The Chancellor has announced that local government will face a further cut of 10% in 2015/16.  This will be matched by Labour and the Liberal Democrats.  Being that some other areas are protected from cuts, this means that the real cut to libraries may well be hit worse than this.  The Leader of Newcastle City Council declare the cuts to be “slightly worse than our worst case scenario”.  There are also intimations that even this will not be the end, as all three main parties are considering cuts until at least 2020. Taking into account that cuts have already reached around 26% of the 2010 level (even ignoring inflation), it seems that what George Osborne said at the beginning of his speech, that it marks the end of the “something for nothing” culture, may well become true, at least in terms of free library provision in many areas. Of course, people in those areas will still continue paying council tax, so in terms of libraries, it may be that what has been decided is more like “nothing for something” than the other way around.

What it means for public library authorities and councils around the country is simple.  It means adapt or die.  Given the scale of the cuts, it may mean adapt and die in the worst affected areas.  Indeed, Grant Shapps recently made clear that the cuts will continue until sufficient councils go bankrupt for the Government to be convinced to stop them. In order not to be one of those, local politicians and officers may be tempted to be ruthless in order to maintain library services.  This must be done with great carefulness to libraries, with their importance to literacy in the young, jobseeking for the adults and social welfare for the senior citizens, and everything in between are too important to be lost by a wrong move.  I said back two years ago that cuts needed to be opposed because things may turn around and “maybe the horse will sing” – well, the horse isn’t singing yet.  Screaming, maybe. We must find a better tune for these ever harsher times.  In this, national bodies like Arts Council England and the Society of Chief Librarians must come forward and start seriously earning their wages by disseminating best practice and pushing through needed change. To be fair, both are starting down this road (with special mention going to the SCL in this regard) but it needs to be more spirited and urgent.  George has made clear that something is ticking, and it ain’t an alarm clock this time – it’s a bomb.

Veteran library campaigner and retired publisher Desmond Clarke has announced he will be at least partially retiring from campaigning work.  For those who do not know, Desmond is as close to an influential person that campaigners get in the corridors of power.  His libraries news email distribution list sends out key stories of the day to an impressive number of politicians and other Great and Good.  Mr Clarke has been especially forthright in recent years in pushing for a reduction in the number of library authorities in order to boost economies of scale.



Comprehensive Spending Review

  • CSR spares arts budget, but not libraries – BookSeller. 5% cut to ACE budget, at least 10% to local councils. “Library campaigners fear councils will be forced to slash spending on libraries as they seek to make more savings, resulting in more closures.”.  Meanwhile Arts Council England are happy with settlement for the Arts.

“”It will only get worse from here as councils look for ways to save more money. Once these cuts have been made and the service is undermined, it will practically impossible to bring it back.” Johanna Anderson, Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries, quoted in BookSeller.

  • In Newcastle, libraries and pools shut as spending cuts reality bites – Guardian. “Nick Forbes, the Labour leader of Newcastle city council is despondent at the imminent closures, but believes that in a few years time, the ultimate scale of the cuts the council is likely to be obliged to introduce across all departments, will make library and pool closures pale into insignificance. “I’m devastated by it. Libraries are part of the move towards civilised society. They are a sense that our collective knowledge is available to all in a publicly accessible space. The idea that we have to close them is just appalling – but the prospect of removing people from residential care is even worse,” he said, in an interview at Newcastle city council headquarters.”

“The council will have lost somewhere between 55% and 60% of its government income over a six year period, and the organisation can’t continue in that way” Nick Forbes, Leader, Newcastle Council.

  • Spending Review: Whoever wins 2015 general election faces more economic pain – Independent. “Privately, senior figures in the three main political parties admitted there would be a lot more “pain” to come, whoever wins the 2015 general election. They acknowledged that the Chancellor’s government-wide spending review would be only a staging post on the road to clearing the deficit.”

Desmond Clarke

“I recognise the severe financial pressures on councils and that these will be long lasting but we do need imaginative solutions. There must be a willingness to share services, to make best use of technology, to address corporate costs and to focus on people’s needs, especially in deprived areas. The public library service and those responsible for it must focus on desired outcomes rather than trying to justify their actions.

I remain convinced that the absence of strategic leadership and the failure to provide effective advocacy for the sector will continue until DCMS, with the support of the profession, put in place some form of development board, with a range of expertise, to challenge, advise and support the 151 separately managed authorities whose performance is at best “variable”.

I am full of admiration for the many campaign groups that continue to fight for a proper service in their communities and I also applaud the well argued support given by many of our leading authors. Please listen to them because they recognise the value of public libraries in promoting literacy, reading, education and the acquisition of information and knowledge. I look forward to the day when ministers, officials and heads of the professional bodies stand up and deliver  powerful arguments, which capture the public’s imagination, in support of the service.

Finally, I hope that public libraries will respond to the demand for e-lending by developing a national catalogue and delivery service, with proper reward for authors, and not have to wait for every authority to get its act together and find the necessary funding.” Desmond Clarke via email

“It is a sad commentary on the lack of interest in and advocacy for the Library Service exhibited by the DCMS and its army of cronies that Desmond, who has worked tirelessly at his own expense as an advocate for public libraries for some 10 years, is now demoralised enough by their arrogance and ineptitude as to want out.” Shirley Burnham via email

“You have done such sterling work on the behalf of libraries and librarians that is it hard to imagine life without you. How on earth we haven’t achieved more is not to do with the huge amount of effort and expertise you have brought to this work. Certainly the profile of the profession and the plight of public libraries has been raised by your work.” Frances Hendrix via lis-pub-libs


  • Got your Kobo Glo or Kobo Arc yet? – Hutt City Libraries (New Zealand). “As part of a world first, we’re partnering with the international company Kobo and Paper Plus to offer Kobo tablets, eReaders and accessories for sale in our libraries. Along with recommendations for apps and websites that will inspire you to read, you’ll be able to download any of the Libraries’ hundreds of free ebooks.”
  • Labour’s policy review: Libraries – Your Britain. “This document from Labour’s Policy Review highlights some of the innovative new library service models that are emerging around Britain and explores how through co-location and partnership working we can deliver a sustainable library service which meets the needs of communities in the 21st century … Download Libraries: Innovation, Co-location and Partnership and let us know what you think in the comments section to the right.”

“Google are holding an event, in response to interest raised by a number of library authorities, on the use of Chromebooks in Libraries.The event is on Thursday 11th July 2.30-4.30pm at Google’s London HQ in Victoria. If you are interested in attending and for more details please email Dave Fitton at Google: dfitton@google.com” Daniel Waller, chief of Hillingdon libraries via lis-pub-libs

  • Minecraft at Darien Library – Darien Library (USA), “Darien Library is excited to be hosting its own Minecraft server. If you don’t know about it already; Minecraft is an awesome sandbox construction game in which players create and destroy different types of blocks in a 3D environment. Explore new terrain, gather raw materials, create amazing structures, and watch out for Creepers that come out at night!”
  • Reading Agency calls for library/school partnerships – Bookseller. “The Reading Agency has called for greater partnership between libraries and schools, creating an advocacy pack encouraging schools to see the benefit of working together. The charity is working with the UK Literacy Association and the National Association for the Teaching of English to create the advocacy pack, supported by ex-Ofsted English lead Phil Jarrett. It will focus on the charity’s own Summer Reading Challenge, and the improvement in children’s literacy when schools are involved in promoting and following-up the scheme.”
  • Rebranding Cilip – Cilip. Cilip continue campaign to convince members of need to rebrand at cost of £35k.  “A lot has changed and will continue to change – all focused on making sure the organisation reflects the needs and interest of members. There is something holding us back as it does not accurately reflect these changes and the new organisation that has taken shape – our brand.”.  Includes powerpoint [watch out for some strategic interpretation of the survey data though – Ed].  See also Vote for choice, vote for rebrand – CILIP.

My personal view in my own time  is effective advocacy is key. What you are called is secondary. A rose by any other name? I go with the Lucozade theory myself. Lucozade used to be considered something for sick people, it’s effective rebranding got it seen as for sporty, focused effective, energetic people. A bit simplistic I know. Whilst I totally undertsand the motivation, good intentions and sometimes effective local context of calling a library an ideas store or a discovery centre or whatever I think library is a good term and should continue to have a lucozade done on it so as to speak. So I don’t think it is what the organisation is called that matters but what it does in terms of effective advocacy during these incredibly challenging times. Is my opinion less valid since I ceased  paying to be a member…..?Alan Issler, Libraries Community and Development Manager, Brighton Libraries via lis-pub-libs

“We believe that introducing a remote management structure from the BritishLibrary’s base in Boston Spa could jeopardise this success.” CMS Select Committee
  • Young US readers ‘like print’, finds Pew – BookSeller. “The [Pew] centre’s Internet and American Life Project found that 75% of Americans between the ages of 16-29 had read a physical book in the last year, compared with 64% of older adults.” … “The findings are based on a survey of 2,252 Americans ages 16 and above between 15th October and 10th November 2012. They were conducted over landline phones and half on cell phones in English and in Spanish.”

Local news

  • Birmingham – Future operating model for community libraries – Birmingham Council.  “Community library” means “branch library” in Birmingham, not volunteer. 28% budget reduction resulted in 10% less opening hours, 260 FTE staff reduced to 164 FTE (staffing reduced by 37%) and 8% less visits than 2011/12 – but less unscheduled closures and starting at 9% more issues compared to 2011 (however, this had slipped to 13% less issues by third month of cuts and 17% by sixth month).  2013/14 cuts already achieved meaning an “oversaving” of £638k.  £172k in income raised, more co-location and volunteers.  New computer system noted and co-operation with the Library of Birmingham. Difficulties noted in supplying casual cover to libraries, made worse by vacancies running at 8.5% of staffing.  Very low staff morale noted.
  • Bradford – Libraries offer double rewards incentive for youngsters – Telegraph & Argus. “To celebrate National Bookstart Week, the national charity supported by Bradford Council’s Libraries Service, children in the Bookstart Bear Club will receive double paw print stamps.” … “Each time they borrow a book or attend a rhyme time or story time, they receive a paw print stamp in their passport. Children can then earn rewards, including books, bags, DVD loans, swim vouchers and a teddy bear if they get a certain number of stamps.”
  • Bristol – Free school could open in Bristol Central Library – Bristol 24-7. 30-pupil Free School wants to move into bottom two floors of Bristol Central Library, using semi-used office/storage space and pay rent.  Some library office space would need to be found elsewhere.
  • Cheshire East – Council blocks payday loan websites from public computers – Independent. “Cheshire East is the first English council to act against the lenders, following a similar move by councils in Dundee and Renfrewshire. Concerns about the out-of-control payday lending industry have led Consumer Minister Jo Swinson to call lenders, regulators and other ministers to a summit in Westminster next week.”
  • Isles of Scilly – Famous author to christen new Porthcressa Library – Scilly Today.  Michael Morpurgo will open library, “he feels he’ll appreciate the fact that the islands have managed to open an exciting new facility like this when so many other libraries on the mainland have been shutting their doors for good.”
  • Lincolnshire – Final chapter looms for village’s library – This is Lincolnshire. “”If the proposals get to the stage of closure then we will need willing volunteers to come forward who could man the library. We are very concerned that the library may close. A lot of people depend on it and use it a lot. I would encourage anyone to give their views during the consultation and people may want to start a petition.”
  • Lincolnshire – Library cuts plans are ‘draconian and short-sighted’ – Lincolnite. “There appears to be a view that slashing our public libraries is somehow a ‘soft option’, one that can bear a disproportionate share of cuts. That’s wrong; these drastic proposals will damage our county immeasurably for years to come. That’s why I’m supporting the Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaign – I hope you do too.” says Lucy Rigby, prospective Labour candidate for MP in Lincoln.
  • Lincolnshire – Libraries facing the final chapter – This is Lincolnshire. “”If this library closes, it affects not only the book-borrowing public but also the people who use the computers on the site. “Another public amenity will be lost to the town, and travelling to the larger centres of Mablethorpe and Skegness is not really the answer due to the lack of public transport for many.”
  • Lincolnshire – Libraries in Sutton on Sea and Alford under threat of closure as part of a raft of cuts proposed by Lincolnshire County Council – Louth Leader.  “The slash in library provision will hit the coast hard unless volunteers can help to run these libraries. It is proposed to turn Sutton on Sea and Alford’s libraries to mobile services, resulting in 23 hours of library services lost for residents in those areas.”
  • North Yorkshire – Creative pupils to design new logo for Scalby Library – Scarborough News. “Youngsters from Newby and Scalby Primary School and Lindhead School have entered their designs into a competition, which will see a local artist, Wendy McKechnie, create the winning logo. This will then be used on signs and letterheads at the library, which was taken over by Scalby and Newby Library Volunteers in January.”.  66 entries.
  • North Yorkshire – Network of Community Libraries in N.Yorks – Rural Action Yorkshire. “You may have been at the Community Library conference we organised in September 2012, when we were told by community library groups that there is a need for an independent network of community libraries enabling mutual support between groups … Would your organisation like to send a representative to a Steering Group on 17th July to start guiding this process of developing networks based on what community libraries feel they need and want?”
  • Sunderland – TV agony aunt backs plans to axe nine Sunderland libraries – Sunderland Echo. ““Sunderland’s libraries have given me more than I can ever repay, so I was anxious when there was talk of libraries being closed. Would all that I had enjoyed still be available to everyone in the city? Now that I have examined the new plan my fears have diminished. It is based on a review which, regardless of Government cuts, was required because library usage in Sunderland was falling sharply. … It is estimated that the number of library users will expand, even in the first year, as charities and community groups are given not only books but equipment and IT. “No citizen will be more than two miles from a conventional library but extra library services will, in many cases, be even more accessible.”

“Now that I have examined the new plan my fears have diminished. It is based on a review which, regardless of Government cuts, was required because library usage in Sunderland was falling sharply” Denise Robertson

  • Torbay – Teenagers catch poetry bug – Torbay Council (press release). “This year, the prize is again open to children who are aged between seven and 16 on 29 June, with £200 worth of prizes to be shared between age groups 7-11 and 12-16.  Entrants can write their poem about anything they like and in any style they choose. They will be competing for gift card prizes and the Torbay Libraries Poetry Cup.”