I had the opportunity to meet with French librarians last week and have a look both at the city of Lyon and its main public library.  The first thing to note is that austerity has not hit France.  Libraries there are facing small-scale cuts, sure, but more akin to the normal background level of cut that librarians and users have been familiar with in the UK for decades.  This does not mean that it’s all perfect over there: they’re notably scared for one thing about what is happening in austerity/crisis countries, of which the UK (as well as Italy, Portugal and Greece – In Portugal, by the way, it sounds like they haven’t had new books for years and are charging room hirers in books rather than in cash) are included. They are also in awe of the public support that libraries have over here – the French librarians could not see such protests happening in their country and they feel more vulnerable as a result.  This, they partly ascribe to the longer tradition of public libraries here, stretching back to the nineteenth century rather than the twentieth in continental Europe and the fact that we also appear to have had, at least until recently, a higher percentage of library usage.


Due to the fundamentally different pricing of books in their country – where books cannot be discounted (even by Amazon) – the bookshop scene over there is dramatically dissimilar to the UK.  The latest Dan Brown hardback was on sale everywhere for a scarily expensive 22 Euros compared to £7.49 on Amazon in this country.  This seemingly artificially high book price means that bookshops (“librairies”) are a common sight in Lyon.  It also, presumably, means that the libraries face a greater demand than over here – I for one would consider buying a bestseller for £7 but definitely would not for £20. But then, on the other hand, I would either have to order it online or have to travel an hour to get to a decent bookshop in this country.  They are a rare sight now outside of a city.  The devil’s bargain in the UK has been low prices but with the death of bookshops as a result – this is a price the French have simply not been willing to pay.  The continuing increase in growth of Amazon and other online retails and the danger of monopolisation that entails may mean that the French are, in the long-term, quite correct in their choice.


Lyon Library itself was a weirdly nostalgic visit for me and, not having been to other French libraries, I don’t know how representative it is.  It reminded me nothing so much as to the old town library I used to visit in the 1980s.  There were no self-service machines and shush was definitely the order of the day.  It was very well stocked with books (and an incredible number of magazines and CDs and DVDs) but the furniture looked dated.  The presentation (largely simple Word posters) also looked dated, as did the lack of self-service machines and the number of staff sat behind desks.  The building itself, of what appears to be 1970s construction, with large amounts of grey concrete, did not help.  The wonders of the new Liverpool Library, which is the last large library I visited beforehand, also no doubt jaded my view.  One of the only similarities between the two great libraries was the high number of students taking advantage of the study spaces.  It was also evident that the influence of Waterstones and the retail model has not hit Lyon, at least, yet.

So, if you want to see an alternative method of book provision, hop off across the channel.   It will be at least an instructive view in the power of governments to make fundamental differences to their high streets.  For someone British, France represents the road not taken when it comes to books, bookshops and libraries.  Whether you think it is superior or not will depend on how much you value low-priced books compared to a variety of book suppliers and, perhaps, to having a library.


  • Lincolnshire – “Lincs Memories” website for users to record their memories and pictures of the county.
  • Milton Keynes – Seed swapping in mobile library.


  • 20 mesmerising modern libraries from around the world – Ebook Friendly.  There are some beautiful libraries listed and shown here.
  • Arts Council England response to Treasury Spending Review announcement – Arts Council England.  Cut in budget is 5% (the lowest of the options available). “It is hugely encouraging to see that the Chancellor and the Treasury have listened to the argument that the arts and culture makes such a valuable contribution to our quality of life and the economy. Maria Miller has done an effective job in making the case for the value of public funding, backed with powerful arguments from the culture sector, who every day demonstrate their worth through the brilliant work they do, day in, day out.”
  • Best new buildings in the UK: A rebuilt castle, a library called The Hive with 250,000 books (and even bullet-proof school toilets) – Mail. “Forty-three projects in the UK have won awards for architectural excellence from the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba)” including the dual-use Hive academic/public library in Worcestershire.
  • Best Uses for Your Local Library (That Aren’t Just Books) – Lifehacker (USA).  Include rent AV equipment, free access to paywalled content, tickets, printing off legal forms, ebooks.
  • Commons to debate future of creative industries – BookSeller. “held on Wednesday (19th June), and will constitute the first major debate on the topic to be held in the Commons for the past five years. The debate follows an Early Day Motion, which has already been signed by 57 MPs from both sides of the House, calling for the Government to recognise the importance to the arts to individuals, communities, and the economy.”
  • Community Centered: 23 Reasons Why Your Library Is the Most Important Place in Town – Public Libraries Online (USA). Useful arguments and facts for why libraries matter.
  • Company doesn’t want to manage Gladstone library – Oregon Live (USA). “Library Systems and Services, which advertises its services as a way for municipalities to make their libraries more efficient, earlier this month declined to submit a bid to operate the library. A company representative said the potential savings and improvements were minimal and wouldn’t justify their services. The company in a letter noted that Gladstone is receiving a “reasonable return” on the money being invested in the library. The library is open six days a week, for a total of 53 hours, which the company sees as adequate.”
  • Find literacy professionals and storytellers near to you – National Literacy Trust.  Handy new resource for libraries with event budgets.
  • Library volunteer guidance – Unison.  “This guidance document sets out UNISON’s policy on the use of volunteers in public libraries alongside staff and offers guidance to branches on dealing with the issue of  volunteering.  It provides information on the instances where volunteers should be receiving the National Minimum Wage.  This guidance does not cover the issue of
    volunteers in ‘community managed libraries’ which are no longer under the control of the local authority.”
  • Public Libraries Outnumber McDonald’s – Galleycat (USA).  17,000 libraries compared with 14 000 restaurants and 11 000 Starbucks.  [In the UK, by the way, the comparison is far greater – 4200 libraries compared to 1200 McDonalds (3.5 times) and 800 Starbucks (5.25 times) – that’s more than twice as many libraries as there are McDonalds and Starbucks combined.  Even if you add all the Costa Coffees as well, libraries outnumber the three combined – Ed.].
  • They’re closing libraries in London and New York – News from underground.  Looking at cuts in NYPL and Brent.”It is almost as if the authors of the London and NYC articles copied each other and substituted different libraries, one from London, the other from NYC.”
  • Thirteen Questions with Seanan McGuire – Public Libraries Online (USA). “I love libraries.  I grew up miles below the poverty line, and one of my biggest concerns as we move into this brave new world of e-publishing and dwindling print runs is getting people across the digital divide.  I could not exist as the person I am today if I had not had cheap and easy access to books, despite my economic disadvantages in childhood.  Libraries are one of the great equalizers of our society, and we need them desperately.”

Local news

  • Calderdale – New Halifax library still splits opinion – New Halifax Courier. “The Don’t Bulldoze Our Library Campaign maintained it made more sense to upgrade the existing library – and the majority of voters agreed. “As for the new proposals, they will, no doubt, offer a bright new library with lots of exciting, modern facilities,” said co-ordinator Anne Kirker. She claimed the new library will have 30 per cent less floor area and the new archive 40 per cent less. And, she said no plans for services not accommodated in the building had been proposed.”
  • Croydon – Deal to outsource Croydon libraries to be signed “within weeks” – This is Croydon Today. “by the end of the debate they were happy with Cllr Pollard’s assurances that it would mean an improved library service in the borough. But the Labour vice-chairman of the committee, Councillor Sean Fitzsimons, branded allowing Cllr Pollard the authority to select a preferred bidder without consultation with councillors as “an affront to democracy”.
  • Edinburgh – Guerilla opera shows popping up in libraries across Edinburgh are taking readers by surprise – Daily Record. “Chris Elliot and Emma Morwood have been posing as customers, gardeners and librarians in a bid to surprise members of the public with their 30 minute guerilla opera performances … Edinburgh International Festival opera singers Chris Elliott and Emma Morwood have been posing as customers, gardeners, librarians and bookshop staff this week, surprising punters by breaking into half an hour of “guerilla” performances where they’re least expected.”

“There was one guy in Central Library who got a bit angry and stormed out, then crept back in again and after 25 minutes he was spotted putting a hanky to his eyes.”

  • Edinburgh – Latest Edinburgh paper sculpture found in library – Edinburgh Evening News. “The birds’ nest was discovered by Leith Library staff on Friday afternoon, accompanied by a quote from Winnie the Pooh creator AA Milne: “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”” … “Edinburgh City Council, which is responsible for Leith Library, said staff were “over the moon” to have received one of mystery sculptures. Norma Hart, vice-convenor of culture, said: “Considering the likes of the National Library of Scotland, the Scottish Poetry Library and even Ian Rankin have been gifted sculptures, this really shows that the efforts of the library to encourage and foster a love of reading in the community are making a big impact.””
  • Essex – Red telephone boxes in Essex to become ‘mini libraries’ – BBC. “The boxes were bought from BT for £1 after the telecommunications company declared them surplus to requirements. In the next few weeks, the boxes off Stebbing Road and Willow Green, in Felsted, will be stocked with books and local information.”
  • Hampshire – Library’s 40 years is celebrated 70s style – News. “‘We’re looking forward to welcoming local schools into the library to find out how the library has changed over the last 40 years with interactive games, races, a trail and the chance to get into character and pose under the glitter ball by our dancefloor backdrop.’ Some of the people who attended the party were not members of the library and joined up after enjoying the day.”

  • Herefordshire – Jan speaks up at the Shire Hall Hereford 24th May 2013. 
  • Lincolnshire – Community Lincs announces plans for ‘Lincolnshire Online Week’ at libraries and community buildings in the county – Skegness Standard. “offering free internet access and support to develop your internet skills and capture your memories on line. “We will be using our new website, www.lincsmemories.org, to create an online “time capsule” of Lincolnshire life with all your memories of the county,” said a spokesperson.”
  • Manchester – ‘Win, win, win all round’: Campaigners rejoice as Levenshulme library saved by school takeover – Mancunian Matters. “Levenshulme High School are to take over running the facility from Manchester City Council until a new library and leisure centre opens in Spring 2015. And Jeremy Hoad, chair of the Friends of Levenshulme Library, was delighted at the news and expressed relief that the facility has been saved. “It’s win, win, win all round,” he told MM. “It means that the library is saved and protected for the next two years until the new library is opened.”
  • Milton Keynes – Community to get say on new Kingston Library – MK Web. “a library is being built at the Kingston Centre and now developers want people’s views on how it should look. The workshops will take place at a number of venue” … “Library design company Opening the Book will be holding the interactive workshops, which promise to be ‘fun and thought-provoking’. In addition to the four public workshops, there will be events targeted at key interest groups, including local councillors, businesses and schoolchildren, to look at their specific needs for the new space.”
  • Milton Keynes – Swap garden seeds with mobile library service – MK web. “Until the end of October, those using the Milton Keynes Mobile Library Service can swap their favourite seeds and try others that have recommended. The aim of the scheme is to encourage the community to come together.”
  • North Yorkshire – Selby Library makes a noise – Selby Times. “Libraries across North Yorkshire are taking part in the Make a Noise fortnight, which is an annual campaign organised by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) that aims to bring public libraries and partially sighted and blind people together. The campaign ran until today and local charity, Selby District Vision has been in Selby Library throughout the Make A Noise fortnight, providing information on the services and help they can provide to visually impaired people in the district.”
  • Shropshire – Part of Oswestry library could become theatre – Shropshire Star. “The area was mothballed when the library was extended five years ago and now the Friends of Oswestry Library says it wants to investigate the possibility of opening up the unused space.”

Staff meeting Gavin Extence 12.6.13

Somerset – Debut author Gavin Extence helps raise profile of Glastonbury library‏ – Reading Agency (press release).  The author of “The Universe Versus Alex Woods” attended the library (and Bristol Central) in free events. “Glastonbury Library staff report that local readers having given extensive, very positive feedback on taking part in the ‘Big City Read’ project and on meeting Gavin Extence at the finale event. They believe that both have been very helpful in raising the profile of their library within the community, who are keen to have more, similar events and activities in the future.” … “This ‘Big City Read’ has been brokered by national charity The Reading Agency. The charity brings together its partners from the publishing world and the whole of the UK public library network to create successful and exciting events and activities for readers.”

  • Southend on Sea – SLUG – Julian’s musings. “A civic resource such as a library gives a community something to enhance its identity. Libraries, bastions of learning, provide much more than just a place to borrow books (important as this is). Libraries are the physical embodiment of the existence of ‘society’, something once denied as existing by a former Prime Minister. If there is such a thing as society (and David Cameron used to talk of The Big Society) then surely a library is its most obvious manifestation.”
  • Surrey – Strange times for Bagshot Library – Red Sky At Night. “The stated aim was to find a way forward for Bagshot Library. I found one: since SCC have “taken a decision” to stop running the library, the parish council should take it over. The Friends of Bagshot Library should run it. WPC should provide funding for paid staff and recoup the money from SCC in lieu of the reduced training costs. The volunteers should work alongside paid staff and also fundraise to improve the building and offer more services. This would take leadership and commitment to achieve. People would have to be persuaded and inspired. “
  • Westminster – ‘Staggering’ uncollected £300k in library fines ‘could have helped to keep library open’ – West End Extra. “Councillor Steve Summers, Cabinet member for Community Services which covers libraries, said the council would not be “spending time and money, potentially on expensive lawyers and debt collectors, pursuing debts on an average of £7.70 rather than on frontline library services”. It comes as the council confirmed their decision to axe the entire arts budget to save £350,000 over the next two years.”.  £312k in unpaid library fines, cumulative over 14 years. “The council said they receive £145,000 a year from fines which is then used by the library service, while customers who run up a fine of more than £20 are blocked from taking out further loans. “