Sometimes a decision is made that is just so correct one can only just nod and agree.  Well done to the Library of Birmingham for choosing Malala Yousafzai to do the official opening.  For those who are unfamiliar with the name, this is the girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for daring to suggest that girls have a right to education.  This is her view on the opening:

“It is my dream that one day, great buildings like this one will exist in every corner of the world so every child can grow up with the opportunity to succeed.” Malala Yousafzai before the opening of the Library of Birmingham

The other thing that caught my eye today (other than a bitter Telegraph article decrying the Library of Birmingham as being an “advertisement” for the city: what’s wrong with that?) is the statement by the Carnegie UK Trust that it accepts closures of some Carnegie libraries are necessary.  The non-profit organisation is aiming to encourage libraries under threat to diversify instead.



  • Andrew Carnegie: the billionaire benefactor of Great Britain – Big Issue. “The Carnegie UK Trust, which celebrates its centenary this year, was established, and is still funded by the $10 million worth of steel bonds it was given in 1913.” … “Sydenham Library was one of two built in Lewisham in 1904 with a grant from Carnegie of £9000. When it was opened, the mayor was embarrassed by the amount of fiction, close to 3,000 titles compared to around 1,000 on art and science and only 398 on theology but said that despite objections the library would “help disseminate betting news and harmful fiction” the benefit would be “far outweighed by the educational and moral advantages” … That library is now run by Eco Computer Systems which now is not “simply …. a library, but a hub for the community. It links up with local schools to offer homework clubs, reaches out to the homeless, hosts IT and English lessons and mother and baby groups. Oh, and it also lends books.” … “Other Carnegie-funded libraries are diversifying their services to better serve their community. For example, the public library in Woodbine, Iowa, built in 1909, lends cake tins”

“Like many business leaders, Carnegie amassed his wealth with the help of low-paid labour. During the Homestead Steel Strike, workers demanding a raise asked what good books were when they worked 12-hour days, six days a week. Carnegie replied: “If I had raised your wages, you would have spent that money by buying a better cut of meat or more drink for your dinner. But what you needed, though you didn’t know it, was my libraries and concert halls. And that’s what I’m giving to you.” That legacy is still in use today. By the time of his death Carnegie had provided funds to build 660 in the UK and 1,689 across the US, more than 50 per cent of the total number of public libraries in America at the time.”

  • Birmingham library isn’t a building; it’s an advertisement – Telegraph. “No one in their right mind can object to a new library, even if it is as quaint a notion as a bear pit or a minstrels’ gallery. But Birmingham already had a superb public library. Its fault was that the Seventies Brutalism of John Madin’s handsome design is today unfashionably unfashionable, not yet reaccessed by a claim to kitsch. Certainly, it did not meet current propaganda requirements for big cities. Creative reuse was a possibility that was ignored. My point: Birmingham’s new library is not a place to read, it is an advertisement.”
  • Libraries Weigh Accepting Paid Ads to Keep Afloat – American Libraries. “With the Great Recession still affecting public service budgets nationwide, libraries continue to pursue new funding avenues. The latest foray into fiscal triage, undertaken by at least two libraries—Toronto (Ont.) Reference Public Library and the Port Chester –Rye Brook (N.Y.) Library—is to allow commercial enterprises to advertise their products and services in the library. In both cases, the libraries have accepted a quid pro quo from ad placement companies. The firms provide a product for free to the library. In exchange, the company keeps whatever revenue comes from selling the ads displayed on that free product.”
  • Malala Yousafzai to open Birmingham library – Guardian. “Shot teenager says books ‘hold the power of education’, before ceremony to open Europe’s largest public library” … “”It is my dream that one day, great buildings like this one will exist in every corner of the world so every child can grow up with the opportunity to succeed.”

“The Manics song Design for Life with its opening lines of Libraries Gave Us Power is indeed a powerful message and it is good to know that it has inspired Voices for the Library at times when life has been difficult. Nick has asked me to say how proud he is of the song and even after all these years to know it is an inspiration to all those voices who are fighting to save libraries all over the country means a great deal to the band who give their support wholeheartedly to your campaign. It is an important issue – thanks to all those souls who work so tirelessly to bring the closure programme of libraries into the public arena. Best wishes to Voices for the Library from Nick, James and Sean. Stay beautiful.” Message of support from Manic Street Preachers – Voices for the Library.

Local news

  • Bradford – New-look library is now revealed – Telegraph and Argus.  “Builders have started converting the space previously occupied by the Bradford 1 Gallery in City Park and the large unit next to Starbucks into a contemporary library.” … “It comes nearly two years after the Central Library was closed because of health and safety fears. The plans were unveiled earlier this year after it was revealed it would take too long to repair the existing Central Library space. The overall project will cost £9m – £8m of which will be spent on the Central Library building.”
  • Bristol – Library change is not in their gift – This is Somerset. Letter attacks suggested takeover of two floors of Bristol Central Library be a Free School pointing out the importance of the library and restrictions on its use by the original donator of the site.
  • Denbighshire – Flood-hit St Asaph library and one-stop shop reopens – BBC. “A library in one of Wales’ smallest cities is reopening after it was damaged by floods that killed one person and damaged about 500 homes. Flooding devastated parts of St Asaph last November, including the library which is also a one-stop shop for Denbighshire council services. The building has been redesigned and refurbished with hundreds of new books.”
  • Lincolnshire – Holbeach Library: Please answer these questions Mr Worth – Guardian series. “Will it be staffed by ‘volunteers’ like Sutton Bridge and Crowland that don’t open when published and close for weeks through December and January? Because that is what volunteers mean.”
  • Lincolnshire – I can’t pay my tax as I’m going on a Med cruise – Guardian series. “Apparently, making our experienced librarians redundant will save money, as the cost of redundancies does not come out of the library budget”
  • Lincolnshire – Library closure ‘would take heart out of community’ – This is Lincolnshire. “Councillor Peter Milson, who is also chairman of Governors at John Spendluffe Technology College, said: “The proposed closure of libraries will take the heart out of local communities. “To say everyone has a laptop or kindle is simply not true, especially in areas of high deprivation. “Libraries are a social thing and no thought has been given on the effect on elderly people who use their library.”

“Alford Library is a unique case because its usage is much higher with around 40 per cent of the population using it. It is a very well used library and I would support it on that basis alone. “I am a volunteer and I know the limitations. It is wrong for the county council to think they can get a professionally run library service from library volunteers alone.”