, in a sign of how times may have changed since the last one, it is being staffed by volunteers from the start, with paid staff in support.


  • 2013 Library RFID Survey – “This year’s survey attempts to capture information about all aspects of RFID use in the library – from accessions to smartphones. The survey is primarily being promoted in Europe, the USA, Australia and New Zealand but everyone is welcome to participate – the only requirements are that you are using some form of RFID in your library – self-service, access control, intelligent shelving etc. and that you are responsible for managing your RFID solutions.”
  • Bookbuster – DOKLab (Netherlands). “At the request of ‘Kopgroep Bibliotheken’ (a Dutch library) we developed a multitouch application to promote reading among primary school children. In a customized library bus, students from more than 20 primary schools can borrow books and be inspired to read new books. The ground floor of the bus is equipped with books and the library asked us to come up with an idea for the multitouch table that would be placed on the top floor of the bus to promote reading.”
  • Community Centered: 23 Reasons Why Your Library Is the Most Important Place in Town – Public Libraries Online.  Very useful article for arguing library’s importance as community centres in five ways: “(1) libraries as community builders, (2) libraries as community centers for diverse populations, (3) libraries as centers for the arts, (4) libraries as universities, and (5) libraries as champions of youth”

“Former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, a strong supporter of libraries as community builders, addressed librarians saying, “Unless you are out there changing neighborhoods, you are not completing the work you are to do.”2 Strengthening neighborhoods and championing the cultural lives of communities are big responsibilities. We think librarians are up to the challenge.”

“If the only public space where 3D printers, laser cutters, and learning electronics happens is in fee/memberships-based spaces (TechShops, hackerspaces), that will leave out a segment of the population, who will never have access..” … “I think many of these things could be helped by the re-tooling of one of our greatest resources, the public library. It wouldn’t be easy, but that’s the point — it would be a challenge and worth doing.”

  • Let’s hear it for neighbourhood groups: Conservative party launch of the Big Society – Neighbourhoods Blog.  Notes from the 2010 Conservative launch of the Big Society. “On page 5 of the document you can read the powers and rights that will be assigned to neighbourhood groups. The list begins: ‘Neighbourhoods will be able to bid to take over the running of community amenities, such as parks and libraries that are under threat’. Threat from where? Understandably, this will be widely read as ‘funding for parks and libraries is not gonna be great, but we’ll support voluntary action to run them: and if it runs into the sand after a while, that’s the community’s decision.'”
  • Looking a Trojan horse in the mouth – Question Everything. LGA responds about it failing to make clear in national press release that libraries were statutory. “I would like to clarify that the LGA fully understands that the 1964 Act confers a statutory duty on councils to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service, and it is regrettable that the language used in our press release was open to misinterpretation on this point. The sentiment we were trying to get across is that individual libraries in-and-of-themselves can be closed without the associated council breaching it statutory duty, as found by recent judicial reviews into the issue of library closures.”
  • Sumter may privatize library operations – Stop the privatisation of public libraries.  “Osceola officials [who had passed on their system to LSSI – Ed.] have seen some savings, but not as much as they thought they were going to get
  • Sunnyvale and Mountain View Public Libraries Get 3D Printers – Yahoo News (USA). “It was Star Wars Day at the Mountain View Public Library on May 4, and the library demonstrated its newest asset as it successfully built “Star Wars” characters in MakerBot’s signature green to the amazement of participants. Mountain View library services manager Paul Sims is holding a 3D Open House in mid-June, when the library will further embrace the maker culture with talks, activities, and demos.”

They Work For You : 15th May
Public Libraries – Electronic Publishing | PLR on e-books and audiobooks

Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central, Labour)

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport with reference to the recommendations of the Independent Review of E-lending in Public Libraries in England, published in March 2013, when lending rights will be extended to (a) e-books and audiobooks lent on library premises and (b) e-books lent remotely.

Edward Vaizey (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Culture, Communications and Creative Industries), Business, Innovation and Skills; Wantage, Conservative) holding answer 15 May 2013. “The Government response to William Sieghart’s review of e-lending in public libraries in England was published on 27 March 2013 and sets out the Government’s position in terms of extending public lending right (PLR) to audiobooks and ebooks: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/an-independent-review-of-e-lending-in-public-libraries-in-england Any proposal for the potential extension of PLR will be communicated in due course, following full consideration of this matter.

  • Web-connected libraries for Africa: the dream of digital knowledge for all – Guardian. “with an initial funding of $50,000 from Kickstarter, library startup Librii is building its first “eHub” prototype: a shipping container filled with computers, printers and training materials, connected to a simple, low-cost study centre, which will let visitors access information, print books and other materials and, crucially, contribute back to the project and the web at large. Once the prototype is complete and tested, a partnership with the University of Ghana and Librarians Without Borders is intended to start shipping the embryonic libraries to Africa,”
  • What is going on with New York’s public libraries? – Librarian.net (USA).  Damning graph shows big increase in use (visits and issues) at New York libraries but funding reduced.
  • Why Public Libraries Are A Better Investment Than Gold – ABC (Australia). 6 minute interview detailing the return on investment of public libraries in Australia.


Local news

  • Barnet – Tottenham MP David Lammy visits Friern Barnet Library to discuss his book Out of the Ashes – This is Local London. ““I hope the Labour group takes Barnet back in the next election. We need a more compassionate Barnet, one that is close to the people – as this library shows.  It is very good the library is still here, it’s wonderful that it is so active and there were so many people engaged and asking questions. They deserve answers, and I put some of them in my book.””
  • Coventry – Central Library reopens after £130,000 makeover – Coventry Telegraph. “The building, in Smithford Way, city centre, has been given a refurbishment for the first time since it opened in 1986. Improvements included all areas being re-painted and re-carpeted as well as the popular children’s library being enhanced.”.  [Some great photos – Ed.]
  • Ealing – Shared services are key to saving borough millions, insists Ealing – This is local London. “Millions of pounds may be saved by awarding contracts for shared delivery of library and leisure services in Ealing. A meeting this Tuesday will recommend awarding contracts to private companies in a joint venture between Ealing, Harrow and Brent.” … “Early ideas include shared leisure and library card schemes, with aligned pricing and discounts, shared management and shared back-office teams.” … “John Laing are one of 10 companies listed as possible library service providers as they already run libraries and other services in Hounslow.”

“Contracts for managing up to 25 libraries are available for five-years including an optional five-year extension, reportedly worth £90,000-£100,000 for 10 years.”

  • Essex – First Essex library in 25 years opens in Springfield, Chelmsford – BBC News (cached). “Springfield Library has been built as an extension to the local parish council building in St Augustine’s Way, in the north of the city. Essex County Council said the service would be run by volunteers, with the help of its libraries staff.”
  • Herefordshire – Cuts are to be discussed – Ledbury Reporter. “The Unison union said a funding cut – believed to be around 75 per cent – would “almost certainly” see Hereford central library the only one in the county to survive. An online petition against the cuts has attracted 3,000 [5,400 as of checking now – Ed.] signatures. The council has neither confirmed nor denied the figures, issuing a statement saying that any alternatives to present provision are “only at the proposal stage”.”
  • Herefordshire – Campaigners protest against Herefordshire Council cuts – BBC. “More than 60 people have held a protest against plans by Herefordshire Council to cut budgets and jobs.” … “more than 1,000 people had signed a petition against the cuts in the two hours the protest lasted.”.

  • Herefordshire – Save Our Libraries & Museums High Town Rally 18th May 2013 – Youtube.
  • Herefordshire – Green councillor Felicity Norman sees red over cabinet meeting cancellation – Hereford Times. “Felicity Norman, Member for Leominster North, condemned the decision to defer the debate to full council next Friday, saying members coming in for the meeting had not been told of the decision and only heard when they arrived. A large crowd of protesters, including Unison members, were also unaware of the change of plan.” … “Coun Norman sided with the Its Our County group and one Independent in refusing to support the budget the council passed in February and since found to be flawed. The resulting shortfall of around £8.4m has to be met by a new budget plan that puts services from public toilets to libraries and museums in the shadow of the axe.”
  • Liverpool – Central Library cathedral of knowledge – ItsLiverpool. “if the old Liverpool Central Library could (charitably) be described as ‘municipal practical’, it’s butterfly reincarnation is nothing short of magnificent. In fact, it’s now so heart-gladdeningly splendid, I can easily imagine it becoming a tourist attraction in its own right alongside its William Brown Street neighbours.”

“We’re a proud city with a proud history. And while life may have its ups and downs at the moment, this new incarnation of our landmark library is yet another thing to be proud of.”

  • Oxfordshire – As soon as you can say “non disclosure agreement” – Dumb Librarian. “We have career public servants directly engaged in the outreach programme to Community Libraries and their supporters. Some profess an active interest in “Change Management” which usually translates into getting as much as possible for the absolute minimum cost. Complex legal agreements are in the pipeline for any support group working with their local library to provide volunteer. How they will know whether an agreement is safe to sign is highly questionable.” … “we appear to have no net financial gain to the County, a net loss in terms of professional library staff, and support groups dedicating countless hours of unpaid time to fill the gaps.”
  • Staffordshire – Libraries to make a noise for the blind – Burton Mail. “Staffordshire County Council is marking ‘Make a Noise in Libraries Fortnight’ by reminding residents just what the county’s libraries have to offer blind and partially sighted people. The event is an annual campaign to bring public libraries and blind and partially sighted people together to improve access to books and information”
  • Stockton – Row over future of Stockton borough libraries – Darlington and Stockton Times. Councillors fear closures will be like “closing an accident and emergency unit”.
  • Wirral – Easy reading for Wirral teenagers – Wirral Globe. “girls combined an evening of culture and pampering when local hairstylists and nail technicians attended to their whims at Bromborough Library. On a more serious note at the “Lipstick Library” successful teenage author Luisa Plaja was invited to promote her new book Diary of a Mall Girl.” … “Local businesses The Beau-Tea Rooms, Red, White and Beauty, Matalan and Caroline & Co provided their services and competition prizes to support the event.”.