A fair bit of news, from Friday and the weekend, with a few significant developments.  The scope of Arts Council England, with special attention to its concentration of funds to London, is going to be the subject of a short inquiry from the Culture, Media and Support Select Committee.  Many have not been impressed with the placing of libraries within the remit of ACE, where very pleasant investment in sculpture and art sits uneasily with unprecedented high levels of cuts and closures.  However, one must question where else public libraries should be placed.  With a quango answerable to Michael Gove or Eric Pickles? There are very few favourable alternatives.

Another notable development is the item from Sir Merrick Cockell, the chief of the Local Government Association, who says in the Telegraph that councils will need to offload libraries and other services onto volunteers if they’re going to survive.  The Observer disagrees with volunteers in an article that has nothing for scorn for Ed Vaizey’s praise for the increase in the unpaid working in libraries last year.  Cllr Powney and others have pointed out that there are actually disturbingly few figures one can use to analyse how successful volunteer libraries are.  The Cipfa figures themselves depend on authorities replying honestly and consistently as they are never checked: the capacity for inaccuracy is therefore great.  Research, though, simply does not need to be done to see why the option is often being used. When budgets are being cut at this level, and the public still want public services, then volunteer libraries are simply too attractive an escape route to be ignored.


National news

  • Culture, Media and Sport Committee announce an inquiry to discuss investment in arts and culture – Arts Council England. “‘We look forward to discussing the detail of our investment criteria, and reflecting the scale of our ambition in delivering great art for everyone across England to the committee.” [As long as they can get to London, that is – Ed.]
  • Ezra leaves DCMS advisory role – BookSeller. “The Bookseller also understands that Justin Tomlinson MP will be standing down from his role as chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Library Group. Tomlinson’s office has yet to respond to requests for comment.”
  • Guest Post: My library card changed my life – Stephanie Pomfrett’s blog (guest post by Alison Kitchener). “When I was little, I thought my library card was the best thing in the world” … “As I got older, the library started to mean different things to me.” … “Libraries are needed to help people. They give elderly people a place to go, they give support to local communities through learning and resources and they give direction and knowledge to those who are looking for a path.”

“how are you going to draw people in if your libraries don’t have Wi-Fi but your nearest Wetherspoons and McDonalds do?”

  • National Libraries Day 2014 is almost here #NLD14 – Voices for the Library. ” This year it’s on Saturday 8th February. It’s an opportunity to celebrate all the great things libraries in the UK do, highlighting why they are so important, no matter what type of library they are – public, academic, business, health, specialist libraries, or any others. It will also be a great chance to sell the benefits of libraries, to both non-users and also those who hold the purse strings and can make a difference to how well funded libraries are. ” … “We’d love to know what you’ll be planning this year, so that we can help you promote it before and on the day itself.”
  • National Libraries Day – Twibbon. Add NLD logo to Twitter profile picture.
  • National Libraries Day logo – Copy of logo for anyone to use.
  • Need some help at your local library? Look under A for amateur – Observer. “Ed Vaizey is crowing about his untrained volunteer army dispensing books to the public. But read the small print before you congratulate him” … “As it is, so far from regretting the rapidly falling number of already low-paid full-time staff, Vaizey anticipates a day when the free community model is actively preferred, not only as a euphemism for eventual closure.” … ” Is the service confidential? Totally, of course. But if in doubt, just ask the untrained and inexperienced librarian at the desk.”

“All the volunteers I come across say they are running their libraries far more cheaply than the local authority was doing it,” was his response to the above volunteer figures, in which some diagnosed a certain disregard for reading, to say nothing of professional sensitivities. If only for a quiet life, Vaizey might want, before opening his mouth in future, mentally to substitute the word “Romanian” for “volunteer”

  • Volunteers must take a role in running parks and museums – Telegraph. “So far, most areas have been able to protect the most valued local services. Innovation, increased use of technology, shared services, reductions in staff and relentless efforts to become ever-more efficient has meant that the visible impact has been relatively small for many people. But, with half of local government’s savings still having to be found before April 2016, and more cuts promised thereafter, it will no longer be possible to keep slicing away at budgets without services suffering or, in some cases, disappearing completely.”.  Photograph shows library with caption “In recent years, as an alternative to closure, many libraries have been moving towards a self-service culture with a greater role for volunteers”
  • Volunteers needed to run museums and libraries – Telegraph. ” the most senior Conservative councillor in the country” …”Sir Merrick Cockell, the leader of councils in England and Wales, warns the public that volunteers will be needed to run some basic council services in the face of a multi-billion pound spending gap” … “Libraries, museums, parks and leisure centres will need to be run in the future by unpaid volunteers because of a black hole in local government finances”

“Councils argue that their hands are largely tied with huge chunks of cash reserved for basic services that it must provide, including care for the elderly, child protection and bin collections. That leaves the running of leisure centres, parks, libraries and other services open to radical reform.”

  • Work of the Arts Council (England) – Parliament. “The Culture, Media and Sport Committee is today announcing a short inquiry into the work of Arts Council England. Arts Council England supports a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections.  They have stated that, between 2011 and 2015, they will invest £1.4 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1 billion from the National Lottery to help foster the arts “for as many people as possible across the country”. The Culture, Media and Sport Committee has decided to conduct a general investigation into the work of Arts Council England, including its scope, scale and remit.  We wish to examine the economic and artistic criteria that underpin funding decisions.  Furthermore, we seek views on whether the geographical distribution of funding is fair and the justification for the current weighting of this towards London. The Committee invites written evidence from those who wish to contribute to the inquiry.”


  • 12 Crafts Perfect for Librarians – Mental Floss. Some lovely ideas here.
  • 3D printers are coming to Toronto Public Libraries – Canada.com. “Along with the 3D printers, new digital learning work spaces, featuring Macs, video cameras, professional-grade software and even green screens, are also coming to those two Toronto Library locations. In February, people will be able to tour the new Reference Library’s Digital Innovation Hub, and go hands-on with everything it has to offer, including fancy new 3D printers. Over the last few years, 3D printers have exploded in popularity and even big box electronic store, Staples, in is selling certain models of the expensive machine in the U.S.”
  • Canadian conservatives close public environmental libraries. Burn 100s of years of environmental data, books, and public records – Library Journal (Canada). “Anatomy of Libricide: “The decision to cut the libraries was made by executives within DFO rather than imposed by higher levels of government. It was done without any prior consultation with the DFO research community and researchers have been kept largely in the dark throughout the process. ”. “
  • Los Angeles Library To Offer High School Diplomas – Huffington Post. “The Los Angeles Public Library announced Thursday that it is teaming up with a private online learning company to debut the program for high school dropouts, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation. It’s the latest step in the transformation of public libraries in the digital age as they move to establish themselves beyond just being a repository of books to a full educational institution, said the library’s director, John Szabo.”
  • Nine LA Public Libraries to Re-Open on Sundays – NBC (USA). “udget cuts in 2010 forced libraries to cut hours and services, which were reduced to the lowest levels in the library’s 140-year history, according to a release by the Los Angeles Public Library.”
  • Public support essential for libraries: Rosaiah – The Hindu (India). “Tamil Nadu Governor K. Rosaiah said reading could be made a habit only when libraries and events like the annual Vijayawada Book Festival (VBF) have public support in addition to funding by governments.”
  • Should public libraries give away ebook-friendly tablets to poor people? $38 tablet hints of possibilities – Digital Reader (USA). “Don’t just hand out gizmos, though. Let the tablets come with old-fashioned encouragement from public and school librarians. Technology is no panacea. Kids should be able to own paper books, too, in fact, not just gadgets. But e-book-capable tablets, especially with national digital library systems in place, could multiply the number of books matching students’ precise needs.”
  • Sign the new Libraries Without Frontiers petition for the opening of libraries in the evening and the weekend – Libraries Without Frontiers (France).  Petition to improve opening hours.
  • Torched library an irreparable blow to Lebanese culture – Conversation (Lebanon). “Destroying a library is both expedient and symbolic. It gets rid of a rival group’s beliefs and claims to entitlement while at the same time inflicting grievous wounds on their psyche. Whoever set the library in Tripoli alight was set on the negation of a complex history, a culture, the plurality of belief systems. As an example of extremist-based destruction, the incident was not unusual.”
  • Unconventional libraries sprout up around Prague – Prague Post (Czech Republic). “Two young Czechs have decided to use old discarded telephone booths in Prague as small free libraries situated at public places, the first of which will be opened in the Institute of Experimental Medicine (IKEM) today, daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD) writes in its Prague supplement.”
  • Want free movies? Houston Public Library has upped its game with Netflix-like technology – Culturemap (USA). “the Houston Public Library has added thousands of new film, television, music and audiobook titles to its catalog . . . and all you need is a library card to stream them to your computer, tablet or smartphone for free.” Via Hoopla

UK news by local authority

  • Birmingham – 40 not out … yet – Birmingham Central Library – Birminghan Central. “Today, 12 January 2014, marks the 40th anniversary of the official opening of John Madin’s Birmingham Central Library by Harold Wilson, at that time as leader of the opposition, as the largest public library in Europe.  Construction started in 1969 with the main shell completed in 1971 and fitting out taking until 1973.”.  With pictures.
  • Birmingham – Election battle lines are being drawn over city library closure threat – Birmingham Post. “It has become clear that community libraries will form the political battleground for the next phase of council cuts and next year’s budget.”
  • Brent – Do Volunteer Libraries Work as Libraries – James Powney’s Blog. “the information about them is really quite limited.  The kinds of questions I am thinking of are: do they have higher or lower usage?  Are they part of the overall Library Ecology? Do they maintain the same level of service?  Do they save money?  Do they add new things to to library services?  I thought I would see if I can work out if there is any evidence about them, rather than just making assumptions.  To this end I thought I would look around some examples in London.” … “Many of the volunteer libraries claim to be “much more than just a library”.  I am really not sure what this means.  It seems to be based on an old fashioned notion of libraries as just places storing books and computers” … “Where a community library is offering services completely additional to library services, such as Eco Computer Systems IT recycling, for example, it raises the fear that the extra activity will crowd out the library use.”

“This really makes me wonder whether volunteer libraries are more than a slow motion closure programme which risks draining resources away from public libraries at a time when the cuts to local government are reducing resources in any case. I certainly can’t see any proof for Ed Vaizey’s belief that volunteer libraries are hugely successful.  Quite simply, no one seems to have collected any evidence on the subject.  Nor is it all clear that they are cheaper.  We seem to have embarked on a big experiment without working out any kind of baseline or made any effort to find out the actual results.” Cllr James Powney

“Libraries are a vital part of a civilised democratic society. They also help central and local government carry out some of its objectives eg increase literacy for young and old and internet access and computers for anyone who can’t afford one and an Internet connection. It’s also an invaluable source of social interaction for older people. Some of the comments in agreement referred to better use of modern technology instead  of printed books and a more centralised resource.” Summary of public comments

  • Bristol – Council delivers low blow to the elderly– Bristol Post / Letters. “So, in its wonderful budget consultation, Bristol City Council proposes closing its home-delivery library service for older and disabled people. It is such a low blow, halting a service which reaches the most vulnerable and least likely to be able to organise themselves to challenge such a thing.”

“I have a female, elderly neighbour. She lives alone, has no family and is visited daily by carers. Approximately every six weeks she is visited by staff from the library service – and she has told me that she “loves to receive the books” and “see the people who deliver them”. Is she really to be robbed of the books she enjoys so much and the opportunity of social contact that is in addition to being “cared” for? She cannot be the only one.”

  • Bristol – Loos and libraries are vital – we must save them – Bristol Post. “I  am not convinced that the Mayor appreciates the culture of public ownership, the need for the public sector and the need for elected councillors.” … “I attend Bristol City Council meetings and I am increasingly alarmed. At the Neighbourhoods and Communities Scrutiny Commission on November 20, 2013, Councillor Peter Hammond pointed out that city council’s property officer’s promotion for renting out two floors of the Central Library sounded like a holiday brochure.”
  • Caerphilly – New Caerphilly town library opens its doors to residents – Caerphilly Observer. “Caerphilly town’s £5.2 million library has opened its doors to the public. The new library, built on the old site of the town centre’s Post Office, is to have its official ribbon opening on Friday January 10. The three storey building, which incorporates stone from the old Post Office building, also houses a council customer service centre with spaces for a range of activities such as adult reading groups, Welsh reading groups, IT and adult education classes. The top floor of the library plays host to a museum area for themed exhibitions from the Winding House Museum in New Tredegar.”
  • Cornwall – All mobile libraries and mobile one stop shops in Cornwall face the axe – This is the West Country. “members agreed to progress proposals to remove all mobile library and mobile one stop shop services, replacing the services with a range of community based initiatives. “There will be a 12 week consultation with members, town and parish councils, partners and communities around this proposal.” The council says that there are examples of these already operating such as the home delivery service and community libraries which currently operate at Roche, St Dennis and Stithians. It is also proposed that 50 per cent of the current mobile library and mobile one stop shop budget, around £150,000, is used to fund alternative ways of delivering services to those communities affected.”
  • Derbyshire – Mobile libraries in firing line for cuts – Nottingham Post. “Council will start a consultation next week on proposed changes to the mobile library service. Four options to save on the service are being considered, ranging from scrapping the service to supporting the community to run it voluntarily.”
  • Derbyshire – Mobile library service faces the axe in new council review – Star. “Withdrawing the entire fleet of 10 vehicles from the county’s roads is one of the options being considered as part of the library review.”
  • Derbyshire – Talks on mobile library service – Bakewell Today. “A consultation on the future of Derbyshire’s mobile library service has begun. The £720,000 service – which accounts for 17 per cent of all library issues – is under threat as part of Derbyshire County Council’s bid to save £157m in five years.”
  • Haringey – Comment: ‘Cuts still threaten our fantastic libraries’ – Tottenham Journal. “Clive Evers, treasurer of the Hornsey Pensioners’ Action Group (HPAG), makes the case for our libraries.” … warmth, toilet, community cohesion, ” can open eyes, minds and hearts; they are a happy, free place to take children or grandchildren”
  • Haringey – Council asks for views on future of Haringey’s library services – Broadway Ham and High. “Haringey Council has launched a review of its library services and is inviting residents to give their views – though it says it remains “committed” to keeping its nine libraries open.”
  • Herefordshire – Councillor fears library faces threat of closure – Hereford Times. Ledbury Library may close says “councillor Liz Harvey, who said she has tried and failed to get assurances from the authority that the library will not close.”.  Council says changes may include “more centralised professional support, use of self-service, increased use of the internet, support of volunteers and user groups, opportunities for trading and possibly local financial support”
  • Herefordshire – You’re stupid! – Jon Norris. “Ask Colwall if everyone would chip in a little extra – specifically to keep their library running. Or Wellington if they would chip in to keep the village shop running. Or Fownhope if they want to keep a bus route open. I was staggered to hear of these initiatives – had you heard of them? Of Parish Councils starting to run their own affairs with their own money? Why are they almost secret?”
  • Leeds – Libraries need to catch up with self-publishing – Yorkshire Post. ” I offered 20 free copies to the Leeds libraries, sending a copy on request, though given the time in which the decision was made, I am doubtful it was read through in its entirety. My offer has been turned down. The reason? “As a rule we don’t buy/accept any self-published books.” Due to modern technology, the recent growth in self-published books is being acknowledged as huge. Obviously, some publications may be of dubious quality, but is it not time for the Leeds libraries to catch up?”
  • Leicestershire – County Council cuts: Plans for volunteers to run libraries are ‘unworkable” – Leicester Mercury. “We are the biggest parish council in the county and running a library, with all the funding and work that comes with it, is too much for us to contemplate.” … “Barwell Parish Council chairman Richard Neale-Gardner said: “I can’t see that we’d be equipped to run our library. “The rent alone would be £20,000 a year and we can’t afford that. We could put our precept up by four per cent but that wouldn’t be popular.”
  • Lincolnshire – Plan in place to keep village library open – Boston Standard. ” parish councillors are now working on a project to keep it open. Fifteen volunteers have also come forward to offer help in running it.”
  • Lincolnshire – Save Lincolnshire Libraries group takes legal advice on county council challenge – Horncastle News. “The Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaign group has confirmed it is taking legal advice about the County Council’s decision to revamp the current system in a bid to save money”
  • Lincolnshire – Volunteers rallying to run Lincolnshire libraries but five may close due to lack of interest – Lincolnshire Echo. “Lincolnshire County Council has received a total of 43 expressions of interest with some areas receiving more than one application. But a nine-strong executive committee has decided to keep 15 staff-run libraries and have the rest controlled by volunteers despite 23,000 people in the county signing a petition to halt the plans.” … “As it stands, five communities could be left without a library as no interest has so far been shown at Deepings, Keelby, Sutton-on-Sea, Wainfleet and Scotter.”.  Two libraries have attracted three bids each and another five two bids.
  • Perth and Kinross – West Mill Street Library closure based on ‘lies’, opponents claim – Courier. “Irene Hamilton, speaking on behalf of the Friends of the West Mill Street Library, claimed the statistics behind the proposed closure of the facility were based on “numbers, figures and lies” and went on: “We have less than two months, so we will launch an e-petition and a newspaper petition to try to keep the library open.”
  • Rhondda Cynon Taff – Major library cuts approved by Welsh authority – BookSeller. “more than half of its 26 libraries close. The local authority, the second largest in Wales, has agreed cuts that will see 14 of its libraries shut their doors for good. Changes will begin in September this year, following the council’s decision yesterday (8th January). According to Wales Online, libraries in Treherbert, Ton Pentre, Penygraig, Maerdy, Ynyshir, Cwmbach, Penrhiwceiber, Ynysybwl, Cilfynydd, Beddau, Tonyrefail, Nantgarw, Pontyclun and Tylorstown will close. The council claims that the closures will save £800,000”
  • Sefton – No word from developer on Crosby library’s future – Crosby Herald. “The confusion surrounding the fate of Crosby’s libraries is set to continue after talks to determine the future of our town’s one remaining library stalled. In February, 2013, Sefton Council revealed a mystery developer wanted to construct a “UK headquarters and resource centre” and a “small mixed-use housing development” with car parking spaces on the current library site on Crosby Road North, in Waterloo.” … “Sefton council’s asset and property manager, David Street, said: “The reported interest has not materialised into a formal proposal for consideration by elected members, but the interested parties have yet to formally withdraw their expression of interest and officers are currently endeavouring to clarify their future intentions.” With Carnegie library now closed to the public, Mr Winckles said the uncertainty over Crosby’s other library was a further example of a badly-conceived policy.”
  • Sheffield – Last bid to save Sheffield libraries – Star. “Emotions ran high as hundreds of people stormed the steps of Sheffield Town Hall in a last-ditch attempt to save libraries from closure. Councillors were accused of ‘cutting the hearts out of communities’ across Sheffield as a series of petitions opposing proposals to shut 16 facilities was presented to the council before the final day of public consultation.”.  with video.
  • Sheffield – Letters: Posturing during libraries debate didn’t impress me – Star. “Is there no way the libraries could be saved by our representatives doing what the people of Sheffield want – which surely is to find ways of continuing to provide an excellent library service throughout Sheffield, properly resourced and staffed by trained, employed people who know what they are doing?”
  • Sheffield – Nick Clegg backs campaign to save Sheffield libraries – ITV. “Nick Clegg MP, said: “There is £31m in owed council tax outstanding. If they got on top of this libraries could stay open without the need for cuts elsewhere. It’s about time they got their act together for the sake of our local libraries.””
  • Sheffield – Palin backs Sheffield libraries – Star. “Michael is well-known for being a fervent supporter of the UK’s libraries. A quote from him which reads, ‘There is no institution I value more in this country than libraries’ sits at the top of the stairs on the first floor of the city centre’s Central Library. Mr Palin spoke exclusively to The Star as public consultation over the city council’s library review comes to an end today. He said: “The news is very sad indeed. “Any library closure anywhere is depriving somebody of a chance to read, learn and enjoy some tranquillity”
  • Sheffield – Save Park Library and Friends of Zest – Facebook. Two of many similar protest groups springing up on Facebook. The pictures show the strength of opposition.
  • Staffordshire – A new chapter for the future of our libraries? – Burton Mail. “A common theme emerged from people on the streets of Burton town centre when they were asked about the town’s library – that they don’t often use it, but would be sad to lose it.” … “Staffordshire County Council this week produced details of its blueprint for the future of the service and is encouraging feedback from the public about how to make libraries viable in the modern day.” … “Visits to libraries in Staffordshire have fallen by 12 per cent over the last three years, with issues of books down by 19 per cent.”
  • Staffordshire – Public to be consulted on future of Staffordshire’s libraries – Sentinel. “There would be a new ‘virtual’ portal, where library users could access national resources as well as local collections. Larger towns like Newcastle and Leek would keep their current libraries, which would offer a wider range of services. The council’s cabinet is expected to launch a public consultation when it meets on Wednesday. People will have until April to air their views.”
  • Suffolk – Stradbroke Post Office could reopen in village library – EDP. “A proposal to reopen services in the village’s library have now been submitted, following talks with the Stradbroke Courthouse and Library Trust (SCA” … ““We think it would be the first library in the UK which runs a Post Office itself. “We’ve found a few others which are in the same building but we’ve not found one which runs it.”
  • Swindon – Libraries party on – Swindon Advertiser. “Two libraries in Swindon celebrated birthday milestones yesterday. Moredon and Rodbourne Cheney Library celebrated its 40th birthday at its current site in Church Walk, after celebrating more than 60 years in the community.”

“Library manager Michelle Fitz-patrick believes the real key to the library’s success is the tight community and the loyal staff who have continued to serve it despite tough times. She said: “It’s tough at the moment for libraries across the country but I think it’s the staff and the volunteers which has enabled us to develop a great sense of community.”

  • Worcestershire – Week of events to toast 50 years of Rubery Library – Bromsgrove Standard. “The library’s customer adviser Barbara Trickett said: “We thought the anniversary would be a good time to invite people from the local area to help us celebrate everything the library has done in the last 50 years.”
  • Wrexham – Brymbo And Gresford Library Face Closure Under Council Budget Cuts – Wrexham.com. “The proposals to close the two libraries are due to go before the Council Executive Board on January 14th, as Wrexham Council continue to make cuts of around £13.9m to make financial savings. The closure of the two libraries combined with the reduction of opening hours would save £92,000.” … “Speaking about the decision to close the two libraries, Lead Member for Communities, Partnership and Collaboration, Cllr Hugh Jones stated that it costs £5.21 per visit per person to use Brymbo library. While it costs £3.12 per visit for Gresford library.” … “It is stated in the report that at present some ‘mitigating solutions are being considered’. These include the possible relocation of Brymbo Library to the Enterprise Centre, which would require external funding from the Welsh Government.”
  • Wrexham – Rhos Library wins reprieve but others still face chop – News North Wales. “Rhos Library was previously earmarked for closure …The proposals sparked a backlash from Rhos residents which saw a petition launched and about 30 protesters gather outside Wrexham Guildhall chanting ‘Save Rhos Library’ ahead of a scrutiny meeting on the proposals.” … “However, both Brymbo and Gresford libraries will close in April unless ongoing discussion for community groups to provide the service elsewhere in both villages prove fruitful.”