It is a truth universally acknowledged amongst public librarians that they serve a wide variety of purposes, from literacy to online provision to social welfare to quiet study space to community living room to unofficial childcare.  It is another truth, almost as widely accepted, that because we serve so many purposes, we are in danger of becoming Jacks of All Trades and, therefore, sadly not as well funded as the Masters of Any.  The Public Library Universal Information Offers are an attempt by the profession to at least put forward the main reasons – Health, Reading, Information and Digital – and is to be commended.  Another way is to look at your community or region at something that is not being done that libraries fit into.  In Queensland, the State Library was successful in gaining funding due to identifying their space as being cradle to grave literacy: everyone else worked in silos – schools, adult learners, nurseries, employers – but it was only the library that worked across all age groups and thus had a natural co-ordinating role.  In the USA, public libraries are often seen as being involved with the Maker Space movement, encouraging people to create content rather than just consume it.  There, also, libraries have a disaster relief function (shown, this very week in the human-created disaster in Ferguson).  In Northamptonshire, libraries are claiming the space – not always happily – vacated by children’s centres and they’re also doing a ton with business. In many other English councils, on the other hand, they’re very literally having their space used by others – One Stop Shops, other councils services and even the police. Such services can be beneficial to the library but they run the risk of diluting the message even more.

I can’t prove it but I suspect that public libraries are often most prone to failure, to decline and cuts (and most often both) where they’re not claiming their space in their local council.  Just being reactive (and I know that “just” is masking a lot of pain and effort: it’s difficult to even stand still these days) is not enough.  You need to somehow get ahead of the game and get known for something councils and society need and will fund.  It would have been great if libraries had managed this in the pre-Austerity years but, frankly, the library profession fluffed it.  In hindsight, there was a whole of echo chamber and complacency going on even in what appeared at the time as being bad years.  Well, it’s tougher now but that doesn’t mean we have excuses.  Public libraries are too important for that.  So go out there, do your research, get your arguments and claim your space.  Because otherwise, in this nasty philistine world in which we now live, someone else will push you out of it.


UK news

  • A stark warning about services from libraries to leisure centres will be sounded by Wales local government minister today – Wales Online. “We can no longer pretend that councils can run everything, the minister responsible for local government in Wales will say today.”
  • Internet Manifesto 2014 – IFLA.
  • Keeping business overheads low with the help from public libraries – Bdaily. “One of the most significant benefits of public libraries for businesses are the resources they can offer. Not only do they provide free internet access, which in itself is an essential tool, but some libraries have dedicated business centres, such as the British Library in London, which can offer a range of tools, resources and advice to entrepreneurs and business people including help with safeguarding their intellectual property.”
  • Labour promises ‘digital data review’ – BBC News. “The report, which Labour will consider as part of its ongoing policy review, calls for more libraries and council offices to provide internet access and for regulator Ofcom to consider the case for a Universal Service Obligation for broadband, similar to that which requires Royal Mail to deliver letters to all addresses in the country six days a week.”
  • Love letters to libraries – Floris Books. Every member of the Floris company have penned a “love letter” to the significant library in their life.
  • Russell Brand: ‘schools without libraries are a disgrace’ – BookSeller. “Russell Brand described schools without a library as a “disgrace”, and said public libraries closures were driven by a “fundamentalist philosophy of profit”, in an entertaining and enthusiastically received Reading Agency Lecture last night (Tuesday 25th November).”

“He defended public libraries as well, describing a recent trip to Grays library, which he said a member of staff told him was moving. “I went back there recently to the library in Grays which I believe is being relocated, I can only assume as part of a plan to  demonstrate its no longer necessary to have a library, by first dislocating it and then eventually closing it down, which seems to be an ongoing strategy… A library is demonstrative of two principles, learning and reading, and community, and they’re both kind of value systems that are under continual attack.” … He said that library closures impacted on a culture of learning: “I suppose if you have an informed and educated population that are able to communicate articulately with one another on important issues in a limitless realm accessible through literature, then its more difficult to be placated, its difficult to keep such a population docile.” He said that closures were not driven by conspiracy, but by “a fundamentalist philosophy of profit.”

  • Russell Brand is setting up a library at his old school – Tewkesbury Admag. “Speaking beforehand, he said the library in his old home town of Grays in Essex was a “potential alchemical hub” and said it was “bloody ridiculous” that his former school in the same town did not have a library. He said: “It just seems like it would be a basic requirement.””
  • Russell Brand pledges funding to set up library at his former school – Guardian. “Russell Brand has disclosed that he is giving money to help set up a library in his former school in Grays, Essex. Brand was giving a lecture in London on the importance of reading, where he talked about the books that inspired him and those that are given to him on a regular basis by friends and strangers.”


  • A Nationwide Outpouring Of Support For Tiny Ferguson Library – NPR (USA). “Since the latest unrest began Monday night, more than $175,000 has poured in. More than 7,000 people had given something as of Wednesday afternoon, many in $5 and $10 amounts. Donations so far this week are 10 times what they were during protests in August. It all started with a few tweets from the library’s account, which Bonner’s wife helps with in her free time.”
  • Ferguson Library Stays Open as Schools and Services Close – Newsweek (USA). “one place, the Ferguson Municipal Public Library, has chosen to remain open in order to help children who have nowhere to go.” … “Newsweek spoke with the library’s director, Scott Bonner, who says the library is currently very busy. “Right now we have our usual crowd plus a whole lot of volunteers and quite a few students…we’ve been slowly building up on the number of students as a matter of the word getting out and then people trying to assess whether or not they feel safe coming out”

“Anyone who wonder what use libraries are in this day and age, go and read @fergusonlibrary‘s twitter stream. Neil Gaiman

  • Food for fines: Waive Library Fines via Food Donations at Rockingham County Public Libraries – Rockingham Update (USA). ” Starting on Dec. 1 and continuing until Items donated to the Reidsville Library will be donated to the Outreach Center.  Items donated to the Madison and Stoneville Libraries will be donated to the Hands of God Ministry.”
  • Fury at staffless library plans – Irish Examiner. “Local authorities in Offaly and Sligo are piloting “open libraries” which mean the buildings are open from 8am to 10pm, seven days per week. Staffing levels and hours are to remain the same and, outside those hours, the libraries would be unstaffed. The thinking is to allow the public to access the library at a time that suits them — at present many people are not free to come in during regular business hours.”.  Union “accused employers of failing to negotiate with the union in a meaningful way and of pushing ahead with implementation, effectively ignoring the views of its members.”Dec. 23, each dollar of fines will be waived with a corresponding donation of non-perishable food items.  This offer is for fines only.  The food item must have a current expiration date.  Cans cannot be dented. Items donated to the Eden Library and the Bookmobile will be distributed to the Salvation Army.
  • Check it out – St Joseph County Public Library [pretty good video actually – Ed.]
  • James Patterson burns books to promote reading – Guardian (USA). ““There’s a book burning going on in America,” says the author in a voiceover. “You’re invited. Especially the kids. You see they’re shutting down your local bookstores. Shutting down libraries. Publishers are dying. American literature will be next on the flames.” … “Patterson is asking Americans to sign a petition calling on Obama to, once a month, “appear in public carrying a book”, “visit a library or store and get a book”, and to “go on record saying he’s concerned about the state of reading in our nation”.”
  • New e-book deals between all danish publishers and the public libraries in Denmark – Biblioteksdebat (Denmark). “All Danish public libraries are expected to offer the new eReolen to their patrons.  The deals have been restricted to 2015 in order to closely evaluate and adjust the
    new service. The current 5,000 titles on eReolen are expected to grow to over 9,000  with these new deals.”


  • Chief Executive of CILIP – £85,000 p.a with “more available for exceptional candidate”. “This role requires an experienced leader used to operating at senior levels in a complex environment where Library, Information or Knowledge Management has been a core and successful element of the business. As well as your strategic ability, your track record will demonstrate how you will be able to engage with members to develop and grow CILIP’s services as well as be a strong ambassador for the profession as a whole.”

UK local news by authority

  • Barnet – Campaign to stop Barnet library closures raised in Parliament – Ham and High. “In a debate last Wednesday, Labour’s shadow minister for communities and local government Lyn Brown wished library campaigners well. She said: “Our local authorities were once the mainstay of cultural funding. Today, they are underfunded and reduced. They are struggling. Even the local authorities with the best practice are being forced into taking previously unthinkable action.”
  • Cardiff – Rumney Library closure consultation was ‘misleading’ Cardiff campaigners say – Wales Online. “A consultation which took place about the proposed closure of a city library was “misleading” campaigners have claimed. A petition signed by 2,100 residents calling for Rumney Library to be kept open will be handed in to Cardiff Council’s cabinet on Thursday. In a four-page letter sent to ward councillors, council cabinet members and MPs, the Community Action for Rumney Library group (CARL) list their objections to the removal of library services from their local branch.”
  • Cornwall – Councillors agree to take into account ‘Leon’s List’ over library cuts but reject changes – Falmouth Packet. “A Falmouth schoolboy’s passionate bid to reverse cuts to library opening hours has been rejected, but councillors have vowed to take into account his series of requests, dubbed ‘Leon’s List’, when making future decisions. Leon Remphry, ten, a pupil at King Charles School, has been busy gathering signatures and pushing councillors to think again about recent and future changes to reduce the service.”
  • East Riding of Yorkshire – £1.2 million bid for new facility – Driffield Today. “move the current Mill Street customer service centre and registration services into the existing library building to be integrated with other public facing services.”
  • Kirklees – Kirklees Council to sell 938 garages and 1,238 gardens as it bids to raise £12m in asset sell-off – Huddersfield Daily Examiner. “Although the list of buildings and sites at risk of disposal has not been made public, it identifies potential capital receipts to a value of £12m. It is likely to include 21 farms, 91 grazing tenancies, 938 garages and 1,238 gardens. Plus civic buildings that are suitable for asset transfers to the community will be identified, which is likely to include libraries.”
  • Lincolnshire – Letter: Who will pay for libraries judicial review? – Stamford Mercury. “The ruling Tory executive was told repeatedly that the consultation was flawed, but they refused to listen. This is the same Conservative Party that prides itself on telling us all that they are the party of low taxation, and the most efficient at running local services. I suggest that now is the time for Martin Hill, Nick Worth et al to put their money where their mouth is and pay all the unnecessarily wasted money back to the taxpayer from their own pockets.”
  • North Yorkshire – What is the future of Harrogate Library? – Wetherby News. “For five hours people arrived at the library with questions and comments about what would happen to the service in Harrogate when the funding from North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) is cut from £5.8m to £4.2m.” … “Volunteers will be needed to take the reigns from professionals at least in part at every library in the district, including Harrogate, which could have a 60/40 split between paid staff and volunteers.”
  • Oxfordshire – Little Free Libraries Proposal for Installation in Henley – Henley Herald. “Henley Town Council have received a proposal from the Little Free Libraries Project to install some of their little free library book boxes around the town.  Little Free Libraries (LFL) is a registered charity that builds and installs libraries around the UK to promote reading, art and community engagement. They have done installations in London, Brighton, Liverpool and Birmingham.  All of the LFL are built by hand in their workshop in West Sussex and each one is decorated with a unique artistic theme designed to capture people’s imagination.”
  • Pembrokeshire – ‘Shelve library cuts’ says town council – Milford Mercury. “On Monday, [town] councillors decided – by seven votes to five – to oppose a review into library opening hours, which would affect all full-time libraries in Pembrokeshire” … “The proposals would reduce late night opening times to once a week, introduce some afternoon closures, and see libraries close at 4pm, or at 5pm but with lunchtime closures. But the plans also include a provision to increase opening hours during school holidays, so that tourists can use the information centre.”
  • Sefton – Sefton Council recommend proposals to cut services by over £30m Southport Visiter. “Other services set to come under cost-cutting fire include Sefton’s six libraries – with plans to reduce opening hours by 15%, affecting mainly quiet periods, and meaning more than 22 staff positions are also at risk.”
  • Swindon – Book a place on the library bike – Swindon Advertiser. “The library’s Outreach team, led by Anish Noble-Harrison, successfully applied for £7,000 from Carnegie UK Trust’s Library Lab project to support the scheme, which will see library services taken out on the road. “
  • Swindon – Fight for our libraries – Swindon Advertiser. “People working in those services, providing those services, have seen conditions deteriorate. Debbie Estarbrook seems to want this process repeated for libraries. She reduces the function of libraries to “job searches and fact finding”. She seems to support a position where there are no well resourced libraries, staffed by properly paid professionals trained in helping people access culture and information. What a shame that people with time to be unpaid volunteers couldn’t use that time in supporting campaigns for proper libraries.”