Continuing the great tradition of Public Libraries News being a very depressing read, we have very large cuts announced in Leicestershire (with plans around 30 libraries going to volunteers or closing) and a halving of the Devon mobile library fleet (from eight to four vehicles).  £500k is also being cut from Cheshire West and Chester.

In a change from regular programming, however, we also have news from Greenwich of Woolwich Library achieving a year on year 56% increase in visitors, making it the busiest library in London.  The success of this library should be studied and lessons learnt for the benefit of others. Sadly, I don’t live anywhere near the capital so I can’t do it for you but from what I can gather, it is hardly revolutionary – co-locating mutually beneficial services in one building, adequate funding, excellent staff and good outreach.  The fact that the library is run by GLL (who are an expanding non-profit Trust) will raise a cautionary note amongst some readers so all the more reason for someone impartial to have a good look, report and spread the news as soon as possible. Any takers?



National news

  • Big Society: The number of library volunteers grew by 44 per cent last year – Conservative Home. “In some places volunteers have actually allowed libraries to increase opening hours and provide a service at more convenient times for the public. This isn’t the only way of keeping libraries open. Hounslow, Ealing, Croydon and Harrow have taken the privatisation route – with great reductions in cost and improvements in service. My own council Hammersmith and Fulham includes the library service in the tri-borough arrangement with Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea – which has also proved a success story. Danny Kruger reminds us that the Big Society is not just about volunteering. It is also about social entrepreneurs breaking the state monopoly in the supply of services.” Comments largely criticise this view.
  • Councils urged to bid for funding to develop new delivery models – LocalGov. “The Delivering Differently programme will support ten local authorities to develop and implement new models such as mutuals, partnering and other commercial models.”

“2014 could go either way… either an accelerating mad rush to mass closures, job losses and dodgy ‘volunteer’ libraries – ignoring huge public protests… or… Vaizey will admit that libraries aren’t all ‘thriving’ – and do something. Librarians’ associations will promote the value of libraries, and librarians. ACE will stop ignoring library users. Councils will realise their local libraries are a cheap, flexible, multi-use resource. LGA will appoint specialists to advise on non-destructive savings – and quietly twist some reluctant arms. www.publiclibrariesnews.com will get proper funding for its widely-used, respected information and analysis. Because nobody else does it.The Reading Agency and SCL will do great development work as always – but no longer in a vacuum. CIPFA statistics will be analysed to identify successful services – and how they do it. Libraries will be funded for IT access, more vital than ever. The Library Campaign will be able to stop complaining. Silly me. Just dreaming…” Laura Swaffield, The Library Campaign in the BookSeller predictions for 2014. [Full article behind paywall]

  • Libraries still empty – Daily Mash [Parody].  “As gyms erect temporary structures to contain the influx of people terrified of their own mortality, the wisdom of the ages remains unborrowed on shelves across the country.”
  • Reading becoming a minority activity, warns Ruth Rendell – Telegraph. “Crime writer-turned-peer says silent death of reading as a mass activity ‘strikes terror into the heart’ of all book-lovers”
  • UK councils found to benefit from half a million hours of unpaid labour – Guardian. “A spokesperson for Bexley council denied it was exploiting residents. “The placements were not used to substitute for paid members of staff. There is absolutely no connection between the reduction in posts within the library service,” the council said. It said the 35 lost jobs were within the “shared back-office service that Bexley operates with Bromley council” and not within “the frontline library service” where the placements took place.”

UK news by library authority

  • Bristol – Reader’s letter: Central library changes will make it difficult to access reference books – Bristol Post / Letter.  “Libraries have to move with the times and hence the phase of having internet terminals. What will always be needed however, is the great information resource of a wonderful book stock as everything is not on the internet and libraries are there still for those who want more than a quick “Google”. It seems that others in more enlightened parts of the country do not share his shallow vision of the future for libraries and I can assure Mr Smith that they will still be around long after we correspondents are just memories.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Budget Consultation – Council. £500k cut by 2015/16 to include co-location and volunteers.  £50k cut in bookfund 2014./15.
  • Devon – Mobile library service cuts – ITV. “The county council says its libraries won’t be stopping at 65 locations across Devon from April. The visits of the library will also change from fortnightly to monthly. It will save around £125,000 per year.”
  • Greenwich – GLL-Operated Library The Most Popular In London – GLL (Press release). “Woolwich library recorded nearly 900,000 visits during the 2012-13 period, a 56% increase on the previous year and more than any other London library, while stock issues (the number of books lent) were up by 5%. On the busiest days over 3,000 customers pass through its doors making Woolwich one of the most popular lending libraries in the UK. GLL attributes the growing popularity of the library to the commitment of staff and the diverse facilities and services on offer, all housed within attractive modern buildings. In addition to lending books, music and films the library also has 80 PCs and a large I-Pad table. A learning suite enables customers to develop their IT skills and undertake accredited courses; helping to combat the digital divide. A packed programme of daytime activities has been supplemented by a series of innovative evening events … The CIPFA figures are all the more impressive because they show that the GLL-operated libraries within the Royal Borough of Greenwich are also the most economically run of the 30 London boroughs surveyed. Demonstrating the impact that pioneering working practices and staff commitment can have.

“The popularity and growth experienced at Woolwich underlines the crucial role that libraries play within today’s society. Woolwich library offers an excellent core library service, great stock and good ICT. But more than that it is a vibrant community hub that caters for all ages and all sectors of society. Whether it is someone wishing to use a computer and complete an online job application, a customer who wants to borrow the latest DVDs or parents and children coming to socialise and enjoy our Baby Rhyme Time sessions. “With further investment from the Royal Borough of Greenwich into ICT provision during 2013, the facilities continue to improve and we’re confident the library will attract even more local residents.” Diana Edmonds, Head of Library Services at GLL

  • Leicestershire – 700 jobs to go as Leicestershire County Council makes £110 million savings – Leicester Mercury. “Voluntary groups will also be asked to run some of Leicestershire’s libraries and museums … The council will continue to run its 16 larger libraries in the biggest communities but more than 30 in the towns and villages will be offered to parish councils or residents to run. If there are no takers they could close.”
  • Lincolnshire – Save Lincolnshire Libraries Campaigners Discuss Legal Challenge – Save Lincolnshire Libraries. “The Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaign group has been meeting for some time with QualitySolicitors Burton & Co of Lincoln who are active in preparing all the necessary documents to take further advice. The very strong advice the campaign group has received is that to give further public information at this stage may prejudice possible future proceedings.”
  • Liverpool – Impact48 and The Reader Organisation: 48 hours to get Liverpool reading – Reader Organisation. “2014 is Liverpool’s Year of Reading and as part of our partnership with Liverpool Council and Liverpool Learning Partnership we’re launching our City of Readers project which aims to get the whole city reading – through schools, through families, through businesses all sharing reading with one another. Over 48 hours we’ll be joining up with Impact48 to develop a website for Liverpool City of Readers, build apps and create a marketing campaign that will use social media to help promote the project”
  • St Helens – Novel idea will fill food banks – Liverpool Echo. “Forgetful borrowers are being given the option of paying library fines with donations to food banks instead of cash. The scheme has been launched in order to help the number of people struggling to cope with rising food prices. Now, anyone who is late returning their books to libraries in St Helens will be able to knock £1 off their fines for every item donated. The council is forecasting it would make around £19,000 in fines this coming year – which for the first time could be received in food. The project is thought to be the first of its kind in the country.”
  • Sheffield – Discover hidden gems in library – Star. “Take a tour of Central Library on Surrey Street in Sheffield city centre to celebrate National Libraries Day next month.”
  • Sheffield – Library plans ‘flawed’: claim – Star. “BLAG spokesman Hugh Cotton said the council had claimed all users would have a hub library within 30 minutes’ reach by public transport. But the group estimates most people in the Broomhill Library catchment area would need to take two buses to get to Ecclesall or Hillsborough libraries from their homes – and journey times would be an hour each way.”

“BLAG, like other campaign groups, are finding flaws of this kind throughout the council’s documentation, which seems to have been thrown together quickly despite the initial review starting in July 2011. The council should recognise the flaws across the consultation and halt this headlong rush into the dismantling of the library network now.”

  • Sheffield – More to join mass protest at Shefield libraries closure plans – Star. “… pleas will be handed to councillors as part of a protest against the planned closure of 16 city libraries. Campaigners from across the city will meet outside Sheffield Town Hall at 1pm on Wednesday before a council debate on the closure of libraries in Greenhill and Totley.”
  • Staffordshire – Libraries facing uncertain future as council chiefs plan best way forward – Burton Mail. “With visits to libraries dwindling by the year and interest in e-books and e-magazines on the increase, chiefs are to consult with users to investigate the best way forward. Discussions with stakeholders and partners are due to take place before April, to explore how to make them viable in the future.” … “Visits to county libraries plunged by 12 per cent last year.”
  • Stoke – Opening hours cuts hit Stoke libraries – BookSeller. “A decline in visitors to libraries in Stoke-on-Trent has been blamed on a change in opening hours.” … but council says  … “”Visitor figures at city libraries have fluctuated over the past few years but we are set to see an increase in visitors across this financial year if they continue at the current rate. Last year severe weather in the winter months really impacted on visitor numbers, with visitors being put off by the snow and ice. Changes to opening times have also bedded in this year, and an increase in visitors also reflects people acknowledging these changes.” See also Declining number of Stoke-on-Trent library visitors is put down to decrease in opening hours – Stoke Sentinel.
  • Wiltshire – Shared reading comes to Wiltshire – Reader Organisation. “Building upon our previous work in Devon, we are introducing new Library Memory Groups for people with memory loss and their carers across Wiltshire, in partnership with Wiltshire Council, starting in January 2014.”