It’s always a little jarring when I see what is blatantly a budget cut in a library service described as a saving.  Middlesbrough are the latest to do this, saying that they will “save” £100,000 but halving the bookfund.  I’ve just googled saving and one of the definitions is “preventing waste of a particular resource”.  Since when was spending on books a waste? It’s a dangerous use of the language that concentrates on the cost of everything and the value of nothing.  It lays open every service, from libraries to roads to hospitals, to more and more cutting in the name of efficiency until there’s nothing left.  I have always used the word “cut” instead of “saving” in my summaries of changes to library budgets unless there is clear evidence that the reduction in budget has reduced waste.  But I don’t see much of that nowadays.  What I’m seeing now are cuts to services, to the good and to the value that services such as libraries add to their communities, almost every day.  It’s dangerous when the language changes to hide the reality … and that’s what the word “saving” is so often intended to do.  The indefatigable library campaigner Shirley Burnham has also, by coincidence, recently emailed me on the subject (to do with especially egregious descriptions of cuts in Leeds) and so I will leave her the last word:

Have you noticed the very negative language applied to Public Libraries nowadays?  Libraries require a ‘solution’, as if they are an epidemic that threatens public health.   It is considered that they must be closed, modified out of all recognition, taken out of statutory control, lose their paid staff and/or have their opening hours cut.  Not invested in, improved and made the backbone of their community.  So – any dismay that is voiced by politicians about a decline in library usage and  any rhetoric admitting that, albeit, they are ‘much loved’ – seems insincere.

Whilst cutting opening times is seen as less controversial – a lesser evil than mass closures – such cuts can only be harbingers of future closures.  They make each affected library less sustainable, leaving it vulnerable to the next round of cuts.  Then “bingo” your ‘much-loved’ library has gone, along with your access to the public computers you need to seek a job or apply for your benefits, etc. let alone access to information, expert assistance and the pure pleasure of browsing the shelves. I see two divergent views of your branch libraries.  Are they simply a drain on Leeds’s meagre financial resources, or are they  potentially a focal point for revitalising the city?

We should talk about them as our long-term investment in learning, skills and young people.  People deserve nothing less than good quality Public Libraries that are “open”!  The negative mindset and vocabulary of those in charge must change!”  Shirley Burnham



  • Hospital volunteers ‘should get £200 off their council tax’ – Express. “The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, has called on the government to provide money for local authorities to reward hard-working volunteers with council tax discounts. This could include a 10 per cent cut in their council tax bill, worth up to £200 a year. Volunteers, for example, could help in libraries, youth clubs or care for the elderly.
  • How the Library (Not the Prince) Saved Rapunzel – Amazon / Wendy Meddour. “Rapunzel sits on the sixteenth floor of an inner city block, bored, dreaming and looking out at the rain.  No one can rouse her from her apathy, not the milkman or the postman or the baker or her aunt – or even the prince. But when at last a letter is delivered, it contains news that has Rapunzel on her feet again. She has a new job at the library! And suddenly her life is busy, sparkling, exciting and stimulating. “For despite her long hair and her ravishing looks, she loved nothing better than reading good books!””  
  • It is time for a public library example of augmented reality – CILIP Blog / Liz McGettigan. “It is time for a public library example of augmented reality. The Reading Agency’s “2014 Summer Reading Challenge” was a first! At the heart of the Summer Reading Challenge is the crucial goal of trying to encourage more children to read and to improve their literacy skills. It was an innovative collaboration between us at SOLUS and The Reading Agency that aimed to excite and engage children across the UK and hopefully attract many more children into libraries in the summer months.”
  • Libraries: “vital role” in Wales says review – Alyson’s Welsh Libraries Blog. “One of the key messages I read in the report is one of partnership, collaboration and joint working. Here in Wales we’ve always got on well together and hopefully the future for Welsh public libraries will see this continuing for the benefit of library users. The recommendations for the deputy minister for libraries in Wales are a mix of immediate and longer term proposals. The executive summary notes that they will be subject to further discussion and will be the basis of the next library strategy for Wales post 2016. So, whatever your views on the recommendations, let CyMAL know (through me or other means).”
  • Transformational approach needed to secure libraries futures:Deputy Minister Transformational approach needed to secure libraries futures: Deputy Minister – Welsh Government. “Today the panel publish their report, which re-affirms the importance of the impact public libraries services have on communities. It also found a unanimous agreement that waiting until after local government reorganisation to make any changes is not an option with significant alterations likely to take place in public service delivery before then.”

“Public libraries are a statutory service and provide a vital community provision for people of all ages. They are needed more than ever to provide opportunities for learning, free access to digital services, to assist people into work and as places where the whole community can meet. As a result of financial strains currently beings faced by all our public services it is clear that the current model of small library services is unlikely to survive the challenges ahead.” Deputy Minister Ken Skates

  • UK publishes more books per capita than any other country, report shows – Guardian. “According to a new report from the International Publishers Association (IPA), UK publishers released 184,000 new and revised titles in 2013. This equates to 2,875 titles per million inhabitants, and places the UK an astonishing 1,000-plus titles ahead of second-placed Taiwan and Slovenia (1,831). Australia is considerably lower, at 1,176, while the US published just 959 titles per million inhabitants.”
  • Very quietly, the coalition tries to dismantle judicial review – Politics. Government pricing out judicial reviews except for the very wealthy. “democracy is not efficient. If one wants true efficiency, one quickly gives up on freedom, hence the fascist insistence that they can get the trains running on time. The drive to get rid of checks and balances is a fundamentally authoritarian instinct. A coalition which came to power on a civil liberties ticket is now dismantling one of the most powerful weapons citizens have to hold power to account. It is a boring term, more suited to geeks than protestors. But we should not stare down at our plates. Once judicial review goes, we’ll never get it back.”

UK local news by authority

  • Bexley – Have Your Say: Remodelling Bexley’s libraries – Bexley Times. “Consultation has started on the borough’s new draft library strategy and on plans to remodel the library service. The council are seeking public views on these proposals. This follows a recent national survey by the government, which discovered that 35% of adults reported that that they had visited a library in the previous 12 months, compared to 48% in 2005/6. The number of library visits, items issued and ‘active borrowers’ have all fallen.”
  • Bristol – Reader’s letter: I am delighted at the recycling of our Central Library – Bristol Post. “Contrary to Lin Merchant (“Stop this plan for a school in our library” Bristol Post October 13) who is opposed to Bristol Cathedral Primary School’s occupation of the two lower floors of the Central Library; I am delighted at this innovative architectural recycling of a library rapidly approaching its sell-by date. Moreover, she might like to consider herself lucky that Bristol’s public libraries have survived so for long. However, in Sheffield eleven libraries have been threatened with closure, and are now operated by volunteers. Furthermore, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy have reported a net closure of some 270 libraries nationwide since 2010. This has seen a loss of some 3000 library staff whose jobs last year were replaced by a 44.5 per cent increase in volunteers. Despite being a life-long bibliophile it is my opinion that the closure of all Bristol’s public libraries is long overdue, and that they should be replaced with a multiplicity of book lending units situated in places such as: stores/shops/garages.”

Dear Bristol Post letters editor, Lin Marchant’s letter was well timed. (Stop this plan for a school in the library, Post 10/10/2014)  Libraries are still on the agenda of Bristol City Council meetings and face £1.2 m cuts. Members of the public are allowed to submit questions and statements to these meetings. So are our 70 local councillors ! On Monday 27 October, Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Commission will meet at 2pm … The right to question decisions survives in the public sector. .The Central Library saga exposes the Austerity agenda is a sham. Money is no problem ..£3.8 million   Cost to make library a primary was the headline of Marc Rath’s Bristol Post feature on 23 October last year. Like Lin, I value being able to walk into a library and borrow a book. Recently I wanted to know about John Ruskin, the 18th century writer, and didn’t know where to look. A librarian went down to the reserved stock and found 4 hefty books. I borrowed one. The librarians who are responsible for selecting new books also deserve praise. Using fastback, I borrowed ‘Hack Attack’ by Nick Davies which was published this year. Now I know why our politicians tremor at the mighty Murdoch empire. Does Bristol Library stock “Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Alan Poe?. Written over 100 years ago, it is still relevant. Ebola respects no borders.” Julie Boston (sent by email)

  • Cornwall – Is Wadebridge library set for a new chapter? – Cornish Guardian. “Wadebridge mayor Tony Rush said the town council would be interested in taking over the building and managing the facility, but would need to see exactly what was on offer before committing.”
  • Cornwall – Up to 70 jobs to go in St Austell as HMRC announces redundancies at Penhaligon House – Cornish Guardian. “Current government policy also means they’re reducing the number of libraries where people could have got public internet access.”
  • Middlesbrough – Middlesbrough Council cuts: The list of proposals Ray Mallon announced – Gazette Live. Cuts include “Reduce amount spent on services such as events in libraries, outdoor youth activities and local community events, saving £150,000 … Reduce the purchase of books for libraries by 50%, saving £100,000 … Integrate Libraries, Community Regeneration and incorporate 0-19 staff into one Early Help team, saving £812,000. 33 job losses.”
  • North East Lincolnshire – Future is bright for threatened community libraries in North East Lincolnshire – Grimsby Telegraph. “So far details of the organisations involved have yet to be confirmed, but an NELC statement said that eight bids had been submitted and of those, six were being taken forward to hopefully see the community-based facilities continue to run outside of authority control. As reported, in July this year, the council decided to reduce the number of libraries in the region from ten to four after they were faced with £500,000 cuts to the library budget.”
  • Wirral – Concern for future of Wirral libraries – Wirral Globe. ” suspect many people are still unaware that if the proposals are implemented many community libraries will be open for just eight hours a week. The proposed opening hours are 10am to 2pm on two days. These hours would deny access to school pupils, many younger children go to libraries with their parents after school and older children need access to computers to help with their homework.”
  • Wolverhampton – Dismay as Wolverhampton health and library hub shelved after talks – Express and Star. “Warstones Resource Centre had been earmarked to be transformed into a community building, featuring a built-in library, health centre, meeting room and cafeteria. But Wolverhampton City Council has now shelved the plans, leaving residents fearing they may lose their library completely.” … “A number of all-purpose hubs have opened across the city this year, as part of a council initiative to house services such as libraries and community centres under one roof.”
  • Worcestershire – Last chance to have a say on future of mobile library service – Redditch Advertiser. “library customers have the opportunity to meet with the libraries and learning service management team, as they tour the county on the mobile library before the service’s consultation ends on Friday, October 31. Six consultation meeting points on the mobile library route have been planned …”