Speeches on public libraries can be wonderful things that affirm one’s own beliefs and re-energises one to battle on further for the cause.  Neil Gaiman’s speech earlier this week was one of those.  Another type of speech, perhaps no less important, is one that challenges traditional views, and either helps change them for the better or forces one to come up with arguments that shoot it down.  This second sort of speech was made by Helen Milner who dared to say, in a Carnegic UK sponsored event, that if Carnegie was alive today he would not be interested in “saving libraries”.  She suggests that emphasising online connections, community centres and friendly skilled assistance (amongst other things) should be paid for instead.  Hmm, that sounds a lot like a modern library to me, albeit without the, ahem, books being mentioned in this new model.  Indeed, Janene Cox (current boss of the Society of Chief Librarians and something senior in Staffordshire got in touch with me to say that “the power of reading for pleasure and how that develops literacy is missing from this”.  Libraries play a vital role in reading for pleasure which boosts literacy which improves … well, just plain everything.  Including tech’d up community centres.

In other news, an ACE-funded economist has released a report on English libraries and notes how effiicient they are.  Less welcome for some, though, is another conclusion that “management and external factors” often hurts efficiency.  Also announced today, the Society of Chief Librarians has arranged a deal for cheaper online resources, with a possible £6 million being saved nationally. That’s a lot of money, although some are questioning the amount and whether smaller bodies could have negotiated just as well. Certainly, in the current climate, tough negotiation skills are becoming more and more important for every library service.



“On the other hand, we found evidence that there is geographical disparity in the level of provision.  Libraries in local authorities with a high population density and high proportion of young people find it more challenging to deliver their services efficiently. Surprisingly, expenditure per capita performs poorly in explaining variation in efficiency, suggesting that management and external factors are like to be key explanatory factors behind these disparities.”

“This announcement shows that the Government is pushing a policy of volunteer run libraries even though it (and ACE) have still not developed models to ensure that such libraries are sustainable. The attached Briefing Paper at Para 5 highlights some of the serious concerns being raised by campaigners with MPs and Peers. Many volunteer groups are being forced to take over their local library to save it from closure and are being effectively “cast off” without proper support or guidance. These groups have often been directed to The Library Campaign and the volunteers who run Little Chalfont Library for advice. The volunteers who run the Little Chalfont Library say that they been contacted by more than 130 groups seeking help (the Cabinet Office has recently stepped in and given them some funding to provide such help!) …  Desmond Clarke on Gov.uk promoting volunteer libraries

“I really had thought the government couldn’t sink any lower on libraries. But now it’s moved from lazily passive to actively hostile. People don’t want to run libraries. Even those who end up doing it. They want a proper service run by professionals. That’s what you need in the information age. Contrast Scotland, where Moray is the very first case of planned mass closures.  The librarians’ professional association (CILIPS) made a strong public statement as soon as the protests began in September, and now the minister has actively intervened. What next? Create your own hospital?” Laura Swaffield, Chair, Library Campaign

  • Re-imagining Carnegie: Libraries for the 21st Century, Helen Milner – Helen Milner, Chief Executive of the Tinder Foundation.  “This is the transcript of my speech I made today (16 October 2013) as part of the Andrew Carnegie International Legacy events taking place in Edinburgh” … Carnegie would not “save the libraries” if he were alive today, he’d spend the money on judgement free community centres, pro-education programmes, free online courses, guiders and supporters. Quotes as examples as St Botolphs volunteer-managed “Give-Get” Library and Fresh Horizons community centre/cinema/library.
  • Society of Chief Librarians strikes reference deal – BookSeller. “The SCL agreed the deal with JISC Collections, which will provide all libraries with access to Reference Online, a resource of materials including dictionaries, encyclopaedias and other reference works. It is hoped that the agreement will save libraries £6m over the three years of the contract.” … “Arts Council England (ACE) part-funded the procurement process for the new deal, giving SCL £36,000 towards the process. The scheme is designed to build both of SCL’s own Universal Offers”

“These figures have been derived from returns made by suppliers as part of the regular contract monitoring process. They represent the annual efficiency saving generated by Reference Online over the seven years of its existence, based on the discounts from list price offered by participating suppliers (which range from 12% to 60%). They give an indicative figure only.” JISC Collections via email

“[The £6m claim …] makes several assumptions, not least that no discounts would be available to any authority from suppliers and [JISC] admit that the estimates are only indicative. Making assumptions based on list or gross price is potentially misleading … library purchasing organisations and several authorities have been very successful at negotiating significant discounts to “list” price.” Desmond Clarke via email

International news

  • Libraries ACT cuts opening hours to save money – ABC News (Australia). “From December, the opening hours will be reduced by 31 hours a week across its nine branches. It means libraries will close at 4pm on a Saturday, instead of 5:30pm. Only the three busiest libraries at Dickson, Gungahlin and Woden will stay open until 8pm once a week.” $50k cut this year, $100k next.
  • Miami-Dade mayor unveils task force to study future of public libraries – Miami Herald (USA). “County commissioners were able to save the libraries from significant budget cuts this summer by finding money to keep them afloat one more year. But by next year, the library system faces a projected $21 million hole, Gimenez said in a memo late Tuesday. “We have a very short timeline to define how we will address the steep financial cliff that the Library Department will face in less than 12 months,” he said. His memo outlined a blue-ribbon task force that he would chair to study the libraries’ programs, operations and funding.”
  • Public Library News Roundup (15 Stories from 14 States and Ontario) – Infodocket (USA).

Local news

  • Birmingham – City Council: Save Our Library! – Change.org. “Here in Hall Green Ward we have one community library serving the interests of over 26,000 residents with 7000 of these being under the age of 16. Our library is one of two assets that Hall Green has, the other being its community centre – Highfield Hall. We must protect these assets, both under serious threat as a result of the service reviews being undertaken.”
  • Bristol – Council accused on ‘bargain basement’ rent of Central Library – Bristol 24-7. ““We have sought independent property advice and are assured that similar space would normally command a return of £110,000 per annum, but the council is talking of only £60,000 – almost half what it could secure,” the former chairman of the Libraries Select Committee said.”
  • Cambridgeshire – Fear over loss of job search training in Cambridgeshire libraries – Cambridge News. “The European Union bankrolled workshops at libraries and learning centres across Cambridgeshire during the first half of this year, which offered training in interview skills, CV writing and online job searching. But the project stopped in July when funding ran out, and the replacement only operates in Cambridge Central Library and the March branch.”
  • Gloucestershire – Historic book sale to raise thousands for Gloucestershire’s library service – Gloucestershire Echo. “The books have been gathering dust in the basements of Gloucestershire’s libraries and they will go under the hammer at a Cotswold auction next week.” … “The oldest of the books to be sold is volume one to three of The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England Begun in the Year 1641 which was printed in Oxford in 1704. Its guide price is between £200 and £300.”

“Even though these items were listed on the public catalogue, no-one has requested them or has gained any pleasure from them for many years. They should now be appreciated by those who can afford to care for them.” Gloucestershire Libraries

“We doubt very much Gloucestershire Libraries will see the money” Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries via Twitter

  • Moray – Hyslop speaks out in row over local authority’s plans to shut seven libraries – Herald Scotland. “Fiona Hyslop, culture secretary, said: “I am very concerned that Moray Council cannot see the value in continuing to provide library services in these rural areas and that the council does not see, in these times of austerity, how much of a lifeline these services can be to the elderly; people with disabilities; those looking for work and families on low incomes where a £10 round trip to the library is not feasible or where the journey on public transport is not practical.”
  • Sunderland – Letters, Wednesday, October 16, 2013 – Sunderland Echo / Letters.  “ All of the libraries near me have closed – East Herrington, Doxford Park, Silksworth – so I’m not exactly sure where I’d have to go to now.  I went onto the council’s website to read their justification for this appalling cultural vandalism” … “Don’t buy the lawnmowers. Keep a couple of libraries open, it’s not too late”