That thing about public libraries being a statutory service is well-known and most librarians can quote the “comprehensive and efficient” bit but those three words are not the whole sentence.  No, the whole sentence is:

“It shall be the duty of every library authority to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons desiring to make use thereof” General duty of library authorities, 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act.

Now that’s important because it says for all persons: not just those with transport to get to the big town library and not just those who have use of their legs.  It says “for all persons”.  It seems to me that this is vital because it goes a lot further than the woolly “comprehensive” and the even more indefinable “efficient”.  It is also clear from the drafter of the Act that it was always meant to be a stronger piece of legislation than some current council legal departments think it is.

What makes those words even more important is that almost all legal challenges to library cuts have not been on procedural grounds and not on the level of service.  It’s on Equalities Act stuff or on the consultation precisely because it’s hard to win a case on such woollyness as the 1964 Act has previously been famous for.  As it is, councils don’t have to worry about minimum provision: they can simply redo the offending thing if they get caught out and cut away.  In a country like England with no Library Standards then it’s even more crucial we have something.  What is needed is some sort of legal challenge, successful legal challenge, on minimum provision …. and those forgotten line “for all persons desiring to make use thereof” could be handy.  Frankly, it could save public library provision in smaller towns.  So let’s not forget those extra lines and let’s hope someone clever in the legal provision can do it. Because then councils will be scared of cutting libraries, will give them more protection and that will give public libraries some valuable breathing space.  And we all need to breathe.



  • Are Community Managed Libraries Effective? – Leon’s Library Blog. “The following is the summary report from research that Mike Cavanagh, Head of Cultural Services at Pembrokeshire County Council, has undertaken. The report summarises the findings from a study between 2012 and 2014 exploring the effectiveness of community managed libraries in England and forms part of Mike’s master’s dissertation at Aberystwyth University.”

The evidence from this study points to a fragmented and inconsistent network of volunteer delivered libraries.  A key reason is the variation in approach and level of support from local authorities.  Some libraries have benefitted from financial support and ongoing professional advice and training, whilst others have had no financial assistance and limited support. The paper argues that the lack of national library standards is a contributory factor to this variation in service offerings and quality.  As such, it advocates for the reintroduction of a standards framework and for more consistent provision of professional advice.

  • Automatic Library Membership Pilots Final Report – Arts Council England. “What if every child had an unlimited supply of books? Libraries are great repositories of freely accessible books and resources for information, learning and discovery. The possibility of universal library membership for children has been proposed as a means of further encouraging reading. Arts Council England’s Automatic Library Membership Programme took up this challenge and sought to test the most effective and efficient technical and practical mechanisms by which this could happen and, for the first time, explored the challenges in a systematic manner. Twenty-two diverse projects ran from September 2012 until October 2013, investigating how best to reach babies, primary and secondary school-aged children. An evaluation framework was developed to assess the impact of the programmes and assist in drawing conclusions as to their relative effectiveness.”.  Improvements vary from “negligible” to 79%. [This project is likely to be discussed on BBC Radio Four You and Yours 12 noon on Thursday – Ed.]
  • Councils ‘firefighting’ way through tough times, says report – Localgov. “Many local authorities are ‘firefighting’ their way through cuts and focusing too heavily on reducing staff, according to a new report. The Skills for Local Government report found workforce planning is becoming increasingly difficult for local authorities as budget cuts are forcing them to focus on a basic head count and workplace reductions instead.”
    The Library Campaign is our key sponsor – Kickstarter. “We’re really pleased to announce that The Library Campaign is our key organisational sponsor. We had one slot available at this level and we are really pleased it has gone to a longstanding charity who campaign for improved library services and support Friends of Library groups. They will receive a dedicated page in the A to Z book, plus various other rewards, but most importantly we’re looking forward to working with them to promote the wonderful things libraries do.”.  123 sponsors have raised over £3800.

“One week left to reply to this year’s RFID survey! Almost 600 libraries from 16 different countries have now responded, making this the most successful year ever. France (87) recently overtook the USA (71) to take third place behind Australia (90) with the UK (137) still out in front. The survey closes at noon on Monday next (25th May) so if you were planning to reply please do so before then. The survey can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2014RFIDsurvey (in English) or https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/enqueteRFID2014 (version Français). My thanks to everyone for such a magnificent response!” Mick Fortune, Library RFID Ltd.

  • London is city with world’s most ‘economic clout’ – Telegraph. “London came a narrow second to Paris on the measures of intellectual capital and innovation, with strong performance in the number of people in higher education, the quality of universities, and access to libraries. ”
  • Save our libraries – “The libraries are the threads that stitch us together so take out your needle and let’s start sewing”
  • New instant advice service: My Incubator Ventures: fills gap for entrepreneurs – Intercooler Online. “Jackie Burnett of Welwyn Garden City Central Library said: “This exciting new addition to our library’s business resources will offer our visitors the opportunity to receive free help and advice from business advisors using library computers.””
  • Radical Librarians Collective (Part Four): Libraries and Youth – Lauren Smith. “This is the mindmap for the session (click on the image for full size), which was really interesting and I found very useful for getting an insight into how youth work can contribute to an understanding of the role of libraries and library workers in relation to young people.”
  • SoA lobbies Harman on school libraries – BookSeller. “Schools in the UK should be required by law to have a library and they should be subject to Ofsted inspections, the Society of Authors has told Harriet Harman, with author Sarah Waters speaking out in support”


  • Libraries still play a vital role – South China Morning Post (China). “The humble lending library long ago broke down economic barriers to access to books. It may have been overtaken by the internet in democratising information, but a love of reading acquired early in life remains the traditional – and many believe the soundest – foundation for a fulfilling life of literary enjoyment and learning, whether from books or online. While Hong Kong ranks highly for technological infrastructure such as fast broadband connectivity and penetration of mobile devices, literacy is key to the potential of a wired society for creativity and learning.”
  • Liz Soares: Libraries haven’t outlived usefulness, in fact, we need them more than ever – Morning Sentinel (USA). “Do you know what I call a person who thinks libraries have outlived their usefulness in the Internet era? Answer: Ignorant — a status, of course, that could be immeasurably improved if this person would just go to a library.”
  • Love in the Stacks: A chat with author/editor Patience Bloom – USA Today (USA). ” I grew up going to libraries. My mother took me to libraries all over the country. For me, libraries were a safe haven and a peaceful alternative to the world outside. “
  • Make libraries part of our culture – Arab News (Saudi Arabia). “The sad truth is that public libraries are not part of our infrastructure or should I dare say they are not part of our culture” … “let’s bring the concept of libraries back into our daily lives”
  • Too many elephants in ACT public libraries – ACT Open Government (Australia). “At 11 am on Wednesday the children’s book Too Many Elephants in This House by Australian author Ursula Dubosarsky and illustrator Andrew Joyner will be read aloud in Australia’s homes, schools, pre-schools, childcare centres and libraries.” … “”Last year over 430,000 children participated and this year, for the 14th year of National Simultaneous Storytime, even larger numbers are expected.”

UK local news by authority

  • Croydon – Who should lead Croydon? Mike Fisher and Tony Newman go head-to-head – Croydon Citizen. “We have secured the future of our network of thirteen branch libraries, whilst still making the savings which we have to make to balance the books, by outsourcing the operation of the libraries. Many London Labour authorities balanced their books by branch closures, but we did not go down that route. The libraries have new IT and new books, and are in safe hands.” … “If possible to end the Tory privatisation, and return our libraries to the public. We also want to build on the Upper Norwood Library model where local people have a much greater say in how their library is run, and what services are provided. Libraries in the 21st century must become community hubs for all, to ensure their long term survival. Books will hopefully always be important, but libraries must have more IT facilities, more after school facilities, and perhaps a greater social offer for older people and daytime users.”
  • Derbyshire – Mobile library services still under threat – Burton Mail. “The authority is mooting plans to withdraw eight of the vehicles which currently operate in the county – including one of the maximum capacity vehicles which takes books to Newhall and Hilton. ” … “The mobile library service currently costs £720,000 a year to run. Moves to scrap services have been called ‘diabolical’ by campaigners. Gill Farrington, chairman of South Derbyshire Forum, said: “This is just something else being taken away from older people. You have got to wonder what there is left.”
  • Devon – Axminster Library treated unfairly compared to neighbouring towns – View Online (via Twitter).
  • Oxfordshire – Libraries ‘face struggle to find volunteers’ – BBC. “Under cuts agreed in 2011, only half the county’s libraries will remain fully-funded from April. The rest will need volunteers to cover some shifts. Community groups say they are worried some libraries will not be able to attract enough volunteers. Oxfordshire County Council said nine of the 21 libraries affected had already found solutions. The Friends of Charlbury Library said that despite offers from 23 potential volunteers, it would not be able to cover vacant shifts when its funding was cut from August.”

“What I am hearing is that places don’t know how many volunteers they can find,” she said. “Also we’re talking about a year from now that they are going to need these volunteers, so are the same people going to be available in a year’s time?” She said that in rural areas, many people were already committed to other organisations.”