I get asked for an “elevator pitch” (what reasons you’d give for funding if you were stuck in a lift with a decision maker for a minute) for public libraries every now and again and I keep on tailoring my response as I learn more and think further on the subject.  I normally throw in a whole load about libraries as third spaces, about Digital By Default and all that sort of stuff.  Well, my “pitch” is going to change a bit because I came across a wonderful US article which simply talks about libraries as the “great equalizer”. Yes. That is so true.  Libraries provide the books for those who cannot afford the books, the help with computers for those who don’t know computers, the online access for those with no online access and the study space for those without study space . We’re the community chest of resources that means that, even if you have no money, you can learn and communicate with the best of them.  Even if you don’t speak the same language. And by providing that, we provide the social welfare, the literacy, the jobseeking, the you name it that means that all of the population has a chance to become equals.  So when you’re next in a lift with a person in sharp business clothes who is wondering who you are, tell him.  Tell him that your service is vital for a fair society, for improving incomes and outcomes.  And then sting him or her for some money.  It’s only fair.

And if you want any more factual information about what I’ve just said, see the pages on the menu on “Why Libraries?” on that toolbar at the top of this page.  See, I’ve made it easy for you.  All you have to do is go to your HQ and hang around in a lift.


Asking questions in Parliament is a great way of finding information out and scoring points off the other side.  The Shadow Minister for Libraries, Helen Goodman, however, appears to be using her questions to show how little research she has done.  Her latest question on statistics shows a lack of understanding of basics and also little idea of any strategy.  What was she expecting Ed to say? For goodness sake, ask about what efforts he is making to repair bridges with CILIP after their historic vote of no confidence in him.  Or about what he will do in the Wirral about the cuts to libraries there, especially since he was positively seething about the lack of action by the minister in precisely that authority when he was in opposition.  Those questions I can see the point of.  Let’s hope she gets a clue soon, because there are open goals there.  She just needs to learn to shoot straight.


Helen Goodman (Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport); Bishop Auckland, Labour) To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1) what proportion of library users reported success in obtaining a specific book in (a) 2010-11, (b) 2011-12, (c) 2012-13 and (d) 2013-14; (2) what proportion of requests for books were met within (a) seven, (b) 15 and (c) 30 days in (i) 2010-11, (ii) 2011-12, (iii) 2012-13 and (iv) 2013-14; (3) what the aggregate opening hours per 1,000 population were for all public libraries in (a) 2010-11, (b) 2011-12, (c) 2012-13 and (d) 2013-14.

Edward Vaizey (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport; Wantage, Conservative) The detail requested is not held centrally by this Department, nor is it collected by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy as part of the annual public library statistics provided by individual library authorities

Adam Afriyie (Windsor, Conservative) To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what recent steps he has taken to provide more business resources in libraries.

Edward Vaizey (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport; Wantage, Conservative) The Enterprising Libraries programme, a £1.2 million partnership between Arts Council England, the British Library and the Department for Communities and Local Government, is supporting local economic growth by turning libraries into spaces for the development of business ideas, providing coaching, advice, meeting spaces and IT support for local businesses and entrepreneurs. Currently 16 public libraries in England are actively engaged in the programme and receiving financial support. Other specific initiatives being delivered through public libraries includes the Access to Research service. This two year pilot commenced in January 2014 and provides a free service enabling local libraries to provide users with access to a wealth of research, including business information. In addition, library authorities are developing business resources to meet local needs. Staffordshire for example has introduced Start2, a service that is available in all public libraries across the county and has trained staff offering information and signposting on all aspects of looking for and finding work, including providing a starting point for entrepreneurs who want to start their own business and small enterprises looking to expand by signposting them to relevant sources of information or specialist organisations.

Hansard Public Libraries 30th June

  • Pest control, food inspections and restaurant spot checks: Just some of the services that ‘will no longer be viable’ after Welsh council cuts – Wales Online. ““The cuts are falling disproportionately on leisure, libraries, culture, art, transport…and environmental health. The smaller services.” … ““Some of those smaller services will no longer be viable. You cannot continuously improve a service that you’ve cut by 40%. It’s just a logical fallacy. We need to think very carefully about the future of some of these smaller services.”
  • Reply from the Liberal Democrats – Leon’s Library Blog. “The following reply was received from John Leech MP, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Culture, Media and Sport.”: “I do support creation of community volunteer managed libraries as a last resort in the event of the closure of a local authority funded library. This happened recently in Burnage, in my constituency, where the local council chose to close the local library against the wishes of local people, despite the fact that the annual cost was only £43000. I believe that a volunteer run library is better than no library at all, though I would not like to see this to become the norm. The expectation should be that local libraries are funding by local authorities and run by paid staff.” [Mr Leech appears to think libraries are part of the DCLG rather than the DCMS – Ed.]
  • #uklibchat on Mobile Tech in Libraries – UKLibChat via LIS-PUB-LIBS. “#uklibchat is running  a joint chat with #SLAtalk on Tuesday 9th July 6.30 – 8.30pm BST. The chat is about Mobile Tech in Libraries.  This would be a great opportunity to share knowledge with our colleagues across the pond. Join us! The agenda is here. Please help to shape it by adding your questions. We also have a feature article on our blog written by Mick Fortune which talks about the tech that is now available: ‘The Coming NFC Revolution?‘ You can also find out more about #uklibchat and how to join a twitter chat on our webpages, and see past summaries and feature articles.”
  • Welsh government beats digital exclusion targets – Public Technology. “It also found that there was risk to digital inclusion delivery from potential closures of  public  libraries across Wales. “Libraries provide critical infrastructure and support for digital inclusion within a trusted setting, so significant closures will reduce the number of venues where  community based sessions could be delivered,” it said” … “Cuthbert said closer working with local authorities, housing associations, public libraries and Job Centre Plus, would be vital in achieving the revised targets.”
  • Written Statement: Digital Inclusion Delivery Plan – Welsh Government. “Strengthening alliances with key stakeholders including local authorities, housing associations, public libraries and Job Centre Plus, will continue to be vital in achieving our targets. In particular, public libraries continue to have a crucial role in promoting digital inclusion, providing free internet access and support to individuals and acting as an intergenerational hub across our communities. As library services come under pressure in some areas, it is important that the full range of services that libraries provide is fully recognised.”


  • 3D printers mould libraries of techno-future – Star (Canada). “The future of the library, he says, is in its role as the great equalizer. Imagine a country where every citizen had access to technology that could literally allow them to make an idea come to life. In a world where technology can be isolating, libraries help bring people, ideas and technology together in a collaborative environment. “
  • MDs prescribing books – Brilliant Report (USA). “Earlier this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement recommending that story time with mom and dad start in infancy: parents should be reading to their children, the group says, from the first days of their lives. “


  • Surrey – Library Sector Lead (West Surrey) – Fixed term until March 2015, £33,269 p.a. “Surrey Libraries are in a period of exciting transformation and it’s all about providing an efficient, effective and high quality service for our customers.  This is a key operational role within the Library Service Sector Team in which you will lead, support and empower library managers and their staff to provide a first-class library service at the libraries in West Surrey.”

UK local news by authority

  • Devon – Have your say on future of Devon libraries – Unison Devon. “Steve Ryles, UNISON Devon County Branch Secretary, said: “We are concerned that these proposals could mean library closures, cuts in opening hours and paid staff replaced by volunteers.  I’d urge everyone who cares about their local library to take part in the consultation and outline their concerns. We’ve got to use our libraries or we’re in danger of losing them!”
  • Halton – Halton’s four libraries could lose at least £400,000 as council faces £46m budget cuts – Runcorn and Widnes World. “Two suggestions being proposed by the executive board on July 7, recommend reducing opening hours. Option one is to open libraries for 154 hours a week, maintaining 85 per cent of current hours, saving £400,000. Runcorn and Ditton would close on Wednesdays. Option two is to reduce opening hours by almost half to 96 hours, saving £500,000. Runcorn and Ditton libraries would shut on Mondays and Fridays. Widnes and Halton Lea would open longer on Saturdays, from 10am to 4pm.”
  • Hertfordshire – Herts County Council proposes changes to library service – Herts and Essex Observer. “Some of the changes proposed in the new strategy include: • Joining up with other organisations or services to share buildings where possible; • Three clear tiers of libraries – to clarify what customers can expect; • Exploiting new technology by increasing self-service facilities to extend opening hours and offering opportunities for people to use and learn about latest technology; • Making more use of volunteers to support the delivery of library services; • Developing a high quality online library service.”
  • Hertfordshire – Inspiring future for Hertfordshire Libraries – Hertfordshire County Council. The main documents [incorrectly saved so unable to open properly: I got to them via opening them in WordPad – Ed.]. “We will also seek to recruit volunteers, either directly or by working in partnership with local community organisations, to support the delivery of library services, to extend access to the library beyond core opening hours, and to extend the range of library events and activities we can offer.”:

“Tier 1: These will be centrally located in the heart of the largest towns in Hertfordshire. These libraries will offer the broadest range of library services, and the longest opening hours.

Tier 2: In smaller towns, we will provide libraries offering core library services. We will seek to extend access to reflect the town centre’s opening hours through the use of self-service and volunteer supervised opening.

Tier 3: In smaller communities and villages we will provide self-service access to library services including the issue and return of books, access to IT and study space, and staff assistance via a virtual librarian service. We will invite local communities to add value to these self-service facilities through volunteer staffing and the provision of additional services as decided by the local community.”

  • Surrey – Plans to replace staff with volunteers at Lingfield Library lead to public outcry which could force rethink – East Grinstead Observer. “Plans to hand over Lingfield Library to volunteers and lose its experienced paid staff have been met with stiff opposition after more than 100 people attended a meeting on its future” … “The 80-year-old, of Plough Road, said: “They didn’t seem to be saying ‘do you like this idea?’ They seemed to be saying ‘this is what is going to happen’. Everybody from Lingfield [who was at the meeting] said they didn’t want a volunteer-run library.” … “Eight of the other nine libraries which are now operating as CPLs have seen a reduction in the number of people borrowing books. The only one which has not – Warlingham Library – still has paid staff working there.” … “But a Surrey County Council spokeswoman said it still intended to make Lingfield Library a CPL. She said: “The cabinet agreed in 2012 that ten libraries – including Lingfield – would become CPLs, run by volunteer groups from their communities, with strong support from our library service. This decision has not changed, it is the precise arrangements we still have to iron out.”