Volunteer-run libraries have moved on from being a grass-roots innovation resisted by councils to being the first choice when cuts have to be made.  The government recently demonstrated that it is keen on the idea too and, now, Arts Council England have further shown their enthusiasm (leading on from a very positive report earlier this year) with a conference to be held in Gateshead in November in order to share best practice amongst volunteer libraries.  The odd thing is that no-one in authority appears to want to call them volunteer libraries (and I’ve never seen the word “unpaid” anywhere). The conference, for instance, calls them “Community-led”.  It all sounds so rosy.  However, for the reality of what a volunteer library may be, please see a letter sent very kindly to me by a real-life volunteeer from Dorset – it’s called “The reality is very different”.


 CILIP Council Election

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

13 questions to Tom Roper BA DipLib MClip (order of interviews is randomly chosen)

CILIP council candidate Tom Roper

CILIP council candidate Tom Roper, running for election

1. Who has been your biggest inspiration?

Lots of people, but if I have to name just one, it would be John Tanfield who taught me O and A level history.. His teaching style was to lecture, so would be frowned on nowadays, but he was a man with a huge frame of reference.

2. What was the worst mistake in your career? 

I made one or two errors in managing people, early on in my career.  I can’t go into details, but I hope I learnt from them. Otherwise, I think I was not tough enough with suppliers when choosing and implementing a new library management system.

3. What was your best career move? 

Generally, when I moved into health, specifically, when I was appointed to set up information services for the new Brighton and Sussex Medical School; it was the sort of job that only comes one’s way once in a career.

4. Who’s been the best and the worst minister responsible for libraries in your lifetime? 

The best was Mark Fisher who, though constrained by serving in the Blair government, was a cultured man who understood us better than most. The worst is, I am sorry to say, the present incumbent.

5. Where are or were you happiest? 

Finishing my first marathon, the brutal Beachy Head Marathon

6. Do you believe that e-books will entirely replace printed books? 

No. I use e-books, both buying them and borrowing them from the library, but, and the point has been made far more eloquently by others, the print artefact has a beauty and charm that e-books can’t yet match, and is free of the irritations of Digital Rights Management. I think the two forms will co-exist for many more decades.

7. What book should every librarian/information professional read? 

Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy.

8. What is your guiltiest pleasure? 

Pie and chips

9. Clarkson or Clark? Would you rather watch Top Gear or Civilisation? 

Civilisation, without a doubt. Though Clark was easy to parody (what could be more agreeable?), and some of his arguments contestable and dated, I watched the programmes again when rebroadcast in 2011, riveted. I could happily watch them on an endless loop.

10. What personal ambition do you still have? 

To master classical Greek and to be able to write competent verse in the language. I’ve been teaching myself for several years, and have made some progress, but not enough.

11. Summarise your personality in three words 

Active, impulsive, determined

12. Do you have any regrets about becoming a librarian/information professional? 

No, it’s been a fascinating and rich time. What other career could have taken me to a public library on a North London estate where the heroin addicts left discarded needles in the library, to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, to a brand-new medical school and to my present role as a Clinical Librarian?

13. If you weren’t a librarian/information professional what would you be doing instead? 

Medicine, I think. I come from a long line of doctors.


  • It’s New York – Leon’s Library Blog. “It’s such a great pity that York is still a rare entity instead of being the norm. Many library campaigners and librarians themselves have been wary of going down the Trust or Mutual route, and sometimes with justification. However, the alternative is proving somewhat worse. For many still under local authority control the reality is dominated by the morale sapping grind of salami slicing the service year on year, with councils spinning a smokescreen of not closing libraries when in actuality what remains underneath the façade is a hollowed-out shell that bears little resemblance to an effective and comprehensive service.”
  • Library operators Carillion’s shady record on blacklistings – Inside Croydon. “As the few trained librarians who remain in Croydon’s 13 public libraries get used to the idea of being under their third employer in almost as many weeks, they may be a little concerned to discover that Carillion, the company which last week acquired the Croydon library contract through a corporate takeover, is the subject of two separate High Court compensation class actions over unlawful surveillance and the blacklisting of workers.”
  • Local libraries in a national framework – Good Library Blog / Tim Coates. “We need to set some kind of ambition for every little local library – and then resource it properly and allow a local manager (paid, experienced and professional) to let the library provide everything that a library can do for local communities – books, staff, opening hours and energy. There needs to be a national infrastructure and framework of technical support- so that local libraries don’t have to create their own. And there needs to be accountability and responsibility at council level, to make sure that each library does its job and that every community is properly provided for”
  • Star Wars baddy Jabba the Hut working in Welsh library – Express. “The movie puppeteer who operated alien villain Jabba in Return of the Jedi has given up a life of intergalactic crime to start a new life in the hushed corridors of a library. Toby Philpott, 67, climbed inside Jabba the Hutt to work his left arm, head and slimy flicking tongue in the sci-fi classic. But 30 years after working on the third Star Wars film, he is leading computer courses in Cardiff Central Library.”
  • They’re off – Tom Roper’s Weblog. “Last night I and the other five candidates took part in a hustings event at CILIP headquarters in London. It was a curious experience — we knew that the sound and moving pictures were being transmitted to thousands in their homes, but the Charter Suite held only the six candidates, the President Phil Bradley who chaired the discussion, three real CILIP members, and the audio-visual team and CILP staff, without whom none of our maunderings would have reached the outside world.”

“It’s telling that the stuff on the gov.uk website was discussed, worked on, drafted, made public, whatever, without CILIP – or, for that matter, what seems like other library organizations – being consulted about it. Or just made aware of it. … However, it does illustrate the contempt and irrelevance that is demonstrated by the current government to the professional library body. For whatever reason, CILIP were completely cut out of the loop for the whole process. Either the powers-that-be forgot that CILIP exists (not good), or they were deliberately excluded from any involvement (also, not good). That, in itself, is a significant cause for concern.” John Kirriemuir on lis-pub-libs

International news

  • Community is Key to Successful Library Maker Spaces | The Digital Shift 2013 – Digital Shift (USA). “Above all, when starting a maker program, “you have to listen to what the community wants,” Hoenke says. “Is it really a 3-D printer?” When Hoenke joined Chattanooga’s staff about six months ago, he explains, he moved his office to the public library floor out near the teen area, so he could spend more time interacting with patrons.”
  • DPLA Announces Million-Dollar Grant to Train Public Librarians in Digital Technologies – LISNews (USA). “Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will produce workshops and education modules to train public librarians in digitization, metadata creation, and digital technologies”
  • Impact survey – Impact Survey (USA).  Free tool for public libraries to help with surveying users and demonstrating the impact public libraries make.  Produced by University of Washington in association with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Is Your Library Brand Contagious? – Public Libraries Online (USA). ” If libraries are experts at anything it’s stories and people, and yet branding is an area where we routinely fall short. What story can your library tell that encompasses your services, and the role you play in the community?” … “As many libraries move forward with new business models and strategic plans it’s easy to lose the vision in the details. “
  • Sociologist: For Better Disaster Readiness, Build More Libraries – Here and Now (USA). “When disaster strikes, people are told to go to school buildings, police stations and hospitals. But sociologist Eric Klinenberg says we should build more libraries and community centers for people to go during their time of need.”

“Is that the moment you want to go into some strange, random public institution you’ve never spent time in before — one that’s likely to be overwhelmed by people with real needs and problems, and that might not be capable of giving you what you need. Or is that the moment you want to go a place that you feel comfortable in and familiar with, a place where you know the faces and are likely to see your a lot of your neighbors. It’s kind of a no-brainer.””

  • State public libraries to be upgraded – Echo of India. “The state has 2,479 public libraries and all of them will be directed to keep competitive exam books and school texts. Besides, 26 selected district level libraries will have internet facility and will be connected to the state central library. This will enable readers to read books online as well, added Mukherjee”


  • Community Led Libraries Conference, Gateshead Voluntary Organisations Council – Arts Council England. Monday 18th November in Gateshead. “To establish the emerging role of community led libraries and to provide an opportunity for networking, communication and the generation of new ideas.”
  • Speak Up for Libraries – It’s now or never for public libraries – Library Campaign.  Saturday 23rd November in London. “Speak Up For Libraries is a coalition of national organisations and individual campaigners: Elizabeth Ash, Campaign for the Book, CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals, The Library Campaign, Unison and Voices for the Library. Public libraries are in crisis – with 1,000 likely soon to close or be abandoned to hard-pressed communities to run as best they can. Many more will be wrecked by cuts. This means permanent damage to community life, literacy, education, social cohesion, citizens’ rights, the welfare of vulnerable people and the future of young people.”. Speakers include prominent leaders inc. Libraries Director of ACL, boss of Society fo Chief Librarians, DCMS Advisor for Libraries, Head of Local Government Unison plus Alan Gibbons and academic Steve Davies.

UK news by authority

  • Bristol – Libraries future darkens after mayor question time – Bristol 247. “The future of Bristol’s libraries became less secure yesterday after George Ferguson highlighted a London council which closed six libraries as part of multi-million-pound budget cuts.” … “he highlighted Brent Council’s “radical” changes to library services, which he said had brought overall improvements.”
  • Devon – Councillor’s anger over South Devon mobile library cuts – This is Devon. “He said: “It’s all very well saying very few people are using the stops, but the more you cut services like this, the more isolated people become and life becomes more difficult and their health deteriorates. “The council has to make lots of cuts because of the cut in government funding and I think the council should be taking action against the government and saying ‘we’re not having this’.
  • Luton – Luton library closures announced due to £1.5m funding cut – BBC. “Two libraries in Luton are to close after the charity which runs them lost more than £1.5m in council funding. Luton Culture said the decision to shut Wigmore and Sundon Park libraries and also stop the mobile library service would save £330,000.”
  • Luton – Three Luton libraries will close in the next few months – Luton Today. “Maggie Appleton, Chief Executive of Luton Culture said: “This is a sad day for us and we very much regret that we have to announce closures. We have incredibly loyal customers who deeply value their libraries and the library staff who serve them. “Sadly, the £1.58m cut our charity is facing has forced us to make changes to the library service. The consultation and prioritisation exercise led by Luton Borough Council ensured that all viable options for making savings across the library network were carefully analysed and considered.”
  • Moray – Rhoda Grant MSP Hopes to Secure Debate in Scottish Parliament On Moray Library Closures – Rhoda Grant MSP. ““It is clear from the outcry in Moray by local communities and the great work being done by the Save Our Libraries, Moray Campaign group, to oppose the closures, that this is a decision that should be reversed. “Local Libraries are not just a place to borrow books, they are community hubs, where people meet, learn new skills and importantly can access internet and computer services.”
  • Neath Port Talbot – Rallying cry to residents to help save Resolven library – This is South Wales. “The village’s residents’ association is calling on people from across the area to meet in St David’s Hall in the square, from 6pm on Wednesday, October 30. Polly Davies, chairwoman, said: “We are calling for everyone in Resolven district to come and show their support and send the message to leave the library alone.””
  • Sefton – Council approves Carnegie library as an asset of community value – Crosby Herald. Decision means that “the Friends of Carnegie Library (FOCUL) group can purchase the building within a six month period if it were ever to be sold by the council.”
  • Sheffield – Pressure grows for rethink over city library closures – Sheffield Telegraph. “Sheffield City Council is coming under increasing community pressure to save up to 16 branches libraries threatened with closure. Residents in Broomhill, Totley, Stannington, Walkley, Greenhill and Frecheville are among those holding meetings, organising petitions and generally pressing the council to keep them open.”

“It feels like they have made their decision and they are going through a public relations exercise as opposed to a solution finding exercise”

  • Swindon – Campaigning to save Swindon’s libraries – ITV. Two minute video.  Looks at the cuts inc. interview with Shirley Burnham. ITV concludes “cuts have to be made”.
  • Swindon – Open letter to councillor Keith Williams, Cabinet Member, Libraries, Swindon Borough Council – Alan Gibbons. Shirley Burnham writes letter suggesting consultation is slanted towards getting the cuts desired.   “an accessible, quality public library service is key to the cultural infrastructure of Swindon”
  • Swindon – Volunteers could open new chapter for libraries – Swindon Advertiser. “In December, Swindon Council will be launching a 12-week consultation into the borough’s library strategy for its 16 libraries after cabinet members approved plans at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday to slash £300,000 from its £2.9m library budget.” … “No buildings will close unless there is overwhelming support from the residents to shut them down but many could be taken over by their communities.” … “One option is rather than hosting a mobile library, to have a library service at doctors’ surgeries.”  … “He said compared to other local authorities Swindon has a lot of libraries for the amount of people they serve with 16 buildings catering for around 210,000 residents. In Wiltshire they have around 29 libraries for a population of 470,981.”

“Walcott Library has been entirely run by volunteers for four years. Its manager Deborah Estarbrook said the service has been working really well and appealed for more volunteers to step forward to help their local library. “We aren’t trained but we help people with the computers and with general support around the library,” said Deborah. “It’s reassuring to know someone from the council is at the other end of the phone to help us if we need it.””

  • West Sussex – Big Society venture for Midhurst library – Midhurst and Petworth Observer. “over the historic library building in the centre of the town. It would provide new offices and meeting space for Midhurst Town Council, a permanent home for the museum and office space for the rural town manager.” … “he library is set to move into the new Grange Leisure Centre next year leaving empty the present 17th century West Sussex County Council-owned building which is valued at some £350,000.”
  • Wiltshire – Rush to utilise moved library – Wiltshire Times. “Trowbridge’snew Library has surpassed Wiltshire Council’s expectations since opening in September last year. The facility, at County Hall, has acquired 4,378 new members and had 200,888 visitors.That is 14.3 per cent higher than was anticipated. The library moved from Bythesea Road to the refurbished County Hall.” … “Since the move, the library has recorded a 70 per cent increase in reserving books.”
  • Wolverhampton – Construction work underway on new community hubs – Wolverhampton Council. “Contractors started work on the new Ashmore Park Community Hub in August, while work began on the Pendeford and Long Knowle hubs last month – and more are due to get underway shortly. The bespoke centres will offer library and information services, community facilities and youth services. They are being developed in phases across the city, with the first due to open their doors next year.”
  • Worcestershire – Chance for residents to see new Bromsgrove Library designs – Bromsgrove Standard. “As well as the library, Bromsgrove’s new Civic Centre will also provide office space for Bromsgrove District Council and Worcestershire County Council staff and see the relocation of the Registration Service and Bromsgrove Customer Service Centre.”