Happy New Year everyone.  I’ve just taken ten days off Public Libraries Newsing and so there’s a reasonable amount of stuff today, I still have 150 news alerts to go through so there will be more stuff I’ve not covered yet which will be included later this week.

The notable item in this post is the Daily Telegraph coverage of the 44% annual increase in volunteers in libraries revealed by local authorities in their returns to Cipfa.  The libraries minister Ed Vaizey goes on record as saying how great it is that this is happening and how it saves so much money and can lead to new libraries opening. This has understandably caused some outrage amongst paid library staff and campaigners who see such a move as a dire threat to the service.  Other news reports corroborate the suspicion that volunteering to save a local library assists in the withdrawal of paid staff elsewhere. Ed, who has come across, at best, as a bit like Tim Nice But Dim on occasion in the past in his positive statements about libraries despite the mayhem that is happening to them under his watch is now being seen, notably by Alan Gibbons, as implementing a very deliberate political programme to cut council services.


UK national news

  • Cost of Cameron: 100 Worst Failures of David Cameron’s Government from May 2010 to Dec 2013 – Green Benches. “92.  179 Libraries Closed, 80 now volunteer only, and 400+ under threat says Public Library News”
  • Ed Vaizey in profile – Find My Library.  A critical look at the libraries minister’s privileged background, expense claims (including one for travelling 350 yards), why he got the job (he was “librarian” at the Oxford Union is a suggestion) and a few rather worrying quotations.
  • George Osborne targets welfare as he warns of £25bn more cuts – BBC. “He said more austerity lay ahead, as the job was “not even half done” … “Mr Osborne has argued the savings needed after 2015 can be found entirely from spending cuts, with welfare accounting for about half of the £25bn targeted – the remainder coming from a further squeeze on departmental budgets.” … “Labour say they would match the government’s overall spending plans in 2015-6 but would have different priorities from the coalition.” 10% cut in Local Government budget expected 2015/16.
  • How can we make sense of the world without reading stories – Guardian / Comment is Free. “Face facts, I told myself. Libraries are closing and not even Labour councils seem minded to save them. Bookshops are struggling. The BBC now devotes no TV programme to literature.”.  Several comments in support of libraries.
  • Is the Big Society finally here? Big surge in volunteers helping out at libraries – Telegraph. “Official figures from show that the number of volunteers staffing libraries jumped by 44 per cent last year, from 23,400 to 33,800 people. The figures could suggest that the volunteering boom forecast by some Conservatives as part of the “Big Society” is starting to materialise”
  • Libraries: the shape of things to come? – Alan Gibbons. “Culture Minister Ed Vaizey’s vision for the public library service continues to become clearer. It is not about an expanding service or one more responsive to the public. It is one run largely by volunteers with a ‘support system’ provided by local councils” … “Far from being a spontaneous popular adoption of the Big Society, this is a grudging acceptance from many people that the public library service we once had is being steadily deconstructed. ” … “Vaizey’s comments on what is happening are instructive. They are not about the service to the public but about cost”

“Ignore all the fluff and bluster about innovation. This is a shoddy patching up operation. Instead of a system of trained librarians supported by volunteers, we are moving to one largely of volunteers with some support from professionals. How long will that support system continue, I wonder, once the Government has achieved its aim of transferring responsibility for libraries from local elected representatives to volunteers?” Alan Gibbons

“It’s an insult. To library users, to library services, to librarians – and to volunteers.” Library Campaign

  • Lottery cash for Herts and Essex library projects – Herts and Essex Observer. “The library services for Herts and Essex are two of 10 across the East of England region to have secured funding to develop a joint summer reading and arts programme for young people in 2014. A total of £93,000 has been awarded using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.”
  • Not so lazy Vaizey – Leon’s Library Blog. “Intended to deliberately cause upset (how could they not?) Ed Vaizey’s comments regarding volunteers in the Telegraph is par for the course. The biggest surprise is not that he delivers these inane comments with a straight face but that we are outraged when he does so.” … “The Catch-22 is that by saving something the volunteer places great value on; their local library, they expedite the diminution of the overall service.”

“Ed Vaizey is neither lazy nor incompetent. In fact he is delivering the political ideology of the coalition government and the instructions of his boss, Maria Miller, perfectly. Vaizey’s so called ‘inaction’ around swingeing cuts to libraries is in fact very deliberate and effective political action.”

  • Number of library volunteers surges in the year to March, figures show – Third Sector. “Rob Jackson, a volunteering consultant, said he would be interested in finding out what libraries had been doing to grow their volunteering numbers so quickly.  “It’s great to see a success story of an organisation recruiting volunteers when so many struggle to get new people to give time,” he said. But he also said that it was concerning to see the increase in volunteers being set alongside budget cuts.” [There is no mention from the minister of budget cuts, the advantages of paid staff over volunteers or that the vast majority of the increase  volunteering is down to the need to replace paid staff rather than start new libraries – Ed.]

“Ed Vaizey, the Culture minister, hailed the “very impressive” increase and said he wanted other communities to open libraries. He said: “All the volunteers I come across say they are running their libraries far more cheaply than the local authority was doing it.” Mr Vaizey acknowledged that it was prohibitively expensive for councils to set up libraries, and urged communities to take matters into their own hands and set up their own libraries,”

International news

  • Advocating for the future of Irish (public) libraries – Libfocus (Eire). Discusses automated libraries allowing use with no staff on duty … “alongside the obvious advantages of this proposal, is the very real threat that the out of hours service may become so successful and popular, that users (and further still, local authorities and the Government) may perceive that there is no need for libraries to be staffed at all” … “Whilst we can often do very little in the face of budget cuts and library closures, we can help to some (however slight) effect by advocating for our profession, something which I feel that we (the profession as a whole) often do not do enough of. “
  • Christian library with 80,000 books is burned down after owner was falsely accused of insulting Islam, Mohammed – Blaze (Lebanon). “Lebanon’s Daily Star reported that “civil defense teams struggled to put out the flames which engulfed the bookstore,” calling the site “one of Lebanon’s most renowned libraries.”” … “Hundreds of Lebanese citizens demonstrated Saturday in Lebanon’s second largest city in support of the priest, while others volunteered to try to salvage books and rebuild the library.”
  • Quantifying the Continued Relevance of America’s Public Libraries – Library Journal (USA). “Thankfully, for library advocates, a wonderful source of data measures is available to help quantify the actual degree to which the public at-large truly values public libraries. The nationally-regarded Pew Research Center recently released a comprehensive survey entitled “How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities.” Running from July until October 2013, a total of 6,224 individuals aged 16 or older were asked to share their thoughts about local public libraries. People included in this nationally representative sampling were asked a series of questions related to both their awareness and usage of local public libraries.”
  • Self-service libraries to allow night-time checkouts – Irish Times (Eire). “Under the pilot scheme, selected library buildings will be fitted with automatic doors. Users will gain access to the library by using their membership card and a pin number. They will be tracked as they move through the building by both prominent and discreet security cameras. Radio-frequency identification tags will be attached to books, which will have to be scanned prior to removal.” … ““Library staff in other countries in which open libraries operate, including Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Taiwan, report extremely positive experiences and that despite initial apprehension, very few disturbances occurred; in fact those which did occur were of a minor nature.”
  • Texas library offers glimpse of bookless future – USA Today. “Rows of glossy iMacs beckon. iPads mounted on a tangerine-colored bar invite readers. And hundreds of other tablets stand ready for checkout to anyone with a borrowing card.” … “Apple Stores aren’t usually found in parts of town like this. BiblioTech is on the city’s economically depressed South Side and shares an old strip mall with a Bexar County government building. On a recent afternoon, one confused couple walked into the library looking for the justice of the peace.” … ” in the nearly four months since BiblioTech opened, Elkholf has yet to lend out one of her pricey tablets and never see it again.”

UK local authority news

  • Bristol – UNISON’s Response to Budget Consultation – Unison Bristol. “In particular we would wish to provide a detailed response on the future of the library service but we have not yet received the detailed feedback from our representatives in the libraries. We are extremely concerned about the proposals to cut posts in a service which is staffed almost exclusively by women working part time. This will have a far greater impact that the figures would suggest and is likely to mean the loss of at least twice as many jobs. In addition to the 4.5 fte 4.3 fte jobs outlined in the consultation document there are possibly up to 22 FTE’s to be lost in the overall library review (R-PL-023). It is difficult to gauge this accurately as the job losses are “to be determined”. It would appear that Bristol’s library service is in line to take the brunt of the Mayor’s cuts, in terms of jobs. Staff are already effectively excluded from the annual leave purchase scheme because of understaffing and are often unable to take their leave when they want. Further cuts to staff will see stress levels soar and morale plummet.”
  • Doncaster – Library jobs cutback fear – Doncaster Free Press. “Fears have surfaced that the library, which has three permanent staff could become a community library run by volunteers. Doncaster Council says there are no planned library closures, but hard decisions have to be made in 2014.” Councils says volunteers are “doing a wonderful job”.
  • Essex – Libraries secures Grants for the Arts funding – Dunmow Broadcast. “A total of £93,000 has been awarded using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. The funding will enable library services to work with artists and young volunteers to develop a range of reading activities and arts workshops young people during the summer of 2014.”
  • Haringey – Council asks for views on future of Haringey’s library services – Tottenham Journal. “The review is being undertaken in a bid to make sure the libraries service can continue to provide services that residents want and need. Haringey’s libraries are already popular, with Wood Green in the top 20 most visited in the country. The review will explore how libraries should operate in the future, with a view to updating facilities and services to encourage even more visitors and users.”
  • Milton Keynes – Digital arts programme to kick off with £82,000 grant – Milton Keynes Citizen. “The money will come from the Arts Council’s Grants for the Arts (Libraries Fund), to introduce a range of digital media projects to excite and engage new audiences. The programme of activities, known as Digitalis, will include musicians, digital writers, and artists working with community groups, young people and ‘knit and natter’ groups. Among other ideas in the pipeline, it will involve developing digital apps to engage with communities in Milton Keynes.”
  • North East Lincolnshire – Four weeks left to have your say on library services in North East Lincolnshire – Grimsby Telegraph. “
  • By the start of the new financial year, the service needs to save £300,000 to £500,000, and proposals within the consultation documents and questionnaire explore a range of options including reducing the size of the library network, reducing opening hours and also seeking the community’s views on alternative delivery models that may include libraries being delivered by other groups or organisations.”
  • Nottingham – Project to get more children into libraries – Nottingham Post. “Funding provided by Bestwood and Bulwell Forest Ward Councillors will be use to encourage more 11-16 year olds to use Southglade Park Library, in Southglade Road, Bestwood.”
  • Oxfordshire – Hush and calm of libraries broken by 100 acts of crime – Oxford Mail. “Police statistics show that more than 100 crimes have been committed in Oxfordshire’s libraries in the past three years. Incidents include a sex crime, a racially aggravated assault, and a case of outraging public decency. But the most common crime is theft which made up 81 of the county’s 106 library crimes between April 2010 and October last year.”
  • Sheffield – Final chance for Sheffield residents to have a say – Sheffield Telegraph. “The council has faced huge opposition to its plans to axe 16 of the city’s community libraries, leaving just 11 open. The authority is offering limited financial support to community groups wanting to volunteer to save the other branches.” … “Greenhill Library campaigners have collected 2,963 signatures and Totley 2,849 – and both petitions are to be discussed at a full meeting of Sheffield Council on Wednesday.”
  • Stoke – Library figures remain healthy – Sentinel/Letters. “I am confused as to how the figures have been arrived at, purporting to show a huge drop in visitor numbers. The figures for 2013 would appear to show exactly the opposite! At a quick glance, the figures appear to be very low, but in actual fact they are only for six months of the year (April to September 2013) and adding on a further six months at the same rate would actually show an increase for every single library.”
  • Wolverhampton – Proposed Library Cuts: Open Letter to Wolverhampton Council Chief Executive – Save Wolverhampton Libraries. “On Jan 8th Cabinet will meet to agree the latest budget proposals. These proposals will see Wolverhampton’s library service decimated. We are sending this letter to you in order to put on record for a second time our grave concerns in this matter. It is unsurprising, given the lack of scrutiny within Wolverhampton Council’s decision-making process, that there has been a failure to apply rigorous scrutiny to the potential impact of the proposed cuts on library services.”
  • Worcestershire – New year activities at Stourport Library – Shuttle. “Participants will develop key skills and knowledge over the duration of the course to help them fill any skills gaps required to help them gain work. Library manager, Maureen Hobbs, said the course would also help businesses in the area recruit a skilled workforce.”