The ten year strategy of Arts Council England has been revised and now firmly includes libraries within it. Part of the challenge for ACE must have been not be seen to simply just add “and libraries” to the end of each key point and to some extent they have succeeded.  It is clear, though, that ACE sees libraries very much within it’s own world of Arts and Culture and there is very little mention of literacy, online provision, providing health and other information within it.  Library authorities wanting funding from ACE will do better to think in terms of art projects rather than in terms of unemployment or education. This is a great shame as, frankly, Arts and Culture are hardly the key things we wish to stake our future on at the moment.  This Government sees things in terms of pounds sterling saved and produced, not in terms of intangibles. The report does have one notable interface with grim reality though – ACE are investing “in research and development of new and emerging business models for library services”.  That’s looking at how good libraries are being run by volunteers, private companies and trusts.  We’ll see what they say.

Finally, even in what was seen by many (including the council’s own scrutiny committer) as a consultation so one-sided as to be almost unfit for purpose, with no option for “no change” and an emphasis on volunteers, very strong public feeling cannot be hidden.  This is the case in Lincolnshire where many of the 6000 respondents were “angry and upset” at the proposals, with over two-thirds thinking the cuts would make a detrimental impact on their community.  However, even this, it seems, has not been enough to sway the councillor in charge of libraries who focuses on those who have come forward to volunteer in order to keep libraries open and seems keen to push through cuts regardless.  So why have a consultation in the first place?  Well, a cynic could suggest that it means that the council and the DCMS can say that the public have been consulted and so that the Secretary of State has a reason to not intervene, yet again.


An interview with Cilip Council candidate John Dolan OBE BA DipLib MCLIP

(part of a series of six for you to cut out and keep)

For the manifestos of each of the six candidates, please see this page.

John Dolan at Libraries Rally March 2013

John Dolan at Libraries Rally March 2013

Who has been your biggest inspiration? Tough call as I don’t do heroes but there are several people I admire in my personal life; in my career likewise. I’ve had great colleagues whom I admire for three qualities – Tenacity, Commitment, and Integrity. As a Mancunian I’m proud of most things Manchester as I always saw my city as a city of reform, confident in its convictions. I’d like to live up to that. 

What was the worst mistake in your career?  So many to choose from… I suggested a local historic figure (as requested) after whom to name a new local school. I had read of this guy and thought he’d be suitable. I submitted the potted history, it was accepted and the education Department (those were the days) went ahead. Unfortunately I hadn’t checked my source at the time of the enquiry and I had given them the wrong first name!  The ultimate librarian error. I still feel embarrassed to think of it! I’ve never since given information without checking and respect, all the more, that authenticity embedded in library and information services. 

What was your best career move?  To become a librarian in the first place and then to focus on reference work and subsequently community information and community librarianship 

Who’s been the best and the worst minister responsible for libraries in your lifetime?  I assume you mean England so Chris Smith. He understood public libraries and knew they favour the socially excluded but could do more, help find a stairway to a new quality of life. He exercised his power to lever improvement in public libraries, coined the evocative term, ‘Street Corner University’ for the lifelong learning library; he saw the future coming and commissioned the ground-breaking People’s Network. ]

The current Minister Ed Vaizey – and I’m not into unproductive Minister-bashing – has had least positive impact. Inexcusable in a time of austerity, when libraries could do even more for people and communities. He should take the potential of public libraries to other Government Departments and engage partners, speedily, into making public libraries and skilled library and information workers part of the solution. In almost every economic, social and cultural agenda there is a productive role for public libraries. CILIP must maintain a dialogue with him, not least on the library/ information worker’s skill and expert role.

There is immensely valuable experience in the devolved nations; that should be held up yet is rarely discussed UK-wide. CILIP has independent Councils in each devolved nation; we need to work UK-wide recognising difference but exchanging experience.

Where are or were you happiest?  I’ve had a good life all round because you remember the best times and memory sifts them out from the difficult moments but University days were great. In work terms, I’ve enjoyed my career as a whole.  I was very proud of the work I did in inner city Manchester in the 1970s-80’s and my time in St Helens. And yes, I was elated by the whole People’s Network experience, but we must move on! 

Do you believe that e-books will entirely replace printed books?  We have to stop this futile bifurcation of print and digital. Our profession, more than any other, should lead in promoting understanding of how the communication of information and ideas, learning and knowledge is, and will continue to change and how vital it is that our professional skills are applied in the interests of futre social justice and economic growth. Remember, Ranganathan’s line, “Who knows that a day may not come […] when the dissemination of knowledge, which is the vital function of libraries, will be realised by libraries even by means other than those of the printed book?” (1931!). But, it’s not only e-resources but e-access to print, digital and multiple media interactive experiences. That’s where libraries and librarians

What book should every librarian/information professional read?  “The Library at Night’ by Alberto Manguel 

What is your guiltiest pleasure?  When I know I’m right and, not being obliged to feel guilty, don’t feel guilty

Clarkson or Clark? Would you rather watch Top Gear or Civilisation?  The car I use to get about so I don’t feel the need for a programme. Art I like and it means more in my life. I enjoy hearing other and new ideas about old and contemporary art, not only the fine arts, and so it has to be Clark. Two of the most enjoyable talks I had to prepare were for the ARLIS annual conference 

What personal ambition do you still have?  To visit the Hermitage Gallery in St Petersburg; ideally that would be after after the Greenpeace prisoners are released. 

Summarise your personality in three words  This is bordering on the vain, permissible for an election maybe but still, if I may,  I’ll take three work-related reassuring phrases from my Nominators’ statements: “finger on the pulse” (Sue Lawson); “think(s) innovatively” (Janene Cox); “principled and inspiring” (Phil Jones). That feels so much better!

Do you have any regrets about becoming a librarian/information professional?  None. It’s a great role to play in society; library, information and knowledge professionals work, across society and across the world which is an amazing network to be part of. I always felt I had the most interesting job of all my friends.

If you weren’t a librarian/information professional what would you be doing instead?  I doubt I’d have the skill but I’d aspire to being a surgeon while more realistically (or maybe not) I’d want to be an actor

“Great Art and Culture for Everyone”

Arts Council England have updated their ten year plan 2020-2030 with one of the key changes being to embed libraries within it.  Key points noted are:

  • 59 projects funded by ACE in libraries in the last year.
  • “We will make the case that libraries contribute to the cultural, social and economic objectives of both national and local
    government. We will work with those who represent library services and with key library stakeholders to shape the strategic  direction of the sector. We will take a particular interest in the ways that library spaces can be used to connect the public with other cultural activity, and vice versa.”
  • Public funding for libraries has come under pressure, but, as with museums, many libraries have adapted, innovated, and remain part of the essential fabric of their communities. Although there has been a decrease in the number of people borrowing books, evidence shows that where there has been strategic investment in libraries – such as in promoting children’s reading – visits rise. Patterns of use are also changing, with a significant increase in public use of digital services, and libraries are evolving in response.”
  • “We want to support all libraries to develop a range of excellent services to enable people to deepen their knowledge, widen their appreciation of culture and acquire the skills and information they need.
  • Help to re-think the way in which library spaces are designed and used, with a particular focus on encouraging artistic and cultural activity
  • “We believe that the quality of a library service should be judged by its users, and we will use The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) survey of public library users and other sources to understand how users across England view their library service. We will use data from our survey of stakeholders – such as local authorities, library services and key partners – to understand the extent to which they believe we have supported library services”
  • “Work with the library network to increase access to arts and culture”
  • “Invest in research and development of new and emerging business models for library services that enable more
    informed decisions about how they will be delivered, learning from – and informing – our work with arts
    organisations and museums”.
  • Ensure libraries workforce is “appropriately skilled”.
  • Libraries should be “delivering high-quality arts and cultural experiences for children and young people”

UK national news

  • Call for Government to honour promise to publish annual review of public libraries – CILIP. ““We need to better understand the current position regarding community-managed libraries and how far funding cuts have impacted on the public library service generally. I call upon the Secretary of State for Culture to publish the review that the Government promised by the end of 2013 into the cumulative effect on library services of the reduction in local authority provision and the growth of alternatives such as community libraries.  This promise was made in the Government’s response to the Culture, Media and Sport 2012-13 Inquiry into library closures, and it is a promise that should be honoured. The annual review should be debated in parliament, which is what CILIP and the many other organisations and friends groups expected.  Failure to do so will only strengthen the view that the Government is only paying lip service to the concept of a comprehensive library service for everyone.”

“After all the palaver over Croydon council bizarrely selecting John Laing to run its outsourced libraries (Eyes passim), the giant infrastructure firm ran the service for just three weeks before selling it on. Croydon’s choice of Laing was controversial, as it had run a hugely expensive joint tender process with nearby Wandsworth and the latter went with the “best value” option, Greenwich Leisure, which was both cheapest and had the best track record.

The handover took place on 1 October.  On 18 October, Laing sold its “facilities management” arm, John Laing Integrated Services (JLIS), which also runs libraries for Hounslow, Ealing and Harrow councils to notoriously union-unfriendly building firm Carillion. Meanwhile, Carillion’s energy services business announced losses and job cuts this month.  It bought home energy efficiency firm Eaga, which used to have a monopoly over the dreadful Warmfront grant scheme in 2011, expecting lots of work from the government’s new Green Deal.  By this August it had imroved just 12 homes under the scheme.  Let’s hope it does better with its new libraries.”  Private Eye: 30th October Issue No. 1352 | Halloween Special
Library News (p.28)

  • CILIP urges Members of European Parliament to show their support for public libraries – CILIP. “The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals has called on Members of European Parliament to show their support for public libraries. An open letter sent by CILIP President, Phil Bradley to all MEPs in the United Kingdom, encourages them to sign Written Declaration 0016/2013 acknowledging the impact of public libraries in European communities.”

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland, Labour) To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what estimate she has made of the number of volunteer libraries in the country.

Edward Vaizey (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Culture, Communications and Creative Industries), Business, Innovation and Skills; Wantage, Conservative) The specific information requested is not held centrally, however research by locality indicates that at December 2012 there were 254 community libraries operating in England, details of which are available at: http://libraries.communityknowledgehub.org.uk/resource/community-libraries-england-and-wales-december-2012

They Work For You

  • Libraries we need and the leaders we don’t – Alan Gibbons.  Text of speech made at Portsmouth Central Library. Stresses the importance of libraries to literacy and to the country, how important libraries are to other countries and how other countries can’t believe how the library service is being dismantled in the UK.

“The bad news is that the Culture Minister Mr Ed Vaizey possesses two qualities: the strategic vision of Mr Magoo [and] the noblesse oblige disregard for public service of a slum landlord. He richly deserved the no confidence vote passed by the professional librarians’ body, CILIP.”

  • Reading Agency to run World Book Night – BookSeller. “The annual event, which sees thousands of volunteers give away copies of specially printed books, will take place for the fourth time in April 2014. It has been run by an independent charity since it launched in 2011, working with The Reading Agency and the BBC as partners. However it will now be operated entirely by TRA.”

“to widen participation in 2014, volunteers will also be able to sign up to give away a single book of their own choosing, which can be from their own shelves or bought to give away. Branded stickers and book plates will be available from libraries and bookshops to record that the books were part of the event. World Book Night is hoping to have 100,000 volunteers giving away books by 2017.”

International news

  • Seattle public libraries opt to obey the law…finally – Examiner (USA). “Westneat says guns “have no place in libraries.” One might ask, Why not? If someone is visiting the public library, minding his or her own business and carrying a firearm, where is the problem?”


  • Masterclass: And Yet the Books – Reader Organisation. 18th November in Liverpool. “This month’s Masterclass in Liverpool focuses on shared reading in library and community settings. Join Helen Wilson for an evening discussing all aspects of reading in these settings, ranging from publicity and techniques for recruitment to group dynamics and ‘going deeper’ in sessions.”
  • Six Book Challnege training day – Reading Agency. 13th November in London. “We’re delighted that 66% of library authorities across the UK have got involved in the Six Book Challenge this year, up on previous years. This increase has been spurred on by inclusion of the Six Book Challenge in public libraries’ Universal Reading Offer and also our partnership with the Rugby League World Cup 2013 (currently in full swing!).  At least 35,000 people have registered for the Challenge in 2013, of which 13,000 have signed up through libraries and organisations working with them to reach less confident readers – a great result for libraries.   With materials now available for 2014, and endorsement from our new Ambassador Martina Cole, we’re offering a training day on Wednesday 13 November at the Free Word Centre in London.   Please see here for more details – fee includes a FREE pack of materials!  – or contactjenny.warner@readingagency.org.uk

UK news by library authority

  • Camarthenshire – Cuts to mobile libraries ‘will penalise users’ – This is South Wales. “Some of the smaller libraries are already provided in partnership with local groups, but a further review of remaining libraries, and the current coverage of the mobile library service could result in savings of £141,000 per annum, say the council.”.
  • Croydon – When books disappear from libraries – Real Blog. Laing had just enough time to put staff in uniforms before selling out to Carillion.  Croydon libraries have notably less books in them than before.  Writer worries that iPads are being chosen out of fashion whereas books are needed.
  • Devon – Sidmouth: Council propose to axe mobile library – View From Online. “Devon County Council is launching a consultation with mobile library users, as proposals are considered which would remove underused stopping places from mobile routes, and reduce the frequency of the service, cutting the cost of the service by half. Approximately 5,100 people across Devon use the council’s fortnightly mobile library service in rural communities not served by a static library.”
  • Knowsley – Volunteers Step up to Save Whiston Library – Prescot Online. “Thirty volunteers have written to Knowsley Council today, 30 October, to propose taking over the ownership and management of Whiston Library. Knowsley’s councillors voted unanimously in March 2013′s budget to save money by axing funding to Whiston and Page Moss libraries. The council pointed to government cuts of £38 million as reasons for the decision.”
  • Lincolnshire – Library consultation results revealed – Rutland and Stamford Mercury. 6,000 respond to consultation.  “The main finding was that there was “widespread opposition” to the council’s plans from those who responded to the consultation. Concerns were raised about access and travel times to libraries. And 68 per cent of those who responded felt the changes would have a significant impact on their community. Council officers will now consider the results and come up with a revised proposal on the library service, which will published on November 22 and presented to the community and public safety scrutiny committee on December 2.”
  • Lincolnshire – Library cuts plans slammed – Guardian series. “Key findings include: l Strong public feeling with many participants “angry and upset” l Many found the survey and consultation events “unsuitable” and “inadequate” l Some 68 per cent said changes would have a significant effect on their communities The report continues: “The impacts of these changes to the service were reported to be damaging to communities, particularly affecting the elderly, children and young people and job-seekers.”
  • Lincolnshire – People strongly opposed to library cuts, survey finds – Lincolnite. “Analysing the comments, the majority said they were angry, frustrated and upset at the proposals, and found the consultation inadequate to communicate feelings properly. Respondents felt the cuts were highly unfair and short-sighted of the council, and would have a great impact on young people now and in the future. A number also highlighted that the libraries were more than just a service to a number of areas, but a community hub and social centre. Overall, 63% felt that the changes to their local library would have a massive impact on them personally, particularly in areas where Tier 4 (monthly one-hour mobile library stop) has been proposed, and 68% felt it would have a serious impact on the local community.”  Councillor in charge of libraries emphasises small number taking part (“1% of the population”) and indicates he will continue with volunteers substituting for paid library staff.

“Councillors on the County Council’s Scrutiny Committee felt that the consultation form was confusing for residents, there was not enough promotion of the consultation and there was no option to see no changes to their library. One councillor also mentioned they were angry that the committee’s previous decision to change the consultation document had been ignored”

  • North Yorkshire – Future of Malton and Norton’s libraries still undecided – Gazette and Herald. “Initial plans to create a single library in Ryedale District Council’s newly-renovated Harrison House complex near Malton train station, have fallen through, said council leader, Councillor Linda Cowling. Ryedale Voluntary Action and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau are moving into part of the building, and other areas have been let to as yet unnamed tenants, said Coun Cowling. She said North Yorkshire County Council was no longer pursuing its interest in Harrison House for a library.
  • Swindon – Consult public over cuts, council is told – Swindon Advertiser. “A worrying precedent is being set by the council hurrying through planned cuts to services without public consultations, according to the Labour group.”

“Not consulting residents on 40 per cent of the cuts proposed in the cabinet’s budget, including on libraries, sets a concerning precedent. “I also understand that some of these proposals plan to be implemented before the start of the next financial year.”

  • Wolverhampton – Our libraries are the hearts of our communities – Save Wolverhampton Libraries. “The proposed cut of over 50% of our librarians comes on top of previous years cuts and will have long lasting, adverse affects on literacy levels, social mobility, elderly isolation etc etc etc.”  Includes poem to librarian who was “deleted” in last round of cuts.