Nottinghamshire councillors have announced that they were considering the closure of 44 libraries but, instead, the council has decided (like Devon already has) to seek support from community groups (including a community radio station), volunteers and funding from parish councils.  But hang on, that option of closing so many libraries looks suspiciously like a straw man: the councillors can blame the officers (who had no choice, presumably, but to give it as an alternative) and can say that they’re trying their best to save the service by passing it to someone else who will do the job for less.  So, a bit of a double whammy to the poor council workers there – they get put in the position of bad guys by their own councillors and other council workers are then likely to see their jobs lost as others, unpaid or otherwise, take them over instead.

What Nottinghamshire haven’t mentioned is passing on the service to a private company to run at a profit.  Which is probably good, because Carillion, according to reports, are doing the cause of outsourcing public libraries to private companies no favours in Croydon.  In the third negative article in the local press I’ve read in the last month, a student attacks what appears to be a frankly ridiculous system where the libraries have “student” tables and “leisure” tables.  It comes on top of another article which, admittedly written by a hostile witness (a Labour councillor) who points out that the Central Library there has been reduced to one entrance/exit, effectively closing the main entrance. He also notes:

An entire floor had no staff on it. The children’s library had no librarian on duty either. Carillion, the private company that now runs the libraries, has purposefully “de-skilled” the borough’s libraries, employing as few professional librarians as possible.

Of course, Croydon Council never agreed to Carillion taking over its libraries in the first place.  It agreed to Laing taking them over who then, six weeks later, simply sold the business to the new owners.  As a case study in how to turn people off “privatisation” of public libraries, this can hardly be bettered (worsened?).  Indeed, so so ironically, Carillion appear to be showing how amateur a private library company can be.


UK national news

  • Breakthrough in copyright law reform confirmed – CILIP. Guest blog includes “Amendments to Library Privilege so that publically accessible not for profit libraries can make fair dealing copies on behalf of their users from all copyright works.It is great to see that for many of these education and research exceptions it is recognised that sound and film have equal importance in an education and cultural context as text based materials.”
  • Public service workers will have to become Jacks and Jills of all trades – Guardian / Local leadership hub. “Should librarians just be librarians or can councils expect them to take on extra responsibilities, as registrars, for example?” … “When Kent county council was looking to save money a couple of years ago, it hit upon the idea of merging the roles of library manager and registrar. Library managers were expected to register births and deaths on top of their existing duties, and registrars took on roles in libraries. One former library manager chose to leave the service as a result. It wasn’t, he said, what he signed up for: “I don’t associate the skills in running a library with those of a registrar. I don’t have the emotional skill to do it.” Since the council was looking to cut staff numbers, it was probably not too troubled by his departure. But this does raise questions about how to support staff who are being asked to work well beyond their professional boundaries.”

“We need to use people’s latent talent – if you are a librarian, for example, a key skill will be working with people from the local community. It’s about a different background mindset: ‘I am not just here to do a specific job, but to help the people of this town.'”

  • Radical Librarians Collective (Part Two) – Lauren Smith. An in-depth look at the issues behind censorship in UK public libraries following the recent petition launched to ban The Sun. “I wanted to discuss what’s gone wrong in terms of library and information workers failing to understand that banning content we disapprove of on political grounds is unacceptable, what we can do to challenge opinions about censorship on a general level and also in the workplace, and discuss other issues of censorship that we need to be aware of as library-related folk.”
  • The economic value of public libraries – Alyson’s Welsh libraries blog. “Average annual savings (cost of alternatives) = £160.14 (Wales average p.a.) What this means is: if the library service didn’t exist, this is what people would have to pay to use/obtain the same things/services in a year. Note that 19% said ‘More than £300 p.a.’. I have calculated that for me, personally, my saving is between £200 and £400 pa, depending on the cost of alternatives.”.  On average, people spend £8 in local area when visiting the library. Annual value of library service to a user is around £2000. “This is an excellent resource for those looking to show the economic value of the public library service.”

UK local news by authority

  • Barnet – Tory leader Cornelius sets out election pledges – Barnet Today. “On whether services such as libraries could be run by voluntary or community organisations in future, Mr Cornelius said: “I wouldn’t have any objection to that.”
  • Cardiff – Save Ely Library from DemolitionPetitions 24. “We think that Ely library building should be kept for community use or conmverted to apatments on architectural merit and NOT be demolished. We ask the planning committee to consider the application rather than allow the officers to decide (under delegated powers) We need just 50 signatures for this to happen to the planning department. The Proposal: DEMOLITION OF LIBRARY At: ELY LIBRARY, 8 GRAND AVENUE, ELY, CARDIFF, CF5 4BL application number 14/01057/DCO We think that Ely library building should be kept for community use or conmverted to apatments on architectural merit”.
  • Carillion/Croydon – Letter to the Editor: Why I don’t visit Croydon LibrariesCroydon Guardian. “I have never been in a library where I am promoted to leave if I want to study!  I visited Croydon Central Library recently and discovered a ridiculous table pass system whereby blue and red tables are for studying tables (and are always full) and yellow tables for no studying (which are always empty). Students are turned away, yet the yellow tables are empty ALL DAY. Evidently the ‘study pass’ system does NOT work, as there are different fluxes of study-ers and non-study-ers in the library at different times.”

“I urge other students to stand up against the staff, and to write in to your local papers and complain to the library so that we stand together against this unjust dictatorship. We may be young and studious but we deserve to study, and to be heard, as soon we will be the generation in charge.”

  • Devon – County Council accused of making decision on cuts ‘behind closed doors’ at County Hall meeting – Exeter Express and Echo. “Opposition councillors to Devon County Council have accused the ruling Tories of making major decision on cuts ‘behind closed doors’ describing the alleged secrecy as “a horrible Dartmoor fog” sitting over County Hall. At a meeting, called by the Liberal Democrats in Exeter, an attempt to cease plans to close care homes, day care centres libraries and youth centres in Devon failed, despite claims that the process was “fundamentally flawed” and moving at an “indecent” pace.”
  • Devon – Support Axminster Library – Facebook. “This is a page for keeping you up to date with the changes proposed for Axminster Library, as part of the Devon Library consultation, and how you can help. Description: We say “No” to the community-led proposal. This is not appropriate for Axminster.  We need as many people as possible to complete the Consultation and say a big “no” to using a community-led library. We, as a town, need a professionally run library with paid staff.” [455 followers in less than one month – Ed.]
  • Leicestershire – Act now to save county libraries – Leicester Mercury. ” The county council has stated that the proposed changes to the library service will save about £800,000 per year.  There are currently 175,000 people who are members of Leicestershire libraries and there are about 267,500 households in the county. It is staggering, then, to look at the figures and consider that our libraries are at risk to save £4.50 per year per user, or £3 per year per household.”
  • Nottinghamshire – Library closures in Notts are shelved but service faces changes for future – Nottingham Post. “Plans were put forward to close 44 libraries in Notts as part of proposals to find £83 million it has been revealed. The massive cut to the library service was one of a number of saving measures drawn up by Notts County Council. In the end no libraries were shut, but council leader Alan Rhodes has said the service is one which will have to be run differently in future – with community groups and parish councils taking a more active role to ensure book lovers can still get their fix.”

“We said no to that, it was a red line issue. I don’t want to be council leader who closed all the libraries in Notts” … “”People are less concerned about who delivers the service and more about the quality of the delivery” Council Leader Alan Rhodes

  • Sheffield – Six bidding for Sheffield Council Central seat – Star.  2 out of the 5 candidates who submit a pitch mention libraries in their one paragraph. ” I’m campaigning instead to see funds used to support our community libraries and reduce parking permit fees for local residents” (Lib Dem) … “I helped collect more than 5,000 signatures and lobbied Sheffield Council, only to be told they couldn’t do it because this Tory government won’t let them. The same thing was said about the libraries, children’s centres and Highfield adventure playground, all cut.” (Trade Unions and Socialists Against The Cuts).