Editorial

To few people’s surprise, Ed Vaizey, the minister technically responsible for libraries, has said that he is “not minded” to intervene in the proposed cuts in Sheffield.  The council there has proposed to reduce council libraries to one central library and eleven “hub” libraries.  These “hubs” are to be open only 31 hours per wee which, for a city of over half a million people,  is not much.  It had been hoped by campaigners that Ed, normally a by-word for inaction, would wish to intervene in order to embarrass the Labour-run council and possibly also cock a snook at Nick Clegg, whose constituency is in the town.  However, it looks like this is not to be.  If one was of suspicious mind, one could even think that the surprise decision by Ed to look into Sheffield in the first place was simply to show that he was doing his superintendence of local library service, statutory under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, properly and therefore could not be taken to court himself.  I, for one, am sure that he does not consider such base motives … well, probably not consciously.  He probably has legal advisors for that sort of thing, anyway.

Key points and related articles on the decision are below.

  • Representations can still be made to Ed Vaizey on this issue until 5pm 20th November.
  • Ed argues that the availability of resources is “highly material” to what is acceptable as library provision. Therefore, the definition of what is “comprehensive and efficient” is effectively at least semi-elastic, depending on what finances the council chooses to put in.  Being the minister makes it clear that he believes it is up to the local council to decide on how best to divide up resources and provide services, this therefore effectively severely limits any possible application of the 1964 Act.
  • Ignores volunteer libraries because 11 “hub” libraries (open only 31 hours per week) and one central library is enough to provide a comprehensive and efficient service.  Considering that Sheffield has a population of 551,800, this therefore means that one library open 31 hours per week (plus one central library) per 46000 people is considered adequate.  Opening hours per 1000 population under this new dispensation would be, roughly by my quick calculations, 37 (number of aggregate openings hours in one year divided by 1000 population).  It’s interesting to note that this compares to 128 being the target in the Library Standards of 2001. Ed is therefore willing to approve opening hours 3.5 times lower than his predecessor set as a target just over ten years ago.
  • He considers that the consultations and needs assessment were undertaken properly and were genuine.

“The Secretary of State is of the view that a comprehensive service does not mean that every resident must live close to a library. He also notes that the Home Library service is being retained and expanded through a combination of paid SCC staff and volunteers to enable those who are unable to visit a library to access library materials.”

  • Assumes that low expenditure per 1000 population compared to other comparator authorities shows it is “efficient”.

Changes

Ed Vaizey is “not minded”

  • Culture secretary ‘not minded to intervene in Sheffield’ – BookSeller. “Libraries minister Ed Vaizey has said culture secretary Sajid Javid is “not currently minded” to order an inquiry into library closures in Sheffield.” … “The judgement is, in the first instance, for the local council to make,” he wrote, adding: “The Secretary of State notes that SCC is akin savings of £240m by the end of 2015 with £1.67m to be delivered from the libraries budget in both 2014/15 and 2015/16. In delivering a library service with these reduced resources, SCC has been mindful of its duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service in the broader context of a need to balance its budget.”
  • Minister unlikely to intervene on Sheffield’s library changes – LocalGov. “Cllr Mazher Iqbal, Sheffield City Council’s cabinet member for communities and public health, said: ‘We are delighted that the minister is not planning to carry out an inquiry into our library changes as things stand. He intervened very late in the day after having information for months, in a move that could have ultimately closed library branches. Obviously we’re waiting for him to confirm his decision but things look positive.”
  • Update: 30 October – Sheffield Council. Includes copy of first and second letters to Sheffield Council from Ed Vaizey and the Council’s response.

This letter comes as no surprise since the Minister has failed to intervene in at least nine other cases of large scale library closures, after requests were made. There is every indication that, regardless of his duties under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 he has adopted a blanket policy of non-intervention. His letter largely repeats what he’s said in previous “not currently minded” letters, and he has chosen to accept Sheffield City Council’s justifications at face value with no further investigation as to their validity. He has failed to address the majority of our complaints. No reasonable person would see a 60% reduction in library branches as being under the heading of “efficiencies”. What’s more if he thinks that a statutory service which leaves 25% of the city without a library is fair, he needs to look at a map. In addition, any reasonable person would assume that the fair application of statistics involves comparing like with like, but this is dismissed as being a mere “difference of opinion”.

He has still failed to justify how the second busiest library in the city (and 4th in terms of value for money) has not been retained as part of its statutory service. The minister has washed his hands of his responsibilities under the Act, and clearly sees library services as having no value to the community which would make them worth keeping. He asks for further representations by 20 November and we hope that people will be motivated to put their views on this in writing.” Broomhill Library Action Group

“Minister decides to do absolutely nothing about yet another mass closure/volunteer libraries plan! Though he’s happy to make everyone knock themselves out sending yet more evidence, before he finally  turns over in bed & goes to sleep…” Laura Swaffield, Library Campaign

News
  • A library is a library is a library? – An Awfully Big Blog Adventure. A look at how busy Penny Dolan’s local library is and concerns that others may be closing.  Concerns that national government is washing hands of cuts to libraries while claiming they’re local council decisions.

“The Culture, Media and Sport Committee publish the report on the Work of Arts Council (England) on Wednesday 5 November 2014 at 00.01 am.” Commons Select Committee.

  • John Lydon: My family values – Guardian. “At seven I contracted meningitis from rat-infested water in our yard. I was in a coma for seven months and when I woke I’d lost my memory. I didn’t recognise my parents, but had to trust them because I had nowhere else to go. Reading at the public library saved me and gradually it all came back.”
  • Public libraries – the grassroots meet the decision-makers – CILIP.  Details about Speak Up For Libraries. “On 22 November in London, a unique national conference on public libraries will bring together local campaigners, union members, library users and library workers – and give them a rare chance to talk directly to the people who make the decisions at national level. This is crunch year for public libraries, with a general election due and two major inquiries – on England and Wales – reporting soon. Speak Up For Libraries (SUFL) 2014 will have spokespeople from the three major political parties and the two report panels.”
  • Sheffield University abolishes library fines for students – BBC. “from this term the University of Sheffield has removed the threat of fines for library book laggards. The university says getting rid of fines is “fairer and more efficient”. Library fines have been a contentious issue for universities, which are now keenly aware of the need to attract students and to improve the “student experience”.”

  • Support for campaign tackling ‘time bomb’ of low literacy – Telegraph. “A campaign that aims to tackle the “dangerously” low literacy levels in the UK has today received backing from all three political parties who have pledged to tackle the issue head on. The Read on. Get on. campaign, launched in September by a coalition of charities, educational organisations and publishers, aims to ensure that all 11-year-olds can read well by 2025” [No mention of libraries in article, several in the comments – Ed.]
  • Swingeing library cuts mooted in North East – BookSeller. “Three local authorities in the North East – Gateshead, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough – are considering heavy library service cuts as they look at ways to save money in coming years. Meanwhile libraries in Bristol are also set to face the axe.”

Dave Moyes a disabled Hampshire library user has come up with an innovative way to enable him and potentially other disabled people to enjoy ebooks. Dave has MS and is unable to use his arms and legs as a result. Despite this he felt sure that adaptations to technology would enable him to be able to read and turn the pages of ebook downloads using a tablet. As a result The ‘next page’ project was conceived to enable quadriplegics and those of limited mobility/dexterity to read electronically digitised books unaided. Utilising off-the-shelf wireless technology, Dave and a friend have devised a system which makes it possible to utilise a standard Tablet PC in order to open and turn pages of an e-book. Hands-free.  It requires the purchase of some hardware that can be ordered easily online. If the idea of reading an electronic book independently and unaided appeals to you or you know of library users who will be interested take a look at the Next Page web pageEmail from Next Page

  • UK government putting free Wi-Fi in 1,000 buildings – IT Pro. “The UK government has announced plans to turn more than 1,000 buildings in cities across the country into Wi-Fi hotspots, which will be part of the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s £150 million SuperConnected Cities Programme … Cities that will benefit from the scheme are Aberdeen, Belfast, Brighton and Hove, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Derby, Derry, Edinburgh, Leeds and Bradford, London, Manchester, Oxford, Perth, Portsmouth and Salford.” … “Buildings being included in the effort include museums, libraries, sports centres, business centres and travel hubs.” see also Vaizey: Public-building wi-fi cash will keep cities ‘internationally competitive’ – Cable. Ed says “”Government is determined to ensure our cities remain internationally competitive and attractive places to invest, visit and do business. “This programme will transform the digital landscape of the cities involved, and be welcomed by residents, businesses and tourists alike.”” … “Although the scheme is open until March 2015, only £20 million of the £150 million fund has been spent so far, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).”

International

  • Librarians Embroiled in Lawsuit Alleging Sexual Harassment – Library Journal (USA). On-line accusations of sexual harassment in US library conventions have led to a lawsuit, in Canada, against the accusers.  The long, and bitter, tale, described in full.
  • Library storytellers shown to contribute to early literacy – Scoop (New Zealand). ““We found that the librarians were especially good at print motivation—that is, encouraging a love of books and reading for pleasure. They did this by choosing exciting or interactive stories with good visuals, and telling the stories in an engaging way,” says Professor Goulding. “Many got the children involved in the story, by asking them questions about what was happening, which develops their narrative skills.” She says the only skill that librarians didn’t cover extensively was letter knowledge. “When asked about this, some said they used ABC books at times, but it depended on the age of the children who turned up to the open sessions.” session was welcome song (always Tena Koe),  then interactive picture books often with a theme then a related craft. Needed help with working out what each session was trying to achieve and how it linked with curriculum.
  • New Budget Processes for the “New Normal” – Public Libraries Online (USA).  Argues that with traditional indicators (such as book loans) going down, libraries need to focus on outcomes that meet the aim of the organisation, budget to that and plan performance indicators to match.
  • One single library card will soon give you access to all the libraries in Ireland – Journal (Eire). “The single library management system is the first of its kind in Europe” … “Innovative Interfaces Global Limited have been contracted by Government to roll out the new system, which the minister said is a “ground-breaking initiative” and the first of its kind in Europe. He said the new system will provide significant benefits to the public, allowing them to access library collections, resources and digital content of all public libraries in one search.”
  • Events
    Prospects for books, publishing and libraries: digital strategies, revenue opportunities and policy priorities – Westminster Media Forum. Key speakers include ACE libraries director Brian Ashley, Lord Tope, CILIP President Barbara Band, chief exec of Publisher’s Association, William Sieghart.

“The CILIP North East Member Network presents… a CILIP debate: “This house believes a volunteer-run library service is better than no service at all”  Thursday 6th November 6-8pm atThe Mining Institute, Newcastle upon Tyne. It’s a fact: there are volunteer-run libraries in our region, most of which have appeared in the past few years. We think it’s important for everyone to be able to share their views on the topic in a civilised way. Biddy Casselden will chair our debate panel, composed of: against the motion: Liz Jolly; David Whale: For the motion: Dr Sarah Mercer or another representative from the Friends of Jesmond Library; Felicity Mendelson. Refreshments will be provided before the debate starts. Please visit http://librarydebatenortheast.eventbrite.com to book your place – anyone with an interest in libraries is welcome.

UK local news by authority

  • Barnet – Councillors and residents fiercely debate libraries’ future – Barnet and Whetstone Press. “Plans to reduce some of Barnet’s library buildings to just one twelfth of their existing size as well as leave them unmanned for most of the day were fiercely debated by councillors this week.” … “The plans include one proposal for a “Scandinavian” model of “open libraries”, which would see all but four of the borough’s libraries relocated and reduced in size. Staff would be on hand for just 50 per cent of the current opening hours, with visitors being able to order books online and gain access to unmanned buildings using a pin system.” … “A Unison spokesman said: “Two in three staff members could lose their jobs.” ” see also Tory plan will slash libraries’ floor space by 93% – Barnet Labour. “”Cutting library floor space so that most of our libraries are no bigger than the size of a living room and slashing library staff to leave them unattended half of the time is not maintaining a library service at all – it is the first step in mass library closures, and we will not support it.” and Honey, I shrunk the libraries: Barnet Tories, wielding the knife once more – Broken Barnet. “This proposal will create a faux library system, a facade: a theatrical backdrop, with token branches brandishing a few paperbacks a few days of the week, an exercise merely to pay lipservice to the statutory requirement to make a certain level of library provision, without any of the provision that actually is required.”
  • Birmingham – Emotions run high at Sutton Four Oaks Ward meeting – Sutton Coldfield Local. “Two items on the agenda were of particular concern, namely, future plans for the Mere Green Library and Community Centre and a response to a petition regarding parking problems in Jordan Road. Mere Green library, along with Walmley library, faces an uncertain future as the District struggles to find savings in excess of £1,000,000 this financial year.” … “three possible routes that may be taken: 1. A city wide trust that would be responsible for all Birmingham libraries;  2. A District wide trust that would be responsible for Sutton Coldfield libraries;  3. A Community Asset Transfer of Mere Green and Walmley libraries.” … “If options one or two fail to materialise and the District is unable to secure Community Asset Transfers then the inevitable closure of the two libraries would result.”

“We are supporting the new development at Cricklewood Library, as we’ve been named tenants! It’s a mixed development with 187m2 of library/community space. You can express support and comment on Brent’s planning site click here http://bit.ly/crklwdlibraryplans, use your own words to support the library/community space and FOCL as tenants.  You can also email to planning officer Matthew Harvey by email matthew.harvey@brent.gov.uk or comment by post to Matthew Harvey, Brent Planning, Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, HA9 0FJ” Brent – Save Cricklewood Library (via LinkedIn).

  • Bexley – Save Blackfen Library – Blackfen Past and Present. “The importance to many people to keep Blackfen Library as a Council-run library has become evident, not just to individuals but also to schools and businesses in the area. It is vital that we all make this clear to Bexley Council now. To do this please sign the petition and if you are a Bexley resident you should complete the Council questionnaire as well.”

“A snapshot while I was in Blackfen Library on the afternoon of Saturday 25th October: “It’s very busy. Quite a queue at the desk – people borrowing books and booking places for half-term activities for children. Someone is at a table studying, there are people using the computers, and there are excited children reading books in the kids corner. There is a Japanese calligraphy exhibition and artwork by Marlborough Park School on display. And Bexley Council want to get rid of all this? Meanwhile, I spotted only one A4 poster inviting people to comment on Bexley Library proposals – and nowhere did it say ‘and this means this particular library in Blackfen may close as a result’. Almost like they don’t want anyone to find out… Which would be convenient, wouldn’t it?”

“Mayor George Ferguson has described a citywide review of libraries as “an exciting opportunity” to bring them into the 21st century. Mr Ferguson is expected to go ahead with the review at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. The council is committed to saving £1.1million from the library service which could possibly see some libraries close and some of the 250 staff lose their jobs.” [Calling this an “exciting opportunity” may make some of you wish to vomit.  If you do, please don’t waste it, send a photo of it to Mayor Ferguson – Ed.]

  • Burnley – More council services go online – Burnley Express. ““We are also working with other organisations to make sure people get chances to learn about using the internet, and can go to libraries and other facilities to use computers, if they don’t have one at home”
  • Devon – Council to trial community-run library scheme – North Devon Journal. “Mr Croad said technology which gives users library access outside normal opening hours may be introduced to Devon’s lending services. Paula Ferris, acting chairman of the Friends of Braunton Library campaign group, hopes the village’s library will be selected by the council as a pilot for the scheme. She said the days of people taking their libraries for granted were over and welcomed the news users would have the chance to influence the service.”
  • Caerphilly – Caerphilly cabinet approves cuts and council tax increase – BBC. “Other savings proposals include the removal of Bargoed’s annual ice rink, a rise in the price of meals on wheels and limited library opening times.”
  • Carmarthenshire – Carmarthenshire council; A leisure trust on its way? – Carmathenshire Planning problems and more. “Although it doesn’t appear to have been discussed in a democratic fashion anywhere, it looks like Carmarthenshire council has decided that the ‘alternative mode of delivery’ (in other words ‘how can we save money’) of leisure services will eventually be through a new arms-length trust.” … “A tender has already been published to find a leisure consultant “to assist with the delivery of an alternative trust management arrangement for its Leisure Services”. How much this 14 month contract is worth is unknown, it’s unlikely to come cheap.  Carmarthenshire’s leisure services do not just include the leisure centres but country parks, theatres, museums and libraries as well. Whether the intention is to hive the whole lot off is not clear.”
  • Greenwich’s libraries face disruption over strike action today – This is Local London. “The disagreement surrounds Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), the social enterprise company awarded the contract to run the borough’s library service by the council in 2012. The company has said it will not replicate any pay rises awarded to local government workers, which was previously the case until a change in the law.” see also Unite hails ‘victory’ in Greenwich library dispute – Unite. Strike called off. “The settlement, which is subject to further talks, has three elements: Unite estimated that 13.5 full-time equivalent library posts (FTE) were needed. GLL has now offered 12.5 FTE jobs. The union estimates that this equates to 17 new staff. GLL said it will adhere to whatever is agreed in the current local government pay round. GLL agreed that there would be no cuts to the borough’s library service, unless instructed by its client, Greenwich council.”
  • Hertfordshire – Extra funding for village libraries – Hertfordshire Council. £700k from Government Fire Service Improvement fund to go in putting village libraries into part-time fire stations.  Consultation will now start into which ones. see also Four Hertfordshire libraries to move to fire stations – BBC.
  • Highland – Highland Council cuts will mean closures – Press and Journal. High Life Highland Trust says “It was never meant to be run as a business” and cuts from council may mean it will need to close buildings. see also Highland Libraries: the road to paradise – 23 Librariansfor a sense of what may be lost.
  • Kirklees – Campaigners welcome promise of full consultation on plans to close libraries in Kirklees – Telegraph and Argus. “plans to slash over £3 million from the district’s libraries budget ” … “In July, Kirklees Council’s Policy Committee announced that due to the budget cuts it was likely it could only continue to provide full library services in Dewsbury and Huddersfield. It means the remaining 24 libraries across the district – including Cleckheaton, Heckmondwike and Birstall – face closure” … “Councillor John Lawson (Lib Dem, Cleckheaton), said the campaign to save Cleckheaton library was nearing the 3,000 signatures required to trigger a full-Council debate on the building’s future. “
  • Liverpool – Authors plan protest against closure of 11 Liverpool libraries – Liverpool Echo. “A city centre protest against the closure of 11 of Liverpool’s libraries will take place next week. Campaigners plan to hold a peaceful demonstration outside Central Library at midday on Saturday, November 8. It comes as D-Day looms for Liverpool council’s plans, with the findings of a public consultation to go before cabinet at the end of next month. The libraries at risk of closure are: Breck Road, Dovecot, Fazakerley, Kensington, Lee Valley, Old Swan, Sefton Park, Spellow, Walton, Wavertree and West Derby”
  • Luton – Library gets ready for 
self service – Luton Today. Lewsey library closed for a week to convert to self-service. “The improvements are part of an on-going programme of investment in Luton’s libraries, said a spokesman for Luton Culture.”
  • Manchester – Library Walk Inquiry: The Inside Report – Manchester Confidential. Detailed report into the building of a glass lobby (apparently costing £3.5 million) over a right of way between the Central Library and council buildings, despite many public objections. “The council’s arguments include the bizarre idea that the Central Library, with its huge portico, needs a more legible entrance. “
  • Northern Ireland – Library cuts ‘a sad state of affairs’ – Ulster Herald. “UUP councillor Chris Smyth described the lost hours as “a sad state of affairs.” He told the UH, “Cuts have to come unfortunately. It is very disappointing. The library authorities say these reduced hours are temporary but unless Stormont can get its act together and balance the books these cuts will keep on coming.”
  • Swindon – Takeover of leisure centres begins today – Swindon Advertiser. GLL taking over leisure provision in town. “One area of contention are plans to relocate the West Swindon Library and move it to a different part of the Link Centre. Coun Jim Robbins (Lab, Mannington and West) has raised a petition to try to halt the move. He said: “The location of the library at the Link Centre is very good currently and it seems silly to change that on the whim of GLL.“There are also concerns about access, and we have a lot of community groups, including a group of blind people and mothers with prams who would find access to the upstairs difficult. “The space is purpose built to be a library, and it seems silly to shoehorn it into a space which is less suitable.””
  • Vale of Glamorgan – Campaigners get ready to protest against plans to ‘downgrade’ their village library – Wales Online. “The quiet of a South Wales village library is likely to be shattered this week when campaigners stage a demonstration against cost-cutting plans to bring in volunteers to run it. The proposal to turn Rhoose library into a “community library” run by volunteers is part of a strategy to cut £500,000 from the Vale of Glamorgan council’s library services budget. Vale council leaders are planning to hold a three-and-a-half hour “drop in” session at the library on Friday when they will explain the reasoning behind the strategy and take questions from members of the public”
  • Vale of Glamorgan – Councillors clash over library cuts – Penarth Times. “Penarth councillors clashed during a heated debate over proposed changes to the library service last night, October 30. Councillors warned that staffing community libraries with volunteers without specialist knowledge, cutting opening hours and the book fund would damage the library service.” … “But in a passionate response labour councillor Gwyn Roberts, who represents the St Augustine’s ward, said that the Vale Council was determined not to close libraries and that it had put forward the proposed library strategy in a bid to save libraries.  He argued that as funding for social services and education was ring fenced from the government the local authority was forced to make cuts to the library service as it had no other choice.”
  • Walsall – Walsall Council bosses set to approve plans for a new library in Bentley -Walsall Advertiser. “Bentley residents will have a library in their area for the first time in eight years – if ambitious plans are given the green light by council bosses. Residents have been without a facility since the former site in Queen Elizabeth Avenue was closed in 2006. Council bosses had agreed to provide a replacement in an alternative £2.9 million state-of-the-art facility, which would be funded through the sale of council-owned land. But the development was put on hold due to the “changed economic climate” and consequent reduction in land values, with officials saying a new development was “not affordable.” Now charity Old Hall People’s Partnership have drawn up a proposal to base a new community-managed library at its building in Wing Close.” … “The council will make a one-off payment of £115,000 to provide stock and training for the new facility, which will be part of the Bentley Employability and Learning Hub. A further capital grant of £30,000 will also be given to the partnership to carry out building works at its base in Leys Hall to help the successful relocation of some of its services.” see also Walsall Council leader blames Downing Street and previous Tory administration over £86m cuts – Walsall Advertiser.

“A total of 4,000 questionnaires were handed out to Bentley residents of their preferred choice for future library provision in the area, with 427 responses returned. In the responses, over 60 per cent did not support the provision of a new library building, with 37 per cent stating they were happy with the existing mobile service.”

  • Wiltshire – Devizes hub update due at meeting – Gazette and Herald. “In some towns libraries might be closed and moved to the new hubs, but this suggestion in Chippenham met with disapproval from local people.”
  • Wirral – Wirral libraries’ future is ‘done deal’ – Wirral Globe. “Library staff have already been told when they are to apply for their jobs, now that only four lending libraries will be needed, instead of 20. They have been told when redundancies will be announced – immediately before Christmas. The council has used this timescale before. What sort of consultation is this when it is obviously a done deal? stood outside two libraries for a total of five hours asking people if they knew about the document and very rarely did anyone say they were aware of it. “