The “Changes” section shows a few different trends.  The first and most positive is a bit of a “no brainer” but has a corollary that politicians do not seem to understand.  That is, that if you build a new library, or upgrade an older one, then usage goes up (see South Lanarkshire and Stapleford for this).  Pretty obvious.  However, the corollary is that if you do not upgrade libraries then usage falls.  So, failing to invest in libraries and then blaming decline in usage for further reductions in investment stands the danger of becoming a self-fulfilling and vicious circle.  The question is whether in the current financial climate whether libraries will be given a decent chance to break the circle.

Then we have outsourcing with two stories today suggesting that (some at least) private companies may not be an entirely good thing for a library service.  Carillion’s very first action when it bought the library services of four London authorities (without any apparent link to democracy by the way) last year was to announce job losses.  Those are now starting with eight in Croydon.  Elsewhere, Birmingham’s contract with Capita somehow allowed it to spend more than one million pounds on the website for the new central library.  The council is now reported as reviewing how to get out of the contract but they may not be able to.  The question here is whether outsourcing delivers the benefits that the glossy brochures suggest it will.

Then we have the most seemingly constant of all recent library news: volunteers.  Windsor and Maidenhead appear to be approaching things a different way than most, by using them to increase opening hours rather than replacing paid staff.  This is unlike Lincolnshire where it appears thirty libraries will be taken over by volunteers who prefer that as an alternative to seeing their buildings closed.  The questions with this one are so many that I’ll stop it here.



  • Big Questions: Is the 50p tax rate a good idea? Do libraries still matter? Is Ukip electable? – Independent. “Nearly 300 local libraries have closed over the past two years because of budget cuts. With internet access all but ubiquitous, does that matter? It does matter. Public libraries provide many valuable services besides internet access. In any case, some parts of the country still do not have access to high-speed broadband. Eighty per cent of users surveyed said the support provided in libraries improved their level of understanding of online information and 70 per cent said it improved their online knowledge and skills. Public libraries are also used by primary schools to help young children acquire the habit of reading, and to learn how to borrow books regularly. Older pupils are able to study in them without distractions. Libraries provide many advisory services for adults including on ways of accessing information from different sources as well as from the internet. For example, the British Library has linked up with six big city libraries to help entrepreneurs wanting to start new businesses.”
  • Books on Prescription scheme sees loans rise – BookSeller. “More than 100,000 people have made use of the Books on Prescription scheme since it launched in public libraries last summer. Libraries in England report that loans of the recommended titles increased by 145% during the first three months of the scheme.”

“This is an excellent result for the first stage of the Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme and we are confident that take up of this offer will increase as more people learn about it. We are really pleased the Arts Council have recognized this project and have agreed to help libraries support people living with dementia.” Janene Cox, President of the Society of Chief Librarians.

““I’m delighted to see the success of Books on Prescription. To reach more than 100 000 people in three months is an amazing achievement. I congratulate the Society of Chief Librarians on coming up with this excellent scheme and showing how libraries can still be the home of fresh life changing innovative ideas”” Culture Minister Ed Vaizey

“This is a very positive outcome for the Books on Prescription scheme and Arts Council England is pleased to have supported such an important initiative. This outcome firmly demonstrates how libraries continue to be an essential part of our communities, and are able to apply their core purpose in innovative ways that support our partners, and more importantly, help support local people to support themselves”  Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England

  • Standards watchdog to review risks from new models of service delivery – Local Government Lawyer. “The Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) is to commission independent research on the risks created by the development of new models of public service delivery.” [This may have a bearing on the many varieties now being seen in libraries – Ed.]

International news

  • Conference Paper: “The Panoptic Librarian: The Role of Video Surveillance in the Modern Public Library” – Library Journal (USA). “This paper presents the findings of a qualitative case study examining why four libraries in the US and the UK installed video surveillance and how they manage these systems to balance safety and privacy.”
  • Lemony Snicket Sponsors Prize for Librarians Facing Adversity – School Library Journal (USA). “The American Library Association (ALA) has approved the new Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced With Adversity, proposed and funded by the “Series of Unfortunate Events” author himself, Daniel Handler. The prize is designed to honor “a librarian who has faced adversity with integrity and dignity intact,” according to the award proposal. ALA council gave the prize a thumbs-up at the ALA Midwinter Meeting held in Philadelphia January 24-28, 2014. The annual award—granted only if a suitable candidate is found—comes with a cash prize of $3,000 from Snicket’s book earnings, plus an additional $1,000 for travel expenses. In addition, Snicket, whose picture book The Dark earned him the Charlotte Zolotow Award, will provide the winner with “an odd, symbolic object from his private stash” and “a certificate, which may or may not be suitable for framing.”” [The reward is open to librarians everywhere in the world – Ed.]

“This seems like a better way to channel money to librarians than my previous strategy, which was incurring exorbitant late fees,” Lemony Snicket

Local UK news by authority

  • Birmingham – Library website ‘cost more than £1m’ – BBC. “it is reviewing its £120m a year contract with Capita, after it was revealed the service company charged more than £1m to build the new Library of Birmingham website. Birmingham City Council said it did not know how much it would cost to break the contract for IT, call centre and billing services, due to run until 2021.”
  • Brent – Disgruntled residents protest on top of demolished library – Brent and Kilburn Times. “Disgruntled residents staged a demonstration on top of the rubble of the pop-up Kensal Rise library, which was destroyed in the early hours of the morning today. Many locals braved the rain to unite outside the closed building and express their anger at the destruction of the beloved makeshift library. Stephanie Schonfield, of Friends of Kensal Rise Library, who helped operate the library, said the community are “devastated” by the loss.”

“BREAKING: All Souls College Oxford instructed Cluttons to carry out the demolition of the Kensal Rise Library POP UP in the early hours of this morning. At 5AM Security arrived and began to tear down the community built structure. No notice was given to the council or the community so that so that provision could be made for the books, and they were discarded on the pavement.” Message from Kensal Rise campaign

  • Brent – Owners of Kensal Rise library blames council for demoilition – Brent and Kilburn Times. “All Souls College, Oxford, which handed the management of the now defunct library on Bathurst Road to Andrew Gillick, the director of Platinum Revolver Limited, claims council chefs ordered the destruction the beloved makeshift library. In a letter seen by the Times, a planning enforcement officer threatened action after stating the build of the pop up library was in breach of planning control.”
  • Brent – Oxford College destroys pop up library and dumps books – Wembley Matters. “There is consternation in Kensal Rise this morning following the destruction of the Kensal Rise  pop up library before dawn by security agents hired by Cluttons, the property agents for All Souls College, owners of the library. The library was unceremoniously torn down and its books dumped. The pop up library has been on the site since Labour Brent Council closed the library in its ‘library transformation’ project. Campaigners have bee pressing for a community library space in the proposed new development by developer Andrew Gillick.”
  • Brent – Recriminations, criminals and Kensal Rise library – Wembley Matters. Council refuses to take action over apparently fraudulent emails written in support of the planning application to change Kensal Rise Library into flats. “All Souls College, has claimed that it was Brent Council that forced them to take action to remove the Kensal Rise pop up library. The Kilburn Times yesterday reported that All Souls College had been told to remove the pop up by Brent Council planning enforcement officers and that they had delayed until the last minute in the interests of the community”
  • Bury – Presentation to Bury Council – Save Bury Library. “Plans, that have been described by the art gallery manager as a “no brainer” and of which he does not “expect to receive widespread support and positive reviews” (Bury Times) have left people appalled and feeling downright insulted. According to Bury Council, in the Plan For Change consultation the public very clearly expressed a preference for co-location.. . If people had known that they would lose half of this much loved library to a sculpture centre perhaps the results would have been different.. Just under 3,000 signed the petition opposing this particular co-location idea… If co-location is completely necessary we believe that it should be something that would benefit the needs of the local community.”
  • Carillion / Croydon – Carillion cuts jobs just weeks after taking over libraries – Inside Croydon. “Up to eight professionals working across Croydon’s network of 13 branch libraries face redundancy, just a few weeks after a firm of builders which had never pitched for the job took over the running of the borough’s libraries.” … “The job cuts represent virtually the first act since taking over the borough’s privatised library service by Carillion, a firm better known for operating building contracts, but who acquired a juicy £30 million, eight-year deal to run Croydon’s libraries when John Laing Integrated Services decided that they didn’t fancy the gig after all, following an expensive two-year-long procurement process.”
  • Cornwall – Public views sought on plans to axe mobile library – Western Morning News. “Cornwall Council announced last month that library hours would be cut and the mobile services abandoned as it looked to save some £1.3 million next year. It wants to pursue “community based initiatives” which could see micro-libraries set up in local pubs as has happened at Lerryn, Wainhouse Corner and Vogue. A 12 week public consultation starts on Monday.” … ““The existing mobile service is facing a 50% budget cut and we are undertaking this 12 week consultation on plans to potentially cease the mobile library and mobile one stop shop service, replacing it with a number of community based initiatives.”
  • Gloucestershire – Libraries’ computers targeted for pornography websites – Gloucester Citizen. “While staff called police in to Gloucestershire County Council libraries twice last year, the worker believes the problem is more widespread. “There is a lot of misuse of computers – not only people who are supposed to be looking for a job but playing games but by people looking up pornography,”
  • Lincolnshire – Volunteers offer to run 30 threatened libraries in Lincolnshire – BBC. “All of Lincolnshire’s libraries under threat of closure have received interest from community groups hoping to take over the running of them. More than 20,000 people signed petitions opposing the cuts which put 30 libraries at risk. In addition, the county council has received seven enquires for new community libraries. However, some campaigners believe the volunteers who came forward had little choice and were forced to take action.”
  • Lincolnshire – Council drew up ‘secret’ library plan – Spalding Today. “County council bosses are under fire over a “secret” plan to build a new library at Market Deeping while threatening closure of the library at Wade House.” … “Deeping St James county councillor Phil Dilks said it was “discovered by accident” on January 6 that the county had a secret feasibility study under way for the last nine months which would involve adding a library room to the district council owned community centre.” … “Coun Dilks says the county could have raised £18,000 a year towards running Market Deeping Library by renting out five rooms at Wade House, but hadn’t done so, and he believes the authority wants to sell off Wade House and use some of the cash to build at the community centre.”
  • Lincolnshire – Evidence Of Shocking Cluelessness At LCC – Louth Eye. FOI request shows the central charges that have been taken out of the libraries budget: ” Although there’s a little extra information explaining what each of the types of spending entail, I don’t think it’s very illuminating. In fact, I think the lack of detail is damning. LCC’s executive didn’t have a clear idea of how the support budget was being spent last year. This, more than anything, makes their decision to cut the funding for 30 libraries and turn them into volunteer-run “Community Hubs” look terribly ill-advised.”

“Finding the volunteers is difficult enough in itself and then you’ve got to keep them motivated all the time. Another campaigner, Steve Palmer, said the volunteers “had their arms twisted behind their backs”. He said: “They were told if you do not come forward and offer to run your library you will get a second rate mobile service.””

  • Luton – Library campaigners protest against closures – BBC. “The Wigmore and Sundon Park facilities will shut on Friday after the charity which runs them lost more than £1.5m in council funding. Luton Culture has said its money-saving measures, which include ending the mobile libraries, will save £330,000.” … “Campaigner Doreen Steinberg, who collected a 10,000-signature petition to keep Wigmore Library open, condemned the actions of “an unelected trust and an apathetic council”. “People are incensed,” she said. “They are discriminating against the elderly, the infirm, children, the unemployed, mothers and tots and those who do not have internet at home.”
  • Luton – Video: protest against libraries – Luton Today. “Doreen Steinberg, main campaigner for Wigmore Library, said: “We aim to force the council to honour the statutory duty and provide comprehensive library service to the whole town. We want the council to stop discriminating against the elderly, infirm, unemployed, children and those without internet access. Campaigners also want to see Luton Culture, who run the libraries on behalf of the council, to make public its accounts.”
  • North Yorkshire – Council tax bills set to rise in North Yorkshire – Press. “Other proposals going before the council’s executive next Tuesday include reviewing its library service, and some libraries which are not taken over by communities could close.”
  • Nottinghamshire – Defending great library legacy of Victorians is not fiction – Nottingham Post. “Take the library in Stapleford, which closed last year for a much-needed £800,000 refurbishment. Now, the redesigned building, with its bright interiors, striking murals, free wi-fi and new coffee machine, is punching its weight with bookish “Stabbo” citizens. Since it reopened in December, the Church Street centre has seen…Book borrowing increasing 36 per cent compared with the previous year. The registration of new members rising by 250 per cent. A 50 per cent increase in the use of computers – with the same number of terminals.”
  • Shropshire – Libraries and grant funds facing cuts in £80m Shropshire Council savings – Shropshire Star. “It has been confirmed that a review of library services designed to save £1.3 million is considering the closure of some buildings. The council is currently responsible for 22 libraries, with the future of all the sites being looked at as part of the review. James Walton, head of finance for the council, said library services would continue throughout the county but may be delivered from different locations or in a different way in future. He said existing libraries may welcome in other services or could be moved elsewhere, while the idea of greater use of mobile libraries will also be considered.”
  • South Lanarkshire – Leisure & Culture figures reveal over five million visits – Daily Record. “Across the whole of South Lanarkshire there was a seven per cent increase in the number of library visits compared to 2011/12. And libraries in Larkhall, Stonehouse and Biggar reported 30 per cent increases on the previous year following refurbishments or relocations. Mr Campbell said: “There were 96,817 additional visitors to our libraries, giving a total of 1,442,791. Larkhall Library has benefited from its move to a more central location and shared premises with the Q&A office, Money Matters and the Community Learning Services. Stonehouse Library also benefited from relocation to shared premises in a new-built facility joining with community halls and social work partners. “Also on the increase were customers booking PCs for use with the free internet facilities in all the libraries as the need to be online becomes more important in everyone’s lives.””
  • Southend on Sea – 100 volunteers say they’ll run Southend’s libraries – Southend Standard. “Westcliff and Southchurch libraries could be run by volunteers, with more supporting a limited number of paid staff at Leigh and Kent Elms libraries within 12 months, after scores of people offered their help. Southend Council also expects to have firm plans for a new fully-staffed library in Delaware Road, Shoebury, to replace Thorpedene and Friars libraries in place in that time.”
  • Swindon – Libraries aren’t shops – Swindon Advertiser. Shirley Burnham letter: “Closing branch libraries or handing them over to volunteers delivers relatively small direct savings because the expensive structure and overheads are left in place.” … “Being a councillor in local government is about challenging officers to develop imaginative solutions to problems to the benefit of all residents, not least the young, the elderly and the disadvantaged.” … “We are being consulted about the de-staffing of our valued branch libraries whilst far too many questions are being left unanswered.”
  • Windsor and Maidenhead – Extra opening hours for Royal Borough libraries – Local Berkshire. “The Royal Borough’s cabinet was last night expected to approve plans to make permanent a year-long trial which provided 14.5 extra opening hours a week across four libraries. The extra opening hours have been on offer at the Windsor, Maidenhead, Cox Green and Sunningdale container libraries after a council-run volunteer recruitment drive.”

“Libraries are true community information hubs and the willingness of our marvellous volunteers has provided invaluable help to staff so that we can make Monday to Saturday extended opening permanent.”