Many libraries will be closed tomorrow. That’s unfortunately hardly not a rare statement these days but this time it will not be by the Government and not by councils but by the library workers themselves in industrial action over a 1% pay offer.  As someone who will be on strike myself I need to say that such strikers do not take this action lightly.  I love libraries and all they stand for.  Every day in work and, heaven knows, every night I do Public Libraries News, it is made obvious to me how much people depend on libraries.  But any library (unless they are one of the increasing number passed to the unpaid) need well-paid staff in order to function and I have, like my colleagues, received a 20% cut in pay in inflation-adjustedl terms when compared to four years ago. That’s, I’ll say it again, 20%.  In fact, it’s more than that because I used to be paid time and a half for the Saturdays that I worked and I don’t any more.  I’m going to be brutally honest at this point therefore: it’s coming to the stage where I find it hard to pay the mortgage.  I love libraries but not enough to lose my house over them.  I care deeply about the job and above all I care deeply about the people I serve but I will need to go for a job outside the sector if these pay cuts (hidden as pay freezes or “increases” below inflation) continue.  Indeed, being that such cuts are not unknown in the private sector as well, then I may even need to leave the country.

And that’s just me … and I’m a manager, albeit a very junior one.  Now what about those other library and council workers? Well, two-thirds of council workers are paid below the Government’s own poverty threshold.  Two thirds. One third are paid even below the living wage. If I think it’s bad, with what my parents would call my lower middle class life, then heaven knows what some of my colleagues are going through.

Alright, so that’s tough isn’t it?  There’s no money, right? Well, no. Local authority reserves have risen from £2.9 billion to £19 billion during this time of “austerity”. Even the government deficit doesn’t demand it when looked at historically. Moreover, over half the cost of a decent rise would be recouped by the Government in terms of increased tax revenue and decreased benefits.  Now this strike may do no good. The Government and the majority of the media care not a jot for council workers and they’re unlikely to care more after tomorrow.  But David Cameron and the Mail and the rest have been at war with providing decent council services since before 2010.  The money is there, what we’re looking at is an ideological campaign against council provision and for lower taxes, and higher private profits at any price. We’re getting to a point where we can’t take much more and still offer a good service. So we need to do something … and this is the only thing left for us to do.

Thanks for reading this.  I hope that this will be the last strike I am in.  I hate striking.  I want to keep libraries open, not closed.  But sometimes a library worker has got to do what a library worker has got to do.  Including not working in a library.


National news

  • Harris attacks writing ‘mystique’ – BookSeller. “Novelist Joanne Harris has attacked the “mystique built around being a writer” as being one of reasons why people think they can infringe writers’ copyright and download their work for free … She also said that any message about the value of art needed to come “from the top”, with the government “broadcasting its belief in the value of art – valuing libraries, literature and creativity – and understanding how valuable art is at every level of life.”
  • How librarians enable neoliberalism and inequality, and what we can do to resist it – Infoism. “Rather than passively and uncritically accepting the use of terminology that is alien to our professional values, we should challenge its use and rather than accept the language of the dominant ideology”
  • How the Reading Room could tell its own story – Telegraph / Letters. “The British Museum Reading Room would be the perfect place for an exhibition on the history of libraries, both public and private, as well as that of the people who used them and, indeed, still do. Many 20th-century writers, scholars and scientists – for example, the mathematician Jacob Bronowski – acknowledged the importance of public libraries to their education. From the library at Alexandria, via the chained libraries of medieval cathedrals, through to the Library of Birmingham, which opened last year, surely this is a story to be told. What more appropriate place to tell it?”

“Publisher William Sieghart offers a sneak peek into his upcoming independent report on public libraries, writing in the Local Government Association’s First magazine last month to reveal plans for, er, more library services in pubs. 16s, but plenty of people who like both pubs and libraries still don’t really want to try to do quiet study in a social space.

Meanwhile, library chiefs in Lincolnshire are having more trouble getting unpaid pensioners to do the hard graft of running libraries.  At Alford library, previous reductions in opening hours mean the library only opens with professional staff for two half-days on Tuesday and Friday, plus three hours on a Saturday.  For the past 16 months, volunteers have provided extra opening hours on a Thursday.  However, Lincolnshire plans to hand 30 libraries to be run entirely by “the community”, and as a result the mainly retired volunteers of Alford have quit en masse, saying that while they were happy to help out, they don’t want to take on the responsibility of management.”  Sieghart – Libraries in pubs | Alford volunteers quit en masse, Private Eye Issue 1370 – Library News (p.34)

Supporter’s News

  • Lancashire Libraries Conference: Joining the Dots: Inspire, Innovate and Inform; a two day conference – 14th to 15th October in Lancaster.  This will include keynotes by Wayne Hemingway MBE and Paul McGee (SUMO Guy).   Click this link for full details, where you will also find the programme and a choice of workshops covering topics such as motivation, management, marketing and the arts in libraries.  The event will be held at the prestigious Lancaster House Hotel. Please circulate to your colleagues and appropriate contacts, and if you need any further information please email JoiningtheDots@Lancashire.gov.uk.

International news

  • The library of the future, hub for knowlegde, contact and culture – Netherlands Institute for Public Libraries. “How will the public library will look like in 2025?  The Netherlands Institute for Public Libraries (SIOB) tries to give an answer in this report published last January 2014.” via NAPLE Blog.
  • What happened in Vegas – Library Journal (USA).  A report on the ALA annual conference. A look at the key events, including company news.

UK local news by library authority


The percentage of the overall cuts to Derbyshire council budget from now to 2018 that will be achieved by cutting staff and bookfund.

  • Halton – Council chief admits job losses ‘likely’ at Halton’s libraries as public consultation process into opening hours approved – Runcorn and Widnes Weekly World. “The library service – which costs £2.2m a year – currently employs 63 people across Halton which comprises 17 full-time roles, 44 part-time staff and two management roles. Executive member for community and sport, Cllr Phil Harris, whose portfolio includes libraries, told the Weekly News that job losses are ‘likely’ but that until the consultation process is completed it is ‘not possible to identify any job losses and change in working hours at this point in time’. He added: “I think it is likely that there will be. But no decisions will be taken until the views are exposed in public consultation.”
  • Hertfordshire – Libraries to increase use of volunteers, self service, and share premises – Hertfordshire Mercury. “Within the next decade libraries will attract more visitors physically, virtually and via outreach, be open for longer hours and cost the taxpayer less. This will be achieved by using volunteers and self-service machines to extend opening hours. “Friends groups” will also be created, through which volunteers will promote library services and raise income.”


The percentage of the overcall cuts to the Leicestershire council budget (£110m) by closing or passing to volunteers 36 libraries

  • Lincolnshire – It’s crunch time for Sutton on Sea Library – Louth Leader.  “The outcome of the High Court Judicial Review into the decision to close the libraries that has been brought against Lincolnshire County Council by Save Lincolnshire Libraries will be heard this week, with the conclusion of how it will impact on those at Sutton on Sea Library to be determined in the coming weeks. If the outcome of the review goes in favour of the County Council, then the greatest challenge facing the volunteers is to raise the money needed to upkeep the library and access funding to ensure it can remain solvent and enhance the offer to the community.” Local county councillor says ““But my personal preference, that the conclusion of the judicial review overturns the decision of the County Council as at the end of the day, you can’t beat a professional run library.”.
  • Lincolnshire – William Wright – BBC Radio Lincolnshire (2 hours 22 minutes to 2 hours 30 minutes). Report from the Royal Courts of Justice reporting on the second day of the judicial review.  Council said it was their decision to cut the “ad hoc” library service to cut £2 million from “inefficient and unsustainable” service.  Council saw what was legally obliged to provide and what they can afford to provide.  Council saying that 15 core libraries and mobiles will be fulfilling legal obligations. Judge challenged council barrister on a couple of points in particular with regard to consultation which campaigners said was a “done deal”: consultation forms sounded like the council had already decided on 15 branches.  Judge asked where the scope was for the public to challenge the decision.  Also looked at decision to “refuse to even hear a presentation” from GLL which did not seem to tie in with open consultation.  Council said big holes in GLL case and council preferred volunteers to outsourcing. Council says consultation was genuine and not disingenuous.  Judge is planning to give judgement by end of July. If judge decides unlawful then consultation may need to be redone or there be a proper look at GLL bid.
  • Lincolnshire – Library As A Lifeline – Overtly Unaccomplished. “that is the value of libraries that is too often ignored by politicians and councillors trying to make cuts where privileged people won’t notice. A book is a mental passport away from a situation. A book can provide the education needed to liberate oneself from inescapable difficulty. It can be a source of hope. Just the simple act of leaving the house to return books and fetch more can be a catalyst for independence.”

“a catalyst for independence”

  • Lincolnshire – Save Lincolnshire Libraries judicial review ‘misconceived’ say county council – Lincolnshire Echo. “A high-powered [and therefore expensive – Ed.] legal team today rode to the defence of cash-strapped Lincolnshire County Council’s controversial plans for a massive shake-up of the county’s public library service” … Council barrister said “Decisions of policy are for the elected executive. The council has taken rigorous steps to conduct a full, independently-advised and conscientious consultation on its future library provision. “It has genuinely and properly considered the alternatives to the preferred proposal it put out for consultation and rejected those alternatives for rational and lawful reasons.”.  Also said that consultation was conducted properly and that due regard was given to Equalities Act.
  • Luton – The feisty OAP on a one-woman crusade to save Luton’s libraries – Luton Today. “Luton senior citizen Doreen Steinberg is a woman with a mission. She’s determined to overturn the council’s decision to close three of the town’s libraries and has even taught herself to use social media in her quest for justice.” … “The charity Luton Culture, which runs the libraries on behalf of Luton Borough Council, shut down Wigmore, Sundon Park and the mobile library after the council faced a funding cut of £1.5m. A Freedom if Information request revealed that money received from the Airport Trust was specifically earmarked for libraries during the period 2011- 2015, a fact later denied by the council” … “She’s particularly cross about Wigmore and said: “We presented the council with a petition containing 10,000 signatures. But Maggie Appleton of Luton Culture dismissed it as ‘just signatures.’

“just signatures” response by Luton Culture to 10,000 petition

  • Northeast Lincolnshire – Library survey ‘weighted’? – Grimsby Telegraph. “Survey designed to help shape the future of library services in North East Lincolnshire has been “weighted” to favour larger centres. That was the claim of the borough’s Mayor and Scartho ward councillor Alex Baxter when the survey results were presented to the Tourism Leisure and Culture Scrutiny panel yesterday. He told the meeting the footfall seen at larger libraries, such as the Cleethorpes seafront centre, meant that even if only one in 100 visitors completed the survey, the response would still be disproportionate to that of smaller centres such as Scartho library.”
  • Swindon – Doing things by the book – This is Wiltshire. “Stratton residents can now borrow books from Grange Leisure Centre after the parish council introduced the new facility at a launch ceremony on Monday. ” … ” We approached Swindon Libraries and asked what they thought about putting a community library in Grange Leisure and they loved the idea, they jumped at it.” … “Now, visitors can go to the Leisure Centre, browse through the 450 titles, and book it out in the available sign out book. “