The decision by Moray Council to save save three out of seven libraries from closure shows the importance of paying attention to the law.  Councillors had been warned by their own officers that closing these three would be questionable under equalities legislation but it took an actual move to court action for them to actually do the right thing.  That they even thought of such action is being put down to the scale of the budget cuts imposed.

In a development not seen elsewhere so far in the UK, library technology company Bibliotecha have put forward (what else?) library technology as an alternative to closing libraries.  The idea of self-service machines and key card access to libraries instead of closing them is reminiscent of what has been happening in some European countries.  The company argues that machines can keep the library open all the time while volunteers keep it open only some of the time.  In neither vision do paid library staff get much of a look in but the library itself is still there … and that is an option that may be attractive to cash-strapped councils.


On the radar

  • Lancashire – Review of public library spending in December (unconfirmed).


  • Academics challenge ‘apocalyptic’ predictions for future of libraries – Times Higher Education.  “A collaboration between Newman University, the Typographic Hub at Birmingham City University, Digital Ink Drop, the Library of Birmingham and the Library of Lost Books, the first Resurrecting the Book conference ranged from mediaeval manuscripts to the latest digital technology which some believe will soon put the codex out of business. Returning to his native city, Sir David Cannadine, Dodge professor of history at Princeton University, reflected on the Birmingham Central Library of his childhood and argued that the great libraries of the city have always existed “in an almost constant state of change and flux”.”
  • Malorie Blackman: The Children’s Laureate talks writer’s block, Noel Gallagher and being a warlock – Independent. “We need to save our libraries: I know we are living in austere times, and the authorities have to make savings somewhere, but the damage done in decimating our library service will affect not just this generation but future generations, too. It might seem an easy saving now, but we will pay for it in the long run.”
  • Philippines Library Relief – ALA (USA). “The American Library Association is accepting donations from the United States for libraries in the Philippines. The Philippines Library Relief Fund will help to rebuild libraries and archives in the Philippines that were destroyed or damaged by the Typhoon Haiyan on November 8, 2013. Please make tax deductible donations to help rebuild libraries in the Philippines.”
  • Volunteers and the library service – We Heart Libraries. “Lots of library services make superb use of volunteers – especially when it comes to services for housebound people or school holiday activities. But there’s a huge difference between citizens who give some time to help augment a service and asking untrained and unsupported citizens to run it. And acknowledging this isn’t a dereliction of community spirit but an understanding that, in reality, volunteers are anything but a zero-cost option because of the extremely high levels of support they will require.”

“We think library volunteers are wonderful, community-spirited people. So much so that we feel very strongly that impossible things should not be asked of them.”


  • Written declaration 0016/2013 on the impact of public libraries in European communities – WDPublic Libraries (EU). “European Parliament  (registered on the 7th of October 2013) recognises the essential services offered by public libraries in communities across the EU which provide opportunities for lifelong learning, social/digital inclusion and pathways to employment (based on new research published in March 2013). This Declaration highlights the fact the public libraries are not just about culture and books – they represent a 65,000 strong pan-European network of community based institutions delivering positive educational, social and economic benefits to 100 million library users across all EU Member States.”


  • E-readers and other issues: a workshop – 26th November in Brighton. “Helen Leech is leading a workshop which will explore the range of e-readers currently available to consumers, along with the challenges which e-books and e-lending present to public libraries.  As well as guiding Surrey Library Service’s initiatives on e-lending, Helen is co-chair of Shelf Free (www.shelffree.org.uk), a national group trying to raise awareness of the problems of e-lending in public libraries and she’s been working with the Society of Chief Librarians on this issue.  She is also involved in the e-books section of the online course ‘23 Things’ (http://23things.wikifoundry.com/page/E-Books). “. For more information and to book a place please contact Helen Renson:  helen.renson@brighton-hove.gov.uk
  • Symposium on the role of library as publisher and curator in the 21st Century – Biblioboard. November 29th in London and December 4th in Liverpool.

UK news by authority

  • Bath and North East Somerset – Eileen Colburn’s 30-year dedication to library service rewarded – This is Somerset. “A volunteer who ensures that people unable to visit their local library can still enjoy a good read has been honoured for her 30 years of service. Eileen Colburn is a library coordinator for Bath and North East Somerset Council organising home library visits for those with physical or mental health disabilities or carer responsibilities.”
  • Bradford – Fresh look at libraries is needed – Telegraph and Argus. “Although Bradford Council is to open a new library in the city centre next month to replace the out-of-commission Central Library, it seems that one possible casualty of the need to reduce spending could be the home delivery service. Those of us who frequently get out and about might not know much about this strand to the library service. As part of the mobile library scheme, which sees mini-libraries visit communities that don’t have their own bricks-and-mortar library, it visits places such as sheltered accommodation to offer a range of books to those who simply cannot get out of their homes.”

“No-one should be denied the pleasure of reading, especially older people who might be confined to their accommodation due to age or infirmity, and there needs to be a rethink to try to come up with some other approach to scrapping the home delivery, even if it is decided that the mobile library service cannot be maintained as it has been in the past.”

  • Bristol – Summary of savings proposals – Bristol Council. “Cease library non-statutory services – Prisons Service and Schools Library Service. Redesign At Home Delivery Service” … “Proposal to eliminate subsidy to St Paul’s Learning Centre and explore other options. This service suffer sfrom a lack of use, options to be explored include it being managed by community groups or similar. The Library will be considered within the wider review of Library servic”
  • Buckinghamshire – Council boss: Bourne End library cuts to be spent on road improvements – Bucks Free Press. “Bourne End library is set to follow the lead of other facilities around the county with control being handed over to community groups from Buckinghamshire County Council. The authority’s deputy leader Mike Appleyard said the move was to help the council plug a funding gap in other areas – saying more money was needed to improve the roads in Bucks.”

“he said staff currently employed full time at the library wouldn’t stay on a like-for-like basis, saying new staff would consist of volunteers and part time workers.”

  • Lincolnshire – Saving Lincolnshire libraries with technology – Lincolnite. Bibliotheca offer technology to save money instead of library closures: “Technology is not a replacement for our librarians; it should be seen to coexist, operating alongside to support the resources available to provide a continuous and sustainable quality public service.” … “The number of people visiting our libraries is falling. Bibliotheca propose to reverse this, and recognises the changing relationship between the public and the services they use and when they want to access them. Two Bibliotheca technology examples in the proposal are self-service and smartbranch.”… “Self-service can also offer other council non-library services such as local bills payment rather than going to council offices. Next year, self-service features will be extended to access other local information and services. ” … “A closed library and an automated library have the same levels of staffing costs but the latter can open seven days a week. A library run by volunteers may open a few hours a week”

“Bibliotheca have also proposed an open library concept which allows user access to the library building, books, PCs and other services out of hours. This is controlled access for genuine library users only and remote management of lights, alarms, PCs, kiosks and security with audible communication with patrons. If a lack of library funding means we can’t resource a library then Bibliotheca can automate it rather than close it.”

  • Moray – U-Turn from Moray Council as they keep Libraries open – Inside Moray. “The Independent and Tory administration group at Moray Council has said that they will reverse their decision on Library closures at a meeting of the Full Council on Wednesday. In a dramatic statement today, the leader of Moray Council, Councillor Allan Wright, said that in the face of a legal challenge by the Save our Libraries Moray group they will now revisit their decision.” See also Moray libraries: Plan to reduce closures revealed – Scotsman. “: “We knew it would be unpopular, but unpopular decisions are part of the job of any elected representative. We still believe it was the correct decision, but we recognise that defending it that would distract us from the task in hand of cutting our annual spending. We are focussed on the bigger picture, which is for the council to live within its means.”

“However, the administration will oppose an SNP opposition move to retain all seven libraries and instead put forward a counter motion that will adhere to the recommendations of the Equalities Impact Assessment presented in September and rejected by the local authority.”

“Meanwhile Moray’s MP, Angus Roberson, added:  ”The resolute campaigning against the libraries closures in Moray has clearly rattled the Council’s Independent and Tory Administration and forced a major u-turn. While this change of tack is good news for some of the libraries it still does not go far enough.”

“Whilst other towns and cities are getting rid of libraries, Portsmouth’s new mobile library will help reach into more communities better than before. The unit will have an emphasis on city north neighbourhoods to improve services there, but will also help engage with more people at local shows, events and gatherings north, south, east and west.”

  • Sheffield – Half of Sheffield libraries could close – ITV. “More than half of Sheffield’s libraries could shut within two years unless community groups step in to save them. It came amid claims that some community groups, who’re willing to take over threatened libraries for free, could be asked to pay a market rent to run them.”
  • Southampton – Campaigners ready to fight for libraries – Southern Daily Echo. “The city’s 11 libraries face an uncertain future after city council chiefs announced this week that they intend to begin a 12-month review into their future. They have refused to rule out the possibility that the review, which would begin in April, could result in the closure of some libraries.” … “here was an outcry last year when theLabour administration unveiled plans to cut opening times at libraries by more than 50 per cent in some branches and slash the new books budget by £50,000.”