I didn’t mention it in my look at the DCMS report on public libraries yesterday because it’s been done before but there is a dispute about the number of libraries closed in the last couple of years.  The report said that, as far as they could tell, it was around 90.  This incensed others who called the figure “bonkers” and point out that Cipfa count about three times that many and Public Libraries News a fair few more.  The reasons for this disparity is all down to interpretation of the statistics. The DCMS count (for some reason, can’t quite put my finger on it, someone help me out here) the very minimum ignoring volunteer and mobile libraries, Cipfa count those councils tell it about and this blog counts absolutely everything, including those that are just under threat and not closed yet.

However, the scary thing is that “as far as they could tell” bit. Because the DCMS, the Central Government for goodness sake, has no access to reliable facts. Cipfa includes a general up or down figure on the number of service points and relies on councils telling it the honest truth to consistent rules … which is a big ask.  When it comes down to it, that means that there’s really no independent checking, which makes it a bit of a joke if you’re actually wanting something as ambitious as truly comparative data between authorities and between years.  No-one else official counts up the figures at all so it’s left to guesswork. Which is probably how the minister wants it.  Which is the true madness here.


UK news

“The fact that the DCMS has said these are the figures as best they can work out isn’t really good enough – they should know. It’s bonkers. The entire report is vague and waffly, and lists things that other people are doing but not what the DCMS are doing. Altogether it shows they are not in charge, not in control, and not even terribly interested.” Laura Swaffield, Library Campaign.

  • Donation Boxes in Public Libraries; legitimate income generation or taking the p***? – Stop the privatisation of public libraries. “Library users already pay for the service through their taxes. Couldn’t this be seen as a capitulation/surrender to the ‘austerity myth’ cuts? And it also strikes me as a very precarious way of funding, or part-funding, a statutory public service. It worries me that if certain parts of the service become dependent on these donations what then happens if the donations dry up?”
  • Five reasons Universal Credit will fail: even if they sort out the IT – New Statesman. “Computers and the internet are expensive, particularly on £71.70 a week. Libraries are not the obvious solution they may first seem – 1,000 will have closed by 2016, travel is costly and even impossible in rural areas, and public computers are often time-limited and oversubscribed. “
  • Libraries urged to help local people to ‘spring online’ in 2014 – Digital Unite (press release). “Spring Online is Digital Unite’s award-winning campaign that makes it possible for thousands of people, often older people, to try computers and the internet, many for the first time. It is held in association with Carphone Warehouse and this year takes place from 31 March – 4 April 2014. During the week thousands of free taster events and sessions are held by volunteers and organisations across the UK to help and inspire local people to use the internet. Over a third of all Spring Online events take place in libraries, highlighting how this community campaign integrates easily with libraries existing IT provision and support. Over the 13 years of the campaign, Spring Online has helped around 200,000 people to engage with digital technology, many for the first time.”
  • Poll finds strong support for public libraries as almost 30 are facing the axe – Wales Online. “Almost half of Welsh adults have a current library card and 36% have used a public library in the last 12 months, according to a YouGov survey.”. “The Department for Culture, Media and Sport say that current usage of public libraries has fallen from 2005 levels of 48%. But many blame the drop on cuts with a spokesman for the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals saying: “Local authorities have had to make tough choices, but libraries are under pressure and cuts to services will mean that visits drop”.

“We have invested around £12m in modernising 89 libraries in Wales as part of the Community Learning Libraries Programme which, in partnership with local authorities, has helped attract more people to benefit from the services provided by our public libraries.” Welsh Government spokesperson

  • Public Libraries – BBC Radio Wales. “Libraries across Wales face closure in March with the prospect of more to follow next year as council spending cuts begin to bite. Councils claim they can make the cuts and still meet their statutory duty to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service. But their plans are now under scrutiny by the Welsh Government. “
  • Work of the Arts Council (England) – Commons Select Committee. Your chance to comment on how Arts Council England are doing in their work with English public libraries.


  • Library at The Dock – Melbourne (Australia). “As well as a traditional library collection, the library and community centre will offer an interactive learning environment and a state-of-the-art digital collection, multi-purpose community spaces and a performance venue that will hold 120 people.”.  Includes video.
  • Public libraries statistics – Eblida (EU). Interactive map showing number of branches/issues/visits for many European countries.  UK does notably very well in terms of visits and loans.
  • Read, lead and succeed -News (Pakistan). “I will read and make a better world,” said Rookiyah, a little girl who for the first time in her life would have access to a library.” … “Children learn to read on the laps of their parents and teachers, who must encourage them. Reading develops critical thinking and enables children to become leaders of the future. But, we must build libraries for them and give them books to read. As Katherine Patterson said, “It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations—something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own.””


  • Forum Libraries for Life for Londoners.  Saturday 26th April 2014 from 1.30 pm until 5.00 pm in Room 416 at Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London, WCIE 7HX. “Participation will be free and visitors are welcome to drop by to view the experience and current situation of those participating. We will continue issuing bulletins as each stage of planning is confirmed to publicise a London-wide voice for the users of the public library service, as so many different forms of delivery, and therefore outcomes, are appearing.  As you all know the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act is being ignored, although still a legal statute. It is even more important for library supporters to hang together ….. or face being hung out separately.”

Local UK news by authority

  • Bradford – Save Bradford Libraries – 38 Degrees. “Bradford Council are currently conducting a “Libraries Review” and are proposing removing this vital service from some communities and reducing this in others. “

“The council have proposed branch libraries be run by volunteers and moving the location of these to much smaller impractical places including places of worship, community and private buildings. This could be as small as a few bookshelves in a local church or shop which could also be unmanned. This would seriously damage the education of both young and old by reducing access to books and educational material. “

  • Bristol – Library is the wrong place for new school – Bristol Post. “To convert part of our Central Library into a primary school is putting the wrong solution in the wrong place. The catchment area for this building would include very expensive apartments on the Harbourside, lots of student accommodation, and very few (if any) affordable flats or houses that parents of primary school age children could afford.”
  • Calderdale – Libraries stage live events – Hebden Bridge Times. “holding a week of film screenings, live music events and author talks as part of the Wyrd Britannia Festival.”
  • Hampshire – County Council debates 12 per cent budget cut – Southern Daily Echo. “Among the libraries expected to shed their staff for volunteers is Milford on Sea. If no one comes forward it faces closure and residents will have to make do with a weekly mobile library stop. Yet mobile library vehicles could be reduced from five to three and the number of stops from 350 to 250. This includes the family library link bus which operates in parts of Portchester and Gosport.”
  • Leicestershire – Future of libraries under discussion – Loughborough Echo. “The county council, which spent £5.8m on running its library services in 2012-13, is proposing to make savings of £800,000 over the next four years as part of its budget cuts. It is proposing to carry on managing a “core network” of 16 libraries, including Loughborough and Shepshed, but is exploring handing over its smaller libraries to the community.”
  • Merton – Improve your wellbeing at Merton Libraries – Merton Council. “This annual event offers library users an opportunity to get advice and information from a range of health, fitness and beauty professionals. Events taking place throughout the day include blood pressure testing, advice on healthy meals and snacks for parents and children and healthy skin information.”
  • Northamptonshire – Volunteers wanted for library homework clubs – Daventry Express. “The new homework plus service will support secondary school children who could benefit from additional tuition in maths, English and science as well as tips on study skills and revision plus homework support.” … ““We’re looking for volunteers who have a spare two or three hours a week and experience of working with children and young people who can help them access information and resources for their studies.”
  • Neath Port Talbot – Plans to transform Briton Ferry Library into centre of learning – South Wales Evening Post. “transform a run-down but iconic library into a centre of learning. Residents have formed a trust in a bid to save Briton Ferry Library from closure. Neath Port Talbot Council is aiming to save £238,143 by off-loading nine of its libraries.”
  • Worcestershire – £1.9m in cuts put future of Hagley Library at risk – Express and Star. “Options being discussed include shutting the library and replacing it with a mobile service. Other options being considered are transfering the running costs to Hagley Parish Council with the aim of moving the library to a proposed ‘community hub’ in the village at a later date, or keeping it as it currently is.”