Editorial

At the recent Westminster Media Forum on “Prospects for books, publishing and libraries”, several important statements were made that may well have a bearing on the future of public libraries:

  • William Sieghart gave some pretty big hints at the contents of the Government commissioned report on public libraries that he was tasked to writing.  Crucially, reports from the event say that he made clear that he does not consider volunteer-run libraries a long-term viable option.,
  • Ed Vaizey has had the report for a month and has not published it as yet.  Suggestions made to me include the possibility that it says things he does not want people to hear (e.g. on volunteers), especially as he has recently stated he is “not minded” to intervene in Sheffield where it is precisely that model that is being proposed.
  • Lord Tope said “I have to say, from a political point of view, the answer lies with all of us. Don’t let Government forget it. We have a general election coming up, and members of parliament are remarkably willing to listen when they come around. Use that opportunity”

All of this ties, in my mind at least, with the need for as many individuals and groups as possible to write to Ed Vaizey to argue against his “not minded” decision there.  The more letters the better and it does not matter where you come from.  Let him know why you think libraries are important and let him know the strength of your feeling.  Don’t just take my word for it. The Broomhill Library Action Group have written a letter asking this which I publish in full below and they’ve even typed a draft letter for you in case you don’t want to do one from scratch.  While you’re writing it (and you will, won’t you?), you may also wish to consider asking Ed Vaizey why he has not published the Sieghart Report yet.  Strangely, he has not replied to me on this subject.

A cut and paste template is provided, into which people can just insert their own name and library, or can alter as they please – emails need to be sent by 20 NOVEMBER 2014 to: Ministerial Support Team enquiries@culture.gsi.gov.uk.

Dear Library Supporter

You may have seen media reports about the Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey, conducting an inquiry into Sheffield City Council’s plans for public libraries. He has just issued a letter stating that he is ‘minded not to’ intervene but before he makes a final decision he wants to know what you think. The Minister has a duty, under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, to superintend library provision and to intervene if a council is failing to provide a “comprehensive and efficient library service” for all who want to use it.

The campaign group, Broomhill Library Action Group, have always maintained that the council’s plans result in a service that does not meet these requirements. We presented many arguments, backed up with data, to support our claim. Nonetheless the Minister has chosen to disregard our evidence, and has sent a letter saying that he is “not currently minded” to intervene

In the past, nine other library campaign groups from around the country have tried to get the Minister to intervene. He has rejected all of these. In fact, we are only one of at least 10 library groups across the country for whom he has similarly failed to intervene. We believe that the Minister is not only wrong, but that ultimately we need to persuade him he is wrong.

The Minister has asked for further representations to be presented by 20 November 2014. We are therefore asking as many people as possible to write to the Minister, and to tell him to organise an inquiry to protect this valuable service. We need you to state your support for an ongoing ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service in Sheffield.

A cut and paste template is provided via this link, into which people can just insert their own name and library, or can alter as they please.  E-mails need to be sent to: Ministerial Support Team. Please send it on to all your friends to complete.

Thank you.

Broomhill Library Action Group

Changes

News

  • Are public libraries on their way out? – The Boar. “Libraries need rejuvenation, but a clear issue here is money. A lack of funding is what has led to so many library closures, so how are we going to get money into the library system to help them from declining further? A problem is that not enough value is put on the library as a space where you are surrounded by books you can actually touch. A library should primarily serve as a physical learning environment.  The government and public need to realise that a place of learning in society, other than schools, is needed and that the digital age and internet does not mean libraries are pointless.  If this idea is respected then more importance will be put on libraries; they are invaluable and there comes a point where you need to open a book because the internet won’t have what you’re looking for. It now lies with us to get this issue in the public eye and save the public libraries from obsolescence.”
  • Cameron in call for ethnic minority PM to prove ‘Britons of all backgrounds can achieve’ – Independent. Culture Minister Sajid Javid in audience and frequently referred to in article.
  • Finding a good read – Opening the Book. A look at the different online solutions for choosing a book inc. Amazon, Good Reads, Which Book and Book Flavour.
  • Imperial War Museum staff fight library closure and jobs threat – Prospect. “The possibility of closures and cuts comes at a time when demand for all the museum’s services has never been higher: the IWM attracted 433,000 learners in 2013-14 and 256,000 children took part in its on and off-site educational programmes.”
  • Letter – Guardian / Laura Swaffield. Points out that at least one national Government IT project – installing People’s Network machines in 2000 in public libraries but that project is now failing due to lack of investment.
  • Over to you, Ed – Library Campaign. Detailed look at what William Sieghart said at the local forum. Ed Vaizey has had the report for over a month but has not indicated when it will published. Argues for a “a body that will be responsible for getting his recommendations put into practice”.  Argued that librarians themselves are doing “amazing things” but need leadership.  Clear that volunteers are good for supplementing libraries but that “volunteers shouldn’t run libraries”.
  • Sieghart ‘frightened’ for future of ‘dysfunctionally run’ library service – BookSeller. “Speaking at a Westminster Media Forum event on publishing and libraries yesterday (4th November), ahead of the release of his review into the state of libraries in the UK, Sieghart said: “The way the service is set up, it is run totally dysfunctionally. The DCMS has responsibility, but no budget, the Arts Council has been given a role reluctantly, and the DCLG looks at the local authorities who actually make decisions.” Sieghart added: “I’m frightened and worried for the library network. In the arctic blast of austerity, some authorities will struggle to know what to do with their library service. They will just hand over the keys and say goodbye, and that will be a disaster.”

“socio-economic groups A and B don’t visit libraries. But because they run the country and the media and much else, that means they think that libraries are a thing of the past” William Sieghart

“”I have to say, from a political point of view, the answer lies with all of us. Don’t let Government forget it. We have a general election coming up, and members of parliament are remarkably willing to listen when they come around. Use that opportunity.” Lord Tope

  • Work of Arts Council England – CMS Select Committee. Few comments on libraries. “The Society of Chief Librarians raises a similar point in the context of libraries about the “great art” criteria attaching to Arts Council support: “But now that ACE has a development responsibility for public libraries generally (and not just their cultural programmes) perhaps there is scope to widen this criteria to support and strengthen the broader role of public libraries?” The Chief Executive of the Arts Council, Alan Davey, was more upbeat, drawing attention to the synergies that exist between culture, museums and libraries and noting the significant geographical reach provided by the latter.” see also MPs: ‘Arts council must rebalance cash to regions urgently’  – The Stage.

“What a damp squib! Significantly, the select committee barely mentions libraries. At one point it quotes the Society of Chief Librarians’ tactful hint that ‘perhaps there is scope to widen [ACE’s] criteria to support and strengthen the broader role of public libraries’. But it was happy with ACE’s Chief Executive’s response that there are ‘synergies… between culture, museums and libraries’. Of course there are. But libraries should do so very much more than is implied by that. Things that ACE just doesn’t cover. Again, the select committee says much about the ‘severe cuts’ to local authorities. It also points out that libraries are their only statutory duty, culture-wise. But it fails to notice the obvious corollary – that while other arts bodies have some faint hope of funding basic running costs from lottery grants and so on, libraries are left high and dry. We don’t criticise the hard-working libraries people at ACE. But they are in the wrong place. * NOTE: They can’t get extra funding for something a local authority has a duty to provide – no matter how desperate the situation. And desperate it is, with almost 750 public libraries (out of c.4,000 now threatened with closure or being dumped on to volunteers to run as best they can).” Library Campaign comment see also Library Campaign attacks CMS Arts Council report – BookSeller.

International

  • 2014 Library Elections:First Look at November – EveryLibrary (USA). “In the aggregate, at least 1,598,906 votes were cast across the country about library funding or authority yesterday.  950,379 Americans voted Yes for libraries and 648,527 voted NO.  But this isn’t a general election or a popular vote about “libraries”.  Each of the local races were a question to local folks about their local library.  It may have been a town like Gratis, OH where 223 voters came out but said No to a new 1.5 mil levy 43% to 57%. Or it could be a city like Charleston, SC where 94,286 voters decided 74% to 26% in favor of over $100 million in building bonds to create and improve 21st century libraries.  As you’ll see in the preliminary results, when there were wins they tended to be big. Where there are losses, they tend to be close. As far as national trends go, the win/loss rate for libraries looks to be about the same as it was in 2013.”
  • Free Webinar: Anatomy of a Successful Library Campaign: Real World Tips for Getting the Funding You Need – ALA (USA). “In celebration of the ninth annual National Friends of Libraries Week, Oct. 19-25, 2014, United for Libraries recorded a webinar with Libby Post of Communication Services and Doreen Hannon, executive director of the Salem-South Lyon (Mich.) District Library, who discussed the library’s successful millage campaign, developed thanks to a Neal-Schuman grant. Watch the free recording, which runs just over one hour.”
  • International Games Day @ your library – “ to reconnect communities through their libraries around the educational, recreational, and social value of all types of games. It is completely free to participate! In fact it is cheaper than free, because after registering you stand a chance to get free donations for your library, and this site hosts a free press kit with press release templates and posters. You can register at http://bit.ly/igd14. In the 21st century, libraries are about much more than books.”
  • Moscow metro opens virtual library of Russian classical literature – Guardian (Russia). “More than 100 canonical Russian books have been made available for commuters to download for free on train platforms, where scanning a code with a smartphone or tablet allows users to browse the library’s virtual shelves.”
  • Public library fees eliminated ahead of schedule – Calgary Herald. “Next time you head into a local library branch to renew your card, get a new membership, download an e-book, or browse the Internet, you won’t have to pay a cent. Membership fees at the Calgary Public Library were eliminated this week thanks to private donors who are able to cover costs for the city earlier than the proposed January date. And while this week’s budget proposal to city council saw the library ask for a 3.5-per-cent increase in its operating budget for each of the next four years, library CEO Bill Ptacek admits much of its future revenue is expected to come from donations.”

National

  • Barnet – ‘Stand up and be counted’ – councillors vote against saving libraries in Barnet – This is Local London. “Two motions to decide the future of the authority’s “community living rooms” were put forward at a full council meeting at The Burroughs, Hendon, this evening. The first, which included plans to close libraries, reduce their size and staff them with volunteers, will now go out to consultation after being approved. It is hoped these changes could save £2.85million of the £72million the council needs to save over the next six years.”
  • Bristol – Book in to have your say on the future of Bristol’s libraries – Bristol Post. “What do you want to see happen with your local libraries? That is the question Bristol City Council will be putting to residents over the next three months after the city’s first widespread library consultation was approved at cabinet.” … “Far from cutting back on services, councillors hope that, with creativity, the service can been modernised and better serve the whole community. This could mean some libraries merging or volunteers stepping in to provide longer opening hours, or some bookshelves being replaced with community spaces or more computers.”
  • Birmingham – How many libraries will Birmingham have? – LRB Blog. “Members of the council’s Labour group, including the partner of the council leader Albert Bore, have been seen at trade union rallies protesting against the £12 million a year that the council has to pay to service the loans it took out to build the library. The construction officially cost £187 million, but the council will pay back nearly £500 million before the debt is cleared in forty years’ time.” … “Last year the capital budget for the entire library system, the Library of Birmingham aside, was £250,000, a third of the shortfall in the megaproject’s private funding. Hall Green and Kingstanding libraries alone need at least £300,000 spending on them to keep them serviceable; the repair backlog across the system amounts to at least £4 million.”

“Many of the community libraries are now open only a few days a week. There is a danger that they will close altogether, and ‘the Library of Birmingham’ will become not only a name but a statement of fact. “

  • Bristol – Lib Dems call over library cut – Bristol Post. Lib Dems say “”At a time of financial pressures, cutting library services can be seen as an easy option. That should not be the case. We should instead add services and functions to libraries to make them even better value for money. “Library services are continually one of the most highly valued services provided by the council and rightly so.”
  • Cheshire West and Chester – Iconic Northwich library ‘falling apart’, say councillors – Chester Chronicle. ” here is a distinct, possibly unique Library, greatly valued and well used by the people of Northwich. But it is in a terrible condition, particularly the external side walls. “I have raised my concerns with senior officers at Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) as I had been informed that the library had not been included in the building works repairs programme either for this current year or even next year.”.  Council replies ““Specialists, who have a long track record of working in Northwich’s conservation area with the council on historic buildings, are to undertake an initial assessment over the winter months and to prepare a more detailed assessment of the overall building condition, focussing on the historic timber frame.””
  • Devon – Ottery St Mary community rises up against public services closures – Express and Echo. “in a bid to save £1.5m from the county council’s libraries service and to modernise it, libraries, including Ottery’s, are also under consultation.” … “Volunteer group, the Friends of Ottery Library are putting in a bid for Ottery … The group is looking into the potential future use of the former social services building, St Saviours, for the site of the hub. The idea is that the project will develop a multi-use community space which will bring together a range of activities and services into one well used, dynamic space. “This could be a new home for the library, a home for arts and cultural events, arts workshops and activities, including a community run cinema,”
  • Devon – There is uncertainty over the future of Barnstaple Library, county council confirms – North Devon Journal. “Devon County Council confirmed that, while there are no plans to change the number of Devon Libraries staff in the town, there is uncertainty about the impact on the service following the formation of the new Devon and Somerset Heritage Trust.”
  • Lambeth – Unison claim Lambeth Council is diverting public money to help fund library group containing ex-Labour Cllrs – Brixton Buzz. “A split has occurred over the community control of the Carnegie Library in Herne Hill. Trade Union Unison has written to Derrick Anderson, the outgoing Chief Executive at Lambeth Council, questioning the spending of public funds towards a body that contains current and former Labour Cllrs.”.  Unison says “The Project Group is not the long established Friends of Carnegie Library who have distanced themselves from the options upon which the Project Group are consulting. On the contrary, the Project Group is a recent creation which gives every appearance of having been created after the fact of Council policy with a view to benefitting from that policy”
  • Lancashire – List of £15m in ‘nasty cuts’ for Lancashire County Council chiefs – Lancashire Telegraph. ““Some councils do not provide a youth service. We have never closed a library, but that too is a non-statutory service.” [it isn’t – Ed.]
  • North Yorkshire – Library services could be slashed – Ripon Gazette. “Launching a three-month consultation on cutting £3.6m from its libraries budget by 2020, the local authority this week said it was proposing to reduce staffing in Ripon from seven posts to just one employee while relying on an unspecified number of volunteers to help operate the service.”
  • Somerset – Jobs set to go in shake-up of county libraries – Wells Journal. “A major shake-up of Somerset Libraries management and improved efficiency could see the loss of 10 jobs in a bid to help cut nearly half-a-million pounds from the budget. But as these changes will not directly affect the customers they are not part of a 10-week public consultation which started on Monday. However people are being asked what they think about other changes including free internet for library users, extending the outreach service, phasing out CD loans and cutting the number of mobile library vans from four to two.”
  • Wigan – Council reclaims public buildings – Wigan Today. “As of last Saturday, responsibility for all 15 of the borough’s libraries, two museums and the archive service was transferred from Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust (WLCT) to the local authority. Users have been promised there will be no disruption to services as a result.” … “Coun Paul Kenny, cabinet member for leisure at Wigan Council, said: “Bringing the libraries and heritage service back into the council will give us greater control, allowing us to transform and develop them to become even better community hubs. It will also allow us to broaden the services we offer from them – making sure that we’re making the most out of these important facilities.”
  • Wirral – Outraged by plans for Wirral libraries – Wirral Globe. “I was outraged to learn that two out of every three librarians in the borough are to face the chop and that library services are to cut back to the bone. The writing was on the wall several years ago when libraries were forced to make space for One Stop Shops.”
  • Worcestershire – This is crunch time for the county council, says chief executive – Worcester News. “During the debate she highlighted the outdoor education centres, which are now managed externally and libraries, which rely on large numbers of volunteers, as good examples of the way forward. “